Photo by Tracy Lee via Cagewriter
Let's not delude ourselves. The fights the UFC chooses to stream via Facebook are not chocked with top-level talent or championship caliber fighters. UFC 136 was no different.
The Facebook feed is halfway filled with fighters who may one day become just that, young fighters who have untapped potential to make it to the top of the mixed martial arts (MMA) world. Prospects like Stipe Miocic who the fight promotion will build up slowly in hopes that they flourish into the next great champion.
The other half? Well, it's the exact polar opposite. Fighters who will never attain gold inside the Octagon or whose names wil never enter pound-for-pound conversations. They fill roles, essentially. Joey Beltran will always come out to stand and bang. If the UFC needs someone who is guaranteed to thrown down, they can always call on "The Mexicutioner."
Zhang Tie Quan is the only Chinese fighter under UFC 's employ and a seemingly integral part in their plans to expand to the most populous country in the world. Without a Chinese national, any plans the fight promotion has to gain a foothold in China would likely fall flat.
But according to some, these men's performances -- along with those of Steve Cantwell and Eric Schafer -- weren't indicative of what the Octagon hopes to represent. Their argument is if the UFC truly wants to take MMA to a global level on par with soccer, the majority of the roster must be the best of the best.
So what does "Octagon-caliber" mean anyway?
Steve Cantwell and Brian Stann traded the WEC light heavyweight title back and forth before the promotion was absorbed by the UFC. Once they made their way into the Octagon, it wasn't long before they both dropped to 185-pounds. But while Stann has flourished at his new weight class -- going undefeated until last night's bout with Chael Sonnen -- Cantwell floundered.
Cantwell started his middleweight debut off strong against Mike Massenzio, taking the fight to the New Jersey-native in the first round. He looked poised to dominate the fight and possibly looked towards a finish. Instead, he wilted and allowed "The Master of Disaster" to break his nose and earn a unanimous decision.
It was his fourth straight loss and will likely earn him his walking papers.
Eric Schafer returned to the Octagon and fought Aaron Simpson last night for what is now his third tour in the UFC. "Red" took a beating from "A-Train" and was essentially what amounted to a punching bag with a pulse. Cut and bloody, Schafer left the cage unsure of his future with the world's largest fight promotion.
Quan, the great Chinese hope for the UFC, has scored two wins under the Zuffa umbrella with a snake-like guillotine choke. His losses came when he couldn't secure the submission and seemed utterly lost. While Quan, at least in his current state, is by no means a wash, he seems a bit one-dimensional. I understand there are reasons far beyond "The Mongolian Wolf's" performances inside the Octagon that will keep him employed but he needs to become more well-rounded if he hopes to survive in the UFC.
The final prelim fight that aired on Facebook was what long-time wrestling announcer Jim Ross would call a slobberknocker. Croatian by way of Ohio Stipe Miocic made his UFC debut and took on the always durable Joey Beltran. The Latino fighter was brought into the company as a late replacement at UFC 109 and killed Rolles Gracie's career inside the Octagon before it even really began.
The loss against Miocic puts "The Mexecutioner" at .500 during his UFC career but his fan-friendly style of punching and eating punches until either he or his opponent go down will never tire. In the same vein, Dan Hardy may have been the most undeserving title challenger in the company's history but when he steps inside the cage, he doesn't go in to win a decision. He goes in for the finish, for the kill and endears himself to the fans and the front office.
Performances like those of Beltran, Hardy, and UFC 136 Fight of the Night winner Leonard Garcia spur a furious debate as to whether fighters like these deserve to be on the world's biggest stage. Winging punches with little to no technique and cardio that drains like a tub are arguments used against those fighters. An endless supply of heart and grit and the ability to get fans on their feet cheering are the points proponents bring up in their defense.
The truth is there is no clear cut criteria for who deserves to fight inside the Octagon. Anyone from a one-of-a-kind specimen like Jon Jones to a stand and bang fighter like Hardy can and are employed by Dana White and company.
Additionally, there isn't a set number of roster slots that the UFC has to adhere to. They can have as many fighters on staff as they want. That affords them the opportunity to cut paychecks to fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Mark Hunt alike.
"Bad Boy" will likely never make a second challenge for the 145-pound title, that much is almost certain but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to fight for the UFC.
Garcia, Beltran, Hardy, and fighters cut from the same cloth have a purpose just like Anderson Silva and Cain Velasquez do. Frankly, there isn't a single fighter on the planet that deserves to be in the UFC but isn't because they are still on the roster.
So tell me again why they don't deserve to be in the UFC?