Photo By Daniel Herbertson of Sherdog.com
This weekend is a fairly substantial one because we have one of the most anticipated fights of the past 12 months finally happening. Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans has taken a lot of time to finally be put together and now we’re less than a couple days removed from it. The hype is justified as well; Evans and Jones are the two top fighters in the light heavyweight division and both are near consensus members of the sport’s top pound for pound list. But there’s also a great fight this weekend that fewer are talking about that deserves more hype than it’s been getting. It also has as much divisional significance as Jones vs. Evans does; some could argue it has more.
While Evans and Jones deserve the hype and the intrigue, Eddie Alvarez vs. Shinya Inoki might just be the better fight of the weekend. And it wouldn’t be the first time for Alvarez to have a great fight over-shadowed by a light heavyweight fight in the UFC. Alvarez’s title loss against Michael Chandler occurred on the same night as the epic Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua five round fight, a title loss that many felt was a better and more exciting fight than the near consensus fight of the year for 2011. And much like last time Alvarez has another highly intriguing opponent and fight that will get overlooked in the long scheme of things.
It’s a shame because Aoki and Alvarez are the two best fighters in the world not under the UFC banner currently.
When it comes to talent not under the general Zuffa banner, there isn’t much on the upper end that isn’t under a UFC contract. Even the few that aren’t under the Zuffa banner are generally thought of as waiting their time before they can. It’s why Hector Lombard, a current Bellator champion and perhaps the best middleweight not under contract with either the UFC or Strikeforce, potentially signing with the UFC wasn’t a massive story. We expect the best to eventually migrate over and prove their worth in the proving grounds that is the Octagon.
Until they do generally there’s a stigma about whether or not they can hang at the proverbial “next” level. It’s why Jorge Santiago flaming out in the UFC a second time wasn’t as much of a surprise as some thought. Santiago was good enough to beat virtually anyone at middleweight not in the UFC but wasn’t good enough to keep his spot. And that same stigma exists for nearly any top fighter outside the organization; until you earn your place in the sport you’re not the best.
That doesn’t exist with either Aoki or Alvarez.
Both men have fought and defeated some very high level opponents without ever having stepped foot into the UFC’s shark tank that is the lightweight division and deserve to be amongst the top fighters in the lightweight division. Aoki-Alvarez 2 this weekend is the sort of first rate matchup that could co-main a UFC pay per view or headline a Fight Night type of event; both men are amongst the top 10 in their division without a doubt.
UFC 139 was viewed by many more people than Bellator 58, of course, and more people will wind up watching Jones vs. Evans than seeing Alvarez vs. Inoki. And while Evans vs. Jones will be a matchup of the two best light heavyweights in the world, 24 hours earlier will showcase a matchup of two of the best lightweights in the world.
Tags: Bellator 58, Eddie Alvarez, Mixed Martial Arts, Shinya Aoki