Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: Nov. 20 Edition

Rampage Jackson Bellator MMA
Credit: Dave Mandel/

High-profile prospect Mackenzie Dern is taking another shot at strawweight in Invicta FC, CTE was confirmed in a living person for the first time, and Fat Rampage isn’t happy. Huh?

Finding the proper response to much of the news finding its way into our social media feeds is becoming a tougher task every day. Nothing is surprising, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”.

Last week, Invicta FC made a high-profile signing after a quiet summer, snagging the services of strawweight-hopeful Mackenzie Dern. Also, CTE was confirmed in a living person for the first time, and Rampage Jackson got the exact matchup he was looking to avoid in the upcoming Bellator heavyweight grand prix.

The reason “huh?”, in its various forms, is such a quality reply is simple. The word is as versatile as a response gets, and while it may require some explanation, “huh?” is sometimes the only way to react to the news of today. Defined by Merriam-Webster as an interjection that’s “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”, “huh” or “huh?” can mean a lot of different things.

Despite some of the follies of human evolution (see: Sky art), the development and growth of “huh” is something we should embrace. To be the change we want to see in the world, here are a few MMA stories last week that made us go “huh?”.

Mackenzie Dern signs with Invicta FC, shooting for strawweight (again)

Undefeated prospect Mackenzie Dern has signed to fight for Invicta FC, and is once again attempting to fight at strawweight. Huh?

While the decorated jiu-jitsu badass has failed to make the strawweight limit of 116-pounds in two of her three fights in the weight class, Dern is taking another shot at one of the deepest divisions in women’s MMA. She’s 4-0 as a pro, with two submission finishes and two unanimous decision victories.

Her last bout, arguably the most impressive of her short career, came at flyweight. Invicta FC has a flyweight division, and for a high-profile fighter like Dern, it’d make sense for her to continue in a weight class that she can actually compete in. The UFC will also have a women’s flyweight division by next month, opening up even more possibilities for Dern.

But, to strawweight she goes. Her first bout will be at Invicta FC 26 on December 8. She’ll be fighting former Invicta 115-pound title challenger Kaline Medeiros in her promotional debut, in what is her toughest test to date.

Dern is likable, and a face that all of the promoters in MMA can get behind. But struggling to make weight and taking time to find the right division for the BJJ superstar will only slow her potential rise to mainstream notoriety. Why the rush back to strawweight is happening when she’s welcoming tougher opponents is a mystery. But if she solves that mystery in impressive fashion at Invicta FC 26 next month, the weight cut issues will quickly be forgotten and the push behind Dern will get even stronger.

CTE has been confirmed in a living person for the first time

According to a recently published study, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been confirmed in a living person for the first time. Huh.

CTE is a brain disease that presents with symptoms such as memory loss, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and more. It is linked to concussions and repetitive blows to the head, but it is still unknown why some people develop CTE and others do not.

Until now, it was only able to be diagnosed via brain exam after death. In another recent study, CTE was found in 99 out of 100 studied brains from deceased NFL players. But, this isn’t just an NFL problem. Researchers stress that CTE can be caused by any kind of head trauma, such as being a professional fighter.

Being able to definitively diagnose CTE in living people is a game-changer for the research community, and could have incredible impacts on the future of a wide variety of sports. When it comes to MMA, the connection is obvious.

What develops from this knowledge remains to be seen, but the more information we have about brain damage and the lasting impacts of diseases like CTE, the better off we are. It may not reflect well on the sports we love, or change the way that people think, but the potential risks are worth noting. Fighters know they’re putting their health at risk when they step into the Octagon, but they may not know all of the risks, and being able to monitor or diagnose CTE and other brain diseases are a must for future fighter safety.

Fat Rampage won’t get his wish in Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was surprised to find out he’d be competing in the upcoming Bellator heavyweight grand prix, and he won’t be happy to find out who his first opponent is slated to be. Huh?

Jackson recently signed a new multi-fight deal with Bellator, and his inclusion in the tournament came as a surprise to the former UFC champion. What isn’t a surprise is how Rampage feels about his reported upcoming opponent. While he’s 3-1 in his last four bouts, the product hasn’t been great. Facing fighters focused on the ground-game, Rampage was hoping for something different to go with his new deal.

“Honestly, I would say [Chael Sonnen] wouldn’t be a matchup I’d be looking forward to, and I would be upset coming into the Bellator contract fresh off the bat and them giving me a wrestler to be honest. Who wants to see me fight another wrestler? Why wouldn’t a promoter have a guy like me who loves to stand and bang and have exciting fights?” – Jackson on The MMA Hour.

We agree, Fat Rampage. At heavyweight, the former knockout artist hasn’t looked like the fighter we fell in love with in PRIDE. That’s to be expected from the now 39-year-old, but the least Bellator could do is give him a solid standing matchup. Alas, that’s apparently not in the cards.

The Bellator heavyweight grand prix should be fun. A mess, but fun. Those first-round bouts look interesting, but there are likely better ways the promotion could’ve fit the fighters together. Either way, we’ll be watching, and hoping Rampage doesn’t have to deal with the leg-humping he dreads so very much.

Invicta FC signed a budding star, and we can’t wait to see how Dern does in the promotion, despite her insistence on competing at strawweight. There’s also new information regarding the diagnosis of CTE in living people, which could have massive ramifications in MMA and beyond. Speaking of massive, Fat Rampage has a reported opponent for the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix, and it’s not exactly his, or our, first choice. Huh.

Huh? for the road