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Grappling with Issues – 10/5/11

Will 2012 be the year Dominick Cruz finally stops an opponent under the Zuffa banner? Should Brian Stann get a shot at the middleweight title if he wins this weekend at UFC 136? Is it time for the UFC to part ways with Pat Barry? Does Gilbert Melendez deserve an immediate crack at the championship when he joins the UFC?

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 general contributions and “Scorecard” 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.

Should Pat Barry be released after dropping to 3-4 inside the Octagon with all the losses involving some form of stoppage?

Lambert: He won’t be, but he probably should be. Barry has a ton of charisma and is involved in exciting fights while they last, but he’s just not ready for the UFC level of competition. I think he could really benefit from taking fights on a smaller stage where he can improve on his other skills, mainly his takedown defense and grappling. Here’s my problem with Barry though: he has too much Brandon Vera in him. He admires his own work too much and he doesn’t seem to feel bad after losses. I’m not saying he should sulk about losing, but don’t go on Twitter and say “THAT WAS A COOL POWERBOMB!” moments after you lost. Having an upbeat attitude is usually a good thing, but in the fight game, I want guys who are pissed off when they lose, because those are the guys who I know will work harder for their next bout.

Conlan: Like Jeremy said, even if Barry isn’t cut he definitely deserves to be. The UFC needs to set a standard when it comes to the fighters they keep on board. Retaining a guy who is 3-4 in the organization with all four losses involving some sort of finish is not near the level of excellence employment in the UFC should require regardless of how many silly pictures he takes in his underwear or how charming he might be at press conferences. It’s time for Dana White to take a hint from his favorite vendor of frozen treats and pink-slip Barry.

Does Brian Stann deserve a title-shot if he beats Chael Sonnen this weekend?

Lambert: I think the winner of this fight will be given a title shot, so I have to say yes. We all know that UFC wants to do Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva 2, as they were going to do the immediate rematch before Sonnen spent more time in the court room than the gym, so one victory should get him another bout with Silva. That being said, if Stann can beat Sonnen, why not give him a title shot too? He already has victories over Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago, throw in a victory over Sonnen, and combine that with his story (did you know that he’s a former Marine?) and that’s a recipe for a title contender.

Conlan: Yes, at least in the context of having accomplished at least as much (if not more) than the previous challengers to Silva’s strap. Yushin Okami – wins over Nate Marquardt, Mark Munoz, and Lucio Linhares. Vitor Belfort – catchweight success over Rich Franklin and recent victories over Matt Lindland and Terry Martin. Demian Maia – outpointing Dan Miller after being knocked out by Marquardt a fight earlier. Keep going down the list and, with the exception of Sonnen, “The Spider” hasn’t faced a contender with as much momentum as Stann would have entering the bout with consecutive wins over Leben, Santiago, and the guy who was less than two minutes away from becoming middleweight champion before slipping up and getting caught in a submission.

Of the two title-fights at UFC 136, how many will feature a finishing performance – both, one of them, or neither?

Lambert: I expect to see a finish in Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian. I’ve been told that FLORIAN FINISHES FIGHTS and Aldo usually finishes fights too, unless he’s fighting in his opponent’s hometown and doesn’t want to piss off the crowd too much by murdering the guy that everyone came to see. I think Aldo will finish Florian because I feel like Florian is afraid/doesn’t react well when he’s hit, and Aldo is going to hit him a lot. When Florian feels Aldo’s power he’s going to start making mistakes and Aldo is going to capitalize on those mistakes before putting him away.

I see Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard going to the scorecards just because neither guy have a reputation as a finisher and both guys are extremely tough to finish. Maynard had Edgar dead to rights in their last bout, and still couldn’t put him away and the only time Maynard has been finished (not counting TUF) was when he finished himself.

Conlan: Just to be different I’ll go with neither. Edgar/Maynard is likely to go the distance given both fighters’ general tenacity and skill-sets, plus there’s past history to consider as well (eight rounds, zero finishes).

As far as the featherweights, though I think Aldo will retain his title I’m not sure he’ll do more than beat Florian up. Kenny isn’t stopped easily with the submission to B.J. Penn at UFC 101 the only example of such being the case in more than five years (and only one prior to Diego Sanchez as a middleweight on the Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale). He’s well-rounded enough to take on Aldo in any area, and while he may not have the dynamic Brazilian’s power or precision, he’s certainly battle-tested enough to last 25 minutes with him.

Will Dominick Cruz finish an opponent in 2012?

Conlan: No. As talented as Cruz may be he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to put equally apt adversaries away. He’s only finished a single opponent under the Zuffa banner, Brian Bowles, and the stoppage was the result of a broken hand rather than something brought on by a TKO/submission. “The Dominator” won’t fight again until the first quarter of 2012 since he’s got a mangled mitt of his own that needs healing plus Bowles/Urijah Faber still have to square off in November to determine who gets next crack at Cruz’s championship. With that being the case, Cruz will probably only fight twice next year (three times max), and with the level of competition he’s likely to face I don’t see him doing enough – or even possessing the ability – to end his first fight since March 2008.

Lambert: I want to say yes, but based on his past performances, I don’t think it’ll happen. He’ll likely face the winner of Faber vs. Bowles, and since I believe that “The California Kid” will be victorious in that fight, I don’t see Cruz finishing him this time around either. After that, it’s up in the air as to who he faces but if you just look at Cruz’ style, it’s not a style that finishes fights. He doesn’t seem to have natural punching power, and even though he is a good grappler, it’s not like he’s a grappling ace with an overwhelming submission game.

Besides the two title fights, which UFC 136 fight are you most excited for?

Conlan: Much oblige to Jeremy for lofting a slow-moving pitch right over the center of home plate on this topic. Without hesitation I’ll go with Jeremy Stephens vs. Anthony Pettis. Both lightweights love to strike, though each can grapple as well if necessary, and have a tendency to take opponents out before the judges’ scorecards come into play. Pettis has finished eleven of the thirteen fighters he’s beaten while Stephens is 17/20 in that department. It’s going to be fast, furious, and absolutely fantastic. Unless there is something behind the scenes preventing the switch, the fact this bout is on the Spike TV broadcast and Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia is on the PPV portion of UFC 136 still baffles me.

Lambert: There are a lot of great fights on the UFC 136 card that I’m looking forward to. Since Bren already touched on Stephens/Pettis, I’ll show some love to Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon. “The Young Assassin” has really come into his own under Greg Jackson and he’s shown his full potential in recent outings with KO victories over Evan Dunham and Shane Roller. Lauzon might fade after the first five minutes, but he’s still a great fighter for those five minutes and has the skills to catch Guillard with a strike or jump on a submission if Guillard decides to get lazy. I don’t see this fight getting out of the first round and I expect a tremendous finish either way.

Should Gilbert Melendez get an immediate UFC lightweight title shot?

Conlan: Even with a win over Jorge Masvidal in December my answer would still be “no”. It’s not that “El Nino” doesn’t deserve a shot at the UFC belt, because he’s taken a number of highly-respected peers out convincingly and would have an above-average chance at walking away with the championship were he to fight for it. However, examining the current circumstances, the UFC has a few contenders in line at the top right now that should get a title-shot before Melendez based on what they’ve accomplished inside the Octagon. Once Melvin Guillard and Clay Guida have fought each other, or fail to find success in their next outings, then and only then should Melendez get his opportunity at the strap.

Plus, there’s already precedence in regards to Jake Shields, Dan Henderson, and Alistair Overeem coming over from Strikeforce. Nick Diaz was the exception but mainly because the UFC didn’t have another legitimate welterweight contender lined up for Georges St. Pierre, hence why it will take a similar situation at 155-pounds to earn Melendez an immediate shot at the title.

Lambert: No, only because the winner of Guida vs. Henderson definitely deserves a title shot based on their track record. While Melendez is one of the best lightweights in the world, I don’t think he should jump the winner of that fight and get a title shot.

That said, if Melendez fights and beats Masvidal and doesn’t enter the UFC until after the current champion fights the Henderson/Guida winner, then I’d be fine with Melendez getting a title shot and jumping a guy like Guillard or Dennis Siver, pending they win their next fights. My scenario however is that Melendez jumps to the UFC without fighting Masvidal, faces Guillard (if he beats Lauzon), and then the winner of that fight gets a title shot. UFC has a great problem at lightweight in that they have a lot of talented fighters who need to fight each other in order to get a title


  • Not just yet…While HD has had more losses than wins in his UFC career lets look at how they happened.
    Tim Hague….Barry was winning and got careless and a choke got snatched….Cro Cop….Barry was HANDILY winning that fight even scoring a 10-8 round in the first, but had some injuries and wasnt able to capitalize…Kongo, same thing…winning, got reckless and got tagged…Struve was the cleanest and most easily lost fight since he’s been there. I say give the guy at least one more chance…some fighters arent title bound (Chris Lytle, Dan Hardy, Tito Ortiz) but due to fanfare…they can stick around. Give HD one more winnable fight and take it from there.

    Why the hell not give Stann the next shot…as Bren already stated several of the men who got their shot against the Spider werent on any better run than he currently is and I dont think Sonnens run was impressive enough to get him the title fight either…it was just a question of who else do we have…Alan Belcher is still at least another fight or two away from his shot and past that Rousimar Palhares needs another defining win before his so hey Why not?

    Im going to go out on a huge limb and say both….Florian and Aldo are both finishers and while Hominick gave Aldo some serious problems in the end Jose was dominating him and I dont think Kenny’s boxing is any better than Hominicks. Frankie and Gray are comin out swinging and there will be no feeling out period….someone might get tagged and put away.

    Probably not and I feel bad for the guy..Cruz tried hard to finish Mighty Mouse but to no avail…now the only question is who’ll get one first..him or GSP.

    Im interested in Santiago vs. maia….both have good standup and both have outstanding submission skills…it has potential to be a great fight either way.

    No….Gilbert is great but just like Diaz he’s a semiunknown to the casual UFC fan. I have people from Stockton that dont know who Nick Diaz is, let alone they didnt know he was fighting GSP up until his schedule got changed. A local DJ who my brother is dating had the skrap pack for an interview and had to ask me if they were “a big deal” Let Gilbert come in and fight a good opponent…Guillard comes to mind. The winner of Guida vs. Ben gets the next shot…Melvin needs to beat a better fighter than JLau to get his shot….both are finishers…that’s a win win all the way around.

  • Jmad says:

    I’d love to see Dominick Cruz finish somebody in 2012. I don’t think it’s going to happen though, I think he has more of a chance of getting finished by either Faber or Bowles then finishing one of them. He’ll probably end up with a couple more UD’s in 2012 though, hopefully the fights will at least be exciting.
    If Stann beats Sonnen he absolutely deserves a title shot, him and Sonnen are really the only 2 contenders in the mix right now besides Munoz and Leben, in my opinion I don’t think Munoz or Leben deserves a shot just yet.
    I don’t think Pat Barry should be cut, even though he probably would be if it was someone else. I just think he needs to get serious and really try to get better on the things he’s lacking.
    Melendez should fight a top contender first, if he wins then he should get the shot at the belt.
    Out of the two title fights of course Florian/ Aldo has a better chance of haveing a finish. Personally I think Aldo will dismantle him by or during round two. I hope there is a finish in Edgar/ Maynard 3 but I wouldn’t bet on it.
    Besides those title fights the fight I’m looking forward to the most is Pettis/ Stephens, they both bring it and I wanna see another crazy kick from Pettis.

  • BigDave says:

    Hey I’m going to chime in here and give my too cents.

    Pat Barry needed to be released after his last fight but now there is no question that the guy doesn’t have the skill set or the heart to be a legit fighter in the UFC. He admires himself far to much and just doesn’t seem to care if he wins or not.

    Brian Stann would deserve a title shot if he can beat Sonnen and in fact I hope that he does but as much as i dislike Chael (what kind of name is Chael anyway) I don’t see stann having any more then a punchers chance in this fight and have a feeling it would make for another short night for silva.

    Both fights will end in a stoppage. Aldo is going to run right through and score a first round tko and I think that the bully will secure a late round rnc.

    Cruz will not ko anyone that i can tell you right now but i wont rule out him catching a guy in an armbar or rnc.

    Stevens vs Pettis will be fight of the night and KO of the night imo, can’t wait for that fight.

    Melendez doesn’t deserve an immeadiate title shot but am I the only one who wants to see melendez vs clay guida? That fight would be like rock’em sock’em robots in the center of the ring until someone falls down.

  • Niv says:

    Pat Berry should get one more chance, he’s proven to be an exciting fighter who at least brings it every fight. If he loses his next one I’d say cut him for sure.

    I think Stann should get the title shot if he beats Sonnen, and I’m going with nothing more than a hunch here but I think he’s going to stop Sonnen and get the shot.

    I think we’re going to see Aldo stop Florian, Edgar and Maynard go to decision (doesn’t matter if they can’t finish) in another super exciting fight. Steven’s vs Pettis should be awesome, I’ll take Pettis here.

    Cruz will get a finish but most likely a submission, he certainly has the skills for it.

    Last but not least Melendez deserves a shot but he’ll have to wait as there are others who have lined up 1st. I have been saying Melendez is the best LW for some time now and I think he’s the future UFC champ, but this division is the most stacked division in mma and nobody is going to hold that strap for long stretches. I’m certainly looking forward to Melendez vs Henderson as that’s what I see as the future title fight, only time will tell.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    No Barry should not be released, at least not before Dan Hardy gets his release for losing 4 in a row. Barry is in a thin HW division and still has potential to get much better.
    If Stann beats Sonne then he deserves a title shot for sure, and at the very least he should get the winner of Bisping vs Miller fot the #1 spot if Anderson is going to be out for a extended period of time with his injury. Stann has proven to be a solid fighter and two ko’s in a row plus a win over Sonnen would be enough in the MW division.
    Aldo should be able to finnish Kenny but I see two decisions. Kenny will attempt takedown after takedown saturday night once he starts getting hit and probably turn it into a very boring fight, and Maynard vs Edgar have been unable to finish each other for 8 rounds so far and I dont see it changing.
    Cruz may not finish a fight for the rest of his career but I couldnt care less about that, he is a exciting fighter and pushes a great pace so what if he doesnt ko guys.
    Stephens vs Pettis for sure, I cant wait to see who goes for a takedown first.
    I would like to see Melendez fight in a #1 contender match, against either Melvin or the loser of this weekends title fight.

  • Angry Mike says:

    Stann v. Silva makes no sense even if Stann beats Sonnen. Stann is a striker, and his wrestling/grappling is defensive, not offensive. Stann has power, but Silva does, too, and Silva’s striking is light years ahead of Stann’s. Silva would finish this in the second round after he’s taken his customary first round recon.

    Barry’s grappling is a hole in his game, but I think his biggest problem is that he’s too short for the weight class. He’s 5’11”, and routinely fighting guys who are inches taller and have reach advantages. He has a lot of weight packed onto his frame, and that gives him power. It doesn’t extend his reach, though, and that’s a problem he can’t fix.

    Cruz isn’t likely to finish anybody soon. Smaller fighters don’t usually have that kind of power, and Cruz is fighting higher caliber fighters who are necessarily harder to finish.

  • Rece Rock says:

    The UFC can not have a standard fighter release policy because each division has different roster needs and there are to many factors to just automatically release a fighter after X amount of losses… Depths of Talent Pools, Fanbase, past situations where the fighter may have stepped in last minute for the company, interesting match ups that can draw money that may not be relevant to the division but make for an exciting match up… I mean there’s a lot of factors the company probably considers for some of there more branded fighters and win lose or draw it probably comes down to earning ability when releasing some of the more popular fighters…

  • Rece Rock says:

    Both Stann & Melendez do not get title shots in my opinion… Stann needs atleast 2 more wins IF he beats that dickhead Sonnen… and I’d like to see Melendez fight at least 2x because theres so many guys at the top of 155 right now it wouldn’t be fair to just have him leap frog ahead… earn your keep then you can eat.

  • Creature says:

    I think Barry should be dropped, and only be kept if he agrees to move down to 205. The guy cant hack it as a HW and isnt even a good gatekeeper. 205 would be a much better weight for him.

    I think if hes able to win a non-controversial Dec. or finishes Sonnen, Brian Stann deserves a title shot, winner of Munoz/Leben fights winner of Bisping/Miller.. or maybe throw Alan Belcher in there somewhere..

    I think Aldo/Florian will have a finish, as much as i hate to say it, prolly will be Aldo by tko.. but possibly Kenflo (Doc. stoppage via cuts). And i think Maynard/Edgar will be another exciting Dec, though not as exciting as the 2nd fight 😉

    Only way Cruz finishes a fight in 2012 is if he looses his next fight or two, and fights a lower tier 135er

    Id have to say im pretty excited for Sonnen/Stann just because even though i think Sonnen has the better chance, it could still go either way, and im predicting it to be pretty exciting, But i have to say the same for Pettis/Stephens.. I think Pettis takes it.. but could go either way, and will be a hell of a fight.

    No, Gilbert Melendez should not get an immediate title shot, Winner of Bendo/Guida deserves it more. Gilbert should fight Guillard if he wins on Saturday for a number 1 contender, or ill say Cowboy if he beats Siver. honestly i think Cerrone is getting close to a shot as well, hes on a hot streak, and is a legit contender at 155


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