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Grappling with Issues – 8/10/11

Would you rather see Rashad Evans fight Quinton Jackson or Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title? Will Rory MacDonald fight for the title before 2013? Are Yoshihiro Akiyama‘s days as a UFC middleweight over? How would you sum up Dennis Hallman‘s decision to wear a Speedo last weekend?

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.

True or False – Rory MacDonald will earn a shot at the UFC welterweight title before the end of 2012.

Lambert: FALSE. I think UFC will bring MacDonald up slowly and not rush him into a title shot. 2013 is still 16 months away and let’s say MacDonald will fight three times between now and then. He’ll likely have to get past a guy like Jon Fitch or Jake Shields, both of whom are tough match ups for him. This also assumes that Georges St. Pierre, MacDonald’s friend and training partner, won’t be the champion at the end of 2012 because I don’t see MacDonald fighting GSP even if the title is on the line.

Conlan: Kudos to Mr. Lambert for not hopping on the hype-train and cranking it up to full speed just yet. There’s no question MacDonald is as bright as young stars come on the UFC roster and has elevated himself from “prospect” to “legitimate threat” over the past year with success against Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, as well as a performance that put him less than ten seconds away from almost certainly beating Carlos Condit by decision until he slipped up and got finished.

Like my partner in crime, I also think MacDonald won’t challenge for a title until 2013 (or beyond). The only exception to that might be if Nick Diaz takes GSP out in October, then retains in the inevitable rematch while MacDonald racks up a few victories over the likes of Fitch, Shields, Condit, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, or any other number of notable welterweights. Since I’m not confident in such a perfect storm brewing over the next sixteen months I can’t put faith in a crack at the championship within that period.

Will Yoshihiro Akiyama ever fight in the UFC again as a middleweight?

Lambert: This is a tough one. I don’t think he should because he’d be so much better off at welterweight but Akiyama has the Japanese mindset of “technique will beat size” and “as long as I’m in exciting fights, I’m doing my job”. Unfortunately for him, neither of those things hold true as true in America.

That said, Bren brought up some great points last week about UFC needing Akiyama to help further their appeal in Japan. Akiyama is a big deal in Japan and I’m not sure UFC wants to lose him. This is a cop out answer of sorts but, while I think he’ll be talked into dropping down to 170, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him back at middleweight before his UFC run ends.

Conlan: No. His only win at 185 pounds in the Octagon came via Split Decision against Alan Belcher and was a fight he could have, maybe even should have, lost. His biggest victories prior to the UFC involved Denis Kang and Melvin Manhoef, talented to be sure but nowhere near “Top 20” middleweights these days.

In reality, if Akiyama wasn’t such a draw in the Far East he would have already been cut, but based on his style and appeal he’s kept his spot on the roster. Also keep in mind the UFC hasn’t locked down a show in Japan yet so a stop in the Land of the Rising Sun is still speculation at this point. Beyond that, “Sexyama” is 36 years old so his remaining years of competing at a high level in MMA are limited if not in his rear-view mirror already, plus Dana White has made it clear a number of times he wants to see Akiyama drop down a division and barely stopped short of issuing an ultimatum in that regard when asked about the popular fighter’s future after UFC 133.

On the bright side of things, it appears a slight shift in attitude has surfaced in Japan where weight-cutting is concerned as evident by Tatsuya Kawajiri going down to 145 pounds so at least there’s still some hope it isn’t “Time to Say Goodbye” to Akiyama just yet.

More likely to land a submission on Sunday night – Ben Henderson or Jim Miller?

Lambert: Bren with back to back tough ones. It’s like he’s punishing me for all my Taylor Swift Tweets this weekend.

Both guys have excellent chokes that they can lock on in the blink of an eye. Henderson, even though he’s tough to finish, does have a habit of getting caught in submissions, but he’s just so flexible and has such heart that he doesn’t tap out. Miller has good submission defense as well but let’s not forget that he was nearly caught in a Rear-Naked Choke by Mark Bocek. Both guys are tough to submit but if I’m forced to chose, I think Henderson is more likely to catch Miller because I believe that he has a quicker Guillotine Choke and his arms give him more choke options.

Conlan: If I truly wanted to punish you for the Swift material I would force you to listen to her music but I digress.

On topic, since we’re answering based on submissions rather than purely making it a “pick em”, I’ll go with Miller (thanks to the trusty flip of a coin). Henderson has tapped out a higher percentage of his opponents than the New Jersey native has, yet “Bendo” has also been choked out himself while Miller’s only two losses were the result of decisions against the UFC’s top two lightweights (Frank Edgar, Gray Maynard). Like Lambert said, Henderson has had to fight his way out of some very tough positions before, but he hasn’t fought anyone on Miller’s level yet and I don’t think he’ll have the same fortune if the 20-2 grappler gets a hold of his neck/limbs.

More interesting opponent for Rashad Evans: Quinton Jackson or Jon Jones?

Conlan: Jones. The current UFC light heavyweight champ is not only a new opponent for “Sugar” ‘Shad but there are still major unresolved issues at play between the two (whereas the heat between Evans/Jackson is only set to “medium” these days). Personal feelings between the fighters aside, I also like the challenge “Bones” poses to Evans in terms of athleticism and speed whereas Jackson relies more on pure power than overall technique. We already know Evans has the formula to beat Jackson, and it’s not as though “Rampage” has significantly changed since their original meeting a year ago, but in regards to Jones vs. Evans we only know what’s been rumored about training sessions rather than seeing the scenario play out ourselves.

Lambert: I agree with Bren in thinking that “Bones” is the more interesting opponent for “Suga” but if “Rampage” hands Jones his first legitimate loss in MMA, then all of a sudden the whole dynamic changes in the Jackson vs. Evans rematch. Jackson, instead of coming off a 14 month lay-off, will be coming off three straight victories, including a win over the guy who everyone is ready to crown “the next greatest.” Not only that but the fight will be five rounds instead of three, and even though Rashad has trained for five rounds fights, he’s never gone the full 25 minutes like Jackson has. Plus you know that when Jackson vs. Evans gets announced, the trash talking will pick up right where it left off a year ago.

Which weekend fight has the potential to be the best of the bunch?

Conlan: Though there are some interesting pairings to pick from outside of the Octagon I’ll go with Charles Oliveira vs. Donald Cerrone at UFC Live 5. Both lightweights are well-rounded and relatively fearless in the ring. Their fight should involve a number of entertaining exchanges while standing or on the ground, plus either has the ability to finish the other as indicated by the percentage of stoppages both have in terms of their overall records (12/15 for Cerrone, 13/14 for “Do Bronx”).

The bout is also particularly important for Cerrone who looked so-so against Vagner Rocha in his last fight but has strung together a quartet of victories meaning a win over Oliveira should thrust him into the divisional spotlight and earn him an opportunity to face the cream of the UFC’s 155-pound crop.

Lambert: Once again I have to agree with Bren. I’m beyond pumped for Cerrone vs. Oliveira as both men are rarely in boring fights, they’re both well-rounded, and they both put it all on the line. I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment because I’m expecting this bout to be like Frankie Edgar vs. Tyson Griffin or Clay Guida vs. Diego Sanchez, but I don’t care. I can’t wait for “Cowboy” and “Do Bronx” to do battle on Sunday.

That said, I’m going to give love to a fight that many probably didn’t know was this weekend and even less will end up watching, and that’s Houston Alexander vs. Razak Al-Hassan. That’s right folks, “The Assassin” is in action this weekend at “MMA Pit Fight: Genesis”, a promotion that’s running on PPV and charging $29.95 for their event. I’ve always liked Alexander and usually he steps into the cage ready to knock out or be knocked out. Al-Hassan will happily stand and slug it out with Houston, and the two should have an exciting striking battle until someone ends up with their eyes closed.

Fill in the Blank: Dennis Hallman’s attire at UFC 133 was __________.

Conlan: “Less embarrassing to the UFC than Chael Sonnen’s behavior at a Q&A sessions attached to the event”. Yes, I know I’m supposed to answer with the word “hilarious” or “offensive” but it’s not as though other fighters haven’t worn similarly skimpy trunks to the cage. However, after watching Sonnen speak for an hour with as much basis in reality as your run-of-the-mill Looney Tunes episode, I found myself face-palming far more often than during Hallman’s fight against Brian Ebersole. It’s one thing to act out a “character” to promote fights but another thing entirely to rant and rave like a crazed WWE superstar when your athletic endeavor is still trying to establish itself as a legitimate sport to the mainstream masses.

He was also out of line by stating all the “sprites” from San Francisco were on the side of Anderson Silva entering their title-fight while using an effeminate tone in his voice, implying that the people cheering for Silva were all homosexuals. Sonnen isn’t the first UFC employee to make an insulting joke at the expense of the gay community, yet he is the latest and did so at a fan-event. It was also troublesome to see him make light of his suspension for testosterone use when performance enhancing drugs are clearly an issue plaguing all sports.

Given the company’s attempt to portray themselves as a major sporting league that kind of rhetoric has no place on a public stage, yet Sonnen will undoubtedly receive more opportunities in front of a microphone because he has the “gift of gab” – just no taste to back it up with.

Lambert: I’m not sure how a question about “Hallmanties” ended up setting Bren off about Sonnen but I thoroughly enjoyed Bren’s tirade against the “real middleweight champion.”

As for my answer, I’ll go with, “better off on Chrissy Hubbard.” With no Brittney Palmer at UFC 133, her one-night replacement Chrissy became the subject of my research. So why is it that Hallman got to wear a bikini bottom but the octagon girls just wear short shorts? That seems pretty sexist of the UFC to me. White needs to prove that UFC is not against his on-camera female employees wearing bikini bottoms on PPV, by bringing back Chrissy for the next event and giving her the freedom to wear the same attire that she wears when she hits the beach. Do the right thing Dana. Create the right atmosphere.


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