With the Christmas holidays well and truly upon us, the MMA landscape is as bare as Santa’s own backyard in the North Pole. With Bellator out of action until the new year and the UFC on hiatus until it’s big end of year bonanza featuring Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos on Dec 29, there is little in the way of fights this weekend. There might very well be a scrap going on in a barn somewhere in Oklahoma, but we don’t know about it. So perhaps now is a good time to look at what MMA world did have to offer this past week and take a sneak preview of next week’s action.
Firstly, in what might very well prove to be the biggest event of the year, Junior Dos Santos takes on fellow heavyweight behemoth Cain Velasquez. Remember the last time they met? On November 12, 2011, the first event since Fox’s seven year deal with the UFC was signed, the fight was promised as an epic - a fight for the ages. Fox even dedicated an hour to previewing the two men and their upcoming battle. Well, at the tail end of all of the bluster the fight itself lasted a not so epic 64 seconds. Dos Santos knocked out Velasquez with the most thudding of blows. Damp squib? Perhaps not for the initiated. But to the general masses? Certainly.
For second time around the brash Brazilian is promising that next week history will repeat itself at the MGM Grand when the two foes face off at UFC 155. But one topic that will nag away at Dos Santos is the charge that he was able to dispatch Velasquez with such ease was because of an injury Velasquez was carrying, something Dos Santos is quick to shoot down.
“Cain was injured at the time, but I was injured at that time too,” Dos Santos explained to Bleacher Report. “There’s no pressure. This is what I want, this is where I want to be. In the main even of the biggest show. I’m 100 percent now and ready to fight. I’ve got no injuries and I’m feeling great.”
While the world may await next week’s heavyweight tussle with bated breath, something no one clamors for anymore is The Ultimate Fighter. Back in the early days, The Ultimate Fighter was a great vehicle to launch the stars of tomorrow. Boxing had The Contender and MMA had this. Who would win the finale and land themselves a contract with the UFC? The main ingredient in this formula was undoubted drama. But after 16 seasons, drama is not the only thing that’s lacking from the most stale of reality show formats. It has lacked stars, good judges and with all the melodrama you can muster the ratings have suffered regardless. But could this be all about to change?
According to Dana White the new contestants on the seventeenth season are the best yet. Right. Aside from the boulder of salt that you may need to attempt to pinch with White’s comments on this matter, it’s hard not to ignore how he qualified this. According to White there is a contestant who has sent every single person to hospital. Really? Apparently so.
"I know you guys are going to call bulls**t on me and all that," White said to ESPN.co.uk. "[But] This next season is so awesome and so badass. We have a guy on this season of The Ultimate Fighter, every fight he's in, someone goes to the hospital.”
OK Dana, we’re listening.
"The whole house is terrified of this guy…I picked this fight, and this guy is lined up with the guy I'm telling you about, and the guy has a nervous breakdown in the house over the weekend.... Freaks out and has a nervous breakdown. This guy scared the living s**t out of everyone. It's awesome."
If what White tells us is only half true, The Ultimate Fighter might very well see a renaissance that very few expected in the New Year.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.