The time is nearly upon us. The first 135-pound title fight in UFC history is here as Dominick Cruz defends against Urijah Faber tonight at UFC 132. Here are three burning questions surrounding tonight's show, which emanates from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
How big of a fight is the main event of Cruz and Faber for the long-term longevity of the UFC bantamweight division?
To me, right now, the division is dead in the water. For evidence of this, you need look no further than a fight between top contender Brian Bowles and Takeya Mizugaki being relegated to the Facebook portion of this card. There's been exactly three main card bantamweight bouts since the UFC absorbed that division from the WEC. Of those three, two have been on pay-per-view (featuring Faber at UFC 128 and Miguel Torres at UFC 126). So from the standpoint of putting 135-pounders in spotlight fights, that has failed miserably through six months. That's why the pressure is on Cruz and Faber to go out and put on an exciting fight. The rest of the division badly needs it.
If Cruz dances his way to another 50-45 decision win here like he did against Scott Jorgensen in December, he will be doing the division absolutely no favors and not only will the division be dead in the water, his belt will be as well. If this fight is no good, who is going to pay for the next bantamweight title fight, especially if Cruz is champion? No one in their right mind, that's who. That's why it's so important for these two to have an exciting fight. Myself and the people who come to MMA sites like Bloody Elbow know the bantamweight division is exciting and we're not going to give up on it, but we're not the audience that makes the majority of the UFC's money for them on pay-per-view. That's the casual fan. The spotlight isn't only on Cruz and Faber here — it's on the entire division. This could be a make-or-break fight for the bantamweights from a business perspective.
Does Wanderlei Silva has one more run left in him?
Just like the Cruz/Faber fight is a make-or-break fight for that division, this is a make-or-break fight for Silva, one that could, with a win, move him into potential contender status or, with a loss, bump him to "special attraction" status. I, for one, will always pay to see Silva fight, and I feel like a lot of others would agree with that. But this fight is going to tell us if he has anything left in the tank. If he can't beat Chris Leben, someone who was on the verge of being cut before being given almost a gimme fight with Jay Silva in early 2010, then there is no hope for him to make one last run. If Silva gets knocked out by Leben, his career, for all intents and purposes, is pretty much over (from a relevance standpoint, at the very least). Silva had a solid effort against Michael Bisping his last time out in February 2010 and if he looks good against Leben here (especially if he stops him), we could see one last magical run. Or I could entirely be drinking the Kool-Aid.
How will Tito Oritz be remembered?
How bad is it going to look for Ryan Bader if he loses to Tito Ortiz? Fortunately for him, I think everyone is pretty much assuming it's a foregone conclusion that he's going to win, likely by decision, so it's time to start writing Ortiz's UFC obituary, if you haven't already. UFC president Dana White recently said he's not going to let his personal grudge get in the way of Ortiz going into the UFC Hall of Fame and, despite how his career is going to finish, Ortiz was the man in this sport in the early 2000s. His fight with Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 really showed this sport could do well and he carried the UFC through a lot of lean years. It's a testament to what he did in those years that he's still popular today despite not having won in four years. He should be remembered as a pioneer who, like many of his contemporaries, had the sport pass them by. There's nothing wrong with that. For everything he brought to the sport, Ortiz certainly earned his eventual spot in the UFC Hall of Fame.