Hi there. Hope you had a great holiday season, full of presents and family and merriment. But now that we're past all that nonsense, it's time to get down to the very serious business of mixed martial arts.
You love making bold statements. We sure do. That's what Twitter is for, after all: bold statements that we aren't required to back up with facts or logic. With each installment of the Tweet-O-Rama, we ask you to provide us with a bold statement, and then we take turns debating said bold statement. It's a big ball of fun, and it's time to get started with the latest edition.
In this edition: our first celebrity Tweeter, Chad goes deep into his fantasy booking playbook and the boys debate steroids. All in a day's work.
Here we go.
Jonathan Snowden: Invicta boss Shannon Knapp is right and she is wrong. All in the space of a single tweet. That's an impressive use of 140 characters!
Obviously, based on the sport's diminished popularity as a television attraction, as well as the fading power of The Ultimate Fighter brand and Fox Sports 1's status as a startup network, this thing isn't coming close to touching Kimbo Slice's magical season on Spike.
But Cyborg dropping to 135? Taking on Rousey? There aren't many people more tuned into the women's MMA space than Shannon Knapp. If she's speculating openly about this fight, that means there's at least the possibility of it going down. And if it does, it will be the biggest fight in women's MMA history.
Chad Dundas: Congratulations to Shannon Knapp for being Tweet-o-Rama’s first celebrity tweeter. The first of many, I assume.
I’m already on the record with my belief Rousey vs. Cyborg happens in 2014. At this point it better, lest the end-of-the-year UFC card I’ve already built in my mind—GSP vs. Anderson Silva, Rousey vs. Cyborg, Cain Velasquez vs. Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier vs. Alexander Gustafsson—doesn’t live up to my imaginary expectations.
(Editor's note: Card subject to change.)
While I’m not sure TUF 20 will be record-breaking, per se, it is my most anticipated season since the show’s inaugural run back in 2005. A whole new women’s division in the Octagon? And we’re going to get an honest-to-goodness title fight out of the deal?
If only the show could be this relevant all the time. Thanks, Invicta FC, for allowing that to happen.
Jeremy Botter: Chad might not be sure TUF 20 won't be record-breaking, but I am. As Jonathan mentioned, there's no way the show ever reaches the heights it attained during that Kimbo Slice season. And that's OK, because I'm still eagerly anticipating next fall's strawweight edition of TUF, and that's something I haven't said about the reality show in a very long time.
I'm going to join the other two in agreement that Rousey vs. Cyborg happens in 2014. I'll also predict that Cyborg realizes having Tito Ortiz in charge of your career isn't the best idea if you want to make money in the prime of your athletic life. Just saying.
Botter: This tweet struck me more than these things usually do, because it reminded me there are still those out there who believe in Urijah Faber's ability to win a title fight.
That he hasn't won a title fight since 2008 has turned into one of those MMA/Twitter staple jokes that really haven't been funny since the first time we heard them but persist because people tend to believe they're the cleverest human souls to ever walk the earth. I hope to see the day when there isn't a single person left who thinks jokes about Faber losing title fights or Chael Sonnen cutting 100 pounds to fight for a championship are funny.
I'm not holding my breath.
I also believe Faber can beat Renan Barao. To use a soccer term, he's arguably the most in-form fighter in the UFC right now. He had an unbelievable 2013, and he keeps himself in such peak condition at all times that he doesn't need an eight-week camp to prepare for a fight. Faber's entire life is a fight camp. If you don't believe me, just ask those who train with him on a regular basis.
Barao is a fearsome fighter. He's also 26 years old, a full eight years younger than Faber. But you know what? I'm going to jump on the Faber train right here, right now. Barao has never been submitted, but he'll be submitted in the main event of UFC 169. I won't guarantee it like you, J, but I do think he takes home the title.
And now, I'll open up the floor for Chad and Jonathan to laugh at me.
Dundas: One thing is for sure: It’d be high-fives all around at Zuffa headquarters if the fight company could begin 2014 by putting a UFC belt around Faber’s waist. In a year when many of its biggest pay-per-view stars will be MIA, that would be a good start.
And no, Botter, I don’t think the idea of Faber becoming 135-pound champ is laughable. Believe me, I’d tried to write him off after his crazy 0-5 run in title fights, but Faber’s 2013 was so good, I’ve had to rethink the whole thing. In any ordinary year—one where another guy didn’t beat the GOAT twice—his 4-0 run would’ve made The California Kid a shoo-in for Fighter of the Year.
If ever there was a time for him to recapture his former glory, it’s now.
But Renan Barao on three weeks’ notice? That’s ambitious. Regardless of his ever-ready lifestyle, I’d be surprised if Faber rolled into UFC 169 and took the title off Barao with such little time to prepare.
Surprised, not shocked.
Snowden: I don't really understand math. I'm a Ponzi scheme waiting to happen.
I've read about the law of averages, but I'm still pretty sure my luck is bound to change. I'm due, right?
And so is Urijah Faber.
It's easy to joke about Faber's easy road to the championship—mostly because there is some truth to it. Since 2009, Faber has fought four times for the world championship. Four times he's come up short.
For most fighters, that track record ends with a gold watch, Ray Sefo's phone number and a pat on the back. But here's the thing—in between those bouts he's had eight other fights. He's won each contest, six by submission. There's absolutely no doubt he's one of the very best fighters in the promotion, whether he has a strap around his waist or not.
It's the drive, talent and will that keeps bringing him back to the cusp of greatness that makes me believe in Urijah Faber. This is his time. At UFC 169, at long last, he'll strap a UFC belt on for the first time. Girls will squeal, men will surreptitiously wipe away the tears from their eyes and the world will be a happy place, if only for that moment.
Because Urijah Faber deserves it.
@mmaencyclopedia Major steroid scandal in 2014.— Matt Saccaro (@MattSaccaro) January 7, 2014
Dundas: Sour news, friends, but there’s already a major steroid scandal in MMA. It just operates under the cute and Orwellian codename testosterone replacement therapy.
Cute, because it comes preloaded with its own handy little acronym. Orwellian, because the word “replacement” automatically makes you think it’s something that it’s not.
It seems like years now that I’ve been watching the clock, waiting for some major mainstream sports news agency to notice that the regulators of combat sports allow competitors to get a doctor’s note that lets them shoot themselves up with testosterone. Can’t do that in football. Can’t do it in baseball. Fighting? Sure, why not.
The only thing missing here is the scandal, and that’s only because nobody with the clout to make it one seems to have spotted it yet. Or maybe they just don’t care. In any case, Matt—if the dominoes fall in the correct direction this year and a high-profile TRT user becomes a UFC champion—sadly, yeah, this might just be our year.
Snowden: It's not easy to create a full-fledged scandal in a sport already on the margins. As much as fans complain about the lack of UFC presence on SportsCenter and in their local newspaper, that lack of awareness does have its advantages if you are the UFC. You aren't faced with the public criticism and constant "old man" moralizing that is part and parcel of typical mainstream sports coverage.
Two things might create a scandal—a champion losing his title for cheating and a fighter dying in the ring against a drug-assisted foe. The second is too depressing to think about. So let's focus on the first.
It's been a long time since a UFC champion tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The last guy to fail that particular IQ test was Sean Sherk, the lightweight champion who was caught with Nandrolone in his system way back in 2007.
Some might think that's a good thing. A cynic might, instead, suggest that the champions are richer and thus can afford the good stuff—the stuff regulators won't catch with a garden-variety urinalysis.
Me? I think it means we are likely due.
Botter: We'll need a UFC champion who openly participates in TRT before folks start calling it what we already know it is: a steroid scandal.
Thankfully, Vitor Belfort is challenging for the middleweight title at some point this year, so there's a very real chance the doors get blown off this preposterous legalized usage of testosterone by fighters attempting to do harm to one another sooner rather than later. And that's a good thing.
Or perhaps nobody will notice, or care. Because, as Jonathan mentioned, mixed martial arts still exists on the fringes of society. And though certain folks like to claim it's the fastest-growing sport in the world, the truth is that it's never going to find the kind of place in American culture afforded to football or baseball or basketball, which means the spotlight doesn't shine quite as bright and the fellas who want to inject themselves can continue ad nauseum.
@mmaencyclopedia Robbie Lawler will KO Johny Hendricks. He will then immediately lose the title in a rematch against Nick Diaz.— all we got/need (@moose_bigelow) January 7, 2014
Snowden: Every thing about this bold take makes me happy. It's like he reached into my brain and released my MMA fanfic out into the world. It's the kind of fantasy I usually keep to myself—after all, speaking it aloud only weakens the chance of it coming true. And oh, how I'd love for it to come to pass.
And let's be honest with each other, you can totally see this happening, right? Hendricks is a horrible matchup for Diaz. But should Lawler score yet another stunning knockout? Well, he's right in Nick's wheelhouse. That's a totally winnable fight.
I will think about this tweet way too much this week. Nick Diaz: UFC champion. It has a ring to it.
Botter: Part of me would love to say, "C'mon, that's ridiculous. Diaz has lost two fights in a row." But we've already seen the UFC's propensity for ignoring things like logic and wins when it comes to Diaz or anyone else that can help put some eyeballs on title fights.
You can bet your last dollar that if Diaz does return to the UFC, he'll immediately be thrust into a title fight with the champion. Doesn't matter if it's Hendricks or Lawler; once Diaz says he's ready to return, he's back in the cage for a title shot. Deserved or not (and it's not), that's just the way things are.
Dundas: There’s way too much speculative fiction going on in this installment of Tweet-O-Rama for me to even track. Not to disrupt the party cruise, but at some point reality is going to have to intercede here.
Lawler’s not beating Hendricks. I mean, probably not.
Hendricks is a smart fighter and a well-rounded guy, and he’ll likely talk a big game during the lead-up to this fight, but he’ll go out there and summarily wrestle Lawler into a living death. You watch, this one’s got five-round UD written all over it.
After that, if the UFC can pry Diaz out of what appears to be a very comfy retirement, yeah, the fight company will likely bring him on. But I don’t see that one going overly well for Hendricks’ opponent, either.
@mmaencyclopedia Travis Browne and Matt Brown both win titles . Carano vs. Rousey and/or Silva vs. GSP non-title fights close out year— Reno Ghost (@DW_Reno) January 7, 2014
Dundas: First of all, the homie @DW_Reno has the best wallpaper on his Twitter page that I’ve maybe ever seen. Well played, sir.
Second of all, holy cow, you just blew my mind with the notion of Ronda Jean Rousey vs. Gina Joy Carano. And while I love that idea—and love the fact that knowing their middle names makes them seem like WWII-era factory workers brawling on the assembly line floor in bandanas and work gloves—I just can’t see it.
Carano’s been out of the game more than five years and so long as she can land the occasional Steven Soderbergh role, I don’t think she’s coming back. Besides, what weight are we having this fight at? Because you’ll recall Carano often struggled to even hit 140 pounds squarely on the nose.
Also, a world where Mr. Browne and Mr. Brown are both UFC champions? Well, that wonderful world is a place where I want to curl up and cozily live the rest of my life. Not for the rich guys in the front row, but for the blue-collar workers in the cheap seats.
Botter: All of these things give me a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach. Especially the idea of Rousey vs. Carano, and not for the reasons Matt Brown stated on his latest podcast, either.
But if we're being honest with ourselves, we understand that none of these things are going to happen. Brown's comeback story has been a remarkable one, but he's not beating Johny Hendricks or Carlos Condit. Browne is a terrifying heavyweight force, but the division is ruled by a cyborg. And it's far more likely Rousey leaves the UFC for Hollywood than Carano coming back to mixed martial arts.
Snowden: I think we'll definitely see Gina Carano vs. Ronda Rousey. The face off will be epic—two she-devils staring themselves in the eye, mirror images of ferocity, tenacity and unbridled sex appeal.
Neither is sure about the weird feeling in the pit of her stomach. But the mutual chemistry is just a distraction. She is just an opponent, not a person. Something to be smashed, then forgotten. A victim.
And so, fists and feet will fly—bodies too as the gentle art of Judo continues a century-long tradition of straight wrecking fools.
Carano will get the early edge, but Rousey is just too young, too angry and too skilled to be denied. Gleaming with sweat, the two will embrace in one final plummet from their respective orbits of superstardom to the mat. And, just as Rousey locks on her fight-ending armbar, the director yells cut.
"That was great ladies. Let's do it again."
Botter: I mean, yeah. Why not?
Everything you said here sounds plausible enough. The "new and improved" Vitor has been on an incredible roll as of late, and the idea of him going into the cage and steamrolling Chris Weidman isn't that difficult to envision.
The same goes for Cormier putting the boots to Jon Jones; before Jones fought Alexander Gustafsson, I would've told you that the only way Cormier was winning was by wrestling the light heavyweight champ for 25 minutes? Now? We know Jones doesn't have the greatest chin in the world, and Cormier has the power and speed to test it.
Hector Lombard is in the same boat as Vitor Belfort, though it's a boat not fueled by testosterone (that we know of), so it's a far slower boat. He didn't look all that great at middleweight, but blasted Nate Marquardt out of the water in his welterweight debut. He seems to be right where he needs to be, which means the rest of that division should be on notice. So yeah, I can see him facing Robbie Lawler.
Yeah, I know you said Lombard will challenge Hendricks. But I'd like to throw a curveball here and predict a Lawler championship reign in 2014. How's that for a bold statement, Jonathan?
Snowden: With GSP out of the way, nothing seems impossible in the welterweight division. And, based on what we've seen of his career, Hendricks is exactly the kind of guy who loses a fight to a Hector Lombard or a Robbie Lawler. He's a wrestler who has fallen in love with his hands. That's a story that all too often ends badly.
As for Cormier and Jones—I've been salivating over that fight since the rumors first broke that DC might be dropping to light heavyweight. When you combine Olympic-class wrestling with a smart stand-up game, there's no fight you can't win.
Can Cormier upset Jones with top control and his arsenal of clinch striking and winging punches? Absolutely.
Could Jones use his reach and fight IQ to batter Daniel for five rounds from a safe distance? Affirmative.
The outcome is in doubt. No matter how partisan a fan you are, and both have their supporters, it's a fight no one would feel too certain about. And that's the kind of fight I want to see.
Dundas: It’s a nice idea, fellas, but it’s just not going to work. Remember, I have plans for the UFC’s 2014 end-of-the-year card, and you’re seriously stomping on my vision.
Here’s how it happens instead: The Nevada State Athletic Commission denies Belfort an exemption for ETT (extra testosterone treatments) and a month before his scheduled bout with Weidman, The Young Dinosaur drops out with a shoulder. He’s replaced by Jacare Souza, who pushes Weidman to the brink before ceding a unanimous decision.
Meanwhile, Jones beats Glover Teixiera in April and trumps Lusty Gusty again in August. After that, Jones pulls perhaps the most controversial move of his controversial career when he vacates the light heavyweight belt to chase a big-money New Year’s Eve fight against returning heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez.
Jones surrendering the belt obviously leaves a vacancy at 205 pounds, and the UFC fills it by having Cormier (who systematically trounces Rashad Evans at UFC 170) fight Gustafsson on the same card.
Let’s see, did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, welterweight. Sure, Lombard challenges Hendricks for the title but gets knocked out so badly atop the Octagon’s Harley Davidson logo that the UFC gives Hendricks a shiny new hog for his trouble.
Hendricks climbs on that bad boy and rides it right out of the arena with the belt over his shoulder, not stopping until he hits the Oklahoma state line.