MMMAAGA: Make Mixed Martial Arts Assholes Great Again
What's going on, my MMA-loving homies? The column is going to be a mix of things over the course of the next few weeks as we wind down 2017 and prepare for 2018. Basically, I plan to cover some current MMA news and then follow it up with my own wild speculation of what might happen next year. Also the blog still doesn't have a proper name, so let's call it "Why Do So Many MMA Fighters Use Eminem for Their Intro Music" Blog. So let's get started by looking back at this past weekend's UFC on FOX card headlined by Lawler vs. Dos Anjos. Ring the bell!!!
Lawler vs. Dos Anjos Main Card Recap
Years ago there was a point in which Shane McMahon tried to talk his father/WWE CEO Vince McMahon into getting into MMA. The former owner of the XFL took one look at it and said something along the lines of, "Why would I want something that I can't control what happens?" A lot went wrong on Saturday night for the UFC as multiple storylines were derailed due to Cirkunov, Perry, and Lamas all suffering losses. The flip side to this is that is the beauty of fighting is, it doesn't matter what it says on paper once the the cage door locks and everyone has a puncher's chance.
Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov
This match was booked to answer 2 questions: 1. is Glover Teixeira still a real contender for the 205lbs title, or has he officially been relegated to gatekeeper status in the division? and 2. Is Misha Cirkunov for real, or did he just hit a stumbling block on his meteoric rise to a title shot in his last fight? I think the answer to both of these questions lies somewhere in between. Teixeira is still a badass and has the ability to dominate the majority of the Light Heavyweight division. However, I question whether he would be able to take out Cormier for the title or Alexander Gustafsson if the UFC schedules them against each other, since we have Volkan Oezdemir vs. Daniel Cormier for the belt in January.
On the other hand, Cirkunov had a bad night. His grappling game looked suspect as Teixeria just did whatever he wanted once he took the fight to the floor. Cirkunov couldn't stop Teixeria's ground game, and once he was belly down, it was game set match. He'll travel back down the card and we'll have to watch where he goes from here. There is no shame in losing to a vet like Teixeria, and now we'll watch as Cirkunov tries to figure out how to compete in the top of the division and what he needs to work on to get there.
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry
On Saturday night, the "Platinum" Mike Perry Express came chugging into the Octagon ready to go from being an unranked Welterweight to a man that would at least be in the single digitals of the rankings if he won. Then the bell rang and the coal got beat out of his engine. Now the Mike Perry Express is looking like the Monorail in North Haverbrook. Perry will bounce back. He is a guy who wants to stay standing up and trying to end every fight with a knockout. Fans love that, and the UFC loves it because the fans love it and will pay money to see it. Plus he has a personality that makes him stick out in the crowd and is more then happy to talk some crazy shit.
Santiago Ponzinibbio apparently didn't get the memo that he was supposed to be a stepping stone. Instead, Ponzinibbio decided to try and draw a topography map on Perry's face with his fists. Also because so many eyes were on Perry, this match has instead propelled Ponzinibbio even though he beat an unranked guy. Ponzinibbio could definitely headline a FS1 Fight Night or a Fight Pass event after picking up this big win in impressive fashion.
Josh Emmett vs. Ricardo Lamas
Speaking of people that weren't supposed to win their fight, unranked Josh Emmett just knocked the former number 3 guy in the division out cold. It would be logical that Lamas would get a shot at Max Holloway next because he was suppose to fight Aldo before he had to sub in for Edgar. Well that's now not happening any time soon. Once Aldo was out of the picture, Emmett immediately asked for this fight and that was a wise gamble on his part. Honestly what did he have to lose? Not a damn thing.
This fight is a textbook example of "anything can happen in a fight" and it did. Emmett and Lamas traded evenly throughout the fight but then towards the end of the round Lamas missed a cross and Emmett unleashed a huge left hook that looked as powerful as a Shoryuken. As soon as that happened Lamas lights faded as did his title shot hopes. A big congratulations to Emmett for seeing the brass ring and grabbing it.
Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
This fight hurt my soul to watch. I stated in my last article that I am an unapologetic Robbie Lawler mark. I never bet against him and I always cheer for him even when he gets put up against another one of my favorites like Rory McDonald. This fight completely exposed Lawler, who has over 16 years in the sport, as a professional fighter. You can attempt to slow time with a great diet, proper training, and rest, but at the end of the day, we cannot escape the sands of time as they cascade towards the bottom of the hourglass. Lawler has been in so many fucking wars that it's finally starting to catch up with him. Will he retire? I doubt it, but he has definitely moved onto the Dan Henderson part of his career where he is no longer one of the elite fighters in the sport. Instead, he becomes a gatekeeper for young fighters to square off against to find out whether they are ready for the upper echelon of the Welterweight division.
Dos Anjos looked dominate in this fight, but there are still lots of questions about him in the Welterweight division. He has gone 3-0 since bumping up to Welterweight this year and a victory over Robbie Lawler is still a big deal, but how would he match up against Tyron Woodley? Woodley definitely has the size and strength advantage in that fight. Also Dos Anjos unleashed a Killer Instinctesque Combo on Lawler and still couldn't drop him; granted Lawler is made out of old turtle shells and pieces of leather that kept together by super glue. That being said, Tyron Woodly is a bad matchup for the majority of the division, but now is Dos Anjos's time to make a run for the 170lbs strap.
Colby Covington is Going to Work Himself Into a Shoot
One of the reasons why pro wrestling has existed for 85 years is because it is a work. It's an event that is predetermined, the competitors are working together, and the outlandish situations that these wrestlers find themselves in such as surfing on their dad's coffin at his funeral are written and planned out.
Another thing makes this all work is the fact that each wrestler plays a character. There are amazing personas like a a guy in a weird anime mask that dresses up like a baseball player and an undead mortician that also really enjoys custom motorcycles and Limp Bizkit. Other times there are bad gimmicks like a mummy named the Yeti or a half bison/half man. Usually the best ones are the real people themselves with the volume cranked up to 11. During the course of their careers wrestlers change their character back and forth between a Babyface aka Face (good guy) and a Heel (bad guy).
In recent years, MMA fighters have started to bring elements of playing characters into their pre- and post-fight trash talk. Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor are the two best examples of this, as they cut promos on how badly they are going to destroy their opponents. Doing this adds conflict to the situation, which is all leading towards one thing: the fight in which you will have to pay money to see how this issue will be resolved. Back in the day, pro wrestlers used to call this "talking people into the building," as more fans in the building equaled more money for the event and a bigger payout for the wrestlers. You still see this today with the UFC as the main event and co-main event fighters receive points (money) for PPV buys plus their guaranteed fight purse.
Colby Covington isn't a complete idiot. He sees this, he understands this, and he knows that people will pay good money to watch a bad guy get his ass kicked. Which brings us to his heel turn in Brazil after the Demian Maia fight that damn near caused a riot....
Watch pro wrestling fan Daniel Cormier smirk and chuckle as he holds the mic for Colby. He knows exactly what he's doing. Colby could've ended everything there. He could've said that his anger got the best of him or that he was frustrated with the Brazilian fans who have a long history of shitting all over foreign fighters who are fighting Brazilians and chanting things at them before and during fights like "you're gonna die" and chanting homophobic slurs in Portuguese and then booing them afterwards. Once he saw the reaction to his comments and the media attention that it received, Colby kept doubling down on them by turning #dump and #filthyanimals into hashtags that he routinely uses on Twitter to refer to Brazil and its fans.
Many Brazilian MMA practitioners have spoken out against Covington. Ricardo Liborio, former co-founder of American Top Team where Covington trains, announced: "I’m here to state that I am no longer with American Top Team. Also, I absolutely do not condone any behavior that instigates hate, prejudice, or bullying of any kind. It upsets me to see the sport taking this direction of blatant disrespect. It’s unsportsmanlike, but it also fosters and promotes a culture of cruelty towards others. Combat Sports should always represent the qualities of humility, empathy, and respect."Bigfoot Silva and Amanda Nunes both took shots at Covington on Twitter. Finally, Fabricio Werdum took things to the next level by throwing a fucking boomerang at him in Australia...
Holy shit, I still can't believe that actually happened. Thank you 8 pound 6 oz blue eyed baby Jesus for cell phone cameras.
Covington is continuing his attacks against Brazil while at the same time trying to talk his way into a title shot with Tyron Woodley. As you can see by watching the video in the link, this is all very scripted and planned like a pro wrestling promo. Covington makes sure to hit his dump catchphrase and even works in his MAGA rip off of "Make Welterweight Division Great Again". Judging by the setting of the video of a Mossy Oak recliner, American flags, and a deer head, he is trying to play towards the stereotypical, rural Trump supporter.
At the beginning of this post I noted that Colby Covington is going to work (professional wrestling slang for a planned conflict) himself into a shoot (professional wrestling slang for a real conflict). The reason I say this is because unlike Sonnen and McGregor, I question whether Covington is intelligent enough to keep walking down this narrow path that is flirting with racist overtones and not say something that won't seriously damage his career. Even though I recognize that Covington is playing(?) a bad guy character, I can't cheer for a white guy that is repetitively calling brown people "filthy animals." It's not hard for me to imagine that his insults and gross behavior will only increase if/when he is paired against Rafael Dos Anjos.
The UFC condemned his comments after the Maia fight and Dana White has already gone into spin mode, saying that this is the fight business and people say mean things in the fight business. Still, no one is shutting this down, and Covington continues to escalate this new persona. Now the question becomes, how far is too far? The lines are very blurry on this subject, and I don't think the UFC even knows where that line is until Covington most likely crosses it. The UFC knows that Covington's trash talk is going to generate PPV buys, which they desperately need right now, but it could also turn off advertisers and FOX in the future. Everyone involved with this is taking a risk that could come back to financially harm them someday. Covington is definitely getting more attention than he's ever had in his MMA career, but he is playing with fire that could ultimately burn up his entire career. What do you think about all this? Let me know in the comments section of this article in the Craft Brewed Sports Facebook Group.