Thursday, July 30, 2009

WEC 42: Overdue and Under the Radar

With all the speculation and discussions of contract negotiations between Fedor Emelianenko and the UFC, not to mention a top-heavy fight card at UFC 101 the night before, a fight that could very easily turn out to be the best the month has to offer is receiving very little time in the spotlight.

Headlining WEC 42 is a battle for the Bantamweight title between champion and Pound-for-Pound mainstay Miguel Torres (37-1) and Brian Bowles (7-0) that was originally supposed to happen back at WEC 40 in April.

What turned out to be a small setback for Bowles became a massive win for fight fans, as the injured member of Athens, Georgia's Hardcore Gym was replaced by Japanese veteran Takeya Mizugaki, who combined with Torres for what is an early front runner for Fight of the Year.

Stop and think about that for a minute: the fall-back option to this fight was a five round war that earned a 4.61 out of 5 from voters at MMA Ratings.

It's not like it was a GSP-type domination either; Mizugaki took two rounds on my scorecard while the judges ended up seeing it of 49-46, 49-46, 48-47 all in favor of Torres. Believe me, those numbers don't do justice to what a great fight this was.

Now we get the originally scheduled fight and I for one can't wait.

Everything about this fight feels eerily similar to the first bout between Urijah Faber and Mike Thomas Brown.

Faber was reigning supreme as the King of the Featherweights, earning praise across the board as a Pound-for-Pound fixture and becoming more of a household name with each notch in the win column.

Brown was the less experienced, far less flashy opponent who was supposed to be another victim of "The California Kid" and his vast arsenal of weapons.

We all know what happened next.

Now Torres is in that Faber position and Bowles will be looking to do his best Mike Brown impersonation.

While some, including Torres, are quick to point to Bowles' relative lack of experience inside the cage as a stumbling block, part of me can't help but think that his inexperience will serve him well in what is easily the biggest fight of his life.

Some certainly get stage fright and crack under the pressure of the spotlight, but others aren't affected at all. They walk onto the biggest stage available and put on the performance of a lifetime.

Who am I to say that just because Brian Bowles has only seven fights to his name that he's going to be unable to hang with Miguel Torres?

Remember, no one thought Brown could hang with Faber the first time and now he's done so twice.

That being said, Torres is the clear favorite in this tilt and with good reason.

He hasn't lost a fight since 2003, decision to Ryan Ackerman that he later avenged. In the nearly six years since that defeat, Torres has taken on all comers and shown a sublime mix of skills inside the WEC Octagon.

Some fighters are knockout artists, readying a big right or left that can end your night in a hurry. Others are submission specialists, able to make you tap in any number of ways, while others still are grinders, guys that are ready and willing to go the distance and pull out a victory.

Miguel Torres is all three and that is what makes him so uniquely dangerous.

In five fights with the WEC, the Hammond, Indiana native has two wins by TKO, two submission victories and one win that went to the scorecards.

Add all this up, not to mention the fact that the fight is available live and free on Versus, and you have the makings of one outstanding fight.

And yet somehow this title clash is still off the radar for many fight fans who are engulfed in a storm of Fedor, the UFC and the wake of Affliction's sudden collapse.

Consider yourself notified: Torres vs. Bowles has the potential to be a monster of a fight and one you don't want to miss.

Feel free to return to Fedor Watch now.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Bully, The Nerd and The Cool Kids in School: An MMA Analogy

Starting with UFC 100 and through the fall of Affliction, there has been a lot of talk about Mixed Martial Arts' assimilation into the upper echelon of the sporting world, it's coverage in the mainstream media and the true makeup of the throngs of people you see surrounding the Octagon.

As could only be expected, the online MMA community has been quick to weigh-in, sticking up for the sport at ever turn like the most popular kid in school sticking up for the nerd being picked on by the bully.

But for right now, it's a losing battle.

Eventually, the bully will get a hold of the nerd and beat him twice as hard, since the popular kid in school can't be by his side all the time. After all, there is football practice, Student Council and making out with Jessica Anderson that need to be attended to as well, right?

The only time when it will really stop, when the nerd will no longer have to look over his shoulder or count on the cool kids to stick up for him is when the nerd stops being a nerd and becomes a cool kid himself.

Kudos to you if I haven't lost you through all those analogies, and if I have, don't worry, they're done.

Until Mixed Martial Arts is being covered in the mainstream media by the people best-suited to do so, there are always going to be newspapers like the Boston Globe and New York Post that want their reporters who are repulsed by the sport to lash out at it.

Why wouldn't they?

You know we (the online MMA community) are going to latch onto the story and give it more time than it deserved in the first place, thereby increasing the story and the newspaper's exposure.

Instead of getting up in arms that the old guard still doesn't understand, we need to be working to replace the old guard. Instead of simply sticking up for the nerd, we need to take him to the mall, buy him some cool clothes and show him that he's not a nerd after all.

It's She's All That 2: Mixed Martial Arts!

Rather than simply be frustrated day after day with the lack of coverage that TSN, Canada's National Sports network, provides to Mixed Martial Arts and the fact that they have someone who also pens a baseball blog doing the bulk of their MMA writing, I'm taking action.

TSN is getting a letter, resume and portfolio of my work, along with an offer to help them cover a sport that many who grew up with TSN are ravenous about, as shown by the two massive crowds that turned out in Montreal when the UFC came to town.

Dave Meltzer is right; the online MMA community and those of us reading blogs like this (thank you so much for reading ... I love you all!) do not reflect the majority of the ticket buying populous that packs arenas across North America to watch fight cards. But it's not because we don't want to be.

I want there to be greater numbers of fans in attendance who know about life outside of the UFC vacuum, who get excited when a fight goes to the ground because you might see a sick submission and who could pick Fedor Emelianenko out of a police lineup if they had to.

However, our current platform for educating the masses is small and while we're growing and gaining footing day-by-day, until we have the opportuntiy and coverage afforded to even golf or NASCAR, the crowds will still be made up of more people who profess their undying love for one fighter or another but couldn't tell you when they're fighting next.

But truthfully, many sporting venues these days aren't jam-packed with only die-hards who eat, breath and sleep the sport they're watching. That's why they are called sporting events. For some, it's just about being there and having a day or a night out of the house.

We need to stop looking at the negatives and work to improve upon the positives.

ESPN may not carry MMA stories on the front page with great frequency, but they have been showing MMA Live every Thursday afternoon for well-over a year now.

TSN almost doesn't cover MMA at all here in Canada, but both The Score and Sportsnet have weekly MMA shows, send reporters out to cover the major events and discuss the sport as much as they do other fringe sports.

Newspapers in general don't give a lot of credence to mixed martial arts in their sports pages, but USA Today features the outstanding MMA Fighting Stance blog of Sergio Non and Beau Dure on their website and have teamed up with Sports Blog Nation to deliver monthly MMA Rankings as well.

Ten years from now, when all of us who were writing about MMA long before it became the most popular sport in the world are writing for respected online newspapers and covering events for the major sports networks, we're going to look back on these days and smile.

The ones who said it would never happen and who were appauled by the brutality in the ring will be long gone, the crowds will be quoting stats and records like the ravenous baseball fans of a bygone era and MMA shows of all the major sports networks will be doing live broadcasts from the events.


I'll still be standing behind some bar, making drinks for servers who hate their job and serving glasses of wine to thrice-divorced cougars who are wondering if I'm married or happily married.


I don't want to get too far ahead of myself with this writing about MMA as a career thing, what with all the anonymous comment-droppers who like to remind me of what a hack I am and all.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cyborg vs. Carano: History in the Making

Ten years from now, when MMA is still riding high as one of the most popular sports in the world and female fighters are viewed as equally-talented purveyors of their respective arts as their male counterparts, one fight will serve as the benchmark.

While various fights on the August 15 Strikeforce card have come and gone, the one that has remained constant is the most important contests of the evening, the one pitting Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos against Gina "Conviction" Carano for the Women's 145 lbs. Title.

But this fight is about far more than a title belt; it's about equality, opportunity and making history.

Some critics are of the belief that the only reason this fight is earning top billing is the presence of Carano, "The Face of Women's Mixed Martial Arts" and an attractive, marketable face at that.

While that undoubtedly has something to do with it, do not disrespect these fighters and the sport by believing that these women are unworthy of such a grand stage.

These are two of the best female fighters in the sport today, each on seven-fight winning streaks and each very much deserving of not only an opportunity to fight for a championship, but also of headlining an event.

If two male fighters of above average talent and popularity, each riding extended winning streaks, were set to do battle, the bout would be promoted through the roof and surely earn main event status. Fans would be chomping at the bit for the opening bell to sound.

But now, because the combatants are female, this fight is somehow less worthy?

What the people putting down this fight fail to recognize is that they're watching history happen right before their eyes.

"There has to be a first" is a saying that I have used a lot in recent months, both in reference to my own life and career, as well as the world around us.

Someone or something has to break the mold, change the way we look at things, so that we can see just how normal and natural a once-foreign idea can truly be.

The concept of a Black President seemed impossible to many just twenty years ago, if not less.

Now, the future holds an opportunity for someone to be "the Second Black President of the United States of America."

Just as there had to be a first Black President, there has to be a first female main event for there to be a second, and a third, and a fourth.

Ten years ago, this sport that so many of us follow with intense passion and fierce loyalty was all but dead; too violent and dangerous even for pay-per-view, yet we've stood by to watch it rise like Lazarus.

But now that the sport is alive and kicking, having two extremely talented female fighters atop the marquee is either outlandish or simply a novelty act to some?

Four years ago, two guys no one had heard of before they appeared on a reality television show captivated the masses and converted thousands, if not millions, to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, earning a place in the history books.

This fight on August 15 is the female version of The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale; an historic event that will one day be talked about with reverence as the fight that put Women's MMA on equal footing with it's male counterpart.

Change is inevitable, like death and taxes.

The question is where will you be when the change takes place?

Will you be in front of it, embracing it and being a part of it or standing on the sidelines, failing to accept what is happening before you and wishing things could just stay the way they were?


I'll be taking part in history.

Hopefully I see you there.
Continue reading...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shouldn't You Be Thinking About Beating the Mustache Off Don Frye?

Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal is one of the brighter prospects in all of Mixed Martial Arts. I'm actually pretty annoyed with myself that I overlooked him when putting together my Top 10 Prospects list a couple weeks back.

The former Division II American Folkstyle wrestling champion has quickly made a name for himself in Japan, earning four straight wins and endearing himself to fans with his colorful entrances, complete with a crown, cape and entourage of women.

Despite an upcoming bout with UFC veteran and champion mustache-wearer Don Frye, Lawal has recently been making news for a growing war of worlds with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

Two things jump to mind in wading through all the verbal sparring that is currently taking place:

1) There ain't a better shit-talker in the game than Rampage.

2) While it's not 1996 and Don Frye may be old, him and his mustache could still pull off an upset if you aren't paying attention.

The funniest part of all this is Lawal's recent retort on The Underground to a shot Rampage delivered via his blog on Fighthype:

Dont worry about me.....You need to focus on Rashad Evans. I aint gon waste no time with your ignorance. Keep on puttin on your routine and your corny over used punchlines....Our time for battle will come...You have your hands full with the former champ....I aint tryna be known for arguin with you. I feel bad for you cuz you playin yourself....You'll see what Im talkin bout when your career end. Its a shame.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking King Mo should be the one focusing on the present.

After all, he's fighting in less than a month and the former Pride and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion with 37 career fights has nearly two months before he has to lock'em up with Rashad.

And really, should a guy whose biggest win is over Travis Wiuff honestly be trying to talk shit with a guy whose resume includes wins over Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson to name but three?

Yeah, Rampage didn't think so either ... enjoy the clip!

Shout out to my man Kelvin Hunt from MMA4Real for reminding me about this entertaining and continuing storyline.

Continue reading...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fighters Lose in More Ways Than One

Jay Hieron was all set to meet British fighter Paul "Semtex" Daley at Affliction: Trilogy.

The former IFL Welterweight champion and member of Xtreme Couture had already put in the work and gotten prepared when news of Affliction's collapse came yesterday afternoon.

While the MMA world is trying to forecast who will land where, which fighters will fill current vacancies on other cards and everything else, one very salient point that is being somewhat overlooked was underscored by Hieron in an interview with 5 Ounces of Pain:

“We all put everything on hold… paid a lot of money for training… and I have a lot of bills and no paycheck.”

As much fun as a may be to speculate about a possible storm of Affliction-contracted fighters now descending upon the UFC, sometimes real life is what needs to take precedent and this is one of those times.

In addition to losing an opportunity to further showcase his skills and push his winning streak to six, Hieron also loses out on a paycheck, as does everyone else.

Though there are opportunities out there for Hieron - he stated in the interview that he was interested in taking Joe Riggs' place opposite Nick Diaz on the Strikeforce card - it still doesn't change the fact that after putting in months of work and stacks of cash to training and prepare, Hieron and everyone else on the Affliction card is left with a pocket full of lint and a hand full of bills.

Clearly, the rapid demise of Affliction could not have been foreseen.

As I said on the latest Watch Kalib Run podcast, if you had told me a week ago that in the span of seven days Josh Barnett would test positive and Affliction would not only cancel their show, but cease operations as a fight promoter, I would have called you crazy.

But that is exactly what happened.

We can't change the past, but we can certainly use it to help us improve the future and this situation offers an opportunity to once again look at how fighters are compensated.

I don't mean in the sense of "fighters need to be paid more" or stirring up conversations about a Fighters Union or things of that nature. While those big picture issues certainly need to be discussed, more immediate and smaller scale possibilities are out there.

For instance, a fighter's "show pay," the dollar amount agreed upon for the fighter turning up and taking part in their scheduled fight, is all but guaranteed. If you're in the building the night of the fight, you're getting a paycheck.

Outside of last minute injuries sustained in training, 99.9% of fighters contracted to fight are going to turn up, so would providing a portion of that "show pay" in advance be an option?

In smaller shows and fringe promotions, the answer is obviously no, as finances are just not readily available to meet that kind of monetary demand. But what about in organizations like the UFC and Strikeforce?

Even if the total amounted to a combined $100,000 for a 50% payout of a fighter's "show pay" in advance, that number isn't going to cripple either of those organizations, but having that money would make a world of difference in the fighters' lives.

Obviously, the situation is more complex than it reads; provisions would have to be made in regards to injuries and wording introduced into contracts to ensure said fighters would pay back any advanced money should they fail to meet their obligations, but the base idea has legs, does it not?

While Tom Atencio has certainly lost a slew of money in the brief time that Affliction was been in the promotions game, he also has a lucrative clothing line to help buoy his financial situation and a newly-inked deal to bring that clothing line back to the Octagon.

But for fighters like Jay Hieron, this is how they make their living.

Fighting pays the bills and when a much-needed paycheck is suddenly taken off the table, all those bills don't just disappear.

Continue reading...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wanted: Heavyweight Champion Who Will Defend Belt

When Strikeforce announced that their Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem would be defending his belt against Fabricio Werdum on the massive August 15th card in San Jose, California, my first thoughts were, "I'll believe it when I see it."

A couple days ago, Alistair Overeem pulled out of his fight. The hand he injured in a bar fight back when he was schedule to defend against Brett Rogers still hasn't healed.

Well over a year and a half into his title run, the Dutch fighter hasn't defended his belt once and it's time for Strikeforce to do something about it.

This isn't the first time I've addressed this topic. Back in the beginning stages of Keyboard Kimura, I spoke about the need for Strikeforce to move on from both of their inactive champions, Overeem and Middleweight champ Cung Le, especially considering how quickly they rolled out an interim lightweight belt when Josh Thomson got hurt.

Scott Coker and Co. have done so with Le's middleweight belt, as Jake Shields will be facing an as-of-yet undetermined opponent for the interim strap later in the year, and now it is time to do the same with the heavyweight belt.

At least Cung Le has stepped away from his career as a fighter entirely during his hiatus; he's off making movies and getting married.

On the other hand, "The Demolition Man" has remained in the ring, just not a Strikeforce ring. Since winning the title over Paul Buentello in Novemeber 2007, Overeem has fought on four different occasions in Japan.

I could see if there weren't any worthy replacements available, but there is.

Brett Rogers is one of the more intriguing heavyweight prospects in the game and Coker and Co. did the right thing in deciding against allowing him to fill in against Fedor Emelianenko next weekend. The same goes for Fabricio Werdum, the well-respected veteran of Pride and the UFC who was originally set to face Overeem.

Instead of sending either to buoy Affliction's sinking show, why not replace Overeem with Rogers, placing an interim heavyweight title on the line?

Both would be worthy champions, it would keep the August 15 Main Card at an amazing four title fights, and give the organization something the heavyweight division has clearly been lacking ...

A champion that actually defends his belt.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

As Affliction Crumbles, White Wins Again

Like it or not, it's time to give it up to Dana White.

His detractors will say that he enjoys the failure of his competitors too much and while it may certainly be true, you have to give the guy credit for what he has managed to accomplish with the UFC.

The current buzz around the MMA world is Josh Barnett's removal from the Main Event at Affliction: Trilogy on August 1st and who his possible replacement might be. Regardless of who fills in to fight Fedor, there is a good chance this will be Affliction's last show. Another one bites the dust.

Meanwhile, Dana White and the UFC are standing stronger than ever.

On the heels of the second-largest gate revenue in the company's history, White has the UFC positioned to break into the mainstream media and garner the kind of coverage not yet afforded to Mixed Martial Arts in North America.

Despite his polarizing personality and heavy reliance on The F Bomb, White has succeed where so many others have failed and that is worthy of recognition in my books.

Affliction's pending demise only further underscores how impressive the success of the UFC as a brand and company truly is. Despite an impressive roster and bi-annual cards stacked to the rafters with talent, Affliction couldn't make a dent in the UFC's stranglehold on the PPV market.

While Affliction certainly succeeded where the UFC failed in landing Fedor, the end result may actually be more beneficial for the UFC when all is said and done.

Paying opposition to get obliterated by "The Last Emperor" cost Affliction a ton of money; Tim Sylvia earned $900,000 for 37 seconds of work, while Andrei Arlovski pocketed approximately $2.2 million for his brief Affliction career.

Meanwhile, Emelianenko's name has slowly began to gain recognition in North America among the casual fan, and just in time for a potential move to the UFC. Funny how that worked out ...

From the moment I heard of Affliction's foray into the promotion business, it sounded like a bad idea to me. Honestly, it sounded like Tom Atencio wanted to get into a pissing contest with Dana White.

Since then, he's called out White and challenged his image as a tough guy, stepping into the cage himself, as if to prove how tough and committed to the sport he is. Now he's on the brink of being out of the promotions game altogether.

Then there is White.

Love him or hate him, his shrewd business tactics and decade of work to build the UFC is paying off in spades, with the future looking brighter than ever before.

New markets continue to open. PPV numbers continue to soar. Life has been pumped back into The Ultimate Fighter series. Toys and video games and trading cards are hitting the shelves and flying off of them just as quickly.

Eleven days from now, Tom Atencio will be back mass-producing ugly t-shirts.

Dana White will be busy continuing to build the UFC Empire.

Your winner, by knockout, and still champion of the world ...

Continue reading...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marius Zaromskis: The Next Mousasi, A Mini Cro-Cop or Both?

This time last year, many fight fans were unfamiliar with an Armenian-born, Dutch fighter known as "The Dreamcatcher."

Then, Gegard Mousasi made an impressive run through the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix, defeated Denis Kang in the opening round, Korea's Dong Sik Yoon six weeks later, and finally disposing of both Melvin Manhoef and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in one night to win the tournament and the DREAM Middleweight title.

Since then, the 23-year-old has continued to impress and garner more and more attention, earning a win in the first round of the DREAM Super Hulk Tournament and a place opposite Renato "Babalu" Sobral on the Affliction: Trilogy Main Card on August 1st.

With his impressive display last evening in the Saitama Super Arena, is Marius Zaromskis set to make a similar splash in the world of Mixed Martial Arts?

The Lithuanian with the funny-yet-fitting nickname "The Whitemare" has followed the first steps laid out by Mousasi, working his way through the DREAM Welterweight Grand Prix en route to claiming the DREAM Welterweight title.

Admittedly, I was one of the many without much knowledge of Zaromskis heading into yesterday's two rounds of fights, and believed he would be dispatched by the more experienced Hayato "Mach" Sakurai in their semi-final clash.

Following a stoppage to deal with a cut on Sakurai's face, Zaromskis delivered a deadly headkick and dropped the man who once faced Matt Hughes in the UFC before finishing things off with a flurry of punches.

In the finals, a similar lethal headkick spelled the end for Jason High, who had advanced via split decision victory over then-undefeated Andre Galvao.

While the path looks similar to the course charted last year by Mousasi, the impressive finishes via deadly kicks to the head is reminiscent of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.

Despite my use of headkicks as finishers on UFC Undisputed, you just don't see that many fighters utilizing the technique that much any more and no one has ever done it better than "Cro Cop" during his glory days in Pride.

Last night, Zaromskis delivered knockout blows to both Sakurai and High with expert timing, the MMA-equivalent of two no-doubt home runs in baseball, especially the one that wrapped up the tournament against High.

You never know where you're going to find great fighters; sometimes they just suddenly appear on the radar.

Winning streaks start in the most inauspicious ways.

Nothing is guaranteed for Marius Zaromskis now that he's the DREAM Welterweight Champion; while the path he's now embarking down is similar to that of Gegard Mousasi and his performances last night reminded fans of a younger, smaller "Cro Cop," this could be the highlight of his career.

Or it could be the beginning of something great.

Only time will tell.

* * * * * * * * * *

In other DREAM news, "The Old" Paulo Filho showed up, as the Brazilian weathered a couple of flurries from Melvin Manhoef before securing an armbar before the three minute mark of the First Round.
Continue reading...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Which Paulo Filho Will Show Up?

Bright and early tomorrow morning, DREAM 10 takes place from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

While the headlining act is the semi-finals and finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix, perhaps the most interesting bout on the card pits Dutch knockout artist Melvin Manhoef against one of MMA's greatest enigmas, Paulo Filho.

A year and a half ago, Filho was undefeated, with a record of 16-0, and had successfully defended his WEC Welterweight title for the first time. The man was on a roll.

Then the wheels fell off.

Controversy surrounded his first title defense, as Chael Sonnen argued that he had never tapped to the armbar Filho had locked in tight, so a rematch was slated for WEC 34. However, the fight would be postponed as Filho had apparently checked into rehab.

Two months later and eleven months after their first fight, Filho resurfaced in horrible shape, failing to make weight and changing the title rematch into a three round anti-climactic end to the WEC Welterweight division.

Sonnen dominated from the opening bell, as Filho looked confused and uninterested in fighting. That was the last time Paulo Filho was seen in the ring, creating a number of intriguing questions for tomorrow morning's tilt with Manhoef.

Exactly which Paulo Filho is going to show up?

Will it be the guy who stormed to the 16-0 mark already mentioned with wins over the likes of Ryo Chonan, Kazuo Misaki and Murilo "Ninja" Rua or the out of shape, unimpressive version that collected his first career loss the last time out?

My guess is that the old Paulo Filho shows up, ready for action and refocused on his fighting career. Sending any other version into the ring with a striker as dangerous as Manhoef would be a real mistake.

Unfortunately, the truth is that your guess is as good as mine and we won't know until tomorrow morning whether Paulo Filho is back to being a forced to be reckoned with at 155 or a cautionary tale of things gone wrong.

* * * * * * * *

The return of Filho against Melvin Manhoef might be the most intriguing matchup on the DREAM 10 card, but it is far from the only fight of note.

Welterweight Grand Prix Semi Finals

Jason High (7-1) vs. Andre Galvao (3-0)

High made quick work of Yuya Shirai in the opening round, but going to the mat against Galvao would be a big mistake. The Team Nogueira fighter is a submission specialist with terrific BJJ, having stopped all three opponents via armbar thus far in his career.

As much as I like Jason High and think he has a bright future, Galvao's star is shining a little bit brighter.

Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (35-8-2) vs. Marius Zaromskis (9-2-0)

All you need to know is this: Sakurai crushed Shinya Aoki in 27 seconds in the opening round, while Zaromskis earned a decision over Seichi Ikemoto.

When in doubt, stick with the guy with the proven track record coming off the dominating win.

Should things shake out the way I think they will, Galvao will be a solid test for Sakurai in the finals, but I still favor the veteran.

Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro (20-2-0) vs. Shinya Aoki (20-4-0)

If you want to see sick submission attempts and top notch grappling, this fight will deliver in spades.

While I'll never be completely sold on Aoki until he performs some of his slick submissions without his Magic Grappling Pants, there is no questioning the flexibility and skill set possessed by "The Tobikan Judan" or "Shaolin" either for that matter. Ribeiro's two losses are to Gesias "JZ Calvan" Cavalcante and Tatsuya Kawajiri, whom he also holds a victory over.

There most recent fights would indicate an advantage for Ribeiro, as he dominated Katsuhiko Nagata, while Aoki was defeated in 27 seconds by "Mach" Sakurai, but something tells me the return to lightweight and the homefield advantage will play in Aoki's favor.

Additionally, Andre "Dida" Amade takes on Katsunori Kikuno, while Dong Sik Yoon faces TUF 7 alum Jesse "JT Money" Taylor.

Continue reading...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Warning to Kenny Florian

I don't consider myself a B.J. Penn fan.

As an athletically-challenged individual without any natural talents in the realm of sports, watching a guy like Penn coast along on the gifts he's been given sometimes leads me to hope his opponents smash him.

That being said, you're out of your mind if you think Kenny Florian is going to beat B.J. Penn come UFC 101.

I'll give Florian all the credit in the world for his evolution as a fighter. He's come a long way since losing to Diego Sanchez in the Middleweight finale of TUF 1 and he's looked pretty good in racking up six straight wins heading into his second Lightweight title shot.

But this is B.J. Penn we're talking about here.

I may not be a fan of Penn, but that doesn't stop me from recognizing and acknowledging great talents when I see them. Dislike him all you want, but there is no questioning the immense skills and proven track record "The Prodigy" has when fighting at his natural weight class.

Penn has five losses in his Mixed Martial Arts career. Three are at welterweight and one is an open weight decision loss at the hands of Lyoto Machida. That leaves just one loss at his natural 155 pound class, coming to Jens Pulver ... more than seven years ago.

The UFC Lightweight champion is 9-1-1 when fighting at 155 pounds, earning a draw against Caol Uno following the Pulver loss. That was in February 2002.

Do the math: BJ Penn is undefeated as a lightweight in the last seven years.

In that time, he made Takanori Gomi tap, did the same in avenging his loss to Pulver, and then destroyed both Joe Stevenson and Sean Sherk in earning and defending the UFC Lightweight title.

He also scored wins over respected veterans Duane "Bang" Ludwig, Rodrigo Gracie and Renzo Gracie outside of the 155 weight class during that time too, not to mention taking Matt Hughes' UFC Welterweight belt.

Can B.J. Penn be an obnoxious complainer and a frustrating fighter to watch? Absolutely, as we learned through "Greasegate" and his portrayal on "UFC Primetime" leading into the second GSP fight.

Can you question his level of dominance in the Lightweight division? Absolutely not.

Going into this fight at UFC 101, don't maintain the beaten and tired image of B.J. Penn losing to Georges St-Pierre in your head. That's not the Penn you'll be seeing.

The guy Kenny Florian is set to face is the human wrecking ball that decimated Sean Sherk, leaving him collapsed against the cage, a bloody mess that was unable to continue.

Maybe I'm going to be proven wrong.

Or maybe this will be the start of B.J. Penn running through the entire lightweight division, erasing all doubts about how great a fighter he truly is ... when he wants to be.

Continue reading...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why a Super Heavyweight Division is a Horrible Idea

I know I said I wasn't going to write another feature involving Brock Lesnar until his next title defense, but I can't help it.

Everywhere I turn, every article that discusses the reigning UFC Heavyweight champion, the "need" for the UFC to create a Super Heavyweight Division is thrown out there and it's driving me insane.

Pictured next to Lesnar is Hong Man Choi, "The Techno Goliath" whom I share a birthday with and you would surely see in a Super Heavyweight division if one ever came into existence. If he looks familiar to you, it's because he was the massive Korean kickboxer who chased down Jose Canseco and smashed on him a couple months back.

Before I get to my real reasons for disliking the notion of a new division, let's first take an intellectual approach to this, analyzing the idea and what said division might look like.

Let's say the weight class begins at 250 and has no ceiling, allowing for the possible return of Emmanuel Yarborough. Looking down the current UFC heavyweight roster, here are the guys who would be eligible:

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Shane Carwin
  • Gabriel Gonzaga
  • Antoni Hardonk
  • Heath Herring
  • Tim Hague

"Big Country" Roy Nelson is the only other guy currently under the UFC umbrella who would also be eligible, which brings the total to seven whole fighters.

That means the UFC would have to go out and find more guys over 250 pounds with the athleticism and skills to compete with these seven individuals. How many of those guys do you think are just walking around?

Instead, I would bet that the likes of Jan Nortje, Bob Sapp, and Mark Hunt would be given an opportunity. Personally, that's not something I'm interested in. They're even lesser Mixed Martial Artists than Lesnar.

Even if you bump the weight down ten pounds, you're not increasing the talent pool all that much.

In creating such a division, you'd end up with a situation where, and this is best case scenario here people, Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin trade the title back-and-forth a couple times a year. That's only if Carwin has the strength to drop Lesnar the way he dropped Gonzaga, which we still don't know for sure.

Tell me how that is entertaining? UFC 124: Lesnar vs. Carwin: First One to Seven Wins!

Sarcasm aside, here is the real reason a Super Heavyweight division is ridiculous to me:

You don't change the rules just because no one seems to be able to beat Brock Lesnar.

For starters, he has been beaten. Up until last Saturday, countless people were reminding Brock Lesnar supporters like myself of his UFC debut and the kneebar he tapped to. How has this suddenly become a forgotten fact?

Additionally, Anderson Silva is just as dominant at middleweight as Lesnar is at heavyweight and no one is calling for him to give up his belt and make a permanent change in address.

And before everyone starts telling me how Silva uses "skill and technique and martial arts training," the bottom line is that he decimates opponents with the same quickness and ferocity as Lesnar and how they do it doesn't matter.

The goal is winning and you don't get style points in MMA.

Besides, if you think he's a dick now, imagine if the UFC went out and did this.

"Well Brock, none of these heavyweights seem to be able to compete with you, so we're going to make a new division with bigger guys just because of you."

He'd run through the list of "Super Heavyweights" listed above just as quickly as he ran through Frank Mir at UFC 100, probably even faster in many cases.

Creating such a division would presumably be giving Brock Lesnar even less competition and a longer title reign, and that seems to be the last thing his detractors want.

The solution? Adaptation.

Like it or not, Brock Lesnar is the next evolution of Mixed Martial Artists in the heavyweight division. He is more than a handful and a very difficult puzzle to solve.

But so was Royce Gracie.

So is Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Georges St-Pierre.

While some believe Brock Lesnar being champion makes the heavyweight division weaker, I say he will only serve to make it stronger.

He is a new wrinkle, a new challenge and a new twist on an already difficult task.

What we should all be looking forward to is seeing how others step up their game in an attempt to defeat the Minnesota mammoth, not looking to banish him to a less competitive landscape.

Continue reading...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Best Month in MMA History

UFC 100 and the post-fight antics of Brock Lesnar have the Mainstream Media paying attention.

Pardon the Interruption has discussed MMA each day since returning to the airwaves following the centennial show in Las Vegas. That may not sound like much, but considering they spent Five Good Minutes with Jay Glazer yesterday, it's clearly headway and the timing couldn't be better.

While Lesnar's post-fight spectacle certainly wasn't intended to draw the curious eye of the casual fan and mainstream media outlets, now that they're paying attention, an outstanding month with no fewer than five top level events will showcase some of the brightest stars in the sport and possibly cement Mixed Martial Arts' standing as the sport of the future.

Without question, August 2009 is the single greatest month to be an MMA fan in the history of the world.

Instead of longingly waiting for that usual one event fix, all but one weekend in August offers a major showcase of some of the best fighters in the sport, beginning with arguably the best of all on August 1st.

Affliction: Trilogy takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California with Fedor Emelianenko taking on long-time friend Josh Barnett for the WAMMA Heavyweight title.

Though not necessarily the household name that Lesnar has quickly become thanks to his WWE past and UFC present, "The Last Emperor" is the unquestioned top heavyweight in the sport today and the Pound for Pound best in the eyes of many.

Emelianenko isn't the only top name competing on the Affliction card either; while they might only put on an event every six months, there is no denying the impressive lineups that Affliciton's Tom Atencio rolls out each time.

Former UFC veteran and Strikeforce champion Renato "Babalu" Sobral faces a stiff test from Gegard Mousasi, a 23-year-old riding a twelve fight win streak across several weight classes who is quickly becoming a favorite among MMA fans.

Additionally, Vitor Belfort takes on Jorge Santiago, Paul Buentello faces dangerous striker Gilbert Yvel and Japanese legend "The Fireball Kid" Takanori Gomi returns to North America for the first time in nearly three years to take on Rafaello Oliveira.

Even the preliminary card is impressive, and the best part is that we're just getting started.

One week later, UFC 101 invades Philadelphia with a long-awaited Lightweight title tilt between champion B.J. Penn and challenger Kenny Florian.

Penn is a polarizing figure in the Mixed Martial Arts community; his legions of fans love him with fierce passion, while his detractors are just as numerous and just as vocal. One thing that is not up for debate is the immense skill and domination "The Prodigy" has displayed in the 155 pound weight class over the last two years.

While Penn and Florian garner top billing on the marquee, the co-Main Event could be even better, as Anderson "The Spider" Silva returns to Light Heavyweight to face The Original Ultimate Fighter, fan favorite Forrest Griffin.

Like Emelianenko, Silva is considered one of the very best in the world, though his last two performances have left many fans longing for the destructive Silva that ran through the UFC Middleweight division upon his arrival three years ago.

If anyone is capable of bringing it out of him, it's Griffin, a man who is known for rising to the level of his competition and pushing the action from the opening bell to the final seconds of the fight. Fireworks are a very real possibility.

As if that wasn't enough to fill your weekend, WEC 42 takes place just one night later, headlined by bantamweight title holder Miguel Torres defending against undefeated Brian Bowles.

Though potentially overshadowed by the UFC's event in Philadelphia the night before, this year's WEC shows have been a hotbed for highlight and outstanding fights and the Main Event could easily continue that trend.

Originally slated to face either other back in April, Bowles was injured during training, eventually being replaced by Takeya Mizugaki. In his place, the Japanese fighter, who faces veteran Jeff Curran on this card, teamed with Torres to put on one of the early candidates for Fight of the Year.

Now we get the original battle between the 37-1 champion and the 7-0 Bowles who represents Athens, Georgia's Hardcore Gym, the original home of the aforementioned Forrest Griffin, as well as three other solid main card match-ups.

Believe it or not, there is still more, including what could be a landmark event for the sport.

On August 15, Strikeforce hits San Jose and features Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos and Gina "Conviction" Carano battling for the Womens 145 pound Championship as the Main Event.

Carano, known to many from her time as "Crush" on American Gladiators, has emerged in the last year as the face of female MMA, her unquestionable good looks landing her at #16 in Maxim's yearly Hot 100 countdown.

Don't be fooled by those looks either; Carano is as talented inside the ring as she is beautiful outside of it, and Santos might actually be better. This fight will mark the first time that two women have headlined a major promotion and some believe it will serve as a watershed moment for the continued advancement of female fighters everywhere.

As if a potentially historic fight wasn't enough, the other three fights announced for the Main Card are each title fights as well.

International star and heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem taking on UFC and Pride veteran Fabricio Werdum, a rematch for the Lightweight title between champion Josh Thomson and the man he won the belt from, interim champ Gilbert Melendez, as well as Nick Diaz and Joe Riggs squaring off for the Welterweight title.

After four shows in three weeks, fans get a break over, but just for one weekend, as UFC 102 rounds out an awesome August from Portland at the end of the month, with two icons in the sport meeting for the first time in the night's Main Event.

Randy "The Natural" Couture and Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira are two of the most successful and most respected fighters in the history of Mixed Martial Arts. Couture is an inspiration to many, earning his first UFC title at age 34 and continuing to dominate now, well into his 40's.

Nogueira, a long-time staple in Japan's Pride Fighting Championships, fights for the 39th time in his professional career, one that has seen him faces a veritable pantheon of MMA legends, with Couture joining a list that includes Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Josh Barnett and Dan Henderson.

Over the span of 28 days in August, the world has a chance to witness some of the greatest athletes the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has to offer.

There will be no WWE-esque theatrics or post-fight ranting.

There will only be the truly impressive displays of athleticism, talent, respect and sportsmanship the sport has been founded upon.

Hopefully, the mainstream media and the challengers to the sport will still be watching.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

St-Pierre Still Reigns Supreme

UFC 100 is done and has been analyzed to death, so instead of continuing to beat the dead horse by talking about MMA's ascent into the mainstream or Bob Ryan's ridiculous belief that soccer will be a bigger North American sport than Mixed Martial Arts, we're ready to tackle more important debates.

Like who is the best fighter on the planet?

It's the middle of the month, so that must mean it's time for another installment of the Pound-for-Pound Rankings... please enjoy responsibly and let the debating begin!

July Pound for Pound Rankings

10. Gegard Mousasi

There may not be a fighter on the planet who better illustrates the concept of pound for pound than Mousasi, as the Armenian-born, Dutch-raised fighter's stock rose last year by winning the DREAM Middleweight Grand Prix. Since then, he's defeated Mark Hunt in the Super Hulk Tournament and is set to take on light heavyweight Renato "Babalu" Sobral at Affliction: Trilogy on August 1.

9. Urijah Faber

It's going to take more than a broken hand for me to bounce "The California Kid" from this list. Despite his seeming inability to get by Mike Thomas Brown, Faber is unquestionably one of the most skilled fighters in the game today, regardless of weight class. Hopefully, his hand heals better than Jamie Varner's ...

8. Rashad Evans

Similar to Faber, there is no real shame in losing to a guy who is higher up on this list than you are. Evans' loss at the hands of Lyoto Machida doesn't diminish his skill set in my books. In light of recent poor performance from fighters out of Wolfslair Academy, we could see Evans' full array on display when he squares off with Rampage later this year.

7. Mike Thomas Brown

Two defenses into his reign as WEC featherweight champ, Brown will look to make it three-in-a-row in November when he puts the belt on the line against dynamic striker Jose Aldo. Sure, the kid is dangerous and has been delivering impressive highlights, but so too was Urijah Faber before Brown planted him the first time around.

6. BJ Penn

When Penn shows up in shape and demolishes Kenny Florian in Philly next month, I promise to bump him up the charts. Until then, he stays outside the Top 5 as punishment for not devoting himself to achieving the greatness he is capable of and that he thinks he deserves.

5. Miguel Torres

He hasn't lost in over five years. For the last year and change, he's been taking on some of the best the world has to offer at 135 pounds and beaten them all, including his Fight of the Night candidate with Takeya Mizugaki. Torres puts his belt back on the line against Brian Bowles on August 9 at WEC 42.

4. Lyoto Machida

The big fish in the deepest pond, Machida now has the unenviable task of trying to hold onto a belt that has been on the move fairly frequently as of late. If Shogun Rua is back to being the same fighter many considered the best light heavyweight in the world, Machida could be the next man to have a brief encounter with the belt.

3. Anderson Silva

"The Spider" can climb higher with a dominating performance over Forrest Griffin. Another one of the performances that we've seen of late from Silva and he can enjoy the view from the three hole. Bring back the Anderson Silva from the Marquardt / Franklin / Henderson / Irvin run, not this guy who suddenly doesn't want to engage and looks bored.

2. Fedor Emelianenko

Maybe it's because I poured through his record in preparing yesterday's piece. Maybe it's because Anderson Silva has been facing lesser competition as of late. Maybe it's a combination of the two. Whatever the case, I've finally bumped Fedor up a notch in the rankings, thought many will surely be sour that he's only second best.

1. Georges St-Pierre

I know, I know: he lost to Matt Serra. What I also know is that since that time, GSP has defeated Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Serra, Jon Fitch, BJ Penn and Thiago Alves. There isn't anyone in the game right now who has fought as difficult a schedule as Georges St-Pierre and it's not like the guy is eeking out wins either. He's dominating everyone and continuing to be the king of the mountain in my books.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Supremely Talented, Surprisingly Unknown

This is Fedor Emelianenko, the guy Dana White guaranteed would be in the UFC in the future and arguably the best fighter in the entire world.

Up until Saturday night, a huge portion of the fight fans out there had no idea who this man was. Then they Google'd him.

"The Last Emperor" hasn't lost a fight in eight years and some, myself included, would argue that he hasn't lost a fight ever. The one tick he has in the loss column came from a controversial stoppage way back in 2000 to UFC veteran Tsuyoshi Kohsaka.

Since then, pure dominance ... and shocking anonymity.

Hardcore fans know Fedor Emelianenko.

Guys like me who watch old fights on YouTube and think long and hard about buying the UFC DVDs that are for sale at the video store for $5. But I'm not the average fan.

To the average fan, Fedor Emelianenko is a name they have heard from their crazy, hardcore friends like me or the numerous times Dana White has mentioned him on his video blog. He's outside of the UFC and therefore, he's irrelevant.

I know that isn't the case, as do the large number of people who have probably stopped reading to go and tell me I'm a moron in the comments section before seeing where I'm going with this.

There is no question that Emelianenko is one of the three best fighters on the planet today and easily the best heavyweight. Again, he hasn't lost in eight years.

But while that certainly speaks to his dominance, it also greatly speaks to the inability of Affliction and M-1 Global to make this man a household name.

Take the most dominant athlete in any sport and that is who Fedor is to Mixed Martial Arts, minus the publicity.

Emelianenko's current 26-fight winning streak is the Joe DiMaggio 56-game hit streak of MMA. You read that right: I said it's the 56-Game Hitting Streak of Mixed Martial Arts.

But while even the most casual baseball fan and many that are completely uninterested in sports altogether know of DiMaggio's display, in a time where Mixed Martial Arts is (in your best Dana White voice people), "the fastest growing sport in the world," more people could pick out Kendall Grove from a police lineup than our version of "The Yankee Clipper."

While some of that falls on the fact that a great deal of "MMA fans" are actually "UFC fans," how Tom Atencio and company haven't jammed this man down the public's throats in the last year is beyond me.

If he was in the UFC, he'd be on the cover of every magazine and video game around. He'd be the Bo Jackson from Tecmo Bowl of UFC Undisputed - totally unstoppable.

Yet here we are, three weeks away from Affliction: Trilogy and the only advertising I've seen of the long-awaited fight between Emelianenko and his close friend and only remaining rival Josh Barnett has been on the tops of taxi cabs.

What makes it even better is that the ad campaign asks the question, "Do you know who I am?"

Here's a newsflash for Tom Atencio: the resounding answer outside of the hardcore MMA community is "No" and that doesn't bode well for your business!

You have the Tiger Woods of Mixed Martial Arts at your advertising disposal and the best you can do is this? Were are the interviews and video blogs and public appearances, especially in light of Dana bringing him up on the weekend?

Sure there has been the obligatory, "Fedor isn't going anywhere" comments, but that means little outside of the community that is already acutely aware of the situation.

Those stuck in the UFC vacuum only know that Emelianenko is on Dana White's radar, not that he's fighting in three weeks, has beaten the likes of Cro Cop, Randleman, Coleman and Nogueira and is the yin to Brock Lesnar's disrespectful yang.

In any other sport, whether we're talking football or basketball, hockey or tennis, the best of the best are put on the biggest stages imaginable. Their image is everywhere and their names are known in households from Alaska to Australia.

But not Mixed Martial Arts.

While every person in the world can identify the gentleman standing up in this picture, very few would recognize the guy sitting two rows back in the red shirt.

He's Fedor Emelianenko and he's one of the best the sport has ever seen.

Never heard of him? I hear that a lot.

Continue reading...

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Difference is Acceptability

I'm going to keep today as short and simple as possible because I spent way too much time on this computer yesterday, debating points of contention, wondering how people can just accuse people of things without basis and adding countless comments to various articles across the Internet.

Above is Matt Hughes, arguably the most dominant welterweight the UFC has ever had (thought GSP is coming up quick) and my choice to help present the last post I will write involving Brock Lesnar until he next defends his title.

One of the biggest arguments about Brock's in-ring performance last night and thus far in his career is that he "just lays on his opponent," whether because it makes breathing difficult or because he's just too big.

The too big argument holds no weight with me. Everyone who steps in the ring at heavyweight has to make 265 pounds and those stepping in with Lesnar know in advance that he'll be somewhere in the neighborhood of 280 come fight night.

Stop moaning about a Super Heavyweight division.

And where you say he "lays on his opponents," I say he plays to his greatest strength, just like Matt Hughes used to do.

Before getting into the Hughes side of things, let me also make it clear that if Lesnar did simply lay on his opponents, the ref would stand the two fighters up. But they didn't because the whole time he's "laying on his opponent," he's also driving that cinder block attached to his right arm into Frank Mir's mush.

Now to the Matt Hughes linkage.

Hughes had the best wrestling in the UFC for a long, long time. You could be sure that when the cage door closed, Matt Hughes was going to shoot for a takedown at least 20 times a night and if he got that single or double leg, you were going to the ground.

From there, he used his superior wrestling ability to control his opponents, transitioning to submissions or executing strikes until one way or another, the fight ended. Occassionally, he picked the other guy up and powerbombed him into unconsciousness.

Stripped to the bare bones, Hughes strategy was bring guy to ground, finish him how I know best.

What is Brock Lesnar's strategy again? Oh right - bring guy to ground, finish him how I know best.

It's the same strategy used by every single fighter that participates in Mixed Martial Arts. You play to your strengths and use the best tools available in your toolbox to beat the other man. So why is it that Brock Lesnar doing the same things as Matt Hughes and damn near everyone else in the sport requires new divisions or is less of a victory?

It's all about acceptability.

People don't accept Brock Lesnar.

Whether it's because of his time in the WWE, his bullish demeanor and ridiculous antics or because they feel he lacks "artistry" or an understanding of "Bushido" that they wish still emminated throughout MMA. Maybe a combination of all three?

Whatever the case, it's okay to not like the guy, but here's the thing:

There was no artistry to the way Dan Severn tossed guys around back in the day and there isn't that much artistry in Chuck Liddell loading up that lethal right hand to flatten someone. Besides, no one is proclaiming Brock Lesnar as the greatest incarnation of what it means to be a Mixed Martial Artist. He's a fighter, and GSP fills that other role.

Do I hope Brock Lesnar takes some cues from the thousands of respectful fighters throughout MMA and never has another one of those post-fight displays? Absolutely.

Does he have to? Nope. Being a dick isn't against the rules.

You can choose not to like him. I choose not to like Frank Mir.

But I'll give the guy credit for being a two-time former champion and a pretty solid fighter, at no point trying to diminish his accomplishments.

Why can't you?

Continue reading...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

10 Things I Learned Last Night

Sundays at my personal blog I Blog Because I Can have been dedicated to a little something I've called 10 Things I Learned This Week for almost two years.

With last night's historic UFC 100 and all the headlines and stories to come from that show, I thought today would be a good day to bring 10 Things to Keyboard Kimura because honestly, last night offered up a lot to digest.

1. Welcome to the Brock Lesnar Era
When Lyoto Machida knocked out Rashad Evans, everyone started speculating about how long Machida would reign atop the light heavyweight division. My prediction is that it won't be as long as Brock Lesnar dominates the heavyweight landscape.

There isn't another heavyweight on the scene with the speed / power combination of Lesnar and it was very apparent that Lesnar is continuing to pick up the nuances of Mixed Martial Arts at a rapid pace. As he keeps learning, his freakish athleticism and brute strength will only become more dangerous and that is bad news for everyone in the heavyweight division.

2. Georges St-Pierre is the Best in the World
Not just in the UFC and not just at 170 pounds. He is the best in the world, period. Now, I've been saying this for some time, as GSP has sat atop my Pound for Pound rankings for a while, but last night should have solidified that for everyone.

Once again, St-Pierre spent five rounds picking apart an incredibly talented opponent, making Thiago Alves look entirely overmatched. The question that immediately comes up is where does "Rush" do next? First and foremost, he rests the pulled groin he sustained, but then who knows. A superfight with Anderson Silva would have to be at least a year away, as stepping up to 185 would take St-Pierre adding more muscle to his frame and you don't do that overnight.

3. Hey Bisping - How's the Crow?
I'm all for pre-fight hype and smack talk, but there are some times when you just need to be careful what you say. Michael Bisping learned that lesson in a big, big way last night.

Looking up at the lights, birds circling his head, I wonder if he was reconsidering all the junk he talked about Dan Henderson and how he was going to prove himself as the #1 contender at 185. What he proved was that he doesn't adapt properly in the cage, circling into Hendo's big right hand and that he needs to shut his yap and keep training, not to mention beating someone above the talent level of Chris Leben before talking about a title shot.

4. Another Tough Decision
Judging can certainly go either way and things like this are going to keep happening in fights that are as back and forth as the Akiyama - Belcher tilt was, but I'm sorry, how did one judge give Akiyama a 30-27 score?

29-28 I would buy, but when one judge has it 29-28 Belcher, having another score it 30-27 for the other guy only highlights that we're still missing something in the judging department of Mixed Martial Arts.

5. You're Lucky You Were on The Ultimate Fighter
If Stephan Bonnar wasn't Stephan Bonnar, I'd be wishing him luck outside of the UFC right about now. That being said, he was the losing half of the Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale and Dana White is loyal to the guys who helped him get to where he is (save for Tito), so I doubt he's done.

But he should be. When I questioned what would happen if Bonnar lost to Mark Coleman, I never thought I would actually have to think about it again, but Coleman pulled out decision and now Bonnar is back to the drawing board.

6. Speaking of Ultimate Fighters
I think Mac Danzig might be the first Ultimate Fighter winner to get released from the UFC.

He's now lost three straight and is clearly nothing more than a middle of the pack lightweight. With the way the division is continuing to improve and despite solid performances in a losing effort in each of those bouts, the UFC has shown that three straight losses is usually the breaking point.

7. We're Movin' On Up... A Little
UFC 100 was the cover story on the websites of both ESPN and Sports Illustrated for the bulk of the day yesterday and through the early part of this morning, giving the sport the major media attention it rightfully deserves.

However, let's not go patting ourselves on the back just yet. It's not like there is a whole lot of options out there right now, so being the lead story in a quiet week is one thing. The trick is to be the lead story each and every time a major card comes around. Let's see how everyone handles UFC 101 before we start proclaiming victory over the mainstream.

8. Paulo Thiago is Better Than I Thought
I know he lost, but I thought the guy was going to get flattened. Instead, he fought a very solid fight against Jon Fitch and that deserves at hat tip in my books.

He's still raw, but the talent is there. As Ficth said on the MMA Live post-fight show, he's big and long and uses that to his advantage, like securing a guillotine attempt in the first round. Give him a little more seasoning and some time working on his wrestling and we might have ourselves another contender at 170.

9. I'm Back!
After struggling mightily in the prediction department as of late, last night yielded an 8-3 performance to give me some breathing room, taking me to seven wins to the happy side of .500.

August will be the real benchmark of my handicapping skills, with both UFC 101 and 102, Affliction's third show, WEC 42 and the Strikeforce card at MSG with Carano vs. Cyborg as the headliner on tap.

10. Let the Fedor Watch Begin
It's going to happen. The only question is when?

When asked who he sees as a future opponent, Lesnar immediately said Fedor. We all know that the fans want to see it and, despite the smack he's talked about him in the past, Dana White knows that Fedor to the UFC - especially to fight Lesnar - would be MASSIVE and massive equals piles and piles of money to roll around in.

Expect the full-court press to begin as soon as "The Last Emperor" disposes of Josh Barnett at Affliction: Trilogy.

Continue reading...