Chat with Brett Okamoto
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com mixed martial arts writer Brett Okamoto stops by to chat about the news from the octagon.
Okamoto joined ESPN.com in December 2010. Previously, he was the boxing/MMA writer for the Las Vegas Sun newspaper and has also worked with Sports Illustrated magazine and CNN.com.
Send your questions now and join Okamoto Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Brett Okamoto (1:03 PM)
Yo. Glad to have each and every one of you here for the Friday chat. Before we get started, *please* Tweet, Facebook, text, whatever, the link to this chat out for me. If you bring one new person into this MMA chat, you will have made a difference in my (and your) life today. Plenty to talk about, UFC vs. BELLATOR!!, Invcita is back, some fight "Rumblings" (get it? Rumblings? Anthony Johnson? no?) and such. Let's get to it.
Do you think Barao and Cejudo could better serve themselves and the UFC with a move up a weight class? If neither of them do, though, who should their opponents be?
Brett Okamoto (1:06 PM)
Cejudo has literally never made 125. He's come out and said what he's said about it ... from what I heard the day of the weigh-in in Sacramento, dude was never close. The UFC had a good idea early on he wasn't going to make it. I don't want to get dramatic or anything, but if Cejudo ends up messing up again and gets cut without ever even fighting in the UFC, would it be THAT shocking? He's a little eccentric from what I understand. Anyway, yes I think Cejudo should move to 135. With Barao, I mean, he's made the weight before. I think Aldo should be free and clear to move to 155 if he beats Mendes in October, so yeah, have them both up at that point. Regardless of what he says, I bet Barao would personally be cool with that. Fighters hate cutting weight.
PatriotsSB2015 (New York)
Am I alone in thinking Nick Diaz knocks out Silva in the 2nd or third round? Diaz's boxing is far superior imo and he WILL push the pace against Silva. I also think Diaz beats both Matt Brown and Lawler. Not so sure about Hendricks. 2)Do you think NATE has a chance to beat Pettis if they were to ever square off?
Brett Okamoto (1:08 PM)
Nick will push the pace, yeah, but I would give Silva a speed advantage and a CLEAR size and distance advantage. Diaz does throw a lot of volume but he gets countered. Watch the Carlos Condit fight again ... and while you're watching, picture Anderson Silva instead of Condit. I think Silva knocks Diaz out inside 10 minutes. I would pick Diaz to beat Brown probably ... but I don't know. Brown is for real, at least Top 5 real. Maybe not Top 2 real. Lawler would beat Diaz right now. And if Nate fought Pettis ... I'd pick Pettis because he's more versatile on the feet but wouldn't count Nate out.
So how do you match make Joe Soto now? I thought he actually looked pretty good considering the circumstances. Do you give him a top 10-15 guy?
Brett Okamoto (1:09 PM)
On one hand, yeah, because people know him now. He has a little name recognition. So, give him a decently ranked fight and see what he does with it. On the other hand, no, don't treat him any different than you would have originally. I think UFC will choose the latter and he'll get a low-tier UFC opponent on the prelims.
What's your prediction for how many PPV buys 177 gets?
Brett Okamoto (1:09 PM)
OT but I'm super upset at Floyd and Manny not fighting ( mostly Floyd). You're a big boxing fan, how do you feel about not being able to see those two in the ring?
Brett Okamoto (1:11 PM)
Awful. I was covering boxing for a Las Vegas newspaper back when it REALLY should have happened. I can remember being at families' house around Christmas, when the fight was basically agreed to before the blood testing issue derailed it. It is what it is. Bob Arum has said they might fight in 2015. A. Is he just saying that because Manny is about to fight Chris Algieri and few people care? B. It's 2015! Should have happened five years ago. Tragic.
Mike Bellmore [via mobile]
Is Pettis vs Melendez at 181 official are we going to see 2 title fights that night? If so that is a fantastic co main event
Brett Okamoto (1:13 PM)
For whatever reason, the UFC has still not made it official on its website (at least last time I checked). But that's the date. Speaking to the fighters, trainers, etc., they all reference that date. The UFC needs to put on some good PPVs to close out the year. I'm guessing their financial expectations have not been met when it comes to PPV buys in 2014 thus far.
Brett, any news on Chael? And how do you think the Stare Downs between Daniel C & Jon go from here on out?
Brett Okamoto (1:15 PM)
Chael? In what capacity? He's "lying low" as Dana would say. If you're Chael Sonnen, "lying low" includes inciting the NSAC by competing in a grappling tournament. From what I hear, the NSAC hasn't forgotten about its threat to fine Chael for competing in Metamoris, but they're not going to act on it any time soon. Legally, they can act on it I think anytime within the next two years, during his suspension. Staredowns ... I think they go much better from here on out. The UFC is still going to do them if that's what you're asking. I think some people wonder if they'll just skip them next time, no way.
Hey Brett. What is up with ex UFC fighters, most recently, Kongo saying UFC treating them unkind. Is that just a bitter group or something to it.
Brett Okamoto (1:17 PM)
Little bitterness, little truth. You look at basically any business, and there are some employees who think they are treated unfairly. I'm not dismissing anything that a Kongo or a Rampage or Tito might say, just saying it's not specific to the UFC alone. It happens all the time. UFC could improve some of its practices when it comes to fighters but at the end of the day, you ask anyone where they want to fight, UFC leads the list.
Gage [via mobile]
An I the only one who thinks Pettis will destroy Melendez? If Pettis fights like he has been, this won't make it out of the first round. Thoughts?
Brett Okamoto (1:19 PM)
I don't think he destroys Melendez at all. I mean, of course, an early knockout is always on the table, but it's not like I look at this fight as a foregone conclusion. You have the long injury layoff for Pettis, for one. Melendez is good at cutting off the cage on opponents and I think he'll time right hands with some of Pettis' kicks (although those kicks are so fast, hard to counter). Melendez stands in front of guys a little too much for my liking, considering who he's fighting here, but if he puts Pettis on his back, his submission defense is tight and he'll have a shot at holding Pettis down and scoring points. I think it's an intriguing fight all around.
What chance do you give Bobby Lashley tonight?
Brett Okamoto (1:20 PM)
Considering he's fighting Josh Burns, a pretty good one.
What is your HONEST opinion on Conor McGregor as a complete package fighter including his skill and his presentation? His takedown defense has improved tremendously and his stand up is downright fun to look at. He can easily be a top 5 star in the UFC super easy to mark. Also, Do you think Gunnar Nelson has what i t takes to ever be a top 5 Welterweight? Or is that top of that division just far too deep?
Brett Okamoto (1:22 PM)
I think Conor is for real. I think his size is a problem and he's more well-rounded than people think. We haven't seen him against a really top level wrestler yet, but his takedown defense passes the eye test and when he tore his ACL against Max Holloway, he still managed to show an offensive grappling game as well. You know he's getting better every day because the guy truly lives and breathes MMA. Nelson at WW? I think it's going to be tough. He's undersized. I'd pick guys like Woodley, Lombard, Condit, Brown, Diaz, Lawler, MacDonald, Hendricks -- all over Gunnar.
At least the UFC isn't as bad as WSOF given recent news (i.e. Burkman, Volkmann, etc.)
Brett Okamoto (1:23 PM)
But then Burkmann just re-signed with them.
Gage [via mobile]
Who are you taking-Poirier or McGregor?
Brett Okamoto (1:24 PM)
McGregor. At first I thought I might like Poirier, but then I started thinking about the style-matchup and it's tailor-made for Conor. A counter puncher gets an aggressive, at-times easy to hit striker? Conor for sure.
marc (braintree, ma)
Brett, Do you think its better for a division to have a champion who holds the belt for years or a division were the belt is constantly changing hands?
Brett Okamoto (1:25 PM)
Personally, I like it when the belt changes hands. But for the promotion, it's good to have a dominant champion.
Derek (Helena, MT)
Chat time. Highlight of my depressing work week. Any news/rumors/rumblings on 182? I'm going--seems a little odd that the big end of year card has only one announced fight. I'd bought my tix for 168 this time last year. Anyway, think they do Bigg Rigg-Lawler 2? Rousey breaking a mild sweat? Gus v Rumble?
Brett Okamoto (1:26 PM)
It really wouldn't shock me to see Rousey AND Gus vs. Rumble on that card. Not to mention you're getting what could arguably end up being the best main event of the year. I'd expect a pretty killer card.
I missed the start of the new TUF because I don't have fight pass. Any of those ladies look legit? Any look over-hyped?
Brett Okamoto (1:27 PM)
I haven't seen it yet, either. I was sent an advanced screen of it last week but haven't had a chance yet to sit down and watch it. I've heard good things. As far as any of the ladies looking legit, a lot of them are well-established already coming into the show.
Gage [via mobile]
Any update on the GSP's knee?
Brett Okamoto (1:28 PM)
Was told yesterday he's doing "gymnastic activity" ... that was how it was described. He won't be doing any mixed martial arts activity for another two months still, is what I'm told.
Mike (Bellmore) [via mobile]
Do you think the winner of tonights fight takes on Weidman or Belfort for the title?
Brett Okamoto (1:30 PM)
I would think so. I asked Dana that last week in Sacramento and he told me he thought Jacare (if Jacare wins) would have to fight again before getting a title shot ... why? It's not THAT long of a wait for Jacare. We're in Sept. Title fight is in Dec. Maybe Weidman (Vitor ain't winning) is ready to go by March or April? If the UFC wanted Jacare to fight again in the meantime, the fight that makes sense is Luke Rockhold ... but it's pretty clear they don't want to do that fight.
if you were starting a promotion to rival the UFC, who is the one non UFC fighter that you would sign to be the face of your promotion?
Brett Okamoto (1:31 PM)
Gina Carano? Am I allowed to say her? If not, Cyborg. Ben Askren.
Davorin Lazarevich (Chicago, IL)
How do you justify Cerrone being in title contention, he has been beaten by Pettis, Bendo, RDA, Nate and has not looked as impressive as others to be put ahead of. I understand he is marketable tho.
Brett Okamoto (1:32 PM)
He's won four in a row, all finishes. And he's not necessarily in "title contention" just yet. He's got a fight against a ranked opponent this month. If he beats Alvarez, I think he'd probably have to win one more before a title fight. That would be six in a row. That's fair.
With a good showing I'd like to see Overeem back in title hunt talks because, as mediocre as his run has been, at least he possesses a skill set that could theoretically cause the champ some problems (which is more than just about any other heavyweight can say). What are your thoughts?
Brett Okamoto (1:34 PM)
Sure. In that division, why not? The heavyweight division man, I feel like I bash it on a weekly basis in this chat but it's just so thin. Overeem gasses in the first round of just about every fight he's in, has been knocked out in two of his last three fights ... and yet, sure, put him in a title fight next. That just shows what a wasteland that division is. And if it's not Overeem, it's a fourth fight between Cain and JDS. Bleh. Give me Overeem before that.
Which current (if any) MMA fighter(s) do you think could make a legit move over to boxing and be championship successful? I know everyone says Diaz but personally I don't think he would be anything more that average.
Brett Okamoto (1:37 PM)
Yeah, it's tough to say when you're tagging that "championship successful" to it. There are guys who would cross over and win a bunch of fights, because their technique isn't bad and they're just great athletes. But to win a world title ... it would take some time, some seasoning, a transition period. Mousasi is a good technical boxer who would translate well. I think Frankie Edgar would do well. Fast learner, accurate, good footwork, doesn't necessarily rely on level changes to land combinations. I'm sure there are others, if I think of more I'll throw them out randomly.
Watched Reem-Brock last night again. From the get go Brock did not look like the guy that first came to the UFC. His illness made him a shell of what he once was. How would you feel about a return to the UFC for him now that he seems to be healthy?
Brett Okamoto (1:38 PM)
I'm down. Brock hasn't fought in what, four years? And I get asked about him in every chat. People would love it and I enjoy covering "big feel" UFC events. And again, heavyweight division is awful. Adding Brock would be a lot of fun. I don't know what he'd do. You say he's healthy, he's still four years older and has a lot of wear and tear on his body. But whatever, come back to us Brock.
Where's Stipe Miocic? Why don't we ever talk about him when we talk about the heavyweight division. I thought he had some nice skills, and has the speed to give other heavyweights a serious problem.
Brett Okamoto (1:40 PM)
He went into the Fabio Maldonado fight hurt. I believe he should be about ready to take a fight now, towards the end of the year. Having him fight JDS still makes sense. He has good tools and his boxing and wrestling is technical ... but I think he'll struggle against the Nos. 1, 2, 3, guys in the division.
Why is Diego Sanchez still fighting? That dude has absolutely NOTHING left in the tank and is basically a gatekeeper to up and comers so that they have an entertaining fight under their belt before advancing. Think he should hang it up when (not an if, he will lose) to Norman Parke?
Brett Okamoto (1:43 PM)
Didn't you see he won his last fight? I would agree with you in that ... watching Diego Sanchez fight at this point in his career is very bittersweet. On one hand, he gives you a show, but this is me personally talking ... I'm kind of over the show. I get it. Diego goes out and bangs. That's great. But his reaction times are slow now and he just labors around the cage and telegraphs these wound up left hooks you see a mile away. And then he's getting cracked and you're like, come on. I really don't need to see this anymore. I wouldn't go so far as to say Diego has "nothing" left, but I'm starting to worry about the guy's longterm health so yeah, I wouldn't mind seeing Diego hang em up at this point.
Gage [via mobile]
Don't forget about Duffee winning the title!
Brett Okamoto (1:44 PM)
DUFF-EE. DUFF-EE. I inquire about Duffee earlier this week and it sounds like (I almost don't want to say it, knock on wood) the Duff will return before the end of the year. What a treat that would be.
Mark Cervantes Huntington Patk Ca. [via mobile]
Do you think the loser of overeem vs.rothwell gets cut?
Brett Okamoto (1:45 PM)
Neither has looked very good lately, but here they are in a co-main event and people know them. So, they offer value in that way. You know Overeem is getting paid well, which I'm sure the UFC regrets to a certain extent. But at the end of the day, can you cut him? He's a "needle mover." I think both are safe for now, win or lose.
John (So Cal)
Now that the charges against Thiago Silva have been dropped, what does the future hold for him? I personally don't ever see him back in the UFC...what about Bellator or WSOF?
Brett Okamoto (1:47 PM)
Not sure. How attractive is he really at this point if you're Bellator or WSOF? Bellator would be a better fit, with some of the guys they have over there, but is he really worth the negative attention? Yes, the charges were dropped, but the story is still there. The guy had a standoff with a SWAT team at his house. Plus, he looked pretty bad before all of this, now you add that stress and a recent knee surgery ... probably more trouble than he's worth at this point.
Brett: what does your top 5 or 10 list look like for greatest fighters of all time in the UFC?
Brett Okamoto (1:50 PM)
UFC only? 1. Anderson Silva 2. Georges St-Pierre 3. Jon Jones. Also on the list: Penn, Aldo, Liddell, Velasquez, Tito, Hendo, Hughes, Couture. Those are the names I think of. Old guard names like Gracie and Shamrock of course too, for their generation they were outstanding.
Brett, who do you see getting the next shot at the middleweight title after Vitor?
Brett Okamoto (1:51 PM)
I think when everything shakes out it will be Jacare.
Davorin Lazarevich (Chicago, IL)
Who do you like in a AJ vs Gus match up?
Brett Okamoto (1:51 PM)
Gus. AJ is terrifying but I'd pick Gus. The way he was able to move around the cage and land lead punches on Jones was impressive. I think he could do that on AJ too.
Sup Brett, long time no chat! Who do you think takes the main event tonight? I feel like Mousasi is definitely going to get finished here, Jacare has looked like a monster since joining the UFC.
Brett Okamoto (1:52 PM)
Yeah, Jacare by submission.
Suley, melbourne [via mobile]
Whose has the better punches Anderson silva or nick Diaz? I love the spider, but I don't think I've ever seen Diaz outboxed and I feel silva might fall into the trap and god forbid lose.
Brett Okamoto (1:53 PM)
I think Silva is still the better boxer and more importantly, standup fighter in general. I know he's been dropped in his last two fights, but his head movement is still great and his counter boxing will give Diaz a lot of trouble.
Knapp (Park Avenue) [via mobile]
I'm definitely thinking Gastelum, who is apparently hiring Dolce for this fight so he makes weight, will handle Jake Ellenberger who has looked absolutely lost in his last 2 fights against Rory and Lawler. Your thoughts?
Brett Okamoto (1:55 PM)
It's possible. I would still pick Ellenberger to outwrestle Gastelum in an MMA fight, but Gastelum has really opened my eyes with his striking lately. Still plenty of room to grow, but you see marked improvements and a comfort level in switching things up, popping a jab and moving laterally into a follow up. I think he could give Ellenberger a lot of trouble on the feet.
Jon (Long Island) [via mobile]
I'll have to DVR it cause I'm heading to the UFC event, but who do you like in the Pitbull v. Curran Bellator title fight tonight? Odds have it basically even. I'm leaning Pitbull.
Brett Okamoto (1:56 PM)
Yeah, we haven't talked enough about that main event. I think it's terrific. If I had to pick one main event to watch tonight, I'd pick Curran/Pitbull rematch. First fight was fun back and forth. Pitbull wore down in the later rounds. You might think he's more prepared for that this time around. I think it's a coin flip fight. I'm kind of leaning Pitbull too, actually.
Ant(PHX) [via mobile]
Hey Brett any word on the Phoenix card yet. Looking forward to my first live event
Brett Okamoto (1:57 PM)
I do think Edgar/Swanson is a possibility, but when I asked around about that fight last week I was told there's been no update. Rockhold, Bisping feels like a fight Fox would love. If I were the UFC, I'd give a lot of thought into that one. To be honest, I haven't heard a lot about a main event for that card yet though.
Knapp (Park Avenue) [via mobile]
She's going about it in a creative way, but I don't know if Bethe Correa could last 30 seconds against Rousey. She beat Duke (who should probably be cut) and she clearly lost the first round to Baszler before she figured her out.
Brett Okamoto (1:58 PM)
Props to Correia for the Rousey angle she's created but no, she has zero chance in that fight. None.
Marc Iveson (UK)
Sup Brett. What bets you like the look of for tonight's card? Also if you have time who you picking for the entire card? Lots of tough fights to call
Brett Okamoto (2:00 PM)
Tough cards to bet on. Either blowouts or really close fights that could go either way. I don't know who I like in the Lauzon/Chiesa fight. Ditto with Mitrione/Lewis. If I were to bet it, I'd probably take both underdogs, Lauzon and Mitrione. Bellator main event is complete coin flip and odds show that. I WOULD NOT bet Overeem as a big favorite or King Mo as a big favorite. I'd pick both to win, but wouldn't lay enormous odds on either of them.
I've said for a long time that weight ins need to come 6 hrs before they fight so they are fighting at a more natural weight. We all know these guys are cutting to weigh in and are only at that weight for minutes. What do you think of this idea?
Brett Okamoto (2:00 PM)
Can't do it. Guys would still cut weight for the advantage and then you're asking them to fight depleted. Dehydrated. Which is extremely dangerous, more so than the current practice.
zjoin85 (St. louis)
call me crazy, but I think there is great money on Gegard and Mitrione.
Brett Okamoto (2:02 PM)
Yeah, I wouldn't lay all the money on Jacare either. I do think he submits Gegard, but I don't want to bet 3 to win 1 to find out. I would like Mitrione a lot ... but he didn't look outstanding at weigh ins and he had that weird situation where he trained to fight, Struve fainted and was taken out, so how much motivation did he have to get back in the gym right after that? Did he slack off a little? These are the kinds of things that can win or lose a bet my friend.
Put it on the board: once it is over, people will be comparing Rothwell's win tonight to his win over Schaub. He will get knocked around by Overeem quite a bit and then land one on Overeems chin and turn that dude's lights out.
Brett Okamoto (2:02 PM)
Could absolutely happen. I basically texted the exact same thing to a friend who was thinking about betting on Overeem.
What on Earth has happened to Jake Ellenberger? After being knocked out, it's as if he's literally unlearned how to fight. It's do depressing to watch. I've never seen anything like it. Once he gets caught ONCE. No matter the type of punch, even a jab, he just stops fighting. If he loses two more, he needs to get cut or really rethink his training situation.
Brett Okamoto (2:04 PM)
I think he abandoned wrestling, for one. He's one of those guys that fell in love with the boxing gym and the feeling of knocking someone out. Gray Maynard is another example of that. When he abandoned his wrestling, it removed a big element of his game and a reason his boxing was effective in the first place. He also doesn't have a ton of entries against taller, lankier guys -- whom he's always fighting since he's short for the weight class. Yeah, he did kind of go backwards for a little bit. He was also getting tougher fights though, in his defense.
Any underdog winners from this weekend to bet? I personally and going to load up on Curran over Pitbull, and think the underdog price is about right on Meathead, Lauzon and Lentz.
Brett Okamoto (2:04 PM)
Load up on Curran at your own risk. Pitbull is very good. Curran great as well, but Pitbull is legit. That's just a great fight.
Brett Okamoto (2:05 PM)
Alright cool, let's wrap it on the hour. Thanks for being here. Enjoy fights tonight, Invicta on Saturday ... no Michelle Waterson questions (unless I missed one). Michelle Waterson is cool, guys. Watch her if you can. Good luck with your fantasy football teams. See you again next week, spread the word about the chat, please and thank you. See ya.