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Grappling with Issues – 11/27/10

Did Lyoto Machida deserve the decision over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 123? Who would you like to see Matt Hughes face next after losing to B.J. Penn last weekend? How jazzed are you about a potential scrap between rivals Nick Diaz and Jason “Mayhem” Miller? Should George Sotiropoulos been given an immediate title-shot rather than a match-up with Dennis Siver?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to “Grappling with Issues”, our site’s regular weekly feature highlighting insight and opinion from Adam Tool and myself on six subjects plucked from the Mixed Martial Arts landscape. However, just because we staffers get the fancy set-up, please don’t feel precluded from dishing out your own thoughts on each matter in the comments section at the bottom of the column.

With Jose Aldo potentially out of UFC 125, how do you think the UFC should handle the co-headlining vacancy?

Tool: The easy answer would be to simply move the Clay Guida/Takanori Gomi match-up into the co-main event slot while sliding the Brandon Vera/Thiago Silva fight up from the preliminary card. We already know that Josh Grispi is now likely to face Dustin Poirier, and Grispi will be lucky if he’s kept on the main card. I know I’m not alone in being completely bummed that Aldo’s first defense of the UFC Featherweight Championship will be delayed, but maybe there’s a way to keep two title fights on the card.

My suggestion would be to make Dominick Cruz the UFC Bantamweight Champion and move his defense against Scott Jorgensen from WEC 53 to UFC 125. Yes, the fans going to the WEC’s final show get screwed out of a title fight but that card already has a pretty good title fight headlining the event. There’s also the simple fact that the preliminary portion of WEC 53 is packed with intriguing match-ups, and removing the Cruz/Jorgensen fight from the televised broadcast opens up airtime for at least two more fights. The ratings for WEC 53 will be irrelevant since the organization will be non-existent once the show is over. At the same time the year end PPV is a big deal for Zuffa, and without a truly compelling title fight in the main event (apologies to all the Frank Edgar/Gray Maynard fans, wherever you may be) the show needs all the extra juice it can get.

Conlan: Tool’s solutions both make sense and I can’t find fault with either other than perhaps feeling as though, regardless of ratings, WEC deserves to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. To add another option into the mix, if Guida vs. Gomi were to move up, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Marcus Davis’ lightweight debut against Jeremy Stephens get the nod over Silva/Vera. Both men love to stand and exchange, plus each is coming off a loss so they’ll undoubtedly be looking to impress at the event.

Also, assuming the involved individuals were able to push their training schedules up, either light heavyweight pairing scheduled for a month later at UFC 126 would be perfectly suited for the co-headlining vacancy. Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin features former champions, both immensely popular even on a mainstream level, and Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader is a battle between two of the organization’s brightest rising stars. A set of 205-pounders will in a sense be a “third wheel” over Superbowl Weekend, so why not reap the marketability of one of the two to properly promote a major show like UFC 125?

Who would you like to see Matt Hughes face next in an attempt to rebound from his first-round knockout at UFC 123?

Tool: I still don’t know if we really need to see Hughes finish out another trilogy be trying for a third time to beat Dennis Hallman, so let’s see what else we can come up with. Since Hughes has been so picky in his fight selections for the last year (at least, if the boys at American Kickboxing Academy are to be believed) this could get a bit tricky. It’s also tough to create fresh fights for somebody who’s been around for so long and done so much.

I’ve got an idea, but it involves doing something I never do when I play fantasy match-maker. I’m going to assume that somebody will lose their next fight, and I’d like to see that person matched up with Hughes. I’m talking about the most popular man in the UFC: Josh Koscheck. Barring some minor miracle, we all know Koscheck is losing to Georges St. Pierre next month. Koscheck will need to beat a respectable opponent in order to bounce back from his French-Canadian clowning, and Hughes gets to keep a prime spot on the card against a well-known opponent.

Conlan: I’ll stick to present possibilities in my response (though I like the idea of Hughes vs. Koscheck simply from the standpoint it would be fun to see the former welterweight champ be the focus of raucous cheering rather than booing).

As far as his future in the Octagon, Dan Hardy and Martin Kampmann are both currently without official opponents and pose interesting match-ups for Hughes. Each is excellent on the ground with well-rounded striking but both have struggled at times against high-level wrestlers. Comparably, Hughes’ grappling is his gravy and his stand-up still somewhat questionable. Kampmann/Hardy are also respected enough competitors to lend momentum back to Hughes’ career if he’s able to win without damaging it too much if he falls again, not to mention are fairly recognizable fighters meaning the match-up could easily be slotted in as a PPV’s co-headlining bout.

TRUE/FALSE – Lyoto Machida was robbed of a win on Saturday night.

Tool: FALSE. While I thought Machida won after watching the fight, it was a close enough contest that I would be willing to say either man could have gotten it. I try to reserve the term robbery for fights where the winner is clear to everybody except the judges, like the recent Sean Sherk/Evan Dunham decision. If Machida had won either of the first two rounds as convincingly as he did the third, then we would have a robbery on our hands.

Conlan: Agreed – FALSE. Though Machida easily earned the third round, I don’t believe he did enough in the bout’s opening ten minutes to merit a definitive decision victory. His style, often appearing as a lack of willingness to engage, may have hurt him in the judges’ eyes in comparison to Jackson’s obvious openness to striking with the Brazilian when the officials thought back on the action after each round’s conclusion. The irony is that Machida’s stand-up actually looked good enough to have possibly put “Rampage” in real trouble had he been a little more aggressive or at least won him another of the fight’s frames. Had the bout involved a title, and another pair of rounds, I think the win would have easily been Machida’s. However, within the context of what I saw last weekend, I don’t think the outcome was anything worth getting overly upset about.

Which result from Saturday was more upsetting: Nik Lentz’s decision win over Tyson Griffin or the early ending of round one in the Maiquel Falcao/Gerald Harris fight?

Conlan: Neither was particularly upsetting per say, but I’d say the lack of professionalism involved in the first round of Falcao vs. Harris was inexcusable whereas a controversial judges’ decision is something fans have grown to expect over the past few years. I can grasp how three individuals might have incorrectly scored a bout, though in fairness I never saw exactly how “off” their opinions were based on the match-up never being aired, but I fail to understand how a timekeeper could shed 5-6 seconds off of a round, especially in a situation where one of the two competitors was on the cusp of tapping out.

Tool: I guess maybe I was a bit more upset about the Falcao/Harris fiasco just because of what it cost the people involved. Consider this hypothetical, and extremely likely, scenario that might have been the result of this fight had the timekeeper not messed up. With Harris locked up tight in a rear naked choke, another six seconds means that Falcao would have won this fight via submission in round 1. As a result Falcao would have been in the running for a “Submission of the Night” bonus, and reviews of his performance would have been glowingly positive. Now instead we have nearly everyone in the fight world watching Falcao’s next fight with extra scrutiny to see if he tries to win a round via staring once again.

Obviously things are much worse for Gerald Harris since he’s now out of a job. If he had he lost by submission in the first round there would be little shame in that, since he was facing a (mostly) unknown fighter making his UFC debut. Instead Harris’ effort in the third round, or lack thereof, was his undoing as he was inexplicably cut from the UFC after winning three fights and two “KO of the Night” bonuses. There’s no way to know whether or not Harris would have kept his job had he been submitted, but it’s safe to say that this fight would have been far better for everybody if it had ended in the first five minutes like it was supposed to

Do you agree with the UFC making George Sotiropoulos vs. Dennis Siver for UFC 127, and if not, who would you match Sotiropoulos up with to get him on the Australia card?

Conlan: I’m okay with the match-up from the standpoint Siver has won six of his last seven fights and provides not only a worthwhile adversary for Sotiropoulos but also a relatively beatable opponent for the Aussie to secure a title-shot with in front of his countrymen. There’s no reason for the Ultimate Fighter Season 6 alumnus to sit idly by while the UFC’s lightweight title situation works itself out, especially when he can fight in Australia. Though Siver is far from a guaranteed victory, he’s also far from a favorite, and another win over someone with his past success would surely cement Sotiropoulos’ contedership as opposed to potentially getting leap-frogged by another apt 155-pounder.

Tool: The fight should be entertaining to say the least, but beyond that it seems like another step sideways when Sotiropoulos should be stepping up. If only there was some former UFC Lightweight Champion without a fight scheduled who could provide Sotiropoulos with the kind of test that would show whether or not he’s ready for the top levels of the sport. Oh wait, there totally is: Sherk. I’m one of many fans who thinks that Dunham should have won against Sherk at UFC 119, but even if you disagree with the decision you have to agree that Sherk looked much better than expected following a sixteen month layoff. Sherk may or may not have one more run at the top in him and a fight against the surging Sotiropoulos makes so much damn sense that I really have to wonder why it’s not happening.

Are you still interested in a potential Nick Diaz/”Mayhem” Miller fight?

Conlan: Absolutely. Strikeforce is hurting for welterweight contenders and doesn’t have a lot of options for any of the fighters on their roster. Putting Diaz and Miller in the ring together at a catch-weight would create one of the few marquee match-ups the promotion has at its disposal by capitalizing on their personal dislike of one another, their well-rounded skill-sets, and the reality both men are extremely talented when it comes to promoting a fight through soundbytes/interviews. My feeling is that Strikeforce is at a point where they can’t afford to bypass bouts like Diaz vs. Miller based on both marketability and necessity, and to do so would hammer one more nail into their proverbial coffin where mainstream relevance is concerned.

I want to also add I genuinely believe Strikeforce would love to deliver “The Smoker” vs. “The Joker” but it’s out of their hands unless Miller agrees to drop to 178 pounds or Diaz relents on his refusal to fight at middleweight. Perhaps an undisclosed bonus would do the trick?

Tool: By now it’s clear that Strikeforce isn’t exactly in the position of giving us a lot of fights that make sense, but even now this match-up still has plenty of appeal to it. I’ve said it before that Strikeforce is wasting the talents of (arguably) the most famous fighter on their roster, Miller. He’s not fighting all that often which seems strange given the built-in audience he could bring to the sport with his mainstream success on MTV. Diaz is one of the best (if not the best) fighters in the company, so if you’re not going to match him up with the best fighters in his division why not give him the biggest fights you can make?

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