B/R MMA Roundtable: Questions We Need to Answer After UFC 251
UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal was one of the biggest and best cards of the year. But now that the dust has settled, there are plenty of questions to ponder about what happened in Abu Dhabi, what's next for the winners and losers, and what matters most inside the UFC's Octagon.
Here's our post-UFC 251 MMA roundtable. Read through our takes, and be sure to leave your own in the comments below.
What's Next for Jorge Masvidal?
Kelsey McCarson: Masvidal gets to count his money and reap the rewards of stepping in on just six days' notice. I thought the UFC's King of Swag did well enough in the opening round against a dominant champion that people will wonder how he might have done with a full training camp behind him. As far as the next fight goes, I'd love to see a "BMF” rematch against Nate Diaz.
Tom Taylor: The biggest fight for Jorge Masvidal has got to be a showdown with his friend turned nemesis Colby Covington, who is also riding an L to Usman. Unfortunately, Masvidal doesn’t seem to have any interest in that fight. If Covington is off the menu, then a fight with Leon Edwards also makes sense. Masvidal and the Brit have a score to settle after their backstage brawl at last year’s UFC London card, and if Gilbert Burns gets the next crack at Usman, Edwards is going to need to fight somebody else. Enter Masvidal.
Scott Harris: I wouldn't go so far as to say Masvidal can punch his own ticket, but it's pretty close. As for his next fight, I'm going to throw a curveball and suggest Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. Thompson got the better of Masvidal back in 2017, so there would be incentive for Jorge to run it back.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: First off, kudos to Gamebred for having enough savvy to sell the idea he could beat Usman on six days’ notice.
The full training camp title shot he pined for afterward will have to wait, so it makes plenty of sense for Dana and Co. to run the “BMF” title fight back and re-stoke the championship fires for whichever guy wins. If I’m making matches, that’s where I’d put Masvidal next.
Holloway-Volkanovski: Who Really Won the Rematch?
Kelsey McCarson: Volkanovski won the rematch. It was a fantastic fight between two outstanding featherweights, and Holloway totally brought his A-game this time around. But Volkanovski kept pressing forward and won the second half of the fight in my eyes to steal the win. Of course, it was close enough to be scored either way, but the judges leaned toward the champ.
Tom Taylor: This was a close fight, but it’s not the robbery people are making it out to be. Volkanovski struggled early, and clearly gave up the first two rounds, but he bounced back like a champion. He out-struck Holloway in each of the final three rounds, and completed three takedowns in that span. He did enough to retain the title. Holloway didn’t do enough to win it back. It’s that simple.
Scott Harris: I agree with Tom on this one. A close fight is not the same as a robbery. If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: While it's inarguable Max Holloway slowed in the final 10 minutes, it's no less certain he should have entered that stretch with an insurmountable (so long as he didn't get flat-out dominated) 3-0 lead. He didn't get flat-out dominated.
Which means the correct answer is Holloway.
Close, yes. But still a rip-off.
Why Didn't the Referee Step in Earlier to Stop the Yan-Aldo Fight?
Kelsey McCarson: Finish him! All I could think about during that sequence of events was that maybe the referee took the UFC’s whole Mortal Kombat/Fight Island vibe too much to heart. Aldo was getting wrecked and had gone full turtle, so it was time to stop the fight. Still, I want to credit Aldo for his crafty and adept performance. You can tell much about a fighter when he loses, and what I can tell from Aldo's loss to Yan is that he's always had and will always have the true heart of a champ.
Tom Taylor: I wish I knew the answer to this. Maybe the referee figured it was probably Jose Aldo’s last UFC title fight, and wanted to give the former featherweight champion every possible opportunity to turn things around. Whatever his reasoning, it sure wasn’t pretty to watch. I wish he had stopped it sooner. Much sooner. But then, of course, he might have found himself under fire for an early stoppage. Being a ref must suck.
Scott Harris: I choose to look on the bright side of this one. No one wants to see a fighter as great as Aldo go out like that, but at the same time we have a new champion in Yan who could be with us for quite some time. And he showed off a pretty electric style in the process, one that should earn him more fans over time.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: I get it. Referees want to give fighters of Aldo’s caliber all the chances they can to recover. And they don’t want to run the risk of we writer-types suggesting they intervened too soon. But given the options of too soon, just right and too late, only one answer is dangerously wrong.
Roberts chose that one. Lucky for him it wasn’t a whole lot worse.
Does It Matter If Kamaru Usman Is a Boring Fighter?
Kelsey McCarson: Usman isn't boring. He's dominant. People said the same thing about boxing champ Floyd Mayweather back in the day, but eventually, everyone ended up buying all his pay-per-views anyway. Why? Because he was so dominant. Usman has the same thing going his way. I can't wait to see what comes next for the UFC's remarkable 170-pound champion.
Tom Taylor: Fight fans can be so forgetful. Six months ago we were all raving about Usman’s thrilling, fifth-round TKO win over Colby Covington. Some people even called it the best fight of 2019. Now, after taking a cautious approach against one of the most dangerous finishers in his division—a man he only had six days to prepare for—he’s boring? Nope, sorry. I’m going to have to disagree on that one. Usman is smart, and Usman is dominant, but he’s not boring.
Scott Harris: No, I don't think it matters. I'm one of those old-school people who thinks that the victory is ultimately the most important thing. And anyone who appreciates technique and personality wouldn't think that about him in the first place.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: I respect excellence more than titillation. So, if I’m watching the best in the world, that’s exciting enough.
Masvidal’s job was to impose his will enough to render Usman's plan unworkable. He failed. That’s on him, not Usman.
Just like it was on Yoel Romero against Adesanya, and on all those Mayweather foes Kelsey alluded to in his answer. They know what they’re up against. If they can’t handle it, blame them for your boredom.