Though this week is a comparatively down week in MMA (no UFC event and the PFL and Bellator cards were far from their best efforts) the fallout from UFC 265 and the recent slate of combat sports news has brought us no shortage of things to talk about and many, many questions to cover, so let’s not guild this lily and just hop right into things.
Ciryl Gane, interim heavyweight champion
Do u think Gane will dethrone Ngannou after his performance against Lewis ?— HONG KONG (@AbdullahShwihdi) August 12, 2021
I have been a Francis Ngannou believer since his first fight in the UFC and I’ve been on the record, repeatedly, saying that he will go down as the heavyweight GOAT when his career is done. I was shouting this from the rooftops before his first fight with Stipe Miocic and I was still saying the same thing before they rematched earlier this year. But Ciryl Gane has a good damn chance to upend all of this.
For as much as we want MMA to be a sport of beautiful artistry and technical brilliance, the truth is that in the heavyweight division, technique and skill are far from the most important qualities. Durability, athleticism, and power are the defining characteristic of the best heavyweights in the world and in those respects, Ngannou has no equal. For my money, Ngannou is the best athlete MMA has ever seen other than Yoel Romero, and Ngannou has 50 pounds on him. BUT, in Gane he faces someone who is perhaps only 80 percent the athlete he is, but someone who has a much greater technical mastery and that is a very, very dangerous opponent.
To me, Gane is the spiritual successor to Fedor Emelianenko - a heavyweight who has the power of a true heavyweight but who possesses truly advanced technique and moves like a middleweight. Does that make him unbeatable? Certainly not, and the type of fighter who will beat him is a man like Ngannou, who can invalid Gane’s skill. But it’s a tough row to hoe for sure because unlike 95 percent of other heavyweights out there, you can be absolutely certain that Gane is not going to beat himself.
All of this could be moot. We’ve never really seen Gane have to deal with adversity and, no matter how skilled he is, there isn’t a man alive who can take a clean shot from Ngannou and retain his consciousness. At this very moment, I slightly favor Ngannou just because of his attributes but I think it’s only a matter of time before Gane is holding true UFC gold.
Vicente Luque tapped Michael Chiesa
Would Usman/Luque outsell Usman/Covington? Should the promotion punt Colby in favor of Vincente Luque?— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) August 11, 2021
I doubt it would do any better from a PPV standpoint but yes, absolutely the UFC should punt Colby Covington to the moon in favor of a Luque title shot.
First, let’s be clear, Luque is far from having an ironclad case for a title shot, I’m happy to admit that. He has one win in the last five years over a currently ranked welterweight and it is the Chiesa win. But still, a four-fight winning streak, all violent finishes, over good guys is nothing to sneeze at and it’s not like Covington’s resume is any better. Demian Maia is the only ranked dude on Covington’s resume and his one win since losing to Kamaru Usman is a fifth-round stoppage of a dude Luque put away in one.
This is why the UFC moving forward with Covington as the next title challenger was egregiously dumb. The organization was making overtures towards this fight for months despite there being several bouts between top guys in the division on the horizon and now they’re with a quagmire of stuff to navigate, and all for what? Nobody is actually clamoring for a Covington title shot because, try as he might, “Chaos” isn’t a big numbers driver.
Aside from the fact that we’ve already seen this fight once and the outcome now seems more clear than ever (Covington is a worse version of Usman in most every respect) the outcomes here aren’t great for the UFC. If Usman wins, well great, he’s the champion who is just fighting the same three people over and over again and if he loses, then COLBY FREAKING COVINGTON is their champion. Aside from the giant pain in the ass Covington would be getting him to defend his title against anyone, there’s a 50/50 chance that if he gets an actual title, he immediately says some horrific stuff and the UFC has to suspend him. It’s just not a good outcome. Fortunately, if there is anyone who can screw this up, it’s Covington. That man has a PhD in shooting himself in the foot. My great hope is that Covington has to delay the fight for some reason and so the UFC just brings in Luque and Covington instead, finally, has to fight Jorge Masvidal.
Speaking of fights that no one wants to see
Why should Dustin P. fight Nate Diaz instead of Charles Olivera ?— DOGExUFC (@DOGEUFC) August 12, 2021
For whatever reason, this week Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz rekindled talk of a fight against one another that makes zero sense in any respect beyond Poirier wanting the most money for the least work. Sure, they were supposed to fight once upon a time before Nate went all Nate on things and the bout got cancelled but what is the selling point right now? Poirier is the best lightweight in the world and honestly, would be a problem for everyone at welterweight too. Nate is . . . not that. Dustin would absolutely mop the floor with Nate and there is no reason for this to happen.
Poirier, please, just go win the true lightweight title and then go off galavanting around on your weird adventure fights.
Anderson Silva vs. Tito Ortiz
How the hell and why did Ortiz get the Silva fight?— Yves the Hardcore Casual (@CasualYves) August 12, 2021
I won’t lie, I did not see this one coming. However, I totally should have. Coming off his biggest win in nearly a decade, Silva deserves to get a softball to go out there and style on and can you think of anything easier for a snipe like Silva to do than to go tee off and the gigantic dome of Tito? Let’s be honest, Tito was never a good boxer anyway and without even the threat of a takedown, things are going to be awful for him. Anderson is going to have a higher hit percentage than his dissection of Chris Leben. It’s going to be awesome and I can’t wait to watch.
MMA and the Olympics
@JedKMeshew Early ? For #HotTweets: What to make of wrestling as almost the lone Olympic sport covered by MMA sites? Yes, it’s a major feeder sport. But should others like judo, boxing, taekwondo, karate view coverage gap as a red flag? Esp. with this https://t.co/8J4aWnxt9f— James Warden (@JamesWardenMN) August 9, 2021
No because the reality is MMA fights only really cover wrestling because it does serve as nearly a direct pipeline into the sport. Judo has obviously given us a few high profile names and other combat sports will occasionally send someone our way but if it’s not like the Taekwondo medal rounds are filled with with future MMA stars. And any boxer at the Olympics is almost certain to make a pro turn in their own sport which will pay them far more. Wrestling though maintains it’s position as being a sport that doesn’t pay well but is a great base for MMA. I’d wager that somewhere close to half the people who wrestled at the Olympics will end up trying their hand at MMA, at least once, and a few of them will end up being relevant fighters, like . . .
Gable Steveson to MMA
If Gable Stevenson transitioned to MMA which Gym do you think he should go with?— Immortal Alex (@KombatImmortal) August 13, 2021
First, shout out to Gable Steveson for his epic comeback to win the gold medal in Tokyo. That was absolutely insane.
Second, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: at this moment right now, there are several ranked UFC heavyweights that Steveson could whip the shit out of without training a day of MMA. Such is the nature of the heavyweight division.
But to answer the question, if Steveson is going to make the transition, American Kickboxing Academy seems the best option. Steveson is a midwest guy so maybe he’d prefer Roufusport which would be a fine alternative as well but Daniel Cormier is the ideal person to train Steveson as he changes sports and Javier Mendez has shown himself to be both an elite coach and highly successful in adding striking skills to great wrestlers. AKA makes the most sense to me.
However, I don’t believe it matters because for all the posturing he’s doing right now, Steveson isn’t coming to MMA, at least not yet. Because of COVID-19, the next Olympic games are only three years away and with two years of NCAA eligibility left, I would be shocked if Steveson didn’t return to college. Back at Minnesota, Steveson can continue enjoying the hell out of college and sharpening his skills to make a run at another gold medal. If he succeeds in doing that (a big task to be sure) he becomes one of the greatest American wrestlers ever and he’d still only be 24 years old! He would still have plenty of time to jump to professional wrestling or MMA, or hell, make another medal run and wait to change over til he’s 28.
Really, the world is Steveson’s oyster at this point.
Fighter of the Year
If AJ McKee beats Patricio Pitbull in a lightweight rematch, thereby becoming champ-champ by beating the champ-champ, is he the unquestioned Fighter of the Year in 2021?— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) August 12, 2021
No, I think he’d be clearly behind Kamaru Usman (assuming Usman defends against Covington). Don’t get me wrong, submitting Darrion Caldwell and Patricio Pitbull twice is an incredible feat but I think it’s just not as good as knocking out Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns and then whatever horrifying future awaits Covington later this year. Still, second place in a year where the guy who beats you begins to make a run at All Time Great status is not bad.
Conor McGregor’s Twitter rampage
Explain the particular psychology of the tweet-deleter please. Thank you.— JeffBahlo (@Autoheartrecord) August 12, 2021
As always, let’s wrap up with some Conor McGregor talk because “Notorious” has once again gone on Twitter rampage (that he then deleted), this time against Daniel Cormier.
I’d love to be able to explain what goes on in the mind of a Tweet-deleter but I’m not sure I truly understand. In some instances, the deletion is obvious: the person has crossed a line either out of passion or ignorance and is now walking it back. But in McGregor’s case, many of his Tweets are not “over the line” in a traditional sense. Sure, they’re uncouth and dumb but calling Cormier fat and celebrating Jon Jones’ KO over him isn’t unpalatable, especially given the brand and persona McGregor cultivates. The best I can figure is that someone on Conor’s PR team does have access to his Twitter account and when Conor gets some Proper 12 in him he starts shooting from the hip and then the PR rep does his best to clean up the evidence as he finds out about it.
On a related note, I’ve never had much patience for the antics of McGregor and I won’t lie to you, these past few months have been cathartic. Seeing McGregor lash out impotently at anything that even has the faint hint of criticism towards him is chicken soup for my Jose Aldo-loving soul. The man is clearly unable to cope with the fact that he isn’t the best fighter in the world, in fact, he’s far from it and his rants are becoming even more absurd than before. Now you want to take shots at Daniel Cormier? It reeks of desperation.
And I said it earlier this week on Between the Links, as bad as his statements about Poirier’s family and Khabib’s father were, at least he’s not out there committing actual crimes or punching old men in the head. If this is the worst it gets, it’s not good, but it’s better than we’ve seen.
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.