Hot Tweets: UFC Vegas 55, Aleksandar Rakic’s injury, and the 2022 All-Violence First Team

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

It’s been a relatively quiet week in MMA, with a small UFC card this past weekend and another less talked about card tonight, before we get a rare weekend free of fights. With that being said, there aren’t a lot of big storylines to dive into this week so let’s talk about a whole host of stuff.

Holly Holm vs. Ketlen Vieira

The Holm-Vieira main and co-main are potentially bangers but no one’s talking too much about them and the bantamweight implications for the main event. Is this because of the ESPN deal (i.e. this being the seventeenth card this year)?

— Zak Kitzler (@KitzlerZak) May 20, 2022

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Holly Holm, but to suggest that her fight on Saturday might be a “banger” requires a real leap of faith. For all of her excellence as a fighter, Holm only has four bonuses in the UFC, and two of those came for her demolition of Ronda Rousey (also, a third was Fight of the Night against Cris Cyborg, which, let’s be honest, was not a great fight). Holm is tremendous, but realistically, she’s a better version of Katlyn Chookagian — exceedingly competent but prefers a ranged kick-boxing game or grinding clinches.

As for the co-main event, there is a much higher likelihood of Santiago Ponzinibbio and Michel Pereira putting on a classic, but it’s not guaranteed, which is a shame, because two years ago, I would have been salivating about this fight. Instead, Periera has made a concerted effort to dial back his wild-man lunacy for the sake of better cardio, and while it has worked, it’s made him less fun. There’s still a chance these two go hammer and tongs, but there’s also a chance that we get a more measured, tactical fight. There is a much greater chance for a KO here, though.

As for the lack of buzz, I think it’s a combination of factors. The fact that we’ve had so many events this year certainly plays as a part, as does the fact that, in general, women’s bantamweight is not a division that gets people talking. But the biggest factor is simply that this is how the UFC operates. Since the move to ESPN, the company doesn’t do a lot to promote non-PPV events, and when you get a bunch of fighters who are good, but not self-promoters, we end up with this. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a very solid card and I’m looking forward to an easy Saturday night.

Unfortunate injuries

Looking at Blachowicz-Rakic as an example, what are the pros and cons of immediate (with recovery, of course) rematches with injury TKO victories? Blachowicz-Rakic, to me, felt a bit too much like “what if the injury didn’t happen”

— Zak Kitzler (@KitzlerZak) May 18, 2022

ICYMI: Aleksandar Rakic blew out his knee while fighting Jan Blachowicz at UFC Vegas 54.

Injuries during fights are extremely unfortunate, for exactly the reason you note: it doesn’t feel like a real win. It is, by all the rules and logic of the sport, but it still feels like the injured fighter was robbed of something. Unless, of course, the injury is caused by something from the other fighter, a checked leg kick for instance. Then, an injury is just a bad outcome but the loss is acceptable. Unfortunately for Rakic, that is not what happened on Saturday.

Full credit to Blachowicz, who was fighting tremendously, but before the injury, the outcome was still very much up in the air. Each man had taken a round and we were just about to get into the real meat of the fight. I have no idea what was going to happen for the next three rounds if Rakic didn’t have a compromised knee, but now we’ll never know. At least not until Rakic can return, and when he does, I think a rematch makes all the sense in the world.

The pros for such a fight are obvious: We get resolution to the question of “Who is the better fighter?” Given that both men are top-five light heavyweights, that is an exceedingly important question to resolve. As far as down side, any would be mostly minimal. If Blachowicz reclaims the title, an immediate rematch would mean Rakic heads into a title fight coming off a loss AND and injury layoff. And if Blachowicz doesn’t have the title, then perhaps he is coming off a loss, which makes the matchup still good, but less appealing. Still, when Rakic is back, assuming the landscape remains the same or similar, running this fight back makes sense.

Dustin Poirier vs. Colby Covington

Always been a fan of Y’alls shows, Do you think that Colby’s chances against Dustin are overblown? I keep on hearing that Colby will impose his grappling & cruise to win. Is it really that simple?

— PrePrideRoyceGracie (@PrePrideGracie) May 19, 2022

ICYMI: Dustin Poirier said he was now willing to fight Colby Covington, even if it wouldn’t be his first choice of opponent.

To some extent, yes. Poirier is a great fighter, and a better one than Covington, but the physical and stylistic advantages that Covington possess make it a very good matchup for him. Poirier isn’t an awful wrestler, but he’s not good enough to consistently keep things on the feet against Covington and he’s probably not good enough to get up once he has been taken down. Poirier would need to land something big early to win this fight, and that’s not impossible, but it’s a tough ask.

Khabib vs. Tony: TUF Edition

What are the chances the UFC gets Tony and the Eagle for TUF

— Matthew Brennick (@InformedCasual) May 19, 2022

ICYMI: Tony Ferguson suggested he and Khabib Nurmagomedov should coach against each other on The Ultimate Fighter, and Khabib seems to agree.

I’m going to say it’s low, for the simple reason that I’m not sure the UFC cares about it. For better or worse, the UFC seems to believe that TUF serves as a promotional vehicle for big fights. While they have, rarely, had non-competing coaches on the show, the vast majority of seasons provide, if nothing else, more video content of fighters feuding for them to use in promo packages ahead of PPVs. A TUF season with Tony and Khabib probably doesn’t tangibly increase viewership and would build to nothing, so I feel like the UFC’s appetite for it will be low.

On a personal note, I will also say that I don’t like the idea, strictly because it would serve as a painful reminder of the greatest fight that never was. Don’t get me wrong, I have zero doubt that Khabib would have smashed Tony with little issue, but the stakes, the story, and everything that went into it, was the absolute pinnacle of what this sport can be, and to have been robbed of that still hurts.

GOAT Conversations

Who do you think will overtake the current GOAT sooner, Usman(vs GSP) or Oliveira(vs Khabib)? Or perhaps Adesanya(vs Silva), who knows after all

— Lungi05 (@lungikk) May 19, 2022

I don’t think any of them are going to do it, but if I had to rank them, it seems pretty obvious that it would be:

Charles Oliveira
Kamaru Usman

Israel Adesanya.

The reason is that some people are (wrongly) already saying that both Oliveira and Usman have assumed GOAT status. For Oliveira, he’s probably objectively closer to that claim based purely on the fact that Khabib had such a controversial claim to the lightweight GOAT title, where Usman has to surpass the actual greatest fighter of all-time, Georges St-Pierre.

Now, here’s why I don’t think any of them will do it.

For Oliveira, while some people will give him the title, his numerous losses make it a tough claim, or at least a claim that has obvious arguments against it. Plus, I’m confident that Islam Makhachev is going to dust him up, and once that happens, any talk of being better than Khabib goes out the window.

For Usman, personally, I still think he needs to do A LOT to overcome GSP, as his title defense number pales in comparison, and that he’s fought so many rematches is another tough one. Add in that I think Khamzat Chimaev has a great shot to beat him and we’ve got another close but no cigar.

Finally, for Adesanya, I think he’s going to leave the division next year to make another run at 205 pounds, and this time commit to adding the weight to make it more viable. Izzy has basically said he plans to do so soon, and after another year at middleweight, there won’t be anyone too interesting for him to face.

Fighter nicknames

This is a general random MMA question… what are the two best fighter nicknames in a title fight ever?

— Jake Marshall (@J_Marsh99) May 20, 2022

This is a great question because in truth, there have not been many good nicknames in title fights. In the UFC, I think the honor goes to either of the two fights between Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya and Robert “Bobby Knuckles” Whittaker. (You might be saying “Bobby Knuckles” isn’t his nickname, it’s “The Reaper,” but you would be mistaken because “The Reaper” is lame and “Bobby Knuckles” rules.) Also, shout out to Demetrious Johnson as “Mighty Mouse” is an incredible name, but sadly there’s not a lot of nickname juice from his various opponents.

As far as for any organization, basically any Pride title defense by “The Ax Murderer” Wanderlei Silva qualifies because it’s the best nickname in MMA history, and the guys he fought had solid nicknames of their own: The Gracie Hunter, The Aloof Genius, Rampage — all bangers.

All-Violence First Team

who makes your “all-violence-first-team”?

— Scot McCreight (@Scot_McCreight_) May 19, 2022

ICYMI: We started a new podcast for MMA Fighting, DAMN! They Were Good. In it, we discuss our favorite fighters of all time and, as it so happens, most of those people are going to be All-Violence All Stars. Check it out.

I’m assuming the request here is for the current All-Violence First Team and not an All-Time list. Either is easy enough but let’s keep things in the present day.

Heavyweight: Tom Aspinall. The man has delivered every time out.

Light Heavyweight: Jiri Prochazka. C’mon. Is there another choice?

Middleweight: André Muniz. Three first-round subs in his last three fights. Man is gas.

Welterweight: Khamzat Chimaev. Four obliterations and a Fight of the Year contender in his last five. If Vicente Luque hadn’t gotten the full Belal Muhammad treatment, it would be closer.

Lightweight: Charles Oliveira or Justin Gaethje. There are no wrong answers here. Both men deliver, every single time.

Featherweight: Max Holloway. He throws more strikes than anyone. How can that be boring?

Bantamweight: Marlon Vera. Sean O’Malley is more consistently delivering finishes but Vera is putting on bangers against much better opposition. Special shoutout to Louis Smolka, who refuses to fight to decisions.

Flyweight: Brandon Royval. The man gets or gets got. There is no in-between.

Women’s Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes but I don’t feel good about it. She’s had some serious stinkers but W135 is not the strongest.

Women’s Flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko. Similar to the above, though she’s had fewer stinkers since becoming champion.

Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Andrade. Need I say more?

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.

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