This article is part of our MMA Barometer series.
With the recent changes to USADA rules, it is very difficult for fighters to know what they can and cannot do with respect to supplements and recovery strategies. The most recent victim to the uncertainty is B.J. Penn, a staunch supporter of drug testing and somebody who has always been known as a clean fighter. Penn's big mistake was using an IV bag to hydrate himself during camp. Since the beginning of 2016, fighters have not been able to use an IV bag. However, some fighters, like Penn, were under the impression the ban was only for immediately after weigh-ins, not year round. Penn eventually found out he had broken the rules and self-reported to USADA, so fortunately, whatever suspension he gets should be a little less severe. Unfortunately, this forced Penn to be pulled from his return fight against Cole Miller at UFC 199.
Even though the new testing is good for the sport and is making it a safer environment for the fighters, there needs to be more clarity. USADA needs to have some sort of informational session that sets out exactly what the fighters can and cannot do with supplements and other training strategies. Many of the new rules are confusing, and some MMA reporters admittedly remain confused, even though they had a sit-down informational session with USADA about the new rules. Hopefully USADA and the fighters can get on the same page so fighters are not pulled from cards and suspended for honest mistakes and trivial situations such as B.J. Penn's.
As always, below is your MMA barometer with rising, falling, and check status fighters.
Riding a four-fight winning streak, Alistair Overeem is undoubtedly the hottest fighter in the UFC heavyweight division. Overeem has finished three of those four fights by KO/TKO, including his last two devastating knockout victories of top-10 opponents in Junior dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski. Overeem's streak has set him up for a title shot against newly crowned UFC heavyweight king Stipe Miocic. This was announced at the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff game on Wednesday night, and it will take place Sep. 10th at Quicken Loans Arena in Miocic's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. This is an extremely favorable matchup for Overeem. Miocic was a Division I wrestler in college, but Overeem boasts a 78 percent takedown defense in the UFC, and has an extremely underrated submission game. He showcased those skills earlier in his career, but has not had an occasion to utilize them since he won the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious kickboxing tournaments in the world. Even though Miocic knocked out Fabrico Werdum to capture the UFC heavyweight championship, he would be at a severe disadvantage against Overeem if he was unable to take Overeem down. "The Reem" is the most technically sound stand-up fighter in the heavyweight division, as he showcased during his performances against decorated strikers dos Santos and Arlovski, and would likely be able to pick Miocic apart if the fight turned into a striking war. Overeem is in good position to finally capture UFC gold after he entered the promotion with so much hype as the Strikeforce champion.
Next Fight: Stipe Miocic (C), UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem (Sep. 10, 2016)
With his recent submission victory over No. 8-ranked UFC welterweight Matt Brown at UFC 198, Demian Maia has won five fights in a row in the UFC 170-pound division. Brown had no answer for the grappling of Maia and spent the majority of the fight on his back, before tapping to a rear naked choke late in the third round. Before his matchup with Brown, Maia dominated Gunnar Nelson on his way to a unanimous decision victory over the formidable Icelandic grappler. Many people thought the fight would be close when it went to the ground, but Maia was able to dominate the fight. Maia began his UFC career in the middleweight division, and his move to welterweight has allowed him to have a significant size advantage over all of his opponents. He uses this size advantage to grind his opponent against the fence and secure takedowns, where he can then utilize his fourth-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Maia is one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to compete in the octagon and poses significant challenges to any UFC welterweight he competes against. His style is not crowd-pleasing, so it will be difficult for Maia to get a title shot before he proves that he has shored up some of the holes in his game. His obvious deficiencies are in the striking department, as was showcased in his unanimous decision loss to Rory MacDonald. As Maia moves into fights against top-five welterweight opponents, he will presumably be forced to show he has improved in his striking. However, his dominant grappling could negate the striking of his opponents, and Maia has a good chance of submitting any fighter he is able to take to the ground. An interesting stylistic matchup would be a fight with Carlos Condit, who is the only fighter in the top five that does not currently have a contract for a fight. If Maia is able to defeat a striker as talented as Condit, it will be difficult to deny him a shot at the UFC welterweight title.
Next fight: TBA
Since his knockout loss to Conor McGregor in 2014, Dustin Poirier has won three fights in a row after returning to the UFC lightweight division. Two of his three wins came by KO/TKO, and his last win was an impressive unanimous decision at UFC 195 over Joe Duffy, who at that point, was the last man to defeat Conor McGregor. Poirier is now the No. 11-ranked UFC lightweight, and is on the brink of cracking the top-ten if he's able to beat No. 13-ranked UFC lightweight Bobby Green at UFC 199. Green prefers to strike, similar to Poirier, so the fight should be exciting. It will be interesting if Poirier decides to employ the same strategy he did against ex-professional boxer Duffy by using takedowns to keep his opponent guessing and negate some of the striking. Poirier got cracked early by Duffy and was obviously hurt before he started to rely on takedowns. One advantage "The Diamond" will have over Green is more recent experience in the Octagon. Green has not competed since November 2014, and could be the victim of ring rust, which is not something a fighter wants against a fast starter like Poirier. Two of Poirier's last three wins came in the first round. If Green does have ring rust, it could be a short night. An impressive win for Poirier could catapult him into a high-profile fight against a top-ten opponent.
Next Fight: Bobby Green, UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Bisping 2 (June 4, 2016)
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza
Souza keeps hanging around in check status as he waits for the top two fighters in the division to settle their rivalry. He has won six of seven fights in the UFC, with the lone exception being a decision loss to Yoel Romero, who subsequently tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. However, Souza bounced back quickly and dominated Vitor Belfort in the first round at UFC 198. After Chris Weidman pulled out of UFC 199 with an injury, many thought Souza would get the call to challenge UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, but a knee injury forced Souza to turn down the offer. This puts Souza in a problematic position because Rockhold will now fight Michael Bisping, and the winner of that fight will likely be matched up with Weidman in November at Madison Square Garden. This means Souza could potentially be on the shelf for a very long time. Souza will have a tough decision to make regarding whether to wait for the championship scenario to work itself out, or whether to continue taking on opponents while being the number one contender.
Next Fight: TBA
Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva
Short and sweet. Silva has been on this list before, and not much has changed. He has lost four of his last five fights, with all four losses coming via KO/TKO in the first round. This has been a trend ever since testosterone replacement therapy was banned. Silva is one of the few who actually needs this treatment due to his acromegaly, and without it, he has not been the same fighter. Due to the new rules, Silva should retire immediately. His chin can't handle the UFC heavyweight division without the treatment. If Silva does not retire, it would be in any daily fantasy player's best interest to choose his opponent, considering it's likely Silva will get finished in the first round.
Next Fight: TBA
Casey has struggled since his debut in the UFC, with only one win in five Octagon appearances. Two of his fights have been no contests, with Casey unable to continue after an eye poke from Antonio Carlos Junior and his first round victory over Bubba Bush being overturned because Casey tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The most troubling part about Casey's UFC career has been his lack of utilization of his best skill. Casey is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Rickson Gracie, but in five fights, he has only secured one takedown. That is not a good recipe for success with a BJJ black belt, when Casey's striking is very average. He has a lot of power in his hands, but has a hard time putting together good combinations and seems to go for the knockout too often. This leads to Casey gassing out and being vulnerable to both takedowns and stand up attacks from his opponents. In his last fight, Casey was outclassed in every facet of mixed martial arts from striking to grappling against No. 13-ranked UFC middleweight Rafael Natal. He got clipped on the feet and dominated on the ground before being pounded out in the third round. Casey will have to turn it around and improve his takedown ability so he can use his black belt skills on the ground to get back on the winning track.
Next Fight: Elvis Mutapcic, UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Bisping (June 4, 2016)