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Grappling with Issues – 10/26/11

Is B.J. Penn vs. Nick Diaz more likely to feature a finish or scorecards? Did Kenny Florian make the right decision? Should Bellator champion Ben Askren be considered a “Top 10″ fighter assuming he beats Jay Hieron this weekend? Do you think Bobby Lashley will defeat Tim Hague or vice versa?

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 general contributions and “Scorecard” 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 – Bobby Lashley will lose to Tim Hague.

Lambert: FALSE. Even though Lashley isn’t all that great and still doesn’t seem 100% committed to MMA, he’s still a power wrestler and Hague doesn’t have great takedown defense. Plus I’m still very sour on Hague after his most recent UFC performance against Matt Mitrione, where he looked like he would have rather been anywhere else in the world than inside the cage. Hague has some solid submissions, mainly chokes and Lashley doesn’t have much of a neck, and some power in his hands but it’s going to be tough knocking out a guy when you’re on your back.

Conlan: TRUE, and I’m almost willing to go one step further and say it will force Lashley into retirement. He’s fought a single time since losing to Chad Griggs in August 2010, a bout he almost lost to an undersized opponent with no hype, and hasn’t shown any significant improvement since turning to MMA after a fairly successful run in professional wrestling. At the end of the day Lashley is still a slow-moving, power-based wrestler with five minutes of cardio at best. He’s coming off a layoff where he pulled out of a fight for personal reasons and fighting a UFC veteran who has beaten a few well-known fighters like Travis Wiuff and Pat Barry. With eleven finishes in thirteen total victories, Hague can pull the trigger on a finish at any time, something Lashley hasn’t truly shown an ability to do, and he has also gone the distance against some apt adversaries showing he is at least conditioned enough to be competitive for three full rounds.

Nothing in that scenario gives me reason to believe Lashley will win, and to be quite honest I’m a little shocked Jeremy feels confident in his ability to pull out a victory based on wrestling. That ship has sailed, my friend.

Did Kenny Florian make the right decision in terms of returning to compete at 155 pounds?

Lambert: Absolutely. I thought it was kind of stupid for him to drop to 145 in the first place considering that he was having solid success at 155, losing only to Penn and Gray Maynard in recent years. I think it’s safe to say that Florian isn’t going to be a champion in his career, but at least at lightweight there are headlining fights for him. No offense to the competition at 145, but because it’s a relatively new division, at least in the UFC, guys don’t have that “name value” and there’s less money to be made.

Conlan: I completely agree, though I had no problem with testing himself at featherweight since he was able to safely hit the necessary mark (just not comfortably, hence his return to 155). Florian is an intelligent guy who understood his window of opportunity was closing and took a gamble in hopes of calling himself a UFC champion. No shame in that as far as I’m concerned.

Closer to a title-shot with a win at UFC 137 – Tyson Griffin or Hatsu Hioki?

Lambert: Hioki. I know you have to take into account what Griffin did at 155, but even with that, Hioki is still the more accomplished fighter since he’s actually been winning his most recent fights. I also think UFC sees Hioki’s opponent, George Roop, and being higher on the food chain than Griffin’s opponent, Bart Paleszewski, which goes a long way in deciding the next contender. Honestly though, with Chad Mendes all but guaranteed a title shot in early 2012, it wouldn’t shock me if Hioki and Griffin, pending they both win, fight each other for the right to challenge for the title.

Conlan: Also Hioki. Though Griffin is far better known to UFC fans than his Japanese counterpart in this topic, he’ll only be 2-0 at featherweight and had a trio of consecutive losses before dropping down to the division. Three of Hioki’s four losses were Split Decisions while the other was of the Unanimous variety and came eight years ago.

Also, +1 to Lambert for reading my mind as far as Hioki vs. Griffin with the winner taking on either Mendes or Aldo depending on how their bout plays out.

Which UFC 137 bout will earn Fight of the Night honors?

Conlan: The headliner between Penn/Diaz. The UFC has started leaning more towards awarding main card competitors with bonuses rather than preliminary fighters and even if that weren’t the case the welterweights’ war should be fantastic as is. Both men come to scrap every single time they step foot in a ring, not just as professional Mixed Martial Artists but guys who wouldn’t be afraid to throw down on the street without the fame or fortune.

Lambert: There are plenty of candidates who could take home Fight of the Night honors but I’m going with Donald Cerrone vs. Dennis Siver. Both guys always bring it, especially Cerrone, who is never in a boring fight. As long as Siver shows up and this fight makes it out of the first round, I can’t see it not being an exciting fight. Both guys are aggressive and should have a great striking battle on the feet and should it hit the ground, we know that Cerrone will keep busy there as well.

How long will B.J. Penn vs. Nick Diaz last?

Conlan: The distance. Both are historically difficult to finish and, with their skill sets cancelling out to an extent, I see a highly-entertaining, three-round throwdown taking place with both putting the other in bad positions on the ground and getting marked up while standing. If one was a dominant wrestler or had even a clay jaw I might feel different, but I see them as being similar in a lot of ways with one of those characteristics being the ability to take punishment and keep on trucking.

Lambert: I actually think Penn will finish Diaz in the first round. Yes Diaz is tough to finish, but he’s also a pretty flawed fighter and hasn’t fought a guy with the killer instinct of Penn. Because he throws so many punches, stands rather flat, and doesn’t move his head, Diaz is always open for counter punches and Penn is one of the best counter punches in the sport. Penn has very heavy hands and even though Diaz has a great chin/ability to recover, Penn won’t let him off the hook if he drops him like previous opponents. Plus, if he wants to, Penn can put Diaz on his back and work his second to none top game.

Where would you rank Ben Askren in the welterweight division should he defeat Jay Hieron?

Conlan: Somewhere in the 8-10 range. Hieron is no slouch, a veteran with great boxing and solid wrestling, but to be real he shouldn’t even be in the final after being wrongfully gifted a Split Decision win over Rick Hawn in last season’s tournament. Askren has beaten a number of apt adversaries, as would also be the case if he defeats Hieron, but he hasn’t faced any “Top 10” foes yet so it’s hard to know exactly know where he stacks up with the UFC’s hierarchy of 170 pounders.

Lambert: His lack of competition level hurts him but if he’s able to dominate Hieron like he’s dominated pretty much every opponent thus far with his wrestling, I’d definitely put him in the top 10. I hate rankings, which makes me wonder why I asked this question, but I think he matches up well against any welterweight in the world, including GSP. Unfortunately we won’t know how good he truly is until he faces UFC competition, which hopefully happens sometime next year.