Thursday, February 23, 2012

Five Steps for Flyweight Success

The UFC starts off its flyweight division with a bang on the quickly approaching UFC on FX 2 card with the semi-final round of the four-man tournament. For the company’s third effort on Fox, two more flyweight bouts have been announced in the form of John Dodson vs. Darren Uyenoyama and Louis Gaudinot vs. John Lineker. With a solid base of established flyweight fighters and talented bantamweights dropping down, the UFC is off to a great start. Here are some things the UFC should consider to ensure the division lives up to its “nasty potential.”

Pray that Alexis Vila loses in the upcoming Bellator tournament – Most people who know Alexis Vila know him from his run in the Bellator bantamweight tournament. It’s with good reason; his KO victory over Joe Warren in the first round is one of my favorite knockouts of all-time. Vila made it to the finals, but was defeated by Eduardo Dantas. Most people probably don’t know that Vila fought as a flyweight until he joined Bellator. Vila is a powerhouse at 125, and is most likely the strongest fighter in the weight class. Add to that his stellar wrestling base (an Olympic Bronze medalist) and improving striking, and that’s a recipe for success. However, the clock is ticking. Though Vila has only been fighting since 2007, he is 40 years old, and currently signed up for the upcoming Bellator bantamweight tournament. Vila would be a huge addition to the UFC flyweight field, but he needs to be added sooner rather than later. I like watching Vila fight, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope he loses in the upcoming Bellator tournament.

Find Pat Runez and give him a contract – John Dodson, Ultimate Fighter 14 winner, is returning to his natural weight class. If you look at his record, you’ll see his last loss was to a guy named Pat Runez for the Ultimate Warrior Challenge (UWC) Flyweight Championship. The fight, which took place in October of 2009, was billed as the most important flyweight fight in North America. Those that saw it know it lived up to the hype. The fight had it all: back-and-forth action, heart, techniques, knockdowns…it was a fantastic display of what MMA is all about. It was my introduction to the flyweight division. Perhaps one of the reasons I advocate for flyweights is because to this day Runez vs. Dodson is one of my favorite fights of all-time. However, that fight was also the last one Runez has had. He is 4-0, and being the last guy to beat Dodson would help his stature. If you haven’t seen it, just go to YouTube and watch his fight with Dodson. After that, you’ll know why he’d be good for the UFC.

Sergio Pettis – Name value is a wonderful thing. Just look at Kim Couture. She’s really not a great fighter, but she continues to get fights because her last name is that of a UFC legend. Sergio Pettis may have name value, but he may also have a lot of talent. Anthony Pettis lives up to his nickname of “Showtime” by the exciting and innovative style he brings into the cage. Sergio must look up to his big brother, as he finished his first two fights by TKO with head kicks. After he won his last fight by a first round arm-triangle choke, the younger Pettis announced he would be making his flyweight debut in May. This excited many hardcore fans, as Sergio would certainly bring a little “Showtime” to the flyweight class. At just 18 years old, the sky may be the limit for Pettis, and hopefully he tries to reach those limits in the UFC.

Use weight class for International seasons of TUF – We all saw what TUF 14 did for the featherweight and bantamweight divisions. The UFC has already expanded its flagship reality show to Brazil, and places like Mexico, Australia, and Philippines have all been rumored for a version of the show. What better way to get new fighters for a new weight class than featuring them on a season of TUF? It’s a win-win situation. The winner of the show would be put in the mix right away, and there would be an international star to attract attention to the new division. With people being naturally smaller in those countries, it would be a great way to tap into new talent for the flyweight class. Heck, even a TUF flyweight tournament here in the States wouldn’t be a bad idea. Regardless of where it takes place, featuring the flyweights on The Ultimate Fighter would be a great way to get exposure and new talent for the 125-pound division.

Keep getting talent from Tachi – What do Michael McDonald, Eddie Yagin, and Ian McCall have in common? They all became champions in Tachi Palace Fights and earned Zuffa contracts as a result. Hardcore MMA fans know that TPF has the best current roster of flyweights. The Lemoore promotion is home to 125-pound studs Jussier da Silva, Darrell Montague, Mamoru Yamaguchi, and Dustin Ortiz. So, keep the pipeline open and get these guys in the octagon! That’s what I love about Tachi, they don’t mind grooming new talent and shipping them off to the major leagues when they’re ready. It’s a trend that should definitely continue with the flyweights.

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