The sweat hadn't even dried on the canvas after last Saturday night's UFC 132
main event bout between Dominick Cruz
and Urijah Faber
, and already people were throwing around the R-word.
More accurately, it was really the IR-words -- immediate
rematch -- since very few people were arguing that Cruz and Faber should meet again after an interval of several years.
The weird thing is, they had just spent a furious 25 minutes together in the cage, trying to determine who was the better man, so you'd think that would have been enough. But hey, it was a close fight. Cruz won the decision in a fight that was, admittedly, difficult to score, but the mere fact that Faber stayed in it so competitively seemed to be enough to make some people immediately cry out for round six.
I can understand the sentiment. Really, I do. I've understood it ever since Don Frye
stood in the middle of a bloody Pride ring in Japan
, his eyes swollen shut from Gilbert Yvel's blatant attempts to remove his corneas with his thumbs, and uttered in that gravel road voice of his, "Gilbert, we can do it again, brother."
Sadly, they never did do it again, even though it was exactly the kind of scenario that all but begs for an immediate rematch. And there are plenty of those scenarios in MMA, occurring annually in organizations both big and small. It just so happens that the most recent Cruz-Faber fight was not such a scenario, and that's because it didn't meet any of what I like to call the Immediate Rematch Criteria (IRC, if you're nasty).
And what are the IRC? I'm so glad you asked:1. The Bout Ends Under Controversial Circumstances
This applies to the aforementioned Frye-Yvel debacle, where Yvel was eventually disqualified after seven minutes of breaking every rule he could think of. It's also applicable to the recent Nik Lentz
fight, where an obviously illegal knee clearly influenced the outcome. Basically, if something happens in the fight that we can later argue should not have happened -- or at least should not have been allowed -- you have yourself a good candidate for a rematch.
Early stoppage? Questionable application of the rules (or, in the case of Lentz-Oliveira, no application at all)? Fan Man parachutes in during the middle of a round and disrupts everything? No problem. Rematch away. You deserve that much, at least.2. Nothing Gets Resolved
The best recent example of this is the UFC
lightweight title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard
. They also got 25 minutes to assert their dominance over one another, but in the end the judges ruled it a draw. There's only one thing to do there, and it's do it again, brother. Ideally in a timely fashion, but whatever.
This criteria also covers instances like the one we saw recently in the JZ Cavalcante-Justin Wilcox
bout in Strikeforce
. That one ended in a no contest after Cavalcante accidentally (as in, the opposite of what Yvel did) poked Wilcox in the eye early in the second round. They never got the chance to finish the fight, so it makes sense to give them another shot at it once they can both see well enough to distinguish shapes and color. 3. It Was Just So Fun/Weird/Unbelievable, We've Got to See It Again
This is the trickiest of all the criteria, but also the most commonly used one. For instance, after Chael Sonnen
surprised everyone by beating up Anderson Silva
for five rounds, only to get submitted in the final minutes of the fight, it seemed so bizarre and yet so thrilling that fans genuinely wanted to see it again. It's like if Ke$ha threw out the first pitch at a baseball game, and zinged a perfect 90 mph cut fastball right over the plate. Normally we only allow one first pitch, no matter what happens, but in that case even Mariano Rivera would want to come in from the bullpen to see if she could do it again.
The problem with giving in to this criteria is that you're just asking to be disappointed. As with Forrest Griffin
and Stephan Bonnar
, the second time around is rarely as good as the first. And, as with Cung Le and Scott Smith, the second fight usually results in the guy who pulled off the improbable win in the first fight getting the brutal beating he initially avoided.
In other words, it would be like if Ke$ha's second first pitch attempt went straight into the ground, Mariah Carey-style, and we all had to go on with our lives despite having all sense of wonder and mystery torn from them forever. It's kind of a bummer, is what I'm getting at.
With Cruz and Faber, yes, their second meeting was a memorable one. It was also a very close fight, and an absolutely exhausting one to watch. But the fight went down as scheduled, with nothing weird happening and nothing stopping us from feeling like this chapter could be closed. If they did it again (brother), it seems totally likely that it would just result in five more very close, very exciting rounds.
And that's great. Really. But at a certain point, we all have to move on with our lives. Even Ke$ha.