For as great as Brian Ortega looked over the weekend while defeating Cub Swanson, it appears he still will be taking a backseat to Frankie Edgar when it comes to Max Holloway’s next featherweight championship defense. On The MMA Hour, Edgar said he’s recovering well from his orbital injury and is remaining optimistic that he’ll be fully ready to take the Holloway fight in the beginning part of 2018. In the interview, Edgar said, “He said we’re just figuring out – this is after this weekend’s fight – we’re just waiting to see what’s next.” “I think March or April sounds good, so one of those dates I imagine we’ll set it up.”
Frankie Edgar was originally booked to fight Max Holloway for the featherweight championship at UFC 218. Due to the orbital injury he suffered during training, Edgar was removed from the fight and Jose Aldo took it instead. Holloway beat Aldo via TKO.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This is the fight to make right now in the featherweight division. Brian Ortega turned some eyes on Saturday night and is fully deserving of a title shot. That said if Frankie Edgar is healthy within a reasonable amount of time, he should get the shot that he never truly lost. It would be one thing if the division was to be held up for six-plus months waiting on Edgar. In that scenario, you give the shot to Ortega and ride the hot hand. That isn’t the case here. Holloway vs. Edgar should draw well and will be a unique matchup of contrasting styles. It behooves the UFC to book this now before they possibly lose it again.
TUESDAY NEWS NOTEBOOK
–Mark Hunt calls out Fabricio Werdum. Just last week, Mark Hunt was cleared to fight again by UFC doctors. He wasted little time in focusing his attention on a possible opponent. In an interview with The Sporting News, Hunt said, “Hopefully I get a fight in Perth – we’re waiting for Werdum to say yes, but he’s such a little chicken rat.” “I’d like to be on the undercard for that world title fight for Rob Whittaker. That would be awesome being a part of history right there in Perth.” He continued by saying,“I don’t know why Werdum doesn’t want to party.” “We asked to do Japan, we asked to do Sydney and he said no. Then the next minute gets the fight against Tybura. He said ‘no’ to me, but ‘yes’ to Tybura, the little rat. Hunt and Werdum fought for the interim heavyweight championship at UFC 180 with Werdum getting the victory via knockout.
Heydorn’s Analysis: What’s a chicken rat? For better or for worse, Mark Hunt is becoming one of the most entertaining fighters that the UFC has. He’s decided to remove the filter on everything he says and because of that everything he says is newsworthy. That said, this fight between him and Werdum is a reasonable one to make. Werdum doesn’t have an opponent lined up and neither does Hunt. More so than that, the picture surrounding the title after Miocic vs. Ngannou is cloudy and having a clear victor between Hunt and Werdum would help clear up the pecking order.
–Cain Velasquez is back and training again. On The MMA Hour, Daniel Cormier, Velasquez’s training partner and teammate said, “He’s back to training, and it hurts, but nothing’s felt better for a long time.” Velasquez hasn’t fought this year but revealed that his goal would be to return sometime in 2018. Cormier echoed those thoughts but maintained that a return date was not yet set by saying “It’s a process.” “When you start dealing with some of the injuries that Cain has had, and I’ve seen this since wrestling — backs and necks and all those types of injuries — man, it takes time to recover. And I think, for a long time, Cain may have pushed himself when he should’ve rested, and I believe this time he’s actually taken the time to try to let himself heal, and I feel like this will be a chance for him to make a long, sustained run, much longer than he really has over the course of his career.”
Heydorn’s Analysis: The heavyweight division that Velasquez left could end up looking much different if and when he makes his return in 2018. When he does return, he will have a claim to a top spot, but I don’t see that top spot being a title fight right out of the gate.
–Robert Whittaker is ready to move the middleweight division forward. Last week when Georges St. Pierre vacated his newly won UFC middleweight title, Robert Whittaker as interim champion was elevated to undisputed champion within the division. In an interview with the New Zealander, Whittaker said he’s happy to have some closure. “There was no clear cut matchup for me at any point in the last six months so I’m just happy to have closure. I’m just happy to know that Georges has stepped down, I’ve taken the title and I’m ready to defend it come February against Luke.”
Heydorn’s Analysis: Whittaker is right by all accounts. With GSP out of the way, he can take the ball and run with it. Whittaker vs. Rockhold is the logical place to go now and the middleweight division as a whole will be smoother once that outcome is decided.
–Alexander Gustafsson wants Jon Jones when his suspension is up. Gustafsson told Ariel Helwani this week that, “I want him back. I want another fight with him. I want to fight him at some point in my future career. I just want to fight him one more time and maybe for that reason I want to see him come back,” he said. Gustafsson came close to beating Jon Jones at UFC 165 in one of the most memorable fights in UFC history. He lost via decision and has never been given a rematch.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I don’t know if Jon Jones ever fights again in a UFC octagon. He certainly doesn’t deserve a third chance. That said, if for some reason he gets that chance, this fight would be a perfect one to book. It keeps him out of the title picture, while featuring him against a formidable opponent that can draw.
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