(Poster via Nixsons.com)
With a UFC event scheduled for this weekend that’s actually worth watching, it’s time for another installment of Ben vs. Jared, in which CagePotato’s founding editor Ben Goldstein and long-suffering staff writer Jared Jones go cabeza-a-cabeza to discuss some of this card’s major themes. For example: Is Shogun vs. Sonnen the most pointless match on the UFC Fight Night 26 main card? Is it safe to board the Matt Brown hype train? Will Joe Lauzon make history again? And is it Yuri or Iuri? Prepare for serious business…
BG: I think Shogun’s career is at stake, for one thing. If he loses to a one-dimensional middleweight (no offense, Chael), it’ll drop his UFC win percentage below .500, and bump him out of the UFC light-heavyweight contender picture, maybe permanently. He’ll enter that twilight stage of his career where he’s just showing up for “fun fights,” still famous enough to headline smaller UFC events in Brazil, but no longer part of the overall conversation. Or, he can just retire and run a gas station like his brother. Neither scenario is ideal, but the one that doesn’t require him to sustain traumatic brain injuries seems a little healthier.
For Chael, this fight is more of a no-lose proposition, just like his previous light-heavyweight appearance against Jon Jones. A win against Shogun would be a career highlight, and a loss just means he goes back to middleweight where he belongs, for a battle against Wanderlei Silva that he’s already trying to hype up. Sonnen has already exited the title picture in two different weight-classes, but I don’t even think that matters to him much anymore. Whether he’s shouting behind a FOX Sports broadcast desk or cutting promos after a fight, the man’s just content to have a microphone.
JJ: Fuuuuuuck no. “Out of the light heavyweight picture?” Shogun has been out of the light-heavyweight picture since the current champion put him out of the light heavyweight picture at UFC 128, and I say that as a Shogun fan. The fact is, Shogun can’t stay healthy, he can’t put a win streak together, and his BADBOY tights are getting more constrictive by the day. Training with Freddie Roach may prolong Rua’s career a year or two longer than he would have lasted without it, but Shogun has got to be about the oldest 31-year-old in MMA. He was just used as a stepping stone for Alexander Gustafsson (unless you honestly thought the UFC was setting him up to be slaughtered by Jones again), so as far as I’m concerned, he IS in the “fun fights” part of his career. Again, Shogun fan talking here.
Don’t get me wrong, I purchased my tickets to “Fight Night” the day they went on sale, because the chance to see a legend like Shogun (among others) throw down before I die is something that is simply too good to pass up. But there’s nothing at stake here other than our entertainment, which I’m sure that Shogun and Sonnen will deliver on like they always do. Shogun is a big enough draw and performs well enough even when he’s off his game to continue fighting mid-to-upper tier guys while occasionally picking up wins until the UFC forces him to stop. His fight with Sonnen is no different, which is why I’ll just be cheering for a good fight while trying not to spill a drop of my $10 cup of Sam Adams come Saturday.
Somehow, Matt Brown has put together one of the most impressive win streaks of any non-champion in the UFC. If he beats Mike Pyle, will we have to start considering him an elite-level welterweight? And how far away would he be from a title shot if that happens?
JJ: At this point, I have no idea what to think about Matt Brown. Honestly, I’m starting to ponder the likelihood that some soul selling is behind his recent run of, well, not luck but something close to it. Three years ago, he was getting submitted by everyone who possessed a decent guillotine, and now he’s on a five-fight killing spree including a beatdown of the highly-touted Jordan Mein? (Don’t. Use. Scanners. Gif.).
The bad news is this: As was the case with Mark Hunt, Matt Brown’s improbable run is going to come to a screeching halt in the near future — specifically, the next time he faces an elite wrestler with a decent chin and good submissions. The good news is that I don’t think Mike Pyle, who is also enjoying some unexpected success as of late, is the man to do it. My prediction: Matt Brown by…murder. Then I say give him the Carlos Condit/Martin Kampmann winner. And as far as naming him an “elite” fighter? Come on, Ben, we both know that the UFC’s totally unbiased ranking system already does that for us. (*gives best “Can you believe this guy?” face*)
BG: Agreed; board this hype-train at your own risk. Look, putting together six wins in a row is a rare feat in the UFC, but I don’t think that beating a seasoned, well-rounded fighter like Mike Pyle would be any more impressive than Brown’s previous thrashings of Jordan Mein and Mike Swick. Brown’s recent streak has a lot to do with matchmaking; he’s had the fortune of being paired up against other bangers who have let Brown turn the fights into ugly brawls. At some point, he’ll have to face the kind of opponents who used to give him a lot of trouble, namely wrestlers and submission artists. Think of the way Dong Hyun Kim and Ricardo Almeida imposed their will on him, or the way four of his five appearances in 2010-2011 ended in submission losses. (All in the second round, by the way. Hopefully he saw Chael’s psychologist about that.)
Bottom line is, Matt Brown still has a long way to go in order to prove himself, even if he rips Pyle apart. A win on Saturday will put him on the title path at 170, where things start to get really hairy. Hendricks, Condit, Ellenberger, Rory Mac, Maia, Kampmann — he’ll have to beat at least two of those guys to punch his ticket to a title shot, and it’s doubtful that any of them will allow the scrappy underdog to turn it into an alley-fight.
If Joe Lauzon wins another end-of-night bonus on Saturday, he will once again break the record for most bonuses earned by a UFC fighter. (He’s currently tied with Anderson Silva at 12.) How likely is Lauzon to pick up a bonus on Saturday, considering his opponent and the rest of the lineup on this card?
BG: Lauzon has won Submission of the Night bonuses in each of his last five victories, and I like his odds for making it six in a row against Michael Johnson. For one thing, Johnson is submittable; Reza Madadi just won a $60,000 bump in April by tapping Johnson with a SOTN-winning d’arce choke, and “The Menace” also fell victim to a Paul Sass heel-hook back in 2011.
Not only does Lauzon hold a significant advantage against Johnson on the mat, the only other submission artists on Saturday’s card who are as dependable as Lauzon are Urijah Faber (6 subs and 4 SOTNs in his last 7 wins) and Cole Miller (6 subs and 3 SOTNs in his last 6 wins), and since Cole is fighting on Facebook, we can pretty much rule him out. So as I see it, it’s basically a coin toss between J-Lau and the California Kid.
Obviously, Lauzon’s chances of scoring one of the other end-of-night bonuses are much lower. It seems virtually impossible that Joe will produce the most impressive knockout on a card that also features Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne, Uriah Hall vs. John Howard, and assorted sluggers like Matt Brown and Conor McGregor. And with so many matchups designed for action on this card, Lauzon vs. Johnson has a ton of potential competition in the Fight of the Night department as well. So let’s hope Lauzon’s night ends with a bonus-worthy submission, because his life is about to get a lot more expensive.
JJ: I hate to agree with you, being that this is a “vs.” piece and all (speaking of which, we should probably come up with some sort of fight-based bet to sweeten the pot a little*), but it’s a well-known fact that I’ve been swingin’ from Lauzon’s gruesome twosome since back in the day. If Deathklok’s “Thunderhorse” could somehow be captured in a human vessel, it would be Joe Lauzon, and I predict he will do nothing less than annihilate Michael Johnson on the 17th. Johnson is in over his head, in enemy territory and is getting subbed in the first round. The only question is whether or not Lauzon will do it with that flying triangle off the cage he’s been practicing. If he does, I am fully prepared to shit bricks.
I similarly see either Brown or Overeem scoring KOTN, McGregor and Holloway possibly picking up FOTN and Lauzon snagging SOTN, either with the aforementioned pants-shitting flying triangle or some form of leg lock. The bank: You can take that to it.
This weekend’s card features Urijah Faber and Uriah Hall. It also features Mike Brown, Matt Brown, and Travis Browne, as well as Michael Johnson, Michael McDonald, and Mike Pyle, and a guy whose name is spelled Yuri or Iuri, depending on which database you’re looking at. How the fuck am I — the casual MMA fan — supposed to keep this all straight?
JJ: Chances are that if you’re the casual fan, you won’t know who half the aforementioned people are until Bruce Buffer is screaming their names with the passion of a thousand suns anyway (on that note, if Rene Rancourt is not brought into the mix, be it for a guest introduction or otherwise, I will find Dana White and uncork the ass whooping of a lifetime upon him for his insolence). I barely know who Yuri Alcantara is, and if you don’t believe me, read this article.
Honestly, this fight card is so stacked with so much talent and awesome matchups that it’s kind of hurting my eyes. If I could find Joe Silva right now, I’d give him a pat on his little head, a gold star for the day and hoist him up like so:
…did that answer your question?
BG: It’s pretty simple if you just memorize this mnemonic poem:
California sunny day
Spell Urijah with a J
Spinning kicks that make you fall
No J in Uriah Hall
“Immortal” says his stomach-tat
That’s the Brown who’s name is Matt
Travis Browne’s near seven-feet high
Mike Brown is the other guy
All these Michaels to keep straight:
“Mayday” is the bantamweight
Mike Pyle, party in the back
Johnson is the one who’s…athletic and explosive
Nobody should have to worry
How to spell “Yuri,” or “Iuri”
We just call him Alcantara
He will be choked out tomorra’
* BG: Alright, buster. Here are my main card picks: Sonnen, Browne, Faber, Brown, Howard, Lauzon. Post yours in the comments section. We’ll tally ‘em up after the show, and the loser has to get a life-sized tattoo of the winner’s face on their own face. Either that or a Starbucks gift-card.