What's buzzing:

Mailbag: Looking forward to Saturday

The readers always have a lot to say. And, sometimes, at least, I have a response. I tackle questions about the upcoming Affliction and UFC shows, as well as take a last stab at a UFC 86 question, in this edition of the mixed martial arts mailbag. My answers are in italics after the questions.

FEDOR IS THE MAN

I've been watching former PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko for about five years now. I've seen him dominate everybody he's faced. Do you truly believe Tim Sylvia has a chance to defeat him when they fight on Saturday at Affliction, or are you so far up UFC president Dana White's (backside) that you think Tim has a chance? Also, not to change subject, but I think that Dana is destroying the sport. Your thoughts?

Mike K.
Ohio

Fedor is a gifted fighter and a deserved favorite in the fight. But does Sylvia have a chance to win? Of course he does. He's got a huge reach advantage and if he can keep the fight standing, he has a chance to win. I think he'll somehow find a way to get the fight to the ground and if he does, just like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira did, he'll pull off a submission. As for Dana White, I'd hardly say he's ruining the sport. The UFC was about to go under when he and his partners purchased the company in 2001. You may not like him, but you've got your head in the sand if you think he's ruining the sport. More fighters than ever, both inside and outside the UFC, have opportunities now thanks to the work that Dana White has done.


DANA'S INCONSISTENT

Why is it that Dana White tries so hard to proclaim that MMA is supposed to be for grown up men, not the childish boys, and kicks Jesse Taylor off "The Ultimate Fighter" and no more than a couple of months later brings him into the UFC. People don't change within a year, but obviously White is a hypocrite and knows he can market Taylor for money. I believe the UFC is more about money and less about image and pride. Taylor is a disgrace to his family and child, and what's to say he doesn't do what he did again? What if next time he rapes a girl or kills someone?

Josh Hagerman

I guess if you were a judge, Josh, you'd give out the death penalty for parking violations. The penalty given to Taylor was justified and reinstating him was equally justified. Let's consider that Taylor was not arrested nor ever accused of a crime. What he did made himself look like a fool, and that's something he's going to have to live with. But you want to ban him for life for doing something stupid. I have been critical of White's handling of issues involving fighters who actually had committed crimes. Specifically, I think he treated Jon Koppenhaver with kid gloves after Koppenhaver pleaded guilty to assaulting a man outside his training center. That was a crime and White should have cracked down on Koppenhaver to make a statement that he would not tolerate that type of behavior. But in the Taylor situation, he got drunk while he was out celebrating. It's quite a stretch to suggest he may rape someone.


CHANGING WEIGHT CLASSES

With the upcoming match between Anderson Silva and James Irvin on Saturday, will a middleweight moving to light heavyweight help sway over any critics believing in changing the weight classes? There has been talk of splitting a single weight class into three, changing the limits of classes, and possibly making over a dozen different titles to be held? How does this make anything better? How important is weight really in a fight? Is this just a flawed attempt to somehow make MMA more like boxing and, if so, why?

Nick McKnight
Fontana, Calif.

At the annual meeting of The Association of Boxing Commissions earlier this month in Montreal, a suggestion for adding new weight classes in MMA was floated. It's only a suggestion and I think it's going to be largely ignored by the major promoters. There is no rationale for it, but it was done with safety in mind. Tim Lueckenhoff, the president of the ABC, has failed to return repeated calls seeking comment on not only the weight class changes but the proposed rules changes that were announced in Montreal. The entire membership was not involved in discussing and debating the rules and it's likely that they'll be tabled so as to allow comment and debate.


FANS PICK

With so much media discourse already scrutinizing the UFC's next matchmaking moves, particularly at light heavyweight, I'm wondering what you think if the UFC adopted select fan-based participation (via voting) for certain making certain fights? I see a ton of upside in fan interest while posting a grass-roots feature inherently absent with growth. If done right, it could also serve as mild pay-per-view/gate predictor while directing more traffic to UFC.com. How many people would flood a Forrest Griffin vs. Chuck Liddell vote option?) I'd love to see Dana institute something like this.

Ed Leonard
Branchburg, N.J.

I doubt this will be adopted, Ed. The UFC has the best matchmaker in the business in Joe Silva and I think they'll continue to rely on his expertise. The opinion of the fans is considered, no doubt, because it is a business, but Silva is going to continue to make the pairings.


IRVIN FAN

I really like James Irvin. If he beats Anderson Silva on Saturday, does this vault him up the light heavyweight rankings? Or would he be hurt by the fact that Silva moved up a weight class and is not normally a light heavyweight?

James Bundtrock
Mons, Belgium

A win over the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world would be huge for Irvin's status in the UFC. If he were to beat Silva, I think his wish may come true and he'd land a bout against the man he's sought to fight for a long time, Wanderlei Silva.


RAMPAGE BLEW IT

I think the light heavyweight title fight between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 was a good showdown that will be remembered as one of the best fights of the year. However, I think the fight could have been a lot different if Rampage fought the way that got him to the top. It looked like he didn't train properly and his body didn't look as tight as it did when he fought Chuck Liddell or Dan Henderson. Rampage wasn't trying to attack. He was just waiting for a big counter punch whenever Griffin got close. He wasn't setting up any of his offense and he let Griffin control the tempo of the fight. I'm not taking anything away from Griffin. I thought he did a wonderful job of outworking Rampage and he fought to win, not to escape. What did you think of the fight and do you think it will be the same outcome when they rematch? I think if Rampage trains properly next time and gets himself refocused I think he'll knock Griffin out like he should have the first time.

Adrian Rivera
Tolleson, Ariz.

I thought Rampage was going to win the fight and I still believe he'd win the rematch. But don't shortchange Griffin here. Jackson was clearly in good shape and he was focused. Believe me, he was. Griffin simply had a great game plan and executed it perfectly.


MYSTIFIED BY JUDGING
I'm still wondering how a judge could have scored the first round of the Griffin-Jackson bout for Griffin. I know under a boxing criteria, that's an automatic round for Jackson. But under MMA judging, could a knockdown that leads to no offense be treated as just a takedown in terms of damage? Forrest did get knocked down, but he immediately pulled guard. Forrest was winning before the knockdown and his leg kicks were effective. He had aggressiveness and octagon control down as well. What are your thoughts?

Kent W.
New York

I scored the first round of that fight for Jackson. However, I can understand someone scoring it for Griffin. As you say, in boxing, when a fighter scores two knockdowns, it's automatically his round. But Griffin controlled most of the round and Jackson didn't do a lot more other than the knockdowns, so a case could be made that Griffin deserved the round. I still believe Jackson deserved that round, but I can't argue a lot with someone who felt Griffin deserved it.


BEWARE, IRVIN
James Irvin says "I don’t think he has that heavy handed punching power that someone like Scott Smith or Quinton Jackson does." I agree, but when Anderson Silva follows through on one of those punches with an elbow or grabs his head and shoves a knee into his face, the power is the same. He may not punch as hard, but his Muay Thai is as powerful as any punch from Scott Smith or Quinton Jackson. I fully expect Anderson Silva to use his Muay Thai much more prominently when he moves up to light heavyweight.

Travis K.

It will be interesting to see how Silva handles a much bigger, and presumably stronger, man in the clinch. He threw guys like Rich Franklin and Chris Leben around like rag dolls. Saturday's bout should tell a lot about Silva.


BRAWLING? WHERE'S THE SKILL?

I have been watching MMA for more than 10 years and I'm finding myself drifting away. It bothers me the way people fight the fights. After reading your article about James Irvin, I'm even less interested in his fight against Anderson Silva. He's just going to go out there and brawl? Really? I'm so sick of that now. UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan (who I think is a joke) sits there and talks about how people have great jiu-jitsu and I honestly can't remember the last time I saw anyone with great jiu-jitsu in the UFC (aside from B.J. Penn and it's pretty fun to watch Nate Diaz). When I saw DREAM, that was refreshing to see Ralek Gracie and Shinya Aoki and all of those other guys on that card. That was great jiu-jitsu. The way the majority of UFC fights go is, let's stand up and pretend that we're boxers (if I wanted to watch boxing I'd watch the replays of Manny Pacquiao-David Diaz), tackle someone, rub an elbow into someone's face and hope to make them bleed to stop the fight. It's ridiculous. The UFC needs to do something with their rules and get rid of those elbows. It takes away from the fight. I also feel that the way the rounds are set up doesn't allow for jiu-jitsu practitioners to succeed. I think the way DREAM has it with a 10-minute first round and five minutes after is the way to go.

Justin Kessler
Costa Mesa, Calif.

I understand where you're coming from, Justin. The problem is, you're in the vast minority. Have you noticed how frequently the crowd boos when fighters are grappling, even if they're trying to advance their positions? The UFC and other promoters are running a business and they're going to put on the kinds of fights that will generate the most money. There is a greater understanding of and appreciation for the ground game in Japan, which is why its rules are as they are.