Welcome to a special edition of the Duel. This week I have the pleasure of introducing the founder of a website titled “Five Ounces of Pain,” Mr. Sam Caplan. On the other side we have Dann from mmajunkie. It truly is a battle of titans. Let us duel:
1. It’s time for Evan Tanner to call it a career.
Caplan: TRUE. Watching Evan Tanner absorb a sustained pummeling from Kendall Grove was too much to bare this past Saturday. I’m typically not one to say a fighter needs to retire, but when Grove hit his second jumping knee to the middle of Tanner’s mush, I said enough is enough. At 37, it’s very difficult for a fighter to compete at an elite level. It’s not impossible to do, but someone such as Tanner doesn’t strike me as someone who has adopted a lifestyle that would lead to longevity. By his own admissions, Tanner has partied hard. He’s had a good run, but his peak took place during a time in the sport where salaries weren’t what they are now. He’s not going to get back what he lost and I fear that he’s hanging on for no other reason than he has no other way to generate income.
Junkie: FALSE. My man Sam is correct; Tanner’s 37-year-old body has been through a lot of abuse. As a very big Tanner fan, it was also difficult to watch his recent fight with Grove, though I commend him for going the distance. However, as someone who reads Tanner’s blogs and has been along for his rides into self-abuse, I know that Tanner needs MMA. The structure of training and competition seems to be his best medicine. It gets him focused and working toward a goal, which so far, seems to have kept him away from the bottle and many of his self-destructive tendancies. I doubt he’ll be a contender again, but he can still put up a good fight. I don’t think it’s simply about the paychecks at this point. So whether it’s with the UFC or another organization that could find him fair match-ups and market him well (Affliction and Strikeforce come to mind), Tanner probably still has some fights left him in. Fans just need to remember that he’s not the fighter he was five years ago.
My Five Cents: Good points. I was going to say true but as a huge Tanner fan Junkie is right about MMA being his best medicine. Getting beat up might actually be better for him than anything else he’d fall into.
2. The judge who scored the fight for Tanner was possibly related to Evan Tanner. More broadly, something should be done (better training, punishments, etc) to address MMA scoring problems before it turns into boxing.
Caplan: TRUE?. Huckaby, my friend, how the hell do I answer this with a “yes” or a “no” or a “true” or a “false?” Obviously Al Lefkowitz needs to be reprimanded. Maybe I could understand giving Tanner the first round and scoring it 29-28 in favor of Grove. But how the hell do you make a case for giving either the second or third round to Tanner? I mean, another judge scored it 30-26 in favor of Grove! How do you explain such adiscrepancy? Letkowitz got it wrong and his performances from this point forward need to be evaluated with great scrutiny. If he does something like this again, he should be limited to doing smaller shows and kept off UFC events. The NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL are constantly evaluating their officials. They grade their performances on a game-by-game basis so that at the end of the season they know who deserves post-season assignments and who needs to be replaced. This needs to happen in MMA, but it won’t because being a judge or a referee in MMA or boxing is abureaucratic position. You don’t get to be a judge or a referee in MMA unless you know someone on the commission. I can’t say that I have too big of an issue with that on the surface, because if I was in charge, I’d want to assign people as judges and referees that I knew had the aptitude to get the job done. But what happens is that someone they feel a sense of loyalty to starts messing up and it’s difficult to reprimand that person. I’m afraid it’s up to the Internet to keep the commissions accountable and force transparency when it comes to judges and referees. It’s hard to brush an egregious error aside if people are screaming bloody murder for a prolonged duration.
Junkie: TRUE. (To the part about something needing to be done, anyway). As much as the hardcores have complained about that decision, I’m surprised it hasn’t been a bigger issue and discussion point in the MMA community. It’s absolutely baffling how anyone could score that fight in Tanner’s favor. However, I really disagree with something Sam said: “If he does something like this again, he should be limited to doing smaller shows and kept off UFC events.” No, no, no. If Lefkowitz screws up like that again, he should never be allowed near an MMA fight again. I don’t care if it’s the UFC or some backroom-bar league; every fighter deserves competent judges. In fact, you could make the argument that it’s even more important for the young guys and up-and-comers who are looking for a big break. No one should have to endure the incompetency of someone who’s not cut out for the job. However, I do agree with Sam that the there needs to be accountability and evaluation of judges like they do in other major sports. But honestly, I don’t ever see it happening so long as state commissions supply the officials. As much as people would complain about organizations employing their own judges, at least they could then be held accountable and evaluated after each event. So when Michael Bisping is declared the winner over Matt Hamill, or when Clay Guida is awarded a split decision over Marcus Aurelio because one judge is off his rocker, at least something could be done about it.
My Five Cents: Well played. Something must be done; the age old rule that if you know an official’s name they messed something up is very true. Outside of McCarthy perhaps, you only notice the officials in MMA when there is a backlash. It doesn’t seem as though the commissions are doing anything to better inform their refs or hold them to a standard. How you both got through that without referencing Cecil Peoples is beyond me but admirable.
3. Josh Thomson will leave Friday night’s Strikeforce event victorious over Gilbert Melendez.
Caplan: FALSE. HELLO TO THE NO. Thomson is a GOOD lightweight. Melendez is GREAT. This Friday we will get to see the difference between a top-20 lightweight and a top-five lightweight. It’s going to be a good fight and one that I am looking forward to, but in the end, Thomson is just going to be outgunned. Thomson is a good wrestler with decent submissions but Melendez is black belt caliber when it comes to jiu-jitsu. Also, Melendez’s frenetic striking style will prove to be too much for Thomson to take.
Junkie: FALSE. (But I’m not so convinced that I’m going to start rhyming my prediction.) I do think Melendez is as a higher level than Thomson, but I don’t think the gap is especially huge — normally, anyway. However, with Thomson admittedly not 100 percent because of his shoulder injury, and with his nine-month layoff from competition, I just think Melendez will be too much for him. Melendez is going to win this fight with strikes, and when Thomson finally does try to take it to the ground, his shoulder is going to make it near-impossible. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing is determined in the fourth or fifth round.
My Five Cents: I’m personally not seeing a beatdown and I’m actually giving Thomson a % chance of beating Melendez. Though good note about the disclosed injury.
—-SWITCH IT UP—-
4. KJ Noons will repeat history and again stop Nick Diaz.
Junkie: TRUE. *Gasp!* I know, I know. OK, here’s why. Noons hits very hard. Everyone knows he’s done some professional boxing, yet I think people have overlooked the power he can get behind some of his punches. With the very real feud between these two guys, I think Diaz is going to want to beat Noons at his own game (and we saw how that worked out the first time they fought). In fact, Noons has been knocked out just once in 17 professional MMA and boxing fights — and that was to hard-hitting Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett. Diaz is a well-rounded fighter, but I don’t think he has the knockout power that’s needed. If I honestly, truly thought Diaz would try to get this fight to the ground, I’d give him the edge. But I don’t see that happening. Also, despite having surgery for his scar tissue, Diaz still cut easily in his fight with Muhsin Corbbrey. I see Noons getting the win via decision or, once again, via TKO due to cuts.
Caplan: TRUE. The name of this game is to score points by making compelling arguments. I should play devil’s advocate here, but I can’t fake it. K.J. Noons will not only win the rematch, but there’s a chance he could finish Diaz in the first round this time. Diaz is not helping himself by fighting so frequently and in two separate weight classes. He apparently is in some race against time, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because if his weight keeps yo-yo’ing this frequently, he’ll be shot by 32. The big problem for Diaz is that his transition game is not good enough. He doesn’t have much punching power, but he’s still a good combination puncher who can score points with his fists. On the ground? We all know he’s a Cesar Gracie black belt. But there’s more to being good as MMA than just having standup and ground credentials. You need to have the middle game so you can transition from the ground to standup and vice versa. Diaz uses old school trip takedowns that aren’t going to fool anyone in this day and age that has some semblance of a takedown defense. He doesn’t have the leg attacking ability needed to take a fight where he needs it to go. So the reality is, Diaz might be a dual-threat, but because he doesn’t have the transition game, it’s fairly easy for a highly-skilled opponent to impose their will on him. And while Noons can’t hang with Diaz on the ground, he doesn’t have to worry since the fight will start on the feet — which is where Noons will end it in round 1.
My Five Cents: I can’t believe all three of us have the same unpopular opinion. Though what scares me is the Bennett fight was the only other fight for Noons where there was trash talk and animosity. I hate to say this but if Noons were to lose he’d be undefeated except in fights where he really wanted and needed to win. I won’t use the word people on ESPN use for that circumstance but you know the one. And 10pts to Caplan for using the word “dual” in the Duel.
5. Be it voluntary or involuntary, Josh Burkman would benefit from more experience before returning to the UFC.
Junkie: FALSE. Beating up a bunch of nobodies isn’t going to help Burkman. In fact, I think one of his biggest problems is that he thinks he can simply overpower his opponents. Pit him against some B-level talent, and that game plan will work — and he’ll fall right back into that bad habit. As we saw with Dustin Hazelett, an experienced opponent can simply absorb Burkman’s shots and set up submissions during the slams. Burkman just needs to learn an effective jab and work on his own submission skills. In a recent interview with us, Burkman said he’s always looking for the knockout. Seeing how he’s scored just one knockout via strikes — during his entire 15-fight career — I think it’s time to try to something new. And only facing top-level, UFC-caliber talent will force him to round out his game.
Caplan: FALSE. I’d love to play devil’s advocate here, but again, I can’t. Some fighters in the UFC would benefit greatly by going back to fight on regional shows, but a standout wrestler like Burkman is not one of them. Wrestlers dominate the regional scene because very few fighters can rival their athletic ability. A good wrestler can tear through the stereo-typical regional fighter because they can control where the fight goes via their wrestling ability. So if Burkman went down a level, he’d go into fights and win them easily because of his wrestling. But his wrestling doesn’t need much work! It’s his standup that must evolve. I think the answer for Burkman isn’t a new promotion, but possibly a new combat sport. Maybe he should take some time off from MMA and focus exclusively on Muay Thai or boxing and do some fights in those genres before coming back to MMA?
My Five Cents: One of those rare occasions where I was compelled to change my thought. He would just win boring decisions and easy gnp stoppages in the minor leagues and it would not improve his game at all. Well played.
6. The UFC 2009 video game will have a grappling engine that will satisfy true MMA fans.
Junkie: TRUE. (However, I want to say “False” since that’s just my natural response when I see “MMA fans” and any form of “satisfied” in the same sentence.) Obviously, Sam can make a much more compelling argument since he’s actually seen the game live and in action. I’m not much of a gamer, but I’m fully aware of the challenges that the ground game has presented in these types of fighting games. However, THQ has scrapped all previous code and started from scratch with help from MMA-savvy designers. Skills, especially wrestling and BJJ, are supposedly true to their characters. It sounds like everything will be pretty accurate without being overly complicated. Also, considering that there’s nothing really worthwhile to compare it to, I think the game and the grappling engine will be a hit.
Caplan: TRUE. My preference here would be to give a neutral answer, because until real gamers can play it, I would say the jury is still out. The demo looked great, but there has to be a reason why the game has been delayed for so long and is still not due to come out until Spring of 2009. However, if I have to give an answer, I will go with true, since I’ve actually seen the game. From what I saw, even hardcore MMA fans are going to be pleased with UFC 2009. The ground action was realistic and fluid. I can’t remember ever getting so excited for a video game while watching the demo. But like I said, we’re not going to know for sure until we can play the game.
My Five Cents: I don’t see how any engine would show the ground game of MMA well. I’m sure it looks great and fans will enjoy it but hitting X,O to get out of an armbar or to sweep just doesn’t seem right. I don’t know how it’s possible. Then again that’s probably the right frame of mind for someone like me to enjoy the game. Expect the worst and you might just be pleased.
Thank you to Sam and Junkie for participating this week. Next week Maramba and Cupitt will step back into the cage to discuss upcoming cards and any breaking news.