I love the Zuffa machine and believe 100% that the UFC's benevolent-dictator business model is the best way to move the sport forward.
However, the sport's leading promotion does occasionally do things that I just can't understand, case in point being the way Japanese superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama is being brought along.
In fact, Akiyama's UFC career is turning into the biggest series of matchmaking debacles in MMA history.
Let's recap Akiyama's tenure in the UFC.
Akiyama debuted against Alan Belcher at UFC 100 on July 11, 2009. While many fans, myself included, thought Belcher won the fight, Akiyama was awarded a split-decision victory. But let's call that battle what it was - too close to complain about.
Okay, let's move on.
Akiyama's next bout was with Chris Leben at UFC 116. After a pretty solid showing in the first two rounds, Akiyama succumbed to a triangle choke with just twenty seconds left in the fight.
But it wasn't to be. Sonnen's suspension/sabbatical from the UFC following his PED scandal meant he was out, and Nate Marquardt was in to take his place.
Now I want to ask you folks a question.
What is wrong with the following sequence of events?
1) Akiyama wins a very close decision over Belcher at UFC 100.
2) Akiyama gets choked out by Chris Leben at UFC 116.
3) Akiyama loses by decision to Michael Bisping at UFC 120.
4) Akiyama is booked to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 128.
5) Sonnen is pulled from the fight, and Nate Marquardt is his replacement.
Look closely and you'll see that the worse Akiyama performs, the better his next opponent is!
Akiyama went from 1) barely beating Belcher and 2) getting subbed by Leben to fighting Michael Bisping, the #12 guy in the world, as ranked by USA Today/SB Nation.
Fast forward to October 16, 2010. Bisping wins by unanimous decision, and what happens?
Akiyama is booked to battle Chael Sonnen, the #2 guy in the world.
Sonnen is suspended/pulls out, and who is there to replace him? Nate Marquardt, the #4 guy.
Is anyone else baffled by this?
Bisping beats Akiyama and gets #25-ranked Jorge Rivera.
Akiyama loses to Bisping, and is put up against #2-ranked Chael Sonnen, then #4-ranked Nate Marquardt when Sonnen is pulled.
My conclusion: If Akiyama can manage to lose to Marquardt, he should be right in line for a title shot.
And yes, we now have indisputable proof that Michael Bisping is being protected.