As the years wear on and the UFC piles up more and more fighters who have taken part in their reality series I become more and more weary every time I hear Mike Goldberg introduce someone as “a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter.” Maybe it is because we kind of have to take the UFC’s word on those fighters, that at the time of that particular season he was one of the absolute best free agents/ undiscovered gems available and that the UFC isn’t simply presenting us with a substandard product and then overmarketing it in a bit of odious synergy.
Chris Lytle (30-17-5 4KOs, 19 SUBs), who this weekend at UFC 127 will go for his 5th straight win as he faces Brian Ebersole (46-14-1, 13 KOs, 20 SUBs), has used his time in the house during season 4 and since to erase any doubts one may have had about his right to exist in the company. For many that season of the show is one of the most memorable as it saw Lytle battle his way into the finals where he put on an amazing performance against Matt Serra only to lose on the judges scorecard 30-27, 30-27, 27-30, and in the process lose a title shot against Georges St. Pierre. From there, as we all know, Serra went on to pull one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, one people still talk about, as he knocked out the champ in the first round. Lytle finally got the opportunity last September to avenge that loss as he scored his own decision victory over Serra and he now finds himself nearing the top of the welterweight heap.
But before we declare him the obvious winner this Saturday and anoint him the #2 contender to the throne we should remember that the man has a few things working against him. No longer the young stud of 25 that he was when he embarked on his career, he’s now 36 and most likely past his prime. He also has racked up more than his fair share of losses during the past few years. Sure, his decision loss to Marcus Davis was questionable at best and maybe we could accuse the ringside physician of being a wee bit girly when he waved off the fight to Thiago Alves but the brutal ground and pound he was forced to swallow at the hands of Josh Koscheck is undeniable. On top of all that he has had trouble scoring wins over quality opponents. His four fight win streak is comprised of Kevin Burns, Brian Foster, Matt Brown and Matt Serra. . .nobody’s idea of a murderer’s row. Originally the fight at UFC 127 was supposed to be with fellow welterweight Top 10er Carlos Condit but a few weeks back he had to bow out due to a knee injury. Now his role has flipped and he is massive favorite (-240), but he’s not taking on someone you would ideally build your title shot resume upon.
But timing is everything and even though he is nearing the twilight of his career perhaps everything will still work out in his favor as the rumored welterweight earthquake is scheduled to hit in the coming months. Pretty much all fans want to talk about these days is the proposed “superfight” between Anderson Silva and reigning welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, and the prevailing wisdom is that it would be made possible with GSP moving up in weight class and thus leaving his title behind. Already the main event at UFC 127, Jon Fitch vs. BJ Penn, has been listed as a “title eliminator” (just like Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves was, right Dana?) but if the hypothetical were to become reality the winner of that fight would need an opponent. Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields could both make claims on it but if they are both coming off loses to GSP then the UFC would risk weakening the match. Maybe Condit when he becomes healthy, or Dong Hyun Kim, or the winner of the Diego Sanchez/Martin Kampmann fight. Or maybe the UFC will factor in his age and all he has done for the company over the years (and by that I mean cashing four Fight of the Night checks) and throw him a well deserved bone giving him, finally, his one shot at greatness.
First though he does need to get past Brian Ebersole, a veteran’s veteran who will be making his UFC debut in his 63rd professional fight. Ebersole will certainly work hard on slowing down Lytle’s kamikaze tendencies by putting him on the mat and exploiting the fact that Lytle has struggled with wrestlers before. And if you were thinking of placing money on this contest might I suggest you think again. Ebersole has a pretty good record and is respected as a fighter but he still remains a big question mark to most MMA fans and that makes him an extreme wild card coming into this weekend. Still, if I had to bet I would go with the favorite as Lytle knows that this is his one last run to the top. He’s made the most of his “comeback” and possibly his time is now. Of course he would have been happier with a win over Condit but you have to play the hand you’re dealt and I look forward to seeing Chris Lytle extending his win streak Saturday night.
Tags: anderson silva, B.J. Penn, Brian Ebersole, Chris Lytle, Georges St. Pierre, Jake Shields, jon fitch, Josh Koscheck, Matt Serra, Mixed Martial Arts, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC 127