Brydon on UFC: Welterweight shenanigans

February 20, 2013, 10:57 PM

“Welterweight shenanigans.”

Those were the words used by my Sportsnet.ca colleague Mike Johnston to describe the news late Monday that Rory MacDonald was injured, causing a shakeup to March’s UFC 158 card in Montreal.

But that was only the beginning.

The past few days have seen some major changes to the outlook of the UFC’s 170-pound division, starting with the event that president Dana White said featured a “welterweight tournament.”

The March 16 show at the Bell Centre, headlined by the title bout between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, also featured two other fights that were supposed to help lay out the 170 division’s immediate future quite nicely.

That future has now taken on an alternate path, thanks to yet another injury to the rising contender — the man prophesied to be the eventual No. 1 — MacDonald, who has been forced out of his matchup with Carlos Condit.

It’s the fourth time in seven scheduled bouts in the 23-year-old’s young UFC career that he has had to pull out of a bout after getting hurt, not to mention the second straight.

His matchup with BJ Penn was supposed to take place at last September’s UFC 152 in Toronto but was postponed when the phenom took a slice to his dome in training. Previous scheduled matchups with Brian Ebersole and Matt Brown were also deep-sixed by injuries.

Is it bad luck? Or do we bring up the dreaded “injury-prone” word.

My first thought was the latter, as much as that makes athletes cringe. But his coach Firas Zahabi offered another explanation, suggesting that Rory was suffering from the same hard lesson of Tristar gym’s first star fighter, Georges St-Pierre: “Overtraining” is to blame. This is just another way in which he has been following in the footsteps of the man of whom many expect Rory to take the place at the top of the welterweight mountain one day.

Hopefully MacDonald can take this lesson to heart very quickly. GSP has had less injuries in his entire 11-year career thus far, and his latest — the ACL tear that kept him sidelined a year — was his first major one. At eight years his junior, Rory will have to tone things down a little if he wants to reach anywhere near the same level of longevity.

But there may actually be a silver lining to this turn of events. Had both St-Pierre and MacDonald emerged victorious at UFC 158, it would have put the younger Tristarer in a predicament — and possibly GSP and the UFC too. With a win over Condit, the last 170-pound title challenger, no fight could possibly be next for MacDonald but a matchup with his teammate –and that will never happen. Even if Johny Hendricks became the next No. 1 contender with a win over his previously scheduled opponent Jake Ellenberger, MacDonald would likely have had to sit and wait.

But now that dilemma may just have been gotten a reprieve –at least for a little while longer.

Meanwhile, Hendricks steps up to face Condit in what I think will be a disastrous move for him. I liked his chances against Ellenberger, but I expect him to lose to Condit, and poof, there goes his title shot.

But of course, I obviously don’t have Hendricks’ confidence in himself. And who knows what his chances really are better than he does?

Not to mention he really had no choice. The UFC doesn’t take kindly to fighters who say, “No thanks. I’ll sit and wait.” It rewards those who immediately step up and say they want a fight.

Case in point: Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine. The latter just upset the former for the final Strikeforce welterweight title, yet it’s Marquardt who replaces Hendricks against Ellenberger.

Coming off a bad loss — not to mention his sketchy history with the UFC — Marquardt has no business being in there at this point ahead of guys like Saffiedine or another former Strikeforce star Tyron Woodley. But Saffiedine turned down an offer to fight Condit — saying it was too short a timeframe to be 100 per cent — and Marquardt was quicker to Twitter than T-Wood, who had said after his win in his UFC debut that he would be ready to step in should any injury befall a UFC 158 welterweight. Too bad for Woodley; but, as a consolation, he has his sights set on Jake Shields.

Thankfully, the UFC 158 matchup everyone really cares about, GSP vs. Diaz, is still on. And while the tone of the bout had initially seemed to take on a much more tame one than fans would have thought when the two first crossed paths and exchanged words in late 2011, the Diaz dominoes of defiance are finally starting to fall.

White said over the weekend that Diaz has missed multiple tapings of “UFC Countdown” while Diaz’ camp is claiming miscommunication (surprise, surprise).

Now Diaz’s manager Cesar Gracie says they want the welterweight’s flight to Montreal upgraded. Seriously.

And while all this is happening, on Wednesday the Nevada State Athletic Commission released an order asking the county’s district court to deny Diaz’ legal request for judicial review of his drug suspension.

Rest assured, none of this will faze St-Pierre, who told me last week that the way in which his opponent behaves will have no effect on how he approaches his fights. He will always remain respectful, regardless of the shenanigans going on around him.

Fitch goes from 2.0 to CU L8R in four months

If you thought the UFC 158 changes were surprising, Wednesday’s news that former No. 1 contender Jon Fitch had been released by the UFC was a downright bombshell.

His impressive, and somewhat uncharacteristic (in a positive way), win over rising stud Erick Silva in Brazil in October had many hailing him as Jon Fitch 2.0, and his bout earlier this month with Demian Maia was viewed by many as one pitting two fighters in title contention against one another.

While the release likely has more to do with his contract and other issues beyond purely performances, it doesn’t look good for a guy with such a high profile to get cut after one loss, especially when compared with fighters like Diaz.

Fans certainly didn’t take kindly to the news.

Couldn’t have said it much better myself.

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