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Roundtable: Jones-OSP and ‘saving’ UFC 197

Did the UFC make the right call by picking Ovince Saint Preux to face Jones at UFC 197?

Riley Kontek: Right call? I don’t know. What other options did they have, really? The positive thing is that Saint Preux is top-10 and coming off a win, so that justifies it, I guess. Keeping Jones on UFC 197 is huge. Had he been postponed again, his layoff would be even more extraordinary than it already has been. Plus, the UFC shouldn’t want Demetrious Johnson headlining a pay-per-view at this point.

Daniel DeMarco: If making a decision out of desperation is the right call, I guess. Listen, there are three compelling matchups for Jones: Daniel Cormier, Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson. Unfortunately we are in this position because Cormier got injured, so if the other two options are not viable then a heavyweight should have been chosen. Jones said he would take any light heavyweight or heavyweight. Perhaps the UFC thought throwing a bigger guy in there was too risky (see UFC 196). But that does not make it okay to then book a complete mismatch. The light heavyweight division is very top-heavy; the top four guys are in a different league. And OSP is not among the elite.

Go Paolo: No. I understand Saint Preux is a lower-risk fight for Jones. He gets a new belt and the UFC can market it as champion vs. champion against Daniel Cormier. But why pick OSP when a real contender like Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is around? The UFC likely wants to keep Rumble and Jones “protected” as they could save them for a future date, but right now Jones needs to be fighting the best.

Jordy McElroy: Ovince Saint Preux should toss on a red cape, and force us all to call him Superman.

The UFC was lucky enough to have a suitable replacement on-hand to challenge Jon Jones after Daniel Cormier bowed out of the fight. It’s a short list of people willing to step up and fight the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world with a few weeks’ notice.

Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was on that list, but he can’t even put a mouthpiece in at the moment after undergoing oral surgery, according to Dana White. Ryan Bader and Alexander Gustafsson are both coming off losses, and we’ve already seen Jones vs. Glover Teixeira. Saint Preux was option available.

Travis Wakeman: Considering the options it had, I suppose it was the right call. The “right” fight was against “Rumble” Johnson, but that couldn’t be done. With less than three weeks to find an opponent, I think UFC found a respectable light heavyweight who should at least be competitive against Jones. It would have been interesting to see if a heavyweight took the right and if Jones performed well against that opponent. Maybe he doesn’t need the light heavyweight division or Cormier again.

Do you have any issue with it being an interim title fight? 

Ovince St. Preux in action against Gian Villante during their UFC 159 Mixed Martial Arts bout in Newark, NJ, Saturday, April 27,2013. St. Preux won via 3 round technical decison after an accidental eye poke. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

(AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

RK: No, the interim title is fine. Let’s face it, Jon Jones never officially lost his UFC title. Daniel Cormier may be the champion, but Jones is still the king. What it does is creates a buzz for the unification bout eventually, which I expect will be Cormier vs. Jones II. As if that needed more buzz anyways.

DD: On the one hand, yes, because I do not think OSP is anywhere near deserving a title fight. By him being in there, it sort of lessens the value of being in a title fight, and in the incredibly unlikely case of wearing it too. At the same time, the scramble of news suggests that UFC was trying to get Anthony Johnson. Had he been a part of the fight, it was surely an interim title-worthy fight. But alas, “Rumble” did not take the fight, and I do not blame him for turning it down, so it would be pretty unfair to Jones to take off the title stipulation for reasons that are beyond his control. So in fairness to Jones, I can deal with an interim title.

GP: The UFC seems really quick on pinning interim title fight on this one. Is Cormier even confirmed to be out for a long period of time? Champions are obligated to defend their belt within a year and Cormier last defended in October. That is six months away right now and my gut tells me he’ll be back. From a credibility stand point, this is bad too because Saint Preux just lost to Glover Teixeira and Ryan Bader, the latter of whom was starched by “Rumble” in just a minute. This screams set-up fight for Jones.

JM: Not at all.

I’m of the mindset that Jones shouldn’t have been stripped of the belt in the first place unless the UFC really planned on digging in with the discipline. It hasn’t even been a year since he was arrested, stripped of the title and suspended indefinitely. Yet here he is competing in a UFC headliner for an interim title.

The decision to take the belt from him seems pointless now that he has returned so quickly. Daniel Cormier is a world-class fighter and an even better ambassador for MMA, but we all know Jones is the uncrowned champion. Even when Cormier was defeating the top guys in the division, the return of Jones hung over his head like an immutable cloud of darkness.

TW: No, because I still see Jones as the real champion, despite what he did to lose the belt. And since the fighter that currently holds the belt had to pull out of the fight just weeks beforehand, I don’t think there is an issue with it being for the interim title. Saint Preux may not “deserve” to have a title shot, but would we say that if he found a way to beat Jones? If they weren’t going to have something on the line, then they should have just taken Jones off the card altogether. I think it fits.

Does this new match-up “save” UFC 197 or will Daniel Cormier’s absence loom?

Daniel Cormier gets iced down between rounds during a light heavyweight title mixed martial arts bout against Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 on Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

RK: Cormier’s absence will loom, but let’s be honest here. Fans were paying for the PPV to see Jones, not Cormier. Jones is a bigger star, a bigger draw and a better fighter. They want to see how he fares after a long suspension and many outside-the-cage distractions. Jones fighting saves the card, though, because if he was off due to Cormier’s injury, the card would be unbuyable.

DD: Sure, you could say that. As much as I love Demetrious Johnson, and think he is legitimately No. 1 or 2 in the world, the guy just does not do good business for UFC. Fans and their lack of appreciation for ultra-quality combat are the main issue, but I digress. Having Jones remain on the card is the right business call. Also, I cannot deny the usefulness of Jones getting a fight; after all, he has not fought since January 2015. I always like a top fighter to get a “tune-up” fight before serious, serious business is attended to.

There is no doubt though, Cormier being off is a major detriment to the card. The rematch was among the most sought-after fights this year for multiple reasons. We go from having a legitimate light heavyweight championship fight, to have a complete mismatch as a main event. I would have given Stephan Bonner more of a chance of beating Anderson Silva back at UFC 153 than I do of OSP beating Jones. I cannot wait to see how the UFC is going to spin the promos and hype videos to sell this PPV; it should get tips from the world’s best car salesman.

GP: It saves UFC 197 because Jon Jones stays on the card. Jones is the draw, not Cormier, but their rivalry was also partial to Jones. The PPV now won’t sell as much as if Cormier was still fighting but seeing as Demetrious Johnson headlined events barely draw a dime. This is an improvement.

JM: This new match-up certainly saves the UFC 197 pay-per-view, but Cormier’s absence will be felt. While Jones might be the uncrowned champion, Cormier is the actual owner of the belt. Given the history between both men, the rematch is still one of the most highly anticipated fights in the UFC.

So we’ll all shut up and be thankful for getting what we really wanted to see at UFC 197: Jon Jones back in the saddle. If anything, it’ll serve as a grand teaser for Jones’ eventual fight with Cormier.

That’s assuming Jones wins.

TW: Obviously, UFC lost one of the biggest fights it was going to have all year, but I think there will be a lot of interest in seeing how Jones performs upon his return to the cage, so yes, it does save the card to an extent. However, the card also has Demetrius Johnson defending the flyweight title and an interesting fight between Anthony Pettis and Edson Barboza. It won’t generate nearly as many pay-per-view buys now, but it’s still a decent card.

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