Thursday, December 29, 2011
6 Questions Before UFC 141
1. How will Dong Hyun Kim bounce back from not only his first career loss, but his first career knockout loss?
Carlos Condit knocked out Dong Hyun Kim. Bad. It's a strange thing to re-watch, because before Kim was in the UFC, he was putting on boxing clinics in nearly every fight he had. He had a nice left straight, good uppercuts, and a solid winging right hook that he would measure up when he was in range. Sure, he was beating up Japanese guys that aren't exactly great fighters, but still. This was a guy that could fight standing up.
When he started fighting in the UFC, though, he resorted to using his phenomenal base, length, and experience in judo to get on top of guys and outgrapple them. This was fine, but he didn't show any willingness to engage in any kind of standup confrontation at all. This was never more true than in the Condit fight where, before the knockout, he sort of just reached forward, not even looking at Condit, hoping to somehow grab ahold of him. Condit capitalized on a skittish Kim, and brutally knocked him out.
Sean Pierson may not be a great fighter, but he's a good enough puncher to really put Kim on the ropes if he hasn't gotten higher quality sparring. Sometimes, fighters change after they've been knocked out. I hope Kim changes for the better.
2. Is Alexander Gustafsson ready for an upper echelon opponent?
Alexander Gustafsson entered the UFC with a reputation of being a lanky, one dimensional brawler. After blowing Jared Hamman away in 41 action packed seconds, he was put up against Phil Davis, a matchup that seems curious in retrospect. I mean, one of the most consistent, tried-and-true trends when it comes to MMA matchmaking is "never put two prospects against one another, because you're basically sacrificing one of them".
The Davis-Gustafsson bout went back and forth before "Mr. Wonderful" latched on a beautiful anaconda choke that made Gustafsson tap. The question now became: what do we do with Gustaf? He showed enough improvement in the Davis fight to be considered a good prospect in his own right, but he lost.
Alexander Gustafsson is a great example of a solid fighter who became a legitimate prospect simply by losing to another legitimate prospect. After good wins over Cyrille Diabate, James Te Huna, and Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko is next on Gustaf's hit list, and I believe he'll run through Vladdy. He's got super rangy striking, and his wrestling is underrated. Really good power, too. I love seeing foreign guys bite the bullet and come to train in the states, knowing that they'll improve. I'd love to see him get a top ten guy next.
3. Is that Jimy Hettes on the main card, or am I just tripping balls right now?
Jim Hettes is basically a modern day incarnation of Carlos Newton; no standup at all, all submissions, and willing to give up any (ANY) position, no matter how dominant, to go for a submission that might have a 35% chance of eliciting a tap.
His fight with Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres was entertaining, but it was entertaining in the same way that sloppy standup wars are; all offense, zero defense. Maybe even less. It was like watching two guys that had been watching MMA religiously for ten years but had never actually grappled before have a submission grappling contest. Drunk. It was that bad.
(Okay, Jim Hettes is good at grabbing submissions, he just isn't great at finishing them. Unless it's in the main event of Wild Bill's Fight Night. This skill could come in time. It could. I'm a dick.)
So why is Hettes on the main card? Because he's fighting Nam Phan, who will be eternally beloved because he was ripped off against (I hope you're sitting down) Leonard Garcia last December. It's funny how this situation always works out; a fighter loses egregiously on the judges scorecards, but he wins way more fans than he ever could have if he had dominated for a 30-27 decision.
In short, this is matchup is as rough as it gets for Hettes. Nam Phan has historically lost fights when he's been overwhelmed by a large volume of strikes, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what Hettes brings to the table. Hettes will probably latch onto something and have Phan 68.3% closer to tapping, but Phan will escape and beat up Hettes on the feet en rout to a late stoppage.
4. Will Cerrone vs. Diaz be as one sided as it looks on paper?
The exchange that sparked the fire between these two pieces of work is funny to read about. It's funny not because of what transpired, but because of Donald Cerrone's intentions upon initiating it. It's not like this kind of behavior from a Diaz brother is a surprise. Didn't Cerrone know this? It's kind of like that line from Collateral, during the scene where the jazz guy tells "Miles Davis was an asshole" stories by saying, "I mean, everybody and their momma knew you don't just come up and TALK to Miles Davis. I mean, he may have looked like he was chilling, but he was absorbed. This one hip couple, one of them tried to shake his hand one day. And the guy says, "Hi, my name is..." Miles said, "Get the fuck outta my face, you jive motherfucker, and take your silly bitch with you."
This is basically what happened to Donald Cerrone. And you know what? Come Friday, it wont matter, because he is a much, much better fighter than Nathan Diaz. The only edge I'd give to Diaz is in the submission department, but Cerrone's improved wrestling (both defensive and offensive) should steer him clear of any trouble there.
Cerrone's striking is technically brilliant without sacrificing excitement, and here is where Diaz is in for a rude awakening. Nathan's boxing has improved alot recently too, but beating up fading stars like Marcus Davis and Takanori Gomi and going in and boxing up a better striker like Donald Cerrone is something altogether different. Nate Diaz is a good fighter, and will always serve as a stern test for guys that can't hold him down. But Cerrone is on a roll, and he's improving each time out. Cerrone by decision, with a real possibility of a post fight brawl involving Cerrone, Leonard Garcia, the Diaz brothers, and some combination of Carlos Condit, Gilbert Melendez, a horrified Greg Jackson, and a petrified Cesar Gracie. All we'd need is the ref that Gilbert Yvel knocked out to inappropriately and inexplicably touch everyone involved, and that's the recipe of a beautiful catastrophe.
5. Will Lesnar vs. Overeem go longer than five minutes?
I have trouble believing that it will. Heavyweight MMA can end more abruptly than any other weight class, and on top of that, I question both men and their abilities to win at the highest level. After a second bout with diverticulitis, on top of being destroyed by Cain Velasquez in his last fight, does Lesnar have what it takes to score takedowns? Or will he just clumsily rush in like a bull in a china shop and bank on the 15% chance that he WONT eat some sort of power strike?
As far as Alistair goes, I understand how he's made such a massive improvement since he became a heavyweight. However, I just can't shake the notion that beneath all of those credentials and under all that newfound muscle is the same softy who faltered the first time he was hit squarely in the face. On top of that, his best heavyweight win is against the immortal Brett Rogers. I know he beat Werdum, but that fight was just a poor matchup of combat philosophy; Werdum wanted Alistair to engage him on the ground, and Alistair wanted to rough Werdum up on the feet. Niether man did much of either, and the result was a gong show.
I think whatever happens in the first 30 seconds of the fight will be compelling. We know Alistair isn't one to rush anything, but can Brock keep his composure and accept the fact that he's probably doing to have to set up any takedown with punches? Or has he woken up drenched in sweat so many times thinking about the beatings he took from Carwin and Velasquez that he'll just run at Overeem like a linemen runs at a tackling sled?
I'm leaning towards the former. I think we see a different Brock Lesnar on Friday night. I think he'll get tagged a few times, but he'll find a way to get Overeem to the ground, and from there, get ready for punches, and punches, and punches. I know Overeem has more ways to win, but Brock's way is more powerful than any of Alistair's. Brock by TKO.
6. What kind of chance does the winner have of beating Junior dos Santos?
Hmmm ... I'm going to go with "slim". Like, Ichabod Crane slim.