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Fightweets: Sympathy for Michael Bisping

Esther Lin

This week's edition of Fightweets is being published smack dab in the middle of a stretch of four fight cards in the span of just over 24 hours, which could make things a little awkward. Except, there's so much going on aside from this weekend's action that there's plenty to discuss. So let's get right into it.

Bisping's opponents and PEDS

@dpop2: Everyone loves to hate Bisping but other then Kennedy I believe all his opponents have popped for ped's. What's the deal?

You know, when Cung Le was suspended for excess human growth hormone in his system after his loss to Michael Bisping, I wanted to tweet something to the effect of, "At least Bisping can look himself in the mirror and know he's gone about things the right way."

But I stopped myself simply based on how that would look down the road if Bisping ever did pop. (Sort of like this Victor Conte tweet from 2012 which made the resurfaced after Le's suspension. And boy, the fact that the convicted felon who helped Barry Bonds cheat his way to the home run record is taken seriously in some circles really is mind-boggling. But I digress ...).

And that's completely unfair to Bisping. This is a guy who has gotten to the cusp of title shots one time after another, only to lose to someone who had artificial enhancement. There's absolutely no good reason to believe Bisping is cheating other than the fact so many others around him are. If that's not an indictment on how dirty this sport can be, nothing is.

Le's (alleged) lies

@DestroyKillBurn: Does Cung Le think the MMA fanbase is completely ignorant with his utterly lame excuse for popping for HGH?

I mean, I can't blame you at all for coming to such a conclusion. Le and his management team seem to be taking the "Big Lie" approach, a la "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction," where if you tell it often enough and stick to it, you'll get enough people to believe it. The difference in this case being, of course, no one believes it. Maybe Le, being 42 and having just taken a brutal ass kicking, has no intention of returning, and figures he can go to his grave claiming he was railroaded without ever having to face another drug test.

Given what happened here with Le -- in the wake of Wanderlei Silva's ignominious exit -- you wonder why fighters who get caught don't just do what Chael Sonnen's doing: Say you were guilty, apologize, then lie low until the people miss you and decide to forgive you. Given the positive response to his PPV commentating gig, you know is exactly the process which is happening with Sonnen at the moment. Why Le would go in the other direction is hard to fathom.

Title shot for McGregor?

@The_AaronOBrien: If you're in charge, who are you giving Conor McGregor next? Aldo, Bermudez/Lamas or someone else and when.

Funny you should ask. In the time since you dropped this question on me, UFC president Dana White went ahead and strongly hinted that McGregor could be in line for the winner of the Oct. 19 featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo Jr. and Chad Mendes.

The reasoning? Essentially, McGregor is fresh and new, while Aldo has already beaten most of the pack underneath him at 145 pounds.

This seems most directly aimed at pushing McGregor over Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson, who meet in what most assumed was a No. 1 contender's fight in November. Edgar is less than two years removed from his crack at Aldo. But Swanson, should he beat Edgar, would have seven straight wins and couldn't possibly be further removed from the fighter Aldo ran over (well, ran and then leapt into a flying KO knee, to be more precise) back in the WEC.

Rather than needlessly piss off Edgar and Swanson, UFC should have just gone ahead and called its biggest marker in McGregor's favor, here: McGregor challenging for the championship, as things stand now, is already bigger than any other fight the UFC can make in the lower weight classes.

Ideally, if you wanted to chart the perfect trajectory, McGregor would have one more big fight before getting his big title shot. He's passed his tests with flying colors. He's increased his level of competition in each UFC fight. Both his exposure level and the sheer level of pressure have gone up with each successive fight. He's headlined a show and basically was the de facto main event at UFC 178. Dustin Poirier was a solid, top 10 win, but not someone who was on the short list for a title shot. A win over a Swanson, or an Edgar, or even Dennis Bermudez if he wins his next fight, would be the final credibility builder in teasing out a big title fight.

But the creation of a superstar isn't just about what happens in the cage. It also involves being in the right place at the right time, and you have to roll the dice somewhere along the way. Brock Lesnar had a grand total of three MMA fights and one UFC win when he got his shot at Randy Couture. They needed a name to fill a four-man tournament (along with Courute, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Frank Mir) to unify the UFC title and interim belt, so Lesnar got the call, and he took advantage. Jon Jones had not even co-main evented a pay-per-view when he got his shot at Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's light heavyweight title. Rashad Evans dropped out of his title fight, an opportunity came up, and Jones sure ran with it.

What it seems to have come down to for the UFC is a decision on whether to let things play out, or whether to strike while the iron is hot. They're poised to chose the latter. It's a high-stakes gamble, and like everything else about McGregor's rocket ride to the top, it will be fascinating to watch as it plays out.

Kennedy-Romero rematch?

@leafan73: Do you think the UFC will actually give Tim Kennedy a rematch against Yoel Romero?

I hope so. I really do. Without a rematch, neither guy will get past this affair without having the fight stain their record. In Romero's case, if he keeps winning -- and even if he wins in impressive fashion -- he's always going have that "yeah, but the Kennedy fight ..." asterisk attached to his resume. In Kennedy's case, the fight becomes a "what if," for good or bad. If he goes on a tear, there's "he'd be up for a title shot if it he didn't get screwed against Romero," and if he goes on a tailspin, people will point to the fight as the turning point.

As a semi-related aside, I have to say, I'm a bit amazed how quick some have been to gloss over Kennedy grabbing Romero's gloves while drilling him with fight-changing uppercuts as a factor in the chain of events here. The fact Romero was out on his feet in his corner was a direct consequence of a rules infraction. This matters particularly when you hold yourself up as a beacon of moral turpitude as often as Kennedy does.

Still, none of that excuses what happened in Romero's corner. Which brings us back to why we need a rematch. The entire cluster of events, regardless of who is at fault to which degree, demands it. And if that's not enough, there's another simple fact: Controversy sells. This was one of the bigger controversies of the year. FOX thrives on controversy. This is a such a no-brainer Fight Night main event I'm still surprised the UFC doesn't seem inclined to move in that direction.

Second-rate champs?

@BreadandWater94: Does Eddie Alvarez's loss show that other promotions' champions are second rate compared to UFC champs?

Ehh, I wouldn't go that far. Did Gilbert Melendez look like he didn't belong against Benson Henderson when he came into that fight as Strikeforce lightweight champion emeritus? Not only did Melendez belong, I still think he got jobbed in that decision.

As for Alvarez, I wouldn't try to read too much into it. Cerrone is a bad style matchup for anyone these days. Maybe Alvarez is getting his big UFC run just a bit too late. Maybe he should ponder a drop to featherweight. But using it to write off anyone outside the UFC wearing a belt is a bit much.

Favorite promotion

@ynneKrempatS: Which was the best promotion in your opinion, WEC, Strikeforce, or Bellator

WEC, hands down. And that's meant as no offense to the other promotions.

Strikeforce was solid for what it was. Look at how everyone from Melendez to Daniel Cormier down to less-heralded guys like Jorge Masvidal have fared in the UFC. The talent level speaks for itself. Strikeforce also had two distinct eras: The pre-Showtime era, in which they were The Little Local Promotion That Could, and the Showtime era. Showtime basically plugged Strikeforce into Elite XC's old slot and kept some of the three-ring circus presentation in their broadcasts, which made the stink of Elite XC rub off on Strikeforce a bit, which sort of clouded some from seeing the level of talent inherent in the fighters. But there's no doubt Strikeforce at its best was as solid as any MMA product which has come down the pike.

Bellator's doesn't quite fit into the comparisons here since they still exist and are still a work in progress.

The thing about the WEC which separated it from the pack is that we got, the best fighters in the world at 145 pounds and below at the time. Not only that, but these fighters brand-new to all but the hardest-core fans. The pedigree speaks for itself, with WEC vets from Jose Aldo to Dominick Cruz to Renan Barao to Demetrious Johnson all continuing to lead their classes in the UFC. Then, to boot, it turned out the WEC's lightweights could compete, too. I don't doubt for a moment that the opportunities Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone had in main eventing cards on national television went along way toward helping them succeed on the big stage when they got to the UFC, and in many cases surpass guys who had been with the UFC all along.

Looking back on the WEC is like reminiscing on following that favorite band of yours when they were underground and just starting to become popular. The WEC was lightning in a bottle, a place in time that can't be recaptured, and by almost every measurable account the promotion was a good thing for the sport.

Gusty vs. ???

@CodyCarlDigits: Who do you see as a realistic opponent for Gus now that Anthony Johnson has been suspended?

Sounds like we have our answer. There's really no one left at the moment who makes makes sense for Gus with Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier accounted for. The question is, if you're Rashad Evans, and you're 35 haven't fought for a year since knee surgery, is that the fight you want right out of the gate?

Blood work

@TannerRuss2: Giving blood to make weight should be illegal, right?

Well, it's legal, as Cody McKenzie proved Thursday. Before we get serious about this, can we admit that Mr. McKenzie is one of the most unique characters we've ever come across in a business full of them? This is the same guy who, among other things, went off to buy a pair of basketball shorts for his last UFC fight because he forgot to bring his shorts to the arena, then forgot to remove the tag. He was also found in the arena's wings smoking a cigarette right after his loss to Sam Stout. Donating blood to not only make weight, but to make welterweight, after fighting as low as featherweight in his career, might be the most Cody McKenzie story ever.

Seriously, though, this seems like an awful idea. Think about the condition some of these guys who hit the scale are in to begin with: gaunt-faced, skeleton-esque, and essentially looking like they could keel over at any moment. Think about how people can get woozy or faint after getting routine blood work done, without the 24 hours of starvation and saunas. Mixing the two, even if we are talking about professional athletes whose general physical condition is a cut above the rest of the populace, sounds like something terrible weighing to happen.

I can't claim to know enough to demand an outright ban on such a practice, but this sounds like a very bad thing to encourage.

Got a question for a future Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.

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