UFC Fight Night: Reyes deserves Jon Jones, Hardy’s inhaler chaos and why Barber is a star

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ESPN MMA writers Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto and Jeff Wagenheim break down Dominick Reyes’ performance against Chris Weidman, what’s next for the stars of the night, Greg Hardy’s inhaler drama and the incredible run of 21-year-old Maycee Barber.

Helwani: It’s Dominick Reyes’ turn

Four short years ago, Chris Weidman was the best middleweight on the planet. No doubt about it. He was a perfect 13-0 and the UFC’s 185-pound champion.

Then, he met Luke Rockhold. Nothing has been the same since.

Weidman lost to Rockhold via TKO at UFC 194 in 2015, then via knockout to Yoel Romero at UFC 205, then via controversial TKO to Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210.

He bounced back with a submission win over Kelvin Gastelum in 2017, but since then has been knocked out twice. Most recently, Friday night against Dominick Reyes.

This fight, Weidman’s light heavyweight debut, was supposed to represent a clean slate for “The All-American.” Unfortunately for him, it was another devastating loss. And weirdly enough, it came 24 hours after Rockhold — someone Weidman will always be linked to — said it is “very” possible he’ll never fight again.

Who could have predicted less than four years after those two rising stars met in Las Vegas that they would both be staring at a string of knockouts that have left their respective futures in question? Heck, four years ago both those guys were fighting like Reyes is today.

And I guess that’s just the way it goes in MMA. It’s our version of the circle of life: The young eat the old and on and on it goes.

To be clear, Weidman didn’t retire after the loss and didn’t even hint at it. Like his famous entrance music suggests, it sounds like he “won’t back down.”

But it’s a new era now, and when it comes to the light heavyweight division, that era is being ushered in by a 6-foot-4 Californian named Dominick Reyes.

Now it’s Reyes’ turn. He’s 12-0 overall and 6-0 in the UFC. Is that good enough to get him a title shot versus Jon Jones, which is what he called for after the win? It should be.

Quietly, though, Jones’ team was hoping Weidman would win. He was the bigger name, after all. And unless Johnny Walker does something spectacular next month at UFC 244, which is completely possible, I have a hard time coming up with anyone more deserving than Reyes.

All in all, it was an entertaining card in Boston. Here are a few other things I loved about the event, as well as some other things I didn’t love.

  • I loved that Brendan Allen asked for a fight night bonus so he could buy a standing chair for his brother, who is a paralyzed military veteran. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the bonus.

  • I loved that Randy Costa, once again, used every opportunity possible to honor his late friend Devin Carrier. Costa held a picture of Carrier, his good friend who died in a car accident three years ago, at the weigh-ins and after the fight as well.

  • I loved the fact that Molly McCann was not happy with her performance. She can do better but was under the weather. She still gutted out a win.

  • I loved seeing the UFC honor boxer Patrick Day at the start of the main card broadcast. Day died Wednesday of brain injuries, four days after a knockout loss.

  • I loved that Maycee Barber called out Paige VanZant … again. Barber’s confidence is so darn impressive for a 21-year-old. In case you missed it, the previously 7-0 Barber wrote “8-0” and “undefeated” on her gloves before the fight. She called her shot, and she has quickly become must-see TV.

  • I loved seeing Joe Lauzon — one of the sport’s good guys — snap his three-fight losing streak and pick up his first win in almost four years. I loved seeing the emotion he showed afterward, too. You know that had to feel good, especially at home.

  • I loved seeing Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens hug it out after the ugliness of last month.

  • I loved seeing Stephens remind people that he is really, really tough and would never look for a way out 15 seconds into a fight.

  • I didn’t love seeing Greg Hardy use an inhaler between the second and third round, as well as all the confusion surrounding whether he was allowed to do so or not. In the end, the fight was ruled a no-contest a couple of hours later because he wasn’t given permission to use it.

  • I didn’t love seeing Charles Rosa, who looked great against Manny Bermudez, grab the cage with his toes en route to winning via submission. I guess the referee missed that one because you shouldn’t be allowed to do that.

Wagenheim: Another Hardy fight, another Hardy debacle



Greg Hardy says the inhaler he used between rounds is for asthma and that he is disappointed he let people down.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the revelation that Greg Hardy used an inhaler between rounds to control his asthma might help explain his performance. He looked lethargic for nearly the entire three-round fight, not to the point where one might think he was severely affected by the asthma, but still less active than he had been in previous fights. He looked content to stay on the outside, land a kick or punch here or there, and take home the decision.

Hardy chalked this up afterward to him being in the Octagon with a more dangerous opponent than previous ones, and Dana White also spoke of Ben Sosoli as a step up in competition. But come on. Sosoli, to his credit, tried his hardest for all 15 minutes, and a few of his looping left hands did reach Hardy. But if this was a step up, it wasn’t much of one.

It was Hardy’s seventh pro fight, his fourth in the UFC this year, and the UFC has not yet taken off the training wheels. At this point, the promotion is parading him out on its main cards for show. Which doesn’t show us much.

Okamoto: What’s next?

Dominick Reyes, light heavyweight

Result: Defeated Chris Weidman via first-round TKO

Next: Jon Jones

Is Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes a blockbuster fight? If we’re being honest, no, it’s not. But neither was Jones vs. Anthony Smith, or Jones vs. Thiago Santos, Jones’ past two title defenses. This is where we are with Jones. It’s what happens when a champion is as dominant as he has been. He has run through the biggest names, and now he’s facing the new names.

However, blockbuster or not, this is the most intriguing light heavyweight title fight the UFC can make. Reyes could probably benefit from a little more experience, but he’s on deck now. He’s unbeaten. There’s no question he has knockout ability. He carries the confidence of a man who has never lost. And on top of that, who else should Jones fight? Unless he wants to jump to heavyweight and face Francis Ngannou (in a non-title fight, not likely), Reyes is it. And he’s deserving.

Chris Weidman, light heavyweight

Result: Lost to Dominick Reyes via first-round TKO

Next: Michal Oleksiejczuk

What’s next for Weidman? Good question. It doesn’t seem real that Weidman could be 1-5 in his past six bouts, and has lost all five via knockout — but here we are. There will probably be calls for him to retire, but you look at who he has lost to: Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, Gegard Mousasi, Ronaldo Souza, Dominick Reyes. These are all either former champions or No. 1 contenders.

Weidman could benefit from a step down in competition, even if temporary. That said, the UFC is still going to want his next fight to have purpose. Oleksiejczuk is a 24-year-old prospect from Poland with a lot of promise. This is the kind of fight I could see the UFC asking Weidman to take, and I don’t see many better options for him at this point.

Yair Rodriguez, featherweight

Result: Defeated Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision

Next: Winner of Zabit Magomedsharipov/Calvin Kattar on Nov. 9

Rodriguez is coming off a dramatic grudge match against Stephens. Why not book him straight into another one against Magomedsharipov? That is, of course, contingent on Magomedsharipov beating Kattar next month in Moscow. But either way, book Rodriguez against the winner.

The UFC wanted Rodriguez and Magomedsharipov to fight in 2018, and actually briefly cut ties with Rodriguez when he didn’t initially accept. That matchup has been thrown around multiple times since — with both sides accusing the other of not wanting it — but it ultimately hasn’t happened.

You could make the case Magomedsharipov should get a title shot with a win in November, and with a breakout performance, that’d be hard to argue against. But as it stands right now, Rodriguez against the winner of this fight would be a great No. 1 contender bout, depending on how things go.

Jeremy Stephens, featherweight

Result: Lost to Yair Rodriguez via unanimous decision

Next: Mirsad Bektic

Officially, that’s three losses in a row for Stephens — but I bet you didn’t even realize that. At this point, he has to be viewed as a long shot to ever fight for a UFC championship, but despite three consecutive losses and 45 professional fights, no one is calling for “Lil Heathen” to hang up his gloves. If anything, he remains in high demand.

So, dial up the next one. And for me, that’s Bektic.

Bektic is coming off a loss to Josh Emmett in July. The 28-year-old is still an intriguing potential contender, despite several false starts in his UFC career. He has had some injury issues, and now a couple of badly timed losses. But the talent is still there, and if there’s one thing Stephens will always do, it’s offer a test to rising talent.

Let’s finally figure out what the UFC really has in Bektic. Stephens will show us.

Wagenheim: This is only the start for Maycee Barber

First things first: We’re going to need to see a birth certificate, Maycee Barber. Friday night’s performance showed maturity beyond those 21 years listed in the UFC bio.

Perhaps most mature of all is the nickname: “The Future.” Such acknowledgement that Barber is not yet where she plans to be in the sport is not easy when you’re 8-0 and showing yourself to be in complete command, even in the face of a step up in competition. Barber’s first-round TKO over Gillian Robertson was ferocious yet poised at the same time. That’s supposed to be a combination acquired over time.

Barber, who has left no doubt in her fights by finishing seven of eight, was forward-moving but not reckless as she pressured Robertson from the start. When Robertson gained a clinch against the cage, Barber did nothing hasty, instead taking her time to turn the tables. Once she did, and once she hurt Robertson, she swarmed in a controlled attack. It was controlled in two ways: Barber left Robertson no escape, and Barber herself remained controlled in her attack, so as not to punch herself out.

Even Barber’s time on the microphone showed mature understanding of her place in the sport. She didn’t get ahead of herself and call for a title shot or even a top contender. She called out Paige VanZant, a high-profile opponent who could propel her star even further.

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