Just a quick note: the following is part of the "UFC 141 Complete Collection" I am currently running on my website, where I count down and discuss at length all the fights of the UFC 141 card. For the most part it's meant to be informative and fan-friendly, but for this post my anger at Jon Fitch's situation got the better of me. I think it's a worthy commentary and criticism, though, so I'm posting it here to hopefully get some feedback and debate going. Just remember, I've got no real problems with Johnny Hendricks. So here we go.
There are two schools of thought surrounding Jon Fitch. To some, Jon Fitch is one of the best Welterweight fighters to have ever set foot into the Octagon. To others, he’s the clearest example of boring wrestlers dominating the sport with boring wrestling.
But this is an argument that I raise all the time, and I still stand by it: if you can’t defend the takedown, you suck. Get better, and don’t get dominated on the ground for three rounds. It takes two to tango, and if you can’t get yourself up from a Jon Fitch takedown, you deserve to be at the mercy of a Jon Fitch takedown.
On paper, you can absolutely make the case for Jon Fitch being one of the greatest Welterweights to ever step foot into the Octagon. His record is 23-3-1 with 1 No Contest. In fifteen professional fights inside of the UFC, Jon Fitch has lost only to Georges St. Pierre and has a draw against BJ Penn, both of whom are considered two of the greatest UFC fighters in UFC history. Fitch has beaten the likes of Thiago Alves (twice), Diego Sanchez, Ben Saunders, Paulo Thiago, Akihiro Gono… the list goes on and on and on and on.
Johnny Hendricks, meanwhile, has been rocketing to the top of the UFC’s 170-pound division with a series of convincing decision wins coupled with a few TKO wins. Even a loss to fellow prospect Rick Story only momentarily delayed the ascension of Hendricks: Hendricks would rebound with a dramatic “Knockout of the Night” victory over TJ Waldburger. In his most-recent fight, Hendricks scored a key Split Decision victory over Mike Pierce.
I take no shame in, and am actually quite proud of, the fact that I consider Jon Fitch so gigantically under-rated that I’d probably laugh at the funniness of the situation if it wasn’t so depressing. Jon Fitch deserves another title shot, he’s been deserving of one for years. At one point, Jon Fitch was within shouting distance of the then-current record for the longest run of successful UFC fights. If it were anyone else with Jon Fitch’s record, people would be jumping onto his bandwagon in droves and practically protesting the UFC in the streets for waiting so long to give such a talented fighter a second shot at the gold.
Even worse, they keep trying to shoehorn Fitch into this gatekeeper role when he’s so clearly talented enough to fight and beat top-division threats. Traditionally, gatekeepers are those good fighters that look great at times but have a few key problems that keep them from making a real run at the title. The only problem with Fitch is that his wrestling is so good that almost nobody can avoid getting taken down for three straight rounds.
I don’t even have a problem with Johnny Hendricks, I think he could be a major star in a few years. But in the here and now, Fitch is simply out of his league and I don’t understand why the UFC keeps serving up Jon Fitch hot prospects in the hope that those prospects knock him out and take him down a peg so all the underground fans like me stop complaining about how unfairly Jon Fitch is being treated.
Here’s a newsflash to the haters and the cynics and even the UFC: Jon Fitch ain’t goin’ nowhere. If you continue to force him into a gatekeeper role, he’s going to continue to make your hot prospects look like crap and send them back down to mid-division status at best. Embrace the grind, people. Like just about all his fights, my official prediction is that Jon Fitch is going to win this one by a wide margin and by a dominant Unanimous Decision.