Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dan Henderson: The Bobby Hull of MMA

Dan Henderson is the Mixed Martial Arts version of Bobby Hull.

For those unfamiliar with the career and biography of "The Golden Jet," Hull was one of the NHL's preeminant stars, sniping goals from the left wing for the Chicago Blackhawks in larger quantities than anyone before him, including Maurice "The Rocket" Richard.

But in 1972, Hull grew unhappy with being chronically underpaid and threatened to sign with the upstart WHL. Even though his contract demands seem unreasonable, the owners banded together, came up with the money and landed one of the marquee names in the sport to help sell their brand.

Dan Henderson is Strikeforce's version of Bobby Hull.

Sure they already have the consensus top heavyweight the sport has to offer in Fedor Emelianenko, but ask anyone invested in the Mixed Martial Arts industry and they'll confirm for you that Joe Smith in Springfield has no idea who "The Last Emperor" is and therefore, his value is somewhat limited.

But thanks to The Ultimate Fighter, even the most casual of MMA fans is fully aware of Dan Henderson, even if only in his capacity as the coach of Team USA in their battle against Team UK.

While Strikeforce has been busy assembling a talented roster, including their recent signing of DREAM Welterweight Grand Prix champion Marius Zaromskis, having a stable full of unknown talents isn't going to convince the average fan to tune in to Showtime.

Though names like Emelianenko, Mousasi and Shields may be the true mark of talent in the organization, Henderson is without question the biggest name outside of the hardcore fans. He is a fighter that people who spend minimal amount of time reading blogs like this can name and a recognizable addition that could bring new fans to the growing organization.

At this stage in their development - and Strikeforce is still very much in the developmental stage and not yet near equal footing with the monolith that is the UFC - acquiring names to attract fans is part of the plan. Why else do you think the UFC was signing everyone under the sun over the summer? It sure wasn't to capitalize on all the Phil Baroni merchandise sales...

But now, the UFC is taking an undoubtedly well-calculated risk, as fellow Bleacher Report writer Darren Wong accurately broke down in his most recent effort. For them, Henderson is not worth the large financial commitment he is seeking, as despite his name recognition, he is not a major PPV draw.

With Henderson, Strikeforce gains the one thing they need most right now: a recognizable name that can draw the attention of casual MMA fans away from the UFC vacuum. Once you're watching, the even more talented members of the roster have the capability to captivate you.

Henderson wasn't heading into this round of contract negotiations with the intention of becoming the MMA version of Bobby Hull. Up until ten days ago, he still believed a deal could be worked out with the UFC and a change of address would not be necessary.

Bobby Hull probably thought the same thing when he told the Chicago Blackhawks he would leave if they didn't pay him what he thought he was worth.

But "The Golden Jet" flew to Winnipeg, bringing name recognition to the otherwise unknown World Hockey Association.

Can Dan Henderson do the same for Strikeforce?

Continue reading...

Friday, October 30, 2009

For the UFC, Less Could Mean More

When news broke earlier in the week that Brock Lesnar was forced to pull out of his UFC 106 title defense agaisnt Shane Carwin, Mixed Martial Arts writer Josh Nason asserted that the sudden shift in schedules highlighted a bigger UFC problem: too many events.

Let's make one thing clear right off the top: the chances of the UFC deciding that they're running too many pay-per-view events in a year are about the same as Bob Arum and Bernard Hopkins being next year's inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame.

But hypothetically speaking, what would 2009 have looked like if the UFC cut the number of shows in half, combining cards and assembling stronger lineups?

While the company bank accounts would be a little lighter thanks to seven less opportunities to collect $50 from thousands of people, fight fans would have been treated to some seriously stacked shows.

January - UFC 93 / UFC 94

Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn for the UFC Welterweight Title
Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson
Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva
Mark Coleman vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Stephan Bonnar vs. Jon Jones

Preliminary Card to feature Jeremey Horn, Rousimar Palhares, Alan Belcher, Marcus Davis, Chris Lytle, Nathan Diaz, Clay Guida and Jon Fitch.

March - UFC 95 / UFC 96

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
Diego Sanchez vs. Joe Stevenson
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane Carwin
Nate Marquardt vs. Wilson Gouveia
Josh Koscheck vs. Paulo Thiago

Also featuring Dan hardy, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, Junior dos Santos, Gray Maynard, Brandon Vera and Kendall Grove.

May - UFC 97 / UFC 98

Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites for the UFC Middleweight Title
Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title
Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra
Sean Sherk vs. Frankie Edgar

Also featuring Cheick Kongo, Luis Arthur Cane, Nate Quarry, Dennis Kang, Chael Sonnen, Dan Miller, Brock Larson and Kryzsztof Soszynski.

July - UFC 99 / UFC 100

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir for the UFC Heavyweight Title
Georges St-Pierre vs. Thiago Alves for the UFC Welterweight Title
Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping
Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva
Marcus Davis vs. Dan Hardy

Also featuring Mirko Cro Cop, Mike Swick, Ben Saunders, Spencer Fisher, Jon Fitch and the debut of Yoshihiro Akiyama.

September - UFC 101 / 102

BJ Penn vs. Kenny Florian for the UFC Lightweight Title
Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
Keith Jardine vs. Thiago Silva
Nate Marquardt vs. Demian Maia

Also featuring Chirs Leben, Brandon Vera, Ed Herman, Ricardo Almeida and Brandon Vera.

November - UFC 103 / 104

Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title
Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort
Cain Velasquez vs. Ben Rothwell
Mirko Cro Cop vs. Junior dos Santos
Tyson Griffin vs. Hermes Franca

Also featuring Martin Kampmann, Josh Koscheck, Joe Stevenson, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson and Yushin Okami.

You wouldn't find many people complaining about putting out some of their hard-earned for fight cards with multiple title fights and the collection of creations pushing two cards together would have yielded.

As much as the UFC is clearly the big dog in the Mixed Martial Arts yard, there is no denying that they're currently in a bit of a crunch when it comes to finding names for the top of the marquee.

No disrespect to any of the four fighters set to headline the next two events, but are Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera and Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin really the kind of fights that are going to sell pay-per-views and put more butts in seats than normal?

While UFC 106 would certainly do far better with the inclusion of the Lesnar - Carwin title fight, the fact of the matter is that Josh Nason is right; the UFC has been going so hard for so long that they're at a stage where one injury can take a card from being a must-see to a you-must-be-kidding-me? event.

Even combining the two November events the way they stand now doesn't yield one of the best cards of the year, with or without a contracted schedule. Here's how it would look:

Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera
Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin
Mike Swick vs. Dan Hardy
Josh Koscheck vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson
Michael Bisping vs. Denis Kang

While all of those are somewhat interesting fights, it's not a card that 600,000 people would spend $50 on, is it? Though 600,000 is a respectable number of PPV buys, the goal is to keep getting bigger and bigger and events with one or two truly engaging fights isn't the way to achieve that growth.

Opponents to this line of thinking will argue that a reduced number of pay-per-view shows would create less opportunities for the fighters who call the middle of the pack home and to an extent, that is correct.

Though they wouldn't have as many opportunities on PPV, cutting back on the multi-million dollar spectales would free up a large chunk of change to expand the Fight Night brand or create a new avenue to introduce those fighters.

Truthfully, the casual fans aren't tuning into a UFC pay-per-view event to see Kendall Grove versus Ricardo Almeida anyway, so why not give them a chance to shine and gaion exposure for free, while showcasing the best the company has to offer when you're asking the fans to open their wallets?

The evidence of potential success is there, as some of the more criticized cards of the year (UFC 97, UFC 102) get an impressive pick-me-up from their contracted companion. The Anderson Silva - Thales Leites fight would certainly have been a lot easier to stomach if it followed Lyoto Machida winning the Light Heavyweight title, while the Hughes - Serra grudge match would have fit perfectly as the #3 or #4 fight on the same card, instead of being a boring co-main event at UFC 98.

Does anyone actually expect the UFC to decide to reduce the number of mass moneymaking opportunities they offer each year?

Of course not, but in turn, the UFC shouldn't be surprised if fans decide to hold onto their money for a month or two, waiting for a truly great card like UFC 108 looks like it could be, while skipping the mediocre match-ups being offered in between.

More often than not, quality will win out over quantity or like my mom used to tell us all the time, "Sometimes, less is more."

Continue reading...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

UFC 104: 10 Things I Learned Last Night

1. Shogun Was Robbed

Before the scores were read, I turned to my wife and said, "49-46 Shogun," feeling that was an accurate result of the fight I just watched. When Bruce Buffer announced all three judges scoring the bout 48-47, I was even okay with that.

Then he said Lyoto Machida was the winner and I was thoroughly confused.

For years we've been told that being the aggressor, landing the harder strikes and generally inflicting more damage is what leads to victory inside the Octagon. Apparently we never saw the asteriks and the fine print that says, "except if you're fighting the champion we just spent six months building up."

2. Newsflash: We Have Judging Issues

This certainly isn't brand new information, but when the Main Event of a UFC card draws as much attention for what many, including company President Dana White, saw as the wrong decision, something seriously needs to be done.

Last night's decision trumps the Chase Beebe / Mike Easton in that it took place on the biggest stage of them all. Two judges saw it the exact same way, with Cecil Peoples and Marcos Rosales giving Machida the first three rounds.

Somehow, judge Nelson Hamilton saw the fourth round for the champ, despite the fact that it was clearly the challenger's best round.

Honestly, I could go on for hours with this one and will be talking about it at length tomorrow, so I'll leave it at this: we gotta get this nonsense figured out and stop having these brutal decisions.

3. Welcome to the Big Leagues, Cain Velasquez

I'll be honest: I didn't think Cain Velasquez was ready yet. I also don't mind telling you I was dead wrong.

The AKA and Arizona State product dominated every minute of his fight with Ben Rothwell, setting the frantic pace he always does and overwhelming the overmatched former IFL titlest. Now, the question is what's next?

Originally slated to face Shane Carwin, Velasquez seems like the logical challenger for whoever emerges from UFC 106 with the shiny, gold belt around their waist. While the UFC might choose to go with the older, more experienced "Minotauro" Nogueira, Cain will certainly get his chance in the near future.

Don't be surprised if he makes the most of it.

4. Anthony Johnson, Middleweight

Injury or not, you don't head into camp looking to drop 50 pounds. While cutting weight in general isn't all that good for you, dropping those kind of lbs is big-time dicey.

All fighters want to gain whatever advantage they can and being the bigger fighter is certainly one of them. But Johnson was six pounds over, walks around above 200 pounds and has the frame, talent and overall athleticism to seemlessly move to 185 and maintain the hype he currently holds.

That being said, "Rumble" didn't sound like he was in any hurry to jump up in class after perfectly recreating the fight scene from Josh Koscheck vs. "Zenko" Yoshida from UFC Fight for the Troops.

5. How Does Josh Neer Still Have No Takedown Defense?

Last time he set foot in the Octagon, Kurt Pellegrino used superior wrestling abilities and myriad takedowns to score a Unanimous Decision victory over the Miletich Fighting Systems product known as "The Dentist."

So when he agreed to replace Sean Sherk against Gleison Tibau, I expected he would be prepared for the myriad takedown attempts that would be coming courtesy of the American Top Team lightweight gorilla.

In a word: Nope. Time after time like Cyndi Lauper, Tibau took Neer to the mat, scoring points en route to a clean sweep on the judges' scorecards.

Apparently, Josh Neer needs to stop agreeing to fight guys who like to work on the ground because he's apparently not planning on improving his takedown defense any time soon.

6. Welcome Back, Joe Daddy

Two fights into his time at Greg Jackson's in Alburquerque and Joe Stevenson looks to be back in the form that made him The Ultimate Fighter and a perennial top contender in the lightweight division.

He outworked and outclassed Spencer Fisher, taking the fight to the floor in the second round and pinning "The King" in an Ivan Salaverry-esque crucifix before forcing Herb Dean to stop the fight.

With back-to-back solid performances, Stevenson is back into the mix at 155. While he's not quite at championship contender level, he's certainly back in the conversation and one more good win could put him back into the title picture.

7. Really? Chael Sonnen?

Yushin Okami had all of one loss in the UFC heading into last night's action, that coming at the hands of former Middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Far more people were stumping for "Thunder" to receive the title shot he had to forgo due to injury than were picking Chael Sonnen.

Then the longtime Team Quest member came out and dominated his Japanese counterpart from the opening bell, securing his second consecutive upset and putting himself into the upper tier of talent in the UFC middleweight division.

Not that Sonnen is a slouch; after all, this is a former Olympic wrestler and the rightful last WEC middleweight champion, but he looked so bad against Demian Maia that back-to-back wins over Dan Miller and Yushin Okami weren't what you would call expected.

While Sonnen goes up the ladder, where Okami goes from here is anyone's guess. Chances are far fewer people will be calling for Main Card fights and title shots any time soon.

8. Stefan Struve Keeps Improving

Maybe Struve looked so bad against Junior dos Santos because "Cigano" is one of the top talents in the UFC heavyweight division, because for the second consecutive fight, the incredibly lanky youngster from The Netherlands looked really good.

Now, Dennis Stojnic and Chase Gormley are far from upper echelon fighters, but Struve has battled through a bad cut against Stojnic and secured back-to-back submission wins.

At just 21-years-old, "Skyscraper" has certainly shown promise heading into 2010.

9. Tough Night of Picking Fights

The aforementioned Cain Velasquez looked great and more than spoiled my Ben Rothwell upset pick, while the rest of the night was a 50/50 split, leaving me 5-6 for the evening.

Honestly, I feel a little dirty even saying I went 5-6 because really, if judges Hamilton, Peoples and Rosales would have scored the fight the rest of us watched, I would have gone 4-7 and that is not so hot at all.

10. There Is No Way Machida Won That Fight

Not to beat a dead horse, but honestly, there is no way for anyone to convince me that Lyoto Machida won that fight.

Yes, the champ landed some solid counterstrikes and did his karate thing as best as he could, but Shogun landed kick after leg-bruising kick, nulifying Machida's trademark elusiveness and connecting on the champion more than his previous UFC opponents combined.

Seriously, everyone had the fight in favor of Rua; Dana White, Fight Metric, you, me, everyone in the crowd and countless others. Everyone but the three blind mice sitting ringside.

Continue reading...

Friday, October 23, 2009

UFC 104 Punch Drunk Predictions

Despite being in the middle of moving across the province of British Columbia and having very limited access (or time, for that matter), Saturday night marks the return of the UFC after a longer-than-normal hiatus, so I thought I would make a brief return too.

With everything in boxes, the usual week-long Fight Week Previews series has been on break as well, but have no fear, this installment of the Punch Drunk Predictions features a quick synopsis of my thoughts on each fight.

It also carries with it a challenge, as fellow Bleacher Report writer Darren Wong has thrown down the gauntlet, looking to claim the bragging rights for successful selections for UFC 104. Never one to back down, I've gladly accepted and look forward to gloating about my win later this week.

Fight Week Previews - The Abridged Moving Version
(all records as per

Stefan Struve (21-3) vs. Chase Gormley (6-0)

Struve has the vast experience despite being just 21-years-old. Additinoally, he's fought twice under the bright lights of the UFC, losing his debut to Junior dos Santos before submitting Dennis Stojnic at UFC 99.

However, Stojnic cut "The Skyscraper" badly in that fight and while Gormley is short on experience, he's got the power to put his Dutch opponent on the canvas.

Kyle Kingsbury (7-2-0, 1 NC) vs. Razak Al-Hassan (7-1-0)

Really, does anyone outside of the Kingsbury and Al-Hassan calling circles care who wins this fight? Kingsbury is another former TUF contestant who hasn't found success in the Octagon, while Al-Hassan's debut had him on the wrong end of a very gruesome looking armbar courtesy of Steve Cantwell.

Reach in your pocket and pull out a coin.

Jorge Rivera (16-7) vs. Rob Kimmons (22-4)

Rivera is a seasoned veteran who has been in the cage with a long list of quality opponents. Now he's facing Rob Kimmons, whose biggest win to date is either over Joe Vedepo or Rob Yundt.

Yushin Okami (24-4) vs. Chael Sonnen (24-10-1)

Okami certainly deserves better than being buried on the undercard, having compiled a 7-1 record in the UFC and once being in line for a title shot against Anderson Silva, whom he holds a DQ victory over.

That being said, he hasn't been able to stay healthy and has to work his way back up the ladder, starting with Sonnen, who enters the fight off a dominating upset win over Dan Miller at UFC 98.

Antoni Hardonk (8-5) vs. Pat Barry (4-1)

In the UFC's unofficial first kickboxing match, the veteran Hardonk takes on a fellow leg kick enthusiast and former training partner in the less experienced Barry.

This fight will be entertaining while standing, but painful if it somehow hits the floor, as Barry's ground game is almost nonexistent and Hardonk isn't much better.

Get that coin you had out earlier and give it another flip. Or, use this time to refill your cup and get a few snacks before things get interesting.

Ryan Bader (10-0) vs. Eric Schafer (13-3-2)

"Darth" Bader was impressive in his post-TUF debut against veteran ATT member Carmelo Marrero and the win was made even more noteworthy upon learning the Arizona Combats Sports product tore his MCL and PCL during the fight.

Schafer is a BJJ black Belt under Pedro Sauer riding a two fight winning streak since returning to the UFC. That being said, Houston Alexander and Antonio Mendes do not possess the strength and promise of the former two-time All American from Arizona State.

Anthony Johnson (7-2) vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida (11-3)

Yes, Anthony Johnson is a tremendous athlete and has a very bright future in the sport. That being said, Yoshida represents a big step up in competition for "Rumble" after having earned wins over Kevin Burns, Luigi Fioravanti and Tommy Speer.

While Yoshida hasn't defeated anyone of great consequence either (War Machine and Brandon Wolff), his move to Greg Jackson's School of Awesomeness in MMA is enough to pique my interest in this opening match-up of the broadcast.

Joe Stevenson (35-10) vs. Spencer Fisher (24-4)

Speaking of guys who have moved to Albuquerque... Stevenson was back to the Joe Stevenson of old last time out against Nathan Diaz, utilizing his strong wrestling base and not getting into a boxing match where he is can get beat.

While Fisher has solid skills on the ground as well, his bread and butter is standing and banging, as he's got a good chin and enough weapons on his feet to trade with the best the lightweight division has to offer.

Gleison Tibau (29-6) vs. Josh Neer (25-8-1)

Just because they don't belong in the middle of the PPV broadcast doesn't mean these two don't deserve coverage.

Tibau is replacing Sean Sherk and brings a vast edge on the ground against Neer, who was outwrestled and ultimately defeated by Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 101 using a very similar ground-related approached.

Cain Velasquez (6-0) vs. Ben Rothwell (30-6)

Don't get me wrong: I think Cain Velasquez has as bright a future in the UFC as just about anyone, but he's not there yet in my books. He's got as many career fights as Rothwell has losses.

While that may not mean much to some, the former Affliction and IFL heavyweight has far more experience and has been to deeper waters than the Arizona State standout has ever faced. Cheick Kongo and his deficient ground game were a perfect opponent for Velasquez last time out, but now he needs to step it up a notch and I don't know if he's truly ready for the next level.

Lyoto Machida (15-0) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (18-3)

My analysis of this fight is actually quite simple:

Lyoto Machida has never been beaten, never lost a round in the UFC and barely gets touched when he steps into the cage, while Shogun looked horrible against a fighting fossil (Mark Coleman) and earned the title shot by defeating a defensively-deficient Chuck Liddell.

You don't get to 15-0 by accident... The Machida Era continues.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 86-64

Preliminary Card
Chase Gormley over Stefan Struve (TKO R1)
Razak Al-Hassan over Kyle Kingsbury (TKO R2)
Jorge Rivera over Rob Kimmons (Submission R1)
Yushin Okami over Chael Sonnen (Unanimous Decision)
Antoni Hardonk over Pat Barry (Submission R1)
Ryan Bader over Eric Schafer (TKO R2)

Main Card
Yoshiyuki Yoshida over Anthony Johnson (Submission R2)
Joe Stevenson over Spencer Fisher (Unanimous Decision)
Gleison Tibau over Josh Neer (Submission R3)
Ben Rothwell over Cain Velasquez (TKO R2)

And in the Main Event of the Evening...

Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua via TKO, Round 3 to retain the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

Now touch gloves and come out swingin!

Continue reading...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Strikeforce on CBS: A Tremendous Opportunity for the Growth of Mixed Martial Arts

Early next month, the men featured in this terrific photo by Esther Lin will take part in two of the four stellar match-ups schedule for the debut of Strikeforce on CBS.

Light heavyweight champion Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (left) will face Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in a non-title match, one that was originally slated to take place in the DREAM Super Hulk Tournament.

In the main event, consensus #1 heavyweight and MMA legend Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko (right) will step inside the cage for the first time to face undefeated challenger Brett "The Grim" Rogers.

In addition to being arguably the best televised fight card of the year, this is an incredible opportunity for Strikeforce to showcase their brand, their stars and the sports of Mixed Martial Arts as a whole.

Over six million viewers tuned into Spike TV two weeks ago to watch what amounts to an amateur bout between Kimbo Slice and "Big Country" Roy Nelson. Now, mixed martial arts fans across the country will be given a chance to watch one of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen and three additional outstanding bouts live on network television.

While Spike is a niche network geared towards the core demographic of the sport itself, Strikeforce will be shown on CBS, the home of some of the best and most-watched programs on television today and the hands-down king of televised sports, the NFL.

Never before has the sport been given an opportunity to promote itself in a manner like this; though EliteXC was previously featured on CBS, the organization was promoted on the back of the aforementioned Kimbo Slice, a backyard brawler of Internet fame.

Now, we have arguably the greatest fighter of the modern era of mixed martial arts, a young fighter who some believe could be the next to carry that torch and well-known opponents Jake Shields and Jason "Mayhem" Miller to use as selling points and showcases for what top level MMA really looks like.

It's not as if we're asking people to find a channel some don't even have like Versus; even if you don't have cable, chances are you have CBS and instead of presenting the street certified Slice, we have the 30-1 Fedor Emelianenko to top the marquee.

We have been talking for months about the sport's push to break into the mainstream and this could be the watershed moment. Four outstanding fights, eight talented fighters and one major network with the ability to promote the event to an entirely new audience, as well as the millions of current fans of the sport and those who tune into AFC action every Sunday afternoon.

Additionally, this is a chance to expand the horizons of those who believe that MMA and UFC are synonymous. While the UFC is certainly the biggest name in the business, they are not the one and only organization worthy of attention in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and this event proves it.

For the low, low cost of zero dollars, fans and curious onlookers alike are going to have the opportunity to watch one of the most anticipated and stacked fight cards of the year without a single glimpse of Dana White. As blasphemous as that may seem to some, it is a more than welcomed opportunity to many, this writer included.

The sport will only grow through the flourishing of numerous organization, Strikeforce included, and this is a grand opportunity to move closer to that end.

Should CBS decide to put their considerable marketing muscle behind this event, and Strikeforce do everything they can to promote these well-known combatants, new ratings records won't be the only result.

We could have an incredible night of fights that helps break down the barriers preventing mixed martial arts from entering the mainstream, a display of talent, skill and respect that showcases the beauty and artistry of the sport and not the bloodshed.

Hardcore fans are sure to tune in, regardless of any marketing or promotion. You needn't say more than "free Fedor" to entice many MMA fans to choose CBS on November 7.

But if done correctly, this event could draw entirely new fans and those trapped in the UFC vacuum to an emerging organization and outstanding collection of fights, helping push MMA closer to crashing the mainstream media party.

And if we're really lucky, maybe some of the critics of "human cockfighting" will sit down and see what mixed martial arts is really about, seeing as they won't have to spend a dime or search for some channel buried in the upper regions of their satellite or cable service.

Whether all or none of these dreams come true is yet to be determined. One thing that is certainly already is that Strikeforce on CBS is a tremendous opportunity for growth knocking on the door.

Let's just hope someone answers.

Continue reading...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Long Live Ultimate Punching

There was a time when being on The Simpson's was the height of pop culture cool and mainstream acceptance. If you showed up in Springfield, you were at the top of your game and this was your animated standing ovation for excellence.

But 1997 was a long time ago...

However, despite the fall-off in The Simpson's over the last decade-plus, the never-aging family stepped into the cage with Mixed Martial Arts last night, producing a great back-and-forth match that saw MMA come away victorious in the end.

While The Simpson's certainly doesn't have the cultural sway that it had in the past - or the audience for that matter - the first family of Fox presented both sides of the argument for and against MMA last night and did it very well.

"Call me a killjoy, but just because something isn't to my taste, I don't think anyone should be able to enjoy it," was Marge's initial suggestion to the rest of the well-known women of Springfield (Luann Van Houten, Mrs. Krabappel, Dr. Hibert's wife Bernice and Helen Lovejoy) before launching her attempt to shut down the sport as a whole.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the intelligence of the comment; a clear cartoon jab at the anti-MMA set who don't enjoy the sport and can't fathom how anyone can. Here in Canada, we call them members of the Provincial Legislature of Ontario...

After taking to "The Septagon" at the next Ultimate Punch, Kick and Chop Championship, Marge accepts the challenge of Ultimate Punching's Chet Engelbret, a southerner with a multitude of titles including "the public face of the sport" not unlike a certain well-known bald gentlemen.

Instead of providing an complete episode recap and ruining your plans for searching the Internet all afternoon while at work, we'll cut to the chase.

Last night, The Simpson's did a great job of showing both sides of the challenges facing Mixed Martial Arts, best illustrated (pun-intended) by the the resident bullies with KILL spelled out on their stomachs being joined by an S on the stomach of one of the known nerds to create SKILL.

There is no question that there is a segment of the population who simply cannot stomach Mixed Martial Arts; there is too much violence, too much blood and simply no interest whatsoever and that is perfectly okay to me.

I can't stomach the CFL, with their points for failure, three downs and elongated field and no matter what the staunchest supporters say to change my mind, nothing is going to make me enjoy the Canadian Football League.

The argument shouldn't be about whether people like the sport or not anyway, as it's readily apparent from the stack of gate receipts and pay-per-view dollars that MMA is massively popular.

To me, the true debate is one that doesn't even make sense in my head:

We have karate studios, boxing clubs and high school wrestling programs in just about every city across North America, but the thought of combining all three with jiu jitsu, tae kwon do and other disciplines, then having talented practitioners of all the styles compete against each other in a structured and regulated environment is too much to take?

"Who cares that it brings massive amount of money to each town that hosts an event, and thousands of people thoroughly enjoy it, they're doing things they do in the Olympics inside a fenced-off stop sign for chrissakes!"

On a much smaller scale and more in tune with last night's episode, I can't help but recall Tom Farrey's question to Dana White from the ESPN E:60 piece as to whether or not it's okay for kids to train in MMA.

Marge Simpson was able to surmise in her post-fight speech that at the very least she got in shape and made some new friends through her cartoon dalliance with Ultimate Punching.

How would that differ at all in the non-animated world?

Heaven forbid we let our kids or society in general make friends and get in shape, especially through something as barbaric as a combination of sports built on respect, discipline and honor.

Last night, Mixed Martial Arts scored a cartoon convert in the matriarch of the Simpson family.

Hopefully the sport also score a couple in the real world too.

Long live Ultimate Punching...

Continue reading...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

WEC 43: 10 Things I Learned Last Night


Ben Henderson and Donald Cerrone went toe-to-toe for five non-stop rounds and along with earning the respect of anyone who wasn't already in their corners as legitimate lightweights, these two probably earned Fight of the Year last night too.

For me it had all the things I look for: close fight, both guys putting in work on both offense and defense, close calls and nothing but action. Add in that the lightweight strap was on the line and this five round war certainly has to be on everyone's list at the end of the year.


Sherdog's Jordan Breen called it a "bullshit decision." Josh Gross of CNNSI stated he's "getting tired of judges overlooking close sub attempts," and Zach Arnold at Fight Opinion called it a 49-46 win for Cerrone.

Personally, I scored it in Cerrone's favor as well, and agree with Gross that more weight needs to be put on submission attempts and reversals, but this is what happens when you go to the scorecards.


With Jamie Varner ringside and a title unification bout needed, early reports have the WEC looking at a mid-December card for Varner to return to the ring and take on the new interim champ.

While it's certainly dependent on a laundry list of things including medical suspensions, injuries and overall fatigue, if I'm Henderson, I sign on the dotted line as quickly as I can. The guy just proved again that he has the heart of a lion and as much stamina as the Energizer Bunny, so why not stay in fighting shape and get right back in there with a guy who is coming off nearly a full year on the sidelines?

Jamie Varner is no joke, but after spending the better part of the last year unable to train, you would assume there is going to be some ring rust there and Henderson could look to capitalize quickly.


Scott Jorgensen said he wasn't superstitious and that he was going to push the pace against Noah Thomas. Last night, "Young Guns" did just that, dropping the former Ultimate Fighter contestant at 3:13 of the first round to lock up his seventh win and continue his climb up the bantamweight ladder.

Did I mention that Jorgensen is the first member of the K2 Interview Series to score a win? While I knew all along that spending time answering my questions certainly wasn't the reason the fighters featured in the series had been suffering losses (or having their fights canceled), it certainly is nice to mark one in the win column.

Maybe now we can start a winning streak...


As much as I would have loved to see the Canadian Yves Jabouin come away with a win in his WEC debut, Rafael Assuncao proved why he is one of the best featherweight fighters in the world.

By extending his win streak to six and boasting a 14-1 record overall, Assuncao is certainly on a very short list of challengers for the winner of the upcoming Mike Brown vs. Jose Aldo title fight at WEC 44 in Vegas next month.


Is Wagnney Fabiano, as the Brazilian was submitted by newcomer Mackens Semerzier at the 2:14 mark of the first round.

Going into this fight, many, myself included, had Fabiano as a Top 3 featherweight and sizable favorite, but "Mack da Menace" delivered the massive upset, making a lasting impression on the WEC and fight fans in the process.

Despite being way wrong on my prediction, upsets like this remind me why I love Mixed Martial Arts so much.


Somebody needs to ask judge Ruben Carrion what fight he was watching, because there is no way in the world that Yves Jabouin earned a 30-27 score in his fight with Rafael Assuncao. Did he maybe get the two fighters confused?

Now, this is certainly nowhere near as bad as the Chase Beebe / UWC incident of last weekend, as Assuncao correctly came away with the win thanks to the other two judges, but once again we have a completely unimaginable score being read at the conclusion of a fight.

Seriously, there is no way Jabouin even comes close to 30-27... we need to fix this nonsense, quickly.


With the WEC announcing that Bantamweight champ Brian Bowles would first face Dominick Cruz, former champion Miguel Torres needs an opponent in the interim. From where I'm sitting, Damacio Page fits the bill nicely.

The Greg Jackson product has won his last two fights in a combined 80 seconds, as he submitted newcomer Will Campuzano is 62 second last night.

The only blemish on Page's WEC record came courtesy of the current champ and with both he and Torres clearly established at the top of the heap, having the two square off would only make sense.


Everyone gets one wrong from time-to-time and sometimes we completely shit the bed.

Such was the case with my lead in to the Rich Crunkilton - Dave Jansen fight. Here I was thinking the clear experience advantage held by Crunkilton would stymie the youthful exuberance and strong wrestling game Jansen. Yeah... not so much.

Doesn't help either that I totally neglected Jansen's training with Team Quest in breaking down the fight, as if a whole gang of top level wrestlers haven't come out of Temecula and Gresham over the last, I dunno, ten years of MMA...

Sorry Dave... I'll get you next time.


I've actually known this for quite some time, but I thought I'd throw it out there today.

As great as the UFC can be, WEC shows deliver more bang for your buck than anything their big brother at Zuffa can put on and more people need to recognize that and start paying attention. Every card offers a complete collection of exciting fights, upsets and absolute wars, yet even those who consider themselves hardcore fans often miss out on the action.

This isn't intended as an "I'm a better fan than you" expression or anything like that; I just want to keep spreading the world that there is life outside of the UFC bubble and the WEC deserves your attention.

Continue reading...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

WEC 43 Punch Drunk Predictions: The Curse Ends Tonight!

More than a day late, but certainly not dollars short, WEC 43 will finally go down tonight in San Antonio, Texas featuring an Interim Lightweight Title bout between Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Ben "Smooth" Henderson.

Overall this is a pretty solid card; some of the preliminary card fights certainly have a chance to outshine a couple of the main card fights and the main event will undoubtedly be awesome.

In addition to a great lineup, WEC 43 will also prove the end of the Keyboard Kimura Curse, as interviewee Scott "Young Guns" Jorgensen will have his hand raised in victory over former Ultimate Fighter cast-off Noah Thomas.

Good luck Scotty... now onto the picks.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 81-59

Preliminary Card
Javier Vazquez over Deividas Taurosevicius
Charlie Valencia over Coty Wheeler
Manny Tapia over Eddie Wineland
Wagnney Fabiano over Mackens Semerzier
Scott Jorgensen over Noah Thomas
Anthony Njokuani over Muhsin Corbbrey

Main Card
Raphael Assuncao over Yves Jabouin
Damacio Page over Will Campuzano
Rich Crunkilton Jr. over Dave Jansen

And in the Main Event of the evening...

Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone over Ben "Smooth" Henderson.

Now touch gloves and come out swingin!

Continue reading...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Donald Cerrone vs. Ben Henderson

While a couple of fights this week have gotten the quick and dirty treatment, this one is getting the full monty.

Originally slated to take place a little more than a month ago in Youngstown, Ohio, WEC 43 was moved to San Antonio, Texas due to Ben Henderson's eye surgery, poor ticket sales and the need to have ice motorcycle racing and a series of concerts in the Covelli Center instead of high-caliber MMA.

Despite the setbacks and changes, we've still got a serious main event to break down, so let's get to it.

Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (10-1-0, 1 NC) vs. Ben "Smooth" Henderson ( 9-1-0)

Earning the edge in the "Where you train" category was going to be hard for Ben Henderson and it has nothing to do with the work he puts in at the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. He works with a solid bunch of guys and has looked great since entering the WEC, but "Cowboy" earns this win easy.

Plain and simple, there isn't a better breeding ground for championship level fighters in the sport today than Greg Jackson's in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Moving to the next area, Cerrone and Henderson share one opponent, Anthony Njokuani, who will also be appearing the WEC 43 card.

In their joint WEC debuts, Henderson sunk in a guillotine choke on the talented, young Texan early in the second round. Almost two years earlier, Cerrone secured an arm triangle late in the first round to come away with a similar result and making this match-up essentially a wash.

Strength of competition is next and is another category that Cerrone wins hands down. This will be the second time in his WEC career that he's fighting for a title, and the first time resulted in an outstanding fight with champion Jamie Varner.

In addition to his title experience, Cerrone has scored wins over former champ "Razor" Rob McCullough, Urijah Faber training partner Danny Castillo and made it look academic at WEC 41 against James Krause.

On the flip side, Njokuani and Shane Roller are the two toughest tests to date for the man called "Smooth," and while both have bright futures, they're not quite there yet.

Despite the clear edge in camps and compe, Henderson could have one distinct and determinant advantage heading into this fight.

Jamie Varner is going to be in attendance at this event, as the close-to-healthy Lightweight champ will meet the winner of this fight in a title unification bout somewhere next year. If you have been paying attention to the WEC Lightweight division at all lately, than you know that Donald Cerrone is obsessed with Jamie Varner.

While that could certainly serves as motivation to run through Ben Henderson as he did James Krause, it could also be too much of a distraction and give "Smooth" an added opening in this Interim Lightweight Title bout.

As always, picks come tomorrow with the popular Punch Drunk Predictions series.

See you then.

Continue reading...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fight Week Previews: Richard Crunkilton Jr. vs. Dave Jansen

Much like Damacio Page's fight with Will Campuzano, this match-up between the debuting Dave Jansen and WEC veteran Richard Crunkilton Jr. is one that looks a little lopsided with no need of the usual breakdown treatment.

While it certainly takes talent to get to 10 wins without a blemish, and the M-1 Challenge series is a solid place to build a record, stepping under the bright lights for the first time against a guy with twice as many fights as you could prove a daunting task for Jansen.

Maybe if his opponent was 11-9 over those 20 fights would the fight look a little more even; unfortunately for Jansen, Crunkilton will be bringing a record of 18-2 to the table when they meet Saturday night in San Antonio.

The man known as "Cleat" has a win over Bao Quach to his name and the two miscues came in a Unanimous Decision loss to Hermes Franca at UFC 42 and courtesy of former WEC Lightweight champ "Razor" Rob McCullough.

Couple the distinct experience advantage with Crunkilton being a member of the American Kickboxing Academy team and it means no one would fault Dave Jansen if the zero disappears from his loss column on Saturday.

That being said, fights aren't won on paper or based on where you train; they're won once the cage door is locked and you start to chuck knuckles.

Everyone's got a puncher's chance... Dave Jansen included.

Continue reading...

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's Guide to Coaching

Going into Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, anyone who had been following the UFC for the last few years knew that having former light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson as one of the coaches would make for good television.

One of the most charismatic fighters around, "Rampage" is a goldmine for solid soundbytes and comedic moments, while pairing him with heated rival "Suga" Rashad Evans was sure to produce more than enough heated head-to-head gum-bumping opportunities.

However, this isn't The Rampage Jackson Show; this is The Ultimate Fighter and Jackson is one of the coaches, not a character on Spike's first attempt at a sitcom. After Wednesday's fourth episode, all that can be said is, "I pity the fool that has to be coached by Rampage! I pity the fool! I do!"

In truth, no one should be shocked that Team Rashad has won all four fights to this point, and not just because Team Rampage was put together by selecting the biggest guys, regardless of skills.

When Jackson stood opposite Forrest Griffin as a coach on Season 7, Team Forrest sent six of eight fighters to the quarterfinals, had three of four semifinal competitors and both of the originally slated fighters for the finals, Jesse Taylor and eventual winner Amir Sadollah.

Even during his first run on the show, the bulk of the attention Rampage received was for his poor handling of loses, constant trash talk of Griffin and those quality soliloquies everyone expected.

Notice his strength as a coach in helping his fighters improve and learn was not mentioned once.

Jump ahead to last night's episode and lessons from Quinton Jackson's Guide to Coaching continue in full force.

While Rampage is nowhere to be found, there is Ghosn, sitting on the sidelines after a training session, talking strategy with Demico Rogers, jokingly admonishing him for not exploding the fist pound. You've gotta blow it up...

At this point, it should be noted that up to this point in the season, Tiki has been the one doing the bulk of the coaching, while 'Page hangs over the cage, occasionally adding his two sense and getting his head shaved to resemble Kimbo.

These lessons come from the chapter entitled, "Be Their Friend, Not Their Coach." The subtitle for said chapter is, of course, "Besides, Tiki's Got This."

Fight day rolls around and there is Rogers, sitting in the training room, surrounded by his teammates and co... oh that's right, Rampage and the rest of the coaching staff needed to roll out and get food.

Coaching can certainly be a complex occupation with a lot of difficult decision, but is remaining with your fighter heading into the biggest fight of his life really one of those, "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now" moments The Clash was talking about?

Upon his return, Rampage offers up an instant apology, acknowledging that he or one of the other coaches should have stayed behind with Rogers. Too bad that understanding comes a few pages after the chapter, "Your Fighter is Fine and You Need to Eat."

The next great moment in the Coaching Clinic put on by Jackson came when Rogers was submitted via Anaconda choke in the first round. Here's a young fighter you're supposed to be helping, laying in the ring after suffering a tough loss and what does Coach Rampage do?


It's Team Rashad that comes to console the dejected Demico. Both Evans and coach Trevor Wittman come to offer support to the young fighter who knows a golden opportunity has passed him by, while Rampage sits on his stool, pondering how his fighter lost and tapped to an Anaconda choke.

He even hesitated at giving up the damn stool when Tiki wanted to bring it into the ring for Rogers, with Rampage saying he didn't feel Rogers needed the stool since the fight didn't even make it out of the first round.

These crucial coaching strategies can be found on page 197, in the chapter "If You Lose, I Ain't Helping."

Down 0-4 and obviously dejected, a frustrated Rampage calls an immediate coaches meeting.

The decision: we have to focus on fundamentals with these guys because they aren't at the same level of experience and talent that the veteran fighters and coaching standing in the room.

I would title this chapter, "You Don't Effin' Say?"

You can find your own copy of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's Guide to Coaching in the $2 Discount bin at your local bookstore.

Pick up a copy today... and do the exact opposite.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Guess Who's Back? Dana White Returns to Video Blogging

The chorus from British MC Lady Sovereign's minor North American hit "Love Me or Hate Me" is the most apt lyrical representation of UFC President Dana White there is:

Love me or hate me, its still an obsession
Love me or hate me, that is the question
If you love me then, thank you!
If you hate me then, f*** you!

Outside of the fact that the words are spit by a five-foot-nothing British female, saying them to yourself, you can almost picture White delivering the exact same statement to a reporter, except with a couple more f-bombs mixed in for good measure.

After a brief hiatus, White is returning to the world of video blogging, something that should provide both sides of the love / hate debate something to talk about.

Back in August, White decided to call it quits on his somewhat controversial series of video blogs that accompanied every UFC event or spur of the moment tirade he felt inclined to rattle off.

While White said he would pull the plug on the vlogs following his much-publicized attack on Sherdog's Loretta Hunt, it wasn't until this announcement in August that the videos stopped appearing on YouTube.

Now, after just two months away, White will make his return and it's sure to generate some discussion.

Those who enjoy the regular postings, including myself, appreciate some of the behind the scenes access the video diary provides, as you see White in candid moments before, during and after fights with UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, numerous fighters and various other personalities repeatedly.

One of my personal favorite installment before the plug was initially pulled took place in White's house. While we often see Dana the President and Dana the foul-mouthed Face of the UFC, this particular video offered a look at Dana the Father and the resulting footage would surely bring a smile to even his biggest opponent's face.

That being said, the Loretta Hunt rant certainly shoots the hell out of any goodwill that the home movie segment could have earned White. Without question and free of excuses, the visible head of the UFC was completely wrong in his choice of words and approach to handling the story Hunt filed that set this whole situation in motion.

There is a way to handle things and getting someone to tape you going on a profanity-laced diatribe certainly isn't the best course of action.

Despite all the interesting and controversy-free installment of White's video blogs that existed before and after the incident this summer, that one mistake is the one people remember the most and will undoubtedly be reference a number of times by those opposed to White's return.

Personally, I've always been a fan of Dana White, though I do think he could tone down the language every once in a while.

His arrogance and stance directly in the spotlight of everything UFC do not bother me, as he is one of the three individuals responsible for the UFC being where it is today. For me, that outweighs any overuse of his favorite word or the other slights people hold against him.

But for everyone like me that is subscribed to the series on YouTube, there are surely an equal number of people who would rather watch paint dry than listen to the man they love to hate as he goes through his daily routine.

This return to the world of video blogging is only sure to stir up The Great Dana White Debate once again.

To your podiums people.

Continue reading...

Fight Week Previews: Raphael Assuncao vs. Yves Jabouin

Meet my solution to being unable to find suitable pictures of the fighters being previewed or discussed in my posts. Thanks to the fine folks at Fight Passport for having such an imposing looking creation on their website.

Before getting the breakdown of what could be a very interesting and entertaining fight, this massive mound of muscle needs a name and you're going to give it to him. Submit entries in the comments section and the winner will be announced on Sunday when the WEC 43 edition of 10 Things I Learned Last Night rolls out.

The prize? A signed photo of yours truly to hang on your wall... or dartboard.

Raphael Assuncao (13-1-0) versus Yves Jabouin (14-4-0)

While the names may not be at all familiar to the casual fan and even some of the hardest of hardcore fans, let me assure you that both the boys will coming to fight on Saturday night.

Assuncao is currently the #8 ranked featherweight in the US Today / SB Nation Consensus Rankings and with good reason: his lone defeat came at the hands of talented veteran Jeff "Big Frog" Curran nearly three years ago and he holds victories over both Joe Lauzon and Jorge Masvidal.

While Jabouin does not possess any noteworthy names on his list of victims - the only household name he faced was a loss to Sam Stout May 2004 - Jabouin is a member of the vaunted TriStar Gym in Montreal, home of Zahabi MMA and UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.

Rolling on a regular basis with the best welterweight in the world earns the Canadian the edge in associates, but Assuncao's resume is clearly more decorated, which means we're even through two rounds of analysis.

Jabouin will have a three inch height advantage and is additionally quicker in the cage than Assuncao, meanwhile the Brazilian is much more powerful than "The Tiger" and possesses an strong ground game to go along with solid stand-up.

Also working in Assuncao's favor heading into this fight is his experience under the lights of the WEC stage. While he has just one fight in the WEC thus far, it's one more fight than Jabouin has had and that can definitely play a part. Where Assuncao is secure in knowing his future with the organization, a poor showing on the main card could turn the Canadian's first appearance with the company into his last and that pressure cannot be discounted.

That being said, expect Jabouin to show up ready for the fight of his life. TriStar is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier training camps in the sport and Jabouin is part of the future of the gym.

Whether you've heard of one, both or neither of these fighters before, you should definitely be tuning in as one, if not both, will be sure to make some noise in the WEC Featherweight division in 2010.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do You Really Think Brett Rogers is Going to Beat Fedor?

We're roughly a month away from the Strikeforce debut of Fedor Emelianenko on CBS and the spectator speculation is already underway.

On November 7, the consensus top heavyweight in the sport today and one of the greatest fighters in the history of Mixed Martial Arts will set foot inside a cage for the first time against undefeated rising star Brett "The Grim" Rogers.

While I certainly still maintain my contention that this is a bad match-up for Strikeforce to have put together for the debut of the multi-million dollar acquisition, only one question really matters:

Do You Really Think Brett Rogers is Going to Beat Fedor?

If you answer yes to this question, you obviously haven't been paying attention for the last, let's see, nine and a half years.

While Rogers certainly has the power to drop anyone he faces, we're talking about Fedor Emelianenko.

For my money, the guy has never lost. Even taking his 2001 "defeat" against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka into account, "The Last Emperor" is riding a ridiculous eight year undefeated streak, during which time he has amassed 25 wins and one No Contest.

The last time Fedor suffered a loss, the Red Sox were still under the Curse of the Bambino, the New England Patriots "dynasty" hadn't even started and Angelina Jolie was just starting to get noticed as a talented actress after winning an Oscar and sucking face with her brother.

Not to take anything away from Brett Rogers; the guy has been awful impressive in his brief career and his 22 second destruction of Andrei Arlovski was certainly impressive, but do you really think that a guy who has been fighting professionally for all of three years and change is going to dethrone the reigning king of the heavyweight division?

There is nothing Rogers brings to the cage that Fedor hasn't faced before. He's defeated bigger men, faster men and men who are equally as strong as "The Grim," in addition to having built his name handing out losses to the best in the business during his time as Pride Heavyweight Champion.

Rogers has one noteworthy win, his upset of Arlovski back in June. Now check the list of fighters who have fallen to Fedor:

Andrei Arlovski
Tim Sylvia
Matt Lindland
Mark Hunt
Mark Coleman (twice)
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Tsuyoshi Kohsaka
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice, with one No Contest)
Kevin Randleman
Kazuyuki Fujita
Heath Herring
Semmy Schilt
Renato "Babalu" Sobral

Despite the many times I have questioned Emelianenko's marginal wins over the last few years, defeating "fighters" like Hong Man Choi and Zuluzinho, there is no question that during his heyday in Pride, "The Last Emperor" ruled with an iron fist, underrated ground game and aura of domination that left many opponents defeated before they stepped in the ring.

Many times when I'm breaking down fights and comparing competitors, the bigger, stronger, faster and younger of the two gets the edge in my books; this is not one of those times.

Despite all those adjectives applying directly to Rogers, save for maybe faster, I once again remind you that we're talking about Fedor Emelianenko here. He hasn't gone undefeated over the last eight years through luck and weak opponents.

While it will be interesting to see how Fedor operates in his first foray into a cage after years spent working in a ring, the guy has put together a record of 30-1 by being unable to adapt.

Brett Rogers has an exceptionally bright future in this sport and would shock the world if he manages to come away from Chicago with a victory.

But we're talking about Fedor Emelianenko here people.

Plain and simple: the guy does not lose.

Continue reading...

Fight Week Previews: Damacio Page vs. Will Campuzano

Kicking off the main card portion of WEC 43, Top 10 ranked Greg Jackson product Damacio Page steps into the cage to face newcomer Will Campuzano.

Normally, these Fight Week Previews feature breakdowns of shared opponents, analysis based on where each fighter trains and trying to figure out how the fight is going to play out based on the dominant approach each fighter displays.

This time around, we're going to bump that method in favor of keeping things short and sweet and simple.

Damacio Page trains with the best team in the business down in Albuquerque, while the information masters over at Sherdog have no affiliation for Will Campuzano, making it 1-0 Page.

2-0 Page comes from overall experience. While Campuzano's 6-0 record is nice on paper, Page has been in the ring with some of the best bantamweights in the world, including current WEC Champion Brian Bowles.

What makes this even more quick and dirty is that Campuzano looks to be a guy who likes to stand and trade. Perhaps he should go and check with Page's last opponent, Marcos Galvao, before making a final decision.

Galvao has 18 seconds worth of experience he can share with the young Texas native.

As is the case with every fight, Campuzano has a puncher's chance to prove this preview wrong.

The thing is, Marcos Galvao didn't even get a punch off last time Damacio Page stepped into the cage.

Continue reading...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Firing on All Cylinders: The K2 Interview Series with Scott "Young Guns" Jorgensen

In a division loaded with talent, Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen is a name to remember.

The WEC bantamweight has made a nomadic journey to the Zuffa-owned company; growing up in Alaska, wrestling collegiately at Boise State and cutting his teeth as a professional back home in the Alaska Fighting Championships before getting the call to join the top bantamweight class in the world.

Currently preparing for his WEC 43 fight with Noah Thomas, Jorgensen took time out of his training schedule to talk about The Smurf Turf at Boise State, the possibilities of a WEC / UFC merger and answer the always entertaining Keyboard Kimura Questionnaire.

This is the K2 Interview Series ... with Scott Jorgensen.

First things first – are you superstitious at all? I ask because every fighter who has ever done an interview with me or even said yes and then backed out has lost.

No, I’m not superstitious at all.

Now that that is out of the way, what’s the deal with the Smurf Turf at Boise State?

It’s a marketing scheme and it’s smart. They actually got grandfathered in; now all the turf has to be green like normal, what you see was actually grandfathered in, so it looks like they’ll be keeping it.

Was the football team tired of getting no attention, so they had to go out and get blue turf?

They’ve had it here for a while, I guess, long before I got here. It’s something; they’ve slowly worked their way up the ranks. When I was in college, we weren’t nearly as good as they are now.

I think it was purely to get some attention and pretty soon they started getting some tough guys and built a good team.

Well everyone knows who they are thanks to the blue turf.

Yeah, I either get one of two questions: it’s either the blue turf or “Do you guys eat a lot of French fries and potato skins?”

So how do you get from growing up in Alaska to wrestling in college in Idaho?

I actually grew up St. George, Utah. Born in Utah, raised there until I was fourteen; I lived in Utah longer than I lived anywhere else. And then because of my dad’s job we moved to Alaska in ’96.

I lived there for four years. I wrestled there in high school and I had my wrestling coach up there Lennie Zalesky, he’s the head coach now at UC-Davis, who coached me for two years up there. My senior year I had a chance to move down here to Boise to get recruited because Alaska doesn’t have huge exposure for wrestling, so my parents moved me down here to get into college.

I knew the Boise State program; I got accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy and into Nebraska on scholarships and decided to stay here in Boise. I’ve been here since 2000; I love this place. It’s a nice town to live in.

You were a three-time PAC 10 champ in college. Are there any guys you faced on the mats who have made the transition to MMA?

Nobody in my weight class that I’ve heard of outside of a guy named Matt Sanchez who wrestled at Cal State-Bakersfield. He’s the manager for Ultimate Fitness up at Urijah’s and he’s on the U.S. World Grappling Team.

He’s a really good grappler and really good submission-wise. He’s had a couple of fights; I think he’s 1-1, but Sanchez and I went back-and-forth. I think I wrestled him more than I wrestled anybody in college.

He was a three-time All-American or two-time All-American and we were 5-5 all through college. His senior year, we had to wrestle to be an All-American and he beat me by something like two points, the lowest scoring match we ever had.

He’s the only guy that I’ve seen jump in from my weight, but I’m sure there will be some more down the road.

In an interview with Fight! Magazine a while back you credited former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber with pushing you to get into MMA.

Tell us about that relationship.

When I was wrestling in college, Urijah was like three years ahead of me. He was helping out at UC-Davis as an assistant coach. I knew him and he used to wrestle my main training partner Jesse Brock; they used to always compete against each other when Urijah was still in college.

I knew him, we had been talking and as I got closer to graduating, Urijah had started fighting and he started telling me, “You gotta fight, man. You’d be good at it and there’s money to be made.” I thought about it and by the time I was done with college I didn’t All-American like I wanted to; all three years I went to NCAA’s I was one round out. I think I missed out on being a three-time All-American by a total of like six points.

It was the worst feeling of my life, so I took Urijah’s word and I literally flew back from NCAA’s my senior year on a Sunday and went and started training MMA on the Monday. He told me to try it, so I tried it and I loved it.

I was always a fan of the sport; my dad and my little brother and I used to watch the early UFC and I always thought it would be fun to do. Now I love the sport and there is nothing right now that is going to take me away from it.

You lost your WEC debut to Greg Jackson product and Top 10 ranked Damacio Page, though many observers felt you did enough to win that fight.

What are your feelings about that bout and is a second chance to fight Page something you’d like down the road?

I’ll fight anybody that I’ve lost to. I’ll fight anybody period, but especially those guys I’ve lost to. I want those fights back.

That particular fight, I remember everything about it. My opponent got switched like four or five days out, so I’ll I heard was he had heavy hands. I had never stood and traded with anyone, so I relied on my wrestling a lot in that fight and I spent a lot of time on top of him, ground and pounding. I landed some good punches on my feet.

I do remember never being hurt. I know from watching the fight and hearing the announcers, they thought he was getting through, but he was never getting through with anything clean. I remember feeling like I was in total control of that fight, even when I got taken down. I either reversed him or stood back up with no damage until the third round.

At the end of the second round I felt like I had the fight won granted I didn’t do anything stupid, which is my own mistake and something I never would have done in wrestling, just sit back and expect the win.

My corner all came in and we’re talking it up that we had it won and be smart, so I took him back down, ground and pounded him for a minute, took his back and he rolled and I lost my position. He ended up in my guard and I thought I had it won; I remember watching that clock tick down from three and a half minutes. I watched it tick down, thinking I had it won and that was the biggest mistake of my career right now.

That’s the only fight I regret. That’s the only time I would say I would change anything in a fight and I can’t believe I did it. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, that I thought I had something won. You haven’t won until you have your hand raised and I kind of kick myself in the ass every time I think about it.

I want that rematch. I know I beat Damacio. Everyone’s so scared of his power, but you got to hit me first and on top of that, if he doesn’t, he’s got to be able to defend a takedown. The way I fought him last time, I fought him very smart, I just didn’t finish the fight, so that’s how I feel.

Before getting around to some more insightful and investigative journalism-type questions, let’s run through the Keyboard Kimura Questionnaire:

Favourite fighter?

All-time? Favorite fighter? That’s hard to say. I look at a lot of guys. I’m very particular. People ask me my favorite football team and I say, “I don’t have a favorite team, I have favorite players.”

My favorite fighter has gotta be... this is tough... Wanderlei Silva. That guy is just fearless, I love it. He’ll take that fight wherever it needs to go and it doesn’t matter how tired he is, he keeps fighting.

Wanderlei, [Clay] Guida, those fighters that carry those characteristics that are in your face, non-stop, I don’t care what you do I’m still coming type attitude; that’s how I train and that’s what I believe in.

Wanderlei is by far by my favorite fighter ever.

Best fight you’ve ever seen – live or otherwise?

My fight with Banuelos. (Laughs)

Nice – d’you know what’s funny is that you’re the first person I’ve interviewed who has said their own fight. I interviewed Sam Stout a couple weeks back and I full expected him to say one of his two wars with Spencer Fisher. Why wouldn’t it be your favorite fight?

Yeah, that was my favorite fight man. I had more fun in that fight than I had in all of my others.

Honestly, just after I signed with the WEC I was supposed to replace Marcos Galvao to fight Brian Bowles in case he had problems with his Visa, and they flew me out and everything. I ended up not fighting, but we got into The Ultimate Fighter finale that weekend.

I can’t remember what season it was, but it was the [Clay] Guida – Roger Huerta fight. I was sitting pretty much ringside, like two rows back, and that was probably the most memorable fight. I was just like, “Wow.” It was pretty sweet.

Most Underrated Fighter and Most Overrated Fighter?

Most overrated? It’s tough for me to say because everyone who steps in there I have respect for. Most overrated? That’s hard to say.

Most underrated? There’s a lot of guys that I think are underrated, at every division, guys like Martin Kampmann, who, short of his lost to Daley, I think should have been in line for a title shot.

Guida’s underrated. That guy is tough. He’s lost to top guys and keeps coming back.

I look at the sport and try to stay away from who is ranked and who is not ranked. I think there are a lot of guys that are underrated and a lot of guys who get inflated more than they’re really worth.

Obviously Kimbo is overrated. I’m not talking smack or anything; the guy has got a skill set, but he needs to improve before he’s getting the pay days he’s getting. It’s tough for a guy like myself or guys on their way up who have had ten, twelve, twenty fights that are ranked and finally getting a chance to make something and be on TV, and there you have this guy who is a street fighter that goes out there and gets paid an ass-load of money and we’re sitting here wondering, “Where’s our share?”

We’ll talk about something a little later that will work in with the “where’s our share?” so I’m glad you mentioned it. And the underrated / overrated thing often gets that response.

Everyone has respect for anyone who steps in the ring, myself included. I look at overrated as the guys that are getting too much hype. Like a guy like Dan Hardy; while he’s had some success, is he really one win away from a title shot?

That’s who is getting publicity too. These guys that are getting talked up, you know, I thought Brock [Lesnar] was overrated until he went out and toasted Frank Mir.

My belief is that you’re always overrated and underrated until you fight your test and win. Every fight, that’s where you’re at. That’s how you get better and how you make your mark in this sport.

You don’t make your mark by how many magazine covers you’re on or how many interviews you do or how much you get paid. You make your mark by your quality wins. For the people that really love this sport and the people that compete in it, that’s how ... those are luxuries to me.

When it comes down to it, I do this sport because I love to compete; I wrestled for seventeen, eighteen years never making a dime and now I get paid. It’s a luxury. I just do this because I love it.

I love that. That is easily the most honest and most complete answer I’ve gotten from anyone to this point, so I really appreciate that.

Not a problem.

Best Prospect?

I’ve got a training partner that I think could be one of the top guys in the WEC, right up there, right alongside me or over in DREAM. His name is Jesse Brock.

He fought in EliteXC one time and then was scheduled to fight again right before they went bankrupt. Since then he’s just been training and picking up fights where he can. His record, he’s got some losses but he’ll fight anybody at any weight.

He’s a 135 pounder and he fought Donald Cerrone at 155 and lost. He lost to Doug Evans his very, very first fight ever; I mean he’d been training for a month and took a fight against a UFC veteran like Doug Evans and lost a decision, which a lot of people thought Jesse won.

He’s lost to some tough guys along the road, but he’s my main training partner for a reason and that’s because he’s right up there alongside the guys I’m fighting, so obviously him and another good friend of mine, Joe Warren.

He’s not as unknown, but he’s still not on the mainstream but come [Tuesday] everyone is going to know his name.

I was just going to say he’s done a pretty good job putting himself on the map already, beating Chase Beebe in his debut and then beating Kid Yamamoto...

You know him and the people that know him right now are the people that follow the sport pretty closely, but if he wins that title and brings that belt back, he’s going to blow up and be as mainstream as anyone.

That’s a pretty big fight or potentially fights [tomorrow] for him.

Yeah, I’m stoked for that.

Non-fight related, what’s your favorite movie?

Dude, I got so many. Probably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Favorite Food?

Every single food you put in front of me, I enjoy. I love the buffet.

Best Place You’ve Ever Been?

Spring Break in college, Lake Havasu. There weren’t that many place I’ve ever wrestled, so my choices are limited, but I loved going to Lake Havasu. It was a good time.

We’re just about a week away from your fight at WEC 43 in San Antonio. How has training camp been going, where have you been training and how do you feel heading into this fight?

I feel great for this fight. I’ve been in an eleven week training camp and thank God I wrestled for seventeen years and wrestled nine months out of the year, otherwise I probably wouldn’t feel the way I do right now.

I trained some with Rani Yahya, he was nice enough to let me in even though we’re the same division. Then I came right back to Boise and finished up with all the guys in my gym, my boys here in Boise.

It was a good training camp, I feel ready. I’m anxious but I’m trying to be patient, so things are good.

You were originally slated to face American Top Team’s Rafael Rebello, but now you’re taking on former Ultimate Fighter cast member Noah Thomas.

Does the late replacement change anything in your training or do you still approach this fight the same way?

You know, I say this and I don’t know if people really believe me or not, but I train for everything. I’ve literally been training since my college coaches engrained into me to be ready for everything.

We’d go to a wrestling practice until 4:00 and be told to go eat, shower and come back in an hour and half and wrestle for another hour and a half, so that’s how I train. I’m always ready for anything.

As far as for this fight, I know Noah is better on the ground that he is standing, which is what we expected from Rebello. So I didn’t have to change too much, just change for the body types. Noah is quite a bit taller than myself or Rafael, so we’ve just carried on as planned.

We’ve made some adjustments as far as body size and body type, but other than that we trained our asses off for this and we’re ready to rock.

You’ve both fought Frank Gomez. While you came away with a win, he was submitted in the second round. Are you able to draw confidence from a situation like that, knowing you’ve beaten a guy he’s lost to in the past?

I don’t get overconfident. I’m confident, but I never get to a point where I’m like I know I have everything. I gotta be ready to fight.

Noah is in the WEC for a reason; we’re not just pulling bums off the street to fight for us, so the only thing it does is, on one hand, I fought Gomez and dominated him. I imposed my will on him and won very quickly.

On the other hand, Noah couldn’t get anything going against Frank. Frank dominated him, imposed his will there, so it makes me look at it from two different ways. Either Noah’s not willing to fight as hard as Frank and as hard as I do, or Frank is actually that much better than him and I put it to Frank in a minute nine.

They’re both tough guys; I don’t look at it any other way than he got beat up and I didn’t. When I go into this fight, it’s just going to be my gameplan: face paced, in his face, on the feet, I’m sure it will hit the ground, I’m sure we’ll be back up and I’m going to finish him before the third round.

That’s my plan from now on, to finish guys. No more decisions; I can go the distance, but I want to finish.

Last time out you lost a split decision to Antonio Banuelos. Looking back on the fight, what are some things you could have done differently to maybe sway the decision in your favor or do judges sometimes just not see things the same way as you do inside the cage?

I think it’s partly that, but like I said, I wouldn’t change anything. The only thing that I think kind of changed that fight was the first round.

He looked really good that first round and I didn’t and unfortunately it was because I couldn’t see. The first punch he landed landed on my eyeball; it wasn’t an illegal blow or anything like that, it’s just those small gloves fit right in my eye socket.

Rather than call a timeout, have the doctors come in and look at it because I didn’t think they’d let me fight. So I faked as much as I could and tried to keep moving and use my advantage. That’s why I kept clinching. I was just trying to hang out, let my vision come back. I knew I was safe and I’d probably lose that first round, but I couldn’t see.

That’s the only thing that sucked, dude. I think that first round made him look good enough that the first part of the second round, when I really couldn’t see perfect yet, he looked good and that’s what kind of won the fight.

I would have fought the same way, just been able to see.

Yeah, being able to see usually helps.

I just wish they would let us go one ten minute, one five minute like they do in Japan, because you put me in a ten minute fight, a ten minute first round and I’m going to hurt some people. I’m going to make them quit, so that’s the only thing.

It slowed me down in terms of how fast I started, but if I can fight a full fifteen minute fight at my pace, people can’t really hang with me and that’s when I’ll beat people.

It is what it is and all I keep saying is that I’ll fight whoever you want and I’ll fight him again as soon as you give me that chance.

Well I’ll give you that chance now in a way. Without looking past Thomas next Saturday, if you could book your next fight yourself, who is someone you’d like to get into the cage with?

If I could have any fight, I wanna fight for the title. My next fight, I either wanna fight for that #1 contender or the title and I don’t care who it is.

I literally don’t. A lot of people say that, but I literally don’t. When the WEC calls and says, “We’ve got so-and-so,” I don’t ask to find someone else, I say, “Okay.”

When they called and told us my opponent had been changed and they had to find me one, I didn’t say who or what or where, I just said, “Okay.” Then they called and told my manager that it was Noah Thomas and that was the end of it.

I’ll fight whoever, man. I just wanna get to the top and I don’t care who I have to go through to get there. Hopefully it doesn’t have to be a friend.

Funny you mention that because that’s a topic that comes up a lot. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t want to fight my friends unless it means something. If I’m going to fight a friend, I want it to be for big money and for it to mean something. I don’t want it to be an undercard fight.

I want it to be main card, title, #1 contender, let’s do this type fight. I don’t want to fight a friend for an undercard fight. They can find someone else for me to fight on the undercard.

There has been a lot of talk around the online MMA community about a potential merger between the WEC and the UFC, as both are owned by Zuffa LLC.

What do you think about such a move? Would it be beneficial for the WEC and their roster or do you risk getting lost in the shuffle by joining forces with a larger organization?

That’s my big concern, losing the number of fights I can get in a year, but at the same time, if I’m winning and I’m exciting, they’re going to put me on no matter what as much as they can and I have a tendency to put on very exciting fights.

I think it’s a good thing. For smaller guys like myself and lighter weights, my paycheck’s not shabby looking at the other guys in my weight class and guys in the WEC’s contracts, I don’t have too bad a contract.

It’s middle of the road; it’s not a headliner contract and that UFC tag brings a lot more. It brings a lot more sponsorship and a lot more opportunities and what not.

I think it would be a great thing and I trust in Zuffa and myself that as long as I’m putting on great fights, the number of cards they’d have to put on and they keep hinting at network deals, that opens the opportunity for more shows. And if they add more shows, they gotta fill those shows and I think it’s a good thing. I think it means more money for us lighter weights, which makes Japan less and less appealing.

But right now, I love the WEC; they’ve given me a home, they’re the greatest organization to fight for and they’ve been great to me. They treat me well, they’ve been keeping me as active as possible and like I said, as long as I keep putting on exciting fights and the fans keep following me, I’ll get more and more fights and that helps the pump up the WEC.

Another topic that has come up sporadically is a Fighters Union. In fact, Urijah has been one of the only WEC fighters to voice an opinion on the issue, basically saying he feels the idea makes sense.

Do you think there is merit to the idea of a Fighters Union or would it do more harm than good?

I think it has merit, but I don’t know where to even start with it. I haven’t been involved in the sport long enough to know what it would take to set something like that up. I think it would help with our fighter contracts, but I don’t know, man.

I’ll just sit back and wait. I can’t complain right now. I’m not at Urijah’s level where he deserves to be getting paid so much, I’m just happy to be fighting.

Alright, last two...

If you could fight anyone - past or present - who would it be and why?

Let’s see... past or present... I would honestly like to fight... man, that’s a good one... I’m trying to think...

Present, I want to fight the champion at my weight class. I want to fight Brian Bowles. But past, I would like to throwdown with Achilles, somebody like that.

If you could play matchmaker for one day, regardless of organizational ties or anything like that, what three fights would you make and why?

Brock – Fedor; I want to see that and that’s probably the most common one.

Everyone has said that one.

I want to see Machida – Silva, and I loved to see a GSP – Anderson.

I want to see all the big fights they talk of, but I’d have to sit down and think. I try to keep everything else out of my mind when I’m training, so…

No worries; it’s easy for me to sit here behind a keyboard and play matchmaker, so I understand.

Any shoutouts you need to give? We do reach a guaranteed audience of 47 people…

Good luck to Joe Warren out there in DREAM; I know he’s going to win and bring those belts back and then we’re going to do it up and have a good time after my win.

Thanks everybody that helped me train, Combat Fitness, my sponsors Clinch Gear, Arrogant Apparel and thanks to my family for being there.

I appreciate it. Check out to see what we do here in Boise.

Thanks for doing this.

Sweet man – thank you.

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