Sometimes it's as much a case of where you do it as much as what you're doing in the first place. And for Tim Boetsch, the hard-charging middleweight made a huge statement last night (Sat., Feb. 25, 2012) at UFC 144 against Yushin Okami that will go a long way in a relatively thin division.
The UFC's 185-pound class is a weird one. The champion, Anderson Silva, is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, a man so wildly gifted and capable of doing anything that at times his aura itself paralyzes opponents. Witness Silva's hands-down, dare-you-to-swing-at-me visage moments before sending Okami to the showers, or his destructive pair of performances in the 205-pound division against Forrest Griffin and James Irvin.
Last August, when I wrote that a Silva vs. Jon Jones showdown would be seriously discussed by the end of 2012, it was based on the mutual trajectories of two great fighters that will ultimately need each other, if for vastly different reasons. Silva will have to accept Jones, who seems poised to inherit the helm as the game's best fighter once "The Spider" retires.
There's a lot of drop-off after the champ. The middleweights lack the depth of the lightweights, the scourge of rising young talent at welterweight, the veteran-heavy 205-pounders, and the excitement of the heavies.
That's where Boetsch can take advantage.
Top contender Chael Sonnen is expected to secure a rematch with Silva sometime this summer, but compared to other beltholders, betting-wise, Silva probably has more 7-1 mismatches at the sportsbook window than in any other champ's top 10. He's put a vast distance between himself and the rest of the weight class, and it doesn't help that three of the best, Luke Rockhold, Jacare Souza and Tim Kennedy, are currently mired in Strikeforce, a certifiable wasteland for the division.
That's why Boetsch's comeback K.O. of Okami means a lot more than it would in any other division. It was equal parts inspiring and exciting. Personally, I'm fascinated with how they match Boetsch next. He's 3-0 at middleweight, and seems to have acclimated to the cut quite well since dropping from 205-pounds.
A showdown against Mark Munoz would be a natural, because it's a win-win. Both are heavy-handed wrestlers. Boetsch probably has the better chin, Munoz the edge in takedowns, scrambles and ground-and-pound. But win or lose, Boetsch's performance Saturday night showed that with him, it isn't over until it's sure as hell over.
That's the kind of guy that can generate some buzz, especially if Silva continues to steamroll title challengers.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.