Week in MMA & Boxing #49
By: Larry Causion Jr. CausionCreations.com
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2016
Credit: Dave Meltzer
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2016
Credit: Dave Meltzer
MMA & Boxing News From the week of
August 26th - September 8th, 2016
UFC 203 this Saturday
This week’s show is UFC 203 on 9/10 from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, one of the biggest markets UFC has never played in. Given Stipe Miocic, the heavyweight champion, is from Cleveland and making his first title defense on this show, this on paper should do very well live.
The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time with Fight Pass fights with Drew Dober (16-7) vs. Jason Gonzalez (10-2), Francimar Barroso (18-5) vs. C.B. Dollaway (15-8) and the Fight Pass main event of Yancy Medeiros (12-4) vs. Sean Spencer (12-5). The FS 1 fights are Ray Borg (9-2) vs. Ian McCall (13-5-1), Caio Magalhaes (9-2) vs. Brad Tavares (13-4), Nik Lentz (26-7-2) vs. Michael McBride (8-1) and the TV main event of Jessica Eye (11-5) vs. Bethe Correia (9-2). The PPV has Jessica Andrade (14-5) vs. Joanne Calderwood (11-1), Urijah Faber (33-9) vs. Jimmie Rivera (19-1), Mickey Gall (2-0) vs. C.M. Punk (0-0), Travis Browne (18-4-1) vs. Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1) and Stipe Miocic (15-2) vs. Alistair Overeem (41-14) for the heavyweight title
Punk's 1st Fight
A 19-month journey will come to an end, or to a new beginning when C.M. Punk, steps into the cage in one of the biggest matches on the UFC 203 PPV card. From almost the start, people had proclaimed the day would never happen. But the reality is, Punk lives for proving doubters wrong, so him stepping into the Octagon, no matter how long it took and how many surgeries he would endure, was going to happen.
Punk faces Mickey Gall, a 24-year-old novice fighter from New Jersey who trains with the Miller brothers, and was 2-0 as an amateur, and is 2-0 as a pro, both first round choke finishes in less than three minutes.
Punk will be less than three months shy of his 38th birthday. He’s not the oldest newcomer to fighting on a big stage by a long shot. Punk isn’t exceptionally strong, fast or explosive. He never played sports at any significant level in his life. He wasn’t even a high school wrestler or football player. He was never a badass street fighter. And by all logic, he’s far too old to start. But nearly two years ago, he decided he was going to do it.
Punk may not be in the main event. He’s technically third from the top. But his fight is being pushed more than any other on the show. A top card of Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem for the heavyweight title and Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne, would be likely to do somewhere in the realm of 250,000 to 280,000 buys. If the number varies from that range on the good side, it will be attributed to Punk and should be attributed to him.
Still, far more than most UFC fights, Saturday is the great unknown. How will the fans react to Punk? Will pro wrestling fans buy the show? Will he get destroyed, hold his own, or even win? Will he be one-and-done?
McGregor vs Diaz 2
We have been off for a few weeks, so we must revisit the McGregor vs Diaz fight from 8/21/16. It was largely a consensus that McGregor won rounds one, two and four, and Diaz won three and five. The judges scored two 48-47s in favor of McGregor and one 47-47 draw, on the basis of a 10-8 third round. I had it 47-47 since Diaz was landing at will at the end of the third round and felt only seconds away from a finish as the round ended.
Media scores went 70 percent for McGregor, 25 percent a draw and five percent for Diaz. Fan scoring was closer with 57 percent for McGregor, 30 percent for Diaz and 13 percent having it even. The only round debatable to me was round two. McGregor knocked Diaz down twice in the round early, but Diaz got up and wasn’t hurt badly. McGregor controlled most of the round and had Diaz hurt, but not in serious trouble. Then McGregor hit the cardio wall and Diaz took over. Diaz took him apart in the last minute and had McGregor in far more trouble than McGregor ever had Diaz at any point in the fight. McGregor in both rounds two and three was just holding on trying to get to the end of the round. Diaz actually outstruck McGregor 37-34 in the round, but the two knockdowns and far more time in control made me, and the vast majority, go McGregor’s way.
The fight was all standing until Diaz got a takedown late in the fifth round. cGregor had a 166-164 edge in total significant strikes, and scored three knockdowns, one early in the first round and two early in the second.
The fight was almost perfectly scripted for UFC business. It was a tremendous fight. I wouldn’t call it fight of the year, but because it was a great fight and such high profile, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins some of those awards. McGregor was revitalized with a win that he needed and the story that he went up two weight classes. In reality, Diaz fights at lightweight so he was facing a fighter one weight class above him. Diaz wasn’t hurt at all by the loss. Since Diaz won his fight conclusively by submission, and McGregor won a close decision, the stage is set for a third right. McGregor immediately asked for a third fight, but said he was calling the shots this time and it would be at 155, which is the smarter weight class for McGregor to fight at. Fighting at welterweight, even with smarter pacing, he still got tired late in the second round and only survived because of his sheer toughness, and become Diaz hit the wall after three rounds and then it was two exhausted guys digging deep.
McGregor’s next decision is what to do next. He limped out of the cage and the belief was that he had broken his foot in the fight, but a later diagnosis showed no break. His coach, John Kavanagh, said they he imagined a decision would be made over the next two weeks, that he’d prefer McGregor to fight at 155, and that he could be ready for Madison Square Garden on 11/12.
A third Diaz fight is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be until next year. Dana White has said that McGregor either has to defend the featherweight title, which would be against Jose Aldo, likely on 11/12 in Madison Square Garden, or vacate that title. McGregor could also go against Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title, which would make Aldo vs. Max Holloway the likely featherweight title match.
For Diaz, the situation is very much different. Diaz, who never had any money, likely earned in the realm of eight figures for the two fights and unless he’s foolish with his money, likely never has to work again. He’s made it clear he’s not fighting again unless he’s offered fights that will make him this level of money. Diaz is an exciting fighter with a lot of appeal, but a 20-11 record shows he’s really not a championship level fighter, and was lucky to have the right attitude where McGregor thought he could draw big with him. The series has made him one of UFC’s biggest stars, but a multimillion dollar purse would be tough to justify for him against anyone but McGregor. Diaz has made it clear he doesn’t care about championships. So there is a very good chance he’ll stay out until the third fight happens. And the third fight would do business even if McGregor loses between now and then, just off what happened in the first two.
Biggest PPV in UFC History
At this point more evidence is pointing to UFC 202 as the biggest PPV in company history. Besides internal reports claiming that the iPPV numbers were the biggest in company history, but we got a DirecTV number of 640,000 buys. Based on using that number, there is the prediction of 1.65 million buys, which would slightly beat UFC 196 (the first McGregor vs. Diaz fight) and 100 (Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir). What’s more impressive is that number came head-to-head with the Olympics, even though usual good predictors such as TV ratings for the prelims and other events around the show were down from UFC 196 and 200 numbers. Google searches were behind UFC 196 but ahead of UFC 200. That once again shows that both the idea of UFC 200 plus Lesnar with the strongest overall card from a name standpoint in history did considerably lower than just McGregor vs. Diaz.
The paid attendance for the 8/20 UFC 202 show was 12,657 and the total in the building was 14,060. The announced number on the night of the show was 15,539 fans and a gate of $7,629,010. There was something regarding the gate information that hasn’t been completely settled so the commission didn’t have an updated number at press time
Lesnar and Jones Suspensions
Ariel Helwani reported that USADA’s suspensions for both Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar will be for a maximum of one year, rather than two years, because the WADA code lists Hydroxy-Clomiphene and Letrozole (Jones tested positive for both, Lesnar for the former) are substances that have a greater likelihood of having a non-doping explanation and that the athlete could have them in their body inadvertently. Both Jones and Lesnar will have to deal with both USADA sanctions and potential Nevada Athletic Commission sanctions because both tested positive in conjunction with fights in that state
Lesnar was given a temporary suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission (he was already temporarily suspended by UFC) for his two positive tests. It is believed Lesnar passed his other six tests over the last five weeks before the fight. There will be a formal hearing for Lesnar in Nevada as well as separate adjudication from USADA which would lead to whatever sanctions there will be from UFC. A USADA hearing could lead to a suspension by UFC only.
The Nevada hearings would have to do with potential fines along with a commission suspension that would ban him from the sport in North America and Brazil, and theoretically would ban him from that period of time from pro wrestling in states that license pro wrestlers, as well as changing the result of the fight from a win to a loss. Lesnar at the WWE’s 2K event addressed his drug testing by saying, “This has been a bumpy road. I’m gonna get through this alright. And there will be a day, maybe, that they’ll see me back in the Octagon.
Joe Silva retiring
Joe Silva, UFC’s Vice President of Talent Relations and head matchmaker since 2001, will be leaving the company and retiring according to industry sources.
There isn’t an exact time frame for when this will happen, and it will be months down the line, but Silva, 50, had informed Dana White recently that he was planning on retiring. Right now the plan is he will be staying through the end of the year.
Silva is the longest lasting employee in UFC, dating back 21 years. With the exception of John McCarthy, who first became directly involved in the sport at UFC 2, would be the longest reigning person in the sport who is still involved in a key manner. Silva was the only company employee left from the SEG era.
Because of the timing, some will say this is a move by WME-IMG, which it most certainly isn’t, or that it’s his trying to get out because of being unhappy with the change in ownership, which it also isn’t. It’s actually a fairly straight-forward move. He received a significant amount of money in the recent sale of the company, and it left him financially set for life, and no longer had the financial need to continue working.
To show the value that White and Fertitta saw with Silva, he was allowed to work from his home in Richmond, VA, rather than work out of the office in Las Vegas, after years ago he had told them he was going to move back home.
The three people most instrumental in UFC being where it is today are Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White and Silva. No matter what people say about how anyone could have made it work with Fertitta’s backing or that matchmaking is an easy job, the reality is that if any of those three weren’t in the equation, none of this happens. Silva was always behind the scenes and was never someone to take public credit for anything.
He rarely did interviews, with the idea that White would be the public face of the company. But he had a hand in direction from the mid-90s, and especially so during the Zuffa era, where he pretty much put together most of the matches on the cards, and worked with White and Fertitta in deciding on the major PPV main events.
It’s also little known that Silva was the person behind one of the key things in UFC’s breakthrough, as he came up with the concept of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, as well as gave the show a name, and was behind selecting the original cast members.
Silva’s philosophy that spread throughout UFC was the opposite of what had been traditionally done in the fight business, which was about identifying potential stars and giving them easy opponents for years to build up to 20-0 records and then hoping they could draw. The nature of the sport makes 20-0 records almost impossible, but UFC has always been about more even matchmaking, although like everything, there are always exceptions to the rule. Shelby, who learned under Silva, is expected to become the head matchmaker. Shelby had already been in charge of the women’s divisions and the lighter weight divisions and has for years had tremendous input across the board. He will almost surely have to groom assistants as there is far too much work for any four people to do regarding booking cards and then having to constantly redo them due to injuries, drug test failures and various other problems, as well as negotiate contracts, as well as make talent decisions on who is cut and who is hired.
The word on the street is UFC wants to get Ronda Rousey back for 12/30 and White has predicted her return would break the all-time PPV record. If it’s against Holly Holm it very well could. If it’s against Miesha Tate, maybe. Against Amanda Nunes, I’m not so sure about that, but even then it’ll do huge.
Georges St-Pierre told MMA Fighting that he was targeting the 12/10 show in Toronto for his return. “All the stars are aligned, my friend,” St-Pierre said. “I’m, not lying to you. It’s not done yet. It’s not done at this point. We still have too talk to the new owners soon, see what they’ve got to say.” St-Pierre said he’s not asking for anything extravagant. Quite frankly, he should, given his power to potentially re-mobilize the Canadian market. “I want to go back to fighting. I don’t have to. I would like to because I feel I’m in my prime right now. I’m the best I’ve ever been at 35. Right now, I don’t want to wait any longer, because if I wait too long, I’m gonna be past that prime and I don’t want that.”
Aldo ready to fight
Jose Aldo said that if Conor McGregor doesn’t come back to featherweight, that he’d like to defend his title (he’s interim champion but it would become the featherweight title if McGregor doesn’t defend next) next against Anthony Pettis. Pettis is the bigger name than Max Holloway but Pettis has lose three of his last four and Holloway has won nine in a row.
UFC on FOX
Demian Maia and Anthony Pettis were big winners, and Paige VanZant delivered a switch kick right out of the “Karate Kid” movie in a match highlight that will likely be replayed endlessly at the UFC on FOX show on 8/27 in Vancouver.
As far as the fights went, Maia vs. Carlos Condit figured to be one of two things. If it was a standing fight, Condit was a lock to win. If it was mostly on the ground, Maia was a lock. It went to the ground right away, but the quick choke submission was surprising. Condit hadn’t been stopped in a fight since 2006 (his only loss that wasn’t via decision was when his ACL blew out in a fight with Tyron Woodley). It was Maia’s sixth win in a row, and after the fight, he said he feels he deserves a title shot and was going to sit and wait for it. He does deserve a shot, but he’s in line behind Stephen Thompson for sure, and if Georges St-Pierre wants a shot, he’ll get it ahead of Maia, so it could be a long wait. Maia tried to almost claim an uncrowned championship, as both before after the fight, he pushed that Condit should be the champion because he believed he won his fight with Robbie Lawler.
It was Maia’s 18th UFC win, tying him with Donald Cerrone and Matt Hughes for third place on the all-time list, behind the 19 wins by Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping. It was also his ninth submission win, second only to Royce Gracie, who has the record with 11.
Condit, who talked retirement after the Lawler fight, was hinting at it again after this fight. He felt frustrated, wondering if he could still compete at the top level, and noted that worries about brain damage from the sport and him having a family have caused him to think about his future.
Due to a number of factors, the biggest being preemptions in 15 markets where the FOX affiliates ran local market pro football games, including Las Vegas and Detroit, the show was the lowest rated UFC event in its history on FOX. In other markets, it would have also competed with local market games on other stations, as well as a national game on CBS. In markets the show was preempted by FOX, it either aired on weaker channels in the market live, or in most cases, on tape delay outside of prime time with likely little advertising or promotion for the show.
The show did a 1.2 rating and 1,983,000 viewers. No prior UFC event had ever done less than a 1.4 rating, and the previous audience low was 2.38 million for the July 27, 2013, flyweight title fight with Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga.
It was a terrible night overall for television. Everybody did badly. CBS won the night with 3,805,000 viewers for preseason football. ABC only averaged 2,173,000 viewers in the time slot with rerun programming and NBC averaged 1,769,000 viewers. In the 18-49 demo, even though UFC’s 0.8 was well below usual, it was second for the night on broadcast or cable behind the NFL game, which did a 1.0 in the demo. Aside from a movie on the Hallmark Channel (2,538,000 viewers), the highest rated cable show was an episode of COPS on Spike that did 1,312,000 viewers.
Another key factor was that the main event only went 1:52, and ended before 10 p.m. UFC always does its strongest numbers after 10 p.m., and the longer the main event, the better it is for the overall rating. Last month’s Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko fight, which did unusually well, boosted the overall rating for last month’s show by 11 percent.
Obviously, to the public, the card also wasn’t strong enough to overcome those factors. If you have a fight people really want to see, they’ll find a way to watch it. But preseason football airing all over the country is going to hurt a regular UFC show.
The show itself was strong, with quick finishes and entertaining fights. The peak viewership of 2,207,000 came during the Pettis vs. Charles Oliveira fight. Maia vs. Condit did 2,181,000 viewers and Paige VanZant vs. Bec Rawlings did 2,174,000 viewers and Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon did 1,832,000 viewers. It’s notable that it was a consistent audience, as usually there is great growth throughout the show which is casuals finding UFC on FOX or being interested in the main event. Here, it was decent growth for VanZant’s fight and virtually no growth after that point. No matter what the competition was and what the preemeptions were, it showed there wasn’t great interest in the last two fights.
Nick Diaz Suspension Update
Diaz has paid $25,000 of his $100,000 fine. The commission would have allowed him to corner Nate if he paid $25,000 and agreed to a payment plan for the remaining $50,000, but he didn’t do any of that. Diaz and the commission had agreed to an 18 month suspension and $100,000 in an out-of- court settlement after he started legal action claiming their five year suspension for his third marijuana violation in the state was excessive
UFC 2016 Schedule
The company announced a schedule for the rest of the year this week. The scheduled had been announced already through the 11/12 show in Madison Square Garden. The rest of the year will be two shows on 11/19, a show in Belfast, Northern Ireland and a show in Brazil. There will be an FS 1 show on 11/26 in Melbourne, Australia. The Ultimate Fighter finale, featuring Demetrious Johnson defending his title against the winner of a tournament that will be held featuring the top independent flyweight champions and other non-UFC stars will be 12/3 in Las Vegas. There will be a FS 1 show on 12/9 in Albany, NY, followed by UFC 206, a PPV on 12/10 in Toronto.
There will be a 12/16 FOX show from Sacramento and UFC 207 will be on 12/30 in Las Vegas, which is a Friday night. The last time they ran on a Friday night, to avoid running New Year’s Eve, in 2011, the Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem fight did 540,000 buys, far less than expected. The idea is there are a ton of tourists in Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve, but it may be better for fight fans to run 1/7 because hotel costs will be down and they won’t take the PPV hit by running on a Friday. Whether this happens or not, I don’t know, but they do wants Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes probably for that show, and Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo for MSG
MSG gets a Fight
The first official match on the MSG show is Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone, which is the type of fight that on paper looks like a match of the year candidate. Lawler has won match of the year in 2014 (vs. Johny Hendricks) and 2015 (vs. Rory MacDonald) and his fight with Carlos Condit in 2016 is a strong candidate (it would probably win but I’m guessing the more high profile Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor II fight could beat it). Cerrone finished high in the 2009 balloting for his fight with Benson Henderson and has won more performance bonuses than any fighter in MMA history.
Also signed is Al Iaquinta vs. Thiago Alves at lightweight.
Rory MacDonald Signs with Bellator
They made a huge deal of the Rory MacDonald signing, as they should have, on the 8/26 TV show from Anaheim. MacDonald got a big intro and came out in a suit and tie and said that Bellator had given him an offer that nobody else could match. They were already pushing the idea of MacDonald challenging Andrey Koreshkov for the welterweight title, and he talked about the middleweight title as well. Right now it looks like MacDonald won’t be debuting in Bellator for nearly a year, as they are targeting the summer of 2017.
MacDonald in an interview at the show praised Bellator’s show production, which when it comes to the big shows as far as the entrances and video wall is concerned, is better than UFC. “They do it right here. It’s a fight show here. They want to promote a fighter. They want to build it. It’s not generic where everyone is weaning the same thing. We get to be our own individual self, self-promote ourselves. Where I was before, everyone is wearing the same uniforms now. We’re all walking out of the same boring dressing room or the gate. It’s boring. People are tired of that.” He pushed that he would help Bellator get bigger in Canada and that his first Bellator fight would likely be in that country