This is part one of a three part series.
Dana White should be grateful for Anderson Silva's dismal performances.
OK, that might be hyperbole, but let me explain. In Silva's last three title defenses, Zuffa paired him with three fighters needing a miracle to win. After dominating performances over Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, and James Irvin, fans and media alike expected Silva to run roughshod over Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, and Demian Maia.
Instead, Silva took two of the three to five round decisions. Cote only escaped the cards when he blew out his knee in round four.
It pissed fans off. It pissed the media off. It pissed Dana White off.
Who's really to blame here, though?
Let's run a little experiment. Instead of his underwhelming performances, let's assume Silva did blow through the last three middleweight contenders, knocking them all out in round one. Silva's last five fights would feature five brutal knockouts, with only one of the five having any sort of star power in the cage with him. The narrative then shifts from "Anderson Silva upsets fans, boss" to "Zuffa fails to offer champ challenge."
Just how bad has Silva's opposition been? Here are the best available closing lines for Silva's last five fights and the upcoming fight with Chael Sonnen:
When Silva goes out and defecates in the Octagon, the media fixates on making him into some sort of Emmanuel Goldstein, a viscous enemy of the state who's only purpose is to befuddle and madden a legion of UFC fans.
Dana White, meanwhile, gets off scot-free. White stumps that his job is to "make fights that people want to see." The only problem is that no one wants to see Anderson Silva fight James Irvin, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, or Demian Maia. The same would hold true for Chael Sonnen if he kept his mouth shut. No one wants to watch predictably one-sided fights, whether they end in one round or five.
Enter Georges St-Pierre.
The UFC has had a similar problem finding competitive opposition for their welterweight champion. Here are the best available closing lines for St-Pierre's last five fights and his future bout with Josh Koscheck:
Up until now, the UFC has rightfully escaped any criticism about compelling welterweight challengers. St-Pierre had to regain the title from Matt Serra in 2008. Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves both received well-earned title shots. B.J. Penn provided a fresh and interesting inter-divisional superfight. (Hm...) Even Josh Koscheck, a man St-Pierre has already beaten, can make the claim that he's done enough to earn himself his first title shot and another crack at the champ. Dan Hardy is the only real glaring mistake here, which looks even worse when one reviews the path he took to GSP.
Here's the problem. Starting with Koscheck, St-Pierre's about to lap the welterweight division. Nobody has established themselves ahead of the Fitch-Alves-Koscheck triumvirate at the top of the division. Oh, but what about Jake Shields? Outside of having to first get by a very tough Martin Kampmann (and can you imagine a PPV headlined by St-Pierre and Kampmann?), Jake Shields offers no significant challenge to Georges St-Pierre. Yes, he'll be a fresh face, but he'll be pegged as another 3-1 underdog (conservatively) and will end up as another stop on the St-Pierre World Tour. The welterweight well, for all intents and purposes, has run dry.
From a competitive standpoint, an Anderson Silva/Georges St-Pierre superfight makes the most sense for both guys. Every in-division fight that can be made for either man requires a certain suspension of disbelief that the opponent can threaten Silva or St-Pierre beyond surviving through five rounds.
The MMA media has been utterly impotent when it comes to discussing this fight. Interactions with Uncle Dana end up looking like this:
Reporter: "Dana, any chance we see Anderson Silva and GSP?"
Dana: "Ah...I don't think so. Anderson's too big/I'm really, really mad at Anderson/These guys need to clean out their divisions."
Reporter: "Oh, OK. Thanks for being so gracious, mein Führer."
Helwani, Iole, McNeil, and the rest of you...how about a followup question? "Yo, Dana, I hear you, but these guys are fighting overmatched opposition. These fights, regardless of their outcomes, are not compelling in the least. How can you keep making excuses to put off this fight? Answer me, baldy."
Tomorrow. Part 2. The weird time line of quotes from the principals involved.