A week later, UFC 168's events continue to reverberate through the sport. Will Anderson Silva return after his horrific broken leg? If he's able to, should he? How will the UFC adapt to the loss of Silva, right after losing Georges St-Pierre? What's up with Ronda Rousey?
Without further ado, then, on to the first Fightweets of 2014.
Anderson Silva fallout
@christopher_kit: Many suspected Anderson would retire b4 the fight. Now that he got injured, why do so many us of think he might return?
Probably because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Silva very likely feels he has something to prove.
Before the first Chris Weidman fight, Silva looked bored. Before the second one, while he certainly looked motivated, he also offered plenty of clues that this could have been the last fight of his career, win or lose.
If Silva won or lost in an ordinary manner at UFC 168, no one would have blamed him for riding off into the sunset with his giant pile of money and never working another day in his life. And no one would begrudge him that now, either.
But if you're Silva, and you've spent the past several years as the closest thing to Bruce Lee in real competition we've ever seen, achieving things few imagined possible in actual combat, can it in any way be easy to swallow the idea that what happened at UFC 168 is the way you exit the stage? Whether it's smart for Silva to return is one matter, but its hard to imagine someone as prideful as the former champ not at least trying to see if he has one more big fight left in him.
@mrflava123: Do you think silvas leg break is blessing in disguise?? Hence worldwide exposure...
Wow. Not all exposure is good. I went out for New Year's Eve at a bar in LA's Silver Lake neighborhood and had a half-dozen different people over the course of the night who know I'm a fight reporter ask me some variation of "what's up with that guy who broke his leg?" While the days in which we cringe every time some disaster goes down, fearful MMA is going to be re-banned, are over, the type of buzz Silva's injury brought doesn't even come close to making up for the loss of someone who can generate eight figures in revenue for any given fight.
@corysix6: will we see the Spider fight in 2014?
Maybe if everything goes perfectly, and the doctor wasn't be overly rosy in his post-surgery prognosis, and there wasn't a single setback along the way, then *maybe* we could see Silva on 2014's year-end show. Wouldn't lay money down on that one, though.
Who'll step up?
@Elcujorino: Silva & GSP out. The UFC looks for stars, who would you say are the fighters to develop into stars next who aren't champs yet?
The tricky thing about making a Silva or GSP-level superstar is that it's not all about talent. If that was the case, Jon Jones would already be there instead of maybe 75 percent of the way, and Jose Aldo wouldn't need the right opponent to draw a good pay-per-view buy rate.
To create a superstar, in addition to the talent, you either have to have that hard-to-define "it" factor -- Chuck Liddell practically oozed it out his pores -- or the fans have to relate and connect to you as a person.
Silva was not a superstar draw for the entire length of his title reign. It's been forgotten that Silva was in frequent double-billed, two title fight cards in the first half of his title reign. Hell, at UFC 73, the third match from top, Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans, was the real main event in the building. Partially because of the language barrier, it took awhile for Silva's "it" factor to emerge. It was only when Silva started doing ridiculous things like his jab KO of Forrest Griffin and face kick of Vitor Belfort, and got a real foil in Chael Sonnen, that the fans finally came around on Silva and he became a mega-draw. Check out Manny Pacquiao's early pay-per-view buys sometime, for that matter. These things take time.
St-Pierre in large part was a case of fans making an emotional bond. They watched him work his way up from the bottom of the card over the years, respected how he comported himself, and were rewarded when he made it all the way to the top and stayed there. Oh and having an entire country behind you doesn't hurt, either.
So who's next in who isn't currently holding a title, you ask? Tough to say. It's not like anyone is on the brink.
Johny Hendricks is on track. Fans are either starting to love him or hate him, the same quality Ronda Rousey has. His performance against GSP can only help, and a title victory would be a huge next step. Since we're talking welterweights, Carlos Condit has taken a major jump as a draw over the past two years, win or lose, simply because of the way he fights. The question is whether whether this happened a bit too late, considering how many fights he has under his belt. Robbie Lawler has a great story going right now, but he's never been the most relatable fighter and isn't about to change who he is now.
As for other weight classes? It would be interesting to see how both Alexander Gustafsson and Travis Browne progress. Both guys are earning their stripes in the cage. Gusty is already a huge draw in Europe. Does the UFC have the juice to make them connect on a higher level? Simply throwing fighters on The Ultimate Fighter doesn't automatically make them stars anymore.
Oh, and I guess I should mention Conor McGregor. He's already mastered the art of hype better than anyone this side of Chael Sonnen. But let's see if he can stop a takedown from a high-level wrestler before were anoint him the next PPV star.
McMann the right matchup for Rousey?
@GiglioTrey: Rousey vs McMann? Really? I think it's a little too soon for Sara. But it could be interesting.
I agree that on paper, it seems a little early for Sara McMann to get a shot at Ronda Rousey's women's bantamweight title. But you also have to look at the big picture. Cat Zingano won't even get back to training until March. Miesha Tate is out of title contention for the foreseeable future. Cyborg is still fighting at featherweight in Invicta. Liz Carmouche and Sarah Kaufmann have both already lost to Rousey and are both coming off losses in their most recent fights.
So it pretty much comes down to McMann or Alexis Davis. All other things being equal, Rousey vs. McMann, Olympic medalist vs. Olympic medalist during the Olympics, is a pretty strong sell. Especially since McMann's wrestling is world class, which means this is the first time we'll see Ronda and her world-class judo get tested by someone else with a truly elite skill. Under the circumstances, Rousey vs. McMann was the right call.
@jerr209 (and several others): will Nick Diaz fight again?
Whenever a. his money runs out or b. when he gets the urge to fight again. Diaz's actions have made it crystal clear he's only going to come out of his hiatus for the right fight at the right time. He's a drawing card at the time the UFC needs one. That means, despite the fact that he lost to Condit and St-Pierre, Diaz is a lot more likely to get whatever might be the fight that he wants than he would have a few months ago. I'd love to see a Condit-Diaz rematch, which could headline a PPV, but he's already turned that down. So it remains wait and see for the 209's favorite son.
Title shot for Machida?
@DarcyLeDrew: Say Machida beats Mousasi; does he have to fight again or will he fight winner of Weidman/Belfort?
Interesting thought. In the UFC's perfect world, Weidman follows up his pair of Silva victories with wins over Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida, giving him four straight wins over former UFC champions.
As for whether Machida would fight in between a hypothetical win over Mousasi on Feb. 8 and a hypothetical title shot, that would come down to timing. Weidman vs. Belfort is likely to go down on Memorial Day or Fourth of July weekend in Las Vegas. Even in ideal circumstances, Machida would be looking at a minimum of nine months between fights. Does he want to wait that long?
If the UFC's biggest mission here in North America in 2014 is to build future big pay-per-view draws, Weidman against Belfort and then Machida, if it breaks that way, is as close to a slam dunk as they've got.
@auggie85: T or F: Browne fights and beats Cain? Manuwa upsets Gus? Nurmogamedov challenges for the LW belt? Silva returns?
1. M for maybe. I think Browne beats Fabricio Werdum and gives Cain Velasquez a real challenge, but when push comes to shove I don't think he beats Cain. 2. C'mon, son. 3. Possibly well into the future. Too much of a bottleneck ahead of him now with Anthony Pettis out. 4. We'll see.
@auggie85: What is the first fight/video you watched on UFC fight pass?
I went straight to Affliction: Day of Reckoning. I'm not sure why. Both that and the first Affliction show were two of the most interesting nights in mixed martial arts history (And also historically money-losing, but hey, it didn't come out of my pocket). The ring was about the size of a basketball court. Tito Ortiz gave everyone new appreciation for Joe Rogan's post-fight interviews. Bobby Green foreshadowed his UFC career by kicking Dan Lauzon in the junk over and over. Vitor Belfort foreshadowed his UFC future by knocking Matt Lindland colder than anyone this side of Johnnie Morton.
Then there was Fedor Emelinaneko's knockout of Andrei Arlovski, which is to this day the most amazing KO I've ever seen live. Partially it's because of my positioning at ringside. I was perfectly aligned with the lane in which the two fighters were standing. Arlovski had his back to me. I saw him sprint forward, leap in the air, barely saw Fedor's arm, then saw Arlovski do a 180-in midair and crash to the mat. That image will stay with me the rest of my life.
So yeah. If you're on the fence about whether to purchase Fight Pass -- and at this point, it's far from the "Full PRIDE/WEC/Strikeforce/WFA libraries" that were promised at last week's press conference -- there's still enough there now to warrant giving it a look during the free trial period. If it's not up to your liking by the time the trial period is over, I mean, no one's forcing you to spend any money on it.
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