Despite the fact that injuries have altered this fight card numerous times over the last couple months, UFC 133 is still a solid fight card. So lets proceed with a preview of the event that goes down this saturday:
1. Which will be more of a disadvantage: Rashad Evans' long layoff or Tito Ortiz fighting within 34 days of his last fight?
Both fighters in Saturday's main event have taken different roads that brought them to this fight. Rashad Evans was promised a title shot after his last fight when he beat Quinton "Rampage" Jackson by decision at UFC 114. But since May of 2010, Rashad made the choice to first wait to for then Champ Maurico "Shogun" Rua to recover from knee injury and then Evans injured his own knee before getting to fight Rua. Then he was suppose to face current 205 pound Champ Jon Jones but he pulled out with a hand injury. When Evans enters the Octagon this Saturday night he will be coming off a hiatus that spans almost 15 months. During the time Evans was not fighting, Ortiz has fought 3 times and he looked excellent in a dominating finish at UFC 132 against Ryan Bader. So now the question is which is more of a disadvantage: Evans long layoff or Ortiz fighting on such short notice. More often then not fighters who have long layoffs usually loose their first fight back. Whether it is nerves or not being use to the speed of the fight game, having a long time away from fighting has hurt numerous fighters in recent years. On the other hand, fighting 34 days after a big win is a major wild card. Ultimately the real question come Saturday night will be which fighter will feel the most pressure to perform and that will be the man walking away with the loss.
2. Vitor Belfort's response to a loss
Belfort is one of my favorite MMA fighters of all time. But it has been shown that Belfort's biggest opponent in his career has been himself. After losing to Randy Couture back in 2004 Belfort went on to loose 4 of his next 6 fights. In many of those fights Belfort looked lost in himself and lacked confidence. Then from 2007 through 2009 Belfort won five straight fights and four of them were via Knockout or Technical Knockout victories. Then he was out of action for 16 months due to injuries and lost to Anderson Silva this past February. With people doubting him again, Belfort has the opportunity to get back to winning against a tough opponent in Yoshihiro Akiyama. A win this Saturday night would not just silence those who think Belfort is "overrated" but also would signal that he is ready to come back better then ever after losing to one of the best MMA fighters in UFC history.
3. What if Mike Pyle again overcomes the underdog label and beats Rory McDonald?
Mike Pyle is 4-2 in the UFC since 2009 and has won 3 straight fights. He has won back to back fights in which he was considered an underdog and with another win Saturday night Pyle can make the argument that he is ready to move into the next level of competition in the UFC. Pyle has been around the MMA game for awhile and in fact is the only fighter to ever finish Jon Fitch (in 2002). For a guy who has been around the fight game so long and is such a balanced fighter its a great opportunity for him to move up the ranks in the 170 pound division. Better late then never right? And beating a rising MMA prospect in McDonald would be another solid win for Pyle's resume.
4. MMA in Philadelphia
With tickets still available to purchase for Saturday's UFC 133 event some are questioning if UFC is marketable in a city like Philadelphia. But as Bernard Hopkins said at Wednesday's workouts, MMA is "unique" and is still "growing in popularity". The last time the UFC was in Philly the main event was Anderson Silva fighting at Light Heavyweight against Forrest Griffin. I am sure if the UFC brought a title fight to the city that the tickets would sell out faster as compared to a fight card that has had numerous injuries and matchup changes. Losing a big name like Rich Franklin and a local favorite Phil Davis will definate hurt them when they look at the oveall pay per view buys and gate sales. Last time the UFC was in Philly they broke opening gate records for Pennsylvania and this year will be down in comparison for sure. But this does not mean UFC 133 is a bad fight card because there are many good matchups. But ticket and PPV sales are driven harder by casual fans and if the casual fan doesn't take serious interest in the event then the hardcore fans can only spread their money around so much. Casual fans recognize the big names like Brock Lesnar, George St. Pierre, and "Rampage" Jackson while younger stars such as Frank Edgar, Jon Jones, and Dominick Cruz are known names. No offense but it is hard to sell a fight card on which the main card has a matchup between Dennis Hallman and Brian Ebersole (Im still unsure why the matchup between Mendes and Yaya wasn't moved onto the main card). Hopefully the UFC stops putting big time events in Newark, NJ and instead bring such high profile fight cards to a city with a rich tradition in the fight game. Philly fans like winners, period. That's how to sell any sport in this city.