Making the Grade: Passes/Fails from International Fight Week
Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey defended their titles. Frankie Edgar picked up a big win and B.J. Penn retired.
It was a monstrous, memorable week in Las Vegas. You already know all about who won and lost. Here at Haymaker, we're more concerned with going beyond the results. Let's take a look at what really mattered during International Fight Week.
The UFC can be a contradiction sometimes. It's an organization where human beings fight each other in a cage while fans cheer for blood. Then on the other hand, it's a company that can be big on charity work. Fighters visited Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning and brought a smile to the faces of many sick kids. One pre-teen boy was so depressed he didn't want to get out of bed that day. When he heard the UFC was going to be there, he bolted upright and wore a huge smile for a long time.
Then there was middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who in May helped raise $15,000 and a wheelchair for 6-year-old wrestler Isaiah Bird, who was born without legs. The UFC flew Bird, his mom and his coach out to Las Vegas for International Fight Week. Bird got the full-fledged VIP treatment, even wrestling with Dominick Cruz during media day. You could tell the kind of impact the actions of Weidman and the UFC had on the inspirational boy.
Remember when Dana White told Uriah Hall he wasn't really a fighter? Well, Hall showed him and everyone else what he's made of Saturday night when he fought almost the entire three rounds against Thiago Santos with a badly broken toe. And won. Pretty incredible display of toughness. Hall was even throwing kicks with the bad foot.
When Hall was in action, he looked completely normal, fluid, smooth and fast. Once we would walk back to his corner in between rounds, you could notice the limp. The visual was gross. The toe next to his big toe was badly broken and completely crooked. Part of the bone was even sticking out of the skin. None of that mattered to Hall, who picked up the most impressive win of his UFC career. That was a statement victory.
The White moves
Dana White has an overpowering personality and sometimes it clashes with some of his bigger stars. White has had famous feuds with Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. Even the UFC president and current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones have had their tiffs. Sometimes White can let those personal beefs spill over onto the business and public side of things. What he did this weekend was swallow his pride and put a guy who deserved to be in the Hall of Fame -- Pat Miletich -- where he belonged.
White and Miletich haven’t seen eye to eye for many years. White explained that he was wrong in past dealings with Miletich and apologized for it, putting Miletich into the hall Sunday. White has also had issues with B.J. Penn in the past, yet he couldn’t have been any classier in the post-fight press conference as Penn announced his retirement right next to him. White recited all the things Penn did for the UFC and the sport of MMA and even gave Penn a consoling back rub when he broke down and cried in an emotional moment.
A memorable weekend
Wow. After seven days, two title fights, two fight cards and countless other events, it's impossible to recap everything in just two paragraphs. International Fight Week seemed to be a little bit much on paper, but it didn’t fail to deliver the goods at all. No one is going to forget Ronda Rousey's 16-second knockout of Alexis Davis any time soon. Chris Weidman's victory over Lyoto Machida is a Fight of the Year candidate. B.J. Penn, one of the greatest of all time, retired from the sport.
In an era where a lot of fights and fighters seem generic and interchangeable (the price of holding almost 50 events in 2014), this weekend was the furthest thing from that. Sure, there were prelim contests that were largely forgettable. But, as a whole, it was an incredible few days. Even the Ultimate Fighter 19 guys, after a miserable season, delivered with Corey Anderson and Eddie Gordon both earning first-round knockouts. Yeah, we'll be harkening back to this weekend for a long time.
House of cards
The UFC did an incredible job all week with dozens of events happening -- from charity functions to movie premieres to the actual fights. There were was nary a snafu anywhere and that's impressive given the quantity of things that were going on. We're exhausted just writing about it. One thing hanging over International Fight Week, though, was the fact that the UFC's next two events are somewhat in peril.
Last week, UFC 176 in Los Angeles on Aug. 2 lost its main event when Jose Aldo got hurt and had to pull out of his fight with Chad Mendes. UFC 177, which is scheduled for Sacramento on Aug. 30, has just one fight booked: a main event of T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao. Maybe it's best if they just combined the two of those together in Sacramento instead of trying to force a card when they really can't do a good one.
People complain far too much about the quality of free cards on FOX Sports 1 and events on Fight Pass. We don't get too hung up on that. But when pay-per-views suffer -- those babies cost $60 a pop -- that's a real problem.
Do fans realize you can cheer for one fighter without booing the other? Of course, B.J. Penn was the fan favorite Sunday night. He's a legend and beloved by the hardcore fans. He's the reason why many people became MMA junkies in the first place. But why boo Edgar? Because he beat Penn twice? Edgar has never gloated or had a single bad word for Penn. He's always been classy and is a top-notch guy. For some reason, though, the fans at Mandalay felt they had to boo Edgar because they were cheering for Penn.
A similar thing happened Saturday night with Chris Weidman. There were many fans in attendance rooting for Machida, many of them from Brazil. That's great. Machida is a fantastic fighter. Weidman hasn't done anything to elicit vitriol from anyone, though. Are Brazilians still mad he beat Anderson Silva twice? Maybe. There should be a more constructive way of pointing that out.
Don't get us wrong. Fans are entitled to boo or cheer for anyone they like. They bought the tickets. But giving Weidman and Edgar crap just makes anyone doing so look pretty silly.
Get well soon
Firstly, this isn't a fail because anyone is to blame. They're not. It's nothing like that. It's just extremely unfortunate the Stefan Struve-Matt Mitrione fight fell through Saturday night when Struve had a panic attack in the locker room. Struve was trying to come back from a very serious heart ailment. We guess the jitters got to him. He tweeted Monday that his near fainting spell was not heart related, but of course it was. Even if it wasn't clinically tied to it, it certainly was mentally and emotionally tied to it.
Struve needs to take his time and really think about this whole MMA thing. Is it worth it? He's only 26 and he's already taken many beatings that aren't even related to his heart. Add in his aortic valve issues and he has to figure out if it's all worth it. There are plenty of other things he can do. He has the rest of his life to worry about. If we were the UFC, we would be extremely squeamish about booking him in another fight any time soon.
People kind of scoffed when Dana White said late last year that Ronda Rousey was the biggest star in UFC history. The word "star" is highly subjective, but after this weekend you can kind of see where he's coming from. As awesome as Chris Weidman's win over Lyoto Machida was on Saturday night -- and it was a Fight of the Year candidate -- Rousey is getting all the buzz for her 16-second beatdown of Alexis Davis. She deserves it, too.
So why does this fall under the "fail" tab? Because who the hell is left for her to face? Rousey just made minced meat out of one of the best women's fighters in the world. Davis lasted as long as a drunk girl in a Vegas club would have with Rousey. Cat Zingano is the No. 1 contender. She earned that right. But she also does not look ready mentally or emotionally to deal with the buildup to a Rousey fight. And we're not even talking about actually getting into the Octagon with Rousey.
The best contender for Rousey is outside the organization. White seemed considerably more willing than usual to sign Cris Cyborg on Saturday night. It's probably something the UFC needs to do. Rousey running girls over only has appeal for so long. She needs a true foil.
What the truck?!
There are any number of adjectives for what went down after Ronda Rousey obliterated Alexis Davis on Saturday night at UFC 175. Weird. Dumb. Awkward. Take your pick. There are plenty more. UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, saying he was being told in his ear by "someone in the truck," asked Rousey on the telecast if she would be coming back in four weeks and fighting at UFC 176 on Aug. 2. Rogan stuttered it out and Rousey was stunned, explaining that she needs knee surgery.
After the interview, White could be seen barking at Rogan and comforting Rousey. White explained later that he was not mad at Rogan, but he was absolutely fuming at the "guy in the truck." White said it was "literally f---ing insane" that Rogan was told to do that. White was in a good mood Saturday night, so imagine what he would have said if he was not. Either way, putting your biggest star on the spot like that in front of a huge audience is not good for business. We have to wonder if whoever that mystery person in the truck is has a job today.