Mike Swick threw a stick in the spokes of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight division on Saturday night and he didn’t even appear on the card.
Swick, scheduled to face Martin Kampmann in a 170-pound contender’s bout, suffered a concussion while training at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif. Swick was replaced by British brawler Paul Daley and the match was demoted from contender match to “why not?” fight that figured to be interesting but wouldn’t move either guy up or down the ladder too far. It seems that no one told Daley that because “Semtex” looked like he was fighting for a title shot, laying a beating on Kampmann that led to a rare standing stoppage.
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva now faces a number of problems: the talented, marketable Daley doesn’t have the bonafides the UFC usually requires of its contenders (the operative word being usually), four of the UFC’s top welterweight contenders have already been wrecked by current champ Georges St-Pierre, and three of those contenders train together at AKA. There is only one solution to all of these problems – a welterweight grand prix.
The UFC abandoned the tournament format long ago and has never been keen on Pride-style grand prix tournaments, but they can ferret out top contenders and avoid asking AKA guys to fight each other by using the mechanism of a single-elimination tournament whether they call it that or not.
If FIGHT! Magazine’s standings are accurate the UFC’s top welterweights under GSP are Thiago Alves, Mike Swick, Jon Fitch, Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy, Dustin Hazelett, Paul Daley, and Anthony Johnson. That’s nine guys and of the top five, four of them – Alves, Fitch, Hughes, and Koscheck – have already been mollywhopped by St-Pierre. Swick has looked good while running off four wins at 170 and he’s the best the UFC’s got who hasn’t lost to the champ already so why not give him his crack this winter. The UFC has to keep belts on the market and GSP vs. Swick sounds like a great fight for the end-of-year card in Las Vegas.
That leaves us with eight guys: Alves, Fitch, Hughes, Koscheck, Hardy, Hazelett, Daley, and Johnson. Alves and Fitch are the only guys to take GSP to a five-round decision so let’s seed them one and two. Hughes is third based on his body of work and Koscheck is fourth based on recent stumbles. He looked great against Trigg but no one really expected Trigg to return as a contender at this stage of the game. So the top half of our so-called grand prix is complete.
That leaves us with Hardy, Hazelett, Daley, and Johnson in order. If we seed in true tournament fashion we’d get Alves vs. Johnson, Daley vs. Fitch, Hazelett vs. Hughes, and Hardy vs. Koscheck. Alves would be a stiff test for Johnson but the UFC isn’t averse to throwing young guys into the deep end. Daley vs. Fitch works because each would test the other’s deficiencies, namely Daley’s lack of a ground game and Fitch’s work-in-progress striking. Hughes would provide an opportunity to prove that he’s an elite welterweight and conversely, a win over Hazelett would be worth more than whatever Hughes is likely to do next (which I pray will not involve rematches with Matt Serra or Frank Trigg). Hardy would test Koscheck’s stand-up and Kos would present Hardy with serious problems on the ground.
If nothing else, these four fights would determine if former challengers deserve another crack at GSP and if the up-and-comers have skill sets complete enough to present the champ with a legitimate challenge, all while keeping AKA teammates away from each other.
What do you think Joe Silva should do?