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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: UFC 240 Edition

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UFC 240 is in the books, and it was quite the evening indeed. We witnessed Max Holloway continue his march towards greatness, Cris Cyborg might well have closed her UFC career with a victory and the Flyweights went bananas. Settle in for my recap, via the Good, Bad and Ugly report. 

The Good

Max Holloway – Max wasn’t just composed and in control Saturday night, he was efficient, effective and dominant against a very game and always on the edge of greatness Frankie Edgar. It’s hard to not be impressed with the hard-nosed Edgar, and this was no different. The guy just keeps going forward and bringing the fight. However, Max was more than ready for the pace and landed a seemingly endless barrage of jabs and right hands. What was most impressive might have been his takedown defense. He stuffed 14 of Edgar’s 15 attempts, forcing the shorter, out-gunned Edgar to engage in a standup clash. It was a tremendous performance from Max and proof positive that he’s earning GOAT status with every fight. 

The Flyweights – Deiveson Figueiredo and Alexandre Pantoja might have been on the preliminary card, but their fight was nothing short of Main Event. The two waged an absolute war in the Octagon and when it was all said and done, it was more obvious proof that the Flyweight division is amazing. All the talk of disbanding it and shutting it down should be met with mocking at this point. They may have dealt Demetrious Johnson to ONE, but that division still brings the fireworks. Big up to them both for their fight of the night performance. 

Cris Cyborg – Say what you want about Cyborg, she smashed Felecia Spencer last night. She showed up in shape and went hard for three rounds, despite Joe Rogan pronouncing her dead tired minutes into the bout. More on that later.  Cyborg was fighting the last of her contracted bouts with the UFC and she holds the cards now as to where she lands next. The Amanda Nunes fight might bring her back into the UFC, but I’m certain Bellator will make a strong push to sign her as well. Her past relationships with Coker and Dana White could tip the scales away from the UFC. Dana has referred to her as Wanderlai Silva in a dress and scoffed at Rogan’s penis jokes in the past. 

The Bad

Alexis Davis – Things are not going so swimmingly for Alexis who dropped her third straight fight last night. This time she was bested by Viviane Araujo who beat and bloodied her on her way to a unanimous decision victory. The fight itself wasn’t a bad look for Davis, but the third consecutive loss could have her on the outside looking in in terms of a UFC career. 

Yoshinori Horie – Man oh man, not a great UFC debut. He did what he could to avoid damage and did so until the third round. Once Hakeem Dawodu got him tied up he lit him up with elbows, knees and eventually a fight-ending high-kick.  Anytime you’re making your UFC debut you want to do well, but he got starched. He was out-struck better than 2 to 1 as well. All in all, a rough debut for Horie. 

The Ugly 

Joe Rogan – This was epic level bad Joe Rogan. I like Joe, his comedy is great, his podcast is informative and fun but dammit, he’s fallen off in a major way calling the action. I’ve always taken issue with him yelling “Ohhhhhh” whenever someone gets clipped. I’ve always taken his in-cage diagnosis of every injury with a grain of salt and even turned a blind eye when he calls submissions that never materialize. That said, last night he was in rare form and made the Cyborg/Felicia Spencer fight unbearable.  

Rogan called the fight a five rounder, for almost ten minutes straight, despite it only being scheduled for three. He pronounced Cyborg exhausted minutes in, even though she went hard for 15 minutes. He praised everything Felecia did, including her rare talent of taking a beating and not quitting. He was all over Felicia and really, anti-Cyborg. I questioned aloud via Twitter if Joe was informed by the UFC to bury Cyborg on her way out the door, because honestly, I can’t see any other excuse for his clear bias and lack of professionalism during the fight. 

Joe is a UFC mainstay however he’s simply not up to par at this point. I’d much rather watch his fight companion shows with Edddie Bravo, and Brendan Schaub. He’s free to be himself and is clearly more relaxed in that setting. The UFC has a TON of talented broadcasters, let them take over the job. Rogan doesn’t need it and at this point, the fans deserve better. 

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Was Max Holloway Robbed at UFC 251?

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Last weekend, Max Holloway earned his featherweight title rematch against Alexander Volkanovski – but was he robbed in the decision? Many fighters and fans think so.

Here’s what legendary MMA fight manager Ali Abdelaziz had to say after the fight:

Nate Diaz was quick to chime in with his thoughts on Holloway’s loss at the hands of the judges as well:

The bottom line is this was a back and forth fight that could have gone either way. Yes, we would have scored it for Holloway too, but this is what happens when fighters leave bouts to the judges to decide.

Professional fighter Joe Schilling mentioned on a recent Joe Rogan podcast that he thought the UFC should add additional measures to keep judges more accountable. Some sort of tracking system that helps identify and remove judges who consistently score fights against the grain would be a great way to keep both fighters and fans appeased during tough decisions like this one.

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UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story

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UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249

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It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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