Week in MMA & Boxing #30
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
February 26th- March 4, 2016
UFC 196 Preview
UFC’s biggest show of the first half of 2016 is this Saturday night and it should be big one.
The show opens at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time with Fight Pass bouts featuring Julian Erosa vs. Teruto Ishihara, Jason Saggo vs. Justin Salas and Jim Miller vs. Diego Sanchez, in the new position of a billed Fight Pass main event that they are wanting for every PPV show going forward.
At 8 p.m., on FS 1, it’s Darren Elkins vs. Chas Skelly, Marcel Guimaraes vs. Vitor Miranda, Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb and Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Brandon Thatch.
The PPV opens with Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko. Nunes would be in line for the next title shot after the Holm, Rousey, Tate program runs its course if she continues to win. Tom Lawlor vs. Corey Anderson in a battle of former college wrestlers, Ilir Latifi vs. Gian Villante, Holm vs. Tate and McGregor vs. Diaz.
How Big will UFC 196 be?
It’s a lock that the show headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz and a women’s bantamweight title match with Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate, will do big PPV numbers. But can it top the 1 million buys level that UFC did in both November and December?
When McGregor and Diaz did their press conference on 2/24, the response was amazing. McGregor and Diaz were the No. 2 and No. 3 most searched terms in the U.S. on Google for the day. YouTube viewership live for the press conference was through the roof. ESPN covered it heavily on SportsCenter.
It would appear on the surface that even though McGregor’s attempt to make history by becoming the first person to hold UFC titles in two weight classes at the same time was thwarted when lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos pulled out with a broken foot, that there was more interest in the new fight. This question is whether history and championships in this case means more than personal issues and name value.
The other question is how much all the Holly Holm media after her win over Ronda Rousey means as far as whether she or any woman champion going forward, can pull big numbers without Rousey. Holm has Miesha Tate as her foe. There is no grudge match aspect to this whatsoever, nor have either women even attempted to build heat with the other.
Tate was the second biggest woman draw in the company, at least when it came to pulling television ratings and name value until Holm got so much mainstream exposure. But did that exposure make her someone that people would pay to see, or just give her a lot of recognition as being the boxer who kicked Rousey in the head and knocked her out?
One notable bit of news has to do with ticket sales. The day tickets were put on sale, at similar record-gate prices as the McGregor vs. Jose Aldo fight, almost all were scooped up, many by ticket brokers because of the demand for McGregor’s last fight. But the secondary market proved to be weak. Fans from Ireland who had just flown to Las Vegas in December, spending thousands of dollars, weren’t ready to make the trip again so soon and the belief is that the actual tickets sold in Ireland were way down from the December show.
In addition, with UFC scheduling so many events in Las Vegas, and the record high ticket prices for the 12/12 show, it’s become a more difficult market. That’s probably the story behind McGregor talking about wanting to next fight outside of Las Vegas, mentioning Dublin or Boston.
With dos Anjos being injured and the main event changing, ticket brokers who were trying to sell for far less than the purchased priced due to the surprising lack of demand were then able to get refunds at face value, even though many feel there’s now more interest in the show as a PPV with Diaz in the main event.
There are now a ton of unsold tickets on the primary market for a show that was originally expected to rival the 12/12 record gate of $10 million. But UFC has only once topped 800,000 buys for a show where the big draw was a non-title match, the 2010 Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans fight. And that had multiple times the heat of this one, since it had been building for nine months, and played out on the highest rated season ever of The Ultimate Fighter.
This will have less than two weeks, and the only television build is the Countdown shows and the SportsCenter coverage of the press conference. McGregor pulled of 800,000 buys in a similar situation with Chad Mendes, whose name means less than Diaz, but that was also on the most heavily promoted UFC show in history.
Can Diaz beat McGregor?
Nate Diaz is much taller and longer than anyone McGregor has faced. He also has better hands than anyone McGregor has faced. If the fight goes to the ground, Diaz should have a distinct advantage.
In fact, from the outside, under normal circumstances, Diaz may have been the stylistic opponent McGregor would want to avoid. However, McGregor has a huge edge, being he’s been training for this date for months while Diaz just got the call. For Diaz to implement the game plan he needs to beat McGregor, especially in a five-round fight, the conditioning will be a key factor, and maybe the key factor.
Photos of Diaz show he looks in better shape than he had in some of his recent fights, but low body fat and a tight physique doesn’t mean he’s ready to go five rounds, and the Diaz brothers are also known for conditioning. Nate is a guy who at times looks like a championship fighter, but at times, as his 18-10 record shows, he performs like a guy not even in the top tier.
Ramifications of the Fight
McGregor, at the press conference, seemed negative on facing dos Anjos again, even though dos Anjos is the lightweight champion. If Diaz is to win, and he’s a strong underdog, because the fight is at 170, they can go back to McGregor vs. dos Anjos. He could also defend his featherweight title against either Jose Aldo Jr. or Frankie Edgar. Both were offered this fight with Aldo, who had said he was going to be ready in case of a pull out, then, when asked, saying he wasn’t ready, while Edgar had a torn groin.
If McGregor wins, there was talk he was going to try and face Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title at UFC 200 on 7/9. An even bigger fight, perhaps the biggest potential fight that could be done on that date, would be McGregor vs. Georges St-Pierre, who hasn’t fought since late 2013. There had been rumors of Lawler vs. St-Pierre, but St-Pierre has yet to publicly say he’ll fight again, and has said nothing past denying a Montreal-based news story that he was going to fight again, once again saying he hasn’t made up his mind.
Holm vs Tate taking a Backseat
With just days to go, Holm vs. Tate doesn’t feel as big as I expected it would. Almost all the focus of the show has been on McGregor. They’ve tried to sell the fight on the idea Tate, with a wrestling base, could takedown Holm and beat her on the ground given Tate has far more experience there. But nobody has taken down Tate except for Rousey getting her on the ground for a split second before she got up.
For business, Tate winning is far from a disaster. In fact, depending on what Rousey wants to do, it may be the best thing. A Tate win should lead to Rousey vs. Tate III, but with Rousey as challenger. That fight would be huge, not as big as Rousey vs. Holm II, but it should be bigger than Rousey’s fights with Bethe Correia or the first Holm fight. If Tate were to win, that would be it for Rousey, but a Rousey win would then set up the second Holm fight, which would be the biggest fight in UFC history. With Rousey seemingly on her way out with all of her movie offers, getting two fights out of her rather than one would be a benefit for the company and the division.
Another Controversial UFC Main Event
There has been a pattern this year when it comes to UFC’s biggest fights. The three highest profile main events, the Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit welterweight title match on Jan. 2, the T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz bantamweight title fight on 1/17, and the 2/27 Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping fight all ended went to a decision that has been debated greatly.
They were all intense, exciting fights that went the distance and were close calls, leading to a lot of discussions regarding the judging. In this case, Bisping scored an upset, in easily the biggest win of his career. Bisping won rounds one, two and four on all three judges cards for a straight 48-47 win.
There were a number of keys to the fight, the biggest fight ever airing live on Fight Pass. Bisping landed more, but Silva’s shots did the most damage. If you look back at who beat who up worst, the old “Who would you want to be when the fight is over,” scoring criteria, it’s easily Silva. But teh judges awarded Bisping the fight on activity, basically.
For the record, I believe Anderson Silva won this fight at the end of the third round and the fight should have been stopped. At the end of the third round, Silva had knocked Bisping’s mouthpiece out. The fight continued and referee Herb Dean picked up the mouthpiece. Bisping was distracted and made a mental error with just a few seconds left in the round that nearly cost him the fight as he turned to Dean to get his mouthpiece. Silva seeing Bisping having lost focus, used the opening to land a devastating jumping knee, the biggest move of the fight. Bisping was knocked down hard just as the buzzer sounded to end the round.
Silva felt that he had knocked Bisping out and started celebrating the win while sitting on top of the cage. The knockdown was devastating enough that it could have been stopped. Bisping was hurt, but with the round over, he’d have a minute to recover. He was carrying on a conversation and not out, but he was rocked badly and went down hard. Had the round not been over, there is a very good chance Silva would have finished him in seconds, which was the only time the fight came close to being finished.
Next for Bisping
The win puts Bisping in a tie with Matt Hughes with 18 UFC wins, the second most in history, behind Georges St-Pierre’s 19. But he’s still likely one fight away from a title shot, as the winner of the 5/14 Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs. Vitor Belfort fight would seen to have a leg up for shot at the winner of the Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman title fight (while not announced yet, the tentative date for this show is UFC 199 on 6/4 at a location to be determined).
Where Bisping could get the next shot is if Weidman regains the title with a solid win and Belfort beats Souza. Weidman stopped Belfort in the first round so they wouldn’t be so quick to book a rematch. But it’s also probable Bisping will be booked for another fight against a top guy, perhaps Gegard Mousasi, that he’d have to win to get a later title shot.
Next for Silva
For Silva, things get tricky. The loss isn’t going to hurt Silva as a draw, and he’s still No. 4 on the active roster behind Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones. The problem is, who is available that he can draw with? He is clearly not the fighter he was, and who is at nearly 41? But with a little more aggression he could have won the decision. I’d suggest the Weidman vs. Rockhold loser to face Silva, because if Silva isn’t facing a big name, him fighting doesn’t make economic sense.
Had he won, it would have set up a fight with the Rockhold vs. Weidman winner. That would be the biggest middleweight fight possible in 2016, not just for the fight itself but for the aftermath. Rockhold beating Silva would make Rockhold a far bigger star than beating anyone else. Even though Weidman has two wins over Silva, some fans still view them as flukes, that Silva got caught clowning in the first fight and in the second fight it ended because Silva broke his leg. A solid win would still help Weidman. Silva beating either would be an even bigger story, coming back to win the title at 41. But with the loss, that would seem out of the picture, even though UFC has granted big draws title shots after losses many times in recent years.