- You really couldn’t have scripted a better Bellator debut for Rory MacDonald. I was hardly surprised at the fact MacDonald won decisively over Paul Daley on Friday, but I’ll admit that had he lost I wouldn’t have been that surprised. We’ve seen a few high profile free agents join Bellator and then be underwhelming in their debut, but that certainly wasn’t the case for MacDonald. As I stated last week, I’d really prefer to see him face Douglas Lima instead of Lorenz Larkin for the title in the next few months because that matchup intrigues me more than a showdown between two former UFC welterweights.
- It’s time for Bellator to crown a new heavyweight champion. Cheick Kongo became the winniest heavyweight in Bellator history on Friday (he’s gone 9-2 in Bellator), and I think it’s time that Bellator finally finds someone to face him for the vacant heavyweight title. As I said last week, I’m in favor of seeing the winner of Fedor Emelianenko/Matt Mitrione face him for the vacant title. But if Bellator ever decided to go another route, because they are signing a lot of aging legends lately, I’d be somewhat okay with seeing Bellator bring in Mirko Cro Cop to fight Kongo for the heavyweight title. As bizarre as this might sound at first, Cro Cop could make sense because he is on a 7 fight winning streak and he recently defeated one of Bellator’s poster boys King Mo Lawal back in December en route to winning the Rizin Open-Weight Grand Prix. But otherwise, I’d prefer to see Kongo face the winner of Emelianenko/Mitrione, or maybe even face King Mo Lawal for the vacant title since Lawal did defeat Kongo in a superfight back in February 2015 and has defeated the likes of Rampage Jackson and Satoshi Ishii in heavyweight fights over the past few months, which in my opinion makes Lawal a qualified candidate to fight for the vacant Bellator heavyweight title. Regardless, however, Bellator really needs to aim to crown a new heavyweight champion in my opinion because for a major MMA promotion to lack a heavyweight champion for as long as they have is a bit ridiculous in my opinion.
- I commend the WWE for trying something different with Jinder Mahal as champion. I honestly have not watched the WWE regularly for a little over a year now (I still watch the pay-per-views when I have the time, since I do have a WWE Network subscription because I like the old episodes of WCW Monday Nitro and their documentaries), but I’m unsure how much I like putting the title on Mahal right now. It’s nothing personal against Mahal, but it’s just hard to comprehend him as champion when it was literally 6 weeks ago that he was jobbing to the likes of the Big Show, Big Cass, Cesaro, and Mojo Rawley on television and at house shows. Had the WWE spent a few months building him up with a winning streak then I’d probably like this more than I do at the moment, but I’m curious to see where they go with this.
- I finally started my book project. For at least for a couple of years, I’ve wanted to write a psychology book based on my life experiences and my interpretations of what I’ve learned over the course of my studies. I’d like to publish it before 2019, so I’m under a bit of a time crunch, but I look forward to writing it and really getting my message out there.
I’m going to cover a little bit of psychology and a little bit of MMA in today’s edition. I’ll start with the psychology part first.
I prefer to keep my work life separate from my home life, so I enjoy having a quality work/life balance. So much so that whenever I’ve received a promotion at work, I’ve always made it clear to my employer that having time away from the office is a must for me. This isn’t because of a lack of love for my job, but rather it’s because I recognize that I need adequate time to recharge my mental batteries to ensure that I’m able to perform my best on a daily basis. Plus…I tend to be a bit of a workaholic if given the opportunity, so I like to make it clear that once I leave the office every night that I’m turning work “off” until I come back the next morning.
Whether you’re a segmenter (someone who sets clear boundaries between work and home) or an integrator (someone who combines the two), it’s important to find the style that works best for you. While there’s no “right” way to be, I prefer segmentation for the reasons stated above. But I do happily integrate the two when the situation calls for it, but I try to keep that to a minimum.
The winner of tomorrow night’s Rory MacDonald/Paul Daley fight is slated to take on the winner of Douglas Lima/Lorenz Larkin later this year. Personally, I’d really rather see Rory MacDonald versus Douglas Lima at some point rather than some combination of a rematch of Douglas Lima/Paul Daley, Lorenz Larkin/Rory MacDonald, or Lorenz Larkin/Paul Daley. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher how good a non-UFC fighter really is, but I think that a matchup between Lima and MacDonald would give great insight to how good Lima really is. Even with his UFC departure, MacDonald is viewed as a top five welterweight, and Larkin is viewed at least as a top 15. A win over Larkin for Lima, and then a showdown with MacDonald would really allow the MMA community to get a better idea of how talented Bellator’s welterweight division is in relation to the UFC’s welterweight division.
So ultimately, I’m cheering for Rory MacDonald to beat Paul Daley. Not only for the reasons I stated above, but also because I’m a fan of MacDonald’s and I’m eager to see how he does for Bellator.
In the co-main event of Liam McGeary/Linton Vassell, I’m hoping to see Vassell win. I’ve never been completely sold on McGeary, even if he did have a title reign as Bellator’s light heavyweight champion, so I think Vassell pulls off the win here. I’m unsure of what’s next for the winner of this fight, whether it’s facing the winner of Phil Davis/Ryan Bader for the light heavyweight title at a later date or facing King Mo Lawal in a number one contender matchup, but I’d like to see Vassell win here.
I think Cheick Kongo defeats Augusto Sakai to continue his “reign” as the unofficial Bellator heavyweight champion (or at least in my mind he is, since Bellator took the title away from Vitaly Minakov last year due to a lack of title defenses). I’d really like to see Kongo fight for the vacant title at some point, possibly against the winner of Fedor Emelianenko/Matt Mitrione, because I think it’s a tad ridiculous that Bellator hasn’t crowned a new heavyweight champion after stripping Minakov of the title after not defending the title since April 2014.
Finally, I hate how Bellator puts some of these international cards on tape delay. I would much rather have the option of seeing this card live as it happens, even if that means I’d have to possibly duck out of work early to catch it live. I know that I can avoid the internet and social media to avoid spoilers before I watch, but I’d just rather know that I’m watching the fight unfold live and spontaneously in front of me.
- I’m interested in seeing Matt Hughes fight again, because I would like to see him have a proper sendoff. His career ended, unbeknownst at the time but highly speculated, after a loss to Josh Koscheck at UFC 135 in September 2011. It wasn’t until early 2013 that he formally announced his retirement, but I would’ve liked to have seen him get the proper sendoff treatment and attention that fighters such as Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture have had. Now, having said all of that, I don’t have much interest in seeing him rematch against Royce Gracie, a man he beat at UFC 60 back in May 2006. The first fight was an absolute lopsided beating by Hughes, and I have no reason to believe that a rematch 11 years later wouldn’t have the same result, even if Hughes is an old man himself now. I’d actually have more interest in seeing him fight Ken Shamrock at heavyweight, even if there would be a size discrepancy, but ideally I’d like see a more appropriate foe other than Gracie for Hughes if he does indeed come back for one final fight.
- I have zero interest in seeing B.J. Penn fight again, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why the UFC keeps letting him fight. I get that he’s a big name, but the fact of the matter is that Penn hasn’t looked good in a fight since the first round of his fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 137 back in October 2011, a fight in which Penn was then thoroughly outclassed in rounds two and three and dropped a unanimous decision en route to immediately announcing his (first) retirement right after the fight was over. Since then he’s been dominated by Rory MacDonald in December 2012, and then finished by Frankie Edgar in July 2014 and Yair Rodriguez two months ago. I’ll unfortunately tune in and watch his fight with Dennis Siver in June because I’m a fight fan, but I’d really prefer to see him stop tarnishing his legacy as one of the best lightweights in the sport’s history.
- Bellator’s Pay-Per-View at Madison Square Garden does interest me, even if the main event is between two rivals past their prime. This is one thing Bellator does that irritates me to an extent, because when you put a non-title fight above a title fight as the headliner, it can give off the impression that the title isn’t as important. In this case, it looks like they’ll have two title fights on the undercard as a precursor to two non-title fights, and that disappoints me. I understand building the marketing campaign around Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva, but I’d rather see Michael Chandler vs. Brent Primus for the lightweight title headline the pay-per-view with Douglas Lima vs. Lorenz Larkin for the welterweight title serve as the co-main event. Use the recognizable names such as Sonnen, Silva, and Fedor Emelianenko to bring attention to your event and help it give some of the spotlight to your promotion’s champions, such as Chandler and Lima.
Since there’s no major MMA events on this weekend, I’ll have my DVR set to record the Jorge Linares (41-3) versus Anthony Crolla (31-5-3) fight for boxing’s WBA lightweight title since I’ll be unable to watch it live. Since Linares holds The Ring magazine’s version of the lightweight title as well, I consider him to be the true legitimate lightweight champion. While I’m not as into boxing as I am into MMA, I do enjoy tuning in for the legitimate, lineal championship fights when they occur.
I spent the weekend watching a great deal of mixed martial arts and boxing this weekend, as I attended a UFC event live, watched another UFC event on television, as well as a Bellator event and a boxing match on Saturday. After watching combatants compete for the UFC “interim” featherweight championship, as well as boxing’s IBF heavyweight championship, it made decide to share my opinion on the current drama in the respective weight classes.
Who is the UFC Featherweight Champion?
Well, if you’re a fan of mixed martial arts or just a casual follower of the UFC, you know that Conor McGregor won the UFC’s featherweight title back a year ago today. But he never defended the title, having fought twice at welterweight against Nate Diaz, and capturing the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez, and he recently vacated the featherweight title (whether he was stripped of the title by the UFC, or he voluntarily relinquished the belt is up for debate, but the moral of the story is that he’s not officially the UFC’s featherweight champion anymore).
So now the UFC recognizes Jose Aldo as their featherweight champion, the long-time champion who lost his title to McGregor, and the man who won the original version of the “interim” championship at UFC 200 in July when he defeated Frankie Edgar. Aldo was promoted to the undisputed champion when McGregor vacated the title. So then in the meantime, Max Holloway defeated Anthony Pettis for the new version of the “interim” championship on Saturday night at UFC 206. So at the moment, Aldo is the “undisputed” champion and Holloway is the “interim” champion. But in my opinion, the title is still vacant, and when Aldo and Holloway do fight to unify their two titles, that’s a when a new real champion will be crowned in my opinion.
The way I view things, is that the UFC without possibly realizing it made a mini four-man tournament consisting of Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, and Anthony Pettis to crown a new undisputed featherweight champion.
Who is Boxing’s Heavyweight Champion?
The answer to this question is much murkier than the answer to who’s the champion of the UFC’s featherweight division. Tyson Fury had won the lineal championship (as well as the WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO versions of the title) from Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, but has never defended them due to a variety of out of the ring issues. Furthermore, there’s the chance that Fury never even fights again.
In the meantime, the titles that he was forced to vacate have been assigned to new champions, with Joseph Parker holding the WBO belt now after defeating Andy Ruiz over the weekend, Anthony Joshua being the IBF champion after defeating Charles Martin in April, and Joshua scheduled to face Klitschko for the still vacant WBA title in April 2017. Plus there’s also the WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
Of the three current title holders, I think that Joshua is the best of the three, and while Fury is still rightfully regarded as the lineal “man who beat the man who beat the man” champion, I feel that the winner of April’s Anthony Joshua/Wladimir Klitschko’s fight for the IBF and WBA versions of the heavyweight championship should crown an “interim” lineal champion as well in the event that Tyson Fury’s future is still in doubt by then. Hopefully at some point, the winner of Joshua/Klitschko can either face Fury, or Wilder to further unify all the disputed versions of the champion to create a truly undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
- As someone who loved pro wrestling as a kid, and still tunes in on occasion nowadays, Sunday’s Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar match at WWE Survivor Series intrigues me. While I expect the WWE to have Lesnar win the match to avenge his loss to Goldberg at WrestleMania 20 in 2004, the whole concept of this match is interesting to me. Mainly, while I understand Goldberg’s desire for his wife and son to watch him wrestle, I’m just a little surprised to see a guy who seemed to have a disdain for the wrestling business after his retirement 12 years ago come back simply to lose to Brock Lesnar in his comeback/final match. I have read nothing on “dirt sheets” about this match, but I suppose it wouldn’t surprise me if Lesnar wins on Sunday, and then this sets up a trilogy bout with Goldberg/Lesnar 3 taking place at WrestleMania 33 in April 2017. Nonetheless, I’ll be at the show in Toronto on Sunday and I look forward to re-living my childhood for a few minutes during their match.
- Moving from the world of “fantasy warfare” to the squared circle, the fight I’m most excited for this weekend is Saturday night’s light heavyweight boxing matchup between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward. It’s unfortunate this fight hasn’t gotten a ton of mainstream attention, because it very well might be the best boxing match that can be made in 2016. Kovalev is 30-0-1 and holds the WBA, WBO, and IBF versions of the light heavyweight championship. Ward is 30-0, and was the WBA, WBC, The Ring, and lineal super middleweight champion before vacating those titles to move up in weight. It’s very rare to see two of the undefeated pound-for-pound best go at it in their prime, and Saturday night’s fight is a real treat for the hardcore boxing fan, and the winner of this fight makes a legitimate claim to not just being the best light heavyweight boxer in the world, but the top pound-for-pound boxer as well.
- Finally, I’m looking forward to tuning into some MMA this weekend. There’s a Bellator event and a pair of UFC events on tv, and while none of the events have the buzz that UFC 205 had, there’s still plenty of solid fights to check out. In particular, I’m looking forward to the Bellator lightweight title fight between champion Michael Chandler and former UFC champion Benson Henderson. On the UFC side of things, the fights that really have my interest are Gegard Mousasi’s rematch with Uriah Hall, former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov making his UFC debut against Tim Johnson, former flyweight title contenders Kyoji Horiguchi and Ali Bagautinov squaring off, and then light heavyweight contenders Ryan Bader and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira engaging in a rematch of their 2010 fight. In the case of fighters like Mousasi, Bader, and Nogueira, there are some potential title fight implications.
In a nutshell, if you’re someone like me who enjoys watching quality prizefighting, both real and make believe, then this is a pretty solid weekend for you.
- I read an article on MMA Fighting that speculated that featherweight champion Conor McGregor might try to fight for the welterweight championship in the event that he captures the lightweight championship from Eddie Alvarez next weekend at UFC 205. Personally, I think this is a bad idea, if there’s even any validity to the rumor. Aside from the fact that it would mean a fourth consecutive fight for McGregor outside of the featherweight division (which would hopefully result in him vacating the featherweight title), I just don’t think he’d do well at 170 pounds. Aside from the obvious strength and size disadvantages he’d have against the likes of Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, I just think that his displays against Nate Diaz (who I wouldn’t even rank in my top five at lightweight) demonstrate that he’d be in over his head against the elite of the welterweight division. It’s not like he exactly dominated Diaz in either fight, including his decision win over Diaz, and I think that the elite of the welterweight division would be too much for McGregor to overcome.
- I’m happy to see that Michael Bisping will officially not be fighting at UFC 206 in Toronto next month. While it’d be cool to see another big name fight added to the card, I had no desire to see Bisping defend his title when he’s obviously nowhere near full strength right now after the punishment he took in his win over Dan Henderson last month.
- I’m really eager for tomorrow night’s Bellator card. I think Phil Davis should emerge as the new Bellator light heavyweight champion because quite frankly I think he’s better than Liam McGeary. Sure, McGeary is undefeated but he took home a controversial decision win over Emanuel Newton to get the title (I thought Newton won, but it was close enough I wouldn’t have exactly called it a robbery). Furthermore, McGeary struggled with a past his prime Tito Ortiz last year before he was able to submit Ortiz late in the first round. I just think Davis is a much better fighter than McGeary, and if the Davis that showed up to fight Newton and Francis Carmont in the fall of 2015 shows up to fight tomorrow night, then there’s no way that Davis loses.
- In addition to the light heavyweight title fight, I’m pretty excited to see Sergei Kharitonov’s Bellator deubt tomorrow night. Unless you’re a diehard fan of non-UFC MMA, then you might not be familiar with him but he’s a veteran of Pride, Strikeforce, Dream, and M-1 and has notable wins over the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, and Pedro Rizzo on his resume. While I’m disappointed he never made his way to the UFC, I’m eager to see what he brings to Bellator.
- Former pro wrestler Kid Kash’s comments about CM Punk being paid $500,000 to fight at UFC 203, annoyed me to an extent. Sure, if we’re talking about true fighting talent, then Punk was not worth anywhere near $500,000. However, if we’re talking promotional ability, then he might have actually been worth more than $500,000. UFC 203 sold approximately 450,000 pay-per-views, and you have to assume that a good chunk of that was bought by viewers who were eager to see Punk’s foray into mixed martial arts. It would take about 20,000 extra pay-per-view buys to offset CM Punk’s disclosed show money, and I can assure you that Punk’s inclusion on the card contributed to far more than just 20,000 extra buys.
- Finally, I saw a quote where Tyron Woodley said that Georges St-Pierre should get an immediate title shot if he comes back to the UFC. I’d have to say that I agree with him. While I think that Demian Maia is the number one contender right now after the Woodley/Thompson fight next weekend, I think St-Pierre does deserve an immediate title shot if/when he comes back since he never officially lost the title in the cage (personally, I thought Hendricks beat him at UFC 167, however the judges felt otherwise). Based on that, and the interest the fight would generate, I think St-Pierre getting an immediate title shot makes the most sense. I really can’t believe it’s been nearly three years since St-Pierre last fought. I never though the hiatus would last this long.
I’ll be talking about some recent MMA news in this edition of Buckley Blog Bits.
- I had to laugh when I heard about Canadian fans boycotting UFC 206 due to the ongoing Georges St-Pierre/UFC drama. Sure, I understand the frustration that Canadian fans have because of GSP not being on the card, and his current exile from the organization, but judging by the lack of ticket availability, this boycott won’t even put a small dent in UFC 206’s ticket sales or popularity (side note: the card really isn’t that good outside of the main event to be honest, especially when you compare it to the incomparable UFC 205, as well as UFC 207, so I was surprised to see ticket sales being as good as they are).
- On that note, if St-Pierre does indeed get to test the free agent market, then Bellator HAS to sign him in my opinion. Without question, he would be their biggest signing to date as he’s one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in MMA history (PPVs headlined by GSP have sold an average of approximately 700,000 during his career), and he’s not far removed, if even removed at all, from his prime. Alongside Rory MacDonald, GSP would be a great asset for Bellator, not only to draw massive television ratings and possibly venture into the pay-per-view market, but also to tap into the Canadian market as well.
- Kudos to the World Series of Fighting for really going all out for their New York City card on New Year’s Eve. While I’m still not a huge fan of them holding the card on New Year’s Eve itself (at least the main card portion is at 4:00pm), this card is unquestionably the best one they’ve ever produced on paper with 4 title fights. Even though I’m probably going to be unable to make the trek to Madison Square Garden that day for the fights, I’ll be sure to tune in wherever I am that day.
- Friday night’s “debate” between Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen during Bellator 162 was cringe worthy, and that’s being polite. I love that Bellator tries to embrace the pro wrestling-style promotion sometimes, but sometimes they try too hard and this was an example of that. While I’m sure the exchange between Ortiz and Sonnen was unscripted, it just felt way to orchestrated and non-organic for my liking. Nonetheless, you know I’ll be tuning in to watch that fight in January because I’m a fight fan and a lifelong fan of Tito Ortiz.
- It’s refreshing to see a fighter call it quits before they’ve tarnished their legacy, so it’s nice to see Urijah Faber opt to retire after his upcoming fight against Brad Pickett in December. While he’s still a top ten bantamweight in my opinion, it’s clear that Faber will never be a champion again as he’s gone 0-4 in UFC title fights, and has now dropped fights to fellow contenders Jimmie Rivera at bantamweight, and to Frankie Edgar at featherweight.