UFC Gatekeeper or lower-level Contender? Which would you choose?

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AchillesHeel
12/11/07 11:15:26AM
I've been thinking about the not-quite-ready-for-primetime guys, guys who can kick butt and take names in promotions like Strikeforce and EliteXC, but face a heavy challenge against the elite in the UFC (or, formerly, in Pride).

Is it better to be a "gatekeeper", winning some and losing a lot, in the UFC? Or is it better to rock the joint in the WEC or BodogFight?

Heath Herring simply can't beat Big Nog. I think we know that now. Could he beat Cro Cop, Gonzaga, Arlovski, or Big Tim? Eh. I'd be surprised. It's a shame to hear he's considering retirement so soon, but I can understand it if a guy gets tired of losing. My prescription: Quit the UFC and go be a big fish in a small pond for a while. Who'd want to see Herring-vs-Overeem in Strikeforce? I know I would.

Vitor Belfort is evidently trying to get back into the UFC. Personally, I'll be surprised if he can crack the Top-10 at Light-Heavyweight there. Prescription: Give it a go. Heck, it's the UFC. No shame in losing to guys like that.

Paulo Filho is already being touted by some as Best Middleweight in the World. I have him #3, and he won't move up while he's fighting lesser Middleweights. Prescription: The WEC could go on a tear and assemble a crapload of 185-lb talent, but I think Filho should ascend to the UFC and battle for a shot at the belt.

Chris Leben impressed me with his last performance, so I'm withholding judgment until his next fight. That said, after his losses to MacDonald and Starnes, I was convinced that Leben was WEC- or Strikeforce-bound. Prescription: On hold, for the moment. However, I'd love to see Leben against somebody like Cung Le.

Stephan Bonnar seems like a good guy, and I enjoy watching his fights. With convincing wins over Schafer and Nickels, and equally-convincing losses to Griffin and Evans, I'm not sure his star is rising in the UFC. Prescription: Move to the WEC and lay the smackdown on Brian Stann, earning a shot at The Rhino.

If MMA were baseball, I'd say the UFC and WEC should arrange to trade Leben & Bonnar for Filho.

Jakes Shields, your table is ready. You've beaten Kikuchi, Condit, and Okami. You ran over Ray Steinbeiss like he wasn't even there, and kicked the crap out of Renato Verissimo and Mike Pyle. You're almost 29, you've done Shooto, you've done Rumble on the Rock, you've done BodogFight and K-1 HERO's and EliteXC. Prescription: Time for the big leagues. Josh Koscheck is waiting for you.

Josh Burkman probably isn't ready to throw in the UFC towel just yet. Losses to Fitch and Parisyan are nothing to be ashamed of, after all. We'll see how he does against Mike Swick, but his Decision wins over Petz, Reiner and Neer make me think that he may have plateaued. Prescription: At 5'10", he could (probably) go just about anywhere, and fight at 170 or 185. Carlos Condit, Frank Shamrock, and Robbie Lawler could all be in his league, for instance.

Sergei Kharitonov beat Semmy Schilt, Mu Bae Choi, and Pedro Rizzo into pulp, took Big Nog to a Decision, and split a two-fight slugfest with Alistair Overeem. So what does he do next? Mighty Mo? Okay, that might a good fight, I guess. Prescription: A rematch with Frabricio Werdum in The Octagon.

And I'm not even going to talk about Fedor anymore. If it happens, it happens. Whatever.
Svartorm
12/11/07 3:48:58PM
Good stuff!

I'm in agreement on those, although I'd like to add Cung Le to the list. I honestly think hes toying with people in the ring at this point to get experience like he used to do in San Shou, and I'd like to see him give a lower level UFC fighter a shot. Chris Leben would be a good test and a smart match-up, or maybe Belcher if he loses to Almeida.
CwB
12/11/07 4:19:15PM
I wanted leben to go to the wec for a longtime until his last win... so my thoughts exactly.

i would also add to the gate keeper list

jonathan goulet- doesnt have the skills to be a top competitor, but if you lose to him maybe you dont deserve to be in the ufc. maybe

elvis sinosic- again doesnt have the skills to ever be champ but if you lose to him maybe you dont belong either.

if these fighters dont stay in the ufc i would like to see them fight in wec.

i would like to see how KJ noons does in ufc as well as the new robie lawler, a returning frank trigg at 185, matt lindland(lets get him back in ufc so he can fight guys at his own weight 185), and of course frank shamrock(but that will never happen
AchillesHeel
12/12/07 1:53:13PM

Posted by Svartorm

Good stuff!


Thanks!


Posted by Svartorm

I'm in agreement on those, although I'd like to add Cung Le to the list. I honestly think hes toying with people in the ring at this point to get experience like he used to do in San Shou[...]


I'm not sold on Le yet. Sammy Morgan performed about as poorly as I've ever seen a professional fighter do, and Le didn't appear to overwhelm him. If, as you say, Le is "toying" with people, then maybe he's the kind of athlete who raises his game to meet his opposition. I won't add him to this list until and unless he beats Shamrock, who will be Le's first serious MMA competition.


Another person I forgot to add to the above list is Gilbert Melendez. Among his 13 Wins are Decisions over Tatsuya Kawajiri and Clay Guida, and he's due to meet Mitsuhiro Ishida at "Yarennoka!" on New Year's Eve (lordy, I hope I get to see that card), but his reign as Strike Force Lightweight Champion could be one of slapping around 3rd- and 4th-tier fighters. I'd like to see El NiƱo step up to the UFC and put his undefeated record on the line against someone like Din Thomas, Kenny Florian, or Joe Stevenson.
Rush
12/12/07 3:20:03PM
I guess it's a big fish small pond or small fish big ocean kind of question. Personally I would rather be a small fish in a big ocean.