Professional questions: Can Usman catch GSP because the UFC welterweight GOAT?

With massive fights occurring each week and new champions being topped together with present championship forging their legacy, it’s simple to overlook that Kamaru Usman continues to be the pound-for-pound finest in MMA at the moment.

However is it attainable for Usman to catch a former pound-for-pound champ and arguably the best ever welterweight in UFC historical past in Georges St-Pierre?

Usman’s subsequent title protection is predicted to be booked shortly (presumably towards Leon Edwards) to headline a late summer time pay-per-view. Can one other win as welterweight champion and a fifteenth consecutive victory within the UFC get him nearer to GSP?

This was simply one of many questions I’ve been requested not too long ago, and all year long, I’ll proceed reply your questions concerning the newest, most attention-grabbing matters in MMA. Have an excellent one? Ship me a tweet at @marcraimondi, tweet your questions utilizing the hashtag #LegitimateQuestions or e-mail them to [email protected]

This week’s column additionally appears to be like on the potential fallout at girls’s strawweight from Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s upcoming rematch, the star potential of Michael Chandler and what it might take for Holly Holm to get a title shot at 135 kilos.

What is going to it take for Kamaru Usman to cement himself because the 170 GOAT over GSP? — Clint M.

This can be a nice query and one thing I’ve thought of fairly a bit. St-Pierre is on nearly everybody’s shortlist of the perfect fighters in combined martial arts historical past, and he’s proper with Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Khabib Nurmagomedov. A powerful case might be made that GSP is the perfect to ever compete within the Octagon — he avenged his solely two losses and returned after 4 years to maneuver up and seize the middleweight title after a dominant profession at welterweight.

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All of that is to say, if Usman is to be considered the best welterweight of all time, surpassing St-Pierre, then he also must be regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time, period. And I would argue that not only is Usman in that conversation, he has surpassed St-Pierre in certain areas. It isn’t easy to compare eras, and counting stats in MMA have never been the end-all, be-all. However, Usman has won 15 straight UFC fights (without incurring a single loss during his UFC run), a streak only topped by Silva’s 16 in a row. That’s a level of consistency that few in MMA could ever hope to achieve. You have to be on top of your game every night and make very few mistakes. Usman has done that.

Another notch in Usman’s column is that it took him a long time to get to the title. He didn’t fight for the belt until his 10th UFC fight. St-Pierre competed for the title against Matt Hughes in just his third UFC fight and lost. St-Pierre was pegged as a big, box-office draw from the beginning and had all of Canada supporting him. The UFC did colossal business with St-Pierre in Canada — and just about everywhere else. He was a face of the company during that stretch — a heavy burden to manage along with training and fighting. Usman didn’t have any such advantages. He had to win The Ultimate Fighter to get into the UFC. He was never pegged as a future star and had to work his way into becoming the standout he is today. Usman’s early UFC run résumé holds up exceptionally well today. He beat Leon Edwards in his second UFC fight and Sean Strickland in his fifth. Both are currently top contenders in their respective divisions.

The one big thing St-Pierre has over Usman is the number of title defenses. St-Pierre has nine at welterweight, stretching from 2008 to 2013, and Usman has five, tying him for second ever in the division with Hughes. An argument can be made that Usman has had the more challenging fights: Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, and Jorge Masvidal are all tough challenges. But St-Pierre had high-level opponents like BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, Carlos Condit and Nate Diaz. It isn’t easy to stay champion as long as St-Pierre did in a division with the quality of talent that welterweight has always had.

Usman is closer to St-Pierre than people think, but not quite there yet. If he can defend the title twice this year, beating Edwards and, let’s say, Khamzat Chimaev, that would give him seven consecutive title defenses. In that event, I’d be inclined to revisit this conversation. Until then, St-Pierre has the edge.

How would the UFC handle a situation where the winner of Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2 is out for a period of time? After their first bout, it seems inevitable. — D. Waters



Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk trade blows throughout their championship bout at UFC 248.

First of all, Carla Esparza beating Rose Namajunas and the fight going the way it went — lackluster, to say the least — changed everything in the UFC women’s strawweight division. Namajunas losing opened up the door for Zhang and Jedrzejczyk to make their case for a title shot again. Both have lost twice to Namajunas, and a third fight at this juncture wouldn’t have made much sense. So, now Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275 on June 11 becomes hugely important and a possible title eliminator. It’s too bad that it can’t be five rounds, especially now.

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And when I say how Namajunas vs. Esparza went had an effect, I mean this: If Esparza won in a far more exciting way, the UFC could have done a trilogy fight immediately. Because the two women were basically at a standstill for 25 minutes, UFC president Dana White made it pretty clear afterward that the promotion would not go in the direction of a third fight between them, at least not now. The UFC also won’t decide on the division’s future until they see how Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk plays out, and that’s obvious.

To answer your question, I think the UFC won’t mind waiting a few months for the Zhang-Jedrzejczyk winner to be ready. Esparza got married over the weekend and is on her honeymoon, so she’ll be out of training for several weeks. A title defense in the fall doesn’t seem too crazy, and I suspect the UFC will wait for her.

If Zhang and Jedrzejczyk are not ready when Esparza is ready, there’s a clear choice to step in: Jessica Andrade. She’s the former champion and stormed back into the women’s strawweight division with a standing arm-triangle submission finish of Amanda Lemos last month. Moreover, Andrade has a history with Namajunas (they’re 1-1), Zhang and Jedrzejczyk. So, if she were to beat Esparza, there would be a pretty compelling story to be told throughout her title reign. And if Esparza beats the stalwart Andrade, it cements her as the top strawweight in the world in a way that her win over Namajunas did not.

It’s humorous as a result of I’ve been writing about Chandler and his potential star energy for almost a decade, going again to his rise in Bellator. To me, he checks all of the bins. He’s a handsome man with an unbelievable physique and athleticism who articulates himself effectively, finishes fights and competes in a single thrilling warfare after one other. Chandler’s fights with Eddie Alvarez in Bellator are amongst my favourite within the sport’s historical past. However for no matter cause, he had hassle shifting the needle in Bellator.

I’m nonetheless on that Chandler-can-be-a-draw prepare, although it’s clear the MMA fandom doesn’t desire a white-meat babyface hero like WWE’s John Cena, which is sort of what Chandler is. MMA followers need an edge. They need Conor McGregor throwing dollies by way of bus home windows. They need Nate Diaz posting an image of him relieving himself on the UFC Efficiency Institute. They need “Avenue Jesus” Jorge Masvidal. Chandler is a babyface by comparability, and I hope that his violent finishes, brutal wars and emotional, inspiring interviews will get him “over” massive within the UFC, to borrow a time period from skilled wrestling.

What wouldn’t it take for Holly Holm to get again to the title yet another time? — Ed M.

Nicely, her probabilities of doing that went up in an enormous manner in December when Julianna Peña submitted Amanda Nunes to develop into the brand new UFC girls’s bantamweight champion. After her dominant reign as champion, Nunes shedding opened the door for a number of contenders, together with Holm, whom Nunes knocked out at UFC 239 in July 2019. Nobody was clamoring for a Nunes vs. Holm rematch after that. However Holm has received two in a row since then, and if she beats Ketlen Vieira on Saturday, she’ll be proper there within the divisional pecking order.

Now, Peña and Nunes may have their rematch this summer time, and the results of that may decide what occurs subsequent. If Nunes wins, there’ll possible be a trilogy earlier than the tip of the yr, that means Holm may have to win yet another to develop into the No. 1 contender once more. If Peña beats Nunes once more, I might see the UFC reserving Peña vs. Holm on the finish of the yr. Keep in mind, Peña vs. Holm was deliberate for Could 2021 earlier than Holm withdrew as a consequence of an sickness. So, this can be a matchup the UFC has already been curious about.

One of many massive storylines popping out of UFC 274 was that Esparza grew to become the ladies’s strawweight champion once more, after a file 2,612 days. If Holm beats Vieira, we might be having an analogous dialog about her later this yr or subsequent. Holm misplaced the UFC girls’s bantamweight title in 2016 and will have an opportunity to get it again, a victory that may put her excessive up on that very same listing Esparza leads.

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