As many MMA fans know by now, UFC 197 has its main and co-main events. On a day where several high-level fights were booked, the announcements of this card’s main and co-main events that blew them all out of the water.
Now, while a mass majority of MMA fans seem to be giddy about the announcement of Rafael dos Anjos facing Conor McGregor in a superfight to headline the card, as well as Miesha Tate finally getting the title shot she was promised a while back, albeit against the new champion Holly Holm in the co-main, there are some people who have issues with the card.
“What about Ronda?” “Edgar is getting screwed!” “This is too much of a risk for Conor!” These are just a few of the negative comments that I have heard about the card since its announcement a few hours back.
Allow me to explain why I believe this is a card where all parties can possible be considered winners.
Let’s be honest. Conor McGregor is without a doubt the biggest star in MMA today. With Jon Jones’s recent fiascos, and Ronda Rousey’s loss, McGregor has fiercely taken over the limelight. He’s called his shots, garnered as much animpsity as love, and is the most polarizing figure in MMA today.
By taking this fight, McGregor has the chance to become the first fighter in UFC history to be a belt holder in multiple weight divisions. BJ Penn had a chance to do the same at UFC 194 seven years ago, but was dominated by Georges St. Pierre. Many had been anticipating a potential bout between GSP and Anderson SIlva at either weight class or a catch weight bout, or a Silva/Jon Jones matchup at Light Heavyweight or catchweight. However, neither “dream fight” ever truly materialized.
Jon Jones had a chance to be a belt holder at the Heavyweight division while he was the Light Heavyweight kingpin, but he didn’t do it before his recent run-ins with controversy. He still has the chance to move up to Heavyweight, which many MMA fans have been anticipating for years. Considering the current state of the Heavyweight division, it’s very likely that Jones can run the show there, as well as Light Heavyweight if/when he defeats Daniel Cormier again.
That said, Rafael dos Anjos is by far the toughest test for him. He has power, and knocked out Donald Cerrone as well as Benson Henderson, two perennial contenders who have been known for having tremendous chins. On top of that, he has good wrestling, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Simply put, if Frankie Edgar is considered a tough test for McGregor, than dos Anjos might as well as be viewed as his Goliath.
And yet, McGregor is taking the fight, in an effort to make history. If he wins, he does something no one else has ever done inside the octagon. Even if he loses, he will get credit for taking on the toughest challenge at a higher weight class. Sure, his detractors will hate on him and mock him for losing, but even they will have to respect him taking on such a dangerous fight, especially when he didn’t need to do so.
Rafael dos Anjos
RDA will have to deal with a lot of pressure going into this fight. McGregor and his fanbase are insufferable when it comes to trash talk, and McGregor is a tough fight for everybody he faces. However, as stated above, he is the toughest test McGregor will have to date. If the Brazilian can keep Conor from invading his mind, and he can keep his composure, it’ll be interesting to see if he can defend his belt, or even dominate the way some are predicting he will be able to.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that a major spotlight will be on him. When he faced Benson Henderson in August 2014, everyone was predicting a win for Bendo. At UFC 185 last March, he was expected to be a live dog for Anthony Pettis. While he was actually expected by many to defeat Donald Cerrone last month, there were quite a few people picking Cowboy. Go figure, he demolished each and every one of them. He knocked out Henderson, dominated Pettis from bell to bell, and annihilated Cerrone in 66 seconds! Now, he finally gets some shine, and while the biggest spotlight will be on McGregor, there will be a lot on dos Anjos as well.
If RDA loses, the fallback may be harsh. However, if he wins, he will have defeated the most polarizing figure in MMA, and will get recoginized in a Holly Holm-esque manner. And, he’ll make a bunch of money as well.
Holly Holm also wins as a result of last night’s announcement. She doesn’t have to be shelved until Ronda Rousey decides to return to MMA, if that ever actually happens. Many doubt that Rousey will even be ready to fight at UFC 200, and even if she is, it’s hard to believe she can alter her style and improve her skills enough to challenge Holly in the next go-around. It’s like Weidman/Silva, but without controversy. There was question about the domination that took place at UFC 193, as there was at UFC 162, where Silva’s clowning overshadowed Weidman’s brilliance in the minds of many after the fight.
Instead, she faces a tough opponent who may be tailor-made for her liking. Tate has excellent takedowns and wrestling, but her striking leaves much to to be desired. Holm has excellent takedown defense, and if that holds up in this fight, she has a chance to light Tate up on the feet. Tate has been exposed to hellacious knockouts before (see Kaitlin YOung vs. Miesha Tate,) so another one is possible.
Add in the fact that there won’t be pressure on her to promote the fight, due to Conor McGregor. Holm is rather meek, as are Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald, the two men who put forth a legendary war inside the octagon at UFC 189 last July, on another card headlined by McGregor. Had Lawler/MacDonald been a headliner of its own card, it wouldn’t have garnered as many eyeballs as it ultimately did, since neither are great promoters. Because of the buildup to Aldo/McGregor and subsequently McGregor/Mendes, neither man had to step out of their comfort zone to promote their fight, and Holly won’t have to either! It’s a multitude of wins for her already, and it’s not even fight night yet!
“Cupcake” finally gets her title fight! She was promised one months ago after she soundly defeated Jessica Eye last July, but was famously snubbed after the shot was rescinded and given to Holm. Now, she fights the woman who was given the shot in her place, for the belt. She doesn’t have to face Rousey, and if she can get Holm to the canvas, she has a shot at winning. She’s a bit more vocal than Holm is, but not by much. As a result, like Holm, just like Rory and Robbie a few months earlier, she won’t have to step out of her comfort zone either!
What? Frankie a winner in this case? Allow me to explain.
This announcement is viewed by many as a slap against Edgar, who supposedly got snubbed out of a title shot. In my opinion, the truth might be the exact opposite.
UFC 197 takes place on March 5th. Typically, when healthy, McGregor tends to fight every four months. What card takes place four months after UFC 197?
That’s right, UFC 200! So, it is entirely possible that Frankie Edgar takes on Conor McGregor on what many project will be the biggest card in UFC history, in the new MGM arena. In the meantime, Edgar gets a few more months to train for the fight. If anything happens to McGregor that keeps him out of UFC 200, the UFC can always create an interim belt, just as they did for the McGregor/Mendes bout after Aldo pulled out of UFC 189’s headlining bout. Edgar can face Aldo for the interim title, so neither man feels snubbed, and a rematch that should’ve taken place a year earlier will finally occur on the grandest UFC stage to date.
While there’s no guarantee that the UFC does any of these things, it’s definitely a likely possibility. Edgar is a company man, and while his posse may be unpleasant, his star is brighter than ever, and I see them doing right by him as a result of his loyalty to the UFC brass.
With only two bouts announced, the UFC has already won with this announcement.
With RDA/McGregor, they put forth a UFC champion vs. UFC champion fight for the first time since six years. If McGregor wins, they get their first active two-division champion. If RDA wins, he becomes a notable star, and Conor still has a Featherweight belt. Both men will get more shine, and the UFC will benefit.
With Holm/Tate, the UFC wins in various ways. After getting a lot of flak for supposedly keeping Holm from defending her belt in favor of the woman she vanquished, the promotion has finally given her a fight. They are no longer going to get flak for giving Ronda Rousey an immediate rematch, since Holm will be fighting someone else before a potential rematch. They don’t have to worry about her marketing ability, since they added McGregor/RDA to the card.
On top of that, the promotion has a narrative for Ronda Rousey’s potential return. If Holly wins, the rematch stays intact. If Tate wins, Dana White’s golden girl takes on a fighter she’s already defeated twice. In a way, that makes her an honorable mention winner due to this card. However, the UFC comes away as winners regardless of what happens.
They have also created a situation where Holm, as well as McGregor can both have sufficient time to prepare recover prior to UFC 200.
Then there’s the fact that the UFC is coming off one of, if not the most successful year in company history, the UFC seems like it’s trying to go even bigger this year. UFC 195 was a great card, and while 196 leaves a lot to be desired from a name basis, it definitely has the potential to be a solid card.
However, UFC 200 will take place this year, and it’s possible that the combination of 197, 200 and a grand card or two to end the year, the UFC’s morale can boost into a whole new stratosphere.
Finally, it’s happening. For the first time since January 31, 2009, the fans will get to see an actual “superfight.” That UFC 94 tilt was a hotly anticipated one one where then Lightweight and former Welterweight champion BJ Penn faced off against then Welterweight champion Georges. St. Pierre. The card was intensely promoted, including overseas media tours, and the introduction of UFC Primetime, which was basically a better version of what is now known as UFC Countdown and UFC Embedded. It marked a new era of promotion for the UFC, sold over a million PPVs, and was arguably the last “superfight” in the UFC.
Since then, fans were starving for another bout between current champions to take place. Many were clamoring for GSP/Silva, Jones/SIlva, Jones/Cain and others. However, none of them ever took place.
While RDA/McGregor might not have the hype that those dream fights did, it’s still a “superfight.” Both men are champions, albeit newly minted. Back when Silva/GSP and Silva/Jones were in consideration, the fighters had been champions for a while, which isn’t the case for either of the UFC 197 headliners.
However, in this day and age, that’s the biggest champion vs. champion fight that can happen, barring Jones vs. Cain, assuming those two can get their belts back. The only other “superfight” involving champions that can take place is Demetrius Johnson vs. TJ Dillashaw, which won’t get anywhere near the hype that this fight will get. There’s also a chance that if Dominick Cruz defeats TJ Dillashaw, in a bout that feels like a title unification, that he may take on Mighty Mouse again. However, the two have already fought, albeit over four years ago, and the hype for that one will also pale in comparison to RDA/McGregor.
Add in a Women’s Bantamweight tilt between two fighters with notable fan bases, as well as the possibility that the UFC will add other intriguing bouts to the card, and this could be the best-looking March PPV in UFC history. If you’re a UFC fan, despite the fact that only two fights are booked so far, this is a card that will grab your attention.