Passing the Guard: MMA Thoughts 2.2.16

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By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Music to listen to: Entangled (live) by Genesis

-Anthony Johnson quick submission of Ryan Bader shows clear divide in UFC light heavyweight division. Coming into UFC on Fox 18 earlier this month, we knew that the depth of the the division wasn’t the strongest especially with Jon Jones’ suspension still in place. Viewers hoping to see Bader provide a challenge to the top-level of the division had little optimism when he shot into Johnson for a takedown in the first round. Johnson defended it, got Bader’s back and proceeded to gain the knock out on punches from up top.

We’ve seen Johnson fight current UFC champion Daniel Cormier already and suffer a loss. This provides impetus at the highest level for us to see Jones/Cormier 2, most likely at UFC 200 to gain some clarity in the division.

 

-Sage Northcutt loss not worst thing for career. The 19-year old came into his UFC on Fox 18 contest against Bryan Barberena with the promotional backing of the organization that prompted him into the main card of a network television broadcast. While Northcutt had shown promise in previous fights, his relative lack of experience didn’t match the hype.

What we ended up seeing is the veteran Barberena take advantage of Northcutt novice skills on the ground and promptly sank in an arm triangle for a submission victory.

I’m not a grappler (I need to take some classes) but from seeing the comments of other fighters, grapplers and even Joe Rogan on the broadcast, it looks like Northcutt submitted to a hold that the majority of others on the UFC roster would have countered and avoided losing to.

Even with this, Northcutt isn’t in bad shape. In most cases, he would have been in this prediciment at some dojo without cameras, tapped and learned a lesson from his instructor. We witnessed this on Fox. The potential is there for him to become an elite fighter and even a champion. He isn’t there yet. Not everyone is Jon Jones and can make it through the majority of his career without a loss.

I’ve personally seen Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, B.J. Penn, Fabricio Werdum, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Wanderlei Silva and countless other world champions and some of the best to ever fight in MMA lose a fight and then comeback and achieve greatness. I’m not saying that Northcutt is going to make it to that level but if you’re going to be the best in a sport like MMA, setbacks are going to happen.

The best move for Northcutt will be to get back in the gym, work on his ground defense and continue to develop.

 

-Changing UFC 196 to UFC on Fox 18 was wise move. This Saturday, we were supposed to get UFC 196 which featured a main event of Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title. Velasquez gets injured (not a surprise at this stage of his career) and Stipe Miocic stepped up to face the champion Werdum. A day later Werdum pulls out of the new fight due to injuries of his own, therefore that fight is off as well.

Jones threw his hat in the ring to fight for the legitimate title, not an interim one but the UFC balked at that. Smart move by the way.

In the end, the fight card wasn’t cancelled but moved to Fox with Johny Hendricks facing Stephen Thompson in the main event.

First, if the heavyweight division wasn’t so top heavy, I’d say that Velasquez has permanently placed himself outside of the title picture due to the continued injuries. However, he’s still a viable name and there’s not much standing in his way for a future title shot.

I don’t want to call dirty pool on Werdum but if he agreed to the Miocic fight to than pull out of it after it was announced, that’s not cool. He has the right to not want to fight a new opponent on relatively short notice (this is professional fighting, not a bar fight) as a champion but a promise like that can’t be broken. If the UFC made the Miocic decision without consulting Werdum (not entirely improbable), that’s a bad move by the promotion.

I’m happy that the fight card is still in tact so that those fighters can get paid and that’s the most important thing. Sure, the UFC loses money not having pay-per-view buys even if it was going to have a low buyrate but it will make up for it in the future.

The fans get to see a free fight card and that’s great too.

 

-Wise move by Benson Henderson to move to Bellator. I’ve seen people criticizing this move, mainly Dana White (why is he so salty every time a fighter leaves the promotion) but its good for Henderson.

If the asinine Reebok sponsorship deal wasn’t enforced in the UFC right now, I believe Henderson would still be in the promotion. There were still fights available for him in the 155-pound division and personally think he would have an impact in the 170-division as well.

However, while Bellator may not offer as much money as the UFC and there are conflicting reports about that, Henderson will make up for it in sponsorships.

Henderson has been around a long time and may have four or five fights left in him. Best to take advantage of the healthy body now before it breaks down. Furthermore, if Henderson lights it up at Bellator, he’ll have leverage to get a new, more lucrative deal with promotions domestic and foreign.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

 

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