Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report 12.07.12 I'm Back, Again Edition
Posted by Robert Winfree on 12.07.2012
News and thoughts on Ronda Rousey's first opponent being named, Renan Barao defending the interim bantamweight title and Forrest Griffin getting injured! Plus a preview of UFC on FOX 5 and more!
Hello one and all, I'm back. I wound up taking a somewhat unscheduled break last week, which was great for me personally but I'm sure left all of you with a deep emotional void because this column wasn't up. Yeah, I don't really believe that, but it sounds good. Anyway I'm sure we didn't miss anything because last week was slow on news and had no upcoming fights. This week is completely the opposite of that, with the best card on paper of the entire year and several important bits of news that need to be looked at. So with all of last week to make up I'd better be sure this week is exceptional. I hope you've been practicing in my absence, because you're now Locked in the Guillotine again.
Before we move into MMA related issues, I wont have an update on The Walking Dead this week. We reached the mid season finale, and now I'm really anxious for February to get here. Other than saying that I'll let it rest, and let's dive right into the MMA news.
Cruz still out: UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz had to go back under the knife this week to replace his ACL again. This time instead of injuring the new ligament, his body rejected the transplant. Good news is that the replaced MCL was accepted and this wasn't another injury. Bad news is that this will likely keep the bantamweight champion out of action until late 2013. This is bad news, but this is also precisely the situation that does call for an interim championship, which the UFC does have in Renan Barao.
Barao to actually defend the interim championship: There had been a running debate about if Renan Barao would defend the interim bantamweight championship he won by defeating Urijah Faber earlier this year, but with Cruz needing surgery again there is no doubt anymore. Barao will indeed defend the interim title against Michael McDonald. McDonald is undefeated in the UFC and in his last fight knocked Miguel Torres out cold, and out of the UFC. This is a big step up in competition for McDonald, but given the state of the bantamweight division a title shot for McDonald wasn't far off even if Barao and Cruz had fought early or so next year and he won another fight between now and then. This has become a situation where having the interim title is actually a benefit because there is a title that will be defended while the linear champion recovers.
Forrest Griffin injured: Former UFC light heavyweight champion was forced to pull out of his scheduled fight with Phil Davis with an MCL tear and ACL sprain. Griffin and Davis were scheduled to meet at the big end of the year card UFC 155 headlined by the rematch between UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. Dana White has indicated that Davis will likely be moved to a different card as opposed to finding a replacement fighter on short notice. While this fight wasn't the headliner, it was going to be an interesting fight for Davis. Davis has only lost to Rashad Evans, and Griffin is in that same tier of fighters and it would have told us a lot about Davis after his victory over Wagner Prado.
The champ is here: At the pre-fight press conference for UFC on FOX 5, Dana White announced that the first ever UFC female bantamweight champion is indeed former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. Ronda's first title defense will be against Liz Carmouche, who isn't very well known but fought for the title in Strikeforce but fell short against Marloes Coenen. Dana White said after making the fight announcement that no one else wanted to take the fight with Rousey. The fight will be the main event of UFC 157 with the clash between Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida serving as co-main event. Ronda was asked about the long rumored fight between herself and Cris Cyborg, especially as Cyborg came out recently and said that it was possible for her to make 135, and Ronda responded in typical Ronda fashion. She said she had always known Cyborg could make 135, it just took Cyborg longer to come around to it because "she's not that bright". Assuming Cyborg can indeed get off whatever substances she's been on, drop the musculature without causing severe dehydration, the fight between Rousey and Cyborg is the big one that everyone wants to see.
Darth to meet the Janitor: Former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader has verbally agreed to fight Vladimir Matyushenko at an undisclosed event. Both fighters are amenable to the fight, and I'd actually be interested in seeing it. Matyshenko is a really tough veteran of the sport who's just never been able to make the leap into elite status, while Bader seems to stumble anytime he's put in against elite competition. Either way I think this will be a fun fight.
Mark Hunt returns to Japan: Stefan Struve and Mark Hunt have verbally agreed to fight each other when the UFC returns to Japan on March 8th on Fuel TV. At this point I actually like watching Mark Hunt fight, his only intention is to go out there and knock someone out. Struve has a somewhat questionable chin, but he'll have the edge in grappling for sure. Mark Hunt is a really surprising feel good story at this stage in his career, but there's nothing at all wrong with that as long as it's handled properly. I'm pulling for the guy in this fight.
Flyweight action: While all eyes will be on the upcoming flyweight championship fight between champion Demetrious Johnson and Jon Dodson, the other names at flyweight have agreed to fight. Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall have agreed to fight at the upcoming UFC 156 event early next year. Both men will be looking to get back into title contention, and I have to believe that if Ian McCall can turn in a great performance a third fight with "Mighty Mouse" should Johnson retain would be a big deal.
GSP wants to fight Diaz: In some news that broke after the press conference, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre told Dana White that he wants to fight Nick Diaz, and apparently Dana White wants to make that fight. This means the rightful number one contender Johny Hendricks will have to fight again, and the superfight between Anderson Silva and GSP will be delayed again. Nick Diaz lost a clear unanimous decision to Carlos Condit, and was busted for marijuana metabolites after that, yet despite the loss and the suspension it seems Diaz will be rewarded with a title shot. I know Georges has publicly said he wants to fight Diaz after the incredibly disrespectful things Diaz has said about him, and Georges doesn't ask the UFC for that much, but this really bugs me. I'd much rather have GSP fight Silva than this, and the huge fight between the two of them would bring the most money to the UFC and to each of them individually. Maybe GSP really does just want to beat Nick Diaz that badly. Either way I don't agree with this move by the UFC.
You know, if I was given to Dana White levels of hyperbole I'd say this was the type of card that if you don't like you're just not a fan of MMA. Good thing I'm not, and my own expression of joy at this card is simpler. There's nothing to dislike about this card. Not one thing I can say negatively about the scheduled fights. This has all the makings of card of the year, and it would take a colossal effort to turn this into a stinker. I'm really hyped for this card, and hopefully everything falls into place and we get a great event. So with my gushing about everything that's scheduled, let's take a look at the fights and what I think will happen.
Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown: Mike Swick had been out of action for a really long time due to a string of injuries before he knocked out DaMarques Johnson in his last outing. Matt Brown is in the UFC because he always comes to fight and hasn't ever been in a fight that wasn't at least watchable. Unfortunately for Brown, he's prone to submission losses, and Swick isn't above snatching a quick guillotine choke. On the feet it's pretty even, though I'd give Brown a slight edge because he's comfortable fighting at distance or in the clinch. Swick will need to get this fight to be a grappling one and try to snatch a submission. I think that's the most likely course of events, Swick grabbing a choke after losing the exchanges on the feet for the first round and a half.
BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald: Outside of the main event, this is the fight I'm most looking forward too. At the press conference these two were clearly ready to fight. BJ looked amped up, which is good considering how much emotion BJ uses in his fights. Rory looked pretty smooth in a suit, but he's also clearly wanting this fight. Rory doesn't have as much emotion as BJ does when he fights, during the build up or in the actual fight. This fight has the makings of a war with BJ fighting his heart out, but I can't pick him here. Rory MacDonald has lost just one fight, a last second stoppage loss to Carlos Condit in a fight MacDonald was winning. That loss actually made Rory a better fighter, because while he was talented before he's looked downright scary since. BJ Penn is an all time great fighter, but Rory MacDonald is hungry, talented, and he looks to hurt people inside the cage. I'm not sure Rory will finish BJ, but I don't think I can pick BJ here, Rory's looked unstoppable lately.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua: This is a big test for the young Swede. Alexander Gustafsson has lost only once, a submission loss to Phil Davis, but has rebounded nicely and has even begun getting talk of a title shot. While Gustafsson has looked impressive in his last few outings, he's not ever fought anyone on the level of Rua. Rua will be looking to get his first winning streak since he knocked out Chuck Liddell in 2009. Since then he's gone win-lose, even though I personally thought his fight with Dan Henderson was a draw. While some people have been making comparisons between Gustafsson and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, the two are vastly different fighters. Jones has great wrestling, sick ground and pound, mastery of distance, and great athleticism. Gustafsson has more technical striking than Jones, and a reach that's similar, but both men fight very differently. I don't think Gustafsson will be able to bring the same pressure to Rua that Jones brought, and certainly not the same type of pressure. Rua will have to be quick in the cage, something that he hasn't done lately because of his knee issues. Rua would also be well served to get this fight to the ground, because his top game and ground and pound are incredibly strong and often overlooked aspects of his game. This will either be Gustafsson's coming out party, or hopefully a return to form for Shogun, because Rua didn't look good in his last fight against Brandon Vera. That said I'm picking Rua here, likely by stoppage in the second or third round.
The main event is everything you want in a fight, two great fighters, a title on the line, and a fight so close to call it's almost impossible to do. Throw in two of my favorite fighters, and you better believe we're not just looking at this one, we're Going Deeper!
Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: I can't really tell you guys how pumped I am for this fight. This has all the makings of an absolute war, and even before it happens could possibly be a Fight of the Year contender. The UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson looks to make his second successful title defense against Nate Diaz, a fighter who's looked completely rejuvenated since returning to the lightweight division in September of last year. Some thought it was a desperate move after Diaz lost two fights in a row at welterweight, but it actually looks to have been a great move. Since then Diaz has submitted Takanori Gomi, beat Donald Cerrone in a clear decision, and become the first guy to ever finish Jim Miller when he tapped him out with a guillotine choke in their fight. Diaz has some impressive skills in the cage, he uses a volume based punching approach which is vastly underutilized in the world of MMA. Nate also isn't afraid to use kicks in his striking, something his brother hasn't really begun using in his MMA career. Diaz also has some very slick submission skills, and endless cardio. Diaz moves forward very well, and actually has superior movement inside the cage to his brother. The weakness in Nate's game has historically been strong wrestlers, something he hasn't had to face since he returned to 155 until now.
Benson Henderson has looked incredible in his UFC career, he has stomped everyone in front of him decisively, with the exception of his last fight against Frankie Edgar. He dominated Mark Boeck in his UFC debut, dominated Jim Miller and Clay Guida in back to back fights, and for my money decisively beat Frankie Edgar in their first fight. Henderson has strong wrestling, which has been the backbone of his success in MMA. That said, he isn't a one dimensional wrestler. His submission defense is other-worldly and his scrambles are some of the best in the division. Henderson also has a nasty guillotine choke to his credit and strong kicks. Henderson also has an eerie calm about him, he never loses his head in a fight. There's plenty of fire and emotion in him, but it never takes control and compromises position. Just like Diaz, Henderson has an endless gas tank, forward pressure, and has looked great during his UFC tenure. This fight is actually really close on paper.
Neither man has been finished inside the octagon, and the chances of seeing this fight go all five rounds are high. I can't really give a cardio edge to either man given that both are always working, but Benson Henderson has proven he can go five hard rounds while Nate has never had to go past the third. Nate's only scheduled five rounder was his fight with Jim Miller, and he choked Miller out in the second round. While Henderson has incredible submission defense, he'd do well to avoid putting himself in positions for Diaz to grab one. Diaz will be the best MMA submission artist Henderson has fought, and Diaz also has some nasty chokes at his disposal. While the odds of seeing Benson Henderson submit in the octagon are roughly even with being struck by lightning, Diaz possesses another level of jiujitsu than Henderson has fought lately and he'd be wise to keep an eye on his neck. Striking wise, Nate throws high volume flurries, goes to the head and body equally well, and isn't completely lost in the kicking game. The major issue with Nate's striking is the same as his brother's, they have zero striking defense. Both men leave their chins up in the air and get caught by good counter strikers. This is compensated by their incredible chin and recovery power, but it remains an exploitable flaw. Henderson has more one punch power than Diaz, but should be careful in striking exchanges just due to the volume that Diaz will throw. Henderson will have a kicking advantage, and should use it liberally. Leg kicks have been an issue for both Diaz brothers, in fact it was sweeping leg attacks that allowed Donald Cerrone to steal a round from Diaz in their fight. The clinch will be an important position for both men, because Henderson does his best work from there and it's historically been a weakness of Nate. In his last fight Nate showed much improved clinch work, his positional awareness and effective strikes from the clinch against Jim Miller were impressive and a key component in his eventual victory. That said, Diaz would be better off fighting at distance, because Henderson is a much more smothering opponent than Miller. Nate's best chance of victory lies in out boxing Henderson, being very active off of his back, and engaging in flurries where his high volume striking style will give him the edge. For Henderson, he wants to fight in the clinch, or get on top of Diaz in a good position. Henderson should avoid staying in Diaz's full guard and instead try achieve a dominant position during a scramble and throw some powerful ground and pound. Henderson should also use his kicking game, his leg kicks are powerful and would be a useful tool in helping keep the distance where he wants it as opposed to where Diaz wants it.
This fight is incredibly difficult to call a winner in, because both men have a great chance to win. There are people picking Nate Diaz, and for good reason, just as there are people picking Benson Henderson for darn good reason. I'm a fan of both guys, so making a pick here is doubly difficult. At the end of the day, I just can't really pick against Benson Henderson. He's given me no reason to do so, though the same is true of Nate Diaz lately. I wont be surprised at all if Diaz takes this one, and if Henderson gets sloppy with a takedown and leaves his neck exposed it's actually feasible Diaz locks up a tight enough choke that even Benson Henderson has to tap out. I'm picking Henderson by decision, but this could really go either way. Mostly I'm looking forward to a darn good fight, because one way or another I'm willing to bet money there's no way these two guys go out there and don't perform.
That's going to wrap up this week for all things Guillotine related, but I promise, no more vacations for me for a while. I went over fifty weeks without a break, then within the last two months I took two. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed them, but I have a tradition of putting out good work to keep and a legacy to keep building. Next week I'll have the breakdown of what I'm already calling the best card of 2012. Plus all the news that's sure to come out between now and next week, though I'll need a new feature now that The Walking Dead is on hiatus until February, so if you've got suggestions I'd love to hear them. So despite going really deep, you've managed to survive the Guillotine once again, and I'll see you back here next week.