MMA Roundtable: Condit’s Quandary, Tito’s Future, July’s Best Fights & More

Filed under: Fighting, UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator

We’re not going to lie to you: it’s a slow week in the MMA world. Maybe it’s also a much-needed break after Zuffa’s breakneck pace of the last several weeks.

But as long as there’s a lull in the action, we might as well take the opportunity to calm down, sip some soothing chamomile tea, and discuss the changing landscape around us like civilized human beings. That’s what Mike Chiappetta and I did recently. Everything except for the chamomile. That stuff turns out to be pretty gross.

1. If you’re Bellator, do you rush to sign Nate Marquardt (assuming Strikeforce toes the Zuffa line and steers clear of him), or is he still damaged goods at the moment?

Chiappetta: Rushing would probably be a bit overeager. Right now, Marquardt is like the newly single hot girl at the junior high school dance. All the boys are checking her out, waiting for just the right moment to pounce, but not knowing quite when to proceed. If I’m going to take this disturbing analogy even further, the girl really wants to be back with her jerk boyfriend (UFC) even though he’s moved on, but being surrounded by girlfriends (management team) is giving her some strength from rushing into anything else. OK, at this point referring to Nate as a girl has gotten really weird. That’s my cue to turn it over to Ben.

But before I do, I will say that I don’t think Bellator should rush in because Marquardt’s going to take his time and see what’s out there. Marquardt’s preference is probably to stay in the Zuffa family, so he may give Strikeforce a chance to make an offer before heading on the open market. At that point, Bellator may be a great option for him, particularly if they do move on to Spike in 2012 as our MMA Fighting sources have repeatedly suggested.

Fowlkes: Absolutely Bellator should rush in. To stick with your increasingly troubling analogy, Mike, it’s the best chance for them to date out of their league, if only for a short time. Never underestimate the power of the rebound, especially when your ex is out there spreading negative information about you. Marquardt’s vulnerable right now, and Bellator could use him. Slick down that cowlick, throw on some cologne from the bathroom vending machine, get over there and throw out your best opening line, Bellator!

But maybe the better question is, should Marquardt entertain these advances? To that one, I have to say no. There’s just no upside to it right now. He still doesn’t know how things will shake out in the long run, and Bellator doesn’t have enough good welterweights (or middleweights) for him to fight. The thing to do now is wait and let the emotional scars heal. Go see a movie with your friends, then shop for fake diamond earrings at Claire’s in the mall, maybe see if there’s a special on Justin Bieber posters — that is, if you have time before your mom comes to pick you, driving right up to the door and honking the horn repeatedly just to embarrass you.

Okay, I apologize. This analogy, while creepy, is really tough to resist.

2. If you’re the UFC, what do you do with Tito Ortiz now? Is the doomsday clock on his career reset completely, or could/should he still be only one or two losses away from being cut?

Fowlkes: It’s easy to get swept up in the drama of seeing a fighter forcibly remove his own head from the chopping block. It’s the Pocahontas story in a cage, only with a little bit more peroxide and sponsor logos all over everyone’s clothes. But one submission victory does not a career revival make, so the pressure is still on Ortiz to show that he still belongs here.

The trouble is, who do you match him up against? He’s said he wouldn’t mind fighting the winner of “Shogun” Rua and Forrest Griffin, but if Griffin wins, do we really want to see Ortiz-Griffin III? At the same time, with the money the UFC is paying him, it hardly makes sense to give him any fight that’s not a major draw against a top opponent. I mean, no offense to “The Janitor,” but you can’t fight guys like Vladimir Matyushenko (another 205-pounder Ortiz has already done battle with) if you’re making a cool half-million.

I think Ortiz is going to be fighting for survival at the top of the food chain, and I’m not completely convinced that he can make it there for long. One more loss, and his abnormally large head could be right back on that chopping block.

Chiappetta: Ortiz is in a tricky position. He’s kind of like the high-paid DH in baseball that still knocks one out of the park once in a while but can’t always catch up to high heat. Do you keep spending money on an expensive veteran because he’s good for the team, or keep him on a short leash, ready to move a younger model into his slot at the next sign of struggle?

There is no question his physical gifts have been eroded by time and injury, but clearly he’s still capable of a surprise every now and then. I think his win over Ryan Bader earned him at least two more fights in the octagon. For the first one, how about he takes on the winner of the upcoming Rich Franklin vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira bout in August? Unless the winner comes out with an injury that sends him to the sidelines, Ortiz wouldn’t have to wait long to get back in the cage, and he’d be fighting a name that people have respect for. A win over either one of those guys means something.

Other potential possibilities? Brandon Vera or Stephan Bonnar are both unattached to bouts right now. As Ben mentioned, because of Ortiz’s contract, he’s got to fight a name. If he wins, then he’ll have no choice but to move into fights with younger, more dangerous fighters.

3. Which fight are you most looking forward to in July?

Chiappetta: I’ll say this: Other promotions certainly have the spotlight to themselves the rest of this month. Some may feel like the schedule’s empty, but there are upcoming events from M-1, DREAM, Bellator and two from Strikeforce. My copout pick is Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko, especially since I demanded it back in a March column.

Also worth noting though is that DREAM is back with its first true major event since the tragic natural disasters in Japan (they did host a charity event in May). In 2009, Marius Zaromskis and Mach Sakurai had one of the most fun 4-minute stretches of the year, and even though they’ve both fallen on some hard times since, they’re rematching on July 16. It will be nice to see major MMA back in Japan, and this is the type of bout that should help soothe some distressed minds, at least for a little while.

Fowlkes: Wow. That is the copout answer to end all copout answers. The unstated premise of the question is, ‘Hey, there are very few major fights this month, but which non-major one seems the most interesting to you?’ And then you’re going to swoop in and pick Fedor-Hendo, which just barely squeaks under the wire and into July?

But okay, you did call for that one a while back, so I’ll let it slide. As for me, I tried to talk myself into picking a fight off the Bellator Summer Series or the next Dream event (anytime Todd Duffee’s involved, things do tend to get interesting), but I can’t do it. Obviously, the July 30 Strikeforce event is the biggest deal left in July.

But instead of copping all the way out, as you did, I’m going to go with Marloes Coenen-Miesha Tate as my can’t-miss fight of the month. With the landscape for women’s MMA as uncertain as ever following the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce, I’m betting that these two women will feel the need to put on a show and get Dana White’s attention with the 135-pound Strikeforce title bout. That kind of desperation, when tinged with the recklessness that comes with not knowing whether you’ll have a job in six months, almost always results in something memorable.

And if that one doesn’t deliver, there’s always Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler.

4. Carlos Condit seems to have done enough to deserve a title shot, but he’s got a long wait ahead of him before GSP and Nick Diaz settle their score. Should he tempt fate by taking another fight, or tempt the UFC’s ire by sitting out and waiting his turn?

Fowlkes: For starters, let’s just admit that there is no right answer to this question. If you take a fight in the meantime and lose your contender status with a defeat (or suffer an injury that sidelines you for too long), you look like an idiot who rolled the dice one too many times. If you try and wait it out, you end up going months without a paycheck while fans and pundits question whether you’re being overly cautious. There are so many ways to lose in this situation, and so few ways to win.

But for Condit, I think this is a relatively simple math problem. GSP and Diaz won’t fight until late October, which is a little less than four months from now. And since GSP likes a good chunk of time between title fights — and since Diaz likes to complain endlessly whenever he’s asked to fight more often than once every four months — regardless of who wins Condit is looking at probably 8-10 months between fights.

For a 27 year-old fighter still trying to make his money and his name in this sport, that’s too long. If the UFC can find him a suitable opponent while he waits for the dust to clear, Condit has to take it. And if he can’t beat whoever the UFC puts in front of him during that time, then maybe he wasn’t ready for either GSP or Diaz after all. Best to find that out before you get the title shot, since it’s a lot tougher to get a second one of those.

Chiappetta: Over the years, I’ve changed my position on situations like this. I used to be of the belief that if you had a promised title shot, you should wait for it. After all, that opportunity may not come back around if you squander it. I changed my mind for one simple reason: if you believe you’re the best, you should be willing to fight for it if you’re healthy and able.

As Ben pointed out, Condit is going to have a long wait to fight GSP or Diaz. And let’s also remember that Condit just came off a nearly nine-month spread between fights, recovering from a knee injury to knock out Dong Hyun Kim. If Condit were to sit on the sidelines and wait for his title match, he may not fight the GSP-Diaz winner until around February 2012 or so. That would mean in the prime of his career (he’s 27), Condit would only have fought once in a 16-month stretch. That’s never a good idea.

Because Condit came out of his match healthy, you can add him right into the same UFC 137 event that is hosting GSP-Diaz, adding some intrigue to the night’s proceedings. How about this for a co-main event: Condit vs. BJ Penn. You think that wouldn’t be exciting? There are tertiary benefits to that idea, too. First, a win over Penn helps Condit gain even more name recognition, helping to build up his eventual title match. Second, just in case St-Pierre or Diaz gets hurt in training, Condit can be moved into the main event.

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Source: mmafighting.com

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