Monday Mailbag: Manon Fiorot’s rise, Erin Blanchfield’s fall, and the value of being a hoss at UFC Atlantic City

UFC Atlantic City is in the books, and the women’s flyweight division has a new No. 1 contender. Manon Fiorot handed Erin Blanchfield the first loss of her UFC career and cemented herself as next in line for the winner of Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko III. Plus, Chris Weidman got his first win in forever, and in extremely controversial fashion. So let’s talk about the wild weekend that was UFC Atlantic City.

Erin Blanchfield

“Did Erin Blanchfield get worse and do we need to reconsider her future in the division?”

Coming into this fight, I had made it extremely clear that I viewed Blanchfield as the best fighter at flyweight and probably the best female fighter on the planet. I was not alone.


Manon Fiorot just hung a 50-45 on her and did so with relative ease. But my prevailing thought coming out of UFC Atlantic City is not that Blanchfield was overhyped or getting worse, it’s that Fiorot is just better than many gave her credit for.

Fiorot beat Blanchfield by virtue of being a well-rounded, well-prepared fighter and an absolute unit of a flyweight. Does that make for great viewing? No, not particularly, which is why she’s was underrated. She’s essentially more physical, athletic Katlyn Cerminara (née Chookagian). But Cerminara was a top-five fighter for a long time, so if we’ve essentially improved on that mold, that’s an extremely capable flyweight right there, and that’s what we saw on Saturday. Fiorot had a winning formula and she never wavered from it, and Blanchfield simply had no answers.

So, should we rethink Blanchfield’s place at 125? No, don’t be ridiculous. Blanchfield is 24 years old. Losing to someone who is at worst the third best flyweight alive – and quite possibly the best – does not mean you suck. I would still comfortably pick her to beat just about every other flyweight alive. What it does mean is that Blanchfield has some work to do.

Coming into this fight, I was so confident in Blanchfield because she is a terror on the mat and no one has been able to really stop her grappling. Fiorot did, and Blanchfield was left almost toothless. Blanchfield is simply not a good striker. Thus far she’s gotten by on athleticism, durability, and a willingness to strike when things aren’t going well. Saturday, that was woefully inadequate. Blanchfield finally met someone that could stop her A game. Now, she needs to develop a Plan B. Fortunately, she’s 24. There’s plenty of time for that to come.

Weight classes

“If fighters like Fiorot are much bigger than Blanchfield, should she consider dropping down a division, or is she better served by just staying where she is and learning from the defeat?”

No. As mentioned above, I’d still pick Blanchfield to beat just about anyone else at 125, even without adding a single thing to her game. Only a handful of women will be able to stop her takedowns and pace in the weight class, and even fewer will be able to do that AND work her over on the feet. Fiorot happens to be a horribly bad style matchup for her. No need to make drastic changes – just get in the gym and improve.

Speaking for all Blanchfield supporters, we all knew she was a limited fighter, we just didn’t think it mattered. Khabib was limited, as well, and how did that go for him? Even against the extremely physical Taila Santos, Blanchfield just sort of pushed through the resistance with sheer will power. She couldn’t do that against Fiorot. Time to go sharpen some new skills.

The Value of Being a Hoss

“As you say, being a HOSS really is the strongest style. What do you think are plausible strategies, approaches, etc. for success for the smaller athlete in fights with major size mismatches? A broad question, so please take it however you like. Thank you good sir!”

I noted on MMA Fighting’s Atlantic City Post-Show that Fiorot’s win on Saturday once again proved that being a hoss is truly the best base for MMA. Wrestling, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, those are all fine. But truly, give me a big ol’ boy or girl with some athleticism and a lot of strength, and I’ll build you a contender.

In reality, there are plenty of ways to beat a hoss if you are not one yourself. The UFC was essentially built on that very premise: that size and strength are not the end-all-be-all. The problem is when much of your style is built on your own physicality, and you run into someone who can out-hoss you. That’s what happened to Erin Blanchfield. Fiorot was born as a hoss. Blanchfield merely became one.

That’s why, to the point above, Blanchfield now needs to go work on the other aspects of her game. Because while Fiorot blanked her on the cards, it’s not like the fight was uncompetitive. Blanchfield landed a bunch and Fiorot never had her in trouble. If Blanchfield had even just a solid jab and decent footwork, that might’ve been enough to get her through this fight. Simply any tools other than getting jabbed at range and running headlong into hooks.

And on the other side of the ball, being a hoss is not a cure-all for fighting. Fiorot didn’t win just because of her physicality. She won because she’s a good kickboxer, a good grappler, had a good game plan, and she never deviated. Her physicality allowed all those parts to show themselves on Saturday, but without the other tools, she’s not getting her hand raised.

The Hossiest of Hosses

“What is your top 5 Hoss for Hoss ranking? Interpret that as you will, it’s a more specific PFP. Spiritually connected to middleweightiness but is its own different premise.”

Because I’m under deadline, this is not going to be the most well thought-out list. But just firing from the hip here and in no particular order:

Plenty of other fighters could make the list, no doubt, and Tatiana Suarez probably would very likely make the top-five if she could ever be healthy. But that’s what I’m rocking with off the top of my head. And a special shoutout to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Johny Hendricks. Two all-time hosses.

Chris Weidman, Winner via Eyepoke

“Should Weidman have gotten DQ’d?”

If you missed it, Weidman won a controversial technical decision over Bruno Silva on Saturday after the fight was stopped in the third round with what looked to be a knockout. Upon review, it was shown to be a pair of eye pokes that dropped Silva, leading to the finish. Now that you know that, let’s get into it.

Based on how MMA is broadly officiated these days, Weidman should not have been DQed. Simply put, fouling in MMA is legal, so long it’s not so blatant that the referee can’t even pretend it was unintentional (like, say, if you bite someone). If a foul happens, the referee stops the action and then it’s resumed after the fouled fighter says he’s good to go. If it happens repeatedly, sometimes a referee might take a point. But even then that point is taken, not because the penalty was “intentional,” but because it was repeated and adversely affected the fouled fighter.

So, based on how basically all of MMA is officiated and judged, what should have happened is what happened. An inappropriate stoppage of the fight in the third round means it goes to a technical decision, and Weidman wins that (though I will say that not even taking a point from Weidman for his FOURTH eye poke of the fight is pretty outlandish).

But come on! That is obviously the most insane nonsense!

You can try to couch it however you want, but the brass tacks of it all here is that Chris Weidman repeatedly and flagrantly poked Bruno Silva in the eye, and he won as a result of it.

How is that justice? Moreover, how is it OK for people to simply foul at will in this sport?

In literally any other sport in the world, if you break the rules, you are penalized: fifteen yards, a free kick, yellow card, two minutes in the box, the sin bin, points awarded to the opponent, strokes assessed on the scorecard, 10-second penalty, the list is endless. MMA is the only sport I know of where you can do something that is explicitly prohibited and just get told to stop doing that. It’s insane.

“Oh, but if they took a point for every foul, that’s lame! He didn’t mean to do it!”

Why do we give a toot if Weidman meant to go three knuckles deep into Silva’s eye? He did it! That’s enough! If I shoot a gun at a squirrel, and I miss, and it hits you in the thigh, you still got shot through no fault of your own! What, are we supposed to just say, “My bad, I’ll have a little better aim next time, enjoy those medical bills.” Of course not. Fighting is the same way. You penalize a fighter not for the intent of the foul, but because it affects the opponent, and there has to be reciprocity.

I’m not saying Weidman intended to poke Silva – I’m saying he has not been properly incentivized to not to the bad thing. If referees simply enforced the rules appropriately, fouls would plummet. If you, as a fighter, knew that any eye poke or low blow or fence grab would immediately put you a point down in the fight, then buddy, you’d be a lot more careful about your actions in there. You’d train in a way to minimize the potential for those penalties, the same way that if shooting fouls only got “a stern warning,” basketball players would simply start hitting dudes on the arm in practice.

Fighters know the rules of the sport. They are given a rules meeting before every fight. Chris Weidman is a champion in this sport. He knows you can’t poke people in the eyes, and he knows that you’re not supposed to even extend your fingers outward. And yet on Saturday, he just kept stabbing Bruno Silva in the eye. Not only was he not punished for it, but he won as a direct result of it, and then had the temerity to blame Silva. The whole thing was a gong show. Even as a man who bet on Weidman to win, I believe that in any sane sport, he would have been DQed.

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.