Controversy rules the day at UFC 181


Former WWE professional wrestler CM Punk speaks at a news conference after signing a contract with the UFC. (Sam Morris/AP)

Two title fights, a judging controversy, eye pokes and a controversial new signing — just another day at the office for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

First thing’s first: Kudos to Robbie Lawler for earning the title, but upon second review I’m not so sure he deserved it.

While I watched on Saturday I scored the bout  48-47 for Hendricks. Many of the rounds were close back-and-forth affairs, and based on the unified rules I gave the slight edge to Hendricks.

Was I upset that Lawler won? Not at all. He did win the fight, but I’m not sure he won the bout. There’s a big difference there. One has a scoring system, the other does not.

Either way, what’s done is done — good on Lawler for achieving his dream. It’s been a long time coming.

The debate now is whether a trilogy bout is in order. Will Rory MacDonald get a crack at the title, or will Lawler take some time off to heal up and enjoy the spoils of his victory?

Then there’s what happened in the co-main event between champion Anthony Pettis and No. 1 contender Gilbert Melendez.

In a nutshell, Pettis is something special. To do what he did to Ben Henderson (twice) is magical. But to submit Melendez is some “real deal” stuff. This guy is incredible.

I recall freezing watching Melendez tap. I actually told the party I was with not to worry, he has seen this a million times. Before I could finish my sentence the bout was over. Incredible stuff from “Showtime” to say the least.

As for the rest of the card…

I had a keen eye on the Travis Browne-Brendan Schaub bout. “Hapa” won via strikes from the rear mount, but something tells me this battle is far from over. There is some serious bad blood between Browne’s camp and Schaub. I’ll be paying close attention to their social media over the next little while.

Tony Ferguson is a dangerous dude. To take the punishment he took in the first round against Abel Trujillo and then finish him off in the second round must be respected, despite what you think of Trujillo’s initial strategy.

Urijah Faber’s victory over Francisco Rivera being marred in controversy is somewhat just. Faber’s eye poke did mess with Rivera and he needs to speak up, no matter what happens with the appeal. Petition the UFC, make some noise online — do whatever it takes and see what happens. Based on what I’ve seen it’s 50/50.

Sergio Pettis looked fantastic, especially coming back from that left that dropped him in the opening seconds of the bout. But throughout the scrap, I couldn’t help but notice the size mismatch with Matt Hobar. Dropping back down to flyweight would be a smart move for Pettis, and thankfully he told the media he might do just that for his next bout.

Alright, let’s deal with the big elephant in the room.

The UFC announced they have signed former WWE star Phil “CM Punk” Brooks, who will make his MMA debut in early 2015.

It’s safe to say this news was difficult to hear and it’s still somewhat hard to digest.

What message does this send to the many fighters who have been competing for years, doing whatever it takes to get one shot to fight for the big show. But it just goes to show the weight name value carries.

Brooks stated he has a Kenpo background, but more importantly he said he has been doing BJJ training for quite some time. It’s a good base, but the reality is that nothing can replace experience. He hasn’t competed yet, and will jump right into the fire of the Octagon.

The good thing is that the UFC will not pit him against one of the middleweight’s top dogs. He will do a test cut soon, which could allow him to potentially drop down to welterweight as well.

This decision is not sport-based — it’s purely a business decision. While I’m all for “CM Punk” chasing this new dream, it sets a weird precedent for the sport and for the UFC.

From a business perspective, the UFC must put butts in seats, garner ratings and sell pay-per-views. That will happen whenever Brooks fights. The gamble (and likely hope) is that he does well, and makes his way up the rankings.

I could go on, but it will only lead me to the same location — if you’re a fighter, make enough noise to move the needle and the UFC will reward you. It worked for Chael Sonnen on numerous occasions. It’s worked (and continues to work) for Conor McGregor, and now it has worked for Phil Brooks.

It matters not whether you agree or disagree with the signing — it’s the nature of the beast. Don’t forget that. It’s a questionable move and I feel terrible for the guys working their way up, but the UFC needs to move the needle in 2015.

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