By Jeremy Pinnell & Kevin Broughton
The UFC closes out the year with its final pay-per-view of 2023, as do your humble journalistic correspondents, Jeremy “I’ll choke your ass out” Pinnell, and Kevin “don’t do it with the actual blue belt, please save my dignity” Broughton, with their expert analysis. Seriously: This might be a fight worth the 70-ish bucks Dana is charging via ESPN+. Or not. Read on.
Kevin: Hey, dude. It's been a minute. These last few UFC events have been pretty underwhelming, and you've been busy. Playing music and (checks notes) earning a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu! First off, congratulations. Let's use this moment to educate me a little on BJJ; I assume there's a basic set of standards (holds/escapes/etc.) you have to achieve. In general terms, what involved in earning a blue belt, and what was the process like for you?
Kevin: After some not-so-compelling fight cards, UFC 296 has excellent potential to close out the year on a high note. Colby "Make Fighting Stupid Again" Covington gets his third shot at welterweight gold, this time against Leon Edwards...who's twice beaten Covington's former nemesis, Kamaru Usman. I have to say, I think the wrong fighter is favored here; Edwards is a -155 favorite to Colby's +130. My gut tells me Covington's size, strength and wrestling will be too much for Leon. Pinnell, am I missing something?
Jeremy: No, I don’t think you’re missing anything. Colby is a banger. It’s gonna be interesting; although I like Edwards he wouldn’t be my favorite on this fight.
Kevin: There are a couple of tasty matchups on the undercard. UFC all-around nice guy and welterweight gatekeeper Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson stands between Kazakhstan mauler Shavkat Rakhmonov and a run at the 170 title. These Soviet-bloc Sambo dudes are all pretty scary; can Wonderboy keep this guy at range? I kinda crave a Wonderboy spin-kick for the upset win, but that’s me talking with my heart.
Jeremy: Shavkat’s record is clean. Wonderboy always amazes me. That’s an interesting matchup. Gonna make for a great fight.
Kevin: Finally, may we talk about Tony Ferguson? From October 2013 to June 2019 our guy won 12 straight fights, besting the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, Josh Thompson, and Athony Pettis. Then he lost to Justin Gaethje and five more guys in succession. Tony's 39 and on a six-fight skid. Does he have enough in the tank to beat Fatty Pimblett, the most overrated UFC fighter since Coke Monkey McGregor?
Jeremy: Honestly, after seeing Paddy propped up by the UFC, this is kind of a lame fight considering Tony is on his last leg. Although I hope Tony knocks him out.
Kevin: Fine, but I’m pretty sure he goes by “Fatty.” And Tony is kind of a brain-dead lunatic, but I’m with you.
You recently closed out a stretch of dates to end your touring year. Did you have a favorite, or most memorable this year, and are you trying out any new material on the road?
Jeremy: I’ve been to New York multiple times, and this time it was different. It was like I understood it or something? We had lunch at the famous Nom Wah Tea House, and I bought a fake Rolex and gifts for the family. It was maybe a highlight. We also hit Texas this year, and that was a great tour with good friends. It’s been a good year. Of course we’ve been running new ideas; you have to.
Kevin: You told me you've been listening to Croy And The Boys a good bit here lately, and I'm thankful you turned me on to them! Other than the honky-tonk ethos, what drew you to these guys? Have y'all ever crossed paths?
Jeremy: So, I got to meet these guys at the Ameripolitan awards and just dove into their music after hearing the tune “I Get By.” I felt like I fell upon a gold mine. Seriously, they might be my favorite current band?
Kevin: Well, here’s one of theirs from 2017, “Leaving’s The Last Thing,” but stick with me anyway, Slick.
Kevin: I gave you the rare homework assignment a couple weeks back: Watch this documentary about Tom Petty and the making of Wildflowers. I tend to come up goose eggs when I float a musical suggestion to you; please tell me you're not a Tom Petty hater, Jeremy! Did anything stand out to you about the recording/producing/song selection portions of this film?
Jeremy: Actually Kevin, I did watch it and enjoyed it very much. I love Tom Petty. I connected with his relationships with musicians, and the idea of moving away from the normal way of doing things and making your own path to create good art. It’s hard to create something beautiful in a hostile or damaged place with musicians. It’s good to do your own thing. Unapologetically.
Kevin: Aight, Cuz. Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to all the Pinnells.