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The Fightline Fan Debate

In the ongoing struggle to showcase the best MMA content on the internet, Fightline has taken the debate straight to you, the readers. In this edition of the weekly editorial, two loyal readers were asked a series of questions and told to give it their best shot at being an MMA writer. Thanks to Kevin Liebertz and Michael Moore for taking the time to participate.

-Kelly Crigger

Question #1-Does the fact that Brock Lesnar is the UFC heavyweight champion make the sport more attractive to potential fans or more ludicrous to those who don’t know much about it? Will this open the doors for more wrestling stars to try their hand at MMA?

Kevin-Yes, this does make the sport more attractive to potential fans as they may have already heard of Brock Lesnar. Also, at this point I would not classify Brock as the Heavyweight Champion of the UFC (even though he technically is) until he has defeated either Frank Mir or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to unify the title. Brock Lesnar will bring more fans to the sport because he is already a known entity and because he is a known entity he will garner more press. After the PPV event had ended I tuned into ESPN News and they had on the bottom ticker as “BREAKING NEWS” that Brock Lesnar had defeated Randy Couture to gain the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Without Lesnar that wouldn’t have happened. Because he already has a background in competitive sports (2000 NCAA Wrestling Heavyweight Champion) the fact that he was once a professional wrestler does not take away any credibility of MMA as a real sport. If, for example, Jake “The Snake” Roberts had come to MMA and dominated then their might be a problem. Brock Lesnar’s size, strength, speed, quickness and athleticism is undeniable. He hasn’t been fully tested yet as an MMA fighter, but I believe that a rematch with Mir or a fight with Nogueira will provide the complete legitimacy of Brock Lesnar as an elite MMA fighter should he come away the victor or at least go the distance even if he loses a decision.

More pro wrestlers may come over to MMA, but they will find it very difficult to make the same money as they make in the WWE. Nobody cares if you win or lose in pro wrestling, they only care if you entertained the crowd. In MMA if you don’t win consistently you’re not going to make any decent money. We’ve already seen Bobby Lashley, another former pro wrestler and collegiate amateur wrestler attempt to join MMA. He hasn’t fought yet, but he does have a fight coming up shortly. He’s another amazing athlete who could potentially earn a decent living as an MMA fighter, but only after he has learned enough skills and proven them in the cage or ring.

Mike- Wow, Kevin, I have to say that I was immediately impressed by the way you were dominating this question until I had to re-read the part about Brock not having the complete legitimacy as an Elite MMA fighter yet. Ask Randy Couture and Heath Herring if they think Brock is an elite fighter. Better yet ask the 4XL-sized mouse on the left side of Herrings face. Look, I will be the first to admit that I was extremely reluctant to give Lesnar any kind of credit. He dominated Mir most of their fight but made a silly mistake, he then made Herring look like his 8 year old nephew who said “can I play” but then HE BEAT RANDY COUTURE… you know like Randy “The Natural” Couture. He’s that 6 time UFC champion, the one who beat the snot out of Gabriel Gonzaga at 44 and made Tim Sylvia look like a grappling dummy a few months before that. To say that he is not elite now is just wrong. He will have his way with Frank Mir in a rematch and if he learned anything by watching Herring’s fight against Nogueira he will actually finish the fight after he lands a strike, which is all it will take against Nog and he will land one. Sorry, I know that there was another question here but I just couldn’t let that go.

I think that the casual fan will use Brock as a reason to check out the sport, the best thing for the UFC is to get his last two fights on UFC Unleashed ASAP so that they can begin garnering some interest. I think this could be one of the several defining moments for MMA as they break down walls and add to their fan base. The downside: WAY too many idiots out there already think that this sport is either too brutal, not legitimate or worst of all fake. To anyone reading this article I know how ridiculous that sounds but I still hear it all the time. I hate to say it but there are a lot of people who missed the boat on this sport and I honestly believe that they bashed it for so long and so publicly that they may never come out of the closet. Kevin hit nail on the head about future wrestlers entering the sport. Brock doesn’t bring any notoriety to pro wrestlers in MMA, he brings notoriety to amazing athletes who know how to push themselves and learn new things.

Question #2-Is Demian Maia the next big thing at middleweight? Will he be the future Anderson Silva?

Kevin-Yes, Demian Maia is going to rule the middleweight division at some point in the not so distant future, possibly before the calendar strikes 2010. He’s smart to not bite off more than he can chew (as in calling for Michael Bisping instead of Anderson Silva). I don’t think there’s a fighter in that division that can overpower his ground game, but Silva’s standup is top notch (not to mention his amazing ground attack) and Maia should hone those skills before attempting a hostile takeover of the Middleweight crown. Bisping would be a great challenge for Maia and one that he can win. Bisping has a really good standup attack and is also good at defending himself on the ground. If Maia can dispatch him or a similar level fighter the way Kenny Florian took care of Joe Stevenson, he’ll be well on his way to a title fight. It seems that Maia, Kenny Florian, and Dustin Hazelett reminded everyone this past weekend who was the first person to dominate the UFC – Royce Gracie – a jiu jitsu master. Ground and Pound is proving to only be a short term solution; you need a submission game to dominate today in the long term and once Demian Maia gets to the top it will be very difficult to knock him off.

Mike- No, he is WAY to one-sided at this point. I see that he is amazing on the ground, but this is MMA. This is not the same UFC that Royce dominated. Of course you need a submission game but you need to have the other tools to frustrate a smart fighter into stepping into your wheelhouse. I gave Nate Quarry a good chance this past weekend because I thought he would be intelligent enough to keep the fight where he was more dominant. If I have to choose to fight a shark in the water or on land you bet your ass I am going to punch him in the nose while he flops around on land. Maybe after it is nearly unconscious will I take it into the water but I am not going to get cocky and dive in from the start to show everyone that my swimming and ability to avoid having my leg severed has improved. We see this too often. Guys want to prove how they have really made strides on a particular skill but forfeit an intelligent game plan to do it. Maia will have a future in this sport, but I need to see some more evidence that he is more than just a grappler because people don’t have to follow him to the ground. If Rich were still around he would have his way with Maia.. Hendo too would dispense of him and Bisping most likely will. He just hasn’t fought anyone intelligent yet and that is the only reason we are talking about him now.

Question #3-It was reported this week that portions of the latest TUF show were cut at the last moment because they were just too damn gross. Allegedly two guys traded shots of urine and swallowed them down. There’s no doubt that the show is turning out future MMA champions every season, but is the show ultimately making MMA look stupid with all these disgusting pranks and house trashing parties? Is the UFC condoning this action for good ratings?

Kevin – I for one, am getting tired of all the antics that play out on TUF in front of millions of viewers. Coming into the current season I had heard that the fighters would be responsible for any damages done to the property after the place was completely trashed by the season seven participants. I assumed that would mean a more responsible group of men more focused on getting better in the Octagon and being ambassadors of the sport than being jackasses in the house. Boy was I wrong. It’s like they all want to be Chris Leben and Jesse Taylor rolled up in one. I think these antics are doing more to hurt the sports reputation than any confusion Brock Lesnar may bring to the table as a former pro wrestler. Action in the house is definitely needed to keep people interested in the show, but more focus should be placed on the training and explaining of the various techniques used in the sport to end a fight. I feel like the show does more to say “you need to be psychotic to enter a cage and battle another man in front of millions of people” than to say “this is a real sport that requires a tireless work ethic and constant training.” Joe Rogan does a good job of explaining the action in the ring during a fight, but it would be nice if the show could be used to get the fans to understand the sport the way he does.

Mike- Do I think these guys look like idiots, YES. Does Dana seem to give a damn, NO. I was completely disgusted in what was I think the second episode and Dana gave Junie Browning “another shot.” But then I literally spit my beer out on the next show when Junie jumped the cage and Dana was saying how Junie was lucky that the head of the NSAC wasn’t there because he would have flipped. WHAT? It’s your show! You are the one who let him off and gave him a last chance, why aren’t you doing anything?

The answer is that the UFC knows that Junie is a Chris Leben, not a Jesse Taylor. Translation: he is an idiot on the show but will convert to more dollars in the future because he is a damn good fighter. There is no such thing as bad publicity with the UFC because after this season is over and we are watching UFC 108, during a Tom Lawlor fight someone will go “isn’t that the dude who drank that other dude’s piss?” It’s something to remember a guy by. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to be remembered as a dude that drank piss but while that might be the trigger that sparks the connection from fan to fighter, if the guy is exciting to watch then that will take over as the trigger going forward. I agree that the show would be much more entertaining for the MMA fan as an instructional video with fights at the end but it wouldn’t do the same ratings as this does. Of course I hate how this makes the fighters look, but there are other people on the show who comment on the idiots and you can see that not everyone acts that way. The fact remains that Dana, for all of his faults, seems to know what he is doing so if he thinks this is working then I would tend to agree with him.

Okay, switch it up. Mike goes first now.

Question #4-What does Couture do now? From the standpoint of a fan and guy who pays almost $50 a month to watch the man fight, what do you want to see him do? If you were whispering in his ear, what would you be telling him?

Mike: Psst… Hey Randy, over here… I watch a bunch of fights but have never done it before and secretly think I know more than anyone who has ever stepped into the Octagon. So anyways, I bet you my entire devalued 401k, about $3.50 but it is all I have, that you could regain the Light Heavyweight title from Forrest OR Rashad.

Randy to Mike: You freakin’ idiot. Forrest is one of my best students and someone that I think of as a son. Plus, even if Rashad won and I beat him there is a good chance Forrest would be next. Do your research next time dumbass.

Mike: Oh, okay. Well it’s just that me and a whole bunch of other people who thought we knew what we were talking about totally thought you were going to have an answer for Brock Lesnar but aside from a couple well placed strikes he basically won all 8+ minutes. So aside from the possibility of Nog beating Mir and us getting to see pretty much the only fight left that is desirable in that division I don’t see many options for you.

Randy: Yeah, well first of all if that ogre hadn’t gotten away with holding onto the cage I would have taken him down and pounded him until he got frustrated and gave up a submission. But anyways I don’t want to go to Light Heavyweight because there is nothing there that intrigues me. I want to beat the winner of Mir vs. Nog and hopefully get another shot at Brock.

Mike: Wow, Randy you are so defensive, this is NOT how you come off usually. Anyways, I am sorry but there is nothing intriguing about you fighting Mir and I hate to say it but you will not beat Brock if you fight him again. I love ya man and we have grown pretty close in the last minute or so but it ain’t happening. Your best shot was against the most inexperienced Lesnar available and that guy just beat you.

Randy: Well fine then I am just going to resign again and wait till I am 47 and this contract expires so I can fight Fedor.

Mike: NO, NO, NO… OK let’s take a step back here. I cannot get over how differently you are acting, you almost sound like the voice of the press being portrayed as Randy Couture in some stupid fantasy. Please do not go give away what little time you have left to a dying cause. You need to shed your inner Chicago Cub fan because there is nothing to believe about that possibility ever happening. Look, if that is the only other option then do whatever you want in the UFC. Let Dana try to double down by using you to prop up Brock’s next potential candidate after the Mir vs. Nog fight. I would prefer you go to LHW where I know you can dominate and leave the way you were supposed to leave the HW division but ultimately I will be happier seeing you get beat two more times than I would reading about how you punked Dana with a typo you found in your contract.

Kevin-While I am not as adept at carrying on a conversation with myself as Double M clearly is, I happen to agree that Randy’s best option is a return to the LHW division. If a title is his goal, that’s his only chance at this time. Actually he has said that he doesn’t fight for titles, rather he fights because he likes to fight and appreciates the challenges endured in the cage. If that is really the truth, then perhaps Couture could just attempt as many big fights as possible. A fourth match-up with Chuck Liddell is always an option that the fans will pay for. If “The Hammer” gets past “Shogun”, perhaps those two wrestling dinosaurs could fight for a newly created T-Rex Masters of the Octagon Title. Okay, cue the dream sequence…maybe Dana White will allow Randy to fight Fedor since he does not currently hold a UFC title and a Randy victory could wrestle the WAMMA title away from Affliction and then blow it up in the Las Vegas desert. Personally I don’t think it’s in Randy’s best legacy interest to subject himself to Fedor, but if the fight happened I’d pay to see it.

Question #5-During the Lesnar vs. Couture fight, Joe Rogan noted the difference in size while the two were on the ground and went on to say that the amount of weight Randy was giving up was the equivalent of 2 weight classes. This led me to the question “Who would have the best shot at dethrowning a title holder two weight classes above them?”

Mike-Wow. That is probably one of the most intuitive questions I have ever seen in a debate, hopefully I don’t waste it by going off on a rant that is completely unrelated to the topic. Sorry, I am still working out my issues about the Presidential election. Any-who, I don’t know the rules here but I am going to assume that we are not allowing someone to cross over to an organization that is bankrupt, because then I’d pick BJ over Robbie Lawler all day. When your most significant title defense comes against a guy who went 1-3 in the UFC you probably get a little rusty, and maybe you aren’t really that great to begin with. BJ by arm bar in 2.

Anyways, since that is not an option I have another guy I am thinking of. I will encrypt his initials and you let me know if you can figure it out after I describe him. First of all, I picked this PSG because he is definitely the strongest person to ever grace the Welterwieght division. “But what about Matt Hughes?” yells the guy who still can’t let go. Well I always was one of Matt’s biggest fans and I honestly believe that in his hay-day he would have been able to body slam Brock through the mat, but that is just wrestling power. He was strong at the moves he had done his whole life but unfortunately that strength fades and other fighter’s strengths grow. PSG is the strongest all around fighter in that weight class because he does EVERYTHING harder than the next guy. All forms of striking, wrestling, grappling, clinching and defending; he is stronger than every guy in every way. So this obviously makes him the best candidate for going up a couple weight classes. He still wouldn’t be as strong as Forrest, he would be giving up some reach, height and obviously weight but he would have speed and a slight edge in technique. Would that be enough to overcome Forrest though? Sorry Georges (oops I ruined the surprise), but not in this one. You put up a better effort than anyone else would have in this scenario but Forrest wore you out and locked you in an RNC with 45 seconds left in the 4th round. But if Rashad can beat Forrest I will take all of the money that I would have won with BJ beating Lawler and double it down on PSG over Rashad.

Kevin-To be honest, the only non-UFC/WEC title that holds any water in the MMA world is Fedor’s WAMMA Heavyweight belt. Every other non-UFC/WEC belt is a Halloween costume in my opinion. I’m not saying that the Dream/Strikeforce/EliteXC etc. titleholders aren’t good fighters, just that they haven’t proven themselves to be champions until they’ve done so in the Octagon. With that being said and focusing solely on UFC & WEC titleholders, there’s three that come to mind – BJ Penn, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. On BJ Penn’s best day he could beat Anderson Silva on Silva’s worst day. Georges St. Pierre could beat Forrest Griffin on most days. In my opinion Rampage should still be Champion, but I’ll save that argument for another day. And finally a crafty Anderson Silva could beat Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is an extremely fast heavyweight, but Silva is faster. Also, Silva has the ground game that Lesnar lacks. So Silva’s keys to victory would be stun him with a punch, knee to the head or kick to the head, get him to the ground and submit him before he recovers. So once again I am in agreement with the master of the inner dialogue that Georges St. Pierre has the best shot at beating a current titleholder (Forrest Griffin) two weight classes above him. Should the fight ever happen, I’d be looking for GSP to submit Griffin thereby exposing Forrest’s “jits” to be something else that rhymes with “it”. You know like “the pits” (G rated version) or the other thing you probably thought, “*&$@” (not G rated version).

Question #6-There’s no doubt that KenFlo is the #1 contender in the UFC. But how would he fare outside the Octagon against guys like Alvarez, Hansen, Gomo, Masvidal, Cerrone, or Varner?

Mike-Alright so I am going to have to openly admit that I have very little footage to base this on. I have to say that the only guy that I believe has any one piece of arsenal more developed than any aspect of Kenny’s would be Gomi in striking. Even that to me is a stretch, but just for argument sake let’s just say that it is better than Kenny’s striking. He still does not have the ground game that Kenny has. I am not taking anything away from Gomi here, Kenny is just that good. And unfortunately for Gomi and every other guy in this discussion, Kenny knows how to put you where he can beat you. Let me be clear that I think that all of those guys could win a fight against Kenny, but Florian is extremely focused, one of the most self motivated and hardest working guys in the sport so I don’t see anyone but BJ beating him in that weight class, in any organization on any continent. But BJ will make him look outclassed unfortunately. Sorry Kenny but you are going to be the Rich Franklin of the LW division.

Kevin-Florian has proven himself to be an elite LW fighter. I’m not going to sit here and say that he would definitely beat all those guys that the leader of the Sunshine Band (that would be KC for the 70’s deficient readers) mentioned, but if I was a betting man, I definitely would not bet against him. I was amazed at how fast he dispatched of Joe Stevenson. I thought this fight would go to a three round decision, and it didn’t make it out of the first round. His skill set has skyrocketed since his loss to Sean Sherk. Anything can happen in an MMA fight especially between the combatants mentioned, but Kenny Florian comes into the Octagon with a great gameplan every time. Given enough time to prepare he could dispose of all those guys. The two guys that could present a knockout concern are Eddie Alvarez and Takanori Gomi, but I’m not convinced that Gomi still has the knockout power he once possessed. Out of the six fighters mentioned, Eddie Alvarez stands the best chance of defeating KenFlo. At some point we have to see him crack the top ten rankings as he clearly deserves to be there.