B/R Staff Roundtable: Questions That Need to Be Answered After UFC 252

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2020

B/R Staff Roundtable: Questions That Need to Be Answered After UFC 252

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3 featured a huge slate of top-notch MMA action on Saturday night in Las Vegas, including a riveting five-round battle between two of the best UFC heavyweights ever.

    But now that the latest UFC pay-per-view event is complete, there still seems to be plenty of important matters to sort through.

    Here's our post-UFC 252 MMA roundtable. Read through our takes on the biggest questions that need answering after the card and be sure to leave your own in the comments section.

The Eye Poke: Was It the Reason Daniel Cormier Lost to Stipe Miocic?

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    Daniel Cormier suffered an injury due to an accidental foul.
    Daniel Cormier suffered an injury due to an accidental foul.Associated Press

    Kelsey McCarson: No way. Cormier lost at UFC 252 because he was facing a bigger and better fighter. Moreover, the 41-year-old probably should have tried to wrestle Miocic more than he did. Better yet, it also probably would have benefited Cormier to come into the fight leaner and meaner than ever before. Regardless, none of that might have mattered anyway. Miocic is just that good.

            

    Tom Taylor: Cormier performed very well against Miocic and probably would have performed a whole lot better if the champ didn't get knuckle-deep in his eye socket. But to suggest that Miocic's victory was the result of that accidental foul? Impossible. The heavyweight champion retained his title because he's one of the best to ever do it.

               

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: No. Cormier fared well enough in Round 1 and was close to being finished in Round 2, so the night was plenty tumultuous before Miocic went sickeningly deep into his left eye socket. Stipe landed rattling power shots, stood up to DC's replies and negated the champ-champ's wrestling edge with savvy work on the fence. Cormier can blame the eye poke if it makes him feel better, but chances are things would have unfolded the same way whether it happened or not.

              

    Scott Harris: I view the real answer here as falling somewhere on a spectrum, as opposed to something binary. Would Cormier have beaten Miocic sans eye poke? There's no evidence of that. But you have to think a ruptured cornea—and the resulting inability to detect your opponent's best weapon, Stipe's nasty right hook—might just significantly reduce one's odds of victory. It didn't singlehandedly determine the outcome, but that doesn't mean it didn't seriously impact the fight.

Does Stipe Miocic's Win Settle Who's the Best Heavyweight in UFC History?

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    The best heavyweight ever?
    The best heavyweight ever?Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Kelsey McCarson: Without question, I think it settled the debate about the best heavyweight champion in UFC history. Miocic is the most accomplished and decorated heavyweight champ who's ever plied their trade under the UFC's promotional banner. He's surely now ranked No. 1 in UFC history. He might also deserve that same ranking across all MMA, but that's another matter altogether and one that would be more easily debatable.

             

    Tom Taylor: I think there's still a case to be made for Fedor Emelianenko as the greatest heavyweight in MMA history, but in the more narrow context of UFC history, there's no question. Miocic has blown past Cormier, Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Brock Lesnar, Randy Couture and any other heavyweight to be mentioned in that debate. He is irrefutably the baddest big man in UFC history.

                 

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: If it's about the best body of work, absolutely. Miocic has won the title, defended it three times, lost it, regained it from and now defended it against the man who beat him. Along the way, he's also beaten another ex-champion (Junior dos Santos) and the division's reigning boogeyman (Francis Ngannou). Have other UFC heavyweights been more fearsome or dynamic in short bursts? Yes. But no one’s carried excellence for as long as the King of Cleveland.

               

    Scott Harris: I may not know much, but I know this: Everyone should chill out on the all-time heavyweight GOAT stuff. That's Emelianenko, full stop. Miocic is the best as it stands, but it's almost by default. Over the past decade or so, fans have ridden a heavyweight roller coaster as Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Alistair Overeem and others spent their time beating each other up and canceling each other out.

    Miocic is a great fighter and a tough champion who deserves everything he receives in this sport. He should wear the UFC GOAT mantle proudly. But it's not like he's in unassailable territory. So I'd say this settles it for now. Oh, and Ngannou's coming.

Is Ngannou-Stipe 2 What's Best for the Heavyweight Division?

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    Who has next in the heavyweight division?
    Who has next in the heavyweight division?Associated Press

    Kelsey McCarson: Absolutely. Miocic has been just as impressed with what Ngannou has done over the last two years as everyone else. He told me before the fight that he believed Ngannou deserved another crack at the crown and should probably be next, and UFC President Dana White said virtually the same thing to the media during fight week.

              

    Tom Taylor: Denying Francis Ngannou a heavyweight title shot after he destroyed Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in less than three minutes combined would be criminal. Sure, a heavyweight superfight between Miocic and UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones would be cool, but that can wait. Give Ngannou another crack at the heavyweight champ, and book Jones for a sorely needed rematch with Dominick Reyes. If the two champions retain their titles, book them for a fight thereafter.

              

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Again, depends on criteria. Ngannou has earned another shot, and Curtis Blaydes has worked his way back into relevance since the Cameroonian squashed him. But if you're asking which fight will give the pot its biggest stir, it's clearly a duel with another wannabe champ-champ, Jon Jones. Saturday's broadcast finished with mentions of Jonny Bones' "I will be seeing you real soon" tweet, and it's already picked up more than 23,000 likes and almost 5,000 retweets. Enough said.

               

    Scott Harris: The rematch is absolutely the right fight to make. Ngannou is an irresistible force in every sense of the word and has earned the right to run it back. It makes business sense, too. As for Jones, how about some leaked footage of the light heavyweight champion walking and chewing gum at the same time before we sign him on for maybe the fourth- or fifth-biggest fight the UFC can make right now? That combination of skills would be reassuring from a performance standpoint.

How Much of a Hit Does Sean O'Malley's Stock Take After Losing to Marlon Vera?

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    Marlon Vera took the upset win over Sean O'Malley.
    Marlon Vera took the upset win over Sean O'Malley.Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Kelsey McCarson: Lots. Look, O'Malley could still turn out to be an accomplished and decorated UFC champion someday, but his immediate future is going to be way different than he and probably most of the people around him thought it would be. On top of that, there's some solid evidence from the fight that it wasn't just a freak injury. Rather, Vera's attacks are what stopped O'Malley, which means that maybe he's not the kind of fighter everyone thought he was in the first place.

                  

    Tom Taylor: I don't think O'Malley will lose much ground in defeat—but not because Vera's win was a fluke. Like Kelsey pointed out, there's legitimate evidence that suggests O'Malley's now-infamous leg injury was the result of a Vera kick.

    The reason I don't think this loss will hurt O'Malley too badly is that he's a 25-year-old prospect who lost to an experienced and dangerous veteran who wasn't given nearly enough credit heading into the matchup. Sometimes young fighters lose. It happens. All it'll take is another knockout win or two, and the O'Malley hype train will be barreling down the tracks once again.

                 

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: It doesn't help, but he'll be OK. Case in point, the Conor McGregor train has been sidetracked with losses to Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov in the last few years, but he's instantly regained past status each time. Get the Suga Man back in there for a blowout win and it'll dovetail nicely into a Vera rematch. The bigger concern is O'Malley's health. The foot injury that wrecked him Saturday is never far from recurrence. I'd hate to see it happen in a big spot down the line.

                   

    Scott Harris: This was a stock bubble ripe for bursting. The hype train ran out of track but kept going in the air like Wile E. Coyote until it fell against a very capable and exciting opponent in Vera. He has the skills to come back, and for all the hype, he does appear to embrace the hard work and competitive demands of the job. It was a necessary market correction, but it happens. These are the ones you learn from.

Should Replay Be Used for Missed Infractions Like the Stipe Eye Poke?

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    Would replay bring clarity or more confusion?
    Would replay bring clarity or more confusion?John Locher/Associated Press

    Kelsey McCarson: I'm for whatever rule set can be used uniformly and governed correctly across all jurisdictions. The main problem with replay can be seen in all the other sports that use replay. Sure, it eliminates confusion sometimes, but it also usually just boils down to a human being looking at a screen and making a judgment call. Just because one has video replay doesn't mean it's going to matter all that much.

                

    Tom Taylor: Absolutely. I'm in favor of any rules and tools that will make our beloved sport a bit fairer. MMA fans love to label the sport as the purest form of competition. It's hardly that when a fighter can poke his opponent in the eye or kick him in the groin without any recourse.

    In the wake of UFC 252, referee Marc Goddard admitted he missed the eye-poke that Miocic landed on Cormier but reminded his haters that he doesn't have access to "replays and multiple angles." Why not give him and his fellow refs those tools if it leads to fairer, cleaner fights?

                

    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Absolutely. Though a single point deduction would only have changed Miocic's unanimous win to a majority, it's ridiculous to not use technology capable of correcting real-time mistakes. Marc Goddard is as good a referee as there is, but he clearly misses things, too, and there's no reason to not have backup. You wouldn't want to see a Super Bowl or World Series decided on a bad call, and I'm not looking forward to a PPV main event ending in controversy either.

               

    Scott Harris: I think Kelsey hit on it, though my viewpoint is a little darker. You see, this entire sport is suspended precariously in midair by a regulatory web spun from the stuff of children's nightmares. There's no way they could ever figure this out, to the point that speculation feels futile. It's not pessimism, it's knowledge.

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