Wow. This is weird. A weekend without major MMA happening (sorry, ONE Championship) doesn’t come around all that often. But coming on the heels of UFC 278, there is still a ton to talk about, so this week I’m trying to answer as many questions as possible. Buckle up.
Did Usman lose in the “best” way possible?
— AD (@adubz123) August 26, 2022
Prediction for the next 3 years for Usmans career?
— AD (@adubz123) August 25, 2022
I’m pairing these two together since the topics are obviously closely related.
For the first part, Edwards’ incredible comeback KO of Usman was certainly not the “best” way for Usman to lose, but it was far from the worst. Because he was winning the fight so handily before the KO, many are putting it down to a “fluke” from Edwards, and the former champion is a substantial favorite in their rematch, so I get the point you’re making. But we also shouldn’t write off getting sent to the shadow realm so nonchalantly. Sure, Usman seems to be taking the loss pretty well, but getting stone-colded like that is both bad for one’s overall health and can raise some barriers moving forward. We’re talking about a guy who had been nigh invincible for his entire career. Now he lost, in brutal fashion. How will he look moving forward? It’s anyone’s guess.
If you’re going to lose, coming up on the wrong end of a robbery split decision still seems to be the best way to do it. Or like, a DQ loss for an eye poke or something.
As for the second part, I’m fascinated by what Usman’s future looks like. Most people, I assume, believe he’s going to win the rematch and then resume his pursuit of GOAT status, but I’m far less sure (more on that later). In the event that Usman does lose a second time to Edwards, things get really interesting, because Usman has already talked about retirement and maybe that’s the catalyst that causes him to hang up the gloves? Or maybe he says screw it and just goes ahead and moves up to light heavyweight? Or if Alex Pereira has beaten Israel Adesanya to take the middleweight title, perhaps Usman decides he needs to go get revenge for his friend? There are a lot of possibilities that are much more fun if Usman loses for a second time to Edwards.
Normally (if there is a ‘normal’ in mma), if there’s a changing-of-the-guard in a champ.fight, and a rematch is set, the loser makes most of the adjusts ..the winner kinda stays the course. But with Leon/Kamaru, despite the finish, it feels opposite. Thoughts on the rematch?
— Vik Sahay (@Vik__Sahay) August 26, 2022
Well, that’s just generally the dynamic in any rematch or trilogy: The fighter who most recently won has the least to change. However, at the top of the sport, fighters make a number of adjustments every time out, because that’s how you stay at the top.
That being said, I don’t really think either man has a ton to change.
In my pre-fight assessment of Edwards vs. Usman 2, I argued that Leon needed to stay off the fence, work his jab, and rely on his kicks — I also said he couldn’t finish Usman so I’m not taking full credit here — and when he did those things, those are the moments he was winning the fight. Afterward, even Edwards acknowledged that he wasn’t fighting particularly well, and a lot of that seems to boil down to him accepting Usman’s pressure and retreating to the fence. For their trilogy, now knowing he can turn the lights off and that backing Usman up is his best path to victory, I expect Edwards not to make huge changes, but simply to focus on winning that battle.
For Usman, he needs to make sure he’s winning the pressure battle at all times. Every moment of the fight he was advancing, Edwards was losing. It was only the times he was content to stay at range or that Edwards got him backing up that “Rocky” had success (well, and the takedown in the first round). If Usman can stay focused on smothering Edwards and shore up any defensive crutches he has (like the parry-dip out that got him KO’d) he has to feel good about his chances to reclaim the title.
It’s early, but I’m leaning towards Edwards to win the trilogy bout, when it happens. Usman fought perhaps his best performance and still lost, even against a pretty bad effort from Edwards. And when they rematch, Usman is going to be close to a year older and coming off his first KO loss. That’s a lot of question marks for the former champion. Perhaps I’m totally wrong, but we’ll have to wait to find out.
is Rockhold/Costa still in your FOY list? I get it but its not a fight I’ll re-watch much, maybe once for me anyway
— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) August 25, 2022
I think right now it has a spot in the top 5, because for as sloppy as it was, it was still a really fun fight, and the narrative at play heading into it and during it was exceptional. That counts for a lot.
Just off the top of my head, here’s my top 5 at the moment:
- Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeira is going to win that award (going to win)
- Mateusz Gamrot vs. Arman Tsarukyan
- Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno III
- Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold
- Bryan Barberena vs. Matt Brown
If you don’t have Costa-Rockhold in there, I don’t begrudge you that, especially because I doubt it will remain in mine by the end of the year. But for now, I’m comfortable having it in the conversation.
Out of all the fights at UFC 278, would any of the outcomes have changed if elevation was not a factor?
— AD (@adubz123) August 26, 2022
The UFC continues to go to places despite it substantively and negatively influencing their product. It’s almost as if they’re going to a place like Salt Lake City not because they want to bring the good people of Utah fights, but because there are some other incentives at play.
Anyway, it’s a real shame they went to SLC because a lot of the outcomes could very well have been influenced by the elevation. Dudes were sucking wind all night out there, and even Leon Edwards, who came out early to the location and spent his training camp sleeping in an elevation tent, said he felt the effects. For me, the two most obvious choices with regard to this are the Merab Dvalishvili vs. Jose Aldo fight and the Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov fight.
Straight up, I think Aldo beats Merab at sea level. He’s a dude who has never had the best cardio and that’s a strength for Merab, and the first round made it pretty clear who was the technically superior fighter. Even in the second round, Merab couldn’t do anything but hold on. At sea level, I think Aldo feels more confident in his cardio and opens up offensively more, and Merab loses a three-round fight.
Same for Romanov, who dominated Tybura before doing nothing over the final 10 minutes. Tybura has always had decent cardio while Romanov’s has been suspect, but for him to gas that badly after five minutes where he spent most of it sitting on Tybura, that feels like altitude was the culprit.
Also, for the record, Romanov was robbed. Fight 100-percent should have been a draw. MMA is stupid.
What are your top 3 funniest moments or fights in MMA?
— st34lth (@st34lthr4dio) August 26, 2022
I won’t lie to you, watching the reactions to Edwards KO’ing Usman has been incredibly satisfying. Not as funny as Mike Perry beating Michael “Venom” Page at BKFC, but still amusing. Top 3 funniest moments though? Here’s my list.
- “It takes a lot of energy being a rockstar.” Mike Golberg saying this with complete earnestness while Holly Holm is slapping Ronda Rousey around the cage, remains the funniest thing in MMA history. And Joe Rogan following up with, “She’s getting punched in the face, it has nothing to do with being a rock star” is the best thing he’s ever done.
- Jon Jones’ infamous “Hey p****, are you still there?” hot mic feud with Daniel Cormier. We talked about this moment extensively on DAMN! They Were Good and I highly recommend you give it a listen.
- Seth Petruzelli knocking out Kimbo Slice and killing EliteXC. These yokels stumbled into promoting the gold mine that was Kimbo and then destroyed their entire promotion in what remains the single most incompetent thing that an MMA promotion has ever done. Everyone on the forums knew the minute that Petruzelli replaced Ken Shamrock that he was going to clobber Kimbo, and the fact that these yahoos were like, “Let’s have this pink-haired dude no one has ever heard of step in last minute” instead of LITERALLY ANY OTHER OPTION, it will never not be funny.
Also, special shout out to the honorable mentions of Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000, and anything Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett has ever done.
@NateDiaz209 beating Khamzat and then becoming the 170lb champ at Wembley in March is totally happening, isn’t it? It’s such a wonderfully chaotic scenario that it would make the MMA gods smile.
— Adam Z (@no_ziggity) August 25, 2022
I got a feeling in my bones about a Nate Diaz triangle after getting GNP’ed for a round. Forget the odds, cause we know that narrative. If Diaz finished Chimaev, what’s the biggest series of paydays he could set up?
— TheWordOnTheStreets (@T_W_O_T_S) August 25, 2022
Speaking of the funniest things in MMA, if Nate Diaz pulls off a miracle win over Chimaev (and I do mean miracle — if he wins that should get him halfway to sainthood), it would immediately jump to No. 2 on the list of funniest things in MMA history. But if he does pull it off, there’s zero chance he’s fighting for the welterweight title. That man is going to flee the scene like a goddamn bank robber.
Diaz has already said he wants out of the UFC, that he doesn’t like the control the company has over his career, and that he simply wants to go do his own thing. Not so subtly, what he’s actually saying is “I’d like to go get a big bag of money by boxing Jake Paul and maybe his brother too,” and that’s what awaits him, win or lose. A loss won’t even really diminish a potential boxing match, but if he wins? Hoooooo boy. Jake Paul is going to have a field day promoting that one. Why on Earth would he come back to the UFC? They won’t beat Jake’s price and Nate doesn’t give a crap about the title.
As for what comes next, I suspect more boxing matches. Logan Paul would make sense. Maybe Tyron Woodley even. But the ultimate goal is Nate sits out and bides his time, because in the not-too-distant future, Conor McGregor’s UFC contract will end, and when that happens, then the long game both men have been waiting for can finally play out — Conor vs. Nate 3: This Time We Keep All The Money.
If/when Chimaev beats Nate do you see him waiting for the title shot or facing Colby, who Dana says wants a fight, in the mean time? If so, how do you think Colby Chimaev goes?
— Daniel Meneses (@daniel99meneses) August 25, 2022
I seriously doubt Colby Covington accepts a fight with Khamzat Chimaev, unless it’s a No. 1 contenders bout, and I don’t know why the UFC would want that when they’ve already got Chimaev lined up for a title shot. I could see Chimaev taking a random middleweight bout just to stay busy while he waits for the winner of Edwards vs. Usman 3, but most likely he just sits and waits to win the title.
If they booked Ferguson for 279 and Holland for 279 why in gods name didn’t they do Ferguson vs. Holland?
— Soto Shuffle (@KeibertGoat) August 25, 2022
Theoretically, Li Jingliang is an easier fight for Tony Ferguson than Kevin Holland is? Honestly, no clue. I’m pretty sure the idea of putting Ferguson on UFC 279 is so he can serve as de-facto backup for the main event (and to try and juice interest in what looks to be the worst PPV event in living memory), but if his services aren’t needed in that regard, he’s probably going to get clattered by a dude who no one really cares about, in a fight no one ever asked for. It’s atrocious matchmaking, but hey, that’s the UFC for you.
Is it fair to say that Shavkat Rakhmonov is just Chimaev V2.0 but with a higher fight IQ? Very similar in their natural talents but the Burns fight showed us that Chimaev is super impatient and apparently doesn’t know what head movement or striking defense is.
— Donovan Hollander (@DHollander0904) August 26, 2022
Not at all. I love Shavkat and I’m counting down the days until we get the inevitable Khamzat vs. Shavkat welterweight title fight that is going to kick all the ass, but I would certainly not call Shavkat “Khamzat 2.0.” Both men are similar, but I think Khamzat is a much better athlete than Shavkat, and in MMA, being a better athlete is basically a cheat code. To me, Shavkat is Harvey Dent to Khamzat’s Two-Face, and while Dent might be the better man, Two-Face is the one who wins more fights.
Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat 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. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.