Sunday, May 6, 2012

New site.

Check out the first piece I did for my new site!

Thanks, everyone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

UFC 145: Who Let The Dog's Out?


UFC 145 is a strange looking collection of fights. You have Stephen Thompson, a fighter that you can pencil in as Joe Rogan's next big "You know, there ARE good things about karate. It's all a matter of putting together skills around your karate base that can make a tough fight for any opponent" anecdote. You have Maximo Blanco making his promotional debut, which is going to be a nail biter for any athletic commission bigwig. You even have another appearance by Efrain Escudero, who will most assuredly disappoint us by fighting to his detriment.

On the main card, simply put, you have some big underdogs. This is due to the star power of the main event between Jones and Evans, which I will shamelessly refer to you here if you missed my take. When you see a card like this, your natural inclination is to wonder what underdog is going to pull off a big upset. Honestly, I don't think any of them will. This card could very well be a horror show. However, what's the fun in that? Here's how I think the main card plays out ...

Ben Rothwell vs. Brendan Schaub

The last time the Octagon was graced by the presence of Ben Rothwell, he was fighting at altitude. The results were ... grisly. Like, Ichi the Killer grisly. Tom DeBlass gassed pretty damn hard in Sweden last weekend, but there were circumstances there; he took the fight on ten days notice; he was battling jet lag; and he was fighting Cyrille Diabate, a guy that you usually have to really murder in order to beat him.

By the second round of his fight with Mark Hunt, Rothwell was moving about as fluidly as C3PO. I'm certain that I'm spending way too much time yakking about how tired he was ... but, I mean, this was a fight where Mark Hunt almost armbarred a good heavyweight.

(Which would have been one of the greatest moments in MMA history, by the way. What could possibly top that? Cheick Kongo fighting a clean fight? Royce Gracie leaving a fool stretcher bound with one punch? Also, I think the fact that Joe Rogan saw Hunt go for the armbar and immediately started excitedly coaching him on how to finish it speaks volumes. Like he instantly understood how huge it would have been.)

Rothwell is still a good heavyweight, but there are serious questions about not only his endurance, but his ability to perform even when he's fresh. He's just not a guy that's going to set your world on fire. He's a grinder, and I don't think he's the kind of striker that could put one on the chin of Brendan Schaub and blow him away.

Schaub is a bit of a stiff. Rodrigo Nogueira flattened him, something he hadn't done since he caught Sanae Kikuta all those years ago. Kikuta is basically a middleweight. So ... yeah. Brendan Schaub isn't good at taking punches.

Like many other fights on this card, this is quite simply a bounce back fight for a relatively popular fighter, and that's precisely what I expect out of Schaub here. He'll be able to stifle any Rothwell attempt to bring the fight to the ground, because Ben seems to be a bit shopworn at this point. He's a tough guy, and I don't think Brendan will finish him. But this fight has all the makings of a 30-27 for Brendan Schaub. He'll win this fight via punching Rothwell's midwestern dome. Schaub by decision.

Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio

I'm truly fascinated by John Alessio's "after 47 pro fights, I'm finally hitting my stride" quotes. Maybe it'll end up being similar to a few years ago when the eternally crotchety Tom Coughlin inexplicably loosened up, started cracking jokes and scheduling bowling nights, and immediately won the Super Bowl.

He also might end up being the same old John Alessio, a guy that has one of the best jabs in the business, can be drawn into a firefight where he's definitely hittable, and has been known to get stuck playing guard because his defensive wrestling isn't exactly the bees knees. On top of that, he's coming off of a thrilling yet grueling performance against a buzzsaw of a fighter in Ryan Healy.

Mark Bocek isn't going to draw Alessio into the aforementioned firefight, because beyond a decent straight right, he's someone that wants to grapple at all costs. And grappling is something he's better at than Alessio. He's coming off a workmanlike win against World of Warcraft veteran Nik Lentz. This fight got hammered for being "boring", but to me, there was alot of interesting action that took place. You had Bocek's underrated top position game clashing with Lentz's savvier-than-you'd-expect guard game. Granted, the fight didn't have you leaping off the sofa, but I went away from that fight really, really impressed by Bocek's relentlessness on top.

I think Alessio gets tapped here. I'm sure he'll find some measure of success on the feet, but he doesn't quite have the wrestling chops to deal with someone like Bocek. I can understand why Zuffa gave Alessio another shot, but he's in water that's a bit too deep here. Bocek will wrap up his signature rear naked choke after wearing John Alessio out on top. Bocek by submission, round three.

Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald

Little known fact: Miguel Angel Torres is undefeated since he made his "rape van" tweets. Of course, he also hasn't technically, you know, had a fight, but that's beside the point. When I heard Torres was fired for making those tweets, I was beside myself, for two reasons. One was that I knew there was no way it would stick. Two ties into one; because I knew it wouldn't stick, I also knew that there was a solid chance that we'd get the Roger Goodell-Michael Vick routine from a few years ago. You know, where Torres is essentially forced to apologize, and where we as fans sit back with our imaginary Freudian pipes and go "Well, he handled his mistake like a man, he admitted he did wrong, and he deserves another chance", as though we're all psychologists. That whole routine grows old.

But now that we're through it, we get a thrilling Torres-Michael McDonald scrap that has Fight of the Night written all over it. McDonald is a young gun that I honestly like as a prospect more than Rory MacDonald (more on his later). He's a good striker with an excellent sense of when to throw his punches. Even though he can get a bit reckless, I like him to beat up Torres if the fight hits the ground. Torres will always make it interesting, especially off of his back.

The one thing that gives me pause when picking McDonald is the jab of Miguel Torres, which he's shown a willingness to trust in recent fights. I don't remember McDonald ever throwing a jab, and with Torres' reach, he might be able to ding up Mayday from range. Don't rule this out.

This is going to be a good one. Basically, it comes down to this question: can McDonald draw Torres into a slobberknocker? If he can, I love him to land big punches on Torres and possibly finish him. I see some crazy scrambles happening, some great guard work from Torres that probably won't help him because some judges are still idiots, some feverish punching exchanges occuring, and Miguel Torres' cornerman telling him to use his jab every round as he's sitting on his stool wondering why he's getting beaten to the punch. McDonald by decision.

Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills

Okay. You're Che Mills. You've been one of Europe's top welterweights for years, you have rock solid standup, and you finally make it to the UFC. If that weren't cool enough, you get to make your debut against a guy whose entire reputation is that he yells during fights to try to distract people from the fact that he's a terrible mixed martial artist. Of course, you blow through him, because again, he's terrible. What caliber of guy should your next UFC bout be against?

While you're considering that, pretend that you're Rory MacDonald. To go the full 9, adopt a Canadian accent and start saying things like "yeah, he was kickin my ah-ss". You're a man-child that has passed every test so far except Carlos Condit, the interim champ. You're coming off of two impressive wins; one was a fight with Nathan Diaz where you threw him around the cage like an Ultimate Ball (I'd be remiss if I didn't weave an Ultimate Ball reference in here somewhere); the other was against ground wizard Mike Pyle, whom you promptly took to the ground and basically hurt his feelings. These are two quality wins, two wins that basically walk up to you and say "I should be fighting a top ten guy next." 

The answer to the first question is Jake Hecht, or someone else in that phylum (Hecht was the only one I could find that doesn't already have a fight coming up, but you get the idea.) The answer to the first question is NOT Rory MacDonald, a guy I'm not especially high on, but also someone who is making huge leaps and bounds on his journey to a 170 pound title shot. 

(Which isn't a lock, by the way. Rory Mac has beastly skills when it comes to his wrestling and ground work. There's no question. But this guy is still a bit stiff on his feet, and he's still 3 fights away from a title shot, in my opinion. In fact, he's 4 fights away, because beating Che Mills doesn't really represent much beyond "he beat a good, overmatched welterweight.")

Seriously, I'm baffled by the GSP quotes that he's moving to 185 because he doesn't want to fight Rory Mac. Really, Georges? Talk about putting pressure on a guy. I think a good, hard striker like Thiago Alves could really hurt Rory, and until he starts fighting guys like Hendricks, Koscheck, Ellenberger, and the like, I'm not ready to christen him at the next big thing at 170.

That being said, Rory is going to smash Che Mills. As I alluded to, Che could find success on his feet, but I think this is going to be one of those fights where every round starts with Che going ballistic trying to land that one big shot because he knows he's behind, only to have Rory take him down again. Mills is tough, and I don't see a stoppage. Rory by decision.

Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin

I'm going to come out and speak my mind: they should have just named this weekend's card "UFC 145: Saturday Night Raw". Most of the main card matchups were made with the intention of putting some guy over. The reason I'm focusing on this viewpoint is because it's really pretty difficult for Joe Silva and Sean Shelby to put a card together these days with these intentions being so obvious. I mean, do you really think Zuffa would give a hoot if anything bad happened to Eddie Yagin? No. They want Mark Hominick to go gangbusters here, because when (if?) he does, then that validates his title shot and erases (maybe?) his previous 6 second loss to my man the Korean Zombie.

Eddie Yagin is a former prospect. For years, the talk in Hawaii was that there was this Eddie Yagin guy that was going to make it huge someday. It never totally worked out, but Yagin did have a nice victory over Joe Soto, and in doing so earned his long coveted shot in the UFC. He was promptly beaten up by Junior Assuncao, who in currently unemployed. Basically, he's a good first UFC fight for an up-and-comer, not a guy that should be on main cards fighting someone of Mark Hominick's caliber.

But, here we are. I, like many others, was pretty surprised at how he went out against Chan Sung Jung. For such a technically sound boxer to just leave his head exposed like that was a pretty epic brainfart, and he paid for it dearly. I don't see any way that something like that happens again, especially in this fight. Mark Hominick is just too good.

He might end up playing guard for a bit in this fight, because I don't think Yagin is going to enjoy standing and banging with him. Then again, those Hawaiians have definitely been known to go out of their shield. But Yagin is thoroughly outclassed here. I think Hominick comes out and starts doing Hominick things: throwing pinpoint jabs, digging to the body, and finishing with hard left hooks. Mark by knockout, second round.

Enjoy the fights.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans: Breaking it Down








I'm starting to write this column on the 8th of April, and the fight is scheduled for April 21st, so if anything happens between now and then that postpones the fight AGAIN, I'd like to go ahead and accept the blame. It's my fault.

The chances of this happening are slim, though. This fight is happening at a perfect time: Jones has all but cleaned out the top of the light heavyweight division, and Rashad has continued to improve his overall game. I thought it'd be fun to break this down into categories. Then again, I also thought it'd be fun to see Avatar in the theater. Gross misstep aside, you'll just have to trust me. 

Wrestling & ground game

Rashad has always called wrestling his base, but he's become much more aggressive on the floor, especially in his last fight. I think it's trash can juice that some people painted his last win as "same ol' Rashad, 5 round dry humping for a decision, Bones is going to kill him". Really? That was absolute ground dominance over a guy that's very good on the ground. When the hell has Rashad freaking Evans ever gone for the mounted crucifix? Not only that, but when has he actually achieved that position and tried like hell to finish from there? Never. He used to get a takedown, wonder if he left the iron on, think about his tax return, and lay there. His opponent would usually get up, and he'd do it again. No more. Rashad, at the very least, gave Jones more things to think about with his last performance.

Then again, Jon Jones throws guys around with an ease I can't remember seeing out of anyone, has a front headlock series that usually ends with people counting sheep, and has elbows so nasty that they broke Brandon Vera's face and made Shogun Rua tap. Shogun Rua didn't even tap after he dislocated his elbow against Coleman. Bones is a beast. 

Edge: Jones

Striking

Hang on, quick tangent. For all the vitriol directed towards Rashad, do people realize that this is still a guy that has lost only ONCE? Granted, his "strategy" in the Machida fight was pretty reprehensible (as far as I could tell, it was "bounce around on the outside until I jump right into a left cross and am summarily destroyed"), but, moment of weakness aside, his striking strategy and execution has always been pretty sound.

He's always been a guy that utilizes his quickness and power, dancing around and leaping in with punches when the time is right. In his last fight, he showed more of a flat footed boxing style. Against Jones, I think we'll see a little bit of both. Rashad has to give Jon different looks, but he's not much of a kicker (epic KO of Sean Salmon aside, of course), so he'll have to give him different looks by way of his footwork and punching combinations. Rashad clearly has more one shot power than Jonny Bones.

Unfortunately for Spartan fans, that's where Evans' advantages on the feet end. Bones' striking still has the potential to get him in trouble, as his last fight proved. Lyoto did his "move around and pounce" routine, and it seemed to freeze Bones for spurts in that fight. Still, Bones has everything you'd ever want in his proverbial standup toolbox: youth, athleticism, reach for days, and the willingness to throw almost anything. Spinning back elbows, increasingly impressive knees and punches, and the rarely-talked-about front stomp to the knee. Every time he does that, I think "ooo ... that's gotta hurt." But nobody ever acknowledges it because it's the least spectacular strike he throws. Allow me to be the first. Anyway, Rashad has to be a mobile target or he's just going to get smoked. Don't rule this out, though. This is a more interesting fight on the feet than people think. 

Edge: Jones

Personality

The problem with me writing this column is that it's really just a thinly veiled defense of everything Rashad Evans. Honestly, I wasn't aware of this when I started typing, but I realize it now. And now that I know my intentions, screw it ... I, for the life of me, do not understand detractors of Rashad Evans. Now, as we all know, MMA fans can (and often do) hate any fighter for just about any reason, even things as abstract as "I just think he has a punchable face" and "I don't like the way he carries himself." If this is the reason you despise Rashad Evans (or Jon Jones, for that matter), then I really have nothing to say to you, because you're the kind of person that isn't interested in thinking about mixed martial arts objectively. However, if you're one of those people I've heard (and there have been many) that are painting this matchup as "I hope they knock each other out, these are two spoiled, cocky black athletes that really get under my skin", can I just say ... do you not realize how different these two guys are as people??

Have you ever seen a Rashad Evans interview? He's one of the most thoughtful, down-to-earth, and downright NORMAL guys fighting in the UFC today. I'm issuing a challenge to anyone who reads this: find me a Rashad Evans clip where he refers to himself in the third person, or says something overly grandiose or religiously insane or just plain irrational. Find me that clip, and I'll walk to wherever you are and buy you a Yoo Hoo.

Jon Jones' piety and grandiosity has been well documented at this point. He thinks he's God's gift to fighting. Now, I don't know the ins-and-outs of the Jones-Evans-Jackson soap opera, but when Rashad calls Jones "fake" because he's "seen him in life", I think he means something very specific.

Allow me to speculate. What if, when he says he's "seen him in life", he's calling out his hyposcrisy in calling himself a "Christian" and a "child of God" despite the fact that he's clearly a nightclub dweller who seems to believe his own hype with a fervor we haven't seen since the heyday of a young Mike Tyson?

Here's my take: Jon Jones doesn't believe what he says he believes. I don't buy his act. He's afraid of being honest, because he thinks that doing so would make him appear weak. It's exactly the kind of thing that happens to someone when they experience so much success at such a young age, and they do so without any missteps. In a way, it's understandable. But that doesn't make the piety any less laughable.

Jon Jones is going to beat Rashad Evans on April 21st. He's going to kick and throw punches from range, and when Rashad comes inside, Jones is going to clinch up with him and do terrible things to him against the cage. It might even end with Rashad going to sleep. But I'll say 3 things:

1. This will be a more competitive fight than people think.

2. Psychologically, I am firmly entrenched on the side of Rashad Evans.

3. Nobody needs this loss more than Jon Jones. Only then can he potentially become a human being. 

Edge: Jones (but every day that goes by, I like Evans a little more)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Changes

Big changes are coming soon to the MMA Movement. Lots of new content, a new look, and a new location.

I had to take a bit of a hiatus from writing this past month to focus on other aspects of my life. The old "just needed to recharge my batteries" excuse, yes, but it's the truth.

I sincerely appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read the nonsense I've written thus far, and I hope those people and many new ones follow me to my new location, which will be made public in the next couple of weeks.

I've got lots of articles and new ideas loaded in the chamber, and I'm really excited to share them with you guys. I'll post maybe one more here and then I'll be moving all of them to my new digs. Take care, and watch some fights. Your lives will be better.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bellator Pros and Cons



Bellator Fighting Championships is back, and I don't know about you, but I missed it. The UFC is now seemingly running on every channel except Lifetime and the Oxygen Network, but Bellator is (are?) quietly putting together increasingly impressive fight cards and a deep roster of fighters. Here are a few pros and cons about a compelling promotion that is clearly #2 in the world right now. We'll start with the cons, because this is my column, and I do things my way (sorry, I wanted to sound like a dick for a second).

Cons

The tournament format

This harkens back to the PRIDE days, where Takanori Gomi could go nuh-night at the hands of a Marcus Aurelio arm triangle and still be considered the lightweight champion. These days, Joe Warren can show up and fight the exact same way every single time because he hasn't bothered to attempt improvements as a mixed martial artist. And guess what? He can even be brutally knocked out and still keep his "title"!

Even though Pat Curran finally put his title "reign" down for a mercifully permanent nap at Bellator 60, it's nothing short of laughable that Warren held a belt in a major promotion for so long. Even announcers Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock made no attempt to gloss this over; their call of Curran-Warren was filled with them saying things like "Joe Warren has 7 MMA victories and he's been rocked in all 7 of them!" and "This is a typical Joe Warren round; he gets rocked and somehow survives and keeps pushing forward!" Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I could go another 1,000 words on Joe Warren, but I'll spare you. The point is, the fact that you can lose in a tourney and still conceivably keep your belt is both bogus and lame. Congrats to Pat Curran.

The heavyweights

I'll give praise to the overall roster later in this piece, but I'd be pulling wool over people's eyes if I pretended that this heavyweight division was anything other than putrid. It's a horror show. This is a division where Sean McCorkle is looked at as a big signing. The crazy thing is, in this division, he IS a big signing.

The contracts

Here's where it gets ugly. When you sign with Bellator, you're with them for a hot minute. Eddie Alvarez doesn't want to fight for Bellator anymore, which is understandable considering that his name was nowhere to be found in this season's lightweight tournament bracket. Alvarez recently stated that "I still have 8 or 9 months left on my Bellator contract, or one or two fights." Keep in mind that he isn't even their champ anymore. Basically, he's in no mans land, and he found himself there because after his loss to Michael Chandler, he attempted to restructure his contract. Bad move.

If you're a Bellator champion, it gets crazier. You have to wait for an entire tournament to be over to even find out who you're fighting next. And when you don't, that's when the goofy "Lombard-Prangley" matchups take place.

Bellator has to find a way to keep their champs more active against solid competition, and I'm not sure what the solution is. 

Pros

The off-season 

Sometimes, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. With Bellator's tournament format, there are going to be layoffs. But to me, the layoffs produce more excitement and build-up within the narrow confines of my brain. One of the downfalls of Zuffa is that great fights are happening nearly every week (which is a great problem to have, but still). There's no time to think about great fights that just happened because there's always another one right around the corner.
 
Allow me a comparison. Whenever I see a great movie in the theater, before I even stand up, I sit there and analyze how good the movie was while the credits roll. I think about the things I liked, the things I would have changed, and how this film is going to permeate my thoughts for the next couple of days. Maybe I'm insane for thinking this way, but I'm in no rush to experience life at someone else's pace.

Well, imagine if, in my previous example, instead of the credits rolling, another great movie started up 25 seconds after the movie I just watched ended. It's too much. TOO MUCH.

(I know that was a convoluted and absurd comparison. Just go with it.)

Willingness to make changes when things aren't working
  
This is a biggie. Remember Bellator's inception, when they made a concerted effort to appeal to the Mexican-American audience? They signed Roger Huerta, Eddie Alvarez and a bunch of Latino dudes I'd never heard of, and they ran on ESPN Deportes. You don't remember this, do you? The reason is because it didn't work, and instead of stubbornly sticking to their guns, they decided to just be another good MMA promotion. In other news, the UFC is unequivocally the worlds #1 fighting promotion, and they just NOW got rid of Gladiator Man. On top of this, Bruce Buffer is STILL employed. Zuffa rules the world right now, but there are still cues they could take from Bellator.

There are other examples. Last season, Bellator made the inexplicable decision to not only run on Saturday nights (which is the same night as ... well, you know), but to do so on MTV2. Apparantely, they wanted to rope in those 15 year old kids who were tuning in for "Parental Control". Anyway, Bjorn Rebney made the right move and decided to slowly make the move over to Spike TV. He also abandoned the Saturday slot and opted for Friday, which makes sense for so many reasons that I won't bore you with all of them. The right moves are being made.

The roster

I love what they're doing here. Sure, there's still the occasional "Geez, Hector Lombard hasn't fought in awhile, and the middleweight tournament hasn't even started yet ... I wonder if Trevor Prangley is busy?" (most recently evidenced by the outright silly Michael Chandler-Akihiro Gono pairing) panic move, but they're becoming few and far between.

They have a good crop of relevant veterans (Marlon Sandro, Pat Curran, Hector Lombard, Marius Zaromskis, Eddie Alvarez, Brian Foster, etc.), as well as an ever-increasing list of young guys that are improving each time out (Douglas Lima, Michael Chandler, Alexandre "Popo" Bezzera, Patricky Friere, Eduardo Dantas, Marcin Held, etc.). It's becoming a really nice balance of talent, which really manifests itself in a positive way because they do shows every week. There's a reason the same guys fight at every DREAM show; it's because there are no other options. Bellator has tons of them.

All in all, this is a promotion that is going places. They've managed to avoid being Zuffa'd (i.e. bought just for the hell of it), and they've distanced themselves from the rest of the pack quality and quantity wise (shows every weekend, good fighters, personable commentary). Bjorn Rebney is a man who knows things. I'm a fan.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The First And Last Time I Will Ever Write About The Ultimate Fighter (Maybe)


I've never been a fan of reality television. This is because watching reality television doesn't make me feel closer to reality, which is it's alleged goal. It's a spectrum where producers are manipulating scenarios and heavily editing sequences to tell the story they want to tell.

When the Ultimate Fighter debuted in 2005, I looked at it as an attempt to capitalize on a fad. The fights would be real, but otherwise, we'd see only what the producers wanted us to see.

Something strange happened at the finale, though: word spread. As Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar started re-enacting the fight scene from They Live (emphatic hat tip to anyone who got that reference ... it's the greatest fight scene in movie history), ratings gained momentum. By the start of the third round, they had officially skyrocketed. The consensus seemed to be that, even if you weren't a fan of reality TV, the reward of seeing guys fight live for a six-figure Zuffa contract was enticing enough for the masses to tune in.

Well, imagine this happening at the end of every episode, and you start to get an idea of what the Ultimate Fighter 15 will be like. Will it produce better fights? Logic would seem to suggest that it would. Knowing that millions of people will be watching you at that very moment instead of fighting at 3 in the afternoon with the knowledge that nobody will see what you did for months has to do something for the competitive juices.

There's another wrinkle. Actually, it's more of a full fledged crease, but whatever. As is the norm for the show, the two coaches (one Dominick Cruz and one Urijah Faber) will square off after the season. They'll pick their respective teams, they'll impart their wisdom to all the young bucks, and I'm sure they'll engage in some form of psychological warfare, because "these guys don't like each other!" Blah blah blah. The difference is that, since the season is live, they will be going through their training camps to fight each other on the show. ON THE SHOW. In other words, not only do they want to pick the best teams, but they will essentially be selecting training partners.

Consider the potential ramifications of this. Will this change the methods of coaching and training, knowing that they have the proverbial "dog in the fight"? What if there was a mole? Like a "Unless you impair Urijah Faber to the point that he's significantly compromised, yet still fit enough to fight, you can kiss that family you love so much goodbye" mob movie type situation. Wouldn't that be incredible? Hey, the Saints are in the news for stuff like this. Would it really be that out of the question? Joking aside, can you imagine some greenhorn sparring with Cruz, getting frustrated, and intentionally injuring him? Would the internet shut down? I think it would.

The point is, noteworthy things could happen this season. The cast is solid, and it's laden with more guys I've heard of than maybe any previous cast. You have Cristiano Marcello, a PRIDE veteran who was beaten by my boy Mitsuhiro Ishida and is most famous for choking out Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett after a backstage conflict at PRIDE's 2005 Shockwave show. You have Drew Dober and Jordan Rinaldi, two guys that have a few skills and enough raw talent to really go far someday. And lastly, you have Dakota Cochrane, who is coming off a win against the formally prolific Jamie Varner and once participated in gay porn. To me, the nuttiest (See what I did there?) part about the whole Dakota Cochrane thing is that "Dakota Cochrane" WAS NOT his porn name. Has there ever been anyone who had a parent-given name that sounded more like a porn name without actually, you know, using it as their porn name? I understand discretion. Yeah, but still.

I'm going to watch this season of the Ultimate Fighter, and I've never made that declaration BEFORE a season started. In the past, I had to be talked into it. This time, I'm in. Not only that, but the Cochrane thing had my girl saying "I'll watch it with you." We have a winner! ... At least for the first episode.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

UFC in Japan Preview (Part Two)

 

UFC cards are so stacked nowadays that it isn't uncommon for me to be as excited, if not more excited, for the preliminary bouts than the main card bouts. This Japan card is a clear exception. Granted, it's probably due in part to the fact that we're getting 7 guaranteed main card bouts instead of the customary 5, but still. There are lots of fighters of interest here. What kind of brilliance will Anthony Pettis showcase? Can Mark Hunt keep his improbable run alive? Why does Bart Palaszewski suddenly think he's knocking on Jose Aldo's door? Will Akiyama-Shields be terrible? And can Frank Edgar beat another high caliber opponent to keep his belt? Lets find out.

Yushin Okami (26-6, 10-3 UFC) vs. Tim Boetsch (14-4, 5-3 UFC)

Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch? Lets see: Wins against good fighters? Okami. Technical striking? Okami. Gas tank? Okami. Technical wrestling? Okami. Possible rejuvenation after being humiliated in his previous fight? Okami. Winner? You're not going to believe this, but I gotta go with Yushin Okami. By late submission. As Boetsch's face turns red.

Chieck Kongo (17-6-2, 10-4-1 UFC) vs. Mark Hunt (7-7, 2-1 UFC)

Mark Hunt comes into this fight looking to win his third straight Octagon tussle, and I never thought I'd write that sentence (partly because I used the word "tussle" but mostly because it's Mark Hunt, who has the submission defense of a leper).

He takes on Cup Cheick Kongo, who never met a unified rule he wasn't itching to violate as blatantly as possible. This seems obvious to state (kind of like saying "The winner of this game will be whoever scores the most points!"), but this fight will come down to the striking, because niether man really has an advantage on the ground. Again, I wouldn't be shocked if almost anyone subbed Mark Hunt, but when Kongo gets on top, he likes to slice people up, not go for arms. It's not his game.

 Kongo is an okay wrestler that can definitely smash the right guy if he gets on top, and Hunt could very well be that guy. Don't sleep on Hunt's wrestling either, though. He showed a bit more of a well rounded game in the Rothwell fight, and I could see Hunt going for takedowns as well. For those folks out there laughing at me because I said "don't sleep on Hunt's wrestling" ... he's fighting a guy that was soundly outwrestled by Carmelo Marrero, who wouldn't even be a top 15 middleweight. Kongo's wrestling HAS gotten better, but that long, rangy body is somewhat naturally susceptible to getting grounded.

Hunt's quotes leading up to this fight are positively un-Hunt like. He said things like "I feel I'm one of the best fighters on the planet". I don't know what is happening with this guy, but I like it. Maybe he has a newfound confidence because of stateside training; it's amazing what that can do for some guys.

I'm in the minority, but I like this matchup for Mark. He can hurt Kongo on the feet, but even if he doesn't, I like his striking backround to carry him to an early lead here. When Hunt starts doing well, tenacious Hunt comes out and starts inexplicably taking guys down and beating them up worse. Kongo will have stretches of dominance, but Mark will be too much on the feet. Hunt by decision.

Joe Lauzon (21-6, 8-3 UFC) vs. Anthony Pettis (14-2, 1-1 UFC)

Here we have YET ANOTHER example of a guy that is immensely dangerous in the opening minutes of a fight and then fades fast. Joe Lauzon has big power in his fists, most notably his left hand, and is a good submission guy when he's full of gas. However, Anthony Pettis is the younger, far more talented, far more athletic, and far more spectacular fighter here. He's a phenomenal striker, both technically and "Wow!" wise, and his submission game is now at the point where it can't be ignored, either.

Simply put, this is a nightmare matchup for Joe. His win over Guillard should be acknowledged and respected, but if they fight ten times, Melvin wins that fight more times than he loses it. Joe Lauzon is what he is: a hard working submission fighter that can hurt you on the feet if he has the juice left in his arms, and a guy that can be submitted if he's any RV (out of gas frequently).

I would be blown away if Anthony Pettis lost this fight. He's a great striker, and on the floor, Lauzon doesn't quite have what it takes to beat him over 3 rounds, despite the fact that he should always be respected.

Pettis by TKO or submission, after a desperate Lauzon takedown.

Hatsu Hioki (25-4-2, 1-0 UFC) vs. Bart Palaszewski (36-14, 1-0 UFC)

Bartimus has talked for weeks about how he isn't impressed by Hatsu Hioki. Weeks. The problem is that Palaszewski is a career journeyman who had everything go his way in his UFC debut. He fought a food-loving, love-handles-having Tyson Griffin, who wades in and out of exchanges like nobodies business. Bart is a good fighter, but I really, really hope nobody took his UFC debut TOO seriously.

On that same note, I hope nobody took Hioki's UFC debut too seriously either, but for different reasons. Hioki is better than that. He was fighting a guy (George Roop) who had just as much (if not more) reach, and Hioki has always had a disturbing habit of kickboxing too much with guys he should dummy on the floor.

I'm trusting that he's learned from that near-losing experience, and that he'll polish Bart off on the floor. I'm sure Hioki will taste defeat in the UFC, but I don't see it in this fight. Hioki by second round submission (of the night).

Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-4, 1-3 UFC) vs. Jake Shields (26-6-1, 1-2 UFC)

Ah, finally ... a winnable fight for Yoshi! Normally, I wouldn't recommend that a middleweight losing fights drop to welterweight, a much deeper division ... but in this case, I think the move makes sense. Yoshihiro Akiyama, for whatever reason, was thrown to the wolves at middleweight. Did a single person pick him to beat Vitor Belfort?

Usually, I have no problem being objective when I think about the potential winner of any given fight, but this is an exception. Both Yoshi and Jake seem like good guys, and it was difficult to see Jake get taken out so quickly in his last fight knowing that he'd lost his father 3 weeks beforehand.

But, facts are facts: Jake Shields doesn't have the striking to deal with someone like Akiyama. He'll look to replicate the strategy that he beat Dan Henderson with. He'll want to get a dominant position and soften Yoshi up with enough blows to get him to give up his neck or an arm, and at that point, he'll hope like hell that Yoshi is tired enough to capitulate.

I'm just not on the Jake Shields bandwagon at all. He hasn't looked good or even satisfactory in any of his UFC fights, and I think the trend continues here. Yoshi is a natural welterweight, and physique wise will have a strength advantage over many more guys than he did at middleweight. Yoshi will soundly outbox Jake and earn a late TKO stoppage.

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (32-9, 7-3 UFC) vs. Ryan Bader (13-2, 6-2 UFC)

What if attempting a tactical analysis of this fight was pointless? What if Quinton Jackson is so Goddamn excited to be fighting in Japan again that he goes out and puts on a clinic? Couldn't you see that? Nobody misses fighting in Japan more than Quinton. He loved fighting there because it didn't matter if you won or lost ... if you showed the intangible "fighting spirit", the Japanese would always love you unconditionally. Oh, and he liked that there was no booing. That, too.

Honestly, Ryan Bader is in over his head here. His wrestling is good, but he's more of a "power double" guy, and Rampage has historically ended up on his back after some sort of struggle against the cage. His takedown defense is no longer the legendary, mythical skill it was during the PRIDE days, but he can still shoot his hips back with the best of them. I don't see him having too much trouble with Bader's wrestling.

That leaves the boxing, which Quinton is much, much better at. Bader is dangerous, but he's a one shot puncher, and if we've learned anything from watching Quinton, it's that you have to basically go berserk to stop him. One punch isn't going to do it. On top of that, Bader basically swings until his arms gas, which is usually around the middle of the second round. Rampage's blocking ability, coupled with his counter hooks, will carry him to a victory here. Rampage by TKO towards the end of the second round.

Frank Edgar (14-1-1,  9-1-1 UFC) vs. Ben Henderson (15-2, 3-0 UFC)

Awww shit ... we're one Benson Henderson win away from him getting on the mic and feverishly screaming about God. He does this after every win, but you gotta think that winning a UFC lightweight title would really give him the Jesus goggles.

If you think I'm going to channel my annoyance about Bendo's antics into some sort of convoluted theory about how those crazy Christians can't fight ... well, you've got another thing coming. Ben Henderson is a phenomenal mixed martial artist, and I can't think of another lightweight that is a tougher matchup for a wider array of guys. Since an early loss to someone named "Rocky Johnson" (possibly not a porn name), beating Ben Henderson meant you were tied 2 rounds apiece going into the fifth, and then you jumped off of the cage and kicked him in the face. Nothing short of that.

As everyone knows by now, Frank Edgar doesn't cut weight, so every time he fights, we have to read the same articles about how undersized he is. "How does he keep doing this?" the articles ask. It's a combination of movement, crisp striking, and a chin that is insanely underrated.

(I don't want to hear anything else about Roy Nelson's chin. Roy Nelson spends 15 minutes walking into strikes and doesn't seem all that affected by them. Frank Edgar has been batted around by huge killshots, on the button, by precise and hard hitting lightweights, and has done nothing but suck it up, stick to his gameplan, and make a comeback like nothing happened. Nelson is tough, but Edgar is the one with the chin.)

Bendo's standup is ever-improving, and how could anyone say that he's outgunned on the feet after Frankie's last two 1st rounds? To take Edgar out, though, you have to land a level of high octane offense that ... I mean, I really don't even know what it would take to end Frank Edgar's night. None of us knows.

I see this fight as 25 minutes of pure excitement and intrigue, and anyone could take it. Flip a coin. I like the champ, by something like a couple of 48-47's and a 49-46. It will be close, it will be awesome, and guys will be flying all over the place. Edgar by decision.

All time picks record: 15-11
Last event picks record: 2-3