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Grappling with Issues – 4/13/11

Did Nick Diaz outperform Gilbert Melendez last weekend? Should Thiago Silva have kept his mouth shut in front of the NSAC? Are referees a bigger problem in MMA than judges? What weight-class would you most like to see a title unification bout in?

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.

Are you willing to pay $54.95 for a PPV headlined by Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson?

Lambert: I’m assuming I get the show in HD at that price considering that UFC PPVs are not that expensive unless they’re in HD. Really though, I’m the wrong person to ask this question to. I’m the same guy who paid for Tim Sylvia vs. Paul Buentello, Keith Jardine vs. Trevor Prangley, and Ken Shamrock vs. Pedro Rizzo. Hell, had I not been in college at the time of YAMMA Pit Fighting and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Lindland, I would have ordered those as well. If it’s MMA, chances are I’m ordering it. So of course I’d order a PPV headlined by Fedor and Henderson. Both guys are big stars and it’s a very intriguing fight. Not only that but the undercard would probably be solid as well. So yes, I would order a PPV headlined by Fedor/Henderson, but I’d also order a PPV headlined by Tank Abbott vs. Dan Severn in a rematch of the first ever judges’ decision in UFC history. That either makes me a huge MMA fan or an idiot. It’s probably a little of both.

Conlan: The cable provider in my neck of the woods charges a flat rate regardless of the quality ordered but this topic is more about principle than price as is so it doesn’t matter if it’s $45 or $55 so long as the premium rate is being charged.

With that being said, I can’t commit to spending that amount of money on a PPV without knowing how the rest of the main card would look first. I’m “willing” to fork out the necessary cash but only if the circumstances are right, as I appreciate the contributions Emelianenko and Henderson have made to MMA, as well as their remaining abilities, but need more than a headlining bout with their names on it to sell me on a purchase. It’s a super-fight Strikeforce is looking to make out of necessity, not because the public called for the pairing to take place or had ever really asked to see it go down to begin with. Truly, how many folks have expressed a desire to see Emelianeno fight “Hendo” over the past few years in comparison to Brock Lesnar, Josh Barnett, Randy Couture, or Alistair Overeem? Not many.

Henderson needs a summer fight, Strikeforce doesn’t have a clear cut 205-pound contender, and Emelianenko could use a bit of buzz (and the advantage of being larger than his opponent) after being soundly finished in back-to-back fights. It’s a smart choice from a business perspective and I recognize the value of putting the two PRIDE icons together in a cage. However, without some other “must see” match-ups on the card, the value doesn’t equate to $54.95 for a fellow like me whose friends aren’t typically willing to split a PPV bill unless the letters “UFC” are stamped in front.

More impressive performance on Saturday night – Nick Diaz or Gilbert Melendez?

Lambert: I’m going to go with Diaz here for reasons that have nothing to do with Melendez. While “El Nino’s” performance was outstanding, I don’t feel that he fought the best Tatsuya Kawajiri possible. Diaz on the other hand fought his toughest competition in years, and not only did he beat him, but he beat him at his own game. Diaz stood with Paul Daley the entire fight, only going to the ground when Daley took things there, and showed tremendous heart by recovering twice upon being dropped. I thought he was out cold the second time Daley dropped him and yet he regained his composure and continued. Not only that but he finished Daley with strikes, becoming the first person in MMA to accomplish that feat.

Conlan: This question is like asking what scantily clad Victoria’s Secret model walked the runway the best because there is no wrong answer. As such I’ll go with “El Nino” since Lambert already talked up Diaz’s dismantling of Daley.

While the Brit may have never been finished by strikes until running into Stockton’s favorite son, Kawajiri had only been TKO’d once before in a thirty-six fight career including bouts against the cream of his divisional crop. Melendez took a seasoned veteran known for power and tenacity and ran through him like a TUF castoff. The bout also marked another instance of Melendez wiping the floor with a highly respected adversary as was the case in previous bouts against Mitsuhiro Ishida, Josh Thomson, and Shinya Aoki. Additionally, the 29-year old was coming off a yearlong hiatus from the ring yet still performed at another level. Honestly, there was nothing about Melendez’s performance against Kawajiri that wasn’t impressive while Diaz at least took a couple nosedives into the canvas.

Then again, Stockton’s favorite son overcame said adversity to knock out a knockout artist, so maybe it’s best to sing the praises of both teammates rather than saying one was superior because each deserves credit for his showing on Saturday night rather than having any aspect diminished, especially by way of comparison to the other.

What Strikeforce/UFC title-unification bout would you like to see most – Melendez/Edgar, Diaz/St. Pierre, Souza/Silva, Henderson/Jones, or Overeem/Velasquez?

Lambert: After this past weekend, I have to go with Melendez vs. Edgar because I think that fight would be the most competitive. Unlike every other match up on that list, both Melendez and Edgar have been beaten or looked beatable in recent performances, thus creating an atmosphere of “either of these guys can truly win.” They’re also comparable in skill level. Both fight at a high pace, both very good boxers, and both outstanding wrestlers. I think the fight would be a back and forth battle and non-stop action for 25 minutes where both men will have to show their heart and determination to prove that they’re the best fighter at 155.

Conlan: I’ll go a division higher with Diaz and St. Pierre since it presumes GSP retains against Jake Shields later this month. Such a scenario would not only give Diaz the opportunity to avenge a teammate’s loss but would provide “Rush” with a much-needed opponent after having essentially beaten the rest of his relevant peers with 1-2 exceptions like Carlos Condit. Diaz has the boxing to trade with St. Pierre and the grappling to give the French-Canadian trouble after any successful takedowns. It’s also an extremely marketable match-up given the good guy vs. bad guy build the company could sell to the mainstream public. The other unification pairings have the potential to make for some solid fights; Diaz vs. St. Pierre has the makings of an all-time great.

Bigger problem in MMA: Judges or Referees?

Conlan: It could be argued athletic commissions are the larger issue since they are responsible for both of the aforementioned choices but given the two options I’d say judging is in more need of improvement. The opportunity for error will always exist in refereeing due to the fast paced nature of MMA and the stakes involved as far as fighter safety goes but at least the damage is controlled to an extent based on the fairly small number of officials out there. The fewer people used, the better the odds of getting someone who is knowledgeable and also likely passionate about the sport given their weekly dedication to it. They’re also held extremely accountable for their actions by the public and promoters because we see their faces and know their names.

With judging you’re talking about a group most fans couldn’t pick out of a police line-up even after one of their scorecards robs someone of a win in the ring. Their relative anonymity allows them to dish out points as they see fit without ever being taken to task for mistakes. There are also a ton of judges out there yet only a few who serve as repeat customers outside of their regular jurisdiction (and even those folks are sketchy at times). Additionally, there is more interpretation involved with judging than with a referee who has a set rulebook to work from, plus judges are removed from the action rather than knee-deep in it based on where they’re located ringside and don’t always have monitors to work with when watching fights unfold assuming they’re actually paying attention to begin with.

Referees might blow the occasional call or stop things prematurely but judges screw up scoring on a per event basis, as there will inevitably be one individual giving rounds to an undeserving competitor regardless of what bout or event it is. There’s a reason the phrase “don’t let it go to the judges” exists and not “don’t let the referee do his job”.

Lambert: Referees rarely ruin my enjoyment of a good fight. Example – John McCarthy didn’t ruin how much I enjoyed Diaz vs. Daley this past weekend because he may have stopped the fight three seconds to early. On the flip side, judges often ruin my enjoyment of a good fight. I absolutely loved the first Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia fight but I absolutely hated the decision. Same can be said for Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann, Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua #1, and many others. No matter how good a fight is, if the wrong guy is given the victory it just leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. The reason for that is people remember what they see last and if the last thing you see upsets you, you forget about the 15 (or 25) minutes of awesomeness that preceded it.

Are you looking forward to “UFC Primetime” with Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields?

Conlan: Sure, I enjoy all insight into the preparation process regardless of the involved fighters because I find myself fascinated by MMA in general. I appreciate their sacrifices, respect their mindsets, and enjoy the product they deliver in the end, so the opportunity to learn a few things about two men on the level of St. Pierre and Shields is one I’ll gladly take tonight via the Spike airwaves. Also, I’m not up to date on my “French Rap” collection so there’s that aspect to the special series as well.

I think it’s a good move by the UFC too in the sense it will gives fans some additional exposure to Shields who is an extremely talented, hard-working guy who also happens to be a loving single father in his spare time. Regardless of whether or not he beats St. Pierre at UFC 129 people will know him as more than a guy who eeked out a victory against Kampmann.

Lambert: Honestly, not really. And I’m not even sure UFC is looking forward to it given the lack of promotion they’ve done for this show compared to previews installments of the series. No offense to St. Pierre but we’ve already seen him on this show two times and he was also a coach on a recent season of the Ultimate Fighter. I’m about GSP’d out at this point. He’s a great fighter, scratch that. He’s the most complete fighter in MMA but I can only take him saying, “I train to fight an army” so many times.

The Shields aspect is intriguing because it is a good move by UFC to promote him but after these Primetime shows with GSP, I feel like no matter what Shields does, I’m going to believe in him less than I already do because GSP is that good and trains that hard. A 30 minute piece on Shields during the Countdown show would accomplish just as much, if not more, than a three-week UFC Primetime special.

Given the length of Thiago Silva’s suspension in the wake of his admissions to the NSAC, is honesty always the best policy?

Conlan: Let’s not forget Silva was dishonest from the moment he had steroids injected into his back to his submission of a tampered urine sample and eventual post-fight denial of wrongdoing when reports first surfaced mentioning his omission from the NSAC’s list of cleared UFC 125 fighters. Just because he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar and decides to cop to the crime while crumbs still line his mouth is no reason to offer him leniency.

To answer the question, yes – honesty is the best policy because being honest would have forced Silva to withdraw from the fight in the first place and consider a new line of work if his health issues prevent him from actively competing as a Mixed Martial Artist. Honesty would have prevented him from doctoring his sample and at least led to the admissions he made last week coming a month sooner.

Lambert: Bren pretty much nailed it. Honesty is the best policy as long as your honest from the get go. While it was stupid of Silva to take illegal drugs in the first place and he was better off just pulling out of the fight, I don’t really hold it against him for taking an illegal substance and then fighting. While it’s not being honest with your self or the “code” of MMA, I think it happens far regularly than reported. But if you’re going to do it and you get caught, just own up to it. Don’t doctor the sample and don’t make up a bunch of excuses, just say, “Yup, I did it. I did it to help me through as injury, it was stupid, it won’t happen again.” People will forgive you if this is your answer (see: Andy Pettitte) but if your answer is anything else, people will never trust you again (see: Roger Clemens).


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