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Grappling with Issues – 1/13/12

Will Jose Aldo still be a featherweight a year from today? How should Strikeforce handle the fallout from Cris Santos‘ positive drug test? Is Anthony Johnson going to be a better middleweight than he was a welterweight? How much life does Strikeforce have left in it?

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.

Will Strikeforce last past 2012?

Conlan: No. More and more I keep hearing Strikeforce may only put on six shows in 2012 rather than eight, a bad sign in itself. With the abysmal ticket sales and general lack of buzz about shows I don’t see Showtime wanting them back or the UFC wanting to continue floating them financially. Hell, every star on the Strikeforce roster wants to go to the UFC, so there’s no reason to keep playing games by pretending the organization isn’t nose-diving towards being dismantled.

Lambert: I have to echo Bren on this one. I’m no body language expert, but I got the feeling that Dana White really regretted keeping the company around during his interview at this past weekends Strikeforce event. They actually did a fair amount of promotion for Saturday’s event and it was during a Showtime free preview weekend, and it still only drew 344,000 people. Dana doesn’t appear to be behind the promotion, fighters would rather be in the UFC, and fans would rather watch something else.

What should Strikeforce do with the featherweight division now that “Cyborg” Santos has been suspended for a year?

Conlan: They actually *have* a featherweight division?!? When did this happen? The truth is there aren’t enough quality 145-pound females in MMA or else we would have heard about more of them by now. I’d wager 90+ percent of the audience had no idea who Hiroko Yamanaka was prior to her being named as a challenger and that in itself is all you need to know when it comes to the 145ers. There was never a real effort to build a division to begin with so why start now?

Lambert: Just award Gina Carano the vacant title and hope to God she thinks it’s valuable enough to defend this year. They’ll pop a rating if she decides to fight and if she doesn’t, maybe she’ll be kind enough to show up and drunkenly dance. Scrapping the division is obviously the way to go. The whole appeal of the division was, “Watch Cyborg beat up some poor girl” and now that’s gone. They haven’t built up any other fighters and I guess that’s because they have no fighters to build up.

How many rounds will Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes go this weekend?

Conlan: Five. I don’t think either man will finish the other barring a perfectly placed “one punch” knockout. Mendes is likely to control a lot of the action while on top of Aldo, scoring points and fending off elbows/submission attempts but not necessarily pounding the Brazilian champ out. Likewise, Aldo will clearly dominate the striking department but was unable to finish a one-legged Urijah Faber or the tag-team of Mark Hominick and his hematoma. Someone’s winning a decision. I’m just not sure who.

Lambert: I think Aldo will finish Mendes in the second round. Sure he didn’t finish Faber and Hominick, but that’s only because he was fighting them in their hometown and didn’t want to completely embarrass them. And he didn’t finish Florian because he felt bad that he had to stand in the way of Kenny failing to win another title. Things are different this time though. He’s in the UFC main event and fighting in his home country of Brazil. There will be no sympathy for Mendes this Saturday.

Should Zuffa bring in a UFC middleweight for Luke Rockhold’s next fight?

Lambert: No. First off, Zuffa doesn’t have many UFC middleweights to spare as it’s not a real deep division. I guess a guy like Brian Stann could move down to Strikeforce, but here’s the problem – no UFC fighter wants to move down to Strikeforce. Really though, Rockhold has two good fights at 185 in Strikeforce those being Tim Kennedy and a rematch with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. I know Rockhold wants better competition, but he should really slow his role a bit. He won a close decision against Souza in the first fight and beat Keith Jardine in 2012. He doesn’t really have the resume to be calling out UFC guys just yet. If he beats Kennedy and Souza, both of whom are UFC caliber middleweights, then move him to the Octagon.

Conlan: Agreed for the most part. Kennedy should be definitely be Rockhold’s next opponent and Souza is a legitimate option assuming “Jacare” can pick up a win beforehand, as their first fight wasn’t close enough to dictate an immediate rematch). If those two things play out, that scenario should keep Rockhold busy until the latter part of the year when things can be reassessed based on Strikeforce’s future or lack thereof.

However, I do differ with Jeremy in terms of assuming there isn’t a legitimate middleweight on the UFC roster willing to go to Strikeforce for a 6-9 month stint if it meant the same pay day and the possibility of a title-shot if/when the UFC absorbs the company. Why wouldn’t a guy like Yushin Okami prefer a scenario with Rockhold/Kennedy/Souza to the road he’d have to travel in the UFC to earn another crack at the belt?

Anthony Johnson will do better/worse at 185 pounds than he did at 170.

Lambert: Better, because as I just mentioned, middleweight isn’t deep, especially compared to welterweight. It’s not like Johnson lit up his fellow 170ers. He faltered in his biggest test against Josh Koscheck, missed significant time, and then won back-to-back fights against mid-level opponents but now he’s at 185. If he beats Vitor Belfort, he’s legitimately one fight away from a title fight.

Conlan: I’m going to cheat and say “the same”. As Jeremy pointed out, Johnson’s run at 170-pounds wasn’t anything to brag about. He beat some solid opposition but also lost a few fights despite having a huge size advantage. I see the same situation carrying over to middleweight where he’ll be healthier but also face guys of a similar physical stature. Ultimately, “Rumble” will take out some quality opponents but also lose a few times, maybe even against guys he should beat on paper, and remain as much a top contender to the middleweight title as he is to the welterweight one, i.e. a long-shot.

Will Jose Aldo still be a featherweight in January 2013?

Lambert: This is a tough one, but I think he’ll end up moving to 155 sometime this year. Even though a drawn out Aldo still beats the majority of the division, there’s no point in him continuing to cut the weight when Frankie Edgar has proven that smaller guys can get it done at lightweight. Aldo obviously has the skills to compete in the division and he’ll have a nice speed advantage as well. Plus, assuming the weight cut is the reason for his questionable cardio at 145, those issues should be eliminated at 155.

Conlan: The only person who truly knows the answer is Andre Pederneiras, Aldo’s coach at Nova Uniao. The 145-pound champ has never waivered from his stance that he would do what he was told to whether it meant staying at featherweight or moving up. I will say that I’m confident Aldo’s recent training time with Gray Maynard probably gave him a better feel for how he’d fare at 155 and, at least from the footage the UFC released, it would definitely be more than decent.

If forced to pick “yes” or “no” on this topic I’ll go with the former since I think his camp will want him to truly cement his legacy at featherweight before moving up. With fights on the horizon against some solid scrappers, as well as a continuous stream of 155ers moving down, as long as he can get his weight-cutting in check he’ll be terrorizing the division for at least another year (which is really only 2-3 more fights max).



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