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Mailbag: Alex Pereira continues to amaze and Dan Ige makes the case for more BMF belts at UFC 303

This past Saturday, Alex Pereira knocked out Jiri Prochazka for the second time, defending his light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 303. It was just the latest episode in one of the more remarkable runs in MMA history, as Pereira climbs the ranks of all-time greats in a fraction of the time. Now it’s a questions whether “Poatan” will move up to heavyweight to try and become the first three-division champion in UFC history, or stick around at 205 for a couple more fights. Either way, it’s Pereira’s world and we’re all just living in it. So let’s talk about the fallout from UFC 303.


Alex Pereira, three-division champion?

What do you realistically think Pereira could do as a heavyweight? Is he already a top 10, top 5, HW?

The biggest question coming out of Saturday is whether Pereira will move up to heavyweight next for a chance at immortality, in part because Joe Rogan basically demanded it, and in part because the MMA community as a whole are just 8-year-olds playing with action figures. “This is fun, let’s do this, despite there being pretty obvious shortcomings to it. Don’t care, smash them together right now!”

But before we get into the downsides, let’s just look at Pereira as a heavyweight. How high could he climb? Could he really become a three-division champion? Yes. Yes he could. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Pretty much as a rule, champions in a lower weight class would be top-10 fighters, at minimum, in the weight class above them. But heavyweight is rancid, perhaps the worst of the male divisions (though the battle between it and light heavyweight for bottom of the barrel is a closely contested scrap). By my count there are seven good heavyweights, and that’s including Jon Jones, who has fought once and is likely to retire after he beats up a retired firefighter in his next bout. At the bare minimum, Pereira is top eight, and realistically there are only three guys I’d pick confidently to beat him: Jones, Curtis Blaydes, and Tom Aspinall. Guys like Alexander Volkov certainly could beat him, but I’d probably pick Pereira. And by that same token, Pereira could upset any of the three I’d pick over him.

Add in that Pereira is enormous (he walked in around 230 on Saturday, which is like 12 pounds lighter than Fedor Emelianenko competed at) and has a uniquely dangerous skill set, and it would be foolish to count him out against any heavyweight. Pereira is a special fighter. Enjoy him.


Do your job

Jed, do you see Magomed Ankalaev as a underdog for the first time in his UFC career against Pereira

Now that we’ve celebrated Pereira for being awesome, please allow me to rain on everyone’s fun parade: “Poatan” should not get to go fight for the heavyweight title. He has his own that he needs to defend.

Perhaps I’m being a boomer here, but one of the most frustrating parts of MMA fandom these days is the obsession with multi-division champions. As soon as someone wins a belt, we want him to fight for another, despite that fighter not having cleaned out his weight class. No one is denying that Pereira is awesome, but the man has four wins at 205 over three opponents. Sending him up to heavyweight is the George W. Bush “Mission Accomplished” banner. What if we hold our horses just a tick? Perhaps let him beat five different guys in a weight class before banging our action figures together.

Particularly because there is a guy that Pereira needs to fight. Magomed Ankalaev is the second-ranked light heavyweight in the UFC and has wins over four top-10 fights, plus a draw with Jan Blachowicz that probably should have been a win. The man deserves his chance to fight for the title, and Pereira, as champion, should give it to him. Pereira seems game, Ankalaev deserves it, and Pereira should do more in his weight class before moving up, so what’s the problem?

Simple: We live in a culture of “NOW” and people are afraid Ankalaev would screw things up by winning. It’s a reasonable concern, except if Ankalaev does beat Pereira, then “Poatan” probably didn’t deserve a shot at heavyweight and we were just forcing it because we want him to become a three-division champion. And that’s what frustrates me, because it’s just engineering outcomes because we want to happen instead of letting them occur organically.

So that’s my case for why it’s ridiculous to rush Pereira into a heavyweight title shot. Here’s the case for why everyone should want to see him fight Ankalaev: It’s a damn good fight!

Set aside that Ankalaev deserves it, he’s also a terrific foil for Pereira. I love Jiri like my own child, but it’s clear that if he and Pereira fought 100 times, Alex wins 98 of them. But Ankalaev? Different story. Ankalaev can beat Pereira. He’s tough and a good grappler. That means there’s real threat for the champion. But Ankalaev also almost had his leg kicked off by Blachowicz, and Pereira is the best low-kicker in MMA. Both men have avenues to win, both are tough, and their styles fit nicely against one another. This is an exceptional fight and the one we should get next.


Alex Pereira historically

How would Peireira have done against Daniel Cormier or Jones? Let’s say post-peak for both.

Probably not all that well. I love Pereira, but part of his incredible run of success at the moment is that light heavyweight is a travesty. Jan is old (and gave him hell), Jiri has minimal defense and then just did the exact same stuff in the rematch despite getting knocked out the first time, and Jamahal Hill thought it would be smart to kickbox with perhaps the greatest striker in MMA history (and also might not be good). I think Pereira is a better wrestler and grappler than he gets credit for, but in truth we still haven’t had to see it much because people just kickbox with him.

Jones and Cormier would not do that.

Daniel Cormier is an Olympic wrestler. He would plant Pereira on his back every round until he won a decision or finished the fight. I would put him as a massive, massive favorite over Alex. Jones is a slightly different matter, as at least his spindly legs provide an enticing target for Pereira to kick, but given how straightforward his approach to Ciryl Gane was, I suspect Jones would do the same. Again, I’d comfortably pick both men to beat Pereira. Just atrocious style matchups for him.


Jiri Prochazka

What do you think is next for Jiri?

What Jiri should do next is take some time off to recover, because that was a really bad knockout. Then, he should return to the gym and, perhaps, learn the value of defense. I’m not saying the man needs to be Jose Aldo, but after he lost back-to-back wars to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje realized his kamikaze style has a limit. Instead, Gaethje learned better defense and how to deploy his anarchy in focused bursts, making him a substantially more dangerous fighter. Jiri should do the same.

But is that what he will do?

Following the fight, Jiri released a statement that was peak Jiri, saying he needs to evolve to be the best. What that means is anybody’s guess. This is a guy who on fight week decided to reveal that he believed Pereira’s shamanic rituals and spirits were why he lost the first fight, not the fact that his front leg got put through a wood chipper and he ran headlong into counters. If in three months Jiri posts a video on Instagram talking about how he moved to the Amazon rain forest to commune with the spirits and imbibe their strength as Pereira did, would anyone be shocked?

When it comes to Jiri, your guess is as good as mine. But if I’m taking a shot in the dark, I’ll say he doesn’t change anything substantially and then just goes vintage Jiri on Jamahal Hill sometime in the winter.


Dan Ige, the man

Is Dan Ige going to be in the next BMF fight after Saturday?

In all my years of MMA fandom, I’ve never seen something like what happened on Saturday. After doing a bunch of garbage before the fight, Brian Ortega then pulled out of his fight with Diego Lopes on fight night, and somehow, Dan Ige — who wasn’t even on the card or in the arena — stepped in on two hours’ notice. We cannot overstate the brass ones on both he and Lopes for taking a fight under these circumstances.

There’s honestly not much more to say about it. In 99.999999999 percent of circumstances, this fight would’ve been scrapped. It happens all the time. But somehow the stars aligned and instead we got a very fun fight and one of the best stories of the year. The UFC should use this opportunity to crown Ige as the junior-BMF champion and let him pick his opponent for his first title defense. The man earned it.


Dan Ige and the inadequacies of the Hall of Fame

What kind of award, honor or accreditation can/should be given from fighters like Ige that step up? Is there a Purple Heart in MMA, and what is it?

I lied, there is more to say on this subject.

On our UFC 303 post show, I lamented the fact that for as incredible as this moment was, in the end, it won’t live forever. Sure, Ige got paid for his trouble and he certainly endeared himself to millions of fans, but for how long? MMA fandom turns over at a pretty rapid rate. In five years, most fans won’t have been here for it, and so at best they’ll just have heard the story; at worst, they’ll only know that Ige lost to Diego Lopes. The fight won’t be a Fight of the Year or inducted into the Hall of Fame. It will only live on as long as the fans remember it, and fans in this sport have short memories.

I don’t have the answers, but I wish there was a way to change that. Like, if the UFC Hall of Fame was a real place, and institution you could go to, they could put up a little plaque to Ige as the fighter who stepped in and fought on the least amount of notice. Something like that. Anything really. But instead this moment will have to live on through us, and so I intend to preach the Gospel of Ige for many years to come.


Thanks for reading, and thank you for everyone who sent in tweets (Xs?)! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer my favorite ones! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane, just so long as they are good. Thanks again, and see y’all next week.

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