Wednesday, June 29, 2011

UFC 132 Cruz vs. Faber Preview

While last weekend it was the big boys that stole the show, this week the main event features a couple of bantamweights battling for the 135 lbs. title. However, don't think for a minute this fight takes a backseat in any way, because this fight has the potential to be the best fight in bantamweight history thus far. Why? Because it features a rematch of arguably the best two fighters of the weight class in the world.

UFC champion Dominic 'The Dominator' Cruz (17-1, 6 KO's 1 sub) is not only defending his belt, but has a chance to avenge the only blemish on his record. That is because his challenger Urijah 'The California Kid' Faber (25-4, 7 KO's 13 subs) defeated the current champ via guillotine choke in a fight they had four years ago. At that time though things were different; Faber was one fight away from becoming champion in World Extreme Cagefighting at featherweight (145 lbs.). Cruz meanwhile was fighting in only his 10th professional fight. A lot has happened since then.

Faber has gone 7-3 in 10 fights, including losing his title and going down in weight. Cruz meanwhile has won eight fights in a row, including the WEC 135 lbs. championship, defended it and became the initial UFC bantamweight champ. As much as I like Urijah Faber, it is for those reasons, plus some others, that I am picking Cruz to defeat Faber in the rematch via unanimous decision.

Cruz is a much improved fighter since then, not to mention more experienced now. He's learned how to use his size and reach to his advantage, as he's extremely tall for this weight class, and is much improved in his takedown defense. Plus, he's had two fights against Joseph Benavidez, one of Faber's primary training partners and teammates at Alpha Male. As great as Faber is and continues to be, I think he's met his match at featherweight Jose Aldo and now at bantamweight also in Dominic Cruz. We'll see if I'm right or wrong come Saturday.

In the co-main event, it's the return of a legend as Wanderlei 'The Axe Murderer' Silva (33-10-1, 23 KO's 3 subs), who hasn't fought in nearly a year and half, faces off against the always dangerous Chris 'The Crippler' Leben (25-7, 13 KO's 6 subs) at middleweight (185 lbs.). This one is a tough call for me as a huge Silva fan because I believe his best days are behind him. By the same token, I was never fully impressed by Leben, but the guy always seems to find a way to win. Yet, I'm going to let my heart get in the way and say that I think the time off may have been good for 'The Axe Murderer', which is why I'm picking him to win by second round TKO.

The other fight of note on this card features the return of yet another legend. Only this time the legend faces a rising star and I don't think the fairy tale ending is in store. Former light-heavyweight (205 lbs) Kingpin Tito Ortiz (15-8-1, 8 KO's 2 subs) meets budding superstar Ryan 'Darth' Bader (12-1, 5 KO's 3 subs) in what will likely be his last fight in the UFC. Ortiz AKA 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' is 0-4-1 in his last five fights and has not won a fight since October 2006; sadly, I don't think it will happen here either.

Bader, who is just 28 years old compared to Ortiz's 36, was on the verge of a title shot till he lost to eventual champion and fellow young stud Jon 'Bones' Jones in February. Ortiz's forte has always been his wrestling, but it can't compare to Bader's, a former two-time All-American while at Arizona State University. That, plus the game has obviously passed Ortiz by and I believe he's only in it for a paycheck is why I'm picking Bader by TKO in the third round. A sad end prediction for a true pioneer of the sport, but that's what happens when you hang on too long; just ask Ortiz's long time nemesis Chuck Liddell.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

UFC on Versus 4: KOngo wows! Story upset

It isn't often one gets to experience free high profile mixed martial arts action, so how rare is it then when you get it three nights in a row? Such was this case this past weekend where we were treated to a Strikeforce Challenger series card on Friday, Bellator's summer series opener on Saturday and finally a UFC on Versus card Sunday night. In a strange twist of fate, what could have been a disaster for the UFC turned out the better for it?

Literally 24 hours before the UFC's fourth live free card on the Versus network, the main event originally scheduled between former middleweight (185 lbs.) contender Nate Marquardt and current welterweight (170 lbs.) contender Rick 'The Horror' Story fizzled right before their eyes. In what the UFC has stated was a failed physical, Marquardt was unauthorized to fight. No specific reason was given, but it is speculated performance enhancing drugs were the reason because UFC President Dana White wasted no time in announcing the release of Marquardt from the UFC.

With the original main event now gone, the co-main feature between heavyweight strikers Cheick Kongo (16-6-2, 10 KO's 3 subs) and Pat 'HD' Barry (6-3, 5 KO's) was now relegated to be the highlight of the show; and was it ever? In just two and a half minutes of action, Kongo (pictured above) and Barry delivered a highlight reel of punches and knockdowns, which culminated in one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history. Both fighters known primarily as kickboxers did not disappoint as they promised a good fight and they delivered.

Starting out cautiously as expected, both fighters measured each other with some vicious Muay Thai round kicks to their legs. Then out of nowhere in an exchange, Barry, who gave up five inches in height and nearly eight inches in reach, dropped Kongo with an overhand right to the ear. The chiseled heavyweight from Paris, France dropped like a sack of potatoes and from that point on, all hell broke loose.

In serious trouble and almost out, Kongo tried desperately to clinch the oncoming Barry and get to his feet; somehow he did. However, in a frantic exchange Barry dropped him again and this time Kongo looked all but out. It almost looked as though referee Dan Mirgliotta was stepping in to stop it, which no one would have disputed, but he didn't. Good thing he didn't because somehow Kongo got up again and found his wits enough to catch Barry with a right cross to the head that slowed him down. Then he immediately followed that with a thunderous right uppercut to the jaw that stopped Barry in his tracks as he was out before he hit the floor.

Kongo followed him to the ground, but no need as Mirgliotta saw Barry was as stiff as a board and jumped in to save him from any further damage. Not since former UFC middleweight Scott Smith delivered a knockout punch to Pete Sell, after being keeled over by a body shot, have we seen such a dramatic comeback. This one though happened during a main event between heavyweights on free television. It can't get much better than that for the UFC and its fans.

In the co-main event, the aforementioned Rick 'The Horror' Story (13-4, 3 KO's 3 subs) actually found himself the subject of one. After losing his original opponent and main event status, he was relegated to the co-main slot against last minute replacement Charlie 'The Spaniard' Brenneman (14-2, 5 KO's 2 subs). Story, with nothing to gain and everything to lose, considering he was riding a six-fight win streak and was being talked about as a title challenger, did just that.

Brenneman, who hails from Hollidaysburg, PA, had the hometown crowd from Pittsburgh in his corner and it fueled him as he went at Story and defeated the wrestler at his own game. Repeatedly, taking down Story during the first two rounds, 'The Spaniard' used a ground and pound attack to take a commanding lead. However, he would need that lead and some slick submission defense as well as he found himself in some danger in the third.

He continued to attack Story with takedowns, only this time Story was more aggressive in his jiu-jitsu game as he had Brenneman in some precarious situations throughout the entire round. To his credit, the hometown kid would not relent and found a way to hang on for a surprising and upsetting unanimous decision. For Brenneman, its instant contender status while for Story, its back to the prologue or the beginning of the book.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bellator Summer Season starts with a bang

As much I enjoy Bellator Fighting Championships, going into its summer season series opener I did question why they were beginning their new season with a featherweight tournament? Especially considering they just ended season four with one in the same weight class (145lbs.). However, after watching the four quarterfinal matches in this season's tourney on Saturday night, I now understand why.

Even though featherweight champion Joe Warren still hasn't defended his title against the season four tournament winner Patricio Pitbull, which takes place next month, Bellator wasted no time in stacking the field for their next featherweight title challenger. Someone else who wasted no time in his quest was tournament favorite Ronnie 'Kid Ninja' Mann (pictured at left). Mann (20-2-1, 3 KO's 10 subs) used all of four minutes to handle his business as he TKO'd challenger Adam Schindler.

Schindler (9-2, 6 subs) came into the fight the naturally bigger fighter, having fought his first 10 fights at lightweight (155 lbs.), but it wasn't enough to stop the man known as 'Kid Ninja'. Mann, using superior striking and good takedown defense, was able to counter any offense Schindler tried to muster and eventually caught him with a straight right/left hook combination that dropped his opponent. He then pounced on Schindler with a flurry of hammerfists that rendered Schindler defenseless and unconscious. Mann looks right on point with two successive wins in Bellator.

The second quarterfinal match featured relative, but talented, unknown Jacob Devree (10-2, 3 KO's 4 subs) taking on highly touted Nazareno 'Naza' Malegarie (20-1, 5 KO's 12 subs). Although Devree was game, his relative inexperience at this level was evident against the highly skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt from Argentina. Malegarie, whose only loss came in the first round of the season four tournament, came back with a vengeance as he out wrestled and eventually submitted Devree with a slick guillotine choke early in the third round. Malegarie looks like he's on a mission.

Quarterfinal fight number three was another match-up of an early tournament favorite against another talented newcomer as former Sengoku featherweight champion Marlon Sandro (18-2, 7 KO's 3 subs) faced off against fellow Brazilian Genair Da Silva, Jr. (10-4, 6 KO's 1 sub). Sandro, who trains out of the famed Nova Uniao gym in Rio de Janeiro with UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, showed his superior world class level as he won a surprising split decision against Da Silva. This fight was the first outside Brazil for Da Silva and that inexperience showed against Sandro who's fought 10 of his 20 fights in Japan. Considering that disparity in experience, Sandro did not look overwhelming in his victory; it remains to be seen if his best is yet to come.

In the fourth and final fight of the night, former lightweight tournament winner Pat Curran (14-4, 3 KO's 5 subs) took on fellow Bellator veteran Luis 'Baboon' Palomino (16-7, 8 KO's 2 subs). Curran, who was coming off a unanimous decision loss to lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez after coming out of nowhere to win the season three 155lbs. tournament, moved down 1o pounds and he looked stronger than ever. After dropping Palomino with a crisp right hand to the jaw, both fighters went back and forth on the ground. It was there that Curran went for a D'Arce choke and transitioned it beautifully into a Peruvian neck tie submission choke.

With all four favorites winning, the semifinals look to be top notch and exciting. Depending on the match-ups in the next round, if the brackets fall the way I think they will, I am predicting a final that will feature Ronnie Mann against Pat Curran with Mann ultimately winning the tourney. Whatever the match-ups, one thing's for sure, Bellator continues to impress with their tournaments and their matchmaking as their summer season has started with a bang.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Strikeforce doesn't live up to its name

While the name of the game is mixed martial arts, when the name of your promotion is Strikeforce you anticipate some action in the form of, well striking. Although strikes, (punches, kicks, knees etc.), were not null and void last night in Strikeforce's Heavyweight Grand Prix, they didn't come in abundance either; especially not to the satisfaction of the Dallas, Texas crowd, which I'll address in a minute.

Nonetheless, the second round of quarterfinal match-ups have finally taken place, albeit four months later, and as expected Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett (pictured @ left) handled their business. However, it is the way they handled it that is being scrutinized, though I'm not exactly sure why? When you have two match-ups that feature a striker vs. grappler, the outcomes are to be expected.

In the main event, Overeem (35-11, 14 KO's 19 subs), the reigning Strikeforce heavyweight champion, tried to do his part and finish his opponent Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1, 4 KO's 8 subs), but it wasn't enough to please the crowd. While he came away with a unanimous decision, I guess the expectations of a champion with such a high pedigree of kickboxing were just too much to overcome. Werdum, realizing he could not stand toe to toe with the champ, continuously tried in vain to lure the champion into a clinch and ground game. However, Overeem, already with a loss to Werdum five years earlier via submission, would have none of it.

The crowd was not pleased at all with Werdum's constant flopping and attempts to lure Overeem to the ground, but what did they expect? Werdum was just playing to his strength, especially realizing early on he could not stand and trade with the bigger and stronger champion. Up next for Overeem, it doesn't get any easier as he faces a "big" task in 'Bigfoot' Antonio Silva. Though he should be favored, Overeem needs to be a lot sharper in his overall attack if he is going to "beat the man who beat the man" as Silva did when he took out the favorite in the tournament Fedor Emelianenko.

In the co-main event, it was pretty much a case of not how, but when. In my preview, I stated if Barnett (30-5, 7 KO's 18 subs) could avoid the mammoth punches coming from Brett Rogers (11-3, 9 KO's 1 sub), he would inevitably get him down into his world and win via submission in the second round. I hate to say I told you so, but I did. After controlling Rogers for much of the first round once he got him to the ground, he did more of the same and eventually finished him with a tight arm-triangle choke in the second. Rogers did what he could, but his fate was sealed if he couldn't land that big punch, which he didn't.

Once again, the Dallas crowd booed unmercifully while Barnett played to his strength, instead of appreciating a master of submission wrestling at work. The semi-final round is no cakewalk for Barnett as he takes on Russian KO artist Sergei Kharitonov. Kharitonov, who holds both a win and loss against champ Overeem, has a wealth of experience and is my dark horse pick to win this tournament. However, my favorite is Barnett, who I expect to defeat the Russian and whoever he faces in the final. In other words, the winner of this semifinal bracket is my pick to win the whole thing.

Two final comments regarding the tourney and the crowd; first, I hope Strikeforce learns from Bellator and doesn't wait another four months for the next round. If they had rode the momentum of the first round in February and got to this show earlier, I feel it would have been much better for the fighters who had too much time to sit and wait, thus creating some lackluster performances.

Finally, until casual American fans realize these are no longer the days of no holds barred fighting and that it is now a technical sport called mixed martial arts, we will continue to have reactions such as what was experienced last night. Fans here in the states need to understand that unlike boxing, this fight game encompasses a lot of different facets besides punching. Therefore, instead of booing whenever a clinch occurs or a fight goes to the ground, I suggest fans educate themselves, so they can truly appreciate the artistry of a fighter's whole game, instead of feeling cheated somehow.

I think every fan should try at least once to get on the mat one day and roll around, whether it is wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo etc., so you can truly feel and appreciate what it takes to "fight" on the ground. These fighters are some of the most skilled and best conditioned athletes in the world. For them to step into a cage and be booed is a total disrespect and disgrace in my eyes and should never happen. That is unless you are Kalib Starnes and refuse to engage for three rounds as he did against Nate Quarry at UFC 83; then boo to your hearts content.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Preview

We had to wait four months for the second tier of quarterfinal round match-ups in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament, but if the fights live up to hype, it will be worth the wait. However, the key word in all of this is ‘if’, because there are numerous questions regarding the four fighters being featured on Saturday night. Nonetheless, the anticipation surrounding these two fights is as big as when the tournament first started in February.

The co-main event features not only a contrast of styles, but of fighters as well. On one end you have a highly experienced former UFC champion in Josh ‘The Baby-Faced Assassin’ Barnett (29-5, 7 KO’s 17 subs), while his opponent Brett ‘The Grim’ Rogers (11-2, 9 KO’s 1 sub) is still an inexperienced green knockout artist. On paper, this should be a no contest, but that’s why fights are played out in the cage and not on paper; in the cage, anything can happen.

The key here is for Barnett to avoid Rogers’s big punches while he goes for a clinch and an eventual takedown. On the ground Barnett has a decisive advantage as can be witnessed by his 17 submission wins along with a vicious ground and pound attack. If Rogers can avoid being taken down and keep the fight standing, then he has more than a puncher’s chance. That is assuming his conditioning is up to par, which he claims it is.

That is one of two big questions surrounding Rogers, the other being, how much has he worked on his ground game? As for Barnett, the big question that always follows him now is regarding performance-enhancing drugs. A two-time loser in that department, only time will tell if he’s “cleaned” up his act. The other question for Barnett is regarding his age? He’s only 33, but he’s been fighting since 1997, so he’s an old 33 and hasn’t fought since July. How much will that impact him? I say not enough to lose, so I’m picking Barnett via submission in the second round.

In the main event, it is only the second fight in Strikeforce for Alistair ‘Demolition Man’ Overeem (34-11, 14 KO’s 19 subs), since he won the Strikeforce heavyweight title back in November, 2007. That is not to say he hasn’t been busy though. Since then he’s had nine fights going (8-0) with one no-contest. The only fight for Strikeforce in there was his only defense to date against Rogers where he obliterated the challenger in three plus minutes last year. He’s clearly at the top of his game right now, also winning the K-1 Heavyweight Title back on New Year’s Eve.

His opponent Fabricio ‘Vai Cavalo’ Werdum (14-4-1, 4 KO’s, 8 subs) comes in to this bout with a lot of mystique and confidence behind him. It was almost a year ago to the day that Werdum stole that very mystique, which surrounded the great Fedor Emelianenko, when he tapped the ‘Last Emperor’ in just over a minute. Besides the confidence from that win, he also holds the distinction of a win over Overeem, five years ago when they fought in the Pride Fighting Championships over in Japan.

However, in the five years since that loss, Werdum has suffered some critical losses along the way, while Overeem (pictured above) has clearly refined his game and become a top five heavyweight in the world. Two simple questions here are, can Werdum avoid Overeem’s striking onslaught and can Overeem avoid being taken down by the jiu-jitsu wizard? I say Overeem is much better all-around than he was five years ago, thus he will avoid the takedown and destroy his worthy opponent; possibly finishing him in the first round. Don’t blink, these two can end that fast.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

UFC 131: Dos Santos & Florian prove their worth

At UFC 130 last month, it seemed as though I couldn't get any predictions right. However, that was not the case last night as I had called that both Junior Dos Santos (pictured at left) and Kenny Florian would win in their respective fights and they held true to form. With that, Dos Santos (13-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) has now officially earned a title shot against current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, while Florian has made those same intentions known in the featherweight (145 lbs.) division. "I'm here to prove I'm one of the best featherweights in the world and earn a shot at the title," Florian said.

In the main event, while I had predicted a win for Dos Santos, I had also stated someone would get knocked out; whether it would be him or his opponent Shane Carwin (12-2, 7 KO's 5 subs). Granted it didn't happen, but the way Carwin's face looked after three rounds of punishment at the hands of JDS, he probably wished it did. Dos Santos battered Carwin at will throughout using superior boxing skills, almost finishing him at the end of the first round by unleashing a vicious ground and pound attack when he stunned and dropped Carwin with a thunderous left hook. At the end of the first, Carwin's face was a bloody mess.

Yet Carwin, withstood the barrage of punches for nearly 40 seconds, got up and continued. Unable to breath through what appeared to look like a broken nose and cut under both eyes, the former interim heavyweight champ showed the heart of Rocky Balboa against Apollo Creed as he stalked Dos Santos for two more rounds to the finish. He even mustered a takedown or two, but he couldn't do anything once he got there; Dos Santos's athleticism proved too much for the bigger Carwin.

In the post fight interview, Joe Rogan told JDS he had officially earned a shot at the champion Velasquez, who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. Velasquez was in attendance and when asked by Rogan what he thought about Dos Santos's performance and how he felt about fighting his future opponent, Velasquez's response was, "he was typical Dos Santos here tonight." "I look forward to challenging myself against a great opponent such as him."

In the co-main event, the big question was, how would the cut to 145 lbs. affect Kenny Florian? Answer, it had no effect as Florian (14-5, 3 KO's 9 subs) looked better than ever as he won convincingly against a dangerous Diego Nunes (16-2, 5 KO's 6 subs). Convincingly is a deceiving word, as Nunes looked like he may be too much for Florian at the beginning, beating him to the punch and kick and even dropping him at the end of the first round with a combination. However, after that it was all 'Ken-Flo', as he used superior wrestling, striking and surprisingly conditioning to defeat the much younger featherweight.

Florian may not have to wait long for his shot at current 145 lbs. champion Jose Aldo as timing is everything. Chad 'Money' Mendes was most likely the next challenger, but when Aldo's nagging back injury forced Mendes to either wait or take a fight, he chose the latter, defeating Michihiro Omigawa in February. Now with Florian in the mix after a strong dominant performance and a much more appealing opponent for the flashy Aldo, UFC President Dana White jokingly quipped, "more than likely," when asked is Florian next in line for a title shot.

Florian, who is 0-2 in title fights at lightweight (155 lbs.), may find that the third time, now at 145, is the charm. One other quick note on last night's fights, something has to be done about the judging in mixed martial arts. Some of the scoring last night was downright criminal. Middleweight (185 lbs.) Mark Munoz defeated Demian Maia via unanimous decision in a very close fight that I actually had Maia winning two rounds to one.

I can accept that Munoz won, however I cannot accept that he won all three rounds on one judge's card. How that judge, or anyone for that matter, could score the first round for Munoz, where Maia clearly pressed the action, surprising Munoz with precision punching throughout and even hurting him clearly in that round is ridiculous? Don't believe me, just listen to what Dana White said afterwards, "I don't know what the *&%@ in the world that guy was seeing. He should never judge a fight again, ever."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

TUF 13 Finale Review/UFC 131 Preview

Leave it to the up and comers and hungry want to be's to pick up the slack for the UFC after last weekend's sub-par UFC 130 card. TUF 13 finalists Tony 'El Cucuy' Ferguson and Ramsey Nijem, along with lightweight contenders Clay 'The Carpenter' Guida (pictured at left) and Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis did what the headliners last week couldn't do; excite the crowd. With that, we have a new TUF tournament champion and a potential number one contender for the lightweight (155 lbs.) championship.

First, in the main event of the evening, Ferguson (11-2, 7 KO's 3 subs), a participant in season 13 of 'The Ultimate Fighter' (TUF) reality series, became this season's champ with a slick and convincing first round knockout over fellow TUF alum Nijem (4-2, 1 KO, 2 subs). Ferguson, a welterweight (170 lbs.) who fights out of Oxnard, California, a legendary hotbed for boxing, displayed those same boxing skills in picking apart his opponent and eventually landing a crushing left hook to the jaw. Ferguson was representing ailing UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar who was his coach on the show.

Meanwhile Nijem, who was representing number one heavyweight contender Junior Dos Santos, never got a chance to put to use the dominant wrestling skills that helped propel him to the finals. In winning, Ferguson secures a guaranteed six-figure contract with the UFC. Neither Lesnar, nor Dos Santos were present at the event due to Lesnar recovering from his second bout with Diverticulitis and Dos Santos preparing for his big fight next weekend, which I'll preview below.

While in the main event, it was a case of the striker defeating the wrestler, just the opposite happened in the co-main event. In that fight, it was the grappler Guida who was able to implement his wrestling and use it to garner a unanimous three-round decision over Pettis. Pettis, the last World Extreme Cagefighting Champion, did all he could to live up to his nickname 'Showtime', even attempting a roundhouse kick to the face off his back, but it wasn't enough to combat Guida's relentless ground and pound attack.

Guida (29-11, 4 KO's, 11 subs), a fan favorite because of his non-stop energetic frantic style, is now riding a four-fight win streak, including three submission finishes, and has propelled himself right in line to potentially fight the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard III. That fight of course will be for the lightweight championship of the world. Meanwhile Pettis (13-2, 5 KO's, 6 subs) at only 24 years of age, even with the loss remains at the top tier of the division as he continues to evolve his exciting game.

Now, onto the big boys and UFC 131 next Saturday June 11; this will feature heavyweight contenders Shane Carwin and the aforementioned Junior Dos Santos in the main event. Don't sleep, let alone blink on this one, because I anticipate it will not last long. Dos Santos (12-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) is undefeated in six fights in the UFC, winning all but one via TKO. Originally scheduled to fight Lesnar before he became ill, he now faces Carwin who possesses the exact record at (12-1, 7 KO's 5 subs).

Carwin is far from a throw in replacement, as he is a former interim world champion and possesses a very similar fighting style to Lesnar. I truly believe one punch is going to determine the outcome of this fight and it can easily come from either fighter, but I am predicting in the end it will be Dos Santos who will be left standing. While the book is still out on whether or not Dos Santos can fight off his back, which is a strong possibility against Carwin the wrestler that is still a mystery.

Meanwhile, we have seen a flaw in Carwin's game when he gassed against Lesnar and ended up getting submitted. According to Carwin, he has addressed this issue by changing his nutrition and training regimen. However, it is that one flaw and the fact that I believe Dos Santos is the better boxer that I give him the nod here.

One other fight I am looking forward to on this card features former lightweight contender Kenny 'Ken-Flo' Florian (13-5, 3 KO's, 9 subs) who will be making his featherweight (145 lbs.) debut. His opponent will be natural featherweight contender Diego 'The Gun' Nunes (16-1, 5 KO's, 6 subs). These are two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylists with a wide array of striking skills as well. It will be interesting to see whether Florian can be as effective at 145 and whether Nunes can deal with Florian's size and experience; my pick is Florian by decision. We'll find out soon enough, enjoy the fights.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Memories are good, but good memories are great!

My how time flies when you're having fun? No other time that I can recall have those words ever been more prophetic than a week ago. It was at that time that I was in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of hanging with the Junkie Nation (pictured at left) to celebrate the 1000th show of MMA Junkie Radio.

If for some reason you are unaware as to what and who MMA Junkie Radio is and more importantly, what and who Junkie Nation is, let me explain? MMA Junkie Radio or Junkie Radio is the number one internet radio show covering the sport of mixed martial arts. Junkie Nation are the hosts and crew of that show along with their legion of loyal listeners, of which I am one; and as you can see, only one of many. However, this is more than just a show and its listeners, this is a family.

Four years ago, Gorgeous George, Goze and Jenny from the Block, took their passion as MMA fans one step beyond and started a radio show covering this sport we all love. They did it to fill a void that was left when the late great Ryan Bennett, host of Soundoff Radio, was tragically killed in an auto accident. Little did they know that what they started on a whim, would soon become their livelihood and for us an integral part of our lives. Since that time, these three, along with John Morgan, reporter extraordinaire, have become not only our daily MMA fix, but our good and close friends.

Thus, the reason that last weekend we converged on Sin City to celebrate with our brothers and sister. BTW, for me, I don't use that term lightly, but rather as a term of endearment because GG, Goze and Jenny have come to mean that much to me in the last couple of years as personally their friendship has become something very special. Obviously, I'm not the only one that feels that way as the above photo just captures a portion of the people in attendance, which made the weekend that much more memorable.

The people I met last week and in the last couple of years, from all over the world, are not only genuinely good people, but have become personal friends. Last week, we got together to rejoice in laughter and happiness and engage in the following activities. We bowled at The Red Rock Casino, fired weapons; yes we shot guns at the famous Gun Store and played basketball on the campus of UNLV. On top of that we enjoyed MMA fights and action together both Friday and Saturday nights at Tuff 'n' Uff and from the UFC.

In between all this fun and activity, we ate and drank too; you name it and we, as a whole of different parts, claimed it. From the simple dollar menu of Mickey D's to the Brazilian Barbecue of Texas de Brazil we ate to our hearts content. As for engaging in spirits, let's just say 'Slick Rick da Fish' wasn't the only one partaking in that venture. Finally, this special weekend was capped off by a private party at the 'Eye Candy' lounge in Mandalay Bay. The only possible drawback to this was the reality that the party meant this dream weekend was coming to an end.

I could go on and on about how fantastic my weekend in Vegas was, but I won't because it would take too much time. I can point out individuals and their moments that made me smile and laugh throughout, but I won't because there were too many to name them all. I will just say that there are moments in ones life that are so special, a person carries it with them for as long as they live. Those are memories and "memories are good, but good memories are great." This was a good memory.

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

Wow! I feel the only way to properly start this summary of what I just experienced is summed up in that one word. Although there is anothe...