The Big Questions is a new series on The MMA Manifesto where we try to answer the burning questions heading into a major MMA pay-per-view. In our first edition, we team up with our Bloguin brother Sean Malone from Inside The Cage to ruminate on Saturday’s UFC 123.
1) What do you expect to see from Lyoto Machida at UFC 123? Has the Machida Mystery been solved, or did Shogun Rua just have his number?
“In my opinion, this is the perfect “bounce-back” fight for Machida. Rampage Jackson is a big name opponent but he is a limited fighter – he’s a brawler with decent wrestling. He also is not a fan of checking/blocking kicks (see Griffin, Forrest), so The Dragon should be able to have his way with him on their feet. I see Machida’s unusual fighting style causing Rampage problems also. In the end, a decisive victory for Machida that should put him back in title contention.” – Jeff Fox
“It’s funny, but Machida has long held this reputation as a “slick” defensive fighter. Here is the thing though – if you are standing stationary and firing strikes, then yeah, he’s going to slip them. What Shogun proved is that pressing the attack by continuously moving forward will yield results against Machida. After all, you can only slip so many strikes before one or two find their mark.” – Sean Malone
2) The loser of the Rampage-Machida match will be on a two-fight losing streak. Will that be a harbinger of a career decline for the loser?“If Machida loses, it would be a setback for him but not the end of the world – he may be 32-years-old but he’ll only have 18 fights under his belt, so his career is far from over. A loss for Rampage, on the other hand, could signify the beginning of the end for him. He also if 32, but the Machida bout will be the 39th of his career, and a loss to Machida will mean he won’t have a win under his belt in almost two years. Hollywood is calling, Mr. Jackson.” – Jeff Fox
“I don’t necessarily think so. Shogun is a beast at 205 and his Muay Thai attack is exemplary. His win over Machida was not a fluke – the guy is the real deal. Also, there should be no backlash should Machida lose to Jackson as “Rampage” is no slouch and is not that far removed from hanging his hat as a champion. As for Jackson, basically the same thing as I stated about Machida. Sure, he lost to Evans, but so would 95% of all light heavyweight fighters. Plus, let’s not overlook the cage rust that was clearly evident on “Rampage.” Not that that provides a viable excuse, just the inevitable fact of the matter. Besides, should Rampage lose to Machida, he would have an “L” pinned on his ledger from a fighter who is one fight removed from the UFC light heavyweight title. Now, a three-fight losing streak for either would definitely be cause for concern.” – Sean Malone
3) Was it a smart career move for BJ Penn to move to welterweight?
“Not at all. The only time a fighter should switch weight classes is if he doesn’t have any challenges left at his current weight class (see St-Pierre, Georges) or he is conceding defeat (see Franklin, Rich at middleweight). Penn has plenty of challenges left at 155 lb, and his moving up to welterweight seems like he is giving up on climbing back to the top of the UFC lightweight division. Plus, for a fighter not known to get in the best physical condition, fighting at a higher weight may allow him to get “fat”. And to top it off, he’s running in to a red-hot Matt Hughes.” – Jeff Fox
“Personally, I think this was a wise move on the part of Penn. It’s clear that if he and Frankie Edgar fought 10 times, Edgar would get the better of Penn in nine of them. It’s not an indictment of Penn, just that Edgar simply has Penn’s number. But Edgar is not the only threat at lightweight. Maynard has a very real shot at beating Edgar and he too would pose a problem for Penn. This is not to mention the influx of young talent that will flood the UFC lightweight division with the WEC merger completed. At welterweight, Penn’s chances of rising above the competition are significantly greater.” – Sean Malone
4) Does the winner of Penn-Hughes tell us anything about either fighter or have any affect on the welterweight division?
“If Matt Hughes wins I’d be pretty impressed and might even start to consider him a top contender for the division. If Penn wins, I’m not so sure – depends if he plans on staying as a welterweight and stays motivated (which is always a big “if” regarding Penn). Regardless, as long as Georges St-Pierre weighs 170 lbs, it’s all meaningless anyways.” – Jeff Fox
“Aside from arguably the greatest fighter in the sport in Georges St-Pierre, the UFC welterweight division is full of hopeful, if not completely proven talent. More importantly, it is devoid of the many popular fighters of some of the other divisions. As such, both Penn and Hughes could truly gain come career traction in the division. Though, if anything, the Penn-Hughes fight will establish which fighter actually cares more, if that makes any sense.” – Sean Malone
5) It is widely thought that if George Sotiropoulos gets by Joe Lauzon his next fight will be for the title – is he deserving of that yet?
“I think Sotiropoulos is a very good fighter, but really, who has he beaten in the UFC? Of his six wins, Joe Stevenson is the only top-level opponent he has bested. And while Joe Lauzon is a quality fighter, he isn’t in the upper echelon of the division, either. While a 7-0 record in the UFC would be impressive, I’d prefer Sotiropoulos to fight a top-anked guy next before we go giving him a title shot.” – Jeff Fox
“That’s a very big “if” regarding his upcoming fight with Lauzon. But, with that being said, Sotiropoulos is a very credible fighter and a bona fide title contender. Should he beat Lauzon, I wouldn’t say he deserves a title shot at that moment. Now, if he beats another credible fighter of Lazon’s caliber then I would be all for him getting a crack at the title.” – Sean Malone