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Grappling with Issues – 5/11/11

How do you view Nick Diaz‘s decision to box? Do you want to see “Cro Cop” give it one last go against “Minotauro”? What’s next for the Zuffa after this week’s announcement regarding fighter insurance? Is it time to change the structure of rounds?

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 – Hector Lombard would challenge for the UFC middleweight title within a year from signing if inked to the company’s roster.

Lambert: False. Lombard is a hell of a talent with an extremely impressive win streak but he’s never faced talent like he’d face in the UFC. While the UFC 185 division isn’t the strongest in the company, there are guys like Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami, Demian Maia, Brian Stann, etc… who are tough outs for any fighter. Right now Lombard’s best wins are against guys who couldn’t make it in the UFC and he doesn’t have a victory over a “Top 20” fighter. The talent is clearly there and it wouldn’t shock me if he did run through the division should he sign but I can’t say with certainty that it would happen.

Conlan: I agree with the whole of my peer’s response. It’s impossible not to appreciate Lombard’s abilities but he hasn’t fought elite-enough competition to definitively say he would be anything more than a guy who wins as many as he loses when paired against the names on Lambert’s list or someone else like Michael Bisping, Wanderlei Silva, or Vitor Belfort. Niko Vitale is not slouch and is currently on a three-fight winning streak but hasn’t beaten a highly-respected opponent in more than five years. If Lombard gets by him this weekend he deserves credit for the victory but not a free pass.

With additional insurance now in place for fighters, what step would you like to see the UFC/Zuffa take next in terms of helping legitimize the sport and/or protect its athletes?

Lambert: The next big step has to be becoming public. I don’t think that will happen though because then I don’t think Dana White can be Dana White if he has to answer to investors and stock holders.

So being realistic, I’d say that UFC just needs to continue to acquire the best fighters and put on the best fights. I’m not a huge boxing fan but it’s a shame to watch Manny Pacquiao being wasted against guys like Josh Clottey and Shane Mosley when the only fight everyone wants is Pac vs. Floyd Mayweather. I don’t want the same thing to happen in MMA. Sports work best when all the best guys are in one league going against each other. When UFC and Strikeforce eventually merge, UFC will house most of the top fighters and when new fighters emerge, UFC needs to continue to get them under contract so the best can fight the best.

Conlan: Let me lead by saying I am 100,000,000% positive that in no way will White take the UFC public in the near future if ever. He has said as much in the past and I believe him wholeheartedly based on the control he’d sacrifice.

Anyways, I think talent-sharing is a natural next step for the UFC. I understand the desire to keep Strikeforce its own entity but an avenue needs to be in place for crossovers to occur (and not necessarily of the “super-fight” variety). The occasional catch-weight battle between champions would obviously be fun, but I’m thinking along the lines of giving rising fighters an additional outlet to shine.

For example, if the UFC is unable to find an opening for one of their up-and-comers within a few months of his latest win he could be featured on a Strikeforce card in even a preliminary capacity. Why prevent a fighter from earning income and gaining experience for six months, or longer, if an opportunity under a Zuffa banner arises no matter what actual promotion it takes place in? The scenario could also apply in instances where Strikeforce needs a bit of “oomph” in supplying their own fighters with opponents. Tim Kennedy has only been given a single opportunity to throw down in the last six months and is still in limbo where a future fight is concerned. Again, why waste talent and time when an easy alternative awaits around the corner.

I understand there are contractual issues to deal with, especially in terms of Showtime’s relationship with Strikeforce, but my assumption is the cable network cares more about ratings and advertising than it does the actual fighters taking to the ring (other than Jason Miller), so I fail to see why they would be opposed to the idea of cross-promotion.

Nick Diaz’s apparent decision to indeed box later this year rather than compete as a Mixed Martial Artist is _______ (fill in the blank).

Lambert: Adventurous. I can’t knock Diaz for wanting to box instead of compete in MMA, especially if the fight against Georges St. Pierre isn’t offered to him. I actually admire Diaz for wanting to try something new. That’s why I find his decision adventurous. Sometimes adventures end great and sometimes they end in disaster. For Diaz, I think it would end up in disaster, depending on the level of competition he fights. He has great MMA boxing but I think people forget that his MMA boxing is really helped by the fact that he’s also got a great ground game. It allows him to open up more on the feet and gives opponents something else to worry about/train for. He won’t have that luxury in an actual boxing contest and unless he really tightens up his defense, I think he’ll be in for a big surprise when he steps foot into the squared circle.

Conlan: Posturing. I don’t doubt Diaz’s desire to box because he likes testing himself and he certainly isn’t afraid of a challenge (or a fight). However, when referring to the sweet science his motivation has always been monetary, not a matter of proving anything to himself. He feels he works too hard for what he makes, sees the paychecks top boxers earn, and knows he can draw an audience while being competitive with puffier gloves on. Even with the talk of Diaz signing to fight Jeff Lacy the position from the Stockton native’s camp has been a matter of if the UFC can’t rectify the situation by offering up St. Pierre and probably a PPV percentage as well.

Because it seems clear to me he wants to stick with MMA as long as his bank account is accommodated I think his talk of boxing is contractual posturing and I will continue to believe so until he actually signs on the dotted line to face Lacy.

What fight are you most looking forward to this summer?

Conlan: I suspect the broad nature of this question may very well be means to punish me for submitting my trio of topics a bit late to Lambert but regardless I like it in that there’s really no wrong answer given the multitude of deserving match-ups to choose from. In fact there are likely a number of fights still to be made before mid-August that would qualify if the same questioned was asked a month from now.

I’m going to look outside of the UFC for my pick and say Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem on June 18 in Dallas. The bout obviously will have a huge impact on the Strikeforce World Grand Prix but more importantly pits two top heavyweights against each other who have history together and are currently surging in their division. Overeem hasn’t lost as a Mixed Martial Artist in three-and-a-half years but also hasn’t faced the most elite opposition during the span. That will change in Big D when he meets Werdum, a submission specialist with rapidly improving stand-up who tapped Overeem out in 2006 at a PRIDE event. The bout will solidify one of the two as having a legitimate argument for being the biggest dog in the sport, especially with Velasquez’s ongoing recovery from shoulder surgery, so I’m extremely interested in seeing how things unfold at the American Airlines Center (and will hopefully do so in person given the event’s proximity to my residence in Austin).

Lambert: Punishment for submitting the topics late? Of course not. I’m just excited that summer is starting and how much MMA we have to look forward to in the coming months.

I’m going to go with a heavyweight fight in June as well but mine takes place a week prior to Werdum vs. Overeem. I’m of course talking about Joey Beltran vs. Dave Herman. Okay, so that’s a lie (although Beltran vs. Herman should be a fun fight). I’m looking forward to Junior Dos Santos vs. Brock Lesnar. Not because of anything they’ve done of this season of The Ultimate Fighter (because they haven’t done anything on this season of TUF) but because of all the storylines involved. The winner gets a crack at Cain Velasquez, JDS has looked unstoppable in his UFC run, Lesnar is coming off a humbling loss, JDS’ wrestling will finally be tested, Lesnar’s reaction to getting hit will be tested again, etc…. There are so many angles in this fight that it makes for an interesting showdown and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Do you want to see Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” at “UFC: Rio”?

Conlan: Yes. I have long lobbied for a final fan-friendly fight for Mirko Filipovic rather than letting him end his storied career on the note played at UFC 128 against Brendan Schaub. If Zuffa can’t put him up against Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce then “Minotauro” makes complete sense, especially given the nature of the show in question and Nogueira’s need for a feeler fight rather than a top contender after his injury-ridden layoff. Their match-up wouldn’t have to be pretty or even result in a finish – just two icons going to war one last time at a historic event in tribute to their supporters and the sport.

Lambert: While I don’t really have the desire to see Mirko fight again given how far his slipped since UFC 70, I’d be strangely OK with this fight. It’s pretty obvious that Mirko’s chin is shot and he shouldn’t be fighting anyone with KO power. Luckily for him, Nogueira doesn’t have KO power, “Big Nog” would be coming off an extremely long layoff, and Nog’s body is just as battered as Mirko’s. It might be sad to watch two legends who just don’t have “it” anymore but it would be better than watching Mirko fall awkwardly as a fighter in their prime cracks him on the chin.

Good Idea/Bad Idea: Five three-minute rounds in fights with ten three-minute rounds in title fights?

Conlan: I’m not really sure how it would make MMA better if enacted and will live that argument up to Jeremy if he decides to make it. In my estimation the move would involve less action and more down time with only a minimal increase in the likelihood of a finish occurring in a title-fight.

And really, why would it even matter unless judges start scoring fights correctly? Is a 48-47 robbery any better than a 29-28 sham?

(EDIT – I want to add after reading Jeremy’s response my take on Nelson’s assessment of judging is it simply points out officials aren’t doing their jobs and rather than placate their ineptitude I’d rather see them do what they’re paid to do in as proficient a manner as possible.)

Lambert: I’m actually against the idea but thought it was an interesting comment by a current fighter.

Roy Nelson was the man who recently suggested this idea with his point being that, “Judges only remember the last minute so if one fighter dominates for four minutes, the other fighter can steal the round if he has a strong final minute.” It’s a fair point. We’ve seen some instances where fighters can steal the round in a final minute if the first four minutes aren’t a complete blowout. That said, I’m a little shocked that Nelson would be the guy to make these comments. As a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, I would think that “Big Country” would want more time in rounds. This is the same man who complained (and rightfully so) about being stood up from side control against Andrei Arlovski because the referee thought he wasn’t working. Imagine if he had side control early the round and only had two minutes to work instead of four.

I understand where Nelson is coming from but more rounds isn’t the answer if you’re going to shorten them. YAMMA tried that and we saw how well that worked. The champion just ended up being the guy who could hold his opponent down for a shorter amount of time. Plus, and I’ll never understand this about boxing, I’m not in favor of an even number of rounds. It just opens up the judges to score the fight a draw and nobody wants that.


  • Rece Rock says:

    - False – Hector Lombard would need more then a year or quite possibly wouldn’t string together enough wins to get the shot but definately would be an exciting addition to the roster.

    – Taking the co. public would mean they can’t do anything on the fly and we actually have benefited from certain things done last minute… NFL, MLB.. etc. can’t do shit on the fly with out an act of the board of directors and what not… Any way I do agree with Brendhan that talent sharing would be the next step, guys who step up and are succesful keep there spot at the big show and guys who fall short can work it out in the smaller promotion.

    – I think nick is posturing a lil bit but I also think Nick knows his skillset will only carry him so far in the UFC, he may get an immediate shot at GSP but then what? look at Shields he barely decisioned Kampman and did nothing against GSP so whats left for him that’s going to ? I think Nick knows he has a limited window of continued success in MMA – He has no one to fight in SF worthy of being a title contender and when he fights GSP and loses then what?

    – Cro Cop / Nog in Rio is A OK given the logistics… after that call it a career.

    – Junior Dos Santos vs. Brock Lesnar… I’m a mark for Lesner…I know, I know…so kill me.

    – I like the 3 min round idea BUT i dont like the 10 rounds idea… maybe 5 rds at 3 mins and championship fights are 7 rounds. I agree with Nelson about fighting with urgency and leaving less down time for judges to evaluate but this probably will never happen any way soooo…..


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  • Dufresne says:

    - False. If Lombard were signed today I think he’d have to fight at least one time before they slotted him for a title shot. And with the MW belt only being defended twice a year and Okami having dibs on the next shot, I just don’t see how the timing could line up to be under a year.

    – I’m not sure there’s much they can do at this point to make the sport any safer without sacrificing some of the competitiveness and excitement. As for increasing MMA’s legitimacy, I think the only thing they can do is exactly what they’ve been doing. The UFC already has an active campaign to educate legislators and other uninformed individuals, and other than that I think it’s just a matter of time. The introduction of rules and the increased safety regulations have already won over a number of former opponents such as John McCain and sports analyst Jim Rome, but there are still a few holdouts. Either they will eventually change their minds or they won’t, but the biggest factor I see influencing the last few is time.

    – Fine by me. This isn’t the first time Nick Diaz has made a non-MMA decision that directly affects his MMA career, and it probably won’t be his last. His involvement in triathlons has kept him from moving up in weight and taking certain fights and I have no problem with that either. It doesn’t really matter to me if Diaz is doing this because he genuinely wants to challenge himself, he just wants a paycheck, or he’s using it to try and drive up the amount he gets in a new contract. I can’t give a guy grief for any of those options. Besides, if he does end up in the square circle I think he’ll do better than most people seem to think.

    – I guess I’ll go with JDS v Lesnar. I’m a fan of both guys, even if Lesnar’s personality and antics don’t always sit right with me. I’m curious to see what kind of improvements Lesnar has made to his striking game going into a fight with probably the best HW boxer in the UFC, and I’m curious to see how JDS will do against the most powerful wrestler he’s faced yet. We haven’t seen JDS fight off his back yet, and that’s someplace he will almost certainly end up against both Lesnar, and Cain if he is to win this fight.

    – Yes. This is one of those fights I want to see purely due to nostalgia, especially in the UFC’s return to it’s birthplace. It probably won’t be a barn burner and it won’t have any real divisional significance, but I still think it deserves a spot on the card.

    – Bad idea. With shorter rounds we’d end up with even more lay-n-pray decisions because once a fighter with good top game got a takedown they’d just have to “stay busy” for 3 minutes at a time. The shorter time would also work against the fighter on the bottom as they would have 40% less time to get back to their feet or work for a submission. In fact, the only fighters shorter rounds would help are the ones with shitty cardio. As it is, a fighter gets a total of 2 minutes of rest and they have to fight for 5 min to get from one break to another; if you shorten the rounds you double the amount of rest they get and you cut the amount of time between breaks by almost half.
    If we’re gonna screw with the round times, why not go back to the way PRIDE did it? Giving the fighters 10 uninterrupted minutes to actually get something done should lead to more finishes which is what fans want to see. Plus it’d cut down on the number of fights the judges could screw up.

    And while I’m thinking about PRIDE, why don’t we go back to their judging too? It makes no sense to me to break down the score of a fight by rounds. Other than boxing, no other major sport does that. How retarded would it be if basketball, football, or baseball decided the winner based on how many quarters or innings each team “won”? In basketball if a team scores 30 points more than their opponents in one quarter and then 5 less than their opponents over the next 3 quarters, they’re still going to win the game. But in MMA a fighter can absolutely dominate his opponent in one round and if the next two rounds are fairly competitive, he very well might end up losing the decision even when it’s clear that he won the fight.

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  • boomnutz says:

    Hey Logic, did you read this

    “I don’t want the same thing to happen in MMA. Sports work best when all the best guys are in one league going against each other”

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  • MCM says:

    Duf- About wining rounds in MMA vs other sports.
    That’s what the 10 point system is meant to do. It’s not how many rounds you win, but how many points you score total. Example Maynard/Edgar II. Maynard only won 2 rounds out of 5, but he scored the same amount of points as Edgar creating a draw. Or Fitch/Penn where Fitch lost the first two rounds on points, but came back to score more points in the third. I agree that judging is completely flawed in MMA, but the underlying principles are solid. Underlying principle being points based on performance given for each round, total # of points wins.

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  • Angry Mike says:

    The primary reason to go public is to raise money by selling shares of stock. I don’t think Zuffa needs operating capital, so going public would expose them to public scrutiny and all of the oversight of publicly traded companies by agencies like the S.E.C. for no particular benefit.

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  • Dufresne says:

    MCM- I agree with you that the 10 point must system is supposed to keep fights from being judged based on who won the most rounds. The problem is that judges are hesitant to use 10-8 rounds and I don’t think they even know they can give 10-7 rounds or even lower. As a result almost every fight ends up having nothing but 10-9 rounds even when a lot of them are decidedly one sided.

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  • BigDave says:

    Ill try to keep this short and sweet.

    False Lombard will not get a title shot within a year but he will get two fights 1 will be fight over a gate keeper type or maybe a bit better the next will be a fight to decide a number 1 contender. If gsp goes up to 185 it wont matter cause no one at 185 can match against him.

    Obviously going public is the next move to legitemize the sport. It will bring in huge money and force accoutability to the sport. UFC needs to be the nfl or nba of MMA for this sport to be the best it can be we need 1 pro organization. It can’t go down the boxing path where there are to many belts to count and to many people with control of the fighters. If there is one organization to over see the whole of professional mma then we will no doubt see the best fighters fighting the best fightersall the smaller promotions will still be used as feeders to the pros kinda like the minor leagues.

    Could care less what either of the diaz bitches do. they are both scumbag pot heads how are part of the reason mma is still hard to legitomize.

    Lesnar vs JDS is the fight im most looking forward to. overeem is overrated and will be submitted again Werdum. It will be interesting to see If lesnar is able to take a punch without cowering away. We all know brock has little to no cardio so if he isnt able to finish JDS in the first then he will lose in the second by pretty much any way JDS chooses.

    I dont want to see either of these two legends fight again, especially Mirko. He needed to retire a few years ago. as for nog he may still be able to beat on the lesser HW fighters but isnt relevent in the new age of mma hw so they both need to fade out now before they get really hurt.

    I think they need to keep the fights as they are now but for one slight change. I think that number 1 contender matches and main events with no title up for grabs should be 5 three minutes rounds.

    there as short as i could make it.

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  • JabCrossHook says:

    No one can match against GSP at 185?

    I really doubt that when you have guys like Sonnen, Vitor, Maia etc

    GSP wouldn’t have a size and strength advantage that he has at WW, if ever does go up to MW he should have one or two fights before fighting silva, but i really doubt he’s even going to go up, there’s still fights for him at WW.

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  • edub says:

    - False. Hector Lombard is a great prospect, but he seems to fade a little bit each time he goes up against someone that doesn’t get blasted in the first round. He’s been able to coast on crazy athleticism after that, but I’m not sure if he could do that against Bisping, let alone the top 5 in the UFC MW division.

    -Create an agreement with the fighters that would share a certain percentage of the profit with them from each show. Then either let Lorenzo start talking more, or hire someone to take White’s spot conversing with the media.

    -Cool. Brendan is probably right in saying that it is mainly posturing, and if The UFC offered him GSP he would jump at it (his manager has said as much). However, I would love to see Diaz tool an over the hill Lacy. Not only would it be interesting to watch Diaz in a boxing ring, but it would add some more legitimacy to MMA if a mixed martial artist came over and beat a champ at his own game (even with Lacy being far far,… far past his prime).

    -Edgar-Maynard if it ever happens. The first fight is still my favorite to win FOTY, and both are up there with favorite fighters of mine. Not to mention both are in the top 3 ranked in the LW division.

    -Meh. Sadly, I don’t really care about seeing either of them compete again. CroCop is still good, but can’t take a punch. Nog has just seemed to breakdown physically, and looks as though he’s moving in quicksand. On second thought I guess since both have fell off so much, it’d be good to see both go at it again. Maybe?

    -Ever since Roy said this I have been going over it in my head, and truly, I’m starting to love the idea. The grapplers will have less time to act on the ground, but most of the time when the fight is on the ground for more than two minutes stalling is involved. The fight will move more, and the entertainment value will go up. However, I don’t see any commission ever implementing this. Especially since their max right now is 25 minutes in one night.

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