Dana White announced that Ronda Rousey needs more time to fulfill obligations and will not be able to fight at UFC 200. As the sports biggest cross-over star goes on hiatus, it’s become apparent that the keys to the kingdom are now fully in the hands of Conor McGregor.
The brash Irishman has cut down the best of the UFC’s featherweight division over the last several years, however the hype has reached new levels after he scored the biggest win of his career in defeating long-time champion Jose Aldo last month.
Aldo was undefeated for nearly ten years and posed the biggest threat any fighter did to McGregor. Instead, “The Notorious” stopped the Brazilian in a record 13 seconds to become the undisputed featherweight champion.
In the immediate aftermath, the options for McGregor came from all directions. An immediate rematch with Aldo was on the table, a resolution to their rivalry was lost in the fashion that their contest ended.
Number one contender and former champion Frankie Edgar has done all a fighter can do to secure a title-shot. Undefeated since losing a close contest to Aldo in 2014, Edgar had knocked off top ranked Cub Swanson and Urijah Faber before knocking out former title-challenger Chad Mendes on the eve of McGregor’s last fight.
Instead, McGregor and the UFC have elected to cash in on the hype and match the newly minted featherweight kingpin with lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Dos Anjos is currently coming off his own breakout year where he won the title from popular champion Anthony Pettis and defended it against fan favorite Donald Cerrone.
It was at the UFC’s “Go Big” press conference that interest in the fight truly began to surface. McGregor, in his usual fashion, initiated an exchange in which he stated that dos Anjos would gladly give up the fight he had with Cerrone for the opportunity to have a money fight with him.
The memorable exchange also led to the now infamous statement of “red panty night” in which McGregor stated that dos Anjos would call his wife and tell her to wear the garment so they could celebrate the payday of facing the Irishman.
The statement took on a life of it’s own in Vegas when hordes of fans showed up to the event with the red lace garments in hand.
The line has already inspired a slew of fan art promoting the event. *Link NSFW
If McGregor is victorious, he would be the third fighter in UFC history to win titles in two different weight class and would be the only fighter ever to hold two belts simultaneously.
All of this is hypothetical. Dos Anjos is on a dominant run of his own and has looked invincible against the best in the lightweight division. In recent fights, the Brazilian has shown elite level striking to compliment his formidable ground game. If any indication, dos Anjos dominated his title fight with arguably the best striker in MMA in Anthony Pettis.
Stylistically, the bigger dos Anjos more technical that Aldo. While also explosive, the Brazilian is more patient and allows his hard shots to deplete his opponent before exploiting openings for a finish. While McGregor has a size advantage at 145, he will not have the same edge at lightweight.
While all this makes for a blockbuster event in March, in throws a huge question mark over UFC 200. Fan interest speculated that for such a landmark event the UFC would headline the card with fights for both Rousey and McGregor.
Quite frankly, who will the UFC look to headline the event if not the pair?
Newly minted champion Holly Holm will be the co-headliner at UFC 197 against number two contender Miesha Tate. Stylistically, the fight looks to favor the champion as her elite level striking should overwhelm “Cupcake” Tate.
That said, Tate was long considered to be the second-best bantamweight behind Rousey and has shown great resiliency in going undefeated since 2013. Only Rousey has fought more top-ten fighters than Tate in her UFC career. Recently, Tate defeated top-ranked Sarah McMann and Jessica Eye.
For Tate, the event could be her last best chance to win a UFC title. After being promised a title shot against Rousey, the UFC retracted and instead chose to go with a fresh contender in Holm. The turn of events led to discord between Holm and the UFC as “Cupcake” found herself in limbo after having defeated every top contender available yet was still passed over for a title shot.
With Rousey out of the picture, Tate is facing a striker who is still relatively new to MMA. If Tate is able to use her wrestling and make Holm hesitate on the feet, the contest could favor the athletic challenger very quickly.