readers weigh in on MMA's most crucial stretch of the year

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In the midst of mixed martial arts' most crucial stretch of the year, readers react to Anderson Silva's victory over James Irvin at UFC Fight Night 14, Fedor Emelianenko's dismantling of Tim Sylvia at Affliction: Banned and a host of other issues. We'll also look forward to this coming Saturday, when MMA returns to primetime on CBS.

So who won the weekend, Gross -- the UFC or Affliction? Also, the debate is raging over the best fighter in the world now. Who you got, Anderson or Fedor?-- Eric C.

With the risk of trying to sound too cute, fans and fighters came out on top this weekend. We can get into the UFC-Affliction arguments, but what's the point? UFC drew very well on SpikeTV. Affliction executives are suggesting pay-per-view estimates reflect more than 100,000 subscriptions sold and more than 14,000 fans watching live in Anaheim.

By any measure, both promotions did well -- another indication that MMA, not just the UFC, has grown in popularity.

Anyhow, these promotional debates shouldn't matter. Neither card would have done any business if compelling fighters and interesting fights weren't offered. That's really the bottom line as far as I'm concerned. Give me the best fighting and the rest will sort itself out -- regardless of the brand or venue attached to the event.

On to your second question: Anderson and Fedor are tied for first on my pound-for-pound list. The Brazilian has looked tremendous with the UFC, and Emelianenko's 24 consecutive wins since 2000 speak for themselves. Based on their respective records, performances against peers and skills used to win fights, there shouldn't be any doubt that Silva and Emelianenko are the very best in MMA right now.

With his reach, him being a southpaw, his all-around skills, I think "Spider" could give Fedor a fight. Yeah, some people will think I'm crazy, but out of all the fighters out there I really think Anderson has the best shot. Do you think Anderson Silva would have any shot against Fedor? -- Joe

If I'm putting a list together of five guys who could give Emelianenko a fight, believe it or not, Anderson makes the cut. He's tall, incredibly accurate -- or as UFC play-by-play man Mike Goldberg so eloquently put it, "Silva's precision is precise" -- and carries enough power to hurt anyone. He's also more than proficient in the guard, which is where he'd need to defend himself to have any shot of hanging with Emelianenko.

I imagine Silva would try to keep Fedor at distance with a stiff jab. He'd need to keep the Russian on the end of his punches, because a clinch would all but guarantee that Silva was forced to his back. It really could be a fight. Silva's speed is terrific, and at his size, he'd only give up 15 to 20 pounds.

If you want more numbers: If they fought 10 times, Anderson might win three.

Since there wasn't any way that Sylvia could match Fedor's speed or skill why is everyone acting like his win is that big a deal? Is it because Tim held the UFC belt twice? So what? He didn't defend the title well. How good is Fedor really? Do you see him challenging the likes of Arlovski or Barnett, and could you rank some top contenders for him? -- Jeremy K.

Don't dismiss Sylvia like that. He's a top-five heavyweight and the former two-time champion of a division that, though maligned, can be very competitive.

For Fedor, though, I've said for a longtime he's the best fighter I've ever seen, and I still believe that. But you're only as good as your last fight, and with bouts like the ones you mentioned, I'm can see how you would write him off as an automatic winner.

Arlovski is speed, speed, speed. Barnett is, well, experienced. He's large, knows how to apply and avoid submissions and he can strike when he needs to.

Who else? From best chance of defeating the Russian to the worst, my top five toughest challengers (though, admittedly, No. 5 might be a stretch):

1. Josh Barnett 2. Andrei Arlovski 3. Randy Couture 4. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 5. Anderson Silva

NOTE: Speaking with Affliction vice president Tom Atencio late Tuesday, he said he expects Emelianenko to fight Arlovski or Barnett sometime in early November.

Is the WAMMA belt really worth anything, or is it simply the start of a bad trend in MMA? I always hear how sanctioning bodies killed boxing. Aren't they going to do the same to MMA? -- anonymous

A belt is as good as the man holding it. So, right now, that makes the WAMMA belt pretty meaningful. How it plays out in the long run is anyone's guess.

There are lessons to be learned from boxing, and people in the MMA business should take heed. To simply dismiss anything that feels similar to boxing as wrong for MMA is foolish. They are different sports and deserve to be treated as such, but in theory, WAMMA sounds like a good thing for fighters and fans. In practice, only time will tell.

I would love to hear your thoughts on next month's fight between Georges St. Pierre and Jon Fitch. Who are you picking (at least at this point) and why? -- Craig

Two well prepared guys should deliver a very competitive fight. I have to lean towards St. Pierre at this point. When he's motivated, confident and in the right frame of mind, there's no doubt he's a top-five pound-for-pound fighter.

That said, I'm not sure G.S.P. can run over Fitch and out-wrestle him like some may think. I'm sure Fitch is well aware that St. Pierre can, and will, wrestle. The welterweight champ has taken down anyone he's fought, though Fitch, a former wrestler at Purdue, might be St. Pierre's toughest test.

The second CBS card feels so much smaller than the first. I bet it's because Kimbo's not fighting. Is it a mistake to have quality fights between fighters no one knows rather than throwing in the hype machines that are Kimbo or Gina Carano? -- Ryan Lawson

The answer is clear: no Kimbo means no Icey Mike. But seriously, there appear to be several factors why the July 26 offering in Stockton, Calif., doesn't feel as important as the first time MMA appeared on the network, and why a likely loss in ratings will follow its second effort. First, we've already seen MMA on CBS, so losing the novelty will prompt some media to cover it quietly if at all.

Sure, Kimbo and Carano aren't fighting, but the rematch between Scott Smith and Robbie Lawler should make for a great follow-up to their "Fight of the Night" on May 31. As for the rest of the card, which is split between Showtime in the early portion and CBS in primetime, watch out for Antonio Silva and Wilson Reis. Both men have far more to offer in the cage than Kimbo.