Happy Friday and welcome back to TGIFighting. We'll get you set for this weekend's MMA action and break down the news of the day. Let's get it on.
Valentina Shevchenko: Coming Soon to a Netflix Account Near You (Oh, and She Has a Fight Too)
When Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) goes for her fifth straight flyweight title defense Saturday at UFC 261, she'll do it against an intriguing and frankly rather frightening opponent in Jessica Andrade (21-8), one of the hardest and highest-output strikers in the women's game today.
But when I spoke to Shevchenko last week, she was taking it all in stride. Just another day at the office, one fight at a time, and all the usual caginess you hear as fight week approaches.
However, there was one question that got her downright giddy: When's that movie coming out?
"I don't know when it's coming out exactly," said the greatest women's flyweight of all time. "But recently I heard it's a few weeks from now. I've been waiting so much! I really can't wait to see it."
The movie in question is Bruised, which features legendary Oscar winner Halle Berry and marks Berry's directorial debut. Berry stars as Jackie Justice, an MMA fighter looking for one last shot at the top. Shevchenko plays Lady Killer, a chief rival of Berry's character.
No release date has been formally announced, but Netflix paid around $20 million for the rights, which indicates, at least to me, that the uber-popular streaming service is serious about giving Bruised a serious push whenever it hits the platform.
"It was an amazing experience working with Halle Berry," Shevchenko gushed. "She's amazing as an actor, director and a friend. I can't wait."
And yet, there is a fight Saturday in Florida. Shevchenko is a -435 moneyline favorite (per DraftKings) to handle Andrade. The book on the Brazilian is to weather the early storm and tire her out over five rounds. But what a storm it is. Highly respected Rose Namajunas (9-4), who fights in the evening's co-main event, recently said Andrade's shots were the hardest she's ever taken.
Shevchenko might stand toe to toe with Andrade for a while for the purposes of her Q rating (she's a counter fighter by nature and prone to extended bouts of inactivity that lead to charges that she's a bit boring to watch). But ultimately Shevchenko, a very smart fighter, will likely use her cardio to outlast Andrade's bullrush.
"Not at all. Not at all," the Kyrgyzstani-Russian said when I asked if she was concerned about Namajunas' comments. "What happened is happened. Just because it is happening with Rose doesn't mean it is happening with me. … This is like, I'm not looking back. I'm looking only to Jessica Andrade and me. Only on one name."
And hey, even if she gets a little bruised during the battle, she'll still have the capital-B Bruised to be excited about.
More Social Media Chatter Between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz(zzzzz)
Is this still interesting to anyone? I mean, steroid use accusations? What is this, 2012?
But that's where we are as former rivals Conor McGregor (22-5) and Nate Diaz (20-12) trade Twitter barbs. In one, McGregor called Diaz a "juice head turkey," among other things, with Diaz responding that McGregor "don't know what the f--k [he's] doing."
These two might be positioning themselves for a future rubber match, even though both are already committed to other opponents–McGregor to Dustin Poirier (27-6 [1 NC]) and Diaz to a dangerous Leon Edwards (18-3 [1 NC]) in May.
I guess it's never a bad idea to have an active beef in your back pocket. But who at this point views this as compelling content? The main goal seems simply to remain in the news cycle as much as possible. So, mission accomplished? I'm just not sure it's such an amazing mission anymore.
It's Time for Ben Askren to Exit Stage Left
Entering last weekend's novelty boxing match with YouTube silverback Jake Paul, it was an open secret that Ben Askren (19-2-1) wasn't doing a whole lot to prepare for the occasion. Among other things, a training partner noted that Askren wasn't "trying to be a boxer."
Well, it showed. Paul knocked him out in the first round. That "former UFC fighter" was a sparkly appendage to Askren's name, but this showed that a wrestler, even one as decorated as Askren, probably doesn't have much of a shot in a boxing match without, you know, learning some boxing.
Did Askren do this for the money? Of course he did. So maybe that makes it all the easier for him to exit the fight game and stop embarrassing himself.
After dominant runs in Bellator and ONE Championship, Askren stumbled to a 1-2 UFC record that included taking an instantly iconic five-second knockout from Jorge Masvidal and a full-on chokeout from Demian Maia, after which Askren retired from MMA.
Maybe coaching is in his future. Maybe not. Who knows? But it shouldn't include active competition anymore. He's done enough damage to his rep as it is. Time to break out the shepherd's crook and pull him off the stage.
Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock of the Week
Record to date: 7-0
No need to dig too deeply into Saturday's card for this one. It's welterweight champ Kamaru Usman (18-1) for the win.
There's no reason to suspect that the rematch won't be a carbon copy of the original. That must be why Usman is a heavy -435 favorite (per DraftKings) to again successfully defend his title over Miami's combat legend. He was "only" a -265 favorite in their original meeting last year.
The reason is simple: Usman can simply overwhelm the challenger with wrestling. When wrestling is in your muscle memory, as it is for Usman, a year or even multiple years' worth of intensive wrestling training is not going to bring you up to speed.
This won't be the most lucrative of bets, but it could make a solid anchor leg for your parlay. Lock it in.