Did you miss me final week?
(Do not reply. I do know.)
I missed you, too. Loads.
And what a time to be again.
Now we have an excellent Helwani Present lined up for Monday, there is a new middleweight king within the UFC, and this week’s slate of MMA motion is immense.
In actual fact, this can be a type of uncommon weekends when UFC, Bellator, ONE, PFL, Rizin and Cage Warriors all maintain occasions.
The UFC card this weekend in Tampa, Florida — headlined by an essential strawweight battle between former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Michelle Waterson — is plenty of enjoyable.
Saturday’s UFC Combat Night time predominant occasion options two of the preferred ladies on the roster, with strawweights Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Michelle Waterson squaring off in Tampa, Florida. Within the co-main occasion, Kron Gracie will look to go 2-Zero within the Octagon when he faces veteran Cub Swanson.
UFC Combat Night time: Joanna vs. Waterson
• Saturday, Tampa, Florida
• Prelims: ESPN+, 5 p.m. ET
• Major card: ESPN+, eight p.m. ET
Subscribe to ESPN+ to get unique stay UFC occasions, weigh-ins and extra; Ariel and the Dangerous Man; Dana White’s Contender Sequence; and extra unique MMA content material.
It additionally options Kron Gracie’s extremely anticipated sophomore UFC struggle vs. Cub Swanson, the return of Mackenzie Dern after the start of her daughter, James Vick’s welterweight debut and extra.
Additionally of observe, ONE Championship celebrates its 100th occasion with a two-part card that includes over 20 fights whole this weekend.
By no means a uninteresting second in MMA, proper?
However earlier than we get to all that, listed here are some ideas on the week that was in MMA:
There have been 90 title adjustments in UFC historical past.
Some have simply come and gone in our minds, byproducts of maybe an unexciting struggle or a fighter we simply weren’t emotionally invested in. It occurs.
However longtime followers can undoubtedly keep in mind when the large ones occurred. Everyone knows the place we had been when:
You get the purpose.
Nicely, now we will add Israel Adesanya beating Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 to that record. And you understand what? I might put it fairly excessive up, too.
All of it went Adesanya’s manner Saturday. If we’re being sincere, it has been going his manner ever since he debuted a yr and a half in the past at UFC 221 (nonetheless cannot consider his debut was in February 2018).
I keep in mind debating with Chael Sonnen final summer time whether or not they had been pushing him too quick after they booked him towards Brad Tavares in his third struggle. I assumed they had been. Boy, was I improper on that one.
Fact is, the UFC has dealt with Adesanya’s run completely up to now. Not since McGregor has it constructed somebody up so nicely. And never since McGregor has somebody made such an affect so rapidly. And sure, you are most likely rolling your eyes on the McGregor comparability as a result of it is the hip factor to do lately, however it’s probably the most apt one. When’s the final time somebody not named McGregor made an affect like this so rapidly? (And no, Brock Lesnar would not depend as a result of he was already a star in WWE and was gifted a title shot when he was simply 1-1 within the UFC.)
So, again to Saturday. The walkout, the prefight theatrics, the primary spherical, the end within the second, the postfight interview … he nailed each step. Adesanya walked on the market like a person who had already seen the film we had been all on the point of look ahead to the primary time. It is like he was so positive about how this was all going to play that he was capable of dance and smile from starting to finish. It was marvelous.
You’ve got seen @stylebender’s #UFC243 walkout, however here is a better look 👀 pic.twitter.com/zOXI6QYXBB
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 6, 2019
Bear in mind earlier than his debut when he walked into the cage and mimicked urinating in it like a canine claiming his turf? Bear in mind how some thought that was a bit crude? Like, who does this man assume he’s? Seems he had each proper to do this. And you understand what? I hope we see extra of that from Adesanya. I welcome somebody who’s prepared to march to the beat of his personal drum — to hell with the haters.
What’s additionally enjoyable about Adesanya is he talks and acts like a fan. He subtly mentions well-known MMA traces when chatting with the media, like GSP’s “I am not impressed,” or casually references memes and TV exhibits that go over this 37-year-old’s head.
He’s enjoyable and a breath of recent air. He is simply what the physician ordered proper now for the UFC. Better of all, he appears grounded and comes from a loving household that seems to have an excellent affect on his life.
Time will inform how the Adesanya period will play out. Lord is aware of we have been responsible of getting too excited a few title reign solely to see it final one or two fights. However one thing tells me Adesanya’s run can be completely different. It has been distinctive from the leap, and I do not see that altering anytime quickly.
Now, title adjustments are enjoyable, however they’re much more enjoyable once we already know who’s subsequent. And within the case of Adesanya, we all know it is Paulo Costa, the right foil for Adesanya proper now. That entire scene after the struggle was straight out of 1980s professional wrestling, and that’s just about the most effective praise I might give it. It was chic. I really like the warmth between these two. I really like how Costa’s disdain for Adesanya is forcing him to enhance his English day by day and the way Adesanya mocks him. The buildup to that struggle can be nice, and whereas I do not assume it will occur in January, as Adesanya urged Saturday night time, hopefully we’ll get it within the first quarter of 2020.
And do not get me began on a possible struggle towards Jon Jones someday. I do know we’re a minimum of a yr or two earlier than that may (or must be) thought of, however man, would that be a spectacle. That’s slowly beginning to develop into my No. 1 dream match that at the moment would not really feel near occurring however I hope sometime will occur. May you think about the hype for that struggle? Sheesh.
A story of two years
I feel this yr began off slowly for the UFC, and the timing wasn’t nice, what with the debut on ESPN and all.
Henry Cejudo-TJ Dillashaw ended too rapidly. The January pay-per-view acquired canceled due to an absence of a predominant occasion; Whittaker pulled out of UFC 234 hours earlier than the occasion; UFC 236, which featured two nice fights, earned the doubtful distinction of being the primary card headlined by two interim title fights; Rose Namajunas misplaced and hinted at retirement. … It simply appeared like a little bit of a down yr, particularly when it comes to star-making moments.
However I might say issues have modified dramatically within the second half of the yr, and hastily, there is a good crop of champions percolating on the roster:
Israel Adesanya: See above. Khabib Nurmagomedov: a large star internationally. Jon Jones: the king nonetheless attracts. Colby Covington: We’ll see how he does on Dec. 14, however there isn’t any denying he is acquired nuclear warmth proper now. Henry Cejudo: has carried out an excellent job of constructing himself up throughout his time without work. Max Holloway: actually coming into his personal however has a troublesome take a look at on Dec. 14. Amanda Nunes: the best feminine fighter ever. Zhang Weili: the face of Chinese language MMA. Valentina Shevchenko: a budding star, particularly again residence in Jap Europe.
And that does not embody the (hopefully) returning Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal Tony Ferguson, Stipe Miocic (who’s at the moment nursing an eye fixed harm) … See what I imply? That is great things. All in all, I feel the longer term is shiny for the UFC, and the times of two interim title fights on a card ought to hopefully be a factor of the previous.
Nigeria, get up
Nigerian excellence 🇳🇬 #UFC243 (through @USMAN84kg) pic.twitter.com/GaT7PkiMgc
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 7, 2019
How about Nigeria? Who might have predicted that the African nation would produce two UFC champions on the identical time? In actual fact, how about this nugget: Nigeria is now the primary nation not named the U.S. or Brazil to have two UFC champions on the identical time. Fairly outstanding.
The warmth is on
I plan on speaking about this on as we speak’s present, however with awards season arising, I really feel like we’re about to have an actual powerful choice on our arms for Male Fighter of the 12 months, particularly if Masvidal beats Nathan Diaz subsequent month. You’ve got acquired Adesanya, Masvidal and Cejudo as the primary candidates, and all excellent ones, too. Cejudo may lose as a result of he may have fought solely twice this yr and each of these fights had been within the first half of the yr, however they had been each extremely spectacular wins. Then you will have Masvidal, who has reinvented himself with (up to now) two superb performances. After which, in fact, Adesanya. I might make a really sturdy case for all three. And the way about Coach of the 12 months? How do you determine between Eugene Bareman of Metropolis Kickboxing and Eric Albarracin, head coach for Cejudo, Patricio Pitbull (Bellator’s double champ), Paulo Costa and others? Powerful selections.
The agony of defeat
Robert Whittaker ideas his cap to Israel Adesanya, calling him “artful,” and says he is not going anyplace anytime quickly. For extra UFC, enroll right here for ESPN+: plus.espn.com/ufc.
I’ve stated this earlier than, however I must repeat it once more: Nothing impresses me greater than when MMA fighters deal with a very powerful defeat with grace and sophistication. I am such a sucker for this. After all, we hate to see these women and men at their lowest, however repeatedly they amaze with the best way wherein they can be sincere, reflective and fashionable in defeat.
Whittaker, as one would count on, was all that after which some Saturday night time. It was clear he was hurting inside. How might he not be? His title reign got here and went with out an official profitable protection (Yoel Romero is responsible for that, however alas) and was affected by unhealthy luck and well being issues. But, right here he was in entrance of 50,000-plus followers with an opportunity to cement his place among the many greats of this sport. As a substitute, he fell in his adopted residence nation … and he fell laborious. However there he was within the aftermath, gracious as ever. Inspirational as ever. Fact is, the truth that he was even capable of struggle simply eight months after struggling a collapsed bowel is fairly darn inspirational in its personal proper, however simply seeing him deal with a heartbreaking loss like that was so admirable. Fortunately the poor sports activities are anomalies lately. For all of the speak of the cash struggle period, there is not sufficient discuss the truth that MMA champions have realized to deal with defeat higher than most athletes on the planet. We have all seen the footage of the impolite athlete giving quick solutions after a loss that will not essentially outline their legacy. They only misplaced a group sport. In MMA, this may ceaselessly be a blemish on Whittaker’s file. But there he was, going through the music and doing so with a smile. Respect to him.
Shoot your shot
“Dustin Poirier, I’ll smash your face in… I’ll finish you.” 👀@danthehangman retains it quick and easy after his #UFC243 win pic.twitter.com/oHQNhymK3q
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 6, 2019
Dan Hooker regarded phenomenal in his win over Al Iaquinta. His recreation plan was flawless. It felt like Iaquinta might by no means actually get going. However afterward, he raised eyebrows when he stated this:
“Dustin Poirier, I’ll smash your face in. Meet me in New Zealand, 2020, and I’ll finish you!”
Now, the second this occurred, I had a bunch of individuals tweet me one thing alongside the traces of, “What did you consider that callout?” Or, “You have to be fairly pleased with that, proper?” That is as a result of I gave a tutorial on the artwork of the callout on final week’s ESPN MMA Snapchat present (low-cost plug), and Hooker just about did all the pieces I stated you must do in that second. I stated I dislike when fighters simply go away the “What’s subsequent?” query as much as the UFC, as a result of historical past has proven if you happen to shoot your shot, good issues occur. Simply ask Nathan Diaz.
Now, there’s something known as overshooting your shot, too. Kevin Lee did that years in the past when he known as out Khabib Nurmagomedov. It did not work. And that is what Hooker did final night time. I might be shocked if he will get Poirier subsequent, however hey, now he is being mentioned in the identical breath as a man who simply fought for the belt. Poirier even tweeted about him. He will get the rub simply by calling him out, and now they’re in the identical orbit. See how that works? Excessive marks throughout for “Hangman.”
Listed here are just a few extra issues I beloved about UFC 243:
I beloved Adesanya’s walkout. Have we seen extra elaborate ones in MMA historical past? Completely. However I beloved that it was completely different and represented who he’s and what he is all about. Can we please have extra of that? Enjoyable is sweet. Completely different is sweet. Not each occasion or walkout must look the identical.
I beloved that factor he did earlier than the struggle the place he pretended to jot down one thing in a e book. Do I’ve any concept the place that’s from? No. I feel I am too outdated. But it surely was nice showmanship. Love that stuff.
I beloved how Adesanya gave his belt to his mother upon profitable.
I beloved the enjoyment on Adesanya’s father’s face when he greeted his son within the cage.
I beloved that shirt Costa was carrying and that he was flanked by his coach Eric Albarracin, who’s become one thing of a cross between Bobby Heenan and Greg Jackson.
I beloved seeing Megan Anderson have her finest efficiency within the UFC in her residence nation of Australia. Anderson has stated she’s handled shallowness points and anxiousness, so to see her carry out that nicely — in what was her first struggle in Australia in virtually 5 years — was particular.
I beloved watching that Brad Riddell-Jamie Mullarkey struggle. Riddell is one thing of a Muay Thai icon out of New Zealand and one other Metropolis Kickboxing product. What a solution to struggle in his debut. What coronary heart.
I beloved that walk-off knockout by Yorgan de Castro. It was Mark Hunt-esque towards a Mark Hunt protégé. The UFC appears to have one thing with the undefeated de Castro (6-Zero), who additionally works as a safety guard at Durfee Excessive in Fall River, Massachusetts. Hope these college students give him a pleasant, heat welcome in his return to work.
I beloved the promo that aired for the Michelle Waterson vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk struggle this weekend.
I beloved the truth that Rostem Akman is pleased with his full physique hair armor.
I beloved that Daniel Cormier referenced WrestleMania three on the finish of the printed. If there’s one factor this week taught us, it is the similarities between MMA and professional wrestling are alive and nicely, and I really like that Cormier is not afraid to make that connection.
Talking of which …
After Brock Lesnar wins the WWE championship, Cain Velasquez confronts him within the ring and takes him down.
I very a lot loved seeing Cain Velasquez on WWE SmackDown on Friday night time. As you could know, there have been rumblings all week lengthy that he would seem on both WWE tv or for the upstart AEW promotion. However to really see Velasquez — who has competed in solely two professional wrestling matches — seem to confront his outdated UFC 121 foe Brock Lesnar was a bit surreal. I suppose it felt like that since this profession renaissance looks like it has come out of nowhere and since Velasquez was by no means thought of a charismatic man whereas within the UFC. In actual fact, that at all times appeared to be the knock on him. “Yeah, he is nice,” critics would say, “however he has no character.” Nicely, guess what? He is now on the verge of a WWE run.
Now, can I play armchair booker for a second? I assumed they botched his debut. I might have had Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik run in to precise revenge on Lesnar after he received the WWE title. After which I might have had Lesnar beat them up actually unhealthy once more. And solely then would I’ve Velasquez crash the ring to interrupt it up and save his pals. I feel that will have been so much higher than him simply strolling down the ramp with Mysterio. I assumed Lesnar’s “I’ve simply seen a ghost face” was stable, however I want it was a bit extra dramatic. Nit-picking, I do know.
So, is that this the top of Velasquez’s UFC profession? Possibly. He hasn’t closed the door publicly on a return, however it would not look like we’ll see him again anytime quickly. I do not get the sense he is itching to come back again quickly, both. He is loving each minute of this. And when you think about how poorly this yr began for him, it is good to see him blissful once more.
The most effective insider within the sport, Ariel Helwani, and finest character, Chael Sonnen, break down the MMA weekend and look forward to the largest playing cards. Watch on ESPN+
Saturday marked the three-year anniversary of former UFC fighter Josh Samman’s loss of life. Samman was one of many nicest folks I’ve ever met overlaying fights. He was an open e book who wore his ideas and feelings on his sleeve. Sadly, he died from what the Broward County, Florida, health worker described as a possible drug overdose. Samman was an interesting man who appreciated to jot down and likewise helped run an area promotion in Florida. He died at 28 — far too younger. His household and pals are maintaining his legacy alive with the Josh Samman Basis, which helps help younger fighters and get their careers off the bottom. It is a great concept that has helped many fighters up to now. Josh was a visitor on my present as soon as, and we texted once in a while afterward. I actually appreciated him so much. His final textual content to me got here after we noticed one another at a UFC occasion in Florida in April 2016. “Good working into you tonight,” he wrote. “Hope you’re having fun with our state. Catch up subsequent week?” I wrote again, “Nice seeing you too, man. Deal!” Sadly, that catch-up by no means occurred for one cause or one other, and I remorse that.
Hear and there
Does anybody journey to extra UFC occasions than Henry Cejudo? My phrase. … Sergio Pettis is a free agent. I will not be stunned if ONE makes a robust run to signal him. Pettis vs. Demetrious Johnson is a stable struggle. … Kevin Lee vs. Gregor Gillespie is a high-quality struggle — and UFC 244 has actually come collectively properly, not like final yr’s MSG card — however I want Lee would have caught round at 170 longer. I do not assume it is wholesome for him to chop to 155.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, proper, defeated Conor McGregor a yr in the past, however the rowdy scene after the struggle is what MMA followers can be speaking about for years to come back. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/Getty Pictures
Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor. Often I wish to commemorate struggle anniversaries, however not this one. This struggle introduced out the worst in each males, and I do not keep in mind a lot of it fondly, from the buildup to the precise struggle to the aftermath. The struggle itself was truly entertaining, however it seems like a footnote within the story of this feud at this level.
As a substitute, let’s have fun one other anniversary, lets? Oct. four marked the 11-year anniversary of Seth Petruzelli’s inconceivable win over Kimbo Slice in Dawn, Florida. Now that could be a night time I am going to always remember.
As you could recall, Slice, then the face of the upstart EliteXC promotion, was initially scheduled to struggle Ken Shamrock that night time. Hours earlier than the occasion was set to air on CBS, I acquired phrase one thing was up with Shamrock and that he is likely to be out of the struggle. That might be disastrous, I keep in mind considering. By the point I acquired to the world, I used to be listening to extra whispers that Shamrock was out. I lastly confirmed that he had formally withdrawn due to a lower above his eye a couple of minutes earlier than the cardboard was about to start out, and that Petruzelli, the previous UFC veteran who was scheduled to compete on the undercard, was getting bumped as much as struggle Slice on an hour’s discover. I used to be very excited to get this scoop as a result of I used to be within the embryonic levels of my MMA reporting profession, so this was fairly huge for me. I keep in mind writing the story for the late, nice MMARated.com whereas sitting on press row subsequent to the opposite media in attendance. Again then, Twitter wasn’t actually a factor, so I had no manner of getting the phrase out in regards to the massive story aside from to electronic mail each media outlet I might consider. I keep in mind sending that electronic mail and sitting again, simply ready to see what the response could be. Seconds later, slowly however certainly, I noticed a bunch of the media members have a look at me, go searching and frantically begin going to work. I keep in mind feeling fairly proud in that second. Nothing boosts a younger reporter’s confidence fairly like a juicy scoop, and I keep in mind feeling particularly cool when the voice of EliteXC, the nice Mauro Ranallo, quietly got here as much as me to provide me props on the inside track.
You already know what occurred subsequent: Petruzelli knocked out Slice in 14 seconds, and EliteXC by no means placed on one other present. A kind of wild nights that you’re going to always remember if you happen to lived it. Identical to the night time Israel Adesanya made good on his promise to develop into UFC champion. (See how that each one tied collectively?)
Monday’s Helwani Present lineup:
The undefeated Mackenzie Dern will struggle for the primary time since final Could on Saturday. AP Picture/Leo Correa
1 p.m. ET: Weekend recap
1:25 p.m.: Jared Cannonier will look again at his latest win over Jack Hermansson and focus on what’s subsequent.
1:45 p.m.: Mackenzie Dern will preview this weekend’s struggle towards Amanda Ribas
2:05 p.m.: Legendary boxer Mike Tyson will cease by to speak about his many tasks and the state of the struggle recreation.
2:35 p.m.: Miesha Tate will preview this weekend ONE Championship 100 occasion.
three p.m.: Max Holloway will look forward to his title struggle towards Alex Volkanovski at UFC 245.
three:20 p.m.: Bellator’s Jake Hager will focus on making his AEW debut final week and his subsequent Bellator struggle later this month.
three:35 p.m.: Brad Riddell will discuss his action-packed UFC debut on Saturday night time.
three:50 p.m.: Dan Hooker will replicate on his win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 245 and discuss what’s subsequent.
four:05 p.m.: New undisputed UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will look again on his win over Robert Whittaker and discuss his future.