UFC 209 last weekend suffered from a last moment fight cancelation as Khabib Nurmagomedov pulled out of his Interim UFC Lightweight Title fight with Tony Ferguson. As shocking as that might be, let’s get to the rundown.
GOOD: Alistair Overeem stops Mark Hunt
Overeem stayed patient and threw a lot of kicks. Hunt responded with kicks of his own. Overeem started working the body more in the second round and dropped Hunt in the third round, putting him out cold. Nice win for Overeem as he tries to stay in the title hunt. The division is very open, so he could get a title shot with another big win or two.
GOOD: Cynthia Calvillo submits Amanda Cooper
Calvillo took Cooper down a few times and then worked hard for the submission before locking it in for the win in about three and a half minutes into the first round. Calvillo is a promising prospect. If she maintains her current trajectory, she could be moving up the ranks quickly. It’s early, but she might become one of the top fighters at strawweight.
GOOD: Daniel Kelly vs. Rashad Evans
I’m being generous here because Kelly was trying hard. Evans just looks like he doesn’t have it anymore. This might be an anomaly, but this didn’t look like the old Rashad Evans, it just looked like an old Rashad Evans. It feels weird saying that because he still seemed fairly quick, but he seemed hesitant to engage; I don’t know what the mental block was. It’s a nice win for Kelly, but Evans just doesn’t look the same.
GOOD: Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Vannata started strong, but then Teymur turned it on and started doing damage. Teymur took all three rounds according to the judges. You could make an argument that Vannata won the first round, but Teymur definitely took the last two rounds. This was a good fight and a good win for Teymur.
UGLY: Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
Woodley almost finished Thompson at the end of the fifth round, but that final thirty seconds of action in no way makes up for the boring mess that was the previous twenty-four-and-a-half minutes. Neither guy did much of anything. Woodley has good power, but he didn’t want to risk getting into a firefight with Thompson. I get that, I understand that. That’s fighting smart. No sense fighting a guy in an area where he’s good at, possibly better than you. Though I think Woodley has more power, Thompson definitely has good technique and is a good counter-striker.
So I don’t fault Woodley one bit for not wanting to engage Thompson much on the feet. However, he didn’t utilize his wrestling advantage. His corner is screaming for a takedown and he just stands there. I’ve seen sparring matches with more action than this. I get wanting to conserve your energy, but you have to actually try to win the fight. I scored the fight for Thompson (though a draw would be fine, too), but I won’t quibble with the Woodley decision because I don’t think you should be able to win a title like this.
Woodley has talked recently about how he’s the most disrespected champion in the UFC and how he’s treated the worst. He just became champion a bit ago, and has now defended his belt twice. This is a guy who, as soon as he won the title, started trying to angle himself into a supposed “superfight” with UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping. The UFC isn’t going to give you fights like that unless you put butts in seats, and Woodley doesn’t do that. He could, if he fought to his full ability, but this fight is a perfect example of why he’s not as popular as he should be. Woodley has a good look, he’s well-spoken, and he’s fully capable of delivering exciting action in the cage. But he doesn’t always fight as well as he should.
To make it worse, he used the tired bit of playing the race card and said that’s the reason why he’s the worst treated champion in MMA. That’s just a bunch of garbage. For one, there are two very prominent black men as champion in the UFC right now (besides Woodley of course) in UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier. Johnson should be much more popular than he is because he’s one of the best fighters in the world, if not the best. I don’t think he would argue that he’s been mistreated. As for Cormier, that guy is all over UFC television. I don’t think he would say he’s being treated poorly either.
I’ve said a lot of negative things about the UFC and Dana White; I’ve ripped them for all sorts of things. However, in this case, I think it’s highly unlikely they would ever treat someone poorly because of the color of their skin. The only color the UFC cares about is green. If you bring in the money, they treat you well. If you don’t, they won’t. Hell, even if you bring in money, they’ll still treat you badly sometimes. Ask George St. Pierre how the UFC treated him during his run. He was one of the biggest draws the UFC had and Dana White would rip him often during the end of his first run.
It’s dangerous and reckless to play the race card when no racism is present. I know that Woodley gets a lot of racism on social media; a quick search of his name brings up some vile and disgusting garbage written by trolls. Everyone faces that, though. Every prominent figure in the UFC has horrible garbage written about them by anonymous trolls online. That’s not the same as MMA fans treating you badly. And it’s definitely not the same as the UFC treating you badly.
Throwing out incendiary claims about people is unfair, and it cheapens the discussion of race in this country. When people consistently call discrimination where there is none, it loses its power. Then, when it does happen and gets called out, those calls are met with skepticism and cynicism. If you falsely claim discrimination, you’re doing a disservice to those struggling against it, those fighting against it both in the present and in the future.
KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV MISSES ANOTHER FIGHT
Khabib Nurmagomedov pulled out of another fight. That’s no surprise, as he’s pulled out of more fights in recent years than he’s actually fought in. Assuming he doesn’t fight next month or in May, a virtual certainty given his track record, he’ll have fought three times in three years. Also, given his track record, he’s not likely to fight anytime soon, so it could easily be three and a half years or more with only three fights to show for it. Nurmagomedov is a talented fighter, but he just needs to be quiet for a while.
I don’t want to hear him talking himself up, or saying that UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor is scared to face him, or anything like that. I don’t want to hear him threaten to leave the UFC if he doesn’t get a title shot. Considering how infrequently he fights, they wouldn’t be losing much.
Nurmagomedov was supposed to fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 but pulled out of the fight, something he’s done at least four times in the past few years. He said as recently as a month ago that he wanted to break Ferguson’s arm and face, a threat he’s also made about McGregor. So apparently he wants to fight but for some reason he can’t make weight before a fight he’s been talking about wanting for a very long time? That doesn’t compute. It’s time for Nurmagomedov to go off and rethink some stuff. He has to consider changing things he’s been doing. Something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
I don’t think the UFC should give Nurmagomedov a title shot (Interim or not) when he’s ready to come back. He has to prove that he’s capable of fighting when he’s scheduled to. If you’re going to slow down a division, you better be a guy who brings in a lot of money. McGregor does, so he can get away with it. Nurmagomedov doesn’t, so he can’t.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: HYDEN’S TAKE: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Bellator 173, plus UFC 211 news and McGregor-Mayweather speculation
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