If I had to point to one fighter active today who highlights the bizarre role that the UFC’s suddenly expanding reality show The Ultimate Fighter plays in the fight game today I would look to Rony Jason. He starred in and won the original TUF Brazil and then looked stellar in his subsequent battle against Sam Sicilia. He’s got a gimmick and a huge fan base. . .the only problem is his stardom hasn’t found a way to cross the Brazilian border. Now he is being handed Mike Wilkinson, a fellow TUFer, in what I would consider to be a very winnable fight that seems to have been made just to make the fans in Fortaleza, Brazil very happy. But with the UFC running about four TUF seasons per year it makes it harder and harder for anybody to transition in to stardom (Who has the time to watch all those episodes and more importantly who can keep all of those new names straight) and Jason is the most perfect example there is. Once again fighting at home Jason certainly has star potential but for how much longer are the UFC going to tempt fate before they truly give him the push he deserves?
Fight Breakdown: If Wilkinson hopes to win he will have to find some sort of path to victory that involves utilizing his standup advantage. Jason has a wide array of tools to use here but will probably be most at home if the fight is on the mat and he is in a dominant position. Getting Wilkinson there may be a bit more difficult than he’d like as Wilkinson has recently dropped from Lightweight and will almost certainly be the bigger competitor come fight day. However, he’s still a Brit and they still stink when it comes to wrestling. Jason is no star in that department either but he’s getting better each time out and should have the advantage there as well.
It is also worth noting that Wilkinson was outstanding in his opening round contest on TUF but was forced to bow out due to injury. Those who like to wager on the underdog will definitely see Wilkinson as an intriguing possibility. I am expecting to see a lot of upsets go down Saturday night but this just isn’t one of them. Jason is too good at too many things and seems to be the more naturally gifted athlete. He’s also more than willing to throw caution to the wind and bring the fight to his opponent. Look for Wilkinson to have trouble adjusting to Jason’s explosive nature. I don’t think Jason will have to ability to end the fight as Wilkinson is too tough and too savvy for that. But his conditioning should get in the way which should allow Jason to control the tempo and positioning. It might not be the steamrolling that some are expecting but Jason’s victory should be clean and decisive.
Why It Matters: Jason does seem to be a star in the making and yet the UFC has still yet to let him off of his own turf. One has to assume though that a win here, which would be his 3rd official one in the UFC this time over an undefeated opponent, would allow him the chance to become the star in the states that he is in Brazil. The betting line is on his side as he enters a gigantic -450 favorite, but certainly he’s aware that the MMA gods can be cruel and fickle and that Uncle Dana will be looking for devastation and entertainment and not just a procured W. For Wilkinson I wouldn’t go so far as to say that his job is on the line but his teammate Colin Fletcher made it to the finals of that season and he is already out of a job. He’ll look to score a huge upset on foreign soil and remain undefeated.
Prediction: Jason via Decision
Tags: Colin Fletcher, Mixed Martial Arts, Rony Jason, Sam Sicilia, TUF, TUF Brazil