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411 Fact or Fiction MMA: Should Stephen Thompson Fight Maia Before Woodley?

August 31, 2016 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez
Stephen Thompson

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is my pleasure to bring you the 411 on what is fact and what is fiction in this capricious sport we call mixed martial arts. First and foremost, thank you for your votes and comments last week! It is always appreciated and encouraged. And now, a quick rundown of last week’s showdown featuring Robert Winfree and Dan Plunkett. Both individuals exhibited great effort as they leaped into the ruins of UFC 202 and tackled subjects like whether or not Conor McGregor can go five rounds with the elite lightweights of the world, Cody Garbrandt showcasing the skills to beat Dominick Cruz, and who’s up for Donald Cerrone after his win over Rick Story in addition to more. Robert was able to grab the lead early and keep a nice distance ahead of Dan until the dust was settle. To his credit, Dan clawed his way and never backed down. Congratulations to Robert for taking home the 16-to-11 victory, and, thank you both for your contribution and effort.

This week, the buoyant, Evan Zivin, laces them up to rematch, Alex Rella, who is looking to right the wrong as they discuss topics like a possible bout between Demain Maia and Stephen Thompson, Rory Macdonald’s jump to Bellator MMA, Paige VanZant’s next opponent, and much more! You guys know how this works. So, get comfortable because it’s time for another round of, 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! Let’s get rolling…

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Evan “White Tiger” Zivin
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
1-1-0

VS

BLUE CORNER
Alex “Little Mac” Rella
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
0-2-0


With, Tyron Woodley looking for his money fight, Demain Maia vs. Stephen Thompson in a title contender eliminator bout is the fight to make.

Evan Zivin: FICTION As I’m writing this, I’m not in the greatest of moods, so I’ll keep a lot of these responses short and simple. Tyron Woodley is an idiot. He’s going around demanding fights with Georges-St Pierre and Nick Diaz when he hasn’t done a thing to deserve such a marquee fight. Sure, he knocked out Robbie Lawler, but right now, until he can prove it was more than just a lucky shot, all it says is that Robbie was slow and got caught. Winning the belt is not what makes someone a champion. Defending it is. And the fighters he should be defending that belt against are fighters who have been putting in the work to earn a shot at it. Nick Diaz has done nothing to earn a shot. Georges St-Pierre has done nothing to earn a shot. Sure, he’s the most dominant champion the division has ever seen, but he also willingly vacated the title and has been gone for 3 years. The landscape has changed since he left and I think it benefits him to take at least one fight before challenging for the belt, just to prove he’s as good as we remember him. Having a recent win under his belt would help the title fight do bigger business on Pay-per-view too.

So, I do agree that Stephen Thompson vs. Demian Maia would be the perfect fight to determine a clear number one contender, but it shouldn’t be the next fight. Woodley needs to fight one of them. Prove you’re worthy of a money fight, T-Wood. Convince us.

Alex Rella: FICTION Woodley was looking for money fights by way of GSP or Nick Diaz. Diaz has lost 3 in a row and has zero claim to a title shot at this point in his career. GSP has said he wants to come back, but who knows if that will happen this year. Yea GSP vs Woodley would be a money fight (which has nothing to do with Woodley, every GSP fight is huge), but it would make sense for Woodley to defend his title around the end of the year and GSP may not be ready for that. If GSP doesn’t comeback this year, it does not make sense for Maia and Thompson to have a number one contender fight.

Woodley would end up sitting out until 2017 and the number one contender fight would do little to increase the hype of a fight with Woodley. Both guys are deserving of title shots and both are likely to have great fights with Woodley, but no combination of the three fighters is going to break PPV buy rate records or ratings numbers. They’ll do good, but nothing astronomical like Woodley is hoping for. If GSP comes back at the end of 2016, then yea give him the title shot and throw those two together. If not, Thompson should get the title shot like Dana White has said, Maia can sit out a couple months if he wants, and Woodley can chill out about his money fights.


The UFC made the correct choice to not match Rory MacDonald’s Bellator offer and let the top five welterweight walk out of the organization.

Evan Zivin: FICTION I mean, it is if you think letting a top 5 welterweight entering the physical prime of his career go to be the correct choice. This isn’t like UFC cutting Jon Fitch or Yushin Okami or even Ben Henderson, as UFC could argue that they were on the downturn of their careers. Rory is only 27. He’s lost his last 2 fights, sure (the first losing streak of his career), but he lost to the former champion and the man who could be challenging for the belt next (seriously, Tyron, man up). The only reason I could see it making any sense for UFC to let Rory walk would be if Bellator offered him Conor McGregor money (and, if they are, then congrats to Rory for playing the field and maximizing his earning potential).

Maybe the kid has disappointed in his career by not immediately inheriting the crown of his mentor GSP like everyone expected him to, and maybe he has the personality of a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol, but he’s still young and he’s still getting better. Maybe the move to Bellator will be good for him as, if he starts dominating the talent there and gets the casual fans paying attention to him, it’ll raise his stock and create a lot more interest in seeing him fight the best once again. Maybe walking away from the UFC now will make it easier for him to waltz back in a few years as the conquering hero who knows his worth and is finally realizing his potential to its fullest. Or he’ll get wall and stalled by Andrey Koreshkov and everything will go downhill from there. Should be fun either way.

Alex Rella: FACT I say this because Rory MacDonald is much more valuable to Bellator than he is to the UFC. We don’t know how much money he’s making in Bellator, but the UFC made a smart move in not matching an outlandishly huge offer if that’s the case. Rory is a great fighter and an even better acquisition for Bellator, but he’s not a must have fighter that fans are always dying to see fight. The UFC’s welterweight division has a lot of great fighters right now anyway.

MacDonald is a legitimate top five welterweight, but he has lost two in a row and his recurring nose injury will keep him out of action until the summer of 2017. So, it would take him about two or three years to put enough wins together to get back into title contention. So it really doesn’t make sense for the UFC to match the offer if Bellator is completely breaking the bank for him. The UFC will make the same amount of money without him. Look at Benson Henderson jumping ship, he was a great champion and one of the greatest lightweights of all time. So he’s much more talented and popular than Rory and the UFC hasn’t skipped a beat since he left. There are some fighters that would cost the UFC some money if they left, Rory MacDonald is not one of them.


If Bellator can continue to snatch up UFC veterans of the likes of Rory MacDonald, they will eventually close the gap, and be a viable competitor to the UFC.

Evan Zivin: FICTION Bellator can close the gap ever so slightly by snatching up other big name free agents (and, as fighter pay continues to persist as an issue and more fighters are willing to test the waters of free agency, we may see more fighters jump ship) but I doubt they will ever become a viable competitor, or, if they do, it won’t be any time soon. The UFC still has the lion’s share of the top fighters in every weight class. They still have the bigger TV deal and Payperview distribution. They have the brand recognition as the leader in the sport with the name that most people use interchangeably with the term MMA itself.

UFC has a lot of advantages that Bellator and every other MMA promotion doesn’t and they will always struggle to compete with them. UFC would have to actively make decisions that cripple the reputation and goodwill they have spent so much time building to give any other promotion a chance to make a dent in their market share. Either that or the UFC would need to be broken up as a result of the anti-trust lawsuit or through one of the various attempts to unionize fighters or bring the Ali Act to MMA. If one of those things happen, then it’ll be a whole new ballgame.
So, bottom line: a lot needs to happen for Bellator to really be able to compete. I mean, they can’t do freak show fights every time out, right?

Alex Rella: FICTION I don’t think we’ll ever see another rival to the UFC the way Pride was. The Reebok deal was the best thing that ever happened to Bellator as they’ve been doing great by putting on good events and signing tough veterans. I think they’ll continue to sign fed up UFC vets and improve the quality of their shows, but I don’t see them becoming a true rival or competitor to the UFC. That’s not a knock on them, I just think the UFC is way far ahead at this point. By that same logic though, no other company comes close to taking Bellator’s spot as the number two best MMA company in the world, they’re also too far ahead of the rest of the pack. I think Bellator will just continue to become a fun alternative to the UFC in the way Strikeforce was, which is completely awesome. I have really enjoyed their progression in the past two years.


SWITCH!

After having a tough, but successful debut at featherweight, it’s time for Anthony Pettis to leave the lightweight division behind and make a run for featherweight gold.

Alex Rella: FACT He just beat one of the best featherweights in the world in his debut fight, of course he should stick at featherweight. I don’t think the fight being tough should be any deterrence in him making the permanent move to featherweight. Charles Oliveira is a great fighter, there is no shame in having a tough back and forth victory against him. Pettis has discussed moving to 145 before, so why not do it now. He lost three in a row at 155 and he could quickly climb the featherweight rankings. Imagine the great fights against Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo, or Conor McGregor. He should absolutely stay at 145. It’s his fastest way to a title shot and it will give us so many potential great fights.

Evan Zivin: FACT I don’t know if I’d say he needs to leave lightweight for good but I think a fresh start in a new weight class is the best option for him right now. I can only imagine the head space he must have been in after losing three fights in a row. That won’t make anyone feel good. Add in the fact that each loss pushed him that much further away from getting back to title contention and I can’t imagine he had much motivation to keep fighting at 155. At 145, though? He has plenty of motivation. It’s a new world with fresh matchups and the chance to compete for another belt and become a 2 division champion. That doesn’t sound like a bad plan, especially since he just knocked off the #6 ranked featherweight in Charles Oliveira. That means he could get a title shot pretty quick. It looks like the world is wide open for “Showtime” once again.

That’s assuming, of course, we ever get to see another featherweight title fight. C’mon Conor. Quit holding the belt hostage. It’s a championship, not a vanity plate.


Paige VanZant showed in her victory over Bec Rawlings that she is ready for an opponent ranked above her but not in the top five.

Alex Rella: FACT I felt the UFC rushed her into fighting top competition in the past. They should be a little more patient this time around. PVZ is only 22 years old and has all the potential to be a top star, but there’s no need to throw her up against the elite fighters right away. She’s ranked #10 in the division right now, so a fight against anyone ranked 6-15 makes sense. I hope the UFC takes a year or two before putting her into title contention.

Evan Zivin: FACT Um, I would think Paige should be ready to face fighters ranked below her. That’s what rankings mean, right? That you can contend with, and more than likely beat, the fighters ranked below you? The UFC rankings haven’t updated yet but, as of this writing, she is ranked #10. There’s a lot of interesting matchups higher in the rankings but there’s also a few interesting ones lower too. The UFC’s goal should be to build her resume and help her climb towards the top without pushing her too quickly. It needs to be a steady climb. Otherwise, she may end up getting choked out by ThugRose again. Due to her relative inexperience, it would benefit her right now to take a fight lower in the rankings just to make sure she’s not being overrated, and to potentially add to her highlight reel. Right now, she’s got Michelle Waterson, Jessica Aguilar, and Jessica Penne right below her. I think all three of those women would offer Paige a good challenge in her next fight. Seriously, can you imagine 12 Gauge vs. The Karate Hottie? Many an MMA comment section would lose its mind.


With Carlos Condit mentally grappling with the idea of retirement for the past six months and, losing quickly and in a one sided fashion to Demain Maia this past Saturday, it’s time for “The Natural Born Killer” to hang the gloves for an extended sabbatical.

Alex Rella: FACT Yea, I hate talking about how guys need to retire, especially, when Condit hasn’t been getting brutally knocked out or anything, but it isn’t a good idea to keep fighting while you’re not mentally in it 100%. He should at least take some time off to figure out if he wants to keep going. Condit is one of the best welterweights of all time, but he’s going through a rough patch right now. He’s 2-5 in his last 7 fights that includes losing the title fight to GSP, the knee injury against Woodley, a title fight that could have truly gone either way, and now this quick loss to Maia. Those were all against top competition and nothing to be ashamed of, but you can understand where it is mentally draining. This isn’t the first time he’s talked about retiring either, so let’s hope for his health’s sake that he is 100% committed to fighting if he chooses to keep going. If he chooses to retire, then one of the best welterweights of all time is walking away on his own terms.

Evan Zivin: FACT If you’re ever considering retirement or have thoughts continually creep into your head about stepping away from the sport, you need to step away from the sport. If your head isn’t fully into training and competing, if you’re struggling to find the motivation to keep going, all you’re doing by continuing is putting yourself in unnecessary danger. It’s all risk and very little reward at that point. MMA is not a profession you should ever be going through the motions with just because you need a paycheck or you can’t think of anything else to do.

If Carlos really doesn’t know if he belongs in the sport any more, then he needs to take some time away and find out if that’s true or not. Carlos needs to spend time figuring out what he wants to do and what will make him the happiest. He needs to know if he still wants to do this or not because, if he doesn’t, then he should stop and either retire or go on a hiatus from competition to see if the passion ever returns. It might but it also might not. It’ll suck not getting to see The Natural Born Killer compete anymore but he needs to do what’s best for him. It’ll bum out his fans but they’ll understand. I’d rather see no Condit than an unmotivated Condit who’s clinging on for no reason at all.

It’s okay to walk away, Carlos. Thank you for the all the fun fights and the violent finishes. I’m sure Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim appreciate being featured in UFC knockout reels for many years to come.


So who won? Was Alex able to oust Evan this go-around? Or, is the “White Tiger” just too much? You’ve got until midnight eastern on Saturday to vote, so make sure you make your voice heard!


And that’s it for today, but as always, we’ll be back next week with another contest! And please, be sure to vote!

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