Wednesday's UFC Fight Night main event in Jacksonville, Florida, provoked strong reactions for two drastically different reasons.
On the other hand, the damage inflicted on Smith caused several fighters on social media to say that the fight should have been stopped much earlier. Daniel Cormier, who was working on the cageside transmission, agreed.
I would have stopped the fight, the singing could have saved the guy from finishing. Some mistakes in that corner tonight. And I love these guys! Too much instruction, no crowd to filter it. Anthony Smith is a savage but supports @gloverteixeira in the great victory.
– Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) May 14, 2020Advertisement
Despite the reactions of those who watched the fight, Smith had no problem with the time it took for the fight to be stopped.
"I am good with the decisions the referee and my corner made," Smith told ESPN's Ariel Helwani shortly after the fight. "When the judge made it clear that he needed to see something or that he was going to stop, I did what I had to do to continue the fight. I leave the battle with my shield or I left with him. That is my rule. Period."
The night also featured impressive performances from fighters trying to rise through the ranks, including Justin Gaethjeteammate Drew Dober, which may be about to make some noise in the lightweight category.
ESPN's Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim panel broke the second of three UFC cards in eight days in Jacksonville.
Should the main event have been stopped earlier?
Helwani: Yes. Yes. Yes. That was really difficult to watch. I think you could defend the fight that ended on the third, definitely on the fourth, and then I have no idea how you got to the fifth. Anthony Smith's singing failed. And I'm surprised, because the Factory X team is one of the best coaches in the game. Referee Jason Herzog failed Smith as well. I am also surprised by this, because he is one of the best officials in the game. This was reckless, unnecessary and blatant. Smith was not winning this fight in the championship rounds, so there was no point in letting it continue.
I hate the fact that the chants are so reluctant to "throw in the towel" in MMA, but boxing coaches do it all the time. I think it looks so bad for the sport. Is it an MMA bravado thing? Possibly. All I know is that you need to stop. Smith was beaten that he can feel the effects for years. These fighters need to be saved from themselves, and the two entities created for this – the judge and the singing – let Smith drown.
Okamoto: It could have, and probably should have, been interrupted in the third round. Watching it live, I expected Judge Jason Herzog to wave, and I was surprised when he didn't – and then I was more surprised when Smith survived. It really seems to me that Smith was never really there is from that moment. But you see it in MMA sometimes, when a referee comes very close to stopping a fight, it gives the fighter all the leeway he can and, somehow, the fighter survives – but that's it. They just survive. I thought there were many opportunities for Herzog to stop afterwards, but they were not necessarily "mandatory" situations. Smith continued to move and defend himself, although the performance of his work was questionable.
Sometimes it is difficult to criticize a corner for not throwing in the towel, because it knows things that we don't know. For example, in this case, Smith's singing knew that he had facets that had fallen before, so they interpreted his "my teeth are falling out" different statement from us. But that said, I think Smith's corner should have stopped the fight. I watched a lot of MMA, and it sure looked like Smith was finished and just suffering additional and unnecessary damage.
Raimondi: Probably, but Smith is one of the toughest men on the list. I could understand why he would want to persevere, and his coaches obviously know how durable he is. Smith, winning the first round and going early, certainly could have contributed to their decision to continue. However, I would be fine if referee Jason Herzog pulled the score in the third round when Smith was knocked down by a left hook and Teixeira started to play.
Herzog is one of the best referees in the world and has given Smith many opportunities to continue. Another point I would be okay with if I finished was after Teixeira's uppercut, which froze Smith in the quarterfinals. There have been countless occasions when things could have been stopped, but this was far from the worst situation anyone has ever seen in MMA, which seems to have a culture against stopping at street corners. Fortunately, Smith is fine.
Wagenheim: We are as quick to skip the entire referee as to the time of his stoppages – too soon or too little – and we love to criticize the judges for 29-28 years, when they should have been 28-29. But what about the men on the corner? What about coaches and training partners who know their fighter better than anyone? Anthony Smith continued to fight, which is why referee Jason Herzog did not enter. Smith did not want to leave; he is known as "Lionheart" for a reason. But even the king of the jungle needs support from his team. Smith made an attack in the third round and played only five. After the round, he fell on the bench, looking like he was finished. However, his coaches only instructed him to dig deep. Okay, send him over there for one last holiday; but as soon as he ate an uppercut less than 10 seconds into Round 4 and backed up against the fence, the towel should be flying.
Glover Teixeira is 40, but he is on a winning streak in four fights. Can he make another run towards the light heavyweight title?
Helwani: I don't think he has a title, but this is definitely an impressive race in the twilight of his career. Remember, Teixeira is about to turn 41, and this was his fourth consecutive victory. Not bad for a guy who now has 38 fights. However, I don't know if he can beat the Dominick Reyeses or possibly the Jon Joneses of the division, the last to which Teixeira lost in a challenge for the 2014 title. Good news for Teixeira is that 205 is very superficial today, so there is not much space between him and the top at the moment. Crazy things happened.
Okamoto: I mean, he's doing another race. This is the race. And I don't think there will be another when this is over. Teixeira recognized the importance of this struggle throughout the week. It is not every day that a 40-year-old boy, who lost three of his five appearances recently, recovers four consecutive victories against younger competitions in this sport. It is not impossible, but it is not the norm. Teixeira won the right for that fight that will put him on top and win the title fight – and for me, that's Jan Blachowicz. We still need to see what exactly is coming for Jon Jones, but the UFC has been leaning towards a rematch with Dominick Reyes (which I agree with). If so, a number 1 fight between Teixeira and Blachowicz. And that is the end of the race for Teixeira, regardless of the result. Either he gets the title shot or he doesn't.
Raimondi: He can and is. Smith is an elite light heavyweight; he only spent five rounds with champion Jon Jones last year. Teixeira broke up with him Wednesday night. Now Teixeira is still looking at Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz in the heavyweight hierarchy. I would love to see Teixeira welcome back Thiago Santos Santos' injury in a contender fight. Santos looked great against Jones last year. Let's see if Teixeira can live with the Brazilian. If he does, there is an external chance that Teixeira will be looking at a title dispute for the first time since 2014.
Wagenheim: With Teixeira, it is not about "he can". If you brutalize No. 5 heavyweight in the ranking, you will be in a race for the title. However, he is still in line behind Dominick Reyes number 3 and Jan Blachowicz number 4. It is not clear which of these men will receive Jon Jones next. But, before everything is said and done, both will likely have a title shot. So Teixeira has a wait ahead. This is where age comes into play. Can he maintain his high level long enough to remain there when a title fight comes along? Whether that happens or not, I hope Teixeira doesn't disappear. He is skillfully skilled and a gentleman – a pleasure to watch compete.
Should the OSP remain at heavyweight or return to light heavyweight?
Helwani: I don't hate the idea of Ovince Saint Preux remaining at heavy weight despite the loss. I didn't think cutting to 205 was a problem for him in the past, but his manager, Oren Hodak, told me earlier this week that it was becoming a real problem. Ben Rothwell is one of the biggest heavyweights on the market, so this was a tough first test for OSP. But if OSP could tackle some of the smaller heavyweights out there, it could have a significant speed advantage. In the end, though, I think your best bet for success would be at light heavyweight.
Okamoto: Respectfully, I don't think it matters. Ovince Saint Preux has been fighting in the UFC since 2013. He had his share of ups and downs and won more than he lost. Ultimately, he was never a star. Currently, he is not a candidate for the title. He is 37 years old. I'm not saying it's impossible for him to find his way into a title dispute, but if we're being honest, it's not likely. He is a veteran who clearly belongs to the UFC, but will have a hard time getting into the top 5 of any weight category. So, fight them both. Why not? He basically said that this is his plan and I think it is the right approach. He saw that opportunity come up against Ben Rothwell and he took it – and it resulted in a fun fight. Keep your options open. If a fight comes up with a light weight, accept it. If someone better looks heavy, get this one. Matchmake case by case.
Raimondi: Go back to heavyweight, but if interesting fights arise for him in heavyweight – perhaps in the short term – why not? Saint Preux is basically a gatekeeper at £ 205. He is capable of defeating almost anyone, and gave Jon Jones a difficult time three years ago. But for the most part, Saint Preux has his place in the light heavyweight division and has not set the world on fire in heavyweights, with a split decision loss to Rothwell. At 37, OSP is not getting any younger. A return to 205 to fight a promising young man is probably next.
Wagenheim: If Saint Preux was at heavyweight, he would not always share the cage with guys as big as Rothwell. But even if Saint Preux was hired against someone closer to his size, he could find himself with a punch much more devastating than Rothwell or a more suffocating fighter. The OSP weighed 240.5 pounds, and there are many heavyweights that step on the scale lighter than that and would still be more than he could handle. OSP is a light heavyweight on a bypass. He fought 37 times at 205 pounds and never lost weight. This is his house.
How far do you think Drew Dober can go in the lightweight division?
Helwani: I'll say this: I didn't see it coming from Dober. He lost his first two fights in the UFC and started his 1-3 race with a fight without a fight. But, over time, he became one of the most intriguing beginners in the lightweight category. He is on a winning streak in three fights and all three wins are by interruption. His team, Elevation, recently became one of the best in the sport, with people like Justin Gaethje, Curtis Blaydes, Cory Sandhagen and Dober training there. I hope the UFC doesn't push Dober too fast – and I don't think so, because the lightweight is very heavy – but I think he could be a player in that division. Yes, I know he's 31 years old and a UFC veteran, but it still looks like he's a new face at 155, because he looks like a different guy who debuted in the UFC in 2013.
Okamoto: It is still difficult to say, even now. Light is so hard. Dober won eight out of the last ten, which is difficult to do with 155 pounds, but even he would probably admit that he did not fight the best the division has to offer. Here are two things I think about when it comes to Dober. First, we stopped paying attention to him too soon. This guy didn't get a contract as a competitor in The Ultimate Fighter in 2012 and then lost three of his first four fights when he arrived at the UFC. And at that moment, unfortunately, it would take him a long time to gain attention as a potential candidate. Well, he did that, and then some, now. And second, I don't rule out the fact that he is one of Justin Gaethje's main training partners.
Doesn't that mean he's as good as Gaethje, or that he's going to achieve so much, but having a similar style and being close every day to a guy who almost reached the top of this sport? I think this is an advantage that Dober has, especially in terms of confidence. I still can't predict that he will continue to win victories when he faces the best, but I can tell you that I won't be shocked if he does.
Raimondi: I don’t know if we’ll see Dober talk about the lightweight elite – guys like Khabib NurmagomedovJustin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. But then again, I didn't think Dober would be capable of that excellent race he's in. The Omaha native, Nebraska, is on fire – three consecutive wins at the end and eight wins in the last 10 fights.
Dober is legit and I can see him becoming one of the top 10 ever in weight. He is also an extremely exciting fighter to watch, with heavy hands. The 155-pound division, however, is a minefield. It will be difficult to break this thin air.
Wagenheim: Dober's performance was so impressive that I would love to fly to Denver at some point just to see him and Justin Gaethje at the gym. But we are not going to read much about this victory over an opponent without the top 10 credentials. Dober is skilled and at his pace, and measuring himself against Gaethje every day should do wonders for his confidence. In addition, he benefits from the same training, which was evident in his patient Alexander Hernandez. But there is a long way to go between Dober and Gaethje, and although Dober can close that gap, there are many light candidates in between, serving as barriers. Something tells me not to discourage Dober, however. And something tells me that I will enjoy following its upward path.
Who impressed you the most on the undercard?
Helwani: Less than two years ago, Brian Kelleher was in a losing streak in two fights. He was knocked out by John Lineker and then sent by Montel Jackson. He looked a little lost. He entered his previous fight against Ode Osbourne in January at UFC 246, the last fight of his deal, and with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Many eyes were on him that night because that was the McGregor vs. Card. Cerrone, and boy, did he get ahead. He beat Osborne by submission in the first and prepared very well for a new contract, which he got. And then Wednesday night, Kelleher came back with a cruel knockout in the second round of Hunter Azure. Suddenly, he is on a winning streak in two matches with his confidence in heaven. The only negative aspect? Those extra pictures on the floor when Azure was clearly out. Those seemed excessive.
Okamoto: I go with light weight Thiago Moises, who sent Michael Johnson with a heel hook in the second round. Johnson has been throughout his career until the final results, but here I will say one thing about him: he always comes prepared. He is a highly competitive individual. He does not send emails in fights, even in cases where you think he can. Johnson was in big competitions; therefore, when you're on a losing streak and fighting an almost nameless opponent in foreplay, you wonder where his effort level will be. He looked fine Wednesday. But Moises showed some things: that he could face a storm from a former lightweight top 10 and how quickly he could finish a fight on the ground. Impressive.
Raimondi: Brian Kelleher really seems to be putting things together. He knocked out Hunter Azure, who was considered the best striker, with a beautiful left hook in the second round. Kelleher now has two finals in a row and drew Sean O & # 39; Malley in his post-fight interview with Daniel Cormier. It may be a little brief for that. But Kelleher looks very solid these days and is a step up in the bantamweight competition. Long Island, New York native, has won four of the last six. Kelleher is very active on Twitter and has developed a bit of a fan following there. Now, work in the octagon is beginning to regain its talkative personality. It was fun to watch.
Wagenheim: Brian Kelleher's knockout was a thing of beauty, but that left hook to the corner was just the cherry on top of a first-class performance. Whenever you raise your arm next to a fighter who has never lost before, you have done something special. But the most impressive thing about Kelleher's performance against Hunter Azure was that he was fueled not by wild abandonment, but by balance. He took some pictures early, but he weathered the storm and never allowed Azure to enter. And when Azure achieved something, Kelleher always had an answer. And then, at the beginning of the second round, he lived up to his nickname: "Boom".
What was the biggest surprise on Wednesday night's card?
Helwani: There was a time, three years ago, that Chase Sherman was considered a legitimate prospect in the UFC heavyweight division. In addition, he was also killing on Twitter. He was the UFC's "GIF King", fun inside and outside the cage. And then he lost three in a row – two of them by knockout – and left the promotion. Following his release, Sherman fought for the Florida-based Island Fights promotion, where he won three in a row and also for Bare Knuckle FC. He went 1-1-1 at BKFC and, to be honest, it seemed that his involvement in this promotion signaled the end of any hope that he could return to the UFC. Not so. Sherman took the fight on Wednesday just over a week in advance and looked amazing in his victory over Isaac Villanueva. Fit, calm, on point … this was Sherman's best performance in the UFC, including his two wins in 2017. Welcome back, GIF King.
Okamoto: Brian Kelleher's knockout over Hunter Azure. Kelleher now has 10 knockouts to his credit, so we know that he has power, but he gained weight in that fight and that showed. He was the smallest man on this featherweight trip. He also clearly missed the first round. Azure was at a pace. It's not like the fight was out of control, anyway, but it definitely looked like Azure was in control coming out of that first five-minute period. And suddenly, Kelleher found his reach, and the left hook that dropped Azure in the middle of the round was one of the most shocking punches of the night. Seeing that bantamweight move up a division and knock out a guy like that was a great moment for Kelleher.
Raimondi: Thiago Moises submitted Michael Johnson with an ankle. First, ankle blocks are extremely rare in high-level MMA. Second, Moises' entry into the presentation was crazy. He basically started the second round by running on Johnson and diving into his legs. It was almost like a Ave Maria and it worked. Johnson, an incredibly talented but inconsistent fighter, was dominating until that moment. He looked very well. But Moises, a product of the American Top Team, managed to steal one by taking Johnson by surprise and being opportunistic. Credit to him. UFC victories are not easy to find.
Wagenheim: Andrei Arlovski how left-handed? It may be possible to teach an old dog new tricks after all. He is 41 and participated in his 50th professional fight, but throw away all the videotape you have on the guy – unless you watch it in a mirror reflection. It wasn’t just that Arlovski showed a new crease in the game, but he did it again over his 15 minutes in the cage with Philipe Lins. They trained together on the American Top Team, so maybe that’s why Arlovski felt the need to play a curved ball. And it worked, winning only his second victory in the last seven fights. It also rejuvenated my interest in watching "The Pitbull", just to see what he has in store for us next time.