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Mailbag: Griffin's absence stings, but UFC 114 still has plenty to offer

Hey, Josh, I can't wait for UFC 114 on May 29. It feels like the first major UFC event of the year to me. Maybe because we were forced to wait on Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans for what felt like forever. I was so bummed when Jackson was off the card in Memphis because he went to film The A-team, but all the trash talk has me fired up again. What do you think about the card? Do you think it will be the biggest event of the year for the UFC? Thanks.-- Jared Westwood, Memphis, Tenn.

It's really too bad about Forrest Griffin's injury. His fight against Rogerio Nogueira was going to be very telling, and would have made UFC 114 about much more than just the main event. Still, it's hard not to be intrigued by Jackson-Evans, and not just because it sets up the first challenger for Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. There are many lingering questions about what Jackson has left, or at least what he wants to give to mixed martial arts, even in the wake of a new six-fight deal with the UFC. As for Evans, who is trying to keep up in the pre-fight verbal battle, let's see if he can avoid mental and technical mistakes against Rampage. If he does, I think he wins.

Down the bill, I'm looking forward Diego Sanchez's return to welterweight against undefeated Brit John Hathaway. And don't sleep on Todd Duffee versus Mike Russow. Two big heavyweights with opposing styles.

All in all, on a scale of 1-10, I'm about a 7 here, particularly because I tend to sour on the verbal warfare. There's only so much back-and-forth yelling I can handle before it becomes trite. If Griffin were still aboard, UFC 114 would be a solid 8 bordering on 8.5.

As far as this being the UFC's biggest event of the year, Brock Lesnar-Shane Carwin in July will make this one on Memorial Day weekend feel small across the board.

I'm e-mailing because of the question you posed on Twitter about UFC's using Quinton Jackson's "black on black crime" quote in its UFC 114 pay-per-view marketing. It seemed to bother you and I can understand why, but this is just hype, right?-- Felix Mitchell, Encinitas, Calif.

The quote didn't bother me much. I've known Quinton for years. I know where he comes from. I know how he speaks. My point in asking the question: There may be many, many people who don't. The UFC 114 ad was fine until Jackson's quote, which changed the tone of the commercial from two fighters who don't like each other to two black fighters who don't like each other. Bottom line, the UFC's use of the quote was unnecessary to sell the fight, and it came off in poor taste.

Three of the four Bellator finals are known. What do you think of the tournaments so far?-- Warren Marks, Kansas City, Mo.

Quality competition in Season 2. Featherweight, lightweight and welterweight all delivered compelling finals. We'll see about 185 next week.

Lightweight has to be the surprise. Conventional wisdom had Roger Huerta advancing to the finals, but the great thing about the format is it allows for fighters like Pat Curran and Toby Imada to emerge.

I'm most looking forward to the 145 finals. Joe Warren is an animal and Patricio Freire looks every bit as good as his 14-0 record. Welterweight has been hit-and-miss, though the finals between Dan Hornbuckle and Ben Askren will be well worth watching.

I'll take Freire, Imada and Hornbuckle.

Just read your column about Rua's challengers. The question I have is, Why would you include Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal? He fights in a different organization, so the odds of them fighting are slim. Don't you think Antonio Rogerio Nogueira would have been a better choice?-- John, West Palm Beach, Fla.

I mentioned Nogueira. Their first fight was amazing and a rematch would be highly anticipated. In terms of style and substance, I feel a more seasoned Lawal has what it takes to give Shogun a real fight.

I have significant doubts about the results of the Alistair Overeem-Brett Rogers fight. Rogers showed no tenacity whatsoever, was uncharacteristically hesitant in throwing the few punches he did and turtled up after taking little damage. It makes me suspect the fix was in so that Strikeforce could preserve the planned Fedor Emelianenko-Overeem showdown (and presumptive huge money maker). I don't think Rogers would have won regardless, but the quickness with which he gave up just doesn't fit.-- Adam Hill, Raleigh, N.C.

Or perhaps Rogers wasn't the same guy who walked into the Fedor fight. Losing for the first time affected him more than other fighters I've been around. Why are people so quick to assume conspiracy theories these days?

I believe Fedor will duck this fight with Overeem and his crew will scream PEDs are the reason. Fedor has never wanted to fight the best. I believe this is the critical part to cementing your legacy. I wrote to you last year and told you Brett Rogers gave him trouble and Rogers is not a top 10 in the Heavies (no way). For the reasons stated, he will never be No. 1 in my book.-- Keith K., Waterloo, N.Y.

You lost me with "Fedor has never wanted to fight the best." Give me a break. Anyhow, If Fedor beats Fabricio Werdum on June 26, his next fight has to be against Overeem (presuming he doesn't test positive). M-1 Global can't play politics on this one without delivering on every perception that exists about them as money-grubbing obstructionists.

For four years I lived in Korea. It was through this experience that I got exposed, almost daily, to Pride on the Action Network. I remember very well Overeem being an above-average fighter. I remember him getting, in my mind, demolished by Shogun. That was just three years ago. And he weighed in at only 205. Somehow he has put on 40-plus pounds of lean body mass at the same time he is training for MMA. Is this even possible? Is it possible to break down your muscle almost daily lifting weights, then train for MMA, and train for K-1? This just seems scandalous to me. I guess my question is, Does steroid testing work? It seems like the whole thing has become a joke. Even with Brian Cushing in the NFL getting busted, he didn't actually get caught for steroids. He got caught for a drug that kick-starts your system after using steroids. What is going on?-- Jon Strosser, Medford, Ore.

Overeem was 224 pounds when he fought Paul Buentello in 2007, which was basically his walk-around weight when he wasn't trying to cut to 205. I'm not going to start defending the guy. Not my job. But I will suggest instead of assuming guilt, we let the tests from last weekend shape how we think about this.

Are drug tests perfect? No. Neither Missouri nor the testing facility hired by Strikeforce follows World Anti-Doping Agency protocols. I wish they would. There will always be people searching for a workaround. Still, MMA has been well policed in the States. As far back as 2002, the Nevada State Athletic Commission tested fighters for steroids, and plenty have been caught. In a perfect world, uniform testing under WADA standards should be adopted by all regulatory bodies affiliated with the Association of Boxing Commissions. Yes, that costs money, and some states simply aren't equipped to meet that responsibility, but until that happens there will be lingering doubts.

As someone who didn't get into MMA hardcore until Ken Shamrock's first fight with Tito Ortiz, I love reading intelligent articles on the history of the sport. They are hard to come by! I appreciate your 2000s retrospective. It was recently the 10th anniversary of Kazushi Sakuraba-Royce Gracie at Pride Grand Prix 2000. Could you comment briefly on the buildup to this fight, its significance, the epic feel that night and the two great entrances?-- Marcus

May 1, 2000. Unlimited rounds. No referee stoppages. Sakuraba in his prime. Gracie, essentially undefeated. There are so many memories of this fight, which lasted six 15-minute rounds before Rorion and Helio Gracie, standing in Royce's corner, threw in the towel because the UFC pioneer's legs didn't work anymore. I'll always remember Susumu Nagao's iconic photo.

The Pride 2000 Grand Prix really was epic, something from a bygone era. If you haven't seen The Smashing Machine, get a copy. Most of John Hyam's documentary focuses on Mark Kerr, by most accounts the tournament favorite, but you'll get a sense for how big this event was at the time.

Think about what Sakuraba did. On a night he would have needed to win three times -- yes, the champion was required to win three times in a span of 6-7 hours -- he battled Royce for an hour and a half, then went 20 minutes against Igor Vovchanchyn, who at the time was as dangerous as anyone. In the end, Mark Coleman was fortunate enough to win the whole thing. I need to take some time to re-watch this.

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