For all our worries that these days the UFC might be doing too many shows, getting a little too ambitious in its plans for international expansion and in all manner sort of overextending itself, the company presents UFC 136 this Saturday night.
With the third – and hopefully decisive – meeting between lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard, Jose Aldo defending the featherweight title against Kenny Florian and Chael Sonnen making his comeback opposite Brian Stann, this one should be a doozy. It’s been a while since we’ve encountered a show quite this stacked.
So stacked, in fact, that recent title challenger Demian Maia and former Sengoku middleweight champ Jorge Santiago didn’t even make the pay-per-view broadcast, with their bout relegated to the televised preliminaries on Spike TV. The same goes for the lightweight clash between Anthony Pettis and Jeremy Stevens.
It’s tough to imagine an event so strong that it knocks those two meetings off the main card, and yet here it is. Now all UFC 136 has to do is live up to our expectations.
That’s the funny thing about these cards where we all expect to see greatness. Our prospects are raised, our internal fun meters are set to their most difficult to impress and we almost always come away feeling somehow unfulfilled.
If you had to bet on one card living up to the hype, though, it’d be this one.
Edgar and Maynard had one of the best fights of the year during their second meeting at UFC 125 in January, en route to a draw. Shoot, it probably deserves consideration as one of the five or 10 best fights ever and this time around, both guys only seem more determined. Maynard is, frankly, pissed off that he feels like he’s beaten Edgar twice now and still hasn’t gotten the belt, still has to fight this guy again. The feeling is somewhat mutual from the champion, though Edgar’s biggest test is remains proving to a skeptical fan base that he’s not one day headed for the featherweight division.
Either way, both guys need to win to prove their points.
In Aldo vs. Florian, you have a once-vaunted champion coming off a fairly disappointing performance in his last outing taking on a fan favorite who knows this might be his last best chance to claim UFC gold. To that end, Aldo needs to erase memories of his fade down the stretch against Mark Hominick at UFC 129. Florian, on the hand, really needs this one. Otherwise, after losing two previous chances at the UFC 155-pound title before recently cutting to 145-pounds essentially out of desperation, it’s unclear where he can go from here.
Stann and Sonnen essentially speaks for itself. It’s a fight that pits the guy fans love to hate against a bonafide war hero and fast-rising star in the 185-pound division. Not to mention, Sonnen prepares to make his comeback after a protracted absence from the sport, during which he fell from No. 1 contender status to accused drug cheat to being indicted on federal mortgage fraud charges. He’s emerged on the other side of all that adversity now, but in order to prove he can catch lightning in a bottle twice and make another run at his heated rival, Anderson Silva, has to get by Stann.
In other words, a lot is at stake here for a lot of very talented fighters. If the general rule for these over-hyped events is that they usually leave us letdown, UFC 136 may well prove to be the exception.