BANE’S TAKE: Post-UFC 205 landscape includes enticing options for UFC regarding McGregor, Diaz, GSP, Woodley, Thompson, Nurmagomedov, Ferguson, more

By Michael Bane, MMATorch contributor

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz at UFC 202 (photo Joshua Dahl © USA Today)

What to do next with the King of Ireland, the Notorious One, the Irish Ali, the greatest thing to come to MMA ever?  Whatever we can possibly see that will be bigger, better, and more of a spectacle.  Also, something that may help this gravy/hype train keep going, because I certainly don’t want it to stop.  There’s the right fight to make based on the rankings and contenders, and then there’s the right fight to make for the fans and popularity sport.  These things are not always the same.  Stop worrying that McGregor is going to hold the UFC hostage, because at the end of the day, cash is king, and everyone gets a whole lot more of it if McGregor is fighting.

Purists may want to see Jose Aldo get a deserved rematch, and have zero complaints about that fight being made.  Guess what.  It’s not happening.  There’s absolutely no point for McGregor to fight Aldo again, outside of this supposed “integrity” of the sport.  This is prize fighting, and the prize for the fans is seeing fights they want to see.  McGregor knows he has nothing to gain by fighting Aldo again.  He’s not topping his last performance.  There’s a danger he loses.  There’s more money to be made elsewhere.

It’s sad that those who even remember Aldo won’t remember him as the greatest Featherweight ever.  The greatest accomplishment of Aldo’s career will likely be remembered as his help in pushing McGregor to superstardom.  Sorry Aldo, this is just what happens when no one really cares about you.  Be thankful you at least got your big payday against McGregor, unlike Rafael dos Anjos who will never see that type of money.

So what is Mystic Mac’s next fight?  The Nate Diaz trilogy screams of dollar signs and it’s a very realistic possibility for the 155 pound title.  It’s also a fight that could be made at any time.  I don’t see him moving back down to 145, so that kicks the Aldo fight to the curb.  He could get Kahbib Nurmogomedov or Tony Ferguson, both of which make sense.  You know what else works?  Having those two fight each other in (another) number one contender fight.  Yes, I know, someone’s getting screwed, but whomever didn’t get the fight was already getting screwed anyway.  Sort it out by having one of them screw the other over, and then let’s see where things set.  The UFC’s dream scenario?  McGregor takes some time off for the birth of his child, Georges St-Pierre recaptures the Welterweight belt, and McGregor and GSP square off in a Super Superfight (yes, that’s two supers).  Assuming he wins this, he’d either have to take on Jon Jones or Brock Lesnar to top it, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

If it is someone like Nurmagomedov, let’s just stop worrying that McGregor is some Edson Barboza-like fighter who can’t deal with wrestlers.  Calling the Eagle a bad matchup against McGregor because it’s McGregor he’d be fighting is failing to recognize that McGregor is legitimately one of the top fighters on the planet.  Khabib Nurmagomedov is a matchup nightmare for everybody.

Alvarez was the wrestler/grinder/dirty boxer type that was supposed to be give McGregor fits.  McGregor picked him apart, and made him look like a bush league fighter.  Were Alvarez not otherworldly tough, this fight might have ended with the first knockdown about a minute in. Of course Nurmagomedov’s wrestling could be a problem for McGregor, but not necessarily any more than anyone else.  McGregor still has about the same reach advantage on the Dagestani fighter that he had on Alvarez.  That left hand, so far, has proven to be a matchup nightmare for everyone else.

Speaking of McGregor’s left hand, it may very well be the most lethal weapon in the sport today.  Have you ever seen a straight punch put so many people on the ground before?  Dan Henderson’s H-bomb is a hook.  Rumble’s power shots, which I’m concerned may actually kill someone, are lighting fast, but also hooking.  Roy Nelson’s right hand, a/k/a the only thing he throws, is a hook.  McGregor’s straight left is a battering ram, thrown with pinpoint precision, that maximizes his already long reach.

Call it hyperbole if you want, but McGregor legitimately reminded me of Anderson Silva at 205.  Many fighters flurry when they’ve got someone on the ropes.  McGregor’s four punch combo to put Alvarez away for good was a thing of beauty.  Four punches, thrown against a moving/falling opponent, and every one of them found their mark.  His accuracy and power combination is off the charts, and the Spider is the only fighter I can compare it to.  Oh, and give him credit for study and game plan as well.  McGregor threw significantly more over-the-top left hooks as a counter to Alvarez than he has in previous fights.  This was something he could do because of his reach, and shows he’s still evolving his skills.

As far as Alvarez goes, what’s next for the now former UFC Lightweight Champion of both the UFC and Bellator?  There were calls for a drop to Featherweight after his loss to Cerrone, and it’s prime time for him to move down to 145 pounds.  Alvarez is a small Lightweight, and in such a stacked division, he’s not getting a title shot any time soon.  While he’s not McGregor-famous, he’s still a popular fighter that the UFC wants to capitalize on, particularly with the Hispanic market.  A fight against Frankie Edgar might give us a war for the ages, and who doesn’t want to see him take on Jose Aldo?

Tyron Woodley graciously said he’d fight McGregor, while calling it a no-win situation for himself.  Gee, thanks Tyron for being such a martyr, but let’s call it what it really is: The Best f—king thing that could possibly happen to Tyron Woodley.  As a champion, Woodley likely gets points on PPV buys, and a fight against McGregor could continue the trend of record-setting PPV viewership.

Woodley is reasonably well setup for a big payday in his next fight.  Georges St-Pierre still wants to come back, and Woodley’s got a little heat with McGregor now.  Either of these would be a huge payday for the Chosen One.  There is, of course, the more obvious fight to make, in a Stephen Thompson rematch.  I scored the fight 47-47 under the five round scoring system, but if I had to pick an overall winner, it would have been Woodley.  Dana White stated that the Woodley-Thompson fight should be run again, and Thompson, unsurprisingly, agreed.

Regarding MMA’s favorite Canadian, Dana White’s comments about Stephen Thompson only add to the leverage he’s trying to apply to GSP.  Despite all the public bickering and idiocy, GSP’s return hinges solely on money.  Of course he wants to come back.  Of course Dana White knows it.  But GSP sees that McGregor money, and wants some of that.  He believes he’s one of the biggest and most popular stars ever in the sport, and he’s not wrong.  The UFC sees an organization that has continued to grow and prosper without St-Pierre.  Look, even St-Pierre doesn’t believe he’s a free agent at this point; this is just another statement among the many made by both sides to try to sway public perception.  He’s not fighting for Bellator or fighting for the World Series of Fighting (Jake Shields rematch, anyone?).  They’ll find the right number, and then we’ll see what he’s got left.

Meisha Tate called it quits after her one-sided loss to Raquel Pennington. Unlike many who try to hang on for too long, her timing is about spot on.  While the cynic may say she was 90 seconds away in the Holly Holm fight from being the female version of Uriah Faber, Cupcake was a bit of a pioneer and did a lot to help establish women as legitimate combatants in today’s MMA world.  Pennington doesn’t strike me as the fighter that’s about to be a legitimate title threat, but this is nonetheless a huge win for her.

In other women’s news, Joanna Jędrzejczyk may have already cleaned out her division.  Karolina Kowalkiewicz was a game opponent, but that fight wasn’t remotely close.  With the lack of legitimate opposition for her at the moment, she’s quickly becoming the Demetrious Johnson of the 115 pounders.

Chris Weidman doesn’t look the same after his neck injury and recovery.  His muscle mass appears to be significantly reduced, and standing next to Yoel Romero made him look like he was in the wrong weight class.  Gone are the days of when he spoke of a super fight with Jon Jones.  Weidman’s best move is to take some time to fully recovery from a bad injury and get physically right again.  His rush to get on to the New York card may end up being a rather large detriment to his career, not to mention his face after Romero tried to drive his knee straight through it.

Assuming GSP doesn’t come to some sort of agreement to fight Bisping, the UFC may have no real logical choice other than to let the Soldier of God destroy, I mean fight The Count.  Jacare Souza continues to get screwed over, but that’s just the nature of the game.

There’s likely to be a hangover after such an epic card, but UFC 206 is shaping up to be really good.  Between that, and the return of Ronda Rousey to finish out the year, 2016 will go down as a tremendous one for the sport.  Let’s see if the UFC can continue to win its one player game of “Can You Top This?”

NOW CHECK OUT MICHAEL BANE’S PREVIOUS TAKE: BANE: Win or lose, where do Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz go next after UFC 202?


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