5 biggest takeaways from UFC, Bellator, PFL: ‘Rumble’ return, Cerrone’s skid, ‘MVP’ hate

·8 min read

What mattered most in a loaded MMA weekend that included UFC on ESPN 24 in Las Vegas; Bellator 258 in Uncasville, Conn.; and 2021 PFL 3 in Atlantic City, N.J.? Here are a few post-fight musings …

1. The 'Cowboy' conundrum

Let's start with the topic that's on everyone's mind on the Sunday following a loaded MMA weekend. The worst fear of any [autotag]Donald Cerrone[/autotag] fan came true in Saturday's UFC on ESPN 24 co-main event when he was stopped in the first round by Alex Morono to see his winless drought reach six fights. It's a tough situation with "Cowboy." When looking at his record, the results on their own paint a bad picture. He's been finished four times in this slump, and has been outlanded 422-277 in the process. The element that makes me wonder if we're rushing to judgment, though, is the level of opposition. His skid started against Tony Ferguson in a fight that was competitive until Cerrone's eye blew up and forced a doctor's stoppage between rounds. He then got dropped and stopped by Justin Gaethje, then got put away quick by Conor McGregor. Not ideal, but all three of those men have held a version of the lightweight title at some point, so it's nothing to be ashamed of. The three since then is where the questions start to come in. Cerrone's unanimous decision loss to Anthony Pettis should've been a win for him on the scorecards, in my opinion, and his draw with Niko Price was razor thin. We don't want to sit here and make excuses for Cerrone to take damage longer than he should. No one wants to see this reach B.J. Penn territory, but I don't think we're there yet. Morono was just the second fighter in the past decade Cerrone has lost against who never fought for or held a UFC title. Perhaps that's a sign things are taking a downward turn, but the situation wasn't great for Cerrone here, either. He went from taking on a fellow grizzled veteran in Diego Sanchez to a younger, hungry fighter like Morono. It was a drastic change on six day' notice, and not a friendly fight for Cerrone at this stage. Before we write him off completely, it would be nice to give him another chance – at lightweight and with a fellow veteran name – and see if Cerrone has anything left to give. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU1647kfaQA

2. Neil Magny does it again

[autotag]Neil Magny[/autotag] will go down as a unique enigma in the fight game whenever his career comes to a close. He's consistently one of the most underrated athletes on the roster, but he never lets it bother him. He just goes out and does his work, and more often than not comes out with his hand raised. After a lackluster showing against Michael Chiesa in January, Magny was pitted as the underdog to Geoff Neal, and he looked the part to start out. Neal was tagging Magny with some good shots, but he refused to fold, kept his confidence and eventually swayed his opponent into his world, then stifled Neal with pace, pressure and output to win a unanimous decision. Is Magny ever going to become UFC welterweight champion? I wouldn't bet the house on it. However, he's going to end up having one of the great careers in the history of the division, and though it's not always the most fan friendly, you have to respect how far Magny has been able to take this thing given his attributes. Magny is now win one shy of tying Georges St-Pierre's all-time record for UFC wins at 170 pounds. I reckon he blows past that number of 19 and sets a new bar by the time his career is over. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-ltvAicYig

3. A rocky return for 'Rumble'

What a rush [autotag]Anthony Johnson[/autotag]'s return to MMA competition was at Bellator 258. He got the absolute fullest experience after four years away from the sport before doing what we all expected to finally knock out Jose Augusto and advance to the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix semifinals. "Rumble" looked good to start the fight with Augusto, but as time wore on some flaws began to show. His opponent took advantage and nearly knocked him out, but Johnson showed heart and resiliency to fight his way back into it and ultimately landed a fight-ending bomb to get the job done. First of all, big props to referee Mike Beltran for not stopping it when Johnson went down. He gave him some leash, and Johnson made good on it by recovering and turning things around. The turnaround was truly the most impressive part of it all, too. Johnson has been criticized in the past for throwing in the towel when things get rough, and that's why many of his key losses are by submission. We've never seen him hurt so badly on the feet, though, and he could've easily folded. It wasn't going to happen, though. Johnson was as hard on himself as any fighter I've ever seen in the aftermath of his win. The self-criticism might've been a little too harsh given the layoff, the opponent change and just the overall pressure of the moment, but it's a positive show of his competitive nature that he was unhappy with his performance. Now we're about to see if this Johnson comeback is for real. He's going to fight 205-pound champion Vadim Nemkov in the grand prix semifinals, and it's going to tell us exactly what Johnson's ceiling is in this return to fighting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ah57cXXaw

4. Criticism for 'MVP' and Bellator

The post-fight narrative after [autotag]Michael Page[/autotag] rearranged Derek Anderson's face with a nasty kick for the first-round TKO was a familiar one: "MVP" is a can crusher who has never beaten anyone good. Is Anderson an elite-level welterweight? No. But he's not some bum off the street, either. He'd never been stopped by strikes before getting into the cage with Page, and he got made to look like he didn't belong in there on the night of the fight. That's a common theme with Page. Everyone will point to Page's lone MMA loss against Douglas Lima as an example of what happens when he gets in there with the next tier of competition. They want to see Page fighting Bellator's best time after time, and that's reasonable as he goes beyond the 20-fight mark in his career. For me, Page is must-see TV whether he's fighting the champion or someone we've never heard of. He's a highly unique entity in our sport, and it's fascinating to see his in-cage antics and how opponents deal with it. Yet somehow, it's been twisted into some fans being offended merely by his presence. It's admittedly a delicate situation. Bellator knows putting Page in the cage with an overmatched foe is good for the brand, because it'll most likely end up in a highlight that will generate traction and put eyeballs on the company. There's overwhelming demand to see him fighting more proven names, though, and even if's not a title shot against the Douglas Lima vs. Yaroslav Amosov winner, there are a number of potential matchups that should prove satisfactory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMixx2svwtc

5. Tap or no tap?

[autotag]Fabricio Werdum[/autotag]'s disastrous PFL debut was the first headliner of the weekend, and it was far from the ideal outcome for the former UFC heavyweight champion in the main event – unless you think Renan Ferreira tapped out. Werdum was having his way with Ferreira on the mat early in the first round of their season opener. He thought he had the fight finished two minutes in with a triangle choke/armbar combination when he thought Ferreira submitted. In Werdum's version of the story, he took the pressure off his opponent when he thought the tap happened, but Ferreira didn't stop fighting, escaped the submission and hammerfisted his fellow Brazilian into a knockout stoppage. The replay seemed to indicate Ferreira did indeed tap Werdum twice, signifying his surrender. Referee Keith Peterson didn't see it, though, and that opened the window for Ferreira to take advantage. Overall, it was just an unfortunate situation. https://www.instagram.com/p/COjjfFlHoLg/ The appeal process by Werdum and his team is already underway, but it remains to be seen what would come from that. If it gets overturned to a no contest, then it's great for Werdum to get the loss off his record, but he'd still have 0 points in the PFL standings. It's highly unlikely he'd get it changed to a win and the 6 points that would come with it, so it's tricky. This situation could derail Werdum's entire run in this PFL season, but he partially has himself to blame. All respect to him for saying he was trying to show sportsmanship and not hurt Ferreira when he thought he tapped, but there's a reason the referee is in the cage, and Werdum is enough of a veteran to know that he shouldn't stop fighting until instructed to do so.

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