Which would you prefer: title changes so frequent that you can’t keep tabs on who has the belt or watching a champion pile up defences as they clean out their division?
Right now, three of the five UFC titles are in the possession of fighters who are making the latter a reality, cleaning out divisions and defended their respective belts multiple times.
With his win over Diego Sanchez at UFC 107, Penn proved the long-standing belief that a focused and determined BJ Penn would be scary. “The Prodigy” picked apart his challenger, finally ending things with a devastating head kick that split Sanchez open, forcing Herb Dean to call for the doctor and eventually wave off the rest of the final round.
Immediately, the question being asked was “Who’s Next?” a question that is not unfamiliar when it comes to the UFC titles.
Anderson Silva has already cleaned out the middleweight division, beating everyone who has worked their way into title contention. It’s to the point that one of the men currently considered as a possible challenger, Nate Marquardt, has already been decimated by “The Spider” during his current run at the top.
Things are no different in the welterweight division, where Georges St-Pierre has put on clinic-after-clinic since regaining his title from Matt Serra, defeating Jon Fitch, Penn, and Thiago Alves with startling ease.
Despite an unblemished record in the UFC and coming off a strong win over Mike Swick, St-Pierre’s next challenger Dan Hardy is being given next to no chance at taking the title away from the French-Canadian superstar.
Penn added his name to the list of seemingly unbeatable champions officially last night, and it’s possible that the two remaining title holders – light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar – could conceivably add their names to this list by the end of next year.
Before shouting about the “Shogun” Rua fight, the fact remains that Machida still has the shiny, gold belt around his waist. Executing a gameplan as well as Rua did the first time around is difficult enough; with time to reflect and prepare, doing so a second time against Machida would be even more impressive.
Though Brock Lesnar is currently sidelined without a return date set, he has dominated his last two opponents to the point that some have called for the creation of a “medium heavyweight” division so the gargantuan athlete can’t simply out-size his competition.
Regardless of what happens with the two remaining champions, the UFC and their fans are faced with a difficult situation moving forward.
While putting together marketable fights is a difficult task already, Joe Silva is now looking at three dominant champions who are seemingly without competition, making their future title fights a tough sell.
People still want to see Penn, Silva and St-Pierre operating inside the Octagon, but for each, their challengers enter the bout with little more than the proverbial “Puncher’s Chance” in the eyes of most fans and media members.
Despite the hard sell the UFC consistently and understandably delivers with each instalment of the UFC Countdown series, they are starting to feel a little disingenuous and there is little the company can do to remedy things.
Though there is always the possibility of a Matt Serra-type upset, the hype and praise heaped onto Sanchez felt forced before hand, and looks worse in the wake of Saturday’s destruction at the hands of BJ Penn.
Honestly – when you’re pushing a challenger’s performances against Luigi Fioravanti and David Bielkheden as evidence of being a threat to a transcendent talent like “The Prodigy,” maybe it’s time to move in a different direction with the preview shows.
As fans, the situation is a Catch-22: while we’re getting to watch some of the best fighters in the history of the sport dominate their respective divisions, the title fights we normally turn to for suspense and intrigue are becoming foregone conclusions.
Three of the UFC champions have cleaned out their divisions, while the other two could conceivably do the same.
Could 2010 be a year without a single title change?
Perhaps, but the more interesting question is “How would you feel about that?”