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Grappling with Issues – 11/10/11

Can Cain Velasquez last five rounds with Junior dos Santos? What would it take for Mark Munoz to get a title-shot? How do you see this weekend’s Bellator finals going down? Is Renan Barao a better option for contendership than Urijah Faber?

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.

After his win over Brad Pickett, should Renan Barao leapfrog Urijah Faber in the contendership picture if “The California Kid” defeats Brian Bowles at UFC 139?

Lambert: No, and honestly, I’m getting a little annoyed at the people who are suggesting it. While Barao’s win was very impressive, lets put it in perspective. He beat Brad Pickett, who no one considered a top 10 bantamweight, and people are only bringing this up because it was the co-main event on an extremely weak card. If this was a Facebook prelim, which it would have been on any other major UFC event, no one would be talking about Barao facing Dominick Cruz in his next fight. I take nothing away from Barao, he did what he needed to do, but he needs at least one more win over a top fighter before I’m ready to see him fight Cruz.

Furthermore, UFC is a business and Barao vs. Cruz is destined to be a headlining fight on FX while Cruz vs. Faber could headline a PPV.

Conlan: Yes, he should. The only truly valid point in Lambert’s response has to do with the marketability of Cruz/Barao in comparison to Cruz/Faber (though I don’t think it could headline a PPV, only co-headline one). Beyond that, a lot people actually did have Pickett among their “Top 10” bantamweights prior to this past weekend as he’d won ten of eleven coming into UFC 138 with a decision loss to Scott Jorgensen being his only stumble. Also take into consideration Barao has won 27 straight fights, has an entertaining style, and tends to finish opponents more often than not.

Faber, on the other hand, will have won a single fight since losing to Cruz at UFC 132.

There’s no reason the UFC should risk Barao’s streak against a guy like Demetrious Johnson or Miguel Torres when they could slot him into a bout with Cruz if Faber takes Bowles out next Saturday night. On the flipside, if Bowles comes out with the “W” and avoids pulverizing one of his paws, it’s all a moot point since he lost his title to “The Dominator” due to injury rather than actually being beaten and has already triumphed in two fights since.

What, if anything, would it take for you to consider Mark Munoz the top challenger to Anderson Silva’s title?

Lambert: A better post-fight interview. That was the softest challenge of a champion I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying Munoz needed to be Nick Diaz or Chael Sonnen, but at least act like you’re actually interested in beating the guy up. While Munoz’ victory was impressive, I was less interested in a potential fight between him and “The Spider” after he spoke with Joe Rogan.

That aside, Munoz needs another win over a top contender. If Michael Bisping beats Jason Miller, Munoz vs. Bisping would be a good #1 contender fight and there’d be a nice little story there since Miller and Munoz train together.

Conlan: Tremendous answer! Munoz was absolutely a bit too apologetic in calling Silva out and didn’t do his cause a lot of good because of it. It was actually symptomatic of his lack of microphone skills in general, something I noticed while watching a number of pre-fight interviews with the “Filipino Wrecking Machine”.

For me it would take another big win to cap off his current run. Bisping would be a solid option if he beats Miller, while others could include the winner of Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson, Wanderlei Silva if he gets by Cung Le, or even Brian Stann. Plus, with all signs pointing to the middleweight champ facing Sonnen in February it doesn’t seem like Munoz has any other route to take than agreeing to another bout anyways.

Other than the obvious, what Facebook fight attached to UFC on FOX 1 should fans make it a point to tune in for?

Lambert: I’m assuming the obvious Facebook fight is Alex Caceres vs. Cole Escovedo. Right?

I know Bren is going to Pablo Garza vs. Dustin Poirier because I can read his mind, so I’ll leave that one to him and go with Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Darren Uyenoyama. I realize that I’m still living in the past with wanting “Kid” to be a threat in his division, but I don’t care. I always hold out hope for the older/more banged up fighters to return to form because it just makes for a good story. Plus, this is a winnable fight for Yamamoto. It’s not like Uyenoyama is a world beater, he hasn’t been all that active over the years, and he’ll be making his UFC debut.

Conlan: I did say, “other than the obvious”, didn’t I? Poirier/Garza should already be locked into the collective conscious of fans and shame on you if you aren’t among that group!

I’m actually going to go with DaMarques Johnson vs. Clay Harvison. Both are on the cusp of getting cut, so they have more to fight for than just a paycheck, and some form of stoppage almost seems to be a guarantee when considering nineteen of their twenty-one combined victories have involved a submission/TKO. They’re also well-rounded when it comes to finishing things off meaning the end could come at any time and from any position. Finally, each guy has a colorful personality and an interesting backstory, and the UFC’s elite club could always use more members with those qualities in addition to a genuine love of fighting.

Is Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos more likely to last one round or five rounds?

Conlan: Five. Both men understand what’s on the line and have an immense amount of respect for each other. I think the probability is high relating to the likelihood of some “feeling out” in the beginning, especially with both being boxers more so than brawlers. I also think Velasquez will be looking to take Dos Santos down rather than stand and bang it out, another factor making me believe this weekend’s historic title-fight will last longer than five minutes.

Lambert: If JDS wins, it’s more likely to go one round. If Velasquez wins, it’s more likely to go five. Since I’m picking Velasquez to win, and win by decision, I’m obviously under the belief that it’ll go five rounds. I could definitely see JDS catching Cain early though, especially if Cain shows any kind of rust after his 13 month layoff. If Cain can’t find his rhythm early or takes a sloppy shot, JDS has the power and timing to tag him right on the chin. And while I think Cain has a great chin and ability to recover, if JDS has him rocked, he’s not going to fold like Kongo did.

That said, I think Cain is able to shake off the rust almost immediately, use his wrestling and activity to grind out JDS along the cage and on the ground in the first couple of rounds, and then really turn it up in the late rounds with his superior cardio.

Who wins the two Bellator tournament finals this weekend?

Conlan: On the middleweight side I think Alexander Shlemenko is a lock to earn another showdown with Hector Lombard. No disrespect to Vitor Vianna, but Shlemenko is a cold-blooded killer in the ring. He has a ton of experience and can finish things from any position.

With the welterweights it’s a much harder fight to pick, as both Ben Saunders and Douglas Lima have a lot going for them and well-rounded arsenals to work with as well. The coin I just flipped tells me Saunders will take home the six-figure paycheck and title-shot in the end. He’s been in the zone as of late and Lima, while dominant, has been hurt a few times in the tournament and may not get a chance to make another comeback if “Killa B” stings him with a few knees.

Lambert: I’ve been riding with Saunders ever since the tournament was announced, so I can’t back away from that now. While Lima has looked impressive in his tournament run, I think Saunders is the more talented fighter and has been on fire since being cut by the UFC. While he’s always had good stand up, I was most impressed with fight against Luis Santos, where he attacked off his back and showed off a rubber guard that even had Eddie Bravo applauding.

I always seem to want to pick against Shlemenko and I’m done doing that, which probably means he’ll lose this Saturday. Vianna showed a lot in stopping Bryan Baker, but Shlemenko has a hell of a chin and never stops moving and spinning forward. If Vianna is able to get the fight to the ground, I think he can win this bout, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle the pressure of “Storm” and he’ll eventually fold.

Closer to a UFC return after Saturday’s performance: Andrei Arlovski or Tim Sylvia?

Conlan: Sylvia. While Arlovski’s win came in a more-convincing fashion and Sylvia put the “yack” in “The Maine-iac”, Tim-meh is 6-1 in his last seven fights and hasn’t ended up nose down on the canvas with nearly the frequency Arlovski has. The UFC shies away from glass jaws when possible, seeing them as the end of a fighter’s career, and Arlovski’s chin seems to be made out of Ming Dynasty Porcelain based on his recent history. The 35-year old is also actively lobbying for a return through media and Twitter which can’t hurt his cause either.

Lambert: Can I plead the fifth? I think the answer is Sylvia because when he’s in shape, he can be a competitive heavyweight and a guy who draws a reaction, even though that reaction is usually negative. While Arlovski’s chin is obviously a huge question, I’m more concerned with the fact that he’s turned into an extremely boring fighter in his last couple of fights. He might be more boring than Sylvia right now, which is really saying something. I say have Arlovski and Sylvia fight each other and then bring the winner back to fight the loser of Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem. Make it happen Joe Silva!


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