Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat? MMA eye candy for Halloween

It’s been eight weeks now since the premiere of ‘the Ultimate Fighter’ season 20, which features an all-female cast of fighters. Six of the first eight rounds of fights have taken place and currently 10 fighters remain alive in the tournament to crown the first ever UFC Strawweight (115lbs.) women’s champion. So on this Halloween Friday the question is, has it been trick or treat for us as fans so far with this fighting MMA eye candy we have been witnessing? 
Personally I have to say that it’s been a surprising treat so far. As a hardcore who has been watching ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ AKA TUF since season one, I think I speak for others when I say the show was getting stale. They have tried to spice things up a bit by trying different things, but to date none of them had worked. Even their attempts at going live with the fights at the end did not spark much interest and the failed experiment of 12 weeks in the house versus six just made things worse, not better. 
Of course we had a precursor of having women on the show, when they brought in Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate as coaches before their epic second fight, along with having bantamweight (135 lbs.) women fighters share the stage with men. At first I figured it would have been better to have saved Rousey and Tate as coaches for this all-female cast; however I now see that using them as an experiment was actually a good move. Besides I think the all-female cast of fighters seem to have taken to having male coaches.  
As far as the show itself thus far, there are certain people and incidents that definitely have stood out. Carla Esparza, Randa Markos and Jessica Penne have definitely showed their abilities as fighters, while Felice Herrig has stood out for that and then some with her good looks and care free attitude. 
One thing that has taken me aback is the flack that Tecia Torres has received for getting back into the tournament after her first round loss in the first week. I definitely don’t want to sound chauvinistic as I write this, but I can’t help but wonder if men would have reacted in this manner. Now before female readers go blasting me, please note that this is not the first time a fighter who has previously lost in the tournament has been given a second chance. 
Yet, in this instance Torres, who had no say in the matter other than to accept an offer given to her directly from Dana White, UFC President himself, has all but been shunned by the cast; more specifically her team. That said, her team is now actually Team Anthony Pettis when she was formerly with Team Gilbert Melendez; however, she had no say in that matter either, that was once again Dana’s choice. 
When it comes to this type of scenario and cliquish attitude, I am always reminded of former TUF alum George Sotiropoulos when he was in the house. He was chastised by his teammates for not awakening them up one morning when it was time to go train. His response quite simply was, “I’m not here to baby-sit anyone and this is not a team sport.” 
He was absolutely right on both counts, especially the team aspect. When all is said and done, only one woman will become champion in this thing. Besides, with Team Pettis fighters currently sweeping Team Melendez through six fights, it’s inevitable that supposed “teammates” are going to fight each other anyway; so enough with the so called loyalty among teammates. 
On a positive note, the fights have been good, the cast themselves have been interesting in one way or another and I think the UFC will have a great commodity in bringing this division and these women into the UFC for years to come. The only question now is, whether the dominance of Team Pettis is any indication of the fight to come between lightweight (155 lbs.) champion Anthony Pettis and number one contender Gilbert Melendez? Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait to see if that fight ends up being a trick or treat?

Monday, October 20, 2014

A touch of class for boxing

Saturday night on a two-fight card televised by HBO, the sport of boxing for all its bravado, machismo and at times unnecessary trash talking, demonstrated a touch of class in every sense of the word. Not, one, two or even three fighters displayed such class and charisma, but actually four featured fighters, three active participants and one interviewee, shed a positive light on a sport that could use one.

The first and probably most prevalent example was shown by featherweight champions Nonito Donaire and Nicholas Walters who fought for the WBA Super World featherweight title. This was an exciting fight, which resulted with the undefeated Walters (25-0, 21 KO’s) knocking out the former multi-division champion Donaire (33-3, 21 KO's). After a rock’em, sock’em back and forth five plus rounds, it was Walters who dropped Donaire in the sixth with a right hand that ultimately forced the referee to call a stop to it.

There was no argument from 'The Filipino Flash’ Donaire, but what came next was even better. First Max Kellerman interviewed new star in the making Walters, whom was not only gracious in victory, but praised Donaire for being a great fighter and champion and thanked him for the opportunity. Then Donaire, when asked by Kellerman what happened, gallantly stood there and openly said, “He kicked my ass.”

Donaire made no excuses, even when Kellerman offered a couple such as age or moving up in weight; as a matter of fact he responded by saying, "I trained extra hard for this fight." He too praised Walters for his skill and effort and afterwards, the two hugged (pictured above) and were overheard heaping praise upon one another. What stood out the most was Walters emphatically telling Donaire that he needs to quell any talk about retirement.

If that positive display was not enough, in between fights, HBO’s Jim Lampley interviewed current WBO World welterweight champion Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KO’s). Algieri, fresh off his upset victory over former champion Ruslan Provodnikov, is the next opponent for the ever-popular Manny Pacquiao. As Lampley asked the questions, Algieri responded eloquently.

Educated, well spoken and well mannered, he did not bite when Lampley tried to goat him into trash talking Pacquaio. Instead Algieri told Lampley, he genuinely likes Manny Pacquaio. He stated, “This is a sport; a competition. I don’t need to hate my opponent to go out and do my job."

Considering all the sudden notoriety that Algieri has received in the last few months, it’s refreshing to see fame has not polluted him; and after meeting this kid personally and talking to him back in May of this year, I don't think it will.

Finally, in the main event on Saturday, the sport's fastest rising star multi-organization world middleweight champion Gennady 'Triple GGG' Golovkin (31-0, 28 KO's, made quick work of his challenger Marco Antonio Rubio, finishing him within two rounds. Afterwards Kellerman interviewed the native of Kazakhstan in the ring.

Golovkin, not only displayed elegance while using his new found language of English during the post fight interview, but he acknowledged the large Mexican crowd in attendance in Carson, CA by speaking to them in Spanish; quickly endearing himself as a fan favorite among Hispanic boxing fans. Even his call out of Puerto Rican star WBC champion Miguel Cotto was done with the utmost respect.

So much for the foolish antics of a knucklehead like Adrien Broner or even the promotional nonsense at times by boxing's biggest star Floyd 'Money' Mayweather. Boxing definitely put its best foot forward in and out of the ring on Saturday night; best of all, it was done so by some of it's brightest young stars displaying a touch of class for a change.

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