Each week, ESPN.com MMA writer Brett Okamoto, ESPN Insider senior editor Mike Huang and a special guest panelist tackle five topics that are buzzing in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman joins the panel.
1. Who is the best wrestler in MMA?
Chris Weidman: Probably Daniel Cormier because he's so good. I think I mix it up well, MMA-wise. There's also Cain Velasquez. But Cormier mixes it up so well and is able to be really powerful on the feet and also dropping down on takedowns to get guys down. A lot of really good wrestlers don't come over to MMA and do that well, but he does a really good job. If you're scared to get hit and don't develop your striking, it's not as easy as it looks to get takedowns on guys.
Brett Okamoto: If we're talking best "pure wrestling" -- like, throw-on-a-singlet-and-hop-on-the-mat wrestling -- the names at the very top of the list would be Yoel Romero, Ben Askren and Cormier. If we're talking best "MMA wrestling," the title has long belonged to Georges St-Pierre. With St-Pierre currently inactive, though, I would probably give that title to Velasquez.
Mike Huang: From a relentless pressure standpoint, that has to be Velasquez. He has kept his wrestling the focal point of his ground-and-pound attack. Many wrestlers eschew what got them there in the first place for a stand-up game that is actually second nature to them, but Velasquez uses wrestling to brutal perfection. His strikes are devastating, but even more so after being taken down over and over again and the damage that goes along with those takedowns.
2. What's the most difficult thing about fighting Lyoto Machida?
Weidman: The most difficult thing is that he's so different. He's very unique and elusive. Also, he's very defensive and will run away from you. He will be OK winning a bad decision so I can't give him that opportunity.
Okamoto: Scoring offense. It's no secret Machida is one of the best defensive fighters ever. He's extremely conservative, quick and unorthodox. He parries strikes extremely well and his footwork and cage awareness is outstanding. His stance and athleticism make him very hard to take down. Eventually, that defensive ability wears on opponents (mentally and physically) and they start making mistakes.
Huang: He doesn't engage; you have to go after him. As an efficient counter striker, Machida thrives on a charging opponent. Unless that opponent forces the issue, you end up with Machida circling away and his opponent just stalking to a chorus of boos. Thing is, when he does strike back, Machida is deadly accurate. Drop your hands down for a second on a hook or half-hearted jab, he'll make you pay.
3. What will it take for MMA to get legalized in New York?
Weidman: It will take [Assembly Speaker] Sheldon Silver to put the vote on the floor. He won't do it, and it's just dirty politics. For it to happen, he has to either get out of there or someone needs to tap him on his shoulder and make him do it. It's crazy. It's the only place in the world that you can't do mixed martial arts, let alone any other state.
Okamoto: A vote on the floor of the New York State Assembly, for one. The state of New York has pushed a bill that would legalize professional MMA through its state senate in each of the past five years, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has prevented it from ever being voted upon. Whether or not the bill would pass once put to a vote is up for debate, but it definitely would have a shot. This bill has become a Groundhog Day of sorts in New York, and we'll see it again in 2015.
Huang: It might take more than anything the UFC or MMA can do as a sport and more about the Fertitta brothers settling this New York union grudge somehow. It's petty and stupid, but the crux of the matter is the sport is paying for it.
4. Who would you like to see Chris Weidman fight in the new EA Sports video game?
Weidman: Machida. No, seriously, I've already fought everybody that's good in that game. I have the game so I already fought Jon Jones and Chuck Liddell. But using myself in the game is awesome and a dream come true because I'm a gamer. So for me to be in the video game is surreal.
Okamoto: Mario, Sonic, Master Chief, Duke Nukem, Earthworm Jim, 18 lemmings (nine bombers, seven miners and two floaters), the blue ghost from Pac-Man, a Scorpion/Sub-Zero tag-team and one centipede from the arcade game Centipede. Actually, I have no idea. I want to see him fight Machida in Las Vegas.
Huang: I'd love to see him fight Johny Hendricks. Both Weidman and Hendricks are wrestlers who have meshed an effective standup game with their dominant wrestling. They could fight in a catchweight bout, but the weight classes are pretty close, so it might be pretty realistic. Of course, the winner would get Bruce Lee.
5. Is it do-or-die time this weekend for Nate Marquardt?
Weidman: I don't really know his situation right now, but it sounds like it is. I like [James] Te Huna in this fight. He's coming down from 205 and he's going to be bigger. Marquardt is coming up from 170. Te Huna is a big hitter and Marquardt has been in the game for a while so it's an interesting fight, but I think Te Huna is going to win.
Okamoto: Yes, yes it is. I don't think of Marquardt as being that old -- or "done" as they say. But if you look at his career over the past three years: He has been released by the UFC for the whole testosterone replacement therapy fiasco in Pennsylvania, gotten off TRT (as all users have), won just one fight, been knocked out twice and (to put it best) just hasn't looked anything like Nate Marquardt. If he suffers a quick loss to Te Huna, he might choose to fight on but essentially at that point, he'll be "done."
Huang: Yup. Marquardt has kind of been on skates for the last couple of years. I don't doubt that his murky history of PED accusations have had something to do with that. But his zenith hit about four years ago, and he just hasn't been able to get on a decent run of success and has lost three straight. He has shown a soft chin and has been curiously easy to take down for someone with his background. Lose to Te Huna and he's done.