The principle occasion and co-main occasion of UFC 266 featured massive victories for reigning champions Alexander Volkanovski and Valentina Shevchenko, however the true tales of the weekend had been Nick Diaz, making his return after a prolonged absence from the UFC, and Jon Jones, who after getting his combat inducted into the UFC Corridor of Fame, was arrested on Friday evening. Marc Raimondi, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim react to the weekend and talk about what choices lie forward for each fighters.
Raimondi: UFC 266 was a unbelievable card. Alexander Volkanovski fought by way of a ton of adversity to beat a supremely robust Brian Ortega and efficiently defend his UFC featherweight title. The winner of the Nov. 13 combat between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez must be subsequent for him. Valentina Shevchenko was flawless but once more in a title protection in opposition to Lauren Murphy. Ultimately, I hope we’ll see her once more versus Amanda Nunes. However for now it is seemingly she’ll await the following contender at flyweight.
Now we have an concept what the longer term appears to be like like for each Volkanovski and Shevchenko. However what concerning the one and solely Nick Diaz? I wrote Saturday evening that I believed Diaz regarded nice in a third-round TKO loss to Robbie Lawler, arguably higher than anticipated. Nonetheless, I am simply undecided I need to see Diaz combat once more. He was noticeably slower at middleweight, and on the age of 38. Brett, what had been your ideas on Diaz’s efficiency in opposition to Lawler? Are you into the concept of one other Diaz combat within the UFC?
Okamoto: I had combined feelings, Marc. On one hand, Diaz was out for six years and explicitly advised us beforehand he actually did not need to combat on Saturday. Then again, as soon as the combat began, I noticed ability. I noticed a man who can nonetheless be aggressive in acceptable fights within the UFC. I talked afterwards to a couple folks from his camp, who advised me he had a smile on his face and he’ll seemingly do that once more. If we do see Diaz combat once more, it could be finest if we see him once more quickly. I noticed a man on Saturday who, if he fights once more within the subsequent six months, would in all probability look higher than he did. However the matchmaking is essential. If he is paired with the best opponent, I assist seeing Diaz combat once more.
Wagenheim: You nailed it, Brett, it is all concerning the matchmaking. And associated to that, it is about Diaz recognizing the place he stands in his life. He did an important job of demonstrating that consciousness on the finish of Saturday’s combat, which to some followers might need felt anticlimactic. To me it was a gratifying signal that Nick knew he had given each rattling ounce of what he needed to give and the combat was over. Within the leadup, although, bear in mind when Diaz was saying that whoever matched him with Lawler was an “fool” and that he ought to have been in with Kamaru Usman? Are you able to think about?
I would like to see Diaz compete once more in an acceptable combat, however I concern the worst. I hope the UFC would not permit some younger robust to make his title off Diaz. And I am much more apprehensive — in a time when individuals are paying to observe YouTubers combat, when MMA guys are “boxing” and aged legends like Evander Holyfield are making us unhappy — that we might be in for a Diaz spectacle.
Raimondi: I agree with each of you that Diaz completely can nonetheless combat in opposition to acceptable opponents. The query I’ve is, who the heck is that? Is it a middleweight? A welterweight transferring up? I’ve no real interest in seeing Diaz in opposition to a star close to his prime, like Jorge Masvidal, or some younger, hungry monster like Khamzat Chimaev. However the UFC is not precisely the place to be for those who’re searching for favorable matchups. It is sink or swim round these elements. That’s the place my concern lies. So, Brett, what does Diaz’s subsequent combat even appear like?
Okamoto: In my column the opposite evening, I threw out the concept of Ben Askren, which ought to offer you a sign of the place I am at with Diaz matchmaking. Positive, Askren is retired. However up till final weekend, Diaz was mainly retired, too. I feel Askren might be enjoyable, promote the combat, and never characterize an excellent harmful opponent who would trigger lots of harm in opposition to Diaz.
Raimondi: I like the place your head is at with the Askren concept, Brett. I will throw a reputation on the market, too, although he additionally is not on the UFC roster anymore: Demian Maia. I would not hate that bout at middleweight. Two legends.
Wagenheim: I’ve no different names to toss out — until we’re speaking about fighters who ought to not be matched with Diaz, by which case I may recite a lot of the UFC roster. That is not a knock on Diaz. Six and a half years is a very long time to be away, particularly at 38 years previous. Possibly there’s one final magic act left within the king of the 209. I will be watching, for positive. Possibly holding my breath, although.
Raimondi: Talking of holding our breath, there’s another person I need to tackle with the each of you: Jon Jones. We all know, in fact, that he was arrested Friday in Las Vegas on prices of tampering with a automobile, a felony, and misdemeanor battery home violence. This got here simply hours after he was at a ceremony the place his legendary 2013 combat with Alexander Gustafsson was inducted into the UFC Corridor of Fame. What does the UFC even do with Jones at this level? He is had umpteen possibilities. Might you think about if Jones was UFC champion when this occurred?
Jon Jones expects to return to the UFC within the second quarter of 2022 and want to face the winner of Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane.
Okamoto: It is a good query, but additionally an irrelevant one. The UFC would not have a complete lot of say in Jon Jones’ profession proper now. Along with his arrest, Jones’ eligibility to combat actually is not as much as the UFC. Earlier than all of this occurred, I believed Jones would combat at heavyweight twice in 2022. And I feel regardless of the present circumstances, that is nonetheless a chance. In a bizarre sense, we’re at the place we at all times are with Jones. He is proficient, possibly the very best fighter on the planet. However his private life may derail all of that.
Jones’ 2022 was at all times going to be tremendous fascinating, however now it is fascinating for various causes. Which is unlucky. Backside line, although: If I needed to guess whether or not Jon Jones fights for the UFC heavyweight title in 2022, I would say sure, as of this second, I feel he does.
Wagenheim: To me, the concept of Jones combating for the heavyweight title anytime quickly, in mild of this newest arrest, is troubling and unthinkable, which is why I might not be shocked to see it occur. MMA is a pageant of troubling and unthinkable twists, is not it? I imply, a yr in the past we thought it was a positive factor that “Bones” can be difficult for the belt, and look the place we at the moment are.
Talking solely to Jones’ combat profession, maybe this newest brush with the legislation will ease the contractual stalemate between him and the UFC, as a result of no matter leverage he might need thought he had is all gone. So if he would not put MMA on pause altogether as a way to get his life collectively — that may be my advised subsequent step for him — and the authorized system permits Jones to get again to combating, he may simply take no matter bout he is given and do it on the UFC’s worth. And if the heavyweight Jon Jones performs like the sunshine heavyweight Jon Jones did, there is no ceiling for the man. However then once more, no flooring too slippery, both.
Raimondi: I’m not positive how a lot this slows Jones down. I spoke to a number of Las Vegas attorneys over the previous few days and, simply based mostly on the costs alone, they’re pretty sure Jones will not be doing any type of prolonged jail time.
Now we all know no less than a bit of extra about what occurred Thursday evening and early Friday morning — and it is from a great search for Jones. It makes me a tad uncomfortable speaking about Jones’ athletic profession when he is being accused of home violence. That’s the actuality we’re in, although, and individuals are invested in Jones as one of many biggest fighters within the historical past of the game, if not the best.
Is there a method Jones can flip his life round? I do know he retains saying he is doing higher, however these poor choices are piling up.
Okamoto: It is a query we have been answering for the higher a part of the final decade. Jones has, to date, managed to come back away from these private points and nonetheless proceed his profession. And on the finish of the day, I believe he’ll achieve this right here. Simply by way of his profession contained in the Octagon, I think about Jones will nonetheless combat down the highway and he nonetheless has a great shot at turning into a heavyweight champion. His outlook within the Octagon is identical, so long as he stays eligible to compete.
His legacy is already an advanced one. However an incident like this, it would comply with him. It undoubtedly turns into a part of the larger story of Jon Jones. It has been and continues to be very unhappy that arguably the very best fighter this sport has ever produced can not seem to conquer his personal demons. Like so a lot of you, I need to see Jones compete and I would like him to be part of the UFC, however among the alleged particulars of this case are disturbing and his precedence clearly must be his private life proper now and never any UFC title.
Wagenheim: Jones’ legacy as a fighter just isn’t what’s vital. His legacy as a person is in tatters, and the best factor he may do for himself proper now’s commit each ounce of power to rising up. Through the years, we have all heard him tackle his troubles and speak about bettering himself as an individual. He speaks with the very best of intentions. After which, many times, he has proven himself to be incapable of sustaining that goodheartedness.
Jones clearly can’t clear up his act all by himself. It is time for him to encompass himself with individuals who will maintain him to the next commonplace. If the newest allegations are true, it will likely be harder than ever to get behind Jones. However in his ongoing battle together with his worst tendencies, I will probably be rooting for him — not for Jon Jones the combined martial artist, not for the great of a sport that misses its biggest fighter or for the UFC’s coffers, however for the person’s household, which has suffered by way of sufficient.