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411 Fact or Fiction MMA: Does the UFC Need Brock Lesnar?

July 11, 2018 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez
Brock Lesnar - Stipe Miocic

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is a pleasure to bring you another round of Fact or Fiction MMA. Don’t forget to vote and leave your comments. The last time around, Alex Rella and Dino Zee engaged in an all-out assault. Dino showed his usual vibrato but Alex refused to toss in the towel. When the dust settled, Alex stood as the second man to defeat the king of kings. Congratulations Alex and thank you both for your efforts and contributions.

This week, Wyatt Beougher steps to the plate against the vicious, ghastly Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris. They will lock horns over Brock Lesnar’s return, Daniel Cormier’s legacy, Francis Ngannou delivering the performance of performances, and much more! Grab some grub and strap in because it’s time for another round of, 411 Fact or Fiction MMA!

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Wyatt Beougher
Host/Reviewer/Columnist, 411 MMA/TV & Movies/Wrestling Zones
4-13-1

VS

BLUE CORNER
Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris
Contributor, Various 411 Zones
3-9-5


Daniel Cormier will never, nor should he, be considered the greatest of all time unless he beats Jon Jones; therefore, he should be hoping his next fight in against Jon Jones, not Brock Lesnar.t

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Last week, Daniel Cormier told Jeremy Botter, “It doesn’t matter if I beat Stipe. I will always be second place to Jon Jones.” That single comment does more to show why Cormier’s next fight should be against Jon Jones (assuming Jones is able to extricate himself from the current morass he finds himself in) than any argument I could ever make. Sure, a third loss to Jones would basically scuttle any mention of Cormier in the GOAT conversation he’s currently finding himself in, but without the opportunity to notch the only win that’s eluded him thus far in his career, there’s always going to be certain subset of MMA fandom quick to hang an asterisk over Cormier’s place in the pantheon of MMA fighters.

Of course, that’s only applicable if Cormier is intent on cementing his legacy in the sport. To play devil’s advocate to myself, in nine months’ time, Cormier will turn forty, and he’s maintained for quite some time that he’ll hang up his gloves when he hits that milestone. At thirty-nine years old, and with no more than two fights per year since 2015, it looks increasingly likely that, in that scenario, Cormier’s next fight will be his last one, and that’s where things begin to get a bit more tricky. Not only is Jones currently suspended, but at present, there is absolutely no timetable for when he might return, so I can certainly see why Cormier would look to maximize his earning potential for his last fight by calling out the biggest draw in the history of the UFC’s heavyweight division. With Lesnar himself not even eligible to compete until January (and that’s assuming there are no drug testing issues in the next six months), Cormier could certainly take a fight with Lesnar, perhaps as the main event of the Super Bowl card – one of the cards the UFC has historically put a lot of promotion behind – and walk into the sunset with a huge payday (and, realistically, a win).

And while a fight with Jones would almost certainly benefit Cormier’s bottom line, it’s hard to say whether it would be able to match the financial opportunity of a fight with Lesnar. On the one hand, Lesnar’s last fight came on a card that drew over a million buys, making it more successful than Cormier’s rematch with Jones at UFC 214, which managed a still-impressive 860,000 buys, but on the other, the last card Lesnar actually headlined, which featured him taking on Alistair Overeem in a heavyweight title eliminator, only pulled 780,000 buys. Obviously, with Cormier now a two-division champion in the UFC, there’s a very good possibility that a fight with either man is going to draw better than 780,000 buys, but I think it’s too difficult to say whether a fight with Jones or Lesnar would be more lucrative at this point, which is why I went FACT on this one – Cormier can walk away from the sport with a huge payday fighting either Jones or Lesnar, but only a third fight with Jones will give him a chance to basically write the final chapter of his legacy, win or lose.

Jeffrey Harris: FICTION Daniel Cormier is in that conversation. He’s only the second athlete in UFC history to win two belts simultaneously, the first being Conor McGregor. He’s only the second man to hold both the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight titles, the first being Randy Couture. There’s a very short list of fighters who can win double UFC titles, so that already puts Cormier in a pretty elite class. Not only that, Cormier beat the winningest, most dominant UFC heavyweight champion in UFC history. Stipe Miocic is the only UFC fighter who defended his belt three times. Not even Cain Velasquez was able to accomplish that. Sure, you can make the argument, but Jon Jones doesn’t have two UFC titles in two weight classes. Also, the second fight with Jon Jones was overturned anyway, so it’s not even a loss on his record.


Francis Ngannou’s performance should not be surprising considering Stipe Miocic broke and embarrassed the man; indeed, Ngannou should have fought someone at or around the tenth spot in the division rather than Derrick Lewis.

Wyatt Beougher: FICTION I don’t say FICTION here because I disagree that Miocic exposed Ngannou, but because I’m not sure throwing the guy who was, at the time, ranked only behind Miocic in the UFC’s official rankings in a fight with Marcin Tybura, Aleksei Oleinik, or a rematch with Andrei Arlovski (the 8th through 11th ranked guys in those same rankings; I omitted Tai Tuivasa, since he just fought) would have done anything for any of the men involved. Admittedly, having a top five worst heavyweight fight in the history of the sport like Ngannou did against Lewis didn’t really do anything for his career, either, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised that things played out the way that they did. At first I thought perhaps Ngannou was biding his time for a big opening and trying to conserve energy so that he didn’t gas himself out like he did against Stipe, but by the time the commentary team went all-in on trying to sell that story, I had basically resigned myself to the fact that this fight was going to both go the distance and be absolutely atrocious. I’m also not sure I agree that Miocic “broke” Ngannou, as Dana White’s comments after the fight about Ngannou’s attitude would seem to imply that the Cameroonian learned absolutely nothing from his loss to the now-former heavyweight champion. That might be even more disappointing than the actual fight against Lewis was, as Ngannou has so much potential if he could only work on his gas tank (and, if Dana White is to be believed, his humility).

Jeffrey Harris: FICTION I would say it’s still surprising. Sometimes losses like that can light a fire under the losing athlete, and they can come back better than ever. Sometimes, that first major defeat can make or break a career. It’s hard to say what is going on with Francis Ngannou. He definitely looked to be a promising up-and-coming prospect. It’s like Stipe Miocic exposed his bad cardio and takedown defense. And then he couldn’t pull the trigger against Derrick Lewis. It was an awful heavyweight fight. I don’t know where he goes from here. However, that doesn’t mean Ngannou should’ve fought a lower-ranked opponent. Heavyweight is already a pretty shallow division. Even coming off a loss, Ngannou was still highly ranked, and Lewis was on a winning streak. This was one of the better match-ups they could’ve made for both guys. However, a fight still requires two guys to fight.


Let’s face it, with a lack of pay per view stars, the UFC needs a couple dozen circuses like the one involving Cormier and Lesnar that ended UFC 226 even if it makes a mockery of the sport.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Sure, the UFC is probably running the risk of being sued by Bellator for gimmick infringement (kidding, kidding), but it’s hard to argue that booking the most easily promoted fights rather than the ones that make the most sense for the integrity of the sport has been a successful strategy for Bellator since they parted ways with Bjorn Rebney and got rid of the tournament format. With nearly every UFC card in recent memory negatively affected by an injury withdrawal, simply announcing quality match-ups and having almost certainly the deepest, most talented roster in the world isn’t enough to push the UFC to the next level, and without Georges St Pierre, Ronda Rousey, or Conor McGregor, they also simply can’t throw one of their biggest draws on a show and expect a seven-figure buy rate without doing any real promotional work. Historically, outside of St. Pierre, the UFC’s biggest draws have been fighters with larger-than-life personalities with outsized mouths that could sell their fights. Demetrious Johnson is quietly putting together a case for being the greatest MMA fighter of all time, but he’s humble and restrained, which doesn’t move the needle like McGregor’s bombast can. With that said, it’s hard for me to find fault with the fighters, as it is ultimately the responsibility of the promoters to sell the fights, and if the shove and exchange of words between Brock Lesnar and Daniel Cormier adds even another 10,000 buys should they eventually step into the Octagon together, I think it’s worth risking the sport’s immaculate reputation. And while characterizing MMA’s reputation as “immaculate” should’ve given away my sarcastic intent, I honestly don’t think Saturday’s face-off did any more to mock the sport than the Lewis/Ngannou fight did, and at least Brock shoving Cormier got people talking about UFC 226 positively.

Jeffrey Harris: FACT Calling it a mockery of the sport is a joke. This is hardly the first time we’ve seen guys get into a shoving match. It’s been happening for years. It’s hardly worse than Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier getting into a brawl at a press event, or Conor McGregor attacking a bus. McGregor’s bus attack was disgusting and made a mockery of the sport, and he received no reprimanding from the UFC at all because he’s the biggest draw they have under contract. I can stand incidents like the Lesnar thing a little more. People can complain about it, but they will watch it. The same writers and journalists who would complain about it are also the people desperate for writing clickbait articles about Lesnar and were desperate for him to come back to the UFC after he left. It’s not just the UFC that wanted him back.


SWITCH!

Israel Adesanya is ready for a top-five middleweight while Paulo Costa needs another top-ten middleweight before trying to break into the top-five, judging by both men’s performance this past weekend.

Jeffrey Harris: FICTION Not at all. Brad Tavares is a decent perennial middleweight fighter just above the mid-level. However, he’s not exactly underrated. It’s a good win for Israel Adesanya, but he doesn’t need to be thrown in the deep top 5 waters yet. I would put him in there with someone such as David Branch or Derek Brunson. Brunson just got injured and is out of his fight with Antonio Carlos Jr. at UFC 227. Unless UFC tries to reschedule that fight, I like that bout for Branch when he heals up.

Wyatt Beougher: FICTION I agree with the first part, as Adesanya is 14-0, including a 3-0 mark in the UFC, and he just knocked off the guy who was ranked 8th in UFC’s middleweight rankings, so I don’t think a top-five middleweight is too much of a stretch for his next outing. But I think Costa is probably ready for a guy around the fifth-ranking as well. If Adesanya moves into the top five, though, I’d rather not see another Jones/Bader situation between Adesanya and Costa. While I’d like to see them in the cage with one another at some point, I think it’s too soon at this point. Let them each get another win or two and then fight in a title eliminator so that whichever guy loses doesn’t fall too far in the rankings.


Dana White saying Greg Hardy might not make it into the UFC is the organization’s way of backpedaling due to the negative backlash of Hardy’s past.

Jeffrey Harris: FICTION I read the entire quote of what he told ESPN, and it just seems like a situation of taking one line of what Dana White said out of context. If anything, the whole statement basically sounded somewhat forgiving toward Greg Hardy’s past domestic violence incident. Not sure what the UFC’s plans are for him, but we will take a wait and see approach here.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT I’m still not entirely sure what Dana White thought it would be a good idea to even give Hardy the opportunity to earn a UFC contract, but then again, when has Dana White ever accurately judged potential blowback from the general public? In Hardy, you’ve got a 29-year-old heavyweight with an NFL background who has won all three of his amateur fights and his professional debut via KO or TKO, which on paper would seem like a genuine prospect for the UFC. But when you factor in the domestic violence investigation against him, specifically the absolutely atrocious photos that were released, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that there was backlash from the public, or that Dana White changed his tune so quickly about Hardy’s eventual UFC potential. Of course, White also went on in that same interview to defend Hardy, throwing out the same tired lines about Hardy hitting rock bottom and changing his life, so I think he’s going to be given every opportunity to succeed in the UFC.


Although a great step forward, the potential outcome of the National Labor Relations Board filing a claim and prosecuting a charge on Leslie Smith’s behalf against the UFC will have little impact on fighter pay, sponsorship, and their ability to compete elsewhere.

Jeffrey Harris: FACT The last news I heard on this is that the NLRB region 4 opted to send the case for Washington, D.C. for review. Smith’s attorney, Lucas Middlebrook, called this a delay tactic by the UFC, who was pulling political strings. That very well could be true. Either way, I don’t see this legal effort by Leslie Smith getting very far, especially with how she opted to handle the situation for opting out of her fight and if the terms of her UFC contract were fulfilled.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Look no further than the fact that the NLRB’s initial decision was overruled a day later and sent to Washington for review, a tactic that Smith’s attorney believes was orchestrated by the UFC calling in political favors. This is another example of fighters trying to change their classification from “independent contractors” to “employees”, and, in spite of multiple attempts in the past, we’ve yet to see any of these attempts bear fruit in either MMA or professional wrestling. I sincerely hope that I’m wrong and that fighters are given the right to unionize (like participants in the other major American sports leagues) and even potentially receive unemployment compensation, but I’m not holding my breath based on what we saw from the NLRB last week.


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