Just like that, UFC 200 is upon us. As is a blockbuster week with three fight cards, the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony, and who knows what other news will pop up between now and the time next Saturday rolls around.
Without further ado, then, let's jump into another edition of Fightweets, with a question or two about Saskatchewan's most famous recent immigrant.
Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt and next week's most interesting matchups
@RuckerYeah: What's the one fight you want to see most on all three cards?
I'm not sure if you mean this as "what's the one fight on each show I want to see most?" or "what's the one fight out of the entire week" so I'm going to go with the former and make this easier.
For Thursday night's UFC Fight Night 90 which kicks off the festivities, while I'm greatly looking forward to the UFC lightweight title fight between Raphael dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez, the sick part of my brain which enjoys violence can't wait to watch Roy Nelson and Derrick Lewis slug it out (I could probably narrow that down to "the sick part of my brain which enjoys violence likes Derrick Lewis," but you get my point).
On Friday night, I am counting down the hours, days and minutes in breathless anticipation of the crowning of the next Ultimate Fighter title ... lol, jk. Again, I see a highly intriguing main event in the strawweight title fight between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha, and yet, I can't help but look down the card toward former Bellator lightweight champ Will Brooks' debut against Ross Pearson. After all that went down with Brooks and Bellator, there's pressure on Brooks to go out and make a statement, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against a tough out of an opponent.
As for Saturday, I can't deny it: If was pretty blah about Brock Lesnar's UFC return until I tuned into Thursday's conference call. Lesnar actually made Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier seem like background players. That's no doubt in part due to the fact the Lesnar was gone for so long that he seemed new again. But Lesnar became a transcendent superstar in the first place for a reason. He commands a room like few others. He's somehow managed to master the art of using pro wrestling-type banter in an MMA setting in a way that doesn't seem corny or forced. Even when he's stating something dubious, such as implying people in cities don't know the meaning of an honest day's work, he still does it in a manner which makes you want to hear what's going to come out of his mouth next.
One of the most compelling things about Brock over the years is that no matter how much success he achieved, he always seems to have an eye on something else. He got over big in the WWE coming out of an NCAA wrestling championship background, made huge money, and left. He tried pro football just because he could. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in the UFC. He went back to the WWE and become a bigger draw than he was in the first place. You'd think by this stage of the game, he'd have no real reason left to do anything but WWE, but clearly the competitor in Lesnar still exists.
No doubt a huge one-day payday was a big, big part of the motivation for Lesnar's return. But knowing what we think we know about Lesnar, there's little doubt the competitor in him would never be able to fully let go of the way things ended in the UFC a few years back. Not when diverticulitis struck just when he had gotten to his peak. Not with people whispering, but never saying to his face, that he left the sport as soon as he discovered he didn't like being hit in the face.
Not only does Lesnar get the opportunity to rewrite the final chapter in his MMA legacy, but he's stepping in there with one of the sport's most notorious deliverers of one-hitter quitters in Mark Hunt. Sure, UFC 200 is stacked from top to bottom, but I have to admit after hearing Lesnar on Thursday, my interest in Lesnar vs. Hunt has soared.
One night only?
@MikeJBknows: I don't think Brock Lesnar's appearance at UFC 200 is a one off. What about you?
Part of what makes both the McMahons and the Ferttitas/Dana White the most successful promoters in the history of their respective industries has been their ruthlessness toward competitors and their inability to get along well with others. So it's a minor miracle the Lesnar fight came to be in the first place. I'm skeptical anything further will come of this, since I'm skeptical the uneasy cooperation between the UFC and the WWE will last too long. But then again, I also never expected to see Lesnar return in the first place, so who knows?
Where does DC go if Jones wins?
@Dr_Kwame: Should DC go back to heavyweight if he loses to jones?
Man, we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, but this is still an interesting thought exercise. If Cormier loses to Jones a second time, he's going to be a long way from getting another light heavyweight title shot. He's also stated repeatedly over the last couple years that he has no desire to go back to heavyweight.
In part, of course, that's because teammate Cain Velasquez was the champion. And in part, because, well, those are some pretty big dudes at 265, and Cormier hasn't had any trouble making 205. But let's say when the dust settles, Jones is the champ and not going anywhere, and Velasquez's performance against Travis Browne at UFC 200 is such that, win or lose, he's not getting a title shot any time soon. What then?
If you're Cormier, and you're closer to 40 than 30, do you really want to go through rematches with the likes of Alexander Gustafsson or Anthony Johnson, both of whom you've already beaten, with no promise they'll pay off in a title shot? Or might 265 start to look good again? With a loss, it's hard to believe DC wouldn't at least entertain the notion of another run at 265.
Title fight picks
@cubbiezfan80: In order from most to least confident, who are you picking to win the five UFC title fights next week?
Oh man, that's a tough one. Okay, I know this: I'm most confident in Miesha Tate retaining women's bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes. Nunes is certainly a live underdog capable of hanging in there, but I just don't see her having an answer for Tate's otherworldly toughness and willpower.
I'm also fairly confident Jones regains the light heavyweight title from Cormier. I'm willing to give Jones a mulligan on Ovince Saint Preux due to ring rust, and I'm not sure I've seen anything from Cormier in the interim which suggests the fight with Jones will go any different than the first time.
In Friday's strawweight title fight between Joanna Jedrzedcyzk and Claudia Gadlha, I know their first fight in December 2014 was a split decision which could have gone either way. But Gadelha's only fought once in the 17 months since, while Joanna Champion has separated herself from the pack and really come into her own. Hard to pick against JJ in that one.
With Thursday's lightweight title fight between dos Anjos and Alvarez, my brain keeps telling me RDA rolls. My heart wants to see Alvarez, one of the realest dudes you'll come across in this business, finally get his day in the sun after all the crap he had to go through simply to get here. And maybe since I'm trying to convince myself on Alvarez, it also seems fair to point out he's become a more well-rounded fighter than he once was. He can still stand and bang. But he grinded out wins over Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis, and while it wasn't nearly as exciting as Alvarez's fights with Michael Chandler, they sure were effective. Still, at the end of the day I'm going RDA.
That leaves us with Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo for the interim featherweight belt at UFC 200. To me, this is the closest thing to a coin flip out of the title matchups. Their last fight was close, though I believe Aldo winning the first three rounds and Edgar the last two was the correct call. Since then, of course, Edgar's just gotten better and better. The big question mark is whether Aldo simply get caught against Conor McGregor last December, and will return as good as new, or whether the magnitude of the loss is such that he's never quite the same fighter again. For that reason, I'm leaning toward Edgar. But I wouldn't put any money on it.
Will Dana settle down?
@BreadandWater94: Think Dana White is going to be more careful with what he says if the UFC gets sold?
If the UFC does sell, Dana White's going to be roughly $400 million richer, based on the numbers being thrown around. That's the type of money that says you'll get to say what you went, when you want, so if the new UFC does end up with new overlords and wants to keep White on, they should know going in he's probably not going to suddenly transform into a Roger Goodell-like robot.