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Grappling with Issues – 12/30/11

Is Alistair Overeem more/less likely than Brock Lesnar to beat Junior dos Santos? Will tonight’s UFC 141 main event last longer than a round? Should Donald Cerrone get a title-shot if he beats Nate Diaz? Is there a potential match-up in 2012 you’re looking forward to more than any other?

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.

Enjoy this weekend’s year-ending MMA action and have a safe, fun-filled New Year’s Eve!

Name a fighter you see as being poised for a huge year in 2012.

Lambert: Carlos Condit. I’m a big fan of Condit and everything is set up for him to have a big 2012 as long as he takes care of business in the cage. He’s already fighting for the interim welterweight title in February against Nick Diaz. Even though Diaz is as tough as they come, Condit is equally as tough and matches up pretty well with the former Strikeforce 170-pound champion. If he defeats Diaz, he’ll fight Georges St. Pierre, who will be coming off a very long lay-off and major knee surgery. If there’s ever a time for GSP to show a weakness, it’ll be in his return bout considering he could be very tentative and rusty, and Condit has the tools to capitalize on those openings and make GSP pay. Those two victories alone would make for a good 2012 for “The Natural Born Killer.”

Conlan: Though obviously this topic requires one to look into a proverbial crystal ball I can’t agree with Lambert’s pick because I’m far from confident in Condit’s ability to get by Diaz or GSP.

Rather, I’ll go with Jon Jones who would be hard-pressed to top these past twelve months but could certainly match the span by picking up wins over Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans, and possibly an undersized heavyweight like Cain Velasquez or even a certain middleweight champion (which I’ll talk about more in a different topic) while the 205-pound division sorts itself out. With Jones’ personality, professionalism, success, and skill-set, he could easily crossover into “mainstream star” territory in 2012 with a few more convincing victories. Sure, “Bones” is certain to face high-caliber opponents making another unbeaten year a difficult task but it is equally tough to pick against his ability to successfully do so given the dominance he’s displayed in his career.

TRUE/FALSE – Donald Cerrone will get a title-shot if he beats Nate Diaz at UFC 141.

Lambert: The only reason Cerrone wouldn’t get a title shot is if UFC feels there’s someone more deserving than him, but I can’t think of anyone who would be. The guys who were in line for a potential title shot all lost recently and the only upcoming lightweight fight between two guys who are near the top of the division is Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon, but I think Cerrone has better credentials than those two. With a victory over Diaz, “Cowboy” would be on a seven fight win streak with wins over some very good fighters. His only losses are to Jamie Varner (controversial and avenged) and Ben Henderson (twice), but if you don’t want to see Cerrone vs. Henderson 3 (pending Henderson beating Frankie Edgar) then stop reading, because their first fight was one of the best fights of 2009 and both guys have improved a ton since then.

The only way I don’t see Cerrone getting a title shot is if UFC smartens up and brings over Gilbert Melendez, in which case “Cowboy” would have to take the back saddle.

Conlan: I think I’ll take Jeremy’s lead and run with it!

“Cowboy” will almost certainly mosey on down to the ol’ contendership corral if he takes Diaz out in their duel. He’s tough as two-dollar leather, polished as a preacher’s cross, and reacts like a riled up rattlesnake. Cerrone is not one to strike first but disregard his warnings after coming across his path and you’re likely to get bit.

Beyond that, my pardner ‘round these parts has covered the rest of it as though he was the sun on a cloudless day shining down upon the Texas plains. I don’t see Melendez riding into town anytime soon and another showdown at high noon between Cerrone-Henderson, or a fresh rival in Edgar, would both be welcome viewing on the Conlan Ranch.

Who has a better chance against Junior dos Santos – Brock Lesnar or Alistair Overeem?

Lambert: Lesnar. I don’t really like either guy’s chances against JDS, but at least Lesnar has the wrestling credentials to worry the champion and, if he’s now 100% healthy, should be in great shape to test the cardio of Dos Santos. Overeem is a very accomplished striker, but I actually think JDS is a better boxer and if Overeem tries to employ leg kicks, he’ll leave himself open for counters, and JDS has great timing on countering kicks. Plus Overeem’s cardio and chin/heart are always a question. Lesnar might not react well to getting hit, but he has tremendous heart and has never been cleanly KO’d.

Conlan: I’m also going with Lesnar. I favor Dos Santos’ striking in comparison to Overeem’s based on precision/speed, while Lesnar’s wrestling could at least make it interesting. There’s always the chance Overeem could land a night-ending power punch (or kick) but I think that’s less likely than Lesnar getting a takedown, then pounding on the affable Brazilian until the referee jumps in.

OVER/UNDER – Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem will last seven minutes.

Conlan: UNDER (by about five minutes). I expect both men to come out and immediately implement their game-plans. Regardless of who is more successful, don’t trust Lesnar’s chin to absorb any of Overeem’s strikes nor do I believe Overeem can weather the storm if he ends up on his back. As such I see a quick finish in the fight’s future but a glorious one all the same.

Lambert: OVER, but just slightly. Even though I think the fight will be more or less decided in the first minute or so, I think it’ll be kind of a cautious first round. If Lesnar gets the takedown, I think he’ll take his time and not want to go all crazy with his strikes. If Lesnar doesn’t get the takedown, Overeem will likely stay patient on the feet because over-committing to his strikes could lead to a takedown. After the first round though, Overeem will either be so tired that Lesnar should be able to put him away on the ground or Lesnar will be so discouraged that Overeem will open up more, which should allow him to put Lesnar away.

Who will win the DREAM Bantamweight Grand Prix on New Years Eve?

Conlan: Part of me wants to go with Rodolfo Marques Diniz because he has past wins over legends like Carlos Carlos and Ralph Lauren but I actually think his opponent, Bibiano Fernandes, has the best chance. He’s beaten some solid opposition in the past and won multiple fights in a single evening before. He also has an easier route to the final in Diaz than is the case between Masakazu Imanari-Antonio Banuelos so theoretically he’ll be dealing with less damage than whoever comes out of that clash.

Lambert: I have to echo Bren’s comment here. In these one night tournaments, it’s all about staying fresh after your first fight, and if things go the way we most people predict they will, Fernandes should have little trouble with Diniz while Banuelos vs. Imanari could very likely go to a decision given the grappling of both men. Even if it wasn’t a one night tournament though, I do believe that “Bibi” is the most talented bantamweight of the four.

What potential fight you’re most looking forward to in 2012?

Conlan: Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva. Hey, a boy can dream, right? If Jones and Silva pick up a pair of wins each in 2012 they could be in a position to face off in a legitimate “super-fight” on New Year’s Eve Weekend. Also, lately Dana White has been pushing more and more for the bout to eventually take place if both men keep going at their current pace, so that in itself is a good indicator of the match-up’s probability.

If forced to go with something a little more grounded in reality I’ll say St. Pierre vs. the winner of Condit-Diaz for obvious reasons.

Lambert: Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva 2. Like it or not, Sonnen has been Silva’s toughest opponent to date and really the only man who has made Silva look human for the majority of the fight. Sonnen looked very impressive in his victory over Brian Stann and if he’s able to out-wrestle a guy like Mark Munoz, it’ll give him more merit to a rematch. Plus Sonnen will continue to be a quote machine leading up to the fight in his efforts to get under the skin of Silva.