UFC Re-Signs Gilbert Melendez (Or, The Perils Of A Unified Talent Pool, Part 4)
As notorious as the Friday night news dump (routinely utilized by corporations and governmental departments seeking to bury bad news beneath the collective apathy towards information that accompanies the arrival of the American weekend) is, it doesn’t really apply to the UFC, whose major events predominantly fall on Saturday; the eye of the media is, under optimal circumstances, supposed to focus on the event the day before, issuing a deluge of prediction posts and weigh-in links in the omnipresent search for page views. For the UFC, their equivalent of the Friday night news dump would be today, Sunday, when everyone is too oversaturated, whether it be by alcohol or incessant Zuffa cards, to give a damn about mixed martial arts. This makes the timing of tonight’s announcement that Zuffa has matched Bellator’s offer to Gilbert Melendez and secured the lightweight contender a TUF coaching gig opposite injured champion Anthony Pettis more curious – but no less important.
WEC Champion/UFC Champion v. WEC/Strikeforce Champion: Anthony Pettis v. Gilbert Melendez, UFC Undetermined
There are, of course, a multitude of unanswered questions to be settled over the coming hours and days. The first I’m interested in are the actual terms of the contract, leaked rumors of which were available when I wrote my initial piece about Melendez accepting Bellator’s offer ($200,000 to show, $25,000 signing bonus and PPV points). These numbers don’t represent a massive raise from the Strikeforce contract Melendez eventually carried into the UFC (a contract which vexed Melendez to no end when Strikeforce ran out of challengers for him), but they do represent a raise, and they likely represent a raise to Benson Henderson (currently under contract for as much to show/win as Melendez receives merely for showing) in order to maintain the ranks. They do not, however, overpay Melendez in the same way that Hector Lombard’s contract numbers do, which is evidenced by Bellator’s refusal to match the latter.
Anthony Pettis, he of the injury-laden UFC history, is currently injured, making all of the talk of a superfight with Jose Aldo (and Mike Fagan’s inevitable bitching about its non-existence) both moot and premature; with luck, a full season of TUF (which, for all we currently know, may have been a required match to Bellator’s Fight Master) will allow the champion to fully heal from both this injury and the one he inevitably sustains during the filming of the show (I’m thinking planar fasciitis, to be treated as another sign that MMA has truly made it as a sport). Pettis’ undeniable popularity with women and legions of young MTV-addled minds that remember his travails on Life of Jenks make him a natural fit for the show, especially considering that its long duration isn’t actually keeping his injured ass out of the cage.
This is a tremendous outcome for all involved (including Bellator, which is prevented from making a poor business decision and acquiring an unsustainable expense), and it is only because Zuffa stepped up to the plate and spent the money necessary to keep the best fighting the best (which, despite Kid Nate’s indefensible position on Bloody Elbow, happens more consistently in the UFC now than in any combat sport at any time in history). I don’t believe Melendez, as a slightly inferior version of Benson Henderson, will have anything for Pettis that the champ hasn’t seen before, but I’m glad he is in the UFC. That’s where every top fighter should be. Don’t you think?
Olympic Silver Medalist and #1 Invicta Contender v. Olympic Bronze Medalist and Strikeforce Champion: Sara McMann v. Ronda Rousey, UFC 170
This one should really speak for itself – and I may have more vitriol reserved for Tim Marchman’s atrocious, inaccurate, slanted, biased, whiny, pissy, petty article(s) later on – but between the brevity of the bout and the controversial manner in which it ended, one feels the need to remind everyone to take a deep breath and reflect on what this match-up actually represented. Ronda Rousey, undoubtedly one of Zuffa’s poster children (and, given the recent departure/crippling of GSP/Anderson Silva, most important draws), was given the absolute best fighter she could have been given. McMann was too unseasoned? She entered her first title shot at 7-0 to face Ronda Rousey, who had won the belt… in her fifth career bout. Cyborg? Call me when she actually signs a fight contract to be 135 pounds and doesn’t then miss weight horrifically. This was a titanic match-up of female athletes, actual masters of their chosen combat disciplines, and a mile marker in the progression of women’s MMA in the UFC. It seems destined to outlast Ronda Rousey.
The stoppage is another matter. As discussed on Untethered MMA a couple of weeks ago, I hate the softening of criticism of bad stoppages or otherwise undesirable referee activity based on one’s perception of the fight itself, whether that perception is based on the match-up or the progression of the bout leading up to the questionable decision. I hate that. A late stoppage is a late stoppage, regardless of TJ Waldburger’s reputation of toughness or Mike Pyle’s age; an early stoppage is an early stoppage, even if Cain Velasquez was clearly on his way to demolishing Ben Rothwell. Herb Dean’s well-deserved reputation as a top-notch ref has, in the past, been borne out of his consistency; if that is now in question, then his efficacy as an arbitrator of big fights has to be as well.