UFC Fight Night 90, The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, and UFC 200. Those are the events we just witnessed over the past 72 hours, as part of the UFC's 2016 International Fight Week. There were new champions crowned, new Reebok trunk colors, old fighters winning, old fighters losing, a major drug test failure, and a minor competing in the Octagon.
I've decided to create a special Winners and Losers just for International Fight Week. There were many winners and losers to choose from, but I've only selected twelve, with eight dedicated to fighters, and four for non-fighters.
1.) Eddie Alvarez. Say it with me, Eddie Alvarez is the UFC lightweight champion. In the words of the great scholar, Sir Joey Diaz, This kid's Philadelphia, you dumb motherf**kers! Alvarez had been one of the best lightweights in the world for years, but never commanded full respect of the fans because he hadn't fought in the UFC prior to 2014. Even in his first 3 UFC bouts, he lost to Donald Cerrone, and his wins over Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis weren't exactly thrilling. Against the favored Rafael dos Anjos, Alvarez turned back the clock, let his hands go, and captured UFC gold with a 1st round knockout. His resume of victories includes everyone he's beaten in the UFC, as well as Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen, Michael Chandler, and Shinya Aoki. He's one of the best lightweights of all-time, and that's regardless of what happens in his UFC title defenses. Considering everything that transpired between him and Bjorn Rebney-era Bellator, plus never getting the Chandler rubber match to a training concussion, this is a tremendous story, and I hope Alvarez's career is appreciated more as a result of his accomplishment on Thursday.
2.) Brock Lesnar. Five years out of the sport and then beat up a top 10 opponent with vaunted punching power? Not too bad, Brock. Not too bad. Round 1 alone was enough for me to be pleased with Lesnar's performance. That he actually won was great to see, and opens the door -- WWE obligations may change this -- for Lesnar to actually be relevant in the UFC's heavyweight division again. I am in no way making the logical jump to him actually being champion again, but you just know that offering him a title fight is something that the UFC has to be contemplating.
3.) Jose Aldo. I was genuinely concerned that the KO loss to Conor McGregor and the war with Chad Mendes would have an adverse effect on Aldo. I'm glad to be wrong. He was absolutely masterful against Frankie Edgar in a way that was perhaps more brilliant than his first fight. His counterpunching was excellent, his defense was wonderful, he didn't come close to getting taken down, and he really made the most of his opportunities to land on Edgar when they were presented to him. And the amazing thing about Jose? He's had better outings than this; he didn't bother throwing leg kicks, let alone kicks in general! Jose Aldo really needed this win and he got it. The Brazilian isn't going anywhere, and I can't wait to see who he fights next, because if it isn't McGregor, it's surely Max Holloway, and if neither fight is appointment viewing for you, I don't know what to say.
4.) Joanna Jedrzejczyk. There are only two fighters currently in discussion for best women's MMA fighter in the world - Joanna Champion and Cris Cyborg. That's it. None of the 135ers has a case, especially as the belt continues to be passed around like a game of Hot Potato. Jedrzejczyk's biggest rival at 115 lbs gave her hell for 2 rounds, but Joanna dug deep, didn't panic, and put a serious hurting on Claudia Gadelha in rounds 3-5. She lands almost 7 strikes per minute, which is incredible. Jedrzejczyk is must-see TV and has a growing fanbase, which bodes well for the UFC as they develop their women's rosters.
Honorable mention: Doo Ho Choi. His sensational knockout of Thiago Tavares should get him in the top 15 of the featherweight rankings. Choi is a stupidly powerful puncher who is an electrifying prospect to watch.
1.) The UFC Embedded production team. Jon Jones' failed drug test turned the MMA world upside down, and it killed off what was supposed to be last Saturday's main event. The UFC Embedded team, almost certainly in a scramble mode given how chaotic Wednesday was, did an outstanding job with UFC 200 episode 5, which showed Cormier's heartbreaking reaction to Jones testing positive. Kudos to them for how they handled this, and it's another reason to praise the excellent Embedded series.
2.) Jon Anik and Brian Stann. There is no better UFC commentary team out there than Anik and Stann. Anik's gotten much better at conveying the high intensity and drama of exciting big fights, and Stann analyzes and researches better than any color commentator doing MMA broadcasts today. Their chemistry is fantastic and leads to a very professional broadcast every single time, including their work on Thursday and Friday.
1.) Jon Jones. I don't need to explain this. There's a real chance he never fights in the UFC again, and it's not solely because of the likely 2 year ban he'll have to serve, it's because I do not trust that he's going to have an incident-free 2 year ban. Silva may be able to manage cheers even after his own failed drug tests, but Jones doesn't have that luxury and never had it in the first place. He's not going to recover from this.
2.) Daniel Cormier. The Anderson Silva fight was a pure no-win situation. Losing to Silva would've been a complete disaster. Destroying Silva would've just been sad. He dominated Silva in non-violent, unexciting fashion, and received a bunch of boos because he wouldn't stand and trade with Anderson from start to finish. That's not the only reason why he's in the loser's column, though. Cormier lost his big money rematch, his chance to silence any "you're not the real champion!" critics, and he may never get that opportunity again. And it happened twice this year. If Jones is banned for 2 years, he'll be 39 before another attempt at a Jones rematch can be made. No other fight at 205 sells for Cormier the way a Jones rematch was supposed to, and the end result was the worst fight on the entire main card.
3.) Johny Hendricks. Can't get his weight cut down properly, can't get his knockout wins anymore, can't stop saying things that irk fans. His fall from grace has been sharp and shocking, and I do not see a way back for him at either 170 or 185. Is it USADA? Is it his multiple bad weight cuts? Is it his consistent inability to clearly win fights without needing a KO finally being exploited? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above? Whatever the case, Hendricks looked dreadful against Gastelum, and between his two losses and his failed restaurant business, 2016 has been a disaster.
4.) Miesha Tate. It's not just the fact that she got destroyed by Amanda Nunes, it's the fact that Bryan Caraway angled for this fight in the first place! Tate's boyfriend suggested Holm vs. Rousey 2 while Tate fought Nunes, and with the way UFC 200 panned out from a crowd standpoint, it was a misfire to book Tate vs. Nunes over Tate vs. Holm 2. There was no actual buzz for this particular fight, and she lost in a way that makes an immediate rematch look completely laughable. Whether it's fair or not, Tate's drawing power is heavily dependent on Ronda Rousey in some fashion, whether it's actually fighting her, or fighting the woman who beat Ronda. Nunes had no connection to Ronda whatsoever, and Tate just got destroyed on a highly prominent pay-per-view. That stings.
Honorable mention: Frankie Edgar. Aldo just has his number. Plain and simple. Unless Jose just randomly moves up to 155, that closes the door on Edgar becoming a champion at 145. As is the standard thing to do every single time Edgar loses, there's been discussion about Edgar being too small for the weight class, and that he should be at 135. It's something I won't dismiss, but he's going to be 35 in a few months, and lighter weight classes are terribly unforgiving when it comes to the aging curve. If Edgar has one more title run in him at a different division, he's gotta make the move ASAP.
1.) FS1 pacing. Remember when Spike TV fight card would be paced poorly, but only last 2 hours and end at 10 or 11 PM ET? That was way better than Fox Sports 1 will ever be. There is zero reason for cable TV shows to end later than the PPVs, and the TUF 23 Finale was an absolute chore to sit through. FS1 pacing won the 2016 MMA Tournament of Bad for a reason, and Friday's card was one of the most absurd acts of slowing an event down, even by FS1's standards.
2.) Yellow canvas. It was Dana's idea, we'll leave it at that.
Dishonorable mention: Denise White. She is Jon Jones' PR person, and is temporarily our new Karo Parisyan. Karo had "Do you know who I am?" and now Denise has given us, "I'm sure you all know who I am." This typifies everything that is the walking catastrophe that is anything directly tied to Jon Jones' image.