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Grappling with Issues – 8/31/11

Do you want to see Anderson Silva make a run at a different division before he retires? What’s next for Mauricio “Shogun” Rua after his dominant win at UFC 134? Is there a particularly bright future for any of the Brazilians outside of last weekend’s main card? Will Andrei Arlovski ever return to prominence?

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/FALSE – Andrei Arlovski will beat another Top 10 heavyweight before he retires.

Lambert: FALSE. Because he’s not going to fight another Top 10 heavyweight before he retires. All the best heavyweights are in the UFC or Strikeforce, except for Fedor Emelianenko, and I don’t think Arlovski is going to fight any of those guys. I think he ends up like Tim Sylvia, just fighting guys on smaller shows, winning the majority of the fights, but slipping up, getting caught, and losing to guys that he has no business losing to. I hope he makes it back to the big show because I always like to root for guys who were once on top of the world, but fell on hard times for whatever reason. But after seeing him against Ray Lopez, I just can’t see “The Pitbull” fighting anyone who is considered elite in 2011 unless M-1 wants to give Fedor a “rebound” win to get him back on track.

Conlan: To add to Jeremy’s point, Fedor is hanging on to his ranking by a thread as is so there’s no guarantee he’d be a Top 10 guy if booked for another bout with Arlovski.

I’m also on the “false” train, though I don’t think it’s a matter so much of Arlovski getting to face a highly touted guy as opposed to his ability to actually defeat one. He nearly got choked out by a guy known for his boxing (Lopez) and might have fallen into true obscurity with a bit more time left in their opening round. His chin is still shot until proven otherwise and if his grappling has truly slipped to that level, especially after spending time in Greg Jackson’s camp, there’s not much hope for Arlovski other than perhaps my peer’s apt comparison to Sylvia’s current status.

What moment from UFC 134 sticks out to you the most?

Lambert: The lack of Brittney Palmer.

In all serious, I’m going with Rodrigo Nogueira‘s victory. Almost everyone wrote him off prior to the fight considering “Big Nog’s” recent layoff and surgeries along with Brendan Schaub‘s speed and power. He didn’t look good at the weigh-ins and he’s always looked about 20 years older than he really is. He got hit with some good punches from Schaub and looked wobbly a couple of times, but as always with Nog, he’s not done until he’s done. Then, when he caught Schaub with the one-two and finished him off with a flurry, watching the crowd go crazy and Nog celebrating, it was just a special moment. If that was your first time watching UFC, the whole spectacle made Nogueira look like the biggest star in the world.

Conlan: As dark a cloud as Ms. Palmer’s absence in one of the Brazilian flag spandex ensembles cast over the event, I was fortunately able to enjoy the show and I hope the rest of you were too.

The moment I’ll most associate with UFC 134 started with the first preliminary fight and ended long after the cameras stopped rolling in Rio – the Brazilian crowd. The fans were rabid and added a unique dimension to the event exceeding even the atmosphere in Montreal when Georges St. Pierre fought Matt Serra. It was a testament to the power of MMA and an indication of how incredible the next few years should be. This is hyperbole to an extent, but I get chills when I think of 100,000 strong filling a soccer stadium in 2012.

Would you prefer to see Anderson Silva stay at middleweight or vacate his title after one more defense and focus on 205-pounds?

Lambert: I want to see Silva stay at 185 and fight St. Pierre. That’s the only fight I have interest in for “The Spider” and “Rush” right now. Everyone has been talking about this fight for well over a year now, and yet it keeps getting put off despite the fact that Silva has defended his title nine times and St. Pierre has defended his strap six times. If St. Pierre defeats Diaz, there’s no reason to keep putting off the fight. I know the winner of Chael Sonnen vs. Brian Stann has a case for a title shot, and if Carlos Condit beats B.J. Penn, he has a case for a title shot at 170, but does anyone really want to see those fights over Silva vs. St. Pierre?

These guys are the best fighters in their weight class and they’ve proven it for years now. Not only that, they’re the two best fighters in the world right now. Doesn’t everyone want to know who the legitimate best fighter in the sport is today so we don’t have to deal with these stupid “Pound 4 Pound” rankings arguments anymore? Stop putting the fight off, because in MMA, either guy could lose at anytime, and if one of them loses, the fight won’t be made and UFC will squander a lot of money and a chance to deliver the ultimate super fight. Who knows if an opportunity like this will come up again. No one knows if Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez will dominate their divisions to the point where everyone begs Jones to move to heavyweight.

Book fights when you have them. If GSP beats Diaz, UFC will have GSP vs. Silva with no obstacle in their way (except maybe GSP refusing to take the fight, which is a whole other story) except themselves.

Conlan: Yes, I have been talking about GSP vs. Silva for over a year…and why I have no significant interest in seeing them fight. They’re definitely two of the all-time greats who have enjoyed incredible success but I have a hard time believing it’s a competitive match-up when the cage door closes. Sure, St. Pierre could possibly take him down and grind on him for five rounds like Sonnen did, but there’s no way he finishes Silva if he can’t do the same against Dan Hardy or Josh Koscheck. Silva would decimate “Rush” standing and be competitive in every other phase of the game as well. He’s also much bigger, creating yet another problem for GSP.

Back on topic, I’ve had a hunkering for Silva’s return to light heavyweight ever since Lyoto Machida lost the title to Mauricio Rua. In fact, the UFC could even book “Shogun” vs. Silva to headline their next trip to Brazil creating a can’t miss super-fight and allowing “The Spider” potentially avenge Machida’s loss in the process. He’s running out of things to prove as a 185er and could ultimately even assist Machida’s quest for another opportunity at the belt by knocking off a few of the other 205-pound contenders to loosen up the title-shot logjam

Who do you think should be next for “Shogun” Rua?

Conlan: First of all, count me amongst the group of people not psyched about the concept of a third fight between “Shogun” and Machida. Rua’s loss to “The Dragon” was questionable to begin with and he dominated Machida in their follow-up fight. If they fight again I’d prefer it took place in a year or two once the memory of their initial encounters wasn’t so fresh in the minds of fans.

Personally, if not Silva, I’d like to see Rua fight Dan Henderson to determine the next contender for the UFC light heavyweight champion come mid-2012 once Rashad Evans has presumably had his shot at the loser of Jones/Quinton Jackson. Both Rua and Henderson were stand-outs in PRIDE yet never crossed paths and putting them together would not only deliver a match-up featuring two MMA legends, but a pair of fighters who are also relevant contenders.

Lambert: I’m with Bren in not wanting to see Rua vs. Machida 3. It just feels too soon for a third fight between the two. I wouldn’t mind Rua vs. Henderson, although I do think Henderson vs. Machida is the better fight to determine the #1 contender.

I know I’m going to be in the minority with my answer but I’d like to see “Shogun” take on Phil Davis. Before you jump on my case about that fight, hear me out. Davis was going to challenge Rashad Evans before he had to pull out of the fight, so it’s obvious that the want to give “Mr. Wonderful” a step up in competition in his next fight. Rua can be that step up in competition, and it’s a fight that will also test the biggest weaknesses of the former UFC light heavyweight champion. Rua’s problems are cardio and wrestling. Davis will test his cardio by using his world-class wrestling. If Rua can survive the wrestling of Davis and still be fresh should the fight make it past the five minute mark, it’ll answer some questions about Rua and help ease peoples mind heading into a potential rematch against Jon Jones.

Which fighter do you favor in the upcoming Bellator Season 5 Bantamweight Tournament?

Conlan: I hate to be “that guy” but I’m going with Joe Warren. He looked like anything but a finalist against Marcos Galvao when they fought in April but I’m confident he’ll have a better handle on his weight-cutting process this time around. He’s a tremendous grappler, doesn’t know how to quit, and packs a lot of power in all his punches. There are some other possibilities to be sure – Chase Beebe probably being the frontrunner in that group – but until proven otherwise, it’s gotta be “The Baddest Man on the Planet”. I do, however, think 135-pound champ Zack Makovsky could definitely be the man to take Warren out and end his winning streak.

Lambert: I’m going with Wilson Reis. I’ve always been sold on Reis’ talent, and while he hasn’t been the second coming of  (Anderson) Silva like some thought he could be, he has been a very good featherweight with some big wins under his belt. At 135, he’s going to be stronger and that’s really going to translate in his punching power and clinch control, where he can get guys to the ground easier in order to utilize his jiujitsu skills. Warren is going to be a tough out, but it’s not like Warren has looked unbeatable in his victories. He’s either had the fortune of some questionable judging or has just gutted through with his unquestionable heart. This tournament seems wide open to me and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Outside of the “Big Three”, which Brazilian UFC 134 winner has the brightest future?

Conlan: Erick Silva without a doubt. He’s sponsored by Jesus Christ for starters, a definite feather in his cap when it comes to competitive advantages against opponents, and beyond that he’s simply a fantastic fighter entering the prime of his career. Silva is 13-1 with ten stoppages, including four straight with his exciting knockout of Luis Ramos (only the second in Ramos’ 25-fight career) at UFC Rio, and his lone loss involves a decision nearly five years ago. Putting the icing on the ice cream, as it were, the 27-year old Brazilian also trains with some of the sport’s best like Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, (Anderson) Silva, the Nogueira brothers, and the rest of their impressive group.

Lambert: Erick “Not Anderson” Silva looked great in victory, but in order to disagree with my colleague, I’ll take Rousimar Palhares. If he can stop refereeing his own fights, he has the skills to test anyone in the division. His striking is getting better and his grappling is second to none in the division. Due to his body type, his cardio is going to be questionable for the majority of his career, but if he can put a beating on guys like he did against Dan Miller on Saturday, his cardio might not come into play often in his career. Palhares is his own worst enemy in the cage with his extending of submissions, mid-fight complaints about cheating, and premature celebrations. If he can somehow just focus on the fight and let the referee do his job, he’ll be fine.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC