411 MMA Fact or Fiction 4.30.14: Jones/Liddell, Johnson's Return, More
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 04.30.2014
Would Jon Jones be able to beat Chuck Liddell in the Iceman's prime? Did Anthony Johnson return to the UFC at the perfect time? 411's Todd Vote and Wyatt Beougher debate these topics and more in this week's MMA Fact or Fiction!
Welcome back to 411's MMA Fact or Fiction, and I'm your host, Wyatt Beougher. Last week's column was our first foray back into non-tournament competition, and Mark Radulich was able to pick up a close win over Alex Rella, 20-17. Not bad for a guy who's probably only getting a couple of hours of sleep a night with a newborn in the house. Great work from both Mark and Alex last week.
This week's matchup pits the one and only Todd Vote against Paul Lapointe, in a battle of the original "guy who participates in various columns around the site without actually writing one of his own" against the relative newcomer who does the same thing. Or at least it was supposed to, anyway - turns out the real world had other plans for Mr. Lapointe, and as a result, you're now stuck with me. I'm expecting a good clean fight this week, so let's get to the action!
TALE OF THE TAPE RED CORNER
Todd "The Man Without a Zone" Vote
Contributor, 4 Player Co-Op (Games Zone), among others)
Is Jones the best light heavyweight champ of all time?
1.) With a seventh straight win (and six of those being completely dominant), there is little question that Jon Jones is the best UFC light heavyweight champion in the promotion's history.
Todd Vote:FICTION This would most definitely be true if one was speaking on in octagon ability only. Of course that is where it really matters, but that isn't what the question is asking. Is Jon Jones the best LHW champ the promotion has ever had? I'm going to have to go with no on that one. He's not drawing like Liddell did in his prime. He isn't universally loved like both Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture before him.
For those reasons, I hesitate to call Jones the best LHW champ of all time. He is most definitely the best inside the cage that the division has ever seen, I don't think there is much dispute in that. But, when you factor in other things, I have to stop short of calling him the best overall.
Wyatt Beougher:FACT Is he the most popular? Not by a long shot, as both Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture were bigger fan favorites, and Liddell also sold a whole lot more PPVs in his prime than Jones has in what is likely his prime. But he's easily the most dominant, most athletic, and most talented champion in the history of the UFC's light heavyweight division. Should Jones win decisively in his rematch with Alexander Gustafsson later this year and then dispatch Daniel Cormier (assuming Dan Henderson doesn't pull a Randy Couture) in the winter or spring, he'll actually be able to make a case for being the most dominant champion in the UFC's history, at least in terms of the level of competition that he's faced.
Sure, Anderson Silva will still have had more defenses, but the weakest of Jones' defenses came against the only guy who really looked capable of beating Silva before Chris Weidman came along, and Jones dispatched him with no issues whatsoever. And he hasn't had a Patrick Cote or a Thales Leites or a Demian Maia defense in there, either. And you could make a convincing case for Georges St. Pierre as well, but I'm not going to, because I personally feel that Jones is the better fighter.
Is Rumble already back near title contention?
2.) Anthony Johnson's decisive win over Phil Davis puts him, at most, two wins away from fighting for the light heavyweight title, in spite of just returning to the UFC.
Wyatt Beougher:FACT What kind of idiot makes these statements, anyway? Rumble could easily win one fight, lose the next, and then win his third, and that'd be two wins and almost assuredly no title fight. Now, assuming that guy meant two CONSECUTIVE wins, then this is absolutely a fact, and it's as much a function of just how dominant Jones has been in his title reign as it is Jones making a very successful return. Taking a quick peek at the UFC's current light heavyweight rankings (which I realize means very little when it comes to this sort of thing), you've got Alexander Gustafsson, Rashad Evans, Glover Teixeira, and Daniel Cormier ranked ahead of Rumble, who catapulted up nine spots to take the place of the man he just defeated, Phil Davis.
Assuming Johnson doesn't receive a title fight in place of an injured Gustafsson or Cormier, who have all-but-guaranteed title shots at this point, at least two of those guys are going to drop in the time it takes Johnson to collect two more wins. Whether it's Gus and Cormier, Gus and Jones, or Jones and Cormier, some combination of that trio is going to lose at least one fight. So that leaves Rashad and Glover ahead of Johnson, and either one of those fighters would make an excellent next fight for the newly-returned light heavyweight. I like Johnson's odds in either of those fights, but let's assume he faces and defeats Evans. If Jones continues to win, Johnson has the benefit of being a fresh contender, but even if Jones would lose the title, all of the guys who might theoretically still be ranked ahead of him at that point have a loss more recently than he does.
In a nutshell, Johnson couldn't have picked a better time to make a return to the UFC at a weight class that actually suits him.
Todd Vote:FACT This may actually speak more to Jones' dominance inside the cage than it does to anything Rumble has done himself. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Rumble fan, have been since his weight struggling days at welterweight. His performance/dominance of Phil Davis was nothing short of amazing, the kid looked damn good stuffing something like 10 takedown attempts.
However, looking at the LHW landscape, a division that is probably still considered the UFC's bread and butter, the landscape has changed a lot with Jones dominating at the top. The division is starting to look like the WW and MW divisions did when they had dominant champions at the top. Just a lack of contenders. The champ is burning through contenders faster than they can emerge.
With all that in mind, I think it would be a safe assumption that Rumble is at least in the mix, right behind Gus, and the winner of Hendo vs. DC. A couple of solid wins can do wonders in the UFC, and Johnson is on the right track.
Was Rockhold's submission Submission of the Year-caliber?
3.) Luke Rockhold's inverted triangle/kimura combination is the most impressive submission finish so far this year, and will like top submission of the year awards when 2014 has finished.
Todd Vote:FACT Damn, that was pretty slick, wasn't it? While it is still a bit early to call it the sub of the year for 2014, it is definitely one of the better subs we have seen so far this year. And on a night that was full of submission finishes no less. What was it, something like 358 of the fights this past Saturday ended by guillotine? To stand out on a night with so many great submission finishes is an accomplishment in and of itself. While I think it is safe to say Rockhold will be in the running for submission of the year, with eight full months left to go, it is a bit early to call it.
How did that submission miss out on the performance of the night bonuses?
Wyatt Beougher:FACT If it's not, I'll be both hugely surprised and either greatly disappointed or doubly impressed, as that's easily one of the best submissions I've seen in my days of watching MMA (the five casual fans I was watching the fight with were all pretty much stunned into silence once he locked in the kimura), and I'd like to see what submissions this year might actually top it. That's my challenge for someone to bust out a flying omoplata or an inverted triangle with a kneebar or something insane like that that should be impossible. Like Todd said, I can't believe it wasn't good enough to earn Rockhold "Performance of the Night" honors, especially considering it was Joseph Benavidez who took home the honor for his guillotine choke. Maybe if Rockhold had come up with a flashy name for his submission in his post-fight interview, he would've received the bonus that should've been his. /anti-Team Alpha Male bias
Jon and Chuck in happier times. And seriously, when did Liddell become a grumpy old man?
4.) Chuck Liddell's claims that he could beat Jon Jones are laughable now, and questionable at best even if we're talking about a prime Iceman.
Wyatt Beougher:FACT Look, I'll happily admit to being a Randy Couture guy who never cared that much for Liddell; however, I'm not one of those guys who says every fight Chuck won in his prime was because the UFC stacked the deck in his favor by giving him opponents who masked his one-dimensional style. For starters, Liddell was a two-dimensional fighter by the time he won the UFC light heavyweight belt, having more or less abandoned kicks in favor of straight-up boxing and defensive wrestling, and he had the chin to make it work. It was a formula that worked for him, and I won't begrudge him that or try to take it away from him, as doing so would take some of the shine of my favorite fighter's resume as well.
That said, remember all the way back in my first response, when I said Jones was "the most dominant, most athletic, and most talented champion in the history of the UFC's light heavyweight division"? I have no confidence that even a prime Liddell would've had an answer for Jones' much more varied striking, his explosive wrestling, his submission game, and especially his reach. Is Glover Teixeira Chuck Liddell's equal? I'd say no, but he makes a pretty decent stand-in for the former champion, and with the ease that Jones dominated his fight this past weekend, I don't think even the difference in skill level between Teixeira and Liddell would've made a difference. Would Liddell have won a round or two? Possibly, but Jones would've won the fight.
Todd Vote:FACT I love the Iceman, but come on Chuck... You did have the uncanny ability to walk through punches and put your hands on your opponents, I'll give you that. In addition, you were one of the better counter-punchers in the divison. But I think Jones is just to good right now for you, even if you were in your prime.
Jones is faster, and would come at Liddell from so many different angles, it would be hard for Chuck to get anything going. Also, Jones would probably nullify your uncanny ability to keep a fight on the feet. He would dictate where the fight takes place, and that is no good for the Iceman.
Is an interim title the way to go for Bellator?
5.) Bellator creating an interim bantamweight title while current champion Eduardo Dantas recovers from an unspecified head injury is the correct move, even if does suggest that Dantas' injury is severe.
Todd Vote:FACT This is when you should create an interim title, when you don't know how long your champ will be out of action. Regardless of the severity of the injury, if you have a return date for your champion, and it is going to be far enough out that the division is going to get jammed up, an interim title is perfectly acceptable.
Now the problem with interim titles is that fighters and promotions alike tend to use it more as a placeholder than anything like an actual championship. Renan Barao excluded. If you are going through the trouble of making an interim champion, make sure he defends the title in the interim.
Wyatt Beougher:FACT While I'm sure that Bellator is loathe to admit that one of their more exciting young champions has sustained a fairly serious injury (especially considering that his scheduled opponent, who will be fighting for the interim title, has a pretty recent history of the same type of injury), if Dantas is going to be out for any length of time, making this fight between Joe Warren and Rafael Silva for an interim title just makes sense. Silva and Warren have won the last two bantamweight tournaments, and with this year's Summer Series adding another bantamweight contender to the mix, I don't think it would be wise for Bellator to create the type of logjam at the top of their bantamweight division that the Curran/Straus rematch has created at the top of their featherweight division. The trouble with serious head injuries is that there is absolutely no accurate timetable for a fighter's return, as no two fighters will react/recover to a head injury the same way, so if Dantas ends up out for six months or more, at least you've got the winner of Warren/Silva to face off against whoever wins the Summer Series tournament. Sound move by Bellator that actually doesn't reek of them making injury excuses (coughattilaveghcoughcough) to book the fights that they want.
Who won this week? Did Todd better represent the established 411 presence, or was my last-minute fill-in job enough to score the win? Voting will be open until midnight EST on Saturday, so make sure you vote and make your voice heard!
Makes you wonder why she stays with him, doesn't it?
Bonus) With TMZ releasing phone conversations from LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling that include racist comments, it's going to be very hard for him to retain his top stars and sign new ones, and rightfully so.
Wyatt Beougher:FACT Especially now that NBA Commissioner David Silver has effectively banned Sterling from any and all NBA-related activities, meaning that even if the owners miraculously vote not to force Sterling to sell the team, the NBA will step in and run it (at least, if I understand my NBA by-laws correctly). But yeah, I'll just pretend I didn't find out I had to fill in for Paul two hours after this news broke and answer it as if it were Sunday, when I sent these statements out.
There are basically two schools of thought here: one, that the players will refuse to play for Sterling and take a pay cut just to get away from his now-openly racist ass (fun fact - he's always been racist, and people have always kinda known about it, but it's never been this overt), and two, that money talks, and in a league with only thirty other teams, guys like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are going to stay where the money is, no matter how racist the decrepit old hand that's passing it to them is. Personally, I tend to think that if the league hadn't intervened, the two guys I named would've ended up elsewhere, with Sterling maybe able to hang onto his mid-tier free agents. But I'm an eternal optimist who believes in integrity, so I'm probably wrong on this one.
Todd Vote:FICTION While it may be a cynical approach to take, all I can keep thinking about when it comes to this question is the phrase "money talks".
And that's it for today, but we'll be back next week with another contest! 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!