Welcome back to another Heavy MMA Roundtable. The topic at hand – UFC 110 from Sydney, Australia. We’ve brought in the experts to break down the real issues surrounding the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event from the Land Down Under. We’ve assembled a very Heavy panel for you to get ready for Saturday night.
– Jeremy Botter: Lead MMA Writer for Heavy.com
– Brett C. Jones: Feature MMA Writer for Heavy.com
– Nate Lawson: Feature MMA Contributor for Heavy.com
– Mitch Ciccarelli: Feature MMA Contributor for Heavy.com
– Matt Brown: Senior MMA Editor for Heavy.com
1. Given his recent performances, does a win over Mirko Cro Cop really do all that much for Ben Rothwell’s career?
Botter: Not really. At least not in the sense that it’s going to rocket him up the standings. Junior Dos Santos probably got the last bit of “beating Mirko” magic that was available, and at this point Mirko’s nothing more than a guy who used to be good. He’ll always be a big deal to the hardcore fans, but the hardcore fans can’t really help Rothwell’s career. Nor would they want to.
Jones: If Rothwell can’t beat Mirko Cro Cop at this stage in Cro Cop’s career, Rothwell should be cut immediately. So, as far as remaining gainfully employed by the UFC, sure, a win over Cro Cop will do a lot for Rothwell. As far as moving up the Heavyweight ladder, a win over Cro Cop means very little at this point.
Lawson: This match up is a high-risk/low-reward situation for Rothwell. If the former-IFL champion takes the victory, it certainly won’t put him anywhere close to a title shot. But if he loses to the mixed martial arts legend, he will have an 0-2 record with the promotion. And the UFC isn’t fond of keeping fighters like that around for very long.
Brown: Sadly, no. Rothwell is pretty much in a no-win situation in this fight. If he beats Cro Cop, then Cro Cop is washed up. If he loses to Cro Cop, then he lost to an old washed up Cro Cop. Mirko just doesn’t have that aura around him like he used to which is quite unfortunate for Rothwell. He wins, he gets a small pat on the back. He loses, he probably gets his walking papers.
Ciccarelli: At one point in time a win over “Cro-Cop” was considered to be a huge victory on a fighters resume, but those days are far behind us. If Rothwell defeated “Cro-Cop” a few years ago it would have been a very big deal, but unfortunately in this day and age it will not have the same effect. However, a win does put “Big Ben” back on the right track and will secure him some temporary job security with the premier MMA organization in the world.
Botter: Mirko Cro Cop by TKO, round one.
Jones: Mirko Cro Cop via TKO, round two.
Lawson: Mirko Cro Cop via KO, round two.
Brown: Ben Rothwell by unanimous decision.
Ciccarelli: Mirko Cro Cop by TKO, round two.
2. Has Keith Jardine already fallen into the “gatekeeper” category? Is it possible for him to be looked at as a top-flight challenger to anyone?
Botter: Keith’s a weird enough fighter that he’s always going to present interesting problems for anyone in that division. Would YOU want to fight Keith Jardine? Probably not. But then again, the fans aren’t exactly clamoring for the next big Keith Jardine match and will never buy him as a top-flight contender. And he’s not going to fight Rashad Evans, so he’ll stay on the outside looking in.
Jones: The last two men to defeat Keith Jardine have been tossed into the thick of the UFC Light Heavyweight title mix. Unfortunately for Jardine, those two losses were his two most recent matches. A third straight loss would not only keep Jardine out of title contention for the foreseeable future, but it may cost him his UFC contract. That having been said, Jardine’s beaten former champions Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell and didn’t stink out the joint against Quinton Jackson. I think Jardine is probably being a bit undervalued at the moment.
Lawson: Ahh…just think what could have been if Jardine had avoided the brutal knockout loss at the hands of Houston Alexander at UFC 71. “The Dean of Mean” was once was a contender in the light heavyweight division, but is now a gatekeeper at 205 lbs. However, Jardine is the toughest gatekeeper you’ll find in any division and can compete with the top fighters at light heavyweight. Just check out his three round war with Quinton Jackson at UFC 96.
Brown: He’s a very talented gatekeeper, but a gatekeeper nonetheless. But I don’t think he’s doomed to being in that category for life. If Jardine can string together a few nice wins, he can be looked at as a legitimate contender once again. The MMA world can be cruel, but it can be extremely forgiving as well.
Ciccarelli: Since having his head damn near punched off his shoulders by Wanderlei Silva at UFC 84, Jardine has struggled to elevate himself into the upper echelon of the division. The biggest wins of his career to date have come against former light-heavyweight champions Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin but both of those victories were followed up with devastating losses. It is safe to say that “The Dean of Mean” will never shake off his gatekeeper status. He will always be used as a measuring stick for up and coming fighters to see if they are ready to take that proverbial next step up in competition. Every now and then, he will surprise us with a big win. But more often than not, a big loss will follow.
Botter: Ryan Bader by decision.
Jones: Keith Jardine via split decision.
Lawson: Jardine via unanimous decision.
Brown: Ryan Bader by decision.
Ciccarelli: Jardine by unanimous decision.
3. George Sotiropoulos’ last loss was a disqualification (groin strike) versus Shinya Aoki in Shooto back in 2006. His only “real” loss was a split decision loss back in 2005. Throw out the DQ and he’s on an eight-fight win streak. Is he one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC? If he beats Joe Stevenson, when does the title shot talk begin?
Botter: Sotiropoulos is an underrated fighter, but I’ve got to believe he’s still at least three fights away, minimum, from a title shot. He’s virtually an unknown to mainstream fans, which hurts him greatly and puts him way back in the pecking order. Even if he wins this fight, he’s not sniffing the belt at any point this year.
Jones: A win for Sotiropoulos against Joe Stevenson would legitimize him as a potential contender, but he’ll still need a couple more wins to earn a title shot. It’s hard for me to consider him one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC because, although it was an exhibition, we all saw Sotiropoulos get trucked by Tommy Speer on The Ultimate Fighter. If someone were inclined to play with MMA Math, they might conclude that Sotiropoulos is quite a bit behind Mac Danzig, who dominated Speer in that season’s finale. Sotiropolous v. Danzig is a match I’d like to see, actually, and one that I think Sotiropoulos would win. I am less confidence about his chances against Stevenson.
Lawson: Sotiropoulos is certainly one of the most overlooked fighters in the UFC. He has four stoppage victories in the promotion, but he has yet to fight anyone at the level of Joe Stevenson. A win over “Daddy” would certainly introduce the Jiu-Jitsu ace to the UFC fans. I don’t think he will be thrown into the title shot picture, but given the current status of lightweight contenders, he just may.
Brown: I definitely think there would be some rumblings of a title shot. It won’t happen any time soon, but given the fact that BJ Penn has decided to destroy every lightweight on the UFC, there isn’t much of a choice for future matches. After Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, all the rest of the top lightweights currently get their paychecks from another organization. Two more wins and he’s in the title picture by default.
Ciccarelli: Despite coming up short against Tommy Speer on TUF season 6, Sotiropoulos has proven to be the most talented fighter to come out of that cast. His Jiu-Jitsu abilities alone rank up there with the very best in his division – and he also has good stand up skills to boot. A lot of people are counting him out against Stevenson, but his chances are greater than one would think. A win over Stevenson puts Sotiropoulos right into the title mix and if able to continue stringing together wins over top competition, it will not be long before the Aussie is competing for the championship.
Botter: Joe Stevenson by decision.
Jones: Joe Stevenson via unanimous decision.
Lawson: George Sotiropoulos via submission, round three.
Brown: Joe Stevenson by TKO, round two.
Ciccarelli: Stevenson by TKO, round one.
4. In a battle of polar opposites on the popularity scale, Mike Bisping and Wanderlei Silva are sure to put on a great fight this weekend. Why do fans love Wanderlei so much and why have they developed such an aversion to Bisping?
Botter: Because Michael Bisping acts like a jackass and couldn’t give a flip about anyone but himself. Some guys act like a heel to make money, and it’s an effective marketing tool. Just ask Brock Lesnar. But Bisping seems like a true-blue jackass, the guy who couldn’t become popular if he tried. And he doesn’t try, which makes the fans hate him even more.
Jones: In reality, Bisping’s fighting style isn’t so different from Wandy’s, though Wandy is more aggressive and has a much better resume. I think any aversion to Bisping stems from his projected sense of entitlement. I actually get a kick out of Bisping acting like a bell end, to borrow a term from his homeland, but I absolutely adore Wanderlei Silva. He’s a genial guy out of the cage and one of the most impassioned and entertaining fighters inside it, and must be one of the most likeable fighters in the sport.
Lawson: Silva’s history in the sport and his exhilarating style of combat are two reasons the fans love to have him around in the UFC. Bisping’s big mouth and trash talking are two reasons the fans want to see the Brit get beat down. And his stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter didn’t exactly help him build much of a U.S. fan base.
Brown: It would be easy to say that it’s because he’s British and not American. But Dan Hardy is British and he’s getting over with the crowd pretty damn well. Oh yeah, and Wanderlei is Brazilian, so he’s not American either. I think the way Bisping handles himself in the media and especially the way he came off on The Ultimate Fighter have damaged his reputation something fierce. Outside of the cage, he’s actually a really cool guy, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from his recent behavior. As for Wand, he’s just a guy you want to hang out with. His work in the cage speaks for itself, but the way he is always smiling, shaking hands, and taking pictures with fans has skyrocketed his popularity. Win or lose this weekend, Wand will always be near and dear to fans hearts.
Ciccarelli: It does not seem like very many American fans are fond of Bisping. In fact, a lot of them seem to downright despise the confident Brit. “The-Axe Murderer” on the other hand, will enter the Octagon a huge fan favorite. The reason for this is quite simple, whether he wins or loses, Silva always fights hard and cares more about giving the fans their money’s worth than he does about actually winning his fights. The dislike for Bisping stems from his “brash” attitude, but truth be told, he is actually a very nice guy – and just like Silva, he always comes to fight.
Botter: Michael Bisping by decision.
Jones: Wanderlei Silva via TKO, round one.
Lawson: Wanderlei Silva via KO, round two.
Brown: Wanderlei Silva via TKO, round two.
Ciccarelli: Silva by TKO, round two.
5. The UFC heavyweight hierarchy will become a bit clearer after this weekend. Who are you top 5 UFC heavyweights today, and how would it change if either Nogueira or Velasquez wins?
Botter: My personal top five? Lesnar, Mir, Nogueira, Velasquez and Dos Santos. I don’t think a win by either Nogueira or Velasquez changes the landscape of that top five all that much at this point. Some names will shuffle around, but things will stay mostly the same until the end of March. At that point, after the Mir/Carwin bout, we’ll start getting some definition to our rankings.
Jones: I rank the UFC Heavyweight division as: 1. Brock Lesnar 2. Frank Mir 3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 4. Junior dos Santos 5. Cain Velasquez. A win for Velasquez will move him into the top three, perhaps even above Mir given that Velasquez will still be undefeated. Nogueira will cement his top three ranking with a win, but given the way he lost to Mir, I wouldn’t move him any higher.
Lawson: My top five UFC heavyweights are Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Shane Carwin, and Junior dos Santos. A win for Nogueira doesn’t change his spot on the list. However, if Velasquez pulls out a win, I would certainly throw him into the top 5 of the UFC heavyweight division.
Brown: Right now, I see the UFC’s heavyweights like this: 1. Brock Lesnar 2. Frank Mir 3. Junior dos Santos 4. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 5. Shane Carwin. A convincing win by Nog would probably make me see him as the third best heavyweight the UFC has to offer. A win by Cain would finally make me a believer and he’d jump Shane Carwin and Nog, up to number four in my rankings.
Ciccarelli: In my opinion, the top five heavyweights in the UFC are in the following order: Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cain Velasquez, and Shane Carwin. Velasquez has beaten tougher competition recently than Carwin, and despite that fact, that Carwin is getting a title shot ahead of him (be it an interim title shot). After UFC 110, neither fighter will move ahead of Mir with the victory, but if Velasquez is triumphant he will take the third seat and Nogueira will move down to number five.
Botter: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission.
Jones: Cain Velasquez via unanimous decision.
Lawson: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via unanimous decision.
Brown: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by TKO, round three.
Ciccarelli: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by submission, round three.