And we’re back for a big pre-UFC/Affliction/DREAM edition of The DUEL. We didn’t run last week as we were a bit late and some of these statements can age very rapidly. Joining me this week is our vice-overlord Adam Morgan, he’ll be battling the always troubling and meddlesome Paul Balsom. LET US DUEL:
1. Fedor Emelianenko will submit Tim Sylvia.
Morgan: TRUE. If there’s one big, glaring weakness in Sylvia’s game it is absolutely his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and specifically his submission defense. He’s been caught in submissions by Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski, and current UFC heavyweight champion Minotauro Nogueira. That would be three out of his four losses coming by way of submission and they have all come because Sylvia made simple mistakes that have cost him the fight. I expect him to make a similar mistake against the best fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko. Sylvia is a threat to any heavyweight fighter in MMA right now simply due to his sheer size but his submission defense has been suspect throughout his career. I highly doubt it’s improved leaps and bounds since February when he was submitted by Nogueira. Fedor will take him to the ground and submit him and that’s a fact.
Balsom: TRUE. I know this is THE DUEL, however I cannot help but agree with my boy Adam here. Tim Sylvia is not exactly a dominator on the ground, but is actually the opposite as many of your know. He’s made his career on sprawling much smaller fighters and using that massive jab to keep his distance and only throw combos when his opponents get dazed. I’m afraid this isn’t going to hold up against Fedor. While Sylvia makes the argument that he is far better in the ring as opposed to the cage, I would argue that Fedor is much more acclimated to the ring and he will be far too much for Tim. Adam is correct when he says that Fedor’s taking down and submission of Sylvia is inevitable. We will see something much like Fedor’s fight against Choi, in that Fedor may sustain a little bit of facial damage from some elbows or punches while coming in on Sylvia for the clinch, but it won’t be long before Fedor rips big Tim’s arm off.
My Five Cents: Uh oh, last time two people were so sure of statement #1 they were positive Rampage would retain over Forrest. Not only were they wrong but their incorrect answer somehow spawned a strange chain of events. I agree with the Choi analogy, except Sylvia doesn’t hit as hard as Choi. I expect a second round sub, though I’m really worried about a cut loss and more worried about Fedor haters shouting us all down about how they were right all along over one fight. HINT: Even a Fedor win wouldn’t prove he’s the best, Sylvia is tailor-made for him. So you can’t have it both ways.
2. As previously put out there, a fight between the winners of Fedor/Sylvia and Barnett/Rizzo will actually happen at a later Affliction show.
Morgan: TRUE. And to go a step further, Josh Barnett and Fedor will face off against one another at a future Affliction card. I don’t see any way that Tim Sylvia or Pedro Rizzo win on Saturday. There has been speculation that because of the amount of money that’s being spent on this card that Affliction won’t be able to hold another event. I highly doubt that. Tom Atencio and Co. seem to have deep pockets, especially now that Donald Trump is involved and a second show seems more likely than ever before. Will the second show be Barnett vs. Fedor? It depends on the timing. If Affliction is looking at putting on monthly or bi-monthly shows then the answer is no. But if they’re looking at putting on shows every four months or so then the answer could very well be yes. Barnett vs. Fedor is the matchup that all of the hardcore fans want to see and I think we’ll finally get our wish sometime in late 2008 or early 2009.
Balsom: TRUE. Again, I agree with Mr. Morgan. However, I don’t think Josh Barnett and Fedor will face each other down the road because of Barnett’s win over Rizzo. If I had to pick a fight that I thought was more meaningful in the Affliction heavyweight division, it would definitely be the Rothwell/Arlovski fight. That should be the number one contender bout, but I think it may be better for Affliction to put Barnett in with Fedor right off the bat. Again, Morgan asserts that the Barnett/Fedor matchup will quench the thirst of the hardcore population and I would agree. I think we’ll see this fight before the end of 2008.
My Five Cents: The Donald Trump thing pretty much put out the problem of having a second show, though if this does DREADFULLY (and it might) who knows. And if they’re worried about buy rates they might throw Arlovski in there for the first title fight. Fedor/Barnett isn’t selling any casual fan.
3. The DREAM.5 LWGP final will be Shinya Aoki vs Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Morgan: FALSE. The DREAM 5 LWGP final will be Shinya Aoki vs. Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez is on a tear right now and seems to be coming into his own at the 160lb. weight class in Japan. He’s beaten Andre Dida as well as Joachim Hansen and handled himself extremely well in those fights. Kawajiri has looked dismal in his past two appearances in the DREAM ring and I expect Alvarez to push the pace, take it to Kawajiri, and make Kawajiri take the fight from him. All four of Kawajiri’s latest victories have come via decision. He’s not finishing fights like he was in 2005/2006. He seems to have lost some of that killer instinct. If “Crusher” lets Alvarez hang around too long during the fight then Alvarez will almost surely make him pay. Until Kawajiri shows me that he’s back to true form, I can’t put my faith in him. Alvarez beats Kawajiri and then goes on to face Aoki in the finals.
Balsom: TRUE. I really like Kawajiri’s odds going into this fight. Like Adam mentioned, he’s looked a little rough in the previous rounds of the DREAM LWGP, but instead of losing faith in him that makes me more confident. He was able to put out bad showings in his two previous fights and pull out wins, so he’s due for a good performance! If he even comes out looking OK, which is better than his previous fights, then I think he has the talent to at least pull out a decision victory against Alvarez. Not that it matters, but I do think a Kawajiri/Aoki final is way better for the Japanese audience than having Alvarez in the final or winning the tournament altogether.
My Five Cents: I’ve had a feeling about Alvarez from the start of this tournament. He can’t hang with Aoki but Kawajiri will be interesting. Fun Fact: Due to all of the “Kawajiri” references I had to add it to my spell check so it would stop annoying me.
4. James Irvin actually believes he will beat Anderson Silva.
Balsom: TRUE. He has said it in several interviews and I pretty much agree with him; James Irvin has absolutely nothing to lose and all the pressure is on Anderson Silva. Silva’s only had 5 weeks for a camp for this fight, he’s making his debut at this new weight-class in the UFC and everyone thinks Irvin will get kicked into another dimension. All the pressure is on Silva! Even if Silva wins, but not in dominant Rambo fashion, fans could come out of this bout disappointed. The only thing Irvin can go in there and do is bring his massive frame in the cage and throw his crazy awkward flying attacks that made Terry Martin and Houston Alexander poop themselves. I’m sure his mind is at ease going into this fight, as far as people expecting him to lose, and I think that could manifest itself in a decent showing against Silva. Sure Irvin believes he will beat Silva, or else why would he be a fighter?
Morgan: FALSE. Irvin is trying to make a lot of hype for a fight that is otherwise meaningless in the grand scheme of things. He’s saying Silva’s clinch isn’t technical and that he’ll take thirty of Silva’s punches to land his ten because he has to. Because honestly, who cares about James Irvin? Not even the most hardcore of hardcores gives two shits about James Irvin and his chances against the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And even if Silva does lose, it means nothing to him or the UFC. The fight is utterly meaningless. In the back of Irvin’s mind, no matter how much garbage comes out of his mouth, he knows he’s there to lose. And he knows that the likelihood of him losing is extremely high. So, no, Irvin doesn’t believe he can beat Silva. He just thinks that’s what he believes.
My Five Cents: Damn Morgan, what did James Irvin do to your family? And weight classes are overrated. Dan Henderson can hang with Minotauro and Anderson Silva will drop Irvin. Irvin does know he’s there to lose and he doesn’t even believe what he’s saying. People are obsessed with the Mike Swicks and Michael Bispings of the world dropping a weight class as if that makes them a new grand champion. BJ Penn would beat Zulu in 30 seconds or less. Bad example but my point is skill beats weight any day of the week.
5. Mike Whitehead, riding a 12-fight win streak and having never been submitted, will not be stopped by Babalu.
Balsom: TRUE. Whitehead has a history of pulling off some submissions of his own. I’m not saying he’s going to throw on a nasty first-round flying armbar on Babalu or anything. But I think that fact will result in Whitehead being able to stay away from Babalu’s submission game and keep himself on his feet, or at least stall Babalu’s submission attempts until the end of rounds. Now, Whitehead’s opponents as of late have been nowhere to the caliber of Sobral, but he has shown good things against some top-shelf opponents in the past (Sylvia, Rothwell, Jardine), so I think Whitehead does enough to stay alive, but Babalu pulls out the decision if he doesn’t gas out.
Morgan: FALSE. Whitehead’s never faced a grappler like Babalu before, end of story. Yes, I know that Babalu has been largely inactive since late 2007 but simply put, he’s one of the best light heavyweight jiu jitsu fighters in the game right now and will be a handful for someone like Whitehead to push to a decision. Babalu is scary with his submissions and Whitehead has never faced that kind of fighter before. Whitehead has faced, for the most part, creampuff competition while Babalu has spent most of his career fighting some of the best fighters in the world. Experience and technical submission acumen will win this for Babalu. He’ll stop Whitehead dead in his tracks.
My Five Cents: I’ll actually just let the commenters say who won that one.
6. After being re-signed for the short notice bout, Jake O’Brien would be released again if he loses to Cain Velasquez.
Balsom: TRUE. Because Cain Velasquez is a better wrestler than Jake O’Brien, and all that’s left for O’Brien after he gets stuffed on some weak takedowns is to stand and take a ton of shots to the face, which I’m sure Velasquez will be happy to give out. After that, O’Brien will get slammed to his back and take repeated ground and pound punches to the face and tap out due to strikes and he will be relegated to a life of obscurity outside the UFC. Does that sound reasonable?
Morgan: FALSE. It all depends on the nature of the loss. If O’Brien actually comes to fight, lets his hands go, and shows that he wants to be there and wants to finish then he could stay with the UFC even if he loses. Remember, Dana White likes fighters who come to put on a show and fight. Why do you think Chris Lytle just signed a four fight extension? The guy is 1-2 in his last three fights in the UFC but every time he comes into the cage, he comes to bang. If O’Brien finally comes out of his shell and gives Cain Velasquez a hell of a fight in a losing affair then it’s certainly not out of the question for him to remain in the UFC. If he comes out like he did in the Arlovski fight or in the fight against Heath Herring and loses, then say goodbye to O’Brien.
My Five Cents: If O’Brien “lets his hands go!?!?” Against Cain? So maybe if he gets KO’d in 12 seconds they’ll let him back? I could actually see that. And I think Lytle signed an extension because he’s awesome (note: I <3 him) but also because he’s a tremendous gatekeeper to test any new or up and coming fighters.
Well that was your DUEL for the week. Enjoy the awesomeness that is this weekend of fights.