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Hot Tweets: The UFC 258 main event and Frankie Edgar’s scary knockout loss

Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal
Kamaru Usman, left, will try to defend his UFC title in the UFC 258 main event Saturday.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

On Saturday night, UFC 258 goes down with a main event that features one of the rarest things in MMA: a-friends-turned-foes title fight! Kamaru Usman looks to break Georges St-Pierre’s record for most consecutive welterweight wins when he defends his title against his former teammate and training partner Gilbert Burns. It’s actually a really interesting matchup so let’s talk about that, Kelvin Gastelum’s return, and the end of the road for a pair of MMA legends. (Also, thanks everyone for not asking about Gina Carano. You’re all real heroes!)

Usman vs. Burns - who ya got and what happens next?

I’ll be honest with you, I can’t decide if Usman-Burns is an unheralded great fight or a fight that, when we look back on it, is going to age like milk. My best guess is that it’s probably the former, but I still can’t shake the feeling that Gilbert Burns’ welterweight run has been smoke and mirrors.

Don’t get me wrong, Burns is clearly a pretty talented fighter, but he’s also a guy who was a bit of an also-ran at lightweight. And Burns was never a guy at lightweight that you thought, “Man, I can’t believe he’s making the weight class. He’s clearly compromising himself.” So why is he suddenly a world-beater at 170? Did the weight cut really hurt him? (Maybe) Is lightweight that much better than welterweight? (Sure is) Has he just improved dramatically? (Very possible) Maybe it’s some combination of all of those but I think there’s also just the very real possibility that Burns is a good fighter who fell into a highly favorable series of opponents.

Alexey Kunchenko is a middling welterweight; Gunnar Nelson is a grappler who is decent but not great at fighting; and Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley were both on the downslope of their careers when he beat them. Now, that doesn’t entirely detract from those wins, but if we’re trying to make an honest assessment of where Burns rates right this moment among welterweights, I genuinely have no idea. And that’s a problem because we know exactly how good Kamaru Usman is: he’s the best welterweight since Georges St-Pierre.

All that aside, from an Xs and Os standpoint, I feel like Usman is going to roll over Burns here. Usman is bigger, stronger, hits harder, is a better wrestler, and works at a much higher rate than Burns does. I struggle to see how Burns consistently puts himself in positions to win the fight. He is not going to consistently get takedowns on Usman, meaning his world-class grappling is nullified, and on the feet, Usman can out work him with volume and pressure, not to mention he can always force Burns into clinches and grind the fight out there whenever he wants. All signs seem to point to a clear-cut performance from the champion.

Now, given that, what happens next seems clear: Usman has said he wants to fight Jorge Masvidal with a full camp and that’s what he’ll get. A fight between Masvidal and Colby Covington is no closer to being realized than it ever has been, and in fact, now the UFC is looking to book Covington vs. Leon Edwards for next month. That definitely won’t happen, but they’ll spend so much time on it that Edwards it will open the door for Masvidal and Usman to settle up once more. It’s the biggest money fight the UFC can do, after all in the division.

(And for the sake of covering my bases, if Burns does win, they’ll do an automatic rematch between he and Usman).

Kelvin Gastelum

Would you like to know a fun fact about Kelvin Gastelum? Ready? He’s never beaten a good fighter in their prime in his entire career (well, okay, in the UFC - I can’t speak confidently about his pre-UFC days).

Seriously, go look at his record. Here are his UFC wins (with commentary): Brian Melancon (retired after), Rick Story (not washed but weathered), Nico Musoke (okay), Nate Marquardt (washed), Johny Hendricks (washed), Tim Kennedy (washed), Vitor Belfort (washed), Michael Bisping (decrepit), Jacare Souza (washed). SEVEN of his 10 UFC wins are over guys who are retired (and one more is over someone who should retire). That’s A LOT for a guy who is only 29.

Now, this is where some of you are apoplectic with rage, noting that Gastelum went hammer and tongs with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and should have beaten Darren Till. Well, if I had wheels, I’d be a wagon. KG lost both of those fights and then he got insta-tapped by Jack Hermansson. Any way you slice it, the man has been on a real bad run. Of course, none of this is to say that he’s going to lose to Ian Heinisch on Saturday night. Heinisch would be by far the worst fighter to ever beat him. I’m just pointing out that, not unlike Burns, his “doing well” feels more attributable to the makeup of the division as opposed to Gastelum’s own excellence. But I suppose we’ll see in just a few hours.

As for what comes next: Gastelum is a name that Dana White likes so if he wins, I’m betting on the fight with Robert Whittaker finally getting made. If he loses, shit, the glue factory? Even for a young, well-liked guy, four in a row is tough to rebound from, and as I mentioned earlier, Heinisch would be by far his worst loss to date. I wouldn’t be stunned if the UFC cut him and he went to Bellator.

Pay-Per-View Piracy

Sometimes you’ve got to be subtle to catch people unawares. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Dana White has never been low key about anything in his life. Man has all the subtlety of a fog horn. My assumption is that he can’t really spend time focusing on internet piracy right now because he is too busy mourning a bad break up. Sure, Khabib vs. Conor 2 was never going to happen and was objectively bad for everyone, but that doesn’t mean his feelings weren’t real, and gosh darn it, getting your heart broken sucks.

Speaking of which . . .

329,678. Conservatively.

This entire fiasco has been one of the most entertaining things in MMA in years. As stated, Dana White has never been a man of subtlety but he’s usually not this oafishly ham-handed. White just flat out said recently that if he can contrive a scenario to put the title on Conor, he thinks Khabib will come back for one more.

And really, that’s all this is to White. He sees an opportunity to break their own PPV record. This is the only fight that can do that and so he f*cking wants it. You notice how he’s not enticing Khabib back for GSP or even Kamaru Usman? Because White doesn’t give a shit about that. He cares only about one thing ever, the almighty dollar and it’s never going to happen and it reveals just how much Dana doesn’t understand Khabib. Honestly, it’s just funny as hell.

Dana White, the capitalist

Pretty simple, you just have to accept that MMA has always been a money-making venture first and a sport second. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it can be annoying because it makes things far more mercurial and impinges on some latent sense of justice we have, but it also leads to some pretty cool shit (and conversely, a strict meritocracy leads to a lot of really boring shit).

Remember when Dan Henderson almost knocked out Michael Bisping to win the UFC title in his retirement fight? That was friggin’ dope. Or conversely, remember when the UFC made Mirko f*cking Cro Cop take two fights before getting a title shot and then he got Cro Copped by Gabriel Gonzaga? That was kinda fun but mostly idiotic and prevented Cro Cop-Couture, all for the sake of meritocracy. If you told me we could have a totally meritocratic system in the UFC, I think I’d probably accept that offer but I’d definitely regret it from time to time.

I guess what I’m saying is, yeah the UFC is often a calamity and a lot of that can be tracked back to the whims of Dana White, but life is too short to get fussed up about that. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, because in the end, there are going to be some good fights.

The last rides of Alistair Overeem and Frankie Edgar

Seeing as the circumstances surrounding both men and their careers are dramatically different, I’ll answer them separately.

Alistair Overeem is one of the most accomplished fighters in MMA history. He has a trophy case full of titles and a resume littered with Hall of Famers. I think he can safely call himself one of the five best heavyweights of all-time, and his career at light heavyweight was not shabby either. He’s the definition of a legend of the sport. And I hope to God that he never fights again.

Overeem has been knocked out 15 times in his career and that number alone should be enough to justify his retirement. I do not want to see him add to that number, but if he keeps fighting at 40 years old, it’s going to keep happening. Sure, he can still win fights too, but the odds losing only increase as you age. You don’t get less knock out-able as you get older. If he keeps fighting, there’s a very real possibility that he becomes a cautionary tale, and no one should want that.

I wrote about Overeem last weekend before Alexander Volkov put the boots to him and what I wrote there still stands. Though he never won a UFC title, Overeem has nothing to prove in this sport. He’s leagues better than many men who wore UFC gold and he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no question. But for him to continue competing at this point would be a dereliction of duty for everyone involved.

As for Frankie Edgar, I feel substantially similar, but with one major caveat. Like Overeem, Edgar is a lock for the Hall of Fame and has nothing left to prove. Moreover, anything he may think he has to prove, he pretty obviously is not going to be able to at this stage of his career. He’s never claiming a belt again, so why keep fighting?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: money. I’m sure Edgar is not struggling financially, however, this is prize fighting, and I’m confident that inside the cage is where Edgar can make the most money. And unlike with Overeem, I feel that Edgar can continue to compete, so long as he, and the UFC, are realistic about it.

Cory Sandhagen did not obliterate Frankie Edgar because Edgar’s chin is gone (it’s faded but not shot). He nuked him because Sandhagen is a much more dangerous fighter at this point in their careers. Edgar is still a very capable fighter, but he’s not a spring chicken anymore and the top of 135 is populated by straight killers. So for Edgar to continue fighting, that simply means he no longer faces elite guys. Put Edgar on the Legend’s tour against other faded stars. Dominick Cruz, Jimmie Rivera, Raphael Assuncao, hell, even a trilogy with Jose Aldo. Those are the fights Edgar should be taking. Ones where the wash is even on both sides and neither man is likely to be concussed into oblivion.

To be clear, I think Edgar should retire also. The point of fighting is to get your money and get out with your health intact. Edgar has secured the bag and his legacy and seems to be okay physically. The smart idea is to quit while you’re ahead. But if he chooses to keep competing, I think that’s acceptable, at least for now. But if Dominick Cruz bolts him in his next fight, different story.

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.

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