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Grappling with Issues – 9/28/11

Will Jon Jones suffer a loss in 2012? What’s next for Bellator featherweight champ Joe Warren? Is it time for Matt Hughes to be put out to pasture? Who do you want to see fight at the UFC‘s upcoming show in Japan?

Keyboard warrrrriors….come out to plaaaay-yay!

Welcome to Grappling with Issues, our site’s regular weekly feature highlighting 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.

True/False – Jon Jones will go undefeated in 2012.

Lambert: True. It kind of depends on how many times he fights in 2012. If he fights twice then he’ll fight Rashad Evans, then the winner of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan Henderson, and I think he can beat all three guys. If he takes that third fight though at the end of the year and it’s against Lyoto Machida, that’s the one guy who can give Jones problems that he hasn’t run into in his UFC career. It’s very possible that he fights three times in 2012 given how the schedule looks like it will play out, although no one can foresee injuries. But it’s not a guarantee that the third fight will be against Machida and, even though Machida is a tough fight for him, I’d still favor Jones in that fight.

Conlan: Also true, though I see Evans being more of a challenge for Jones than Machida. Evans being a past teammate of Jones’ can’t be dismissed because unique insight he has into the champ’s physical abilities/limitations and mental make-up. He’ll have an idea of what things Jones is good at, where he struggles, and how to best avoid/exploit those areas. Sure, “Bones” is at an age where he’s constantly improving and will be a better fighter than the one Evans trained with in New Mexico, but certain tendencies will undoubtedly remain because, after all, it’s only been about six months since their falling out.

Is it time for Matt Hughes to retire or should he keep fighting?

Lambert: I say retire, but after talking with Samer Kadi on the podcast, I can get behind the idea of Hughes going the Chuck Liddell route. After losing to Rua, Liddell was “shelved” for over a year before returning for a scheduled fight against Tito Ortiz, which was the most winnable fight in the world for Liddell. Of course he ended up taking a much tougher fight against Rich Franklin, lost, and retired, but I could see UFC and Hughes doing something similar. Hughes takes a year off to farm, spend time with his family, and do whatever else he does in his free time and then return to fight Dennis Hallman.

Conlan: I’m behind the notion of him carrying on his career, plus I never feel comfortable demanding a fighter retires because, frankly, their decision has no impact on my personal life. I’d rather let Hughes and his family figure it out in comparison to acting as though I know what’s best for them.

Even if I was the kind of media-member who rants against Ken Shamrock and Jens Pulver, it isn’t as though Hughes has lost to chumps or hasn’t been competitive as of late. He was caught early by B.J. Penn and looked good against Josh Koscheck before the final sequence of strikes. He needs to be paired against guys who aren’t “Top 10” but are well-known to fight-fans. Hallman is a solid option because of his upset wins over Hughes a decade ago. Historical significance always creates a level of interest (see: Hughes’ past fights with Renzo Gracie and Royce Gracie) and Hallman would be a winnable fight at least allowing the Illinois native to potentially exit the UFC with some dignity. Another thought could be Dan Hardy for an event in England since it wouldn’t be a bad pairing for Hughes stylistically and would definitely sell some tickets in the UK.

Will Dominick Cruz finish Demetrious Johnson?

Lambert: I think he will but it wouldn’t shock me if he doesn’t. I don’t want to write-off Johnson, because this MMA and Johnson is a top level fighter, but this is a tough match up for him. He’s giving up a lot of size and Cruz can come close to matching the speed of Johnson. Plus there’s a matter of skill and Johnson’s wrestling game will likely be shut down against Cruz, who is a good offensive and defensive wrestler. Then on the feet, Cruz is leagues above Johnson with his movement and diversity. I think Cruz will be able to use his size to slow down Johnson and finish him on the ground. Again, it won’t shock me if Cruz dances around and picks apart Johnson for 25 minutes, but I feel like this is a fight that he should finish.

Conlan: I’ll go the opposite route and say “no”. Johnson reminds me some of Joseph Benavidez and should stay competitive throughout. Yes, I think he’ll ultimately lose the decision because Cruz is THAT good, but I also believe “Mighty Mouse” has the skill to stay in the fight and even put Cruz in a few bad positions along the way. If we’re looking purely at numbers, “The Dominator” hasn’t stopped an opponent in 3 1/2 years while Johnson has only lost a single decision in ten total fights despite facing tough opponents who are typically bigger than him.

Play Joe Silva and book one fight for the UFC in Japan event.

Conlan: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Diego Sanchez. Akiyama is poised to make his welterweight debut at the February 26 show and Sanchez, who should be healed up from his broken hand, would be a fantastic fight for the Japanese veteran. Neither man knows how to turn in a boring performance when it comes to their chosen profession and it would put a local hero up against an original Ultimate Fighter winner.

Lambert: Despite his recent performances, Takanori Gomi has to be on this card. Maybe fighting in Japan again will actually motivate him to show up, but that’s no guarantee. So UFC needs to guarantee that a Japanese fighter wins in Japan, and unless they plan paying tribute to early PRIDE and decide to fix the fight, they only way to guarantee a Japanese victory is to match him up against a fellow country man. That man should be Shinya Aoki. There’s no way Aoki vs. Gomi will suck, because it’s either going to end in a great KO for Gomi or a great submission for Aoki. Plus it’d be a match up for the two best lightweights in Japanese history.

Following his KO loss, what should Joe Warren do next?

Conlan: Start playing to his strengths instead of weaknesses. It’s clear Warren’s jaw is not made of adamantium, and while it may not be Ming Dynasty Porcelain either, he needs to stop opting to strike so much when he has world-class wrestling at his disposal. I want to see Warren work for takedowns, then smash people from on top. I also think sticking with bantamweight would be a smart move, even looking at a permanent move to flyweight when the UFC eventually adds the division. Size kills in MMA most of the time and, at 5’5”, he needs to utilize that advantage if possible.

Lambert: Focus on one thing. Rarely do MMA fighters succeed when they’re juggling different things in this life. Whether it’s a second job, a personal problem, or a separate goal, if your head isn’t 100% into training and into the fight, it’s a recipe for disaster. Warren stretched himself too thin heading into this fight. He wanted to defend his 145 lb title, win the 135 lb tournament, and compete in the Olympics. I don’t care how great you are, that’s a tough task to accomplish all of them around the same time. Warren is a talented fighter, but unless he keeps his mind on one goal, he may not accomplish any of them.

Do you expect Bellator to air on Spike TV in 2012?

Conlan: No, as I’m under the impression there is a contractual issue preventing Spike from broadcasting live MMA as long as they own the rights to UFC’s video library (which they do until 2013). Dana White isn’t the type of person to back down when challenged and has no problem trying to out-dick a dickish move from an adversary. I also don’t see the UFC wanting to pay for videos that will not only cost them money but give Bellator better exposure. Let Spike TV sit on their fights for a year or milk whatever ratings they can, then try to get back into the “live MMA” game with the UFC regularly broadcasting live events (including TUF) through FOX/FX.

Lambert: While the UFC contract may prevent Spike from airing any other MMA, it’s always possible that UFC buys back the tape library, thus more or less voiding the contract. And that’s exactly what Spike is trying to do, by countering the first UFC on FOX event with a block of UFC Unleashed featuring Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos bouts. This move has already upset White and things could get uglier if the two sides can’t hash it all out.

While a UFC Unleashed marathon isn’t going to trump the UFC on FOX rating, maybe that’s part of Spike’s plans. They could actually trumpet the fact that the UFC ratings are down, that they’re not as big as they once were, and that they don’t need them anymore. It’d be a pretty dirty move, but if Spike is serious about wanting out of this contract so they can pick up Bellator, they may stoop to such tactics.

All that said, I don’t expect Dana to budge. I think he’ll make Spike finish out the contract, but things could get pretty dirty between the two sides in 2012.


  • Planterz says:

    Are Conlan and Lambert aware that Spike and MTV(2) are part of the same company (as well as EPIX)? People already associate Spike with MMA. Spike has 2 options when it comes to MMA. Either offer up leftover scraps of the UFC’s library until the contract runs out, or get out of the contract and start airing Bellator. Bellator would be wise to push that agenda, since their audience on MTV2/EPIX is dwindling already, and Spike is an already primed market for MMA.

    Without UFC/MMA, Spike will likely flounder. After all, they can only air so many episodes of CSI in a day.

  • Jmad says:

    No, I don’t think Jones will lose in 2012, not a big fan but I’m being realistic.
    Joe Warren should stay in one wight class and slow his roll on the whole “baddest man on the planet” thing.
    I think Matt Hughes should do whatever he wants to do. But I don’t think he should be fighting guys with knockout power anymore.
    I would love to see a rematch of Rampage and Shogun in Japan. But if Shogun beats Hendo he’ll probably get the next title shot. In that case they should bring back Chuck to fight Wandy or Tito. (I know that’s a longshot, just throwin it out there)

  • Rece Rock says:

    I’ll say false just to continue my dislike of Bambi legs… Then again he’s apparently Hurt so who knows when he’ll fight rashad so I guess I’ll switch to true…

    Hughes should hang emm up there’s plenty of other revenue streams for him… Happy wife happy life.

    Cruz better finish his fight cause if he wants to get paid like a champ then he better bring recognition to his division and title like a champ…

    Shinya vs Melendez rematch.. Embarass him on his home turf for shots and giggles… Not a fan of shinya.

    Warren should keep doing what hes been doing that loss don’t define him he’s multidivisional just move on to the next one…

    BFC can’t be on spike until the UFC library is purchased back by UFC or the current contract runs out simple as that…. UFC ain’t going to buy it back because then spike can air mma so they’ll just wait till 2013 n get it back then… But that means spike can air confusing programing to counter UFC with it’s own UFC shows…

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I dont know that he will go undefeated in 2012 as the fights just keep getting harder from here. Rashad is a tough test for anybody, but assuming he gets by him you have Machida, Henderson, Rua ( healthy), etc and all are top notch fighters.
    Hughes should do whatever he wants to do, remember he is only 2 fights removed from a 3 fight winning streak and thoes 2 fights were against top 5 in there division fighters, plus the fact that Kos was on just 19 days notice and a huge step up from Deigo his original opponent.
    Cruz doesnt finish Johnson but he does completly dominate this fight.
    The only fight I want to see for the UFC return to Japan would be Minowaman vs The Axe Murderer. I would love to see Minowaman even up the score.
    Joe just needs to keep at it, one loss isnt the end of the world. The guy has a ton of potential but is really still kind of new to the sport, hopefully he makes some adjustments and comes back stronger.

  • MCM says:

    False, Rashad beats him.

    Matt is one of the few fighters in the history of the sport that can do whatever he feels like in the top org in the world. Give him the Randy treatment, let him pick fights that interest him.

    I’ve never seen Mighty Mouse fight, so I don’t know.

    I love the Aoki/Gomi fight but I don’t think they’ll sign Aoki for one fight. I say Wandy/Santiago. Two guys with big Asian followings that know how to bring it.

    Lambert is right, FOCUS.

    Here’s my questions with Spike. If they decide to keep airing Unleashed episodes, are they going to need to do new ones? If so, is Goldie contracted to keep doing them? How will that affect his work with the UFC?

  • Rece Rock says:

    Mcm- I don’t think they can produce brand new ones and Goldie def ain’t working with them once Zuffa is done with them… What spike can do is edit episodes already in the library and create new programming for example the rumor is for the UFC on fox debut spike is going to counter with 2hrs of prior JDS & Cain Fights and call it something like Cain vs JDS the UFC HW championship in efforts to draw casual fans into the wrong programing… Is it gonna work ? I doubt it but I’m sure Zuffa ain’t happy.

  • MCM says:

    So they could try to damage the UFC with something like “UFC: The Payoff” and show the Hamill/Bisping, Sanchez/Kampman, and Phan/Garcia fights?
    or “UFC: Ambien” and show Silva/Leites, Sylvia/Monson and Gracie/Shamrock II?

    I’d try to buy that shit back as fast as I could if I were Dana.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    i’d like to see Matt fight Dennis Hallman once more

  • BigDave says:

    Bones goes undefeated in 2012 easily even if he fights three times. Rashad will be a first round tko, he has already destroyed rua once theres nothing to suggest he wont do it again, Hendo is to old and slow to have any realistic chance at beating him. And a third fight will be who? Machida is elusive and may be the toughest test for bones but I see him winning there aswell. Anderson silva will not fight him so there really isn’t a whole lot left at 205 for him to do.

    Yes Matt Hughes needs to call it quits. He has several other business ventures he is working on and he really doesn’t need to take anymore punishment seeing as his days of being a contender are behind him.

    Cruz may win but he will not stop mighty mouse. I see this being a very entertaining 5 round affair and the guy with the better gas tank will be the winner.

    Lambert hit the nail on the head. Gomi vs. Aoki will be the fight I want to see on that card.

    Warren needs to do two things. stay at 145 and not try to bang with guys he could easily put on there backs and beat on.

    I don’t care where Bellator airs as long as its on, and free thats all that matters to me, I have no tv station loyalty.

  • Dufresne says:

    True. Rashad has an advantage over Jones’s previous opponents having trained with the champ, but I haven’t seen enough evolution in Rashad’s game lately to think he’ll win back the belt.

    I like the potential matchup of Hughes and Hallman, but other than that I would like to see him retire. But as MCM said, he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants at this point. What sucks is that in his last few fights (not counting his loss to BJ, that fight was too short to really show anything except the fact that Bj still has big power and good boxing) Hughes has showed more improvement and evolution in his standup game than I’ve seen from him perhaps ever. If he could have made these improvements a few years ago who knows how he would have fared.

    No. Don’t get me wrong, he has the capability to finish it, I just don’t think he’s going to. Johnson has significantly more accurate stiking and in my opinion power, but Cruz has some of the best stiking defense in the game. I think Cruz is going to keep this fight on the outside using his angles and hardly ever planting which will limit Johnson’s ability to connect, but it will also limit Cruz’s power.

    I like the idea of Aoki/Gomi, but I don’t see that happening. However, Wandy/Santiago could be a real possibility and a potentially great fight as well. And I love the idea of Minowaman/Wandy, I don’t know who I’d be pulling for but I don’t see how I could be be dissapointed in any result.

    Learn some humility and focus on one thing at a time. Joe Warren is not, never has been, and never will be the “baddest man on the planet” and I get tired of his unrelenting self promotion faster than just about any other fighter in the sport.

    No. I don’t see the UFC buying back their film library rights and with the extra power of FOX behind their already extraordinary marketing department I don’t see Spike being able to effectively counter program for more than maybe one event. I’m sure Spike will try, and I can’t blame them, but the thrill of MMA is in watching events live and without that ability I think the Spike = MMA equation will quickly dissolve and Zuffa knows this. So why spend money to help a competitor?


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