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Grappling with Issues – 7/6/11

How far away is Urijah Faber from another title-shot? Was Tito Ortiz‘s win at UFC 132 a product of luck or talent? Is Wanderlei Silva done in the ring? Does Carlos Condit have a better chance of becoming champion than Melvin Guillard?

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.

Whose recent fall from grace has been more surprising/disappointing – George Sotiropoulos or Ryan Bader?

Lambert: Ryan Bader and I say that largely because he lost to Ortiz who he was given as essentially a showcase fight. It seemed like Bader was destined to at least be a contender in the 205 division given his power wrestling and heavy right hand. A loss to Jon Jones wasn’t a huge deal because just look at what Jones has done in his career. But a loss to Ortiz and in the fashion that it happened? That’s a huge blow to the kid.

Sotiropoulos’ fall was quick but, in hindsight, maybe not all that shocking. His big victories over Joe Stevenson (still hasn’t won since losing at UFC 110), Kurt Pellegrino (now taking a break from MMA), and Joe Lauzon (who flat out gassed in the 2nd) all of a sudden don’t look as good while Dennis Siver and Rafael dos Anjos are both good fighters.

Conlan: I’m going with George Sotiropoulos. The five fighters Bader has beaten in the Octagon have totaled zero UFC wins since facing him with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira the only opponent still remaining on the roster, and his consecutive losses came to the current 205-pound champion and a consistently competitive former title-holder with little to lose. I don’t think falling to either was particularly shocking, especially if considering the best performance of his career so far resulted in a late knockout of Keith Jardine.

On the other hand, Sotiropoulos’ wins over Lauzon, Stevenson, and Pellegrino were convincing in nature and he was on the cusp of contendership prior to his recent stumbles, not only in the eyes of his bosses but the fans’ as well. With that in mind, the Aussie getting punched out by a ground-specialist like Dos Anjos definitely left my jaw a little lower than normal as did his inability to successfully grapple with a striker like Siver when they faced off last February.

Melvin Guillard is more/less likely to become a UFC champion than teammate Carlos Condit.

Lambert: I think Guillard is more likely to become a UFC champion than Condit. While “The Natural Born Killer” is a highly skilled fighter, I’m just looking at the divisions respective champions and I think Frankie Edgar is just more beatable than George St. Pierre. Guillard is someone who can match the speed of Edgar and is psychically a much bigger fighter. I still question his cardio and even his grappling but under Greg Jackson, he’s no doubt improved both of those things and he’s also polished up his already explosive striking.

St. Pierre is just a bad match up for Condit whose takedown defense is very suspect. While I think Condit would give St. Pierre a great fight, even better than Nick Diaz will, I’m just not going against GSP until I have a reason to.

Conlan: This week’s bromance begins as I agree with Lambert on this topic. Condit has a logjam in front of him at welterweight burdened by a late October date for the title’s next defense, and it also shouldn’t be forgotten that he was seven seconds away from almost certainly losing to Rory MacDonald at UFC 115 after barely outpointing Jake Ellenberger an event earlier. The former WEC champ is talented without question, but I feel as though he’s nearly peaked as a fighter while Guillard still has a lot of growing left to do.

What really pushes “The Young Assassin” over the edge for me on this topic is the substance he’s shown against grapplers in his last two fights (Shane Roller/Evan Dunham) based on the other 155-pound players’ skill-sets. Clay Guida, Jim Miller, Gray Maynard, and Edgar have good hands but are rooted in the ground game. If Guillard can continue stuffing takedown attempts while dishing out punishment he has a decent chance hoisting divisional gold above his head sooner than later.

Was Tito Ortiz’s performance at UFC 132 a “lucky break” or indicator of his remaining ability?

Lambert: The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Even though he did catch the ASU product on the feet with a punch that no one saw coming, he did show a great ability to pounce on Bader and lock on a Guillotine Choke rather than trying to finish with strikes. I think it says more about Bader’s chin and grappling defense, which looked bad against Jones as well, than it does about Ortiz’s ability.

As much as I don’t care for Ortiz, I can’t deny that he’s at least competitive in all of his fights and I’m sure he can still play that role against most fighters in the division. However, the flipside is that as long as he keeps fighting good competition, I think he’ll continue to lose more than he wins.

Conlan: It was in no way “lucky”. He landed an intentional strike, took advantage of the opening it created, and quickly finished Bader off. That’s not winning a raffle. That’s the result of preparation and dedication in the gym over a long career.

Ortiz has not only avoided being a pushover in any of his recent losses, but has really only performed at a slightly lower level than current #1 contender Quinton Jackson when comparing their showings over the last few years. “Rampage” is 4-2 in his last six with losses to Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin and wins over Jardine, Matt Hamill, Wanderlei Silva, and Lyoto Machida (three decisions in the bunch). Though Ortiz is 1-1-4 in the same span of fights, he drew against Evans and was only outpointed by Machida/Griffin. The one primary difference other than win/loss totals in the stretch is Ortiz’s TKO defeat to Chuck Liddell at UFC 66.

There is no doubt “Rampage” is fighting at a higher level than Ortiz at the moment and that things are not likely to change in the future. However, my point is that “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” still has gas in the tank and with a newly repaired frame could be poised for a few more wins before hanging his gloves up for good.

Do you expect to see Wanderlei Silva again in the Octagon?

Conlan: Absolutely. Let’s not act as though his jaw’s wiring is completely shot. His fight against Chris Leben came after more than a year on the sidelines and seemed to be the result of an overanxious brawler getting clipped a few times by a stone-handed adversary. Prior to the loss he’d gone fifteen minutes against Rich Franklin and Michael Bisping without having his lights turned out and then only once in the three previous appearances by a powerful punch from “Rampage” Jackson likely to turn a cow into ground beef had a bovine been on the receiving end.

He’s definitely not at a point in his career where he’s likely to make a real run at the title but Silva can still be competitive and should be featured in “money” match-ups with relevant rivals like Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. If he gets left face-down in those fights then and only then might talk of retirement be merited.

Lambert: I think he’ll be back for one more fight against the loser of Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama. There would be just too much interest in Belfort vs. Silva for UFC to pass up. It’s tough to judge a guy who gets finished in 27 seconds and was coming off a Mir-like layoff but I do think Silva’s chin, which was never spectacular, is beyond repair. Granted he’s been getting KO’d by heavy hitter (Mirko Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, “Rampage”, and Leben) but he’s taken a lot of punishment in his career and he’s been put out cold by all of those guys, which is even worse.

Silva is officially 1-1 at middleweight though and should be given at least one more chance to prove he has something left. If he gets put out cold again though, I’d rather see him retire as I hate seeing legends get KO’d time in and time out.

How many more wins does Urijah Faber need before getting another title shot?

Conlan: If we’re talking consecutive victories I’d say two. The bantamweight group is growing into a fine division but hasn’t reached maturity yet so there is still a lot of opportunity where contendership is concerned. Faber is incredibly popular and a great representative of the sport, plus he’s 1-1 with Cruz and their UFC 132 fight was fairly close, so there’s no reason to think he won’t get to “Chinese Cut” in line rather than go to the back of it after last weekend’s loss. The UFC could finally make Faber vs. Miguel Torres, once seen as a superfight in their WEC days, and then pass “The California Kid” off to either Demetrious Johnson or Brian Bowles depending on how things unfold in the coming months. With those two potential wins under his belt, is there any reason to think Faber won’t get a shot at the shiny one currently worn around Cruz’s waist?

Lambert: He needs one win to get another crack at the belt, no matter who the champion. My scenario is that Cruz fights Johnson while Faber fights Bowles and the winners meet. Fact is, Faber is the biggest star in the division and he’s the only guy at 135 pounds who can headline a PPV against the champion. No offense to Cruz vs. his next challenger, but he’s not going to a headline a PPV unless Jose Aldo decides to drop down to 135. Right or wrong, stars get treatment and when UFC is running as many PPVs as they’re running, they need guys who can headline. If Faber can pick up a win over Bowles, a former champion who has won two straight fights, then there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be challenging for the belt again early next year.

Now that the facts are out, do you think Dana White was justified in firing Nate Marquardt?

Conlan: I don’t feel comfortable saying that “the facts are out” in the case of Marquardt’s release. A lot more light has certainly been shed regarding some of the details involved in his use of testosterone, but I think it’s naïve to believe we know all of the specifics if attempting to judge how justified White was in removing Marquardt from the company’s roster based on the issue at hand. However, what I will say is that the UFC President was definitely within his rights to let Marquardt go based on the embarrassment of having to reshuffle an advertised lineup at the last second and some of Nate’s earlier stumbles in the company, so from that standpoint I can’t fault him for doing so.

Lambert: Poor word choice on my part, I should have said, “Now that both sides have given their story” but what’s done is done.

I think White was justified because it’s his company and he can do whatever he wants. I don’t think he was right though, especially when they’re still employing Sonnen, I get that Sonnen can make the company money, at least more money than Marquardt can make them, but it’s a complete double standard. Sonnen actually got busted for cheating and then told a bunch of lies to try and get out of it, including claiming that he was on the same “testosterone injection” plan that Marquardt was on. Marquardt just screwed up but apparently didn’t do anything that he wasn’t allowed to do or that he hadn’t been doing for at least three fights prior to Rick Story.