By In Social Media

Lightweight’s Best-Case Scenario

I don’t recommend paying any sort of attention to my fight predictions. I don’t gamble, so my picks are always low-stakes. As such, I tend to make them using one of two criteria. Either I have a strong analytical reason for thinking one fighter will win, or I would simply prefer one fighter to win, even if I don’t think he or she will.

I picked Justin Gaethje to beat Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 158 on Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia. He fulfilled both criteria. His penchant for working the body and Cerrone’s history of wilting via body shots made me think he’d finish the fight, and frankly, it was the best-case scenario for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight division. That’s not a dig on “Cowboy.” He’s one of the most widely beloved and uniquely intriguing fighters in the sport’s history. He’s not only entertaining but also incredibly skilled. No doubt, he’ll go down as one of the best fighters to never win a championship — emphasis on that last part.

Had Cerrone won, it would have added a new dimension to his already remarkable career. The old dog would have proved that he still had bite, or something. Yet there’s no denying that he’s past the point of being able to compete with the top of the division. He already lost decisively to Tony Ferguson, and it’s not hard to guess what Khabib Nurmagomedov would do to him. Throw in Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, and it’s clear he’s a notch below the best of the best. At 36 years of age, Cerrone’s window for winning a title is almost certainly closed. Beating Gaethje wouldn’t have meant he was ready for the lightweight elite; it just would have meant that Gaethje wasn’t, either. That may be a sad reality to accept, but there’s a bright side: Gaethje won…

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By In Social Media

A Different Kind of Dominance

Lightweight has always been one of the most — if not the most — talent-rich divisions. There are way more lightweight-sized athletes in the general population, and a higher percentage of them end up fighting because, especially in America, they’re too small to cut it in the most profitable sports. Heavyweight and lightweight thus have a great deal of parity, albeit on opposite ends of the talent spectrum. Yes, there are other factors at play, such as the prevalence of interim champions at heavyweight and the five-year moratorium of the lightweight division, but those are neither contradictory nor worth the digressions for this space.

At UFC 242 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nurmagomedov notched his second title defense with yet another lopsided mauling. The Dagestani has made outstanding fighters look like warmups and is now one win away from tying the record of three lightweight title defenses. B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson all share that record, but even now, Nurmagomedov has already set himself apart from those three…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Why Do We Interview Fighters?

Rarely is it a good sign when those who report the news become the news. 

On August 23rd, Conor McGregor appeared on ESPN for some damage control. Footage of McGregor punching a 50-year-old man in a pub in April started to make the rounds online, and as such, the former two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder needed a helping hand to rehabilitate his public image. Enter ESPN’s Ariel Helwani.

Helwani is the most prominent media member in MMA and works for the biggest media brand in all of sports, so it was sensible for McGregor to seek out this platform. However, there’s more to it than just good sense. Helwani also happens to be king of the media softball league, known more for cozying up to fighters and managers than for any substantive journalistic effort. For McGregor, who in the last two and a half years has inflicted more violence outside of competition than inside of it, Helwani was the best possible sparring partner to make him look good since Paulie Malignaggi…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Everybody Sucks, and Other Reasons to be Patient

Describing anything as patient is usually a backhanded compliment. Patience is a good thing, of course, but it’s also a common euphemism for boring. If a date describes you to their friends as “patient,” it probably doesn’t bode well for your romantic future. Nobody wants to watch a football team that plays a “patient” brand of offense, let alone a “patient” fight. Patience is fundamentally unsexy, as virtues tend to be. This is a cage fight; shoot all the just-bleed vices directly into my veins.

Yet UFC 241 on Saturday in Anaheim, California, gave us plenty of reason to appreciate the different ways in which patience can present itself in the fight business…

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By In Social Media

Colby Covington Knows What He’s Doing

Colby Covington is perhaps the greatest Rorschach test in the Ultimate Fighting Championship today. Fans of his see him as a Making America Great Again patriot dunking on the nerds and virgins of the world; detractors see him as a corny caricature who thinks being annoying is the same as being alpha. Some love him for his toughness and tenacity in the cage, while others loathe him for his inability to finish fights. Regardless, people seem to love and hate him for the same reasons, and whatever you think of him probably says a lot more about you than it does about him.

This gives Covington a veneer of complexity, but in reality, he’s one of the most straightforward and simple fighters to understand. He’s an astute observer of what makes fighters successful, both in and out of the cage, and he has dedicated himself to realizing those traits to the fullness of his potential…

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