My Surprised Sadness when Jose Aldo Lost – June 8, 2017

First off, I’d like to thank those of you who read this blog, whether it’s frequently or irregularly, as I set a new record for most monthly views and visitors in May.

Not surprisingly, I went to the bar to watch UFC 212 a few nights ago.  The bar was pretty empty by the usual UFC fight night standards, since the main card wasn’t the most attractive to the casual observer and was actually rather thin outside of the top 2-3 bouts on the main card.  What did surprise me, however, was how disappointed and sad to an extent I felt on the drive home after watching Jose Aldo get stopped in the third round by Max Holloway.

I’ve never been a Jose Aldo fan.  That sounds harsh, but if you were to ask me to list my favorite fighters, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned him.  That said, however, I never disliked him or went out of my way to cheer against him, I was just indifferent on him.  I appreciated his talent and considered him to be among the world’s best pound-for-pound, and I do feel that he’s the greatest featherweight to ever compete in mixed martial arts.  Maybe that’s why I felt a sense of disappointment as I traveled home in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

As I’ve stated before on here, I began regularly watching the UFC and MMA as a whole in late 2008.  The first featherweight title fight I ever watched live on television was WEC 41 in June 2009, when Mike Brown defended the title against Urijah Faber.  I’ve always had a thing about cheering against a promotion’s poster boy, so I cheered for Brown to win that night and from that point on I always considered myself a Mike Brown fan.  Fast forward to November 2009, when Mike Brown squared off against Jose Aldo at WEC 44 for the featherweight title.  Aldo defeated Brown in dominant fashion, finishing Brown 1:20 into the second round, and I was blown away by how decisively he won the title that night.  That started the Jose Aldo era in MMA’s featherweight division, and without knowing it at the time, I had just watched a legend’s career really begin to take flight.

Jose Aldo, in hindsight, was really the first dominant champion in MMA whose entire tenure as champion I really got to watch unfold right in front of me.  Sure, I got to see a good portion of Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre’s time at the top of the sport, but by the time I began watching the sport regularly those two were already established as dominant champs.  They were in the middle of their long title reigns.  In the case of Aldo, I got to watch his entire tenure at the top as it was happening.  I even had the privilege of watching him fight in person at UFC 169, when he defeated Ricardo Lamas via unanimous decision.

So for me, Jose Aldo represents the first dominant champion who I was able to watch execute his top talent as it was unfolding for the whole world to see.  I wasn’t just watching highlights years after the fact like I have with fighters such as Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Matt Hughes.  This was an elite fighter I was watching and appreciating at the same time of the rest of the MMA community.

Perhaps I’m overthinking things.  But I was just surprised at how I felt a little disappointed to know that I had watched a historical era in the featherweight division come to an end on Saturday night.

What’s Next for Stipe Miocic?

With his first round knockout victory over Junior dos Santos on Saturday night, I feel that Stipe Miocic has become the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC.  While he still needs to defend the title for a third time to set the new record for most title defenses during a single reign, the way he has quickly dispatched Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and dos Santos in a combined 9 minutes and 36 seconds makes up for the fact that he’s tied with 4 others for the longest heavyweight title reign in the promotion’s history.  But on that note, who’s next for Miocic to face? Let’s take a look at the options:

Cain Velasquez

Former champion Cain Velasquez is my first choice to face Miocic, but the big question here is whether or not Velasquez is able to remain healthy enough to face Miocic because Velasquez has a history of being injury prone.  But if Velasquez does indeed fight Miocic, I think he’d be Miocic’s biggest test and the winner of this fight would be the undisputed best heavyweight in the promotion’s history.

Winner of Alistair Overeem/Fabricio Werdum

I’m not wild about Overeem or Werdum getting a rematch so soon, but the heavyweight division lacks depth at the moment and the winner of this fight would be the next best option to face Miocic.  Overeem did give Miocic a quick scare in their fight at UFC 203, so I’d rather see Overeem face Miocic again instead of Werdum if it was up to me.

Brock Lesnar

I know this seems farfetched, and I know Lesnar is retired from active MMA competition. But when you really think about this, I think it’s not quite as farfetched as it seems.  It’s no secret that the new ownership group needs to make their money back, and if they were to bring Lesnar back to fight for the title immediately it would be sure to generate a lot of interest, pay-per-view buys, and most importantly, a lot of revenue.  I’m not necessarily a fan of the idea of bringing Lesnar in to get a title shot he hasn’t actually earned, but I’m just saying it wouldn’t shock me to see the UFC go this route.

The Rest of the Heavyweight Division

Of the heavyweights I didn’t highlight, the one I’d want to see fight Miocic most is Francis Ngannou.  But he needs another big win before he’d really have earned a title shot.  Ben Rothwell hasn’t fought in over a year, and is coming off of a loss to dos Santos, so he should be out of the discussion for now.  Josh Barnett is coming off of a win over Andrei Arlovski back in September…but he’s only fought once over the last 16 months and is 2-2 in his last 4 fights.  Derrick Lewis is on a 6-fight winning streak, but he hasn’t beaten a big name that would catapult him into the title shot picture, although that would change if he defeats Mark Hunt when they meet.  Mark Hunt is coming off of a loss to Overeem, and needs to string together some wins to get a shot at the title.

So in summary, my preferences for Stipe Miocic’s next opponents are as follows: Cain Velasquez, or the winner of Alistair Overeem versus Fabricio Werdum.  The rest of the division just hasn’t quite earned the next shot at Miocic in my opinion.

Is Stipe Miocic on the verge of becoming the best UFC Heavyweight Champion in History?

Stipe Miocic might be on the verge of becoming the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC.  Now, while it should go without saying that the greatest heavyweight in the history of mixed martial arts is Fedor Emelianenko.  After all, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion has wins over the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski.  But unfortunately, Emelianenko has never fought in the UFC, so the debate of who the greatest UFC heavyweight champion in history is still up for debate.

If he was able to stay healthy for a prolonged period of time, I’d actually say that Cain Velasquez is the best heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC.  At his peak and when he’s healthy, Velasquez is an absolute beast.  But he’s won and lost the UFC heavyweight title twice.  He won it by beating Brock Lesnar, lost it to Junior dos Santos in his first title defense, won the belt back from dos Santos a year later, defended it against Antonio Silva, defended it against dos Santos, and then lost it to Fabricio Werdum.  All in all, he’s 4-2 in title fights with 2 successful defenses.  But unfortunately, he’s pretty injury prone.

But let’s take a look at the current champion, Stipe Miocic.  Miocic has a record of 16-2.  He won the title last year on May 14, 2016 with a first round knockout of Fabricio Werdum.  He proceeded to successfully defend the title back in September against Alistair Overeem.  With a successful title defense over Junior dos Santos on Saturday night, he suddenly ties the record (held by Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar, and Velasquez) for most title consecutive title defenses in the UFC’s heavyweight division at….2.

There’s never been a dominant long-term champion in the UFC’s heavyweight division.  With a win, and a decisive win at that, over Junior dos Santos, I think that Miocic makes a great argument for being the best UFC heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history.  In my opinion, he’ll have beaten arguably better competition than Randy Couture did (when he beat Pedro Rizzo twice), or Tim Sylvia did (wins over Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson) during their “long” title reigns.  But I think you can make the argument that Lesnar and Velasquez’s competitors were of equal or greater talent than Overeem and dos Santos (Lesnar beat Frank Mir and Shane Carwin; Velasquez beat Antonio Silva and dos Santos)

In heavyweight title fights, Randy Couture has the most wins with 6.  But he’s 6-3 in heavyweight title fights.  A win over dos Santos makes Miocic 3-0.  The only other fighters to go undefeated in UFC heavyweight title fights are Bas Rutten and Josh Barnett, who lost the title due to retirement (Rutten) and a positive drug test (Barnett).  After those two, Brock Lesnar has the best winning percentage in UFC heavyweight title fights at 3-1 (.750).

While I know it might be an unpopular opinion, I think that Lesnar, Velasquez, Couture and Miocic might be the four best heavyweight champions in the UFC’s history.  If Miocic wins against dos Santos, and then proceeds to knock off another top contender (maybe Velasquez if/when he’s healthy?) then I think that ends the discussion and Stipe Miocic should then be considered the greatest heavyweight champion in the UFC’s history.

Buckley Blog Bits – April 30, 2017

Yesterday’s boxing heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko had to be one of the most exciting heavyweight title fights in ages.  Heading into it, I was prepared for anything because of the fact there were so many variables, and I really had no clue what to expect.  Is Klitschko finally old? Or would Klitschko be able to return to his vintage form? Is Joshua as good as advertised? Or is Joshua overhyped? Would it be exciting? Would it be dull? Would there be some sort of judging or refereeing controversy? Could it even end in a draw? I just had to sit there and watch things play out, and that was a great feeling.

While I did get to watch the fight live, I was unfortunately relegated to watching the fight on my phone in a crowded bar with friends (who had next to no interest in watching the fight), so I wasn’t able to give the fight my complete undivided attention until the fourth round or so.  At the time of the knockout, I had Klitschko up 95-93 on points after the 10th round, but I would’ve had Joshua up 103-102 after 11 had Klitschko been able to survive the 11th round without getting knocked down again (after rewatching the fight this morning, without the distractions that come from being at a bar with friends, I had it scored 94-94 after 10 because for some reason while watching the fight live I gave Klitschko the 3rd round, but after re-watching it that was clearly a round for Joshua, so I really would’ve had Joshua up 104-101 after 11).

When Joshua came out with guns blazing in the 5th round and knocked Klitschko down, I really thought that maybe this was the end for Klitschko.  But much like Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, when it looked like he was down and out it was just the time for Klitschko to make his comeback.  I couldn’t believe the way Klitschko rallied and seemed to turn back the clock from that point on.  From that point on, I was glued to my phone, and I really started to wonder if perhaps Joshua couldn’t handle going into the deeper rounds and if Klitschko would in fact wear the younger fighter down.  I gave Klitschko every round between the 6th and the 9th, and even the 10th round was a pretty close round which I narrowly gave to Joshua.

I’m really not sure who I was cheering for to be honest with you.  Even though I wasn’t Klitschko’s biggest fan in his prime, mainly because of his questionable level of opposition in some of his fights, there were moments I did find myself rooting for him to pull off the upset yesterday.  But there were moments too where I was rooting for Joshua to complete the changing of the guard atop the heavyweight division.  Overall, it was an entertaining fight to watch and I wish heavyweight boxing, and combat sports in general, could be like that more often.

There’s several options out there for Anthony Joshua to fight next.  There’s a possible rematch with Klitschko, which I am interested in seeing at some point, but I’m not 100% sure I want to see it immediately and I don’t need to see it.  It’s not due to a lack of competitiveness in the fight yesterday, because yesterday was a great fight and worthy of a rematch at some point, it’s just that I’d rather see some other matchups first.

The big fights to make are Joshua against the lineal and The Ring magazine heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, and against the WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.  But there’s also a potential bout with WBO champion Joseph Parker, or the WBA mandated challenger Luis Ortiz, and the IBF mandated challenger Kubrat Pulev.

Really, what I’d love to see next for Joshua is a showdown with Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder.  That’s taking nothing away from the other fighters I mentioned, but I would just rather see Joshua face the lineal champion Tyson Fury in an all-Britain matchup which would be sure to be a major event.  If not Fury, then I’d rather see him face Wilder, who I think would be a better quality of opposition than Parker, Ortiz or Pulev.

As for Klitschko? I don’t think he needs to retire, because quite frankly he looked better yesterday than he did versus Tyson Fury.  But he really has nothing left to prove in my opinion because he ruled the heavyweight division for 10 years.  I’d be interested in seeing his career continue if he wants to continue fighting because he’s still one of the best heavyweights in the world in my opinion, but he doesn’t need to.  His legacy as one of the all-time greats has already been cemented.

Buckley Blog Bits – April 28, 2017

  • After dropping both games of a doubleheader in St. Louis yesterday, the Blue Jays are now 6-16. They’re 9 games out of first, and 6 games out of the wild card, and the first month of the season isn’t even over yet.  To be honest, I think that the loss yesterday afternoon in the first game of the doubleheader might’ve been the most heartbreaking loss of the season.  The Jays were an out away from their first two-game winning streak of the season, and from being guaranteed to take 2 out of 3 in St. Louis which also would’ve been their first series win of the season.  Instead, they lost in brutal fashion, conceding a game tying home run and then a walk-off grand slam.  Some fans will try to tell me that there’s no momentum in baseball, but I think there is.  It’s just a different type, and I think yesterday might’ve marked the very early nail in the coffin for the Jays season.  Hopefully I’m wrong, but I just don’t see them being able to rectify whatever their problem is this season.
  • I’m pretty happy to see the UFC sign the World Series of Fighting’s lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje. While he’s had a 3-year reign as WSOF lightweight champion and is 17-0, I honestly don’t expect him to fare very well in the UFC.  He hasn’t exactly dominated his competition in the WSOF, and he was losing to Luiz Firmino at WSOF 34 before being awarded a TKO win via doctor stoppage.  Just because I enjoy watching non-UFC MMA, I’d sort of like to see Gaethje get matched up against former Bellator champion Will Brooks at some point because I think it’d be pretty unique to see two fighters who were champions in high profile organizations outside of the UFC fight in the UFC.
  • I say it enough that it sounds cliché when I say it, but nothing will surprise me tomorrow in the Anthony Joshua/Wladimir Klitschko fight.  Having said that, if I was being forced to bet I would be tempted to put my money on Joshua.  Perhaps Klitschko has found a fountain of youth leading into the fight tomorrow night, but based on the way he looked against Bryant Jennings and Tyson Fury, coupled with the fact that he’s also 17 months older now than he was when he fought Fury, I think time has passed Klitschko by and I expect to see Joshua retain his IBF title and claim the vacant WBA title tomorrow.  Now with that in mind, I really don’t have a preference who wins tomorrow just as long as a Klitschko victory doesn’t mean we have to see a rematch with Kubrat Pulev, a guy who Klitschko ran over in 5 rounds back in 2014.  I’m not confident enough to predict how I think Joshua will win tomorrow, but I think he does win.  Maybe not in absolute dominant fashion, but in a way that leaves no doubt as to who the better fighter is right now.

Buckley Blog Bits – April 26, 2017

  • As I’ve mentioned in past blog articles, I’ve greatly curtailed my social media usage over the past few months. About 10 days ago, I took the plunge and actually deleted my Twitter account after barely using it (at least compared to my previous standards) for the last 2-3 months.  The one big takeaway I’ve had from not having a Twitter account at all, which was my sole social media outlet, is how much I feel that it’s actually enhanced the quality of my social relationships.  No longer can I, or my friends, simply just tweet at one another or comment on someone’s tweet.  Now either I, or my friends, have to take the extra effort to actually text me or even call to talk, and to be honest I really enjoy that.  I also enjoy keeping my life a bit more private for the time being.  Maybe one day I’ll return to Twitter, because it is a great source to use for getting news in real-time, but for the time being I’m enjoying the lack of distractions that it can also bring.  Overall, I just feel like I’m more productive without devoting time to social media.
  • Seeing former boxing heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis give his analysis of the upcoming Anthony Joshua/Wladimir Klitschko fight really makes me wish we could have seen a prime Lewis versus a prime Klitschko because they are easily two of the best heavyweights of the last 15-20 years. In 2003 we got to see Lewis fight Wladimir’s older brother Vitali, a fight in which Vitali was winning after six rounds before the doctor at ringside stopped the fight due to damage to Vitali’s eye.  Unfortunately, Lewis retired right after that so we never did get to see a rematch, while Vitali went on to claim the vacant lineal championship before retiring in 2005, ultimately leading the way for Wladimir to rule the heavyweight division.
  • I read that lineal boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury wants to return to the ring in July, and that he’d like to fight WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. While I said in yesterday’s blog post that I’d like to see Fury fight the winner of Joshua/Klitschko, I’m okay with Fury fighting Wilder first.  Last year, a fight between Fury and Wilder would have crowned practically the closest thing we’ve had to a true unified and undisputed champion in years, as Fury had just won the WBA, IBF, and WBO versions of the heavyweight championship while Wilder holds the WBC title (Fury later vacated the IBF title for not fighting their mandated challenger, Vyacheslav Glazkov).  While Fury has since been forced to vacate his other championships, he’s still the lineal champion and I’d really like to see him face a recognized champion such as Wilder instead of the other rumored opponent in Manuel Charr because it would be a much more prestigious bout for the lineal title.
  • I suppose some of you have been waiting for me to comment on the Toronto Blue Jays slow start, so I’ll say this: I think the team is far better than their 6-14 record indicates, and if the offense hadn’t been so stagnant and underperforming for the first 3 weeks of the season, they’d be closer to 10-10 or better right now.  It’s not as if they’re getting blown out every night, which is evident by the 7 one-run losses they’ve had thus far.  If they can finish April on a high note (such as possibly winning multiple games in a row for once) and can get off to a hot start in May, I think they’ll be just fine.  I didn’t expect them to make the playoffs in 2017, but I did expect them to at least finish above .500, which I still think is feasible.

Buckley Blog Bits – April 25, 2017

I’m pretty excited for the Anthony Joshua/Wladimir Klitschko fight this weekend.  The fight is for Joshua’s IBF version of the heavyweight championship, as well as the vacant WBA version as well.  While Tyson Fury is still the lineal “man who beat the man who beat the man” champion, he hasn’t fought since defeating Klitschko in November 2015 and by the looks of things he isn’t returning to the ring anytime soon for one reason or another.  So personally, I’m going to consider the winner of the Joshua/Klitschko fight as the “interim” lineal heavyweight champion.

I’ve casually followed boxing since I was a kid, having seen such heavyweights as Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko, Evander Holyfield, and most recently Wladimir Klitschko rule the division.  I saw a news outlet recently refer to the fight this weekend as the biggest heavyweight fight in years, and while I initially disagreed because the true lineal championship isn’t on the line, the more I’ve thought about it the more I have to agree with it.

This is the first time in my time as a boxing fan where I can really recall Wladimir Klitschko entering the ring as the underdog.  Also, the last time I really recall a heavyweight championship fight receiving this much publicity (as well as my personal interest) was when Wladimir Klitschko fought David Haye for the WBA, WBO, IBF, The Ring magazine, and lineal versions of the title back in July 2011.  Furthermore, there’s going to be 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium to witness this live in person this weekend. Saturday night really has all the ingredients of a historical matchup.

While I’ve seen that the WBA would like the winner of Joshua/Klitschko to face Luis Ortiz, an I’ve seen that the IBF would like the winner to face Kubrat Pulev, I’d prefer the winner fight Tyson Fury.  But of course, that seems unlikely at the moment, and to be honest I’d really like to see the winner of Saturday’s fight face the WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder to further unify the heavyweight championships.  But given the choice between Ortiz and Pulev, I’d like to see Ortiz get the next major title shot.  He’s 27-0, and he has a big knockout win over Bryant Jennings, a fighter who Klitschko struggled against in 2015.  Furthermore, Pulev had his shot at the lineal title against Klitschko in 2014 and was knocked out in the fifth round, so in the interest of seeing a new challenger, I’d like to see the WBA’s mandated challenger Luis Ortiz get the next title shot if it’s not going to be Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder.

I still haven’t decided who I’m cheering for on Saturday.  On one hand, you have the legend in Wladimir Klitscho.  On the other hand, you have the rising young star in Anthony Joshua.  It sounds corny, but I really just want to see a classic fight on Saturday night without controversy.

All in all, I really wish I was making the trip to England for the fight.