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Old 03-28-2012, 08:31 PM
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MMA Roundtable: Should King Mo Have Been Cut, UFC vs. PRIDE Heavyweights and More

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As we all digest the news of what happened to Muhammed Lawal and keep waiting for UFC 145 to get here already, MMA Fighting felt it appropriate to have my colleague Mike Chiappetta and I debate the weighty topics of today in another installment of the MMA Roundtable.

This week: Mike and I discuss whether Zuffa made the right call in cutting Lawal for his comments about the NSAC on Twitter, if there's a case to be made to change Bellator's tournament format, what chances Chael Sonnen has in his rematch with Anderson Silva and how the UFC heavyweights of today compare with PRIDE's best heavyweight era.

1. King Mo's cut: is that the right call by Zuffa?

Chiappetta: No. I would have preferred he was simply fined. It would have been one thing if they released Lawal due to his nine-month suspension ruling by the Nevada state athletic commission stemming from a positive steroids test. At least then they could say they were punishing him for an illegal act related to the sport. Instead, it seems he has been let go due to his reaction to the suspension. More specifically, a tweet he sent out aimed at NSAC commission member Pat Lundvall, which referred to her as a "racist b----" for asking him if he could read and write English.

Now, two wrongs don't make a right here, so Lawal wasn't exactly justified in his words. You can't have your athletes going around firing off venom, because that sets a terrible precedent. Policing the fighters has to be done. But stripping him of his livelihood for it seems a little bit harsh. I can understand his anger for being asked such a degrading question. He's not exactly a nobody, and any cursory knowledge of his background -- something by the way, that should exist in a ruling body judging him -- would clearly indicate his level of schooling. By the way, commissioner Lundvall had been speaking to him for a while by the time she asked the question that offended him, and clearly she knew he spoke English. Again, this doesn't excuse Lawal's tweet, but at least it gives some context into the emotion that led up to it.

Sadly, the whole situation turned out like a fiasco on every side.

Thomas: Mike's absolutely right here. Certainly Lawal's words were incendiary. They were also unprofessional. But in the absence of a defined social media policy all fighters sign and agree to (like a terms of service agreement), any kind of punishment is capricious and unfair.

The UFC is trying to encourage use and novel application of social media among it's fighters (who, by the way, are not really employees but 'independent contractors'; would you fire your plumber for insulting others on Twitter?). That's a truly excellent idea and the vast majority of the times yields positive results. But fighters need to have a clear sense about what is and isn't expected of him. Relying on some notion of 'common sense' is plainly negligent on the part of the UFC.

Let's also make note of how utterly rude and patronizing commissioner Lundvall was in asking Lawal if he understood English. The notion that line of questioning is somehow common is total myth. Alistair Overeem failed to properly take a drug test in the specified amount of time and English is his second language. Was there any questioning about whether his proficiency in reading or writing English inhibited him from following through on his responsibilities? Please. The commissioner may or may not be racist, but they are most certainly condescending.

2. Bellator's heavyweight tourney ended terribly. Can their model be tweaked?

Chiappetta: Of course it can be tweaked, but should it be? I think the answer is no. The way the heavyweight tournament ended was unfortunate, but it's no different than when a title challenger or No. 1 contender drops out of a UFC bout and has to be replaced. In a way, Bellator has to face the same problem the UFC does: an unrelenting schedule. The shows must continue even when the fighters can't, and so there is only so much wiggle room when an injury takes place.

In the past, Bellator has delayed title fights with one injured participant, but the tournament bouts must continue on and generate a winner, otherwise they become pointless. The heavyweight tourney had gone on so long, I can understand why CEO Bjorn Rebney basically threw his hands up and surrendered. Of course we want to see things decided in the cage, but you can only try to set up a fight so many times before it becomes obvious it's not going to happen.

The tournament format is one of the few things that differentiates Bellator from other promotions, and they shouldn't give up that uniqueness to be just another fight promotion. Unforeseen issues are going to be pop up from time to time, but you just have to do your best to plug in the hole and move forward.

Thomas: There are obviously tweeks that can be made to Bellator's format. You know who knows that? Bellator. The question is how much? Therein lies the more challenge part of this problem.

This past week on The MMA Hour, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said as much. They'll be having more tournaments per season, moving to three hour shows and more. I can even see a case for abandoning heavyweights and focusing more on women.

But all of those alterations still keep the tournament model in tact. That, above all else, should not be abandoned. It's the key differentiator and a boon to the company. Moreover, there is time to get things right before moving to a bigger and much more important platform. While on MTV2, Bellator has the opportunity to make the adjustments necessary to properly leverage and execute on their business model. Those who argue about lackluster ratings fail to realize Viacom doesn't really care about them. In this window of opportunity, Bellator has the chance to get things right. As long as they don't abandon the tournament format, they'll likely move in the right direction.
3. Sonnen-Silva II was recently announced. What is Sonnen's realistic chance of winn