Week in MMA & Boxing #11
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
October 3 - October 9, 2015
UFC 192 Main Event Thriller
Daniel Cormier retained his title in the main event of UFC 192 on 10/3 in Houston at the Toyota Center in a nail-biting five round decision win over Alexander Gustafsson. From watching, it appeared the fight was even going into the last round, and it was on two of the three judges scorecards. While Cormier was clearly winning the fifth round, it was close enough that one significant blow at any time could have changed the outcome.
Cormier won a split decision on scores of 48-47, 47-48 and 49-46. Judge Sal D’Amato gave rounds one, three and five to Cormier. Judge Kerry Hately gave Cormier rounds one, three, four and five. Judge Derek Cleary gave Cormier only rounds one and five.
As it turned out, it was round three which was the difference maker and that’s very much questionable. Cormier was controlling that round until Gustafsson landed a hard knee late, but that hurt Cormier, and he was in trouble the rest of the round. It was probably the most significant blow of the fight and the most danger either fighter was in.
The fight broke the all-time light heavyweight record with 260 significant strikes, breaking the mark of 244 set by the Jon Jones vs. Gustafsson fight. It was the second most of any title fight in UFC history, trailing only the 308 in the UFC 171 fight with Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler.
Cormier had the edge, outlanding Gustafsson in every round except the fourth, with a 14-5 edge in round one (mostly fought with Cormier on the ground), 28-27 in round two, 36-33 in round three and 31-18 in round five. Gustafsson had a 37-31 edge in round four.
But to the public, the fight didn’t appear to catch on. It shows the difference between trying to compare a fighting sport with team sports in analogies. When Michael Jordan left the NBA while still the best player in the league, and the Houston Rockets won the championship that year, nobody said they really weren’t the best team because the Jordan-led Bulls were better than them the year before (and ended up being better again when Jordan came back).
But with Cormier vs. Gustafsson, as well as the battle for the top contender spot where Ryan Bader beat Rashad Evans, all four were fighters Jones beat. Gustafsson was the only one of the four who even fought him that close. As great as the fight was, the reaction when it was over is people saw one of the year’s best fights, and that Jones would beat either of them.
What's next for Cormier
Jon Jones will get a title shot as soon as he is reinstated and asks for it. Right now, there is no indication from anyone when that will be. Cormier said he will fight Jones anywhere, and won’t retire until he has two more fights with Jones, but he will not fight him on the proposed 4/23 date in Madison Square Garden. Cormier felt that Jones would be booed everywhere because of being Jon Jones and the recent hit-and-run case, but that wouldn’t be the case in Madison Square Garden.
At 36, the reality is that Cormier’s legacy in the sport won’t be the Strikeforce tournament, or winning and defending this title. In his case, it won’t be about belts as far as how he’s viewed, even though he said that in finally winning a world championship, which eluded him in wrestling, he would be able to retire satisfied. To the public, he will be a guy who held the title when the real champion was out, the modern day Jimmie Ellis. Between the age of each man and how the first fight went, he will be a heavy underdog if that fight happens. And the longer it takes to happen, the closer to Jones to his prime and the more Cormier is out of his. But if Cormier can beat Jones, his career will be viewed completely different.
If Jones doesn’t get the shot, Cormier’s likely opponent would be Bader. But that’s a fight that won’t draw. But the only other option would be if Glover Teixeira (another fighter Jones beat handily) beats Patrick Cummins on 11/7 in Brazil in an impressive fashion, and Teixeira gets the shot. Teixeira holds a first round knockout over Bader, and while Bader beat Evans, Evans was very clearly not the same fighter at 36 and coming off two years out of action after two knee surgeries. Evans was slower and lacked his former explosiveness and it wasn’t much of a fight.
Joseph Benavidez at flyweight and Julianna Pena at women’s bantamweight figured to be potential title contenders with wins. Benavidez did beat Ali Bagautinov, but it was a boring fight and left nobody clamoring for him to face Demetrious Johnson. But he still may get the shot just on default, because if Henry Cejudo doesn’t beat Jussier Formiga on 11/21 in Monterrey, Mexico, Benavidez would seem to be the only possible contender. But Johnson has beaten him twice, and even though Benavidez has never lost to anyone but Johnson or Dominick Cruz (twice each), it’s a fight that would be hard to sell.
Pena won a decision over Jessica Eye in a fairly good fight, but it wasn’t impressive enough to make people clamor for her to fight Ronda Rousey. Rousey and Pena had issues during the filming of Ultimate Fighter in 2013 so there was a back story had Pena rolled through Eye.
Hendricks to fat to fight at Welterweight
The Johnny Hendricks vs. Tyron Woodley fight that would have likely determined the opponent of the upcoming Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit welterweight title fight, fell apart.
Hendricks ended up hospitalized due to passing a kidney stone and an intestinal blockage two nights before the fight, while weight cutting.
Dana White immediately said that Hendricks was going to have to move to middleweight, a weight division where the guys are far bigger than he is. White also said Woodley(who was paid at least his show money) would get the next title shot. Later he backed away a little on Woodley getting the shot, saying it was a long ways away, and things could happen, and seemed interested in trying to have Woodley fight again first.
Hendricks really only had himself to blame, double so, since he has the experience. Hendricks let himself get way out of shape, probably 220 pounds, after surgery to repair a torn biceps, an injury he suffered just before his first win over Robbie Lawler that he fought with. He rushed the comeback, and had a difficult weight cut. He didn’t appear to be the same fighter in the second fight, which he lost a decision by dropping the fifth round.
Seemingly learning, he never let his weight get above 195 before the Matt Brown fight. He ended up in better condition and won the fight.
However, his camp said he showed up at between 205 and 210 pounds when camp started, and thus had to concentrate on losing a lot more weight in camp. The rapid weight loss almost surely led to his medical issues with his body shutting down.
The Sage Northcutt Hype Machine begins
The biggest story aside from the main event was the debut of Sage Northcutt. Northcutt, at 19 years and seven months, became the youngest fighter ever to win a UFC fight with a 57 second destruction of Francisco Trevino.
Northcutt, 6-0 with six stoppages, had garnered attention on smaller shows with his knockouts and even more, his looks. Northcutt looked like a cross of Zack Morris from “Saved by the Bell” and the hand speed of a young Vitor Belfort.
He won, and then did a series of flips in the ring, bringing in comparisons to the youthful Georges St-Pierre. Right now Northcutt is very much the male version of Paige VanZant, a fighter who clearly has marketability based on looks. Given his age, it’s probably best not to book him like a usual UFC fighter, as in UFC, there isn’t nearly the level of protection and padding records like a similar prospect would get in boxing. Whether he can take a punch, or how he deals with a top wrestler, or how he holds up in a real fight against top level guys are unanswered questions and it’s way too early to talk about where he’ll end up.
But that won't stop people from hyping him up like he's the second coming.
UFC 192 Business
The show drew 14,626 fans, which was not a sellout, and a gate of $1,859,000. Very early PPV indicators and numbers didn’t look impressive, even though this was a deeper than usual show. Even with Cormier working hard in promotion and UFC producing a great video package (although the main promotional piece, focusing on the height difference between the two wasn’t compelling), it didn’t have the buzz that the last several shows, other than UFC 191 with Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson, which barely broke the 100,000 mark in buys, had.
The prelims did 749,000 viewers, a number hurt by going against major college football games on ABC, FOX, ESPN and ESPN 2. Football alone represented 20 percent of the prime time viewership that night. It was also hurt that the two hour prelim show contained less than 24 minutes of actual fighting in the five bouts (the Northcutt bout that originally was aired on Fight Pass was replayed on FS 1 to make sure the larger TV audience saw him). It was 22 percent below the 2015 average, but was up 40 percent from the 536,000 that the October 2014 PPV did (the second Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes show). The peak was 883,000 viewers for the Albert Tumenov vs. Alan Jouban fight.
The prefight show (which only lasted ten minutes because football went long) did 569,000 viewers. The postfight show did 254,000 viewers. The weigh-ins did 55,000 viewers.
The bonuses of $50,000 went to Cormier and Gustafsson for best fight, and to Tumenov and Adriano Martins for best performances.
T.J. Dillashaw leaves Team Alpha Male
Globo in Brazil reported on 10/5 that Dillashaw was leaving Team Alpha Male and doing his training with Duane Ludwig in Denver. Its crazy becaus eon the Ultimate Fighter, which was taped a few months ago, Conor McGregor had been saying that Dillashaw, who was Team Alpha Male’s lone champion, who Faber thought was his friend and who he recruited into the sport, was a “backstabbing snake in the grass.”
Most figured it was just McGregor saying things to get a rise out of Faber and for controversy. But McGregor turned out to be right! Smh.
Ludwig and Dillashaw were known to be close, and Dillashaw trained with both camps prior to his last fight with Renan Barao. Ludwig and Faber had a major falling out. It at first was portrayed as cordial, because Ludwig wanted to open up his own gym in Denver. But it later became a lot worse, with Ludwig saying that nobody but Dillashaw from the camp trained hard enough to be world champion.
Faber two weeks ago on the MMA Hour said Ludwig was a bully and trying to break down his former team and gave a laundry list of problems, mostly money related.
Dillashaw told MMA Fighting that for his fight with Dominick Cruz on 1/17, he will be doing all his training in Colorado. He said the members of Team Alpha Male were like brothers and it’s not the end of him being with the team, but would be training for his next fight exclusively with the Elevation Fight Team. Ludwig isn’t part of that team, but being in Denver, he will be coaching Dillashaw.
Faber first met Dillashaw when he was a high school wrestler, a small-town wrestler from Bret Harte High School in Angels Camp, who placed second in the state as a senior. Dillashaw went to Cal State Fullerton on a full scholarship and went to the NCAA tournament three times, but never placed. Faber recruited him out of college to join his team and he started training with the team in 2009.
When Dillashaw won the title, there was immediate talk of a Dillashaw vs. Faber fight, because Faber was the most marketable contender in the division. Faber made it clear he wouldn’t consider such a fight, and Dillashaw said he didn’t want it either. Faber has to take this as a personal betrayal, but he has yet to comment in that direction publicly.
Ultimate Fighter on 9/30 did 538,000 viewers. Thus far, this season, with Conor McGregor and Urijah Faber as coaches, is doing the best ratings since the Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate season two years ago. Like that season, it’s also doing big DVR numbers. For the 9/23 episode, there were 235,000 viewers between Thursday and Saturday of the original airing on DVR. For the first three episodes, there was a 50% increase in audience when you add in those who watched it over the next three days on DVR.
Punk Injured in Training
C.M. Punk’s debut has been delayed due to a shoulder injury. His coach, Duke Roufus, told ESPN that Punk injured his shoulder during a wrestling scramble and will be seeing a doctor on 10/14 to get an evaluation. “He was doing great before that,” said Roufus. “His progress has been good. He’s got a great attitude and he’s a hard worker. He got a place in Milwaukee where he lives all week when he’s here training, so he’s in it to win it.”
Roufus said that right now Punk is 50 percent ready. He estimated Punk would be ready to fight in six to ten months, and said the injury moves the timetable back a month and he’d like to see him debut at UFC 200 on 7/9. We do know that Dana White has talked with at least one person about being his opponent.
Heavyweight Title Fight in March
While the deal is not completed, it looks right now like the Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez heavyweight title rematch will take place on a March PPV that would be at a 42,000-seat domed stadium in Brazil. The plan seems to be for Arena de Baixada, which would be UFC’s debut in Curatiba, Brazil, and likely load the show up with area fighters, as well as Anderson Silva, whose suspension would be over by that time.
Silva had already talked about fighting Michael Bisping in Brazil in March. Velasquez was told that he would likely be fighting Werdum in March, and Werdum told Guilherme Cruz that the stadium in Curatiba was the planned location. He said he had pushed for a stadium in Porto Alegre, but that stadium didn’t have a roof and UFC doesn’t really like doing outdoor shows.
UFC Drug Testing
USADA released a list of all tests it has done in its first three months of working with UFC on its program. The most tested athlete was Ronda Rousey, who was drug tested five times. Interestingly, Cris Cyborg (who fights for Invicta but is under a UFC contract) has been tested twice. Tested four times so far are Thiago Alves, Bethe Correia and Antonio Bigfoot Silva. Many haven’t been tested once. Multiple drug test failures Josh Barnett and Vitor Belfort were each tested once, so prior failures doesn’t seem to be one of the reasons people would be targeted frequently.
Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter Set
WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs) will be defending his title against former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter (26-1-1, 16 KOs) on December 12th on Showtime.
This is a very big fight and easily the biggest of the 26-year-old Thurman’s career. This is going to be a really tough fight for Thurman because Porter has the superior hand speed, and a much superior inside game. Thurman has the edge in punch power, but not much of an edge. Porter will need to be careful with Thurman’s left hook, because that’s his best weapon in his arsenal.