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Posted on August 22, 2012 by Jack Thurman
The UFC is desperate for marquee fights that casual fans will want to see on PPV. They have a serious problem, however, as the fighters that are perceived as ‘stars’ are well past their competitive prime while younger fighters are largely seen as interchangeable. As a result, fights like this one are becoming far too common. In the co-main event at UFC 155 on December 29, 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas the #2 middleweight in the world, Chael Sonnen, moves up to light heavyweight to fight Forrest Griffin.
Griffin is well past his competitive prime and, honestly, may have benefited more from Zuffa hype than any other fighter in the sport. You can make a pretty compelling case that he never was more than a mid level fighter. In any case, he hasn’t beaten a quality opponent since 2008. In that fight he decisioned Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson who clearly didn’t have his ‘head in the game’. After the fight he immediately fired his longtime trainer and then went on his now infamous hit and run ride through Orange County in his jacked up truck that culminated in a police chase. Not exactly the actions of a guy at his competitive peak psychologically and emotionally. riffin’s only other quality win was against Shogun Rua in his UFC debut–Rua came in looking like he’d been training a knife and fork at a buffet instead of the gym. Actually he hadn’t been training at all–he went into the bout with an injured knee and re-injured it in the fight. Rua immediately had surgery on his knee afterwards. In the rematch Rua stopped Griffin in less than two minutes of the first round.
The only fights he’s won since 2008 were against Tito Ortiz twice (and Ortiz is 1-6-1 since 2006) and an over the hill and overrated Rich Franklin (Franklin has made an art form of beating up on fighters that should have retired a long time ago in the past few years–since 2008 his only wins are against a shot Chuck Liddell and a shot Wanderlei Silva twice). Griffin will always have a job with the UFC since his classic fight with Stephan Bonnar in 2006 helped save the company but he’s well past his competitive prime and it can be argued was never as good as he was hyped up to be.
So why is this fight happening at all? The UFC is desperate for competitive challengers for their champions which are currently in very short supply. For that reason, Sonnen is being built up at heavyweight in preparation for a challenge against current title holder Jon Jones. The two men have actually started to ‘cut promos’ on each other and Zuffa is hoping that a decisive Sonnen win here will make him a viable opponent for Jones in the eyes of the fans.
Surprisingly, Sonnen is just a -280 UFC betting favorite in this fight. This likely has more to do with popularity than proper valuation. Griffin is one of the more popular fighters in the UFC while Sonnen is the biggest ‘heel’ in the sport.