Hot Tweets: What is the UFC doing with women’s flyweight, women’s featherweight, and Jose Aldo?

Valentina Shevchenko

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in MMA with interim titles being won, belts being stripped, and celebrities making headlines. So let’s talk about none of that because there are far weirder questions that need to be answered, like what exactly is the UFC doing with half of its divisions?


Women’s Flyweight vs. Women’s Featherweight

This is an interesting question because the answer right now is likely not the same as the answer will be in a year’s time. When the UFC finally introduced a featherweight division for women, it was met with a fair bit of skepticism as basically the Cyborg division, and, in actuality, it has been mostly that, with very few 145-pound fights taking place that didn’t involve Cyborg. However, Cyborg’s reign as champion was well worth watching and Amanda Nunes’ upset of Cyborg to become the first ever female champ-champ was truly something special. So right now, featherweight has the edge.

That being said, though Nunes says she intends to defend her 145-pound title, the future of that division still seems up in the air and I don’t think anyone would be surprised if they folded it in the near future, or just made anything over 125 into “women’s heavyweight” and unified it all into one belt.

Compare that with women’s flyweight. At the moment, women’s flyweight has failed to gain a ton of traction, but it also had further to go than featherweight. Featherweight came in with Cyborg attached, giving its historical context and legacy. Flyweight was completely fresh ground and is still finding its footing. Also, fewer fighters moved from the surrounding weight classes as predicted, and as such, the division lacks the perennial contenders and well-known names near the top that would make non-title fights in the weight class feel more important. But that should all get better with time as the weight range is one that should be among the most populated with female talent.

I suspect Valentina Shevchenko — a woman who arguably beat Amanda Nunes, the current champ in both weight classes above flyweight — putting together a dominant title run and establishing herself among the all-time greats will also help. I think many expected more out of flyweight than has initially been delivered, but those expectations will eventually be met. It just needs more time.


Wrestling in MMA

Wrestlers have been dominating MMA for a considerable amount of time at this point, so this isn’t exactly a new trend. However, I actually think the overall MMA metagame has shifted more heavily towards striking than ever before in MMA. Yes, wrestlers still litter the tops of the UFC’s rankings — five current champions hail from a wrestling background, and eight of the top 15 pound-for-pound fighters are wrestlers as well, not including Robert Whittaker, who adopted wrestling later and is the current Australian national champion — but lately we are seeing more and more the advantage elite strikers have in MMA. All of the female champions employ striking-based styles, as do both current interim champions, Dustin Poirier and Israel Adesanya. Wrestling is still incredibly important, but more fighters are starting to understand the advantages that can be gained on the feet, since every round starts there.

Wrestling is still the best base to have in MMA, but more and more that seems to be a product of the fundamentals that base instills in competitors from a young age, coupled with the limited financial opportunities later in life. If you grow up boxing and are an elite athlete, it probably makes way more sense to be a professional boxer. If you grow up wrestling and are an elite athlete, MMA is basically the only career path available, save for a very special few who can compete internationally.


Wrasslin’ in MMA

Who the hell knows?

Best guess is that they still would like to do Cormier vs. Lesnar, but they definitely aren’t married to the idea anymore and their new pay-per-view deal with ESPN means the UFC is less in need of bankable stars to juice up buyrates. Brock has always excelled at extracting maximum value for his services and it seems like there would be more chatter in the rumor-verse if something were close to happening, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the two sides can’t come to an agreement and Daniel Cormier ends up defending his belt against the winner of Junior dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou.

It’s the fight that should happen anyway, and if you’re one of those people who think Stipe deserves an automatic rematch, let me remind you that he was obliterated in less than a round. Instant rematches shouldn’t even happen for long-reigning champions, much less one with three title defenses, and least of all when there was zero controversy about what happened. Let Stipe fight someone else, and if the UFC ever does get hold of Brock Lesnar, just do him vs. Jon Jones. That’s the real money fight at heavyweight right now.


Jose Aldo

Here are a couple of facts: Jose Aldo is the greatest featherweight of all-time. Jose Aldo is one of the five best fighters ever. Jose Aldo lost to Max Holloway twice, in nearly identical fashion. Jose Aldo is planning to retire soon.

So what does all that mean? It means Aldo’s dedication to wrecking shop at 145 pounds is both admirable and infuriating. It’s great that Aldo wants to stay around his division and get one last chance to reclaim the belt, but the reality is, that’s not happening. In a perfect world, after losing to Max for a second time, Aldo would’ve jumped up to lightweight where there are a number of interesting matchups for him. Instead, Aldo is just hanging around, bumping off contenders before Max can get to them.

Had Max beat Dustin Poirier at UFC 236, and Aldo beaten Volkanovski, the UFC could have stripped Max and made Aldo vs. Ortega for the vacant featherweight title. But that didn’t happen and now the UFC have created a boom or bust scenario — either Volkanovski wins and gets a title shot, or Aldo wins and is still spinning his wheels. If Aldo beats Volkanovski, my best guess is they do set him up with Ortega because there aren’t a lot of other meaningful options if he refuses to bump up to 155, but I think the time is right for an Aldo-McGregor rematch. If Aldo wins, it’s a great swan song for him to go out on, and if Conor wins, it’s the perfect set up for a rematch between him and Max for the title.


Nicknames

There are number of nicknames that I’m particularly partial to in MMA but even more that I cannot stand. Pitbull is one of those, so I hope we do see less Pitbulls in the big leagues (ironically, someone naming themselves “Mr. Worldwide” would instantly be among the best MMA nicknames). But you hit on a great point with Bobby Knuckles — the best nicknames are ones that come organically, and are bestowed by the people. Bobby Knuckles is certainly among the best for that reason, as is Nikita “Nicky Thrillz” Krylov or Rousimar “Paul Harris” Palhares.

Outside of internet names though, my favorite fighter nicknames are ones that are unique and creative. Alliteration/rhyming also helps, and I personally am a sucker for the rare fighter who has the pre-nickname instead of the middle nickname. (It remains the greatest tragedy that Dominick Cruz thought “The Dominator” was a good name when “Dominant” Dominick Cruz was just sitting right there for him.)

All that being said, “The Ax Murderer” is still probably the best MMA nickname of all-time because it’s both completely insane and somehow entirely fitting, but the best more recent one is “The Last Stylebender.”

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