Week in MMA & Boxing #22
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
December 19 - December 24, 2015
One Championships Implements Weight Cutting Ban
Coming just days after the death of Yan Jian Bing, One Championships has announced that they will no longer allow weight cutting by dehydration and have implemented new regulations and policies to enforce this change.
GENERAL REGULATIONS & POLICIES RELATED TO ATHLETES’ WEIGHT
1. Athletes must submit their current walking weight and daily training weight regularly. Athletes will input and track their daily weight online via a dedicated web portal. Athletes may input data weekly but must include daily weights. -- This is a great idea and is something that is already imposed to a degree in high school wrestling, but obviously this can easily be gamed by lying athletes. I'm sure athletes will argue that this is too frequent, and really, it is too frequent, but I understand the attempt at accountability. Start strong. You can always back it off later.
2. Athletes will be assigned to their weight class based on collated data and random weight checks. Athletes are not allowed to drop a weight class when less than 8 weeks out from an event. -- Another great policy, especially the first part. Your weight class should be based on data. What a novel concept! We use science to answer a question about biology, it's genius! I'm not sure what is intended with part two because if you're booked to fight, it's not like a month in advance you're going to say, "Hey opponent, I'm going to drop to 145, so if you want to fight, you have to meet me there." I've never heard of that happening. It's an attempt at something, but I'm not sure what.
3. During fight week, weights are checked daily. Urine specific gravity will also be checked the day after arrival and 3 hours prior to the event. Athletes must be within their weight class and pass specific gravity hydration tests all week and up to 3 hours before the event. If an athlete falls outside the weight, or fails a test, they are disqualified from the event. Doctors may request additional testing at their discretion. -- The specific gravity thing is currently being used in high school wrestling, and I've seen it gamed first hand. I actually sat in on a meeting while the coaches discussed how to beat this. If they are really going for something legitimate, then this is a no-brainer rule, but it needs to be subject to examination by non-crooked doctors/trainers, that's all I'll say.
4. Catch weight bouts are allowed. However, the athlete with the higher weight will not be heavier than 105% of the lighter opponent’s weight. -- This is fine, but seems needless. Once guys are fighting in their proper weight classes, there won't be a reason to have catch weight matches. The reason GSP vs. Anderson Silva was ever possible was because they were going to do it at 177 or something close, with the theory that since GSP has a huge cut to 170, he'll sacrifice a bit of size for a little less suffering during the cut, and all Silva needs to do is dehydrate 8 more lbs down from 185 which he's done before. OR THEY COULD HAVE BOTH FOUGHT AT 195! The thing that is dumb about catch weights is that it's just like saying, "Weight classes don't really mean much." Which is fine, but you're saying the exact opposite by enforcing them. Catch weight matches should not really need to exist.
5. ONE will conduct random weight checks on athletes at our discretion. -- Solid. Now let's see if it happens.
6. Athletes may petition to change weight classes outside of the 8-week competition zone and must be within their new desired weight at that time. In addition, athletes must pass a specific gravity urine test when their weight is within the limits of the newly petitioned weight class. ONE doctors can request additional testing to determine the amount of weight drop allowed over a specific time. -- This stuff is all good and practical, but unless you're monitoring the fighters all year with in depth body fat analysis, specific gravity, hydration, etc. what will happen is that guys will just end up cutting much earlier, just to get the declaration of a weight class. This means that now the fighter will be potentially, under weight, under fed, under hydrated, and in a worse state physically for his 8 week camp. They are claiming that this will be a sweeping, contractually long policy, but I'm skeptical. Will they really send doctors to just check weights? Maybe.
7. The usage of IVs for the purpose of rehydration will not be allowed. -- That's good. It seems to be working for the UFC thus far.
Overage and limits of weight reduction:
· 3 weeks to event day: Athlete must be within contracted weight class
· 4 weeks: 1.5% bodyweight over max
· 5 weeks: 3%
· 6 weeks: 4.5%
· 7 weeks: 6%
· 8 weeks: +6% max over.
(ONE Chief Doctor may approve up to +/- 0.5% maximum error in any weekly weight check)
For at least the first year, this will be a disaster. The mentality of the fighter does not change even when the rules change. Just as we see with PEDs, testing evolves behind the discovery, which is to say, they make the new steroid first, then it gets out there, then they develop the test. There will definitely be a window of time where we see a lot of fights cancelled becasue dehydration is inherent in the sport and fighters are attempting to game the system. Good coaching is the only way to really stop this, but this is a great first effort, and I applaud One Championship for making the effort.
Weight Cutting Summit
Discussions about changes in the U.S have also been taking place after the death of Yan Jian Bing. The California State Athletic Commission, under the direction of Andy Foster, held a summit regarding weight cutting and sent a recommendation to increase the number of weight classes in the sport.
Bing passed away at 12:06 p.m. on 12/11 while cutting weight for a One championship fight in The Philippines due to an acute myocardial infarction, essentially a heart attack, at the age of 21.
Due to the commission structure, change comes very slowly in MMA because all states have their own rules and changes would have to be adopted on a state-by-state basis. The Association of Boxing Commissions can recommend changes, and most are in agreement that the rules should be unified, but there are minor differences now from state-to-state.
Foster has long felt that extreme weight-cutting was the biggest problem in the sport. With USADA banning IV's, that changes the game somewhat in UFC, but there is no IV ban in other promotions.
Jeff Novitzky, the UFC's Vice President of Athlete Heath and Performance, was at the summit. He noted that the IV ban has already had a change. UFC weighs all fighters (they may not weigh all heavyweights because with the exception of a few guys, cutting weight isn't an issue in that division) when they come to the city and monitors them to make sure they are on target to make weight. Even with that, there are still guys missing weight all the time, and on occasion, having to be hospitalized and drop out of fights due to issues of last minute weight cutting.
Before the IV ban, which went into effect in October, fighters were showing up, on average, at eight percent above their weigh-in weights, meaning, for example, a featherweight (145) on average showed up the week of the fight at 157, and a light heavyweight at 221, on average. Since the IV ban, and stricter PED testing, the fighters, on average, have shown up five percent above weigh-in weights, meaning featherweights at 152 or light heavyweights at 215. While five or six pounds doesn't sound like a big deal, when it comes to fighters and peak weights, and this being an average of a couple of hundred fighters since that time, it's a huge change in training philosophy throughout the sport. It's more notable because fighters who didn't use PEDs or IVs, and there are many of them, are showing up at the same weight as in the past, skewing any difference in average, so those who were using are likely showing up with even more than a three percent added difference from before.
One of the key people at the meeting was Dr. Edmond Ayoub, the Vice President of the Association of Ringside Physicians. Among the things he said was the advantages fighters think they have with extreme weight cutting is more mental. As noted here before, New Jersey did a study where they weighed in fighters before they went into the cage, and found that they fighters who cut more weight won 52 percent of the time, which from a statistical standpoint means if there is an advantage, it is minimal. It was also noted that even that two percent over average can be explained because in many cases, the guys who cut the most weight come from the stronger wrestling backgrounds, and stronger wrestlers are going to, on average, win more than half of their fights anyway. Still, there is a psychological edge in feeling you are bigger and thus stronger than your opponent. Without any stats, the gut feeling is that it does give fighters a first round edge but that it can work against them in longer fights. Even when the New Jersey stats were revealed showing just how minimal the weight edge really means, many in the MMA community completely rejected the results because of long-held beliefs.
Ayoub also claimed that guys who cut more weight are more susceptible to concussions because they are not fully hydrated when getting in the cage. He also said that the IV usage is also all psychological, as there is no evidence that it is superior than just drinking lots of water, Pedialite or Gatorade or whatever fluids a fighter uses to rehydrate after weigh-ins. That also goes against the belief of many in the industry since IV usage for rehydration was extremely prevalent in the sport.
Ayoub favored canceling fights if fighters were too dehydrated, and said it takes 36 hours minimum after a major cut for fighters to be fully hydrated. Most fighters in UFC get into the cage anywhere from 24 to 32 hours after weighing in, depending on the time zone of the fight and their position on the show. Because weigh-ins are traditionally at 4 p.m. local time, while most shows have a uniform start time so the main card fights start at 10 p.m. on Saturday nights, main event fighters on East Coast time have the most time to rehydrate while prelim fighters on the West Coast have the least.
IV usage for fighters to rehydrate has been banned because they can mask usage of PEDs.
Foster is going to attempt to ban any usage of IVs in boxing and MMA throughout the state for rehydration, which would cover amateur and non-UFC events. Mike Mazulli, the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions said he would bring it up as far as the recommendation of a national ban at the next national meeting in August.
Foster noted that a 2013 study showed that 39 percent of fighters are not fully hydrated when they go into the cage due to weight cutting. That's the statistic they want changed because that leads to not only more knockouts, but also more stamina loss in longer fights and a higher potential for brain injuries due to the less fluid in the head cushioning the brain on impact from strikes.
Sean Wheelock, who heads the ABC rules committee, noted talking to fighters who have told him that they notice when they are dehydrated that punches that they can normally walk through can stun them.
He also noted that the idea of doing the hydration tests that college and high school wrestlers use that limit at the beginning of the season how much weight they will be allowed to lose has its issues as well. Bubba Jenkins, a former NCAA champion wrestler who was at the summit, noted that wrestlers have learned how to game the system, implemented in 1998 after three deaths of college wrestlers in 1997 due to weight cutting.
The difference between wrestling, Jiu Jitsu and judo, which have same day weigh-ins, and sports like MMA, boxing and kickboxing, is the dangers of strikes to the head aren't there in the other sports.
One idea talked about was weigh-ins two days ahead instead of one day ahead, but that could also encourage even more severe weight cutting with fighters knowing they have two days to get their weight back on.
John McCarthy, who was also at the summit, noted that he favored weigh-ins two or three days before the fight, but having a second weigh-in right before the fighter went into the cage, that would only allow him to be ten percent above his weigh-in weight, meaning a welterweight couldn't go into the cage at more than 187 pounds, a middleweight at more than 203.5 and a light heavyweight at more than 225.5
The problem here is that will lead to some guys doing a second cut right before that second weigh-in, and that's exactly what you want to avoid. Same day sweating out water to make a prescribed maximum weight will mean the brain isn't fully hydrated while fighting.
The other problem is that if a fighter showed up at fight time and missed weight, the fight would be canceled, and promoters and fans aren't going to be happy when something like that happens at the last minute, particularly if it's a main event or championship fight.
Another change recommended was increasing the number of weight classes, with a proposal made that new weight classes for men would be 115, 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, 195, 205, 225 and 265.
The argument is that the gap between 170 and 185 and 185 and 205 is too much, and that fighters who should fight at 195 are for the most part cutting hard to make 185 as opposed to facing bigger guys at 205, and that the same is true of a real 195 pound guy who would be small at 185, so cuts hard to make 170, but 175 would be a lot healthier.
The issue with that is that while it helps some in between weight guys who would fight in these situations at a heavier weight than they now do, it works both ways. Someone who makes 170 with some discomfort may now think they can make 165. Guys who make 185 may try and cut to 175 thinking 170 is a little too much so they haven't tried. As likely as not, the number of people the adding divisions will help will be offset by those who will now look at dropping even more weight than before for a newer weight class.
From a business standpoint, more different championships has its good and bad points. With running so many shows, more titles means more title matches. But more titles also means the value of such titles lessens. When UFC had five weight classes, every champion was a star and title matches were a big deal. Now, with ten divisions, it's no longer the championships that are the draw and instead it's maybe three or so great personalities and some title matches on PPV don't draw at all. Even divisions like heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight that used to be big drawing divisions no longer draw just for a title match unless there is a big star in the fight.
From a sport standpoint, the more weight classes, the more fair it is. From a business standpoint, it's a mixed bag. It may help on television with more title fights, even the ones the public doesn't care about that much are still bigger fights than those same shows without a title fight. But it does hurt for the PPV industry, which used to be able to get a certain baseline number of 300,000 buys if there was any title fight, then that baseline if there was a heavyweight, light heavyweight or middleweight title match. Now, a title fight can do 100,000 buys and a big fight is more about a key personality as champion, as much as the title on its own. Even at the former marquee weight classes, a title fight isn't guaranteed to beat 250,000 buys. It's always been personality over championship to a degree in combat sports, and it's even more extreme in boxing with a million championships where nobody cares about the belts. By making it more fair size-wise to fighters, the titles themselves greatly lessen in value. So it becomes a balancing act.
Another point is the creation of a 225 pound weight class. On paper, this makes sense, because the gap from 205 to 265 seems completely unfair. But the reality is, the heavyweight division is already a weak division, lacking depth and aging badly. Splitting this already weak division into two divisions makes no sense. The idea is that a natural 240 pound guy would be at a huge disadvantage facing a 285 pound guy who cuts to 265. But in reality, all of the top heavyweights, Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez, Andrei Arlovski and Stipe Miocic, are guys who could easily cut to 225. Of the prior era top stars, with Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, Randy Couture, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, almost all of them could easily cut to 225. The bigger heavyweights, like Frank Mir, Bigfoot Silva, Ben Rothwell and Mark Hunt have routinely been taken apart by the smaller and better heavyweights, so it's not an issue at all. It would create two divisions without any depth, particularly the heavier one. UFC's Forrest Griffin was there and said as much.
Now, in ten years, could this change, and could there be 6-foot-7, 285 pound monsters who can actually strike and wrestle at a high level and thus your 240 pounders are too small? Possibly. But there has always been the feeling that past a certain point, greater size hinders your ability to fight at a high level and the current UFC results seem to underscore that. Still, boxing has had a situation where much taller guys have dominated the heavyweight title but in doing so have put on terrible spectator fights. And at that time could that change make sense? Absolutely. But right now in MMA, this isn't that time.
The proposal for new weight classes will be sent to the ABC Medical Committee, headed by Foster, and if they get approved there, they will go to a vote in August at the ABC annual convention. A promotion like UFC would not have to abide by the ruling.
Notivzky said that he's talked with the UFC matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, and they are not against the new weight classes. The red flag would be splitting the weak heavyweight division, but it was noted that a promotion doesn't have to have all divisions. UFC could adopt the divisions but simply not have a 115 pound men's division and a 225 pound men's division, just as they don't have a 125 and 145 pound women's division.
Really, the only change that would come would be at welterweight, where the champion would have to decide to either fight at 165 or 175, and then others would have to battle for the title in the other division.
A perfect world would be fighters fighting at their walk-around weight with no weight cutting. The fights would be better. The fighters would be happier. The fighters would have more stamina. But what would happen is that if that was the rule, fighters would violate the rule and while extreme weight cutting may not give an advantage more than psychologically, that doesn't mean that a ten pound cut and rehydration doesn't give a guy an edge over someone who doesn't cut at all.
Novitzky claimed that fighters, who are now cutting on average about five pounds less during the week of the fight, have told him they feel better. Still, we've seen examples, most notably Eddie Gordon, on 6/27, who trained and ate less to decrease his natural weight to 185 and didn't cut at all for the fight. He then got thrown around by a much larger opponent (Antonio Carlos Jr., a former heavyweight who cut to 185) and lost the fight and ended up being cut after a third straight loss.
This will be very interesting to monitor.
Dos Anjos Shuts up his Haters
Rafael dos Anjos destroyed Donald Cerrone in 66 seconds in their lightweight title fight in the main event of UFC's FOX card on 12/19. Many were clamoring for Cowboy to win so it would set up a fight with Conor McGregor, a fight we all know Conor would win.
But Dos Anjos said, not so fast my friend. There has been much speculation about him looking smaller, alluding to him being off of PED's. I find those assertions laughable, especially after that destruction we witnessed.
The list of fighters clamoring for red panty night, as Conor McGregor put it for what happens when you sign to fight him and your girlfriend realizes how much money you'll be making, is now led by Dos Anjos. But realistically, McGregor should fight either dos Anjos, Frankie Edgar or Jose Aldo. Edgar is the most deserving featherweight. Dos Anjos is the lightweight champion. McGregor said his goal was to become the first person in UFC history to be world champion in two weight classes at the same time.
Going with Edgar first would risk his featherweight title before he had his shot at making history. Similarly, giving Aldo a rematch would do the same thing. If he faces dos Anjos, win or lose, he's still featherweight champion and still has Edgar and Aldo matches.
Personally, I think it sucks that Aldo isn't even being considered for a rematch after holding the title for so many years successfully. the man deserves another shot at his belt, after losing in such a quick way, that some can look at as a fluke.
The decision would have been easiest had Cerrone beat dos Anjos, because there was little doubt a Cerrone vs. McGregor lightweight title fight would have been the strongest possible business match-up. McGregor and the UFC now have a clear path of what would be the right call.
If McGregor fights Edgar or Aldo, then dos Anjos should face either Anthony Pettis, provided Pettis beats Eddie Alvarez on 1/17 in Boston, or face Tony Ferguson. Diaz should face either Ferguson, Edson Barboza or Khabib Nurmagomedov next.
Overeem and Diaz Win
The other big stories coming out of the show were wins by Alistair Overeem and Nate Diaz in very different fights. Overeem knocked out Junior Dos Santos in the second round of a fight that had almost no action until the finish. Both men looked physically different from the past, with the Overeem who had to cut to 265 and was ripped to shreds at that weight being replaced by a soft 243-pound version. Dos Santos' weight was about the same, but his physique was noticeably different and he came across like a shot fighter. At 31, of the UFC's top 16 heavyweights, Dos Santos is the youngest with the exception of Jared Rosholt. But he fought like the oldest. There are two major lessons here. The first is that Dos Santos took terrible beatings in his two losses to Cain Velasquez. In both fights, but in the latter fight, it should have been stopped much earlier by his corner or the referee, and the damage is something he hasn't recovered from. But before writing him off, it should be noted that everyone had written Andrei Arlovski off in 2009 when Brett Rogers destroyed him in 22 seconds. And now, going into 2016, at 36 years of age, Arlovski is the No. 2 contender for the title.
Overeem's contract, which paid him a $342,857 guarantee and a $200,000 win bonus, expired with the fight. He took the risk of not signing the prior offer, figuring that with a win, he'd have several people bidding for his services. Overeem was a big star in Japan, so Rizin would have interest. He also has a relationship with Bellator's Scott Coker, who brought him to the U.S. from Japan when he ran Strikeforce. With so little depth at heavyweight and a great finishing sequence in what was otherwise a boring fight, UFC, which has the right to match any outside offer, is likely to do that unless someone makes him an outrageous offer.
Diaz looked as good as he has ever looked in his career in winning a decision over Michael Johnson. McGregor vs. Diaz would be a big money fight, and that wasn't lost on Diaz, who tried to make an argument that he deserved the McGregor fight. Diaz said that since McGregor already punked out dos Anjos verbally at a press conference, that he shouldn't fight dos Anjos, and instead should fight him. While the logic is filled with holes, Diaz talked like he wasn't interested in cutting to 155 unless it was against either dos Anjos or McGregor.
Anderson Silva on Fight Pass?
In UFC's biggest attempt to date to boost subscriptions to Fight Pass, it has announced that Anderson Silva will replace Gegard Mousasi in the main event of the 2/27 show at the O2 Arena in London against Michael Bisping.
Mousasi is not injured, and MMA Fighting reported that Mousasi is expecting to be in the co-main event on the show.
Silva was expected to headline a March pay-per-view against Vitor Belfort. UFC officials had said they were working on the fight, but it was never officially announced. Silva, 40, is currently under suspension until 1/31 due to two different failed drug tests for both steroids and anti anxiety medications, one prior to his fight with Nick Diaz, and the other on a test taken the day of the fight.
The announced Bisping vs. Mousasi fight was an instant sellout, so ticket sales were not an issue with the card change, that UFC announced on Twitter on Thursday.
Silva vs. Bisping is, by far, the highest profile fight that will have taken place on Fight Pass.
This could open Belfort up for a fight with new middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Rockhold asked for a rematch with Belfort, who knocked him out with a head kick in 2013, as soon as he had beaten Chris Weidman for the title on 12/12 in Las Vegas. The winner of the Yoel Romero vs. Ronaldo Jacare Souza fight that took place on the same show was expected to get the next title shot, but there was controversy over that decision, as Romero was judged the winner, but most felt Souza took the fight, and Romero didn't have great momentum coming out of the show. Belfort is also a bigger name than Romero.
UFC has taken several steps to promote Fight Pass in recent months, including adding more live non-UFC events, and has scheduled much stronger fights going forward on many of its shows that won't appear on television.