Monday, May 28, 2012

MMAJunkie Radio Gathering 2012: It's a family affair

Have you ever had a passion for something and hoped you'd find others who had that same passion you could share it with. That passion for me is in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and while I have friends at home that enjoy the fights, they just don't follow it with the same fervor that I do; it's just not passionate to them.

However, to the listeners of MMAJunkie Radio and their crew, their passion is as big as mine. Yet, for us the sport has somewhat become second fiddle to the actual show. That internet show, which has only been around five years, has engaged people from all over the world to a point that what started as a celebration for the 1000th broadcast of the show last Memorial Day weekend has become an annual, nearly week long event of activities.

Because of Gorgeous George, Goze and Jenny from the Block, the crew of the radio show, I've been lucky enough to be part of that experience since July 2009 when they invited me to hang out with them and some other listeners for UFC 100. What I could never have envisioned is that they, along with so many others would become such good friends; I'm talking about people I refer to as brothers and sisters from such states as Hawaii, California, Arizona and Minnesota, just to name a few; to other countries such as Austria, Canada and Scotland. The Junkie Family is coast to coast and worldwide and I'm lucky enough to be a part of it.

Because of my son's graduation from college this year, I was unable to be at this year's gathering until Friday morning, when I'm normally there on Wednesday. Thus, I missed out on a lot of activities; but whatever I missed out on, was quickly forgotten about when I received the reception I got when I showed up in front of the Junkie studio in Mandalay Bay Friday morning. Once again I was with my family at our reunion and this time the family was even bigger.

My peeps were all there, too many to name, but you all know who you are and then there were the new jacks I finally met for the first time. Alton, who I knew for all of five minutes before he started snapping jokes on me; (LOL....) Hal, Galileo, Lisa, Steve, Corey, Cousin Nick, DJ Zoo, DJ Ray, Big Juan and so many more. After only minutes we were family, but that's because we've known each other for years through this magical show. It's amazing how people you've never met before in your life face to face, are giving you hugs and you're giving it right back to them. It's a Junkie family thing!

My two days were a whirlwind that went from eating at Texas de Brazil, to laughing with Pablo Francisco, bowling with Tachi flyweight champion Ulysses Gomez etc.; but most importantly I was chillin' with my fellow Junkies. Oh, did I forget to mention drinks were flowing; yes all weekend too. Normally I'm a beer drinker, but knowing I had to stay awake, rum & coke quickly became my thing. While I figured the caffeine from the coke would keep me up, I failed to realize the rum might actually do the opposite; oh well, so much for my booze theory. ;)

Anyway, I'm home now and while I was depressed leaving the going away party @ Eye Candy Saturday night knowing it was over, I'm smiling now knowing that making the most of what I had and not focusing on what I missed made this short trip all worthwhile. Thanks Hal for that advice and thank you all for making my life that much better. Laughter is something I truly enjoy and cherish trying to give it to others very much; this weekend I laughed my ass off! As I told GG, Goze and Jenny on the air in a drunken stupor on New Year's Eve from my heart, "I love all y'all muthafuckas;" 'nuff said. Easy!

UFC 146 was a knockout!

After a heavyweight main card that saw five finishes, including four KO's and one submission, I think it's safe to say UFC 146 was a knockout! What's even better is that the two headliners on the card, champion Junior Dos Santos in the main event and former champ Cain Velasquez in the co-main, handled their business so well; it set-up a future date for the two to face off again. (Both are pictured @ left)

As for Dos Santos (15-1, 11 KO's 2 subs), his fight with former two-time champ and challenger Frank Mir (16-6, 3 KO's 9 subs), couldn't have gone any better. The best boxer in the UFC heavyweight division avoided any attempt by Mir to take the fight to the ground, thus forcing the former champ to stand and trade with him. It was only a matter of time before Dos Santos would connect, and after catching Mir in the first round and dazing him, he finished him off in the second.

At 27 years old, JDS looks primed, polished and prepared to hold onto this title for awhile. Oh but wait, there's another former champ, in his prime, that may have something to say about that. The intensity on Cain Velasquez's (10-1, 9 KO's) face when he stepped into the cage to meet Antonio 'Big Foot' Silva (16-4 11 KO's 3 subs) carried over even after he destroyed the Brazilian giant. Looking and feeling like he had something to prove, Velasquez took out his frustration at losing his only fight to Dos Santos last November by bloodying Silva.

In the history of the UFC, there have been some bloody fights, Joe Stevenson vs. BJ Penn and Yves Edwards versus Joe Stevenson immediately come to mind; but the cut Velasquez opened above the bridge of Silva's nose was so bad, there were literally puddles of blood on the canvas. Cain looked like a vampire thirsting for blood as he seemed to get stronger with the more blood draped all over him from his punches to Silva's face while he was on top of him on the ground.

It took only 3:36 of the first round to end the fight, but well afterwards, Cain's intensity was still written all over his face. It was evident he was sending a message and the message was to Dos Santos; "I want my belt back." UFC President Dana White has all but confirmed the rematch, so barring any unforeseen injuries, we should see something possibly in the fall; I can't wait.

In my preview I picked the two outcomes above, along with picking Roy Nelson over Dave Herman, Stipe Miocic over Shane Del Rosario and Stefan Struve over Lavar Johnson. All five happened as I saw it, though I had predicted Miocic would win by decision; too bad I didn't parlay those five fights. However, I did win some sugar on another little parlay I bet with some friends, so for the first time in my history thus far, I left Vegas a winner. UFC 146 was a knockout baby!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

UFC 146: A heavyweight preview

For the first time in UFC's history, they are going all in with a main card chock full, (no pun intended), of heavyweights. UFC 146 is so big, they couldn't fit them all on the promotional poster; besides this card has been stricken so much by suspension and injury, the poster has changed a few times already. Nonetheless, here's my "heavyweight" preview of UFC 146.

With heavyweights, there is always the strongest of possibilities that the fight could end at any moment. Such is the case with the main event as champion Junior Dos Santos (14-1, 10 KO's 2 subs) defends his title for the first time against former two-time champion Frank Mir (16-5, 3 KO's 9 subs). This fight alone is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, it may be a quick finish for the money.

Dos Santos is easily the best boxer in the heavyweight division today, with power packed in every punch as is evidenced by his 10 KO's. That said Mir is actually bigger and possibly stronger than the champ, probably outweighing him by at least 20 pounds due to his power lifting regimen the last few years. So it's the bone crusher, due to his put you to sleep stand-up game, Dos Santos vs. the bone breaker, due to his limb snapping ground game, Mir. Who wins?

As is evidenced by my photo above, I'm going with the favorite JDS. I personally don't think this fight will get out of the first round and I think Dos Santos ground game is proficient enough to keep him from getting taken down. He'll eventually catch Mir with one of his right handed bombs to end the fight. This is a scary pick though as Mir is just as dangerous. At a current -350 betting odd, it wouldn't be a bad bet to lay some sugar on him.

In the co-main event, things are just as big and dangerous as you have former champ Cain Velasquez (9-1, 8 KO's) taking on the giant Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva (16-3, 11 KO's 3 subs); talk about not blinking or you'll miss it. This is another fight I'm not sure will make it out of the first round; as a matter of fact, this has the potential to be the quickest ending card in UFC history. Velasquez is a wrestler, who has become better with his hands every fight and Silva is the Brazilian-Jiu Jitsu black belt that pummeled the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. Who wins?

Another tough pick, but I am going with the former champ Velasquez for two reasons. One is that in his defeat to Dos Santos in his last fight, he was coming off an injury that had him out of commission for over a year. He was clearly not in his best shape and definitely feeling the rust. Second is that Silva is coming off a KO loss to none other than Daniel Cormier; who just happens to be Cain's teammate at American Kickboxing Academy. Velasquez is bigger and faster than Cormier and I believe he'll touch Silva quickly and often enroute to a TKO victory.

As for the other fights on the main card, here are my quick picks:

Dave 'Pee-Wee' Herman (21-3 15 KO's 5 subs) vs. Roy 'Big Country' Nelson (16-7 9 KO's 5 subs):

Whenever you have a "big" anything versus a "pee-wee" anything, the big should win out. Such is the case here as I anticipate Nelson's experience against better quality opposition will help him take out Herman in the end; probably by second round TKO.

Shane Del Rosario (11-0, 8 KO's 3 subs) vs. Stipe Miocic (8-0, 6 KO's 1 sub):

Somebody's '0' must go, the question is who? The determining factor for me is Del Rosario coming off an injury that has kept him out of the cage for 15 months. Plus, he's never fought in the UFC, while Miocic is coming off two big UFC wins; thus, I am picking Miocic by decision here.

Lavar 'Big' Johnson (17-5, 15 KO's 2 subs) vs. Stefan 'Skyscraper' Struve (23-5, 6 KO's 15 subs):

Wow, what a way to start of this card; expect fireworks from the start and don't expect it to last long. I saw Johnson in person just three weeks ago when he dispatched of Pat Barry. He was impressive, but in that fight he was also taken down by Barry, mounted and almost submitted. Struve is much better on the ground than Barry will ever be; so with a pretty good chin to outlast Johnson's bombs, I see the 'Skyscraper' catching Johnson in a submission and ending the fight in the first round.

I'll be in Vegas this weekend amidst all the fanfare, so my recap probably won't come till Monday. If things go off as I expect, I don't think I'll have much to write about anyway as I anticipate an early night of fights. Enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Champion vs. Champion, the greatest ever? Part II

In the second part and conclusion of taking a look at the greatest champion in each weight class across the history of mixed martial arts, I will cover the middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight classes. I’ll then try to determine who was the greatest titleholder in MMA history; but that argument may be a bit too much to uphold, even in choosing one out of five. 

Middleweight (185 lbs.) - Anderson Silva (31-4, 18 KO's 6 subs)
While this list is purely my opinion, I don't think I'll come across anyone who will debate this choice. Anderson Silva, the current UFC middleweight champion is being discussed as possibly being the greatest fighter in MMA history thus far. A spectacular combination of skill, grace and speed, 'The Spider' is equally adept either standing, where he has vastly superior boxing skills; or on the ground where he is a legit Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the Nogueira brothers. Considering how great he is and has been for so long, it's difficult to imagine that he's actually lost.

However, he has lost, though his last technical defeat was six and a half years ago when he was disqualified for an illegal kick against Yushin Okami. His demolition of a much better Okami last summer pretty much ended any speculation as to how that first fight would have ended. Since that last loss, he's won 15 fights in a row, 14 of which have been in the UFC; 13 of those have been title defenses.

Silva's greatness has even happened at light-heavyweight where he's moved up on a couple of occasions and just destroyed his competition. With a respectful mention of Frank Shamrock, who was the first ever UFC middleweight champion and who, along with Maurice Smith, I consider to be the true originator of what we now know as MMA; Shamrock won the title, defended it three times and later went on to become the first Strikeforce middleweight champion as well. However, as great as he was, there is no comparison here; Silva is the man. 'Nuff said!

Light-Heavyweight (205 lbs.) - Chuck Liddell (21-8, 13 KO's 1 sub)

This was the first weight class I got to where I really had difficulty determining who was the greatest. Why? The answer is simple, Wanderlei Silva. New fans to the sport may not realize this, but there was a time before they finally met in the UFC, when Liddell vs. Silva could have been the equivalent of Ali-Frazier; no I did not misprint here. For about five years in the previous decade those two were the names of the sport, who happen to be in the same weight class, but in different organizations; Liddell was the UFC champ, while Silva was the Pride titleholder.

So, how did I ignore Silva's great run in Japan and end up going with Liddell? Two factors; one was the level of competition. While Silva did fight some all-time greats such as Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson (twice) and Kazushi Sakuraba (three times); Sakuraba was clearly smaller than he was and he feasted on many Japanese fighters that just weren't on the same level as the guys Liddell had to contend with. Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort are three current and future hall of famers that 'The Iceman' went (6-1) against and that is just part of the list.

The second and most telling reason I went with Liddell is the fact that they did finally go head to head against each other at UFC 79 in December 2007. The fight as can be expected was an all-time classic; however it was Liddell, not Silva who came out the unanimous decision winner. No one loves Wanderlei Silva more than I do, but looking at the above, plus the fact it was Liddell, who helped springboard the sport to mainstream status in the latter part of the decade, I have to put my heart aside and call it as I see it.

Heavyweight - Fedor Emelianenko (33-4, 9 KO's 16 subs)

Those that want to dispute this choice based on Emelianenko's last couple of years, save it. Take away the last two years and we're not talking about the greatest heavyweight champion, but the greatest overall fighter in MMA. Three of Fedor's four losses took place in the last two years and the only one before that was a disputed doctor stoppage nearly 12 years ago.

To put 'The Last Emperor's' career into perspective, his 10 year/27 win run without a loss makes Anderson Silva's streak pale in comparison. To top that off, he did the brunt of that in Pride when that organization's heavyweight roster was clearly superior to the UFC's at the time. Mirko Cro-Cop, Mark Coleman, Mark Hunt and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (three times) all in their prime; Fedor defeated them all.

By comparison, the great Randy Couture was fighting a weaker heavyweight roster while fluctuating between heavyweight and light-heavyweight throughout his career. If you want to argue that Couture did it while being an undersized heavyweight, I'll respond by saying that at 6' 233 lbs., Emelianenko isn't necessarily looking down at anyone; and that is a kind estimate in height.

It's hard to imagine that I could comprise this list and not find Randy Couture's name. However, losing two out of three to Liddell @ 205 lbs. and comparing his career side by side to Fedor's with double digit losses on his record, it's easy to see why. As for whom is the greatest champion of all-time? It came down to Silva and Emelianenko; but considering Fedor's record the last couple of years, while Anderson (pictured above) appears to aging like a fine wine, the decision was evident.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday night fights, MMA style

The last time I watched Tuesday night fights, it was boxing on the USA Network back in the late '80's with Al Alberts doing play-by-play while Sean O' Grady did the color commentating. I really miss it and fights on a Tuesday night were a welcome attraction because it meant you didn't have to wait all week to possibly catch fights on the weekend.

Move forward 25 years and for at least one night there were Tuesday night fights again; only this time they were MMA style. The UFC put on a rare Tuesday night card @ The Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia, home to many regional boxing shows, and it was a rousing success. That is because while many of the fights on the main card delivered in terms of action, the main event saved the best for last.

Enter featherweights (145 lbs.) Dustin 'The Diamond' Poirier (12-2, KO's 5 subs) and fan favorite Chan Sung Jung (13-3, 3 KO's 8 subs) AKA 'The Korean Zombie', two of the most exciting young fighters on the UFC roster. Poirier only 23 years of age and Jung 25, part of the new breed of MMA fighters, put on quite a show over four rounds on Tuesday night, with much of the fireworks and ultimate finish coming courtesy of the Zombie (pictured above). In the end, it was Jung winning via a D'Arce choke submission that literally put Poirier to sleep, but that was only after he put on another fight of the night performance.

It is his frenetic, yet technically sound style that has made Jung a hit among UFC fans. In just about all of his fights he's either engaged in a war of attrition that involves non-stop fisticuffs flying back and forth or rolling on the ground transitioning from one submission attempt to the other. Tuesday night was no different as he was just too much for Poirier, who himself in his first four fights in the UFC proved too much for his opposition; however, he never ran into a "Korean Zombie" before. When asked what's next in his post fight interview, Jung responded in Korean, but then finished with four English words, "I want Jose Aldo."

The co-main event featured Virginia native son Amir Sadollah against Jorge Lopez in a lackluster welterweight (170 lbs.) fight on the main card, which isn't even worth mentioning. Thus, I'll comment on the fight before that where lightweight (155 lbs.) Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone (18-4, 1 KO 13 subs) got his mojo back on track. That is because he was coming off a loss against Nate Diaz in December, where he just didn't fight his normal fight; that wasn't the case on Tuesday and his victim was Jeremy Lil' Heathen' Stephens (20-8, 14 KO's 3 subs).

Cerrone, who readily admits he was sucked into fighting Diaz's fight back in December, stuck to what he does best, which is kickboxing, as he used his legs and length to beat up Stephens over three rounds. To Stephens’s credit, he decided to stand and bang with the 'Cowboy', but the strategy proved to be a costly one as not only did he lose a unanimous decision, but his face was battered and his eye swollen for his effort. With the win, Cerrone jumps right back into contender status after the bump in the road against now number one contender Diaz, who he said he hopes to rematch on the horizon.

Jung, who previously had won both a fight of the night bonus and a submission of the night bonus on different cards, pulled off the rare double tonight in one fight, which earned him an additional $80,000. Knockout of the night was awarded to 'Filthy' Tom Lawlor (8-4, 3 KO's 3 subs) for his 50 second demolition of Jason 'The Athlete McDonald (25-16, 3 KO's 19 subs) in the main card opening middleweight (185 lbs.) bout. Lawlor earns an additional $40,000 for his 50 seconds of work; thank God for Tuesday night fights.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Champion vs. Champion, who is the greatest ever?

No disrespect to Bellator Fighting Championships, but they had the stage all too themselves this weekend with no UFC and major boxing events scheduled and they just didn't bring it. A very controversial stoppage and a couple of lackluster high profile fights on the main card of Bellator 68 sealed their fate. So, with a relatively slow weekend in combat sports, I turn to an idea given to me by a reader.

As I was finishing up my 'Champion vs. Champion' series, taking a look at the current champions in each major U.S. organization side by side, someone suggested I do a piece using the same concept, but with legends. After giving it some thought, I decided there was only one way to approach this. Take a look back at the nearly 19 year history of mixed martial arts and profile who I think was the greatest champion in each weight class, regardless of organization affiliation.

To do this, I will only look at the five weight classes ranging from lightweight - heavyweight, since the other three lighter weight classes have only been instituted in the last few years. (I will do this in two parts) Of course in the early days of MMA, there weren't any weight classes and then when a few were instituted, such as light-heavyweight when it used to be less than 199 lbs., the weight limits were different than today's standards. Taking this into consideration, here are the five I consider to be the greatest champions the weight classes have ever seen:

Lightweight (155 lbs.) - B.J. Penn (16-8-2, 7 KO's 6 subs)

Of course with the short, but rich history the sport has had, there is going to be possible debate; and considering some of the great lightweight champions we've seen over time in their prime, it may begin here. However, names like Takanori Gomi and Gilbert Melendez aside, there is one name that immediately comes to mind @ 155 lbs., B.J. Penn.

When you're given a nickname like 'The Prodigy' because of all you've accomplished within a short period of time before your 22nd birthday, it's a lot to live up to. Penn (pictured above) did that and more when he stormed onto the MMA scene in 2001. If you're unfamiliar with his career and just look at his record you may ask yourself, what's so special?

However, take into consideration he actually won his first world title when he moved up to 170 lbs. to challenge the greatest welterweight champion ever, at a time when no one gave him a chance, and you begin to see why. Then take a closer look at the losses and realize a majority of them came outside of the lightweight class against men much bigger and stronger than him and you start to understand why.

Finally, see the names he's lost to, Pulver, Machida, Hughes, St. Pierre, Edgar and Diaz and it's a murderer's row of champions. More importantly though, who he has beaten during that time period, Pulver, Hughes, Sherk and two different Gracies to name a few, are what cements Penn's legacy as a future hall of famer. Win or lose, he's always been a huge fan favorite and continues to be during his supposed retirement.

Welterweight (170 lbs.) - Matt Hughes (45-9, 17 KO's 18 subs)

All respect due to Georges St. Pierre, who has defeated Hughes two out of three times and may end up being the greatest welterweight ever before he's done; but a/o today, Hughes remains the standard bearer for all 170 lbs. champions. People tend to forget one's greatness when their career starts to subside after their prime. However, analyze Hughes's career and the evidence is quite clear.

An extremely well established (29-3) record before he ever won his first title @ UFC 34 against Carlos Newton, he went on a run of five straight title defenses before losing it to Penn in their first meeting; a defeat he would later avenge. However, he worked his way back and won it a second time, establishing himself as the greatest welterweight of his era.

His resume is a virtual who's who list in MMA and while he's not officially retired at the age of 38, he did retire once previously and was soon after inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Thus, whenever he does step into the cage, he does so as a hall of famer and a living legend. As great as St. Pierre is and may be, I'm still not sure if his overall career may be looked upon as Hughes's when it is all said and done.

In part two and the conclusion of this series, I will look at the greatest champions from middleweight-heavyweight and determine who is the greatest ever among these five.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

UFC ON FOX 3: Jersey tough

On a night when the UFC was on network television and also opposing Floyd Mayweather, it was important that they came strong. Not only that, but fighting in New Jersey the crowd wouldn't have it any other way; I know as I was live on press row and this crowd wanted blood every minute of every round. Simply put, this card and this crowd were Jersey tough.

The main event was a number one contender eliminator that pit lightweights (155 lbs.) Nate Diaz (16-7, 3 KO's 11 subs) and New Jersey's own Jim Miller (21-4, 3 KO's 2 subs). Unfortunately, it wasn't the perfect homecoming Miller and his fans expected.

While Miller looked to be in perfect shape physically, it was mentally where he lost this fight as he let Diaz dictate how and where it was going to go. The Californian Diaz, with his unorthodox boxing style of walking you down using peppering punches was just enough to keep Miller off balance and ineffective. He nullified the Jersey native's wrestling, which would inevitably prove to be Miller's downfall.

After Miller lost the first round based on effective striking by his opponent, it was more of the same in the second until he rushed in for a takedown and got caught. Miller, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but nowhere near the level of Cesar Gracie black belt Diaz, got caught in a tight Guillotine choke. He tried in vain to roll out of it, but it wasn't meant to be as he was eventually forced to tap in the fifth minute of the second round. For Diaz, a former 'Ultimate Fighter' winner, the fight secures him a shot at lightweight champ Ben Henderson.

In the co-main feature, 'Bigg Rigg' Johny Hendricks (13-1, 7 KO's 1 sub) and Josh 'Kos' Koscheck (17-6, 5 KO's 5 subs) put on a three round boxing warfare between two former national wrestling champions. The result was a tough fought, hard earned split decision victory for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy Hendricks.

The fight was close and hard to score as both guys had their moments, but in the end it was the crowd favorite Hendricks who got the nod. He may also have garnered a number one contender spot as that makes four wins in a row now, including two over AKA contenders Koscheck and Jon Fitch. Curious to see how this division plays out with champion Georges St. Pierre still recovering from a knee injury and interim champ Carlos Condit waiting in the wings.

In a middleweight (185 lbs.) contender bout, Rousimar 'Toquinho' Palhares (14-4 1 KO's 10 subs) and Alan 'The Talent' Belcher (18-6, 9 KO's 7 subs) put on a very entertaining round of ground action. Palhares, a leg lock submission specialist, was probably surprised when Belcher decided to take the fight to the ground. Palhares wasted no time in going for one of his patented leg submissions and for about three minutes it was Belcher using his talent to get out of every leg lock Palhares attempted.

Inevitably, Belcher did get out and on top and when he did he made the most of it. Using a deliberate ground and pound attack, including both punches and elbows, he had Palhares all but out. The referee noticed it as well stopping the fight at the end of the first. In his post interview, Belcher said, "That belt is mine and I'm coming for it; you hear me."

Starting things on the right foot, literally, was heavyweight Lavar 'Big' Johnson (17-5, 15 KO's 2 subs). The reason I say literally is because it was a head kick with his right foot to Pat Barry's head that was the beginning of the end for the man known as 'HD'. Barry (7-5, 6 KO's) had an early advantage as he found himself mounted on top of Johnson in the middle of the first round; but unable to finish a submission attempt, Johnson eventually got up and unleashed a barrage of punches after the kick that gave him the TKO win in the first.

On the undercard, bantamweights (135 lbs) Roland Delorme (8-1, 2 KO's 6 subs) and Nick Denis (11-3, 10 KO's 1 sub) quite possibly had the round of the year; that was until flyweights (125 lbs.) Louis Gaudinot (5-2, 2 KO's 2 subs) and John Lineker (19-6, 8 KO's 3 subs) stepped into the cage. The first round of both fights almost mirrored each other as each went back and forth with a rock'em sock'em robots style.

As good as Delorme and Denis were, Gaudinot and Lineker were even better; if you can believe it. In the end, it was Delorme finishing @ exactly 4:59 of round one with a rear naked choke; living up to his nickname of 'Stunning'. However, Gaudinot also lived up to his nickname 'Goodnight', as he literally put Lineker to sleep at the end of round two with a guillotine choke. Both were great fights!

One final note, it was a disappointing turnout from the New York/New Jersey crowd as there were a lot of empty seats in the arena. I think MMA broadcaster Mauro Ranallo summed it up best when he tweeted, "Where are the fans in New York who want MMA? Arent you allowed to cross the Hudson?" 'Nuff said!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Champion vs. Champion, who is the best? Part VII

As we reach the final chapter (heavyweights), in my Champion vs. Champion seven part series, you would think this division would produce some interesting debate. However, truth is the UFC champion, though never having defended his title a/o yet, is the clear top choice here. Beyond that Strikeforce's champion is yet to be determined and Bellator's champ is in the same boat as the UFC champ; only he's had his title for a year and a half already.

So, while there may not be such interesting debate as to how they rank amongst each other, there are interesting scenarios among the three, or in this case four, that are worth talking about. Sadly, it may very well get worse before it gets better; at least outside the UFC. Check out my take and you'll see what I mean:

1.) UFC - Junior Dos Santos (14-1, 10 KO's 2 subs):

The cream of the crop among all heavyweights in the Mixed Martial Arts world is only 27 years old and has yet to defend his title. However, when it comes to the man known as 'Cigano', there is no question as to why and whether or not he's considered the best. At 6'4" and 239 lbs., 'JDS', as he is also called, is a chiseled rock of an athlete. In other words, he's not just big, he's athletic and more importantly, he is good.

Equally adept with his hands as he is on the ground, at least that's what we are led to believe by his brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the Nogueira brothers; Dos Santos is a wrecking machine. Any question of his hands and punching power can be easily answered by his 10 KO's, including the 64 second demolition of former champ Cain Velasquez, which began with one devastating overhand right cross.

I say led to believe regarding his ground game, because we haven't seen him had to use it much in his UFC career. However, that alone may be a testament to it as no one has really been able to take him down either. Of course, more questions about both should be answered in three weeks when he defends his title for the first time against former champ Frank Mir.

When it comes to heavyweights, anything is possible and titles can easily change hands with just one punch; However when it comes to Dos Santos, if he stays focused and keeps his eye on the prize, he can very well be the first heavyweight champ with a dominant run at heavyweight since the days of a prime Andrei Arlovski.
2.) Strikeforce - Josh Barnett (31-5, 7 KO's 19 subs) or Daniel Cormier (9-0, 4 KO's 3 subs):

I know it seems kind of strange that two names should represent here at number two, but there are varying reasons behind it, Part of the blame has to go with Strikeforce for taking nearly a year and a half to finally complete a tournament that started with much fanfare in February 2011. Of course, Zuffa's ultimate purchase of Strikeforce and slow depletion of their heavyweight roster has something to do with it as well; because of such, the winner of Barnett vs. Cormier in two weeks could very well be the last heavyweight champion in Strikeforce history.

In Barnett, you have the experienced veteran and former UFC champion who has perennially hung around inside the top ten rankings for the last few years fighting everywhere, but the UFC. Whether it was Pride, Affliction or Strikeforce, 'The Warmaster' has laid his claim that he may very well be the best heavyweight in MMA that no one talks about. That is probably because after being pinched twice for using performance enhancing drugs, it’s difficult to take what he says and does at face value. Nonetheless, his talent is unquestioned.

As for Cormier, you have the young, inexperienced, undersized former Olympian. To look at him, outside of his wrestling pedigree, you may not take him seriously as a contender in the heavyweight division. However, so did Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva till a right handed uppercut last September placed Cormier in the tourney final against Barnett. However, talent and heart aside, I can't see him defeating Barnett when they meet in two weeks. Regardless, the winner ranks at number two here.

3.) Bellator - Cole Konrad (8-0, 1 KO 2 subs):

Konrad’s ranking here probably has more to do with Bellator than it does with him, but that's the chance you take when you sign on with the organization who crowns champions and determines their opponents through seasonal tournaments. However, in the case of Bellator’s heavyweight division, it has become yearly tournaments cursed by everything you can think of; low blows, injuries, missed weight, you name it and Bellator has had it.

Thus, since winning the title, after the inaugural tournament, way back in October 2010, the former two-time NCAA champion has had only one non title fight; a unanimous decision victory against a ground inept and way past his prime Paul Buentello. Just like the three ranked ahead of him, Konrad will finally have a title fight in the next few weeks; however, not sure it will do much to advance his MMA game even if he wins as he's fighting a guy eerily similar in style to Buentello. Either Bellator needs to step up their heavyweight division or Konrad has to find a way to get more fights.

While this part ends my look at the various champions in each weight division, a reader recently suggested a Champion vs, Champion look using legends. The idea was intriguing, so I plan to do another chapter on it. Therefore, be on the lookout for that along with a look back at UFC on Fox 3, where I'll be recapping live from press row.

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