10. UFC 167 Fallout
So many storylines came out of UFC 167 it seems like a shame to try and condense them into one blurb but I’ll do my best (save for GSP’s future which I’ll address later on). The card was as excellent as predicted, offering up competitive clashes, a few shockers, and a handful of highlight-reel finishes. Some quick thoughts: Sergio Pettis needs to improve his takedown defense if hoping to excel but definitely has blue-chipper written all over him / Rick Story hasn’t improved much since making his UFC debut but he’s still a solid test for any adversary / Donald Cerrone will be back at lightweight by the end of 2014 / Josh Koscheck needs to look at retiring if he loses his next fight via KO / Robbie Lawler’s resurgence has been one of the year’s most pleasant surprises / Rory MacDonald is becoming a welterweight Lyoto Machida in that he does just enough to win most of the time / Thank goodness the Sonnen-at-LHW experiment is over / Rashad Evans is still a threat to eventually contend for the title but he won’t ever win it again / I’d wager Dana White handed Johny Hendricks a nice under-the-table bonus on Saturday night after judges robbed the world of an important moment.
9. Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson (UFC on FOX 10 – January 25)
It is unfortunate Anthony Pettis had to (once again) withdraw from his fight with Thomson due to injury but the UFC did a nice job by inserting “Bendo” into the equation. Outside of T.J. Grant, he’s as good as it gets in terms of divisional status so Thomson still has a lot to gain from beating the former champ. Also, Thomson deserves credit for accepting Henderson as a replacement instead of holding out for the title-shot he slid into after finishing Nate Diaz earlier this year. Expect Henderson-Thomson to turn in a “Fight of the Night” contender based on both being well-rounded, aggressive competitors with enormous heart.
8. The Strawweights are Coming!
It appears the UFC is in the process of adding a new division featuring 115-pound women. There are probably some thick-browed purists out there against the idea, and to each their own, but in reality some excellent strawweight fighters exist with the talent and “it” factor to get over with the masses. Names like Jessica Aguilar, Carla Esparza, Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas, Bec Hyatt, Claudia Gadelha, Michelle Waterson, and Jessica Penne immediately spring to mind.
7. Costa Philippou vs. Luke Rockhold (UFC Fight Night 35 – January 15)
This match-up makes a ton of sense. Both fighters had solid winning streaks laid to waste in their previous pairings and have a similar amount of name value. The opportunity will allow one man to get back on track by beating an opponent most fans have heard of, plus its status as a main event will provide an added boost to the victor’s stock. Rockhold is a bit more athletic and polished than Philippou, but he doesn’t have the New Yorker’s power, so expect some interesting stand-up exchanges when the curtain drops in early 2014.
6. Matt Riddle’s Release
Riddle was cut by Bellator this week after pulling out of a fight for undisclosed reasons. The situation marks another low for the 27-year old who was, at one point, considered a solid prospect based on a 5-1 record in his first six professional appearances (with all of the wins coming in the UFC). He would also be on a four-fight winning streak had he not tested positive for marijuana use after two victories in the UFC, the latter of which resulted in his release from the organization. Riddle will fight again but it won’t be for a big promotion. Think Legacy FC for example. If he can clean up his act, he could be back in the UFC in 2-3 years as long as his performances support the signing. Otherwise, it looks like he will have sadly washed out before ever truly entering his prime or delivering on his promise.
5. Vitor Belfort’s “Low” Testosterone
Belfort has been speaking out to assure fans his use of testosterone was not a factor in his recent knockout of Dan Henderson and reminding folks TRT is a medical matter, not a means to a competitive edge. Ironically, Belfort’s fight with Henderson seemed to be the Brazilian’s first fight in which TRT didn’t seem to matter based on “Hendo” also subscribing to the practice. Belfort’s decision to comment simply makes him look worse by reminding the world he injects a substance into his body to maintain the athletic prowess of someone younger.
4. Ronaldo Souza vs. Francis Carmont (UFC Fight Night 36 – February 15)
The UFC got it right with this rumble. “Jacare” and Carmont are two of the top 185ers out there, but the divisional strap is tied up for the next eight months based on champion Chris Weidman’s defense against Anderson Silva in late December and the winner’s likelihood of facing Vitor Belfort shortly thereafter. As such, Souza and Carmont need to clash as a means of determining the NEXT contender. At first glance, it seems Souza should have the advantage based on his BJJ brilliance in comparison to Carmont’s love of taking opponents down and working from above.
3. Ben Askren Begging for a Fight
There is something “Funky” going on when an unbeaten Olympian who held Bellator gold can’t get a sniff from the UFC. The 12-0 Askren recently made a statement saying he’d fight in the Octagon for free if given a chance. While Askren’s style occasionally leaves a lot to be desired, there are numerous fighters on the company’s roster who employ similar strategies but lack his credentials and intangibles. Likewise, Askren’s ground and pound is vicious. He doesn’t just sit on opponents – he peppers them with strikes and seeks submissions. Hell, half his wins involve finishes including TKOs in his last two tilts. Additionally, Askren has a marketable personality and doesn’t mind turning up the showmanship when necessary. If the UFC is truly aimed at determining who the best fighter in the world is at a particular weight, there’s no reason Askren shouldn’t be scooped up immediately.
2. The Return of “Rampage”
Quinton Jackson picked up his first win in more than two years last Friday night when he knocked Joey Beltran out at Bellator 108 with a second remaining in the first frame. Jackson didn’t look great per se, and Beltran’s far from a Top 10 opponent, but it was still nice to see “Rampage” back in action. He probably has 3-4 fights left in him and there are some decent match-ups out there including Mo Lawal, Tito Ortiz, and maybe even Dan Henderson.
1. GSP’s Hiatus
The whirlwind of controversy surrounding Georges St-Pierre’s outpointing of Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 and subsequent decision to take a break from fighting has been furious since Saturday night. There have been reports (and denials) regarding GSP having legal issues, dealing with his father’s impending death, having an out-of-wedlock baby on the way, being afraid of Hendricks, and much more. Personally, I don’t care what his motivations are. St-Pierre has earned the right to take a year off if need be as long as the UFC does what’s right and awards Hendricks an opportunity to win interim gold. “Rush” has spent almost a decade as a top draw in the UFC, fighting the best 170ers the sport has to offer and representing the brand as fine as could be. He’s almost above reproach in that regard. This is a man who spent the last 2+ recovering from a potentially career-ending knee injury only to go on and fight three beasts in Hendricks, Nick Diaz, and Carlos Condit while also balancing the responsibility of life’s other offerings. Let him catch his breath, re-energize, and then come back strong in late 2014 with his sights set on Hendricks or whoever else has the belt.
Welcome back to the 10-Point Must! Every week I’ll give my thoughts on ten topics from the past seven days with hopes the readership will contribute their takes as well in the Comments section. This time around, subjects range from a few new match-ups to the UFC’s decision to entertain a new division to, of course, the fallout from UFC 167. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images)
Front-Page Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp
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