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Ben vs. Ben: The UFC 86 Argument, July 4th Edition

(Can I get a USA chant?)

With Independence Day upon us and UFC 86 just one day away, what better way to celebrate both occasions than by arguing over every insignificant detail of the weekend to come. That’s what we do best, after all, which may mean only that we do everything else exceptionally poorly.

Don’t forget to check out our UFC 86 Liveblog tomorrow night where you can get in on the heated bickering — and in real time!

Who’s next in line for a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title after Jackson-Griffin?

Fowlkes: As always in the UFC, who’s next depends on who wins. If Jackson wins, which is the more likely outcome, then the UFC is faced with two distinct possibilities, both of them involving rematches.

Chuck Liddell probably only needs to beat Rashad Evans to be back at the top of the list. That’s not necessarily because a win over “Sugar” Rashad is so impressive, but because the UFC knows they could get big money for Jackson-Liddell III.

The same is true regarding Wanderlei Silva. He needs at least one more win and even then it would be just barely credible to put him in a title fight with “Rampage”, but barely credible is more than enough for the UFC.

If Griffin wins, however, all bets are off. Anyone with anything resembling a winning streak is a candidate, except maybe Lyoto Machida. An immediate rematch with Jackson wouldn’t be out of the question, nor would a Griffin-Liddell scenario. Either way, Liddell should be the odds-on favorite to get the next shot, provided he doesn’t get lay-and-prayed to death by Evans.

Goldstein: Dude? Silva destroyed Rampage twice in PRIDE, which makes him a whole lot more than “barely credible,” no matter what he’s accomplished in the UFC so far. Sure, Wandy would probably need another win just to keep up appearances, but Jackson vs. Silva is the match that needs to happen for Rampage’s title reign to have true legitimacy. And if the UFC felt like playing up their history, they could surely convince the casual Chuck-hugging fans that Silva deserves it more.

Unfortunately, that marketability thing is a bitch. Of course Liddell’s a bigger draw than Silva, and the UFC probably dreads the idea of one of their remaining American champions potentially being replaced by another marble-mouthed Brazilian. (For the record, I think Portuguese is a beautiful language.) Also, Chuck wants a title shot bad, and being the beloved mascot that he is, he tends to get what he asks for.

If Griffin wins, a Chuck Liddell title shot would make even more sense, since Chuck wouldn’t be coming into the matchup down 0-2. As talented as the UFC’s top light heavyweights are, none of them are currently on an impressive enough run to line-jump Liddell if Griffin took the belt; Wanderlei wouldn’t have the personal rivalry, and Machida doesn’t have the star power.

Who least deserves to be on this card?

Goldstein: Jesus Christ do I not want to sit through another boring decision match starring Jorge Gurgel. He may have tapped guys left and right before coming to the UFC, but now he can’t finish a fight to safe his life, and all of his Octagon appearances have gone the distance. Still, the UFC generally waits until you lose two straight before giving you the boot, so I get why he’s still around.

What’s really inexplicable is the presence of Melvin Guillard. Not that he’s a bad fighter — he’s just a semi-unstable hothead who’s already been busted by the NSAC for cocaine use. After dropping two straight to Joe Stevenson and Rich Clementi, the UFC gave Guillard their standard “win a few somewhere else and come back” semi-firing, but apparently all it took to get back in their good graces was a single decision win over a 9-7 fighter at a Rage in the Cage event in March.

If UFC 86 was taking place in Guillard’s hometown of New Orleans, it would make sense. Without that connection, I don’t understand why on a card with only nine fights, Melvin Guillard needs to be in one of them.

Fowlkes: Guillard may not really deserve to be on this card in any meaningful sense of the word, but he will put on a show in one way or another. Gurgel, however, probably won’t. What’s really baffling to me is not just that out of an already lackluster undercard we get more lackluster fights, but that in the incredibly deep lightweight class we’re expected to care about guys like Guillard and Gurgel, who are going nowhere.

With so many good lightweights hanging around, why can’t we see a fight that may have some future impact on the division? Is that so much to ask?

Five of the nine fights on this card are lightweight bouts, and at least three of them are not significant to the division as a whole. It’s filler, which is one thing on a Spike TV “Ultimate Fight Night”, but it’s a whole different story on a card you want me to pay for.

How will the end of the night bonuses be distributed?

Fowlkes: Predicting bonuses is partly about predicting which fights will deliver and how, but also partly about predicting who the UFC wants to make happy with some extra cash. Main eventers are always an easy choice for Fight of the Night, as long as they don’t completely flop, for this exact reason.

But instead of taking the easy route, I’m going to predict that Fight of the Night will go to Patrick Cote and Ricardo Almeida. Both guys are hungry and neither can afford to take a step back with a loss. That’s a recipe for a war. I like Almeida for the win some time late in the second or third, and I also like him for Submission of the Night.

As for Knockout of the Night, my money’s on Gabriel Gonzaga turning out the lights on Justin McCully. I won’t go so far as to predict a head kick KO, but Gonzaga is the better pure athlete and a sense of desperation has to be setting in after his embarrassing performance against Fabricio Werdum. He’s going to come out guns blazing and McCully’s going to end up facedown on the mat.

Goldstein: Are you trying to imply that the Jackson/Griffin fight won’t deliver? This has “bashfest” stamped all over it, and Griffin is tough enough to last until the third round, no matter how hard Rampage punches. And if we’re talking about guys the UFC wants to keep happy, Rampage and Forrest are exhibits A and B. Both men are popular and loyal employees who just had to take themselves out of competition for months and deal with a pack of wild, screaming kids on “The Ultimate Fighter”. The UFC will have no problem opening their wallets and showing some Fight of the Night love as long as their match doesn’t suck. (Don’t worry, it won’t.)

I agree that Submission of the Night is there for Almeida to take. As for Gonzaga, his last two losses should have eliminated all his hype by now; I won’t even publicly predict that he’ll beat McCully at this point, sad as that may sound.

Besides Rampage’s likely beating of Forrest, there aren’t many matches at UFC 86 that I’m expecting to end via stoppage due to strikes, so Jackson might pick up that Knockout of the Night bonus by default. My dark horse pick for the KO bonus is Josh Koscheck, who’s been drilling his striking at AKA, and could put a hurting on Chris Lytle just like he did to Dustin Hazelett at UFC 82.

Cagepotato Comments

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Dave- July 5, 2008 at 4:34 am
Lyoto Machida should be next in line, and I can't wait for him to take the belt from that absolute SHAM of "champion" Forrest Griffin.

In fact, until that opie-looking jackass is no longer in possession of a belt he didn't rightly win, I'll never watch UFC again.
Higgz- July 4, 2008 at 2:56 pm
I'll bet you won't see Jackson & Griffin getting an "...Of the Night" bonus because they will get one of those "Great Victory, here's a huge check" or "Sorry you lost, maybe this will cheer you up" Locker-Room bonuses.
tully- July 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm
i think guillard could get knockout of the night. he has arguably the best standup at 155. he also might be one of the most naturally talented and athletic fighters around. maybe he stopped doing coke and he is taking this seriously. when he's on his game he's a monster though so i understand why he is on payperview.
Forest's upset- July 4, 2008 at 4:12 am
you can chop down a tree but it takes a long time to chop down a Forest. I know that was pretty gay but Rampage better pack a lunch. @ The Truth you are dead on Forest is too well rounded for Rampage to handle. Forest will be able to change to any number of gameplans while Rampage has one maybe two tricks in his repatoir. Rampage will be bewilderd by round two.
KellenAvalanche- July 4, 2008 at 2:57 am
I'm on acid.
KellenAvalanche- July 4, 2008 at 2:51 am
Forrest in a decision? I think so. We will see.....
KellenAvalanche- July 4, 2008 at 2:48 am
I like both fighters for different reasons, Forrest can take a serious beating while giving one out as well and Jackson is hilarious and entertaining as well as great so far in the UFC. But I think Jackson still needs to beat Silva. Why not? Sure Silva has lost a couple in a row, not against him though.... You saw his knees against him, fucking BRUTAL. Ramage fell out of the fucking ring, TKO'd. i just think there should be a III. You can say he beat Chuck, but him and Silva are toatally diff fighters.
The Truth- July 4, 2008 at 2:44 am
I don't get the Rampage hype, I really don't. He knocked out Chuck, big deal. Anyone can get knocked out. Two strikers fight, someone's getting knocked out and its often fairly random who that someone is. Rampages win over Dan was more impressive and showed that he actually has some game, but, at best, Rampage was a decent Pride fighter who couldn't hold the jockstraps of guys like Wandy and Shogun. Forrest is too well rounded for Rampage to handle.

Forrest by submission in rd 3
teachbug- July 4, 2008 at 1:18 am
Sorry I didnt see a word you said, I was to busy saluting the flag.
God bless America!
MMA Extreme- July 3, 2008 at 10:28 pm
since nobody else is gonna do it... USA! USA! USA! USA!
BIG CHRIS- July 3, 2008 at 9:24 pm
When Forrest Wins they should put Silva against Machida, and give Chuck his title shot when he knocks out Rashad Evans....
Who Cares- July 3, 2008 at 6:38 pm
@Forest's upset

I totally disagree with everything you just said. Except the Tito-Griffin fight i thought Forrest won the last 2 rounds as well.

Rampage by KO in round 2.

PS Machida doesn't deserve a title shot till he beats someone like Thaigo Silva, Wandy, Forrest Griffen, or Liddel. Plus a KO victory wouldn't hurt either, i would like to see him dominate someone with a KO, not his fight stats in another decision win
Forest's upset- July 3, 2008 at 6:02 pm
You guys give waaay too much credit to Rampage. I think Forest will get the upset via submission win. I know I'm going to get flack for this but I think Rampage is no better than Tito Ortiz. I think the one thing Quinten has over Ortiz is speed but not much. If anyone who saw the Griffin Ortiz fight didn't think Forest got robbed they are smoking crack. I await all natsayers and look forward to being proved right this Saturday.

ps Machida is a freak and deserves a title shot.
Tertio- July 3, 2008 at 4:22 pm
BG predicted a KO in a good bout but for the wrong dude. I think Koscheck is over confident with his striking abilities and will be caught by Lytle who IMHO is the better boxer.

Asbel- July 3, 2008 at 3:33 pm
who gets the next title shot against Rampage probably depends on who the ufc thinks is going to get old next and they need to milk him right away. between Chuck and Wand, i'd have to go with Chuck who's much more likely to retire before Wand.
Danilo- July 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm
I agree with IllegalUpKick, the idea of a Wanderlei rematch is kind of stale. Maybe if wins a few more. As usual Ben Fowlkes makes a good point b/c it all depends on who wins this. I am the biggest Rampage lover & I am confident he will win, but thats the beauty of MMA, its so unpredictable.
IllegalUpKick- July 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm
"Jackson vs. Silva is the match that needs to happen for Rampage’s title reign to have true legitimacy."

C'mon, are you serious Goldstein? Jackson beat Liddell, who at the time was a reigning champ and DH who just came off a second title win (against Silva no less) in 2 different weight classes at the same time (a first).

And Silva? Sure he canned Jardine, but the man is 1-3 in his past 4 fights.

Not to mention you rank Jackson as your #1, Griffin as your #4 and Silva as your #6 LHW in your power rankings. Wouldn't it make more sense for him to beat your #4 rather than #6 guy to have some "legitimacy"