Bobby Green with the quickness
Saturday night at the UFC Apex was a pleasantly perfunctory affair right up until the delightful surprise finishe in the main event. However thin on ranked fighters or big names the main card may have been, it delivered everything a good Fight Night needs from a coterie of killers that I failed to anticipate beforehand.
Currently we have a quality and quantity of fights that a 2005 MMA fan could only dream of, but we must sift through the latter to arrive at the former. That’s the mixed blessing of being an MMA fan in 2023 and it’s why I didn’t give Fight Night: Dawson vs Green the appreciation it was due. Looking back on the winners, I feel a bit foolish.
Drew Dober and Joaquin Buckley have put together so many action packed fights in recent years that it makes me wonder if they might have been minor stars ten years ago. They remind me of Matt Brown and Chris Leben who headlined Fight Nights because they were cult favorites, not elite contenders or social media dynamos. Bobby Green, after a long career may have cracked into that cult echelon if it can still exist.
Style, swagger, and self aware
Let’s put the main event into context: Bobby Green was a stepping stone for Grant Dawson. The gap in age and name recognition told us about the UFC’s matchmaking perspective, which made Bobby Green’s win a little bit sweeter for an older gentleman such as myself. Young lions feasting on the old is a component of the fight game I accept, but delight in seeing veterans turn over the apple cart (my favorite of these fights is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Brendan Schaub in Brazil, an emotionally charged win for a veteran who you’d think had seen and felt it all).
After finishing Grand Dawson in lightning quick fashion, Bobby Green seized the momentum of his career. As Daniel Cormier conducted the post-fight interview asking who he’d like to call out, Green put on his second veteran performance of the night. Bobby Green named a date instead of an opponent and that was the smartest thing he could have done when you remember that this is prize fighting. The ESPN schedule is the most important factor in the UFC today. Merit has long been a debatable component in MMA, but now even things like popularity are taking a back seat to the demands of the schedule.
It’s why Sean Strickland is the middleweight champion, and why Ciryl Gane has an interim belt on his resume. With that in mind, Green can’t waste his time managing his career trajectory when he could be managing his finances. Wins pay double, so the more times you fight the more chances you have to make bank. There’s one other reason it didn’t pay for Bobby Green to play matchmaker.
UFC lightweight logjam
Lightweight has long been the deepest division in MMA, but these days the UFC’s shark tank is a little stagnant.
Hear me out: the elite UFC fighters at lightweight are refusing to take on rising talent within the top ten and it’s causing the division to cannibalize itself. The top five lightweights have spent the last few years primarily fighting each other in an effort to retain their status. In the top five, Charles Oliveira has fought and defeated all his peers while Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, and Michael Chandler have played musical chairs with their rankings.
Beneil Dariush represents “new” blood, and he’s 34 years old. Meanwhile Mateusz Gamrot, Rafael Fiziev, Arman Tsarukyan and Jalin Turner are cannibalizing each other’s momentum with only the occasional swipe at a top five fighter. It’s to the old guard’s credit that they’ve been able to turn back the next generation (Gaethje vs Fiziev and Dariush vs Gamrot) but for the most part there’s an invisible barrier between fighters 1-5 and 6-10.
That’s why Bobby Green was wise to call for a fight based on time and place instead of opponent. Even though he may find himself ranked after this win versus Grant Dawson, there’s no path in the near future for any kind of UFC title run. The division is rich in both talent and marquee names. At 37-years-old, with two finishes in five weeks, Bobby Green needs to capitalize on this moment. His best bet is to stay active and ready. Maybe he’s the next Sean Strickland Cinderella story waiting to happen.
Flags are back, p#$$%
It’s an uncomfortable situation to address, but let’s be clear about something: the UFC, a company whose biggest event of the year is called International Fight Week, decided last year that fighters would no longer be allowed to carry flags to the octagon. When pressed for an explanation at the time by journalist José Youngs, the UFC president obliquely answered “you know why.” We were never given an actual reason by Dana White until last night.
It turns out that flags were hurting people’s feelings. Which people? How were their feelings hurt, and by which flags? We will never get that answer because… you know why. There’s a tragi-comic timing to this reversal of the flag ban as the Middle East was erupting into a new level of armed violence as Dana White spoke those words.
In hindsight, it seems the UFC dodged a PR nightmare booking Colby Covington to fight for the welterweight title instead of Belal Muhammad (PS: Where’s Edmen Shahbazyan’s fine flag at?)
I’ll be back on Thursday at the BE substack with a new Fine Art of Violence art gallery, and hope to see you there.
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We also do some of the most serious reporting and hard-hitting opinion pieces in the game. We’re independent and answer to you, our readers. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the whole range and variety of what we do.
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