Fowlkes and I spend a lot of time pondering and writing about MMA. Often, we disagree. With that in mind, we’d like to present the first installment of a new feature where we argue about the topics of the day — in this case, all the major themes coming out of Saturday’s UFC 84. This one’s actually a two-parter; come back tomorrow for spirited debate on Wanderlei Silva’s future, the necessity of ring girls, and the intensity of BJ Penn and Sean Sherk’s personal relationship.
QUESTION: What will be the best fight of UFC 84?
Goldstein: The best fight of a given event generally starts with a large dose of drama and ends with a decisive finish. Penn/Sherk has drama out its ass — these guys hate each other — and Ortiz/Machida has it too, as it’s Ortiz’s last fight, and one that Dana White desperately wants him to lose. But I wouldn’t bank on Ortiz/Machida to be a particularly exciting match. Both fighters are questionable finishers (five of Machida’s last seven matches have gone to a decision, compared to four of Ortiz’s last seven) and before his punking of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Machida was widely thought to be a boring fighter. The UFC set this match up to make Ortiz look less marketable, and it isn’t likely to be a barn-burner.
As for Penn and Sherk — how can this be anything less than legendary? Penn tends to make any fight exciting, and both guys will be looking to finish. Penn has to exploit his striking advantage and avoid being laid on by Sherk; a dull fight is not in Penn’s best interest, strategically speaking. I think Sherk is too tough to get stopped earlier than the third round, and if the fight goes into the championship rounds, his conditioning advantage will kick in. So Penn has this sweet spot of the third round where he’s most likely to win, and as the minutes and rounds tick by, anticipation will amp up the drama even further. If BJ wins, he’ll be the UFC’s undisputed lightweight ruler, and his reaction could be just as memorable as the fight itself.
Fowlkes: While I agree with your preconditions for what makes a great fight, I don’t necessarily think it will be Penn-Sherk that turns in the best performance of the night. Seems to me that you’re forgetting about Wanderlei Silva/Keith Jardine. That has plenty of drama — Silva needs a win badly and Jardine needs something to force the UFC to stop overlooking him — and it features two guys who like to stand and bang, which always yields great potential for a decisive finish.
On top of that, when’s the last time you saw Wanderlei in a boring fight? Tell me. I demand to know. I think Sherk-Penn will be worth the pay-per-view price alone, but Silva-Jardine is going to produce some fireworks either way, my friend.