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.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Number one featherweight or fighter in the world?

In the most recent issue of 'Fighter's Only' magazine, the Chuck Liddell Collector's issue, I was fortunate enough to be asked my opinion on five MMA related questions. One of the questions posed to me was who would I pick as "Fighter of the year" for the period running from September 1, 2009-August 31, 2010. Without hesitation, my response was Jose Aldo.

Aldo, (18-1, 12 KO's 2 subs), is the WEC featherweight (145 lbs.) champion of the world and currently the poster boy for the organization; the word boy seems quite appropriate since Aldo just turned a mere 24 years old three weeks ago. His onslaught in the WEC has been nothing short of sensational, which begs the question, is he just the number one featherweight in the world or the number one fighter?

Now I know a question like this is going to create quite a stir, especially among Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva fans; but before you go blowing a gasket and calling me crazy, among other things, hear me out. Although, I recently had an educated debate with Gorgeous George, host of MMA Junkie Radio, who had a strong argument that Aldo may not even be fighter of the year.

Currently (8-0) in the WEC, Aldo has won all but one of those fights by quick devastating KO finishes. The one fight that did go the distance was in his first title defense against former featherweight kingpin and fan favorite Urijah Faber. In that fight, it was only Faber's heart that kept him from being finished as Aldo completely decimated and dominated 'The California Kid'. The fight was so one-sided, one could argue it is what forced Faber to drop a weight class to bantamweight (135lbs.).

As for why I call him 'Fighter of the year'? While he may have only had two fights in the time frame I indicated above, they were two huge fights on a big stage. Last November, in his quest to win the title, he faced former champion Mike Brown. Brown had been coming off a ten fight win streak, including two wins against Faber along with wins over top ten contenders Leonard 'Bad Boy' Garcia and Jeff 'Big Frog' Curran. Aldo, made quick work of Brown, with one of those fast KO finishes early in the second round.

Up next, Faber in April 2010 and the demolition I referenced above and all this for a kid who was only 23 years old at the time. As for number one fighter in the world? Those two fights were sandwiched by an eight-second destruction of formidable Cub Swanson via a flying knee in June 2009. Also, a second title defense just this past week where he crushed number one contender Manny 'The Anvil' Gamburyan with an anvil type uppercut of his own in the second round.

Now look at the last four fights for the other two supposed best pound for pound fighters in the world, St. Pierre and Silva. St. Pierre, UFC welterweight (170lbs.) champion has had three decision wins and the one fight that he did end was a fourth round TKO corner stoppage against a lightweight (155lbs.) champion, BJ Penn. As for Silva, UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) champion, he's had two decision wins; both of which were horribly boring performances against Thales Leites and Demian Maia.

Also, he recently defeated Chael Sonnen with a fight saving submission with less than two minutes to go in the fight. It was fight saving because he was clearly losing for all but those last two minutes. (It should be noted, Sonnen has since been found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs). To his credit, he did destroy former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin @ 205 lbs. in the first round via KO.

However, as Goze, co-host/producer of MMA Junkie Radio, so aptly put it, "when you compare what Aldo is doing in his fights to the other champions, it's hard not to say he's the best right now." I agree and ironically he comes from the same camp, Blackhouse MMA, that produces Anderson Silva, so you know the sky's the limit for this kid. Therefore, when you look at the body of work (sheer dominance), I ask, is this just the number one featherweight or fighter in the world?

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