Welcome to another Heavy MMA roundtable, UFC 112 style. Two titles are up for grabs in Abu Dhabi as B.J. Penn battles Frankie Edgar for the lightweight strap and Anderson Silva defends against Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia. Renzo Gracie returns to take on UFC legend Matt Hughes. But what does it all mean? We’ve assembled a wealth of MMA knowledge to break it down for you.
Nate Lawson: Feature Columnist Heavy MMA
Zak Woods: Editor WatchKalibRun.com
Jeremy Botter: Lead Writer Heavy MMA
Matt Brown: Sr. Editor Heavy MMA
1. Hot prospect Phil Davis (5-0) is fighting on the undercard of UFC 112 after a very impressive UFC debut win over Brian Stann. Are you buying into the hype after only five career MMA fights and one UFC fight?
Lawson: The way Davis rolled over Brian Stann is certainly enough to give the guy some big hype. While a finish would’ve been nice, the complete domination at UFC 109 has me sold. If he can bring more of the same to the Octagon against Gustafsson, I’m sure most everybody else will be, too.
Woods: Am I buying the hype? Only if it is in future stocks. Phil Davis, a former 197lbs. NCAA wrestling champion, has the fundamental building block to be great in the UFC. Plus, the guy happens to be a physical monster in a sport that has yet to plateau in terms of athletic talent. Does that mean Davis will be able to develop a top level stand-up and submission game in order to become an elite light heavyweight? Who knows, but he is definitely worth the investment.
Botter: I bought into the Phil Davis hype when I saw him destroy Brian Stann at UFC 109 in February. It was a one-sided beating, the kind you rarely see in MMA, and I scored it 30-24. Davis’ wrestling is on a different level than anyone else in MMA, and he used it to completely control Stann. If the rest of his game even remotely catches up to his wrestling, he’s going to be a force in the light heavyweight division.
Brown: Obviously one decision win over a middle tier opponent isn’t anything to get super excited about these days. But the thing that really opened my eyes was the way he won. Davis absolutely dominated a guy that had put in a really solid camp with Greg Jackson. If he stays focused and doesn’t let a little money and fame get in the way, I truly believe he’ll be a fixture in everyone’s top five light heavyweights.
2. Matt Hughes (36 years old) is taking on Renzo Gracie (43 years old). Both fighters are light years away from their primes and have very little shot at title contention. Does this fight excite you at all?
Lawson: Considering Gracie’s incredible Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Hughes dominant campaign in the UFC years ago, the match up is somewhat intriguing. However, the fact that no serious division implications, let alone title implications, exist, it is hard to be extremely excited about this fight.
Woods: Yes and no (go ahead and call me a flip-flopper). Since Renzo is the personal jiu-jitsu instructor of the Abu Dhabi prince, I am excited to see how the crowd reacts when he loses (sorry Gracie clan). Other than that potential story, I am lukewarm on seeing the two aged fighters meet. In other words, I think this fight has turned into vinegar rather than developed into a nice full body wine. Was that analogy too Frasier?
Botter: It excites me because of Renzo Gracie. The fight doesn’t have the hype of Hughes’ fight with Royce Gracie, but Renzo should be far more competitive. He hasn’t fought in three years and rightly is a big underdog, but I’ve always enjoyed watching him fight. He’s got a big personality and a well-rounded game, and it’s always fun to see a Gracie debut in the UFC. Unless it’s Rolles Gracie. That was no fun at all.
Brown: This fight would have been really awesome ten years ago. That being said, it’s a Gracie against one of the greatest fighters of all time. For that reason alone, it’ll be fun. I think the UFC did a great job placing it as the third fight of the night. The only way I’d have a problem with the fight would have been if it were the main or co-main event. We’ve had enough old guys main eventing this year.
3. Two of the most dominant champions in the history of the UFC (Silva and Penn) will defend their titles this weekend. Will both of these guys still have their belts a year from now?
Lawson: Unless Silva vacates the middleweight title, and Penn vacates the lightweight one, yes, each man will hold his title a year from now. Silva has a few challenges ahead of him, but should be able to take care of every challenger. Penn has vanquished nearly the entire lightweight division. It’s hard to believe anyone will be able to steal away either man’s title within the next year.
Woods: No. A year from now B.J. Penn will have relinquished his lightweight title and will be one fight into his welterweight career. Anderson Silva may jump up to 205lbs. and be forced to leave the 185lbs. belt behind him but a year from now the Silva vs. St. Pierre fruit will hopefully be ripe for harvest.
Botter: I don’t think so, but it won’t be due to a loss. I believe both guys have a limited amount of time left in their respective divisions. They’re close to cleaning out the divisions, which means we’re likely going to see them change weight classes in pursuit of a bigger challenge.
Brown: If they want them, then yes. If either fighter decides to stay in their current weight class and take on any and all comers, I think it is highly likely that both could retire with their belts (assuming they retired before father time did too much damage). Gray Maynard poses a threat to Penn just due to his size and strength, but is anyone really betting against Penn these days. I’m not.
4. Do you believe the title challengers (Edgar and Maia) this weekend deserve their shots? If not, who would you rather have seen fighting Penn and Silva this weekend?
Lawson: Neither man really deserves a title shot, but the UFC is running out of options. I would definitely rather see Belfort or Sonnen compete against Silva, but neither fighter is available. And I would rather see Kenny Florian fight Penn, but it’s hard to sell that fight after the result from the first time the two met.
Woods: Frankie Edgar and Demian Maia definitely deserve their shots, in part due to their work in their respective divisions and in part due to the lack of challengers. The real question is whether or not either fighter will be able to make the fight competitive and/or entertaining. In this regard I think Edgar has the best chance to make his fight interesting though if Maia can take Silva down (if Demian pulls guard Silva is going to stand up) then he has a real chance of winning.
Botter: Silva and Penn’s dominance means it’s nearly impossible to find truly deserving challengers to face them. Edgar is just as deserving as anyone else in the division, and I don’t have a problem with him getting a title shot. I can’t say the same for Maia. He’s one fight removed from getting knocked into kingdom come by Nate Marquardt, after all. I’d much rather have seen Chael Sonnen get the title shot, and I’m still not quite sure why it didn’t happen.
Brown: I would have gone with Gray Maynard over Frankie Edgar for the lightweight title fight. Maynard is undefeated, Edgar has one loss…to Maynard. Seems pretty simple to me. As for Maia, he was the best available option. Let’s not forget that before Nate Marquardt dropped the bomb on Maia, many were saying that he potentially had in his arsenal what it would take to beat Silva.
5. B.J. Penn hasn’t lost to anyone not named Georges St. Pierre since Matt Hughes beat him in September of 2006. That streak of lightweight wins includes Jens Pulver, Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez. Assuming he beats Frankie Edgar like most believe, is he then the greatest lighter weight fighter of all time?
Lawson: Penn has been unbeatable at lightweight, and I don’t see that changing against Edgar. With the natural talent and newly discovered work ethic, Penn could rule the division for a long time to come, and, at this point, has earned the title of greatest lighter weight fighter in the history of the sport.
Woods: Yes, Yes and YES! I don’t want to sound like a B.J. Penn acolyte (forum participants have a different term for this) but Penn is such a skilled fighter that he has survived, nay, thrived during the massive explosion of talent within the UFC over the past few years. Heck, the guy fought Lyoto Machida and looked damn good despite losing. How many other 155lbs. fighters could fight a guy who weighs a third as much and do well? Personally, a dream, mega fight would not be at 170lbs. but rather a catchweight bout against Jose Aldo.
Botter: Penn is easily the greatest lightweight fighter of all time. He’s far and away the best in UFC history, and I don’t believe that Gomi or any other Japanese legends come remotely close. I don’t think he even needs to beat Frankie Edgar to earn that status. He’s already there.
Brown: Time changes everything. Had you asked me this question a little over a year ago, Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber would have been in the discussion. The jury is still out on Jose Aldo. But for now, yes, B.J. Penn is hands down the greatest lighter weight fighter on the planet and is cementing himself as the greatest lighter weight fighter of all time.
6. Speaking of dominance, there’s this guy on the card named Anderson Silva. If you could hold the puppet strings of the UFC middleweight champion, what would happen over the next 18 months of his career?
Lawson: Silva, like Penn, has been simply unbeatable at his respective weight class, and it’s time for a change. I would have Silva fight Belfort and Sonnen at middleweight, but then have him make the move up to light heavyweight or heavyweight. The man needs a challenge, and I don’t see any at middleweight, especially if he disposes of Sonnen and Belfort.
Woods: This is an interesting question because you may need to hold the puppet strings of several other divisions (and promotions) to create the desired match-ups. Obviously the dream fight would be St. Pierre vs. Silva but a Silva-Shogun or Silva-Rampage fight would be equally intriguing (assuming Lyoto Machida and Rogerio Nogueira are off limits). At middleweight I still want to see Silva vs. Henderson II, as I believe that Dan’s wrestling gives him a great chance to win. But as Henderson is in Strikeforce, I will have to settle for Chael Sonnen who will certainly bring the smack talk.
Botter: I’d give Silva his wish and let him move straight to the heavyweight division. He’s too big to cut to welterweight, and there are plenty of huge fights available at heavyweight. When he’s not training for a fight, Silva is a massive guy, a big fighter even for the light heavyweight division. I’d put him in the cage against Frank Mir for his first bout and go from there. A Brock Lesnar/Anderson Silva match would be absolutely gigantic, and there’s no reason to think Silva couldn’t at least be competitive.
Brown: If there were any way possible for him to make 170, I’d have Silva move down and fight Georges St. Pierre. At this moment in time, that is my doable dream fight. If making 170 could not be done, then I’d have him move up to 205 and fight all the top contenders as if he were the champion. He says he won’t fight Lyoto Machida, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fight Rampage Jackson, Shogun Rua, Jon Jones, Randy Couture, etc.
UFC 112 Main Card Predictions
– Mark Munoz vs. Kendall Grove
Lawson: Mark Munoz via Unanimous Decision
Woods: Mark won’t fall prey to the submission that felled his fellow OSU alum. I think Munoz takes this via Unanimous Decision.
Botter: Mark Munoz by TKO, round 1
Brown: I can’t see Kendall pulling off a submission here. Munoz by TKO, round 2.
– Terry Etim vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Lawson: Etim via Unanimous Decision
Woods: Terry Etim pulls off a narrow split decision victory
Botter: Etim by Unanimous Decision
Brown: I think Terry Etim is one of the brighter prospects in the lightweight division. Etim via Unanimous Decision.
– Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie
Lawson: Gracie via Submission in Round 2
Woods: I like Hughes via Unanimous Decision
Botter: Hughes by decision
Brown: I don’t see any way that Hughes loses this fight. Hughes via TKO, round 2.
– B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar – Lightweight Title
Lawson: Penn via Technical Knockout in Round 3
Woods: I see this very similar to the Florian fight. Frankie survives for a while and finally taps to a late round submission.
Botter: Penn by submission, round 2
Brown: It’s a focused B.J. Penn. Penn via submission round 3.
– Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia – Middleweight Title
Lawson: Silva via Knockout in Round 2
Woods: I have a feeling that Maia doesn’t want this to be Silva vs. Leites 2.0 and as a result he walks into a Hadoken punch from Anderson. Silva via KO in round 2.
Botter: Silva by TKO, round 1
Brown: Maia makes it into the championship rounds. Silva via TKO round 4.
You can catch the live broadcast of UFC 112 on Saturday at 1pm EST and during prime time at 10pm EST.