TSN.ca's MMA staff takes a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.
1) Which fighter is more likely to retire with a loss at UFC on FUEL 6: Rich Franklin, Cung Le or Takanori Gomi?
John Pollock, Host TSN 1050 - The MMA Report - I don't get the sense we'll see the final fight of any of the listed names this weekend in Macau. If you're leaning towards any of the three than I say it's Cung Le. At 40-years of age and in my opinion a weight class above what he should be fighting at, he's in a spot right now where he has lots of acting opportunities to make a living without the wear and tear that fighting brings at this level.
Franklin is another one who has laid a nice exit strategy for himself once he retires to pursue other projects, but he certainly made it clear after the Wanderlei Silva fight in June that he is looking for a few more fights before calling it a career. I don't see Cung Le sending a curveball to those plans.
James Lynch, TSN.ca - I disagree with Pollock because if any of these fighters lose in devastation fashion, alarm bells could go off and retirement could be sooner than we think. Cung Le is my leading candidate for a variety of reasons. First off, his movie career has been going well; he most recently was in the 2012 martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists and is set to film the upcoming action film Dragon Eyes with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Add that to the fact that both of his UFC fights were underwhelming, a lackluster win over Patrick Cote at UFC 148 and his loss (albeit entertaining) against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139, which really showed his age.
Le already won the Strikeforce middleweight title back in 2008 and had an impressive kickboxing career going 17-0. Even if he is able to get past Franklin this weekend, I don't think he can hang with the litter of middleweight contenders popping up in the division.
2) How will you remember the career of Stephan Bonnar?
Lynch - The obvious “MMA pundits” answer to this question will undoubtedly be his classic standup battle with Forrest Griffin at the Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale. While that fight was amazing and changed the landscape of MMA, Bonnar to me will always be an average fighter who was given more credit than he deserved because of his toughness. Perhaps I'm too pessimistic, but even on his season of the Ultimate Fighter; he lucked out making it to the finals to fight Griffin.
For those who remember, the inaugural season was based on which team won challenges and the winning team could pick the fight. You could literally cruse to the finals having 1 or 2 fights (like Kenny Florian did). Bonnar fought later in the show and won a highly controversial decision against Bobby Southworth (that in reality should have gone an extra round) which earned his spot into the bracket rounds. From there, he defeated Sam Hogar (who hadn't fought yet) in the quarters and an undersized Mike Swick in the semis (a fight that Swick was dominating before being caught in a submission). He earned a UFC contract in his loss to Griffin and would battle injuries and string together some wins/ losses, but never made any noise in the light heavyweight division.
He was first busted for steroids in his second fight with Forrest Griffin in 2006 and unfortunately we found out the news last week he was busted again in his loss to Anderson Silva. You'd like to feel sorry for him being a hard working guy who never fought for a title. But the way I see it, had he not earned his Trump Card in his fight with Griffin, he probably would have been cut from the UFC a long time ago.
Pollock - Bonnar was a pivotal figure in the UFC narrative of their rise to success in 2005 and Bonnar will forever to be linked to that watershed fight with Griffin in April of that year. The drug test failure is a black eye he exits the sport with, but is not something fans are prone to remember and hold against a fighter's career. His first drug test failure after the UFC 62 fight in 2006 hurt Bonnar financially but not amongst fans and with time this too will be forgotten. He was never a championship level fighter, but fought a style that people tended to gravitate to.
I don't believe he is a Hall of Fame level fighter, but will also certainly go into the UFC Hall of Fame and in terms of key moments in the sport's history there is no denying that the first fight with Bonnar and Griffin is one of those moments.
3) With his recent string of wins, should the UFC bring back Anthony (Rumble) Johnson?
Pollock - I would say Anthony Johnson punched his ticket with the beautiful knockout of D.J. Linderman for a return trip to the UFC and entering their light heavyweight mix. If nothing else Dana White is very big on second chances if the talent is there and a fighter warrants one, and Johnson falls into that category. His body was no longer suited for 170-pounds and finding a home at 205 should hopefully ease any worry about his making weight again in the future.
With four straight wins and a UFC light heavyweight division that is thinner than most of their weight classes, I feel it's a no brainer that Johnson is back in the fold pending any ill advised deal he may have signed with WSOF that is long term.
Lynch - Absolutely! While critics will quickly point out the level of competition Johnson has defeated hasn't been up to par, the light heavyweight division outside of the UFC is pretty thin. I don't think I'm alone when I say I want Rumble to be tested at 205 and the only place he can achieve such a feat is inside the octagon. Usually when a fighter is released from the UFC it's because of a string of losses or controversy (ie: Paul Daley punching Josh Koscheck in the face after the bell at UFC 113). All of Johnson's issues (including his losses) had to do with his insane idea of cutting down and trying to fight in the welterweight division.
With his new home at light heavyweight and four straight wins, I think the timing is perfect for Dana White to bring back the 28-year-old.