Sports

UFC Grudge Fights Rarely Deliver

After months of talking and threats, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier delivered the fight I expected. Jones dominated Cormier in a long, boring, one-sided fight that surprised nobody who has followed the history of UFC grudge fights.

Grudge fights have become a blessing and a curse for the UFC. The blessing is that fans, casual and hardcore get caught up in the pro wrestling style banter leading up to the fight. Generally that interest returns a nice dividend for the UFC through big buyrates. The curse however is that new fans drawn to the UFC for the first-time who expected a fight for the ages are probably not coming back any time soon.

Unfortunately you have many in the MMA media who have incredibly short memories. Minutes after Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier got into their memorable press conference skirmish, those same media members took to social media and other outlets and became UFC’s best salesmen and saleswomen getting caught up in the hype and failing to report the obvious. This fight, like the big grudge fights before them, never had a prayer of delivering what was expected.

I didn’t buy it for a second. Any savvy fan could see the Jones-Cormier fight on paper for what it was. It was an over-hyped mismatch. Cormier’s 2-0 record at light heavyweight came against an unranked fighter and an aged veteran past his better years. Jones has been fighting the elite of the sport for the past few years and only once was he in a competitive fight. Yet for some reason fans and media got caught up in the moment failing to recognize the fantasy that was being perpetrated by the UFC.

The fight was everything I thought it would be. It was five rounds of Jones at his best and Cormier failing to do much damage. Sure, Cormier had his moments in Round 2 but that was hardly the fight the frenzied fans expected to see. Even today some MMA pundits are trying to convince themselves it was a good fight. To hardcore MMA fans, yes it was an intriguing battle. But for the casual audience that expected to see a war, it was a waste of time, money, and energy that they should have seen coming.

I started thinking about the great grudge matches in UFC history and how those fights turned out. I picked ten of what I thought were some of the greatest grudge fights in UFC history. All of these fights had the talking, the threats, the hype, and all of the promises of a war that you could have asked for. Yet very few delivered what many would consider great fights. Let’s take a look.

Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz – Some will call this the greatest rivalry in UFC history, yet all of their fights were one-sided, destructions in favor of the same guy. As great as their promos and hype were leading up to the fights, they did not deliver the fight fans expected.

Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell – Let’s stay with Tito for a minute. Like his fight with Shamrock, both fights were one-sided destructions. The difference was that Tito was the one getting pounded in these uneventful fights. I’ll say this. They were certainly intense going in, but neither were the battles fans expected.

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II – The number one selling fight in the history of the UFC was Brock vs. Mir. Mir’s insults and Brock’s threats had fans on the edge of their seats expecting a war. What they got was Brock dominating Mir for under ten minutes, giving Mir nothing in the fight. Again an intense fight for sure, but nowhere near what was expected.

Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva – Now this is the outlier in this list. I feel that both fights delivered as expected. The first was a classic, maybe my favorite fight of all-time. The second, while over in two rounds, I think went exactly was you’d design it if you were scripting it.

Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans – Jones biggest fight up until Cormier was Rashad Evans. The storyline was taken right out of an old-school pro wrestling territory. Fans were expecting Evans to hang with Jones and teach him a lesson (as the teacher of course). Instead what they got was a snoozer that saw Jones win a unanimous decision that made Jones-Cormier look like Silva-Liddell.

Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson – Let’s stick with Evans, who has talked his way into some of the biggest fights in UFC history. Unfortunately for the fans who bought into his big mouth, they were served up a big plate of boring and it doesn’t get more boring than this one. Sans a flurry late in the fight by Jackson, it was a one-sided affair which saw Evans tie up Jackson for five rounds and take a unanimous decision.

Nick Diaz vs. GSP – The man who coined the term “Wolf Tickets’ would know a lot about them as he sold plenty for his fight with GSP. Diaz made a lot of promises and offered some of the craziest quotes you’d ever hear leading up to a title fight before the match. Fans were pumped, the media was pumped, and GSP was pumped to dominate the living hell out of Diaz for five, one-sided, dull rounds winning a unanimous decision 50-45 by all three judges.

GSP vs. BJ Penn – This one had all of the makings of a classic fight yet wound up producing a frustrating, uneventful rematch. This rare battle of champions saw GSP (accused of greasing by Penn), just ground and pound an outsized Penn for four rounds, brutalizing the champion before Penn’s mercifully stopped the carnage.

So there you have it. Two guys cutting promos on each other for several months, pushing each other at press conferences, and the UFC president telling you about his next biggest fight of all-time does not make for a good fight. The odds of the fight delivering the brawl you are hoping to see are slim to none with none being the better bet.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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