Howdy, y’all! UFC London somehow feels like it was a month ago with all the things that happened this week. Jorge Masvidal got arrested for allegedly sucker punching Colby Covington, Bellator did some dumb stuff, and we’ve got yet another UFC Fight Night tonight – plus, of course, some London stuff. So without further ado, let’s get down to business.
How would you estimate Colby's Return On Investment on this character he's playing, and how do you see his career playing out a year from now?— Sommer (@MmaSommer) March 25, 2022
It’s really tough to tell what sort of return Covington has gotten from his pro-wrestling heel turn schtick at this point. Once upon a time, I thought that Colby, though a bit heavy-handed about it, has actually stumbled onto a viable gimmick. The MMA fan base skews conservative and being the loudest MAGA fighter, and also a very good fighter, gave Covington the inside track on an actual star turn. But honestly, I’m not sure it ever paid off for him, in part because he did end up losing to Usman. Had he won that fight, things might have worked out differently. But then again, if he was actually the best welterweight in the world, he may not have needed all dumb stuff in the first place. It’s tough to gauge.
What isn’t tough to gauge though is what has happened over the past year and change. Since Donald Trump was voted out of office, Covington has largely eschewed the political talk (unlike, say, Bryce Mitchell) and has instead focused heavily on his exceedingly bad trash-talking, and I think the returns on that have been unequivocally successful, albeit awful.
Simply put, if Covington never adopts his “Dollar Store Chael Sonnen” bit, he never fights Jorge Masvidal, which is the biggest fight of his career – outside of the title fights – and he damn sure isn’t having his name thrown out as a possible contender for Israel Adesanya (as dumb as it may be). If Covington had simply stayed in his lane and worked his way up the ladder, he would have earned a welterweight title shot and probably faded back into the relative obscurity of the top-10, where he would have had to fight legitimate opposition to run one back with Usman. Instead, he has spent the last four years fighting guys who are well past their primes, or losing to Usman, all while retaining his status as the second-best fighter in the division. That’s a pretty good gig, and one I think Covington would absolutely do again if he could go back.
What’s gonna happen to Jorge?— Ken (@kennyyanng) March 24, 2022
He’s going to pay a fine, have to fix Colby’s watch, and then probably rematch Covington.
I’m not here to condone what Masvidal did. We live in a society and one of the baseline rules of that society is that you can’t just go around punching people (unless they’re Nazis — punch every Nazi you see). But if you’re going to run around in flagrant disregard for social norms, at least Masvidad did it in a way that didn’t endanger anyone else, led to minimal long-term damage, and builds up another lucrative fight for himself. Because that feels like the inevitable endpoint here: a rematch of UFC 272.
The truth of the matter is that neither Covington nor Masvidal have clear opponents lined up. Covington keeps calling for Poirier or Adesanya, and he’s going to get neither, while Masvidal has made vague overtures toward Nate Diaz, a fight that is similarly not going to happen. And with neither man being all that interested in, you know, fighting a regular, top-10 welterweight to maintain their positions, they have precious few options. These two men still obviously hate each other, and with this incident and the continuing bad blood, well, let’s just say that rematches have been promoted on less. And the cost of replacing Covington’s watch with pale in comparison to the pay-per-view points on Covington-Masvidal II: Badder Blood.
is the hype around Aspinal too much or just right? Is he benefitting from a weak division?— AD (@adubz123) March 25, 2022
Finally, we’re done with the big news of the week, so let’s now discuss the fun news of the week: UFC London ruled, and Tom Aspinall might be that dude. I came into UFC London thinking Aspinall was probably one of the few “good” heavyweights in the world and that he would likely challenge for the UFC title someday. I left UFC London thinking that Aspinall will definitely fight for the belt at least once during his tenure and that he has a decent chance to win the damn thing.
Look, heavyweight is bad, and being young and athletic in that division means you can surge up the rankings way too fast. We’ve seen that plenty of times. But Aspinall appears to actually be good at fighting, not just athletic. Alexander Volkov does not get run over, and Aspinall rinsed him like a dishwasher. And the way he did it was really encouraging too, out-striking and out-grappling his opponent: a comprehensive schooling. The completeness of his game is impressive, and at this point, the only thing holding him back is that I don’t know what his chin is like. Thus far Aspinall hasn’t really be hit with any big shots, but the very tippity top of the heavyweight division is populated with dudes who can match or exceed his athleticism and also hit like angry mules. If Aspinall has a god-tier level chin, the man is probably going to be champion. If he just has a normal human chin, he’ll still make his way to a title shot.
So to answer your question, Aspinall is benefitting from a weak division, as all heavyweights do, but this man appears to be the real deal.
Jed,— ThiccFloridaManChael (@FloridaManChael) March 22, 2022
What weight do you think Dan Hooker stays at? It seems like his chin may have cracked but he's been fighting killers for awhile so it's understandable he's got some losses. Hooker vs Fiziev maybe?
A less fun story from UFC London was the continued skid of Dan Hooker. Heading into his fight with Arnold Allen, many people were saying that this was a no-lose situation for Hooker. Even a loss wouldn’t be that bad because of how high Allen is viewed. But after that loss, I don’t know. Allen is not known as a huge finisher, and he ran right over “The Hangman.” That’s a tough one.
Personally, I hope Hooker returns to lightweight. He looked incredibly slow in the cage against Allen, and the reality is, his losses at 155 were not the result of size or strength – he simply was beaten by better fighters. On top of that, all of his best wins were at lightweight, and it seems evident to me that the division better suits his frame and skill set. All this being said, though, first I hope that Hooker takes some time off. He’s had a very tough stretch of fights, and I think he would be well-served by stepping back for a year, rebuilding, and then returning with a winnable matchup to get the confidence back up.
Bellator gonna Bellator
How much time should a champion be given off before an interim belt is introduced? Should circumstances (ie injury) impact the decision? I'm thinking of the HW division but it applies to others as well.— Pound The Lines (@PoundTheLines) March 24, 2022
Interim titles are almost always stupid, and usually they are disrespectful to the champion. The only real purpose interim titles serve is that promoters believe fans need shiny objects to be invested, which really is just a sign that promoters are largely bad at their actual jobs. That being said, there are some times when an interim belt makes sense, and I have two tremendous examples of good and bad interim belts for you.
In the case of the UFC heavyweight division, an interim belt is disrespectful and bad, but there is at least a logic to it. Francis Ngannou is out for the rest of the year following surgery, and it seems pretty likely that he will not be returning to the UFC. In a situation like that, where you have a division that has spent much of the last several years stagnant while watching a title trilogy take place, and that the champion probably isn’t returning, strapping an interim title onto someone as the de facto actual champion of your organization makes sense. You know where it doesn’t make sense? In f****** Bellator.
This week, Bellator announced they would be creating an interim welterweight title fight between Michael Page and Logan Storley, since Yaroslav Amosov withdrew from his scheduled fight TO GO FIGHT OFF A GODDAMN RUSSIAN INVASION. Bellator looked at their undisputed welterweight champion walking into a literal warzone to defend his country from foreign invasion, a champion who won the belt less than a year ago, and said: ‘Well, good luck. The show must go on.” The level of disrespect is astounding.
The show does not need to go on. No one, literally no one, would be upset if the Bellator welterweight title spent the next two years undefended because Amosov was risking his life to defend his country. You know how I know this? Because the Bellator heavyweight title went undefended for nearly three years before they put together an interim belt! And that title was only undefended because Ryan Bader was fighting at 205, not fighting off a goddamn invasion!
Let’s be clear, the reason that Bellator is doing this isn’t because they desperately need to have a 170-pound champion who is active. They’re doing it because Bellator 281 takes place in London, and they really, really want to get MVP a belt in his home country. But that is what is quite possibly the dumbest part about all of this: Logan Storley is going to win! Bellator spent 10 years feeding MVP winnable matchups all to get him toward a title fight, and then they’re throwing him in there against a four-time All-American wrestler?!?! What the hell are they doing?!
If Bellator had any sense at all, they would’ve given Page another softball fight (did you see the UFC London crowd when Paddy Pimblett beat Kazula Vargas? Fans don’t care about opposition, they just want to see cool stuff) and made a public statement that out of respect for their champion, they would not create an interim welterweight title. Instead, we’ve got this fustercluck.
Sidebar: Bellator has also announced that they will have an interim title for their bantamweight grand prix since Sergio Pettis is injured and out of it, and I can hardly imagine a more idiotic thing happening in all of fight sport.
I've been sold on Manon Fiorot, but if she can finish Maia...is it time for the rest of the world to acknowledge The Beast as the first real threat to Bullet Shevchenko's title?— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) March 22, 2022
Jed.— Joga Bonito (@Sobelweski_Mqi) March 23, 2022
Is woman 125 entering a new age if fighters like Manon and Grasso can get wins on the weekend ? And Santos fighting for the belt
Valentina toughest championship run next.
OK, rant over. Now we can wrap things up with a very small amount of UFC Columbus talk, and it feels telling that the only UFC Columbus questions I got this week were all about the women’s flyweight fights on the card.
Scot, I love your enthusiasm for Manon Fiorot. But no, it’s not time to recognize her as a threat to Valentina Shevchenko. “The Bullet Train” is gonna keep right on rolling. No one is a threat to her. That being said, I think Fiorot is going to do the damn thing on Saturday. She’s athletic and has pop in her hands, and Maia is on the decline and very hittable. Your girl is going to have a good night.
Similarly, I think Grasso is going to win, but I would favor Shevchenko to beat both Grasso and Fiorot and any other woman in the top-15 of flyweight, all in the same night. She’s simply so much better than every other flyweight in the world that it’s almost not fair. She’s more technically capable, she hits harder, she’s a better grappler, and she’s much more athletic. Yes, having a crop of emerging flyweights who are strong athletes and capable fighters is good for the division, and it will be more interesting than Shevchenko stomping the Lauren Murphys of the world (no offense meant but I recognize it is a harsh statement). But when the gap is this big, it’s almost the same thing.
I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll keep saying it until she loses or I die: Valentina Shevchenko is the best fighter I have ever seen when it comes to the gap between her and her peers, and she’s going to go down as the GOAT.
Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat 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. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.