Week in MMA & Boxing #48
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
July 16th - July 29th, 2016
MMA Rule Changes
The Association of Boxing Commissions suggested a number of new rule changes going forward in MMA including written changes in what constitutes a 10-8 round and changing the definition of what a grounded fighter, as well as a new rule trying to lessen eye pokes.
The new unified rules are scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2017, but also have to be approved on a state commission-by-commission basis, which is one of the reasons rule changes happen so slowly in the sport.
The new rules were passed by a 42-1 margin by the athletic commissions with New Jersey, which came up with the original rules that have become the unified rules, objecting, and Tennessee and Mississippi abstaining from voting.
The new definition of what constitutes a 10-8 round is three criteria, dominance of the round, duration of advantage in the round and impact (basically hurting someone) during the round. If a round meets two of those criteria, it should be scored 10-8 and if it has all three, it has to be scored 10-8. The word impact was used in the actual rule instead of the term "damage" as favored by John McCarthy, because some states were apprehensive about a rule that uses the term "damage." Basically, damage is the word, but for public consumption the word used is impact.
The grounded fighter rule has changed largely to avoid the idea that a fighter could just put his hand down on the mat, and suddenly he's grounded and his opponent isn't allowed to throw a knee or kick to the head (knees or kicks to the body to a downed opponent are legal). On occasion, a fighter would game the system and put their hand down to the mat, and the rule change was largely to close that loophole. A downed opponent is now someone with both hands or a body part other than the feet touching the ground.
The eye poke rule, largely a Jon Jones inspired rule, is to protect fighters and to minimize pokes. If a fighter moves his hand toward an opponent's head with his fingers pointed forward, he can be warned, and if he does so repeatedly, it's a foul. You don't have to poke the eye but if you are moving your hand forward to help with distance, the fingers have to be pointed upward or they have to close their fists. This rule does change some natural physical tendencies but, like the other two new rules, are things for the best.
The attempt to legalize 12-to-6 elbows, a rule that has been controversial since it was put in by New Jersey, did not get out of committee. There was some movement to change that rule but UFC, at least through Marc Ratner, was not in favor of the change, and the feeling was with so many different rules they were looking at amending that wasn't a strong enough issue to live and die on.
Heel of the foot strikes to the kidney, made famous in 1995 when Royce Gracie on his back kept using the technique against Ken Shamrock, but banned by the unified rules, are now legal. Also now made legal is the ability to grab the clavicle.
The ABC's rulings are recommendations. Most states will adopt the rules but states don't have to. New Jersey has indicated it will not go along with the new rules, and both Ohio and Missouri reps were not at the meeting. Several states, including Ohio and Missouri are looking to start their own rival organization, the Association of Combative Sports Commissions (ACSC) as part of political in-fighting regarding a battle for power between the new power board in the ABC and the people who were in control previously.
The key problem is this will lead to different rules in different states, which is not what the sport needs at this point.
New Welterweight Champion
Tyron Woodley became the seventh new UFC champion of the year by scoring a knockout over Robbie Lawler in just 2:12 in the main event of UFC 201 on 7/30 at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
This was two Strikeforce alumni who were teammates at American Top Team battling for the championship. Lawler was the ATT star fighter, but Woodley claimed because he was with the gym earlier, had gone to NCAA tournaments to recruit wrestlers for ATT, and owned an ATT Gym, that he was more ATT than Lawler. Woodley threw big punches early. Lawler came in and seemed flat. Woodley landed a perfect right that would have stopped just about anyone, and finished Lawler with punches on the ground. Woodley got $390,000 for the win including his performance bonus. Lawler got $500,000 for the loss.
Next for Woodley
On the postgame show, Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, who is clearly the top contender with wins over Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks, asked Woodley for the next shot. Woodley blew him off because of the reality of the business.
Woodley, at 34, is looking to maximize income and minimize risk. He instead wanted to defend his title against Nick Diaz, whose 18 month suspension just expired. The problem with that is that Diaz hasn't won a fight since October 21, 2011, when he beat B.J. Penn. Woodley also said that if Diaz won't do it, he'd like to fight Georges St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden.
It's one thing to bypass Thompson for St-Pierre, the greatest welterweight of all-time.
Diaz responded on TMZ saying, "I don't need no fake-ass piece of plastic. F*** that. We can do a catch weight. Everybody wants a fight with me. Champions at 170, champions at 185. I said we can meet halfway. I don't owe nobody nothing. I made PPV without a title. I don't need that fake-ass plastic to f***ing be somebody."
St-Pierre said he was up for a title fight with Woodley.
The problem in both cases is financial. Diaz is now financially well off because of how well his recent fights did on PPV, and doesn't need or necessarily even want to fight, but will fight for big money. St-Pierre seems to want to return, although Dana White has made it clear he doesn't believe that, and he's used to making $5 million per fight with sponsors. But now with sponsors not being allowed, he'll want the UFC to make up that revenue.
The one thing St-Pierre would be a lock as far as doing is bringing back the Canadian market, which has suffered greatly, particularly on PPV, since he stopped fighting in late 2013. The market still exists, as shown by the enormous ratings the UFC 200 prelims did, but haven't had a national star. Rory MacDonald, who was supposed to be his heir apparent both on top of the division and as Canada's MMA superstar, didn't have St-Pierre's charisma, nor his success when it came to winning the biggest fights.
Fresh off his title win, Tyron Woodley was added to the cast of "Spider-Man Homecoming," which stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Donald Glover and Tyne Daly. The movie is now filming in Atlanta.
The Rest of the 201 Card
UFC 201 was not expected to do much when it came to business, coming three weeks after UFC 200 and three weeks before UFC 202, both of which were expected to greatly surpass the 1 million buy threshold.
Early trending numbers indicate those predictions are accurate. Sports bar attendance was way down. Trending numbers indicate something in the range of 240,000 buys, give or take ten percent in either direction.
It was a good action show. The main event was quick. The other fight with major title implications saw Karolina Kowalkiewicz win a probable strawweight title shot against Joanna Jedrzejczyk by winning a split decision over Rose Namajunas. 96% of reporters surveyed by MMA Decision.com had the fight for Kowalkiewicz, who I thought clearly won the fight, but it was a 29-28 with Namajunas taking the first round. With two Polish fighters as the champion and next challenger, Dana White after was talking about trying to do the fight in Poland.
The big surprise of the night was Jake Ellenberger, whose UFC tenure was all but done, getting the jump on Matt Brown and finishing him in 1:46 with a paralyzing liver kick. UFC had actually made the decision to cut Ellenberger after his loss to Tarec Saffiedine on 1/30, his fifth loss in his last six fights. Ellenberger begged for one last chance, and he was put in with Brown, in what was clearly designed as a fight for Brown to win.
If a fighter is suspended, unless he retires, he would be subject to unannounced random drug testing through the entire period of his suspension. As long as Brock Lesnar is still listed as an active fighter, and he hasn't retired, he's still subject to unannounced drug testing at any time. Nick Diaz, for example, noted they've come to his house many times while suspended and he nearly got in trouble because you have to let USADA know your whereabouts and they came to his house once when he was in Las Vegas and didn't tell them and if they didn't find him it would count as a missed test.
Brock's Drug Test
Regarding Lesnar's first positive test, which took place 11 days before the fight, but the results not coming back until five days after the fight, UFC did not expedite results of the test (which can cost from $35 to $450) although there were a number of issues that slowed things down.
According to an article by Marc Raimondi with MMA Fighting, both July 4th, and USADA having to handle a lot of Olympic athlete testing slowed down the process. But expedited tests should normally come back in about a week. This shouldn't have happened because the Anderson Silva fight, where he tested positive and the results came back after the fight because Nevada didn't expedite them, should have been the learning mistake. All tests, particularly involving main eventers, that are done from probably 17 days out to 6 days out should be expedited. At 6, they probably aren't coming back before the fight, and at 17, they are under normal protocols.
Hunt Still Pissed
Mark Hunt is still furious about the Lesnar situation. Evidently they showed up at his doorstep for drug testing on 8/1 as he wrote, "Don't f***en waste my time your bullshit testing, okay. Why are you even testing when you f***ers don't do shit about it. Take your out of competition testing and stick it up your ass cheating motherf***ers. What a bunch of wankers."
Dos Anjos vs Ferguson
Tony Ferguson, who to me seemed like the logical next opponent for lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, is instead being looked at for a fight against Rafael dos Anjos on 11/5 in Mexico City. Alvarez and Khabib Nurmagomedov have gone back and forth in a war of words. If Nate Diaz beats Conor McGregor, Diaz would be the obvious money opponent for Alvarez, although both Diaz brothers have made it clear that they are only interested in big money fights and not championships. Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone (who has been fighting at welterweight and faces Rick Story on 8/20, but has a win over Alvarez at lightweight) would be other possible opponents. Barboza and Alvarez are teammates, which makes that fight difficult. Ferguson, who has beaten Barboza and won 14 of his last 15 fights, to me seemed like the logical next fight, but Nurmagomedov is 23-0.
CM Punk's New Show
The Punk reality show called "Evolution of Punk" debuts on 8/15 on FS 1. It will air weekly on Monday nights every week leading to Punk's 9/10 debut against Mickey Gall in Cleveland.
Manchester England Show
Ariel Helwani reported that the promotion is looking at Jimi Manuwa of England vs. Ovince Saint Preux and Stefan Struve vs. Ruslan Magomedov for what is expected to be a 10/8 PPV show from either London or Manchester, England, which is looking at being headlined by Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson for the middleweight title. Magomedov, 29, and Struve, 28, are the only under-30 heavyweights ranked in the top 15. Magomedov has been out of action after knee surgery.
UFC Fight Night
This week's show is on 8/6 from Salt Lake City, the company's first show ever in the market. It starts with Fight Pass bouts at 7 p.m. with Chase Sherman (8-1) vs. Justin Ledet (6-0) and Tatsuya Kawajiri (35-9-2) vs. Cub Swanson (22-7). The rest of the show starts at 8 p.m. on FS 1 with Horacio Gutierrez (2-2) vs. Teruto Ishihara (6-1-1), Jason Novelli (11-1-1) vs. David Teymur (4-1), Viktor Pesta (10-2) vs. Marcin Tybura (13-2), Court McGee (17-5) vs. Dominique Steele (14-7), Maryna Moroz (7-1) vs. Danielle Taylor (7-1), Joseph Gigliotti (7-0) vs. Trevor Smith (13-6), Zak Cummings (19-4) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (22-3), Chris Camozzi (24-10) vs. Thales Leites (25-6), Dennis Bermudez (15-5) vs. Rony Jason (14-5), and headlined by Yair Rodriguez (8-1) vs. Alex Caceras (12-8).