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Grappling with Iss-BOO-es: Jason Polley

wandy_shogunIs there currently any heavyweight in the UFC as frightening as Cain Velasquez? Which competitor on the DREAM 12 card would deliver the most treats to the Zuffa zipcode? Is it time for the grim reaper to lay Sakuraba’s career to rest? Does the current five-round structure in championship fights suck as much as the cast of Twilight? Cause they’re vampires, of course.

Keyboard varrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay! Twas a dark and stormy night vhen I first conceived this edition of “Grappling vith Issues”. I called upon my assistant Igor…not Vovchanchyn…to go to the local morgue and bring me back a single human brain. He returned not an hour later vith vhat appeared to be a fine specimen. However, after I’d attached the proper nodes and harnessed the power of lightning to extract the organ’s crucial knowledge, little did I realize vhat vas about to occur!!!

As the electrodes flared up I could immediately tell something vas wrong! I turned to my assistant and demanded he bring me the jar the brain had been kept in. He handed me the container filled with a murky liquid while cowering in fear I vould again force him to vatch the opening ceremony of “Dynamite!! USA” vhile listening to the DJ’s inane rambling on full volume as punishment for the error!

My eyes widened as I looked at the label. I handed glass instrument back to him vith a disapproving look on my face.

“I said the brain jar. Not Machida’s daily urine.”

Igor apologized and quickly brought back the jar vith a similar, but different, substance inside it. Alas, it vas as I’d feared!

“W-w-what does it say, sire? Not ‘Ab..abby N-normal’ again, I swear! I ch-checked this time!!”

“Vorse,” I shuddered, as the vind flared up to a howling gale and thunder crashed!

“Jason Polley!!!”


But seriously…Happy Halloween, and thank you for your patience with my creative venture (unless of course you skipped ahead to this part)! Today’s guest contributor is indeed fellow 5 Oz. partner in literary stylings Jason Polley, whose work can be found on the site most days when it comes to breaking news from around the MMA world. He’s taking a break from dealing facts to opinions, so welcome him to GWI if you will with a nice warm round of applause. In your mind, of course, because clapping out loud in front of your computer screen might raise the eyebrows of any nearby people.

In light of Machida vs. Rua, do championship fights need to be seven rounds or are you comfortable with the current five-round format?

Jason Polley: I’m comfortable with the current format. I believe if 25 minutes aren’t enough time to win and win decisively, another ten are not going to matter. With that being said, I think the more appropriate question is, do we change the way championship, or any fights for that matter, are scored? Time and time again, we see fights go to judges’ hands who are clearly not qualified to score the bouts. I’m a huge Shogun fan, but I’m an even bigger Machida fan, and after watching and re-watching that fight, even I can’t see how the decision went to Lyoto. While not an absolute dominant performance, it was clear from the first round that Rua had taken Machida out of his rhythm, out of his game plan, and out of the fight. Had the fight gone another two rounds, it probably would have gone the exact same way, with Rua using punishing kicks with perfect timing, forcing Machida out of the fight. It’s unlikely either man would have
been finished off, but it was apparent Rua was getting the better of the match. But, without proper ringside judges, you leave your fate to the likes of Cecil Peoples, Nelson Hamilton and Marcos Rosales, all of which who are clearly incompetent at their respective positions.

Brendhan Conlan: I understand Polley’s point but disagree with his assertion ten extra minutes wouldn’t help sort out particularly close fights; where the extra rounds would act as a service to all involved with something as important as promotional gold on the line. Obviously a knockout or submission eliminates any speculation on how a judge scored the overall performance and it seems logical to say the longer a fight goes, the better the odds are a finish will occur.

Granted, there are also championship bouts that go the distance where a clearly defined winner has emerged in the first five frames and the additional two would be completely unnecessary. There’s also the increased risk of injury involved in lengthening a fight, not to mention a higher strike-count absorbed by each individual which could have long-term affects, and a possibility that a lack of conditioning or motivation to finish an opponent could lead to some atrocious seven-stanza affairs. Seriously, had Tim Sylvia’s title-defense against Jeff Monson (or Anderson Silva’s v. Thales Leites) been forced upon the public for any longer than absolutely necessary, there may have been justifiable cause to bring up criminal charges for stealing those moments of time from viewers’ collective lives.

I’m not exactly sure what the right answer is in regards to fixing (no pun intended) close fights, though I think it lies somewhere between seven-rounds and better ringside officiating. Maybe a situation where a “sudden death”-with-a-friendlier-sounding-name period is established in championship fights if neither competitor is two points ahead on each judges’ scorecard (i.e. 48-47 situations)? Then if no winner is established they thumb-war for the belt? Or would that lead to allegations of thumb-greasing? Perhaps the real solution is for everyone to acknowledge controversy has always been a part of sports. Baseball has been around for more than a hundred years – professional football more more than eighty – and not a season passes where a blown call, even with high-definition instant replay rules involved, doesn’t lead to a big play for one of the involved teams. Why should fans expect any different in Mixed Martial Arts?

Was Yushin Okami suffering from ring rust at UFC 104 or is Chael Sonnen simply THAT good?

Polley: We say it all the time; there is no cure for ring rust. Even with being a notorious slow starter, it was apparent Okami wasn’t comfortable in the fight with Sonnen. He couldn’t find his rhythm and Sonnen capitalized using good striking and takedowns to outscore his opponent. But, because there always has to be a “but” with Okami, he is a bit overrated in my opinion. I look at both Sonnen and Okami as Tier Two guys who will never quite be good enough for a title. These are the type of fighters that will put on competitive fights, but one step up in competition and they lose stock. The Team Quest member was quickly humbled when he faced ranked middleweight Demian Maia in his UFC debut. While he has legitimate wins over the likes of Dan Miller and Paulo Filho, I would like to see him against better competition like a Patrick Cote or Michael Bisping before I’m convinced.

Conlan: I think the performance was more a credit to Sonnen’s skill than any affect Okami’s layoff may have had. Okami relies on his size, strength, and wrestling to muscle his opponents around which is why nearly half of his twenty-three career victories have come by way of decision. The Team Quester is a big middleweight in his own right, and could easily fight at light heavyweight if he didn’t enjoy the advantage his stature provides in the 185-pound division, so the match-up ultimately boiled down to the Japanese fighter’s grappling acumen in comparison to Sonnen’s. And, if you consider where each man trains, not to mention Chael’s amateur background (NCAA Champion, All-American, and Olympic alternate wrestler) there really is no comparison between their mat-based abilities. He’s an extremely difficult draw for any fighter who relies more on taking things to the ground than delivering precise, damaging strikes.

I agree Cote or Bisping would make for suitable future opponents. A few other names I’ll throw out there are Nate Marquardt, Alan Belcher, and Yoshihiro Akiyama. I’m also interested to know if he’s willing to fight friend/teammate Dan Henderson at some point if it means title contendership, though I suppose it won’t really matter unless Sonnen beats any three of the afore-mentioned five UFC middleweights.

As far as Okami, he looked a little smaller than usual at the event so I’ll be interested to see if he puts on more muscle now that he’s able to fully train again or if the slimmer look is permanent. Regardless of what occurred against Sonnen, he’s still good enough to beat most of his peers and won’t run into too many other Olympic-level wrestlers who match his size other than Dan Henderson. I’d like to see him fight Demian Maia or Nate Marquardt simply because all three of them have been around the UFC’s middleweight division for a few years, are among the top 15-20 best 185-pounders in the sport, and yet Okami has yet to face either in his career.

True/False – After the beating Cain Velasquez put on Ben Rothwell he deserves to face the winner of Lesnar/Carwin for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.

Polley: False. While completely annihilating Big Ben, it doesn’t warrant a shot at the belt. While Cain has no doubt been impressive in his five victories since joining the UFC, his latest wins over the likes of Rothwell and Kongo don’t justify a title shot. However, adding more fuel to the Velasquez hype train at UFC 104, I think he’s forced the promotion into a corner. By all accounts Cain has lived up to all the hype the UFC has thrown our way, so credentials aside, I think he will for sure get the winner of Lesnar vs. Carwin match-up. I’m not sure there would be enough interest at this point in a Mir vs. Lesnar III, should Brock win and Mir beat Kongo. Mir vs. Carwin would be interesting, but I don’t see Frank getting another chance at the belt so soon. As for Kongo, he gets neither, should he win. Nogueira would be a possibility, but I think he needs one more decisive win before he gets another crack at the championship. So that leaves who? Cain Velasquez. An undefeated prospect that is clearly a UFC favorite and matches up well with both Lesnar and Carwin. Should Lesnar win, Cain is the young challenger getting a break early to prove himself, much like Brock did against Randy Couture. Should Carwin win, we have two undefeated heavyweights fighting for the title, a story like that writes itself.

Conlan: True. If Velasquez doesn’t deserve the next title-shot then who does? When you break it down, he is the most prominent UFC heavyweight available without some sort of significant stumble in recent history…at all, really. Velasquez’s wins over Kongo and Rothwell and previous showings are at least equivalent to anything the current top contender to Lesnar’s belt has done (or what the current champ did prior to earning his crack at the gold).

His perfect record, status as somewhat of a legend in the Gym, and appeal to the Hispanic demographic are storylines fans and media can buy into which equates to ticket and PPV sales. He comes from a solid wrestling background, can both take and deliver a hard punch, and appears to have a nearly bottomless gas tank. Sure, another win over an notable heavyweight like Gabriel Gonzaga, Mirko Filipovic, Junior Dos Santos, Frank Mir, or “Minotauro” Nogueira would go a long way in solidifying Velasquez’s place as the #1 threat to the championship – hell, one of those bouts may be necessary to keep him active since Lesnar/Carwin has been pushed back – but if the UFC needed a contender next week there is absolutely no other heavyweight currently as deserving as the former Arizona State Sun Devil.

Who on the DREAM 12 card would you most like to see in the UFC/WEC?

Conlan: For me it’s a toss up between Alistair Overeem and Marius Zaromskis with a slight edge going to “Ubereem”. Both are exciting strikers under the age of 30 with a high rate of finishing their opponents. The Lithuanian welterweight, who is quickly earning a place in fans’ minds as the second-coming of Mirko Filipovic based on three consecutive head-kick victories, would add some fresh blood to a 170-pound division looking for new contenders and make an excellent addition to the UFC’s stack of Euro-card regulars. He’s gone to decision once in his four-year career and ten of his thirteen wins are courtesy of a TKO. Comparably, the Dutch “Demolition Man” hasn’t seen the judges’ scorecards in more than three years and finished 97% of the opponents he’s beaten since first entering MMA ten years ago. In plain speak that means he’s either submitted or knocked out thirty of the thirty one foes he’s felled. Yes, there is speculation about how natural his shredded 265-pound physique actually is, but to my knowledge he has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs while the same can’t be said about a number of currently employed UFC fighters, and in some cases even past champions.

While Eddie Alvarez certainly deserves consideration based on his style and skill I think he might get lost in the UFC’s ridiculously deep lightweight division, plus there’s a fairly realistic chance he will eventually end up in the UFC as it is while I’m not as certain in regards to his fellow DREAM 12 participants. Zaromskis has never competed in MMA on American soil in his career and Overeem has only done so twice in a 42-fight career. The rarity of their State-side appearances adds to my interest in seeing them step into the Octagon.

Polley: While I think Overeem would certainly tip the scale in the UFC heavyweight pool, I’m more interested in him defending his Strikeforce belt. I see a long awaited meeting with Fedor likely for “The Demolition Man’s” near future.

Zaromskis is interesting because with every fight, the guy seems to out do himself. He’s finished his last 7 of 8 opponents by either KO or TKO, with everything from punches, head kicks, to flying knees. He would bring even more depth to the striker friendly UFC welterweight division and could quickly become a force.

But I’m going with the popular answer with this one in Eddie Alvarez. You make a great point by saying he may eventually end up with the UFC, but I would like to see it happen sooner rather than later. He holds legitimate wins over the likes of Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and UFC vet Aaron Riley. Alvarez’s lone lightweight loss is at the hands of submission wizard, Shinya Aoki, so this proves to me he would hold his own in the UFC. His style of fighting would be a perfect fit in the lightweight division, with a ton of interesting match-ups. Could you imagine Alvarez in match-ups against the likes of Clay Guida, Frankie Edgar, or Tyson Griffin? These bouts have Fight of the Night bonuses written all over them. Its long been a question of mine of how Eddie Alvarez would fair in the UFC, so for me, he’s my pick from Dream 12.

Should Kazushi Sakuraba hang up his trademark orange trunks and call it a career?

Conlan: It was painful to watch the first 90 seconds of Sakuraba’s DREAM 12 offering against Zelg Galesic, though I suspect not nearly as excruciating as actually enduring the beatdown from his Croatian counterpart. However, as agonizing as those moments might have been for fan and fighter, the kneebar Saku secured for the submission win was as contrastingly pleasurable to observe. I thought it was a perfect example of both the beauty and beastliness inherent in Mixed Martial Arts and a great representation of Sakuraba’s career.

While “The Gracie Hunter” may no longer be the same force he was during the golden days of PRIDE he is still a force. He has the same heart that was present against “Cro Cop” and Wanderlei Silva (all three times); the same determination and refusal to quit unless his body forces him to. He has the same set of submission-wrestling skills that, with the aide of opponent Carlos Newton, put on a master class in technique at PRIDE 3. By the way, with Newton *still* competing how has a rematch never taken place? New Year’s Eve anyone? But I digress…

In summary, what I’m trying to say is Sakuraba should retire on his own terms. He shouldn’t be put out to pasture because a promoter, manager, or media outlet claims it’s time for him to keep his cauliflowered ears out of the ring. He’s got true warrior spirit, a grappling arsenal better than most, is perhaps the most iconic Japanese fighter in history, and a personality so affable it makes Forrest Griffin look like a total dick. Even if you go by the numbers, since 2007 Saku is 6-3 with two of those being decision losses (one of which was to a performance-enhanced Royce Gracie) and a singular devastating defeat courtesy of Melvin Manhoef’s sick striking and power. Those are not the statistics of someone who needs to be prevented from competing inside the squared circle.

Polley: This is a tough question. I had a whole thing ready about fighters past their prime and ruining their legacy, until I seen your response. If he still has a desire to compete and is not getting completely manhandled, it should be up to the legend himself when to call it quits. You’re absolutely right by saying he should leave on his own terms. I just hope he doesn’t wait until it’s too late.

In his match with Zelg Galesic, the first thing I noticed is how much wrap he had around his legs and arms, obvious signs of wear and tear from years of fighting. You could have also made a case for stopping that fight in favor of Galesic, due to the beating he was putting on Sakuraba for a good 30 seconds without defense. However, in classic come from behind fashion, Kazushi held on to the Croatians leg until he got the tap. This being his second win in a month, proves he still has what it takes to compete, just maybe not at the level he used to. He came back from a year layoff, before entering against a very “green” Rubin Williams, which he quickly dismantled by Kimura. His next opponent, Zelg Galesic, was a legitimate step up in competition with good striking ability, and we discussed the outcome of that. I think another fight with a higher-grade opponent will finalize my thoughts on retirement.

He turned 40 this year, so I can’t see him defying the odds for much longer, but I would still want to watch him compete. I could definitely see him in future “super fights”, with someone like a Newton, or perhaps even a rematch with Kiyoshi Tamura.

What Mixed Martial Artist makes the best Halloween costume?

Conlan: Ah, I feel like I’m in a cartoon and this question is one of those signs with arrows showing fifty different directions to take. One could dress as “Cecil Peoples”, complete with glasses with the lenses painted black (to simulate blindness of course). One could dress as “Nick Diaz” which simply requires a frown, a “tobacco water pipe”, and the willingness to whoop anyone who puts their mug on you. Then again, there’s always the “Arianny Celeste” outfit, but frankly I must warn you that “Grappling with Issues” cannot be held accountable for any legal ramifications spawning from your decision to put on a pair of Spandex booty shorts, brown wig, and walk the streets of your local township while blowing kisses and winking. There’s the “Dana White”. Put on a bald cap, throw a huge smile on your face, use the word “f*ck” whenever possible, and you’re on your way to simulating Zuffa royalty. You can dress like “Jared Shaw” and…wait, what is “$kala” doing these days and how much does a McDonalds outfit cost? Nevermind. And, for the less-athletically inclined, just dress as “Roy Nelson” and you can finally unleash that big belly of yours while eating Whoppers and claiming legitimate reasoning. Personally, I’ll be dressing as Anderson Silva, which means I’ll be at all of your parties but you won’t see me because I’m so elusive. Yes, I wanted to make that a Machida joke.

*NOTE* – Polley was a little quicker about this particular answer than I was, and I like all his suggestions. I’m especially glad to see that nipple rings are not a requirement for the “King Mo” costume.

Polley: I think the obvious answer would be Kimbo Slice. Complete with a fake beard, beanie cap, and a Mr. T starter kit, and you too can be an Internet sensation. It comes with no ground game and catch phrases like, “You know what I’m saying?” (Gold teeth and .45mm sold separately) Other honorable mentions include, Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal. Complete with jeweled crown, cane with cape, and dancing Japanese girls. Alistair Overeem, comes with Thor-like hammer, muscles the size of mountains and a Strikeforce belt. Sorry kids, only available in Japan. But the scariest Halloween costume would have to be Chuck Liddell. Not the “Iceman” we’ve come to love in the Octagon, but the one from “Dancing with the Stars”. Comes complete with Mohawk, tattoo on the side of the head, tight slacks, and sleeveless sparkly shirt with dangling fringe. Absolutely terrifying.

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