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UFC Fight Night 125 on Saturday in Belem, Brazil, was not much to look at on paper. Save for the headliner between former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and highly touted prospect Eryk Anders, there was not a whole lot to draw the attention of anyone but the most ardent hardcore fans; and honestly, Machida-Anders would have been a main card opener on a less bloated schedule. With that said, the Ultimate Fighting Championship managed to fail in ways that made this card stand out for all the wrong reasons.
One of the first notable errors was made by the UFC well before the start of fight week. When former women’s bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko was booked to make her flyweight debut against undefeated newcomer Priscila Cachoeira, many observers were openly confused.
Of course, Cachoeira’s unblemished record would have made her a shoo-in for a UFC call-up in a thin division. However, when most of her resume consisted of wins against subpar talent (only four of her eight opponents possessed winning records), the decision to pair her with such an accomplished veteran certainly deserved a double take. Open workouts showed a remarkable difference in skill level between Shevchenko and Cachoeira. When the ladies were locked in the cage with one another, all of the trepidation came to a bloody and regrettable conclusion. This was not an evenly matched fight. Referee Mario Yamasaki found the worst time to fall asleep at the wheel, and Cachoeira’s corner stubbornly refused to concede defeat as Shevchenko mercilessly mauled the UFC rookie. The imperfect storm of suspect officiating and poor matchmaking led to an unnecessary black mark on the event.
The handling of John Dodson’s scrapped pairing with Pedro Munhoz is another cause for concern. When Munhoz missed weight by five pounds, UFC officials seemed to assume that Dodson would still take the fight, with his Brazilian counterpart surrendering 20 percent of his purse. Instead, Dodson elected to not accept the change against a man who was significantly larger than him anyway.
Considering the difficulty associated with climbing the ladder at 135 pounds, Dodson likely made a smart decision with his career. Instead of recognizing this, the initial reports stated that UFC officials were not going to compensate Dodson in any way despite his making the contracted weight and showing up ready to fight. The backlash was instant. Just hours later, it appeared the UFC had changed course and decided to award Dodson a portion of his show money, along with his Reebok payout. If only there was a policy on last-minute fight changes.
Meanwhile, Michel Prazeres weighed in at 161 pounds, five pounds over the 156-pound limit for non-title fights in the lightweight division. Instead of opting out altogether, his opponent, Desmond Green, agreed to still compete. His only condition was that Prazeres not be allowed to rehydrate above 173 pounds. Shortly before the bout, Green took to Instagram to tell his followers that while this condition was not met and Prazeres was now 180 pounds, he still wanted to fight to “do what savages do.” While Green’s intention to compete, earn a full paycheck and simultaneously attempt to build good favor with the UFC made sense for a fighter without Dodson’s tenure, the in-cage results were less favorable for Green. It was clear that the size difference played a huge factor. Prazeres imposed his will from top position and earned a unanimous decision over Green, who reportedly weighed 161 pounds by fight time. For someone in his position, it was a dangerous gamble. Hopefully when the time comes, the promotion will reward Green for the risk he took. Once again, an official policy would do wonders to keep athletes like Green from making impulsive decisions that can do damage to their careers.
The overreaching schedule of the UFC will mean more fight cards with unremarkable lineups. Unfortunately, this has become the norm; consider the fights outside the main and co-main event at UFC 221. When that happens, we should at the very least be able to depend on the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion to do the basic work of ensuring events take place without these preventable follies. Questionable matchmaking and attempting to leverage fighters into making hasty, career-altering decisions will only sully the reputation the Ultimate Fighting Championship holds so dearly. If we can’t consistently rely on the UFC for stacked cards with high entertainment value, we should be able to rely on it for sound decision making and the basic components of decency and responsibility in the sport.