Post UFC 200 Thoughts
The biggest weekend in UFC history is in the books. Three events in three days, four title fights, record setting Las Vegas attendance and live gate numbers, and potentially a record setting pay-per-view buy rate. There were big upsets, championship belts changing hands, fight of the year candidates, and some disappointments as well. It was an exciting yet exhausting stretch of MMA and there are many storylines coming out of it. Let’s see what we’ve learned.
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Jon Jones Ruined UFC 200 – That might sound like a bit of a stretch after reading all of the positive things I just alluded to in the opening paragraph but its true. The much anticipated grudge match between him and Daniel Cormier was cancelled just three days before the event after it was revealed that Jones had tested positive for a banned substance in a random USADA drug test on June 13th. It was a wild 24 hours or so following the news as the UFC found a replacement so that Cormier could remain on the card. We still don’t know what the banned substance was but it doesn’t sound good as Jones gave a tearful apology. He’s facing a two year suspension not long after just missing a year or so after testing positive for cocaine and getting into a hit and run accident. Its the continuing story of wasted potential. Jones may already be the greatest mixed martial artist to ever compete in the sport and yet he’s about to potentially miss three years in the prime of his career. He just can’t seem to learn from his mistakes. The only hope is that he can finally mature during his suspension but I wouldn’t hold your breath. No matter what happens from this point on in Jones’ career it’ll be a case of what could have been.
As I mentioned, Cormier did stay on the UFC 200 PPV and the man he ended up fighting on two days notice was Anderson Silva. I believe it was between a title fight with Gegard Mousasi (who was also on the card, knocking out Thiago Santos) and a three round, non-title fight with Silva. Not bad options for such short notice but the UFC obviously went with the more marketable fight to try and salvage any potential earnings losses from losing the main event. Unfortunately and predictably Silva was unable to stop Cormier from overpowering him and he was laid on for almost the entirety of the 15 minute fight. The fans were booing and it brought the momentum of the evening almost to a screeching halt. Its hard to blame DC for fighting the way he did going up against a legendary striker when he was training for someone else. A loss would’ve been devastating to his image. But I think this fight alone is why so many people were disappointed by UFC 200. Think about it, if everything would’ve gone as originally planned the momentum that started on the prelims and continued with Cain Velasquez’s impressive knockout of Travis Browne and Jose Aldo’s career best performance against Frankie Edgar to win the interim Featherweight title would’ve only grown. Amanda Nunes would’ve then submitted Miesha Tate to win the title, Brock Lesnar would’ve made his triumphant return to the Octagon only to conclude with the Jones/Cormier title unification bout. The UFC did everything right on paper for an incredible night but Jon Jones turned that into just a very good night.
UFC Sold For $4 Billion – This news just broke late last night/early this morning so I’m sure more details will continue to emerge throughout the week but the long running rumor was finally confirmed. The new owners are WME | IMG which is run by Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. Dana White will remain the president of the UFC and minority stake owner while the Fertitta brothers will take their money and shift into minority owner positions. White and the Fertitta’s partnered together to buy the UFC for just $2 million in 2001 and just 15 years later are the beneficiaries of the biggest sale in sports history. They just got bought for the same price tag as Star Wars. That’s hard to fathom. The sport continues to grow and all parties involved are pledging that this won’t cause any significant changes to the way things are done and everyone is intent on taking MMA to the next level. Its hard to imagine there won’t be serious changes down the line after the new owners get comfortable in the position but in the short term there probably won’t be any noticeable differences.
Brock Lesnar Hasn’t Changed – Brock made his return to the UFC almost five years since he was knocked out of competition by current title challenger Alistair Overeem in 2011. It was odd to see him back in this new era of the organization but there he was taking down slugger Mark Hunt and doing damage to him on the ground. It wasn’t always pretty as both men did more stalking and measuring each other than fighting but Lesnar was able to take the few shots that Hunt was able to land even if he did look a little hesitant to engage due to fearing those right hands. Brock is still a freak athlete and took down Hunt a few times and was able to use his size and strength to keep him there. He wasn’t able to finish but Hunt is as tough as they come. It’s like he didn’t miss a beat and he can still do some good work in the division but he still has the same weaknesses and the division is deeper than it was half a decade ago. I think the best way to move forward with him is to give him some big money fights that he has a decent chance to win (Fedor Emilianenko, Frank Mir if he wasn’t suspended, Josh Barnett) and if he can string a couple of wins together in a row give him a title shot. There are a lot of bad match-ups for him in the top five or so but it’s good for the business of the UFC and himself to have him show up once a twice a year until he’s ready to retire for good.
Two Titles Changed Hands with First Round Finishes – The whole ‘International Fight Week’ got kicked off in exciting fashion on Thursday night when Eddie Alvarez shocked the MMA world by knocking out Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos in the first round. Dos Anjos had looked incredible over the last few years beating high quality opponents in dominant performances. He was considered to be a top five pound for pound fighter by many, including myself. Alvarez on the other hand had been scraping by barely beating Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez in lackluster performances. But Eddie got back to being the exciting fighter he was before he got to the UFC and took advantage of a Dos Anjos mistake, hurting him with a right hand and then pouncing on him to get the stoppage. Much like Michael Bisping, Alvarez might not hold on to the title for long since Lightweight has a murderer’s row of challengers waiting in the wings but its a great story for a veteran who has done almost everything he can in the sport. After the fight he claimed he wanted the UFC to give him an ‘easy’ fight for his first title defense, like Conor McGregor. Now that would be a fight I’d like to see. But there are other guys like Khabib Nurmagamedov and Tony Ferguson who are more than deserving of fighting for the lightweight championship.
The other title to change hands was the aforementioned Amanda Nunes’ first round submission of Miesha Tate to win the women’s bantamweight championship. That belt is getting passed around like a game of hot potato ever since Ronda Rousey got knocked out by Holly Holm. Nunes earned it with a dominant performance where she hurt Tate early and often. Miesha was able to hold on for as long as she could but Nunes never relented to become the first openly gay fighter to hold a UFC championship belt. Shes known as a fighter who looks great in the first round of a fight before getting tired and that certainly held true in this bout, at least the first part. It was a feel good moment and one that she should hold onto because the way things are going it will only be fleeting. Its hard to say at this point who she will fight in her first title defense. Julianna Pena was impressive in a dominant win over Cat Zingano earlier in the night. Holly Holm could earn her way back to the title picture with a win over Valentina Shevchenko later this month. Or we could finally see the return of Ronda Rousey before the end of the year.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk Is A Top 5 P4P Fighter – Friday night was the The Ultimate Fighter season 23 finale where the two coaches, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha, finally squared off for the women’s strawweight championship. It lived up to the hype from my Five Fights to Watch in July 2016 article. In perhaps the best women’s fight in the history of the UFC Joanna Champion proved why she’s exactly that with an amazing performance against Gadelha, who is clearly the second best fighter in the division and would most likely beat every other contender. Claudia came out of the gate very strong knocking down the champ with the first punch thrown and then overpowering her on the ground for the first two rounds. The turning point came shortly into the third round, with Gadelha clearly exhausted Joanna went to work peppering her with strikes for the next 13 minutes or so. Her hand speed was lightning fast, landing at will. She worked at a hard pace for the entirety of the fight and wasn’t barely breathing hard by the end of it. To be so well conditioned, so good on the feet, and constantly improving its hard to see anybody taking the belt from her. But I’ve said that beore, most recently about RDA, and it is the year of the upset. To continue her quest to be the Demetrious Johnson of her division she’ll most likely face the winner of Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz which goes down at UFC 201 at the end of the month.
Jose Aldo Is Back On Top – After ‘Scarface’ was knocked out by Conor McGregor in just 13 seconds this past December some people were questioning whether that marked the end of the peak of Aldo’s career and he would start to decline at just 29 years old due to an early start in the sport. That can be put to rest after he just put on a clinic, quite possibly the best performance of his career while soundly beating Frankie Edgar. ‘The Answer’ was already one of the best lightweights in UFC history and had looked better than ever after losing to Aldo the first time around in his inaugural featherweight fight. The way Jose was strategically patient and used his counter striking game to bloody up Edgar over five rounds was very impressive. The story we usually see with him is a fast start to win the first three rounds and then him holding on to win a clear decision but he looked better and better in each round here. Maybe instead of his loss to McGregor being a signal of a decline it was a wake up call to have him rededicate himself to his craft. I still maintain that Conor won’t fight at 145 pounds again but if he does or if Aldo moves up to 155 pounds to meet him it will be a great fight. Their first fight wasn’t a fluke but it was over way too fast to see how things would play out. Maybe McGregor would knock him out again but I guarantee it goes longer than 13 seconds and I would pay to watch it.
An auxiliary member of the MMAJA, Bob used to run the baseball blog 'The Oriole Report' before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. 'The Redbox Report' movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by 'The Redbelt Report' MMA podcast in 2016. In 2018 they were merged into 'Phelan to Communicate', a podcast that can be found on iTunes and a blog that can be found at http://PhelanToCommunicate.wordpress.com. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @PhelanToTweet.