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Hot Tweets: The ignominious fall of Ben Askren and the resurgence of Douglas Lima

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UFC Fight Night: Maia v Askren Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This week, the BMF Title was finally revealed, Ben Askren got jiu-jitsued, and Douglas Lima got his revenge. Let’s talk about all of that plus Yoel Romero’s possible title shot.


The BMF Title Unveiling

It was almost exactly what I expected it to be, which is to say, derivative and boring.

When Dana White first announced the UFC would be commissioning a real BMF title, my immediate reaction was “Cool, that’s the kind of thing they should have done before - like when they should’ve made a Most Violent Crown for Alvarez-Gaethje.” But then after a few minutes of reflection I realized it would likely end in the most disappointing fashion possible because the UFC’s stylistic tastes are uniformly bland.

On top of that, once Dana gets involved in the belt thing, it all just becomes this corporate sanctioned thing that’s the exact antithesis of cool, which is really at the heart of this fight and the interest in it. Neither Nate Diaz nor Jorge Masvidal is one to be sent into a tizzy over trinkets and at the end of the day, that’s what this is. Whoever wins the title is just going to downplay the actual belt aspect of it so, upon deeper consideration, making a belt for it was probably a bad idea in general

I do respect that they put the word motherf*cker on there though. At least they got that right.


The ignominious fall of Ben Askren

There were a lot of people voicing this sentiment after last weekend, and though I get where it’s coming from, I think it’s a complete misevaluation of the situation. Yes, Ben Askren lost. Yes, he’s 1-2 in the UFC with that one win being highly controversial. Yes, the UFC traded arguably the greatest fighter of all time for him. But for the UFC, none of that matters.

Dana White and the UFC never could figure out how to market Demetrious Johnson and that largely came down to their failings as a promotional entity. The UFC has two methods of promoting fights - BLOOD FEUD and GOAT - and Mighty Mouse had no beef with anyone and was a small person so the public writ large was less interested in him being the best fighter ever because, mostly, people are idiots and vastly overestimate their own combat abilities. So they traded DJ, a guy who they couldn’t turn into a draw, and got back a fighter who immediately injected life into one of their flagship divisions, and became the single greatest launching pad in company history.

Askren’s sub-par record in the UFC belies the fact that he has been a profit machine for the UFC. Askren is an organic star, who can trash talk and stir up interest. And because of his undefeated record and the credible (though actually completely absurd) claim to being the best welterweight before his fight with Masvidal, he skyrocketed Street Jesus into the upper stratospheres of stardom by getting got in record-breaking fashion. Make no mistake, UFC 244 - the biggest event of the year - does not happen without Ben Askren. Instead it would probably be headlined by Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington, a fight which, if you saw the presser this weekend, is not exactly something fans are hugely pumped about.

So no, Ben Askren isn’t a dud because he’s served a valuable purpose for the UFC (Sidebar: Askren’s fight with Demian Maia was among my favorite fights of the year. I hope he doesn’t end up retiring because even though he’s not the best welterweight, he’s still got a lot to offer). Similarly, Wanderlei might not have had a killer run, but he stuck around, was in big fights, and if nothing else gave us the fight against Chuck we’d been waiting on for years. If you’re looking for duds, it’s got to be either Takanori Gomi or Norifumi Yamamoto (RIP Kid). Neither of them were in their fighting prime when they finally landed in the UFC but they were still big name fighters and all-time greats who did next to nothing in the organization. Considering just how great Kid was in his prime, and the fact that we never got a him vs. Faber fight is very disappointing and makes me lean towards him.


Douglas Lima, where does he rank?

Douglas Lima is a sensational fighter. He lives and trains in Atlanta, and his coach, Roan Carneiro, is my BJJ coach. I tell you all that to say this: Douglas is great, but I don’t think he beats either Usman or Covington.

Now that’s not to say that he couldn’t. Lima is a top-5 welterweight in the world and I think he beats most everyone in the UFC rankings at this point, but Usman and Covington’s games are very poorly positioned for him. Lima is a devastating striker and has become a good defensive wrestler, but though Rory MacDonald couldn’t take him down, he got fairly close a number of times and Rory is a less dedicated wrestler than either Usman or Covington. I think if he fought either of those guys, Lima ends up getting backed up a ton and then wrestled to the ground eventually. He’s just not equipped to deal with the volume, pace, and pressure the two top UFC welterweights bring to the table.

That being said, I think Lima would fair very well in a rematch with Ben Askren, and I’d love to see him fight Jorge Masvidal. Sadly, that will almost certainly never happen but we’ll get something approximating that fight when he faces Lorenz Larkin - a poor man’s Masvidal - next.


The Future for Rory MacDonald

If you had asked me this question a few months ago I’d have said for certain that he’d go nowhere because Rory was going to retire. But now, Rory seems to be all in on sticking with the fighting career - except the part in the cage where he needs to actually throw offense but, ya know, whatever - so my best guess is he re-signs with Bellator.

The UFC is certainly not going to come calling. Their welterweight division is doing quite well as it stands and Rory’s recent swath of outright bad performances and seeming disinterest makes him a risky proposition that wouldn’t make much sense for them. And while other promotions like PFL could come calling - after all, they keep giving Jared Rosholt the opportunity to win a million dollars which truly boggles the mind - Bellator is where he provides the most value. He’s a former champion who they have already invested promotion in and who has a ready-made trilogy fight with their current champion they can save for a rainy day. Barring a sudden retirement for MacDonald, I don’t see how he doesn’t stick it out with Bellator.


Yoel Romero’s possible title shot

First off, I think it’s adorable that you believe the UFC’s title shot system hasn’t already made a mockery of itself on numerous occasions.

Secondly, this is like, the one time the rankings can actually give the UFC pretense for doing the smart thing anyway. Romero is currently ranked number three, behind only Paulo Costa and Robert Whittaker. Israel Adesanya just knocked out Whittaker, and with Costa on the shelf for months, Romero is quite literally the next man up.

And finally, that 1-3 is deceiving because if you are a discerning MMA fan it should really be 3-1. Whittaker beat Romero in their first fight, though it was certainly a close contest. In their rematch, he got beat like the red-headed stepchild of a rented mule who stole something. It remains completely preposterous that Whittaker won a decision in that fight. And though I’m happy to admit it was a very close fight, I remain convinced Romero beat Costa (it also was only three rounds and, given another five minutes Romero would have likely ended Borrachinha). Even if you’re giving his opponents every benefit of the doubt, it’s inarguable that Yoel Romero is one of the four best fighters at 185 pounds and has given everyone above him absolute hell. Have you heard the way Whittaker talks about him? It’s some real Chuck Norris ish.

Romero vs. Adesanya is a fascinating fight and one we should all be excited to see. Aside from being the best athlete in the history of the sport, Romero is one of the best tacticians in the game and in Adesanya he faces a perfect foil, one of the most technically brilliant fighters in the sport who hails from an incredibly smart camp. I seriously hope that’s what happens next.


Derrick Lewis

Man, it feels like it’s been a lifetime since we last saw Derrick Lewis and realistically, I have no idea if he’s going to win. Blagoy Ivanov is no joke and Lewis is such a mercurial fighter it’s hard to feel confident in picking a winner. If he does win, I think we probably see him step up to face Alistair Overeem on short-notice. Lewis has never been against a quick turnaround and Walt Harris recently pulled out of his fight with Overeem as a result of his stepdaughter’s disappearance (on a side note, this is incredibly terrifying and best wishes to Harris and his family - if you know anything about the case, please call the Auburn Police Division Detective Section at 334-501-3140, the anonymous tip line at 334-246-1391 or the 24 hour non-emergency number at 334-501-3100). Other than that fight, a rematch with Francis Ngannou could be appropriate as Ngannou is desperate for a fight and their first fight was such a dud.

If Lewis loses, maybe the UFC goes ahead and pulls the trigger on Lewis vs. Greg Hardy after Hardy inevitably gets beat up by Alexander Volkov.


Sean O’Malley

To be clear, I am not an expert on USADA nor the various banned substances that exist in the world. I am also not a Sean O’Malley expert. But best I can tell his reaction to Nate’s quick exoneration stems the fact that Nate was found with trace elements him his system and had his name cleared a couple of days later whereas O’Malley has been on the sidelines for over a year as a result of USADA.

O’Malley first was suspended by USADA or six months as a result of a tainted supplement. He was supposed to return in July but the same substance O’Malley tested positive for was still present in his system. USADA did not re-sanction him for the failure, saying it was just a lingering issue and provided no enhancement, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission wouldn’t sanction him. So, in broad strokes, O’Malley and Diaz both were flagged for banned substances, but in both instances it was determined the substances did not provide and advantage and were not knowingly ingested, yet Nate had his issue resolved in a few days and O’Malley is still stuck in limbo.

Yeah, I’d be pissed too.


SUPERFIGHT

Mike Tyson is 53 years old and has never grappled a day in his life. Give me Iron Mike by unanimous decision.


Thanks for reading this week and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.