Each week, ESPN.com writer and MMA Live Extra analyst Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts.
1. It's not finalized yet, but how would you grade the UFC 200 lineup (Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor II, Miesha Tate-Amanda Nunes, Jose Aldo-Frankie Edgar II, Cain Velasquez-Travis Browne) so far -- and how does it compare to UFC 100?
Duffee: I think it's a great card, top to bottom. I kind of thought I wanted to get myself on it. You can always do something better, but I don't have any complaints with any of those fights. I wouldn't have asked for a rematch between McGregor and Diaz, but it's also like, who cares? Diaz is going to go out and make a bunch of money again. We could see a different outcome. We could end up seeing a trilogy fight and that wouldn't hurt either of their careers. So, Conor gets what he wants right now. He's the guy who is pulling in the money and that's how the UFC is handling it. I understand why he'd want a rematch. He was winning the majority of that fight until the end.
With UFC 100, man, you had Thiago Alves fighting Georges St-Pierre. Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir were on that card But I think in this day and age, UFC 200 is bigger. You have Conor on there. I think Conor is pulling bigger numbers than Brock did.
Okamoto: It looks pretty strong to me. Is it what might have been? No. This event could have been much bigger had Ronda Rousey never lost to Holly Holm in November; had McGregor decided to wait for lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos instead of fighting (and losing to) Diaz last month; had St-Pierre announced his comeback by now (hey, fingers crossed we might still get lucky on that one). But that's how it goes in this sport.
I've given my thoughts on McGregor-Diaz II in previous Five Rounds segments, so I won't get into that again. All in all, this is a very good card. And I've got to say, the only reason there are expectations for this event to begin with is that the UFC happens to number its events and "200" is a nice, pretty number. To me, in some ways, this is just another pay-per-view event, so how can you complain about a stacked lineup, particularly an undercard that includes Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum and Cat Zingano vs. Julianna Peña?
It's tough to compare it to UFC 100 without officially knowing what will serve as the co-main event. But as of right now, on paper, UFC 100 lineup was better.
2. Did the UFC make the right call with a female bantamweight championship matchup between Tate and Nunes, or should Holm, a former champ, have received an immediate rematch?
Duffee: Because Holly had built up so much steam and popularity, I would have liked to see her get a rematch, but I'm excited for Amanda Nunes. She's good. She's exciting to watch. I enjoyed her last fight. It's exciting because you're seeing the UFC creating a lot of new names and there are fun girls in the sport right now. They're creating a post-Ronda Rousey era right now.
The fact Holly was winning the fight against Miesha Tate (at UFC 196 on March 5) before she lost, it makes me want to see a rematch. But who's to say Miesha couldn't go out and repeat that? It's hard to say what's fair in this sport anymore. It's a popularity situation. What do fans want to see? I was definitely a little surprised by the Nunes title shot, but I just think they have to create a post-Ronda era. Create stars.
Okamoto: So, here's the thing: Nunes deserves a title shot. She's 5-1 in the UFC with four finishes and if we're comparing her résumé to Holm's ... even with Holm's knockout over Rousey, Nunes' is probably more impressive.
But anyone who pays attention to this sport has to wonder: Why didn't Holm get an immediate rematch? All the ingredients were there. She was 90 seconds away from retaining her title against Tate, before the memorable finish. That alone would seem to warrant an immediate rematch these days. She is, by far, a bigger name than Nunes. So, you can't chalk this up to, "Well, the UFC made a business decision, can't fault them for that." At a time when the promotion is booking rematches left and right, this is one that made sense. And instead, UFC goes with Nunes.
The UFC told Holm's manager that Tate made the call. I'm not sure I accept that as the full story. I find myself wondering if it has anything to do with UFC president Dana White being less than pleased with Holm's decision to fight Tate in the first place and not wait for a lucrative rematch against Rousey. Whether that truly had something to do with this decision or not, it's hard to not feel like Holm is being punished for something. And I don't like that.
3. What is the No. 1 fight to keep your eye on this weekend at UFC in Tampa?
Duffee: I'm excited about the main event, Rashad Evans vs. Glover Teixeira. I want to see where those two end up going after this fight. From a career standpoint, this is a real important one for both guys. Glover has great submission skills on the ground and incredible power up top. It kind of depends which Rashad shows up. If the original Rashad shows up, the guy we watched march to the title, that boxer/wrestler Rashad, I think he can give Glover a lot of problems. But if we see the same Rashad that we've seen lately, I think Glover might get a KO.
I'm also really excited about the girls' fight, Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres. I think that's a really exciting fight and I'm shocked I'm saying that. I was just never a really big fan of women's MMA when it started; it's taken a long time to win me over. They needed to develop a skill set and they have now.
Okamoto: My "Fight of the Night" candidate is Namajunas vs. Torres. Right behind that would be Michael Chiesa vs. Beneil Dariush. Those are two good fights that will fly under the radar this weekend. Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson does next to nothing for me. Seems like an unnecessary rematch.
Honestly, I think the best way to answer this question is to replace "what is the No. 1 fight" with "who is the No. 1 fighter" to keep an eye on, and the answer to that is obvious: Khabib Nurmagomedov. Undefeated, Nurmagomedov hasn't fought in two years. He was supposed to fight a fellow 155-pound killer, Tony Ferguson, in the main event, but Ferguson pulled out with blood in his lungs. I'm hopeful we'll still see that fight on May 29, assuming Nurmagomedov wins and Ferguson heals in time.
Nurmagomedov is the worst-kept secret in the lightweight division at this point. Expectations are almost unfairly high, like anything less than winning the title at some point would be considered somewhat of a disappointment. I'm excited to have that kind of athlete back.
Duffee: He's beat three of the top four guys (Velasquez, Stipe Miocic and Fabricio Werdum), so it would be hard not to say that. I know he's suffered a couple losses, but heavyweights hit hard. All these guys in the heavyweight top 10, I kind of look at them all the same. They all have holes in certain areas but outside the top 10, it's bad. So, if you lose and you're in the top 10, it's kind of meaningless. You're still in the top 10. It's just a bad night. Like in basketball, nobody has an undefeated season.
I haven't studied dos Santos that closely, but I don't think he's slowing down. I think if he were having issues like that, there'd be more evidence of it.
Okamoto: True, dos Santos has wins over those three highly ranked guys but let's look a little closer: He beat Werdum nearly seven years ago, when Werdum was arguably little more than a straight jiu-jitsu player. He knocked out Velasquez four years ago and it happened quick. They ended up fighting two more times and I think we'd all agree that matchup does not favor dos Santos. And his win against Miocic is relatively new, 16 months old, but it was a narrow decision and I would be willing to guess Miocic would be favored if they were to fight again.
That doesn't mean I don't think dos Santos is capable of reclaiming the UFC title at some point, but I wouldn't peg him as a favorite. And as great as he did look last weekend, I still think those wars against Velasquez and Miocic took something from him.
5. Who will be the UFC heavyweight champion exactly one year from now?
Duffee: Dude, no one knows. It's such a crazy division. We might not even have another championship fight in the next year, you know? It's hard to say.
Stipe Miocic is in line for a title shot (at UFC 198 on May 14). You have Alistair Overeem waiting after that. Rothwell just got his steam knocked off. Dos Santos, Cain, the UFC is going to keep Travis Browne in the mix by having him fight Cain -- I still think it's Cain. I think Cain could get back in there and do well. If I have to pick someone in the top five, Cain and Alistair are my top two.
Okamoto: April 13, 2017, your UFC heavyweight champion is ... man, that is a tough one when you think about it, isn't it? One would sincerely hope there are at least two heavyweight title fights, preferably three, in the next 365 days.
If you want to say it's Werdum, you're essentially saying he has tied or broken the UFC record for consecutive heavyweight title defenses (two). I don't know if I'm willing to test that limb. I really want to say Velasquez. His style really should lend itself to some consistency ... but the injuries end up throwing that consistency out the window.
I'm going with Overeem. He's in a good place. He has a winnable fight against Andrei Arlovski in May, which should get him the next title shot after Werdum vs. Miocic at UFC 198. Overeem has already beaten Werdum once and I believe he would have a good chance at doing again. My No. 1 pick to hold the title one year from today is Overeem. My mulligan pick is Werdum.