GSP and Michael Bisping Drop Puck at Hockey Game, Smack Talk Each Other on Ice

UFC 217 is coming down the pipe pretty quickly, and headliners Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre have indulged in quite a press tour in preparation for the Madison Square Garden showdown.
This week the duo headed north of the border to St-Pierre’s …

UFC 217 is coming down the pipe pretty quickly, and headliners Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre have indulged in quite a press tour in preparation for the Madison Square Garden showdown.

This week the duo headed north of the border to St-Pierre’s home country of Canada and—obviously—spent some time paying their respects to the country’s national winter sport of hockey.

After a heated staredown in Toronto that led to some pushing and St-Pierre terrifying a child backstage with his liberal use of foul language, the pair took their hostilities to an even more public venue on Saturday: the ceremonial puck drop prior to St-Pierre’s hometown Montreal Canadiens facing off against their historic rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

UFC President Dana White hit the ice first, followed by Bisping. Predictably the raucous Montreal crowd vociferously rained boos down on the UFC middleweight champion before St-Pierre appeared to a hero’s welcome and standing ovation.

A former UFC welterweight champion, GSP fought for the strap four times in his hometown and went 4-0 there, most memorably stopping Matt Serra at UFC 83 in the promotion’s first-ever visit to the French center of Canada.

Following the welcome and the puck drop, which White took control of, Bisping and St-Pierre squared off in one of the more unusual settings ever to provide a backdrop for such a happening. With players from both teams lined up on their respective blue lines and 20,000 rabid fans boiling over around them, the fighters themselves in street clothes while Bisping brandished his world title, they struck their poses.

Just as they had in Toronto, the sides each took a turn jaw-jacking before things were broken up, and the publicity run rolled on.

The time for talk will be over on November 4 when they throw down, but for now, check out the video below.

     

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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UFC 216: Derrick Lewis Rises Against Suddenly Reviled Fabricio Werdum

People love Derrick Lewis.
No, seriously. People love him.
He’s the type of character you’d only ever find in mixed martial arts, a brawling wild man who went from troubled youth to tow truck driver to top-flight athlete in a little over a decade.
He’s…

People love Derrick Lewis.

No, seriously. People love him.

He’s the type of character you’d only ever find in mixed martial arts, a brawling wild man who went from troubled youth to tow truck driver to top-flight athlete in a little over a decade.

He’s got some of the best social media in the game. In February, he memorably smashed one of the sport’s most disliked fighters in Travis Browne, took a swipe at his then-girlfriend Ronda Rousey not long after doing it and showed up at the post-fight presser brandishing his very own interim heavyweight title.

He’ll make a poop joke in the cage, muse over the McRibs he lost out on during training camp and offer the likes of Paige VanZant some NSFW advice following a fight pullout.

For fans, he’s a legend. For foes, he’s a nightmare.

Before a stoppage loss to Mark Hunt this past summer, Lewis had won six in a row—five by KO or TKO—and was the hottest heavyweight on Earth. He’s netted three performance bonuses in his UFC career and easily could have been fighting for a world title with a better turn of fate against Hunt.

As he’s increasingly learned the game and rounded out his form, he’s become something to behold. This Saturday he’ll have a chance to show how far he’s come, as he’ll trade shots with former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum at UFC 216 in Las Vegas.

Werdum, interestingly, has suffered a fall to serve as the inverse of Lewis’ rise.

Though he remains as talented an athlete as there is among UFC big men, he’s lost two of three following a four-year undefeated run.

He was once beloved the way Lewis is now: a light-hearted, comedic personality who was known for making funny faces and representing MMA‘s gentle art better than anyone. Unfortunately after a string of hate speech and a penchant for picking fights with guys smaller than him, the whole sport seems to have changed its opinion and no amount of “Werdum Face” can undo it.

Where Werdum’s social media posts are doing things like defending homophobic rants in multiple languages, Lewis’ are documenting his attempts at literally saving lives in the middle of one of the worst hurricanes in recent American history.

Predictably, that resonates with people.

There’s a realness to Lewis that only the most marketable MMA fighters seem to have. While so many fighters waste their time shouting (tweeting?) into the void about the sanctity of world titles or about it being “their time,” men like Lewis are out there making fans by being themselves.

It is fun to watch Lewis carve fellow fighters and fans with his sharp wit, and it all belies a likable impishness that makes you feel like this beast could just as easily be at your family gathering telling jokes and having fun.

Watching him perform at the highest levels of his craft with some of the more exciting outcomes seen in recent memory is something of an icing on the cake.

Werdum’s fall, both in image and recent results, comes at a perfect time for Lewis. As he did with Browne, he gets to serve as something of an agent for fan frustrations by gloving up this weekend.

People are firmly behind him and many are eager to see some karma befall Werdum. Lewis, with his brute strength and brawling style, has a capacity to be very karmic in his violence.

And of course, such a win would catapult him to the very top of the UFC heavyweight rankings (he’s sixth; Werdum second) and probably place him no less than a fight away from a title shot. It’s not a foregone conclusion, as Werdum is an athlete and a talent well above those Lewis has fought prior, but the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been for him.

Show up big and the MMA community will surely rejoice; display a continued development curve to match his popularity, and it might make the next belt he brings to a presser into the real thing.

        

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

8 Fighters with the Best Post-MMA Careers

MMA is a cruel mistress.
For the vast majority of its athletes, they’ll put years into their pursuit and never get near the level of iconography that the very best do. They’ll give mind and body to become the best martial artists they can, quite often …

MMA is a cruel mistress.

For the vast majority of its athletes, they’ll put years into their pursuit and never get near the level of iconography that the very best do. They’ll give mind and body to become the best martial artists they can, quite often reaching unimaginable heights when the cage door closes.

Then, in a blink, it’s gone.

They retire—or perhaps are retired by a younger, hungrier fighter closing the loop and keeping the sport grinding forward—and are left without the buzz they craved for so long.

No fans.

No fun.

No fights.

For the first time in their lives, they’re just another person in line at the grocery store or stuck in traffic, and it’s a little shocking.

That’s why a fighter needs to have a plan for their exit and for the time afterward. While Conor McGregor shrewdly sets himself up to live it up, there are veterans with GoFundMes looking to pay for some horrible surgery.

But McGregor is not, for once, in a class of his own, at least when it comes to planning life after fighting. Many who have come before him have done remarkable things after competing in MMA and continue to do so.

They’ve created a blueprint for diversifying and leveraging the lessons of the world’s toughest sport into something greater.

Here’s a look at eight such individuals.

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What Is Benson Henderson’s Legacy After Bellator 183?

The Bellator career of Benson Henderson has been turbulent. He’s enjoyed two title fights in two separate weight classes since jumping ship from the UFC in early 2016, but he lost them both.
After his loss in the Bellator 183 headliner he’s split again…

The Bellator career of Benson Henderson has been turbulent. He’s enjoyed two title fights in two separate weight classes since jumping ship from the UFC in early 2016, but he lost them both.

After his loss in the Bellator 183 headliner he’s split against the Pitbull brothers, first beating Patricio Freire and on Saturday losing an uninspiring scrap with Patricky Freire, he has seen his record in the promotion drop to 1-3. It seems, based on the broadcast and his name recognition, like his overseers were fixing to get him another title shot before too long, but you would have to think the whole thing will be met with some shoulder shrugs and confused looks.

Henderson’s legacy, in Bellator and beyond, is complex. There is quite a bit more to it than playing out the string in cage fighting before heading to serve his country in the military, whether that string is going poorly or not.

Bleacher Report Combat Sports Lead Writer Jonathan Snowden and MMA Featured Columnist Matthew Ryder considered that legacy coming out of Bellator 183, and this is what they came up with.

         

Ryder

I’ve struggled with Benson Henderson as an MMA commodity for years. In fact, I would say I’ve endured more gut-wrenching frustration and mind-bending bewilderment in relation to his career than any other in the sport.

That may seem odd to some considering his place as a respected, longtime UFC champion with a fairly old school, “anyone, anywhere, anytime” mentality, but it remains a fact.

I’ve felt for years that Henderson built whatever legacy he has on doing just enough to get by, often with the help of borderline blind cageside judges. I don’t think he beat Josh Thomson, I don’t think he beat Gilbert Melendez and I don’t think he beat Frankie Edgar—twice.

Bellator 183 was just another example of the narrow line he’s always walked, where he doesn’t do enough to win and relies on judges finding a way to give him the fight anyway.

In the alternate reality that exists in my head, Henderson is 20-12. He’s the owner of a decent enough career that has left me almost entirely uninspired. He falls a good distance short in practice of what he appears to be on paper, which is a WEC champion and a UFC champion of the toughest division in the sport who defended his belt in both promotions.

Am I going in a little too hard on one of Bellator’s marquee talents? Or does he even still qualify as a marquee talent after another loss Saturday?

         

Snowden

There is a certain feeling of kismet when a Benson Henderson fight goes to the judges’ cards. That’s not a hot take—just a statement of fact. Whether you agree with them or not, historically speaking a close scorecard is a Henderson card.

That was the case, at least, when he was in the UFC and the consistent beneficiary of either luck or largess. Bellator Benson, however, hasn’t been dealt the same strong hands. Three times he’s gone to the scorecards there. Three times he’s watched another man’s hand raised—twice by split decision.

His guardian angel has seemingly abandoned him, the only remnant the wings tattooed on his back.

None of this can erase the victories written in history’s permanent ink. He was UFC champion. He beat legends. We can’t take that away from him.

But perception is a trickier thing. And you’re absolutely right. Every time Henderson struggles, every time a close decision loss reminds us of a time he was granted an unjust victory, every five-minute round that feels like it lasts a calendar year diminishes him just a little bit more.

Five years ago, B/R named Henderson its Fighter of the Year. The author (a moron, I’ve been told) asked whether he could be the best ever. That, in retrospect, is a truly foolish question. 

No one is wondering whether Henderson is an all-time great anymore. We’re wondering whether he has what it takes to compete in Bellator, the UFC’s little brother. And I wonder, Matt, is that a question worth answering for a man who once had such grand ambitions?

         

Ryder

My gut, wrenched again with anxiety after watching another thin margin in a Henderson fight, tells me that it is, but for something of a counterintuitive reason, I believe it is his regression to the mean—the market correction for the years he spent “winning” fights without really “beating” his opponents.

The value in answering it comes in seeing that what has happened to him in Bellator is a good lesson for those coming behind him, an illustration that an athlete can only rely on dimwitted judges and guardian angels for so long before it all comes back around.

Inasmuch as I ever feel Henderson looks good in his fights, I thought he looked good in this most recent outing. I scored the fight in his favor, and I thought he won pretty convincingly—again, inasmuch as he ever wins convincingly.

Shows what I know.

Saturday, those dimwitted judges and spiritual entities saw fit to hand the win to Patricky Pitbull, from whom I don’t remember a single piece of offense mere moments after the event has ended.

 

Is it worth answering for a man we thought might be the best to ever do this thing as recently as 2013? Maybe not in relation to him solely. But for others, it could be instructive of how dangerous a career based on riding out rounds and scoring points can be and how quickly it can go bad on you once it starts to turn.

               

Snowden

The MMA gods punish fighters who try to make a living sucking up to the judges. After all, the sport just wasn’t designed with such a fighter in mind.

The original UFC had no judges. A cross between pro wrestling and Brazilian street fighting, it simply didn’t need them.

A fight between two warriors couldn’t, in those days, be decided by anyone outside the cage. It was over when it was over—and someone either conceded or was incapacitated.

Eventually, the world’s final wild-west spectacle was tamed. It became sport. Judges were incorporated. Fighters were developed who never even seemed to think about ending a bout on their own terms.

Henderson is one of them. For years, that sufficed. But those darting dancers can’t guarantee long-term success. You win by the judge, and you die by the judge. And Henderson, of late, hasn’t been doing much winning.

On Saturday night, none of his strikes were thrown with the intention of knocking another man insensate. His was a game of movement, incessant, unyielding and a little bit annoying. Occasionally he darted in for a quick punch, body kick, or half-hearted takedown attempt, only to continue his endless trek around the cage when he was done.

Patricky Pitbull threw and landed the harder punches. It would have been hard for him not to. It wasn’t much—but it didn’t have to be.

At 33, and more than 30 fights into his career, it may be too late to change. Henderson is who he is. And in many cases, that’s just not enough.

              

Ryder

I’m inclined to agree Henderson can’t change. Truthfully, I wouldn’t imagine he would if he could. I would expect he’s delighted with what his approach has garnered for him over the years, what with the cold, hard record of success and championships we’ve outlined above.

Pro wrestling meets Brazilian street fighting, it ain’t.

Arguably no one has understood that better than Henderson. And as you said, he’s won by it, and he’s died by it. He died by it at Bellator 183, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here and say he won’t win by it the next time we see him.

That’s his legacy. It would border on irresponsible to ignore it.

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CM Punk’s Perfect Next Opponent? Why, It’s Edmond Tarverdyan, Of Course!

Here’s something you probably hadn’t contemplated: People are hot to see CM Punk return to the UFC, and they seem keen to have that return come against Ronda Rousey’s oft-ridiculed coach, Edmond Tarverdyan.
Pretty good to roll into your weekend with th…

Here’s something you probably hadn’t contemplated: People are hot to see CM Punk return to the UFC, and they seem keen to have that return come against Ronda Rousey’s oft-ridiculed coach, Edmond Tarverdyan.

Pretty good to roll into your weekend with that concept, huh?     

To be clear, the fight isn’t close to being made. There is no logical reason to make it. It is objectively absurd on every measurable level.

Luckily though, this is MMA.

Pipe-dream fights happen with some regularity. Logic is increasingly on the back burner in a world where WME-IMG wants money fights above all else. The objectively absurd is often the mundane in this sport.

That’s why this bout makes all the sense in the world.

Tarverdyan was back in the news this week, boldly claiming on The MMA Hour (via Bloody Elbow) he’d like to see Rousey come back for a fight against longtime nemesis Cris Cyborg. If that suggestion wasn’t enough to warrant the type of tongue-clucking his nuggets of wisdom usually do, he followed it up by essentially telling the entire sport to “shut up” because he “know[s his] s–t.”

And the tongues clucked.

Say what you will about Tarverdyan—for better or worse, he is absolutely magnetic. He is brash, he is confident and he carries himself with an amount of bravado that many—Rousey’s own mother, included—might suggest to be unwarranted.

He’s also 2-0 as a lightweight who’s been inactive for five years and will turn 36 in December.

So naturally, in a world where former WWE star CM Punk is still on the UFC roster and appears hellbent on coming back to the cage to try his hand, Tarverdyan should be the guy to meet him.

Punk will turn 39 next month and has just notched another year of inactivity. He’s 0-1 since signing with the UFC in 2014, with his lone loss coming in a highly memorable beatdown at the hands of the entirely legitimate Mickey Gall last September.

The clock is ticking for both guys, and there are motivations and merits on both sides of the ledger.

For Tarverdyan, he’s long been ridiculed as having ridden Rousey’s coattails to recognition. Many would suggest he can’t distinguish between a right hook and a fishing hook. What better way to prove people wrong than to step in the cage himself and put on a good show against one of the more famous faces on the roster?

Further to that, Tarverdyan has had some financial troubles recently. While you’d never want to force a person into something as dangerous as an MMA fight purely for financial reasons, Tarverdyan might see a quick UFC payday as his best chance to get back on the level.

Realistically, if Punk got $500,000 to show up in the Gall fight, Tarverdyan should be able to get close to that for a night’s work given his own name recognition. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have Rousey, Travis Browne or other UFC fighters he’s coached to be kicking around either, as they could potentially call in a favor to help get him paid.

For Punk, he’d be getting the biggest name opponent imaginable for a man in his position. While the fight that seemingly makes sense is fellow 0-1 slugger Mike Jackson, Punk would be met with the type of obnoxious swagger that would surely bring out the best in him as a self-promoter.

Also, given Punk’s lack of experience and Tarverdyan’s long layoff, there is a legitimate chance Punk could surprise and land a win. Few truly know what Tarverdyan’s skill level is in combat, and though there is an idea of what Punk is at this point, there’s no telling how much he may have improved since his last fight.

He could have closed the gap between him and someone of Tarverdyan’s level, provided one ever existed, and plenty of people would pay to see how that would play out. Factor in that Tarverdyan would be coming up in weight to make the fight something of a size-versus-speed battle (albeit an almost comically inexperienced one), and it becomes that much more interesting.

Again, let’s be clear: This fight is not close to being made. There is no logical reason to make it. It is objectively absurd on every measurable level.

But this is MMA.

This is a sport where a pro wrestler shows up on a whim to headline the biggest event in UFC history.

This is a sport where people accidentally defecating in the middle of the action is met with a collective shrug and some smarmy tweets.

This is a sport where the biggest stars throw cans of energy drink at one another for minutes on end and are largely lauded for their salesmanship.

So you’re going to say CM Punk vs. Edmond Tarverdyan couldn’t happen? That it doesn’t make sense? That it’s too absurd? 

That’s exactly why it should happen.

       

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

Fighter Badly Misses Weight at UFC Japan Weigh-Ins, Stumbles off Scale

Another day, another controversial UFC weigh-in.
Ahead of the promotion’s most recent attendance in Japan, to be headlined by a fairly uninteresting fight between Ovince Saint Preux and a returning Yushin Okami, drama unfolded on the scale.

Feat…

Another day, another controversial UFC weigh-in.

Ahead of the promotion’s most recent attendance in Japan, to be headlined by a fairly uninteresting fight between Ovince Saint Preux and a returning Yushin Okami, drama unfolded on the scale.

Featherweight Mizuto Hirota, 1-3-1 in the UFC, arrived as the last to weigh in among athletes slated for the card and looked off from the moment he appeared from behind the curtain. Swaying slightly as he met the public, he shuffled to the scale and climbed on.

150 pounds.

It was an egregious miss in its own right, four pounds above the non-title featherweight limit, but it got worse from there.

Hirota, badly drained and looking a little aloof, resignedly took a second to ponder his miss before making a move to exit the scale. When he did, he quite evidently became temporarily overwhelmed and stumbled from the scale, saved from falling only by a pair of UFC overseers who caught him.

The whole scene was highly disconcerting for anyone who has followed the raging debate surrounding weight cutting in MMA over the years.

Despite the best efforts of commissions around North America, and of the UFC when governing its own events abroad, it continually appears as though the very sport itself is shuffling towards some extreme fate involving a fighter who has endured a bad weight cut.

Hirota is the most recent example, coming but a few weeks after Ray Borg was pulled from a title fight due to complications arising during his weight cut and after superstar Paige VanZant announced moving up in weight after passing out cutting to 115 pounds. 

Adding insult to injury, Hirota will forfeit 30 percent of his purse to his opponent. Check out video of his weigh-in below.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com