Well, folks, we didn’t know it at the time, but UFC 200 was literally the end of an era. Less than 48 hours after the PPV concluded, it was announced that Hollywood investment firm WME-IMG (which, according to CNN, is the same thing as Vince McMahon’s long-running pro ‘rasslin promotion) bought the organization from D.W. and the Fertittas for an astounding $4 billion smackers. As to how this changeover in ownership affects the structure and day-to-day operations of the promotion, we’ll just have to wait and see. For the time being, though, UFC 200 will forever be remembered as the last show under the UFC banner as we know it, in turn giving it an instantly nostalgic, “the times, they are a changing” vibe a ’la Pride 33 and WrestleMania x-7.
While others can sling conjecture about the future of the sport, I reckon it is still worth our time, efforts and collective energies to revisit Saturday night’s show and reassess its major takeaways. What’s weighing heavy on my mind in the aftermath of the weekend’s action? Well, I am glad you asked…
[*] You’ve got to be impressed by the victories of vets Jim Miller, Gegard Mousasi and Joe Lauzon. The tragedy there, I suppose, is that we all know none of them are championship material in their respective, talent-rich weight classes. Ultimately (get it?) that speaks less to their abilities than it does the quality of fighters in the promotion. You put any of those guys in any other global MMA promotion and they are at least worthy of a title shot, while in the UFC, they are literally fighting in empty arenas in made-for-Facebook non-events.
[*] Is it time to axe Takanori Gomi and Diego Sanchez? They still manage to put on entertaining fights, but as evidenced by their poor showings over the weekend, it’s beyond obvious they’re not able to compete against even their divisional gatekeepers anymore.
[*] For my money, the Sage Northcutt/Enrique Marin bout was the most entertaining fight of the evening. Although watching Northcutt sneak his way out of a million billion submissions like Dan Henderson did in that one fight against Big Nog in Pride all those years ago was fun, that kid has got to do SOMETHING about his grappling game. The dude’s striking abilities are downright electrifying, but both his offensive and defensive takedown games have humongous holes in them. The UFC clearly wants to market Sage is “the next big thing,” but until he learns how to wrestle, he’s still far too green a competitor.
[*] Yeah, TJ Dillashaw definitely deserves a rematch against Dominick Cruz.
[*] An aside, but my mind is blown that Raphael Assuncao lives just 10 miles from my place. Anytime you want a burrito, it’s on me, buddy.
[*] What happened to Johny Hendricks? How is it that the dude who came this close to beating GSP looks this bad just three years down the road? Following his latest back-to-back losses, methinks there’s something more going on here than the residual effects of not being able to make weight. (And yes, he does look stupid without the beard.)
[*] I’m still not sold on Kelvin Gastelum, though. Yeah, he got some good shots off on Hendricks, but he showed me nothing over the weekend that convinces me he can hang with guys like Robbie Lawler, Demian Maia or Carlos Condit. He’s a top ten fighter, for sure, but in a talent-glutted division, the distance between ninth best and fourth best is practically a lightyear.
[*] Julianna Pena is definitely a top five bantamweight. Who wouldn’t want to see her go toe-to-toe with Holly Holm or Miesha Tate next?
[*] After absolutely throttling Travis Browne, Cain Velasquez deserves an automatic title shot. And as good as he looked – that dude’s spin kicks! – I don’t think there’s anyone in the weight class not named Fabricio Werdum that has a chance against him.
[*] Aldo put on one of the best defensive clinics I’ve seen in a LONG time. Frankie Edgar threw everything he had at him at full speed for 25 minutes and not once was Jose ever in any sort of peril. The question now is whether Conor McGregor will even bother having another fight at 145, let alone a rematch against the man he dethroned for the Featherweight strap last December.
[*] OK, so the Silva/Cormier last second “dream bout” pretty much sucked. Nonetheless, it proved once more that in the world of mixed martial arts, wrestling >>> all other fighting disciplines. You can argue about so-called “lay and pray” being boring, but at the same time, you’d have to be a pure-D idiot to argue that it isn’t effective in the Octagon.
[*] Imagine Ricky Williams came out of retirement the day before the first NFL game of the fall, having not been to a single practice, warm-up or scrimmage game in half a decade – and then scoring three touchdowns and running for 246 yards against the league’s best rushing defense. Utterly preposterous, right? Well, that’s pretty much exactly what Brock Lesnar did Saturday night, utterly annihilating a dude considered by many to have the hardest head and deadliest overhand shot in all of MMA. It’s unlikely we will see Lesnar return to full-time fighting as a career, but if he did? He might be closer to reclaiming UFC gold than anybody in the lamestream MMA media would ever acknowledge.
[*] There is only one person on the planet right now more distraught over Amanda Nunes’ dominant victory than Miesha Tate – Ronda Rousey, who judging from her trials and tribulations against Holly Holm, would likely get carved to pieces against the latest and greatest Brazilian sensation in the UFC.
[*] And lastly? You know what, I kind of dig that all-gold canvas. Maybe by the time UFC 300 rolls around, the entire thing could be a giant hologram, with the athletes doing battle over a virtual crocodile-infested moat, a raging inferno or even that old spike-strewn pit from the first Mortal Kombat game. The opportunities, really, are endless – that is, assuming the new management will keep the company afloat that long, of course.