Let’s be honest, none of expected that to go that well…
When UFC Hall of Famer and lighter weight class legend Urijah Faber announced that he was coming back to co-headline this past weekend in his hometown of Sacramento, California, many of us feared the worst. After all, Faber hadn’t fought in nearly three years and he would be facing a tough, younger fighter on a roll in Ricky Simon, and combat sports unretirements have been mostly disastrous for about a century.
But the only forty year old man in the world who can still accurately be called “The California Kid” defied all expectations when just seconds into the fight, Faber caught Portland’s Simon with an overhead right that sent him skittering to the canvas. Simon tried to scramble to his feet but Faber got to side control and pounded him out with elbows and punches until referee Mike Beltran stopped the fight just forty-six seconds into the first round, sending the Golden 1 Center and MMA Twitter into absolute bedlam.
Among all the tweets of MMA luminaries and fans, Fight Booth Editor-In-Chief Dave Reno fired off a tweet that may have summed what everyone was thinking, but unsure of saying.
Faber, 0-7 in his last 7 title bouts, calls out Henry Cejudo for a bantamweight title bout. He will get it and I will watch it. #UFCSacramento
— DW (@DW_Reno) July 14, 2019
At the first glance, it’s easy to call Dave’s tweet crazy. But remember, this is MMA. This is the UFC and crazy is exactly where we at right now. And then the more you unpack the situation the more you realize that Uriah Faber fighting for the UFC bantamweight title in the Year of Our Lord Conor McGregor 2019 maybe isn’t that crazy!
First off, UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo spoke this idea into motion a month ago when after his TKO defeat Marlon Moraes at UFC 238. “Triple C” did the smart thing-mentioning the names of the three most well known bantamweights-Faber, Cruz, and Cody Garbrandt. While this pissed of many of the purists who want the UFC rankings to mean something, it was a savvy business move by Cejudo. The three former champions are the most well known fighters to UFC fans and would probably represent the three biggest paydays for Cejudo at 135.
Of course, Cruz hasn’t fought since losing the bantamweight title to Garbrandt two and half years, twice pulling out of fights with severe injuries, and Cody, probably still the most marketable bantamweight and the man in the division with the most star potential, has three knockout losses in a row. Now that Faber has scored this huge knockout win over a good young fighter and quickly called out Cejudo, he becomes one of the 125 and 135 champ’s most viable options.
There are several things in the way of this fight taken place, first Cejudo still has the 125 pound title and Joseph Benavidez, Faber’s friend and former stablemate, established himself as the number one contender for that belt with his knockout win over Jussier Formiga last month. Also, he is still the last man to beat Cejudo. Then there’s Aljamain Sterling, who is red hot coming off four straight wins and established himself as the top contender with his win over Pedro Munoz at UFC 238. Cejudo is also coming off of shoulder surgery and may not fight again until next year.
Not too mention, beat the number fifteen guy in one minute does not a contender make. Yes, Faber was in the top ten when he retired in December 2016, but he lost decisions to Jimmie Rivera and Dominick Cruz before then. He has not earned this title shot. The idea that he jumps both Benavidez and Sterling for title shots is something just short of an injustice.
But Uriah Faber, perhaps even more after his retirement, is a star, and as longtime HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant once said “stardom, like age has it privileges.” There are many champions, but very few stars. That’s why he’s here.” That is the biggest reason why Faber may get that one last crack at the gold.
So Faber getting a title shot may be unorthodox, and it is almost certainly unfair, but if it happens sometime in the next year, there is one thing it won’t be…
Was Max Holloway Robbed at UFC 251?
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:
211 someone called the police @BlessedMMA won
— Ali Abdelaziz (@AliAbdelaziz00) July 12, 2020
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.
UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story
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.
What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249
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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