The return was not feared.
What does a lion fear? They are considered the king of the jungle. While the male lions appear more vicious and menacing with the most distinctive characteristic of the species, the thick mane, it is the female lion, the lioness, who is more efficient and effective as a hunter. Generally smaller, more agile, and quicker to the attack, the lioness is also cold and calculated. After Friday night, perhaps there is no other nickname more appropriate for the UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes.
Taking a theatrical approach to her nickname of “lioness”, Nunes stood on the scale during the ceremonial weigh-ins wearing a lion’s mask. Just as a lioness will stalk her prey from a distance, after peering out into the sea of fans in attendance at the T-Mobile Arena, Nunes slowly turned her head and focused her attention to the end of the stage where Ronda Rousey stood. After stepping down from the scale and getting face to face with her opponent, the hunt was all but on. Exchanging intense glares, neither woman backed down from the moment, creating a powerful moment to fuel the fire for the fight which lacked the normal fight week promotion.
After her fall from grace at UFC 193 via a Holly Holm head kick, Ronda Rousey was finally set to make her return to action Friday evening. However, the return would be on her terms which included zero fight week media obligations aside from the ceremonial weigh-ins and appearances on UFC Embedded. Unsurprisingly, this was a wildly unpopular move with the media who traveled to Las Vegas for coverage of the former champion. Fans of the sport would also voice their displeasure with the move via social media. While there is no finite way to measure the effect this would have on Pay Per View sales, there is no question that fight week press conferences and interviews create an increased buzz for fights in the final hours before hitting the pay wall – just ask Conor McGregor.
For Ronda Rousey, who went silent for months after her loss to Holm, facing the media during fight week (or not facing) was an important step to reveal her mental state heading into the fight against Nunes. As she would eventually discuss in the famous interview with Ellen Degeneres, the loss to Holm completely shook her to the core, driving her to suicidal thoughts. Sure, the official UFC promos would paint the picture that Ronda Rousey was completely rejuvenated and focused on regaining her title at UFC 207. However, avoiding the media under the guise of “they turned on me” post-UFC 193, told a story all its own. While simply looking at her physique, Ronda arrived in Las Vegas in perhaps the best shape of her fighting career. More importantly, though, if Ronda was not mentally strong enough to answer hard questions about her career from the media, how could she possibly be in the right place mentally to compete against a fearless striker like Nunes?
Despite her best game face in staredowns and during her walk into the Octagon, once the first punch from Nunes landed, the iconic fierce demeanor of Rousey quickly faded. The former Olympian was locked in a cage with a lioness hunting for a kill – and as punch, after punch landed, there was no escaping this mauling. In just 48 seconds, Herb Dean stepped in to stop the violence. For the second time in a row, Ronda Rousey left the cage battered and distraught. For a fighter who made her career off dishing out lighting quick finishes of her opponents, the latest (and possibly final) chapter of her career was on the receiving end.
Is it the end?
For the many people that view Rousey as a figure of inspiration and strength, it is important now more than ever for her to face the media and speak on her recent shortcomings inside the Octagon. Rousey’s celebrity reaches into homes and television screens of people who would otherwise not watch mixed martial arts. They tune in for Ronda and her story, the DNB campaign, and the overall image of feminine strength she has created. Inspirational figures must deliver on their promise which includes facing the reality of outcomes. There are many young girls who are inspired by what Ronda has been able to accomplish throughout her career and will be paying attention to how Ronda handles this loss.
If this was the last image of Ronda Rousey in the UFC cage, her career accomplishments as an Olympian, fighter, transcendent celebrity and trailblazer for women’s mixed martial arts will trump the recent lows. Without Ronda Rousey, there is no WMMA in the UFC in 2012. It took a special athlete and a special personality to change the mind of UFC President Dana White, who at the time believed women’s MMA wasn’t a good fit for the promotion. As we prepare to ring in 2017, women’s MMA has since evolved rapidly into a beast all its own, creating new superstars and fights that earn top billing on Pay Per Views. If Ronda Rousey was not there to carry the torch, who knows where we would be at this point? Luckily she was and we are all alive in a time to witness something truly special in the world of sports.
Regardless of what may be next for Ronda Rousey, we must all take a moment to say, “Thank you.”
No Love for the Dominator
While one career may be reaching the resolution of its plot, another is in the middle of the rising action phase.
Cody Garbrandt, a Team Alpha Male product, was set to take on the UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, the one man who has wreaked havoc on the camp’s top names for years – Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, and T.J. Dillashaw would all fall victim to the ghost-like movement of Dominick Cruz during his 13 fight win streak that stretches back to the WEC days. That run of wins and successful bantamweight title defenses would come to end on Friday evening, as Cody Garbrandt put on a masterful performance in the co-main event of UFC 207.
It was billed as and believed to be a clash of the elusive, unorthodox wizard against the always-forward, powerful knockout artist. Garbrandt threw everyone for a loop as he revealed an entirely different aspect to his game – an incredibly patient, technical, and tactical fight approach. For a stylish man outside of the Octagon, Cody “No Love” brought a certain stylish flair into the cage with him on Friday night as well, as he taunted Cruz at any opportunity over the course of five rounds. Garbrandt channeled his inner Diaz brother in the fourth round after dropping Cruz with a hard left hand that was followed up not by subsequent strikes to end the bout, but rather by pointing and laughing as Cruz picked himself up from the canvas. Nobody has picked Dominick Cruz apart in such a manner, much less taunting and dancing while doing so.
To cap off 2016, it was only right that we witnessed one more incredible changing of the guard, especially considering the madness that has occurred over the past twelve months in the sport. While Garbrandt’s performance was incredible enough, his post-fight dedication to Maddux Maple, his good friend, and leukemia survivor was the icing on the cake. Just as Dana White wrapped the belt around Garbrandt’s waist, Cody would do the same for Maddux, making good on his promise from a few weeks ago to give him the real belt should he be successful. It was a very special moment to celebrate his friend, who he credits with changing his life for the better, leading him to become a UFC champion.
Whether the newly crowned champion decides to fight former Team Alpha Male partner T.J. Dillashaw or wants to run it back with Dominick Cruz, the bantamweight division is as hot has it has ever been.
It was real, 2016.
Looking back on the year that was 2016, the game has changed in many ways.
We’re still feeling the impact from WME-IMG’s purchase of the UFC over the summer, which has seen many long-time employees and executives searching for the next phase of their careers, including commentator Mike Goldberg, whose final event on the mic was Friday evening. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva also partook in his final event as a UFC employee at UFC 207. Dave Sholler left his PR gig with the UFC to move to the NBA. Lorenzo Fertitta made his exit from the company when the sale was completed. There have been plenty of changes behind the scenes, yet the promotion continues to deliver a solid product.
For the fighters who make this sport truly incredible, 2016 should mark an important year in terms of fighter pay. Multi-million dollar disclosed paydays were realized by Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. As a result, their opponents benefited by increased pay which should continue to create a ripple effect throughout the sport. Free agency and fighter unions were both hot topics in the MMA world in 2016, which will both continue to evolve in the new year.
In a year which New York legalized mixed martial arts and provided numerous broken records, the sport is in a very good place heading to 2017.
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.
The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.
Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.
Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.
Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.
With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
- Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
- Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
- Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
- Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
- Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
- Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
- John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
- Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.
More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.
Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.
There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.
While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.
With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.
Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.
However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.
At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.
The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.
So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.
The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.
Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.
Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.
Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.
The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.
From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.
Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.
If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.
As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.
However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.
The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016. James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.
After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.
Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.
Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”
His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.
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