This coming weekend, the eyes of the combat sports world are focused on the big rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in Las Vegas. The UFC will counter with a minor show from New Zealand that features a quality lightweight main event between Paul Felder and Dan Hooker.
Coming out of the weekend, the major discussion point centered around Diego Sanchez and his disqualification victory against Michel Pereira following an illegal knee delivered in the third round to the TUF 1 winner. While his manager Josh Fabia has been under fire throughout the week, we wanted to look at another aspect of the story regarding Sanchez’s decision to end the fight and the UFC’s bonus structure that put Sanchez in a position to be asked if he essentially wanted to forfeit half his pay.
Plus, Jan Blachowicz stopped Corey Anderson in the opening round of their light heavyweight main event in Rio Rancho, New Mexico while champion Jon Jones observed from cage side and indicated Blachowicz could be his next challenger. We’ll look at the latest in the UFC’s light heavyweight picture and where Blachowicz lands after this impressive win.
POST Wrestling: After his first-round stoppage of Corey Anderson, where does Jan Blachowicz land in the ‘Jon Jones Sweepstakes’ and does he hold a significant claim to challenging for the title next?
Phil Chertok: It appears after his fantastic KO of Anderson, he’s in the lead for the chance to fight Jones again and he deserves it. After a rough start to his UFC career, Blachowicz has put together wins in six of his last seven fights which is impressive in any division. As I stated last week, I’m not averse to a Dominick Reyes rematch for the title but I think that it’s OK to let that fight marinate a little bit instead of going back to it right away. Blachowicz is a smart, level-headed fighter and I doubt he’d be fazed by a big title fight opportunity so I’d like to see him get a chance to solve the Jones puzzle, maybe using some of the new clues discovered at UFC 247. I like the idea of putting that fight on at UFC 251 where Jones and Shevchenko can be 1-2 on the top of the card again.
POST: Following Diego Sanchez’s DQ victory over Michel Pereira, do you see a flaw in the system of UFC’s bonus structure? Had Sanchez opted to continue, he would have cost himself half his purse knowing he was down on the cards – is it time to re-examine the show and win bonus structure the UFC still uses for most fighters?
Chertok: I do think the UFC pay structure could be re-examined, the idea of incentivizing performance is understandable and occurs in many businesses but I think bonusing out for wins can definitely lead to some playing-it-safe gamesmanship. That said, I don’t think that was the biggest reason why Sanchez chose not to continue fighting. If you listen to his thoughts on it and ignore the utterly bizarre comments of his manager and coach from this week’s uncomfortable interview with Ariel Helwani, Sanchez does clearly explain that he understood he was at a strength, size and speed disadvantage and potentially had just injured two ribs. While not the most vicious strike in recorded history, the illegal knee was certainly impactful and considering that Sanchez had just been hurt badly, it’s not reasonable to expect him to measure the severity of the just received blow. He was hurt, he got hit with an illegal shot and instead of risking his health, he chose to end the contest and I don’t fault him for it one bit.
POST: This week, it was reported by ESPN that Valentina Shevchenko is expected to defend her flyweight title against Joanne Calderwood in June. Do you see any problems Calderwood can create for Shevchenko that other flyweights have been unable to?
The only problem Calderwood creates is for Joe Rogan, who needs to come up with some way to explain how Calderwood can win the fight. I’m trying hard myself right now and am finding it nearly impossible. Look I’m not trying to rag on Jojo but Valentina is just in another stratosphere when it comes to skill level, mentality, and experience vs these other flyweights and she’s not going to be challenged soon by one of them. If these women want to keep stepping up to take a bullet in the face though, I’ve got no problem with that, just don’t expect it to go well.
POST: The main MMA fight this weekend is Dan Hooker and Paul Felder from Auckland, New Zealand – what is at stake for the winner?
Chertok: It’s hard to say, both men are doing well in an extremely stacked division that includes two megastars who can pick and choose their fights. Felder has won five in a row at lightweight and Hooker has won six of his last seven, in any other division, we’d probably be talking about title shots for these extremely exciting fighters. Of the two, I’d say Felder has the most to gain. He’s already been targeted by money weight champion Conor McGregor. The Irishman still doesn’t have a next opponent set up and with a strong performance and the right post-fight interview, Felder could maneuver his way into the most lucrative fight of his career.
POST: What is your interest level in the rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury this Saturday and will you be watching?
Chertok: I can’t wait! The first fight was utterly thrilling and included Fury’s now-legendary Undertaker style resurrection after getting nearly KO’d in the final round. As a kid, before MMA was even around, I would watch boxing and loved it. Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, I couldn’t get enough. I was even watching classic fights with Ali, Frasier, Foreman and many of the other greats. It makes me really happy to see a resurrection in boxing thanks to a combination of fantastic in-ring talent across the weight divisions and the influx of cash from the streaming wars. This weekend’s fight really illustrates that the heavyweight division has long been the glory division in boxing. To see a massive heavyweight fight return to Las Vegas with an undefeated American challenger…well it makes me feel like a kid again.
Phil Chertok can be heard on our monthly UFC POST Shows and will be back on Saturday, March 7th following UFC 248.