The MMA Gods were merciful to Robbie Lawler at UFC 290
Welcome back to another edition of MMA Squared, and we are happy today after the events at UFC 290. First and foremost we must acknowledge a gift from the MMA gods, in which Robbie Lawler was allowed to exit the sport on a win. One in which he absorbed almost no damage, allowing Brutal Bob the opportunity to feel his own feelings, hear the cheers of the crowd, and walk out of the octagon unassisted. This is such a treat for someone like Lawler, whose career has been as circuitous as it has been triumphant.
I’ll always have a soft spot for his UFC return because it coincides with when I met my wife. One of the first fights she enjoyed was Robbie Lawler vs Johny Hendricks 1, and he became appointment viewing in our home from that day forward. The six fight run starting with the first Hendricks meeting through his title defense versus Carlos Condit constitutes one of the most dramatic stretches in mixed martial arts history. It’s a rare treat to watch a legend walk out with their head held high, let’s not take it for granted.
UFC 290: Is Bo Nickal, a buffalo or a plug?
At UFC 290, Bo Nickal beat a guy who three days ago was mowing his lawn, in the words of Daniel Cormier. I’ll admit that it’s easy to crtiticize the UFC for mollycoddling some prospects and throwing others into the fire too quickly, so in the case of Nickal I’ll just wait and see what comes next. But he gave Val Woodburn no quarter ; )
UFC 290 must have been a tough night for Dan Hooker and Jalin Turner. First they put in a blood and guts night at the office. Both men had their bodies battered and their fortitude checked, and after the decision was read by Bruce Buffer, they immediately exited the arena for the hospital. I’m sure plenty of people patted their backs, applauded their warrior spirit and assured them that they’d locked up a Fight of the Night bonus.
Did it add insult to injury as they checked their phones from the ER an hour later, seeing Twitter (or Threads?) light up as Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja put on one of the most action packed title fights in recent memory? (We’ll get to that in a moment.) The MMA gods weren’t going to give Robbie Lawler his happy ending at UFC 290 without extracting their pound of flesh.
MMA Mythical Fighter evolves like Pokemon
Speaking of the gods and their pantheon, we must acknowledge the birth of a new MMA Mythical Fighter at UFC 290: Nose Job Dricus DuPlessis. I’m not doctor but COVID has taught me that you don’t need to be one to have serious medical opinions, so here goes: Nose Job Dricus takes in so much more oxygen (we’re talking Sea Level Cain amounts) that he’s calmer, makes less wacky decisions, and can fight more relaxed due to a decreased level of “fight or flight” impulse. Ok, so I did look up some medical benefits of nose breathing
It was rather shocking to see Robert Whittaker getting stopped by any middleweight other than Israel Adesanya. At 32 years old “Bobby Knuckles” isn’t that long in the tooth but his next booking will be watched closely by all. I’d like to see him come back against Sean Strickland. Stylistically and personality-wise it’s a curiosity worth investigating.
As for the stars of the evening, look no further than the UFC 290 co-main event. It’s been a wild ride for the flyweight division. Not so long ago, the UFC was cutting fighters from the division while openly flirting with axing the division altogether. Just look back at the marketing angle TJ Dillashaw took for his ill-fated trip down to flyweight.
Somehow cooler heads prevailed and we have been rewarded many times over from the rise of Deiveson Figuieredo to his quadrilogy with Brandon Moreno, and now with the crowning of a new king after one of the best fights of 2023, Alexandre Pantoja. The fight itself was one for the ages, with momentum swings and exciting exchanges on the feet and ground. When I’m done with this article I can’t wait to sit down and rewatch it without commentary.
Speaking of commentary at UFC 290, did you happen to catch Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier’s on-air discourse over what counts as a “Significant Strike?” I know two scumbag media members, Scott Fontana and Sean Sheehan, who have dedicated themselves to understanding the nuances of fight scoring and are always happy to educate… life long martial artists who work for the premiere MMA promotion? I guess after 25 years you can’t expect Joe to know everything. A quick google on my part yielded a fairly simple explanation Significant strikes are defined by FightMetric as “all strikes at distance and power strikes in the clinch and on the ground.”
Last but not least, we have to acknowledge the least valuable but most compensated contributor to the greatness that was UFC 290: Dana White.
While his UFC job of “promoter” has become largely ceremonial, he did issue a nuclear level hot take on the state of Slap League. Apparently he was “ripping numbers” with his analytics team and this “thing” (even he can’t say Slap League with a straight face) does great with the Mexican community and is “off the charts in India.” All of this is “fascinating” to White he loves it, and it’s the stuff that gets him up in the morning.
To all this bluster I’d like to ask what happened to Power Slap being number one in all of sports? Are we not going to capitalise on something that’s ripping better numbers than the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB (combined, mind you)? Don’t get me wrong I’d love a Dana White Looking For A Bathroom Because I’ve Got Dysentery show once they set up How Can Slap: India, but something smells funny. Moving the goalposts from competing with all major sports to being big in India reminds me of that guy who’s got a girlfriend. You just don’t know her. She goes to a different school.
Thanks for your time, the artwork in these articles are featured in my MMA art book series, The Fine Art of Violence. You can get previous years copies at chrisrini.com or support my art studio as I make a new book covering the best and most important fights of 2023 over at patreon.com/chrisrini
Take care of yourself and I’ll have more artwork about UFC 290 over at the Bloody Elbow substack newsletter on Thursday.
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