Clearly, Jon Jones Is Really Tired of the Media Stunts

DCJJStare

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?

WAR OF THE WORDS: BEST MMA QUOTES – DAY 3

“Jon Jones! Go Check on Lyoto! Get Some Fans!” —Greg Jackson

Jon Jones is the subject of much criticism here at The Donnybrook Report.  He isn’t very vocal about his opponents to the same degree other fighters who can sell a fight are.  But he doesn’t need to either.  Jon Jones wins. Period.  If only he would allow the wins to speak for themselves.

It’s what he says and does outside of cage that leaves some fans putting their hands on their collective heads.  He espouses his faith, going so far as to wear it on his chest, yet he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. His Instagram account was linked to several homophobic remarks, and he attributed that to his phone being hacked.  And then lost.  He’s arrogant and cocky and quick to taunt fans who may criticize what he says and how he says it.  And then he walks back those taunts.  He’s all at once brilliant and maddening, making him hard to ignore.

It’s also why Jones’s connection to fans is taut and fraught with tension.

Enter Fightmaster Greg Jackson, Jones’ s longtime coach and mentor.

During a fight with fan-favorite Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in 2011, Jones viciously choked Machida unconscious. Upon releasing the choke, Machida fell to the floor violently, his eyes and mouth wide open as if something deep inside of Machida was escaping his body in the creepiest of ways.  It was like something out of a Hammer Horror film. And as Machida lie on the mat being attended to by John McCarthy, Jones walked away quietly to the opposite corner, brimming with the most silent of confidence.  He didn’t cartwheel or crow.  He simply walked away. It was cold-blooded and classy all at once.

It was then, that Greg Jackson reached out to Jones, not knowing the mics near the cage were still running hot.  “Jon Jones” he said, “Go check on Lyoto!  Get some fans!

From the outside it was a clear indication that Jon’s own camp is aware of what MMA fans think of the champ.  Or at the least, it was a confirmation that it’s all about appearance for Jones.  Don’t check on Machida because you actually are worried about him.  Check on Machida because the very act could garner some goodwill and you need all the goodwill you can get. Of course it’ a very cynical way to look at things, but given the complexity of Jones’s public persona, it’s not a stretch either.

Jackson later explained that the instructions to the champ were merely shorthand.  And to this day, Jackson and Jones have said nothing critical about Machida, so it’s safe to say that Jackson’s concern was legitimate if not pragmatic.

What makes the quote significant is that it’s clear Jones’s camp is keenly aware of his image. But that’s the problem.  Asking Jones to go get fans is impossible.  You can’t rally them with a cattle prod or with the promise of candy.  The fans have to come to him.  Let Jon Jones be Jon Jones, and in due time, they’ll come in droves.

MMA Accolades: The Face-Palm D’or Award – Week of May 2nd 2014

When MMA athletes, managers, promoters, journalists, and fans assemble online, inevitably, they all say or do something ridiculous. When they do, we at The Donnybrook Report prefer to poke the bear and not leave well enough alone.  To that end, every Friday, we honor the best of the worst offenders that, consciously or unconsciously, make average MMA fans rub their heads in frustration and exhaustion.  It is the weekly Face-Palm D’or Award. And, without further ado, the best of the worst this week:

2nd Runner Up – Ali Abdel -Aziz

He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore! Maybe.

Earlier this week, World Series of Fighting matchmaker Abdel-Aziz reached out to Ariel Helwani to vent about being taken advantage of by the fighters in his organization.

After having to scrap plans for a Rousimar Palhares vs. Jon Fitch match in July because of Palhares having to pull out of the fight, Abdel -Aziz was on the warpath, saying, “I have to put WSOF first and everyone else second. No more Mr. Nice Guy.” Abdel-Aziz then went to Twitter to further the airing of grievances and mimic a scorned teenager with the most passive of aggressive tweets:

Of course when it later came out that Palhares withdrew from his fight with Fitch to care for his ailing mother, Abdel-Aziz walked back his earlier tweet to clarify he wasn’t really talking about Palhares.  He even tried to sound magnanimous in his well wishes to Palhares and his mother.

This isn’t the first time that Abdel-Aziz has taken to twitter to fight for the virtues of the promotion he represents.  Earlier this year, he engaged a disgruntled Josh Burkman and Vinny Magalhaes online when Burkman asked to be released from his WSOF contract. While Abdel-Aziz’s heart is in the right place, he’s going to continue to lose these fights online until the WSOF gets its communication and PR team to issue a standards and practices guide about dealing with the media and social media as a while.  Bottom line, take a tip from Joe Silva. Avoid Twitter.

1st Runner-Up – Wanderlei Silva

I stopped watching this season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil after the episode of the on-set fight between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva took place.  It wasn’t because of the accusations that the fight was a “work”. Really, I just couldn’t take the Brazilian “celebrities” the production team shoe-horned in as coaching assistants.

Apparently, things aren’t working out nearly as well for Wanderlei Silva as he thought they would when he signed on to do the show.  In fact, this popularity among Brazilian fans has tanked as a result of his actions on the show, which culminated in the on-set fight.  Dave Meltzer captures Wanderlei’s shock in a recent article for MMA Fighting.  Says Silva, “Behind what happened there is the motives and the reason why I was mad that day. Beside the absurd (things) that he has said about all of us, he had been provoking me and disrespecting me. Right on the first episode, he called me stupid. Not at any moment did I go down to his level.”

Actually, Silva went below Sonnen’s level, spitting at Sonnen, attacking him, and allowing his own assistant coach to tee-off on a grounded and exposed Sonnen.  After all of his actions, Silva refiuses to take responsibility and now blames the editing room as the culprit for his sudden lack of likability when if he had simply owned up to the fact that Chael Sonnen sonned him, got under his skin, and he lost control, he probably would have been received with a bit more empathy.

Instead, Chael Sonnen has taken one of the most beloved fighters in MMA history with the strongest of fan bases and turned said fan base against Wanderlei by simply allowing Wanderlei to be himself.  Andy Kaufman and Jerry the King Lawler, eat your heart out.

1st Place & Hand-Palm D’or Winner for May 2, 2014: Jonny Bones Jones

FPD2

After his complete domination of Glover Teixeira in Baltimore, Jones was being heralded by fans and journalists as the best to ever put on 4 oz. gloves.  Despite his less-than glowing personality, it seemed that he had finally won over fans resistant to give the champ the love he absolutely needs to have to feel complete.  During the UFC 172 post-fight press conference Jones went on to say, “It was great to have the crowd on my side again. It has been a long time since I’ve had cheers. I figured it would be that way so I said let me really embrace this, let me really give this audience some entertainment.”

Instead of taking the tidings of comfort and joy and goodwill and basking in the afterglow of the earned admiration, Jones decided to be himself.  Since he simply cannot get all of the fans to love him, he focused his attention on those easy targets that loathe him.  Whether it was teasing Phil Davis who suffered a loss on the same night (an act that many would argue was simply Davis’s comeuppance for smack-talking Jones instead of taking his own opponent Anthony Johnson seriously) or whether it was poking fun at former champ Chuck Liddell for taking his friend and training partner’s loss to Jones so personally, Jones wasn’t content to let his work in the cage say “I told you so!” He was ready to hand out metaphorical (and in many cases, justifiable) middle fingers to anyone who dared to question his abilities leading up to his decimation of Teixeria.

And then the cries of cheater came from the peanut gallery.  Jones was accused of intentionally poking his opponent’s eye during the fight.  While his imitation of Moe Howard was simply an accident and a by-product of the hand fighting technique used to measure distance, Jones’s response to the accusations was anything but an accident.  When the complaints and criticisms of his hand fighting technique began to drown out the praise, Jones decided to respond in very Jon Jones-like fashion:

Jon Jones being Jon Jones, he immediately took the video down from his Instagram account, just not fast enough before it started making the rounds.  It’s not unusual to spike the football after getting over on your opponent.  It’s classless, if not entertaining.  But there’s nothing wrong with it.  However, to upload a video poking fun at your detractors and then take it down immediately for fear of the public rebuke just shows a lack of commitment of character.  That and that Malki Kawa should really revoke Jones’s social media privileges.  Who knows? Perhaps his phone was hacked again or it was lost again or whatever pathetic line of spin his management team will issue to try and move past it.  At the end of the day, his team needs to let Jon Jones be Jon Jones. He going to do it any way.  Better for you all to be in front of it than behind it regarding PR. Of course every time he opens his mouth to insert his foot, rest assured that the reactions of fans, those that love him and hate him will be the same.

UFC MIA: Where Are They, Now?

In the news cycle and marketing cycle of the UFC juggernaut, a lot of fighters get lost in the shuffle.  With so many events, one card seems to dovetail into another with very little time left for reflection on where the competitors stand.  Make no mistake. This isn’t a commentary on fighters who are past their prime, fighters who are retired, or fighters who have fallen away from the sport. This is a legitimate question about fighters on the UFC’s active roster who seem to have fallen off the UFC’s radar in the announcements of upcoming events.  All of these fighters bring tremendous value to the promotion, so to see their faces on the backs of milk cartons seems more than just insulting. It seems troubling.

Recharging the Stun Gun

After Ronda Rousey’s domination of Sara McMann in late February of 2014, the immediate talk in the aftermath was who could challenge Rosuey for the title.  This brought along weeks of Cyborg Justino talk (which still continues) and briefly, talks of Gina Carano. However, there was little time to reflect on a next opponent under the Zuffa umbrella and Rousey’s legacy before she was off to shoot a movie, and the UFC circus was off to Macau for the Ultimate Fighter finale on March 1st. In the main event of that card, Dong Hyun Kim floored John Hathaway with a vicious spinning elbow KO. The sound Kim’s elbow made as if connected to Hathaway was so audible, it left many in the live crowd stunned.  It was a vicious performance with such a defining finish, it created immediate talk of The Stun Gun’s place at the 170-pound division and whether or not he deserved a shot at the title. However, before fans could argue over Kim’s place in the welterweight picture, it was time to promote Fight Night: Gustafsson/Manuwa, and the narrative changed to the light heavyweight division. Once that card concluded, the UFC headed to Dallas, Texas for UFC 171 (where a new welterweight champ would be crowned on a welterweight-heavy card).

It took 3 weeks from Kim’s KO-of-the-year candidacy for him to go MIA.  His is an example of a performance that makes for great “best of” shows, but the UFC can’t seem to build on it.  As of May 1st 2014, the UFC hasn’t uttered a peep about Dong Hyun Kim’s next opponent or his next fight.  Apparently, fans aren’t the only people who have forgotten about Dong Hyun Kim as the UFC has yet to discuss when he will make his next appearance.  To rub salt in the wound, fellow welterweights with varied performances in Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler, and Rory McDonald all have new fights lined up for the summer despite fighting between late February and March of 2014.  The Stun Gun remains opponent-less.

Lauzon, Gone?

Remember that one fight where Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller went toe-to-toe and literally left it all in the cage at UFC 155 in one of the most exciting and unbelievable examples of heart in a fight?  Of course you do.  Joe Lauzon definitely does.

The hope, of course, is that the tingle he felt watching Jim Miller work at UFC 172 translates into a full-blown itch to return to the cage.  You get the impression, Lauzon’s got the fever from this April 20th tweet:

Aside from reminiscing, hosting Q&As, doing fight commentary, watching Game of Thrones and The Ultimate Fighter, and enjoying his time being a father, all is quiet regarding Joe Lauzon. It’s not that surprising that Lauzon would take his time getting back to the cage form a personal perspective, but also consider the state of the 155-pound division.  It’s already been decided that Gilbert Melendez will get the next shot at the title against Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, and with that fight taking place at year’s end, the rest of the division is left in neutral to sort itself out. So, there’s no real hurry to get Lauzon a fight.  However, with Melvin Guillard being cut, Mac Danzig retiring, Nate Diaz trying to negotiate a raise, the lightweight division is shifting and reshuffling.

Seeing Lauzon match up with other lightweights coming off of recent wins would be a welcome sight.  Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone, and Ramsey Nijem all represent newly minted wins and solid opponents for Lauzon.  Perhaps even a rematch with Jorge Masvidal. Any of those opponents would be a fight fan’s delight against Lauzon.  Those potential fights would also likely rack up more post-fight bonuses for Lauzon, who’s made winning post-fight bonuses a habit.

Until then, fight fans can at least take comfort in the knowledge that Lauzon is usually spending his Sunday nights the way a lot of people do—watching the goings-on in Westeros.

In Absence of Truth

If you can say one thing about Brandon “The Truth” Vera, it’s that he’s ambitious.  He once declared he would own the UFC light heavyweight championship and the heavyweight championship simultaneously, and he’s moved between the two divisions simply for the challenge of it.

Despite losing his last two fights, Vera has never backed down from a challenge.  Look at the losses on his ledger, and you see an MMA murderer’s row: Couture, Jon Jones, Fabricio Werdum, and Shogun Rua. The other thing you’ll notice is that many of his losses should include asterisks.

Throw out the Ben Rothwell loss since Rothwell tested for high levels of testosterone (a fight that should have been overturned to a “no contest” given that Rothwell was suspended by the UFC). The decision of the Couture fight is widely thought of as a case of the judges making the wrong call. Include the Werdum loss where the referee arguably stopped the bout too soon (even though Werdum had Vera mounted, many of his shots weren’t connecting).   Added together, it can be argued that there are only two fights in the last five years where Vera was stopped legitimately, against Jon Jones and against Shogun Rua: neither of which is anything to be ashamed of.

If you believe in luck, you have to believe that Vera has simply hit a streak of it.  Twice on his resume, Vera ran into opponents desperate enough to cheat to win. One of whom, Rothwell, is still under suspension. The other, in Thiago Silva, has been banned for life from the UFC after being charged with aggravated assault and allegedly holding a gun in his wife’s mouth and threatening to kill her.  For whatever reason, Vera seems to either get the cheaters or the cream of the crop when his number is called. Despite this, he’s never backed out of a fight.

photo via Lee Brimelow

Since his fight with Rothwell, news on Vera’s next fight has been silent.  Unless, of course you follow him on Twitter, where he links to and discusses all things political, religious, environmental, and just about anything else that strikes his fancy.  However, his absence is noticeable to the UFC and to fight fans.  Whether it’s because Vera is working things out and taking time for himself or because Joe Silva lost his number is unclear.  What is clear is the dearth in the light-heavyweight division and the heavyweight division.  Neither is particularly deep, so to have a veteran guy that can move between divisions seems like a pretty valuable asset.  Vera is too talented a fighter to have work as an understudy for injured light heavies or heavies.  He’s headlined cards, and he’s fought the best in two different divisions.  His is a noteworthy void and, hopefully, one that is simply self-imposed.

FIGHT PICKS – UFC 172: Jones VS. Teixeira

Finally giving Glover the attention he deserves.

The last time a UFC champion had a title defense was February 22 of this year when Ronda Rousey defeated Sara McMann at UFC 170, and the last time a title was on the line was in March at UFC 171 when a new welterweight king was crowned.  Since UFC 171, and in between UFCs 170 and 171, there have been six events total where the stakes were high, but the hardware was out of the picture.  Tomorrow, Jon Jones, one of the few uninjured UFC champions, will take to the cage to face Glover Teixeira, a man who hasn’t lost a fight since Chuck Liddell was the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion—three years before Jon Jones started his MMA career.

It’s no secret that Jones is the overwhelming favorite.  The big question going into Saturday’s light heavyweight showdown is whether or not any effects from Alexander Gustafsson’s mauling of Jones—either mental or physical—will linger. Leading up to the fight, Jones has been distracted, making excuses, and generally circling the wagons in his camp.  However, there has yet to be an opponent to have his hand raised against Jones when the fight is over.  Only Gustafsson has made Jones look human.  However, as Chris Weidman showed the world, once you make an MMA idol look human, once you’ve made a god bleed, other fighters smell the blood in the water. There’s no un-ringing that bell.

Glover Teixeira has been easy to overlook fight week, especially with the intense media glare reflected off of Jones, Dana White’s fetish for putting his foot in his mouth, and Hurricane Rousey. But make no mistake, Teixeira is a unique challenge for Jones.  As I mentioned yesterday, if Gustafsson represented a physical challenge (in terms of genetic gifts), if Machida represented a stylistic challenge, and if Shogun represented the veteran challenge, no one has yet to represent the challenge of brute power that Teixeira will issue.  We’ve seen Jones get hit and keep coming against Machida, but Machida didn’t have Teixeira’s power.  We’ve see Jones get hit repeatedly against Gustafsson, but Gustafsson didn’t have Teixeira’s power either. Of course, Teixeira has to get close enough to utilize that power

Given everything I’ve seen from both men, I think Jones still has the advantage and the arsenal to make quick work of Teixeira.  That being said, I’m picking Teixeira in the upset. Jones has proven he can get taken by surprise. Vitor Belfort caught him in a bad armbar.  Gustafsson surprised an 80% Jones and sent him to the hospital.  If Teixeira can surprise Jones, I think he might be able to pull off the improbable.  One of the few occasions I’m letting my gut overrule my brain.

In the co-main, Phil Davis has been trying too hard the last two weeks to stay relevant outside of the cage in the 205-pound picture.  He’s trying so hard to poke the bear that is Jon Jones, the only thing people are discussing about his opponent Anthony Johnson is whether or not Johnson will make weight.  The problem is that neither Johnson or Davos are doing much to sell their own fight.  Unlike the main event, this matchup should play out exactly as the betting lines expect.  Davis is the superior wrestler and has had a better quality of opponents while Johnson has been learning to adjust to his new weight class.  With Davis’s focus on Jones instead of Johnson, there is an outside chance that Johnson could level Davis; however, I’ve already got my upset pick set in stone.

As for the rest of the undercard, look for Jim Miller to have a stellar performance against a late addition in Yancy Medeiros. Miller is a handful for most everyone in the 155 pound class, and his armbar against Fabricio Camoes was so beautiful, it belongs in the  Louvre. I only hope he returns to Bad Moon Rising as the walkout song of choice.  The Hollies was a nice change up in his last out, but whenever I hear CCR I no longer think of American Werewolf in London.  I think of Jim Miller.

Solid card up and down.  I expect Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Takanori Gomi to be a fun fight and for Benavidez and Elliott to go a hard three rounds. As always, feel free to come back to ridicule my picks as I am proven wrong.

My “of the night” predictions:

  • Fight of the night – Joseph Benavidez/Tim Elliott
  • Performance of the night 1 – Jim Miller
  • Performance of the night 2 – Glover Teixeira