Thursday, October 6, 2011

UFC 136 Preview

This Saturday's UFC 136 is one of the biggest MMA fight cards of 2011 with two title fights, a number one contender matchup, and many major names. Lets take a look ahead to this Saturday's major matchups:

1. Frank Edgar versus Gray Maynard III will answer more questions than just who will walk away with the belt
When Edgar-Maynard 2 resulted in a Draw it was more than just a disappointment to both fighters but to the rest of the 155 pound division. Due to their draw and needing a third fight, there is a log jam of top level lightweight fighters who are jockeying to be next in line for to fight for the UFC lightweight belt. The winner of Saturdays fight presents a unique challenge to the rest of the division. Edgar is a talented wrestler with excellent stamina and good kickboxing skills while Maynard is an elite wrestler with excellent strength and major power In his hands. Edgar is a fast paced fighter who utilizes agility and constant movement while Maynard who is a grinder who wants to beat down his opponent. Both fighters present unique challenges to the other 155 pound fighters clamoring to be next in line for a title shot. Clay Guida has six MMA losses by submission; Ben Henderson’s last loss was to a dynamic striker. Gilbert Melendez’s last loss was a grinding decision defeat to a grappler. Meanwhile fighters such as Melvin Guillard and Donald Cerrone are not far behind the top conenders with their recent win streaks. Also, if Maynard beats Edgar Saturday night there may be another fighter who may jump into the pool to via for a shot at the title: former UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn.

2. Kenny Florian gets another shot at a title and this may be the best chance he will ever have at winning a belt
Kenny Florian has accomplished a lot in his MMA career from making it to the Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale, fighting twice for the UFC Lightweight Championship, and becoming the first UFC fighter to compete in four different weight classes. This will be his third shot at winning a UFC title and this may be his best opportunity. That is no negative against current UFC 145 pound champion Jose Aldo but Florian is a much different type of fighter than Aldo has faced since he has rattled off 12 wins and defended his championship belt three times. Aldo has faced fighters with wrestling, judo, and boxing expertise. Florian presents a different challenge: a talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter with good Muay Thai skills. Florian’s 5 career MMA losses have been to four wrestlers and BJ Penn and Aldo did not look his best in his last fight. It will be interesting to see how Aldo reacts when Florian throws the type of kicks that Aldo is use to inflicting on others.

3. Will Chael Sonnen's layoff hurt him against an ever evolving Brian Stann?
The last time Chael Sonnen was in an MMA fight he was 5 minutes away from defeating a man considered the best MMA fighter of all and becoming the UFC Middleweight champion. Then Sonnen tapped due to a triangle choke, got suspended for testing positive for high levels of testosterone, then his suspension got reduced and now more than a year later he is back in action. The bad news for Sonnen is that this Saturday night he is facing a fighter who seems unbeatable in Brian Stann. Stann is the former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion and since moving down to 185 pounds he is on a three fight winning streak with notable knockout wins over Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago. The biggest factor in this fight will be Sonnen’s wrestling prowess since Stann’s last loss was to Phil Davis (a NCAA Division 1 Wrestling National Champion). With every fight Stann has improved his MMA game and he will be tested against a tough and relentless fighter in Sonnen. The real question will be has Stann’s MMA game evolved enough to win or will Sonnen have “ring rust”.

4. Melvin Guillard is on a mission, but will Joe Lauzon or fate get in the way?
Since 2008 Guillard is 8-1 in the UFC with only two fights going to decision. Thanks to his work with Greg Jackson MMA Guillard is finally accessing his full potential as a fighter and it seems like he is on track to get a shot at fighting for the title. But first he has to get by Joe Lauzon and the last time he faced a fight with good standup and good brazilian jiu-jitsu was nate Diaz and Guillard was submitted by Diaz. Since that loss Guillard has faced many talented wrestlers but not another BJJ fighter with above avergae standup skills. Also, if Guillard beats Lauzon his Jackson MMA teammate Clay Guida has a fight next month that could set him up as next in line to fight the winner of Edgar-Maynard and if Guida wins the belt will Guillard really fight his teammate? Only time will tell what fate has in store for Guillard.

Friday, September 23, 2011

UFC 135 Preview

UFC 135 marks the first time new Light heavyweight Champion Jon Jones will defend his belt and he will be tested against one of the top 205 pound fighters in MMA for the last decade years: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Here are some reasons why you should be watching this Saturday night's UFC fights:

1. How will Jones handle defending his belt for the first time against a former champion and MMA veteran?Jon Jones has 14 Mixed Martial Art fights in his career and won the UFC 205 pound title back in March of this year. By contrast, Quinton Jackson has 14 Knockout/TKO wins in his career, he is a former UFC champion and is the only fighter in MMA history to defeat Chuck Liddell twice. "Bones" Jones has been getting hyped for the last two years now but he has never faced a fighter with the level of experience as "Rampage" Jackson. Jackson has said in interviews leading up to this championship fight that Jones' chin has never been tested and he plans on testing it. Jones is a very talented fighter who still has not reached his true potential yet and down the road he may move up to the Heavyweight division. Facing a fighter like Jackson will tell us a lot about Jones' growth as a fighterr, how he handles a fighter who may be more intense then he is and certainly much more experienced than him.

2. This may be MMA legend Matt Hughes last UFC fight
With 53 MMA fights and 12 championship bouts in his UFC career, Matt Hughes has nothing to prove to anyone. This is the last fight of Hughes' current UFC contract and his wife has wants him to retire already. He comes into this fight against a fighter who many consider a younger version of himself: Josh Koscheck. Both fighters are talented wrestlers who are hard to takedown and have serious power in their hands. Only 5 fighters have beaten Hughes in his career and before his loss to BJ Penn last November Hughes was on a three-fight winning streak. So if Koscheck does defeat Hughes this Saturday night that will be a major ccomplishment for Koscheck and for Hughes losing to a top tier Welterweight fighter whose last loss was to George St. Pierre, there is no shame in that for Hughes. If Hughes does retire after this fight, atleast he will have done it on his own terms without his body or UFC management ending it for him.

3. Nate Diaz versus Takanori Gomi is a pre-UFC 135 "Fight of the Night" candidate
During his time in the UFC Nate Diaz has earned four "Fight of The Night" bonuses for his gritty, hard nosed performances against top tier fighters such as Marcus Davis, Joe Stevenson, and Clay Guida. This Saturday Diaz makes his return to the 155 pound division to face a fighter who likes to stand and bang: Takanori Gomi. Gomi is 1-2 in the UFC but the two fighters he has lost to are Kenny Florian and Clay Guida and both of those fights went past the first round. Gomi is the former PRIDE Lightweight Champion and went 13-1-1 while fighting in PRIDE. It should be noted that he had a loss that was turned into a No Contest after Nick Diaz (Nate's brother) tested positive for marijuana post-fight. Both Gomi and Diaz are coming into this fight after suffering losses so expect these guys to come out motivated and intense. When you have two fighters who will to leave it all in the Octagon and want to put on a show, the fans are the real winners.

4. Both Ben Rothwell and Mark Hunt need wins to stay relevant this Saturday night
Ben Rothwell was the arguably the best Heavyweight fighter during his time in the IFL where he compiled a fight record of 9-0. But since the IFL shut down Rothwell is 2-2 with losses to Andre Arlovski and Cain Velasquez. Mark Hunt back in 2006 had compiled an MMA record of 5-1 and had wins over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko "Cro Cop" Fillipovic. But then he proceeded to accumulate a 6 fight losing streak in MMA with losses to Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, Gegard Mousasi, Allistair Overeem Melvin Monhoef, and Sean McCorkle. Rothwell and Hunt won their most recent fights and are looking to gain some mommentum in order to stay in the UFC. There was a time that these fighters were considered top tier MMA fighters, now they are fighting to stay relevant in the UFC heavyweight division.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bellator 49 preview

This Saturday’s Bellator 49 event is the opening of Bellator’s Fifth television season series and opening matchups for the latest Welterweight Tournament. Although we are still waiting for the last Welterweight Tournament winner Jay Hieron to face Bellator 170 pound champion Ben Askren, this next tournament winner is next in line for a title shot. Also, this will be my first live Bellator event and first Bellator event I will cover on site. Here is a preview for this Saturday’s main card that will be featured on MTV2:

1. Chris Lozano and Brent Weedman both have a chip on their shoulders coming into this tournament
These two fighters have more in common than just their weight class: they both lost their previous Bellator fights to men who have won Bellator tournament by Decision. This is significant because both Lozano and Weedman like to finish fights. Four of Weedman’s six career losses are by decision while 17 of his 18 career MMA wins are via Knockout/TKO or submission. Lozano’s only career loss is via decision and all 8 of his career wins are finishes. Weedman still has the sour taste of the controversal decision loss to Jay Hieron at Bellator 40 in his mouth while Lozano lost to former Bellator Welterweight Champ Lyman Good in a fight he knows he could have won. If you want to see an exciting fight, then make sure you don’t miss the fireworks when Weedmen and Lozano throw down.

2. Can Ben Saunders continue to be undefeated outside of the UFC?
Not many fighters can say that they have never lost a fight outside of the UFC yet Ben Saunders has a career MMA record of 10-3 and his record in the UFC is 4-3. Those three UFC losses were to Mike Swick (TKO), Jon Fitch (Decision) and Dennis Hallman (Decision). Saunders is a talented fighter who got lost in the shuffle of the UFC’s deep 170 pound division. Now he has the chance to make a name for himself in Bellator by making his way through the tournament to get a shot to fight for the Bellator Welterweight Championship. Saunders was supposed to fight Rick Hawn but Hawn was injured during training and he has been replaced by little known 13-3 Chris Cisneros. Cisneros is a talented fighter who has the boxing skills to end a fight stand while also being able to finish a fight from the ground as well. Saunders has to be careful to not let Cisneros make a name for himself at Saunder’s expense. Being one of the big name fighters in the tournament doesn’t mean it will be easy-going for Ben Saunders.

3. At 30 years old can Dan Hornbuckle live up to the high expectations or has he hit a career plateau?
Dan Hornbuckle is one of the more interesting fighters in the Bellator organization. Considered an up-and-coming MMA star, Hornbuckle was 19-2 before joining Bellator with 18 of those wins by Knockout/TKO or Submission. But since joining Bellator he is 3-2 and in his last fight lost a rematch with Brent Weedman. Before his last 3 fights Hornbuckle had not been in a fight that went to decision since 2007 but now he has been in 3 fights that went to the judges score cards. Whether the step up in competition is to blame or maybe Hornbuckle has hit a plateau in his MMA career it is hard to know. Yet at 30 years old, Hornbuckle still has time to reinvent himself as a fighter or atleast revist his previous self and fight up to his potential. This will be his 3rd Ballator Welterweight tournament appearance so there is no better time then the present to show the world (and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney) that he is still a force to be reckoned with in MMA. By the way, Hornbuckle’s opponent is Luis Santos, a fighter who has a career MMA record of 49-6-1 with 26 Knockouts/TKO’s and 10 submissions. This is one fighter Hornbuckle cannot boast to have the edge in MMA experience.

4. Will Steve Carl versus Douglas Lima be Bellator’s version of Brain Stann versus Jorge Santiago?
Okay so maybe I am being a bit stereotypical about this matchup but lets look at the facts: both Carl and Stann are Iraq war veterans with impressive MMA career records while both Lima and Santiago are both Brazillian fighters who train at American Top Team. The difference in matchups is that while Stann and Santiago were known for their standup skills, Lima and Carl are known for their submission skills. Carl has 9 of his 14 MMA career wins by submission while Lima has 11 submission wins to account for his 18 career MMA wins. The major difference is that Lima is the new guy to Bellator, spending the last year fighting in MFC in Canada while becoming the MFC Welterweight Champ. Carl meanwhile lost in the Semi-finals of the Welterweight Tournament at Bellator 19 and has not fought since August 2010 when he earned a spot in the Bellator season 4 Welterweight tournament. It will be interesting to see whose “baggage” will be more of a factor Saturday night: Lima’s step up in competition to debut in Bellator or Carl’s MMA layoff.

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Objective List of the Greatest MMA Fighters of All Time

After his overwhelming victory at UFC 134 there should be no questions that Anderson Silva is not just top Pound for Pound MMA fighter fighting today but the Greatest MMA fighter of all time. Although MMA is a very young sport, Silva is an athlete with amazing talent and if anyone was "born to be a fighter" it certainly is Anderson Silva.

So The question now is: who is next on the list? Every one has fighters they like, dislike, cheer for, and despise so you probably cannot get too much agreement on any list of the best fighters in MMA today let alone a look at the last 18 years of MMA competition. When making any list you have to set criteria for what makes a fighter great. For me, I have decided to use to following criteria in making my list of who are the greatest MMA fighters of all time:

*(CAC): Career record against fighters who have won championship belts in UFC, PRIDE, Strikeforce, and WEC (only Featherweight and Bantamweight)

-This is important because it shows how a fighter has faired against top-level competition during their fighting career. Just to have a winning streak long enough to get into title contention is an accomplishment but beating the best of an era puts you ahead of the pack.

*Have you won a championship and how many belts can you lay claim to?(Championships)

-Like is any sport, the best separate themselves with the number of championships and title defenses they have on their resume. In turn, the best fighters have not just won a belt once and lost it or have only won the title, lost it, then fade into history. No, the best fighters create legacies with their championships and even when they do lose they come back better than ever.

*(CRCF) Career record in championship fights

-A reason why this is important because it shows how fighters handle the big stage, the main event with all the pressure on them. Being a champion is more than luck, it's the product of hard work combined with talent and execution on fight night.

Now you may say that these three criteria doesn't tell the whole story and I agree because a fighter's career tells us his true legacy. For example, I give more credit to fighters such as Randy Couture and BJ Penn for doing what they did in two different weight classes because they proved that their talent and ability to win transcends a weight class. As you will see in my list that fighters like Penn and Couture are weak statistically in comparison to some other fighters in certain categories yet time both Penn and Couture compiled a career of taking on the best of the best in different eras, weight classes, and under different sets of MMA rules. The purpose of these statistical criteria is to weed out fighters who had good careers yet they either did not fair well against other champion fighters, fought weaker competition, or they were at their peak as fighters before the sport had brought along fighters of equal talent.

This proves out when looking at the careers of guys like Mark Coleman, Jens Pulver, Ken Shamrock, and Pat Militech. All four of these fighters are considered pioneers in MMA and are real legends. But when you look at their careers closer you will see that they do not matchup against other all time great fighters. Despite winning three MMA tournaments (2 UFC, 1 PRIDE) Mark Coleman has a career record of 1-6 against fighters who have won titles in major MMA organizations and is 1-1 in Championship fights. Coleman was an MMA pioneer who opened the doors for many star amateur wrestlers to make the transition from wrestling to MMA. I am a HUGE Pat Militech fan, one of my favorite fighters ever! But he also does not belong on a list of MMA all time greats but not because he isn't a great fighter but because when he was great when the sport was still finding itself. Militech also is an MMA pioneer who was one of the first guys who was a major threat on both the feet and the ground. Through his Militech Fighting System he trained other fighters to be champions such as Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, and Tim Sylvia. Although he was 5-1 in Championship fights he also has a meager record of 0-1-1 against fighters who have won championships. One more example of being an MMA pioneer/legend but not stacking up with other great fighters in Ken Shamrock. Ken was one of the first MMA superstars and he never backed down from a fight which made him even more popular. But by the time MMA had evolved into a major sport Shamrock was already in his early to mid 30's. Despite winning three championships in his careers he compiled a record of 4-6-2 against champion fighters and two of those wins were against a young, inexperienced Bas Rutten while another victory was a submission against Maurice Smith back in 1994 when most kickboxers had little idea about submission fighting.

So now that I have set the ground work, here is my list of the greatest MMA fighters of all time:

12. Frank Shamrock

CAC: 2-4 (Beat Tito Ortiz; 1-2 against Bas Rutten; lost to Nick Diaz & Cung Le)

Titles: 4 (Interim King of Pancrase Champ 1996; UFC LHW Champ Dec 1997-Sept 1999; WEC LHW Champ 2003; Strikeforce MW Champ June 2007-March 2008)

CRCF: 8-2

Frank Shamrock is more than just an MMA Legend and Pioneer, he was one of the first fighters to win championship belts in multiple weight classes and organizations. Shamrock's fighting career covered two decades and is one the fighters on this list who was able to fight high level competition from beginning to end. Also Frank was one of the first fighters to be a dual threat, on the feet and the ground. I am disappointed that his proposed matchup with Pat Militech never happened. Aside from being a great fighter, Frank Shamrock is one of the toughest MMA fighters the sport has ever seen, just go watch his title bouts with Tito Ortiz (1999) and Cung Le (2008).

11. Bas Rutten

CAC: 5-3 (Beat Guy Mezger & Maurice Smith, 2-1 against Frank Shamrock, 0-2 against Ken Shamrock)

Titles: 3 (Interim King of Pancrase Champ then unified with King of Pancrase Belt in 1995; UFC HW Champ 1999)

CRCF: 3-1

Bas Rutten in March of 1995 had a career record of 7-4 with two losses to Ken Shamrock and another loss to Frank Shamrock. Rutten is one of the most talented kickboxers in MMA history but he had to learn grappling and submission fighting. Once he gained grappling and submission skills Rutten would finish his career winning 21 of his final 22 finals (the one non-win was a draw due to injury). Many american MMA fans don't know about Rutten's fighting career because he spent most of his time fighting in Japan. After becoming UFC Heavyweight champion Rutten would sustain a serious neck injury during training that forced him to retire from fighting. If it were not for this injury who knows how great Rutten would have become in the UFC with his famous liver strikes and devastating leg kicks. Rutten would return for one more fight in 2006 after being cleared by doctors: a TKO victory over Ruben "Warpath" Villareall via leg kicks. "El Guapo" would return to retirement, this time on his terms and not because of injuries.

10. Urijah Faber

CAC: 4-4 (2 wins over Jens Pulver; beat Eddie Wineland; 1-1 against Domick Cruz; lost twice to Mike Brown; beaten by Jose Aldo)

Titles: 4 (Gladiator Challenge LW Champ June 2004-Sept 2005; KOTC Bantamweight Champ Nov 2004-Oct 2006; Gladiator Bantamweight Champ 2006; WEC Featherweight Champ March 2006-Nov 2008)

CRCF: 14-5

Although he is only 32 years old, Faber is an MMA pioneer for the lighter weight classes. He was one of the biggest stars in the WEC and without his popularity who knows how long it would have taken for the "small guys" to get the recognition they deserve as fighters. As a guy who has fought in three different weight classes and won titles in three different organizations Faber was a superstar fighter before most people even knew there were MMA fighters who were under 155 pounds. Faber is famous for his wrestling and submission skills with 13 of his 25 career wins by submission. Two of his five career losses were in Championship fights in which he went head to head for five rounds against two guys who are talented strikers: Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz. The full story of Faber's career is yet to play itself out so who knows if he will add a UFC title to his resume and if he does that then I would move him up this list of all time great fighters.

9. Chuck Liddell

CAC: 10-6 (Defeated Vitor Belfort, Guy Mezger, Murilo Bustamante, Kevin Randleman, Allistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva; 2-0 against Tito Ortiz; 2-1 against Randy Couture; 0-2 against Quinton Jackson; beaten by Rich Franklin, Maurico Rua, Rashad Evans)

Titles: 2 (IFC LHW Champ 2000; UFC LHW Champ April 2005-May 2007)

CRCF: 5-2

Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell is one of the biggest stars to come out of MMA and be known in mainstream media. Originally a talented collegiate wrestler, Liddell took up kickboxing and became a famous knockout artist. From 2001 through 2007 Liddell was one of the most feared strikers in all of MMA and 13 of his 21 career wins have been by TKO or KO. He went 14-5 during that dominant stretch from 2001 through 2007 and two of those losses were to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Despite losing his last three career fights via knockout, Liddell is still a legend in the sport and is a major reason why the UFC became a mainstream sport organization. I still contend that even his prime Liddell would have had a lot of trouble against the likes of Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten, and Dan Henderson because there were holes in his overall MMA game that Liddell seemed uninterested in fixing. These flaws in Liddell were exposed twice by "Rampage" Jackson and Jackson did so with almost four years in between matchups with "The Iceman".

8. Matt Hughes

CAC: 7-4 (2-0 against Carlos Newton; defeated Sean Sherk, Royce Gracie, Matt Serra; 1-2 against BJ Penn; 1-2 against George St Pierre)

Titles: 2 (UFC Welterweight Champion Nov 2001-Jan 2004; Oct 2004-Nov 2006)

CRCF: 9-3

Having a fighting record of 45-8 is impressive for anyone. But to have that record, be UFC champion for almost 5 years and have to face some of the top fighters in the world makes you a legend and that is what Matt Hughes is. Hughes, the protegé of former UFC Welterweight Champion Pat Militech, seem to make the best of his opportunities in the UFC compiling a record of 18-6 in the octagon. Four of his eight career losses have come against BJ Penn and George St Pierre, so if you are going to lose might as well be to two guys who are all time great fighters. More so, Hughes has beaten both Penn and GSP once in three times against them, not many fighters can say they even have one win against those guys. Hughes was best known for his great wrestling, excellent strength, and ability to find away to finish his opponent. From March of 2001 to September of 2006 had 16 wins by either submission or TKO/KO and 3 decision victories. Hughes only real flaw is that when he got older everyone else got better. And by the way, he hasn't retired yet so he still has time to put more "icing on the cake" of his legendary career.

7. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" "Big Nog" Nogueira

CAC: 6-6-1 (Wins over Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Ricco Rodriguez, Mark Coleman; 1-1 against Josh Barnett and Dan Henderson; 0-2-1 against Fedor; lost to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir)

Titles: 3 (PRIDE HW Champ Nov 2001-March 2003; Interim PRIDE HW Champ Nov 2003-Dec 2004; UFC Interim HW Champ Feb 2008-Dec 2008)

CRCF: 3-3

"Minotauro" Nogueira tends to get overlooked because he was the greatest heavyweight fighter in PRIDE history not named Fedor Emelianenko. Nogueira is the only man to ever win championship belts in PRIDE and UFC. This is disputed sometimes because Dan Henderson, Maurico "Shogun" Rua, and Mark Coleman won a championship belts in one organization and a tournament title in the other organization. Nogueira is famous for his Brazillian Jiu Jitsu skills and 20 of his 33 career MMA wins have been by submission (Also, "Big Nog" has never lost via submission). It will always be held against Nogueira that he is 0-3 when defending his belt and he never got a win against Fedor. But look at the caliber of fighters he has fought and beaten over a period of 12 years and its hard to deny his place as an MMA legend. Also, notice that Nogueira’s career MMA record is 33-6, which means all of his career loss have been to former champions (he is one of only 3 fighters on this list that has that distinction).

6. Fedor Emelianenko

CAC: 7-1 (Defeated Kevin Randleman, Tim Sylvia, Andre Arlovski; 2-0 against Mark Coleman; 2-0-1 against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira; lost to Dan Henderson)

Titles: 2 (PRIDE HW Champ March 2003-2007; WAMMA HW July 2008-June 2010)

CRCF: 7-0

Despite the three straight losses in the last two years, from January 2001 to June 2010 Fedor went undefeated as an MMA fighter. 13 of his 28 wins during this stretch where by submission and only 6 wins via decision (among the fights who took him the distance we Mirko "Cro Cop" Fillipovic, Nogueira twice, Renato Sobral, and Semmy Schilt). His background in Sambo enabled him to be a great grappler and he has dangerous power in his right hand. The major knock against Fedor has been the type of competition he faced over his career. When he fought Sylvia, Arlovski, and Goodridge they were on the downside of their careers and the same can be said of the second time Fedor fought Mark Coleman. Also, after PRIDE folded into the UFC here are some of the guys he defeated: Matt Lindland (a middleweight fighter), Choi Hong-man (2-3 as an MMA fight with a win over Jose Canseco), and Brett Rogers (only big name win was Andre Arlovski and has been finished by Fedor, Allistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett before the end of the 2nd round). Even while fighting in PRIDE there were rumors he avoided fighting heavyweights such as Josh Barnett, Gilbert Yvel, and Kimo Leopoldo while also turning down super fight matchups with Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Wanderlei Silva, and Vitor Belfort. So while the question of how great he was will always be up for debate I for one cannot take away from Fedor the winning streak or the excellent MMA record he compiled while fighting in PRIDE.

5. Randy Couture

CAC: 8-8 (Defeated Tito Ortiz, Kevin Randleman, Maurice Smith, Tim Sylvia, Mark Coleman; 2-1 against Vitor Belfort; 1-2 against Chuck Liddell; lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar, Lyoto Machida, Josh Barnett, Ricco Rodriguez)

Titles: 6 (UFC HW Champ Dec 1997; UFC HW Champ Nov 2000-March 2002; Interim UFC LHW Champ 2003; UFC LHW Champ Sept 2003-Jan 2004; UFC LHW Champ Aug 2004-April 2005; UFC HW Champ March 2007-Nov 2008)

CRCF: 9-6

Randy Couture spent 14 years as an MMA fighter and he is one of the most successful and accomplished fighters in UFC history. He is one of only two men to ever win UFC championship titles in different weight classes (the other is BJ Penn). An Olympic wrestling alternate, Couture went from being a wrestler fighting in MMA to a fighter who is dangerous in every aspect of the MMA game and he seemed to get better with age. He defeated Tim Sylvia to become UFC Heavyweight Champion at the age of 43 and even defended his right to the belt against a fighter almost half his age. Also, he won his first and last UFC heavyweight belts 10 years apart! Couture is a pioneer in MMA not just as a fighter but a role model for other fighters in standing up for their rights as a fighters and not letting anyone choose for him when he was done fighting. Couture was a game plan fighter who tried to use his opponent's weakness against them: he was faster than Tim Sylvia, better at submissions then Mark Coleman, more crafty than Tito Ortiz, and pushed the pace to get wins against Vitor Belfort. A criticism of Couture is that he was never able to defend his title more than two times and never had a winning streak longer than four in a row. Yet those who have these criticisms forget to look at the level of competition Couture took on through out his career; he never took easy fights and instead he was willing to fight anyone at anytime and anywhere. His MMA career record of 19-11isn't very impressive, but having 8 wins against championship level fighters is tied for 2nd among fighters on this list behind Chuck Liddell.

4. Georges St Pierre

CAC: 7-2 (Wins over Jake Shields, Sean Sherk; 2-0 against BJ Penn; 2-1 against Matt Hughes; 1-1 against Matt Serra)

Titles: 2 (UCC WW title 2002; UFC WW Champ Nov 2006-April 2007; Interim UFC WW Champ Dec 2007, unified with UFC WW belt to become Champ from April 2008-present)

CRCF: 11-2

Despite the debate about how great GSP is as a fighter, no one can deny that he is one of the top MMA fighters of all time. He has defended the UFC Welterweight belt six straight fights. He has only two losses in 24 fights and both were losses he avenge later in his career. St. Pierre has exhibited excellent wrestling skills and his boxing is sharp also. Despite having an excellent fighting record, the major criticism of GSP has been that he fights not to lose instead of looking to win. He has a record of 17-2 in the UFC but 9 of those wins have been by decision including five of his last six wins (the fight that wasn't a decision was a TKO via corner stoppage). His lack of ability (or motivation) to finish his opponents is something I hold against him because the only other fighter who has more wins by decision than any other type of winning method on this list of fighters is Randy Couture. Couture has won multiple titles in different weight classes while GSP has never fought outside of 170 pound weight classes. Good news for St. Pierre is that he is the youngest fighter on this list so he still has time to build his legacy as a fighter.

3. BJ Penn

CAC: 6-7(Defeated Sean Sherk, Takanori Gomi, Matt Serra; 2-1 against Matt Hughes; 1-1 against Jens Pulver; 0-2 against George St. Pierre and Frank Edgar; lost to Lyoto Machida)

Titles: 2 (UFC WW Champ Jan 2004; UFC LW Champ Jan 2008-April 2010)

CRCF: 5-5-1

BJ Penn is only the second fighter in UFC history to win championship belts in two different weight classes. Penn came onto the MMA scene as a famous brazillian jiu jitsu prodigy (which is where his nickname comes from) and over the years has developed great boxing skills. He is one of the most talented MMA fighters of all time and he has fought some of the biggest names in MMA over the course of nine years. Penn is only the second fighter on this list who has never lost a fight via submission and is only the 6th fighter on this list who has faced at least 10 championship level MMA fighters. He is also one of the few MMA fighters to ever beat two different Gracie family fighters (other famous fighters who have done so are Matt Hughes and Kazushi Sakuraba). One of the knocks against Penn is that in the past he lacked the work ethic to be a great fighter and got by in matchups on talent alone. Yet such a criticism is another example why he is so great (let us remember the same criticism was said of Babe Ruth and look at what he did in his baseball career). Like St. Pierre and Faber, BJ is still in his early 30's and has time to build on his already legendary MMA career so who knows what other great things he may accomplished.

2. Dan Henderson

CAC: 8-5 (Beat Fedor Emelianenko, Rich Franklin, Carlos Newton, Vitor Belfort; 2-0 against Murilo Bustamante; 1-1 against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Wanderlei Silva; Lost to Anderson Silva, Jake Shields, Quinton Jackson)

Titles: 3 (PRIDE Welterweight Champion Dec 2005-March 2008; PRIDE Middleweight Champion Feb 2007-Sept 2007; Strikeforce LHW Champ March 2011-Present)

CRCF: 3-3

Dan Henderson is one of the most accomplished MMA fighters ever. He has won four MMA tournaments (Brazil Open 1997; UFC 17 Middleweight; Rings King of Kings 1999; PRIDE 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix) as well as winning championship belts at 185 and 205 pounds. When the UFC absorbed PRIDE Henderson was the man holding championship belts in two weight class simultaneously! Since 2003 Henderson has a record of 16-5 with losses to Jake Shields (former Strikeforce and Elite XC Champ), Anderson Silva (who has never lost a matchup in 15 UFC fights), Quinton Jackson (The only fighter to ever beat Chuck Liddel twice), Kazuo Misaki (a fighter whom Henderson has beaten), and "Big Nog" brother Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Henderson's MMA career is a list of who's who in MMA history since he has taken on so many fighters over a period of 14 years. In fact, Henderson is the only fighter on this list who has never been Knocked out or lost a fight via TKO while 13 of his 28 career MMA wins are via KO or TKO. A highly accomplished amateur wrestler, Henderson uses his wrestling typically to keep the fight standing so he can be able to use his powerful right hand to try to end fights. Henderson says he still has a couple of years of fighting left in him and he still has time to defend his Strikeforce 205 pound belt and maybe take some more fights in the UFC.

1. Anderson Silva

CAC: 6-0 (Defeated Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, Carlos Newton, Forrest Griffin; 2-0 against Rich Franklin)

Titles: 3 (Shooto MW Champ 2001; Cage Rage MW Champ Sept 2004-April 2006; UFC MW Champ Oct 2006-Present)

CRCF: 14-0

The numbers above only tell half the story of how great Silva is as an MMA fighter. Since his debut in PRIDE in June of 2002 Anderson Silva is 23-3 with 15 Knockouts/TKO's and only 5 wins by decision. Silva is one of the best Muay Thai practitioners in MMA history and he is also a threat for submissions with six submission wins in his career. Silva is unique for his ability to beat an opponent with speed or power. His only real "weakness" in recent years is wrestling yet the two wrestlers who able to win a round against him in a fight (Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen) both lost by submission. On top of all of this Silva has fought at weights from 168 to 205 pounds and has won at every level in MMA competition. Calling Silva the "Michael Jordan" or "Mohammed Ali" of MMA is an insult to Silva since he has been more dominant in MMA than either of those athletes were in their respective sports. At age 36 the question becomes "will" Silva ever lose again in MMA instead of "when" because he may retire before he has another chance to suffer defeat again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

UFC 134/Rio Preview: What To Know

UFC 134 (also known as UFC: Rio) marks the first time the UFC has hosted an event in Brazil since 1998. So it was logical to have big time Brazilian MMA stars such as Anderson Silva, Maurico “Shogun” Rua, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on the main card. Here are my “things to know” heading into this Saturday’s UFC 134:

1. Anderson Silva looks to avenge blemish from his fighting record again Yushin Okami

Anderson Silva has been one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history. He has never lost a fight while in the UFC and has one blemish on his fighting record since 2005: a Disqualification loss to Yushin Okami at Rumble on The Rock in January of 2006. He was disqualified when he landed a controversal upkick from the bottom position on the ground. While Okami looked able to continue the fight the referee decided to end the fight and allow Okami to move on in the tournament.

Since then Silva has not lost a fight while Okami has lost to Jake Shields, Rich Franklin, and Chael Sonnen. Now the two finally have the opportunity to rematch, Silva will be very motivated to avenge this “loss”. Both fighters have improved since their 2006 fight, but it has been Silva who has become one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time while Okami has been “good enough” to stay relevant at 185 pounds. Despite the fact that Okami has been training with Chael Sonnen for this rematch, it is hard to see Okami duplicating the performance Sonnen had for the first four rounds of his fight with the UFC Champion Silva. Defeating Okami this Saturday night would be a major victory for Silva’s personally and career wise: to redeem himself and beat the last man to walk away from fight with him not a loser.

2. Can Forrest Griffin stay relevent in the UFC Light Heavyweight Division?

Forrest Griffin is 10-4 in his UFC career; he is the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion and won the first season of the Ultimate Fighter. A good career by many people’s standards. Griffin is a very popular fighter in the UFC but he needs a win over “Shogun” Rua to stay in the top-tier of the 205 pound division. Since beating “Rampage” Jackson for the 205 pound belt back in 2008, Forrest lost back to back fights, took some time off, then came back and has won two straight. He has never won more than three fights in a row during his time in the UFC so he needs to show he can build significant momentum and the type of winning streak to earn him not just another shot at fighting for the belt but also show he can still be a perennial contender in the UFC. Forrest has accomplished so much in his career that he could retire in the next couple years and most fans would not hold it against him. Coming into his rematch with Maurico “Shogun” Rua at UFC 134, Griffin has admitted he will be cutting a lot of weight to get down to 205 by the day of weigh ins. The question has never been is Griffin talented, strong, or tough enough to fight in the UFC, the real question is how bad does he want to be champion again? Does the fire still burn in him that will drive him to be the best? This Saturday night will show us where Forrest is at in his MMA career.

3. Brendan Schaub wants to take out big names on his way to the top

Since losing to Roy Nelson in The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweight Finale, Schaub has won four straight fights. In his last two fights he has beaten Gabriel Gonzaga (former UFC number one contender) and Mirko “Cro Cop” Fillipovic (2006 PRIDE Open Weight Tournament Champion). Next he faces Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the former PRIDE Heavyweight and Interm UFC Heavyweight Champion. Also, Schaub has said he wants to fight Frank Mir soon, another former UFC champion. But Schaub has been criticized by some “experts” because he has beaten both Gonzaga and “Crop Cop” when they are on the downside of their fighting careers. Nogueira is coming off surgeries on both of his knees and a hip while not fighting since February of 2010 so we are unsure how good he will be in his return to action.

So is it really that big a deal if Schaub is beating these big name heavyweights when they are not at their best on fight night? I understand the old saying “In order to be ‘the man’ you have to beat ‘the man’” but to use big name fighters to build your career when those fighters are not what they once were? Some people say this is wrong and “doesn’t seem right”. Yet Schaub has said in interviews he wants to fight guys who “scare him” because it brings out the best in him. So to him it is not disrespectful or him picking on old competition to beat these MMA stars. If we go by what Schaub says, he is fighting guys who in his mind are dangerous and beating them means a lot to him. Either way, building a win streak that has names such as Gonzaga, “Cro Cop”, and Nogueira on it is definitely a sure way to get into the top-tier of UFC heavyweight fighters.

4. Different career paths have brought Ross Pearson and Edson Barbosa to face each other

This matchup of two young and talented lightweight fighters has potential to be Fight of the Night at UFC 134. But their paths to this fight are very different. Pearson won The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Final and has gone 4-1 during his time in the UFC. Going through TUF is a major promotional platform for young fighters and typically guys who win TUF get more chances from the UFC to show they can be successful. On the other hand, Barbosa is 8-0 in his MMA career and has won his first two UFC fights. He is the former Ring of Combat Lightweight Champion and 7 of his 8 MMA wins have been finishes via knockout or submission. A showdown of two dynamic, young fighters is always sure to be a good fight and the winner of this fight is likely to elevate themselves in the UFC’s 155 pound division. Should be interesting to see whose fighting style will be more successful standing: Pearson’s sharp boxing or Barbosa’s technical Muay Thai. Also, Barbosa has a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-Jitsu and Pearson has a brown belt in Judo.

Friday, August 19, 2011

UFC/FOX TV Deal Analysis

The UFC and FOX had a major press conference yesterday to announce their new television contract. According to Sports Business Daily and ESPN the deal is for seven years and 90 million dollars. Dana White announced that the first "UFC on FOX" live event is scheduled for November 12, 2011. The deal calls for four major UFC events on FOX network television a year, a long with six "UFC Fight Night" events on FX cable television. Also, "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV series will be on FX on Friday nights starting in 2012 and will be live instead of Spike's condensed six weeks of filming. Included is the agreement to have some Prelim fights and other UFC related broadcasts ("UFC Countdown", "UFC Primetime", "UFC Unleashed", "Best of Pride" etc.) on FX and Fuel TV.

Now that I have given you the contractual basics, I want to look at why this deal happened and its affect not just on Mixed Martial Arts but on the Professional Sports landscape. As someone who has worked in different areas of media (broadcast and print) I want to break this down for everyone in a unique way.

FOX has been looking to boost their ratings for the last few years. Popular shows such as "24" and "The Shield" are no longer on the air and even "Rescue Me" is coming to an end on FX. Loosing such staple programming has been weakness for FOX because they have not been able to introduce much program to replace these popular programs. Also, the loss of traction by programs in the ratings such as "Bones" and "House" has put FOX in the odd position of trying to keep up in many head to head matchups with the seasonal programming on CBS and ABC. In fact, there have been weeks in which some of the popular USA network shows have beat out FOX and FX programming in the ratings. In recent years networks have leaned on their sports programming not just for revenue and ratings but for promotion of their regular television programming. This is something CBS has been very successful with during NFL and college basketball seasons. FOX usually gets some boost from NFL season promotions but there has been mixed reviews from MLB and NASCAR broadcasts. Part of the problem with those two sports is that with baseball there is no consistency for the viewer in broadcast times (some weeks its 1pm ET, other weeks it 3 or 4pm ET) while NASCAR is considered a "niche" mainstream sport whose viewing demographics are limited in terms of age, gender, and financial class.

When FOX lost to NBC in recent bids for Olympic coverage, they knew they needed to gain a new televised sports franchise to grab ahold of. UFC expiring contracts with Spike TV and Versus the perfect opportunity for FOX to gain access to the 18-36 year old male demographic was there for the taking. Average age of viewership for other sports programming is at least ten years older in age and those viewing customers are more set in their ways in terms of products they buy and the kinds of programming they will watch on TV. The younger, the better in the media world since many young people are still flexible in terms of what is new whether the product is a television show or beverage FOX had a history already in place with the UFC: UFC 37.5 was broadcast on FOX Sports' "Best Damn Sports Show Period" and was the first mixed martial arts event broadcast on cable television. During the Early 2000's, FSN's "Best Damn Sports Show Period" frequently covered MMA fighters from PRIDE, UFC, and IFL. But since the early to mid 2000's UFC average viewership has almost tripled and in 2011 the time was now for FOX to get ahold of viewership that was being under served.

Consider this: in 2011 UFC Prelim live broadcasts on Spike TV averaged 1,467,000 viewers per showing and on ION Television the average viewership was 771,000. Now that may sound small, but it is actually very significant because both Spike and ION did little promoting of these Prelim broadcasts and neither channel had the big name parent company to help promote any of their daily or special programming. The UFC was generating viewership for programs such the Prelim Live fights, "Best of Pride", "UFC Countdown" and others shows basically through Twitter, Facebook, their website, and email newsletters. By broadcast media standards that is very weak promotion and to get those kinds of numbers means that there is vast unlocked potential in viewership on cable and network television for UFC programming. Also realize that "UFC on Versus 5" gained an average viewership of 779,000 and the peak was near a million during the Hardy versus Lytle main event fight. They got this number on a traditionally poor television viewing night (Sunday) in the middle of the second worst time of year for ratings (Summer time) on a channel that is available in about 30 percent FEWER homes in North American than FX or Spike TV.

So this deal is a major win programming wise and viewership wise for FOX. For the UFC this is their big time step into competing with the other major professional sports organizations on Network Television. Unlike the CBS ventures with Elite XC and Strikeforce, the UFC has a very deep roster of excellent MMA talent and mainstream recognizable fighters. Also, Joe Rogan outside of MMA is still well-known for his stints on the TV comedy series "Friends" and his time hosting the reality show "Fear Factor". Being the top organization in a sports field also has the perks of being able to say that your champions and top-level athletes are the very best in the world.

The UFC though will suffer the same network television growing pains of other "non-team sport" organizations such as NASCAR and PGA because their potential is only as good as the stars who shine on the big stage. Golf has suffered tremendously in the ratings without Tiger Woods and with seven straight Major Championships won by first time Major winners the casual fans have no clue who is who and have no incentive to watch. NASCAR's two biggest names, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, have not been big winners over the last few years and the same guy has won the last five straight overall Championships and Jimmie Johnson has typically done so in undramatic fashion. What the UFC has going for them that these other sports do not is they have more than a couple major big names and have numerous other rising stars that can be promoted and built up.

Also, the timing of this announcement was perfect because FOX played UFC promos (commercials that promote programming) a few times during the Eagles-Steelers Preseason showdown and they can spend the rest of the Pre season leading into the NFL regular season promoting the November 12th UFC on FOX event. This is significant because the NFL is the top sport with crossover viewership for MMA. Surveys show that NFL viewers are the most likely to watch MMA than any other Professional Sports fan and according to a Twitter study 61 percent of UFC fans also follow NFL players and reporters on twitter also.

Lastly, this is big for Mixed Martial Arts financially. Once Spike TV and Versus no longer have rights to UFC or WEC programming then those channels are free to pursue other MMA organizations. Bellator could easily move from MTV2 to Spike TV or Versus and fill the slots where the UFC had been without the networks skipping a beat. TJ Tompson of ProElite MMA has talked about making a deal with a TV network once the organization gets more events set up. The UFC being broadcast on the big stage opens broadcasting opportunities for other orgnanizations just like the NFL's popularity has opened up financial and television opportunities for other football organizations such as AFL (Arena Football League), CFL (Canadian Football League), LFL (Lingerie Football League), and the upstart USFL (United States Football League) that had limited success in the 1980's. And with more television exposure there are more marketing and promotional opportunities for MMA fighters. Remember the old days when was a major fighter sponsor? Now we have Budweiser and Bud Light commercials with Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. The next step is for Verizon or AT&T to sponsor the UFC instead of Boost Mobile or have Nike expand their clothing lines to MMA.

The future is now for all of MMA. The mainstream media cannot just ignore it anymore as a rogue activity and it's not like the movie "Bloodsport" with fights occurring in underground tournaments with "go for the kill" calls. These are athletes who have real training backgrounds and compete to make a living. They are no less athletes than the pros who compete in the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL. The UFC has done promotion and broadcasting by themselves for years, now they have a major network standing by their side. Like the Bud Light commercial says, "Here we go!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What to watch For: Bellator 48

Bellator has been establishing their organization as the top "Not Zuffa owned" Mixed Martial Arts organization in North America. CEO Bjorn Rebney has done a good job of amasing talent while not signing every Zuffa washout to come into the free agent market. It was also a smart move for Bellator to make the move to MTV2 so they can ensure all events are free for anyone with more then a basic cable or dish television package can watch. Bellator 48 is more then just the Featherweight Tournament Finals but is also an event hosting two solid Heavyweight fights on the Main card that showcases Bellator's growth as an organization in overall talent and name recognition. When the fans can tune in and recognize most of the names on the fight card without having to do Google research, that is always a positive.

1. Can Pat Curran win two different weight class Bellator tournaments in a period of 14 months?
The 23 year old Pat Curran is building a name for himself by reaching two Bellator Tournament finals. What makes this even more impressive is he has done it at 155 pounds AND 145 pounds. He has looked faster and sharper on the feet at Featherweight while not losing his wrestling strength.
But he is facing a much different opponent in this tournament finals in comparison to last year. In June 2010 Curran faced a veteran fighter in Toby Imada who has really good grappling skills. This Saturday night Curran faces Marlon Sandro: a dynamic fighter with a 19-2, one of those losses was by controversal Split Decision to current UFC fighter Michihiro Omigawa. Both Sandro and Curran have gotten 47 percent of their career wins via decision so expect this to be a three round war.
If Curran can win this matchup it will boost his MMA resume. Expect him to get some serious interest from the UFC when his Bellator contract runs out.

2. How will Bellator Heavyweight Champ Cole Konrad handle a step up in competition?
Cole Konrad is a young Heavyweight MMA prospect who will be facing a fighter Saturday Night in Paul Buentello who has been in 6 times as many fights (42) than Konrad (7). Konrad was a great collegiate and international wrestler before coming to MMA and he trains with former UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar. Yet training at Lesnar's camp can only do so much to prepare a young fighter to face a man who has fought for Heavyweight titles in four different MMA organizations.
Buentello's MMA record is comprised of a "Who's Who" of upper level MMA heavyweights who have fought over the last ten years. He has faced 11 fighters who have fought in the UFC, compilling a record of 3-8. This matchup with Buentello is a good fight to measure where Konrad is at in his MMA career. Despite the paradox of Konrad not defending his belt in his fight this Saturday (a "tradition" Bellator does with many of their belt holders, reserving championship fights for winners of their tournaments) defeating a veteran like Buentello would be a good sign that Konrad has made the big step from MMA prospect to serious MMA Heavyweight fighter. Also he would avoid the comparisons to guys like Todd Duffee and Brandon Vera who were hyped Heavyweight prospects that came up short of the hype and expectations.

3. What does the future hold for Ricco Rodriguez if he keeps winning?
Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco Rodriguez is on an unique winning streak: he has won 12 straight fights while fighting for 12 different MMA organizations. Since returning from his suspension by the California Athletic Commission in 2007 Rodriguez has amassed a fighting record of 21-5. Although he has not beaten any big names during that stretch winning can do a lot for a fighters confidence. Hopefully Rodriguez has finally found a fighting home with Bellator after his MMA world tour for the last four years. He faces another former UFC fighter, Seth Petruzelli, who is best known for his fast knockout of Kimbo Slice in 2008. If Rodriguez wins his fight this Saturday night he will have beaten two Ultimate Fighter Alums in two of his last three fights while extending his winning streak to 13 fights. Having a fighter with Rodriguez's name recognition and winning streak is a nice perk for Bellator as they continue to grow in popularity.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What To Watch For: UFC on Versus 5

After experiencing UFC 133 in person, I must admit that it has left me wanting to see more MMA fights! Maybe someone slipped something in my drink over the weekend or the event was so electric that it left me wanting more. Either way, I am looking forward to UFC on Versus 5 this Sunday night and here's some reasons why you should be watching too:

1. Will UFC on Versus 5 be the "Swan Song" for Dan Hardy or Chris Lytle?
This should be an exciting and dynamic main event with two fighters who are coming off losses in which they did not get to entertain the fans the way they like to. Both are known for their stand up game so this could end up being Fight of The Night. But both fighters are in very different places in their careers. Hardy is on a three fight losing streak since earning the opportunity to fight for the UFC Welterweight Championship. The three straight losses have caused some people question if Dan Hardy was really good enough to have ever faught for the title or if he has just been unlucky lately. Contrary to his public gimmick image with his mohawk and sometimes goofy attitude, Hardy is actually a hard worker who has serious Muay Thai skills so he is out to prove he has what it takes to hang in the UFC.
On the other hand, Chris Lytle has been in the fight game since 1999 and has 53 career MMA fights along with 15 Professional Boxing matches. The loss to Brian Ebersole earlier this year broke a four fight winning streak, the longest of his MMA career. Lytle has opened an exploritory committee for a possible political run for Indiana state office in 2012. A second straight loss could possibly convince Lytle to turn his interests full time to politics instead of fighting. Lytle is a fan favorite earning 8 Award of The Night Honors (Tied with Anderson Silva for most in UFC history) so it would be disapointing to see him go.
After Sunday nights Main Event is over, it is possible that the loser will not be seen in a UFC Octagon again for some time.

2. Jim Miller versus Ben Henderson is an unofficial number one contender fight
Thanks to the absorbtion of WEC fighters into the UFC and the draw between Frank Edgar and Gray Maynard in January, there is a serious log jam in the UFC 155 pound division of top tier fighters. Jim Miller is currently on a seven fight winning streak and his only two career losses have been to the two fighters who are facing off in October for the Lightweight Belt: Edgar and Maynard. His next opponent is the former WEC Lightweight Champ Ben Henderson. Henderson is also a talented fighter who has lost only once in his last 12 fights. When he lost to Anthony Pettis in December many people forget that he put up a good fight againt Pettis before that wild kick was landed in the 5th round. During his time in the WEC Henderson finished four of his six opponents so this will be no easy fight for Miller. The winner of this fight will likely fill the void for who gets next after Edgar and Maynard take care of business at UFC 136.

3. Can Donald Cerrone sustain his mommentum?
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone was a very popular fighter in the WEC and was involved in 10 fights, receiving four "Fight of the Night" awards. But for all of Cerrone's popularity and talent his overall record in the WEC was 7-3-1 and he never officially won more then 2 fights in a row during his time there. Since coming to the UFC "Cowboy" has won two straight fights and has looked excellent. Sunday night he has a showdown with Charles Olivera, a fighter who has similar skills to Cerrone. If Cerrone gets past Olivera then he will have won five straight fights overall (three in the UFC) and usually gaining such mommentum will get the attention of the UFC brass. Cerrone's popularity combined with a solid winning streak would open the opportunity for him to face off against one of the UFC's top tier 155 pound fighters. One thing we know for sure is that Cerrone never backs down from a fight and never disapoints.

4. When will Joseph Benevidez get the respect he deserves?
Joseph Benevidez is the Rodney Danerfield of MMA because no matter what he does he "gets no respect, no respect at all!" Benevidez has two losses in 16 MMA fights and both were against one of the top fighters in the world: UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Since 2008 Benevidez is 9-2 with six finishes. Yet most of his career he has been overlooked and even at UFC on Versus 5 fight card he is stuck on the Preliminary Card behind a matchup between C.B. Dollaway and Jared Hamman. Now nothing against Dollaway or Hamman but their fight is ahead of a matchup between a former Bantamweight Champion (Eddie Wineland) and a two time former number one contender (Benevidez). With the UFC opening its doors in 2012 to a Flyweight division (125 pound fighters) this may be one of the last fights for Benevidez at 135 pounds and his matchup with Wineland should be a great fight. So take the time to pull up Facebook for the Prelim fights this Sunday beause you do not want to miss a chance to watch one of the most underrated fighters in MMA before he moves down to his natural weight class and becomes a champion.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rashad Evans 2.0

I have seen Rashad Evans fight since his time on the Ultimate Fighter. I remember cheering for him because I knew he was talented and had a bright future. I was rooting for him to beat a legend in Chuck Liddell because I knew a win over "The Iceman" would be a big stepping stone in his career.

But going into the title fights with Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida I felt that Evans' was acting too confident and cocky in front of the cameras. The over the top bravado and disrespect that Mohammed Ali had towards his opponents is something I will always hold against Ali and those same attitudes I saw coming out in interviews and promotions done with Evans. I was almost hurt because I knew deep down Rashad Evans is NOT a self-promoting, egotistical, flamboyant jerk; yet in interviews and in promotional clips that is how he came off to me. I know Rashad Evans can be great in MMA like Ali was in boxing but I dislike when athletes try to emulate Ali's public persona.

One of the great elements of Mixed Martial Arts is that historically and culturally it is different from other sports because the way of the Martial Artist is to respect one's opponent and look to win in the most technically superior fashion. I myself have taken Martial Arts classes and instruction over the years so I look at the mind games that someone like Mohammed Ali used with his opponents as disrespectful and smokescreen to cover up for Ali's flaws.

Rashad Evans is an MMA fighter, not a boxer. There is a difference between promoting and hyping a fight in contrast to disrespecting one's opponent and using psychological manipulation more often then letting your performance do the talking. That is why I cheered for Griffin, Machida and Quinton Jackson when they faught against Evans. Not because I hate or despite Evans, but because I disliked what he was portraying himself as: an athletic diva.

Something happened between May of 2010 and now to Rashad Evans. Whether it was an epiphany, gaining wisdom and maturity, someone he respected sitting him down or just getting out of the familiar surroundings of Jackson MMA; whatever triggered the change in Evans' overall demeanor and evolution in MMA skills it was all on full display this past Saturday night. Evans came into the rematch with Tito Ortiz stronger, sharper, more focused, and maybe even faster then I have ever seen him. It was as if over the last 14 months Evans got an upgrade in every area of his game and mentally he is in a great place. His performance against Ortiz was excellent in every way and I couldn't help but stand and cheer for him at the end of the fight out of respect.

But then Evans took it even further. He went out of his way after the fight during interviews and the post-fight press conference to show respect and grattitude towards Ortiz for taking the fight on short notice and for how Ortiz faught. Evans didn't gloat with the spotlight on him, instead he credited his team training him well and the hard work he put into getting better and back into the Octagon. This is a fighter who was ready to walk the walk instead of running his mouth or loving himself.

The two best things that have happened to Rashad Evans in my opinion are losing to Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones training at Jackson MMA. Machida humbled Evans and showed that no fighter is invicible or too talented to loose a fight. Jones showed Evans the reflection that many people saw when they looked at Rashad: talented, cocky, proud, and immature. Evans knows he is better then that. Jackson MMA is one of the top MMA gyms in the world but Evans had no way to grow and get better there anymore. Evans took the path less traveled and that path will lead him to reclaim the title that was once his: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

Evans has the chance to go down as one of the best MMA fighters of all time. Seriously. Some people may laugh at that but lets look at the facts:

*Evans is 16-1-1 so far in his career
*He has beaten 3 superstars/legends in MMA (Liddell, "Rampage", Ortiz)
*He has some of the best standup skills in all of MMA, a notch below guys like Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort
*He has a great wrestling base, coming from a NCAA Division 1 wrestling program (Michigan State)
*He is one of the more intellegent, quick thinking fighters in the MMA game

But yet some people will still hold the past against him. I am not one of them. I know greatness when I see it and the sky is the limit for Evans. At UFC 133 Evans put all fighters at 205 pounds on notice: He is back and better then ever. I cannot wait to see him fight again and I hope some day i get to meet Rashad Evans, shake his hand, and tell him to his face how much I respect and admire him.

Rashad Evans 2.0 is more then just a great fighter, it is a model to show other young athletes of how to become great in their athletic profession and in life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

4 things to watch for with UFC 133

Despite the fact that injuries have altered this fight card numerous times over the last couple months, UFC 133 is still a solid fight card. So lets proceed with a preview of the event that goes down this saturday:

1. Which will be more of a disadvantage: Rashad Evans' long layoff or Tito Ortiz fighting within 34 days of his last fight?
Both fighters in Saturday's main event have taken different roads that brought them to this fight. Rashad Evans was promised a title shot after his last fight when he beat Quinton "Rampage" Jackson by decision at UFC 114. But since May of 2010, Rashad made the choice to first wait to for then Champ Maurico "Shogun" Rua to recover from knee injury and then Evans injured his own knee before getting to fight Rua. Then he was suppose to face current 205 pound Champ Jon Jones but he pulled out with a hand injury. When Evans enters the Octagon this Saturday night he will be coming off a hiatus that spans almost 15 months. During the time Evans was not fighting, Ortiz has fought 3 times and he looked excellent in a dominating finish at UFC 132 against Ryan Bader. So now the question is which is more of a disadvantage: Evans long layoff or Ortiz fighting on such short notice. More often then not fighters who have long layoffs usually loose their first fight back. Whether it is nerves or not being use to the speed of the fight game, having a long time away from fighting has hurt numerous fighters in recent years. On the other hand, fighting 34 days after a big win is a major wild card. Ultimately the real question come Saturday night will be which fighter will feel the most pressure to perform and that will be the man walking away with the loss.

2. Vitor Belfort's response to a loss
Belfort is one of my favorite MMA fighters of all time. But it has been shown that Belfort's biggest opponent in his career has been himself. After losing to Randy Couture back in 2004 Belfort went on to loose 4 of his next 6 fights. In many of those fights Belfort looked lost in himself and lacked confidence. Then from 2007 through 2009 Belfort won five straight fights and four of them were via Knockout or Technical Knockout victories. Then he was out of action for 16 months due to injuries and lost to Anderson Silva this past February. With people doubting him again, Belfort has the opportunity to get back to winning against a tough opponent in Yoshihiro Akiyama. A win this Saturday night would not just silence those who think Belfort is "overrated" but also would signal that he is ready to come back better then ever after losing to one of the best MMA fighters in UFC history.

3. What if Mike Pyle again overcomes the underdog label and beats Rory McDonald?
Mike Pyle is 4-2 in the UFC since 2009 and has won 3 straight fights. He has won back to back fights in which he was considered an underdog and with another win Saturday night Pyle can make the argument that he is ready to move into the next level of competition in the UFC. Pyle has been around the MMA game for awhile and in fact is the only fighter to ever finish Jon Fitch (in 2002). For a guy who has been around the fight game so long and is such a balanced fighter its a great opportunity for him to move up the ranks in the 170 pound division. Better late then never right? And beating a rising MMA prospect in McDonald would be another solid win for Pyle's resume.

4. MMA in Philadelphia
With tickets still available to purchase for Saturday's UFC 133 event some are questioning if UFC is marketable in a city like Philadelphia. But as Bernard Hopkins said at Wednesday's workouts, MMA is "unique" and is still "growing in popularity". The last time the UFC was in Philly the main event was Anderson Silva fighting at Light Heavyweight against Forrest Griffin. I am sure if the UFC brought a title fight to the city that the tickets would sell out faster as compared to a fight card that has had numerous injuries and matchup changes. Losing a big name like Rich Franklin and a local favorite Phil Davis will definate hurt them when they look at the oveall pay per view buys and gate sales. Last time the UFC was in Philly they broke opening gate records for Pennsylvania and this year will be down in comparison for sure. But this does not mean UFC 133 is a bad fight card because there are many good matchups. But ticket and PPV sales are driven harder by casual fans and if the casual fan doesn't take serious interest in the event then the hardcore fans can only spread their money around so much. Casual fans recognize the big names like Brock Lesnar, George St. Pierre, and "Rampage" Jackson while younger stars such as Frank Edgar, Jon Jones, and Dominick Cruz are known names. No offense but it is hard to sell a fight card on which the main card has a matchup between Dennis Hallman and Brian Ebersole (Im still unsure why the matchup between Mendes and Yaya wasn't moved onto the main card). Hopefully the UFC stops putting big time events in Newark, NJ and instead bring such high profile fight cards to a city with a rich tradition in the fight game. Philly fans like winners, period. That's how to sell any sport in this city.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

4 things to watch for Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson

This Saturday's Strikeforce event is the biggest, most important event for the "younger brother promotion". Since being acquired by Zuffa, many people have questioned how long will Strikeforce stay in existance considering the fates of other MMA organizations taken over by Zuffa (parent company of the UFC). What happens at this event will determine where Strikeforce goes considering the loss of star power in the Striekforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and the questions about several fighters with expiring fight contracts.

1. Which Fedor will we see Saturday Night?
Before 2010, Fedor Emelianenko had not lost a fight since 2000. But a string of loss has put a fighter who is considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time in a position to contemplate retirement. Unlike some of his comtemporaries, Fedor is only 34 years old and still could be a force in MMA. The problem is that he has looked disinterested in his last few fights while not being in the best physical shape. If Fedor is motivated to end this two fight losing streak and not lose to a fighter who weighs about 24 pounds less then him, then we should see a great fight. A win for Fedor signals he is still relevant, especially considering his is "expected" to win. But a loss could signal a depressing end to the career for a fighter who at one time was considered the greatest Heavyweight MMA fighter of all time.

2. The Future of Women's MMA
Although it is sad, the reality is that the future of Women's MMA is leaning on what happens when 135 lb. Champion Marloes Connen takes on 11-2 Miesha Tate. It was only a few years ago that Women's MMA was banking on the potential success of Gina Carrano. But when Carrano got dominated by "Cyborg" Santos many thought that would be the beginning of the end. But now that there appears to be a group of talented and attractive women who fight at weights lighter then Carrano's 145 lbs. division, there is potential and still hope. Women's MMA has two major obsticles standing in the way of it becoming a mainstay with casual and hardcore MMA watchers:
The First Obsticle is depth. How many top level women's fighters are really out there? Will there be many more beyond this current generation? Both are valid questions, considering what has happened to other women's professional sports endevours. Professional Women's Hockey and Soccer leagues started out as hot commodities but over time audiences lost interest for various reasons and the talent pool never grew beyond the base that they started with. The WNBA has proved that you can market yourself on quality of product alone in order to maintain the ability to make money off of women's professional sports. Yet part of that is because Women's basketball (Pro and Collegiate) has grown in poluarity across the board. Women's MMA needs the talent to keep coming or all of its stars will get old and the sport will retire with them.
Second obsticle is marketability. In order for any sport to grow and make money is for it to find a way to appeal to people beyond the hardcore, loyal fan base. It is hard to market a sport when their champions (Cyborg and Coenen) are not very interactive with the fans or very visable. How are you suppose to gain the attention of casual watchers if your champions are as engaging as watching Olympic Curling? Also, whether right or not, fighting is a sport that appeals to a casual audience that looks at women's sports and says "Where's the cute girl?" or what may refer to as "The Anna Kournikova Effect". While this may be sexiest, its a reality that all women's sports have to deal with, especially since men watch sports more then women. Fighters such as Miesha Tate and Sarah Kauffman have shown they are comfortable with showing their feminine side and have been ok with being seen as "attractive". This is an element that other women's fighers (for example, Cyborg and Coenen) have shunned for various reasons. There's a reason boxing and MMA have ring girls in sexy outfits walking around and they just happen to be beautiful, attractive ladies. That same way of thinking is applied by many men (again, it is sexist in some ways) towards women in other sports. I know many women who like MMA because they like fighting but REALLY like looking at the guys. That is a major catilyst in marketing to women, so it isn't a foreign concept to do the same with Women's MMA. Women's Tennis grew in popularity when Anna Kournikova hit the scene so Women's MMA shouldn't ignore such realities.
So ultimately what needs to happen Saturday Night is there to be an interesting fight with some solid MMA action and then the winner flash a real nice, cute smile a few times during the post fight interviews and to act/talk like a woman (not like any other male athlete after a big win).

3. Will Paul Daley vs. Tyron Woodley entertain viewers?
Paul Daley is an exciting fighter who has great standup skills. But he has had problems in the past against strong wrestlers (see his fights with Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields). Meanwhile for Woodley, he is considered a upcoming star with great wrestling skills and athleticism. But 2 of his last 3 fights were not exactly exciting according to some and I am not sure his all around game is good enough to handle fighters who could stop his takedowns. Considering the history of both these fighters, this could be a fight in which Woodley finds out he isn't good enough to stand and trade with Daley so he takes him down and basically lays on him for most of the fight. To be fair, Woodley is still young in the sport but he has not shown that he is very active from the top when he does take a guy down. If Woodley does beat Daley in a "boring" fashion then many people will be uninterrested in him getting a chance to fight for the vacant Strikeforce Welterweight Belt.

4. Will there be any mommentum gained from this event for Striekforce?
The increase of UFC events this year has pushed them further into the public eye as a must see sporting event. Being the "little brother" or "Triple A" version of the UFC (not my labels, just what I have read) has put Strikeforce is a perilous position. Yes they have a contract through the end of 2012 with Showtime, but what about after that? Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz has already left for the greener pastures of the UFC and its fair to say that other top level fighters will eventually want to go to the UFC sooner or later as well. Strikeforce Champions Gilbert Melendez (Lightweight), Allistair Overeem (Heavyweight), and Dan Henderson (Light Heavyweight) are definately talented enough to contend in the UFC. When Strikeforce signed Fedor Emelianenko, the idea was that he would be a major marketing tool to gain them popularity. Instead Strikeforce's biggest money making stars (Nick Diaz and Jake Shields) left the organization while their dynamic Heavyweight Champ (Overeem) has been removed from the Heavyweight Tournament because the event was scheduled a month earlier then Overeem wanted to fight coming off an injury. So if Fedor losses, the Women's Championship fight turns out to be a bore, and upcoming star Woodley is unimpressive against Daley, where does that leave Strikeforce marketing wise? Of course the hardcore MMA fans will watch, but the casual viewers or those who only care about the UFC will not tune in. At that point the only hope for Strikeforce is that the charismatic Josh Barnett wins the Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament, setting up a very marketable matchup against Overeem. Outside of that, there is little else. Melendez is running out of major name or talent competition at lightweight, the 185 pound division seems to be a rotating circuit of 3 talented guys fighting each other, and Dan Henderson is a 40 years old Light Heavyweight Champion whose last fight in his contract was against a fighter who weighs about 24 pounds more then him and is on a two fight losing streak heading into the fight. Also, the future is not exactly promising for an MMA organization that is broadcast on a network that many people don't even have available as part of their Dish or Cable package. All Strikeforce fans, employees, and fighters can do is hope for the best come Saturday night.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

UFC 132 Aftermath

The UFC every July 4th weekend looks to put on a big show and this past weekend was no exception. Lets take a look back at Saturday night's big fights:

UFC Bantamweight Championship: Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
Result: Cruz via Unanimous Decision

This fight was fast-paced and for all five round both guys put on a show. The difference was Faber's inability to takedown Cruz and Cruz outstriking Faber in every round.
Next for Cruz: There is some debate about who the next real number one contender is right now in the UFC 135 pound division. Demetrious Johnson is on a four fight win streak and his last fight was a action-packed win over former WEC bantamweight champ Miguel Torres. Meanwhile, Brian Bowles has won two straight fights since he lost the belt to Cruz back in early 2010. It will be interesting to see which fighter the UFC brass picks to take on Cruz next. My choice is Johnson because his overall skills along with his speed present the biggest threat to Cruz at 135 right now.
Next for Faber: Since Faber put on a good fight for five rounds typically the UFC will not drop him too far down the ladder in terms of rankings. Scott Jorgenson, another former number one contender at 135 pounds, would be an interesting fight for Faber and would keep him in the running to get another shot at the belt sooner then later.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben
Result: Leben via Knockout

Chris Leben said before this matchup that both men were going to throw until someone falls. Fortunately for Leben it was Silva who fell and Leben walked away with a KO win after nailing "The Axe Murder" with a couple hard upper cuts.
Next for Leben: "The Crippler" seems to always be in an exciting fight. He has won four of his last five fights and the last three wins have all been via stoppage. Problem for Leben is that he has been in the UFC so long he has faced many of the fighters at 185 pounds who would be considered top 15 competition. The only fighter currently on a winning streak who seems ready to face a guy like Leben would be Chris Weidman.
Next for Silva: The fact that Silva got knocked out Saturday night is not as much about him "losing his chin" but the issue that he had not faught in almost 17 months. Since he was brutally knockedout by Quinton Jackson in December of 2008 he has only had three fights and he has one win. Wanderlei may be coming to the end of his career yet I'm not sure he is ready to walk away from MMA just yet. If Yoshihiro Akiyama losses at UFC 133 then a "Axe Murderer" vs. "Sexyama" fight would make sense for both men at this stage of their careers.

Dennis Siver vs. Matt Wiman
Result: Siver via Unanimous Decision

This was the fight that I considered the most bizarre of the night. Wiman spent more time trying to takedown Siver then anything else in the fight. Siver was successful in stopping the takedowns but that didn't deter Wiman from trying still. Most people had Siver winning the 1st round and Wiman taking the 2nd round. The 3rd was about perspective since neither fighter really dominated the final round. So when you leave it up to the judges score cards, anything can happen.
Next for Siver: Siver has now won four straight fights and since January of 2009 he is 7-1 in the UFC. His all-round MMA game has improved while his opponents are running out of ways to beat him. A fight with either Anthony Pettis or Gleison Tibau would be an interesting test for Siver.
Next for Wiman: Wiman clearly thought he had won the fight on Saturday night and went as far as throwing his hat down and storming out of the octagon after the judges decision was announced. Three of Wiman's four UFC losses have been by decision so one would think he would understand the conscequences of not finishing a fight. Either way, Wiman's winning streak is gone and has to take a step back in the crowded UFC lightweight division ranks. A fight with another guy who lost on the UFC 132 card would be right for Wiman right now: Shane Roller.

Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader
Result: Ortiz via Submission (Guillotine Choke)

Supposedly Ryan Bader was a 8-1 favorite in his matchup with Tito Ortiz. Ortiz had lost three straight fights and the "experts" thought that Ortiz was done. But people forget Tito is a former UFC champion and Saturday night he showed that he is not ready to retire anytime soon. He looked better then Bader in the striking department and after Ortiz nailed Bader with a straight right the former champ jumped on his favored opponent and sunk in a deep choke to finish the fight.
Next for Ortiz: A big win like this for Ortiz gives him many options for his next matchup. Tito has said in the past he likes to take on top level competition yet most of that competition in the UFC at 205 pounds is booked over the next few UFC events. Maybe he could get the loser of Evans-Davis, Franklin-Nogueria, or Griffin-Rua. Or maybe someone from Strikeforce will get their contract re-written like Nick Diaz did and come over to have their first fight of the new UFC contract against Tito Ortiz (who knows).
Next for Bader: Before 2011 Ryan Bader had never lost a fight in his MMA career. Now he has lost to the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champ (Jon Jones) and a former UFC champion (Tito Ortiz). Bader went from being top 10 at 205 in the UFC to middle of the pack. Maybe its time to match him up Krzysztof Soszynski to see if Bader can get back on track against someone who has won three of his last five fights.

Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Result: Condit via Knockout (Flying Knee)

After his win over Nate Diaz, Dong Hyun Kim called out UFC Welterweight Champion George St. Pierre. Instead he got to face the former WEC Welterweight Champ Carlos Condit. Kim said before the fight that Condit was "overrated" and that when he wins he wanted next shot at GSP. After a fast first round knockout, I think Kim just got knocked back to reality.
Next for Condit: After two close Split Decisions to start his UFC career, Condit has reeled off three straight wins in which he finished his opponents. People seem to forget that Condit defended the WEC Welterweight belt three times and while in the WEC he stopped all of his opponents either by submission or knockout. While Condit has a case to be next in line for a shot at the belt, it is unlikely he will sit around and wait until the winner of St. Pierre-Diaz is ready to fight again. If Diego Sanchez beats Matt Hughes in September then a Condit-Sanchez fight would make sense for Condit if he doesn't want to wait around for a title shot.
Next for Kim: The loss to Condit is the first official loss of Kim's MMA career. Often criticed for his style of taking guys down but not doing much else while in a dominant position, Kim still has some evolving to do if he intends on making a run to become a number one contender in the UFC. Maybe a fight with someone who is hard to takedown (like Josh Koscheck) would force him to learn some other techniques aside from same old he has been using lately.

Quick thoughts on some Preliminary Card Fights

Melvin Guillard vs. Shane Roller: With his knockout of Shane Roller, Guillard has now won five straight fights and gotten his hand raised in eight of his last nine fights. Guillard is quickly setting himself apart from the rest of the 155 pount division. Guillard has said in the past that he wants to fight Jim Miller, yet Miller is booked to fight in August against Ben Henderson. Guillard also said Saturday night he wants to fight at the UFC 136 event in Houston. There are only two guys high in the lightweight ranks in the UFC who would be available to fight in October: Clay Guida (who is a teammate of Guillard's at Jackson MMA) and former UFC Lightweight Champ Sean Sherk (who has stated on Twitter he would like to come back to the UFC this fall after recovering from injury issues).

George Sotiropoulos vs. Rafael dos Anjos: Before 2011, George Sotiropoulos was the winner of nine straight fights and was considered to be in the mix as a contender at 155 pounds. Now after two straight losses George has lost all mommentum and all of the praise about his "great boxing skills" evaporated with a wild first round KO at the hands of Dos Anjos. Ironically, its the first knockout victory of Dos Anjos' career.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who are the top 11 wide receivers in NFL history?

With all the discusion about Terrell Owens NFL future and career with the news of his ACL surgery, I wanted to take the time to give my top Wide Receivers of all time. When ranking football players at different positions, one has to consider the following:

1) Who they played with
2) How great were they compared to their contemporaries
3) How many seasons were they among the best at their position

So with these factors in mind, here's my list of greatest Wide receivers in NFL history:

11. Hines Ward
Credentials: Six seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards, tied for 9th all time in career receptions, six seasons with atleast 7 touchdown catches
Overview: This four time Pro Bowler is the Pittsburgh Steelers all time leader in catches, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards. He is one of the toughest, most durable wide receivers in the NFL the last 15 seasons. Also an excellent run blocking wide out.

10. Michael Irvin
Credentials: Seven seasons with atleast 1,0000 receiving yards, 5 straight Pro Bowl appearences (1991-1995), ranked 18th all time in receiving yards
Overview: Irvin was one of the top offensive weapons on one of the most dominant teams during the 1990's. He actually should have been a Pro Bowler six times (In 1997 he had 9 TD's, 1,180 receiving yards, 75 catches). He also was a great run blocking wide out, helping paving the way for Emmitt Smith to be able to become the man with the most rushing yards in NFL history. Part of the reason his numbers are not as prolific as some others is because opposing defenses gameplanned to not let Michael Irvin beat them.

9. Isaac Bruce
Credentials: Eight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards, Six seasons with atleast 7 touchdown catches, 9th all-time in TD catches, 3rd all-time in receiving yards, 7th all-time in catches
Overview: One of the most consistent wide outs in NFL history who doesn't get enough credit for his great career. Known for his great speed and excellent route running, Bruce was a key member of the St. Louis Rams teams from 1999-2003 known as "The Greatest Show on Turf". He is one of only seven players in NFL history with atleast 1,000 career receptions.

8. Marvin Harrison
Credentials: eight seasons with atleast 10 touchdown catches, second all-time in catches, sixth all-time in receiving yards, fifth all-time in TD catches, eight straight Pro Bowl appearences (1999-2006)
Overview: Major reason why Peyton Manning was able to be so great so early in his career, Harrison was a wide receiver with great hands and seemed to always find holes in defenses while running routes. Harrison also was an underrated athlete who could out jump and out run many Cornerbacks in the NFL during his career.

7. Don Hutson
Credentials: Eight time first team All-Pro, 8th all-time in Receiving Touchdowns, In 1942 had top 10 all-time single season touchdown receptions and receiving yards per game
Overview: Before the NFL entered the Super Bowl Era, Don Hutson was the first great Wide Receiver. Historians say he had excellent speed and caught everything thrown his way. For years opposing teams gameplanned just to stop Hutson from scoring, yet for five straight seasons (1940-1944) he led the league in points scored and eight seasons he led the NFL in total Touchdowns.

6. Steve Largent
Credentials: Tied for 6th all-time in touchdown catches, 12th all-time in receiving yards, seven time Pro Bowl selection, eight seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards and 8 TD catches
Overview: When the best two Quarterbacks you played with in your career are Dave Kreig and Jim Zorn yet you put up the numbers Steve Largent did, you deserve serious respect. Largent was a great route runner and seemed to almost never drop a pass thrown his direction. One can only imagine what kind of numbers he would have put up for his career if he had played with a great Quarterback.

5. Randy Moss
Credentials: 5th all-time in receiving yards, tied for 2nd all-time in touchdown catches, tied for 8th all-time in receptions, has had ten seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards, led the NFL in TD catches five times
Overview: One of the greatest athletes to ever play the position of wide receiver, Moss has great speed, good hands and can out jump any defensive back for a touchdown. In fact, almost half of his career 153 career TD catches have been from him leaping over defenders in the end zone. "The Freak" as he has been labelled, also had 1,000 receiving yards in eight of his first ten seasons in the NFL.

4. Tim Brown
Credentials: 4th all-time in receptions and receiving yards, tied for 6th all-time in touchdown catches, had nine straight seasons with atleast 1,000 receiving yards (1993-2001), nine time Pro Bowl selection
Overview: The 1987 Heisman Trophy winner started his career as a Kick/Punt return specialist who was used as a slot receiver on offense. His excellent speed and agility combined with great hands and route running made him a big time offensive weapon. Considered by many as one of the most underrated Wide outs in NFL history, Brown was productive even in the latter stages of his career when he at age 35 had nine TD catches and at age 36 had 81 receptions.

3. Terrell Owens
Credentials: Tied for 2nd all-time in touchdown catches, 2nd all-time in receiving yards, 5th all-time in receptions, eleven seasons with atleast 8 TD catches, six time Pro Bowl selection
Overview: With all the drama that has come with Terrell Owens' career, it is hard to argue with his productivity on the field. Yes he has been a problem child for three different NFL franchises and yes he has said/done some crazy stuff; but anyone who is only second to Jerry Rice in career TD catches and receiving yards is definately a future Hall of Famer and has proven himself as one of the greats. He is also 10th all-time in receiving yards per game.

2. Cris Carter
Credentials: 4th all-time in receiving touchdowns, 8th all-time in receiving yards, 3rd all-time in career receptions, eight straight Pro Bowl apperances (1993-2000), five straight seasons with atleast 10 TD catches (1995-1999)
Overview: Considered to be the wide receiver with the best hands in NFL history, Cris Carter was the top wide receiver in the NFL during the 1990's not named Jerry Rice. Carter had back to back seasons with 122 catches (1994-1995), eight seasons with atleast 9 TD catches, and nine straight seasons with atleast 73 catches (1993-2001). He was also the mentor for Randy Moss when he first came into the league and was no slouch in the athletic department with his speed and agility.

1. Jerry Rice
Credentials: All-time leader in receiving yards, receptions, TD catches and Pro Bowl selections among Wide Receivers
Overview: Jerry Rice wasn't the fastest or quickest or best leaping Wide out in NFL history. Rice was the best at all of the little things that make a great wide receiver such as route running, catching every ball thrown his way, getting open and being exactly where his QB threw the ball at the right time. Rice wanted to be the greatest and put in the work 365 days every year to be just that. Even at age 40 years old he had 92 catches, 1,211 receiving yards, and 7 TD catches. NFL Network voted Jerry Rice as the greatest football player in NFL history. So if anyone says Jerry Rice isn't the greatest Wide Receiver in NFL history, then sit the person infront of footage of him of the highlights from Rice's career then Jethro Gibbs' slap that person on the back of the head.

Honorable Mentions to: Art Monk, James Lofton, Andre Reed, Rod Smith, Don Maynard, Tory Holt, Tommy McDonald, Lance Alworth, Keyshawn Johnson, Charlie Joiner, Fred Biletnikoff

Thursday, June 16, 2011

UFC 131 Aftermath

UFC 131 turned out to be one of the most exciting, interesting MMA fight cards of 2011 despite the "experts" saying the fight card didn't have enough "star power".

Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin
Result: Dos Santos via Unanimous Decision

Dos Santos gets better with every fight he has had in the UFC. After almost finishing Carwin in the first round, JDS spent the rest of the fight using his crisp striking to keep Carwin at bay. He even took Carwin down twice in the third round to leave no doubt in anyone's mind who the real number one contender is for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Next for Dos Santos: He has a date with UFC Heavyweight Champ Cain Velasquez later this year. Since Cain is still recovering from Rotator Cuff Surgery this showdown will probably happen at UFC 136 in October or UFC 138 in November.
Next for Carwin: Shane Carwin deserves a lot of credit for his heart, toughness, and willingness to take on such a tough fight on short notice considering it was his first fight since having major neck surgery. Carwin looked a little slow and rusty in the Octagon, which is understandable considering he hasn't fought since last July and had only been training a few months before this fight because he had to recover from surgery. Carwin will be back in full force sooner then later. A matchup with Roy Nelson would be a good opportunity for Carwin to get back on track and test his skills in all areas of his game.

Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
Result: Florian via Unanimous Decision

Kenny Florian made a successful debut at 145 pounds Saturday night but showed he is still adjusting to the division. During the first round Nunes suprised Florian with his speed and power. It appeared KenFlo underestimated his opponents physical abilities. Yet as he usually does, the thinking fighter Kenny Florian adjusted his approach to Nunes and proceeded to out-strike his opponent while taking him down several times.
Next for Florian: Dana White has changed his position as to who Jose Aldo's next opponent would be over the last two months. It is expected that Florian's next fight will be either for the UFC Featherweight championship against Aldo or Florian will have a number one contender fight to decide who will face Aldo next. Big problem for Florian is that the other top contender, Chad Mendes is already commited to fight in August. The likely next fight will be against Aldo considering most top ten featherweights in the UFC are already booked to fight already.
Next for Nunes: It wasn't a bad fight for Nunes. Showing good power and heart, Nunes can be considered a contender at 145 pounds. He needs to work on his takedown defense and the accuracy of his flashy kicks. A fight with Michihiro Omigawa would be good for Nunes so he can work on his grappling and ground game.

Damian Maia vs. Mark Munoz
Result: Munoz via Unanimous Decision

This was one of the two fights on the card I thought should have been rewarded Fight Of The Night honors. Munoz won the final two rounds after surviving Maia's attacks in the first. If Munoz wasn't such an excellent wrestler Maia would have had a better chance at winning this fight since Maia had no success trying to takedown Munoz.
Next for Munoz: Since dropping to the Middleweight division, Munoz has won 6 of his 7 fights and the lone loss being to Yushin Okami via split decision. Munoz is one of the toughest and most consistent fighters in the UFC. His next fight should be against a fighter who is also on the rise and Brian Stann fits that description.
Next for Maia: Maia's striking looked sharp in this fight and if it wasn't for the fact he was facing a top level wrestler he would have been in a better position for the win. Maia has evolved his MMA game from being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert who was limited in other areas to a fighter who forces you to pick your poison when fighting him. The problem for Maia is that his last three fights have been close decisions against fighters with good grappling skills. A fight with either Dan Miller or Jorge Santiago would test his ability to handle opponents with solid all-around skills who push the pace of a fight.

Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman
Result: Herman via TKO

This was clearly a mismatch from the start. Einemo has not faught in an MMA fight since 2006 and it showed during the match. Herman moved more swiftly and was the more active striker. But this was not one of the better fights of the night and I still question why it was awarded Fight Of The Night honors.
Next for Herman: Herman has faught in over 20 fights before his UFC debut so the only way to know if he can handle top level competition is to put good fighters in front of him. Stefan Struve is a fighter whose all-around MMA game is good enough to be trouble for most Heavyweights and if Herman can beat him then we will know if he can really hang in the UFC.
Next for Einemo: Einemo is one of the best grapplers in the Heavyweight division so there is no doubt he belongs in the UFC. But right now he is near the bottom of the ladder with his loss to Dave Herman. A matchup with either Aaron Rosa or Mark Hunt are fights that would be a slower pace so he can get use to fighting in the octagon.

Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha
Result: Cerrone via Unanimous decision

Cerrone used a his kickboxing experience to basically chop down Rocha's leg with leg kicks. The only time Rocha had Cerrone on the ground he was suprised that Cerrone was trying to submit him and he let him back up.
Next for Cerrone: Cerrone is currently on a four fight winning streak and has made a solid argument to be a mainstay in UFC's 155 pound division. In an interview with Ariel Helwani of, "Cowboy" said he would like to be matched up with Sam Stout because he wants to "throw down" with someone. After Stout's brutal knouckout of Yves Edwards, maybe Cerrone should be careful what he asks for.
Next for Rocha: This was the UFC debut for the Brazilian who is famous for his ground game. He looked very passive once he realized he couldn't get the fight to the ground. Both Cody McKenzie and Kamal Shalarus would be willing to match grappling skills with Rocha so one of those fights may be next for him.

Quick thoughts on some Preliminary Card Fights

Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards: Stout lived up to his nickname "Hands of Stone" with a knockout of Edwards that rivals any great knockout you may seen in the last 10 years. Stout is a MMA veteran who is now 6-5 in the UFC and should get more credit for being able to hang around the UFC for five years now.

Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt: Weidman ended this fight with a standing gullitoine choke that displayed his physical strength and jiu-jitsu skills. Chris' coaches have claimed he will one day win the UFC Middleweight belt but we have not seen much of Chris' standup game yet. A fight would Tim Boetsch would force Weidman to fight standing up while facing someone who is also a good wrestler and has serious physical strength.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young: This was a fight that was my choice for Fight of the Night. Both fighters stood and striked at a rapid fire pace. The main reason Poirier won was because he got a couple takedowns and showed better footwork in the octagon. Nothing should be taken away from "Shotgun" Young, he has a bright future as an MMA fighter.