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Grappling with Issues – 6/29/11

Will Urijah Faber return to his title-winning ways this weekend against Dominick Cruz? What’s the story with Rick Story? Is Nate Marquardt truly done fighting in the Octagon? Is Ryan Couture overrated? Can this GWI top last week’s dismal display in the “Comments” section?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to Grappling with Issues, our site’s regular weekly feature highlighting 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.

Based on the performances at “Bellator 46” who would you pick as the frontrunner to win the “Summer Series” featherweight tournament?

Lambert: If I’m going just based on this past Saturday’s fights, I’d have to say Pat Curran. I think he fought the toughest competition and turned in the best performance. That said, I’m still picking Marlon Sandro to win the tournament because I feel that he’s the most complete fighter in the tournament. He was the only fighter not to record a finish in the first round but it was also his US debut and it is common knowledge fighters who spend the majority of their careers overseas always struggle in their US debuts. Plus, Genair da Silva didn’t seem too interested in fighting Sandro in the later stages of their bout. Assuming that that was the worst version of Sandro we’re going to see, I still like him to win the tournament.

Conlan: I agree with Lambert’s take on Curran in terms of the 23-year old having faced the stiffest competition at Bellator 46 and dominating the action from start to finish. However, Curran drew Ronnie Mann in the semi-finals who could easily put a halt to his advancement in the tournament considering his knowledge of submissions, gassed-up motor, and combination of heart/chin. As such, I’m going with Sandro as the frontrunner since he is well-rounded enough to hang with any of the remaining opponents no matter where the action takes place and, as I said in relation to Curran, he’s also not facing Mann in the next round so that in itself gives me more cause for confidence.

True/False – Ryan Couture will eventually exit Strikeforce with a winning record.

Lambert: TRUE. I have no reason to write off Couture just because he lost to Matt Ricehouse, a good prospect in his own right. He’s still an improving fighter who has a lot to learn in the sport and he’ll continue to get better as long as he keeps working hard, which I have no doubt that he’ll do. He’s not going to face great competition until he proves that he’s ready and by the time that happens, I see Couture leaving Strikeforce. I’m not say that he’ll jump to the UFC at the first chance he gets but I do have a sneaky feeling that when lightweights get the call for The Ultimate Fighter, we’re going to see Couture on the show.

Conlan: FALSE. I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Couture who I still see a solid prospect, but in reality he’s 28 and not some kid fresh out of college with a pedigree plus five good years left to polish his overall game. He was outclassed by a kid four years younger than him who had twice his pro fights. That in itself says a lot to me about his future in MMA unless he turns the corner at some point in the next year or two.

Also, bear in mind being 2-2 (or worse) and having the freedom to grow as a competitor outside of Strikeforce’s spotlight might not necessarily be a bad thing. Other than Kimbo Slice and Amir Sadollah I’m not sure any other fighters with a complete lack of experience have dealt with the kinds of pressure put on Couture this early in his career based purely on his last name. Letting him develop his skills away from the public eye in a small organization could be the very thing “Natural Light” needs to refocus purely on his own development as a fighter rather than as a co-headlining “future star” on a Showtime broadcast. It would also probably allow him to increase his in-ring activity instead of waiting for slots on Strikeforce Challengers events to surface.

Does Rick Story deserve a free pass on his loss to Charlie Brenneman given the outside circumstances surrounding their UFC Live 4 match-up?

Lambert: This really depends on your interpretation of “free pass.” I don’t really hold it against Story that he lost but not because of the outside circumstance, but because he didn’t really take any damage. He just got put on his back and couldn’t get up. I don’t think the fact that his opponent got switched last day and he was taking a step down in competition was the reason he lost though. I think coming back so quickly after the Thiago Alves, a fight where he suffered a ton of damage, played into the loss more than anything. That said, Story knew what he was getting himself into when he took the fight on short notice and if he suffered a mental letdown when he went from the main event against Nate Marquardt to the co-main event against Charlie Brenneman then that’s on him.

Conlan: No, because I have a hard time believing he would have been able to fend off Marquardt’s grappling if Brenneman handled him with such ease on the ground. I agree the main issue Story experienced was not related to the change in opponent or a lack of ability on his part but rather the exceptionally brief turnaround time between his all-out war with Alves and this past weekend.

Also, while I’ll preempt this by openly admitting I have no experience managing fighters and am not aware of a multitude of “behind the scenes” factors, it seems on the surface it would have been a smart move on the part of Story’s management to see Marquardt’s withdrawal as manna from heaven and ducked off the card. Instead, they traded in six fight winning streak in the deepest division out there for the price of a potential win over a fighter few had heard of before Sunday night. Hindsight is 20/20 but in this situation a bit of foresight was not too much to ask for no matter how much Story might have pleaded his case to compete.

Will Dominick Cruz avenge his loss to Urijah Faber this weekend?

Conlan: Though I’m not a fan of picking results due to my great respect for the inherently unpredictable nature of fighting, GWI-duty calls and as such I’ll go on record as saying I think Cruz will once again fall short against Faber when the two meet in Vegas at UFC 132.

Though he’s certainly improved since their first encounter in 2007, so has Faber who has looked very sharp since dropping to 135 pounds. Cruz’s performances have been solid since losing to Faber but not overly impressive with six decisions in the eight fights (and one of those being a Doctor’s Stoppage due to Brian Bowles breaking his hand in their bout). The UFC bantamweight champ has also fought Faber’s protégé, Joseph Benavidez, twice and was nearly outpointed the second time so Team Alpha Male already has him well-scouted with a good gameplan in place.

I don’t see Cruz finishing Faber, nor do I see him out-grappling “The California Kid”, so from that perspective I feel as though a new champ will be crowned at UFC 132. However, I won’t mind being wrong if so, and more than anything I’m simply excited about seeing their rivalry culminate in what should certainly be an exciting main event come Saturday night.

Lambert: Full disclosure, I love getting Bren to pick fights because I know he likes to remain objective but I enjoy getting him on record and open to ridicule like I am every week when I make my fight picks. SO HA!

I’ve been back and forth on this fight ever since it was announced and I did quite possibly my longest breakdown of the fight for this weeks Walk Out but I finally made a decision and I say no, Cruz wil not avenge his loss this weekend. While Cruz has become the toughest puzzle in MMA in recent bouts given all his movement on the feet, I think Faber will be able to solve the Cruzbix Cube (0% chance this catches on). For the longer breakdown though, you’ll have to stay tuned for Friday’s Walk Out.

Besides the main event, which fight at UFC 132 are you most looking forward to?

Conlan: When it comes to topics like these I usually try to highlight a lesser-hyped bout in hopes of turning some eyes towards a preliminary, but potential-laden, pairing. However, in the case of UFC 132 I have to go with Chris Leben vs. Wanderlei Silva. There’s something to be said about a good, ol’ fashioned brawl and there’s no doubt both middleweights are coming to bang on Saturday night. Silva and Leben are well-known for their fearlessness in the ring and love of striking so fans are essentially guaranteed a highlight reel knockout in the bout, plus from a purely division perspective the win will mean a lot to for either man. In summary, their UFC 132 meeting may not be pretty but damn should it be fun!

Lambert: While Leben vs. Silva should bring fireworks, I’m particularly excited for Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim. Kim is technically undefeated (and I still think he beat Karo Parisyan, even though it was ruled a loss before it was ruled a no contest) and has really flown under the radar in the welterweight division. Now he gets his chance against a top guy like Condit, and I’m interested to see how he does. Then there’s Condit, who never has a boring fight and is on the cusp of getting a title shot if he can beat Kim. It’s a big fight for the welterweight division and because it involves Condit, I think it will be exciting.

Do you believe Dana White when he says, “Nate Marquardt will never fight in the UFC again”?

Conlan: Yes and no. I believe the UFC’s head honcho fully intended to blacklist “Nate the Great” when he said as much over the weekend. After all, if White was simply told Marquardt’s tests had shown a high level of testosterone without any of the additional facts, why wouldn’t he want to unload a freshly positive fighter with past PED issues on his record?

However, now that more light has been shed on the subject by Marquardt it seems he may not quite be the villain he’s been portrayed as and as such could very well make a return to the Octagon in the future. He was told to take testosterone by a licensed physician, revealed the condition to his bosses, received clearance from the New Jersey athletic commission to fight there earlier this year, and had been in contact with Pennsylvania officials in anticipation of his scheduled bout at UFC Live 4. Marquardt did nothing worse than Chael Sonnen who is still employed by Zuffa and was even almost featured as a coach on the newest season of the Ultimate Fighter. Plainly put, a permanent ban from the UFC doesn’t make sense considering the facts and how high-quality a competitor he is, but God bless White for his genuine passion about the product even if he occasionally jumps the gun in responding to matters.

Lambert: Of course not. I think Dana is great but any time he says a fighter will, “never fight in the UFC again,” I just can’t believe him. Even before more details came out about Marquardt, I still figured there would be a chance that he’d be back. Remember when Tito Ortiz would, “never fight in the UFC again?” and Dana brought him back not once, but twice? Or how about Karo Parisyan?

I think it was a huge overreaction by Dana to flat out fire Nate when he didn’t have all the details. And if all the details are now out, which I’m still not 100% sure that they are, I guarantee you Dana will bring back Nate after hearing his side of the story.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC

7 COMMENTS
  • Pat Curran

    Absolutely, lil Couture still has alot of training to do, good genes and if he’s got anything like his old Man’s heart, he might be late in blooming but he’ll have a great record come end of his career.

    No, if anything it showed some weakness in Story’s game. The Spaniard outwrestled him, but never mentally broke him and I wonder if it were a GSP or Jake Shields on top of Story how quickly he would’ved panicked. He showed that hes used to running people down but doesnt respond overly well to people running at him the same way…shit happens but hes back to the back of the bus in my eyes.

    No. California kid will be the shortest champ in ufc history as of saturday around 9pm pst.

    Im with Lamber, Kim vs. Condit should be exciting. I see Carlos putting a loss on the stun guns record. Kim lost his hold on Diaz by the 3rd and Condit is probably nastier in all areas than Nate.

    No, Nate will be back.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  • Rece Rock says:

    “Marquardt did nothing worse than Chael Sonnen who is still employed by Zuffa and was even almost featured as a coach on the newest season of the Ultimate Fighter.”

    YATZEE!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  • THEGUNNER says:

    Story should have stayed out of the fight because of nates grappling status in the first place I only see him as a good filler. Im lookin foward to condit, after the way he handled hardy one more win hes a serious contender. Im also wondering if tito will get the boot after his loss to bader or if dana will let him fight again lile he should nate.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Ryan Couture is a young fighter with a huge upside, he got outstruck in the first 2 rounds but came on strong in the third to show his ability to battle through tough situations, I am sure he will win more than he loses. Also props to Ricehouse who has only had 4 fights but looked pretty good.
    I wouldnt give Story a complete pass on losing but for sure he was a company man taking that fight and never bitching about all the last minute stuff, so I feel he will get a high profile opponent for his next fight and have the oppertunity to show if he can hang with the top guys.
    I think Cruz gets a very solid win here as he has improved so much since the last time he fought Faber, while Faber has lost his title and been beaten down twice, so his big improvement is really just talk, he was very good when he fought Cruz the first time and still is, but Cruz has surpassed him and it will show.
    I would say besides the main event I am really looking for Bowles vs Mizugaki, thats is a seriously good undercard fight.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  • Makington says:

    Well also in Dong Hyun Kim’s case, you could also say his fight to Matt Brown should be a loss as that one was very close. It basically came down to if you scored Matt Brown hanging off Kim’s back for Brown or against Brown. I want to believe Condit’s fight will be awesome because it’s Condit, but I think Kim will be able to take him down pretty much at will with his judo and strength. Hopefully Condit’s ready for that but I have a feeling on that fight.

    The one I’m really looking forward to is Siver vs Wiman. Whoever wins will start facing top contenders, and will be a step closer to a title shot. Both are coming off of very impressive underdog wins in exciting fights. Both of these fighters are always looking for a finish and have both improved enough so that this fight will have action everywhere.

    This is probably going to be the fight card of the year though imo.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  • THEGUNNER says:

    By the way the pic up top looks like screech from saved by the bell is punching story in the mouth.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • JabCrossHook says:

    I think Brenanman figured out how to beat lay and pray wrestlers…..to just lay and pray them back! They’ll never expect it!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

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