UFC 178: Who’s on the Hot Seat?

At UFC 178, Demetrious Johnson will attempt to extend his reign as 125-pound champion against Chris Cariaso. However, the main event may not even be one of the more intriguing matchups on the card.

While Cariaso is widely being dismissed as a legitimate threat to Johnson’s belt, some other bouts on the UFC 178 docket should be highly competitive on Saturday. Former Bellator MMA champion Eddie Alvarez will make his UFC debut against Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor will be tested by top five featherweight Dustin Poirier and Tim Kennedy will meet Yoel Romero in a bout that could carry middleweight title shot implications.

Furthermore, Dominick Cruz will return and attempt to take a step toward reclaiming his bantamweight championship against Takeya Mizugaki. Also, Cat Zingano will look to earn a title shot by beating Amanda Nunes in her much-anticipated return.

Most of the fighters mentioned above have never been in better position. However, the following UFC 178 competitors are sitting on hot seats heading into the weekend.

 

Dominick Cruz

Three years ago, Cruz was well on his way toward becoming the greatest bantamweight in MMA history. He may still be, but the former UFC champion hasn’t fought since his successful title defense against Mighty Mouse at UFC Live on Versus 6.

Repeated injuries forced the UFC to strip Cruz of the 135-pound championship. Though, still only 29 years old, Cruz is now back to reclaim his spot atop the bantamweight division.

Before Cruz actually gets a shot at his old belt, he’ll have to prove he’s back to his old form against Mizugaki. With wins in five consecutive fights, Mizugaki is a worthy adversary. If Cruz can win convincingly, it will show that he’s still among the best in the world.

What if Cruz loses and looks nothing like he used to, though?

This whole comeback is built around one question: Is Cruz still the best bantamweight in MMA?

Should it be immediately revealed to him that he isn’t, how will Cruz respond? There’s an outside chance he decides it isn’t worth risking further disappointment and injury to compete at something he can’t excel in any longer.

 

Brian Ebersole

It’s nothing compared to Cruz’s absence, but Brian Ebersole will return from a 10-month hiatus on Saturday.

After starting his UFC career with four straight wins, Ebersole was looking like a potential contender in the welterweight division. Now, Ebersole has lost two in a row and is without a win in the past 26 months.

Facing a tough opponent in John Howard, who has gone 2-1 since returning to the UFC roster, Ebersole isn’t going to have it easy this weekend. However, he could be fighting for his UFC job anyway.

Should Ebersole suffer a third consecutive loss this weekend and fail to put on a show, he could go the way of most who lose three in a row inside the Octagon.

 

Manny Gamburyan

Technically, Manny Gamburyan has not lost consecutive fights, but he did have a loss to Dennis Siver overturned due to his opponent failing a drug test, so it’s been a while since The Anvil has had his hand raised in victory.

Gamburyan‘s most recent win came 13 months ago, when he defeated Cole Miller on the scorecards. 

Having really only lost once in his past three fights, Gamburyan will probably be safe no matter the result of his bout with Cody Gibson. However, should Gamburyan miss weight, which is a real possibility given the fact that he’ll be making his 135-pound debut, and also lose to an unproven featherweight like Gibson, there’s a chance the UFC brass will want to part ways with the former WEC title challenger.

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Even with Win over Eddie Alvarez, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone Won’t Wait for Title Shot

(Warning: Video above contains NSFW language.)

Former WEC title challenger and perennial UFC contender Donald Cerrone could probably get a title shot if he defeats Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178 on Saturday. 

However, if that means waiting on the sidelines for six months, “Cowboy” would say “no, thanks,” based on a recent interview with Sherdog (transcription per MMA Fighting).  

It’s going to be a scrap. Dude throws down. That’s all I know about him. Haven’t really seen him fight, ever. That’s what people tell me. S–t, I’m ready. Never seen Eddie fight, ever. Never, never, never. I’ve seen a picture of him before. That’s it. I don’t watch fights … My teammates, my coaches, my management, they all think we should wait and take the title fight. But, you already know, people who know me, I’m gonna say, ‘Let’s roll. Let’s keep it going.’

Cerrone later added that he isn’t concerned about maintaining his top 10 ranking since his top priority is fighting and making money. 

UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis doesn’t fight top contender Gilbert Melendez until December 6 at UFC 181, so the winner would likely not compete again until March of April of next year.

The Greg Jackson’s MMA standout is currently riding a four-fight win streak (all finishes) and cracks the UFC’s official lightweight rankings at No. 5. 

Cerrone, 31, also compiled four straight victories inside the Octagon between February and October of 2011, but his perfect year was spoiled when he lost a decision to Nate Diaz at UFC 141 in December. 

Whether or not he faces the same letdown against Alvarez remains to be seen. 

Alvarez, a two-time Bellator lightweight titleholder, makes his long-awaited UFC debut at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena this weekend. 

“The Silent Assassin” has fought just three times since October 2012, mostly due to a very public contract dispute with Bellator that lasted for the better part of last year, per MMA Junkie

Even though he might hate it, should Cerrone sit back and relax until he’s booked for a championship fight (if he beats Alvarez), or should he continue his active ways and keep hunting for UFC post-fight bonuses? 

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

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Nevada Commission Shows Different Treatment to Mayweather, Jones, Cormier

LAS VEGAS — An excursion to the Grant Sawyer Building for a Nevada Athletic Commission meeting is always a good source of entertainment.

The Sawyer Building is home to many government offices. It is a stone’s throw from Fremont Street, which is another kind of entertainment entirely. The Sawyer Building, across from Cashman Field, is located in what us Vegas locals refer to as “not the best part of town.” To be fair, “not the best part of town” includes just about anything within five miles of the Las Vegas strip.

Commission meetings are often an exercise in drudgery, but from time to time, they are a wild source of hilarity. Most of the time, this happens when Floyd Mayweather is involved in a hearing of some sort.

Tuesday morning, Mayweather appeared in front of the commission to discuss an episode of Showtime’s All Access reality show in which two members of Mayweather’s gym allegedly fought for 31 minutes in a row while other members of The Money Team wagered on the outcome and one of Mayweather’s girlfriends smoked pot.

As it turned out, almost all of All Access was fake. That’s according to Mayweather, who noted the show was just for entertainment. The marijuana? It was prop marijuana. The 31-minute round of boxing? There were actually five or six breaks. Reality, as most of us know by now, is not reality at all. Mayweather even revealed he has full editorial control over the contents of the show.

And then, as they are wont to do, the commission members thanked Mayweather for agreeing to appear in front of them. He took time out of his busy schedule when he didn’t have to, Commissioner Pat Lundvall said. Commissioner Bill Brady, vying for a role as the grandfatherly member of The Money Team, spoke glowingly of the Mayweather gym and just how gosh-darn professional they are over there.

Never mind that Mayweather was called in front of the commission by subpoena because of highly unprofessional things that were taking place in his gym. You can’t piss off the cash cow, and Mayweather is Nevada’s cash cow.

Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier are not Nevada’s cash cows, however, and so their respective appearances in front of the panel took a different, harsher tone. One can imagine what kind of party Mayweather would’ve been invited to by commission members if only he’d had the temerity to involve himself in a press conference brawl at the MGM Grand.

Nevada deputy attorney general Chris Eccles—one half of the Eccles-Kizer tag team that tried (and failed) to banish Chael Sonnen from the state for life—entered a video of the Jones-Cormier brawl into evidence.

Jones was apologetic, as he has been from the start. Whether this was real groveling or a carefully orchestrated plea to get his punishment reduced, we’ll never know. Whatever the intention, it mostly worked; Jones received a $50,000 fine and has to complete 40 hours of community service in Las Vegas.

The community service portion in a different city is the worst part of a sentence for a man who is about to enter into training camp for the toughest fight of his life. The money? It’s $50,000, but that isn’t much for Jones. He’s a millionaire at this point, and though it’s no drop in the bucket, things could have been so much worse. $50,000 is 10 percent of Jones’ guaranteed purse for the Cormier fight.

Cormier was also fined 10 percent of his purse, a number that comes out to $9,000. He was given 20 hours of community service. But unlike Jones, he’s able to complete his community service in San Jose. The commission decided that most of the blame for the brawl fell squarely on Jones’ shoulders, so it punished him accordingly.

Did it get it right? I think so. Cormier pushed Jones back, but Jones was the man who threw the punch and essentially started the melee. Both men acted in the heat of the moment, but it was Jones who escalated things by throwing the punch. That is the moment when things went from a heated situation to something embarrassing for the sport and for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Commissioner Francisco Aguilar fretted that the brawl would help sell tickets for the event. At the end of the day, he must take this public stance. But his commission’s actions with Mayweather—the constant praise and fawning—makes any kind of public shaming of the Cormier-Jones brawl ludicrous.

Because Nevada and its commission is entirely capable of overlooking these things—as they proved just minutes earlier with Mayweather—so long as they aren’t affecting a presence that can draw in millions of dollars in revenue.

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Wanderlei Silva Banned for Life from MMA, Fined $70,000 by NSAC

The hammer has come down on former Pride champion and MMA legend Wanderlei Silva.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has banned Silva for life from MMA and handed down a sizable $70,000 fine. He was called before the commission in regard to an incident in May where he reportedly ran away from a Nevada State Athletic Commission representative who requested he submit to a random drug test. 

The hearing was broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass.

Silva did not appear at the hearing and did not phone into the proceedings. Instead, he was represented by his lawyer, Ross Goodman, a move which the NSAC expressed displeasure regarding. From the early statements, it was clear that the commission was poised to take particularly strong action against Silva, and it did precisely that.

Silva voluntarily appeared before the commission at a preliminary hearing in June. At the hearing, Silva acknowledged wrongdoing in fleeing from the drug test and claimed that he refused to submit a sample because he was taking banned diuretics to help in the treatment of a wrist injury he suffered during his infamous brawl with Chael Sonnen on the set of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3

Goodman had previously questioned whether or not the Nevada State Athletic Commission had the authority to test Silva at the time. Silva was not licensed to fight and was not in the process of obtaining a license at the time.

However, the commission responded that because the UFC was in the process of promoting a fight involving Silva (being his UFC 178 matchup with Chael Sonnen), he was subject to random drug testing. Because of his flight from the test and apparent refusal to comply with the NSAC, he was hit with a sizable fine and a lifetime ban by the NSAC.

Obviously, this is another sad turn for a man who was once one of the most popular fighters in the sport. While Silva’s run in Pride FC from 2001 through 2006 remains one of the best in MMA history, a 2-6 stretch that featured four vicious knockout losses had many questioning whether or not Silva should retire.

While he would bounce back with wins over Cung Le and Brian Stann, Silva’s oft-silly beef with Sonnen (which saw him actively avoid a matchup with the former light heavyweight and middleweight contender) was not well-received by fans and actually transformed Sonnen from the most reviled figure in Brazilian MMA to one of its biggest heroes.

In all likelihood, this ban effectively ends Wanderlei Silva’s career as a fighter. 

Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

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Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier Fined by NAC for UFC 178 Media Day Brawl

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and 205-pound top contender Daniel Cormier appeared before the Nevada Athletic Commission to discuss their August brawl at a press event. Both fighters received modest punishments that ensures their fight will still go down in Las Vegas, Nevada at UFC 182 on Jan. 3rd. The entire hearing was broadcasted live on UFC Fight Pass.

Jones appeared first, and was quiet and repentant in talking with the Commission, accepting blame for the brawl and basically asked for leniency. In light of Jones’ honesty and claims that he lost his much-hyped sponsorship with Nike due to the brawl (and also had another major sponsor leave the bargaining table), he was given a $50,000 fine and 40 hours of community service.

Jones was quick to take to Twitter afterwards, shrugging off the fine, but expressing concerns regarding how the community service may affect his camp:

Cormier, meanwhile, was slightly less repentant as he largely placed blame on Jones for the altercation for both the initial aggression in touching foreheads and then throwing the punch that set the situation off. Accordingly, he received a lesser penalty with a $9,000 fine (10-percent of his guaranteed purse) and 20 hours of community service:

For those that don’t remember, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier had one of the biggest press conference brawls in MMA history back in August.

The scuffle saw Jon Jones shove UFC Senior Director of Public Relations Dave Sholler off the back of the stage, moved forward, and throw a punch at Cormier.

From there, the two light heavyweights fell off the back of the stage themselves where they proceeded to throw punches before being pulled apart, before Cormier threw his shoe at Jones. Jones then got back onto the stage and howled at the crowd. From there, the two had a heated exchange off-camera (they believed) following an interview on ESPN.

Unsurprisingly, the Nevada Athletic Commission offered a slap on the wrist for Jones and Cormier that left the date and place for the fight untouched. Former light heavyweight and middleweight title contender Chael Sonnen was recently suspended for two years, effectively ending his career, following a failed drug test. Belfort, meanwhile, was offered a faux suspension that still afforded him the opportunity for a December title fight opposite Chris Weidman in Las Vegas.

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