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Grappling with Issues – 3/9/11

Do you want to see Dan Henderson fight Fedor Emelianenko moreso than involved in a title-defense? Who among the many talented female Mixed Martial Artists do you feel best represents the sport? Is it time for Jens Pulver to get another shot on a larger stage? What was the best live MMA event from last week?

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 new contributor, our own resident workhorse Jeremy Lambert whose “Walk Down” and “After Party” event-breakdowns can be regularly found on Five Ounces. If you’re a regular reader you’ve also likely noticed the fact it isn’t Friday as much as we might all wish it were meaning Wednesday is the new home of GWI. Now that the changes are out of the way, let’s get on to the good stuff, and, 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.

Is Tim Kennedy vs. Robbie Lawler a must-make match-up for Strikeforce?

Lambert: No. It’s actually a terrible match up for Strikeforce to make. Kennedy is one more win away from a rematch against middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza while Lawler was just submitted by Souza and shouldn’t get a rematch, even if he beats Kennedy. The must-make-match-up for Strikeforce is Kennedy vs. Jason Miller. They’re 1-1 against each other, they’re both very charismatic and can sell the fight, and no matter who wins they can step in and face Souza for the title. Plus I think it’s the more competitive match up of the two. Both Kennedy and Miller are well-rounded and can challenge each other in all areas while Lawler, even though he has that one punch power, has a lot of holes in his game in the grappling department.

Conlan: As much as I’d like to counter-point Lambert into a fetal position based on this being the first topic of his rookie campaign as a full time GWI contributor he actually makes an excellent argument upon which I’ll build.

I suspect Kennedy called Lawler out rather than Miller based on style and profile. Lawler’s love of striking is as fan-friendly as it gets and he’s basically been limited to main-event and co-headlining bouts since signing with EliteXC in 2007. Comparably, Miller is an entertaining personality with a lot of talent but average fans generally want to see stand-up as opposed to grappling and most of his finer work has come outside the confines of a North American promotion with mainstream broadcast capability.

However, putting Miller and Kennedy together again to complete their trilogy would be a perfect opportunity for Strikeforce to re-introduce “Mayhem” to the public as more than a hair-streak who hosts a show on MTV and was the victim of a Stockton stomp-down. Additionally, though they are friendly and respect one another, the contrast in character would make for a great selling point in the bout’s build. After all, it’s not as if Kennedy will be donning a fur coat, gold chains, and platinum teeth anytime soon or doing a choreographed dance on his way down to the ring. And, perhaps most importantly, it is a divisionally relevant rhubarb either giving way to Kennedy’s rematch with Souza or Miller’s future date with Nick Diaz (or even Lawler who he submitted in 2006).

Would you prefer to see Dan Henderson defend his belt later this year or at heavyweight against Fedor Emelianenko?

Lambert: I’m a firm believer in that a champion should defend his title at least three or four times before we even talk about super-fights. Even though Strikeforce doesn’t have the deepest light heavyweight division in the world, the winner of Gegard Mousasi vs. Mike Kyle will be waiting in the wings to challenge the newly crowned light heavyweight champion. I understand the logic of a Fedor vs. Henderson fight because time is running out on both of their careers and you want to get them as many big fights as possible but there are still big fights out there for Fedor – namely against the loser of Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem – and Strikeforce really needs to make their belts mean something and having the champion move up in weight without defending the title isn’t the way to do that. Plus this fight would mean a lot more if Fedor could pick up at least one victory before possibly defeating a current champion.

Conlan: It looks like the love-fest will be a short one as I would definitely prefer to see Henderson face Emelianenko than paired against anyone the Strikeforce light heavyweight division currently has to offer. A win over Mousasi would be huge for Kyle but I still don’t think he’d be bought as a convincing contender for Henderson. Mousasi is terrific without a doubt but hasn’t fought in Strikeforce since losing his belt to Mo Lawal with wins over Jake O’Brien and Tatsuya Mizuno, neither whom move the divisional needle. Waiting on the winner to find success against someone like Renato Sobral or Lawal would solidify their slot while also creating a rare opportunity for Strikeforce.

Fedor has no place in the Grand Prix minus a slew of injuries and, as Lambert pointed out, neither MMA legend has a lot of time left in the sport. In the months it would take “Hendo” to successfully defend his belt against 2-3 opponents its likely Emelianenko could be done in the organization. Gilbert Melendez’s belt hasn’t been up for grabs in a year. Cris “Cyborg” Santos has been sidelined since June. Overeem…well, you get the point. Strikeforce needs to shine as brightly as they can and there are only so many mega-fights possible.

Seriously, you’re telling me you would rather see a card titled “Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Kyle” than “Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Emelianenko”?

Jens Pulver has won back-to-back fights in 2011. Is it time for a big promotion to give him one more run on a significant stage?

Lambert: If that promotion is looking for a one night spike in interest then sure, he should be given another run because the people still love Jens. Let’s face it though – Pulver is well past his prime, can’t compete with the top guys, and isn’t going to challenge for a title. I didn’t see his fight this past weekend but I read on this fine website that he broke his foot in round one and still picked up a split decision victory. A split decision victory over a 13-13 fighter and a quick victory over a 6-20 fighter (where he was stumbled early) isn’t enough to me. If he’s going to be given another shot on the big stage, he needs a significant victory on his resume. That said, I’d rather see Pulver lose to a good fighter in front of thousands of people than a low-level fighter in front of hundreds.

Conlan: If you saw the state of his foot you might have a different take on how incredibly impressive it was to go fifteen minutes on the purple, swollen mess. However, I don’t think it’s time for Strikeforce or the UFC to rush out and sign Pulver simply because he defeated two opponents he should have beaten to begin with. I appreciate his contributions to MMA and will always be a fan of “Little Evil” on a personal level but I need him to win a few more times before believing he’s ready for more than the random headlining slot on a Shark Fights or MFC card.

Should MMA have one overtime round if a fight ends in a draw?

Conlan: As intriguing as the concept could be I’m going to say no. Draws are relatively rare and often a reflection of either poor ringside scoring or questionable point deductions. Adding another five minute period wouldn’t correct either of those problems, plus consider the possibility of a fight ending in “sudden death” that never should have been a draw to begin with. If Fighter A seems to have clearly beaten Fighter B two out of three rounds yet still ends up in overtime he/she is now subject to the possibility of an undeserved loss, and I guarantee a lot fans/media would be foaming at the mouth when something similar inevitably occurred.

Overtime also doesn’t guarantee a conclusive result meaning the fight might still end in a draw. If the extra time can’t dictate a decisive outcome with certainty how necessary can it actually be? The only exception I might be willing to consider is in title-fights due to their special nature (similar to how other sports treat overtime in playoff/championship situations).

Lambert: Personally, I think all draws should be decided by a leg kicking contest where the first fighter to fall loses but an extra five minutes of fighting is cool with me as well. Even though a draw is rare, there have already been two of them in main events on UFC cards this year. Who wouldn’t love to see an extra round after the unsatisfying sound of the ring announcer saying, “this fight has ended in a draw”? Obviously the best solution would be better judges or a better system but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be fixed anytime soon so let the fighters have an extra round to decide things. Will a draw solve everything? No, but it will allow the fighters to better decide the outcome as they’ll have the extra round to make an impression on the judges.

Best event of the past week: UFC Live 3, Strikeforce: Feijao/Hendo, or Bellator 35?

Conlan: All three shows were highly entertaining with Strikeforce edging out Bellator but for my money, or lack thereof considering the moderate price paid via a monthly cable bill to watch the trio, UFC Live 3 was by far the best of the bunch. Two prelims were provided live via streaming video on Facebook while the televised portion of the card featured memorable moments in all four main card match-ups as well as a few bonus-worthy extras. For detailed reference see: Brian Bowles’ déjà vu against Damacio Page, Alessio Sakara wiping his bloody face on the referee’s shirt while a late-notice newcomer named Chris Weidman impressed, Shane Roller’s comeback knockout of Thiago Tavares, C.B. Dollaway being parted from consciousness a minute into his fight against Mark Munoz, and of course the instant classic between Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann. To get essentially an entire card’s worth of free MMA with bouts the caliber of UFC Live 3 is a rare flower and one with a bloom smelling sweeter than those of its rivals.

Lambert: Environment really influenced my decision on this one. I watched Bellator 35 on my DVR after already knowing the results, I watched UFC at a bar filled with mostly non-MMA fans and ugly waitresses, and I watched Strikeforce on media row in Columbus. The action on the UFC card was great but nothing replaces the experience of being at the arena for a MMA event surrounded by a bunch of screaming fans and knowledgeable media peers. While very few of you reading this saw the prelim fights, most of them were action packed. Jason Freeman went from the brink of defeat to the thrill of victory in the span of about 30 seconds, Brian Roger‘s showed off a deadly right hand and could be a future star in the sport, Jorge Gurgel actually won a fight by submission, and Josh Thornburg displayed an amazing chin against Roger Bowling. The main card was filled with great performances and drama starting with Kennedy’s charisma and Marloes Coenen‘s comback sandwiched between Jorge Masvidal‘s defense and Henderson’s right hand. Best of all, I didn’t have to listen to the cringeworthy Strikeforce commentary team.

Who should be the face of Women’s MMA?

Conlan: I have to just pick one? The reality is there shouldn’t be a single face for any gender because it dishonors the high number of quality individuals calling MMA home. There will always be folks who stand out the crowd or garner more attention from media but even then I would never consider Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, B.J. Penn, Tito Ortiz, or any one person the singular representative of the male side of the sport.

That being said, there are a dynamic, talented female fighters who are all wonderful representatives of MMA for different reasons. “Cyborg” Santos whose athleticism and power are matched by her genuinely sweet disposition outside of the ring; Liz Carmouche for her service to the country and attitude towards confronting life’s challenges; Roxanne Modafferi for her endearing spirit, intelligence, and always-present smile; Coenen for her background, humility, and technique. The list goes on and on, and I for one am not interested in editing it down so much as seeing it grow.

Lambert: The only answer is Brittney Palmer. In a world filled with sweaty guys rolling around, we need a face that reminds us that we’re men who like good looking women.

Joking aside, while I like Bren’s “big picture” thinking, I’m going to pick just one woman because everyone loves identifying one person with a sport, even though the sport needs more than one person to survive. Coenen should be the face of women’s of MMA. She’s a very good looking girl, she’s the most well-rounded female fighter competing today, and though she’s very humble and classy you can tell she has an edge to her. She also really wants to help women’s MMA grow and genuinely loves the sport and competing. Coenen is not only a great representative of women’s MMA but she’s a great representative of all of MMA.


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