There’s been a lot of discussion over this weekend’s UFC 159 main event, most of it stemming around whether Chael Sonnen actually deserves a 205 lb. title shot at Jon Jones after being absent from the division for seven years. Many fans and media alike have panned the move by Dana White to make Jones and Sonnen TUF coaches and then have them duke it out on pay-per-view.
Is the UFC just looking to blatantly sell tickets and pay-per-view buys by pitting one of the sport’s most talented athletes against the sport’s most overblown trash talker? Maybe so, and maybe that’s a horrible thing for the long-term goals of MMA. But it could also turn out to be a great event.
On the surface, it’s obviously very hard to argue that Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen is a legitimate main event for one of the most prestigious titles in MMA. Sonnen is a massive underdog, and for good reason, as Jon Jones has demolished former champions with relative ease since early 2011. You could say Sonnen has a puncher’s chance, but he doesn’t hit that hard. So his best way to win would be to take Jones down at the beginning of each round, control him, and take home a grinding five-round decision. That’s no easy task, and it most likely won’t happen.
So perhaps the UFC has drummed up a PPV that geared around hype rather than substance. Will it work? Probably, but most likely not in the same numbers as the past. If you had to ask me, I would say that the hype and trash talk surrounding this main event sounds a lot more contrived and falsely generated than Sonnen’s previous go-arounds with Anderson Silva. He’s playing the same game, I just don’t think that fans are going to buy into it all that much this time around.
Is that going to trash UFC 159 altogether? On the surface, it may seem so. But after looking deeper into the tale, I noticed that, hey, there’s actually some really good fights on this card other than Jones-Sonnen. Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher is a great bout with a ton of backstory. Jim Miller and Pat Healy will face off in a battle of ultra-tough, gritty, and like-minded brawlers. That one should be a war, and could go either way. As Bryan Fontez wrote yesterday, Sara McMann will make her UFC debut, and an impressive win could have her next in line for a chance to dethrone Ronda Rousey.
All is not lost. After all, the UFC has put on three good events in as many weeks, and on free television no less. UFC Sweden was decent, the TUF Finale was awesome, and UFC on Fox 7 tied the knockout record for a UFC card. Every PPV is not going to be mind-blowing, and this one still could be regardless. I’ve noticed a trend that has a lot of preliminary and undercard bouts outshining the main events lately as well. Maybe this is because fighters in main events are just that tough to put away.
In any case, Chael Sonnen probably earned this fight because he was the only one willing to fight Jon Jones on short notice and save UFC 151. Or maybe because of his ability to sell a fight (we’ll see how it works out this time), or both. Is the UFC selling us wolf tickets for this Saturday’s UFC 159? Time will tell, and maybe the free events will just have to outdo the pay-per-view in the busiest month in UFC history. Or we might just see the biggest upset in UFC history.