Josh Gross
Friday October 16th, 2009

Before Fall's massive schedule kicks off a week from now in Los Angeles, mixed martial arts fans are looking ahead at what promises to be a compelling few months.

But until then, we're hitting the mailbag, where all topics -- including Royce Gracie's absence from my top 10 all-time fighters list, Ben Rothwell's confidence heading into UFC 104, the promotion of Fedor and B.J. Penn's lightweight title defense against Diego Sanchez -- are all fair game.

About your top 10 MMA fighters of all time, how could you leave out Royce Gracie? I would like to point out how he revolutionized the sport of MMA. If he was the only one dominating, by way of his Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, he forced the whole sport of MMA to realize they needed to adapt to challenge all forms of martial arts. He paved the way for fighters to adapt in multiple skill sets, instead of depending on the one skill they had trained. Also, the Gracie Guard has become a staple in MMA. I don't see how you couldn't list him at all on your top 10. Also, what about Masahiko Kimura? -- Shawny Nevill, Emporia, Kan.

I only considered MMA's modern era when making the list, which meant several iconic mixed-style fighters from the past 100 years weren't included. Even if I was open to Helio and Carlson Gracie, or Masahiko Kimura, the level of competition and sporadic nature of their fights makes them difficult, if not impossible, to rank.

As far as Royce goes, he took advantage of fighters who didn't know anything about ground fighting. Rickson Gracie would have done the same if not better against the competitors Royce faced in the first four UFCs. Really, though, two incidents later in his career sealed Gracie's lack of inclusion. The marathon loss to Kazushi Sakuraba and charges of a positive steroid test in 2007 went largely undefended.

Ben Rothwell sounds confident that he is going to beat Cain Velasquez in his upcoming match at UFC 104. He said Cain's basically not fought anyone of Ben's caliber and he was going to submit or KO Cain. So, do you think he's way overconfident, or is Ben as legit as he thinks he is? -- David, Atlanta, Ga.

During Rothwell's run in the International Fight League his trainer, former UFC champion Pat Miletich, said "Big" Ben deserved to be ranked among the top three heavyweights in MMA. It's no wonder Rothwell thinks so highly of himself. Of course, Miletich's assertion was laughable, and results bore that out.

Back to Rothwell's point, which he reiterated to me earlier this week: He believes Velasquez has been protected, and on Oct. 24, Rothwell said he plans to expose the prospect for what he isn't. Can the 6-foot-5, 265-pound heavyweight actually do it? Rothwell is a nimble big man with skill. If he can fend off takedowns, he possesses enough power and experience to make Velasquez pay on the feet. Rothwell must stay off the bottom for extended periods of time. His best bet? Find a way to ground-and-pound inside Velasquez's guard. If not, standing and striking would be the way to go.

There seems to be a lot of chatter on the net at the moment regarding the promoting, or lack of promoting, the Nov. 7 Strikeforce card. With less than a month out, I have yet to see any commercials promoting the event on CBS or any other media markets. I'm starting to wonder what gives? Are CBS being cautious with respect to their rebirth into MMA (due to past mishaps with EliteXC). I'm starting to feel a sense of "cover your butt" right now. Maybe it's a bit early to be making such claims, but something seems to be up. What are your thoughts on this? Is there reason to be concerned? -- Frank Fontaine

Nope. Commercials for "Saturday Night Fights" on CBS begin in earnest this weekend during college football and NFL broadcasts, with a big push to come in the final two weeks leading up to the Nov. 7 card. The network is focusing on getting affiliates to embrace the live event, and, mainly because of the ratings and demographics that come with MMA, the reaction has been extremely positive. All this concern on the forums and blogs is much ado about nothing.

Well, we are approaching the date for Fedor Emelianenko vs Brett Rogers. How do you see this fight playing out? Do you think Fedor will use the same strategy that he used against Andrei Arlovski -- in other words, use no real specific strategy and just wait for his opponent to make a mistake? Could that be a possible downfall for Fedor if he stays standing and plays into Rogers only strength? -- Greg, Chester, Pa.

Rogers says he plans to pressure Fedor. He says he moves just like the Russian, essentially attacking and stepping forward simultaneously. We'll see. I'm skeptical. While Rogers isn't as fast as Fedor, his reach advantage might help offset the speed gap. That's a big "might" against someone who moves so well and is extremely accurate with his punches.

This could be the first contest in a long time that Fedor makes it a point to put an opponent on his back and attack with punches. Fighting in the cage for the first time, if there's an easier path to victory for Emelianenko, I can't imagine. Whether he's fighting or playing chess with his kids, the Russian is extremely intelligent and calculating. I don't believe he'll allow Rogers more than a couple of opportunities to land a big punch. That means they'll tie up early so Fedor can use takedowns and leverage to put the bout where he wants.

I expect Rogers to take a pounding before surrendering a choke or armlock.

What is up with Jon Fitch? Shouldn't he be fighting Georges St. Pierre in a rematch? He is the only fighter to give G.S.P. a real fight and yet it takes him over a year to get back to the Octagon and fight a tomato can? -- Tilghman, Huntsville, Ala.

Ricardo Almeida doesn't qualify as a "tomato can." I don't think he's going to be a dominant welterweight, but he's no slouch. Regarding Fitch, don't forget he fought in July versus Paulo Thiago, who, at the time, was unbeaten and had just stunned Josh Koscheck.

If Fitch keeps winning, he'll get another shot. And you're right, he deserves a rematch right now, especially if the next shot at St. Pierre is going to Mike Swick or Dan Hardy. My sense is the UFC doesn't want to push ahead with rematches at 170 if they can justify newcomers getting a title shot first. Eventually, guys like Koscheck, Fitch and Alves could work their way back in, but perhaps not until the UFC provides an opportunity to other talent.

You talked about the Penn-Sanchez matchup a bit a while back but can't remember which podcast it was in. Can you break it down in some more detail? I'm a big Penn fan but this matchup has me worried. Thoughts? -- Rob M., Oakland, Calif.

Sanchez has a few things going for him. He doesn't fatigue, and is large for the division, having fought the bulk of his career at 170 pounds. And, as best as I can tell, Sanchez is completely unafraid of Penn.

With submissions a wash, and takedown ability close to even, the UFC 107 main event should come down to Penn's conditioning and boxing ability. If Sanchez fires like a madman out of the gate like he did against Clay Guida he'll leave himself open to get countered. While I see Sanchez testing and pushing Penn, I like the Hawaiian's accuracy and heavy hands to be difference makers on Dec. 12.

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