UFC Belem is the next stop on the 2018 Oversaturation World Tour, and you don’t have a ton of questions about it, aside from the women’s flyweight division. We’ll address that and the usual slew of wild and wacky topics in this week’s edition of Fightweets.
@MMA_Relevant: Why Anderson why!?!?
When I heard about former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s latest USADA test failure details, I found my brain flashing back to UFC 162 fight week. Silva was on top of the world, getting ready to fight some upstart kid named Chris Weidman. He had been UFC middleweight champion more than seven years, was considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, many had come to consider him the greatest of all-time.
That fight week in Las Vegas, he traveled with a gigantic posse which included soccer superstar Ronaldo.
Now, imagine, during that week, that someone laid out for you how Silva’s next four-plus years would play out: First, he’d get knocked out by Weidman while clowning. Then he’d suffer a horrific leg break throwing a kick during the rematch. Then he’d return a year later and defeat Nick Diaz, and only have a couple days to enjoy his feel-good story before popping for PEDs. He’d further embarrass himself trying to claim tainted sexual enhancement pills in his defense. When he’d return from suspension, north of age 40, his fights would produce diminishing returns, including a previously unthinkable loss to Michael Bisping. Then he’d pop again, this time for both a synthetic steroid and a diuretic.
Put the entire chain of events together and it becomes clear what a staggering downfall Silva has suffered. And other than the bad luck of the leg break, his issues have been almost entirely self-inflicted.
All but the most hardcore anti-PED fans and media seem willing to give fighters a one-time slide. When test failures turn into a pattern, however, then we have issues (just ask Jon Jones).
That this latest infraction occurred right around the time that St-Pierre returned, after a four-year absence, and beat Bisping for the middleweight title only underscores both fighters’ historical legacies. St-Pierre walked away in part because he was tired of doping in the sport. He returned under his own terms and became one of just four two-weight champs in the sport’s history. For that matter, put Demetrious Johnson in this conversation, too, the guy so straitlaced he won’t take Ibuprofen when he’s undergoing in-competition testing. DJ has surpassed Silva’s record for UFC title defenses, and done so without a whiff of scandal.
Maybe you consider GSP the greatest of all-time at this point. Maybe Mighty Mouse is the GOAT. But Silva’s disqualified himself from this conversation at this point, and he can take a look in the mirror if he wants to see who’s to blame.
@tonybvidz: When is it okay to tell a friend she’s not good at acting?
Well, those same friends didn’t want to tell Ronda Rousey that she’d gone as far as she could in the Octagon as a one-trick pony, did they? Then, after that one trick of intimidating opponents and then armbarring them stopped working against Holly Holly, none of those friends wanted to tell her that maybe learning and growing from that experience was a good idea, and that maybe changing camps and trying something new might be a better idea than doing the same old thing. You saw how the one played out at UFC 207.
So why would they start now?
Vince McMahon has done a magnificent job utilizing celebrities in his big events all the way back to Mr. T at the first WrestleMania, booking their matches in ways that accentuate their positives and hide their lack of experience. Maybe he’ll do so again at WrestleMania this year and book Rousey in a match where she has to do little aside from what she did at her UFC peak: Spend about 30 seconds in the ring before winning with an armbar.
It’s entirely possible Rousey scores in the WWE as a one-hit wonder, and maybe that’s all McMahon wants out of Rousey.
But maybe she’s really in this for the long haul. And maybe, as you imply, she’s not that good at acting, and this will become obvious as soon as Rousey has to do something more complex than making a pouty face and pointing at a sign.
Either way, we’re all still talking about this a week later, so the WWE is doing something right, aren’t they?
@MacPherson9999: Should I assume that Nicco Montano’s first defense will be at the TUF finale against Valentina? Or do you think we’ll see her before that?
I’ve seen a fair bit of criticism online for the fact the UFC hasn’t done much to promote the inaugural women’s flyweight champion. But, I mean, A) Montano fought in December; B) She broke her foot in her title victory over Roxie Modafferi; C) That fight culminated a run that also included three unofficial TUF bouts in a short period of time. Maybe it was okay to let Nicco catch her breath for a minute?
But that said, now is as good a time as any to get the champ back into the limelight. Valentina Shevchenko, whose only two UFC losses were close decisions against bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes, makes her flyweight debut this weekend. She’s expected to roll over Priscila Cachoeira at UFC Belem on Saturday.
In some corners, it seems like she’s already being treated as the uncrowned flyweight champion. And it’s not all that difficult to understand why. After all, we already saw this script play out at flyweight. Carla Esparza beat a very young and inexperienced version of Rose Namajunas in the finals of the TUF tournament which crowned a 115-pound champ, but it turned out the best talent sat out the tournament, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk absolutely mauled Esparza a few months later.
And that’s not even taking into account that stampede of talent down from 135 and up from 115 slowly migrating over. Shevchenko got ahead of the game, and yes, if she wins Saturday at UFC Belem, her next step should be what seems the inevitable coronation.
@DiamantMMA: Why is the London card so sh*t?
Maybe the UFC has badly overexposed its product and runs too many shows, which leads to situations like this next run of events coming up, where the headline fights on the next five cards would make for what would have been considered one good pay-per-view back in the day? Maybe the failure to capitalize on Darren Till’s hot streak and not getting him into the cage in London is a huge mistake on someone’s part, whether that’s the UFC or Till and his handlers, or someone else? Maybe the UFC simply thinks that simply putting the letters “UFC” on the marquee will fill the joint (and it does in fact look like there aren’t many tickets left)? Maybe some combo of the above?
Interim light heavyweight champ?
@cmrbuzz: Does Cormier going to heavyweight mean ANOTHER interim belt is in the future? And who fights for it?!
Good god, I hope not. I went into why Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier is win/win on nearly every conceivable level in last week’s Fightweets. That said, it’s worth re-emphasizing that there simply isn’t much of interest in the light heavyweight division right now.
Alexander Gustafsson has been injured, has fought just once in the past 17 months, and has already gotten two title shots. That one fight was a knockout win over Glover Teixeira, who is the only other fighter with a claim at title contention at the moment, which means there isn’t much an of appetite for a rematch between the two.
Meanwhile, Jimi Manuwa fights Jan Blachowicz (itself a rematch) at UFC London next month. The best path I can see to building anyone toward a credible light heavyweight title shot out of this whole mess is this: Manuwa again beats Blachowicz, which gives him three wins out of four fights; then he rematches Gustafsson (ALSO a rematch, but at least that one is four years removed). Have them fight on the main card of the undeniably big UFC 226, and hopefully the winner gets enough of a shine out of that to actually build up a match with DC down the road.
All this assumes, of course, that Cormier doesn’t win the heavyweight title and decide to stay there. And it doesn’t help that Manuwa and Gustafsson are teammates. But at this point, we’ve already used a string of “ifs” and qualifiers just to try to come up with a sellable title fight. Do you really want to add an interim title to all this?
TV contract and weak FOX cards
@sigep422wesg: Dave whats up with these last @UFCONFOX cards??? Is it @danawhite saying, you don’t renew so I’m gonna tank the last @UFCONFOX shows?? What’s going on Dave?
It’s a bit more complex than that. Let’s keep in mind here that when WME-IMG-Endeavor-WhateverThey’reCallingThemselvesThisWeek bought the UFC at the eye-popping price tag of just over $4 billion last year, it was done so in large part on the notion that escalating rights fees in sports would give the UFC untold riches on their next network television deal, which comes due next year. It’s almost as if you had a casino owner convincing someone to drop max bets into their highest-value slot machine.
Anyway, so now we’re coming up in that contract year. The cable sports bubble sure looks like it’s in the process of bursting. If you’re FOX, the UFC has given you endless hours of content to fill on your various platforms and there aren’t many other places who can fill the void if the UFC goes. So you walk a bit of a fine line and don’t promote the UFC as strong as you have in the past, then get the UFC to accept a lower number.
If you’re the UFC? They could afford to put a Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos match on free TV in 2011, but nowadays, their PPV cards need all the star power they can muster. And while Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Stephens on the next UFC on FOX card is a groaner of a headliner, it makes for a built-in excuse for low ratings: At least it’s not Cain-JDS doing those low numbers, right?
My best guess is that after we all slog through 2018, the UFC will re-sign with FOX; it will be for far less than what WME thought it was getting when they bought the company, but still a healthy increase over their last contract, which will enable them to save some face; we’ll be in for several more years of brain-numbing long events to fit the FS1 format; and 2019 will kick off with some sort of blockbuster, well-promoted big fight on FOX to kick off the new deal with a renewed promotional push and all the parties acting like 2018 never happened.