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Opening Round: Feast or Phan-in?

One of the most peculiar scheduling decisions in recent MMA history was made last week on the heels of an announcement regarding Dave Herman’s removal from UFC 136 due to a positive drug test. Rather than replacing Herman’s bout on the PPV with one of the two excellent match-ups set for Spike TV or even a guaranteed knockout like Stipe Miocic vs. Joey Beltran the powers that be decided to slot Nam Phan’s rematch with Leonard Garcia into the main card mix.

Let’s review, shall we?

Had the judges done the right job in their original meeting Phan would still be 2-3 in his last five fights while “Bad Boy” would have truly lived up to the first part of his nickname with a 1-4-1 record in the previous six including three straight losses. Garcia hasn’t even finished an opponent in three years for that matter, and neither man has the kind of past win on their record that jumps out at you despite 31 victories between the two.

How on any level is the above a justifiable PPV-quality pairing, especially considering the other options?

Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens has “Fight of the Night” potential, as it pits two rising stars against each other who enter the Octagon with educated limbs and a fearless approach to competition. Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago involves two grapplers with serviceable striking, much more so in the case of Santiago, who hold combined wins over a number of respectable adversaries including Kazuo Misaki, Jeremy Horn, Trevor Prangley, Dan Miller, Ed Herman, and Chael Sonnen.

Or, if there’s some sort of strange set-up where the UFC is obligated to deliver those two match-ups on Spike TV, Miocic is undefeated with five TKOs and Beltran’s willingness to engage while standing is a well-known aspect of his reputation in the ring (plus he’s coming off a June TKO over always-tough Aaron Rosa). Seriously, who doesn’t love to see two big fellas swinging for the fences with one flooring the other before the third round even gets close to rolling aroubd?

There’s also 10-2 Aaron Simpson, who has won two straight, taking on submission specialist Eric Schaefer who is 1-0 since dropping down to 185 pounds. The latter may be a bit Vanilla in nature but it’s certainly no worse than what’s being served up to fans instead.

The title-heavy main course at UFC 136 is clearly the meat and potatoes of the card but Phan vs. Garcia is nothing more than sprig of parsley on the side – an inedible garnish involving two inconsistent featherweights who will likely be out of a job in the UFC six months from today.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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