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Fortunes changed for five at UFC Fight Night 89

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Two weeks ago, UFC 199 was held in Los Angeles, where the state athletic commission had brought in experts months back for a symposium on weight-cutting.

CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster had long talked of weight cutting as being one of the most important issues facing the sport.

From what was said by experts at the symposium, for the first time, weigh-ins for a UFC show were moved up several hours. Fighters were able to weigh-in the morning before the fight and the public weigh-ins were just for show purposes. Fighters loved it and it worked out so well UFC and the commission in Ontario implemented it a second time for this past Saturday's debut in Ottawa. It looks like this may become the new standard in the sport.

The idea is that a significant percentage of fighters were going into combat often not fully hydrated. The new system gives them anywhere from four to nine hours extra, depending on the time zone, to rehydrate after making weight.

With two shows under the new system, we've had two of the craziest and most fan-friendly fights in years--Polo Reyes vs. Maestro Dong Hyun Kim in Los Angeles on June 4, and Steve Bosse vs. Sean O'Connell in Ottawa. That could be dismissed as pure coincidence, except it wasn't just one great fight on each show. Both shows featured more fast-paced action-oriented fights than usual. Each show had several fights that would on most shows get the $50,000 best fight bonus. Two shows is still too little a sample group to go on to make any conclusive statement, although there is some logic that plays into this as well. But it is something to watch for to see if this trend continues when the UFC runs six events in July.

Logic would say that there should be some correlation, although maybe not as much as what we've seen, nor should we expect brawls compared to Clay Guida vs. Diego Sanchez or Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia on a weekly basis. But the more hydrated a fighter is, the more energy they'll have, and the less they'll have to pace themselves. In addition, the more hydrated a fighter is, they won't be put out as quickly. That allows them to stand up to more punches for a longer period of time, combined with getting tired less quickly.

That may not mean shows like UFC 199 will go from being the extreme exception to the norm, but perhaps the sport will, as a rule, produce slightly more exciting fights over time.

As a general rule, it did appear fighters were both delivering and taking harder shots than usual on Saturday. There were seven finishes in 13 fights, which is a number in the normal range. But the finishers on Saturday came later, with six of the seven in the third round. That was statistically unusual. UFC 199 had seven finishes in 13 fights, with two in the third round, but that isn't a pattern.

The flip side of a subject that is a hot button issue that we need to learn more about, is if that is advantageous long-term to fighters. Just for the spectator, it is. And its hard to argue that it's not better for the fighter to not be knocked out easily. But is it more damaging to take three rounds of trauma because you are fresher and can stand up and fight more wide open because of it, then pacing for three or going down and out early?

Revisiting this topic a month from now may lead to nothing more than the conclusion that these last two shows were just coincidences. Or we may have a more exciting sport with fresher fighters doing battle.

There were a number of key stories going forward coming out of Saturday, so let's look at how Fortunes Changed and what could be next for five stars of the show.

STEPHEN THOMPSON - The key performer on the show was the main event winner, as "Wonderboy" upped his record to 13-1. Thompson did it in impressive fashion, winning all five rounds on two judges cards against Rory MacDonald.

The karate stylist who was 57-0 as a kickboxer, Thompson added improved takedown defense to take his seventh straight UFC win. He's beaten an impressive list of contenders that includes Robert Whittaker, Patrick Cote, Jake Ellenberger, and two of the most dominant welterweights over the past several years in former champion Johny Hendricks and MacDonald.

What should be next is a title shot at the winner of the July 30 bout with Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley. There is an argument, if Lawler retains, that Carlos Condit should get a shot because he deserved the decision in their Jan. 2 fight and how entertaining that fight was. But with Condit not having fought since, and Thompson scoring such strong wins, he has to be in front of the line now.

RORY MACDONALD - For MacDonald (18-4), whose contract expired with the loss, he took a gamble, and lost.

With a win, MacDonald would have been the top contender, as well as been considered Canada's best MMA fighter.

For marketing purposes he's a key fighter in a country that has a great history in supporting the UFC, and strongly supports its countrymen. MacDonald, still only 25, could have years to come in being a valuable fighter for any organization.

But with two straight losses, his value to UFC did lessen. It was already problematic about a title shot since Lawler beat him twice. In that sense, he's like Benson Henderson and Phil Davis, the two top fighters who allowed their contracts to expire and go to Bellator. Both were highly ranked, but neither was in line for a title shot due to some key losses. The UFC wasn't losing someone who would imminently be in a pay-per-view main event by allowing them to leave. MacDonald, due to his age, and being from Canada, figures to be more valuable than Henderson or Davis would be to UFC when their contracts expired.

If MacDonald goes to Bellator, he should be obviously matched with Andrey Koreshkov (19-1). One could argue that would be the most relevant fight in regard to world top contenders that Bellator could put on, given the way Koreshkov dominated Benson Henderson in his last outing.

If he stays with the UFC, a possible next fight would be with the winner of the UFC 200 fight between Johny Hendricks (17-4) and Kelvin Gastelum (11-2).

DONALD CERRONE - Cerrone (30-7, 1 no contest) proved he could fight and do well in the UFC welterweight division with his stoppage of Patrick Cote (24-10).

More than just winning the fight, Cerrone proved he wasn't going to have "lightweight" power at welterweight. Cote was 5-1 since moving to welterweight, and he was one of the most durable fighters in the company, never having been stopped by strikes in a nearly 14-year career.

Cerrone dropped Cote three times before it was stopped in round three. Cote was noticeably bigger than Cerrone, who claimed he weighed about 176 pounds in the cage. That means Cerrone would be giving away 10 to 20 pounds to most men he'd face in this new division. While it didn't hurt him with Cote, it is still a factor when you face higher-level guys, as his longtime rival Benson Henderson found out with Koreshkov. Guys his size are usually best suited for lightweight, but his path to the top is clearer and fresher right now at welterweight.

He gave no indication he preferred one division over another, just, as always, that he wants to fight as soon as possible.

Cerrone is a name fighter who needs someone who can test if he's got what it takes to be in the contender mix. Names like Neil Magny (18-4), Lorenz Larkin (17-5) or Matt Brown (20-14), provided Brown beats Jake Ellenberger on July 30, would be good next tests.

STEVE BOSSE - The former hockey enforcer who became a favorite in Montreal on the local scene dating back nearly a decade, was talking retirement few months ago. The O'Connell fight should help get him a new fan base south of the border as well.

The reality of the O'Connell fight is the decision could have gone either way. While a show-stealing brawl, Bosse (12-2), at almost 35, is more a fighter who should be in attraction fights with fighter with a fan base. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (25-10) fits that description, but based on rankings, Bosse needs another impressive outing and strong win to get to that level.

Gian Villante (14-7) is a test, as far as a name and a slugger. Jimi Manuwa (15-2), but also well above where Bosse should be fighting without a win over a bigger name. Ion Cutelaba(11-2, 1 no contest), who lost in his UFC debut on Saturday to Misha Cirkunov in a great fight, seems like someone that would have the slugfest Bosse is best suited for.

JOANNE CALDERWOOD - Calderwood (10-1), ranked as the No. 7 strawweight contender, fought up ten pounds and finished former title contender Valerie Letourneau (8-5).

The win was impressive enough that Calderwood should be in line for a high profile fight. Former champion Carla Esparza (11-3) would be a good next opponent. But the more intriguing and exciting fight would be Jessica Andrade (14-5), who looked dominant in her fight two weeks ago in beating former title contender Jessica Penne. It's a fight between two women ranked at the same level, and who stylistically should give a great fight.

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