Machida, Rousey, Faber, more


Each week, MMA writer Brett Okamoto, ESPN Insider senior editor Mike Huang and a guest panelist tackle five topics that are buzzing in the world of mixed martial arts.

This week, UFC lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez joins the panel.

What's Lyoto Machida's biggest advantage against Chris Weidman?

Gilbert Melendez: It could be his experience and the fact that he's fought 205-pounders and he's coming down in weight. But just as much, his advantage could be his striking. He's a very elusive fighter, and he can control the distance and the pace really well.
Brett Okamoto: Basically, it's the same advantage he has against any opponent -- counterstriking. If Weidman stands with Machida, he will invite trouble. Machida is a ridiculously fast at 185 pounds, and his current striking coach, Rafael Cordeiro, has been working on getting him to string counters together in longer combinations. The "Dragon era" never really took off like we thought, but Machida is still awesome on the feet.
Mike Huang: Surprise. Seemingly, Machida's elusive style will force Weidman to stalk Machida. However, if he engages early, he could catch Weidman off guard and land a nice punch somewhere. It's totally possible considering Machida's striking and counterstriking accuracy. He's so precise. The other thing most overlook is Machida's jiu-jitsu. Because of his formidable striking, people forget that he's a terrific jiu-jitsu artist and could catch Weidman if they find themselves on the ground at some point.

How should we evaluate Chris Weidman off his two KOs of Anderson Silva?

Melendez: We can evaluate him highly. They were very awkward fights -- getting the knockout in the first fight when Silva was showboating, and using his knee in a freak accident to snap Silva's leg in the second fight. But along with showing his confidence, I believe Weidman was on his way to winning that second fight anyway because he dropped the former champion in the first round. After assessing it all, I think Weidman is getting better with each fight, and his championship is well-deserved.
Okamoto: He is the best middleweight in the world at this moment. You have to give him credit for that. After Weidman defeated Silva the first time, we all needed to be convinced he could do it again. Silva had his hands down, Chris. Clearly he didn't take you seriously. But then Weidman came back and dropped Silva in the first round of the rematch and finished the fight with a checked leg kick in the next round. He was better than Silva twice and deserves to be the champion.
Huang: Fairly and with no prejudice. I understand why fans and the media still question it -- the victories seemingly came more from what Silva did wrong. In Weidman-Silva I, Silva was clowning and got caught. In Weidman-Silva II, Silva threw an ill-advised leg kick that Weidman checked with his knee, breaking Silva's leg. But flip that around. It was Weidman who connected with Silva's jaw regardless of clowning, and it was Weidman who trained days with Ray Longo to develop that check specifically for Silva. So let's give Weidman his due -- he took and defended the belt. Silva did not give it away.

What weakness in Ronda Rousey's game can Alexis Davis exploit?

Melendez: I wouldn't even call it a weakness, but Rousey's least strength would be her striking. And I wouldn't say that's Davis' strength either. But a puncher's chance is a puncher's chance. If somehow Davis -- or anyone -- can persuade Ronda to bang it out on her feet, that's their best chance of winning.
Okamoto: Overeagerness. Rousey is an extremely aggressive fighter. Even as her striking and overall game evolves, she'll always have a natural instinct to go after her opponent. When fighting an experienced, crafty opponent like Davis, that could work against her. If she overcommits at any point in the fight, Davis could jump to her back and choke her out.
Huang: It's the same strategy Liz Carmouche used and nearly caught Rousey with in their fight at UFC 157. Carmouche charged aggressively and took the fight from Rousey. Davis is a striker. Don't let her get comfortable, and pepper her with lots of strikes from multiple angles. But if Rousey gets you on the ground, you know the armbar is coming. Stay active, scramble. Be like water.

Who needs a win more -- Urijah Faber or Uriah Hall?

Melendez: Faber needs a big win. Even though he got destroyed by former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao in his last fight, he's fighting Alex Caceres, someone he should be able to dominate. So Faber losing this fight in the prelims would make it hard for him to get another title shot.
Okamoto: Close call. I would have to say Hall. As shocking as it would be if Faber lost this fight, what do we really think would happen if he did? It's not like the UFC would cut him or his career would be done. He'd probably move back to 145 pounds and still get a big-name opponent because he's Urijah Faber. Hall, on the other hand, for all his potential, has lost more in the UFC Octagon than he's won. He needs a win badly.
Huang: Even though he's only one fight removed from a title shot, Faber needs the win more. He's yet to shake the whole can't-win-the-big-one rep, underserved or not. If he loses, I'm afraid he might slip into that gatekeeper lane of the UFC highway. And the odds of a title shot from the wrong side of the road is remote.

How will BJ Penn's fight against Frankie Edgar affect his legacy?

Melendez: The outcome will not really affect his legacy because his legacy has already been affected. And I think it will be another win for Edgar. If Penn wins, he can definitely improve his legacy. But can it tarnish any more if he loses to Frankie a third time? I think that's what a lot of people expect.
Okamoto: The outcome of this third Edgar fight won't affect Penn's legacy as much as it will affect where his career goes from here. If he gets beat up for a third consecutive fight, it's probably time to retire. He doesn't need the money, his legacy is secure, and nobody wants to see the guy take enough damage to where it affects the rest of his life. If he wins, we'll have to see what he wants to do, but win or lose, Penn's legacy is as safe as it gets.
Huang: If he wins, it might dampen the memories of the beatdowns he took when Edgar turned Penn's face into a bloody pulp. Edgar-Penn II was a demolition and a sad way to see a pioneer of the sport seemingly go out on his shield. Up until now, that's pretty much the indelible image most have of Penn because his fights afterward were terrible except a hollow victory over a well-done Matt Hughes. If he loses, Penn's overall legacy would remain secure considering his work over the years, but it would be a shame that most would remember his losses more than his wins.