The Half-Guarded Truth
By: Mike Coughlin
The curious case of Benson Henderson (Or: Why you should wait until it plays itself out)(Or, or: The Best Laid Plans…)
Sports fans love to gossip. The off-season rumor mill seemingly generates more talk than the actual season’s results. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, as the fantasy of what might be can often trump the reality of what is and what was. MMA fans – particularly those of us who have nothing better to do all day at work than mess about on message boards – really love to indulge this passion. Fantasy booking future events can be a fun mental exercise. A participant can pointlessly debate the pros and cons of various potential matchups. A well played out give and go between friends can explore the likelihood of victory, the possibility of drawing power, and any number of other variables. With the recent almost-announcement of the UFC on FOX, this talk is heating up exponentially. Again: this stuff can be good fun (pointless, because I doubt Dana White and Joe Silva are really reading everything, and since they’re the only ones who actually matter… but fun)(Hi, Dana!)
But, dear reader of mine, I give one and all a word of caution: when it comes to MMA, results matter. And I’m not talking about just who won, but how. What the landscape looks like today is often different than what it will look like tomorrow, and those of us who try to book how things should be done five months from now need be aware: we’re wasting our time.
I present to everyone: Ben Henderson. The former WEC Lightweight Champion was always a good fighter. He’d win, have good fights, and was above-average in terms of charisma. And a week ago, no one on earth was talking about him as a legitimate title challenger. Then, he went out and beat Jim Miller. Henderson didn’t just win, he won in such a way that it looked like he was in a different class. And suddenly, he’s the talk of the town. He’s been pulled from, “Yeah, I like him. I hope he has a good fight” to “THIS MAN NEEDS TO FACE THE WINNER OF EDGAR-MAYNARD NOW!” And those singing Henderson’s praises aren’t necessarily wrong either. He absolutely looked like a different fighter in the Miller fight and demonstrated abilities and charisma that turned him into a main-event caliber lightweight.
And it only took fifteen minutes.
And Ben isn’t the only Henderson pulling off this feat as of late. Dan Henderson left the UFC for money reasons, went to Strikeforce, and won a few fights (and lost a high profile one to Jake Shields). He was there, people remembered him, but it wasn’t as if his absence from the UFC was seen as a black mark or anything. Then, he goes out and becomes the first man to ever knock out Fedor. All of the sudden, Hendo is back in the spotlight. People talk about him (rightfully so) as someone that should be in the UFC Light Heavyweight Title picture. One fight, and really one short little uppercut, was all it took.
Anderson Silva was a killer, a wrecking machine that couldn’t be beat. Then he had some … odd … fights where he looked like he didn’t care to engage and folks wrote him off. Chael Sonnen almost beat him, and people thought the writing was on the wall. Then: bam, a legendary front kick of death to Vitor Belfort’s chin and Anderson is back to being “THE MAN” and people can’t wait for his next fight. (Speaking of Vitor Belfort: his entire career is proof that one performance can change perceptions.)
Things change in MMA so fast that to start making proclamations about future matchups can be foolish. It’s fun to fantasize, and heaven knows I’ll do it until I’m blue in the face, but those yelling and screaming should remember that – gasp – the results matter more than anything else. Sometimes it can be fun to just watch everything and hope that those in charge know what they’re doing. In a sport with more injuries than you can count, more prima donnas demanding unorthodox deals than ever before, and more fighters developing sudden friendships that prevent them from fighting one another, booking for a week from now can be tough, let alone half a year down the road. What is today will not always be tomorrow, so enjoy today because there may not be a tomorrow.
Mike Coughlin is the host of Five Star Radio. It is a radio program during which Mike spends most of his time talking about future events. He’s aware that the last line of this piece if a bit melodramatic.