Saturday, December 25, 2010

UFC 125 Resolution: The Preview

While the Christmas holiday usually puts a halt to all major Mixed Martial Arts action, the New Year's holiday does just the opposite. A long-time staple for huge shows in Japan, this year is no different in the land of the Samurai with next weekend's DREAM 'Dynamite 2010' show. However, it is also the springboard for the Ultimate Fighting Championship's next card, UFC 125 Resolution, which is a dynamite card of its own.

This card features a main event for the world lightweight (155 lbs.) championship between current champ Frankie 'The Answer' Edgar and number one contender Gray 'The Bully' Maynard. Also the co-main event between middleweight contenders Chris 'The Crippler' Leben and Brian 'Stann has the UFC looking to start 2011 off with a bang. Those two fights along with the rest of the main card bouts should have no problem doing just that in the New Year.

The lightweight tilt between Edgar and Maynard is a rematch of a fight the two had back in April 2008. At that time, it was a fight featuring two young up and coming prospects. Maynard (10-0, 2 KO's) grounded out a unanimous decision victory after the three rounds over Edgar (13-1, 2 KO's 3 subs) giving him his only loss. Since then, the two have taken similar paths, only Edgar's has been more accelerated and celebrated. They both have had five fights since, however Edgar has fought stiffer competition, including two successive victories over former lightweight champion B.J. Penn.

Both coming from a wrestling pedigree and each having evolved their all-around MMA fight game, this is about as evenly matched as you can get in a title fight. Maynard's size and strength compared to Edgar, who is clearly a featherweight (145 lbs.) with a lightweight belt, proved the difference in the first meeting and it may do the same here. However, Edgar's strength has improved in the last couple of years and his stand-up game, especially his boxing, is clearly better than Maynard's. Therefore, because of those factors, I am giving the nod to Edgar in a five-round decision.

In the co-main event, the seasoned Leben (25-6, 13 KO's 6 subs) takes on Stann (9-3, 6 KO's 1 sub), a former WEC middleweight champion, who makes up for his inexperience with heavy hands. Stann, a former U.S. Marine, is 3-2 in the UFC since coming over from the WEC, while Leben found a resurgence in 2010 with three straight victories since January, including huge wins over Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama in a two week span. Although one punch from Stann can end things quickly, I see Leben with an accumulation of punches ending Stann's night via TKO and keeping his run alive.

The undercard features some very intriguing match-ups that should be very entertaining. In the welterweight (170 lbs.) division, Nate Diaz (13-5, 3 KO's 9 subs), from the famed Cesar Gracie Fight team, takes on South Korean Dong Hyun 'Stun Gun' Kim (13-0-1, 6 KO's 1 sub). While Kim has some punching power, he's had five fights in the UFC resulting in four wins, three by decision, and one no-contest. Diaz meanwhile has a granite chin and a slick submission game, which I envision him using at some point to sub Kim to continue his already two fight win streak.

Also on the undercard, a light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) tilt between Brandon 'The Truth' Vera (11-5, 7 KO's 1 sub) and Thiago Silva (14-2, 11 KO's 2 subs). Both guys are coming off losses and a long lay-off due to injury, so there are questions regarding ring rust and health. Seeing that both have the same factors at hand, my determination is a mental one. Silva, with a back injury, lost a unanimous decision to former champ Rashad Evans. However, Vera got smashed, literally, by Jon Jones with some vicious elbows to the face resulting in a fractured cheekbone. Thus, I feel that beatdown will make Vera gun shy mentally, which can be dangerous against a heavy-handed Silva. I've got Silva by KO in the second.

Finally, hold onto your seats as the pay-per-view will start with fireworks when lightweights Clay 'The Carpenter' Guida (27-11, 4 KO's 14 subs) and Japanese legend Takanori 'The Fireball Kid' Gomi (32-6, 12 KO's 6 subs) step into the cage. Both notoriously quick starters, the difference here is that Guida's energy won't stop, while Gomi has a history of gassing in later rounds. Thus, I see Guida, a human energizer bunny, going non-stop on his way to a decision or possibly winning by submission. Either way, it will be a great way to start off a great card and hopefully a great 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

WEC: The Little Engine that Could

September 28, 2001 is a significant date in Mixed Martial Arts because it marks the day of UFC 33, the first event promoted under the new Zuffa ownership. That will forever be looked upon as the date MMA came out of the darkness to begin its ascent as the fastest growing sport in the world.

However, three months earlier, during the "Dark Age", another historical date in MMA took place. June 30, 2001 was the day that World Extreme Cagefighting was born @ The Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, CA with an event called 'WEC 1 - 'Princes of Pain'. Using the number one in their event title, the promotion that was the WEC just knew they were going to have more than one event and they did; 52 more to be exact.

What they probably didn't know was that the sport of MMA would grow to be a worldwide phenomenon and that they would play a significant role in that growth. Kind of ironic that growth would be attributed to a company whose focal point the last few years were lighter weight classes, which featured fighters that did not grow to be very big. However, that was only in terms of stature. In terms of skill, entertainment and popularity, the WEC and their fighters was 'The Little Engine that could'.

They proved just that this past Thursday as WEC 53 - Henderson vs. Pettis, was not only a great event, but also a crowning achievement in WEC history. It was the last event for the promotion as they are now being merged with the UFC under the Zuffa banner; thus the date of December 16, 2010 will also go down as another important date in MMA history. So too will be the answer to the trivia question, what was the last fight ever in WEC history?

The answer of course was the lightweight (155lbs.) championship main event between titleholder Benson 'Smooth' Henderson (12-2, 2 KO's, 8 subs) and challenger Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis (13-1, 5 KO's 6 subs). Not only did Pettis and Henderson live up to Pettis's nickname and put on a show, but also it was a great fight and a fitting way to end an important chapter in MMA. In the end, Pettis won a five round unanimous, but close decision, thus becoming the new and last WEC lightweight champion.

BTW, for those that did not see the fight, Pettis's "jump off the cage flying right round kick to Henderson's face" in round five that knocked down the former champ is a highlight that will also go down in MMA history. In the 17 years the sport has been around I've never seen anything like it, but then again that is what the WEC has always been good for. Classic fights, chock full of action-packed highlights that will live on forever.

Look at some of the names of the fighters that have fought in the WEC and the list reads as a virtual who's who of MMA. Horn, Pellegrino, Melendez, Shamrock, Diaz, McCullough and Torres to name but a few. Even the main event way back @ WEC 1 featured a pioneer of the sport in UFC Hall of Famer Dan 'The Beast' Severn against Travis Fulton. However, when you think WEC there is one name that has become synonymous with the organization, Urijah Faber.

'The California Kid', a homegrown product from Northern California, birthplace of the organization, not only became the poster boy for WEC, but it's ambassador as well. A former featherweight champion, who is one of the sports biggest stars, he took the promotion, put it on his back and made sure the world knew it was more than just a regional show. It was Faber, along with current featherweight champ Jose Aldo, who spearheaded the WEC's one and only pay-per-view event and made it a rousing success by selling out the ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California earlier this year.

Along the way, the WEC went on to garner a television contract with The Versus Network, attract international stars from all around the globe and carve its own niche as the premiere organization for featherweight (145 lbs.) and bantamweight (135 lbs.) fighters in the world. Reed Harris, President of the WEC has much to be proud of, yet now it is but a memory, albeit an important one. However, it leaves a profound legacy that will continue to live on through its fighters who will now compete in the UFC. Thank you WEC for the memories and for always living up to your name and being totally extreme.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"From the Fields to the Garden" and then some

While I enjoy reading, I have to admit, it's far and few in between the books I can find that can instantly grab my attention to the point where I can't literally put it down. Many of those in my lifetime have usually been biographies of people involved in things that stir my interest such as the underworld, sports or historical figures.

Luckily for me, I found that and then some in 'From the Fields to the Garden: The Life of "Stitch" Duran'. Of course, anyone reading this column has to know who Jacob 'Stitch' Duran is. However, if you are just a casual fan of combat sports and may be unfamiliar with this legendary figure, he is the famed cutman for the UFC and in the world of boxing.

Wondering how a guy who inconspicuously works in the corners of fighters, quietly repairing cuts and keeping fighters safe can make such a name for himself? That is what makes Stitch's story such an interesting one and makes this book such a great read.

"From the Fields," addresses the early part of Stitch's life when he was a young boy working alongside his family in the farmlands of Northern California. An extremely humble beginning for a man who's had his image on giant like billboards outside arenas and has worked in both film and television.

"To the Garden", speaks about his dreams and aspirations to someday make it to what he deemed for himself to be the pinnacle of his sport and trade, Madison Square Garden. Well the poor kid from Planada, California has made it there and back numerous times with some incredible stories to go with it.

That is where "The Life of 'Stitch' Duran" comes in; in between the beginning and the end, there are the most interesting stories from discovering Taekwondo and Muay Thai in the jungles of Thailand while in the military, to eating and drinking in a traditional German Schnapps House. Then there are the stories that interested me the most, which are the ones you never hear about from the inner world of boxing and MMA.

Stitch's book takes you behind the scenes and in the locker rooms. It reveals the inner thoughts of many of the great and legendary fighters we have become fans of. It also explains in detail, how far both sports have come, yet how much farther they each have to go in terms of safety. This is of utmost importance to Stitch in his career as a cutman, but even more so in his compassion for the fighters he looks after.

So many of them have come to respect the man and his work. That is quite evident in the number of fighters that request him specifically and no one else when it comes to wrapping their hands. I asked Stitch how is it that he can accommodate all the requests when there are so many fighters on a particular UFC card? "It comes down to seniority, status and priority," he said. "Obviously, someone the likes of a Randy Couture, Mirko Cro-Cop or Brock Lesnar will take precedence over most fighters."

Another interesting part of the book is on his actual work and trade as a cutman, which he has helped to cultivate in his thirty plus years in the game. When I asked if he sees the cutman trade evolving in the same way fighters is constantly evolving, he said, "absolutely 100%." "Unlike cutmen in the past when I was coming up who refused to share their knowledge, I'm constantly educating through seminars and the younger people are innovating and evolving ideas from things they learn from me."

A former farm boy, baseball player, soldier, martial artist and so on, Stitch's is a real life rags to riches story; one of dreams, hopes and realities. A must have for any true combat sports fan, it is a great complement and addition to any library. It is also the perfect Christmas gift for those you know who love boxing, MMA or just an interesting story; one that will take you "From the Fields to the Garden" and then some.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

MMA and Boxing closing out 2010 with a bang

With less than three weeks till 2011, both MMA and Boxing are closing out 2010 with a bang. After last weekend's KO fest at Strikeforce and a strong past month and a half for boxing, combat sports fans have had much to cheer about and enjoy.

This past weekend, the trend continued with an entertaining UFC 124: St. Pierre vs. Koscheck card from Montreal, Canada. On the same night from one of the UFC's regular stomping grounds, Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, a candidate for fight of the year in boxing was waged as Amir 'King' Khan defended his WBA light welterweight championship against Argentinean contender Marcos Maidana.

In the main event of the UFC, welterweight (170 lbs.) champion Georges 'Rush' St. Pierre (21-2, 8 KO's 5 subs), ironically used his boxing skills as he literally jabbed his way to a decisive unanimous decision over Josh 'Kos' Koscheck (15-5, 4 KO's 5 subs). St. Pierre's jab throughout the fight was so quick, effective and on target, that Koscheck's right eye was pretty much swollen shut after two rounds.

Mixing up his effective striking with an occasional takedown (pictured above), the champion was never really challenged or in any serious danger throughout the five rounds. Koscheck was unable to mount any offense, having to resort to swinging wildly in the hopes of catching St. Pierre on the chin. So, how is it then that this was voted "fight of the night" and earned both St. Pierre and Koscheck a bonus of $100,000 each?

The UFC and its president Dana White, always hand out bonuses for 'Fight of the night', 'KO of the night' and 'Submission of the night' as an incentive for fighters to go out and try to finish their fights in exciting fashion. Great idea, but it's a real shame when two fighters deep on the undercard such as welterweights Matt Riddle and Sean Pierson, put on a great show for the fans and are not rewarded for it.

Those two slugged it out for three rounds, acknowledged each others efforts throughout and clearly earned the fans appreciation for it by their rabid reaction. That fight must've left an impression as it wasn't even on the main card and has no significance whatsoever in the scheme of what's to come in the welterweight division, yet the UFC felt it worthy enough to show on the pay-per-view portion of the show.

It is why I chose to comment on it besides any other fight outside the main event. My small tribute may not be worth $100,000 dollars, but as a fan all I can say is thanks for the effort; which brings me to the main event of the HBO boxing card, Khan vs. Maidana. What Riddle and Pierson did for three rounds in a cage, these two did for twelve in a ring.

Khan (24-1, 17 KO's), a budding superstar in a stacked division of budding superstars, the 140 lbs. class, defended his title against another of the young hungry lions within the division Maidana (29-2, 27 KO's). Defend is the operative word as Khan needed every bit of skill and heart he could muster to ward off the hard charging Maidana.

Strangely, the fight looked like it wouldn't amount to much as Khan, using superior hand speed, foot work and punching combinations, dropped Maidana with a punishing left hook to the liver, that had the challenger wincing in pain for the final minute of the first round. Maidana weathered the storm and ended up creating one of his own. His only downfall was a fifth round point deduction from referee Joe Cortez for a blatant elbow he threw at Khan's face, which luckily missed, but caught Cortez flush in the chest.

Besides that, the two battled back and forth over 12 rounds with Khan landing crisp combinations and Maidana smashing Khan with vicious uppercuts and an overhand right in the eighth that clearly had the champion on Wobble street. A scheduled fight next month between the other two champions in the division, Devon Alexander (WBC, IBF) and Timothy Bradley (WBO), has the present and future for boxing looking extremely promising.

As for UFC 124, three fights of note on the main card all ended in the first round as 6'11" heavyweight Stefan 'Skyscraper' Struve defeated 6 '7" Sean 'Big Sexy' McCorkle via TKO referee stoppage; also, lightweight (155 lbs.) Jim Miller derailed the undefeated record of young Charles Oliveira with a slick knee bar submission. Finally, it took lightweight Mac Danzig less than two minutes to finish Joe Stevenson via KO with a crushing left hook to the jaw.

Friday, December 10, 2010

UFC 124 St. Pierre vs. Koscheck: The Preview

If there is one constant in the world of MMA among the many hardcore and casual fans, it is that UFC Welterweight (170lbs.) Champion Georges St. Pierre is arguably the most popular fighter in the sport. By the same token, another constant is that welterweight contender Josh Koscheck is easily the most unpopular. However, when the two square off this Saturday night in Montreal, Canada, although the fan support will be lopsided, that doesn’t mean the fight will be.

Hardly strangers to one another, St. Pierre (20-2, 8 KO’s, 5 subs) and Koscheck (15-4, 4 KO’s, 5 subs) were coaches on the latest season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality series and actually fought once before three plus years ago, in August 2007. At that time, St. Pierre won a decisive unanimous decision over Koscheck, actually defeating him using Koscheck’s biggest weapon, wrestling.

While Koscheck is a former Division One National Champion and four-time All-American from Edinboro University, he got worked when it came to wrestling in MMA by the Canadian champion. The question is does St. Pierre do it again? Or better yet, will he?

St. Pierre is well known for being a very cerebral fighter besides using his gifted physical talents. He always devises a certain game plan for his opponents and while using wrestling against the wrestler was the perfect formula the first time around, that doesn’t mean it will work again. Koscheck has undoubtedly been working that part of his game to perfection at his camp at American Kickboxing Academy along with doing the same for all parts of his game.

Not just a wrestler anymore, Koscheck has shown power and skill in his hands and an ever improving ground game as he has become a brown-belt in Jiu-Jitsu under renowned trainer Dave Camarillo. Yet, for all the growth he has experienced as a fighter, so too has St. Pierre.

Riding a seven-fight win streak in the octagon, after a surprising KO loss to former champ Matt Serra, St. Pierre has shown a more precise and disciplined fighting style with every fight. Only problem is, some people feel it may be too precise and more on the cautious and safe side as four of those seven wins have been by decision.

I disagree for two reasons. One is the caliber of opponents he went the distance with. Dan Hardy, Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch and Koscheck are hardly tomato cans. All top ten welterweights in the world who all have risen to #1 contender status. Second reason is his game planning and deliberateness to carry it out. What some may call a boring fighter, I call a smart one.

For that reason I see St. Pierre winning again. This time though I think he will finish Koscheck, mostly likely via TKO from a ground and pound beating he will unleash on the trash talking former wrestling champion with the Harpo Marx haircut. Just calling it like it is.

On the undercard there are two intriguing fights. One features welterweight contenders John ‘Doomsday’ Howard (14-5, 4 KO’s 6 subs) against the aforementioned Alves (17-7, 11 KO’s 1 sub). If this fight goes the distance, I’ll be very surprised as both love to throw hands and knees for that matter. However, I think Alves, is naturally bigger and more explosive, which is why I see the ‘Pitbull’ taking this one by KO.

The fight of interest is the lightweight (155lbs.) match-up between Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson (31-11, 6 KO’s, 15 subs) and Mac Danzig (19-8-1, 4 KO’s, 10 subs). Both for ‘Ultimate Fighter’ winners, Stevenson in season two and Danzig in season six, with a lot of promise, I think the loser of this fight will be cut from the UFC.

Danzig is (1-4) in his last five fights, while Stevenson is not much better at (2-3). With the recent merger and absorption of WEC lightweights onto the UFC roster, something’s got to give here. While Stevenson may have the edge in experience and tougher opponents, I’m giving the nod to Danzig via decision. Sorry Joe Daddy, you’re a nice guy, but as Leo Durocher said, “nice guys finish last.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kids are playing Russian Roulette with chokeholds

Horseplay by kids, especially young teenagers, is nothing new. Seems like when they hit that certain age right around 13 or 14, both seem to go hand in hand. However, the latest sensation being played out by teenage kids is no laughing matter. It seems that with the growth in popularity of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, the latest now has kids playing Russian Roulette with chokeholds.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, I read an article in the local newspaper a couple of days ago where it appears a case of this so-called horseplay almost went too far. Apparently a 15 year old boy, whether he was playing or not, locked on a rear naked choke on a 14 year old student.

Not playing by the rules of MMA, when the 14 year old boy didn't tap, but frantically tried to break the grip and eventually passed out, he unconsciously fell face first breaking his nose and busting open his lip. The aggressor, who is now being charged with assault, says it was part of a game that is played throughout the school and the victim was a willing participant. Not surprisingly, the victim tells a different story.

The supposed game is called 'choking out' and the object of the game is to see how long you can let yourself be held in a choke hold till you're about to reach the point of unconsciousness. Unfortunately, unlike in the photo above, where the prank of someone getting choked is being done with professional female MMA fighter Kim Couture doing the choking, the kids playing this game are far from properly trained.

Their whole source of education is coming from what they see being performed and displayed by professionally trained MMA fighters in events just about every weekend. However, I hope people aren't quick to blame or even judge the sport of MMA solely because of the irresponsible behavior of influential kids.

Every generation before us, there has been teenagers who have been influenced, albeit in the wrong way, by some form of popular culture. In the 90's, it was backyard wrestling mimicking the moves of professionals from the WWE and WCW. In the '80's, the backlash came from kids listening to Gangster Rap and Heavy Metal lyrics. Even in the '70's, I remember as a kid growing up with Bruce Lee and Kung Fu films all the rage, me and my friends would run around at recess jumping and throwing flying kicks at one another.

Not so smart when I think about it now as a grown man who's been properly training in martial arts for over ten plus years, but as a kid who sees it as playful fun, Bruce Lee or I can be hardly held accountable. However, that's only because I was lucky no one got seriously hurt. In cases where tragedy has occurred, it makes no difference how old you are.

In 1999, there was the case of the 12 year old Florida boy who was charged with murder after he accidentally killed a six year old girl he was babysitting when he says he was imitating body slamming pro wrestlers. He ended up getting a life sentence. Also, the rock band Judas Priest has been blamed for the suicide deaths of two young males' ages 18 and 20, solely because of the content of their lyrics.

Thus, while I don't feel the sport of MMA can be blamed for this latest problem that has arisen, I do feel it can assist in addressing the issue. Here's a situation where I think the President's of the major MMA organizations here in the states, Dana White of the UFC, Scott Coker of Strikeforce and Bjorn Rebney of Bellator can come together under one umbrella for a common cause. To educate kids on the dangers of practicing a sport they are not properly trained for.

If each promoter could unite and have panels of their fighters located all across the United States going around to various school districts speaking on the dangers of playing around with MMA, I think this would go a long way in helping to curb this latest teenage rage. Because whether they realize it or not, kids are playing Russian Roulette with these chokeholds.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bad judging supersedes KO's and decisions

On a night that saw 'Strikeforce' literally live up to it's name, with four big knockouts on the main card, while the 'UFC', settled for decision after decision, it was a bad judges decision on the lone action packed UFC fight that lingers on my mind. Ultimately, the pros should outweigh the cons, but bad judging in MMA is what is outweighing everything a/o late.

Before I get into it, a quick recap of last night's action. Let me start by saying I've been extremely critical of Strikeforce this past year. In my mid-year report card, I graded them a 'D' and it's largely because I feel Scott Coker's, Strikeforce president, handling of business has actually been a detriment to the promotion. That said, they put on an extremely exciting and entertaining show last night.

In another situation where they were going head to head with the UFC, Strikeforce stepped up to the plate and salvaged a card that was almost ravaged by injuries. In the main event, 205 lbs. former UFC veteran and Pride champion, Dan Henderson, (26-8, 11 KO's 2 subs) showed he still has something left in the tank and some power left in that right hand. He pummeled Renato 'Babalu' Sobral (36-9, 5 KO's 18 subs) for a first round finish in under two minutes.

That seemed to be the trend of the night for Strikeforce, as the two fights previous to that one saw first round KO's as well. At welterweight (170 lbs.), hard hitting Brit Paul 'Semtex' Daley (26-9-2, 19 KO's 2 subs) needed just a little over two minutes to finish Scott 'Hands of Steel' Smith (17-8, 14 KO's 3 subs). With a series of left hooks, Daley dropped Smith face first on the mat. Up next for Daley, a potentially exciting fight with the fast hand punching KJ Noons.

Meanwhile, 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler (18-6, 15 KO's 1 sub) outdid both of those guys, as he used up all of 50 seconds to send one time UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) contender Matt 'The Law' Lindland (22-8, 8 KO's 7 subs) into possible retirement. The big question here is, why did two-time Olympic Wrestling Silver Medalist Lindland, choose to stand and trade with Lawler? The guy has 15 KO's in 18 wins; hello, is anybody home?

As for the UFC, not much to talk about or better yet, not enough time as each fight on the main card went the distance. In the headliner of the night, 'Ultimate Fighter' season 12 lightweight (155 lbs.) participants Jonathan Brookins (12-3, 2 KO's 8 subs) and Michael Johnson (8-5, 4 KO's 2 subs) did put it all on the line. Brookins came back, after losing the first round, to win a unanimous decision and a contract with the UFC.

That brings me to easily the fight of the night, yet the biggest disappointment as well. In the opening bout on the main card, the UFC's first ever in the featherweight division (145 lbs.), Leonard 'Bad Boy' Garcia (15-6-1, 3 KO's 9 subs), who came over in the WEC merger, fought fellow 'TUF' season 12 participant Nam Phan (16-8, 7 KO's 5 subs) (pictured above). As was expected when the lighter weights were brought over, this was an action packed fight.

Garcia, known for his wild style of "swinging for the fences" on every punch, is also known for split decisions, win or lose. On this night, he won, although in my opinion and apparently everyone else, he shouldn't have. While Garcia was throwing haymakers, he was like a power hitter in baseball who usually either connects or whiffs. If Garcia were a baseball player, he would've struck out swinging.

He did manage two takedowns throughout the fight, but Phan quickly got up on both and sustained no damage. Meanwhile, Phan was technical in his approach, using quick countering punches in combination and vicious left hooks to the body throughout. I even texted someone and said, "Nam Phan is the Mike McCallum of MMA, The Body Snatcher." A reference to the former 80's boxing champion.

Phan also knocked down Garcia in the second round and had his back for well over two minutes, where he punished with punches and tried to secure a rear naked choke submission to no avail. I guess all this wasn't enough in the judge's eyes. Once again, they dropped the ball as was clearly evidenced by the chorus of boos in the arena and color commentator Joe Rogan's disdain.

When explaining The UFC has no say about the judges as they are assigned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Rogan said, "this is just another example of utter and complete incompetence on behalf of the judges and it will not stop until judges are educated in the sport." He also went on to say, "this is the type of thing that can give a black eye to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts because people will start to believe MMA is corrupt."

I am in total agreement with Rogan on this topic. I've been critical of MMA judging in the past and have stated openly that the main problem is education. Not enough "MMA people" are involved in judging these fights. It's usually people experienced and licensed to judge boxing, which is only one facet of the sport. Also, scoring the ground game has not been clearly defined, thus to the novice eye, the person on top is generally construed as winning.

Until these issues get corrected, we will continue to have scenarios where bad judging supersedes KO's and decisions in exciting fights. I think Nam Phan summed it up best when Rogan asked him in the post fight interview what he was thinking upon hearing the judges decision, "I was thinking, can't an Asian brother get some love."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who said boxing was dead?

With a slow weekend of MMA, my focus this week turns to boxing where even when the UFC had a couple of events this month, boxing stood strong and shined brightly. With four weekends in a row of exciting high profile fights, boxing has proven it still has a lot of fight left in it. Who said boxing was dead?

Last night's exciting bout between WBA/WBO lightweight (135 lbs.) champion Juan Manuel Marquez (52-5, 8 KO's) and dangerous Michael Katsidis (27-3, 22 KO's), where Marquez won via a ninth round TKO, was just the latest in a month that has brought us many boxing thrills.

It all started on November 6, when Marquez's younger brother Rafael, he himself a former multi-weight champion, stepped up in weight and competition to challenge WBO featherweight (126 lbs.) champion Juan Manuel Lopez. The result, an action packed eight round war that finally took its toll on the younger Marquez who couldn't answer the bell for the ninth round. That fight was also the latest installment in the famed Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry in boxing.

The following weekend on November 13, it was the return of arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world and easily the sports most marketable and recognized figure Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao. I only say "arguably the best pound or pound" because of the great Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. However, with Mayweather's inactivity, it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to lay any claim to that title.

Regardless, Pacquiao stepped up to the plate once again, taking on a larger opponent in former multi-weight champion Antonio Margarito. Fighting for a record eighth title in a different weight class, albeit both fighters were considerably under the light middleweight limit of 154 lbs., Pacquiao once again showed his dominance as he pummeled Margarito over twelve rounds. At that moment, there was no question that the big money draw in boxing right now is Pacquiao; thus the reason the last couple of weekends were to answer who would or could be next for the Pacman?

Last weekend it was another 'catchweight' fight, this time in the middleweight (160 lbs.) division, between WBC/WBO middleweight champion Sergio 'Maravilla' Martinez and former multi-weight champion Paul 'The Punisher' Williams. Ironically, for Williams, Martinez finished him in devastating fashion with a "punishing" one-punch knockout in the second round. That one punch, not only redeemed Martinez for a questionable split-decision loss to Williams one year earlier, but posed the question, "is he too big to fight Manny Pacquiao?"

While he was not opposed to the idea, even Martinez admitted, it would have to be at a weight probably not commensurate for Pacquiao to even consider; which brings us to last night's Marquez/Katsidis fight. With Marquez's convincing finish, although he was dropped in the third round by a Katsidis punch, it looks like a possible third fight between he and the Pacman may be the next logical step.

The first two fights were legendary, the first ending in a draw and the second in a disputed split decision win for Pacquiao. While those fights were fought at super featherweight (130 lbs.), both men are older and larger now. Marquez went up to welterweight (147 lbs.) to fight Mayweather and was no match for 'Money', especially at that weight. Also, Pacquiao admitted that in his win over Margarito he may have gone as high as he can go as far as challenging himself against larger opponents. Thus, at super lightweight/junior welterweight (140 lbs.) the fight would be a perfect match for both.

While those name fighters jockey for position against the cash cow Pacquiao, there are young stars in boxing such as welterweight champion Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KO's) and junior welterweight champion Amir 'King' Khan (23-1, 17 KO's), who are also trying to make their way towards the pound for pound best. Berto showed himself last night in a first round destruction of a game, but over matched Freddy Hernandez and Khan will display his skills in two weeks when he is featured on HBO against contender Marcos Maidana.

Whatever the case, boxing has come on strong at the end of this year as we head into 2011. My only concern is whether or not it can, or more importantly, will sustain this momentum heading into the New Year. Boxing has shown a propensity in the last few years, especially in the wake of MMA's emergence, to disappear and fall short of the call for meaningful fights. They are finally answering that call and doing it in a big and positive way; let's hope it continues. Who said boxing was dead?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

UFC 123: Guess who's back and stole the show?

Before UFC 123, I said in my preview you can "flip a coin", as that's how evenly matched the card was from top to bottom. No bigger evidence of this came than in the main event where Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson (31-8, 14 KO's 7 subs) won a highly disputed split decision over Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida (16-2, 5 KO's 2 subs) in their light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) fight.

However, before discussing my views on the main event, I want to jump right to the co-main event, because guess who's back and stole the show? Back at welterweight (170 lbs.) and more importantly, back to his winning ways? 'The Prodigy' B.J. Penn (16-7-1, 7 KO's 6 subs) needed all of just 21 seconds to dispatch of Hall of Famer Matt Hughes (45-8, 17 KO's 18 subs) in their rubber match (pictured above) as he scored a quick, but devastating knockout.

A short right hand that Hughes never saw coming dropped the former champion and Penn followed him to the ground for a couple more before the ref jumped in to stop the assault. There was no question the stoppage was legit, as was the KO. If there was, it was answered when Hughes got up and uttered the words "what happened" to the ref.

Penn, who many people, not myself, were saying was done because of two consecutive losses to Frankie Edgar at lightweight (155 lbs.), looked inspired and motivated going into this bout. At only 31 years old, if he can sustain this enthusiasm for one more run, which he says he wants to do most likely at welterweight, things could get very interesting in an already stacked welterweight division.

How interesting; UFC President Dana White announced after the fight that Penn has already been matched up for his next fight @ UFC 127 against top contender Jon Fitch, winner of his last five in a row. That fight likely will take place in late February in Australia. With welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre set to defend against Fitch's teammate Josh Koscheck in three weeks and the winner set to face Jake Shields, all I have to say is wow!

Hughes meanwhile at 37 years old, who was on a three fight win streak before the loss and appeared to be on one final run of his own, has to now decide what the future holds for him. No fighter ever wants his or her last fight to be a loss, especially one like this, but what does he have left to prove? A two-time welterweight champion and already a UFC Hall of Famer, Hughes legacy is already cemented, whatever he decides.

Now to the main event, which had its moments of excitement, but left a lot to be desired. The fight played out the way I expected and predicted it would. Jackson the aggressor pursuing his opponent looking to deliver that one hitter-quitter power he's known for and Machida the technician, counter punching and evading as he looked for his opening.

Problem is, for Machida that is, when you fight this way and don't finish, you leave it to the judges interpretation and as we have seen many times before that can come back to haunt you. In this case it did, that is, depending on whom you talk to. Dana White thought Jackson won; however Jackson himself, as was evidenced by his reaction to the decision, didn't really echo those sentiments, as he was shocked to hear that he had won a split decision.

However, since this is my column, my opinion is the only one that matters here and I think Machida should've won a close decision. While Jackson was the aggressor during the fight, stalking someone doesn't mean anything if you're not landing anything. That is not to say that Rampage did not hit Machida throughout, but an occasional uppercut or right cross here and there should not be compared to precision striking that Machida was doing with both his hands and feet.

In the second round, Jackson was able to take Machida down, but inflicted minimal damage at best as he was unable to keep him there. Meanwhile, in the third round Machida took Jackson down, after hurting him with a quick and precise combination. Like Jackson, his punishment from the top was minimal. However, unlike Jackson he worked towards a submission, although unsuccessful.

This was MMA's version of Hagler/Leonard, the Superfight from 1987, where Sugar Ray defeated Marvelous Marvin by using quick flurries in and out, while avoiding Hagler's constant pressure throughout. Back then, the majority of judges rewarded the counter puncher; however, this time they rewarded the aggressor. I bet Hagler wishes he had these judges' 23 years ago. BTW, back then, just like last night, I scored for it Leonard as well. Regardless, it was a good night of fights and on this night, guess who came back and stole the show?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

UFC 123 Preview: Flip a Coin

Last weekend, as a combat sports fan, was one of those weekends where you considered yourself lucky to have a high profile fight in boxing along with a UFC event taking place all in the same night. Unfortunately when that happens, you are forced to choose between watching one live and the other on tape delay.

Last weekend boxing one out as the Pacquiao-Margarito fight was just too good to pass up live. Besides, UFC 122 was being shown on tape delay here in the states as a free broadcast since it took place in Germany.

Such is not the case this weekend though as UFC 123 will be on Pay-Per-View and while the rematch in boxing between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez should be great, this UFC card is to good to pass up live. Sure there are no championship fights headlining this card and three of the four fighters in the co-main events are coming off losses, but the fights themselves are so evenly matched, including the undercard, that when it comes to picking winners at UFC 123, you can literally flip a coin.

The main event features an intriguing clash of styles between two former light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champions in Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson (30-8, 14 KO's 7 subs) and Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida (16-1, 5 KO's 2 subs). Rampage, an in your face, swing for the fences type of fighter with KO power in either hand, is facing his complete opposite in Machida, whose Karate based style is much more defensive, counter-punching and technique oriented.

Both coming off losses, Jackson to Rashad Evans and Machida to Shogun Rua, this is a pivotal fight for both men in their careers. Rampage is looking to rebound from that loss where many felt he showed a lot of ring rust after taking a year off to become a movie star in the remake of 'The A-Team'. Meanwhile, 'The Dragon' is looking to regain the form he seemed to have lost in his two previous fights, both against Rua, one a controversial decision win and the latter a KO loss.

An extremely difficult fight to pick, especially because one punch from Jackson can end the fight, I am going with Machida via decision. Why? As strong as Rampage is, I am just a firm believer that more often than not, technique will supersede raw power on a rampage; (pun most certainly intended). Question is, can the same be said for the co-main event?

In that fight, we have the rubber match between two former welterweight (170 lbs.) champions, Matt Hughes (45-7, 17 KO's, 18 subs) and B.J. 'The Prodigy' Penn (15-7-1, 6 KO's 6 subs). The 37-year-old Hughes has seen a resurgence in his career just when most thought it may possibly be over.

He's riding a three-fight win streak, although I wouldn't be ready to line him up for a title shot just yet. His wins include a controversial split-decision over Matt Serra, a fight I felt Serra won, and a third round TKO against an over the hill Renzo Gracie, Gracie's first fight in three years. His last fight was a first round choke out of Renzo Gracie black belt Ricardo Almeida, something I never expected and have got to give him credit for.

Penn meanwhile is coming off two decision losses in a row to his kryptonite Frankie Edgar after looking dominant in his run as lightweight (155 lbs.) champion against Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian. Some feel Penn may have seen his better days, but that's what makes this fight so interesting.

Both fighters appear to have reached the point in their careers where the game has passed them by, thus as they were in their two previous fights, they are evenly matched. That said, I am picking Penn to come back with something to prove to not only his fans, but also himself and win this fight. I am looking at a submission victory over Hughes and one more run for Penn at a title shot, most likely back at lightweight.

A couple of quick picks on the other two big fights on the main card. First, the lightweight contender tilt between George Sotiropoulos (13-2, 1 KO 7 subs) and Joe Lauzon (19-5, 4 KO's 15 subs). Wow, what a great fight and another pick' em match-up. Both fighters are extremely well rounded and super skilled on the ground. However, Sotiropoulos is riding a seven-fight win streak and one more should most certainly garner him a title shot. Therefore, I am picking the Australian in a tough decision.

Finally, in the middleweight (185 lbs.) division, it is Gerald 'Hurricane' Harris (17-2, 8 KO's 6 subs) vs. UFC newcomer Maiquel 'Big Rig' Falcao (25-3, 21 KO's 3 subs). While Falcao is obviously a big puncher, it is his first foray into the octagon, where many a fighter's first time jitters have shown to be a problem.

Meanwhile, Harris is riding a ten-fight win streak, his last three in the UFC by KO. He was also my pick as the UFC's next generation superstar in the middleweight division in a column I wrote a couple of months ago. Therefore, I am picking Harris and predicting another KO of the night bonus for this rising young star. However, when looking back on all these fights, one thing's for sure, when it comes to UFC 123, I can flip a coin and probably do okay.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's just Manny being Manny

When you write a weekly column on both MMA and Boxing, what are you to do when you have a weekend stacked with both? You watch both of course; I taped UFC 122, and then decide which event is worth writing about. While I love MMA and the UFC, this weekend it comes in second after watching arguably the world's greatest boxer Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KO's), doing what no man has done before. However, when you break it down, you end up seeing it's just Manny being Manny.

Pacquiao, the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world, proved it once again, literally, as he won the vacant WBC light middleweight (154 lbs.) title in dominating fashion against the much larger former multi-weight champion Antonio 'The Tijuana Tornado' Margarito (38-7, 27 KO's). The win also made Pacquiao a champion in eight different weight classes; a first and an unbelievable accomplishment when you consider he started his career as a 106 pound flyweight 15 years ago.

What makes it even more impressive is in the fashion that he did it. Officially weighing in @ 144.5 lbs. for the fight, he was five and a half pounds lighter than Margarito. However, that was at the weigh-in on Friday. Stepping into the ring Saturday night, Margarito had re-hydrated to 165lbs., while Pacquiao had only went up to 148; a 17 pound difference. In other words, it was a welterweight fighting a super middleweight. Yet, despite this and other obstacles, Pacquiao decimated Margarito using his speed, angles and punching combinations to punish his foe.

While he was never seriously challenged in the fight, there was one round where he did get caught against the ropes and Margarito was able to deliver some damage to the body, but it was minimal at best. Whenever he felt he was losing momentum, Pacquaio was quick to turn the tables on Margarito, often inviting him to stand and trade. This gesture throughout the fight made me realize something I already knew but was reaffirmed; Pacquaio may not have hands of stone, but he definitely has stones made of stone.

There was some controversy before the fight where Margarito's trainer, Robert Garcia, claimed a representative from his camp witnessed some illegal tampering with Pacquiao's hand wraps. However, it appeared to be more head games, which is the way the athletic commission labeled it, than anything else. Meanwhile, Margarito, who ironically was in only his second fight after serving a one year suspension for the very same reason was himself embroiled in controversy.

Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, claimed that Garcia's fighter was seen ingesting a form of Ephedrine, which is a banned substance in the State of Texas. Strangely enough, Margarito was seen on camera in his locker room after having his hands wrapped, receiving a cup of what appeared to be coffee. Someone was also seen adding something to the drink, from what appeared to be sugar packets.

Just so we understand, assuming it was nothing illegal, there's nothing wrong with drinking a cup of coffee or any other drink for that matter. I've just never seen a fighter in any capacity ever do it right before they enter battle. Seemed kind of strange to me, but then again I'm not a coffee drinker.

Pacquaio, so completely pummeled his opponent that he purposely pulled back on his attack in the last round instead of going for the finish. It was evident in the fight and he admitted such in his post-fight interview. His reasoning, "I saw how injured Margarito was, his eyes bleeding and swollen, I didn't want to hurt him anymore."

It has since been revealed Pacquiao broke Margarito's orbital bone. Compassion in a prize fighter is probably not a good trait to have for a person who makes a living hurting their opponent. Then again, this not just any fighter, this is Manny Pacquiao. A man from very humble beginnings in his native Philippines, who is dedicated to serving those in need as he's proven by being elected to Congress in his homeland earlier this year. "I just want to make people happy", Pacquiao said last night.

That was his response to the often lingering question as to whether or not he will ever fight undefeated Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao, who's been the butt of Mayweather's jokes and taunts on numerous occasions, made no reference towards Mayweather. He instead chose to remain humble as he always has throughout his career. Mayweather fans might say it's because he is afraid or wants no part of 'Pretty Boy' Floyd. I say, it's just Manny being Manny.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Cross-Promotion

Should they or shouldn't they? That is the question that has been lingering for nearly seven months. It was on national television, after his victory over Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, that Gilbert Melendez, Strikeforce lightweight champion, said in his post-fight interview, "I would like to fight Eddie Alvarez."

Alvarez just happens to be the Bellator lightweight champion and ever since that night, the question's been burning. Also, the fire's been fueled by, comment, call-outs and other possible intriguing match-ups.

Would we as MMA fans love to see this fight? Of course, but at what cost? Fighter's prides aside; too two upstart promotions always having to play second fiddle here in the U.S. to the UFC, it can be a risk full of rewards or consequences. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of cross promoting.

Both Strikeforce and Bellator have rosters full of world class fighters and young talented upstarts. However, there is no question that once you start getting past the champions and contenders, their stables as a whole don't compare to the depth of the UFC.

In other words, UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar could be put in a fight against a fighter in the lower tier of the UFC's lightweight division and the chances of him losing are greater than if Melendez or Alvarez were put in the same position in their respective organizations. It has to do with the parity the UFC offers from top to bottom in their respective weight classes.

It is because of this lack of depth that champions like Melendez and Alvarez, who are universally recognized among the top three lightweights in the world, have to look to each other for competition and fights that will earn them both money and recognition. No disrespect, but how many times can Melendez fight Josh Thompson or Shinya Aoki? As for Alvarez, he's scheduled to fight Pat Curran, who's a young exciting talent, but let's keep it real; he earned his spot by winning an eight man tournament against second and third tier fighters.

No disrespect meant towards Strikeforce or Bellator, but it is the truth. I truly believe their top tier fighters could easily hang, if not win, against the UFC's elite. They just don't have the depth, which means they have to look to each other and while that looks good on paper, I'm not 100% sure if it's such a good idea.

For the winner, there's recognition for the fighter and bragging rights for the promotion, but then what? Where do you go from there? You can't challenge the UFC's champions because they will not even consider cross promoting. In Dana White's eyes why should they and honestly he's right. The UFC doesn't need anybody, its the other way around; Bellator and Strikeforce need the UFC.

As for the loser, sure the fighter remains champion in his respective organization, but how much weight does that hold. Your organization just took a major blow as to how strong it truly is. Regardless of whether it is or not, it will inevitably be looked upon as the weaker of the two. It will be relegated to third place status in the eyes of U.S. MMA fans.

Considering the recent merger between the UFC and WEC, although that was a relatively easy transition considering both promotions were under the same ownership, wouldn't it be great if Strikeforce and Bellator could merge? Now that would be something huge and special. A merger of that magnitude could really be a force and a challenge to the UFC for U.S. MMA Supremacy.

Alas, the chances of something like that happening are probably slim to none. Unlike Zuffa, there is not one Ownership Company at work here; thus money, power and respect would keep something like this from happening. Besides, to this point Scott Coker, Strikeforce CEO and Bjorn Rebney, Bellator CEO, can't see eye to eye on putting together one fight, let alone a merger. Thus, the saga continues regarding the pros and cons of cross-promotion.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lopez vs. Marquez rekindles a rich rivalry

With a relatively light weekend of MMA, no disrespect to Bellator 34, my focus this week turns from the octagon to the squared circle and an intriguing fight next weekend on Saturday November 6, 2010. It's the WBO featherweight championship fight between titleholder and number one ranked featherweight in the world Juan Manuel Lopez (29-0, 26 KO's) and the number four ranked Rafael Marquez (39-5, 35 KO's).

Besides this being a fantastic match-up of two great fighters at the top of their game, there is another reason why I have a vested interest in this fight. Lopez vs. Marquez rekindles a rich rivalry in boxing that has lied dormant for over ten years now; it is the one that exists between Puerto Rico and Mexico. Two extremely proud Latin countries that each have a long storied tradition in boxing and against each other.

Legendary names of Puerto Rican champions such as Esteban De Jesus, Alfredo 'El Salsero' Escalera, and my personal favorite Wilfredo 'El Radar' Benitez were just some of the few fighters I remember my uncles and their friends watching and talking about constantly when I was growing up in New York. However, there was one more thing I noticed that was embedded in me for as long as I can remember. That was the cultural pride that took place whenever a Puerto Rican fighter stepped into the ring. Never was this more evident though than when he did so in a major fight against a Mexican fighter.

In my lifetime, there are three of these rivalry matches that personally stand out in my mind and I remember them each clearly along with the feeling I had then, as though they all took place yesterday. The first one was in the summer of '81, right before the beginning of my sophomore year in college. I was 18 years old and one of my cultural heroes Wilfredo 'Bazooka' Gomez was defending his featherweight title against the young Mexican phenom, the late great, Salvador Sanchez.

Till that moment in his career, Gomez had never tasted defeat and although Sanchez came into the bout with an impressive (40-1) record, no one, especially me thought he could defeat the great Puerto Rican champion. Thus, you can imagine my shock and subsequent disappointment when Sanchez handled Gomez and ultimately won via TKO in the 8th round.

My heart was broken and I'm not ashamed to say I shed a few tears when I saw our Puerto Rican hero destroyed. It's hard to explain unless you're emotionally and culturally invested. Sadly, a rematch was never to be as almost a year to the day later, Sanchez would die in a car crash.

Alas, it would be six years till another fight of that magnitude would take place between Puerto Rico and Mexico and it did in November '87 when Edwin 'Chapo' Rosario' would defend his WBA lightweight title against the great Mexican super featherweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez. Now a grown man, weeks away from my 25th birthday, I just knew 'Chapo' with that devastating right hand of his would not only hand Chavez his first defeat in 57 fights, but would also avenge the sting of Gomez losing to Sanchez six years earlier.

Once again I suffered shock, disappointment and sadness as Chavez pummeled Rosario over ten rounds, eventually swelling his left eye shut and forcing the referee to stop the fight. 'Chapo' fought valiantly, but was no match for Chavez who was clearly at the top of his game at that time and just coming into his own as a major star.

It would be 12 long years before I got to experience and witness another landmark fight between two fighters from these very proud countries. During that time I was starting to wonder if Puerto Rico could ever overcome Mexico in a big fight. This time the match would pit two 26 year old undefeated welterweight champions in their prime against each other. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao should take a lesson.

Puerto Rican IBF champion Felix 'Tito' Trinidad faced off against 'The Golden Boy' Oscar De La Hoya, the WBC champ, on September 18, 1999, in what some were billing "the fight of the century." While the fight never lived up to those lofty standards, it was a good one and unlike the previous two, this one went the distance.

Also unlike the previous two, this time the Puerto Rican fighter was the victor. I know many are going to rant that De La Hoya won the fight and that's fine, to each his own. However, in the eyes of the three judges, Trinidad won and if you look at the fight objectively with no sound, like I did afterwards, you will see that each fighter in my estimation won six rounds; it was that close.

The feeling of elation and pride I felt when the ring announcer read the decision was immense. For so long I'd waited to experience that feeling and it finally came. However, it's been 11 years since that night and while Miguel Cotto may have faced Antonio Margarito two years ago and lost, the suspicion and circumstantial evidence surrounding Margarito sort of makes that bout null and void in my eyes.

So I turn to next week and the anticipation of a truly great fight between two featherweights that will not only give there all for themselves, but for their respective countries as well. As a journalist, I try to remain unbiased. However, my heart tells me I have to pull for Juan Ma, which is exactly what I'll do; because Lopez vs. Marquez rekindles a rich rivalry in boxing and win or lose, I can't wait to see it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

UFC 121: Blah, Blah...Blam!

I wish I could sit here and tell you I was perfect at predicting fights, because if I were, I'd be a millionaire. Truth is, I only went 3-2 on my picks for the main card of UFC 121. However, one of those three, was a prediction I made publicly in this column, which was that Cain Velasquez would defeat the self-proclaimed "baddest S.O.B. on the planet" Brock Lesnar. In my fantasy fight league I also called it by first round KO.

In a night filled with decision after decision after decision, Velasquez (9-0, 8 KO's) did what I thought he could do and that was to negate Lesnar's superiority in size and strength using his speed and skill. Outside of that, he had, in my opinion, every advantage over Lesnar. I hate to say I told you so, but... oh well.

With the Southern California heavily partisan Mexican crowd behind him, Velasquez was clearly the crowd favorite and he did not disappoint. However, in the first minute, it looked as though it may be a long night for Cain as Brock bum rushed him from the sound of the bell. Lesnar (5-2, 2 KO's 2 subs) inevitably was able to take Velasquez down, but unlike his previous opponents, he was unable to keep him there. Velasquez used a combination of his jiu-jitsu and his wrestling to get up from under Lesnar's grasp and create a stalemate against the cage.

The difference here was that Velasquez would not just lay against the cage with Lesnar pressing up against him. He remained active, punching and wrestling, eventually connecting and taking him down alike. It was evident from the way Lesnar started the fight, this was a situation he was hoping to avoid as could be noted in his last fight against Shane Carwin, he doesn't like to be hit; not that anybody does mind you. However, with Lesnar I feel it is different.

I've always sensed that he has a bully mentality in that he could overwhelm his opponents, but if he got punched in the face, he would fold up and crumble under the pressure. It began to happen in the Carwin fight and it definitely happened here. Velasquez opened up on Lesnar once he had him down, unleashing a precision laden, but punishing, attack versus an all out one. He would open a nasty gash under Lesnar's left eye and eventually force the referee to step in and stop the fight in just over four minutes of the first round.

This makes Velasquez the first ever Mexican heavyweight champion in combat sports and he is quite proud of it as he acknowledged his Latin fans in Spanish during his post-fight interview. This bodes extremely well for the UFC who now have both a Hispanic and well-spoken young fighter as their heavyweight champion. As for Lesnar, he was humble and respectful in defeat as he congratulated Cain publicly and said, "He's a great fighter. What can I say? He was better than me tonight."

As for the rest of the fight card, not much to discuss, decision was the theme of the night. Although one fight, the welterweight (170 lbs.) tilt between Diego 'Nightmare' Sanchez (22-4, 6 KO's 9 subs) and Brazilian Paulo Thiago (13-3, 2 KO's, 8 subs) was an exciting back and forth affair for three rounds that saw Sanchez winning unanimously after clearly losing the first round. That fight garnered the 'fight of the night' bonus, which equates to an additional $70,000 for each fighter.

Disappointment of the night clearly had to come from former Strikeforce middleweight (185 lbs.) champion Jake Shields (26-4-1, 3 KO's 10 subs) who was making his debut in the UFC amidst much fanfare. Problem was, he was doing it at welterweight and although he won a lackluster split decision over Martin Kampmann (17-4, 7 KO's 6 subs), the weight cut clearly affected him as he had to literally hang on to win.

Surprisingly, even after that performance, UFC President Dana White says that Shields is now in line to fight the winner of the Josh Koscheck-George St. Pierre fight in December for the welterweight championship. White may want to reevaluate that again after a good night's sleep.

Finally, we very well may have seen the end of an era as former UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Tito 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' Ortiz (15-8-1, 8 KO's 2 subs) lost a unanimous decision to former student and protege Matt' The Hammer' Hamill (10-2, 6 KO's). That's Ortiz's third loss in a row and fourth in his last five fights with the only other decision being a draw.

Group Ortiz's downward slide, with Chuck Liddell's, five losses in his last six fights, along with Randy Couture's possible decision to continue acting instead of fighting and we're talking about the three fighters who not only dominated the division, but the sport for the better part of the decade. This is quite obviously an era gone by and thus, a new era begins with new heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Thankfully because of Cain, UFC 121 went from just being blah, blah to blam!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Brock vs. Cain, the biggest heavyweight fight ever?

Could this weekend's main event @ UFC 121 between heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (5-1, 2 KO's 2 subs) and number one contender Cain Velasquez (8-0, 7 KO's) be the biggest heavyweight fight ever? Hard to imagine that two fighters with a combined 14 professional fights between them could even be discussed in that manner, but then again these are no ordinary heavyweights.

Lesnar and Velasquez are like no other heavyweights ever seen in the sport before. They are the new breeds of heavyweight that are not only big and strong, but also agile and fast. Joe Rogan, color analyst for the UFC, has been quoted as saying, "Brock Lesnar is a genetic freak; a one in a million. A man that size that moves like a lightweight is unheard of." Lesnar stands @ 6'3" and weighed in for this weekend's fight @ just under the heavyweight limit @264lbs. Note, I said that's what he weighed in at; when he steps into the cage in Anaheim, CA, he'll probably be somewhere between 285-290lbs.

As for Velasquez, a mere shell of a man @ 6'2" 244lbs., he's been said to have the fastest hands in the heavyweight division. Pretty high praise considering his background is in wrestling. A former two-time All-American from Arizona State University and Junior College National Champion, Velasquez brings more than just fast hands to the game.

Oh, but did I mention Lesnar's credentials? He too is a former two-time All-American and National Champion. Only his championship was in Division One in 2000 while a senior @ The University of Minnesota. Add to that a career in professional wrestling at the highest level, The World Wrestling Entertainment, where he would go on to become World Champion.

Now before you scoff or even laugh at the idea that I would mentioned pro wrestling among his credits, just take a moment to think about this. The physical and emotional demands that are placed on someone in that position for nearly 300 days a year on the road. Need I say more?

That pedigree that both of these competitors bring to the game is also part of the new breed of heavyweights that have evolved in Mixed Martial Arts. Massive, strong, fast, agile and multi-skilled. Yet, there was a time when a 225lbs. fighter could compete with a much larger man, for example Randy Couture's epic win over Tim Sylvia @ UFC 68.

It was Couture who had the variables mentioned above while Sylvia was just big, that's it. However, as much as I hate to admit it that cannot happen today because the giants are on par with the smaller heavyweights in every facet of the game. Hence, Lesnar's defeat of Couture @ UFC 91. So, with all these variables in place for both Lesnar and Velasquez, who wins?

While it's hard to bet against Brock's massive size, I am going with Cain in the upset of the "invincible" one. My reasoning is simple, size and strength are the only advantages I see Lesnar having on Velasquez. The punching, kicking, jiu-jitsu and overall speed I give to Cain Velasquez. Plus, Lesnar showed in his last fight he can be dropped, when Shane Carwin blasted him in the first round; while Velasquez has shown he has a chin, as can be evidenced by the two flush right hands he took dead on the jaw from Cheick Kongo, yet kept coming.

"Kept coming", that is the ultimate reason I believe Velasquez will win this fight. I'm lucky enough to live next door to someone who knows both these men, especially Velasquez. Steve Mocco is a former two-times division one national champion @ heavyweight and a 2008 U.S. Olympian. He's currently coaching @ Lehigh University and while he never wrestled against Brock Lesnar, he has wrestled Cain Velasquez 14 times.

Those 14 times is why Mocco believes, as I do, that Cain can defeat Brock. According to Steve, "Cain is relentless; he won't stop coming. No matter what you do to him he keeps coming." When I asked Steve how relentless? He said, "in my entire career, I've never wrestled anyone other than Cain, that when the match was over, I was physically spent." When a multi-national champ and Olympian gives you that much praise, one has to take notice.

That one variable along with the other advantages I feel Cain has over Brock, are the reasons why I feel Cain Velasquez will pull off the upset this weekend. Taking all these factors into the equation,and the possibility that this fight may produce the first ever Mexican Heavyweight Champion in combat sports, its kind of hard to argue that this isn't the biggest heavyweight fight ever.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bellator 33: Alvarez vs. Huerta; a live experience

6PM, 30 minutes before the first fight and as the Liacouras Center begins to slowly fill with fans, my view is unlike any other. While this is not my first live MMA event, it is my first sitting at press row. As can be expected, excitedly nervous is the best way to describe my feeling as I traveled here. However, upon entering the arena and finding my place among my peers, it's as though I've been here many times before. That's because while my experience as a journalist may be minimal, my knowledge of the sport and the event I'm about to cover is not.

In only it's third season, Bellator Fighting Championships has made quite an impact in the MMA landscape. Their tournament format, producing champions in the various weight classes, has proved quite successful and has produced many exciting fights. Tonight's main event between lightweight (155lbs.) champion Eddie Alvarez (21-2, 12 KO's, 7 subs) and former Sports Illustrated cover boy, UFC veteran Roger Huerta (25-5-1, 11 KO's 5 subs) in a non-title fight was no different.

Hometown hero Alvarez, fighting his first fight ever in Philadelphia, did not disappoint as he put on a spectacular show in front of his fans. Using beautiful boxing combinations and devastating leg kicks, all with blazing speed and pinpoint accuracy, he TKO'ed Huerta in the second round, forcing the doctor to stop it before the third round.

Huerta in his usual, exciting, take the fight wherever it goes style gave it all he had, but on this night it wasn't enough as Alvarez just looked like the top three lightweight in the world that he is. What really surprised me was how much quicker Alvarez was than Huerta in every facet of the game, especially striking; anyone that is familiar with Huerta knows that speed is not something he usually defers to his opponent, yet on this evening it looked like Alvarez would be better suited being called "Fast Eddie."

Upon seeing the referee signal the fight was over, Alvarez climbed the cage to acknowledge the crowd and did his trademark back flip off the top of the cage. When asked in the post fight interview how he felt about hearing the fans chant his name, an overwhelmed Alvarez said, "What can I say, I love you guys." Asked about a future title fight against season two lightweight tournament winner Pat Curran, Alvarez's response, to the joy of the crowd, "I say let's do it right back here in Philly."

In the co-main event of the evening, welterweight (170lbs.) champion Lyman 'Cyborg' Good, (10-1, 5 KO's 1 sub) faced former 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestler and two-time division one national champion Ben 'Funky' Askren (7-0, 1 KO, 3 subs). Next to Alvarez, Good, who grew up in Spanish Harlem, NY, received the biggest ovation of the night. No doubt from the many fans that came down the turnpike from NYC and the fellow Puerto Rican fans who were in attendance for local favorite Alvarez.

In what was almost an exact replica of the Anderson Silva/Chael Sonnen classic in the UFC two months ago, Askren used his superior wrestling to handle Good over the course of five rounds. Unlike Silva though, Good was able to do damage from the bottom to Askren, even when he found himself underneath Askren's full mount position throughout.

I said almost an exact replica because with less than two minutes in the fifth and final round, Good threw an upkick from the bottom that caught the curly-haired grappler flush on the jaw. Inevitably, just like Silva against Sonnen, Good was able to catch Askren in a triangle choke that looked pretty tight. However, unlike the UFC middleweight champion, Good did not grab Askren's leg while he was on his knees, thus allowing him to stand and eventually break free of the hold. Askren held on and was able to win a unanimous decision and "wrestle" the title away from Good.

The first fight of the live television broadcast, started things off with a bang as welterweight action between 2004 U.S. Olympic Judoka Rick Hawn (9-0, 7 KO's) and Levon 'DaMaynman' Maynard (10-7, 5 KO's, 3 subs) lasted just under five minutes. Using crisp strikes with both his hands and feet, Hawn showed why, even as a judo player, he has seven KO's in his nine fights. However, it was Hawn's bread and butter that set up the beginning of the end, as a beautiful over the shoulder judo throw right before the end of the round put Hawn in position on top of Maynard to rain down punches to his defenseless opponent.

Also on the main card, Brazilian featherweight (145 lbs.), Wilson Reis (11-2, 7 subs), now fighting out of Philadelphia, needed all of that hometown cooking as he eked out a split decision victory over Deividas Taurosevicius (12-5, 8 subs). In a fight that I saw 29-28 for Taurosevicius, Reis came on strong in the third round with some wild punches. However, other than a weak triangle choke attempt in the second round, it was all the offense I felt Reis mustered the whole fight. Nonetheless, it kept the hometown winning flavor intact for the night.

On the under card, featherweight Fran Evans, in his pro debut, was a local boy who made good as his slick submission game was enough to pull off a triangle choke on his opponent in just over three minutes of the first round. Also on the under card, Nick Cottone (9-2-1, 3 KO's 4 subs), from right up the turnpike in New Jersey, used his dominant wrestling to control his opponent and grind out a workmanlike decision.

All 'n' all, it was a great night of fights. With their outstanding production value, including their in house video packages, their timing in between fights, which kept the energy level high and an exciting card, it was on par with anything I had ever experienced at a live UFC event. Bellator 33: Alvarez vs. Huerta was definitely a live experience in every sense of the word.

I want to personally thank Brad Bruggemann and (MMA Radio for the Average Joe) for the media credential hook-up to Bellator 33.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UFC 120 a success in U.K.; U.K. fighters not

With the Ultimate Fighting Championship's latest foray into London, England, UFC 120, matchmaker Joe Silva used the same formula for success he has in the past. Stack the card heavy with European fighters, especially those from The United Kingdom. The formula proved successful as the UFC had well over 17,000 fans in the arena. Unfortunately, for the British fans there was not much to cheer about as many of their fellow countrymen on the card took it on the chin, literally.

Sadly, all was not lost as the night's main event fighter and biggest draw, middleweight (185 lbs.) Michael 'The Count' Bisping (20-3, 12 KO's 4 subs) (pictured above), saved face for the English fans with a unanimous convincing win over the man known as "Sexyama", Judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama from Japan. Using a crisp 1-2 boxing combination and connecting all night at will with his overhand right, Bisping kept Akiyama at bay, avoiding any possible takedown situations; although Akiyama didn't appear to be looking for any either.

Bisping, now riding a two fight winning streak, after losing a decision earlier in the year to Wanderlei Silva, is looking seriously at a possible title shot with at least one more win. Akiyama (13-3, 5 KO's 7 subs) on the other hand, who came into the UFC with a lot of fanfare last year @ UFC 100, has now lost his last two in a row. He could easily be (0-3) in the UFC as his fight @ 100 with Alan Belcher was a highly disputed split decision win. Curious to see how the UFC brass handles Akiyama's status as they are desperately looking for an Asian star to market around.

The co-main event provided the most fireworks of the night, although it turned out to be a dud for the British fans. 'The Natural Born Killer', Carlos Condit (26-5, 12 KO's 13 subs), former welterweight (170 lbs.) champion for World Extreme Cagefighting fighting out of New Mexico, USA, proved to be just that. He shocked the U.K. and the MMA world with his one punch KO over local favorite Dan 'The Outlaw' Hardy (23-8, 11 KO's 4 subs).

Condit, although carrying 12 KO's on his record, is known more taking a punch than delivering one. The same can be said for Hardy, who before last night never tasted defeat via KO. So, it was quite surprising when the two were gladly trading with each other at will in the first round and in the midst of an exchange, Condit caught Hardy with a devastating left hook that nearly took his head off. Hardy fell to the canvas and Condit immediately jumped on him and delivered another right-left to the jaw before the referee mercifully jumped in to stop it.

Up next for Condit, who is now on a three fight win streak and three for four in the UFC, either the winner of next week's match-up between Jake Shields and Martin Kampmann or possibly await a potential title shot against Georges St. Pierre. That is assuming St. Pierre gets passed Josh Koscheck in December. Kampmann holds the lone victory against Condit in the UFC.

As for Hardy, he has now lost his last two, including a title shot against St. Pierre in March, after winning seven in a row. However, London or not, he is a very popular fighter and the UFC loves him because he's the type that will bring it every time, win or lose. Don't look for him to go anywhere and after the way he lost last night, I know he's itching to get back in there sooner than later to get that monkey off his back.

One fighter who appears to have finally put it all together and emerge from the shadows is Mike 'Quicksand' Pyle (20-7-1, 2 KO's 16 subs). A veteran in this sport since 1999 Pyle has been a name that has been mentioned over the years by his peers as someone to look out for. Xtreme Couture fighters such as Frank Trigg, Jay Hieron and Randy Couture himself, have all sung Pyle's praises. Trigg has publicly stated "pound for pound, no one hits harder" and Hieron has said, "when it comes to submissions, no one is nicer." So why has he not emerged till now?

The knock on Mike Pyle has always been he is a gym fighter, a guy who is unbelievable in training, but could never transfer that into his fights. In the UFC alone, he's only 3-2, however he's won his last two, including a dominating performance in London against the previously undefeated and heavily favored Englishman John 'The Hitman' Hathaway (14-1, 5 KO's 4 subs).

Pyle beat him standing and on the ground, where in the second round he had Hathaway in a Triangle choke position from side mount that was so controlling, he literally pummeled his face at will for well over two minutes. To 23 year old Hathaway's credit, he withstood the onslaught of punches along with the choke and survived the round and the fight. It took 11 years, but it looks like Pyle has finally arrived.

A couple of other quick notes from UFC 120; first, it would not surprise me if heavyweight Cheick Kongo (15-6-2, 9 KO's 3 subs), may have wore out his welcome after 13 fights in the UFC. With a record of (8-4-1) in the UFC, Kongo's main strength has always been his striking. However, since getting cracked in the jaw by Frank Mir last December; he appears hesitant to pull the trigger. He's also resorting to illegal tactics in his fights. He received a point penalty deduction that cost him the win and into a draw on Saturday for excessive grabbing of his opponent's shorts for leverage against the cage.

One bright spot for England on Saturday came in the form of up and coming lightweight (155 lbs.) Paul 'Sassangle' Sass who remained undefeated in 11 fights with a slick submission victory in the first round. However, in the long run, his great submission game, he's got ten wins by sub, may be his Achilles heel. He's great on the ground, but he offers nothing in his striking and it may be a matter of time till he gets smashed upon stepping up against better competition. In all, UFC 120 was a success in the U.K., but unfortunately the majority of U.K. fighters were not.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What a difference a year makes?

Friday November 20, 2009, Dana White, President of the UFC, is an in-studio guest on MMA Junkie Radio @ Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas during a prime time show they are having on the eve of UFC 106. I know because I was in town specifically visiting my friends who just happen to host and produce Junkie Radio.

As Dana is taking incoming calls from the listeners, a caller with a British accent gets through and says he's calling from the U.K. After a few seconds of pleasant banter back and forth, the caller chuckles, changes his accent and comes clean, "this is Gerald man I'm just joking." The caller is current UFC middleweight (185lbs.) contender Gerald 'Hurricane' Harris, not from the U.K. and definitely not British.

That now famous call may have been the turning point in Gerald Harris career. At the time, Gerald was riding a seven-fight win streak in the minor leagues of MMA or what he affectionately terms the "Bum fight circuit." He had just won the 'Shark Fights' middleweight championship over former UFC contender Nissen Osterneck and was scheduled to fight another former UFC contender, Travis Lutter.

That was the fight Gerald was banking would get him back into the UFC, but the fight fell through; a common occurrence in the smaller promotions. Frustrated and angry, he said, "I'm tired of this"; so on November 20th he took a shot, called the show and asked the boss for a job. Almost one year to the day, Saturday November 13, 2010, Gerald Harris (17-2, 8 KO's, 6 subs) will fight on the main card of UFC 123 seeking his fourth win in a row since joining the organization. What a difference a year makes?

As previously stated, Gerald has had three fights in 2010, all wins and all ending via knockout. Two of those fights garnered him KO of the night bonuses and his last one, a vicious body slam KO of David Branch, was featured as one of ESPN's top plays of the day; the first MMA fighter ever to receive such an honor.

One would think after so much success, there'd be a lot of changes in Gerald's life. However, when I asked him, his response, "the only thing that has changed is the way people treat me. I've got a lot more fans now, that's about it." When I asked how he's handling it, he said, "I've talked to my friends Rampage (Jackson) and Rashad (Evans) about it. Rashad told me, you're still a rookie in the game, you haven't even begun to peak yet."

Maybe not, but he sure is getting there. He's currently riding a ten-fight win streak and hasn't lost a fight in over three years. However, ask him and he'll tell you, "I'm not giving you a bulls**t answer right now, I don't even know what my record is. All I know is I have two losses, that's it."

It's just his persona; he's extremely humble. I interviewed him seven months ago right before his fight against Mario Miranda and he was exactly the same today as he was then. "To date, Miranda's the biggest middleweight I've ever fought", Gerald said. However his next opponent, another Brazilian, Maiquel Falcao, is a former light-heavyweight (205lbs.) fighter cutting down to 185. "He's a pitbull", Gerald says; "I'm not getting any easy fights."

Assuming he wins his next fight, he'll be 4-0 in the UFC. When asked who he'd like his next opponent to be? He said, "I'm in no position to be calling anyone out. When I get in that position, I keep my expectations low."

As humble as he is, there is one thing that Gerald has openly expressed disappointment at. He was surprised he was not nominated as a finalist for KO of the year at the 2010 World MMA Awards in December. "I really do think I deserve a nomination because it wasn't due to a normal punch or kick", speaking of his body slam finish against Branch.

Yet, when I asked if he'd rather have the award or the highlight on ESPN, his initial response, "Wow, I don't know; I plead the fifth." There is one goal he's after though, "In January I'm going full force to get into that UFC 2011 video game."

In March when I talked to him, Gerald had expressed a desire to someday pursue acting. A former professional comedian, he hoped to someday emulate the career of his idol Jamie Foxx. However, today he says, "I've got plenty of time to act, but I don't have plenty of time to fight. Right now I am solely focused on my fighting career. The closest I get to Hollywood right now is making prank calls and writing jokes on Twitter."

What a difference a year makes? If you're super humble Gerald Harris, not much. A year ago, he was driving a '98 Cadillac. Today, "I'm still driving the same Caddy. The only difference is I fixed the one windshield that was all messed up, but the air-conditioning still doesn't work; compressor cost too much money man."

Gerald Harris would like to thank everyone who supports him, from his fans to his sponsors. For a list of his sponsors, videos and much more, please visit

I want to thank Gerald for taking time out of his busy schedule, including his training camp, to grant me this interview.

FYI: Gerald will be hosting a UFC 121/Lesnar vs. Velasquez viewing party on Saturday October 23rd @ Cinemark Tulsa 17 w/IMAX - 10802 E. 71st Street/Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fight Chix is empowering while on their mission

If I mentioned Tapout, Affliction, RVCA and Silver Star, you would probably recognize these as renowned MMA clothing brands. If I asked, what do they have in common? You would probably say, "they are all finalists in the 2010 'Fighter's Only' World MMA Awards." However, if I mention or ask about 'Fight Chix', would you think or say the same thing? Well you should because 'Fight Chix' is an MMA Lifestyle Clothing Brand that has been nominated among the four others previously mentioned and more importantly, they're empowering while on their mission.

I recently interviewed Elisabeth Nuesser, Founder and CEO of Fight Chix (pictured above right w/Fight Chix spokesmodel Miss Rara). As we talked I realized that what I had imagined was actually true, Fight Chix is not just a clothing line. As a matter of fact, Elisabeth herself told me that over the last five years she's come to realize "this is a lifestyle brand that is actually more than what we thought it was."

Elisabeth wasn't always an MMA fan; she was introduced to the sport after she first met her future husband Jake who was a hardcore fan of the sport and lifelong martial artist. While she wasn't sure what to think at first, she was intrigued by what she saw and realizing it was a huge part of Jake's life, she slowly, but surely started to become a fan herself. However, it wasn't until the first season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality series and her favorite fighter Diego Sanchez, that she became hooked.

A hairdresser by trade, who is passionate about hair and making women feel good about themselves, this 29 year old mother of two was living a normal life with her family while working two jobs to make ends meet as she also tended bar four or five nights a week. That was until she realized she wanted to do more with her life, but what?

Depressed and frustrated she turned to Jake and said, "I'm a strong woman and I don't want to do this anymore." He helped her drown her sorrows in the one thing they both loved, MMA. As they watched tapes of old UFC's she noticed something she never had noticed before. Women in the audience were representing the sport wearing clothing gear the fighters wore, but they were not representing themselves. That was because they had nothing to represent them as women and the sport. She said, "they say behind every great man, there's a great woman, but where is the clothing line."

Using inspiration from her husband and his skills as a Graphic Designer, they expounded on her idea, created a logo and Fight Chix was born. That was nearly five years ago and today, what started out as something fun they could do together has slowly grown to be recognized worldwide.

Based out of their home in Chicago, Fight Chix works with independent contractors to spread the gospel of their adopted slogan, "empowering women worldwide." Elisabeth and Jake came up with the slogan after they started receiving testimonials from women across the country who were telling them they were wearing Fight Chix because it gave them strength to deal with such battles as breast cancer and domestic violence. Fight Chix has since taken up the fight against some of these causes.

Sponsoring a few local amateur fighters, their first big break came in October 2008 when they sponsored professional female fighter Kelly Kobold in her nationally televised fight on CBS against Gina Carano in Elite XC. Three weeks later, on Elisabeth's birthday, they sponsored male heavyweight fighter Fabricio Werdum in his fight against Junior Dos Santos in the UFC. Yes, after three years of hard work, Fight Chix had finally arrived at the big show.

Fast forward to the present and they are getting ready to sign a partnership, which will create a Fight Chix Europe affiliate where Elisabeth says they "are currently exploding across Russia, Germany and the Ukraine." However, while the majority has been supportive, not everyone in the male dominated MMA industry has been receptive.

Out of curiosity, I asked Elisabeth if she's ever received any negative feedback from anyone in the MMA realm. She stated, while just about everyone has been very cordial and welcoming, there was one fighter who was not very kind. Former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, who had just lost his title to Randy Couture, was hanging out a bar with others from his camp when he confronted Elisabeth and sarcastically asked about the apparel she was wearing. "What's this Fight Chix stuff?" When she explained, he reiterated his sarcasm with "really, are you serious? Why would you start this?"

While the experience hurt her, it also motivated her. However, while that experience wasn't very nice, her chance meeting with the late Charles 'Mask' Lewis of Tapout was just the opposite. 'Mask', the epitome of positive vibes, exuded such when Elisabeth told him about Fight Chix. On top of that, when Elisabeth's young daughter handed Mask a Fight Chix sticker, he placed it on his jacket and proceeded to give her his dog tags. That experience left a lasting impression.

I asked how she feels about being nominated at the World MMA Awards and Elisabeth said, "I'm shocked, and humbled by it. When I received the call last Friday telling me, I cried because I remembered all the countless hours and endless days and nights of hard work to get here." Mission accomplished!

As of this writing, Elisabeth has told me that Fight Chix has literally just signed a three year licensing deal with Gemsen America and will be available in specialty stores for the upcoming holidays.

Elisabeth Nuesser would like to thank Tamara 'Miss Rara' Suguitan and Kim Scott for their unwavering friendship and support. The late Charles 'Mask' Lewis for his inspiration and for being the person, not personality, he was and the fans for all their support and belief in Fight Chix and the sport of MMA.

I personally want to thank Elisabeth for this interview and her time. I asked for 15-20 minutes and she graciously gave me 45 with no problem. Thank you.

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