UFC 161: I don’t get it, so I must get it

UFC 161

Looking at the full fight card for UFC 161, I have to admit, I don’t get it.

I know this isn’t the fight card that was planned, that fights were pulled because of injury, and the co-main event (Nelson vs. Miocic) was put in with only a couple of weeks of notice for both guys. Still, looking at the card, I don’t quite get it.

Main Event: Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans
What does Henderson have to gain from this fight? Let’s say he beats the faster Evans in a decision (in my opinion the most likely outcome should Henderson win), it’s nice for his record but doesn’t move him up the rankings much. Maybe slightly ahead of where he was before losing to Machida. Henderson would have to win in devastating fashion: a quick KO or submission, for it to really move the needle for him. I’m thinking Evans was right, at least with this fight, in saying Hendo is “just fighting for fun.”

But what if Henderson loses? He falls further down the ladder, and faces a steep climb back up. At that point, he might as well just fight for fun, and hope that he stays uninjured to answer the call when there’s an injury in future cards. This is a must-win for Hendo, but he really stands little to gain from the win.

Rashad Evans has more to gain, perhaps than Hendo from this fight, especially if he can win decisively. A decision victory does little for him, too. He’s the faster, younger fighter, who’s fought the better competition recently, but he should be careful fighting too many of the “old guard” before he finds himself doing just that. I mean, they would be entertaining fights, but would do nothing to further his goal of re-winning a belt.

Co-Main Event: Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic
This is another fight I don’t get. I understand that it was put together quickly, and therefore isn’t the ideal situation to put together a good bout, but I’m not sure what either fighter stands to earn from the match.

Let’s say Roy Nelson knocks Miocic out. OK, now what? He’d have 13 KOs, which is impressive, but Miocic is not ranked near Nelson, and shouldn’t be. So, Roy ends his UFC contract (perhaps his UFC career?) beating a guy he should beat. It doesn’t move him an inch up the ranks in the UFC.

For Miocic, there’s a bit more upside. He beats a ranked opponent and moves up. But the heavyweight ranks are pretty set. There just isn’t room for him to move up that much. And if he loses? Honestly, he doesn’t drop down a whole lot. He benefits from taking the fight on short notice win or lose, so in that way, he may have the most to gain from any of the fighters here.

Ryan Jimmo vs. Igor Pokrajac
I’m not the biggest Jimmo fan. He probably shouldn’t have taken the Tehuna fight, given the short notice and with his newly-disclosed leg injury. He made such an impression with that first UFC KO that he probably wouldn’t have been penalized much had he passed on the fight, and he would’ve come into this fight in a stronger position. He’s not untalented, just not someone I see ever challenging for a title.

As for Pokrajax, he’s certainly had a lot of experience, as his 25-9 record attests, but his 2010-present record is 4-4, and he is coming off of 2 losses in a row. I wouldn’t be totally shocked (not Fitch-level shocked, anyway) if he’s fighting for his UFC roster spot against Jimmo.

Alexis Davis vs. Rosi Sexton
This may turn out to be the most intriguing fight on the card. Both women are coming in with similar records. Davis has fought the better competition recently, although Sexton seems to have more momentum coming in.

This isn’t my “prediction” post, but I predict this will win Fight of the Night.

Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan
Did you see how goofy these two got at the weigh-in? Both guys are killers, but also have a great sense of humor. I wanna see a buddy movie with these two, not them in the cage going at each other. This fight just doesn’t feel right to me. I like both fighters. I hate when the UFC does this to me.

The preliminary card is filled with questions and odd match-ups too. Jake Shields vs. Tyron Woodley? How does Sheilds fend off the more powerful Woodley? He better get that submission thrown up quick, or he’s gonna be toast. James Kause vs. Sam Stout? OK, I genuinely love this fight. But Yves Jaboiun vs. Dustin Pague as the lead-off facebook prelim? How far has Jaboiun fallen in the eyes of the UFC? It doesn’t make sense to me.

This is my point: I just don’t get many of the fights on this card, but if history has taught me anything, it’s that these are the cards that rock. Every time I have felt this way about a card in the UFC, I’ve been amazed at the bouts. This is one time when I have to go totally against my guts. I can almost guarantee this card will not disappoint.