The winds of change are a-blowin’ in the MMA world, and they are squarely aimed at UFC 230. The event was getting all kinds of attention even in lieu of the gargantuan UFC 229, but for all the wrong reasons.
We’re all familiar with the timeline by now. At first, there was no main event, and people were left to wonder what the UFC brass had cooking behind the scenes. Come to find out, not much, as a match for the vacant women’s flyweight title was announced between Valentina Shevchenko and Sijara Eubanks. Needless to say, the MMA masses were not pleased, and even Joe Rogan was left wondering just who the hell is Sijara Eubanks?
After much gnashing of teeth, the UFC has pulled a rabbit out of its proverbial hat: the new main event is Daniel Cormier versus the Black Beast himself, Derrick Lewis.
The timing is more than fortuitous. Fans hated the flyweight match, and Lewis has just become 21st-century famous thanks to #myballswashot. Shevchenko is now going back to her original bout at UFC 231 with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which is much more compelling, and all seemed right in the world of face-punching.
However, there is a clear dark side to this event, one that may become all too apparent when it’s too late…
1. A Battered Beast
Derrick Lewis lost all but 10 seconds of his last fight, and that’s putting it generously. He got pieced-up from gut to coconut by Drago himself, Alexander Volkov. I don’t know what the stats are from that fight, but safe to say, they’re concerning considering that Lewis is slated to fight less than a month later. That’s shorter than his proposed medical suspension, which despite having about as much merit as a contract written on a paper napkin, does exist for a reason!
Taking that much punishment must be balanced with having enough time to recover, but Lewis will probably be back in the gym ASAP, taking all those gym lumps we never see (on top of a nagging back injury). No fighter ever enters into a fight 100% (neither will Cormier, for that matter, with his busted hand), but where do we think Lewis will realistically be by the time he steps into the cage? 60%? 50%? It’s already a fact that there is a HUGE skills deficit in this fight, and if you add that to the tenderizing Lewis just went through, I’m guessing he’s going to look a lot more brittle than in the past on November 3rd, and we’re all going to feel bad about it after he’s already been flattened to the canvas.
2. Bending to the Fans
An organization like the UFC always has to walk a fine line between giving the fans what they want versus what they need. This matchup is a pure expression of bowing to public pressure and just going with the flow of the river. Why is this bad? Because it gets people title shots they don’t deserve (ala Brock Lesnar in the not too distant future), and it allows people like CM Punk to come into the Octagon and embarrass pretty much everyone.
The UFC has to be the adult sometimes, and not the cool kind that lets you sip their beer. They should have just made the fight between Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz the main event. Why not? Who needs a belt? Make it 5 rounds, and the winner gets the champ. Not only would we have gotten more of a fight that already seems compelling on paper, but whoever won would have also gained more momentum heading into a title fight, making the event and the title itself matter more. Alas, Poirier is out with a mysterious injury, and Nate Diaz is more than happy to take his ball and go home.
3. Forgetting Stipe
It’s easy to forget Stipe Miocic in a world of McGregors, flying Khabibs, flying dollies, and poorly typed trash talk on Twitter. He’s as blue collar and plain as they come…but he’s also the winningest heavyweight champion of all time. If he doesn’t get an immediate rematch with DC, then no one should. Booking Lewis over him devalues his historic reign, and it brings down the prestige of the title along with it. Now, Stipe is just another top 5 heavyweight, and given the mercurial nature of the division, it’s likely that he’ll have to face 2-3 really tough matchups before the powers that be feel remotely compelled to put him back in for the gold.
…however, even with all that said, I’m still going to watch the damn fight! It’s just going to be a guilty pleasure, and one that I hope we as MMA fans learn not to repeat in the future. It’s almost like drinking too much—great while it’s happening, but the aftermath will make you reconsider your existence. We’re still riding the buildup into UFC 230, so everything feels really good right now, and Derrick Lewis will continue to do that Instagram voodoo that he do so well.
But, once we find ourselves watching a wounded Lewis getting absolutely melted in the cage, we’ll all have to deal with that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We knew this was going to happen, and we’re the reason it did.