Each week, ESPN.com writer Brett Okamoto provides his take on the hottest topics in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, Okamoto squares off with UFC featherweight Cub Swanson to debate the latest news and preview Saturday's UFC 201 card. Swanson (22-7), 32, returns to the Octagon on Aug. 6 at UFC Fight Night in Salt Lake City against Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Swanson: I think he does have a great point. I don't know if I would have necessarily attacked the UFC about it, but I definitely feel like I would want some compensation for what happened to him. It's just not right, the whole scenario of somebody like Brock making that kind of money and then failing his drug test. I think when someone fails a drug test in general, it's stupid now as far as the fines. I don't think athletic commissions should get any of that money. I think it should go to the fighter who went in there. Drug testing in this sport is better than what it used to be. I think it could always be better, but I'm not sure exactly how. I don't know why, but I don't fully trust USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency]. There's big money on the line, and I've heard people from the boxing community speak negatively about them. I appreciate what they're trying to do, though. I think guys are scared to do stuff, and the guys who have been caught, it's definitely making waves.
Okamoto: All right, so here's what I don't like about Hunt's take: He sort of knew what he was getting into. He can't complain about the UFC waiving that four-month testing window for Lesnar now, since he knew that going in and agreed to it. He even spoke about it before the fight, basically saying, "It's not right, but I'm gonna KO him anyway." If you say that, you just don't have a leg to stand on to complain about it after. The rest of what he's saying? I agree with a lot of it. I don't buy into this idea the UFC knew about Lesnar's failed test before July 9. I do believe, however, they could have known the results had they expedited the process of getting them. From conversations I've had with people in the know, the UFC can accelerate that process, but it's expensive. We're talking about UFC 200 -- and an athlete in Lesnar who already wasn't tested the "mandatory" four months prior to his fight. If you're not ponying up for expedited results in that situation, when are you? In that regard, the UFC let Hunt down, and he's well within his rights to be angry about it.
2. Chael Sonnen's two-year drug suspension officially ended July 23. Do you expect him to fight again and, if so, whom should it be against?
Swanson: The problem with Chael is that he's an exciting talker but a boring fighter. So, I don't really care to watch him fight again. I think he's better off as an analyst. I just ... no. He talks a big game, and that's it. I think what has been great about Conor McGregor is that he talks a big game but he's also an exciting fighter -- which Chael fell very short of. So, I don't want to see him fight again.
Okamoto: Nope. He's never fighting again. He said he retired, guys. Why would he retire if he was going to fight again? ... Just kidding. Of course Sonnen will fight, and Oct. 1 in Portland seems like a soft landing spot, wouldn't you agree? He has been added to USADA's testing pool and very strongly hinted at the comeback everyone knew was coming. So, who does he fight? No. 1 option is Nick Diaz, who is coming off an 18-month suspension in August. That matchup works for both fighters and is clearly outstanding for television ratings. And with the UFC falling into new ownership, with an exclusive television deal set to expire in two years, good television ratings would be a nice way to increase its potential value. Sonnen-Diaz is the way to go.
Swanson: By keeping a high pace. Everybody seems to be fighting Robbie's fight, letting him keep distance and come in and out when he wants to. You've got to bull him, level change and make him fight completely on defense. Woodley is very capable of doing that; it's just a matter of having the confidence to rush right forward, and then be able to do that for five rounds. Tyron looks great in some fights, and others he hasn't looked his best. If he shows up at his best, I could see him winning that fight.
Okamoto: Knockout. Nobody is better in championship rounds than Lawler. If this goes five rounds, Lawler will find a way to win at least three. Woodley needs a finish, and the most likely way he gets it is a knockout. Woodley is a very good wrestler, but I don't think we'll see him go heavy on takedowns here. Lawler is very, very hard to hold down and posture up on. Woodley doesn't have bad cardio, but he's not a lean, 170-pound track star, either, a la Carlos Condit. He can be aggressive, as Swanson suggests, but he also needs to pace himself. Blowing energy trying to outwrestle Lawler for 25 minutes? I don't see it. I think he'll try to be opportunistic on the feet and see if any of Lawler's durability has been compromised by the wars he has been in.
4. With the women's 135-pound division as chaotic as it has ever been, play matchmaker: What fights should the UFC be looking to put together?
Swanson: I couldn't even tell you, with everyone beating everyone. I love that, personally. I think when we have a dominant champion over the years, the division kind of gets stagnant. With things switching over and over, you can really do any matchup you want. The one I'd like to see is Ronda [Rousey] fighting Holly [Holm] again. I lost a lot of respect for her, not coming back yet. You've got to come back after your losses. Look at Holly -- she came back; she has lost twice now; she'll be back again, fighting to prove to herself she's as good as she is. I think Ronda needs to do that.
Okamoto: If it's up to me: Amanda Nunes-Julianna Pena for the title. Why not? Holm, Miesha Tate and Rousey are all coming off a loss. Valentina Shevchenko just beat Holm, but she also just lost to Nunes back in March. Pena might be young, but she's mean and won't give an inch. Stylistically, that's a fun championship fight. From there, Tate-Cat Zingano II makes sense. First one was close, Tate felt it was stopped early. Tate probably needs some time after UFC 200, but that's a fight with a story behind it. Rousey? What if she were to come back against Shevchenko? Fans would probably jump all over that as a "gimme" fight, but if there's one thing I've learned, there are no gimme fights in this division right now -- and after a full year off, you know what? I'd be cool with Rousey not jumping immediately back into the fire against the champion (Nunes) or her worst style matchup (Holm). Yeah, I'll allow it. That leaves Holm versus either a midlevel bantamweight to get back in line for the title or, if she wants it, a 140-pound "super fight" against Cris "Cyborg" Justino.
5. Looking ahead to UFC 202, who has a greater advantage in the rematch: McGregor, because he's now familiar with 170 pounds, or Nate Diaz, because he has a full training camp this time?
Swanson: I think Nate has the advantage. I know Conor is smart enough to make those adjustments and come in a little more prepared for Nate in general, but I think the biggest factor is Nate not caring. Most guys Conor has fought, he has beat before even getting in there. That's not the case with Nate. I think Nate will be even more dangerous this time around.
Okamoto: When it comes down to that part of it, I think McGregor benefits slightly more. The knowledge and adjustments he'll make for the rematch, I see them as being even greater than what Diaz will gain having a full camp. That does not necessarily mean I'm picking McGregor to win. I just think he will go into the rematch with a completely different (better) tactical approach, whereas Diaz will fight similar to how he did the first time, just in better shape with better timing. Both will benefit from actually knowing ahead of time who they are fighting, clearly. But I think McGregor will benefit from it more. He has more he can change.