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Grappling with Issues – 3/23/11

How long should fans be kept waiting for a super-fight between Jon Jones and Anderson Silva? Will Mirko Filipovic ever fight again for an American promotion? Is Anthony Johnson‘s job on the line Saturday night at Fight Night 24? Do you see newly crowned national champion Anthony Robles ever taking his talents to a MMA ring?

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 resident workhorse Jeremy Lambert whose “Walk Out” and “After Party” event-breakdowns can be regularly found on Five Ounces. 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.

What camp would you suggest for Rashad Evans now that he’s officially parted ways with Greg Jackson?

Lambert: Given the magnitude of the fight and his opponent, Evans needs to seek out the help of a top camp with top-notch training partners so I’m going with American Kickboxing Academy. They’re obviously one of the best camps in North America, they have great trainers like Dave Camarillo, Javier Mendez, and Bob Cook, and they have plenty of top MMA fighters. Evans’ cardio is a bit questionable because he burns a lot of energy going for takedowns but at AKA they excel at getting very good wrestlers in great shape to go five hard rounds. The main reason I say AKA though is because of Cain Velasquez, who should be healthy enough to train by the time Evans’ full-time training camp gets underway for his fight against “Bones” Jones. If anyone can mirror the speed and strength of Jones, it’s Velasquez.

Conlan: Though Rashad has already gone on record as saying he’s going to customize his own training camps rather than call any single spot home in the future I can see a stint at American Top Team serving Evans well. Though I like the idea of time at AKA, I’m under the impression Phil Davis occasionally calls the gym home and I can’t see Evans wanting to put himself in a similar situation to the one he just left as far as working with a rising 205-pound talent. I also feel like the training at AKA would work on areas he’s already superb in like boxing/wrestling rather than aspects of his game that could use a little tweaking.

At ATT he could improve his submissions and Muay Thai with the added bonus of Thiago Silva serving as the gym’s only light heavyweight on Evans’ tier with the possibility of a rematch unlikely to take place at any point soon if ever. It also might not hurt to spend some time out East, especially in a place as lovely as South Florida, just in terms of providing a change of scenery to help clear his head.

Will Mirko Filipovic ever fight in North America again?

Lambert: No. At least I hope not. The problem is, if Mirko wants to fight again, some money mark will pay him enough money to make it worth his time. You just know that there is some MMA fan with too much money living in North Dakota who thinks “Cro Cop” vs. Tim Sylvia could draw 5,000 people at the state fair. Luckily, I think Mirko has too much pride (see what I did there?) to lower himself to that level. I think he only wants to fight the best and compete on the biggest stage and if Dana White won’t bring him back or Strikeforce won’t give him a look then he’ll either bolt for Japan, where they don’t care as much about wins and losses, or he’ll retire.

Conlan: I agree with Jeremy for the most part but am still holding out hope he might fight at least one time in Strikeforce. “Cro Cop” has accomplished a number of great things in his career and is financially secure meaning he has no real reason to continue fighting unless he’s challenging himself at the highest level or paying back the fans with a New Year’s Eve appearance.

However, in that spirit, I think it would make sense for Scott Coker to bring Filipovic and attempt to rekindle the magic of his 2005 classic against Fedor Emelianenko in PRIDE. The fight would fit perfectly on the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Final card (rumored for PPV) based on the icons’ reputations and isn’t competitively askew given where both currently are in their careers. It’s also not a match-up likely to be available 2-3 years from now meaning Strikeforce has a unique opportunity and one they shouldn’t pass on simply because Filipovic is coming off back-to-back knockouts.

TRUE/FALSE – Anthony Johnson will get cut by the UFC if he loses to Dan Hardy at Fight Night 24.

Lambert: FALSE. Now if he misses weight and loses, then I’d probably change my answer. But if he just loses, he should get at least one more fight in the UFC. Even though it seems like forever ago since he last fought (and it has been 16 months), prior to his loss to Josh Koscheck, he had won three straight fights. Two straight losses, especially to talent like Koscheck and Hardy, shouldn’t get you cut from the company. Plus he’s an exciting fighter who produces highlight reel KO’s and exciting fighters usually get more opportunities than guys who just grind out victories. And if worse comes to worse, he could always make the move to middleweight in order to save his job for at least one more fight.

Conlan: Also “false”, though, as Lambert alluded to, Dana White has made his contempt for missing weight clear in the past and not hitting 170-171 pounds could definitely prove to be fatal for Johnson’s immediate future in the Octagon if such were to happen. However, he recently said only expects to be at 180-185 when he steps into cage on Saturday night so I don’t think fans need to rush out and buy him a copy of The Dolce Diet just yet.

That being said, he’s entertaining to watch in terms of style and swagger, extremely athletic and powerful on his feet, and at 27 he’s only on the cusp of his prime rather than in the midst of it. I can see him getting one more chance if he falls to Hardy, but there’s no need for him to move to middleweight if he loses because the same appeal isn’t there when a guy coming off a defeat goes up a division rather than down (where he’s perceived as being bigger/stronger).

How many times should Jon Jones defend his title before facing Anderson Silva?

Conlan: As long as we’re presuming he will indeed fight Silva at some point in the future I’ll say twice. If Jones can defend his title in dominating fashion against Evans and Quinton Jackson (or possibly Forrest Griffin depending on how the next few months unfold), and “The Spider” remains unbeaten as well, a super-fight seems logical for a few reasons.

It’s as exciting a stylistic pairing as anyone could ever ask for based on both men’s creativity, precision, and elusiveness while standing in addition to an ability to compete regardless of where action is taking place. Beyond their physical gifts they each have an aura of invincibility at the moment, a perception furthered by the theoretical wins needing to be in place for the fight to take place, and Silva has already openly discussed his intention to retire relatively early meaning his bouts are likely numbered. Those factors add up to what would be a highly memorable fight but also one that needs to take place sooner than later before it ends up alongside Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture in the “almost but never was” bin.

Lambert: I’m a firm believer in that a champion should defend his title a minimum of three times before the discussion of “super-fights” even begins. Obviously Jones has a date coming up with Evans and then after that we’re looking at “Rampage” if he beats Hamill, maybe Couture gets one last title fight if he beats Lyoto Machida, Griffin is always “in the mix,” Machida could get himself back into things, (Phil) Davis could climb into contention, and lets not rule out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua getting a rematch if he can get on a run.

The only problem with my “three defenses until a super-fight” belief is that Silva is almost 36 years old and his time in this sport is winding down. I wouldn’t blame UFC if they decided to book Silva vs. Jones should Jones get past Evans because Silva has earned the right to have big fights and UFC needs to take advantage of his “mystique” while he’s still at the top of his game.

Besides Jon Jones, who turned in the most impressive performance at UFC 128?

Conlan: Jim Miller with Eric Koch following closely behind after handing Raphael Assuncao the first TKO loss of a nineteen-fight career.

Back to Miller, the 27-year old lightweight looked fantastic against Kamal Shalorus who had emerged unscathed in all of his previous contests including those against Bart Palaszewski and Jamie Varner. It wasn’t simply Miller’s ability to finish Shalorus catching my attention but the manner in which he did so, as I’ve always felt his boxing was underrated but was impressed by the ease in which he mixed in other points of attack including the knee ultimately spelling doom for Shalorus’ chances of victory. Miller already has one of the division’s top submission arsenals so to see him flourish on his feet as he did Saturday night was especially exciting and reinforced his standing as one of the top 155-pounders in MMA.

Lambert: Since Bren correctly picked the lightweight Miller, instead of echoing his statement, I’ll give credit to Urijah Faber. Eddie Wineland is a tough fighter and former champion who, on all the judges scorecards, was up 1-0 on Faber after the first round. Faber struggled greatly getting Wineland down in round one and instead of going back to that game plan, he switched things up. He used his speed on the feet to out-strike Wineland, who everyone thought was the better striker, and because of his success on the feet, he was able to get Wineland down. The most impressive non-Jones move of the PPV was Faber reaching for a leg with his left hand, getting Wineland to drop his hands, and then Faber popping up and tagging Wineland with a beautiful straight right that wobbled him. If I had an older sister, I would totally try and hook her and Urijah up.

BUY/SELL – NCAA Division 1 Champion Anthony Robles will compete in at least one MMA fight in his lifetime.

Conlan: Had the statement included a “professional” tag I might be more inclined to “sell” it but as phrased there is no doubt in my mind Robles will give MMA a shot at least once (and likely many more times). Kyle Maynard, who lacks Robles’ remaining limbs, exceptional amateur success, and association with a fight-factory like Arizona State, received a chance after lobbying for an opportunity to compete so there’s no reason to think the next chapter in Robles’ incredible story shouldn’t involve Mixed Martial Arts at some point.

Lambert: SELL. I’ve listened to Robles talk about his future in a couple of interviews since Saturday and by the sound of it, he just doesn’t want to compete anymore. If he did, he would probably try and make the Olympic team, which he stated that he has no interest him. By the sound of things, he’s going to move on to motivational speaking and probably do some wrestling coaching. I really hope he doesn’t get into MMA because the whole thing with Maynard was a disaster and even though Robles had more success on a much higher level than Maynard, I can’t imagine things going much smoother this time around.

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