MMA Roundtable: How Does WEC 52 Stack Up Against UFC 122?

With WEC 52 and UFC 122 teaming up to make the next few days in the MMA world Zuffa-tastic, I could think of no better way to prepare than by sitting down for a spirited internet discussion with my MMA Fighting colleague, Mike Chiappetta.

And by spirited, I mean that I asked him some questions, he questioned the validity of my questions, then I got mad and posted a bunch of comments on his articles about what a jerk he is. What can I say? I'm a petty, mean-spirited person.

But enough of our problems. On to question one:

Say you're living in an igloo and only have enough gas in the generator to fire up the TV for one MMA event this week. Do you go with the WEC or the UFC to take your mind off your terrible predicament?

Chiappetta: Our generator's nearly out of gas and this is our biggest dilemma? Since Fowlkes is from the frozen tundra of Montana, I assumed he'd be better prepared. At least we know our Natty Ice will stay cold. Anyhow, I'd say on a strict fight for fight basis, you'd probably be better off watching the WEC. Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki promises to be a barn-burner, and Chad Mendes vs. Javier Vazquez should be an interesting tactical match.

However, there's an X-factor that swings my vote in the other direction: Since UFC 122 airs on tape delay, Spike and the UFC will make sure to tailor the broadcast for top entertainment value. They'll pull out any major snoozer and replace it with something from the undercard that's fast-paced and satisfying. Combine that with a couple of under the radar but well matched main card fights and I'd go with UFC 122.

Fowlkes: Hey, I didn't say it was our biggest dilemma. That would be the wolves outside. Let's just say this dilemma is the easiest to resolve, since I happen to agree with you, albeit for different reasons. You make a decent point about the merits of tape delay, but I still think it has more downsides than up. For one, the entire MMA world will probably have to have that spoilers argument all over again. For another, it robs us of the chance to enjoy some Saturday afternoon fights, which would be a nice change every now and then.

But I choose UFC 122 because there seems to be more at stake. The WEC is a lame duck organization right now. Sure, the fighters want to prove that they deserve to be absorbed into the UFC, but that doesn't compare to the number one contender bout between Marquardt and Okami, or the various battles for European pride that litter the undercard. Don't even try to tell me that a guy like Damacio Page has more at stake than German-Russian übermensch Dennis Siver. If you even try it I'll kick you out of this igloo so fast...

What would be worse for the UFC's future promotional efforts: Yushin Okami becoming the next middleweight title challenger or Urijah Faber losing a second straight fight before he can be absorbed into the UFC?

Chiappetta: This is an easy one. Faber is a bona fide star, and at 31, he is still nowhere close to the end of his career, so the UFC can look forward to several more fruitful years of promoting him even if Mizugaki pulls the upset at WEC 52. Also, because of the relative lack of depth in the 135-pound division, Faber's always only going to be a short win streak away from contending. The challenge of promoting Okami will be much more difficult. While a win would make him victorious in six of his last seven, he is not considered by fans to be a particularly exciting fighter (six of his last eight fights have gone to a decision), he doesn't exactly exude charisma and he does not speak English. Of course, if he knocks out Nate Marquardt in 30 seconds, let's pretend I never wrote any of that.

Fowlkes: See? It's this kind of short-sighted thinking that left us with so little gas in the generator, Mike. Consider that if Faber loses on Thursday he'll have dropped four out of his last six fights. Granted, I think a Faber loss is highly unlikely, but that's kind of the point. If he can't beat Mizugaki it might serve as a sign that a change in weight classes is no solution at all. The UFC would love to rely on his promotional muscle, but it's hard to do that if he shows up riding a two-fight losing streak, the most recent of which would have come against a 3-1 underdog.

An Okami victory, on the other hand, isn't as bad as it initially seems. For starters, he's the last guy to put an 'L' on Anderson Silva's record. Okay, so it was via disqualification, but still, you can work with that. He's a big, powerful grappler who is nearly impossible to finish. Either that makes him a stylistic nightmare for Silva, or it at least makes him a punching bag who will hang around for a few rounds. And let me remind you, he lived with Chael Sonnen for a few weeks to work on his English. I'm sure that by now he knows important phrases such as, 'That wasn't me, it was a guy with a Hispanic accent,' and a handful of sweet one-liner burns on Ed Soares, Portuguese, and the nation of Brazil.

All told, there are 22 fights under the Zuffa banner scheduled for the next three days. Ignoring future implications and focusing solely on the action between the bells, what's the best bout on tap this week?

Chiappetta: Before Josh Grispi was pulled from WEC 52 to face Jose Aldo, I would've picked Grispi vs. Erik Koch in this spot. Jorge Rivera vs. Alessio Sakara seems like a can't-miss, demolition derby type of fight if that's your thing. But I'm going to go with a fight no one is talking or writing about, mostly because they can't say or spell their names: Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Goran Reljic. Both these guys always come to scrap, and both desperately need wins. Soszynski's lost two of his last three while Reljic dropped two in a row. You know what happens when fighters get backed into a corner, so don't be surprised to see Soszynski and Reljic steal the show.

Fowlkes: It just so happens that demolition derby is exactly my type of thing, Mike. I love the smell of mud, rusted metal, and PBR in the afternoon. I also love a fight between a technically sound striker with Roman-themed tattoos covering his body and a straight-ahead brawler who long ago stopped caring what his face looked like. K-Sos and Reljic? Yeah, there will be desperation in the air, but that sometimes just translates into a very conservative approach as both guys fight not to lose. Sakara and Rivera, on the other hand, there's no way they don't come right to the center of the cage and begin invasive surgery on one another's skulls. And no, I'm not ashamed to admit that that is totally my kind of thing.

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