This Week in MMA (3/27-4-3): Cormier Injured, Jones to Fight OSP, McGregor-Diaz 2 Announced, David Branch and Jon Fitch Win Big At WSOF 30
This week in MMA was once again filled with relatively debilitating news, along with a couple of positive announcements. Let’s take it all in stride as we recap the week’s developments.
WSOF 30: Fitch, Branch, Capture and Retain Gold
WSOF 30 was a solid overall event that saw several UFC veterans win big.
In the main event of the evening, former UFC fighters David Branch and Clifford Starks battled for the middleweight title. In the end, Branch used his superior wrestling and cardio to command a clear-cut unanimous decision win, despite being docked a point for an illegal knee.
In the co-main event, former UFC fighters Jon Fitch and Joao Zeferino competed for the vacant WSOF welterweight belt. Over the course of five rounds, Fitch utilized his classic pressure and wrestling-based style to clearly command a unanimous decision over the talented Brazilian.
Before that, BJJ-expert and UFC vet Vinny Magalhaes fought Jake Heun in what was one of the best contests of the night. Through the first two rounds, Magalhaes used his range and movement on the feet, as well as some of his legendary ground game, to frustrate his opponent. In the third, though, “Pezao” appeared to become tired, and the game Heun pounded him with a series of punishing body shots on the ground, to finish the contest. Despite clearly losing the last round, Magalhaes would walk away with the unanimous nod.
The main card kicked off with a fun back-and-forth battle between Abu Azaitar and Danny Davis Jr., which saw Azaitar walk away with the win via unanimous decision.
WSOF 30 was pretty good as a whole, and the late start time really benefitted the show. The promotion’s next event will be held on June 17th when Josh Copeland and Blagoy Ivanov fight for the heavyweight title.
Daniel Cormier Injured, Jon Jones to Face Ovince St. Preux at UFC 197
In an unfortunate development—generally, and because of the timing—it was revealed that UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier had suffered an injury in training, and would be forced to withdraw from his April 23rd contest against Jon Jones. The story broke on April Fool’s Day as well, which led to a number of inquiries as to whether the report was a joke.
Unfortunately, it was not. Between Jose Aldo, Rafael dos Anjos, Daniel Cormier, and several others, I think I speak for every MMA fan when I say that last-minute injuries of champions in highly anticipated fights are the worst. While we can feel bad for ourselves as fans, it’s also important to think of what the news means for the competitors themselves.
Cormier was certainly ready to try and even the score against Jones, and with the roller coaster of legal developments that have surrounded the former champion recently, along with the history between the men, being forced to withdraw from the contest just a few week’s out undoubtedly had an especially depressing effect on the champ.
For Jones, this news is undeniably important, and not just because he will now be returning to the Octagon against a different opponent. Since Cormier nabbed the light heavyweight belt, Jones has certainly been dreaming of competing against the man who he despises so much—the second man who he has appeared to take real issue with inside the Octagon (Rashad Evans being the first). Now he won’t have the chance to prove his quality in a rematch with Cormier immediately—and equally as important, Jones won’t have a chance to regain the belt that was formerly his at UFC 197.
After a year away from the sport, a man with a known number of vices who will still be fighting, albeit not against his nemesis and not for the belt, can certainly make some big mistakes in three weeks. Not that he will, but if it was possible for Jones to mess up when the Cormier fight—the biggest fight of his career—was on the table, it’s an even more distinct possibility now.
The high-level Ovince St. Preux is now scheduled to battle Jon Jones for the interim light heavyweight belt. Always game, OSP is a great replacement that cannot be taken lightly by Jones, especially given his time away from the Octagon.
McGregor-Diaz 2 and Aldo-Edgar 2 Announced for UFC 200
UFC 200 may very well be subtitled “UFC 200: High-Profile Rematches”.
It was announced that Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will rematch at welterweight, per the Irishman’s insistence, in the main event, and that Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar will battle once more in the co-main event, for the interim featherweight title (and after that, the winner will battle McGregor for the championship, regardless of whether or not he wins against Diaz).
There seems to be a good amount of complaining going on about the matches, but in all likelihood, they are as good of fights as we were going to get—and as financially viable of fights as the UFC is going to book.
McGregor is incredibly talented, but the reality is that a large component of his appeal is tied to his seemingly unbeatable persona and general cockiness (or was, before the Diaz loss). While the elite fighter can certainly act this way despite the loss, the “king of the world” attitude probably won’t be nearly as effective as pulling in casual fans now. A win would help reaffirm his promotional abilities.
Of course, a triumph isn’t at all guaranteed for McGregor against Diaz, but a chance at a win, in coordination with another installment in what was one of the best-selling UFC fights of all time, makes sense for all parties involved.
Aldo-Edgar 2 is a logical extension of the Diaz-McGregor rematch, as it wouldn’t be fair to keep the former champions on the shelf given their current divisional standings. The first fight was fun, and especially since Aldo has encountered a new bit of adversity as of late, and Edgar has been thriving, the contest is even more interesting. Furthermore, a promotable fight with McGregor is guaranteed as well.
Several UFC Fighters Released
The UFC released several fighters this week, including:
This is probably the worst of the cuts, given that Rosholt holds a 6-2 UFC record and has only lost one fight consecutively, most recently, to Roy Nelson.
Sure, his style was boring, but it was also effective. More pressingly, he is a collegiate wrestler, and his widely available fights—specifically, against Derrick Lewis on AXS TV—before he was signed to the UFC made clear his general style and gameplan. The UFC executives knew he was boring before they signed him, but were especially desperate for heavyweight talent at the time.
Being cut with a record this impressive, Rosholt has a seemingly small chance of being re-signed to the UFC, even though he is in his 20s; the fans’ time and money, the UFC’s time and money, and Rosholt’s valuable career duration could have all been spared had the UFC simply been more selective in the athlete signing process.
This one was too early. Parke won his season of TUF, holds some solid wins in the promotion, and has been competing against high-level fighters; his cut gives credit to the idea that it’s sometimes better to perform worse initially in one’s UFC career, and then compete against mid to low-level promotional competition indefinitely, instead of excelling early on, being tossed into deep waters, and then being cut as though losses were accumulated against run-of-the-mill fighters as opposed to elite competitors.
This was a reasonable cut, as the talented Brazilian had dropped three of his last four—the last loss in just one minute—against lower-tier competition.
A reasonable cut in its own right, the firing of the former Strikeforce champion Cavalcante once again brings to light the idea that it doesn’t pay to excel early on. He’s lost his last three in the UFC, to Ryan Bader, Patrick Cummins, and Ovince St. Preux. That’s a murderer’s row of top ten to fifteen competitors, and although Calvacante doesn’t have what it takes to best them at this point of his career, he could probably hang with the mid-level light heavyweights in the promotion.
Finding a step-down in competition is very difficult in the UFC.
Several UFC, Bellator, and WSOF Fights Announced
The leading three North-American MMA promotions announced some solid fights this week as well:
Marloes Coenen vs. Julia Budd for the featherweight belt at Bellator 155 on May 20th
A solid contest between two of the best female fighters in the world, but unfortunately, it is being aired on the preliminary portion of the card.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Bryan Caraway at UFN: Las Vegas on May 29th
An intriguing match between two of the best bantamweights around, this one should be fun to watch, and equally as important, may set the winner up for a shot at the belt (contenders are seriously lacking at 135, outside of a few fighters).
Enrique Marin vs. Sage Northcutt at UFC 200
Reasonably interesting but still not a slam-dunk for the young Northcutt, this fight is probably the type that the UFC should have been making all along to promote Sage—non-wrestlers as opposed to well-rounded and underrated competitors.
Blagoy Ivanov vs. Josh Copeland for the heavyweight title at WSOF 31 on June 17th
Both of these heavyweight fighters are underrated, and I still think that cutting Ivanov (or failing to re-sign him) was a big mistake for Bellator. This should be a fun fight as well.
Tom Breese vs. Sean Strickland at UFC 199 on June 4th
Strickland may very well be the biggest test to date for the undefeated Breese, and he’ll really have to put it all together to come out ahead.
Carla Esparza vs. Juliana Lima at UFC 197 on April 23rd
Following an injury to Jessica Aguilar, TUF-winner Carla Esparza offered to step in and battle Lima on short notice, and stylistically speaking, it’s hard to beat this one.
This week in MMA may not have been the best in terms of news, but as longtime fans know, optimism is a must if you’re interested in having a good time with the sport.
Enjoy the fights!