Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
There is a gamble going on with the UFC tonight, namely, the use of flyweights in the main event spot. That weight class simply hasn't built up positive equity with the fans, so there isn't a great deal of attachment. There also isn't any evidence they can do great or even good ratings on network television in a main event slot. Flyweights often do a lot in the cage, but they sometimes don't do a lot to each other. They often don't reach high thresholds of violence or have their punches create change. Whatever the faults of the heavyweight division, that's not a criticism they are vulnerable to.
Yet, if the UFC is going to be in the flyweight business, they have to promote them. With the backing of non-stop NFL coverage on over the air FOX, UFC is launching this effort from an advantageous position. But is it advantageous enough? And even if the viewers tune in, do they stay on? UFC on FOX 5 was a rebound in the ratings and one that has paid dividends. Now is not the time to backtrack on this momentum.
At stake: the obvious title and a little more. The obvious: the UFC flyweight title is up for grabs and while this is not the UFC's most prestigious weight class, winning a UFC title is a thing few fighters will ever achieve in their life. One need not expound on the importance of such an accolade.
There's a little more to the story here, though. Johnson has finally earned the top spot and wants to establish a legacy and a name. Losing a title in his first defense would be quite the setback. In Johnson's mind, this is the beginning on a reign.
For Dodson, he's in the typical contender position, but with a slight twist. Johnson's career has been filled with a lack of opportunity or weird moments. He's fought in the wrong weight classes or at catch weights just to get fights. That often meant smaller shows and losses when they weren't really fair contests. At flyweight in the UFC and vying for the title, the years of struggle have crystallized in this moment of potential achievement. That is itself a reward for the struggle. Johnson, too, faced the save adversity, but already earned a bit of a name and the title along with it. Dodson wants to do the same.
At stake: a brighter future at light heavyweight. Will or won't Rampage leave when he's done with the UFC? I don't know, but there's no doubting Rampage wants to end tonight on a high note. That improves his bargaining power should he decide to stay in the UFC or if he elects to go somewhere else. A loss wouldn't make him an undesired free agent, but it goes without saying a win is a far more preferable outcome.
For Teixeira, tonight represents a chance to finally step into the spotlight. He'll likely never be the star Rampage is, but a win over the former champion helps him feed off of it. If he's going to be the elite light heavyweight many expect to be or believe he already is, getting through Rampage Jackson tonight is almost essential, especially when you consider Teixeira's age. The clock is ticking on his career and the opportunity is great. It's time to act.
At stake: a chance to eat away the hunger. What's interesting about Pettis and Cerrone is they're both believed to fight similarly. It's not that people suggest they have the same style exactly, but that they have a lot of the same tools and end fights in similar ways. But oh, how they are different. Cerrone is something of a calculated beast, a fighter who cashes in on his native desire to create carnage, but does so with a respect for technique. Pettis, by contrast, is an artist of violence who competes with a rather large chip on his shoulder.
And that distinction is important. Pettis' chip is partly his imagination, but also a recognition of missed opportunity. He's been out for a year while the rest of the division passed him by. He's defeated the very man they call the best lightweight in the world. And while he said he's grateful for the setback Clay Guida handed him, it was just that: a setback. I suspect Pettis believes Cerrone has had some decent chances to move on. Who knows what a win over Nate Diaz might've done for him? Strangely, though, Henderson already bested Cerrone, something the lightweight champ cannot say about Pettis.
Cerrone wants to do damage tonight and do so against a credible challenge. That's his M.O. Pettis, on the other hand, wants to take what he believes has been denied him. They both want to arrive in the same spot, but they meet tonight in very different positions.
At stake: a shot at the king. And they'd best not miss. It's been suggested the winner of this fight gets the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar, but nothing's been confirmed. Still, it's not the worst assumption to make. There aren't a ton of obvious featherweight contenders beyond these two (although Clay Guida could be an interesting possibility), so if either man makes a dominant showing tonight, that could do wonders for their title shot hopes.
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