Four talking points ahead of UFC 186

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Even in the context of recent history, rarely has an event fallen victim to such a calamitous run of misfortune as UFC 186. Plagued by injuries, failed drug tests and court injunctions, the promotion’s seventh trip to Montreal is seemingly held together by goodwill and duct tape.

The lack of a gripping narrative has precipitated poor projections for pay-per-view numbers and a pervasive consensus of indifference from fans and pundits alike. Thus, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the fact that one of the world’s great champions will defend his title in the Bell Centre, and a certain beloved power-puncher returns to the octagon.

Just like the Wire, Demetrious Johnson is unappreciated in his own time

If it seemed to bother him one iota, one would almost have sympathy for Might Mouse due to the manner in which he fails to garner the same reverence as other dominant champions such as Jon Jones or Jose Aldo. Maybe it’s more of a reflection of the division he has lorded over for close to three years, as supposed to a mass slight on his wonderfully refined fighting prowess.

Joe Rogan consistently lauds Johnson as the consummate technician, and one that all young fighters should aspire to emulate, while he is the only contemporary of Conor McGregor to have earned the Dubliner’s explicit admiration. So why does this intelligent, well-spoken master of his craft fall short in the needle-moving department?

For one, he doesn’t play the game. Nor do his opponents; a collection of credible but unremarkable foes who have largely failed to challenge him both in and out of the cage. With exception of John Dodson, the pretenders to DJ’s crown have failed to pull their promotional weight in the build up to bouts, and Japan’s Kyoji Horiguchi has been no different. There is also a justified perception that he lacks the pedigree to remotely trouble the flyweight champion.

If Johnson defends his strap for a sixth time, only a re-match with Dodson is likely to spark intrigue, which may just lead to what feels like an inevitable return to bantamweight. Perhaps then one of the greatest talents in combat sports will be appreciated appropriately.

 

Rampage is back baby! But to what end?

It’s been over two years since Quinton Jackson last stepped foot inside the octagon and, in truth, he’s hardly been missed. Had he departed while still a contender, instead of on the back of three straight losses, his absence may have been felt more acutely. His constant complaints about compensation and being matched with proficient grapplers were far from endearing, so when he left for Bellator the reaction was notably subdued.

Of course, it wasn’t easy getting him to Montreal, thanks to Bellator’s legal attempts to prevent him from competing. With said issues put to the bed for the time being, Jackson couldn’t ask for a better opponent to kick-start his comeback than Fabio Maldonado. A boxer by trade, the Brazilian loves nothing more than testing the durability of his skull, and has as much interest in going to the ground as Jackson.

Having mended fences with the Zuffa brass, Rampage has seemingly returned to the UFC with hopes of closing out his storied career by the most profitable means possible. Whether he has designs on another title run remains to be seen, but a quick glance over the 205lbs’ top five would hardly feel him with hope of doing so.

Michael Bisping and CB Dollaway fight to remain relevant

After close to a decade in the UFC and on the verge of his 23rd promotional outing, Michael Bisping has enjoyed a career most fighters would take in a heartbeat. Always a polarizing figure, the UK’s first bone fide star remains its biggest MMA success story. A good fighter, not a great one, Bisping has been to the mountain top many times but always stumbled at the moment of truth.

For somebody who loves to call others deluded, the irony seems to have escaped Bisping as he continues to present himself as a genuine title contender at 185lbs. Despite all the evidence, which clearly demonstrates he is unable to overcome truly elite competition, the Count still believes a world championship is not beyond him. After a chastening loss to Luke Rockhold, Bisping has been matched with CB Dollaway, a man who just failed his first attempt at taking a world class scalp.

When Lyoto Machida pulverised Dollaway’s midriff with his shinbone, it all but ended any illusions about the American’s place in the grand scheme of things at middleweight. However, a victory over Bisping would represent his greatest achievement, and, at 31, he still has ample time to carve out a respectable career for himself.

If Bisping wins, which he should, the best he could hope for is a match-up with Lyoto Machida. Bisping has never lost consecutive fights but if Dollaway can prevail, it might be time for the lad from Lancashire to call it a day.

Aisling Daly to get the ball rolling on Fight Pass

Ireland’s sole female representative in the UFC competes in the first bout of the evening against fellow TUF 20 contestant Randa Markos. Originally schedule to fight Claudia Gadelha at UFC FN 64 in Krakow, Daly was jettisoned onto tonight’s card when the Brazilian was forced to withdraw due to injury.

While Markos lacks the name recognition and credibility of the Gadelha, she still offers Daly the chance of announcing herself as a formidable force in the wide-open strawweight division. ‘Ais the Bash’ looked trim and energised at yesterday’s weigh-ins and is likely to have too much nous and experience for the game Canadian. What’s more, she can be watched at a social hour on Fight Pass, long before sleep-deprivation sets in.