UFC Fight Night Fortaleza is now behind us and as expected it was a crazy night full of brawls that ended well for one legend ... not so much the other. We got to see a knockout of the year candidate and another fitting but disappointing draw. There's a lot to talk about here so let's get right to it!
Vitor Belfort Is Throwing Himself A Retirement Party
Our @UltimateFighter champ and headliner picks up a huge W over an all-time legend tonight! Congrats @KelvinGastelum https://t.co/jlKIJbXsWW— FS1 (@FS1) March 12, 2017
Vitor Belfort has it all figured out: he's got one more fight left on his UFC contract, and he wants to spend it on the promotion's return to Rio in June. As for who he fights? He doesn't care ... so long as it's not a fellow Brazilian. The only thing that will change his mind regarding retirement is if the UFC flips a big part of their typical script and follows his idea for a legends division with special rules and gloves.
Never mind that we see regular reminders on Bellator as to why a legends division is a terrible idea. Let's not think of how it interrupts the natural UFC fighter circle of life that ends with the old dragon getting fed to the young lions. And let's certainly not overthink the fact that the UFC is largely unwilling to do anything new and interesting that deviates from their standard conveyor belt booking of upcoming fight cards. Let's just focus on the reality that knockouts are just as brutal and bad for your brain when delivered by a fellow legend as some surging prospect.
Vitor's legends league may be impractical in the extreme, but his backup idea of retiring in Rio sounds much easier for the UFC to give us. Our only regret is that it comes with a rematch against Anderson Silva ruled out in it's offering. Brazilian nationalism is a strange thing, because having the 39 year old Vitor square off against the 41 year old Anderson seems like exactly the kind of legends match his imaginary league would be all about.
The Right Way To Do A League Of Legends
On the other side of the coin, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua showed us what the old guard can do with just the slightest shading of benevolent matchmaking. While Vitor Belfort was essentially fed to the surging Kelvin Gastelum, "Shogun" got Gian Villante (watch the results here). No slouch either, but a guy who has only managed to put together a two fight win streak once since arriving in the promotion four years ago. Maybe we shouldn't be putting aged UFC legends in a separate division with all sorts of strange differences. Maybe they just need to not be fed into a buzzsaw, like BJ Penn was against Yair Rodriguez. Or, arguably, as Vitor Belfort was with Kelvin Gastelum.
At a certain point, you have to admit that some guys just aren't in title contention. Doing that has the advantage (for the aging legend, anyways) of not turning their face into a rung every hot prospect steps on climbing up. It also lets WME-IMG squeeze a little more life out of their fading stars, something I'm sure they'd like to do while trying to cultivate the next crop of Rouseys and McGregors. I'm not arguing for Vitor's vision where two guys in their mid-forties double up on knee pads and hobble out for a light spar. Just turn the UFC's typically brutal matchmaking down from an 11 to a 7 or 8 once in a while, and give these grizzled warriors fights they can win.
Kelvin Gastelum Already Looking Forward To 185 Pound Logjam
When Kelvin Gastelum arrived at 185 pounds following another flubbed 170 pound cut, many wondered whether he'd be able to hang with all the bigger guys. And while wins over Tim Kennedy and Vitor Belfort are a great start, I do wonder whether Gastelum is getting a bit ahead of himself thinking ahead to a time where he'll be stuck in the middleweight title shot limbo currently occupied by names like "Jacare" and Yoel Romero.
A triumphant Gastelum took some time during the post fight presser to call the UFC out for throwing the division into chaos with their Bisping versus Georges St-Pierre fight, echoing the sentiment that the promotion is making a mockery of the rankings by putting it together. Fortunately, it will probably take a while for Kelvin to climb up to the top spot. His fight with Vitor was a battle to stay in the top 10, and he's still got seven or eight very deadly men in front of him ... guys that have time on their hands without a championship fight available to them until the end of the year.
Pack It Up, Edson Barboza Has Already Won Knockout Of The Year
UNREAL! @EdsonBarbozaJr is a human highlight reel. Flying Knee to the moon landed on Dariush FTW. #UFCFortaleza https://t.co/PNJtzlLvz6— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) March 12, 2017
Edson Barboza picked up his seventh official UFC bonus last night with his early KO of the Year candidate finish of Beneil Dariush. It came in the form of a flying knee that caught Dariush right on the button, flattening the Iranian instantly in what we imagine is going to become the second most replayed knockout in UFC highlights ... after his 2012 knockout of Terry Etim via wheel kick. It's the perfect time for a new unbelievable finish. With Etim going through serious issues, seeing him get starched over and over again in that clip no longer feels so great. So let's switch over to this Dariush finish for the next five years or until Barboza strikes again with another perfect act of fight savagery.
Prepare Yourself For More Draws
After three rounds of fighting, the women's bantamweight bout between Bethe Correia and Marion Reneau ended in a disappointing draw. It wasn't disappointing in that the judges got it wrong. Giving Correia rounds 1 and 2 and Reneau a 10-8 in the 3rd is pretty much right on the money. But it doesn't matter: no one likes draws. And with new commission rules pushing for more 10-8 rounds, you better be prepared for all the upcoming disappointment.
The 10 point must system has never been a great fit for MMA, and it's my fear that regular 10-8s are going to lead to a whackload of draws in the long run. Not even draws like Correia vs. Reneau, which was fitting if not satisfying. Really frustrating ones that throw divisions into disarray and leave fans leaving arenas with a bad taste in their mouths. It's too bad bringing back 10-8s will result in this, but look into your heart. You know it to be true. Two simple suggestions that will keep 2017 and beyond from getting littered with draws? In the event of a draw on a judge's scorecard, let them pick an overall winner. Or give whoever earned the most 10-8 rounds the victory. But good luck getting that pushed through the current US commission system.