From Roy Nelson's Ultimate Fighter victory, to Kimbo Slice's possible future with the UFC, SI.com's Josh Gross and MMA FanHouse's Ray Hui had a lot to discuss after last weekend's finale.
Ray Hui: Among the previous winners, Nelson is high up, simply because while this current heavyweight roster is the best the UFC has had, it's still less competitive when compared to how stacked the other divisions are. If you don't consider the shocking Matt Serra upset, Nelson has a better shot at winning the title than anyone else outside of the first two seasons.
But it's hard to say because any type of contention could go out the window because Nelson doesn't seem like the type of guy the UFC wants representing their heavyweight division, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets Yushin Okami'd his way out of the UFC with tough opponent after tough opponent.
Josh Gross: Middle of the road. He's better than Kendall Grove, Mac Danzig or Amir Sadollah. Not as interesting as young kids, like Efrain Escudero or Ross Pearson. I think he fits in somewhere with vets Joe Stevenson and NateDiaz -- experienced fighters with enough negatives to keep them from reaching truly elite levels. That's one notch behind Diego Sanchez or Rashad Evans.
I like how Nelson fights. He's far more athletic and agile than he looks. He knows how to win under pressure. He's entertaining and might be someone sponsors (cough ... Burger King ... cough) gravitate towards. But at the end of the day, it comes down to winning. And I'm just not convinced he can do much against elite heavyweights.
Gross: Compared to his other options -- getting knocked out in K-1; playing a pro-wrestling heel in the U.S. or Japan; walking away from fighting altogether -- signing up for T.U.F. appears to have been a very smart choice.
It feels like we're moving past the point where Kimbo will draw interest simply because he's Kimbo. He needs to produce, and even though it wasn't the prettiest victory, the decision over Houston Alexander on Saturday should provide a push forward. If he continues to work, maybe he will become a mixed martial artist that people take seriously. But at what weight? He can't compete at heavyweight, that much is clear. Is he capable of making 205? I doubt it. There remain many more questions than answers about Slice, but I guess that means interest is still there. And he can best parlay that inside the UFC.
Hui: I agree. T.U.F. was a smart choice, although I must admit I was surprised when Kimbo was announced as a contestant. Kimbo could have cashed in elsewhere, but choosing to fight on T.U.F. was a better choice for the long run. He established himself to the viewing public as a likeable figure with a willingness to learn. That in itself will extend his career for at least another couple of years.
Hui: I really can't. I don't even know which weight class would be a better fit for him. I think the important thing right now is not to become the champion, but to prove he can hang in the UFC. For all the smack talk the UFC gave EliteXC and Slice, I see the top promotion following the same formula. Slice is still a draw and the UFC will slowly develop him with opponents that complement his style.
Gross: I don't see it any differently than you. But he doesn't need to be, does he? As long as Slice shows improvement, the UFC can match him in a way that makes interesting fights. If Chuck Liddell ends up losing to Tito Ortiz next season, the UFC could still sell Chuck-Kimbo. Or vice versa.
Gross: Not at all.
Hui: Yes. It made him an even stronger prospect. The maturity he displayed in which he handled the loss was refreshing to see, and almost mind-boggling when you consider he's 22 years old. He's already proven he has the physical gifts to become a champion, but Saturday, he showed mentally, he has the intelligence and composure to become one as well. Furthermore, Hamill is a respectable opponent, and Jones looked sharp taking down a solid wrestler and pounding him out with elbows and punches. Whether the fight should haven stopped earlier is a separate story (and if you care, I thought Steve Mazzagatti was justified in letting the fight continue), but Jones was clearly on his way to victory.
Gross: To both questions I say: Not really. The coaching gig means nothing to me, though it's good the UFC chose not to tie up one of its titles for nine months. (A solid roster of young, hungry fighters would get me to watch T.U.F. 11.)
As for the fight, Ortiz had fits against Liddell because he can't out-wrestle or out-strike him. If Liddell isn't a totally shot fighter, he'll win. But even if he's running on empty and loses, I doubt "The Iceman" would walk away from fighting.
This came together so the UFC, Liddell and Ortiz could cash in one more time on a great rivalry.
Hui: The decision to not hold up the title is the biggest plus coming from the Liddell-Ortiz announcement for T.U.F. 11. I have little interest in seeing them fight a third time, but it's kind of interesting to note that at one point the fight was one we thought might never happen, and now it's happened enough times that we really don't want to see it. I understand why this fight was made; it's a safe move, but I think there are other names out there that would pique more excitement, albeit riskier to their careers.
READ MORE FROM RAY HUI AT MMA FANHOUSE