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The Co-Main Event of the Evening...
Written by Matt Webb
When news broke that UFC on Fox 22 would be co-headlined by a bout between "Super" Sage Northcutt and Mickey Gall, I had my reservations. Not due to below par matchmaking,
stylistically Gall versus Northcutt is an intriguing fight. An explosive striker versus a strangling
grappler, matchups like these are what laid the foundation for the UFC. In theory, but also in
practice, the UFC on Fox 22 co-main event was entertaining. Pure entertainment, however, is not
how the UFC built its name. “This is the NFL of mixed martial arts” which is the
analogy UFC president Dana White uses when promoting the company's dominance in the fight
industry. The “best fight the best.” This motto has been a staple with the UFC for the majority of
its years of operation, so when Gall versus Northcutt was announced for a co-main event slot,
you could understand my surprise. This same fight could co-headline a Fightpass event and no
eyebrows would be raised. A step further, this fight could co-headline a local show in New
Jersey and fight fans around the world would be none the wiser. Instead, here is Gall versus
Northcutt in the co-headliner of the primetime slot of programming that is UFC on Fox.
The placement of Northcutt versus Gall shows the push these two young fighters are
receiving. Both fighters are sewed together by a common thread, the thread being that both
fighters were founded on Dana White's "Lookin for a Fight" which is basically The Ultimate
Fighter Abridged. In essence, Mickey Gall and Sage Northcutt are the prodigal sons of Dana
White. He founded both athletes in local promotions, put his stamp of approval on them and then
signed them to a UFC contract. Sage Northcutt was the inaugural product of “Lookin for a Fight”
and he burst onto the scene with a blitzing TKO over Francisco Trevino. The fights that Northcutt
has received could be considered favorable matchups in the eyes of some. Aside from Gall, all
of Northcutt’s UFC opponents have a promotional record with an even win-loss split or a higher
percentage of losses. Francisco Trevino, Bryan Barberena, Cody Pfister, and Enrique Marin have
a combined UFC record of four wins and nine losses. To say that the UFC has put together matchups
in which Sage Northcutt has a better opportunity to come out victorious would not be a bold
statement. With these matchups have come increased opportunities for exposure by placing
Northcutt on cards like UFC 200 and UFC on Fox 22. The UFC brass seems to believe “Super”
Sage is a marketable commodity and for good reason. The golden haired, muscled, dynamic
striker resembles a character from Dragon Ball Z and fights like one as well.
In the other corner, we have Mickey Gall who is another one of Dana White's fighters that he personally scouted. Mickey Gall entered the perfectly coined "CM Punk sweepstakes”
with a victory over Mike Jackson. He then found himself in a peculiar spot playing spoiler in a
match against WWE wrestling star Phil Brooks. Gall capitalized on his time in the bright lights
with a dominating rear naked choke win over CM Punk in front of a large audience. Gall's post-
fight call out of "Corny" Sage Northcutt, was strategically an intelligent move. He got his wish. Gall has done a serviceable job of making the most of his opportunities and exploiting future
ones in the process. Yet Gall himself is only 4-0 overall and his first three opponents were all
debuting fighters who now sport a combined professional record of 0-3. So I ask the question, is this really the "best fight the best?"
Gall versus Northcutt got a premium spot on a high caliber card with not so premium
fighters. I am in no way saying anything negative about Gall or Northcutt but I am merely
analyzing the current landscape. The same card had a true prospect fight between Alan Jouban
and Mike Perry. It also had the retirement fight of future Hall of Famer Urijah Faber. Gall versus
Northcutt garnered a higher spot on the card than both of these attractions, but why? The question is no longer how talented or skilled you are, but rather how marketable you could be. The fact of the matter is this fight leapfrogged much more deserving fights. The push Gall and Sage are getting has not necessarily been earned as much as it has been given. In the process of marketing its young stars, the UFC is in danger of sacrificing its own product. Cub Swanson tweeted out my point in a nutshell when he said "It's weird the UFC booked an Amateur fights as the Co-Main event." The UFC should not make a habit of these practices because this is not how it has built its empire. Though Gall and Northcutt are undoubtedly talented, neither of them deserved the co-main event slot. The only thing at stake for this fight was which of Dana Whites prodigal sons would continue to ascend to the marketing throne. In the back in forth affair, it was Mickey Gall who ended up with his hand raised. He dropped Super Sage with a right hand and finished him with what is becoming his patented finisher, the rear naked choke. The question now is, where do we go from here?
Billed as a crossroads fight between rapidly rising stars, the winning Gall now was given
another chance to capitalize on his opportunity. In his post-fight interview, Gall called out Dan
Hardy, the one-time title challenger and UFC veteran of ten fights. This is a considerable step up
in competition and may not be possible due to Dan Hardy's current medical situation. However, a
step up in competition is what Mickey Gall has earned. A fight with a gatekeeper at lightweight
or welterweight would be the right step in Galls development. As for Sage Northcutt who
currently holds a 3-2 UFC record, another fight with a prospect is needed. Though he is only 20
years of age, if he drops another fight or two I would have no complaints to see him gain more
experience on the local circuit then making a comeback in the future.
Gall versus Northcutt had no lack in entertainment and thanks to the UFC's promotional
machine it had no lack of name recognition either. It did lack substance, however, and Gall versus
Northcutt was the UFC turning a blind eye to its own set of vision and values. As I stated
previously, the UFC should head the warning of the caliber of fighters they have fighting in
perennial spots. Just because a UFC sticker gets slapped over it does not mean it is UFC caliber.
"The best fight the best" motto was vacated in this match. Is this merely a phase the sport is
going through or is this the norm the UFC will continue to operate on? Let us hope it is the former and not the latter.