Occupy The Throne – Edition #39

In this edition of Occupy The Throne, Samer Kadi and I once again answer fake emails from real fighters.

“Will I be the year in which the UFC gets back on track?” — 2013

Samer Kadi: If “getting back on track” means returning to their consistent PPV heights of 2010, then the answer is likely negative. However, unless the UFC’s luck with injuries continues to absolutely stink — and it might — they will likely be able to rebound. Despite the warranted criticism, Jones vs. Sonnen promises to trigger significant interest, and subsequently, a very solid buy-rate. More importantly, Georges St-Pierre is back, and as the company’s biggest draw, his presence means an automatic increase PPV buys. If the Anderson Silva fight happens (unlikely), that alone should ensure a very strong PPV year. The heavyweight division is back on track following the return of Alistair Overeem, who with a win over Antonio Silva will get a shot at the winner of the upcoming JDS-Velasquez fight, while Nick Diaz will likely get a shot at St-Pierre with a win on his comeback fight. All those bouts are huge, and when you add to them to potential fights like Silva-Bisping, the 2013 looks to be a promising year for the UFC on PPV.

Jeremy Lambert: No. You’re not going to exist. THE MAYANS WILL WIN!

“Doesn’t my fight with Vitor Belfort deserve to be for the interim title?” — Michael Bisping

Jeremy Lambert: No and quite frankly you’re an idiot for even bringing this up. Interim titles are already stupid, especially now that main events are five round fights. Do you really need a meaningless title to justify your status or a victory over Belfort? At this point, interim titles are nothing but marketing ploys for the UFC. It’s how they can refer to Shane Carwin as a “former heavyweight champion” or Carlos Condit as “the new welterweight king.” If you beat Belfort they can refer to you as “the first ever British champion” or if Belfort wins they can call him a two division champion. If it were up to me, interim titles wouldn’t exist.

And stop worrying so much about an interim title and start worrying about how you’re screwed against Vitor if you employ your usual striking defense against someone who hits as hard and as fast as Belfort.

Samer Kadi: I can understand your desperation to be a UFC champion, Michael. It is quite admirable. But are you so desperate that you threw out the idea of an interim title? What does that prove really? That you can hold a title as long as you’re away from Anderson Silva? Despite all the things you say, you are a smart guy, and therefore, you should be reasonable enough to realize that an interim title doesn’t make sense in this situation — it seldom does anyway. Even if Silva does fight against GSP in May, he’ll be ready to defend his title by the end of the year, which is hardly a long enough timeframe to warrant an interim title. An interim title should only be created when there is doubt surrounding the champion of the division. In this case, there isn’t.

“Now that I’m in the UFC, I’m going to be the biggest female sports athlete in the world, right?” — Ronda Rousey

Samer Kadi: In your defense, it was neither you nor your employer who made such outrageous claims. But of course, if Zuffa don’t go in full hyperbole mode, the MMA media does. To be fair, I am excited about seeing you in the UFC. And let’s face it, Dana White’s awkward – but somewhat understandable – crush on you is the reason the UFC have changed their stance on women’s MMA, and that is a good thing. You will be carrying the division on your shoulders and the UFC will look to build it around you, but I can’t help but feel many are setting themselves up for disappointment by having unreasonable expectations.

Remember the excitement for the WEC merger? The acquisition of Strikeforce? How did those turn out? As far as you’re concerned, you don’t have much to worry about as long as you keep on winning. You will continue to make arms bend in unnatural ways, the UFC will heavily market you, you will be showcased on important PPV’s and hopefully on FOX as well. The rest of the division though, might not be so lucky. As far as becoming the biggest female athlete in the world: Try Googling Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova, and see how much they make per year. That should answer your question.

Jeremy Lambert: You’ll be the talk of the town before your first UFC fight, and maybe even your second, but with a lack of competition and my feeling that you’ll bolt for bigger things when they come calling, it’s pretty tough for me to imagine you as the biggest female sports athlete in the world.

In fact, I think people are really going overboard with their expectations for you. Some people have said that you vs. Miesha Tate on PPV would break UFC records. The only UFC record that would break is the “Highest Drawing UFC PPV Headlined by Women” record, which currently stands at 0. I think the thing people fail to realize is that when you’ve seen something for free, it’s tough to get them to pay for it. We’ve seen you fight for free plenty of times, so now asking people to pay might be a bit much. And don’t get me wrong, your first time on PPV will do above average numbers, but people really need to temper their expectations.

“Am I a bigger problem in MMA than PEDs?” — Weed

Jeremy Lambert: I would say so. People are going to rehab for you, no one goes to rehab for PEDs. Hell, if we need any proof that you’re a bigger problem than PEDs, just look at Joe Rogan. On PEDs he might actually be good, since they’re supposed to enhance performance. On weed, he’s terrible.

I’m the wrong person to ask about this though, weed. So I’ve called in expert Dustin James to comment on this question:

Dustin James: Are you crazy Lambert? Weed isn’t a problem in MMA, it’s the morons who decide to smoke weed that are the problem. I’ve been an off-and-on smoker of marijuana for over ten years now and I honestly don’t see why marijuana is on the banned substance list in sports to begin with. You know what smoking weed makes me want to do? Sit on a couch and play endless hours of video games while eating stupid amounts of cereal. If you think that’s just a stereotype of your average pot smoker, please do….because it’s a real stereotype. One of the absolute last things I would personally want to do after I’ve smoked a bowl is get in an MMA ring and get my face caved in. Marijuana can do crazy things like cause your reflexes to slow down tremendously and throw off your coordination. There’s just no way it gives someone an advantage in an MMA fight and if anything, it would be a big time disadvantage to smoke weed right before you decided to fight (and if you say it’s a pain killer, I’ll come over to your house and laugh in your face).

PED’s are a much bigger problem in MMA because that’s just blatant cheating. I refuse to believe that smoking weed right before you fight (or in training) can be considered cheating. It’s not cheating, it’s just plain stupid. Anyway, weed is on it’s way to becoming legalized and I’m sure all this talk will be meaningless twenty years from now in the future (where I’ll likely be dead and Jeffrey Harris will still be trying to touch his first boob)……

Samer Kadi: The only reason you’re a problem is because you’re illegal and Nick Diaz can’t stay away from you. So no.

“Do I fare better in the rematch? And no, I’m not talking about lasting more than 64 seconds.” — Cain Velasquez

Jeremy Lambert: As long as you stick to the game plan.

You know what’s weird Cain, is that no one seems to be giving you a chance in this rematch except Samer and I. Sure you lost in 64 seconds in the first fight, but it’s like everyone forgets that you were away for a year and anyone can get caught early, especially against a guy like Junior dos Santos. It’s like people forget that your wrestling is second to none in the division, your work from the top is efficient and brutal, and you’re one of the few heavyweights who has cardio for days. Is JDS talented? Of course he is, but you’re just as talented and one 64 second loss doesn’t change that.

Maybe you lose the rematch, but you’ll last longer than a Virgins first time.

Samer Kadi: I really think you will Cain, as long as you don’t get caught early again, which, in fairness, is a possibility. Your biggest issue is your occasionally robotic head movement, which against arguably the best striker in the division, is a huge worry. Whether your layoff affected the result the first time around is almost irrelevant, as your fatal mistake boiled down to a bad habit, one that repeatedly got you in trouble against Cheick Kongo of all people. You threw a lazy left hook when you were within Dos Santos’ range instead of circling out and resetting, and paid a dear price. You should be far more prudent in the rematch with your striking, which offensively, is still very good. It is diverse enough to keep Dos Santos on his toes, your leg kicks can take advantage of his flat-footed stance, and once you are able to mix things up with your near unstoppable wrestling and terrorizing top game, people will realize they should have given you more credit coming into this fight. If you start taking over, Dos Santos will be in trouble, as your cardio, pace, and brutal ground-and-pound are nothing any heavyweight can keep up with.

Nevertheless, Dos Santos will be the rightful favorite. He is the champion, the best heavyweight in the world, and last time you faced, he made it look too easy.

“How excited are you guys for my return in February?” — Shane Carwin

Samer Kadi: Don’t take this the wrong way Shane, but I find myself not being able to care. I didn’t care much for your previously scheduled fight with Nelson, and I certainly didn’t care about watching you two for an entire season of TUF. The fact is, you haven’t been terribly relevant in a while. It is not particularly your fault, as you’re very injury prone, which is not a surprise given your size and age. However, beyond that, you’ve always gotten more attention than your accomplishments merit.

That is not an attempt to discredit you, as you came agonizingly close to becoming the UFC heavyweight champion. And yet, your best two wins in the sport are Gabriel Gonzaga and Frank Mir. All you’ve really shown is that you hit really, really hard. You are supposed to be a powerhouse wrestler yet you’ve never really shown anything resembling dominant wrestling (and got taken down by Junior Dos Santos). Your cardio ranges from bad to downright horrible, your head movement is stiff, your footwork is poor and your striking technique isn’t anything to write home about. Sadly, you’re still better than most heavyweights, but that doesn’t mean the attention is warranted when you’ve only competed four times in the past four years.

Jeremy Lambert: I’m pumped for February 2014 when you return Shane. PUMPED!

Look, I think you’re a nice guy and that it sucks about all your injuries, but you do absolutely nothing for me. You hit hard. Cool. You’re not a great fighter though and you’ve gotten way more credit in the sport than you deserve, thanks in large part to a silly interim title and a fight in which you lost against Brock Lesnar. You were at the center of a steroid scandal, which got mysteriously swept under the rug because, hell, steroid abusers in MMA aren’t punished like they should be (and in fairness, you never failed a post-fight test).

You can beat a lot of guys at heavyweight with your punching power, but I think people are over their “BIG HEAVYWEIGHT IS BIG!” boner that they had when you and Lesnar were fighting at UFC 116.

“Should I expect Dana to give me the Jon Jones treatment if I turn down the Anderson Silva fight?” — Georges St-Pierre

Jeremy Lambert: This seems like an easy “no” but then again, we are talking about Dana White. Jon Jones turned down a fight against a smaller man on short notice and got an entire event cancelled. You’re turning down a fight against a bigger man. You vs. Anderson would be the biggest fight ever and Dana would forever love you, win or lose. You’ve always been a company guy Georges and without you the UFC wouldn’t have nearly as much success in Canada so you’ve earned the right to turn down any fight you want, especially if it’s one that you’re not comfortable taking. But if you turn down this fight, you’ll be costing yourself and the UFC a lot of money, which will probably piss off Dana.

Listen, Georges, if you turn down this fight, just blame it all on Greg Jackson.

Samer Kadi: Given that you are most likely going to turn down the fight, we will probably find out very soon. However unfortunate your decision might be, if you don’t want to take the fight, then it isn’t happening. History suggests Uncle Dana won’t take too kindly to that. After all, we’re talking about the same man who acted baffled when “Shogun” Rua refused to fight Glover Teixeira and Matt Mitrione thought it wouldn’t be smart to get destroyed by Daniel Cormier on short notice in a cemetery called Strikeforce. One can only imagine how Dana would feel about not being able to put together the biggest fight in the sport’s history – a fight that would have done wonders for his already loaded bank account.

With that said, we can only hope Dana happens to take a sensible approach, as a character assassination of his biggest – and only reliable – draw is simply horrible promotional instinct. But then again, he did publicly crucify Jon Jones and was subsequently forced to pick up the pieces by throwing him into a money fight with Chael Sonnen.

“How funny was I at UFC 154 with my Lance Bass jokes, sexual references, and pointing out fat refs?” — Joe Rogan

Samer Kadi: In a normal everyday life context, your Lance Bass joke was mildly funny in your typical homosexual pun sort of way. On a UFC broadcast on FX however, the joke was unfunny, out of place, and unprofessional. In fairness, you’ve later acknowledged that the joke may have been ill-advised, but proceeded to defend yourself by stating that “it was the sort of thing you’d say if you were hanging out with friends,” and that as a comedian, you wanted to give props to the guy who originated it. Unfortunately Joe, when you are sitting in the UFC commentary booth calling fights, you are neither hanging out with friends nor are you a comedian. You are a professional color commentator, and you should act accordingly. Nobody is asking for you to be completely serious. After all, being in full “ESPN mode” isn’t really what the UFC is all about, nor does it represent its culture. Part of MMA’s charm and appeal is that it is less “formal” in nature. However, you have to know when to draw the line.

Your “not safe for work” line on the other hand, was absolutely cringe-worthy. After years of calling fights and being a huge fan of the sport, you somehow saw fit to make sexual innuendo as two fighters rolled on the ground, thus relegating yourself to your typical ignorant “fan.” When people refer to MMA fighters as “homosexual skinheads,” they are quick to point out to the grappling aspect of the sport. By doing the same — albeit jokingly — you came close to sinking to their level. You are a BJJ black belt, whose supposed forte is explaining the ground game. I would have hoped you had something more insightful to say than “this is the not safe for work position.”

Meanwhile, your random and seemingly out of nowhere “how fat can a referee be?” question was puzzling. You’ve attempted to justify yourself by explaining that you were expressing legitimate concern, albeit jokingly. However, the referee in question was not especially “fat.” Moreover, you didn’t bother explaining those concerns on the air (regarding fighter safety and referees needing to be in shape to intervene). Instead, you simply engaged in an awkward exchange of pleasantries with Mike Goldberg that made you come off looking like a bully making fun of a referee being allegedly overweight… despite working for a company that employs Roy Nelson.

Jeremy Lambert: Don’t listen to Samer, Joe. You were in your element at UFC 154. You’re a pretty terrible announcer, but you’re a great comedian. Even better than Carlos Mencia. So when you’re making gay jokes and ripping on fat people, that’s when you’re at your best. I’d actually prefer it if you just made jokes and acted like you were watching with friends instead of trying to be “professional” and call the action. At least then we’d all know what to expect from you.

“Are you guys worried for my layoff when/if I finally fight Frankie?” — Jose Aldo

Samer Kadi: Under normal circumstances, Frankie would be the best fighter you’ve ever faced. He possesses a skill set which eclipses that of any of your previous opponents. His speed, wrestling, footwork, and ability to mix things up could potentially give you trouble. Most importantly, Edgar is a machine who just doesn’t get tired, and this is where I’m most worried about your layoff.

The last time you spent so much time on the sidelines, you looked very pedestrian on your return. You weren’t your dynamite self against Hominick and Florian, and seemed completely spent in the final round against the former. Should you be in similar shape for this one, your title reign could well be in trouble, as even ending the fight early might be a tall order given how much less explosive you looked. You should still be favored, as despite his movement, Edgar’s defenses are far from impenetrable, and your striking diversity, speed and power coupled with your killer instincts mean you won’t be as kind to Frankie as Maynard was after he had him hurt, but the result is far from a given.

Jeremy Lambert: Yes. It’ll be over a year since you last fought in the Octagon and fighters are currently 0-1 in their next bout following a loss to a motorcycle. Plus the last time you were away for a long period of time, you faded against a tough but flawed Mark Hominick, who isn’t even close to being on the same level as Frankie Edgar.

That layoff is going to affect you. It affects everyone. Sometimes it’s less noticable to the untrained eye, but I guarantee that my partner will notice if you’re a half a second slower when throwing leg kicks because that’s just what he does. That said, you’re one of the most complete fighters in all of MMA, and while Frankie Edgar is good, you’re just as good and better in certain areas. All I can tell you is that your cardio be in check because Edgar is going to go hard for 25-minutes and if you fade, he can put you away.

“Why didn’t you write a column about my demise?” — Strikeforce

Jeremy Lambert: Because you’re not officially dead yet. You have one more event in January and you’ve stacked the card with big names like Gilbert Melendez. Wait, he’s injured. Luke Rockhold. Damn, he’s injured as well. Ok, you still have Nate Marquardt and Daniel Cormier. Just imagine if you guys do like a million viewers. Showtime will definitely renew your contract. You can’t lose faith Strikeforce. Did you lose faith when you got kicked off CBS? No. Did you lose faith when the UFC took all your stars? No. So why would you lose faith now? You’re Strikeforce. You’re the second biggest MMA company in the world. You were on network TV before the UFC. YOU’RE STRIKEFORCE! NEVER LOSE FAITH!

But seriously, we’re not gonna write a column when you fold on January. We’re gonna take the week off and throw a huge party.

Samer Kadi: Despite my less than flattering opinion of you, under normal circumstances, your demise merits some discussion. However, I was personally ready to talk about it a year ago, now you’re just a walking zombie. You’re so past overstaying your welcome that news of your imminent folding was met with indifference or worse, relief. As far as the reason we didn’t write about you is simple: Georges St-Pierre’s return coincided with news of your demise, and let’s face it, he’s a bigger deal than you are. Worry not however, we’ll dedicate an article to you when your death becomes official. Probably, maybe…


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