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Grappling with Issues – 6/15/2011

Does Ken Florian have a better shot at becoming a UFC champion in his next bout than Junior dos Santos? Whose reputation took the biggest hit at UFC 131? What is your take on the UFC’s decision to make future main events five-round fights? Will Tyron Woodley be the next welterweight to wear a Strikeforce title around his waist?

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 – Tyron Woodley will be the next Strikeforce welterweight champion.

Lambert: False. I don’t think there will be a next Strikeforce welterweight champion. Maybe I’m just being cynical but I believe that by the time Strikeforce gets around to crowning a new champion, they’ll already be absorbed by UFC. I’m just going by Strikeforce’s track record of taking forever to get things done (and sometimes, never getting things done) and their ability to have guys sit on the sidelines for months at a time. I know Zuffa owns Strikeforce now which in theory should have improved how quickly things move, but Zuffa doesn’t really care about Strikeforce unless it benefits UFC.

Now, let’s say that Strikeforce does eventually get a fight together for the vacant welterweight title? I still don’t like Woodley’s chances. If Strikeforce is smart, they do a mini-tournament with Woodley fighting the winner of Jason High vs. Quinn Mulhern and the winner of that fight fighting the winner of Paul Daley vs. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos for the vacant title. I’d say Woodley would be third in that group behind Daley and High.

Conlan: True, as I’m certain he’ll be one of the two individuals competing over the divisional crown at some point in the near future and can beat any other welterweight currently on the company’s roster based on wrestling and athleticism. He’s undefeated as a fighter, has six wins in Strikeforce, and is one of the organization’s few homegrown stars. As such, slotting him into the title-fight makes more sense than any of the four candidates Lambert listed in his response. Hell, Daley/Santos already had a crack at the championship in 2011 and failed, plus Mulhern/High are making their promotional debuts so why wouldn’t Strikeforce include Woodley in the final equation? The only real reason it makes sense to put “T-Wood” in a bout to cement his contendership status is as a means of keeping him active since he hasn’t fought in six months, not because his place in a title fight needs a ton of justification.

What match-up on this weekend’s Strikeforce’s card outside of the Grand Prix pairings you are most excited about?

Lambert: Daniel Cormier vs. Jeff Monson is super-intriguing but I’m really looking forward to K.J. Noons vs. Jorge Masvidal. Noons is back where he belongs, at lightweight, and Masvidal is a guy that can match him in terms of technical boxing. Plus the winner will likely face Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight title later this year, which adds another layer of interest for me. Although I was disappointed to see Gina Carano drop off the card, I was happy to know that Masvidal vs. Noons would be promoted to the main card where it should have been all along.

Conlan: I like both bouts Jeremy mentioned though I’ll go with Gesias Cavalcante vs. Justin Wilcox. Cavalcante poses the biggest threat Wilcox has faced thus far in his career and it should be interesting to see if “The Silverback” is as legitimate a contender as he appears to be given his performances against Rodrigo Damm, Shamar Bailey, and Vitor Ribeiro. Likewise, I’m curious to know if Cavalcante has returned to form after an injury-plagued few years or whether he’ll wilt under Wilcox’s pressure and power. Masvidal vs. Noons might currently have more impact on the current lightweight contendership picture, but don’t doubt for a second Wilcox could steal the shot with a convincing win over “J.Z.” and a stumble by Noons against an always-game Masvidal.

Whose stock dropped the most as a result of his UFC 131 performance?

Lambert: This is tough because in order for your stock to really drop, I needs to have a fair amount of value. Vagner Rocha had the least impressive performance but his stock was almost non-existent before the night started. Jon Olav Einemo may have been the only fighter finished but his stock was still on hold from 2006. Demian Maia lost but given his performance, I have a hard time saying it dropped. Diego Nunes lost, and maybe he had the biggest stock drop from round one to round two, but his stock wasn’t very high to begin with. So, not including the preliminary guys who didn’t have much market value with the possible exception of Yves Edwards, that only leaves Shane Carwin.

I think this fight just proved that Carwin is what he is. He’s a guy with one punch power but if he doesn’t catch you early, he’s going to be in trouble. I’m not sure his stock really dropped because everyone knew that was his biggest strength, but I think his stock is now at a point where it’s not going to increase.

Conlan: I’m going to take a mildly different approach and say Donald Cerrone’s stock took the biggest hit even though he won his fight against Rocha. His inability to put Rocha away, and hesitancy to fully engage him towards the end of the fight, definitely tainted his reputation as one of the division’s baddest dudes and did little to argue his case for a run at the title in the next year if ever.

Better chance to win their upcoming title fight: Kenny Florian or Junior dos Santos?

Conlan: Though it will be interesting to see how Cain Velasquez reacts after undergoing serious shoulder surgery and spending a year on the shelf, I still think Florian has the best chance between the two title-contenders as he has the technical ability to deal with Jose Aldo’s attacks from any position, plus he’s spent more time on the big stage than “Cigano”.

Dos Santos’ approach appears to be based purely on boxing and power while Velasquez has both in addition to being an extremely talented wrestler. Comparably, Florian can strike, grapple, or submit opponents depending on what the fight dictates as a necessity so he should be prepared for anything Aldo offers.

Also, as mentioned, I think Florian’s experience in title-fights and headliners could help him from a mental standpoint since he’s already dealt with the pressure/emotions of being in a championship clash. While the Ultimate Fighter alumnus fell short in both instances, he at least knows what is involved in preparing for a bout of that scale while Dos Santos is still a relative newcomer to the main event scene. The fight will be unlike any other the Brazilian has been involved in before – he will have more media commitments, more attention from fans/friends, and more distractions in general to deal with; he will possess the knowledge he is not only partially carrying a major event as a heavyweight headliner but has to get by an undefeated phenom in Velasquez in the only title-shot he may ever see. There’s no questioning the importance of mentality when entering a fight (or in any walk of life for that matter) and how Dos Santos deals with things could be very telling on his chances for procuring a divisional belt.

Lambert: I’m not worried about Dos Santos’ mindset coming into the title fight. He just went through TUF and headlined a PPV and didn’t appear to be rattled by either so I don’t think he’ll get rattled when his eventual title shot rolls around. Plus, lets not forget Florian’s history of “choking” in the big fight.

I definitely think Dos Santos has the better chance. Velasquez’ injury could hinder his performance and he’s never faced a guy with the speed, striking, power, and takedown defense that Dos Santos possess. Granted Dos Santos has never faced a guy with the speed, striking, power, and wrestling like Velasquez, but that’s why I think the fight is so intriguing and essentially a toss up. Despite Florian’s skill set, Aldo is a terrible match up for him (and everyone really) because he’s just as good as Florian in all areas (if not better), has more psychical tools, and is younger.

Are you in favor of five-round main events?

Conlan: Absolutely, and I would also be in favor of title-fights being extended to seven rounds to not only avoid potentially ridiculous renderings from our favorite ringside officials by upping the odds of a clear cut victory but also as a way of making the match-ups feel even bigger than before.

Granted, there’s no guarantee judges won’t screw things up and in fact the opposite is far more likely of occurring where promises are concerned. However, adding ten more minutes to a fight will provide more opportunities for a competitor to seal the deal with a submission/knockout or at least pull further ahead on the scorecards. It might also put two more rounds on a stinker where one fighter blankets the other in hopes of improving his win column (and the audience’s potential for narcolepsy), but as long as we’re playing “if” it might also produce a fantastic finishing sequence where Daley lands a punch on Josh Koscheck’s chin before the end of the fight to set things up for a win.

Lambert: Oh Bren. You could have used any example of a three round decision possibly ending in a fourth or fifth round and you went with Daley vs. Koscheck, a fight that wasn’t even a main event by the way? I’ll bet you $100, invent a time machine, add ten minutes to Daley vs. Koscheck and guarantee you it’s 10 more minutes of Koscheck grinding out Daley.

I don’t like it for every single main event fight, especially the Fight Night main events. I think if they limited it to just PPVs, I’d be fine with it but when you make TV main events five rounds, it could mean UFC going back to four live fights on the broadcast instead of five. Not only that but how many TV main events really deserve to be five rounds? When it comes to PPV, almost every PPV main event that is three rounds is a #1 contenders fight or is at least very important to the division and I think all #1 contenders fights should be five rounds.

What station will fans be watching the UFC on come next year?

Conlan: Does “Time Warner Cable HD PPV” count? Assuming my partner in prognosticating is in fact referring to a regular cable network like Spike TV or G4, not the kind you pay $55.95 for to watch a three-hour sporting event, my guess would be only that because there isn’t a lot of available information out there about closed-door business dealings. Between the two options I mentioned, which appear to be leading the pack of possibilities, I’d prefer to see G4 as the new home for the UFC. Spike TV is a fairly lame station in general while G4 is much more in tune with the UFC’s core demographic. They not only have shows suited for teens and twenty-somethings but also adult humor and mainstream material including exclusive, live coverage of major events like Comic-Con and E3. There’s also talk of the UFC buying a stake in G4 meaning they’d probably have more control over their material from a production standpoint and that’s a good thing as well.

And seriously, who wouldn’t want to see UFC fighters give the Ninja Warrior course a run or have Olivia Munn (or any of the lovely ladies on G4) show up as a special guest ring-girl?

Lambert: Bren appears to be forgetting about a third option and that’s Versus. I think UFC is done on Spike TV after this year because it appears that Spike TV is ready to move on and I think they’re going to move on with Bellator (there has been some TNA Impact Wrestling/Bellator cross promotion and Eddie Alvarez was a presenter on the Spike TV Guys Choice Awards). The new about UFC possibly purchasing G4 came out of nowhere and I’m not 100% sold on that idea happening.

UFC is already on VS. and Versus is fully committed to the product. Not only that but it’s possible that VS. is rebranded and that NBC Sports and the UFC, along with the NHL, which NBC/Versus spent a ton of money on, would be a huge part of the rebrand. And even if they don’t rebrand and stick with the name “VS.” I still believe that they want to make UFC a major focus of their network.


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