5 Rounds: Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Smith, Bellator, UFC on ESPN+,Tapout Reality Show

5 Rounds is an unsolicited collection of ideas and takes on mostly current MMA stuff. There’s some more historical stuff and some “what about this guy in there” that you’ve come to know in there too.

Alexander Gustaffson Uncrowned Champion?

There was some talk the other day about Alexander Gustaffson being the best fighter to never win a UFC title. It’s a bad take. Obviously, the answer to that question is Fedor Emelianenko, but by virtue of never competing in the UFC, it isn’t exactly fair to include him in the conversation here. There’s a who other class of fighters who only got to the UFC in the twilight or nadir of their careers. Wanderlei Silva, in the grand scheme, is a better fighter than Alexander Gustafsson, I’m not sure Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cro Cop, and Dan Henderson don’t have better resumes. Anthony Johnson, as abhorrent as a human being he might be, has beat Gus and only lost to Daniel Cormier over the last six years, he’s got a better case than Gus, even if Johnson lost to Rich Clementi. So, who is the best UFC fighter who never won a UFC title? The answer is somebody who didn’t fight at 205. The division just isn’t good enough and has been for a long time. It hasn’t had real depth in nearly a decade, really since the days of Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Vitor Belfort, and even those days still had Mike Van Arsdale fighting in title eliminators. Compare that to the meatgrinder that was Welterweight during the GSP era: Jon Fitch is an underatted pound-for-pound great fighter, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Nick Diaz, pre-breakdown Karo Parysian were all great fighters, competing contemporaneously. Light Heavyweight is a division that still counts Shogun Rua and Glover Texiera among it’s notables. Anthony Smith is going to fight for a title, more on that later, and his three fight win streak to get to the title started 6 months ago by beating Rashad Evans. Not being able to win a title in that division, regardless of who is at the top, isn’t exactly a silver medal. Back to the original question, here’s a list of fighters with better cases than Gustaffson: Gilbert Melendez, Jon Fitch, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez, Urijah Faber, and Kyoji Horiguchi.

Anthony Smith is Ruining the Fun for Everyone

Anthony Smith is going to fight Jon Jones for the UFC Light Heavyweight title, at least that’s the plan. In a vacuum, it’s fine. He won three fights in a row against decent to very good fighters, but Anthony Smith/Jon Jones isn’t the fight to make right now. Daniel Cormier says he plans to retire at 40, that’s only a few months away, and as much as I think that Jones/Cormier 3 is a bit of a forgone conclusion, regardless of weight class, it is a fight that has some buzz around it. When a fight has buzz, you have to make it, because if you don’t, you might not ever have a chance. I grew up in the era of GSP and Anderson Silva, two dominant champions, nearly the same size, who never fought. You can blame whoever you want for that not happening, but it didn’t happen, and there’s no reason the UFC shouldn’t have done everything in their power to do so. You can go all the way back to the mid 90s to see the same thing, fights that should have been made, that could have easily been made, that didn’t happen for any other reason than the Anthony Smith’s of the world “earned” title shots and “deserved” to fight, because other obligations got in the way, because somebody need to get “a good win,” because it was easier to do something else. Mark Coleman/Vitor Belfort, Megumi Fujii/Yuka Tsujii, Frank Shamrock/Kazushi Sakuraba, Chuck Liddell moving up and beating Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title, Demetrious Johnson fighting someone other than Ray Borg. They never happened and they should have. If Brock Lesnar isn’t in the picture, and he’s currently WWE Universal champion, so he isn’t, then Daniel Cormier only seems to have one fight left, and if it is a rematch against Stipe Miocic, instead of a third fight with Jon Jones, then we all lost out on something, all because Anthony Smith “had” to fight for a title that, if he was any good, he would have wound up fighting for anyway.

Scott Coker Tries to Book a Tomato Can

Apparently, Bellator tried to book a fighter that was 0-12 as an amateur. Here’s the thing, it looks bad, like real bad, but building prospects is hard, no one in MMA, at the top level anyway, does it very well. Bellator took their biggest prospect, Aaron Pico, and threw him to the wolves in his first fight. It ended badly. He’s bounced back, but it should have never happened. Sometimes, it is in the best interest of a promoter, and it is very important to note that Scott Coker isn’t the commissioner of a sports league bound to uphold the integrity of the sport, to get fighters wins. In his role as promoter, sometimes Scott Coker needs to find fighters who will show up and lose, maybe he went too far in that direction, but I think it is actually refreshing. For the first time maybe since he booked Herschel Walker, Coker actually did his job. He is trying to promote fighters, not makinf sure every fight is an evenly matched sporting contest. Let me see a guy who just lost a title style on some bum, let me see an up and coming women’s bantamweight just crush some can. Let fighters build hype that isn’t solely based on merit. Bring cans back to MMA.

New Fights: UFC on ESPN+

The UFC is debuting on ESPN this week, on ESPN+ to be more exact. The main event, pending what looks to be some heavy weight cuts, is Henry Cejudo and TJ Dillashaw. If you avoid all the implications for the flyweight division and all the nonsense that surrounded Demetrious Johnson’s departure from the UFC, it is a great fight. Two top pound-for-pound fighters fighting for a title, exceptional stuff really. Is that the sort of banner fight you want to debut on a new network with? I don’t think so, as great of a fight as it is, it isn’t appointment television. But, its a fight on an app that I don’t think anybody really subscribes to, so maybe the fact that the UFC isn’t burning a true headliner is actually smart on their part. Outside of that, the card isn’t great. We’ve got Glover Texierea fighting, which is fine, I guess. Joe Benevidez is fighting Dustin Ortiz, that could be fun. But the fight I’m most excited for, outside of the main event is Geoff Neal/Belal Mohammed. There’s a real probability of some violence in that fight. Oh and fuck Greg Hardy for always and forever.

Old Fights: Matt Fiordirosa 

A decade ago, Tapout, the clothing company that used to be worn exclusively by MMA fighters, and then exclusively by guys who wanted to wear Affliction shirts but couldn’t afford them, and now worn entirely by WWE wrestlers in commercials for Tapout, was run by three guys in costumes named Mask, Punkass, and SkySkrape. They had a reality show on Versus, now NBC Sports, where they would go find regional MMA fighters, put them on an RV, and drive them to their next fight. It was kind of weird then and sounds a lot weirder now. But, it actually introduced a lot of great fighters, Cowboy Cerrone is the most famous one, but the most intriguing one, for me anyway, was Matt Fiordirosa. Shortly after the show aired, for some reason, he stopped fighting entirely. I don’t know if he would have been a UFC champion, chances are he wouldn’t have, but he would have made it to the UFC at the very least, that was pretty clear when you saw him fight, especially in 2007, but for whatever reason, he never made a career out of it. Judging by his Twitter, he’s a wrestling coach, he follows MMA a little bit, but he isn’t training at the moment. He came back to MMA in 2010, quit again, came back in 2014, but he hasn’t fought since.  So, as MMA’s leading “here’s some old MMA you probably don’t care about” guy, here’s a fight. SUNSHIIIIINE



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