Ask the Insider: Vancouver’s headliner revealed

Demetrious Johnson holds the winning belt after defeating Joseph Benavidez. Nathan Denette/CP

The most asked question over the past few months, finally has an answer. That, and some interesting thoughts from MMA’s fan base highlights this week’s column.

We kick things off with a question I have avoided, deflected, side stepped, ignored, partially speculated on, and now, I have finally can address.

With the biggest sigh of relief, I can tell you that UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson will defend his title vs Russia’s Ali Bagautinov. Finally, I can now breathe.

From what I can gather, they are following suit with what many of the other sports leagues have done, albeit, in a modified sort of way. Shields is better than the majority of welterweights on the UFC roster, but my assumption is that the organization sees his value now, at a lower amount that what he may have been paid if he fought for them one more time. They likely also believe he is too good to pit against an up-and-comer who could one day fight for the title; in essence, Shields would thwart the momentum of a future contender.

Was his style boring? To the masses, yes. To many in the grappling community, no, as there is an appreciation for Shields’ stifling style that got the better of the likes of Demian Maia and Dan Henderson in Strikeforce. But his disappointing performance against Hector Lombard was an eye opener – no one had done that to Shields before, for fifteen minutes, and thus, they may have internally believed that his stock value had officially peaked at UFC 129 in Toronto, and has plummeted ever since.

In most divisions, yes – a fight with two men of this calibre is all about relevance but in the heavyweight division, anything can happen. And due to it’s lack of depth in comparison to other divisions, guys can stick around longer than usual, and with a few wins, can be in line for a title shot. Mind you, if Big Nog loses, I wonder if it’s time to hang up the gloves? He’s a legend – does he really need to do any more? Does anyone believe he can make another run to the title? But what if Roy loses? #LookOut

Based on the size of their roster and current talent spectrum, they are both the big show, and somewhat the minor leagues, all rolled up under one banner. Add “The Ultimate Fighter” to the mix, and you have a somewhat rookie draft as well.

The truth of the matter, is that there are many organizations out there that are feeder promotions to the UFC. In my opinion, the UFC can potentially lend more of a hand in Amateur MMA. Mark my words, one day, someone will convince the board of directors, that will then convince Dana and Lorenzo, the importance of Amateur MMA, and the development of mixed martial artists, globally, where the creme of the crop, will funnel their way into the UFC. If I could get 5 mins of their time, I would. People think I always do, but I don’t. I can easily make the case to Dana or Lorenzo, but I have yet to get the proper time.

One of the things that separates the UFC from the four major sports in North America is a development system. Hockey, football, basketball and baseball all have a developmental system that begins at a very young age. On a global scale, the UFC is going head to head with soccer. Now, if there’s one sport globally, that has an impeccable Amateur system, it’s soccer. I’ve been trying since 1998 – hopefully, one day, a light bulb will go on in the Zuffa head offices.

I have no issues with it. The champ, Johny Hendricks, is out for a bit. The No. 1 ranked fighter in the division, Robbie Lawler, is booked vs Jake Ellenberger. The No. 2 fighter is Canada’s Rory MacDonald, who did not have an opponent. The No. 3 guy is Carlos Condit, who is out with a knee injury – courtesy of a bout vs the No. 4 guy, Tyron Woodley. So, Rory vs Tyron in Vancouver, BC, as the co-main event, with the winner taking on Hendricks? Yeah, it’s safe to say I have no issues with it.

I haven’t heard anything yet but I do get the inkling another bout will be added to the card. Stay tuned.

This is not as easy to do in MMA, as it is in hockey, football, basketball or baseball, where you can just bring guys up from the minors. In MMA, guys train to peak on one specific night and unlike the aforementioned sports, do not have to maintain a specific level of fitness for 8-9 months. In MMA, you peak for one night, then get time off, then train accordingly. Some fighters are gym rats, some aren’t. It’s next to impossible to have fighters on standby, and above all, stepping in on short notice while your fitness is at a gym rat level is completely different when you are matched up against a monster who is peaking after a 10-12 week camp.

MMA is a growing sport. I’m a huge soccer fan, as well as a hockey fan. I’ve never once had any concerns that there is too much soccer in this world. There are high-level leagues in Europe. Italy, Spain, England, Germany, France, all have over 8-10 teams per league. Each with a full season, where the winners go to Champions League. Then the best of the best compete in the European Championships every four years. And that’s just Europe. In between that, every four years there is the World Cup, pitting the world’s best against one another. And I still can’t get enough soccer.

Folks can like it, or not. They can accept it, or choose not to accept it, but this is the current trajectory of where and what the UFC is doing with their product. If people think their is too much now, wait…this is just the tip of the iceberg.

From my Facebook page:

Josh Singer asked “If the Gina Carano vs Rousey fight happens do you think this is good for women’s MMA? Carano hasn’t fought in five years and her last fight was a one sided beating from Cyborg.”

If I read between the lines, there is more than just the obvious in your question and commentary.

Will this fight be good for women’s MMA? No ifs, ands or buts…this bout will be huge for not just women’s MMA, but for the sport and UFC brand as well.

But in my sincere opinion, I do not like Gina Carano’s chances, even if the bout takes place at a catchweight or at 145-pounds. Gina has been inactive for a very long time, and no amount of training can get you up to fighting shape; that difference in stamina you hear fighters talk about after their second or third fight after a long layoff. Can she pull off the upset? Of course she can, it’s MMA, and she is a more accomplished striker than Rousey is. But the “Rowdy” one is a fast learner.

In my assessment of her bout vs Sara McMann, she was losing the boxing battle, so she went to her muay thai, to score the victory. That’s incredible stuff. But, Carano’s muay thai is pretty damn good. But will it be sharp enough vs Rousey, who is on a whole other level vs anyone in this game not named Cyborg. It’s an all win situation for Ronda and the UFC. And should Carano pull off the MMA miracle, that pay day for the rematch will reach epic proportions courtesy of the monstrous pay per view buy rate. Wait, did I just take two steps forward and put together a rematch for fight that may never even take place.

Time to stop…I gotta go.

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