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Grappling with Issues – 4/6/11

Will Gina Carano‘s move to Greg Jackson‘s make a difference in her career? How long will is take Nick Diaz to put Paul Daley on the mat? Will Eddie Alvarez stay undefeated in Bellator? What one change would you make to format of The Ultimate Fighter?

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.

TRUE/FALSE – Eddie Alvarez will remain undefeated in Bellator throughout the duration of his contract.

Lambert: TRUE, unless he’s not as good as we think he is meaning the UFC releases a mid-level lightweight, lets say Sam Stout should he lose to Yves Edwards in a couple of months, and said individual signs with Bellator and ends up beating Alvarez thus proving that Alvarez isn’t really a top lightweight and that he’s just benefitted from weak competition. I don’t see that happening because Alvarez has already beaten guys who have been in the UFC, but when you’re not fighting top guys your game does have a tendency to slip. I do think that Patricky Freire can give Alvarez a run for his money if he ends up winning this season’s tournament.

Conlan: Assuming his contract isn’t anything out of the norm, like a five-year deal, I’m inclined to agree with Lambert as far as the chances of Alvarez losing in Bellator ranging between slim to none. He’s looked virtually unbeatable as of late with finishing performances against a number of tough adversaries, and there aren’t currently any 155ers on Bellator’s roster with level of ability or experience necessary to earn my nod consistently. Relatively unknown commodities like Freire, Michael Chandler, and Lloyd Woodard certainly have the talent to pull off an upset against Alvarez – I just don’t see it happening minus a one-punch surprise. The UFC likely isn’t letting go of any top lightweights in the near future and Strikeforce seems to have Japan’s competitors covered, so in the end there isn’t a lot left for Alvarez other than the probability for continuing an impressive winning streak and an undefeated record in Bellator.

How long before Nick Diaz forgoes his striking and attempts a takedown in his bout against Paul Daley – over/under two minutes?

Lambert: UNDER. I really wanted to say “over” because Diaz loves to show off his striking and fights more with his heart than his brain sometimes but I don’t think that’s going to be the case in this fight. I think he knows the power of Daley, he respects it, and he wants nothing to do with it. He saw how easily his training partner Jake Shields handled Daley on the ground, and while that fight was years ago and Shields is a better wrestler than Diaz, he’d be stupid to not try and follow the same game plan. That said, Diaz’ judgment is often times smoke clouded so it wouldn’t shock me if Diaz spends the entire first round trying to strike with Daley, even if things aren’t really working out for him.

Conlan: OVER. Diaz doesn’t get enough credit for his ring savvy and I’m glad to see Lambert crediting it as far as saying Stockton’s favorite son is likely to play it safe in terms of his approach to Daley’s stand-up. However, I thought he would immediately opt to take Evangelista Santos down in his last fight given the Brazilian’s Daley-like power/style and yet he chose to stand for a good portion of their bout. My impression is that Diaz, as was the case with “Cyborg,” likely recognizes his technical superiority to “Semtex” where boxing is concerned and is going to use movement/jabs to frustrate Daley, wear him down, and then drag him to the ground to either pound out a victory or attack with submissions.

Which off the two non-title pairings on Strikeforce’s main card this weekend are you most excited for?

Lambert: I’m probably the only person in the world who likes Keith Jardine as a replacement against Gegard Mousasi. While Jardine hasn’t beaten a top guy since his win over Brandon Vera in 2008 and his chin is extremely suspect, the guy almost always comes to fight. Win or lose with Jardine, he’s going to give you a tough fight, unless he gets finished in 30 seconds. His opponent, Mousasi, has a lot of prove as well. While a win over Jardine won’t propel him back into the “top light heavyweight in the world” discussion that he was part of around this time last year, it will give him a victory over a proven fighter, which is something he needs after his cruise control wins against Jake O’Brien and Tatsuya Mizuno in DREAM.

Conlan: I can’t get overly excited for a bout with what seems to be a pre-destined outcome (a.k.a. Jardine taking a snooze) so I’ll go with Shinya Aoki’s return to Strikeforce in the form of his match-up with Lyle Beerbohm. Both men have a lot at stake with Aoki needing to prove his one-sided decision defeat to Gilbert Melendez was a fluke and Beerbohm out to show he can bounce back from the first loss of his career and compete against the sport’s best. Aoki’s submissions are as dangerous as they come in MMA, while “Fancy Pants” is a good wrestler who can strike or grapple depending on where each fight takes him. Finally, though trivial in terms of performance, I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention the potential for awesomeness attached to their selection of ring attire since Beerbohm and Aoki are both known for their unique fashion choices when it comes to competition.

Would making Michael Bisping and Chael Sonnen the TUF 14 coaches send a bad message?

Conlan: No, as I’m not sure it sends any message other than to remind the public of how big a role entertainment value plays in MMA. The Ultimate Fighter is as much about improving ad-based revenue through ratings and selling tickets to future events as it is about awarding a singular talent with a crystal plaque. If Bisping and Sonnen are selected they will simply be testament to that notion. They’re both skilled at delivering soundbytes and come with the added appeal of having recently been immersed in controversy. Their personalities are likely to draw in as many viewers as the divisional relevance of a match-up between the two, and, as I said, that’s not necessarily a negative thing – it’s just the way the entertainment industry works.

One final thing to consider for anyone who thinks Bisping/Sonnen would essentially be rewarded in spite of their less-than professional actions if given an opportunity to coach TUF is the fact it would put them both out of the ring for nine months. That’s equivalent to 2-3 fights, i.e. a couple hundred thousand dollars, as well as a big chunk of time away from the game. That doesn’t sound that great, does it?

Lambert: Bren makes a good point about how Sonnen and Bisping coaching TUF keeps them out of action for pretty much the entire second half of the year but I still think it’s the wrong move. No matter what anyone says about TUF, they can’t deny that it’s a great vehicle for getting fighters and fights over. It can make or break a lot of reputations based on how they come off during TUF and it certainly makes fights seem very important. Was Dan Henderson vs. Bisping that big of a fight prior to their TUF run? I don’t think so. So knowing what kind of exposure TUF gives fighters and fights, why should that exposure go to Sonnen and Bisping? Sonnen just got busted for PEDs, which means he cheated to try and win a fight. Cheating should never be rewarded. I’m a little softer on Bisping coaching, although I don’t like when a guy who has already coached gets to coach again, just because I think that another fighter could use that exposure.

Is Gina Carano leaving Xtreme Couture for Greg Jackson’s a good move for her?

Conlan: I don’t think it will have an impact one way or another on her MMA future (if she still decides she wants one). Both are excellent camps with talent-heavy teams and extremely knowledgeable coaches. She may get a few things out of Greg Jackson’s group that she wouldn’t at Xtreme Couture but the same is true in return as far as picking up techniques in Las Vegas that she might not in Albuquerque.

In the end it all boils down to whether or not Carano genuinely wants to keep fighting rather than who she trains with. She hasn’t stepped into the cage since her loss to Cris “Cyborg” Santos in August 2009 and nothing concrete has surfaced since Strikeforce broke word of her return to competition earlier this year. She has promotional duties to deal with when her film with Steve Soderbergh (“Haywire”) drops this fall adding yet another layer of complexity to the equation, and I think it would take complete dedication on her part to get down to a proper weight. Her curves are the stuff dreams are made of but there also aren’t a lot of relevant match-ups at 145 pounds for her. Just ask Santos who has been on the shelf for three-quarters of a year while waiting for an opponent.

Lambert: I have to agree with Bren for the most part. Where Gina trains won’t determine how successful she’ll be in MMA, how much her heart is in it will determine her success. She could train at my home gym (the offer always stands, Gina) and if she has the fire and determination to be a champion, she’ll be successful. I do however believe that Jackson is the best at helping fighters reach their full potential, whatever that might be. Look at a guy like Melvin Guillard. He was a mid-level lightweight before he hooked up with Jackson and now people are putting him in the title mix. Maybe Gina has already reached her potential and she’s just destined to play second fiddle to “Cyborg” for the rest of her career but we’re going to find out for sure now that she’s training with Jackson’s camp.

If you could change one thing about The Ultimate Fighter, what would it be?

Conlan: I would like to see a season where they scrap the house and the UFC Training Center in favor of opposing camps like American Kickboxing Academy and Xtreme Couture (or Cesar Gracie’s if transportation was an issue). Why not show viewers the heart of MMA instead of a gussied-up exterior with a mansion and unlimited booze? Give fans a look at the sacrifices made in a less polished environment; the personal struggles the fighters deal with in their real lives when it comes to balancing family, bills, and their passion for Mixed Martial Arts. Let folks see the things fighters only talk about in confessionals on the show.

Or, if that’s too radical a change, how about simply bringing back the team challenges? Offer fighters a chance to earn a prize while exhibiting physical ability, showing heart, or learning a life lesson.

Lambert: No teams. Just have 16 fighters with 2 coaches and the coaches can pick who they want to help out and the fighters can ask both coaches for advice. Really the whole goal of having no teams would be to create more backstabbing and drama, which is the basis for every successful reality show. So who picks the fights? Simple, the fighters. They vote who they want to fight and whoever gets the most votes picks who he wants to fight. I’ve watched a ton of Real World/Road Rules Challenges over the years so I know how this stuff works. This whole team format is played out and it’s been become less about fighter drama and more about coach drama. The coaches are already known, I want to get to know the fighters more.

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