The Week in MMA (1/10-1/17)—Cruz Recaptures Title, CM Punk Gets His First Opponent
This week in MMA brought no shortage of action and excitement from fans, in the form of both fights and announcements. Let’s take a look at what made this a week to remember!
UFC Fight Night 81 Delivers
Although its late start time was a bit of a mystery (even with MLK Jr. day considered), those who stayed up for UFN 81 were probably happy they did, as the event delivered a good dosage of exciting action.
The main event between Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw for the bantamweight title was one to remember. Both men had some notable success in the contest, which was mainly battled on the feet. And although Dillashaw didn’t walk away with the win, he did demonstrate that he is the “real deal”—to compete with Cruz as he did resoundingly cements his status as an elite striker.
Controversy aside, the main event was awesome.
The co-main event wasn’t nearly as thrilling, but it was a solid scrap between two of the best lightweights in the world. Eddie Alvarez pushed the pace and carefully followed a wrestling-based gameplan en route to a split-decision victory over Anthony Pettis. The win is especially important for the UFC trajectory of Alvarez.
The featured fight of the night—a heavyweight clash between Travis Browne and Matt Mitrione—may not have generated the controversy that it should have. The fingers of Browne caught Mitrione in the same eye twice, and the referee barely warned him to keep his gloves closed, even after the second infraction.
This may have been relatively unimportant otherwise, except that the end of the fight—which came late in the third, after Browne landed a stiff shot to the same eye that was poked and followed up with punches on the ground for the stoppage—became shockingly swollen.
Whether or not the prior pokes played a part in this devastating injury is debatable, but Joe Rogan said it best during the broadcast when he noted that the pokes “certainly didn’t help”. It’s worrisome that fighters can be allowed to poke their opponents in the eye without as much as a warning, as fans saw tonight (although most referees will speak up, it’s time that points be taken for the action). While unfortunate accidents are a part of the sport, there should also be clear-cut consequences for the illegal actions of elite fighters who compete for a living (and therefore fully understand the rules and safety requirements of the sport). Otherwise, frankly, everyone may as well poke their opponent once or twice in the eye, and perhaps land a low blow.
Back to the event itself, the main card kicked off with a lightweight contest between Francisco Trinaldo and Ross Pearson. An exciting contest overall, Trinaldo was able to mix his attacks up better than Pearson, and as such, he earned a unanimous-decision victory.
As a whole, once again, UFN 81 was an enjoyable event to watch.
While the results of the test have yet to be confirmed (and after the Cro Cop debacle, this is very important), it appears as though UFC middleweight Yoel Romero has failed an unscheduled drug test.
Conducted in coordination with the UFC’s enhanced drug-testing procedures, the test’s positive drug has yet to be identified, but frankly, one can assume that it is something along the lines of anabolic steroids or HGH.
Romero, at thirty-eight years of age, has long been the target of many PED accusations—and with good reason, as he has always boasted a questionable physique. This development coincided with the unconfirmed rumor that Chris Weidman would rematch Luke Rockhold for the middleweight belt (as Romero was the number-one contender).
Simply put, a confirmed positive test here would be devastating for Romero—to the point where fans may not see him compete inside the Octagon again, given his age.
Bellator MMA Announces Exciting Italy Fights
Bellator is definitely looking to entertain the Italian fans, as well as those watching on television, as demonstrated by the recently revealed fights for its April 16th event in Torino, Italy.
In the main event of the evening, UFC veteran Alessio Sakara will clash with the explosive Brian Rogers at light heavyweight.
Melvin Manhoef will also compete on the card in a kickboxing bout, against an opponent who has yet to be named. Also announced was:
Danilo Belluardo vs. A.J. McKee (MMA)
Anastasia Yankova vs. TBD (MMA)
Raymond Daniels vs. Kevin Ross (kickboxing)
Based upon the quality of these MMA and kickboxing fights alone, fans have a lot to look forward to. It will be interesting to see how the card develops in the coming months.
Fox Sports Suspends Kenny Florian for Plagiarism
In a relatively unexpected development, UFC veteran and analyst Kenny Florian has been suspended by Fox Sports for plagiarism. Evidently, Florian created work too close to the verbiage and writing of another writer. No timeframe has been established for his return, but based upon the nature of the infraction and Florian’s prompt apology; it shouldn’t be long.
Perhaps Florian is committing his efforts to one too many projects at once, as he works as an analyst, commentator, and writer for the UFC and Fox Sports, but is also involved in many non-MMA projects, such as his hosting gig for Battlebots on ABC, and a position with Metamoris. Regardless, this sort of infraction definitely won’t fly, and although many are probably surprised that he hasn’t already done so, Florian would honestly be wise to outsource this sort of work to a paid writer—just as so many others do.
Invicta 15 Brings Few Surprises
Here’s a shocker: Cris “Cyborg” won her recent Invicta 15 fight against Daria Ibragimova. Via knockout. In the first round.
The talented and dangerous featherweight was a twenty-to-one or greater favorite (depending on the book) heading into the contest. As more and more of these essentially guaranteed wins pass, one cannot help but feel some sort of emotion when the paycheck that Cyborg missed out on by refusing to drop to bantamweight to fight Rousey is considered. The match was essentially in place, but Cyborg once again refused to drop to 135.
On a more positive note, the rest of the Invicta card brought some exciting action and finishes and is certainly worth checking out for those who didn’t watch live.
Wanderlei Silva Apologizes for Comments Towards the UFC, and is Subsequently Released from His Contract
Pride and UFC legend Wanderlei Silva has finally put his battle against the UFC to rest.
Months back, the outspoken middleweight unleashed a wave of criticism upon the UFC in the form of Youtube videos, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was evidently when Silva claimed he possessed direct evidence that the UFC had orchestrated fixed fights. A lawsuit was filed, and the rest is history.
Now, after apologizing (or releasing an apology that the UFC’s lawyers and his own agreed upon), the lawsuit has been dropped, and Silva has been released from his UFC contract. Although he is awaiting a suspension from the NSAC, he could technically fight in jurisdictions where the entity isn’t recognized—in Asia with ONE Championship, in Japan with Rizin, or M-1 in Russia, most notably.
It will be especially interesting to see what Silva decides upon—both in his MMA career and his work outside of the cage—in the future.
In a perfect example of the aforementioned idea of NSAC-suspended (or another universally acknowledged athletic commission suspended) athletes competing where the entity isn’t recognized, former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko was matched against Vyacheslav Vasilevsky on February 19th.
After Bellator 133, the Russian tested positive for PEDs and was handed a swift three-year suspension. And although he cannot compete on American soil, he has still found a way to earn a living. The morality of this move could be questionable to some, but it’s important to remember that his opponent understands the risks of competing against him; perhaps Vasilevsky also enjoys the benefits of a Wild West drug-testing environment!
The UFC announced some exciting fights this week.
First, the reinvigorated Tom Lawlor will fight TUF-winner Corey Anderson at UFC 197 in March. This is a solid fight for two men who have adapted and improved as of late.
Although it’s not official yet, UFC-legend BJ Penn is rumored to be making his return to the Octagon against the talented fighter and writer Nik Lentz.
Lentz and Penn appear to have had a rivalry for some time, but it wasn’t until Lentz released a series of impressive trash-talking poems knocking “The Prodigy” that a UFC fight was a possibility. Penn has aligned himself with the team at the Jackson-Wink camp, and although many aren’t at all interested in seeing the legend fight again, this is certainly the best way to do so: with the help of one of the best camps in the sport.
Next, UFC welterweight Erick Silva will battle Nordine Taleb at UFC 197. Both talents will look to put all of their tools together and return to their winning ways, and for Silva, achieve some career consistency (although he’s been fighting elite athletes recently, Silva hasn’t won two consecutive fights in a single year since 2010). Nevertheless, this is a solid contest for the fans.
Finally, the ultra-popular professional wrestler and MMA hopeful CM Punk has an opponent in-store—provided he can come out ahead in his first UFC fight.
Mickey Gall is an undefeated, 2-0 fighter found by White and co on the new reality TV show, Lookin’ for a Fight, who will have the chance to fight Punk at UFC 200 with a win over Michael Jackson at UFC 196. This is all well and good, but many fans were likely questioning whether or not Jackson would fight Punk with a win here; the answer is a resounding “no”, and for good reason.
Jackson’s record sits at a barely positive 11-10, and although we don’t know much about Gall, it would appear as though he has this one in the bag. A more interesting approach would have been if the UFC found another 2-0 fighter like Gall to fight for the slot against Punk. Nevertheless, this will be an interesting fight—if only for its result.
After its ridiculous suspension of Nick Diaz brought them the attention that they desired, the NSAC has folded under the public pressure and decided to reduce his sentence and fine. Previously suspended for five years and fined $165,000, Diaz’s new sentence calls for an eighteen-month suspension and a $100,000 fine.
Although this is good news, the situation’s remedy is far from ideal. The NSAC still has an unprecedented amount of power and is free to do whatever it pleases with essentially no oversight or regulation. The MMA powerhouses of today certainly comply with the entity to avoid the corruption (or the public perception of this corruption) that largely lead to boxing’s downfall (or negative publicity against the sport), but there should most definitely be some limitations to this compliance. Moreover, more permanent and complete solutions should also be explored, but as it is a complex issue, these will need to be detailed and complex in nature as well. Hopefully, the sport takes some steps in the right direction this year, though.
Both Bellator and the World Series of Fighting were forced to deal with some last-minute injuries this week.
Mike Ricci is injured yet again (he previously had to withdraw from the remainder of WSOF’s one-night tournament after securing a win) and was forced to withdraw from his scheduled contest against Caros Fodor at WSOF 27. This is a shame because the talented Canadian has been on a tear as of late; a fight and a win here would have been great for his career. Hopefully, he can return to action sooner rather than later.
In Bellator, Derek Anderson was forced to withdraw from a not-yet-announced battle against Ryan Couture at Bellator 148 on January 29th, but promotional-mainstay Patricky Freire has stepped up. The exciting and talented Brazilian is a best-case replacement to share the cage with the often-underrated Couture. This should be an especially exciting contest.
This week in MMA brought a ton of fight action and developments—hopefully next week is even better. Enjoy the fights!