Each week, ESPN.com MMA writer Brett Okamoto, ESPN Insider senior editor Mike Huang and a special guest panelist tackle five questions that are buzzing in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, renowned trainer Duane Ludwig joins the panel to provide his thoughts on the best training camp in MMA, most impressive win streaks and more.
1. Where does Renan Barao fit on the pound-for-pound list, should he win this weekend?
Duane Ludwig: Barao fits near the top of my list, for sure. I don't think he's the No. 1 guy, but he's definitely in the top five. No. 1 for a long time was Anderson Silva. Now it's kind of up in the air. I would probably say Jose Aldo, then Barao. I'm more of a fan of Aldo than Barao. I'll give Jon Jones the third spot. Aldo, Barao, Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Duane Ludwig fifth (laughs).
Brett Okamoto: Going into this weekend, I have Renan Barao ranked the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I think the No. 1 spot is between Jon Jones and Jose Aldo. Those two are pretty much interchangeable. Third on my list is Demetrious Johnson. I think Johnson gets overlooked on a lot of pound-for-pound lists. The undefeated Chris Weidman is No. 4, then Barao.
Michael Huang: Barao is undoubtedly one of the best P4P fighters in the world, I just wouldn't say THE best just yet. I still reserve that title for Nova Uniao teammate Jose Aldo. At 24-1, Aldo's victim list includes former champs such as Frankie Edgar, Urijah Faber and Mike Brown as well as top contenders such as Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian and Chan Sung Jung. All respect to TJ Dillashaw, but a victory over him doesn't put Barao over Aldo in P4P. Anderson Silva held that mantle because many could easily envision him beating anyone his own division as well in the weight classes closest to his own. I see the same for Aldo.
2. What is the best camp in MMA right now?
Ludwig: In what aspect? Wins and losses? Coaching staff? I guess if we go wins and losses it would have to be Team Alpha Male. The "Bangzilians." I'll go with that, even though I'm not quite sure what the other camps' records are the last year or so. We're 20-2. The Urijah Faber loss to Barao, I don't really count. I don't count it as a win, either -- but it was an early stoppage.
Okamoto: American Top Team is pretty much rocking this year, from the bottom up. Well represented in every weight class. Champions and title contenders: Robbie Lawler, Glover Teixeira, Hector Lombard, Tyron Woodley, Daniel Straus, Will Brooks, Douglas Lima. Real prospects in guys such as Justin Scoggins and Mirsad Bektic. It's real tough to not say Nova Uniao is the best gym in the world right now, though. Two of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world in Aldo and Barao. Eduardo Dantas. Recently, BJ Penn and Junior dos Santos have spent time there. You don't get more elite than that.
Huang: Ideally I'd break that up by weight classes because so many camps excel in developing different classes of fighters, but Nova Uniao is close with two current champs in its stable of fighters. I've always been partial to American Kickboxing Academy because of its longevity in producing top contenders at every weight class, just like American Top Team and Jackson/Winklejohn's. I'd use the fighters themselves as a barometer. All of those camps are places where fighters train with champions or near-champions every day, where a fighter of any weight class can find ample competition and top training partners who can push them and help them improve. The best camps are the ones that offer that on an elite level and the aforementioned quartet does it better than anyone.
3. Should the winner of Daniel Cormier-Dan Henderson wait for a title shot or fight again?
Ludwig: I would like to see the title shot ... I would like to see DC versus Jon Jones. I think that would be an interesting fight -- although I still see Jones beating anybody in that division. I think Cormier can beat Henderson and if I were his trainer or manager, I would suggest he sit out and wait for a title shot. And I do think he deserves it.
Okamoto: It's a long wait. Jones probably doesn't fight Alexander Gustafsson until September. So if the winner of this fight waits, you're looking at a break of potentially 10 months. I don't disagree with Jones' comments about contenders not fighting each other. If Cormier wins, I think a fight between him and Anthony Johnson makes a lot of sense, although I understand why the UFC wouldn't want to burn one of them by having them fight each other. Even though Hendo is 1-3 in his past four, he should go ahead and wait. He was basically robbed of a UFC title shot twice since 2009.
Huang: As much as I would like either one of them to get the title shot right away, I wonder if any rematch with Gustafsson -- as Dana White alluded to last month -- would take place first. The time frame suggests that there'd be some waiting involved before getting a shot at Jon Jones. Should they take a fight in between? It doesn't do Henderson any good to do so, and he's not afraid of telling the UFC it's Jones or nothing. Cormier actually might benefit from another fight, one that isn't a gatekeeper type. Maybe Cormier-"Rumble" Johnson?
4. Who has the greatest winning streak ever in MMA?
Ludwig: The only champ I've seen really tested in a streak has been Jones against Gustafsson. St-Pierre had some tough fights (in a 12-fight win streak dating back to 2007) but I wouldn't say he was truly tested. Even Fedor Emelianenko (27 consecutive wins) -- who was the toughest guy he fought? Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira a few times? Yeah, I'll go with Fedor, though. He's old school and that was a great run. Let's do that.
Okamoto: From Aug. 25, 2007 to April 30, 2011, St-Pierre won 33 consecutive rounds. Not fights -- rounds. To me, that is the most unfathomable streak. In terms of a win streak, I think Anderson Silva's 16-0 run to start his UFC career is the greatest streak of all time. He had a few "easy" fights along the way, no question, but the overall competition he faced and the manner in which he won defined him as the greatest fighter of his era.
Huang: That has to be Anderson Silva. Seven years, 16 wins, 11 title defenses. He served as the standard in MMA and it earned him the best P4P fighter title in the eyes of many experts and fans. Jones is coming close, though. His streak's greatness can't yet be based on longevity like Silva's, but rather on the collective greatness of who he has beaten. If there was an all-in-one stat to measure each of Jones' victories over "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua, Gustafsson, Teixeira, etc. ... I bet it might be close to that of Silva's.
5. Did Muhammed Lawal get robbed by judges in his unanimous decision loss to Quinton Jackson?
Ludwig: I didn't watch the fight, but I will tell you that I think judging is a problem. I would like to see commissions pull in more ex-fighters to referee and judge these events. I'm not going to pull in an expert on some other field to judge something that directly affects hundreds of thousands of dollars -- millions of dollars for some guys -- and these guys' careers and families. I don't think a lot of them are educated enough.
Okamoto: I wouldn't say robbed. I had someone ask me the other day, "If 90 percent of the people watching the bout scored it for Lawal, how is that not a robbery?" It's a good point but ultimately, that fight came down to one very close third round. Not a lot happened in it. It could have been scored 10-10. When I hear the word "robbery," I think about someone losing something that clearly belonged to them. I scored the fight 29-28 for Lawal, but it was a really close 29-28. It wasn't a situation where Lawal proved beyond all doubt he took it and was cheated by the judges.
Huang: Look, everyone says they get robbed. And if you leave it in the hands of the judges, there's always that risk. Frankly, no one should be surprised "Rampage" won. It was a boring fight. I was bored. Rampage landed some shots, which seems ultimately counted for more than all of Lawal's takedowns. Did "King Mo" do anything with those takedowns? Not really.