Week in MMA & Boxing #47
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
July 16th - July 29th, 2016
Holly Holm goes Down... Again
We go into full detail about the state of the women's bantamweight division here, at Causioncreations.com. Be sure to check that article out.
The good news is that Holm proved to be a huge television drawing card, as her match with Valentina Shevchenko was watched by more U.S. television viewers than any MMA match held during the summer in the history of the sport. Holm did that facing an opponent who was almost a complete unknown.
The bad news is the opponent pretty much dominated the fight in winning a straight 49-46 decision, giving Holm two straight losses. The single biggest money fight UFC can put on would be Ronda Rousey vs. Holm. The losses don't kill the fight, but Holm being out of the title picture makes it less likely to happen, and pretty much kill Holm's chances of getting a title shot and winning the title any time soon, which would have made that prospective fight even bigger.
Shevchenko proved to be the quicker, more aggressive and more accurate stand-up fighter against a Holm who looked physically quite different than she had against Ronda Rousey, as if she'd aged significantly over the last several months. Holm could still face Tate next, which even with both women's losses, would still be a big fight that would guarantee that at least one of them wins.
Shevchenko's win over Holm peaked at 4,687,000 viewers in rounds three through five. That made it the fifth most-watched fight since the beginning of the FOX/UFC relationship in late 2011. Overall, the show did a 1.8 rating and 2,975,000 viewers, the best summer numbers since UFC went on FOX. It had an extremely weak undercard when it came to stars, not to mention an unknown in the main event.
Jones Jones PED test Failure Update
The two drugs Jon Jones tested positive for on a USADA test on 6/16 that led to his being pulled off UFC 200 were hydroxy-clomiphene and letrozole, both anti-estrogen medications.
The drugs came out at a 7/14 hearing before the Nevada Athletic Commission, which issued a temporary suspension to Jones pending a hearing, likely in September or October, where the commission will decide on discipline. Because the test came out of competition and Jones didn’t fight, he is probably not going to be fined, but given the new guidelines for use of drugs of that nature, unless he can prove to the satisfaction of both the commission and USADA that he didn’t knowingly take the drugs, he is likely to be suspended for two years. The only way that won’t happen is if he can prove mitigating circumstances.
Because the fight was in Nevada, there are two separate sets of potential punishments against Jones. USADA, which handles UFC testing, will issue a punishment after due process is taken care of, which in the case of a first offense for those substances would be two years unless he can prove he didn’t knowingly take them. Nevada would also issue a suspension, which would be recognized in all commission states.
Generally speaking, athletes would use clomiphene and letrozole at the end of a steroid cycle, known as PCT’s in the bodybuilding world, for Post Cycle Therapy.
Jones has claimed from the start that he doesn’t know how the drugs got into his body. It should be noted that in tests done prior to the first Daniel Cormier fight on January 3, 2015, Jones had extremely low testosterone readings, but performed at a high level. The levels were low enough, including an 0.19-1 ratio (any ratio above 4-1 is a positive, anything below 0.25-1 is a red flag but there are no sanctions for having low testosterone) but Jones passed CIR testing for artificial testosterone at the time. Still, the low readings left a number of experts, including Victor Conte and others who didn’t want to talk publicly on the matter, suspicious.
Mark Hunt Furious
Brock Lesnar tested positive for one of the same drugs as Jones, reported by Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times as Clomiphene, in at least two USADA tests, one on 6/28 and the other on 7/9, the latter being the day of his fight with Mark Hunt.
Since Lesnar fought, unlike Jones, who was pulled, it was the exact situation, like with Anderson Silva before the fight with Nick Diaz, where the test coming back slow became a huge issue. Lesnar had previously talked about how unprofessional it was that Jones tested positive.
Hunt was furious, believing that since Lesnar failed a test 12 days before their fight, that the fight shouldn’t have happened. Obviously, as noted last week and before, that when it comes to headliners’ tests in the last few weeks before the fight, the turnaround has to improve, to avoid situations like this. Losing Lesnar would have hurt the show’ badly and it would have been more negative from a publicity standpoint had he missed the show from a coverage standpoint than the publicity a week later that he failed a test.
Hunt immediately stated that he believes he’s entitled to half of Lesnar’s purse, and if he doesn’t get it, he’ll never fight for UFC again. That probably isn’t going to happen.
Hunt noted that his last two opponents (Lesnar and Frank Mir) were popped for drug test violations and talked about forming a UFC Fighters Association.
“They say they are cleaning up the sport, yet I’ve risked my health two times against guys cheating since the USADA thing started,” he said. “I was told Brock was gonna be tested when I took the fight. He comes in looking fricken juicy as hell and then I find out he’s popped after the PPV has already been sold. It’s ridiculous. The fact they haven’t even bothered me make contact with me since all of this happens just proves they don’t care.”
If Lesnar’s situation was similar to other fighters, he received his base pay check of $2.5 million after the fight. However, his larger figure, based on his percentage of the PPV revenue which will almost surely be in excess of $3 million, and perhaps significantly more, wouldn’t come for some time. Whatever fine he would have to pay could come out of that figure.
Nevada can fine fighters between 50 and 75 percent of their purses for drug test violations, so the cost in this case would be well into seven figures.
If Lesnar is suspended from the UFC for two years, he would be 41 when he would be eligible to return, so this likely ends his MMA career. He’d have to pass a battery of drug tests to get reinstated if he would even be interested in fighting at that point. The suspension may not completely remove Lesnar’s UFC leverage in negotiating a contract with WWE when his current deal expires, since his contract is up in April 2018. A two-year suspension, if that’s what he gets, would expire three months later.
7/13 UFC Fight Night
If ever there was a message sent about viewer fatigue and overkill, it was the rating sent by the public for the UFC Fight Night show.
The UFC’s fourth show in a week, coming days after UFC 200, one of the biggest shows in company history, did 609,000 viewers, tying a May 31, 2014 show as the lowest number for a prime time show in UFC history. There were a number of factors there including UFC and FS 1 are far stronger on television now than in 2014 so such a number today would be even worse.
The show was down 42 percent from the 2016 FS 1 prime time average (not including the January show which does numbers coming on football championship day so large it’s not fair to figure it into comparisons) of 1,043,000 viewers. In fact, this prime time show did fewer viewers than both Saturday afternoon shows this year.
A lot of factors came into this. Many viewers watched for five to seven hours on both Friday and Saturday night, and some hardcore fans also watched the prior Thursday. All three shows of which had title fights. A Wednesday night show headlined by Michael McDonald vs. John Lineker and with no major star except Tony Ferguson seemed easy to skip. There was the sports competition with the ESPYs. There was a lot of pro wrestling competition but I can’t see WWE shows on the Network or Lucha Underground impacting the ratings. Wednesday isn’t a familiar night for live shows, but UFC has done plenty of Wednesday shows and every one has done better than this. Plus, Ultimate Fighter had been airing every Wednesday and the last episode did almost the same number as this, and with DVR viewership, most weeks of the past season did more than 600,000 viewers.
The prelims did 331,000 viewers, less than half of the 760,000 average of the February through 7/8 prime time prelims. They were the lowest numbers for prelims in prime time of any show in UFC history.
But while the show lacked in viewers and names, it more than made up for it in excitement, particularly Ferguson vs. Groovy Lando Vannata, the semifinal. The first round, which saw Ferguson knocked down twice and nearly finished by the UFC newcomer was one of the best rounds in recent memory. Ferguson, who came into the fight with a seven fight winning streak and having won 13 of 14, came back to win in the second round with a guillotine. But Vannata made a name for himself, at least among those who saw the show, as a guy with an incredible chin, taking big shots flush the entire round. Ferguson kept alive his hopes for a title shot at new champion Eddie Alvarez with the win. In the main event, Lineker knocked out McDonald to win his third straight at bantamweight and second via first round knockout.
The show was UFC’s first ever in South Dakota, playing at the Danny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. A first-ever UFC in that part of the country you’d have maybe thought to be a big local draw, but the arena was only about half full, with 5,671 fans paying $381,945. Because UFC events usually are carried by people traveling to the show as opposed to locals, a Wednesday night show in a market that doesn’t have a lot of big cities around it would be a tough draw.
The performance bonuses of $50,000 went to Louis Smolka and Lineker, plus Ferguson and Vannata each got a $50,000 bonus for their fight.
Joe Rogan on his podcast was asked by guest Jeremy Stephens if he was going to stay with UFC. Rogan said he wasn't planning on announcing it right now, but he agreed to stay one more year on a reduced schedule. He'll only be doing domestic PPV shows. He'll no longer be doing the FOX cards or any international PPV shows.
UFC 200 Estimates
Estimates for UFC 200 are in the 1.1 million to 1.2 million buy range. That is well under most expectations but still would be fourth place of all-time behind Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo fight at UFC 194, McGregor vs. Nate Diaz at UFC 196 and Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir at UFC 100. Given how loaded that show was, it really speaks to what amazing draws both McGregor and Ronda Rousey have been to be able to do numbers in the same range, and in McGregor’s case, even higher at one point, with far less support and last week media.
UFC 205 at MSG
The plan right now is for UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden to be a major peak show with the idea of making it bigger than UFC 200. The only problem is unless you have Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo, and if McGregor loses again to Nate Diaz that fight is hurt somewhat, I can't think of a possible main event. Plus where is the depth since neither Holly Holm nor Miesha Tate can fight for the title that soon, Michael Bisping won't be ready to defend that soon after Dan Henderson, Daniel Cormier can defend but against Anthony Johnson or Glover Teixeira isn't a big draw. The only ace to pull out is a return of Georges St-Pierre meeting McGregor, which would be huge.
8/27 UFC on FOX show
The Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit fight that was originally set for UFC 202 on 8/20, has been moved back one week to headline the 8/27 FOX show in Vancouver. Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller has been added to that show as well, a rematch of the December 29, 2012 fight between the two, which was a tremendous war, won by Miller.
Mendes Suspended Official
Chad Mendes was officially suspended for two years for his out of competition drug test failure on 5/17. This story is far bigger than it’s getting played because when the suspension was announced, the drug in question was revealed as GHRP-6, a hexapeptide that helps stimulate Growth Hormone, which is a drug athletes believed they could skate by using. Mendes will be suspended through June 10, 2018, or two years from the date that USADA got the result of his test. These two-year suspensions are also nearly career killers because in a smaller weight class, you age out of the top tier quicker and Mendes will be 33 when he returns. With the exception of Conor McGregor, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar, Mendes was generally considered the fourth or fifth (Max Holloway being the other) featherweight in the company.
Hendo to Get Next Shot?
Dan Henderson is now saying that win or lose, he will retire after his next fight, which is being talked about as a middleweight title bout against Michael Bisping in the fall in England, likely in Manchester, possibly London. That would make for a great story in the sense Henderson going for a title at almost 46 against an opponent who is beatable and then having the chance to retire as champion, and Bisping having the chance to avenge his famous UFC 100 knockout loss.
There is at least talk of Vitor Belfort vs Gegard Mousasi on that show. This day and age, it always helps to book contenders in the weight class on shows with title matches. The key is, if there is an injury they'll have a backup star in the weight class ready to fill in, although for today, Jacare Souza makes more sense to be in a match for such a position.
Bellator and PBC
Bellator and Spike are doing a weekend doubleheader with a Bellator show on 8/26 and Premier Boxing on 8/27, both on Spike, being cross-promoted, and both from the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Bellator show will have Patricio Pitbull Freire, a featherweight, being moved up a weight class to face Benson Henderson. Henderson should have a significant size advantage since Freire was not a big featherweight. The winner will get the next shot at lightweight champion Michael Chandler. The boxing show will be headlined by Robert Guerrero vs. David Peralta. The Honda Center is far too large when it comes to the number of tickets that will be sold for a Henderson vs. Freire main event in Anaheim
UFC 201 Lawler vs Woodley
This week's show is UFC 201, which will probably do the lowest PPV numbers in a long time, sandwiched in between UFC 200 and UFC 202 and being really just a one marquee fight show, and that isn't even all that strong. The show is from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern with Fight Pass bouts, which, and what are the odds of this, the first two fights both having a fighter named Damian. It's Cesar Arzamendia (7-2) vs. Damien Brown (15-9), Damian Grabowski (20-3) vs. Anthony Hamilton (13-4) and Michael Graves (6-0) vs. Bojan Velickovic (14-3). The prelims will be on FS 2, not FS 1, with Ryan Benoit (8-3) vs. Fredy Serrano (3-0), Wilson Reis (20-6, who was originally in the No. 2 bout on the show and now is on FS 2) vs. Hector Sandoval (6-1), Jorge Masvidal (29-11) vs. Ross Pearson (19-10) and Ed Herman (23-11) vs. Nikita Krylov (20-4). The PPV has Ian McCall (13-5-1) vs. Justin Scoggins (11-2), Erik Perez (15-6) vs. Francisco Rivera (10-4), Matt Brown (20-14) vs. Jake Ellenberger (30-11), Rose Namajunas (5-2) vs. Karolina Kowalciewicz (9-0) and the main event is Robbie Lawler (27-10) vs. Tyron Woodley (15-3) for the welterweight title. The Namajunas vs. Kowalciewicz fight will likely determine the next challenger for Joanna Jedrzejczyk's strawweight title.