Is Jon Fitch right? Does Dan Hardy truly deserve the title shot? Photo by UFC.com
Mixed martial arts is a sport that works off an unique theory. Matches are created by promoters who have shown that entertainment and business are above the actual precedence of fighters working their way up the perceived rankings. The UFC works off the basis of "what have you done lately", and that ideology can be seen in many of the divisional title pictures.
Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar were two fighters in contention for a shot at UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn, but Maynard's lackluster performance against Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20 gave Edgar the nod as the divisional contender despite Maynard holding a decisive win over the New Jersey native.
Chael Sonnen's out-of-cage smack talk and dominating performance over Nate Marquardt at UFC 109 vaulted him into a contender role despite a very quick submission loss to Demian Maia, who also won on the UFC 109 card. Ed Soares is calling for a title eliminator bout with Demian Maia to determine the next contender to Anderson Silva, but the 0:21 second loss to Marquardt and Sonnen's "heel" status have no doubt caused Soares' comments to be ignored.
The same can be said for the welterweight division. Dan Hardy's impressive wins vaulted him into title contention due to a mix of quality showings and his antics out of the Octagon. Jon Fitch is now speaking out in regards to the current situation in the Welterweight division:
"I think there are other fighters in the weight class that have done more work and fought tougher opponents," the American Kickboxing Academy trained athlete told MMAWeekly.com.
Fitch isn’t the only one with those sentiments. Training partner and fellow welterweight contender Josh Koscheck has gone on record saying he doesn’t think Hardy deserves the fight with St-Pierre as well.
"No. He doesn't deserve a title shot. It's simple, but I don't make those decisions. They're just trying to get someone for St-Pierre to beat up," Koscheck recently told Heavy.com.
While the "what have you done for me lately" ideology that the UFC seems to be using to justify the title match-ups is evident, there are plenty of other factors. That concept also includes how impressive you've been in your performances, your drawing power, and the ability to produce hype around fights. Jon Fitch hasn't shown any of those attributes in his performances, and some would say he's putting himself into a problematic situation of being the next Yushin Okami.
Fitch has been involved in six straight fights that have gone to decision. He was soundly beaten by Georges St. Pierre back at UFC 87, and the UFC's past moves have indicated that changing title contenders is a way to keep title fights fresher. Why else would Randy Couture be given a chance at a title shot after beating Mark Coleman? Couture has drawing power, plain and simple. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's shot at Machida after a win over a downtrodden Chuck Liddell? Exciting knockout.
Furthermore, Josh Koscheck may be the lone American Kickboxing Academy team member who will truly put himself back into a situation in which he can earn a title shot. Not only has Koscheck finished three out of his last four opponents, but he's also been a pleasing employee who has come in on short notice and performed well.
I imagine that Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves has the potential to be a contendership bout, but I'm skeptical about the UFC allowing Fitch to fight for the title once again if Koscheck crushes Paul Daley. AKA team members have been reluctant to fight one another, but that hasn't stopped them from being indirectly in competition with each other when it comes to their performances.
While Fitch has a valid complaint since he's beaten all comers with the exception of Georges St. Pierre, this isn't a sport that rewards non-finishers. The UFC will easily take a guy who has buzz surrounding him due to an impressive display of power in the cage over a guy who grinds fighters out over three rounds. He also has to understand that both himself and Koscheck have already battled the current champion, and the UFC has always been reluctant in giving rematches because they'd like to exhaust other options first.
If Fitch wants his shot, he needs to become more explosive in his striking or develop a better submission game. He needs some sort of selling point for the UFC and fans to become interested. Hardy may not deserve a title shot due to defeating Mike Swick, who was laughably justified as a possible contender after defeating some average competition, but he had some much more exciting fights to lobby with.
The UFC may be a "what have you done for me lately" promotion, but MMA promotions worldwide have added the "how have you looked lately" ideology into the same formula in determining match-ups. A win is a win isn't going to cut it anymore.