This past weekend, the UFC’s second PPV in a row went down and it’s safe to say that UFC 268 was one of, if not the, best events of the year. The action from top to bottom was sterling and the people’s main event somehow overdelivered on its own lofty expectations. Any time you have a Fight of the Year contender and TWO competitive title fights on a card, you know it was a good night. Plus, tonight we get to watch Max Holloway crush a guy! So that’ll be fun. Let’s talk about it.
If there was one downside to Kamaru Usman beating Colby Covington on Saturday night, it’s that now we get to re-have this conversation, which is already frustratingly dumb to me, but oh well, here it goes. I’ve written about this before and spoken on it fairly extensively but Kamaru Usman is in no way the greatest welterweight of all-time. I would argue that even though GOAT talk is always extremely subjective, there is no rational argument for Usman supplanting Georges St-Pierre. At least not yet.
The reality is that I don’t even think the people arguing for Usman really believe he’s the GOAT. Dana White literally only knows one way to promote a fighter and it’s by calling them the greatest (or by calling them trash and saying they are scared to fight, I guess) so him saying it means less than nothing, and the rest of the people trying to push this narrative are really only doing so because they either don’t have the ability to reckon with greatness that is still not THE GREATEST or because they are bored and new things are easier to appreciate than the vintage stuff.
But taking them at face value, I see two main arguments for Usman to supplant GSP. First, he has never lost in the UFC. True. That’s incredibly impressive. But if never losing is the only metric that matters, then Khabib Nurmagomedov is the greatest fighter of all time and you’d better be Stan-ing that corner. Second, he would beat GSP if they fought. The second I think I actually agree with but that doesn’t really matter for the sake of this conversation. Anthony Smith would probably kick the sh*t out of Chuck Liddell, does that make him greater? Of course not.
For my money (and I think the most reasonable interpretation) greatness is a fighter’s level of dominance over their contemporaries, with some consideration paid to the overall quality of those contemporaries, and in that Georges St-Pierre is unmatched. Just look at the numbers for GSP’s reign during a time when welterweight was the best division in the sport.
- 9 welterweight title defenses (over 9 different opponents)
- 2064 days as champion (2237 if you add in first title reign)
- 19 wins in divisional history (Most all time)
- 13 title wins (including one at middleweight, second all time)
- 6 Performance of the Night bonuses
And here are those same numbers for Usman now, when welterweight division is still one of the better divisions in the sport and arguably better than during GSP’s reign, but not substantially:
- 5 welterweight title defenses (3 different opponents)
- 986 days as champion
- 16 divisional wins (second-longest UFC winning streak of all time)
- 6 title wins
- 4 Performance of the Night Bonuses
Honestly, if that doesn’t make it plain as day to you, then I don’t think we can come to an agreement here. Usman is sensational. He’s CLEARLY the second-greatest welterweight ever, but for my money, GSP is THE greatest fighter who has ever competed in MMA. He reigned over the best division in the sport for half a decade and DIDN’T LOSE A ROUND for like four years. And most importantly, he stacked title defenses.
I believe that defending a belt is the most difficult thing in sports because every night out, you have to be perfect, because your opponent damn sure will be. They will have spent their lives preparing for this moment and you’re going to get their absolute best shot. It’s exhausting and every single long-reigning champion has talked about the fatigue of it. It’s why GSP retired for four years and why Usman is already talking about hanging them up. When you’re at the top, motivation is harder to come by and the wolves are always at the door. Georges St-Pierre beat back those wolves 9 different times, over five years, against multiple generations of fighters. If Usman can defend his title a few more times over the next two years, then we can start having the real conversation, but until then, it’s all just chin music.
Dana White’s tomfoolery
What options does Dana white refer to when speaking of not giving Carla Esparza the next title shot?— Daniel Pompilio (@elpompilio) November 12, 2021
In case you missed it, Dana White said Carla Esparza would not be getting the next strawweight title fight.
I’ve been around MMA for a long time, over half my life at this point, and so I’ve gotten pretty good at speaking Dana White. So here, let me translate for you:
“Look, nobody cares about Carla Esparza. Sure, she’s the former champion of the division who has a win over Rose Namajunas, and is riding a five-fight winning streak all over ranked opponents, but what does that matter? Who wants to see that fight? The champion does? Well the champion isn’t buying pay-per-views, because she’s on them competing, so I could care less what Rose thinks.
“Look, Carla had her opportunity. We offered her a No. 1 contender fight against Mackenzie Dern (who we desperately wanted to beat her, thus killing off Carla the contender and getting us who we really want in a title fight) and she refused. And then, to make matters worse, Dern lost to somebody named Marina Rodriguez, who is the ‘other option’ I was talking about, but I couldn’t remember her name because I don’t really pay attention to anyone other than the very top guys. What, you think you’re gonna ruin our plans without even competing? Jokes on you, I’ll ruin your damn career.
“Regardless of us getting back at Carla for looking out for her own self-interest though, the fact remains, the fight is impossible to promote. There is not story line there to sell to fans. I mean, it’s just the former champion trying for one last shot at the title against the current champion who is the woman Carla beat to become the inaugural champ in the first place. What could possibly make fans care about that?!”
Hope that helps.
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler
Will Chandler be never the same fighter after his war with Gaethje ?— HONG KONG (@AbdullahShwihdi) November 12, 2021
I have been an extremely loud hater of Michael Chandler since he signed with the UFC, and I apologize to absolutely no one. But even as his most ardent hater, I can’t deny what went down last Saturday was awesome. It’s my choice for Fight of the Year right now and if you somehow haven’t seen it, go watch it immediately. But as great of a fight as it was, and for as many fans as Chandler probably made himself that night, I don’t think think it was a great idea for him. Because like peak Robbie Lawler, Justin Gaethje doesn’t just win fights, he ends careers.
Seriously, let’s take a gander at how all of Gaethje’s opponents have fared since going to war with the most violent man in the sport (going to go back to when he had the WSOF title):
- Nick Newell: 5-3 - honestly not terrible.
- Melvin Guillard: 0-9, 1 NC - YEESH, though you could argue he dropped off beforehand
- Luis Palomino: 3-6 following his pair of losses to Gaethje
- Brian Foster: 3-3
- Luiz Firmino: 1-2 - seemingly retired
- Michael Johnson: 2-5
- Eddie Alvarez: 1-3, 1 NC (that should be a 4th loss)
- Dustin Poirier: 5-1, doing great!
- James Vick: 0-4 - retired
- Edson Barboza: 2-3 - dropped to featherweight where he has looked pretty good
- Donald Cerrone: 0-3, 1 NC
- Tony Ferguson: 0-2 - hasn’t won a round since facing Gaethje
- Khabib Nurmagomedov: - retired immediately after the bout
For those keeping track that is an overall record of 22-41 for fighters post-Gaethje and that is being heavily boosted by Dustin Poirier’s stellar 5-1 record and Nick Newell facing some extremely soft competition. Not great, Bob!
The fact is, we see this from time to time with fighters. Some fights take years off careers. My go-to example is Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit (still the greatest fight of all time). Both men gave so much of them self in there that they were never the same again. The body only has so many miles, so much trauma you can put it through. That threshold is different for everybody. For Gaethje, it seems to be nearly limitless, and Chandler certainly went deep to survive to the final bell, so it’s possible that Chandler will be none the worse for wear, but I wouldn’t bet on it. At his most violent, Justin Gaethje goes beyond fighting and does honest to God battle, a clash not just of bodies but souls, and most men leave a piece of themselves behind afterwards. It remains to be seen if Chandler will be one of the lucky few who didn’t.
Madison Square Garden
How do you rank the 5 UFC events at MSG? And where does Gaethje/Chandler rank in The Highlight's fights?— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) November 12, 2021
Can’t believe the UFC has already put on five shows at MSG. Damn, I’m getting old. And honestly, this was an easy ranking. Two of those cards were extremely whatever, and two were very good, with one in the middle. In order I have them:
- UFC 205: three title fights that were all very good, Third-Round Yoel Romero, and the start of Khabib’s true run at the top. Plus the mic work here, my God. “Your guy, beginning of the year he tap like chicken, end of the year he fight for the title. Crazy,” and “I’d like to take this chance to apologize to absolutely nobody.” Two all-timers right there.
- UFC 217: Again, three title fights and this time, three stunning outcomes. St-Pierre cementing himself as the GOAT after four years off, Dillashaw blowing the doors off his friend-turned-rival, and Rose Namajunas bolting Joanna Champion are all big moments in the sport.
- UFC 268: Probably the best card this year with a legit Fight of the Year contender on it and some really solid undercard action. Plus, Chris Barnett’s hook kick!
- UFC 230: Daniel Cormier becoming the first person to defend a title in two different weight classes, Jacare’s last win, and Israel Adesanya announcing himself for real. Decent little card if unspectacular.
- UFC 244: The UFC botched the BMF thing entirely and the fight was meh, plus this card had Derrick Lewis vs. Blagoy Ivanov on it. The less we remember of that the better.
As for Gaethje-Chandler, its great but beneath Poirier and Alvarez fights, and the Palomino wars. Right there in that Michael Johnson tier. God lord Justin Gaethje has blessed us with violence. What a gem.
Leon Edwards is cursed
Is Leon Edwards the most Unluckiest Fighter Ever ?— HONG KONG (@AbdullahShwihdi) November 12, 2021
Not at all. That distinction goes to Ian McCall (aside from the numerous unfortunate things that happened to him during his career, McCall has a tragic history outside the cage) with Dominick Cruz a clear cut second. And while Leon Edwards has had a tough go of things lately, I’m not sure this week counts towards that.
Look, Leon Edwards is a very good fighter, among the best welterweights in the world, but the fact of the matter is that he’s not particularly interesting to watch and he’s not particularly interesting on the mic. And there’s the rub, because as unlucky as Leon has certainly been these last few years, at some point you have to make your own luck. We’re talking about a guy with that dope Birmingham accent, and yet even when he’s trying to make things interesting, it still lands flat. If being cool was a dance battle, my man has two left feet.
Fortunately for Leon, it appears the MMA Gods have smiled upon him because as far as I can tell, Jorge Masvidal pulling out of their fight is the best thing that could’ve happened to him. Had the two fought at UFC 269, Edwards probably wins that bout, but he definitely doesn’t do it in a fashion that makes fans because Leon Edwards is literally never going to make fans by fighting (if you can name me a Leon Edwards highlight off the top of your head, congratulations, you are a family member of his). Instead, Leon would have won a decision that Masvidal would’ve downplayed with some controversial comment and then everyone would still hate Leon and we’re right back to square one. OR maybe Masvidal gets him and then Leon is well and truly f*cked.
BUT, because Masvidal pulled out with an undisclosed injury (horrendous PR from Masvidal’s team, name the injury or make one up, don’t leave it open like that) now Leon can claim Masvidal was always shook and then go on and fight Kamaru Usman next. He’s by far the most obvious choice for Usman’s next bout and the champ has previously noted that Leon deserves another go at him. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here and so, improbably, one of the unluckiest dudes in MMA has finally caught a break. Too bad that in the end it means he’s also going to catch a beating from Usman, but that’s the game we play.
Max Holloway vs. Yair Rodriguez
What kind of unspeakable things is Max gonna do to Yair?— tim van der heiden (@limsma) November 12, 2021
On Saturday night, Max Holloway fights Yair Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Vegas 42. It will be Yair’s first fight in over two years and whoever wins is likely getting the next featherweight tile shot. It’s going to be a bloodbath.
Look, Yair is a fun and flashy fighter with some really good wins on his resume, but Max Holloway is a goddamn buzzsaw and he is going to beat the friggin’ brakes off Yair. Remember, The Korean Zombie was on his way to being Rodriguez until the last-second Hail Mary elbow KO, and Zombie only landed 126 strikes in the whole fight. Max might put that up in the first round. He’s said he’d like to throw 900 strikes in this fight so it’s not at all crazy. Honestly, the biggest blocker I see is that I don’t think Yair will be able to hang around getting beat on like Calvin Kattar did.
I think Max Holloway is one of the best fighters in the world, bar none and the only reason he isn’t champion is because Alexander Volkanovski is also one of the best fighters in the world. Yair Rodriguez, on the other hand, is a good fighter who has an artificially high ranking, and he’s going up against a guy who is literally better than him at everything and who is trying to make a statement so he can get another title fight with Volko. This is gonna look like piranhas tearing into a side of beef that was dropped in the water. Holloway by TKO, Round 4.
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.