And welcome back to another edition of The Duel. We’re a bit late this week but with our all-star panel I feel this is acceptable. Battling it out this week are MMA Payout guru Mr. Adam Swift and MMA Junkie‘s own junkie Mr. Dann Stupp.
While I’m not as cool as my celebrity guests I still request you follow me on Twitter. You have little to lose. I currently have 8 web browsers up, my girlfriend is mad at me and I’m playing pool with bikers tonight. How is that not interesting?
Off to the Duel!
1. Diego Sanchez will be successful in his lightweight debut against Joe Stevenson.
Junkie: TRUE. My lone concern about Sanchez heading into the fight was the cut and his conditioning. However, he took care of my concerns during the UFC 95 conference call — especially when he criticized B.J. Penn pretty badly for gassing at UFC 94. I doubt Sanchez would be that critical if he had any concerns about his own gas tank. He also said he finally has a good nutrition plan, and despite his departure from Team Jackson, his “nomad” training camp in the high altitudes of California should have him stellar fight shape. I think we see the old Diego in this fight — the one that terrorized the welterweight division.
Swift: TRUE. Everything about Sanchez’s move down to the lightweight division makes sense, now its just a matter of seeing the proof in the pudding. Like Dann said, the one thing you worry about is how the cut will affect his strength and conditioning, but I’m not that concerned. He’s a wrestler so he knows what it means to cut weight and he’s already come down from 185 to welterweight where he didn’t cut much weight and looked like somebody who would be perfect for the 155 pound division. I don’t see any reason to think that Sanchez won’t be very successful in the lightweight division. Joe Stevenson has become a gatekeeper of the division so a win here will put Sanchez on the fast track for a title shot.
My Five Cents: I will also go with true but I’m leaning toward Swift for mentioning pudding.
2. Chael Sonnen will make it two BJJ experts in a row by defeating Demian Maia.
Junkie: FALSE. I was slow to come around on Demian Maia, but he’s made a believer out of me. And while Maia and Paulo Filho are both jiu-jitsu fighters, it’d be a big mistake to draw any comparisons between the two fighters — especially in light of Filho’s two recent performances against Sonnen. Filho was a shell of his former self in those two fights, so it’d be wrong to assume that just because Sonnen hung with Filho he’ll also be able to keep up with Maia. Sonnen is a good fighter, but I believe this is the fight in which Maia pushes himself into title contention.
Swift: FALSE. I agree with Dann, you can’t compare Filho to Maia at this point. I’ve been very impressed with Maia’s work in the UFC. He’s 4-0 with four submissions and has looked like one of the few guys at 185 pounds that would be an interesting fight for Anderson Silva. Whether Sonnen tapped in his first fight with Filho or not he was in a bad position and he’s been submitted in 6 of his 9 losses. All that said, this is going to be a step up in competition for Maia so I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles a veteran like Sonnen.
My Five Cents: He did tap…. if by yelling “tap tap tap tap” you figure that a submission. In fact when I ranted about that and called Sonnen names that was the only time Caplan has ever yelled at me. I’m still not happy with Chael over that but hopefully I’ll never meet him so he won’t beat the crap out of me.
3. After turning down a fight with Josh Thomson, KJ Noons will never fight for Strikeforce.
Junkie: TRUE. (For the foreseeable future anyway.) As we first saw with the Nick Diaz fight and now with the Josh Thomson bout, KJ Noons has no problem turning down big fights. When he upset Diaz for the EliteXC lightweight belt, I think everyone was ready to rush Noons into fights with A-level fighters — everyone except Noons himself. From everything Noons has told us, he’s serious about wanting to focus on boxing. And honestly, many guys end up having just one chance to make big money in MMA. Noons isn’t there yet, and he could ruin any chance of getting there if he suffers some big losses at this point in his career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Noons box a few times more, build up his name in some smaller shows with favorable match-ups, and then try to sign a big, career-making MMA contract in a year or two with an organization such as Strikeforce.
Swift: FALSE. I have to believe that eventually Noons will find his way back to MMA and that when he does it will probably be with Strikeforce due to the murky contractual obligations involved. Now whether that’s later this year or further down the road, I have no idea. Dann offers an interesting theory for career advancement, but I’m not sure its something I’d want to bet on if I was Noons. I think he’s had about 10 fights in boxing, so he’s probably 10-15 fights away from title contention in that sport. He would need a boxing title to generate a lucrative crossover opporunity in MMA. There are a lot of titles to choose from in boxing, but with politics and this few fights under his belt, the stars will kind of have to align for it to happen. On the other hand in MMA, he’s already near the top of the food chain at 155 after 9 fights. If I were him I’d ask for a tune-up fight in MMA, knock the ring rust off, fight Josh Thomson and see what happens. The big money is already moving from MMA to boxing, you don’t want to spend three years tilting at windmills. If he can’t hang with Thomson, boxing will still be there.
My Five Cents: While Josh Thomson is a solid fighter he’s hardly the cream of the crop that Noons needs to avoid. In fact that’s the exact fight he should be taking. He’s good at MMA but still wants to consider himself a boxer. Fun fact: If you get KO’d by Krazy Horse maybe boxing isn’t for you. Speaking of Krazy Horse, he just broke my window and stole my television.
—-SWITCH IT UP—-
4. Strikeforce made a good purchase in acquiring ProElite.
Swift: TRUE. The purchase immediately establishes Strikeforce as the number two promotion in the industry and puts them in a very compelling position moving forward. Even more impressive is the way the deal came together. Strikeforce was patient and prudent rather than rushing into things and overpaying or ignoring due diligence. Utimately it looks like they got the ProElilte assets at the price they wanted and perhaps more importantly negotiated TV deals that give them a chance to be profitable. Despite wildly different circumstances, it’s interesting to compare the Strikeforce-ProElite-Showtime transactions to the Zuffa-Pride acquisition which in comparsion looks a lot more haphazard and impulsive.
Junkie: TRUE. Assuming they could have eventually freed themselves of ProElite, I think most of EliteXC’s fighters would have signed with Strikeforce anyway. I also think Strikeforce was in a good position to score a TV deal or two even without the ProElite deal. But despite all that, I think that was a good deal for Strikeforce because it made it very clear the organization is no longer thinking of itself as a regional promotion. It went after the best talent available, spent some money, and made a big splash. For a usually quiet, nose-to-the-grindstone type of organization, this was a great way of “coming out” just at a time when fans (and even the fighters and managers) were looking for some closure. Strikeforce looks like the knight in shining armor.
My Five Cents: Agreed. Strikeforce should really be getting solid press for how they run their business. Dana White doesn’t even curse them out on a regular basis…. if he’s not doing that you know you’re doing something right.
5. Thiago Alves will take the gold away from Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100.
Swift: FALSE. Thiago Alves may very well provide the toughest test that Georges St. Pierre has faced, but I can’t bet against St. Pierre. St. Pierre is on another level right now and improving by leaps and bounds each time he steps in the octagon. Most importantly, it seems like he’s starting to put the mental aspect of the fight game together with the amazing physical tools he’s always had which is am intimidating proposition for his competitors. It will be interesting to see how St. Pierre deals with Alves’s size advantage, but ultimately I think his superior athleticism and conditioning will be hard to overcome.
Junkie: FALSE. As Adam mentioned, among the UFC’s current 170-pounders, I too think Thiago Alves has the best chance at defeating Georges St. Pierre, but even those odds aren’t good enough to topple the champ. Still, I think this fight is going to be a lot closer than most people think, and I think Alves puts up more of a fight than B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves did. In my opinion, Alves is clearly the world’s No. 2 welterweight, and at just about any other time in history, he could probably be a pretty dominant champion himself. But St. Pierre’s just on a whole other level right now.
My Five Cents: I made this statement because I too think Alves is the biggest threat to GSP. I don’t see a way GSP dominates this fight as he normally does. That’s of course assuming Alves doesn’t weigh in at 285lbs for the title fight.
6. Frank Shamrock and Nick Diaz will keep it standing on April 11.
Swift: TRUE. Shamrock and Diaz are both showmen who like to bang so I expect fireworks on Strikeforce’s Showtime debut. This is a very interesting fight. Diaz will have the reach advantage while Shamrock should have a considerable edge in size and strength. A lot of the early focus has been on Diaz’s moving up to the catch weight, but for me a lot of the intrigue will be in how Shamrock handles the weight cut. He hasn’t been a big fan or practioner in his recent past so it will be interesting to see what effect if any the cut has on him physically.
Junkie: FALSE. While I think the fight will primarily stay standing, I also see this fight going the distance. In 15 minutes of action with two guys both willing to push the pace, I don’t see how this fight doesn’t go to the ground at least for a while. Additionally, there’s a small part of me that thinks Shamrock wants to teach his young opponent a lesson and maybe beat him at his own game. If there’s an opening, Shamrock could very well try to force the fight to the mat and tap out Diaz. However, I’m not saying it’s a particularly wise plan (Diaz has never been submitted, and Shamrock didn’t fare too well when he tried to beat Cung Le at his own game). Still, with what I expect to be a 15-minute fight, I think we see some ground fighting at some point.
My Five Cents: Frank Shamrock does have that Fedor in him, wanting to beat opponents at their own game. However unlike Fedor he loses. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Frank come out and do the goofy standup to mock Diaz, though you would be hard pressed to say he wasn’t impressive in his standup against Cung Le.
A big thank you to my guests, Dann and Adam. We’ll be back next week to preview future cards and discuss UFC 95 results.