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Hot Tweets: Weight-cutting in MMA, UFC Vegas 22, and the new lightweight title picture

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@TheSchmo312, Twitter

A lot has happened this past week (really, a lot happened in the past 48 hours) so here’s a brief recap: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad ended in a no-contest when Edwards poked Muhammad in the eye; Edwards said he doesn’t want to rematch Muhammad; the UFC announced the return of full fan events starting with UFC 261 in Jacksonville, which also had Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal 2 officially announced; Dana White finally accepted Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement and made a vacant title fight between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler; Julija Stoliarenko nearly died on the scale, TWICE; oh, and Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland are fighting tonight. That’s a lot of ground to cover so let’s get to it.


Weight-cutting in MMA

Petr Yan’s knee on Aljamain Sterling is the dumbest thing in MMA because there is literally no logical reason for it and the results were catastrophic. Cutting weight is different. There is at least a reasonable thought progression that can lead you to believing weight-cutting is correct, even if it’s objectively horrible. So this is a little bit of semantics but cutting weight isn’t the dumbest thing in MMA, it’s the most irresponsible thing.

Here’s the reasoning for cutting weight: being bigger is an advantage in fighting. This is true on both a micro and macro level as Adesanya’s failed title bid against Jan Blachowicz showed. Adesanya lost that bout for many reasons but chief among them was the simple fact that Jan was a much bigger dude than he is. That’s the underlying principle that causes fighters to cut weight. Building upon that, cutting weight is not an entirely irresponsible thing to do. You can safely remove some percentage of your body weight by doing so and then rehydrate easily enough and with no ill effects. The problem comes when you take that process too far.

Because other fighters cut weight, that leads some fighters to cut more weight, which in turn leads to more weight-cutting. It’s a downward spiral of negative reciprocity. Yes, some fighters ultimately realize that there is a clear point of diminishing returns when it comes to draining yourself, but a vast number more who don’t see that. You’re talking about people who almost down to a man believe they are the best fighter in the world, despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary for most of them. Of course they all believe they are the outliers to weight cutting, they are the ones who can do it without issue.

Ultimately, all of this leads back to the administrators involved. Professional fighters, by definition, spend their entire lives making the decision to trade their health and safety for the hope of riches and glory. The only thing that will protect them from themselves is the implementation of safety protocols that they cannot object to. Unfortunately, it seems like the only way that is going to happen will be if someone dies on the scale and sadly, that tragedy is a matter of when, not if. Just look at what happened yesterday.

Julija Stoliarenko’s team should never have allowed her to do what she was attempting to do and should’ve stopped her cut long before she stepped on the scale. But, much like with corners throwing in the towel, they did not do their jobs to protect their fighter. Following that, NO ONE should have allowed her to step back up a second time. Not her team, not the UFC, not the officials, not even the media in attendance. In all seriousness, everyone involved in that should be fired. It is unconscionable negligence on the part of everyone there who are all, ostensibly, adults to sit idly by while someone so obviously compromised returned to the scale to weigh in for a fistfight in 24 hours.

What happened with Stoliarenko yesterday is scary, not just because it was obviously dangerous but because it is by no means an isolated incident. Dramatic, dangerous weight cuts happen frequently in MMA now and eventually those hens will come home to roost. At some point in time, a fighter will die in the UFC and it won’t be because of knees to the head of a grounded opponent, or soccer kicks, or steroids. It will be because the UFC and the regulators and commissions spent years, decades really, ignoring the warning signs.


Derek Brunson vs. Kevin Holland

Right now, the UFC middleweight title picture is in weird spot because Adesanya has beaten many of the top contenders and the ones he hasn’t beaten have all lost recently. Moreover, Robert Whittaker clearly deserves another crack at Adesanya but the champ seems to have little interest in running that one back and so instead keeps trying to elevate Darren Till to title contention status despite the fact that Till arguably isn’t great at fighting (he should have lost all of his recent wins and his only good win is over Donald Cerrone). And so with all the weirdness happening at the top of 185, that means what happens a few rungs down is extremely muddled.

My best guess is this: if Whittaker beats Paulo Costa they give him another shot at Adesanya, but if Costa wins they do Izzy vs. the winner of Till vs. Marvin Vettori. That would then leave Costa to face the winner of tonight’s bout in a title eliminator and Jared Cannonier facing the loser of Vettori-Till. However it shakes out tonight though, the winner is basically guaranteed to need one more fight for a title shot, but that fight will almost certainly be a number-one contender bout.

ASIDE: I’m fascinated by tonight’s fight. Holland looked so good all of last year but some of it feels like it might be a little bit of good timing. Meanwhile, Brunson has traditionally come up short in these exact scenarios but he seems to have turned a corner and his physicality can pose problems to the smaller Holland. There’s a lot at play in this one and I’m expecting it to be a very fun fight.


The lightweight title picture now

You know what’s fun? The UFC has decided the best, most logical way to replace the greatest fighter of all time in the greatest division ever is to have the third and fourth-ranked guys in that division fight for the vacant belt. In the scheme of “paper” UFC titles, this one might be the flimsiest.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler is an excellent fight and I have nothing against either man (well, that might not be true, I kinda don’t like Chandler), but setting them up for the vacant title is just a bold-faced admission by the UFC that belts don’t mean anything. Dustin Poirier is very clearly the best non-Khabib lightweight on the planet and having any sort of title fight without him is absurd. Which then begs the question why isn’t he in the title fight and that’s where things get really stupid (arguably stupider than Petr Yan’s knee, but I digress).

Dustin Poirier is the uncrowned king of the division. That’s not really in dispute among any reasonable person. The reason he is not fighting for the lightweight title because he is going to rematch Conor McGregor this summer, which is not stupid. Fighting Conor is worth more money so that’s obviously what Poirier should do. However, the UFC could just make Poirier vs. McGregor for the lightweight title, but they opted not to do that. WTF?!

The only possible explanation for that is because Conor hasn’t won at lightweight in years but that’s like selling your run down house to buy two timeshares. Sure, Conor hasn’t won at lightweight in years but if he beats Poirier, he beats the best lightweight in the world! Meanwhile, the winner of Oliveira-Chandler will undeniably be the lightweight champion but will just as equally undeniably NOT be the best lightweight in the world. In fact, depending how that fight goes, there will be a very legitimate argument that the winner is not even in the top five lightweights in the world! (Khabib, Poirier, Gaethje, Conor, Patricio Pitbull).

The whole thing is really idiotic and reeks of galaxy brain thinking. “We want to preserve the legitimacy and meritocracy of the division so let’s have, by our own definition, two dudes who aren’t the top two contenders fight for the title vacated by the GOAT.” Cracker Jack job, UFC.

As for Gaethje, he definitely is left out in the lurch here which is really the biggest pile of shit in this whole mess. Gaethje is the most recent interim title holder and yet is AT BEST two fights away from getting the belt now. That’s insane. Had Khabib retired instead of fighting Gaethje, the man would’ve been the undisputed champion but instead because he lost to the best lightweight ever, now he has to sit in line behind a guy who got KOed by a featherweight two years ago and a guy whose best win is beating up the dude Gaethje savaged to win his interim title. And now Gaethje is probably going to have to fight some Rafael dos Anjos or Islam Makhachev, guys who are incredibly tough outs and provide little in the way of profile-raising value. The UFC is ruthless, man.


Colby Covington’s similar predicament

Like Gaethje, Colby Covington now finds himself on the outside looking in of the UFC title picture but unlike Gaethje, this issue is entirely of his own making. Covington lost to Kamaru Usman and has fought once since then and as much as Covington wants to cry foul, the loss was legitimate and definitive. He knows, or should have known, that he needs two wins to get a rematch and thus far, he only has one. Pretty obviously he was not going to get a title shot off that one win and yet instead he’s been refusing to fight anyone and generally just doing Colby things. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. By far this man’s best skill is negotiating himself into terrible corners.

Here’s what will happen with “Chaos”. He’s going to piss and moan about the welterweight title fight forever, and he will probably show up to UFC 261 on his own dime. If Masvidal somehow wins, he will then do his best to sneak in for the first title shot but he’ll fail because the UFC will make a trilogy fight. Assuming Usman wins, Colby will also try to angle for a title fight but Usman will say no and fight the winner of the Leon Edwards-Stephen Thompson fight we all know is coming. Ultimately, that’s gonna leave Covington to fight Gilbert Burns sometime late this summer, meaning he won’t have any hope for a title fight until the winter, at best. The Art of the Deal in action.


UFC 261 and fans

Of course. It’s not the least bit surprising though. Dana White attempted to run an event during COVID despite literally every other sports organization shutting down. He was always going to rush back to full fan attendance events the moment some state would let him. And Florida is Florida.

Look, this is very simple: there is literally not one good reason to have fans in attendance yet. The UFC doesn’t need the marginal profit increase by allowing fans. White told anyone who would listen that last year was their best year ever. This is an ego trip. He wants to be the first one back and by god, he will be. Sure, half a million people have died from COVID in the U.S. alone and this needlessly endangers thousands of people but who cares, amirite?

Moreover, they’re doing this in friggin Jacksonville. Returning to a full fan event in like, Dallas Cowboy stadium or something like that would at least seem impressive and could be spun to be seen as a turning point moment. Hell, even doing it in Miami to try to catch the vibe of Jorge Masvidal’s city, would have some redeeming factors there. But no, they’re doing it in Jacksonville, the land of bridges and abject sadness. It’s actually a perfect metaphor for the UFC’s entire aesthetic: something Dana White thinks is cool because he lives inside an Affliction T-Shirt from the early 2000s, but is actually just gross and depressing.


Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou II

The real answer is because odds are intended to draw two-way action on fights and more people are/will be betting on Ngannou. Now for why that would be the case, I imagine it boils down to the fact that despite what happened in their first encounter, this one seems like Ngannou has the edge. Here’s my reasoning:

Miocic has a tendency to get hurt in all of his fights, and since the last time they fought, Daniel Cormier colded him once. Ngannou makes Cormier look like Matt Hughes when it comes to punching power. Add in that Miocic is 38 now and Ngannou is far more experienced and shouldn’t dump all his energy in the first four minutes and things seem to lean towards the challenger.

But what really pushes me over the edge to pick Ngannou is their first fight. In that bout, Ngannou was completely spent after five minutes. I mean he was done. And yet he still made it to the final bell. That Miocic had a gassed fighter in front of him for 20 minutes and couldn’t get a finish has always stuck with me. If Miocic can’t stop Ngannou when he’s fully compromised, then it seems unlikely he’ll be able to do it against a more mature version who doesn’t empty the tank immediately. Which means instead of having to survive five minutes, now Stipe has to survive 25 minutes without eating the big shots. That’s a tall, tall order.

Ngannou by KO, Round 3.


Jon Jones at heavyweight

Why’d you put that evil out into the world? Damn you.


Lightweight

There is not. That’s why what Khabib accomplished is so unbelievably special.


Jon Jones vs. Israel Adesanya

I’m about to do something I have never done before: agree with Jon Jones. Though Jones has said many very dumb things about Israel Adesanya recently, the one thing he has said that is totally true is that their rivalry is over. Adesanya has been weighed, he has been measured, and he was found wanting. Adesanya is now several years removed from moving back up to 205 and Jones is never dropping back down again. Those two ships will forever be passing in the night at this point. However, there could be a way to redirect one of those ships into a head on collision.

The roots of fighting are in resolving disputes and problems with another party. The two men clearly have a problem with one another but at this moment, Jon Jones has literal bigger fish to fry. So Adensaya needs to change the calculus. He can’t do enough inside the cage the realistically make a fight between the two “correct” but he can do plenty outside the cage to make Jones want to fight him, despite the “step down” it would be. In short, Jones has an enormous ego and HATES Adesanya. Izzy has to lean into that.

To make this fight happen, Adesanya simply needs to talk a massive, unrelenting amount of shit to Jon Jones. Don’t be cagey, don’t be coy, don’t subtweet the man; use every available moment on the mic to call him a coward, a vagrant, a bum, whatever. Say that yeah, I lost a close fight to Jan but Jan would’ve knocked Jones out. That’s why Jones vacated his belt, because he was afraid of the new era of contenders at 205 and wanted to fight those slow guys at heavyweight. Call for a fight at any weight. Show up and heckle him at all his future fights. Be relentlessly, unabashedly horrible to Jones and make him want to fight you. Essentially, go full Conor McGregor.

Though McGregor failed to coax a rematch out of Khabib, it wasn’t for lack of trying, and where McGregor failed, Adesanya can succeed. Jones is not Khabib. You may not like Khabib but it’s fairly inarguable that he doesn’t not give a shit what anyone else thinks. Jones, on the other hand, is obsessed with what other people think. That’s why when other people starting calling Khabib the GOAT (something Khabib has never really said, at least not in comparison to Jones), Jones went off the rails with a tweetstorm talking shit about a lightweight who went 29-0 and never once said a bad word about him. Jones has an ego made of papier-mâché. All Izzy needs to do is keep poking Jones and eventually he will fold.


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.