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Grappling with Issues – 9/14/11

Do you like Nick Diaz‘s new UFC 137 match-up more than his old one? What recently announced heavyweight fight are you most interested in? How important is a win for Jake Ellenberger this weekend in New Orleans? What was your favorite throwdown from this past 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.

What was your favorite fight from this past weekend’s offerings?

Lambert: Vitali Klitschko vs. Tomasz Adamek.

In all seriousness, my favorite fight was Daniel Cormier vs. Antonio Silva. I thought that was the most interesting fight of the weekend and how it played out was very exciting. Everyone wanted to know whether or not Cormier was the real deal and by taking out Silva, who just destroyed Fedor Emelianenko, proved that was ready for the step up in competition and is ready for more top competition. He almost toyed with Silva on the feet and really toyed with him when it came to the wrestling. He had “Bigfoot,” a man with no prior wrestling experience, shooting for a takedown on him, an Olympic level wrestler. It got me very excited for not only the finals of the heavyweight Grand Prix, but also for Cormier’s future.

Conlan: I’ll go with Chris Lozano vs. Brent Weedman. The Bellator middleweights slugged it out for fifteen minutes in a fight reminiscent of Forrest Griffin’s sport-changing clash with Stephan Bonnar at the first Ultimate Fighter Finale. Weedman and Lozano showed tremendous heart, never backed down even when hurt, and put on one helluva headliner to kick off Bellator’s fifth season.

Regardless of how the pairing came about, are you more/less interested Nick Diaz vs. B.J. Penn than you were in his original bout with Georges St. Pierre?

Lambert: More interested, but that’s only because Penn is a more exciting fighter than St. Pierre. Obviously GSP vs. Diaz is the bigger fight, but GSP hasn’t exactly been delivering barn burners as of late in the cage. Diaz would have pushed him, because Diaz is a guy who is known for bringing the fight, but how much could he have brought it while lying on his back for 25 minutes? Penn vs. Diaz is a fight between two guys who rarely fail to entertain. Plus it’s just more intriguing because Diaz is known for his cardio and body shots, while Penn has a history of gassing, and the body shots won’t be too kind to his already low gas tank. Diaz vs. GSP would have been a MMA contest, Diaz vs. Penn will be a fight.

Conlan: Also more interested. To build on Jeremy’s take, Penn and Diaz are both “fighters’ fighters” in the sense they’re not just supremely skilled but that the idea of throwing down is seemingly embedded in their DNA. They’re the kind of guys who could care less about how many people are in attendance or how many PPVs the UFC sells – they simply love to scrap. St. Pierre, on the other hand, is more of an athlete who competes to make money rather than scratch some primordial itch. To put a cap on my point, if MMA didn’t exist, two of the three welterweights would be fighting somewhere whether in a bar, backyard, or boxing ring, and neither of them is currently the UFC’s 170-pound champion.

Penn vs. Diaz is going to be a fantastic affair while GSP vs. Diaz would have been entertaining as well but not in the same satisfying, staredown-of-doom, might-as-well-be-taking-it-outside-after-getting-mean-mugged-at-a-club way. Add the fact that Diaz not only semi-screwed Penn’s longtime place of employment with his attendance issues but cost the Hawaiian an opponent he’d already been preparing for (Carlos Condit). It’s business AND personal all rolled into one.

If you could make a match-up featuring someone from the “Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov” card and a fighter calling the UFC home, what would it be and why?

Lambert: Muhammed Lawal vs. Rich Franklin. I’m a fan of “King Mo” and I think he has the talent to be one of the best light heavyweights in the sport, but he just needs to quit worrying so much about his haters. I think he’s ready for the UFC, especially since the Strikeforce 205 division is so thin. However, while some people want him to face the loser of Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson, I don’t think he should quite get that big of a jump. He’s still young in the sport and, let’s not forget, he did lose to Rafael Cavalcante just two fights ago.

Franklin is the perfect guy to test where Mo is at in the sport right now. He’s well-rounded, well-conditioned, comes to fight, and rarely has a boring bout. He’s also a former champion with name value, so a victory for Mo would look good on his record.

Conlan: Cormier vs. Cain Velasquez because I’m a sick bastard!

Alright, alright…I’ll keep it realistic. Since Lawal is off the table, who I personally wouldn’t mind see warring with “Rampage” in media appearances before an eventual showdown, I’ll go the opposite direction with two soft spoken submission specialists in the form of Demian Maia vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Both middleweights, who share the same record at 14-3, have shown improved stand-up in the past but are known for their prowess on the ground. It’s not often you see two genuine masters of their craft go at it in the Octagon and, assuming they didn’t cancel the other out, a scenario where Souza and Maia go at it with one potentially tapping the other out could be incredible.

Of all the big UFC fight announcement made this past weekend, which fight are you most excited about?

Conlan: Since we’ve already spoken some about the love-rectangle between Penn, Condit, GSP, and Diaz, I’ll opt for something different and say Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Their UFC 140 fight is not only divisionally relevant and will move one much closer to a title-shot but the fan in me will always have a soft spot for “Minotauro” and I love the notion of him getting a chance to revenge the knockout he suffered in their first go-round. Now that Nogueira is supposedly healthier than he’s been in years, and certainly in better shape than he was due to a staph infection affecting his performance against Mir, it will be extremely interesting to see how he fares against a comparable striker with a great ground-game as well.

Lambert: I’m going to state the obvious answer and say Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem. It’s the return of Lesnar, the sports biggest draw, against the guy who everyone is in love with right now because of his size and striking. It’s a guy who doesn’t react well to getting hit against a guy who has never dealt well with pressure. It’s a bull against a horse. It’s fricken’ Lesnar vs. Overeem. I doubt it’ll make it out of the first round, but for as long as it lasts, it’s going to be highly entertaining and intriguing. Plus the winner will earn a title shot, which is a pretty big deal.

Where would a win over Jake Shields put Jake Ellenberger in the welterweight division?

Conlan: It would show he belongs in the deep end of the welterweight pool even though it should also be mentioned that Shields will clearly be fighting with a heavy heart given the recent passing of his father and may not be 100% as a result. However, Ellenberger has picked up victories over solid competitors like Mike Pyle and Pat Healy, plus took Condit to a Split Decision a few years ago. A win over Shields regardless of any asterisks is significant and earn him a shot at another big name like Thiago Alves, Diego Sanchez, or Jon Fitch.

Lambert: One fight away from a title shot. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the winner of Penn vs. Diaz will get a title shot, just because it’s going to be the fight the fans want after UFC 137, even though UFC might be a little reserved to do it because, well, look what they just went through with Diaz.

But after that, they’re going to need another contender, and that’s where Ellenberger comes in. If he beats Shields, I could definitely see him facing Fitch, as long as Fitch gets past Johny Hendricks. He could also face the Josh Koscheck vs. Matt Hughes winner or a returning Sanchez. If St. Pierre is still the champion, he’s going to need a new challenger, and Ellenberger would be a new contender as long as he can get by Shields and one other top fighter.

Who do you favor in the Bellator middleweight tournament?

Conlan: It’s hard to pick against Alexander Shlemenko since he even looked solid at times in his loss to Hector Lombard, the only loss he’s suffered in his last ten outings. I think Bryan Baker and Brian Rogers are both possibilities as well, especially in the case of Rogers, but Shlemenko’s power coupled with his experience in not only a ring (40-7) but Bellator tournaments should provide the ammo he needs to make another successful run towards a shot at the promotion’s middleweight title.

Lambert: Shlemenko is probably the favorite, but I’m going to go with Rogers. I’m pretty sold on this guy, mainly because of his explosiveness and power. I’m not sure how he’ll do if he’s dragged into the later rounds, but if he can get to guys early, I think he’ll be able to put them away. Don’t sleep on Jared Hess either. He has the toughest first round fight but his only two losses are to Hector Lombard, in the first ever Bellator middleweight title bout, and Shlemenko, in a fight he was winning before he blew out his knee. He’s fought once since the knee injury, so as long as he’s not tentative on the knee, he could definitely earn another crack at Lombard.


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