Conor McGregor’s return to the UFC is going exactly as expected, with the Irish star launching into a lengthy tirade about his upcoming opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The last week, the combat sports world was packed with fights, but also saw some interesting rumours emerge.
Firstly, we had UFC 224 in Brazil. Despite being an average card overall, there was still some exciting action in Rio.
To start on a slightly sad note, future MMA Hall of Famer Vitor Belford was most probably retired by a brutal Lyoto Machida front kick to the face.
Machida, however, showed great class in bowing to his downed opponent, and even offering his respects to Belford’s mother. Vitor then made perhaps his final statement about his career, literally dropped his gloves in the Octagon as a symbol that in his career, he has left it all in the cage.
Women’s strawweight and new UFC golden girl Mackenzie Dern made news this weekend after badly missing weight for her 115-pound bout. Fought at the huge catchweight of 123 pounds, Derm’s opponent Amanda Cooper was awarded 30 per cent of Dern’s show money as punishment for this unprofessionalism.
In the ring, Dern looked to be carrying a little extra weight, but it certainly did not seem to hinder her. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu master put on an impressive performance, particularly on the feet, where she knocked down former professional boxer Cooper with a huge overhand right. Once on the ground, it was all over and Dern finished with rear naked chock.
The co-main event held title implications for Australian welterweight champion Robert Whitaker. Kelvin Gastelum, facing a vocal Brazilian crowd, picked up a hard-fought split deciton against veteran Jacaré Souza. With a decent recent run, Gastelum will be hoping he is next in line to face the winner of Whitaker and Yoel Romero.
The main event, between Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington, was another exhibition by the women’s bantamweight champion.
At the end of the fourth round, a battered and beaten Pennington – suffering a broken nose – wished to withdraw. However, her corner did not allow her to stop and pushed her into the final round. What followed was a brutal two minutes in which Nunes exploded Pennington’s nose, leaving her badly hurt and haemorrhaging blood onto the canvas.
Considering the fighter’s desire to stop, the action of her corner must come under scrutiny.
In other promotions, Bellatore 199 saw the final fight of the first round of Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. The bout featured former UFC fighter and current Bellatore light-heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, facing off against Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal.
Bader dropped King Mo in the eighth second with a stiff overhand left, and then finished him on the ground to wrap up the match in only 15 seconds. With this win, Bader advances to the semi-finals to face Matt Mitrione.
In the boxing world, we saw Vasyl Lomachenko put on another clinic. Going up in weight to face lightweight champion Jorge Linares, Lomachenko was out-powered and even knocked down in the sixth round, however ‘Loma’ was never outclassed, and eventually won a beautiful TKO victory in the tenth.
Coming off a fairly even ninth round, the Ukrainian put together a typically artful combination, finishing with a left hook to the liver of Linares. The hit immediately put down the Venezuelan fighter, who was unable to continue.
With this win, Lomachenko picks up a world title in his third weight class, most impressively in only his 12th pro fight – eight less than his nearest competitor, Australian Jeff Fenech.
Finally, we end with some rumours.
According to Dana White, the great Georges St-Pierre is in talks with Nate Diaz for a fight in the 155-pound lightweight division – a fight that does nothing for me.
As much as I want to see both of these fighters back in the octagon, GSP returning for a non-title match in a weight class he has never fought in (being a natural 170 pounder) doesn’t make a lot of sense. Compounding this, the fight is not exactly the fan favourites’ spectacle it once might have been.
With GSP only fighting once in almost five years, and Diaz having a salty recent record of three wins and four loses, the UFC expectations for this fight may well be much higher than they will get.
Diaz has said that he will only come back for a big fight, and this may seem a great enticement for him, but considering the match is stylistically a bad one for Diaz (his brother Nick lost an uncompetitive fight against GSP in 2013), this makes even less sense.
Diaz needs a win badly if he wishes to step into title contention at lightweight, and he will be at long odds against the great Canadian.
GSP meanwhile has said he will only come back to cement his legacy as the best ever. Diaz is a great fighter, but to be honest he offers almost nothing to GSP’s legacy. Only a bout against the winner of Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title will truly satisfy that criteria, and GSP does not need a stepping stone.
If this fight goes ahead, it makes almost no sense from the point of view of the lightweight belt, the two fighters involved, or the pay-per-view numbers.
That said… I will still watch it.