Hot Tweets: Who is the middleweight GOAT, trading Robert Whittaker to Bellator, and UFC Vegas 48


Hello friends!

Look, I’m gonna level with you: though we have a great number of fights this weekend, most of them aren’t good and even fewer are interesting. As a result, most of the questions were about UFC 271. I already jotted down some thoughts about the event here but let’s hit a few more questions there and then, sure, some UFC Vegas 48 talk.

Israel Adesanya and the case for GOAT status

At UFC 271, Israel Adesanya successfully defended his UFC middleweight title for a fourth time, winning a unanimous decision over Robert Whittaker. While it was not the most exciting fight, it was certainly a good performance from Adesanya and reasserted his position atop the 185-pound division. It also, unfortunately, added fuel to a fire that had been sparked in the build up to UFC 271: whether or not Adesanya has surpassed Anderson Silva for the title of middleweight GOAT. Let’s get started. No, he has not.

Adesanya has held the belt for 866 days and defended his title four times. Silva held the belt for 2,457 days and defended his belt 10 times. The only possible arguments against Silva are that 1) Adesanya beat Silva when they fought that Silva was busted for banned substances. Both the former argument is ridiculous because Silva is already old and the latter one is stupid for many reasons. The biggest reason being Silva’s inability to pass any test during his reign as title holder. But if you’re the type of person view any PED usage as disqualifying, I can’t stop you. You can go ahead but it’s not gaining much traction among the wider public. At least, not right now.

Which brings us to the actual questions asked: should we adjust for difficulty of era? Like with the topic of PEDs, ultimately if you choose to do so, I can’t stop you. The GOAT argument is entirely subjective, so it doesn’t matter what your criteria might be. But I am reticent to make that a major factor in my assessments for a couple of reasons.

From a practical standpoint, it is not possible to make this determination. Because things get better over time, fighters overall get better, but in all seriousness, I am not at all sure that Marvin Vettoris and Paulo Costas of today beat up the Rich Franklins and Dan Hendersons of the mid-2000s. Like, Jan Blachowicz gave Izzy hell, would it really be that shocking if prime Forrest Griffin was a tough out for the champ?

Furthermore, it is unfair to older generations that competition scale be adjusted for. Champions can only fight the people put in front of them and when those people are among the best in the world, that’s literally all that can be asked of a fighter and so docking them for that based on nebulous ideas about quality is not something I’m interested in doing. Greatest of All Time does not mean Best Fighter Ever. To me, Greatness can be measured in one’s achievements over others. There will be some criticisms about the quality of opponents, but that is not what I consider to be a problem. It is only relevant when all else is equal. Adesanya has much to learn before I can consider grading him using a curve.

The future for Robert Whittaker

With the loss this past Saturday, Robert Whittaker is now 0-2 against Adesanya and firmly entrenched in the Rich Franklin Zone (RFZ). Bobby Knuckles is not likely to be able to escape from the RFZ. There are two possible ways.

Whittaker might change his weight and try for a belt in a different division. But Whittaker is objectively too small for light heavyweight and doesn’t have any interest in attempting to make 170.

Whittaker could also hang in the division, accumulate wins, and wait for Adesanya to either leave the division or give the belt away. Whittaker seems to be willing to consider this option as it is much easier and more feasible. However, the issue here is that if Adesanya leaves, then welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is almost certainly bumping to 185, and if Adesanya loses, well, that’s probably not great for Whittaker’s chances to reclaim the title either.

There is, however, a third option. Whittaker must make every effort to trade Whittaker.

MMA trades are among the rarest things in all of sports, basically having happened one time in modern MMA — when the UFC traded Demetrious Johnson to ONE FC for Ben Askren — but it’s high time we had another one. Whittaker is locked into the RFZ with no viable means of escape, but he’s still only 31 years old and beloved among the hardcore fans. In the UFC, he’s going to spend his next few years wallowing in the middle where he will likely do more harm than good by picking off rising contenders. Instead, let’s kill two birds with one stone and let Whittaker become the face of another organization while getting back someone of potentially huge value. I’m thinking Robert Whittaker to Bellator in exchange for A.J. McKee.

McKee may be the face of Bellator but he won’t last long in Scott Coker’s world. He’s 26 years old and has all the trappings of a legitimate star, but he’s not going to be able to make that happen. McKee is already short on contenders to face, and though his father doesn’t appear to be huge fans of the UFC or Dana White, ultimately he knows that’s where his son will end up. Bellator is able to expedite the process and get Whittaker back. We can even get Andre Arlovski involved in this deal. Arlovski has fought for every other MMA promotion besides Bellator, he could maybe win their heavyweight title, and you can do Arlovski vs. Fedor Emelianenko II for Fedor’s retirement fight.

I doubt this will happen but it’s honestly the best possible outcome for everyone and it’s now the thing I’ll be rooting for the most this year. Shouts to this week’s Between the Links where we sussed this all out.

UFC Vegas 48 Main Event

Fine, we can talk about UFC Vegas 48 briefly. The main event.

On Saturday, Johnny Walker will face Jamahal hill. This could be his last fight. Though we think of Walker as this hyper-exciting fighter based on his string of Performance bonuses to start his UFC run, the fact is that over the last three years, Walker has either lost, looked terrible, or done both. And while the UFC tends to give fighters a pretty long rope if they are losing while swanging and banging, if Walker puts on another performance like he did against Thiago Santos, that feels like they’re going to cut bait.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Walker spoke earlier this week about the factors that made his fight against Santos so disappointing. I doubt those are a major issue. Even if Walker is perhaps a little tentative to start, Hill is going to force the action. The main card may be lacking in name value, but it has some well-made fights. However, the event will still deliver fireworks.

UFC Vegas 48 Low-key Banger

This week’s card has very few prospects. Although there were a few good fights, I don’t think they are all “bangers.” So I am going to cheat and say that Joaquin Buckley against Abdul Razak Alhassan is the most interesting fight on the weekend. Both of those gentleman look like they’ve been chiseled from stone and they throw more bolos than the Hammer Bros. This fight can be ridiculously entertaining for as long as it goes. If this fight gets to the scorecards I will eat my own hat.

Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green

In case you missed it, Beneil Dariush was injured and now Bobby Green has stepped in on short notice to face Islam Makhachev next weekend.

First of all, let’s just acknowledge that Bobby Green is a badass both in general and for taking this fight. After beating Nasrat Haqparast this past weekend, Green is turning around on two weeks’ notice to fight arguably the best lightweight in the world in a five-round main event. Green, as Jorge Masvidal said years ago, is a great fighter who lacks marketability and has failed to make a name for himself because of his poor performance and bad timing. If Green wants his Nate Diaz moment to suddenly become the most talked about fighter in the sport, winning this is how he gets it done.

Sadly, I don’t think he’ll be able to. Even with a full camp, Makhachev is simply too good for Green or for anyone at 155. I’ve said it before in this column but I think Makhachev is basically 80 percent of the fighter Khabib was (that difference is base athleticism, Khabib was a mutant while Islam is simply a plus athlete) but 80% of Khabib is still better than everyone else in the world. And when Islam does win, he will still be announced as the next challenger for the lightweight title, after Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje settle up.

It’s not Islam’s fault that Dariush got hurt, he’ll be on a 10-fight winning streak in the division, and he will be the obvious next man up. Khabib should’ve gotten a title shot three years before he did but timing screwed it all up. UFC will not do it again. Makhachev challenges for the title in the fall of this year.

Thank you for reading, and for all the tweets. Are you looking for answers to questions that are at least partially related to combat sport? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. You can send them to me, and I will answer those I love the most. Let’s laugh.