Sunday, June 11, 2017

UFC Middlweight Log Jam of Consternation: Analysis and Head Shaking

Expectation: on the surface, it's an interesting time to be a middlweight division fan: We have names like former champ Weidman, Anderson Silva's stranglehold is no more, Robert Whitaker has become a legitimate contender, Rockhold is in the mix, Jacare is a part of the coterie, and and Yoel Romero despite controversy is also a part of all this. 

Reality: it's a frustrating time to be a middlweight UFC division fan. Bisping has only defended his belt against a non-TRT induced Henderson who basically fought 3 rounds of their fight (and still have two moments where he almost finished "The Count"). Bisping has about as artfully dodged and weaved facing Yoel Romero as one could possibly imagine. He got a grace when Romero got popped for a banned substance but had his suspension reduced, Romero took a fight with Weidman as Bisping was beginning talks to face GSP. That has since fizzled or been delayed and Bisping is now slated to have a surgery or isn't, I've lost track of how much he needs to get done then changes his mind about since winning the belt. 

On one hand, I get it: Bisping has faced a bunch of guys who got popped or were on TRT. He also fought basically every middlweight worth naming and not for his first run through to the belt before taking a Rockhold rematch when Weidman had neck surgery. 
On the other hand.....we've been waiting a good bit for him to fight since the Henderson fight. I don't decry him for the Hendo fight. Guys get hurt, sometimes a guy gets a shot that might not have a few months before or after, Hendo had a few wins in a row and had a devastating HL reel KO of Bisping. 

But time to talk brass tacks......Romero fights Whitaker for the Interim belt and Bisping I guess is having surgery. Whether or not he faces GSP before or after facing the Interim champ remains to be seen. My suspicion is after. I'm actually a bit glad for these Interim belts because the UFC has forever and a day refused to just come out and ironclad say this is a number one contender fight or so and so is next in line, it's always been a murky gray annoying AF "we'll see who wins and how they win and if the wind blows lukewarm and the groundhog sees its shadow...." and I would need an abacus or a calculator to tally the number of guys promised title shots only to see that was just a bridge in Brooklyn for sale on the cheap. 

Jacare is having surgery on his pectoral muscle and Mousasi is stomping his feet for a title shot. Dude has a bunch of wins and stoppages to boot. Rockhold after lengthy contract negotiations is back and a fight between him and Mousasi makes sense as they're both unbooked and both the clear cut guys coming late into the game for the line-up to face Bisping in whoever knows how long. 

Brunson stopped Dan Kelly last night which people won't give him credit for but he chopped down a guy with 4 wins in a row and in most of the UFC divisions, 4 wins (especially the heavier weight classes) is a big deal (if you're Max Holloway you gotta have 10 AND chase around and campaign for a title shot). I'd like to see Mousasi face Jacare (improbably Mousasi has a triangle win over Jacare back in the Japanese MMA days - fun fact!) but Jacare is coming off a loss and Mousasi would be dumb to take that fight just to stay active. What I bet happens is Mousasi faces the winner of Romero vs Whitaker (Whitaker, who I actually think probably beats this new version of Romero who fights at an atrociously low work rate each round, completely fearful of running out of energy due to what I suspect is no longer being allowed to use the IV to rehydrate and the USADA stringent testing). 

My crystal ball for the future is: 
Weidman beats Gastelum then faces Brunson whom he also beats. 
Bisping fights GSP later this fall and loses. 
Whitaker beats Romero for Interim belt. 
Mousasi beats Whitaker for Interim belt. 
GSP doesn't commit to defending the belt against the Interim champ. 
Jacare faces David Branch in the fall for his return fight after surgery. 
Mousasi becomes undisputed champ due to GSP vacating the belt and faces Rockhold. 
Mousasi beats Rockhold and defends his now no longer Interim and instead a now undisputed belt, becoming de facto Middleweight rather than a 'converted' Interim champion. 

That is a ton of variables to try to cajole into a vision of the future because Middlweight has shown us a lot of unexpected looks as of late. GSP came out of left field. Jacare got hurt after losing to Whitaker, a guy he stylistically should have had no problem defeating. Rockhold has been MIA. THe good news is we have some solid guys down the tier in David Branch, Urijah Hall, Leites and Jotko that are all scrapping, tough, professional full-sized middleweights so that when the log jam clears, there's no shortage of guys coming up for mid-tier fights. Johnny Hendricks is another guy scrapping together wins over guys and maybe not looking devastating doing it, but somehow, putting together tough wins makes it easier to get that next fight. Fights grow scarce when you're crushing guys moving up the ladder but notice how excited everyone was when Bisping won the belt? He's looked beatable in every fight as of late, and that has guys chomping at the bit to face him. 

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