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Grappling with Issues: Adam Tool

Grappling with IssuesShould Randy Couture call it a career if he loses to Brandon Vera at UFC 105? Does Brett Rogers deserve an immediate rematch with Fedor Emelianenko? Would Gegard Mousasi beat Lyoto Machida or is the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion too much too soon? Who from Sengoku’s most recent event is best suited for a run in the UFC/WEC?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

It’s time once again for another adventure into the sick and twisted world of “Grappling with Issues”, the site’s semi-regular feature where you’ll find the take of a guest commentator on six topics plucked from the MMA landscape, as well as my own spin on the subject matter at hand. It’s been an action-filled month thus far with plenty more events on the immediate horizon ready to keep your couch cushions warm and your hours of sleep limited.

Staying in tune with the fervor of the season I’m pleased to introduce a recent addition to this lovely little digital home we call Five Ounces of Pain – Adam Tool! Tool made a strong 5 Oz. debut last week and should be around to continue offering his insight and opinion on a variety of things for the foreseeable future. Read ahead, as he’ll do so in the GWI-format and you can even give us a thumbs-up/down in the comments section if you’re so inclined…

Which athlete on the “Sengoku Eleventh Battle” card would you most like to see sign with the UFC/WEC?

Adam Tool: This is an easy one for me to answer. Without a doubt, Dave “Pee-Wee” Herman should be in the UFC. It baffles me to my very core when I wonder why he isn’t there already. We’re talking about a 16-1 knockout artist (he’s never seen a judges’ decision) who won his first thirteen fights without any professional MMA training whatsoever. Since his first (and so far only) career loss to Mu Bae Choi, Herman has started taking his training a lot more seriously and as a result he’s riding a three-fight win streak. He’s just 25 years old and appears to have an amazing career ahead of him, yet he’s still stuck fighting on the other side of the world. The current season of “The Ultimate Fighter” is all about adding fresh talent to the UFC’s heavyweight division, yet they’re letting one of the hottest prospects in the world go unsigned. I just don’t get it

Brendhan Conlan: My heart says Akihiro Gono, while my head and desire to see fresh talent with great potential compete in the UFC says Mamed Khalidov. However, since Gono appears to have retired DJ Gozma for the immediate future – a sad moment in MMA history as far as I’m concerned – I’ll have to go with the 29-year old Polish middleweight. Khalidov hasn’t lost a fight in more than four years, a feat assisting him en route to a 20-3-1 professional record. Nineteen of those wins have come via decision with a nearly perfect split between submissions and knockouts. Two of the losses were his first two fights.

Without a doubt Khalidov would make a tremendous addition to the UFC. He’s an exciting competitor who happens to also have a European fanbase, a bonus quality when examining the company’s continued desire to become a global entity. Given that he weighs in at around 181 pounds he’s a bit small to step into the Octagon without some serious bulking up, so he appears to be ideally suited for a dive into the UFC’s welterweight pool. He hasn’t fought many “name” opponents in his career so it would also be nice to see if he sank or swam when facing foes who are more peers than predictable wins.

As far as Dave Herman goes, I definitely see where Tool is coming from. I think he would’ve been a front-runner along with Roy Nelson to win the current season of the Ultimate Fighter had he been cast. I’m curious to know whether he was ever contacted and then declined the opportunity or auditioned and wasn’t selected for reasons unrelated to his in-ring ability. Speaking of which, fifteen of his sixteen wins have come in the first round with fourteen of them being related to strikes. Also, as MMA continues to grow, the future of the heavyweight division is going to involve genuine big men like Brock Lesnar, Brett Rogers, Bobby Lashley, and Shane Carwin. “Pee Wee” fits that impressive mold by measuring in at 6’5”, 240 pounds, and as Tool mentioned he’s only 25. I agree he would be a great addition to the UFC’s heavyweight division. If nothing else, it goes to show that with athletes like Khalidov and Herman competing outside of the Zuffa umbrella, not to mention other talented fighters like Jorge Masvidal and Marlon Sandro, there is still a lot of room for the UFC/WEC to grow in terms of bringing in the world’s premier talent.

TRUE/FALSE: Brett Rogers should be given an immediate rematch with Fedor Emelianenko instead of paired up against a different heavyweight in his next bout.

Tool: FALSE. No disrespect to “The Grim,” but he had his chance and he came up short. Strikeforce has several more match-ups for Fedor already in the works, so now Rogers needs to step aside and get back to winning. I’ve seen a few people around the net claiming that Rogers should be commended for his performance but I don’t necessarily agree with that. Sure he got a few shots in on Fedor, but he wasn’t doing nearly as well as Andrei Arlovski did earlier this year. Besides it isn’t as though Fedor is this untouchable warrior that never gets hit. He’s been beaten up much worse in some of his legendary PRIDE battles, but one of the amazing things about Fedor is the fact that he’s always been able to overcome adversity to get the win. Rogers did have a brief flurry of punches on the ground but he wasn’t really ever close to finishing things off. If he can score some big wins in the next year or two I’d say he could absolutely get a rematch, but there’s no need to do it any sooner.

Conlan: False. Strikeforce needs to focus on building Rogers back up as an unstoppable knockout machine, expose their newfound CBS audience to other heavyweight contenders, and continue to deliver match-ups MMA fans want to see. Fabricio Werdum seems to be a more logical contender for Emelianenko’s next opponent, but to be honest it’s not a scrap I’m particularly interested in at the moment unless Werdum can score another significant victory beforehand. Let’s not forget he’s only two fights removed from a knockout loss to Junior dos Santos. I think a reasonable solution to the problem lies in Alistair Overeem, who Werdum owns a 2006 submission win over, and a future DREAM event since it’s where the suspiciously shredded Dutchman seems comfortable fighting. With Strikeforce already openly cross-promoting with the Japanese promotion, a bout between the two would further establish a contender for Emelianenko while also keeping them both active until the Russian’s hand has healed and he’s ready to step back into the ring.

As far as Rogers’ next victim, Antonio Silva seems like a natural fit, and I’d personally like to see if his jaw can stand up to Brett’s power the same way it did to a few well-placed strikes by Werdum. Another thought is relative “free agent” Tim Sylvia, who certainly doesn’t have the same name-value as he did a few years ago, but he can still be advertised as a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and is recognizable to less-knowledgeable fans. Their styles are perfectly suited for each other, and I don’t just mean because of their similar haircuts, but because each has a tendency to stand and bang.

Who would you lay your last dollar down on in a fight between fellow light heavyweight champions Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida?

Tool: Machida, and without a moment’s hesitation. Gegard Mousasi is pretty awesome, but he’s also pretty untested. He’s only had three fights at light heavyweight and “Babalu” is the biggest name on that list. At the same time Machida is the top ranked guy in the division with victories over four former UFC champions. His stock may be a little low at the moment, but he’s still the guy to beat until somebody beats him. I’ve already made my case for Mousasi to join the UFC so I won’t get into that here. If/when we see him in the Octagon we can hopefully speculate on this match-up a bit more, but for now I’ll lay my last buck on Machida and you can pry it from my cold, dead hands if he loses.

Conlan: As excellent as Mousasi is, I would also pick Machida to win a fight between the two, and similarly to Tool, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash before doing so. Lyoto has shown his talents against an array of top 205-pound contenders while the bulk of Mousasi’s significant wins have come against middleweights and lesser known European fighters. However, while Machida boasts a flawless record, “The Dreamcatcher” has been finished twice by opponents who haven’t sniffed a “Top 10” ranking ever in their respective careers. It tells me there are still holes in his game, as did a few moments in the Sokoudjou fight, but that’s to be expected considering he’s only 24 years old.

I don’t think it would be a dominating victory for Machida, nor do I think the bout would feature a finishing performance from him, but I think he’s a superior grappler, striker, and strategist. That’s typically a good set of qualities to have when it comes to winning decisions. All that being said, keep in mind Mousasi is eight years younger than Machida and has twice as many fights, so when he gets to be 30-31 as Machida is there’s no doubt in my mind his overall abilities will, at minimum, be equivalent to those currently possessed by “The Dragon”. He is the definition of a blue-chip prospect.

On a scale from 1-10, with “1” being “Dynamite USA” and “10” being Arianny Celeste vs. Gina Carano in a baby oil grappling session, how high would you rate the Strikeforce/CBS event from an overall standpoint (production/fights/announcing/etc.)?

Conlan: I’d label it a solid “7”. Strikeforce did a nice job showcasing a good portion of their elite talent and Emelianenko’s ability to live up to his hype by weathering Rogers’ storm before knocking him out was crucial to helping build the promotion as a possible rival to the UFC. I was very pleased to see the production team do away with the poorly animated, skinless grapplers previously used to demonstrate moves for the audience at home. The announcers could use some improvement, as I’m not sure how Ranallo’s overenthusiastic use of bad puns translates to people who might be tuning into MMA for the first time and I think it would be wise to capitalize on their primary demographic by bringing in someone a little younger (and more relatable). Additionally, I would like to see CBS allot three hours to future Strikeforce shows in order to air relevant undercard action, like the minute-long Coenen vs. Modafferi scrap, and prevent any perceived lack of professionalism brought on by an overrun. If the highest-rated portion of the show was the main event then why not try and maintain those ratings by continuing to show exciting action from earlier in the night – bonus coverage, if you will?

Tool: I’d give it an above average score of 6, as it wasn’t a blow away show nor was it a snoozer. The main event was tremendous, but attention spans were stretched to their breaking point during the title bout. The two undercard fights were solid although I still think Strikeforce missed out on a big opportunity by not airing the women’s fight. Production wise there were some hiccups, but other than a fifteen minute overrun things went smoothly enough. I’m still not sold on the three man commentary team though. Gus Johnson is still learning the sport but he’s constantly being shouted down by a living MMA encyclopedia in Mauro Ranallo.

Is the winner of Mike Swick vs. Dan Hardy merely a formality for Georges St. Pierre en route to another successful title defense or does either welterweight have what it actually takes to give GSP a run for his money?

Conlan: I think the winner of Saturday night’s co-headliner has about as much chance of beating Georges St. Pierre as I do of becoming Dana White’s Ferrari repairman. I’m skeptical to say either UFC 105 opponent even has what it takes to beat one their better 170-pound peers like Thiago Alves or Jon Fitch. I know the UFC needs new contenders for GSP, and history has certainly shown anything can happen in a fight, but neither Swick or Hardy have done enough in the division to prove they are a worthy foe for St. Pierre’s “riddum” or have more than a puncher’s chance of being able to beat him.

Tool: Unless Swick or Hardy is hiding some impenetrable takedown defense, then there’s no reason to give them more than a puncher’s chance against the champion. St. Pierre has evolved into one of the best wrestlers in the sport and that’s going to be a problem for everyone else in the welterweight division. I suppose it’s possible that Swick could live up to his nickname, press the action early, and catch GSP with a clean shot that leads to a referee stoppage, but even that’s not very likely. No matter who wins on Saturday they will be a heavy underdog when they get their title opportunity, so barring a second Serra-like incident I foresee St. Pierre keeping the belt for a long time.

Give a percentage to the likelihood Randy Couture will hang up his gloves for good if he loses to Brandon Vera at UFC 105.

Conlan: 0%. “The Natural” is not fighting Brandon Vera because he’s trying to gauge whether he has what it takes to win another championship or even put together a run at the title. He’s stepping into the Octagon at UFC 105 because he loves the competition, he knows there are some exciting pairings for him at light heavyweight, and the money he earns by entertaining the fans every few months is too good to walk away from. A loss to Vera won’t change any of those things. It won’t quench his desire to test himself against the best or the payday of a fight against someone like “Shogun” Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, or “Rampage” Jackson would create. Beyond that, it’s not as though “The Truth” is some tomato can in sweatpants, and there is no great shame in losing to him.

Sure, fans will call for his retirement if Vera beats Couture down in the same manner he did Frank Mir. They’ll look at his less-than impressive record and age. They’ll say he isn’t able to focus on training with distractions like a film career, expanding the XTreme Couture brand, and dealing with an ongoing divorce. And meanwhile Randy will be in the gym, hitting the bags and making 20-year olds look like they’re out of shape while preparing to defy the odds once again in the eight-sided cage.

Tool: 10%, and the reason it’s so low is due to several factors. For one, Randy is that rare breed of athlete that has maintained such great care of his natural (no pun intended) gifts that any preconceived notions about his age can be thrown right out the window. Secondly, Randy is also that rare breed of UFC fighter that is so competitive, and so popular, that his win/loss record is irrelevant. Despite his 16-10 record and the fact that he hasn’t won a fight since August of 2007, he’s in the main-event for a second time this year and was part of the company’s second-most successful PPV of 2008. Finally, I just don’t think he’s going to lose. Vera’s younger and will have a nice reach advantage, but that’s about it. Couture is well-versed in the striking game and he’s certainly one of the most powerful wrestlers in the light heavyweight division. Vera has fallen short on nearly every attempt to step up in the UFC ranks, so is there any reason to think that this Saturday will be any different?

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