Four of the world's top MMA promotions (UFC, Bellator, ONE, PFL) held events this weekend. Usually, I don't love this because that means some shows are happening at the same time, but -- wouldn't you know it -- none of them overlapped this week. How about that?
All four shows had notable moments, but none was bigger than the triumphant return of Urijah Faber on Saturday night in his hometown of Sacramento. I still can't get over that win. It might be my favorite moment of the year so far.
Now, is another title shot in his future? That remains to be seen, but if I'm being honest, I don't really care about that right now.
Let's just appreciate the fact that MMA comebacks, especially when the fighter is in his or her 40s, are often really sad to watch. What Faber did this weekend doesn't happen often. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Here are some more thoughts on the week that was and to come:
1. You'll recall I hated the Urijah Faber vs. Ricky Simon booking when it was first announced. I thought Simon was too tough, too young and too fresh for the 40-year-old Faber. It's not that I didn't think Faber could beat Simon, I just didn't understand why the fight needed to happen. The oddsmakers seemed to agree, because Faber was a plus-320 underdog last I checked. I said this all to Faber when he was on the show recently. Of course, he didn't agree. That's what makes him a fighter.
Well, I should have known better, and that's the last time I will ever question "The California Dad."
I thought Faber had a shot at winning, but I definitely didn't see a 46-second TKO coming. I have no problem admitting I have a soft spot in my heart for Faber. He's a pioneer and a trailblazer and has always been a pleasure to cover. He's a great guy who happens to be my mom's favorite fighter, as well. He was also the first and last guest to appear on "The MMA Hour" during my nine-year run as host. Hence the soft spot. So I was really happy to see him get that moment in Sacramento. As I said all week long, there are few scenes greater in our sport than a Faber fight in Sactown. That one felt like the old WEC days, minus the blue mat. It was magical.
2. OK, fine, let's talk about what's next: I know Faber mentioned Henry Cejudo, and their Twitter back and forth has been fun, but I think that might be a tad premature. There's a good story to be told one day, though, if it comes to fruition. Cejudo trained at Team Alpha Male for a little while after he won Olympic gold in 2008 and while he was considering the move to MMA. Cejudo has also talked about Faber recently, but he's out for the rest of the year nursing his surgically repaired shoulder, and Aljamain Sterling, Petr Yan and Joseph Benavidez have all earned their crack at him. Such is the life when you're a double champion. However, one more win for Faber and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets that shot. Something also tells me Faber, who has three fights left on his deal, will want to be active to fight out his contract. He sees these big-money deals other legends are getting and he's ready to cash in. Deservedly so.
3. I know Faber's nemesis, TJ Dillashaw, will be out for the next year and a half serving his suspension, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I immediately thought of that fight after Faber's win. What a massive grudge match that would be in Dillashaw's first fight back. Saturday's win got us one step closer to that one, too.
4. Referee Herb Dean's decision to stop the main event when he did was unfortunate on two fronts: (A) It was premature. I have yet to see a single person say it was the right call. Was it egregious? Not really, but Aspen Ladd was never fully out and should have been given more time to defend herself. She was dazed but not out. (B) It overshadowed what should have been a huge moment for Germaine de Randamie, and, let's be honest, she desperately needed a positive moment to help distance herself from that nightmare in 2017 (you know, when she beat Holly Holm in controversial fashion and then vacated the title rather than defend it against Cris Cyborg).
The decision to stop the fight shouldn't take anything away from what de Randamie did in there, but I know it will. I see it already. Lest we forget, the Dutchwoman is one of the greatest strikers in women's MMA history. They used to call her "the female Anderson Silva." She also hasn't lost a fight since her 2013 loss to Amanda Nunes, so there's a great backstory if she does get the next title shot at 135. As for whether she'll get that rematch, I think we need to wait and see what happens when Cyborg meets Felicia Spencer in a couple of weeks. If Cyborg wins and re-signs with the UFC (no gimme, I know), I think the UFC will book Nunes vs. Cyborg 2 at 145 pounds. That's the biggest fight available. If Spencer wins, GDR might have a solid shot. Either way, GDR appears to be next or one win away from fighting for gold again, and I think it's time we move on from her forgettable 2017.
5. We'll never know for sure, but I wonder how Ladd's scary weigh-in scene affected her ability to take that punch. That was really hard to watch. Or whether Dean was quick to jump in because of what happened on the scale. Regardless, I'd like to see her test the waters at 145. She appears to have way too much trouble making 135. We've seen a slew of fighters enjoy great success fighting closer to their natural weight these days, so why not give it a shot? Ladd is just 24 years young. She is also very talented. I believe she will fight for a belt before her career is over. Why continue to struggle making weight when 145 is available and is as shallow as can be right now? Give it a shot, Aspen. I suspect you'll like it up there.
6. Nice to see Josh Emmett enjoy success this year. I was afraid he would have to retire after the devastating facial injuries he suffered in February 2018 during his controversial loss to Jeremy Stephens. That's two solid wins in a row versus two tough opponents in Mirsad Bektić and Michael Johnson. I'd like to see him fight someone such as Chan Sung Jung or Arnold Allen next.
7. I honestly don't understand how people don't enjoy watching Ryan Hall compete. I genuinely love every minute of his fights. They are different and fun. I'm captivated the entire time. You need Ryan Halls on your roster, and I wish people would appreciate him more. By the way, he has now won eight in a row and four straight in the UFC. The results speak for themselves. Embrace the oddity, my friends. Different is good. Plus, those facial expressions are gold.
8. The Y'all Must've Forgot Award of the night has to go to Julianna Peña. Feels like we had not seen her fight in ages (2½ years, to be exact), and it was fun to see her get a win in her first fight since becoming a mother. Was it a grind? Sure. She is fully aware that her fights are somewhat ugly, but she gets the job done. And she's now 5-1 in the UFC, with her lone loss coming against Valentina Shevchenko. If Nunes fights GDR or the Cyborg-Spencer winner next, I'd like to see her fight Ketlen Vieira.
9. Northern California's Brianna Van Buren is a name to remember at 115. I told you after she won the Invicta one-night strawweight tournament that Daniel Cormier is very high on her. You can see why, right? Her hometown of Gilroy, California, has long been known as the Garlic Capital of the World, but it's also starting to develop a reputation for producing some tough fighters, too.
10. I lost count of how many people wanted to talk to me about Jorge Masvidal-Ben Askren last week. It's been a while since I noticed a non-Conor McGregor fight generate so much chatter outside the MMA bubble. It feels like Masvidal has now reached that Nate Diaz-like territory, especially following his appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show.
Masvidal wants to fight McGregor
Jorge Masvidal says if a title fight vs. Kamaru Usman isn't coming next, he wants Conor McGregor because he sees dollar signs all over his face.
This makes me think he'd actually be the perfect next fight for McGregor if the UFC decides against giving him a title shot next. Imagine McGregor vs. Masvidal in NYC. Problem is, I don't think Masvidal has any interest in going down to 155 these days. But perhaps he'll do it for McGregor? Something tells me he would. Of course, every matchup makes sense for McGregor these days, but it is a little more fun when he has a foil who is willing to push back. Masvidal is that guy.
11. Another great win for Julia Budd, the Bellator women's featherweight champion, on Friday night, which improved her record to 13-2 (her only two losses: Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey in 2011). Still, it feels like she doesn't get talked about enough when people discuss the best current female fighters out there. Why is that? I'm not sure, but I do know Bellator needs to do a show in British Columbia headlined by B.C. natives Rory MacDonald and Budd ASAP. What are they waiting for?
12. Daniel Cormier won the ESPY for best MMA fighter last week. He's not the first MMA fighter to win an ESPY, but the nod represented justice for Cormier. In case you didn't know, the ESPYS are voted by fans. So to see Cormier, who not that long ago felt the fans would never cheer for him, get an award like that proved just how far he's come. Cormier is one of the best and most likable fighters this sport has ever seen. I never understood how anyone could boo him. It's nice to see that people are finally appreciating him.
Harrison takes down Frier, throws heavy punches
Kayla Harrison is in control throughout the entire first round and delivers big punches to Morgan Frier's face. For more PFL, sign up for ESPN+ http://www.espn.com/watch/espnplus
13. The eventual Kayla Harrison vs. Sarah Kaufman tournament final fight in December is going to be great. (And yes, I know they still have to get by their semifinal opponents). Despite her MMA inexperience, I'm leaning toward Harrison in that one because of her strength and dominance. That should close the show Dec. 31.
14. You know how some fighters retire but you have a feeling they will be back at some point? I don't get that feeling from Chad Mendes. I've heard from plenty of people close to him that he just doesn't enjoy fighting anymore. No problem with that. He had a great run. Quite frankly, I'm surprised he never won a title in either the WEC or UFC. Of all the Team Alpha Male products, I thought he'd for sure wear gold at some point. Unfortunately for him, he fought in the Jose Aldo /Conor McGregor era. And while his positive drug test will forever be a part of his legacy, I believe he deserves some credit for coming out and admitting his mistake right away.
15. The same can be said for Gilbert Melendez, who seemed to say he was done fighting last week but stopped just short of using the R word. I asked Melendez why he was vague in his statement, and he said he couldn't promise he'll never fight again. Fair enough. Like Mendes, Melendez does have a PED infraction on his résumé, but also like Mendes, Melendez confronted the misstep head on. Just like Mendes, I don't think that lapse in judgment should define his career.
"El Nino" is one of the all-time great lightweight fighters and, if you ask me, deserved to win the UFC lightweight title in 2012 when he fought Benson Henderson. He's also a great colleague. I enjoy working with Melendez very much. Fun fact: The first MMA article I was paid to write was a Gilbert Melendez feature in late 2006 for The Fight Network. Good times. If this is really it, congrats on a great run, Gilbert.
16. I was going to write that I feel like the Kron Gracie vs. Cub Swanson fight on Oct. 12 is a little too soon for Gracie, especially considering Swanson's striking. But after whiffing on Faber vs. Simon, I'll keep my mouth shut on that one.
18. UFC is back this weekend with a show in San Antonio headlined by Leon Edwards vs. Rafael dos Anjos. That's a really good and important welterweight fight. I guess I shouldn't be surprised it's flying under the radar because that pretty much sums up Edwards' career thus far. Maybe it's because it feels like a top-contender fight, but we don't really know what's at stake? Honestly, I'm not sure what the winner will get, what with the logjam at 170 these days, but it's certainly worth paying attention to.
19. I'm very interested to see how Dan Hooker and Alex Hernandez rebound Saturday night coming off two tough losses, respectively. I still believe both have bright futures at 155, but strong performances are needed this weekend.
20. There's no question Juan Adams represents the toughest fight of Greg Hardy's young career. Hardy has also not yet faced a fighter who will poke at his checkered past, which is something Adams has and will continue to do. Curious to see how Hardy handles both those challenges this week.
Monday's Helwani Show lineup:
1 p.m. ET: Weekend recap
1:05 p.m.: Andre Fili
He will look back at his thrilling win over Sheymon Moraes this weekend.
1:25 p.m.: Ryan Hall
Hall will discuss his victory over Darren Elkins on Saturday.
1:45 p.m.: Alex Hernandez
He will preview his UFC San Antonio fight against Francisco Trinaldo.
2:05 p.m.: Scott Coker
The Bellator president will share some upcoming news regarding the promotion.
2:25 p.m.: Tito Ortiz
He will look ahead to his Combate Americas fight against Alberto del Rio.
2:45 p.m.: Germaine de Randamie
She will discuss her win over Aspen Ladd on Saturday night.
3:05 p.m.: Julianna Peña
Peña will look back at her victory over Nicco Montaño this past weekend.
3:25 p.m.: Urijah Faber
He will recap his incredible win over Ricky Simon and discuss what's next for him.
3:45 p.m.: Valentina Shevchenko
The UFC women's flyweight champ will preview her Aug. 10 main event fight against Liz Carmouche.
4 p.m.: Greg Hardy
He will preview this weekend's fight against Juan Adams.