TSN.ca's MMA staff takes a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.
1) With Michael Bisping's loss and Vitor Belfort's desire to fight Jon Jones, who should Anderson Silva, defend his middleweight title against next?
John Pollock - Host, TSN Radio 1050 - The MMA Report (@iamjohnpollock) - The division has been blown wide open on the heels of Michael Bisping's loss to Vitor Belfort with no obvious choice for the next challenger to Anderson Silva's middleweight title.
Hector Lombard is in a much better spot today than he was a week ago and an impressive show over Yushin Okami in March could slide him into contention for that spot. Lombard also has a highlight reel that makes for a great commercial to sell this fight and Lombard poised as a threat.
Chris Weidman is a wildcard right now because of his injury and whether he will be good to go in time for when Silva wants to fight. When I spoke to Dana White this past week, he stated Silva wants to fight in the spring and that would make it a photo finish for Weidman to be ready. I believe Lombard gets the shot if he defeats Okami and as a “wild card” pick it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Dan Henderson is offered a shot if he beats Lyoto Machida and doesn't want to wait for a long time to fight Jon Jones
James Lynch, TSN.ca (@lynchonsports) - Initially I was going to pick Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, but with his rumored fight against Belfort I'm going with Rashad Evans. The light heavyweight division was turned upside down when Chael Sonnen earned a title shot against Jon Jones and for Evans, it's likely going to be a while before he competes for the title (and factor in he fought Jones last April).
With Evans being a former light heavyweight champion, not only is he deserving of a title shot against Silva, but it may be a better fit for him at this stage of his career as he only stands 5'11 (Considerably small for the 205-pound division). Unlike Weidman, the Blackzilian fighter has name recognition and this matchup would surly intrigue fans.
Also factor in the former NCAA Division I wrestler has a style that could pose a threat to the champion, as Silva struggled with the wresting of Sonnen in their first bout. This would give time for Okami vs. Lombard, a potential Rockhold vs. Belfort bout and Chris Weidman vs. an unnamed opponent (perhaps Ronaldo Jacare Souza) to play out and determine the true number one contender.
2) As Strikeforce closed its doors and selected fighters from the roster have moved over to the UFC, which recently announced (UFC vs. Strikeforce) matchup intrigues you the most?
Pollock - I think Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez is a great fight and have wanted to see Melendez in the lightweight mix of the UFC for a long time, so that is at the top of my list. Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir is a good solid co-feature on FOX in April and has the ability to propel Cormier into the UFC consciousness and introduce him on a strong stage.
As we dive deeper into the talent coming over I am curious to see Tarec Saffiedine's transition into the welterweight mix with some interesting fights that could be made with the final Strikeforce champion.
Lynch - I'm very intrigued to see Gegard Mousasi in the UFC, especially against a top prospect like Alexander Gustafsson (at UFC on FUEL TV 9 in April). The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Mousasi is often an afterthought when mentioning top fighters at 205-pounds and this mainly has to do with his lack of quality opposition. Now that he's signed to the UFC, fans will finally get to see the true skillset of the Dutch-Armenian fighter.
Aside from losing his title to King Mo (back at Strikeforce: Nashville in 2010) Mousasi's last defeat was back in 2006, a submission loss to Akihiro Gono at PRIDE Bushido 12. He's never been seriously hurt in a fight and at 28-years old; he's just hitting his prime at the right time.
Even if Mousasi loses this fight (which is possible due to Gustafsson's height and reach advantage) a drop to 185-pounds isn't out of the question and would certainly add intrigue to the middleweight division. With Gustasfsson knowing that a win could bring title implications and Mousasi looking to make his mark in the UFC, fans are in store for a very exciting battle in April.
3) After their close featherweight title clash at Bellator 85, does Patricio “Pitbull” Freire deserve rematch with champion Pat Curran?
Pollock - It was a close fight but not one where I felt there was any injustice and outside of “Judo” Gene LeBell I don't know many people that scored the fight for Pitbull. Daniel Straus has been patient since winning the featherweight tournament in May of last year and there is no need for a rematch whether you look it from a fighting stand point or from a consumer demand point of view.
I feel the automatic rematch should only be invoked if there is a case to be made that is a glaring one and I don't see one for this particular case.
Lynch - Yes, but not an immediate rematch like some pundits are suggesting. Reason being is that Season 6 Featherweight tournament winner Daniel Straus has been waiting since October to battle the winner of this bout and rightfully deserves the next shot.
In addition Rad Martinez and Shahbulat Shamhalaev fight next month in the Season 7 tournament finals (at Bellator 90) and that winner would also be waiting. Pitbull clearly is head and shoulders above his peers in the featherweight division (he even defeated Straus back in 2011) and clearly after the way he fought Curran, shouldn't have to go through another tournament just to earn a shot at the title.
The loss to Curran was his first fight in over a year and a half, so my suggestion would be give him the winner of Straus vs. Curran and give Martinez/Shamhalaev an extended layoff. A rematch would clearly do great numbers for Bellator and could easily headline a future event.