UFC & ESPN+ Sign New PPV Deal Through 2025
By: Jesse Donathan
According to MMAFighting.com’s Shaheen Al-Shatti, “UFC and ESPN have inked a deal to make ESPN+ the exclusive new home for PPV’s until 2025 for fans in the United States.” The news comes on the heels of UFC president Dana White himself announcing his own new deal with the company. According to an ESPN report by Michael Rothstein, “The president of the UFC announced Monday that he has agreed to a new seven-year deal to continue running the world’s leading mixed martial arts circuit.” What this essentially means is that ESPN is all in, they’ve hedged their bets on mixed martial arts and ESPN and the UFC wanted to make sure Dana White was coming along with them for the ride in the process.
Al-Shatti would go on to elaborate on the UFC’s new signing, stating, “basically If you want to order UFC 236 or any PPV for the next six years, it’ll need to be through ESPN+.” The announcement is the latest in a series of moves from combat sport promotions who are aligning themselves to generate revenue away from the traditional pay-per-view model and moving into the digital platform age.
According to a December 12, 2018 nydailytimes.com article titled, “Oscar de la Hoya is out to kill pay-per-view with the help of Canelo Alvarez and a lot of cash from DAZN,” author Wallace Matthews explains that, “unlike the pay-per-view revenue stream of de la Hoya’s era, Alvarez’ money will be generated through the digital platforms of DAZN (pronounced Da-ZONE), a streaming service that sells for about $10 a month.”
“Pay per view is dead and we’re going to bury it,” de la Hoya said over lunch Tuesday in a Manhattan steakhouse.”
According to Matthews, “In reality, all the risk seems to be on DAZN, which is spending billions in trying to seize the U.S. sports market away from the likes of ESPN and Fox.” With news of the UFC committing to ESPN for the foreseeable future, the competition between DAZN and ESPN just got a little bit fiercer as the next piece of the puzzle has revealed itself in the bid for the U.S. sporting market supremacy.
De la Hoya and Dana White are no strangers to one another. In a December 12, 2018 Yahoo sports article titled, “Dana White escalates feud with Oscar De La Hoya: ‘He’s a liar and a phony’” journalists Kevin Iole writes, “The percolating feud between UFC president Dana White and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya boiled over on Wednesday when White went hard after the boxing Hall of Famer.”
“’The guy wants to come out and tell lies and say things that make no sense when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He knows nothing about this sport. He doesn’t know the [expletive] guys’ names who are fighting on his card. He’s a liar. He’s a phony and God help anybody who wants to go fight for Golden Boy,” said White.
Iole would go on to state that, “De La Hoya has chastised White for not paying his fighters enough and said he will promote another MMA show because so many UFC fighters are approaching him saying they’re underpaid.” Indeed, any alternative avenue that results in undervalued fighters getting paid after a career of getting short changed is a positive thing and a threat to the UFC’s compensation paradigm.
Interestingly, a January 3, 2019 mmanews.com article titled, “Oscar De La Hoya Claims His MMA Event Is Why PPV Is Dead,” author Jon Fuentes quotes Golden Boy front man de La Hoya as having recently told a fan, and I quote, “and that’s why it’s dead you dumbass” after having been confronted over Golden Boys inaugural MMA event between MMA legends Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz which had varying accounts of success depending on who you ask.
With the recent announcement between ESPN and the UFC, it looks like there was more bark to de La Hoya’s bite than what was initially thought as the UFC looks to follow in Golden Boy’s footsteps in moving to the digital platform model themselves with ESPN+’s video streaming subscription service.
So, while PPV doesn’t appear to be dead, it does appear to be flowing like water. Conforming to its new environment, taking the shape and form of whatever its new vessel may be. Whether or not de La Hoya killed PPV remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, change is in the air and the UFC’s alignment with ESPN is good business for everyone involved. Not the least of which will be the fans who will have the opportunity to be exposed to a healthy dose of mainstream mixed martial arts on a consistent, regular basis with ESPN rolling the dice and going all in for mixed martial arts broadcasting throughout the 2025 contractual agreement with the UFC.
UFC 235 Results: Jones Shuts Smith Down
By: Jesse Donathan
Incredibly, Jon Jones was licensed to fight at UFC 235 despite failing his NSAC prescribed drug test, testing positive once again for picograms of a metabolite associated with the banned performance enhancing drug Turinabol leading up to his successful title defense Saturday night against challenger Anthony Smith. According to a February 28, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “Jon Jones cleared for UFC 235 despite adverse findings in drug tests” author Jay Pettry writes, “Jones has been tested six times since the beginning of February. Two of those tests did find 20 and 40 picogram/milliliter levels of (DHCMT M3) metabolites from (the) banned substance Turinabol, which have been found repeatedly in his system since his positive test in 2017.” Pettry would go on to quote Dr. Daniel Eichner of the Sports Medicine and Research Laboratory as stating, “There is no scientific or medical evidence that the athlete (Jones) would have an unfair advantage leading up to, or for, his contest scheduled on March 2, 2019” in elaborating on how it came to be that Jones was licensed despite flagged urinalysis test results.
Interestingly, Jones’s latest flagged test results of 40 picograms/milliliter levels of Turinabol metabolites is greater than his previously flagged test results of Turinabol from December, 2018. According to a fansided.com article titled, “UFC 232 VADA test results reveal steroid metabolites for Jon Jones” author Drake Riggs writes, “the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) confirmed via MMAFighting that Jones had 33 picograms of 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3) (or DHMCT) in his system.” For those of us who are not aware, Turinabol has a half-life of 16 hours. Google defines half-life as, “the time required for any specified property (e.g. the concentration of a substance in the body) to decrease by half.” If Jones is clean, why are his levels of Turinabol metabolites increasing when in theory his levels should be decreasing on their way to being completely expunged from his body?
According to a November 11, 2011 article title, “Detection and Mass Spectrometric characterization of novel long-term dehydrochloromethyltestosterone metabolites in human urine” featured in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology authors Tim Sobolevsky and Grigory Rodchenov write:
“Our study has shown that the metabolite M3 and, to a lesser extent, its epimer and M4 are the most long-term metabolites of DHCMT. Taking into account that I and II are reportedly detectable up to 22 days post administration [3,9] and that the relative concentration of M3 in DHCMT post administration urines is normally higher compared to I and II, the detection window of M3 could be estimated as 40–50 days, while M1, M2 and M4 are at least as valuable as I and II. An additional controlled excretion study is needed to fully evaluate the time at which novel metabolites can be detected.”
More than 50 days have passed since December 09, 2018 alone. In short, Jon Jones has essentially been given the greenlight to compete with trace amounts of Turinabol, a performance enhancing drug, in his system despite the fact there are more questions than answers surrounding his flagged urinalysis results. For all we know, Jones has the right people behind him to mask the Turinabol in his system to nearly undetectable levels and that is what we are repeatedly seeing in the flagged test results. Yet Jones is given the benefit of the doubt and cleared to compete anyway despite being a habitual offender.
What the commissions, USADA and the UFC have given us is plausible deniability, theories about the presence of these metabolites in his system yet no conclusive evidence has been brought forward that Jones is not cheating beyond educated opinion. What we do have are flagged drug tests, yet Jones is given the benefit of the doubt instead of the commissions airing on the side of caution with consideration to the potential health hazards of his opponents who are putting their lives on the line based on theories, not facts, in competing against a known dirty fighter.
This is unarmed combat, not competitive dance. People have died as a result of beatings accrued in the ring and cage, yet a confirmed performance enhancing drug user is allowed to compete despite flagged test result. If anyone thinks for one second Jones isn’t being given preferential treatment because he just happens to be the best fighter we have ever seen then you are sadly mistaken. This isn’t just another athlete, its Jon Jones, the best fighter on the planet, flagged for metabolites of performance enhancing drugs, and those who count the most can’t possibly draw a correlation between the two facts? Instead, they are allowing this fighter to beat the hell out of other professional fighters who are presumably playing by the same rules in which Jones has shown such disregard for?
This is very irresponsible behavior from all parties involved and while I am not out to get Jon Jones, I am however calling it as I see it. The fact that he has been continuously licensed, despite numerous flagged tests results, is hypocritical of the commissions and absurd no matter how you want to shake a stick at it. These are unconscionable decisions from the NSAC. Either a zero-tolerance policy needs to be instituted or the entire performance enhancing drug paradigm needs to be re-evaluated. This perverted idea of fairness looks more like a green light to cheat more and more each time Jones has another test flagged for atypical results yet is still licensed to fight anyway somehow.
Interestingly, a pattern is beginning to emerge in the flagged test results from Jones. According to the Pettry article, Jones passed the tests which were administered on 02/01/19 and 02/09/19 respectively but promptly failed the administered tests on 02/14/19 and 02/15/19. Jones successfully defended his title March 2, making this latest round of failed tests occurring roughly two weeks before his scheduled fight with Anthony Smith. According to a December 29, 2018 MMAFighting.com article titled, “The science of ‘Bones’: An in-depth look at Jon Jones’ drug-test findings, why he’ll be able to fight at UFC 232” author Marc Raimondi cites information provided by Oliver Catlin, an anti-doping expert, who himself cited retired former USADA Director of Science, Dr. Larry Bowers, as stating, “In conclusion, I cannot determine with any certainty when, at what dose, or what chlorinated anabolic steroid was ingested that gave rise to the July, 2017 result,” Bowers wrote. “Based on the data provided, I conclude that no DHCMT exposure occurred between August, 2018 and December, 2018. I cannot exclude the possibility that the December 9, 2018 result arose from an exposure before July, 2017.”
Jones competed at UFC 232 on December 29, approximately three weeks out from his flagged test results on December 9. It would appear Jones is “pulsing” just weeks before his scheduled fights, but cruising right along and passing his tests with no scheduled fights in his immediate future. I would call it convenient, but my opinion is the actual truth is that Jon Jones is not clean. He is still using performance enhancing drugs and the commissions are essentially giving him the green light to compete dirty anyway. Even the vague appearance of impropriety should be enough for the commissions to avoid any such behavior, yet apparently, they are not here to protect the safety of the fighters but rather to protect the interests of the promotion which is ultimately a huge revenue generating machine for the commission themselves. There is a symbiotic relationship between these two entities where there should be clear and well-defined boundaries.
Jones (24-1) convincingly defeated the challenger Anthony Smith (31-14), shutting down the very experienced veteran in nearly every facet of the game in route to a unanimous decision victory. It was a complete shut out, though Smith can take solace in the fact he went the distance with the best fighter on the planet and wasn’t stopped even in the face of the overwhelming 14:1 betting odds against him. Despite the dominant Jones victory, I cannot help but wonder what the result would have been like if Smith had been allowed to administer 40 picograms/milliliter of Turinabol just prior to the contest, creating a truly level, fair playing field.
Colby Covington’s Life Threatened by Abdelaziz
Leading up to UFC 235 during fight week, former UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington (14-1), the UFC’s #1 ranked contender in the welterweight division crashed the #2 ranked Kamaru Usman’s (15-1) UFC 235 open workout Thursday as detailed in a MMAFighting.com Tweet featuring video of Covington on a bullhorn reminding Usman and the crowd that the real champ was there. It was a ballsy and bold move, absolutely brilliant, and exactly what the doctor ordered to remind the world of who Colby Covington is. This was shameless self-promotion, but brilliantly executed nonetheless.
Covington is a marketing genius and its shenanigans like this that explain why an unnecessary interim title was created for him and why Dana White brought him to the White House to meet President Donald Trump. The guy is a star in the making and the exact kind of athlete people love to hate.
The very public narrative from Covington of having been cheated out of a title spot, “corruption” as Covington put it to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, is a little more than smoke and mirrors. It is a page taken straight out of the professional wrestling big book of promotion to create a story line and drama for the fans and media who eat this kind of entertainment up hook, line and sinker. Not surprisingly, despite calling Dana White “Uncle Fester” and insisting the UFC President doesn’t want to talk to him, Covington believes he is next in line for a title shot. This is likely the case considering Covington has reaped the rewards of sitting back and watching as one of the divisions two toughest fighters was sent to the back of the line Saturday night in now former champion Tyron Woodley (19-4-1), who was dominated start to finish by Usman in route to a majority decision victory. There is no way anyone will ever convince me this entire charade wasn’t just smoke and mirrors in order to mask the UFC’s true intentions of opening up the landscape in order to clear the way as much as possible for a Covington welterweight title run. This is a page right out of Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s play book, where a public feud between the two originating in the late ‘90s brought massive ratings for the WWF, which ultimately translated into dollar signs for everyone involved.
In a not so staged, very real-life drama that unfolded the next day after UFC 235 at a buffet in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, newly crowned welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, his manager Ali Abdelaziz and members of their entourage can be seen in a TMZ video that surfaced online late Sunday afternoon of the team getting into an altercation with former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington, who appears to be outnumbered though surrounded by innocent bystanders caught in the ensuing melee.
At one point, the incident turned chaotic and violent with Abdelaziz appearing to sucker punch a patron who was caught in the crossfire with their back turned no less to the Usman entourage. This isn’t the first time Abdelaziz and Usman have been involved in public altercations, with an earlier incident at a PFL event occurring just last year in 2018.
While these kinds of incidents make for sensational headlines, it’s also important to remember millions of impressionable youth look on and hang on to everything these fighters say and do. Covington would go on tell ESPN’s Ariel Helwani Monday that Abdelaziz threatened to shoot and kill him during the altercation, behavior which is completely unacceptable from anyone much less a manager to several of the UFC’s top fighters and champions.
Askren Big Brothers Lawler In Controversial Ending
The controversies outside the Octagon threatened to overshadow that events that actually took place in the cage, though one fight at UFC 235 managed to catch the public’s imagination for all the wrong reasons. Among the most anticipated matchups of the night at UFC 235 featured former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-13) take on the undefeated former Olympian Ben Askren (19-0), who had his hands full with the man they call “Ruthless.” Right off the bat, Askren looked to close the distance in an attempt to tie Lawler up for the takedown, nearly taking the former champions back before it was the Olympian Askren who ended up getting taken for a ride and violently slammed to the mat. A brief scramble ensued before it was Lawler who ended up on top, expertly pinning Askren’s arm behind his back as the former champion opened up a can of whoop ass on wrestling prodigy. A solid case could have been made for the fight to have been stopped right there, as Askren appeared knocked unconscious as he ate numerous unanswered blows. Whether that was the case or not, it certainly appeared Askren was out cold.
With Lawler bringing the heat, Askren eventually came to his senses and freed is arm, making his way to half guard before establishing an under hook which the Olympian used to make his way back to his feet. Askren absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment during the exchange, obviously busted up from the Lawler onslaught. From there, the two fighters briefly circled before quite a bit of standing grappling took place against the cage linked fence, each fighter jockeying for position before it was Askren who ended up grabbing a single leg and bringing the former welterweight champion down to the mat.
This is the point where quite a bit of controversy has sense brewed, after some brief wrestling Lawler’s arm appears to go limp after Askren tied him up in a bulldog big brother choke. Referee Herb Dean was faced with some tough decisions in a very short period of time, stop the fight due to the fact it appeared Robbie Lawler was getting chocked unconscious or allow the fight to go on despite the fact nobody could blame him for thinking Lawler was out cold.
The veteran referee Dean appeared to check on Lawler just in case right before ordering Askren to let Lawler go, stopping the fight with Askren winning by technical submission referee stoppage. It was a sensational, come from behind victory that Askren had to dig deep for, but instead his well-earned victory is forever overshadowed by controversy due to no fault of his own.
Initially, I thought the fight was stopped early but upon reviewing the instant replay from numerous angles, a luxury Dean didn’t have at the time, I believe Herb made the correct decision. Though one camera angle has surfaced which does appear to show Lawler giving Dean the thumbs up immediately prior to Herb stopping the fight. We are talking events which transpired within seconds. Lawler looked like he was out cold and Dean was perfectly within his rights to call the fight when he did. It can’t be easy being a referee and this latest decision from Dean is a good case in point.
Unfortunately for Herb there is an army of fans and pundits alike who disagree with the decision, including UFC President Dana White who publicly stated he didn’t believe Dean got the call right. It was a controversial decision, but based upon what Dean was seeing at the time and the fact Lawler’s arm did in fact appear to go limp, it was the correct call as far as I am concerned. And this is coming from someone who has been critical of Dean in the past. The real story here is Askren defeating the assassin specifically brought in to kick Ben’s ass. Mission accomplished, though the outcome wasn’t exactly what Dana was hoping for.
Munhoz Stops Garbrandt in Barn Burner, Johnny Walker Prevails Over Cirkunov
The two best fights of the night were former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (11-3) vs. Pedro Munhoz (18-3) and Johnny Walker vs. Misha Cirkunov (14-5). Garbrandt vs. Munhoz was a barn burner, with the former champion showing a true warrior spirit in going out on his shield in an absolute fire fight with Munhoz who ended up catching Garbrandt with a big shot and sending the former champion crashing to the canvas.
It was exactly the kind of fight the fans wanted to see, and win or lose, Cody Garbrandt makes it to my All-Violence First Team for ensuring the fans get to see exactly what they came for. This was an exciting fight everyone looks back fondly on despite the former champion having dropped three in a row now, two of which were back-to-back loses to the champion T.J. Dillashaw. I do not think that means as much as some might think when you’re consistently involved in some of the most exciting fights in the promotion on a regular basis. Garbrandt is a stud, though one who is going to need to evolve if he hopes to be able to escape serious traumatic brain injury later down the line.
The electrifying 6’6” Johnny Walker (17-3) made short work of the very tough Misha Cirkunov, briefly displaying a very unpredictable and unorthodox offensive game before absolutely blasting Cirkunov into another dimension with a flying knee that sent the Latvia fighter collapsing to the canvas. It was a very impressive performance and has put the rest of the light heavyweight division on notice that a new kid is in town. But the question remains, does Walker have the grappling acumen to compete with the Jonny “Bones” Jones’s of the world? That question remains to be seen, but it should be a wild ride on our way to finding out the answer.
UFC 235 Preview: Jones vs. Smith
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 235 is going down Saturday night, March 2, 2019 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las, Vegs Nevada live on PPV starting at 10 pm. This may be the best card mixed martial arts fan will see all year, with the main event featuring UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones (23-1) squaring off against the very experienced veteran in challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (31-13). Smith was once cut from the UFC after his first loss with the promotion, but with true grit and determination soldiered on and managed to fight his way not only back to the big stage but vying for the UFC light heavyweight crown against perhaps the greatest fighter the sport has ever seen in champion Jon Jones.
Smith is on a three-fight win streak, having dispatched two former UFC LHW champions in Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua and going on to submit former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir by rear-naked-choke. He will have his hands full against the champion, where according to a February 27, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “Jon Jones Praises ‘Most Well Put Together Coaching Staff Ever Assembled’ Ahead of UFC 235” Jones has put together a dream team of mixed martial arts minds to maximize his chances of success against the very experienced Anthony Smith.
Jones is reported to have an 84 ½ in reach, over eight inches longer than the challenger Anthony Smith (76) despite both fighters being reported to be 6’4” though in previous faceoff’s leading up to the fight Jones appears to have a slight advantage even in that department as well. The fight will be contested at the championship weight of 205 pounds where Jon Jones is considered by most to be favorite going into the contest by a wide margin (14:1) though there is a small but growing contingency who believe an upset is in the making Saturday might.
The evenings co-main event will see UFC 170-pound welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (19-3) defend his belt against the very game #2 ranked UFC welterweight contender Kamaru Usman (14-1). On paper, these fighters appear to be nearly carbon copies of one another. Both are dominant wrestlers who rely on a sprawl heavy game plan to force outmatched opponents to stand and trade with them, though in the champions case a tendency to come well prepared with an excellent game plan and impeccable execution are increasingly becoming hallmarks of a Woodley title reign.
In the wings, waits former UFC welterweight interim champion Colby Covington who is the divisions #1 contender, having allegedly lost his chance to compete for the undisputed belt due to a previously scheduled nasal surgery, bumping the divisions #2 contender in Usman into the title contention picture.
Covington is a star in the making, a fighter who is not afraid to say whatever is on his mind which usually includes just the right things to get under both other fighters and the fans skin alike. He is a naturally charismatic, intelligent personality who the UFC created an interim title for and who UFC President Dana White even brought to the White House with him to meet President Donald Trump.
Recently, Covington and the UFC have created a narrative where Covington has been wronged out of his rightful title shot against Tyron Woodley as Covington watches one of the divisions two toughest opponents fight one another and lose, sending someone going to the back of the line and clearing the landscape that much more for an eventual Covington title run.
In the process, the perennial heel in Covington is slowly turning babyface by garnering the fan and media’s sympathies with his plight. Professional wrestling psychology 101 and an ingenious marketing strategy employed to manipulate the tools at their disposal and the future of the division.
And if these two amazing fights weren’t enough for your viewing pleasure, UFC 235 also features the fierce former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-12) take on Woodley training partner and wrestling prodigy Ben Askren (18-0) in Askren’s highly anticipated UFC debut. Few champions have defended their titles the way that Robbie Lawler did, who was involved in some absolute wars and handled himself as a man would in the cage win or lose. This is the toughest fight Askren’s career to date and one where a lot of questions will be answered.
Lawler has an excellent anti-wrestling game, making him a particularly interesting test against Askren who is always the best grappler when he steps into the cage, no matter who he is facing. Robbie Lawler will bring the fight to Askren, the only fighter who will be looking for a takedown in this fight is Ben Askren and the questions really are can he consistently do so while weathering the storm in the process? Lawler is a competitor, the incredibly heralded and charismatic Askren will have his hands full until Lawler is stopped or the final bell sounds.
Fortunately for us, the great night of fights doesn’t end there. Tecia Torres (10-3) faces off against Weili Zhang (18-1), former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (11-2) fights Pedro Munhoz (17-3), Jeremy Stephens (28-15) is slated to scrap with one of the UFC’s most exciting up and coming fighters in Zabit Magomedsharipov (16-1) and Misha Cirkunov (14-4) fights the popular Johnny Walker (16-3). This card is absolutely stacked, there are also some big names remaining on the card no previously mentioned to include Diego Sanchez, Polyana Viana, Marlon Vera and others. Tune in Saturday night, live on PPV to catch what is likely to be the best card fans will see all year.
St. Pierre Retires, Poirier vs. Holloway for Interim Lightweight Title
By: Jesse Donathan
In a February 21, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “Dustin Poirier, Al Iaquinta call for UFC release after lightweight title snub” author Nathan Zur writes, “reports suggest that the UFC was trying to organize a match between former welterweight and middleweight champ St. Pierre and lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, but negotiations fell apart, leading “GSP” to retire from the sport officially.” Both Iaquinta and Poirier felt that they have earned their respective title shots and have been sitting on the shelf as the UFC attempts to put more lucrative fights together at the expense of the division.
As author Nathan Zur points out, a “logjam” had been created in the lightweight division and both Poirier and Iaquinta felt slighted that the UFC was attempting to put a mega fight together between former two division champion Georges St. Pierre and lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov instead of rightfully allowing the contenders in the division to earn their shots at the throne Nurmagomedov currently occupies.
In a February 22, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled “What happens if Max Holloway fights Tony Ferguson” Bellator light heavyweight contender and ESPN analyst Chael Sonnen recommended Dustin Poirier to take one of two approaches in dealing with his frustration with the UFC, “one is to do everything right and sit by your phone, the other one is pick up your phone and pick a fight” on social media, citing a recent social media dust up between Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway which garnered UFC President Dana White’s attention and a fight a potential fight was rumored to have been in the works.
Sonnen recommended Poirier take the bull by the horns, create his own destiny and use the power of social media and its unique interaction between the fans and fighters to create a narrative between himself and the fighters he would like to fight in order to give the UFC a reason to promote the fight.
And it looks like Poirier’s request to be released ultimately caught the attention of all the right people, as ESPN’s Brett Okamoto recently broke news that Poirier will fight UFC Featherweight champion Max Holloway for the interim UFC Lightweight title as the current champion Nurmagomedov sits out his NSAC suspension due to a post-fight brawl at UFC 229 in October.
According a February 21, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “Georges St. Pierre announces his retirement” author Jay Pettry quotes St. Pierre as stating, “we tried to organize the fight with Khabib, I know Khabib want it and I want it, but the UFC had other plan[s]. To the point where I am in my career, for me it’s more taking one fight at a time instead of being there for several fights, and the way the business works … if they promote someone, they want to keep him somewhere … it’s like an investment.”
Pettry would go on to quote St. Pierre as stating, “it’s a fight that could elevate my legacy, and I knew he wanted to fight me and this message excited me but unfortunately it takes two fighters and the organization for that fight to happen.”
Iaquinta and Poirier’s call for release came on the heels of former UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington calling for his own release from the UFC, according to January 8, 2019 bloodyelbow.com article titled, “Colby Covington slams Dana White over title shot snub, calls for release from UFC” author Milan Ordonez writes that, “Covington is not pleased about the UFC’s decision to have Kamaru Usman fight Tyron Woodley for the welterweight title.”
While the overall picture suggest multiple fighters are rebelling against the UFC’s business practices and in particular the direction in which the UFC is putting fights together, at least in terms of Covington there is likely more going on than initially meets the eye. While most fans are accustomed to the divisional rankings based model, where fighters move up through the ranks into the top 10, eventually cracking the top 5 and hopefully moving into the number one contender position and earning a title shot the UFC has increasingly moved to blend in an additional business model where stars are created, made if you will, and big money fights are put together which can include everything from multi-divisional contests between champions to cross promotional mega fights between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor. The genesis of this additional model ultimately boiling down to dollars making more “cents” than the conventional contender paradigm.
Covington is a star in the making, a charismatic fighter the fans love to hate and whom the UFC needlessly created an interim welterweight title fight for and whom Dana White even brought to the White House with him to meet long-time friend and President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. In my opinion, Covington is being protected by the UFC as some of his toughest opponents are pitted against one another in order to clear the landscape for an eventual attempt at placing Covington in the driver seat of the welterweight division.
The current champion Tyron Woodley is set to face challenger Kamaru Usman for the welterweight championship, the end result being one of Covington’s two biggest challenges in the division being sent to the back of the line as the welterweight landscape becomes that much more open for a Covington run at the undisputed title. The excuses from Dana White about Covington blowing a chance against Woodley due to nasal surgery and justifications for putting Usman in with Woodley over the interim champion in Covington little more than a smoke screen for the true plan, which is placing Covington into the welterweight title spot with as few bumps in the road as possible.
Covington’s public calls for release little more than an attempt to turn babyface from heel by creating a sympathetic story line with the public where Covington feels slighted out of his rightful title contender position by the evil promoter; meanwhile the true monsters are pitted against one another in order to kill one of the two lions in the division off in order to help clear the landscape that much more for a Covington run. Professional wrestling psychology 101.
With St. Pierre, you have a widely popular star in the UFC who has legitimately earned the title legend in the sport due to the magnificent career the former welterweight division kingpin enjoyed prior to stepping away from the sport for the first time in 2013 after a tough fight with then challenger Johny Hendricks. St. Pierre would then come back after leaving the sport behind in November of 2017 to face Middleweight champion Michael Bisping, defeating the Brit by submission in the third round to claim the UFC Middleweight title.
St. Pierre fought a death’s row of welterweight opponents in his career, legitimately earning his title shot and defending his belt in an impressive reign as welterweight champion. Though many claim, with some merit, that St. Pierre was gifted a middleweight title shot that he didn’t deserve the fact is “Rush” accomplished more than enough in his career at welterweight to merit the middleweight title shot and it has went a long way in further cementing an already solid case for the Canadian juggernaut as being one of if not the greatest fighters in UFC history.
A third title shot for St. Pierre at the UFC lightweight belt would have went a long way in advancing St. Pierre’s case, who at this point is carefully crafting his career with his legacy in mind, however the UFC was looking to put business over St. Pierre’s best interest and the fighter has elected to play hard ball and retire for what may or may not be for good rather than give into the UFC’s demands, however legitimate they may in fact be.
Iaquinta and Poirier were within their rights to feel frustrated, in particular Poirier who has did more than enough to earn his shot at lightweight gold but whom up until this point had been left on the outside looking in until ESPN’s recent interim lightweight title bout with Holloway. However frustrated either fighter may be, the fact is they are in the premier organization in mixed martial arts and they have a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in their careers in the lightweight division.
Veteran Chael Sonnen’s advice to start pounding on the war drum before giving up and throwing up the white flag ultimately proved fruitful for Poirier though I found Iaquinta’s willingness to throw his hat in the ring commendable despite having a pretty good case in his own right having recently boxed up UFC lightweight contender Kevin Lee in an impressive showing.
It appears the UFC is getting their act together and the stagnation in the division is finally letting up, in the meantime it’s time for Iaquinta to do what he does best and that is go find someone he can beat up for the rest of us to enjoy while stilling holding the UFC’s feet to the fire. Though nobody can blame either fighter for wanting to explore the potentially lucrative and ripe free agency waters that signing with Bellator or another promotion could mean for their careers.
UFC Fight Night 145 Preview: Prague on ESPN+
By: Jesse Donathan
The main event of UFC Fight Night 145: Prague features a Light Heavyweight contest between Jan Blachowicz (23-7) vs. Thiago Santos (20-6) on Saturday night, February 23 on ESPN+. For many American fans, this is a Thiago Santos fight against some guy named Jan. Santos is an up and coming pound-for-pound prospect, the hammer tattooed on his chest denounces the kind of fighter that he is. A hammer, a stand-up oriented striker who is going to look to take his opponents out of there unconscious and on a stretcher. The man is a predator in the cage, so the perception going into this fight for many is that this is a Thiago Santos fight, his opponent is all but a formality in the minds of many in this fight.
Jan Blachowicz is a throwback fighter from the golden years of mixed martial arts, though he debuted in 2007, his second, third and forth fights all occurred on the same night at KSW-Elimination on September 15th 2007. The tournament formats were popular in the early UFC’s of the ‘90s and were one of many reasons the sport of no holds barred fighting gained the small, but loyal underground following that carried the sport through some very lean years. Fighting multiple opponents in one night is no easy task, especially in light of the general arrangement of today’s highly regulated mixed martial arts format where some fighters pray to even make it on to the preliminary cards for one fight.
Blachowicz would go on to match that same accomplishment the following year at KSW 9 – Konfrontacja on May 09, 2008 where he defeated Martin Zawada by decision and Antoni Chmielewski and Aziz Karaoglu via submission (armbar). He would also go on to win two fights in one night at the KSW 13 – Kumite the following year in May of 2010, defeating Julio Cezar de Lima via KO and Wojciech Orlowski via rear naked choke. Blachowicz has been fighting multiple opponents on the same night throughout his career, and for this reason alone he makes my All-Violence First Team for being a game fighter despite the majority of his wins coming by way of submission or decision victory.
Simply put, there is a reason Blachowicz is a nine-fight UFC veteran who is enjoying a four-fight win streak. He is a true blue mixed martial arts fighter, someone who is not going to lay down and allow the surging Santos walk right over him. Thiago Santos is going to have a fight on his hands and that is what makes this particular matchup so compelling.
Thiago “Marreta” Santos has fluctuated between 185 pounds at Middleweight and 205 pounds at Light Heavyweight. Santos is currently on his own three-fight win streak, having won seven of his last eight. Fighting out of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Santos has a 70% KO/TKO win percentage, meaning Santos is a head hunter who will be looking to collect Blachowicz’s scalp. Thiago Santos is the kind of fighter the fans want to see, a fighter who will keep their attention by practicing the exact brand of mixed martial arts we all tune in to see. Santos is a real fighter, Blachowicz is a real fighter, this means the probability of the fans getting a good fight is quite high. With last weekend’s stinkers from Bellator and the UFC, mixed martial arts fans will be intently watching to see if UFC Fight Night 145: Prague in the Czech Republic comes through on ESPN+.
The evenings co-main event will feature a Heavyweight bout between the 7-footer Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (28-11) and eight-time UFC veteran “Pezao” Marcos Rogerio De Lima (16-5-1). Struve is on a three-fight losing streak and is in desperate need of picking up a victory Saturday night against a rugged and very tough veteran in “Pezao.” Though the strength of schedule of those three loses is worth noting, coming at the hands of some of the Heavyweight division’s toughest fighters in Alexander Volkov, Andrei Arlovski and Marcin Tybura. Struve will need to fight like his back is up against the wall, the Dutchmen hasn’t picked up a victory since October of 2016 when he fought against Daniel Omielanczuk and won via brabo choke submission.
“Pezao” owns a 69% KO/TKO win ratio and will most certainly look to stand and bang with Struve, though preparing for a fighter of Struve’s size with his kind of length and reach can prove problematic for the ill-prepared. Marcos has also proved susceptible to submissions, something else the long Dutchmen could potentially use to his advantage in creating the kind of torque that only a giant can. At nearly a foot taller than the 6’1” Rogerio De Lima, Struve will be the larger man in the cage which will make this look very much like a David vs. Goliath showdown which are always fan favorites.
Weekend in Review: Bellator, UFC Fumble at Goal Line
By: Jesse Donathan
A February 17, 2019 MMAFighting.com Twitter post detailed UFC fighter Andrea “KGB” Lee answering a fans question concerning what they could expect at the UFC on ESPN 1 card in Phoenix. “Expect… you know… some violence,” said Lee with the kind of quiet confidence only a professional fighter can carry. It was as if Lee was auditioning for a role in the next Natural Born Killers flick, her words cute yet oddly believable. “KGB” offered us hope after abysmal back-to-back Bellator main events from this past weekend, where Matt Mitrione sent Sergei Kharitonov’s lower extremities into orbit at Bellator 215 and Paul Daley somehow turned into a wrestler the next night at Bellator 216.
Friday night saw Mitrione fire off an unintentional, yet illegal groin strike early in the first round which resulted in Kharitonov justifiably hitting the deck in pain, unable to continue and their much anticipated heavyweight bout being ruled a no-contest with Sergei being admitted to the hospital not once, but twice with some sources even reporting that the Russian titan suffered a hemorrhoid as a result of the unfortunate encounter with one of Mitrione’s low kicks.
To make matters even worse for Bellator, their much-anticipated welterweight clash between British slugger Paul “Semtex” Daley (40-17-2) and the elusive counter-striker Michael “Venom” Page (14-0) Saturday night turned out to be anything but the violent, stand-up encounter the fans were anticipating with Page winning a controversial unanimous decision over “NCAA” Daley.
“Semtex” is usually known as a stand-up oriented fighter, a feared one at that, but appeared reluctant to trade with Page and instead brought a grappling based plan of attack to the fight that exposed Pages susceptibility to the takedown but also left fans disappointed with Daley’s unwillingness to trade with the counter striker. Instead, Daley elected to virtually give Page round one and employed a smart, yet disappointing grappling-based game plan in the remainder of the fight with varying levels of success. So, with “KGB” promising violence on Sunday night, the UFC on ESPN 1 event couldn’t let “The Just Bleed God” down.
Unfortunately for Lee, in picking up a victory Sunday night against her opponent Ashlee Evans-Smith in their scheduled bantamweight affair she did so by unanimous decision, further angering “The Just Bleed God” who demands to see fighters separated from consciousness and various extremities smashed, broken or otherwise altered beyond their originally intended state. But we will have to give her extra credit for the incredibly brilliant sound bite and the rather charming method of delivery for her Sunday fight-night predictions, well done. Dana White has to love this kind of promotion from his fighters.
The UFC on ESPN 1’s main event saw former two-time UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez lose to Francis Ngannou by first round TKO. Velasquez was put on the floor early after an exchange with Ngannou where “The Predator” finished the former champion off with strikes before referee Jason Herzog stepped in and called a halt to the contest at just 26 seconds of round number one. Replay’s show Velasquez’s knee gave out on him during the exchange with Ngannou, leading to the fight hitting the ground and Ngannou picking up what is surely the best victory of his career to date.
In what was unfortunately a less than desirable turn of events, even the UFC’s capstone main event this weekend left “The Just Bleed God” feeling empty and unsatisfied with the outcome of the UFC on ESPN 1’s main attraction. Much like Friday nights Bellator 215 main event with Mitrione and Kharitonov, the Ngannou vs. Velasquez fight was over before it even started, the ending less than fulfilling leaving one yearning for more. From a fan’s perspective, the fact Bellator offered back-to-back events this weekend at all was a commendable effort despite the rather disappointing turn of events and the fact the UFC on ESPN 1 finished the weekend off with a card of their own on Sunday night made this weekend one to have looked forward too.
Despite this weekend’s big dreams and broken promises, a thank you is in order to both organizations, including the Legacy Fighting Alliance organization where UFC legend Pat Miletich does an outstanding job commentating on their incredible fights over on AXSTV as well. This is a mixed martial arts fans dream to have this much MMA available to consume and hopefully a glimpse of the future where these events become more common place on network television.
Despite some disappointing performances, there was some light at the end of the tunnel this weekend. Luke Sanders (13-3) sent former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao (34-8) to meet the sandman with a first-round knockout performance. Barao, the bigger man in the cage Sunday night, has dropped four fights in a row and failed to make weight for Sunday nights scheduled fight in Phoenix by two pounds. The weight issues and subsequent knockout loss once again bringing to light the potential health hazards associated with extreme weight cutting and the susceptibility of fighters to fight ending blows due to a lack of fluid on the brain to aid in protecting against head trauma.
Elsewhere, strawweight Emily Whitmire (4-2) defeated Aleksandra Albu (3-1) via rear-naked-choke and bantamweight Manny Bermudez (14-0) defeated Benito Lopez (9-1) via brabo choke. Welterweight Vicente Luque (15-6) defeated Bryan Barberena via a trilling third round TKO and featherweight Alex Caceres (14-12) was made quick work of by the debuting Brazilian Jiu-jitsu prodigy Kron Gracie (5-0). So, while we got more disappointments and unanimous decisions than the violence “KGB” promised us this past weekend, at least there is light at the end of the tunnel bright enough to see better cards and hopefully better fights to come on the horizon. Otherwise, “The Just Bleed God” is going to be very angry.
UFC on ESPN 1: Velasquez vs Ngannou
By: Jesse Donathan
Very respected people in the mixed martial arts community consider Cain Velasquez (14-2) to be greatest heavyweight fighter the sport has ever seen. The former Arizona State collegiate wrestler is known for his relentless pace, incredible cardio and stifling pressure inside the cage. A former two-time UFC Heavyweight champion, Velasquez’s career has been marked with injuries which has left fans and pundits alike questioning what could have been rather than what actually was unfortunately. Velasquez last competed in July of 2016, defeating Travis Browne by TKO.
Few fighters will ever know what it means to have a promotion completely behind them, in the not too distant past Francis Ngannou (12-3) was thought to be a world beater who enjoyed the UFC’s complete backing all the way up to meeting Stipe Miocic for the UFC Heavyweight title and getting dominated in convincing fashion. Ngannou possesses incredible power, in a sport marked with athletes Ngannou is the type of mixed martial artist who could clean house in the roughest of neighborhoods. Unfortunately for Ngannou, the same problems he faced against Stipe Miocic are going to be the same problems he will have to face in Cain Velasquez, which is an athletic, wrestling based big man who has the ability to stand with Ngannou or take him down virtually anytime he wants too.
The good new for Ngannou is that Velasquez won’t be afraid of him and will be willing to stand and trade punches with “The Predator.” What this means for Ngannou is opportunities, opportunities to do what Ngannou does best and that is lay people out. The bad news is Velasquez has proven to be athletic enough with a high enough fight IQ to weather the storm and bulldoze his way right through Ngannou. They key’s to victory for Ngannou will be to put his hands on Velasquez, maintain proper striking distance and to avoid the takedown.
Ngannou cannot afford to allow Velasquez to close the distance, failure to stop what is surely the inevitable will mean Ngannou will likely suffer PTSD based flashbacks of how badly Stipe Miocic beat him up. This means Ngannou will need to improve his foot work, ensure he makes Velasquez pay for closing the distance on him and work hard to stuff any takedowns coming his way which will almost assuredly be chained in combinations. Ngannou will absolutely need to rely on an offensive based game plan, developing a momentum stopping jab would go a long way in making opponents think twice about exploiting his lack of grappling acumen and takedown defense.
For Velasquez, he has been here before. The ankle pick or any other number of takedowns will be there for Velasquez essentially anytime he wants them to be. Using his athleticism to close the distance, applying a pace and pressure Ngannou will find difficult to maintain for any meaningful amount of time and bringing the hurt in classic Velasquez fashion are his keys to victory. Ngannou has incredible power, it is not in Cain’s best interest to test the waters but should he find his way through the absolute bombs sure to come his way Velasquez can be expected to ragdoll Ngannou and showcase a violent all-around mixed martial arts game.
The blueprint to defeat Ngannou has already been written, he is going to need to close the holes in his game and develop additional tools such as a jab and solid takedown defense in order to compete in the UFC Heavyweight division. Other fighters in the past such as former UFC fighter Cheick Kongo were able to successfully add a wrestling based offensive attack to their arsenal in addition to being feared strikers so it is entirely possible for Ngannou to continue to evolve as a mixed martial artist. For Velasquez, expectations are high for the former champion. Anything short of getting Ngannou out of there convincingly will be viewed with disappointing eyes. This fight will not be a repeat of Ngannou vs Lewis, which was a real snooze fest. The forecast on Sunday night the 17th on ESPN will be violence.
UFC 234 Results: Israel Adesanya Edges Anderson Silva
By: Jesse Donathan
Unfortunately for everyone involved, UFC 234 was marked with late news on Saturday, the day of the fight, that the much-anticipated main event, a 185-pound middleweight title fight between Kelvin Gastelum and Robert Whitaker was canceled due to the discovery of a hernia which forced the champion Robert Whitaker to withdraw from Saturday nights contest in Melbourne, Australia.
Sherdog.com’s Tristen Critchfield reported in his February 9, 2019 article titled, “Hernia Forces Robert Whittaker Out of Title Defense vs. Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234” that, “UFC President Dana White confirmed the news to ESPN on Saturday. Whittaker experienced pain in his abdomen late last night and was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a hernia.”
In a response released from Gastelum via his official Twitter account Saturday night, the challenger would go on to state, “With much sorrow I write that my fight for the middleweight title is off. I’m sorry to everyone that was expecting this great fight, Family, friends and followers around the world.” Kelvin Gastelum is a great fighter, he has earned this title shot and we can only hope he is able to maintain this number one contender position without penalty and get the title shot that is rightfully his.
The UFC released a video Sunday evening via Twitter of the still hospitalized champion Robert Whittaker apologizing for the fight cancellation and detailing a very serious emergency surgency he underwent for a collapsed bowel and internal hernia. According to Whittaker, the UFC spared no expense in his treatment and the champion sounded very grateful for their kindness. Fans around the world are wishing Whittaker good health and a speedy recovery. This man is a true warrior and a wonderful mixed martial arts champion.
As a result, the UFC 234 co-main event between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya was promoted to the headlining contest, though curiously enough remained a three-round affair. This is significant because Jose Aldo is reported to have turned down headlining UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ due to the then customary five round main event requirements at the time. It appears an exception has been made or reason has finally come upon the ears of the corporate fight world if only momentarily.
There are any number of potential hardships that can befall a fight camp when an event is cancelled last second, and depending on how a fighter’s contract is framed there may be little to no financial recourse for those who may have promised or invested in training partners and/or any number of coaches, experts, specialists etc. in their quest for a championship run. All of whom may be adversely affected financially by news of a fights complete removal from a card barring the good graces of the promotion themselves.
There is a lot of time, hard work and sacrifice involved in preparing for these fights and for something to go wrong where a fight is cancelled last second is truly a nightmare scenario. Barring a well written contract or the UFC’s mercy, fighters do not get paid if they do not fight. And the money lost by the promotion themselves in marketing the fight is simply unconscionable.
Depending on the event, last second cancellations can result in fans who had pre-ordered pay-per-view events, purchased tickets to the event itself or subscribed to channels which required additional billing becoming very dissatisfied customers with the last second change of plans. In other words, news of Robert Whitakers withdraw Saturday night was a complete catastrophe. And this coming off the heels of UFC 232, where Jon Jones was unable to secure a license to fight in the state of Nevada and the event was completely moved to a new venue in Inglewood, California virtually last second.
Aaron Bronsteter, UFC reporter and content editor for TSN Sports, reported via Twitter Saturday afternoon that ESPN analyst and former two-time UFC challenger to Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, had obtained special permission from Scott Coker and the UFC’s rival promotion, Bellator, to step in to fight Anderson Silva on short notice should the UFC have wanted to make Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum for an interim title fight. According to Sonnen, all he would have required was, “a mouthpiece, gloves and an XXXL size cup.” Unfortunately for the fans, this particular scenario did not materialize because it would have been an epic and exciting turn of events.
According to a February 8, 2019 sherdog.com article titled “Israel Adesanya Questions Anderson Silva’s Choice to Bring in Alex Pereira For Training” author Nathan Zur writes that Anderson Silva brought in top-tier training partners in preparation for Israel Adesanya:
“For this fight against the rising super star Adesanya, “The Spider” has brought in Brazilian world champion Glory kickboxer Alex Pereira who has beaten “The Last Stylebender” on two occasions, first when they met back in 2016 at the “Glory of Heroes” event with Pereira winning by unanimous decision and then again in 2017 at “Glory of Heroes 7” with the Brazilian Pereira knocking out the rising UFC star.”
The anticipation of the Adesanya vs. Silva fight may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations, but it was an entertaining fight nonetheless. There was plenty of showmanship throughout the fight from both fighters and the Melbourne, Australia crowd seemed genuinely entertained despite the last second cancellation of the previously scheduled main event. Adesanya’s strategy in the first appeared to be to attack low and go high, setting Silva up with a predominantly low strike-oriented attack to continuously draw Silva’s hands and attention low in order to set up a potentially game changing technique thrown high. Interestingly enough, Anderson Silva seemed to be well prepared for this game plan, even expecting it, likely the result of training with Alex Pereira. In what was likely Anderson Silva’s plan all along, round one was marked with Adesanya being the more active fighter in the cage and there is little question Israel took round one 10-9.
The second round was a different story however, as Anderson Silva came alive and was noticeably more active throughout. Silva had Adesanya on the run a handful of times, at one-point Silva even dropped his hands and met Adesanya in the middle of the cage with a very determined look on his face attempting to draw Adesanya into a brawl. This was an entertaining fight, though perhaps marked with too much showboating at times from both competitors which the enthusiastic Melbourne crowd seemed to have loved despite my objections. To the delight of many, Anderson Silva’s legendary head movement and reflexes returned in this fight, though if only briefly. Round two was a 10-9 round for Silva, who showed Adesanya there is a reason “The Spider” is a respected standup fighter in the UFC.
Under the 10-point must system, a round is rarely scored an even 10-10. Unfortunately, it must be ruled at least a 10-9 for a fighter despite the fact these contests are regularly marked with rounds which there was no decisive edge by either athlete in the ring or cage. Otherwise, I personally would have scored round three of Silva vs Adesanya a 10-10 because it wasn’t particularly eventful. Though both fighters had their moments, if I was absolutely forced to give the final five minutes to someone it would have been Adesanya for being the predictably more active, fresher fighter within the closing minute of the fight. The judges ultimately scored this contest 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for the winner Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision.
In other news from UFC 234, Devonte “King Kage” Smith took Dong Hyun Ma (16-9) behind the wood shed, dispatching the veteran South Korean mixed martial artists by knockout at 3:53 in the first round. With Saturday nights victory Smith moves to a very impressive 10-1, with all of those victories but one coming by way of KO or TKO. In Tristen Critchfield’s February 9, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “UFC 234 Bonuses: Israel Adesanya, Anderson Silva Garner ‘Fight of the Night’ Honors” Devonte Smith is quoted as having received a well-deserved $50,000 fight bonus for “Performance of the Night” honors along with Montana De La Rosa for her armbar submission victory over Nadia Kassem.
UFC 234 Preview: Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya
By: Jesse Donathan
Anderson Silva is a great fighter, an icon of the sport whose legacy is forever cemented in the hallowed halls of mixed martial arts greats. Before there was Conor McGregor, before there was Ronda Rousey, there was “The Spider” Anderson Silva. A fighter who Chris Leben famously promised to send back to Japan where the competition was easier, Silva went from being a Pride FC fighter that the UFC was going to make an example out of to enhance their own brand to the sport’s biggest star. Anderson is still an elite fighter with the ability to finish virtually anyone in the UFC middleweight division even at the age of 43, nearly 44 as of April 14th of this year 2019. Whether or not Silva can turn back the clock and defeat a fighter some 14 years his junior and considered a virtual clone if not in fact a better striker than himself in Israel Adesanya is the million-dollar question.
At one point, Silva (34-8-0) went a remarkable 16-0 in the UFC, snatching the title from the well-respected former middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Silva would not look back until his infamous July, 06 2013 loss to Chris Weidman where some showboating from Silva resulted in “The Spider” getting smashed. That marked the beginning of a four-fight losing streak after his UFC 183 unanimous decision victory over Nick Diaz was overturned to a no contest following a positive test for the metabolites of the performance enhancing drugs Drostanolone and Androsterone according to an August 13, 2015 bloodyelbow.com article titled, “UFC’s Anderson Silva suspended for one year following bizarre NAC hearing” by Michael Hutchinson.
Israel Adesanya (15-0) has a relentless, stifling Muay Thai offensive game that has the ability to break the will of his opponents and turn them into purely defensive minded fighters. “I know him better than he knows himself,” exclaimed Adesanya in describing his idol Anderson Silva. Originally from Nigeria, “The Last Stylebender” is a former professional kickboxer who now fights by way of New Zealand. According to a November 2, 2018 sherdog.com article titled, “5 Things You Might Not Know About Israel Adesanya” author Guy Portman writes that Adesanya is quite the dancer even entertained becoming a professional dancer prior to becoming a fighter. “There is no doubt that Adesanya’s dedication to dance has been beneficial to the rangy, 6-foot-3 pugilist’s fluid movement and exceptional footwork,” writes Portman.
“There is no scenario where Adesanya comes out this thing unscathed. There is no scenario where Anderson Silva comes out of this thing feeling great that night, gets a good night’s sleep. That just simply is not happening. One or both of these athletes is going to the hospital,” exclaimed Bad Guy Inc. CEO and ESPN analyst Chael Sonnen in his January 22, 2019 YouTube video titled, “Anderson Silva likes the stylistic matchup with Israel Adesanya…”
If Anderson Silva fights smart, this is a very winnable fight. Both Silva and Adesanya are strikers, this means stand-up fighting is their specialty. But this is a mixed martial arts fight, not a kickboxing bout, though it could easily turn into a stand-up war if both fighters choose to engage in that style of fight. Conventional wisdom has it that Adesanya is the younger, sharper, faster fighter in the cage and has the advantage in the striking department.
While this may be true, Anderson Silva is an accomplished striker in his own right and is thus intimately familiar with the stand-up game himself. This familiarity with Adesanya’s strongest fight attributes puts Silva in a perfect position to compete long enough on his feet in order to close the distance, weave his way into a grappling exchange where he can then attempt to tie Adesanya up and drag him to the floor where Silva’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt can become a wild card that has been put into play.
The fans use their imaginations to fill in the blanks, to create false narratives of make-believe fantasies where they get exactly what they want. In this case, a stand-up battle with Anderson Silva going out on his shield or shocking the world with one last great performance. While all of these scenario’s are possible, the quickest route to victory for Silva is to exchange just enough with Adesanya to use his own kickboxing experience to tie Adesanya up and make this a mixed martial art fight instead of a kickboxing bout where Silva enjoys an edge in experience over the undefeated, up and coming Adesanya.
Israel Adesanya has displayed the remarkable ability to improve from fight to fight, his propensity to avoid the take down and enter the matrix while his opponents remain subject to the realities of physics is impressive. Adesanya is a stand-up wizard, his keys to victory will be to stay focused and not overly respect Silva for the great former champion that he is. Israel just needs to fight his fight, it’s even possible he is the superior fighter on the outside and in the clinch, which will necessitate the fact Anderson Silva needs to make this a mixed martial arts fight, not a glorified kickboxing match. “The Last Stylebender” will need to capitalize on his youth, athleticism and technique to dismantle the former champion and introduce the world to the Israel Adesanya era. This is the biggest fight of Israel’s career, he is on the precipice of becoming a house hold name and he will certainly take one step closer to towards realizing that goal come Saturday night against the legendary Anderson Silva.
UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ Results: Aldo Emerges Victorious
By: Jesse Donathan
There didn’t appear to be an empty seat in the house Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 144 in Fontaleza, Ceara, Brazil. The main event saw Raphael Assuncao (27-6) lose to the surging Marlon Moraes by submission in the first round of the 135-pound bantamweight division featured contest. “Magic” Moraes (22-5) has won four in a row, bringing an end to Assuncao’s own four fighting winning-streak, securing victory in front of the packed house with a mounted guillotine choke. The finish was set up by some vicious striking from Moraes, creating a scramble with Assuncao that culminated in the fight hitting the mat and Moraes wrapping up his opponent like an Anaconda, constricting his opponents will to fight. Resistance proved to be futile, coaxing the tap at 3:17 into the first round.
As reported in a cbssports.com article titled, “UFC Fight Night 144 results, highlights: Marlon Moraes makes quick work of Raphael Assuncao” by Brian Campbell, “Magic” went on to state after the bout, “You almost lost the main event. I had diarrhea all week bad.” According to Moraes, “I caught the mosquito here and it messed me up bad. “It was a very tough week for me. I was really tested and it was really God that made me come here tonight.”
Catching the mosquito, an apparent allusion to Malaria perhaps? Bringing into focus some of the hurdles professional fighters face beyond just having to worry about another trained killer attempting to separate them from consciousness in the ring or cage. If true, the fact Moraes was able to secure victory Saturday night is no small feat to have accomplished, bordering on the incredible in fact.
The Co-main event saw mixed martial arts legend Jose Aldo compete against Renato “Moicano” Carneiro in what was reported to have been the originally planned main event for UFC Fight Night 144 before Aldo is said to have declined to participate in the mandatory five round affair. Round one proved to be a feeling out process for Aldo, who remained rather disciplined in his approach, pumping the jab throughout the round in an attempt to control the distance against the lengthier “Moicano” who was the far more active fighter throughout the first five minutes.
Round two saw the former UFC champion turn up the volume. Ditching the more disciplined approach from round one, Aldo went right after Carneiro with a blitzkrieg style offensive barrage of punches and knees. “Moicano” was overwhelmed, unable to turn the tide of Aldo’s relentlessly high pace, referee Jerin Valel was forced to intervene and call an end to the contest at just 44 seconds into round two. The crowd was ecstatic with the victory, the atmosphere very reminiscent of a World Cup soccer event, with Aldo himself overwhelmed with joy as if a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders.
Leaping over the cage and into a sea of a thrilled spectators, shades of the UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov infamously taking flight up and over the chain link fence at UFC 229 flashed before my eyes. Only Aldo’s intentions were anything but nefarious, showing and receiving great love from those in attendance. This was the true main event at UFC Fight Night 144 and if the crowd’s reaction to Aldo’s TKO victory was any indication of success, the UFC knocked it out of the park with Saturday night’s co-main event.
In other news from UFC Fight Night 144, Demian Maia (26-9) proved to be too much for Lyman Good, who falls to 20-5 overall, succumbing to a rear naked choke at 2:38 into round number one to the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master. In victory, the 41-year-old Maia snaps a three-fight losing streak, having lost to a deaths row of competitors in the welterweight division to include the champion Tyron Woodley, former interim champion Colby Covington and the divisions number one contender Kamaru Usman back-to-back-to-back.
An immense amount of recognition and respect needs to be given to an almost pure Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master for competing at the sports highest level in mixed martial arts competition with what is an almost purely submission-based plan of attack. In an era where conventional wisdom holds that the Royce Gracie’s of the world are a thing of the past, Demian exists to show the experts that Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is sill a force to be reckoned with in the modern era. For this reason alone, Demian Maia is a modern-day Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts hero.
UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ Preview
By: Jesse Donathan
The UFC returns to ESPN+ Saturday night, February 2nd as bantamweights Marlon Moraes (21-5-1) and Raphael Assuncao (27-5) collide in the main event. Both fighters are vying for an opportunity to face bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (16-4), in their way oddly enough is flyweight champion Henry Cejudo who recently bested Dillashaw in a failed attempt to claim Cejudo’s 125-pound title. In the co-main event, former longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo (27-4) faces Renato “Moicano” Carneiro (13-1-1) in a three-round 145-pound featherweight contest.
According to Bellator light heavyweight fighter and ESPN host Chael Sonnen stated via his January 31, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “Jose Aldo said publicly what a lot of fighters say privately…” Aldo was offered the main event slot but declined, preferring to take a three-round fight over a lengthier five round war of attrition. Sonnen would go on to add, “Jose has been the first one to put his foot down and push back and a lot of the fighters are going, ‘hey, this is weird, why are we doing that?’ Why do we have to go on for 70% longer?”
Aldo has had his problems with cardio in the past, with his tendency to put a high pace on his opponents the very real possibility of gassing out can have the effect of changing game plans and the way fighters approach the fights. Without an additional two rounds to worry about, Aldo has more freedom to practice his particular brand of violence which has served him well throughout his legendary career. Considered by some to be the greatest featherweight of all time, anytime you get a chance to watch Aldo compete the very real possibility of a stoppage exists win or lose making him a perennial fan favorite.
Renato Moicano has other plans however, with a lengthy, piston like jab the 5’11” Moicano enjoys a 75-inch reach, a full five inches greater than the 5’8” Aldo. Fighting tall and long will be the keys to victory for Moicano, something easier said then done against an opponent like Jose who is great at closing the distance and with deadly kicks and offensive barrages. Aldo is the more experienced and technical fighter, but the years of consistently fighting some of the best fighters in the world have taken their toll on the once dominant champion. The 32-year-old champion has twice as many fights as his younger, 29-year-old opponent and that kind of mileage will begin to break down even the best of fighters. We will find out if Aldo has what it takes to turn back ‘Moicano’ Saturday night.
Jon Jones Fails CSAC Mandated VADA Drug Testing
By: Jesse Donathan
We don’t have to wait decades to debate whether Jon Jones is the greatest fighter to ever live, that argument is alive and well at this very moment and has been the subject of debate for some years now. Without question, Jones is one of the most spectacular talents the sport has ever seen. Jones is an electrifying fighter, someone with the ability to strike with the best strikers and to the surprise of many, even wrestle with the best wrestlers. Jon Jones is a prodigy, but unfortunately a prodigy whose legacy will forever be marred with accusations of performance enhancing drug use – cheating!
In a January 24, 2019 MMA Fighting article titled, “Alexander Gustafsson’s team says Jon Jones has “essentially received a ‘use exemption’ after UFC 232 positive drug test”. It was reported that Jon Jones, to nobodies surprise I might add, has once again tested positive for the banned substance Turinabol.
“MMA Fighting reported Wednesday that Jones tested positive for trace amounts of a long term metabolite of oral Turinabol in a Dec. 28 sample collected by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) on the day of UFC 232’s weigh-ins. The VADA test results discovered that Jones had 33 picograms in his system of the same M3 long term metabolite that was found in Jones’ system in three separate drug tests from August 2018 to early December, including a Dec. 9 drug test which prompted the UFC to uproot UFC 232’s entire event from Nevada to California on less than a week’s notice.”
In a January 25, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “When did a failed drug test, stop being a ‘failed drug test’?” current Bellator fighter and ESPN analyst Chael Sonnen weighed in on the issue, stating:
“But now the question comes down to how three agencies test him all in the same night and two of them missed it. I’m a little confused how there isn’t a spotlight and a question mark on how USADA, with an 11-million-dollar yearly budget missed it on the same night that California, who then submitted it to the WADA lab at UCLA missed it but VADA who collected the sample on the same night, submitted it to the same lab caught it.”
Rather curiously, what Sonnen is referring to Jones’s December 29, 2019 fight night test administered by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) where Jon Jones’s test results came back completely devoid of any illegal performance enhancing drugs in his system. So, in summary Jones went from failing his Dec. 9th test for Turinabol, 60 picograms worth according to TSN UFC content editor Aaron Bronsteter to passing a December 29th test administered by the CSAC and USADA but failing the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) test, at 33 picograms of Turinabol; all of which were administered on the same night and sent to the exact same World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) laboratory. Sonnen is absolutely correct to suggest a spotlight should put on these contradictory test results, what exactly is going on here?
In Sonnen’s estimation, “Let’s just get to the conclusion right off the bat. The conclusion is they are correct, they are correct in their analysis and determination that Jon Jones is having residue, he is having left over trace amounts from a substance of which he was already punished for. That is true. And they are right to also conclude that there was no re-ingestion.”
While I am sure there is some highly paid “expert” currently pouring through his medical texts and scientific journals in an effort to contrive some cockamamie explanation as to why two of the three regulatory bodies missed the illegal, banned substance in Jones’s system its instances like these where a zero-tolerance policy across the board would go along way in quelling any suggestions or appearances of impropriety among the regulatory bodies ranks.
Jones has a long history with illegal performance enhancing drug use in his professional mixed martial arts career. According to a January 10, 2019 MMA Fighting article by Shaun Al-Shatti titled, “Jon Jones’ UFC 232 drug tests come back clean” Jones is no stranger to running afoul of the regulatory commissions.
“Jones, 31, is a two-time offender of the USADA testing program, having failed drug tests in both 2016 and 2017 in relation to fights against Daniel Cormier. Jones first tested positive for clomiphene, an anti-estrogenic substance, and letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, in July 2016 just days out from his scheduled UFC 200 fight against Cormier. He then tested positive for the anabolic agent oral Turinabol in a July 2017 test administered the day before his UFC 214 rematch against Cormier. Jones defeated Cormier via third-round knockout, however the result was subsequently overturned into a no contest.”
Fighters popping positive for performance enhancing drugs is nothing new, even under the USADA era of the UFC fighters are still testing positive for a litany of banned substances on a regular basis. The anti-doping measures undertaken by the UFC were always a feel-good measure, an attempt to treat a bullet wound with a band-aid. It was an effort to add further legitimacy to the sport in the eyes of the public, while refusing to recognize the inherent culture within not only mixed martial arts, but combat sports themselves, where people’s health and thus future depend on being as physically fit and prepared as possible for the realities and rigors of combat sports.
When the sports top draws, the biggest stars in the game, revenue shakers and money makers start succumbing to the feel-good measures put in place for aesthetic purposes only the bottom line starts to suffer. When the bottom line starts to suffer, the problems are quickly identified and solutions are found. In this case, the problem was the one of the organizations best fighters is perpetually testing positive for illegal, banned substances. The solution was to find scientific experts who were able to explain away the repeated positive tests so that the show can go on.
At UFC 232, the show could not go on in Nevada due to Jones’s atypical test result which the NSAC refused to sanction so they moved the circus to California. Here we are, weeks later and the specter of the outer limits known as UFC 232 is still in our peripheral vision. Something has to give, either a zero-tolerance policy needs to be adopted or the entire performance enhancing drug paradigm needs to be re-evaluated. The current model is leaving more questions than answers and, in a sport, where legitimacy has been a long fought, hard battle the question of impropriety in combat sports still remains.
UFC 232 In Review: The Outer Limits
By: Jesse Donathan
They say where there is smoke, there is fire. The oddities surrounding former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’s UFC 232 to rematch against Alexander Gustafsson has left me with the distinct feeling we have entered The Twilight Zone. If money is the root of all evil, then the absolutely bizarre circumstances leading up to the UFC 232 rematch between Jones and Gustafsson must mean the devil is laughing all the way to the bank. While the circus like exhibition didn’t just start in the lead up to UFC 232, but it has certainly manifested itself on full display for the public at large to observe and revel in its glorious insanity.
Searching for a good place to start, we look no further than Bad Guy Inc. CEO, former UFC middleweight title contender Chael Sonnen’s September 5, 2018 YouTube podcast excerpt titled, “Tainted Supplements, USUDA, Jon Jones and Madison Square Garden” where Sonnen elaborates on his personal experience in violating these same rules Jon Jones is accused of and his opinion on Jon Jones’s ultimate fate under the regulatory body’s disciplinary guidelines.
To tie this back in with Jon Jones, if he had a tainted supplement, they would be able within precedent to allow him to fight earlier than the two-year ban which would bring you which would be the four would be the minimum ban for a repeat offender which would bring you the summer of 2019. I don’t know of any other way that they could possibly find a way around it. I just don’t know. I will be learning something when and if they do it and I am predicting they will do it.
According to a September 20, 2018 cbssports.com article by Jake Crosby titled, “Jon Jones receives retroactive 15-month USADA suspension, eligible for UFC return in 2018” Jones was ultimately cleared to compete after it was ruled his positive test was the result of a tainted substance through no fault of his own.
The arbitrator found that Jones never intentionally or knowingly took steroids, and the result of the positive test was the result of a contaminated substance,” White said. “The science completely supports that finding. The science doesn’t lie, so I look forward to getting him back early next year.
Bloodyelbow.com mixed martial arts journalist Mookie Alexander remarked of the sentence, “absolute madness that this case has taken such a wacky turn,” in his September 19, 2018 piece titled, “Jon Jones gets 15-month USADA ban for Turinabol, eligible to return as early as UFC 230.” While getting his Jheri curls trimmed up down at the barbershop, “The Gangster from West Linn” Chael Sonnen remarked that he found the entire episode surrounding Jones’s sentence confusing according to his September 28, 2018 video “Was Jon Jones actually found innocent?”
There’s a three-strike rule with USADA and Jon already had a strike so this will be strike two. If he was in fact found innocent then it means he does not have a strike. And nowhere in that do I interpret that he was found innocent, but he used that word and it was a very confusing and surprising deliberation to start with.
Sonnen would later go on to say via YouTube on September 28, 2018 in his podcast video excerpt titled “Did Jones receive a reduced sentence then refuse to fight at MSG?” that Jones’s reduced sentence was just in time for the UFC’s main event at the Madison Square Garden card against Alexander Gustafsson but Jones refused the fight. They were trying to rush Jones right in against a very serious opponent in Gustafsson and the Jones camp was having no part of it.
They tried to make Gustafsson vs Jones. They tried to do that fight. Jon Jones got cleared, everybody went through the hoops, everybody did everything that they were supposed to do. Jon Jones didn’t want to do the fight that fast. Jon Jones did not want to go in and do the fight that fast.
Fast forward to UFC 232, Jones was finally set to rematch Alexander Gustafsson after leaving the UFC holding the ball at UFC 230 at Madison Square Gardens. This after receiving a reduced sentence after violating USADA anti-doping rules and then the unthinkable happened, again. According to a Washington Post article by Des Bieler titled, “UFC 232 hastily moved to Los Angeles after a Jon Jones drug test gets flagged in Nevada” Jon Jones has once again tested positive for the steroid Turinabol” and utter chaos ensued as a result. The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) refused to license Jones and the entire event had to be relocated to an area just outside of Los Angeles, California where Jones could be licensed by the California State Athletic Commission despite the NSAC’s better judgement.
The catch is that Jones won’t be able to compete in Nevada, where UFC 232 was set to take place on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Instead, the entire event — comprising 13 fights in all, including a titanic battle between Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes — will be hastily moved to the Los Angeles-area Forum.
As if things couldn’t get any weirder, news breaks that referee Herb Dean has suffered an unspecified injury and is out of the UFC 232 circus act. According to Sherdog.com’s Tristen Critchfield’s December 26, 2018 article, “Mike Beltran Replaces Injured Herb Dean to Referee UFC 232 Main Event” that Dean, the NSAC’s originally assigned referee has went down and is out for the count.
According to a report from MMAFighting.com, Mike Beltran will replace Herb Dean as the official for the light heavyweight championship clash between Jones and Alexander Gustafsson. Dean, who was appointed by the Nevada Athletic Commission, suffered an injury and will not be able to work on Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. UFC 232 was moved from Las Vegas to California when the NAC declined to license Jones.
Just when you think things couldn’t get any more bizarre, enter the UFC press conference leading up to the December 29 fight where the side show between the UFC and the MMA press corps was on full display. According to a December 27, 2018 bloodyelbow.com article written by Tim Burke titled, “UFC 232: Jon Jones rips female reporter for asking about positive tests: ‘Better journalism, you suck’” we find the bizarre nature surrounding UFC 232 simply knows no end.
When Izabelle Kostic of Swedish MMA outlet Kimura.se asked “How come this is the third time we’re actually taking focus from the fighters and the fights and talking about what you have in your body? Whether it’s a picogram or a pictogram, why have you tested now positive?”, Jones brushed it off and just said “next question” with a smile.
While watching the press conference video from the safety of my computer, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought there were professional agent provocateurs mingled amongst the crowd whose job it was to heckle and intimidate members of the press corps who may have been bold enough to ask legitimate questions concerning the completely bizarre events in the lead up to UFC 232. Swiss journalist Izabelle Kostic unfortunately received a first-hand lesson in how big-league sports politics are practiced and the extent in which the sports entertainment industry will go to deflect criticism and attempt to turn the tables on those questioning the perception of impropriety.
“Jones closed it out by saying “Better journalism, you suck,” writes Burke of the Swiss journalist Kostic’s experiences at the UFC 232 press conference with Jon Jones as Dana White lead the circus in undermining the veracity of the questions and the seriousness of the situation from the podium. Interestingly, news broke on December 27, 2018 that, “In the wake of a controversial drug test prior to UFC 232 involving Jon Jones, the UFC has renewed their contract with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency,” writes Nicole Bosco in her article titled “UFC, USADA contract extended, drug tests to increase” for fansided.com.
With Jones allegedly receiving a reduced sentence under the USADA regulatory guidelines only to leave the UFC out in the cold at UFC 230 in Madison Square Garden it is fascinating to explore the UFC’s renewed contract with USADA after Jones tests positive again for residual amounts of the same substance he was previously sanctioned for. The resulting penalty little more than the NSAC’s refusal to license Jones in the state of Nevada, forcing the UFC to relocate to California just outside Los Angeles and burdening many of those who had made previous plans to attend UFC 232 in Vegas. And in a bizarre twist of fate, with a new venue change in comes a new referee change as well.
Even the appearance of impropriety should be staunchly avoided, especially when your job is to add credibility to a sport whose reputation is that of one saturated in illegal performance enhancing drug use. According to a December 28, 2018 mymmanews.com article by Mike Pendleton, the “California State Athletic Commission was not informed of Jon Jones’s test findings before the license hearing in December” in a convenient all too transparent excuse as to why a fight with millions of dollars on the line is still being allowed to continue as scheduled despite a positive test for performance enhancing drugs as the regulatory bodies apparently look on and attempt to justify and excuse it. Pendleton would go on to write, “when asked why CSAC was not informed of the findings before their December 11th hearing with Jones”, the UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Development Jeff Novitzky replied:
Nevada knew at that time, but California didn’t. I mean, in hindsight, maybe USADA should have told CSAC. I’m definitely a proponent in as much transparency as possible. Unfortunately, how do you think of every scenario? I think in USADA’s mind, they had no obligation to let Nevada know about this at all. It wasn’t within their jurisdiction. I think out of an abundance of caution, they did it. Could they have given it to CSAC as well? I think potentially.
In a December 28, 2018 mmafighting.com article by Marc Raimondi titled, “CSAC was not given Jon Jones adverse finding information before December hearing” Raimondi followed up on Novitzky’s hindsight being 20/20, stating, “Foster confirmed with MMA Fighting on Friday that CSAC had no knowledge of the adverse findings until last week. He declined to comment further.”
Figuratively speaking, the circus has rolled into town. UFC 232 has been reduced to a side show attraction where even the regulatory bodies tasked with protecting the fighters are ridiculously inept to the point of suspicion. While this event may resemble an outer limits plot, in my opinion what it actually represents are the wheels of the machine being set in motion in order to funnel the direction of the winds into a particular path and direction. What is easily explained away by buffoonery and a genuine lack of class are in fact the shroud masking the men behind the curtain dutifully at work to set the stage for the events finale.
With Jon Jones’s immediate future in prize fighting very much in doubt, he managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat and miraculously his initial positive test for steroids in 2017 was ruled the result of a tainted supplement. With his eligibility to compete reinstated just in time for UFC 230, Jones leaves the UFC high and dry at Madison Square Garden’s forcing a last second main event fight between Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis after Jones declined to headline the card against Gustafsson in the rematch. To the amazement of nearly everyone, Jones once again test positive for the same steroid he was previously sanctioned for in 2017 and the UFC, USADA and even the athletic commissions themselves in two states are complicit in licensing and sanctioning a bout with a fighter who has absolutely, positively tested positive for a banned substance. Instead of a zero-tolerance policy, there appears to be room for performance enhancing drugs in the sport of mixed martial arts after all.
In keeping with UFC 232’s theme, ESPN mixed martial arts reporter Brett Okamoto described the Cat Zingano fight with Megan Anderson via twitter as an, “extremely bizarre finish.” Noting that it, “looks like Megan Anderson’s toe went into Cat Zingano’s eye in a head kick attempt and she stopped fighting. That’s not like an eye poke. Zingano turned around and stopped, fight is over. First round TKO.” UFC Hall of famer BJ Penn was made short work of by Brazilian Jiujitsu phenom Ryan Hall who caught Penn in a highlight reel Imanari style heel hook submission to seal the deal early in the first round. A passing of the guard occurred Saturday night at UFC 232 as well as bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes torched feared perennial powerhouse Cris Cyborg to capture the women’s featherweight title and become the first two division women’s champion in UFC history. The main event, to absolutely no one’s surprise saw Jon Jones convincingly out work Alexander Gustafsson in route to a third-round technical knockout victory to recapture the UFC light heavyweight title and bring to close this circus side show attraction of an event that will surely continue to smolder long after the lights go out.
A Closer Look at Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports
By: Jesse Donathan
“He tested positive again!” Those were the words I was greeted with upon logging on to twitter Sunday, December 23 and seeing the first message of the day from UFC two division champion Daniel Cormier. Unfortunately, Cormier didn’t even need to elaborate any further. Those four short words said it all. Subconsciously, we all knew who Daniel was talking about without needing any further explanation. He of course was talking about Jon “Bones” Jones. Widely considered the best fighter in the sport, according to a December 23, 2018 Jack Crosby article from cbssports.com titled, “UFC 232 moved to Los Angeles after Jon Jones drug test includes miniscule amount of banned substance” Jones has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs once again though he has not been suspended and his title fight against Alexander Gustafsson remains as previously scheduled.
An abnormality in a pre-fight drug test taken by former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has forced UFC to move Saturday’s UFC 232 pay-per-view from Las Vegas to just outside of Los Angeles. Jones’s drug test showed a trace amount of Turinabol, the banned substance that saw him suspended 15 months by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, remained in his system. The USADA referred to it as “an extremely low level,” concluding that it is a residual amount “from his prior exposure for which he was previously sanctioned.
In an espn.com article from Brett Okamato, “Jon Jones subject to drug testing from USADA, VADA” published on December 24, 2018 Okamato reports that as a result of the “atypical” anti-doping test results Jones will be enrolling into VADA testing, testing Jones had initially elected not to participate in, drawing widespread criticism before this latest flagged test result. Okamato would go on to write:
Jon Jones, as of Monday afternoon, is subject to drug testing from both the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
According to California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster, Jones, 31, enrolled in the VADA program on Monday. As a UFC athlete, he is still enrolled in the promotion’s mandatory USADA program as well, making him the first MMA fighter to be enrolled to both programs at the same time.
Jones is no stranger to banned substances, as described above this latest positive test for miniscule amounts of Turinabol are alleged to be trace deposits from the last positive test which Jones failed over a year ago. According to a September 13, 2017 article, “Jon Jones’ B sample confirms failed drug test from UFC 214” written by the BBC, “USADA confirmed that Jones had tested positive for an anabolic steroid called Turinabol, just one day before he defeated Daniel Cormier in Anaheim to reclaim the UFC’s light-heavyweight title.
Jones has denied knowingly taking the banned substance, and requested the test of his B sample, but this has now confirmed presence of Turinabol.” This latest December 2018 “atypical” result is alleged to be from this previous 2017 offense. Mixed martial arts journalist Dave Meltzer of The Wresting Observer isn’t so sure, stating via twitter social media on December 24, 2018 that, “when the same expert says a substance can only be detected for 6 weeks in 2017 and then tells you it was detected 17 months later in 2018, that tells me the “expert” may be smart, but also may be a con.”
Originally reported by Aaron Bronsteter, UFC content editor for The Sports News (TSN) via twitter, Jones tested at 60 picograms per milliliter on December 9, 2018. Interestingly enough, according to Bronsteter Jones originally tested positive back in 2017 for the same banned substance of between 20-80 picograms per milliliter. In other words, Jones’s most recent “atypical” flagged test is within the same range of his 2017 failed urinalysis for which he was originally sanctioned. Yet, Jones’s fight with Gustaffson remains as previously scheduled despite the NSAC’s refusal to license Jones. Rather questionably, the California State Athletic Commission is signing off on this fight when the Nevada State Athletic Commission would not, as the UFC bends over backwards to make sure the fight continues as scheduled.
According to a NCBI.gov article titled, “The pharmacokinetics of Oral-Turinabol in humans” originally published in September of 1991 by Schumann, W. oral-Turinabol has a terminal half-life of 16 hours. For those who may not be familiar with the term half-life, it is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “the time required for half the amount of a substance (such as a drug, radioactive tracer, or pesticide) in or introduced into a living system or ecosystem to be eliminated or disintegrated by natural processes.” Note, it’s been over a year since Jones’s original positive test.
In a July 7, 2016 Associated Press report at the nydailynews titled, “Tearful Jon Jones denies taking PEDs after positive test blows up UFC 200’s main event” Jones was reportedly adamant that, “he (had) no idea why his June 16 test would yield a violation after he passed seven other doping tests this year.” It was later revealed that Jones had tested positive for the anti-estrogen blocker clomiphene and the aromatase inhibitor Letrozole according to Marc Raimondi of mmafighting.com in his July 23, 2016 article titled, “Brock Lesnar tested positive for anti-estrogen; Lesnar, Jon Jones won’t face UFC fine.”
In a January 8, 2015 Ariel Helwani article for mmafighting.com, “Nevada Athletic Commission head: Jon Jones’ testosterone clean prior to UFC 182; carbon isotope ratio test conducted” we find some invaluable information in understanding the parallel world of doping in combat sports. In explaining testosterone to the reader, Helwani heads to WebMD to define testosterone as “the “male” hormone accounting for strength and endurance.” The WebMD definition goes on to state “for every molecule of testosterone produced by the body, another molecule of a substance called epitestosterone, which does not enhance performance, is made.” In examining some of the criteria set forth by regulatory bodies in mixed martial arts, the Helwani article would go on to explain that:
In a normal male body, the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, the T/E ratio, is about 1:1. But variation can occur in individuals, and the World Anti-Doping Code has deemed 4:1 as the threshold for a positive test.”
Note: Nevada’s threshold is 6:1.
This is some information worth sitting on and examining closer, because these ratios are incredible in comparison to the data we previously broke down barney style. Though I admittedly only had a C average when I graduated with a Bro-Science degree in English, the fact “the World Anti-Doping Code has deemed 4:1 as the threshold for a positive test,” seems to me to be a piece of information too incredible to skip over. There is nothing to see here people… move along!
If 1:1 is our baseline for normal, athletes could potentially have a 3:1 ratio of testosterone molecules made to every molecule of epitestosterone and still be well within the acceptable range of the World Anti-Doping Code and therefor passing the test with flying colors. That is literally three times what is considered normal and the scary part is that only a 4:1 ratio is considered a positive test. Understanding this information alone puts the performance enhancing drug question in combat sports in an entirely different light. If you are normal male athlete with a 1:1 T/E ratio you may think twice about stepping in there with another normal athlete who has a T/E ratio of 3:1 or even greater. Suddenly, the question of performance enhancing drugs in sports moves from the lens and perspective of cheating to an entirely new premise of leveling out the playing field.
According to Dr. Johnny Benjamin of mmajunkie.com, a noted medical combat-sports specialist, in his April 5, 2012 article titled, “Medical Beat: What are T:E ratios? And why do cut off limits vary?” ethnicity and other variables can play a role in T:E ratios.
Most men have a ratio of T to E of 1:1, which means normal men have equal amounts of T and E in their blood. There is some normal ethnic and time of day variation in the normal T/E ratio (as low as 0.7:1 and as high as 1.3:1).
Statistics reveal that a ratio of up to 3.7:1 will capture 95 percent of all normal men, and a ratio of up to 5:1 will capture greater than 99 percent of all men. That’s why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) allows up to 4:1 (so its test is at least 95 percent accurate) and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the NCAA and some others allow up to 6:1 (for 99 percent accuracy).
Flashing back to Helwani’s January 2015 article, he would go on write about Jon Jones’s flagged urinalysis sample:
So on Dec. 4, Jones’ T/E ratios came up as .29 and .35. Jones actually took two drug tests that day because, according to Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett, his first urine sample was “watery.” On Dec. 18, his T/E ratio came up as .19. Clearly, all three ratios were below that of the average male.
When our baseline is a 1:1 ratio, punching that information into the calculator still returns a result of one when you attempt to divide 1 by itself. Notice where Jon Jones’s decimal point is, we aren’t talking about 2.9 here. We are talking about 0.29, followed by 0.35 and incredibly on December 18 he tested out at 0.19. Jones was on his way to ruling the women’s UFC light heavyweight division until his dying day with those kinds of results. Helwani later writes, “by contrast, Daniel Cormier, Jones’ opponent at UFC 182, had a T/E ratio of .4 on Dec. 2 and .48 on Dec. 17. Cormier passed both those tests.” Even Daniel Cormier’s numbers are well below the 1:1 ratio considered as the baseline for normal testosterone to epitestosterone molecule production according to the WebMD synopsis originally provided by Helwani. While Jones’s test was the more suspicious between the two, there is no question Cormier is testing well below the normal threshold by regulatory body standards.
The World Anti-Doping code provides leeway up to a 4:1 ratio, the Nevada State Athletic Commission 6:1 according to Helwani and both Jones and Cormier are testing out with their decimal points on the wrong side of the calculations. Instead of testing for a high testosterone to low ratio epitestosterone, their decimal points are on the wrong side of the dotted line. In my opinion, both athletes have curiously low T/E ratios, however with Jones being the more questionable between the two he seemed to get the vast majority of negative publicity surrounding the testing results. In a seemingly real-life Jedi Mind trick, Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennet was quoted by Helwani as stating that, “there’s no problem with Daniel, trust me.”
Putting things into perspective here, according to an April 5, 2012 article by Jesse Holland of mmamania.com titled, “Report: Alistair Overeem T/E ratio comes back a whopping 14:1 following failed drug test” manipulating an athlete’s testosterone to epitestosterone ratio is a known performance enhancement technique in competitive sports and one which is exploited by athletes in combat sports.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight number one contender Alistair Overeem, who flunked a surprise drug test in advance of his UFC 146 title fight opposite Junior dos Santos on May 26 in Las Vegas, has returned a staggering testosterone-to-epitestosterone (T/E) ratio of 14:1 in his failed urine test, according to Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) Executive Director Keith Kizer.
Holland would go to write, “by comparison, Chael Sonnen’s T/E ratio following his failed urine test in the wake of his middleweight title fight in the UFC 117 main event back in October 2010, was 16.9:1.” Let that sink in for a second, 16.9 molecules of testosterone per one molecule of epitestosterone. In a universe where 1:1 is considered the baseline normal ratio, that’s simply unfathomable. Those are the kinds of numbers that would make Lance Armstrong blush. And according to Nevada State Athletic Director Bob Bennett Daniel Cormier competing at .40:1 and .48:1 isn’t a problem? “These are not the droids you’re looking for,” echo’s Obi Wan Kenobi in a galaxy, far, far away.
Yet, Jon Jones’s .29:1 and .35:1 ratio is a problem? With a third test ordered for Jon Jones and Jones only on December 18th with an astonishingly low .19:1 T/E ratio result obviously raising red flags on top of red flags. These are the T/E ratios I would expect from an adolescent child, yet they are the results of performance enhancing drug tests for two of the world’s leading mixed martial arts champions?
Astonishingly, in a July 1997 report by Werner W. Franke and Brigette Berondonk, “Hormonal doping and androgenization of athletes: a secret program of the German Democratic Republic government” published at Clinical Chemistry we find a wonderfully insightful and behind the scenes look at the world of pharmaceutical based athletic performance enhancing drug use. Describing the East German Democratic Republics (GDR) state sponsored doping program, Franke and Berondonk wrote of one of the GDR symposium’s goals to evade increased scrutiny by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by administering, “testosterone as well as dihydrotestosterone by nasal spray, especially in those events in which the psychotropic effects of testosterone, such as increased aggressiveness, are considered important, as well as to evade the doping tests.”
In a fascinating and insightful look at the corruption within the regulatory bodies, Werner and Berondonk describe how situations deemed embarrassing or too damaging for some nations, regulatory bodies, promotions or athletes were simply covered up.
Finally, however, even when an athlete of the GDR, or another socialist country, was tested at a risky moment, i.e., when her or his urine was expected to still contain metabolites of synthetic steroids or an above-normal T:E ratio, there was no reason to panic. From the written records, it appears that, usually, one of the members of the international doping control committee was able to clear away the sample. For example, the Stasi reports from Höppner, who served many years on control committees, describe when and how he covered up certain drug-positive cases and arranged falsely negative findings, often after consultation with a ZK member; if worst came to worst, he acted directly by carrying out a urine exchange.
It’s unreal that Jon Jones has tested positive, again, yet reportedly for residual amounts from a previously failed test which he has already been sanctioned for. Contributing to the madness is the fact Jones is reportedly unable to be sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, so the UFC has moved the entire show to just outside Los Angeles, California where Jones can be sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission. The logistics involved for this kind of move, the money lost, and tremendous burden put on nearly everyone who had planned on attending the event in Las Vegas, with flights and hotels booked etc. is simply mind blowing.
There is plenty of blame to go around here. While Jones is the obvious target, how is it just days before the fight with Gustafsson this trace amount of Turinabol was only now discovered? If anything, this latest embarrassment for Jones only shines the light on the ineptitude of regulatory bodies and their administrative policies which ultimately lead to public relations nightmares just like this latest positive test by Jones for a performance enhancing drug he had been previously sanctioned on over a year ago now. Its time for additional oversight and reform in the combat sports entertainment industry.
Khabib vs. McGregor in Boxing?
By: Michael Kane
Conor McGregor fought UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October, and was convincingly defeated. McGregor would like a rematch and so it seems would Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father.
Only next time in a boxing ring.
After the Dagestani’s win, he called out Floyd Mayweather, Mayweather said the fight may happen and that he could make more money fighting Khabib than he did when he beat McGregor in the 10th round last year.
The rumours on this potential match up have gone quiet and now it seems Khabib and his team still fancy a boxing bout against his old foe, McGregor.
Whether this would hold much appeal to boxing aficionados around the world is debatable however, could it launch the much talked about entrance to the boxing world of Zuffa Boxing?
Speaking to Russian newspaper, Izvestia, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov said, “As for the fight against Conor under boxing rules, this is a fight we are interested in. Khabib showed that he is able to beat the best strikers of mixed martial arts.
“He said this before, but few believed it. However, after strong victories over Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza and Conor, people begin to believe.”
Nurmagomedov knocked McGregor to the canvas in the second round of their bout at UFC 229 and may have taken some confidence that He could out strike the Irishman.
“Nurmagomedov is able to do it in the boxing ring. Khabib has all the skills to win by the rules of boxing. One of the key skills can be called endurance.
“I remember his five round fight with (Al) Iaquinta, in which Khabib showed his willingness to fight in absolutely any area, using everything from a left jab to control on the ground. I want to note that the fight against Iaquinta was of great importance to us, there was a belt at stake and it was important to keep the bout calm and take the win. Which we did!”