The injury bug continues to bite the UFC. News broke this week that UFC 112 main-event between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort for the UFC middleweight title is off. A lingering shoulder injury has required Belfort to go under the knife and officially pull out of the Abu Dhabi MMA extravaganza.
This has now turned into a common obstacle for Dana White, Joe Silva, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Several big main-events and matches in 2009 were canceled due to major injuries. Injuries to champions Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre among many, postponed several big matches. Ironically, the Silva-Belfort match was postponed from UFC 108 due to an injury to Silva. Hopefully for the UFC and its fans, the third time will be the charm.
The obvious choice by default here is Chael Sonnen. Sonnen made a name for himself by dismantling Nate Marquardt at UFC 109. On top of that, UFC 109 is fresh and some fans may actually buy into Sonnen having a shot. Going into the UFC 109 match, Marquardt was not only the favorite, but the expected next opponent for Silva. Those plans went out with the window due to about 50 Sonnen elbows.
The problem with a Sonnen vs. Silva bout is the time frame. I don’t think Sonnen is going to blow his one shot on less than 90-days of training. On top of that, there is also the possibility that Sonnen doesn’t get medical clearance to fight by April. In a perfect world Sonnen would accept and be cleared, but nothing has been perfect for the UFC in the last several months.
The situation also brings to light a tremendous lack of depth in the UFC’s middleweight division. This is where the UFC really dropped the ball in letting Dan Henderson go. It wasn’t so much that Henderson a big star and the company can’t live without him. The big advantage in having Henderson is that he is a superstar middleweight, who could have sold pay-per-views. Right now there is nobody that even comes close to Silva’s stardom in the middleweight division. How Vitor Belfort got the title shot ahead of Henderson is still as much of a mystery to me as it is to most MMA fans. Henderson would have been an easy solution to this UFC 112 debacle yet Dana White just let him walk away.
A long shot here could be Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi is arguably the best fighter not named Fedor in Strikeforce. Mousasi just announced that he has parted ways with M1-Global management. From most reports, M-1 has stood in the way of the UFC making any deals with any of their fighters. While Mousasi does fight at light heavyweight, a catch weight fight between the two would be an MMA fan’s dream match. I don’t know how much interest this fight would have for casual fans since Mousasi is not exactly a mainstream name to casual MMA fans. At the same time, the UFC could produce some killer pieces with the Affliction and Pride FC libraries to expose the UFC fans to the greatness of Mousasi and really push the dream fight aspect of the match.
Not too mention the signing of Mousasi would be a crushing blow to Strikeforce and make the signing of Dan Henderson a complete waste of money. Although, I can’t imagine Dana White ever making a business move out of spite. Can you?
Update: The UFC has announced that middleweight Demian Maia will step in and challenge Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title. While Maia is hardly the star that Belfort is, he is definitely more deserving of the title shot. Maia is 12-1 with his only loss coming at the hands of Nate Marquardt at UFC 102.
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