MMA 5 & 1 2.17.14: Johnson Vs Barao
Posted by Jon Butterfield on 02.17.2014
Kyra Gracie is your "&1" Model of the Week, Demetrious Johnson faces Renan Barao in this week's Vs, thoughts on the middleweight contenders, Overeem vs JDS and more!
Hello everyone and welcome to 411mania's MMA 5&1 - your Mondaily dose (I make up words now, I have artistic license) of MMA's top news stories, top fantasy fights, and nearly topless women! This article follows on from the fine work of the ‘Bearded, Bonny Wee Prince' Stewart Lange and ‘Jackie Boy' Jack McGee, as I continue to carry the banner of 411 MMA's flagship Monday news special! So, without further ado, let's get to the artwork!
Disclaimer: This work may not be ENTIRELY my own... but I did contribute... slightly...
Oh, and on an unrelated note, thanks to Remo Signori for the original (and now supposedly unrecognizable) banner-work...
Yes, Versus is pretty much what you'd expect from an MMA column – we pit two fighters against each other, set up a poll, and YOU, the reader, vote for the winner. Feel free to elect the winner by any means necessary, though in the name of fantastical fairness we do ask you to disregard weight classes and assess them in the traditional Pound for Pound format.
Now, this week is slightly different to normal, since the previous edition of MMA 5&1 saw not one, but TWO fights to pick from, with the winners going on to this week's Grand Final! One of those winners turned out to be UFC Flyweight Champion ‘Mighty Mouse' Demetrious Johnson, who squeaked out the win against Women's P4P number 1 and reigning UFC Women's Champion Ronda Rousey with a majority of just 55%! Rousey used all of her Olympic-calibre judo skills and mat work to push Johnson to his limits, but ultimately the speed, footwork, and sheer technical ability of the UFC Flyweight kingpin prevailed. But who would he go on to meet in the final?
Well, the second semi-final was something of a blow-out, as UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao scorched Cristiane ‘Cyborg' Justino with a whopping majority of 88.12%! Justino, the former number one female in the world, was seen as little match for the brilliant Brazilian, who we can assume would have racked up yet another top-flight finish based upon the reader's verdict! While Justino is certainly no joke, it's hard to see past Barao at this point, following a perfect streak of finishes from three title defences - McDonald, Wineland and Faber lasting less than six cumulative rounds between them!
With that said, though, the Grand Final pits two reigning UFC supremos against one another, so I'm not expecting anything other than a close-fought affair. So who wins - Demetrious Johnson or Renan Barao? You decide!
But that's not all! What's a final without a third place play-off? Just for the hell of it, we'll pit the losing semi-finalists against one another for the still-lucrative Bronze medal position – and if Rousey is to win here, she'll be the first MMA fighter ever to boast Bronzes in both the Olympic games and the 5&1 MMA Versus Tournament!
But can she do it?! Remember, Cristiane Justino has long been regarded as the most dangerous potential opponent for Ronda Rousey, and such a fight could be considered a nigh-on superfight! What's even more fun about this one is that it could well happen at some point in the future, too! Get your predictions in now, and see if you're right!
Once you've voted, don't forget to scroll down the comments section at the bottom of the page and tell me how your fighter wins, and more importantly WHY your fighter wins! This should be a lot of fun!
Now, as promised, the MMA 5:
News broke on Saturday morning that number two-ranked UFC Lightweight Gilbert Melendez has come to terms on a multi-year, multi-fight deal with Bellator, despite UFC retaining the option to match any such deal. This comes as shocking news to MMA fans who have long-since come to terms with Zuffa's monopoly-like hold on the sport, with a stream of Bellator's top fighters linked to moves to the UFC and only comparatively old hands heading the other way. Melendez would mark a first for Bellator, as snaring a bonafide top-ranking superstar from the UFC has seemed almost unthinkable since the demise of PRIDE FC.
It remains to be seen what Dana White thinks of this agreement, or if the UFC will move to match such terms, but one thing is for sure in my mind – the demise of a monopoly in the sport is not necessarily a bad thing. Besides, while Dana and Zuffa will be quick to tell you that "to fight the best in the sport, you have to fight in the UFC", that statement hasn't always rung true... You only have to look at the current UFC Lightweight rankings to see that while the UFC was making the same claim around three years ago, "the best in the world" (or at least the FUTURE best in the world) were fighting elsewhere:
List of top-ranked UFC fighters as of 02/15/2014, and where they were fighting as of the start of 2011
Champion : Anthony Pettis (WEC)
1 Benson Henderson (WEC)
2 Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce)
3 TJ Grant (UFC)
4 Josh Thomson (Strikeforce)
5 Nate Diaz (UFC)
6 Rafael dos Anjos (UFC)
7 Khabib Nurmagomedov (M-1 / Pro FC)
8 Donald Cerrone (WEC)
9 Jim Miller (UFC)
10 Gray Maynard (UFC)
11 Edson Barboza (UFC)
12 Bobby Green (KOTC)
13 Michael Johnson (UFC)
14 Rustam Khabilov (M-1)
15 Diego Sanchez (UFC)
While the above may be regarded as spurious evidence by some, it might make interesting reading for others. Certainly the landscape changes quickly in MMA, and the rise of new waves of talented fighters is happening at a faster rate than ever before making it harder and harder to ensnare ALL of the top prospects, but I believe there is a strong case for saying that out of all the lightweights in the world three years ago, it was actually the WEC and Strikeforce that had the absolute most-talented fighters – and that the supposed ‘creme-de-la-creme' fighting in the UFC never were "the best in the world".
Of course, a sensible counter-argument to that is to say that guys like Pettis and Henderson were under Zuffa contract anyway, and that they probably weren't top-five talent at the time given how far they have come since – but I put it to those deriding Melendez for possibly heading to Bellator and out the door at the UFC that maybe – just MAYBE – guys like Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler, and other, as yet lesser known names, ARE as good, if not better, than the top fighters in the UFC today. Certainly three years ago, very few individuals would have had the foresight to say that the top WEC fighters would dominate the top UFC fighters in the manner they actually have, or that Strikeforce would provide some of the finest challengers in the world, and call me Captain Hindsight if you like, but to have seen it happen and STILL deny that Bellator may yet produce some of the best lightweights in the world is short-sighted at best, ignorant at worst.
This week, Alistair Overeem incurred the ever-prominent wrath of UFC President Dana White by turning down a fight with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos - and the news promptly caused an explosion of interest on Twitter. Overeem was keen to downplay the significance of the refusal in light of White's claim he was "running" from JDS, claiming that:
Twitter going bananas!
Not running for anyone, on holiday right now & also rehabbing injuries so not ready to discuss a fight at this time.
But, perhaps predictably, Dana White wasn't convinced, stating that he had "a feeling this rib injury is going to last as long as it takes for dos Santos to get another opponent," and that "[Overeem] marche[d] his f—ing ass in here. Tells us how much he's worth. He's worth all this money, he's the best heavyweight in the world, he's going to be the champion, and he doesn't want to f—ing fight anybody. I bet you his f—ing rib wouldn't be hurting if we got Brock Lesnar." Ouch...
Meanwhile, Junior dos Santos didn't seem particularly phased by the snub, stating "I don't care about this guy. I don't care what's going to happen with him right now. I'm here to fight with anyone in the heavyweight division. It's like that. He's a good opponent, but right now I think this fight will not happen again," and going on to play up his interest in a bout with on-form heavyweight Stipe Miocic.
Now for me, JDS-Miocic is a good fight, but definitely not the mouth-watering prospect that JDS-Overeem would be – and that perhaps explains Dana White's fury, but once again the over-riding feature of this whole incident is White's determination to run down any fighter who doesn't bend to his will. Is Overeem's excuse that he's currently on holiday and rehabbing minor injuries an excuse to duck JDS? Or is he smart to turn down a fight until he's fully fit and fully focussed, rather than dropping yet another big UFC fight and letting the excuses come later (for example, Urijah Faber after his loss to Barao)?
Then again, more cynical minds will look to Overeem's lengthy lay-offs between fights and wonder if there is any kind of ‘cycling' going on, but that's an editorial reaction that I'm not going to get into.
But what do YOU think of Overeem refusing a fight with JDS? Do you expect Alistair to take an easier fight the second JDS is occupied, like White suggests? Or do you think Overeem is being honest about his situation? Your thoughts in the comments section please.
This week, Georges St Pierre reaffirmed his desire to stay away from the UFC octagon – for the time being, at least. GSP refused to expand on his reasons for his leave of absence, once again citing that he had ‘mental health' issues and alluded to the fact that the pressure of being a UFC champion for an extended period had taken its toll.
GSP did, however, appear to be open to future superfights should he return to the cage in the future as is expected, with the names Anderson Silva and even Brock Lesnar thrown out there! Of course the GSP-Silva fight has been a source of speculation for as long as the two have been the undisputed kingpins of their division, and while the fight may no longer hold the relevance of a Champion versus Champion, #1 vs #2 Pound for Pound extravaganza, this is one that will undoubtedly post huge numbers given the status of both fighters as bonafide UFC legends and future Hall of Famers.
Georges St Pierre vs Brock Lesnar, however, appears to be more of a fantastical proposition, with the huge weight difference surely proving a major stumbling block – but hey, fans can dream, can't they?
Outside of such major events, GSP didn't seem overly enamoured with the idea of chasing the title, so that leaves the question open: If GSP does return, and is only interested in money-spinning fights, who would YOU like to see him fight, and why?
There was bad news for UFC fans, as Rashad Evans was forced to pull out of his light heavyweight bout against unbeaten rising star Daniel Cormier. Cormier's decision to drop to 205 lbs saw him pitted against one of the very best in the division, and a decisive win for the former Strikeforce stand-out would have placed him high in the running for the next shot at reigning champion Jon Jones - but instead, Cormier will be forced to contend with a 4-0 promotional newcomer, Patrick Cummins.
Evans' manager, Authentic Sports Management head Glenn Robinson described it as a ‘sad week' for Evans' camp, but one man's loss is another's gain, as Cummins now gets to come in to the UFC in something of a no-lose situation – with nobody expecting Cummins to beat Cormier, a good performance will put him on the radar of fight fans around the world, win, lose or draw. Cormier, of course, is putting a lot on the line against an untested rookie, but such was the NCAA Division I wrestler's desire to fight, he was prepared to stake his reputation at 9 days' notice. Will it pay off? Are you even interested now that the ‘money match' is out of the window? And is UFC 170 still a card you're happy to pay for?
UFC Fight Night 36 may not have been the most thrilling card, and despite being let down by a lack of finishes, one division in particular did come out with a lot of credit. Thanks to some stellar match-making on the UFC's part, the 185 lb field was narrowed down somewhat as Lyoto Machida and Jacare Souza picked up vital wins over Gegard Mousasi and Francis Carmont respectively.
With UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman having blown the division wide apart with successive wins over long-time kingpin Anderson Silva, you'd have been forgiven for fearing that Weidman would have to face a similar list of challengers to Anderson, headed of course by Anderson's 2011 victim Vitor Belfort. Not so. Weidman is now staring at plenty of brand-new, fresh title defences with both Machida and Jacare will be vying for top contender status in the very near future, and fighters like Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy and long-term gatekeeper Michael Bisping ready to rise to the top should results favour them.
While the 185 lb division threatened to stagnate under the oppressive glory of Anderson Silva's barely fathomable title reign, it's great to see that the competition has taken a serious boost with the addition of a highly talented string of former Strikeforce fighters, former light heavyweights, and, of course, the rapid rise of the sensational ‘All American' himself.
Rumours are already rampant about what's next for Machida and Jacare, and Jacare has already been linked with a rematch with former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold following Rockhold's liver kick TKO of Costa Philippou. Machida, meanwhile, has negotiated his way past both Mark Munoz and Mousasi, and few will question his ability to compete with anyone in a division now teeming with interesting new challengers.
So who do you think would make a great opponent for Chris Weidman, should he prove victorious against Vitor Belfort? And who do you see emerging as the next long-term middleweight champion? Will there even be one? Or are we due a period of title turmoil, given the level of ability now found within the division's bounds? Let me know in the comments!