UFC 214 just got even more exciting. Is that at least partially because a few of its primary elements are slightly unreliable? Plus, where can Johny Hendricks go from here? And is there a single good reason for B.J. Penn to fight again?
All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.
Let’s deal with the facts here. UFC 214 is headlined by Jon Jones fighting to reclaim his light heavyweight title. Further down the card, you’ve got Cristiane Justino fighting a replacement from another organization and weight class. So yeah, you can bet your Butterfinger the Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia welterweight title fight is something of a backup.
Can you blame the UFC if that’s the idea? Jones has proven to be unreliable. Justino has a way of reminding opponents of some very important task they need to run off and complete. The lesson the UFC learned from injury-ravaged years past is that you’d better have a Plan B if you want to sell pay-per-views.
And really, this is a pretty good one. Now UFC 214 could withstand some hits. It’s not like some other cards we’ve seen, where we’re never more than one tweaked knee from canceling the whole thing. You want to have a big fight card in the middle of the summer? This is how you do it. Now let’s just everybody try to stay healthy until then.
Tonya Evinger is skilled and ornery enough that you can never count her out completely. That said, this is a tough one. Usually Evinger wins with a style of grappling that looks like what your big sister would have done to you if she were a black belt. It’s not the flashiest or the slickest ground game you’ve ever seen, but it is mean and relentless.
Thing is, I don’t know how that’s going to work against Cristiane Justino. “Cyborg” will be bigger and stronger than Evinger, and it’s not as if she’s a novice on the ground. You’re not just going to bully that woman, and I doubt Evinger wants to stand there and trade punches with her for too long.
Credit to Evinger for taking the fight, especially since we just saw a champion literally give up the belt without a fight just to avoid it. But she’s going to have a tough night of work on July 29.
It’s somewhere in between. The California State Athletic Commission, led by executive director Andy Foster, himself a former professional MMA fighter, has made this issue a priority of late. The CSAC has been uncommonly proactive about trying to mitigate the dangers of extreme weight-cutting in MMA, and this is a part of that effort.
It’s an admirable one, too. If we actually want to do something about this problem, regulators can’t keep turning a blind eye for the sake of getting along with promoters. The question is whether or not one commission can spur a change throughout the entire sport.
That’s the problem with the state commission approach to regulating this sport. Standards differ between athletic commissions, sometimes greatly. So does funding and experience and the level of professionalism. Just ask Cortney Casey about her experiences with Texas, and you’ll see what I mean.
I’m glad to see California flexing its regulator muscle in the name of athlete health and safety. But what happens if Renan Barao wants to fight at bantamweight in Brazil next? Or in Pennsylvania? Or in Florida? I like what California is trying to do, but it can’t do it alone.
I won’t speculate on what the goal was in having Tony Ferguson sit at the FOX Sports desk and grill a potential future opponent on TV, but I can tell you what the pros and cons of the situation were in the end. You ready?
Pro: Now there’s some heat between Ferguson and Kevin Lee, which might prove handy in promoting a fight between them soon.
Con: Remember that part where Lee asked if they could “put a real journalist on” rather than having a fellow fighter masquerade as one for the sake of that interview? Turned out the answer was no, they couldn’t. Which, if I’m a viewer, really serves to remind me what I’m actually watching here.
You know how pro wrestling used to have those shows within the show, where it looked like a real news desk with two or three pundits talking and doing “interviews,” but in reality everyone was working for the wrestling promoter and their job was to push these narratives along? This felt a lot like that.
It was another reminder that we’re dealing with state-run TV here. And I guess that’s fine if that’s how FOX Sports (which just axed all its writers, thereby giving up the claim that it was still pursuing actual sports journalism, even if it was only online) and the UFC want to play.
Just seems like a bummer for fans, because this is pretty much the only TV show left in America that’s focused solely on this sport, and you can’t even watch it without being reminded that it’s all one big commercial.
It might be a valid complaint, but I can’t help but wish it had come from someone else.
Right now, Felice Herrig is a better fighter than she’s ever been. She’s won three straight in the UFC, and her last two victories came against undefeated opponents. But she feels like the promotional push from the UFC isn’t there, in part because it would rather focus on the young and the beautiful, regardless of what their records look like.
There’s something to that criticism, but I can recall a time not so long ago when Herrig was on the other end of it. She seemed content to exploit that dynamic and ignore the criticism from it before she was in the UFC. Now that she’s there and winning fights, it seems like she’s changed her mind.
The fight game is a sales business at heart, and everyone in it sells what they can. I’m not going to criticize Herrig for using sex appeal to market herself earlier in her career, but I would expect her to be a little more understanding when other people – whether it’s younger fighters or the UFC itself – do the same. Now that she’s stacking up meaningful wins, maybe the thing for her to do is focus on where that can take her.
I read that Johny Hendricks blamed his latest weigh-in miss on a fever, and I have no real reason to doubt that he’s telling the truth. If he hadn’t missed weight all those other times, people might be inclined to cut him some slack on this one.
Hendricks’ career decline is one of the sharpest we’ve ever seen in this sport. It’s not just one bad night here or there. This is a habitual thing for him now, and he’s already been given more latitude than lots of other fighters have gotten.
The trouble is that, as a former champion, the UFC is going to expect him to fight someone with a name. There aren’t any easy ones waiting for him out there. He has to know that. Maybe the thing for him to do now is be honest about himself about what it’s going to take to be ready for it.
I think the punishment for watching those fights was contained in the fights themselves. If not, I sure wish we’d known in advance what kind of trade we were making. I think most of us would have chosen to keep Donald Cerrone vs. Robbie Lawler intact. But maybe this pairing is too glorious to ever pass out of the realm of fantasy and into reality.
Up until recently I would have answered the first part of this question with Justin Gaethje. Now the UFC’s scooped him up, and it’s not hard to see why, since the guy has an exciting style that seems designed to make sure no one leaves the cage without a headache – including the referee if he gets too close to the backflip celebration.
If I can’t say Gaethje anymore, guess I have to go with the obvious choice: Baruto.
As for who I like to write about the most, I can’t say I’m familiar with this McDoogle fellow you mentioned. There’s a fighter by the name of Conor McGregor who fans seem to really like to read about. Then there are fighters whose honesty and intelligence and willingness to engage in self-reflection makes them interesting interview subjects.
But honestly, I like talking to the fighters who are at least a few years removed from active careers. I did a lot of it for this story on PRIDE a few months ago, and it reminded me that you get a different perspective from people who can stand at a certain point removed from it all. They’re also more likely to tell you the truth, if only because there are fewer people around who can punish them for it.
I can give you several bad ones.
– Maybe B.J. Penn feels like he doesn’t know who he is if he’s not a fighter.
– Maybe he can’t stand the thought of going out on this terrible losing streak.
– Maybe he feels like he needs the training to keep his life together, and he can’t stay motivated for the training without the promise of a fight at the end.
– Maybe he likes the paychecks and the attention and the adrenaline rush.
All of those are understandable to some extent, but not one is a good enough reason to keep going in a sport this brutal and unforgiving.
I’m with you. Michael Chiesa is an exciting fighter and a likable guy, and I think there are plenty of other fights available for him in possibly the most talent-rich division in all of MMA. Pick a name out of a hat. Is it someone good? Probably. Will that person rile you up by merely mentioning you have a mother? Maybe. And we’re off. It beats waiting half a year to fight a guy you just fought.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.
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Source: MMA Junkie