Clearly, Jon Jones Is Really Tired of the Media Stunts

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After Alexander Gustafsson decided to poke the bear late last week and tease UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones about an injury the champ sustained in training, Jon Jones was quick to respond.  Jones, in typical Jones fashion, decided to take the opportunity to address how he was not only focused on his next opponent, Daniel Cormier, but that he was tired of the media shenanigans.

Of course that was 24 hours ago.

Today, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier decided to fight for free, well ahead of their UFC 178 matchup in September.  Wrapping up a media Q&A in the lobby of the MGM Grand to promote the fight, Cormier and Jones took to the stage for the cameras to carry out the age-old staredown photo-op, when Jones decided a face-off simply wasn’t enough and that he wanted to be in Cormier.  Head-to-head became literal and then exchanged shoving, and soon fists, were the order of the day. MMA Fighting captured the entirety of the brawl here, where Jones showed that his commitment to stopping “media stunts” is about as consistent as everything else he does outside of the cage.

Of course the most telling aspect of the pre-fight fight comes when Jones, pleased with the carnage, stood a top a nearby podium amid the public he and Cormier almost put in danger and crowed, loudly and intensely as only a man who abhors media tomfoolery can be.

Growl! via MMAFighting.com

Growl! via MMAFighting.com

And of course, Bones Jones couldn’t simply let the dust-up speak for itself and took to Twitter to needle Cormier.

Cormier went on to respond to Jones’s taunt via Twitter (presumably after he was able to locate his shoe).  Now, it stands to reason that the Nevada State Athletic Commission will likely review the incident, but the bigger issue may be that the fight spilled into the general audience.  All it takes is one person to to file suit, and suddenly, Cormier and Jones are taking on civil litigation instead of exchanging fisticuffs.

With that, a highly-anticipated fight for UFC 178 suddenly became much bigger. Nothing, however, captures the moment from the perspective of the UFC brass quite like UFC PR Director Dave Sholler in this shot:

ShollerWhat’s the over/under for when the mea culpas begin to be issued?

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FIGHT PICKS – UFC 172: Barao VS. Dillashaw

Who are these guys?

Remember when UFC 173 was earmarked for a Chris Weidman Vitor Belfort showdown?  Then, remember when Nevada put an end to TRT and the clock started for when the UFC would have to find a replacement for Vitor who everyone knew would bow out due to the NSAC’s ruling? Then, do you remember this:

Chris Weidman versus Lyoto Machida became the main event fight fans needed, but not the one the MMA gods thought they deserved, as Weidman also bowed out of the fight electing to get knee surgery.  Then, the mad dash for who could fill the PPV’s shoes started. With the majority of the UFC’s champs out due to injury, who could shoulder the expectations of a PPV in a year where PPV buys have seen a dip?  Joe Silva looked down the line at the UFC roster, pointed a wee finder in the direction of Renan Barao and said, “You’re up.”  Barao’s response:

Make no mistake, this is a challenge for Renan Barao on two fronts.  First, he takes on a salty competitor in TJ Dillashaw who has the wrestling base and pace to make a long night for the champ (who lately doesn’t like to see his fights go past the first few rounds).  More than that, however, Barao is being given the keys to a PPV main event (this time, without a brand name competitor a la Urijah Faber) and is responsible for delivering the goods and bringing in the buys.

Barao is a beast  at 135. Despite the fact he was referred to as the interim champ for almost a year before the term “interim” was rightfully excised, Barao has put on some pretty quality finishes in a division that, while thin, is made up of legit threats.  He’s also put on some quality celebratory dances. His record at 32-1-1 is undeniable, and his skills have been called ruthless, calculating, and vicious.

Yet, he is likely the least known of the UFC’s pantheon of champions.  The chatter leading up to fight week has centered mostly on the UFC’s inability to market Barao on the basis of his record and skills, that they simply don’t translate to the casual MMA fan.  The promotion believes that Barao’s bonafides speak for themselves, and in theory, they should, especially in sports.  Unfortunately, talent doesn’t always equal popularity, and popularity doesn’t guarantee talent. I can’t name you one Katy Perry song, but I know who she is thanks in part to her team of publicists, agents, and marketing coordinators.  How is it then that Barao, who is clearly talented, doesn’t have the notoriety of his fellow champions, especially considering how long it’s been since he last lost a fight?

The fact is, Barao is a killer in the cage.  He’s not a superstar.  And, he shouldn’t have to be. He just needs to keep winning.  The fans will find him.  Because of the way he’s been ending fights his last few outings, I think after this weekend, he’ll be easy to spot. He’ll be the guy with the raised hand… and, probably, doing that dance.

Also Starring…

Aside from an intriguing main, the co-main has a come-hither feel with Daniel Cormier getting the competition he finally deserves at 205 in Dan Henderson.  Make no mistake: this is the fallback to the main for a reason.  Hendo is a legend.  He could have stopped fighting in 2011 after his war with Shogun, and his place in the MMA books would have been more than secured.  But Hendo loves the competition, even if it’s clear the competition is getting away from him.  I don’t want to count Hendo out.  I’ve said as much before.

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Unfortunately, Daniel Cormier is simply the present and future of this sport.  He’s good on his feet, he has phenomenal defense, and his ground work is obviously exceptional.  So many people balked at the notion of DC getting an immediate title shot at 205 simply because he had never fought at 205 (completely oblivious to his maulings of Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, and Bigfoot Silva at 265).  Well, DC critics, after Saturday, there won’t be much of an argument left to stand on.

Whenever two Olympic-caliber wrestlers get together, rest assured they will do anything but wrestle and look  try to out-strike each other.  I see DC being too fast for Hendo and too smart to get lured into a brawl.  DC should be able to dismantle Hendo’s H-Bomb; however, he should be wary of the same spinning back fist that sent Wanderlei to the canvas in Pride.

It’s Clobbering Time!

As if the main and co-mains weren’t enough to get fight fans bobbing in their seats, the Robbie Lawler/Jake Ellenberger matchup is simply a fight fan’s dream and nightmare wrapped up in one.  Lawler and Ellenberger are battle-tested, tough, crowd pleasing, and more than anything else, extremely likeable.  It’s so hard to route against either man. It’s like watching The Thing battle The Hulk.

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Lawler is coming in with a quick turnaround after losing to welterweight champ Johny Hendricks in March.  That short layoff and the fact that Lawler was so close to winning the title could give him the edge he needs. It could influence his pacing, and if he can keep Ellenberger at the end of his jab and turn this into a 15-minute fight, he has a chance, as Ellenberger has shown that when the fights go the distance, he has a tougher time getting the win

All things being equal, however, I see Ellenberger as a small step faster than Lawler and dictating the pace early.  The faster Ellenberger fights, the more dangerous he is.  Also, the fact that he’s used to taking on bigger opponents at 170, like Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields, shows he has the power to brawl with bigger guys like Lawler.

What I predict is that Lawler/Ellenberger will win Fight of the Night honors, hands down.  However because of the competitors involved, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these guys pocket a performance of the night bonus as well.

As always, feel free to come back to ridicule my picks as I am proven wrong.

UFC 175 Will Kill Any Chances of Seeing Hendo & Cormier Star in a Buddy Cop Film

48_Hours

The great Chuck Mindenhall has a nice piece on the immediate reaction to the announcement of Hendo/Cormier at UFC 175. Go read it. Do it.

Mindenhall spends a lot of time discussing the adverse reaction to the fight in terms of people believing Dan Henderson could get hurt (due to age and no TRT, mostly).  When discussing Hendo, his age will always be a red herring, and the history of TRT will always be the first arrow in the quiver that his critics reach for.

I’ve said it before that people count out Hendo to their own detriment.  However, I’m not convinced the reaction to the announcement has to with Hendo’s age as much as it has to do with his last showing against Shogun and the damage he has accumulated.

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For two rounds, Shogun made Hendo look bad.  Like horizontal-stripes-on-a-fat-man bad.  Yes, he rallied back and floored Shogun, and that deserves all the accolades and acclaim he’s received since the fight.  However, some would stop short of saying that performance warrants the title-fight carrot dangling in front of the stick that is Hendo/Cormier.

Critics will argue that Cormier doesn’t deserve that kind of incentive either considering his only fight at 205 was against a former barista.  Everyone should tread lightly, though.  Inviting comparisons against previous opponents is tricky business, and Hendo’s resume speaks for itself.  Cormier’s list of fights is nothing to sneeze at either.  In terms of immediacy, in terms of the present competition, rewarding Cormier makes sense.  At heavyweight, he consistently fought bigger opponents, and his learning curve has been a lot steeper than Hendo’s. By the same token, Hendo is not unfamiliar to fighting within three different weight classes depending on the intrigue of his opponent.   The more you begin to peel away the layers, the more you might notice that Cormier just may have the other half of the amulet Dan Henderson has worn since his career began.  They have similar credentials in just about every area except one: mileage.  Hendo has been doing this longer, has seen more damage, and has had a plethora of injuries.  It’s the mileage that makes people wary of Hendo fighting Cormier.  It’s the mileage that that takes the “paper parity” and sets it under a parakeet cage.

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Objectively, the fight is fine.  I’ll be honest, though, I don’t like the fight from a personal perspective.  It’s not a safety issue for Hendo that makes me wince thinking about Cormier and Hendo locking horns.  It’s an issue that both Hendo and Cormier represent the good guys—the salty veteran; the rookie with an ocean of potential. They are the Riggs and Murtaugh of the 205 class.  They should be stopping  diplomatic villains, not trying to knock each other senseless.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what they will attempt.  That’s what scary.  They will turn off any admiration they have for each other.  They will bury any good will they might have for each other.  They will throw everything they have at each other in order to get the win, especially with a chance for the title on the line.  The fight fan in me respects and admires them for that.  I won’t watch the fight through my hands as Mindenhall suggests, but I’m sure I’ll look similar to this as I watch the battle of the Dans: