Each week, ESPN.com writer and MMA Live Extra analyst Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, Okamoto squares off with Bellator light heavyweight Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal to debate the latest news and trends. Lawal (19-4), 35, returns to the cage May 14 in a headlining bout against Phil Davis at Bellator 154 in San Jose, California.
1. What is the No. 1 must-see fight Bellator MMA could make right now?
Muhammed Lawal: You could have a round-robin [tournament] with Wanderlei Silva, Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz. Me versus [heavyweight champion] Vitaly Minakov. Me versus [light heavyweight champion] Liam McGeary. Me versus Phil Davis is a great fight. I'm open to fighting whoever. You could have [19-year-old prospect and wrestling standout] Aaron Pico fight my boy [NCAA national wrestling champion] Darrion Caldwell. Pico is young, but I think he's ready to fight anyone.
Brett Okamoto: I believe I've said something along these lines before: I would like to see lightweight champion Will Brooks versus Benson Henderson. And Henderson's recent loss to Andrey Koreshkov at welterweight does nothing to diminish my interest in this. For my money, Brooks is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter currently on Bellator's roster, and I'd very much like to see him challenged. Obviously, Henderson strikes me as the right man for that job. I'll definitely want to see McGeary defend his title against Davis or Lawal. And last one I'll mention: How about a real fight for British welterweight Michael Page? I'm ready, he's ready, we're all ready. We've been ready. He's getting a small step up in competition on July 16 against Fernando Gonzalez. If he passes that one, let's really take the kid gloves off.
2. Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson will return to the Bellator cage on June 24 after initially leaving the promotion in 2015. Is Satoshi Ishii the right opponent?
Lawal: Yeah, I'll watch it. Thing about Ishii is, if you're a long-range fighter, you can beat him. But Quinton is not a long-range fighter. Quinton likes to fight on the inside. He likes to box. So if Ishii grabs him and takes him down, then what's Quinton going to do? Then Quinton has to deal with a grappler. Ishii can wrestle, grapple, has good judo -- so, it could be a good fight. I think either Ishii will grind him out or Quinton will knock him out. When you say Satoshi Ishii, if anyone doesn't know, all you have to say is, "2008 Olympic gold medalist [in judo]," and it's sold. He has five losses, yeah, but to guys like Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko. It's not like he's a scrub.
Okamoto: I don't disagree with anything Lawal said here. It's not a matchup that really gets your blood flowing, though. According to Bellator officials, Ishii is signed to a multi-fight deal. He still might show up in a Japanese RIZIN FF event, but Bellator is looking at him as a promotional asset, so in terms of building interest in him right off the bat in his debut, it works. On the "Rampage" side of things, it makes less sense. This will be his fourth Bellator appearance, and so far his opponents have been Joey Beltran, Christian M'Pumbu, Lawal and now Ishii. Doesn't seem like much bang for the buck there. Part of that was because of circumstances outside of current president Scott Coker's control. This Ishii matchup, though, kind of has me shrugging.
Lawal: I'm interested because Kimbo is my boy, and anytime you have two heavy hitters going like that, you're going to see a knockout. I think Kimbo is going to redeem himself from his last fight [a no-decision against Dhafir "Dada 5000" Harris on Feb. 19 in Houston]. It's free on Spike TV, let's do it. I think Kimbo put too much pressure on himself last time to get a knockout. And people can bash that fight all they want, but Dada died in the cage, for real [Harris was hospitalized after the bout and suffered cardiac arrest]. He left it all out there. Who can say that? Everybody says, "I'm willing to die, I'm willing to die." Well, Dada was willing to die, because he did.
Okamoto: I'm not. Hey, I'll admit: The Kimbo Slice-Dada 5000 "Fight for the Streets" matchup, I was kind of into that. I watched Billy Corben's documentary on Dada 5000 and bought into the backstory. What's wrong with having a little fun, right? Well, then the fight went three rounds. Neither one was in good shape or anything close to it. Slice ended up popping for steroids, and Dada 5000's life nearly ended. I've got nothing against Slice personally. In fact he has always been a good interview in my experience, and I respect what he has done, but I'm not interested in watching him fight anymore, particularly when he should be serving a suspension for having nandrolone in his body two months ago. This one doesn't do it for me.
Lawal: Are they full-blooded brothers? They're adopted? Oh, come on, man! I'm cool with that. I'm cool with that. If they were full-blooded brothers I'd say that's crazy. But if they're adopted, they're friends. Friends fight all the time in MMA. To me, if those guys want to fight, they both have MMA records, they're adopted brothers -- let them fight. It's not like anybody is forcing them to do it.
Okamoto: The fact they are adopted brothers makes this only slightly more acceptable to me. At the end of the day, I'm in agreement with Lawal on one thing: No one is forcing them to do it. They've actually both talked about the possibility of it before. If it's what they want to do, you won't find me picketing outside WSOF's headquarters to stop it. It seems obvious thus far, however, that WSOF intends to promote this as a brother vs. brother fight, which I guess I understand, but it's seems like a shameless way to promote a fight. Is what it is, I guess.
5. After Fabricio Werdum defends his title against Stipe Miocic at UFC 198, who deserves the next heavyweight title shot: the winner of Alistair Overeem-Andrei Arlovski or Cain Velasquez-Travis Browne?
Lawal: Cain. Cain. Cain. If Cain wins, give him the title shot. His last loss was to the champion [Werdum, in June]. If Cain loses and Overeem wins, give Overeem a title shot because he's coming off a big knockout win against Junior dos Santos [in December]. But for the most part, I go with Cain because he lost the belt to the champion and was supposed to fight for the belt again this year [in February] but got hurt. So if Cain wins, let him fight Werdum again. They have history.
Okamoto: I agree with Lawal's take. I was actually fine with Velasquez getting an immediate rematch at first. Once he injured his back and couldn't fight Werdum in February, it made sense to promote Miocic ahead of him, but that doesn't change my interest in seeing a Werdum-Velasquez rematch eventually. I give Werdum full credit for winning the title last summer in Mexico City, but I also believe high altitude and a long layoff negatively affected Velasquez in that loss. If Werdum beats Miocic, which is no guarantee, my preferred heavyweight title fight would be that rematch.