Thursday was one of those days that remind a reporter that there are few beats in the sports world as fast-moving as mixed martial arts.
It seemed like it was going to be just another pre-fight press conference in Seattle. Then all hell brooke loose. First, Dana White announced that Ronda Rousey would make her first defense of the UFC women's bantamweight title against Liz Carmouche as the main event of UFC 157. Then he dropped the bombshell that he's looking at giving Nick Diaz the next shot at Georges St-Pierre's welterweight title, ahead of Johny Hendricks. Then White updated the assembled on the potential for various superfights. All of a sudden, there was so much news that one could almost forget that one of the best on-paper cards of the year was a mere 48 hours away in UFC on FOX 5.
So without further ado, let's get into another edition of Fightweets. If you'd like to leave me a question for a future edition, go ahead and hit up my Twitter page.
xX_FROST_Xx: Is champions picking their opponents helping or hurting the sport. I think it's doing both.
Let me say first that if anyone holding a UFC title belt has earned the right to call a shot one time, it's St-Pierre, who has been a model employee for so long. (Not to mention, this is someone who had to wait on the sidelines and watch Matt Hughes fight Royce Gracie back when GSP was the obvious No. 1 contender). And I'll also say, although this is admittedly faint praise, that St-Pierre vs. Diaz is nowhere near as egregious in its divisional scheme of things as Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen.
But that said, it's not so much the fighters calling their shots being a bad thing as White potentially heading down a slippery slope with his champions. The occasional Jones vs. Sonnen (or Hughes vs. Gracie) fight is a boon for business and no big cause for alarm. But if obvious number one contenders get bypassed on a regular basis? Then you might start to develop a credibility problem.
@DevF8: When can we see a potential fight between GSP and Nick Diaz?
I wouldn't call it a done deal just yet. For one thing, White told Ariel Helwani on Thursday that he's been trying to get in touch with Diaz for a week and hasn't been able to. You know how that goes. And for another, the way things have been in this business recently, for all we know, this time next week White will be back to proclaiming that he's absolutely going to get Silva vs. GSP done and that nothing else matters to him.
But if we're going to take a St-Pierre vs. Diaz fight at face value, I'm guessing we'd see it as soon as White can get Diaz cleared and re-licensed by the Nevada Athletic Commission. This is a big-money fight, but it's also one with a shelf life, like that loaf of bread which has been pushed up to the front of the rack because it expires in a couple days. White wants to get this fight done now, when Diaz is presumably going to be on his best behavior and before any of the various Diaz-like things which can get in the way of the fight happen.
@cmwrites: Since Johny Hendricks will have to fight again before getting a title shot, who should he be matched up with?
Where else can can Hendricks go from here without fighting St-Pierre? He's already beaten Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Martin Kampmann. Jake Ellenberger would be a step backwards. Maybe Rory MacDonald if MacDonald scores an impressive finish of B.J. Penn on Saturday. But other than that, a bout with Carlos Condit is a fight that would seem to make sense for both fighters given the circumstances, since GSP vs. Diaz would also mean a natural Condit-Diaz rematch wouldn't happen.
@BooneCowan: How mad should Johny Hendricks be that he had been labeled the #1 contender only to be skipped over by Diaz?
If I was Hendricks, I'd be pretty steamed. And he apparently was, since he raised such a ruckus on Twitter afterward that Dana White felt compelled to tweet Hendricks "I agree that u deserve it and u will get ur shot."
@Metoproziva: under/over 90 seconds... The length of RR vs Carmouche?
We in the MMA media throw around analogies of war, battle, firefights, and so on, probably too much for our own good. Especially when we're talking about a fighter like Liz Carmouche, who has actually served three combat tours in the Iraq War. After what Carmouche has been through, the prospect of being armbarred by Ronda Rousey isn't exactly going to make her shake in her boots.
Carmouche is a fighter who, barely nine months into her career, took a short-notice Strikeforce title fight with Marloes Coenen and was winning the bout before making a rookie mistake and losing. She's only gained in experience since then. Rousey is of course the favorite and I'm not going to go ahead and predict an upset, but let's also not just assume Carmouche is showing up just to be the lamb in the slaughter, either.
UFC on FOX 5 stuff
@RuckerYeah: If B.J. Penn loses again, is he no longer an all-time great?
I've seen this idea thrown around by a few people over the past week or two and I couldn't disagree with it more. Randy Couture finished his career 19-11. Does anyone doubt that he's an all-time great who belongs in the UFC Hall of Fame? Both Couture and Penn pushed themselves to become two weight-class champions. Barring Jon Jones going up to heavyweight at some point, we're not going to see that happen again any time soon. And even if Jones goes up, there's no guarantee he wins the title.
Penn and Couture are throwbacks to the era which helped popularize the sport as we know it. If it wasn't for guys like Penn and Couture (and Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, and Chuck Liddell) and their efforts from 2000-2004, the UFC never would have built up enough of a buzz to even have a shot to get on basic cable with "The Ultimate Fighter." You have to judge fighters based on what they brought to the table during their era. Even if Penn goes out in short order against McDonald on Saturday, he's still a no-brainer UFC Hall of Famer.
@auggie85 Which upset is more likely to change a 'contenders' rise? BJ over Rory or Rua over Gustafsson?
I think both of these guys could survive upset losses on Saturday night. Penn and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua are former world champions and beloved former legends, and a loss to either, so long as it wasn't a complete disaster of a fight, is the type of thing a young, rising fighter can shake off. But if I was going to pick one fighter over another here just for the sake of answering your question, I'd go with Alexander Gustafsson as the fighter who would face a steeper climb after a loss.
This is mainly because Gustafsson hasn't quite connected with the fans yet the way MacDonald has. English isn't Gustafsson's first language and half of his UFC bouts have been conducted overseas, while MacDonald is affiliated with Georges St-Pierre and has fought on high-profile cards in the U.S. and Canada. That's no knock on Gustafsson as a fighter, obviously, but in this day and age where charisma seems to matter as much as skill, it would give MacDonald an edge in shaking off a hypothetical pair of upsets.
People are talking
@SlayKatzNY: What is the number 1 MMA topic that people AREN'T talking about and should be?
Man, SlayKatz. I think you're trying to hit me with a trick question here. There are a ton of things worth discussing in the sport. But the thing is, in the MMA community, with so many talking heads, so many blogs, so many message boards, Twitter, etc., there are few items that aren't dissected beyond recognition. Performance-enhancing drugs? Important issue, and one that's constantly discussed. Worthy title contenders getting overlooked? An easy target for the certain types of people who complain so much, you wonder why they bother watching MMA at all. Judges' decisions? Comes up just about every time there's a fight card. Television ratings? The most over-analyzed topic in the sport. I could go on and on here, but you get the point. So I'll put this one out to the readers: What topic in the sport should we discuss more?