You knew we wouldn't get through the holiday weekend without something going down, right? That was exactly what happened on the morning after Thanksgiving. While the dimmer lights among us were out getting into fistfights over discounted crap at big box retailers across the country, news dropped that Daniel Cormier had to drop out of his UFC 206 main event with Anthony Johnson due to an injury.
With that news came a fresh round of questions about the injury rate at Cormier's gym and the perils of stacking UFC major cards too close together. So let's get right into it, then.
What's up with AKA and injuries?
@ScreaminDemonLP: How can Dana ever trust putting an AKA fighter in a headlining ppv position again?
So here's the thing: I can understand why a whole lot of fans (at least if my timeline is any indication) are asking this question after Daniel Cormier had to pull out of his UFC 206 fight against Anthony Johnson, which comes just a mere matter of weeks after Luke Rockhold pulled out of his fight with Jacare Souza.
And it would make for an easy, clicky hot take for a writer to go wag his or her finger at Cormier's gym, the American Kickboxing Academy, and tell them to get their act together. After all, this is Cormier's second fight fallout this year, in addition to Rockhold and Cain Velasquez injuries. You know for damn sure that if Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith followed MMA any closer than simply parachuting in on the biggest events, they'd be all over AKA's case without ever so much as getting in touch with anyone from the camp first.
But it's just not that cut-and-dried. We simply don't have enough information on AKA's training practices to know whether they need to make drastic changes in their approach. We're not there in the gym every day. Nor do we have a comprehensive breakdown of injuries and fight pullouts by major gyms over the years (that would make an interesting long-term project, but isn't something you can turn around overnight) with which to compare and contrast AKA's injury rate.
So the best we can do on short notice is spitball some thoughts and see if there's anything to glean based on what we do know.
There's little dispute Velasquez has been an injury-prone fighter. There have just been too many lengthy absences, surgeries, and fight pullouts to claim otherwise. UFC president Dana White has gone on the record stating he's gun-shy about putting Velasquez in the main event again any time soon. Velasquez seems to have accepted this, and appears to be in the process of getting back there the only way he can, by tearing apart his opposition until there's no doubt he's the one who deserves the title shot.
As far as the rest of the camp goes, though, I mean, for one, Rockhold has pulled out of exactly two planned fight dates in four full years in the UFC. That's not exactly pristine, but nor does it make him a liability. He's also been willing to be flexible when the shoe's been on the other foot. Taking Michael Bisping on two weeks notice to save the UFC 199 main event when Chris Weidman was hurt was no easy task, as Rockhold found to be all too true.
Cormier, meanwhile, has pulled out of fights twice due to injury this year. But up until that point, he never missed a date in an MMA career going back to 2009. He had trouble with broken bones in his hands earlier in his career, but it never caused him to miss scheduled dates, and that's when he was a undersized heavyweight winging punches at the likes of Bigfoot Silva.
If anything, Cormier's gotten the worst end of fight scheduling mishaps by far, from Jon Jones' injuries and suspensions to Rashad Evans pulling out of a fight to Frank Mir dropping out the first time they were scheduled to compete. Cormier's always been accommodating on short notice, leading to everything from the infamous Patrick Cummins matchup to the bout with Anderson Silva at UFC 200. Cormier's still got a stack of IOUs from the UFC to cash in on that one.
There's also the age factor with the big three. Cormier is 37, Velasquez is 34, Rockhold is 32. They're not getting any younger. The body is slower to heal than when you're first breaking into the sport. These are big guys who make no mistake about how hard they can push in the gym. At least Velasquez, for his part, has talked about taking things like getting rest, regular massages, and just generally taking care of his body more seriously, and it seems like so far, so good in his case.
Then there's Khabib Nurmagomedov, who has faced far more trouble with the injury bug than he ever has in the cage.
So yeah, there's been no doubt 2016 has been as bad as its gotten for injuries in San Jose. AKA's going to have to figure out for themselves whether this has simply been a year of bad luck or whether it's a long-term trend, and if they decide it's the latter, then they have to act accordingly.
But if I'm Dana White, I'm not issuing any sort of blanket ban on AKA main events. He's handled Velasquez's situation appropriately, but the rest of the gang have been good enough company soldiers through good and bad that they've earned a little slack.
@cubbiezfan80: Is 206 best off moved to FS1?
That's a solid question. I'm writing this late Friday evening. This will go live Saturday morning. So there's a chance something changes to make the whatever I'm about to write moot by the time you read this.
According to our very own Ariel Helwani, the UFC is planning on going with Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis, the night's original co-main event, as the new main event, with an interim featherweight title at stake. Now, the fight in and of itself has the potential to be superb. But is it really a pay-per-view main event? Guess we're going to find out what the UFC's floor is for pay-per-view buys.
(Oh, and while we're at it: The interim title gimmick when a fight falls out is wearing thin, So if the UFC strips Conor McGregor, promotes Jose Aldo to the full featherweight title, and makes the Holloway/Pettis winner interim champ ... you're left with a scenario in which a guy hundreds of thousand of casual fans saw get knocked out in 13 seconds with the belt. Good luck selling that he's the rightful champ at the height of the McGregor era).
As for Cormier-Rumble, Johnson choosing to sit out makes sense. The guy's knocked out nearly everyone else relevant at light heavyweight who is eligible to fight. Cormier is apparently out until March, perhaps that means they could find a new home at UFC 210.
If nothing else, let this serve as a reminder that if we're going to expect big, loaded-up supershows every few months, we're going to run this risk of having something like this happen. UFC 205 was an incredible night of mixed martial arts, one which did the historic first card at Madison Square Garden justice. UFC 207, one month out, is looking like another memorable affair. It sucks for the fans in Toronto who have paid to see something big and are getting something considerably less (hey, at least it won't be as tough to sit through as this). Promoting fights is never going to be as clockwork a procedure as putting together an NFL schedule, but it seems like figuring out a way to balance the demand for giant cards with making sure the cards caught in between don't get hurt squeezed be a priority for the UFC's new owners.
Recount on the MVP ballot
@kopxpert: How bad did MVP look in his last fight from a scale of 1 to 10 (10 = freakin bad). How justified was he blaming his opponent?
Can I get one of those Spinal Tap models that go up to 11? Michael Page vs. Fernando Gonzalez was one of the very worst fights on a major card in 2016. Every fighter is entitled to the occasional stinker. But when you've been both promoted and coddled like Page has with Bellator, you ended up graded on a harsher curve than those who are fighting tough opponents with less fanfare. Bellator's going to have to step up in finding opposition for Page and Page needs to deliver in the cage, or else this hype train could derail pretty fast.
@auggie85: The winner of DJ and TUF 24 winner has to go down as the most decorated champion every correct?? Winner will be (1/2)
@auggie85: the lineal RFA, WFF, AFC, BRFS, S-J, EFC, LFC, TPF, XFFC, CAMMA, S-S.A., AFC, RoC, TFC & HFS champion. Lol (2/2)
Since you put it this way ... if nothing else, I say they should go ahead and award Demetrious Johnson all the belts, just because it would be hilarious to see Mighty Mouse completely covered in titles. But yeah, when DJ faces the winner of the Tim Elliott-Hiromisa Ogikubo tourney final next Saturday (yeah, I've seen the accidental spoiler; no, I'm not going to ruin it here for anyone who's been following TUF and avoiding spoilers). If anything good comes out of this season -- and I'm not going to pretend like I've done anything more than check in when I've heard there were good fights, and this season has had its fair share of those -- then it's reinforcing once and for all that Mighty Mouse is not just undisputed best in the world at his weight class, but that he's the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 playing Division 2 schools. That's got to count for something, at least.
@hunt5588: What are your thoughts on Gastelum's team being adamant he returns to 170 after a single fight at 185?
I mean, it's getting a little ridiculous now, isn't it? Not only was the third time Gastelum has missed weight at 170, but it already comes on the heels of missing weight by 10 pounds against Tyron Woodley and going up to 185 from there before coming back down. This time around, Gastelum's unprofessionalism cost Donald Cerrone his chance to be a part of the first card in New York City.
At the end of the day, Gastelum and his team are the ones who need to make the final call on his career. But given his track record, if he does stubbornly insist on going forward at 170, he better get comfortable with the idea of fighting non-meaningful opponents on Fight Night undercards for awhile, because the UFC won't do him any favors.