It’s official: Demetrious Johnson is now the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Before you throw a spinning heel kick at my throat, think about it for a second. He’s cleaned out his division, and finished the only person in his division, John Dodson, who was thought to be able to pose a significant challenge to his title reign, and any other challenger brave enough to step up and take a shot. The last month has seen 3 high-profile dethronings, kicked off at UFC 193 by the massive upset of Ronda Rousey by Holly Holm. Just this past Saturday, the middleweight and featherweight titles both changed hands, in what some saw as shocking affairs, and the Zuffa era of MMA may just have ended because of one of them.
Granted, it won’t be because of our new middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, whose ascension to the throne I predicted way back in the Strikeforce days. The guy is a company man through and through, not too vocal about much else beyond his opponents, and, well, a hell of a good-looking guy. Don’t get me wrong, Rockhold is a hell of a fighter, but regardless of how long his sojourn at the top lasts, he’ll be getting way more attention for his looks than his devastating left roundhouse kick. As for his demolition of Chris Weidman, it showed two things: 1. don’t go throwing stupid kicks when you’re tired and winning a round; and 2. Strikeforce actually had some damn good talent when they got bought out by the UFC.
That’s it. I doubt we’ll be seeing a new incarnation of Anderson Silva in the division, and I can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad thing. In fact, Rockhold’s victory came with so little surprise to me that I don’t really feel either way about it. In a fight where both guys went in “not able to believe” the other would win, I guess the only thing we know now is that self-confidence doesn’t win fights when your cardio blows and you spend more time doing press than training.
Then again, if that were true, where the fuck would Conor McGregor be now? Probably beardless, working in a factory in Dublin, throwing spinning back-kicks on his lunch break, instead of pulling down an alleged 7 figures per fight, and contemplating multi-divisional championships. Here’s a guy who pretty much talked his way into two title shots, and backed up his talk with devastating performances. Sure, I picked against him, but I could absolutely see McGregor taking the fight over the course of 5 rounds. I don’t like to predict fights, and if I were so sure of my predictions, I would be fucking rich. What I do like to predict, though, is that we would see fights. Not what happened Saturday, where one guy was so psyched out by his opponent, he threw a combination of zero technique and 100% power, and got perfectly countered. I don’t attribute this to McGregor’s “movement coach,” or his unique striking ability – which he does arguably possess. One guy got caught doing something he shouldn’t have in front of a master counter striker. It happens all the time, just not very often on this level.
So two titles changed hands Saturday, largely on the strength of a mistake. A lack of focus by one fighter, with the other quick to capitalize. Does this mean that the loser should get an immediate rematch? Is it even in anyone’s best interests to do so? Weidman actually has the better case here, as the fight was competitive until he threw that ill-advised kick, got taken down, and nearly separated from consciousness in the third, then finally put away in the fourth. His title reign wasn’t dominant by any means, but until I see Yoel Romero actually put a convincing win streak with a couple finishes together, there’s no real challenger for Rockhold’s title for the moment.
In the case of Aldo-McGregor 2, however, I’m really drawing a blank. Fight purists want to see a real fight between the two, and feel completely ripped off by a 13-second knockout. Fighters who captivate mass audiences with quick finishes rarely do the same for people who expect displays of technique and sometimes some drawn-out violence. Although Ronda Rousey’s quick armbar finishes impressed the hell out of me, I became a fan when she got out of a Liz Carmouche neck crank and subsequently engaged in a 3-round war against Miesha Tate. I’d love to see a trilogy out of the featherweight pair now, but I might just be a bit selfish there. Aldo could probably use a tune-up fight, and McGregor has indicated that he wants to go up a weight class.
McGregor has always played ball with the UFC. However, on the heels of his most significant victory to date, and the confirmation of his superstar status by the live gate and early PPV numbers, it looks like he’s trying to blaze a trail by jumping weight classes without vacating his title. The UFC brass hate this, because it essentially puts a division in limbo, and prevents them from booking high profile fights. I don’t blame them, and I’m stuck watching another fight where the odds on either party winning are split, but I can see a path to victory for either. But I’ll do what I always do, and just lay out what I’d love to see. McGregor has an awakening of social consciousness and joins the fight for fighter unions, we enter 2016 with the lawsuit against the UFC exerting enough pressure on White and the Fertittas to enter into collective bargaining with their employees, and the Reebok deal goes the way of the dodo.
Fuck it, it’s Christmas: Jon Jones goes up to heavyweight after losing to Daniel Cormier, and Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler, instead of fighting each other, go up against Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks in a tag team ladder match. In a world where our #1 P4P guy has the personality of a pizza box and calls himself “Mighty Mouse,” anything’s gotta be better, right? – JP
(JP Sadek brings his intellect and wit to a site overrun with opinionated, yet passionate yahoos. After successful stints with such acts as The Dead City Rebels, Longtimers, and Tokyo Sex Whale, JP now drums for a fantastic group of doom rockers, Loviatar. When he’s not taking on the life of a family man or ravenous fight fan, JP is hard at work as owner/operator of Wolf Lake Studios, in Lac-Des-Loups, Quebec. Every Wednesday night, HEAD ON A SWIVEL brings a vibrant, yet grounded view on everything from music, the ever-growing world of MMA, politics, art, and everything in between. Check it!)