The buzz amongst hardcore mixed martial arts (MMA) fans going into last night's (Fri., June 22, 2012) UFC on FX 4: "Maynard vs. Guida" event was why potential Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight title challenger Hatsu Hioki was relegated to the preliminary portion of the broadcast while two welterweights who are far away from a title shot, Brian Ebersole and T.J. Waldburger, took prime real estate on the FX-broadcasted main card.
Those fans accepted the fact that Hioki was a complete unknown to casual fans but their logic that keeping him on the lesser FUEL channel would limit his exposure was tried and true. If he really was set to challenge Aldo after the Brazilian takes on Eric Koch, surely the UFC would want as many fans as possible to know about the Japanese featherweight, right?
We won't know what impact keeping Hioki off the main card would have on the pay-per-view (PPV) buyrate featuring him in a title fight because now he isn't getting one. At least not for a while.
Another featherweight doing battle inside the Octagon last night in New Jersey was Ross Pearson, The Ultimate Fighter 9 (TUF) winner and recent lightweight turned 145-pounder. He, too, was angling for a title shot based on his reality show exposure and exciting fighting style.
He, too, was pushed back several steps at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City.
So once Aldo and Koch settle their score, who is left to challenge for the featherweight strap?
Hioki entered the UFC a highly touted 145-pounder from Japan whose only recent loss came at the hands of fellow recent UFC-import, Michihiro Omigawa. His stats were impressive as were his first two wins inside the Octagon against veterans George Roop and Bart Palaszewski.
He seemed to be a shoe-in for a title shot.
Ricardo Lamas had other ideas.
While the Japanese fighter scored well in the first, he seemed to have taken his foot off the pedal in the remaining two rounds, which allowed Lamas to come back and score the unanimous decision win by a score of 29-28 across all three judges' score cards.
And like a cloud of smoke dissipating into the atmosphere, poof went Hioki's potential title shot.
Similarly, Pearson was riding the momentum of a successful featherweight debut as well as already having the exposure that comes with winning a TUF season behind him.
Despite a 4-2 record inside the Octagon at lightweight, the Briton felt his best chances at UFC gold would come at 145-pounds and dropped down to the weight class at UFC 141, defeating Junior Assuncao by unanimous decision.
His second test against Cub Swanson saw him open up as a huge favorite, but it wasn't without valid reason, however. All along his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and UFC career, Swanson couldn't seem to string together a pair of wins and his wild, brawling style looked to be a perfect fit for Pearson's tight boxing.
Everyone expected a knockout from the TUF winner but it was Swanson who landed the killing blow, putting Pearson to sleep in the second round.
The only featherweight seemingly worthy of a title shot now is "The Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung, who is coming off an impressive win over Dustin Poirier.
But with Aldo injured and Koch waiting on his title shot, it looks like Jung might have to take a fight in the meantime to keep himself fresh. And as we can all see, sometimes those fights which should have gone one way -- as in the case of Hioki and Pearson -- go another.
Should "Korean Zombie" wait lest he loses a fight and loses his title shot? Or should he step inside the Octagon and let the chips fall where they may?