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Grappling with Issues – 8/17/11

What will you remember most about Chris Lytle’s career? Is Ben Henderson more deserving of a title-shot than Clay Guida? Where will Alistair Overeem fight next? Should Dan Hardy have been given another shot in the Octagon after losing 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.

More relevant win this past weekend – Jens Pulver’s bantamweight debut or Kimbo Slice’s boxing debut?

Lambert: Definitely Pulver‘s win at 135. At least Jens beat a real guy in his bantamweight debut. Kimbo beat some guy no one has ever heard of and will never hear from again. Granted, Slice is more “name” than “skill” and should be fighting low level guys in order to gain experience but Kimbo isn’t going to make any kind of impact in boxing. The luster is long gone with Kimbo.

I’m not saying Jens will win a relevant bantamweight title, but at 135 he does have a chance to make it back to the UFC or to Bellator, and end his career on a big stage instead of on smaller shows. He looked very good against Wheeler and it was nice to see him land that big left hand of his that he’s become so famous for in his career.

Conlan: Kudos to Jeremy for not taking the bait as quick, devastating knockouts have a tendency to fog one’s perspective. Pulver’s win is absolutely more relevant. Like my partner in crime said, Pulver’s successful showing last weekend came against a semi-respected opponent and showed he still has some gas left in the tank. With three wins in his last four fights, including two finishes, another victory at 135-pounds could definitely earn him one final run in the UFC which would obviously be a fitting place for “Little Evil” to finally retire (assuming he wants to at some point in the near future) rather than some hayseed local promotion. He was on the brink of obscurity, reinvented himself to an extent, and once again has people interested in what’s next. Zuffa needs more bantamweights and there aren’t many out there as instantly marketable as Pulver. He’s also a year younger than Kimbo so it’s not like Slice has much time to make any sort of impact in boxing anyways.

Do you agree with the UFC’s decision to retain the services of Dan Hardy?

Lambert: I never like seeing guys lose their job, but it’s hard to justify retaining Hardy after four straight losses. The best comparison to make is Keith Jardine. “The Dean of Mean” has better wins on his record then Hardy and was more competitive in his four losses than Hardy. In his four losses, Hardy hasn’t won a single round and two of his losses were extremely boring thanks to his inability to get off his back.

Hardy just isn’t a UFC caliber fighter. I don’t think he’s as entertaining as made out to be and he needs to take some time off to improve every aspect of his game before he takes another fight. I hope Hardy comes back strong. I really like his personality and charisma, but he’s got to win fights, and he hasn’t done that in almost two years.

Conlan: No, though I think he’s a talented fighter and seems to be a great guy in general. However, the UFC needs to establish a standard and keeping a guy who has lost four straight fights ain’t it. For all the talk about his stand-up, less than half of Hardy’s total wins have been the result of strike-based stoppages (only one of his eight appearances in the Octagon). Even outside of his consecutive defeats, two of his victories were Split Decisions and came against guys who are no longer drawing checks from Zuffa while only compliling .500 records outside of the organization since fighting him.

Also, allowing Hardy to hopefully find his stride again without the pressure of the UFC spotlight blaring down on him would have not only been good for business but could have also been a positive for the British brawler in terms of rebuilding his confidence with a few victories outside of the Octagon. Instead, he’ll enter his next fight with his back against the wall instead of getting a clean start with a return to the UFC providing even more motivation to improve.

What will stand out most to you in the career of Chris Lytle?

Lambert: Probably his last fight. His fight against Hardy this past Sunday was Lytle’s career wrapped up in 14 minutes. He said he was going to stand and bang with Hardy and he delivered. That’s the fight he wanted, that’s the fight Hardy wanted, and that’s the fight the fans wanted. He not only beat Hardy at the game Hardy wanted to play, he made Hardy play a completely different game, and when he tried that, Lytle reminded everyone why he’s a better grappler than striker by submitting “The Outlaw” with a Guillotine Choke – something Georges St. Pierre couldn’t do despite all his top control.

If you want to know what “Lights Out” was all about when he stepped into the cage, just watch the UFC Live 5 main event, because that fight sums up Lytle’s career better than any story or highlight package could ever do.

Conlan: Definitely not an easy answer to follow but I’ll try. Lytle’s passion and drive to succeed are characteristics I’ll always think of when it comes to the 36-year old retiree. He accepted all challenges put in front of him even even if dealing with an injury or suffering a brutal gash during the bout. There’s a reason he was never legitimately finished in 54 professional fights (18 losses) and it goes beyond simply skill. The word “quit” is simply not in Lytle’s vocabulary. Even more impressive is the fact he worked as a full time firefighter, another highly respectable profession, while competing at the highest level possible. The sport doesn’t just need more people like Lytle in it – the world does.

Who wins this weekend: Pat Curran or Marlon Sandro?

Conlan: Curran. He’s looked more impressive than Sandro when comparing their “Summer Series” bouts and opponents, plus it’s hard to forget he beat Roger Huerta at lightweight and went twenty-five minutes with Eddie Alvarez – something that had never been done prior with Alvarez only having gone the distance twice before in his career with neither being a title-fight. I think Curran’s stand-up is comparable to Sandro’s but his wrestling is superior as is his power in general.

Lambert: Just to disagree, I’ll go with Sandro. I think I picked Sandro at the start of the tournament as well, so there’s no reason to back off that prediction. I won’t deny that Curran has looked better in the “Summer Series” than Sandro but it’s all about match ups. Curran is a good match up for Sandro. Both guys like to stand and I believe that Sandro has the better, more technical striking. Even though Curran has a wrestling advantage, don’t sleep on Sandro’s takedown defense and ground game.

More deserving of a lightweight title shot: Clay Guida or Ben Henderson?

Conlan: My first instinct was to say Guida because of his tenure in the UFC but upon further examination I’m going with “Bendo”. Henderson’s performance against Jim Miller was more impressive than anything Guida has done in the Octagon. He’s only lost once in the last four years, a decision to Anthony Pettis, while Guida has fallen four times in the same span. Yes, “The Carpenter” has deconstructed some bigger names than the former WEC champ but I think that’s mainly been due to opportunity rather than a difference in ability, plus Henderson has some solid victories under his belt too (Donald Cerrone X 2, Jamie Varner, Mark Bocek, and now Miller).

However, I don’t think either of them actually “deserves” a crack at the belt just yet. What it boils down to is that they need to fight each other to truly determine who is next in line for the winner of Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard III, maybe even having a date with Melvin Guillard beforehand as well (assuming “The Young Assassin” gets by Joe Lauzon in October).

Lambert: I don’t think UFC can go wrong with either fighter but I’m going with Guida just based on his track record. Even though Henderson has the best win (sorry Pettis fans, Miller is a better win), Guida has the better streak and beat the guy who beat Henderson. Along that same note, Guida beat the guy who was considered the #1 contender before Henderson did. Plus you can’t ignore the fact that Guida is a bigger name than Henderson, which accounts for something when determining the next title contender.

Where will Alistair Overeem fight next?

Conlan: The UFC. I know he has a fight scheduled for Golden Glory in October but I have a hard time believing his management team wouldn’t let him out of the bout if staying on the card meant forfeiting an opportunity to compete on the world’s biggest stage. Until something surfaces saying negotiations have broken off completely I’m sticking with my belief Overeem’s next match-up will take place in the Octagon.

Lambert: If Overeem plays his cards right it’ll be the UFC. I believe that Golden Glory and UFC can work things out, mainly because I think UFC wants to house the best fighters and right now, Overeem is one of the best heavyweights in the world. He can’t be taking fights in other promotions though and he can’t be consumed by K-1 or boxing. We all know that if you’re a UFC fighter, you better be doing nothing but UFC or else you can forget competing in the octagon. Overeem just needs to let his management take care of the paperwork, continue to train, and wait for Dana White to call him to give him the good news.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC