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411 Fact or Fiction MMA: What Should the UFC do in Conor McGregor’s Absence?

November 23, 2016 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is a great pleasure to bring you another round of all that is fact and fiction in the great biosphere of professional mixed martial arts. But before we move onto this week’s edition, I want say thank you to all who voted and left comments last week. It is appreciated and I encourage you do the same this week. And, by the way, Happy Thanksgiving!

Last week, Robert Winfree, your live coverage guru, absolutely mauled your pre-fight preview host, Dan Plunkett. Dan was never able to get his ball rolling. Robert pounced, tore right into Dan, as they discussed which division Conor McGregor should call home, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s claim to a title shot, and Conor McGregor’s ranking among the best fighters of all time in addition to more. It just wasn’t a good night for Mr. Plunkett. Congratulations Robert on your 17-to-7 victory, and thank you both for your efforts and contributions.

This week, Evan “White Tiger” Zivin will try his hand at dispatching your host, yes the “Corpse Grinder.” This should be an interesting and wild affair as the Thanksgiving hunger pangs are setting in and we tackle subjects like the featherweight and lightweight division suffering while on hold during Conor McGregor’s impending absence, If Michael “Venom” Page is ready for a step up in competition after his performance at Bellator 165, Demian Maia having to wait longer for a title shot, and much more! It’s time to grab some grub, and settle into that comfortable couch because it time for another round of, 411 Fact or fiction MMA! Let’s get show moving…

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Evan “White Tiger” Zivin
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
2-2-0

VS

BLUE CORNER
Lorenzo “Corpse Grinder” Vasquez III
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
3-2-0


With Conor McGregor slated to take a sabbatical until at the least, May (when his baby is expected to be born), the UFC will be forced to create an interim lightweight title, and likely strip McGregor of his featherweight title (because he likely won’t relinquish it) so the division can move on.

Evan Zivin: FICTION UFC’s not going to be forced to do anything. It’ll all come down to whether it makes financial sense to wait for Conor or to create a solution to move the divisions forward while he is taking time off, and, honestly, I don’t think moving on matters too much to them.

It’s not that I don’t want the divisions to keep moving and for contenders to get their title shots but, if there’s one thing that fans hate more than seeing a title go undefended, it’s seeing a fake champion be crowned. It’s a big part of the reason why Daniel Cormier has struggled so hard to get respect. Nobody likes paper champions, just like nobody likes interim titles. UFC doesn’t like creating interim titles. They only create them in instances where they know a champion will be back but they don’t know when (or, when they want to keep a fighter they like in the main event after the champion bows out, like Conor at UFC 189 or Jon Jones at UFC 197). UFC knows Conor will be back. Waiting until May is really not that long considering most champions only defend their belts twice a year. If Khabib or Tony have to wait that long to get their shot, I think either guy can be okay with that. Go enjoy Spring Break. Maybe check out a Bellator show. Did you hear they’re gonna have Matt Mitrione fight Fedor? That’s crazy…

The bigger question mark surrounds the featherweight belt since, while I could see Conor defending the lightweight championship (although I think he’s gonna lobby for a welterweight title shot once he’s ready to return), I don’t see him ever defending the featherweight belt. That means UFC is either going to have to convince Conor to relinquish it, which I don’t think he’s going to do because that wouldn’t be something the persona he’s created would do, or they’ll have to take the belt off of him and I only see one scenario where they would do that: the one where Conor continues to insist on an equity stake in the company. UFC will allow Conor to make a lot of demands, and UFC has been willing to honor most of those demands to their benefit (and to the detriment of what used to be considered a sport) but asking for ownership may be taking it too far. As much as UFC loves Conor, if they want to stress that no fighter is above the promotion, then this is the point where they’d finally put their foot down.

Even then, though, I only see UFC stripping Conor if they really feel they have no other option that won’t hurt their bottom line, since pissing off Conor is gonna cause business to take a big dip, much bigger than pissing off anyone else on the roster, as Conor sells more Payperviews than the entire roster combined. It really is the Conor McGregor Show and the show only ends when the star either walks away or he begins to forget his place and asks for too big a piece of the pie. UFC flexed their muscle by pulling him from UFC 200 and they’ll flex it again if and when they feel it’s necessary.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FACT If this turns out to hold true that McGregor will be out for the next 6 to 7 months, the UFC is going to have to do something. Will they? I have my reservations about committing to a “yes” on this question, but they’re most likely to create another interim title (for the lightweight division). They’ve just about caved in to every demand McGregor has asked for, with exception to his media duties for UFC 200. This leads me to believe McGregor won’t relinquish one title until he defends one or goes after a third. And, to be honest, 6 months or even 7 months isn’t too long to say we need an interim title or to strip the champ (I’m talking lightweight division here).

This is more devastating for the featherweight division, of course. But, again, the featherweight division has been held up for too long. For this reason, I’m going fact. To be blunt, if he won’t defend it next and soon, strip the featherweight title from him. But, I have a feeling it won’t happen. And, at the same time, I have feeling McGregor won’t be out that long. I don’t see him as the kind of guy who takes six months off. He’s a worker and I think he’ll be back sooner than later with an answer.


It is ridiculous to think Uriah Hall, with his inconsistency and inclination to break under pressure, would be better served to walk away from the UFC and head to a smaller promotion.

Evan Zivin: FICTION Why would that be ridiculous? The man has been a flaming bag of failure since he made his UFC debut. He has sucked his entire UFC career. The only decent win he had was against Gegard Mousasi, and the rematch on Saturday just proved that fight to be the fluke we all knew it was.

I honestly don’t know why UFC hasn’t cut him yet. Are they still hoping the monster who destroyed a couple of nobodies on The Ultimate Fighter (before Kelvin Gastelum exposed him) is finally going to emerge? If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not going to happen. He has a lot of raw talent but he’s too mentally weak to compete with ranked competition.

He should be fighting in smaller shows. At least then, he can rebuild his reputation a bit, maybe get his head straight, and start looking like a monster again. Then, once he’s done that and gotten some of his confidence back, maybe he can make a run at the UFC again. I mean, it’ll probably end the same way as this current run is heading but maybe getting knocked that far down is what he needs to finally realize his potential. Or it’ll cause him to retire. Either way, he’s a waste of a UFC roster spot right now and needs to go.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FICTION I think it would help Hall if he took some time off and re-evaluated his desire to be a professional mixed martial arts at the highest level. He has stepped into the cage opposite of some mean middleweight contenders. That’s no easy task. So, credit to him. Still, he’s not bridging that gap, and when it counts the most, he drops the ball. Competing outside the UFC might do him some good. Physically, he’s a gifted athlete with an improving skill set. But, mentally, he needs work. Maybe, the big lights are a little too much, or maybe, he just lacks the mental fortitude to put it all together. Fighting in a small venue against lesser competition may be what the doctor ordered. But, it may ultimately be that Uriah Hall was never meant to be a fighter, particularly, at the highest level.


With his win and lack of a solid performance at Bellator 165, Michael “Venom” Page showed us he is not quite ready for the next level of competition.

Evan Zivin: FACT I swear I get asked about Michael Page every time I do Fact or Fiction…

I don’t think he’s ready but it has nothing to do with his skills and everything to do with the fact he is extremely immature. The guy is 29 and has done nothing to legitimize himself as a top fighter and he’s busy dancing around in his fights with his hands down trying to do his best Anderson Silva impression, except that Anderson was doing it against the best fighters in the world while wearing UFC gold. Page was doing it against an unranked fighter whose biggest career achievement was beating Karo Parisyan a decade after everyone stopped caring about him.

I’m still unsure what Bellator’s long-term goal is for Page. If it’s to prove he’s a top fighter, then they’re wasting time with these matchups (or they’re scared he might lose and have whatever drawing power they think he possesses taken away). If they just want to give him lesser competition to pad his record and give him the chance to add to his highlight reel and get people talking, then that might be starting to fail too, especially since a win over Fernando Gonzalez was only going to get people talking if Page caved his skull in like he did to Cyborg Santos. If Bellator actually wants fans to think of Page as a big deal, then both Bellator and Page are gonna have to step up their efforts. If “MVP” really wants to be an MVP, then he needs to take a real fight.

If Page has the gall to call out Douglas Lima, then he needs to prove he’s worthy of that fight. Paul Daley is waiting…

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FACT Mr. Page is a showboat. He’s in there dancing around looking smooth with a fancy skill set against lesser competition. His bout at Bellator 165 showed us that same “coolness and groove” might not transcend to a higher level of competition. But, we won’t know, for sure, until he actually takes a step up in competition.

In my opinion, Bellator doesn’t seem to want this. Hence, he keeps getting feed opponents who are more likely to lose to him, maybe put up a fight, but are less likely to beat Mr. MVP, nonetheless. The clock is ticking, so Page, who is 29, better decide if it’s time to take a step up because at this rate, he will never stand opposite of a legitimate threat, and that question mark will find a permanent residence in his legacy. For now, MVP is no Anderson Silva nor does he appear ready to be one unless he starts proving us wrong by taking the step up in competition.


SWITCH!

It makes no sense to make the statement that Eddie Alvarez was a champion of circumstance and shouldn’t have been the lightweight champion defending his belt against Conor McGregor; this logic just follows the narrative that a fighter loses a fight and was never really too great of a fighter to begin with.

Lorenzo Vasquez II: FACT It’s an absolute ridiculous assumption. Alvarez won the lightweight strap by beating Rafael dos Anjos with his counters, stunning him, and finishing him with a frantic pace of strikes which did not let dos Anjos regain his composure. Before that, he beat the former champion, Anthony Pettis, from whom dos Anjos took the belt from. It’s all too easy to say, Alvarez didn’t belong in the same cage as McGregor, or that he was lucky to be a UFC champion, etc. Alvarez is a hard worker, he is a sound counter striker, has sound fundamental boxing, and can grind away with his wrestling. He is a legitimate top five lightweight at the moment.

Alvarez’s failure was a result of him playing into McGregor’s game and allowing McGregor to control the pace. The fight could have ended very differently. Alvarez could have circled to his left more, thrown more kicks to the McGregor’s right leg, attacked that right leg with takedown attempts, gotten a takedown, or taken the fight to the clinch before he ever got clipped with McGregor’s left. From there, he could have grinded away, wore out McGregor, and possibly won a decision or grabbed a finish. Nothing should be taken away from Alvarez. He simply played the wrong game and by the time he tried to fix it, it was far too late.

Evan Zivin: FICTION While I disagree with the underlying assumption being made here, I don’t disagree with calling Alvarez a “champion of circumstance,” because that’s what he was. The main event of UFC 205 wasn’t Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez. The main event was Conor McGregor vs. The Warm Body That Happens To Be Wearing Lightweight Gold At The Time The Almighty Conor Demands To Fight For It And The UFC Is Desperate For a Record Setting Headliner Because Tyron Woodley Ain’t Gonna Pop a Million Buys. Conor wanted to fight for the belt. It made little difference who was champion. Eddie just happened to be the one to win the sweepstakes.

That being said, the idea here that Eddie was never that good because Conor ran through him is stupid. It’s one loss, people. Eddie is a great fighter. He beat two UFC champions and a Strikeforce champion on his way to the title. He’s a tough fight for anyone in the lightweight division. It just happens that Conor is a one-of-a-kind fighter, the kind whose tongue is sharp enough to force his way into the head of top athletes and whose fighting skills are rangey and unorthodox enough that’s it hard for most fighters to compete with him. Anyone who says that Eddie sucks because he lost to Conor isn’t giving either man the respect they deserve. Conor sure gave Eddie respect. He wouldn’t have beaten him so decisively if he hadn’t. Eddie’s a good fighter and he’ll be back.


The suspension levied on Lyoto Machida—who admitted to knowingly and willingly taking a banned substance without knowing it was on the ban list—is too excessive; especially, under the circumstance that he admitted to it on paper prior to getting tested.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FACT The suspension levied on Machida is egregiously excessive. If Machida had concealed the fact he took a ban substance, or denied a failed test for a proven performance enhancing drug, then the penalty would be more fitting. But this is not what happened. Instead, Machida, upon realizing 7-keto-DHEA was on the banned substances list, openly informed and admitted to ingesting the substance before testing. Further, 7-keto-DHEA isn’t proven to dramatically up an athlete’s performance (there is no strong evidence it has performance enhancing ability).

The entire situation makes the suspension outrageous. Six months to, perhaps, a year would have been more fitting, reasonable. You want further proof that this is excessive? Take a look at how Jon Jones and Yoel Romero’s cases were handled and the penalties levied within both cases. Machida, at least, had the decency, and took the time to realize he was using something which was banned. It’s not like he was trying to come up with excuses, test supplements for what not, etc.

Evan Zivin: FACT It is beyond excessive for the fact that 1) He willfully admitted to using it and never tried to deny his use, and 2) From everything that I have read, the substance he tested positive for, 7-keto-DHEA, has not been shown to possess any performance enhancing qualities whatsoever. It is not the same as DHEA, which is a performance enhancer (albeit a very mild one) and all it really has been shown to do is aid in weight loss.

By that notion, one could see how someone might try to cheat by using it, and the fact that it is on the banned substance list and Machida wasn’t aware is something deserving of punishment, but 18 months is ridiculous for using a substance of such dubious benefit. Jon Jones failed a drug test for clomiphene and letrozole, which can enhance performance, and he only got a year, all because one fell under the list of specified substances and the other ended up as non-specified, which automatically carries a heavier punishment regardless of whether it makes any rational sense.

Lyoto pretty much got screwed by the system and there’s not much he can do about it other than wait it out and be smarter about what supplements he takes. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is and there’s nothing that can be be done to change it.

Be strong, Dragon. The Machida Era isn’t over. It’s just taking an extended holiday.


By all appearances, Demian Maia will have to put his welterweight title shot on hold but should wait it out, instead of bargaining for a dance with Robbie Lawler, Donald Cerrone, etc.

Lorenzo Vasquez III: FICTION I keep going back and forth on this one. If you’re Demian Maia, or a big fan of his, the current situation is dreadful. Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thomson dished it all out, had an entertaining fight, and it ended in a majority draw. Perhaps, the worst possible outcome as now they have to do it over. But, before they can, they have to heal their wounds, then organize and start another training camp.

Then you have to hope it ends decisively for one fighter and that he isn’t too banged up, because if he is, the wait will be longer. For this to play out it would eat up several months. The rematch could take place in four to six months, and then, what if the winner comes out with an injury. It just looks horrible to sit it out and wait. What if they fight to another exciting draw or a close decision with everyone wanting an immediate trilogy?

Yet, it feels so risky to take another fight and lose it all. With such a time frame, the logical thing to do may be to stay fresh and take a fight instead of waiting it out. If he decides to wait it out his title shot could have to wait until early summer or even early fall next year. For Maia, this means sitting out anywhere between 9 months and over a year. At 39, this is an iffy proposition. But, so too, is taking a fight while Woodley and Thompson go at it again.

Ah, but hold on! There’s the McGregor factor we have to throw in. The current two division champ has thrown his hat in as a possible contender to the welterweight thrown. He and his team have expressed interest in going after the welterweight strap next. Imagine, in four to six months Woodley and Thompson have their rematch, then McGregor steps in after his hiatus and gets the next crack. Ultimately, I think it’s best for Maia to find out when this rematch will be scheduled and take another fight then or before.

Evan Zivin: FICTION This all depends on how badly Demian wants the title shot and how badly he trusts that, if he sits on the sidelines, he’ll get it. It usually doesn’t benefit the fighter to wait, although it might work for Demian because everyone agrees he is worthy of the next shot.

Then again, everyone also wouldn’t mind seeing Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson fight again.

The waiting game is a dangerous one to play in the UFC, since we all know how much a Dana White promise is worth…Of course, it does work out sometimes. Woodley waited for his shot and he did eventually get it, even though that was no guarantee (I still want to see Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit fight again…). Personally, if I wasn’t getting the next shot (Demian should at least wait until UFC decides what they want to do next, as they’ll probably have enough time to do a welterweight title fight before Conor McGregor decides he wants in), I’d take another fight. It gives another opportunity to make your case for the title and it keeps you in the public eye, especially for a fighter who isn’t keen on talking his way into fights. Demian is more than deserving now but, if he fights and wins one more time, then UFC can’t deny him any longer. To do so would be insulting our intelligence and it would damage what little integrity and goodwill with the fans they still have left.

Or Demian can just wait and see how that goes. At least he can enjoy some turkey while he’s waiting. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


So who won? 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! Please, be sure to vote and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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