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Grappling with Issues – 11/17/11

Is Cain Velasquez destined for a title-shot in 2012? Should the winner of this weekend’s main event between Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua jump Rashad Evans as #1 contender? Will Fedor Emelianenko‘s fight flop on PPV? Could UFC 139 mark the final time Wanderlei Silva steps into the ring?

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.

Will Cain Velasquez earn his second shot at the title in 2012?

Lambert: This is tough because you never know how things will play out with injuries, but I’m going to say that Cain might earn another title shot in 2012 though might not fight for the title until 2013. The way I see it, he’s going to need at least two wins before he gets another title shot, get through those fights healthy, and hope the champion is also healthy during that stretch as well. I’m just not convinced that will happen, especially given how the bug has gone around the UFC this past year.

Conlan: Yes. If recent history has shown us anything it’s that a guy like Velasquez, who has been hyped to death as an uber-talented fan-favorite, only needs to win a single time before receiving another crack at the championship. Brock Lesnar got fast-tracked to one, as will Chael Sonnen apparently, so why wouldn’t Velasquez too as long as he picks up a win over a reputable contender like Cheick Kongo, the winner of Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, or even the loser of Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem (all of whom I could see him beating)?

True or False – You knew there was a Strikeforce Challengers event Friday night before reading this line.

Lambert: True, but only because I put the MMA on TV schedule together every Sunday, which allows me to know every MMA event, no matter how small, that ends up on television. That said, I can’t tell you who is fighting other than Antwain Britt, Ronda Rousey, and Derek Brunson, and I know that none of them are fighting each other. Of course I’ll watch it, but it’s pretty clear that Strikeforce is dead in the water and the Challengers series has been dead for awhile now.

Conlan: Also true, though with an added caveat in line with Lambert’s in that I wrote something earlier this week blasting Strikeforce for the lack of promotion where Challengers events are concerned. For whatever reasons, the company has ignored basic, simple marketing strategies like sending out press releases or holding conference calls. Last week there was a single original article on the Strikeforce website selling the event and literally 3/50+ Tweets mentioned the actual event. The Strikeforce Challengers Series could be used as an excellent tool to introduce up-and-coming fighters, much like WEC was, yet for whatever reason Zuffa chooses to bury it through their relative indifference. It’s truly no wonder the shows have been tanking as of late.

Do you expect Wanderlei Silva to retire if he loses to Cung Le at UFC 139?

Lambert: Should he? Yes. Do I expect him to? No. This is an extremely winnable fight for Silva because, lets face it, Le isn’t all that great of a fighter. He’s very flashy and has entertaining fights but he hasn’t fought good competition and he’s almost exclusively a kicker. If Silva loses, and even worse gets knocked out, it’ll pretty much signal the end for him as a competitive fighter. That doesn’t mean he’ll retire though. Given Silva’s mentality, he’ll want to keep fighting until he can’t walk and if UFC wants nothing more to do with him after Saturday, he can always head back to Japan.

Conlan: No, not in the least bit. Silva himself has said he feels healthy and wants to keep fighting, explaining in a conference call this week that every fighter gets caught, citing Velasquez’s loss to Junior dos Santos, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for that particular athlete. Like Lambert, I can absolutely see Silva wowing the fans in Japan putting dents in a few tomato cans even if the UFC refuses to let him grace the Octagon ever again.

Should the winner of “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson jump Rashad Evans for a title-shot?

Conlan: Should – no. Will – yes. Since “Sugar” ‘Shad hasn’t been booked for a bout yet he’ll essentially be in the same position as Rua/Henderson as far as being ready for Jon Jones/Lyoto Machida in the first quarter of 2012 and he’s been in line for another crack at a championship since last year. The primary difference will relate to activity since Rua/Henderson have fought more frequently in 2011, in part due to Evans’ decision to wait for an injured “Shogun” to recover only to ultimately get hurt himself. The notion Evans fought in August after fifteen months off and would be sidelined for another 4-6 months while waiting for his crack at the belt probably won’t sit well with Zuffa brass, hence the reason the winner of this weekend’s main event will draw a title-shot next rather than Rashad.

Lambert: I have to agree with Bren. The winner of Rua and Henderson shouldn’t jump Rashad, but they most likely will. We know Dana is great at holding grudges and I think he holds a huge grudge against Evans for waiting for his title shot. Why else would he have Rashad fight in August when Jones was ready to fight in September or why else would he have Jones fight at UFC 140 when Rashad was ready to fight at UFC 141? It’s not like the winner of Shogun vs. Hendo wouldn’t be deserving, although if Shogun wins I’m not sure how many fans will be clamoring for a third bout against Machida or a second bout with Jones given how their previous fights went.

Over/Under – 25,000 buys for M-1: Fedor vs. Monson…

Conlan: I don’t know a ton about buyrates but I’ll say “under” because, as I recall, Affliction was happy to draw 100,000 and they had the added benefit of MMA’s popularity skyrocketing, the hype of their brand, a much better card, and a start-time more conducive to watching MMA than watching the sun rise. There is nothing appealing about M-1’s offering, even in the context of Emelianenko having lost his last three fights and taking on a solid but not necessarily “sexy” opponent, so I have a hard time believing more than a few thousand people will bite the bullet to watch things live on PPV at the crack of dawn rather than wake up at a normal time and rely on the internet for results/video. Of course, I know my counterpart in this argument will be one of them…

Lambert: Amazingly, I won’t be purchasing this PPV, because according to my cable provider, this PPV isn’t even available for me to purchase. I strongly believe that this event will be lucky to do 100 buys. Not only does it not appear to be available to all cable subscribers, but, as Bren mentioned, the time slot (7AM EST on a Sunday) is an absolutely terrible time slot given that people like to sleep in on Sunday or, if they do get up early, it’s probably because they’re heading to church. Furthermore, it’s coming on the same weekend as UFC 139 and WWE Survivor Series, so if you’re a person that can only afford one PPV a month, you’re definitely choosing one of those two over M-1. And normally a WWE PPV wouldn’t take away from a MMA PPV, but because Survivor Series marks the wrestling return of “The Rock”, that’s one PPV that could take away buys from not only M-1, but UFC as well.

Will Eddie Alvarez retain his Bellator lightweight title this weekend against Mike Chandler?

Conlan: Yes, though I can see Chandler going five rounds against him based on mental toughness and a wrestling base opening up the possibility of stalling on the ground to recover if needed. In my eyes Alvarez is easily a “Top 5” lightweight, while Chandler may be there one day but is still polishing his game rather than entering his prime. Alvarez has handled grapplers before and his boxing is some of the best in the sport. It should be a great fight for sure but one with Alvarez ultimately exiting the ring as champion.

Lambert: I’m giving Chandler a better chance than most because I think Alvarez is a flawed fighter, especially on his feet where everyone praises him, but at the end of the day, Alvarez is the better fighter. He’s well rounded and should be able to stuff the takedowns of Chandler. He’s actually vulnerable on the feet because he’s not a good defensive striker, gets hit a lot, and his chin is a bit questionable, although he does recover well. If Chandler can mix things up, score some takedowns, and keep Alvarez off balance on the feet then I like his chances but I think Alvarez’ experience will pay off and he’ll take a highly competitive decision.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC