Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.
Welcome back, fight fans. In the latest edition of “Back Talk,” the questions posed and the topics broached within the Sherdog forums include the clash between Conor McGregor—I can’t get away from a McGregor related topic—and Donald Cerrone, key matchups on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s upcoming schedule, what could be next for a former two-division titleholder, and the rare Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships inquiry.
ShankMcGank Asks: “What do you think about Cerrone’s performance against McGregor and where does ‘Cowboy’ go from here?”
Burgos: I’d love to grade his performance, but I really can’t. The fight only lasted 40 seconds. I’m sure some observers—like loudmouth ESPN broadcasters or fans with a penchant for conspiracies—might say that 40 seconds is enough time to develop an opinion. However, since I’m neither of those (yet), it’s a difficult question to answer. Was “Cowboy” finding his way into a clinch a smart move? Absolutely. Most felt that was a place the Colorado native would have a clear advantage, and no one actually expected McGregor to pull off a series of vicious shoulder strikes. It’s a technique that most fighters probably feel is about as useful as foot stomps. The only real critique I can offer on Cerrone’s 40-second dance with McGregor was that he waited about two shoulder strikes too late before releasing that clinch. Where does the 51-fight veteran goes next? Wherever the heck he wants to. Was the result likely disastrous for Cerrone and his team? Sure, but if he had won, it may have been viewed as a bigger upset than when Nate Diaz beat McGregor. Granted, the UFC is in a tricky position with “Cowboy.” He has lost three in a row, two by knockout and the other via second-round doctor stoppage. However, the losses came to two recent champions and a top lightweight contender in Justin Gaethje. Cerrone is not going anywhere, and the promotion likely wants to squeeze every ounce of relevance out of him without turning him into damaged goods. Perhaps a fight with someone at the backend of the Top 15 makes sense. Rematches with Charles Oliveira or Edson Barboza could be fun fights and represent bookings where all parties involved have something to gain.
Zebra Cheeks Asks: “With Stipe Miocic talking retirement due to an eye injury, Daniel Cormier has made it clear he wants one more fight. With no dance partner for Cormier, do you think it’s Brock Lesnar or Francis Ngannou?”
Burgos: Well, Mr. Cheeks—you know your boy, the avid 90s hip-hop head, had to throw out a reference with a name like that—it’s a fair question. I’m not sure I’m onboard with the idea of Miocic retiring from his eye injury, as serious as it is. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let’s say he does and “DC” needs a partner for his final fistic tango. In that case, the selection of his opponent will involve several variables in play at the top of the division in the coming months. If Miocic is done and the title is on the line, I believe Cormier fights the No. 1 contender, identity to be determined, so he can retire as champion. The most likely scenario involves Ngannou. If the title is not on the line, I’m not sure Ngannou would be a priority for him. If it’s his final bout, I can see him wanting to go out on some meaningful terms. For example, if Jairzinho Rozenstruik were to beat “The Predator” in March, I could see the matchup intriguing Cormier—the legend making his last stand against the hottest heavyweight in the sport and an opponent of a size and skill set that offers more favorable paths to victory than Ngannou. If he loses, he helps the promotion he loves to build the next big heavyweight goliath. The UFC Fight Night 166 main event on Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina, could also play a factor. The former two-division champion appreciates the history of the sport and the legacy he will leave behind. If Junior dos Santos defeats Curtis Blaydes inside PNC Arena, the idea of two of the greatest heavyweights of all-time facing off has to be an appealing end to a career. The possibility of adding dos Santos’ name to his impressive resume is something that would surely give Cormier food for thought. As for Lesnar, I’m over it when it comes to that fight ever happening. I was not a fan of it in the first place, and I wish upon a star that we could all just forget about Lesnar in the UFC.
Kowboy Asks: “Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes, who takes it and how?”
Burgos: I have a great deal of respect for Reyes and his coaches, including Joe Stevenson, who guess stars in the next question. Reyes is a big, aggressive striker with legitimate thunder in his hands and grappling skills that should be taken seriously. His size is definitely a factor in this fight, and do not let the fact that Jones dominated Alexander Gustafsson in their rematch lure you into thinking he got over that hurdle. That result was more the genius of “Bones” getting a second crack at a specific puzzle. If “The Devastator” manages to keep this standing or Jones wants to “test himself” on the feet like he did against Thiago Santos, this fight could turn into a pick’em. However, if Jones decides to use all the devastating tools he has at his disposal, he is a man who can beat most human beings on this planet in whatever manner he chooses. I expect him to go deep into his bag of tricks in this one, especially since there is a movement—as ridiculous as it might be—claiming Santos was the better man in their fight and should have won. Jones will look to quiet the naysayers, and I can see him turning to his wrestling at some point. When he does take down Reyes, I just don’t see enough on his resume to make me believe he will be the first to stifle the greatest light heavyweight in MMA history. Speaking of history, “Bones” has shown that when he gets you on the mat, he can be a devastator in his own right.
Doughie99 Asks: “Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. What strategy does Ferguson need to adopt to maximize his chances of doing what nobody has ever done and beat Nurmagomedov?”
Burgos: As much as I would like to sit here and opine on the specific elements “El Cucuy” must employ to defeat Nurmagomedov, there are people out there who can do it far better and with more expertise. That’s why I hope to make a guest spot a weekly tradition in my mailbag column. Mr. Doughie99, I give you the aforementioned Stevenson, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 2 winner, former lightweight title challenger and current coach to a number of talented fighters, from Reyes to Juan Archuleta. The floor is yours, Joe: “Tony is one of the most well-rounded opponents Khabib has ever faced. He is at an extremely high-level in each of the different martial arts. Attacking Khabib on his feet without fear of the takedown will be in his favor. Tony will need to use his submission expertise off his back to cause scrambles and help him to get back to his feet or move on top. In any clinch, he will have to use his dirty boxing against the pressure of Nurmagomedov.”
Sandakicker Asks: “Will Israel Adesanya need to change his movement style at UFC 248?”
Burgos: From an offensive perspective, Adesanya doesn’t need to change a thing. His being unbeaten over 18 professional MMA fights with 14 knockouts makes that a hard point with which to argue. With that said, he needs to be very careful defensively against Yoel Romero. “The Last Stylebender” has proven to have otherworldly reflexes, at times making opponents appear as if they were fighting in water. However, he is not impossible to hit. Kelvin Gastelum proved as much at UFC 236, with his ability to sit in the pocket and quickly close the distance with explosive actions. No one does explosive actions better at middleweight than Romero. This is not a fight where the Nigerian can fight with an air of bravado. This needs to be a fight where Adesanya shows his maturity and technical acumen. If he does those things, his superiority should shine through in an eventual victory.
Wwkirk Asks: “In light of Thiago Alves signing with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships, what’s wrong with post-prime MMA fighters trying out the bare-knuckle scene?”
Burgos: I can’t tell you if you want me to defend fighters that do this or trash them. I don’t have much of an issue with it. I can see why some diehard MMA fans who have an adoration for certain fighters might be bothered by the transition to this other sport, especially if you could not care less about BKFC. You may feel they’re skilled mixed martial artists and want to see them compete in the sport for which they are known. However, I can’t argue with any professional fighter taking the best offer available. An MMA career is finite. Plus, the further you go down in the organizational pecking order, the leaner the payouts get. In Alves’ case, he made it well known in the media that if he chose to compete again, it would need to be worthwhile financially. If BKFC is offering better money or more preferable conditions to fight under than Bellator MMA, One Championship or the Professional Fighters League, then so be it. Having interviewed MMA veterans Chris Lytle and Kendall Grove before their debuts in BKFC, I gained an understanding in making the switch. For Lytle, he knew he was well passed meeting his own personal standards to compete in MMA. However, BKFC offered the chance to fight again at a pro level while also being fun and different. For Grove, it was about paying the bills, and his deal with BKFC offered the chance to pay more bills than regional MMA promotions. Be it for competitive reasons or to provide for themselves and their families, I respect the decision of competitors continuing their fighting endeavors in bare-knuckle boxing.