The UFC will hold, arguably, its deepest card of 2019 this Saturday with three championship fights at UFC 245.
In this week’s edition of Five Questions with Phil Chertok, we preview the big pay-per-view card while circling back to this past weekend’s ESPN card in Washington, D.C.
The card saw one of the most spectacular knockouts of the year with Jarizinho Rozenstruik, losing the fight to Alistair Overeem, and rocking the Dutch fighter and finishing him with four seconds remaining in their five-round fight.
The options on the table become interesting at heavyweight given the delay in inking a rubber match between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier while Francis Ngannou is stuck waiting on the sidelines.
Here are this week’s Five Questions:
POST: Did you agree with the stoppage at the end of the fight between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alistair Overeem? Is Francis Ngannou the best fight to make for Rozenstruik next?
Phil Chertok: I do agree with the call, Overeem was not trying to defend himself when he got up, walked away and quite frankly looked like he didn’t know where he was. I do think a case can be made for him but the cut on his face was brutal and the fight would have probably been stopped just because of that. Now for Rozestruik, he’s lucky he got out of Washington D.C. with a victory. There’s been a lot of talks for him to face Francis Ngannou which could be an exciting fight but if there’s serious any talk of Rozenstruik as a contender you may want to put him in there one more time so he can gain a little more momentum. I think there’s probably more than a few people that wouldn’t mind seeing him face Greg Hardy.
POST: Outside of the main event, who had the strongest performance this past Saturday on the ESPN card?
Chertok: There were two notable standout performances on Saturday. First was Bryce Mitchell who made quite the statement securing only the second Twister submission victory in UFC history. His impassioned post-fight speech and redneck charm have immediately turned him into a fan favorite. The second notable performance must belong to top-ten bantamweight Rob Font. Font was able to outwork a very game, Ricky Simon. Font was impossible to hold down despite multiple takedowns from Simon. Font kept his composure throughout and looked extremely precise, facing another top ten opponent seems like the right move at this point for the five-year UFC veteran.
POST: Did you enjoy the rematch on Saturday between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr., and what is next for Joshua?
Chertok: I thought it was an excellent display of skill by the two-time champion Joshua. He used distance, footwork and superior overall boxing to command the ring and reclaim his title on Saturday night. It was a performance very reminiscent of ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard’s victory over Roberto Duran in their famous ‘No Mas’ rematch. Just like Leonard in his fight, Joshua avoided getting into a brawl and stayed extremely disciplined, never veering away from the game plan. The logical next step would be to fight the winner of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, but that fight is a while away and there’s no guaranteeing that Joshua’s promoters could even come to terms with either of those heavyweights. Thus, a trilogy contest with Ruiz, who came in brutally out of shape, might be in order. One thing that is great about the current streaming wars is that the highest-level boxing is now accessible to a much larger audience. It used to be that heavyweight champions only fought on pay-per-view so there was a serious paywall preventing casual viewers from catching the action. Now that elite boxing is part of many viewer’s existing sports package, I suspect we’re going to see more interest and growth in the highest level sweet science.
POST: What is the biggest title fight of the three this Saturday at UFC 245 and why?
Chertok: The biggest fight has to be Colby Covington versus welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Covington has managed to go from obscurity to the verge of stardom in an extremely short amount of time. He’s responsible for having a UFC title belt hang in the Oval Office and a win on Saturday could have the potential to send him into another stratosphere of celebrity. His rivalry with Usman has been building during Covington’s ascent and unlike many modern UFC beefs it hardly feels manufactured. Usman, while not able to generate as much casual notoriety as Covington, has quietly established himself as the most dominant Welterweight in the world. He’s never looked close to losing and while his style isn’t often terribly exciting, there’s no doubt that Usman possesses the tremendous skill, strength, and cardio. Covington is the perfect opponent for him because many people will be watching and rooting for Kamaru just because they dislike Colby so much. If Usman can defend his gold on Saturday night he should set himself up for a very lucrative 2020.
POST: How do you feel about Jose Aldo moving down to bantamweight and drawing Marlon Moraes in his 135-pound debut?
Chertok: I don’t really like it for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Aldo has always struggled to make the 145-pound featherweight limit. A few times it’s been so dramatic that it’s affected his performances and nearly caused him to lose (see UFC 129 vs. Mark Hominick). Usually, when a fighter is aging, they are supposed to go up in weight, not down. The second reason I don’t like this fight is because of Aldo’s opponent. Marlon Moraes is an absolute savage and is massive for a bantamweight. He’s coming off a big loss in a title fight so he’s got a lot to prove and with a win over Aldo, a legend and former champion, Moraes would be accelerating his return to a title bout. If Aldo needed to make this move, I would have much rather seen him eased into the division, Cody Garbrandt or John Dodson are opponents I would have preferred.
Phil Chertok will join John Pollock this Saturday on the UFC 245 POST Show.