Sunday, November 29, 2009

Junie Browning's Saturday Night: Win a Fight, Insult the Fans

Last night at MMA Big Show: Onslaught, former UFC lightweight and TUF firecracker Junie Browning (4-1) forced Steve Cornwell (1-1) to tap via triangle choke just beyond the three minute mark of the first round.

While the performance during the fight served as further proof that Browning has undeniable raw talent, his antics on the microphone afterward solidified this writer's stance that the kid from Kentucky still has a lot of growing up to do and it should be done outside of the cage.

According to Jack Bratcher of Pro MMA, who was covering the event in Belterra, Indiana, when "The Lunatik" was handed the microphone post-fight, the boos rained down and Browning responded in kind, stating "I try to come out here and put on a show. If you don't like it, then f@*k ya'll," before adding "Ladies, after this I want two lines, one for s*@king and one for f*@king."

Nothing like a nice show of class to validate all the boos...

As brutal as Browning's post-fight comments are - and they're absolutely brutal - the more troubling part of all of this for me is the numerous references being made today to what a great guy Junie is outside of the ring and how all this is simply a persona he puts on to garner attention.

I don't know Browning from Adam, but don't doubt he is a charming and engaging guy outside of the cage. This "loose cannon, bad boy" is most assuredly an image Browning has chosen to portray inside the cage and as a fighter, but a major conflict lies within said image.

"The Lunatik" himself has said that part of the cause of his various antics is an inability to deal with the pressure and attention that came from being on The Ultimate Fighter, and that he just wants to be like everyone else.

He doesn't like the attention and doesn't know how to cope with it at times, which is, at least in part, what led to his allegedly downing a handful of anti-anxiety pills just two months ago in what his trainer Shawn Tompkins refered to as "not a cry for help; Junie tried to end his life."

So if he's admitted on a number of occasions that he doesn't know how to deal with the attention and pressure of being "The Lunatik" Junie Browning, what good can come from putting him out there in front of hundreds of people who are going to poke and provoke him into giving them exactly what they came for - a Junie Browning outburst?

This isn't about trying to say how or when Browning can earn a living or capitalize on the attention his latest outburst has already received; this is about being concerned for a kid who has shown dangerous and destructive tendancies very recently being put under the spotlight he admittedly doesn't know how to handle.

Why not keep him out of the public eye for a while, help him learn a thing or two about professionalism and how to deal with the attention that is going to come whether he likes it or not?

For every fan that shows up to see him fight and wish him well, there are going to be far more in attendance to try to set the ticking time bomb off, and that group succeeded last night.

They can now tell the story of being there when Junie Browning cursed out the crowd, and all the fighter is left with is another black eye in the media and, as hard as it is to fathom, a even-more damaged reputation.

All the accounts of Browning being a great guy when the lights go out are probably true, but as a professional fighter, his job entails performing under those lights, so learning how to handle himself accordingly is part of the job.

No one is saying he has to be a boy scout, but there is a lot of room between boy scout and Browning right now and finding some kind of middle ground is going to be essential if he wants to keep fighting for a living.

The kid has admitted he has a problem, yet a majority of people seem to have no issue with not taking any real time to address that problem.

I love watching fights as much as the next person, but if the kid is stepping up and admitting that he doesn't know how to deal with the attention and pressure of "being Junie Browning," wouldn't it make sense to spare him the spotlight and let him figure things out for a while?

If he's in the cage and on a fight card, people are going to want that Junie Browning.

He proved last night that he's going to give the fans what they came for.

Unfortunately, that's nowhere near as admirable as it sounds.

This kid needs to sort things out and grow up, two things that he won't do inside a cage operating under his "Junie Browning persona."

How come more people can't see that?

Continue reading...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Armageddon is Coming: The K2 Interview Series with AFC President Darren Owen

Darren Owen's long-time dream became a reality this past August, as Armageddon Fighting Championships (AFC) held their first event in Victoria.

After years of legal wrestling and venues pulling out at the 11th hour like they were Karo Parisyan, Owen and business partner Jason Heit were able to return professional Mixed Martial Arts to the capital of British Columbia and they're ready for more.

We sat down with the AFC President last week to discuss everything from the trials and tribulations of getting an organization and event off the ground to the future plans of the AFC.

This is the K2 Interview Series ... with AFC President Darren Owen.

First things first - when did you fall in love with MMA?

I think it was about my 12th birthday party.

I went to the video store and saw the VHS tape on the shelf and thought, "This is real fighting. You've got to be kidding me!" So I had to get my mom to rent it because I was 12.

Rented it, put it in and I was in love with MMA from UFC 1.

I have the exact same memory of the VHS tapes at Jumbo Video and I think there are a lot of people out there with the same recollection.

From that starting point, how did things evolve? How did you go from kid who fell in love with MMA to President of AFC?

I played football for a long time; I was always competitive, always wrestled my older brother, and liked the physical side of sports.

I wanted to get into MMA, but there was nothing here really. A friend of mine was training at Island MMA and as soon as he said, "Hey man, come check it out" I was in there.

The first day I went in, I was completely hooked 100%; started going five days a week, three hours a day.

There wasn't what I felt was a good promotion locally and I wanted to put on good fights, so over time, I became friends with the guy who owned the gym - Jason Heit, the co-owner - I asked him, "Have you ever thought of putting on MMA shows here?"

He said he had and so we said, "Let's do it."

I know you had your first event back in August, but it was a long struggle to get there. What were some of the roadblocks and legal situations that you had to overcome to make this happen?

Sanctioning was the biggest thing; who can sanction it? Where can they sanction it? Who has authority to do it? Where do they have authority to do it?

We kind of figured it out after we booked Pearkes Arena.

The arena was on board with it, than we got a letter from the Mayor of Saanich saying, "This is prize fighting and you'll be arrested if you proceed with this," even though we had the Victoria Athletic Commission that said they'd back us.

So then we had to look in Victoria and found the Victoria Conference Centre.

We wanted to do a classy, high-end kind of event and it's a really nice venue. We were 100% up-front and honest with them.

We said, "we're bringing in a cage, two dudes get in, it's a Mixed Martial Arts event. It's a combination of kicking and punching and grappling. These are the gloves they wear. This is what's going on. These are the rules."

They knew 100% what was going on. Everything went forward for months and months; emails, organizing and then the day I was supposed to sign the contract, turns out that was the day it went to their boss to sign it as well, and their boss was the one who said, "We're not doing this. Forget it."

I was called that morning and told to not bother coming in because they weren't doing it.

That's brutal. It's the Karo Parisyan treatment.

After all that, however, the event did eventually take place August 22. How would you rate the event? What were your pros and cons of your first show?

Ecstatic that it went off and it pretty much went off without a hitch as well, other than a couple outside sources trying to prevent it from happening, but that didn't stop us and I was very happy with how the event went.

Afterward, I'm a perfectionist, so I was asking everyone I could - managers, fighters, people that were involved - "What can you see that we need to improve? How can we get better?"

I asked Kalib Starnes, "You know, you've been to the big show. What can you see?" and universally, everyone said we did a great job and that it was a great show.

Every fighter wants to come back. Every fighter wants to fight for us again. We treated the fighters right.

Jason is a fighter himself; he knows what fighters want and we gave the fighters what they wanted and that's important to us.

I want to get better though.

We're buying a new Octagon; the one we used was a little small, but it was the best we could get in Western Canada. I just want to keep making the show better and go from there.

Your second show has been teased; I know I got an update through Facebook that an announcement is coming soon. Can you give us something a little more concrete for AFC 2?

It looks like UFC 111 is going to be March 13, so obviously we don't want to have our show on the same day as a UFC event, so we're just waiting on a contract from the arena, but it looks like we'll be March 6 at Bear Mountain Arena.

Anyone you can confirm as of now that will be appearing? Fighters that have expressed interest in coming on board?

A lot of people are interested; we got a lot of ideas being thrown around.

Anyone who is not signed could potentially come and fight. There are some big names in the States that are interested, some talented Canadians. I don't want to jinx stuff.

You mentioned Kalib Starnes earlier. He fought recently in Australia. Is he a possibility?

He would like to fight for us and I would very much like to support local fighters, so I would love to have Kalib come fight.

As a whole, we're seeing more regional promotions popping up in Canada, as well as rumors that the UFC is going to perhaps be coming to Vancouver this summer. How do you see the state of the sport in Canada right now?

I would love Vancouver to open up for MMA in Canada. Like a lot of people, I'd like to get my foot in the door in that market.

MMA in Canada is huge and it's only getting bigger. You can't ignore it.

Sanction it and sanction it properly. Don't force it underground, that's when mistakes get made.

This is the fastest growing sport in the world and it could even end up in the Olympics some day, so how could you ignore that?

That's one thing that has always struck me: you have the negative views of the sport and the negative slants put on the sport, yet it's comprised of a number of Olympic events...

It's uneducated people that aren't familiar with the inner workings of the sport and the training that goes into it.

These athletes train and train hard, as hard or harder than NBA players, NFL players. People just don't know.

What is the market like here in Victoria? How is the media? The public response?

Everyone has been great.

People have been really supportive; a lot of organizations and business sponsoring the event, a lot of people want to be a part of the events.

The media has been surprisingly good, very receptive.

I had one media blitz where I don't think the network was talking to each other because they came in (to Island MMA), showed the kids class, showed the instruction, safe environment, did a really great job with the story.

But then the same people interviewed me afterward, cut it, edited it and tried to make me look like not the nicest guy out there, but that's the way it goes.

We touched on UFC Vancouver a little bit. There is talk of an MMA Expo to go along with it like they've done with UFC 100, there was one in New York and Toronto has always had a great turn out for their show.

Is that something you'd be interested in and we would see you at if it happens?

Oh man - that would be cool. I would definitely be interested in something like that.

I don't want to take baby steps, but I don't want to put ourselves out there too far to where it doesn't make smart business sense.

We were looking at having Herb Dean come up and referee our first event, but he's not too cheap. We ended up going with (Canadian fighter and UFC veteran) John Alessio, who has refereed Randy Couture's Xtreme Couture events, is a sanctioned referee and did a very good job.

(UFC VP of Regulatory Affairs) Marc Ratner got wind of our event when they were trying to get into Vancouver and let us know how happy he was to hear that we're doing things the right way, having a sanctioned referee.

Last couple questions are always the same in every interview I do. They're quick hitters, just say what comes to mind first.

If you could fight anyone - past, present, fighter or not - who would you fight and why? Kenny Florian said Osama bin Laden, Tim Hague said Fedor...

I probably wouldn't say Fedor or anyone like that. I would probably be able to beat down Hitler pretty good or that guy who ratted out Jesus.


Yeah, Judas. I would go to town on Judas. Ground and pound him.

You already do some matchmaking...

It's such a brutal process. People think it's easy; just put two guys together, but it's the hardest job.

If you could put together any three fights, free of organizational ties...

GSP - Anderson Silva...

Everyone says that.

Fedor and a healthy Brock Lesnar...

Also makes most people's lists.

A couple months ago I would have said Anderson Silva and (Lyoto) Machida, but I don't know now. Not after the Shogun fight.

GSP - Anderson Silva would be my #1 though. GSP and anybody, really. GSP and Jason Heit.

All-time favorite fighter? GSP?


Best fight you've seen - live or otherwise?

I saw the GSP - Penn II fight live. I don't know if that was the best fight, but it was fun to watch. It was great watching BJ's pumpkin head take a beating.

It would probably be the David Heath - Mike Nickels fight at MFC 22 - I saw that one live. Jason's fight too, against Paapa Inkumusah.

That's about it. Thanks for doing this.

Thank you.

photo courtesy of AFC / Arnold Lim - MMA Ring Report

Continue reading...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November Pound-for-Pound Rankings: Classic David Bowie

The November installment of the Pound-for-Pound rankings deliver a whole lot of ch-ch-changes...

Injury and illness has bumped Brock Lesnar from the list for the time being, much to the adulation of his anti-fan club, while a number of entertaining events since the last time we rolled out these rankings have shuffled the remaining fighters.

Jose Aldo makes his debut after his still-a-little-surprising-how-dominant-it-was performance against Mike Thomas Brown at WEC 44.

I know that when Brian Bowles beat Miguel Torres I said one win isn't enough to vault you over the champ in my books. For Bowles, it wasn't. For Aldo, after the performance he put on, it most certainly is, double standard or not.

November Pound-for-Pound Rankings

1. Anderson Silva - UFC Middleweight Champion (Last Month: #1)

Outside of the ring, questions surround the middleweight champ: will he fight Belfort? Is his elbow healing properly? I thought he didn't need surgery? Will he move to 205 permanently at some point?

Inside the ring, however, no questions remain. Anderson Silva is one of the most dangerous strikers in the game and the best Pound-for-Pound fighter in the sport.

2. Georges St-Pierre - UFC Welterweight Champion (Last Month: #2)

We now know that Dan Hardy will be the next fighter to be thrown around the cage by the Canadian superstar, we just don't know when.

Regardless, St-Pierre has spent his last 70 minutes inside the cage having his way with Jon Fitch, BJ Penn and Thiago Alves, all of whom are more complete fighters than "The Outlaw."

More interesting the upcoming dismantling of Dan Hardy is the fact that St-Pierre has been adding muscle to his already muscled physique. Let the Anderson Silva Super Fight speculation commence...

3. Fedor Emelianenko - WAMMA Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: #3)

Another fight, another win and another impressive knockout of a much bigger opponent. This is the way it goes with Fedor.

Like him or not, there is something to be said about going nine years without a loss and arguably being undefeated through 33 professional bouts.

People can question his level of competition all they want; the bottom line is that Fedor has beaten everyone that has been placed before him and that is something that cannot be said of Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre or just about any other championship caliber fighter in the sport today.

At some point, everyone loses... except Fedor.

4. Lyoto Machida - UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: #4)

Controversy or not, Lyoto Machida is still undefeated, still the UFC Light Heavyweight champion and still remains one of the most talented fighters on the planet.

Yes, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua fought a great fight and challenged Machida like no one had challenged him before, but that isn't a detriment to Machida; it's a compliment to Rua and his return to the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division.

While the rematch won't satisfy everyone regardless of who comes away victorious, until someone actually puts a "one" in Lyoto Machida's loss column, he'll remain in the Top 5.

5. B.J. Penn - UFC Lightweight Champion (Last Month: #5)

Next up is Diego Sanchez, a stern challenger and a guy who will certainly push the pace more than anyone Penn has fought as of late.

It seems that every time Penn is set to step into the cage, people line up to discuss what attributes his opponent possesses that will spell doom for the lightweight champ.

In the end, Penn emerges victorious and I don't see this upcoming bout being any different.

6. Jose Aldo - WEC Featherweight Champion (Last Month: Unranked)

Normally, I don't jump a new champion into the rankings immediately after the claim the belt. Part of that is because I subscribe to the "to be a true champion you have to defend the belt" theory, but the other part is that on occasion, one great punch can put a belt around your waist.

That isn't the case with Aldo and that's why he skyrockets into the #6 spot. He flat out dominated Mike Brown last week, stuffing takedowns, sticking jabs and pounding out a title-earning win.

What is most scary about Aldo is that as dominant as he's been thus far in his WEC career, we've yet to see him utilize his Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt inside the cage...

7. Gegard Mousasi - Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion (Last Month: #8)

Normally, beating Sokoudjou wouldn't get you a bump in the rankings, but with all the shuffling that has taken place since the September rankings came out, Mousasi climbs a notch.

While some will say it's too early for the young phenom to be a P4P contender and that Soko won the first round, I would counter that there is no time restriction on making a P4P list and the mark of a truly great fighter is someone who can be losing a fight right up until the point that they win it.

Besides, find me another fighter with 14 straight wins over a number of Top 20 contenders across two divisions.

8. Miguel Torres - Former WEC Bantamweight Champion (Last Month: #7)

Honestly, I would hate to be Miguel Torres' next opponent.

Chances are that the former champ is going to be on a mission whenever he steps into the cage next, after losing his title and having his 17-fight winning streak snapped.

Perhaps Brian Bowles deserves this place over Torres; the argument could certainly be made and a number would easily agree.

For me, one loss in five years isn't enough to drop you out of the rankings.

9. Mike Brown - Former WEC Featherweight Champion (Last Month: #6)

The American Top Team fighter was dominated in his fight against Jose Aldo, and drops three spots in the rankings as a result.

It will be interesting to see where Brown goes from here; whether he moves back to 155 as he's talked of before, who he fights next if he remains at 145 and how far down the ladder he slips after losing his belt are all questions that need to be answered.

The WEC has been pretty good about getting their former champions back into the mix quickly, so if Brown remains at '45, expect no more than two fights before he's back vying for the belt.

10. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua - #1 Contender UFC Light Heavyweight Title (Last Month: Unranked)

Regardless of your thoughts on the decision from UFC 104, there is no denying that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua looked better than he has before in the UFC and that he is finally healthy and ready to once again challenge for the title of "Best Light Heavyweight in the World."

Despite an excellent performance against Lyoto Machida last time, Rua faces the daunting task of having to perform even better the second time around, as Machida will undoubtedly adapt to the gameplan Rua utilized in their first meeting.

While it's a tall order, few gave Rua much of a chance heading into the first fight, so don't be surprised if he comes out with another impressive performance when they meet again.

Continue reading...

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Subjective Decision is Better: Looking at Controversial Decisions from a Different Angle

Quickly: Who is getting the better of this exchange?

The fact of the matter is that there is no definitive answer, and getting three people to agree certainly wouldn't be the easiest task of the day.

In all honesty, coming up with a definitive answer to the first question depends on how you respond to a series of related questions first:

Which strike landed first? Who initiated the action? Where are you sitting? Does Machida's punch connect? Did Rua's kick land?

If a consensus can't be reached looking at a photograph, why are so many people up in arms when the same thing happens in real time?

For better or for worse, whenever something is scored subjectively, these things are going to happen.

Just as individuals have different tastes in music, clothes and food, each judge weighs certain elements of the fights they score differently.

The outcry over what is perceived as a rash of bad decisions as of late is a little much for me.

While my scorecards have certainly looked different than those read aloud from time-to-time, it's the reactions of some in the media that interest me most.

This past weekend, both Jorden Breen of Sherdog and Mike Fagan of Bloody Elbow expressed their displeasure with judge Glenn Trowbridge's scorecard following the Tito Ortiz - Forrest Griffin fight at UFC 106. Trowbridge was the judge who scored things 29-28 Ortiz.

One called him "the most dangerous man in the sport" while the other petitioned for his license to be pulled. I wonder whether they have the same anger and frustration with their colleague Josh Gross of Sports Illustrated, who had the same scorecard as Trowbridge?

Probably not.

What actually interests me more than debating who won the fight, going back through the video to watch it again or vehemently rattling off Fight Metric numbers about the contest is comments like those offer up by Fagan in his recap:

A card of 29-28 Ortiz is atrocious. Absolutely atrocious. I personally had the fight 30-26 Griffin, though I find 30-27 and 29-28 Griffin acceptable as well.

My question is what makes one subjective decision better than another?

For the sake of putting all the cards on the table before we go any further, I had this fight scored as a draw (28-28) with Ortiz winning Rounds 1 and 2, but Griffin earning a 10-8 in the final round to even things out.

Apparently, the way I saw the fight is unacceptable.

First and foremost, each of these last three UFC main events that have drawn criticism were close fights.

To me, if you can't concede that, there is no point in having this discussion. You're cemented in your view and nothing anyone says will get you to budge, not even an inch.

While the commitment and conviction is commendable, it's also flawed in my opinion; scoring these fights is completely subjective, therefore by definition there are going to be differing views and potentially different outcomes.

Yes, you saw the fight going one way, but that doesn't mean it is outside of the realm of possibility that someone else saw it a different way.

Besides, it's not like any of these decisions were nearly as bad as the Mike Easton - Chase Beebe bout at UWC 7, and other than the Luke Thomas-led charge to change the results, not a lot of people were outwardly angered about that fight.

Or in the very least, they weren't calling for people's jobs.

But when you put it on the biggest stage and have the most eyes watching, close fights become cause for boisterous outcries for judging reform and the removal of these incompetent people who offered up differing opinions.

While we're certainly in the business of generating hits and controversy brings the crowds, there is something to be said for having a little perspective.

After all, Forrest Griffin still won the fight... crisis averted.

Are there areas of improvement and opportunities for growth in the judging of Mixed Martial Arts bouts?

Absolutely, just as there is in boxing, figure skating, diving and every other subjectively scored sport.

But when things are left up to interpretation, telling someone their interpretation is wrong, invalid or ridiculous is pointless and ultimately proves nothing.

One person looks at a Jackson Pollack and sees art, while the other sees a mess of paint with no purpose.

At the end of the day, both think the other is mistaken and no one can tell them otherwise, no matter how loud they yell and demand they return their museum membership.

Continue reading...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

UFC 106: 10 Things We Learned Last Night

1. Best Entrance Music Ever

Before breaking down the fights, let's get one thing clear: the choice of "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba as Forrest Griffin's entrance song was awesome.

Coming off an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Anderson Silva, there was no better song for Griffin to walk out to than one whose chorus states, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down."

Well played, Forrest Griffin. Well played.

2. Play It Again, Sam

Chances are, we'll see Forrest - Tito 3 somewhere down the road, just because it's (a) 1-1 in their series and you have to have a winner and (b) both these guys bring in the crowds and would make for a great #2 or #3 fight on a stacked card.

While it might not be warranted in some people's estimations because Griffin was clearly the victor last night while Ortiz eeked out a decision in their first fight, they seem to enjoy fighting each other and matchup well against one another, so why not do it again down the road?

You have to admit: this was far better than Ortiz vs. Coleman would have been.

3. Sorry Tito, But You Missed the Evolutionary Bus

No, I'm not saying Tito is a caveman or anything disparaging when it comes to the real world application of the word evolution. But in terms of Mixed Martial Arts, Tito missed the bus in a big, big way.

Back when Tito dominated the 205 pound division, being outstanding at one skill could propel you to numerous victories and Tito was a prime example. His wrestling was tremendous and few could defend his double leg takedown. From there, a little Tito ground and pound and the fight was done.

But we're creeping up on 2010 and being one dimensional isn't going to cut it today. Even a guy like Forrest who started out as a brawler has evolved, tightening up his striking, adding some Muay Thai and developing a very underrated ground game under Robert Drysdale.

If Tito wants to have any success moving forward, he's going to have to disprove the theory that you can't teach and old dog new tricks.

4. Not Quite Ready to Rumble

He's close, but Anthony Johnson just isn't quite there yet and Josh Koscheck showed that last night, by utilizing his strong wrestling base and superior submission skills to force the Cung Le protegee to tap in the second round of their much-anticipated bout.

What a novel concept, using your strengths in accordance with your opponents weaknesses to earn a victory. Why didn't someone think of that sooner... or at least tell Jorge Gurgel?

Results aside, this was an ugly fight. Both guys got poked in the eye and we were extremely close to seeing the fight end in a disqualification thanks to Johnson's blatant and brutal knee of a downed Koscheck.

Regardless of what the replays showed and however you want to spin it, Johnson should know better and until those mental errors are erased and he develops his defensive skills against submissions, "Rumble" will remain an outstanding prospect who can't quite get over the hump.

5. That Was Fight of the Night?

As entertaining as the Koscheck - Johnson tilt was, am I the only one wondering how a fight filled with fouls and accidental eye gouging was awarded Fight of the Night?

My understanding of things is that the $60,000 bonus should go the bout that provided the most action throughout or was the most evenly contested fight of the evening, not a scrap that didn't see the third round and was stopped repeatedly for rest and regaining clear vision.

Griffin - Ortiz and Thiago - Volkmann were far more deserving of the money in my books, but these aren't my books we're talking about.

6. Speaking of Jacob Volkmann...

Two things I liked from the debuting Minnesota Martial Arts Academy welterweight:

1. His nickname

As Joe Rogan said, we have enough pitbulls and spiders and guys with menacing names who are far from menacing, so now we have a guy his friends call "Christmas" and I love it. Even better is that it comes from his ever-so-slight resemblance to Jim Carrey's character "Lloyd Christmas" in Dumb & Dumber.

2. D'Arce Choke off His Back

Yeah, you don't see that one every day, especially against a guy who is known for having a great jiu jitsu game of his own. While he was able to secure the choke enough and score the win, pulling moves like that out is certainly a glimmer of hope for future fights with the UFC.

7. The Best Part of Phil Baroni's Performance...

... was his entrance.

Honestly, someone needs to tell me why Baroni was given an opportunity to collect whatever money he made last night while countless fighters are denied chances to fight pay-per-view cards or even fight in the UFC at all.

Remember, the UFC re-signed "The New York Bad Ass" after Strikeforce had released him, so it's not like he was a big-name talent who could have helped the competition. This was brutal, just as everyone outside of the Baroni family knew it would be.

8. Sadollah Looked Solid

Actually, he looked more than solid. He looked strong and despite my history of ragging on the former Ultimate Fighter, I won't even qualify that with an "against the equivalent of a human punching bag in Phil Baroni."

His Muay Thai was terrific; powerful kicks and well-placed elbows that would cut up anyone, and he showed a killer instinct to keep pushing the fight when he clearly could have coasted through the final round.

While the memory of the Johny Hendricks fight still lingers, it's not as salient and I look forward to seeing what's next for Sadollah.

9. Introducing Antonio Rogerio "Minotouro" Nogueira

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Lil' Nog. Nog meet the UFC fan base.

This was one of the best debuts I can remember, as Nogueira made quick and easy work of a very game opponent in Luis Cane, showing those who were unaware that there are two talented Nogueiras in the game.

Unlike Koscheck - Johnson, Rogerio was more than deserving of his $60,000 bonus for Knockout of the Night and the rest of the light heavyweight division has officially been put on notice that a new knockout artist has arrived.

10. Still A Couple Judging Questions

As always, there are a couple points of discussion concerning scorecards and judges.

a) Did anyone else think Phil Baroni won a round besides the one judge who scored it 29-28?
b) I still don't know how you can have a fight scored 30-27 Griffin and 29-28 Ortiz...
c) If ever there were a 10-8 round it was Round 3, right? Ortiz did zero...

While there are always going to be a couple questions, at least we didn't have a main event that yielded a controversial decision!

On to The Ultimate Finale!

Continue reading...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

UFC 106 Punch Drunk Predictions

In the words of Bruce Buffer, "Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit's (big inhale) TIIIIMMMMEEEE!"

UFC 106 is upon us and despite numerous injuries, illnesses and last minute decisions, this is still a pretty solid fight card and one that will help to bring clarity to some muddied division moving forward.

As has now become custom, before the picks comes the quick hit coverage of the preliminary fights, including Paulo Thiago and Jacob Volkmann which will now be on the PPV portion.

Enjoy the fights!

The Prelims

George Sotiropoulos (10-2-0) vs. Jason Dent (19-9-0)

Dent was a member of Team USA on Season 9 of the Ultimate Fighter and is getting his second go round with the UFC. Sotiropoulos is also a TUF alum (Season 6... yikes!) who looked very good in his debut at 155 last time out in a battle of the Georges.

Sotiropoulos is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a fairly large lightweight, standing 5'10" and having competed previously at welterweight. While Dent is a submission guy as well, he simply isn't on the same level as the fluid Aussie.

Caol Uno (25-12-4) vs. Fabricio Camoes (10-4-0)

The debuting Camoes is a BJJ black belt under Royler Gracie and apparently once went 27 minutes with Anderson Silva in a bare-knuckled fight when he was 17-years-old. No word on whether he's killed a bear with a knife and fork like Aleks Emelianenko...

Uno is a long-time veteran and one of the most respected lightweights in the game. He has four losses in his last seven fights, including a difficult decision against Spencer Fisher in his return at UFC 99. The others are against some of the best the sport has to offer: Shinya Aoki, Gesias "JZ Calvan" Cavalcante and Andre "Dida" Amade.

If you like grappling, you'll love this fight, as these two will surely transition through attempts and reversals for the majority of the fight.

Brock Larson (26-3-0) vs. Brian Foster (12-4-0)

Going to keep this one short and sweet.

Brian Foster lost last time out to Rick Story, who secured an arm triangle from inside Foster's half guard, while Larson is coming off a decision loss to Mike Pierce and has more submission wins than Foster has professional fights.

Please, feel free to do the math.

Kendall Grove (10-6-0) vs. Jake Rosholt (6-1-0)

Let the requisite "Will Kendall Grove be the first Ultimate Fighter winner released if he loses this fight?" discussion begin. Just ignore the guy in the background yelling something about Travis Lutter.

Jokes and speculation aside, Grove needs a win here in a bad way, as four losses in six fights usually doesn't help you maintain employment, Ultimate Fighter winner or not.

Rosholt looked okay against Chris Leben last time out and is still a good-looking prospect at 185 thanks to a great wrestling pedigree and strong training camp led by Boba Fett, Team Takedown's Mark Laimon, who promises to break out more from the Ecko Star Wars collection tonight.

Ben Saunders (7-1-2) vs. Marcus Davis (16-5-0)

This one is intriguing because it could go one of two ways.

Option 1: Davis smashes on Saunders the way Mike Swick did in Germany, pummeling the big man into submission under a flurry of precision boxing and power shots.

Option 2: Saunders uses his massive height and reach advantage, keeps Davis at bay and then locks in that deadly Thai clinch we saw against Brandon Wolff and turns the face of the "Irish Hand Grenade" into Sheppard's Pie.

Either way, should be a slugfest.

Paulo Thiago (11-1-0) vs. Jacob Volkmann (9-0-0)

It's always a risky proposition picking fights involving fighters you don't know much about. It's no help when the only interesting information that can be gleaned about Volkmann's career to date is that his ring name is "Christmas" and he trains with Brock Lesnar & Co. at Minnesota Martial Arts.

On the other side of the cage, Paulo Thiago has been extremely impressive in two trips into the Octagon, knocking out Josh Koscheck in his debut and going the full 15 with Jon Fitch at UFC 100.

What impressed me most is the combination of those two fights, as we've seen a deadly uppercut drop Koscheck and some slick submission work against Fitch, neither of which bode well for the newcomer.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 111-80

Preliminary Card
George Sotiropoulos over Jason Dent - Submission, Round 2
Caol Uno over Fabricio Camoes - Split Decision
Brock Larson over Brian Foster - Submission, Round 1
Jake Rosholt over Kendall Grove - Unanimous Decision
Marcus Davis over Ben Saunders - TKO, Round 2

Main Card
Amir Sadollah over Phil Baroni - Submission, Round 2
Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira over Luis Cane - Unanimous Decision
Paulo Thiago over Jacob Volkmann - Submission, Round 1
Josh Koscheck over Anthony "Rumble" Johnson - Split Decision

And in the Main Event of the evening...

"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz over Forrest Griffin via Unanimous Decision.

Now touch gloves and come out swinging!

Continue reading...

Friday, November 20, 2009

UFC 105 Fight Week Previews: Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin

A lot of people are lamenting this bout being atop the marquee for UFC 106.

They complain about two fighters coming in on losing streaks; one not having stepped into the cage for over a year, the other coming off an embarrassing defeat less than four months ago.

While this may not be the best main event the sport has ever seen, injuries and illness are to blame, not Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin. Besides, the inclusion of Griffin over the aging Mark Coleman is an upgrade and the last time these two met in the center of the Octagon, fight fans were treated to a tremendous back-and-forth bout.

Now Tito's healthy and Forrest has something to prove. Expect a repeat of Round 1.

"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz (15-6-1) vs. "The Original Ultimate Fighter" Forrest Griffin (16-6-0)

Tito Ortiz is Team Punishment; he is the driving force behind the camp and while he certainly has a wealth of experience and a routine that works for him up in Big Bear, Forrest Griffin's affiliation with Xtreme Couture gets the nod in the opening assessment category.

While Ortiz can bring in any number of well-known partners in advance of this bout, Griffin spends each day working with some of the best in the business, not to mention striking coach Ron Frazier, wrestling coach Neil Melanson and grappling / jiu jitsu instructor Robert Drysdale.

Thankfully, the 2007 ADCC Absoulte champ didn't make any bold predictions heading into this bout.

Experience and strength of schedule fall to the longest reigning UFC light heavyweight champion in history. While some will diminish Tito's run atop the 205 pound division because it involved a good year or two of dodging friend and challenger Chuck Liddell, Ortiz still handily beat every opponent put before him over a three-and-a-half year span, including earning the belt over Wanderlei Silva.

Of course, he also has the edge head-to-head against Griffin as well, though some would argue differently.

Their first fight was one that cemented Griffin's standing as a fan favorite and helped begin his transformation into an eventual champion. For Ortiz, it was the last good win of his impressive career and a win that was achieved with a back that required major surgery.

But things have changed this time around, as Griffin is no longer the brawler who simply tried to trade blows with his opponents that Tito fought the first time. Though he's lost his last two fights, Griffin has matured into a more technical fighter, at least he had previous to the Anderson Silva debacle.

That being said, Ortiz is essentially a big bag of question marks coming into this fight, as more than 18 months have passed since we last saw him in the ring, losing a unanimous decision to current light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.

While Ortiz is always one to sell himself to the hilt and do what is necessary to hype a fight, who can truly say how much the back problems affected him all this time. Could a surgically-repaired back lead to a return to relevance for Ortiz?

Obviously, this isn't the fight the UFC and fans were hoping to have as the Main Event of UFC 106; it wasn't even the fight originally booked for Ortiz in the first place.

But in terms of last minute replacements and compared to the likes of UFC 97 (cough Thales Leites cough), this really isn't that bad of a bout.

Chances are that by the time Sunday rolls around, you'll have been pleasantly surprised.

Continue reading...

Couture vs. Vera II Goes Down Tonight

Lost in the shuffle of last weekend's UFC 105 and the impending UFC 106 tomorrow night, the next installment of the Strikeforce Challengers series hits Kansas City, Kansas tonight with a familiar fight on the card: Couture vs. Vera.

Last weekend was the men, tonight it's the ladies, as Kerry Vera and Kim Couture meet in the co-main event.

Vera is the wife of UFC light heavyweight Brandon Vera, while many will recognize "Sugar Free" as the now ex-wife of Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Both still new to competition, they will each be looking further establish themselves individually and escape the fighting shadows cast by their current and former significant others respectively.

While Vera and Couture are the most recognizable names on the fight card, the main event offers another chance to catch one of the top welterweight prospects in the business, as undefeated American Top Team member Tyron Woodley takes to the cage against Rudy Bears.

The main also features a light heavyweight showdown between Aaron Rosa and Black House member Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, and the return of Kevin Casey, a fighter most notable for his association with Reality TV uber-douche Spencer Pratt.

Much like the WEC card of a few nights ago and WEC cards in general, the Challenger Series has routinely delivered high-quality MMA despite being drastically under the radar, and tonight will be no different.

Watch the events unfold live on Showtime or if you're in the Kansas City area, tickets are still available at the Memorial Hall box office.

Photo courtesy of Esther Lin / Strikeforce.

Continue reading...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

UFC 106 Fight Week Previews: Anthony Johnson vs. Josh Koscheck

Quickly put together in the wake of Brock Lesnar's inability to headline UFC 106, this is a welterweight matchup many fans have been looking forward to since it was announced.

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson is widely considered one of the top prospects in the sport, an entertaining young striker who many feel is destined for greatness and championship gold.

Standing across the cage will be the always eager to fight Josh Koscheck, an Ultimate Fighter 1 alum who is never afraid to speak his mind or test himself against the best available opponents.

This fight may have been a reactionary move, but it's a good one and could certainly end up proving to be the most exciting fight of the night.

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (8-2-0) vs. Josh Koscheck (13-4-0)

Without question, Koscheck takes the opening element of analysis - training team - as he is a part of the welterweight trio that works together with Dave Camarillo and "Crazy" Bob Cook at American Kickboxing Academy, while Johnson doesn't present any real team affiliation.

Along with Jon Fitch and Mike Swick, the three all reside inside the Top 10 in the division and work well together, preparing each other for their upcoming fights along with the rest of the AKA team.

Experience and strength of schedule certainly come out as wins for Koscheck as well, as the bleach-blond battler will be making his 16th appearance inside the Octagon, twice as many as his opponent.

While Johnson has certainly delivered some memorable finishes inside the cage, Koscheck has faced the far stiffer competition, having gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Frank Trigg, Thiago Alves and Dustin Hazelett, in addition to having spent 15 minutes fending off divisional kingpin Georges St-Pierre.

Johnson's most noteworthy win to date came in his last fight against the one opponent he shares with Koscheck, Yoshiyuki "Zenko" Yoshida.

As impressive as Johnson's striking was in the brief amount of time it took to knockout Yoshida, it was also a carbon copy of Koscheck's performance against the Japanese fighter at UFC Fight for the Troops last December. Johnson may have been a little quicker to the finish line, but this isn't a race.

Where Johnson earns his one edge in this matchup is in the style department.

Both are accomplished wrestlers, and while Koscheck certainly owns an advantage if the fight goes to the ground, he's shown a penchant for punching as of late and that could spell danger against a lightning-quick powerhouse like Johnson.

A lot of attention will be paid to this bout even before the step into the ring, as Friday's weigh-in will be under the microscope when it comes to Johnson.

Last time out, a knee injury and need weight-cutting routine left him an unacceptable six pounds overweight, leading many to wonder whether his future resides in the middleweight division.

While Johnson insists that he'll come in on weight without issue this time around, many are taking a wait-and-see approach.

If you're placing bets on which bout produces the "Knockout of the Night," this is the horse you want to be backing.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quest for Legitimacy Part III: Are You Serious?

Back in the beginning of things as an MMA writer, back-to-back days were spent discussing ways to further legitimize the sport in the eyes of the general public and the mainstream.

Since then, much has been discussed and in roads have been made, with the sport growing daily and creeping closer to garnering more substantial coverage.

In addition to needing more positive stories covered the mainstream, the sport will additionally never be taken seriously if pieces like this courtesy of UK-based MMA Bay do not stopped being circulated:

Canadian Health System Blamed for Severity of Lesnar's Illness

Please note: my objection to this piece has nothing to do with my nationality or my attitude towards Brock Lesnar. I would take equal offense to this gossip-mongering nonsense if I were from another country and wished ill upon the UFC champion as I do now as a Canadian member of Team Lesnar.

Let's start with the fact that the source for the information is Lesnar's chiropractor, Larry Novotny, who certainly doesn't stand to gain anything from getting his name out there in one of the biggest sports stories going...

Here is what Larry had to say:

His symptoms became severe while in Canada, which because of their health care system made it difficult to manage. And at this point it's a possibility that it could jeopardize his career.

I don't know if you've ever looked into the Health Care System here in Canada, but it's pretty solid. The last time the World Health Organization compiled rankings, Canada came in at #30.

While that was admittedly back in 2000 (they've ceased producing such rankings due to the enormity of the task), Canada's ranking was seven places higher than our neighbors to the South, you know, the country Lesnar calls home. The one without universal health care.

Something tells me that a lot hasn't changed since then, making Novotny's statement that about our health care system making things more difficult to manage make absolutely no sense.

Simply put, we have a better health care system here in Canada, and while I can attest first-hand that staffing levels are below what nurses would like (source: my wife... the nurse), the situation is the same throughout North America.

Disagreement with a chiropractor's views on the Canadian Health Care System aside, the fact that MMA Bay runs with this "story" in the first place is what frustrates me even more.

In 13 seconds of Google'ing, I was able to find those WHO stats which, at the very least, create speculation about the validity of the statements made by Mr. Novotny. A third grader could put together that kind of search, so what stops MMA Bay from doing the same?

The answer is readers and hits to their website.

This pseudo-story is surely getting the attention they desired, as the story came across my desk via an MMA news wire service, meaning it's making it's way through the masses, valid or not.

Additionally, the few comments that are contained on the site itself are all calls of "bullshit" as they should be, but that doesn't stop them.

Personally, I see this as reckless reporting and a blatant push for hollow hits to their website and story, and think that this approach to news is another of the impediments to our sport taking up its place in the mainstream.

If those of us who love the sport can't care enough to accurately report the news and shy away from baseless speculation and empty stories simply to draw attention, how can we expect the mainstream to feel obliged to do the same?

Continue reading...

UFC 106 Fight Week Preview: Amir Sadollah vs. Phil Baroni

Am I the only one who looks at this picture of Phil Baroni and immediately thinks of a stylized-MMA version of "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff?

While Jason "Mayhem" Miller brings flare to the fight game, he additionally backs it up inside the cage and has a number of quality wins to speak of. Baroni? Not so much.

Pair that with Amir "The UFC Segment Host" Sadollah and you have a very, very unappealing fight that has been promoted to the main card courtesy of a number of injuries and illness and the name recognition of two middle-of-the-pack-at-best fighters.

Can you tell how excited I am?

Amir Sadollah (1-1) vs. "The New York Bad Ass" Phil Baroni (13-11-0)

Remember last week when my predictions for the first two fights on the UFC 105 card were horribly wrong and lacked depth?

Well, the shocking lack of depth returns and we'll see about the results later in the week.

This could certainly be a very exciting fight, as Baroni has seriously heavy hands and Sadollah showed - albeit against one of the worst seasons of TUF competition out there - some skills but standing and with submission.

That being said, the TUF 7 winner lasted just 29 seconds in his official UFC debut against Johny Hendricks at UFC 101 and while he is extremely charismatic, self-deprecating and people seem to like him, none of those things help him in the cage.

As for Baroni, the last fight he won with any relevance whatsoever was quite some time ago depending on your opinions of Yuki Kondo, Ryo Chonan and Ikuhisa Minowa. If those guys don't register with you, we're going all the way back to UFC 39 where Baroni beat the first middleweight champ, Dave Menne.

That was in 2002.

Now, he's lost a boatload of name brand fights since then, dropping bouts to Matt Lindland, Evan Tanner, Kazuo Misaki, and Frank Shamrock, but just like Sadollah's smile doesn't help his cause, the list of guys that have beaten Baroni doesn't change the fact that he's a bare minimum of two years removed from being relevant.

How Jake Rosholt beats Chris Leben on the PPV portion of UFC 101 and gets relegated to the preliminaries when these two come in off losses and get middle of the broadcast coverage is beyond me...

Continue reading...

WEC 44 Punch Drunk Predictions

Is it just me or does it feel like we've been rattling off a lot of prediction pieces in the last couple weeks?

So far so good with an impressive November loaded with fight cards, as Fedor did well on CBS and UFC 105 was a respectable way to spend a Saturday evening last week.

Now, we're mid-week and dropping in on WEC 44, live tonight on Versus and headlined by a Featherweight title bout between champion Mike Thomas Brown and dynamic challenger Jose Aldo.

The breakdowns for the main card and the preliminary set have already been done. Now it's time to get to the picks.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 104-77

Preliminary Card

Frank Gomez over Seth Dikun via Submission, Round 2
Ricardo Lamas over James Krause via TKO Round 1
Antonio Banuelos over Kenji Osawa via Unanimous Decision
Cub Swanson over John Franchi via TKO Round 2
LC Davis over Diego Nunes via Split Decision
Kamal Shalorus over Will Kerr via TKO Round 2

Main Card

Danny Castillo over Shane Roller via TKO Round 2
Karen Darabedyan over "Razor" Rob McCullogh via Split Decision
Leonard Garcia over Manny Gamburyan via TKO Round 1

And in the Main Event of the evening...

Mike Thomas Brown over Jose Aldo via TKO (Round 4) to retain the WED Featherweight title.

Now touch gloves and come out swinging!

Continue reading...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WEC 44 Fight Week Previews: The Main Card

Hard to believe that it was just over a year ago that Mike Brown shocked the WEC by sending then-Featherweight champion Urijah Faber crashing to the mat with a well-placed punch, claiming the championship and a place atop the divisional rankings.

Still, that hasn't stopped some from refusing to give Brown the respect he rightfully deserves, as many are looking to tomorrow night's challenger Jose Aldo as the man to end the reign of the blue-collar champion with the motor that won't quit.

Before breaking down the main event, three other main card bouts deserve some discussion, so let's get to it.

Danny Castillo (8-1-0) vs. Shane Roller (6-2-0)

As if often the case when two solid wrestlers meet in the cage, this one could come down to who has the better stand-up game.

Castillo is a training partner of Urijah Faber with Team Alpha Male, while Roller has followed fellow Oklahoma State All-Americans Jake Rosholt and Johny Hendricks to Team Takedown.

If it does go to the ground, it's advantage Roller, as he's shown the better submission game since entering the WEC. That being said, if it stays standing, Castillo packs a punch, as evident by his TKO win over Ricardo Lamas last time out.

"Razor" Rob McCullough (17-5-0) vs. Kare Darabedyan (8-1-0)

McCullough is a former WEC lightweight champion and possesses outstanding Muay Thai. Darabedyan is a training partner of fellow Armenian-American Mixed Martial Arts veterans Karo "The Heat" Parisyan and Manvel "The Anvil" Gamburyan.

While "Razor" Rob has the edge in experience, Darabedyan owns a black belt in judo and a knockout win over Bellator competitor Estevan Payan last time out, so do not think this is a walk in the park for the former champ.

Manny Gamburyan (11-5-0) vs. Leonard Garcia (17-4-0)

The aforementioned Gamburyan makes his second appearance at 145 in the WEC and gets a stiff test in the form of former title contender and Greg Jackson student Leonard Garcia.

Gamburyan looked solid in handing John Franchi the first loss of his career in his featherweight debut, while Garcia bounced back from his loss to Mike Brown with a split decision victory over Jameel Massouh.

As always, the key will be who dictates the fight: Gamburyan will look to keep in on the ground and grind out a win, while Garcia will be letting his heavy hands fly early and often as long as the fight remains standing.

Champion Mike Brown (22-4-0) vs. Challenger Jose Aldo (15-1-0)

Aldo has certainly been impressive since joining the WEC. His most recent win was a highlight reel double flying knee to the head of Cub Swanson and his striking is among the most dynamic there is in the sport.

That being said, he's never faced a challenge remotely as tough as Mike Brown.

The champ not only fought a tougher road to get his first title shot, beating veteran Jeff "Big Frog" Curran, but subsequently stopped the equally-dynamic former champion Urijah Faber to claim the title.

Since then, he's stopped Leonard Garcia and earned a second consecutive win over Faber, pushing his winning streak to ten and cementing his place on a number of Pound-for-Pound lists.

One thing is for certain for Wednesday night's main event: one way or another, there are going to be fireworks.

Continue reading...

UFC 106 Fight Week Previews: Luis Cane vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

After years of being considered one of the top 205-pound talents outside the UFC, Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira will make his debut against fellow Brazilian light heavyweight Luis Arthur Cane.

From here on out, The Noguiera's will be referred to by their middle names, Rodrigo and Rogerio. It's just easier that way, especially when they have the same nickname.

While his debut is hotly anticipated, this match-up is certainly not a showcase fight, as Luiz Cane has been dominating fights and putting on impressive performance after impressive performance since joining the UFC in 2007.

Both men have a lot to prove with this fight, as one will climb higher up the ladder, while the other will be forced to regroup.

Luis Arthur "Banha" Cane (10-1-0) vs. Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira (17-3-0)

It's not often that the breakdown of training camps results in a push, but what other decision can be rendered when one fight trains with the vaunted Black House team and the other spends his days in Coconut Creek with American Top Team?

Both have great partners and great teachers, meaning both will have great game plans and be in optimal shape coming into this fight. This is a clear cut push.

Experience and strength of schedule goes to Nogueira, as in addition to having nearly twice as many fights as his younger counterpart, Rogerio holds wins over Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and "The Gracie Killer" Kazushi Sakuraba to name a few.

Despite looking strong in wins over Sokoudjou and Steve Cantwell, Cane cannot hold a candle to the number of rounds Nogueira has logged inside the ring and under the bright lights of the Pride stage.

Interestingly enough, these two fighters share an opponent, the aforementioned Thierry Sokoudjou.

While Cane dominated "The African Assassin" in earning a stoppage victory at UFC 89, Sokoudjou's 23 second victory over Nogueira served as the first of his back-to-back upset wins that put him on the map and propelled him to serious prospect status following the fall of Pride.

Advantage Cane.

Stylistically, this has the potential to be an interesting bout, as Nogueira isn't one to shy away from a boxing match and Cane has shown strong stand-up skills of his own, as well as a good chin.

However, if this fight goes to the floor, Nogueira has a serious advantage, as just like his brother, Rogerio is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with an ability to snatch the minute you leave it exposed for too long.

Just ask Dan Henderson.

One of these fighters will push their name forward into the title discussion after this bout, while the other will have to take a step back before trying to advance again.

Both want to keep climbing the ladder, so expect one hell of a fight come Saturday night.

Continue reading...

Monday, November 16, 2009

WEC 44 Fight Week Previews: The Prelims

As the signage says, WEC 44: Brown vs. Aldo takes place this Wednesday night from The Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With such a short time frame before the fights take place - and coming off the busy week that was UFC 105 - the week-long Fight Week Previews series will be coming to you in condensed form over the next two days, beginning with The Prelims.

Before we get there though, a recommendation to all those claiming MMA fandom who have no idea who Mike Brown or Jose Aldo are: you need to check out this show and old WEC shows and future WEC shows.

Without fail, each and every WEC event delivers some of the best bell-to-bell action in the sport and while these guys certainly do not receive anywhere near the acclaim and attention of their UFC counterparts, you're not going to find a more exciting brand of action than the WEC.

Onto the previews...

Seth Dikun (7-3-0) vs. Frank Gomez (7-1-0)

Dikun enters the fight off a fantastic flying triangle submission of Rolando Perez at WEC 41 that leveled his company record at 1-1. Gomez comes in off a rebound win over TUF veteran Noah Thomas following the first loss of his career. Regardless of who comes away with the win, expect a finish, as these two have just four decisions between them in 18 fights.

Ricardo Lamas (6-1-0) vs. James Krause (10-1-0)

Both fighters are coming off the first defeat of their careers, Lamas dropping a decision to Danny Castillo and Krause getting stopped by Donald Cerrone. Though Krause comes in off the bigger name fight, Lamas is a fast and promising prospect who was on the wrong end of an excellent punch last time out and looks to be the stronger of the two.

Antonio Banuelos (17-5-0) vs. Kenji Osawa (15-8-2)

Banuelos is a WEC mainstay, making his eighth appearance for the company and coming in off a win over Scotty "Young Guns" Jorgensen back in June. Osawa has 25 fights under his belt, including a win over title contender Takeya Mizugaki, as well as having lost to the aforementioned Jorgensen.

Cub Swanson (13-3-0) vs. John Franchi (5-1-0)

If you're not a huge follower of the WEC and are wondering where you've heard the name Cub Swanson before, it could be because he was the guy on the receiving end of a double flying knee from Jose Aldo last time he stepped into the cage. While he hasn't quite found his footing in the WEC as of yet, Swanson is still a very talented prospect with a bright future ahead of him.

The verdict is still out on John Franchi. He suffered his first loss last time out, losing to UFC veteran Manny Gamburyan, but wasn't overly impressive in his WEC debut against Mike Budnik.

Diego Nunes (13-0-0) vs. LC Davis (14-2-0)

This is going to be your Fight of the Night.

The unbeaten Nunes has looked dominant in two, three-round victories over Cole Province and Rafael Dias, while Davis has come over following the fall of Affliction and looks to continue his success as a part of the Featherweight division.

Davis' two losses come to Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix finalist Michihiro Omigawa and highly-regarded Wagnney Fabiano and the skilled wrestler will surely be the toughest test to date for the Brazilian.

Kamal Shalorus (4-0-1) vs. Will Kerr (8-1-0)

Shalorus is a wrestler who has competed in a number of submission grappling events in addition to making the transition to MMA, while Kerr is a replacement for injured Alex Karalexis.

Normally, when you're replacing a solid veteran against an guy with little experience or name recognition, it means the guy no one has heard of is pretty solid and you could be in for a painful night.

Watching video of Shalorus slamming Joachim "Hellboy" Hansen at the 2005 European Qualifiers for the ADCC's only confirmed that suspicion.

Continue reading...

UFC 106 Fight Week Preview: Karo Parisyan vs. Dustin Hazelett

Nothing like starting off a Monday morning with a little McLovin!

Fresh off the heals of Saturday's free show from Manchester, the Frankenstein monster of UFC cards lands in our laps from Las Vegas this weekend. Illness and injuries are the story of this card, as the once impressive card is now a mixed martial arts mash-up of available fights and marketable names.

Despite all the shuffling and changes, we've still got McLovin on the pay-per-view and any chance to reference Superbad can't be all bad, right?

Karo "The Heat" Parisyan (18-5-0, 1 NC) vs. Dustin "McLovin" Hazelett (12-4-0)

Even though Hazelett trains with a solid group of guys and earned his BJJ black belt under Jorge Gurgel, Parisyan gets the easy edge in terms of training by being a member of the Jackson's Submission Fighting team.

While Aaron Riley may have been on the wrong end of a serious beating on Saturday in England, more often than not, Jackson fighters are primed and ready when the cage door closes.

Couple that with Parisyan having been out of competition for nine months following his positive test for painkillers and there is no doubt in my mind that Parisyan will look better than he has before in this fight.

These two fighters share one opponent, "The People's Warrior" Josh Burkman.

Both Parisyan and Hazelett earned wins over the former TUF 2 competitor; "The Heat" earned a Unanimous Decision at UFC 71, while Hazelett pulled off an amazing armbar that earned Submission of the Year honors from Sherdog at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 7.

Unfortunately, coolness of finish doesn't change the fact that both fighters earned wins, so common opponents is a push. Strength of schedule, on the other hand, goes to Parisyan.

While part of the result comes from the Armenian-American simply having more experience inside the cage than his Cincinnati-born counterpart, Parisyan has been a staple in the middle tier of the UFC welterweight division for some time now, while McLovin is working his way up the ladder.

Where this fight gets real interesting is in the clash of styles and the opportunities that could be presented therein.

Parisyan is a high-level judoka who likes to control the action on the cage, work for a throw or takedown and then utilize his ground and pound to finish the fight. More often than not, that translates into "battle the other guy against the cage for position, control the action and win by decision."

What makes Parisyan's approach interesting in this fight is Hazelett's equally high level jiu jitsu game. While having a bigger and stronger judo practitioner laying into you on the fence for 15 minutes doesn't sound overly appealing, the closeness that will surely transpire should offer a number of opportunities for Hazelett to snatch an arm, look for kimuras and try to finish the fight.

Don't expect fireworks on the feet; Hazelett will mix in a few leg kicks early and to find range, but most of this fight will be spent pummeling and positioning, with whoever exploits the first opening probably coming away with the win.

Continue reading...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

UFC 105: 10 Things We Learned Last Night

1. Time to Fix Things... And Fast

Controversial decision aren't good for business and the UFC has had back-to-back main events end with a lot of people questioning the results, and it obvious that the current issues with judging need to be dealt with, quickly.

This one comes down to the weight of different criteria - Randy Couture's "Octagon Control" versus the "Damage Done" by Brandon Vera, with a sprinkling of takedowns for seasoning.

While Couture certainly forced Vera up against the cage for a large portion of the fight, you can't stop a guy by holding him against the cage. However, you can stop him with powerful kicks to the body that send him to the ground wincing.

Additionally, Couture's takedown is nullified by the fact that he kept Vera there for nine seconds, unlike the time Vera took Couture to the floor and mounted him. While it was brief, it's still a dominant position and I was under the impression that those things scored points?

2. That Being Said, Part I

Say hello to another shining example of why you don't let fights go to the judges.

Finishing a fight is far easier said than done; it's not like you can just walk in there and punch Randy Couture in the face and call it a night. That being said, the judges have screwed things up before and seem to be doing it more frequently, so why take the chance?

While you can't throw caution to the wind and go full-out on offense, pouncing when your opponent is hurt and trying to stay in advantageous positions is far better than having your heart broken when the three men at ringside didn't see it the same way you did.

3. That Being Said, Part II

Can we finally stop thinking that Brandon Vera is going to put it all together and live up to the ridiculous boasts he made early in his career? He's just not that good.

While I still think he won the fight, when it's clear you're getting the best of it when you're in space, how in the name of all things right in the world do you continually end up in the clinch? Use your reach, get space, be the aggressor... all things that could have wrapped up a win for Brandon Vera.

But instead, he did only enough to make it tight and then sat on the steps of the cage dejected after the fight. Yes, the judges screwed up in my opinion, but Vera certainly could have done a whole lot more to keep that from happening.

Every time he's given an opportunity to move forward, he stalls. I didn't believe the Brandon Vera hype to begin with and I certainly won't be buying into it in the future.

4. "Quick" Swick Got Out Quicked

The guy with the fast hands got beat to the punch time and again last night, as Dan Hardy countered and combo'ed his way to a Unanimous Decision victory.

This fight showed how tight the middle tier of the UFC Welterweight division really is, as Swick was the favorite and higher-ranked fighter heading into the bout, while Hardy was seen by some as an overhyped British prospect who needed more seasoning.

Swick is still a considerable talent at 170 and will maintain his position in the four-through-ten range of the rankings, while Hardy showed he belongs in that area too. While this was a big win for Hardy, it did nothing to diminish the talents of Mike Swick.

The better man simply won.

5. To The Victor Go The Spoils?

Dana White had said the winner of the Dan Hardy - Mike Swick fight would face Georges St-Pierre, and there was GSP last night, dressed as sharp as ever, congratulating Hardy on his effort and beginning the promotion of their eventual clash.

As stated at, "Congratulations Dan... Enjoy the Beating."

This is what happens when the welterweight champ cleans out the division. While Dan Hardy has been impressive and earned his way into a match-up atop the marquee with GSP, he's at best #4 in the division and even that is stretching it.

Unfortunately, St-Pierre has dismantled everyone else in the last two years, so Hardy becomes next in line. While there is always an outside chance of pulling a Matt Serra, the greater likelihood is that GSP drags Hardy to the floor for five rounds and maintains his position of dominance in the division.

Some reward, huh?

6. The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

Dan Hardy looked good. After he got tagged, Michael Bisping looked good. Ross Pearson looked real good. James Wilks looked solid in defeat and the Brits on the preliminary card all acquitted themselves pretty well too...

Perhaps this whole new wave of British MMA stars isn't just pomp and circumstance after all?

In addition to having a strong national showing, a battle for training camp supremacy has clearly started, as Team Rough House had an exceptional night with Hardy, Pearson and Andre Winner all earning wins.

While Wolfslair might still be the most well-known, another couple of nights like this and Rough House will certainly have something to say about that.

7. "The Real Deal" Indeed

Now, one fight certainly doesn't make a career, but Ross Pearson couldn't have had a better performance than his official UFC debut last night.

Before continuing, allow me: Holy crap was I wrong on that one!

Pearson destroyed Aaron Riley in every aspect, utilizing a great clinch, precise boxing and ending things with a devastating jumping knee to the face that split Riley wider than the doctors could consider reasonable, forcing the fight to be called.

While his ground game is still a question mark and something that will certainly be tested in the wrestling-heavy lightweight division, this kid lived up to his name, at least for last night.

8. The Hard Sell Never Really Works That Well

The UFC worked hard leading up to this fight to make Brandon Vera seem like a vaunted challenge for Randy Couture and that a win over Vera would send Couture into the upper echelon of the 205-pound division.

Ah... not so much.

Vera was Vera, Couture continued to look like Couture - capable but with limitations - and no one came away from that fight thinking, "You know? Randy Couture would be a handful for Lyoto Machida."

Even better, we're getting the hard sell on next weekend's main event too, as if Tito Ortiz's return and rematch with Forrest Griffin is something epic. If you hear a thunder of footsteps, chances are it's horses, not zebras... no matter how much the guide tells you it's zebras!

9. Brock Lesnar is Seriously Ill

This isn't about whether you like or dislike Brock Lesnar, so anyone interested in saying he has "chickenshititis" or is ducking Shane Carwin ... don't.

The guy is seriously ill and was rushed to the hospital recently. This isn't about fighting, this is about another human being dealing with whatever mysterious illness he has and getting better, not to fight again, but to live a normal life.

Minotauro Noguiera has additionally contracted staph again and will not be meeting Cain Velasquez at UFC 108. It's like he's gone back in time to play for the Cleveland Browns of two years ago...

Just kidding - get well soon, Big Nog!

10. Everyone Takes Aim When You're On Top

Whether it's as a fighter, in the business world or as a writer, if you're at the top of the heap, there are going to be a ton of people looking to cut you down.

Nothing you say or do will change the way your detractors feel about you, and no matter what you say, they'll find a way to spin it in their favor, call you out again and then tell you you're complaining for defending your position.

What's more is that they have suggestions galore about what you can do to improve, how you should act, what you should and shouldn't do, since pointing out your shortcomings or errors is easier than working to improve themselves.

People are going to believe whatever they want about you and more of them will try to cut you down than help build you up. All you can do is keep pushing forward for yourself and let the cards fall where they may.

Jealous Ones Still Envy... whether they like to admit it or not.

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