Five Questions: Eye pokes, BJ Penn, Daniel Cormier, Bellator

POST's Phil Chertok looks at the recent pattern fight stoppages due to eye pokes, BJ Penn's release, one more fight Daniel Cormier, and this weekend's cards.

This week, we chat with POST’s Phil Chertok about the unfortunate ending to last weekend’s main event between Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens, which has been re-booked for October 18th in Boston. The 15-second no contest continued the trend over the past months of fights ending due to eye pokes and what possible solutions are out there.

Daniel Cormier announced this past week, he will fight one more time, but the only option is a third fight with heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. On the other end of the coin, is the UFC’s relationship with BJ Penn coming to an end after UFC president Dana White said he’s been released.

Then, we look towards this weekend’s offerings from Bellator and the UFC with the continuation of Bellator’s Featherweight Grand Prix while the UFC goes to Denmark with Jack Hermansson fighting Jared Cannonier.

POST Wrestling: Is there a remedy that is feasible to address the volume of eye pokes, or this a reality for the sport and they’re going to continue?

Phil Chertok: I’m sure there’s a fix to all the eye pokes! I’m just not sure what it is. Eye pokes have plagued MMA for years and have resulted in countless stoppages, sometimes from the doctor stepping in, other times from fighters continuing to fight while their vision is compromised. Years ago, Dana White openly discussed the UFC working on new gloves that would help the problem. Sadly, nothing ever materialized from that and we continue to see unfortunate outcomes, like that of last Saturday night’s main event. Hopefully, the UFC is still working on a solution, they currently have a great platform to test out new ideas (Dana White’s Contenders series) but considering we’ve not heard much from the organization in the last few years on this topic, I doubt we’ll see a change anytime soon.

Daniel Cormier announced on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that he will fight one more time, but it must be a third fight with Stipe Miocic, do you prefer the trilogy fight with Miocic or a third fight with Jon Jones if he’s only fighting once more?

My preference would be for Daniel Cormier to retire and not fight either man. The former two-division champ is already a guaranteed Hall of Famer and has nothing left to prove. I can understand his frustration as he lost a fight he was clearly winning, but considering the way the fight turned, his age and his recent history of injuries, it would be impossible to favor him in either of those contests. If I had to pick one, I’d take the Stipe Miocic fight, mainly because Miocic is such a good guy that you can’t help but be happy for him when wins. The idea of seeing Cormier lose again to his most bitter rival Jon Jones, that’s just something that I don’t think I could handle and someone as great as Daniel Cormier does not deserve to go out like that.

Do you agree with UFC’s decision to cut ties with BJ Penn and should Bellator go after the fighter despite his issues outside the cage?

I definitely agree with the UFC cutting ties with the former Lightweight and Welterweight Champion. Penn should have been cut long ago, he’s on the longest losing streak in UFC history and it’s hard to imagine anyone on the roster he could be matched up against. Add a series of embarrassing videos of the Prodigy involved in some street altercations and his release was a no-brainer. I don’t think Bellator should go after him, there is no upside. They are already running events in Hawaii and have been successful there, also if they signed someone coming off the longest losing streak in UFC history, it would send a message to fans that Bellator is willing to accept second-tier talent, which is not the image they are seeking.

There are several intriguing fights on the UFC’s card in Denmark this Saturday, as a card flying under the radar what catches your eye?

The main event between middleweights Jack Hermansson and Jared Cannonier is tremendous. Hermansson surprised much of the MMA world with his dominating performance over legendary grappler Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in his last fight, another five-round main event. Cannonier has also looked tremendous since moving down in weight with huge TKO wins over David Branch and all-time great Anderson Silva. Middleweight is gearing up for a big title fight next month so with a strong performance in Copenhagen on Saturday both fighters can make a serious case to be next in line for whoever comes away with the gold in Australia, after Paulo Costa.

Bellator is holding cards on Friday and Saturday this weekend, including the remaining four opening round fights in their Featherweight Grand Prix. Will you be watching any of these fights and is the Featherweight Grand Prix of interest to you?

To be honest, until you mentioned it, I didn’t even realize Bellator was having an event this weekend, let alone two. Now that I look at the cards, there are some good matchups that are worth checking out. The rematch between Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi and Michael ‘Venom’ Page returning after his first career defeat are two that immediately spring to mind. The reality that someone who is a hardcore MMA fan doesn’t know that Bellator is putting on fights this weekend with some of its biggest stars speaks to a continuing problem that Scott Coker and his team are facing. With so many UFC events, Spike rebranding as Paramount, their deal with DAZN and showing tape-delayed European cards it feels like Bellator has gotten lost and are having a hard time capturing the attention of the MMA audience. They’ve recently signed  Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino and continuing to sign key athletes is important but it’s going to take a change in their approach if Bellator is going to legitimately challenge the UFC in America.

Phil Chertok can be heard each month on our UFC POST Shows with the next one scheduled for Saturday, October 5th following UFC 243.