There’s been loads of discuss how profitable an athlete might be crossing over between boxing and MMA, effectively Claressa Shields is going to put her combat skills to that check.
The No. 1 pound-for-pound feminine boxer on the planet has signed a multi-year cope with the PFL, and he or she plans to have not less than two MMA fights in 2021, after which take part within the PFL’s season format in 2022.
Can she succeed, as former boxing champ-turned-UFC champ Holly Holm as soon as did, or will the variations between boxing and MMA show an excessive amount of for the two-time Olympic boxing gold medalist?
Shields’ arrival within the PFL instantly ignited hypothesis a few potential battle down the highway in opposition to two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison, who’s 8-Zero in MMA.
However will Harrison nonetheless be within the PFL when Shields is able to problem the elite, or will Harrison be pursuing a blockbuster battle in opposition to UFC double-champion Amanda Nunes?
One essential battle that is certainly set to happen is Tony Ferguson versus Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 on Dec. 12. It is an opportunity for Oliveira to make an enormous identify for himself in opposition to Ferguson, who had gained 12 in a row earlier than dropping to Justin Gaethje in Could. Whereas Oliveira has gained seven straight, none of these victories has come in opposition to a fighter with Ferguson’s credentials. Can Oliveira presumably change into a contender at 155 with a win?
ESPN’s knowledgeable panel of Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim discusses these matters and extra, breaking down what’s actual and what’s not.
Actual or not: Shields will efficiently make the transition from boxing to MMA.
Raimondi: That is very actual. There’s little doubt. Shields might not have a ton of wrestling or grappling coaching beneath her belt but, however she nonetheless has loads of fight expertise. This is not some club-show fighter making the leap to MMA. Shields is a legit fighter who can throw fingers — with energy — in addition to any girl in blended martial arts proper now. The final high-profile ladies’s boxer to make the transition to MMA has carried out fairly effectively for herself. Holm, a former three-division boxing champion, shocked the world by beating Ronda Rousey to win the UFC ladies’s bantamweight title in 2015. 5 years later, Holm continues to be going sturdy, nonetheless the most effective ladies’s MMA fighters on the planet.
There are some variations between Holm and Shields. Holm had a background in kickboxing, so her offensive variety was already there, despite the fact that she was a latecomer to the grappling arts. However Holm additionally did not absolutely decide to MMA till 2013, the 12 months she turned 32 years outdated. Shields is simply 25 now, very a lot in her athletic prime. And whereas we’re speaking about athleticism, she already has extra of that than lots of her friends within the heavier weight divisions. If we’re being trustworthy, there is not a lot depth in these weight courses, so Shields turns into somebody to observe proper from the leap.
What division Shields will battle in can be fascinating. She has boxed at 154 kilos, so the PFL ladies’s 155-pound division would take advantage of sense. Might she get all the way down to 145 kilos sooner or later for the reason that UFC would not have 155? That is unclear. The largest opponent for her proper now in PFL could be Harrison, however Shields just isn’t prepared for that but. She wants some MMA seasoning and floor coaching first.
It is in all probability too quickly to even be mentioning her with the likes of Harrison, Nunes and Bellator champion Cris Cyborg (a buddy of Shields). But when Shields does decide to MMA, particularly the bottom recreation, the sky is the restrict. It will likely be tough, although, if she tries to proceed on as a boxer. Nobody has been in a position to do each MMA and boxing concurrently on the highest stage.
Actual or not: Harrison will ultimately battle Nunes.
Okamoto: It is a powerful one for me. I discover myself going forwards and backwards. On the one hand, Harrison needs that battle (ultimately), and I assure the UFC would need it, too — assuming each proceed to win. And Nunes actually would not flip it down, though it is value noting she would not want it. And that final half is what’s going to make me finally go together with “not actual.”
I do not assume we’ll ever see this battle. Or not less than, I do not assume it is the most certainly state of affairs. There are too many issues that have to go proper. First off, each have to maintain successful. Second, Harrison would, presumably, want to go away the PFL for the UFC — and I do not assume the PFL would make that a straightforward name for her. That promotion is closely invested within the Kayla Harrison enterprise, and it figures to do all it could actually to hold on to her long-term. And third, Nunes must maintain preventing, which feels removed from a assure. She has toyed with the concept of retirement on quite a few events, going again years. Her legacy is safe. Will she even battle into 2022, which is the 12 months Harrison would change into a free agent?
As a fan, I hope so, however I can not say for certain. I would like to see this battle and I believe there’s a likelihood we’ll see it. However as of at this time, I will guess it by no means occurs.
Actual or not: The Ferguson battle will show to be a breakout second for Oliveira.
Wagenheim: I believe that is actual, or on the very least an actual chance. Oliveira has gained seven fights in a row, all finishes, but he is nonetheless mired again within the pack amongst light-weight contenders. That is his alternative to step ahead.
Oliveira’s string of conquests has come in opposition to fighters not fairly at Ferguson’s stage, but it surely’s honest at this level to query whether or not even Ferguson himself is at that elite stage. He’s coming off a Could knockout on the heavy fingers of Justin Gaethje, one of the vital brutal beatdowns in current instances. What would be the residual results?
In different phrases, Oliveira is getting his shot at Ferguson at an advantageous time. “El Cucuy” could be pretty much as good as new on Dec. 12, however historical past suggests in any other case. Fighters who get brutalized typically do present the results of their subsequent outing.
Ferguson, even at his greatest, is vulnerable to placing himself in harmful positions, then counting on his unorthodox knack for preventing his approach out. However with Oliveira, there’s not essentially a approach out. He has 14 submissions within the UFC, greater than anybody in historical past. Give him an inch, and he’ll take an arm.
Regardless of the final result, it should be enjoyable getting there. Oliveira has 16 postfight bonuses, the second most in UFC historical past. Ferguson has 11. Watch these totals develop earlier than our eyes.
Actual or not: Deiveson Figueiredo is making a mistake by turning round so shortly.
Joe Rogan is excessive on Deiveson Figueiredo’s efficiency after a first-round end of Alex Perez at UFC 255.
Helwani: No approach. Not actual. It is a sensible transfer on his half. Initially, Figueiredo did not get damage on Nov. 21 in his win over Alex Perez. That is most vital. Second, he’ll make history when he fights on Dec. 12 as a result of that would be the quickest turnaround for a champion ever. That is an enormous feather in his cap. Third, followers and the corporate merely love a fighter who turns round shortly — simply ask Khamzat Chimaev. A transfer like this solely endears him to, effectively, everybody, and helps expedite his progress as a star. Fourth, this can assist maintain his weight down. There is not any doubt he is an enormous man, however the fast turnaround will preclude him from getting too large as a result of he agreed to this battle earlier than he left the Apex final week. There wasn’t any time to get off form.
He is sharp and in form and has an opportunity to seal his destiny because the 2020 male fighter of the 12 months by headlining his second straight pay-per-view. A no brainer if there ever was one.
In fact, he has to win, and I believe Brandon Moreno is a more durable battle than Alex Perez, but it surely’s a threat value taking, particularly when you think about the posh of simply with the ability to keep in Las Vegas. Hindsight would possibly show in any other case if Figueiredo finally loses, however I just like the transfer rather a lot for a budding star.
Actual or not: The UFC heavyweight title can be defended greater than as soon as in 2021.
Stipe Miocic explains why Francis Ngannou deserves the following heavyweight title shot, however says the end result would be the similar as their first bout.
Raimondi: It must be, proper? Heavyweight has been the slowest-moving division on the high for a number of years. The title has been defended solely 5 instances previously three calendar years — and three of these defenses had been in 2018.
For probably the most half, it is nobody’s fault. Daniel Cormier beat Stipe Miocic for the belt in July 2018, then rotated fairly shortly to defend in opposition to Derrick Lewis three months later. Then, Cormier wanted again surgical procedure, which put him out till a rematch with Miocic in August 2019. Miocic beat Cormier, however suffered a torn retina in that bout, which sidelined him for a 12 months. Miocic gained the trilogy over Cormier again in August and now could be unlikely to defend the belt once more till the primary quarter of 2021 (or later). Accidents do occur on the highest stage, and we’re speaking a few pair of athletes of their late 30s and 40s.
Miocic is prone to face Francis Ngannou subsequent. If that battle does occur in early 2021 as anticipated, there may be loads of time for the winner to get not less than one title protection in earlier than the top of subsequent 12 months. If Ngannou wins and turns into champ, he’d prefer to defend the belt twice inside 2021, a supply near the rising UFC star informed me this week.
The following title challenger, regardless if Miocic or Ngannou wins, will in all probability be former longtime mild heavyweight champion Jon Jones, arguably the most effective UFC champion ever. There can be main incentive for Jones and the UFC to get that battle carried out. Jones has not fought since final February, and if his subsequent battle is for the heavyweight title, will probably be effectively over a 12 months in between fights for him. With all of these issues factored in, I am cautiously optimistic we’ll see a number of UFC heavyweight title defenses in 2021.