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411 Fact or Fiction MMA: Should Conor McGregor Stay at Lightweight?

November 16, 2016 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez
Conor McGregor

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 to you another round of the fact and the fiction slithering through the cracks and crevices of this magical world we call professional mixed martial arts. By the way, thank you for your votes and comments last week. It is appreciated and I encourage you to do the same this week. Before we get onto what’s cooking this week, let’s recap the shenanigans from last week. Jeffrey Harris laced up the gloves and stood opposite of Todd Vote. We saw eye pokes, shots to the groin, and spilled water between rounds as they debated subjects like letting Conor McGregor hold and defend two titles simultaneously, Michael Bisping ducking the elite middleweights, and Tony Ferguson’s claim to the next lightweight title shot in addition to more. Both individuals gave it their all, however, it was Jeffrey who took the lead early and held onto it until he crossed the finish line. Congratulations Mr. Harris on your 25-to-12 victory. Thank you both for your efforts and contributions.

This week, we have a pretty good dance lined up as your live host guru, Robert Winfree, steps inside the cage to lock horns with your pre-fight preview host, Dan Plunkett. This round shouldn’t be anything less than stellar as they discuss which division Conor McGregor should call home, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s claim to be the number one lightweight contender, whether or not Conor McGregor is to be considered one of the best fighters of all-time, and much more! Make a run to the kitchen, grab some grub, and lay back because it’s time for another round of, 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! Shall we proceed…

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Robert “The Last Rider” Winfree
Contributor/Live Coverage Guru/Host, 411 MMA Zone/411 Ground and Pound Radio Show
2-2-0

VS

BLUE CORNER
“Handsome” Dan Plunkett
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
1-3-0


The lightweight division is the best division for Conor McGregor’s as it is where he has the best and most competitive options.

Robert Winfree: FACT Though there’s a very compelling argument for fiction as what’s best for McGregor is making the most money with the lowest amount of risk and MMA’s most competitive division doesn’t necessarily line up with that. That being said, from most of the traditional lines of thinking it’s fact. McGregor’s frame is most suited for lightweight, he doesn’t have to cut a tremendous amount of weight and can still generally be the larger man in the cage which are generally the markers we use to determine the best division for a fighter.

Dan Plunkett: FICTION This is a tricky statement. I prefer to see McGregor at lightweight; he’s healthier at 155-pounds and there are more interesting fights at that weight class. However, I believe it would be safer for McGregor to return to featherweight, and in that sense it would be more beneficial for him. Lightweight is such a strong division at the top and isn’t getting any weaker. The division’s elite – Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Rafael dos Anjos, Nate Diaz, and perhaps more – pose very real threats to McGregor. That’s not to say featherweight is lacking challenges; I’d pay good money to see Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, or Max Holloway fight McGregor. However, McGregor’s skill set is best suited to having physical advantages in terms of length, size, and power over his opponents. I consider it much more likely that McGregor would go on a dominant run at the top of the featherweight division compared to the lightweight division. Lightweight will always be there for him if he runs through 145 or a big fight comes calling.

There is a major drawback to fighting at 145 in the weight cut, which is brutal for McGregor and could take a long-term toll. But what’s best for McGregor is to stay on top, and his odds of doing so are better at featherweight than at lightweight.


The UFC owners granting McGregor his wish and giving him a stake in ownership in the company would be a regretful move on the part of the owners because of the can of worms it could open with regards to signed fighters, on all levels, gunning for a bigger piece of the pie.

Robert Winfree: FICTION I’m of the opinion that this situation will resolve itself with the ownership giving McGregor the opportunity to buy a 2% stake or so in the company at a slightly reduced cost. The reality is that losing McGregor would be a much bigger issue for the UFC than playing ball with him; McGregor is unequivocally the most valuable single fighter on the roster and losing the revenue he brings in would be worse. While other fighters might want to buy in as well there’s plenty of ways around that, the easiest one is simply pricing them out of the equation, the reality is that everyone knows that McGregor’s status allows him to do things and get concessions that they can’t because individually they bring barely a fraction of the value he does.

Dan Plunkett: FACT UFC giving McGregor equity in the company could elicit two reactions the UFC wants to stay away from. The first, as indicated in the statement, is that it will open the door for more star-fighters to demand equity and more pay. It would be hard to hide McGregor receiving an ownership stake in the company for long, and once the public catches wind of it, there’s no turning back. Secondly, if McGregor receives a stake in the company while a significant portion of the roster is struggling to make a living, it may push more fighters toward unionizing. I believe the more likely resolution to this is that McGregor will be offered a more favorable deal on the pay-per-view backend, and perhaps he’ll be formally offered the opportunity to purchase a small stake in the company for a reduced price upon his retirement.


Khabib Nurmagomedov continues to look unstoppable and racked up an impressive win at UFC 205, however, he is not the next challenger to the UFC lightweight thrown; this honor belongs to Tony Ferguson.

Robert Winfree FICTION I don’t think there’s a wrong answer between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson as far as next contenders go, but Nurmagomedov has demonstrated a desire to fight for the title that Ferguson hasn’t. Ferguson’s win over dos Anjos was more impressive to me than Nurmagomedov’s mauling of Michael Johnson, but Ferguson seems content to simply fight and make money regardless of the opponent while Nurmagomedov has placed a premium on fighting for the title. Nurmagomedov’s promo on McGregor at UFC 205 should provide the production team with enough material to promote the fight as well, though McGregor is the ultimate variable here now as he’s basically going to call his own shot and if he’d rather fight Ferguson, then Ferguson gets the shot.

Dan Plunkett: FICTION If I’m setting the lines for the next UFC lightweight title challenger, Tony Ferguson is a significant underdog to get the slot behind Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson was very impressive against Rafael dos Anjos, but he totally blew the post-fight interview and interest in seeing him fight for the title has been greatly exceeded by Nurmagomedov following his tremendous performance and promo on Saturday. Furthermore, although Nurmagomedov doesn’t have as many big name wins as Ferguson, he’s been more dominant and most would likely agree that he has a better shot at beating McGregor. I think Nurmagomedov is the favorite for the slot, but if he doesn’t get it, it will likely be Diaz, who is easily the biggest name of the three and would draw significantly better against the champion. Plus, Diaz has a win and a razor-thin loss to the champion this year – a rubber match makes sense.


SWITCH!

With his violation and then suspension keeping him out of the picture until, at the earliest, July 2017, Jon Jones should have to re-climb the ladder before getting a shot at the title.

Dan Plunkett: FICTION Let’s not kid ourselves by having him go through the dog and pony show of working his way back up: Jon Jones is the best light heavyweight in the world. It would only serve to further waste his prime years with a meaningless punishment by having him fight back to a title shot. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t be best for him to take a tune-up fight – after all, it’s quite possible that Daniel Cormier would have beaten the Jon Jones that fought Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197. However, a tune-up is different from climbing back up the ladder. Jon Jones should not be any further than one win away from a world title shot, and that one fight should only be a means of shaking the dust off.

Robert Winfree: FACT Yeah, much as this pains me to acknowledge as a fan of Jones in the cage, after that much time away from fighting he’ll need to get at least one win before getting a title shot. Of course, I also tend to think that the NSAC is going to be harsher than USADA and hit him with a six figure fine and a two year suspension, at which point all bets will be off by the time he would theoretically return. Even if it’s just one year out I don’t hate the thought of Jones fighting a guy of about the level of Ryan Bader before reclaiming the title.


UFC Welterweight Champion, Tyron Woodley, should fight Demian Maia next and put aside an immediate rematch with Stephen Thompson despite fighting to a majority draw.

Dan Plunkett: FICTION Barring injury, I don’t see any reason to set aside Woodley vs. Thompson II for Maia. There’s a silly belief in combat sports sometimes that a draw against a champion means you failed and should go to the back of the line, when in reality any real champion should want to make their title defenses definitive. In most cases, barring a bad judging call or the promise of a significantly more lucrative fight waiting in the wings, the right thing to do is run the fight back. In this case, Woodley vs. Thompson II is at least as box office attractive as Woodley vs. Maia, if not more so. The only potential opponents for Woodley that should change his course are Conor McGregor or Georges St-Pierre, neither of which are particularly likely options. Maia has earned his shot, but Thompson fought as the champion’s equal, which makes him worthy of another opportunity to determine a decisive winner.

Robert Winfree: FICTION There’s a decent amount of interest in a rematch now, these two had the best fight at UFC 205, neither man won and neither man lost, a rematch is something of a no brainer. Now, that does leave Demian Maia out in the cold, but I think an immediate rematch is certainly warranted. That being said, if they do Thompson vs. Robbie Lawler and give Maia the title shot I’m not complaining too loudly.


While Conor McGregor is beyond anything the UFC and MMA have ever seen, he will not be considered to be in the top five best fighters of all time until he defends a title with a comparable championship run to the likes of Anderson Silva, GSP, Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, etc.

Dan Plunkett: FACT When we did an MMA Zone feature about five years back counting down the top 25 fighters of all-time, the top five was, in order: Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Fedor Emelianenko, Matt Hughes, and Chuck Liddell (or at least those first four for certain; I can’t find it on the site, so the fifth spot may have been Wanderlei Silva or Randy Couture). Those fighters all of significant dominant streaks in common. If we were to do the same list today, Hughes and Liddell would almost surely fall off the list in favor of Jon Jones and perhaps Jose Aldo (unless Jeff Harris stuffed the ballot box with votes for Dan Henderson and Joe Warren). Again, they have long periods of sustained dominance. The point is that long periods of dominance weigh heavily in the debate for the greatest of all-time. There are fighters that could make the top 10 without such a period on their resume, like Randy Couture or Dan Henderson, but there is another level above those fighters that McGregor will probably only reach by racking up a number of consecutive wins against the best in the world.

Robert Winfree: FACT Now, I know I’m going to annoy a segment of McGregor’s fan base here but hear me out before lighting your torches and grabbing the pitchforks. What McGregor has done is tremendous, and he deserves to be acknowledged for what he has accomplished. That being said, a fighter like Jon Jones or Demetrious Johnson who stands atop a division for years taking out all comers is a different kind of impressive. The notion that McGregor has cleaned out the featherweight division is patently false, if that means rematches then it means rematches but defending your title over and over again is a whole different level of impressive. McGregor is unprecedented and deserves to be talked about as great and historic, he is, but I’m of the opinion that the hardest thing to do in MMA is sustained dominance fight in and fight out and McGregor hasn’t demonstrated that yet.


So who won? Did Dan spoil Robert’s night or was Robert simply on another level? 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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