411 MMA Fact or Fiction 3.26.14: Johny Hendricks, WSOF, More
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 03.26.2014
Is Johny Hendricks' win over Robbie Lawler more impressive knowing he fought through torn biceps and a broken shin? Did WSOF mess up by putting Rousimar Palhares into a title fight before being licensed? 411's Evan Zivin and Koeddy Laemmle debate these topics and more!
Welcome back to another week of MMA Fact or Fiction tournament action! With four weeks of the 2014 MMA Fact or Fiction Tournament in the books, we've completed all eight opening round contests, our play-in bout, and the first half of the quarterfinals, so let's have a look at the current brackets, which have been updated to reflect the results of all completed bouts:
In an interesting coincidence, both six seeds advanced last week; however, Robert Winfree was actually seeded higher than Dustin James, while Todd Vote pulled off a pretty impressive upset in knocking off second-seeded Patrick Mullin. Voting is now closed on our first four weeks of contests, but if you missed any of them and want to catch up, you can find them here:
As I mentioned last Wednesday, we're down to two contests a week, and they'll run on Wednesdays and Fridays. This will be the schedule for the next two weeks, until we've completed our quarterfinals and semifinals, at which point the finals will take place in Fact or Fiction's normal Wednesday spot, and things will return to normal from there. Just like last year, the voting window for each tournament contest will be approximately 73 hours from the time they go live on the site, so you've got until midnight EST on Saturday to vote for today's and midnight EST on Monday to vote for Friday's. As I mentioned, this is our second and final week of quarterfinal bouts, and we're starting it off with a bang, as the man who upset the defending champion looks to remain undefeated against an equally dangerous competitor.
Is there any interest in seeing the new champion face King Mo for the third time after their first two encounters?
1.) With Emanuel Newton narrowly edging Attila Vegh to unify Bellator's light heavyweight and interim light heavyweight championships, Bellator would prefer Rampage Jackson beat King Mo in May to become Newton's first challenger.
Evan Zivin:FACT If this is a question of whether Bellator would rather see Newton defend his championship against Rampage versus Newton fighting Mo again, then absolutely. There may still be a smidgen of interest in seeing Mo/Newton 3: Dream Warriors, even though the first two fights were very one-sided and served only to damage Mo's legitimacy as a top fighter while elevating Newton into the MMA consciousness, but the big money right now in Bellator's 205 division is seeing Rampage fight for the belt. It doesn't matter that Newton is the champion and it doesn't matter that there may be some animosity between Newton and Rampage from their time training together in preparation for Rampage's fight with Mo. Well, actually it does, but that's all just icing on the cake for what Bellator really wants: for former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, one of the most infamous names and personalities in MMA history, to challenge for their championship. He may not be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the roster, but Rampage is still exciting to watch (at least when's he knocking people out he is) and he's bringing more eyeballs to the product than virtually anyone else right now so to have him fight for the belt, and possibly even win the belt, would be huge for Bellator. Or at least they think it would be. We'll see if Mo agrees on May 17.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT The Emanuel Newton/Rampage Jackson matchup is obviously the fight that everybody at Bellator have their fingers crossed for right now. It's easier for them to market that fight than it would be a third Newton/Lawal bout, considering the first two were uninspiring losses from King Mo. Not to mention that Rampage Jackson is easily an overall more recognizable name than King Mo. Bellator realizes this and sees either possibility of the Newton/Rampage fight (Newton defending his title against an MMA legend and becomes a certified star or that same MMA legend wins their Light Heavyweight title) as being more profitable than any potential outcome from a third Newton/King Mo fight.
Is it any surprise that Menjivar and Guillard were cut?
2.) The UFC cutting both Melvin Guillard and Ivan Menjivar is an unsurprising move.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT In my previous Fact or Fiction matchup, I mentioned I thought Guillard probably wouldn't get another shot in the UFC after a lackluster performance in his most recent fight against Michael Johnson and a 2-5-1 run since his last good run in 2011. It's been a lot harder for veterans to maintain their roster spots lately and the Lightweight division is currently one of the deepest in talent. Ivan Menjivar had compiled a 4-5 record in the UFC including his loss in the Lightweight division from 10 years ago. His last three fights were all losses and he had just moved back up to Featherweight for his last fight against Hatsu Hioki. Both men have been on a downhill slide in recent years but with a few wins outside of the organization they could find themselves back in the Octagon some day. Melvin Guillard seems like a good fit for World Series of Fighting.
Evan Zivin:FACT As much as I don't want to say it, it isn't surprising at all. The general rule of thumb for UFC releases is lose three straight fights and you're gone. Sometimes the UFC may cut you sooner if the UFC can't justify keeping you around for whatever reason (personal, financial, or otherwise), and sometimes they'll give you an extra chance or two if you're popular and the UFC likes you. It doesn't always lead to hirings and firings that make sense but it's how the UFC operates. Menjivar falls into that "three strikes" rule. I feel like they could have given Menjivar one more shot since his last fight was in a new weight class and he's a somewhat recognizable name in a division that doesn't have too many, but it's no shock that UFC let him go now.
Guillard was on a one fight losing streak but he had only won 2 of his last eight fights. Guillard is the type of guy that UFC was willing to give additional chances to because he has a unique charisma, he helps sell fights, and he has a fan friendly fighting style, or at least he usually does. His last fight, a loss to Michael Johnson, was extremely lackluster and likely gave UFC more reason to think that he wasn't worth the price tag that came with him. Yeah, this decision probably also had to do with money. We don't have salary figures from his last two fights, both taking place in England where the UFC acted as the athletic commission, but his two fights before that show he had a $42/$42 deal ($42,000 to fight, $42,000 to win). It wasn't as much as Jon Fitch was making when he was cut but it was still enough to make UFC expect a level of performance that Guillard wasn't able to provide and hasn't been able to provide for years, so they let him go. I don't exactly like it but that's the way it is. At least it means there's one more decent fighter for Bellator or World Series of Fighting to pick up.
That's not a beer gut after Hendricks' surgery, no matter what some other sites might want you to believe.
3.) The fact that Johny Hendricks suffered a hairline fracture in his shin and either sustained or worsened a torn right biceps during the first round of his fight against Robbie Lawler only makes his decisive fifth round performance all the more impressive.
Evan Zivin:FACT I guess, but only a little. It is impressive that Hendricks rocked Lawler by throwing punches with an injured right bicep. It is impressive that he risked a potential Anderson Silva situation by throwing leg kicks with an injured shin. Those facts do make the fight, and the fifth round of said fight, impressive, but what was more impressive than those injuries was Johny's heart and determination to win the fight even after getting picked apart the two previous rounds. After a very close round one and two, Lawler hurt Hendricks in the third and came extremely close to ending the fight. Then Robbie upped the pace in the fourth round and looked ready to take the fight away from Hendricks, but Bigg Rigg refused to let that happen. Hendricks survived the onslaught and came out in the fifth, ready to give everything he had left to take the fight and he did so by rocking Lawler on the feet and taking him down to secure the round in his favor. I feel like Johny could have done more to try to finish the fight considering that, even though I gave the first two rounds to Johny, they were both very close and any of the judges could have given one or both rounds to Lawler, but Hendricks felt confident in what he had done and pushed through the pain and exhaustion to deliver his most dominant round of the fight when he needed it the most. He proved he could hang with the speed and superior striking technique of Robbie Lawler and he finished stronger than he started. It was a very impressive performance and, while I'd love to say that Robbie is a UFC Champion, I couldn't be happier for the way the fight went and for Johny's victory. That beard knows how to perform when it matters most.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT Johny Hendricks digging deep down and finding the endurance to pull out that 5th round was already a noteworthy performance, when you add in the fact he had to grind it out four rounds with a torn bicep and a crack in his shinbone it becomes a legendary performance. Following the controversial loss to GSP he seemingly became obsessed with winning the Welterweight championship and the fact that Hendricks refused to let injuries derail his dream of being champion is a story that writes itself. It also helped established Johny Hendricks as one of the gutsiest fighters in all of mixed martial arts.
Will Hendricks' injury mean that Woodley will have to actually win a fight via something other than "freak injury" to earn a title shot?
4.) While unfortunate, Hendricks' injury, which will require surgery and necessitate the new champion taking at least 8 weeks off from training, will actually give the UFC a better opportunity to determine his first challenger.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT Johny Hendricks' time off required for surgery gives the UFC enough time to set up a #1 contender's fight between Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley for June's UFC 174 in Canada and have Hendricks be ready for the winner. They have a very interesting situation where the previously mentioned fighters, Hector Lombard, Robbie Lawler, Dong Hyun Kim and Matt Brown are all legitimately one big win away from a title shot and I also expect GSP to be ready to return by the end of this year, automatically adding him into the mix. Obviously not all of these guys are going to receive title shots so it's time to start pitting them against each other to figure out who stands above the rest of the competition. I think a summer event could easily be headlined by a title eliminator between Hector Lombard and Robbie Lawler to have them waiting in the wings for a future title shot. Whatever the case, the chaotic nature of the UFC's Welterweight division is creating a lot of positive excitement, I wish the same could be said for other organizations' Welterweight divisions…
Evan Zivin:FACT First off, a champion being on the shelf for eight weeks is not that big of a deal. It's unfortunate that we will have to wait longer than we may have been expecting to see Hendricks defend the championship for the first time, but most champions only defend their titles twice a year anyway. Maybe if they stay healthy, are wanting to fight, and defend the title early in the year, we might get to see a third title defense. For the most part, though, it's twice a year for the gold. So it's possible that Hendricks could have defended the belt two times this year but if he doesn't, it will be all right. Your pain will subside in time. As for what it does for the rest of the welterweight division, I agree that it gives UFC time to find a challenger. I don't know if the timing will work out just right but maybe, while Hendricks is recuperating, UFC can match up some of the potential challengers - Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley, Rory MacDonald, Hector Lombard - at an upcoming event and perhaps we can get a consensus over who deserves the next shot. Either that or Dana will just give Nick Diaz the next shot. I really hope I'm joking but we've seen stranger things happen in the UFC. Regardless of who gets the next title shot, I just hope Johny gets back to 100% as soon as he can so he can get to defending that belt. We've got enough injured champions. Get to work, Bigg Rigg.
Should WSOF have gone with someone else until they were sure Palhares could get licensed?
5.) While it's good that WSOF has a backup challenger in place for their welterweight title bout this coming weekend, it was still a mistake to make Rousimar Palhares their primary option for the fight without knowing if he'll be able to get licensed until the day before the card takes place.
Evan Zivin:FICTION I'm going to agree with the first part and slightly disagree with the second. It's absolutely a good idea for the promotion to have a backup challenger ready. Every organization should have a backup plan in case your marquee fight needs to be changed, and not just due to a pre-fight drug test. How many main event fights have we seen fall apart at the last minute due to something like an injury? More than we should. Always have a contingency plan. Always. As for the second part, the story I read gives the impression that WSOF was not aware that the athletic commission was going to require Palhares to take a drug test this close to the fight. They should have expected the possibility since, while Palhares hasn't failed a test in Nevada before, he has failed a test elsewhere and Nevada, like most every other commission, recognizes all previous drug tests and failures. Now, it's possible that someone did know about the drug test, or it's just been poor reporting on the media's part, but I will give WSOF the benefit of the doubt and not blame them for putting Palahares in this position with a possible random drug test looming. Even if Palhares needs to be pulled from the fight, I still wouldn't blame WSOF for putting him in the fight to begin with. Palhares is a big acquisition for the young promotion and they want to present the best fights they can. They also want to present the most intriguing fights they can (i.e. any fight that gets people to turn on NBC Sports this Saturday). Call me crazy, but I think more people would be interested in seeing Steve Carl vs. Rousimar Palhares than Steve Carl vs. Tyler Stinson. We may end up getting the latter and not the former but if they had gone with the latter to begin with, I'm pretty sure a lot fewer people would even be aware the show is happening this weekend. I still don't think that many people know about it, but those who do will be in for a treat. Will Carl be able to survive the leglock onslaught? We shall find out. Sorry, Jon Fitch. Maybe next time.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT Not only does this whole situation make World Series of Fighting look unprofessional because they use the "Card Subject to Change" tagline as a crutch, it's a mistake because they are making this special accommodation for a fighter who is 1-2 in his last three and was fired from the UFC following his last performance when he refused to release a heel hook even after Mike Pierce had tapped out and failed a drug test in his fight prior to that. If Palhares fails his random drug test the NSAC issued for his fight with champion Steve Carl, this will make WSOF President Ray Sefo and the rest of management look like morons since they went from claiming they wouldn't sign the man to giving him a shot at one of their championships in a short amount of time and tried assuring everybody he was "a clean fighter" and his behavior issues that got him fired from UFC were not going to be an issue in WSOF. They should have just went with backup plan Tyler Stinson in the first place, granted he doesn't have the name value of Palhares or even the man next in line for a Welterweight title shot, Jon Fitch (who has expressed reluctance to face Palhares himself) he has four wins in a row. It's a pretty messy situation WSOF have put themselves in with the best case scenario being a clean test from Palhares and a dominating title defense by Carl.
Who do you think won this bout? Was Evan able to parlay his higher seed into a win, or did Koeddy continue on his roll? Voting will be open until midnight EST on Monday, so make sure you vote and make your voice heard! This tournament can't progress without you!
And that's it for today, but we'll be back on Friday for our final quarterfinal bout! As always, if there's anything you'd like to see featured in a future edition, leave your statement in the comments and I'll add it in. Let us know what you thought in the comments, on Twitter, or on Google+. And please, be sure to vote!