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Grappling with Issues 1/19/12

Is Jose Aldo destined for dominance in 2012? Have UFC fans seen the last of Anthony Johnson inside the Octagon? Who should Rousimar Palhares fight next? How big of an issue is “fighter pay” in the UFC?

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.

“Fighter pay” in the UFC is a small/big/non issue?

Lambert: It’s a small issue. If it were a big issue, I think we’d hear more about it from fighters, but it’s obviously not a non-issue since I’m sure fighters probably aren’t getting paid what they’re worth given how much time they put into the sport. The bigger issue is PEDs. Another fighter (Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal) got popped this week and now Zuffa is going to test every incoming fighter for PEDs. How about they test fighters already on the roster? Maybe it’ll prevent the new signings from not cheating (at least at first), but that doesn’t mean that guys who are already still employed won’t keep cheating.

Conlan: Agreed that the issue is relatively small and certainly not as inflated as ESPN’s recent report would have had viewers believe. I think Lorenzo Fertitta made a good point in the less-edited version of the network’s interview with him as far as saying you could go into any locker room, or any job for that matter, and find disgruntled employees who think they deserve more than they’re making. However, numerous fighters – even those who aren’t on the roster anymore like Sean McCorkle – have come out since the feature to back how the UFC handles pay and I’d rather listen to them than a bunch of anonymous sources or guys who haven’t been part of the company for 5+ years.

I’ll save my take on PED testing for a future GWI when it’s like, you know, the actual topic being discussed.

Will Anthony Johnson ever fight again inside the Octagon?

Lambert: I’m sure he will. Dana White has already said that he likes Johnson as a person, which never hurts, plus he was only missing weight. I know that’s a huge deal and completely unprofessional but he wasn’t using steroids, and plenty of guys who have been busted for steroids still compete in the Octagon. If Johnson takes some fights on smaller shows, proves he can make weight, and picks up some victories, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be brought back sooner or later.

Conlan: I think so too. “Rumble” is only 27 and, as Jeremy said, all he needs to do is show he can consistently avoid coming in heavy to earn another shot in the UFC. He might even want to consider making a permanent move to light heavyweight. At 6’2” with a physique chiseled from marble he certainly has the size to be a 205er and cutting 15-20 pounds instead of 30-40 pounds would keep his cardio on point (not to mention be a lot safer in terms of his long term health). Also, accepting he’s too big for 170/185 would provide an additional layer of comfort for his former employers in terms of bringing him back on board since there’s no question he can safely hit THAT mark.

More likely ending to Friday night’s headliner at UFC on FX – Jim Miller submits Melvin Guillard or Guillard knocks Miller out?

Lambert: Well, since I’m predicting Miller to win via submission, I’m gonna go with that one. Guillard has that one punch power, especially early in the fight, but he has a tendency to fade, while we know Miller can keep up a high pace for all fifteen minutes. Plus, it’s not like Guillard has an outstanding chin and Miller does have power in his hands. If Miller can rock Guillard like Joe Stevenson or Joe Lauzon did, he may end up locking on a submission without securing a takedown.

Conlan: Without question the first scenario. Miller has three losses, all by way of decision. Guillard has nine losses, eight by way of submission (including all five of his defeats in the Octagon). Granted, Miller hasn’t faced a striker with Guillard’s power but he’s definitely faced opponents with more-than adequate stand-up like Bart Palaszewski and Duane Ludwig.

Will Jose Aldo lose in 2012?

Conlan: No, at least so long as he remains at 145 pounds since he’s unproven as a lightweight. There aren’t any dominant contenders looming on the horizon and the challengers that are out there aren’t at a significantly higher skill level than any opponent Aldo’s beaten already. Sure, he could get clipped behind the ear a la Georges St. Pierre-Matt Serra or shred his knee mid-round like Patrick Cote, but outside of some sort of freakish occurrence taking place I think Aldo’s incredible win streak will continue throughout the rest of the year.

Lambert: I would say not. Aldo has some tough fights at 145, like the Hatsu Hioki vs. Palaszewski winner or Dustin Poirier, but I don’t like the chances of any of those three fighters against Aldo. Even if he moves to 155, he stated he’ll only move up for a title shot, and given his skills, I don’t think it’s all that farfetched to say that Aldo could beat Frankie Edgar, Ben Henderson, or whoever the lightweight champ may be later this year. Though, if I had to design a perfect fighter to beat the current featherweight champion, it would be whoever he faces next.

Play UFC Matchmaker Joe Silva and book Rousimar Palhares’ next fight.

Conlan: The UFC is certainly set on that front given their January 28 lineup on FOX. Palhares, who just fought himself and will be ready to go in a few months, would be perfect for either the loser of Michael Bisping-Chael Sonnen or winner of Demian Maia-Chris Weidman. Since I see Sonnen and Weidman coming out of the show with a freshly printed “W” next to their names I’ll go with Bisping who certainly has the striking to take out Palhares but lacks the ground-game to fend off the powerful Brazilian’s BJJ-based attacks.

Lambert: I’ll be extremely cruel and say Mark Munoz. What better way to welcome a guy back from a knee injury than to have him face Palhares? Alright, even though that would be a terrible “welcome back” gift for Munoz, it is a fight that would make sense. Palhares obviously needs a step up in competition and Munoz isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

Is Pat Barry fighting for his job at UFC on FX 1?

Conlan: 100% yes. As entertaining as Barry’s personality and style may be a loss to Christian Morecraft would make him 3-5 inside the Octagon and that simply doesn’t cut it, especially when you’re looking at an undersized heavyweight whose BJJ/wrestling are subpar in comparison to most of his peers.

Lambert: I think he is, but I’m not willing to go 100% like Bren. Going 3-5 in the octagon doesn’t cut it, but all the higher-ups in the UFC love Barry because of his charisma and the fact that his fights, win or lose, are usually entertaining for as long as they last. Plus, even with the addition of the Strikeforce big guys, the heavyweight division is still pretty shallow and Barry, while obviously not a world beater, is a serviceable heavyweight who has some name value.


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