Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones should still be next, plus other random thoughts
Some thoughts on the week that was in MMA …
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few days and have come to this conclusion: the UFC should be doing everything in their power to book Francis Ngannou versus Jon Jones for the UFC heavyweight title next. Yes, next. The fight is just too good and too big.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: But what about Ciryl Gane? He just won the interim title. You have to unify the belts, right?!
No, you don’t. Remember when Robert Whittaker won the interim middleweight title in July 2017? The next middleweight title fight featured then champion Michael Bisping versus … Georges St-Pierre. Whittaker had to wait. Why? Because Bisping vs. GSP was the bigger fight.
And as juicy as Ngannou vs. Gane is — you know, with the whole storyline angle and all (even though they claim to not care about storylines, but I digress) — Ngannou versus Jones is infinitely bigger for obvious reasons.
So, I’d book that for early 2022. And then the winner fights Gane. Perfect! Because, let’s say Gane beats Ngannou, then then ask yourself, what’s bigger: Gane vs. Jones or Ngannou vs. Jones? Obviously, the latter. So book the money fight, don’t risk it and then get Gane over by fighting the winner. He’s young. He can wait.
And if he must fight, then book him versus Stipe Miocic for the interim title. Who says no?
My heart goes out to Derrick Lewis. That was a tough way to go out in H-Town. Luckily for him, he’s one of those guys who doesn’t need a belt to get over. He’ll be popular for as long as he’s stringing together wins.
It also goes out to Michael Chiesa because I know how much he wanted that W. I appreciate how honest he was about succumbing to the pressure afterwards. That takes a lot of courage and should be applauded.
The resurgence of Jose Aldo continues to be one of my favorite stories in MMA. Remember, he’s just 34. But he did lose three straight recently and it seemed — for a minute — like he was rounding third in his career. Now he’s won two straight and seems primed for a run at 135. I’d love to see him fight Dominick Cruz next. How much fun would that be? A clash between two former WEC legends. I also love this photo of Aldo that I found on Getty taken in 2009. Look how young he looks! What a class act, and, if you ask me, one of the ten greatest fighters ever.
By the way, have you ever seen this video of Aldo in Michigan just days before he was awarded the UFC featherweight title in 2010? It’s one of my favorites ever. Just look at how innocent he was. His dreams were coming true and he just couldn’t help but laugh throughout the glow up.
UFC wants to book Sean O’Malley versus Frankie Edgar next. Maybe even for the MSG show on Nov. 6. TBD on if it will happen.
Speaking of fights they want for the fourth quarter of 2021, they are currently leaning towards Rose Namajunas vs. Zhang Weili 2 next. Very far from done, though. Still, can’t help but feel for Carla Esparza, who should be fighting for the strawweight belt next. That’s the fight, and it has an amazing backstory, too (remember, Esparza beat Namajunas in 2014 to win the inaugural 115-pound title.)
I didn’t see this run coming from Vicente Luque, but kudos to him on putting it all together. He is definitely a force at 170. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to book him versus Nathan Diaz next.
I don’t hate the idea of Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier next, I actually like the feud a lot, but I don’t think the UFC loves it. I suspect they’ll try to book Charles Oliveira vs. Poirier for the lightweight title next.
Look, I’m all for fighters getting paid. And I hope Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz (despite Ortiz’s, ahem, behavior as of late) are getting paid a boat-load from Triller to box on Sept. 11. However, I was really looking forward to seeing if Silva could beat another actual boxer stemming from his awe-inspiring win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in June. I’d rather see Silva vs. Ortiz in MMA, not boxing. Heck, I’d rather see Silva vs. Logan Paul in a boxing match over this.
Speaking of the Paul brothers, I am really looking forward to Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley on Aug. 29, especially because for the first time in his brief career the fight isn’t just a referendum on Paul, the boxer. It is also a referendum on Woodley. The Woodley aspect is just as interesting to me, to be honest. Can he end his career on a high note? Can he right the wrong of the last few years? Can he come through for the MMA community? Fascinating theater to be played out in Cleveland in a couple weeks (an event I will be attending, by the way. More on that later).
Before Cleveland, though, I’m off to Vegas for the first time since UFC 248 in March 2020 next week. I’m covering WWE Summerslam for BT Sport, and I can not wait. I’ve never covered a WWE event before as press, so I’m curious to see how it goes versus my experiences at hundreds of MMA events. Also, thanks in large part to my two sons becoming massive wrestling fans over the past year, I’ve been watching the product consistently lately, and I am really enjoying watching it through their lens and teaching them about the history of the business. Needless to say, they are jealous I am going, but it’s also super cool to finally be covering something they actually care about for once.
Also, not sure if you heard, a big show returns next Monday!
Man, I can’t wait to see what A.J. McKee does next and where he goes from here. He’s one of the young stars in this sport that I am most intrigued by right now.
If I’m Gable Steveson, the recent Olympic Gold medalist, this is what I’m doing next: I’m leaving school. I’m signing with WWE. I’m building myself as a monster for four-to-five years. I’m then signing with an MMA promotion, and away we go. Basically, the Brock Lesnar route. Tried and true.
Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier in a feud? This is not what the world wants. Let’s all get along, boys. Please?
All the best to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who announced his retirement this week. He’ll go down as one of the best ever to never fight for a UFC title, which is a shame. But if there is ever an independent MMA hall of fame built — and, boy, do I hope there is one — he’ll be a lock. An MMA legend and a BJJ legend.
I’m starting to feel real old, and a little sad, too, every time one of these fighters who were in their primes when I started my career call it a career. The crop of fighters who were on the scene from basically 2008-2020 will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter who it is.
Tim Johnson vs. Fedor Emelianenko in Russia does nothing for me. I would have gone with a fellow legend, or a younger guy to get over. This just feels a tad random.
Rare PFL vs. Bellator Friday night coming up, coupled with a rare UFC-free Saturday night. Fun! More on that tomorrow.
Thanks for stopping by, friends.
Incredible work as always Ariel! Can’t wait to see more of independent Helwani!!
Not saying you are wrong but don’t you think the ufc would try to promote the fact that gane and Francis were once training together? Kinda how they did with usman and burns, obviously they weren’t training as long as those two, but just want to hear your thoughts. Can’t wait for Monday, mma community needs a Ariel show back!