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Grappling with Issues – 12/2/11

Should Chris Leben have been released after failing another drug test? Who do you see coming away with an Ultimate Fighter Season 14 trophy? Does Michael Bisping deserve a title-shot if he beats Jason Miller? What was your favorite moment of Bellator Season 5?

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.

Would you have cut Chris Leben after his latest run-in with drug/alcohol abuse?

Lambert: No, I would get him some help. Leben has never been the most mentally stable person and even though we hear stories about how he’s doing better and how he’s turned his life around. I think being popped for pain killers proves that to be false. Painkiller addiction is a serious problem and one that Leben hopefully beats. To beat that though, he’ll need to go to some sort of counseling, not only for his addiction but for all the other problems that he’s had throughout his life. This isn’t a one off with Leben like it is with other guys. It’s clear that he needs help in his life and I hope UFC officials push him into taking the right steps to truly turn his life around.

Conlan:No, though I would have made him fully aware that any other drug-related transgression such would result in his immediate termination (even a DWI or public intoxication). I might even consider implementing internal testing because the UFC is putting itself at risk of being considered an enabler. Like Jeremy said, Leben needs help and the UFC needs to reach out and give it to him if nobody else will because he clearly can’t do it on his own.

The reality is the UFC has some culpability in the situation because they’ve created an environment where things that would result in most folks being fired don’t have long-term repercussions. They need to be cognizant of the perception it creates, the responsibility they have as his employer, and understand the company/sport could suffer a major blow to their reputation if Leben slips up again to the point someone’s life is dramatically affected whether his own, a friend/family member, or even an innocent victim.

On a scale from 1-10 (ten being the best), how would you rate TUF 14?

Lambert: I guess I’ll say a 7 or 8. Honestly though, despite watching every episode and even doing the live blog for the site, I almost immediately forget about the show and what happened on it after it goes off air and never think about it again until the following week. This hasn’t been a bad season though. I can’t really remember a bad fight, there have been some funny pranks and lines, and the coaches have built a nice rivalry. So it’s been a fine season, but the show ran its course for me a long time ago and now it’s something that I watch mainly because I need and have to, not because I really want to.

Conlan: I’d go in the 7-8 range as well for the reasons Lambert listed, though I won’t go as far as to say I’m jaded to the point I don’t still enjoy the show. I like learning about what makes fighters tick and can always appreciate a good throwdown. I appreciated the qualifying round being set inside Mandalay Bay and the frenetic pace set by most. The fighters were talented, many of whom I can see sticking around the UFC (especially once flyweight is opened up) for the next few years, and the coaches’ personalities made for an entertaining season. All in all a solid way to close out TUF on Spike TV.

TRUE/FALSE – Michael Bisping should get a title-shot if he beats Jason Miller at the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale?

Lambert: FALSE. Unless the winner of Mark Munoz vs. Chael Sonnen goes down with an injury, they’re pretty much guaranteed to get the next crack at Anderson Silva. My guess is that Bisping, should he beat Miller, will face the winner of Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson. UFC usually holds a show in England at the end of the year, so if Bisping keeps winning and the timing works out, we could see “The Count” challenging for the title in his home country at the end of 2012.

Conlan: FALSE, but only because Silva is expected to be out until June and Bisping needs to stay active. I definitely think a fourth straight win coupled with the marketability of the match-up is enough to merit a title-shot for Bisping, at least in the context of UFC criteria, and I know a lot of people who would buy the PPV just in hopes of seeing “The Count” get knocked silly. However, Bisping was out for a major chunk of time in 2011 due to TUF 14 and I don’t want the same to be true in 2012. As such, I’d put him up against Sonnen or Munoz (the former has implied he’s already lined up for the winner of Bisping/Miller) and let that fight serve to determine the “lucky” individual who draws Silva in Brazil next summer.

Better chance of winning this weekend: TJ Dillashaw or Dennis Bermudez?

Conlan: Dillashaw. He has the fundamentals and wrestling to hang with John Dodson, plus a camp full of killers at Team Alpha Male, while Bermudez is facing an absolute beast in the form of Diego Brandao. Bryan Caraway, who is a solid grappler, couldn’t deal with the Brazilian’s fury despite repeated attempts to take him down and I see the same being true with Bermudez (a wrestler by trade).

Lambert: I think Dodson is a tougher match up for Dillashaw than Diego is for Dennis. I know Diego is a wild man with plenty of power but I’m still not sold on his cardio or ground game. I mean, the dude has a 13-7 record. It’s not like he’s some undefeated monster who no one has figured out. I think guys got it in their head that Diego couldn’t be beat and so they lost. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that was the case with Caraway. Dennis showed that he has a ton of heart and even if he starts slow, I think he can come back and win.

Besides Mike Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez, what was the most memorable moment from Bellator Season 5?

Conlan: Other than the ring-girl vs. ring-girl grappling sessions? Alexis Vila knocking out Joe Warren is right up there for sure. In the past Warren had always been able to overcome adversity, even landing a few highlight reel finishes along the way, but such was not to be when he ran into fellow Olympian Vila. Early into the fight Vila landed that beautiful left that sent Warren down to the canvas on his back, arms extended in the air, and that’s all she wrote on one of the greatest knockouts of 2011.

Lambert: Alright, I’m cheating here but I’m going to say the entire welterweight tournament. I realize that seven fights that spread across three events isn’t really a “moment” but this is my portion of the column and I’ll play by my own rules.

I thought the 170-pound tournament was fantastic from start to finish. We had some close fights in the early rounds and then the final three fights all ended in spectacular fashion, including the finals when Douglas Lima knocked out Ben Saunders. I know it’s tough to get behind these Bellator tournaments because they all scream “second rate” since UFC boasts the best fighters in the world, especially at 170, but this was a great tournament that showcased some lesser known fighters in MMA.

What UFC 144 fight featuring a Japanese fighter are you most looking forward to?

Conlan: Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski. There are some other good options but for my money Palaszewski’s pairing with Hioki is the cream of the crop. Both fighters are well-rounded, veteran competitors who are coming off big wins. The winner of this bout could be on the cusp of a title-shot, possibly even earning one depending on how things unfold for Hioki. I’d definitely see it as a “Fight of the Night” type match-up on most cards and would here too if the lineup didn’t boast Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar and Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon.

Lambert: Obviously I’m looking forward to the “greatest fighter in Japanese history,” Yushin Okami, fighting on the undercard against Tim Boetsch.

In all seriousness, I’m pretty excited for Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields because it’s a huge fight for both men. Akiyama, who hasn’t looked good at all in the UFC, is in desperate need of a win and is cutting down to 170 in order to find some success there while Shields, once considered the second best welterweight in the world, is in desperate need of a victory after dropping back to back fights. It’s a must-win fight for both guys and it’s very possible that it’ll be the only fight where the Japanese fans may actually favor the foreigner.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC