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Grappling with Issues – 6/22/11

How would you characterize Fabricio Werdum‘s behavior against Alistair Overeem this past weekend in their Strikeforce World Grand Prix pairing? Was Jorge Masvidal‘s win over K.J. Noons more impressive than Daniel Cormier‘s against Jeff Monson? Do you see an upset unfolding this weekend in the opening round of Bellator‘s “Summer Series” featherweight tournament? What fighter taking to a new division this weekend will have the most success at his new weight?

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.

Between the three big cards, what’s the best fight this upcoming weekend no one is talking about?

Lambert: Honestly, I don’t hear much chatter about any of the fights this weekend considering that we’re coming off the first big Strikeforce event in awhile and UFC 132, which is a stacked card top to bottom, is next weekend. So besides Nate Marquardt vs. Rick Story, I think any fight could be the best fight no one is talking about.

I’m going with Jason High vs. Quinn Mulhern as my choice though. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following Mr. High you should probably correct your wrong right now. He’s an entertaining personality and has the tools to be a very good welterweight. Mulhern is no push over either. He’s won seven straight fights, he’s well-rounded, and despite only being ranked as a brown belt, his Jiu-Jitsu is no joke. Plus, now that Nick Diaz has vacated the Strikeforce welterweight strap, this fight has some title implications.

Conlan: Jeremy makes a good point in terms of the minimal buzz surrounding any of this weekend’s events, a shame considering some of the match-ups are so ripe with potential. High vs. Mulhern is definitely a nice choice for reasons listed by Lambert. Bellator also has some credible options as far as a few of their “Summer Series” scraps with Pat Curran vs. Luis Palomino and Ronnie Mann vs. Adam Schindler standing out in particular, plus Carla Esparza vs. Jessica Aguilar should be a competitive clash given their respective talents though I’m doubtful the bout will ever see the airwaves based on it being an undercard affair.

As far as my pick, I’ll go with Matt Mitrione vs. Christian Morecraft since this past weekend left me in the mood for more heavyweight action and a submission or TKO seems guaranteed at some point after they lock horns on Sunday night as they’ve combined to finish ten of the eleven opponents they’ve beaten with Mitrione’s outpointing of Joey Beltran the lone exception. They’re also on the verge of cracking into the upper echelon of the division given their in-ring success, plus there’s a minor backstory at play with Morecraft choking out Sean McCorkle, Mitrione’s friend, in their bout at Fight Night 24, so more is on the line than a bigger paycheck when they face off in Pittsburgh.

Most likely to be upset at Bellator 46 in the “Summer Series” opening round – Ronnie Mann, Pat Curran, or Marlon Sandro?

Lambert: I’ve gotta say Curran because I think he has the toughest match up on the three. Sandro should beat Genair da Silva unless the “Japan curse” strikes him, which I don’t think it will as Sandro’s style translates well to the US and I think Mann is very legit so I expect him to beat Schindler. Curran, on the other hand, has to face Palomino who is no joke. He’s fought some tough guys before like Yves Edwards and Jonathan Brookins and he has a victory over Jorge Masvidal. Plus Curran is cutting to 145 for the first time in forever and after spending all that time at 155, you never know how his body is going to react.

Conlan: I’m not concerned about Curran’s weight but, when forced to choose an upset pick, I agree he has the slightly steeper hill to climb this weekend between the three candidates listed. Schindler is a close #2 however because he’s good enough on the mat to out a decision, while I think Da Silva doesn’t have the required grappling to beat Sandro and is the least likely of the trio to come away with a win at Bellator 46.

Palamino’s performance against Masvidal is particularly important to note not only because of “Gambred” beating Noons at “Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum” but also because it took place in 2010 rather than a number of years ago. He has good hands, can hang on the ground, and is an experienced enough to maintain his composure wherever the fight takes place and do what it takes to emerge with a victory. While I’d lay money down on Curran if I were a betting man, I definitely won’t have to pick my jaw up off the floor if he ends up with his hands raised at the end of the night.

Whose performance at “Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum” was more impressive – Daniel Cormier or Jorge Masvidal?

Lambert: Both guys were impressive, although not unexpectedly so for readers of The Walk Out, but I was more impressed with Cormier than Masvidal. So maybe Jeff Monson isn’t what he used to be but let’s not forget that Cormier has been training MMA for less than two years and had no striking experience when he began his journey into the sport. To see how far he’s come in such a short amount of time was amazing. It really reminded me of Cain Velasquez, how quick his hands were…how crisp and diverse his combinations were. Plus he shrugged off Monson, who isn’t a terrible wrestler by any means, like it was nothing every time “The Snowman” attempted a takedown. If you don’t know by now, Cormier is legit folks.

Conlan: It’s a love-fest this week, as I again agree with Lambert’s pick. Masvidal deserves a ton of credit for his win over Noons but it also has to be considered “King Karl” was coming back from a five round war after a jump up to welterweight and didn’t match up well stylistically against the 26-year old Floridian. Masvidal has refined stand-up skills to combat Noons’, is a more-rounded grappler, and comes from a great camp with some of the top trainers in the world. He had the heart/drive to go three rounds against Paul Daley last September, so to think he could do the same against Noons and find more success along the way wasn’t that far-fetched to begin with.

In regards to Cormier, Monson had an eight-fight winning streak prior to his loss last weekend and was the first “name” opponent the former Olympian had faced in his career. After his less-than memorable performance against Tim Sylvia in a UFC title-fight five years ago he went on to beat the likes of Ricco Rodriguez, Travis Fulton, Kazuyuki Fujita, Roy Nelson, and Strikeforce Grand Prix semi-finalist Sergei Kharitonov rather than a slew of nobodies. He’s an accomplished submission-wrestler, in some ways negating Cormier’s deadliest weapon (grappling), yet had no answer for the ever-improving American Kickboxing Academy heavyweight. Cormier also looked to be in better shape than he was this past January, a good indication his fitness is starting to match his skillset. To beat Monson in such a convincing fashion said a lot about how far he’s come and how far he’s likely to go. While melting “The Snowman” with a submission or TKO would have been even more impressive, Monson hasn’t been finished since 2007 – more than twenty fights ago – so it’s a fairly easy sin to forgive.

As of right now, who do you favor to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix?

Conlan: The same person who has been my pick since Day #1 – Josh Barnett. He has the skillset to deal with any of the remaining competitors and a slightly easier route to the final in Kharitonov than would be the case if on the other side of the bracket (Overeem/Antonio Silva). I think he’ll easily submit Kharitonov in the semis, then strike well-enough against Overeem/Silva to set up takedowns and control action for as long as necessary in order to win the final. Barnett has been one of the top heavyweights in the world for awhile and would easily be thought of as “Top 3” if he hadn’t tested positive for steroids a couple years ago on the cusp of his Affliction fight with Fedor Emelianenko. With seven straight wins, a plethora of past success, and Overeem looking shaky against Werdum, there’s no doubt in my mind the favorite to emerge Grand Prix champ is the wheeling dealing, kiss-stealing, limousine riding, jet-plane flying kid from the Pacific Northwest.

Lambert: I liked Overeem at the start of the tournament but after all the first round performances, I have to favor Silva. He had the toughest first round opponent and he finished him in dominant fashion. Overeem proved against that Werdum that he’s the same ol’ Overeem, who will fade after the first couple of minutes and doesn’t react well to getting hit. While I believe that Kharitonov is better than people make him out to be, Barnett is just a bad match up for him. And I still have my concerns about Barnett because of his lack of competition/favorable match ups in recent years. You’re only as good as your last fight and Silva’s last fight was pretty damn good.

Of all the fighters debuting in a new weight class this weekend, who do you think will have the most long-term success?

Conlan: The key to this topic is the phrase “long-term success”. While Nate Marquardt might find himself in a title-shot faster, I see Tyson Griffin having more overall success at 145 than “Nate the Great” at welterweight based primarily on age and the quality of competition. Griffin is 27 and entering the prime of his career with a fairly open division in front of him. He’s a small lightweight who experienced a lot of success fighting bigger guys including current top contender Clay Guida. Additionally, with the exception of his knockout to Takanori Gomi, the Xtreme Couture original has always been competitive even in defeat. If he can beat Manny Gamburyan, who fought for the featherweight belt last fall, at UFC Live 4 on Sunday night it will be a great indicator of how good he can be now that he’s facing other small-in-stature scrappers.

Lambert: I hate to agree with Bren but I, like him, do feel that Griffin will have the most long-term success at his new weight class. Instead of reiterating Bren’s comments though, I’m going to throw some love to Gian Villante, who is dropping down to light heavyweight after losing to Chad Griggs at heavyweight in his last bout. He’s a very talented fighter, who I think was simply overwhelmed by the moment in his Strikeforce debut. Now he’s under the not quite as bright lights and in his natural weight class. Now he’s fought at 205 before, so maybe that disqualifies him from the conversation, but it’s my question and I’ll answer it how I want.

Fill-in-the-Blank: Fabricio Werdum’s performance this past Saturday was _____________.

Conlan: Perplexing. When Werdum initially started pulling guard and praying Overeem would go for the cheese in his trap I thought it was a brilliant form of psychological warfare. The strategy seemed to clearly frustrate the hulking Dutchman and take him out of his rhythm. However, rather than take advantage of the situation by focusing on strikes later in the fight Werdum opted to continue playing a game Overeem had no interest in joining. I thought Werdum had a chance to come away with the win, even by decision, based on the success he was having on his feet but instead he simply looked like the semi-soft heavyweight who got tattooed by Junior dos Santos in 2008 before getting booted from the UFC’s roster rather than the first guy to legitimately defeat Fedor in the sport’s history.

Lambert: Perfect. It was the perfect performance for Silva to copy. It showed that if Overeem is worried about the takedown, he won’t open up as much on the feet. And if he’s afraid to let his hands, feet, and knees go while standing, then what else does he have? The difference between Silva and Werdum is Silva’s power and size. He won’t have to drop to his back and try to pull guard when his takedown fails and he will hurt Overeem if he puts leather on his chin. Werdum’s performance showed exactly how to beat the new Overeem that people thought was one of the best heavyweights in the world. Unfortunately he won’t get credit if someone uses his game plan to defeat “The Reem”.

PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE

1 COMMENT
  • boomnutz says:

    I’m really surprised you both picked Cormier over Masvidal, Cormier was a terrible matchup for Monson, we knew going into it he was a better striker than Monson and he would have a distinct speed and wrestling advantage, Meanwhile Masvidal dominated Noons in the standup and threw in some well placed takedowns.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

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