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Grappling with Issues – 3/30/11

Is Phil Davis destined for a title shot in the next few years? Should Urijah Faber have been named as an Ultimate Fighter Season 14 coach? Will Pat Curran see the fourth round against Eddie Alvarez this weekend at Bellator 39? What was the best submission from this past weekend’s MMA offerings?

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.

Who would you like to see Dan Hardy and Anthony Johnson take on next?

Lambert: Readers of “The After Party” already know this answer but since I can’t presume that everyone reads everything I write (thus making them less intelligent than others) I’ll repeat my answers. I’d like to see Hardy take on Matt Serra with Johnson facing off against Diego Sanchez.

Serra is a guy who likes to put on exciting fights and he’s not an elite level wrestler so he may be forced to stand with Hardy, in which case we’d get a slugfest between two guys with plenty of power and good chins. Johnson/Sanchez makes sense to me because Johnson needs an exciting fight after his less than stellar performance against Hardy and when was the last boring Sanchez fight? Plus Sanchez would really test the cardio of Johnson with his pace, and if Johnson can go fifteen minutes with “The Dream” he can go 15 minutes with anyone.

Conlan: I don’t see anything wrong with either of Jeremy’s selections. Serra comes with the added bonus of being a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu guy while Hardy is part of Eddie Bravo’s group at 10th Planet, a rivalry of sorts, and Sanchez possesses the wrestling defense and strength to potentially stuff Johnson and make it a real stand-up battle.

I’ll go with two other options for readers to mull over. In the case of Hardy I think a fight with Martin Kampmann would be both entertaining and competitive. Each is a good grappler relying on precision more than power when it comes to striking and is in serious need of a relevant win given their recent slides. They are also unique in terms of their European backgrounds so a bout between them could co-headline a card in England whereas it might be relegated to earlier status on an American PPV.

As far as Johnson, I’ll go with Carlos Condit since he should be ready for the ring fairly soon after being sidelined with an injury in February. He has all the necessary tools to stop Johnson while standing or on the ground, has found success against large opponents in the past before including middleweights, and has the kind of style that when paired with Johnson’s could easily produce “Fight of the Night” material.

Did the UFC make a mistake by passing on Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz as coaches for the next season of the Ultimate Fighter?

Lambert: This is a tough one. I’d like to say yes because the next season of TUF features featherweights and bantamweights so naturally it makes sense for the most recognizable bantamweight and the bantamweight champion to be the coaches to build up their fight. On the other hand, Cruz hasn’t fought since last December and if he were to do TUF, he’d go an entire year without defending the belt and I think UFC wanted to get him in the cage and start spotlighting the division. Here’s how I think UFC can right this possible wrong: Jose Aldo and Kenny Florian as coaches. If Aldo beats Mark Hominick and Florian beats Diego Nunes, it’s very possible that they could fight for the UFC Featherweight Title. They could be the TUF coaches, spotlight Aldo, and really build up the fight.

Conlan: I can’t say the UFC made a mistake until I know who ends up filling the spots. Faber and Cruz would have been perfectly suited for the role but, as Jeremy pointed out, “The Dominator” needs to make his way into the Octagon sooner than later. Aldo/Florian is a solid option but the scenario is contingent on both winning plus “Ken Flo” doesn’t fight Nunes until June. I’m also not sure they have enough mainstream draw to bring in casual viewers.

Two men the organization has to consider for the vacancies, and likely have already, are Jon Jones and Rashad Evans. Television ratings and drama go together like ring-girls and Spandex, so providing a public platform to let the two light heavyweights’ personal issues potentially play out would definitely bring in a lot of eyeballs not necessarily interested beforehand. They’re also charismatic, intriguing personalities with a lot of knowledge and wisdom to offer contestants, and are already scheduled to fight at some point in 2011 so nothing else needs to slide into place for “TUF: Team Jones vs. Team Evans” to go down.

TRUE/FALSE – Pat Curran will make it into the championship rounds against Eddie Alvarez this weekend at Bellator 39.

Lambert: FALSE. Curran is a very game fighter but Alvarez just looks to be on a different level than any lightweight in Bellator right now. Since 2008, Alvarez has finished 10 of his 12 opponents inside of 15 minutes and I think he’ll be able to add Curran to that list after this weekend. Alvarez is just too good of a striker and his wrestling should be good enough to keep the fight on the feet for the most part. Unless Curran can avoid the strikes on the feet and takedown Alvarez with any consistency, I think it’ll be a short night for the 23-year old Curran.

Conlan: Also FALSE. Curran deserves credit for his performances and continued improvement but Alvarez is legitimately one of the top three 155-pounders in MMA. What Lambert doesn’t mention is that the 21-2 Alvarez has never gone longer than fifteen minutes in any of his twenty-three professional fights. He’s disposed of Toby Imada, Josh Neer, Roger Huerta, and Tatsuya Kawajiri in various fashions without seeing the start of the third round, let along two frames beyond it. As good as Curran as looked at times he hasn’t shown me anything to make me believe he can do what men of their ilk didn’t. He also hasn’t fought in nine months after being extremely active from 2008 to the middle of 2010 when he beat Imada by Split Decision at Bellator 21 so ring-rust, conditioning, or any other number of issues could arise as well making an upset of Alvarez an even more Herculean task.

Will Bobby Lashley ever compete in Strikeforce (again) or Bellator?

Conlan: I think the chances appear slim but exist so I’ll tip my hat towards the side of optimism and say yes, Lashley will get another chance on a larger stage at some point in the future. The former professional wrestler’s primary problem is as defined as his physical frame and, as it turns out, related to it too. His conditioning is abhorrent but equally unsurprising given the oxygen required to support his muscles on top of muscles. He’s like a rocket-ship in the sense his thrusters burn white hot upon launch before the fuel inside expires, they detach, and the craft is left to float somewhat aimlessly in space towards its final destination.

I’m certain Lashley understands the issue better than I do as an outsider, and as such I’ll give him enough credit to work on correcting the problem since he’s stated he wants to keep fighting for at least the immediate future. All he needs to do is get his weight down to a point he can go ten hard minutes and five passable ones rather than the other way around (while substituting in “…like a kidney stone” after passable) and Lashley should be able to make his way back onto a larger stage. After all, he is 6-1 thus far in his career so it’s not as though he can’t be competitive.

Lashley has some raw talent mixed with some mainstream appeal, and the reality is people are likely to pay to see him fight whether because they’re marks or they simply want to see him get squashed. He will never be a major world champion but he still has as much of a place – maybe even more – on a Strikeforce, Bellator, or even UFC card, as someone like Kimbo Slice, Herschel Walker, or any other number of guys with sketchy MMA records/experience who are drawing pay from the promotion.

Lambert: I’ll go with yes as well, based on his name value alone. Maybe he’ll improve and become a fringe contender but given how little improvement he showed from the Chad Griggs loss to his recent victory over John Ott, I don’t see how he ever challenges for a title. Name value is a great thing for MMA fighters who aren’t very good though. Even though Lashley has been greatly exposed in his last two bouts, he’s still a former WWE superstar who has the look of an ass kicker.

As long as things are “business as usual” for Strikeforce, I could definitely see them giving him another shot. There is money to be made in a Lashley vs. Dave Batista fight and I still think Lashley can mean something if he’s booked correctly, which he wasn’t in his first Strikeforce run. To be honest though, I think Bellator would be a perfect home for Lashley. With their tournament format, Lashley wouldn’t be able to take long breaks, and I really think he needs to be fighting on a consistent basis because from what I hear, when he’s not training for a fight, he’s rarely training. All of this really depends on Lashley’s desire to compete though and I’m not sure that’s very high right now.

Better Saturday Submission: Chan Sung Jung’s Twister or Richard Hale’s Inverted Triangle?

Conlan: It’s a difficult call, as Jung gets bonus points for having acquired the technique by way of YouTube while Hale choked Nik Fekete completely unconscious and has also recently mentioned he had never actually practiced the move before pulling it off at Bellator 38. Both submissions are rare yet each has been seen before. Jung’s came in a highly anticipated rematch of his original classic with Garcia while Hale moved one step closer to a title and $100,000 paycheck with the victory. Decisions, decisions…where’s Cecil Peoples when you need him?!?

In the end I’m going to go with Jung based on how tough an opponent Leonard Garcia is. While Fekete was undefeated before this past weekend and is certainly skilled in his own right, he also only has five professional fights while Garcia has registered 23 in-ring appearances including those against a number of respected adversaries. Of those bouts UFC Fight Night 24 was the only the second time “Bad Boy” had ever been finished. He’s gone the distance with Huerta, Cole Miller, and Hominick, so to have been tapped out – especially with a second remaining in the round – is something I simply can’t pass on picking.

Lambert: Both submissions were outstanding and since Bren put over the twister of Jung, I’ll give some credit to Hale. An inverted triangle is a very rare submission (although becoming less rare in Bellator) but the fact that Hale, a light heavyweight, did it is amazing. When you think of rare submissions in MMA, they’re usually performed by the lighter guys. Shinya Aoki and Nick Diaz using the Gogoplata, Aoki using the hammerlock, Imada’s inverted triangle, Miller’s Triangle/Kimura combo, and even Jung’s twister. I’ll also throw Matt Hughes‘ front choke of Ricardo Almeida in the mix, and while no one would mistake Hughes for Joseph Benavidez, welterweight is still in the bottom half of weight classes.

Hale is a light heavyweight so pulling off an inverted triangle is absolutely outstanding. When it comes to the heavier guys, you normally think of “power” submission moves rather than “crafty” ones. This was a crafty submission move that would have had the MMA world buzzing if not for Jung’s submission just hours later.

OVER/UNDER – 2.5 years before Phil Davis is challenging for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title.

Conlan: Under. There is no question Davis is on a similar career path as current champ “Bones” Jones. Brian Stann, Alexander Gustafsson, and Tim Boetsch were his Andre Gusmao, Jake O’Brien, and Stephan Bonnar; Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was his Matt Hamill. Jones got his title-shot less than eighteen months after pummeling Hamill at the Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, and though Davis didn’t dominate Nogueira from start to finish, he also actually won. If Davis can pick up victories in his next 3-4 fights, which should take less than eighteen months as long as he’s healthy, I’d say he’s a lock for a crack at the UFC light heavyweight belt especially when considering the volume his buzz is already generating. He’s funny, intelligent, freakishly athletic, and comes with a slew of amateur accolades. Truly, there is little not to like as a fan or promoter.

The only thing stopping Davis from making me look like a genius on the level of Miss Cleo is a little thing called defeat and, as it turns out, those things tend to occur for one participant in almost every in-ring encounter. Opponents like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida, and “Shogun” Rua may be stepping stones to a strap, but they are also rock-solid, and one well-placed punch or slip in technique and “Mr. Wonderful” could easily be left on the outside looking in where championships are concerned.

Lambert: Is Tony Reali going to stop me from saying push? I think it’ll be about another 30 months before Davis contends for the title, which seems like a long time but time flies in MMA. To quickly touch on Bren’s point, Jones dominated his competition far more than Davis has (and lets not hold his “loss” against him, he “lost” because he kicked too much ass) and Jones was sort of rushed into the title shot thanks to Evans’ injury. Had Rashad not been hurt, Jones probably wouldn’t be competing for the title until 2012. While I wouldn’t favor Davis against anyone Bren mentioned above, in 30 months that will probably change. He’ll have 2.5 years to improve while guys like Jackson, Machida, and even Rua to an extent are sort of set in their ways and will only be 2.5 years older. Sooner or later though, Davis will have to beat a top light heavyweight in order to get that title shot.

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