Today we have one of the rarest events in MMA: a Saturday without a UFC event. But despite the lack of a fight card from the biggest promotion in the world, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to talk about. UFC 260 took place last weekend where we saw the dawning of a new heavyweight era as Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic to claim the title and then, immediately after, Dana White threw Jon Jones under the bus in the most aggressive manner possible. Plus we got the second rarest occurrence in MMA this week as well: a Nate Diaz fight announcement, and boy was it a weird one. So, let’s jump into your questions about all the things happening in the sport right now.
What’s next for Stipe Miocic?
What’s next for Stipe? Jon & Lewis are the names being talked about for Francis, which puts a trilogy at least 1yr away. He’s 38 and hasn’t fought in a non-title fight in 5 years. He’s cemented his position in heavyweight history, so anything else doesn’t do much for his legacy.— FightPicks (@fightpicks) March 31, 2021
What’s next is Stipe Miocic will go home, recover, and probably fight at the end of this year. Though the man is no spring chicken, he’s also not that old for the heavyweight division and he made it clear leading up to UFC 260 that he’s not looking to retire anytime soon. I think fans forget that for most fighters, legacy is not the end-all-be-all of prizefighting, it’s the prize. Fighting is a job and in Stipe’s case, a very lucrative one, so since he still likes doing and still wants to continue, he will fight on. Fortunately, there are no shortage of options for him either.
A fun fact about Miocic is that though he’s widely considered the greatest UFC heavyweight ever, he has practically no wins over the current crop of ranked heavies. Seriously, check it out. Since Stipe has spent his last three years in a trilogy with Daniel Cormier and before that beat up a bunch of old dudes who have since left the UFC, he currently has one win over a top-15 heavyweight, the first win over Ngannou. That means Stipe has a huge pool of heavyweights to choose from for his return bout that will be new, interesting matchups, and basically any heavyweight who gets a win over the next six months is going to call him out. Stipe can fight whoever he wants, other than Ngannou.
Ultimately, I suspect the UFC will go with either Ciryl Gane or Alexander Volkov for Miocic’s next fight because neither of those men have faced Ngannou and that fight would functionally be a number-one contender match. Ngannou will defend against Derrick Lewis this summer and then face the winner of that bout in December, while Jon Jones and the UFC continue their Cold War.
Speaking of Jon Jones
Should promoters badmouth fighters currently on their own roster?— LW (@LW_FMD) March 31, 2021
Well, that depends. In a rational world where promoters are interested in maximizing fan interest and revenue? No they absolutely should not. However, in an upside down world where the promoter is directly incentivized to minimize fighter pay because he makes a percentage of profits and already has monopsony control exacerbated by restrictive contracts? Then yeah, they probably should.
I wrote about this earlier this week in The Great Divide so instead of rehashing all of that here, I’ll point you to that article and just say that this is nothing new in the UFC. Scrooge Mc”He’s-ducking-the-fight” has been using this same bullsh*t line for a decade because what else is he going to say, the truth? That could only end poorly for him whereas just suggesting that Jon Jones is either stupid or afraid will instead result in a modicum of bad press and nothing more. The only way this ever changes is either the fans decide to stop buying PPVs - which will never happen, just look at how many bootlickers rush to White’s defense whenever he does this bush league nonsense - or the fighters stop cutting each other’s throats to the benefit of all - which will also never happen because if the company selling for $4 billion wasn’t a wake-up call, then nothing will ever get through to them.
So yeah, I guess it is a good move by the promoter to actively run down the people he’s supposed to promote. Welcome to The Upside Down.
Nate Diaz vs.... Leon Edwards?
If Diaz beats edwards does he get a crack at the belt?— Daniel Pompilio (@elpompilio) March 31, 2021
First off, let’s start but just acknowledging how batsh*t crazy this fight announcement was. Nate has not fought since the shellacking he took from Jorge Masvidal and though he had been tweeting often, there was no real indication he was coming back soon. Then suddenly he’s fighting a dude who has minimal widespread appeal and is coming off an eye-poke No Contest in his last bout? WHAT?!
If you had told me this was going to happen I would have derided you as an idiot. This is seriously the last fight I would have ever expected Nate to come back to, which begs the question, why would heBecause, as you pointed out in your question, Nate is getting a title shot with a win.
The welterweight division is currently in one of the weirdest spots we’ve ever seen a division get to. It has a dominant champion who has beaten the top four contenders but even still (or perhaps because of that) none of those top contenders want to fight anyone other than the champion (Gilbert Burns is the exception but we’ll talk about him later). This gamble worked out for Jorge Masvidal, who is getting a rematch with Kamaru Usman, but in general it doesn’t succeed and so the next title challenger after Usman dominated Masvidal again will be whoever can get a marquee win, AKA the winner of Edwards-Diaz. AKA Leon Edwards.
Edwards, honestly, deserves a title shot already. He deserved one before the Belal Muhammad fiasco and that really hasn’t changed. However, the UFC doesn’t want to book that because no one outside of Edwards’ immediate family gives a cow fart about “Rocky” so they’re in a position where they either need to Jon Fitch this man and just get it over with so we never have to consider it again, or they need to make people at least know who Edwards is. They tried doing that with Khamzat Chimaev but that fight is cursed so now they’re gonna do it with Nate and honestly, fair play to them. When Nate and Conor both lose this year, then they can finally set up the trilogy. And if Nate somehow wins, then Usman will immediately call for that fight and poor Stephen Thompson will be out in the cold.
Five Round Non-Title Fights
Now that five round non title co-mains are one they table, what fights come to mind as possibly ending differently and what kind of immediate effect would it have had on the division?— creepy slowed down version of an upbeat song (@high_light) March 31, 2021
By far the most interesting part of the whole Nate Diaz returning thing was the announcement that it would be a five round co-main event, the first in UFC history. This is long, long, overdue and hopefully this will be the new normal instead of a one-off. Grown-ass men and women fight should be fighting 25 minutes and maybe now we will finally get that.
We need to have 25-minute non-title fights because TITLE FIGHTS ARE 25 MINUTES. It makes absolute zero sense for two people who could ostensibly fight for the title next, to only fight 15 minutes. Like, Zabit Magomedsharipov could easily end up fighting for a title in the next 12 months and the man has never been in a 25 minute fight! That’s categorically insane. I’ve said it for years, all fights between ranked fighters should be for 25 minutes and there’s no good reason not to have them that way. If you’re worried about how that would affect the time of events, one, no you aren’t, these things already drag on for eight hours, stop lying, and two, just have fewer fights. Really, I swear it will be fine if we don’t have 12 fights on every card where the bottom third of them are between 4-1 fighters. It’s okay to let more fighters develop before signing with the UFC.
As for the question, well, the reason I’m so geared up about 25 minute fights is because that ten extra minutes is a huge difference and can have far-reaching implications for divisions as a whole as we will see later this month. At UFC 261, aside from the main event rematch that we saw literally last year and will look identical, there are also two women’s title fights: a flyweight scrap between Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade and a strawweight bout between Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas. And if we had 25-minute non-title bouts then we wouldn’t be getting either of these fights.
Namajunas rematched Andrade this past July and won a split decision that saw Andrade simply run out of time. By the end of the third, Namajunas was BUSTED UP and the tide had firmly turned in Andrade’s favor. With ten more minutes, Andrade would have pretty clearly won that fight but that’s not the way the game works. So instead, Namajunas was set up to face the champion and Andrade moved up to flyweight where she got a big win and now is fighting for a different belt. Let’s be clear, from a fan perspective, this is actually probably a better outcome as both of these fights are fantastic. However, if you’re talking about MMA as a meritocracy, it seems fairly undeniable (to me at least) that Andrade is a better strawweight than Namajunas, or at least has her number, and yet that’s not the facts on the ground anymore.
It’s 2021, let’s have elite fighters fight like elite fighters are supposed to.
Tyron Woodley, is he done?
Is this the last time that we will see Woodley in the Octagon ?— TRAPPIST-1e (@aliahme86429003) March 31, 2021
My guess is yes, but perhaps not for the reason you think.
First, credit to Woodley who actually did look improved in the Luque fight. Yes, I know he got submitted in the first round but Woodley’s issue lately has been a lack of offense and that cannot be said about this fight. Woodley came out and made a fight of it, he just played that game with the wrong guy. That’s still a better outcome than had he just shelled up for 15 minutes.
But regardless of the improvement, the fact of the matter is that Woodley is now 38 years old has lost 16 consecutive rounds. That’s not good by any standard. The calls for Woodley to retire will only grow louder now that he was finished finished (instead of an injury) and, if he was purely concerned about his health then Woodley should heed those call. However, I have the distinct impression that Woodley is not ready to hang them up so he’s probably going to fight again. That being said, it may not be in the UFC.
In recent months the UFC has been aggressively downsizing some of their aging, big-name talent in exchange for the cheaper Contender Series fighters and Woodley could easily find himself in that group. He and the UFC have never had the best relationship and there’s a genuine question of if his name adds anything to cards anymore after this current skid. The most likely outcome seems to me that the UFC will release “The Chosen One”, so he will go somewhere like Bellator or PFL. Or perhaps they will attempt to Anderson Silva him and give him one more “retirement” fight so he can try to go out on a win. Either way, Woodley’s time with the UFC is quickly coming to an end.
Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson
What do you think about a Wonderboy x Gilbert Burns matchup? It seems like they could be on a collision course with Colby saying no to Durinho and Leon taking on Nate. Plus they both seem anxious to get back to the octagon, could be a fun one— ap (@adam_peek33) April 1, 2021
Well, this tweet could be prescient as it seems that Burns and Wonderboy will be fighting at UFC 264, and that’s awesome. It’s a great fight and one that, if Wonderboy wins, should lock him in for a title shot against Kamaru Usman. Conversely, if Burns wins its a great rebound for him and puts him in a position where he only needs one more win to get another crack at the belt.
The only person this seems bad for is Leon Edwards because if Wonderboy wins, it seems like Edwards will be getting passed over, even if he does beat Nate. Fortunately for Edwards, at first glance I favor Burns to get the W here. Wonderboy is still a tricky bastard to deal with for anyone but powerful punchers with fast hands have proven to be hard for him to manage and as he’s getting older, those reflexes are slowing down even more. Basically, it kinda feels like Burns can do what Woodley and Anthony Pettis did to Thompson at this stage of their respective careers.
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor III
What do you think about Poirier's decision to pass on the title fight to rematch McGregor? Was it the right call? And what is your prediction for the fight?— S K (@gregenigmeran) April 2, 2021
The long rumored Poirier-McGregor trilogy fight looks to be a hair away from becoming official and while it’s not unexpected, that doesn’t make it suck any less.
Let’s be clear, Poirier passing on the title for a payday against McGregor is categorically the correct choice for him. McGregor is where the money is and the point of this game is to get paid and get out with as many brain cells as possible. But it really is a huge condemnation MMA in general that we’ve collectively created a reality where the best choice for a fighter is not to fight for the belt and it’s also a huge condemnation of the UFC that the best fighter in the division is not fighting for the title. I wrote about this the other week, but it’s a friggin’ joke that depending on the outcome of the actual title fight this summer, the man holding the UFC lightweight title, the most prestigious belt in the entire sport, will arguably not even be a top-five 155er (Khabib Nurmagomedov, Poirier, Justin Gaethje, McGregor if he beats Poirier, and Patricio Pitbull would all be objectively more accomplished than Michael Chandler).
As for the fight itself, I’m sure we’ll talk about this more in the lead up to it but I’m picking Poirier again. Heading into their rematch I thought Poirier was just a much better fighter than McGregor and that proved to be true. In the trilogy, sure McGregor can make adjustments but so can Poirier and “The Diamond” has more tools to work with and MUCH better coaches. Conor still hits hard (though much less hard than people think, especially at lightweight) and has great timing so he’s always got a chance but the evidence is mounting that McGregor really is a glass cannon and Poirier has proven himself to be among the most battle-tested fighters in the division. On balance, Poirier is going to win this fight far more often than not, even if Conor can figure out the calf kicks.
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.