Mailbag: Heavy lifting

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In this article:
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Busy week in the mailbag, gang. Let's dive right in.

My comments, as always, are in italics.

GONZAGA DESERVES CREDIT

I fear that if Gabriel Gonzaga defeats Shane Carwin at UFC 96 on Saturday, people will only say it's a win against a new guy, and not give him the credit he deserves. Against Fabricio Werdum, he gassed. Against Randy Couture, a fluke broken nose gave the fight away (admittedly I seem to be the only person in the world to see it like this). But lately, he's been clearly dominating his opponents again. Where do you see Napao? Regards.

Lutek D.
Rotterdam, Netherlands

Gonzaga is a very legitimate opponent and a top 10 heavyweight in the UFC. There are legitimate questions about Carwin's chin and his endurance, but not about his strength, his punching power and his wrestling. Thus, if Gonzaga wins, I think he'd receive the requisite recognition for it. I lean to Carwin, but it's more of a hunch than anything because he's not been tested against elite competition. He will be on Saturday, though.

TITLE SHOT FOR SHANE

If Shane Carwin defeats Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 96, in your opinion could he be the contender in the heavyweight division and face the winner of the Brock Lesnar-Frank Mir II fight?

Rob S.
Ohio

The winner of the bout in no way deserves a title shot, but it moves him up the ladder and into better position. Guys like Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo will be ranked ahead of the Carwin-Gonzaga winner, particularly if it's Carwin.

WHAT'S UP WITH FORREST?

What's coming up for Forrest Griffin? It seems like Lyoto Machida and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson have both surpassed him in the pecking order, but Forrest seemed to be keeping his own in most of the fight against Rashad Evans before his loss in the light-heavyweight title fight at UFC 92.

Mo S.

Griffin had hand surgery after the loss to Evans but should return by late summer, perhaps early fall. He has no bout scheduled but is clearly one of the elite at 205 pounds and will be in the mix for a title fight when he's back.

RAHMAN TO MMA

I read the recent Cage Writer blog about former boxing heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman's attempt to transition into mixed martial arts. I'm an avid fan of both sports and I agree with the writer's general position; the two sports are completely different and a transition from one sport to the other is difficult, to say the least. I disagree however, with the totally dismissive attitude the writer, Steve Cofield, has about athletes moving from one sport to the next. To me, Cofield has basically said that this would be impossible as he put it takes 20 years to be proficient. I think that while difficult, this could be done. Take, for example, Andrei Arlovski, who is training with Freddie Roach for his pro boxing debut. Apparently Arlovski's skills are good enough for Roach, so I can't imagine that say the likes of Anderson Silva would have a problem mixing it up with the top 10 light heavyweights. This is especially true of Roy Jones, who is a shot fighter. What's your take on this mattter?

Johnny M.
Houston

Johnny, to be fair, Steve never wrote that it would take 20 years to be proficient. He wrote, "Both sports require years of training. The transition from one to the other at a high level can't be made in six months … " I agree with him on that point. Having said that, I agree with you that, while difficult, it can be done. I just don't see it being Rahman, who no longer has the dedication to train the way a top-level fighter needs to in order to be successful. Rahman could be washed-up standup fighters like Tank Abbott without much of a problem, but that proves nothing. "The Rock" ought to reconsider the move to MMA, because if he ever fights anyone who can fight (and that is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely), he'd wind up with a broken arm or worse.

THE DOPE ON THE TRUTH

I have not seen Brandon "The Truth" Vera fight lately and was wondering what is going on with him. Did he get injured or what? When was the last time Vera fought and when is he going to fight again?

Gary M.
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Vera has fought regularly recently and will face Michael Patt on Saturday in a light heavyweight bout at UFC 96 in Columbus, Ohio. Vera is in desperate need of a win, as he's lost three of his last four. He moved to light heavyweight after he was stopped by Fabricio Werdum at UFC 85 in London on June 7, but he's only 1-1 as a 205-pounder. He defeated Reese Andy on an "Ultimate Fight Night" card July 19 but lost a decision to Keith Jardine at UFC 89 in Birmingham, England, on Oct. 18.

TESTING FOR HGH

Kevin, I'm a big fan of your columns. Your integrity as a writer is refreshing and always worth the read. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the use of human growth hormone (HGH) in MMA. I was talking to a fighter from a camp here in South Florida and he told me that the athletic commissions don't test for HGH. While I don't doubt their credibility, it does make me wonder about some of the muscle gains in fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves, who appear to carry an extra 15-20 pounds of muscle not evident two years ago. You had a great article before about steroids in July of last year and I want to know what your thoughts are on top-level fighters using HGH.

Jon
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

One of the problems in testing for HGH is that there is currently no urine test for it. It can only be tested with a blood test, and there is only a short period of time it can be detected with blood tests. I'm sure it's in use in MMA, because there are those in every sport who seek an edge. A lab in Virginia is currently working on developing a urine test that would detect HGH. Until then, fight managers and trainers need to urge their fighters to resist the urge to use HGH, or any performance enhancing drugs.

HYBRID CARDS

I would like to know your opinion about the cards that mix boxing and MMA fights. Does it make sense and does it work with fans of both sports? What's your opinion?

Tony
Halifax, Nova Scotia

It's not a bad thing, Tony. If a promoter can make money putting on those shows, I'm all for them, because it will introduce boxing fans to MMA and vice versa. I don't think there is a great deal of crossover between the two sports, so if you could put on a card and make a new fan, it would be a positive. The downside is it may not work and a promoter could lose a significant amount of money.

TIME OFF BETWEEN FIGHTS

What is a "normal" layoff between fights for top-tier UFC fighters? I was introduced to MMA at the Lesnar-Couture match at UFC 91 but have yet to hear anything about either of these fine athletes competing again any time soon. Is it safe to expect the top stable to fight once a year? Twice a year? Thanks.

Don K.
San Antonio

Welcome to MMA, Don. You're going to love it, because MMA is one of the most exciting sports in the world. A normal layoff is around four months, give or take a month. Lesnar is going to defend the heavyweight title against Frank Mir at UFC 98 on May 23. The UFC has offered Couture a fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for UFC 101 in August, but it is not a done deal yet. Couture is going to film a movie soon and will be out of commission while he's in the middle of that project.

FRANKLIN, SILVA AT CATCH WEIGHT

I'm a bit confused by the fight at UFC 99 between Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva. It looks like an excellent match between two great fighters, but why fight at the 195-pound catch weight? I thought the reason Franklin moved back to light heavyweight was so that he could contend for that title. Why make Silva lose an additional 10 pounds?

Peter A.
Carbondale, Ill.

It's not official what weight they'll fight at, Peter, but it's likely 195. Silva is planning a move to middleweight, so this fight will allow him to make the move down gradually. Franklin has a lot of trouble making 185 pounds, but 195 won't nearly be as difficult, so it's a fair weight for them to fight at given the circumstances.