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 lightweight contender Dustin Poirier to debate the latest news and trends. Poirier (20-4) has won four straight fights since returning to 155 pounds, including a first-round knockout of Bobby Green at UFC 199.
Poirier: I think so. Nate is naturally a bigger guy. He's just longer and heavy. I think both guys should be lightweights, but Nate is in that gray area between making the 155-pound cut and being too small for 170. He's in that mid-zone. If there was a 160-pound weight class, that'd be perfect. So I do think it benefits Nate again. It helps him everywhere. If you have a size advantage, especially grappling, you can use it as a positional advantage. When you get on top, you can use your size and length to secure positions. It's harder for the guy on bottom to scramble up if whoever on top is bigger and knows how to use it, which Nate definitely does. He's also a lot longer, and tall for 155 and 170. But Conor might have time to make the adjustments, prepare, do his cardio a little different. We'll see what happens. I could see Conor winning this one. If I had to pick one side, I'd pick Conor. Nate definitely beat him the first time fair and square, but Nate was getting beat up in the first one and Conor will use his energy better this next time.
Okamoto: I do see it as an advantage, yes. I believe this has come up on Five Rounds before. While I don't see it as a huge advantage for Diaz, as Poirier said, he's basically right at his fighting weight. He doesn't have to cut anything to make this weight, which could have a negative effect on his durability or cardio. He "wears" 170 pounds better than McGregor. I don't have much to add, as I'll defer to Poirier's explanation of what advantages being the bigger man carries. I never really wanted this fight at 170 pounds because it's just unnecessary. I don't see McGregor or Diaz rising to the top of a 170-pound division, and while I agree that belts don't factor into this rematch, why not officially make this McGregor's UFC lightweight debut?
2. What will Kimbo Slice be remembered for by the mixed martial arts community?
Dustin Poirier: You know, making it on to "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show and then fighting in the UFC outside of that show -- that's a big accomplishment for a guy fighting out of a backyard. Turning backyard street-fighting, and using that as an avenue to become a legitimate fighter and put in the work to be a professional, taking care of your family by doing that -- that's a big accomplishment. Anytime I was around Kimbo, he was a very humble man. He wasn't the person who I thought he would be. He didn't act like I thought, growing up and watching him on the Internet and on TV ... I didn't think he'd be as down to earth and as humble as he was. He was a family guy. Every time I saw him, he had his kids with him. He was just a really nice guy.
Brett Okamoto: I've heard this so many times about Kimbo Slice and I can vouch for it from personal experience: He wasn't the guy you expected him to be. Especially back in 2009, when I first met him on the set of TUF. I was new to MMA reporting at that time, and I really only knew Slice from his backyard brawling videos. I expected him to be this intimidating, rough-around-the-edges, scary dude. It really did not take long to understand that he was actually a thoughtful, intelligent, humble, kind human being. I remember his early interviews, when he first joined the UFC, they were great. He was easy to talk to. He was cutting weight for the first time, really (his fight against Houston Alexander was at 215 pounds). That fight was around Thanksgiving and I remember Slice telling me, "I'm gonna 'gobble gobble' after this weigh-in, believe that." He had a sense of humor and a respect for MMA, and that won a lot of people over. He will sincerely be missed.
Poirier: With the heavyweight division right now, it's a different landscape, for sure -- but I would have liked to see Junior dos Santos [the two were originally supposed to fight at UFC 131] fight Lesnar. I know Junior is coming off surgery, but that was the first matchup that came into my head when I heard Brock was coming back. It's just a fun matchup. Dos Santos has good crisp boxing and has been working on his wrestling [training at American Top Team] as well. But to be honest, Lesnar hasn't fought in a long time. There's no telling if he has been training at all, and anybody in the heavyweight division is going to be tough for him, I think. He'll probably be throwing big punches to initiate the clinch and work the takedown. I think this will be the last time he fights. I think Hunt is going to beat him up.
Okamoto: I guess that I do think this will be Lesnar's last MMA bout. No one knows for sure. I believe him when he says even he doesn't know for sure. But he's still under contract with the WWE, as we all know. That is his career and I ultimately don't see that changing. I'm more than willing to welcome him back with open arms at UFC 200 -- and while part of that is due, of course, to the excitement he'll bring, I don't see this as a sideshow. Lesnar was a former champion, not a one-and-done circus act. And he's fighting a ranked opponent in Hunt, whom Lesnar can beat if he can take Hunt down. And for that reason, yeah, I do like the choice of Hunt. If the thought is we really are getting Lesnar back for one fight and one fight only, let's put him in with a stick of dynamite, but one he's actually capable of diffusing. Hunt can exploit Lesnar's biggest weakness (he doesn't take a punch well) and Lesnar can exploit Hunt's (defensive grappling).
Poirier: Man, it's up there, but I'm not as surprised as everybody else. A lot of people really thought this was never going to happen, but I thought it was going to be a fight that Bisping could win. I'm a fan of Bisping. Anybody that has been in the UFC that long and fought as many great guys as he has -- and is still a force after all these years -- is a legitimate fighter and dangerous opponent on any night. It doesn't matter if he came in on two weeks' notice. The most stunning moment to me is Matt Serra knocking out Georges St-Pierre. That's probably No. 1. Then maybe Holly Holm is up there, knocking out Ronda Rousey.
Okamoto: Poirier wasn't shocked? I was shocked. I was shocked big-time. I was in the arena for Bisping's win, as I was when Holm knocked out Rousey, and my shock level was about equal. The difference is that with Holm, hindsight is 20-20 and I think I miscalculated that matchup. Granted, I think we all expected Rousey to use a slightly different game plan than she did that night, but in general, I believe I probably saw that matchup wrong going in. And I freely admit that now. I don't feel the same way about Bisping's win over Rockhold. If/when those two fight again, I will pick Rockhold. So for that reason I find Bisping's win all the more shocking. And it was essentially a one-punch knockout, in the first round, from a guy who isn't known as a heavy hitter. Even though Bisping has been around forever and has won 19 fights in the UFC, given the circumstances, this is neck-and-neck with Serra-St-Pierre for most stunning MMA moment of all time.
5. Who should Bisping defend his title against first?
Poirier: That's a tough one to call, but I don't think it should be a rubber match with Rockhold immediately. There's enough of that going on already with a bunch of weight classes. I think "Jacare" [Ronaldo Souza] should get the next title shot. He's on a winning streak, I think it should be Bisping-Jacare. I think Chris Weidman is there, too. Maybe it should be Jacare-Weidman for a title shot eliminator. But then, there's no telling what's going to happen with Dan Henderson. Will he retire? I wouldn't mind seeing Dan Henderson get a shot at the belt finally, get a chance to wear UFC gold. Put a real cap on his career.
Okamoto: I'm good with "Jacare" as well. It's time. And although a rubber match with Rockhold would be the top seller for the UFC (and they might go that route), I don't see how you can deny Souza again. His split-decision loss to Yoel Romero in December didn't seem like a loss at all. If anything, it seemed like a tie against an opponent who has also looked capable of being the best middleweight in the world. Souza is 6-1 in the UFC and a former Strikeforce champion. It's not that Rockhold is undeserving of an immediate title shot, but he did just get knocked out in the first round. My matchmaking at 185 starts with Bisping-Souza. From there, it probably goes Weidman-Romero and Rockhold-Vitor Belfort (I'm sorry, I still care about this grudge match for reasons unknown to me). And if Hendo's career continues (personally, I hope he decides to end it with the Hector Lombard knockout), maybe Anderson Silva-Henderson II?