411 MMA Fact or Fiction 4.02.14: Rousey/Cyborg, Lawler/Ellenberger, More
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 04.02.2014
Did Robbie Lawler make a mistake by agreeing to fight Jake Ellenberger soon after his bout with Johny Hendricks? Did Cyborg Justino's loss on Friday hurt her chances at a Ronda Rousey fight? 411's Robert Winfree and Koeddy Laemmle debate these topics and more!
Welcome back to another edition of MMA Fact or Fiction tournament action! With five 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 all of the quarterfinals, leaving only the semifinals this week and next week's final contest to be decided. Let's have a look at the current brackets, which have been updated to reflect the results of all completed bouts:
Voting is now closed on our first five weeks of contests, but if you missed any of them and want to catch up, you can still find them here:
As I mentioned earlier, we're down to our final two weeks of contests, with two this week and only one next week, which puts us back to our regular schedule. 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. Today is our first semifinal contest, which pits eighth seed Koeddy Laemmle against sixth seed Robert Winfree. In a year where the NCAA tournament has been marked by several significant upsets, this tournament can boast the same type of turmoil. So who wins this week - can Koeddy take his undefeated streak into the finals, or will Robert show the rookie how it's done?
Will a Muay Thai loss hurt Cyborg's chances of fighting in the UFC?
1.) Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino's loss in a Muay Thai fight this past Friday will have no bearing on her potentially migrating to the UFC to fight Ronda Rousey, so long as she shows she can consistently make the bantamweight limit in Invicta.
Robert Winfree:FICTION There's plenty of qualifiers in this already, but I'm still going with FICTION. Cyborg lost, lost decisively, and I'm assuming enough of the people involved with this decision saw it for it to have an impact. Now it shouldn't impact that potential, Muay Thai kickboxing is a different sport than MMA and Cyborg was fighting a multi-time world champion, but inevitably it will. Cyborg's aura of invincibility has been hurt, if she and her management team aren't prepared to take that into account when negotiating with the UFC, they'll quickly reach some kind of impasse. I don't personally think the fight will ever happen - between the personalities involved and Cyborg having to consistently make 135 lbs, I just don't think Cyborg and Ronda Rousey will ever get into the cage together.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT The main factor here is that Cyborg is able to consistently make 135 pounds and win some fights in Invicta. The loss to Muay Thai specialist Jorina Baars won't play a part in whether Cyborg makes it to the UFC because the rules were so different in that environment that you can't really count it against her in an all-around mixed martial arts aspect. This was a title fight for the Lion Fight muay thai promotion so both women were wearing heavier boxing gloves and there were immediate stand-ups (which negated all the takedowns Cyborg planted Baars to the ground with during the fight). Had it been a full-on mixed martial arts contest I honestly would have judged it in favor of Cyborg and she may have been able to finish the fight on the ground had it been contested under MMA rules. Regardless, she has still looked like an unstoppable monster of a woman in both of her post-suspension Invicta fights prior to this minor setback, so I am firmly in belief that if she is able to drop down in weight and perform at the same level, the UFC would be more than happy to bring a fighter of Cyborg's level to bolster their Women's Bantamweight roster which has a short list of credible contenders at the moment anyways.
Is there a better middleweight not under Zuffa contract?
2.) With yet another win on Friday night to bring his record to an impressive 50-7, Alexander Shlemenko is making a case to be considered the best middleweight not under contract to the UFC.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT Not only is Alexander Shlemenko the best middleweight not under UFC contract, to me, Shlemenko is the first fighter since Gilbert Melendez's days as Strikeforce champion where I can't wait for the UFC to pick him up in order to see how they do against the upper echelon of the best the UFC has to offer. If Shlemenko were to join the UFC today, he could make a legitimate argument for top 10 ranking. With an astounding professional record of 50-7, Shlemenko has created a high profile outside of the UFC similar to fellow Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko a decade ago. The last time Shlemenko lost was against Hector Lombard in 2010 and he has racked up 13 wins in a row since then, capturing the Bellator Middleweight Championship along the way. There are so many great match-ups for Shlemenko in the UFC including a rematch from a 2006 fight with "Jacare" Souza, Vitor Belfort, Michael Bisping and even the current UFC champion, Chris Weidman.
Robert Winfree:FACT I already considered Shlemenko the best middleweight not with the UFC, but to those who might feel differently the Russian just keeps winning and doing so decisively. Shlemenko has lost just once in his last 20 fights, was the only guy in Bellator who put up a fight against Hector Lombard, and has been running through every bit of opposition since. Plus I honestly couldn't tell you of another middleweight outside of the UFC who I'd say has a great shot at beating Shlemenko. Yushin Okami is probably the biggest contender to the title of best middleweight outside of the UFC, but I wouldn't have any problem with ranking Shlemenko higher than Okami right now. The biggest drawback to Shlemenko is that in the UFC he'd likely have to cut to welterweight as he's undersized compared to the bigger men in the division, but I'd have no problem picking Shlemenko as the best middleweight who fights outside of the Octagon.
Is Robbie actually doing himself a disservice?
3.) While Robbie Lawler replacing Tarec Saffiedine against Jake Ellenberger for UFC 173 is certainly impressive, the quick turnaround after a five-round war with Johny Hendricks will hurt Lawler's chances in the fight.
Robert Winfee:FACT It takes the fight from a near sure thing for Lawler to a fight that has an element of doubt to it. Lawler has proven himself to be one of the best fighters in the division, and was very close to winning the title in his last outing, while Ellenberger hasn't taken that step into the top five or so of the division. All things being equal this would be Robbie Lawler's fight to lose, but since all things aren't equal in this case, Ellenberger is being presented with the biggest opportunity he could possibly get under the circumstances. I still favor Lawler, but with all factors being taken into consideration, his chances aren't as good as they would be under normal circumstances.
Koeddy Laemmle:FICTION I think two months is plenty of time for Robbie Lawler to get ready for Jake Ellenberger. Ronda Rousey recently took a similar type of shortened break and claimed it was easier to do that than if she had taken time off. This means Lawler needs to get back to training immediately. There is no time to waste as Ellenberger is a legit contender at 170. The fact that Ellenberger is a wrestler with knockout power will make it easy to create a similar game plan to the one he used (mostly with success) against Johny Hendricks. The "Ruthless" one realizes that the UFC's Welterweight division has plenty of other title contenders at the moment and is making the most of an opportunity to distance himself from the other contenders quick. A convincing win over a top 10 welterweight like Ellenberger would add a lot of fuel to the fire of those who want to see a rematch between him and Johny Hendricks. With a win Lawler puts himself right back in line.
Was Dillashaw a disappointing choice?
4.) While TJ Dillashaw is an acceptable challenger for Renan Barao at UFC 173, it is disappointing that Raphael Assuncao's injured rib prevented him from taking the fight.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT Obviously Raphael Assuncao deserved the title shot against Renan Barao; not only is Assuncao riding high on a six-fight win streak, one of those wins came against the man taking his spot, TJ Dillashaw. I'm happy that they were able to substitute in a title fight for the UFC 173 card since the loss of Weidman/Machida momentarily put this card in the "should not buy" territory. The fact Assuncao has said he will fight the winner of the Barao/Dillashaw fight is somewhat comforting, but also makes me wonder who else could possibly deserve a title shot in the UFC's Bantamweight division? Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald are both still coming off losses and I hardly consider Dominick Cruz an active fighter anymore. In my opinion, 135 is the weakest weight class in the UFC at the moment, so it could actually benefit them by having two title fights already set up throughout the year, thus giving them enough time to build up some more contenders with the talents they have.
Robert Winfree:FACT Neither man has much of a shot at beating Barao, but then again I don't think anyone at bantamweight, outside of Dominick Cruz, has much of a shot against Renan Barao. Assuncao is on a pretty solid run at bantamweight, some people consider him the number two guy in the division behind the champion, and missing out on the two best guys in the division fighting is always a disappointment. I still think we'll get that fight after Barao beats Dillashaw, but if Barao was the choice to be one half of the main event then Assuncao was his rightful dance partner and it is disappointing the UFC had to go in another direction.
Is Brett Cooper nuts?
5.) Brett Cooper is right in stating that fighters do not suddenly gain 30% more skills upon signing a UFC contract; however, his assertion that there are top-level fighters in every organization is flawed if taken to mean "fighters who could win a title in the UFC".
Robert Winfree:FACT The UFC is the biggest and best organization in the world of MMA, but Cooper is correct in that signing with them doesn't impart skill. The UFC generally tries to have the best on their roster, but plenty of cab drivers have signed on the mythical dotted line and they would likely fall to high level fighters outside of the UFC. In fact, looking at some of the recent Fight Night cards, guys like Jon Fitch, Josh Burkman, Alexander Shlemenko, Ben Askren, Pat Curran, and Daniel Strauss, to name a few, are clearly superior fighters. Sadly, I wouldn't pick any of those guys to win a UFC title, though if Jose Aldo does move up I think Pat Curran could be competitive with the very best featherweights the UFC has to offer.
Koeddy Laemmle:FACT While there are very few fighters that aren't in UFC that I believe could be title contenders: the before mentioned (a man Brett Cooper has lost to twice) Alexander Shlemenko, Eddie Alvarez and Eduardo Dantas just to name a few. I think that these guys are just too few and far between to legitimately think every organization has fighters like this. I think Brett Cooper was just venting frustrations over fighters in organizations such as Bellator, World Series of Fighting, and anybody overseas (pretty much anybody not in the UFC) getting any wide notoriety in the MMA world since he also stated "fans need to start studying the sport more and realize that there are other top guys. Bellator wasn't in the World MMA Awards or whatever and I'm kind of sick of stuff like that." It just sounds like a man who is venting a little frustration over not getting any recognition in the MMA world despite high profile Bellator fights. I'd hate to have to be the poor bastard who was fighting him that week. The UFC gets all the recognition because it is recognized as the big leagues much in the same way in college football, only big name schools and players who go to those big name schools get all the recognition once the season comes to a close and it's time for writers to cast their votes in that respected sport.
Who do you think won this bout? Did Robert's experience win you over or was Koeddy's fresh voice enough to pick up a win? Voting will be open until midnight EST on Saturday, 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 Friday for our last semifinal 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!