Does the main event rematch at UFC 214 mean more to the champion or the challenger? Is the women’s featherweight title fight as big a mismatch as some seem to think? And who would benefit most (and least) from more available weight classes?
All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.
Daniel Cormier needs it more, and I will entertain no arguments to the contrary.
If Jon Jones loses this, hey, it was ring rust. He’s fought once in the last two and a half years, and he looked a little off his game even then. Jumping straight back into the fire against the UFC light heavyweight champ is a tough night of work. But even if he loses, he’s still 1-1 against Cormier. All that tells us is that we need to see the rubber match.
If Cormier loses, however? That’s it. Everything Jones said comes true. No one will want to see a third fight. His title reign is retroactively delegitimized. He goes down in MMA history as the greatest rival to the greatest 205-pounder. Suddenly he’s a chapter in someone else’s story rather than the hero of his own. That’s heavy stuff, man.
Cormier has to win this. Jones has other options.
I touched on this in a column earlier this week, but riddle me this: Since when was winning part of the problem for him? I’m not inclined to do Diego Sanchez-style YES cartwheels just because a fighter makes it to the cage without getting himself arrested or suspended. And since winning was never the problem, how can it be the solution?
We won’t know whether or not the problematic past is really the past until it repeats itself … or doesn’t.
Whoa there. Slow way down. Since we have not yet made it to fight night without issue, let’s just take these Jones fights one at a time.
The why not part is simple. It’s because Cristiane Justino is a terrifying opponent for the best women in her weight class, and Tonya Evinger is coming up from a division below. She’s not going to be able to fling the bigger, stronger “Cyborg” to the mat the way she often does with other bantamweights. She’s probably also not going to be able to grind her down from top position or maul her until she gives up a submission. Style-wise, it’s a nightmare match-up for Evinger.
At the same time, she’s an experienced fighter with very little to lose here. She stepped up as a replacement. She said yes to an opponent so scary that the last champion fled rather than face her. Even if she gets knocked out in the first minute, she was willing to try. Considering how many others aren’t, I think that warrants some respect.
I was feeling great until you went and bummed me out. So thanks for that. But fine, I see your point. Robbie Lawler’s been fighting these hitters since back when Dana White and Joe Rogan both had hair. Donald Cerrone has made a name for himself as the anyone-at-anytime type of fighter, stepping in even when he might be better off hanging back.
Both these guys have put their bodies through the wringer. The very good odds that they’ll do so again at UFC 214 is what makes this fight so exciting. It’s two men known for their willingness to administer and absorb physical punishment, and together they represent a violence sandwich that we can’t resist.
At what cost? I don’t think we know that yet. Neither do they.
First of all, Snoop Dogg isn’t a fighter, and even for fighters marijuana usually isn’t a problem if it’s out of competition. It’s probably the most harmful and at least somewhat useful drug an athlete could use.
Think of it this way: If it were Don Frye sitting there and doing commentary as he downed tequila shots, would we be concerned about his influence on the fighters? Actually, I might have just accidentally talked myself into agreeing with you. Crap.
I’d be surprised if Luke Rockhold’s chief concern was the schedule of boxing events. He hasn’t fought in over a year, many of the other top middleweights are either spoken for or indisposed of at the moment, and, at least according to Rockhold on Twitter, Yoel Romero turned him down. What’s a former champ supposed to do?
David Branch doesn’t have a big name, but he was a WSOF champ, and he’s coming off a UFC win. Maybe Rockhold could have waited around for something flashier, but how long do you want him to sit on the sidelines while the division heats up all around him?
More weight classes means more champions, so that right there is a pro for fighters. Someone like Kelvin Gastelum would no longer have to choose between being undersized and being punished for an unsuccessful attempt at a brutal weight cut. Plus, with more weight classes to reinvent themselves, fighters who are stonewalled in one division would be in easier reach of another. That’s a lot of pros and no major cons for the people doing the fighting.
There are also plenty of pros for promoters. You know how the UFC loves any excuse to put a gold belt in its commercials. More champions means it’ll have an easier time finding title fights to spruce up its events. The only big con is that champions usually see a significant pay bump, even when they aren’t all major draws. Plus, keeping the roster size manageable is already a challenge for the UFC. How will it cope with more weight classes to fill?
But it’s the fans who could face the biggest downside. It can get confusing trying to keep up with too many different divisions and champions, especially if fighters keep jumping between them. And some weight classes are already low on talent. If you create more divisions that may siphon fighters from already shallow divisions, and then what does it mean to be the UFC champion of a weight class with only five or six people in it?
Still, the sport often has a way of readjusting itself around these new realities. And if it’s safer and healthier for the fighters, a little extra confusion for fans and managerial headaches for the UFC may be worth it.
Hearing Germaine de Randamie say that people told her to commit suicide when she refused to fight Justino is both upsetting and totally unsurprising. It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s career choice, and even to voice your displeasure with their decisions on social media. How someone makes the leap from there to “kill yourself” is baffling to me.
I get that it’s an internet thing, sort of like the scorched earth version of “delete your account.” I also get that people, mostly kids and teenagers, have committed suicide over exactly that kind of online harassment.
Chances are that de Randamie is not going to be quite so affected by the words of strangers on the internet, but it’s also not going to want to make her spend time on social media interacting with MMA fans. And wasn’t that supposed to be one of the things we liked about this sport, how the fighters were accessible, especially in the online world? If you turn that online world into a trash fire, you can’t expect anyone to want to hang out there.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.