Welcome back to another edition of The Duel. We were off last week as I was deathly ill and spent the better part of a week curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. Yes, it’s carpeted. Luckily my visit to the local Scientology center removed the thetans and I’m as good as new. Dueling against me this week will be nokaut.com editor Randy Harrison.
Let us Duel:
1. Brock Lesnar represents all of Randy Couture’s weaknesses and will take his HW title.
Harrison: TRUE. I didn’t think that Tim Sylvia or Gabriel Gonzaga had a chance to do it, but I do think that Brock Lesnar will. Couture has shown in the past that he has trouble with bigger heavyweights and Lesnar will be at least 70-80 pounds heavier than Couture is come fight time. As much as Couture had speed on guys like Sylvia and Gonzaga, he’s going to be at a speed disadvantage when it comes to the athletic Lesnar. Couture has an advantage in the stand-up when it comes to dirty boxing, but if they end up in a close enough clinch for Couture to score inside with punches, it’s probably a safe bet that Lesnar will be dumping him onto his head. Lesnar is like the early years of Couture, just with more speed, more athletic ability and about fifty to seventy more pounds. While there’s always the chance that Couture could end up proving me wrong like he has proven countless others wrong before, I think that Lesnar’s athleticism, his size, and his speed are going to play a difference, and that’s even before considering any ring rust Couture has gained on his 45-year old body in his year-long layoff.
Huckaby: FALSE. Make no mistake about it, this is a punishment match for Couture. This fight was made to (a) make a ton of money and (b) get a last biggie out of Couture’s name because the UFC doesn’t think he’ll last his full contract. That said I think Harrison’s first argument makes mine. He didn’t have him beating Sylvia or Gonzaga but has him losing to Lesnar. The rule of thumb is you always pick Couture when he’s the underdog and in Vegas right now he is the underdog. Couture’s questionable chin is really in no danger unless you count brutal ground-and-pound that he should be able to escape at some point in a five round fight. As much as I respect him, I’ve always doubted Randy Couture and I just won’t do it this time. I think he has too much to prove and too many people to stick it to. This isn’t even mentioning the fact he’s fighting a guy that will give him 40 opportunities to win the fight. Lesnar does represent all of Couture’s weaknesses, that’s why the fight was made, but I’m taking Couture to have an unbelievable gameplan in this one.
2. The UFC, while making a great deal of money on the fight, hurts their credibility by giving Lesnar the shot.
Harrison: FALSE. Granted, this isn’t a match-up between Couture and Nogueira to crown an undisputed champion, but that fight wasn’t possible. They’d already begun taping The Ultimate Fighter with Mir and Nogueira and set up the pay-off fight for January, leaving them to try to find someone else to step in against Couture. The list of candidates was Fabricio Werdum, Brock Lesnar and not a whole hell of a lot else. While Lesnar may not have the MMA pedigree to be deserving of a shot, this is also a business as much as it is a sport and while Couture/Werdum may have done 400-500k just on Couture’s name alone, pairing Couture and Lesnar is a license to print money in my eyes. Couture/Lesnar is compelling for multiple reasons including Couture’s lay-off, the relative freshness of Lesnar in the MMA scene, and the fact that Lesnar is going to bring a big cross-over audience from his former wrestling days. From a business standpoint this fight makes sense, and from an athletic standpoint, they had no one else to put in against Couture on the shorter notice of the situation. Also, unlike organizations like EliteXC, the UFC has earned the right to make matches like this once in a while simply because they’ve proven time and time again that they’re going to put on quality fights that the fans will like. They have credibility to burn, even though they don’t need to give any of it up for this bout.
Huckaby: TRUE. I will not argue with you that the UFC has earned the right to make the fight or that they’ll make a ton of money and it’s smart from a business standpoint. But I think my point will best be illustrated by ESPN talking heads laughing when talking about this event and how MMA is a joke because a “2-1 guy” is getting a World Title shot. Will it bring in wrestling fans? Yeah. Was that the question? I can’t go with the “who else could Couture have fought?” argument just because Nog/Mir has been set with TUF. Because the UFC never goes back on their word, right 200 people that were guaranteed title shots and never got them? One can argue this fight is for the best of the organization and sport in the long run but again that wasn’t the query. They lose alot of lip service and respect for getting all they can out of the freak Lesnar before he’s shown up like Kimbo against someone with the right skill set.
3. If true, the UFC’s wanting to lower the pay of Fabricio Werdum and letting him walk is nothing short of pathetic. (note: Tatame reported today that Werdum has no knowledge of this and will be in the UFC.)
Harrison: FALSE. While I don’t agree with how Werdum was treated, he’s still only 2-2 in the UFC. If it was 3-1 or 4-0 against guys that were top-level heavyweights I’d be more inclined to feel insulted, but when he’s beaten a Gabriel Gonzaga who seemingly didn’t seem interested in the fight and an overmatched Brandon Vera who looks to be a shell of his former self, I’m not too torn up. The UFC has a top-four with Couture, Lesnar, Mir and Nogueira, with underneath guys like Heath Herring and Cheick Kongo, which gives them decent depth at the top of the division. When you add in blue-chip prospects like Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin in the wings, things look even brighter. While heavyweight may not be the strongest division in the UFC, there’s not such a dearth of talent that Werdum’s loss will cripple the weight class.
Huckaby: TRUE. LESNAR AND MIR!?!? Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir? You list them in their “top four” simply because they’re in some silly money making tournament that makes absolutely no sense when it comes to skill level or ranking? I remember that cold day back in…. whenever, when Dana White said he’d have “ALL OF ‘EM!” He’d have all the best baby, every great fighter in the world. PRIDE was dead and the skies opened wide! Dumping Cro Cop made sense with the amount of money he was making but Werdum isn’t making anywhere near Cro Cop money and he’s been more successful and he’s improved his game since signing with them. How can you cut loose a top 10 HW in the world and claim that you have all of the best fighters? Pathetic if true. How about next time schedule his fights better so he’s not in a trap fight with a nobody to wait for a better opponent to be ready? How many times has that happened now and why do they learn nothing?
—-SWITCH IT UP—-
4. Kenny Florian will finish Joe Stevenson on Saturday.
Huckaby: FALSE. No one can argue that Florian continues to get better on a per fight basis but Florian is still no BJ Penn and Stevenson will present some serious ground skills. The only thing I can think of is the mid-20’s drop-off for Stevenson. Many fighters start their careers strong and amass great records before hitting a snag in the 25-27 range. Once that passes they fix the holes in their game and come back strong in their primes between 29-33. Either way, I don’t think Stevenson is on the current level of Florian but I don’t believe he’ll be getting submitted either. I look for Florian to really control the pace and Stevenson to be very slightly out of his league but I’m just not feeling a finish.
Harrison: TRUE. Kenny Florian finishes fights. He says so himself and what is the world coming to if we can’t believe everything a fighter says in the lead-up to a fight? All kidding aside, I think that Florian is past the days of being unfairly thought of as a guy that can’t finish. The only reason he ended up taking a decision over Roger Huerta in his last fight was Huerta’s unwillingness to exchange. Granted, Joe Stevenson is double-tough and has significant skills on the ground. I just don’t think that he’s going to be able to withstand Florian’s pressure and his elbows for fifteen full minutes. BJ Penn tapped an absolute geyser on Stevenson’s forehead in their fight and Florian’s elbows are known to be much more dangerous than Penn’s are. With both of them being BJJ black belts, I’m not banking on a submission, but Florian will probably be able to bust Stevenson up with some of his “Hellbows” to finish the fight.
5. Nate Quarry will continue his comeback with a win over Demian Maia.
Huckaby: TRUE. Why the hell not, I’m feeling dumb. This isn’t a referendum on Maia at all, I love him, I just think like Couture/Lesnar this is a very bad matchup for the better fighter. This one kills me because it goes against my instincts and I really can’t say I have a firm grasp on how good Quarry’s ground game is. If you put a gun to my head I’d probably take Maia but Quarry is hungry with his comeback and no one can doubt his ability to punch Maia in the face in a very punishing fashion. Not to mention Quarry is a massive man who is exceptionally strong and should have the wrestling advantage as well. Maia will need to take some punishment and hope like hell he can get this down and try to work out something. I think Quarry’s scrambling and power will lead him to some type of victory.
Harrison: FALSE. As much as I’m a sucker for a comeback story and as much as I love Nate Quarry, he’s in trouble in this one. Maia’s been working striking with Wanderlei Silva to add to his incredible jiu-jitsu skills which makes him even more dangerous now than he was before. Quarry still has his heavy hands and could ostensibly catch Maia with a flurry of shots to knock him down and out, but I just don’t see it happening. Maia is quicker than Quarry is and has a more fluid striking style that will allow him to dodge and duck Quarry’s combinations. If he can time it right, he’ll even be able to duck under and get Quarry down to the mat. While Quarry trains with Team Quest, his ground game is pretty much the great unknown. What is known is that he’s not at the level of Maia and that’s bad news for him. Standing or on the mat, Maia looks to hold the advantage and will end up taking Nate down a peg or two with a big win to stay undefeated.
6. Kimbo Slice should even briefly consider doing a season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Huckaby: FALSE. I added this because it was cute and I actually thought about it for a bit, weighing the pros and cons. The pros are big ratings (and he’d get some of that, believe me) and more exposure while that future exposure is in question. The cons greatly outweigh that of course; what, would he be fighting for a 6-figure contract? And knowing the TUF contract structure that’s roughly a 74-fight contract. However that brings in a pro…. should he win he’d be up there with Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell in sponsorship money and name value and he could milk that for a great deal of cash, much more so than he’d make fighting a fight in the UFC alone. Of course another pro/con would be Dana White laughing maniacally as he got massive ratings for the show and then again when Kimbo lost in the house quickly.
Harrison: FALSE. He’s got to know that if he got on that show, Dana White would make it impossible for him to win one fight, let alone the whole show. While Slice needs the UFC to begin to stake a claim as a legitimate fighter, I highly doubt he wants to be viewed as such these days. My guess is that he just wants to earn a few more paychecks out of the shambles that was his reputation and then ride off into obscurity with his pockets full of bread. If he wants to do that Japan is always in the market for their next freakshow. In fact a Bob Sapp/Kimbo fight might actually draw some interest here in the US as well. However, if Slice tries to get into the UFC whatever is left of his mystique will end up being crushed by some fighter with a 3-1 record that no one has ever heard of before and he’s going to be stuck in that house in Las Vegas for eight weeks to be mocked. Go to Japan and make some money, continue to do things that you can make money off of, do personal appearances, go back to beating up hobos, whatever you’d like to do Kimbo. Just stay away from the UFC. Even if Dana White is serious in his offer, you’ll only end up clowning yourself in the end.
And that is it for this week’s Duel. Enjoy UFC 91 and join us next week when two other MMA writers will be discussing the results and other breaking news!