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Twitter Mailbag: Heavyweight Predictions, Brock Lesnar's Prospects, and More

Brock LesnarIt's only fitting, what with UFC 141 right around the corner, but the heavyweights of both the UFC and Strikeforce figured prominently in your questions this time around. Of course, you also found time to question my love of my adopted home state, force me to make bold future predictions about things I couldn't possibly know for sure, and even harass one of my colleagues (unfairly, I might add) in this edition of the Twitter Mailbag.

It's a lot to deal with in one column, and I have to get back to posting pictures of my dog on my own Twitter, so there's no time to waste. Who's up first?

@james_177 If Brock Lesnar loses to Overeem on the 30th. In your opinion is that the end of mma for Lesnar? Will he stick around?

I got this question in one form or another over and over again, but I just don't get it. Why would one loss drum a former champ out of the business? He's only 34 and still more or less a baby in this sport. He has time to grow and develop, no matter what happens next Friday night. If he does lose -- even if he gets knocked out in 30 seconds -- I think fans will look at his year of health struggles and his time away from the cage and cut him some slack.

Overeem's an experienced, accomplished fighter. Losing to him isn't like losing to some jerk off the street. Plenty of people have come up short against The Reem, but they didn't regard it as a sign that they needed to find something else to do with their lives. Win or lose, I think Lesnar will continue on. There's too much money in it for him not to, and shooting prairie dogs with high-caliber weapons will never give him the same rush.

@mmadailypunch who would you predict to be UFC heavyweight champ by the end of 2012?

What an interesting and difficult question. On one hand, the division has seen a lot of turnover at the top recently. But then, as Roy Nelson said about his fellow heavyweights when I talked to him this week, "Those guys don't like to fight that often." But screw it, I'm going to go out on a relatively sturdy limb and say that whoever wins the Lesnar-Overeem fight will be wearing that strap by the end of next year. At the rate that title goes up for grabs, dos Santos probably won't defend it more than once in 2012 anyway, and whoever wins it may not even have time to defend it before the year is out. Then, in 2013, he'll lose it to whoever wins the Josh Barnett-Daniel Cormier fight. How's that for a prediction?

@jmhawkins which UFC fighter do you think could potentially move to Strikeforce against Melendez? Do you think the UFC will do this?

I thought my MMA Fighting colleague Mike Chiappetta had a great idea: bring in B.J. Penn to fight Melendez. Why not? Penn's still a big name and a respected former champ. He'd be a great test for Melendez, and one that wouldn't require the dramatic reshuffling that a champion-versus-champion bout would. Penn's future in the UFC seems uncertain, and Melendez needs a serious opponent to retain the interest of the fans. It's an arrangement that could work well for everyone.

Will Zuffa make it happen? I hope so, but my gut tells me that we might be in for at least one more title defense against an existing Strikeforce lightweight before the powers that be wake up and realize that this can't go on much longer.

@Alex_Newfie Mir believes its unlikely that Overeem could guillotine Lesnar.. do you think Overeem could submit him?

Sure he could. At the risk of allowing you to bait me into repeating one of MMA's most overused cliches, anything can happen in a fight. Overeem has always had a sneaky guillotine, and wrestlers are prone to sticking their necks in that particular clamp when they start shooting for reckless takedowns. But let's be real here, if this fight hits the mat it's still to Lesnar's advantage. The longer it stays standing, the more it favors Overeem. As for Mir? Let's just say that you want to be careful how seriously you take the analysis of a guy who has a history with one of the participants. It tends to color one's perception.

@JefftheJeff Mailbag: what are some of your New (MMA) Year's Resolutions?

I, Ben Fowlkes, hereby resolve to 1) eat slightly less airport Cinnabon while traveling to and from MMA events, 2) Never again, even in casual conversation, ask a fighter how his training camp went, 3) Finally finish up that petition for an extra side to be added to the Octagon, thus forever rebranding it The Nonagon, which I have already trademarked, and 4) Get on that Skittles diet that the ring girls seem to employ on fight nights. Just saying, it's working for them, and beach season is right around the corner.

@ngordon18 if the matt hamil fight wasn't a dq jon jones would be 10-0 with 8 straight finishes why us he not no. 2 pfp

Because pound-for-pound lists are meaningless exercises in speculative fiction. Get over it.

@dsmelser13 Do you think Rhonda Rousey is ducking Cyborg? In her opinion, she is ready for a title shot at 135, but not 145. Seems suspect.

I think Rousey is smart when it comes to molding her MMA career. Too smart, in fact, to go charging into the mouth of the cannon when she doesn't have to. Style-wise, Miesha Tate is a much better match-up for her than Santos is. The weakest part of Rousey's game, based on what little we've seen of her, is probably her stand-up. She rushes forward in a mad dash to get the fight to the mat, and whether she ends up on top or on bottom she's still equally dangerous once it's a grappling match. But Santos doesn't play that. She'll keep the fight standing and beat the blonde off Rousey, and I think they both know it.

Tate, on the other hand, likes to grapple. She's also nowhere near as powerful as Santos is, so Rousey has a better chance to muscle her around. What's more, I also think Rousey is smart enough to know that a fight with Tate will sell better, and create more media buzz. They're two attractive women, not to mention two native English-speakers, and they can get out there together and promote this thing. Like I said, Rousey's smart. She knows where the money is in this sport, and it isn't on the business end of Cyborg's fists.

@hurstje1 Q. Your followers know about your love for all things Montana. What I want to know is why? Born there, school, lifestyle?

I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, raised in southern California, and went to college at San Diego State. Then, in 2004, my life changed forever when I went to grad school at the University of Montana in Missoula. I immediately fell in love with the place, and with my wife, who I met in the graduate writing program here. After relocating to New York City for a couple years after we got our MFAs, we finally got our lives together to the point where we could more or less live where we wanted, and there was no question where we wanted to be. Montana's the most beautiful place I've ever been. The people are great, the lifestyle is ideal (for me, anyway), and you could spend your entire life exploring all the different hiking and cross-country ski trails here. The same could be said for the dive bars, so basically it appeals to all my interests, both indoor and out.

@snsheehan Will Jon Jones and Anderson Silva ever fight? #CrystalBall

Oh good, another question that requires me to peer into the unknowable future. But what the hell, it's the holiday season. I'm going to say no, we'll never these two fight. And you know something? I'm okay with that. Silva is almost 37 years old, and much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Why would he want to jump up a weight class to take on a monster like Jones, who will probably be a heavyweight before too much longer? I don't see the upside for Silva, and I don't see the need. I'm not sure why MMA fans are so obsessed with the idea of super-fights. Isn't that the whole reason we created weight classes, so everyone could pick on someone their own size? Let middleweights be middleweights, and let Jon Jones be, well, whatever it is he's going to be.

@GuruGrapher Who is the best fighter to ever come out of Montana?

Keith Jardine was born in Butte, and is exactly as hard-nosed and no-nonsense a character as you'd expect, given that town's reputation. More recently, Missoula's own Lloyd Woodard did pretty well in the last Bellator lightweight tournament, barely dropping a decision to eventual tournament winner and new Bellator champ Mike Chandler. The best grappler in the state has to be Brandon Olsen, who's been a fixture at many top grappling tournaments for years and who has tied me in knots on many occasions. We've also got some up-and-coming young bucks worth keeping en eye on, most notably Tim Welch and Jason Zentgraf.

@RaymondReece1 What do you see the UFC doing with strikeforce? Will it be a farm system? Will it be like the old WEC?

I like the idea of using Strikeforce as a kind of Zuffa minor league. At least, I like it insofar as I like the idea of keeping it around at all. But my guess is that Zuffa won't fully embrace that idea. It creates too much brand confusion, which the UFC is already battling now that Spike TV is devoting so much of its programming to toying with the emotions of gullible fight fans who don't know that the UFC has moved on to another TV home. More likely, Strikeforce and Showtime will continue trying to sell fans on the notion that it's a first-rate organization on par with the UFC, and fans will continue to reject that nonsense. Let's face it, if you're a young MMA fighter just starting out these days, your dream is to fight in the UFC. No kid throws around a Nerf ball in his yard while imagining he's in the Arena league, and it's the same here. Just as it did with the WEC, reality will catch up eventually.

@chuckmindenhall Now that you know picking against Jardine is a dangerous pastime, will you make the same mistake when he fights Rockhold?

For those of you who don't know the backstory here, ESPN writer Chuck Mindenhall caught some flack from his peers for picking Jardine to beat Gegard Mousasi in their Strikeforce bout last spring. When the fight ended in a draw, Mr. Mindenhall claimed his pick had been vindicated, and insists to this day that he was "basically right." It's a baffling argument, and one that just won't die. Long story short: I'm picking Rockhold. Your move, Mindenhall.

@monsieuryeye what do you think of the addition of the strikeforce heavyweights and which of them has the best chance to get the belt?

The only thing I don't like about the decision to bring the Strikeforce heavies to the UFC is that it isn't happening immediately. I understand the desire to finish out the Grand Prix. Cormier-Barnett is an excellent fight, and one that ought to give that ambitious experiment some closure. But I don't see the point in doing one more fight with "a top-rated heavyweight," in Scott Coker's words, if ultimately they're all going to end up in the UFC anyway.

As for who has the chance to get the gold in the UFC, I think sooner or later Cormier is going to end up as UFC champion. Barnett will be his toughest test to date, but win or lose I think the experience will only make him better. His combination of elite wrestling skills and knockout power is dangerous for any big man out there.

@red_mattos If u were Joe Silva, who would @danhardymma face next? Would it be in UFC or would u send him to the minors aka strikeforce?

Hardy has said that he'd like a go with Matt Hughes, who, as you'll recall, asked the UFC to put him on the shelf for a little while. I could see Hughes coming off the bench for this fight, if only because he thinks Hardy is a guy he could out-wrestle for a quick paycheck. Either way, I think Hardy's next fight will be in the UFC, and it will be a must-win for "The Outlaw." As I touched on in my feature about him earlier this week, that's a pressure that can sometimes hurt more than it helps.

@richardelopez How does @MikeChiappetta get away with calling Tim Silvia a top tier opponent when he fought Fedor in Affliction? #mailbag

I hate to back Chia up twice in one mailbag, but you have to put aside what we know about Sylvia now and think back to the way things were in 2008. As Dan Carlin says in one of my favorite podcasts, the thing you have to remember when assessing the people and events of the past is that we know their future -- they don't. The same holds true for Fedor and Big Timmy.

After dropping the UFC title to Randy Couture via decision, Sylvia outpointed Brandon Vera (who seemed to be a rising star at the time) and was taking it to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira before he went and got himself submitted. Going into the fight with Fedor, he was still a top-ten heavyweight, and even Dana White admitted to being impressed with how easily Emelianenko dispatched him. It's easy to look at how far Sylvia has fallen since then and write him off, but at the time that was a legit test for Emelianenko, and he aced it. Now go tell Mike you're sorry.