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Fightweets: UFC women’s flyweight division a no-brainer

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Joanna (EL, MMA Fighting)

The MMA schedule swings back into action for real next weekend. But we didn’t waste any time filling this week’s empty space with a solid dose of crazy. So let’s get right into it ...

Women’s flyweight division?

@bobbybloor: Who should be in the cast of TUF for the women's 125lb belt? which vets? any newcomers?

This week’s news the UFC will institute a 125-pound women’s division, with the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter being used to determine the inaugural champion, was greeted with the heartiest burst of cynicism-free excitement we’ve seen around these parts in awhile.

Alas, it was then followed up with a clarification the idea was leaked prematurely, and that while the idea is under consideration, it hasn’t been finalized. Which led to a wave of disappointment.

As the UFC ponders whether to follow through with this idea, it should consider the initial response from the fans when news leaked. A 125-pound women’s class should be a slam dunk.

Consider, first and foremost, the difference between women’s weight classes in the UFC. The 20-pound bridge between 115 and 135 is an enormous difference for human beings of that size. Where do you go if you’re someone like Liz Carmouche, who isn’t the biggest bantamweight, took her best shot against the division’s elite, and doesn’t have a clear path to the title? Carmouche has beaten the drum for fighting at 125 and fighters like her deserve the opportunity. The only fighter of note who has successfully transitioned down to 115 from 135 is Jessica Andrade, and she’s doing it on a frame whose official 5-foot-2 listing seems suspiciously high.

The talent pool is there, even with Bellator actively signing as many 125-pounders as they can get their hands on. The strawweight title tournament a few seasons back made TUF worth watching, and a flyweight season would do the same.

The fans want it. The fighters want it. Back in the day, the UFC used to pride itself on being responsive to fan desires. This is a no-brainer way to prove they can still do it in the WME era.

As for your actual question, start with Carmouche, add Lauren Murphy, who volunteered her name, see if Invicta champ Barb Honchak wants in, and throw the idea open to any current UFC 135er or 115er who wants it. Shouldn’t be too hard to fill the spots.

@dpop2: But what happens to 115 if they jump up 10 lbs? that's why I think they pressed the pause button on the press release

There’s some merit to that line of thinking. The flyweight division isn’t even official yet and strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk is already making noise about becoming a two-weight-class champion. The thought here is that if there’s a stampede up to 125, 115 could become the equivalent of men’s 125, where there’s a constant challenge to produce legit contenders to Demetrious Johnson’s throne.

This time out, though, you have to consider that the women’s talent pool goes down to the 105-pound atomweight division. A strawweight as talented as Michelle Waterson has been champ at 105. In this case, adding 125 would allow women’s fighters across the board to fight closer to their natural weight class. And while 125 could draw fighters from both 135 and 115, in the latter case, it could simply open the door for smaller, talented 105ers to give 115 a real go.

Nate the needle mover

@AdamLMedia: Can Nate Diaz sell 500K+ as a PPV headliner without a title fight?

First off, a shoutout to the half-dozen or so of you who sent me variants of this question. But this one seems to get right to the nub of the matter. Nate Diaz made quite clear this week that he’s not going to rush into a fight with just anyone, and that he turned down a fight with Tony Ferguson at UFC 213 when it was offered. Dana White responded with an updated version of his “needle mover” comment from days of yore, saying he doesn’t know if Diaz can draw on PPV without being the B-side to McGregor.

That’s a curious take on a number of levels. For one, this is a promoter who had Germaine de Randamie as a PPV headliner just three months ago. For another, given there’s an undeniable dearth of marquee talent at the moment, what good comes out of publicly questioning whether one of your most popular and charismatic fighters can sell tickets?

Then there’s the matter of simply following White’s logic to its conclusion: If Nate, as the B-side to Conor McGregor, helped draw two of the biggest PPV buy rates in combat sports history, and Diaz both won the first fight and went the distance in a thrilling matchup in the second, and you, the promoter can’t take what you’ve been handed and turn Diaz into an A-list star, what does that say about your promotional abilities?

That said, there’s got to be ground somewhere in the middle, and that’s probably what both sides are negotiating through their various media posturing. It’s not a knock to say Diaz is not going to draw a McGregor-level buy rate without Conor. It’s also not fair to expect Diaz to fight for the type of money he was making pre-McGregor, either. Diaz, on his own, could very well be that elusive “middle class” PPV draw, the guy who can do the 500,000 buy show on his own. There used to be a handful of those types of fighters. Nowadays there’s only Jon Jones, and he’s not cleared to fight yet.

But until Diaz accepts he’s not going to make Conor money to fight Ferguson, and White accepts Diaz isn’t just another cog in the machine, we won’t find out either way.

Middleweight madness

@ArpanLobo: Why is there a narrative that Yoel Romero is this unstoppable beast? Yeah Bisping and Silva are easier wins for him but he had a very close

@ArpanLobo: Fight against Jacare (Jacare won that IMO) and had an even fight against Weidman before the knee? Not sure he could go five rounds is needed

Oh, I dunno, you tell me ...

Romero-Weidman (EL, MMA F)

For real, though, I understand all the questions about Romero, from his stamina to his, let’s call it, willingness to utilize the grey areas in the rulebook. He is also able to absolutely unleash some of the most vicious knockouts you’ll ever see, and you don’t know if it’s going to be with a fist, elbow, knee, or foot. That makes him a particularly bad matchup for present-day version of Anderson Silva, who is rapidly approaching the point where his age and wear and tear is becoming a serious concern. Let’s not forget he was arguably gifted a win over Derek Brunson, who is not on the short list of middleweight contenders, last time out. I’ve been on the record saying I have no desire to see Silva vs. Romero, but at this point, if Silva really wants to get his head knocked off this badly, then, go for it, champ.

UFC 211

@Auggie85: What fight are you most looking forward to next weekend? I gotta go with Edgar v Rodriguez

Oh man. Asking which is your favorite fight at UFC 211 is like asking which is your favorite child. There’s so much to like about this card. It’s deep, and as of a week out, pretty much entirely intact (Yeah, blame me if something stupid goes down on weigh-in day).

But I’m going to agree with you here, Auggie. I love Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez. This is exactly the sort of fight we used to point to 10 years ago and say that MMA makes these type of fights and boxing won’t. I can’t shake the feeling that Rodriguez is The Next One in the lighter weight classes. I also know that Edgar is one of the all-time legends, one of the pound-for-pound toughest fighters. But how long can he go on being the Frankie Edgar we all know and love? Maybe Rodriguez is being booked in this fight a tad too soon. Maybe this is the fight where we end up pondering if Edgar’s on the backside of his career. We have no way of knowing which until they throw down. Either way, it should be a hell of a lot of fun finding out.

Justin Gaethje’s first foe

@hunt5588: Put your matchmaker hat on...who is the best first opponent for Justin Gaethje?

I don’t think I need a magic hat for this one. I’m just going to go ahead and echo what everyone else is saying and vote for Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza. Why the hell not? Gaethje’s making it clear he wants the toughest possible opposition right from the get-go. My gut feeling is this fight will a. be spectacular and b. end with a finish, and probably not Barboza who ends up on the mat. But in this day and age of incessant griping, Gaethje’s eagerness is refreshing in a retro way. If he wants to be thrown right to the wolves, I say, throw him.

Towelgate. No, really.

@pinheiroandre: Are we gonna keep pretending the Towelgate never happened and DC is a legit champ?

Well dude, we’re a month removed from UFC 210, and you’re still hitting me up about Towelgate every week, so yeah, let’s do this. Let’s drop everything else we’re working on, forget about UFC 211 and Nate Diaz and women’s flyweights, and re-litigate Towelgate. Let’s also go searching for those millions of illegal votes for Hillary Clinton, while we’re at it. Daniel Cormier is 19-1 and by my count is the second-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world behind Demetrious Johnson. Sure, he probably pulled a fast one with Towelgate, but to claim he’s not the champ based off this is like demanding the electric chair for jaywalking.