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Grappling with Issues – 2/26

Should Brock Lesnar be more concerned about Cain Velasquez than Frank Mir or Shane Carwin? Is “The Dean of Mean” on the UFC’s chopping block after losing another fight? How excited should Wanderlei Silva’s fans be after his performance against Michael Bisping? Will Joe Stevenson ever earn another opportunity at UFC gold?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

If you’re reading these lines you’ve made it through another work-week and are back in the friendly confines of “Grappling with Issues”, our site’s resident feature highlighting insight and opinion from around the Mixed Martial Arts landscape. My regular foil, Adam Tool, was too busy rebuilding Haiti, counseling Tiger Woods, and playing PS3 to contribute to this edition of GWI but rest assured his stylings will be back next week. Sorry, Elin, but that’s how we roll at Five Ounces.

Filling in for Tool is another familiar face, Dustin Zuch, whose items you may have seen ‘round these digital parts. As always, we will be offering our thoughts on six subjects related to MMA. However, just because we staffers get the fancy set-up, please don’t feel precluded from dishing out your own thoughts on each matter in the comments section at the bottom of the column…

With five losses in his last seven bouts, is Keith Jardine at risk of being released without an impressive win in his next fight?

Zuch:My first instinct says no. A win would certainly help, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be impressive. Despite the “The Dean of Mean’s” recent lacking track record, he still remains a solid challenger to any light heavyweight looking to make a step up in competition. Jardine may have a suspect chin but I think his wins over two former UFC champions in the recent years (Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin) stay in the minds of the UFC brass. That’s not to say he’ll get the Stephan Bonnar treatment though…

Conlan: Though I agree Jardine is a “solid challenger” for any 205-pounder I don’t think that necessarily means his contract is safe by any means. Yes, he beat Liddell and Griffin, but you’re talking about wins coming 2 ½ – 3 years ago and sandwiched between them was a devastating knockout loss to Houston Alexander. Do you know what else I suspect is also in the minds of UFC executives? The fact Jardine is 1-4 in his last five bouts, hasn’t finished an opponent other than Griffin since December 2005, and refuses to compete against Rashad Evans. Though Jardine may be a tough draw he also has quite a bit working against him in terms of drawing future checks from Zuffa without an immediate turnaround in the ring. A decision win in his next fight will likely buy him a stay of execution while an exciting finish certainly will. However, another loss – especially by knockout – and I think “The Dean” is definitely at risk of relegation to a Division II-level MMA promotion.

True/False – Joe Stevenson will never again fight for the UFC Lightweight Championship.

Zuch: True. I don’t foresee any more title shots for Joe Daddy. He will, however, remain as one of the most well rounded gatekeepers at lightweight. You can’t take away that vicious guillotine from him either.

Conlan: I’m hesitant to say “never”, especially since Stevenson is only 27, but in a division as deep as lightweight my confidence is equally lacking in terms of saying the Ultimate Fighter Season 2 champion will almost certainly fight for UFC gold again. He’s extremely talented, yet can’t seem to find consistent success against high level opponents. To that end I wonder if perhaps a sports psychologist would help him a la GSP, and with St. Pierre being one of his training partners at Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico it might behoove Stevenson to seek out his opinion on the matter. Stevenson has been dealing with more pressure than your average “Joe” for a long time. You’re talking about a guy who, amongst other things in his life, watched his father die of cancer while still a child, dealt with his mother being incarcerated, fought Jens Pulver professionally two weeks shy of his seventeenth birthday, and had both 35 fights and four children before the age of 25. If he’s a human being how can those things not have added some additional weight on his soul?

Which former Ultimate Fighter coach should be more concerned after losing last weekend – “Minotauro” Nogueira or Michael Bisping?

Zuch: As much as I hate to admit, Big Nog aka “Minotauro”, needs to start thinking about his future in the heavyweight division. His days of being able to absorb mass amounts of punishment and still chug on are wearing thin. He still is a top guy in the division, no doubt, but the Cains and Mirs will always give him trouble.

Conlan: I suppose I’ll say Nogueira due to age and the amount of punishment he’s absorbed over his career, but I also think Bisping is at a very interesting crossroads. “The Count” has been primarily known as a striker but looked apprehensive to engage Silva and ultimately came closer to la-la land than “The Axe Murderer” did at any point in the bout. He scored a number of takedowns and did absolutely nothing with him. Those things should concern him, even to the point of finding a new training camp, and if they don’t then I suspect his future in the UFC will consist of gate-keeping and acting as a draw in the UK.

Back to “Minotauro”, the PRIDE icon has been knocked out twice in the past three fights and hasn’t even come close to unleashing his BJJ mastery at any point in either bout. It’s also important to remember that not only was Tim Sylvia beating him up before pulling a “Tim-Meh”, but Heath Herring also left Nogueira on the cusp of consciousness in Rodrigo’s UFC debut. However, I am not going to jump the gun and say the affable Brazilian is finished or should be overly concerned about continuing to compete. He may have passed the proverbial torch to other younger fighters with less brain-rattling to their credit, but he’s absolutely good enough to be a part of the UFC’s heavyweight picture.

Facial differences not withstanding, is it safe to say the old Wanderlei Silva is back?

Zuch: Ok, let’s not get carried away here. The old Wanderlei is not back, but he is definitely rejuvenated and seems highly focused. I’m impressed with his decision to go back to his roots at Chute Boxe and improve upon them. His standup against Bisping was much more technical than normal and he wasn’t just looping wild punches. I don’t think we’ll ever see the Wanderlei from the PRIDE days again, but at least the new focused Wanderlei will have a good chance of succeeding in this middleweight division.

Conlan: It’s safe to say he was back for about thirty seconds of the Bisping fight but other than that, as Zuch referred to, Silva will never be the same fighter he was in PRIDE due to MMA’s unified rules and the UFC’s unwillingness to showcase him against tomato cans. However, though he may not be “The Axe Murderer”, he’s at least “The Hatchet Murderer” and a threat to separate any opponent from consciousness. I’m not quite ready to give him my endorsement in terms of finding a lot of future success at 185 pounds, because Bisping took him down at will and isn’t considered much of a grappler. Had “The Count” been Chael Sonnen or Nate Marquardt it might have been a much shorter night for Silva.

Does Cain Velasquez pose a bigger threat to Brock Lesnar than both Shane Carwin and Frank Mir?

Zuch: Cain proved against Big Nog that his standup game is scary good. Big Nog is arguably the most difficult guy to finish across any division and Cain made it look easy. Lesnar’s sheer size, strength, and power are also scary good. I’d really like to see how Lesnar would do against a guy most comparable to his size and strength, such as Shane Carwin. Ask me this question again after we see Mir vs Carwin on March 27 and I’ll have a better answer as to who is the biggest threat to Lesnar’s strap. Either way, I hope somewhere down the line we get to see Cain vs. Carwin. Jeez, I tackled most of that spectrum.

Conlan: Going into UFC 110 you wouldn’t have been able to bribe me into believing Velasquez was a superior threat to someone with Mir’s jiujitsu or Carwin’s size/strength but currently I’m taking offers. Velasquez has the grappling background to fend Lesnar off and exhibited precise, powerful striking against Nogueira. Randy Couture was able to put a few dents in Brock’s armor with a similar approach minus Cain’s intangibles (youth, knockout ability, progressive development in the gym, etc.). Why shouldn’t Velasquez be able to capitalize on the same flaws?

Out of the following “small” fights scheduled for this weekend, which are you most interested in – Yves Edwards vs. Derrick Noble (MFC), Glover Teixeira vs. Jeff Monson (Bitetti Combat), Trevor Prangley vs. Karl Amoussou (Strikeforce Challengers), Paul Bradley vs. Luke Rockhold (Strikeforce Challengers), or Sarah Kaufman vs. Takayo Hashi (Strikeforce Challengers)?

Zuch: Without even hesitating I can say that I am most intrigued by Rockhold vs. Bradley. Rockhold is a great grappler with solid standup skills and Bradley is known for his dominating wrestling skills. It seems as if Rockhold will be comfortable wherever the fight goes, but I think Bradley will definitely be looking for the takedown and sticking to what he does best.

Conlan: Call me a sucker for any pairing featuring veterans who are still competitive fighters if you must but I’m looking forward to the Canadian clash between Edwards and Noble moreso than the other bouts on the list. Though neither will be challenging for a slot in the “Top 5” at any point in the future, both will be looking for a third straight victory at the event and have emerged a winner in their careers more than twice as often as the opposite. They are also well-rounded competitors in the sense they’re each as likely to submit an opponent as knock him out. Though Strikeforce offers a number of intriguing match-ups, and Bitetti is interesting for a variety of reasons (some positive, some not so much), I suppose the long-time MMA fan in me has a certain level of investment in Edwards and Noble exceeding that of the other fighters listed. Add in the fact the winner is likely to have an opportunity to silence Antonio McKee on a future MMA card and it’s a wrap.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Jardine should be in danger of getting cut, just being on tuf and being a popular fighter will only get you so far. That said I hope he does not get cut as he is one of my favorites to watch, and is always dangerous. The fact that he will not fight Evans(again) shouldnt even be a issue as there are plenty of LHW fighters out there to keep both busy barring a 6 fight win streak from both. This isnt the AKA brothers in WW you know.
    Minaturo may have his best days behind him but he will always be a force, remember back in pride the caliber of wrestlers he faced was nowhere near equal, so his Jiu Jitsu will not come into play as much anymore. The guy has been koed twice each time after coming off a serious staph virus so I think he deserves some credit and lets see how he looks after his next fight.
    Joe Daddy is another guy that can beat anybody on any night, and always a fun fighter to watch with one of the best and most exciting ground games in the LW division. He combines wrestling and Jiu Jitsu so well, much better than just about anybody. I hope to see a maych between him and Frankie Edgar sometime as I think it will be a classic.
    Kaufman vs Hashi will be the fight to watch this weekend as we will be witnessing history, The first womens 135 lb champion in StrikeForce.

  • Dufresne says:

    I think Jardine’s future lies in the result of his next fight. If he goes down in dramatic fashion he’s gotta be headed for the door.

    Unless something odd happens in the near future, I don’t see Stevenson getting another shot at the belt. There are just too many talented fighters in the LW division who are better rounded than he is. He may have some of the better wrestling and BJJ, but his standup is pretty lacking when compared to the tops.

    I agree that Big Nog needs to evaluate things more so than Bisping after that last loss. I would say that Nog is the more talented of the two, but he’s been through some absolute wars and taken a ridiculous amount of punishment getting to where he is. Bisping has only been KO’d once (although it was one for the ages) and has lost the rest of his fights by decision. Other than the fight against Hendo and a few spots in the loss against Wandi, I would say he’s gotten out of most bouts with relatively little damage whereas Nog has been kicked in the head by Cro Cop, mauled by Sapp, went to war with Fedor, etc… Luckily Big Nog already has his back up plan as a world respected coach already set up and running.

    I don’t think the “old Wandi” will ever return. Partly because of age, partly because the talent pool in MMA is so much deeper these days, and partly because the UFC won’t throw cans at him to crush to keep a win streak alive. The new Wandi will be a problem for anyone he faces though. He looked a little tenative out there, but this was also his first fight at 185 after fighting his entire career at LHW. Vera, Bisping, and countless others looked a lot worse their first fight back after that big cut than Wandi did last weekend.

    Out of the three threats to Lesnar, the one that’s the most dangerous is whichever can keep it on the feet. All three have shown KO power in their last fights, and Lesnar even admitted to seeing birds after the knee from Mir. I think Lesnar controls all of them on the ground; we’ve already seen him do it to Mir, he’s a better technical wrestler than Carwin, and he’s at least 30 pounds heavier than Cain.

    Out of the “small fights” I won’t get to watch any, but all of them sound pretty good. If I had to choose one that I could watch I would pick the Edwards fight. Stupid Monday tests….

  • Rich S. says:

    1. I would say Jardine is ALREADY at risk of being released, let alone after another loss..
    There are some fighters in the UFC that are shown favoritism, like Forrest, or Bonnar. Jardine, although a TUF cast member, is not one of those few… If I remember correctly, there were times where Jardine deserved a title shot, and instead, he would get a fight that he just couldn’t win, and go right back down the ladder.. Think the Forrest and Liddell wins.. It just seems like he’s not that important to them.. But, who knows..

    2. I think Joe has a shot at getting back at the belt some day, I just can’t figure out his problem.. He used to be so dominant, now, you never know how he’s going to perform.. Hopefully, for his sake, he can get back on track and be more consistent..

    3. Nogueira should be concerned. Bisping is still young, still has hope in this division, will ALWAYS have a job as long as their are UK shows, and just lost to a rejuvenated AXE MURDERER.. There’s practically nothing wrong with Bisping’s loss.. On the other hand, two years ago, Minotauro had never been finished.. Now, he’s been finished twice in his last three, the latest being quite brutal..

    4. The old Wandy is definitely NOT back.. But, he does seem to work nice in this division and a win over Bisping is a GREAT win.. So, there is hope..

    5. I actually think Cain poses the LEAST biggest threat to Lesnar.. Carwin has the best shot, because of his shear knockout power.. We’ve never seen Brock’s chin truly tested and a bomb from Carwin could do the trick.. Next, I’d say Mir JUST BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILTY OF A SUBMISSION.. Honestly, I think a Mir/Lesnar 3 would go the same way as 2 did, but, I still think Mir has a better chance than Cain.. Cain just seems too small to me.. Brock would beat him in his own game..

  • LiverPunch says:

    If Jardine stays popular they will keep him. Look for a Jardine vs a can next. $$ mean more than stats unfortunately.

  • BigDave says:

    I’m gonna talk about the only thing on here that matters.

    Cain Velasquez is not only the biggest threat to Brock Lesnar he is going to be the next HW Champ. His standup is better then Carwin or Mir, as is his wrestling. Cain’s cardio is off the charts for a HW and his chin is made out of granet. He just destroyed a guy who had never been beat like that and lets not forget nog fought Fedor. In my mind there isn’t a fighter in the HW division of any organization that can hang with Cain. Carwin is un tested and one dementional and Mir has been dunbied twice by lesnar already even though he won the 1st fight. So to me its no contest Cain is just flat out the best the ufc has at HW.

  • Good topic.

    1) Keith HAS to be at risk. Im sorry to say it but he has looked less than impressive in all of his last five fights win or lose except for the Rampage fight. truth be told, I think Rampage strayed from the gameplan or Jardine would’ve got KO’d in the first. Rampage let him get comfortable and then dropped him twice. If he would’ve just came out swingin Jardine would have another KO loss on his record. He’s a fun fighter to watch but just watching him walk into the Bader fight, it was obvious that the pressure was getting to him. The first two rounds he didn’t wanna engage Bader in any flurries and let’s be honest, YES Darth has one punch KO power but we’re talking about a guy who took the best Liddel had to offer when The Iceman was 7-1 in his previous 8 fights all 7 wins by way of KO. Keith needs to fight Hammil or someone who isn’t too overbearing on him and then we should see from there.

    2) Neither should be too concerned at all. Bisping fought a good fight with Wandi and showed he is near the top of his division. While I think he’d take a serious beating, I wanna see The Count Va. The Great. If Bisping thinks he’s up there then let’s see it. Nog shouldn’t be worried as he will always have a place in the sport and one of his losses came by way of TKO while sick, and the other just happened. Cain didnt KO him with one Punch as a matter of Fact Nog never went out. If He could’ve tucked his legs under Cain that fight would’ve continued. Not saying it was a bad stoppage, just saying Cain followed up perfectly. Nog needs to get his head movement back, just like Forrest found out, you can’t always enter the fight with the gameplan of “Im gonna get punched in the mouth and take it from there.” Provided Nog can learn to get hit a little less, he will always be a force with his solid boxing and otherworldly BJJ.

    3) Joe Daddy is too young to think he will NEVER fight for a title. I agree that maybe a sport psychiatrist would help him a great deal. Needless to say, he’s too young and too athletic to not put it all together one day, and get back up that ladder.

    4)once again I agree, Wandi will never be back to full form, he can’t be, too many technical strikers would eat him alive if he came out flingin Bombs and windmilling. However the new “pretty” axe murderer can always be a force and now he can do it with technique instead of raw agression. I think he was slightly tentative the other night in order to make sure he didn’t gas and lose to the count.

    5) NO. Cain is not as big a threat to Brock as either Mir or Carwin. Mir has upped his standup tremendously and again I state Brock never honestly took him down in the second fight, Mir always put himself back there. I still think something was up with Frank’s leg due to it being taped from hip to ankle and due to the fact he never tried to scramble. I figured he’d have been letting Brock try to pass half guard and catch him in the fray. Carwin’s true ONE punch KO power is scary. If anyone gets tagged it can be over like that. Carwin was semiconcious at best when he popped Gonzaga in the jaw and look how he went down. I think if the winner of Mir Carwin is healthy Cain should get the winner of JDS and Gonzaga. When Cain has to worry about real KO power AND insane submissions we’ll really see what he’s got. Not knocking him, but Fluke’s happen(Serra Vs. GSP) and just because Cain ran over a bunch of second tier talent and then flash KO’s Nog doesn’t mean he’s arrived to me. But I will be watching his every move as he showed great technical striking in the Nog fight and I’ve now been converted to a fan.

  • crane_style says:

    1. Jardine may have become a gatekeeper, but he’s still a damn tough one. As long as his fights continue to be exciting, I don’t see the UFC releasing him for several more fights. If he loses the next 2 or 3, then it might happen.

    2. Oh, Joe Daddy could easily fight for the 155 belt. Fighters get hurt, and it’s not always the #1 contender who gets the shot. Winning the belt it is another story. Though Stevenson is young enough to keep developing, it doesn’t look like he can handle anyone with good boxing skills, and that stuff is hard to teach.

    If he hasn’t figured it out after BJ schooled him in striking, I don’t think he ever will. This is too big hole in his game for him to win the title.

  • crane_style says:

    Woops, didn’t meant to submit that before I was done. To continue…

    3. Big Nog is the one who should be more worried. He’s getting older and seems the wars have taken their toll. With the size and power of the current heavyweight crop, I don’t see him getting close to a title shot, and I don’t think a fighter with his resume wants to be a gatekeeper.

    Bisping is at a crossroads. I think he has the skill set to be a top contender, but when he’s fighting someone with heavy hands, he becomes tentative. This says to me that he needs a new trainer/camp, someone who can help him stay in touch with his inner beast.

    4. We didn’t see the old “axe murderer”, but since that Silva fought under different rules, I’m not sure how accurate the comparison would be. But the new Wanderlei is enough of a handful that I could see him challenging for the title.

    I was impressed by his cardio and how easily he got back up when the Count took him down. I don’t think he’ll win a title, mind you. His chin still looks vulnerable to anyone with enough head movement to can stand in the pocket and trade with him, ie Anderson Silva.

    5. I think Cain is a threat to anyone who holds the heavyweight belt. When a young fighter learns and improves that fast, it makes it hard to see his ceiling. No one has found a hole in his game yet, so he could potentially be one of the all time greats.

    Carwin is similar to Cain, in that no one has been able to stop him, but being older, has less time to learn and grow.

    If Mir hadn’t changed his strength program, I’d say he’s no threat to Lesnar at all, but he has and his striking keeps improving.

    So, to answer the question, I would say Mir is the biggest threat to Brock right now. Shane could be more dangerous, but he hasn’t fought enough high level guys for us to know, so I give the nod the Frank “the Stalker”. However, in the long term, I would say Cain is the divisions biggest threat.


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