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Grappling with Issues – 9/17/10

Is wrestling ruining Mixed Martial Arts? Did the UFC blow it by cutting Todd Duffee? Who should Josh Barnett face in his Strikeforce debut? What is your opinion of Antonio McKee joining the UFC’s roster?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to “Grappling with Issues”, our site’s regular weekly feature highlighting insight and opinion from Adam Tool and myself on six subjects plucked from the Mixed Martial Arts landscape. 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…

Did the UFC make a mistake by releasing Todd Duffee after a single loss in the Octagon?

Tool: By most accounts, absolutely. Look at the heavyweight prospects across the board in MMA and try to tell me that Duffee isn’t one of the top names on that list. The loss to Mike Russow was a tough one, but I can’t think of a single high-level fighter at the moment who didn’t come back much better after their first loss. If Duffee ends up in Strikeforce (since they’d be nuts to not try and sign him) then it’s entirely possible that he’ll be successful enough outside of the octagon, and therefore he’d have no need to return. It’s also entirely possible that Duffee will never win again and fade quietly into the night, but this seems pretty unlikely to me.

Of course, there’s more to the story than what you or I know. The brass at Zuffa have given no reason for Duffee’s dismissal, nor are they required to. There’s too much behind the scenes information that we don’t know, so we have to also consider that the UFC may have been entirely justified in their actions. I won’t speculate on things like that but I will say this: if Todd Duffee has truly pissed Dana White off, I’m sure we would have heard about it by now. The fact that Dana is remaining silent on this one implies to me that Duffee still has the door open on a potential return some day.

Conlan: Based on the only information I have, which is that Duffee is a powerful, 6-1 heavyweight with five of his wins coming by way of first-round knockout, there’s definitely reason to question why the 24-year old would be released after suffering the only loss of his career to Russow. However, I agree with Tool in terms of there possibly being more to the story than has been made public. I know Duffee is a particularly outspoken individual, so it’s possible something he said in the past could have rubbed UFC brass the wrong way the wrong way, plus there’s always the possibility the promotion was tired of having him pull out of fights with injuries as he most recently did relating to a scheduled match-up with Jon Madsen at UFC 121.

Regardless, Duffee should do fine outside of the Octagon as long as his health issues don’t haunt him down the road. Strikeforce has a relatively strong heavyweight group, Bellator’s big-boy division is on the rise, Japan has always welcomed fighters with his physique and style of attack, and there are other opportunities beyond those on smaller promotions’ cards (a future Shark Fights show for example).

The circumstances surrounding his release may be a bit mysterious, but there’s little doubt in my mind all Duffee needs to do is string 2-3 wins in a row together and the UFC will come calling again.

Who impressed you the most at last weekend’s Shark Fights 13 event?

Tool: I’m split on this one between Tarec Saffiedine and Houston Alexander. Saffiedine showed that he is legit and I expect bigger paydays and broader exposure are coming soon. Soundly defeating Brock Larson may not be quite the accomplishment that it was a few years ago, but he’s still a pretty good measuring stick for where Saffiedine is at in his career. He’s already been on a couple of Strikeforce: Challengers cards so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he makes the move up to the big shows soon.

On the other hand we’ve got Alexander, and I have to give a solid round of applause for the Shark Fights match-maker that put Houston together with Rameau Sokoudjou. These two fighters have plenty in common and I honestly had no idea who was going to win when their bout started. Credit should be given to Alexander for surviving and recovering from the damage he took in round one. After making it to the bell Alexander really took over in the second as Sokoudjou had next-to-nothing left in his gas tank. This may not be the win that gets Alexander back in the UFC, but it’s a start at least.

Conlan: I’m heading down a different route than my compadre on this topic, but I can’t fault him for having a great deal of appreciation for both Alexander and Saffiedine’s performances as they each had qualities worth considering. That being said, as opposed to selecting an individual who added a “W” to his record at the event, I’m going to opt for someone who won in the eyes of most who watched rather than emerging victorious from the actual bout in question.

I thought newly-signed Strikeforce lightweight Jorge Masvidal turned in the performance of the night when considering his level of opposition and size differential between them. Daley had won five of his last six fights entering the match-up, with his infamous decision loss to Josh Koscheck being the lone blemish, and finished the entire lot via strikes. Masvidal was able to absorb most of the damage “Semtex” dished without waivering while also showing solid stand-up throughout. His grappling put him in a number of advantageous positions and nearly earned him the dubya…or did, depending on who you ask.

The fact “Gamebred” is a natural 155-pounder while Daley is a big welterweight also deserves discussion. Though American Top Team’s Masvidal faltered towards the end of the third round, the 25-year old still went a full fifteen against Daley – somewhat of a rarity in terms of the Brit’s past opponents. In reality, 20 of the 25 victories Daley has notched in his career have been by way of a finish. To maintain consciousness for three rounds while also being 15-20 pounds lighter than Daley when the cage-door closed is an extremely impressive feat and one that deserves full credit.

Josh Barnett recently signed with Strikeforce. Who would you like to see him face first in the organization?

Tool: You know what would help answer this question? If Strikeforce actually announced which of their heavyweights were going to be fighting one another soon. Fedor Emelianenko is (as always) tied up in negotiations. Fabricio Werdum is out the rest of the year with an injury. Alistair Overeem is taking his Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship and going back to competing in K-1 for now. Brett Rogers is taking his two-fight losing streak and competing on a show for W1 (who?) in Canada next month. Meanwhile Antonio Silva sits on the sidelines praying that somebody takes a fight against him. Also I think Andrei Arlovski may still be under a Strikeforce contract, but who know these days?

Now that I’ve mentioned all the top names under the Strikeforce banner, allow me to suggest a different option for Barnett’s first opponent: Lavar Johnson. Johnson has already made a name for himself amongst hardcore fans thanks to two explosive win on Strikeforce: Challengers. He’s never had a fight go to a decision and a bout with Barnett is a huge opportunity for him. It’s not the most appealing match-up for Barnett but it’s certainly a fight he would be favored in. If Barnett wins then it’s a great chance to expose him to audiences that have never seen him fight, and if Johnson wins you’ve instantly created a new star in your best division.

Conlan: I like the choice of Johnson, though it seems Shane del Rosario would be the way to go if giving a lesser-known fighter an opportunity to shine against a veteran like Barnett.

However, there’s only one truly logical choice for me and that’s Fedor Emelianenko. Fans have been longing to see Emelianenko and Barnett square off for years and were cheated out of a chance to see the match-up in 2009 at an Affliction event (in large part due to Barnett testing positive for steroid use a week-and-a-half before the show was scheduled to take place). As long as he’s able to test clean, unless of course Strikeforce wants to stir up criticism by promoting an event in a location with less-stringent drug testing policies than California, there’s no reason Barnett shouldn’t finally be paired with Emelianenko inside a cage. Neither is getting younger, and Strikeforce needs to make the biggest bouts possible in order to draw interest from mainstream fans and maintain relevance among the hardcore sector.

Who do you feel has the longer road back to the UFC: Paul Daley or Keith Jardine?

Conlan: If Dana White’s mind didn’t change faster than the colors of a chameleon with ADD the answer to this question would be fairly obvious since Daley is the only option with a “lifetime ban” from the Octagon attached to his name. However, the topic becomes a bit more interesting because the UFC President has no problem treating his past statements like they were written on a dry-erase board as indicated by, among other things, his recent decision to bring Karo Parisyan back into the fold.

That being said, I think the presently-banished Brit has a better chance of making his way back to the UFC than Jardine for a number of reasons. Daley is eight-years younger than Jardine for starters, meaning he has more time to work with in his career than “The Dean of Mean”. He’s also won two fights since his post-fight sucker punch of Josh Koscheck at UFC 113 last May whereas Jardine was unable to get by part-time middleweight Trevor Prangley at Shark Fights 13 – an individual who was dismantled in three-and-a-half minutes by Tim Kennedy a few months prior. Prangley is talented to be sure, but he’s nowhere near the quality of the UFC’s light heavyweights, and in that regard losing to him was devastating to Jardine’s chances where a promotional return is concerned.

“Semtex” also has a more fan-friendly style than Jardine, and at the end of the day the UFC is a business recognizing the value of keeping its supporters happy. Putting Daley in the ring against an opponent who isn’t afraid to strike is as simple a recipe for excitement as peanut butter, jelly, and two slices of bread is for a delicious sandwich. On the other hand, Jardine hasn’t finished an opponent since Forrest Griffin in December 2006, and he seems less willing to engage these days than in the past because of his chin’s lacking durability. Beyond their respective approaches to fighting, Daley’s polarizing personality also “puts asses in the seats” in comparison to Jardine’s soft-spoken humility, and is yet one more factor in the many making him the more-likely candidate for a future return to the UFC than the Greg Jackson team captain.

Tool: I can agree with the points that Brendhan made, but I’m going in the other direction and taking Jardine. While their career trajectories may be vastly different there is one factor that evens the scales just a bit, and that is Jardine’s previous loyalties to the UFC. During his long career in the octagon Jardine was the model of a thankless employee, headlining several events despite the enormous differences in paychecks between himself and his opponents. As far as public record is concerned he never turned down a fight, even when the UFC slotted him against newcomer Houston Alexander after Jardine’s underdog win over Griffin. The loss to Prangley is a setback for sure, but let’s not forget that Jardine fought some of the toughest guys in the world at 205 lbs. during this current losing streak. On top of that he’s been around long enough to have a much higher name value than someone like Daley, and thus it shouldn’t take nearly as long for him to get back in the octagon. After all that’s why Jardine hasn’t signed with Strikeforce, because he wants to stay in Dana White’s good graces.

Of course all of this stuff is meaningless if Jardine doesn’t win a fight soon. If I were in Keith’s ear I would probably tell him to try his trade in Japan for a fight or two. If anybody can match a mid-level fighter up with a complete can, it’s the Japanese promoters.

BUY/SELL – You agree with the UFC’s decision to sign Antonio McKee.

Conlan: Definitely a “buy” for me. McKee has both the personality and in-ring credentials to support a campaign in the UFC. “Mandingo” – by far one of my favorite nicknames to type/say – last lost to Karo Parisyan in February 2003 and is 14-0-1 since. Though I can see the case against him involving both age (40) and the enormous amount of decisions he’s piled up in his career (18 of his 25 total victories), being part of the UFC is about winning and an ability to draw interest from fans. In addition to his success in the ring over the past seven years, McKee is also one of the sport’s more-outspoken individuals. He’s called out BJ Penn in the past, spoken about the influence of race on the UFC’s roster, promised to retire if he didn’t finish Luciano Azevedo last weekend at MFC 26, and is completely comfortable in front of a camera or talking trash to sell a bout to media. He’s unique in a number of ways, and regardless of age or style I’m absolutely interested in seeing what he has to offer inside the Octagon.

Tool: Interestingly enough this question was originally worded to pose the question of whether we think McKee should be signed by the UFC. That was before the outspoken lightweight made his negotiations with Zuffa public knowledge on another website’s radio show, thereby necessitating a minor change in the phrasing of this particular topic.

Regardless, this is also a “buy” for me. I think Brock Lesnar and Chael Sonnen have already proven the drawing power a good trash-talker can bring, and I expect McKee to have plenty of things to say about the proverbial shark tank that is the UFC’s lightweight division. As Brendhan already pointed out the guy can not only talk a good game, he can back it up as well. Given his stifling offensive style I have no doubt that he’ll bring plenty of trouble to anyone that gets the task of welcoming McKee to the octagon. On the other hand he may get completely blown-out by any number of younger fighters on the roster, but I’m curious to see how this whole thing plays out.

Several fighters have made comments in the past few weeks about the trend of high-level wrestlers winning “boring” decisions. What’s your take on the current state of wrestling in MMA?

Conlan: I don’t see any problem with the amount of wrestling in MMA or the influence it has on action in the ring. Grappling is one of the world’s original combative techniques and absolutely has a home in its current form where fighting is concerned. Our nation’s historical love of the sport has assisted in producing a number of its top athletes, many of whom are now professional Mixed Martial Artists, and as such it makes sense an American promotion like the UFC would be dominated by wrestlers. In Brazil it’s BJJ and Muay Thai; in Europe it’s kickboxing and sambo; in Japan it’s judo and Jiu-Jitsu. We as fans simply hear/see more in regards to the dominance of wrestling because of the UFC’s overwhelming presence in comparison to the entire industry.

I do, however, have an issue with the way ringside judges’ tend to score takedowns without always taking into account how active both competitors are when things hit the mat. If a fighter in top position is sitting in his/her opponent’s guard while the other individual is attempting submissions, working to escape, or landing strikes from the bottom then that needs to be part of the decision process in terms of how the round is scored. I believe a lot of the criticism high-level wrestlers are currently receiving for their arguably less-exciting approach to MMA is related to the number of bouts lost for that very reason. I also feel referees across the board need a better sense of recognition when it comes to a fighter who is aggressively looking to advance position and one who is content bleeding time off the clock by half-heartedly punching from full guard. As far as I’m concerned, improving officiating and how points are tallied would drastically reduce the number of yawn-inducing rounds and wet-blanket based decisions.

Tool: I’m tempted to leave this space blank as I absolutely agree with my colleague on every point he’s made. Wrestling rules American MMA which I suppose is precisely the very reason so many foreign fighters are speaking out against it. Shinya Aoki seems to think that butt-scoots should be counted more than takedowns, while British fighters like Dan Hardy are upset that guys won’t stand and bang with them. I can find merit in the arguments against how takedowns and ground control are scored in MMA, but that’s more of a reflection on the larger problem of an antiquated scoring system (and that’s a subject for another time).

This whole outcry of fighters against wrestling in MMA is really not that far removed from the much older outcry of fighters against Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The two disciplines are similar in the fact that, when they work, they are guaranteed to win fights. Nowadays most professional fighters have solid defense against the most common types of BJJ holds, and I’m fairly certain that in five or ten years time most fighters will have solid takedown defense. Eventually guys will start drilling hip escapes and scrambles so hard that they’re second nature for the next generation. Once more and more fighters adapt themselves to the current landscape of the sport, it will most likely end up changing once again.

  • JabCrossHook says:

    A good example of this was King Mo vs Mousasi, a fight IMO Mousasi won. He did a lot more damage of his back and Mo wasn’t very active from the top, yet at the end of the fight looked more beat up than Mousasi. They just gave him the fight because of the takedowns which is ridiculous, it’s a FIGHT not a lay and hug your opponent contest. I honestly don’t think you can call these decision lay and pray shit fighting, its not.

  • Rece Rock says:

    I agree with the above sentiments that theres more to the Duffee story than we may ever know…

    Didn’t watch Shark Fights… no comment.

    I like the choice Conlan suggest Shane del Rosario in my opinion that’s a win win scenario

    Daley has a better chance BUT he just signed with SF so if he doesn’t fair well against there top guys why would UFC call him back?

    SELL – I disagree with the UFC’s decision to sign McKee basically because he isn’t going to make an impact in an already thick division… with good matchmaking it will be interesting but if you throw him to the fire immediatley I think he won’t fair well.

    Wrestling is just another fighting/ combat discipline….I don’t get how these guys complaining are professional MIXED martial artist and they get there balls in a twist by a certain discipline’s superiority in certain scenarios… Instead of complaining I’d like to see fighters come with some new styles and disciplines to maybe help counter and mix things up….seems like these days theres a mold or a formula to follow I’d like to see some one come out of left field with a discipline no one else is trying… I mean look at the Dragon although he hasn’t faired well as of recent the guy has been dominant and his foundation is karate, which is kind of a rarity in the sport, I think we need more MIX in mixed martial arts other wise a few years from now MMA’s going to be pretty redundant.

  • Guthookd says:

    Fuck it, I can’t even get through it will all the underlines.

  • Rece Rock says:


  • BigDave says:

    The only issue i want to talk about here is the guys bitching like little girls about wrestlers. They need to stop there whining and up there game to beat these guys. It would be like if a quarterback in football started complaining that there shouldn’t be linebackers in the game cause they hit to hard.

    To all the fighters crying about wrestlers please do us all a favor and grow a set and just find a way to combat a good wrestler.

  • danw84 says:

    The problem isn’t that wrestlers are good at turning a fight into football practice, the problem is that the refs value it far more than actually being active from the back. Just because a guy is on top of another guy, while it LOOKS like he’s dominating him, doesn’t necessarily mean he IS dominating him. Like JabCrossHook said, Mousasi beat the crap out of Mo, and yet Mo won because he did a good job tackling and then laying on Mousasi for 25 minutes.

    Sure guys need to work on takedown defense if they want to fight wrestlers, and sure they need to get better at escaping the ground if they don’t want to be there, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the more active fighter trying to actually finish the fight, and even delivering far more punishment from the bottom than the guy on top is delivering.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    The UFC is a massive draw, we know this. In my humble opinion, the appeal to MMA is that it is THE closest thing to a real-life hand to hand street fighting. It is the”the ultimate proving ground”, where 2 men can prove who is and would be the superior fighter if the both met in battle. thepoint I’m trying to get across is when a man can control another so convincingly, he is in essence showing he is physically the superior human. If it wasn’t for a bell and a beginning to another round, the grounded opponent would most likely never return to his feet, proving in my mind – the better man.

  • danw84 says:

    How much longer do you think Mo could have laid on Mousasi, being the “better man,” while taking that kind of a beating to his face?

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Dan, I should have clarified that there can, of course, be exceptions. But in general, the fighter on the bottom can’t do the kind of damage that Mousasi did to Mo that night.

  • king mah mah says:

    @bigbadjohn- I understand the point you were trying to make about MMA’s draw being the closest thing to real life combat.

    The only problem with that point is that in real life you wouldn’t have a guy just laying on another hoping to get through the round either. Wrestling is a big part of mma, but people like to see actual fighting like you said.

    In a real street fight there are NO rules. So when I see a guy use his wrestling to just “get by”, it doesn’t really prove to me who the tougher man is.

  • king mah mah says:

    Why are there underlines on here now anyway? Man you guys thought all caps was annoying? This is worse!!


    the underlines are messin with my buzz-This is my favorite topic explored over all the MMA sites-please fix it-Duffee is a young beast with a Terrell Owens attitude-unfortunately-Daley is going to be humbled by Nick Diaz within a year-as far as Mckee goes-Yes he deserves to get a try in the UFC-I predict that he will be the LW version of Randy Couture-only less liked

  • danw84 says:

    If judges wouldn’t score takedowns that lead to nothing and laying on a guy controlling so highly, it wouldn’t happen as much. Rashad Evans and fighters like him would change their game plans to conform with what you need to do to win, rather than be happy waiting for 3 people to tell them they won after doing it for 15 minutes.

    I’m not against wrestling in MMA, I think it’s stupid to say “your style is too good, it’s not fair,” because that’s what the UFC started as, what style is better. But I do think that judging is a bit unfairly biased towards wrestling.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    What “underlines”?!? Article looks normal on my screen in Firefox.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Brendan, the first paragraph of every response by you is underlined. I don’t know if I can see it only because I’m on a mobile or if other people are seeing it on their PCs, as well. But ya, strictly the first paragrahp in each of your statements

  • bigbadjohn says:

    oh shit. my apologies on the misspelling of your name. god, that bugs me when people do that and it’s right on the page in front of them!

  • Guthookd says:

    Starting at the Duffee question where you start your response Brendhan….that’s where the underlines start. For me, every single line after that is underlined, including all the comments. Must have forgot the

  • Guthookd says:


  • Guthookd says:

    lol, it won’t let me the type the html on here.

  • danw84 says:

    For me, every word on the page is underlined after “The fact that Dana is remaining silent on this one implies to me that Duffee still has the door open on a potential return some day.”

  • Dufresne says:

    – Yes. The HW division has just gotten exciting again in the last 2 years and it’s mostly because of the influx of young talent such as JDS, Cain, and Duffee. There hopefully were other factors in Duffee being released besides losing one fight and getting injured.

    – I would have to go with Saffiedine. I didn’t give him much of a chance to win the fight and he not only proved me wrong, he made me feel stupid for picking against him. I actually wasn’t impressed with Houston. Yes he won and yes he took a lot of damage in the process, but he beat a guy that gasses in literally every fight that’s longer than 5 min.

    – I would like to face Fedor, but since M1 seems intent on getting him a rematch with Werdum I would say that Bigfoot or AA makes the most sense to me.

    – Performance wise it looks like Daley has a better shot, but I really don’t think that’s gonna happen. Dana does have a tendency to change his mind on fighters, but I can’t see him doing it here. Parisyan got the axe for infractions that happened away from the public eye. The average MMA fan has no idea that he was fired and for what. On the other hand Daley screwed up in the ring in front of thousands of live fans and millions watching at home or in their local bar. People remember that kind of thing.

    – Buy. He should make for some fun fights and interviews, so why not?

    – Wrestling isn’t the problem, it’s how the judges and refs view it. The fighters job is to win the fight and take home a check to pay his mortgage. If the judges go ape-shit over lay and pray, I can’t fault them for doing what’s necessary.
    The problem is that judges seem to equate “he’s on top” to “he’s whooping ass,” and if they would watch any MMA event from oh say UFC 1, they would realize that’s a stupid thought process.
    The takedown is a single tool in the wrestling arsenal and giving a fighter a win because they implement one tool to avoid engaging is flawed. If that’s all judges want to see they should start giving UDs to guys who only use a jab and footwork to stay away.

    If judges would start giving more credit to the guy doing damage from the bottom, which they’ve been getting better about, more fighters would focus on doing damage from the bottom and less on simply escaping.

    Speaking of needs for judging changes, when are we going to get rid of this antiquated, inadequate “10-Point Must” scoring system? It’s only a so-so method for scoring boxing, and it’s an absolutely terrible way to judge MMA.

  • Brendhan Conlan says:

    Strange. Looked at it on IE and saw the underlines (but weren’t here on Firefox). Re-formatted it just now. Please let me know if anything else is still frakked up. Thanks for looking out, as well as all the comments.

  • BigDave says:

    I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that judging and refs are the biggest problem in MMA at the moment.Refs first need to learn to stand a fight up if the guy on top is just lying there and not trying to advance his position, and not let that go over 30-1:00 at the most. As for judges Why do they not have MMA guys judging MMA fights. The guys judging MMA now are the same doing boxing which is a completly different game. Why not have someone like royce gracie or other retired MMA fighters certified to judge MMA events as these are the guys that truely know the sport and all it excentriceties.

    Until this is done we are going to continue to see guys laying on top for the whole round and judges that would actually give machida a win over shogun, or Mo over Mousasi, and countless other bad decisions.

  • JabCrossHook says:

    You can’t have guys like Gracie be a judge because he will be bias towards wrestlers and always score higher for BJJ guys. bigbadjohn your point doesn’t make much sense because in a street fight that wrestling shit doesn’t work. A thumb in the eye or a good bite out of the wrestler’s face flesh will certainly stop that lay and pray shit. Not to mention its a STREET FIGHT, if you mess up on a TD, you’ll get stomped the F out.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I hate to say never but Jardine will never again justify, thats right, justify being in the UFC but Kimbo, Toney, Baroni and a few others say it is not about how worthy you are. I would like to see Barnett fight Kharitonov or Arlovski followed by Werdum or Overeem next year.
    As far as wrestling goes, I would like to see a few amendments to the rules.
    1) only clean or damaging take downs/throws score big.
    2) a trial of 3 min rds. Non title = 5 x 3, title = 7-10 x 3.

  • danw84 says:

    3 minute rounds is such a god awful idea.


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