Is Too Much Ever Enough?

With the cancellation of UFC Manila, the next instalment of the fighting championship will be four weeks after UFC 204. For the fans that is a veritable starvation period having already enjoyed 31 events throughout the first 40 weeks of 2016. And it sparked the thought – is too much ever enough?

I must say the fast pace of the events has at times left me to rue the lack of coverage and hype over upcoming fights. There is definitely more room to encourage the debate over tactics with certain pundits throwing out some excellent content. Added to this is the fact that individual’s storylines can often get lost without necessary research, and indeed this could be a contributing factor to the current brash self-promoting atmosphere within the UFC as each fighter must vie for limited airspace.

Evidently, the UFC is a capitalist company so it will take any and every opportunity to cash in. As an organisation it has indulged in somewhat of a broadcasting monopoly of recent times in the mixed martial arts world. Subsequently, it has hoovered up the shining talent from smaller promotions leading to a swollen roster and with so many fighters available they have been able to increase the number of events held. But in my opinion that has come at a price with lacklustre cards and foregone conclusions. The UFC is rightly seen by many as the pinnacle of the sport, thus in my opinion should not be a proving ground for young talent.

Despite the surge of popularity brought about first by fighter-cum-actress Ronda Rousey and latterly supplemented by the notorious Conor McGregor, mixed martial arts remains a niche sport. It does not enjoy the same air time as American football, basketball, soccer or even rugby in the respective markets. Thus the balance between broadcasting continuous events to stay in the media attention versus entertaining cards to attract new fans will always be a tricky one to strike.

A curveball notion to muse over to counteract this quandary is that of an off season break like the other sports MMA is competing with. This would afford a holiday for both fans and fighters to avoid the constant deluge of action. Plus it would also signal an opportunity to revisit the rankings and match make appropriately, which has sadly been lost in recent times. The flip side being fighter inactivity and loss of wages – especially if they suffer injury.

So what do I think is the right balance? Fortnightly cards. One numbered event and one fight night. This allows for adequate promotion, in depth dissection and will not dilute the talent. Each fight will then have meaning and impact upon the rankings to help lure new fans. Supplement these with young prospect tournaments in the Ultimate Fighter series and increase the emphasis on sister promotions broadcast on Fight Pass. Thus each component will have a clear function and essentially still provide a weekly fix for the hardcore fans. But this way the showpiece will remain exactly that, a showpiece.

The Money Game

The UFC featherweight division is in crisis. It seems odd saying that given the genuinely stacked nature, but it is true. And unfortunately it stems from the top.

The once bitter and gripping feud between the King, Prince and Joker has been blown to pieces. It was a glorious trilogy that could run – each fighter able to expose the weaknesses of another in a vicious title changing circle. Throw in a few exciting young prospects and you could have defined an era.

But the Prince has been popped, the King dethroned and the Joker a cash cow.

If McGregor does choose to fight Alvarez at UFC 205, he should be stripped of his title. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that titles mean something. They should represent your struggle and climb up the ladder until you are the pinnacle of your sport. Arguably, this is precisely what McGregor has done and has earned the right to cash in. A freight train of hype blasting through opponents like no other to scale that mountain top. But now he is taking away that chance for the others.

This will be the third time he has chosen to wilfully not defend his crown. A single time I will happily concede, allowing the division to define the number one contender. But having both an active Champion and Interim Champion? A mockery. The title belts are proving to be less about prestige and more about revenue.

The repercussions are being felt. Aldo, who has a history of selective activity, will no doubt wait for his second chance at McGregor. Despite the Irishman’s protestations, there is an appetite for a rematch. The manner of victory leaves a lot to be answered – was it a fluke? Can his technique match up to the purest all round fighter in the history of the division? We might never know.

And beyond this you only have to turn to Holloway. A nine fight streak – but a list of names that fall comfortably outside top contenders. What other division could you piece together such a run and not be in the title frame? He has matured in front of us yet utterly fails to get recognition and struggles to get top notch opposition.

Perhaps he is lucky Pettis has slunk down a division. He can provide a true test – and a fan blessed fight – given his previous title holding credentials. Here is a get out clause the UFC should snap up and call the number one contendership bout in order to save some respect.

Sadly, the only prospect of resolution lies within the problem. McGregor. Perhaps a situation whereby he takes the Alvarez fight – allowing him to potentially create history and dual title wield – but then is stripped in the intervening timeframe before Aldo next graces the octagon. Thereby you appease your number one asset, and restore a modicum of repute to the sport.

Cage Warriors 75 Review

Last night saw the excellent comeback event from Cage Warriors after a seventeen-month lay off. With free television coverage plus the added bonus of being on UFC Fight Pass it was impressively accessible. The slick nature of the production meant there was not an overload of filler content and the nature of the card was a good mix of blast away stand up and technical ground game. It had something for everyone to guarantee a success.

My only minor grumble would be that of the American influence in presenting. Yes, Pulver added credibility being a very highly regarded fighter from the UFC but we have lots of budding British / European talent who could call the fight alongside the impressive Josh Palmer.

 

So, to the stars of the show

 

‘ARD’ Alfie Davis

Let us put the cards on the table: this fight was set up to showcase Davis’ four limbed arsenal and flair. His opponent lacked reach, never threatened the take down and was only effective in pot shots. If we are to nitpick, Davis left his chin up to dry with his upright striking technique and that led to him absorbing more punishment than he really should have taken.

Saying this, his crisp quick strikes combined with his self assured demeanour should earn him countless new fans. In his next outing he needs to be matched against a wrestler to nullify his embarrassing stand up advantage in order to truly gauge his potential.

 

Jack ‘the joker’ Hermansson

We were not left wanting more in this back and forth title fight. Hermansson survived a second round scare to assert his dominance in the third and gain the finish. Throughout he showcased some nice footwork with good stand up speed in a pressuring style. He seems to be a good all-round fighter with KO power, and certainly the most polished on this card.

With all this in mind, Hermansson looks all set to progress his career and try once again to crack one of the bigger organisations. His previous exposure to Bellator was a flop with back-to-back losses and a subsequent cut. However, that was three years ago and he has gone on a seven-fight win streak since. Perhaps now he is ready having matured into a fine European champion.

 

Paddy ‘the baddy’ Pimblett

This was a test. Against a physically bigger, more experienced foe that had been training with American Top Team it was a truly fantastic win. You could understand if he just scraped the victory with a split decision, but he dominated each round of the fight. Sure, his stand up was jumpy and far from complete but this kid really does not care if he is taken to the mat if an extravagant foray fails. His scramble was a joy to behold and his unconventional submission attempts led to a near perfect top control. When you add in his personality to the mix he easily stole the show and will have many eyes casting fine attention to his career path.

With such a performance there has been much chat about him joining the elite organisation of the MMA world at the tender age of 21. He currently fights in the featherweight division but once he fills out his stringy frame he may well progress to lightweight. Unfortunately for him, both divisions are utterly stacked in the UFC. Thus, he would do well keeping his head down to clean up the European scene and gain a Cage Warriors belt before heading for the glitz of Vegas. But make no mistake; he will have a successful transition with such a sound ground foundation to build upon whenever he chooses to move.

 

 

Notable Mentions –

Chris Fishgold and Darren Stewart both finished their fights early with a submission and TKO victory respectively. Sadly, neither was overly tested so it remains difficult to assess full potential. Fishgold looked strong and technically sound whilst Stewart looked a vicious finisher with a penchant for truly damaging elbows.

Heavyweight Pickings

The heavyweight scenery changes in seconds. Each fighter in the top ten holds knockout power and the ability to end a fight. This is the reason why anyone would be a fool to try and predict the future of this fickle division. Luckily, ‘Spit Bucket’ Murray is one such fool and tries to break down the paths to gold.

 

CURRENT MATCHES –


Overeem vs Arlovski

Arlovski looks best when his fights descend into rock ‘em sock ‘em style bar fights. Unfortunately for him Overeem is far too technical and experienced to be lured into such an exchange. Provided Overeem weathers the early storm he will stay upright and call on his kickboxing to distance the forays from Arlovski, knowing there to be little chance of takedowns. This method may not win him fans, but will win him the fight. Overeem to dance on the outside using his vast arsenal and pick up the points victory.

Result – Overeem by decision


Velasquez vs Browne

This should be a formality for Velasquez. Undoubtedly talented he would appear to be superior in all facets aside from reach against the lanky Browne. Travis has not the greatest record against the top guys and his current ranking of seventh would seem to be an accurate position. Sadly, he appears to be the fall guy to accentuate the performance of Velasquez. The incessant pressure and top-heavy grind will pay off by way of vicious ground and pound in the second.

Result – Velasquez by TKO round 2


Werdum [c] vs Miocic

Miocic has earned this by way of him being new blood in a devoid division and a finisher. His style is exciting with most wins coming by way of knockout but he has a relatively unproven record. The highest calibre of opponent to date was dos Santos, to whom he lost a decision but thoroughly battered. He will look to draw upon his speed and stand-up skills, both of which have troubled Werdum in the past (losses to Overeem and dos Santos) and are likely to be of a higher level. Werdum on the other hand will seek to drop the fight to the mat, where he truly excels above all in the division. He has won nine of his last ten outings (four by submission) and will look to extend that record. This should be a cagey affair with Miocic lining up in his first title shot and Werdum is likely to capitalise when Miocic searches for the win in the later rounds.

Result – Werdum by submission round 4

 

UNFORTUNATE LOSS –

Rothwell
Dropped a points decision but in truth it was a one sided affair. Will reflect and adapt as he is a smart fighter but the question remains if he can compete at the top of the division. Makes for an excellent personality to add to the mix.

INCUMBENT VICTORS –

Hunt
Scored a sensational trademark walk off knockout of Mir in no time. Stock and skills are high; he has only lost against the elite of the division and has set himself up to compete for the number one contender spot yet again.

dos Santos
Looked something akin to his best when flawlessly executing his game plan against the dangerous and resurgent Rothwell. Has fought all the top heavyweights and boxed himself back in to title contention.

 

FUTURE MATCHES –


Miocic vs Rothwell

This suits both fighters. Presuming Miocic drops his title shot, he will be looking to bounce back immediately. It is also a fight in which he would back himself and Rothwell had just been on a tear so is enough of a feature to spark some interest. Hunt would have been an apt foe given his recent win, but the memories of a one-sided affair looms so has been ruled out. Rothwell in comparison will be more than happy with this as he has an instant attempt at redemption against the cream of the crop.

 

Hunt vs Arlovski

Hunt is a difficult beast to match make for given he has already fought most of the top ten. But believe it or not, these two veterans have never actually lined up against each other. So for that reason it seems perfect. Hunt will count himself unlucky not to pick up a higher rated fighter, or indeed one coming off a victory, but the style of the Pitbull lends itself to the Super Samoan. Arlovski will be the happier of the two because if he strikes a victory he keeps himself relevant.

 

dos Santos vs Overeem (for #1 contender)

We are now in to the realms of winner versus winner. Overeem has possibly done enough to warrant a title shot, but Velasquez is still seen by many as the true champ of the division and dos Santos / Velasquez 4 rather lacks appeal. So for now Overeem would guarantee a title shot if he scales one last hurdle. He should also be confident of a repeat performance given his excellent technical kickboxing base that compliments the sharp shooting boxing of dos Santos. Junior of course should leap at the chance to avenge the prior loss on the back of a reinvigorated display to push himself back into the title picture.

 

Werdum [c] vs Velasquez

And finally, the rematch we actually want to see, and not least because we were left hanging at UFC 196. Cain is a monster of an athlete and has quickly erased blemishes in the past so will be chomping at the bit to even the score. Providing he breezes past his filler fight as expected, Werdum should be lying in wait to decide the future of the gold. The pressure wrestler versus the submission artist, make it happen MMA Gods!

UFC Zagreb Review

The organisation keeps growing like an all-conquering octopus with tentacles spreading far and wide from the sin city base of Las Vegas. The latest event held in Croatia was by all accounts a raging success. Some young talent, some brutal violence and a resurgence of a fine fighter ensured positive reviews. Even the obligatory local legend was in attendance and in fine spirits.

 

FUTURE CONTENDER –

Mairbek Taisumov def Damir Hadzovic (KO rnd 1)

Taisumov rounded off a very tidy performance with another KO victory. He has now amassed four finishes on the bounce since his decision loss stretching his UFC record to 5-1. Sadly, with the late replacement and the speed of success we really did not learn anything new about the Chechen. But his record suggests he is ready to take the next step and the powers that be need to grant him a chance to show off his well-rounded game. The reason why he will go far is that he is a finisher – only one of his twenty-five victories has come by way of a decision. It is just a shame that his division is stacked otherwise he would be well on his way to the belt. Top 15 fight next looms.

 

HIGHLIGHT REEL FINISH –

Derrick Lewis def Gabriel Gonzaga (KO rnd 1)

The black beast went full beast mode and put away the wily veteran Gonzaga with vicious power and ruthless accuracy. He may have his detractors but he certainly knows how to finish a fight. The knockout artist is keen to take on the ultimate fan favourite Nelson who has been on a slide and consistently come up short against the elite of the division. This fun fight would serve as a marker on his true potential. Gonzaga by contrast is facing being cut from the organisation. His recent record poor he very much risks falling by the wayside into obscurity.

 

PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT –
Junior dos Santos def Ben Rothwell (Unanimous decision)

Junior wound back a few fights and showed up in Zagreb. The walkout tunes set the tone – Rocky the plucky underdog boxer versus the evil superhero death march. He looked sublime in executing his game plan, dancing around the bigger Rothwell on his way to rack up five straight rounds. Rothwell, on the other hand, looked like an awkward robot being slow and clunky in his attempts to lay a hand on dos Santos. The two face different futures, dos Santos with his eyes upward and attempting to get back in the title picture while Rothwell is left to rue a missed opportunity and head back to the drawing board to plan his latest attempt to reinvent himself.

 

WINNERS MATCHES TO MAKE –

Taisumov vs Magomedov

Lewis vs Nelson

JDS vs Overeem

Awesome April

In a month where we get the shimmering animosity of DC vs Bones II The Spit Bucket scours the fight scene for some match ups to whet the whistle. Kick back and enjoy some of these hand picked beauties.

 

GUILTY PLEASURE

Johnson [c] vs Cejudo, UFC 197 April 23rd

‘Mighty Mouse’ has a bad rep. It’s mainly due to his smothering all round superiority that has led to over fifty percent of his latest nine straight victories coming by way of a decision. But to hate on a guy who has no credible opposition and is just insanely good at his craft is harsh. ‘The Messenger’ is the first challenger who can actually nullify Johnson’s strong wrestling base given he is a former Olympic gold medalist. The glaring deficiency, however, will be in the stand up exchanges despite persistent improvements in each outing from Cejudo. Whilst a dethroning will be a step too far, a strong showing from these two will set up an interesting rivalry in the years to come. Prepare for the grind.

 

CAREER FINISHER

Machida vs Henderson, UFC on Fox 19 April 16th

In the battle of past champion veterans, the old timers have central stage for possibly a last hurrah. ‘Hendo’ is on an unimpressive slide having lost six of his last eight fights. ‘The Dragon’ has not fared much better having lost three of his last four (albeit against superior opposition). ‘Hendo’ is a true warrior with a booming right and an iron chin. He will always draw in fans, but the time has come to think about health and retirement. If Machida wins as expected then Henderson should hang up his gloves. A reversed result, however, presents an interesting conundrum. Savour the legend while you can.

 

RISING STAR

Chiesa vs Dariush, UFC on Fox 19 April 16th

Dariush has largely flown under the radar in his fledgling career. He has avoided the headlines due to his lack of highlight reel finishes; instead he has a presided over a fifty percent submission rate. ‘Maverick’ has a similar penchant for the submission, with a sixty nine percent ratio. His awkward and slippy style will test Dariush who will attempt to contain the wild fourishes with a suffocating approach. One expects this is a tailor made fight for the stock of Dariush to continue it’s upward trajectory thus cannot see past a submission win for the former Brazilian ju-jitsu champion. One for the purists.

 

TITLE GAME CHANGER

Rothwell vs Junior dos Santos, UFC Fight Night 86 April 10th

The heavyweight title scene is attempting to lure itself into becoming a curious battlefield over the next few months. It is a notoriously difficult class to predict given the widespread one punch knockout ability, but The Spit Bucket plans to detail the future in an upcoming focussed preview. Rothwell has hit a purple patch in which he has submitted the unsubmittable (Barnett) and knocked out the kickboxing champion (Overeem). ‘Cigano’ has blown hot and cold but is a former titleholder and a true test for the reformed Rothwell. If he has his mind right and his sprawl ready, JdS should take it. An intriguing spectacle with title implications.

 

NEEDLE MOVING FANS FAVOURITE

Barboza vs Pettis, UFC 197 April 23rd

If Barboza vs Felder is anything to go by this should resemble Street Fighter more than the UFC. Possibly the only way to make this more awesome would be to have ‘Cowboy’ as the referee. Guaranteed an entire fight on the feet and guaranteed some explosive and outlandish moves, we’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. Although Barboza has a tight game, ‘Showtime’ should show his class and be allowed to express himself with little thought of being taken down. Dana, hand them the bonuses now!

 

HEADLINE HONCHO

Cormier [c] vs Jones, UFC 197 April 23rd

‘Bones’ is not a happy man. His archenemy ‘DC’ is parading around with the belt he never lost. And what is worse than an angry man? A super stacked angry man. No longer a gangly but gifted pound for pound champion, ‘Bones’ has spent his reflective time in the gym and it remains to be seen if that will impact him in the cage. Will he come out swinging with months of pent up frustration? Will he be rusty and let ‘DC’ in? Or will he even make the fight or be in jail? One thing is for sure – their genuine hatred for one another makes this compulsory viewing if it happens. Possibly the headline of the year.

UFC Brisbane Review

The latest event in Australia was a success. The right mix of exciting prospects, controversial officiating and the local favourite winning the main event meant fans went home happy.

 

RAWLINGS def HAM – unanimous decision

It all kicked off with Rawlings making hard work of a spiky but much smaller opponent, so much so the two looked like they compete in different weight classes. Sadly, Rawlings did not use her bulk and power to bully the impressive Ham. Instead she attempted to stand up against the more technically precise and faster foe. Ultimately the advantage paid in the latter rounds, but 30-27 from two of the judges? Vastly inaccurate. It is a shame there is not a lighter division for Ham to ply her trade as she will have won a few more fans from the outing.

 

KELLY def CARLOS jnr – TKO rnd 3

In the upset of the night the gnarly but game vet Kelly scored a shock third round barrage to end the fight against the potential future title challenger. Widely expected to be an opponent to take a few shots then buckle, Kelly obviously forgot to pick up that memo. All was going to plan in the first as Carlos had total control on the mat. The ju-jitsu champion really should have finished it then and there with a full round of back control. His weaknesses then began to tell – a jittery stand-up game lead to his demise in the subsequent rounds. Still, one bad showing does not make a fighter and his prospect status will be preserved. A future confrontation versus Camozzi would be shrewd. Clearly superior in all facets but enough of a name to gain some respect.

 

MATTHEWS def CASE – sub rnd 3

This was a fun fight. Matthews looked the bigger fighter but Case had the nous and awkward style to challenge the rising star of down under. The early exchanges saw Case being the aggressor with tidy combinations versus single power shots from Matthews. The tide soon changed in the second and third when Matthews found a home for some crippling body kicks which lead to the eventual smothering in the third when Case had faded. The direction of travel from here is interesting. He has done enough to earn a headline act in his native Australia, but a true test would be to put him on a plane and begin to break the US market, and top 15. A tantalising match would be against Iaquinta. Talented counter striker, young and looking for a fight after time out with his injury, he also has the baggage of angering fans so Matthews would get some support away from home.

 

MAGNY def LOMBARD – TKO rnd 3

Could easily have been stopped in the first round when Lombard burst his gas tank and unleashed a tirade of unanswered strikes. Should have been stopped in the second when Magny unloaded multiple undefended blows upon the proned Lombard. Eventually was stopped when Magny assumed top control in the third. The problem with Lombard is not with his lack of cardio, but his lack of learning. Every single fight he goes out swinging then stutters around empty for the next two rounds. Either the guy has no ambition or no self-control – either way it is obscenely frustrating to watch. Magny, however, has the coachability of a piece of plasticine. He needs a chance to test himself against the elite of a monumentally stacked division, and Hendricks would be just that. Coming off a couple of dodgy showings but with proven pedigree we can see if Magny will only ever be an also ran.

 

HUNT def MIR – KO rnd 1

Another walk off KO from Hunt. This guy packs serious dynamite in that right hand and uses it with startling aplomb. Cocked and laden in his arm, we were waiting for it to connect. And boy it did not disappoint. However, this is a loss that should leave Mir contemplating his career. He needs to think of his health, his record and his direction. The man is a hero of the sport and has nothing left to prove. It is time he hung up the gloves and helps nurture the future generations with his vast experience. Hunt on the other hand still has golden aspirations. With most of the top 10 already signed up, he needs to sit back and enjoy the chaos in the knowledge that his stock is high. The likely destination of the Kiwi is against the Rothwell vs Jnr Dos Santos winner.

 

 

MATCHES TO MAKE –

Antonio Carlos Junior vs Chris Camozzi

Jake Matthews vs Al Iaquinta

Neil Magny vs Johnny Hendricks

Mark Hunt vs Ben Rothwell / Jnr Dos Santos winner

Featherweight Fancy

With the ridiculous mutterings of a rematch between Diaz and McGregor plus the long overdue addition of Barao to the featherweight roster The Spit Bucket plays match maker and outlines the path to glory for the UFC brass.

 

MENDES vs BARAO:

Why it should happen –

Mendes has repetitively shown that he cannot mix it with the true elite of the division. He is stuck in real limbo as he is better than the chasing pack by far but lacks that edge to push for the gold. Here he is being used as a gatekeeper to judge the impact Barao could have on the division. The only other possible match up for either would be against Holloway.

 

HOLLOWAY vs ALDO: (#1 contender fight)

Why it should happen –

Holloway’s eight fight win streak will not have gone unnoticed. He has flown under the radar due to the chaos strewn by McGregor but has really matured in recent outings showing his craft and intelligence to eek out decisions. He deserves the chance to face off against the top level of the division. The stumbling block is Aldo. He would probably only be interested in either Edgar or McGregor but a sparkling victory would cement him right at the front of the queue. Sadly, it is likely he will stay true to form and choose to stay inactive in his quest to regain the crown.

 

EDGAR vs McGREGOR:

This just makes sense. The only man left in the top five to fell in order for McGregor to truly be hailed as the undisputed champion is Edgar. Edgar too knows this and has been pushing hard to land the fight. Stylistically it works as Edgar has the chin, footwork and hustle to worry McGregor but lacks in the ground game to potentially finish off proceedings. This bout all rests on whether McGregor cedes his long-term lightweight plan to rekindle the hype train.

McGregor’s Risk

Conor McGregor undertook a huge risk in his attempt to make history. But the question is, did his gamble pay off?

Simple facts – McGregor stepped up two weight divisions. He did not have to undertake a harsh weight cut. His foe changed on late notice. On the flip side, this meant Diaz basically did not have a training camp and was meant to be a mere speed bump in the progress of the Irish sensation. It failed.

The fight made sense; they both talk audacious trash so despite such little time to hype the fight the sales would never drop. Also, Diaz is not known for his blow away power so would never have inflicted a crushing loss. After all, McGregor is the biggest cash cow for the UFC and no corporation wishes to endanger the prize asset.

There were many reasons for the loss, but perhaps the most worrying was the lack of variation. His characteristic wide based lackadaisical style was evident but the normal fluid transition between attacks was thrown off by loading up with power. Perhaps he has indulged in his own hype and become punch drunk but the crushing left was simply absorbed by the bigger opponent.

Unfortunately, his experiment also had the unwanted side effect of landing a template to dethrone the Irish joker. Close distance by swarming him then finish with the ground game. You simply cannot let him dictate pace and distance. This was partially highlighted by Mendes who rag dolled the Irish man for two rounds only to run empty on his gas tank. But now it sets up all future opponents with an obvious game plan.

His undefeated legacy in the UFC and his fifteen-fight win streak has been shattered. He will most likely return to featherweight to remove his last main threat in Edgar and regain ascendency. His clearing of the division will be a true marker in the pound for pound claim.

Conceivably, this was the warm up event for his full on assault on the higher weight classes. If he learns from this fight and focuses on his defence and patience he can achieve success. The early signs are there too – the ‘inefficient’ energy use refers to his fixation on finding the highlight reel with each punch.

The only sure way to judge the outcome of the trial is by his future performances. If he takes the silver lining, the limit is the sky. But at this moment the risk does seem to outweigh the benefit.