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Twitter Mailbag: Sonnen's Suspension, Strikeforce's Tourney, and More

From the personal to the professional, you crazy Twitterheads hit the @BenFowlkesMMA mailbag with every possible question this time around, so I'll do my best to answer as many as possible before the length of this article becomes unruly and unmanageable.

That means there's no time to waste. Who's up first?

@Batching_It why do you think it's a contract suspension/freeze for Chael instead of just general time off? Is there a precedence?

One word: appearances. Sonnen is a guy who, while under suspension for unauthorized use of testosterone in a title fight, pleaded guilty to federal money laundering charges. Somewhere in there he also found time to tweet a bunch of racist stuff, lie blatantly and unconvincingly about a bunch of other stuff he'd said, and generally act like an emotionally unstable teenager. After a stretch like that, Sonnen is one rehab stint away from turning into MMA's version of Lindsay Lohan. The UFC had to do something, or at least appear to be doing something.

The better question might be, why does Dana White throw his hands up and claim he's powerless to take any action beyond what the commission deems appropriate when his fighters test positive for performance-enhancing substances, yet manages to find a way to discipline someone who committed a crime completely unrelated to MMA? Shouldn't PED use be more of a concern to the UFC than mortgage fraud? And how about other non-athletic misdeeds, such as DUI's? Where do those rate on the UFC's punish-ability scale?

We don't know, because the UFC doesn't have a stated policy in place for that kind of thing. Instead, seems like fighters get dealt with on a headline-by-headline basis. The more bad ink, the greater the chance you'll be told to go home and get your personal affairs in order.

@TIMinBALTIMORE I can only afford to go to 1 event in NJ, probably my only chance to see Fedor, or Shogun/Evans a month later, thoughts?

That's a tough one. The easy answer is, sell some blood or something and go to both shows. But, since I operate under the assumption that all my Twitter followers have Hepatitis, let's say that's not an option. What then?

The UFC generally puts on a better live show, and Rua-Evans is one hell of a main event, but I think you might still get more bang for your buck if you catch the opening round of this Strikeforce heavyweight tournament. Between Fedor-Silva and Arlovski-Kharitonov, plus maybe an alternate bout or two, it promises to be memorable, if nothing else.

Sure, you might get your eyebrows scorched off by Strikeforce's pyrotechnic display, and you miss out on the more polished UFC product, but I have a feeling that, for better or worse, this tournament is something you're not going to want to miss.

@aarondaane what's the worst MMA event you've attended? Poorly run, bad fights, terrible crowd, bad concessions, etc.

I hate to say it, since I was employed as a web editor for them at the time, but it's probably one of the early IFL shows. One thing (among many) that the IFL never figured out was how to enhance the live experience. Their events were run entirely by the TV production crew, and run so that they could be broadcast cheaply and easily. No thought – none, zero, zilch – was given to the live audience. When some of us tried to point out to the TV crew that this was a problem, they were – how shall I put this – unreceptive.

Plus, the pre-event media meal at the IFL was always pizza. Every single time. I love pizza, don't get me wrong, but there's only so much a man can take.

@MarkOhrenberger Do you see either Rich Franklin or Forrest Griffin holding a UFC title again?

It's not looking great for either one of them right now, but I like Griffin's chances much better. He's big, he's tough, and he's scrappy. He's not spectacular at any one thing, but he's got no major holes in his game, either. He doesn't mind taking some punishment to give some back, and on any given night he might just hang around long enough to beat you.

Franklin? He's out of place in the light heavyweight division and there's an Anderson Silva-shaped roadblock in the middleweight division. Unless he can become a catchweight champ somewhere down the line, he's worn his last UFC belt.

@samuelmark25 What's your prediction for the [Strikeforce] tourny winner?

The great thing about tournaments is anything can happen. The bad thing about tournaments is...anything can happen. A couple key injuries could really derail this thing, or at least delay it until the whole idea has lost its momentum.

But since you can never account for who might break a hand or a jaw, I'll go on the basis of talent alone and predict a final fight between Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. If you look at the brackets, Barnett has the easier path to the finals, while Overeem will have to slug his way through two very tough fights no matter what happens. In the finals, I'll take Barnett via late submission after absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment. And yes, the bout will take place in Upset City, and no, that is not located in California.

@steampunk22 How far away is Dong Hyun-Kim from a title shot at this point? His record puts him in the mix, but marketability is an issue.

Marketability is a huge issue, for two reasons. One, he doesn't speak much English (aside from 'I am Stun Gun!'). Two, he's primarily a grappler who holds people down and slowly grinds away at them. In other words, he's like a welterweight Yushin Okami, and we've seen how Okami has struggled to get within smelling distance of UFC gold. Simply put, Kim has a ways to go, but he could really help himself out by going out there and finishing someone who matters.

@Dan_Rice88 With Brown and Grispi losing, who of the remaining contenders has the best chance against Aldo: Hominick, Mendes, or Omigawa?

The winner of Mendes-Omigawa has a strong case, as will Hominick if he can get past George Roop (and magic 8-ball says: 'Outlook favorable'), but aren't you forgetting someone? If Grispi was supposed the be the next challenger until Dustin Poirier beat on him for three rounds, shouldn't Poirier be right there in the mix? I think so, even if I'm not sure any of them poses a serious threat to Aldo right now.

@AronGunningham Why do UFC want to match Couture against Machida? Doesn't it seem like they're pushing him toward a title shot?

It's not all the UFC's idea. Remember that Couture mentioned Lyoto Machida and "Shogun" Rua as two fights that might convince him to stick around a while, mostly because he likes the stylistic match-up. But you bring up a good point, which is, what if he beats Machida? Will he then want to hang around even longer?

The answer is, probably. Face it, when you're still competitive in this sport in your mid-forties, it's not because you're the kind of dude who's eager to cash in and push away from the table. If Couture can beat Machida (big 'if' in my book) he'll probably start dreaming of glory again, and the UFC will probably start dreaming of one last big pay-per-view before the old man goes away for good. Is that a good idea? Probably not, but neither was Brett Favre coming back for one more season with the Vikings. That doesn't mean it won't happen.

@Lanceco1966 Why do you live in Montana? Seriously? That is my question.

I get asked this a lot, usually by people who have never been to Montana. The answer is simple: because it is awesome. Between the beautiful natural surroundings, the great dive bars, and the general lack of people/idiots, there's nowhere I'd rather live. Also, go Griz.

@xxFranchizexx T.Silva in-fight slapping of Vera- funny, disrespectful, or legitimate offensive strike?

Depends on who you ask. A lot of fans on the internet would say funny, Jon Jones would say disrespectful, Bas Rutten would say legitimate offensive strike. I agree that a palm strike – that is, hitting the opponent with the heel of your hand – is legitimate, and at times a smart way of protecting your hand, but that's not what Silva was doing.

His strikes were slaps, and they were meant to disrespect Vera. If you doubt that, just look at the moment where he pauses from slapping Vera to play the bongos on his back. Clearly, that's a man who is trying to make a spectacle out of the extent to which he is dominating his opponent.

Is that a cool thing to do? Depends on how you define cool. Personally, I think it just makes you look like a jerk. Unless you're Randy Couture and the person you're doing it to is Tito Ortiz. But that's the only exception.

@GermanMMA what do you think about an automatic extra round if a fight is scored a draw?

As you might have noticed from this week's Wrap-Up video, I love that idea. Why not? They do it on 'The Ultimate Fighter,' primarily because the structure of the reality TV tournament demands a winner. But those are just exhibition bouts. Careers and belts are on the line here. Why shouldn't they fight until there's a winner?

@JefftheJeff question for future mailbag: which cities have the best/most knowledgeable fans? Clearly us Phoenicians aren't in the running.

I love this question because no matter what my answer is, it's pretty much guaranteed to anger far more people than it pleases. Because I realize that, I might as well answer honestly: the fans in Portland, Oregon are the best, hands down.

Now, when I say they're the best, it doesn't necessarily mean that there's a ton of them or that they'll pay any amount of money to see MMA. There aren't and they won't, both of which the UFC found out when it went there for UFC 102. But the fans who did show up that night were some of the loudest, yet most respectful and knowledgeable fans I've ever heard.

They're not like the East Coast fans who boo when there's a brief lull between punches, or the Vegas fans who don't even get into their seats until the event is half over. They appreciate all aspects of the sport, and are just as likely to cheer a slick guard pass as a flashy headkick. It's just too bad that they're all bartenders and/or baristas and can't afford to go to too many events, otherwise major MMA organizations would probably go there more often.

Other great places for MMA: St. Louis, the Bay Area (mostly San Jose), and Omaha, Nebraska. I was as surprised as you are by that last one.

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