Five Quick Rounds 12.04.12: Bellator Results and News, Cruz Goes Under the Knife Again, Hendricks Wants His Title Shot, More!
Welcome to another edition of Five Quick Rounds, 411’s fastest-finishing weekly opinion column. I’m your host, Wyatt Beougher, and I’m back for another week of news, and there’s actually something non-MMA-related that I want to talk about, so it’s in Round 5. If you don’t care, then skip it and pretend it’s Four Quick Rounds this week.
Round 1: Bellator 82 Crowns New Welterweight Challenger
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
Bellator held their 82nd show on Friday and it featured the finals of the season seven welterweight tournament, which saw undefeated Andrey Koreshkov defeat former champion Lyman Good via unanimous decision to earn a shot at the man who beat Good for the title, Ben Askren. In other action, Alexander Samavskiy picked up a unanimous decision win over Tony Hervey, former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall punched Kala “Kolohe” Hose’s lights out in just 22 seconds, and David Rickels was able to earn the unanimous decision win over Jason Fischer.
While Marshall and Hose provided some (minimal) name value to the card, it was largely a below-the-radar show, save for determining who the next man to face Ben Askren would be. Koreshkov has impressed thus far in his Bellator career, earning five wins (three by stoppage), but if he hopes to dethrone the current welterweight champion, he’s going to need to focus all of his training between now and then on his defensive wrestling. Thus far, Ben Askren has largely dominated his opposition on the strength of his takedowns and top control, and if the Russian hopes to change that trend, he needs to be prepared for Funky’s bread and butter.
Round 2: Other Bellator News
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
Bellator wasn’t just in the news for its latest show this week, as several stories came out pertaining the short-term and long-term future of the company. This Friday’s Bellator 83 will start an hour early, with the main card airing on MTV2 at 7 pm EST so as not to conflict with the Video Game Awards airing on SpikeTV at 9 pm EST. Also, Attila Vegh has been removed from his light heavyweight title opportunity against Christian M’Pumbu on next Friday’s Bellator 84 due to an injury. And the final, and arguably biggest story, is that Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal will be making his Bellator debut on January 17th as part of the season 8 light heavyweight tournament.
Bellator 83 will feature the finals of the season seven featherweight tournament, and it’d be a shame if people missed out on Rad Martinez possibly earning a title shot because they didn’t know the start time had been moved up. But I can understand why Viacom would switch things around, as they know the Video Game Awards tend to do well with Bellator’s demographic, so it’s better to remove potential conflicts. No details have come out as to the severity of Vegh’s injury at my deadline, so I have no idea if they’ll push back the M’Pumbu fight or just give him another non-title fight while Vegh heals. M’Pumbu is probably the luckiest champion on Bellator’s roster (I’d also accept Joe Warren and his penchant for gift decisions in that spot), as he actually lost his first fight after claiming the title, but retained his title because it was a non-title fight, and now he’s gotten at least a temporary reprieve from fighting Vegh, who beat the guy who beat M’Pumbu in the aforementioned fight. Lastly, the Mo news isn’t just big because Mo is arguably the most marketable star on the Bellator roster, but because it essentially confirms that Bellator will be moving to Thursday nights when they debut on Spike and airing in a block with Impact Wrestling. Considering the two promotions share rights to Mo’s contract, as well as a similar demographic, this makes sense for Spike. It’ll be interesting to see if Bellator’s ratings improve simply by not being on Friday nights anymore.
Round 3: Johnny Hendricks Turns on the Drama
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
In an interview with MMA Junkie Radio last week, recently tabbed UFC welterweight number one contender Johny Hendricks responded to the idea of him taking another fight rather than facing off against champion Georges St. Pierre. Hendricks was openly (and vocally) against the idea, saying that he didn’t think it was right that GSP was trying to “take money from his kids” and “control his future” by either taking a fight with Anderson Silva or following his trainer Firas Zahabi’s suggestion and campaigning for a fight with a (possibly) returning Nick Diaz.
On the one hand, I can completely see Hendrick’s point. Over the past 20 months, no one has put together a stronger resume in the UFC welterweight division than Hendricks (at least with Condit now having lost in his bid against GSP), and the fact that he’s 9-1 in the UFC (11-1 in Zuffa-owned promotions, including his two fights in the WEC), and it’s hard not to agree with the notion that he should be next in line. However, GSP/Silva is a historic fight, likely to break all-time gate and PPV records, and I don’t understand why Hendricks would have a problem with being the first man to fight GSP after that fight (especially if St. Pierre can pull off the win) – it would easily be the biggest fight of Hendricks’ career, and that certainly can’t hurt his bank account OR his future. And while I’m not a fan of the unnecessary drama he employed by claiming that GSP is attempting to duck him in favor of a more winnable fight against Nick Diaz, I certainly agree with Hendricks’ point that he’s done more to earn a title opportunity than has Diaz. Not only did Diaz just lose his last fight, but he’s also serving an as-yet-indefinite suspension for a positive test for marijuana metabolites, and that’s kept him out of action for over a year. Based on that alone (not to mention the fact that Diaz’s biggest win in the UFC is BJ Penn, which isn’t on par with Hendricks beating Fitch, Koscheck, and Kampmann), I can’t see where Zahabi is coming from. Hopefully this will all sort itself out, and Hendricks won’t find himself on Dana’s bad side for waiting to fight, lest he end up publically badmouthed by the UFC president like Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida before him.
Round 4: Bad News for the UFC’s Bantamweight Division
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
Last week, convalescing UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz had to go under the knife again for the same injury that forced him out of his title defense against nemesis Urijah Faber after the two coached The Ultimate Fighter earlier this year. Cruz, who has already been out of action for over a year at this point, had to have his ACL replaced with one from a cadaver after a training injury back in May. Unfortunately, his body rejected the replacement ACL and it had to be removed and replaced with another donated ligament. Fortunately, his similarly-repaired MCL did take, so at least he’s somewhat closer to a return than he was after the initial surgery in June.
While the UFC has already held an interim title fight between Faber and new interim champion Renan Barao to keep the division moving while Cruz was out, I don’t think it’s coincidental that Dana White went on record recently as saying that Barao, unlike former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, would be defending his interim belt. That is probably the one bright side of this whole situation – that there’s currently a champion in place, so that the division doesn’t grind to even more of a halt while Cruz restarts his recovery process. Barao is widely believed to be putting his title on the line against Michael McDonald sometime in the early stages of 2013, with Mike Easton potentially waiting in the wings as he continues to campaign for a title shot against Barao. And while I’d definitely like to see Barao/Cruz, I’d much rather see the bantamweight title defended in the interim, so here’s hoping to a speedy recovery to Cruz and an official announcement regarding Barao’s first title defense.
Round 5: Tragedy in the NFL
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
On Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend with a handgun, drove to team’s training facility, and committed suicide in front of his head coach and general manager in a story that is going to have lasting ramifications on the NFL going forward. Belcher doesn’t deserved to be remembered as anything but a murderer and a coward, but the real tragedy here is that his girlfriend lost her life in his downward spiral and that their three-month-old daughter is now an orphan.
This is certainly a tragedy whether you’re a fan of American football or not, and I wanted to talk about it in this column for one very simple reason – it could affect MMA, either directly or indirectly, down the road. While a thorough study of Belcher’s brain has yet to be conducted, the whispers have started already – that Belcher was struggling with the effects of severe and repeated head trauma that is an inherent part of playing football. The media has largely downplayed the other statements that have been given regarding Belcher – that he and his girlfriend had a fight the day of the shooting and that he was struggling with alcohol (and possibly drug) addiction issues. Head trauma is the hot button issue facing the NFL right now, and rightly so, but to discredit other potential factors seems misguided (not to mention Bob Costas’ anti-gun rant on Sunday Night Football last night), but that doesn’t change the fact that MMA fighters, not unlike NFL players, are frequently subjected to head trauma.
As a long-time wrestling fan (and I’m guessing a lot of you reading are as well, simply based on 411’s roots as a wrestling site), I’ve already been through this once, with Chris Benoit’s double murder/suicide back in 2007. At the time, that was blamed on the wrestling industry and Benoit’s struggles with mental illness that were likely brought on by the brain trauma he had sustained over his career, but now we’re seeing that this doesn’t just affect wrestlers. To date, the most severe run-ins MMA fighters have had with the law have involved bar fights, but I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think that it could easily turn into something much more serious and more tragic.
On a personal level, I myself have sustained several concussions, as well as the repeated subconcussive trauma that results from playing on both the offensive and defensive line (in pee-wees and junior high) and then as a linebacker and fullback. I frequently find myself standing in the doorway of my office or one of the rooms in my house, wondering what I had gone in there to do, and every time something like this (or Junior Seau’s suicide, or the countless other tragic stories that have now been attributed to chronic head trauma) happens, I worry about how severely it’s going to affect my life as I get older. I’m only 32 now, and I’m literally terrified by the stories of these players’ lives when they get into their 40s and 50s – the mood swings and violent tendencies, the breakdown of personal and familial relationships, and the often tragic endings that mar these men’s lives. I apologize for including a story that doesn’t directly pertain to MMA, but it’s a very personal issue for me and I felt like I’d be remiss if I didn’t address it. Thanks for bearing with me, as I know this round wasn’t what you’ve come to expect from this column.
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