It's been a rough year for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), whether or not the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion and its know-it-all chief mouthpiece, Dana White, want to admit it.
And that's a bit alarming, considering the lofty expectations heading into 2012 thanks in large part to a blockbuster network television deal with FOX Sports. The UFC was supposed to get bigger and better, but all it did was seemingly fly off the rails and continue to floor it, getting desperately lost in the weeds.
New deal, insane injuries, lofty expectations, botched calls, failed drug tests, arrests, egos and just about everything else under the sun that could have gone wrong, did go wrong, for the UFC in 2012. It all came to a painful, puss-filled head when we witnessed a Middleweight compete for the Light Heavyweight title and the 185-pound champion ascend to the 205-pound division to light up a quasi-retired, albeit popular, journeyman.
In back-to-back events! Let's not even talk about the cancelation of UFC 151.
The good news for White and Co., as well as for fight fans, is that it seems that perfect storm has been weathered, for better or worse. We're heading back from the Outer Banks still breathing and with a little fresh catch in the tanks thanks to what I would consider a recent solid three-event stretch in little more than two weeks.
Hell, Jon Fitch delivered a "Fight of the Night" performance last weekend.
The curious decision to book Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen notwithstanding -- because that happens next year (and because I want to keep this piece positive) -- the UFC is starting to hit a little stride after fucking with my fight feelings just a few months ago. And with a refreshing layoff until Nov. 10, 2012 (UFC on FUEL TV 6: "Franklin vs. Le"), the promotion and its fans can reset and get ready for the remaining six events that will close out an otherwise disappointing year.
The remaining schedule features six decent events, which could probably be four amazing events if the UFC wasn't obsessed with fighting the two-front television and expansion wars. Nonetheless, I'm giving the promotion the benefit of the doubt this time around because of the gem that is UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz," which is scheduled for the KeyArena in Seattle, Wash., on Dec. 8, 2012.
Just check out the loaded televised main card, which is what all others should emulate in terms of talent, meaningfulness (it's a word, trust me) and spice:
- UFC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson vs. Nate Diaz
- Alexander Gustafsson vs. Mauricio Rua
- Rory MacDonald vs. B.J. Penn
- Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown
Only a surprise appearance by the unstable and unpredictable Jason Miller during the main event post-fight interviews can sink this card in its current form. Remember Nashville!
Even before UFC on FOX 5 kicks off, however, we've got the triumphant return of Georges St. Pierre at UFC 154, coming back from knee surgery to unify his 170-pound title at the expense of Carlos "I Hold Divisions Hostage" Condit. The co-main event that night? A number one welterweight contender eliminator match between Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann.
That's what I'm talking about.
Last, and certainly nowhere close to least, we have the championship cherry, Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez, a heavyweight title rematch between the top two-ranked fighters in the division at UFC 155. It's got all the potential in the MMA universe to make us forget about (even if just a little bit) a rough 2012 and trigger a bigger wave of momentum that laps into 2013.
A New Year we all hoped 2012 would be, but never was.
"We rollin'" ...