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Fightweets: Should Demetrious Johnson fight the Cody Garbrandt-T.J. Dillashaw winner?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s not really a big UFC event until we spend a week or so debating whether or not the UFC is promoting correctly, is it?

Of course, this time around, UFC has done plenty to encourage such talk, as the impending return of Georges St-Pierre seems like something less than the slam dunk it should be, at least with a week left until UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden.


So we’ll talk about that for sure in this week’s Fightweets. But first let’s take a look at another theme which emerged over the past few days ...

Should Mighty Mouse fight the Garbrandt/Dillashaw winner?

@St_N8: Unless DJ wants it, Am I the only one who thinks they should clear out 135 of a few contenders first? Cody has 0 defenses.

It’s a little weird how all of a sudden, Demetrious Johnson is a man in demand, isn’t it? All it took was five years as champion, breaking the record for most UFC title defenses, and doing so with a move that’s right up there with Matt Hughes taking Frank Trigg for a ride and Anthony Pettis’ Showtime Kick on the short list of coolest moments ever in MMA.

But here we are: Both of the competitors in the bantamweight title fight at UFC 217, champion Cody Garbrandt and former champ T.J. Dillashaw, have expressed they want a crack at Mighty Mouse next.

And I say, why the hell not?

This is not a matter of chasing after a perceived “money fight” of dubious value. Both Garbrandt and Dillashaw have expressed wanting this for the right reasons: They’ve said they want to challenge themselves against the sport’s pound-for-pound kingpin. They both want to become two-division champions. And they’re both willing to go down to his weight class in order to make it happen.

Johnson has a somewhat interesting potential next title fight lined up against the winner of the upcoming Henry Cejudo-Sergio Pettis fight. Beyond that, though, flyweight is filled with young talent which isn’t quite there. Making DJ vs. Garbrandt or Dillashaw would not be a matter of Michael Bisping going off and fighting Dan Henderson when he had a division full of killers awaiting.

Bantamweight, granted, is deeper than flyweight, but there’s a dropoff in star power after Garbrandt, Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz. The fight world won’t come to an end if the winner of the UFC 219 Cruz vs. Jimmie Rivera fight has to wait a bit.

Johnson talked quite a bit about money and his treatment over the summer. He got what he wanted in Ray Borg as his last opponent, but I’m guessing his PPV points check for his Ray Borg fight at UFC 216 isn’t going make him set for life.

Fan interest for a Dillashaw fight when it was teased over the summer was bigger than for any potential Mighty Mouse fight we’ve seen before. If Garbrandt or Dillashaw want to come down to his realm and are doing it for the right reasons, why wouldn’t Johnson take the fight?

UFC 217 woes

@RossMcCaff: Is the UFC's massive promotional push behind UFC 217 a sign of optimism or desperation?

I don’t know if “massive” is the word here so much as “belated,” but either way, maybe it’s a little bit of both? The idea that UFC 217 isn’t as big as it should be took up a lot of the airspace this week. Part of this is the simple fact that, you know, there was still a week and a half left to go before the fight, and it’s really only the biggest of big events that cross over to the general public that far out.

The only two fights this year which have reached that level were, of course, the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, which was the supernova that blew up bigger than anything we’ve ever experienced in our little world, and the Daniel Cormier-Jon Jones rematch at UFC 214, which was a matter of the latest chapter of the sport’s biggest rivalry capturing casual fans’ imaginations.

Endeavor (the former WME) has learned some rough lessons over the past year or so about the fight promotion business. For this one, it appears the lesson is that it’s not always as simple as “Fighter A is a draw, Fighter B is a draw, therefore matching them up will be a hit.” The UFC treated has come off like all they had to do was announce the fight and open the doors to the arena and the rest would take care of itself.

But that doesn’t take into account that Bisping’s most interesting fights have been as the B-side antagonist to someone who takes his bait. St-Pierre hasn’t done so, and has come across as disinterested in doing promotional work, which means no matter how much Bisping talks, and he’s doing his share, it’s not going to pay off like it could.

When St-Pierre was welterweight champion, he was so hot that all he really needed to do was simply get ready for his challenger of the month and the fight would sell itself. But that’s not so much anymore when he’s been gone for four years, there are tons of new fans who don’t know his prime.

And then, all the smoke and mirrors you can place can’t diminish the fact the premise of GSP getting a middleweight title shot is a bit flimsy in the first place.

At the end of the day, I still think UFC 217 ends up a major event — not Floyd-Conor big, because nothing is going to touch that -- but it should end up in UFC 214’s range. My hunch is the fans who haven’t bout a PPV since Floyd vs. Conor and DC-Jones a month apart decide at the last minute that it’s time to for another night of fights.

But really, it shouldn’t have gotten to this point we should have questioned how big this fight will be in the first place. And from that, the company must, ahem endeavor, to learn.

Cowboy down?

@hunt5588: If you’re Cowboy, is your next fight at 170 or 155?

After his third straight defeat, a move back to 155 seems like the next logical step on paper, right?

Going up to 170 pounds was a great move for Donald Cerrone until it wasn’t. Of his four-fight win streak immediately after making the jump, Alex Oliveira was a statement win, but Patrick Cote is retired, Rick Story is out of the UFC and hasn’t fought since losing to Cerrone 14 months ago, and Matt Brown will retire after his next fight.

From there, Cowboy stepped up in competition. He was finished by Jorge Masvidal; lost a close but clearcut 29-28 fight to former champ Robbie Lawler; and was finished fast by a fighter with real future in undefeated Darren Till.

The question, from here, becomes, how much of Cerrone’s recent trouble is due to fighting up against larger fighters, and how much is simply time finally catching up to one of the sport’s all-time gamers? Cerrone’s only 34, but there are a lot of miles on those tires, as he had nearly 30 pro kickboxing fights before he jumped over to MMA and fought another 43 times, often on short notice.

There’s only one way to find out which is which. So I suspect Cerrone will come back at 155, and who knows? Maybe he does have one more run left in him. Taking a cue from JacksonWink teammate Carlos Condit and taking a good, long break to recharge before stepping back into competition might not be the worst idea either way.

Answers for Edgar?

@JblazeNYC: If Edgar loses badly does he call it a career or would he ever drop 2 BW & try his hand there?

Two things I have a hard time picturing: 1. Max Holloway losing his featherweight title defense against Frankie Edgar at UFC 218; 2. Edgar getting blown out in the fight. He’s simply too tough and too durable and I’m going to give him in the benefit of the doubt in that regard until proven otherwise.


To play “what if,” yes, even if Holloway runs through Edgar, Frankie comes off as the sort that is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming away from the sport. But even if he is simply competitive in a loss, Edgar would in this circumstance find himself at a point in which he would have lost two title challenges and an interim title shot, to boot, at featherweight. In that case, going down to bantamweight, which those around him have long hinted he could do, might be his best available option.

Why ask why

@JustynLikes: Why is Bec Rawlings in the co-main of a UFC event?

Because the UFC puts on too many shows, without enough main event/co-feature talent to fill the bills, and they thus end up throwing Bec Rawlings (7-6, 2-4 in her past six fights) in the Sydney co-feature spot simply because she’s from Australia (Starting this sentence with a lazy “because” is my homage to such promotional laziness).