As we gear up for this UFC main event on Saturday between … between … hold up. Am I seeing this right? No UFC this weekend?
For the first time since April 2, the UFC does not have an event this week. That won’t be the case again for a while, as events are scheduled for every week of June and July.
But even with no event to talk about this weekend, there’s still plenty to discuss in and around the sport as we close out the month of May and look ahead to a packed summer schedule. UFC 275 and UFC 276 will have a combined four title fights, and the UFC makes stops in Texas and England during the upcoming months.
Will champions, such as Alexander Volkanovski, be able to retain their belts? Can former contenders, like Joanna Jedrzejczyk, find their way back toward title contention? What does the future hold for longtime veterans Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone?
We’ll answer those questions and more in the latest edition of Five Rounds.
1. Tony Ferguson is ready to team up
Since his loss to Michael Chandler on May 7, Ferguson has been on something of a media tour, and I’ve got to say I love what I’m hearing. “El Cucuy” looked great in that fight at UFC 274, but Chandler sits at the fringes of the title picture, right at the top of the sport. The fact that Ferguson dropped him and took the first round means something — even if, at the same time, we can acknowledge Ferguson is no longer in his prime.
Word is out that Ferguson wants to join an MMA camp again, which I love. I’ve believed he could benefit from this for a while. After Beneil Dariush beat him last year, I asked Dariush if he would consider extending an invitation to Ferguson to join him at Kings MMA. Ferguson believes in his own approach and that he knows best. That belief has carried him well, but having a sounding board around you and some direction can be healthy. I’ll be curious to see where he goes and who is in his corner for his next fight.
2. Here is the ONLY way we will ever ‘fix’ judging in MMA
It’s more or less the same conversation every time — and I have held the same opinion on it for years. We have a broken system. We are using a rudimentary 10-point-must system adopted from boxing to score a very complex sport.
There are far more factors to score in MMA than in boxing, requiring a more sophisticated system. There are also fewer rounds, meaning we’re using one option (a score of 10-9) for an extensive range of outcomes, and then we’re placing more value on each round. It’s a recipe for disaster.
How many times after a close fight do you hear people say, “Well, I think this person won, but I’ll be good with any outcome”? And it’s true. There are a lot of fights in which that can be said. How are we OK with that?
If a scoring system lends itself to us arguing over scorecards every weekend, that’s not good. The possible outcomes of a round are exceptionally diverse, but we are using one score for it all. It would be like scoring a basketball game a tie when a team lost the first half by 2 points and won the second half by 15.
We need a new, decimal-based scoring system for MMA — and no one can convince me otherwise. But we’re nowhere close to that happening. We’ll have this same conversation a month from now. See you then.
3. Volkanovski vs. Holloway 3 is must watch
This is the biggest fight of the summer. Truly. I don’t know if we’re sleeping on it a little right now, but by the time this one comes around, I hope it receives the attention it deserves. Because it is massive. The first two fights were too close to call (again, see my frustrations over MMA judging earlier). Had Holloway won the second fight, we’re talking about a completely different narrative at 145 pounds. The result of this fight will have a lasting impact on what happens at featherweight — and lightweight. Because whether it’s Volkanovski or Holloway holding the belt, they each will have a future interest in moving up to 155 pounds.
There are some fantastic fights this summer, but this is the one for me. And it’s not particularly close.
4. Cowboy Cerrone’s journey to 50
What else is there to say about what happened at UFC 274 other than it was just regrettable? I was excited to see Cowboy walk in front of fans again, especially after the emotional way he spoke about fighting in front of his son, who is now old enough to somewhat comprehend the moment. Getting his fight against Joe Lauzon quickly rebooked in Austin Texas, on June 18 is good for all parties involved.
Meanwhile, Cowboy has said on social media he wants to fight two more times to reach the number of 50 bouts between his WEC and UFC careers. Maybe keep an eye on that topic during his fight week in Austin because he has 47 fights between the WEC and UFC, not 48. He should be the one to explain what happened there with the mixup on the number of fights, but I know that the number “50” does mean something to him. Depending on how things go, I believe he will attempt to get there to wrap up one of my favorite careers in the sport’s history.
5. Could Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2 repeat as Fight of the Year?
I think about this rematch for obvious and non-obvious reasons.
The obvious: I believe the first fight was one of the greatest of all time. Every Saturday, we see a Fight of the Night in the UFC, right? And what makes a fight stand out on any night is action, excitement, etc. But what makes a fight stand out forever is when two athletes push each other to a point where one of them probably should break.
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson I. Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson I. Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum. Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald II (even though there was a late finish in that one). Those were bouts in which we saw both fighters push past a limit we would have never guessed they could. The same can be said about that first fight between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk.
I’ve talked to both women ahead of this rematch, and they know what they’re in for — that the other one won’t quit. They know how difficult of a fight it will be, and they’ve made peace with the fact that anything can happen. It will be a great rematch, and the result should produce the next title challenger.
The non-obvious: If Jedrzejczyk comes up short again, I wonder what happens with the rest of her career. She has accomplished so much, and she’s very content with where her career is. She has reached a point where only the biggest fights will get her to stay in the sport. I won’t go so far as to say I think she’ll retire with a loss, but it’s in the realm of possibility.