Perhaps the most impressive performance of UFC 235 this past weekend was the 25-minute beating Kamaru Usman put on Tyron Woodley in the co-main event to win the UFC welterweight crown. Usman put on an incredibly dominant showing which included a 10-8 round. That beating, however, didn’t deter Woodley from expressing his interest in an immediate rematch citing his resume alone as being enough justification for such a bout.
It isn’t. Giving Woodley an immediate rematch after what happened on Saturday would only serve to perpetuate the nonsensical rematch culture MMA is rife with today, as opposed to determining a fighter’s next move based on in-cage performance.
Woodley now joins a long list of names such as Jose Aldo, Conor McGregor, Cris Cyborg, Stipe Miocic, and most recently, TJ Dillashaw who believe their resume is grounds for an immediate shot at the gold they just lost (in the case of Dillashaw, attempted to win). Unfortunately, a resume doesn’t count for much. Not when talking about running back a title fight in which a champion got obliterated in, it doesn’t. And I’m not just talking about Woodley.
Jose Aldo shouldn’t have gotten an immediate shot at McGregor after getting slept in 13 seconds. Conor McGregor shouldn’t get to run back the Khabib Nurmagomedov fight for getting rag dolled then submitted. Dominick Cruz was dominated by Cody Garbrandt. He should have to go out and pick up a win before getting another shot at the strap.
This environment we seem to be living in now, where everyone who’s won a title is automatically entitled to a rematch in the event they lose is ridiculous. For starters, it holds up divisions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Conor McGregor is a driving factor in the mess that is the UFC’s lightweight division. Furthermore, it doesn’t take a second rocket scientist to ascertain McGregor getting the first crack at Nurmagomedov’s belt would only add to the dumpster fire. The same thing goes for Woodley’s situation.
Whether people like it or not, after this past weekend it’s clear the Colby Covington fight should be next for Usman. Title fights are not best two out of three no matter how badly the loser wants them to be.
Performance over resume
The one thing, above all else, that should dictate immediate rematches being given out is performance. Outside of there being a glaring controversy (not a title fight, but looking at you Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren), we should look at how competitive the actual fight was before passing out rematches like breadsticks at Olive Garden.
Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero, THAT warranted a rematch.
Remember when Frankie Edgar took the title off BJ Penn the first time? THAT warranted a rematch.
Chuck Liddell, ‘The Iceman’ himself, didn’t get a championship rematch after getting his head taken off by Rampage Jackson. And he shouldn’t have (Yes, that was Liddell’s second loss to Jackson.).
There have been circumstances in the past where there’s no decisively clear cut contender (or one who isn’t already booked at least). So, some of these matches get ran back anyway. It is unwarranted, but it happens. The point is that champions aren’t entitled to a best-two-out-of-three clause no matter the circumstance. It’s quite simple. If you want an immediate rematch the first fight has to be competitive, almost contentiously so. Getting KO’d in the first round does not qualify. Getting dominated bell to bell also does not qualify.
So as great of a fighter as Tyron Woodley is. As great as his resume is. No matter how much of an “off-night” he may have had. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he got pummelled for 25 minutes on Saturday night. Getting pummelled for 25 minutes doesn’t warrant a rematch. It warrants getting back in line, knocking off a contender or two, and then getting a shot to reclaim your title.