We're less than 10 days away from UFC 168 and the Most Anticipated Rematch in UFC History®. Naturally, as we all prepare for the world-shattering drama that will be Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman II, we thought it would be the ideal time for Bleacher Report's three MMA lead writers to weigh in on a gamut of topics.
As always, we asked you to submit your boldest statements and questions via Twitter. The best (or maybe just the most incendiary) were selected for further consideration and comment by Jeremy Botter, Chad Dundas (that's me) and Jonathan Snowden.
There is no shortage of stuff to discuss here. Will Georges St-Pierre ever return? Can Weidman repeat his heroics against Silva a second time? Would Randy Couture be a player in today's light heavyweight division? Could Ronda Rousey beat a man?
No, seriously, that last one is in here.
This is Tweet-O-Rama, people. The only rule is, there are no rules. Read on, if you've got the guts...
Chad Dundas: As I sit here today nearly a week removed from Georges St-Pierre’s non-retirement retirement announcement, I'm sure that we’ll see him fight in the Octagon again.
As hard as he thinks the MMA life has been, we know from experience that the hardest part of all is walking away. If St-Pierre manages to make a clean break at 32 years old, moves back to St. Isidore and buys a rocking chair from which to watch the wheat sway in the breeze, well, I’ll eat my hat.
No, smart money says GSP comes back in a year or two (maybe less) and resumes fighting. He'll probably win the championship again and carry on until it becomes clear that he just physically can’t do it anymore.
Because that’s how professional athletes do.
As for taking a job at UFC: Canada when he forever-ever retires, sure, that sounds like as good an exit strategy as I can think of at the moment.
Jonathan Snowden: I kind of hate the idea of Georges St-Pierre ever coming back to mixed martial arts. It will be a sad admission that he couldn't find anything else in life to fill the void left by a sport he never particularly enjoyed in the first place.
I'm sure martial arts will always be in his blood. So, rather than fight, why not travel the world, visit exotic lands and learn all the ways they've created to maim people with your hands? He can continue his path to mastering the world's combat sports without putting his mind and body at risk.
In my perfect world, we'll hear whispers over the years. A tourist spots him doing kata on the Great Wall of China. Someone posts a grainy YouTube video of him wrestling a bear in Siberia. He's caught dancing awkwardly at a Das Punk concert. So long as he's happy and healthy. He's earned that much at least.
Jeremy Botter: I don't know how I could top what Jonathan just said, so I'll say this: I hope very much that St-Pierre never returns to the Octagon. For all he's done and for all the excellence he has displayed—both in his craft and in dealing with the ever-increasing pressures of fame—all St-Pierre has received in return is the scorn of idiotic MMA Bro fans who deride him for being boring rather than appreciate the greatness in front of them.
Oh, and the company that he made millions of dollars for? The company he slaved away for on endless media tours around the world? The company he represented with professionalism and grace? Yeah, the president of that company decided to throw him under the bus just because he had some silly little "personal problems" that weren't as big of a deal as he made them seem (even though those "personal problems" ultimately led to him walking away from the sport).
So, yeah. I hope St-Pierre rides so far off into the sunset that he never comes back. I hope he finds the peace he never found while being whored out by the UFC. And yes, I hope we see random glimpses of him on YouTube doing things around the world that make him happy. As long as one of these things includes wrestling bears, I'm all good.
Botter: No, I don't think it does. But then again, I didn't think the first fight would go quite the way it did. I didn't count on Anderson Silva acting like an ***hole; then again, I should've built that into my prediction in the first place because there's always a chance Silva acts like an ***hole in the cage.
I'm one of those true believers who feels like Silva is still a major favorite heading into the second fight despite losing the last time. I'm also one of those morons who feels like Silva was handily winning the first fight and likely would've continued mollywhopping Weidman if he didn't start acting the fool and get himself knocked out. This is not to discount Weidman. He's a very good fighter, and he'll be the champion again. But Silva is still the most skilled fighter in the world, and he'll show it next week.
Dundas: OK, well, first of all, there is no possible metric by which Silva was “handily winning” their initial fight, so let me stop you right there. I'm not sure where you believe this “mollywhopping” of Weidman was taking place as he was easily winning the first round. He took Silva down, pounded him from the guard, passed to half-guard, pounded him some more and damn near heel-hooked him. And then he knocked Silva out in the second.
But I digress. No, this second fight won’t end the same way as the first, because this time Weidman is going to submit him. It will happen in the first round, though. Say about three minutes in? That’ll give the champ enough time to take Silva down, punch him a few times, pass to the side and lock in an arm triangle that at first doesn’t seem that tight, but...oh, wait...yep, Silva tapped.
Snowden: Like Jeremy, I didn't expect Chris Weidman to beat the great Anderson Silva. He was a good prospect for sure but simply too untested. After all, prior to UFC 162, Weidman only had nine professional MMA fights. How could you possibly extrapolate from his relatively meager career how well he would do against Silva?
Strangely, despite his incredible upset win, I still don't feel like I know much about Weidman. How will he fare when it's the fourth round, he's exhausted from chasing Silva around the cage, and the Spider is still dancing and catcalling him? I just don't know. No one does.
That's why I have to go with Silva—again. Weidman still hasn't proved, to me at least, that he's the best in the world. Until he does, I'm not giving up my seat on the Anderson Silva Express. Full steam ahead.
Snowden: I like playing around with pound-for-pound rankings because there are no rules. Anything goes in this fantasy land of the hypothetical. So why not Rousey? We are already dismissing size and strength as factors in these fictional fights.
Is correcting for gender really a bridge too far?
It so happens I was on the phone with her just hours after this tweet came in and had the opportunity to ask for her take on the issue. The women's bantamweight champion not only believes she's every bit as technical as her male peers, she believes she could conceivably beat any or all of them in the right circumstances. Now that's the kind of confidence that makes me certain she has a long future on top—a myopic self-regard that all the great ones need to leave their mark on the sport.
So, no, I don't have a problem with having Rousey in the top-10 rankings. In fact, when I did UFC rankings, I always listed her among the sport's very best. She doesn't just deserve it. She's earned it.
Botter: I'm in the same boat as Jonathan here, Sean. I have Rousey in my top-10 pound-for-pound on my UFC rankings ballot. So what's really happening here is that you're accusing both of us (and others who have Rousey in their top 10) of some kind of reverse sexism because we think she's deserving of a spot.
I didn't put Rousey here because she's a woman. I put her here because she's a deserving fighter. Sex doesn't matter here, and it shouldn't be an issue. I can't speak for everyone with a UFC ballot (because the promotion seemingly gives anyone who wants to vote a ballot these days), but I suspect most folks aren't putting Rousey on there to make a statement. Some of them are, sure. But most of us recognize that she's deserving, and so we include her. Pretty simple, really.
Dundas: Nah, I don’t have an issue with it either, though I do think this question gets at the heart of why pound-for-pound rankings specifically and MMA rankings in general are meaningless.
It’s not only that they don’t have any utility in the real world, but also because there are no criteria. None. No rules, no guidelines for how to compose your list. As a result, top-10 rankings mean different things to different people.
Are they meant to be a snapshot of the MMA landscape, based on most recent wins and losses? Or are they meant to represent who you honestly believe are the best fighters at a certain weight class? Because those things usually aren’t the same.
Me? Now that I have a job that doesn’t require me to keep them, I avoid rankings at all cost. Don’t like them, don’t want to play the game. If I had a P4P list, I’d put Rousey on there. But I don’t, so I’m not gonna worry about it.
@mmaencyclopedia Randy Couture is his prime with his style of fighting wouldn't be ranked in the top 10 just now agaisnt the modern fighters— JohnUFC (@taketwo82) December 17, 2013
Dundas: As a guy who at one time was a pretty big Randy Couture mark, it pains me to say this, but I agree with you in principle. The fully evolved skill sets and sheer athleticism of MMA’s current generation would give nearly any champion of yore a tough night.
I will argue one point, though. Light heavyweight? Not exactly a deep talent pool. Sure, even on his best day, Couture would get smoked by Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson or Rashad Evans, but the bottom half of the 205-pound Top 10 remains ugly.
There are still Ryan Baders, Dan Hendersons and Chael Sonnens floating around down there. I’d like to think a prime Couture could beat those three. And—heck—a guy like Antonio Rogerio Nogueira? I think even 50-year-old, B-movie actor Randy Couture could walk in off the street and have a shot against him.
That’s what I believe anyway, and if you disagree, I’ll put my fingers in my ears and yell, “Stop-it-stop-it-stop-it-stop-it!” until you get tired and leave me alone.
Botter: I don't know. Ninety-nine percent of what made Randy Couture so awesome throughout his entire career was his penchant for defying the odds. Countless times he was thrown in the cage and expected to lose to this young lion or that next big superstar, and he almost always came out on top. He was a big situation fighter.
Would an in-his-prime Randy Couture be a top-10 light heavyweight today?
Would I expect him to go in the cage and beat Jon Jones? No. Would I be surprised if he went in the cage and beat the champ? Not in the slightest...because that's what Randy Couture does. He defies the odds and sends the UFC's golden calves and once and future kings tumbling down the ladder.
And so I can't sit here and tell you that I agree with the notion that Couture wouldn't be ranked in the Top 10. Because he probably would, and that's because he's Randy Couture.
Snowden: I’m with Jeremy here. I don't buy this for a second. Couture in his prime was very ahead of his time. His use of the fence, the clinch and dirty boxing helped create the style we see today. On top of that, his powerful takedowns (remember he was a two-time NCAA runner-up at Oklahoma State) are timeless. They are a staple of many effective fighters today, just as they were in Couture's era.
There's an insidious notion that pioneers like Couture were somehow less talented than today's fighters. I'm not sure that's justified. Sure, Royce Gracie made a living out of beating guys who were unprepared or unable to defend against his family's then-esoteric art.
Couture? He fought cross-trained monsters like Tim Sylvia, wrestlers with bricks for fists like Chuck Liddell and well-rounded grapplers like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He won some, and he lost some. But he was never anything but competitive.
Couture had the skill and athleticism to fight the best of any era. Although it's cute to compare Daniel Cormier to Fedor Emelianenko, in truth he's a new-wave Couture. If transported to 2014, a circa-2000 Couture would compete for a title and likely walk out of the cage with gold strapped around his waist at least once.
@mmaencyclopedia Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson should call out the winner of Barao-Cruz and try to become champ of two weight classes.— J.M. Payne (@jpayne33) December 17, 2013
Snowden: That's an interesting idea to jump-start Johnson's status as a pound-for-pound kingpin. It would create a bit of buzz for the flyweights—something the division's wee fighters have been incapable of producing on their own.
But, and I know you all heard the "but" coming, I don't think the timing is right for this kind of challenge. Johnson, after all, is just two years removed from the bantamweight division. There's no real demand for this fight, and no big question looms over the result. We've seen it already—literally. Cruz won a unanimous decision over Johnson in the last ever Zuffa event on Chad's beloved Versus network.
If two champions go on a tear, then it might make sense to do the long-teased yet never-delivered superfight at last. In 2015, once Johnson and Renan Barao have established themselves beyond a doubt in their respective divisions—sure, why not? But right now? I can't get behind that.
Dundas: Versus Never Dies! (It just becomes the NBC Sports Network.)
Snowden obviously raised all the obligatory, pesky, real-world drawbacks to this idea, but I honestly kind of love it. Johnson might well be the most complete fighter in the UFC today, but something has clearly kept most MMA fans from connecting with him. I’m also not sure that it can be attributed to size alone.
I think he needs a little extra edge to his attitude—a mission to hang his hat on. Could that mission be the drive to become the first man to simultaneously hold titles in two weight classes? I’d pay to see that.
Would the UFC let it happen? Probably not. Could Johnson bounce back up to 135 pounds and defeat Cruz or Barao or whoever has the belt by the time he gets there? Probably not. But I’d sure as shooting like to watch him try.
Botter: I'm with Chad here. I love the idea, mostly because I don't want to see Johnson fight John Dodson, John Moraga or other flyweights he's already beaten. John Lineker is an interesting flyweight contender, but the dude can never make weight. He's not getting a title shot until he proves he can actually fight at flyweight instead of flyweight-ish.
If you're "Mighty Mouse," the idea of moving back up to bantamweight for more lucrative (though still not very big) fights has to be appealing. And he's apparently preparing for just such a thing. He's already adding a few neat tricks to his game with consecutive finishes over top contenders, and he's also growing a beard. We all know that's the sure sign of a man coming into his prime, like Sampson with facial hair.
We're looking at two more fights before any such bantamweight title super-kinda-fight can happen, though. We're getting Cruz vs. Barao in early 2014, and then Urijah Faber will gets his crack at the belt. After that? I don't mind the idea of Johnson getting his shot. Why not?
Botter: This one is particularly fitting during the week when Brazilian MMA legend and Shooto president Andre Pederneiras has somehow decided it's a good idea to book a fight between a man and a woman. This is a thing that is actually happening, as long as the Brazilian MMA federation allows the fight to continue as planned.
Let me take you back to the moments following UFC 116. I sat in one of the MGM Grand bars with Mike Goldberg and Sean Shelby, and we discussed this very topic. At the time, I was convinced Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos could hang with the best male bantamweights in the world. In my mind, she fought at featherweight, so matching her up with dudes 10 pounds lighter was only fair.
Goldberg and Shelby laughed off the notion. Rightly so. And every time I hear this idea that Ronda Rousey can beat other bantamweight dudes, I laugh it off. Because the truth is that Rousey would probably beat dudes who haven't ever trained in mixed martial arts. She might even beat low-level professionals who aren't very good. But she would never, not in a million years, beat Urijah Faber or any other bantamweight in the top 35-50.
I can respect her passion, drive and mindset. I'm glad she thinks she can beat any human on the planet. But you, the fan, needs to be realists. She's not beating Faber or Cain Velasquez or any other male fighter in the UFC. The sooner this topic goes by the wayside, the sooner we can focus on how extraordinary she is at competing and demolishing the best in her own weight class.
Jonathan, I know you talked to Ronda recently. What did she have to say on the topic?
Snowden: Earlier this year, people were aghast that Rousey had the nerve to suggest, under the right circumstances, that she could beat UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. She doubled down on that when I talked to her, refusing to back track. But her reasoning makes sense. She refuses to allow the idea of losing to enter her head at all. If she admits that she would lose a fight to Velasquez or Urijah Faber, well, that would open the doors to the idea that she could lose to one of her peers at 135 pounds.
And to her, that's unacceptable.
But look—we separate fighters by weight class for a reason. That doesn't diminish smaller fighters. It's just an acknowledgement that size matters. So too does gender.
I don't think that Rousey would beat Faber, although if they fought 100 times she'd catch at least one armbar. In her heart of hearts, she probably doesn't believe she could beat Faber either. She just can't allow those kinds of thoughts into her head. Negativity breeds more of the same, and those insidious thoughts can ruin a fighter if they aren't careful.
Dundas: It’s possible we should think about renaming this story Bleacher Report’s Tweet-o-Rama Featuring Ronda Rousey. In the short life of the TOR, I don’t think we’ve ever done an installment without Rousey, and this week she garners two of our six tweets? Some might say that’s overkill.
But look, the fellas are right here. Rousey can't beat Faber. Why? I mean, aside from the obvious? Because she probably can't beat anybody she can’t take down, regardless of size or gender, and Faber possesses that most poisonous combination of skills—wrestling and striking. Even if you refuse to consider the idea that Faber is a male member of the species and therefore might enjoy certain physical advantages, he’s also just a better fighter.