The UFC was left scrambling this week when the organization learned light heavyweight Dan Henderson would be unable to compete at UFC 151 against champion Jon Jones. While Chael Sonnen was open to the idea of battling “Bones” on short notice, Jones declined to take the fight with only a few days to prepare. Next up was Lyoto Machida, though plans to use “The Dragon” soon fizzled out after revealing he too wanted more time to train even though the bout was pushed back to September 22. Finally, the UFC’s proverbial roulette wheel landed on Vitor Belfort who gladly accepted the challenge and will now meet Jones in the main event of the very show Machida turned down.
While Belfort’s willingness to lock horns with Jones is commendable, his selection shows a serious flaw in the UFC’s thought process. Rather than remain rational in the face of adversity, the company’s brass panicked and picked a guy who has no business being in the Octagon with Jones despite there being no real rush to book the bout.
The reality is UFC 151 (or UFC 152 depending on your approach to counting) didn’t need Jones-Belfort and already had a solid slew of scraps penciled in for the evening. The card already features a title-fight between flyweights Demetrious Johnson-Joseph Benavidez as well as a potential-laden middleweight match-up between Michael Bisping-Brian Stann.
Furthermore, Belfort has done nothing to earn a shot at one of MMA’s most prestigious belts while more deserving competitors have been left in the gutter. Sonnen was a similar candidate though at least his smack-talk and star-power would have been enough to create an intriguing build to the bout. Belfort, on the other hand, beat a guy who has lost his last four fights (Yoshihiro Akiyama) and a guy who isn’t in the UFC anymore (Anthony Johnson). He’s been out of action since January and is coming off an injury. Truly, other than his status as somewhat of a legend, there’s nothing about Belfort that should have made him more than an after-thought.
Unfortunately, because the UFC brass freaked out, fans have now been given a fight few care to see instead of shelving Jones for a handful of weeks when Machida or even Alexander Gustafsson may have been an option. The MMA game may be tricky, though after this week it appears to be one UFC President Dana White is playing like a third-string running back in the NFL – nothing but fumbles.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC