Several observers, including this reporter, questioned whether a title shot for Maynard or Grant was the wisest decision, given the top of the lightweight division still features the likes of Gilbert Melendez, who many feel deserved the decision in his bout last month against Henderson; and Josh Thomson, who just became the first UFC fighter to knock out Nate Diaz.
Grant, though, knows that in mixed martial arts, one strong night can be all you need to get your bandwagon rolling.
"In this sport, all it takes is one fight to turn people's opinion around," Grant said in a recent phone interview with MMAFighting.com. "You get judged off your last fight in this sport. If I beat a guy like Gray Maynard, who's so well-respected and has been around a long time, that will get people's attention."
The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native has a point. He's 4-0 since dropping to 155 pounds, the most recent victory an impressive finish of veteran Matt Wiman at UFC on FOX 6.
It only took Chris Weidman one sizzling stoppage over a name fighter, Mark Munoz, to be anointed the next big thing at middleweight. With a high-profile victory at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas over Maynard, who has just one career loss, Grant could do the same.
"I heard what people were saying on Twitter and everything," said Grant, whose first child, daughter Casey, was born last month. "How Gray hasn't fought in a year and how there are so many other guys in line and all that. I understand how it goes. I haven't had the time in the spotlight that some of the other fighters have had."
"This is a big deal, I fought on national television last time and now I have my first chance to show the fans on pay-per-view what I can do. I'm not going into this acting like I've got something to prove, but I hope to be able to show the fans who maybe haven't seen me that I belong with the top guys in the division."
@ynneKrepmatS: if Belfort knocks out Rockhold on the 18th, Where would he go from there? Title shot or another contender?
Interesting question. If Belfort wins, the UFC is in a tough spot on a couple levels. The first being that Belfort has defeated everyone in his path at middleweight except Anderson Silva, but Silva isn't likely to be interested in a rematch against a fighter he already easily dispatched. Silva's clearly not a huge fan of rematches. There's always been an enticement for his rematches: Against Rich Franklin, it was simply the basic professional courtesy of giving the former champ his title shot; against Yushin Okami, it was a chance to fight in Brazil while avenging a controversial disqualification; and against Chael Sonnen, it was the chance to show his previous win wasn't simply a lucky submission. There's no such incentive for Silva to again face Belfort.
The other half of the equation, of course, is the growing brushback to Belfort's continued success as a TRT user who has been previously suspended for steroid use. The fact UFC president Dana White did an immediate about-face on TRT after Belfort finished Michael Bisping tells you all you need to know.
If Belfort manages to pick off yet another hot fighter who's perhaps one win away from a title shot in Rockhold, then what do you do with Belfort? The champ doesn't want him and you can't afford to keep having him run over contenders. Maybe the next move, should Belfort win, is to basically dare him to come fight in a commission state and see what happens.
@Dpop2: If Rockhold finishes decisively any chance he gets title shot over Weidman?
Well, no. The Silva-Weidman fight is already announced and tickets are on sale. But I'd say 10 consecutive wins by the final Strikeforce champ should be enough to make him next in line after Silva-Weidman. And in the interim, perhaps Rockhold should be given some sort of medal for solving The Belfort Problem.
Pat Healy's marijuana suspension
@CMooreMMA: Where does Pat Healy's failed drug test put him in the division? Do you still characterize his 159 win as a win?
Technically, the bout against Jim Miller now goes into the books as a no-contest. But realistically, no one except maybe Bryan Caraway is walking around thinking that if Healy hadn't smoked a joint sometime during his training camp, Miller would have ran all over him.
Healy-Miller should go down in the memory banks similar to Nick Diaz's PRIDE fight with Takanori Gomi. Seven years later, you remember Diaz's sick gogoplata finish and mentally chalk it up as a Diaz win, not the fact the fight was later overturned for the same reason as Healy's.
It's unfortunate that Healy's losing his bonus money. The UFC has made it pretty clear they're going to lobby the commissions to change the rules regarding marijuana. Hopefully light will dawn on the ABC and they'll make changes. This issue has been hashed through so often that that there's really not much left to add at this point, beyond Healy's situation shining a spotlight on the absurdity of the rules in and of itself.
As for how this affects Healy going forward, I can't speak for anyone else, but I had Healy at No. 6 in the most recent SBNation lightweight rankings, which is also where he finished in the overall poll. He'll be ineligible for the 90 days of his suspension, but on day 91, he goes right back in at No. 6, as far as I'm concerned.
And since the UFC has demonstrated that 1. They're going to follow the rules laid out by the commissions but 2. they know the rules suck in this case, I'm guessing they'll book Healy for his next fight in a manner commensurate to his ranking.
Bellator's PR battles
@Futch6: Am I the only one that thinks Bjorn Rebney's lack of promoting fights/lack of social media skills is horrific?
Rebney's biggest strength is getting things done behind the scenes. You have to give Rebney credit for simply getting Bellator into the position it's in now. Bellator debuted during the peak of a crowded MMA marketplace, even when he could only land a clearance on Spanish-language television. The company continually improved its position when common sense seemed to indicate the MMA market was collapsing for everyone except the UFC. And it was in position to capitalize when Viacom was looking to stay in the sport after losing their UFC deal.
That doesn't translate so well when Rebney's running a press conference or behind a microphone, because everyone inevitably compares other promoters to Dana White. Rebney might not have White's brashness, Vince McMahon's carnival-barker skills or Don King's, well, Don King-ness, but Bellator doesn't get as far as it has without him.
@Breadandwater94: If Bellator wins and keeps Alvarez.. Wouldn't that be a very weird relationship bcuz he publicly trashed them?
It would. There's simply no way for a huge conglomerate, which main Bellator owner Viacom is, to take on a fighter in the court of public opinion and win. That's why Rebney stayed quiet until he felt he simply had to speak, and even then, that didn't work so well. Clearly Viacom and Bellator feel they need to make an example of Alvarez. Should Bellator win in court, I mean, if you're Alvarez, and your options are a Bellator contract which still pays you significantly more money than you will make anywhere else, or going back to pouring concrete, which one do you think he's going to choose? It would be awkward for sure, but if push came to shove, even Alvarez has said he'd go back to Bellator if he has to.
Change the channel
@MooksInsight: Have u looked at how bad the undercards are for the next few UFC events? Trash, really really bad.
I never fail to be amazed at how much people complain about things for which they don't have to pay a dime. Whether it's web content you read for free, a video you're watching on YouTube, etc., the amount of griping we collectively do as a society about stuff we get for no cost must make people in lesser developed countries want to wretch.
Don't like undercard fights that are available in various combinations on Facebook and basic cable (yes, I understand that you pay for basic cable)? No one's forcing you to watch them. Change the channel. Problem solved. If enough people share your opinion that the undercards are bad, and enough people stop watching, then the UFC would have no choice but to improve the quality of their undercards.
Urijah Faber, flyweight?
@GHS_Forever: How realistic is Faber going to 125?
I asked him that once and he laughed and said "C'mon, man." Faber's in his 30s and he looks like a skeleton when he's weighing in at 135. Nuff said.
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