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Fightweets: Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm and the Mount Rushmore of women’s MMA

Holly Holm and Michelle Waterson Media Lunch
Holly Holm

After a week of drama about whether UFC 219 was ever going to get a main event, we got a pretty damn good one in Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm. So let’s take a look at the implications of the year’s last big fight; the announcement of Jose Aldo as Frankie Edgar’s replacement against Max Holloway; the wackiness in Australia with Fabricio Werdum and Colby Covington; and a whole lot more in this edition of Fightweets.

Cyborg, Holly, and Mt. Rushmore

@hunt5588: If Holm gets the win against Cyborg, does she go on the Mt Rushmore of women’s MMA?

That’s a great question. There are three absolute no-brainer picks for the Mt. Rushmore of women’s MMA: Gina Carano, the trailblazer who helped pave the way for everyone woman who has achieved stardom in her wake; Cris Cyborg, the most consistently excellent fighter in WMMA history, and Ronda Rousey, for whom, if I have to explain why she’s on here, then you have to answer why you’re even on an MMA site in the first place.

As of today, I’d be inclined to give that fourth spot to Miesha Tate, a tremendously popular fighter who held belts in the UFC and Strikeforce, and whose rivalry with Rousey helped propel the sport to its current heights. Maybe it would have been time to start considering Joanna Jedrzejczyk had she not just gotten knocked out by Rose Namajunas; and I acknowledge those who believe that the pioneering Megumi Fujii deserves a nod, too.

But if Holly Holm comes out and defeats Cyborg at UFC 219? Man, now you’re talking. Holm’s already responsible for hte most memorable moment in women’s MMA history, her head-kick knockout of Rousey in front of 56,214 fans in Australia two years ago this week. She’s been a ratings draw when she’s put on television. She has her world championship boxing background on her credentials. She’s shaken off a losing streak and gotten back into position for another crack at a title.

Now she’s square in the middle of the biggest drawing women’s fight that can be made at this point. If she wins in Las Vegas on Dec. 30, she not only ends Cyborg’s aura of invincibility, but she also becomes the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes (say what you want about the utter lack of depth in the women’s 145-pound class, but there’s no dispute the best fighter in that class over the past decade holds the belt).

So yeah, notwithstanding Tate’s UFC 197 win over Holm, if Holm wins, she belongs on that mythical WMMA Mt. Rushmore.

Max Holloway-Jose Aldo 2

@MikeJBknows: Is Jose Aldo making a mistake choosing to rematch Max Holloway so soon? If he loses, should he finally move to lightweight? #FightTweets #UFC218

I can understand why some fans have a little bit of Jose Aldo fatigue. Especially those who came up during the Conor McGregor Era, who weren’t around during the long stretch of time in which Aldo fights were basically the closest thing we’ll ever see on land to a hungry shark unleashed on a bleeding swimmer.

But the bottom line here is that the UFC could have done a whole lot worse for a backup plan for UFC 218 than having Max Holloway rematch Aldo. First off, if we still care about the actual divisional scheme, then Aldo, whose only losses over the past 12 years are to Holloway and McGregor, makes the most sense after Edgar fell out.

No doubt Cub Swanson would have made for an interesting matchup, but he’s also headlining a Fight Night against Brian Ortega on Dec. 9. If you’re weighing the plusses and minuses of whether to match up Aldo or Swanson against Holloway, you have to take into account the fact that yanking Swanson off the Dec. 9 card completely puts the screws to that event. It’s not like Aldo’s about to go fight Ortega in his place if Holloway gets the nod.

And then there’s this: Holloway deserves props for simply wanting to stay on the card. We’ve talked quite a bit this year about champions becoming more judicious in picking their opponents, pulling out when they have injuries, and so on. There’s a fair bit of validity to this, but guess what? If fans buying tickets get burned over and over and over on main events, they eventually become non-ticket buying former fans, and if that happens often enough, eventually this whole game drops off like Roller Derby in the mid-1970s. How much bigger of a star did McGregor become when he accepted Chad Mendes as a late substitute and beat him at UFC 189? A whole lot bigger than if he took his ball and went home instead. Holloway understands that he’ll be a bigger star by actually going out and competing while also understanding the very real risk of losing, and in this case, Max also has the chance to demonstrate once and for all he’s a class above the featherweight division’s all-time greatest champ.

The mess in Australia

@clangford4: Is Werdum becoming a loose cannon? Keeps picking fights with smaller guys and has nothing to gain from it, will lose fans inevitably

Yeah, so here’s the thing with the whole Fabricio Werdum-Colby Covington boomerang situation in Australia (12 years into this MMA gig, I still type phrases that make me think “I can’t believe I just typed that”): In trying to figure out who is the good guy and the bad guy here, it’s like watching a football game between your favorite team’s two biggest rivals, and trying to figure out the less noxious rooting option for the day.

Does Werdum have a history of being a bully who picks on smaller people? He sure does. But given that he insists he was provoked, and the Covington has a history of such, this isn’t exactly equal to Werdum talking over Tony Ferguson’s answer at a press conference, and then flying off the handle when Ferguson objected.

Covington, meanwhile, has proven himself willing to do anything to get attention, including getting himself into a weird Twitter war with Jon Jones in the aftermath of the Werdum altercation. By pressing charges after the altercation and then getting sent home early from Australia, Covington has shown that he doesn’t exactly have his eyes on the big picture: The UFC sent him to Australia to do promo work. Are they going to be in a rush to give him a continued push after being part of an incident that left a UFC Sydney headliner with a court summons?

Add in the barely disguised racism of Covington’s actions and both fighters’ homophobia, and we have, in the Werdum-Covington situation, everything that is rank about the UFC as 2017 turns to 2018. The less said, the better.

Michael Bisping vs. Kelvin Gastelum

@RuckerYeah: What’s Bisping thinking taking this fight in China on such short notice?

It’s hard to tell what Michael Bisping’s ever truly thinking, but, look: The guy’s always marched to the beat of his own drummer. And whatever you might be tempted to say about him, even Bisping’s biggest detractors need to give him his due for stepping up to the plate throughout his career.

Maybe Bisping took this fight because he simply wanted to eliminate the stench of such a high-profile defeat as his loss to Georges St-Pierre as soon as possible. Maybe he got an off-the-books bonus to save the show. While we shouldn’t encourage fighters to make a habit out of jumping so fast back into the cage after big losses, in this case, I say let Bisping be Bisping.

Speaking of comebacks

@JedKMeshew: Is Werdum's boomerang the worst MMA comeback this year?

I’d say yes, but CM Punk still has about six weeks left in 2017 to make his return.

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