Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report 02.24.12: This Edition Goes Deep Again
Posted by Robert Winfree on 02.24.2012
News on Nick Diaz's situation, Nate Marquardt's next fight, and Dana White has some more words for Floyd Mayweather. That and an exhaustively detailed look at the title fight between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar, plus the rest of the card reviewed.
Welcome readers, we've got some good stuff to go through this week. There's news of course, there's always news. News is kind of like the mail, most of it is junk and it never ever stops. There's also the UFC's return to Japan to look at, and it's a dandy card. Shame foreign cards to such poor buy rates because this one has a bunch of interesting fights and one that seems likely to be an early fight of the year candidate. Scroll down and I'll grab your neck, you're locked in the Guillotine again.
Not a whole lot last week, but I'll freely admit last week's column wasn't one of my best. Still, if you don't comment then I have to put more content here and I'm sure no one really wants that. do it was the first to comment, mostly supporting me doing another going deep piece for Edgar and Henderson. Since no one voted against it I will be looking at that fight further down. wylun was on hand, and like many of us expressed disappointment that the Sanchez vs. Ellenberger fight was only three rounds. Well either way it is what it is, and it was still a very good fight. You're right about Struve needing to learn to use his reach, but Struve is also a very young man so I believe he'll get better as he gets older. I disagree about Hendricks and Koscheck because Hendricks is a very good wrestler as well, it'll be interesting to see how it goes down. guest#4091 closed us out by talking about how he'd improve judging. I don't think going over to PRIDE rules will solve anything, because PRIDE had its fair share of bogus decisions over the years. Scoring the fight as a whole just means fighters will wait until the last round to really do stuff, because that system favors a fighter who comes on strong later as opposed to early or consistently. Technically the guard is a neutral position, judges just score the takedown probably more than they should. Giving points to someone for trying to finish is a murky area, because it's arguable that no one tries harder to finish than Leonard Garcia with his wild punches. Can't disagree too much about Peoples and Mazzagatti though, they should at least be on less important cards.
NSAC Suspends Nick Diaz: Well this was just a matter of time after his failed drug test. Nick Diaz is suspended until a disciplinary hearing can be set where the fate of Diaz will be determined. Realistically Nick is looking at about a year's suspension given his previous failure, though I'm unsure how hefty the fine will be. Hopefully nothing too crazy happens and life can return to normal until Nick Diaz is scheduled to fight again, at which point all bets are off.
Nate Marquardt to Strikeforce: Former UFC middleweight contender Nate Marquardt has been signed to Strikeforce and will fight Tyron Woodley for the vacant welterweight championship. This marks the second time a former UFC fighter has moved to Strikeforce and instantly been granted a title shot, though Marquardt makes more sense than Keith Jardine against Luke Rockhold. Hopefully Marquardt has the tools to actually force Woodley to fight instead of lay and pray a decision.
Dana White calls Floyd Mayweather a racist: One of the things I like about Dana White, given the criticism I've leveled at him recently, is his willingness to stick his neck out and speak his mind. After Mayweather's comments about Jeremy Lin White had some words for Mayweather.
If I'm going to call Dana on some of the BS he spreads I've got to give him credit when he's right, and he's pretty much right on this one.
Duane Ludwig vs. Dan Hardy announced: When Ludwig beats Hardy with technically superior striking can the mohawked buffoon finally get cut? Should be a fun fight to watch as long as you're not a Dan Hardy fan, but there's almost no chance Ludwig uses wrestling to beat Hardy.
The UFC returns to Japan for the first time since the year 2000 with UFC 144. This card doesn't have tons of star power, but it has plenty of exciting fights. Let's take a look at what's going down and get my thoughts.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski: The reality here is that whoever wins is probably next to get dismantled by Jose Aldo. Hioki has long been a top five featherweight and is excellent on the ground while Bartimus has become known for his hands and solid wrestling. This is really a fight that historically speaking Bartimus' style should win. Hioki isn't great on the feet, but his ground game is very good and Bartimus should avoid it. While Hioki certainly has a good chance at winning here, Bart brings a horrible stylistic matchup for him.
Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon: This fight should be exciting, unless of course Pettis decides his best route to victory is using takedowns and smother Lauzon. Fortunately I don't think he will because Lauzon is no slouch on the ground. Pettis has enough of an advantage standing that a good portion of the fight should take place there, though Lauzon probably wants to get the fight to the ground. This could go either way, but I think Pettis has a stronger track record and will take this.
Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch: Well, not every fight can be exciting you know. This is Okami's first fight since getting stopped by Anderson Silva, and he's fighting at home for the first time in almost six years. Boetsch is undefeated since dropping to middleweight in the UFC, and is a strong wrestler. I think Okami is just too good at nullifying his opponent's game to be out wrestled by Boetsch here, though I wouldn't be shocked if Boetsch pulled it off.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields: This should be an interesting fight. Akiyama is making his first cut to 170 under the Zuffa banner after getting brutally stopped by Vitor Belfort. For Shields, he comes into this fight riding the first losing streak of his career following back to back losses to GSP and Jake Ellenberger. Akiyama hasn't lost in Japan in a long time, and if he wants to continue that streak he needs to be smart with his striking and grappling. Akiyama should be the prototype for how Judo fighters adapt to fighting in MMA, because he uses it very well despite not having a gi to help. If he does engage Shields on the ground he needs to be careful and work only from strong positions like half guard or side control, both of which he can get immediately after a good throw or trip. He'll need to be wary of Shields and his wrestling, but Akiyama is notoriously difficult to get down. Another fight that could go either way, but I think Akiyama pulls this one out.
Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo: Ugh. Really Joe Silva? OK, set aside personal apathy towards most heavyweights... you know this might be a fun fight. For all the negative things about Mark Hunt, and there's plenty, the guy comes to fight every time. Unfortunately he's facing one of the dirtiest fighters the UFC has on their roster in the form of Cheick Kongo. Kongo, for all his vaunted kickboxing skills, has relied heavily on clinching and being in top position to win most of his fights. He also has problems getting hit, which leads me to think Hunt can win this fight. Hunt's grappling has improved tremendously over his last few fights and training with American Top Team has definitely paid off. The best chance for Kongo to win is to get on top of Hunt and use his brutal ground and pound to get a stoppage, but with Hunt's improved grappling and takedown defense I think this is his fight to lose really. It still has no real relevance to the heavyweight division though.
Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader: Quinton Jackson finally returns to Japan and is looking to rebound from his submission loss to Jon Jones. Ryan Bader is still trying to right the ship after losing back to back fights to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz. He got a win over Jason Brilz, but Jackson is several levels above Brilz. There had been hopes that this fight would be a rematch between Jackson and Shogun Rua, but his war with Henderson kept that from materializing. I feel like we've seen this fight already when Jackson fought Matt Hamill, and we all know how that turned out. I think the only difference here is that Jackson really wants to finish the fight, and there's almost no reason he shouldn't. Bader heads back to the drawing board again.
Well since there was no objection when I brought up the possibility last week, I'd advise you all to take a deep breath because I'm cinching in the Guillotine a little tighter and we're all Going Deep for the main event.
This will be the first lightweight title fight that isn't a rematch of some kind since UFC 112 when Edgar upset BJ Penn to win the strap. Since then Edgar fought Penn in a rematch, then Gray Maynard twice. This is also one of the more interesting match-ups for the belt in a while, and I think the fight certainly deserves the in depth look I'm about to give it. Let's start off with the challenger, Benson Henderson.
"Smooth" Benson Henderson has proved himself among the elite fighters in the world and certainly earned his shot at the title. Before the WEC/UFC merger Henderson was a talented fighter and among the best, but his losing effort against Anthony Pettis and move to the UFC seem to have changed him as a fighter in the best way possible. Henderson makes excellent use of the clinch to control his opponents, it's where he did most of the damage to Mark Bocek in his UFC debut and where he nullified Clay Guida's offense. Henderson is no joke striking either as he rocked Guida early with a well timed punch and has very effective knees and kicks. His wrestling is very good, especially since he's adapted it to MMA better than many straight wrestlers have as he scored takedowns against Clay Guida who has very good MMA wrestling. Henderson also doesn't rely on one style of takedown, he's comfortable using trips or throws as well as traditional double or single legs, and that diversity has led to a great deal of success when he wants to get someone down.
Perhaps Henderson's greatest weapon is his uncanny calm. Whether winning or losing, kicked off of the cage or in a tight submission, Benson never loses his cool. Even when fighting at a fast pace like he did against Guida, Henderson remains calm and collected. That's an incredible thing to have, and something that's virtually impossible to teach a fighter. Watching Henderson remain calm and calculating while Guida bounced around perfectly illustrated this point. Plenty of fighters have either been unable to do anything with Guida's movement, like Takanori Gomi, or tried to match him in a fever pitch, like Diego Sanchez. Henderson just stayed calm and took advantage of every opening Guida left him. Granted Frankie Edgar's movement is much more effective than Guida's, but Henderson's ability to stay calm will be a huge advantage for him. Even when throwing flurries of blows or looking for a finish, Henderson doesn't lose his head. Henderson's calmness also benefits him during scrambles because he never panics or rushes during one, something other fighters are prone to doing. Jim Miller's best attribute is his ability to secure submissions or superior positions during a scramble, but he couldn't get anything against Henderson. Benson does most of his damage if he's on top of you, that's the position he battered Jim Miller from for three rounds, but Henderson also has a very tight guillotine choke that he can grab very quickly. If Frankie Edgar makes even one mistake when shooting for a takedown or during a scramble he'll find himself in a bad position very quickly.
So, with the challenger out of the way, what about the defending champion?
Frankie Edgar has definitely earned his spot at the top of the lightweight division. He's proven himself an incredibly tough fighter, he came back after two horrible first rounds in both title fights against Gray Maynard and has thus far proven unable to finish during his MMA career. Edgar's only loss is a decision earlier in his career to the aforementioned Maynard. Frankie learned from that loss since then has learned how to use his size to his advantage, a difficult thing being the smaller man.
Prior to his loss to Maynard Edgar had relied on his wrestling as his primary weapon when fighting, after his loss he began using more movement and striking as well as how to get up from the ground. Combining those skills with his already good wrestling turned him into a champion. His movement frustrated former champion Sean Sherk in their fight, and Edgar was able to get up almost as soon as Sherk secured a takedown. His movement and hand speed caused problems for BJ Penn in both of their fights, keeping the Prodigy from getting any significant offense going and virtually out classing him in the second fight. Edgar also does a good job of mixing up takedowns with his movement and striking, even just feinting one to keep his opponents off balance. His ability to transition from striking to wrestling was a key component to his success against Gray Maynard in both fights.
Edgar also has a substantial advantage in that he cuts virtually no weight. While many fighters cut weight to gain a size advantage, Frankie has avoided cutting weight and uses the cardio and speed advantage. This gives him an advantage not only in cardio and speed, but also a surprise factor because most fighters aren't used to fighting someone who has those advantages come so naturally. Edgar has learned to use those tools to their full effect when fighting, and it's something that shouldn't be discounted. It also likely contributes to his durability because he never deprives himself of water or nutrients his body can function at normal levels before and during the fight, making an already tough fighter just a little bit harder to finish.
So, how do I see this one going...
Well for Benson Henderson to win he needs to get a hold of Frankie Edgar. If the fight remains at distance than Frankie Edgar can move in and out scoring points and win a decision. Henderson needs to clinch Edgar against the fence or get him on his back, both things easier said than done. Henderson will have an advantage here in that his calmness will allow him to cut off the angles Edgar tries to use and should be able to corral him long enough to get some kind of clinch going. Henderson also stands southpaw, which could easily work to his advantage if he is able to time a straight left given that Edgar has shown that he can be hit. If Henderson tags Edgar the champion will be in real trouble because Henderson wont punch himself out like Maynard did, but also has great flurries and won't let up until he senses he won't end the fight or the referee pulls him off. Henderson also won't hesitate to grab a choke if Edgar leaves himself open while defending punches if he gets hurt, something Maynard didn't do in either fight. Henderson also is very adept at using a left knee to the body when his opponent is moving in, he tagged Mark Bocek and Jim Miller repeatedly with it, and a knee to the liver is a great way to slow down your opponent.
Frankie Edgar wants this fight to stay standing and stay at distance. He has proven excellent at moving in and out, scoring points and generally avoiding damage. His wrestling shouldn't be discounted, as he's good at transitioning from a strike to a shot and he'd be foolish to not at least try taking Henderson down at some point. Edgar showed in his third fight with Gray Maynard that he does have punching power, and it's not at all improbable that he catches the southpaw Henderson with a straight right. Mostly Edgar wants to avoid the clinch or a prolonged battle on the ground. Frankie Edgar excels at winning rounds, at putting his opponents in a position where they have to take risks to have a chance at winning the fight. If he's able to take two rounds from Benson Henderson the game changes in that the challenger will have to take a few more risks to win the fight.
Both men have incredible conditioning, so don't expect the pace to drop off too much. If it does it will either be Henderson tiring from chasing Edgar or Edgar after a few good body shots from Henderson. Frankie Edgar retaining is a good pick, because while he's been down in his last fights he's never been out. But I think Henderson takes this one. I wouldn't be shocked if Henderson got the finish, but a decision seems much more likely. I think Henderson uses good angles, his mental calmness to land good shots while Edgar is moving, and his grappling ability to stifle the champion.
Either way this should be a great fight, but I'm going with the upset.
Well that does it for this week, you survived the Guillotine and you survived Going Deep. I'll be back next week to discuss what happened at UFC 144, and I hope to see you all then.