Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Be Here Tomorrow...

As mentioned way back in May, we're going to celebrate UFC 100 by counting down the 100 Greatest Fighters in UFC History and it starts tomorrow.

The UFC 100 will be comprised of our selections as the top 100 fighters to work under the UFC banner. While many of the names to be featured on the list have had success outside of the UFC, we're only dealing with their records inside a the Octagon.

So, that means Wanderlei Silva's dominance in Pride is worth a wooden nickel and his 2-5 UFC record is what we'll be considering. Of course, the five losses "The Axe Murderer" has suffered with the UFC came at the hands of Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Rampage and Rich Franklin, so that has to be considered too.

See how much fun this is going to be?

Each day, we'll roll out 10 fighters, working our way from #100 until we get to #1, a fighter who will receive a full post all his own on Saturday, July 11th.

And don't worry - we're still going to be delivering the same Fight Week Previews that we've done thus far, complete with another round of Punch Drunk Predictions.

But now I have to go. I just realized how much work I have to do in the next couple weeks...

I hope you enjoy it.

Continue reading...

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Fireball Kid is Coming... Maybe

During the media circuit following his win at Ultimate Chaos on the weekend, Affliction head honcho Tom Atencio discussed the inclusion of Japanese star Takanori Gomi on the upcoming Affliction: Trilogy card with MMA Weekly:

MMAWeekly: Any word about Gomi? Any progress with him coming to Affliction?

Atencio: Yeah, we’re still working on it, we’re finalizing everything, but it looks like it’s gonna go through. I’m not 100-percent yet, but we’re still working on it for sure.

Though not yet concrete, the inclusion of "The Fireball Kid" on the Trilogy card is an interesting development, as it comes at a time when Gomi is trying to work his way back to the top of the lightweight ranks that he dominated for so long.

At one point not all that long ago, Gomi was considered the best 155 pound fighter on the planet. He dominated Shooto, emassing a 14-0 record before suffering defeats to Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen and B.J. Penn.

Following the Rumble on the Rock loss to Penn, Gomi moved to Pride, starring in the Bushido series that showcased lower weight class, and resumed his winning ways. In his nearly four years fighting under the Pride banner, Gomi lost just twice, including a submission defeat to Nick Diaz that was later ruled a no contest when Diaz tested positive for THC.

Since then, two wins with World Victory Road at Sengoku 1 and Sengoku 4 are paired with two losses, though one, a split decision loss to Sergey Golyaev, was a controversial judgment.

Which brings us to the possibility of joining the Affliction card and the back and forth taking place in my head about the relative excitement of this announcement.

Had this been two or three years ago, when Gomi was using his ambidextrous striking ability to level opponents left, right and center, I would have been jumping up and down and ordering my first Affliction pay-per-view. But his recent performances have been somewhat uneven and while the decision loss to Golyaev may have been suspect, sometimes that is what happens when you leave it up to the judges.

That is the fan side of me. The overall MMA enthusiast and advocate thinks this is terrific for the sport as a whole. Anytime that you can bring an international star into a new market and further expose the sport and the incredible talents that operate outside of North America, you're doing something positive in my books.

My final judgment will be reserved for a later date, once the signing is official and an opponent has been named.

But as it stands now, I'm excited and you should be too.

The Fireball Kid is coming... maybe.

Continue reading...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Inevitable Bobby Lashley Post

Get ready for a tidal wave of Bobby Lashley discussions, ranging from Brock Lesnar comparisons (also as inevitable as this post) to critiques of the former WWE superstar's still growing skill set.

Saturday night in Biloxi, Mississippi, Lashley headlined the Ultimate Chaos fight card and earned a first round submission win over former Pride and K-1 star Bob "The Beast" Sapp, improving his record to 4-0, not to mention my thoughts on his future in this sport.

Let's get the automatic Brock Lesnar comparison part out of the way up front.

In truth, there is no real comparison, as Kid Nate from Bloody Elbow accurate points out here. Outside of their time in the WWE, which was also quite different, they are actually quite different. Honestly, read Nate's piece; he covers it all.

But while I - like Kid Nate - give the edge to Lesnar in the physical specimen and collegiate pedigree categories, Lashley earns top marks from me for how he is approaching his transition into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Not to take anything away from Brock Lesnar, his freakish athleticism and jet-propelled climb to the top of the UFC Heavyweight mountain, but to me, the way Lashley is going about his business earns much more respect in my books.

While I am certainly a fan of Lesnar's - as I declared here earlier in the week - his natural talents and abilities, combined with his immense following from the WWE gave him a greater opportunity than any fighter I can remember and he has made the most of it. He certainly has nothing to be ashamed of and the detractors can bitch about him all they want. I'm sure Brock Lesnar sleeps well at night.

That being said, seeing Bobby Lashley align himself with an outstanding camp at American Top Team and work his way up the ladder, taking the fights he is given and not simply looking to quickly cash in on his name recognition deserves praise.

It's shows a commitment to the sport and learning the craft as opposed to making money and using the natural talents he has been blessed with. He's like an anti-B.J. Penn, training his ass off and constantly looking to improve, instead of resting on his abilities and relying on being "The Prodigy." As great as Penn is now, he would reach the iconic status he feels he deserves if he just worked that much harder. Lashley looks like he is the opposite.

Chances are someone (read: Dana White, Tom Atencio, Scott Coker) have place a call or two to Bobby Lashley about taking the next step and moving to one of the larger organizations, but as of yet, that hasn't happened. In interviews, he acknowledges that he still has a great deal to learn and is interested in getting more fights under his belt before making the jump and that is why I'm confident that he will be a legitimate title contender by this time next year.

I was totally down on Lashley following his uneven performance against Jason Guida, as many were. Since that time, he wasted no time choking out Mike Cook up here in Edmonton and ran through the ridiculously large Sapp in just over three minutes last night. The improvement shows, as does the intelligence of abandoning the pre-fight hype declaration of looking to stand and trade with "The Beast" and utilizing his strength as a wrestler to take the fight to the floor and dominate.

Undoubtedly, a great deal of that gameplanning comes from ATT, who are either #1 or #1A as far as training teams go in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts depending on your feelings about Greg Jackson's squad in Albuquerque. Again, while he could certainly coast through these initial fights on the natural talents he possesses, training every day with a list of guys that includes Jeff Monson, Thiago Silva, Carmelo Marrero and Todd Duffee (just to name the guys around the same weight) is only going to help you improve and become a better fighter.

And that is what we're seeing in Bobby Lashley; the continued evolution and growth of a fairly household name as he transitions into the world of Mixed Martial Arts.

Here's to watching the evolution continue and Lashley continuing to go about things this same way.

The money and spotlight will always be there if you keep winning.

In the meantime, keep becoming a more complete fighter and earning victories and respect along the way.

Continue reading...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

MMA Hall of Fame

To put it as simplistically as possible, we need a Mixed Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

During the continuing discussions of yesterday's post about the candidacy of Evan Tanner and others for the UFC Hall of Fame, I was reminded that we currently do not have a true Hall of Fame that operates in the same manner as all the major sports and with the continued growth of the sport, it's time we rectify that situation.

This is a call to all Mixed Martial Arts writers and industry leaders to band together and establish a complete and unbiased MMA Hall of Fame.

Not to lessen the accomplishments of those currently enshrined in the UFC Hall of Fame, but as one commentor on yesterday's piece accurately pointed out, getting elected to the UFC Hall of Fame is a private and prejudicial honor. No one outside of a Zuffa boardroom makes decisions about who gets in and truly representative and deserving inductees like Tito Ortiz or Pat Miletich will never - I repeat, NEVER - be awarded their rightful place there because of long-standing feuds with a certain bald gentleman with a fondness for F-bombs.

That truth only furthers how important and necessary a Hall of Fame created and administered in the same manner as those of the major sports is for Mixed Martial Arts.

We've proven the legitimacy of the sport and the continued growth will only further the need for a way to acknowledge the true greats and pioneers that have made the sport what it is today, regardless of how well they get along with Dana White and others at the UFC.

Instead of subjectively hand-picking who gets in and who doesn't, a voting system, comprised of esteemed writers and contributors to the sport fill out ballots, and everyone who receives a pre-determined number of votes is welcomed with open arms.

Even without an actual Hall of Fame to put fighters in, we spend countless hours debating the careers of established and retired fighters, or those in the twilight of their careers. Instead of simply discussing the point, why not establish an entity such as this and allow the Mixed Martial Arts community to cast their vote on whether Rich Franklin is a Hall of Famer?

Many want to see Mixed Martial Arts move into the major leagues of sports, and this to me would be a step in that direction. We have been around long enough and with enough sustained success in some areas that it is time we start paying tribute to those who helped us get here. Part of what makes the major sports major sports is their longevity and history. It's now clear that Mixed Martial Arts isn't going anywhere, so why not shed some light on where we came from?

Make no mistake: this is not simply a piece to start a discussion and have people debating who would get in and who wouldn't; this is something I plan to pursue, starting today, and I welcome anyone in the industry who wants to help or has already started down this path to email me at spencerkyte@hotmail.com to talk about this project. So I don't delete your email as junk, put "MMA Hall of Fame" in the subject line.

Now that that is out of the way, let the debates begin...

Continue reading...

Friday, June 26, 2009

This One Might Get Me in Trouble

We're closing in on UFC 100 - and the release of The UFC 100 - which means talks of who will be the next entrant into the UFC Hall of Fame are heating up again.

Evan Tanner's name constantly comes up and I keep wondering why.

Don't get me wrong - I loved Evan Tanner as a fighter and appreciate the trials and tribulations he went through outside the ring battling alcoholism. That being said, Evan Tanner is not a Hall of Famer.

I'm just trying to come at this logically, leaving all emotions at the door. Hypothetically speaking, if Evan Tanner were alive today, would a single soul be talking about him becoming the next member of the UFC Hall of Fame?

Of course they wouldn't. Tanner was a damn tough fighter who marched to the beat of his own drum, but he wasn't a dominating force at any point in his career and his one UFC title reign lasted four months minus a day, as Rich Franklin claimed the Middleweight belt in Tanner's first defense.

By no means am I trying to kick dirt on the grave of a fallen warrior - as I said, I completely respect what Tanner did inside the cage and outside the cage - but there are numerous people far more worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame than Evan Tanner... and no, as sad as his loss is as well, "Mask" isn't one of them either, unless you're inducting the entire Tapout Crew as a whole.

I look at it this way: Helio Gracie did far more for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts than both Charles Lewis and Evan Tanner combined, as the founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and patriarch of the legendary Gracie family. Oh, his son also started the original UFC. Kind of important, I think.

But many people don't think that way. I haven't read one article or list of candidates that mentions Helio Gracie, but everyone seems to be pulling for Mask and Tanner, with many considering them locks for induction.

They look back nostalgically at the career of Evan Tanner and romanticize it, using his brief championship stint and 17 career UFC fights as qualifications. Of course, Tim Sylvia is a two-time heavyweight champion with a number of fights in the UFC as well, but I don't hear anyone calling for "The Maine-iac" to be recognized...

The same goes for Mask. With all due respect, if he was still with us, would anyone be promoting him for the Hall of Fame? Probably not and while I know it's the answer to the question is moot because Charles Lewis was taken from us too soon, death shouldn't be the main criteria for induction.

If we're paying tribute to pioneers and people who showed incredible support and love for the sport, than do so accordingly, by acknowledging legends like Helio Gracie and not just the fallen whose imprint is freshest in our minds.

* * * * * * * * * *

Like everyone else who calls themselves a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, I too am saddened by the loss of these great contributors to our sport.

Without question, they did more than I could ever possibly do for Mixed Martial Arts and their presence can never be replaced.

My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families and friends of Evan Tanner and Charles "Mask" Lewis, as they do for Helio Gracie and his family.

Continue reading...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

There has been a great deal of talk around the MMA sites lately about the progress being made by females in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. My man Zak Woods at Watch Kalib Run actually sums it up quite nicely here.

While all the things the article discusses are very much true and MMA deserves a hat-tip for moving forward faster than many other sports, let's not go patting ourselves on the backs too quickly.

After all, we still have ring girls like Arianny (left) and Logan (right) parading around in their skivvies to the delight of many and before Fight! Magazine can get to a full-length article each month, they have to get through a cheap excuse of an interview and three pages of Miesha Tate's ass in short shorts.

Believe me, I love that we saw the first female referee on a UFC card over the weekend at the Ultimate Fighter Finale and that female fighters not named Carano are starting to get some attention, but let's not kid ourselves either.

The inclusion of Kim Winslow into the referee pool is great, but until we include some dude with washboard abs wearing a Speedo and carrying a Round 3 card at fights, we can hold off on the handshakes and hugs.

For every male mind out there that wonders why the UFC Ring Girls are at preliminary fights on The Ultimate Fighter and who want to see Cyborg and Gina Carano throwdown because it's going to be a serious slugfest, there are far more guys out there who are stoked to see the pretty girls in the booty shorts holding up those cards, reminding them what round it is because counting is just too tough.

Seriously - can you give me one reason besides showing a bikini-clad chick on television that "the beautiful Arianny" and "the lovely Logan," as Mike Goldberg refers to them are anywhere near the UFC Training Center during filming of TUF? Everyone else in the room is tied to the fight game and knows what round it is, but we've gotta pander to the guys sitting on their couch waiting to see the half-naked girl...

And that is why we shouldn't be giving ourselves a pat on the back just yet.

Gina Carano is still "the face of female MMA" mainly because she makes the Top 20 of Maxim's Hottest Women issue and was "Crush" on American Gladiators.

Guys aren't turning up to her weigh-in to hear her thoughts on the fight or world issues; it's because she has a difficult time making weight and tends to get naked behind a towel every time. At least she doesn't blame "women's problems" like some people cough Cyborg cough ...

We're getting there, we're just not there yet.

Photo: Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

Continue reading...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Carwin vs. Velasquez : A Bad Idea

As we tend to do in the fight game, speculation and rumors are running wild about who will be headlining the yet to be announced Fall fights in the UFC. While we know UFC 103 is going to take place in Dallas, we don't know who will have their names up in lights.

One co-main event fight sounds like it's going to be Mike Swick versus Matt Hughes, which I'll talk about some other time when the violent rage the thought of this fight builds in me subsides.

Another bout that is getting a lot of talk around the Internet is a heavyweight eliminator bout between Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez. For the love of all things holy, Joe Silva - please don't make this fight!

Not that it wouldn't be awesome. Of course it would; both are impressive specimens with unblemished records and would provide a quality heavyweight tilt.

That being said, why would you even consider throwing one of your prized heavyweight prospects under the bus?

Each of these guys have been on the receiving end of the UFC hype machine (with good reason) and stand somewhere in line behind the winner of the Couture - Nogueira fight as the next challenger for the heavyweight title. In my books, Carwin is ahead of Velasquez and by a decent margin at that.

Sticking these two inside the octagon together would automatically bump the loser down the charts and ruin the momentum the UFC has spent the last year and change building with each of them.

Cain already hit a minor speed bump in his uneventful decision win over Cheick Kongo last month in Germany and having his face smashed in by the frying pans Carwin launches would send him back to the preliminary card against newcomers like it has Gabe Gonzaga.

If the opposite were to happen and Velasquez came away with the win - most likely through some serious wrestling / ground and pound combo - Carwin takes the same fall and guys like me would start talking about how he's one dimensional and needs to build on his powerful striking.

Either way, a guy that the UFC has put serious effort into promoting falls a few rungs lower on the ladder and for what? To build up another guy that everyone already expects to see fighting for the heavyweight title within the next year?

The real problem is that there are few true challengers in the UFC heavyweight division. Six guys have cleaned out the division really, leaving matches between themselves as the only meaningful options to fans.

Some combination of Lesnar, Mir, Couture, Nogueria, Carwin and Velasquez have beaten everyone else the UFC could possible throw into the mix, which is why we're set to see the debut of a bunch of new heavyweights like Todd Duffee and Chris Tuchscherer.

Outside of bringing in guys like Jeff Monson, Ben Rothwell or *shudder* Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, Carwin and Velasquez almost have to fight or else face an extended period of inactivity.

Unfortunately, it means one great prospect moves forward while the other takes a big step backwards.

Funny, I always thought the idea was to have as many ready and worthy challengers as possible, not leave yourself with only one option.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

End of the Road for The American Psycho?

The finale of The Original Ultimate Fighter is widely regarded as one of the best fights in UFC history and rightfully gets credited with helping bring Mixed Martial Arts to the mainstream.

While Forrest Griffin has since gone on to win the Light Heavyweight title, become one of the most popular fighters in the UFC and pen the recently released Got Fight?, his opponent that night hasn't had the same success.

At a time when the UFC is routinely trimming their rosters and in a division brimming with talent, could a loss at UFC 100 mean the end of the line for "The American Psycho" Stephan Bonnar?

Maybe the better question would be, "If Stephan Bonnar hadn't been in the finale of the original Ultimate Fighter, would he already be gone from the UFC?" Let's look at the evidence before rendering a verdict.

Bonnar has had eight fights since his epic slugfest to wrap up Season 1 with Forrest Griffin, going 5-3. Taking a closer look, three of those wins are to competitors that I would deem lesser talents; fights that Bonnar clearly should have won. Not to take anything away from Eric Schafer, Mike Nickels or Sam Hoger, but they aren't the upper echelon of light heavyweight competition in the UFC.

Truthfully, neither is James Irvin, another of those wins in Bonnar's record. In fact, "The Sandman" has dropped down to middleweight now, leaving a win over Keith Jardine as the lone prominent win on Bonnar's record.

That win came more than two years ago. Since that time, Bonnar is 2-3, with the aforementioned wins over Nickels and Schafer, to go along with defeats at the hands of Rashad Evans, another beating from Forrest and Jon Jones.

Are those quality fighters he's lost to? Absolutely, as both Griffin and Evans have had gold around their waists and many believe Jones will at one point or another down the line. But a lot of good fighters have gone by the wayside after a better stretch than Stephan Bonnar is on, so why is he still around?

For example, Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald got the pink slip after going 5-5 since making his UFC debut in October 2006. Those five losses? Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami, Demian Maia, Wilson Gouveia and Nate Quarry. Dropping fights to these guys has to be on par with the losses Bonnar has taken, and wins over Chris Leben, Ed Herman and Jason Lambert have to at least be on par with Sam Hoger, Mike Nickels and Eric Schafer, don't they?

Which brings us to UFC 100 and Bonnar's fight with Mark Coleman, the first man to be crowned UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Truth be told, I don't think Bonnar is in any kind of jeopardy on July 11th. Coleman was clearly gassed in his UFC 93 fight with Shogun Rua, leading Joe Rogan to deliver the highly-comical and perfectly true description of Coleman looking like "a confused old man." So long as Bonnar can make it through Round One, he should be fine.

But still, what does a win over a fighter clearly beyond his expiration date really prove? And where does he go after this win? Clearly, Bonnar is not in the mix for a title shot and the division is easily the deepest and most talented around. In fact, he's not even in place as a gatekeeper, though he did beat the man who currently holds that distinction, Keith Jardine.

That means Bonnar falls into the same divisional purgatory that Joe Stevenson currently inhabits at lightweight; too good to be fighting the new talent, not quite good enough to compete with the best in the division. Basically, he's a light heavyweight version of Jason MacDonald, minus the walking papers.

When it's all said and done, I think the truth about Stephan Bonnar is this:

He's a smart guy who is a great interview. Whenever he steps through the cage door, you get an entertaining fight, win or lose and because he was the other half of the fight that propelled the UFC into the mainstream, it's going to take a lot for Stephan Bonnar to lose his place on the UFC roster.

Fair? Probably not, but unless you're name is Tito Ortiz, Dana White looks after the people who help bring his business into the big time and Stephan Bonnar is one of those guys.

Continue reading...

Monday, June 22, 2009

I'm a Member of Team Lesnar

No, I didn't get invited to Minnesota to train or become a part of the UFC Heavyweight champ's entourage or anything like that.

Just like I am a member of Team Mike Brown, I'm a member of Team Lesnar, fighting against all the doubters, haters and trash-talkers out there who want to make excuses and complain about the former WWE champion being the best of the UFC heavyweight division.

The first criticism people often fire out there when it comes to Lesnar was that he didn't deserve his title shot, he didn't earn it and d'you know what, they're 90% right. The fact that he broke gatekeeper Heath Herring's face (literally) accounts for the other 10%.

But guess what?

That title shot was more about a massive PPV buy rate and passing the torch tot he future of the heavyweight division than what Brock Lesnar had earned. Demolition of Heath Herring aside, there was no one else available to put on a good show against Couture and Dana saw the incredible potential - both in the cage and at the cash register - of Brock Lesnar and made the right the match. As we all know, Lesnar crushed Couture and that is where the next section of stupidness usually starts to come up.

"He crushed a 45-year-old man who is 2/3 his size," was one argument denouncing Lesnar I read recently on one of my post over at Yardbarker. I'm sorry, isn't the point to beat the snot out of whoever they put in front of you and how come Randy Couture's age and relatively small stature as a heavyweight count as a slight against Lesnar when it's always spoken to how awesome Couture is in the past?

Of course, you can't talk about size without someone playing the steroids card on Lesnar. From the moment he burst onto the scene in the WWE, I've refered to Lesnar as a "genetic freak" - he's 6'3", walks around close to 300 pounds and has the agility of a man half his size, not to mention the strength of a rhinoceros. Obviously, some detractors want to call him a cheat and credit steroids, not genetics and a freakish workout routine.

Here's the thing: this guy has gone from major collegiate wrestling to the WWE to wrestling in Japan to the NFL to the UFC. All of those stops have drug testing, some better than others, and not once has Brock Lesnar tested positive for anything. He was never suspended under the WWE Health and Wellness Policy, had no problems in camp with the Vikings and hasn't had a stiff of trouble with the UFC. To me, that means any allegations and wink-wink, nudge-nudge comments about his size being enhanced is nothing but hate and jealousy.

Then we come to my personal favorite, the skills and abilities section. It's one thing to hear outsiders and fans like you and me knocking the guy because "Royce Gracie he is not" (another fine YB comment), but to hear Frank Mir say stupid shit makes it all the more fun.

Lesnar is featured in the current issue of Maxim, and the magazine spoke to his UFC 100 opponent as well. Here's the brilliance, courtesy of Bloody Elbow:

If you watched when he wrestled in college," he observes, "his abilities were not very technical. He used his size and his power. He won matches by one and two points, drew the pace down, got real boring." He says Lesnar fundamentally remains that kind of fighter and that Lesnar’s strategy will play directly into his own legendary sub­mission skills.

I'm sorry. Is a win by 10 points not the same as a win by 1 point and are you not allowed to use your strongest attributes to defeat your opponents? I love how no one ever knocks Demian Maia for only using his BJJ instead of trading shots, at the same time questioning the shit out of Jorge Gurgel about why he never plays to his strength...

But Brock Lesnar using his strength and power instead of trying to do things he isn't capable of is a bad things, right? No one is saying the guy is Royce Gracie or a submission specialist or anything more than a human steamroller at this point in his career.

The fact of the matter is that a very raw, still new to the sport human steamroller named Brock Lesnar is still extremely hard to deal with and beat one of the Top 5 fighters in the history of the UFC in only his fourth career fight and that scares a whole lot of people.

Like I've said before about other fighters - dislike Brock Lesnar all you want, but give the guy his due. I personally hate Frank Mir and comments like the one above don't help his case with me, but I can't deny that he's one of the Top 10 Pound for Pound fighters on the planet in my books and has been outstanding over the last two years.

Hate him all you want. Me and Team Lesnar look forward to celebrating after UFC 100 and telling all the haters and doubters where to go...

Continue reading...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You Mean There Are Talented Fighters Outisde of the UFC?

Scouring the Interwebs as I do every morning, I've come across more than a few people expressing surprise at the number of references to non-UFC fighters that came up during last night's Ultimate Fighter Finale show.

After years of pretending on camera that the UFC operates in a vacuum where all Mixed Martial Arts outside of the UFC fails to exist, last night's name-dropping is a sign that the UFC just might be getting their collective heads out of their asses and starting to give credit where credit is due, and that includes a little love to the fans.

Honestly, there was no real need for Joe Rogan to mention Shinya Aoki when discussing Diego Sanchez' need for more flexibility when he has someone on his guard; the UFC Lightweight champion is BJ Penn, a human Gumby in his own right. But those in the know (read: you, me and the rest of us MMA addicts) know that Aoki is not only the Japanese Stretch Armstrong, but he scores crazy submission wins with that flexibility, while Penn mainly uses it defensively.

Shouting out the Bas Rutten - Kevin Randleman fight from back in the day was unexpected and very cool too. Too many current fight fans only know Bas Rutten as the excitable guy from Inside MMA on HDNet or as Kimbo Slice's trainer and neither are even close to fully encompassing who Bas Rutten is.

The one that really caught me off guard was Dana White's full out admission that he's trying to sign -slash - willing to go after Vitor Belfort during his stale interview with Amir Sadollah. By the way, is that guy every going to fight? Anyway...

Normally, Dana gets all cryptic and tells you he's working on things or something big might be coming, but not last night. Asked, White flat out answered that he's targeting Vitor Belfort and even gave a quick bio on the guy.

Maybe I'm over-analyzing things, but to me, this is progress. After years of listen to Dana put down everyone and anyone not fighting in the UFC and almost failing to recognize that there might be some talent in other organizations, he's on camera as a booster of Vitor Belfort as a challenger to one of his top draws.

Couple that with the Rogan references and it looks to me like the UFC is starting to realize that while there are people out there who remain UFC-centric, there is a growing population of followers who have branched out and experienced other organizations and it's time to acknowledge what they know as well.

Or, Rogan was just wasted and Aoki was the first name that came to mind, UFC or not.

Continue reading...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Punch Drunk Predictions: TUF 9 Finale

After a very sluggish start to the Punch Drunk Predictions here at Keyboard Kimura, I've finally had a few strong outings in a row, including a 5-2 performance on yesterday's joint Bellator and Strikeforce predictions.

Today, it's the first of four straight days off and I ain't got nothing to do but look forward to tonight's Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale show on Spike. And let me tell you - I'm looking forward to it.

I've said it a thousand times before, but cards like these - free shows with good fights - are exactly what the "MMA sucks!" contingent out there need to kick back and watch. Not only are the two TUF fights going to be battles because everyone wants that shiny, new contract, but the rest of the card is solid too and we'll break it down after the jump.

Joe "Daddy" Stevenson (34-10) vs. Nate Diaz (10-3)
It's hard to believe, but the reality Joe Stevenson needs to head into this fight accepting is that a loss could be the end of his UFC career. Crazy, I know, but that's what happens when there are guys coming up and you lose a bunch of fights. I don't think it will happen, simply because he's lost to the top 3 guys in the lightweight division, but he's going to need to impress.

Easier said than done though against Nate Diaz, who also is looking to bounce back after a loss to Clay Guida at UFC 94. One half of the greatest MMA brother tandem from Stockton, California, Nate will have a solid height and reach advantage, meaning Stevenson will need to get inside and do some quality dirty boxing.

Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson (10-3) vs. Andre Winner (10-2-1)
The Battle of the Brits for the Lightweight contract, this is going to be a matter of who imposes their will best. Andre has shown very quick hands and a knack for finishing early, having stopped everyone inside the first round.

Ross, on the other hand, is a grinder with strong boxing and the body of a bulldog. If this guy could even wrestle a little bit, he'd be tough to beat with his thick frame and good conditioning, but that isn't the case. Like Stevenson against Diaz, Ross will need to get inside of Andre's range and make this as much of a grappling and clinch match as possible to avoid getting knocked out.

Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (36-17-4) vs. Kevin Burns (8-2)
Ah, Chris Lytle... how I have such mixed feelings about thee. On one hand, you have to love a guy who will stand and trade with anyone, is always in shape to go the distance and just keeps coming forward no matter what you throw at him. Then again, he's 5-9 in his UFC career and guys with better records have been sent by the wayside and that kind of sucks.

Burns is a solid all-around fighter who is going to want to get this fight to the ground where he can work submissions. Chucking knuckles with Chris Lytle is not recommended here because if you think Anthony "Rumble" Johnson worked you over last time out, wait to Lytle hits you a couple dozen times.

DaMarques Johnson (14-6) vs. James "Lightning" Wilks (6-2)
DaMarques pisses me off. There I said it. He's one of those guys who just runs off at the mouth for the sake of sounding tough and being that guy. No one likes That Guy. That being said, he's looked pretty damn impressive this season.

Wilks has shown he is a dangerous fighter. You don't knock a dudes teeth out without having some punching power, that's for sure. What worries me here is that he needed a third round to put away Frank Lester and make the finals. Not to take anything away from Lester - big, big heart that kid - but shouldn't you be able to dominate the guy who is fighting for the fourth time in just over a month?

Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez (22-2) vs. Clay "The Carpenter" Guida (25-6)
This is going to be an interesting fight, as you have to expect both guys to be coming forward all the time, one screaming motivational sayings to himself, the other with hair flying everywhere.

Sanchez is a talented kid and The Other Original Ultimate Fighter. I'm still torn on him at this weight moving forward. Not that he can't do it, but so much of that Joe Stevenson fight was about Stevenson fighting a stupid fight to me that I need to see this fight to help make up my mind. One thing I know for sure, Sanchez will be in better condition than last time and that isn't a good thing for Clay Guida.

Guida is a fan favorite and a strong wrestler who may have to employ a Gray Maynard game plan to this fight - take the guy down, keep the guy down and punch him in the head repeatedly while he is down. Not that he doesn't have strong stand-up and I don't want to see a slugfest, btu Sanchez is the more dynamic striker and trading shots works to his advantage.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 32-28 (Getting better...)

Preliminary Card
Cameron Dollar over Jason Dent
Nick Osipczak over Frank Lester (sorry Frankie... love that heart!)
Mike Ciesnolevicz over Tomasz Drwal
Edgar Garcia over "Bad" Brad Blackburn
Gleison Tibau over Melvin Guillard

Main Card
Joe Stevenson over Nate Diaz
Andre Winner over Ross Pearson
Chris Lytle over Kevin Burns
DaMarques Johnson over James Wilks

And in the Main Event of the evening...

Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez over Clay "The Carpenter" Guida

Now touch gloves and come out swingin'

Continue reading...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Punch Drunk Predictions: Friday Night's Fights

As mentioned yesterday, two solid fight cards go down tonight which means it's time for me to keep the winning ways going and roll out another installment of our Punch Drunk Predictions.

Last time around at UFC 99, I managed a 7-5 record while still following my heart (Wanderlei Silva) instead of listening to my head (Rich Franklin) on a couple of different occasions. That being said, I'm back above .500 and will take on the Strikeforce Main Card and Bellator Tournament bouts after the jump.

Cory "The One" Devela (9-2) vs. Luke Rockhold (4-1)
Everything was going smoothly for Cory Devela heading into his last fight. He was riding a seven fight winning streak, was getting to fight at the Playboy Mansion and was taking on an opponent who some consider (myself included) over the hill. The problem is that an over the hill Terry Martin still packs the same knockout power as the Terry Martin of old, and Devela found that out.

Rockhold, on the other hand, has been getting groomed for a move to the bigger stage with Strikeforce, starting on the Young Guns series before making a couple undercard fights. Each time he steps into the cage, a first round finish occurs. 80% of the time, Rockhold is on the winning end of that stoppage.

Sarah Kaufman (9-0) vs. Shayna "The Queen of Spades" Baszler (9-5)
If you've dropped by at all this week, you should know who I'm backing in this fight without me saying a word.

Baszler has fought some of the best female fighters in the game; the only thing is that she's come out on the losing side of the ledger, including bouts against Kelly Kobold, twice againsts Amanda Buckner and most recently to Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos.

Conversely, Kaufman hasn't lost a fight yet. Last time out, she earned a Unanimous Decision over well-regarded Miesha Tate and despite Baszler's assertion that Kaufman's style and attack is predictable, no one has been able to do anything about it up to this point.

Jorge Gurgel (12-5) vs. Conor "Hurricane" Heun (8-2)
Gurgel promises his days of ignoring his BJJ skills to put on a great show for the fans are over. Not that he doesn't want to entertain; simply put, standing and trading made him a fan favorite and earned him some extra money while with the UFC, but it also produced three losses in his last four fights and a one way ticket out of the organization.

Heun is a tough kid and a nice looking prospect in my books. His two losses are to L.C. Davis and Brett Cooper, two solid and more seasoned competitors. The one thing I worry about with Heun is ring rust, as he hasn't stepped inside the cage since the final EliteXC show back in October.

Nick "The Goat" Thompson (38-10-1) vs. Tim Kennedy (9-2)
This one is a simple breakdown for me: Thompson has lost once in the last three years and that was to Jake Shields, while Kennedy hasn't fought in two years.

"Smokin" Joey Villasenor (26-6) vs. Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos (16-12)
Anyone else think that the male "Cyborg" may have gotten top billing on a card to appease the missus? Not to take anything away from his skills in the cage, but he's not Main Event material in my books.

The guy has lost four of his last six (and three of his last four) and he's stepping into the cage with a real contender in Villasenor. Before EliteXC went the way of the dinosaur, Smokin' Joe was in line to face Robbie Lawler for the middleweight belt. To put it another way, Villasenor has three losses since 2002, "Cyborg" has two in the last sixteen months.

Meanwhile, over at Bellator...

Eddie Alvarez (17-2) vs. Toby Imada (22-12) in the Lightweight Tournament Final
As I said yesterday on the Watch Kalib Run Cage Cast, Toby Imada has had his moment in the sun with his sick submission of Jorge Masvidal in the semis to get to this point. Tonight, it's all Eddie Alvarez.

Plain and simple, Alvarez is a different calibre fighter than Imada and the rest of the competition that featured in this tournament. He's a Top 10 Lightweight in the world and has been in some wars with others in that category. It's going to take another "out of nowhere, how'd he do that?" submission for Toby Imada to win this fight.

Jared Hess (9-0-1) vs. Hector Lombard (20-2-1) in the Middleweight Tournament Final
This one is another small dunk to me. No disrespect to Jared Hess, who has fought well and remains undefeated entering his 11th career fight, but Hector Lombard hasn't lost since 2006 and that came at the hands of Gegard Mousasi.

The former Olympic judo competitor has been dominant and arguably the brightest star throughout the entire Bellator series, spending less than 4:00 in the cage to earn his two wins.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 27-26 (Getting there...)

Luke Rockhold over Cory Devela (TKO R1)
Sarah Kaufman over Shayna Baszler (TKO R2)
Conor Heun over Jorge Gurgel (UD)
Nick Thompson over Tim Kennedy (Sub R2)
Joey Villasenor over "Cyborg" Santos (TKO R1)
Eddie Alvarez over Toby Imada (TKO R2)
Hector Lombard over Jared Hess (TKO R1)

Touch gloves and come out swinging!

Continue reading...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The UFC Isn't the Only Game in Town

While the UFC may dominate the headlines of the Mixed Martial Arts world and organizations like Affliction that try to compete with the Zuffa-powered juggernaut put together big name shows once every six months, two smaller organizations - Strikeforce and Bellator Fighting Championships - are doing things their own way and doing so successfully.

What's more is that the success of organizations such as these and smaller, regional promotions as well, is imparative to the success and long-term viability of Mixed Martial Arts as a whole.

As Zak Woods and I discuss on this week's initial Watch Kalib Run podcast, both Strikeforce and Bellator have outstanding cards taking place this Friday and though they are overshadowed by the UFC's Ultimate Fighter Finale card on Saturday night, they are both worth watching.

Bellator has found a home on highlight reels during their initial entry into the fight game with outstanding finishes at every level of their four-class tournament format. From Toby Imada's early contender for Submission of the Year to Yahir Reyes' equally impressive and award-worthy spinning backfist knockout clip, fans of up-and-coming fighters have flocked to YouTube and MMA websites alike to see these guys they have never heard of before doing things you won't see again any time soon.

In it's own way, Strikeforce too has crafted a strong following by building slowly to where they now have some well-known and extremely talented fighters on their roster that results in outstanding shows like the Jake Shields - Robbie Lawler card from a couple weeks back.

There is no questioning that the UFC is the pinnacle of the sport; the most well-known and widely watched of all the MMA organizations on the planet and home a great deal of the sport's best. That being said, they are not the only game in town and are far from the only organization worth paying attention to.

Don't get me wrong: I love the UFC and they were my introduction and indoctrination to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, but that doesn't mean that my fandom stops there. In fact, there are times when I would prefer to watch organizations like Strikeforce, Bellator or the Zuffa-operated WEC over the UFC, simply because I enjoy the opportunity to watch new fighters I have never seen before and spend a little bit of time outside of the UFC vacuum.

Take Friday's fights for example. Bellator will have the finals of their lightweight and middleweight tournaments featuring Eddie Alvarez taking on the aforementioned Toby Imada and Jared Hess waging war with Hector Lombard. With no disrespect intended to Hess and Imada, both Alvarez and Lombard have been highly impressive in their previous bouts and could do similarly in a major organization in the future. Here, you get the chance to watch them shine without forking over $50 for a pay-per-view.

The same goes with Strikeforce, as Joey Villasenor and Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos headline a card that also features Sarah Kaufman vs. Shayna Baszler, Tim Kennedy vs. Nick "The Goat" Thompson and quality veterans like Dennis Hallman and Duane "Bang" Ludwig on the undercard.

To me, the situation is analogous to music: while I predominantly listen to and love hip hop, I'm not going to listen to only hip hop because there is great music out there in all other genres of music. The same goes for fighting.

The UFC may be the biggest fish in the sea, but there are all kinds of smaller fish that are worth paying attention to too... and you don't have to pay to pay attention.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't Sleep on Sarah Kaufman

While Gina Carano and Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos have seemingly become the Kleenex and Q-Tips of Women's Mixed Martial Arts, the truth is that there are a number of talented female fighters out there besides the American Gladiator and her August 15th opponent.

One of those fighters is Canadian Sarah Kaufman. This Friday, the Victoria, British Columbia native puts her undefeated record on the line against submission specialist Shayna Baszler on the Strikeforce: ShoMMA card on Showtime.

At 9-0, Kaufman boasts a better record than Carano, the highly photogenic "Face of Female MMA fighters." Interestingly enough, a win over Baszler on Friday could put the former ballerina in line to fight the winner of what is being billed as the biggest fight in the history of Women's Mixed Martial Arts between the two former EliteXC fighters.

Most recently, Kaufman handed Fight! Magazine pin-up Miesha Tate her second career loss with a hard-fought unanimous decision. Having fought in promotions including King of the Cage, UWC and TKO over her three year career, the current influx of female fighters making their way onto the Strikeforce roster could give Kaufman a much more permanent home moving forward.

While no plans have been announced as of yet, the aforementioned growing numbers in the female ranks could lead to the establishment of a Strikeforce women's title, something Kaufman would most certainly contend for.

Hype and publicity can do a lot for a fighter's career, and while she is certainly an accomplished fighter inside the cage, Gina Carano is not the only female fighter out there worth knowing. For my money, Tara LaRosa is the best female fighter on the planet, with Cyborg and Carano set to battle it out for the #2 position.

That being said, a tough girl from Victoria who found her way into the cage when an MMA school opened up in the same building as the dance school she attended will be looking to extend her perfect record into double digits on Friday night.

Sarah Kaufman is the real deal and a force to be reckoned with, household name or not.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June Pound for Pound Rankings

There have been some great fights involving members of the May Pound for Pound rankings since we last put together our list of the best overall fighters on the planet.

No one new has joined the party, people have just switched seats, though the same might not hold true after the above pictured rematch.

While many people have him a step behind two gentlemen from Affliction, we're objective enough to give Frank Mir a much deserved spot in the Top 10. Come July 11th, Brock Lesnar might have something to say about that, but for now, Mir stays.

June Pound for Pound Rankings

10. Frank Mir
He might be the Rodney Dangerfield of MMA right now because Mir traditionally gets no respect. All he did last year was stop Brock Lesnar inside of two minutes and knockout "Minotauro" Nogueira for the first time in his life. Don't forget, Mir was a dominant looking champion before his accident and has looked even better as of late.

9. Urijah Faber
Going five rounds with the champ while having a broken hand is a pretty impressive display, not that anyone should be overly surprised by Faber's tenacity. The guy is legit and we've known that for some time. We wish "The California Kid" a speedy recovery.

8. Rashad Evans
Getting knocked out by Lyoto Machida doesn't bump you from the rankings, especially not when it's your first career loss. Evans still has a dynamic all-around skill set and will be heard from again in the LHW division soon. Like everyone else, he's just no match for "The Dragon," but right now, who is?

7. Mike Thomas Brown
I stated my thoughts on Mike Brown last week after his win over Urijah Faber and continued making the argument for a couple days on Yardbarker too. Bottom line, the guy is the best featherweight on the planet and has three solid wins inside of eight months.

6. B.J. Penn
"The Prodigy" slips simply because another man proved to be even more gifted, though he proved it to Penn some years ago. This is perhaps the most polarizing figure on this list, because a dominant win over Kenny Florian could vault him back up the rankings, but a sluggish performance or a loss could have him banished and no one - probably including Baby Jay himself - can tell you which one we'll see in Philly.

5. Miguel Torres
Torres is one of those fighters everyone should watch with regularity. He gives everything he has every time he steps into the cage and doesn't have any glaring deficiencies in his game. Brian Bowles will prove to be a stern test at WEC 42 in Vegas, but make no mistake - Torres will be ready.

4. Lyoto Machida
What can I say that hasn't already been said about "The Dragon?" He's undefeated and barely been touched inside the Octagon. He confuses the hell out of everyone he fights and has shown a new-found propensity for knocking people out. Are we in the Machida Era? Only time will tell.

3. Fedor Emelianenko
I know he's never really been beaten. I know everyone else thinks he is the best fighter on the planet. I know he'll probably beat Josh Barnett and leave himself without a challenger once again. Until that actually happens though, he's staying here at #3. Come fight the big boys, Fedor and then we can talk.

2. Anderson Silva
Call it a hunch, but I'm willing to wager that "The Old Anderson Silva" shows up to face Forrest Griffin and runs through him like a hot knife through butter. Something tells me "The Spider" has just been bored lately, but a fight like this will get him fired up to fight again.

1. Georges St-Pierre
July 11th could potentially knock St-Pierre from his perch atop these rankings, as Thiago Alves is a very formidable opponent. That being said, so too were Jon Fitch and BJ Penn. There are no holes in GSP's game and he's got the backing of a terrific training team. A win over "The Pitbull" leaves him without an immediate contender at 170.

Who'd we leave out? Who should move down? Who should move up?

Let us know your thoughts ...
Continue reading...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stop Crying for Tim Sylvia

In light of his 10 second knockout loss to former heavyweight boxing champ Ray Mercer on the weekend, a lot of people around the MMA world are shedding a tear for poor Tim Sylvia.

Don't count me among them.

While I've never been a Tim Sylvia fan, this isn't about my lack of enjoyment of watching him fight, so much as it's about setting the record straight on a guy who gets way too much credit for a mediocre run in Mixed Martial Arts.

I know - he's a two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion ...

Matt Serra was the UFC Welterweight champion at one point and earned the belt by knocking out one of the best fighters on the planet.

The point here: having a big, shiny belt holding up your pants doesn't make you a superstar. Sometimes, you just get in a lucky punch or - as in Sylvia's case - you come around at the right time and get some lucky breaks.

Sylvia defeated Ricco Rodriguez for the heavyweight belt at a crossroads for the heavyweight division. Up and comers hadn't quite reached title contention and veterans like Rodriguez and Gan McGee, whom Sylvia beat in his first defense, were no longer in their prime.

Secondly, how come Sean Sherk gets dogged about steroids but no one seems to mention it in regards to Sylvia? After all, that is why he dropped the belt in the first place, as a result of a positive test and six month suspension.

Had Frank Mir not gotten into his motorcycle accident, Tim Sylvia wouldn't have been a two-time champion. Andrei Arlovski wouldn't have held the belt either. I know it's revisionist history and awful convenient for me to use this line in making a case against Sylvia, but Mir was that damn good prior to getting injured.

Sure, he regained the belt by knocking out Andrei Arlovski, but we've come to learn that that might be easier than we once thought. The unanimous decision over Jeff Monson is still surprising to me, especially considering Sylvia held his own on the ground and even attempted a triangle at one point.

Then the losses started piling up.

He dropped the belt to Randy Couture and while a win over Brandon Vera followed, another hand-raising ceremony has yet to take place.

He's been in the ring for 46 seconds in his last two fights.

Does it suck that his manager told him to leave the UFC? Absolutely, but he didn't have to leave the UFC. I mean really, who takes that advice?

"Hey, leave the biggest organization in your field where you've been champion twice. No one else has any real money or staying power, but we'll be big stars." Yeah, sure Monte ...

Ultimately though, I think we're just seeing the truest version of Tim Sylvia imaginable. He likes to fight but isn't well-rounded enough to compete on the highest level. Additionally, boxing is a bad decision, at least when it involves former heavyweight champions.

Outside of Arlovski, who'd he beat? When the chips were down, Sylvia lost to the better opponent time and time again, whether it's Mir, Couture, Nogueira or Fedor and just happened to catch a run of lesser competition when he had a belt around his waist.

We need to stop lamenting the bad hand Tim Sylvia has been dealt and call it like it is: a guy who took some bad advice and is now an MMA Mercinary, taking whatever fight will pay him the most.

Continue reading...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Punch Drunk Predictions: UFC 99

The record is getting better - 7-3 at WEC 41 helped - but the fights are getting harder.

Time to flip a coin and see who will emerge victorious... okay, so I'm not flipping a coin, but it's pretty damn close with some of these fights.

Mirko "Cro Cop" (22-5-2) vs. Mostahpa Al Turk (6-4)
I don't care that Cro Cop is most likely nowhere near the Cro Cop of old. Did you see the way Checik Kongo demolished Al Turk in their last fight? One big kick and this one is done. You don't bring him back on a one fight deal if you expect him to get dummied.

Spencer Fisher (23-4) vs. Caol Uno (27-11-4)
As much as I love seeing Spencer Fisher in wars, that inability to finish guys in those stand-up slugfests is what I see working against him. While he might pick away at Uno, the veteran has simply been down that road too many times against higher calibre opponents.

Marcus Davis (21-5) vs. Dan Hardy (21-6-1)
Thing with poking a bear with a stick is that sometimes, the bear gets mighty pissed and claws your arm off with the stick still in your hand. Unfortunately, I don't think Marcus Davis is that kind of bear. He'll be fired up and despite what he says, will be trying to kill Dan Hardy. Then he'll make a mistake and catch a counter hook in the bean and drop like a sack of potatoes.

Mike Swick (13-2) vs. Ben Saunders (7-0-2)
One thing I'm certain of is that there will be a finish in this fight. When it will come and who will be the one getting their hand raise will all depend on who controls the action. Swick will be looking to pick his spots from a safe distance and Saunders will be looking to use his reach and that deadly Thai clinch. Flip a coin...

Cheick Kongo (24-4-1) vs. Cain Velasquez (5-0)
Kongo has looked damn good in his last couple fights, but Cain just keeps getting better. I liked that he was pissed he didn't finish Denis Stojnic sooner, that shows hunger to me. The guys Kongo has struggled with - Carmelo Marrero and Heath Herring - took the fight to the ground and used their wrestling on the big man. Neither of them is in the same category when it comes to wrestling as the former ASU All-American.

Rich "Ace" Franklin (26-4) vs. Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva (32-9-1)
Simple as this: if Wandi is still all about pleasing the fans, he's going to get laid out. If he sticks to a game plan and uses his aggression wisely, he'll get the win. Remember, Franklin sure didn't like being in Anderson Silva's clinch and Wanderlei has a deeply clinch game too.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 20-21

Preliminary Card
John Hathaway over Rick Story
Denis Stojnic over Stefan Struve
Paul Kelly over Roli Delgado
Paul Taylor over Peter Sobotta
Dennis Siver over Dale Hartt
Justin Buccholz over Terry Etim

Main Card
Mirko Cro Cop over Mustapha Al Turk
Caol Uno over Spencer Fisher
Dan Hardy over Marcus Davis
Ben Saunders over Mike Swick
Cain Velasquez over Cheick Kongo

And in the Main Event of the evening...

Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva over Rich Franklin!

Now touch gloves and come out swingin'...

Continue reading...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Franklin vs. Silva

Time to tackle the Main Event.

While I wouldn't call it "the match up fight fans have been waiting to see" or whatever they've billed it as in the commercials, it certainly is an interesting tilt and one that should contain some serious fireworks.

And for those saying this is a sub-par Main Event, UFC 89 (Bisping vs. Leben) and UFC 95 (Sanchez vs. Stevenson) could tell you a thing or two about being sub-par, not "Ace" and "The Axe Murderer."

Rich Franklin (26-4) versus Wanderlei Silva (32-9-1)
Let's get the training team and training partners angle out of the way right off the bat, shall we?

It certainly doesn't hurt Rich Franklin to be training with Anderson Silva, just because he's Anderson Silva. The fact that Silva has previous knowledge and experience training with Franklin's opponent is clearly a bonus.

That being said, it also pisses off "The Axe Murderer" and even the way that sentence sounds comes off a little dangerous. It's not like Wanderlei trains in solitude either. The entire Wand Fight Team lives under one roof and Silva is a true pioneer in cross-training and circuit training.

As has been the case with a lot of the main card fights, training is a wash.

Franklin and Silva share one mutual opponent: Dan Henderson. Both suffered losses to the former Pride dual champion, though Franklin came out on the wrong side of a close decision in his last fight, while Wanderlei was knocked stiff in his last Pride bout.

Though Franklin gets a slight edge from his "better" result against Hendo, Wanderlei has the stronger overall competition. Not to take anything away from the guys Rich Franklin has fought and defeated, but Wanderlei has been in the ring with some of the best when they were at their peak and came away victorious more often than not. Then again, Wanderlei has two losses in three UFC fights, while Franklin has three in four and a half years...

Stylistically, this fight is a nightmare for Wanderlei Silva. I know that sounds strange, but guys who are willing to take a couple shots to find the right counter-punching opportunity are his kryptonite. Look at the Rampage fight. Franklin is strong enough on his feet and has exhibited a strong enough chin over the years to take a couple of "The Axe Murderer's" early offerings and still move forward.

While Franklin is no slouch on the ground, perhaps this is one time that it might be beneficial for Silva to display the BJJ skills he is reputed to have. After all, you don't train with a multiple time world champion and not pick up a thing or two.

24 hours before I tell you who I like, I still don't know. This whole card has me second-guessing and over-analyzing, and those are the cards I really enjoy.

See you tomorrow for the Punch Drunk Predictions.
Continue reading...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Velasquez vs. Kongo

It's time to find out how good Cain Velesquez truly is, as he takes a massive step up in competition with Cheick Kongo.

Originally slated to take on heavyweight Gatekeeper Heath Herring, the former Arizona State Sun Devil will now face a man many believe will be in line for a title shot should he earn the win on Saturday.

I'm two days away from making my Punch Drunk Predictions and I still have no idea who I'm taking in this one. Time to break it down.

Cain Velasquez (5-0) versus Cheick Kongo (24-4-1)
Clearly, Kongo has the edge in terms of experience and strength of competition. He has five times as many fights as the AKA product and has spent time inside the cage with the likes of Cro Cop, Christian Wellisch, Antoni Hardonk and the man he is replacing, Heath Herring.

Velasquez, on the other hand, received his toughest test in his last fight, courtesy of Denis Stojnic. Incidentally, Stojnic is also on the UFC 99 card, fighting Stefan Struve in a "Loser leaves UFC" match. I'm just sayin' is all...

I'm calling the training match up a wash, as both AKA and Wolfslair are outstanding facilities that offer strong camps, quality training partners and send prepared fighters into battle every time. Which brings us to the style question.

While Velasquez has certainly improved his stand up since coming to the UFC, he'll need to go back to his bread and butter - wrestling - bringing the much larger Frenchman to the canvas for some old fashion ground and pound.

That's a lot easier said than done, of course, because Kongo will undoubtedly be looking to keep this standing where he can use his full arsenal of striking skills to bloody Velasquez, who many are calling the future of the heavyweight division.

This is a fight that asks a classic question: do you take the established veteran or the mostly untested, but potentially dominating young star?

I need a couple more days to sort it out.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Swick vs. Saunders

We continue our weekly trip through the Main Card of UFC 99 with an intriguing bout that has me asking more questions than I can possibly answer.

Is welterweight where Mike Swick is going to shine?

Can Ben Saunders put on a similar display to his last fight against a much more talented opponent?

We'll try to answer both after the jump.

Mike Swick (13-2) versus Ben Saunders (7-0-2)
Clearly, the edge in quality of opponents goes to Swick, a graduate of the original Ultimate Fighter who has made a nice transition to the middleweight ranks after beginning his UFC career at 185.

His last loss came to Yushin Okami, a fighter many believe is the most deserving of a shot at Anderson Silva's Middleweight belt, while he has stopped the likes of Marcus Davis, Jonathan Goulet, Joe Riggs and David Loiseau.

Saunders, on the other hand, came to the UFC via TUF 6 where he was eliminated from the competition by Tommy Speer. Since then, Saunders has steamrolled his challengers, including disposing of Brandon Wolff in impressive fashion at UFC Fight for the Troops in December.

As there are no shared opponents, our next step is usually to decipher who comes from the better team, but this one is a push. Swick trains with Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Cain Velasquez and company at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, while "Killa B" has set up shop with American Top Team, meaning his training partners include guys like Thiago Alves, Denis Kang and Wilson Gouveia.

What makes this fight all the more interesting is the resonating image of Saunders driving knee after knee after knee into the face of Brandon Wolff. His Thai Clinch looked very, very good on that night and many fans and followers have climbed about the Ben Saunders Bandwagon.

But was that an inaccurate representation of his skills? Wolff is now gone from the UFC following another loss and Saunders has beaten the equivalent of a ham sandwich compared to the talents Swick has earned wins over. My man Zak Woods at Watch Kalib Run breaks down the Ben Saunders situation best.

Thing is, a lot of guys have had inauspicious starts only to find that groove in what looks like a meaningless fight and go on to bigger and better. Who am I to say that bigger and better doesn't start Saturday for Ben Saunders?

Continue reading...