Saturday, January 28, 2012

UFC on FOX 2: Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law is an adage that states, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong;" introducing UFC on Fox 2. Although this was technically the second UFC on FOX event, it was the first full card that was featured with three big bouts.

The first one, back in November, just showed a championship fight that lasted all of 64 seconds. Thus, it was important for many reasons that the six fighters in action Saturday night provide just that, action. Unfortunately, what looked good on paper, didn't translate well to the cage as the result was three lackluster decisions.

The main event was between light-heavyweights (205 lbs.) 'Suga' Rashad Evans (17-1-1, 6 KO's 2 subs) and Phil 'Mr. Wonderful' Davis (9-1, 2 KO's 3 subs), a pair of former Big 10 wrestlers from Michigan State and Penn State respectively; sadly, it may have turned out better if it were an amateur wrestling match. That's because Evans, a former UFC champion, outclassed the inexperienced Davis over five rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Clearly quicker and better with his hands and in MMA, his wrestling, Evans dominated, but never really hurt Davis seriously; though he did bloody and beat him up pretty good. Although Davis has a very promising future, it was evident that his lack of experience, especially against the caliber of opponents Evans has faced, was the big difference. Nonetheless, he hung tough with the former champ and survived a couple of moments throughout when he was caught under Evans in a vulnerable crucifix position on the ground.

Meanwhile, Evans, who was clearly looking to make a statement in front of current light-heavyweight champion Jon 'Bones' Jones, who was in attendance as an analyst in the Fox booth with Curt Menefee and Randy Couture, is just happy to finally get his wish; a showdown against his former teammate in three months @ UFC 146 in Atlanta. Though Jones currently looks invincible, Evans looks like he may be his toughest test yet. Too bad that wasn't the fight featured on Fox; the UFC could have used it on this night.

There were two questions leading into the co-main event between middleweight (185 lbs.) contenders Chael Sonnen (28-11-1, 7 KO's 4 subs) and Michael 'The Count' Bisping (22-4, 14 KO's 4 subs). The first was who would impose their will in the fight, the grappler Sonnen or the striker Bisping? The other was would the fight live up to the hype the two biggest trash talkers in the UFC made it out to be?

The answer to the first question was the grappler, as Sonnen won a unanimous decision by being able to use his wrestling, albeit barely. As for question number two, unfortunately for the fans and for the UFC's second event on Fox, the answer was no. Sonnen hardly looked as dominant as he did in his last fight against Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, while putting up a good battle, hardly did much else to sway the judges.

While UFC President Dana White, ultimately got what he wanted as Sonnen will now get a rematch against middleweight champion Anderson Silva, most likely in Silva's home country of Brazil, he has to wonder if this performance will hurt the promotion of that fight at all. Sonnen on the other hand, in typical Sonnen fashion, did his part with a WWEesque type post fight interview. In the octagon he refused to answer Joe Rogan's question about the fight, instead asking Rogan, "How do you feel standing next to the greatness that is Chael Sonnen." Really?

In a surprising start of the card on Fox, middleweight grappling experts Demian Maia (15-4, 2 KO's 8 subs), a world champion Jiu-Jitsu player, and Chris Weidman (8-0, 2 KO's 3 subs), a former All-American wrestler, fought a three round affair standing. For some reason the two grapplers decided to duke it out as boxers and the result, as you can imagine, was a steady, but lethargic split decision win by the young upstart Weidman.

Stepping in on 11 days notice after Maia's original opponent Bisping was moved up to face Sonnen, Weidman barely hung on as he was totally gassed in the last round. To his credit though, he secured the only takedowns of the fight, which weren't many, and did attempt a submission or two. Maia meanwhile, who won his first five fights in the UFC via submission, is only (4-4) in his last eight fights, with the four wins coming by decision; maybe someone needs to remind him of what initially made him a threat and contender in the division, jiu-jitsu not boxing.

Finally, while styles make fights, the UFC brass, and Fox for that matter, cannot be happy with the way things turned out in prime time. I personally told and texted all the casual fans and friends I know to tune in to the free fights on Fox, in hopes that they would see what I'm always clamoring about; the fastest growing and most exciting sport in the world. I don't think I won over many new fans, if any, on this night.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nice guys don't always finish last

Legendary baseball manager Leo Durocher is credited with coining the phrase, "Nice guys finish last." In most cases, regardless of the situation, Durocher is right; but when it comes to MMA that rule doesn't necessarily apply. The latest example is now former UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) contender Jorge 'El Conquistador' Rivera.

I say former because just like another highly respected good guy before him in Chris Lytle, Rivera (pictured @ left) announced before his fight Friday night that win or lose, it would be his last. Well that wasn't the only thing he had in common with Lytle, because just like Lytle, Rivera went out a winner. A second round TKO finish over tough Eric Schafer, who used to fight @ 205 lbs., means that 'El Conquistador' ends an 11+ years career @ (20-9, 14 KO's, 2 subs).

A very respectable record considering Rivera's resume of opponents, including 15 fights in the UFC. While his record inside the octagon was a mere (8-7), his presence was always felt among his fellow competitors and among the fans where 'El Conquistador' has always been a fan favorite. Another trait he has in common with Lytle who also had a simple .500 record inside the UFC, but was easily one of the most popular fighters among the fans and his peers.

Rivera made his UFC debut after only seven fights way back in 2003 @ UFC 44 against former title contender David 'The Crow' Loiseau. In typical 'Conquistador' fashion, he went three toe to toe rounds before winning a unanimous decision. In his next fight inside the octagon he got caught in a triangle choke submission against tough Lee Murray; and so would go the career of the popular Puerto Rican from Milford, Massachusetts.

Always a crowd pleaser with his stand and bang style, the ground game was always his downfall. Nonetheless, that didn't keep him from competing against the best in the world. Take a look at just some of the names he's fought in his career, Travis Lutter, Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva, Dennis Hallman and Michael Bisping to name a few, and it's easy to see he's had a better than average career.

He starred and competed in Season Four of 'The Ultimate Fighter', the comeback season, and reached his career high point nearly a year ago when he was in the co-main event @ UFC 127 against Bisping. While he never could get over the hump and get a win in that big fight when he needed it most, he would always come back and get it in his next fight. On top of that, he always maintained a positive attitude and keen sense of humor, which he displayed in his many YouTube videos that made him a favorite with the fans.

Rivera's overcome a lot in his life including heading down the wrong path in his younger years and losing his oldest daughter at only 17 years of age to an untimely illness three years ago. In between he became a military veteran and a perennial contender in the biggest Mixed Martial Arts organization in the world. Now one month before his 40th birthday, he's retired on his own terms.

Opening a brand new Gym in his hometown in a matter of weeks and looking to spend more time with his family, Rivera is at peace with his career and his decision to walk away. If you look at my caller bio over @, I list five fighters as my personal favorites. In that list are the names of Chris Lytle and Jorge Rivera; both are now retired and having gone out on top, it's safe to say that nice guys don't always finish last. Thanks Jorge for the memories and for always being a true professional.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Who's gonna take the weight?

As the late great rapper Guru of the legendary hip-hop group Gang Starr once quipped, "Who's gonna take the weight?" That is the question now that surrounds Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson following the quick release of this promising young contender from the UFC. Sure it is a question, but also a play on words as the release is the result of Johnson's third failed attempt at making weight before a fight.

Unfortunately for Johnson (Pictured above), it was not only his third strike, but it came before the biggest fight of his career where he was featured in a co-main event. Luckily for Johnson his opponent Vitor Belfort was willing to go through with the fight, albeit with a stipulation, or he would've never made it past Friday night; especially with UFC President Dana White fuming upon the news that Johnson would miss his weight badly.

How badly? Anthony Johnson (10-4, 7 KO's) weighed in for a middleweight (185 lbs.) fight at 197 lbs. It's one thing to miss making weight by two, even three pounds, but missing it by double digits is "totally unprofessional," as Dana White said live on Fuel TV at the weigh-ins Friday. To his defense, if there is any, it was reported that Johnson was a mere one and a half pounds from hitting his mark when he was told by a doctor to rehydrate or risk serious health issues.

Johnson's camp used the excuse that 'Rumble' began feeling ill three hours before weigh-ins and was instructed by a physician to put fluids in his system. Sorry, but that excuse isn't going to fly and it didn't with White. While anything is possible, the truth is Johnson's past speaks for itself. On two prior occasions, while Johnson was competing as a welterweight (170 lbs.) he missed his weight before a fight.

I'm very nearly 5' 11" tall, and while I'm a lot older than Anthony Johnson, I can tell you I haven't seen 170 lbs. since high school. In the photo above, which was taken in July 2009, I was weighing about 225 lbs. and you can see that 'Rumble' who is much larger than I am, was weighing at least that, if not more. Therefore, how he ever made the 170 pound welterweight limit is a miracle unto itself.

However, he did make it, on at least 11 occasions; so you would think this fight, his first at middleweight, giving him an additional 15 lbs. cushion to play with, should be no problem. Yet it was, which makes you wonder, this time was it Johnson's fault or someone else? That is the question that was posed to me by MMAJunkie Radio host Gorgeous George Garcia when I told him the news that 'Rumble' had missed weight.

Garcia asked, "Does a missed weight target by so much fall on the fighter or his trainer?" In this case, the trainer is noted MMA instructor Mike Van Arsdale of the Blackzilian camp in Florida. Van Arsdale a former MMA fighter and UFC veteran, is also a former wrestler by trade, so he knows all there is to know about making weight. The same also goes for Johnson, who before becoming a professional fighter was an accomplished wrestler in the junior college ranks, winning a national championship.

Therefore, through his wrestling history and 13 professional fights prior, including two failed attempts, Johnson knew what his responsibility was and more importantly, how to meet it. For whatever reason, he didn't; so when the question comes up as to who's gonna take the weight for Anthony Johnson's release from the UFC? The answer is quite simple, look in the mirror big boy because you have no one to blame but yourself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes Preview

When UFC 134 was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil back in August 2011, it had been nearly 13 years since the last time they were in the birthplace of what is now known as MMA. However, this last time was so nice, they had to do it twice; so this Saturday they are back again in Rio, barely four months later, with another stacked card, which features one of the top five pound for pound fighters in the world.

In August it was the arguable number one on that list, Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva that highlighted the show; this time it is none other than the exciting young UFC featherweight (145 lbs.) champion Jose Aldo. Aldo (20-1, 12 KO’s 2 subs) is one of the sports fastest rising young stars at only 25 years old. He hasn’t lost a fight in over six years and has won his last 13 in a row; including six in the WEC and his first three in the UFC.

His opponent this time comes in the form of an equally young, up and coming stud in Chad ‘Money’ Mendes (10-0, 2 KO’s 2 subs). The product of Hanford, California that fights out of the fabled ‘Alpha Male’ camp in Sacramento is a top notch wrestler whose overall game has improved with every fight. At only 5’6” he’s a powerful dynamo with explosive takedowns. The question is will that be enough against the all-around great Aldo.

Aldo, the former WEC featherweight champion as well, is truly the definition of a “beast” when it comes to MMA; fast hands, lethal kicks, vicious Muay Thai and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The one thing I didn’t mention was wrestling, where you would think Mendes would have the advantage. However, that didn’t stop him from destroying Mendes’s stable mate Urijah Faber when they fought.

On top of that, after just rolling through his competition, in his last two fights Aldo has survived two five round wars against top UFC contenders Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick. Thus, that experience against great competition will prove invaluable in the continuing growth of Aldo’s game. I fully expect him to finish Mendes via referee stoppage due to strikes by the third round in a successful homecoming.

In the co-main event, don’t blink because it is a barnburner featuring two fast handed, heavy-fisted middleweights (185 lbs.). The true homecoming is here for former UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort, as he’ll not just be fighting in his home country, but his hometown as he is a Rio native. Belfort (19-9, 13 KO’s 2 subs), was actually the main event draw at only 21 years old when the UFC first went to Brazil back in ’98.

At that time he used all of 44 seconds to pummel future legend Wanderlei Silva. While that is possible again, I doubt it will happen, at least not that fast, this time against his opponent Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. That is because Johnson (10-3, 7 KO’s) is an athletic physical specimen with great skills in both wrestling and kickboxing. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Belfort who got caught and put away that fast.

It’s because of the raw talent that Johnson possesses, including his strength that is truly making this a difficult fight to call. However, I think experience and a dedicated Belfort will win via TKO in the second round. I just think his overall boxing skills, superior hand speed and crowd support will be too much for the young ‘Rumble’, who I l believe will get shook a little by the raucous Brazilian crowd.

So far it’s two for two for the Brazilians, will it be more of the same on the undercard? I believe so as I see Rousimar Palhares (13-3, 1 KO 9 subs) wrapping up and twisting Mike Massenzio (13-5, 2 KO’s 6ubs) in one of his patented leg locks before their three rounds are up.

The same can be said for the next big thing coming out of Rio De Janeiro Edson Barboza. This kid who is (9-0, 6 KO’s 1 sub), is riding a three fight win streak in the UFC and I see him getting his fourth via decision against talented Terry Etim from England. However, Barboza better be careful in his approach as Etim (15-3, 2 KO, 12 subs) is no joke and can easily catch the native both standing and on the ground.

I can’t lose in the other fight as it is Brazilian vs. Brazilian when the crafty veteran Carlo ‘Neo’ Prater (29-10-1, 2 KO’s 16 subs) finally makes his UFC debut after a ten year career. His opponent is a young hungry lion in Erick ‘Indio’ Silva (13-1 3 KO’s 7 subs) who comes out of the Nogueira camp. Silva’s only fight in the UFC lasted 40 seconds as he won by KO back in August and I expect more of the same against the seasoned, but outgunned Prater.

As they say in Brazil, "Espero que gostem das lutas;" that is Portuguese for “enjoy the fights.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Enough already with the excuses

Probably the greatest single thing about this country may be freedom, freedom to choose instead of having someone make decisions for you. It is a powerful thing, but with freedom comes much responsibility.

Along those lines, the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty is something that was established long ago; it has been the cornerstone of our judicial system. I'm not saying the system is infallible, but more often than not, it works. At the very least, it is fair.

On a rare weekend where the UFC did not have a live event scheduled and boxing was relatively light, the Strikeforce organization had center stage all too themselves. With a nice card that featured a championship bout and another fight that featured a former champion, all eyes should have been on Strikeforce this weekend; and they were, but for all the wrong reasons.

The news on Friday that Strikeforce Women's featherweight (145 lbs.) champion Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos (pictured above) had been suspended due to a failed drug test superseded any outcomes of battles within the cage. You see, even though she's a woman in a sport dominated by men, Santos is a rare commodity.

She's not only the most dominant female fighter in the world, she is arguably Strikeforce's number one attraction; specifically because of her dominance. Unfortunately though, she's also just the latest fighter in the world of mixed martial arts to be found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.

Santos failed her post fight test taken after her successful defense of her title on December 17, 2011 against Japanese fighter Hiroko Yamanaka. She has been suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for one year and fined $2,500. She has since issued an apology for her failed test, which was for stanozolol metabolites.

Yet, while she took responsibility for her actions, she claimed innocence by reason of negligence; she claims she didn't know a dietary supplement she used to help cut weight during training contained a banned substance. Herein lays my issue with her apology.

I do not have any fame and fortune, yet I know what I am ingesting into my system on a daily basis. Thus, I would assume a professional athlete, who makes their living with their bodies earning thousands, if not millions of dollars, would take a little bit more responsibility in their judgment.

Every time a professional athlete, including MMA fighters, gets caught taking a banned substance they immediately turn to the defense, "I didn't know." Chael Sonnen, Sean Sherk, Royce Gracie etc., all said the same thing. Enough already with the excuses; it's time for athletes to step up and accept full, not partial responsibility for their actions. From that standpoint, I have to give former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia a lot of credit.

Never the most talented fighter in the world and definitely not the most athletically gifted, when he got busted for performance enhancing drugs, he quickly and openly admitted he made a mistake because he knew what he was taking and did it for one reason; he wanted to try and improve his physique to look more like a fighter and a champion. If you're not going to take full responsibility and own up to everything 100 percent for yourself, then at the very least do it for those that idolize and worship you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Right or wrong, Brock did it his way

The New Year isn't even a day old and yet the biggest news for mixed martial arts in 2012 belongs to a personality no longer affiliated with the sport. Although Brock Lesnar lost his fight Friday night in spectacular and quick fashion, he still ended up being the biggest star of the night, both literally and figuratively; that's because upon his defeat, Lesnar dropped the bombshell that he is retiring from the sport of MMA. However, was it really that surprising?

Lesnar (5-3, 2 KO's 2 subs) is only 34 years old, which puts him in his physical prime for this sport, and has only been a part of it for four and a half years, but his heart just isn't in it. He tried hard to be a fighter and for his brief stint, due to his natural physical gifts, found success; but a fighter's heart has to be just as natural and Lesnar just doesn't have it.

During his career, I've often said that Lesnar was a bully in disguise and what I meant was he took advantage of those he could because of his size and skill. However, whenever he met someone that wasn't imposed by him, he folded under the pressure. Bullies in my mind are always fearful deep down inside and when it came to fighting I felt Brock was no different.

Yet, he has to be given respect and acknowledged even if this is true. That's because on eight different occasions he put in the work and found the heart to step into the cage and face his opponents; not everyone can do that. Not to mention how he handled the pressure that was put on him, sometimes brought upon by his own actions. He came into this sport a known commodity from his days as a professional and amateur wrestler; a lot was expected of him and win or lose he delivered.

In his short time he became the biggest pay-per-view draw for the UFC and in only his fourth pro fight, he won the UFC heavyweight title. There are many skilled fighters with heart bigger than a beach ball that never attain, let alone get even close, to those heights. Beyond that, outside of the cage he showed more courage than he ever did inside of it.

In the last two years, in the middle of his prime and during his reign at the top, he was stricken with a life threatening illness in diverticulitis. This disease is one that affects the intestinal tract and most times, as in Lesnar's case, can only be treated through sensitive surgery. The first time he was diagnosed, there was doubt he would ever fight again. He could have easily walked away and had a legitimate reason why, yet he didn't. He came back and fought and he did it twice.

Sure he found temporary success and then lost his last two fights, but in my eyes and in the eyes of many, Brock won. That's because while he may never have displayed the heart of a fighter, he definitely displayed the heart of a champion. For a guy I truly believe doesn't have it in him to be in the spotlight, he's overcome all challenges and won at every level he's competed at.

He rose to win a NCAA championship as an amateur wrestler and then won championships in both pro wrestling and MMA in the two biggest organizations in the world. On top of that, for all the bravado and ego he came into this sport with, on Friday night after he lost he went out humbly and professionally. Even in defeat, Brock stole the show and for that, he should be applauded. Right or wrong, Brock did it his way.

Junkie Gathering 2017... this time it was personal

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