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Hot Tweets: Discussing 2020’s Fighter of the Year, T.J. Dillashaw and the Breakout Fighter of 2021

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Deiveson Figueiredo Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Wow! Despite the MMA news this week not having anything Earth-shattering, this week we had more questions submitted than ever before. So we’re gonna do things a little different this week and answer as many of them as I can in 2,000 words or less. Buckle up.


Deiveson Figueiredo

Absolutely, and if Figueiredo does make weight for UFC 256 and beats Brandon Moreno, he’s going to be the unanimous choice for “Fighter of the Year” this year.

2020 has obviously been a chaotic year for the entire world, and in the context of MMA, what that has meant is there have not been a ton of standout cases for “Fighter of the Year.” Obviously guys like Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland have fought a lot and put together some impressive wins, but those wins have not come over the elite of the elite competition, and though that’s not required, it is functionally required. Think of “Fight of the Year” like the NFL’s MVP award: sure you don’t technically have to be a quarterback, but basically every “Fighter of the Year” is going to be a champion unless they do something historic (think a running back rushing for 2,500 yards/Jorge Masvidal becoming a household name).

So given that context, Figueiredo is the obvious choice for “Fighter of the Year.” If he beats Moreno, “Figgy Smalls” has four wins on the year, including winning the title and defending it twice. Plus, he’ll have the record for quickest turnaround for a UFC champion. No other fighter this year is even close to that resume. But if Figgy Smalls loses, then things get interesting. Moreno would probably be in consideration, but I think the frontrunner would have to be Jan Blachowicz, which speaks to just how odd of a year 2020 has been.


The return of T.J. Dillashaw

ICYMI, T.J. Dillashaw said he wants an immediate title shot upon his return from suspension next year.

If Dillashaw got an immediate title shot against the winner of Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling, it wouldn’t be the most egregious thing in the world. That being said, I’d like to see him take at least one fight before getting put in a title shot, preferably against Cory Sandhagen because Dillashaw has been out two years, and we need a level set on where he’s at in the division right now before just assuming he’s a top guy.

As far as the “working his way back up” thing goes, no. The point of fighting isn’t for fighters to jump through hoops for the sake of bureaucracy. The point of fight is to entertain fans and to determine who the best fighters are. We can be fairly certain T.J. Dillashaw is still one of the best bantamweights on the planet without making him put together a massive win streak so forcing him to do so is a waste of everyone’s time. Have the man fight one top guy, if he wins, give him a title shot. If he loses, well, then it’s all moot anyway.


Yair Rodriguez and USADA

Part of being in the U.S Anti-Doping Agency [USADA] program means updating them to your location, basically at all times. If you fail to keep it up properly, you basically get a demerit and enough of those lead to a penalty. Apparently, Yair missed enough times to warrant a suspension. Whether or not that is unreasonable though hinges entirely on how you view USADA. As a fan of fun and personal freedom, I view USADA as a gross overstep on the private lives of the UFC’s “contractors” that provides little to no real benefit to anyone, so of course I view this rule as unreasonable. USADA as a whole is unreasonable, to me. But if you like USADA because drugs are bad, then I would assume you consider this rule entirely reasonable, because without it, how the hell would USADA even pretend to be doing its job? If you want random drug testing, you have to know where people are at all times or else the testing isn’t random. If Jon Jones could hide under the cage every time USADA showed up and there were never any consequences, well, then you just wouldn’t have drug testing.

As for Yair Rodriguez, whether you believe he is juicing or not will largely come down to your own world view. For me though, I would certainly put this in the latter category instead of the former and say the man needs to sharpen up his paperwork game.


Khabib’s Olympic Quest

I mean, I guess it’s fine. Everybody needs a hobby, especially retired folks. But I’m not gonna be massively pumped if he succeeds, because in all likelihood, it wouldn’t even be great MMA. I’ve watched plenty of amateur MMA in my life, and most of it blows. Sure, putting it in the Olympics would probably raise the bar to some degree, but it’s not going to suddenly take the leap to being vintage WEC days or something like that. It’s just gonna be young kids who will maybe have good pro careers later competing in largely forgettable fights.

My opinion on the Olympics has always been that almost all of the sports that are popular and have their own professional tour shouldn’t be in there. Golf and Tennis? You don’t need a fifth, less popular major. Skateboarding? You’ve got the X-Games. The only exceptions to this I would allow for are football and basketball, but only if both returned to a fully amateur participants rule. Otherwise I don’t need to see the U.S. win gold in basketball every year by 50 points a game.

In my view, the Olympics should be reserved for sports that otherwise aren’t in the public eye all that often. Track and Field, Swimming (though pare down half the events -who cares that you can swim in a weird way faster than anyone else, if you’re swimming for your life, you’re doing a crawl so that’s the one that matters), Gymnastics, fencing, archery, volleyball, etc. All of those are things no one pays attention to until the Olympics come around, and I’d way rather have more of those than watch two 20 year olds fight in head gear so one day they can go on the Contender Series and say they won Bronze at Kuala Lumpur.


Claressa Shields

ICYMI, Claressa Shields is making the move to MMA by signing with PFL.

If Claressa Shields wins even one bout in 2021, the UFC is going to come calling with a contract offer. Shields is a star and the UFC is desperately in need of bodies in the female featherweight division (which is where I assume she will settle) anyway. Even if Shields ends up having no ability to grapple, the UFC would still love to have her. So if she fights in the PFL and looks even halfway competent at defending takedowns or standing back up, the UFC will back up the Brinks truck.


Old Guy MMA

We already saw this. It was Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III and it hurt everyone’s feelings except Tito’s because he’s Tito. If we have to do another one though, I’m going to throw out the one that seems the most obvious to me: Anderson Silva vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Do it, Rizin. Be my hero.


Base treachery

For those not in the know, my former colleague and current worst enemy Shaun Al-Shatti conspired with the treacherous Mike Heck to perform a highway robbery upon me. This was done in part because Shaun threw out action-fight darling Jiri Prochazka in the finals and while Prochazka is certainly fun, his 2021 doesn’t portend great things because he’s probably going to lose at least once.

Jiri is fun and I get the love but it’s not like he’s beaten a whose who of light heavyweights. His last three wins are Fabio Maldonado, C.B. Dolloway, and Volkan Oezdemir. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row and now he’s taking on Dominick Reyes - a massive step up. Frankly, I expect Reyes to beat Jiri, then relegating him back to the fun, action light heavyweight title he was born to duke it out with Johnny Walker for.


The real Breakout Fighter of 2021

Leon Edwards. No one cares about Leon Edwards right now, and the few people who do have any feelings about him just disdain the man. But that’s all going to change next year. Leon is going to take a cue from his old buddy Jorge Masvidal in 2021 and after he busts up the hot new thing on the block in Khamzat Chimaev, Leon is going to cut a savage promo to demand the title shot he deserves and then he’s going to hoist welterweight gold. You heard it here first.


Freak Show MMA.

Troy is talking about this, arguably the most MMA thing of 2020, and that includes two Fight Circus events. And the answer is a simple: In a just world, no one would be able to compete with her. Sadly, we don’t live in one of those and thus, as outline above, it’s Deiveson Figueiredo’s accolade to lose.


FIGHT CIRCUS 3

Not soon enough. Perhaps Darina Madzyuk will be on it.


Bellator champions

Because their skills are very comparable.

Seriously, Patricio Freire and Douglas Lima may not be the top featherweight/welterweight in the world, but they are in the top five. I wish we got to see how good they actually are.


Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier II

I’m utterly fascinated by this fate. In their first encounter, there was a huge gap in the skills on the feet between the two. Poirier was mostly a brawler with power but he was extremely rote in his efforts, and it took all of a minute for Conor to time the openings and end it. Now, Poirier is a vastly superior defensive fighter, and Conor is not going to have as easy a time finding avenues to attack. Mix in that Poirier has a more sophisticated offensive game than before and can pursue takedowns, and I really like how great this fight might be. All that being said, I have some concerns about the amount of damage Poirier has taken over the last few years and ultimately, I still think I favor the offensive acumen of Conor to get the victory.


The UFC’s heavyweight division

We’re all basically waiting for Stipe Miocic to decide when he wants to fight again and honestly, it’s getting a little annoying. Look, I get wanting to take time off and heal up, etc, but the heavyweight division has been in a quagmire for the last three years and everyone is ready to get a move on. Francis Ngannou deserves the next shot, Curtis Blaydes is also waiting in the wings, and then there’s the whole Jon Jones situation. It’s pretty rare that the heavyweight division is this interesting and instead of taking advantage of it, we’re just sitting here. It sucks. Especially for Francis Ngannou who is correct in saying he’s wasting the best years of his fighting life on the sidelines waiting.

Hopefully when the holidays are over Stipe will be ready to hit camp and defend again and be looking to compete more than once in 2021 because if not, then we’ll probably be in for more of the same for the foreseeable future.


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.