Why does it seem like maybe some people, possibly including the UFC, are overlooking the current UFC heavyweight champion in his potentially record-setting title defense at UFC 220 next Saturday?
And is a former middleweight great drifting toward familiar self-parody the longer he hangs around?
Plus, in which division can Bellator most plausibly lay claim to having better top fighters than the UFC, and does it matter?
All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.
You’re asking two very different questions, Mr. Crow. I suspect you know (even if you may not like) the answers to both. But fine, let’s take them one at a time.
How did Francis Ngannou get this title shot against Stipe Miocic? He nearly decapitated Alistair Overeem, who was the only other person being seriously considered for the opportunity at the time. Say what you will about the other guys on Ngannou’s record, that was a legit win over a legit contender, and if the finish had been any more brutal it would have resulted in criminal charges.
That leads us to your second question: Why is all the attention on the challenger and not the champion on the verge of breaking a UFC record that’s stood for an embarrassingly long time? Again, you know why. It’s because people see in Ngannou the terrifying force that they’ve always wanted in a heavyweight champ.
Miocic has skills, obviously. He’s finished his last five opponents, four of them in the first round. Still, he doesn’t quite murder them the way Ngannou does, and he sure doesn’t have the swagger or the style. He comes off as a nice guy who’s really good at fighting.
That’s fine, but it doesn’t give a promoter a ton to work with. Ngannou, on the other hand, is a total layup. You couldn’t screw up the hype job if you tried, which explains why so much of the focus is on him. We don’t necessarily have to like it, but we should at least be able to understand it.
I’m not sure Douglas Lima or Rory MacDonald would be favored against Tyron Woodley, but if so it probably says more about how people view the current UFC welterweight champ than about how they view the top guys in Bellator.
If we’re going to ask whether the best Bellator fighters could beat UFC champions, a lot depends on when we’re asking. Could Gegard Mousasi have beaten Michael Bisping back when he had the UFC middleweight title? Probably. Would a prime Michael Chandler have been a problem for Anthony Pettis? Maybe. Eddie Alvarez has been the lightweight champ in both promotions, and he’s still going strong.
The question is, does it matter? I mean, sure, at various points you could make the case that the Bellator champ (or even just a top contender) could maybe beat a specific UFC champ.
But what does that change? What Bellator really lacks is the depth to put on one fight card after another that fans really want to see. It’s not that Bellator never has a No. 1 on its hands. It’s that it doesn’t have enough of the rest of the top 10.
That said, Lima defending his title vs. MacDonald at Bellator 192 is a great fight. It’s also one that, unlike lots of other high-profile Bellator offerings, actually feels like it matters beyond being a passing curiosity. It’s just too bad it has to go up against UFC 220, which is headlined by the biggest heavyweight title fight – in any organization – in at least half a decade.
You really know how to cut a man to his core, Andrew. There was a time when fighters might be inclined to interpret any comparison to Royce Gracie as a compliment. Safe to say that time has passed.
But I’m not sure Anderson Silva is quite there yet. In his favor is the fact that he was more dominant over a longer period of time, and in an era when that actually meant more. Whatever else we can say about his later years, which seem to stretch on and on and on, in his day he was really something beautiful.
Still, it does seem like he’s doing an awful lot to undermine his own legacy. The drug test failures. The poor response to them, ranging from ludicrous explanations to tepid non-denial denials. The in-cage performances that aren’t so much sad as just mediocre, which is sad in its own special way from such a formerly great fighter. It all makes for a very bad look.
I suspect that when he finally retires, we’ll still find a way to remember him fondly, and for who he was at his best rather than on his long, slow decline. It would just be nice if we could go ahead and skip to that part now, rather than waiting around to see how bad it can possibly get before he’ll admit that it’s over.
If I have to bet my permanent residence on any single fight in the heavyweight division, I’m going to go ahead and pack a bag first just in case. There aren’t that many sure things in all of MMA. There are almost none at heavyweight, where the most consistent narrative has been one of sudden and violent upheaval at the top.
There’s a reason no one has ever managed to defend the UFC heavyweight title more than twice in a row. It’s the same reason you shouldn’t bet anything you can’t afford to lose on the outcome of any given title fight.
That said, if you back me into a corner, I guess I’ll choose Ngannou. Do I feel secure in that pick? I do not. Is there a possibility that Miocic could thoroughly outclass him in a one-sided display that proves how far ahead of ourselves we all got with the Ngannou hype? Absolutely.
But as long as I’m trying to predict the unpredictable, I’ll go with the guy whose power is a constant and immediate threat. I’d just hate to have that as the only thing keeping a roof over my head.
The UFC has complained about the logistics of putting on an event in Hawaii, but there’s never been a better time to figure it out. Max Holloway is coming into his own as a charismatic, exciting champ, and you know he’s not going to stop pushing for it until he gets a hometown (or island) title defense. And something tells me that the UFC might see more media credential applications for that one than it would for, say, Winnipeg.
That’s possible. I guess there could be some fans out there who would otherwise turn their noses up at Bellator but suddenly feel like it must be legit because they hear the same voice from the old UFC video games or whatever. It’s hard for me to imagine the interior lives of those people, but I can’t say they’re not out there.
That would be the point where things get really bleak for Renan Barao. It’s the point where people start throwing around terms like “precipitous decline,” and also maybe the point where he has to start worrying about getting cut, which is weird considering that it wasn’t so long ago the UFC was trying hard to sell us on what a “monster” he was.
As it stands, Barao has lost three of his last four. Another loss would give him his second two-fight losing streak in three years, and that’s bad news. What’s more, Kelleher would be the least decorated fighter to beat him since his first loss back in 2005. That makes this feel like a test to find out whether Barao is even still in the conversation.
If the answer turns out to be no, he might need to take a hard look at how he got here. Something needs to change, or else his employment status sure will.
There are eight men’s divisions and four women’s (assuming we count featherweight, which has a champ but no ranked contenders). If you don’t count interim titles, that leaves 12 belts to keep track of at any given time, which doesn’t seem like too many to keep straight in the old noodle.
What hurts more than the number of legit UFC titles is the gradual devaluing of them by the UFC itself. The kneejerk creation of interim belts is part of that, but so is UFC President Dana White’s bad habit of un-promoting his own champs whenever they do something to make him mad.
It’s hard to tell us that these people are special and should be revered if you’re also telling us that they’re boring cowards who need to shut up and do as they’re told. Pick one, man. Preferably the first one.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Twitter Mailbag: With all the Francis Ngannou hype, have we forgotten about Stipe Miocic?