This past week, Dustin Poirier got his revenge, Conor McGregor got knocked out for the first time ever, and Michael Chandler had one of the greatest UFC debuts ever. That alone would be plenty to talk about, but then we also have the whole Ottman Azaitar situation and Reddit declaring war on Wall Street (which isn’t really an MMA thing, but man it sure is fun). Many things, much to talk about. Let’s get to it.
The lightweight title picture.
Who should fight for the Vacant LW belt Dustin/Chandler or Dustin/Oliveria ?— HONG KONG (@AbdullahShwihdi) January 29, 2021
Man, last week in Hot Tweets I was wrong, like, a lot. Seriously, don’t go read that article I linked right there. It’s embarrassing how off I was on stuff. But one of the things I think I got right is what would happen if Dustin Poirier won.
Immediately after the fight, UFC President Dana White basically admitted that the entire Khabib Nurmagomedov thing was him grasping at straws and that (since Conor lost) he will now quit trying. It’s also pretty clear that Poirier is one half of the vacant title fight, whenever that does occur, which then leaves the question of whom he will face. White wanted to push Michael Chandler – more on him later– but Poirier no-sold the sh*t out of that man and called for any number of other fights.
The one fighter Poirier called for that is probably the most serious and seems most destined at this point is Charles Oliveira. Oliveira is on a huge win streak, Justin Gaethje needs a win, and it’s a new fight for Poirier. If that’s the bout to crown Khabib’s successor, that’s perfectly fine. But it’s not what I’d do.
Call me old fashioned, but if you’re going to crown a new champion after an all-time great vacates the belt, there are only two ways to do it. The first, which I’ve written about ad nauseum, is a tournament. Sadly, the UFC is never going to do that (at least officially). That leaves us with the second way: The two top-ranked guys fight it out. Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje are ranked number one and number two in the division, respectively, and both are interim champions who fell short to Khabib. But for the greatest fighter in the history of the division, either man would already have gold. They’ve earned their way to the top of the division and should reap the benefits of doing so. Alas, that’s not what’s likely to happen.
The Legend of Chucky Olives
Why are people intent on pushing Charles Oliviera as the #1 contender when his winning streak is mostly against cans?— 600 + x = 2000; solve for x (@NJ_SoulBrother1) January 29, 2021
While I disagree with the assessment that Charles Oliveira mostly fought cans, I do take the point. Do Bronx’s current winning streak is not littered with ranked opponents like Tony Ferguson’s. However, suggesting he’s fought cans is stretching the truth at best. Nik Lentz and Jim Miller are tough old birds, David Teymur was on a five-fight win streak at the time, and Kevin Lee is one of the most talented fighters in the division, which is saying a lot. Those are all quality wins, even if they don’t jump off the page.
At lightweight, no one is a can. The 155-pound division is a shark tank inside of meat grinder balanced atop a wood chipper. Stringing together any series of wins is incredibly difficult, and Oliveira’s run is undeniably impressive. Eight straight victories, seven stoppages and the Tony Ferguson mauling. He’s not “beating cans” – he’s mangling solid fighters. Given how stacked 155 is, if Chucky Olives had to fight one more time before getting a title shot, I don’t think it would be a crime. However, he has certainly done enough to warrant a title shot if the UFC comes calling. Remember, fighting for the title is as much about what you have accomplished as it is about your timing. Right now, Oliviera has a bit of both behind him.
Where does Conor McGregor go from here?
How many fights does Conor have to lose before people stop buying his ppv’s?— Daniel Pompilio (@elpompilio) January 28, 2021
This is a trick question, because the answer is impossible. Technically, if Conor lost three more times in a row, that would probably nerf his drawing power. But that will never happen, because if McGregor fights again and loses, then his next fight after that is going to be a real softball. Like, fighting Dennis Siver again kind of softball.
As for the broader question of where Conor goes from here, the answer is both simple and complex. Directly, he probably goes to his trilogy fight with Nate Diaz. Nate is a winnable fight for McGregor that will sell through the roof. It will help get him back to feeling good and set him up for a number of other opportunities afterward, like boxing Manny Pacquiao. Indirectly, McGregor needs to go back to the drawing board.
The truth of the matter is that for as much as McGregor has been the dominant force in MMA the last half-decade, we still don’t know a ton about his game. However, we’re starting to learn more, and that’s not good for “Notorious.” McGregor is very clearly offensively potent, but it seems clear that his power at 155 pounds is not what it was at 145. He hurts people at lightweight, but he doesn’t hurt them. That’s a problem, because hurting people is his Plan A, and it’s becoming abundantly clear that when Conor’s Plan A fails him, he doesn’t have much of a Plan B. Poirier took clean shots from Conor, ate them, and kept enacting his gameplan and Conor just kept doing the same thing until suddenly his body told him he couldn’t anymore.
(McGregor should spend some time in the gym getting beat up. Every time McGregor faces adversity in a fight, the fight is over. If you can “compromise” his leg, he’s not going to work through that. He’s just done. That is something that can be worked on, a la City Kickboxing and their “Spyda” sessions.)
The good news for McGregor is that these are not insurmountable problems. The man doesn’t lack for ability or work ethic. He just needs to put them together in a different way. He needs to accept that he’s not just going to fell people with “the left” and do like he did in the Nate Diaz rematch, and then he needs to prepare for a different manner of fighting.
Essentially what I’m saying here is, McGregor needs a new camp.
John Kavanagh seems like a solid BJJ coach (I think Conor has always been a much better grappler than he’s been given credit for), but he is objectively not a good strategist, and you’re seeing that happen when McGregor is faced with opponents who don’t just wilt. Against Floyd Mayweather, Kavanagh thought Floyd couldn’t fight moving forward (he’s an all-time great, what?!). Against Khabib, the plan was literally to not try too hard to get up and drag the fight into the later rounds (which worked out fantastically in round two when Khabib put a beating on him). And against Poirier, they weren’t prepared for leg kicks. Seriously? That’s been a common thought on how to attack McGregor, and they had nothing for that?
There’s something to be said for loyalty and dancing with who brought you, but in professional sports, changing camps is a common practice because it keeps fighters from stagnating. McGregor has undoubtedly stagnated and needs to go somewhere new to reinvigorate his career. There are no shortage of places that would be happy to take him.
Michael Chandler serving up some crow, cold.
What did you make of the fight between Hooker and Chandler? Was Hooker on a bad nighy or is Chandler that good?— yuri the trainer who trains (@gregenigmeran) January 28, 2021
I have been a very vocal opponent of Michael Chandler’s UFC transition, and while I’m not here to walk back anything I said, I have to admit I was served a handsome helping of humble pie on Saturday. Not only did Chandler win, he did so emphatically and even followed it up with a very solid mic session. Undeniably an A+ effort all around.
As for Hooker, I’m not going to put this loss on him. Do I think he looked good? Not at all. He wanted no part of engaging with Chandler. But I don’t know why that was, and so it could just as easily have been that he didn’t want it because Chandler made it so. That’s a win for Chandler any way you slice it.
That being said, I’m still not sold on the idea that Chandler’s performance was entirely a product of Chandler “being that good” as much as it was that he was that good on that evening. He has big power in his hands and landed the shot. Moreover, he set up the shot that he landed to end it. You can’t take any of that away from him. But it’s not like Chandler is some rookie. We have hours of footage on him, and the man has undeniably underachieved throughout his career. He’s had huge highs and pretty rough lows. He’s 6-5 in title fights. That’s a special kind of “great, but also, what the hell?” He has won big fights and he has lost big fights. On Saturday, he won a big fight. I’m just not ready to say that is the start of a new unstoppable force, when history would say it’s more likely the latest peak in his vacillating career.
Sean O’Malley and Casey Kenney
What should the UFC do about Casey Kenny and Sean O'Malley?— Jed Meshew II (@JedKMeshew) January 29, 2021
What a great question, asked by such a handsome man!
If you missed it, O’Malley and Kenney were on a podcast and said some incredibly stupid, awful shit. First, O’Malley suggested that trying heroin was a good idea and that getting addicted to it makes you “a pussy” and/or stupid. Then, later, Kenney pontificates on the merits of sleeping with Megan Anderson.
First, O’Malley. Drug addiction is not something to be flippant about, and his belief that he’s just too manly or whatever to not have to worry about it is both woefully incorrect and heinously disrespectful to the millions of people in this country alone who battle those problems. At the time of writing this, O’Malley has issued no apology, and that the UFC hasn’t made him is shameful. He’s a popular public figure. Imagine if even one person listens to him say this and goes, “Wow, ‘Suga’ wants to try heroin, I should too!” The man needs to take some classes on mental health and addiction and then recant this.
As for Kenney, this is even more straightforward. Kenney and Anderson are functionally coworkers. This is a poor way to speak about people in general, but it’s entirely unacceptable to speak like this about someone with whom you share a workspace. If anyone reading this did this at their job, they’d at the minimum have to talk to HR. The expectation should be the same here. This is, in fact, a violation of the UFC’s Fighter Conduct Policy and should be enforced accordingly.
To be clear, Kenney did offer an apology to Anderson, but the apology does not really seem to grapple with the underlying issue. He sorry she was offended, he thought it was in a joking manner. The problem is not that she was offended, the problem is that it is offensive and damaging and not something you can do to someone with whom you have some manner of a working relationship. Issuing some form of an apology is a good start, but that’s not where this should end.
Look, everyone does dumb shit. I’m certainly no saint, and neither are you. I’m not demanding either man be fired or even fined. But I am demanding they be forced to reckon with what they said, because that’s how society works. You do something sh*tty, you get checked for it and then, hopefully, you improve. That’s what needs to happen here. There need to be consequences so both men can realize that what they did was harmful and why it was harmful, and hopefully, become better men in the process.
UFC 257 Streaming
Do you think Dana White realises that charging insane prices for streams that dont work is a bad business plan?— Owen (@morgasm168) January 28, 2021
I’m not sure it is a bad business plan. The UFC seems to be making money on it. However, I do think it’s hilarious that for the show White was so gung-ho about catching pirates, his own pay-per-view didn’t work for a number of folks. Perfectly encapsulates one of White’s fundamental flaws: majoring on minor stuff.
What do you think about the fight between WallStreetBets and Wall Street?— Blake Gleason (@MrBlakeGleason) January 28, 2021
10-7 Reddit and I hope beyond all logic and reason that they keep putting the wood to them.
The UFC and head trauma
What is the future of the UFC and it's relationship with retired, struggling older fighter dealing with CTE issues and medical issues such as Spencer Fisher? Do you think the media backlash will force a response forward?— Daniel (@TPDGNCR) January 28, 2021
Sadly, I doubt it, because it’s the same as the fighter pay battle. The NFL, which has a powerful player’s union, only recently had to start coming around on head trauma, and even that probably still isn’t what it should be. The UFC has no union and has very minimal care for any sort of backlash, outside of at the box office. Unfortunately, a major chunk of their fan base doesn’t care about that kind of stuff at all, so without fans pushing back and without fighters pushing back collectively, nothing will change.
What’s in the bag?!?!
excuse me doctor, can you let us know what was in the Ottman Azaitar Mystery Bag please and thank you— Alexander K Lee (@AlexanderKLee) January 29, 2021
The entire Ottman Azaitar saga is the kind of incredible stuff that makes MMA fun. Was any of this really that important? What possible reason did that dude have to shimmy across balconies instead of walk down the hall? Why is there a mystery bag of which no one knows the contents?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I have spent an unreasonable amount of time the last week thinking about all of them, especially the last one. The best guess I can come up with is that the that wasn’t actually Ottman Azaitar. It was a team of disavowed IMF Team agents led by Ethan Hunt wearing a mask to look like Azaitar and using Azaitar’s connections to Moroccan royalty to circumvent a secret arms deal between a rogue Middle Eastern General and clandestine secret society hell bent on bringing about the end of the world. The guy shimmying across the balconies was Benji, and the bag was filled with the plutonium.
Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things 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.