In another week of As the MMA World Turns, a ranked fighter jumped from the UFC to Bellator; one of the most consequential non-title fights in ages looms, and the women's strawweight division continues to be one of the pound-for-pound best in terms of ability to attract attention. So let's jump right into another edition of Fightweets and talk those subjects and more.
Phil Davis to Bellator
@Christopher_kit: How surprised are you that UFC have not matched Bellator's offer for Mr. Wonderful?
Not too surprised. Look, it's not like the UFC didn't give Davis every chance to run with the ball. He got high-profile fights, main events and co-main events. He was given a real opportunity to get to the top. And he never quite got there. Recently, he's alternated big wins (Lyoto Machida, Glover Teixeira) with absolutely maddening performances right when he was in position to put himself squarely in the title picture (Anthony Johnson, Ryan Bader).
I don't blame Davis for choosing to go with the biggest-money offer he received. Fighters have a limited window in which to make their biggest money. I don't blame the UFC for deciding Davis was the light heavyweight answer to Jon Fitch, and declining to match Bellator's contract offer. I don't blame Bellator for getting its hands on a legit Top 10, borderline Top 5 light heavyweight, especially where it sends a signal to other ranked fighters that Bellator could be an option. All in all, things worked out best for everyone, here.
My first instinct here was to say "it's not if, but how fast" Davis basically nudged Will Brooks out of the top spot for Bellator's best pound-for-pound fighter as soon as he signed his contract. But then, Bellator's light heavyweight division got stealthily interesting somewhere along the way over the past couple years. Liam McGeary's entertaining, Emanuel Newton is always a spinning backfist away from a finish, and King Mo Lawal on a good night can compete with anyone. Maybe Davis will run through them. Maybe he won't. But his presence will make for a solid gauge on where exactly the division stands.
@JtTreichel: How does his signing affect the UFC monopoly lawsuit?
I'm sure the UFC will attempt to present it as a point in their favor. Zuffa's main competitor is a company whose corporate parent is far larger than they'll ever be. That competitor, over the past couple years, has: 1. Gone to court to block Eddie Alvarez and Quinton Jackson from jumping over (before eventually letting Alvarez go after a change in management); 2. Made a highly competitive offer to Gilbert Melendez, one which UFC chose to match; 3. Put a live show on basic cable (Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar) which croaked a UFC pay-per-view offering in a head-to-head competition; 4. Signed Davis. I'm not a lawyer and won't claim to know how it will pan out, but it does appear Zuffa now has a small and growing stockpile of points to make in their favor.
Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold
@The_AaronOBrien: What are your personal thoughts on the main event, this Saturday? Machida or Rockhold?
I'm writing this on Friday morning. I've changed my mind about 100 times about Saturday night's UFC on FOX main event. I'll probably change it a few more times before fight time. And that's why I love this fight as much as any on the schedule. And have loved it since the the idea was first tossed around about a year ago, and still loved it when both fighters were put through completely predictable, one-sided fights first (vs. C.B. Dollaway and Michael Bisping, respectively), for no good reason.
In an MMA world in which we seem to have a new "biggest fight ever!" thrown at us every weekend, this is one which truly matters. How long can the 36-year-old Machida keep plugging away at the top level? Can he force his way into another title shot? How good is Rockhold, really? His skills suggest he's very, very good, but he's never faced an opponent like Machida. The winner likely puts himself square in line for a shot at Chris Weidman's middleweight title. The loser either gets cast as washed up or not good enough (I'm not saying either categorization is accurate, just recognizing how the masses tend to respond to these things). That's as big as it gets without a title at stake.
@Dpop2: Does Rockhold get title shot or does he need to fight Jacare first?
This makes the big leap that Rockhold beats Machida, but for the sake of argument, let's say he does. It's hard not to feel for Jacare Souza, here. He's been an absolute killer, he's done nothing wrong, and now he's in a no-win situation against late sub Chris Camozzi, whom he's already defeated. I hate to punt on this one, but there are still so many variables that this really is a wait-and-see situation. For example, if Rockhold convincingly defeats Machida in front of a network television audience, it is going to be hard to deny him a title shot. But what if a. Rockhold vs. Machida is a war, which means Rockhold will be out awhile; b. Jacare squashes Camozzi; then c. Vitor Belfort has to pull out of his fight with Weidman on Memorial Day weekend, for whatever reason? Jacare would be in the best position to take advantage. All things being equal, Rockhold appears to have the most to gain Saturday, but we all know not to consider anything done.
I can see why you'd come to this conclusion, given what's gone down in the women's 115-pound division over the past couple months (Not to mention, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Paige Van Zant and Felice Herrig are being featured on network TV this weekend).
But if you look a little closer, I don't think it was a deliberate attempt to keep the division's best out of the TUF house so much as it was a matter of timing and circumstance.
Let's not forget that the UFC announced season of The Ultimate Fighter with the 115-pound women's tournament back all the way back in Dec. 2013. At that time, Joanna Jedrzejczyk had exactly four fights under her belt, all in small shows in Eastern Europe. Maryna Moroz, who stunned everyone with her quick win over Joanne Calderwood last weekend, had made her MMA debut in Ukraine just two weeks prior to the announcement of TUF 20. So basically, anyone outside the most hardcore European women's MMA fan who tells you they knew back then that JJ would be UFC champ by early 2015 and potentially looking at a title defense against Moroz is lying.
Meanwhile, Claudia Gadelha was much better known than the others, but her camp were the ones that opted out of participating in TUF. Given her beef with former champion Carla Esparza, you know FOX would have had her in the house if they could make it happen. And Jessica Aguilar is under contract to World Series of Fighting.
So yeah, some of the best strawweights weren't on TUF. And yeah, no doubt some got in for reasons other than pure fighting ability. Welcome to reality TV. But the way things have panned out recently have more to do with fighters making their name in a fresh, wide-open division than any Machiavellian schemes.
Thumbs down to Anthony Pettis vs. Myles Jury
@PitbullLove70: Why not Diaz vs Pettis? No one cares about Myles Jury.
You're not the only person to say this, Pit. I polled readers on Twitter after Jury's fight with Anthony Pettis at UFC on FOX 16 was announced, and about 80 percent of the responses on my timeline echoed your sentiments.
But that said, sometimes you simply have to play the hand you're dealt. Champion Rafael dos Anjos is out with his knee injury (and even if he wasn't, an immediate rematch for Pettis doesn't seem smart after the first fight was so one-sided). Donald Cerrone and Khabib Nurmagomedov are fighting each other. As are Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez. As well as Benson Henderson and Michael Johnson. Finally, at the time this fight was announced, Nate Diaz was scheduled to meet Matt Brown at welterweight.
My gut feeling is that when people hear Jury's name, their minds go straight to Cerrone literally kicking his ass last time out. But Jury was undefeated before that fight and no doubt wants to prove his dismal effort against Cerrone was a fluke. And Pettis wants to stay active and work his way back to the top. Given the lay of the land at lightweight and given that both of fighters appear to be taking the fight for the right reasons, that's good enough for me.
Frank Mir vs. Todd Duffee
@oldbeanjonh: Thoughts on Todd Duffee vs Frank Mir and Duffee's future as a Heavyweight contender?
From the feedback I got, the fans in San Diego aren't exactly thrilled to have this as the main event of the July 15 UFC Fight Night card at the Valley View Casino Center, and I can't say I necessarily blame them.
But, judging the fight in and of itself without regard to its place on the card, I like this fight as a test for Duffee. Duffee's going to be 30 in December. His career has been on and off, in part because of health issues. He's got sledgehammer fists, but his wins have been over lower-level guys. Mir's a former champion who's obviously not who he used to be, but he's Duffee's biggest name challenge in the UFC to date. And Mir, for his part, scored his upset win over Antonio Silva, but has also lost to a bunch of the other guys lurking in the division who are likely looking at other things. So this is a chance to show he's still relevant against a fresh opponent.
It might not make for your idea of a main event, but the fight makes sense for each fighter.
@ELcujorino: Should we stop expecting to see TJ Grant back in the Octagon? I feel for the guy, earned a title shot & everything falls apart
I seem to get a reader question about Grant every week. If you recall, Grant was on an five-fight win streak and scheduled to meet then-lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the summer of 2013 when he sustained a concussion in training and had to pull out of the fight (Pettis stepped in and won the title). Little has been heard from him since. I asked someone in contact with Grant's team for an update and this person says there's simply nothing new to report. So, given we're coming up on two years since his last fight, make of that what you will.
Got a question for a future edition of Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.