Before I delve into a very busy mailbag, I wanted to note a poll that was recently carried in the newspaper, Long Island Newsday.
It asked the question, "Boxing vs. Mixed Martial Arts. Which is the future?" Of the 7,657 responses, 47 percent chose the answer, "There's so many ways to win an MMA match, it's just more exciting."
Boxing is boring was the second choice, at 20.3 percent. My choice would have been the third-place answer, which drew 17.3 percent of the vote: "A good fight is a good fight. I like both."
With that, let's get to a look back at UFC 80, a look ahead to UFC 81 as well as various other MMA topics in this week's mailbag.
While I do agree with you that B.J. Penn looked better then he has in a very long time, I still think that after the fight with Joe Stevenson Saturday at UFC 80 he looked gassed. He could barely walk around after the fight. His trainers had to support him on the walk back to the locker room. I think if he hadn't opened up that cut, Joe would not have had to press so much because he knew that he was working with limited time. B.J. used to only be good for a round, now he might be good for two rounds but with someone like Sean Sherk pressing the action, I'm not sure that B.J. won't get gassed again. If that happens, it would be a shame because B.J. is the most talented fighter anywhere.
I couldn't disagree more with the notion that Penn gassed on Saturday. I think what you saw from him was emotion. He was overcome by emotion after the biggest win of his career. If he trains the way he did for Stevenson, there aren't many, if any, lightweights who can beat him.
Now that B.J. Penn is the lightweight champion and UFC president Dana White said that he should clean out the division first before fighting Georges St. Pierre, who among these contenders – Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, Tyson Griffin, Frankie Edgar and Roger Huerta – does he have to beat before getting St. Pierre?
He definitely has to beat Sherk, whom he'll face May 24. I'd also say Florian is a must, with one of the other three you mention a possibility.
PENN OR SHERK?
I wasn't surprised that B.J. Penn won his bout with Joe Stevenson, but he totally dominated him. Who do you take between B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk? I believe I'm going to take Penn, but in a closer bout than the one with Stevenson.
I agree, Dennis. I think Penn is more well-rounded than Sherk and I think he should win a decision. No doubt, Sherk is going to be physically stronger and is an excellent wrestler. But B.J. has better standup and submissions and has great takedown defense. However, the one caveat is that Penn has to take the fight as seriously as he did the one with Joe Daddy. If he does not, Sherk will wipe the mat with him because he is a cardio machine.
Tito Ortiz was recently heard on Sirius radio responding to claims that he was ducking a fight against Lyoto Machida. He confirmed that he will indeed go up against the Brazilian in May despite his hopes to rematch with Rashad Evans. With Tito's career seemingly in limbo and Machida's career on the rise, where do you think a win from either against the other will put them on the wait list for a title fight?
A win over Tito would make Machida a primary contender for the 205-pound title and I'd expect him to get a chance in the second half of the year if, in fact, he's able to defeat Ortiz. Ortiz has battled a back injury, which harmed his takedowns and hurt his cardio, the two things that made him one of the world's best. If he's healthy and in shape, he's still a formidable foe. Given that he's a good draw, he'd be in the mix for a title shot soon. However, Ortiz is making noises about leaving the UFC, so that may leave him out of the mix. His next bout is the last on his UFC contract.
For the Dan Henderson-Anderson Silva middleweight title fight at UFC 82 on March 1, do you think it will give Hendo any benefit that he'll only have to cut to 185 instead of 183, which was the Pride welterweight limit? I know a bigger deal is made for lighter fighters like Takanori Gomi. who fought at 160 in Pride but were seen as too big for 155. Will having two fewer pounds to lose actually help Dan be stronger come fight night?
There's no doubt it would be better for him. The lower a fighter has to go, especially a veteran like Henderson, the more it takes out of him as he cuts weight. Henderson hasn't had a problem making 183 and I suppose he could if he needed to, but I would bet he'll come in at 185 at the weigh-in Feb. 29 for that March 1 show.
FABER TO LIGHTWEIGHT?
Do you think if Urijah Faber beats Jens Pulver rather easily that there is even a slight chance he would consider moving up to 155 pounds to fight better names like Sean Sherk, B.J. Penn, Joe Stevenson, Joe Lauzon, or Roger Huerta?
Fort Lewis, Wash.
I would think it unlikely. He makes 145 easily and there is still a huge fight out there for him with Kid Yamamoto. I'd expect Pulver to remain at 145 for at least the rest of 2008
EARLY POST Any reason your story about B.J. Penn winning the fight with Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 was posted on the Yahoo! Sports homepage before the fight was even shown on television "live"?
The fight was in Newcastle, England, which is five hours ahead of Eastern time. As a result, it was shown live in the U.S. beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern/noon Pacific. It was then replayed beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Pacific. We covered the fight in person and posted the results for our readers who wanted to know. (Editor's note: When UFC has run tape-delayed shows, we have put up spoiler alerts for fans who don't want to know before the show airs. When the show airs live, which it did Saturday, there is no reason for spoiler alerts).
BIG TIM-BIG NOG
At UFC 81, Tim Sylvia faces off against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. I think it is a great fight, but I don't see 'Minotauro' losing it. I believe Nogueira could possibly run the table at the heavyweight division for a long time. Who do you think will win? And also if Randy Couture holds out of his last fight, who do you believe is the next one up for a shot at the belt?
I like Nogueira in the fight, but I wouldn't discount Sylvia. He is massive and that size alone will present Nogueira problems. Plus, Nogueira wasn't particularly impressive in his win over Heath Herring in July, so you have to wonder if he hasn't started that downhill slide. With Zuffa having sued Couture, I find it hard to believe he'll ever fight in the UFC again. The division isn't nearly as deep as it once was. I'd like to see Andrei Arlovski get a shot at Nogueira if Nogueira wins, but I wouldn't wish a fourth Arlovski-Sylvia fight on my worst enemy.
STANN IN ACTION?
What happened to Brian Stann in the WEC? He is 4-0 at light heavyweight but hasn't fought since September. I know he is a Marine, so I'm wondering whether he was deployed? Any idea when he's fighting again?
Stann is going to fight sometime in March, according to WEC publicist Loren Mack. Stann's wife had a baby in November, which is why he hasn't fought recently.
I can't wait to hear you try to accuse Randy Couture of being greedy and praise Dana White and Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta as honest businessmen. These corporate raiders are putting corporate profits ahead of sport, period. If you come out in favor of their actions, you are exposing yourself as nothing more than their own corporate tool, pimping for the man. I'm going to boo in advance. BOOO!
The matter between Couture and Zuffa is in the courts and I prefer to let the courts handle that. I would hardly say the Fertittas are corporate raiders, though. And as far as putting corporate profits ahead of sport, I'd say they're guilty as charged on that one. But this is a business. Are you suggesting they should lose millions upon millions of dollars simply to provide entertainment for you? The UFC is a for-profit business, as is the IFL and Elite XC, etc. All of these organizations put on fights to try to lure fans to buy tickets and pay-per-views and, yes, horror of horrors, make money. At one point in 2005, the UFC was more than $40 million in the hole and the Fertittas were considering closing up shop. Give them credit for plugging away and finding a way to make it profitable while at the same time putting on good fight cards. A judge or a jury is going to decide the legal dispute between Couture and Zuffa, as is as it should be. But it's ridiculous to think they should willingly lose money to put on shows that make you happy. The best way to protest their actions is by refusing to buy tickets to their shows and by refusing to buy their pay-per-view offerings.
SICK OF EXCUSES
If Sean Sherk wants to be in contention for the lightweight belt, why doesn't he stop taking nandralone? Athlete after athlete says the same garbage every time they test positive for whatever steroid they've been taking. Either they're innocent or they don't know how it got into their body. Marion Jones told us for how long that she never took steroids. Guess what? It turns out she lied. Barry Bonds. Jason Giambi. Floyd Landis. Rafael Palmiero. The list is endless. Is there anyone out there who still believes anything these athletes say about their supposed steroid use? Lie to someone else 'cause we're not buying their garbage.
Josh, I certainly understand and appreciate your position. When Sherk's positive test was initially announced, I felt that way, too. And it may well turn out some day that we'll get proof that he knowingly ingested steroids. But I have to say that he convinced me after talking to him recently that he did not knowingly take anabolic steroids. He's one of the few I have ever believed. Maybe I'm naÃ¯ve, but I found his story truthful. But I'm not trying to convince you I'm correct. That's up to Sherk.
Is Butterbean Esch still competing in MMA?
La Quinta, Calif.
He is. He is 10-5-1 and lost his last match, on Dec. 28 to Nick Penner.
- Can't get enough of Kevin Iole's mailbag? Then check out last week's edition.