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Grappling with Issues – 1/28/11

Which of Saturday night’s dual Strikeforce title fights will end faster? Did Mark Hominick’s performance against George Roop make you reconsider your stance on his upcoming fight against Jose Aldo? Are you actually interested in seeing Herschel Walker compete as a Mixed Martial Artist?Will Melvin Guillard make it the rest of the year without a loss?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to Grappling with Issues, our site’s regular weekly feature highlight insight and opinion from myself and Adam Tool. 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.

TRUE/FALSE – Melvin Guillard will remain undefeated in 2011 as promised after beating Evan Dunham this past weekend.

Tool: FALSE. I hate to be the naysayer here but we still don’t know for sure whether or not Guillard has truly gotten over his biggest weakness: a lack of consistency. The win over Dunham was plenty impressive, but prior to that he was on the positive end of a narrow split decision win over Jeremy Stephens. If he’s serious about jumping into contention then he’s going to have to start facing some serious competition. Guillard already seems to be angling for a bout with Kenny Florian and that’s a fight that I’d pick Kenny to win 9 times out of 10. If/when Guillard starts mixing it up with the top dogs in the lightweight division I have to be honest when I say that I don’t like his chances to remain undefeated for the next eleven months.

Conlan: Also false, and to be quite honest I’m not sure there are many people outside of Guillard’s camp and family who would rate his post-fight prediction as anything other than the offspring of wishful thinking and bravado. He definitely deserves credit for his win over Dunham, but in the big picture a fight is a fight and a well-placed or perfectly timed punch/kick/knee will end the evening of any competitor regardless of ranking. When it comes to striking he’s clearly one of the division’s best based on speed/power, but most of the UFC’s top lightweights are high-level grapplers and I need to see him survive, even prevail, on a regular basis when action heads towards the mat before I can buy him as having morphed into an unbeatable force as he seems to believe he now is.

Which promotion will be the first to hold an event in Japan: Zuffa-era UFC or Strikeforce?

Tool: At this point it’s clear that Dana White has his sights set on nothing short of world domination. The UFC has already held numerous events outside of the U.S. so the odds have to favor the bigger company. Strikeforce has some partnerships on the other side of the world that may lead to some sort of co-promoted event, but even that seems unlikely given the financial status of DREAM. The UFC already has several big-name Japanese fighters on their roster, along with a number of former favorites from the heyday of PRIDE. They’ve got everything in place to hit Japan so it’s hard not to think that they’ll be there sooner than Scott Coker & Company.

Conlan: Maybe I’m just a fan of the underdog or being a bit naïve but I think Strikeforce may actually beat Zuffa to the punch where promoting a show in Japan is concerned. As mentioned, there is already a talent-sharing relationship in place between Strikeforce and DREAM, and just because DREAM may be in financial limbo does not imply Strikeforce’s books are suffering as a result. The sense I get is that the way you treat others is extremely important to not only Japanese people, but the way they do business, and every indication I’ve seen says Coker is in good overseas. On the other hand, White himself has half-heartedly joked about his life being at risk the day he steps foot in the Land of the Rising Sun based on past transgressions with the Yakuza, and I’m not sure his personality goes over as well there as it does in America. With a heavyweight Grand Prix in place and a number of familiar faces on their roster (like Fedor Emelianenko) there’s no reason to think Strikeforce might not take advantage of the current climate and give it a go in order to be “first”.

Faster finish on Saturday night: Souza vs. Lawler or Diaz vs. Santos?

Tool: This is actually kind of a tough question to answer. In the middleweight championship fight we’ve got the ubiquitous “striker vs. grappler” match-up. “Jacare” may be more comfortable striking than some other BJJ champions, but he’s not dumb enough to get into a slugfest with somebody like Robbie Lawler. At the same time Lawler will be doing everything in his power to make sure this one stays standing as Ronaldo Souza is light years ahead of him in the grappling department. If either man is able to impose his will quickly enough we could easily see a first-round stoppage, but I have a feeling that this one will take a little longer to play out. I don’t think we’ll see a judges’ decision but I do think this one will last longer than a few rounds.

I can’t honestly say the same thing about the main event. While Nick Diaz may have made his name with his jiu-jitsu he’s clearly more of a striker at this point in his career. Meanwhile you’ve got the male “Cyborg” who only has one speed: full-throttle. Expect these two to mix it up early and often, and while they could make it past the five minute mark I wouldn’t be a single dime on this one making it the full twenty-five.

Conlan: I agree there is cause to argue in favor of both bouts but I’m going with the middleweight match-up between Lawler and Souza. Though Evangelista Santos packs ether in his gloves, Diaz is known for his ability to take a hit…and not just from his favorite smoking device! But seriously, Stockton’s favorite son has a rock-solid chin and the kind of disposition that won’t allow him to quit unless his body unwillingly dictates the necessity to do so. I can see him landing a few crisp punches and crumpling Santos based on the Brazilian’s brand of wild brawling, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Diaz attempts to duck under a punch early then take him to the ground in order to negate his powerful striking. However, Santos has only been submitted a single time in 31 fights, so his BJJ shouldn’t be slept on just because he prefers to throw caution to the wind while standing, and in that regard I can see their throwdown lasting into the second round.

As far as Lawler/Souza, I don’t envision it lasting longer than the opening frame based on “Ruthless” Robbie’s power in opposition to Souza’s otherworldly BJJ. Both of Souza’s losses are the result of a knockout while half of Lawler’s losses came by way of tap-out (two of them in the first round). I think he’ll come out guns blazing and either stuff Souza, then flatten him with a few shots or end up on his back and submitted shortly thereafter.

Take any one of the main card winners from this past Saturday night’s show and pick their next opponent.

Conlan: One of the first things I remember thinking after watching Guillard overwhelm Evan Dunham with his flash and force was how much fun it would be to see “The Young Assassin” mix it up with Takanori Gomi. Both men are in similar positions on the divisional ladder, so the match-up makes sense in that regard, and they share a love for unleashing leather meaning the pairing would undoubtedly deliver a highly memorable result from a stylistic standpoint. Beyond that, Gomi should be available as well after only taking moderate damage in his loss to Clay Guida at UFC 125.

Tool: I’m also going to do a little match-making in the UFC’s lightweight division, a surprisingly easy task given the depth of talent within the company right now. I thought Matt Wiman looked better than we’ve ever seen him this past Saturday night, and with a decent little win streak in progress now seems as good a time as any to give the kid a step up in competition. Tyson Griffin finds himself in the unfamiliar position of having lost two in a row (even though anyone who saw the fight knows that Griffin deserved a win over Nik Lentz), and his next fight will be a must-win. He’s a solid test for Wiman, and given the well-rounded skillset of each fighter I think this makes for a tremendous stylistic match-up.

Did you see anything in Mark Hominick’s win over George Roop that makes you think he has a chance against Jose Aldo?

Conlan: Yes – his power and precision. Don’t misunderstand me, as I appreciate Aldo’s abilities and don’t doubt he may very well cruise to victory at UFC 129. However, Hominick’s striking looked fantastic against always-game Roop who hadn’t been TKO’d prior to the Canadian’s ninety-second smackdown on Saturday night. While he’s a very good grappler, I think Hominick’s best chance against Aldo is to utilize his high-level boxing and catch the champ a few times on the chin in order to test its substance. If he can land half of what he did against Roop it’s going to be a very interesting night at the Rogers Centre in April.

Tool: Hominick’s laser beam punches that he used to put away Roop were certainly impressive, but I still have to rate the Canadian’s striking below that of the new UFC Featherweight Champion. Go back and look at the series of strikes Aldo nailed Manny Gamburyan with to finish their fight and you’ll see that same precision Hominick showed, only about 10 times faster. I still think Hominick has a puncher’s chance in his upcoming title shot, and if his chin can hold up to Aldo’s best shots he could very well make a fight out of it. Of course, if he hasn’t done so already it may be a good time to start drilling leg kick checks

On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest), rate your interest in the continued MMA career of Herschel Walker.

Conlan: I’d say it’s currently hovering at a “5” with the potential for a “5.5” if he beats Scott Carson and improves his record to 2-0. I don’t view Walker as being any more of a threat to his division than Kimbo Slice was but I respect his lifetime dedication to Mixed Martial Arts as well as his interest in using his fame to benefit others rather than line his own pockets. Walker isn’t an ex-NFL guy out to prove how tough he is; he’s out to prove how tough MMA is.

Tool: Put me at a “2,” but we all know that Strikeforce didn’t sign Herschel Walker to keep hardcore fans glued to their seats. He was signed because he is, quite simply, the most famous person on the Strikeforce roster. He brings in casual fans the same way the aforementioned Mr. Slice used to, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine him as anything more than a sideshow attraction. If Walker and his employers had any aspirations beyond this wouldn’t they have slotted him in the upcoming heavyweight tournament? It’s interesting to speculate on what Walker’s mixed-martial art career would have been like had he gotten involved a decade or two earlier, but at this point let’s all just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.


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