Do you think Brock Lesnar is seriously considering retirement from Mixed Martial Arts? Is there any chance Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard doesn’t go to decision? What will you remember 2010 for where MMA is concerned? Do you have any resolutions to make related to the sport before the clock strikes midnight?
Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!
Welcome to the final Grappling with Issues of 2011, the site’s regular weekly feature highlight insight and opinion from myself and Adam Tool. Thanks to all you readers for a great year! We have sincerely enjoyed having the opportunity to entertain and inform you over the past twelve months. As always, 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. Get your takes in one last time before the calendar closes and have a safe, fun-filled New Year’s Eve!
Are you making any MMA-related New Year’s resolutions?
Tool: I resolve to stop writing off fighters before a fight has even happened. There were some pretty big upsets in 2010 and in a few instances I was guilty of assuming that one fighter had no chance when they would then go on to win. I can’t be the only person that picked Frank Edgar to lose to BJ Penn twice. This sport is getting bigger every year and more and more impressive athletes are coming along all the time, so it’s all but impossible to know exactly how good some guys are before they get some more fights under their belt. I won’t stop trying to pick winners before the fights but I’m going to do everything in my power to stop acting like Fighter X has no chance before the fight has even started.
Conlan: I resolve to finally finish that life-sized sculpture of former UFC ring-girl Natasha Wicks that I’ve been attempting to craft from EZ Melt Cheese.
Kidding, kidding…it was actually completed months ago.
On a serious note, I hope/plan to attend at least one live event outside of my home-State in the next twelve months. I’ve only covered a single card beyond the borders of Texas and will make a real effort to repeat the feat in 2011. Big shows feel even bigger when they’re thousands of miles away from your residence, and I’m definitely overdue to experience such a sensation again (as are we all). I also aim to significantly raise Five Ounces’ profile in the next year and look forward to sharing that journey with both my peers on the page and the numerous dedicated readers who have stuck with us through thick and thin.
What do you think 2010 will most be remembered for in terms of Mixed Martial Arts?
Tool: While I will personally remember this as the final year of the WEC, I have a feeling that the MMA community will hold this past twelve months in a different context. For a good number of people I think that this was the year when Fedor Emelianenko’s goodwill with fans disappeared. The never-ending series of contract negotiations that have kept Fedor out of the Strikeforce cage seems to have turned even the most hardcore of fans (you know, the guys that cried when “Shogun” Rua lost to Forrest Griffin) against the former PRIDE champion. We don’t care about M-1 Global’s never-ending grab for power, we just want to see Fedor fight the best fighters in the world. You would think that Scott Coker and his crew would have a bit more leverage now that Fedor has picked up his first legitimate loss, but the fact that there’s no fight for Emelianenko on the horizon should prove that that isn’t the case.
Conlan: Both of Adam’s suggestions are deserving of the distinction. In the interest of simply not repeating his ideas, I’m going to say it will be most-remembered as the year Edgar rose from undersized lightweight to the top 155-pounder in MMA. His performances against B.J. Penn, especially in the rematch, gave testament to his speed, hands, and wrestling combining to make a lethal formula in the ring. A man viewed as destined for featherweight beat a one-time UFC Welterweight Champion…twice. Of course, Maynard could make 2011 the year Edgar fell from his throne less than a day into cracking the calendar open, but as far as picking THE stand-out aspect of 2010 goes I think “The Answer” is, well, the answer.
Other than the title-fight between Frank Edgar and Gray Maynard, what match-up out of the three major “New Year’s Weekend” events holds more of your interest than the remaining lot?
Tool: I’m genuinely interested in the lightweight showdown scheduled to open the UFC 125 PPV, as Takanori Gomi and Clay Guida should make for an intriguing match-up. Gomi hasn’t had much use for his wrestling ability as of late but hopefully he’s drilled his takedown defense in preparation for Guida. Clay’s relentless pace could present problems for the former PRIDE champion but Gomi will have a clear advantage if he can keep this one off the mat. Both fighters are never far from title contention and with the wide-open landscape of a post-Penn lightweight division, either man could be right in the mix with a win this weekend.
Conlan: Though I agree Guida vs. Gomi has “Fight of the Night” potential on par with drunken hook-ups in Las Vegas the night prior to its occurrence, I’m slightly more jazzed about seeing Josh Thomson’s fight with Tatsuya Kawajiri at “Dynamite!! Power of Courage” (though it will have already taken place by the time this column goes up Friday morning). There’s something about the pageantry of a Japanese NYE event that gets the fan in me every time, plus I love the cross-promotional aspect involved. Beyond the environment’s appeal, Kawajiri and Thomson are also talented fighters with exciting styles. They’re solid grapplers, yet aren’t afraid to stand and exchange shots if necessary and often do so to triumphant result.
What kind of decision do you think will be rendered in this weekend’s title fight? Or are you a wide-eyed dreamer who believes that this fight will have a finish?
Conlan: Are you implying that simply because Edgar and Maynard have combined for twelve decision wins in their last thirteen bouts the title-fight might go the distance? Poppycock, good sir!
I actually am one of those folks carrying around a fool’s hope of seeing the UFC 125 main event wrapped up in less than five rounds. Both competitors have the boxing ability to end things, though neither necessary receives a lot of credit for their stand-up based on how talented each is on the grappling front. I think the extra ten minutes could provide enough time for a TKO/submission whereas they only had fifteen to work with in their original encounter. Additionally, Maynard has never been into the “championship rounds”, nor stood on a stage as big as the one he’ll inhabit come New Year’s Day, and both of those factors could also come into play when it comes to balancing his energy or potentially over-thinking situations.
Plus, MMA is unpredictable, and typically when an outcome seems set in stone something like Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander comes into play. Just ask Edgar, who was written off by most as having even a single iota of a chance to beat Penn…and he did it twice.
Tool: I see Brendhan is playing the “MMA is unpredictable” card so I’ll counter with my “we’ve seen enough of both fighters to know where this is going” card.
While both Edgar and Maynard are underrated strikers, neither has shown any real consistent knockout power. Edgar’s footwork and head movement combined with his creative combos is the kind of style designed to score points and until he starts putting guys away regularly (or, you know, at all) then I’m going to assume he’s winning his next fight by decision. Maynard is undoubtedly the stronger fighter but he’s yet to put that power to proper use in his still-developing striking game. I like Maynard’s chances to finish a bit better, but as Brendhan pointed out we’ve yet to see how Gray does in a fight that goes longer than 15 minutes.
I’m envisioning a closely contested fight in which Edgar is the more consistently accurate striker, while Maynard scores crucial takedowns in several rounds. I’m assuming Edgar has drilled his takedown defense like crazy since beating BJ the second time, so if he can stuff enough of Gray’s shots he could take a split decision to win the fight and retain his title. I’m also of the opinion that Edgar may have underestimated Maynard last time in his training, but that’s no chance that he’ll do so this time around.
What do you make of the rumors going around that Brock Lesnar is contemplating retirement from MMA following his loss to Cain Velasquez?
Conlan: I’m not surprised in the least, though until Lesnar or Dana White offer something official on the matter I’ll continue to view the situation as rumor-based and nothing more.
The former UFC champ is an extremely proud individual. I have no doubt he could semi-stomach his loss to Frank Mir because he’d dominated most of the fight prior to being submitted, plus he was green and likely understood the risk of Mir’s BJJ background coming into play. However, Velasquez was not only a wrestler (like Brock) but also relied on his hands more than the ability to tap opponents out. To be thoroughly dominated by an individual who weighed at least twenty pounds less than him in the disciplines he was most familiar with had to be relatively devastating to Lesnar’s ego, and as such it may have delivered a crushing blow to his confidence or interest in potentially being pummeled again.
Tool: Lesnar has drifted from one profession to the next since entering the public eye as a WWE superstar. While he’s always been quick to point out how serious he takes his MMA career, he’s also in the rare position of not really needing to fight. Lesnar has more money than you or I would know what to do with, and his personality has little in common with the persona he presents in public. He tried his hand at MMA and was extremely successful for a brief period of time. Other than avenging the loss to Velasquez what does he have left to prove?
Do you think that DREAM will still be around to participate in a New Year’s Eve show in 2011?
Conlan: My gut tells me no though it’s always possible they could be bailed out of their financial woes by a bigger company, as DREAM has been a solid production with memorable match-ups featuring well-respected athletes. However, they have stiffed a number of fighters in the past which is indicative of their monetary situation as a whole, and in that regard it seems like they’re likely on their last leg as a functional promotion. It’s a shame too, because the style of Japanese MMA they’ve offered is as close to PRIDE as fans could have hoped for, and yet the company hasn’t really caught on in the mainstream after two-and-a-half years of operation.
Tool: Japan’s interest in MMA is hardly enough to support one MMA organization, let alone two. This weekend features two over-stuffed cards from DREAM and Sengoku, but if either company is going to truly prosper in the coming years the other one has to die. Now that the UFC has swelled to add two more divisions they’re going to start aggressively pursuing some of those remaining Japanese hold-outs (Michihiro Omigawa and “Kid” Yamamoto are already signed and scheduled for the preliminary portion of UFC 126). The available talent pool for good Japanese fighters is shrinking, as is the public’s interest in the sport, so I believe that 2011 will see at least one of these two organizations fold.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC