It’s possible that when it’s all said and done that UFC 133 could go down as the most cursed MMA event in UFC history. The event that will take place on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center is not even remotely close to what was originally supposed to happen. The UFC has done a great job of salvaging this card if you want to call it that or at least the main event. While there are no titles on the line or any real meaningful fights(the main event withstanding), there are still three legitimate questions going forward heading into this event.
Coming off his huge upset win over then top ten light heavyweight Ryan Bader at UFC 132, Ortiz’s popularity could arguably be at an all time high. He’ll be in his first PPV main event since UFC 66 where he was dismantled by Chuck Liddellfor the second time. That PPV was the first to surpass the one million mark in regards to PPV buys. I’m not going to delve into who I think will win right here as I’ll be posting that preview on Friday, but I simply want to talk about the legitimacy of Ortiz being a #1 contender should he beat Evans. Ortiz just beat someone who was considered to be on the low end of the light heavyweight rankings(I had Bader at #8). If he beats Rashad Evans he would have beaten someone that’s considered to be the #3 light heavyweight in the world by most. However, Evans hasn’t fought in almost a year and half so will he perform like the #3 light heavyweight in the world? Two wins over two top ten opponents in less than 2 months would be incredible for Ortiz in this stage of his career, especially considering that he went winless for a 5 year stretch before this last rebirth. If he beats Evans, he certainly would have momentum on his side and a confident, brash, smack talking Ortiz would certainly emerge like the Ortiz of old that was the king of PPV in his heyday. I could see the UFC riding his wave of momentum should he beats Evans, but I think he has to finish Evans for the UFC to make him the #1 contender.
Yoshihiro Akiyama has a huge fanbase overseas and was thought to be an integral part of the UFC’s expansion plans when he was signed by the promotion a couple of years ago. Akiyama has fought in the UFC three times going 1-2, but has won ‘fight of the night’ in ALL of his UFC fights which is a testament to his fighting style. However, he has lost his last two fights and hasn’t looked particularly good in them exhibiting problems with fatigue early on in his fights. He’ll have the opportunity to win his fourth fight of the night bonus when he engages with a highlight reel waiting to happen in Vitor Belfort. I have no doubts that these two fighters will get after one another so it should be an exciting fight. Would the UFC cut Akiyama if he loses and wins a fourth fight of the night bonus? Would they cut him when they have publicly stated that they want to have a show in Japan where Akiyama is super popular?
Chad Mendes was originally supposed to get his UFC featherweight title shot against Jose Aldo on this card, but Aldo was pulled off the event due to injuries and will now defend his title against Kenny Florian later this year. Mendes could have sat out and waited for his title shot like Rashad Evans chose to do, but decided against that and was matched up with grappling ace Rani Yahya. This fight will not be on the main PPV broadcast, but will instead air on the Spike TV prelim broadcast. Mendes is a heavy favorite to win the fight, but would he have to put on an exciting performance to get the title shot that he once had? If he comes out and wins a boring decision(and that’s possible with Yahya’s style) would the UFC be reluctant to give him that title shot(not that it would be right). Mendes is currently the #3 featherweight in the world by most with Hatsu Hioki being the #2 ranked featherweight and Hioki will be making his UFC debut later this year. Hioki is virtually unknown to casual fans, but it’s not like Mendes is setting the world on fire in that department either. Interesting stuff…interesting stuff.
The rest of UFC 133 is just nothing that grabs your attention except the Mike Brown vs. Nam Phan fight on the undercard. Phan was robbed of a win in his last fight against Leonard Garica and Brown is the former WEC featherweight champion that has fallen on hard times since losing his title. He’s lost his last two bouts, and approaching 36 years of age could very well be at the end of his rope with a loss on Saturday.