Elias Theodorou Cut By The UFC
Given the sheer size of the UFC roster, cuts are an inevitable — and, in fact, quite regular — occurrence, but every now and then some of them give me pause. The UFC's decision to cut middleweight Elias Theodorou was one of those instances that caught me by surprise. It's practically a rule that fighters need to lose at least 2 fights in a row to get axed from the roster, and some manage to stretch losing streaks to the 4 or 5 loss mark — although those are exceedingly rare as well. Theodorou boasted a record of 3-1 over his last 4 fights, so this looks very odd.
Of course, one need not think too hard on this; Theodorou's fighting style has drawn the ire of fans for quite some time now. His high-volume, low-damage, unorthodox style that crutched heavily on eccentric footwork lead to some really tedious fights to watch. Theodorou was able to win decisions because middleweight does not have a deep talent pool, and his style was sufficient to stifle most of his opponents and make him look busy enough to score rounds. It was frustrating to watch this play out, as his fights never threatened a finish while his opponents were cowed by his flailing.
Still, even considering his less-than fan-friendly style, Theodorou boasts an 8-3 record in the UFC and has never been finished. The only other similar instance to this, as far as I can recall, is when Jon Fitch was cut following his loss to Demian Maia in 2013. Even then, Fitch had fought to a draw against BJ Penn, was KO'ed in 12 seconds by peak Johny Hendricks, and defeated Erick Silva in a genuinely entertaining fight before he was cut. It was generally understood that he was cut due to his smothering, blanketing style being so maligned by fans that the concept has been dubbed "Fitching" since his heyday in the UFC. Theodorou is, seemingly, the next iteration of that.
Obviously the UFC can release fighters at their whim, and I am under no delusion that the organisation is any sort of "meritocracy," but this still seems extreme. There is still a sporting aspect to MMA, and Theodorou was a ranked middleweight. It's possible that Theodorou and the UFC are negotiating a new contract, but his sudden removal from the UFC rankings and website indicates this may not be the case. It would be strange to let him go; he's still a tough middleweight who poses a stiff test for anyone in the division. A fighter who cannot solve the tactical problems presented by Theodorou's style won't be able to hang with the higher ranks either.
I won't pretend that I was a fan of Elias Theodorou, and my assessments of his recent fights have not been kind. That all being said, I still believe there is a place for him in the UFC. At the very least, I feel he should be given the same consideration so many other fighters have received — and there have been plenty of mind-numbing grinders who have come and gone over the years. It could be a money issue; it's always interesting when the UFC decides to cut ties with a fighter with a long-term history with the promotion. Maybe this is the right decision; the UFC has made puzzling cuts before which, in hindsight (Sage Northcutt, Eddie Alvarez, Lorenz Larkin), looked very wise.
They don't always get it right, though, and I think Elias Theodorou should still be in the UFC. At the very least, give him another appropriately tough match-up and see what sort of fight you can coax out of him. Some of the blame for his lackluster showings can be put squarely on his opponents and their inability to cut off his movement and force exchanges. This cut feels like a message to the roster — that being exciting is as crucial as winning your fights — as much as it speaks to the state of the UFC's relationship with Elias Theodorou specifically.
Published: May 27th, 2019.