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.

Buckley Blog Bits – May 26, 2017

  • I’m not a huge fan of the UFC making a lot of interim title fights over the past year (personally, I don’t even consider the interim title to be a real title; I look at it as a number one contender label), but I do like the UFC scheduling Yoel Romero versus Robert Whittaker. However, I really would’ve preferred to see Romero fight Gegard Mousasi, but that wasn’t going to happen with Mousasi currently exploring free agency and reportedly being unhappy with the UFC’s latest contract offer.  Hopefully the UFC keeps Mousasi, and fellow free agent Souza around, otherwise both of them would be major coups for Bellator and would leave the UFC’s middleweight division looking pretty thin.
  • I love the idea of UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson defending the title against ex-bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. With the exception of Ray Borg, Johnson has practically cleaned out the flyweight division and I think someone like Dillashaw would be a great challenge for Johnson and this really would be a superfight in my opinion, even if it’s not a champion versus champion affair.
  • I’ve been reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and I’m really enjoying it.  So much so that I received the book 4 days ago and should be able to finish it tonight.  While I don’t want to give away too much in order to be fair to the author, I’ll say that this book has really shifted the way I think about people who are successful.  Furthermore, it also supports the idea that I’ve had that successful people really aren’t that much better than the rest of the population – they just had a certain skill or trait that separated them from the rest of the pack, which gave them an opportunity of which they capitalized on.  When you really think about it, anyone can be successful, it’s just a matter of finding that unique opportunity.

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 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 – March 24, 2017

  • 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.

My Most Notable Fan Moments

I got talking to a fan sitting in front of me at a UFC event over the weekend, and he asked me how many events I’d been to previously.  When I told him this was my seventh UFC event I’ve attended, he asked me which other ones I attended, and which one was my favorite.  Interestingly enough, while I have told people that UFC 140 was my favorite event to attend, I never actually have really taken the time to think about the various individual memorable moments that I’ve seen firsthand.  So I decided to reflect on the various UFC events I’ve attended (UFC 97, UFC 140, UFC 152, UFC 159, UFC 169, UFC 203, and UFC Fight Night 102) and share some of the milestones I can say that I witnessed firsthand.

  • Anderson Silva sets the UFC record for most consecutive victories. While the main event of UFC 97 between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites was far from the most exciting main event in the history of the UFC, that night in April 2009 in Montreal saw Silva win his ninth consecutive win in the UFC, a record he would ultimately extend to sixteen.
  • Frank Mir breaks Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s arm. While I’m not exactly a fan of fighters suffering gruesome injuries, this is a pretty famous or infamous moment in the UFC’s history.  Mir had applied a kimura to Nogueira, and Nogueira didn’t tap before Mir broke his arm that night in Toronto in December 2011.  Needless to say, witnessing it live in person and taking a brief glance at the jumbotron immediately after to see the replay was enough for me, and five years later I still haven’t quite gotten myself to watch the replay of that moment.
  • Demetrious Johnson wins the flyweight title, and begins his reign of dominance. It’s crazy how I had no clue what the world of MMA was in for when Johnson won the inaugural flyweight title that night in Toronto back in September 2012.  It almost seemed like a good portion of the crowd didn’t even care for the flyweight championship bout (a small corner of the arena even started a “fuck this weight class!” chant at one point during the fight).  But Johnson beat Joe Benavidez that night, and has since defended the flyweight title nine times and has become arguably the best fighter in the world today.
  • Jon Jones ties Tito Ortiz’s record for light heavyweight title defenses. I was there that night in Newark in April 2013 when Jones tied Ortiz’s record of five title defenses.  It was a bittersweet moment for me, as Ortiz is my favorite fighter of all-time, but getting to see Jones defend his belt for a record setting fifth time was a cool moment to see live and in person.  In fact, that night marked the third time I had seen Jones defend his title, as I had previously seen him defeat Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 and Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 before taking down Chael Sonnen at UFC 159.
  • CM Punk makes his UFC debut. Of course not everyone looks back on this experiment fondly, but CM Punk was my favorite active wrestler on the WWE roster at the time of his departure from the world of pro wrestling.  But I had mixed emotions to see him compete in the UFC.  Sure, it’d be cool to see him try real fighting, but at the same time I feel his presence can delegitimize the UFC.  Regardless, being there firsthand for this was incredible, even if Punk did lose in just over two minutes.
  • Stipe Miocic defends the heavyweight title in his hometown. This moment was even more incredible than seeing CM Punk make his UFC debut.  Stipe Miocic, a native of Cleveland, made his first title defense in Cleveland against my favorite heavyweight of all-time, Alistair Overeem.  Of course I put a muzzle on cheering for Overeem since the last thing I needed was to incite the partisan crowd.  Seeing Overeem nearly snatch the belt away from Miocic, and then watching Miocic knock Overeem out and listening to the roar of the crowd was probably one of the most surreal moments in my time as a sports fan.  The place absolutely came unglued, and this particular moment might actually be my all-time favorite moment to have been a part of in person.