5 Rounds on UFC Dublin’s woes, Bellator 144, Brawling on TUF, a UFC heavyweight fight triangle and the downfall of the Reebok deal

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Updated: October 23, 2015
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Round 1
UFC Dublin loses another main event

Just when you think that things can’t get any worse….

The UFC‘s venture to Dublin this weekend has been a bumpy ride, but it got worse this week with the withdrawal of main eventer Joseph Duffy, scratching his fight with Dustin Poirier. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of the co-main event between heavyweight contenders Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell last week.

It’s a huge blow to a Dublin card that couldn’t even take a weak body shot after the Miocic/Rothwell cancellation. For what its worth, UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor offered to step in on short notice to fight Poirier, who he already once beaten. While I think that Poirier would take the fight, the UFC was in no way interested in putting their big McGregor/Jose Aldo fight in December in harms way by booking McGregor as a fill in. The Irish champion also used the opportunity to bash fellow Irishman Duffy, the last person to beat McGregor. It’s likely that McGregor and Duffy will end up fighting again at some point.

But for now, it is Paddy Holohan and Louis Smolka who have to main even in Dublin this weekend. And while the Irish crowds are always rowdy and will no doubt rally behind countryman Holohan and co-main eventer Norman Parke of Northern Ireland, losing the card’s top four stars will put a dig damper on the party. Not to mention the fact that Holohan/Smolka is in the argument for the worst ever (on paper) UFC main event in the history of the company.

Round 2
Ward and Page make Bellator 144 watchable

Bellator MMA has given some downright uninteresting cards in 2015 and tonight’s Bellator 144 is barely an exception. The reason it is watchable: a pair of longstanding company top-5 welterweights in Michael Page and Brennan Ward. Page is 8-0 in his career and Ward is 2-0 at welterweight after a successful run at middleweight that fell just short of a Bellator 185-pound title.

The pair are both staples of the Sideline Sports Report Bellator Top 5 at welterweight and keep getting matched up against lesser opponents, likely to keep them both as viable title contenders should Scott Coker and Bellator ever figure out what they want to do with a division where the top contender never fights for the title.

And it’s an unfortunate logjam for Page and Ward, who have to be on a collision course to face each other considering that champion Andrey Koreshkov hasn’t fought since July’s title win over Douglas Lima and isn’t booked to defend the title currently. Behind him, Lima has a strong case to get an immediate rematch after holding the title for 455 days before dropping it in July. There is also still Paul Daley, the easy top contender for the belt who was overlooked in favor of Koreshkov when handing out the last title shot.

But the other two contenders are fantastic. Page is a kick boxer who implements karate and kung fu into his game and is one of the most exciting fighters to watch on Bellator’s entire roster. Ward meanwhile is an outstanding wrestler with dynamite in his hands when he chooses to use them. After they both extinguish their no-name opponents at Bellator 144, hopefully Coker finds something better to do with the pair.

Round 3
Team Alpha Male doesn’t like what McGregor has to say, even if he was right

Wednesday’s episode of “The Ultimate Fighter” finally boiled over as UFC fighters Cody Garbrandt and Conor McGregor nearly came to blows. This came after weeks of prodding by McGregor to opposing coach Urijah Faber that now-former Team Alpha Male teammate TJ Dillashaw was a snake in the grass. It was of McGregor’s opinion that Dillashaw disrespected Faber, the man who brought him onto Team Alpha Male essentially out of college, when he bolted Team Alpha Male in favor of training for his last title defense in Colorado with former TAM coach Duane Ludwig.

McGregor prodded at Faber nearly every week and Garbrandt, a member of TAM in Sacramento and one of Faber’s assistant coaches on TUF, gave the interim featherweight champion a shove. While McGregor and Faber’s banter has been fun, lighthearted and enjoyable all season, maybe this little tiff (all while Dillashaw was in the next room getting coffee) makes things a little tenser.

And let’s not forget that this show was filmed months ago and now that Dillashaw has officially bolted Team Alpha Male and he and Faber have become at odds in the media, maybe we know why Faber, Garbrandt and company were so tense after all.

The brawl ended with Dillashaw yelling at McGregor from across the room and making offhanded comments about McGregor’s “fake” interim title, which he won from Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes, implying that because he didn’t win it from the champion, it’s not the real belt. In related news, Dillashaw carries around a title that was also originally an interim belt since former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz never lost his official title. But maybe Dillashaw forgot that.

Round 4
Ben Rothwell is left without a date to the dance

Just one week after Miocic pulled out of his UFC Dublin fight with Rothwell due to injury, he was rebooked to fight Andrei Arlovski at UFC 195 in January. And Rothwell is not amused.

All three men sit at the top of the UFC’s heavyweight division and pending the outcome of the Fabricio Werdum/Cain Velasquez rematch, each of the three could be just one fight, two max, away from a title shot as long as they keep winning. The Miocic/Rothwell meeting was a smart move. When Miocic got hurt, the smart move would have been to rebook the fight down the line shortly or to put Rothwell in the cage with Arlovski, as he requested. The UFC did neither. Rothwell noticed.

Both Rothwell and Miocic are winners of four of their last five and Arlovski has rallied off four straight UFC wins to put the trio at 12-2 in the octagon over the last few years. And it puts the UFC in a tough spot to see who comes out of the grouping alive. Only one other heavyweight who isn’t booked for a title fight could fill in to make this threesome a foursome and that is former champion Junior dos Santos. But, the UFC would love to throw dos Santos the next title shot should Werdum retain in the spring, which makes booking him in a fight he may lose problematic.

So the real loser is Rothwell, who will now sit on the sidelines until another subpar UFC heavyweight gets the call to face him. But fights with Josh Barnett or Mark Hunt, two fighters close to him in the rankings, could be really fun.

Round 5
Is the UFC/Reebok experiment mercifully ending?

Pull almost every single UFC fighter’s fight kit from being sold? Check.

Upset an entire nation, the UFC’s largest new fan base, with a t-shirt that completely ignores a big part of their heritage? Check.

Sounds like Reebok either wants out of this UFC deal badly or they are just ignorant. Just months after fully launching a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal as the sole apparel sponsor of the UFC, Reebok has made some questionable choices this week. Among them was releasing a t-shirt representing UFC Ireland and failing to include Northern Ireland on the graphic map of the country. The shirt also included the more than questionable catchphrase “Show your UFC territorial allegiance,” all but implying that maybe Ireland should tell Northern Ireland to take a hike.

Now, Reebok’s website also only has a handful of fighter kits available, notably the fighters who have their own secondary exclusive deals with the apparel company. With these two new errors and the constant barrage of hate for the uniforms sent Reebok’s way from fans and fighters alike, could this be a quick end to a million dollar idea that turned into a monumental mistake?

Dan Vance

Dan Vance

Dan is a MMA writer for Sideline Sports Report. A basketball enthusiast and coach, Dan is a die-hard Duke basketball fan, who has seen MMA quickly become his second favorite sport. Dan is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, attended IPFW and is a designer for Fort Wayne's The News-Sentinel.

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