twitter google

Grappling with Issues – 2/25/11

Other than Jon Fitch, who on the UFC 127 main card is due a title-shot with a win on Saturday night? Will Fitch be the UFC‘s welterweight champ by this time in 2012 if Georges St. Pierre makes the move up to middleweight? Would you prefer to see Josh Thomson in the ring against Pat Healy or Lyle Beerbohm? What fight has the most potential for bad-assery next week when the UFC returns to Versus with live action?

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 our returning champion Adam Tool. As always, just because we staffers get the fancy set-up, please don’t hesitate to offer your own take on the topics in the “Comments” section below.

Are you happy/disappointed Phil Davis has stepped in to replace Tito Ortiz against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at Fight Night 24?

Tool: I could never be disappointed when a situation involves less Tito Ortiz and more Phil Davis. My dislike for Tito has taken up plenty of bandwidth over the years, and at this point in his career I know I’m not alone in wishing Ortiz would just quietly go away. If anything that’s the one disappointment I have in this replacement, because I thought “Lil’ Nog” had a good chance of beating Ortiz and sending him packing from the UFC.

In terms of the fight itself this would have to be seen as an upgrade. While Davis’ hype train has not quite reached Jon Jones-like proportions; he’s still one of the strongest prospects the UFC has in their light heavyweight division. I’m not sure if he’s ready for the step-up in competition that Nogueira provides, but I guess we’ll know for sure next month. Right now I’m taking Nogueira to win as his boxing skills give him a huge advantage on the feet, but we can’t overlook Davis’ freakish strength in the clinch. I’m sure Nogueira has been drilling takedown defense since his performances against Jason Brilz and Ryan Bader, but Davis has been unstuffable thus far whenever he decides to take someone down. In any case this Fight Night main event has been made infinitely more interesting, and March 26th can’t get here fast enough for me.

Conlan: I agree with Tool in principle though I don’t share his intense dislike for Ortiz or desire to see the former light heavyweight champion ride off into the Huntington Beach sunset as soon as possible. Tito’s contributions to MMA shouldn’t be overlooked, as he not only helped establish the UFC as the sport’s foremost brand but also caught the interest of a lot of folks who are now life-long fans. Yes he’s struggled for the past few years and yes he has a polarizing personality but Ortiz still deserves respect. This isn’t a guy who is getting finished left and right or hasn’t shown the ability to be competitive against ranked opposition. His only non-decision losses in the last decade have come to Chuck Liddell and he went the distance, even teasing victory along the way, against three of the last four UFC 205-pound title-holders (Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, and Forrest Griffin) during the slide he’s presently dealing with.

However, based on the way the division currently stacks up as well as the potential for Davis and Nogueira to be considered contenders in the near future I think there’s little question it’s a better bout from a relevancy standpoint. Davis is undefeated and Nogueira has won seven of his last eight (not to mention owns past wins over Alistair Overeem and Dan Henderson among other notable names). It’s a chance for “Mr. Wonderful” to climb one notch higher on the 205 ladder or his Brazilian adversary to re-establish his position by beating a highly touted prospect. The only real disappointment I can muster up relating to the replacement of Ortiz has to do with the ever-fading PRIDE vs. UFC angle that would have been involved.

If given the choice would you rather see Josh Thomson matched up against Pat Healy or Lyle Beerbohm as his next opponent?

Tool: Between these two I’d have to say neither. Thomson’s win over Healy wasn’t that long ago, and while Healy was competitive in that fight I see no reason for a rematch this soon. On the other hand you’ve got Beerbohm who’s still a solid prospect even after picking up his first career loss. “Fancy Pants” could be matched up against Thomson but I fail to see how that benefits “The Punk.” Thomson is one of the top contenders for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship so it only makes sense for him to be fighting other top contenders. Of course Strikeforce isn’t always known for taking the option that makes the most sense, so who knows what they’ll do next.

Conlan: I think it’s a toss-up for different reasons. “The Punk” may be a bit higher in the promotional rankings than Beerbohm/Healy but he’s also coming off a loss to Tatsuya Kawajiri so he definitely needs a few wins over notable opposition to re-establish his place at the top. Strikeforce doesn’t have a ton of names to work with and both men mentioned in this topic fit the bill for a couple reasons.

In regards to “Bam Bam”, Healy had a nice showing against Thomson when they squared off last June even though he took the fight on short notice and had gone the distance against Bryan Travers at Strikeforce Challengers 8 a month earlier. He also looked extremely good against Beerbohm. With both of those things being considered I think it’s fair to say he deserves another shot at the former Strikeforce lightweight champ with proper preparation time and the momentum of a significant win at his back.

On the other hand, Beerbohm and Thomson have been engaged in a war of words over the internet for awhile and match up nicely from a stylistic standpoint. I envision their fight as resembling the grappling clinic between Healy and Beerbohm but with a bit more stand-up and likely a finish. Those factors equate to entertainment in my mind and as such I’d be happy seeing them mix it up too.

Who is most-deserving of an opportunity at gold with a win at UFC 127: B.J. Penn, George Sotiropoulos, or Michael Bisping?

Tool: Most deserving would absolutely have to be Sotiropoulos. If he beats Dennis Siver that would be Sotiropoulos’ eighth straight victory inside the Octagon, and at this point there’s only one other man in the UFC who has a better win streak (that would be Anderson Silva). You can discount that win streak by pointing out some of the weaker names on Sotiropoulos’ win column, but look at the quality of his performances in each fight and you’ll see a man who’s clearly at an elite level. Right now the UFC’s lightweight division is overstuffed with talent, and the fact that current champ Frank Edgar has been forced into back-to-back rematches with his last two opponents has only served to essentially bring the division to a halt.

Now, if the question was “Who is most likely to get an opportunity at gold with a win at UFC 127,” the answer would undoubtedly be Penn. Penn only has two wins at welterweight, both of them over Matt Hughes, but he’s bound to jump right into the top contender spot if he finds a way to win against Fitch. Penn’s popularity with fans affords him a bit of leeway in terms of his actual contendership credentials; a luxury that Fitch certainly doesn’t share. While Fitch was supposedly the #1 contender after beating Thiago Alves that’s obviously not the case anymore. Dana White might say that the winner of the UFC 127 main event is the next guy in line for a title-shot, but he really means to say that BJ is next in line if he wins. If Fitch wins I can practically guarantee we’ll hear the phrase “in the mix” at the UFC 127 post-fight press conference.

Conlan: 100% Sotiropoulos. Unfortunately it seems the winner of Anthony Pettis’ June scrap with Clay Guida is already being given the nod where contendership is concerned so the Aussie is likely another victory away from a crack at the championship even if he beats Siver this weekend.

And to be clear I didn’t list Fitch because I think his opportunity to lay claim to company gold is a lock if he beats Penn. While White certainly shafted Fitch in favor of Jake Shields there’s no denying the bump in notoriety a win over Baby Jay brings to a fighter’s profile. Fitch has won five in a row entering UFC 127 with his only loss since 2002 coming to Georges St. Pierre and wins over ranked competitors like Thiago Alves, Paulo Thiago, and Diego Sanchez.

BUY/SELL – If Georges St. Pierre does indeed move up to middleweight after his next fight, Jon Fitch will hold the UFC Welterweight Championship by this time next year.

Conlan: SELL. I think there are too many factors involved to definitively say Fitch is a lock for the title even when assuming St. Pierre gets by Shields at UFC 129 and commits to changing divisions shortly thereafter. The welterweight division offers a number of talented opponents with the grappling prowess to counteract Fitch’s wrestling and general grind, Penn and Shields among them, and it isn’t as though the former Purdue Boilermaker’s striking is at a level where he can win with stand-up in instances his takedowns aren’t working. He hasn’t even notched a finishing performance since June 2007 including match-ups against a handful of mid-tier adversaries like Akihiro Gono, Mike Pierce, and Chris Wilson. Fitch is a great fighter and may very well hold the UFC welterweight title at some point in the near future but I’m just not willing to commit to the idea being a given based on the challenges still ahead of him and the singular approach he often takes towards hopes of winning.

Tool: BUY. Brendhan may be taking the conservative approach but I feel comfortable in naming Fitch the world’s best non-Canadian welterweight. Yes there are numerous factors leading to this possible scenario, and if Shields were to read this he’d probably take us to task for assuming that he won’t be holding the UFC Welterweight Championship in one year’s time. We also have to assume that Fitch will get past Penn this weekend, but that’s exactly what I think will happen at UFC 127. If we believe everything the UFC brass says the winner of this fight gets the next shot at the belt. If that’s the case then Fitch would be one half of a fight to determine the new undisputed champion at welterweight if/when St. Pierre vacates the belt later this year. Outside of GSP himself there’s not a fighter in the world I would pick against Fitch at 170 lbs. It may not be pretty, but it’s pretty much inevitable.

Which match-up on next week’s UFC On Versus card do you think has the best chance to win “Fight of the Night”?

Conlan: The main event between Sanchez and Martin Kampmann. Both have the type of polished ability to compete regardless of where the fight takes them and rarely bore in the ring as a result of not only their skill but relatively fearless approach to fighting. Neither Sanchez or Kampmann is prone to playing safe even when ahead on the judges’ scorecards and have finished the bulk of opponents they’ve faced due in part to that attitude. The rest of the card is nice but none of the bouts inspire the same confidence in me where a guarantee for entertainment is concerned.

Tool: The main event gets my top vote as well, but I would also lay good money on Brian Bowles and Damacio Page scoring some bonus money in the evening’s televised opener. These are two bantamweights known for throwing heavy leather, and on top of that they’re both likely to establish a fast pace early. There’s some question marks around Bowles given the 362 days since his last fight, but until we see otherwise we have to consider him one of the top fighters in the world at 135 lbs. Hopefully Page learned from their last meeting so this fight can go past the first round, and the longer this one goes the more I like its chances of winning “Fight of the Night.”

Who should the UFC put in against Shane Carwin at UFC 131?

Conlan: Dave Herman. “Pee Wee” and Carwin offer similar wares inside the ring and offer each other an opportunity to impress from a divisional standpoint as well. While both behemoths are known for being able to render foes in puddles of goo with their powerful stand-up they have serviceable grappling skills as well leading to finishes against 31 of the 32 opponents they’ve beaten including a good number of victories coming in the first few minutes – hell, even the first thirty seconds – of said encounters. Putting Carwin and Herman together would provide a battle between huge heavies with the thought of a third round as plausible as a sequel to “Passion of the Christ”. It would also give Carwin an opportunity to come back from his loss to Lesnar in highlight-reel fashion against a legitimate blue-chip prospect as well as introduce Herman to UFC fans as a divisional player, especially if he’s able to earn the win over someone with Carwin’s reputation.

Tool: I hadn’t even considered “Pee Wee” Herman when this question came up, and that’s a match-up I can get behind. It’s a high-profile fight for Herman’s debut, and it’s certainly a winnable fight for Carwin. Herman could make a huge splash by beating the former interim champion, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to start Herman out with somebody a bit closer to his current level.

Right now it seems as though Cheick Kongo is the most likely opponent for Carwin’s return, but I’d actually like to see another former kickboxer get the opportunity. I’m talking about Pat “HD” Barry, who is fresh off a win over Joey Beltran at Fight For The Troops 2 last month. Barry has yet to show that he can hang with the top fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division, and Carwin is as stiff a test as one can get. Given the credentials of both fighters I think it’s highly probable that this fight will probably end with one fighter making a strong case for “Knockout of the Night” and for that reason alone I say let’s see this fight.


Follow 5OZ