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Grappling with Issues: John Curry

Grappling with IssuesIs it time for “Cro Cop” to grow out the flat-top and call it a career? How close is Gray Maynard to a championship bout? Should Vitor Belfort get a shot at Anderson Silva’s belt after his “Phenom”-enal performance against Rich Franklin? Will the remaining puns in this article be as bad as Quinton Jackson’s stint as a TUF coach or stink to “Wagner vs. Madsen” proportions? Read ahead to find out!

After the positive response from last week’s column, and a crisp twenty-dollar bill to 5 Oz. Editor Cory Brady, “Grappling with Issues” is back for another run at op-ed dominance! As always, we’ll be discussing six savory subjects from the MMA landscape ranging from silly to serious. Joining me this week to spice up things is Five Ounces of Pain’s very own John Curry. Curry can be found submitting the occasional interview, event review, or general opinion on any given topic in the wild world of Mixed Martial Arts.

1. Fact or Fiction – Gray Maynard is one win away from a shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship.

John Curry: Fiction. While Maynard is on a roll, reeling off six straight wins since his No Contest with Rob Emerson at the Ultimate Fighter 5 finale, none of his wins have been jaw dropping impressive. It has been two years since Maynard actually finished a fight. I am still a purist in terms of accepting decisions as an acceptable means of winning and dictating fighter quality. However, I do want to see a guy who can finish a fight. I was completely against Machida until I saw him KO Rashad Evans. That right there proved to me that Machida was championship caliber. I think Maynard is still one or two fights away from proving to me that he can handle a champion, be it Diego Sanchez, BJ Penn, Kenny Florian or whoever. I wouldn’t mind seeing Gray Maynard vs. Kenny Florian. If Maynard could finish Florian, I would give him props and stump for his chance at the Lightweight title.

Brendhan Conlan: Fact. While he may not be the most exciting option for contendership once Diego Sanchez gets his crack at Penn’s belt, it’s almost impossible to argue against Gray Maynard’s production in the Octagon. He’s won six of his seven appearances inside the eight-sided cage and would be batting 1.000 if he hadn’t knocked himself out in the process of finishing Rob Emerson off with a slam. His last four opponents have a combined record of 78-21 and three of them are widely considered amongst the top twenty lightweights in Mixed Martial Arts. The UFC doesn’t currently have any other 155-pounder under contract who can boast similar accomplishments while also laying claim to an undefeated record. If Maynard can score another win over one of his ranked peers, and assuming the UFC doesn’t sign someone like Eddie Alvarez or Shinya Aoki in the next six months, I think “The Bully” is a lock for a title-shot. The winner of Florian/Guida, XTreme Couture teammate Tyson Griffin, or former UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk would all be suitable opponents.

2. Is Tim Sylvia once again a relevant heavyweight after taking home a first-round TKO win over Jason Riley at Adrenaline IV?

Curry: No. No. No. Sylvia is not relevant whatsoever in the Heavyweight Division. I am sorry to say it considering “The Maine-iac” was one of my favorite fighters during the late 90’s to early 2000’s. The truth is Tim’s loss to Fedor was not a blemish on his record because it was against Fedor. Even the speed in which he lost was not hurt that bad. It was the fact that Ray Mercer beat Tim faster that Fedor that destroyed his relevancy. Not only did Tim get beat he was knocked unconscious at a local house show against an overage former boxer who is new to the sport. Combine this with Tim’s obvious nonchalant approach to fighting anymore, namely his weight gain and lack of conditioning, and you have a guy who has no plans to ever fight for a major heavyweight title. I hope that I am just being too hard on Tim and the rough patch that has plagued him for the past two years or so has passed and Tim is going to set his sights higher than fighting at Fairs with the occasional Adrenaline paycheck thrown in.

Conlan: No, but only because he never stopped being a relevant heavyweight. Beyond the difference in our reasoning I can’t disagree with anything else Curry is saying. Yes, Ray Mercer snatched victory from him faster than a coyote nabbing Jessica Simpson’s Maltipoo. Yes, his conditioning since losing to Fedor Emelianenko should have his fans as concerned about his future as Rascal Scooter executives are thrilled about the marketing possibilities. But facts are facts and “The Maine-iac” is still a two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion with the ability to render his opponents unconscious in highlight reel fashion. Sylvia is also a polarizing figure, meaning that whether MMA fans want to bask in his past accomplishments or would rather see him fall flat on his face instead, they’ll still buy tickets to see him compete. I’d wager you could put Tim-meh in a lineup that included Fedor Emelianenko, Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin, Junior Dos Santos, and “Minotauro” Nogueira the first person an average schmo would recognize is Sylvia. That in itself says all you need to know when considering whether or not he is a “relevant” heavyweight (or ever ceased to be one).

3. Should the UFC be more concerned about Strikeforce’s November 7th event than they have been about any other MMA event to date?

Curry: This is a tricky question because the question is should the UFC be concerned about the November 7th event not what about the November 7th Strikeforce event should the UFC be concerned about. Should the UFC be concerned about the November 7th event, no. The card is being built around Fedor vs. Brett Rogers. Ask any casual MMA fan who either of those guys are and you will probably get a very cold response. If the UFC decides to air a “special” TUF with a red herring about Kimbo fighting at the same time as the Strikeforce event, I guarantee that the UFC will pull in almost a majority of the fans who might have tuned in to see the Strikeforce event on CBS. The biggest problem that Strikeforce has selling the public on primetime is going to the failure of EliteXC to put on a decent show on CBS and the kinks that needed worked out of the Showtime shows. If Strikeforce runs 40 minutes early, CBS will cut them immediately. The marketing is bare to nonexistent and what little marketing there is not geared to bringing in the casual fans who know UFC but not Strikeforce. Until Strikeforce learns to capture the attitude that the UFC has or even what the WWE used to have, they are always going to play second fiddle to the UFC.

Conlan: Yes, they should. Does that mean Dana White should put protective booties over his thousand-dollar loafers on November 7th to avoid soiling them when the card airs? Absolutely not. If by “casual MMA fan” Curry is referring to a “Zuffa Zombie”, i.e. an individual whose knowledge of the sport is limited to what they’ve seen on Spike TV, then of course their interest in two men who have never fought in the Octagon might be lacking (even though Fedor has been shown nearly unanimous respect by UFC fighters/announcers in interviews and on broadcasts). However, most people I know that follow Mixed Martial Arts to a lesser extent than I do are definitely aware of Emelianenko’s accomplishments and if they don’t know who Brett Rogers is they do know who the “big black dude with the Mohawk that knocks people out” is.

Let’s also not forget MTV’s Jason “Mayhem” Miller will be taking on Jake Shields, Cris “Cyborg” Santos is rumored to be in action, and there are a ton of other marketable, highly-skilled fighters Strikeforce can pull from to round out the card (Robbie Lawler, Gegard Mousasi, Kazuo Misaki, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, etc.), not to mention their cross-promotional relationship with DREAM. As long as they’re able to avoid the same injury bug that nearly decimated their last event I think Strikeforce could make a significant impression on anyone who tunes in to the broadcast. Getting rid of the poorly constructed CGI-skeletons would also be a positive thing where viewer buy-in is concerned but I digress. While the November show won’t be grounds to put Frank Fertitta on a Palace Station ledge it should still be of great concern to the UFC that a real MMA promotion – not the $kala-infested EliteXC – is showcasing genuine talent on network television instead of attempting to build a business around Kimbo Slice.

4. Over/Under/Push – Mirko Filipovic will beat one more “Top 10” opponent before calling it a career.

Conlan: Under. Most fighters will tell you that a battle can be lost before a single punch has been thrown depending on what an individual’s mental state is. It appears clear Mirko is at a point in his career where he has doubts about his ability as a top-level fighter. And frankly, when you’re an athlete who has accomplished what “Cro Cop” has, you don’t necessarily want to keep competing when you’ve become an afterthought in the sport. “Pride” isn’t just the name of a Japanese MMA promotion he used to fight for if you know what I’m sayin.

I believe Filipovic has stated he wants to fight one more time before retiring and mentioned Japan in the same breath, but I’d actually like to see him step into the Octagon with Randy Couture before heading overseas and hanging up his checkered shorts. I know “The Natural” is set to fight Vera at UFC 105 in November but there’s no reason the bout couldn’t come together in early 2010. Couture vs. “Cro Cop” is a fight that fans have wanted to see for a long time and delivering a battle between the PRIDE vs. UFC icons could be a nice farewell from Filipovic to his followers. As far as a win over “Top 10” competition I don’t see it happening, though that isn’t to say that’s a bad thing since there are plenty of interesting heavyweights outside of the UFC (Andrei Arlovski, Bobby Lashley, “King” Mo Lawal, etc.), plus a rematch with Fedor Emelianenko on New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be too shabby either.

Curry: Under. Cro-Cop is done. The guy is having difficulty just finding the will to fight anyone these days. I watch him fight and am reminded of Mickey Rourke’s character in The Wrestler. A guy who at one time had the glory of being considered one of the best heavyweight fighters in the world, often just after Fedor, who millions of fans looked up to and adored. The truth is Cro-Cop is essentially an outdated fighter in the cage. No longer do his opponents fear his kicks because they know that he is not as well rounded of a fighter as many of the “modern” heavyweights. I think that, given his post-loss conversation, Cro-cop knows that he is too old and not dedicated enough anymore to go back to the drawing board and start picking up new skills.

5. In lieu of his three-minute, TKO victory over Rich Franklin at UFC 103, should Vitor Belfort leapfrog Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt in terms of contendership for Anderson Silva’s middleweight championship?

Conlan: Absolutely not. In fact, he hasn’t even fought at 185-pounds in the UFC as far as I know. Why not have Marquardt or Henderson face Belfort to help clarify the situation first? Sure, that would leave one of the two an odd man out, but I’d have no problem seeing the third wheel face someone like Yoshishiro Akiyama or Yushin Okami in the interim.

I also want to add that while I’m not necessarily a Franklin homer, there is little doubt in my mind that Belfort’s win over him was influenced by at least one brutal shot to the back of his head. “Ace” may have been done before that and perhaps it had little effect on the outcome but the strike was clear on the replay and definitely of a nature that could do more damage than a regular punch.

Curry: No. While many people will say that both Henderson and Marquardt both lost to Silva before while Belfort has not which makes him more deserving than either of those guys, I think Henderson is the guy who is most deserving of the fight if he can beat Marquardt and vice-versa. From a PPV perspective, the money is in the Silva vs. Belfort fight. There is nothing better than a fight between friends that are familiar with each other’s fighting style. The question is how to pick a winner between these three when Marquardt vs. Henderson was supposed to dictate the next championship challenger. Would it be fair for Zuffa and the UFC to bump the winner into a fight against Belfort to determine number 1 contender status?? No.

6. More embarrassing element of the Ultimate Fighter Season 10 debut – Abe Wagner’s lackluster display in the cage or Quinton Jackson’s comical attempt at coaching?

Conlan: I’ve got to go with Wagner’s deer-in-headlights beatdown. While I understand “Rampage” may not have been the most articulate coach, and certainly never told Abe anything as profound as “hit him with your groin” or “breeeeeeeeeeeeeathe Drago, breeeeeeeeeathe”, I don’t expect much from Quinton in that department. He’s there to be a talented fighter with an extremely charismatic personality, not Greg Jackson, Matt Serra, Mark Dellagrotte, or anyone who manages his own high-level training center. Wagner was there to be a fighter and fight he did not. Massive respect to him for continuing with the canyon Madsen cut into his forehead though.

Curry: Easily Abe Wagner’s lackluster display in the cage. I have never seen a guy lay there and take that kind of ass whooping without any intentions of turning the fight around. Wagner just stayed in open guard and let himself be destroyed, earning easily one of the sickest lacerations MMA has ever seen. I really don’t see what the problem is with Rampage’s coaching that many others are talking about. He sat there and told him that he needed to get up, to turn in, to throw elbows and punches from the bottom. Between the rounds he told him exactly what would happen. He is going to try to take you down immediately, keep your distance. Did Abe listen to any of this, not one thing. I can’t blame Rampage for walking off. The Ultimate Fighter was supposed to be about the best unseen or unsigned talent fighter for that one position, and while it has drifted away from that, Abe Wagner showed he was nowhere near ready for this level of competition.

18 COMMENTS
  • BigDave says:

    absolutely maynard is in my opinion one fight away from a title shot. If he can beat florian who i,m guessing that will be his next opponent. then of course he should be the first defence for Sanchez’s title when he destroys penn.

    Tim Silvia will not be relevant again until first he gets his weight back under control then beats a top 15-20 guy. he was 287 in his last fight and fought a guy who can’t take a punch.

    UFC should’nt be worried about strikeforce atol, They will put on a ok show but nothing close to a good ufc ppv imo.

    Under Crocop is afraid to get hit anymore and has no disire anymore, he needs to quit now.

    This 185 situation should go as fallows, If Hendo still refuses to fight nate then the spot should go to the winner of a fight between vitor and okami.And nate should fight silva for the title.

  • Bullylover says:

    first of awsome choice of a picture for the page.another great article.I agree that if cro cop wants one last fight that it should be against randy since so many of us have been waiting for this fight to happen.gray maynared is definately one in line for a title shot but i agree that he needs to do a better job of fiinishing fights.a fight between him and florian does sound very appealing.

  • Bullylover says:

    that’s a good resolve for the MW division big dave, i never thought of that one.

  • Angry Mike says:

    Maynard isn’t ready for a title shot in one fight or two. He was surprisingly tentative against Huerta. If Maynard gets in the octagon with BJ and fights the way he did against Huerta, BJ will chew him up and spit him out very quickly.

    With regard to Cro Cop, maybe it’s appropriate for him to fight his last fight in Japan. He was a big name in Pride, and I can understand why he might want to say goodbye to his fans there. But he has no business in the octagon with a UFC contender or even a young up-and-comer.

  • Bullylover says:

    i’ll agree with you mike that if maynard does fight that way against B>J> that he would get chewed up but i don’t think that he would be that stupid to fight bj that way.

  • fraz says:

    I definitely like the Cro-Cop vs. Randy fight.

    Gives people a chance to see a fight that should have happened years ago…and gives Randy a (likely) win which he needs given the 2 consecutive losses. He’ll especially need a win if he loses to Vera as that will make 3, and it doesn’t make sense to have Randy fight nobodies or up-and-comers.

  • fraz says:

    As for Gray Maynard…

    I’m still holding out for the UFC to go and get Alvarez or Aoki.

  • MM izzle my Nizzle says:

    Why is it that if Tim loses by a KO to a former class A boxer he is no longer relevant. Perhaps GSP is no longer relevant? I mean he lost via strikes and by TKO to a BJJ guy who never was a class A fighter and was not even known for his boxing!. Curry did Sylvia even fight in the 90’s? and why do you think so poorly of boxing? and do you know what you are talking about? I’m sure if Tim lost to a former BJJ champ type dude who was new to the sport you wouldn’t be so disapproving. Sorry but you just don’t like Sylvia I reckon.

  • twyg says:

    Cro Cop is done although a legends fight with Randy is something I would watch. Maynard is at least two wins away and three if doesn’t start to finish his fights. Tim Sylvia is not even close to being relavent lets not forget he lost to a retired boxer who recieves social security checks. The UFC doesn’t have anything to fear yet, but if Strikeforce starts putting on bi-monthly shows then it is a different ballgame. The only way Vitor gets first crack at the spider is if the hendo-nate issue can not be resolved. They are all just lining up for an ass kicking anyway. Abe put on one of the worst preformances I have ever or will ever see. That was so bad that even Jesus couldn’t have coached him up.

  • moosebaby02 says:

    MM izzle not that I agree but Serra has always as far as I can remember known to be a BBJ guy with heavy hands.

    I love Maynard but he has to start to finishing his fights or he will be put in the same class as Okami

    Im sure if Tim keeps knocking out a bunch of big mouth nobody’s someone will remember he was the guy who would wear his UFC HW belt around every where he went, even stealing the thunder when he was cornering some of his training partners.

    YES the UFC should be concerned. Ya it might be one show but its on national tv at the worst time for them with controversy within company. I were a new fan to MMA I would see Dana as a joke who likes to piss off the people who line his pockets with $$$ and Croker as a quite Geniuses.

    One Mega fight vs Captain America and then Cro Cop can call it a career. thats just me being selfish.

    I say the hell with Hendo. Decision vs who Palhares ok. Split Decision vs Franklin (which he lost imo by the way) and KO vs a over confident bad game planning loud mouth Bisbing (it was a great KO) and now he is making demands at a title shot at Anderson. Lets not forget before his SO impressive 3-0 run he was choked out by the spider and very outmatched by Rampage. I know he was promise a shot but by the looks of it so was Rampage at the Dragon that he never got and everyone is calling him a baby. Let him go up to LHW and get smashed with his VERY predictable ways and make room for Vitor and NATE THE GREAT. No way Vitor gets a shot right away though. He gets past the TRULY #1 contender (nate) then we have a mega fight with Vitor and Spider. How bout this Nate vs Spider – Vitor vs Okami then the winners go at it for the belt??? I like it.

    The only reason the Rampage looked so bad at cornering is cause he is. If you listen to the back ground and not focus when the camera is on Rampage’s face you can hear his coaches actually doing all the corner coaching. Rampage even admitted to not being a good corner man when he was on vs Forrest. and Abe sucks. I would have stormed off as well. My 5 month daughter has a better ground game and she just learned to roll over to her stomach. Was he suppose to be some BBJ guy???? Shity

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    I believe I may have just officially created the “Couture vs. Cro Cop” movement!

  • moosebaby02 says:

    if it was you than you sure did. that one wasnt even on my radar. come Joey S. get it going

  • webeougher says:

    2 former 411 guys doing 411’s Fact or Fiction? Veeeeerrrrrrryyyyyyyy interesting.

    At any rate, here goes:

    1. Credential/accomplishment-wise, as mentioned, Maynard is in a class by himself due to his sterling record inside the Octagon. Promotion-wise, it’s the easiest sell there is, assuming BJ beats Diego (and I am), because you’ve got Student v Coach (former now, obviously). In terms of the caliber of Maynard’s opponents (pre-Huerta) and the method in which he’s been victorious (largely lackluster decisions), I think that could make it harder for him to get a title shot. Since Machida was already mentioned, I think it’s interesting to note that he wasn’t given a guaranteed title shot until AFTER he had (t)KO’ed Thiago Silva, and I think Gray is probably in the same boat.

    2. Tim Sylvia is certainly still a recognizable heavyweight, but the question is whether or not he’s a relevant heavyweight. In this day and age, fighting on non-UFC or Strikeforce shows (and remaining exclusively in the US), there’s no way he can be considered relevant. Does that mean he can’t reel off a three- or five-fight win streak in impressive fashion and get snapped back up by either of the above-named promotions? Not in the least. But, at the moment, both Sylvia and Arlovski, two-thirds of the UFC’s heavyweight division in the early part of the decade (with Mir being the third), are completely and totally irrelevant. At least if Sylvia is done taking fighting seriously he’ll still be able to pick up a few nice paychecks in freakshow fights in Japan (kinda suprised he didn’t replace Mousasi in the SUPER HULK~!).

    3. At this point, I would say that yes, the UFC should be more concerned about Strikeforce’s CBS special than any other rival show to date. With that said, how concerned do I think they should be? Not very concerned at all, honestly. Yes, the show does boast arguably the number one heavyweight in the world (and the most dominant heavyweight in the world to this point in the sport’s young history, without doubt); however, how do you promote a guy for whom you have no rights to footage? Show him fighting a bunch of Japanese guys that no casual fan has ever heard of? Show his grappling exhibitions with guys half his size? Rogers is the more marketable fighter at this point, but I don’t feel like Strikeforce is going to do anything to promote him. And really, without a Countdown or All Access-type show, how far can they really go to hype up the show? Realistically, I don’t think Dana and company are going to worry too much about this show until after the fact – see how it does and then figure out whether they need to counterprogram the next one.

    4. Under – Mirko’s done, plain and simple. He looked beaten after his head kicks against Junior Dos Santos were entirely ineffective, and especially after the punishment he absorbed in the final round of that fight.

    5. Henderson should be the number one contender, plain and simple. In spite of his “VERY predictable ways”, Henderson is still the only one to win a round against Silva in the UFC, and he’s coming off of the KO of his career at the UFC’s biggest event to date. From a marketing standpoint, that makes him the most viable contender. As mentioned, Belfort hasn’t even fought at Middleweight in the UFC yet, so why should he be getting a title shot. Plus, his style (aggressive striker with questionable cardio and mental toughness) is tailor-made for another highlight-reel knockout for Silva. As good as Belfort’s striking has looked at middleweight, Silva is in a completely different universe, and it’s not going to be a striker that finally dethrones him. I’m a big Marquardt fan, but I think he relies too much on his striking to really pose a serious threat to Silva.

    6. Abe Wagner by far, although he was greatly outstripped by both Wes Shivers and James McSweeney on episode 2. As mentioned, though, Rampage isn’t supposed to be a great coach, just a talented, charismatic fighter.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    Funny you say that since there is only one “fact/fiction” question, not to mention the entire style of fact/fiction or buy/sell or whatever isn’t original by any means and has been used by countless outlets for years and years. Also veeeeeerrrrrrrry interesting that you would try to imply some sort of wrongdoing when 411Mania itself steals 90% of the stuff they put up on their site.

  • Bullylover says:

    I think moos might of found the best solution for the next MW contender.Okami has been due a title shot but has had a bunch of boring decisions since the evan tanner fight.against belfort he’ll have no choice but to try and finish the fight beforte belfort does. i also think that Nate has had the more impressive wins since his lost to anderson compared to hendersons run.nate has gone 4-1 with all 4 wins coming by stoppage(1sub,3tko’s,1ko) against hendersons 3-0(1ud,1spd,1ko) and the only top fighter he fought at this time was Franklin wich he really lost with the ecxception of the 1st rd.if dan doesn’t feel like fighting marquardt for the #1 contender spot then let nate get the shot and belfort and okami fight for the next shot.

  • webeougher says:

    Brendhan,

    No wrongdoing implied there, guy. Just glad to see two of my favorite 411 alumni doing battle, as it were. Sorry if that part came off wrong.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    My mistake. Just wanted to be clear that, as someone who did the FoF over there for quite some time and is once again following in the footsteps of Michael Huckaby regarding this style of column, I’m trying to keep it fairly original.

  • Kuch says:

    The real question is when is Curry going to interview Seth again?

    Good to see you guys haven’t missed a step. Nice way to spice up the old FoF format with some other variables.

    I’m still waiting for my chance to get in on one of these… I’m looking at you Conlan!!

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