You know what’s awkward? When you and your long-term girlfriend make plans months in advance for a grand cruise to the Virgin Islands, but you end up breaking up a week before the vacation and start dating someone else. Unfortunately, the trip has already been paid for and the tickets are non-refundable and non-transferrable. What do you do? Do you cancel and absorb the fiscal loss with a grimace? Or do you put on your game face and go with your clearly bitter ex-girlfriend anyway? If you’re Zuffa and SpikeTV, who for years have been the perfect couple, you choose the latter, continuing on with the planned cruise – which, in this case, is UFC Fight Night: “Shields vs. Ellenberger” – despite the Fox Network blowing kisses from the dock and sending loving text messages every half hour. Awkward? You betcha. But here you are, with a tuxedo you refused to get dry cleaned for a half-hearted dance at the Captain’s Ball on Saturday night, and don’t even bother grooming or even showering the entire trip – you think she’s going to shave her legs for you? So. A UFC Fight Night that neither party cares about. Let’s break it down.
Jake Shields vs. Jake Ellenberger – Shields cleaned house in Strikeforce, and though he had a lackluster Octagon debut against Martin Kampmann, his losing effort against champ Georges St. Pierre actually had the American stealing a few rounds from the Canadian (which is unheard of!). Ellenberger hits hard and can wrestle well, but the guys he’s beaten would have trouble defeating St. Pierre’s poodle “Eloise”. Really, if Shields loses this one, it’s because he tried to impress his friends by headbutting Ellenberger’s fist with his forehead. And that ain’t gonna happen.
Court McGee vs. Dongi Yang – It’s hard to say what the Powers That Be want us to appreciate more about McGee: that he won TUF 11 or that he was once a heroin addict. ‘Cause both facets of this fighter get about the same amount of promotional airtime, and, uh, which one should we think about the most? I mean, call me crazy, but if I were the fighter in question, I’d want people to appreciate my accomplishments in the cage, not my dirtbag history. Anyway, McGee can slug it out with some effectiveness, and on Saturday night he gets fed a tasty South Korean named Yang who’s built like a tank and about one-one thousandth as dangerous. Hey, TUF winners are traditionally fed some easy opponents right out of the gate, but this is ridiculous.
Erik Koch vs. Jonathan Brookins – Wait a second… Brookins won TUF 12… and he gets to face the ultra-dangerous Koch? What happened to TUF winners being fed easy opponents? Brookins, who blends wrestling and jiu-jitsu in pretty swell fashion, must owe Joe Silva money or something, because Koch knows enough about submissions to stay out of trouble and knows enough about knocking people out to turn Brookins into weird, granola-flavored jelly. Heh, I like this match-up.
Alan Belcher vs. Jason MacDonald – Belcher’s been plagued by eye trouble and MacDonald broke a leg in the cage last year, so this bout is something akin to an Octagon health plan where two crumbling guys get a payday by fighting each other. Which isn’t to say Belcher isn’t a badass striker and MacDonald isn’t a badass jiu-jitsu rep – they are both good fighters who are good at what they do. It’s just that there are match-ups meant for Fox, match-ups meant for pay-per-view, and match-ups meant to fulfill the contractual obligations Zuffa has to SpikeTV. You can guess which one this is.