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Grappling with Issues – 5/4/11

Is there any opponent you’d rather see Georges St. Pierre fight more than Nick Diaz? Are you 100% certain we’ve seen the last of Randy Couture in the Octagon? How many stadium shows will the UFC attempt in 2012? Who will emerge victorious in the Bellator Season 4 Welterweight Tournament final?

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.

Will Rick Hawn pull off the upset against Jay Hieron this weekend at Bellator 43?

Lambert: I think Hawn has a good chance but I’ve got to go with Hieron in this fight. While he didn’t look great against Brent Weedman, he’s a better all-around fighter than Hawn even though I am a big fan of Hawn and his style. What this comes down to though is the striking of both men and Hieron is the more technically sound striker. Hawn should be able to hold his own on the feet but there are some holes in his striking game and I think Hieron will be able to exploit them just enough to pick up a decision victory.

Conlan: I’ll go out on a relatively long, thick limb and give the nod to Hawn since I don’t think it would be a monumental upset if the undefeated Olympian came away with a win on Saturday night. His judo will serve him well against Hieron’s takedown attempts and Hawn’s hands have steadily improved with each performance. In fact he actually has one more career TKO than Hieron despite half the fights.

I also think there’s a distinct possibility fatigue could set in for “The Thoroughbred” after a third fight in three months when he had only fought a trio of times in the previous two years before entering the welterweight tournament (mainly due to Strikeforce dragging its feet on his contract). He certainly looked less-than fresh against Weedman in the semi-finals who he arguably only beat with the assistance of some questionable scoring.

Hieron is a fantastic fighter who has dealt with some unfortunate circumstances and I won’t be surprised if he fights his way into a shot against 170-pound champion Ben Askren – I simply think Hawn has the chops and conditioning to make it a very long night for the Xtreme Couture original and may very well walk away with the biggest win of his career come this weekend’s event.

True of False: John Makdessi deserved to share “Knockout of the Night” honors for his spinning backfist finish of Kyle Watson.

Lambert: I’ll go with “true” mainly because I’m all for fighters making extra money. Not only was Makdessi’s KO highlight reel worthy but he put on a show against Watson for the 11 minutes prior to the spinning backfist KO. UFC made enough money this past weekend that they could have thrown an extra $129,000 Makdessi’s way. That said, I have a sneaky feeling that Makdessi was taken care of by Dana White and company given his performance.

Conlan: I’ll say “false” though not necessarily for the reason one might assume.

Yes, Lyoto Machida’s knockout was a thing of beauty, but I would have appreciated the message sent had the UFC given the award to Makdessi rather than fattening the former champion’s gi. Machida is without question a lot more financially sound than someone like Makdessi. While salary information hasn’t been released yet, “The Dragon” has pulled down six-figure paydays in the past while $129,000 could be life-changing for someone in Makdessi’s shoes. If they were only going to name one KotN it would have been nice to see the little guy get some love rather than one of the higher-paid athletes on the UFC roster.

Also, in closing, I share Lambert’s hunch Makdessi may have received an unofficial bonus and rightfully so given the incredible finish to his fight against Watson. It’s not unheard of and the Quebecker who turned 26 yesterday was certainly deserving of a little extra birthday money this year given last weekend’s extremely entertaining performance.

After witnessing Randy Couture’s knockout at UFC 129 has your opinion changed on the sincerity of his retirement plans?

Lambert: Not really, only because I felt that if he did lose by KO, then he would hold up to his retirement. Had Couture won or even looked fairly competitive then we might be having a different conversation but he really showed his age against Machida. MMA is a sport where speed is king and Couture no longer has that speed or the reflexes to compete at a high level. I hope he sticks to his retirement and if he does, I’m sure UFC will welcome him back to the commentary booth, where I miss his quick wit, great insight, and soothing voice.

Conlan: Soothing voice? Watch out Brittney Palmer! Sounds like you may have some competition!

On a serious note, no, it did not change my thoughts on Couture’s future in MMA. No matter how things went down at UFC 129 “The Natural” was already committed to filming back-to-back movies in 2011. With his schedule booked until the latter part of the year it makes more sense for him to retire now and see how things unfold than commit to fighting at 48. He can always return to the cage if his competitive fire flares up while on set and the right match-up surfaces as easily as he can use the momentum of two films to continue his career in Hollywood.

Do you believe Couture would turn down the opportunity to fight Fedor Emelianenko on New Year’s Weekend 2012 at an event where his legacy could be fully honored rather than given third-tier status based on dual title-fights? I certainly don’t.

Who would you like to see Georges St. Pierre fight next?

Conlan: Nick Diaz. Yes, I know it’s the easy answer but it’s also the only correct one in my estimation. There are no other true contenders at 170 pounds right now and St. Pierre has already said a move to middleweight would almost certainly be permanent. It’s a perfect pairing to feature on the Ultimate Fighter and draw solid ratings with given their popularity, their vastly different personalities, and the appeal created by putting two promotional champions against each other in the Octagon. The gap of time TUF would create might then allow a new contender to be established, like Carlos Condit, Nate Marquardt, Diego Sanchez, or B.J. Penn, while also giving Diaz the break from fighting he’s asked for in addition to putting some extra green in his pocket. Money, people! Geez.

Also, if the Zuffa brass want to be clever they could consider making the match-up a catchweight affair – 172 pounds for example – to give them a perfect out in terms of the loser remaining a welterweight champ without compromising either man’s diet or preparation in the process.

Lambert: I’m fine with Diaz but for the love of God no more GSP on SpikeTV. If I never see him coach TUF or be featured on UFC Primetime then it would be too soon.

I’m going with Anderson Silva pending he gets past Yuhsin Okami later this summer. Despite GSP’s lackluster performance this past Saturday, this is a super fight that needs to happen. Fights like this between two dominant champions rarely come along in combat sports history and UFC would be foolish to keep pushing it back. And don’t even tell me that GSP vs. Penn 2 was a super fight on the level that GSP vs. Silva would be. At the time of UFC 94, Penn had defended his UFC Lightweight Championship one time and GSP had defended his welterweight title one time. Right now, GSP has defended his belt six times while Silva has defended his belt eight times. To say they’ve cleaned out their divisions would be an understatement. Silva isn’t getting any younger and God forbid one of these two lose, thus throwing away the potential fight to truly see who the best fighter in the world is.

Over/Under – 1.5 UFC stadium shows in 2012.

Conlan: Over. The success of UFC 129 will almost certainly inspire the UFC to return to Toronto next year with another incredible line-up likely highlighted by the presence of GSP, and I can see a show in Dallas given the event’s success since “Jerryworld” constantly comes up in discussion as a testing ground for a Stateside stadium spectacular.

The fact the UFC announced a Fan Expo in Houston this October may not be an indicator of their intent to give it a go in 2012 but I don’t think it’s necessarily a coincidence either, nor is the rumor of Cain Velasquez on the card given Texas’ Hispanic population. If the event sells out and fans show up for the festivities as they have for similar offerings then don’t be surprised if the Octagon shows up on the Dallas Cowboys’ 50-yard line by year’s end. Truly, do you think White doesn’t dream of a bout being shown on the 11,500 square foot HD screen hovering above the arena’s seats? I suspect such a sight, and such a site, is right up there in his mind with headlining Madison Square Garden in terms of fantasy locations founded in realistic possibility.

Lambert: Under. I think UFC will stick with just one next year although there are a lot of potential factors that could change that.

UFC heading to Dallas to hold an event in Cowboys Stadium makes a lot of sense and I could see that being the one stadium show in 2012. I’m not sure they’re going to return to Toronto next year just because it’s easy to quickly sell out when you head to a market the first time, it’s harder to do that a second a time. The second stadium show could be held in England, but that really depends on whether or not Michael Bisping can challenge for the middleweight strap.

Who turned in the best performance of the night at UFC 129?

Conlan: Mark Hominick. He may have lost to Jose Aldo but his showing was a thing of rare beauty, a Raphael-meets-Rocky work of art. To hang with Aldo for twenty-five minutes while maintaining focus through a ton of adversity was something I won’t forget for a long time. I’m not sure what the percentage is but I’m certain a lot of fighters in Hominick’s condition would have asked for the towel to be thrown in without medical stoppage coming. Rather, he gutted it out in front of his Canadian countrymen and never lost his composure or competitive spirit.

Sure, there were extremely impressive highlight finishes and Jake Shields bloodied, but no person went toe-to-toe with someone as dangerous as the Brazilian featherweight champ or weathered as brutal a storm. His newborn daughter can grow up never questioning her father’s his toughness or character, and that, to me, is as good as it gets.

Lambert: There were a ton of great performances at UFC 129 but I’m going to go with Rory MacDonald. I thought the long layoff would hurt MacDonald and not only that but he was facing a very tough Nate Diaz, who I figured would turn in the best performance of his career given the timing of his training camp. Instead MacDonald really put it on him and threw him around in the third round. While I thought a 10-8 third was a bit of a stretch, there’s no denying that MacDonald roughed up Diaz and dominated him like he’s never been dominated inside the Octagon. The kid is only 21, he was seconds away from beating a game Condit, he already has big fight experience, and I think he’s a lock to become a future champion. Plus, not only did MacDonald defeat Diaz but he extended my Twitter losing streak to four fights.


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