Is Nick Diaz destined for a boxing ring? If Royce Gracie was fighting at UFC Rio who would you pair him against? Will Joe Warren exit Bellator Season 4 as featherweight champion? What is one thing you would change about MMA judging?
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.
Will Nick Diaz’s next title defense come before or after a go in the boxing ring?
Lambert: I’m going to go with after. Diaz has been talking about boxing for what seems like years now but it’s never been as serious as it’s been lately. The biggest thing is that Diaz wants to be pushed and right now there is no welterweight in Strikeforce. Boxing is a new challenge for him and something he seems passionate about. Plus he already seems to have an opponent picked out, and while I know very little about boxing, Jeff Lacy seems like a legitimate opponent for him. Unless Georges St. Pierre beats Jake Shields next weekend and UFC calls up Diaz and says, “Look, Georges has no fresh opponents. Will you fight him?” and Diaz agrees, I think the next time we see him is in the squared circle as opposed to the cage.
Conlan: I’ll take the other side of this argument and make a case for why Diaz won’t be boxing anytime soon no matter what’s been discussed in the media. The Son o’ Stockton still has unsettled business with Jason Miller to attend to and a bout between the two would fit perfectly on the Strikeforce PPV rumored for July. He’s openly said he’s willing to go up a division if the money is right and PPV offers an opportunity to award him with a percentage of the buys (on top of the $175,000 he’s already making per fight).
If Strikeforce can make that fight happen it would also give them an opportunity to establish a new clear-cut contender for Diaz by booking Tyron Woodley against Paul Daley, a Keith Jardine-like free agent such as Ben Saunders (Bellator status pending), or a UFC loaner and then hoping he wins. I don’t think fans/media buy “T-Wood” as a legitimate challenger for Diaz right now but a case could likely be made for him with a victory over a respectable veteran.
As far as Diaz’s boxing, I don’t doubt he would enjoy testing himself in that manner but I think a lot of his talk about the sweet science is a means of contractual posturing. He’s made it clear he wants more money and is smart enough to know the threat of losing one of their most popular fighters for any amount of time could very well make Strikeforce cave to an extent. If Strikeforce can keep his pockets fat and his opponents interesting I don’t see Diaz upping his glove-weight anytime soon.
Given the recent announcements regarding UFC Rio, name a match-up featuring at least one Brazilian you’d like to see added to the final card?
Lambert: Charles Oliveira. I don’t care who he faces, I just want to see him back in action. He was on a great roll, he ran into a very tough Jim Miller, and he hasn’t been heard from since. The kid is only 21 and the sky is still the limit for him. I think he’ll come back very strong following his recent loss but the longer he sits on the sidelines, the less comfortable I feel about that statement. Since I was asked to actually give a match up, have him fight Donald Cerrone. I don’t care if Cerrone wins or loses against Mac Danzig, I demand to see Oliveira vs. Cerrone. If you don’t think that would be 15 minutes of non-stop action, you should probably stop watching MMA.
Conlan: I’m going nostalgic on this one, as I’d like to see Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic fight one last time in the form of a match-up against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. To have two men who contributed as much to the sport as they have mix it up at a historic event would be a fitting tribute to their careers and the people of Brazil. I know Filipovic essentially hung his checkered trunks up after losing to Brendan Schaub but I think he’d be willing to come back for another shot at Nogueira, while “Minotauro” is supposed to be completely healthy by August after being sidelined with a slew of injuries since February 2010.
Do you believe Bellator featherweight champ Joe Warren will retain his title against the winner of Patricio Freire vs. Daniel Straus?
Lambert: After what I saw this past weekend, where Warren was handed a gift decision against Marcos Galvao, no way he beats Freire, who I think cruises against Straus. I love Warren. He’s extremely charismatic and his whole, “Baddest Man on the Planet” schtick is awesome but the dude gets his ass kicked in almost every fight before somehow mounting a comeback and winning. Sooner or later he’s not going to be able to mount that comeback or the judges aren’t going to reward him for getting his ass kicked. Warren’s biggest problem is that he wants to do too many things right now. He wants to defend his title, he wants to drop to 135, he wants to go after the gold medal in wrestling, he wants to be a WWE Superstar (ok, so I made that last one up) and it’s hard to do so many things at once while fighting top competition.
Conlan: Actually, Warren recently did some work with TNA Wrestling so WWE Superstar may not really be as far-fetched as Lambert might have you believe.
Moving on, I also think Warren is likely to lose to Freire assuming “Pitbull” advances pass Straus to get his title-shot. The Brazilian youngster has looked sharp in all appearances and has a number of tools at his disposal in the cage. He’s also fighting purpose after the unexpected passing of his manager, Ivan Canello, last month.
Warren is an entertaining guy with a helluva chin, enormous heart, and a non-stop motor. He’s a great fighter but realistically an undersized featherweight. Heck, he might even be more suited for 125 pounds than 135 but the market isn’t there for flyweights yet. He’s even said himself the guys at 145 are monsters and he barely scraped out a victory last weekend against a middle-of-the-road opponent in Galvao (who looked huge compared to Warren by the way).
Had Royce Gracie fought at UFC Rio, who would you have chosen as his opponent?
Conlan: I’m still lobbying for his involvement in a submission grappling match-up rather than a full blown Mixed Martial Arts bout, because I don’t think it’s logical to stick an icon like Gracie in there who hasn’t fought in four years and risk him getting flattened in front of his fellow Brazilians. However, I haven’t heard the possibility discussed much on an official level or in the MMA community, and I’m not sure the UFC would even consider a “special rules” fight on their undercard as is, so for the sake of argument I’ll presume Gracie is to be booked in an official capacity.
With that being the case I think the best solution involves finding either a BJJ-centric guy who has substandard striking or the guts to throw stand-up out the door and keep things on the mat. I also think it would make sense to find a guy Gracie has a chance of beating in order to send fans home happy and let him end his UFC career with a victory. He also can’t be an active Gracie Jiu-Jitsu practitioner because I can’t see any student wanting to potentially embarrass one of the masters. Those parameters actually leave fewer options than you might think.
Within the UFC I think Demian Maia could be a possibility or B.J. Penn if he was resigned to keeping his hands at home as he might be given his warrior spirit (Gracie would get decimated otherwise). Another name I’ll throw out there who isn’t signed to any major organization is Cristiano Marcello who gives up some size to Gracie but is highly respected in the BJJ community based on his work with Chute Boxe during the group’s famed run in PRIDE. He also holds a 12-3 record in MMA with three straight wins and victories in four of five since returning to the sport after a two-and-a-half year break from competition.
One last note: I have zero interest in seeing Dan Severn re-matched with Gracie as has been teased by various outlets. I do, however, want to see “The Beast” get one last shot in the UFC given his consistent success over the past few years in smaller organizations as well as what he means to the sport and organization in general. Perhaps a subject for a future GWI?
Lambert: Kazushi Sakuraba is the only correct answer. I don’t want to see Gracie fight anyone who is in their prime because I don’t think that will end very well. Gracie vs. Sakuraba is a famed rivalry and the score currently sits at 1-1. The series needs a conclusion and it should be settled on the biggest stage. I know Sakuraba is way past his prime, it’s sad watching him fight nowadays, and he should have retired years ago. That’s why I want him to fight Gracie. He’s no threat to really damage Gracie like Matt Hughes did at UFC 60.
It might be sad watching Gracie vs. Sakuraba 3 but everyone is going to remember their epic 90 minute battle in PRIDE above all. A third fight would just be a way to cap off the trilogy and allow both men to go out on the biggest stage. Honestly, I don’t want to see either of them fight ever again but if they’re going to fight, they might as well fight each other instead of fighters who are in their prime.
What one thing would you change about MMA judging?
Conlan: I want to see the judges shown on broadcasts before and after each fight for a few seconds in order to eliminate their anonymity and in doing so increase their accountability. For example, when the ring announcer reads the names of the judges scoring the fight the camera could pan to their seats and show a graphic with corresponding names. Then, if the bout results in a decision, the feed would again show the judges with names and scores underneath their images. I guarantee they will feel pressure to do a better job – to pay more attention and learn more about the intricacies of MMA – if fans can match results to names and a face. Cecil Peoples is not a lock for the worst judge out there yet he takes the most flak because people know what he looks like from his refereeing gigs. As such I’d argue he’s improved some over the past year-plus and rarely seems to be the name attached to controversy these days. However, the bulk of his peers can essentially score without repercussions because fans at home or in the stands never actually see their faces. Put them on television, make sure they understand the world is watching, and see if they don’t follow suit and up their games to an extent.
Lambert: I love Bren’s idea although I’d want companies to hire some extra security because if judges faces are put out there, things could turn ugly.
To answer the question though, I want judges to have to put a reason as to why they scored a round the way they did. I’m not asking for some big drawn out explanation, just something as simple as “aggressiveness” or “damage” would satisfy me. This would not only make judges accountable but also, hopefully, help fix a very broken scoring system. While MMA judging is rather atrocious, the system itself isn’t perfect because there are no real defined criteria. If the commissions/companies decide that, “Hey all these judges are putting too much stock into aggressiveness and not enough stock into damage, we need to somehow change this” and it leads to changes, that would be great for the sport. For those of you that read the live coverage here at 5OZ (and hopefully that’s all of you), you’ll notice that I always try to give a reason for why I scored a round a certain way so you, the fans, can understand where I’m coming from. I just want the same from the actual judges.
Give the people one good reason to watch Bellator 42 this weekend.
Conlan: For starters it’s free, live MMA on a Saturday night. There is also the quartet of light heavyweight tournament semi-finalists to consider. However, my one good reason is going to be a newcomer to the Bellator and to an extent the American MMA scene in general – Ronnie Mann. Mann is an 18-2-1 Englander who sharpened his teeth overseas in SRC and Britain’s Cage Rage. He is only 24, has ten submission wins under his belt, and is one of the most intriguing featherweights outside of the UFC. Bellator 42 could very well be his coming out party and a chance to establish himself as a top seed in next season’s 145-pound field so I’m definitely excited to see if he lives up to the hype. His bout has also been moved into the headlining slot due to Paul Buentello’s injury so it should be interesting to see how he copes with the additional pressure.
Lambert: I’m going to go with the light heavyweight semi-final fights. I thought the first round of the tournament back at Bellator 38 was excellent, highlighted by Richard Hale‘s Inverted Triangle Choke. Maybe you’ve never heard of the guys in the tournament but that doesn’t stop them from going out there and trying to put on a great show and win the fight. Christian M’Pumbu is a devastating striker who pulled off a great comeback victory in the first round, D.J. Linderman turned in a good first round performance with his striking, and Tim Carpenter defeated a famed Gracie in the first round where he controlled Gracie on the ground. And of course there was Hale’s inverted triangle, but even before that he looked impressive against Nik Fekete.
I love the tournament format of Bellator and so should you.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE/ESTHER LIN