Paige VanZant (l)(Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Can the UFC’s New Darlings Survive Big Week? Scott Zerr December 9, 2015 Events, News, Spotlight, UFC This should be the grandest of all weeks for the UFC, certainly for 2015 and quite possibly for the entire time the company has been owned and run by Zuffa. Three shows in three days. A bevy of established and rising stars, and very likely the greatest grudge match in the history of the world’s largest MMA company. What could go wrong? A lot. The UFC’s biggest crossover star Ronda Rousey found out firsthand (or should that be firstfeet?) what defeat tastes like when she was the victim of the most significant upset in UFC history. Holly Holm’s spectacular KO win shook MMA and the UFC like a 10 on the Richter scale. Rousey’s loss derailed the UFC’s grand plan for the ultimate WMMA showdown of “Rowdy” vs. “Cyborg.” It also pretty much put the fallen champion into hiding and shone a light on how her bevy of high-profile mainstream projects and an inner-camp feud between her mother and coach affected her performance. It certainly took her off shows like Entertainment Tonight and The Tonight Show for the time being, and maybe, just maybe, peeled away a layer of the do-anything-I-want attitude that had begun to open some eyes in and out of the sport. Rousey’s fall from grace could lead to one of the most marketable returns in MMA. The rematch with Holm is sure to be epic in its build-up and a definitely arena-filler. But the UFC’s December to Remember fight week could lead to further falls, ranging from minor to monumental. If Sage Northcutt should happen to lose on Thursday night to Cody Pfister, his stumble won’t be viewed as a major collapse but it will likely put a halt to the sudden upswing in stock the UFC has put in him. Dana White was right to put a PR campaign behind him because Northcutt has the look and swagger that appeals to a pair of the UFC’s surging demographics – women and non-regular MMA viewers. The arguments are loud against Northcutt’s rise in profile. His movie star looks are fingered mostly out of jealousy. His fight record is more important to study. It’s been argued he was spoon-fed in the minor leagues and his first four pro opponents are currently a combined 10-14. Of note, his last minor-league foe is now 21-33 – experienced, yes, but after falling to Northcutt, he’s lost six of his last seven. Northcutt, he of the surfer’s body and coifed hair, won his UFC debut in less than a minute. Pfister might prove to be a worthy step up or he could wind up proving Northcutt is the real deal. On the same card at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Paige Van Zant holds down main-event status in a tilt with Rose Namajunas, a onetime next-hot-thing before back-to-back losses shut down much of her momentum. Van Zant, like Northcutt, is stunning to look at – a physical specimen who matches charm with good looks. If Van Zant takes out Namajunas, she’ll be the face of the entire women’s 115-pound division and potentially be on her way to same kind of clout that Rousey has/had. Only 21, Van Zant has been mocked in similar fashion to Northcutt though it has gone at least one step farther since unlike the massive vast majority of UFC fighters, she is signed to an individual contract with Reebok. She is, therefore, compensated by the sports apparel giant on her own and outside of the standard-issue fighter bonus structure. A fail by Namajunas here, and the much-maligned Reebok deal gets even more mud slung on it. But losses by Northcutt and Van Zant would only pale in comparison to the most volcanic of defeats if boisterous bad boy Conor McGregor gets spanked by Jose Aldo in their featherweight title unification bout to conclude Saturday’s PPV at the MGM. McGregor is unquestionably the UFC’s golden boy, shinier than anyone before him including such luminaries as Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, etc. etc. McGregor is massively marketable. He’s a media darling. He’s loved. He’s hated. He’s a promoter’s dream and an opponent’s nightmare. What has ruffled others has been McGregor’s incessant need to be in the spotlight. Case in point when he pretty well hijacked a company press conference by calling out Donald Cerrone and insulting lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos. But that’s all good in the UFC’s eyes. It stirred the pot. Other fighters have been reprimanded for less egregious misjudgments yet McGregor was smiled upon when he leapt over the cage to confront Aldo. Despite having a huge room of supporters hanging on his every word, McGregor had to ratchet things up and went too far by “stealing” Aldo’s belt at a press conference. McGregor’s list of opponents has been called into question, too. He did beat Chad Mendes, though it was on short notice and arguably Mendes’ wrestling did give McGregor cause for concern. Most infuriating is the UFC’s double standard when it came to the outlandish backstage celebration McGregor was greeted with by UFC brass and handpicked celebrities who toasted him as the conquering hero after he won the interim title. No champion had ever received such an honor, at least for public consumption on live TV. Not even Rousey got that kind of star treatment. The UFC could very well run the table of success this week in Las Vegas and have all three of its faces come up big. Perhaps more interesting to watch for, however, is the reaction if one, two or all three meet sour fates. Not A Sheeple Go Rose!