I recorded a segment for Press Row with Jordan Breen over at Sherdog last night and during the discussion of all things UFC 144 and Japanese MMA, Breen posed the question of what fighters on the undercard would be likely to get a shot at a title in 2012. In my initial response I glossed over the winner of the lightweight bout between Joe Lauzon and Anthony Pettis.
My thinking was that the UFC's method of setting up title shots and handling the Fox shows had been very clear, they have two guys fight in a main event with a clear "next fight" with the current champion. In my mind that meant that the winner of the Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller fight would be set to face the winner of the UFC 144 main event between Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar. But as we talked and Breen argued that the Pettis/Lauzon winner should get a shot, I was a bit swayed, and after sleeping on the idea? I think I'm convinced it is a great idea.
First, some of the segment from Press Row:
Breen: Walk with me for a second, Brent. Tell me when I'm spitting garbage, okay? Because of the fact that they're on the same card and therefore it makes for great timing, it makes the most sense for the UFC...so desperate for anything resembling main events and bankable stars and so forth, that the winner of Frank Edgar/Ben Henderson, if it does end up being Anthony Pettis taking out Joe Lauzon. Do that in late June, early July assuming everybody's totally healthy. Get these guys fighting. What's one of the beefs of champions in the lower weight classes (135, 145, 155)? They're making more money now but they don't make as much money as other dudes. Most of these guys are physically healthy enough to stay that active. Jose Aldo? Maybe not. Dominick Cruz's hands? We'll see. But Frank Edgar seems to be a guy who has the physical ability to fight every 4-5 months. Isn't the real step to fast track the UFC division, even if you were to grant the winner of Miller/Diaz a title shot, you could have the next title fight happening two months after that particular fight so they're waiting six months total for the next fight.
I think you have a real chance with so many cards and deeply wanting to avoid the risk of headlining cards with things like Rashad Evans against Thiago Silva again. How CAN'T you be really, really all in with trying to fasttrack as many light weight guys to fight 3, 4, 5 times a year?
Brookhouse: I think they SHOULD be doing that, but I just look at the way they've been operating and the way they like to do these Fox shows and they like to have the contender status up and have it be very clear who they're going to be fighting. And it's just...if it follows that exact path, then it goes to Miller/Diaz, whoever wins that. But in terms of what makes the most sense, I feel like Edgar gets just straight forgotten by a lot of people. Which is just horrible since he's just one of the best guys to watch in the sport.
(We then go into a whole thing about Edgar's relative place in lightweight history and his chances to be the best 155'er in MMA history by the end of 2012. But circled back to the need to keep Edgar active to build his profile.)
Brookhouse: ...it's this kind of weird situation with Edgar where everyone is waiting for that "yeah, he's really good but..." and waiting for him to screw up in some way and lose. ...I don't know if that's vulnerability shown in the first Penn fight where a lot of people felt he lost and then Maynard fights where he was clearly hurt so he's not exactly St. Pierre and Silva and even Aldo in the level of consistent dominance. He's just exciting and wins. It's a situation where I would almost hope if Pettis wins...If Pettis AND Edgar win I should say...that they would go ahead and do Pettis vs. Edgar and then do the winner of that against the Miller/Diaz winner and keep Edgar in everyone's face and try and build him into what I think he actually is. But get him that kind of recognition from everybody.
I mean, we're constantly engaged with our readers at Bloody Elbow and it seems like EVERYBODY on the UFC roster comes up more often than Frankie Edgar, which is just bizarre to me.
Breen: Well, dude! The fact that Clay Guida is ten times more popular than Frank Edgar is...not that there's anything wrong with Clay Guida and you can see how his personality resounds with people...but the general overlooking of Frank Edgar is something incredible.
More thoughts after the jump..
It does make sense that if you are annoyed (as I am) with the way Edgar gets lost in the shuffle (even by media types like myself) you should want him fighting as often as possible. And maybe a lot of this is too based on some sort of assumption that Edgar wins a very legitimate, very tough fight against Ben Henderson. But even a Henderson win should demand Ben fight often.
A win by Pettis presents a new challenger who was supposedly in line just two fights ago (three after the Lauzon fight). It's not some crazy idea for him to fight for the title despite losing a hard fought decision to Clay Guida in a fight that was only three rounds but would be five under the sort of "new world" rules for the UFC. If Edgar wins that is simply a great fight and if Henderson wins you're getting the Pettis/Henderson rematch with highlights galore, including maybe the MMA highlight.
As for Lauzon, if he wins that'd be his second straight win over a top ten level challenger who had been in that title challenger range. Despite earlier career failings in big fights, that should be the kind of momentum one needs to put himself in line for a title shot.
While it may break the still young pattern of the Fox shows determining the very next challenger, I think I've come fully to agree with the idea that these two UFC 144 fights should determine the next title fight with the Jim Miller vs. Nate Diaz fight setting up the next challenger and establishing a clear, easy to follow divisional picture.