The inbox is always open and the mailbag is always jammed with questions. I'll get to as many as I can in this week's edition, covering on a wide variety of topics in mixed martial arts.
If you want me to answer your question in my column, I'm putting in a new rule. You must include your first and last name as well as your hometown. Nicknames are not acceptable, nor are first names and last initials. My answers to reader questions, as always, appears in italics:
Tito Ortiz has one fight remaining on his current deal. Do you think the UFC will re-sign him?
There are two strong personalities at play here: Ortiz and UFC president Dana White. It's impossible to predict the outcome of this one, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet on him being back with the UFC. Even though Ortiz isn't the fighter he once was because of back problems, every other promotion in the world would go crazy to sign him if he hit the market. Regardless of where he signs, I hope Ortiz gets a fat contract, because he's done as much to advance the cause of MMA as anyone.
DEAN OF MEAN
What happened to Keith Jardine? He outslugged Chuck Liddell and now I haven't heard a word about him. In the meantime, Chuck got a big fight against Wanderlei Silva and now I've heard he's fighting Shogun Rua this summer. Where's the love for Keith?
The UFC has offered Jardine a fight with Wanderlei Silva. Jardine has accepted and now the UFC is awaiting an answer from Silva, who is in Brazil. Expect that fight to happen on the May card in Las Vegas.
A good matchup for Brock Lesnar's next fight would be Tim Sylvia. It would be interesting to see how Sylviaâ€™s takedown defense holds up against someone of Lesnar's speed, strength and wrestling ability. I also think that if it does end up being a standup fight, it'd be a good test for Lesnar to see how he does against someone who is taller and has a longer reach. Do you think we might see that fight anytime soon? Also, what do you think are the chances of maybe seeing B.J. Penn move to middleweight sometime and fighting Anderson Silva?
The two things that were unknown about Lesnar when he entered the UFC were how he would fare against a submission expert and what kind of chin he would show. Frank Mir exposed Lesnar's deficiencies in submission defense at UFC 81. Sylvia would probably do the same at this point to his striking woes. I think Lesnar needs to get a couple of fights against guys other than the elite heavyweights of the world so he can learn the business. I have no doubt that in a year or so, he'd give Sylvia everything he could handle.
ST. PIERRE AND THE SPIDER
Who do you think would win if Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva fought at welterweight and at middleweight?
There is no way that Silva would be able to make 170 pounds, so that fight can't happen. If St. Pierre moved up to 185, I'd have to go with Silva simply on the basis that he'd be the bigger, stronger man. On my ballot in the Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound top 10 poll, I have St. Pierre 1 and Silva 2.
GIVE MACHIDA LOVE
Why isn't everyone all over Lyoto Machida? He is undefeated and has wins over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Stephan Bonnar, Michael McDonald, Rich Franklin and B.J. Penn. Don't you think that resume deserves a title shot?
He's fighting Ortiz in May. If he wins, he'll have as strong a case as anyone for a light heavyweight title shot.
CO-PROMOTE WITH M-1
Former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko recently responded to UFC president Dana White about his comments disregarding him as the top fighter in the heavyweight division. Why won't the UFC co-promote with M-1 to put on a Fedor-Randy Couture super fight? This fight is one that every fight fan wants to see.
Short Hills, N.J.
I wish the fight would occur, David, because it would be good for the fighters and it would be good for the sport, regardless of who promoted it. Having said that, there is little chance of the UFC co-promoting with M-1. The UFC holds all the cards. As great as Emelianenko is, he hasn't been a draw in the U.S. He fought on the first Pride show in the U.S., Pride 32, on Oct. 21, 2006, in Las Vegas. In addition to Emelianenko, Shogun Rua, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Josh Barnett, Kevin Randleman and Phil Baroni competed on the card. Of the 11,727 fans in the building, a large majority of the tickets were given away. The pay-per-view sold less than 30,000 units. Like it or hate it, the UFC has been the only promotion to be successful in the U.S. over the long haul. As a result, it understands that Emelianenko needs it more than it needs Emelianenko.
GIVE KEN-FLO A BREAK
Has Kenny Florian been unfairly used as a free Spike show fighter because they know he'll put on exciting fights? I know he had a title shot against Sean Sherk already, but it seems like other fighters have bounced back from title losses and been put on better cards than he has. I feel that the UFC knows what kind of product it has, and wants to make sure the free shows get that, at the expense of one of their most exciting fighters.
Fighting frequently on Spike will help Florian in the long run, because more fans see him fight when he's on Spike than would if he were on pay-per-view, and that helps him build a following. He's one of the elite of the lightweight division and is going to be in the title mix soon.
I just read last night that Tim Sylvia is on his last fight of his contract and is going to be testing the market. With Couture, Ortiz, Andrei Arlovski and now Sylvia leaving the organization for more money, the UFC is obviously going to be left with a weaker talent base. A huge part of the popularity for the UFC has been that it could always boast that it had most of the best fighters in the world under contract. What in the world would make it seem like a good idea to let high-caliber big-name fighters leave the organization? MMA is going to be as bad as boxing now, with no competitive fighters fighting each other.
Sylvia, Ortiz and Arlovski remain under contract to the UFC. Each has one more fight left. I'd bet that two of the three of them will re-sign. But the nature of a business like fighting is that there will be turnover.
GET WITH IT HERB
After watching the David Heath-Tim Boetsch fight at UFC 81, I was quite disappointed in the performance of referee Herb Dean. Usually, I take up for Dean when people talk about fighters getting "Herbed," but I felt that he put David Heath in a great amount of jeopardy. Heath was struck nine times after he was unable to defend himself. To be honest, I found it disgusting. You have to go back to the first few UFC's to see stoppages as late as that one.
Charleston, W. Va.
I believe Dean is one of the elite referees in the world, if not the best, and I know from speaking with him that the welfare of the fighters is his primary concern. I think he could have stopped this fight quicker, as well. But it should be noted that, as banged up as Heath was, he was complaining about the stoppage when it was over.
I have been a fan of Cheick Kongo since his UFC debut. He came in with heavy hands and is a real exciting fighter. He had shown some weakness in his ground game early on but has improved on that and is now once again mentioned as a top heavyweight. If he can dispose of Heath Herring at UFC 82, will he get a title shot?
Kongo is a talented fighter, but there are others in the UFC who deserve a shot at the title before he does. I'd say Frank Mir, for one, certainly does. Fabricio Werdum is going to get a crack at the belt, as well. Kongo needs to put together a string of wins in order to put himself in position.
What is the UFC thinking? After a couple so-so undercards, they load up UFC 82 to the point that Andrei Arlovski, Josh Koscheck and Diego Sanchez are not even on the main card. How did Chris Leben bump these guys? I know they have an axe to grind with Arlovski, but Sanchez and Koscheck were on the co-main event of the last pay-per-view shows they were on. It would be a shame for the fans to pay their hard-earned money and not get the see these fighters. Good thing I'm going.
I would rather see them put too many good fights on a card instead of too few, because some fights you expect to do well don't turn out. But think of this: Don't the fans who bother to attend the live show deserve to get a bit more than the fan who stays at home and watches on TV? The person who goes to the arena pays a bigger price for the ticket and also for merchandise, etc.
BIG BOB'S BACK
I might be one of the only ones outside of Japan who feels this way, but I'm kind of excited that Bob Sapp is back in MMA. Do you think he can become a factor in the States?
Sapp is returning to fight Feb. 23 in Tacoma, Wash., on a Strikeforce card to face Jan Nortje. Nortje is not a tough opponent and Sapp should walk through him. But the ex-NFL player is not a serious contender. I don't think he will, or wants to, fight the best heavyweights in the world at this stage of his life.
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