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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.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC

6 COMMENTS
  • Dufresne says:

    - Sotiropoulos. Bader didn’t really impress me against Lil’ Nog or Jardine so a loss to Tito, while surprising, wasn’t as shocking as Sotiropoulos getting KO’d by a grappler.

    – More, and for the same reasons already pointed out.

    Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Lucius Annaeus Seneca
    Tito didn’t get lucky, he capitalized on a presented opportunity. I don’t like Tito, and I doubt he’ll ever get to the top of the heap again, but he is a damn good gatekeeper to the elite tier of the LHW division.

    – He’ll be back and I expect his next fight to be a barn burner. After his vicious KO from Rampage he came back with wars against Franklin and Bisping, so I figure he’s got at least one and probably two more fights left in him.

    – He should have at least three and probably four consecutive wins before another title shot, but since the division isn’t that stacked and his title fight with Cruz was a great fight he’ll probably only need one or two.

    – Yes. Especially if Nate was aware that he was high for as long as they’re making it seem. When you undergo hormone replacement therapy you have an endocrinologist who is supposed to be checking and adjusting your medication so that everything balances properly and ends up at the proper levels. If Nate knew he was high a month in advance and he’s telling the truth about being testosterone deficit, there should have been some adjustments made and a month is more than enough time to make those adjustments.

    I think Nate’s firing has as much to do with making a statement to other fighters thinking of trying the HRT card to try and cover for high testosterone as it does with him putting the UFC in the position of replacing a headliner on short notice. I’m not saying Nate was lying about his condition, I simply don’t know, but HRT leaves a pretty large and tempting window for athletes to gain an edge. And I know you need a diagnosis and prescription to begin HRT, but you also need a diagnosis and prescription for ADHD meds, pain meds, or xanax and it’s not all that hard to find a doc that will give you both.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  • Rece Rock says:

    Sotiropoulos… for similar reasons Conlon stated.

    Guillard is more likely to become a champ than Condit basically due to timing and what match ups that are already in place…

    Tito’s performance was a an example of a man in survival mode he does have some ability left BUT with out that same pressure on him will he perform and rise to the occasion again? who knows? BUT I had this feeling in my gut he would walk away with his hand raised but I def. wasn’t expressing that unfavorable view in public but something in my head said this guy is fighting for his livlihood and he’s gonna go in for the kill if given the oppportunity. Not a huge fan of Tito but damn I couldn’t help but feel good for him that night.

    Wanderlei Silva will be back… he’s already calling for a rematch with Leben. ( not happening).

    Honestly I’d give Faber an immediate rematch cause that was close… if not then I say let him get one win and get him back in there… Faber gotta look for a finish, playing it safe is only going to get him in the same position he was in the other night close but no cigar.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  • Rece Rock says:

    Forgot about the Nate question…

    Although the logistics are slightly different, unless Cheal Sonnen is fired then Nate’s firing cant be justified… I understand the evidence and the back ground story is different in each situation BUT at the end of the day it was the same infraction and they should be handled in similar fashion. DW can’t have the cross over appeal and mainstream attention he wants for the UFC if this is the stuff that makes the news… he needs to demand clean and responsible atheletes no matter what level they are fighting at and regardless of there worth or standing. UFC will always be held back if there is loop holes or short cuts around PED use… Listen if you got the testosterone level of a 80 yr old man then maybe combat sports isn’t a good livlihood for you any more.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  • MCM says:

    - G.Sot.
    George was on the cusp of a title shot and was supposed to breeze through Siver. I think that loss alone dropped his stock.

    – Condit.
    This is based on a few things happening. But is mostly contingent upon GSP leaving for MW after beating Diaz.
    I understand the temptation to pick Guillard as he’s looked great lately. But Melvin still needs to fight top guys to really see where he stacks up in division. Look at the previous question as an example. Lets not get ahead of ourselves with Melvin just yet.

    -NOT lucky
    Tito trains hard and is always competitive. He may be easy TO write off, but he’s never an easy write off. I don’t think he’ll challenge for the title ever again, but he’s still a huge draw and isn’t a push over for anyone. (cept Jon Jones)

    -Of course Wandy will be back.

    -1 fight.
    That’s all Faber ever gets is one fight and then another shot at the title. Faber gets more undeserved shots than Rampage. What’s Pulver doing lately?

    -Justified.
    This one had me a little torn. Rece (and everyone else) is right about the Sonnen situation, and keeping one for PED use and not the other is a complete double standard.
    But this seams more like the firing of Karo at UFC 106 after he pulled out of his fight with Hazelett at the last minute. In that respect, Dana is being consistent.
    Let’s just hope we see Marquardt back in the cage within a year.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I will go with Sotiropulous also, he isnt a relatively young fighter like Bader and was seriously close to the top 3 spot as a LW. Bader on the other hand has beaten one solid fighter in very unconvincing fashion, tends to gas out, and really just needs another few fights to mature into the complete beast we all feel he will turn into.
    I feel Condit has a much better chance, Melvin is a guy who really is a frontrunner. If he incounters problems his skills kind of go away and he falls out of fights quickly. Melvin has also been getting some good match ups lately so now that he is asking for better competition we will see how he stands the pressure. Condit will not be rattled in the octagon, has a very complete skill set and only 1 loss since 2006 (although I still feel he lost to Ellenburger he showed tremendous heart in that fight).
    Titos win was skill pure and simple. The fact that he took bader out faster than Jones should be noted also. Tito threw a crisp right and locked in the choke so smoothly, that is all skill.
    I am sure we will see Silva at least one more time in the UFC, as he deserves another shot. Almost every fighter coming back from a long injury layoff looks bad in there first fight, and lets not forget his last fight was a win over top contender Bisping.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  • crane_style says:

    I’ll go with Bader. George was on his way to being a top contender, but like a lot of people, I thought Bader was already there. However, he looked really stiff in the fight, especially when he tried to throw a kick. Makes me wonder if Bader would do better if he lost some bulk and went down to 185.

    I think the only things that could keep Guillard from winning the title is his own brain. As long as he keeps listening to his coachs, I think he can take anyone at light weight. Condit will be a test for GSP, bit only if he can’t take him down. Ha! Yeah, right.

    The luck in Tito’s finish came from Bader not respecting Ortiz’s hands, but otherwise he was full value for the stoppage.

    Most guys would have to have 2-3 fights to get another title shot, but not Faber. He’s waaaaay to marketable and doesn’t have many years left for the UFC to cash him in at the PPV box office. One fight against a top tier component will gwt him back to the big dance, but only if it’s a dominant win.

    I think it was fine that Dana cut Nate, but saying “he’s never coming back” was a bit much. He’s said this before and ate his words, so maybe never isn’t such a long time after all. If Nate hed been able to fight and the problem came out after, like Chael, things might have been different. But bailing on the headline fight for a PPV? Not so easily forgiven.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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