**The UFC returns Saturday night with their latest Fight Night card from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The weigh-ins took place on Friday morning with the following results:
MAIN CARD (9 pm Eastern on ESPN, TSN1/4/5 in Canada)
*Alistair Overeem (253.5) vs. Walt Harris (264.5) – This is Harris’ first fight since the murder of his stepdaughter Aniah after she went missing last October. It’s going to be very emotional as ESPN has been profiling his return and I’m sure it will be heavily focused upon during the broadcast. Harris is unbeaten in his last four with two knockouts in under one minute in his last two fights. Overeem has suffered some brutal knockouts over the past few years to Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The latter was a fight Overeem was doing well in until the fifth round.
*Claudia Gadelha (115.5) vs. Angela Hill (115) – Hill has fought an incredible amount of times over the past year. She fought four times in 2019 and this is already her third fight of 2020. She’s won her last three fights, but Gadelha is several levels higher. The 31-year old Gadelha has never been stopped and has fought most of the top strawweights. She only fought once in 2019 with a decision over Randa Markos, so their schedules differ greatly when it comes to competing over the past year.
*Edson Barboza (145.5) vs. Dan Ige (146) – Barboza, who already was a big lightweight, made the decision to come down to featherweight and he made the weight. He has fought all the killers at lightweight and after a stretch going 1-4 made the cut. Ige is a tough fight and will immediately show us where Barboza fits in the division. Ige has won his last five fights and just won a split decision against Mirsad Bektic, who was thought to be a top prospect when he entered the UFC. Barboza should be the favorite but the question will be how the cut affected him, how much weight he puts on, and the impact of those losses at lightweight.
*Krzysztof Jotko (185.5) vs. Eryk Anders (186) – They have parallels in their records as both lost three in a row before turning those streaks around with consecutive wins. Anders has won his last two and came back to middleweight in his last fight against Gerald Meerschaert last October. Jotko has won his last two by decision but hasn’t fought since last July.
*Marlon Vera (145.5) vs. Song Yadong (145.5) – This fight is contingent on Yadong getting the clearance to fight after it was revealed he faced a potential visa issue. Yadong is 4-0-1 in the UFC and unbeaten since October 2016. Vera, 27, has won his last five fights and all were stoppage victories including three wins in 2019.
PRELIMINARY CARD (6 pm on ESPN+, TSN in Canada)
*Matt Brown (171) vs. Miguel Baeza (170.5) – Brown is 39 and came out of retirement in December to stop Ben Saunders.
*Anthony Hernandez (185.5) vs. Kevin Holland (182.5)
*Giga Chikadze (145.5) vs. Irwin Rivera (TBA)
*Darren Elkins (146) vs. Nate Landwehr (146)
*Mara Romero Borella (125.5) vs. Cortney Casey (126)
*Don’Tale Mayes (241) vs. Rodrigo Nascimento (255)
**In Canada, TSN will be airing all of the preliminary fights beginning at 6 pm Eastern. They will have the post-game show at Midnight.
**Both Marvin Vettori and Urijah Faber weighed in as alternates for the card. Vettori stepped onto the scale at 203.5 pounds after his fight with Karl Roberson earlier this week was canceled after Roberson had complications after missing weight Tuesday. According to Ariel Helwani at ESPN, there is a potential visa issue with Team Alpha Male’s Song Yadong and that is why Faber weighed in as a potential alternate but Faber believes the issue may be resolved involving Yadong.
**Giga Chikadze was scheduled to fight Mike Davis, who was removed from the card and Irwin Rivera took the spot late. Because of the late notice, they are allowing Davis to weigh in separately and his involvement is contingent on medical clearance for the event including passing a COVID-19 test, so he didn’t take part in Friday morning’s weigh-ins. Davis’ removal was not COVID-19 related.
**Alistair Overeem turns 40 on Sunday and there is a good chance he’ll be in the Octagon fighting on Saturday when the clock hits Midnight Eastern.
**John McCarthy addressed the recent comments made by Dominick Cruz levied at referee Keith Peterson following Peterson’s stoppage of the fight last Saturday between Cruz and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo. On the UFC 249 post-show, Cruz claimed that Peterson smelled like cigarettes and alcohol and had reservations about him being the referee for the fight. Cruz disagreed with the stoppage and doubled down on his criticism when speaking to Ariel Helwani on ESPN this past Monday stating he was told Jeremy Stephens has helped Peterson up to his room in the past from drinking. McCarthy called the accusations false and added that Peterson doesn’t drink on his Weighing-In Podcast:
What Dom did by saying ‘Oh, he smells like cigarettes and alcohol. First off, you know, what you’re saying you can’t prove, so you’re making a bullshit statement. Second, you’re not only ripping that official and he can’t defend against it. You’re not only ripping that official, you’re ripping every other official that’s there. Because, do you think that if Keith Peterson was drinking or smelled of alcohol that Herb Dean wouldn’t go to the commission and say ‘Hey, he’s got a problem we can’t let him work’? You don’t think Jason Herzog or Dan Miragliotta wouldn’t have gone? They all would have said ‘you’re not working tonight’. It’s too important to all of those guys that the job is done right.
So, when Dom makes this blanket statement, he’s taking a very wide paintbrush making very big strokes when there is no defense against what he’s saying, even though what he’s saying is a crock of shit, alright? Flat out. Keith Peterson doesn’t drink, so if he was smoking, which I’ve never seen him smoke, so is it possible he’s had a cigarette? Okay.
Then I know that Dom came out and said, ‘Jeremy Stephens said that he helped that guy to his room because he was hammered’. Is that true? No. But, when Dom says it, what does it mean? He’s trying to create this thing like ‘I was robbed’. You weren’t robbed. You had the opportunity to go in that cage and fight the champion. You did, you were doing a great job against him even though he was winning, and he was landing big shots. But you got caught. You got caught by a big knee and then you got caught by the shots. And, it was one guy’s decision, it’s his power to pull you out of the fight, that’s what he did and you know what? Be man enough to say ‘I don’t agree with’ that’s okay ‘I don’t like it’ that’s okay but don’t start making false allegations. It’s wrong. There is no validity to what you’re saying.
**There was a lot of criticism over the handling of Wednesday’s main event between Glover Teixeira and Anthony Smith. The tide turned drastically in round three when Teixeira launched an uppercut that drilled Smith and proceeded to knock Smith down. It was an easy 10-8 round in the third and fourth rounds. Ahead of the fifth round, Smith told his corner his teeth were falling out and displayed a fighter that needed someone pulling the plug on the fight as he was not going to. Teixeira continued the relentless pace in the fifth, securing mount and finishing him with strikes when referee Jason Herzog stopped it.
According to Ariel Helwani, the injuries to Smith include a broken orbital bone and nose, two missing teeth, and the cut under his right eye. During the fight, he handed teeth to referee Jason Herzog.
My unofficial rule is that if you’re debating whether the round could be 10-7, which the third round was being discussed among people, then the fight has probably gone longer than necessary.
There were moments when it felt it was time to stop it when Teixeira would stop striking and go for a submission but later in the fight, I felt Herzog had moments to step in and stop it before he did. The mentality in MMA is not to stop the fight and that’s going to take a generation to reprogram cornermen. There are examples like John Hackleman and Duke Roufus who will stop a fight, but they are the exception and not the rule. Something not discussed enough is that the cornermen are also costing their fighter money. If there is a split with your show money and a win bonus, fighters and corners are going to keep going even when the fight is no longer a winnable fight.
You could argue Smith won the first two rounds, he easily lost the next two but the corner is still going to operate under the assumption that Smith can land that shot in the fifth round or think that the judges could have scored Round 3 and 4 as 10-9 rounds (which sounds ludicrous but there are plenty of 10-8 rounds that only receive 10-9 scores) and the fifth round make it either guy’s fight. One step towards corners assessing the long-term damage being taken is having a flat purse so that Anthony Smith is guaranteed an amount rather than staying too long because by taking your fighter out, you cost him money and the corner that would, in theory, receive a percentage of that.
**Anthony Smith issued a statement on Friday telling people not to worry about him after the loss to Glover Teixeira:
Everyone is arguing about good stop, bad stop, bad corner, good corner…blah blah blah. I’m still winning. I’m good, and I’m exactly where i need to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. All that time spent worrying about me needs to be spent somewhere a little more productive.
**John Nash at Bloody Elbow has an analysis of the UFC’s finances for 2020 following a report from Moody’s, who put out a credit opinion for UFC Holdings LLC. The report states that the UFC’s volatility during the pandemic should be softened by the ESPN deal that includes handling the U.S. pay-per-view distribution for the company. Revenues for 2019 was estimated between “well over $800 million” and could be in the range of $850 million. This would outpace the previous years with revenues of $690 in 2016, $750 in 2017, and $695 in 2018.
**UFC COO Lawrence Epstein spoke with Sports Business Journal last week prior to UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The company had a cash balance of $151 million and access to a revolving credit facility of $162.75 million at the end of 2019. In January of this year, they authorized $300 million in distributions to equity holders and they paid out $129 million in January and February, which would appear to be bad timing given what was to come in March. Because of their guaranteed revenue, only 12% of revenue comes from live events that limit their losses during the pandemic if they can go ahead with shows. Moody’s also notes a new Scandinavian media agreement and are projecting increased sponsorship and licensing revenues for the UFC this year.
**Josh Gross at The Athletic has a story covering Frank Shamrock’s near inclusion to the UFC Hall of Fame in 2017. For years, Shamrock had been vocal about his problems with Dana White and the UFC and it was believed they would never work together. It was embarrassing at times including the UFC releasing a DVD in 2009 of the best 100 fights in company history and left out Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz from UFC 22 in 1999, easily one of the greatest fights in UFC history much less in the top 100. However, former UFC executive Ant Evans was able to convince White to include that fight in the Hall of Fame class in 2017 and then got Shamrock on board to appear at the ceremony and accept the award to the extent that a press release was written. After coming to an agreement, Shamrock did an interview critical of the UFC and everything fell apart. The UFC did not include a fight as part of that year’s class that featured Maurice Smith, Kazushi Sakuraba, Urijah Faber, and matchmaker Joe Silva being inducted.
**After Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, the UFC will take next weekend off and are tentatively planning a card for Saturday, May 30th. Dana White has stated that if they are not allowed to run the show in Las Vegas then they will go somewhere else.
**Showtime is re-airing the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight tonight at 9 pm Eastern. The August 2017 fight was the second-largest pay-per-views of all-time with 4.3 million buys trailing the Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight from 2015.
**Tom Lawlor turns 37 years old today.
**Robin Black speaks with former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell on his role in the ‘Cagefighter’ film that premieres on Saturday night on Fite TV. Liddell plays a coach in the film that stars Jon Moxley, who is a professional wrestling champion that comes over to have an MMA fight.
**Below is ESPN’s feature on heavyweight Walt Harris and the loss of his stepdaughter Aniah last year as he prepares to return to fight on Saturday against Alistair Overeem:
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Café Hangout: Andrew Thompson, NXT, Your Calls
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Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the May 13th edition of WWE NXT featuring Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher vs. Imperium for the NXT Tag Titles.
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE 5/13/20: Mike Tyson at DON, Vanguard 1, NXT In Your House
John Pollock and Wai Ting review a taped edition of AEW Dynamite featuring the announcement of Mike Tyson appearing at Double or Nothing and the Death of Vanguard-1.
REWIND-A-WAI #61: WCW Monday Nitro (Sept. 18, 2000)
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WCW Monday Nitro from Kitchener, Ontario held on September 18, 2000, featuring a… uh… the booking of this show is so difficult to describe in one paragraph you’ll really just need to listen to find out.
REWIND-A-RAW 5/11/20: Becky Lynch Pregnant, Brand Invitations, The Last Ride
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWE Raw featuring major news from Becky Lynch and the announcement of Brand-to-Brand Invitations. Plus, today’s news and a full review of Chapter 1 of Undertaker: The Last Ride.
WWE MONEY IN THE BANK POST SHOW
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TOTAL RECALL: Total Bellas Season 5, Ep. 5 & 6
Wai Ting and Pauline are back to review Total Bellas Season 5, Episode 5 “BellaVision” & Episode 6 “Salsa Caliente”.
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John Pollock is joined by Phil Chertok to chat Saturday’s UFC 249 card including the two championship fights with Ferguson vs. Gaethje and Cejudo vs. Cruz.
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