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Grappling with Issues – 6/8/11

Is Junior Dos Santos more likely to win without a knockout this weekend than Shane Carwin? How far can TUF 13 champ Tony Ferguson go in the UFC? What’s up with Josh Grispi these days? Should Quinton Jackson and Joe Rogan have been punished more severely for their recent actions?

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.

What is your take on Josh Grispi’s slide from contendership?

Lambert: It’s surprising but also not surprising. Prior to UFC 125, all of Grispi’s victories, with the exception of one, came within the first three minutes of the first round. When guys win that quickly it’s tough to get a true read on how good they really are. Well, we found out in the past couple of fights that Grispi fades after the first five minutes. In fairness to him, he has taken on better competition but this is a guy who was supposed to challenge Jose Aldo this past January and he wasn’t all that competitive against Dustin Poirier or George Roop.

Conlan: I understand where Lambert is coming from but I don’t think Grispi’s issue is conditioning. However, I do agree his recent performances are related to the dominant fashion in which he’d handled his previous opponents. Rather than being a matter of fading physically, I think “The Fluke” might suffer from confidence issues once an opponent has escaped the first frame of action based on how easily he finished the likes of L.C. Davis and Mark Hominick (to name but a few of his victims). If a baseball player is used to hitting a homerun on the first pitch of every at bat there’s a good chance he’ll react differently on a psychological level when under the pressure of a full count. One of the keys to success in MMA is having the same mindset in the fifteenth minute as the first minute; to control the things within your means rather than worry about outside factors like scorecards, how much time is left in the fight, and the expectations of others. Once pressure or fear of failure creeps into an athlete’s mind the rest tends to be history, similar to Grispi’s title hopes for the foreseeable future.

If it isn’t mental then I’m at a loss because he’s certainly well-trained and talented.

More deserving of a shot at the featherweight title with a win on Saturday – Ken Florian or Dustin Poirier?

Lambert: I think the real answer is Chad Mendes but since Bren is limiting me to just Florian and Poirier, I’m going to go with Florian.

Unfortunately for Poirier he’s a victim of bad card placement. His fight this weekend against an unknown Jason Young will end up on Facebook, his fight against Grispi was televised on ION which was seen by about 50 people, and his two WEC fights never made air. To the general public, Poirier isn’t known. Florian on the other hand has been around since the original TUF and has headlined PPVs and Spike TV events. Plus you can’t ignore Florian’s track record at lightweight including a victory over Clay Guida who everyone thinks is one fight away from a title shot at 155.

Conlan: Mendes is fighting at UFC 131?!?

Kidding aside, though I think Poirier will be a household name by year’s end – at least if the residents are MMA fans – I agree Florian is the better choice. Though he’ll only be 1-0 at featherweight if he beats Diego Nunes, “Ken Flo” has popularity and a number of relevant wins at 155 to back his claim for contendership. Beyond that, Nunes is 16-1 with three straight wins including a hard-fought victory over former divisional champ Mike Brown while Young has half of his wins, 3X the losses, and is making his Zuffa debut on Saturday night.

Who would you see emerging victorious between Shane Carwin and Junior dos Santos if removing knockouts from the equation?

Lambert: Is this a trick question? The answer is so obviously JDS that it feels like a trick question. I can’t see Carwin submitting JDS, who grapples every day with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Carwin has never shown the ability to go past five minutes, so until he proves otherwise I don’t have faith that he can go three full rounds. JDS on the other hand, has gone fifteen minutes and has shown that, if his opponent doesn’t go down, he can still lay a whooping on him for three rounds.

Conlan: Is the answer really that clear cut? Carwin has submitted more opponents than Dos Santos who also was tapped out a few years ago by an 11-6 light heavyweight (though in fairness Joaquim Ferreira is a fairly talented BJJer). “Cigano” has certainly improved since then but to treat him as though he can’t be submitted simply because he grapples with “Minotauro” is as silly as saying he can’t be knocked out because he spars with Anderson Silva. If Carwin uses his wrestling background to control Dos Santos on the ground there’s no reason to think he can’t ride things out for fifteen minutes to pick up a decision or pound his way into position for a choke, especially if his diet and training have increased his cardio as he claims they have.

How high do you think Tony Ferguson’s ceiling is in the UFC?

Conlan: I’m not quite ready to call him a champ-in-the-making but I definitely think Ferguson has a ton of upside. His striking is precise/powerful including some of the best boxing technique I’ve seen from a prospect in a long time, and he also has a solid grappling background meaning he isn’t completely reliant on his stand-up to beat opponents.

Both those factors, in addition to his age (27), bode well for his future. To fully maximize his potential I think he needs to head to a MMA Mecca like Greg Jackson’s camp or AKA/ATT, but as long as he keeps improving in general I won’t be surprised to see “El Cucuy” banging with the UFC big boys in the next few years.

Lambert: I think he has the most potential of any TUF winner since Ryan Bader, and I’m not including Roy Nelson because he was already an established fighter who was a ringer on the show. It’s always tough to get a read on TUF winners because the competition isn’t what it used to be since most fighters either go straight to the UFC or head to Strikeforce or Bellator but Ferguson finished every opponent he faced on the show, including Ramsey Nijem in the finals.

As Bren said, Ferguson has very good striking, has one-punch power, and seems to have solid wrestling as well. Is he ready to face top level or even high level welterweights? No. But if he’s brought up slowly, like most TUF winners are, he’ll gain that invaluable experience and hopefully improve as well.

Besides the main event, what fight interests you the most at UFC 131?

Conlan: Yves Edwards vs. Sam Stout. Both men come to fight every single time they step into the ring, shouldn’t shy away from engaging each other on that front, and don’t know the meaning of the word “quit” unless their body dictates the bout’s ending. They also possess knockout power so a highlight reel finish is a possibility even if their collective offering doesn’t turn into a three-round war.

Also, beyond technique and their approach to competition, adding to my interest in the pairing is the notion the lightweights have more than simply winning at stake on Saturday night. Stout is from Canada where UFC 131 is being held so he’ll be looking to impress his fellow countrymen, while Edwards has won both of his fights since returning to the UFC last fall meaning a victory over Stout would likely raise the well-rounded Texan’s profile high enough to merit more main card match-ups (and bigger paydays).

Lambert: I’m going with Mark Munoz vs. Demian Maia. I’m a fan of both fighters and it’s a very intriguing clash of styles. Munoz is a power wrestler with heavy hands but not the most technical striking in the world while Maia is one of the best grapplers in MMA, whose striking has improved a ton over the years. And it’s not like Maia hasn’t had success against wrestlers either. Ed Herman, Chael Sonnen, and Nate Quarry have all been submission victories for Maia and he also has a win over skilled grappler Dan Miller.

It’s a big fight for the middleweight division as well. Munoz has slowly been climbing the ranks, holding a 5-1 record at 185 with his only loss coming via split decision to top contender Yushin Okami, while Maia is looking to make another run at Anderson Silva.

Would you have punished Joe Rogan or Quinton Jackson for their recent actions towards female MMA reporters?

Conlan: No more than they already have been in terms of receiving a call from Dana White about their behavior. Jackson’s actions towards Karyn Bryant were unprofessional but also relatively harmless. While it would have been a PR nightmare for the UFC and “Rampage” if she’d used the opportunity to promote her own agenda, she ultimately wasn’t upset and that’s where the issue should end other than it being made clear to Jackson he needs to be more mindful of the brand he represents in future interviews.

As far as Rogan, he’s entitled to his opinion and it’s naïve to act as though he doesn’t say equally “offensive” things in his comedy routines. The only reason his comment about Maggie Hendricks snowballed into a larger issue was due to a number of MMA outlets trying to further their site traffic, not because there was a major story the public needed to know about.

Lambert: I would have fined them both and it would have made the amount known to the public. Fact is, if UFC wants to be taken serious as a mainstream sport, White needs to hold his employees responsible. Now I know you’re probably thinking, “But Jeremy, this is MMA. Guys get paid to punch, kick, knee, bend, and twist their opponents. It’s not like other sports.” And you’d be right, but as long as Dana continues pump up the sport as a mainstream then he needs to treat it like a mainstream sport.

I don’t think a “stern lecture” from Mr. White is going to change what Jackson and Rogan do because that’s just who they are. But everyone knows that if you take money out of someone’s pockets, they’ll quickly re-evaluate things in order to keep the cash coming in and not going out.


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