TSN.ca's MMA staff, including John Pollock - TSN Radio 1050 (@iamjohnpollock), James Lynch - TSN.ca (@lynchonsports), and Jordan Cieciwa - TSN Radio 1290 (@FitCityJordan), take a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.
1) Did Dan Henderson deserve a victory at UFC 157 against Lyoto Machida?
JC - If you go by cage control and pushing the pace, Yes! Significant strikes were Machida's. The counter striker and the decision win is in my opinion one of the toughest debates. Dan Henderson pushed the pace, brought the fight and was penalized because he is the slower tougher fighter. He got punched in the head and lost points, but was never in danger. Machida never threatened, and he also never wobbled Henderson with any of his strikes.
So here is my question: Why did he get the win? Cage control was Henderson's, and aggression was Henderson's. He had more strikes because he is faster. If it had not been for Hendo, the two would have stood there staring at each other. Good counter punchers are impressive to watch, but if the fight is as close as this one, they can't be given the win.
In my opinion it takes way more skill to be a counter puncher, and I am not taking anything away from Machida, he is a dangerous fighter. However, he didn't win this fight, he just didn't lose. Dan Henderson should have been awarded for his aggressive fighting behavior.
Pollock - I found all three rounds close enough that if you want to debate them that is fine but to go to the extreme that it was a “robbery” or that it was clearly Henderson's fight than I think you're stretching. I scored it 29-28 for Machida. I thought it was a terrible fight and a performance that didn't position Machida in a light where you can feel confident that he gets that next title shot if Alexander Gustafsson impresses on April 6th and wins in spectacular fashion.
I can appreciate the speed and elusiveness of Machida, but you don't win rounds for avoidance and Machida did just enough to win. Some will applaud his ability to take the least amount of damage, but it's not a pleasing style and has to digest criticism when you compromise action for results.
Lynch - While I can agree Henderson made this a street fight and Machida turned it into a track meet, based on the current standard of MMA judging, the Team Quest captain didn't deserve the victory. It's unfortunate, because I'm firm believer in points being awarded for the aggressor in the fight. We've seen this scenario before at UFC 143 when Nick Diaz lost a decision to Carlos Condit. The Stockton native was pushing the pace and being the aggressor in the fight, but Condit won based off takedowns and less damage taken. Pundits argued that a defensive strategy is a factor when awarding a fighter points.
Machida's elusiveness paid off once again and left many fans disappointed with the current rules in place. I'm a huge Hendo fan (I even picked him to win this fight), but until athletic commissions come to their senses about a fighter's willingness to engage (and push the fight), then I'm going to continue to agree that a guy like Machida deserves the victory.
2) Biggest fall from grace recently - Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck or King (Muhammed) Lawal?
Pollock - Easily Fitch, who goes from making a six-figure salary when you figure in a win bonus and fighting for the UFC to fighting in front of 200,000 people on NBC Sports Network for World Series of Fighting. In the case of Lawal, he got caught, but is still going to be promoted within Bellator as one of their marquee light heavyweights because he is a name people are familiar with.
There are loads of examples of guys losing and even being knocked out in spectacular fashion, who haven't suffered any losses as a draw. Whether it be Chuck Liddell, who was an attraction up until his final fight or extreme examples like Kimbo Slice being knocked out by Seth Petruzelli and parlaying that loss into a stint on TUF, which was the highest rated season in the show's history.
Lawal will draw with the right opponents and you have an easy rematch if Newton doesn't win the tournament. Josh Koscheck is 35-years old and seems to be in the twilight stage as an effective welterweight, but as an alumni of TUF Season 1 I don't see him being released.
Lynch - Despite the fact that Koscheck and King Mo were both recently upset in the first round, my pick is Fitch because he's currently unemployed (although it should be noted he'll probably sign with WSOF soon). The AKA fighter was surprisingly released by the UFC and doesn't exactly have a fan friendly style that will make him marketable. Bellator decided to take a pass on the former UFC title challenger mostly likely for this reason. Aside from an exciting win over Erik Silva at UFC 153, Fitch has delivered typical decision victories where fans have berated him for laying and praying on his opponents.
Koscheck and King Mo still have the opportunity to rebound back to glory in their respective promotions. Even if Fitch signs with WSOF, he won't have the same platform and it's much harder to move up in the ladder when you're fighting in the minor leagues, especially at his age.
JC - My heart broke when I read the news that Fitch had been cut. I fully understand the decision from a fan favorite stand point, he isn't exactly entertaining. The fact still remains, he is a massive talent. My hope is Fitch doesn't remove himself from the sport. He has the ability to pass on one of the games best MMA wrestling strategies. If an athlete could learn from him, and add a more aggressive submission game, GSP could have a real rival.
As for King Mo, it's not as heart breaking. He tested positive for a banned substance, that means he cheated. I was always told cheaters never win, so I am happy when they get passed over by the big shows. From talking with referee's in the sport, Koscheck isn't loved by them for his constant "diving" during fights. In a sport where serious injury can come from a "no call" it's important that Ref's know an athlete isn't trying to get a cheap win. Koscheck has slid way down the ranks and is now starting cards instead of headlining. At least he hasn't cheated or bored fans for years. He has the best chance to recover his former glory.
Definately Fitch wins this, he's being punished for winning boring. He is the fall guy to make sure athletes keep it interesting. The only good to come from this, guys will get the message. No one is safe from the UFC axe, if you are boring, you are gone.
3) Should the UFC pursue Gina Carano?
Pollock - If Carano were willing to fight again you would be a fool not to bring her back. In fact, Carano could serve as a catalyst for the UFC to start promoting 145-pound women's fighters. Obviously the dream match is Carano vs. Ronda Rousey, which is the fight I would work hardest to promote even in the case of a catch-weight bout because it's a fight that eclipses a championship title and would be huge if promoted on the UFC platform.
On the other side is Carano and I would see little incentive on her part in this stage of her life to want to go back and fight especially against someone the caliber of Rousey. It's not a career move Carano needs to make but the door is open and there is no way the UFC doesn't answer if she knocks on that door.
Lynch - Absolutely! Dana White was coy at the UFC 157 presser saying “I'm not going to pursue her” but I think he's missing out on a huge marketing opportunity by not doing so. I'm not suggesting women's MMA (in the UFC) has to survive based on attractive women fighting, but it certainly would help. Without sounding sexist (beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course), but to the average fan there isn't a pool of attractive women fighting MMA at a high level. Carano fought at a high level in Strikeforce and obviously used that as a platform to get her current gig (of being a movie actress).
There are obviously two big roadblocks from this happening of course. The first is that the money isn't comparable between acting and MMA. The second is that Carano fights at 145-pounds and the current champ Rousey fights at 135-pounds. The solution? White should court her like a scene from Sixteen Candles, with determination and persistence. Then throw “Alistair Overeem money” her way, make a catch-weight superfight against Rousey and air the event for free on FOX. It would be the biggest Women's fight in MMA history, mark my words!
JC - Anyone seen a stellar performance from Rampage Jackson these days? No? It's because his heart is in Hollywood, and who can blame him. Gina is the same way. I am proud of Rampage, sort of. If he had stayed out of the cage once he went to Hollywood it would have been brilliant.
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, leave your sport and pursue the limelight in tinsel town. If Carano, and the UFC are smart, Carano stays retired. Once you get soft from the bright lights, it's hard to come back to be the best. Let's worry less about bringing Carano back, and worry more about who's coming up!