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Fightweets: The Time (to review January) is Now

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Esther Lin

It never fails.

Nines time out of 10, I won't get done with Fightweets until sometime late Friday afternoon or early evening. That one other time, I'll get it done extra early. And on those rare occasions, all hell breaks loose once the story's been inputted into our content system.

Such was the case this week. I got Fightweets into the system by noon local time. By the end of the afternoon, the MMA Gods had enacted their vengeance after snoozing through most of January.

So it's time for a late-revised edition of Fightweets, in which we'll talk about the implications of Chris Weidman's injury and of both John Lineker and Kelvin Gastelum missing weight on Friday. We'll also discuss what the month of January has meant for the UFC; Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz at UFC 183; and a bunch more.

Grading January

@RuckerYeah: If you compared this big month in the UFC to a baseball at-bat, how did it go? Home run, strikeout, etc.

Funny you should ask, Rucker. When I originally put Fightweets together, I had called it a standup triple. But after several of the UFC's long-term issues reared their ugly heads again on Friday, I'm downgrading it to a double.

The good news is that all of the UFC's big, hyped main events in January got to the cage without a hitch. Not only that, but the events panned out in a matter that pushed the ball forward for the next big string of events.

The fact that Jon Jones' victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 was a compelling encounter is important. That show's rate of 750,000 was the largest in quite some time. If Jones vs. DC sucked, after all the hype going in, the fans who gave the UFC another chance that night weren't coming back any time soon. Jones came out of the fight bigger than ever, and the publicity from his drug test doesn't seem to have done him much damage in the interim.

Conor McGregor, meanwhile, delivered the UFC the biggest MMA basic cable audience since 2009. If he had lost his fight to Dennis Siver, the McGregor hype train would have derailed. Instead, the biggest lighter-weight title fight since B.J. Penn held the lightweight title is now set up, with McGregor challenging Jose Aldo.

And even when the desired outcomes didn't happen, the UFC came out of things with intriguing an Plan B. Last weekend was supposed to put Alexander Gustafsson over to the mainstream on network TV, to set up a rematch with Jones. Instead, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson won the fight in such impressive fashion that he came out as a fresh new challenge for Jones.

Hell, even January's one significant fallout -- Eddie Alvarez dropping out against Ben Henderson -- was deftly spun, as Donald Cerrone won two times in January. He emerged with an expected fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, which is a quality co-main event on any pay-per-view card.

But then came Friday, which reminded us that MMA continues to have systemic issues that can be masked by loaded, well-promoted stretches, but not erased. About that ...

Chris Weidman's injury troubles

@mjeichmann: Would you strip belt from Weidman and have Belfort fight for an interim title?

Not yet. Chris Weidman's by all accounts a great guy, a really standup, solid dude in a sport needing them. And he's fabulously talented, someone who could eventually be the sport's best pound-for-pound fighter if Jones ever slips. But he's also undeniably injury prone. He was out an entire year before defeating Silva for the title, in part because of shoulder surgery. Another knee injury caused a postponement of his defense against Lyoto Machida. Now the Belfort fight's been delayed twice.

I think the situation with Dominick Cruz, where he was out two years before the UFC stripped him, is a reasonable time frame for stripping a title when the fighter's acting in good faith. The UFC does, however, have to think about crowning an interim champion if Weidman ends up out a significant amount of time. There are simply too many killers at 185 to keep the division on ice forever.

Meantime, we're at the same place we've been at before with training injuries. It's impossible to monitor every gym in the country or keep them from going too hard. But at the very least, a dialogue should be opened with fighters, promoters, doctors, commissions, trainers, and so on, and a best practices list for training established. It's not a solution, but it would be a start.

Weighty issues

@Elcujorino: Lineker to 145 and Gastelum to 185, think it'll happen? Yes, Lineker needs to go up two full weight classes!

Okay, let's take things one at a time here. First off, John Lineker would be fine at bantamweight. I've been banging that drum awhile now. When he missed weight for Ian McCall on Friday, that marked four times in eight fights he's missed the flyweight limit. And that's not including the times he's made weight on his second attempt. But, you know what? At this point, it's on the UFC for continuing to book him at 125 when he's plainly ill-equipped to make the limit, no matter how good he looks once he gets in the cage. The UFC is doing a disservice to Lineker's opponents by letting him continue to fight at 125. Next time he steps into the Octagon after this weekend, Lineker should be at bantamweight. Period.

Gastelum's story, on missing weight by nine pounds for his fight with Tyron Woodley, is a bit different. Word's out that Gastelum had the flu all week and went to the hospital Friday after vomiting. Sooo ... who's the doctor who cleared Gastelum to step in the cage under those conditions, Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons? Someone in that condition is going to fight someone as lethal as Woodley? This bugs me more than Gastelum missing weight in and of itself. But that said, given that he's missed 170 twice and given that he started off at middleweight, yes, a move back to 185 pounds makes sense.

Finally, one look at Rumble Johnson's career trajectory should give every fighter who's trying to cut too much weight pause. Where was Johnson when he was trying to make 170 and 185 and where is he now at 205? This is a copycat business, maybe Rumble's success will start a trend.


@AMMenEspanol: If Diaz beats Silva on Saturday, or does well in defeat, how do you feel about Lawler vs. Diaz 2 for the belt?

You know, when UFC president Dana White did an about-face on Lawler-Johny Hendricks 3, and also didn't give Rory MacDonald a title shot, and threw everything wide open again, the suspicious little voice in my head started whispering that the door seems open to make Lawler-Diaz 2. Especially here in 2015, where it's clear that whichever fight is going to make the most money is going to be the consideration which trumps all else, moreso than ever before. On the odd chance that Diaz beats Silva on Saturday, then, I mean, pretty much all they have to do is run the tape of the knockout in their first fight on a loop and the rematch sells itself.

Of course, for the less conspiratorial among us, there's also a practical answer to why the welterweight title shot was rescinded: Lawler quite reasonably asked for some time off after fighting about 5,430 times in the past two years. And with the decision on whether to give Hendricks or Lawler the title shot so controversial, why not throw it open and see who wants it most? But then, what fun is there in going the logical route. If Diaz wins Saturday, you know they'll at least entertain the idea of Lawler-Diaz 2.

@DHTampa: Does the loser of Diaz vs. Silva get another fight in UFC?

Man, from one extreme to the other. Look, in the Post-Ortiz/Bonnar Era, the UFC has signed everyone from Mirko Cro Cop to CM Punk, and would probably re-sign Oleg Taktarov tomorrow if he had any potential ratings value in Bellator. So, no, the UFC will not be getting rid of one of their biggest drawing cards any time soon, no matter how badly they might lose on Saturday night.

@WuBirdieCrew: What's your prediction on 183 PPV buys...Do they ride this wave? Over 500,000?

I think 500,000 is a reasonable benchmark. There was worry early in the week that there wasn't much hype on this fight, but I think that's the Old Bellator Effect, where, if there is a fight card every week, there isn't as much time to put individual focus on any one fight. But some fight build for weeks, and some catch on over the final 48 hours or so. Remember how, midweek of UFC 182 fight week, people were openly wondering whether Jones vs. DC had peaked too soon? People were revising their buy estimates downward. And you saw what that did in the end. I'm not saying Silva-Diaz will do the same, but I think enough casual fans will be interested in the return of "the guy who broke his leg," combined with it being a cold winter's night where people will stay in, along with not much of note going on the night before the Super Bowl, to where the buy rate on this show will end up doing just fine.

@sigep422wesg: Why am I the only person that knows @nickdiaz209 is going to win??

OK, this seems to beg a follow up. How will Nick win, sigep?

@sigep422wesg: His stamina is second to none, he pressures you, plus punches n bunches and he will touch his chin and TKO him.

Wow, Silva gets KOd once and now he has a glass jaw? You've laid out Nick's strengths, for sure. There's still the matter of the size discrepancy and the fact Diaz's style plays right into Silva's hands. Or at least, the Silva we remember from his prime. Figuring out whether the Silva of old has some life left is sort of the appeal of this fight in the first place.

Jones vs. Rumble

@pinheiroandre: Do you think Jon Jones is going to try to outstrike Anthony Johnson?

You know, you'd think if Jones saw Johnson absolutely run over Gustafsson and finish him, which was something Jones wasn't able to do, then he'd think twice about trying to toe-to-toe with Rumble. But then, the UFC light heavyweight champion has made a habit out of going after opponent's strengths. Heading into UFC 182, pretty much the one thing everyone agreed Jones would be foolish to try would an attempt at outwrestling Daniel Cormier, and that's exactly what he went out and did.

Of course, there's a difference between trying to straight up match Johnson power shot for power shot, which could very well end poorly for Jones, and mixing up his strikes the way Jones so deftly and inventively does, as his answer to Rumble's pure power. In that case, if we're talking about elbows and kicks and stuff that comes out of nowhere at funky angles, then yes, we could very well see him try to outstrike the striker, and could very well succeed in doing so.

@ElCujorino: Dave, I hear PPV prices are going up. What's causing that? Why would I pay more for this card than others?

Let me start with all my usual caveat on this: I'm aware that depending on the show, I'm either credentialed cageside or I'm getting to write off the cost of PPVs as a business expense, and the average fan isn't. (BTW, don't confuse that with "getting free tickets," as some of the dimmer bulbs out there occasionally suggest. I'm working all night. Do you have to pay an admission fee to your workplace?)

I still understand the other side of this, though, since as a Clippers season ticket holder, I've seen my costs go up $5 per ticket per game over last season. I don't like paying more for things any more than you do.

The UFC had held their prices more or less in tow since 2008. You're paying more for all of your entertainment options over what you paid back then, whether it's a sporting event or a concert or a movie ticket.

Just about every financial indicator shows the economy is in its healthiest state in years. UFC is far from the only sports or entertainment entity raising prices. They would not have made this price increase without a calculation that even if they piss off some of the base, they're still going to take in more money in the end.

Bottom line, PPVs events are as expendable as purchases get. If you don't like the price increase, you're under absolutely no obligation to buy it, and you'll still have enough events on basic cable and network TV with UFC, Bellator and WSOF that you'll be able to keep up with the sport. This is one of those cases where the marketplace really does speak. If enough people stop watching because the price went up, the message will ring loud and clear.

Shortest straw

@joshdaunhauer: Does Joanne Calderwood have a legit beef with Sean Shelby over Paige vs. Felice?

I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Felice Herrig and Paige Van Zant are getting a slot on network television when they square off at UFC on FOX 14 on April 26, does it? Hell, even Van Zant admitted to they are where they are because "we're the hot girls in the sport." That said, I wouldn't be surprised if this was as much about FOX wanting the hot chicks as anything to do with Sean Shelby's matchmaking in and of itself.

Calderwood, meanwhile, has a right to be frustrated regardless of when and where the Herrig-Van Zant fight was placed. Calderwood is undefeated, she fights in the deepest division in women's MMA, and while having her fight in her native Scotland in July is a no-brainer, asking her to sit out without a paycheck for seven months when she very well could fight in the interim doesn't seem like the most fair thing to ask.

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