Friday, December 23, 2011

UFC 141 Preview: 2011 is going out with a bang

As I sit here previewing next Friday’s UFC 141 card it suddenly dawned on me that no matter what I say regarding the main event, it’s quite simple, somebody’s getting knocked the f*** out! I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when you have two finely tuned behemoths coming at each other, something or somebody’s got to give; the question here is who?

One thing is for sure, UFC President Dana White and matchmaker extraordinaire Joe Silva can never be accused of protecting or coddling any of their fighters. On the last show of the year they have paired arguably their biggest money draw in former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar against their biggest free agent signing this year in former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair ‘Demolition Man’ Overeem. The result is a fight for the ages that is intriguing and full of questions for many reasons.

First and foremost is, what Brock Lesnar can we expect considering Lesnar (5-2, 2 KO’s 2 subs) hasn’t competed since his title losing affair against Cain Velasquez 14 months ago? The reason behind the layoff was his second bout in two years against Diverticulitis, a serious condition that affects the digestive system. Thus, Lesnar had to endure a second surgical procedure to correct the problem, which always leaves the lingering question of how healthy is he?

This doesn’t even take into account, the rust incurred from such a long layoff. One needs to remember that while he’s a freak of nature type of athlete with top of the line wrestling credentials, he’s still a relative pup in the cage with only seven pro fights to his credit. Compare that resume to Overeem (35-11, 14 KO’s 19 subs) and on paper at least it looks like a mismatch.

However, Lesnar holds one wild card, wrestling. If he is able to clinch Overeem and take him down before “The Reem,” as he is also known, is able to inflict his damage, the UFC newcomer could be in a world of hurt like he’s never experienced before. Lesnar may be inexperienced, but he is massive and he’s a monster, literally. Thus, having him with that wrestling ability on top of you can spell doom.

Yet, that wild card is all he has in a hand that at best would sum up to only two pair in poker. Overeem on the other hand has everything from a three of a kind to a flush. Highly skilled in kickboxing, based on his background in Holland and experienced in all facets of Mixed Martial Arts from his vast international competition, I expect the “Demoltion Man” to live up to his name and demolish his opponent.

It’s no secret Lesnar doesn’t like to get hit; granted nobody does, but he’s a fish out of water as soon as he get’s touched and when facing Overeem, I anticipate he’s going to get hit fast and hard before he’s ever able to impose his wrestling will on the Dutch striker. That coupled with cage rust is why I am picking Overeem by first round TKO. If that happens, a showdown with current UFC champion Junior Dos Santos would be dynamite, literally and figuratively.

In the co-main event, we’re going from one extreme to the other as unlike the two Goliaths that are facing each other in the main event this fight takes place in the lightweight (155 lbs.) division. Yet, don’t be surprised if this one takes fight of the night honors as Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (17-3, 1 KO, 13 subs) looks to make it seven wins in a row against talented Nate Diaz (14-7, 3 KO’s 10 subs). This fight may be about as even as you can get.

Both guys are extremely versatile and are equally adept standing or on the ground. While conventional wisdom would probably have you lean towards Diaz as far as jiu-jitsu is concerned, it’s hard to ignore Cowboy’s 13 submission victories. Also, while Nate is unorthodox, but effective with his boxing, Cerrone has kicks in his arsenal that Diaz just doesn’t possess.

Almost too hard to call it, I’m going to pick Cerrone in this one via decision based on one factor. In a failed attempt at moving up to welterweight, Diaz was tossed around like a rag doll in his fight against Rory MacDonald. I think Cerrone may have the strength advantage between the two, which is my overriding factor in this one. On another note, this will be Cowboy’s fifth fight in 2011.

Finally, in a very interesting fight welterweights (170 lbs.) Jon Fitch (23-3-1, 5 KO’s, 5 subs) and Johny Hendricks (11-1, 6 KO’s 1 sub) square off in a contender’s match between two of the division’s best wrestlers. That said, while Fitch has challenged once for the belt and is arguably the number one contender right now, I am picking Hendricks via decision. The difference is boxing where Hendricks has shown constant and developing improvement. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is Melendez King of the Hill or stuck in purgatory?

Following another impressive performance Saturday night, against yet another formidable challenger, Strikeforce lightweight (155 lbs.) champion Gilbert 'El Nino' Melendez finds himself in quite a strange place. Is he 'King of the Hill' or is he stuck in purgatory? Arguably the number one lightweight in the world and easily one of the top ten pound for pound fighters as well, you would think there is no question, but there is. That is because Melendez finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Being a champion at any level is a great accomplishment, whether it is as an amateur or as a professional at a small regional promotion. Thus, being a Strikeforce champion is nothing to sneeze at, but there is always the stigma of not being a UFC champion; which is the pinnacle of Mixed Martial Arts by where all other fighters are measured. It may not be fair, and in some cases may not be accurate, but as the phrase says, "it is what it is."

Melendez (20-2, 11 KO's 1 sub) handled his business on Saturday night as he convincingly won a unanimous decision over very tough Jorge 'Gamebred' Masvidal. That gives him six straight victories in a row and the only two losses on his record he's avenged. However, when you compare the names of his last six opponents, with those of current UFC champion Frankie Edgar, there seems to be a definite drop in competition. They've all been good fighters, but outside of Shinya Aoki, who was ranked number two in the world at the time, they were not necessarily cream of the crop.

That is of no fault of 'El Nino' though; loyal to the end, he made his name through Strikeforce when the UFC, for some reason, wouldn't give him a look. However, now under the Zuffa banner that also owns the UFC, Strikeforce, which was always looked upon as second fiddle, is now looking more like a minor league or junior circuit. Nonetheless, because Strikeforce is now owned by Zuffa, everyone, including Melendez, just knew it was a matter of time before he found himself challenging for the coveted UFC title. The time was supposed to be now at the end of Strikeforce's cable TV deal with the Showtime network. "Not so fast my friends," as ESPN's Lee Corso would say.

It was recently announced that Strikeforce renewed their contract with Showtime, which quipped many people to ask why? I too was asking myself the same question, but after thinking about it clearly, it's simple; it's all about the Benjamin's. The UFC recently signed a major network television deal with FOX. However, Zuffa realizing that cable network money is just as green and valuable knew it had to keep its hand in that cookie jar as well. How do you do it without causing a conflict of interest? You keep Strikeforce as a separate brand; problem solved.

Great for Zuffa, but where does that leave Melendez? If I know UFC President Dana White, I wouldn't worry too much. He realizes he has quite a commodity in the Strikeforce champion, so I'm sure he'll do whatever he has to, both financially and competitively to keep Melendez happy. The lightweight division in the UFC is probably the deepest in the company; especially with the WEC merger last year; so I wouldn't be surprised if you saw some well known names and high caliber fighters make their way onto the Strikeforce roster.

Yet, that's not etched in stone and Melendez has all but cleaned out the cupboard bare. Therefore, till some more big name fighters make their way into Strikeforce, he'll just keep playing Russian roulette with his world ranking as former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez did before him and you see what that got him; a loss to a young hungry lion and more importantly a potential loss of big paydays. Thus, Melendez remains in purgatory and although he is King of the Hill in Strikeforce, that's almost like being Anthony Michael Hall's character was in the movie 'Sixteen Candles'; King of the Dipsh*ts!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

UFC 140: Is there still any doubt out there?

Although Jon 'Bones' Jones (15-1, 8 KO's 5 subs) is the UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion and has already defeated former champions Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, people still doubt whether he's for real. After his title defense Saturday night against yet another former champion, Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida (17-3, 6 KO's 2 subs), is there still any doubt out there? UFC 140 took place in Toronto, Canada and our neighbors to the north were treated to some exciting fights.

In the main event, champ Jones, still only 24 years old, found himself facing possibly the biggest test of his career yet. That is because while the biggest thing with fighting Jones is trying to solve the puzzle that he is, his opponent Machida is a brain twister of his own. Using a counter attacking Karate based style, Machida was effective and appeared to have Jones not only confused, but concerned early on. As a matter of fact, he clearly won the first round, which is something no one has been able to do against the unorthodox Jones.

However, the second round proved another story as Jones found the missing piece to the Machida puzzle; in this case it was closing the distance. By doing so he was able take Machida down, apply some ground and pound and eventually throw an elbow which caused a cut to the forehead. He then was able to catch Machida in a standing guillotine choke and, because of his uncanny size & length, torque his neck to the point that he literally put the dragon to sleep. I don't think there is any doubt left, Jones is legit and the future of this sport.

In the co-main event, it was a rematch of former UFC heavyweight champions between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 3 KO's 20 subs) and Frank Mir (16-5 3 KO's 9 subs). Not only are these two former champions, but arguably the best submission experts in the division. That said, when you have guys this big possessed with that type of skill, injury through submission is always a possibility. Such was the case in this fight.

After a great start in the first round for Nogueira, where he had Frank Mir's number with effective dirty boxing (in close-fighting), it was a vicious right hand that dropped Mir; it looked as though Big Nog was on the verge of victory. Always confident in his ground game, he jumped on Mir, going for a possible choke. Oddly enough, it appeared as though the chokehold somehow revived Mir and he was able to reverse position. He inevitably got on top, secured Nogueira's arm with a Kimura lock and applied so much pressure, he broke the arm forcing Nog to tap.

Frank Mir now becomes the first man to not only knockout Nogueira, but to submit him as well. He said it perfectly in his post-fight interview when Joe Rogan asked him about the submission; "Unfortunately when you are our size and as dangerous as we are, these things are going to happen. Hopefully, Nogueira is going to be okay, I idolize him."

Five years ago, light-heavyweights Tito 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' Ortiz (16-10-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5, 6 KO's 6 subs) would have been the main event of any mixed martial arts event, including the UFC. However, at this point in their careers they are two legends of the sport who finally met in the cage after lengthy careers; the result was Lil' Nog finishing Tito in the first round. The irony is that Ortiz, the master of the ground and pound attack, was beaten at his own game as Nogueira hurt him with punches and elbows to the body while Ortiz was on his back. Time will tell if Ortiz will get to honor the last fight of his contract and career.

Talent and skill may be the cornerstone of a fighter's success, but that all goes out the window if that fighter doesn't keep their emotions in check. One can argue that is what happened to bantamweight (135 lbs.) Mark 'The Machine' Hominick (20-10, 8 KO's 8 subs) against 'The Korean Zombie' Chan Sung Jung (12-3, 3 KO's 7 subs). Riding the emotions of recently losing his close friend and trainer Shawn Tompkins, along with fighting in his home country, Hominick came out reckless throwing a wild left hook; the result was he got caught with a counter right hand that was the beginning of the end for him in just seven seconds.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Freedom of Speech, not in today's world

As we move ever so closer to 2012 and find ourselves fully entrenched in the world of social media, you better watch what you say; especially if you are a public figure. Never was this more clearly evident then on Thursday evening when UFC President Dana White reported that former World Extreme Cagefighting champion and current UFC bantamweight contender Miguel Torres had been cut from the roster. The reason was an inappropriate message from his twitter handle.

Torres, who is one of the more popular MMA fighters with fans, especially when it comes to twitter, made the mistake of tweeting the following, “If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them.” That post was subsequently removed and replaced with, “If a windowless van was a called a surprise van more people wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone likes surprises.” Too late the damage was done; as if the latter post was any better.

Miguel Torres has been known to have a unique sense of humor. I personally got a chance to experience some of that humor when I got to meet and speak to him a little in May 2010. It is a quick hitting, no holds barred type of humor that would’ve made him perfect for the ‘70’s when TV shows like ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Sanford and Son’, could and would freely use language that cannot fly today. Considering the Redd Foxx shirt he had on in our photo above, it all makes sense.

Unfortunately, it’s not 1973 and we’re not in the 20th century. It’s nearly 2012, it’s the politcially correct 21st century and certain things just can’t be said; or in the case of the UFC, shouldn’t be said. Dana White implores his fighters to tweet to the masses, even going so far as to reward those that communicate with original and witty remarks. A year ago, he may have even just given Torres a slap on the wrist for this latest slip of the tweet. However, things are different now.

The UFC recently signed a major television deal with the FOX network that will make the brand and sport mainstream in 2012. Thus, what may have just ruffled White’s feathers a year ago, downright plucked them today. Torres was clearly wrong in his judgment, but he was also a casualty because of the business circles the UFC is in these days.

Fighters and employees of the company now have to readjust their thinking to a more corporate mindset before speaking; which brings me to former UFC light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. On Wednesday, one entire day before the Torres error in judgment, Evans too spoke before thinking. This one was live at a press conference promoting his January fight; on FOX no less, against fellow contender Phil Davis.

Evans, who wrestled collegiately at Michigan State threw a verbal jab at Davis, who wrestled at fellow Big Ten rival Penn State by saying, “I’m going to put my hands on you worse than that dude did them other kids at Penn State.” The comment was obviously referencing the charges of child molestation against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Not necessarily the best choice of words considering the nature and sensitivity of the crime in question.

Yet, unlike the Torres reaction, White’s response was simply to acknowledge that it was a stupid comment and that Evans was doing it in the heat of promoting a fight. Could it be that Torres’s mistake was not so much what he said, but when he said it? One has to wonder if White after feeling the heat of having to downplay the Evans remark, felt compelled to take drastic measures upon hearing about the Torres fiasco. Things that make you go hmmmmm?

Another case closer to home where a twitter mistake came with a price is the one made by Lehigh University All-American wide receiver Ryan Spadola. On the eve of Lehigh’s quarterfinal matchup against North Dakota in the College Football Sub-division Tournament, Spadola has been suspended for a tweet he sent before last Saturday’s opening round game against Towson. The sad part here is the tweet did not even originate with him.

The tweet, which referenced the Towson student body and contained a racial slur, was originally posted by a friend of Spadola’s. However, the mistake by the receiver was made when he decided to retweet it; thus, in essence he made it his. The NCAA got wind of it and tomorrow in what is the biggest game so far of his collegiate career, the junior wide receiver has to pay the price for his actions.

These incidents are just the latest of athletes, professional and amateur, who have made the mistake of speaking without thinking things through; especially when it comes to twitter. Usually not a day goes by anymore without hearing of some athlete’s downright dumb twitter comment, usually responding to something they should just stay clear of. Freedom of speech does not necessarily translate to say whatever you think; especially not in today’s world.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Exposed through redemption

As some read this column, they may believe I'm speaking from a biased opinion; seeing that I've never hidden the fact that I'm a proud Puerto Rican American who has always been a Miguel Cotto fan. However, those that know me know better. I'll be the first to admit a totally different opinion if I truly feel one. Unfortunately for Antonio Margarito (pictured at left) I can't, because Saturday night he was exposed through Cotto's redemption.

In a rematch of their first fight, which took place three years ago, WBA light middleweight champion Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KO's) exacted revenge on Antonio Margarito (38-8, 27 KO's) for more reasons than just a previous loss. That is because unlike their first fight, Cotto and most intelligent boxing fans realize that this fight was actually fought on even ground. By now everyone is familiar with the suspicion that Margarito used illegal hand wraps in their first fight, since he was found to have such in his subsequent fight against Shane Mosely.

Yet, we may have never known about the illegal wraps, which included elements of Plaster of Paris, had it not been for the keen watchful eye of Mosely trainer Nazeem Richardson. Richardson, who was part of Cotto's camp Saturday, is the one that noticed the improprieties during the pre-fight against Mosely and since then Margarito hasn't been the same. It's very simple; the proof lies in the pudding or in this case the plaster.

Before he was ever caught with the wraps, he was the most feared fighter in the world who literally destroyed Cotto over 11 rounds. Since the discovery though, Margarito, or as noted boxing writer Pedro Fernandez likes to refer to him as, 'Margacheato' is only (1-3) in his last four fights. His three losses are against future Hall of Famer Mosely and champions Manny Pacquiao and Cotto, while his lone win is against little known Mexican Roberto Garcia.

On Saturday, as Cotto had predicted, the outcome was much different as can be seen in Margarito's face above. On this night it was Cotto who pummeled Margarito's face and right eye through 10 rounds, forcing the ringside doctor to stop the fight since his eye was completely shut. He did it with slick boxing and constant movement, as he did in their first fight; only this time there was just leather coming back, not leather surrounding a foreign object.

Cotto fought his fight without any concern and Margarito without the wraps, had no answer. The reason was not because Margarito couldn't hurt him; on the contrary. It was because he knew he was the truly superior fighter all along and it showed. I've been saying for months, after the beatdown Margarito took from Manny Pacquiao, that he's been exposed. Without that edge, he's just a good fighter, not a great fighter. Emanuel Steward summed it up best in his post fight comments when he said, "I think Margarito's days of being an elite fighter are done."

Meanwhile Cotto, who many said was not the same fighter after the beatings by Margarito and Pacquiao, looked sharper than ever under new trainer Pedro Diaz. With his future looking bright and redemption finally felt in his heart, he was asked by Max Kellerman what his thoughts were now about Margarito. Cotto's response, "As I said before, I don't think of him; he means nothing to me."

As for the man known to boxing pundits as 'The Tijuana Tornado', these days he's looking more like a Baja, California breeze. The relentless straight forward style he possesses that made him the man in boxing no one wanted to face is no longer a threat to the top tier fighters of the sport without the added advantage inside his gloves. He's been exposed through redemption and with serious injury twice now to that right eye, it remains to be seen (no pun intended) if he will continue to fight; let alone be able to.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Will legendary boxing rivalry ever exist in MMA?

As I watched Mexican boxing WBC super middleweight champion Saul Alvarez defend his title Saturday night against Puerto Rican former titleholder Kermit Cintron live from Mexico, one thing was clearly evident; this legendary rivalry in boxing between fighters from these two proud countries is alive and well. Nowhere will this be more evidently on display than next Saturday night when Puerto Rican WBA super middleweight champion Miguel Cotto defends his belt in a rematch against his Mexican arch nemesis Antonio Margarito.

These two bouts are just the latest in a long line of classic moments and fights between fighters from these two boxing rich Latin nations. I ought to know, as I've been a long time boxing fan who also happens to be Puerto Rican; and unless you are a fan who is either Puerto Rican or Mexican, I don't think you can truly appreciate how big this rivalry really is. It is something that goes beyond just a winner and a loser.

It all stems from pride or as we say in Spanish, "Orgullo." Sure, it is something you learn because you grow up in it, but it is also something that is embedded inside of you because of you're Hispanic heritage; I think it is a Latin trait period as you see it prominently displayed in MMA through Brazilians. To truly understand it, just consider some of my own personal experiences within this boxing rivalry.

In August 1981, Wilfredo Gomez, arguably the greatest fighter ever to be produced by Puerto Rico, took on the late great Mexican legend Salvador Sanchez in a featherweight championship at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. At the time, I was an 18 year old getting ready to start my sophomore year of college and Gomez was like a God to me. So when I saw him take a beating over eight rounds, ultimately losing by TKO, I am not ashamed to admit that tears welled up in my eyes. This may be hard to understand by some, but easy to understand by others.

Seven years later, my pride swelled again in the hopes and anticipation that another late great champion Puerto Rican Edwin Rosario would take away the pain from the Gomez loss as he took on Mexico's greatest champion ever Julio Cesar Chavez. Unfortunately though, from a personal standpoint, the result was the same as Chavez closed Rosario's left eye and forced his corner to stop the fight after ten rounds. However, it wouldn't be considered a rivalry if it were just one-sided.

Alas, in 1999 redemption came when Puerto Rico's Felix Trinidad defeated Mexican/American Golden Boy Oscar De La Hoya via decision. How serious was I about that fight? Beforehand I asked my friends who I watched the fight with, who normally drink Corona beer, to drink Heinekens instead so as not to show any allegiance to Mexico in any form that day. That is how crazy this rivalry is; thus, the question is, will this legendary rivalry ever exist in MMA?

Since the sport of MMA is still in its relative infancy, just recently celebrating its 18th year of existence last week, the sport is now just expanding to include fighters from these proud ancestries. Nonetheless, there are fighters of note already in place such as Mexican former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Puerto Rican former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Yet, there aren't enough yet to establish any rivalries.

Alvarez, when he was champion, had been talked about in a proposed fight against Mexican Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and that could have been the beginning of a great one, but it never materialized. Alvarez did defend his title in October 2010 against former UFC cover boy Roger Huerta, which was really the first significant match between a Puerto Rican and Mexican in MMA, but by that time Huerta had lost his luster as a contender, thus it was nothing more that just a title defense.

However, as the sport continues to grow, more and more young fighters of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, who used to automatically turn to boxing back in the day, are now turning to MMA instead. Therefore, it's inevitable that at some point we will have a significant fight between Puerto Rico and Mexico inside a cage instead of a ring; quite possibly Alvarez vs. Melendez one day soon. Yet, till then the question remains, will this legendary boxing rivalry ever exist in MMA?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

UFC 139: The night two legends stole the show

How much do I love MMA? I missed the live telecast of UFC 139 Saturday night because I was DJ'ing and didn't get home till 4:30AM. However, I set my alarm for 6:45AM, so I could get up to watch the replay at 7AM Sunday morning and it was well worth the effort. On a stacked card being fought in San Jose, CA, it was a pair of legends that stole the show.

The main event alone was worth the price of admission as light-heavyweights (205 lbs.) Dan 'Hendo' Henderson (29-8, 13 KO's 2 subs) and Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (20-6, 7 KO's 1 sub) put on an epic battle that is already being lauded as one of the greatest in UFC history. After five grueling rounds of back and forth action, it was the 41 year old former Pride FC and Strikeforce champion Henderson who emerged the victor in his third return to the UFC.

Although it was a non-title fight, this classic proved the UFC brass right in making all main events five rounds; although early on it didn't look like it would get past one or two. In vintage Dan Henderson style, his lethal right hand caught Rua throughout the first three rounds and it looked like it could be the beginning of the end in all three. However, 'Shogun' somehow weathered the storm and found moments of his own throughout.

Ironically, as the fight progressed into the fourth and fifth rounds, the tide turned and it was Rua who had Henderson (pictured above) in serious trouble, especially in the fifth when he was in mounted position on the ground for at least four minutes. Yet, just like Rua before him, Hendo found the will, which is about all he had at the end, to survive. The result was an instant classic. In typical Henderson fashion, after the fight he told Joe Rogan, "That guy can take an f'in punch."

The co-main event was electric right from the entrance of the combatants and that electricity carried right on through into the cage. That's because it featured two combat sports legends, one in MMA and one in kickboxing, in former Pride champion Wanderlei 'The Axe Murderer' Silva and former San Shou world champion Cung Le. In a crossroads fight for both fighters as Silva (34-11-1, 24 KO's, 3 subs) was only 3-6 in his last nine fights and Le (7-2, 7 KO's in MMA) at 39 has a successful movie career going, it was Silva who would emerge the victor.

For Silva, four of those last six losses were by knockout, the last one in 27 seconds just four months ago. Thus, UFC President Dana White had been talking about possibly forcing him to retire and in the first round it looked as though that may be the case as Le had him in trouble at one point. However, a champion's heart cannot be measured and late in the second round it was Silva who hurt Le with a punch and then unleashed his patented fury. With vicious knees from a Muay Thai clinch, he dropped the hometown Le and finished him with hammer fists forcing the referee to step in.

An emotional Silva said in his post fight interview, "It's been a difficult last few years for me, but things can happen through belief and hard work. Jesus Christ is always with me; it is he who is the boss." As for Le, this was his first fight ever in the UFC and with this being his first fight in over 16 months, only time will tell if he'll have another or will finally call it a career. Fighting in movies is a lot safer and glamorous than in the octagon.

'California Love' is not just the signature entrance song for popular bantamweight (135 lbs.) Urijah Faber (26-5, 7 KO's 14 subs), but it is also what 'The California Kid' gave and received to and from the northern California crowd. The former 145 lbs. champion in World Extreme Cagefighting, took on Brian Bowles (10-2, 3 KO's 6 subs), who himself is a former bantamweight champion in the WEC. On this night though it was all Faber as he just outclassed Bowles with his speed, boxing and wrestling, eventually winning by submission using the vaunted guillotine choke his Alpha Male team is known for.

What had the potential to be a possible fight of the night candidate, turned out to be a three round technical affair; due in part to welterweight (170 lbs.) contenders Martin Kampmann (18-5, 7 KO's 6 subs) and Rick 'Horror' Story (13-5, 3 KO's, 3 subs). On this night, it was Kampmann, an extremely talented fighter who's been on the losing end of a couple of questionable decisions, who was on the positive end tonight and justifiably so. Using a nice combination of kickboxing, take downs and jiu-jitsu, Kampmann defeated Story who has now lost two in a row after being one win away from a title shot.

In the first fight of the night, it was a clear cut case of experience and overall better technique superseding talent and potential. Stephan Bonnar (14-7, 3 KO's, 7 subs), one half of the famed greatest UFC fight of all-time with Forrest Griffin, who at one point in the last few years had lost six fights in a row, has found new life as he defeated Kyle Kingsbury (11-3, 4 KO's 2 subs) via unanimous decision. Using a superior ground game, Bonnar totally dominated Kingsbury over three rounds to earn his third victory in a row.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time to make a statement to the world

When I first interviewed Bethlehem, PA's own Ronald Cruz in April 2010, he was an unknown professional boxer with an (8-0) record that few outside of the northeast area knew about. Move forward a short year and a half and today he's an up and coming welterweight prospect with a record of (14-0, 11 KO's), who's ranked #59 in the world. This weekend in Atlantic City, he looks to improve on that record and as he says, "make a statement to the world."

Although he got his start in the boxing game relatively late, this young 25 year old is making up for lost time and making the most of it. A lot has changed since we last spoke 18 months ago, a new trainer, a new wife and six more wins; but one thing hasn't changed and that is Ronald's focus and desire to someday make his dream come true of becoming a world champion.

I asked Ronald why the change in trainer from his amateur then professional coach Alec Morales and his response was respectful, but candid. "Very simply we weren't getting along too well. A fighter/trainer relationship is a very sensitive one since you have to work together every day. I just noticed over time that wasn't happening and a change was needed," Cruz said. Luckily, the change came in the form of a trusted friend who just happened to be experienced in boxing.

Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez is an old friend of Cruz's who comes from a family of boxers in Puerto Rico and although he didn't have professional experience behind him, Ronald saw something in him that told him this was the way to go. He said, "Before we even started working together, I went to him about the idea to try and feel him out. I noticed right away, that this would work out."

I asked Cruz what was it about Rodriguez that made the difference and his response was, "Besides his boxing background, I noticed he had a different philosophy for training. He uses different workouts and he notices little things as well. For example, when we talked he immediately pointed out to me that I need to use my legs more. The other thing I like about working with Indio is, even if I'm doing something right, like throwing my jab, he'll keep stressing it over and over; he's a perfectionist and I needed that."

The other big change in Ronald's life this past year came in the form of marriage to his long-time girlfriend Daisy. "She's always supported me," he said. "Being slightly older than me, she understands the demands this sport has and that there are days when I can hardly spend the time I wish I could with her and my kids. She makes the necessary sacrifices it takes to make this work for us."

This past July Cruz won his 14th fight in convincing fashion when he headlined a professional card at the Sands Casino in his hometown. I asked him if there is a possibility of that happening again and he told me, "Yes there is; they are currently building an events center adjacent to the casino that should be open next spring and they are talking about possibly doing something in May."

That's the future, but the present is this Saturday the 19th and the opponent is Ronald's stiffest and most experienced yet. Anges Adjaho (25-6, 14 KO's) is a veteran from Buffalo, NY who's last fight was a tough 10 round decision loss to perennial contender Joel Julio; a guy who has fought for the world title twice, so you know this is a big step up in competition. With such a strong opponent ahead, I asked him what he's been doing differently from his previous fights.

"We've been working a lot on speed for both the hands and the legs," he said. "Also, we've been really working the jab as he is an extremely good defensive fighter and we feel this will be an important weapon in penetrating that defense." He also told me, "I know I have a knockout streak going (7 TKO's in a row), but I can't get caught up in that. I have to go in there, do my job and if it doesn't happen, I can't desperate looking for it. I have to be smart and win the fight."

With nothing but success so far and so much riding in this his biggest fight to date, I asked Cruz what he expects for Saturday and where he hopes to be a year from now at the end of 2012. "With this fight, I want to go out there and make a statement. I want to show the world I can do everything these world class fighters have and haven't done yet." Finally, he says, "The goal is to get that world title belt. I don't know where I'll be a year from now, but we'll be working towards that goal and hopefully, we'll be close."

Ronald Cruz fights this Saturday November 19th at Bally's in Atlantic City. I want to thank Ronald for taking time out from his busy schedule and wish him luck.

There is no substitute for power

According to 'Scarface' Tony Montana, "In this country, first you get the money. Once you get the money, then you get the power." When it comes to Mixed Martial Arts however, it's just the opposite. First you exhibit the power; then when you show that power you get the money. Either way, there is no substitute for power, which is exactly what Junior Dos Santos showed everybody on Saturday night.

If there is any doubt at the power that new UFC heavyweight champion Dos Santos (14-1, 9 KO's 3 subs) must pack in a punch, just look at the size of his massive fist compared to mine in the photo above. Now I am not insinuating in any way that I have a large fist compared to the champ's, but his is abnormally huge. It is reminiscent of the 'Seinfeld' episode when they showed that the girl Jerry was dating at the time had "Man Hands."

It was that fist that made all the difference for Dos Santos Saturday night as with one looping right hand to the back of the ear, ala Chuck Liddell, he dropped former champion Cain Velasquez (9-1, 8 KO's) to the canvas and finished him; it took all of 64 seconds. Mike Tyson's 88 second demolition of Michael Spinks in boxing back in the day seems like an eternity. Yet, as exciting a finish as it was the question now remains, how good was it for the UFC and its first ever telecast on mainstream television? I say, it was perfect.

Sure, a five round classic may have been better and not all fights usually end this fast. However, on a night when the main event needed to make a splash and a strong first impression, it did pretty good. You see, while hardcore MMA fans are knowledgeable and appreciative of technical fights, it was the casual fans the UFC needed to appeal to on this night; the ones that are usually blood thirsty for quick action. Well, they got that and more on Saturday.

I said on Friday this was a difficult fight to call as it was the former champ's wrestling versus the new champ's boxing. On this night, the boxer won out, mainly because the wrestler made the mistake of thinking he could box with the heavy puncher. The result was Velasquez losing his belt in his first title defense. He was coming off a year long lay-off due to injury and it showed. However, there is no excuse; Dos Santos was simply the better man on this night.

As for 2012 and the network television deal between the UFC and Fox, the possibilities are exciting; when you look at the roster, see the current champions and the potential for intriguing match-ups. Note, I said possibilities; because if there is one thing we've come to learn with the UFC, it is that nothing is guaranteed. However, one thing we can always count on is, there is no substitute for power.

Friday, November 11, 2011

More than just a title fight

On a weekend that should be dominated by boxing, due in part to Manny ‘Pac-man’ Pacquiao and his third fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, the UFC is crashing that party and making a splash of its own. In a historic move for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the UFC will premiere on the Fox network Saturday night with no less than the heavyweight championship of the world.

This move is historic for the UFC, but not for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts which has been featured on major network television before. Both the EliteXC and Strikeforce promotions have appeared live on the CBS network, with pretty fair ratings and reviews. However, this is the UFC; the number one promotion in all of MMA. Therefore, if the UFC makes it, MMA makes it.

Undaunted by the mega-draw that is Pacquiao, Dana White, President of the UFC and Fox will counter program, somewhat, with UFC champion Cain Velasquez (9-0, 8 KO’s) defending his title against the clear number one contender Junior Dos Santos (13-1, 8 KO’s 3 subs). I say somewhat because the Fox telecast will only broadcast this one fight, which will be for one hour between 9 and 10 eastern time. The boxing par-per-view starts at the same time, but the main event will not come on till after the UFC event is over.

Nonetheless, this is a risky and dare I say, ballsy move on the part of White. Universally credited, and deservedly so, with bringing the UFC and MMA from the doldrums of the dark ages and making it the fastest growing sport in the world, White is now determined to bring it to the masses and make it mainstream. All good except first impressions are forever lasting and to attempt this venture against Pacquiao shows White’s commitment and belief in his product.

White has been openly stressing this date all week for numerous reasons such as, will the fight live up to the hype or will it make a big enough splash? However, probably the biggest reason is that more than a few times this year, especially a/o late, the fighters slated for the main event haven’t made it to the finish line of the fight date healthy enough to have a main event; and while both fighters appear strong and healthy with a little over 24 hours to go, White will not relax till show time.

One thing in his favor is the combatants he has chosen for this inaugural fight on Fox. Velasquez and Dos Santos are not just heavyweight sluggers; they are two of the most athletically gifted and skilled heavyweights on the planet. Both capable of finishing the other with one punch, these two are destined to put on a show for the ages; whether it last five minutes or five rounds.

For once, I am truly having difficulty picking a winner in this one. If the fight had taken place earlier this year, I probably would have leaned towards Velasquez, solely because of how dominant he looked against former champion Brock Lesnar. However, that fight was over a year ago in October 2010 and a serious shoulder injury from that fight forced the champion on the shelf. Thus, is ring rust a factor?

Dos Santos on the other hand is primed and ready. Coming off a convincing victory against former title challenger Shane Carwin, where he dismantled Carwin in every facet; Junior looks like the real deal. The determining factor for me lies in the wrestling; can Junior nullify Cain’s takedowns and avoid fighting off his back?

Considering the long layoff, I would normally say yes. However, watching both Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans, two top fighters in the UFC who are also excellent wrestlers, come back from long layoffs this year and not lose a beat, I’m thinking Cain can do the same. So, though my heart is saying Dos Santos, my mind and logic are saying Velasquez. Thus, I am picking Cain Velasquez to defend his title in a five round epic that should make Dana White look like Kool-Aid because he’ll be smiling from ear to ear.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The UFC vs. Boxing; the rivalry continues

It isn't often we get free fights on television anymore; and when we do, it is usually some up and coming prospects in either boxing or MMA that just don't deliver. From the days of closed circuit TV in boxing to pay-per-view events now in both sports, it's all about the Benjamin's these days. However, Saturday night we got the rare double in boxing and MMA, that was not only free, but delivered big excitement as well.

A journalist friend of mine once told me, that I should never write about boxing and MMA in the same column. Well today, I'm bucking that advice and doing it because the two fights Saturday night were so good and so similar in fashion; they earned equal billing in my book. In MMA, it was the main event of UFC 138 between Chris 'The Crippler' Leben (22-8, 12 KO's 5 subs) and Mark 'The Filipino Wrecking Machine' Munoz (12-2, 6 KO's 1 sub) that capped off an exciting card from Birmingham, England.

The mix of Leben, the veteran mixed martial artist with the heavy left hand and Munoz, the All-American wrestler with the vicious ground and pound, was a recipe for fireworks and it went off with a bang. Right from the start, the two were throwing bombs at each other whether it was standing or on the ground. Not surprisingly, Munoz got the first take down; but what was surprising was Leben got up and got the second and third take downs on the decorated wrestler Munoz.

The result was a back and forth first round that had both announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan exclaiming, "Wow, what a round!" The difference though was Munoz looked fresh and ready to go for the second, while Leben looked gassed as he was breathing heavy and looking weary. Tell tale sign or not, they came out and picked up right where they left off; only this time, the damage would be too much.

Sensing Leben was too weak to fend off his take down attempts, Munoz shot in on 'The Crippler' repeatedly. However, to Leben's credit, as tired as he was, he kept fighting back with submission attempts off his back, punches to the head and body and working his way back up to his feet. Yet, it was Munoz who delivered the most telling blow as during some of his patented ground and pound attack, he cut Leben over his left eye that caused a lot of bleeding.

It also caused the referee to stop the action during the second round, to have the doctor look at it. Ultimately, he let the fight go on, but while sitting on the stool between the second and third rounds, Leben told his corner he could not see and they decided to stop the fight giving Munoz an all important win in the middleweight (185 lbs.) division. Munoz is still a little green around the MMA edges, but you can see his all-around game continuing to improve every time out.

Luckily, the timing was perfect because as that fight ended, the boxing match on HBO between light-middleweight (154 lbs.) contenders Alfredo 'El Perro' Angulo (20-2, 17 KO's) and James 'Mandingo Warrior' Kirkland (30-1, 27 KO's) was about to start; thank God and HBO for 'Boxing after Dark'. In what was projected to be a can't miss/don't blink affair, the fight lived up to the hype and then some. Unfortunately for Angulo, who was fighting in his home country of Mexico, it was the tale of two halves.

The two halves came in the first round where both fighters, known for coming forward, did just that; testing each others chin to see who can withstand the other's power. Within the first minute, it looked as though the winner would be Angulo as during an exchange, he caught Kirkland flush with an overhand right to the face that dropped the American challenger to the canvas. With Angulo living up to his nickname, which translates to 'The Dog', he went on the attack as he threw everything he had at Kirkland during the second minute.

Problem was, Kirkland withstood the onslaught and Angulo ended up punching himself out; credit to the referee for not stopping the fight too early. Thus, in the third minute of the round, it was Kirkland who cleared the cobwebs and came on with his own vicious straight forward onslaught of combinations, which included a left uppercut that found the mark on Angulo more than once. The result was Angulo went down before the end of the round and barely survived as Kirkland came back off the canvas to win the round.

How good was that first round? Analyst Max Kellerman said, "That is a round people will be talking about for years to come." From that point on it was all James Kirkland, who recently reunited with his former trainer Ann Wolfe, yes a female and it paid dividends. Wolfe's no-nonsense boot camp style training had Kirkland ready for the long haul.

Angulo wasn't expecting to go that haul and it showed as Kirkland wore him down over the next four rounds, ultimately forcing the referee to step in @ 2:01 of the sixth round and save 'El Perro' from himself. For Kirkland, he's back after a stint in jail and an unexpected loss three fights ago. This was a WBC semi-final eliminator for the title and the 'Mandingo Warrior' looks like he's primed, ready and most importantly hungry.

As for the UFC vs. Boxing on the same night, this was just a precursor of things to come as next Saturday, the UFC premieres on the Fox network with the heavyweight championship of the world between champ Cain Velasquez and challenger Junior Dos Santos. However, they're going head up with one of boxing's two biggest draws, Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao as he takes on Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time. Luckily for us, the UFC fight should be done by the time the boxing main event comes on; thus, the rivalry continues.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What makes a fighter popular or hated?

Saturday night's main event @ UFC 137 turned out to be an entertaining one, which salvaged a somewhat lackluster card. It featured two of the sports most popular fighters in Strikeforce welterweight (170 lbs.) champion Nick Diaz (26-7 13 KO's 6 subs) and former UFC lightweight (155 lbs.) and welterweight champion BJ Penn (16-8-2, 7 KO's 6 subs). Though Diaz would end up winning a close decision; that is secondary to fans of both fighters that could care less about who won or lost.

This is a testament to the popularity of both fighters that has always been at the top level of Mixed Martial Arts. However, the question is why? It definitely has nothing to do with their win-loss records, which aren't necessarily iconic to say the least. Yet, both are iconic figures in a sport that reveres certain fighters and has mutual disdain for certain others. Penn (pictured above), is one that has had it right from the beginning of his career and if Saturday nights crowd support is any indication, it just continues to grow.

While he's a laid back personable young man, he's always been one of very few words. He's not very big on the interview scene and as for his post-fight interviews; he's legendary for his one sentence, or even one word, responses and leaving the cage. Yet, when he steps into the cage he's always business, which I think is what appeals to fans; a man of few words who lets his actions do the talking. Diaz is another one of these personalities.

His disappearance from not one, but two press conferences leading up to this card, tells you he's not much into talking. However, fans know there is never any concern as to whether or not he'll deliver, win or lose, inside the cage. I truly believe it is what makes guys like Diaz and Penn so popular. Fans of this sport have a high regard for anyone that is willing to put it on the line every single time regardless of wins and losses; perfect example, Randy Couture.

Hall of Famer Couture (19-11, 7 KO's 4 subs), is arguably the sports most popular fighter ever; yet, one look at his record instantly tells you it has nothing to do with his many storied victories. It has everything to do with the man, inside and outside the cage. Always respectful and humble, he's also been a warrior in every sense of the word. A multi-time champion in the light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) and heavyweight classes, the ageless wonder feared no one inside the cage; even if they were giants in front of him like Tim Sylvia or Brock Lesnar.

Fans revere these fighters, as they do a chosen few others such as Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson. Check their records and you'll see it has nothing to do with how many wins or losses each have. It has everything to do with their fighting spirit and willingness to put it on the line, regardless of who they're fighting. This may very well explain why certain others are just not liked, regardless of their achievements.

Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz are two former UFC light-heavyweight champions; Ortiz a multi-time champion. However, whenever they step into the cage or are shown on camera sitting in the audience, they are soundly booed. This is not to say they are without fans, because when they faced each other at UFC 133 in Philadelphia, I was cage side and can tell you first hand they both received their fair share of support. I guess in that scenario fans had no alternative and they had to root for somebody.

However, I've often wondered what it is about them that just don't appeal to the fans like the others mentioned above? Is it their lay and pray ground and pound wrestling style of fighting that just doesn't cut it? Or, is it their willingness to talk trash at every turn, while the aforementioned are men of few words? Josh Koscheck is another example of one of the most disliked fighters in the sport and he is a combination of both a wrestler at heart and one of the biggest trash talkers in MMA.

Ironically though, Chael Sonnen, who is probably the king of both the wrestling, ground and pound style and is without competition when it comes to talking smack, is generally popular among fans. I think in Chael's case, the reason he appeals to the masses is because he'll talk trash and back it up; and ultimately, that's what it comes down to. People are willing to look past any of these traits, as long as you give them their money's worth. Bottom line is people work hard for their money and they appreciate fighters who are willing to do the same; at least I think that's the case.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pros and Cons to tournament style MMA

If there is one thing I love about the Bellator Fighting Championships, it is that throughout their tenure they have stuck to their game plan of using tournaments to crown their champions. It has become their niche and the backbone of their creed, "Bellator is where championship opportunities are earned not given." However, that said, there are pros and cons to tournament style MMA.

Saturday night as I watched Bellator 55, which featured the semifinals of their season five bantamweight tournament and also featured a non-title bout with their light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Christian 'Ton-Ton' M'Pumbu, certain things just didn't sit right with me. First and foremost, it had to deal with their champion M'Pumbu (Pictured above) not defending his title. I understand he has to await the winner of an actual tournament, yet herein lies the problem.

In using tournaments to determine who should be the next contender for your championship, the champion himself must lie dormant and wait for his next defense. Seems perfect in theory however, there are flaws when a tournament is not held every season. This cannot be done since Bellator currently has champions in seven different weight classes. Therefore, a champion, if lucky, gets to defend his title once a year.

For example, Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad won his title in October 2010. Since then he's had only one fight, which took place in August, ten months after his last fight and it was a non-title affair. Bellator is currently having a heavyweight tournament this season to determine a challenger for Konrad, However, that means he won't actually defend the belt till early 2012; if lucky, about a year and a half after he won it.

For a guy like Konrad, who has had only eight professional fights in his career, it's difficult to progress as a fighter without actual fight experience. Thus, he's a world champion, but his career has stalled. I give pro wrestling's World Wrestling Entertainment credit; they have their champion defend his title just about every time he steps into the ring; sometimes four or five nights a week. However, like the Harlem Globetrotters, it's always against the same opponent.

Another negative to tournament style MMA, is the rule that no elbows can be thrown during the quarter and semifinal rounds. This is to try and insure that fighters will not be cut or damaged to the point they cannot return a month later to continue in the tourney. Seems logical I know, but there are flaws in this ideology.

The most prevalent is that by removing such a vital part of a fighter's arsenal, one that usually ends fights, you have a higher percentage of matches that tend to go the distance. On Saturday night, both semifinals went the full three rounds. Granted there are other ways to end fights, but adding elbow strikes sure would help. Then there is another issue; theoretical, but factual as well.

It has to do with the fundamental theory that by removing elbow strikes, which is such an integral part of what makes Mixed Martial Arts what it is; you truly don't have a full blown MMA fight. Therefore, to remove something that is legal within the rules, for the purpose of continuing a tournament, somewhat dilutes the tournament if you think about it. Is it actually MMA?

However, not all is bad when it comes to tournament style MMA. One of the great things that Bellator has accomplished by using this format is giving an opportunity to young, unknown fighters who normally wouldn't get a chance on a big show. It has helped fighters gain notoriety and in the process, has helped Bellator create stars. It has also helped give fighters numerous paydays; while champions have to sit and wait, tournament participants can have up to three or four fights within a year.

Finally, the biggest positive is there are no ifs, ands or buts as to who deserves the next title shot. A tournament determines who rightfully gets to fight for a championship and no will question whether or not that person has earned it; that falls right in line with Bellator's motto. However, just like everything else in life, there are definite pros and cons to tournament style MMA.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fast and Furious: Bellator 54

If you are a fan of the 'Fast and Furious' movies, no you did not fall asleep and go into a time warp. While that franchise is currently in production of filming part six, which will be out in 2013, the Bellator Fighting Championships franchise is already up to 54 events. However, while last nights fight card may have started off slow, the last three fights were definitely fast and furious.

Featuring the semifinals of the season five middleweight (185 lbs.) tournament, along with a featured non-title bout for bantamweight (135 lbs.) champion Zach 'Fun-Size' Makovsky (Pictured @ left), Bellator delivered for the amped Atlantic City, NJ crowd. It all started with Makovsky (14-2, 1 KO, 6 subs), a product of my hometown Bethlehem, PA, who now fights out of Philadelphia, he was the local favorite going in and he did not disappoint.

Facing a tough opponent in Nebraska corn fed Ryan 'Are you Ready?' Roberts (16-10-1, 7 KO's 3 subs), Makovsky offset Roberts wrestling with his own, which he combined with a superior submission game. After using his speed advantage in the stand-up striking game, the champ used a couple of take downs that he was able to garner on the former two-time Nebraska state wrestling champion. Roberts was able to get up from the first, but the second proved a different story.

It was after the second take down that Makovsky, he himself a former wrestler at Drexel University, secured a north-south position and subsequent choke on his opponent that forced Roberts to tap with just 12 seconds left in the first round. When asked about the submission after the fights, Makovsky said, "I've been working that one a lot at the 'Fight Factory'; it's definitely one of my favorite chokes." Up next for the champion, he awaits the winner of this season's bantamweight tourney, which continues with the semifinals next week.

Speaking of tournament semifinals, the Makovsky win was followed by the middleweight tourney semis and it was not a good night for anyone named Bryan/Brian. First fight up, featured Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard Vitor Vianna (12-1-1, 5 KO's 4 subs) against 'The Beast' Bryan Baker (16-3, 8 KO's, 3 subs). Vianna may not be a household name yet, but hardcore MMA fans know that this former two-time jiu-jitsu world champion can do more than submit his opponents and he showed it last night.

After going the distance in his last fight and facing a personal crisis with an illness his wife was battling during training, Vianna vowed to make a point this fight and he did as the submission fighter came out swinging. However, so did Baker as he had no respect for Vianna'a stand-up and he paid for it dearly as he got caught, though not flush, right above the ear with a looping right hand. It was enough to drop Baker and Vianna pursued, pouncing on his fallen opponent and finishing him with a flurry of unanswered hammer fists forcing the referee to step in and save a defenseless Baker.

It took a total of 54 seconds, in a fight where the introductions probably lasted longer than the actual bout. Afterwards, a visibly emotional Vianna couldn't help but shed some tears as he had explained during the pre-fight interview that his wife was hospitalized with a thyroid issue and he was at her bedside for ten days straight. Once his wife got better though, she told him to get back to training. Sounds like something right out of 'Rocky II'. Vianna said afterward, "there are no easy fights here in Bellator" and he was right.

Up next for the Brazilian is a "Russian Storm" as his opponent in the tournament finals will be Alexander 'Storm' Shlemenko (42-7, 26 KO's 7 subs). Unlike the other two fights, Shlemenko needed one and a half rounds to defeat his opponent, but that's probably because he was fighting 'The Predator'. Brian Rogers (8-3, 7 KO's, 1 sub) may have been virtually inexperienced compared to his Russian counterpart, but he was not intimated. He took it to Shlemenko right from the start and it looked at first like he might actually win.

Looking a lot more fluid in the boxing game, Rogers was tagging Shlemenko at will with both left and right hands in the first round that had the Russian in trouble. However, experience was a big factor as Shlemenko was able to weather the storm (no pun intended) and survive the first round. The tide turned, so to speak, in the next round as it was Shlemenko who hurt Rogers with a spinning back fist and proceeded to just unload bombs.

Smelling blood, Shlemenko continued his onslaught with heavy punches and pulverizing knees to the body eventually forcing Rogers to buckle and bend to the ground twice. It was during the second time that Shlemenko just went to town on his downed opponent and this time there was no getting up. The end came at 2:30 of the second round in a very entertaining back and forth affair. The finals should produce a worthy opponent for current middleweight champ Hector Lombard.

In the first fight of the night, it was an inspired Jacob Kirwan (9-3, 1 KO, 5 subs), who in his first fight in Bellator defeated previously undefeated Rene 'The Brazilian Bomber' Nazare (10-1, 4 KO's 4 subs). Kirwan used his wrestling to grind out a unanimous decision. Bellator Fighting Championships gets overlooked a lot because many times it is being overshadowed on a Saturday night by a UFC card. However, on this night it had the MMA stage all to itself and it made the most of its performance as it was fast and furious.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

UFC 136: Fights are fought in the cage, not on paper

There's a reason fights are fought in the cage, not on paper, and UFC 136 on Saturday night proved why? Quite simply, logic and common sense don't always win out. In my preview I asked the question whether or not the third time would be the charm? On this night the answer would end up being yes and no.

The yes came in the form of UFC Lightweight (155 lbs.) Champion Frankie 'The Answer' Edgar (Pictured @ left). After two previous fights with challenger Gray 'Bully' Maynard that ended once in his only defeat and once in a draw, Edgar finally put to rest his only demon. Strangely enough, this fight looked eerily similar to the second fight they had on New Years Day.

Edgar (14-1-1, 3 KO’s 3 subs), just like in round one the last time, got rocked by Maynard, this time by a right uppercut that had him on queer street. This time Maynard (11-1-1, 8 KO’s), instead of going all in and punching himself out, took a more pronounced approach, but had Edgar on the verge of defeat. However, this undersized lightweight has a heart the size of a heavyweight and it showed as once again he weathered the storm and came back to win round two.

A combination of Edgar's slick kickboxing and Maynard's unwillingness to go in for the kill, gave the champion the time he needed to shake the cobwebs and get in a rhythm. That would eventually prove to be Maynard's undoing as in round four, Edgar connected with a right hand that hurt 'The Bully'. A follow-up right hand dropped him and the champion, unlike his challenger, went in for the kill and got it as the ref jumped in to save a defenseless Maynard. While it may not have been Ali-Frazier, this trilogy delivered with the final record being 1-1-1; Edgar however won the latest and most important of the three.

As stated above, there was a "no" response to the 'third time is the charm' question. Unfortunately, that came in the form of featherweight (145 lbs.) title challenger Kenny 'Ken-Flo' Florian (14-6, 3 KO’s 9 subs). After two unsuccessful attempts at the lightweight title, Florian had worked his way to challenge the featherweight champion Jose Aldo (20-1, 12 KO’s 2 subs). While Florian had his best showing in a title fight, it was far from his best performance.

Early on Kenny looked relaxed and on his game working a structured game plan of clinching with the champion to perfection. It subdued Aldo's explosive stand up skills and had him on the defensive as he had to work to avoid takedowns. There was one flaw in the plan, when he was able to take Aldo down; Florian was unable to keep him there. Meanwhile Aldo was able to get on top of Florian in rounds three and five and do what Florian was unable; inflict some damage when he had that position.

Ultimately the result was a unanimous decision victory for the champion, though I don't know if he so much as won as much as the challenger lost. While he never really had Aldo in trouble, there were many times throughout the fight where Florian had Aldo pressed up against the cage and I felt could have utilized the position to throw punches and knees. He didn't, choosing instead to focus on positioning for possible takedowns that never materialized. The result, Florian comes up short again; and at 35 with so many successful ventures outside of the cage, only Ken-Flo knows if he'll keep fighting.

With two title fights on the card, the show may have clearly been stolen by the UFC's most controversial fighter and figure, middleweight (185 lbs.) Chael Sonnen. In his first fight, since his thrilling loss to champion Anderson Silva over a year ago, Sonnen (26-11-1, 7 KO’s 4 subs) didn't miss a beat as he picked up right where he left off. Using superior wrestling, ground and pound and jiu-jitsu, he manhandled 'All-American' Brian Stann (10-4, 7 KO’s 1 sub), eventually winning by submission via an arm-triangle choke in round two.

The win should and could have been enough, but it paled in comparison to Sonnen's post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. When asked what's next, the always outspoken Sonnen said, "Anderson Silva, you suck! Super-Bowl weekend, I'm calling you out and raising the stakes; you lose, you leave the division; I lose, I leave the UFC forever." Anderson Silva who was sitting cage side could only smile, while Charles Barkley sitting beside him laughed out loud. Sonnen is great at working his way into the limelight and I think he just did it again.

While the biggest surprise of the night may have been Joe Lauzon's, (21-6, 4 KO’s 17 subs), first round submission victory over Melvin Guillard (29-9-2, 19 KO’s 2 subs), that thunder was quickly stolen by the fight afterwards. The rematch between featherweights Nam Phan (17-9, 7 KO's 5 subs) and Leonard Garcia (15-8-1, 3 KO's 9 subs), not only stole Lauzon's thunder, it earned 'Fight of the Night' honors. As he always does, Garcia seems to know only one way to fight and Phan, who felt robbed of a decision in their first fight, was happy to oblige.

The difference here was Phan was technical in his approach, while Garcia was his usual wild, swinging for the fences, self. The result, Phan won the first two rounds, barely surviving a Garcia comeback in the third, thus earning a well deserved unanimous decision victory. When asked by Joe Rogan if a third fight was in the offering between these two, Garcia was all for it by saying, "If it's in Houston again, I'm down." Phan meanwhile was quick to respond, "No that's okay." Tonight showed why fights are fought in the cage, not on paper.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

UFC 136: Will the third time be the charm?

Is the third time really the charm? This appears to be the question as we head into this weekend’s UFC 136 card. It’s the third time that UFC Lightweight (155 lbs.) Champion Frankie Edgar will face challenger Gray Maynard in a fight inside the octagon. It’s also the third time former lightweight, now featherweight (145 lbs.) Kenny Florian will challenge for a UFC world title after two failed attempts at 155 lbs; all that and more as we look ahead to UFC 136.

It’s been nine months since Frankie Edgar (13-1-1, 2 KO’s 3 subs) and Gray Maynard (10-0-1, 8 KO’s) kicked off the year right with a five round clash on New Year’s Day that ended in a draw. That was their first title fight against one another, but not their first fight. That actually took place over three years ago with Maynard handing Edgar the only loss of his career via decision. Eight rounds so far and we still haven’t been able to determine, who’s truly better than the other.

These two are so evenly matched that we may actually go another five rounds and still not know. However, notice I said “may,” as I believe this one will end with a clear cut winner. What I’m not sure of is who will be the victor? While I feel Edgar is the better all-around fighter, Maynard is clearly the bigger and stronger of the two. Therefore, one punch from Maynard can end the fight, while an accumulation of punches from Edgar can do the same.

On the ground, both are excellent wrestlers with strong collegiate backgrounds, but Maynard probably has the slight edge in this department based on his Big 10 experience. However, I feel Edgar has a slightly stronger jiu-jitsu and submission game. I’m having a difficult time picking a winner, but push, come to shove I’m taking Maynard solely because of two reasons.

First, he is naturally a bigger lightweight than Edgar as I believe the champ would be better suited fighting at 145 lbs. The other reason is that he owns one win over Edgar already and many argue that he may have won the second fight as well. My heart and east coast bias is telling me to go with Edgar, but logic and common sense is saying Maynard by decision. What other ending would it be?

In the co-main event, it’s another heart versus logic battle as Kenny Florian (14-5, 3 KO’s 9 subs) challenges for the featherweight title. However, in champion Jose Aldo (19-1, 12 KO’s 2 subs), he faces a consensus top five best pound for pound fighter in the world. This fight is intriguing on a few levels because for one it’s experience vs. youth. It’s also size vs. speed, but most importantly, it’s probably Florian’s last attempt at winning UFC gold.

At 35, Florian is ten years Aldo’s senior; and while both have had virtually the same amount of fights, Ken-Flo’s resume cannot be overlooked. Florian has fought all but three of his fights in the UFC against the lightweight division’s absolute best. That said, just look at who his only losses inside the octagon have been to.

Maynard, is currently challenging for the world title. He’s also lost to former champion and MMA legend B.J. Penn in a failed title bid. In another failed title attempt he lost to another former champion Sean Sherk and finally, he lost to Diego Sanchez in the finale of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Season One when he had to compete 40 pounds above his current fighting class at middleweight.

Meanwhile Aldo, while competing against the WEC’s best before becoming UFC champion, has really fought no one neat that plateau other than former champions Urijah Faber and Mike Brown. However, whoever he has fought he’s annihilated with his quickness and ferocity. Although his frame dictates he’s a large featherweight, Florian is a natural lightweight who’s fought even heavier at both 170 and 185. Yet, the biggest question is will the third attempt at a world championship be the charm for Florian?

Another tough one for me as I truly believe Kenny’s size, experience and mastery of both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai can help him compete with anything Aldo throws his way; all except speed that is. Unfortunately, I think Aldo will be just too fast for Kenny no matter where the fight goes and that will be the telling difference in a TKO loss. My heart says Florian, but once again logic has superseded my emotions.

In two other fights of note, I’m anticipating knockouts of the highest variety. First, although Chael Sonnen’s wrestling can nullify just about anyone, just ask Anderson Silva, I think his time off due to suspension will leave just enough rust for Brian Stann to knock off for him. Stann (10-3, 7 KO’s 1 sub), a former WEC champion is finally rounding out as a fighter and that should help defend against Sonnen (25-11-1, 7 KO’s 3 subs), who’s best chance is to get Stann to the ground and keep him there.

I’m expecting more of the same from lightweight Melvin Guillard (29-8-2, 19 KO’s 2 subs) when he faces Joe Lauzon (20-6, 4 KO’s 16 subs). As tough and talented as Lauzon is, he’s no match for Guillard’s combination of speed, strength and power. If Lauzon was overpowered by George Sotiropoulos, he’s going to be overwhelmed by Guillard, who also appears to have finally rounded out as a fighter and is ready to challenge for the title. Short night for Lauzon as he gets KO’ed quick.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

UFC on Versus 6: Land of the Giants

Back in 1996, UFC 8 was appropriately called 'David vs. Goliath' because it featured a tournament of massive heavyweights competing against smaller lighter weight fighters. This was at the time that athletic commissions did not sanction Mixed Martial Arts, thus there were no weight classes. On that night, it was one of the "smaller" fighters, Don 'The Predator' Frye who won the tournament.

While today's UFC is much different as all fights are sanctioned and has fighters competing in various weight classes, this past Saturday night's UFC on Versus 6 card looked eerily similar to UFC 8. That's because the main card featured a few fights where the height disparity between the combatants was extremely evident. On this night however, it was the "Land of the Giants" as the much taller fighters all won and did so convincingly; and it all started with the UFC Bantamweight (135 lbs.) Champion Dominick Cruz.

Cruz (19-1, 6 KO's 1 subs), known as 'The Dominator', did just that against his much shorter opponent Demetrious Johnson (9-2, 2 KO's 4 subs). At only 5'3", Johnson is aptly nicknamed 'Mighty Mouse', but on this night he just looked like a mouse without the might as he was quick, but that's it. Cruz was not only taller, standing 5'8", but he was stronger than Johnson in every facet and it showed clearly; especially in the clinch and on the ground where the champ displayed superior grappling skills.

Johnson had some moments throughout the five rounds, but they were far and few in between as he found himself having to chase the much taller champion and he paid for it. By the end of the fight, Johnson's left cheek was so swollen; he looked like he had a Blow Pop in his mouth. He was resilient though, even surviving two separate rear-naked choke attempts by the champion; one looked so tight, I remarked to my friend, "it's a wrap," but it wasn't. Nonetheless, in much the same fashion that he defeated Urijah Faber three months ago, Cruz handled Johnson in every way, only more "dominating."

If you thought five inches was a clear height advantage, how about a foot? (See photo above) That was the advantage 6'11" heavyweight Stefan 'Skyscraper' Struve' (22-5, 5 KO's 15 subs) enjoyed over his opponent Pat 'HD' Barry (6-4, 5 KO's), yet it was on the ground, not standing, that Struve won. Both kickboxers by trade, Struve and Barry, measured each other with round kicks and punches early, but in the second round during a clinch, it was the much taller Struve who went for a guillotine choke.

While he couldn't secure it, the move worked to his advantage as the fight dropped to the ground, where Struve used his long lanky legs and wrapped up Barry in a triangle choke. In a desperate and dramatic effort, Barry stood up with Struve wrapped around him and tried to power his way out by slamming him, but it just made it worse. Struve didn't flinch and the choke just got tighter; this time Barry wasn't getting up as he tapped at 3:22 of the second round.

It didn't take that long for 6'2" welterweight (170 lbs.) Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (10-3, 2 KO's 2 subs) to dispatch of his opponent Charlie Brenneman (14-3, 5 KO's 2 subs), although the ending seemed premature. Brenneman AKA 'The Spaniard', who is four inches shorter than Johnson, figured his best opportunity to win would be to take the fight to ground. What he didn't count on was Johnson being so strong there. So after getting controlled and pummeled by Johnson on the ground he decided he'd better get up. That was a big mistake.

After scrambling to get back to his feet, Brenneman caught a left round kick flush to his face that knocked him down flat on his back. However, while the kick knocked him down, it didn't knock him out, as he appeared ready to defend against Johnson pouncing on him. Neither he nor Johnson ever got the chance though as referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in and stopped the fight. While I'm all for fighter safety and feel the outcome was inevitable, this was clearly too soon. The end came at 2:49 into round one.

Speaking of premature stoppages, Mac Danzig (20-9-1, 5 KO's 1 sub) and Matt Wiman (14-6, 4 KO's 4 subs) fought in a rematch of a fight they had last year, which was stopped prematurely when Wiman was attempting a choke. On this night, there was no early end as both fighters went back and forth battling each other both standing and on the ground with Wiman earning a unanimous, but close decision. The fight was so close and entertaining, it earned fight of the night honors.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

UFC 135: The Next Generation is now

It wasn't necessarily The Prodigal Son returning home, but UFC 135 taking place in Denver, Colorado where UFC 1 took place 18 years ago was a memorable occasion. For one, they had a lot more fans in The Pepsi Center than the approximately 2,500 people they had back in the McNichol's Arena in '93. The other reason had to do with reigning light-heavyweight champion Jon 'Bones' Jones (pictured).

Jones (14-1, 8 KO's 4 subs), only 24 years of age, put on a dominant display well beyond his years against former champ Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson (32-9, 14 KO's 7 subs). Just as I expected, Jones who is multi-faceted in his game, used a cerebral approach and pretty much toyed with the one-dimensional Jackson for three and a half rounds. Boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling, Muay-Thai clinch work and jiu-jitsu, Jones displayed it all until he ended up winning by submission with a rear naked choke against the always tough to finish Rampage.

Jackson may be one-dimensional, but that one dimension, his heavy hands, usually works against most opponents. However, this is not your average 205 pounder, as Jones stands at a lean 6'4" and has a freakish 84 inch reach. Thus, Rampage was trying in vain to land one of his patented haymakers as he couldn't reach his target. It's almost like fighting a human sized tarantula.

When asked by Joe Rogan after the fight what he thought about Jones, Rampage responded by saying, "He's the real deal; I don't know if there any light-heavyweights out there that can beat him." Yet, Jones next scheduled opponent, former teammate Rashad Evans feels otherwise as he told Joe Rogan afterwards in the cage, "I'm glad the UFC is making this fight, I'm looking forward to it." Jones response, "I'm not saying anything till the fight. This is the second time he's ruined my special moment in the cage."

In the co-main event, sadly it was another legend that has fallen prey to Father Time as welterweight (170 lbs.) Josh 'Kos' Koscheck (16-5, 5 KO's 5 subs) finished former two-time champion Matt Hughes (46-9, 17 KO's 18 subs) via TKO @ 4:59 of the first round. Although Hughes looked competitive early, it was only a matter of time once Koscheck opened up. That's two first round KO losses in a row for Hughes; yet when asked what's next by Joe Rogan, Hughes surprisingly said, "I'm not retiring; I'm going to ask the UFC to put me on the shelf and then we'll see what happens."

Finally, I hate to say I told you so, but in the first fight of the night that's just what happened. In my preview I said that Japanese icon Takanori 'The Fireball Kid' Gomi (32-8, 12 KO's 6 subs) would probably lose to Nate Diaz (14-7, 3 KO's 10 subs) in the first round either by triangle choke or arm bar; Diaz obliged by applying both before finishing him with an arm bar at the end of the first round. However, that was only after he owned Gomi on the feet with beautiful boxing combinations. Diaz looks great back at lightweight (155 lbs.) where he truly belongs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage Preview

While it's not taking place in the same venue, UFC 135 is returning home to its birthplace of Denver, Colorado. Nearly 18 years ago in November 1993, UFC 1 took place in the McNichols Sports Arena. This Saturday, the UFC returns to Denver, only this time to sellout the Pepsi Center. It's kind of ironic too, because this card is filled with match-ups and stars from the last era taking on the next generation and it all starts at the top.

The main event is for the world light heavyweight championship and it features current titleholder Jon 'Bones' Jones (13-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) defending against the legend simply known as 'Rampage'. While there may be three other MMA fighters who lay claim to the nickname 'Rampage', there is only one that matters; former UFC champion Quinton Jackson (32-8, 14 KO's 7 subs). Jones vs. Rampage is an interesting match-up on many levels and they all have to do with the contrast in every way between the two combatants.

Rampage, while only 33, represents the old guard. A former champion who made his bones, (no pun intended), in Japan during the Pride Fighting Championships days; he's been fighting professionally for 12 years and only knows one way to fight. Meanwhile, Jones is not only the new breed, he is the next breed. Only 24 years old, Jones is a complete mixed martial artist who's barely been fighting over three years now.

Jackson lives up to his nickname, not only through his fighting style, but by being outspoken, boisterous and mean. Jones on the other hand is 'Cool Hand Luke', to coin a phrase from 1967. He's quiet, reserved and soft spoken, yet his style in the cage is quick, effective and fluid. Though both are African-American, Jackson is a country boy from Memphis, while Jones is a city kid from upstate New York. They have nothing in common, except the UFC 205 lbs. title.

How do I see this one playing out? Jackson's only chance is to bully Jones and eventually catch him with one of those bombs he throws with either hand. Problem is Jones has a freakish 84 inch reach, in which he uses every inch of it to keep his opponents at bay until he decides to engage. When he does, he's quite adept either standing throwing strikes or grappling as a former state wrestling champion. It's not rocket science here; Jones has too many ways to win versus Jackson's one way. Jones will keep Rampage at a distance and frustrate him till he wins via TKO in the second round.

The co-main event is quite interesting as well as it features another former legendary champion, welterweight (170 lbs.) Matt Hughes (45-8, 17 KO's 18 subs) taking on two-time title challenger Josh 'Kos' Koscheck (15-5, 4 KO's 5 subs). Hughes has been fighting even longer than Rampage at 13 years plus and is facing a product from 'The Ultimate Fighter' era as Koscheck was on season one. Both former All-American wrestlers in college, Koscheck is the more accomplished as a former national champion. They are both coming off losses though and haven't fought since 2010.

The last time we saw Hughes in November last year, it took B.J. Penn all of 21 seconds to punch his lights out. Koscheck on the other hand, took a serious five-round beat down at the hands of current champ Georges St. Pierre in December. The beating was so bad; Koscheck suffered a broken orbital bone around his eye. The question is which defeat will impact what fighter more?

While I think Koscheck's was much more mentally impacting, I do believe Hughes best days are behind him; thus the reason I believe it took him 10 months to get back in the cage after just a 21 second TKO loss. Koscheck remains stable at American Kickboxing Academy, while Hughes is not sure where to be these days; though he owns his own gym in his hometown. Anything is possible, but I see Koscheck winning convincingly, probably by third round TKO via ground and pound and possibly sending Hughes into retirement. Especially since this is Hughes last fight on his current contract.

The other bout of note on this card is the lightweight (155 lbs.) tilt between the Japanese Icon Takanori 'The Fireball Kid' Gomi (32-7, 12 KO's 6 subs) and the younger bad boy from Stockton, California Nate Diaz (13-7, 3 KO's, 9 subs). I say younger because Diaz is of course the younger brother of Nick Diaz, who ironically fought Gomi in February 2007 at Pride 33. Though Nick won via Gogoplata choke submission, the decision was ruled a no contest by the Nevada Athletic Commission after Diaz tested positive for marijuana.

This fight marks the return to lightweight for Nate who tried his hand at 170, till he literally got tossed around like a rag doll in his last fight against Rory McDonald; I don't see that happening here though. While Gomi has a ton of experience, 13 years worth though he's only 32, five of his seven losses have been to submission. This of course is Diaz's forte, thus I see him catching Gomi, either in a triangle choke or arm bar, quite possibly in the first round. Sad but true, it looks like out with old and in with the new at UFC 135.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Protect yourself at all times

Before I begin, let me preface my remarks by saying, "Outside of his boxing skills, I have never been much of a Floyd 'Money' Mayweather fan." That said; I have no problem with the outcome of Saturday night's fight against former welterweight champion 'Vicious' Victor Ortiz. I can hear the uproar already, but before all the anti-Mayweather fans start screaming bloody murder at me, let me explain my reasoning.

For three and a half rounds Saturday night, the fight was going just as I and many boxing experts had expected it would; Floyd Mayweather (42-0, 26 KO's) keeping the fight in the center of the ring picking apart a game, but outmatched Victor Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KO's). Sure, Ortiz came into the ring the WBC welterweight champion, but at just 24 years old, his level of experience is still nowhere near Mayweather's and it showed early on and throughout.

Although Ortiz had a couple minor flashes/moments throughout, it was Mayweather's precise counter punching that dictated the way the fight was going the first three and half rounds. That was until all hell broke loose. For one of the very few moments in the fight, Ortiz backed up Mayweather and appeared to finally be doing some damage while having the slicker opponent up against the ropes. As a matter of fact, had he stayed with what he was doing at that point, he looked as though he could possibly pull out the fourth round. That was until the unexpected happened.

In the midst of throwing punches at Mayweather, Ortiz, for some strange reason, decided to live up to his nickname, get "vicious" and throw a head butt at Mayweather's chin. Blatant and obvious, referee Joe Cortez jumped in and stopped the action. He then proceeded to take a point away from Ortiz. After this, the two fighters embraced with Ortiz apologizing for his actions and Mayweather seemingly accepting. What happened next is what ends the fight and starts the controversy.

As they parted their embrace, Mayweather hit Ortiz with a left hook and right hand that knocked down the former champion. Unable to recover, Ortiz was counted out by Cortez, who for a 'Hall of Fame' referee looked a bit bewildered by the whole thing. The stoppage came at 2:59 of the fourth round. Immediately the question began, was Mayweather dirty or unprofessional for hitting Ortiz as they finished their embrace and his hands were down? I say no and here's why.

First of all, Mayweather did nothing wrong. The timeout that was called after the initial head butt was back in, which means "protect yourself at all times." That is the first and repeated rule of boxing, MMA, wrestling or any other combat sport in the world. Mayweather had his hands up after the embrace, so why didn't Ortiz? Experience, that's why.

Second, it was Ortiz, not Mayweather, who initiated the intentional head butt, thus turning an otherwise clean fight up to that point, into 'no holds barred'. Therefore, even if the punches Mayweather threw after the embrace were "dirty," which I am saying they were not, he was just adapting to dirty tactics that were being used upon him. In other words, Ortiz made a mistake by fighting a fighter at something he is good at. Not necessarily fighting dirty, but using it to your advantage. At this, Mayweather is a master.

The unfair uproar that is being hurled at Floyd Mayweather has nothing to do with professional prizefighting and everything to do with people's diluted perception of sportsmanship. Don't hate the player, hate the game. As much as boxing and mixed martial arts are sports, they are not played with the same courteous etiquette that you will see on a tennis court or golf course. While there are rules in place, it is still a fight.

Floyd Mayweather fought that fight within the rules. If he hadn't, the same way referee Joe 'Mr. I'm Fair, but I'm Firm' Cortez penalized Victor Ortiz for not fighting within those rules, he would have penalized Mayweather. Also note there was no negative reaction or response at all from Ortiz. He just smiled in his corner as though he realized he was just outmatched. A valuable, but costly lesson was learned by Ortiz Saturday night, protect yourself at all times.

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

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