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Hot Tweets: Kid Yamamoto, the UFC Hall of Fame, and how to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s been kind of a quiet week in MMA.

With UFC Mexico City flying under the radar, I’m disappointed with the lack of weird/completely insane questions that had nothing to do with the sport. Hopefully, we’ll all do better next week. In the meantime, let’s talk about Kid Yamamoto, the UFC Hall of Fame, the majesty of Michel Pereira, and who I’d like to fight.

Norifumi Yamamoto

It’s been one year since Kid Yamamoto died, and the world is still a little less bright for his passing. But not matter how much time goes by, nothing will change the fact the Kid Yamamoto was one of the greatest fighters to ever compete in MMA.

Kid was a pioneer of the sub-155 weight classes, and frankly, the best bantamweight—and featherweight—in the world for somewhere between three and five years. He was an Olympic-caliber wrestler and one of the most devastating KO artists in the world at a time when having two world-class skills was still practically unheard of.

A couple of years ago, I wrote this long feature on just how awesome Kid was, so instead of recounting everything, I’ll just refer you to that. But Kid’s legacy is set in stone, and no amount of end of career losses can change that. It’s completely ridiculous that he hasn’t been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, and hopefully they remedy that soon.

RIP Kid.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame

So here’s the thing about the Hall of Famer: it’s a travesty. There are a number of people who, if you’re only considering UFC tenure, make zero sense in being included. If you’re looking at the entirety of their careers, then it completely makes sense. But then there are a number of fighters who should be in the Hall under those terms that still aren’t. Also, the whole thing is clandestine and weird and basically is just a list of people Dana still likes, hence why Frank Shamrock remains noticeably absent.

So given all that, I think there’s a reasonable argument that Kazushi Sakuraba, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Bas Rutten shouldn’t be in the Hall. Why? Their contributions to the UFC were fairly minimal, though all of them are historically important MMA fighters and thus justify inclusion along those lines.

Beyond that, if the UFC Hall of Fame was a real organization, basically everyone in the Modern-era wing wouldn’t be inducted other than Forrest Griffin. Qualification for any Hall of Famer should require being retired for at least five years. There’s no reason to rush to it and, I dunno, it feels better to watch future Hall of Famer Rashad Evans come get pistol-whipped instead of watching a current Hall of Famer have that happen. But aside from the time frame thing, I don’t have issue with anyone in the “Modern Wing” (though I think it’s a little much that Rashad Evans was rushed to induction; if he wasn’t included in the Hall, it wouldn’t be some huge oversight either).

Then we get to the “Fights” wing, and I’m sorry, but Sanchez-Guida makes no sense. It was a good fight. A great fight even. But it’s not historically relevant, and the fact that it’s the fifth-ever induction is insanity.

Then we get to the hottest take of this particular bit: Matt Serra does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Matt Serra was a good fighter in his day. He authored the biggest upset in MMA history (relevance-wise if not odds wise). He also kinda-sorta pioneered lighter weight classes. But that’s only if you’re squinting your eyes and trying to justify his inclusion. He’s in the Hall almost exclusively because he beat Georges St-Pierre that one time—and GSP is not even in the Hall of Fame yet!

Look, I’ve got plenty of love for Matt Serra. But if you cut out the GSP fight, Serra’s career is thoroughly middle of the road. And frankly, without that win, he had a worse career than Chris Lytle.Even with the win, you’d still much rather have the career of, say, Carlos Condit, and no one is arguing Condit is a HoFer. It just makes a lot more sense to just have GSP-Serra 1 inducted into the Fight wing, because that’s basically exactly what the wing should be for (Maurice Smith is similarly a meh inclusion along many of the same lines).

Back to Khabib for a second

They’re going to, it’ll just take some time. Be patient. The fight will definitely get booked.

Whether both men will make it to the cage is another thing entirely.

The Future of Robert Whittaker

Uhhhh, about that first part. I’m fairly confident Israel Adesanya bends styles all over Bobby Knux when they finally do fight. Whittaker is a good striker and a good wrestler, but he’s not as good of a striker as Adesanya, and we haven’t seen too much of his offensive wrestling in the cage. As a pure boxer, I think Kelvin Gastelum is a more dangerous opponent than Whittaker, and Adesanya was able to navigate that with aplomb.

Plus, there’s one thing no one is talking about. When Bobby Knuckles lost his rematch to Romero, he got concussed, like, four different times. Full credit to him for surviving all of that, but after taking a hellacious beating, I have serious concerns about his durability. Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler basically were never the same after going to war, and I could definitely see the same being true for Whittaker.

However, if the undisputed UFC middleweight champ does beat Adesanya, I doubt we’ll see Whittaker move up. He certainly could join the throngs of middleweights migrating to the shallow waters of 205, but there are a number of fights still worth having at middleweight.

And Whittaker has roughly a 0 percent chance of unseating Jon Jones.

Michel Pereira

It’s a little too early to go that far, but the man is certainly on his way. I’m most heartened by his comments after the fight, basically telling everyone who tried to fun police him to go to hell. He’s gonna keep being a wild man, and that’s how it should be.

MMA needs a lot more Michel Pereiras and a lot less well-rounded create-a-fighters with delusions of being champion. Not everyone can be champion, but anyone can be an awesome fan favorite. Here’s to hoping more follow suit. Long live Michel Pereira.

How to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov

With a stick, while he sleeps.

The reality is, Khabib likely will not lose the lightweight title for some time. On any given night, any of a number of top 155ers could upset him. But on balance, he’s going to smash them all, because he’s better than them. It’s just that simple.

However, if I were coaching someone to maximize their chances (and I’m not a coach, so take everything that follows with the appropriate measure of salt), I’d say you need to wrestle him. Everyone tries to keep it standing because Khabib’s weaknesses on the feet are obvious, but making that your game plan means you’re essentially consenting to his terms from the outset. Khabib’s entire life has been him taking down people who would prefer not to be taken down, and he’s developed a near-infinite number of tricks to do it. So instead, take him down. Yes, that’s going to put you into scrambles that will also probably end up poorly for you, but you’re at least not meeting him where he’s strongest.

Aside from that, forward pressure is a must, and work the body aggressively. And throw elbows from the bottom. Try and cut him. It may not be the most honorable way to win, but look, we’re throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks here.

In-fight corner interviews

On the one hand, it’s terrible because you are distracting the corners from doing their jobs. On the other, it’s terrible because the corners are distracted and only half answering the questions.

Look, I get what they were trying to go for, and I don’t hate that they tried it. But unlike basketball and football etc, you can’t interview corners during the breaks, because that’s when they are doing their jobs. You can’t interview them during fights, because fights are short, and there really isn’t enough time. I liked that they thought about mixing it up and are trying out new things, especially with a product as creatively stagnant as the UFC. But it didn’t work and we don’t need to go back to it.

I do have a recommendation for what might work instead: Interviewing the fighter’s family at cageside. For one thing, you’re not interfering in the bout in any way, and for another, you’re more likely to get better answers from someone who has a more emotional reaction to the fight rather than a tactical one. Plus it also provides a new angle, because in the lead up to fights, corners and coaches are talked to ad nauseam. But families are hardly spoken to, or just about. If you’re not going to talk to family members, talk to training partners that aren’t in the corner.

Basically, choose anyone other than the coaches.

The future of fighting

As much as I would love for fighting to devolve back into a carnival sideshow, with the UFC putting on two-v-two fights, at this point that seems highly unlikely. Instead, I think we’re in for a long period of more of the same. Some small boom and bust periods will happen along the way. But ultimately, what we have is what we’ll have: The UFC leading the way, putting on 50 fight cards a year—with only about 8 of them being appointment viewing—and Bellator running grand prix tournaments that garner interest and not much else. Then, the general myriad of other organizations that produce a number of exciting fights and rarely draw huge attention stateside.

Look, the fighters are never going to unionize or band together; if a $4 billion sale price couldn’t get them together, nothing will. And until that happens, nothing major will change. The UFC is too far out in front.

But that’s not all bad. For the fighters, it largely depresses their value. But for the fans, it means we mostly get to see the best fighters in the world fight each other—so long as the whims of Dana White allow it.

Unless, of course, the UFC antitrust suit actually starts making ground. That’s still a ways off, but that’s the big game-changer looming out there. And if that comes to pass, who the hell knows what will happen.

Top Five People to Fight

For the sake of the comments section we will leave political figures off this list. So without further ado:

5) Floyd Mayweather Jr. - Fight, not box. Shooting low single-legs all day.

4) Jed from the Bachelorette - Guy ruined my great name.

3) CM Punk - No beef with him, I just want to see if I could beat up an actual UFC fighter. I doubt I could, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

2) Nick Saban - As a UGA fan, it might be the only win we ever get over Bama.

1) Shaun Al-Shatti, the scoundrel.

If the American stipulation weren’t in affect, I’d definitely take Conor McGregor because I’d happily get my ass beat for that payday. Feel free to give your list in the comments section. I’m excited to see just how many of you would like to fight me.

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.

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