Welcome back to another edition of The Duel. This week we have two 5 Oz. All-Stars in Sam Cupitt and Ram Maramba. Cupitt came up with an idea to disagree on each topic simply for fun but failed to do so on #5 because the simplicity of the idea was simply too much for him. He wanted to disagree but at one point he simply couldn’t follow through. While this made everyone sick we still went through with the idea and this was the result. Let us Duel:
1. Forrest Griffin will capture the UFC LHW Title this Saturday.
Cupitt: FALSE. I think Forrest has a good chance in this fight if the fight goes to the ground. Obviously if he is on top but I think he could potentially use his underrated guard game to catch a lazy Rampage in the early rounds if he gets fortunate enough. However, if Rampage decides to keep this fight on the feet then it will be a long night for Forrest. Griffin doesn’t have the wrestling to get Rampage to the mat and he doesn’t have the power in his stand-up game to trouble the Champ. All those ingredients make for some, to quote Van Halen, “real fine poundcake” if your last name is Jackson. So minus any Danny Ocean-esque heist attempts, no, Forrest Griffin will not capture the UFC light-heavyweight title.
Maramba: TRUE. Thanks for shafting me with this answer, Cupitt. I’ve spent the last few late nights boning up on my Rampage knowledge and was sufficiently convinced this will be just short of a lopsided victory for the champ. Now we gotta play this Devil’s Advocate junk. Hang on while I renounce my Catholicism and do a 180 on my 2nd amendment stance…there. Jackson wins almost all measurable categories in this matchup; he can strike, wrestle, escape, defend, run, catch and block better than Griffin by almost any standard. He’s the combine star and Forrest better hope he’s more Mike Mamula than Dwight Freeney. Griffin’s only obvious advantages are God-given size and grappling ability, a skilled Rampage has arguably eschewed due to being so good at everything else. Where the challenger has a notable edge is the ever-important factor of intangibles, a stew of grit, heart, endurance and all that other bushido stuff that is easily flung around but something very few people can claim. Griffin has that hard-nosed, Rocky Balboa aura MMA was built on, starting with folk heroes like Royce Gracie and stretching all the way in the MMA timeline through underdogs like Jens Pulver, Matt Serra, Randy Couture and to a lesser degree, TUF runt Amir Sadollah. In a seeming mismatch against the engineered badass like Rampage the fairy tale conclusion is all to obvious, the worldly mutt taking down the thoroughbred in a grinding, against-all-odds epic battle. A bit saccharine for sure, but it’s a story that’s very real and quite common in recent MMA history. Griffin has proven more often than not a persistent if not imposing force. Guys like that have all day to win the fight, banking on one false move that all fighters maker sooner or later.
My Five Cents: Well played. I have to go with Rampage here, though it’s not by a large margin. I like Ram’s argument that he has the measurable categories and this fight will be up to Forrest and his intangibles. Plus Ram used my Colts’ boy Dwight Freeney as an example so he wins this by a small mile.
2. Lawler vs Smith II was thrown together too quickly and won’t be nearly as entertaining as their first bout.
Cupitt: FALSE. A fight between Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith will always play out exactly the same way regardless of how much time either has to prepare. Both fighters are what I will dub for the purpose of this Duel as “instinct” fighters. They don’t have complex gameplans, they just go out there with the basic intention to hit the other dude hard over and over again and to avoid that whole ground thing unless they are in trouble. Both Lawler and Smith should be in good shape still from their first fight and Smith’s foot shouldn’t bother him too much come fight time. On July 26th, Lawler and Smith will turn up again and will once again beat the piss out of each other and we will all enjoy it thoroughly. With any luck we won’t even have to see that tacky steel worker intro, Smith got last time.
Maramba: TRUE. This one’s easier to spin, but not by much. The timing won’t kill this bout, the disparity in skill will do it this time around. Smith looked amazingly sharp in their first swing, absorbing Lawler’s punches and returning the favor with gusto. It was only a matter of time, but Lawler didn’t cut right through a one-dimensional opponent like many had supposed. Personally, I didn’t think Smith’s chin would make it out of the first round; when he not only came back for the second but actually put up some fierce resistance I was damn near shocked. This time around, Lawler knows the guy in front of him and will put him away in the 1st, again denying us the multi-round slugfest that we so desperately want and even more desperately need.
My Five Cents: I gotta go with Ram here. Obviously I phrased the query. Scott Smith, while I have a man crush on him, isn’t nearly as good as Robbie Lawler and I think it will show in the rematch.
3. Shinya Aoki will win the DREAM LWGP this month.
Cupitt: TRUE. Finally, something I can agree with. I was feeling rather negative disagreeing to everything but here’s something I can get behind. In my opinion, Aoki is the new age Sakuraba, with what he lacks in the personality he makes up for in colorful tights. He has the uncanny ability to be able to completely negate his opponent’s offense. In the words of George Michael Bluth, Aoki’s style is just an “awesome mind puzzle”. A puzzle that will bewilder the old-school stylings of Caol “insert business’ name” Uno and one that will stifle Kawajiri’s skill set or will completely baffle the most likely tired Eddie Alvarez. Aoki’s ability to force the fight to the ground via either guard pull or takedown and then completely control the pace and action in the fight is what will prove the difference against Uno and whoever he faces in the final.
Maramba: FALSE. A gimme from our friend from Oz, our NSW fairy, the 5oz. staff member who proves that the only thing better than being legal is being barely legal. Catch him on Darlingurst and Victoria every night this week, dressed up as a blood-stained Minnie Mouse spouting out MMA predictions on a stolen milk crate. Thank you for the gift of picking Aoki over fellow top contender Eddie Alvarez. I shall bow; please don’t feel obliged to curtsy. Representing their stereotypes well, Alvarez and Aoki have typical games to suit their nationalities. Alvarez has Mongo strength, hits hard and is a standout at wrestling, the martial art as American as baseball and apple pie. Aoki prefers the more esoteric, mind-over-matter art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, opting to use high-level technique to overcome strength. He has used his grappling wizardry to great success against larger, stronger fighters in the past (e.g. JZ Calvan) but the Philadelphia native is a different animal. Aoki has never seen anyone who combines his strength with instinctual technique and incredible athleticism like Alvarez, and that list includes Joachim Hansen, Mach Sakurai and the aforementioned Calvan. Even then, to attribute all of Alvarez’s success solely on his gym prowess is a mistake. His big bang performances in the Grand Prix notwithstanding, Alvarez knows what he can and can’t do on the ground. He won’t submit anyone any time soon, but he knows how to stay out of trouble, play defense and fight within his game. Aoki is pretty damn good at that too, but I don’t see him dominating the more active and aware Alvarez the way he did a more plodding, less explosive JZ. In the end, Eddie and his freshly split unibrow should take home the lightweight prize, scoring one for the underrated and overlooked lightweights here at home in the good ol’ USA.
My Five Cents: I also love Alvarez. I also love the phrase “barely legal,” yum. Then again I have a friend who I introduced MMA to and he has no idea who “Aoki” is and I always have to say “rainbow tights” for him to realize who I’m talking about. He loves “rainbow tights.” Aoki vs Alvarez please.
—-SWITCH IT UP—-
4. Ricardo Almeida will end Patrick Cote’s three fight UFC win streak.
Maramba: TRUE. It’s easy to overrate Almeida at this point in his comeback from a 4-year layoff to run his school. He looked outstanding in return fight, choking out his opponent in just over a minute, but Rob Yundt was a UFC rookie who has proven in his second fight that his neck normally out there for the taking. Cote on the other hand is still being underrated despite a 4-fight winning streak, all against known UFC commodities. Cote’s the hotter fighter by far, but Almeida’s base skill of BJJ is so much more developed than Cote’s bowling ball hands. A more sound striker would give Almeida fits; Cote isn’t that guy. “Cachorrao” is dealing with a ticking bomb as long they stay standing and Cote is well-rounded enough to stave off the Brazilian for a stretch. However, as Travis Lutter showed, once in tight on Cote it’s only a matter of time until they hit the mat, where Almeida can dictate the pace. He has so many ways more to win, granted he can keep his chin tucked long enough to work his game.
Cupitt: FALSE. I have no doubt that if Almeida gets Cote down long enough then this fight will be over pretty quickly but I’m wary as to whether Almeida can get it there. Almeida looked very good against Rob Yundt but Yundt was basically a walking submission dummy who was struck with stage fright. Yundt couldn’t have been a more tailor made opponent for Almeida in his first fight back. Cote has fought in big matches before and so he shouldn’t get dwarfed by the occasion. If “The Predator” plays it safe and sticks to picking apart Almeida a distance he should be able to secure a lop-sided decision win. This is a very good fight and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Almeida pull it out.
My Five Cents: “I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Almeida pull it out” to end your argument? Oh Cupitt. No one respects Patrick Cote’s game and this fight would probably seal his deal. Though I also don’t expect him to win, I wouldn’t say he’d lose just to say he’d lose.
5. Jesse Taylor should be allowed back in the UFC in 2008. (Editors Note: question was asked a week prior to new information).
Maramba: TRUE. This TV’d up Dana White hide-tanning was brought to you by Burger King’s Whopper Jr., as fake char-broiled as Jesse Taylor’s ass for the sake of hype-inducing dramaaaaa.” Sucks to be Jesse Taylor, having your career used as a pawn for the sole purpose of building up heat on an otherwise cold season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” The good news is it was only a matter of time before they played the Prodigal Meathead Card when they needed it. Luckily for Taylor, the anti-Affliction card in three weeks needs his attention-getting mojo. The original question was should he be allowed to return this year; my answer is he never should’ve been gone. Babalu was kicked out for something replayed for the masses on YouTube, not for spitting on a bouncer and getting arrested in Florida. BJ Penn did both things and wasn’t even touched. The UFC obviously have no hard and fast guidelines for life outside the ring; for them to kick out Taylor had an air of hypocrisy. Unfortunately for him, he did at a time when the show needed a kick and the pants and his window/female terrorizing rampage was just what the doctor ordered.
Cupitt: TRUE. I know the vast majority of you readers vomit in your mouths a bit when the two duelers agree with each other but I can’t play devil’s advocate here. So, Jesse Taylor broke some shit and beat his UFC fighter chest in public, who cares? He has a problem with alcohol. A problem which the UFC and Spike encouraged over many weeks with the issuing of free alcohol and the urging of the contestants to go wild and break as much shit as they wanted. To take away the chance of being the “Ultimate Fighter” is one thing but to completely banish poor Coco from the UFC due to a public indiscretion is a bit rough. He survived the many weeks in the house without incident and earned his spot on the finale. A second chance is more than warranted. On a side note, I guess I could have disagreed with the wording of the question as Taylor was never actually a UFC fighter to begin with but that would be getting into semantics and would most likely aggravate Mr. Huckaby. I wouldn’t want to do that as I’ve heard he’s 7 feet tall and knows Krav Maga.
My Five Cents: I am and I do. And Jesse Taylor is a moron who pissed on himself. He might be back but he doesn’t deserve it and learned no lesson. I feel he should go piss on himself again to get a real feeling of who he is.
6. I know it’s early, but given the previous beatings he’s taken from his back, Heath Herring is the underdog against Brock Lesnar.
Maramba: TRUE. I’m a true believer when it comes to Lesnar and Herring is a good matchup for him. Other than his Texas roots, I don’t have much love for the Crazy Horse and his oddly assembled MMA game. He has yet to display his supposedly top-level Muay Thai in the UFC even though he had the perfect arena to do so in his last fight. His submission game is well-documented but, as Banky O’Brien showed, his wrestling needs a lot of work. Hey, guess what Lesnar’s good at? Oh yeah, he’s also the size of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Lesnar victory by Fireman’s Carry.
Cupitt: FALSE. I’m aware that Heath Herring has a hard time staying upright on windy days let alone against fighters with any form of wrestling pedigree but hasn’t Herring earned the right to not be labeled the underdog in this fight? Herring has fought for over 10 years against some of the world’s best fighters not to mention pulling off victories against very good wrestlers such as Tom Erikson and Mark Kerr. Brock Lesnar on the other hand has had two fights and in his last fight he may have looked impressive and very dangerous but there are still many questions to be answered. Cardio, submission defense and ground control are all big question marks going into a fight against a guy who has fought and beaten some of the best out there. In short, we are aware Lesnar can get Herring to the ground but we don’t know if he can keep him there and if he can, how long he can keep up the ground and pound he showed against Mir for. Question marks like that shouldn’t warrant Herring the underdog status in this fight.
My Five Cents: I gotta go with Ram here. While we knew what Mir could do to him we really don’t know what Herring can do to him from his back. More than likely just lay there and take a pounding. Of course Herring can win but his best chance isn’t very likely. Maramba, circle gets the square.
And that is your DUEL this week. Next week we will return with another set of questions dealing with breaking news, upcoming cards and another set of results.