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Mailbag: Who should get title shot at Penn?

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has many men who are deserving of a shot at its lightweight championship, currently held by the phenomenal B.J. Penn.

Diego Sanchez is going to get the next shot. Gray Maynard, Frankie Edgar, Sean Sherk and Tyson Griffin, among many others, also have résumés that say they are deserving of championship consideration.

But the man who may be the most qualified may not get near the belt any time soon. And that hurts. Kenny Florian may have proven in Saturday's main event at UFC 101 in Philadelphia that he's the best lightweight in the company not named Penn.

That isn't of much consolation to him, seeing as he has gotten two cracks at the belt and came up short each time. Very few men get a third, and if one does come around, it'll be a ways off.

That's partly why Florian was so downcast on Saturday despite a brilliant effort in his fourth-round submission loss to Penn.

"My goal wasn't to go out there and say, "Hey, look, Kenny Florian went longer than anybody else did with B.J. Penn at 155 (pounds), and he was in the best shape of his life,' " Florian told Boston Herald's Dan Duggan. "It's a disappointment, and it's a failure because I didn't win the fight. The way I'm feeling right now, it's a tough pill to swallow."

Florian probably would be favored against any of the men now ahead of him in line for the title belt, including Sanchez and Sherk. He lost to Sanchez when they were 185-pounders in "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 1 finale. He dropped a 2006 bid for the then-vacant lightweight title to Sherk.

Florian is vastly improved, though, and would probably turn the tables in a rematch. He's not sure what the future holds, but he does know if he continues fighting and not retire to concentrate on running his martial arts academy and burgeoning announcing career, he has a lot of men in line ahead of him.

Much can change after Florian gets some distance between himself and the fight, but he sounds downcast at this stage.

"I'm going to take a week (off), heal up, maybe do a little bit of exercising this week even, and just try to reassess and see where my head's at and see what I'm feeling like," Florian told Duggan. "It's tough. You put so much work into it and almost get to the top of the mountain, and you slide all the way back down."

Before we delve into the mailbag and I respond to your questions and comments, I'd like to remind you to follow me on Twitter. You can send me questions for the mailbag there or just choose to talk some MMA.


In the event Anderson Silva does relinquish the UFC middleweight title and moves up to light heavyweight, who gets the shot at the middleweight belt? Does it basically become a tournament with the winners of the Nate Marquardt-Demian Maia match at UFC 102 and the Rich Franklin-Vitor Belfort match at UFC 103 meeting for the title? Would Dan Henderson and Yushin Okami be in the mix as well? With those six fighters in the mix, this could be an exciting division over the next couple of years. Do you agree?
Mike Gee
Savage, Minn.

Well, Mike, I think if Silva does relinquish the middleweight title, the fair thing to do is have Henderson face the Marquardt-Maia winner for the belt. Henderson was set to get the next shot, and he appears to be the top-ranked middleweight other than Silva right now. Franklin's days as a middleweight are over. He's fighting Belfort at 195 pounds, the second fight in a row he's done that, but he is a light heavyweight and is going to get in that mix soon. Belfort says he wants to fight middleweight, and I would imagine he'll be in the title picture sometime next year if he follows through. Of course, all of that is moot if Silva changes his mind and opts to keep defending his title.


Has the UFC ever thought about an Anderson Silva-Georges St. Pierre fight?
Dave Torrez

They have, Dave, and Dana White likes it, but it's complicated. If Silva abandons his title as he suggested in the locker room Saturday after knocking out Griffin, then the bout with St. Pierre will never occur. Even if he stays at middleweight, St. Pierre has said he needs a long time to put the added weight onto his body properly. I'm beginning to think we'll never see that bout.


Do you think Forrest Griffin is shell-shocked? This is the second time in as many fights where he has sort of given up once he got rocked in order to avoid getting knocked out. (Do you remember seeing him tapping when Rashad Evans was rocking him and his silly flailing attempt at pretending he was knocked out on Saturday?) Don't count me among those who think this was a fix. Griffin clearly was woozy and perhaps even blinded for a second from getting dropped three times. But can we please stop saying he has the biggest heart in the UFC?
Scott Miller
Chicago

Any suggestion the fight was fixed is ridiculous. Silva was hitting Griffin with clean, hard shots, and Silva is one of the hardest punchers in the game. Griffin was badly hurt by previous blows and by the time the right hand that ended the fight landed, Griffin was in trouble. This had nothing to do with heart. Griffin wasn't nearly quick enough or good enough to compete with Griffin. He was hurt and undoubtedly foggy when he stormed from the cage. Had he been thinking clearly, I don't believe he'd have done that, but he'd just sustained serious head trauma and reacted oddly.


Ever since the fight was announced, I felt like Forrest Griffin was being fed to the lions. The fight spoke for itself, but where does Forrest go from here? I'd love to watch him fight Rich Franklin, Jon Jones or even a rematch with Tito Ortiz. What do you see in his future?
Isho Wurmser
San Salvador, El Salvador

I agree with you, Isho. I would like to see a bout with Tito, assuming Tito defeats Mark Coleman in his return to the UFC in November. A bout with Franklin also would be interesting, but I think an Ortiz-Griffin fight would be a huge match and garner tremendous interest.


Kevin, after Anderson Silva's complete destruction of Forrest Griffin, do you think he is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world? I mean, not to take away from Georges St. Pierre, but he couldn't finish Thiago Alves, and Fedor Emelianenko has been taking easy fights since 2006. Silva went up in weight and walked right through the former light heavyweight champ. He basically cleaned out the middleweight division and has thus far dominated at 205. I think he should be universally recognized as pound-for-pound the best.
Oliver Williams
Los Angeles

I agree, Oliver. I had my doubts, but Silva convinced me on Saturday. For what it's worth, my votes in the upcoming Yahoo! Sports poll went Silva first, followed by St. Pierre, Lyoto Machida, B.J. Penn, Fedor, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Mike Brown, Miguel Torres, Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans.


When you are so good as a mixed martial artist that you are able to move up to a higher weight class, take on a former word champion and not only knock him out in less than four minutes but actually make him look as if he never should have even stepped in the cage with you in the first place, then in my mind you have completely cemented your claim as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game. PERIOD! Fedor who? I am a huge Forrest Griffin fan and always will be. Thus, when I saw how Anderson Silva just embarrassed him the way he did – dropping him twice, taunting him with his hands down, showing absolutely no respect for Griffin's striking and then knocking him out with a short back-peddling right hand reminiscent of, as you correctly pointed out, Muhammad Ali in his prime – I sat in utter disbelief, jaw on the floor! You can't make the excuse that Forrest's chin is suspect; we all know that's bunk. Anderson is just that darn good. There's really not much more to say after that.
Dutch Martin
Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (West Africa)

He's clearly phenomenal. He may be difficult to match even at 205 pounds because there aren't a lot of men there who are going to be able to deal with his lethal combination and power and quickness. He was very, very impressive against a quality fighter. Griffin is getting dumped on now, but this is a guy who has wins over Rampage Jackson and Shogun Rua. You don't beat men of that caliber if you're not an elite fighter, yet Silva made him look silly.


Tough to match champions

After two convincing performances against very skilled fighters Saturday, do you see the UFC running into problems making title fights with the dominance from their champions? Sure there are plenty of opponents, and the matches can be entertaining, I just don't see any of the current title-holders losing in the near future.
Jason
Boston

I think the UFC has the best crop of champions in its history right now. Lightweight champion B.J. Penn, welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, middleweight champion Silva and light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida are clearly the best fighters in their weight class, not only in the UFC but in MMA. At heavyweight, while Brock Lesnar still has more to prove. He's stopped both Randy Couture and Frank Mir, so if he's not the best, he's not far away from it.


UFC at Fenway?

What do you think about Dana White's goal to have a UFC fight at Fenway? Second, following the UFC 101 press conference, B.J. Penn went up to Anderson Silva and stated, "There is no doubt now about the best pound-for-pound fighter." Considering that statement from Penn, what do you think is more likely for Spider, a fight with GSP or a fight with Machida?
Scott C.
Columbia, Mo.

I think an outdoor fight at a venerable ballpark like Fenway would be phenomenal. I'd highly encourage White to try to make it happen. Look at the success the NHL has had with its Winter Classic. The UFC could do far bigger things. As for Silva's next opponent, it's going to be tough. Jackson and Evans are fighting in December. The winner would be a good opponent for Silva, but also would seem to deserve a title shot. Machida is fighting Shogun Rua in October. Silva and Machida don't want to fight, as they're friends, though I suspect they will one day. If Rua beats Machida and wins the title, he'd get the booby prize and have to fight Silva next. But if Machida wins, I'm not sure where they would go with him. One thought would be a light heavyweight fight with Couture. Couture has always wanted to face the top guys and he can make 205. A Silva-Couture match would be huge. How big would that be for Fenway?


Usually I agree with you Kevin, but I don't agree that Miguel Torres' loss takes him out of pound-for-pound top fighter contention. He'll get his rematch, and if he loses that, then there would be a case against him. As it stands, he has less losses than everyone except Fedor, even with the defeat to Brian Bowles. If anything affected the best pound-for-pound argument this last weekend (and an awesome weekend it was), it was Silva who make a mockery of a recent champion in a weight class above his own. After seeing Forrest get destroyed, I'm a believer in the Spider. Pound-for-pound, no one is better. Debate over.
Ed
Raleigh, N.C.

I think Torres is still a top-10 fighter, but no way in my opinion does he deserve to be anywhere in consideration for No. 1 given the performances of the other guys who are in the running. Even top five is a stretch given the quality fighters who populate the top of the list. I think he can regain much of his stature, but Silva proved conclusively who the best fighter in the world really is.