Invicta 9 takes place Saturday night at the RiverCenter in Davenport, Iowa. It is Invicta’s first show outside of Kansas City and only their second show of 2014, after taking a long break throughout the first half of this year. The show is headlined by Barb Honchak (9-2) defending the Invicta Flyweight title against Takayo Hashi (15-4-1). Hashi is a longtime MMA veteran making with a reputation for being tough. She is making her Invicta debut and someone who, now 37, should create a good showcase main event fight for Honchak. The show will air live on Fight Pass, starting at 9pm ET.

Honchak, 35, is a candidate to move into the UFC and compete in the women’s bantamweight division as a future opponent for Ronda Rousey, or possibly as a contender at strawweight. Honchak is widely ranked as the top women’s flyweight worldwide. Hashi is unranked.

Read the full article at the Wrestling Observer.

I’ve spent the last few days compiling statistics on UFC rookies who debuted with the promotion in 2014. I wanted to look at the types of fighters UFC has been recruiting, their age, where they are being recruited from, what sort of records they have and what sort of opponents they have fought prior to debuting in the UFC. With UFC running over fifty shows a year, scouting prospects has become an even more integral part of the promotion. Of course, talent scouting has always been important, but going into 2015 there are more UFC roster spots than ever before. It wouldn’t surprise me if over the next few years UFC continues to run more and more shows each year as the demands of international television contracts means the promotion needs to continue adding more shows.

MMA doesn’t have a particularly sophisticated scouting system, at least in comparison to the major team sports in the US. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a fair comparison, because team sports and MMA are totally different. But I do believe there is a lot more work that can be done outside of the UFC when it comes to scouting prospects. The little bit of work I’ve done doesn’t even scratch the surface. There are lots of other writers doing a good job of scouting prospects on the major MMA news web sites, but this is something that has really just started to come along recently and will likely grow in sophistication over time.

Scouting talent in MMA is difficult for a few reasons. First, MMA doesn’t have a formalized developmental system. There are basically just hundreds of promotions of varying quality operating worldwide where inexperienced fighters hone their skills with the hope of making it to the UFC.

Second, it is very difficult for one scout or even a team of scouts to watch fights involving talented prospects. Many regional MMA shows that may have prospects with potential do not broadcast on TV or the internet, nor do they have DVDs available for purchase. Often one is left relying on looking at a fighter’s record, and the record is frequently misleading about a fighter’s skill level.

Third, many MMA prospects come out of other combat sports such as college wrestling, judo, and championship jiu jitsu. Of course, when many of these athletes begin competing in MMA they will do so on smaller shows, but if they are skilled and coming into MMA with an impressive athletic background, they will be signed by one of the larger promotions fairly quickly. Fighters who enter the sport with no previous athletic experience are far more difficult to scout and seem to spend more time fighting on smaller shows that are difficult to view.

There are other reasons why scouting MMA is hard, but these strike me as the most salient, or at least the major issues I’ve personally faced trying to scout potential UFC talent.

What I decided to do was to look at fighters who debuted in the UFC throughout 2014 and compile statistics about them. Those statistics could subsequently be used as a guide to both look at other potential prospects on small shows, as well become familiar with which small shows graduate the most fighters to the UFC. Understanding which promotions UFC is scouting makes my own scouting more efficient. There is also the possibility of looking at promotions that may have good talent that UFC isn’t recruiting from, particularly international promotions. But that is an issue for another article.

This article is divided into three sections: first, I will look at overall statistics for all fighters who debuted in the UFC during 2014. Second, I will look at these statistics by weight class. Third, I will look at the promotions that fighters most frequently fought for during the three years prior to their UFC debut and discuss the larger promotions in detail.

At the bottom of the article is a link to an Excel file where these stats can be downloaded. I’m imperfect and my stats may be imperfect, too. Should anyone find errors, please let me know. All of the stats are based on the Sherdog database, which, while also imperfect, is the most popular database for MMA fighter records. I also intend to modify these stats at the end of the year to account for UFC debuts in November and December.

Overall UFC Rookie Statistics

The period of time I am looking at consists of UFC events held between January 1, 2014 and November 1, 2014. 171 fighters debuted in the UFC during that period. Yes, that many. This figure does not include fighters who competed on the 2014 seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, unless those fighters actually competed on a UFC event. If it included everyone who fought on an episode of TUF that aired during 2014, the figure of 171 would be significantly higher.

Here is how the previous MMA careers of the UFC’s 2014 rookies break down statistically:

The average age of a UFC rookie is 27.4 years.

The average amount of total career professional wins prior to fighting in the UFC is 10.1. This number does not include amateur bouts.

The average amount of total career losses prior to fighting in the UFC is 1.8. This number does not include amateur bouts.

The average won/loss ratio for bouts fought prior to competing in the UFC is 87.8%. This figure is arrived at by dividing career wins into career losses. It does not include amateur bouts. It also does not include draws or no-contests.

The average amount of stoppage wins in bouts fought prior to competing in the UFC is 75.9% (referred to here on as the finishing ratio). This figure is arrived at by adding TKO, KO, and submission wins in professional fights together and dividing this total into total pro wins.

The average amount of wins during the three year period prior to debuting in the UFC is 5.3. That does not include amateur bouts.

The average amount of losses during the three year period prior to debuting in the UFC is 0.6. That does not include amateur bouts.

In short, the average UFC fighter that debuted in 2014 is around 27 years old, has 10 career wins and 2 career losses and wins about 88% of their fights. This person also TKOs, KOs, or submits about 76% of their opponents. In the three year period prior to fighting in UFC, their record is around 5 wins and, at most, one loss.

UFC Rookie Statistics by Weight Class

Before starting, it should be noted that these stats don’t differentiate between fights fought in different weight divisions prior to entering UFC. So, if a fighter debuts in UFC at bantamweight, but fought some fights at featherweight before joining the UFC, those stats are included in his overall career statistics and are factored into the bantamweight category. This makes the exercise inexact, but far less time consuming. It still achieves the goal of getting a broad look of what the typical UFC rookie looks like.

Heavyweight: 7 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 30.9. This is highest among all weight classes. Average career wins was 13.9 and average career losses was 2.1. The average career wins is highest among all weight classes and the average career losses is second highest, behind only the flyweights. The average won/loss ratio is 88.7%. The average finishing ratio is 82.2%. Average amount of wins in the three years prior to debuting in UFC is 6.7 and average amount of losses is 1. This is the highest average wins among all weight classes in the previous three years and tied for highest in losses with the bantamweight women. The high stats in the heavyweight division are likely attributable to the heavyweights being the oldest group of debuting fighters. Tee more interesting question is to ask why the heavyweights are older than other groups of fighters, as the average debuting heavyweight is about 3 years older than the average debuting fighter at any weight. It does mean age is less of an issue for scouting heavyweights relative to the other weight classes.

Light-Heavyweight: 13 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 29.1. Average career wins was 8.4 and average career losses was 1.8. Average won/loss ratio was 87%. Average finishing ratio was 78%. Average wins over past 3 years was 4.1 and average losses was 0.5. The rookie light-heavyweights also skew older than the average rookie from any weight class, by two years. The light-heavyweights, though, had the fewest amount of career wins on average compared to the other men’s weight classes. They also had the fewest wins among all men’s weight classes during the three years prior to debuting in the UFC.

Middleweight: 18 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 28.5. Average career wins was 9.4. Average losses were 1.2. Average won/loss ratio was 90.2%. Average finishing ratio was 74.9%. Average wins over previous 3 years was 5.3 and average losses was 0.6. Middleweights also skew older than the overall average by a year. It seems that it can be inferred from the stats that the heavier weight classes have fighters that are older in age, which probably isn’t any great revelation.

Welterweight: 35 fighters debuted in 2014. This was the highest amount of rookies by weight class. Average age was 26.5. Average career wins was 9.7. Average career losses were 1.9. Average career won/loss ratio was 86.6%. Average finishing ratio was 76.1%. Average wins over past 3 years was 5. Average losses were 0.69. Most notable among the welterweight statistics would be both the sheer amount of welterweight rookies, plus their average age being slightly below the overall average of all rookies.

Lightweight: 29 fighters debuted in 2014. This was the second highest amount of rookies by weight class. Average age was 27.1. Average career wins was 11 and average career losses was 2. Average won/loss ratio was 88.4% and average finishing ratio was 72%. Average wins in past 3 years was 5.6 and average losses was 0.5. The lightweights had the third lowest finishing ratio among all weight classes, and second lowest among the men. Like the welterweights, there was also a substantial amount of lightweights debuted this year, and many of them were young.

Featherweight: 19 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 25.9. Average career wins was 11.3 and average career losses was 1.4. Average won/loss ratio was 92.5%. Average finishing ratio was 80%. Average wins in past 3 years was 6.5 and average losses was 0.5. The featherweights were the youngest group of fighters on average to debut in the UFC this year. They also had the highest career won/loss ratio among the men and the second highest amount of wins in the previous 3 years, just behind the heavyweights.

Bantamweight: 25 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 27.5. Average career wins was 10.1 and average losses was 1.8. Average won/loss ratio was 87.6% and average finishing ratio was 71%. Average wins in past 3 years was 5.5 and average losses was 0.6. Bantamweights had the lowest finishing percentage among the men.

Flyweight: 11 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 27.1. Average career wins was 9.8 and average career losses was 2.9. Average won/loss ratio was 81.8%. Average finishing ratio was 83.1%. Average wins over past 3 years was 4.6 and average losses was 0.6. The rookie flyweights had the highest finishing ratio among all of the men’s weight classes. The flyweights in the UFC are known as finishers, which surprises some people, so it would seem to follow that the rookie flyweight fighters would also be able to finish. Maybe the high finishing ratio is due to the physical toll of the weight cut to get to flyweight, but that’s merely speculation.

Women’s Bantamweight: 10 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 27.6. Average career wins was 8.2 and average losses was 2. Average won/loss ratio was 82%. Average finishing ratio was 85%. Average wins in prior 3 years was 4.1 and average losses was 1. The rookie bantamweight women had the highest finishing ratio of all weight classes. Women’s MMA is not as well developed as a sport as men’s MMA, so this is not a surprise.

Women’s Strawweight: 4 fighters debuted in 2014. Average age was 27. Average wins was 7. Average losses were 0.25. Average won/loss ratio was 96.4%. Average finishing ratio was a low 54%. Average wins in prior 3 years was 4.25 and average losses was 0.25. Considering the small sample size of the women’s strawweight rookies, I wouldn’t read anything into these stats at all. We’ll get a better look at women’s strawweight rookies throughout 2015.

Promotions Producing the Highest Number of UFC Rookies

Lastly, I want to look at MMA promotions that produced the highest number of fighters that went on to debut in the UFC during 2014. The goal is to identify which promotions are worth watching when it comes to scouting potential UFC talent.

In this final part of the article, I have counted promotions where a UFC rookie fought within 3 years of their UFC debut. If a rookie fought in a promotion more than 3 years before debuting UFC, then that promotion wasn’t counted. The choice of 3 years is totally arbitrary on my part, and you can alter the results by going with 2 years or 5 years or any period of time, although my guess is that these results won’t be altered by much.

I also did not count promotions owned by Zuffa, including WEC and Strikeforce. I did count WEC and Strikeforce from before the Zuffa purchase, but that’s going back many years now, so it wasn’t really relevant here. I did count other major MMA promotions like Pride, Dream, One FC, Elite XC, etc., most of which are so old now that they are also irrelevant in discussing UFC rookies in 2014.

A total of 20 different promotions featured at least 5 fighters within the 3 years prior to a particular fighter’s debut in the UFC. I’m going to look at the top few promotions. Number of UFC rookies produced by each promotion is in parenthesis.

Bellator (11): Tied for first on the list was Bellator. 11 fighters debuted in the UFC in 2014 that had fought for Bellator within the previous 3 years. This is the only promotion that I am going to break down which specific fighters debuted because I am interested in whether they were feature performers on Bellator TV or whether they fought in Bellator prelims.

Of these 11, none of them appeared on Spike TV. 4 appeared on MTV2, and only 1 appeared on MTV2 more than once. 1 fighter fought for Bellator both before and after the Viacom purchase, but the rest fought all of their Bellator fights after the Viacom purchase. The rest all appeared on Spike web site prelims, or even unaired prelims. Only 2 of the 11 fighters had a losing record in Bellator.

It seems to me that this indicates the Bellator prelims are a good place to scout potential future UFC fighters. It’s also one of the few chances to watch high quality video of MMA prospects. Keep in mind, though, that these 11 fighters fought in Bellator over a combined range of a few years, so it is not like every single Bellator prelim has fighters that are quality prospects. But fighters with multiple wins on Bellator prelims are fighters that may have potential to debut in UFC, or even Bellator itself, in the future.

King of the Cage (11): This includes the regional offshoots, like King of the Cage Australia. I was actually surprised to see this promotion so high on the list. Back before MMA blew up in 2005, KOTC was probably the number two promotion in the US and were a major feeder for UFC. I didn’t think that they still were, but it appears that way. The thing that needs to be kept in mind with KOTC, though, is that they run tons and tons of shows all year round in various regions both in the US and internationally. That means more fighters are going to have KOTC fighters than they would if KOTC just stuck to their home base in California. So, some of KOTC producing so many fighters is a numbers game simply because they run so many shows, thus so many different people fight for them. KOTC frequently runs shows headlined by guys with few pro fights, or even lopsided records, but the promotion is still worth keeping an eye on for potential prospects somewhere on the card.

Resurrection Fighting Alliance (10): Not a surprise. RFA runs a major league style promotion that airs on AXS TV. They started in 2011 and have run 19 shows up to the beginning of this November. They started out in the Midwest, but have started touring into California and promoting in a wider range of western states. Fighters who compete for titles in RFA are worth keeping an eye on.

Legacy Fighting Championship (9): Also not a surprise. Like RFA, Legacy airs on AXS TV. They run nearly all of their shows out of Texas, which has a thriving grassroots MMA scene. They’ve run 36 shows since 2009. Fighters who compete for titles in Legacy are also worth keeping tabs on as future UFC prospects.

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship (9): Cage Warriors is located out of Britain and is the top European promotion for producing UFC prospects. As UFC continues to expand into Europe, Cage Warriors will probably become even more important as a feeder. They have run 72 shows since 2002, mostly in England, but have expanded elsewhere, particularly in Europe. They broadcast in the US online through MMA Junkie and in Britain on their own web site.

Jungle Fight (8): Jungle Fight is right now the top UFC feeder in Brazil, which is important because Brazil is one of the UFC’s biggest markets. Jungle Fight has run 74 events since 2003. JF is the best promotion to start with in looking for potential Brazilian talent for the UFC. There are a few other feeders from Brazil, with WOCS and Shooto Brazil being the other big two. Brazil has a ton of small MMA shows every weekend, many of which don’t broadcast on TV anywhere. Jungle Fight has supposedly aired on ESPN Deportes in the US, but I don’t know if that is still current or not.

Tachi Palace Fights (7): TPF runs the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, CA. Lemoore was also the original home of the WEC before Zuffa bought that promotion. Tachi has put on 20 shows since 2009. They’re a well-known feeder to the UFC. They sometimes air their events on Sherdog, but I don’t think this is a consistent thing.

Maximum Fighting Championship (7): MFC is based out of Western Canada and is probably the most important Canadian feeder for the UFC. They’ve held 44 events since 2001, but really started as a more regular promotion in 2006. They are almost exclusively based in Edmonton. The promotion airs on AXS TV.

Pacific Xtreme Combat (7): PXC runs both Guam and the Philippines. Many of the UFC fighters that debuted in 2014 who fought previously in PXC fought on UFC’s cards in Asia. If UFC continues to try promoting in Asia, they will probably pick up more guys from PXC. A lot of the best fighters in that region are in One FC, though. PXC has run 52 events since 2004. They air on TV in parts of Southeast Asia and they offer video on demand of their past events through livestream.com.

BAMMA (6): The British Association of Mixed Martial Arts has held 18 events since 2009. They’re probably the second most widely known promotion in England behind Cage Warriors. They stay closer to home compared to Cage Warriors, the latter of which will tour into other countries. BAMMA does have a branch in the US called BAMMA USA. The total of 6 fighters who debuted in the UFC in 2014 includes BAMMA and BAMMA USA combined. BAMMA USA has run 19 events since 2009, almost all at the Commerce Casino in California. BAMMA USA airs iPPV on gfl.tv. BAMMA in the UK uploads its fights to its YouTube channel.

Ring of Combat (6): ROC has been a feeder for the UFC since 2002, running 60 events in that time. They run almost all of their shows at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City. ROC is promoted by retired kickboxing champion Lou Neglia. They air iPPVs on gfl.tv.

Pancrase (6): Like KOTC, I was surprised to find Pancrase on this list. I’m not going to go into Pancrase history, but they are older than the UFC (barely). I didn’t think they would still be a major feeder, but with UFC running a couple of shows each year in Japan, the promotion needs Japanese fighters and they’re either going to come from Pancrase or Deep. Pancrase has a YouTube channel where they upload some of their videos. I don’t think they air anywhere else on the internet, although one can still acquire a lot of their stuff from popular pro wrestling tape traders (or I guess DVD traders).

Invicta (6): Doesn’t surprise me that Invicta is on this list. It’s the premier women’s promotion and has close ties with the UFC, with events airing on Fight Pass. If you want to look for female talent for the UFC, this is the obvious place to start.

Other top feeders include the defunct Respect in the Cage (5), Legend FC (6) from China and the CFA (6) out of Florida. Also, Shooto Brazil (5) and WOCS (5) in Brazil produce UFC fighters, as does American indie CES (5). Xplode MMA (6) has also produced quite a few UFC rookies in 2014, but they have a reputation for being a terrible promotion that books skilled guys against people with horrible lopsided records, like guys with 0 wins and 12 losses, that sort of thing.

Most notable absences from this list include Titan FC (4) and WSOF (3). Titan and WSOF are promotions that former UFC guys go to in order to win a few fights and try and get back into UFC. They do use guys that are rookies, but tend to use former UFC, Bellator, and Strikeforce fighters rather than new fighters. Titan airs on CBS Sports and WSOF airs on NBC Sports.

Also, each year is different, and there are other promotions that could have made the top of this list last year, or will do so next year. There are many regionals in the US that produced 2 or 3 fighters that made the UFC this year. In Mexico, there are a few small promotions. Mexican MMA is something I would like to do more research on as I think there is potential for growth there.

M-1 (4), Pro FC (4), and Fight Nights (4) are the major Russian promotions, although there are others. If UFC enters Russia in the future, M-1 would probably be opposition more so than a feeder.

In Japan, there is Deep (4), Shooto (2), Heat (2), and ZST (0). Elsewhere in Asia there is URCC (3), Real (3), Ranik (4), and Road FC (0), among others. One FC is the biggest group in Asia, but only graduated 1 guy to the UFC and is more so opposition to the UFC in Asia than they are a feeder.

In Canada, there is a ton of grassroots MMA out west, a little bit in Ontario and Quebec (the Quebec scene died off big in the past few years relative to a decade ago), and the ECC (2) in Halifax.

There are also others in international locations such as Australian Fighting Championship, EFC Africa in South Africa, and KSW in Poland that don’t produce as many UFC rookies, but could do so in the future. And internationally, that’s just the tip of it. I think there are a lot of great fighters in international locations that have yet to be discovered and it is probably wise for UFC to scout foreign markets for talent, especially if they plan on going into these markets within the next 3 or 4 years.

Conclusion

With this research my goal was to identify the types of fighters based on age, record, and location that the UFC has been recruiting throughout 2014. I also wanted to break down these statistics by weight class to look at the differences between each class, and to look at the main promotions that act as feeders to the UFC.

There was nothing too surprising uncovered by my research. Yet, I feel putting the stats of UFC rookies down on paper clarifies many assumptions about the types of fighters UFC recruits and where they come from. It helps form a plan so that I can scout specific promotions more efficiently, focusing my time on watching certain types of fighters on certain promotions to identify who could make the jump to the UFC, or to find other fighters that have potential down the line, but aren’t ready to make that jump yet.

My goal after this would be to then continue scouting video, focusing more on fight reviews from specific feeder promotions rather than on researching a fighter’s record.

In a few months to a year, it would be interesting to go back and look at the list of UFC rookies from 2014 to see how they performed in the UFC, to identify trends, to see if certain styles of fighters survive, or to see if fighters from certain locations perform better than others. I would also like to continue research on which gyms debut the most successful fighters, and to identify international promotions with fighters that might be able to jump that UFC hasn’t started scouting yet in order to try and get ahead of the curve.

The Excel file with all of the UFC rookie stats for 2014 can be downloaded at http://wp.me/a4qupE-7R

Jeremy Wall is the author UFC’s Ultimate Warriors: The Top 10. He blogs at mmachronicle.com. He can be reached at jeremydalew at gmail dot com or followed on Twitter @jeremydalewall.

“I think the court is complete here. I’m the king, Chad’s the prince, and now we have a joker,” Jose Aldo told Brian Stann in a post-fight interview just moments after retaining the UFC Featherweight title against Chad Mendes at UFC 179 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Aldo, of course, was referring to the joker Conor McGregor, currently ranked fifth at featherweight and coming off a first-round TKO victory over Dustin Poirier in September. In the hours after UFC 179, talk of Aldo’s next title defense being against McGregor dominated discussions about UFC’s upcoming fights. UFC even flew McGregor down to Brazil to be in attendance for Aldo’s fight. McGregor was featured in a press conference in the days before UFC 179, threatening the Brazilian fans that he will decapitate Aldo when they meet for the title.

The problem, though, is that McGregor isn’t booked to challenge Aldo for the title. No, instead McGregor is headlining a Fight Night at TD Garden in Boston on January 18th, facing Dennis Siver. Siver is coming off a decision win over Charles Rosa on October 4th in Stockholm.

UFC has drawn criticism for booking McGregor against Siver when the best fight for business in the featherweight division is clearly Aldo defending the title next against McGregor. Also, there has been some criticism that McGregor is too skilled of an opponent for Siver. “A lot of people are dismissing Siver, saying that this fight is ridiculous,” Dana White said in UFC 179’s post-fight presser. “Siver knows exactly what happens if he comes in and beats Conor McGregor. It’s a huge win for him. You know he’s going to take this fight seriously and he’s going to come in and try to win.”

The problem isn’t that McGregor is too skilled of an opponent for Siver. The problem is that, as Dana said, Siver is taking the fight seriously and coming in to win. McGregor has tremendous star potential. He has limitless charisma, exciting fights, and is skilled. The UFC is obviously aware of McGregor’s potential for the box office, but the fight against Siver is poor booking. To use a tired adage, promoting fights is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle.

There is always an issue of timing because fighters lose and fighters get hurt and you never know when either will happen. When you have the opportunity to make a money fight and catch lightning in a bottle, you take it. You do not put it off.

Siver shouldn’t be underestimated, either. His only loss at featherweight was to Cub Swanson via TKO in 2013. He has two Knockout of the Night awards and one Submission of the Night, and was involved in four Fight of the Night winners. Yes, Conor is an obvious heavy favourite to beat Siver, but there are no guarantees in fighting.

In an interview with Ariel Helwani after UFC 179, Dana said if McGregor beats Siver, then UFC would be looking to match McGregor against Aldo for the Featherweight title next summer. In the meantime, Aldo wouldn’t fight anyone. “[Aldo] looks pretty banged up tonight,” Dana said. “He usually takes a little time off after his title fights, anyway.”

Aldo taking a bit of time to recover is a consideration that has to be kept in mind when booking fights at featherweight. If the plan is to have Aldo defend the title next summer, then it would be a long wait between fights for McGregor. “[The fight against Siver is] about money,” McGregor told the media in a press scrum before UFC 179. “I’m fit. I’m healthy. I want to compete as much as possible. I tried to get on the Mexico card a few weeks back. They pulled that. Joe Lauzon got injured and I tried to get on it again. They pulled that. I just want to continue fighting.”

There is also criticism that McGregor is leap frogging both Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar in getting the next title shot versus Aldo. Swanson is ranked second and Edgar third, both ahead of McGregor. Edgar and Swanson are set to fight one another at the November 22nd Fight Night in Austin, Texas.

The problem with giving the winner of the Edgar-Swanson fight the next shot at Aldo’s title is that neither Edgar nor Swanson would be able to draw the pay per view buy rate against Aldo that McGregor would. It would also make McGregor wait for his title shot until later in 2015, or even into 2016, and he would probably have to fight again before that, further risking his shot at the title.

Since UFC debuted in 1993, there has been the debate about whether it is a sport or entertainment. It is partially a sport. It is partially entertainment. But it is purely a business, and UFC always needs to act in a way that is best for business. Aldo defending the title against McGregor rather than defending it against Edgar or Swanson is what is best for business.

Should McGregor beat Siver, he should definitely get the next title shot. The only argument that I can see in favour of McGregor fighting Siver instead of getting a shot at Aldo right away is that McGregor versus Siver should be an exciting fight and it keeps McGregor fresh in people’s minds while Aldo heals up. Also, having the Irish McGregor headlining a card in Boston will probably help the live gate at TD Garden.

But even if the fight against Siver turns out to be exciting and it gets McGregor over even more with UFC’s audience, it probably is not worth the risk. If McGregor loses, he is nowhere near the title picture and a lot of the hype around him will die. Siver wouldn’t be a new star with the win, because beating a guy with star potential is not the same as beating a star. Even with the win, Siver would probably still be a fight or two away from a title shot against Aldo and that isn’t a fight that would draw much money, anyway.

The other problem, too, is that even if McGregor beats Siver, McGregor could get hurt. He could also get hurt in training before the fight. Of course, this is the fight business and guys get hurt and a promoter can’t plan for that. But in this particular circumstance, McGregor doesn’t need to be risked in a fight against Siver that has little business upside when a fight against Aldo with tremendous business upside is ready to be made.

If Siver defeats McGregor, the title shot will obviously belong to the winner of Swanson versus Edgar. But Aldo defending against either Swanson or Edgar wouldn’t have the same potential drawing power as a title defense against McGregor. “Of course, I always need to promote the fight. The more we promote the fight, the more saleable the fight is, and that makes my job easier,” said Aldo in the UFC 179 post-fight presser. “So I have to think about that. I can’t just think about going in there and winning. There are a lot of people that depend on me, so I’m always looking to do that. If it’s Conor, we’re going to do great promotion and a great fight.”

Of course, after all of this, McGregor still has to beat Aldo to truly become a draw. Aldo is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters ever, but has never been a draw at the box office. A fight against McGregor might be the biggest buy rate of Aldo’s career. McGregor is skilled, but Aldo is probably the better fighter, although years of facing tough competition will soon catch up to Aldo. Perhaps McGregor will be there at the right time to defeat an Aldo whose body is more broken down than in the past.

But if McGregor cannot defeat Aldo, McGregor will end up in the Chael Sonnen position as the charismatic, skilled fighter who is not good enough to beat the top guy at his weight. In order for McGregor to be a draw at the level of an Anderson Silva or GSP, he will need to defeat Aldo and continue to defeat top competition at featherweight. McGregor has the potential to be the first major draw among men in the smaller weight classes in the UFC, but we’re still far from that happening.

Bellator 130 on Friday, October 24th closed out the promotion’s eleventh season, heading into the Spike TV special on November 15th headlined by Tito Ortiz vs Stephan Bonnar in a battle of names from UFC’s glory period. Bellator 130 was a great show, a definite improvement from the previous week’s event. It was headlined by an exciting Light-Heavyweight title defense by Emanuel Newton and included wins by Bobby Lashley and Marloes Coenen on the undercard.

Newton defeated Linton Vassell to retain Bellator’s Light-Heavyweight championship. It was a come-from-behind win for Newton, who had been telling people in interviews leading up to the fight that the universe said he would submit Vassell. He did, by rear naked choke at 0:47 of the 5th round, but he was nearly defeated in the process.

Vassell looked incredible on the ground in the first two rounds, nearly tapping Newton out at multiple points. Vassell, from England, was 14-3(1NC) going into the fight, with two straight wins in Bellator via rear naked choke. But he had never been in a five-round fight before, and had only gone the distance three times in his career, losing one. He started to gas in the third round. Newton took over, continuously taking Vassell down in the third and fourth rounds to score points, even though it looked as if going to the ground with Vassell was a terrible idea. In the opening minute of the fifth round Newton was able to lock in the choke for the win.

Newton has great star power, charismatic with a unique fighting style and a bit of a gonzo personality. Bellator announced that Newton would defend the title against tournament winner Liam McGeary sometime next year. I thought it was a bit weird that Bellator made it out that McGeary was guaranteed a title shot since he won a tournament, because Dave Jansen was fighting earlier in the night, had won a tournament at lightweight, and had yet to get his title match. But the promotion doesn’t have a lot of other options in opponents for Newton because Rampage doesn’t want to fight him and Newton has already beat King Mo twice.

The only other potential opponent for Newton would be the winner of the Tito-Bonnar fight, but who knows if that person will even want a title shot. That would be a better fight at making Newton into a star, though, because Newton would be favoured to win and it would be a win over a famous name. Newton’s not as strong of a favourite against McGeary and no one knows who McGeary is anyway, so a win doesn’t mean much.

The co-main event saw Bobby Lashley beat Karl Etherington when Etherington submitted due to strikes on the ground. This was easily the biggest win of Lashley’s career. Etherington was 9-0 going into this fight, and 8 of his wins had been in less than a minute. Both guys were jacked and before the fight people online were making jokes about how Etherington looked like Ryback. The two also did an ugly staredown before the fight, one of those staredowns that draws you totally into what’s going to happen next.

I thought it was bad booking putting Lashley against Etherington. Lashley appeared to be a fighter who needs to be protected against carefully selected opponents, which would allow Bellator to build Lashley for a possible title match. But Lashley was dominant in pounding Etherington after Etherington went for a hip toss. The ref didn’t step in right away, even though it was pretty clear that the fight was over with Lashley pounding Etherington on the ground and Etherington in a turtle, so Etherington tapped.

After the match Bellator talked about Lashley fighting for the Heavyweight title. This should be his next match, because if they book Lashley against someone else first, there is still a good chance Lashley won’t win and it is not like Bellator has too many guys that can fight for the heavyweight belt, so booking Lashley in a title match right away is the best move.

What annoyed me, though, was that Bellator mentioned Lashley as a possible heavyweight title contender, but didn’t mention who the heavyweight champ is. Reader, tell me who it is right now without Googling it. Well, it is Vitaly Minakov, who beat Alexander Volkov for the belt last year and most recently defended it against Cheick Kongo in April. I just wanted Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith, who are both excellent broadcasters, to talk for like 10 seconds about who the champ is.

Lashley vs Minakov is the best fight Bellator can do at heavyweight right now, but Minakov is undefeated at 14-0 and has wins against real guys. Lashley would be a heavy favourite to lose, although he is the far more marketable of the two as heavyweight champ.

Another thing that annoyed me was the reaction on Twitter to Lashley’s win. So many people were talking about how the fight look fixed. The fight did not look anything like a fixed fight. It was a pretty typical heavyweight fight between two mid-level guys. Because Lashley is a pro wrestler, if he loses, people jump all over him saying that he sucks. If he wins, well, the fight must be fixed because a pro wrestler would never win. So, Lashley eats shit either way. That ignores decades of MMA history with pro wrestling guys as top fighters around the world. Anyone who thinks Lashley won a fake fight has clearly not watched enough fights to know what an actual fake fight looks like, and anyone who thinks pro wrestlers are always bad at MMA no matter what and thus need to be protected by fixing fights has probably been watching MMA for about three days.

In the undercard, Marloes Coenen beat Annalisa Bucci with a choke at 0:57 of round three. Coenen was expected to finish Bucci early, and although Coenen dominated the fight, she took longer than expected to finish. Coenen acknowledged in the post-fight interview that she had a bit of ring rust, as her last match was July 13th, 2013, a loss to Cris Cyborg. Coenen also thanked Scott Coker for bringing her into Bellator during a down time in her career, since her last win was December 31st, 2012, in Japan. Coker gave Coenen her first break in MMA, signing her to Strikeforce in 2009, where she won the Bantamweight title.

I’m not really sure where Bellator is going with her, though. All of the top featherweight women’s fighters are in Invicta, which is closely affiliated with the UFC. The only possible opponents for Coenen that would have any draw at all would be Cris Cyborg and Gina Carano. I don’t see either of them signing with Bellator, and Cyborg beat Coenen via TKO last year anyway.

Coenen seems like she would be a better fit dropping back down to bantamweight in Invicta and competing for a spot in the UFC. If she did well, she would be a possible future opponent for Ronda. Maybe there is a reason why Coenen doesn’t do this that I am unaware of, but it seems like the better career move. Coenen didn’t look that great here, and she has been fighting since 2000, so she might simply be past her prime. I don’t even know what Bellator could do with her right now, though.

In the opener, Dave Jansen beat Rick Hawn via unanimous decision. Two judges had it 30-27 and one 29-28. The entire fight was almost all standing and was fairly dull. Jansen continually landed low kicks and body kicks with no response by Hawn, the latter of whom spent the fight basically boxing. Jansen is a tournament winner still owed a shot at the Lightweight title, and will probably fight the winner of Will Brooks vs Michael Chandler sometime next year.

Briefly, looking at Bellator’s potential main events in early 2015 we have the Newton vs McGeary title fight, Lashley vs Minakov title fight, and the title fight with the winner of Brooks vs Chandler defending against Jansen. Brandon Halsey is the Middleweight champ and could fight the winner of Melvin Manheof vs Joe Schilling from November 15th, opponents Halsey would probably dominate. Paul Bradley and Michael Page are both possible opponents for Doug Lima’s Welterweight title. Daniel Strauss is a possible opponent for Freire’s Featherweight title, as is the winner of Richman vs Nam Phan in November. There’s no one to fight Joe Warren for the Bantamweight title, with the exception of a rematch with Dantas. The promotion also has Rampage, King Mo, Tito, and Bonnar somewhere in the mix.

None of those title fights are going to draw the big ratings that Bellator would require for a semi-regular big show. These are okay main events for their monthly shows, but to do shows every so often at the level of the November 15th show, the promotion is going to need to match the older UFC names they have signed to their homegrown stars in order to draw in casual interest and hopefully create new stars.

Bellator 130 takes place tonight at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. It is Bellator’s final show of its 11th season until they return with the November 15th special headlined by Tito Ortiz against Stephan Bonnar in San Diego.

In many ways, tonight’s show is the final of the Bjorn Rebney era of Bellator. Beginning in 2015 they are moving away from the weekly seasonal schedule to a schedule of running monthly shows year round. They also plan on running the occasional big show on Spike. The special on November 15th will be the model going forward for the occasional big shows promoted by Bellator.

Last week’s show was their worst of the season and expectedly drew the worst rating. The show drew 564,000 viewers, and peaked at 780,000. The eleventh season average has been 668,143. The live+3 rating for last week’s show was 683,000 and peaked at 948,000. The peak was at 10:26 pm, which was before the Bradley-Neer main event was even on. The large increase in the live rating to the live+3 probably means people were saving the show to watch later because they were waiting to hear if the show was worth watching.

It wasn’t. It was a lackluster show headlined by two dull fights (Bradley-Neer, Alexander-Zwicker) that both unexpectedly went the distance. There was no title fight on the card, nor any other fight of consequence. And it has nothing to do with last week’s rating, but if you didn’t watch the prelims on Spike’s web site (my guess is none of you did), they were some other kind of awful. People have been complaining about the fights that aired on Spike last week, but they were masterpieces compared to some of the fights Bellator did on the prelims. Those prelims included a welterweight women’s fight featuring one opponent in her mid-thirties who had never competed before in MMA and ended with the winner dancing in front of John McCarthy.

Bellator’s peak rating for this season was for the September 12th show, which drew 771,000 viewers. It was headlined by Emanuel Newton defending the Light-Heavyweight title against Joey Beltran. Beltran had no business getting a title shot, so that rating would have been drawn solely for the attraction of Newton defending the title.

Although there has been an overall downward trend in Bellator’s ratings this season, Newton returns to defend the title against a more deserving contender tonight, so perhaps that trend will be reversed. Newton’s opponent is Linton Vassell, who isn’t a name, but has won 9 fights in a row, including 3 in Bellator, so although no one knows who he is, at least people aren’t making jokes about it like with Newton’s title defense against Beltran.

Tonight’s show also has a competitive lightweight match between Rick Hawn and Dave Jansen; the debut of women’s featherweight Marloes Coenen, formerly of Strikeforce; and, Bobby Lashley against Karl Etherington, an undefeated bloke from England with a 9-0 record. There are also 8 prelim fights airing on spike.com. And only one of them is at catchweight, so isn’t that something.

Newton vs Vassell – Light-Heavyweight title

Newton, 30, is defending the Light-Heavyweight title. He’s one of the few premier fighters in the promotion, although with Bellator it is hard to gauge how good many of their top guys are because they frequently don’t fight the best of competition. Newton is 24-7-1 and 7-1 in Bellator. His only loss in Bellator was via split-decision to Attila Vegh in 2012. He avenged that loss by beating Vegh via split-decision earlier this year to win the title. He’s won six fights in a row and is known for his spinning back fist finisher.

Vassell, 31, is 14-3 with 1 NC. He is 3-0 in Bellator. 7 of his wins have come by KO/TKO, but he has won 2 of his 3 Bellator fights via submission by rear naked choke. He’s from Britain and has won 9 straight fights.

Whoever wins has a few possible challengers. Between Newton and Vassell, Vassell is the fresher of the two with more possible opponents. Rampage isn’t interested in fighting Newton, even though he is the obvious contender. There is no reason for him to be unwilling to fight Vassell, though, should Vassell win the title tonight. Newton has beaten King Mo twice, whereas Vassell and Mo have never fought. Mo is fighting Tom DeBlass on the November 15th show in a fight Mo should win.

The winner of Tito Ortiz vs Stephan Bonnar is a possible title fight, too, if either of them is interested in fighting for the title. It would make for a good major show headline and either Newton or Vassell would be favoured to beat whoever wins between Ortiz and Bonnar. There is also the undefeated Liam McGeary and former UFC name Houston Alexander as possible opponents, not so much for the title, but to setup future title matches.

If Vassell wins the title, I would be looking to setup Vassell vs Rampage. I would book the winners of the Tito-Bonnar fight and the Mo-DeBlass fight against one another and then probably do Newton vs Alexander in a rehab match for Newton.

If Newton retains, which is likely, options are more limited because he can’t fight Rampage or Mo, unless they want to give Mo a title shot after two previous losses to Newton. The logical challenger for Newton would be the winner of Tito vs Bonnar, but who knows if that person even wants to fight for the Bellator title. Otherwise they would have to book Newton vs McGeary, because there really isn’t anyone else. With Newton winning and facing the winner of Tito-Bonnar, I would book Rampage against Alexander and probably King Mo against the loser of Tito-Bonnar. If they do Newton vs McGeary, then I would do the winner of Tito-Bonnar vs Mo and still Rampage vs Alexander.

Lashley vs Etherington – Heavyweight

Lashley, 38, is of course a pro wrestling star who splits his time between Bellator and TNA, although with TNA’s TV situation that might not be for long. He is 11-2 in MMA and 1-0 in Bellator. He’s also 1-1 in Strikeforce. TNA finished taping TV a bit ago, which has allowed Lashley to focus on training MMA.

Etherington, 39, isn’t young, but he is 9-0, mostly fighting in England. He is 1-0 in Bellator. Except for one win via DQ, he has finished all of his fights in the first round. He’s actually a real find for Bellator. Prior to beating Jason Fish in 3:45 in Etherington’s Bellator MMA, the longest an opponent has managed to last against Etherington is 50 seconds.

Bellator’s heavyweight division is shallow, which is what makes Etherington a real find for Bellator. Still I question the judgement of putting Lashley in against him this early in the game. Etherington is good, but he has no name value, so there is only downside in this fight for Lashley. It would make more sense to groom Lashley against a few carefully selected opponents and then, assuming he wins those fights, put him against heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov. Assuming Lashley loses against Minakov, at least they could headline with that fight. But in this circumstance Etherington will probably win and that will probably put him in line for a heavyweight title shot.

The only other major heavyweights in Bellator are Cheick Kongo, Javy Ayala, Blagoy Ivanov, and former champ Alexander Volkov. Minakov has already beat both Volkov and Kongo, and Volkov beat Ivanov in a tournament final, which really just leaves Ayala and the winner of Lashley-Etherington as possible contenders.

Dave Jansen vs Rick Hawn – Lightweight

This is a solid striker vs grappler fight between two skilled guys. Jansen, 35, is 19-2. He is undefeated in Bellator at 6-0. In WEC, he went 1-2, including a decision loss to Ricardo Lamas. His only other loss was via decision, too. Jansen won the season seven lightweight tournament last year, but never got the chance to fight for the belt. He’s won 10 fights via submission, all by choke.

Hawn, 38, is 18-3 career and 10-3 in Bellator. He has competed in the promotion’s welterweight and lightweight divisions, winning a welterweight tournament once and going to the finals another time, losing via split-decision to Jay Hieron. He also won a lightweight tournament. He lost in his lightweight title shot via submission to Michael Chandler and in his most recent fight lost in the title match for the vacant welterweight title via TKO against Doug Lima. Hawn has 11 TKOs.

The lightweight division is one of the deepest for Bellator, mainly because the lightweight division is one of the deepest in all of MMA. Wil Brooks and Michael Chandler are fighting over the Lightweight title on November 15th, which was vacated by Eddie Alvarez when he left for UFC. Whoever wins this fight between Hawn and Jansen could be in line for the next title shot. Marcin Held, Ryan Couture, and Alexander Sarnavskiy are all possible title contenders, too.

Marloes Coenen vs Annalisa Bucci – Women’s Featherweight

Clearly a showcase match for Coenen, 33, who is 21-6 and making her Bellator debut. She is 1-1 in Invicta and 3-2 in Strikeforce. She’s a former Strikeforce Bantamweight champion, who lost the title to Miesha Tate in 2011. She holds wins over Sarah Kaufman and Liz Carmouche, but losses to Tate, Roxanne Modaferri, and last year to Cris Cyborg in Coenen’s latest fight.

Bucci, 31, is a thai boxer from Italy with a 7-3 record in MMA.

Coker was a major promoter for women’s MMA in Strikeforce. Coenen is one of the best in her weight class, but I’m not sure if there’s really much point in having her in Bellator because there really isn’t anywhere to go with her. All of the best featherweights are in Invicta, which is closely affiliated with UFC, and the best in that division that are able to cut down to bantamweight are going to do so to compete in UFC. There are also few major opponents for Coenen at featherweight. The biggest would be Cyborg, but Cyborg is cutting down to bantamweight to get into UFC for a major fight with Ronda, and Cyborg beat Coenen in Invicta just last year anyway.

Tonight’s card is a significantly better show than what Bellator has offered for the last few weeks and it will be interesting to see how their main events shake out for shows in 2015.

William Patolino Macario [+195] vs. Neil Magny [-250] – Welterweight

Patolino, 23, is 7-1 and 1-1 in UFC. He is coming off a brutal win over Bobby Voelker in a fight that probably would have been stopped if Voelker didn’t have such an amazing chin. Prior to that fight he debuted in the UFC with a submission loss to Leonardo Santos via triangle choke. 5 of Patolino’s wins have come via TKO/KO.

Patolino beat and bloodied Voelker with fast striking in a fight that someone with a weaker chin than Voelker would have been knocked out. His loss to Santos was in the finals of season two of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. Santos submitted him at 4:43 of the second round with a triangle. Patolino was able to take him down and score on the ground during the first. But in the second Patolino gassed and Santos was able to take him down and get mount, finishing him with the triangle.

Magny, 27, is 12-3 and 5-2 in UFC. He’s coming into this fight with four straight wins. 7 of his 12 wins have come via decision. His two losses in the UFC were to Seth Baczynski via decision and Sergio Moraes via submission, both in 2013.

Magny is somewhat of a dull fighter that likes to score with takedowns and pound from there. But he is also susceptible to being taken down himself. He beat Garcia in a close fight where Garcia’s knee went out in the second round, but was still able to finish the match and even slam Magny after the knee was done.

Magny also holds wins over Rodrigo de Lima, Tim Means, Gasan Umalatov and Jon Manley. He beat Manley and Umalatov by taking them down and doing a better job controlling the ground game. The fight against Means was closer and Magny was only really able to win it in the final couple of minutes. De Lima also almost beat Magny by triangling him in the first round, but Magny came back to TKO him in the second.

In his loss to Baczynski, Magny was able to come back in the third round, but was too late to get the decision. Sergio Moraes was able to take Magny down and mount him, before submitting him with a triangle in the first round.

Magny has a lot of long fights. Patolino has a tendency to gas, although his stamina was much better in his win over Voelker. Magny could win by taking him down and scoring. Patolino will want to keep it standing and as long as he doesn’t gas should score points that way. Patolino is a great striker with potential, but I don’t think Magny is a good matchup for him as I’m not sure if Patolino can stop Magny. But if Patolino can avoid the takedowns and not gas out, then I think he can win this one, so he’s my pick via decision.

Yan Cabral [-600] vs. Naoyuki Kotani [+400] – Lightweight

Cabral, 31, is 11-1 and 1-1 in UFC. 10 of his 11 wins have come by submission. He debuted in 2013 with a decision win over David Mitchell, but lost via decision earlier this year to Zak Cummings. He also holds a win in Dream over a broken down Kazushi Sakuraba in 2011. Cabral trains with Nova Uniao.

Cabral was able to beat Mitchell by controlling Mitchell on the ground throughout all three rounds. In his loss to Cummings, Cabral was able to win the first round by getting a takedown and a mount and by going for a triangle earlier in the round. But in the last two rounds Cummings was able to mount Cabral as well as take his back and was landing more on the ground, which won Cummings the decision.

Kotani, 32, is 33-11-7 in MMA and 0-3 in UFC. His most recent UFC fight was a loss to Norman Parke via TKO in July. Kotani is a bit undersized for lightweight and I’m surprised that he hasn’t moved down a class. He started his career back in 2001 in RINGS. When that promotion folded he signed with ZST. He had his first run in the UFC in 2007, losing both fighters against Dennis Siver and Thiago Tavares. He returned to the promotion with the loss against Parke. Parke stopped Kotani at 3:41 of the second round after nearly stopping Kotani at the end of the first round. Parke dominated Kotani in the first round, taking his back and hitting him with elbows. In the second, Parke took him down again and pounded him for the finish.

They’re both submissions guys. Cabral has never won by TKO/KO, so I don’t see Kotani in danger of being stopped here like he was against Parke. Kotani has only been submitted once, a few years ago in ZST, and Cabral has never been submitted or stopped. If any fight on this card is going to a decision, it’s this one. Cabral seems like he has more upside, so I’ll pick him by decision, but this could go either way. This probably won’t be a real exciting match, either, unless you’re really into grappling.

Scott Jorgensen [+125] vs. Wilson Reis [-155] – Flyweight

Jorgensen, 32, is 15-9 and 11-8 in UFC and WEC combined. 5 of his wins have come by submission. He’s going into this fight after a win over Danny Martinez via decision in June. Prior to that he lost three fights in a row. Jorgensen is a guy who has been around forever, but has great fights, so even if he doesn’t win too often, he is frequently exciting. UFC’s flyweight division has little depth, so as long as he can win sometimes and do so in exciting fights, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to stick around. But as he advances deeper into his thirties he may need to drop the ‘Young Gun’s moniker.

He’s been in the fight of the night three times in the UFC and twice in WEC. That includes his most recent fight against Martinez. Jorgensen scored 16 takedowns against Martinez throughout their fight en route to getting the decision. Martinez, though, was able to bloody Jorgensen and looked close to getting a TKO a couple of times both early and late in the fight.

Jorgensen’s other fight in 2014 was a controversial loss to Jussier Formiga in March. Formiga hit Jorgensen with an accidental headbutt, dropping him. Formiga followed up with a choke for the win. It was a fight that in retrospect should have been ruled a no-contest, but it wasn’t.

Jorgensen’s only other fight at flyweight was against Zach Makovsky last December. Makovsky looked better in striking and scoring more on the ground, trying to get a choke in the final minute of the fight. Makovsky got a decision in a close fight.

Reis, 29, is 18-5 and 2-1 in UFC. He’s coming off a win over Joby Sanchez via decision in August. Prior to that he lost a split-decision to Iuri Alcantara in February and beat Ivan Menjivar via decision in Reis’ UFC debut last year. Earlier in his career Reis fought in Bellator and Elite XC, where he racked up wins over Bryan Caraway and Zach Makovsky, as well as losses to Joe Soto, Patricio Freire (twice), and Eduardo Dantas.

Against Sanchez, Reis was able to control the fight on the ground, but got knocked down with a left in the second. Reis was able to score with takedowns over and over again throughout the match, but wasn’t able to finish and won a decision. Reis also got clocked against Alcantara, but didn’t do as well with takedowns and scoring on the ground and lost a close split-decision. Against Menjivar, Reis started slow and again had a hard time standing. But he got the takedowns and controlled the top position, winning a boring decision.

Reis isn’t that much of an exciting fight, so maybe Jorgensen will make this interesting. Jorgensen might be able to TKO Reis. Alternately, Reis may be able to take Jorgensen down over and over and score points to win the decision. I don’t see that happening, as I see Jorgensen taking a decision by not allowing Reis to control top position and scoring more against Reis on their feet.

Felipe Arantes [-105] vs. Andre Fili [-125] – Featherweight

Arantes, 26, is 16-6-1 with 1 NC. He is 3-2-1 in UFC. He’s coming off a decision win over Maximo Blanco in February. 7 of his wins have been by TKO/KO and 4 by submission.

Arantes was able to knock Blanco down in the first round and nearly triangle Blanco in the second en route to winning a decision. In Arantes’ other wins, he stopped Godofredo Pepey in 3:32 when Pepey took Arantes down, but got reversed and Arantes pounded him for the stoppage. He beat Antonio Carvalho by decision, with Carvalho looking better in stand-up, but Arantes pounding him on the ground to get the decision.

Arantes’ losses were to Kevin Souza and Iuri Alcantara and he had a draw with Milton Vieira that could have been judged either way. Souza was better in stand-up, even though Arantes was able to take him down and pound him. Arantes actually looked better in stand-up against Alcantara, but Alcantara was able to take him down in a close fight. The drew with Vieira was also a close fight with two judges split and the third judge going 28-28.

Fili, 24, is 13-2 and 1-1 in UFC. He is coming off a loss to Max Holloway via submission in April. His debut in UFC was a win over Jeremy Larsen last October. His only other loss came early in his career and was due to a knee injury. He trains with Team Alpha Male. He’s also pretty big for a featherweight.

Fili showed great striking ability against Larsen, bloodying him in the first round before stopping him in the second. Against Holloway, Fili started out strong, but faded as the fight went on. By the time the third round came around, Holloway was hurting Fili with punches and Fili went for the takedown, but left himself open for the guillotine and got tapped in a pretty novice mistake.

Arantes has never been stopped, so I’m not sure if Fili can TKO him. I feel like Fili is the better overall fighter, but that he doesn’t match up favourably against Arantes because Arantes should be able to take him down and either stop him or win a decision.

Preliminary card (UFC Fight Pass):

Gilbert Burns [-340] vs. Christos Giagos [+260] – Lightweight

Burns, 28, is making his lightweight debut after defeating Andreas Stahl at welterweight in his UFC debut in July. He’s undefeated at 8-0 with only his fight against Stahl having gone the distance. 4 of his wins have come by submission and 3 by KO/TKO. He made his MMA debut in 2012. He also has a ton of medals in BJJ.

Burns displayed good boxing against Stahl, but expended a lot of energy inefficiently trying to take Stahl down. Burns has a good right uppercut and does this move where he throws a spinning elbow up when he breaks out of the clinch. He has good cardio as he was still pushing the fight against Stahl deep in the third round.

Giagos (pronounced Ya-Goes), 24, is making his UFC debut. He is 10-2. His MMA debut was in 2010. 6 wins have come by KO/TKO and 2 by submission. His two losses were via submission, both by choke. One was via brabo choke, which is unusual to see in no-gi grappling like MMA. That was against a fighter named Jason Gonzales (6-2) in 2012. Giagos had been taking Gonzales down consistently throughout the first round. In the second, Giagos went for a double and Gonzales was able to submit him with a brabo.

The other loss was to Poppies Martinez (29-11), who currently fights in Bellator. Poppies submitted Giagos with a guillotine in 4:27. Giagos is clearly susceptible to the choke, especially when looking for the takedown.

Giagos, though, is coming off winning the Resurrection Fighting Lightweight title over Dakota Cochrane (who recently debuted on short notice Bellator) in August. Giagos was a +180 underdog going in and was probably behind on the scorecards when he blasted Dakota with a flying knee at 2:04 of the second round. Giagos has good hips, very agile, and good takedowns, but leaves himself open to get reversed or even choked on the ground. If not for the knockout, Cochrane actually looked like the more skilled fighter of the two.

This fight favours Burns. Standing, Giagos might have an edge, but Burns has good boxing, so that’s hard to say. Giagos has good takedowns, but Burns is an excellent grappler and Giagos probably won’t be able to hold up on the ground against him. Burns seems like the more complete fighter and should be able to move up against better competition with a win here.

Fabrício Camões [-135] vs. Tony Martin [+105] – Lightweight

Both of these guys are on the bubble. Camoes, 35, is coming into this fight after two straight losses. He is 14-8-1 in MMA and 2-3-1 combined between UFC and Strikeforce. 7 of his wins have come by submission. He was cut by UFC after a submission loss to Kurt Pellegrino in 2010, but came back in 2012 with a submission win over Tommy Hayden. Since then he has back-to-back losses to Melvin Guillard (decision) and Jim Miller (submission). Camoes is also a BJJ black belt.

He beat Hayden in the first round with a rear naked choke. He didn’t look as good in his fights against Guillard and Miller. The fight against Guillard was exciting and a good back-and-forth match, but Guillard showed improvement in his ground game against Camoes. Camoes was able to take him down throughout the fight, but wasn’t able to submit him or just keep him down and Guillard won a decision by scoring with more strikes. Camoes looked bad against Miller, being submitted with an armbar in the first round.

Martin, 24, is also coming into the fight after two straight losses. He is 8-2 in MMA and 0-2 in UFC. His two losses were to Dariush via submission and Rashid Magomedov via decision, both from earlier this year. 6 of his 8 wins have been by submission. In both of these losses, Martin looked good early in the fight, but faded as the fight went on. He nearly finished Magomedov with an armbar in the first round of their fight, but had a harder time taking Magomedov down in later rounds and couldn’t last with him standing. Against Dariush, Martin’s stand-up looked better, but Dariush was able to take him down in the first and second rounds and eventually choked him out in the second.

Camoes is 11 years older than Martin and this might be Camoes’ last shot at sticking. Martin might get cut with a loss, but even if so, there’s a chance that he could improve in the indies and come back. There’s less of a chance of that happening if Camoes gets cut. This is a match between two submissions guys who have both been submitted in the UFC. It could go either way, but I’ll go with Martin based on upside potential.

Felice Herrig defeated Heather Clark by decision, winning both rounds at the end of episode five of season twenty of The Ultimate Fighter.

Watching the first four episodes, I felt that Herrig was one of the personalities with the most star potential among the women competing in the tournament. But it wasn’t until I got to see her fight on the show, and to see the build for that fight during this episode, that I realized Herrig has potential as a drawing card at 115 pounds. She’s attractive, charismatic, and is at least a good fighter, although it’s difficult to say if she is a good enough fighter to hang with the best women at 115.

There are a few problems, though. I’m not sure of the value of introducing a second women’s division into the UFC right now. UFC is still developing depth in the women’s bantamweight division and they haven’t made any stars in that division outside of Ronda and Miesha. Ronda is one of the promotion’s biggest stars in any weight class. But other than Miesha, UFC is still working on creating new stars as possible opponents for Ronda, or even taking over from Ronda should she decide to leave fighting behind and go the Hollywood route full-time.

Because UFC is still developing the women’s bantamweight division, introducing a second women’s division makes things more difficult for fans to follow. One of the biggest knocks against the UFC in the past few years has been the continual addition of weight divisions. It sounds like a good idea on paper, to give fighters more opportunities to fight at better weights. But it adds so many additional titles that it makes it difficult for casual fans to keep up with who the champions are, let alone who the legit contenders are. Adding another women’s division amplifies that problem and makes it difficult for any one or two individual fighters in the women’s strawweight division to stand out as new stars.

There are advantages in having a women’s strawweight division, too, though. UFC makes a lot of money by producing television content, and they need fights to produce that content. More TV means more fighters which mean more weight classes and more titles. The additional classes and titles makes the promotion more difficult for fans to follow and harder for new stars to get over because the focus from fans is divided into so many areas, but that is offset by the additional revenue from producing tons of TV. Whether that additional revenue is worth it will be revealed in UFC’s long-term success as a business.

I’ve always been afraid that UFC won’t stop adding titles. There aren’t so many titles in the UFC right now that things are too confusing, but if the promotion continues to add belts it will eventually make almost all of them meaningless. It will become like boxing where you need a scientific calculator to figure out who is champion of what. One might say that UFC has added all the weight divisions for men they possibly can, but that is precluding the idea of breaking weight divisions up. For example, King of the Cage has a Cruiserweight title, which is 230 pounds. It would be a terrible idea for the UFC to do this, but who knows what will happen in the next few years. Another example would be adding something like a Junior Welterweight title at 160, or splitting the Middleweight division up into Middleweight and Super Middleweight, or whatever. All terrible ideas. But if UFC decides they need more titles because they need more title matches due to running so many TV shows, these titles could happen.

There’s also another advantage, however, of introducing the women’s strawweight division, as it allows smaller women who couldn’t possibly fight in the bantamweight division to get a shot in the UFC. The women’s strawweight division would make more sense, though, if there was a particular woman who had so much star potential that it was worth creating a whole new additional weight division just to be able to market her. Creating the women’s bantamweight division was worth it to have Ronda Rousey, because she draws money.

If there is anyone at from TUF 20 with that kind potential, I think it is Herrig. But it is only potential, and perhaps not even much. There are other women on the show who are probably better fighters. Carla Esparza is more skilled, but less charismatic. And there are certainly women who are not on the show who are better fighters than Herrig, such as Claudia Gadelha, who is in UFC, but wasn’t included in the cast because her English is poor. Also, Jessica Aguilar is probably the best fighter worldwide at 115, but she is the champ in WSOF. And the best all-time at that weight is Megumi Fujii, recently retired. There are also other charismatic women on the show, such as Bec Rawlings and Rose Namajunas. But I get the sense that whoever wins the title here is probably going to end up fighting Gadelha or even Aguilar at some point and will drop the belt to them. I also don’t think anyone in the tournament will beat Carla Esparza. Esparza holds wins in the past over Herrig and Rawlings, but losses to Aguilar and Fujii. It makes this show feel like it is really missing something by not having Aguilar on it. Paige VanZandt is another fighter with star potential missing from this show. She is fighting in UFC, but was excluded from this cast because it was felt she was too young.

Even though I think Herrig appears to have the most star potential from the cast, I don’t think she has the potential to be a star at the level of Ronda, Gina Carano, or even Miesha. I think her look is too similar to Ronda’s. I don’t think she is a top level fighter in that weight division, let alone in any weight division, like the way Ronda or Cyborg are perceived. The last thing that anyone would want is for Herrig to be perceived as a second-rate, smaller Ronda. Herrig is charismatic and attractive, though, which means there is also always the risk of her leaving for Hollywood should she become a star in the UFC. Gina’s acting career hasn’t exactly set Hollywood on fire, but that doesn’t mean Herring won’t be given offers if UFC does indeed make her into a star.

The season is only five episodes in, though, so the personalities of these women still have the opportunity for development. Next week Aisling Daly fights Angela Magana. Daly has been a ghost on this show. I don’t think she has gotten more than 30 seconds of screen time altogether. I doubt most people watching the show even know how to pronounce her first name, it’s that bad. I’ve watched her fight in Cage Warriors from Britain and was pleasantly surprised when I found out she was added to the cast. She is a better fighter than her record indicates. Magana, on the other hand, is a natural heel.

I think there is potential for whoever emerges from this season as a star to become a drawing card on smaller UFC shows. And the person made into a star isn’t necessarily whoever wins the belt because I’m not sure how much meaning this belt really has. I just don’t see any new stars being created here that could headline a pay per view. If someone does become a star out of this season, I think it would be Herrig, but a lot of work needs to be done to get there.