Post UFC 202 Thoughts
After Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2 was pulled from the headline position on the milestone UFC 200 event and later announced to instead be headlining UFC 202 a little more than a month later, McGregor stated that UFC 202 was the real UFC 200. Perhaps he was right because this past weekend’s event lived up to every bit of hype unlike July’s festivities. What started out looking like it wasn’t going to have the heat many expected changed when water bottles and energy drink cans were hurled to and from the audience by the combatants and their teams, ending a fairly ordinary press conference to that point. Round two of the rivalry ended with an exuberant Conor McGregor proclaiming ‘the king is back’ to a lively sold out Las Vegas crowd after revenging his first UFC loss via majority decision in a certain ‘Fight of the Year’ front runner. We got a lot of answers late Saturday/early Sunday morning but just like every UFC event they just opened up even more questions.
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What’s Next for ‘The King’ – It was starting to look like deja vu as the fight played out. Conor McGregor started out looking great just like in the first match-up but this time he was throwing a bunch of leg kicks which has been a successful strategy for Nate Diaz opponents like Rafael Dos Anjos and Josh Thomson. He even managed to knocked down the Stockton native three times over the first two rounds. But then another familiar thing happened and towards the end of the second round ‘Notorious’ had that exhausted look on his face like he had a few minutes before succumbing to a rear naked choke in March. The round ended and the third round was a beat down in favor of Diaz with a few near finishes, close to a 10-8 round but not quite there for me. I was sure it was only a matter of time before McGregor wilted and got finished for the second time in as many fights but remarkably he got a second wind and won the fourth round. He lost the fifth but showed the heart of a champion fighting until the final bell. It was a crazy good fight perhaps only bested by the Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit throw down in January.
It seems like a trilogy between these two is inevitable and could possibly be the next fight for both of them. McGregor even told Joe Rogan in the post fight interview that he wants a third fight but it would have to be on his terms, at 155 pounds. Later he said he doesn’t know whats next but he has options again, which is something that wouldn’t be the case had he lost. There’s the unresolved issue of him being the UFC Featherweight champion and not having defended it since he won it last December. Jose Aldo beat Frankie Edgar to win the interim 145 belt and wants to get a shot at redemption against Conor. I have a feeling McGregor will never make that weight cut again but will try to convince the UFC to let him keep the belt as long as possible. I think he’s looking to get a Lightweight title shot against Eddie Alvarez since that appears to be his natural weight class and he could see it as an easier fight. Whatever ends up happening with Conor McGregor I think its safe to say that it will be of great interest to many, many people.
Rumble, Young Man, Rumble – Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira was supposed to determine who was going to fight the winner between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones but obviously Jones put himself out of commission, at least for the short term. There have been… rumblings of a shorter than expected suspension for ‘Bones’ after he posted an Instagram video saying he had good news and expects to be back in the Octagon soon. But even if his potential two year suspension gets knocked down to six months for a proven tainted supplement that leaves the end of this year available for Daniel Cormier to defend his belt. It didn’t take long to determine who that would be against. In honor of Conor McGregor ‘Rumble’ knocked out Teixeira cold in just 13 seconds. The man has the most power of anyone in the sport. Its like getting hit with a shotgun blast from point blank range. The only man to survive that shot of late is Cormier the first time they fought. He took two huge right hands in that match but was able to survive and eventually submit Johnson. The rematch, which will probably take place about 18 months after their first fight, will put that chin to the test again as Cormier is obviously older and has been through a tough test since then against Alexander Gustaffson. But regardless of what happens the UFC has to be hoping what Jones says is true because the cupboards are pretty bare at Light Heavyweight right now and interest in it would take a huge hit if he was out for an extended period of time.
Cowboy Is A Contender Again – After Donald Cerrone lost to Rafael Dos Anjos for the second time in his first UFC title shot he announced he was moving up to Welterweight but that it wasn’t necessarily permanent. ‘Cowboy’ is a guy that likes to fight as often as possible and having two weight classes to choose from would give him plenty of opportunities to do so. But since hes moved up he has looked better than ever beating Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, and now Rick Story in succession. He put a whooping on ‘Horror’ Story, knocking him out in the second round, a guy that has been a tough out for anyone at 170 pounds and hovering around the top 15 for years. Perhaps this jaunt up to Welterweight has turned into a march towards another title shot. I think that his next fight will be against a legit top 10 challenger in the division but Cerrone might have other things in mind. With RDA having lost the title and Eddie Alvarez, a guy that ‘Cowboy’ has already beaten, having won it Cerrone asked or a title shot back down at Lightweight. Dana White had a different opinion when he talked to the media and if my prediction of Conor McGregor getting the next fight for Alvarez comes true than that puts a damper on that dream. There are also other more worthy contenders than Cerrone at this point in Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, who fights the aforementioned Dos Anjos in November. I’d like to see him fight Matt Brown or Rory MacDonald. Either way, his next fight should be interesting. And soon.
Dominick Cruz Has So Many Rivals – ‘The Dominator’ just put a nail in the coffin of his biggest rivalry in June when he beat Uriah Faber in the rubber match of their trilogy. That was coming off the heels of a contested decision in January when he made a triumphant return to win his title back from T.J. Dillashaw. It was a great fight that could’ve been run back immediately but instead Dillashaw fought Raphael Ascuncao at UFC 200 and won convincingly. He’s looking to get back in the cage with Cruz next but his former Team Alpha Male teammate Cody Garbrandt has been putting his name in the mix calling out both Cruz and Dillashaw. Along the way he’s been dominating opponents himself most recently knocking out fellow top prospect Thomas Almeida and then veteran gatekeeper Takeya Mizugaki on Saturday. At 10-0 and still young in age and in the sport I’m not sure hes quite ready for a title shot but I can certainly see him being one more impressive performance away. A fight against Miesha Tate’s boyfriend Bryan Caraway seems to be a safe choice to make that happen. Meanwhile a Cruz/Dillashaw rematch makes the most sense but Cruz has been saying he wants a ‘superfight’ against either Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson or interim Featherweight champion Jose Aldo. I wouldn’t be against either of those but Bantamweight is one of the most exciting divisions in the sport right now so I don’t think those are necessary just yet.
UFC on FOX 21 (Saturday, August 27th) – The last couple of FOX cards have been light on top end fights due to injuries and over-saturation but this one is pretty good. The main event is a Welterwight title eliminator between Carlos Condit and Demian Maia. Condit hasn’t fought since his controversial loss to Robbie Lawler and is looking to get back in contention after contemplating retirement. Maia has been on a nice five fight winning streak, the last one being a submission of Matt Brown at UFC 198. With Georges St. Pierre re-entering the mix, Robbie Lawler losing his belt to Tyron Woodley, Nick Diaz coming back from suspension, and Stephen Thompson waiting around for his shot things are a little muddled but the winner of this fight should be somewhere in the mix. It’s a great fight in its own right, a great striker against a great grappler. If it stays standing Condit should walk away with the victory but if it hits the mat things could get interesting.
Also on the card is Anthony Pettis’ debut at Featherweight after going from Lightweight champion to a three fight losing streak. He faces a tough grappler of his own in Charles Oliveira who has only lost to the best of the best at 145 pounds in recent years but as long as his weight cut goes alright I would expect ‘Showtime’ to be the stronger, better fighter and immediately enter the top of his new weight class. Paige VanZant makes her return from ‘Dancing with the Stars’ to dance with Bec Rawlings in the cage. It’ll be interesting to see how much her stint on the ABC reality show raised her profile. I know the UFC would like to push her as another big female draw. A fun rematch between Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon rounds out the main card, both fresh off big wins at UFC 200.
UFC Fight Night 93 (Saturday, September 3rd) – This is a fight pass card which means it doesn’t have too many important fights but there are some names on here. Andrei Arlowski fights Josh Barnett in the main event. Two former Heavyweight champions coming off of losses who have somehow never fought each other. Alexander Gustaffson enters his first fight since losing the interim Light Heavyweight Championship to Daniel Cormier. Before that he got knocked out by Anthony Johnson so they’re giving him Jan Blachowicz to allow him to bounce back, get a win under his belt, and head back up the ladder. Another guy who just got knocked out by Anthony Johnson makes his return as well. Ryan Bader fights Ilir Latifi in a fight that I believe will be tougher for him to win than it initially appears.
UFC 203 (Saturday, September 10th) – Before the Cavaliers won the NBA title Cleveland had its first championship since 1964 when hometown native Stipe Miocic knocked out Fabricio Werdum in Brazil to win the Heavyweight belt. Now hes putting the title on the line in Cleveland against Alistair Overeem who is on a four fight winning streak. Thats very impressive in a division where putting two W’s together back to back is sometimes enough to be looked at for a title fight. Both are big time hitters who possess one punch knockout power but only one of them has been accused of having a glass chin. Thats why I expect the hometown fans to be happy following this fight but Overeem has improved his strategy of late, being more defensive and staying on the outside. If he can keep that up over the duration of the fight he could have a chance to finally win UFC gold, even if it is years after most people thought it would happen.
Also of note, Fabricio Werdum tries to get right back in the thick of things when he takes on Travis Browne for the second time. He was originally supposed to fight Ben Rothwell but he had to withdraw due to injury. So Browne steps in after getting smoked by Cain Velasquez at UFC 200. The first time they fought it was a lopsided affair in favor of the Brazilian and see no reason this will be any different. Former WWE wrestler Phil ‘CM Punk’ Brooks finally makes his UFC debut after being signed 18 months ago when he takes on Mickey Gall, a guy that was signed with the sole purpose of beating a can to set up a fight with Brooks. This fight will probably get the most or second most headlines coming out of UFC 203 but it will most likely be an ugly fight between two guys who don’t belong in the premiere organization of the sport. I expect CM Punk to lose and fade away but it would be more exciting if he won. Lastly, Uriah Faber comes back from yet another title loss to take on Bantamweight prospect Jimmie Rivera. Faber usually wins against everyone but the elite, unless his skills start to deteriorate at a faster pace I would expect that to continue here.