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Hot Tweets: Where Jake Paul goes from here, Cory Sandhagen’s title hopes, Reug Reug and more

It was a big week in the combat sports world. Jake Paul got back in the win column against Nate Diaz, Cory Sandhagen inched closer to a title shot with a good yet forgettable win over Rob Font, and ONE Championship has some wonderful tomfoolery take place on Friday. So, let’s talk about it!


Jake Paul, the boxer

There are two completely opposite answers to this question that are somehow both true.

First, what charade? Who is out here pretending Jake Paul is a “real” boxer, aside from Paul and his promotional team? No one who works in established media of any kind is treating Paul like a true boxer; they’re treating him like a “sideshow” act, albeit one that is wildly popular. Him losing to Tommy Fury was never going to be the end of Paul’s road because the Jake Paul story isn’t about excelling at boxing, it’s about boxing people that his public will care about. Which is absolutely fine.

The other answer — and again, equally true — is that Paul is an actual boxer. Whatever your thoughts on Paul, it is undeniable that the man competes under the rules of boxing and does so for money. A lot of money. That’s being a boxer. Is he fighting the best opposition? Of course not. But guess what? A vast majority of people who box do not fight the best competition. Jake Paul happens to be doing that, just on a massive platform, because he can. Go to your local gym and ask any aspiring Golden Gloves kid if he’d fight in a major stadium on pay-per-view given the chance. They are all going to say yes.

Love him or hate him, Paul is legitimately stepping into the ring against able opposition (if not good) and accepting the very serious risks that can come from that. To deny him the title of boxer because you don’t like the manner in which he broke into the sport isn’t realistic. Did Paul shortcut his way to big venues and pay-per-views? Yes. Is he mostly picking fights with people he knows he’ll beat? Absolutely. But literally everyone with any leverage whatsoever does this in boxing. Floyd Mayweather’s late career was essentially nothing but this. And why is Tyson Fury fighting Francis Ngannou instead of Oleksandr Usyk? Exactly.

Paul isn’t the best boxer in the world and that’s fine. He’s leveraging his external star power to create more interest and place himself near the top of the boxing game, not in skill but in drawing power, and you can’t hate him for that. In any walk of life, you should get what you’re owed. Paul is doing that and it’s not going to stop for awhile, so you should just make your peace with it.


Jake Paul vs. MMA

There can’t be too many more, simply from a logistical standpoint. After beating Anderson Silva, I thought the Paul vs. MMA experiment might be over (barring one caveat that I’ll get to in a second) just because once he beat Anderson, what was the point? Anderson, even at age 67, is still going to be the best MMA-fighter-turned-boxer out there. But the loss to Tommy Fury opened the door for a bounce back and Nate Diaz is so popular that everything fell into place. But since Paul won, and did so fairly easily, he doesn’t have many choices left in that regard. Which brings us to the paths forward for Jake Paul.

From the entire outset of the Jake Paul experiment, there was one very obvious end goal: Boxing Conor McGregor. It’s a fight that probably sells 2 million pay-per-views, even at this state of Conor’s career. That has been the whole plan from jump street, and I believe it still is. Paul is going to have to wait awhile for that to happen though, and so in the meantime, he’s going to keep fighting other names that can grab headlines. The inevitable matchup with KSI will do gangbusters at the box office. Perhaps a Mike Perry scrap could draw some interest. The Tommy Fury rematch is always there. That’s where Paul is most likely to spend his time moving forward.

Or he can do what he teased all week and take an excursion into MMA.

MMA will be harder for Paul to carve out a lane like he has in boxing, but there is still a way for him to do it, and since he’s already established exactly who he is in boxing, he can always come back to the ring as necessary. Paul can take a fight or two in MMA to stay busy and not exhaust his obvious boxing matchups immediately, allowing more possible opponents to emerge in that realm and keeping him busy until Conor eventually becomes available. And if he happens to show some aptitude for MMA in the process, then Paul really has the game by the short ones.


Crossovers

This is a terrific question. I think the answer is Jake Paul upsetting Nate Diaz in MMA, but I’m not confident in that.

Let me be clear, Nate Diaz is overwhelmingly likely to strangle Paul in a cage fight. In a matchup where Paul had literally every advantage, he still couldn’t finish Nate and even struggled at times. Flip those circumstances and it’s probably not a good night at the office for him. But there is a world where Paul can try to sprawl-and-brawl his way to a win over Diaz on the cards. Maybe Nate gets too focused on the gamesmanship and the striking and let’s the fight slip away from him, and Paul can simply do more than Nate over the rounds and survive the bad spots. It’s very unlikely, but not impossible.

On the other hand, Ngannou beating Tyson Fury is pretty much impossible. Sure, he hits impossibly hard, but so does Deontay Wilder, and if that shot from Wilder couldn’t finish Fury off, I’m not entirely sure what can other than an aluminum bat. “A puncher’s chance” is all Ngannou has, and while that phrase officially means “you can’t count him out,” what it practically means is “you can count him out barring a literal miracle.” If they fight 1,000 times, maybe Ngannou can steal one. I feel like Jake has a better shot than that against Nate in MMA, if only because things can get so much sillier in the cage.


Cory Sandhagen

Strictly speaking, Sandhagen did not set himself back from a title shot, he simply didn’t advance himself. Sandhagen’s win over Rob Font while dominant, was a tough watch for most of it. We’re talking about historically low offensive output. And as you noted, when your boss leaves mid-fight, that’s not a good sign.

Ultimately, Sandhagen got the win and it’s a good one for the résumé, but I seriously doubt he’s fighting for the title in his next fight. Sandhagen is on a very good run right now, but it’s far from undeniable. Three wins in a row is great, but it’s not a Beneil Dariush eight-fight streak or whatever. It’s simply very good. On top of that, Sandhagen is far from a star, so really he’s swimming uphill anyway. All other things being close to equal, the UFC is going to defer to the Sean O’Malley’s of the world for title shots. If you’re like Sandhagen, you have to make a statement.

Like it or not, Dana White makes the final call on title shots and we’ve seen him take boring fights really personal. And I hope we can all agree that fight was boring. Technically proficient? Absolutely. But so are BJJ tutorial videos, and I’d never sit down to watch one when I was bored. Sometimes you have stinkers (unless you are Justin Gaethje). Doesn’t mean we need to rake Cory over the coals, but we can all acknowledge that’s what that was, and because of it, Sandhagen merely retained his place in the bantamweight title picture.

My guess is that after Sandhagen heals up, he’s going to have to fight Umar Nurmagomedov for a title shot. Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley are about to fight for the belt. If O’Malley wins, I would strongly suspect he faces Marlon Vera for his first title defense ($$$). If Aljo wins, he’s moving up to 145 and then Merab Dvalishvili and O’Malley will square up for the vacant title. That’s just business.


Rob Font

I don’t know about that, mainly because I’m not sure what he was supposed to tell Font. Sandhagen is going to get most of the flak from Saturday (and that’s fair), but it takes two to not-tango, and Font was doing his level best in that regard. I mean, if you’re giving up 100 percent of takedown attempts to the world-renowned wrestler that is Cory Sandhagen, there’s really not any hope for you. Sometimes you have terrible nights at the office and there isn’t any tactical adjustments that are going to help you. The best bet is to try and spark something inside that gets things going.

I mean, hell, look at Leon Edwards’ title win over Kamaru Usman. Most of the cornering in that fight wasn’t about adjustments, it was about getting their fighter to fight. For whatever reason, Font wasn’t able to fight on Saturday (the man landed nine significant strikes over 25 minutes!) and that’s really the bottom line.


Justin Gaethje, title contender

Why would we do this?

Justin Gaethje is getting a title shot. He doesn’t need to fight anyone else. It’s locked up. So why would he accept that fight? And on the other end of things, I know Volkanovski wants a lightweight title shot, but here’s the thing: He already got one! Just because a certain subset of fans really want him to win the title because they like him doesn’t change the fact that Volk had his day in court and he came up short. And that was this year! It’s not even like that was several years ago and he deserves another shot!

Volkanovski needs to defend his belt against Ilia Topuria. Topuria just dummied a dude who fought for the interim belt right before that. He’s done enough. If you’re a champion, you have one job: Defend your title against the best challengers. In the history of this sport, basically every long-reigning champion has fought dudes who weren’t the No. 1 with a bullet guy, and you know what we call those fights? Title defenses. Just do that.

Also, and this is really going to bother the Volk folk, even if the champ beats Topuria (not a given), he still won’t get a lightweight title shot next, because if Aljamain Sterling beats Sean O’Malley, then Aljo will deserve a crack at Volk. Well, maybe not “deserve,” but the precedent is set. You can’t have it both ways. If Volk got his shot to go up after “clearing out his division,” then Aljo has certainly done the same and Volk needs to honor that.

He fought, he lost. He needs to hold court at 145 for a while and then we can revisit another lightweight title shot in a year or two. Or Volk can vacate the belt. Those are the only two legitimate options. Deal with it.


One Championship

If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that was Reug Reug vs. Marcus Buchecha from ONE on Friday night, I highly encourage you to go watch it. If you’re like me and enjoy the humor in MMA, it’s nearly a perfect fight. Five-hundred-time BJJ world champion and undefeated MMA fighter Buchecha having grappling be fraud-checked by Senegalese wrestling is deeply amusing.

Don’t believe me? Multiple times in this fight, Buchecha gets mount or back-mount and a clearly exhausted Reug Reug simply stands up, because when you are gigantic and athletic, BJJ isn’t real (half-joking). Plus, the third round was dominated by rampant cheating and Herb Dean fumbling everything up, all before we get a wild brawl with the fight on the line in the final minutes. Really, this fight had everything. Fight of the Year contender for me.


Thanks for reading, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! 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 Hot 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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