Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UFC Veterans Flocking to Edmonton's MFC

Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Maximum Fighting Championships is quickly becoming one of the premier organizations for fighters looking to re-establish themselves when the UFC shows them the door.

MFC 22 marks the company's 18th consecutive sellout show and will air live Friday night on HDNet, giving fans a card full of former UFC fighters and up and coming Canadians looking to make a name for themselves.

The headliner features two familiar names to UFC fans, as Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald (21-12) meets Travis "The Serial Killer" Lutter (9-5) in a fight that looks more like an Ultimate Fight Night battle to remain relevant than a battle of two fighters trying to work their way back to the UFC.

MacDonald got his walking papers after a 5-5 stint that featured wins over Chris Leben, Ed Herman and Jason Lambert offset by loses to Rich Franklin, Wilson Gouveia and Demian Maia. Across the cage from his, Lutter is best remembered as the winner of Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter and securing the mount against Anderson Silva in what should have been a title shot for the jiu jitsu specialist.

Unfortunately, Lutter missed weight and missed out on a title shot. Though he looked impressive in the early going, his old nemesis conditioning came calling and "The Spider" was able to secure a win in the second round. A similar story played out in Lutter's last fight, a loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 83.

While both are accomplished on the ground, look for MacDonald to try and tire out the often out of shape Lutter en route to starting his journey back to the UFC with a win.

In addition to Friday's outstanding televised card, MFC recently announced the signing of Thales Leites.

Though some have a negative opinion about the Brazilian after his uninspired performance against Anderson Silva at UFC 97, it was only two fights ago that he faced the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Organizational alumni include WEC lightweight title contender Ben "Smooth" Henderson, current UFC welterweight contender Paul "Semtex" Daley, Nick "The Goat" Thompson and former WWE superstar Bobby Lashley.

With the UFC out of the picture for a couple more weeks and ten days until the WEC invades San Antonio, now is as good a time as ever to catch some regional MMA action and you won't find many cards better than MFC 22.

MFC 22: Payoff - Friday, October 2nd - Live on HDNet

Jason MacDonald (21-12) vs Travis Lutter (9-5)
Antonio Mckee (22-3) vs Carlo Prater (24 - 6) for the MFC Lightweight Title
Luigi Fioravanti (15-5) vs John Alessio (25-13)
Ryan Jimmo (10-1) vs Marvin Eastman (16-9-1)
David Heath (12-5) vs Mike Nickels (7-2)
Pete Spratt (19-15) vs Nathan Gunn (7-0)

Thiago Goncalves (11-3) vs. Jesse Juarez (11-5)
Andrew Buckland (9-4) vs. Joe Christopher (7-2)
Jason Heit (2-0) vs. Paapa Inkumusah (3-0)

Continue reading...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dan Hardy: Michael Bisping Version 2.0

British? Check.

Marketable? Check.

Earned a close split decision win on home soil that some people question? Check... twice.

Getting pushed as a potential champion despite the fact that his resume isn't nearly as impressive as you want in a title contender? Check.

Just like his countryman Michael Bisping, Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy has benefited from being British and put himself in a position where one more win would mean a shot at the welterweight title.

Not to take anything away from either Bisping or Hardy; they're both talented guys who have done some good things inside the cage during their time with the UFC, and both, as already mentioned, are highly marketable.

But being a marketable British fighter shouldn't carry more weight than your performance in the cage and in both Bisping and Hardy's cases, that seems to be what has transpired.

In pushing to break the British market, the UFC has isolated individual stars and given them the "Great White Hope" treatment, elevating them to top contender status despite the fact that their resumes aren't all that impressive.

Bisping's push coincided with winning Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter, but first stalled when he lost a close decision to eventual champ Rashad Evans at UFC 78.

In reality, Bisping's previous fight also offered a hiccup, as many believe the Wolfslair Academy fighter earned a home court advantage on the score cards when a razor-thin decision against Matt Hamill at UFC 75 in London
came out in favor of the hometown boy.

A drop to middleweight followed the fight with Evans, and while "The Count" certainly showed well in winning performances against Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben, they were winning performances over Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben; not exactly the upper echelon of the middleweight division.

Three straight wins put him opposite Dan Henderson as coaches on Season 9 of TUF and put the two inside the cage together at UFC 100 this past July. Speculation had Bisping earning a title shot at the upcoming UFC 105 if he could defeat the former Pride multi-divisional champ.

Search teams are still trying to locate Bisping's mouth guard in the seats at The Mandalay Bay.

With the UFC returning to his homeland, Bisping is returning to the ring, squaring off against veteran Denis Kang, a talented fighter, but certainly not someone you would put in the title picture at present.

Joining Bisping on the card and following in his footsteps is the flamboyant Hardy, red mohawk and all.

Three wins put Bisping into a title eliminator bout at UFC 100 and the same opportunity has arisen for Hardy, but the similarities don't end there.

Like his countryman, Hardy has come away with a couple close decisions on his home turf in his three-fight career with the UFC.

His debut win over Akihiro Gono ended in a split decision, as did his most recent and well-known fight, a grudge match with Team Sityodtong's Marcus Davis that started as a war of words and ended as an epic slugfest.

In between, Hardy made quick work of Rory Markham, dropping the Miletich product in just 70 seconds at UFC 95.

Now, with three straight wins and two close decisions in his favor, the highly-marketable native of Nottingham will look across the cage at Mike Swick with a 2010 title shot against Georges St-Pierre waiting in the wings.

While Hardy has had success so far, his string of wins is even less impressive than the trio that landed Bisping one fight away from a title shot: Gono is no longer with the UFC and currently riding a three-fight losing streak, Markham has yet to resurface and Davis, while tough-as-nails, has never been more than a mid-card performer.

And yet one stiff shot from Hardy's admittedly dangerous hands could land Swick on the canvas and Hardy getting dragged to the ground and repeatedly beaten by GSP early next year.

Breaking new territories and establishing a presence in international markets is certainly easier with a homegrown talent to put atop the marquee.

But what will make the UFC grow even more in England and abroad is pushing the fighters who have earned their way into title contention by beating the best the organization has to offer, not propping up a fighter with a lukewarm record just because he's from the land of tea, crumpets and Kate Beckinsale.

The first attempt fell flat with Michael Bisping getting knocked into next Tuesday at UFC 100.

Now the second chance comes in the form of Dan Hardy.

At UFC 105, we'll find out if he is a true contender or simply Michael Bisping, Version 2.0.

Continue reading...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Welcome Back: Buentello Returning to the UFC, Set to Face Todd Duffee

Paul Buentello is returning to the UFC.

The former heavyweight contender who fell victim to the collapse of Affliction has inked a new deal that will see him fight at UFC 107, marking the first time in nearly four years that the Texas native will set foot inside the Octagon.

Too bad his opponent is Todd Duffee.

Turning down a fight is certainly not an option, especially when you're getting the chance to return to the biggest stage of them all.

Unfortunately for Buentello, he's being dropped into the lion's den with one of the hungriest young predators the company has to offer.

While Duffee has just five professional fights under his belt, the young American Top Team product has been ultra-impressive to date, defeated UFC veteran Assuerio Silva in his own backyard and collecting the fastest knockout in UFC history in his debut win over Tim Hague.

Still reliant on raw strength and power, Duffee certainly has holes in his game that can be exploited; his ground skills have yet to be tested and he's come to the sport without any previous training in martial arts or wrestling, so how advanced can you be in just three years of training?

But Buentello's nickname isn't "The Submission Master" and he doesn't have a storied wrestling pedigree either; he's known as "The Headhunter" and he likes to stand and bang.

Not really the most appetizing option when you're facing a kid who just flattened his last opponent in less time than it takes to fix a cup of coffee.

Though Buentello has a massive edge in experience and has only lost twice in the last four years, taking wins from the likes of Gary Goodridge, Carter Williams and Tank Abbott is a lot different than standing opposite a man as physically impressive as Todd Duffee.

While fighting on the grandest stage of them all is certainly where most fighters want to be, Paul Buentello might be receiving one of the worst "Welcome Back" presents of all-time.

Suddenly, signing with Strikeforce doesn't sound like such a bad idea after all.

Continue reading...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Amir Sadollah: Two Fights In and Already Working on His Post-Fighting Career

Is it just me or is are the UFC and Amir Sadollah already laying out the blueprint for his post-fighting career, despite the fact that the former Ultimate Fighter has all of two professional fights under his belt?

During Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, Sadollah, pictured with former coach Forrest Griffin, hosted a weekly update segment.

While part of the purpose of the show was to keep fans up to date on upcoming UFC events, a secondary goal was to re-introduce fans to the affable Sadollah, the charismatic winner of Season 7 who had been off the radar for a number of months thanks to multiple injuries.

In the end, Amir had more success as a host than he did in the ring, as Johny Hendricks ruined his return in just 29 seconds at UFC 101 in Philadelphia.

Now, with veteran Phil Baroni on the horizon at UFC 106, instead of finding Sadollah inside the gym at Xtreme Couture working on his skills in the ring, he's back on camera, working on his skills on the mic, hosting The Ultimate Fighter: The Aftermath on

As charming and talented as Sadollah is as a host and television personality, after getting overwhelmed in 29 seconds, is this really what he should be focusing on right about now or are we seeing a quick shift in focus for the former Ultimate Fighter?

While a career in the cage certainly doesn't last forever, Sadollah has now hosted more shows for the UFC than he's had professional fights in his career.

Although Phil Baroni is more talk than anything else at this stage in his career, "The New York Badass" still has powerful hands and could send Sadollah to 1-2 by the time the curtain falls on UFC 106.

We've seen a few fighters making the transition to the broadcast side of things over the last few years, with Frank Mir, Randy Couture and Kenny Florian all having spent time behind the mic at one point or another.

The different is, those guys have all been around the block a time or two, while Sadollah is just getting his feet wet.

Amir Sadollah certainly has a future in the broadcasting business; he funny, engaging and well-spoken, qualities that will serve him well in his future endeavors.

Unfortunately, they won't serve him very well in the cage when Phil Baroni is trying to knock his head off, the same way they didn't help when Johny Hendricks stood across from him with the same goal in mind.

Maybe Sadollah should set aside the post-fight career plans for a month or two and worry about his current career instead.

You know, the one where he is a professional cage fighter...

Continue reading...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Boxing Wins the Battle, But Will MMA Win the War?

Six days ago, this same photo combo led off a piece discussing the PPV Grudge Match that went down last Saturday between UFC 103 and Mayweather vs. Marquez.

Early reports indicate that "Pretty Boy Floyd" put a beating on the UFC last weekend, something that will certainly be trumpeted from the mountain tops by boxing fans and anti-MMA activists alike.

While this unanimous decision certainly helps cement Mayweather's place as one of the biggest PPV draws on the planet, I'm not ready to declare boxing the undisputed champion of pay-per-view just yet.

Without question, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the two biggest boxing stars competing today, the other being Manny Pacquiao, of course. He is a massive draw, undefeated in 40 professional bouts and pretty much untouchable.

For MMA fans, he's the Lyoto Machida of boxing, emerging from his fights unscathed the same way the reigning light heavyweight champ does time after time.

But let's not go putting too much stock into last weekend's tug-o-war for people's pay-per-view dollars.

You had one of the greatest and most popular boxers on the planet, covered and promoted at great length by the mainstream media, competing in the biggest boxing event of the year going up against UFC 103, complete with zero title fights, one half of the main event returning to the company after a four-year hiatus and a handful of other competitive but far from captivating bouts.

Of course Mayweather - Marquez ruled the night; this was the varsity squad beating the tar out of the JV team and then bragging about it. Losing would have been a story, but the fact that they came out ahead shouldn't surprise anyone.

Perhaps a more far and just comparison would be between boxing's biggest draw (Mayweather) and the best the UFC has offered this year, their centennial show in Las Vegas this past July.

Golden Boy CEO Richard Shaefer has hinted that last weekend's event will eclipse the one million buy mark, a great number no matter what side of the debate you're on.

That being said, rising above the one million mark would still leave the biggest boxing event of the year more than half a million buys shy of the premier event on the UFC calendar this year.

Headlined by some of the biggest names in the sport, UFC 100 garnered a reported 1.6 million PPV buys and sits atop the charts as the single biggest pay-per-view event of the year. It was also the first time that the mainstream media gave the a UFC event the same amount of coverage they offer boxing.

If the two biggest draws in their respective sports (Mayweather in boxing, Brock Lesnar in MMA) were ever to go head-to-head, a definitive winner could not be decided right here, right now, at least not without a whole lot of bias being involved.

Clearly, boxing had the better night last weekend; The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Show was a massive success and laid waste to UFC 103.

But boxing should certainly be looking over it's shoulder.

Without much mainstream media attention, the UFC is producing numbers approaching that of the biggest boxing event of the year on a monthly basis and the numbers will only continue to grow.

If the sport is ever afforded the same coverage that boxing is given, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

And let's not forget, while boxing has been around forever, past down from generation to generation as the combat sport of choice, Mixed Martial Arts is still in it's teenage years and already making inroads on boxing's fan base.

My suggestion?

Circle November 21, 2009 on your calendar.

That's the day UFC 106 goes down in Las Vegas, headlined by Brock Lesnar defending his title against Shane Carwin, with an undercard featuring the return of Tito Ortiz.

Boxing rolled out it's big guns last weekend and put a big number on the board.

We'll see where things really stand when the UFC does the same in two months time.

Continue reading...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September Pound-for-Pound Rankings: The Song Remains the Same

Some people weren't too happy with my decision to include the UFC Heavyweight Champ in last month's installment of the Pound-for-Pound rankings, clinging to the usual arguments made against Brock Lesnar.

This month, I counter with this: Lesnar had the same size advantage in his first fight against Frank Mir that he had the second time they met, yet the outcomes were different. Why? Brock Lesnar is evolving; he's learning to combine his massive size with his freakish athleticism and hands the size of lunch boxes.

As he continues to pick off top contenders, Brock Lesnar will continue to climb these rankings, no matter how much his detractors dislike the idea.

Keyboard Kimura Pound-for-Pound Rankings (as of September 24, 2009)

1. Anderson Silva - UFC Middleweight Champion (Last Month: 1)
He dominates two divisions and has put together a 10-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC. What more could you possible ask for?

Vitor Belfort appears to be the next man to try and take Silva's middleweight title, and while "The Phenom" has exhibited quick hands and a renewed dedication to the sport, a lot of fighters people thought would present a challenge to "The Spider" have been laid to waste in recent years.

Belfort will be no different.

2. Georges St-Pierre - UFC Welterweight Champion (Last Month: 2)
He's getting awful close to Anderson Silva territory, having cleaned out the welterweight division and done so in impressive fashion as of late.

Yes, there is the Matt Serra incident, but since that time, St-Pierre has been untouchable. Whether he's hesitant to get clipped again a la Serra or not, "Rush" has steamrolled (in order) Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Serra, Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves in a little over two years.

The only question that remains is "Who's Next?"

3. Fedor Emelianenko - #1 HW Contender, Strikeforce (Last Month: 3)
Evan Shoman said it well when I interviewed him last month:

Come on... Fedor. No one is even close. People who know the sport, know this. Here’s why:
  1. He’s never lost.
  2. He’s never lost to someone he shouldn’t have.
  3. Has been in wars and on the brink of defeat only to pull out the win.

Other P4P arguments are GSP or Silva. Numbers 1 and 2 don’t apply to GSP. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 don’t apply to Anderson.

That being said, he also hasn't challenged himself against the best in the world the same way St-Pierre and Silva have, so he remains at #3.

4. Lyoto Machida - UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: 4)
The next time we see the UFC on pay-per-view, Machida will be making his first title defense against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

They say you're not a true champion until you defend the belt, so the pressure is on "The Dragon" to continue his undefeated career and silence any last remaining critics.

If we see the "Shogun" Rua who once dominated Pride, this will be an outstanding fight. If we see anyone else, we'll see another brilliant display of Machida's tactical excellence and surgical striking ability.

Both sound good to me.

5. B.J. Penn - UFC Lightweight Champion (Last Month: 5)
What makes Diego Sanchez any different from Kenny Florian, Joe Stevenson or Sean Sherk?

All three came into their fight with "The Prodigy" in the best shape of their life, ready to dethrone the champ and show that he could be beaten at 155.

All three left defeated, forced to regroup and recover from being dominated by the best lightweight in the history of the sport.

Yeah, I said it...

6. Mike Brown - WEC Featherweight Champion (Last Month: 7)
The American Top Team product climbs a spot after a month of reflecting on his run of success in the WEC and a comment on last month's rankings:

"There are bigger, stronger, and more athletic featherweights than Mike Brown, but Brown is still the best." Sounds about right to me...

The blue-collar Brown has dominated everyone he's faced in the WEC. Next on the schedule, he faces the faster, more athletic Jose Aldo in November.

7. Miguel Torres - Former WEC Bantamweight Champion (Last Month: 6)
One loss doesn't bump you from the charts, especially when you're 17-1 over your last 18 fights.

What needs to happen, however, is Torres returning to the ring and dominating the next man he faces, setting up a rematch with Brian Bowles.

How you respond to adversity says a lot about who you are; time to see what kind of fighter Miguel Torres truly is.

8. Gegard Mousasi - Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: 8)
This man needs to get away from M-1 Global and their stupid grappling exhibitions! Nothing like injuring yourself in a meaningless demonstration with Fedor...

Injury or not, North America got their first taste of Mousasi when he starched "Babalu" Sobral in his Strikeforce debut.

The sky is the limit for this impressive 24-year-old. Within two years, you'll see him at the top of these charts.

9. Rashad Evans - Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: 9)
With all the Rampage rumors and retirement drama going on, it looks as if the TUF 10 coach will take on Thiago Silva at UFC 108.

Evans has expressed interest in the fight and can gain an ounce of revenge for his friend Keith Jardine. For that to happen, the Greg Jackson protegee needs to get back to blending his fast hands with the standout wrestling skills that helped him win TUF 2.

Otherwise, he'll be staring at the stars again and gone from these rankings.

10. Brock Lesnar - UFC Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: 10)
Some feel that if Brock Lesnar was a welterweight, he wouldn't be anywhere near the top of the heap. I disagree.

His athleticism is matched only by the current welterweight champion and no one in the UFC can match the wrestling ability the former Division I champion possesses, GSP included.

Even at a lighter weight, Lesnar would still be agile, athletic and incredibly strong; a definite handful for anyone who stood across from him.

Just because he's 280 on fight night, all those things go out the window? Not for me.

Also considered: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Urijah Faber, Brian Bowles and Vitor Belfort.

This is my ten. What does your Pound-for-Pound list look like? Let me know in the comments section.

Or you can simply tell me who I missed, who should be higher or lower or anything else you need to get off your chest.

I'm hear to listen.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Would A Union Make Sense for Mixed Martial Arts?

Mark Coleman is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame and is widely considered the Grandfather of Ground and Pound. He is a former UFC Heavyweight and Pride Open Weight Grand Prix Champion.

"The Hammer" is one of few fighter to bridge both eras of Mixed Martial Arts; he competed in the early days of the UFC against legends like Dan Severn and Don Frye, while also fighting stars of today like Fedor Emelianenko and "Minotauro" Nogueira during his time with Pride.

Since the earning potential of a champion during Coleman's time at the top was far less than it is today, the 44-year-old fights on, feeding his competitive fire and evening out some of those early small paychecks with larger lumps sums for his more recent performances.

Coleman is not alone; some are in the same position and others still are worse off. With the emergence of the sport into the mainstream, Mixed Martial Arts might be ready for a Fighters Union now more than ever.

While there is nothing that can be done to improve the poor pay fighters earned in those early years of building the sport to what it is today, taking care of current stars and improving things for the future is very much a possibility.

Equality of pay is one topic that is always discussed when the topic of a fighters union is brought up, and for the sake of this particular article, I'm going to stay away from it.

Not that I don't have opinions on the matter, because let's face it, I have an opinion on everything, but because there are other things a fighters union can provide that exceed the benefits of putting more money in fighters pockets right now.

For starters, they can help educate fighters about how to ensure they have money in their pockets when the spotlights fade and their careers are over.

Only a select few fighters make the kind of money that offers financial security in the future; hundreds of thousands of dollars per fight with a share of the pay-per-view money isn't something that is available outside of the upper echelon of fighters.

Everyone else needs to be smart about their money and a union can help educate fighters in that regard, teaching about investment, future earning potential, and alternate ways to earn income outside of the ring like sponsorships and endorsements.

Additionally, a fighters union can help prepare these modern day gladiators for life after fighting. While some like Kenny Florian and Frank Mir look to have opportunities in broadcasting once they put away the pads once and for all, those opportunities are few and far between.

Although some fighters currently operate their own gyms and have additional sources of income outside of the ring, advice and guidance is never a bad thing when coming from someone with your best interest in mind.

We see this with a number of professional sports, so why should MMA be any different?

The NFL, NBA and NHL all run rookie symposiums where they do their best to educate the latest class of millionaires on these very issues. These week-long sessions are non-negotiable; just like home room, attendance is mandatory ... unless you've got a note from your mom.

If the NFL is pro-active enough to sit down first overall selection Matthew Stafford and his $64M guaranteed income, couldn't Mixed Martial Arts be doing the same with fighters who are making far less?

The Mark Colemans of the world are a declining population; guys who missed the financial windfall while breaking their back to help build the sport into the money-making machine it is today.

As the sport continues to grow and the financial opportunities improve for everyone, stars and non-stars alike, there needs to be someone or something in place to help guide them towards a financially-secure future and life after fighting.

Managers and agents help, without question, but a union would help even more. After all, not everyone is blessed with a Shari Spencer like Georges St. Pierre.

* * * * * * * * * *

A big shout out on this one to my man Nate Double from Bleacher Report.

Having a back-and-forth with him yesterday about the retirement issue brought this idea into my head.

Thanks Nate...

Continue reading...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dear MMA Legends...

Hey Guys,

My name is Spencer Kyte and long before I was a burgeoning MMA writer, I was an MMA fan and you guys had a lot to do with it.

Royce Gracie may have got me started, but it was each of your efforts inside the cages and rings that solidified my love for the sport. I only came around to writing about it when I realized I could use my keyboard to try and cash in on the wave of popularity the sport is currently riding. I'm sure you understand.

Anyway, I'm writing you today to talk about something important. No, I'm not trying to sell you insurance; I want to talk about retirement.

I know that word is somewhat taboo and not a topic any of you like discussing, but the fact of the matter is that the time has come to seriously consider "The R Word" as an option.

The three of you are icons in the sport; legends who have helped bring Mixed Martial Arts into the foreground and established yourselves as three of the greatest fighters the sport will ever see.

But as Bob Dylan once said, "The times, they are a-changing." At least, I think that's what he said, though I can't be sure because he mumbles more than you do, Chuck.

In the last few years that the sport has gain significant footing in the mainstream and grown into the global industry that it is, the evolution hasn't been limited to production value and media coverage.

Fighters are bigger, faster, stronger and more well-rounded, not to mention younger.

Do you know that none of you has a winning record over your last five UFC contests?

You're a combined 5-10 during that time and while you might want to argue about the level of competition you've been facing, anyway you slice it, you're still losing twice as many fights as you're winning.

I'm not trying to pass judgment; it's awful easy to sit behind a keyboard and wax philosophical about what a fighter should do, how they should approach a fight or diagnose what's wrong with their careers.

This isn't from E. Spencer Kyte the MMA journalist as much as it's from Spencer, a diehard MMA fan who doesn't want to see some of his heroes end up as the broken old warriors who just couldn't bring themselves to walk away.

I can only imagine how tough that decision would be and I don't envy you one bit. But if we're laying all the cards out on the table, I think the time has come.

Each of you used to dominate with a singular specialty: Mirko with his deadly head kicks, Randy with his unmatched wrestling and Chuck with those kegs of dynamite attached to the end of your arms.

Unfortunately, Father Time has caught up with each of you and sapped some of the power from those weapons, leaving you to get by on guile and experience. While it's worked from time-to-time, it's a losing battle if you ask me.

Nothing that happens from here on out in your careers will affect your legacies; they are etched in stone and established for all to see.

Those who have been following the sport throughout your careers will always speak highly of your talents and remember the myriad wins and championships each of you earned.

I know Brett Favre makes it seem horrible, what with his annual summer return to football, but surely retirement isn't all that bad?

Each of you have alternatives available to you, from film and politics, to broadcast, training and running your burgeoning empires, Randy...

There is nothing worse than the fallen star who hangs on too long; unable to accept that their best days are behind them and a return to the top of the mountain is not around the next corner.

While fans remember their glory days and numerous triumphs, they also lament those last few times they saw their heroes, shells of their once-great selves, like Johnny Unitas struggling in San Diego when he should have retired a Colt.

I don't want that for any of you and honestly, we're getting kind of close.

Don't let it happen, please.

Don't fall into the same trap Michael Jordan fell into, believing his otherworldly talents would keep him at the top when the next generation had already emerged to fight for his throne.

Don't become Washington Wizards.

Remain the iconic figures you are now; fighters who set the bar incredibly high and accomplished great things throughout your careers, legends to be talked about with reverence and appreciation.

And one last thing...

Thank you.

Continue reading...

Monday, September 21, 2009

No UFC? No Problem: Quality Options During the UFC Hiatus

Saturday's UFC 103 marked the end of a run that saw the organization roll out three pay-per-view events, an Ultimate Fight Night and the debut of The Ultimate Fighter in the span of eight weeks.

A yeoman-like effort even for the biggest name in the business, the UFC enters the fall with a
five-week respite before Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua take to the cage for UFC 104 in Los Angeles.

Calm down; the world isn't going to end just because the UFC is on hiatus.

In fact, this is a golden opportunity to expand your horizons and step outside the Ultimate Fighting Championships bubble for a couple of weeks and get acquainted with some of the other fighters and organizations in Mixed Martial Arts.

Yes, there are other organizations besides the UFC.

Japanese organization World Victory Road is first up in this UFC-less stretch, as Sengoku Tenth Battle takes place on September 23 from the Saitama Super Arena.

Headlining the show is Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, the former EliteXC Heavyweight champion who earlier this summer stated that a win here would put him into a November title fight with fellow steroid abuser Josh Barnett.

While Silva may be the biggest name on the card, look for Nick Thompson and Dan Hornbuckle to put on the best performance. Thompson is a talented veteran of just about every organization to ever exist, while Hornbuckle is coming off a vicious head kick knockout of Akihiro Gono.

Two days later, Strikeforce rolls out the third installment of their Challenger series. In addition to the Strikeforce debut of Ray Sefo, rising prospect Tyron Woodley looks to extend his winning streak to four against veteran Zach Light.

In the main event, undefeated Zak Cummings takes his 10-0 record into the cage to face Tim Kennedy, the former Army Ranger who returned to full-time fighting in June with a win over the aforementioned Nick Thompson.

Canada gets involved in the action early in October with the most UFC-friendly card on the calender, as Maximum Fighting Championships (MFC) 22 - Payoff lands in Edmonton loaded with recognizable names.

For those fawning for fighters they know, MFC 22 offers UFC veterans like Marvin Eastman, David Heath, and Pete Spratt, as well TUF 4 winner Travis Lutter taking on Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald.

What is more impressive is that none of these name brand fighters make the main event, as that honor goes to MFC Lightweight champion Antonio "Mandingo" McKee and Brazilian Carlo Prater.

McKee is riding an eight-fight winning streak and hasn't lost since a 2003 decision to Karo Parisyan, while Prater is a veteran of more than 30 fights and holds wins over Spencer Fisher, Melvin Guillard and Carlos Condit.

As entertaining as each of those cards will surely be, the real week to watch for is the first week of October, as championship action takes to the ring on Tuesday, October 6 with DREAM 11 before the rescheduled WEC 43 lands in San Antonio for Cerrone vs. Henderson.

Honestly, DREAM 11 has the opportunity to be one of the best fight cards of the year. In addition to the semifinals of the Super Hulk tournament and the final two rounds of the 2009 Featherweight Grand Prix, the highly-anticipated rematch between Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen and "The Tobikan Judan" Shinya Aoki (both pictured above) will finally take place.

This fight will mark Hansen's return to the ring after recovering from various injuries, and he will do so against the last man he face, Aoki.

After earning the right to serve as the injury replacement in the 2008 Lightweight Grand Prix, Hansen subbed for Eddie Alvarez in the finals of the event when the Philadelphia native couldn't continue following his win over tournament favorite Tatsuya Kawajiri.

The Norwegian capitalized, stopping Aoki before the five minute mark of the first round, capturing the DREAM Lightweight Championship in the process.

While Hansen hasn't set foot in the ring since, Aoki has won four of five fights, most recently scoring a Unanimous Decision over Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro. Finally, after 15 months of waiting, he submission specialist will finally get his chance for redemption.

For days later, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Ben "Smooth" Henderson will finally wage war for the WEC Interim Lightweight title at WEC 43.

In addition to determining a new champion in the absence of the injured Jamie Varner, WEC 43 offers the usual assortment of exciting fights and emerging talent that has become synonymous with the brand.

Fear not faithful followers of the UFC, despite the fact that the best in the business won't be back with a vengeance until seven days before Halloween, it doesn't mean that MMA has gone off the grid.

There is a wealth of quality events taking place before Dana White and company return.

Do yourself a favor and catch some of the outstanding action that is set to take place outside the walls of the UFC.

UFC is MMA, but MMA is not UFC; expand your horizons and try something new.

Chances are you'll like it.

Continue reading...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

UFC 103: Things I Learned Last Night


I have no problem admitting I was dead wrong about Vitor Belfort.

While the trouble he had making the 195 pound catchweight limit still worries me, there are no questions remaining about what Vitor Belfort has returned to the UFC and the type of danger he presents for everyone in the middleweight division.

Glancing blows dropped Rich Franklin before a fast-paced flurry ended things. It's hard to train for a fighter with that kind of hand speed.


The middleweight champ has shown little interest in fighting Dan Henderson or Nate Marquardt, so Belfort's impressive performance Saturday night should skyrocket him to the the top of the title contenders list.

Now, we've said before that different fighters could cause problems for Silva and repeatedly been proven wrong and Belfort may be no different. But Belfort may be the first guy to stand across the ring from "The Spider" who possesses the same kind of deadly striking ability as the undefeated Pound-for-Pound king.

Hopefully, all sides are interested and we can make this fight come to fruition early next year.


He looked spent from the time the second round started, throwing very few strikes and showing no real defense against the attacks of Junior dos Santos.

As much as the Mirko Cro Cop highlight reel is still one of the most impressive collections of knockouts around, those days are gone, as is the opportunity for the UFC to use his as a headlining name anywhere other than overseas.

His decision to enter the arena wearing an old Pride t-shirt says it all; those were the glory days and when he was at his peak, but unfortunately, those days and that organization are long gone.


Junior dos Santos continues to impress inside the Octagon, running his UFC record to 3-0 and bringing down another high profile name.

The key will be how the UFC proceeds from here; while you certainly can't have him take a dramatic step back in competition, a lot of the top level heavyweights are currently contracted to fight.

While he's not quite ready for a title shot, he's definitely leapfrogged Cain Velasquez in my books and could make for an interesting fight against Frank Mir if (when?) MIr disposes of Cheick Kongo.


First, Josh Koscheck scored the impressive knockout he needed to erase the memory of Paulo Thiago starching him last February.

Then Paul Daley made things even more interesting by laying a beating on Martin Kampmann, announcing his presence in the UFC in impressive fashion.

So now what do you do? Mike Swick is still needs a top tier challenger after missing out on the action last night in Dallas, and there is no one cemented as the #1 Contender to Georges St-Pierre's throne.

My bet is that Koscheck gets a title shot simply because Jon Fitch got pounded on too recently to get a rematch and no one else fits the bill.


After his victory over Melvin Guillard at UFN 19, the brash Diaz proclaimed he was ready for a step up in competition.

I say feed him to Tyson Griffin, who looked outstanding in executing a perfect gameplan to earn the finish many were waiting for over Hermes Franca.

With Gray Maynard looking like the next challenger for the lightweight title, another solid performance over a name brand fighter would put Griffin right in the mix and Diaz offers just that; a name casual fans know, but not enough offense to derail the Xtreme Couture powerhouse.


I've actually know this for quite some time, as have many others I would bet. But after last night's performance against Tomasz "Gorilla" Drwal, this has got to be the end of the line for Drew McFedries.

He's a one-trick pony who fails to perform that trick more often than not. If the UFC can wave goodbye to Thales Leites one fight removed from a title shot, they can certainly show McFedries and his 4-5 record the door.


Did you see how jacked up his left leg looked? Yikes!

Rafael Dos Anjos laid a beating on the inside of Emerson's left leg and looked good for a third straight performance. While he lost the first two, he showed well before taking the "Uppercut from Hell" from Jeremy Stephens, and pushed Tyson Griffin to a decision that was closer than the scores suggested.

Emerson, on the other, can join Drew McFedries on the unemployment line as far as I'm concerned. Somewhere, Jason MacDonald is scratching his head, wondering exactly how he got cut while "The Saint" still remains in the UFC?


Basically, I'm poison.

While the record remains at 0-2 with one canceled bout, both Kryzsztof Soszynski and Cole Miller has agreed to interviews with me before failing to deliver the goods. Both also lost.

Heading into UFC 104, I say we put this thing to the test and see if I can take down Lyoto Machida. Whattaya say?


I saved this one for the very end in hopes that some of you who read my "Rich Franklin: The Under-Appreciated Superstar" piece earlier in the week would miss it.

Well, the former middleweight champion of the world is officially the Mayor of No Man's Land. While a win could have sent him into the Top 5 of the Light Heavyweight division, his loss leaves him without any real role in the company.

Perhaps he should take a meeting with the other residents and see what they have to say. Somebody get Franklin the numbers for Keith Jardine, Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin and find out if the boardroom is available next Thursday.

Continue reading...

UFC 103 vs. Mayweather-Marquez: Discussing the PPV Grudge Match in Relation to the Mainstream Media

"If early mainstream media coverage is an accurate indicator, Mayweather-Marquez will crush UFC 103 tomorrow night in PPV buys. Then again, mainstream media have shown lukewarm interest in UFC despite its constant growth and popularity."

The above comment is taken from the status of New Jersey Star-Ledger Boxing and MMA writer Franklin McNeil's Facebook profile. Yes, we're friends.

While the thought reminds me of why I am a fan of Franklin McNeil in the first place, it also brings up the constant debate between boxing and mixed martial arts and the coverage they receive in the mainstream media.

Settle in, this one is going to take a while.

Both portions of McNeil's status update are true; the Mayweather-Marquez fight has been earning 10-8 rounds against UFC 103 for the entire week, if not longer.

Though the UFC delivered their usual strong Countdown show on Spike, the M&M show has garner 24/7 coverage, both literally and figuratively from ESPN and most other major media outlets.

While the UFC can't get a sniff of main page attention from the websites of the two sports superpowers, Mayweather versus Marquez is batting leadoff and sixth on ESPN, in addition to holding down the three hole on Sports Illustrated.

Adding up all the attention the sweet science is receiving certainly gives the impression that the championship card of boxing will score an impressive TKO over the UFC tomorrow night.

But is that impression legitimate?

This is where the second part of McNeil's doubly-truthful observation comes into play.

Saying the mainstream media has shown lukewarm interest in the UFC is like saying Angelina Jolie is decent looking; both are gross understatements.

Outside of UFC 100 and Brock Lesnar's post-fight shenanigans, the mainstream media has only shown an interest in MMA when the story is just too huge to ignore.

Affliction's demise got a little bit of ink, while the Fedor Sweepstakes and the Gina Carano - Cris Cyborg fight both scored reasonably well, but other than that, the coverage has been minimal outside of the pages and columns dedicated to the sport.

And let's be honest with each other: we all know why the Gina Carano fight got as much attention as it did...

I just call them like I see them.

Back to the matter at hand, predicting who will come out ahead in the pay-per-view grudge match taking place tonight based on mainstream media attention is drawing conclusions from a compromised collection of data.

Although Mixed Martial Arts is growing at a rapid pace both globally and domestically, many mainstream media outlets refuse to give it the same coverage they offer boxing.

Despite the fact that boxing fans have to wait four to six months for a worthwhile pay-per-view event, in comparison to monthly cards courtesy of the UFC, MMA continues to be treated like the redheaded stepchild of the sports world by the media.

Even though Mayweather has been out of the ring for over two years, the returning former pound-for-pound king is garnering the sport coverage equivalent of being Jon Gosselin, while Rich Franklin and the rest of the UFC 103 fighters can't even make it on TMZ, yet alone Showbiz Tonight or Access Hollywood.

Everyone knows what Mayweather had to eat for dinner last night, while Franklin and company have to hunt down the paparazzi themselves if they want to have their pictures taken.

Drawing realistic conclusions is awfully hard when the information being presented is biased.

Though the mainstream media may be showering the Mayweather-Marquez bout with attention, my guess would be that the roles are reversed when you look at which event bars and other such establishments are choosing to air tomorrow night.

While I can name you several sports bars and watering holes that are showing the UFC within a 100 mile radius of the tiny town I currently call home, I can't tell you one such establishment that will have Mayweather versus Marquez on their marquee tomorrow night.

The same trend holds true for each of the three cities I've settled in over the last two years. In fact, the last big boxing event that I can recall garnering serious pay-per-view attention with the barstool set was the Lennox Lewis - Mike Tyson tilt and that took place in 2002.

That's not to say that boxing doesn't still have a loyal and dedicated fan base that will open their wallets for championship events, but the truth of the matter is the MMA has replaced boxing as the combat sport of choice for bar owners, as well as the 18-35 demographic.

Keeping that demographic in mind, it's easy to see why the mainstream media is down on MMA and big on boxing; there aren't a whole lot of members of said demographic with any kind of sway in the mainstream media right about now is there?

In their way is "The Old Guard," an assembly of elder statesmen raised on the glory days of boxing, when legends took to the ring on a regular basis and martial arts was reserved for kung-fu films and the occasional class at the YMCA.

Does anyone really expect the same people who routinely cling to archaic ideas about MMA that have been repeatedly refuted to suddenly switch gears and start covering the sport?

The answer is no, and it will remain that way until people who are passionate about the sport are afforded the opportunity to provide it with the coverage it deserves.

While MMA is making small strides, like having two of the three panelists on Friday's episode of Around the Horn pick UFC 103 to come out victorious in this weekend's PPV Grudge Match, winning a small battle on a single segment of Horn is hardly a cause for celebration.

Perhaps the frequent fight schedule will always mean that only the biggest events of the year will receive wall-to-wall coverage a la UFC 100, while the infrequent nature of top tier boxing events makes the massive mainstream attention more understandable.

That being said, trying to determine which of these two pay-per-view programs is going to come out ahead by the amount of coverage afforded to each is about as useful as asking a bunch of Toronto-area residents who will win the Stanley Cup this year.

A majority will say the Maple Leafs, despite having last sipped from Lord Stanley's mug more than forty years ago.

Just because the mainstream media is backing boxing, doesn't mean Mayweather and Marquez are going to come out on top tonight.

It just mean that they, like Toronto Maple Leafs fans, refuse to accept anything different.

Continue reading...

UFC 103 Punch Drunk Predictions

Tonight marks the end of a busy week here at Keyboard Kimura.

Between delivering the Fight Week Preview series, as well as some interviews and editorials and the Punch Drunk Predictions on UFN 19 on Wednesday, twelve posts have already come off the figurative presses.

Hopefully, this round of fearless forecasting will serve as Lucky #13...

The Prelims: Fast and Dirty

Rob Emerson vs. Rafael dos Anjos
The former cast member from Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter was choked out by Kurt Pellegrino last time out, while the Brazilian black belt gave Tyson Griffin fits in a fight that was closer than the scores showed.

Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Igor Pokrajac
One is a crafty veteran returning to the UFC after an extended hiatus that saw him clean out the IFL Light Heavyweight division, the other is Mirko Cro Cop's training partner who has beaten exactly no one of relevance in his career.

Eliot Marshall vs. Jason Brilz
One of the better undercard bouts of the night, Brilz is riding a ten-fight winning streak and hasn't lost since 2001. Marshall is a legitimate BJJ black belt and solid on the ground. Training with Greg Jackson and company in New Mexico doesn't hurt either.

Rick Story vs. Brian Foster
If this was three or four years ago, Foster would be the easy pick just because he trains with Matt Hughes and the H.I.T. Squad team. But it isn't 2005 anymore, is it? Remember how impressive Jake Ellenberger looked against Carlos Condit on Wednesday night? Story beat him.

Rafaello Oliveira vs. Nik Lentz
Oliveira was originally slated to fight on the Affliction: Trilogy card against Japanese star Takanori Gomi. Nik Lentz is no Takanori Gomi, not even the less impressive version we've seen in recent years.

Jim Miller vs. Steve Lopez
One half of one of the two sets of "Fighting Miller Boys" in MMA, Jersey Jim's two career loses came from going toe-to-toe with Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar. Do you see either of them on the other side of the cage?

Drew McFedries vs. Tomasz Drwal
Somebody is going to get KTFO in this one. Drwal is younger, stronger and making the drop to his more natural fighting weight of 185 for the first time. Drew McFedries is Drew McFedries.

Efrain Escudero vs. Cole Miller
The winner of Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter had a tough time making weight and will have an even tougher time in his post-TUF debut, as Cole Miller, half of the other set of "Fighting Miller Boys" competing in MMA is a slick submission specialist and should get the win, especially because he decided against doing an interview with me for some reason.

You got in-depth coverage of each of the main card fights already this week, so it's on to the picks.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 73-55

Preliminary Card
Rafael dos Anjos over Rob Emerson, Submission R2
Vladimir Matyushenko over Igor Pokjarac, TKO R2
Eliot Marshall over Jason Brilz, Unanimous Decision
Rick Story over Brian Foster, TKO R3
Rafaello Oliveira over Nik Lentz, Unanimous Decision
Jim Miller over Steve Lopez, Submission R1
Tomasz Drwal over Drew McFedries, TKO R1
Cole Miller over Efrain Escudero, Submission R2

Main Card
Tyson Griffin over Hermes Franca, Tyson Griffin Special (Unanimous Decision)
Josh Koscheck over Frank Trigg, Submission R2 (Probably a Rear Naked Choke)
Martin Kampmann over Paul Daley, Submission R2 (See above)
Junior dos Santos over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, KO R1 (Uppercut of Doom)

And in the Main Event of the Evening...

Rich "Ace" Franklin over Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort by Unanimous Decision... especially since Belfort had a bitch of a time making weight.

Now touch gloves and come out swingin!

Continue reading...

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Under-Appreciated Superstar

How can a fighter with a professional record of 27-4 who has headlined three fight cards in the last eight months and is a former middleweight champion be under-appreciated?

By being Rich Franklin.

One of the early faces of the UFC, the former math teacher from Cincinnati, Ohio has become an afterthought when discussions turn to the premier fighters in the sport today.

Fans are quick to call out his two devastating defeats at the hands, well, knees of Anderson Silva, as if Franklin's fate was somehow different than the other eight men who have stood before "The Spider" and came away with nothing.

Knowing that a third fight against the dominant middleweight ruler was less than likely to materialize, Franklin set his sights on the light heavyweight division. Since that time, all Franklin has done is whatever the UFC has asked of him, including headlining UFC 93 and 99 earlier this year.

Saturday, he steps into another catchweight fight against another dangerous opponent, the returning "Phenom" Vitor Belfort. While some consider Franklin a gatekeeper to fighters looking to earn instant opportunities in the middleweight division, I call him a consummate professional who is grossly undervalued.

Think about it: his four losses are to Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida. Two of those men are currently the undisputed kings of their divisions, while Henderson was the first man to simultaneous hold titles in two different weight classes.

Their combined record is 65-11.

How do you fault a man for suffering defeats to three of the greatest champions the sport has ever seen?

Say what you will about Franklin being unable to win the big fights against the big names, but no one has been able to beat Machida at all, Silva has barely been challenged under the UFC banner and both of Henderson's UFC losses came in title fights, including one against Anderson Silva.

Yet somehow Rich Franklin has become this middle-of-the-road fighter unworthy of another title shot to some?

A loss to Lyoto Machida six years ago should not preclude Franklin from another opportunity, and a case could be made for a win here catapulting "Ace" into a title fight early next year.

Machida makes his first title defense next month against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, and should emerge victorious. Honestly, can you see the guy who gassed against Mark Coleman come away with a win over the undefeated, almost untouchable champion? Me neither.

But who would be next in line?

Anderson Silva has stated on numerous occasions that he has no interest in fighting his friend and teammate, Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans have a score to settle once Jackson is done channeling his inner Mr. T and the rest of the potential contenders within the division are all locked up for the foreseeable future.

Add the UFC's need to find a suitable main event for the year-end Ultimate 2009 card (UFC 109) scheduled for January 2 at the MGM Grand and you have a tailor-made opening for Franklin to receive a title shot in a highly marketable main event against Machida.

Regardless of what happens in the future, both next year and tomorrow night, Rich Franklin is a consummate professional and a world class fighter.

Here's hoping some people start to remember that.

Continue reading...

Fight Week Previews: Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort

Even though there is no title belt on the line, the main event of UFC 103 packs a whole lot of interest into the maximum 15 minutes these two warriors will go toe-to-toe.

On one side of the cage you have Rich Franklin, the former middleweight champion and consummate professional, headlining his third event of the year.

Across from him is the returning Vitor Belfort, a former champion in his own right who steamrolled the competition he faced on the two Affliction cards and looks to instantly establish himself as a title threat in whatever division he decides upon.

Simply put, this one is going to be explosive.

Rich "Ace" Franklin (27-4-0, 1 NC) versus Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort (18-8-0)

Starting where we always do, the former light heavyweight champion Belfort gets an edge for being a member of Xtreme Couture.

Not to take anything away from Franklin and the training he does with Jorge Gurgel and company in Cincinnati, but a training camp spent working with the loaded roster at Xtreme Couture gets the edge.

On the flip side, Franklin holds an advantage when it comes to experience and the consistent level of competition he faces.

While Belfort has been fought some legends in his own right, Matt Lindland serves as the only true test "The Phenom" has faced in the last two years. Defeating Ivan Serati, James Zikic and Terry Martin doesn't come close to the relentless list of challengers Franklin has fought over that same period of time.

Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson are still world class fighters, while Matt Hamill and Travis Lutter are at least on par with the competition Belfort has faced.

Additionally, while Belfort has been earning praise for his performances with Affliction, neither was near the top of the marquee; the Terry Martin fight was a preliminary card bout, while he and Lindland batted in the three hole.

Meanwhile, Rich Franklin routinely headlines events, standing in the center of the ring under the brightest lights of them all and never fails to deliver a quality fight.

The opponents these two fighters share results in a wash; both suffered defeats at the hands of Dan Henderson and came away victorious when faced with Wanderlei Silva.

That being said, Henderson scored a unanimous decision over Belfort who then tested positive for a banned substance after the fight (in Japan, no less, where far less substances are banned). Conversely, Franklin dropped a tough split decision to the Team Quest founder at UFC 93.

Of course, Belfort needed just 44 seconds to finish "The Axe Murderer" at UFC Brazil back in 1998, a far cry from the decision Franklin earned at UFC 99 in June.

Stylistically, these two fit each other quite well and will surely make for an entertaining fight for the fans.

Belfort has ferocious one-punch knockout power, as Matt Lindland learned back in January. He likes to charge forward, a whirlwind of punches looking to end the fight early, and possesses some of the fastest hands in the fight game today.

Though Franklin too is more striker than anything else, the former math teacher is more methodical in his approach, picking his spots, changing levels and mixing in powerful kicks to compliment his stiff left hand.

Not only does this fight mark Belfort's return to the UFC, but also a marked step up in competition. No disrespect to Matt Lindland, but dropping a 37-year-old who was equally focused on winning an election is not the same as standing across the cage from Rich Franklin.

The winner will instantly earn title consideration, with Franklin in particular becoming a potential light heavyweight challenger for whoever emerges from the UFC 104 main event.

Who will that winner be?

We'll find out Saturday night in Dallas.

Continue reading...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Junior dos Santos vs. Mirko Cro Cop

Words can accurately express how excited I am for this fight, though I'll certainly try my best.

While Junior dos Santos burst onto the scene just eleven months ago by delivering an uppercut of destruction to the dome of Fabricio Werdum, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has been doing this for a decade.

One of the most feared strikers in the history of the sport, the former Pride standout takes a big step up in competition to face one of the young lions of the heavyweight division.

Junior dos Santos (8-1-0) versus Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (25-6-2, 1 NC)

Two words: Black House.

While the Croatian superstar is the big dog of his own gym, the young Brazilian works at the same establishment as Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva and The Nogueiras. There is no way that spending every day working every day with that collection of champions doesn't greatly improve your skill set.

Though dos Santos has an edge in training partners, "Cro Cop" comes away with a sizable advantage in terms of both experience and the opposition he's faced.

Filipovic has faced a Who's Who of champions and challengers over his career, including Fedor and Aleksander Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Wanderlei Silva and "Minotauro" Noguiera. As impressive as "Cigano" has been in his two UFC wins, the former Pride Open Weight Grand Prix champion has a more extensive highlight reel.

Some will argue with my earlier statement that "Cro Cop" is facing a step up in competition this time around, pointing to his past greatness and the level of competition he's faced over the years.

While that is very much true, his time in the UFC has resulted in wins over two marginal opponents and defeats to middle of the pack contenders Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo.

As great as "Cro Cop" once was, the guy who defeated Mostapha Al-Turk in Germany was not the same Mirko Filipovic that used to send people to the hospital with his deadly left leg.

Additionally, it's not as if dos Santos has simply beaten on weaker opponents. After all, his introduction to the UFC was a stunning upset of then title contender Fabricio Werdum. Though he was given a step back in his destruction of Stefan Struve, the young Brazilian is a legitimate contender in the heavyweight division and a definite threat to the Croatian.

Consider this a potential "Passing of the Torch" match and one that could certainly produce some fireworks.

Continue reading...

UFN 19: 10 Things I Learned Last Night


Despite Hollywood aspirations, a guy that puts on entertaining fights every time he sets foot in the cage is always an asset.

His fight with Gray Maynard was solid from start to finish, and some are still wondering how Huerta's shoulder isn't all jacked up following the deepest kimura we're seen in some time.

Strikeforce seems to be okay with their fighters taking indefinite hiatuses to focus on films cough Cung Le cough and have a relative thin lightweight division outside of Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez.

Prediction: 18 months, tops.


How does a guy who gets dropped 10 seconds into the fight talk about wanting a Top 5 or even Top 3 opponent next after the fight?

Diaz needs to hold off on the "give me a contender" talk and stop flapping him gums for a minute. You can't cut a promo talking about "whippin' that ass" and then get dumped 10 seconds in.

Besides, Guillard handed that guillotine to Diaz on a silver platter, giving away a victory in the process.

Beat someone of consequence and do it convincingly Nate, then you can talk all you want.


While it's certainly not high profile enough to garner any awards at the end of the year, Nate Quarry and Tim Credeur certainly put forth an award winning effort in my books last night.

For all the accolades people bestowed on the Clay Guida vs. Diego Sanchez fight, this one might have actually been better, as the back-and-forth was punctuated with repeated knockdowns, fantastic flurries and a monstrous mouse under Quarry's right eye.

With the win, Nate Quarry pretty much cemented himself as the gatekeeper for the middleweight division, while Tim Credeur will most certainly be back.


That may sound like an odd statement considering he lost the first round of his fight to UFC newcomer Jake Ellenberger and was left in the fetal position on two different occasions, but what he showed after that furthers my belief that good things are in his future.

We've now seen "The Natural Born Killer" spend 30 minutes inside the Octagon and both times he got better as the fight went on. His cardio is off the map and he's always had an impressive offensive arsenal.

He's just 25-years-old, knows what it's like to be in the spotlight and under the microscope and with some work on his takedown defense, watch out.

You can't teach a guy to have the heart that Condit constantly displays.


The Steve Steinbeiss stoppage was apparently horrible. Basically, Ryan Jensen locked in a choke, Steinbeiss gave the referee the thumbs up, as if to say, "Don't worry, Chico, I'm good" and the referee waved it off.

Did I mention the referee in question is a boxing official?

Additionally, I know fights are subjectively judged and different people see different things, but how do you have a split decision where one judge has it 29-28 for one guy and the other two have it 30-27 for the winner?


A few people have made mention of Joe Rogan not being seated next to Mike Goldberg last night due to the fact that he's filming The Zookeeper with Kevin James and how that seems like a double standard in light of the Rampage to film The A-Team fervor.

Here's the thing: replacing Rogan is pretty straight forward as we saw last night. Kenny Florian does a good job, Randy Couture has done a solid job in the past and people aren't paying beaucoup bucks to listen to Rogan.

On the other hand, Rampage was slated in the main event of a fight that has an entire show dedicated to helping build it up. Now, the UFC is going to his hometown for no apparent reason.


Talk about a guy who doesn't get the recognition he deserves. The former middleweight champ was a great interview on the telecast last night, joking about the tough tests he's faced in his last few fights and being candid about how his fight with Vitor Belfort came about.

He stopped short of saying, "the public thought me and Dan going at it again was bullshit," but at least he didn't skate around the truth like so many others would have done, Dana White included.

All he does is headline shows against tough-as-nails opponents and Saturday is no different.


Hard to stump for a guy getting an upgrade in competition when he gets beaten at his own game by a huge underdog.

Just last week I was ready to begin a campaign to secure Brock Larson a step up the ladder into the deeper waters of the welterweight division.

Now, Mike Pierce handed him a clean 30-27 thumping and Larson's once shiny 26-2 record has lost some of it's luster and my campaign plans are on indefinite hiatus.


Sam Stout didn't even get a chance to fight last night after talking to me last week.

It's one thing for fighters I interview to lose, even in spectacular fashion a la Tim Hague, but this is ridiculous. Now they can't even get a chance to earn a paycheck.

The next test? Cole Miller on Saturday night. Though things didn't work out, let's see if just the thought of doing an interview with me is bad for your health.


I'll take a 7-3 night any day of the week.

That runs my record up to 73-55, a far cry from the .500 batting average I started out with this spring.

We'll see if we can't keep the ball rolling on Saturday night...

Continue reading...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Force is Strong in This One

My evil powers of hampering fighters futures is apparently growing. Talking to me is becoming a dangerous thing.

First, Kenny Florian fought hard before succumbing to B.J. Penn at UFC 101 and I thought nothing of it.

Then, Tim Hague spent more time on the phone with me than he did upright in the cage at UFC 102 in Portland. My destructive powers were getting stronger.

Now, Sam Stout will not even be fighting tonight at UFN 19 in Oklahoma, as Phillipe Nover suffered a seizure in the locker room.

Talking to me is keeping money out of these guys' pockets...

(Note: all jokes aside, we're happy to report that Nover is fine and has no injuries at this time. According to Dana White, Sam was the class act I know him to be through this whole thing.)

Continue reading...

Talking TUF 10 with Cast Member Matt Mitrione

Injuries halted Matt Mitrione's NFL career earlier than he would have liked, but that didn't stop the competitive fires from burning inside him.

An invitation to fight from a good friend led Mitrione to the gym and though the fight never materialize, an interest in MMA was born.

Now, the former New York Giant is one of 16 heavyweights set to enter our households every Wednesday night on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter.

Last week, the always entertaining Mitrione took the time to answer questions about everything from how he got into MMA and what it was like living in The Ultimate Fighter house, to the heat between this season's coaches and Kimbo's cooking skills.

This is the K2 Interview Series ... with Matt Mitrione.

As a former NFL guy, what drew you to Mixed Martial Arts?

A good friend of mine plays baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies, Jayson Werth. We’re from the same hometown. He called me up and asked me if I wanted to fight in some fights he was putting on in our hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Jason loves our product – I own a sports nutrition company called EDEN, E for engineered, D for designed, N for Nutrition – and so Werth’s tried us out and he loved it, so he wrote a testimonial.

As a result of him writing the testimonial, I told him I would do a favor for him if he ever needed one. Well, he called in that solid and asked me to go ahead and fight in this show that he was going to put on in October of last year.

Well, I had never trained officially for MMA, but that ended up being the fateful call that got me into MMA.

Jayson Werth, former Toronto Blue Jay, so that’s two Canadian ties for you as we were talking about earlier.
That’s right, that’s right. I’m referencing Canada as much as I can here, brother.

We’re seeing a big influx of former football players right now. What is it about MMA that translates to yourself and fellow football players as an avenue post-football?
That’s a very good question.

MMA allow us, and by us I mean ex-athletes, to have an outlet for our aggression and football is a perfect outlet for that. But once that’s gone, once that’s taken away from you, the feeling of satisfaction that comes from dominating another human being in a physical fashion is gone and completely taken away from you and there is no middle ground.

There is nothing you can do unless you go get in a bar fight, but then you’re going to jail. So there is nothing there and I think that’s why MMA is an attractive draw for ex-ballplayers and people with a physical background. It applies to wrestlers too, man. Wrestlers are on a direct pipeline to MMA now.

You’re sort of the freshest and newest to the sport of the TUF cast members this season, having not yet had your first professional fight. Do you think being so new to the sport gives you any kind of advantage, as you haven’t gotten set in your ways and are more willing to learn and listen?
I agree 100% with that actually. I think it really works to my benefit to be so green because I really don’t have any preconceived notions about what the best way to sprawl is, what the best way to counter a jab is, how to parry, you know?

Growing up and fighting I thought I knew that stuff, but I don’t know what is “the best way to get it done.” I’m still really fresh to that and I learn.

For example, I’m training at Overtime MMA right now, which is like a wrestling and MMA factory right now. I walk in there right now and it’s “okay, what you’re doing right now is completely wrong” and they’re going to modify my wrestling, my shots, my takedown defense, my everything and my answer is “Okay, cool, let’s get it done” because I’m not engrained on all that stuff.

Like you said, I’m still wet behind the ears and if you say change it, I respect your authority than great, change it up, make me better.

There were times on the show where we had to start on our knees. We had a guy on my team who is pretty good in [jiu jitsu] and this guy was like, “No, I’m not going to do that. That doesn’t make any sense.”

That was the first time I had ever seen someone be like, “No, I’m not going to do that.” I’ll never have a moment like that because I don’t know any better. If you tell me to get on my knees, I say okay. You tell me to start upside down, I say okay.

One moment people have talked about a little in regards to you is a time when you’re sitting next to Roy Nelson and asking him who he is. That really shows just how new you are to this sport as most fans know who Roy is from his time in the IFL and fighting Andrei Arlovski, yet here you are with no real idea who “Big Country” is.
(Laughs) I don’t know how any of these guys fight. I don’t even know how Kimbo fights. I’ve only seen him fight on YouTube once, maybe twice. I have no idea what people are doing.

It’s funny because Roy was so cool, because he didn’t act like “this kid knows who I am” and kind of later on I was like “Its Roy, right? Nice to meet you” and he was totally cool with it.

Later on in the show I asked him, “Hey man. Did you think I was bullshittin’ you a little bit when I didn’t know who you were?” and he was like, “A little bit, especially with a fighter because they usually know who I am, know my pedigree” and I thought it was funny because he thought I was bullshitting him, but to be totally honest I wasn’t.

Now that the show is done and your time in the house has passed, give us your thoughts on some of the guys in the house. We’ll start with “Big Country.”
Like I said, I had no preconceived notions going into this and I thought Roy, I still think Roy is cool as a fan, dude.

He’s a really good dude, he understands the business of MMA extremely well. It’s funny, he’s built like a panda. On the show, you’re hear us call him “The Jiu Jitsu Panda,” everyone calls him Panda and he doesn’t get upset.

He was just like, “You guys can call me what you want, but my name is Big Country.” But he was just cool.

And Kimbo? Kimbo is cool as a fan too, brah. Just from hearing things about him, it sounds bad, but I kind of thought he was gonna be a bum, you know? He wasn’t going to be that cool. But dude, Kimbo is cool as a fan. He’s just a real cool cat and he’s approachable and he’s a damn good cook.

He can make a barbecue sauce, and whether it’s barbecue base or mustard base or whatever base, the guy is an animal in there. Yeah, he is really cool.

I think there are a couple people who I wouldn’t have gotten along with outside the show and being on the show kind of magnified that a little bit, but for the most part, everybody was really cool.

Honestly man, I’m a really aggressive personality, so there is probably going to be a lot more people saying, “I might have gotten along with him on the show, but outside of the show, I wouldn’t have gotten along with him” and they’re referring to me. I would probably agree with that. I couldn’t stand myself on the show much longer anyways.

It’s funny, from your interview with MMA Junkie, Chris Lytle, a guy you trained with, jokes about that side of you, your attitude and personality, saying people are either going to like you right away or not at all. Is that something that has an impact on you moving into this business or is it just about business and putting in the work to help you move forward in your career?
Everybody wants to be liked, and if you’re saying otherwise, you’re lying.

Honestly, I’d rather be loved or hated than forgotten about, so I don’t mind my own personality coming out and having completely passionate, adoring fans and people that would rather punch me in the face. As long as I’m not forgotten and I was being myself, then I don’t really mind.

But the most important thing is that if you can feel some way about me, I’m still fighting. Otherwise, I won’t be fighting and you won’t care one way about me. As long as I’m fighting and as long as I’m winning, I don’t really care how you feel about me.

One last thing from the MMA Junkie interview that is getting a little attention online is your quote about not being interested in moving back into the house for anything less than half a million dollars.
Some people are upset about it, thinking it’s an egotistical statement. I read it as you trying to make a point about how difficult living in that house and that situation of leaving everything you know behind is. Just how crazy is it?
That’s a great question. I guess I can understand how some people viewed it as egotistical or arrogant, but I didn’t mean it that way. I meant it as “Wow, that house sucked, bro,” so you’re right; the way you took it was the way it was meant to be taken.

It was hard, man and honestly, anybody who is saying it’s not...

For example, I would think that is was hard for everybody, but if you’re a parent it was more difficult and if you had your coaching staff there, like Brendan Schaub and James McSweeney had Coach Rashad and Greg Jackson and guys they are used to being around so it’s almost like being in your own training camp, just in a different location, so I think that might make it easier.

But if you’re there on your own like the majority of us were, that sucks man. Everybody says “I would do it in a heartbeat” and you’re damn right, I did it in a heartbeat and would have done it in any way, shape or form. But after I’ve done it? That sucks, bro.

I don’t even think jail would be that difficult. At least jail there is some kind of distraction, you’ve got TV or radio

You can watch TV in jail but you can’t watch TV in the Ultimate Fighter House.
You can’t watch TV, can’t listen to the radio, can’t read books, can’t read a Bible; I mean there is nothing. There is zero forms of media. There was so little allowed in that house that we actually made playing cards out of paper plates, bro.

We made playing cards out of paper plates because they wouldn’t let stuff into the house. What the hell are we gonna do? Panda (Roy Nelson) actually made a chess board out of tape and glasses so people could play chess because there was nothing to do in that house. He made the chess board on the table.

You mentioned the coaches there real quick. Is the heat between Rashad and Rampage legitimate? Do they really just want to get at each other that bad?
Who Rampage and Rashad? Yeah, dude, they don’t like each other. That’s a legit beef. They don’t like each other one bit.

It’s funny because they got at each other so much that it would actually get kind of irritating, but whenever they were around each other, they were in each other’s face bickering, talking shit. They’re just bumpin’ their gums incessantly.

If they’re around each other, they need to be broken up. I mean, they can’t even be around each other without trying to fight each other. There was actually a point where I was like, “Dude, just strap on a pair of 18’s and go bang it out.”

So is the extra time off now that Rampage is filming A-Team just going to add fuel to the fire. Is Rashad just going to get more time to stew over this?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t know man because this show is going to pour all the gasoline all over this thing again. They’re gonna play ever situation that was ever on there, so by the end of the show, people are going to be amping those two up and they were ready to throw shots quick.

As we talked about earlier (when we set this interview up), you ‘re a former teammate of Canadian Jesse Palmer when you were with the Giants, and you told me how much you loved your time up here in Canada. We’ve got the Jason Werth tie in, so since we don’t have any Canadians on the show, this is a chance to become Canada’s contestant on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Why should Canada back Matt Mitrione? Give us the sales pitch.
I would take more pride in being Canada’s adopted son for this show than I could even express. I’ll tell you why Canadians should root for me on this show:

When I was up there, I’ve never been shown hospitality like was shown to us when I was up there. Canadians are awesome. We were up there for Jesse Palmer’s golf event; it was a great experience for me. I’m a nobody in the NFL, another guy that went with me is a nobody in the NFL and Jesse was the only name and they treated us like royalty.

We got hammered, rowdy drunk for like three or four days, everybody was as drunk as we were, we ate some kind of French fries with cheese and gravy on it (note: it’s called poutine, people and it’s awesome!) which is probably how I got to 315 pounds, and it was just phenomenal.

I’ll tell you this: I’ve been to two UFC fights that GSP has fought in and I’ve never seen anyplace follow a fighter like Canada follows GSP. No matter where it is, how many Canadians are there? Canadians love their fighters and I would love to be their adoptive son.

I’ll even work on my Canadian accent/. I’ll start saying aboot and I’ll start playing hockey if that’s what it takes.

Well I appreciate you doing this. Any shoutouts and thanks before we wrap it up?

My nutrition company is EDEN and the website is and every athlete can take us. If anybody is interested in sports nutrition, he’s what I’m going to do. You can call me. My cell phone number is 414.243.6640.

Parents, athletes, if you have a question about nutrition, if I can’t answer it, we’ve got somebody who can.

A huge thanks to the guys at Overtime MMA; they’ve really helped me out a lot in getting me ready for the show and since I’ve been home. Check out their website.

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me too. Thanks for this.

No problem.

Continue reading...