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Grappling with Issues – 8/12/10

Would you rather see Anderson Silva in a rematch with Chael Sonnen or instead take his talents to the light heavyweight division on a permanent basis? Do you think Junior dos Santos prefers heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and top contender Cain Velasquez as his next opponent? What’s next for Matt Hughes? Who should Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Champion Sarah Kaufman keep her eye on at tonight’s four-female tournament?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to the Thursday debut of “Grappling with Issues”, our site’s resident Friday feature highlighting insight and opinion from Adam Tool and myself on six subjects plucked from the Mixed Martial Arts landscape. GWI will be moving to Thursdays on a permanent basis for the foreseeable future as a means of keeping my newly-promoted fingers from spontaneously combusting as the result of overuse. 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…

Should Tim Sylvia get another shot in a mainstream promotion if he’s able to beat Paul Buentello at this weekend’s “War on the Mainland” event?

Tool: By mainstream promotion I’ll assume we’re referring to the UFC or Strikeforce, and I suppose my answer would be a solid “maybe.” I don’t think Sylvia has any place in the UFC, as their heavyweight division has clearly passed him by. I wouldn’t give Sylvia a chance against any of the company’s top fighters and it’s not as though he’s popular enough amongst fans to warrant a return to the Octagon. Dana White has not had a single good thing to say about Sylvia since his departure so I’d say that’s three strikes against seeing the big man back in the division he used to rule.

As far as Strikeforce goes there are positives and negatives towards bringing Sylvia in. I don’t really know if he’d be able to hang with the top guys in their heavyweight division, and we certainly don’t need to see him face off with Fedor Emelianenko for a second time. That being said Strikeforce’s heavyweight ranks aren’t nearly as deep as the UFC’s and if he’s serious about his career again I could see Sylvia doing alright for himself. He may not be the most well-liked fighter in the world but he is a name that people know, and that can really only be seen as a positive for a promotion that’s still working on growing its brand recognition. If his price tag is reasonable enough I could see Sylvia in a Strikeforce cage, but of course that doesn’t mean that I want to see it.

Conlan: I think Tool’s point about Sylvia’s asking price is the key ingredient in terms of a potentially victorious “Maine-iac” signing with Strikeforce (The UFC is not a realistic option unless he puts together a significant win-streak and gets his physique back under control). If the financial figures make sense on both sides there’s no reason a deal shouldn’t get done.

Beating “The Headhunter” would be Sylvia’s third consecutive dubya since being knocked out by Ray Mercer a year ago. Though neither of the previous wins came against particularly noteworthy opponents from a talent standpoint, both were finishes, and another strike-based result – especially over someone with Buentello’s name-recognition – would definitely be an angle Strikeforce could market against one of their worthwhile heavyweights. I’m not saying a TKO win over Buentello signifies the transformation of “Tim-meh” back into the semi-feared striker he once was, but it’s enough to pair with the win streak as far as promoting a potential co-headlining fight against Bobby Lashley, Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, or even Shane del Rosario.

Who should Matt Hughes face in his next fight?

Tool: There’s a few options on the table for sure. Granted, Hughes has already made it clear that he intends to take the rest of the year off for hunting season and return sometime in 2011, so we’ve got some leeway as far as potential opponents go.

If Hughes is at all serious about making another run at the title then it’s about time he took on one of the division’s elite fighters from the American Kickboxing Academy camp. Mike Swick would make an excellent opponent, as would Josh Koscheck when if he loses to Georges St. Pierre. I don’t think Hughes will be able to score a fourth meeting with GSP but if he has any hopes of doing so then he’ll need to beat one of the top five guys in the division first.

If Hughes is simply looking for appealing fights that have no relevance in the division’s rankings, then there’s a perfectly suitable opponent who also scored a big win at UFC 117. For those that don’t know, Dennis Hallman has the unique distinction of owning two submission wins (both in under a minute) over Hughes. Their last meeting was over ten years ago, well before Hughes became the most dominant welterweight champion in UFC history. A third match-up between these two wouldn’t exactly bring in the PPV buys but it would serve as a great main event for an upcoming Fight Night or Versus card. It would give Hughes the chance to finally get that monkey off his back and it would give Hallman (whose experiencing a mild career resurgence after his win over Ben Saunders) a chance to become a serious player in the welterweight division.

Conlan: I like the thought of Hallman, because there’s history between them and he’s a fairly beatable opponent for Hughes in terms of continuing the slow-build towards a final run at the UFC welterweight title. However, as impressive as Hallman’s recent win was, he was knocked out in his previous fight against John Howard and was probably looking at a pink-slip with another loss in the Octagon before out-pointing Saunders at UFC 117. I think Hughes is at a point in his career where he should be showcased against opponents with either significant name-value or potential for properly using the momentum a win over someone with his reputation brings. At 34-years old, minus a significant victory in the last 5+ years, and without any real buzz surrounding him, Hallman doesn’t quite qualify in either regard and as such I question whether or not he’s worth the risk for Hughes.

Rather, I’d prefer to see Hughes fight the winner of Carlos Condit’s upcoming fight with Dan Hardy at UFC 120. With three straight wins Hughes deserves a step up in competition, as well as current relevance, and Condit/Hardy are perfect candidates to provide both. It would be a fresh match-up and notching a win would benefit any of the involved parties. Beating Condit/Hardy would show Hughes is still able to beat a legitimate contender, while emerging victorious against a UFC icon like Hughes still means a lot when considering the self-professed farm-boy’s success as of late.

Which would you rather see – Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II or Anderson Silva forfeit his middleweight title and take a run at light heavyweight?

Tool: Well we already know that Silva fully intends to remain at middleweight for the rest of his career, since he said as much in the days leading up to UFC 117. So as far as what will happen, it would seem that Silva/Sonnen 2 is the best bet right now.

Personally I’ve always thought that Silva could truly be competitive in the light heavyweight division, and his thorough domination of Forrest Griffin proved exactly that. The UFC has had numerous problems finding credible opponents for Silva’s middleweight belt, while the light heavyweight division is full of guys that would be incredibly intriguing opponents for “The Spider.” If Silva were to drop his belt tomorrow and proclaim his future is at 205 lbs. I would think he’d be worthy of an immediate title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and that’s a fight that any fan of the sport would love to see.

That being said, Saturday night proved that Silva hasn’t quite cleaned out the middleweight division. Obviously there’s the potential match-up waiting to be made with Vitor Belfort, and just a few weeks ago we saw Yushin Okami make his case for getting back into the mix of potential contenders. Then there’s Sonnen, who did the unthinkable by dominating the world’s best middleweight for 23 minutes. I don’t think that Sonnen deserves an immediate rematch since there was no controversy about the outcome of the fight, but his performance does warrant another shot at Silva down the line (provided he doesn’t lose to anyone else in the meantime).

Conlan: I think a rematch with Sonnen makes sense as long as it’s not immediate in nature. As Adam said, the professor of perplexing prose did enough in his 4 ½ rounds against Silva to make it clear the UFC’s 185-pound champ isn’t quite as unbeatable as previously believed. With Vitor Belfort prepared to make his middleweight mark on the promotion, former Strikeforce champ Jake Shields now part of the Zuffa team, and Sonnen two minutes away from winning the belt, “The Spider” clearly has a few foes to fend off before he can officially claim to have completely cleaned out the division.

However, the question was what scenario I’d prefer, and without a doubt I’d prefer to see Silva slay a slew of respected 205-pounders than mix it up with any of the afore-mentioned middleweights. The prospect of Silva fighting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jon Jones, or current champ Rua is far more exciting than seeing Silva face off against someone struggling to be considered a legitimate contender. Sonnen may have pinned the Brazilian phenom down for 23+ minutes but he never did any significant damage. With Jackson, Jones, and Rua I think the potential for danger is much higher, and therefore fighting at light heavyweight is a much more exciting prospect to me than seeing Silva remain at 185.

Knowing that he’ll face the winner of the upcoming Brock Lesnar/Cain Velasquez championship fight, who do you think Junior dos Santos will be rooting for in October?

Conlan: Dos Santos was asked who he preferred on the heels of his contender-solidifying win against Roy Nelson and responded that he didn’t care whose waist the title was around when he got his shot at it. Whether or not the 25-year old Brazilian slugger was being politically correct or genuinely isn’t concerned is something only he and those closest to him can know for sure. However, if I was in his shoes (or his camp’s for that matter) I’d probably fashion a voodoo doll, then write “Brown Pride” on its chest in Sharpie, with the hope poking a needle or two into it might assist Lesnar in retaining his title at UFC 121.

Velasquez’s wrestling is obviously top notch, as is Lesnar’s, and though Dos Santos’ takedown defense is good it’s not at the level it needs to be in order to consistently stuff either UFC 121 headliner. However, and most importantly in the equation, the AKA product’s striking is more technical than Lesnar’s. Though he doesn’t possess the champ’s brute strength, the Mexican-American heavyweight still packs enough power in his punches to even make Montezuma question his job security. Since the test Velasquez offers on his feet is a lot stiffer than it would be were Lesnar teaching class, I think Velasquez poses more of a threat to a brawler like “Cigano”, and as such he’d be the fighter I’d prefer to avoid if I were part of Dos Santos’ inner-circle.

Tool: Regardless of the outcome, we know for certain that Dos Santos in for the toughest test of his career when his title shot ticket comes up. I can’t argue with any of Brendhan’s points for picking Lesnar as the more favorable opponent, but for the sake of argument let’s see why Dos Santos would be better off dealing with Velasquez.

Dos Santos showed great takedown defense against Roy Nelson, but obviously the winner the UFC 121 headliner is going to present a whole new set of problems. In that regard I think Dos Santos would do better against Velasquez seeing as how the two fighters are closer in size. Lesnar will likely outweigh Dos Santos by at least 30 pounds on fight night, and that added muscle means it’ll be that much easier for the current champ to dictate where the fight takes place.

Nobody is going to claim that Lesnar is a better striker than Velasquez, but I do believe he has a better ability to absorb punishment. We saw Velasquez get rocked a few times against Cheick Kongo and while he recovered quickly and won the fight, it’s hard to say how he will fare against the much more aggressive style of “Cigano.” Along those same lines I wouldn’t be surprised to see Velasquez choose to stand and trade with Dos Santos and a shoot-out between those two could easily leave either man unconscious on the mat.

Which of the four competitors in tomorrow night’s Strikeforce women’s 135 lbs. tournament do you feel poses the biggest threat to Sarah Kaufman?

Conlan: Carina Damm and Miesha Tate are both are extremely tough, well-rounded competitors, and if matched-up properly at the weigh-ins, should be the tournament’s finalists. Whoever emerges victorious between the two of them is definitely a threat to Kaufman’s title, though I wouldn’t say I’m overly confident in either lady eventually taking it from her. That being said, Damm has won her last ten fights including five straight stoppages, while “Takedown” Tate has finished three consecutive opponents since losing a gutsy decision to Kaufman a little over a year ago. Both have shown an ability to end things before scorecards come into play and possess a near-even split between submissions/TKOs in terms of how their wins have come about. Between the two I’m going to say Tate should be favored to win because she’s a more-natural 135-pounder and had the experience of being involved in a one-night tournament a few years ago (her professional debut actually). Though she may not have emerged victorious in the final, having gone through the process before should give Tate a mental edge in the ring, and it’s well-documented how important a fighter’s mindset is where success is concerned.

Tool: I’m tempted to go with Maiju Kujala for this one, simply on the basis that she’s the fighter nobody seems to know anything about. She’s certainly the dark horse of the tournament and I’m interested to see what she brings to the table on Friday night.

I can’t take Hitomi Akano for this one since she’s essentially a less-aggressive version of Roxanne Modafferi. She’s got one of the most impressive submission games of the four women in the field but if she did meet up with Kaufman I’d put her chances of scoring a takedown at anywhere from slim to nothing.

That leaves us with Damm and Tate, and there’s a strong case to be made for both ladies. Tate has something of an advantage over the other three ladies in that she’s faced Kaufman before. Tate gave Kaufman the toughest fight of the champion’s career, and things aren’t going to get any easier if these two meet again. While the first fight consisted of three 3-minute rounds, their rematch would be five 5-minute rounds. That could tip things in Tate’s favor since the longer rounds give her that much more time to work for the takedown.

In the end though I’m going with Carina Damm. She’s got a solid arsenal of strikes and knockout power, and if things hit the mat she has some quality jiu-jitsu skills to boot. Kaufman is one of the most technical strikers in women’s MMA, and the aggressive style of Damm could prove to be Kaufman’s kryptonite. As Brendhan already said Damm is fighting outside of her usual weight of 125 lbs., but I don’t think that will be too much a problem for her. If anything it could only increase her power and conditioning since she won’t have to cut much weight (if any at all).

Which bout on WEC 50’s main card are you most excited for?

Conlan: Easily the main event between Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez. Benavidez has looked sharp since losing to Cruz a year ago and is at the age where he’s likely to keep improving on a per-fight basis. The 26-year old teammate of Urijah Faber is an excellent wrestler with good hands who is also a submission threat from most positions. He’s fearless on his feet, throws stinging punches, and has shown himself to have a decent chin as well. However, Cruz is actually a few years younger than Benavidez making his ascension to the top of the division even more impressive than it is on the surface. Like Benavidez, he’s also getting better each time out. His stand-up is superior to Benavidez’s and his ground-game is underrated. All in all, their fight should be hotly contested and cap-off an excellent event.

I’m also interested in seeing the bout between Scott Jorgensen and Brad “One Punch” Pickett. Pickett has won his last nine fights and finished seven of the last nine foes he’s faced. He trains with American Top Team, so he’s got a great group to work with, and is good on his feet as well as when it comes to grappling. Jorgensen has beaten four straight and is on the cusp of a title-shot. He’s clearly a legitimate adversary for Pickett and I expect the end-result of their pairing to be an extremely exciting fight.

Tool: The main event is certainly the most intriguing bout given the history of these two and the improvements we’ve seen from them as of late. Part of me thinks that Benavidez has learned enough in the last year to take the belt, but then again this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve underestimated Cruz.

Outside of the title fight and the aforementioned Jorgensen/Pickett bout, the fight I’m most looking forward to is the lightweight scrap between Shane Roller and Anthony Pettis. Current WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson is without an opponent for his next defense, and it’s all but certain that the winner of this fight will be next in line. Pettis is already on a roll this year as he’s 2-0 since losing a narrow decision to Bart Palaszewski at WEC 45, and his dramatic head-kick knockout of Danny Castillo was one of many highlights at WEC 47. Roller has already dropped one fight to Henderson but he’s 3-0 since then, including his momentum-halting submission of Anthony Njokauni on the WEC’s first PPV. While this fight basically breaks down as striker vs. grappler, it’s important to note that Pettis is no slouch on the ground.

In any case WEC 50 is liable to be yet another fantastic night of fights from one of the best promotions in the world, and if you haven’t been making a point to watch their shows on Versus then this coming Wednesday is the perfect night to start.

11 COMMENTS
  • Dufresne says:

    – I wouldn’t mind seeing Sylvia in SF against someone like Bigfoot. I don’t see him back in the UFC unless he puts together an incredible (and very improbable) win streak against guys with names like Arlovski, Werdum, Overeem, Rogers, and Fedor.

    – Hughes can fight pretty much anyone he wants, in my opinion. If he decides he wants to go for another title shot, give him a contender match. The only people he’s lost to in the last 5 years are Thiago Alves and GSP. I don’t really see either of those as warranting all the “he’s been passed by” talk that seems to have popped up. Sure he got dominated by GSP, but so has everyone else.

    – I’d prefer to see Silva bounce around different weight classes and have matchups with people like Shogun, Rampage, JDS (yeah I know he’s a HW and in the title picture, but this is my dream world here so I can make up rules), and possibly even GSP.

    – I expect that JDS is pulling for Cain. Sure Cain has better striking than Lesnar, but I’m not sure if Cain’s boxing is on the same level as JDS’s is at this point. Add in that Cain has shown that he would prefer to keep things standing in almost all fights and that plays into JDS’s biggest strength. The only fight that I can really remember Cain going for multiple takedowns was against Kongo, and that was only because Kongo kept blasting him in the face. I don’t think that JDS could stop either Lesnar or Cain’s takedown attempts if they were both 100% coherent, but if he’s smashed each of them in the face once or twice before they go for the shot I would give Lesnar a better shot of pulling off the takedown than Cain.
    Also, Lesnar showed that he knows how to deal with high level BJJ when he turned Mir’s face into pudding but we haven’t seen Cain on the ground with a skilled submission artist. JDS isn’t known for his subs, but he does have a brown belt in BJJ so it’s not like he’d be completely uncomfortable throwing sub attempts from his back.
    So I’m looking at it like this:
    Striking: JDS > Cain >> Lesnar
    Ground game: Lesnar >> Cain > JDS
    Cain is closer to JDS on multiple levels, but we’ve already seen that when you have a guy like Brock who is so freakishly powerful and has such dominating wrestling you really only need to be “okay” at everything else.

    – Also going with Tate. Experience is a huge deal in MMA and having been the distance with the champ once should give her an edge if they get the rematch as compared to the rest.

    – Jorgensen v Pickett. This fight just has excitement written all over it. The entire card looks pretty good, and the title fight is definitely gonna be fun to watch, but I have to go with Jorgensen/Pickett for my most anticipated.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    If Tim wins convinceningly yes he deserves a shot at the bigger promotions, if he loses or wins a boring UD then no.
    I would like to see Hughes fight the winner of Condit vs Hardy or the winner of Sanchez ve Thiago, Swick is a good name but doesnt deserve a fight with Hughes after getting 2 loses in a row. Hughes is really 2 fights away from a title fight here.
    I want to see Silva Belfort first. Just because Sonnen did well vs Silva is no reason to give him a immediate title shot again. He lost without any controversy, to a submission again. I dont think the outcome will ever change. He like all other challengers needs to be built back up to a title shot.
    Tate will win the tournament, regardless if she finishes anybody her solid striking and superior wrestling combined with a solid chin will get her the win. and eventually the 135 lb title to go with it, as last time she fought Sarah it was on very short notice after she was prepaired for Ms. Couture. With a proper camp and time to really prepaire for Sarah I think we will see a much close fight.

  • MCM says:

    Yes to Strikeforce as long as he wins. Tim is still a big name in this sport to a lot of fans, casual or otherwise and as long as he’s not asking for “Affliction” money he would fit right in with Coker’s HW division.

    I didn’t know that Hughes was still interested in the belt. If he is, give him Kampman, Shields or Fitch if Fitch is willing to fight before his title shot. If he’s just wants interesting fights before he retires like it appears, give him Hallman or bring back Carlos Newton since it was a controversial fight that started his reign at WW. I still consider his fight against Serra a loss so I’m not sure where that puts him in the rankings.

    If I was JDS, I’d be hoping for Cain. Cain has been rocked and didn’t appear to do much damage to Kongo when he was on top. If Kongo had a ground game that fight could have ended differently. But if he does get Cain that means that Velasquez was able to take out Brock, and since I can’t foresee how that could happen, that would make Cain a very scary dude.
    Brock on the other hand, showed us just how tough he is in his last fight. He took everything from the hardest hitting guy in the UFC and came out of it with a win. JDS couldn’t put down Nelson and Brock’s take down attempts aren’t gonna be near as easy to fend off. If I was JDS, I’d be hoping for the “easier” fight of Cain.

    Silva should stay at MW. His last fight showed that he has not only holes in his game but challengers that can exploit them.

    Don’t know enough about the women’s tourney so I’ll go with the known commodity, Miesha Tate.

    I personally find Scott Jorgenson to be one of the most exciting fighters in any weight class so that’s an easy pick.

  • stone says:

    Mike Swick a step up for Hughes? I don’t think so… Let him fight Hallman for the “revenge” factor than Hardy, Condit, Kampmann or P.Thiago… As far as JDS, I think he gots a better shot w/ Brock… Silva should move up to LHW and hold both belts, just don’t give him “Bones” LoL

  • Rece Rock says:

    Tim Sylvia has to do more than beat buentello… I got Paul beating Timmy any way. But if Tmmay wins it is a step in an upward direction but his previous 2 wins are nothing to write home about, he has more to prove to go hang with the big boys again.

    I like the idea of the winner of Carlos Condit/ Dan Hardy but I don’t know if Matt likes that idea… he’s on a different path these days.

    Anderson Silva forfeit his middleweight title and take a run at light heavyweight sounds better than a rematch but to tell you the truth I’d rather see him fight Belfort first then drop the title and go LHW…

    Junior dos Santos will be rooting for in Cain Velasquez… simply because size matters… both are a threat but Brock is a BIGGER threat if you know what I mean.

    Which fighter in Strikeforce women’s 135 lbs. tournament do you feel looks best in a Bikini? I like that question better.

    At WEC 50 I just want to see what city won that contest – I was rootin’ for NJ so I could see WEC locally… I’m from NYC.

  • MCM says:

    Rece Rock says:

    “Which fighter in Strikeforce women’s 135 lbs. tournament do you feel looks best in a Bikini? I like that question better.”

    I’ll have to stay with my original pic of Miesha Tate.

    http://www.mmamania.com/2010/3/26/1391439/back-in-the-fray-mmamania-com

  • Angry Mike says:

    Sonnen should get a re-match, imo. He rocked Silva several times and came with in minutes of the upset win. He lost to Filho in WEC by submission and won the re-match, so he’s proven that he can win against a fighter after losing the first time.

  • sigmund says:

    I think sylvia would be good in strikeforce. if he could focus on getting into peak physical shape and get a couple more wins he would be a legit competator and a good name to have on the roster.

    I would like to see matt hughes fight jake sheilds. seems like a good matchup for both guys(providing sheilds does well against kampmann

    I want silva to stay at middle-weight until he is truly dethroned as the champ by a legit defeat. Then after that i would love to see him mix it up and make a run for lightweight.

    I’m gonna say JDS should be rootin for cain. Its kind of a toss up though.

    woman’s tourney? hmmm…… Tate.

    WEC 50 like all of their cards looks like a great card so its a hard one to call because all those guys bring it every time. For me its a toss up between the main event, and jorgenson vs. pickett

  • JBAR says:

    Sigmund, I don’t think Silva could cut 30 additional pounds but I would like to see him fight B.J.Penn. :)

  • Rece Rock says:

    MCM that photo on the link was Bootyfull :)
    I can see why she’s got your vote.

  • sigmund says:

    oops that was totally a typo i mean light-heavyweight… but I would definatly watch him fight penn

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