McGregor, Carano, P4P, more

Newly signed UFC fighter Holly Holm joins the panel to tackle this week's hot topics

Originally Published: July 18, 2014

Each week, ESPN.com MMA writer Brett Okamoto, ESPN Insider senior editor Mike Huang and a guest panelist tackle five topics that are buzzing in the world of mixed martial arts.

This week, newly signed women's fighter/former boxing champion Holly Holm joins the panel.

1. If the UFC eventually does sign Gina Carano, does she deserve a title shot immediately?

[+] EnlargeGina Carano
Jon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesShe has a name that moves the needle, but is Gina Carano deserving of an immediate title shot?

Holly Holm: Carano has been on the big show before, so she can handle the pressure. There are a lot of girls who have been working hard for a shot who might deserve it a little more than someone who has been out that long, but Carano has put a lot of time in before. She's earned her spot in certain ways. Who am I to say Carano is undeserving of an opportunity? I'll let the promoter make those decisions.
Brett Okamoto: At first, I was opposed to the idea of Carano coming in off a five-year layoff and getting an immediate title shot. It felt a little ridiculous. But after watching Ronda Rousey's plast two fights last a combined 92 seconds, I'm far less against it. If Rousey is going to run through opponents anyway, she might as well do it against someone who can help her sell the fight. I'd still like to see Rousey face top contender Cat Zingano first, though.
Mike Huang: No. Despite the marquee allure and star power of a Carano-Rousey matchup, the fact is Carano hasn't fought in nearly five years. It might even do a disservice to the sport if she does get a title shot immediately. Let her get her legs back and shake off the cage rust with a couple of bouts. Let's not forget how brutally she lost to Cristiane Justino. And the sport has advanced since then.

2. Will Conor McGregor win a UFC title at some point in his career?

[+] EnlargeConor McGregor
Getty ImagesCan Conor McGregor back up the hype and win a UFC title?

Holm: I've only seen his debut with the UFC. That's the only fight I've watched from start to finish. I was impressed. There was a lot of hype behind him and sometimes there are letdowns when that happens, but I thought he did really well. I think anyone has potential to win a title -- whoever has their heart in it.
Okamoto: Hard to say. He's still very unproven. If I have to lean yes or no, I'm leaning yes because (A) he's (relatively) an above-average athlete, (B) he's sellable, which means he'll get his share of opportunities and (C) he is genuinely obsessed with greatness. I do have to say I'm fascinated to see where his career goes from here, no doubt.
Huang: I could see it happening, although it's equally as difficult to see Jose Aldo losing at some point. McGregor also has to stay healthy. This Saturday will be a big test for him coming back from the ACL tear. But he's got the charisma and bite to one day be a UFC champ.

3. The greatest finish of Donald Cerrone's career thus far is ...

[+] EnlargeEvan Dunham vs. Donald Cerrone
Al Powers for ESPNDonald Cerrone has produced more than his share of highlight-reel finishes throughout his career.

Holm: The one that sticks in my mind, and maybe it's just because it's one of my favorite things, is the high head kick he landed against Adriano Martins (in January). If he finishes, it's usually in devastating fashion, so how do you not love all of his fights? He had full shin to the jaw on that one.
Okamoto: So many to play back in your mind before finishing that sentence. It has to be a kick. The front kick to the body he hurt Jim Miller with Wednesday was nasty. The right head kick to Martins. Left head kick to Dennis Siver. The body punch to Charles Oliveira. Good lord, Donald has had some finishes. My favorite would have to be the head kick, right hand combination he knocked out Melvin Guillard with at UFC 150.
Huang: As great as Cerrone's finish of Miller on Wednesday was, I think his knockout of Guillard at UFC 150, or his finish of Edson Barboza at UFC on Fox 11 might have been his best. Cerrone was reeling from slow starts but came back in both. Cerrone landed a short right hand against Guillard, but I think I'm partial to how Cerrone transitioned from connecting a solid jab that stunned Barboza to a rear-naked choke that finished him. Effortless.

4. Who is the favorite to win 'The Ultimate Fighter' 20 and the inaugural UFC female strawweight title?

Holm: Heather Jo Clark and Emily Kagan are teammates of mine and how do you go against your team? I'm always going for the hometown and to keep it in the family. I talked to Clark right before she left and she is very confident. She's been all over the world, her family lives in Israel, and she's pretty competitive. She'll be just fine being thrown in to multiple fights in a month.
Okamoto: As much as I'd like to step out on a limb here, I'm going with a popular pick in Carla Esparza. She hasn't fought in a long time (January 2013), but the rust will come off on the show. I don't see her struggling to make weight multiple times in a tournament format and she has different ways to win fights, which will help facing different styles. She's my pick to win it all.
Huang: I have to go with Rose Namajunas. I've known about Rose back when she got her start at Duke Roufus' camp in Milwaukee. She might be more known for the videos she and Pat Barry (our Weigh-in guest last week) make, but don't let that fool you. The girl's got serious jiu-jitsu skills, she's a gym rat and she's also extremely smart.

5. Should Ronda Rousey (or any woman) be ranked on the same pound-for-pound list as men?

[+] EnlargeRonda Rousey
Ed Mulholland for ESPNShould female fighters like Ronda Rousey be ranked on the same pound-for-pound list as men?

Holm: I think so. I know there is a certain strength in men that is a little different in females but personally I would like to be on a pound-for-pound list that's mixed. It's a compliment. Heck yeah, let's do it. In 2008, I was nominated for an ESPY for best fighter of the year. I knew I wasn't going to win. I was up against Floyd Mayweather, Kelly Pavlik and Georges St-Pierre, but I'll tell you, it was more of an honor for me to be nominated best fighter of the year than female athlete of the year because I was grouped in with those guys.
Okamoto: No. This feels like common sense to me. Men and women aren't fighting each other, so why rank them together? Every other professional sport ranks gender separately, why would mixed martial arts be different? Creating a women's version of the rankings isn't a slight on the female side of the sport. In my mind, it's adding something to it, as it does to the men's side.
Huang: Why not? She will have to be included at some point. Pound-for-pound refers to weight, not gender. Her thorough domination of the sport forces the issue and mandates inclusion at some point.

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