By Matt Saccaro
UFC 172 wasn’t terribly interesting on paper. “Who cares about Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira and a bunch of other mismatches?” we all asked. And we were right to. MMA had been in a slump. Good cards were sparse—islands in a sea terrible TUF finales, awful Fight Pass exclusives, and PPVs not worth the $60 price tag.
Last night changed all that (well, it did if you ignore UFC 173)
I know what you’re thinking. “Tone down the hyperbole a bit, Matt…and by a bit we mean several orders of magnitude.” Let me explain.
Remember when Ronda Rousey and her stable of teammates (Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir, and Shayna Baszler) proclaimed themselves the Four Horsewomen—MMA’s equivalent to the legendary pro wrestling stable? As controversial as it might’ve been, the name stuck…and Bethe Correia took note of it. When she defeated Jessamyn Duke via unanimous decision, she pulled off one of the sickest burns since Ronda Rousey refused to shake hands with a defeated Miesha Tate. Correia put four fingers in the air, and knocked one down, representing one horsewoman down, and three to go. K-1 level trolling right there. See it for yourself (h/t Zombie Prophet).
This clever taunt can be turned into a meaningful feud with the right promotion. Why not match up Correia with Shayna Baszler and market it as a grudge match? The women’s bantamweight division is shallow and pallid. There’s not much talent, and there’s even less buzz around anyone not named Ronda Rousey. Even though a potential Four Horsewoman vs. Bethe Correia feud still technically involves Rousey in some capacity, it’ll at least attempt to create some kind of narrative in the weight class other than “Ronda Rousey vs. Opponent. Buy it.”
Lightweight, too, had its fire rekindled. Jim Miller choked Yancy Medeiros unconscious in a wondrous display of grappling technique (and violence). But better than that was his post-fight call out of practically the entire lightweight division—Khabib Nurmagomedov, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and more. Jim Miller’s aggressiveness is welcome in a division lacking its champion as well as perennial shit-starter Nate Diaz. Miller-Nurmagomedov or Miller-Cerrone are both great matches—ones that make MMA what it should be: Fights between the most talented fighters.
The most interesting development of all, however, was Anthony “Rumble” Johnson‘s resurgence. Johnson made Phil Davis (who’s built like a comic book superhero) not only look like a neophyte wrestler, but a neophyte wrestler who was about three weight classes lighter. In a division where Jon Jones rules over everyone with an iron elbow, a new, viable contender is not only welcomed but necessary. Before Johnson’s fight, the only meaningful light heavyweight fight on the horizon was Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson II. Now we have Anthony Johnson carving a bloody path through the light heavyweight top-10 to look forwards to.
MMA had been in a rut the last few months. Some recent fight cards have made fans never want to watch MMA again. This card wasn’t one of them. UFC 172 helped MMA not suck. There’s stuff to look forward to now. Let’s hope the trend continues.