By: Albert Miller – Let me make it official: Cage Nation TV wishes you the happiest, most prosperous, twenty-seventeen possible! We really hope for wonderful things for everyone who has been with us over the years, and we’re working every day to evolve what we’re doing to keep things interesting.
Every New Years has me thinking about the year to come. Surely, no one could have predicted all of the sea change that happened last year. Change is not necessarily bad, but it does have a direct impact on the sport that we all watch and love. When change presents itself, we can either embrace that change or we can resist it. The way we react to change has a direct correlation between what kind of enjoyment we’re going to get out of sport; with that being said, I am going into 2017 with the highest hopes, but prepared for the worst.
Note: These predictions are not ranked according to importance, but instead in the order that they were thought of. Please note, they are predictions and have not been substantiated by anyone in any way.
No. 5: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos will leave the Ultimate Fighting Championship and sign with Rizin Fighting Federation. – I firmly believe that Cyborg was born in the wrong era of history; had she been born ten years later, there may have already been a women’s featherweight scene established, she wouldn’t have had to endure those hellish weight cuts, and she would have had fights that would earn her the respect that she deserves. If you take a careful look at all of the writing on the wall, you’d see that the UFC’s recent booking of “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holly Holm vs. “the Iron Lady” Germaine de Randamie might be the last slight she’s going to tolerate. I am perfectly aware that this is the kind of growing pains that need to occur in order for the women’s Featherweight division to be forged, but only half of the women in that fight have UFC title fight experience. Cris Cyborg has also had to endure the media brawls with former women’s bantamweight champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, with no fight being produced. Speaking of Rousey, when Strikeforce was folded into the UFC, she was just handed the women’s bantamweight champion. Upon Conor McGregor’s vacation of the men’s featherweight championship, Jose Aldo was just handed the title. So, if the UFC is setting precedents of just awarding titles, why not Cyborg? Cyborg feels disrespected, and I’m starting to see why. What I really see happening for Cyborg is that she’s going to walk, and then she’s going to sign with Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF). Fellow countrywoman Gabi Garcia is fighting for Rizin and experiences half of the headache that Cyborg does. Simply, Rizin provides the environment that Cyborg needs: an organization that can get her fights and not having to endure hellacious weight cuts. I think if Cyborg makes the jump, she’s going to experience a lot of success and will be positioned as Top Gun in her division.
No. 4: The UFC will sign a Pittsburgh Prospect – Tomorrow night Cody “No Love” Garbrandt gets a shot at Dominic “The Dominator” Cruz, and win or lose, Garbrandt shows that he is ready to be on the big stage. Adam “the Prototype” Milstead, who was successful in his first UFC outing, steps back into the Octagon on February 4th. The UFC clearly has its fingers on the pulse of Pittsburgh, no greater evidence is needed than the simple truth that Garbrandt and Milstead were signed without any fluff work needed. They didn’t need to be on “The Ultimate Fighter,” they didn’t have to compete on a farm league card; No Love and the Prototype fought, got noticed, and got signed. The end. I really think that we’re due for another (if not more) Pittsburgh Prize Fighter to get signed and I really think that it’s going to be out of the featherweight division. Two names immediately come to mind: “the Honey Badger” Dominic Mazzotta and “The Pride of Bloomfield” Mark Cherico. In the world of sports journalism, any writer runs the risk of being a “homer,” or one who demonstrates a bias for his or her home team. I’m not being a homer, but instead working off of a clearly calculated guess. 1. The UFC featherweight division is a mess after Hurricane Conor went through it. 2. The best way to clean that mess up is to introduce new blood into the division and adhere strictly to rankings and number 1 contendership. How do I know that the UFC will make a major course correction for the featherweights? Because I subscribe to the theory that organizations like the UFC hire people that are much smarter than I am and would have already thought of this. If they don’t, give me a call, I’ll be happy to lend you my services.
No. 3: Boxing is going to have a big year – The Art of War is a fantastic book and I highly recommend that you read it. Since 2005, the UFC has really been taking it to boxing, trying to wrest away market share, and they’ve been doing really well. What you may not have noticed is that boxing (as a sport, as a whole) has been making some excellent moves for themselves and could be ready to capitalize. According to a lot of sections in the Art of War, an army should be ready to attack when the enemy is experiencing change or exertion. Let’s consider the UFC’s recent purchase as change and exertion, and the uncertainty that comes along with such a sea change would be perfect time for boxing to capitalize and take some of that market share back. As I type this, I’m seeing that Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennedy “GGG” Golovkin has been signed for September. As an avid MMA fan, I can thank Canelo Alvarez and Tyson Fury for really bringing boxing back to my attention in 2016. In fact, Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto is what got me listening to the HBO Boxing podcast and that podcast has exponentially improved my understanding of the sweet science. In the last few years, boxing has had its ups and downs, especially in regards to promotional models. BKB Boxing was fun, but didn’t last long. I think if any one promotion needs special mention, its Premier Boxing Champions, who has had made a ton of efforts to be as visible as possible. Whether it be PBC, or Golden Boy, I think boxing is going to find a way to take advantage of event streaming (check out the FITE app if you don’t believe me) and have a really good year in the advancement of boxing.
No. 2: The UFC Light Heavyweight division is going to crown a new king (one we’re not expecting) – I find it remarkably tragic that we’ve gone from Jon “Bones” Jones being the best Light Heavyweight champion of all time, arguably, to being left with uncertainty for the division. Credit needs to be given where it’s due: Daniel “DC” Cormier has put a lot of himself into being a champion, he just hasn’t had the benefit of a lot of quality defences as he would appreciate. It would be easy to vilify Jon “Bones” Jones, but as it stands, he has a lot of demons to work out. So here’s the prediction: I’m seeing a new Light Heavyweight contender come down the pipe, and he’s likely going to dethrone DC. It won’t be because DC is a bad fighter, but perhaps because he’s been deprived of the world class competition that a champion needs to stay sharp. In my prediction model, the new Light Heavyweight king is going to be someone from out of left field, either going up or coming down a weight class or a new acquisition for the UFC. This newcomer is going to do one of two things: 1. He’ll light a fire under DC and help him reach his championship apex, or 2. He’ll be the reigning Light Heavyweight champion for the foreseeable future. I believe and I think this way because I know that the Light Heavies (as a division) have so much potential and could really get momentum going their way, that it’s almost inevitable.
No. 1: The UFC is going to unify the Bantamweight and Featherweight women’s divisions (temporarily) – Yeah, this one is a bold statement, but as I’ve tried to edit it, I just can’t change it because I really do see it happening. The line that I wrote initially shocked me because it’s so unheard of, at least in recent memory. This Saturday, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey is making her comeback after a year and she’s getting a title shot. Those two statements, independent of each other, aren’t so hard to swallow. The hard part to accept is that a woman can lose (definitively) and still be a number one contender after thirteen months of layoff. Please understand, these words are coming from a man who believed that Ronda deserved a rematch with Holly Holm, that Holly Holm deserved a rematch with Meisha Tate, and that Meisha Tate would have deserved one against Amanda Nunes had she not retired. Much like the men’s Featherweight division, it’s a mass; not because the champion has decided to fight in every weight class except the one that they hold gold in, but because the pool of contenders is so incredibly shallow. It also needs to be mentioned that the UFC has already invaded Invicta Fighting Championships twice, clearing them out of Bantamweights and Strawweights. Unfortunately for the UFC, the pool of developed Bantamweights just isn’t ready. Now here’s something that I find interesting: would the UFC have been ready to put a Featherweight strap on someone if they didn’t have a stable of fighters ready to go for that division? Here’s the prediction: the UFC is going to find themselves incredibly thin in both women’s Bantamweight and Featherweight and will likely unify the divisions, perhaps without calling it a unification, for a short period of time. It will be unlikely that they’ll come out and say “yeah, they are one division,” but I’d say that the smart money is on a lot of “superfights” between the two divisions, perhaps a dual title holder if everything goes better than planned.
It’s going to be interesting to see if I’m right, this time next year. Again, it’s been a lot of change, but our ability to absorb and benefit from change stems from our attitude and perspective. In any case, here’s to a great New Year and many more to come!
Until next time: Fights, Cameron, Action!