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Grappling with Issues – 3/16/2011

What changes do you see the UFC making to Strikeforce over the next few months? What Strikeforce champ do you most want to see in action against one of the UFC‘s title-holders? Will the UFC ever encounter another legitimate competitor? What fight other than the headlining tilt between Jon Jones and 205-pound champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128 are you especially excited about?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to Grappling with Issues, our site’s regular weekly feature highlight insight and opinion from myself and resident workhorse Jeremy Lambert whose “Walk Down” and “After Party” event-breakdowns can be regularly found on Five Ounces. In the spirit of this past weekend’s historic news regarding UFC’s acquisition of Strikeforce long-time contributor Adam Tool has returned for a special appearance and six bonus takes on the topics.

Now let’s get on to creamy center of things, and, always, just because we staffers get the fancy set-up, please don’t hesitate to offer your own take on the topics in the “Comments” section below.

BUY/SELL – Jon Jones will finish Mauricio “Shogun” Rua this weekend en route to winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

Lambert: SELL. Not only will Jones not finish Rua but he won’t even beat Rua. Jones looks unstoppable and Rua is coming off another knee surgery but I’m rolling with the old tiger and experienced veteran against the young lion and hungry rookie. This is a very close fight with a lot of x-factors involved and while I’d love to go into them right now but I’ll defer to Adam and Bren and save all the details for The Walk Out which can be read here at 5OZ this coming Friday. YEAH!

Tool: I hate to feel like I’m selling the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion short here but I’m BUYing in to the hype behind “Bones.” I believe we still have yet to see the best from Jones and this fight will be proof of that. Sure “Shogun” is on a completely different level than all of Jones’ previous opponents, but who’s to say that the truth doesn’t go both ways? Jones has 25 minutes to put a serious hurting on Rua and I think that’s more than enough time to secure a finish and the top prize in the division.

Conlan: I guess this makes me the tiebreaker, eh? I’m also selling the subject. I don’t share Lambert’s conviction in “Shogun” retaining the title per say but I can see the fight going five rounds based on Rua’s reputation for toughness. He’s been finished twice in a total of twenty-three bouts, both by way of submission, while facing some of the toughest opponents out there including multiple UFC/Strikeforce champions. I can see Jones tapping him out late in the fight but only if Rua’s conditioning has suffered, and I don’t think a knockout is likely period given the Brazilian’s familiarity with stand-up and overall durability where consciousness is concerned.

Are the days of direct competition with the UFC over now that Zuffa has purchased Strikeforce?

Lambert: Yes, although the question implies that there was ever direct competition with Zuffa. Not to take anything away from Strikeforce because they made some major moves to go from a local promotion in San Jose to a national promotion all across the US but they were a distant number two to UFC. If anything the brand name “Strikeforce” might actually be more competition to UFC with Zuffa behind them because Zuffa knows how to take a company to new heights and do a lot of little things right. With Strikeforce out of the way though, the number two promotion becomes Bellator, and even though I love their weekly product and tournament format, being on MTV2 and moving start times so you don’t have to directly compete with UFC isn’t going to cut it.

Tool: I‘ve got to say yes. The Styrofoam tombstone Dana White keeps in his office (the one that lists all the failed promotions that lie in his wake) will see the addition of Strikeforce within a few years, and at that point there’s not much room left for more names. Japanese MMA is on its last legs, and companies like Bellator and MFC are still quite a ways off from competing with on the UFC’s level. These companies will likely become safe havens for fighters that still refuse to play by Dana’s rules, but those exceptions will become fewer and further apart as the lack of viable options dry up. I’ll never say never (except for those two times when I just said it) but for now it’s safe to say that the UFC is going to be the only promotion that matters for quite some time.

Conlan: I like Tool’s take as far as questioning whether or not Strikeforce was much of a threat to begin with. Other than that there’s not a lot else I can add other than to say I’m excited to see where MMA goes from here. I don’t know that there needs to be another primary promotion to provide the UFC’s foil anymore than there needs to be another football league trying to compete with the NFL. Similar to that sport, there are still smaller outlets for talented athletes to sign with and bigger opportunities ahead if successful in their endeavors. Buying Strikeforce brings MMA one step closer to the legitimacy in the mainstream sense because the top fighters, in general, will have a chance to face off at some point in the near future rather than blurring the divisional lines based on contractual status.

If UFC and Strikeforce were to merge today, what title vs. title fight interests you the most?

Tool: Call me crazy but I think Nick Diaz has the potential to give Georges St. Pierre problems. Diaz could certainly keep things interesting in a stand-up war and his outstanding ground game keeps him competitive if GSP takes the fight to the ground. I certainly won’t sell St. Pierre short as I still feel he would win a fight with Diaz, but in terms of interesting fights for the welterweight kingpin I think Diaz is the best choice.

Conlan: Though a fight pitting Diaz against St. Pierre is inherently interesting given the participants it doesn’t carry the same divisional weight as a match-up between Gilbert Melendez and Frank Edgar (or Gray Maynard) would. Diaz hasn’t fought a highly relevant peer in five years while Melendez has recent wins over Shinya Aoki, Mitsuhiro Ishida, and Josh Thomson.

Beyond that, “El Nino” is widely seen as being one of the MMA’s top three lightweights with Edgar regularly coming in at #1 on most rankings. Having Melendez fight Edgar or a similarly slotted Maynard (if he’s able to beat “The Answer” at UFC 130) would serve as means of helping determine who the top 155-pounder on the planet actually is. Comparably, even if Diaz got by GSP it would still be somewhat hard to label him as the best of the bunch based on a lack of other wins over world class welterweights.

Lambert: I just want to start by saying that Adam Tool is indeed crazy because St. Pierre beats Diaz in a MMA fight worse than Brittney Palmer beats Arianny Celeste in a bikini contest.

While I think every title vs. title fight is interesting, the one I find myself gravitating towards is newly crowned Strikeforce 205-pound champ Dan Henderson against the UFC’s current light heavyweight title-holder “Shogun” Rua. It doesn’t matter that Henderson is 40 years old because he’s cut from a rare cloth where he can still compete at a high level despite his age. He seems very comfortable at light heavyweight, he appears to be wising up in his fights, and his right hand is as deadly as they come. And of course “Shogun” is the top light heavyweight in the world for a reason. It’s a very intriguing match up. Even if Rua loses this weekend, I’d still like to see Jones vs. Henderson more than any other title vs. title fight as well.

TRUE/FALSE – Paul Daley will never fight under the Zuffa banner.

Tool: I’ve got to go with TRUE. Dana was clearly unhappy with Daley’s actions following the Josh Koscheck fight (despite the fact that Koscheck is the one guy I don’t mind seeing get some extra punishment). We know that White is willing to eat his words from time to time so he can bring some guys back, but Daley doesn’t have the same sort of credibility of a Tito Ortiz or a Karo Parisyan. Those guys were longtime UFC vets who got a second chance, but Daley only had three fights in the Octagon (including the infamous Koscheck bout). He’s shown no interest in rebuilding the burnt bridges that carried him out of Zuffaland so I won’t be holding out hope of seeing “Semtex” in UFC gloves ever again.

Conlan: The Zuffa banner includes Strikeforce now, does it not? He is scheduled to face Diaz in a few weeks, is he not? If he truly backs out of the fight as he’s mildly hinted at he will not only have killed his career on the major circuit but will no doubt face litigation as well since contracts have been signed. Daley is hot-headed but he isn’t stupid meaning he’s going to blast away at Diaz until the champ falls or takes him down for the tap on April 9. So “false” – the nasty knockout artist from England will indeed fight for Zuffa.

Lambert: This really depends on whether or not Daley backs out of his fight against Diaz. Obviously if he doesn’t then he’ll fight under the Zuffa banner on April 9 but if he does then for the 1% of Daley fans in the US, I hope your internet connection is good because the only way you’re seeing “Semtex” is via BAMMA online streams. Daley might not be the most professional or smartest guy in the world but I don’t think he’s dumb enough to drop out of the Diaz fight, and if he is, he might as well fire his management team because they shouldn’t be dumb enough to allow him to drop out of the Diaz fight. So I’ll go with FALSE although my confidence in that answer is about as high as Daley’s ability to make weight.

Dana White is insistent that Strikeforce will continue to operate as normal, but what’s one change you can see taking place in the immediate future?

Conlan: If White is to be believed then there aren’t a lot of options for change. As such, I envision a number of fighters who have made a name for themselves in the Octagon but are also in divisional limbo and are coming off losses will cross over to Strikeforce based on the way the UFC’s contracts are structured. For example, Zuffa will take someone like Joe Stevenson, Chris Lytle, Chris Leben, Brandon Vera, or Mirko Filipovic, sign them to Strikeforce, and then allow them to inject life into one of the company’s title-hunts while helping build career momentum along the way for either themselves or their opponents. Scott Coker may make the ultimate call on who they ink but I would be surprised if he doesn’t have higher-ups in his ear as well.

On a side note, I’m curious to know when Frank Shamrock’s broadcasting deal runs out as his rivalry with White is well-documented as are the criticisms of MMA fans in regards to his work on the Strikeforce team.

Tool: I doubt the Strikeforce broadcast will change much since that stuff is still going to fall under Showtime’s jurisdiction. One change I can see Zuffa implementing immediately is a change in the way Strikeforce handles their preliminary fights. As of today a Strikeforce pre-lim lineup is essentially a stacked card of local talent. Bookings are handled outside of Strikeforce with the exception of one or two fights with contracted talent. I expect Zuffa to start filling those pre-lim slots with fighters under contract and possibly even broadcasting some of those fights through an online streams (as they’ve recently become quite fond of doing for UFC cards). I’m not sure if Strikeforce contracts allow them to cut a fighter after a loss in the same way that the UFC’s contracts do, but if nothing else a few more fights between lower-level talent could give the Dana White and his match-makers a better idea on who they want in the UFC once the presumed merger takes place.

Lambert: I could definitely see the Strikeforce commentary team being replaced the second the contracts of Shamrock and Mauro Ranallo are up, if not sooner as long as Showtime has no objection. The one thing I think that will immediately change though is that Strikeforce will now allow elbows on the ground*. Coker isn’t a fan of elbows on the ground, I believe because he doesn’t want fights stopped due to cuts, so they’ve been illegal in Strikeforce this entire time. Now that Zuffa controls the company, Dana will want the same rules across the board, and that means fighters will now be able to unleash elbows when they’re on top of and under their opponent.

Also, for the love of God I hope Strikeforce weigh ins run smoother now. If you’ve ever been to a Strikeforce weigh in, you’ll know that it’s a complete cluster and takes far too long. You wouldn’t think that stripping down to your underwear, stepping on a scale, stepping off, and facing off would be so hard but in Strikeforce they manage to take a simple task and turn it into a Rube Goldberg machine.

* – Whether miraculous or incredibly insightful, Lambert’s response was actually submitted before White’s recent announcement regarding elbows no matter what Tool might tell you.

Other than the main event what UFC 128 bout are you most excited for?

Conlan: Though it may not have the pending knockout “Cro Cop” vs. Brendan Schaub should produce I’m intrigued by Jim Miller’s match-up with Kamal Shalorus for a few reasons. Shalorus is an incredible wrestler willing to stand in the pocket and exchange while Miller has some of his division’s best BJJ to work with off his back if he ends up with “The Prince of Persia” in his guard. He’ll also be fighting in front of his hometown fans and with underrated boxing, not to mention Shalorus’ takedown defense, he may just stand for the first round to please the crowd and show he’s not as one-dimensional as his record might portray.

Also interesting to me is the notion Shalorus hasn’t lost yet in his career meaning a victory for the 20-2 Miller would be huge where contendership is concerned, especially with George Sotiropoulos having recently lost and the fact it would be the 27-year old’s seventh in a row. I suppose it could turn into a ground-based stalemate but for some reason I’m confident both lightweights will show up ready to entertain and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Tool: I can echo both of my colleagues’ choices here but I’m going to go ahead and take the co-main event of the evening between Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland. This is the most important bantamweight fight in the division’s extremely brief history with the UFC, and it’s a fight that could very well determine the first defense for newly crowned UFC champion Dominick Cruz. Obviously the solid money is on Faber here, and for good reason. He looked outstanding in his debut at 135 lbs. where he made short work of the double-tough Takeya Mizugaki. He’s clearly the best option for Cruz’s octagon debut (especially since he already holds a win over the young champion), but we cannot overlook the challenge that Wineland presents. He’s coming off of back-to-back “Knockout of the Night” performances in his final two WEC fights, and while his WEC Bantamweight Championship reign was a long time ago, he’s still just 26 years old. He could very well still be ready to hit his peak and there would be no better place to hit it than the co-main event of your very first UFC fight card.

Lambert: You know a card is stacked when Joseph Benavidez can’t even get on the Facebook prelims, which is a complete joke by the way. I’m honestly looking forward to every fight on the card but the one I’m most excited for is Edson Barbonza vs. Anthony Njokuani, one of the SpikeTV prelims. Barboza is undefeated in his young career, looked very impressive in his UFC debut, and has already draw comparisons to Jose Aldo. Njokuani has hit a rough patch since KO’ing Chris Horodecki in highlight reel fashion, losing two of his last three bouts, but he’s a guy who will bring it on the feet and challenge Barboza with his striking. I can’t see this fight being anything but a great stand up battle with both men throwing a variety of strikes and all of them with bad intentions.

10 COMMENTS
  • Rece Rock says:

    SELL. Not only will Jones not finish Rua but he won’t even beat Rua… I agree with Lambert.

    YES direct competition with the UFC is now (officially) over… Zuffa is going to shine up and make something of that product before it merges completely.

    If it was today right this moment…I think I’d want to see the HW’s go at it being that both are strikers and big men… should be interesting but by the time it really happens both promos could have different champs.

    Paul Daley will never fight under the Zuffa banner UNLESS he beats Nick Diaz sensless and can make his worth as a fighter undeniable to DW and Co. if he backs out of the fight or puts on a poor showing then he can stay in BAMMA and do his own thing.

    one change taking place in the immediate future- non exclusive contracts going forward for top fighters or title holders.

    Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland is a match up i’m excited for… big fan of Faber and i’m hoping for a resurgence in his new weightclass.

    I’m going to the UFC presser today at Radio City Music Hall- I’m on a mission to score free tix
    (or a least a Bring MMA to NY tshirt) wish me luck… If you see a guy on TV streaking for UFC 128 tix know that man would be me… :) wish me luck fuckers.

  • Rece Rock says:

    ** I meant that non exclusive contracts would be a thing of the past for top talent and title holders**

  • Guthookd says:

    Hey Rece…looks like I have to eat my words too. You said last year that BFC would be number 2 by the end of 2011….now that Zuffa owns SF I think you’re technically correct…so..congrats homie!

    And….

    THIS JUST IN….BELLATOR IS THE NUMBER 2 PROMOTION IN THE USA (now if only they could get some decent cameras & mics, an HD broadcast, and get rid of those god damn non-title affairs and go with tourney champs only, then life would make sense again).

  • Sell-I also agree with Mr. Lambert

    Yes-Any other promotion has too far to go until they even can be considered in the ballpark of the UFC in terms of talent, depth, production, marketing and broadcasting relevancy. Mauro Renallo sees “The best fight he’s ever seen” every time he gets behind a mic and Shamrock always talks about himself and switches his opinion on a fighter half way through the fight(Shields vs. Hendo)

    Jacare vs. Anderson: Once again Anderson seems to eat BJJ guys alive, but Jacare is of a different breed than Thales or Maia, he’ll actually take on the attitude of finishing Silva instead of just trying to pick a spot. Oh and Mr. Lambert, Brittany Palmer doesnt even compare to Arianny in terms of how she looks in a bikini….sure she’s got a prettier face, but Arianny’s got a stunning body…and i’ll hold onto that opinion until Miss Palmer does playboy.
    Diaz vs. GSP also interests me greatly as GSP would probably only be able to dominate Nick in the takedown aspect and everything else would be HIGHLY competitive.

    False…Daley will fight against Diaz…lose and then will never AGAIN fight under the Zuffa Banner, unless he either puts on one of the best shows in history OR proves me wrong and wins.

    Im gonna go with Cro Cop vs. Schaub though Im lookin forward to every fight on the card. What this fight provides that the others dont is that age old story of an old lion trying to reclaim some former glory vs. a young lion trying to make a name for himself at said older lions expense. Schaub has stated he wont be like Barry and get all lovey dovey with the croation killer and so I believe this will be one of those times where both guys will come out trying to take each other’s heads off and it’ll be great until the final bell….or someone goes DOWN.

    Good luck Rece

  • Rece Rock says:

    well I made it to the presser… got a free T Shirt, got to meet some fans… had to go back to work so NO TIX… BUT I will not give up!

    Hey at least I got a TShirt and some cool pix….

  • MCM says:

    I heard Gina was there. Tell me streaked by her, at least.

  • MCM says:

    Sell:
    Jones will win by Dec. but he won’t finish Rua.

    No. Strikeforce was only a regional promotion a year and a half ago. Then they purchased some top fighters got themselves a TV deal and all of a sudden, people were comparing their fighters to those in the UFC. Although Zuffa owns the top talent today, orgs like Bellator, MFC, and internationally M-1, are all building up a strong stable of good prospects and top talent. Who’s to say that in 2 or 3 years, one of them may not be vying for a spot alongside the UFC.

    I agree with Brendhan, Gilbert vs. Frankie. Melandez is the only SF champ to have defended his belt against other top talent. I think he’s deserved a shot at the UFC belt more than any other LW on the planet not named Gray Maynard. (I still think diaz would get smoked by most of the UFC’s top 10)

    Daley will fight Diaz under Zuffa.

    I actually don’t think we’re gonna see crazy ring entrances anymore. And it’s a damn shame IMO. But Zuffa doesn’t seem to care for them.

  • Creature says:

    buy: I got jones winning in the 3rd.

    Im interested in Overeem vs Cain or Hendo and jones/rua winner

    Daley Wont fight for zuffa, at least not for long

    and Cro Cop vs shaub or Jones vs Rua

  • Dufresne says:

    Congrats on the loot Reece. Sorry you didn’t hit the jackpot though, that sucks.

    – Sell. Jones is a phenom, there’s really no arguing that at this point, but I’m not sure he’s gotten to the point yet where he can beat someone as talented, experienced, and dangerous as Shogun is. Shogun is coming off another surgery which worries me, but I get the feeling that he’s done his rehab right this time and his cardio won’t be an issue like it was in his Griffin fight. And in a similar note, hopefully Jones has upped his cardio since his fight with Bonnar. I know it’s been over 2 years since that fight, and I’m sure Greg Jackson and crew have fixed it since then, but that was the last time we got to see him in the 3rd so I’m still curious how he’ll fare if the fight does last longer than 10 minutes.

    – I’m gonna have to go with yes. I can’t see how any other MMA organization could even get close to being a threat to the UFC at this point. I guess if an upstart promotion managed to get the backing of a giant corporation it would be possible, but even then I don’t see the upstart lasting for very long before the UFC buys them out.

    – Man, tough call. My decision depends largely on who wins the Shogun/Jones fight. If Shogun retains his belt, then I absolutely want to see Shogun take on Henderson. Henderson has wins over the two fighters Shogun is closest to, his brother Murilo and his good friend Wanderlei, so you know it would be personal. If Shogun loses to Jones I guess I’d go with GSP/Diaz because that’s a fight I wanted to see years ago and it never happened.
    Side note: I spent almost my entire study break looking at bikini pictures of Brittney Palmer and Arianny Celeste trying to decide who would win that bikini contest and I came to the conclusion that the winner is: me!

    – False because of the technicality. True otherwise. He’s got his upcoming fight with Diaz under the Zuffa banner, but unless he shocks the hell out of me and wins he’s done at the end of his contract. The only way I see him getting back under the Zuffa banner would be if he went on to put together a huge streak of dominating stoppages. If he did and managed to make his name as big as Fedor’s was a few years back. The problem is, Daley isn’t Fedor and he never will be.

    – How about putting a title defense on at least every other card? Since February 23, 2008, the date of their first event broadcast on a major TV station, they’ve had 21 televised events not including their Challenger series, which is an average of about one televised event every 2 months. They’ve now got 7 current champions (5 men, 2 women) so they could theoretically have each of their title belts defend just once per year and still pull this off with one to spare.

    – I’m siding with Mr. Tool here and going Faber v Wineland. I’m hoping that Wineland can take Faber into at least the 2nd and hopefully the 3rd to see if the cut to 135 has affected his cardio any. I know he fought at BW in his last bout, but he won in the 1st so it didn’t really tell me anything. Plus, I like Wineland. Anyone that has finishing performances in more than half of their wins is worth watching. Hopefully Wineland has been practicing his takedown defense and his submission defense, because there’s an almost 100% chance this fight is headed to the ground.

  • LiverPunch says:

    Jones via TKO rd 3.

    I’m sorry but to say that nobody will directly compete with the UFC is crazy. It will happen within 1 or 2 years or maybe less, maybe it is already happening. The UFC has always had a direct competitor. There has never been a time when it has not had Rings, Pancrase, Pride, Dream, Strikeforce, EliteXC or Affliction challenging or bettering the UFC. To say this is the end of it is naive, it is just getting started.
    Bellator has a TV deal ,a top 3 LW a top 10 MW and is purchasing many young talents. It is already starting to challenge the UFC . The UFC will never lock down all the big fighters. I would say Coker or whoever owned Strikeforce got paid massive $ for the company. I think it was not desperate act by Coker or that the company was doing poorly. I think the company was doing very, very well and the UFC waved a huge amount of cash in front of Coker. The UFC was threatened by Strikeforce. So there will be another challenger to the UFC, and then another and another. Why anyone thinks this is last time the UFC gets challenged is beyond me. If you can succeed challenging the UFC, people are going to give it a go.

    I would love to see Diaz vs GSP. I think Diaz would be a huge challenge for GSP. Rarely has he faced a guy with a skill set like Diaz’s. Diaz has very good boxing very good BJJ and a very good chin. Diaz would not be scared of GSP and the build up would be intense.
    MCM we will see if that is the case when Daley faces Diaz because Daley was probably and would probably be a UFC top 5 if he was still in the company.

    Daley will 100% fight Diaz unless they are forcing him to sign an exclusive contract, in which case there may be no fight.

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