Week in MMA & Boxing #19
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
November 28 - December 3, 2015
New Heavyweight Champion
Unbeaten Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) defeated an old and shot looking IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision on Saturday night in a huge upset.
I’ve never quite seen a fight like this before where both guys are connecting with zero punches and looking so poor. Usually, it’s one fighter that stinks up the joint rather than both fighters. Fight sucked!
UFC Korea Show
What appeared to be a nothing show on 11/28, UFC’s debut from Seoul, South Korea, a show that aired in the middle of the night and early morning on Fight Pass in the U.S., ended up as one of the company’s best shows of the year.
The combination of a hot crowd, and exciting and charismatic local fighters led to a show filled with decisions, some controversial, to move quickly and be a lot of fun.
The show drew 12,156 fans to the Olympic Park Gymnastics Arena, and while reported on television as sold out, the local media reported it was a few thousand shy of capacity.
The shows stars were Sung-hoon Choo, known to everyone else as Yoshihiro Akiyama, Benson Henderson, Seo Hee Han and the original of the two men who go by the name Dong Hyun Kim (both of which fought on this show).
The artist usually known as Akiyama was clearly the biggest star, and the crowd was furious when he lost a split decision to the unbeaten but also unknown Alberto Mina. But Henderson was right there with him, as the fans knew his mother was from Korea and treated him like he was Korean.
Henderson won one of four split decisions on the show, in a tough and competitive main event with Jorge Masvidal. The fight was notable for a few reasons. The decision could have gone either way, given that most of the rounds were close. Henderson ended up winning the final round, most likely with a couple of takedowns late in the round. Masvidal, who was scheduled to face the original Dong Hyun Kim in the co-main event in a three round fight, was bumped up to a five round main event. While he did conserve energy early and wasn’t gassed at the end, Henderson, who had trained for five rounds for months, clearly was in better shape in the end and that spelled the difference.
To show how difficult the main event was to score, Judge Mark Craig had rounds one, three and five for Masvidal. Judge Barry Foley had rounds three and four for Masvidal. Judge Charlie Keech had only round one for Masvidal. I had Masvidal winning rounds two and three. When it came to significant strikes, Henderson had the edge in the first three rounds, 25-20, 25-12 and 18-17, while Masvidal had the edge in the last two, 13-9 and 10-9.
The media had it 12-3 for Henderson, with most giving it 49-46.
The fight was also fought at 170 pounds, even though both fighters have spent most of their careers at 155. With less weight to cut, it made for a better fight. It was the prime example that if every single fighter on the UFC roster was forced to move up a weight class, meaning they wouldn’t have to be cutting 15 to 25 pounds in the last week, they’d be in better shape on fight night and be able to fight harder longer. But the reality is, it’s going to be that way for a long time. The people in charge don’t want change, and it’s not easy to make a viable change because you can’t just order everyone up a weight class, or make changes that will lead to later weigh-ins and fighters going into the cage less hydrated, because that will lead to even more problems than cutting weight.
Henderson May be leaving UFC
After the fight was over, in something on camera that was not explained, Henderson cut off his UFC gloves and left them in the cage. His UFC contract expired with this fight and he’s likely going to test free agency given that UFC always tries to sign star fighters before their contracts expire. Most sign because they aren’t interested in going anywhere else, and because if they lose the last fight of their contract, it greatly hurts their negotiating leverage.
In the end, while Henderson has some decision making power over what’s next, UFC has the final say. No matter what Bellator offers, UFC has the right to match it. The two most recent high profile jumps, Josh Thomson and Phil Davis, were both different animals.
Henderson is a bigger name, 32 years old, but who probably isn’t going to be getting a title shot soon. At 170, he’s small for the division and while he’ll be a good opponent for anyone, I don’t see him being able to stand with a Robbie Lawler or fight with a Rory MacDonald, or a Hector Lombard, or a Johny Hendricks, because of the size difference. At 155, the division is deep, but he also nearly beat (he lost a very controversial decision) Donald Cerrone in January, who is getting the next title shot.
In Bellator, at 155, he’d be in the company’s marquee division with Will Brooks, Thomson, Chandler, Marcin Held, Dave Jansen, Brandon Girtz and Patricky Pitbull Freire. At 170, Bellator really only has two serious stars, champion Andrey Koreshkov, and Douglas Lima, two fighters Henderson is certainly capable of beating. He really could walk into a title shot, while at 155, he’d probably be in a collision course with one of the big four first, and get a title shot after one win.
With his Korean ancestry, he could also be of significant value to ONE, the leading MMA group in Asia, which could build to a Henderson vs. Ben Askren fight for its welterweight title, or Henderson vs. lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, either of which would be the highest profile fight in the company’s history. But ONE has never paid anyone at the level Henderson would be expected to be able to get in the free agent market.
South Korean MMA promotion ROAD FC General Manager Mark Lee told MMAJunkie that they are interested in signing Henderson to a $200,000 contract, although this may be a publicity stunt to get their name out as he backed off when MMAJunkie asked if that meant multiple fights for $200,000, which would not be significant, or $200,000 per fight. That promotion runs primarily in South Korea, usually about once every other month, but has promoted in Japan, and has a debut show in Shanghai, China on 12/26.
But UFC has the right to match any offer. On paper that sounds good, but since Henderson is not going to main event a UFC PPV show soon, and thus get a PPV percentage, a matched salary means less money because he’d have more sponsorship opportunities in Bellator, and would also have more of a promotional effort behind him. But even if he wants to go, UFC can retain him if they want him bad enough.
Henderson claimed his taking off his UFC gloves was not a ceremonial thing to indicate anything, and also said he wants to retire in the UFC, but first wants to test the market.
Cro Cop Popped Himself!
Based on the wording by USADA, Cro Cop never failed a steroid test. What happened is that USADA officials showed up to give him a surprise test on 11/4. After the test was done, Cro Cop called UFC officials and told them he had been using HGH because of a shoulder injury. Since that was against the rules, the company contacted USADA and Cro Cop admitted the same thing to them on 11/9.
On 11/10, Cro Cop announced his retirement, citing a shoulder injury that wouldn’t respond to treatment. On 11/11, it was announced that Cro Cop was provisionally suspended based on a violation of the drug policy. When the official suspension was announced, they noted that no results had come back from the tests but it was his admission that he was using HGH which gave them no choice but to suspend him for two years, which are the new rules for a first violation.
The reality is that there was very little chance he would have tested positive for HGH, so had he not called UFC right away and told them, the odds are he’d have never been suspended. But he may not have realized that HGH showing up in a test is so rare that he thought if he admitted it first that maybe they would have been lenient with him, and with his announcement of his retirement, just let it slide. Cro Cop is the first fighter suspended since USADA started doing random unannounced testing in July, and thus, we still haven’t had a first positive test.
UFC Number Breakdown
A new study of this years UFC PPV numbers confirms what many thought about the different stars drawing different crowds for UFC PPVs. Rentrak, which tracks people who actually purchase PPVs on television found a very interesting stat about PPV buys, which is that the belief that there is a base audience that buys everything and then a casual audience that will buy the most hyped shows isn’t exactly the case. The audience that will consider buying a PPV show is far larger than believed, but it’s also more fractured than previously believed.
For the UFC’s four biggest shows of the year, which were the 1/3 show (Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier), 2/28 (Rousey vs. Cat Zingano), 7/11 (McGregor vs. Chad Mendes and Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort) and 8/1 (Rousey vs. Bethe Correia), in each case more than 50% of the PPV purchasers of each of those shows only purchased one show so far this year. In other words, the audience that swelled Jones vs. Cormier did not, for the most part, buy McGregor and Rousey shows. Similarly, a large percentage, as in more than half, of those who purchased Rousey vs. Zingano, not only didn’t purchase Jones vs. Cormier, but didn’t purchase McGregor vs. Mendes nor even Rousey vs. Correia. In fact, the Rousey vs. Correia fight had 63.5% of its purchasers being people who did not purchase another UFC event this year, the highest show when it comes to only one purchase this year.
There was always the belief that Jones, Rousey and McGregor draw from somewhat different audiences to a degree, but nobody realized how different, nor that so much of the audience for Rousey vs. Correia did not even buy Rousey vs. Zingano five months earlier.
When UFC first started doing big PPV numbers regularly in 2006, they did an internal study which indicated that people bought PPVs in groups but these stats were more because the group rotated homes in watching, where one guy would buy the PPV and the others would bring over the food and drinks. The idea is it may still be the same people watching but at different homes. Those stats showed five to eight people on average per home watching, which may have been true then, but I’m skeptical it’s that high now, except maybe for the biggest fights.
New UFC Vegas Headquarters
UFC broke ground on its new headquarters and campus this past week in Las Vegas, which will include offices for 360 employees, a state of the art television and multimedia studio, and an athlete health and performance center for training, and more importantly, rehabbing injuries and for the latest in sports performance science. The company hopes to move into the new headquarters in the spring of 2017.
Lorenzo Fertitta said he believes UFC is the largest media company based in Las Vegas. The Health and Performance Center is more than 30,000 square feet on two floors with an Octagon, a boxing ring, mats, an indoor track, lifting platforms, a rehab center, treatment rooms, sports science areas and physiotherapy areas, as well as a media center.
Faber vs Dillashaw?
Urijah Faber is pretty much pushing the idea that he’ll take on T.J. Dillashaw for the bantamweight title. He’s turned down that idea in the past because the two were teammates, but now have had a split so there is a storyline behind it. That’s dependent upon Dillashaw beating Dominick Cruz on 1/17. I’d guess if Cruz wins, UFC would try and book Dillashaw vs. Faber anyway.
Bellator Show Friday Night
The last show of the year is 12/4 from San Jose State University with a main card of Josh Thomson vs. Pablo Villaseca, Georgi Karakhanyan vs. Daniel Weichel (winner will likely face Daniel Straus for the featherweight title), Derek Anderson vs. Patricky Pitbull Freire, Brian Rogers vs. Virgil Zwicker and Adam Piccolotti vs. Mario Soto.