SUNDAY NEWS DIGEST 12/18: New title contender, new prospect emerges, end of a legendary career (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

By Mike Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

Mickey Gall (photo credit John David Mercer © USA Today Sports)


Saturday’s UFC on Fox saw the return of a potential title contender, the emergence of a new prospect, and the end of a legendary career.

The event, taking place at the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, featured a clash of strawweights in Paige VanZant and Michelle Waterson. VanZant came into the fight with a lot of hype and attention coming off of her springtime run on “Dancing With the Stars” and highlight-reel finish of Bec Rawlings shortly after. Waterson, while lesser known with only one UFC fight under her belt, was the more experienced of the two fighters and a former Invicta FC Atomweight champion. Much of the buildup of the fight from Waterson’s end centered around her comments that VanZant was “green” and not skilled enough to compete with top strawweights. Waterson proved herself right, choking VanZant unconscious inside the first round.

Second from the top was a welterweight fight between young guns Sage Northcutt and Mickey Gall. Gall wisely called for this fight after his clobbering of C.M. Punk at UFC 203 in September. The two had a good back and forth fight that saw both come close to finishes during the two rounds it lasted, but with Gall sinking in the rear-naked choke for the submission win, his third in three UFC fights in 2016. Gall went on to call his own shot once again, calling out a potentially returning Dan Hardy for a lightweight battle.

Also on the card and probably the “real” main event to those in the arena and many watching at home was the announced final fight in Urijah Faber’s career. Faber, who is largely responsible for fighters below 155 pounds being in the UFC, turned back the clock in the first round of his fight against veteran Brad Pickett, rocking him with a big punch and then nearly finishing the fight with a rear naked choke, a signature sequence during Faber’s dominant WEC run. Faber went on to dominate every round, winning a unanimous decision allowing himself to go out on top as so few professional fighters are able to do.

UFC on Fox last night was a fun, memorable show that was very fan-friendly. It didn’t offer much in the way of short-term title implications, but it did set up two fighters in Waterson and Gall on the right path towards the upper echelon of their divisions.

Hiscoe’s Analysis: Last night’s show was a really fun show top to bottom. The main card delivered, capped off by a dominant Waterson win against a name fighter. I hope to see Waterson fight again soon against another top 10 fighter. With Joanna Jedrzejczyk running out of contenders, Waterson could be one or two more wins away from a title shot and she could make for a marketable opponent for the dominant champion.

Mickey Gall showed last night that he is a legitimate fighter and belongs at the UFC level. Many will scoff at the calibre of opponents he’s been fighting, but he’s been smart enough to create a path to stardom for himself by calling out fighters after every win. If he didn’t call out Northcutt after the C.M. Punk fight, he’d probably be fighting in the second fight on Fight Pass against someone no one has heard of instead of on the main card on broadcast TV. Gall “gets it,” and if his skills continue to develop, he can be a future star and draw for the company.

I can’t say enough about Urijah Faber’s contributions to MMA. You can make the argument that without Urijah Faber there may not be a Ronda Rousey as he opened the door for lighter weights and types of fighters that go against typical conventions of how the public views someone who is “tough.” He’s a first ballot hall of famer and I’m happy that he took the opportunity to step aside and go out on top where others would stay around too long.


Conor McGregor is saying that UFC never contacted him about stripping him of the 145 pound title and disputes Dana White’s assertions that he is taking 10 months off.

-Post-fight bonuses last night went to Michelle Waterson and Paul Craig for their submission wins and to Leslie Smith and Irene Aldana for fight of the night. All four fighters take home an extra $50,000.

-At last night’s post-fight press conference, Holly Holm told the media that she was offered a fight at 140 with Cris Cyborg and a fight with Cat Zingano on Jan. 28 before being offered the 145 title opportunity against Germaine de Randamie. Holm said she was willing to accept any of those fights.

-Regarding the trash talking going on during his fight with Sage Northcutt last night, Mickey Gall said he liked it. “So what he said was when he stood up from my guard he was like, ‘Get up, get up,’ and he was standing right over me, so I was like, ‘Why don’t you come down? I thought you said you jiu-jitsu is better than mine,’ because he said that in the show,” Gall explained. “And the when I got up, I was like, ‘What? you’re tired?’, and he was like, ‘Nah, I never get tired.’ I got to say, I like Sage with an edge. And when he blackened my eye and then he cut me, he was like, ‘Oh, that was good.’ He was talking some crap, I like that he came out a little bit.”

-Urijah Faber said at the press conference that he’s open to a job offer from UFC in retirement if the money is right.

-Last night’s show drew 13,136 fans paying a live gate of $1.24 million. (SOURCE)

-Last night’s show did 2.69 million viewers in the overnight ratings, the fewest viewers of the big four networks in primetime last night but did a 0.9 rating in adults 18-49, beating everything except the SNL Christmas Special that aired at 9 PM.

-WWE executive and performer Triple H said that Conor McGregor is “custom made” for WWE and would be interested in working with him if the business of it made sense. Many WWE performers attacked McGregor for his small size earlier this year when he said he would “slap the head off” anyone in WWE.

NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: SATURDAY NEWS DIGEST 12/17: Dominic Cruz discusses legacy of Urijah Faber on eve of his retirement fight tonight (w/Cervantes Analysis)

(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)

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