Fightweets: Moraga, ‘Mighty Mouse’ trade early barbs

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When Demetrious Johnson defeated John Dodson in an action-packed, hard-fought 25-minute bout in the main event of UFC on FOX 6 in January, the UFC’s flyweight division was on the map, once and for all.

Gone was the silly idea 125-pounders weren’t compelling. The fight’s strong ratings disproved the notion fans don’t want to watch little guys. The haters were silenced.

Or so it seemed. An unlikely source came out of the woodwork to criticize the champion’s style last weekend: A fellow flyweight, John Moraga.

Speaking to reporters at UFC 160, the Arizona-based Moraga, who meets Johnson at UFC on FOX 7 in Seattle on July 28, called the style employed by “Mighty Mouse” boring, and went on to explain why he feels that way:

“I think he just bounces around, he runs around so much and he don’t fight,” said Moraga. “You know, he doesn’t put on exciting fights. He has a lot of technique and a lot of skill, but he doesn’t go in there and try to finish people, I don’t feel.”

Asked by MMAFighting.com on Thursday to respond to Moraga’s comments, the champion brushed off his challenger’s critique.

“He doesn’t pay my light bills, he doesn’t pay my mortgage,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “His opinion doesn’t matter.”

There’s still nearly two months left until the Johnson-Moraga fight. But if the early back-and-forth between the two is a barometer, but the time they enter the cage, the UFC’s flyweight division might have its first true grudge match.

Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate on TUF

@TanerRuss2: So, it seems the trend of unjustified challengers continues. Tate got the shot against Rousey despite being obliterated…

@RobRivera: Why Tate and not McMann? I like Tate but McMann dominated last fight.

Miesha Tate as a last-minute replacement for Cat Zingano on TUF 18 is far from ideal, but I don’t see this one as the end of the world, either.

The UFC and FOX had to make a snap decision, given the unfortunate timing of Zingano’s injury. There’s been plenty of predictable “money talks” backlash to the decision, but what about the fighters who have been training to get into the TUF house? Would it be fair to ask all those fighters and their families on hold even further just to wait on Zingano? Not really. There were too many moving parts to postpone shooting.

Going down the list of options to replace Zingano: It’s too soon to go back to a Rousey-Liz Carmouche rematch; Rousey beat Sarah Kaufman in under a minute just last summer; and Julie Kedzie has a made-for-television personality, but her last fight was a loss to Tate. You can make a case for Sara McMann, but McMann herself has repeatedly stated she doesn’t want to be rushed into a title shot. And as good as McMann looked against Sheila Gaff at UFC 159, let’s not forget Gaff came wildly rushing straight at an Olympic wrestler at the outset of their fight, something Rousey’s not going to do.

So that leaves us with Tate and her rivalry with Ronda, which certainly is convenient enough for the UFC and FOX’s purposes.

All things considered, I’m tempted to call the reaction to this fight an example of making a mountain out of a molehill. But then, the UFC made this mountain. By making title bouts as egregious in their divisional schemes as Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen and Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz, you’re going to make yourself susceptible to criticism when something like this Rousey-Tate-Zingano situation comes along. I don’t think this fight’s all that bad given the circumstances, but I recognize that the UFC made their bed, so now they have to lie in it.

@RuckerYeah: So is Bryan Caraway the biggest douche in MMA or what?

Wow, harsh. But, given that your opinion seems to reflect that of so many people from fans to his fellow fighters, maybe Caraway should just run with it at this point. Tito Ortiz made millions of dollars because people wanted to see him get his ass kicked. I’m not sure Caraway understands how he comes across, but if he was to embraces the hate, he could become the money heel the lower weight classes have been lacking.

Diaz means WAR

@popyura: What’s your take on the rule set used by WAR MMA. Will it improve aesthetics?

Personally, I just look forward to overhearing the referees in Nick Diaz’s new promotion tell the competitors “I want a good, clean fight, and none of that spinning s—. Now touch gloves” at the start of every fight.

Seriously, though, I’ve never been a fan of banning elbows on the ground, which is the main difference between WAR rules and unified rules. The idea WAR puts forward on its website is that banning elbows will prevent stalling. I’m not convinced that how it goes down in practice. I admittedly don’t have numbers in front of me to quantify this, but I feel like when Strikeforce banned ground elbows in the pre-Zuffa days, there were a lot of fights with prolonged periods of relative inactivity on the ground, with the fighters noticeably unable to use on of the key tools in their toolbox. Something just seemed to be missing.

That said, at least WAR isn’t using the idea that elbows on the ground turn people off because of the blood, which was the rationale promotions like the IFL attempted. As if there was a large potential fan base out there who was OK with everything else that went on in MMA, but decided ground elbows were where they drew the line.

The other notable difference is WAR fights will be held in a ring, instead of cage. This one’s a matter of taste. I personally prefer watching fights in a cage but it’s not like there haven’t been a ton of exciting MMA fights in a ring either.

If the MMA Gods truly wanted to bless us, the show would feature a backstage camera which showed us the Diaz crew attempting to run the ins and outs of an MMA event. *That* I’d pay good money to see.

Heavyweight questions

@RandyRotta: If Frank Mir falls to Josh Barnett, do you believe it would be in his best interest to retire?

@Idz1018: Mir is coming off a loss what sense does this fight make? why not against Big Country or Duffy?

Actually Randy, I think the answer to your question is “yes.” I’ve taken some heat for ranking Mir No. 10 in the current SB Nation heavyweight rankings, and I stick by it. Sometimes you can simply see a fighter dropping off the career cliff right in front of your eyes. Mir has looked like a shot fighter over his last two fights, regardless of the quality of competition. These are rankings for 2013, not 2011. Saying I should rank Mir ahead of Roy Nelson because of what happened in 2011 is as ridiculous as saying because the Capitals beat the Bruins last year in the playoffs, they should be ranked ahead of the Bruins in the current NHL power rankings. Or, if you want to keep it in MMA terms, think back to all the people who screeched that Fedor Emelianenko should still be ranked No. 1 at the exact time it was obvious to most people with at least one functioning eye that Emelianenko was on a swift decline.

But, this also ties into Idz’s question, because I think the Barnett fight does make sense. And not just because the buildup promises to be the most entertaining since Diaz vs. GSP. Barnett’s won nine of his past 10 fights, but he’s been feasting on the likes of Nandor Guelmino, Brett Rogers and Geronimo dos Santos along the way. In his only fight against a prime, elite opponent over the past several years, Barnett lost 50-45 to Daniel Cormier. Whether Mir proves me wrong or Barnett makes a statement, one of these guys comes out of the fight relevant and rejuvenated in the heavyweight division.

@torontoufcfan: Overeem is scheduled to fight Travis Browne. Given his low testosterone issue does he have a chance or is he done?

I’m not sure if Alistair Overeem is done, but his UFC on FS1 fight against Browne is close to do-or-die for his UFC future. Overeem, quite frankly, has been more trouble than he’s worth. He’s had to pull out of big fights, he keeps getting injured, he had the steroid suspension, and when he came back from the suspension and tested clean, well, instead of looking like a world-beater, he made Antonio Silva look like a title contender. If Overeem can’t get the job done against Browne, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him on the cut list.

Addition and subtraction

@kalamity113: If the ufc is so worried about shrinking their roster, why do they sign new people for replacements? example james krause

Well, UFC has said all along they’re going to continue to add fighters as they make cuts, particularly in the weight classes that most need it, like both men’s and women’s bantamweights. Krause is a lightweight, which is already a deep division. But he’s also a 26-year old with obvious upside: He’s a guy who’s won seven fights in a row and has 17 finishes among his 19 wins. If anything, I think Krause is the exception who proves the rule. If you want to get signed by the UFC in the “100 Cuts Era,” you better put together a resume like his.

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