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Grappling with Issues – 3/4/2011

Do you favor Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante‘s chances of retaining his belt this weekend? Will B.J. Penn retire before 2012? Who would you like to see against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 in the event of a last-minute, injury-based withdrawal from Jake Shields? If you were in charge of the UFC how would you handle the Michael Bisping situation? Will readers ever recover from a Tool-free Friday?

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. Unfortunately, today marks the final GWI with Tool as a regular contributor but on the brighter side of things his attention has turned towards a new endeavor at Five Ounces of Pain meaning he’ll still be around. 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.

In a word, how would you rate Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante’s chances of being the first Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion since Bobby Southworth to successfully defend his belt?

Conlan: Decent. Henderson definitely poses the biggest challenge Cavalcante has faced thus far in the ring but “Feijao” is in the fortunate position of training with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Anderson Silva at Team Blackhouse, both of whom have beaten “Hendo” in the past. As such he’ll enter the cage confident and with an informed approach on how to retain his title.

Beyond his gameplan Cavalcante is also coming off a win over a talented grappler with power in the form of Mo Lawal. The Brazilian possesses the stand-up to hurt Henderson, the intelligence/experience to avoid his power, and a renowned submission game that may remain unproven in MMA but exists all the same. After all, three of Henderson’s eight total losses have been by way of tap-out. I’m not saying Cavalcante’s victory is a lock but he definitely has an above-average chance of exiting Columbus with his championship reign intact.

Tool: Poor. I’ve underestimated Cavalcante in the past and I may be doing it again here, but I don’t really see how he wins against Henderson. Cavalcante is certainly a decorated striker but there hasn’t been a man yet who’s been able to crack Henderson’s chin. It’s legendary for a reason, people. On top of that you’ve got Henderson’s right hand. We always talk about the power “Hendo” has in that punch, but let’s not overlook the precision with which he throws it.

If this one turns into a slugfest it has to be to Henderson’s advantage; that is unless he’s on the tail end of his career as some like to think. It’s entirely possible that “Feijao” blitzes “Hendo” early and often to become the first man to record a TKO victory over the former PRIDE dual-title holder, but it’s not likely. It should be an exciting fight either way by I like the odds for Henderson to capture gold on Saturday night.

Put yourself in Dana White & Joe Silva’s shoes for a moment. You’ve just received word from the Jake Shields camp that their fighter is injured and must pull out of his UFC 129 bout with Georges St. Pierre. Who do you call first to take his spot?

Conlan: Though it breaks my heart a bit to say this I’d go with Penn. While Penn may not be the most-deserving individual from the standpoint of success in the welterweight division he is still one of MMA’s elite competitors where talent and popularity are concerned. White himself has expressed his belief that Penn did enough to merit a win over Fitch at UFC 127, Penn’s history with St. Pierre is well-documented including greasing claims after their last fight, and the match-up would provide the type of buzz appropriate for an event with UFC 129’s significance.

Tool: Much like Brendhan I have to believe that if this situation were to arise today, Penn would get the call to step in and face GSP. It’s unfortunate because I’m of the opinion that Fitch has done enough to warrant a second shot at St. Pierre. Of course I also think that Yushin Okami should get his crack at “The Spider” before any Silva/St. Pierre superfight, but I’m mostly alone in that notion. The fact remains that Penn is the headliner, and he’s the one with the biggest beef against St. Pierre. For a quick fill-in on what is already North America’s biggest MMA even ever it’s the fight that makes the most sense.

BUY/SELL – The time is right for a rematch between Mark Hunt and Mirko Filipovic.

Conlan: BUY. Honestly I’m a bit indifferent but I’m also not opposed. Hunt scored a memorable knockout over Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 and clearly earned another shot in the Octagon because of it. Comparably, Filipovic was flattened by Frank Mir late into their bout at UFC 119 and could use a potentially winnable fight against an opponent with some name value in the MMA community. It’s not 2005 so I don’t see the fight being anywhere near their split-decision on an entertainment front but I think it would work fine in the middle of a main card at an overseas event.

Tool: PRIDE NEVER DIE! I mean…BUY. By now we all know “Cro Cop” isn’t reaching the upper levels of competition in the Octagon, and Hunt probably has one or two “goodwill” fights left on his improbable UFC run. The original fight was historic in its own right and a rematch would be entertaining (we hope). It’s probably one of the last chances “Cro Cop” will get to avenge one of his losses, and in all honesty he’s a guy who could really use a solid win right now. It may not be main event material but I see no reason why Filipovic vs. Hunt 2 couldn’t be used as a PPV opener in the near future.

Can you think of a UFC fighter in recent history who has debuted in as entertaining fashion as Brian Ebersole did against Chris Lytle?

Tool: I’d have to go back to UFC on Versus 2 and the debut of one Charles Oliveira as the last time a fighter had such a captivating debut. Ebersole’s story is particularly extraordinary though, given his long career in the sport and the circumstances surrounding this fight. He moved to Australia a few years ago to stay active in the fight game, and he was in the right place at the right time to take Carlos Condit’s spot on the main card of UFC 127. The fight with Chris Lytle was easily one of the best of the night, and now Ebersole finds himself a full-fledged member of the UFC roster.

Conlan: If you’re looking at the least 2-3 years I honestly can’t say I remember a fighter debuting in such a memorable way. The group of people I was watching UFC 127 with weren’t MMA aficionados by any means and even they came away extremely excited about seeing his next fight. His style and substance were refreshing, as few fighters come out as interested in entertaining fans as putting their opponent away immediately while also having the skills to back the playfulness up. From the arrow of chest hair directing Lytle’s hands towards his chin – a superstition Ebersole has stuck with after avoiding a single loss by way of knockout in a sixty fight career – to his cartwheel kick to the striking and grappling techniques he displayed, Ebersole made a tremendous impression in Australia and I for one am among the group looking forward to all his outings in the Octagon.

What do you see as an appropriate punishment for Michael Bisping’s actions against Jorge Rivera at UFC 127?

Tool: I’ve already written some stuff about the Bisping/Rivera situation but here’s my feelings on what punishment I feel is appropriate. I think the UFC should start with a fine against Bisping, and I’d recommend a fine of 10-20% of his winnings from this past weekend. In a perfect world I’d also like to see the result of the fight overturned to a “no contest,” as I remain steadfast in my belief that the bout should have been stopped after the illegal knee in the first round. Bisping was able to cheat (twice, if you count the fence grab he did in that same round) without any real punishment, and I have no doubt that the knee to Rivera’s head played a big part in the outcome of that fight.

Conlan: I’m okay with the 10-20 percent fine. I’ll even take it a step further in that I’d like to see those winnings go to Rivera or, if not, in the pot of money the UFC is compiling to help victims of flooding in Australia. An example needs to be set on how to appropriately represent the UFC brand and Bisping’s pocketbook is a good place to start.

The one part of Tool’s argument I’m not on board with is the “No Contest” but then again he added the caveat of “in a perfect world” so I think he even knows it’s as likely to occur as Rachelle Leah is to ring me up this weekend. However, even if the UFC had the authority to change a fight’s result I would still disagree with the notion because Rivera opted to continue after having an opportunity to throw in the towel. I share Adam’s belief that the illegal knee affected the bout’s outcome but the point became moot as soon as “El Conquistador” flashed back to the streets of Milford, Massachusetts and knuckled up like the warrior he is.

I also think a three-month suspension, as Rousimar Palhares received for extending a submission hold, could also serve the situation well as it wouldn’t actually throw the Brit’s regular fight-schedule off but still puts precedence in place in case progressive discipline is needed at some point in the future.

And finally, give “The Count” what he wants – let him be fed to the lions as far as the middleweight division goes. He’s been called out by Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Vitor Belfort, and a host of other 185-pounders based on his embarrassing in-ring behavior. Let him mix it up with at least two of them, preferably Sonnen and Belfort, and if he somehow survives then let Silva teach him a lesson in respect. If that isn’t punishment enough then I don’t know what is.

Based on his statements after fighting Jon Fitch do you think B.J. Penn will retire from MMA before the end of 2011?

Tool: It’s always double-hard to guess what B.J. is thinking at any given time. The man seems to be running hot-and-cold on his future in the sport, yet I don’t think he’s ready to be done just yet. Penn still has a pretty high opinion of himself and he’s stated in the past that his legacy in the sport is one of the main things that drives him. We also know that he’s still not completely over the fact that he hasn’t beaten GSP, and I believe there’s still at least some part of him that wants to continue striving for a third opportunity to do just that. Penn was clearly in an emotional state following the fight on Saturday so I can’t blame him for saying what he did, but until he comes out and gives a definitive statement on his future I’m going to remain optimistic about seeing “The Prodigy” in the cage again this year.

Conlan: Penn fights with a lot of emotion and as Adam alluded to it often shows when he comes up short. I’m 100% positive he feels he is representing all Hawaiians when he steps into the ring and to be beaten as soundly as he was in the third round, and with the belief he’d lost the decision rather than earned a draw, had to be a sense of disappointment and heartbreak only B.J. can fully understand.

I think the best thing that the UFC could do right now is give Penn some time off. UFC 127 was his third fight in six months. He’s clearly been missing his family to an extent and he’s at a point in his career where he doesn’t need to fight as actively as up-and-comers do. Give him six months to get his head right and he’ll be frothing at the bit.

This is Adam Tool’s last week as a regular part of this column. Is there anything you need to get off your chest before he moves on?

Tool: I’ll keep this brief since I don’t really like to talk about myself (okay that’s not really true, but just run with it). Thanks to my esteemed colleague and editor Brendhan for bringing me on in a more permanent capacity on his column. It’s been a lot of fun debating all sorts of interesting topics in this sport of Mixed Martial Arts, but I feel that my calling lies elsewhere. That’s why I’m shifting my focus back to editorial columns where nobody is around to call me on my B.S. where I can write on my own. You’ll still see me around the site spouting my ill-informed opinions, and of course I’m always busy eating up bandwidth on Twitter. Thanks for reading everyone. Be good to yourself, and each other.

Conlan: This won’t be a goodbye speech because, as he said, Tool will still be hanging around the Five Ounces’ frat house pumping out pieces making the average “Comments” section look like a graveyard and I suspect he’ll end up as a guest GWIer from time to time. I will, however, say it has been my profound privilege to be offering up this column alongside Tool since November 2009. There was a point where he was thinking about calling it quits on writing MMA regularly if at all and I’m glad I was able to swindle him into sticking around by offering up a permanent slot here and the promise of a fancy sports car. At the time I probably should have explained I meant of the Hot Wheels variety but I digress because he’s been around for the last fifty-five months. Sucker!

But seriously, I’ve enjoyed agreeing and arguing with Adam from the get and, though he may not realize it, he’s played as much a role in keeping me focused on writing MMA as I may have been for him. He is a good writer, but, while I may have never met him and suspect he lives on a diet of corn-juice, cornbread, and corn-pone in Iowa, I consider him to be an ever better friend.

(And no, this does not mean “Grappling with Issues” is ending, as we’re bringing in a baby and a dog to fill in from now on to maintain readers! Wait…I’m being told that is typically a formula for failure…okay, Charlie Sheen it is! Wait…I’m being told he’s busy at the moment…better yet, and with the blood of at least 1,000 housecats if not tigers, Jeremy Lambert is coming on board from here on out!)


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