UFC 229 is now available on Amazon Prime.
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PoundMeToo asks: What do you think of the strategy of Conor, if taken down by Khabib, not trying to get to his feet, but attempting to get to guard and either holding on for a potential stand up, working elbows from the bottom like against Mendes, or just simply conserving energy?
It would certainly be a different approach. We have typically seen fighters get taken down by Khabib Nurmagomedov and use all of their might to get back up. As we all now, those efforts are usually in vain as “The Eagle” is very strategic with his top control. Struggling to stand up opens opportunities to land ground-and-pound strikes, which he gladly takes. Defending those strikes typically means giving up on getting back to the feet as the strikes either don’t stop or briefly pause as he takes the moment to pass guard and improve his position even further.
However, working the bottom game can have some benefits. We’ve seen many times what the aforementioned approach usually leads to. Accepting the position can give Conor the chance to land some of those elbows and conserve as much energy as possible while having an expert grappler on top of him. This would be really interesting if a good guard player -- like scrapped Nurmagomedov opponents and UFC 229 foes Anthony Pettis and Tony Ferguson -- were in those shoes.
We just haven’t seen much from Conor on that end. Chad Mendes was the only one who found some success with him on the ground. That success was short-lived, and meaningless by the time McGregor got his hand raised before we could see a third round. At the same time, those elbows didn’t seem to play much toward the results.
Remember, McGregor looking at Herb Dean wondering when the fight was going to be stood up only to take some hard shots from Mendes? That’s what happens when your strategy centers around waiting on the referee to do the work for you. Imagine the level of punishment he’ll endure if he attempts the same with Nurmagomedov.
In my opinion, McGregor would be better served using his superior footwork to avoid the takedown in the first place. It would give him the best chance to keep the fight where he is strongest and the Dagestani is the weakest. Keep in mind he spent a sizeable amount of time preparing to box the greatest participant in that sport of our generation. He was already one of the premier strikers in MMA and employed a masterful array of footwork, defense, and shot selection before focusing solely on his hands and testing himself against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
This is classic striker versus grappler. While “The Notorious” has an underappreciated defensive grappling game, attempting to match such a suffocating and unrelenting force like Nurmagomedov would not be wise. But if he finds himself in that position, don’t expect Herb Dean to save him.
Haj01 asks: Do you think there should be any rule changes to mma that would help make the sport better? Anything from taking certain things away or adding certain things? Or do you think the rules are fine as they are?
The rule set for mixed martial arts is pretty decent, in my opinion. I know the popular answer would be to add the soccer kicks and stomps of Japanese MMA, but I can do without top level fighters punting the heads of their already concussed adversaries. The one change I would make is the definition of a grounded opponent. Instead of the “three points of contact” rule, which came from the old set of rules that for whatever reason are still in place in some states, the new definition, where a single hand on the mat leaves a fighter fair game, is much more to my liking.
That does open up having both hands on the ground being enough to change your classification. That’s where my change would take effect. The Ant Unified Rules would only make you a downed opponent if there was a more common sense definition that excluded anybody “playing the game” of putting hands on the canvas to avoid knees. This would create more action by taking away some classic stalling positions.
If both fighters were grounded, I’d also open the door for kicks and knees to the head. This would change the game for lots of wrestlers and ensure that there would be more risk for failed takedown attempts. Leg lock battles would have the added element of kicking. And Anderson Silva’s ridiculous kick out of the guard on Yushin Okami in their first fight would be recognized for the beautiful insanity that it was rather than the source of a lame DQ loss.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen my occasional rant about the so-called Unified Rules. (Seriously though, follow me; I’m insightful, incredible, great and surprisingly humble.) The biggest travesty in the rules is not that stalling and the limitations of grounded opponents are encouraged, it’s that the rules change based on where the fight takes place. Fighters at any level should not have to alter their mode of operation because of a state line.
Bandicoot asks: The main event for UFC 230...
Why, you ask? Because it’s a title fight, so of course it’s going to headline. As Dana says, “It’s the fight to make.” I wish you could see the look on my face as I type those words.
The main event of UFC 230, Valentina Shevchenko vs. Sijara Eubanks for the vacant women’s flyweight title, is actually a really good fight from a competitive standpoint. Eubanks is a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a solid record who was within sniffing distance of being the inaugural champion of that division. And we would never question the credentials of Shevchenko, the undersized bantamweight title challenger who was one point away from taking that title, absolutely tooled an incredible striker on the feet in Holly Holm, and submitted a ground specialist like Juliana Pena.
The problem is that we were promised more from the jump. Announcing Nate Diaz returning to the Octagon against a surging and ever-entertaining Dustin Poirier is setting a high bar. Promising to top that is next to impossible. The UFC certainly tried its best. Georges St. Pierre, Tyron Woodley and Yoel Romero are just some of the names that have been linked to this card at one point or another, only to drop out for a variety of reasons.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Jon Jones. We know the promotion tried to get the newly “exonerated” former champion on the card. Rumor has it the USADA sanctions ending at an oddly arbitrary 15 months paved the way for him to make his return, only to have Jones hold out for more money. I can’t state how true those rumors may or not be, but this seems totally plausible.
So as far as just bumping up the Diaz-Poirier fight to main event status, why not? Diaz is half of the two of the biggest pay-per-views in history, has a devoted following and can promote the hell out of a fight simply by being himself. Poirier is consistently an action fighter who has headlined in the past. Both men have a history with McGregor and Diaz has a past intertwined with Nurmagomedov -- let’s not forget that brawl at WSOF 22 between both fighters’ crews.
Even though the fans at Madison Square Garden were promised more, slapping an extra two rounds onto that bout would more than make it up to everyone. While the two fighters’ Twitter campaign for the UFC to introduce a 165-pound super lightweight title at UFC 230 was well-received in our little bubble, the UFC choose to not bend to the collective will of its fighters, possibly to its own detriment. While I believe suddenly introducing a new division to save one singular event would have been ill-advised yet sadly consistent with Endeavor’s recent moves, those two as a five-round No. 1 contender bout just makes me happy.
It’s really a shame, because UFC 230 is an incredible card now being ridiculed and likely to lose eyeballs because of a rushed and ill-placed title fight at the top. The commitment to throwing a gold belt on the poster of every pay-per-view has once again done the company no favors. What’s wrong with having a compelling, competitive and relevant fight headline a card without a belt? A properly promoted fight between good competitors can do great numbers -- Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans comes to mind. And if you needed to put a belt on it, just add an interim lightweight title to Diaz and Poirier and call it a day.
Instead, the UFC’s choices instantly discredit a good fight between the “Bullet” and Eubanks, alienate company woman Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the process, add another chapter to the Jones saga and draw the collective disappointment and ire of fans. UFC 230 may end up being a great card and a booming success, but right now it looks like a gift that keeps on giving.
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