Back Talk: Jason Burgos’ Mailbag

By Jason Burgos Mar 5, 2020

The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 248 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Welcome to the latest edition of Back Talk all lovers of double-legs, omoplatas and knees to the face. In a surprise to no one, the inquires include those related to the two title fights at UFC 248, what comes next for the still-vacant flyweight title and the reason I now wash my hands 40 times a day—the coronavirus—and its possible impact on future Ultimate Fighting Championship events.

KeenEye Asks: “Is Yoel Romero vs. Israel Adesanya a poor man’s version of Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson?”
Burgos: If we’re talking in terms of resume at the time of the fights, then yes. When Silva faced Henderson at UFC 82, he was on a six-fight winning streak, had reduced former middleweight champion Rich Franklin to rubble twice with wrecking-ball knees and had essentially emerged as the scariest striker in the promotion. Meanwhile, Henderson followed his failed attempt to unify the UFC and Pride Fighting Championships light heavyweight titles by trying to do the same at 185 pounds. Adesanya and Romero have impressive resumes, but in terms of relevance, Silva-Henderson just meant a lot more at the time. However, if we’re talking pure talent, I daresay Silva-Henderson serves as the B-side to Adesanya-Romero. Adesanya compares favorably to Silva, his MMA idol, in the striking department. The divide turns into a chasm when we examine Henderson and Romero. I love Henderson as much as anyone—he is on my MMA Mount Rushmore—but as potent as the “H-Bomb” was in its heyday, it just does not compare to Romero’s otherworldly athleticism and his ability to devastate opponents in different ways. With that said, Adesanya-Romero for my money is actually the rich man’s version of Silva-Henderson.

Martialbeef Asks: “What are the feels for Weili Zhang-Joanna Jedrzejczyk?”
Burgos: I’m pretty pumped for this fight. Jedrzejczyk has long marketed herself as the boogeywoman of the UFC’s strawweight division. Certainly, she is the most accomplished 115-pound fighter to ever compete inside the Octagon. However, her victories are not likely to have her contemporaries shivering in the dark. She owns five early stoppages in 16 career wins—not all that scary, unless you fear death by 1,000 strikes across a five-round decision. To find Jedrzejczyk’s most recent finish, you have to travel all the way back to her third-round technical knockout of Jessica Penne in 2015. Interestingly enough, Zhang does have a resume that lends itself to the boogeywoman reputation. She has rattled off 20 straight victories during a six-year run to the top, stopping 17 opponents inside the distance. That includes 10 wins by knockout, the most recent of which saw her dismantle Jessica Andrade to capture the UFC women’s strawweight championship. Jedrzejczyk is a hall-of-fame point fighter with a sturdy chin and world-class technique and cardio. The fact that we have a matador who considers herself a bull makes this fight all the more fascinating. Jedrzejczyk will meet a real bull in the cage in a matter of days. Can Zhang play the role of the bull in the former champion’s china shop, or will Jedrzejczyk reclaim the gold she lost in November 2017 and become the first two-time UFC women’s strawweight titleholder. I can’t wait to find out.

Bob Sapp Asks: “Is the UFC going to stop having events soon due to the coronavirus?”
Burgos: I loved you in “The Longest Yard” remake, but aside from my appreciation for your dramatic endeavors, to answer your question, I would say not yet. Without a doubt, this coronavirus thing needs to be taken seriously. It’s not time for a hide-in-our-homes-and-cancel-all-public-gatherings sort of panic, but it’s serious. Although the situation seems to have relented a bit at the epicenter in China, South Korea has over 5,000 cases of the virus now. Iran and Italy are both closing in on 3,000 each, with Italy passing 100 confirmed deaths. The virus has been confirmed in Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, California, New York and several other American states, with over 100 known cases, nine deaths and Los Angeles declaring a local health emergency. Conventions in various states are being reconsidered, and even World Wrestling Entertainment is closely monitoring the situation in Florida, since its biggest event of the year, WrestleMania, goes down in Tampa in a few weeks. The UFC officially has events listed through an August date in Dublin. A majority of the next 10 shows takes place in states and countries that have reported cases of the virus, some worse than others. UFC 248 seems fine without any reported cases in Nevada. However, the next two events might be worth monitoring, as cases of the virus are on the rise in Brazil and the United Kingdom. Following those shows, there are stops in Ohio—no reported cases—and New York. The measures One Championship took by closing a recent event to the public could either be an exaggerated precaution or the blueprint for what is to come. The sad part of it all is that when the UFC puts on events in cities where cases of the coronavirus may be low or non-existent, the card’s popularity could bring in people from other areas that have the virus. As this pandemic continues, coverage and viewing of UFC events could end up being quite different.

Kaiserjuan Asks: “Does the Deiveson Figueiredo-Joseph Benavidez rematch make sense?”
Burgos: The flyweight division is a hot mess, so the answer is probably yes. The UFC has done little to give the division any long-term depth or stability. The 125-pound weight class should have one of the greatest fighters on the planet competing in it, but instead, the organization chose to trade away Demetrious Johnson; and here we are with a title that remains vacant and no bulletproof plans for what comes next. Jussier Formiga should be a seriously considered, especially since the third-ranked flyweight is the only man to ever defeat Figueiredo. However, the division is so devoid of strength at the top that a fighter who just lost in February is still ranked in the Top 3; and let’s be real, this is surely the occasion where the promotion would stand pat and not give a title fight to a contender following a loss. From there, the line moves to Alexandre Pantoja at No. 4. “The Cannibal” would actually enter a hypothetical title bout on the heels of a win, although he already lost to Figueiredo in July. The fifth-ranked Brandon Moreno is 1-1 since he returned to the UFC in September, and the fact that he was handed a pink slip following a 2018 defeat to Pantoja should eliminate him from serious consideration. On a marketing level, Formiga, Pantoja and Moreno combined do not have the fanfare and relevance cache that Benavidez wields. Benavidez should be out of title opportunity credits after falling short in his third bid for the flyweight crown, but because of the organization’s handling of the division, Benavidez-Figueiredo likely remains the best title fight available. Plus, pushing the narrative that weight-cut issues and an accidental headbutt impacted the outcome—UFC President Dana White has already started to do so—provides built-in excuses to legitimize running this one back.
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