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Grappling with Issues – 3/23/11

How long should fans be kept waiting for a super-fight between Jon Jones and Anderson Silva? Will Mirko Filipovic ever fight again for an American promotion? Is Anthony Johnson‘s job on the line Saturday night at Fight Night 24? Do you see newly crowned national champion Anthony Robles ever taking his talents to a MMA ring?

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 Out” and “After Party” event-breakdowns can be regularly found on Five Ounces. As 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.

What camp would you suggest for Rashad Evans now that he’s officially parted ways with Greg Jackson?

Lambert: Given the magnitude of the fight and his opponent, Evans needs to seek out the help of a top camp with top-notch training partners so I’m going with American Kickboxing Academy. They’re obviously one of the best camps in North America, they have great trainers like Dave Camarillo, Javier Mendez, and Bob Cook, and they have plenty of top MMA fighters. Evans’ cardio is a bit questionable because he burns a lot of energy going for takedowns but at AKA they excel at getting very good wrestlers in great shape to go five hard rounds. The main reason I say AKA though is because of Cain Velasquez, who should be healthy enough to train by the time Evans’ full-time training camp gets underway for his fight against “Bones” Jones. If anyone can mirror the speed and strength of Jones, it’s Velasquez.

Conlan: Though Rashad has already gone on record as saying he’s going to customize his own training camps rather than call any single spot home in the future I can see a stint at American Top Team serving Evans well. Though I like the idea of time at AKA, I’m under the impression Phil Davis occasionally calls the gym home and I can’t see Evans wanting to put himself in a similar situation to the one he just left as far as working with a rising 205-pound talent. I also feel like the training at AKA would work on areas he’s already superb in like boxing/wrestling rather than aspects of his game that could use a little tweaking.

At ATT he could improve his submissions and Muay Thai with the added bonus of Thiago Silva serving as the gym’s only light heavyweight on Evans’ tier with the possibility of a rematch unlikely to take place at any point soon if ever. It also might not hurt to spend some time out East, especially in a place as lovely as South Florida, just in terms of providing a change of scenery to help clear his head.

Will Mirko Filipovic ever fight in North America again?

Lambert: No. At least I hope not. The problem is, if Mirko wants to fight again, some money mark will pay him enough money to make it worth his time. You just know that there is some MMA fan with too much money living in North Dakota who thinks “Cro Cop” vs. Tim Sylvia could draw 5,000 people at the state fair. Luckily, I think Mirko has too much pride (see what I did there?) to lower himself to that level. I think he only wants to fight the best and compete on the biggest stage and if Dana White won’t bring him back or Strikeforce won’t give him a look then he’ll either bolt for Japan, where they don’t care as much about wins and losses, or he’ll retire.

Conlan: I agree with Jeremy for the most part but am still holding out hope he might fight at least one time in Strikeforce. “Cro Cop” has accomplished a number of great things in his career and is financially secure meaning he has no real reason to continue fighting unless he’s challenging himself at the highest level or paying back the fans with a New Year’s Eve appearance.

However, in that spirit, I think it would make sense for Scott Coker to bring Filipovic and attempt to rekindle the magic of his 2005 classic against Fedor Emelianenko in PRIDE. The fight would fit perfectly on the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Final card (rumored for PPV) based on the icons’ reputations and isn’t competitively askew given where both currently are in their careers. It’s also not a match-up likely to be available 2-3 years from now meaning Strikeforce has a unique opportunity and one they shouldn’t pass on simply because Filipovic is coming off back-to-back knockouts.

TRUE/FALSE – Anthony Johnson will get cut by the UFC if he loses to Dan Hardy at Fight Night 24.

Lambert: FALSE. Now if he misses weight and loses, then I’d probably change my answer. But if he just loses, he should get at least one more fight in the UFC. Even though it seems like forever ago since he last fought (and it has been 16 months), prior to his loss to Josh Koscheck, he had won three straight fights. Two straight losses, especially to talent like Koscheck and Hardy, shouldn’t get you cut from the company. Plus he’s an exciting fighter who produces highlight reel KO’s and exciting fighters usually get more opportunities than guys who just grind out victories. And if worse comes to worse, he could always make the move to middleweight in order to save his job for at least one more fight.

Conlan: Also “false”, though, as Lambert alluded to, Dana White has made his contempt for missing weight clear in the past and not hitting 170-171 pounds could definitely prove to be fatal for Johnson’s immediate future in the Octagon if such were to happen. However, he recently said only expects to be at 180-185 when he steps into cage on Saturday night so I don’t think fans need to rush out and buy him a copy of The Dolce Diet just yet.

That being said, he’s entertaining to watch in terms of style and swagger, extremely athletic and powerful on his feet, and at 27 he’s only on the cusp of his prime rather than in the midst of it. I can see him getting one more chance if he falls to Hardy, but there’s no need for him to move to middleweight if he loses because the same appeal isn’t there when a guy coming off a defeat goes up a division rather than down (where he’s perceived as being bigger/stronger).

How many times should Jon Jones defend his title before facing Anderson Silva?

Conlan: As long as we’re presuming he will indeed fight Silva at some point in the future I’ll say twice. If Jones can defend his title in dominating fashion against Evans and Quinton Jackson (or possibly Forrest Griffin depending on how the next few months unfold), and “The Spider” remains unbeaten as well, a super-fight seems logical for a few reasons.

It’s as exciting a stylistic pairing as anyone could ever ask for based on both men’s creativity, precision, and elusiveness while standing in addition to an ability to compete regardless of where action is taking place. Beyond their physical gifts they each have an aura of invincibility at the moment, a perception furthered by the theoretical wins needing to be in place for the fight to take place, and Silva has already openly discussed his intention to retire relatively early meaning his bouts are likely numbered. Those factors add up to what would be a highly memorable fight but also one that needs to take place sooner than later before it ends up alongside Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture in the “almost but never was” bin.

Lambert: I’m a firm believer in that a champion should defend his title a minimum of three times before the discussion of “super-fights” even begins. Obviously Jones has a date coming up with Evans and then after that we’re looking at “Rampage” if he beats Hamill, maybe Couture gets one last title fight if he beats Lyoto Machida, Griffin is always “in the mix,” Machida could get himself back into things, (Phil) Davis could climb into contention, and lets not rule out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua getting a rematch if he can get on a run.

The only problem with my “three defenses until a super-fight” belief is that Silva is almost 36 years old and his time in this sport is winding down. I wouldn’t blame UFC if they decided to book Silva vs. Jones should Jones get past Evans because Silva has earned the right to have big fights and UFC needs to take advantage of his “mystique” while he’s still at the top of his game.

Besides Jon Jones, who turned in the most impressive performance at UFC 128?

Conlan: Jim Miller with Eric Koch following closely behind after handing Raphael Assuncao the first TKO loss of a nineteen-fight career.

Back to Miller, the 27-year old lightweight looked fantastic against Kamal Shalorus who had emerged unscathed in all of his previous contests including those against Bart Palaszewski and Jamie Varner. It wasn’t simply Miller’s ability to finish Shalorus catching my attention but the manner in which he did so, as I’ve always felt his boxing was underrated but was impressed by the ease in which he mixed in other points of attack including the knee ultimately spelling doom for Shalorus’ chances of victory. Miller already has one of the division’s top submission arsenals so to see him flourish on his feet as he did Saturday night was especially exciting and reinforced his standing as one of the top 155-pounders in MMA.

Lambert: Since Bren correctly picked the lightweight Miller, instead of echoing his statement, I’ll give credit to Urijah Faber. Eddie Wineland is a tough fighter and former champion who, on all the judges scorecards, was up 1-0 on Faber after the first round. Faber struggled greatly getting Wineland down in round one and instead of going back to that game plan, he switched things up. He used his speed on the feet to out-strike Wineland, who everyone thought was the better striker, and because of his success on the feet, he was able to get Wineland down. The most impressive non-Jones move of the PPV was Faber reaching for a leg with his left hand, getting Wineland to drop his hands, and then Faber popping up and tagging Wineland with a beautiful straight right that wobbled him. If I had an older sister, I would totally try and hook her and Urijah up.

BUY/SELL – NCAA Division 1 Champion Anthony Robles will compete in at least one MMA fight in his lifetime.

Conlan: Had the statement included a “professional” tag I might be more inclined to “sell” it but as phrased there is no doubt in my mind Robles will give MMA a shot at least once (and likely many more times). Kyle Maynard, who lacks Robles’ remaining limbs, exceptional amateur success, and association with a fight-factory like Arizona State, received a chance after lobbying for an opportunity to compete so there’s no reason to think the next chapter in Robles’ incredible story shouldn’t involve Mixed Martial Arts at some point.

Lambert: SELL. I’ve listened to Robles talk about his future in a couple of interviews since Saturday and by the sound of it, he just doesn’t want to compete anymore. If he did, he would probably try and make the Olympic team, which he stated that he has no interest him. By the sound of things, he’s going to move on to motivational speaking and probably do some wrestling coaching. I really hope he doesn’t get into MMA because the whole thing with Maynard was a disaster and even though Robles had more success on a much higher level than Maynard, I can’t imagine things going much smoother this time around.

  • I would love to see Sugar go hang out with the boys at Duke rufus’s gym. Those guys are producing some awesome talent lately and I feel the normally unpleasant weather will keep Evans training vs seeing the lack of sights up there. Evans wrestling is one of a kind and one of the only aspects I think he really needs work on is his muay thai. I believe Duke would help him with that, not to mention hanging out with studs like Pat Barry, Allen Belcher and Anthony Pettis would create the tip top atmosphere he’s used to.

    I agree, Cro Cop is still dangerous but he’s not learned to mix his game up enough and he’s too old to start cutting weight. Where he should’ve been at 205 all along. I dont want to see him fight lower tier competition and think he should go get a comfy job coaching or go back to his political career in Croatia. The man’s a hero and he should live the rest of his days as one, not as battle fodder for the young up and comers of the sport.

    Im gonna be weird and say True….once again pending a weight loss issue. Even if he gets the W but still comes in heavy I could see him getting slapped with the move up to 185 lecture. The kids huge and when he misses weight he does so by a mile. Im lookin forward to this fight though and if ring rust doesnt play too big a factor i think Hardy’s going down and goin down hard.

    Once if done so in incredible fashion…twice if done so via lon drawn out decision. This is a dream fight and I would love to see it happen, however, while I think Jones is the man and the future of the sport, let’s see how he reacts to the giant bullseye currently around his waist. Rashad has weakness’s that I think Jones can exploit better than anyone, and while we havent seen any from Bones…if they’re indeed there, Rashad probably knows them well.

    Im gonna go with Schaub. While Mirko certainly isnt the Killer he used to be, he’s only been KO’d by people either on total tears OR the top of the heap. Schaub’s smart strategy of mixing it up when he was getting tagged shows that he’s truly evolving as a fighter and we can expect some exciting things out of him in the future.

  • Rece Rock says:

    I thought Rashad said he was already setting up shop somewhere in Florida??

    I too hope Cro Cop is done in the big leagues for the sake of his health but YES I would like to see him and Fedor go at it… I think that would be the best send off for Mirko.

    False- i think Rumble will still be employed even if he gets the Loss….

    I’ll say it again… I guarantee Silva/ Jones NEVER happens… so with that said Jones needs to just keep doing his think in LHW and worry about clearing out that division then jumping to HW for a challenge in the distant future.

    I guess Brendhan Shaub… I’m a fan of Faber & although he did his thing it made me worry for him a lil bit against Cruz….

    Sell- NCAA D1 Wrestling is not MMA …

  • Dufresne says:

    – AKA, Sityodtong USA with Mark DellaGrotte, or Duke Roufus’s gym like superdave said. If he could get his Muay Thai anywhere close to his wrestling he could be very dangerous, especially with his natural speed.

    – Yes, but hopefully not against anyone younger than 33 or so. He’s put his body through hell during his career and it’s really starting to show. He just can’t keep up with the speed of the younger generation at this point.

    – False. He’s 4-2 in his last 6 UFC bouts with both losses having a lot to do with being poked in the eye. Kevin Burns somehow managed to get a TKO out of eye pokes (I thought illegal blows resulted in DQ’s or NC, but whatever) and Koscheck managed to poke Johnson at least twice “accidentally” after Johnson poked Kos. Just seems suspicious that you’re not known for poking opponents in the eye, but after you get one yourself you manage to gouge the hell out of your opponent twice in one round…

    – I’m gonna say three times, but it really does vary. If Jones steamrolls his first couple opponents and there’s a situation where no one who deserves a title shot is healthy, then I’m okay with a superfight. But if everyone manages to stay healthy I’m not really comfortable with Jones fighting Silva until he’s cleaned out his division. GSP and Penn didn’t get a superfight until they had both cleaned out their respective divisions, and as much as I want to see Bones and the Spider throwdown I don’t see how this should be any different. It just wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the LHWs.

    – Jim Miller hands down. That kid is a beast and has more than earned his title shot. After that I’m actually gonna come out of left field and say Jim’s big brother Dan Miller. Dan came in on very short notice against a consensus top 5 MW and managed to fight a tough fight all the way to a decision. I know he lost, but that’s still pretty damn impressive to me.

    – Who?

  • fanoftna33 says:

    From what I understand Rashaad has already mase a home in Florida, so naturally ATT comes to mind, BUT Minnesota would also work well because of all the great wrestlers there. Whatever he does he needs to get his hand speed back, even though Jones has a much longer reach he doesnt have the speed Rashaad has and if there wrestling is equal Rashaad may rely on his speed. Id say go the GSP route and pick a very good boxing trainer to suplement his MMA training.
    I am happy with my memories of Cro Cop as they are now. If he cant hang with todays HW fighters he needs to try a LHW fight or do the right thing health wise and retire. Nobody wants to see him get koed again.
    Unless AJ misses weight by at least 6 lbs and gets koed he still has a job, same for Hardy. These two are very talented tough fighters and put on a hell of a show everytime out, they need to really be on a losing streak of 4 or more to get cut. ( and for Hardy a lose to GSP doesnt really affect him because everybody GSP has fought has lost to him).
    Jones doesnt ever need to fight Silva. The LHW belt changes hands so oftne I think he will have plenty of challenges for at least the next 3 years, and by then Silva will be retired, so nothing to even hope for.
    Miller had the most impressive night for sure. He fought a undefeated fighter with better wrestling and got a ko. Jones fought a guy who also only had 6 weeks to prepare for him and was coming off almost a year long layoff due to surgery. Very few fighters ever look good in there first fight back from that kind of layoff.

  • Angry Mike says:

    It’s way too early to even speculate about a fight between Silva and Jones. Jones has only trained MMA for three years, and even his natural gifts don’t put him at the same level as Silva, who’s extremnely gifted and has far more experience. Jones hasn’t even defended his title yet, and he’d have to clean out the division before a fight with Silva makes any sense. An early loss to Silva won’t help Jones’ career or his psyche. Because of his height and reach, it would make more sense to match him up against some heavy weigts, anyway. Fighting somebody smaller and lighter would be a challenge for the smaller, lighter fighter, not Jones. I’ve always thought that the purpose of a “superfight” for somebody like Jones is to test a fighter who doesn’t have meaningful competition in his own weight class. Fight up, not down.

    Miller looked good against Shalorus, but I don’t think that win was a big deal. Shalorus fancies himself a striker, but he is stiff, mechanical, and flat-footed. He may be a great wrestler, but he never uses it. The big story would have been if Miller lost, not that he won. Miller is on the cusp of a title shot, and fighting Shalorus was all risk and no reward from that perspective.


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