QUESTION: What does Wanderlei Silva’s future hold?
Fowlkes: Keith Jardine will beat Wanderlei Silva at UFC 84, and when he does it’s going to create some difficult questions for “The Axe Murderer.” Dana White says that he loves Silva. You can see why he would. But as great as he is in terms of showmanship, aggression, and “gameness” (as the Brazilians say), Silva’s best days may be behind him, as is evidenced by his lack of significant wins in recent years.
He’s just taken too many beatings and slowed down too much for his style to be effective any more. He’s got to evolve or get out the game. The question for the UFC is, do they bet on a Silva renaissance or try to convince him to drop to middleweight and start anew?
If Jardine really thumps him, the UFC has to go with door number two. If he has a strong showing, they might try putting him against someone like Matt Hamill or Sokoudjou and figure either way someone gets a bump. Regardless, anything less than a win on Saturday means Silva’s UFC career begins to slip away, even if it might take another fight or two before it completely disappears.
Goldstein: I’m also expecting Jardine to win tomorrow, but not because Silva’s game hasn’t evolved or because his physical condition is on the decline. It’s simply because the rule sets and environments of the UFC and Silva’s old home in PRIDE are so different that they’re barely the same sport. Until Silva can prove that he can work effectively in the Octagon, I’m not betting on him. But I think he can get used to the new terrain in time, and once he does, he’ll have some more thrilling fights left in him.
Losing to Cro Cop, Henderson, and Liddell doesn’t mean that your career is over — it’s the kind of setback that can befall any fighter who continuously fights top competition. Dana White knows that too. Still, Wandy will probably be ordered to drop to 185 if he loses to Jardine. There aren’t a ton of big-money matchups for Silva as a middleweight, but if he can score wins against guys like Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami, and Michael Bisping, he’ll certainly be invited back up to 205 to rematch Chuck Liddell or take on Rampage for the first time in the UFC. Dana White has to be taking the long view on the Wanderlei Silva situation, especially when there are so many other rival leagues that would step over their own mothers to pick him up.
QUESTION: Are Penn and Sherk still going to hate each other after the fight is over, or will they do the gentlemanly “it was all to hype the fight” thing?
Goldstein: BJ Penn has no control over his emotions after a fight — we’ve seen him kiss Matt Hughes on the lips, drink Joe Stevenson’s blood, and run directly out of the Octagon in ecstasy. But as odd as his behavior tends to be, he’s generally in a good mood. If he beats Sherk, you can expect Penn to go over to his opponent and try to gather him up in a long embrace. When he gets the mic, Penn will probably go on about how Sherk is a true warrior with a ton of heart. Even if Penn loses, he’ll probably do all that out of humility.
Sherk, on the other hand, will still hate BJ Penn, win or lose. Why wouldn’t he? Penn is the living embodiment of the court of public opinion — mercilessly raking Sherk over the coals in press conferences when the reality is that Penn has no idea what chemicals Sherk did or did not inject or ingest, he wasn’t there when Sherk was pissing into a cup, and he wasn’t there when the CSAC was very likely fucking up the testing procedure and chain of custody. Sherk was busted, so he’s a ‘roid-abuser in everyone’s eyes — but while us keyboard warriors lob our anonymous e-insults, Penn gets to call him a cheater to his face.
How do you feel when you kick the ass of someone you despise? Vindicated, yes — but do you automatically feel fondness for that person? And what if the person you despise kicks your ass (the more likely scenario for Sherk)? Didn’t we already cover this in the post on Settle Your Grudge? BJ Penn may be able to put the hype behind him on Sunday morning, but Sean Sherk has made an enemy for life.
Fowlkes: Insightful breakdown, but I think you have it exactly wrong. Say Penn loses. Odds are it would be by decision, at which point he’ll be totally pissed off that a guy like Sherk, who he thinks is nowhere near his level as a fighter, took the belt from him. He’ll stand there shocked and confused and wondering how the world got to be such an unfair place. If Penn wins, it’s likely to be by a sudden finish, and he won’t have time to “cross back over” to the side where he can think rationally. Either way, he’ll be worked up afterwards.
Sherk, on the other hand, is more reactionary. If he wins it will all be a lovefest for the people who stood behind him and never lost faith in him and so on. He’ll basically forget about Penn altogether. If he loses he’ll stay calm unless Penn provokes him, which is not unlikely. Sherk seems like the type of guy who might hate you forever, that much I agree with you on, but he’ll keep it to himself unless you give him a reason not to.
QUESTION: Do the Octagon girls really add anything to UFC events?
Fowlkes: Look, I like attractive women as much as anyone, particularly attractive women in bikinis. But something about the attention lavished on the “Octagon girls” makes me feel, I don’t know, disappointed. It’s like when you go to a strip club and you see some girl looking at you like you’re just a walking credit card payment. That’s when you realize that you’re the mark in this con game. It feels bad, or at least it does if you have a voice inside your head that’s capable of saying anything other than ‘Look, boobs!’
Ring girls are the same way. They seem like something a marketing study came up with. Men like fighting. Men like women. Let’s put them together and the rabble will be pleased. It doesn’t help that the Octagon girls look so generically hot, like something a computer came up with after studying MTV for a day. They blow a kiss to the camera, do their little wave and bat their eyes, and I die a little inside.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t be there. I’m just saying that they don’t add anything that you can’t get anywhere else. For all you staunch ring girl advocates, let me ask you this: if your daughter grew up to be a ring girl, would you be proud? Or would you just comfort yourself in the knowledge that she’s not a stripper…yet.
Goldstein: Whatever, queer.