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Fightweets: Should the UFC go straight to Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 3?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Another week in the MMA circus saw us continue the march toward next week’s Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor showdown, but not before we get tonight’s great-on-paper Bellator 206.

Is that all? No, actually, we skipped something: The renewed escalations of social media hostilities between perennial rivals Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. So let’s start with that as we get into a brand new edition of Fightweets.

Should the UFC book DC-Jones 3?

@JP_Cook: Is DC going to able to get in two fights by March? Or do you think DC vs Jones 3 is a long shot? Or possibly DC take that fight past his set retirement date?

After watching Cormier and Jones go back and forth on social media late this week, with Jones making thirsty comments about DC over Instragram, and DC, after all but ignoring Jones over the course of the week, finally going absolutely ballistic on Jones in response, and then seeing the level of response from fans to all this, I’m starting to think Jones should vault ahead of Brock Lesnar and get the fight with the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion next.

First, let’s start with Lesnar: It’s been taken as an article of faith that Lesnar is an absolute gigantic draw who will do huge business with DC. But is it really the case that Lesnar is so much bigger of a draw than DC-Jones that Lesnar is an obvious slam-dunk choice?

This is, after all a fight that would happen in 2019, not 2009. During Lesnar’s unquestionably huge run as UFC heavyweight champion, by the end of things, he had lost steam Lesnar’s bout with Ailstair Overeem at UFC 141, which was the last time he headlined a UFC pay-per-view, had dipped to 535,000 buys. Great numbers by today’s standards, but a giant drop over his previous fights, three of which topped a million buys.

Then Lesnar returned for UFC 200 and his fight with Mark Hunt. UFC 200 did 1.09 million buys, but in doing so, has become a Rorschach test in which people can see whatever they wanted in trying to claim what drew the crowd. The gate of $10.7 million at T-Mobile Arena was unquestionably drawn on the advertising for what was scheduled as Jones-DC 2. Then that fell out. Most reasonable people agree Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes wasn’t the draw. So was it Lesnar’s return? Was it Anderson Silva’s addition to the card to fight DC, which created quite a bit of last-minute hype? Was it the simple aura of UFC 200 itself as a big, momentous event, regardless who was pushed?

Probably a bit of all of the above.

Sure, Lesnar still has drawing power, and a fight with Cormier will do big box office. But I’m not sure Cormier-Lesnar is so much bigger of a matchup than DC vs Jones that it’s a slam dunk of a decision.

I’ve beat this drum for awhile and I’ll do so again: Have Cormier fight Jones at heavyweight. Give the rivalry a fresh coat of paint and let us see what happens when Cormier who didn’t have to drain himself with a horrific weight cut and then went out and knocked out Stipe Miocic can do with Jones. Between that angle and the fact the heat on the rivalry has once again been turned back up to 11, you’ve got the makings of a major event, the one those claiming they don’t want to watch will tune in to anyway.

Of course, if you’re DC, the best option for maximizing your payday is to do them both. Get Lesnar, a big paycheck, and a likely easy victory over someone who has fought for real once in the past seven years, then have him follow up with a fight with Jones before he rides off into the sunset. That might not quite align with DC’s goal of retiring by the time he turns 40 in March, but are we really going to begrudge him if it goes over by a few months, and will he really say no to that one last bigger payday than he’s ever going to get anywhere else?


@Woolman7242: Could DC’s public complaints about USADA, and the fact that other prominent fighters chimed in, gain any traction towards a change in the policy?

For awhile, there, I thought the only results we were going to get out of fighters like Cormier trolling the USADA in public would be the sheer vicarious thrill of it all: There’s nothing we can do about this system in which The Great and Powerful Wizard of USADA, which has all the leverage, hands out punishments which are all over the map and seem to have no particular rhyme or reason. But at least we can all get a chuckle out of someone like Daniel Cormier openly mocking the process online.

But then on Friday, I saw the report on ESPN which stated the UFC and the USADA have made a potentially significant policy change: The company and the USADA will no longer publicly identify those who have been flagged for potential violations of anti-doping policy, and will instead only identify athletes who have been found to commit a violation after the case has been resolved.

That’s a solid step in the right direction. Too many fighters over the past three years, including big names such as Cris Cyborg and Junior dos Santos, were convicted in the court of public opinion before their names were cleared by having their potential violations put on public display. I’m sure some will try to claim the talks that led to this change predated the backlash to the Jones decision, and maybe that’s true, but there’s little doubt that backlash helped speed the change along. So here’s to fighters like DC for keeping up the pressure.

UFC 230, continued

@Alfire147: Can the current 230 card go ahead as a PPV by itself, I.e. will it hold up without having a massive main event? In addition to that, do you think that PPV Main events should have some form of title on the line or not?

The lack of a perceived “Madison Square Garden-worthy” main event for UFC 230 bubbled its way up to the sports mainstream this week during a time in which fewer and fewer MMA stories break though. So you know things are getting a little desperate over on W. Sahara Blvd, with six weeks left until the return to New York and no official main event.

But, you know what? If we can get past, for a moment, that idea there’s supposedly something super-magical about MSG that somehow makes a ticket buyer from Yonkers or Hoboken way more important than someone in Dallas or Chicago or Rio who decides to attend a UFC live event, UFC 230 on it’s own is already one of the best lineups of the year. A PPV with Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier, Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman; Jacare Souza vs. David Branch; and Israel Adesanya vs. Derek Brunson has the makings for a sensational night of fights.

But, fine, I get it: Everything at MSG has to be special. So be it. Then let’s follow the lead of Diaz and Poirier themselves and make this one be for the inaugural 165-pound championship.

The UFC already created a women’s featherweight belt in what’s basically a one-woman division just to headline a pay-per-view, and already hands out interim belts like Halloween candy. In this case, in creating a championship, not only would you be giving the fans both in New York and watching at home something they truly deserve by making Diaz-Poirier a five-round fight, but you’ll also, for the first time in quite some time, do something that is correct for the long-term health of the sport.

The idea of 15-pound jumps in weight from 155 to 170 to 185, drawn up back in MMA’s primitive days, has plainly proven to be antiquated, as proven by the number of weight-cutting mishaps that seem to cluster around these divisions. Go with 155, 165, make Tyron Woodley’s belt 175 (at age 38, he’s not going to object to having an extra five pounds to work with), and 185. Given the circumstances, this seems the most win-win scenario around: The fans live get an extra incentive to see the show; the main eventers are kept happy; and as a side effect you’ve corrected the divisional system. It’s such a simple solution that of course the UFC is resisting.

Conor and 165

@FlavioOdar: Do you think Dana White will make a 165lbs division if Conor asks for it (If he beats Khabib)?

Now there’s an idea. Make it sound like Conor’s idea instead of the work of Nate and Dustin and throw in a couple bottles of Proper Twelve they’ll make a 165-pound belt tomorrow.

MMA and nice things

@TannerRuss2: Do we deserve good things in this sport?

I feel like we’ve got ourselves one hell of a good thing coming up on Saturday night with a stacked Bellator 206. I’m writing this Friday afternoon. If by Saturday morning, when this appears online, something has happened to call off Gegard Mousasi vs. Rory MacDonald, then I’ll take that as my final cue, once and for all, that no in fact we do not deserve anything nice for putting our faith in this circus.