It's another Ronda Rousey fight week, with all the pomp, circumstance, and drama which have become an expected part of The Rousey Show. So let's get into UFC 193, Bellator going back to the well with legends fights, and much more in another edition of Fightweets.
Is Ronda in danger of burnout?
@RuckerYeah: How much Ronda is too much? Is she overexposed?
Depends on who you ask. If you scroll through the comments section of any Ronda-related story on a mixed martial arts website, a certain segment of anonymous hardcore fans will whine about the volume of Rousey stories, as if they were forced against their will to click on the article and as if there aren't dozens of other, non-Ronda stories on a site at any given time.
But their hate doesn't matter. In any area of sports or entertainment, when someone becomes so big they cross over to the mainstream, there's always a resentful group of hardcore fans, whether they follow a band which goes from underground to platinum or whether they're bitter toward the bandwagon which shows up when a previously bad team wins a championship. That just goes with the territory.
At the moment, the masses can't get enough of the UFC women's bantamweight champion. It's hard to imagine things getting much bigger than they are now, with a potential record-breaking crowd halfway around the world for a fight against Holly Holm which didn't have a real storyline of note (beyond the "MMA vs. boxing" trope, which the UFC didn't push very hard) until Friday's unexpectedly heated staredown.
Maybe some MMA fans are sick of Rousey, but the people are crushing the traffic to this website in the leadup to UFC 193, and it's no doubt the same at other sites.
Of course, given the pace with which the celebrity machine moves, the danger is that the general public gets too much Ronda too fast and decides to move on to the next thing. Which is why it's good to hear Rousey is considering a break after UFC 193 (and yes, in this conversation, we're taking as a given that Holm won't pull a Buster Douglas in Melbourne). I mean, what do you do for an enroce after going across the other side of the world and breaking an attendance record? Simply going up against the challenger of the month on a regular card would seem a step backward.
Rousey always seems to be thinking a couple moves ahead on the chess board. A break from the public eye, followed by a return on UFC 200, which is already shaping up as the biggest show in quite some time, seems like the logical way to combat burnout.
Bet against Uriah?
@HMT_SANDHU23: Hall or Whittaker?
Is it safe to lose the "every time we think Uriah Hall has finally reached the level that's been expected of him, he takes a huge step backward" qualifier when discussing his prospects yet? What we've seen from Hall over the past couple years is a guy who has won five out of six, who stepped up to a huge challenge on short notice and finished Gegard Mousasi, and who is fighting on his third continent in four months when he takes on Robert Whittaker at UFC 193.
Maybe that UFC 187 loss to Rafael Natal in a lackluster performance after all the heated buildup was the final kick in the butt Hall needed to let go of his old, holding-back ways. Whatever it is, while I'm not sleeping on Whittaker by any means, it's hard to pick against a guy who has so clearly seized the day in Hall's manner.
What to make of Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock
@christopher_kit: Gracie v. Shamrock 2016. Why did no one foresee this?
Oh, I think everyone who's watched Bellator over the past year foresaw the possibility. There are only so many fights out there left to be made among MMA's senior set, at least among the ones who didn't get fancy job titles to do nothing over at Zuffa HQ. That they actually followed through with Gracie vs. Shamrock, though, was the surprise.
As much as the Feb. 19 fight has been mocked, though -- and it's probably the most-mocked thing in Bellator since the segment with Stephan Bonnar and the masked man -- it's going to do well in the ratings. That's the whole reason these fights are put together in the first place. Gracie-Shamrock-related articles have been clicking well, it's a fight on basic cable, meaning people aren't being asked to pay more on top of their cable bill to watch it.
And that's before we factor in Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000. Will this be a Cormier-Gustafsson masterpice? No. Will people buy into the notion of Kimbo going back to his street-fighting roots in a grudge match? You're damn right they will.
So Bellator 149 will do its short-term job. Scott Coker is a fight promoter and he's putting on a fight fans will watch. The trick, though, remains this: When is Bellator going to turn their homegrown fighters into drawing cards? Novelty fights work for one-night ratings. The longer term work lies in making fans care about guys in their prime. Last week, for what was supposed to be a tentpole event, Daniel Straus and Pitbull Freire put on one of the best fights in 2015, and it was met with chirping crickets. Somewhere along the line, Bellator needs to have a plan beyond drawing the occasional huge one-night nostalgia ratings, and they don't quite seem there yet.
The controversial Phenom
@iamKokoD: Should there be an asterisk on all of Vitor's records? Juiced his entire career. #cheat
There's an asterisk about the size of Barry Bonds' 2003 biceps. Vitor Belfort's sordid history with PEDs and TRT has been told and retold so many times there's no point hashing through all the point-by-point details yet again. Belfort was far from the only one in his era to use illicit means to get an edge, but the circumstances surrounding his particular path, and the fact he seems to flaunt it at every available opportunity, have made him an easy and deserving target.
Even now, in the USADA era, when Belfort is passing out-of-competition tests and looking good in the Octagon, he's still drawing suspicion, as UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, for one, questioned whether Belfort has simply found a new way to get around the tests. Fair or unfair, this is the bed Belfort made and now he has to lay in it.
Showing Hendo the door
@Patkawesome: Is Hendo one of Dana's guys he won't let fight again?
I don't know if he's necessarily one of Dana's boys in a Chuck Liddell/Matt Hughes "job for life" way. But Dana White, the Fertittas, and Henderson have known each other long enough that a heart-to-heart talk should happen soon. Hendo's had a long and distinguished career, but he's 45 and has been KOd three times in his past five fights. No one wants to see Henderson keep getting hurt, but he's obviously not going to retire until he gets forced out. It's going to be hard to sell Henderson in even a Fight Night main event after his latest loss to Belfort. At best, he should be fighting in Bellator legends fights. Hopefully someone can gently convince him to step aside.
@gav__d I won't miss CroCop vs Hamilton but r u sad to see Mirko exit as he has?
So as it turns out, gav here sent out this tweet before all the talk about USADA and HGH started swirling around Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. But even as this story develops, yes, it's unfortunate to see a legend of the sport get tangled in such a mess.
In hindsight, I would have been fine seeing Filipovic retire after getting head kicked by Gabriel Gonzaga. He was never the same afterwards, losing to every top-level heavyweight he met (and some mid-range guys as well), and with most of his wins in recent years coming outside the UFC against layup competition.
Post-Zuffa buyout, Cro Cop had perhaps the second rockiest road for PRIDE stars after Wanderlei Silva. Fedor Emelianenko made reams of money outside the UFC as he peddled his myth as the greatest fighter ever. Josh Barnett did his own thing and did it well. Even guys who had ups and downs, like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Shogun Rua, and Henderson, still had legitimate moments of glory post-PRIDE. Cro Cop never quite got it all together.
Filipovic always carried himself with a quiet dignity, which makes the current, developing story all the more jarring. When a formerly great fighter gets caught cheating in his waning days, it's easy to look back and speculate on their primes, especially in PRIDE's freewheeling environment. But the end result of a proud warrior, broken down and desperate for a way to stay relevant, is still hard to watch, whether or not he brought his current plight onto himself.
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