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Grappling with Issues – 5/25/11

Will Quinton Jackson knock Matt Hamill out this weekend at UFC 130? Would you like to see Nick Diaz as a coach on the Ultimate Fighter? Are New York officials likely to rule in favor of opening the State’s doors to MMA events? Who do you see winning Bellator’s “Summer Series” tournament?

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.

More interesting event this Friday night – Shark Fights 15 or Titan FC 18?

NOTE: This article was written before Wednesday’s news relating to the change in line-up though only the names have changed, not the interest-levels.

Lambert: I’ve got to go with Titan FC 18 for the simple fact that I can watch the event on my TV. As of this writing, I don’t know how fans can watch Shark Fights 15 as it won’t be on HDNet, it won’t be on PPV, and they haven’t announced an online stream. On the other hand, Titan FC 18 will air on HDNet and I’ll most likely be watching because if I’m not neglecting my friends to watch MMA on the weekends then I’m not being me. Neither card blows me away but Titan FC does have Jens Pulver trying to get back to a big promotion. Plus it could very well be Pulver’s last fight because I have to figure that his next loss will be his last, at least it should. TFC also has Drew McFedries, who always brings it and rarely goes to decision.

Conlan: Though I think Shark Fights 15 has the best match-up in terms of their headliner (Joey Villasenor vs. Chris Camozzi), I agree with Lambert in terms of Titan FC 18 being the overall better event even though I won’t be able to watch either. No, my life is not that fabulous where I can’t afford to stay in on a Friday night but unfortunately my cable provider dropped HDNet awhile ago and I’ve been trying to fill the MMA-and-bikini-clad-girl void ever since.

In addition to McFedries and Pulver the Titan FC card also features Rory Markham throwing down with Kansas City favorite Rudy Bears and preliminary action from John Ott, a.k.a. the guy who took a much larger Bobby Lashley to decision in March. When comparing Titan FC 18 to Shark Fights 15, where three-quarters of the competitors are unknowns and in most cases appear to either be amateurs, debuting professionals, or guys who simply haven’t fought on big enough shows to merit an online listing through Sherdog’s “Fight Finder,” is there really even an argument to be made in favor of the Texas-based promotion’s show?

Who is your early favorite to win Bellator’s “Summer Series” tournament?

Lambert: There is plenty of talent in Bellator’s Summer Series but I’m going to give the early edge to Marlon Sandro. He’s got plenty of big fight experience, he’s well-rounded, and he’s very explosive. I know he’s coming off a loss to Hatsu Hioki but Hioki is the second best featherweight in the world so there’s no shame in losing to him. It won’t be easy for him though. Ronnie Mann is very talented but I think he’s a little too young and maybe a tad overrated. Pat Curran looked good at lightweight but I don’t trust anyone cutting weight for the first time and I’m really not sure just how good Curran is based on his lightweight run, which consisted of a quick KO and a couple of close decisions.

Conlan: Curran has actually fought at featherweight a number of times before so the divisional drop shouldn’t affect him much. In fact, I’m actually going to take him as the early front runner to win the tournament based on his success in Bellator at 155 pounds. The 23-year old not only beat Roger Huerta and Toby Imada, regardless of how impressive he looked in either bout, but held his own against Eddie Alvarez for twenty-five minutes – something no other fighter had done for three years prior to the decision defeat. He’s felt the pressure of being in the spotlight and blossomed rather than withered from its heat, so with some recharged batteries and the advantage of no longer being the small guy in the group I think he will use his ever-improving stand-up and mat-based prowess to get by any opponent he encounters this summer.

True or False – Quinton Jackson will finish Matt Hamill at UFC 130.

Lambert: False. Not only do I think that Jackson won’t finish Hamill, I don’t even have Jackson beating Hamill. Now I’m going to save most of my brilliant insight for this Friday’s “Walk Out” but I don’t trust Jackson’s mindset. I don’t think he’s 100% focused on Hamill or that he’s taking him 100% serious. Plus, Jackson has become a bit predictable as of late and unless he mixes things up, I don’t see why Hamill can’t pull off the upset.

That said, if Jackson is going to beat Hamill, he will finish him. I just don’t see Jackson winning a decision because if this fight goes fifteen minutes, chances are it’ll be because Hamill avoids the big punch and controls Jackson on the ground. Hamill eats more punches than he needs to and there’s no way he takes Jackson’s best punches for three rounds and survives to see the final bell.

Conlan: Jeremy makes a compelling case as Hamill can definitely absorb a good deal of damage and “Rampage” is 3-2 in the five UFC bouts he’s had go to decision including a very close Split Decision to Lyoto Machida. If Hamill plays it smart and controls Jackson on the ground he could very well earn the judges’ nod, obviously making this topic an obvious “false”.

Though I’m torn, for the sake of argument I’ll go with “true”. Jackson looks to be in solid shape weight-wise based on a recent picture I saw and I’m sure there was a focus on stopping takedowns in his camp leading up to this weekend’s fight. As long as he can keep “The Hammer” from dumping him on his back and riding out the victory I think the former UFC light heavyweight champ can do enough with his power to end Hamill’s night early.

On a scale of 1-10 how excited would you be for a Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz season of TUF?

Conlan: Easily a “9” because it would indicate a bout between the two had been booked and the pugilistic Pandora’s Box of cross-promotion opened. Fans have longed to see the best fighters in the world face each other since the sport’s inception rather than watch supremely talented athletes forcibly separated by promotional lines. If St. Pierre and Diaz end up across the cage from each other the realization of that dream will be one step closer to reality.

Beyond the outside implications I like the match-up from a “TV” perspective. They have vastly different personalities – even physical appearances – and should make it easy for the audience to put a white hat on one and a black hat on the other. However, as dissimilar as they are in some ways, they both work extremely hard in the gym and have a great respect for the various martial arts their professional calling is based on. GSP has shown himself to be a great coach in the past and I don’t doubt the same would be true with Diaz who could bring in his Skrap Pack teammates and Cesar Gracie for support. Also, I like the idea of learning more about Strikeforce’s welterweight champ as a person rather than the caricature he’s often portrayed as.

The only reason this wasn’t a “10” for me is because it will force us to wait to see the two 170-pound title-holders mix it up in the cage longer than would be the case without the Ultimate Fighter treatment.

Lambert: I’m going to leave out the fact that it should lead to a fight between the two because there is no actual guarantee that they will fight. Let’s not forget that in three of the past four TUF seasons (including this season), the coaches did not fight immediately after the show.

I’m going to go with a “3” and that’s based on just Diaz. Sorry Canadians, I’m over Mr. St. Pierre. I just saw him last season on TUF and he’s had three UFC Primetime specials leading up to his fights. I know all I need to know about GSP and I can only take so much of his clichés. While Diaz might be interesting on the show, there is also a chance that he shuts down when the camera is on him. Not only that but, from everything I’ve heard, Diaz is a very good trainer and really cares about his students and teaching them. While that will endear him to fans, it won’t make for exciting reality TV.

Do you think the MMA bill in New York will be passed by the assembly?

Conlan: Legalizing MMA in New York is common sense as the arguments keeping it out of the State are antiquated and the economical impact on the local level can’t be denied. That being said, no, I don’t expect it to pass because I have very little faith in politicians to do the right thing. This is not the State’s first opportunity to embrace logic on that front and, sadly, I suspect it won’t be the last either.

Lambert: I unfortunately have to agree with Bren. The MMA bill in New York has been to the assembly before and it’s been voted down before. I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about politics or anything related to the subject but it seems like Bob Reilly has a lot of pull in the New York assembly and as long as he’s in the position he’s in, it’s an uphill battle for MMA in New York. And while I can’t speak for Bren, part of me thinking it won’t get passed it just having low expectations so I don’t get my hopes up.

What fight interests you the most at UFC 130?

Conlan: Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson. Both bantamweights are among the top 135-pounders in MMA and leave it all in the ring every time they compete. Johnson is 8-1 and cemented a name for himself with the Zuffa audience by outworking Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto in February at UFC 126. He’s got a non-stop motor, great heart, and good enough grappling technique to make any opponent wary of his takedowns and ground-game. On the flipside, Torres is a former champ who eats up most of his adversaries like they’re smothered in Cholula hot sauce. He’s 39-3, fearless, and can win a fight no matter where it takes place – on the mat, while standing, or in an underground event facing a guy fifty pounds bigger than him.

The fight also has contendership implications with both men being on winning streaks so aside from the pure entertainment value inherently involved in the pairing there’s more on the line than just a simple dubya.

Lambert: Thiago Alves vs. Rick Story. I thought this fight should have been on the main card in the first place, and while it sucks that it got there via losing the main event, I’m excited that the fight got on the PPV broadcast.

I’m a big fan of Alves and he looked very impressive in his last outing against John Howard, doing everything but finishing the fight. He looked smooth on his feet, was putting his combos together, and even mixing in some takedowns to throw Howard off balance. Then there’s Story, who has won five straight fights, and looked really good in handing Johny Hendricks his first career loss back in December. Above all else, I think this is just a good test for Alves as Story is a strong wrestler and if Alves can prove that he can stuff the takedowns of Story, it’ll be a big statement moving forward.


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