If you’re a gamer, you’re well aware that Electronic Arts (EA) is arguably the biggest name in video games when it comes to sports related games. With annual titles such as Madden, FIFA, NBA Live and NHL, EA has games for virtually every major sport out there. In 2014, they expanded that to include MMA with the release of “EA Sports UFC”. And just shy of 2 years later, they’ve returned to the world of mixed martial arts with the release of EA UFC 2.
As an EA Access member on the Xbox One, I had the privilege of gaining early access to the full version of the game a week prior to release. The first UFC game by EA was a very enjoyable game and I certainly put a significant amount of hours into it, but it wasn’t without its flaws. The sequel has taken steps to fix those flaws, added new game modes, expanded the roster and is an all around improvement on the first outing. It is by no means a perfect game, however. Below, I will break down virtually every piece of the game, from the menus to the game modes.
Menus and Access
The menus are clean and seem to take after the more recent Madden menus in having large panels for each selection. Overall the menus, both main and supplementary, are easy to navigate and it’s clear to you what your options are and where you need to go to access different things.
Graphically this game is fantastic. There are some fighters’ likenesses that the game devs swung and missed on, but for the most part, it’s very clear who is who. They have the looks down well, from the hair and muscles to the tattoos and scars. The walkout and introduction animations are smooth and seem very natural. The damage that your fighter inflicts and absorbs throughout the fight can be clearly seen between rounds and post fight. The referee, cornermen, and for the most part, the crowd, are very clearly defined and on par with the fighters.
The roster is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Obviously there will always be those who have problems with ratings and things like that but in terms of the sheer number of fighters available it’s hard to complain much with this game. The ability to use certain fighters across multiple weight classes makes sense. With the inclusion of legends like Bas Rutten, Royce Gracie, and Kazushi Sakuraba, fantasy MMA fighters like Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson, and the promise of DLC fighters in the future, it’s hard to argue that they left anyone out of the game. Be ready to live your dream matchup of Pascal Krauss vs Matt Hughes for the Welterweight title. Or you know… Robbie Lawler vs GSP.
Next up we have the different game modes that UFC 2 has to offer. Play Now and Online Play make a return from the original but they are joined in this version by KO Mode, Live Event, Custom Event and Ultimate Team. Career Mode also makes a return but I will be covering that in it’s own section.
Play Now mode is fairly self explanatory and is largely the same as in the previous version of the game. Pick a weight class, a fighter, an opponent, settings, and go to work. This is the mode to play if you don’t have time for one of the more time intensive game modes and are just looking for a quick matchup against the CPU.
Online play has multiple modes associated with it. Quick Fight is essentially the same as Play Now, only you are playing against another player online rather than the CPU. Online Rivalries is designed to have you play specifically against your friends list. Ranked Championships is essentially an online tournament where you are in a division and are in the “title chase” where you try and go from prospect to contender to champion, and then hold on to that championship for as long as you can. There are online leaderboards that can be divided by region, division and other factors. The current leader as I write this is in Division 6, his favorite fighter is Daniel Cormier and he has a record of 140-22 (the game isn’t even officially out yet, go outside man).
The new modes are where this game really starts to show it’s potential.
KO Mode is a modified version of Play Now; you choose a weight class, a fighter and an opponent. You then choose your settings and your score goal (Sudden death, best of 3 or best of 5). In KO Mode, your fighter’s health and stamina meter is replaced by a modified health bar with 5 pieces. When the fight starts, you better either know how to dodge and block, or be faster than your opponent because these “rounds” go quickly and end violently. With takedowns and submissions disabled, the only way to win is to knock your opponent unconscious. This game mode is a lot of fun for when you want to take a break from the more technical aspects of the game and give in to that “just bleed” mentality that everyone can fall victim to every once in a while. This is also another mode that you can utilize if you don’t have a lot of time to spare as you can easily fit multiple games into a short period.
Live Event Mode isn’t active at the time of writing, this but the premise is promising. Live Event allows you to play through an entire upcoming fight card and win points/prizes that can be used in Ultimate Team if your outcomes match the actual event outcomes. I would expect Live Event to have it’s first event up on launch day or close to it, utilizing the upcoming UFC Fight Night: Brisbane fight card.
Custom Event is basically exactly what it sounds like. Create your own event, from pre-lims to main event and then choose to either sim through it and watch or play through the entire card yourself. Want to customize your own UFC 200 or have UFC 209 take place in California with the Diaz brothers headlining the card? With Custom Event you can do that. Don’t be scared homie.
Ultimate Team is a concept that EA sports veterans will recognize from the developer’s other games. In Ultimate Team mode for UFC 2 you control a stable of up to 5 fighters of any weight class. You have cards that have move sets, skills, specific moves and stats that can be applied to your fighters to improve their overall level. Want GSP’s superman punch or Anderson Silva’s front kick? Those cards are out there. Cards can be universal, meaning they can be used on any of your fighters or they can be weight class specific and are only able to be used if you have a fighter of that gender and weight class. Your fighter’s overall stamina goes down after every fight and there are cards that you use to bring it back up again. Monitoring your fighter’s stamina as well as how many of those cards you have remaining can become a very strategic decision in the long run. Ultimate Team can be played against the CPU or online against other players. You earn “coins” based on how you do in your fight and those coins can be used to buy packs of cards or in auctions to bid on a specific card against other players. You start at the bottom and work your way up with each fighter from prospect to contender, all the way up to become the champion. A loss sets you back a level and your rewards are higher if you become the champion and defend your title multiple times.
Practice Mode and Skill Challenges are both modes that you can utilize to improve your skills either by drilling specific aspects of the game or sparring against the CPU in practice mode.
Career Mode makes a return in UFC 2 but the changes from the first game make it a distinctly different experience this time around.
The create-a-fighter has more options this time around. You are able to seriously customize your fighter’s body type and overall look. Hair, eye color, nose shape and positioning, muscle definition, and more are all customizable. For those who are fans of tattoos, you are able to layer tattoos over virtually every part of your fighter’s body. My character in career mode has 19 total tattoos, ranging from his arms, back and ribs to the tops of his feet. There are the pre-made tattoos as well as a variety of shapes and letters that give you the option to somewhat create your own designs. There is the option for up to 100 layers in the tattoo section of the create-a-fighter screen so you could potentially create a fighter who makes Cody “No Love” Garbrandt look like a guy who “kinda likes tattoos”. The gear you are able to select from is still fairly limited and the options for sponsor logos are obviously no longer available. Choosing your fighter’s walkout music now has many more options than before as you can choose from a variety of music that ranges from generic instrumentals to some iconic walkout songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Hold On I’m Coming”.
You still start off as a fighter attempting to earn your spot in The Ultimate Fighter house but that’s about as far as the similarities go. In the previous game, it seemed that no matter how you performed in your fight to “get in the house,” you were inevitably picked last when the teams were picked. Not in UFC 2. In my created character’s career, I won my fight by 2nd round TKO. I did well but it wasn’t exactly a dominating performance. After the fight, one coach told me he had me as a top 3 pick while the other coach had me in his “middle 5”. I ended up being the 1st overall pick of the coach who told me he saw me as top 3, which was a nice change from being picked dead last (reminded me too much of gym class). Instead of being told “this is who you’re fighting next” under the “fight offers” section, I actually had 3 fights to choose from and was able to see the stats and skills of each opponent before making my choice. Having multiple options for fight offers stayed throughout the entire TUF portion with the exclusion of the Finals obviously where my opponent was already set.
The training mode between fights is vastly different as well. In the previous game, you had three training events and were awarded a different “belt” depending on how well you did in each drill. You can now choose what drills you want to do and what difficulty you want to attempt them, with the higher difficulties earning you more experience if you do well. The training activities are divided into three main categories: stand up, clinch, and ground. Each category has four drills with each drill affecting your stats in different areas. Training becomes a much more strategic part of career mode not only due to being able to choose which drills you do, but there is also the potential for injury during training over the three “weeks” that you have to train between fights (there may be points where you have longer or shorter to train, but I did not encounter that in my time with career mode). When you are selecting a drill it tells you the potential for injury from that drill and injuries do have an effect on your fighter going into the fight, generally lowering stats that would be effected by the injury (left hand power lowered due to a left hand injury for example). How well you do in drills is reflected by a grade and your overall camp is shown by a meter that awards bonuses if you pass certain points on it. Finding the balance between maximizing your training and avoiding injury could make the difference between a win and a loss in your next fight.
Every fight now starts out with the walkouts and introductions, they are no longer limited to when you are the champion the way they were previously. You can now touch gloves before each round as well. Depending on if/how you win and how the fight goes, your popularity and longevity is affected. The more popular you are, the more longevity you have which is an interesting touch. Your stats do play a role obviously, but they’re not the sole factor. My character, for instance, is a 75 overall currently (82 standup, 72 clinch, 72 ground), but I’m 9-0 in the UFC with 4 ko/tko wins and 5 submission wins. By my stats alone I should be focused on standup and knocking people out but because of the new submission system (which we’ll touch on later), I have become very good at taking the fight to the ground and submitting my opponents. You can be a victim of your own success, however. My 9-0 start has me ranked 25 overall and a showdown with 21st ranked Glover Teixeira (an 89 overall) is looming.
The last aspect I will touch on for career mode is the moves/perks section. You still spend points to buy different moves but now the move list is even larger but also very specific to different button presses/combos. In addition, each move has levels that you can use points to improve the moves, making them more effective with each level. The same can be done for perks. Every perk is now available to be bought from the beginning with all five perk slots are open. It is just a matter of having enough experience points to buy the perks. The perks can then be leveled up to increase their effectiveness. For instance, Level 1 Ground and Pound increases damage of strikes in the clinch and on the ground by 2%, but if you increase it to level 5, it increases the damage by 10%. Having a wide variety of perks to deal with a variety of opponents skill sets can be crucial.
The controls in this game are very similar to the first game as far as the standup is concerned, although the variety of moves and different ways to accomplish those moves will have you changing up what you do quite a bit.
The biggest differences are in the takedowns, clinch, and submission controls. They have been simplified in a sense while still making you work for it. Holding left trigger brings up a small “quick guide” to the screen that tells you which direction to push and hold the right thumbstick in order to accomplish the takedown you want. Similarly, transitions in the clinch and submissions operate the same way. When in a position on the ground, or in the clinch with the addition of flying submissions, hold the left trigger to see what (if any) submissions are available and how to begin them. Countering them operates under the same principle but it involves the right trigger instead of the left and using your knowledge of how your opponent is moving/leaning to counter it correctly. When you have started a submission, the “gates” controls of the last game come into play with using the right thumbstick to either push for the submission or counter it while using the left thumbstick when prompted to advance the submission. Advance the submission enough times and your opponent will tap or go to sleep.
An added trick to the submission aspect of the game is the inclusion of “submission chaining”. Occasionally when you are attempting a submission, the left thumbstick prompt will be green rather than red, this indicates the opportunity for a “submission chain”. Submission chaining allows you to advance the submission by turning it into a different submission. For instance, I was attempting a triangle choke and received the prompt to chain the submission. When I did so, my fighter flowed into an armbar attempt and my opponent almost immediately tapped out. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does and you’re able to pull it off, it is immensely satisfying.
The movement and dodging is also improved by utilizing the left trigger and left thumbstick to move your head and body more accurately than you were capable of before. It’s a subtle, but nice change that makes defense a bit easier.
There are instances of “glitchiness,” most notably when you shoot for a takedown only to be blasted backward by a knee that your opponent threw after you already secured the double leg or strikes that seem to cancel each other out. It can get incredibly frustrating when it happens multiple times in a row, but overall the controls are improved from the previous game and are fairly smooth and easy to figure out. However, mastering those controls may be a more difficult task.
The game has its problems, but every game does. I did focus more on the positives and the improvements in this piece but honestly that is because the improvements stood out more than the negatives. Overall, this is a solid game and a significant improvement from EA’s previous UFC game.
The replay factor is definitely there, whether it is in a quest to go undefeated in Career Mode (or going through on a higher difficulty, different weight class, different play style to challenge yourself), trying to reach the top and stay on top of the online leaderboards, build the perfect Ultimate Team, or just go nuts in KO Mode with your friends. There are a lot of options to keep you coming back to this game for a long time. Not to mention, playing through every event as it goes live or creating your own ultimate fantasy card.
If you were a fan of the first game, you’ll love EA UFC 2. And if you never played the first game but are a fan of MMA and gaming, give the game a shot. There is bound to be at least one game mode that you will absolutely love.
I will be getting my official copy on release day, March 15th, so look out for the guy online who keeps trying to successfully pull of a flying triangle choke. I won’t let you hear the end of it if you’re the one I finally succeed on.
GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions
Glory returns to pay-per-view today with a stacked card, featuring some of their greatest fighters. Among them are reigning champions Rico Verhoeven and Alex Pereira, as well as the return of former title holder Nieky Holzken.
In the main event, Rico puts his heavyweight title on the line against the very dangerous Jamal Ben Saddik, who defeated him 6 years ago. Rico comes into the fight riding an impressive 14-fight Glory winning streak.
The co-main event features a rematch of the 2016 Fight of the Year between light heavyweight veterans Michael ‘The Dreamcrusher’ Duut and Danyo ‘Dibuba’ Ilunga. The card is a must-see for kickboxing fans, as well as those who just love a good scrap. And with that out of the way, here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting fight’s on Saturday’s super-card. Enjoy.
Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev
Nabiyev came into Glory with a decent amount of steam behind him, but following his bout against short-notice opponent Jimmy Veinot, I honestly don’t see it. Nieky’s reign as champion was one of the best, and despite two close losses to the equally talented Cédric Doumbé, he’s still one of the best welterweights in the world today. With wins over Raymond Daniels, Joseph Valtellini, and current champion Murthel Groenhart, it’s hard to imagine Nieky having much of a problem with Nabiyev.
Expect plenty of pressure from Holzken early on. Coming off two straight losses Nieky will want to make a statement, and prove that he’s still the man to beat at 170. The liver shot will do it. Holzken will just be too much for Alim. Nabiyev has potential and could be a contender in the future, but right now Holzken is on a whole ‘nother level. Nieky is back, and he wants that title.
Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO
Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui
Pereira’s win back at Glory 46 came as a shock to me. Simon Marcus has proven himself to be one of the best fighters in the division, and while Pereira is a solid kickboxer in his own right, I fully expected Marcus to win that one pretty easy. I was wrong. Pereira was the better man, and is now the Glory middleweight champion. But don’t expect it to last. Yousri completely shut Pereira down in there last meeting at Glory 40. And based on his last performance, a first round TKO over former champ Jason Wilnis, he’s only getting better.
Pereira’s path to victory is pretty simple, strike hard and strike early. The deep waters are not a place where Alex thrives. His cardio has been questionable in the past and his vaunted knockout power diminishes as the fight goes on. If Pereira can’t put Yousri on the back foot early it’s hard to see him taking this one.
The last fight was a fairly decisive win for Belgaroui. Alex was unable to score on Yousri and was picked apart after gassing out late into the fight. Pereira is a talented striker with some serious power, but Belgaroui’s well-rounded game and superior cardio should be enough to win him the championship.
Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision
Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga
Last year these two stole the show, putting on one of the greatest fights of the year, maybe of all-time. But can they do it again? It’s hard to say. Consistency is not a strong suit for either of these men. Following his thriller with Ilunga, Duut went on to lose his next Glory contest by disqualification due to excessive clinching, then later won a contender tournament in less than a minute (48 seconds to be exact).
Duut’s incredible power and brawler style make him a dangerous fight for just about anyone in the light heavyweight division, but his lack of defence make him an easy target. Unfortunately, Ilunga hasn’t hit a bullsye in quite some time.
Danyo comes into this fight on a whopping 7 fight losing streak, and hasn’t won a fight in Glory since 2014. On the bright side, all 7 losses have come by decision so his chin has held up. Plus Duut isn’t the most durable guy in the world, so it’s possible that Ilunga could knock him out. But I don’t see that happening. Duut is just too powerful and Ilunga isn’t the same fighter he used to be. Hopefully the fight is as great as the last one was, but don’t expect it to go to a 4th round this time. Ilunga’s on a slippery slope, and Duut’s about to cause an avalanche.
Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO
Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik
Despite being the main event this was one of the easier fights to pick. Rico has looked unstoppable lately, and as much as people hate to give him credit for anything, he really is the best heavyweight in the world right now. That doesn’t mean a whole lot considering how weak the division is at the moment, but Rico is champion for a reason.
The rest of the heavyweights just aren’t on his level. ‘Big Ben’ included. Jamal’s last fight against Guto Inocente was a total snoozefest, and if not for his rivalry with Rico he probably wouldn’t even be in the title picture. Badr Hari better get his act together cause Rico’s running out of opponents.
The only advantage I see Jamal having is his power. Rico is faster, more precise, and his striking is more diverse. Again, this is a heavyweight contest so anything can happen, but Jamal hasn’t KO’d a world-class opponent since he fought ‘Braddock’ 2 years ago. Since then, Rico has knocked-out Benjamin Adegbuyi, ‘Braddock’, Bigfoot Silva, and broke Badr’s arm earning him a TKO victory. Rico’s the better fighter, simple as that. And no amount of chest hair is going to change that.
Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO
All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing
UFC 218: Holloway vs Aldo 2 Main Card Predictions and Analysis
The passing of the torch. A usual occurrence in combat sports. There comes a time when the old guard has to step down and let the new generation take its place. UFC 218 is all about the passing of the torch. Holloway-Aldo 2, Overeem-Ngannou, Alvarez-Gaethje, the card is chock full of young hungry fighters looking to make a statement against their aging counterparts. But don’t expect the old lions to give up without a fight. Aldo is still a world-class striker and Eddie’s still got some tread on the tires. And at the age of 37, Overeem is still one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world today.
Max Holloway is a perfect representative of the new generation. He’s scrappy, well-rounded, and will fight whoever you put in front of him. He’s got the fire. So do Ngannou, Gaethje, and the rest of the young guys. Aldo hasn’t had that fire in a long time. Sure he’s still a great fighter, but in his last few fights, he’s lacked that burning passion he used to have. Aldo has all the tools to beat Holloway, but does he have the drive? Does the fire still burn, or was it put out long ago? That’s what we’re going to find out come Saturday.
Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson
This is such a weird fight. Torres’ climb to the top has been impressively mediocre. She has wins over quality opponents like Angela Hill, Felice Herrig, and Paige VanZant. However, with just a single finish to her credit, Tecia hasn’t given the fans a reason to pay attention to her. Waterson is the complete opposite. She has only gone to decision twice and is one of the more popular fighters in the division. However, injuries and losses have prevented Waterson from gaining any real momentum.
As far as the fight goes I really don’t know what to expect. Waterson is fairly inconsistent and Torres is so consistent it hurts. My assumption would be that Waterson has the better ground game, so if anyone’s going to take it to the mat it will be her. Torres has the better overall stand-up game but doesn’t possess the same finishing ability of the Karate Hottie. My guess is that this one stays on the feet with Torres pushing the pace early, then getting caught by a powerful strike from Waterson that puts her down for good.
Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO
Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje
How the hell did Cejudo-Pettis get billed higher than this? Alvarez vs Gaethje has the potential to be the Forrest-Bonnar of the modern era. Both men are aggressive brawlers on the feet and strong wrestlers on the mat. I’d give the submission edge to Eddie, but that’s about it. Gaethje’s striking game is more diverse than Eddie’s is, and his youth is definitely something to consider. With 34 fights to his credit, Alvarez is certainly no spring chicken. He’s not nearly as durable as he used to be, and against a dangerous scrapper like Gaethje, that’s not a great quality.
I really wanted to go with Alvarez on this one, but facts are facts. Gaethje is younger, tougher, and most importantly, better for business. Eddie already lost to the biggest draw in the game. Money-wise he doesn’t have much to offer. Gaethje, however, is a promoters wet dream. He’s durable, dangerous, and damn fun to watch. Basically, everything Eddie used to be. Why does any of this matter? Because the judges work for the UFC. If the UFC brass wants Gaethje to win, then he will. Simple as that. Is it right? No, but business is business. And Justin Gaethje is good for business.
Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision
Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis
This feels like too big a step up for Sergio, which is weird considering he’s ranked #4 and Cejudo is ranked #2. After Cejudo’s fight with Mighty Mouse, I wrote him off as nothing more than a sacrifice to the flyweight king. But his close fight with perennial #1 contender Joseph Benavidez and his vicious knockout over veteran submission artist Wilson Reis have shown me that Cejudo is more than just a big-headed wrestler. Henry is one of the best. If anyone in the division is taking the belt off Mighty Mouse it’s him.
Sergio is a talented kid, no doubt. Give him a few more years to develop and he could be champion one day. Unfortunately for him, the UFC doesn’t have time for that. They need flyweight contenders. If that means a few prospects have to bite the dust then so be it. I just hope Sergio doesn’t get completely outclassed and is able to make a good showing, but against a guy like Cejudo, I’m not holding my breath.
Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision
Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou
Call me crazy, but I’m still not completely sold on Cheick Kongo with dreadlocks. His only quality win is a knockout over what’s left of Andrei Arlovski. Overeem, on the other hand, has fought nothing but quality contenders in his climb back to the top, with his only loss coming against reigning champion Stipe Miocic (although some would argue they saw the tap). On paper, this is Overeem’s fight to win. Unfortunately, paper is what Overeem’s chin is made of.
Ngannou may not be as technically sound as Overeem is, but he hits just as hard, maybe harder. One good shot from the Predator and Overeem could drop like a sack of horse meat. Combine that with Overeem’s uber-cockiness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Picking Overeem is always a gamble, but I’m willing to roll the dice on this one. It’s not gonna be pretty but Overeem’s in-and-out kickboxing and “run like hell” defensive style should be just enough to win this.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision
Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2
Holloway TKO’d Aldo about 6 months ago. Max is in the best form of his career. Aldo is taking the fight on short notice. I really can’t think of a good reason to pick Aldo on this one. Sure his striking is still some of the best in the division, but at this point, he’s writing checks his body can’t cash anymore. His chin has degraded significantly and his patented leg kicks are nowhere to be found. It pains me to say this because Aldo is an incredible fighter, but it’s starting to feel as though the sport is passing him by. Aldo is the past, Max is the future.
Despite just winning the title this summer, Holloway has effectively cleaned out the division. Swanson, Lamas, Stephens, Pettis, all fell to the young Hawaiian. Hell, since his loss to McGregor nobody’s even come close to beating Holloway. This doesn’t mean Max is invincible though. Frankie is still a huge threat to Max’s title, and those who sleep on Aldo are often put to sleep themselves. The road ahead of him is not an easy one, but something tells me Max is going to do just fine. It is what it is.
Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO
GSP vs Robert Whittaker is Easily the Best Fight to Make at Middleweight
GSP became the new middleweight champion of the UFC this past weekend, and many questions have been asked his way. Is he officially the greatest of all time? Who does he fight next? Does he stay at middleweight?
The G.O.A.T. conversation will never be settled completely. There will always be separation in opinions between Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, and some even say Conor McGregor is the greatest, simply due to the fact that he is the first ever UFC champion to hold two belts simultaneously. Regardless of how that conversation is driven, the biggest question that should be the only concern at this point is the immediate plans for the new middleweight champion.
Where does GSP go next, and who does he fight?
Well, the fact of the matter is, it would not make sense for GSP to go down to the welterweight division again. 170-pounds is alive and kicking at the moment, with new stars emerging such as Darren Till and Mike Perry, to return of veterans like Carlos Condit, and also new additions to the division like Rafael dos Anjos. St-Pierre would have to stay extremely active in order to keep the division flowing.
At the age of 36 and having just returned to MMA last weekend, St-Pierre is unlikely to stay as active as he used to be when he was the king of the welterweight division. Plus, would it really make much sense for him to get on his old diet again in order to make the welterweight weight limit? He looked massive last night, all bulked up, and even seemed like the bigger fighter against Bisping, who used to fight at 205-pounds.
On the other hand, if he decides to stay at middleweight, which is what UFC president Dana White stated would happen yesterday, then there is one clear path for him to take and based on his statements on his contract, will be forced to take: Robert Whittaker.
Whittaker won the interim middleweight belt earlier this year against Yoel Romero at UFC 213, which was a razor close fight that went to Whittaker at the end of 5 rounds. Since then, Whittaker has been sidelined due to the injury he suffered during the fight, damaging his ligament in the left knee.
4 months later, he has seemed to have healed up perfectly, as he was in the arena for the madness last night and even answered a few questions from the media, stating that he is healthy now. The fight against Whittaker would be the best that the UFC could put on at this point in 185-pounds division on a few different levels.
GSP and Whittaker have a lot in common. Starting with the most obvious, they both used to fight at welterweight. Which means that neither fighter will have a massive size advantage. This brings the match up nearly even as far as physicality is concerned.
Then comes the match up itself. St-Pierre and Whittaker both represent the very definition of being ‘well-rounded’. Whittaker, although not an offensive wrestler, proved that his defensive wrestling was second to none in his fight against Romero, a former Olympic wrestler. And while GSP is not necessarily the best wrestler in pure wrestling, his ability to wrestle in MMA is phenomenal due to his timing and fight IQ, which makes this fight even more intriguing to find out whether Whittaker can defend GSP’s takedown attempts.
This fight also represents the UFC an opportunity to see a birth of a superstar. Whittaker, while not a huge talker, is a very marketable fighter especially over in Australia and New Zealand. If he is able to defeat GSP, who’s arguably the biggest draw in the history of the company, it would boost Whittaker’s popularity up an extraordinary amount. And being only 26 years old, Whittaker has the tools and potential to be a dominant champion, much like St-Pierre in his “prime”.
Booking this fight would also clear up the confusing state of the middleweight division. With Bisping’s reign as the champion coming to an end, some hope was born for other contenders in the division. Fighters like Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza were having an extremely hard time getting a hold of Michael Bisping during his reign, and with a new champion now and possible unification of the belts soon, the contenders will have a goal to work for again.
The fight is one of the best fights that UFC could put on for the fans right now and one that can happen as early as February of 2018, which is when the UFC returns to Australia with a PPV. If it can come to fruition, then it will easily be one of the best fights of the year and one that all the fans can count the days down to.
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Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”