No time to dilly, very little time to dally, so let’s hop right on in and discuss UFC Vegas 53, Aljamain Sterling’s next title defense, and a very fun hypothetical about UFC tournaments in the year of our lord 2022.
The quality of UFC Vegas 53
Is this weekend's card in the top 10 weakest cards in UFC history based on name value. I know a card like this can deliver in entertainment and performance value.— MMAtle (@Aattllee) April 28, 2022
All fighters are warriors who deserve out utmost respect, and if you think this card is bad then you’re not a real fan, you Conor fanboy.
Nah, but seriously, this card is not good, and anyone telling you different is either selling you a bill of goods or just astonishingly optimistic. Per the UFC’s own rankings (not even The Only Rankings That Matter™), there are only two ranked fighters competing this weekend, and that’s the main event. And of course, this card fails my favorite test, the Wikipedia test, with nine of the 26 fighters not having a Wikipedia page. By any metric, it’s a bad card. If you add that a lot of these fights have a high likelihood of being tough hangs (Arlovski vs. Collier, Elkins vs. Connelly, Jotko vs. Meerschaert and Mazany vs. Young), this is just an all around tough week to be a UFC fan.
Now, I don’t say any of this to yuck any of y’all’s yums. If you love fist fights and have nothing better to do on Saturday, there are worse ways to spend an evening than watching UFC Vegas 53, and the main event is a Certified Banger™. I’m just saying that if you have other obligations on Saturday, don’t sweat it. Next week, UFC 274 goes down, and that card throws 100 miles per hour. So until then, you can just check in right here at MMAFighting.com and we will have you covered with all the big stuff coming out of Vegas this weekend.
Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera
who you got for "the best bantamweight in the world" vs Vera this weekend?— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) April 28, 2022
If you’re going to watch one fight this weekend, make it the Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano boxing match, because that is historically important, socially significant, and it’s going to be a great time. But if you’re going to watch a second fight this weekend, make it the UFC Vegas 53 main event.
Not that long ago I was, perhaps tongue flirting with cheek, saying that Rob Font might be the best bantamweight in the world. I was wrong (it happens occasionally), but he’s still one of the best bantamweights alive, and this fight with Marlon Vera is going to be great.
Font has such a well-tuned style for the current MMA metagame and especially for five-round fights. He works at a torrid pace, and that just builds over time, but Vera is the textbook definition of scrappy, and the man does not get tired. For the most of this fight I think Font’s jab and boxing will be scoring the points, but Vera is going to have some moments and it will be on him to make those count in a meaningful way. Ultimately, I favor Font to do enough to win a decision, but this should be a fantastic scrap.
Is Andrei Arlovski playing it too safe these days to be a fan favourite or a contender?— MMAtle (@Aattllee) April 28, 2022
Excuse me, sir. That’s the greatest heavyweight in UFC history you are talking about.
Arlovski is 43 years old! Playing it safe would be to retire and spend all day playing with his dog, not continuing to get into fist fights with men half his age.
The truth of the matter is that Arlovski is not a title contender, and he knows it, so why in god’s name would we pretend he’s going to make a title run? Are you trying to see a man who is damn near collecting Social Security get knocked out? What is wrong with you?
Arlovski is simply a dude who still likes to fight and pays his bills with his body, and at 43 years old, he’s still somehow better than most of the world at doing just that. I see absolutely nothing wrong with him fighting the bottom end of the UFC heavyweight barrel, and in fact, this seems preferable to using him as the sacrificial lamb to get young prospects over. The man has already fought 37 times in the octagon (38 once tonight is over), more than any other heavyweight ever and more than all but ONE other human being in history. I cannot overstate how insane that is. The man has done enough. Let him enjoy his twilight years of combat.
Aljamain Sterling’s contenders
Of these three fighters, who's the toughest challenge for Aljamain Sterling: TJ Dillashaw, Jose Aldo, or Henry Cejudo? Who's the easiest fight for him?— Nick Baldwin (@NickBaldwinMMA) April 28, 2022
ICYMI: Jose Aldo respectfully called out Aljamain Sterling, and Henry Cejudo sort of called him out, and T.J. Dillashaw disrespectfully called him out. We’ve got a horse race for the next bantamweight title shot.
Probably Cejudo? But honestly, I can see Sterling having problems with all of them.
Aldo is past his prime, but the man is a significantly better striker than Aljo and remains extremely difficult to take down and out-grapple. Since Aldo dropped to bantamweight, I’ve been firmly in the camp that Sterling is one of his easier matchups, as far as top guys goes.
I feel the same about Dillashaw. Dillashaw is a much trickier striker than Sterling and a solid wrestler. That being said, this is probably the easiest fight for Sterling as I think he would have a decided grappling advantage of Dillashaw, whereas Aldo has always been severely underrated as a BJJ practitioner.
Cejudo is the one who, on paper, would seem to be the tough, but also the one with the most question marks. For all Cejudo’s absurd bluster about being the greatest combat sports athlete ever (objectively not true), we really have no idea what he looks like at bantamweight. He knocked out Marlon Moraes by basically being more athletic (a win which has aged like unpasteurized milk) and then beat 105-year old Dominick Cruz in the same manner. Plus, you know, he hasn’t fought in two years. Yeah, he’s a better wrestler than Sterling, but like, maybe he’s washed now? Honestly, with Cejudo, anything is possible.
For what it’s worth, I do think the Dillashaw fight makes the most sense as Dillashaw never lost his belt in the cage. If Sterling beats him, that tidies up the timeline nicely (I also simply do not care about Cejudo at all, and mostly don’t believe him until the cage door closes). But I would rather Aldo get the title shot. Jose Aldo is one of the four best fighters ever and would have easily won the UFC lightweight title had it been the in-vogue thing to do back then. Now, in the final stretch of an All-Time career, he has a chance to win a second title, and I want to see him get that chance.
The 2022 MMA Fantasy Draft
What was the pick Sean should’ve made in the draft?— Bobby Holmes (@fikisakoj) April 29, 2022
ICYMI: MMA Fighting (the greatest website in the world) did a fantasy draft of the top-25 fighters to build an MMA franchise around. It was great fun so go read it.
Nate Diaz. He was right there, twice, and Shaun passed. I can’t believe it. It just goes to show you that truly, no one knows anything when it comes to drafting.
Is Corey Anderson the best light heavyweight in the world? If no, who is? If yes, who’s #2?— Soto Shuffle (@Soto_Shuffle) April 20, 2022
We also discussed this at length in the MMA Fighting Rankings Show this week, and my stance essentially boils down to this: It is entirely possible that Corey Anderson is the best light heavyweight in the world but a) I refuse to admit that until there is no other reasonable option, and b) that really speaks to where the light heavyweight division is right now.
Look, Anderson is a good fighter. I’m not here to dispute that. But he’s not that far removed from getting clobbered by Jan Blachowicz. And that wasn’t that far removed from losing to Ovince Saint Preux and Jimi Manuwa. Daniel Cormier could get off his couch tomorrow and beat up Corey Anderson, and so, knowing that, it’s just really tough for me to accept that he’s the best in the world. (On a related note, I think my malaise for Anderson also stems from the time ‘DC’ ethered his whole career with a stray bullet when he shot down Jimi Manuwa by saying, “Don’t lie to yourself, I like Corey Anderson, but you just beat Corey Anderson. Sit down”. “Beastin’ 25/8” never recovered from that in my mind.)
So for me, at least until later this summer, Jiri Prochazka is the best light heavyweight in the world. If he goes out and stunts on Glover Teixeira, then it will be official. And if Glover wins, then hell, it may be Corey. What a world we live in.
Ultimate Tournament Fighting
Let's say Dana returns to the UFC's beginnings and holds a series of PPV one night tournaments at each weight class. Top 8 in each class have to fight for the belt in one massive PPV event each month. Who are the champions after the dust settles?— ThiccFloridaManChael (@FloridaManChael) April 20, 2022
First, Dana White and the UFC would never do this because it would be fun, and that’s something they are strictly against. Seriously, there is no reason why the UFC doesn’t hold tournaments every year for fighters outside of their top-15 rankings, as a way to promote young talent and give them something a calling card. Having Bruce Buffer say, “He is the 2023 Lightweight One-Night Tournament Winner” would have significantly more cache than The Ultimate Fighter season 56 lightweight winner, or whatever. Same holds true for grand prixs. But whatever, I digress.
If the UFC held one-night tournaments for the top-eight fighters in all their weight classes, the reality is that half winners of the first round fights would withdraw due to injury or exhaustion. One-night tournaments are ridiculously hard on the body, especially when we’re talking about competitive matchups in the best weight classes in the world. But for the sake of argument, here we go:
Strawweight: Rose Namajunas. Cardio and versatility are king in one-night tournaments, and Namajunas has both. She’s also not overly reliant on her physicality like Weili Zhang and Jessica Andrade are, so she’s better built to succeed multiple times in one night.
Women’s Flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko. I have repeatedly suggested that the only way to make things fair for the other flyweights of the world is to have Shevchenko fight them all in one night, Queen of the Hill style. My current guess is that she’d make it through seven or eight contenders before someone could stop her.
Women’s Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes. She likely just clobbers her first two opponents and so remains relatively fresh for the finals. Julianna Peña might not even make it to the finals, if we’re being honest, so Nunes would be a heavy favorite.
Flyweight: Brandon Moreno. Deiveson Figueiredo’s style is not conducive to fighting multiple fights in an evening, and since he relies heavily on his athleticism, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get ousted in the semi-finals, as he fades. Moreno has the cardio, the style, and the potential to score early finishes that are so valuable in one-night tournaments.
Bantamweight: Shockingly, Cory Sandhagen. Looking at how the bracket would shake out and I think Sandhagen is the guy who will suffer the least damage in the first round, giving him a decided advantage over Aljamain Sterling in the rematch, and again over whoever he meets in the finals. But this one is really tough to call.
Featherweight: Max Holloway. Volkanovski has a harder road to the finals, having to beat Josh Emmett and either Calvin Kattar or Yair Rodriguez. Max will have less wear and tear and that’s the edge he needs to finally be able to beat Volkanovski.
Lightweight: Islam Makhachev. He’s the best lightweight in the world. I don’t think it’s close.
Welterweight: Kamaru Usman. Khamzat Chimaev has to fight Gilbert Burns in the first round and given that we just saw that fight, predicting him to win a fight following that war is gutsy. Usman survives to retain.
Middleweight: Israel Adesanya. One of the easiest ones to call thus far. Adesanya’s first two fights should be easy and require very little energy. He’ll be fresh for the finals while Robert Whittaker will have had to work.
Light Heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev. His last fight not withstanding, Ankalaev is probably the actual best light heavyweight in the world (sorry Corey Anderson).
Heavyweight: Francis Ngannou. The semi-finals would almost certainly be Ngannou vs. Curtis Blaydes III, and Stipe Miocic vs. Tom Aspinall. Whoever wins that fight, they’re going to have a MUCH harder bout that Ngannou will against Blaydes. Gotta favor the champ to retain.
So, all told, five champions would keep their belts and six weight classes would have new title holders. Not too bad.
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.