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Hot Tweets: Debating a Covington-Masvidal rematch, the flyweight title picture, open scoring, and UFC 273

UFC 272: Covington v Masvidal Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Hello, friends! It’s a rare down week in the world of MMA and that means, without fights that demand our attention, we can turn our gaze to all manner of conversations. This week, that means more Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal stuff, Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno IV, open scoring, and a little UFC 273. Let’s get after it.


Kayfabe

I’m a firm believer in Occam’s Razor, and so, for me, the simplest and most obvious explanation for Masvidal allegedly assaulting Covington is that Jorge Masvidal absolutely hates Colby Covington and wanted to punch him in his face, consequences be damned. Had Masvidal won their fight at UFC 272, I’m sure he could have moved on from the myriad of horrible things Covington said about his family (or at least, not felt compelled to take things outside the cage), but that’s not how it broke for him, and so he took matters into his own hands when the opportunity presented itself. That being said, I also believe that this alleged altercation presents both men with a great opportunity to make some money, because there really aren’t many fights that make sense for either man, at least not ones that they will be interested in.

Covington has been calling for bouts with Dustin Poirier or Israel Adesanya, and while I actually think those are fine callouts, he’s not getting either fight. Poirier is holding out for Nate Diaz, and Adesanya has Jared Cannonier and the rest of the middleweight division to keep him occupied. Similarly, Masvidal has made vague overtures about rematching Diaz, but Diaz wants Poirier and the UFC wants Diaz to rematch Conor McGregor for his last fight. And for both Covington and Masvidal, the idea of fighting other welterweight contenders is probably a non-starter. For Masvidal, most of the rest of the top-10 would beat him and provides no name value, and while Covington may have more of a chance against some of the other 170-pounders, he obviously believes that’s beneath him now. (He is wrong).

And that’s where a rematch becomes an option.

For Covington, the fight presents another big fight against a guy he knows he can beat, and for Masvidal it presents a big fight against a guy he still really wants to beat. There’s legs there, and the fact that their first encounter wasn’t competitive doesn’t really matter. The outside the cage altercation is enough to sell this fight. Hell, Masvidal wasn’t competitive with Kamaru Usman in their first fight and he got a rematch. The same rules apply here, and if I were a betting man (I am), I’d wager that a rematch is the likely next fight for both men.


The flyweight title picture

Because while it may officially be 1-1-1, most people view it as 2-1 in favor of Figueiredo, who probably should have won the first fight even with the point deduction, and clearly was the better man that night. So if Moreno wins again, especially if it’s a close fight, then people aren’t going to feel like Moreno is clearly the best flyweight in the world. And that’s why I don’t love booking the fourth fight right away.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fight in a vacuum. Figueiredo and Moreno are the two best flyweights in the world in my opinion, and they are so evenly matched that a fourth fight is going to be awesome, especially since each of the other fights has been dramatically different than the previous ones. Both men are adjusting and bringing new tactics to the table each time out. It’s peak MMA and it’s beautiful. But it also doesn’t demand to be done right now. Figueiredo could easily defend against Kai Kara-France next and then, if he wins, fight Moreno a fourth time. It’s a back pocket fight — it’s always there whenever the UFC wants it. And allowing the rivalry just a little room to breath would be nice.

Of course, if Figueiredo goes out and wins this fourth fight, then all of this talk is moot. Figgy Smalls winning will effectively end the rivalry and then it’s on to KKF.


Open scoring

Neither? Given my choice, I’d prefer to have judges simply held accountable for their decisions, and while hearing Sal D’Amato blither on inanely every other week about why he screwed the pooch might be good for clicks, it won’t bring actual accountability to the judges. That can only come from the commissions, which means it won’t come at all.

As for open scoring, I’m not against it — I simply don’t care. I know it’s become a topic of conversation again over the past few weeks and there are staunch supporters on both sides of the argument, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Open scoring will do literally nothing to change how fights are judged, which is the actual problem in MMA, and I seriously doubt it will have much effect on how fights play out. The proponents of it mainly argue that it will make fights more exciting because losing fighters will try hard, but the obvious rebuttals to that all ring true to me:

1) OK, but the guy ahead will also fight much more boringly.

2) Fighters usually know when they are ahead or behind anyway.

3) Fighters mostly just fight their hearts out every time they step into the cage, because if they don’t, bad things can happen.

For me, the best argument for open scoring has always been that combat sports are the only sports in which fighters don’t know the scores in real time, which is exceedingly asinine. And that’s a good argument! I absolutely agree with it. But in the words of Peter Gibbons, “It’s that I just don’t care.” If tomorrow everywhere adopted open scoring, that’s fine. Or if they never do, whatever. There are about 47 other major issues in MMA that are in more dire need of attention than this one, and so it remains curious to me that some people feel very strongly about it. But hey, to each their own.


UFC Rankings

LOL. Because the UFC rankings panel is . . . not the best. That’s why if you’re looking for MMA rankings, you should use The Only Rankings That Matter.


Upsets at UFC 273

If I’m ranking them in order of most to least surprising, I’ll go Gilbert Burns, Korean Zombie, and Aljamain Sterling. I’ll defer you to the next question for why, specifically, I feel so strongly that Burns is going to lose, so let me speak on the other two.

I think Alexander Volkanovski is one of the very best fighters in the world, and he may well be the actual best. I’ve said it many times, but Volkanovski, he’s basically the casino. He has the best Fight I.Q. in the game and his ability to adjust, along with the depth of his tool box, means that he has a clear edge over everyone he fights, and so, over time, he’s going to win. But the way you beat the casino, as Danny Ocean once famously said, is to bet big when that perfect hand comes along. Like Brian Ortega, Korean Zombie possess predatory offense, and so there always exists the chance that he can pull off a piece of ultra-violence and snake the title away. I don’t believe it will happen, but I do at least concede that it is possible.

And with Sterling, he honestly could win the fight. I mean, he won’t — he’s too erratic of a fighter — but he possesses all the physical tools to upset Petr Yan. Sterling’s length and grappling mean he has legitimate avenues to victory against Yan; the problem is that he panics when the wheels start falling off and he’s also prone to outworking himself, meaning he’s almost certainly going to tire himself out with big, explosive flying knees and stuff because he’s uncomfortable striking and so he feels the need to fill every moment with action. If Sterling comes out and fights completely differently than he ever has, this could be interesting. If he doesn’t, he’s going to lose. But again, there is a path to victory there.


Khamzat Chimaev, sizable betting favorite over Gilbert Burns

A lot of people were also talking about this one this week, with the general consensus being that this line is crazy. Let me say, unequivocally, those people are wrong.

First off, it’s important to remember that betting lines do not reflect the fight probabilities — they predict public sentiment and are designed to incite action on both sides of the line. That’s how the books make their money, in the vig. So saying “this line is disrespectful” is an indictment of the public, not the oddsmaker, because it’s public perception that determines the line. Also, worth noting, that line should have been opened higher as the public has already bet Khazmat up to -525 on DraftKings.

Second, that line isn’t disrespectful because Khamzat is going to run over Gilbert Burns, and that’s just honesty, not disrespect. Burns is an undersized welterweight who has struggled against wrestlers (his takedown defense rate is 50%). Khamzat is an enormous welterweight who is not only a tremendous wrestler, but also a dominant grappler. Then add in all the other stuff surrounding Khamzat. This is just math. Full credit to Burns for taking this fight, but he’s about to get “smeshed” something fierce.

Khamzat Chimaev is the actual Next Big Thing. They come around every few years and when they do, it is obvious very quickly that they are here. Jon Jones, Cain Velasqeuz, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, these are generational talents, and when they arrive, they arrive. Khamzat is one of those. Who knows how long he’ll be at the top — many of them flame out quickly and his training habits concern me — but he’s going to the top, and Gilbert Burns isn’t going to stop him.


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.