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Twitter Mailbag: Talking Late Stoppages, Chris Weidman's Future, and Much More

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With the UFC on FUEL TV 4 event behind us and a night of Strikeforce action still to come on Saturday night, there are no shortage of hot topics to discuss in this edition of the Twitter Mailbag. The fact that you people asked so many more questions about one than the other should probably tell us something, and it’s not good.

To ask a question of your own, find me on Twitter @BenFowlkesMMA. For some barely satisfying answers to other people’s insightful questions, simply read on.

Money @Money644
@benfowlkesMMA Rosenthal is typically an outstanding referee, but do you think their should be a penalty for refs allowing late stoppages?

This is something I’ve heard a lot of people talking about since Wednesday night’s fight. On the post-fight show, Stephan Bonnar suggested the idea of some kind of penalty or fine for refs who are slow to step in, although that makes me wonder if Bonnar knows how little these refs actually make in the first place. Rosenthal screwed up on the Weidman-Munoz fight. He knows it. But does he need to be punished for it, and would that really make him less likely to screw up in the future?

In a way, he already has been punished. Fans and fighters alike have bashed him on TV and on the internet for failing to adequately protect Munoz. You think he wants to be known as the referee most likely to get someone killed? Of course not. Like anyone else, he wants to be good at his job, and surely doesn’t want to be responsible for a tragedy in the cage. The fact that we’re all talking about him right now should motivate him to do better next time. If it doesn’t, and if this becomes a habitual problem for him, then athletic commissions should stop using him. The same should go for every ref who develops a reputation for screw-ups (yeah, I’m looking at you, Mazzagatti). Instead of slapping them on the wrist, stop putting them in the cage. For someone who really, really wants to ref MMA fights, that threat should be penalty enough. For someone who doesn’t, isn’t it better we get them out of there anyway?

Reid Connell @ReidWConnell
@benfowlkesMMA did Brandon Vera dodge a bullet? James Te Huna looked great against Beltran! #mailbag

Te Huna did indeed look good against Beltran, who looked pretty bad. But let’s not forget that Vera was pulled from that fight to face Mauricio "Shogun" Rua instead. That’s a little like dodging a bullet and jumping straight into a cannonball.

Mr. Cthulhu Kitten @cthulhukitten
@benfowlkesMMA is the loss that Mark Munoz faced against Chris Weidman indicative that Mark isn't that good or that Chris may be that great?

I admit that I was skeptical of this Weidman fellow at first. For all the bellowing his coaches did about him, who had he really beaten? Tom Lawlor? Nice guy, and a lot of fun to have around, but not exactly a top ten fighter. Jesse Bongfeldt? To date, the best thing about his career is his nickname (yeah, it’s "Water"). Demian Maia? Weidman took the fight on short notice and won the decision, but he didn’t look like a world-beater in the process. Then came the fight with Munoz.

It’s one thing to look great against a nobody, or to outwrestle some European fighter who only started taking takedown defense seriously six months ago. What Weidman did was take on a former national champion wrestler who has nearly as many wins in the UFC as Weidman has professional fights, and he made it look like a mismatch. Even if you don’t think Munoz was ever quite as good as advertised, you still can’t call him a bad fighter. Aside from his UFC debut, in which he seemed to suffer from some major Octagon jitters, he’s never looked so uncomfortable and outmatched in an MMA fight. For that, you have to give credit to Weidman. It’s impressive enough to outpoint a guy like Munoz. Yushin Okami did it, though not without some difficulty. It’s a whole other level of wow to completely dominate him, which is exactly what Weidman did. You can call me a believer now.

Malthe Carlsen (@MaltheCarlsen)
@benfowlkesMMA Let's talk Weidman and Rockhold. They seem destined for greatness in a post-Silva MW division. Who ends up having the better career? #tmb

You know what’s weird? Even with a Strikeforce event this Saturday night -- one featuring two title fights -- this is one of the only Strikeforce-related questions I received in this edition of the TMB. Even this question contains a compare/contrast element that ties it back to the UFC, so it’s arguable whether you can even call it a Strikeforce question. The only other one I got, if I’m not mistaken, came from @ltw0303, who essentially asked if, with so few title fights left to make, Strikeforce had finally come to the end. That gives you an idea of how people are feeling about that organization now.

As this question hints at, the real losers here are the fighters who are stuck in Strikeforce with no clear path to the UFC. As long as there’s a deal with Showtime, Zuffa can’t just raid the promotion for the good stuff and leave what it doesn’t want. Could Luke Rockhold or Tim Kennedy be a contender in the UFC middleweight division? We don’t know. From the look of things, we won’t get the chance to find out any time soon, and neither will they. That’s bad news for them, but it’s also bad news for fight fans, especially since the UFC middleweight division could use a little fresh blood right now. In the meantime, Rockhold and Kennedy square off in what ought to be an exciting, compelling title fight, and few MMA fans can be bothered to care. Am I the only one who feels like that’s just incredibly depressing?

stealth lee @stealthlee
@benfowlkesMMA Silva and Bones’ respective excuses for not making the fight the world wants to see are unbearable to fathom. Agree? #mailbag

‘Unbearable to fathom’ seems a bit, uh, much. I mean, I can fathom their reasons for not wanting to fight each other. Anderson Silva is a middleweight who’s closing in on 40. Why should he have to fight a big light heavyweight who’s brimming with youthful zeal, all just because we’ve decided that we’re bored with seeing him pick on guys his own size? As for Jones, that fight would put him in a no-win situation. If he beats Silva, the haterati will claim that all he did was beat up a smaller, older man in the twilight of his career. If he loses it’s even worse. So yeah, I can fathom their reasons for not wanting to fight each other, and I don’t find the act of fathoming to be unbearable at all. I get that fans want to see what fans want to see, and they don’t particularly care if it seems appealing to the fighters themselves. But there’s something a little unsavory to me about telling a champion that he has to fight out of his weight class. You can tell him that you’d like him to do it, or that you’ll pay him an obscene amount of money to do it, but you don’t get to call him names if he still decides that he’d rather not.

ManUnitedTalk @ManUnitedTalk
@benfowlkesMMA Why don't the UFC give Bisping the next title show? He's looked good in his last few performances and can hype a fight up.

Your Twitter handle suggests that you might be a countrymen of Mr. Bisping’s, so I’m going to be as gentle as I can with this answer. To put it simply, he hasn’t earned it. Not yet. He’s coming off a loss to Chael Sonnen, for starters. Of the last four fighters he’s beaten, one has now been cut from the UFC, one has retired, one is mired in a four-fight losing streak and has since changed weight classes, and the other is Dan Miller (who has also recently changed weight classes). I don’t mean to unfairly chip away at Bisping’s record, and I do think he’s better than many American fans give him credit for, but that is not the resume of a fighter who has earned the right to challenge the best middleweight in the history of the sport. Could Bisping sell it? Maybe, and that’s a nice skill to have. But style-wise, it seems like a horrible match-up for him. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but first I need to see Bisping put an impressive beating on a top-ten middleweight -- preferably one who’s on a winning rather than a losing streak, and preferably one who stays a middleweight after it’s over. When he does that, we’ll talk.

Josh C @_allmyfriends
@benfowlkesMMA When the UFC makes a blatant mismatch like Mendes/McKenzie, and then Dana rags on the loser, how is this fair?

It’s not. Not even a little bit. I was surprised with how thoroughly White trashed Cody McKenzie after that fight, essentially apologizing to Chad Mendes for making him fight someone so far below him. The UFC made that match-up and promoted it. There wasn’t much reason before (and even less after) to think McKenzie was ready for that level of competition. But he took the fight anyway and, for that alone, deserves better than to be mocked in the post-fight presser, especially when he’s not even there to stick up for himself.

Donovan Valade @djvalade5
@benfowlkesMMA What's your favorite fight camp to visit and why?

A lot depends on why I’m there and which fighters happen to be there at the time, but I’ve always liked going to AKA. There are so many great fighters under one roof, if you stand around long enough you’ll usually end up seeing a sparring session that you feel like you should have paid a ticket for. Plus, San Jose’s a great town.

A Fragile Smile @AFragileSmile
@benfowlkesMMA is Dundas-Fowlkes the Monsoon-Heenan of MMA podcasting? the #tmb

Well, the Co-Main Event Podcast does combine Bobby "The Brain" Heenan’s disdain for the crowd with Gorilla Monsoon’s mix of enthusiasm and exasperation. So yeah, sure. That’s what we are.

Matt Giesbrecht @MattGiesbrecht
@benfowlkesMMA What are your thoughts on Carwin/Nelson as TUF coaches? Good way to get Carwin back in the game? #mailbag

I’ve forced myself to stop caring about who the TUF coaches are. Lately it seems like if you want to make sure that two guys absolutely do not fight one another in a timely fashion, the best way to do so is to make them coach TUF opposite one another. The Shane Carwin-Roy Nelson match-up is an interesting one, assuming it eventually happens, but I don’t know how excited I can get about watching them glare across the gym at each other for a couple months. The best thing about this announcement, as far as I’m concerned, is that Carwin will most likely bring Trevor Wittman along as one of his coaches. That’s good news for whoever ends up on his team, since at least they’ll get some quality coaching out of the deal.

Jesse Raine @jesseraine
@benfowlkesMMA r u as ecstatic as me that we no longer need to hear Tito go on and on about his surgeries, companies,his heart and soul etc?

I wouldn’t say ecstatic, since a part of me is actually going to miss Tito Ortiz in a bizarre, sentimental way. But last week in Vegas, somewhere around the fourth time he mentioned "Punishment Nutrition," which I have never, ever heard anyone but Ortiz mention, it occurred to me that it might be time to change the record. At least we have the return of B.J. Penn to look forward to, which also means the return of shameless plugs for

TheKidd @VineStreetLife
@benfowlkesMMA What do your parents think of MMA and your involvement in covering MMA? #TMB

At first I think they wondered how this could be a real job. Then a few years went by, I didn’t starve to death in the streets, and they concluded that I might actually be making a living at this. Now they’re big fans. My dad was always more of a boxing guy, and like a lot of people he saw some early MMA bouts and concluded that it was mostly strip mall karate school senseis kicking bar bouncers in the neck. I think he only started to come around on it when I showed him Matt Hughes-Frank Trigg II, and he had to admit that it was pretty awesome. Now he knows most of the big fighters, and he’ll even buy an occasional UFC pay-per-view. My mom still isn’t all that excited about seeing people punch each other in the face, so she spends most of the broadcast looking to see if she can spot me in the background on press row.

In general, my parents are and always have been ridiculously supportive, especially when it comes to anything having to do with writing. I was very fortunate to grow up in a house filled with books and people who loved them. I was also fortunate that they so willingly enabled my addiction to sports growing up, but knew how to channel it in the right directions. I remember going to an Anaheim Angels game as a kid and having my dad point up at the press box and explain that the people up there were being paid to watch sports and write about them, which he thought sounded like a pretty great job. Turns out he was right.

Jared @Orderx7
@benfowlkesMMA Do you think a "Super Fight" w Anderson vs. anyone is a marketing ploy used by @danawhite & co? Will it ever happen? #TMB

Yes, it’s a marketing ploy, and an ancient one in combat sports. Heavyweight boxing champ Jack Johnson used that same ploy when he fought middleweight champ Stanley Ketchel in 1909. Then, just as now, people would pay to see whether a smaller man could really use superior technique and speed to beat a bigger one (it didn’t go so well for Ketchel, who sacrificed his teeth for the payday). Will it happen in the UFC? Silva sounds none too thrilled about going up in weight, but he’s been much more positive about the idea of Georges St-Pierre coming up to meet him. That seems possible, eventually. It’s also possible that White will keep adding zeros to the fight purse until Silva agrees to go up and face Jones (or whoever the light heavyweight champ may be by then). All I can tell you is that White is enough of a boxing nut and enough of a natural-born salesman that he can appreciate the value of such a ploy. He’s also not the type of man who takes no for an answer when it comes to stuff like this. At least not the first few dozen times he hears it.

Do you think it would be wise for Chael to follow in Kenny Florians footsteps and retire to commentating? @benfowlkesMMA #tmb

I have to admit I was surprised at what a great job Sonnen did on the FUEL TV post-fight show. Between him, Jay Glazer, and Stephan Bonnar, it was Sonnen who seemed like he belonged there the most. He’s high energy without being spastic, and articulate without being verbose. I’d love to see him do more on-camera work, but I don’t know if he’s ready to hang up the gloves in order to pursue it full-time just yet. Florian was pushed into retirement by injuries. Sonnen doesn’t have that problem, at least not yet. I think there’s definitely a job for him in broadcasting once he gets done with MMA, but there’s no need to rush it.

Andrew Moser @hickinthecity
@benfowlkesMMA Do you feel the media has a bigger role in mma than other sports, bc the court of opinion holds sway on what fights are made?

I think the internet has a bigger role in MMA than it does in most big sports, but the internet is not necessarily the same thing as the media. In the age of Twitter, it’s not just paid reporters who can voice their opinions and use them to pressure the powers that be. The UFC does a commendable job of listening to its fans, whether its on forums or social networking sites, and doing its best to give them what they want. Individual media members might have a bigger megaphone than individual fans, but if 5,000 people on Twitter are screaming at Dana White to make one fight, and five reporters are typing away on their respective web sites to lobby for another, who do you think he’s more likely to be swayed by?

In other sports, newspaper columnists and talk radio hosts exert a great deal of influence. They get players traded, get coaches hired and fired. In MMA, where the influence of the internet has been crucial to both growth and survival, the power of public opinion isn’t so concentrated or so easily manipulated. That’s a good thing. Those of us in the media should not be the only ones with a voice. We can sometimes shine a light on certain issues and rally fans to care about things they might otherwise have ignored, but ultimately the UFC cares more about pleasing its customers than it does about pleasing the media. After all, we get into the fights for free. We don’t buy t-shirts; I’ve actually seen media members jump out of the way when fighters throw free t-shirts into the crowd at weigh-ins. We’re not the audience for that. We’re a means to an end, as far as MMA organizations are concerned. Fans (and their money) are the final arbiters.