Is Jon Jones’ latest heavyweight brush-off his true position, or is it tactics? Why does a submission attempt suddenly make dangerous spike slams just fine? And what chance are we giving Frankie Edgar against UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway?
That and other pressing questions in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.
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First reaction? I don’t believe him. It strikes me as a negotiating tactic.
Jon Jones has said in the past that the UFC would need to up his pay in order to go up to heavyweight, but he’d do it if the dollar figures were right. I believe that. I do not believe that Jones is especially concerned about Daniel Cormier’s power at heavyweight. Even if maybe he should be, I just don’t think his mind would ever go there.
I also wonder if it’s an attempt to bait Cormier back down to light heavyweight. All that stuff about how devastating it would be for Cormier to lose the weight and then get beat again? It’s hard to hear that and not wonder if it’s Jones’ way of goading him. And you know what else? It almost seems like it could work.
You are not alone there. It’s hard to know for sure exactly what was going on with Tony Ferguson and what might have brought it on, which makes it impossible (and irresponsible) for us to speculate too specifically at his mental state from afar.
You’d hope the UFC took it seriously and made sure he was in a good place before offering him a big fight like this, just like you’d hope Ferguson’s team would speak up if they had serious concerns.
But see, the fight game is not known for prioritizing the mental or physical health of its athletes. Instead it’s known for doing whatever it takes to keep the machine running. So yeah, that worries me. I hope Ferguson knows what he’s doing. I also hope those around him are looking out for him, and not just for themselves.
First thing I do, obviously, is order a bottle of sarsaparilla. (Sioux City Sarsaparilla is a good one.) Then I twitch my bushy mustache, cock my head to the side, and peer out from under my cowboy hat at the visage of Dustin Poirier.
“You know what that Dagestani fella is gonna try to do to you, don’t ya?” I ask him.
Poirier nods and says nothing.
“My advice? Don’t get no closer to him than two awkward kids slow-dancing at the church social.”
Poirier scoffs. “Easier said than done,” he remarks.
Here I pause to sip knowingly from my sarsaparilla. “It is for a fact,” I say. “But that don’t make it wrong.”
He’s just about to get up and push away from the bar with a confused look on his face when I stop him.
“One other thing?” I say. “I wouldn’t say nothing bad about his homeland or his family or his religion if I was you. But have it your way.”
The way the “unified” rules explain it, the reason fighters can slam an opponent any way they want when the opponent is attempting a submission is “because they are not in control of their opponent’s body.”
In other words, the fighter going for a submission has a choice: release the hold and adjust your own body positioning or else hold onto it and take the ride wherever it leads.
You could argue that this assumes too much, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. Not all submissions or slams are created equally. And yes, it is dangerous to be out here spiking people on their heads, whether there’s a submission attempt involved or not. But danger alone is also in the job description, so it seems fair to me to put some of the onus on the slammee rather than the slammer in certain situations.
The alternative is, what, we outlaw slams of all kinds? We require any fighter attempting a throw or slam to take utmost care to prevent opponents from landing on their heads? We have a hard enough time enforcing the rules that are clear and obvious. Trying to get too officious with this one would be a nightmare.
Same. Max Holloway lost his lightweight (interim) title bid, but he’s still a force at featherweight, where his power and his pace typically overwhelms opponents in a way that just didn’t carry over into the next weight class. Frankie Edgar is terrifyingly tough. We know this. But I just don’t see that many paths to victory for him against a guy like Holloway.
Also, and maybe I’m just projecting here? But it seems like that was the assumption this fight was made under. Like, sure, we owe Edgar a title shot and we need something to bolster the summer lineup. But it’s fine because Holloway will win and Alexander Volkanovski can have his shot before the end of the year.
If you want to make the MMA gods laugh, though, go ahead and tell them your plans for a UFC title.
Has it really come to this? Really?? Fine. We’ve only seen Jake Hager fight twice and we have yet to see Greg Hardy against anyone who wasn’t chosen specifically because they seemed likely to lose, but I might actually have to go with Hager here. He has legit college wrestling experience and that’s where Hardy is probably weakest. You put that guy on his back, take him out of the first round, and suddenly he’s a lot more beatable.
For a little perspective, let’s remind ourselves that Kevin Lee’s two recent losses were to “El Cucuy” and “Raging Al,” both of whom are very good. If he loses to Rafael dos Anjos, that’s a former lightweight champ, which is also not exactly the bottom of the barrel.
But you’re right, if Lee wants to stay in the conversation at any weight, this is a fight he needs to win. The good news for him is that Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman already showed him how, and he’s a fighter who might be able to follow that blueprint.
On the flip side, if RDA hasn’t closed those gaps in his game by now? Sorry, it probably won’t ever happen.
Ben Fowlkes is MMA Junkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMA Junkie.