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Hot Tweets: Anthony Smith’s future, Tony Ferguson vs. Dustin Poirier, and the ‘BMF’ rematch

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Earlier this month, Anthony Smith continued his career slide, losing to Aleksandar Rakic. But that wasn’t all that happened in the world of MMA. Tony Ferguson vs. Dustin Poirier was confirmed as the co-main event for UFC 245, the UFC sought a rematch between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz, oh, and there was another fight card on Saturday.

There were a lot of questions covering a lot of ground this week, so let’s hop into all of it.

Where does Anthony Smith go from here?

Following his loss to Rakic at UFC Vegas 8, there are rumors that one-time light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith is considering a move back down to middleweight, citing a lack of size. Whether he’ll do that, only he knows for sure. Whether he should is fairly obvious – of course not.

By and large, fighters are unable to grasp the simple concept that they are not the baddest dude in the yard. So when they lose, there are always extenuating circumstances. “I was too small, I cut too much weight, I was injured, the judge’s screwed me,” they say. Occasionally, these excuses have validity. But more often than not, they’re just a coping mechanism. Was a “lack of size” a problem for Anthony Smith when he made his title run? It sure wasn’t. That only became a touch point when he started losing, because it’s easier to say that’s the issue than to admit, in reality, there are just a bunch of dudes who are better.

Smith did not lose to Rakic because he was too small. He lost because he’s not a great fighter. That’s going to sound like fighter bashing, but I’m sorry, it’s just the facts. Go to Tapology and look at Anthony Smith’s record. Do you notice anything? There’s a reason he has a 33-16 record, and it’s not because, a la Randy Couture, he only ever fought world-class fighters. Smith spent most of his career as an also-ran because that’s what he is. He’s a decent fighter, with some power, some grit and decent grappling. But he’s never been a great fighter. He just happened to have a good run that earned him a title shot in the thinnest division in the sport.

And about that “good run,” look at it. It was always smoke and mirrors. Smith’s path to a light heavyweight title shot consisted of beating a thoroughly washed Rashad Evans, a thoroughly washed Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and Volkan Oezdemir who, like Smith, got a title shot by virtue of good timing in a thin division rather than an excellent skill set. Seriously, the best win of Smith’s career is the Alexander Gustafsson comeback win, and even that looks to be more a result of Gus being washed than it does Smith being great.

Look, I know all this is probably coming off as harsh. But none of it is wrong, and the idea that dropping weight will rejuvenate Smith’s career is idiotic. Smith spent a decade at middleweight and didn’t sniff a title shot, but got one within one year of moving to 205. Do you think that is coincidence? No. Light heavyweight is the worst division in the sport (save women’s 145), so from a practical standpoint, he’s far better served to stay at 205.

Ferguson vs. Poirier

First of all, let me just say that this fight being a co-main event is an absolute travesty. The UFC needs to make up a title for this bout so it can be five rounds, because this being a three-rounder is genuinely upsetting. I vote for this being the official debut of “The Most Violent Motherf*cker” title, but that’s just me.

But to answer your question, yes. I firmly believe that, following the passing of his father, Khabib Nurmagomedov will in fact retire after two more fights (assuming he wins them – if he loses, maybe he sticks around, but still unlikely). That means that if Khabib beats Justin Gaethje later this year, which I think he will, then he only has one fight left in his career. Now, Dana White has said if those are the circumstances, he’d make a superfight with Georges St-Pierre. But at this point, I just don’t think that will actually happen, and Khabib has said that if it doesn’t, he’ll defend the title against whomever beats Poirier.

Now, the UFC may try to say something about that, but its leverage in this situation would be pretty minimal. Dana has obviously been a big proponent of a rematch with Conor McGregor, but Khabib has basically shut that idea down entirely. If it’s the final bout of his career, he’s definitely not going to acquiesce to a rematch with a guy he hates who’s done nothing to deserve said rematch. Is the UFC really gonna strip him of the belt for reasonably wanting to go out with a legitimate bout instead of a money-grab? Unlikely, meaning that if Ferguson beats Poirier, they can finally book that bout.

However, there is one major problem with this: Tony Ferguson is going to lose to Dustin Poirier. Tony is 36 years old and has been hurt by his opponents in each of his last four fights, including the bout with Gaethje where his body basically gave up on him. Now he’s facing arguably the most violent fighter alive? Ferguson spent a number of years at the top of the most dangerous division in the sport, but I firmly believe that time is now up, and Poirier is going to show it.

There is one other option though. Both Khabib-Gaethje and Ferguson-Poirier are booked for UFC 254. Maybe, in deference to the MMA gods, the UFC decided to give Ferguson a title shot, but instead of tempting fate yet again, they just booked the card like this, and on fight night, Bruce Buffer will come to the cage and make the announcement that that evening, the UFC will have it’s first ever surprise title fight: Khabib vs. Ferguson. Think of the headlines that would generate! I can’t wait for Oct. 24th.

The BMF rematch

I think because you seem to remember that bout differently than most people. Now, granted, I haven’t watched it in some time, but I recall Jorge Masvidal tuning Nate Diaz up for most of the fight until the doctor stopped it for a cut.

The reason people don’t want this fight is because the rematch isn’t interesting. We know how the first fight was going, and there’s no reason to believe Nate Diaz is going to do anything different. He hasn’t changed things up for his entire career – why would he start now? Masvidal has announced himself as a legitimate threat at 170, so having him spin his wheels with a big-name squash match is less interesting to hardcore fans who know that, given his age and length of career, he doesn’t have many prime years left. We’d rather see him fight someone else and do the Diaz rematch later.

The Status of the BMF title

It appears we’ve found a Leon Edwards burner account. The man fought Kamaru Usman two months ago for Christ’s sake! Also, just for the sake of saying it, Nate Diaz is ranked at 170 pounds. He’s No. 13 as of writing this.

The thing about Masvidal is, he actually understands fighting better than 99 percent of fighters. MMA is a job. It’s not some validating ego trip to prove you can beat people up. Prizefighting is about making money to keep you and your family fed. If your boss came to you right now and said you can either work 10 hours a week and make $1 million a year, or you can work 40 hours a week and make $500,000 a year, which one would you choose? Of course Masvidal would rather fight Nate Diaz than Leon Edwards! Literally every rational human being alive would make the same choice.

Considering the genesis of the BMF title, there is a strong argument that fighting low-ranked/unranked opponents is actually truer to the ethos of the title. Nate Diaz challenged for one belt in his career and got his ass whooped by a dude with a toothpick in his mouth. Since then, Diaz’s major impetus in fighting has been, like Masvidal, to make as much money as he can. The higher the mountain you climb, the rockier the footing and, in the case of the welterweight division, the less bang for your buck you can get. The true baddest motherf*cker is the one who makes the most money, and Masvidal and Diaz are excelling at that.

Speaking of money fights

It’s never too late. Honestly, the UFC should be running this rematch back instead of Masvidal-Diaz (which is basically just a poor man’s version of Diaz-McGregor), but I imagine they’re saving that for a rainy day. Don’t worry though, at some point in your life, you will see Conor-Nate III. I’d bet my life on it.

Michael Chandler in the UFC

Several weeks ago when Chandler was first announced as a free agent, someone asked me where he’d land, and I said I thought he would be re-signing with Bellator. Since then, I’ve come to change my mind. Although I think Bellator offers him the best options, insofar as they are heavily invested in him, meaning he has more pull there and almost a guarantee of a long-term relationship with the organization outside of the cage. At this point, it seems likely that he’ll at least take a run in the UFC, if only to satisfy his curiosity.

However, I do expect his UFC tenure to be fairly short, in part because I don’t love his chances against the top fighters of the division. Chandler would be almost 35 by the time he took his first UFC fight and, as I’ve said many times, fighters age like bread in the lightweight division. I suppose it’s possible he comes over and has an Eddie Alvarez-like run with some fortunate judging and circumstances. But I just don’t see him beating Poirier, Hooker, Gaethje, etc. A few years ago, and he would’ve been right in the mix, but now? I think it’s too late for “Iron Mike” to make a real splash.

Too many events?

Yes, all the time. The media laments this fact constantly. Not just because it makes following the sport hard, but because when you oversaturate a market, it devalues it all.

Look, I’m for the Contender Series having weekly, small fight cards, and I’m even pro-monthly pay-per-view events. But having a Fight Night card every weekend is insane, and not even from a “UfC cAliBeR UsEd tO mEaN sOmEtHiNg!” standpoint. I’m talking from a pure nuts and bolts stance. Fight nights take FOREVER. All of them last 6+ hours. If you watched every UFC event (not including Contender Series) this year so far, you have watched over 150 hours of UFC events this year, and there is currently not a UFC-free weekend scheduled until mid-December. That is categorically insane, but there is a reason for it.

The UFC’s deal with ESPN requires that they put on 42 live events a year, or else they don’t get a reported $750 million cash payout from ESPN. Currently, the UFC have hosted 25 events, with 15 more scheduled with two open weekends left in the year. Huh? Funny how that number works out, isn’t it?

Come hell or high water, Dana White is going to make sure the UFC gets that payout, which brings us to our next question.

The Contender Series keeps signing people

The reason Dana keeps signing people off the Contender series is because the UFC has fights they need to fill and the Contender Series offers cheap labor. It’s basically fighting internships. They can hire a bunch of people, pay them minimally, have them do practically anything (short notice fights, jump weight classes), and once in a while, one of those interns may end up being a super valuable asset for the company.

And like the plethora of fights dilutes the quality of those fights, the new influx of middling fighters only compounds that problem. Because the UFC has a ton of guaranteed money with ESPN, they are now vastly more incentivized by quantity rather than quality. Never have stars had less leverage with the UFC than right now, because to to the UFC, massive pay-per-views matter less since they don’t make direct earnings off buyrates. And if the quality of your work force doesn’t impact your earnings, doesn’t it just make sense to opt for the cheapest labor options possible?

Remember when Masvidal got passed over for Gilbert Burns? Fealty to the UFC and a willingness to work on the cheap is now the currency of the realm. So no, I’m not OK with it. I think the Contender Series is a great idea that has quickly been bastardized into a pseudo-scab work force that creates a substantially worse overall product for us to enjoy. But I understand why it’s happening, and it’s hard to argue with it from a business standpoint.

Favorite fighters

Since this has already ballooned up in word count, I’m just gonna give straight answer.

Heavyweight: Francis Ngannou - Most incredible puncher I’ve ever seen, and an even better person.

205: God, this division is the pits. Jiri Prochazka I suppose, because he’s at least a guaranteed good time.

185: Yoel Romero - He’s a friggin’ alien or something. I’m never not fascinated by his physicality, and honestly, tactical brilliance.

170: Vicente Luque - The man brings the action.

155: Khabib - The most impressive fighter I’ve ever seen, bar none. Gaethje is a close, close second. The two top my list currently for pound-for-pound.

145: Truly, this spot belongs to Jose Aldo, but since he’s a 135 now, Chan Sung Jung. The original action fighter is still a thrill-a-minute guy.

W145: This is not a real division. Nunes by default, I suppose.

135: Jose Aldo. Top-five all-time fighter, best defensive fighter ever, youngest Zuffa champion. Maybe the best technical fighter of all time.

W135: Amanda Nunes - She’s the GOAT. How do you not like watching excellence?

125: Demetrious Johnson - I often think he’s the best fighter of all time, and even if not, he’s on the short list. “The Mighty Wizbar” alone is enough to top this list.

W125: Valentina Shevchenko - The best fighter in the world by the metric of how much better than her peers she is.

115: Joanna Jedrzejczyk - She’s the most exciting fighter in the division. Also, my name is in her name.

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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