Josh Gross
Wednesday May 7th, 2008

Of the forthcoming summer cards, few have generated as much curiosity as the bill promoted by Affliction, a premium clothing manufacturer whose skull-and-crossbones inspired designs are just as likely to be worn by ripped fighters as they are by fast-food-fueled wannabes.

Featuring a contingent of the sport's top heavyweights including Fedor Emelianenko, Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett and Pedro Rizzo, the July 19 event is expected to exceed an unheard of $6 million in fighter purses, which, while being wonderful for the athletes involved, has led many to speculate how long the company can survive before finances dictate otherwise.

Though Affliction representatives remain tight lipped, discussion surrounding the card -- appropriately dubbed "Banned" after the UFC, and later EliteXC, prohibited fighters from wearing the clothing brand -- has escalated in recent weeks.

Among the group of handsomely compensated fighters, middleweight Matt Lindland (20-5) is perhaps the hungriest to compete. Early talk had the former UFC contender taking rematches against David Terrell or Murilo Bustamante.

However, SI.com learned Tuesday that the leading candidate to face the gangly wrestler is Brazilian middleweight Fabio Negao, owner of an 8-3 record. Splitting his last six bouts, Negao is coming off a loss in December to Rousimar Palhares, as well as two other defeats by Demian Maia (choke) and Ray Lazama (KO). South African middleweight Trevor Prangley had been discussed as a potential Lindland foe, but Affliction's decision to pit Lindland against Negao appears close to final.

When Lindland steps back into the cage this summer, it will have been 15 months since Emelianenko armbarred the Team Quest leader in less than three minutes in St. Petersburg, Russia. Turning 38 on May 17, Lindland has long been part of the discussion regarding 185-pound fighters who could challenge the division's best. Negao, despite a unanimous points victory over Roan Carneiro and the distinction of holding a BJJ black belt, doesn't seem to qualify.

With Lindland simply interested in fighting an opponent endowed with a strong pulse, the Brazilian will make do. Either way, fans of the pay-per-view card, which has recently been rumored to shift venues from Dallas to Anaheim, Calif., will probably happily shell out the money given the evening's main event: a showdown between the top heavyweight on the planet, Emelianenko (27-1, 1 NC), and former UFC champion Sylvia (24-4).

Also recently confirmed by both competitors, Barnett (21-5) and Rizzo (16-7) will meet in a rematch of an exciting 2001 contest that saw the Brazilian score an iconic knockout.

But now to the readers. A number of SI.com users emailed me regarding my first article on judging in MMA. Here are your questions, and your answers.

How can one become an MMA judge? Can a passionate, educated fan just apply for a license and make themselves available? - Steve Bedigian, Merrimack, NH

I couldn't think of a more thankless job. Do it correctly, no one pays attention. Have an off night, and the world is after you.

While there aren't any hard and fast rules when it comes to something as subjective as judging, the idea that some officials aren't as well versed as your average fan is down right frightening. Now don't get me wrong, there are great officials out there -- just not enough for an exploding sport.

I couldn't imagine being asked to judge something I didn't know inside and out, and you can't place blame solely at the officials' feet. If you take what Hamilton said to heart, responsibility rests with the regulatory bodies handing out judging and reffing assignments to people who aren't equipped for the job.

If you're serious, contact your local athletic commission and inquire about the job. Also, do what NSAC executive officer Keith Kizer suggested and seek out amateur MMA in your area. Perhaps there's an opportunity to learn on the job.

Your (judging) article addressed topics that need to be discussed in the MMA world. One of them was how BJJ fighters win a decision from their back. Right now the answer is cloudy since so many fans and judges do not understand what is going on the ground in an MMA fight.

But I think the answer may be the rubber guard. I think the rubber guard will help ground fighters win decisions off their backs. I think this is the case because when used effectively, the rubber guard can totally neutralize the ground-and-pounder's offense. When a BJJ fighter is using the rubber guard when he's on his back, he can rack up points from the judges -- even uneducated ones -- by punching and elbowing his opponent, while at the same time totally neutralizing any effective offense from the man on top. And of course the rubber guard also allows the man on his back to threaten with fight ending submissions. Jason Day vs. Alan Belcher comes to mind. - Jason, Tulsa, Okla.

If bouts end in submission, terrific. But a rubber guard practitioner, whose goal is to land a submission from the bottom, is the type of fighter that could suffer if judges don't recognize what they're watching. I live 10 minutes from Legends MMA in Hollywood, Calif., where rubber guard founding father Eddie Bravo makes his teaching home. Maybe we'll get a chance to learn more about the tactic sometime down the road.

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