Shane and I are back once again with another edition of Grappling with Issues. This week, we are both offering up some insight and opinion on topics including Nick Diaz’s potential return to the ring, the power of flyweights to sell a PPV, and the notion of “fight fixing” in the UFC. As always, feel free to offer up your own thoughts in the Comments section.

If Anthony Pettis was still fighting Jose Aldo, who could have stepped in against Benson Henderson?

Reilly: I think one of the main reasons Pettis is getting the shot is because he was promised one from when he was the champ in WEC. And if we take into account success in other orgs, there are three fighters I think are just as deserving to fight for the title.

#1 Josh Thomson. “The Punk” fought three straight times against title-holders or title-challengers and he’s looked damn impressive in all of the efforts. Most folks still think he should have won the belt from Gilbert Melendez in which case he most likely would have entered the UFC with a title shot.

#2 Pat Healy. If he wasn’t coming off a failed test for marijuana, I think it’s most likely that Healy would be fighting for the belt. “Bam Bam” is riding a seven-fight winning streak, had former champ Melendez run from him TWICE in Strikeforce, and put the Top 10 on notice with his finish of Jim Miller.

#3 Khabib Nurmagomedov. Who? “The Eagle” is 20-0 in his career with four wins inside the Octagon over the likes of Gleison Tibau and Thiago Tavares. He’s a UFC Top 10er but doesn’t really have a signature win like Healy or Thomson. But, if they gave a title shot to Renan Barao, there’s not reason why Khabib hasn’t earned one too.

Conlan: Since Shane left me with so many original options (all of his are fantastic suggestions BTW for the reasons he mentioned), I’ll go with Diego Sanchez. Though he’s not necessarily deserving on paper, the original Ultimate Fighter winner is a fan-favorite, always comes to entertain, owns a number of notable victories, and is coming off a wining performance. He was also rumored to be booked for UFC 164 to begin with, so I have faith he’d be able to get ready in time for a tilt with “Bendo” even if his next bout isn’t actually scheduled to take place until October.

IF Nick Diaz returns to the Octagon, who should he face?

Reilly: We know Diaz won’t fight a wrestler, so as good as the smack talk between him a Josh Koscheck would have been, it most likely wouldn’t happen. Since he only likes to face strikers, and we’ll presume he’ll be staying at 170 pounds, I’d like to see him versus the loser of Kampmann/Condit or Matt Brown. Brown may not have the name recognition of the other two but I think he would give Diaz the toughest fight.

Conlan: I can appreciate where you’re coming from in terms of wrestlers being Diaz’s Kryptonite, but Diaz has called “Kos” out before so I think he might be down to duke it out with him. Of course, with Koscheck injured it’s unknown when he’ll be available again.

Rumors have surfaced stating Demian Maia will be the man Diaz comes back to battle, and I can definitely dig that pairing. Diaz has never been tapped and it would be fun to watch the in-Octagon chess game play out if action hit the mat. Also, with Koscheck out of a match-up with Maia, the slick submission artist should be available whenever his name is called.

True or False: Cris “Cyborg” will fight Ronda Rousey by the middle of 2014?

Reilly: True. Rousey/”Cyborg” has been the biggest fight to make in WMMA for awhile now and Dana has already tried to make it happen once. With Justino’s domination over Marloes Coenen it only makes sense and I can see the UFC throwing big money at it to make it a reality. That is, unless Cat Zingano spoils it by taking out Ronda when they meet.

Conlan: False. Sure, it’s an appealing fight, but I don’t see Rousey compromising her stance on “Cyborg” or Justino opting to drop down to 135 pounds (at least not in the next year). While Coenen was beaten soundly, she hadn’t had a significant win in the cage since beating Liz Carmouche in March 2011 so I don’t think it boosts the Brazilian’s stock as much as might be expected. Also, who is “Cyborg” going to beat now at 145 pounds to impress people? There options are few and far between.

With challenges like Zingano, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, and Sara McMann out there, Rousey has lots of opponents to keep her busy without ever needed to worry about a larger foe with a questionable background and very few marquee victories.

Would you buy a PPV headlined by flyweights?

Conlan: Maybe. There aren’t any flyweight fights out there that really get my blood going because the divisional pool is so shallow, but a strong enough undercard is enough to make any PPV worth purchasing.

Reilly: Short answer, No. And the reason is several-fold.

First, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, there may be TOO much free MMA. I’ve got TUF, Fight Master, Bellator, UFC on FOX, UFC on FX (or FS1 or whatever), Inside the UFC, Inside MMA, and all the highlight shows you could want. Plus there’s the new paid UFC YouTube channel where they show the PPV’s later anyway. So for me to actually buy a PPV, the main event and several main card fights have to be something special; it has to be stacked with big name “stars”.

Am I saying that flyweights aren’t special? Not at all. But the UFC doesn’t appear to be going out of their way to make any of the Stars either. It doesn’t help that there are only fifteen flyweights on the roster, that’s literally half the amount of HW’s, and the only one most people know is the champ Demetrious Johnson. His next challenger is a very talented fighter, John Moraga, but he opened the Facebook prelims in his last fight. If the UFC ever expects people to pay for flyweights and bantamweights and to a degree featherweights, they need to start putting their promotional muscle behind their fighters and make stars of these guys.

Do you think UFC officials/fighters would ever “fix” a fight?

Conlan: “EVER” is such a long time but in general, no, I don’t think the UFC would risk everything they’ve built over the past fifteen-plus years to produce a desired outcome. There will always be handful of tinfoil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists out there who think Anderson Silva handed Chris Weidman the belt as a means of some sort of pre-determined outcome aimed at building a new superstar or T.J. Grant happened to get injured because Anthony Pettis was available for Benson Henderson in a hometown throwdown, but the arguments against such scenarios are based in logic and evidence rather than fantasies and guesswork.

Reilly: Again, no. Is that because I think Dana White and the UFC are morally above such dealings? Hell no. It’s because there is no upside to fixing a fight for them.

The UFC has suffered the loss of Chuck Liddell, B.J. Penn, Brock Lesnar, etc. and have still moved forward and grown their brand. What do they gain from fixing a fight? If they don’t like the outcome of a fight, they can simply call for a rematch, or they can move a guy they like into an undeserving title-shot, or they can pull a guy out of retirement and give him a belt. There are tons of different things they can do (and have done) to ensure company growth without fixing fights. But if they did and it got out that a fight was fixed, then the whole thing – the UFC, the FOX deal, MMA>WWE all goes up in smoke. So where’s the upside in fixing a fight?

Buy or Sell: Bellator will produce a PPV within a year?

Conlan: Sell with an asterisk. Bellator has a hard enough time consistently getting big crowds and good ratings for their regular product, so making the move to PPV would be a risky endeavor from a financial perspective. However, if Viacom is willing to potentially take a hit, and Bellator is able to ink a few free agents, the company could give it a go.

They already have a known commodity like Quinton Jackson under contract and have been flirting with the comeback-considering Tito Ortiz. Though friendly, a fight between “Rampage” and Ortiz would bring in casual fans based on name value and is a match-up the UFC never produced despite both men being on the roster. You also have Mo Lawal out there to fill either role, or add in general, if necessary, plus a handful of solid champions like Ben Askren and Pat Curran. Beyond that, Bellator could also put together a rematch between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler, drawing hardcore fans who remember how incredible their initial encounter was. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d probably pay to see that sort of lineup.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s likely. Just that it’s possible.

Reilly: Sell. It all comes back to building stars. And frankly, Bellator isn’t doing it. Don’t get me wrong, they’re trying. And there are some great fighters currently on Bellator’s roster, but none that make me want to shell out cash to see them fight. Especially when I know it’s going to be available the next day for free. Vladimir Matyushenko is headlining a card, isn’t that proof enough that they don’t have the big name talent for a full blown PPV? Even if they put five title fights on the card, the fact that they are Tournament titles more than World titles makes them appear to carry a lot less weight and therefore seem less important.

I think Bjorn Rebney knows this, and he’s got a good thing going with Spike and Viacom right now. I think they’ll see how Fight Master does and in two or three seasons might consider the jump to PPV.