Written by @NickRiznerMMA
Since news broke that Jon Jones was being pulled from his UFC 200 bout against Daniel Cormier, a number of potential replacement opponents have been suggested by fans, media and the fighters, themselves. Naturally, some options make more sense than others. Here are the front-runners at the moment.
2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days…… Hmmm middle vs light heavy???? I stand by my words. I'd do it!
— michael (@bisping) July 7, 2016
When a challenger pulls out of a championship bout, it’s only natural to look towards the neighboring divisions. My first thought was UFC Heavyweight Champion, Stipe Miocic. As noted in the press conference with Daniel Cormier, DC is not looking to fight a big opponent. He has been slimming down in order to make the 205 pound limit, and while he’s open to fighting a slightly heavier opponent, he isn’t interested in fighting an opponent that is significantly bigger than him. Certainly, the heavyweight champ would fall under that category. We then turn to the weight class below.
Michael Bisping won the UFC Middleweight Championship by defeating Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. The event took place on June 4th and only lasted 3:36 seconds. Aside from a seven-day mandatory rest period required of all fighters after competition, Bisping received no extended medical suspensions, and is free and clear to fight on June 9th. Also, unlike many of the other options floating about, he has no opponent currently scheduled, thus negating the need to disrupt a future card in order to save the DC fight. It’s worth noting that Bisping is notorious for his trash talk, but if he was being serious in the above tweet, it seems that he’s interested. Definitely an interesting option.
— Gegard Mousasi (@mousasi_mma) July 7, 2016
Mousasi has really been stepping up his social media game of late, and it’s paying off big time. While he’s technically a middleweight, he competed at Light Heavyweight for a number of years with Strikeforce, even becoming the LHW Champion in 2009. He’s already set to compete on the UFC 200 Fight Pass Prelims but has offered his services up to fill the void left by Jon Jones, instead. While Mousasi is far from the most deserving contender for the belt – he’s lost three out of his last seven fights – he is certainly a decent option at such a late stage.
This one doesn’t feel particularly realistic to me, however. There’s not a lot to be gained from DC’s perspective. Obviously, there’s money at stake, but it seems, from what I’ve gather, that legacy is the main focus of DC’s fighting career now. A win over Mousasi does little in the way of legacy building. A loss, however, delivers a huge hit to DC’s legacy. Can’t see this one coming together, but it would be a wonderful opportunity for Mousasi if it does.
— Josh Samman (@JoshSamman) July 7, 2016
I'd whip his ass. https://t.co/IoGMHgdgWk
— Chael Sonnen (@ChaelSonnen) July 7, 2016
Okay, this probably doesn’t have a chance. But it’s fun to imagine, so I’m going to break it down anyway. Chael Sonnen last fought in November of 2013. In June of 2014, he received a two year ban from competition for a failed drug test, leaving him clear to fight in June of 2016. Last time I checked, it was July. Sonnen spent his career bouncing back and forth between middleweight and light heavyweight, but seemed to be favoring the heavier weight class in the latter years of his career. His return to light heavyweight has come with mixed results as a submission victory over Shogun Rua was sandwiched between losses to Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.
But Sonnen can talk with the best of them, and his statement is clear. He’s whip Daniel Cormier’s ass. Shout out to Josh Samman for the assist.
1st we wait for the news…Tomorrow we do the press conference. The plan is coming together… pic.twitter.com/NlYXqFEnYQ
— Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) July 7, 2016
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz:
There is, of course, another way. Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz were notoriously scheduled to hold their rematch at UFC 200. In fact, despite the fact that there was no title on the line, they were scheduled to be the main event. Then McGregor refused to attend a mandatory press conference, Dana White threatened to pull him off the card and McGregor fake-retired. The fight was subsequently pulled from the card and ultimately rescheduled for UFC 202.
Many (myself included) believe the UFC 202 main card to be stronger than UFC 200, even with McGregor-Diaz and Jones-DC in their proper place. In other words, UFC 202 can stand on it’s own two feet with the removal of McGregor-Diaz from the main event. Oddly enough, both men are already in Vegas, as a press conference was scheduled for July 7th at 3 pm ET to promote 202. Both men have made it very clear that money is big motivator in all of their career decisions. With that in mind, there is most certainly a number that would get both McGregor and Diaz to agree on a weight and fight on two days notice. Is that number attainable? Who knows. But it would certainly conjure up some pay-per-view buys in a pinch. Some food for thought…
Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt:
This is the boring option so I’m going to keep things brief. It’s also, unfortunately, the most likely. The true appeal of UFC 200 is not the main card. While it’s unquestionably a solid pay-per-view, the true specialness of the event comes from the strength of the under card. Every single fight from the opening Fight Pass prelim is a barn burner with household names. This makes it very easy to simply move everyone up a slot and still put together a historic event.
Will it leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth? Yes. Is it the easiest and most realistic option on two-days notice? Also yes. Unfortunately.