Ask Ant: Dec. 14

By Anthony Walker Dec 15, 2018

Kung Fu Tze asks: What do you make of the UFC cancelling 233? Seems like they are putting a lot into the big ESPN/ESPN+ push and have thinned themselves out.

You hit the nail on the head. The “postponement” of UFC 233 is a symptom of the promotion spreading itself thin. The Los Angeles/Orange County area is a hotbed for MMA and also a major financial market. Whenever the Ultimate Fighting Championship makes it way in that direction, expect big names and major fights to follow. That was clearly the intent with the now scrapped event in Anaheim.

The names attached to the card at one point or another make it clear that this was intended to be one of the flagship cards of 2019. Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Ben Askren, and Robbie Lawler had their names on the lineup and that was just the undercard.

Remember when Brock Lesnar shoved Daniel Cormier setting up his proposed title shot? All of the following talk centered on when Lesnar would be eligible to compete after his USADA duties were fulfilled. Well, Jan. 26 was the next pay per view date that many thought would be a good date to see the two decorated wrestlers make good on their in cage theatrics. For whatever reasons, maybe the USADA “glitch” that led to irregularities on the public record for Lesnar’s subsequent testing or his increased demand in the WWE, that match up must of stalled in the negotiation room. Since then, the T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo superfight was booked with the expectation that Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington would finally square up on the card as well.

When Dillashaw and Cejudo were reassigned to the Brooklyn ESPN+ debut a week earlier, which is a curious decision considering both men have heavy ties to Southern California and put on good showing in their respective fights at UFC 227, the writing was on the wall. With injuries stripping Cruz from the card and being the hold up to making Woodley-Covington official, it just got harder to justify bringing a watered down event to such a big market and putting it on pay-per-view with Bellator MMA simultaneously running a major event of their own just 25 miles away.

With such a busy schedule, there just weren’t enough notable names available to headline a big event with time ticking away for a full camp and appropriate promotion. Once again the oversaturation has manifested itself and caused the company to scramble and look for a solution similar to what we witnessed leading up to UFC 230 in Madison Square Garden. The desperate idea of Askren and Kamaru Usman fighting for an interim welterweight strap was just not going to cut it. In the long run it’s better that the UFC just go back to the drawing board and return to Southern California with a card worthy of the market.

YourOnlineHero asks: Do you think Gunnar Nelson deliberately tried to cut Cowboy Oliveira up with that elbow from hell to send a message to future opponents who may think they can get away with dirty tactics due to his stoic expression and unwillingness to complain to the ref mid fight?

The short answer is no. Gunnar Nelson didn’t elbow Alex Oliveira to make him pay for the sins of foul fence grabbing tactics. As you alluded to, Nelson was stoic and expressionless after the rules were bent. But he’s always that way. Win, lose, pre-fight, post-fight and everything in between, “Gunni” rarely shows any emotion.

While Nelson was on top of and attempting to finish a dangerous opponent like Oliveira, it is highly unlikely that he had any future opponents in mind. It’s even less likely that he was trying to send anyone other than the referee a message.

His intentions were very clear: hurt the other guy. Can you imagine Nelson taking it easy on Oliveira if there were no violations of the “unified” rules of MMA? I certainly cannot. As any other fighter would, “Gunni” saw an opportunity to end the bout and he took it. “Cowboy” could’ve followed the rulebook to the letter, but he still would have been on the receiving end of sanctioned violence.

Frank McEdgar asks: Who do you think Tony Ferguson will fight next?

There’s only answer that makes sense for the sport. That’s Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson has been on fire since he dropped a decision to Michael Johnson in 2012. His 11-fight win streak has included victories over former champions in the UFC, World Extreme Cagefighting and Strikeforce. Not even ripping a ligament completely from his knee in the spring time would get in his way of putting on a show-stopping performance on the biggest MMA pay-per-view event in history. If it weren’t for the tensions between Conor McGregor and Nurmagomedov spilling over into the infamous post-fight brawl and the instant celebrity of Derrick Lewis’ nether region, “El Cucuy” would have easily been the most memorable performer of the evening.

When this mess with Nurmagomedov and the Nevada Athletic Commission is sorted out (seriously, why is this still not resolved after two months) there’s no reason why Ferguson shouldn’t be up next for the undefeated Dagestani. Any talk of a McGregor rematch, another Floyd Mayweather MMA-adjacent appearance, or superfight talk should be immediately tossed out and stricken from the record. Ferguson is next.

That being said, if sporting integrity is completely out of the window and “The Eagle” decides to pass over Ferguson, his style is exciting and the opposite of risk averse, which would lead to some action packed pairings. Dustin Poirier, who has his own credible claim for a shot at the belt, would make for a great fight. Max Holloway moving up to lightweight or a Nate Diaz return sound appealing as well. The winner of Donald Cerrone and Alex Hernandez? Sure I’ll watch that too. But let’s finally break the Nurmy-Fergy curse to bed and get those two in the Octagon at the same time.
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