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411 Fact or Fiction MMA: Is Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt What the Bantamweight Division Needs?

November 2, 2016 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is always a great pleasure to bring some sense on to the fact and the fiction in the professional mixed martial arts biosphere. Before moving on I must say thank you for your votes and comments last week. It is always appreciated and I encourage you to do the same this week. Last week, I stepped in on short notice bracing myself as I stirred down one of the heaviest hitters in the fact or fiction game, the “Headshrinker” Mark Radulich. Never one to show up unprepared, Mark delivered with sound assessment which sent shock waves up my spine as we discussed the recent string of UFC executive/employee layoffs, fighter discontent leading to a potential exodus, and Georges St-Pierre battling the UFC in addition to more. As I stated, Mark delivered as expected, but I was able to survive the initial onslaught and eventually edge him out for the 13-to-11 victory. Thank you, Mark. We appreciate your effort and contribution.

This week should be no different as two of the top players collide in a rematch which will either set up the rubber match, or have one of the two assert their dominance over the other. Dino Zee was able to topple Wyatt Beougher in their first meeting, but did Wyatt learn of something in his defeat, or is Dino here to show Wyatt his win was no fluke. Let’s find out as they discuss Max Holloway’s bout with Anthony Pettis, T.J. Dillashaw not getting a rematch with Dominick Cruz just yet, Bellator MMA putting on events worth watching, and much more! So sit back, relax, and enjoy because it’s time for another round of, 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! Let’s get the show rolling…

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
Dino “Salad Bar” Zee
Contributor, 411 Wrestling Zone
4-0-0

VS

BLUE CORNER
Wyatt Beougher
Host/Reviewer/Columnist, 411 MMA/TV & Movies/Wrestling Zones
2-2-0


Max Holloway should have been part of either the next interim featherweight title fight or featherweight title fight instead of having to be booked in a fight with Anthony Pettis.

Dino Zee: FICTION I Actually went back and forth on this one a few times, but I feel that, overall, this is the best position for Holloway to be in right now. Yes, an interim title fight would be good, but people would still talk about how Conor is the “real” champion (which, of course, he is). So, holding that belt would just be a project in vanity. On top of that, there’s the whole “Jose Aldo doesn’t want to fight” thing, which, if he carries it out, means we’d crown a second interim champion? No thank you. And of course being booked into the next actual featherweight title fight would be preferable, but we still don’t know when that belt is going to be defended. So, should Holloway just sit around and wait? As a huge fan of his, I’m glad he chose not to get inactive.

So, after ruling out the interim shot, and with the uncertainty surrounding Conor (I mean, what if he loses some robbery decision to Alvarez or something? Doesn’t he absolutely attempt to get an immediate rematch, prolonging things further?), I think Holloway basically got the best fight he could for now. Pettis’ tenure at 155 may have ended with a whimper, but he’s still the former champion, and he looked great in his 145 debut against another Team Zucconi favorite in Charles Oliveira. A win here for Holloway gives him his biggest victory by far, and I’d assume cements his status as the absolute #1 contender. It’s clearly not the best set of circumstances, but for what they are, I think Holloway’s spot is just fine.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT If you look at the UFC’s featherweight rankings right now, the only three guys ahead of Holloway in the rankings are champion Conor McGregor, interim champion Jose Aldo, and the guy who just lost to Aldo four months ago, Frankie Edgar. With the champion preparing for a lightweight fight and then needing time off afterwards, it would make sense for interim champion Aldo to fight the next highest ranked competitor that he didn’t just defeat, which is Holloway. Holloway even called for a fight with Aldo back in September after Aldo requested a fight with Anthony Pettis (currently ranked three spots behind Holloway in the UFC’s official featherweight rankings). Rather than obliging the most logical challenger for his interim title, Aldo asked for his release two weeks later (though, in his defense, Aldo did claim that he would fight either Holloway or Pettis so long as he had a full camp to prepare prior to the McGregor/Alvarez announcement that caused him to lose his trust in Dana White).

And while Holloway/Pettis isn’t the worst fight that the UFC could’ve made (considering Holloway has beaten pretty much everyone else of note in the featherweight division aside from Pettis and the three guys currently ranked above him), I can completely see why he would be upset, as his nine-fight winning streak has more than earned him a shot at at least the interim title. And if Aldo actually is intent on retiring, as he said after a conversation with Dana White after the UFC 205 press conference, then strip him of the interim title and make this Holloway/Pettis fight for the interim title. Granted, that would add two rounds to the fight, but it’s still five weeks away, and I’m willing to bet that both Holloway and Pettis would agree to it if a title, even an interim one, was on the line.


WSOF Bantamweight Champion, Marlon Moraes—one of the better bantamweights outside of the UFC—made the correct choice by re-signing with the World Series of Fighting.

Dino Zee: FACT Of course, every single individual reading this will have their own definition of what the “correct choice” is. Is it correct to stay in a place you’re established and respected? Is it correct to sign for money alone? Is it correct to go to the UFC no matter what because it’s “the best fighters on the planet”? While I was definitely disappointed that Moraes decided to stay in WSOF (where I feel he’s light years ahead of anyone they’ll be able to give him as an opponent), I think he did make the right choice, for now. Sticking with WSOF a little longer gives him a chance to leave no doubt that he is the top 135er not in the UFC – something similar to what Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez did a few years ago while in Bellator and Strikeforce, respectively. Moraes definitely has some hype, but if he can go another couple years without losing – and looking amazing in the process – he might be in a better position to negotiate some type of blockbuster contract with the UFC.

And if it all falls apart and he loses some of his mystique, then he’s probably going to make more with WSOF than UFC on a basic contract, anyways. Sometimes, you just have to wait a little bit longer than you first expected. I’m fine with Moraes’ decision.

Wyatt Beougher: FICTION Admittedly, based on Moraes’ explanation of why he said, it certainly seems like he believes he made the right choice, and I’ll never knock a guy for doing what he honestly believes is best for him and for his family. But that doesn’t change the fact that he made the choice to remain the biggest fish in a very small pond. WSOF barely has enough bantamweights under contract to do a full top ten ranking of them, and while there are some fresh matchups for Moraes, at twenty-eight, even if he cleans out the division before this contract is over and then goes to the UFC, he runs the risk of becoming the next Kid Yamamoto or Tatsuya Kawajiri. If he flames out (like Yamamoto) or even if he performs only moderately well (like Kawajiri), fans are going to fall into two categories – the ones who proclaim “WSOF sucks and he wasn’t that good” or the ones who question “could he have been a champion in the UFC if he had signed in 2016?”; either way, while Moraes did what he believed was best for himself and his family, it’s hard to argue that he did what was best for his overall legacy.


Bellator MMA actually has something worth looking forward too in their next eight events.

Dino Zee: FACT Now, I wasn’t sure if that was to be read as “In each of their next eight events, there is something worth anticipating,” or “In their next eight events, there’s at least one thing worth anticipating. If we go with the former, this is a Fiction, because the King Mo vs. Ishii card (along with a James Gallagher fight and Daniel Weichel fighting) just doesn’t do it for me. However… Chandler/Henderson? Yes please. Plus, MVP fights there. Dantas/Warren II could be fun. Curran/Teixeira is intriguing, Carvalho/Manhoef 2 may be atrocious again, but it’s the right fight. And, of course, Ortiz/Sonnen. So, 7 out of 8 ain’t too bad. And, at the very least, there is one thing to look forward to. I’m giving this a Fact regardless.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT And I think this is pretty much universal, whether you’re a fan of actual in-cage action or if you’re just tuning in to Bellator for the freakshow fights. In the next three months or so, Bellator is going to feature some very compelling championship rematches – Andrey Koreshkov vs Douglas Lima, Eduardo Dantas vs Joe Warren (oddly enough, Warren won the title from current champion Dantas in their first encounter, but it’ll be Dantas attempting to defend the title again this time around), and Rafael Carvalho vs Melvin Manhoef. On top of that, former UFC fighters Phil Davis and Benson Henderson will be competing for gold after each winning a title eliminator, with Henderson’s flirtation with middleweight apparently quelled and the former UFC lightweight champion set to take on Michael Chandler for Bellator’s lightweight championship and Davis looking to finally hold light heavyweight gold when he clashes with Liam McGeary.

On top of that, you’ve got a potential title eliminator, with former featherweight champion Pat Curran squaring off with John Teixeira (who is undefeated in Bellator), a fight between King Mo and Satoshi Ishii which will probably be more notable for Mo’s antics than anything that actually happens in the fight, and a fight between Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen to determine the first ever Bellator Openweight Trash Talking Champion (that’s not actually a thing yet, but Bellator should probably consider it, given their current business model). And those are just the main events! While not every Bellator undercard is spectacular, I find myself enjoying them more often than not, so I think this is a pretty easy FACT. Nothing that happens in the next eight Bellator show will change the MMA world, but I’m definitely looking forward to them.


SWITCH!

The addition of Shane Carwin to the Rizin Openweight Grand Prix 2016 hardly adds value to the event.

Wyatt Beougher: FICTION This is an easy FICTION for me, considering Carwin immediately becomes the third biggest name in the Grand Prix (possibly higher, depending on how you rank the 2016 versions of Carwin, Cro Cop, and Wandy), and considering the two other internationally known guys who are still in the tournament are fighting each other in the second round, it puts somebody on the other side of the bracket that US fans actually know about. If this tournament were taking place in One Championship, the other Asian MMA promotion of note, then I’m not sure how much value Carwin adds to the promotion, considering One’s heavyweight division is almost nonexistent and they don’t have an American broadcast deal to speak of, but look no further than Rizin’s biggest signing to date, Fedor Emelianenko, and their broadcast deal with SpikeTV to see why Carwin adds value to this year’s Openweight Grand Prix.

If Carwin follows in King Mo’s footsteps and wins this year’s tournament, then you’ve got a ready-made matchup with Fedor, assuming the Last Emperor actually returns to Rizin. Even if that fight never happens and/or Carwin does poorly in the tournament, the simple fact of Carwin being in the tournament gives Rizin another known fighter to tailor their American advertising campaign around. Plus, purely from a fan’s perspective, he’s a huge guy who hits people really, really hard with his huge fists – you don’t have to be Mark Radulich to appreciate that.

Dino Zee: FACT It definitely adds value, but I think it’s fair to say it “hardly” adds anything. Carwin, in his day, was a smashing machine – of this there is no doubt. But he hasn’t fought in 5 years, and that fight was a 3 round mercy killing at the hands of Junior Dos Santos. I do think Carwin can probably still go, and that, against the Rizin talent pool, he’ll probably do well in this tournament, if not outright win it. Still, Carwin was never a megastar here, and outside of saying they have a “Former UFC Champion,” I just don’t see what extra allure the man brings.


Considering, Ralek Gracie’s financial and family woes, it’s hard not to believe his signing with Bellator MMA isn’t about money rather feeding a competitive hunger or “adding to one’s legacy.”

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Ralek’s 31 and has a whopping three professional MMA fights – I’m pretty sure if he was feeding his competitive hunger, he’d have done it earlier in his life. Plus, as far as his legacy goes, he would be further ahead to resolve the issues with Metamoris and his brothers rather than returning to active competition. Metamoris is popular among grappling fans, so it makes more sense to me for Ralek to focus on fixing the issues with fraudulent charges on customers’ credit cards and repairing the relationship with his brothers. Of course, that could be what motivated this Bellator signing – an influx of income from his Bellator contract might be exactly what Ralek needs to clear the air as it pertains to those charges and get back in his family’s good graces. But if that’s the case, how could this be FICTION?

Dino Zee: FACT Truth be told, I had a “Fiction” answer written out where I got all holier-than-thou for daring to paint Ralek in this light based solely off hunches, but then I found an article from March of this year where Ralek, when asked, said: “Absolutely. I’m going to start fighting in MMA to pay these guys back.” So that made this particular question pretty easy.


Unfortunate as it is for T.J. Dillashaw, Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt is the title fight the bantamweight division needs.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of Dillashaw and it’s my opinion that if Cruz hadn’t been out for so long, he never would’ve been a UFC champion. That said, with Dillashaw having just sustained a pretty serious cut over the weekend, hindsight sure makes it look like the UFC made the right call. But honestly, Dillashaw didn’t show me anything in his decision win over Raphael Assuncao to make me think he’d fare any better against Dominick Cruz even if he had made it to a rematch healthy. As for Cody Garbrandt being the title challenger the bantamweight division needs, I wasn’t completely sold on it at first, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Again, looking at the UFC’s official rankings (because I like to pretend they’re a legitimate sport who actually adheres to their own rankings), behind Cruz, you’ve got Dillashaw, John Lineker, Assuncao, Jimmie Rivera, Bryan Caraway, and then Garbrandt. Dillashaw we’ve covered, Lineker has missed weight more times than anyone in UFC history, including in his last fight, so there’s no way the UFC brass would trust him to make weight for a title fight, and Assuncao has the previously mentioned loss to Dillashaw as the most recent fight on his record, so I can see why he got matched up with Aljamain Sterling and not Cruz.

So that leaves Rivera and Caraway. Rivera arguably has more momentum than Garbrandt considering he just knocked off Urijah Faber back in September, but I would guess he’s probably a victim of timing more than anything, as fighting Cruz on the year-end show would’ve meant basically jumping right back into another camp after his fight with Faber. So that leaves Caraway, who is on a two-fight win streak but has fought only twice in the last two years and whose greatest accomplishment is landing Miesha Tate. While I’m not saying Caraway will never get a title shot, the bad press he generated for himself by threatening Ronda Rousey and elbowing Cat Zingano probably means that it’s going to take more than a pair of wins against Eddie Wineland and Aljamain Sterling to get there.

Plus, none of the guys ranked ahead of Garbrandt have the “undefeated prospect” thing going for them. Sure, it’s a minor thing, but against a champion who has looked more or less unbeatable since returning from injury, every little bit helps the UFC promotional machine. (See: Weidman, Chris, prior to his first fight with Anderson Silva.)

Dino Zee: FACT I say this as a guy who a.) absolutely had Dillashaw beating Cruz the first time and b.) thinks Dominick Cruz is fraudulent, but the fact is, TJ Dillashaw made it so that Cruz never wants to agree to fight him again, because Dillashaw doesn’t promote fights with anything but “I do my fighting in the cage.” Right or wrong, Cruz has decided, after losing 3 years to injury, that he wants to strike while the iron is hot, and fight guys who want to make money with him. He doesn’t see Dillashaw as one of those guys, and fairly so. Meanwhile, Garbrandt has done everything short of driving to Cruz’s house and screaming from the front yard to make it clear that he wants to punch Dominick in the face. Cruz has to love having such a game opponent, especially one who (on paper) is probably going to fall victim to the running, dancing, and jabs to the arm that will get Cruz another decision victory.


So who won? Was Wyatt able to tie-up the rivalry? Or, does Dino have Wyatt’s number? You’ve got until midnight eastern on Saturday to vote, so make sure you make your voice heard!


And that’s it for today but, as always, we’ll be back next week with another contest! And please, be sure to vote!

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