After stepping out of the sports realm for a couple of pieces, I’m back in my comfort zone: sports writing. Below are a series of MMA quick-hitters…
Why is Ben Askren fighting in a fledgling MMA organization in Asia, and not in the UFC? Is Askren a UFC-worthy talent? You bet he is. While not blessed with scintillating standup and known more for his ability to ground opponents – and stay on top of them – Askren has yet to lose. He has beaten the current Bellator champion, and is universally regarded as one of the top 10 welterweights in the world.
Askren has shamelessly needled and pestered UFC president Dana White, and White is not one to hold his tongue in response. White holds grudges, and recently called Askren a “moron.”
To quote exactly: “I thought Tito [Ortiz] was the dumbest human being I ever met. This guy is an absolute moron,” White said in early September, 2014 of Askren.
Askren is not getting any younger and is frittering his prime MMA years in a subpar organization. At some point, White or Askren have to step up and be the bigger man. The best MMA talent should be fighting in the top MMA organization.
Jake Shields returned to the cage when he made his debut with the number three MMA organization, the World Series of Fighting, last weekend.
It wasn’t a new-and-improved Shields that we saw against knockout artist, Ryan Ford. Shields slithered inside after his takedown attempt failed, eventually took Ford down, controlled from top position for a couple of minutes before sinking in the fight-ending choke.
Shields is still fighting – and still relevant – as a world-class talent. But after 3 ½ years in the UFC and a 4-3 record with one no contest, the UFC gave Shields his walking papers following a unanimous decision loss to Hector Lombard.
Shields’ release came after back-to-back victories over top-ten fighters Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. Go figure.
Shields’ signing to the UFC nearly five years ago made some news; he was a coveted free agent with a long winning streak from a then-rival organization. His signing surely carried some weight (think dollars), and when it was apparent he was no longer a threat to make a title run, the UFC let him go.
At best, Shields was a hurdle for rising talents to with a sizable contract befitting a man of his experience. Cutting Shields made financial sense for the UFC.
The talent-starved WSOF welcomed Shields with open arms, and he made good on the investment with his submission win over Ford. At 35 years old, Shields’ career is on the downslide, but as long as he is with the WSOF, he’ll remain a factor in mixed martial arts.
Aside from Cris “Cyborg” Santos, few women’s fighters outside the UFC garnered as much attention as Albuquerque native Holly Holm. The UFC signed Holm a few months ago, and Holm will make her debut for the organization at UFC 181 when she faces TUF 18 contestant Raquel Pennington.
Holm will enter the cage with perhaps the most technical and accredited standup skills in the women’s bantamweight division. Her boxing resume as a multiple-time champion speaks for itself, and she was also an accomplished kickboxer. Holm dominated her first seven career MMA fights with crisp punches, kicks, and knees. What remains to be seen is the competency of her ground game.
Presuming Holm passes her first test against Pennington, we’ll likely see Holm’s full skillset as she moves up the ladder of competition. Is she ready for strong wrestlers in the mold of Miesha Tate? If Holm has any inkling of facing Rhonda Rousey for the title, at some point, she’ll need to defeat Tate.
Given Holm’s incoming pedigree and marketability, expect her to ride the fast track to a title shot against Rousey