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Weigh-In: Who is next in line in the lightweight division?

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TSN.ca Staff
12/4/2012 7:18:20 PM
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TSN.ca's MMA staff takes a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.

1) Who should fight the winner of the lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5?

James Lynch, TSN.ca: Should Ben Henderson win a decision against the Stockton native, many will say the obvious choice is the winner of the rumoured UFC on FOX 6 bout between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis. Henderson has fought both fighters; a first round submission over Cerrone at WEC 48 and a unanimous decision loss to Pettis at WEC 53, so there is plenty of interest.

However, I think the most intriguing matchup would be a clash with current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. The Ceasar Gracie product hasn't been finished through his 24-fight career and with the demise of Strikeforce in the New Year, this could be one of those exciting cross promotion matchups that we haven't seen since former PRIDE middleweight champ Dan Henderson fought UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva back at UFC 82.

If Nate Diaz is able to pull off the upset and dethrone the 29-year old champion, we likely won't see him fight his teammate Melendez. Instead The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 winner should fight either Pettis or perhaps Joe Lauzon (if he can get past the always durable Jim Miller at UFC 155) as opposed to Cerrone, who he fought just two fights ago.
 
John Pollock, Host of TSN 1050's The MMA Report: The lightweight picture is so deep right now that whether Henderson or Diaz walk out as champion on December 8, you have a lot of options. At the forefront is the pending arrival of Melendez, who could easily justify an immediate title shot providing it is Henderson that is champion as Melendez and Diaz will not fight one another under any circumstances.

Fast forward to January 26 on FOX and we have Pettis (who was guaranteed a title shot and took a “keep me busy” fight in losing to Clay Guida in June 2011 and has had to work his way back) fighting Cerrone and that could also produce the next contender. I would pencil in Melendez for the next title shot should Henderson come out with the title and otherwise you go with Pettis or Cerrone for the next challenger at 155.
 
2) What would be the best night of the week to put The Ultimate Fighter on next year?
 
Pollock:
TUF does not work on Friday nights so I am happy FX is finding a new night for them however, moving the show to prime time on a weeknight is going to put more pressure on them to deliver numbers that are comparable to what FX tends to do on weeknights. The UFC vs. Bellator war seems much more of an FX vs. Spike war with neither UFC nor Bellator really interested in going into an “all hands on deck” battle over audience numbers and both sides have their own issues to contend with. A head-to-head fight doesn't do either much good right now.

I like the idea of TUF on Wednesday nights as Monday and Thursday forces them to compete with NFL football during the regular season and has a history of eating away at their audience. It's not as if a new night will magically restore this show into “must see” that is what the coaches and format need to provide and make this a show fans feel they need to see. An interesting point is that whatever numbers they can achieve with Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen will be the new standard FX will hold them to and will likely require main event fighters for all forthcoming seasons and take those fighters out of action for up to six-months to film the show and lead to the fight after the season airs.
 
Lynch: Like Pollock, I agree with Wednesday nights, which was the original timeslot for The Ultimate Fighter back when the inaugural season aired in 2005. Why I like the timeslot is because it breaks up the week and I'm more likely to watch something fight-reality related in the middle of the week when I'm home, as opposed to Friday night. Most people are out on a Friday evening and even if The Ultimate Fighter is airing at a sports bar, it's the type of show you want to listen to what the guys are saying throughout the show, as opposed to seeing just two guys fight in the octagon.

The reason The Ultimate Fighter thrived and eventually boosted the popularity of the UFC was because of the natural character development that formed with the fighters throughout the season. The only way people will get a feeling for these characters is if they are hearing the dialogue, as it has aspects of a male soap opera sometimes.  Even if the UFC makes an arrogant move airing it on Thursday nights (and taking away viewers from Bellator's shows), it serves them no justice, as it will also be going head to head with the NFL.
 
3) Can a pay-per-view headlined by Ronda Rousey be successful for her first fight in the UFC?

Lynch: I don't think we're ready for women's MMA on pay-per view, because there are many fans still on the fence about the whole idea. This situation reminds me of when the UFC was trying to make Urijah Faber a star back in 2010 and decided to make the first ever pay-per view in the WEC. Even with two amazing title fights in Faber vs. Jose Aldo and Ben Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone, this card still did a low buy rate of 175,000.

Obviously with Rousey there is the aspect of sex appeal, but I think it's better suited for a television audience. I don't believe a casual MMA fan is going to fork out 50 bucks to see an attractive girl fight, no matter what she is capable of doing.  Besides, the fight we all want to see is Rousey vs. Chris Cyborg and that doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon.

If I were UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, I'd start Rousey out on FOX against whoever is available (Sarah McMann for example) and build her up to be this attractive wrecking machine to the casual audience. Then once Cyborg sees how much money and sponsorship deals are thrown her way, she'll want to jump on board and then we'll see the first successful female pay-per view fight.
 
Pollock: I have been a proponent of introducing Ronda Rousey on FOX to the largest audience you can attract and not putting the pressure of drawing on pay-per-view as an obstacle to people that are on the fence about women's MMA.

Females have a proven track record of drawing on television with Gina Carano doing so both on Showtime and on CBS, where she was a major numbers mover as well as a live event draw when she fought Cyborg in August 2009. Pay-per-view is a new animal for women's MMA and whether Rousey can carry a PPV on her own or not is a big question. I do not foresee a show anchored by Rousey being able to crack 500,000 buys and the best way to present Rousey on PPV would be with a big co-feature that can shoulder the promotion of the event.

The X-factor is all of the non-traditional MMA media coverage Rousey would receive for that fight and if they have a compelling enough fight it could bring in new fans and be a surprise hit on PPV.

Benson Henderson (Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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