This is one of the best times on the sports calendar. The month where most of you have probably filled out a NCAA Tournament bracket. It might be a high stakes deep end or a $5 or $10 entry into the shallow end of the pool, but millions will be watching this week rooting for teams that either they love, or know little about because a win puts them one up on a co-worker or friend.
Some are novelty teams pulling off a series of upsets, Austin Peay and Holy Cross; others are legitimate Cinderfellas. South Dakota State, Chattanooga, and Hawaii would/could surprise once or twice; and then there are the hitch your wagon picks Like North Carolina, Kansas, Oregon and MIchigan State.
It is this hope for the unexpected mixed with the appreciation of the expected that makes the next three weeks like no other in any sport. Millions of dollars will be bet in Vegas, millions more through bookies, and of course the simple yet challenging office pools to throw down with your peers as much for pride as the few bucks on the line.
There will be thrillers and blow outs and few surprises for the great teams against the smaller schools in the first round, but we watch just in case.
Could that happen in the UFC? This tourney format to weed out pretenders from contenders. No. Tournaments work for some organizations still, but the UFC stands alone with enough match-ups that clarify for most the top contenders worthy of the champ. Most of the time at least.
Now though might be the time to throw a little madness out there for the fans in three weight classes involving three contenders who, much like the seeding system for the hoops tourney, is based on strength of schedule, injuries, and intriguing head-to-head confrontations.
Topping the list is Tyron Woodley. He’s had injuries, he was left out in the cold when Johny Hendricks failed to make weight for their showdown last year and remains there. Let’s think about this, why wouldn’t Woodley deserve a title shot? He’s done all the right things to be in that position and as the #3 contender it isn’t a longshot pick. For the Welterweight crown, Robbie Lawler defends against Woodley. It’s a bracket set up that makes sense and the time has been overdue.
Conor McGregor drops back to defend his Featherweight crown against #2 contender Frankie Edgar. This is a no-brainer, an Elite 8 or Final 4 matching, minus any controversy. Jose Aldo lost his title to McGregor, and quickly. Give Frankie his shot, the former Lightweight champ is tough, never backed away from a challenge, and is the kind of fighter who makes it interesting for McGregor.
After taking the fight on short notice and beating the hottest star around in McGregor, Nate Diaz is title worthy. Ranked #5 in the Lightweight division he leapfrogs the others based on that fight to take on Rafael dos Anjos for the belt. Yes, the four he passes–and their fans–can cry out unfair, but that happens in setting up a bracket. Some #5 seeds are as good as #2 or #3 seeds. That second-guessing selecting keeps the flames fanned in the hoops world and works perfectly for MMA.
So throw Woodley, Edgar, and Diaz into the fray and let’s see what happens. It’s as close as we can get to a March maddening type of set-up from the court to the cage.
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