Another week and another mountain of MMA news dropped upon us all. Since last we spoke, Charles Oliveira turned in a sensational comeback to win the vacant UFC lightweight title, Tony Ferguson got worked again, Georges St-Pierre confirmed that Dana White is fight-blocking him from a boxing match with Oscar De La Hoya, and Diego Sanchez miraculously split from the horrible vampire who shall not be named. So let’s get cracking.
With a STACKED division at 155lbs, can you see Olivera cementing himself as champ, or do we have a champ merry-go-round for the next 18 months or so? And is Makhachev already the champ in waiting?
— Kneel or Nile? (@nialljclark) May 19, 2021
First off, full credit to my man Chucky Olives. Not only did he win the title with a fantastic KO, he did it by overcoming some serious adversity. For a while now the book on Oliveira has been that he folds under pressure but Michael Chandler put the boots to him and he held up and then came back. Really impressive stuff from the new champion.
That being said, is he going to put together a real reign? I have my doubts. Sure, it’s not impossible he cements himself as champion over the next couple of years but he has a tough row to hoe. As you correctly pointed out, lightweight is a friggin’ shark tank and only a very small few have ever truly cemented themselves as the champion at 155 because of that fact. On any given night, there are probably 30 or so lightweights in the world who could give any champ (other than Khabib – he was invincible) a run for his money and that’s just not the case for any other weight division.
In the case of Oliveira though, frankly, I think there are probably a half-dozen lightweights that I think would take the strap from him should they get the chance. Until someone other than Khabib beats him, Dustin Poirier is the clear-cut top lightweight in the world and though I think a Poirier-Oliveira fight is a banger, I think “The Diamond” shines through. Similarly, I feel the same way about Justin Gaethje except I don’t think that fight is even close given how much difficulty Oliveira had with Chandler’s power. Conor gets a lot of flak (from me, often) but I still think he probably lamps the new champ inside of two rounds. Beneil Dariush can score takedowns and I’d be stunned if Oliveira could win the grappling exchanges there. And Oliveira already fought Felder and Chandler (and obviously beat Chandler) but I’d favor both in a rematch.
Which then brings us to your last question: Islam Makhachev. I believe that if Islam got a title shot tomorrow, he would win the lightweight belt and furthermore, I believe that statement would likely be true regardless of who held the title. Both from what we’ve seen in the cage and what his coaches say, Makhachev is a near replica of Khabib and I think that’s mostly true. I believe Khabib is a better pure athlete than Makhachev but that’s about it. And while the difference in athleticism is not nothing, I don’t believe it matters in the context of the rest of the lightweight division. Islam may be a slightly worse version of Khabib but there was such a gulf between Khabib and everyone else that a slightly worse version is still probably better than everyone. Ultimately, I do think Makhachev is the future of the lightweight division, it’s just a question of how long until that future arrives.
Oh wise one, what is next for your favorite fighter, the undisputed No. 2 lightweight in the world, Michael Chandler?
— Alexander K Lee (@AlexanderKLee) May 21, 2021
I know that my above writing is sure to infuriate some Chucky Olives fans, and to that I say, “tough cookies.” Because one of the reasons I am so down on Oliveira’s potential to hold the belt is that I am far less impressed by his recent run than everyone else is. Yes, nine in a row in the best division in the sport is impressive no matter who you face, but what of those wins is actually the best one? Kevin Lee? The only thing that exceeds Lee’s talent is his ability to implode at the worst times. Tony Ferguson? That win isn’t looking so hot right now (more on that later). It can’t be Michael Chandler?!?
Okay, Michael Chandler isn’t bad. In fact, he’s probably very good at fighting (and he’s definitely very good at losing, he handled that L as well as anyone ever has) but I say “probably” because we actually have no friggin’ clue how good he is. The best win on Chandler’s resume is, depending on who you ask, either Dan Hooker or Eddie Alvarez, TEN YEARS AGO. That’s just not a lot to go on. Everyone else at the top of the lightweight division has fought a number of other great guys and Chandler simply hasn’t done that. That’s what he needs to do now.
After the loss, Chandler said he was going to win the title in the next 12 months. That will not happen, not just because he isn’t good enough to do so (an opinion) but because there is not a clear path back to him in the title in that short a time frame. Oliveira is going to fight the winner of Poirier-McGregor, either in the fall or winter which means the absolute earliest Chandler could possibly challenge for the title would be next spring and he would need a lot of lucky breaks and two wins to pull that off. Fortunately for him, at least with regard to the latter there is something he can do about that.
Though there are no shortage of viable opponents for Chandler now, if I’m him I’m gunning for a fight with either Justin Gaethje or the loser of Poirier-McGregor. Both are fights he could reasonably land and both would present him the opportunity to then get a title eliminator next, should he win. Or, if Chandler wants to be a real wild man, he can call for a fight with Islam Makhachev after Makhachev dispatches with Thiago Moises. Same outcome if he wins plus he gets the added shine of being the only lightweight with the stones to fight the division’s real bogeyman.
Should Tony retire after 3 consecutive losses ?
— HONG KONG (@AbdullahShwihdi) May 20, 2021
Should he retire? Yes. Basically every fighter should retire because there are less physically damaging ways to make a living. However, does Tony Ferguson need to retire? No, so long as he can accept that his time as a top 155er is over. Ferguson still has a lot of tools to win fights, he just no longer has the tools to win fights against the best guys in the world and there’s no shame there. Father Time is a real motherf*cker like that. He comes for us all.
Ferguson’s decline is interesting, because though he is getting his absolutely dominated, it’s not like he’s getting one-shot KO’d. “El Cucuy” is still durable, tough as hell, and in great shape. He can still do occasional Tony Ferguson things but it no longer happens with the snap that it once did. In fact, his decline has been oddly akin to Tyron Woodley’s and I think that’s probably because both of them had serious, fundamental issues with their games (Ferguson’s utter lack of defense and Woodley’s general lack of offense) that were masked by their athleticism. As that declined for both men, so too did their ability to win fights.
Look, the book is sort of out on Ferguson that if you take him down he’s not going to get up, he’s just going to go for low-percentage subs, so as long as he’s matched up with grapplers, he’s probably going to have a bad time. But Ferguson is still an offensively potent fighter with unorthodox attacks so if you put him in there with other aging veterans or very green guys, he can put on good fights and pick up wins. It’s the veteran’s circuit for El Cucuy from here on out.
If you took all the best strikers out of the UFC and left only the wrestlers do you agree the ppv revenue etc would die on its arse?
— THE NEW KING OF THE NORTH (@Daniel20591336) May 19, 2021
No because whenever two wrestlers fight each other, their wrestling cancels out so you get bad kickboxing. And let me tell you, there is nothing UFC fans like more than bad kickboxing.
Cris Cyborg. 100 times out of 100. If you gave me a baseball bat it would be the same result. Cyborg, all day, every day.
how many months of training would it take you to beat CM Punk ?
— Lamine Baal (@MugenGodslayer) May 20, 2021
I have trained grappling and kickboxing on and off for 10 years. I would call myself “competent” at both. My assumption is that I would still lose to CM Punk because he was, at one time, a professional athlete and I have never been that. Though I will at least allow that I have a much better shot of beating him than I ever would at beating Cyborg.
Was it the Bisping fight that put GSP under a contract that somehow still holds, after his retirement, that somehow gives DanaWhite the current right-of-refusal, even in non-MMA competitions? Is it that technically GSP owes the ufc fights/how long would something like that last?
— Vik Sahay (@Vik__Sahay) May 20, 2021
I’ll preface this by saying I’m not an expert on these matters so I encourage you to read others on this topic. However, yes, it does appear that the reason Georges St-Pierre cannot box Oscar De La Hoya and make a lot of money is that time he came back and Dana White made him sign a new contract before giving him a middleweight title shot.
UFC contracts are exceedingly restrictive by any rational measure though not, because that’s how life works, in a legal sense. Simply put, St-Pierre is under UFC contract and cannot fight without their say so. If he were to do so, it would be a breach of that contract and both he and Triller would be subject to suit by the UFC, that is if a judge didn’t just issue an injunction stopping the event from taking place altogether.
As for how long that can last, well, the answer is it depends on the contract. Most UFC contracts are provisioned with a classic “either/or” term length of either X months from the date of their next fight or X amount of fights, whichever comes first. The problem is, to my understanding, that in GSP’s case because he retired, his contract is in a sort of stasis. Since he is definitely not fighting and thus the UFC is not able to offer him bouts, St-Pierre’s contract is frozen with them until such time as he can, potentially, compete again – at least, so says the UFC’s legal team. That means that in the case of Georges St-Pierre his contract sort of lasts forever.
Yay for the American legal system!
What’s next for Diego Sanchez after finally cutting off Fabia?
— Rob (@RobTheRescueGuy) May 20, 2021
Hopefully a better and more productive life, filled with healthy relationships and personal growth.
Seriously, I can be a glib SOB a lot of the time but Diego realizing that disowning your own family members for some vampiric charlatan of a life coach was not a good idea is incredibly good news. I never much cared for Diego as a fighter but he has always seemed like a very good and genuine (albeit eccentric) dude. I don’t know what led to his moment of clarity but I’m very happy it happened.
As for what’s next for Diego, my guess is Bellator or PFL. I’m sure that Diego still has some interest in finishing his career in the UFC but even after cutting ties with the jackass I refuse to name, it still feels like bridges are too burned to build back up in the timeline he would need to fight again. I know Dana White said he has a great relationship with Diego but that was before Diego suggested White might literally try to have him killed. Even if Dana can forgive Diego for that, it’s probably best for everyone involved not to get back into a professional relationship after something like that.
But though I suspect the UFC is off the table, other organizations will surely be interested in Sanchez now that he’s no longer tied to the world’s most self-righteous anchor. Sure, Sanchez is three quarters of the way on the road to “Shot” but he still has a big name and can still put on exciting fights. Letting him have one or two more romps in the cage and attempting to use that name to boost other fighters or just the organization in general is probably very interesting to a number of promotions. I just hope it doesn’t last too long.
Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.