The UFC revealed the details of the company's new PED testing program this week, news which all but drowned out everything else. Since everyone's pretty much chimed in, though, I'm going to focus a bit on the new which would have dominated most other weeks: The announcement that Luke Rockhold is the next challenger for UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman, bypassing Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza; and Dana White's hint that Alexander Gustafsson is up next for UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
Without further ado, then, here's another edition of Fightweets.
Rockhold gets Weidman; Jacare has to wait
@tmac604: Makes sense, but rather would see Weidman v Jacare. More intriguing fight
@ColoredSpaces: With Rockhold getting the title shot, who should Jacare fight next?
I'm going to go ahead and combine these two overlapping questions into one response. Look, it's not like one obvious contender to Chris Weidman's UFC middleweight title is being passed over for an unworthy one. Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo ‘Jacare' Souza are elite challengers in their prime, and either contender would make for a potentially excellent fight. The UFC is currently attempting to ward off a bunch of issues at once; this is one they wouldn't mind having more often.
Everything else being equal, Weidman vs. Rockhold has the potential to turn into one of the biggest-selling fights of 2015, in a way Weidman vs. Souza doesn't quite match. Weidman-Rockhold is an almost perfect match of steak and sizzle, with both fighters delivering the goods every time they step in the cage, and the right blend of personalities with the quietly confident Weidman and the cocky West Coaster in Rockhold. Add in that the public's last view of Rockhold was his domination of Lyoto Machida on network television, and you've got all the ingredients for a blockbuster.
I don't think anyone reasonable is taking joy in Jacare's situation. The dude's been a killing machine in the ring, has done everything right, but has simply had the breaks go the wrong way at a time when there are two legit contenders for the title. There's no conspiracy here, that's just how it sometimes goes.
For now, Jacare's best option might simply be staying in "wait and see" mode. For one thing, we don't yet know when Weidman vs. Rockhold is happening, if they'll be able to do it at Madison Square Garden in December or go sooner. Weidman-Rockhold, whenever it happens, also features an injury-prone champ against a challenger from an injury-prone gym. It could be in Souza's best interest just to stay in shape and see what shakes out, and that includes seeing how the June 27 Machida-Yoel Romero fight goes down.
Gusty gets the nod
@sakari_raty: So Gustafsson gets a title shot after being demolished by Rumble? Even Bader deserves this more than Gus.
I'd be lying if I said I was expecting White to tell Cormier on Wednesday's UFC Tonight the he should expect to defend his light heavyweight title against Gustafsson next. But should we be all that surprised anymore? Nick Diaz and Chael Sonnen have gotten title shots off of losses in recent years, and, oh hey, the guy who holds the LHW belt now did, too.
It appears that in former champ Jon Jones' absence, with a muddled divisional picture, they're simply going for the biggest name and most sellable fight available in the short run while waiting for Jones' case to play out.
Either way, can we stop pretending this is some sort of huge robbery perpetrated on Bader? Before Wednesday's news dropped, the vast consensus was that Cormier would steamroll Bader if that match came off. The interest in Cormier-Bader was based entirely on DC's orchestrated pro wrestling style hype.
Regardless of which direction the UFC went with Cormier's next opponent, there was going to be a flaw in the reasoning. Bader seems like a mismatch. Gustafsson is coming off a loss. Rashad Evans has been out for too long. It's sort of the opposite of the decision Zuffa had to make at middleweight.
One way or another, if Jones stays out awhile, these four guys are going to meet up in various permutations in coming months. So given that there's no perfect answer, DC vs. Gusty, with the winner of a potential Evans vs. Bader fight getting built up for a potential fight with the champion, is as reasonable a decision as any.
The UFC's new drug testing system
@RuckerYeah: Does the new drug testing system mean the UFC is finally getting serious?
I'm pretty much just adding my voice to the choir at this point. But yes, Wednesday was a great day for the sport of mixed martial arts. The UFC is not only spending millions of dollars on their new program, and bringing in real heavyweights to oversee the program, but they're also potentially leaving millions more in potential future income on the table. I think that qualifies as "serious."
Make no mistake, at least in the beginning, fights are going to fall out at an even faster pace than they have been in recent years, and popular fighters are going to disappear for long stretches during their primes as the new punishments are meted out. We'll find out soon enough just how committed fans are to a truly clean sport.
Of course, no matter what the UFC does, regardless the issue, there will always be a backlash from somewhere. In this case, the question became, would the UFC have instituted such sweeping reform if there was a fighters union? Dana White says no.
Some have labeled the mere question itself a red herring. But simply look at what happened in Major League Baseball, where the players' association dug in their heels and resisted steroid testing throughout the 1990s and into the early ‘00s. It took Congressional hearings to make things finally sink in that change needed to happen. By then, the damage was done and an entire era in the sport's history is considered dirty and tainted. So this notion isn't as cut and dried as both sides would like to present it.
There are plenty of valid reasons why fighters should band together to improve their standing, but PED testing wasn't the hill to die on, not for an issue which will make major improvements to fighters' health and safety.
As far as a fighter's union goes, at this point, if the fighters don't have the collective will to get it together, there's really not much that can be done. The UFC's corporate power moves in recent years, from the network TV deal to the Reebok deal to the PED tests, have all been publicly discussed and given plenty of lead time. The only fighter even remotely close to the top of the food chain who has spoken out is Jose Aldo, and you haven't seen his fellow PPV headliners come rushing to take his side.
You can sympathize with the fighters' plight, you can shine a light on business practices, but if the fighters themselves don't do anything about it, eventually you just throw up your hands and move on to the next thing.
What about Bellator?
@WorksEveryTime: Does Bellator drug test at all? You can't look at Bobby Lashley and think that physique is God given.
I'm not going to touch that last comment, but, make no mistake about it, the onus is on Bellator to start drug testing, at least if its corporate ownership truly believes in the long-term health of the sport. No, Bellator is not the UFC. But nor can you lump them in with MMA's mom-and-pop operations anymore, either, not as long as it is run by a titan like Viacom.
Zuffa lives and dies as a fight promotion. Bellator is a tiny cog in one of America's biggest corporate machines. How Viacom and Spike respond to the UFC's new out-of-competition testing standards will go a long way to show whether Bellator's corporate sugar daddy is fully committed to the sport of mixed martial arts, or whether Bellator is just another disposable cog in their big content machine.
Stann and Anik the 'A' team?
@dpop2: Is ufc "B" squad Stann/Anik rapidly becoming their "A" squad? Would they ever switch them to PPV?
Answers: 1. In terms of quality, yes; 2. Probably not any time soon. Jon Anik and Brian Stann come off as professional, knowledgeable, well prepared, and evenhanded at every turn, and, frankly, have jelled better than Anik and Kenny Florian ever did. I'd rather hear Anik and Stann do commentary than any other team, with John Gooden and Dan Hardy pick for second.
But the UFC's official A squad is still the PPV team. As much as Joe Rogan's hardest-core fans stamp their feet like children at the mere suggestion their hero is anything less than perfect, Rogan is all over the map. You never know when you'll get the insightful Rogan or the one who defecates all over Makwan Amirkhani's big moment. Sometimes you'll get it all in the same fight. And Goldberg often seems to be going through the motions.
At this point, though, Goldberg and Rogan are MMA's answer to Pat Summerall and John Madden, the duo who have been around so long that the average viewer associates them with the brand. Familiarity does count for something. So unless one or both decide to quit, we should probably stay used to seeing Anik and Stann on FOX Sports 1.
@BigJuice19: John Dodson or Jussier Formiga vs. Mighty Mouse next?
I'd still take Joseph Benavidez over both, given Benavidez is 10-0 in his past 10 against opponents other than Demetrious Johnson (to whom he lost twice). Then again, Dodson has won eight straight against fighters not nicknamed "Mighty Mouse," and that includes a finish of current bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw. But Dodson also didn't put in a performance that screamed for a DJ rematch with his lackluster decision over Makovsky at UFC 187.
Formiga, meanwhile, has a nice three-fight win streak of his own, but he's been finished by both Dodson and Benavidez.
It all adds up to quite a logistical headache for matchmaker Sean Shelby. He's likely sitting back and seeing what Henry Cejudo does against Chico Camus (including whether Cejudo makes weight) at UFC 188 before deciding, so given that Benavidez, my first choice, obviously isn't being rushed into another shot, I'm going to punt on this one for now, too.
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