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MMA weekly water cooler (05/24 – 05/30)

UFC 114: Rampage vs. Rashad, was a star-studded affair attracting the likes of Snoop Dog, Mike Tyson, Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Duncan, Forrest Whitacker, and many more. Though many fans have voiced their displeasure with the outcome of the main event, I thought the energy and effort put forth by both fighters was sufficient.

Rashad went into the octagon and took care of business. Just as GSP, Fitch, Sherk, Hughes, Ortiz, and Couture have done in the past, wrestling delivered a win for Rashad. Everyone knew Rashad had to rely on his wrestling in order to win this fight. Why was Rampage not better prepared to stuff Rashad’s takedowns then? Rashad’s fights may not be pretty, but no one ever said a fight’s supposed to be.

Rashad will get the next title shot against Shogun, which won’t bring in the same pay-per-view numbers as a Shogun vs. Rampage II or even a Shogun vs. Griffin II. Though Forrest is out of the title picture currently, Joe Silva and Dana White have to be considering it, should something happen to Rashad. Shogun needs to avenge that loss and I think the fans want to see the rematch.

As for Rampage, a fight with Machida looks to be on the horizon, but I wonder if Rampage may ever consider a move to Heavyweight. He’d be much quicker than his opponents and would still have that knockout power. Rampage is going to have a tough time trying to headline events in the light heavyweight division at this juncture, but imagine Rampage vs. Cain or Rampage vs. Lesnar. If Jackson decides to work his way back up the 205 ladder, he will likely stumble considering that he’s become too one-dimensional.

Bisping doesn’t have a lot of US fans, but I think he’s quickly earning their respect as a fighter. Bisping doesn’t stand out in any one area, but he has a ton of heart and literally out-wills his opponents at times. Bisping is asking for a Wanderlei rematch, but Wanderlei’s booked up until July and that would be a long layoff before it’s all said and done. At this point, Bisping’s options are few. Vitor Belfort and Patrick Cote are the only unbooked top 15 fighters not booked in the division. He could possibly face Rich Franklin at a catchweight. We will have to wait and see.

Jason Brilz definitely earned himself some new fans Saturday night, unfortunately for him it wasn’t the judges. Brilz came into this fight on short notice and was given virtually no chance of winning it. Someone forgot to mention that to Brilz though, as he came out aggressive and was caught flashing a smile between rounds. Brilz had nothing to lose and he fought like it. Nogueira was definitely coming on strong in the 3rd round and likely would have taken it had it been a 5-round fight. I had Brilz ahead 29-28. Brilz is tough, but he should not be considered an overnight contender. He struggled at times against Schafer and Marshall, and lacks finishing skills to take him into title consideration. I think Brilz would make a perfect stepping stone for Phil Davis or Ryan Bader. As for ‘Lil Nog, it looks like he will be facing Forrest or the winner of Liddell/Franklin.

John Hathaway made Diego Sanchez look like a journeyman. Diego’s career is in flux right now as he needs to make a career decision regarding which weight class best suits his abilities. 155 looks to be the answer, as he’s consistently lost to bigger wrestlers at 170. Sanchez vs. Florian, Griffin, or Sherk would be all be great fights awaiting him at Lightweight. As for Hathaway, he’s just knocked off a huge name in Diego and now will have an ‘x’ on his back the next time he fights. I think a fight with Swick or Condit could propel him up the ladder quickly, but the UFC may look match him up with another undefeated prospect in Dong Hyun Kim.

Likely to be given their walking papers following UFC 114 will be Dan Lauzon, Jesse Forbes, and Joe Brammer.

The UFC continues to make their roster of 200+ fighters fluid. White commented on possible future signings of Nick Diaz and Ricardo Arona, both of whom would be great additions. Though Arona has not been very active, his style should mesh with the octagon perfectly. As for Diaz, he’s still under contract with Strikeforce, but once Jake Shields jumps ship, the rest of the Cesar Gracie camp may follow. I’m not sure what’s left for Diaz or Gilbert Melendez to accomplish at this point in Strikeforce. They’ve basically cleared out their divisions and will be forced to fight in Japan in order to stay active with a lack of credible opponents stateside.

Speaking of Gilbert Melendez, Lyle Beerbohm called out the Strikeforce champ, though he just backed out of his fight with fellow contender Josh Thomson. Beerbohm, just a month earlier was asking for a lawyer to assist him in breaking free of Strikeforce. Something tells me that Strikeforce may not be jumping at the opportunity to put Beerbohm in a title fight anytime soon.
Sometimes the mma forums do great things for fighters’ careers(Tom Lawlor), but right now this may be having the opposite effect for Lyle. He should have probably learned from the Hoelzer Reich debacle and stayed off the message boards until he started using better judgement.

Bellator has delivered solid fights over the last few weeks and the finals are rapidly approaching in many of the tournaments. Bryan Baker vs. Alexander Shlemenko, Dan Hornbuckle vs. Ben Askren, and Pat Curran vs. Toby Imada will all deliver stiff challenges to the reigning tournament champions. Lyman Good, the welterweight winner of ’09, was unable to take a warmup fight due to injury and will likely have a great deal of ring rust come fight night. The way Hornbuckle has looked as of late, means we could be seeing a new champ at 170. I think Baker should be able to outmuscle Shlemenko, which will create an intriguing matchup of Lombard vs. Baker. Though Lombard has looked unstoppable, don’t sleep on Baker.

Dream XIV came and went with little fanfare besides the hardcore fans. Nick Diaz submitting Sakurai seemed like it was no big deal, which maybe it just isn’t anymore. Outside of a handful of prospects, it looks as if Japan’s fighter market has crumbled. Shooto and Deep still deliver young talent, but the likelihood of any of those fighters debuting in the UFC, Strikeforce, or Bellator is unlikely.

I’m not sure if Dream was fully aware of the long-term ramifications co-promoting with Strikeforce did to many of their marquee fighters. Shinya Aoki, Gegard Mousasi, and Mariusz Zaromskis all lost on national television. Factor in Sakurai, Amade, Manhoef, and Shaolin, and suddenly Dream stands 0-7 in this joint venture. Japanese fans will still cheer for their fallen fighters, as they forgive losses very easily, but in the US, Dream has now become virtually obsolete when speaking of a promotion full of elite fighters. Kawajiri looks to be the last fighter standing in Dream. Hopefully Strikeforce and Dream think up a better way to swap talent without Dream getting completely hosed.

TUF 11 is finally coming to a conclusion. The show has been very slow this season, and really needs a format change. Hopefully the UFC considers doing a season for 145 and 135 before it’s all said and done. The UFC would be smart to take a page out of Bellator’s book at stage though and possibly go to a tournament format. Possibly even sneak in some fighters on their current roster that need a push or have struggled against stiff competition. Bellator does an outstanding job of packaging together short videos to promote their fighters. If the UFC is looking to avoid all the Junie Browning controversy that brings ratings, they should step up their efforts in finally making some changes.

Also, Rich Attonito has been announced for the TUF 11 finale, and I hope the UFC and Joe Silva steps up and gives Chris Camozzi and Victor O’Donnell a fight on the card. These two guys stepped up and delivered one heck of a fight. O’Donnell went home with a fractured eye socket, and Camozzi was knocked out with a jaw injury as well. Both fighters des
erve another shot in the octagon, they let it all hang out and would have won Fight of the Night had it been a live UFC event.

UFC 115 marks the return of Chuck Liddell, following losses to Shogun and Rashad Evans. Looking back now, maybe Chuck isn’t so washed up after all, losing to arguably the #1 and #3 fighters in the division. Regardless though, Chuck has not looked the same. His reflexes seem slow and his chin is no longer made of granite. Speed kills, and though Franklin looked slow compared to Belfort, he likely edges Chuck in this department. Liddell vs. Franklin is more of a legend vs. legend fight at this point in their careers though. Franklin may have one last run in him, but this fight should have no business headlining a fight card since neither are in title contention. Yet, Liddell was the UFC’s poster child for years, and they will look to squeeze out one more Liddell pay-per-view before he calls it quits.