|Jon Fitch's path to an elusive title is clear in 2012.|
Jon Fitch has long been the punchline to many a jokes on message
No Top 10 fighter has been more widely criticized or hated on for simply winning. Georges St-Pierre started to feel some wrath for not finishing lesser opponents in a fashion worthy of a Milan runway, but complaints for GSP can only go so far. He is the most dominant welterweight of all time, a fan favorite, ambassador of the sport, and marketing tent pole for the fastest growing sport on the planet.
Fitch, however, is not a champion. He has had as many title shots as losses (1) while with the UFC, and for a man that prides himself on the notion that hard work will get you what you want, he has grown increasingly perplexed why he has yet to receive another title shot after going 5 rounds with GSP.
While the owner of one of the cooler ring entrances, Fitch has not been considered a fan or perhaps more importantly UFC favorite. He has steadfastly rejected fighting fellow teammate Josh Koshcheck, to Dana White's dismay, and he was also involved in a dust up with UFC management several years ago regarding fighters' rights, which resulted in him being cut for about 24 hours.
He's done things his way, and it's gotten him this far. So that is why he is so stubborn. He shows up to press conferences, makes weight, and wins. There shouldn't be any more requirements to get his title.
Of course, in the UFC world there is always more. The winning, while irrefutable can be easily glossed over by style of wins. KO's and subs get bonuses. Thoroughly wearing down your opponent for 3 rounds on the mat doesn't.
Coming off a long 10-month layoff due to a shoulder injury didn't help things, but as he enters the ring to Johnny Cash's "Rusty Cage" cover to face another Jo(h)n, Johny Hendricks, tonight at UFC 141: Lesnar v. Overeem his path to a title shot and to claim that belt has never been more apparent.
A decisive win over Hendricks would put Fitch in prime position to get the winner of Diaz v. Condit on Feb. 4th. But should Fitch struggle with some rust in the cage, he should immediately get back in for another fight in early 2012. I'm going to assume that Diaz and Condit won't come out of that fight unscathed in enough time for a quick turnaround should Fitch not be given the title shot by Dana White. So with about a 90 day recovery for Diaz or Condit along with GSP being out for 4-5 months from that February fight date, Fitch's window of opportunity is right there.
Beat Hendricks and get the title shot. Or beat Hendricks and take another fight no later than March with a higher ranked opponent to give the UFC no choice but to put him in that Interim title fight some time in early Summer. That will be Fitch's opportunity.
There will be no rematches or GSP in the fold to clog things up. It's win and you're in for Fitch. No doubt, once GSP is healthy he will get a shot to get his belt back, but if Fitch can win (flashy or not) he will be the one holding court, which is where Fitch is at his best.
Fitch isn't regularly on the Top 10 P4P lists by accident. Experts acknowledge Fitch is a tough match-up for pretty much anyone. His size and excellent MMA wrestling allow him to take his opponents down and do what he does...grind them into the Muscle Pharm logo on the mat.
Death, Taxes, and Jon Fitch have been constants over the past several years, and while we may get the same old Fitch tonight, it's time for all of that hard work to pay off. He just has to do what he always has done, whether the fans and the UFC like it or not.