Enough with MMA Rematches Already
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 05.27.2014
Renan Barao and his camp are already calling for an immediate rematch with TJ Dillashaw, 411's Jeffrey Harris explains why that is a bad idea.
Almost immediately after TJ Dillashaw scored one of the biggest upsets of all time, beating Renan Barao by knockout in the fifth round at UFC 173, Barao and his camp were already campaigning for an immediate rematch. In fact, Barao's manager is already trying to set it up by happening in Brazil. After the fight, UFC President Dana White seemed receptive to the idea of doing an immediate rematch. Personally, I say enough is enough with immediate rematches, and this was not a situation that called for an immediate MMA rematch.
The UFC 173 main event was fantastic, but that was mostly because TJ Dillashaw put on the performance of a lifetime and seemingly caught lightning in a bottle against one of the most dangerous and dominant fighters on the planet. He was a 9 to 1 underdog, and absolutely no one believed he could win except himself, Team Alpha Male, and his coach Duane Ludwig. But this was not a razor close decision like Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. It was not the highway robbery that was UFC 105 in the first fight between Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua. Was this Fight of the Night? Yes, but because Dillashaw gave the fight of his life and upset the dominant champion. This was more or less a one-sided and dominant beat down. No one expected it or believed it could happen.
Sometimes immediate rematches make sense. When you have such a historic run like Anderson Silva did as middleweight champion, carrying and defending the belt for six years, then a rematch is fair and makes sense. But even the fight between Silva and Weidman was not the one-sided beatdown that Barao/Dillashaw was. And while Barao was a tremendous champion, and he's a great fighter without question, he is not Anderson Silva. Unfortunately, the UFC and Dana White have probably given Barao and his camp a great deal of ammo by labeling him as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, but they are trying to promote Barao and make him into star. That's their job.
Due to the nature of how Barao lost, taking another fight makes sense for him. Why? There is a ready-made contender who is next in line for Dillashaw. His name is Raphael Assuncao, the last person to beat TJ Dillashaw in the UFC. I thought Assuncao won that fight, but it was a closely fought battle and a split decision. Assuncao has won six fights in a row. No one else at bantamweight in the UFC right now is coming off six straight wins, including a win over the current champion in that run! Assuncao has earned that title. And after Dillashaw's performance, that's a main event you can easily book on a UFC on Fox card for the main event. After Junior dos Santos lost the title to Cain Velasquez, he took another fight to earn his rematch. He fought Mark Hunt, who was on a tremendous run at that point. So the fight was a virtual title eliminator match. As much as people complain about how many title shots Faber has been given, he always had to win fights in order to earn another shot at the belt.
TJ Dillashaw defeated Renan Barao at UFC 173. Is an immediate rematch with the former champion Barao on the horizon?
But the amount of MMA rematches we are seeing in the industry has reached an insane level. Let's take Bellator MMA for example. Look at Emanuel Newton. In February 2013, Newton knocked out Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal in their light heavyweight tournament match. Newton went on to win the eight-man tournament. By Bellator MMA standards, he had "earned" his shot at Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion Atilla Vegh. But what happened? They re-booked King Mo in another tournament, this time a four-man tournament. Mo was given an easy path to a tournament win, being fed virtual tomato cans in Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe. So instead of giving Newton the title shot he had rightfully earned, they created a non-sensical interim title. This is despite Vegh being un-injured and ready to fight by last November. So Newton was forced into a rematch against Mo in order to win an "interim" belt. For all intents and purposes, it was a fake title and a glorified No. 1 contender spot because Vegh was not really injured. What happened? Newton defeated King Mo again! Bellator MMA seems to like to redo fights over and over again until they get the right result.
It wasn't their last offense. It happened again with Daniel Straus and Pat Curran. Was Pat Curran a great featherweight champion? Yes he was. But he lost fair and square to Straus at Bellator 106. It was a mostly one-sided, dominant win for Straus. It was hardly a Fight of the Year or even a Fight of the Night Candidate. Did Curran have a previous win over Straus outside of Bellator MMA? Yes he did. However, instead of giving the next title shot to the rightful No. 1 contender and next guy in line, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, Bellator booked an immediate rematch between Curran and Straus. Pitbull was the last man to beat Straus in Bellator. In fact, that was Straus' only loss in Bellator up to that point. So we saw the inexplicable Curran/Straus rematch at UFC 112. This time, Curran won. He finished Straus with a submission in the last round. It was a closer back and forth bout. So Bellator MMA did a course correction, and they got the result they wanted this time. OK, so now that Pitbull had to wait, he gets his title shot now, right? Nope. After Curran vs. Pitbull II was scheduled for Bellator 121, the injury bug struck Curran again. He dropped out of the fight at the last minute. No title shot for Pitbull for now. Now does Curran own wins over Straus and Pitbull. Yup. But Bellator MMA was supposed to be the place "where title shots are earned not given!" By forcing the unnecessary rematch between Straus and Curran, Pitbull got screwed over.
Here's yet another Bellator MMA example. Bjorn Rebney has made it clear in his language that Bellator will likely book another lightweight title bout rematch between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler. Now both these fights had two tremendous fights before. They are 1-1, and they were scheduled to have their rubber match on PPV. So what's the problem? Well the problem is that Eddie Alvarez got a concussion and pulled out of the fight a week ahead of time. So Bellator put together yet another inexplicable interim title bout (their third INTERIM title in less than six months) and set Chandler against lightweight tournament winner Will Brooks. Brooks was unquestionably the underdog, but on Bellator's PPV debut at Bellator 120...Brooks won the interim title. It was a close split decision, but Brooks came out of it the champion. OK, so even though winning a tournament should mean you get a title shot, and Brooks just got the interim title instead, he should now have to face the current champion in Eddie Alvarez. Right? Not so fast. According to Rebney, Alvarez apparently has strict contract language that means they have to book a trilogy rematch with Alvarez and Chandler on PPV. Alvarez has already made it clear he thinks he should fight Alvarez, and the issue is on Bellator's end. While Rebney is making it seem like the fault is due to Alvarez's contract and desires. The point is this. The rightful match to make is Alvarez vs. Brooks. The other problem is Bellator MMA's tournament format is fine for the guys trying to win $100,000 and win a belt and trick MMA media outlets that they are top 5 fighters in their weight class, but once they win the tournament and the title, none of them are willing to go through the tournament again. They are done with the tournament at that point. I thought the tournament was how you were supposed to earn your shot? Bellator MMA's new rule of having title rematches for when the situation calls for it has been abused and has become an absolute joke.
Will Chandler still be granted a rematch with Eddie Alvarez despite losing to Will Brooks in an interim title match?
So getting back to Barao, why shouldn't he take another fight? Takeya Mizugaki is right there. Is he not confident he would beat him? Mizugaki has been on an incredible streak himself and deserves a much bigger fight. The fight would basically be Barao's title eliminator. After his performance at UFC 173, what is wrong with seeing how he recovers from losing for the first time in 10 years? Let's see how he deals with his first UFC loss and losing the title before putting him right back in there.
Even for Jon Jones vs. Gustafsson II, a fight that's not confirmed yet, both guys took other fights first. Jones defeated Glover Teixeira. Gustafsson cemented his ranking position by beating the undefeated Jimi Manuwa. But that's still a rematch to a much closer fight than Dillashaw/Barao.
Now this is not an immediate rematch, but one on I'm not so keen on right now is Robbie Lawler vs. Johny Hendricks. Now Lawler has already taken another fight and picked up another impressive win at UFC 173, knocking out the then No. 5-ranked Jake Ellenberger (Ellenberger has since dropped to No. 7). The No. 5 ranked contender is now Matt Brown. I, as fellow 411 columnist and 411 Ground & Pound Radio Show host, would like to see Brown get that next shot. Brown has won seven fights in a row in the UFC. Now maybe you can nitpick that those wins weren't over top 5 fighters, but when you get that many wins together in a shark-infested division like welterweight, does it really matter? UFC President Dana White has frequently talked about fighters coming out and performing, and Brown has done that every time he steps into the cage in the last several years. I think a rematch between Lawler and Hendricks is inevitable at some point. They also had a close fight, and Lawler looks like a killer right now. But the problem is that there are a lot fighters rising through the ranks at welterweight now, and yet another rematch will hold up the division. And that's my main problem with the long line of rematches. They hold up the rest of the division and put a lot of fighters in limbo.
Ultimately, this will be the UFC's call. But instead of doing matches over and over again until the desired result is achieved, let's see some fresh match-ups first. It's better to see fresh match-ups, especially after someone decisively and dominantly puts away the champion to keep the divisions progressing.