Tuesday, May 31, 2011

UFC 130 Aftermath

With UFC 130 in the rear view mirror, lets review what happened and what the future holds for the fighters:

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson versus Matt Hamill
Result: Jackson via Unanimous Decission

I saw from the start the focus in Jackson's eyes, something I had not seen from him since the Keith Jardine fight. He didn't just win this fight, but showed he was on another level as an MMA fighter in comparison to Matt Hamill. Rampage stuffed all of Hamill's takedowns and he threw more knees in this fight then he has used in the last several years combined.
Next For Jackson: If his hand checks out when he sees the doctor this week then he will probably fight Jon Jones next for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. Since Rashad Evans has already commited to fighting Phil Davis at UFC 133, there needs to be someone to face Jones when he returns to action and there is a shortage of deserving opponents available to fight for the belt.
Next for Hamill: At age 34 time is running out for him to improve as an MMA fighter to have a chance to fight for the belt. Either Matt had a serious off-night in terms of his performance or he really needs to work on his striking and footwork to enable him to make the takedowns more viable. If Ryan Bader can get a win against Tito Ortiz in July then I think Hamill should be matched up up with him. If Bader loses in July then Hamill could get the winner of the Stephan Bonnar-Karlos Vermola fight.

Frank Mir versus Roy Nelson
Result: Mir by Unanimous Decission

Despite White's cynicism, Mir was impressive in his win against Nelson. Mir's striking and grappling was sharp. To top it off, he took down Nelson at will which shows that Mir is getting better as an MMA fighter, a scare thought for other UFC Heavyweights. Nelson got worn out trying to fend off Mir's attacks and by the end of the fight didn't seem like he wanted to even be in the Octagon anymore.
Next for Mir: In The last 4 years Frank Mir has only lost to two men: Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. He is still an top 10 Heavyweight MMA fighter which gives him plenty of options for his next fight. Mir could be matched up with the winner of Antonio "Minotauro" Nogeuria-Brendan Schaub or depending on the his patience and health, he could wait around until Brock Lesnar comes back from his surgery in early 2012.
Next for Nelson: Nelson has stated after the fight he needs to add more weightlifting and cardio to his training. Although its hard to take a guy seriously who brings in a guy to help him with his wrestling whose strength is Muay Thai (Dan Hardy). Losing two fights in a row does no favors for any fighter in the UFC so he needs to win his next fight to stay releavant in the UFC Heavyweight division. The winner of the Joey Beltran-Aaron Rosa fight next month would be an interesting test for Nelson.

Stefan Struve versus Travis Browne
Result: Browne via Knockout

I did not have any real expectations for this fight so I was pleasantly suprised with the action from both men. It was an interesting striking battle until Browne blasted Struve, sending the 6'11" fighter crumbling to the ground.
Next for Browne: Browne's power was on full display against Struve in this fight and he looked ready to fight from the start. It's time for him to face a fighter who is more well rounded then his last two opponents. Maybe a matchup with the winner of Matt Mitrione-Christian Morecraft fight would be a good measuring stick of his development as an MMA fighter.
Next for Struve: After being blown away by Junior Dos Santos, Roy Nelson, and now Travis Browne its fair to say Struve is basically a gatekeeper fighter who guards the divide between the elite heavyweights in the UFC and the rest of the field. Yes Struve is still young but unless he hits the weight room to add more muscle to his lanky frame and gets a stronger chin he has no other future in the UFC or MMA. Logic says his next opponent could come from the Jon Olav Einemo-Dave Herman fight.

Thiago Alves versus Rick Story
Result: Story via Unanimous Decission

An interesting but close fight resulted in Rick Story getting the biggest win of his MMA career. Alves put up a good fight and many people believe he won the third round but Story was given the first 2 rounds by the judges so Alves' 3rd roudn performance was too little too late. Story used his wrestling and aggressive striking to tame the usually forceful Alves. Even when it seemed like Alves could finish the fight against Story in the 3rd round, Alves seemed to still be a bit tenative because he was worried about being taken down.
Next for Story: Story has now rattled off six fights in a row and has shown he is ready for the next level of competition. But the young fighter is being naive and irrational to call out Jon Fitch for his next fight. Fitch has lost only once since 2003 (against UFC Welterweight Champ George St. Pierre) and Fitch is slated to be rematched against BJ Penn after their fight in February ended in a draw. But if Story really wants a step up in competition he could get Josh Koscheck next and see how he handles that challenge.
Next for Alves: Although he is only 27 years old, Alves has been around the UFC for for almost 6 years now. Losing to Story in such a close fight shows he still has some things to work on. Alves is one of the most talented 170 pound fighters in all of MMA and if he can figure out how to use all those skills the way he use to before 2009 then he will be back better then ever. A matchup with the winner of the Dan Hardy-Chris Lytle fight would give him the oppontunity to stand and bang instead of worrying about being taken down constantly.

Brian Stann versus Jorge Santiago
Result: Stann via TKO

If anyone had any doubts about Brian Stann's evolution as an MMA fighter, those doubts were put to rest Saturday night. Stann outperformed a guy in Jorge Santiago who was considered one of the top Middleweight fighters in the world. More importantly then just winning against Santiago, he finished him in the 2nd round, showing that Stann is ready for the next level at 185 pounds.
Next for Stann: Stann so far has looked unstoppable since dropping to Middleweight. His power and technique in all aspects of the MMA game is impressive. The sky is the limit for him and he could be holding the UFC Middleweight belt in just a couple years. Damian Maia and Mark Munoz are facing off at UFC 131 and the winner could be Stann's next opponent since the UFC is trying to slowly work him up the 185 pound rankings.
Next for Santiago: Santiago is one of the most talented fighters in MMA and he will come back from this loss for sure. Santiago ran into a fighter who has been unstoppable at 185 pounds and got run over. If he commits himself to training he can go on a winning tear like he did after he left the UFC in 2006. A matchup with either Dan Miller or Kendall Grove would make sense for Santiago as he is in his second go around with the UFC.

Miguel Torres versus Demetrious Johnson
Result: Johnson via unanimous decission.

One of the most (if not the most) exciting, action packed fights of the night got left in the hands of the judges. Although I scored the fight 29-28 for Torres, I understand that under the current scoring system utilized by MMA judges that a takedown is more valuable points-wise then who the more active fighter is on the ground. It was a great fight by both men and nothing should be taken away from Johnson because he put on a great fight along with Torres.
Next for Johnson: Johnson is on a solid four fight winning streak. His speed combined with his standup and takedown skills is proving to be a problem for many 135 pound fighters. If Joseph Benevidez gets past Eddie Wineland in August then a Benevidez-Johnson fight could be a number one contender fight for the UFC Bantemweight belt.
Next for Torres: Although he is only 30 years old, he has 43 Professional MMA fights in his career and he has won 39 of them. So the issue is not that Miguel Torres doesn't know how to win but he has been a bit unlucky at times in his last 5 fights. Torres is still young enough to be able to re-group to make a run at the Bantemweight title. Remember, this is a fighter who has had 20 straight and 17 straight fight winning streaks. A matchup with Japaneese MMA star Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto would be an interesting fight for both men who are at turning points in their careers.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

5 things to look out for with UFC 130

Loosing the Main event/draw of Frank Edgar/Gray Maynard III matchup will hurt Pay Per View numbers for UFC 130 but overall the fight card is still solid and has a lot to offer to casual and hardcore MMA fans. Also, PPV start time is 9pm so that should entice some fans on the East Coast who dont want to be watching MMA until 12:30am when its Memorial Day weekend. Here's what you need to know about this Saturday's event:

1. Will the real Rampage and Frank Mir please stand up?
Both Jackson and Mir are at similar places in their MMA careers. They are former champions but now in their early 30's who are at crossroads in their careers. Both are 1-1 in their last two fights and have fans clamoring for more out of them. As a fan of both men, it pains me to watch Mir and Rampage fight without the aggression that they use to fight with. They both at one point were considered the top of their weight divisions because they took the fight to their opponents and always tried to finish the fight. If the Jackson and Mir of Pre-2010 comeback into the octagon Saturday then their opponents have little to no chance against them (no offense to Matt Hamill and Roy Nelson)

2. Brian Stann versus Jorge Santiago will be electric
Stann and Santiago both want the same thing: to prove they are elite Middleweight fighters who deserve to keep moving up the rankings ladder. Stann has evolved into a powerful striker who has good takedown defense and may be be the strongest middleweight in all of MMA. Santiago has evolved into an electric all-around fighter who looks to finish every fight any way he can. Santiago has been considered one of the best 185 pound MMA fighters who was not already in the UFC as he has won the Strikeforce Middleweight Tournament. He also dominated Sengoku's 185 pound division for two years. But Stann is a Marine who is fighting on Memorial Day weekend, so we know he wants to win this fight more than any fight in his MMA career. This fight is going to either be the Fight of the Night or will end in dynamic fashion.

3. Thiago Alves must face his deamons to beat Rick Story
Thiago Alves has only had two issues keeping him from being the top Welterweight in MMA: cutting weight and aggressive wrestlers. Thanks to Mike Dolce, Alves' weight cutting issues are a bad memory and he may be better then ever physically. Now he faces a fighter in Rick Story who pushes the pace of the fight and is an excellent wrestler. Alves' last two losses have been to excellent wrestlers so needs to show he can stop the takedowns and make Story fight his game. Story has not fought a welterweight who is as powerful and skilled a striker as Alves and when Thiago senses weakness in his opponent he pounces and finishes. This fight will test both fighters in some of their weaker areas.

4. Will Stefan Struve versus Travis Browne be a fight worthy of the Main card?
I have nothing personal against either Struve or Browne, but when the biggest name either guy has beaten is Paul Buentello (Struve won a Majority Decision) its hard for me to rationalize their matchup being worth of the Main Card of a PPV event. The fact that the UFC decided to put Browne-Struve on the main card ahead of more well known fighters such as Miguel Torres (former WEC Bantemweight Champ) and Kendall Grove (Winner of Season 3 Ultimate Fighter) makes me wonder if they know something MMA fans and media dont. While Struve has won his last two fights by Knockout, Browne's last fight was a Draw again Cheick Kongo in a fight that was lackluster. So this could be a very interesting fight or it may be like watching pain dry.

5. Miguel Torres wants to win, which doesn't mean he is boring
The Former WEC Bantenweight Champ is currently on a two fight winning streak but has explained in interviews he just wants to win and if the fans think he is doing so in a boring way then that is on them. This is a fighter who was on a 17 fight win streak (from 2003-2009) during which 15 of those wins were by knockout or submission. Its unfair to say that Torres is now a "boring fighter" after one fight in which his strategy was to counter punched against a fighter who is usually aggressive. Torres has good boxing skills and he can submit fighters from any position. His next opponent, Demetrious Johnson, is usually a fighter who brings the fight to the competition so Torres will have a better opportunity this Saturday to show UFC fans his skills and hopefully erase the mislabel of "boring" next to his name.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Overview: NFC

Here is my NFL Draft recap for the NFC teams:

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys
Best Draft Picks: Tyron Smith, OT (Round 1), Bruce Carter, LB (Round 2), Demarco Murray, RB (Round 3), Dwayne Harris, WR (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: This may be one of the Cowboys best drafts of the last decade. They drafted according to need and the best player available. Smith is an athletic, strong Tackle who can play on either side of the line. Carter can play any of the Linebacker positions; he is fast, strong, and dynamic. Murray is probably most underrated Running Back in this year's draft. People forget how good he played at Oklahoma so relying of NFL Combine stats doesn't tell the whole story.

New York Giants
Best Draft Picks: Prince Amukamara, CB (Round 1), Marvin Austin, DT (Round 2), Greg Jones, LB (Round 6), Tyler Sash, S (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: The Giants used the draft to beef up their defense. Amukamara reminds me skills-wise of Pro Bowl Corner Nnamdi Asomugha. Austin is a first round talent who dropped to the 2nd round because of off the field issues. Jones and Sash have great football instincts and hit hard. The only negative about the Giants draft is that they didn't do much to address this offensive line depth.

Philadelphia Eagles
Best Draft Picks: Danny Watkins, OG (Round 1), Casey Matthews, LB (Round 4), Dion Lewis, RB (Round 5), Brian Rolle, LB (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: The Eagles needed help on Defense and their Offensive line. Good news is they did address most of their needs. Watkins can start as a rookie and do well. Matthews and Rolle are underrated, talented Linebackers while Lewis was LeSean McCoy's backup at University of Pittsburg. Bad news is the Eagles did a poor job addressing their needs at defensive back by drafting raw, unproven players.

Washington Redskins
Best Draft Picks: Ryan Kerrigan, DE (Round 1), Leonard Hankerson, WR (Round 3), Roy Helu, RB (Round 4), Evan Royster, RB (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: It looks like the Redskins used the draft to get the players to fit the system they tried to run last season. Kerrigan plays the position of Defensive End in the 3-4 defense that Albert Haynesworth refused to do. Hankerson is one of the best possesion receivers in the draft with great hands. Helu is a speed back who can shed tackles while Royster is a power back who runs hard down hill and tries to run through linebackers. Adding talent and depth to the Redskins is part of Shanahan's plan to rebuild this team into a contender.

NFC North

Chicago Bears
Best Draft Picks: Gabe Carimi, OT (Round 1), Stephen Paea, DT (Round 2)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: The Bears had only five draft picks this year because they traded away picks to the Broncos to get QB jay Cutler. The grabed good players with their first couple picks but the rest of the picks were head scratchers. Carimi was one of (if not the best) Offensive Tackle in college football last year and he can immediately step in to help an offensive line that was the worst of all last season's NFL playoff teams. Paea is a raw talent who is still learning to play the defensive tackle position but he showed last season he can be an unstoppable force.

Detroit Lions
Best Draft Picks: Nick Fairley, DT (Round 1), Titus Young, WR (Round 2), Mikel Leshoure, RB (Round 2), Douglas Hogue, OLB (R5)
Draft Grade: A-
Comments: The Lions offered their first 3 draft picks to the Cardinals to move up to 5th overall to get Patrick Peterson. Since that didn't work out the Lions made the best of those three picks, literally. Fairley reminds me of Warren Sapp, so think about a young Sapp playing next to Ndamukung Suh. Young was the top offensive target in Boise State's high powered offense last season and he is the perfect compliment to Calvin Johnson. Leshoure is a power back that can split time with the speedy Javid Best. Hogue played lineback in college but because of his excellent coverage skills the Lions could turn him into a Strong Safety and develop him.

Green Bay Packers
Best Draft Picks: Derek Sherrod, OT (Round 1), Randall Cobb, WR (Round 2), Alexander Green, RB (Round 3), DJ Williams, TE/HB (Round 5)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Packers had ten draft picks in the 2011 draft but they made the best of their first three. Sherrod is a solid Tackle to help protect Aaron Rodgers. Cobb was arguably the best player and biggest weapon at the University of Kentucky last season as a Kick and Punt Returner, Wide Receiver and he played in the Wildcat formation a couple times. Most people do not know about Green since he played for Hawaii; his skills appear to be a combination of Ryan Grant and Ahmad Green. Williams is one of those offensive talents who doesn't have a real position on the field but a smart offensive coordinator will get him on the field so he can make an impact.

Minnesota Vikings
Best Draft Picks: Christian Ponder, QB (Round 1), Kyle Rudolph, TE (Round 2), Christian Ballard, DL (Round 4), Mistral Raymond, S (Round 6), Ross Homan, LB (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: Although I agree with most people that the Vikings serious reached picking Ponder at 12th overall, I think Ponder can be a good pro Quarterback. Ponder is very similar to Chad Pennington except Ponder is more athletic and has a stronger arm. Rudolph has the skills to be a Pro Bowl caliber Tight End. Ballard, Raymond, and Homan all have good football instincts along with being versitle players; they can be developed into solid starters on the defensive side of the ball.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons
Best Draft Picks: Julio Jones, WR (Round 1), Akeem Dent, ILB (Round 3), Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (Round 5), Cliff Matthews, DE (Round 7)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: Although the Falcons drafted good players who can contribute as rookies in 2011, they gave up too much to move up to get Julio Jones. Is any player worth two 1st round picks and several other picks?!? Dont get me wrong, Jones is a big time talent with great potential but in college he wasn’t the most dependable player and defenses in the SEC were able to make him a non-factor at times and take him out of the game. Dent could become a solid NFL starter at Middle Lineback while Rodgers was very underrated talent who could be the next Warrick Dunn in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers
Best Draft Picks: Terrell McClain, DT (Round 3), Sione Fua, DT (Round 3), Kealoha Pilares, WR (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C-
Comments: I am not a fan of the Panthers taking Cam Newton number one overall in this year’s draft. Newton is a super talent, but he comes off as over confident and he only played one season in college. The fact that people have said he is a “better version of Tim Tebow” is an insult. Tebow played in college four years and had to deal with teams game planning against him. Newton was a one year suprise; when a team had a month to gameplan for him (University of Oregon in the national title game) Newton looked limited. McClain and Fua are upgrades for the Panthers on the defensive line so atleast Carolina did something right in the draft.

New Orleans Saints
Best Draft Picks: Cameron Jordan, DE (Round 1), Mark Ingram, RB (Round 1), Martez Wilson, OLB (R3), Nathan Bussey, LB (Round 7)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Saints found a way to get two of the best players in the draft at their positions in the first round. Jordan has the potential to be a force on defense and Ingram is an NFL-ready Running back who could be an offensive rookie of the year candidate if he gets enough touches. Wilson is an underrated talent who could be developed into a solid NFL starter. Bussey could easily be the next Steve Tasker.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best Draft Picks: Adrian Clayborn, DE (Round 1), Da’Quan Bowers, DE (Round 2), Luke Stocker, TE (Round 4), Ahmad Black, S (Round 5), Allen Bradford, RB (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Buccs draft can be characterized by one word: Steals. Getting a super talent like Bowers in the second round when they already drafted a solid defensive end in the first round gives the Buccs many more options on defense with schemes and blitz packages. Black may not have shown much at the NFL combine but he was the leader of the Gator defense at Florida and is one of the smartest, toughest, most instinctive Safeties to come out of college in years. Bradford and Stocker provide depth at positions that are thin for Tampa.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals
Best Draft Picks: Patrick Peterson, CB (Round 1), Ryan Williams, RB (Round 2), Sam Acho, DE (Round 4)
Draft Grade: B-
Comments: For a team that was in the Super Bowl a couple years ago, they have many needs to fill on both sides of the ball. Peterson is the player who I consider the best player in the NFL draft this year. He has excellent coverage skills, solid tackler, and can be a star in the punt and kick return game. Williams is a power Running Back for a team that got little production from its RB’s last season. Acho has Reggie White type abilities. The problem with Arizona’s draft is that there are a few players they drafted with some questions about their ability to be successful at the NFL level and they didn’t select enough “can’t miss” talent.

St. Louis Rams
Best Draft Picks: Robert Quinn, DE (Round 1), Lance Kendricks, TE (Round 2), Austin Pettis, WR (Round 3), Greg Salas, WR (Round 4), Jermale Hines, S (Round 5)
Draft Grade: A-
Comments: The Rams are big time winners in this year’s draft. They got a super talented, athletic pass rusher (Quinn), a Pro Bowl caliber receiving Tight End (Kendricks), two Wide Receivers who are great route runners with good hands (Pettis and Salas), and an underrated Safety who reminds me of Brian Dawkins (Hines). I’m not sure who should be more happy with these draft selections: Quarterback Sam Bradford or Rams fans.

Seattle Seahawks
Best Draft Picks: John Moffitt, OG (Round 3)
Draft Grade: D-
Comments: The Seahawks draft was so confussing and questionable that my head spins just thinking about it. They overreached to draft James Carpenter in the first round. The rest of their picks (not named John Moffit) make little sense for their team. After beating the defending Super Bowl champions in the playoffs, they did almost nothing to get better. Being the team in a weak division with the worst draft class is a bad sign for the 2011 season.

San Fransisco 49ers
Best Draft Picks: Colin Kaepernick, QB (Round 2), Kendall Hunter, RB (Round 4), Ronald Johnson, WR (Round 6), Colin Jones, S (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B-
Comments: The first draft of the Harbaugh Coaching Era in San Fransisco was solid. I know many people like their first round selection of Aldon Smith but I think they could have gotten a similar type of talent later in the draft. Kaepernick has the potential to be a good NFL Quarterback and Hunter is reminds me of Brian Westbrook. Johnson and Jones strengthen the 49ers’ depth at their respective positions.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Overview: AFC

Now that I have had time to digest the three day media frenzy known as the NFL Draft, I will proceed to review each teams draft picks and grade how they did in terms of who they drafted and what each team needed. Today I will review the AFC teams. Next blog will be the overview of NFC team's draft picks.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills
Best Draft Picks: Marcell Dareus, DT (Round 1), Aaron Williams, CB (Round 2), Kelvin Sheppard, LB (Round 3), Chris Hairston OT (R4)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Bills had many needs on both sides of the ball coming into this game. They showed heart and toughness last season but without enough talent you can't win many games in the NFL. Its hard to give the Bills too much credit for pick with the 3rd overall pick the player who I considered the second best defensive player in the entire draft when he happened to be available. But in drafting Sheppard and Williams they upgraded their defense with two talented players who have excellent potential and can contribute sooner then later. Also they drafted a good offensive line prospect in Chris Hairston who flew under the radar mostly because he was arguable the best offensive lineman on a team which had a rough season doing much on offense.

Miami Dolphins
Best Draft Picks: Mike Pouncey, C/OG (Round 1), Daniel Thomas, RB (Round 2)
Draft Grade: C
Comments: The Dolphins had two good picks in the early rounds but as the draft went on they kept picking players that either didn't fit what they need or players who are limited in skills. Pouncey and Thomas can contribute immediately for the Dolphins which is helpful for a team with limited depth. But they needed more offensive weapons along with secondary help yet I doubt Edmund Gates (WR) or Jimmy Wilson will be able to solve either of those needs.

New England Patroits
Best Draft Picks: Nat Solder, OT (Round 1), Ras-I Dowling, CB (Round 2), Stevan Ridley, RB (Round 3), Marcus Cannon, OT (Round 5)
Draft Grade: B-
Comments: The Patriots' biggest need was pass rushers on defense. The closest they got in filling that need was a 6th round defensive end who is as raw talent wise as vegetables just picked out of one's garden. Solder has the potential to me a great offensive lineman while Dowling and Ridley are better then the "experts" give them credit for. Only time will tell if not picking a dynamic pass rusher in this years draft will hurt the team's ability to get back to a Super Bowl any time soon.

New York Jets
Best Draft Picks: Kenrick Ellis, DT (Round 3), Jeremy Kerley, WR (Round 5), Greg McElroy, QB (Round 7)
Draft Grade: B-
Comments: The reason I give the Jets the same grade as the Patriots is because of their top pick Muhammed Wilkerson. Wilkerson is a physical specimen and one of the best talents in this years draft. Yet there were times in games he disapeared and not because he was double teamed. The Jets could have taken Da'Quan Bowers, a player they could have lined up at multiple positions like the Baltimore Ravens have with Jarret Johnson and Haloti Ngata. Wilkerson in a hands down defensive lineman that I am unsure if he is polished enough of a player to make an impact in the next 2 years. Picking up Ellis and Kerley adds depth to their respective positions on the field and can help this coming year. Meanwhile, Greg McElroy could be to the Jets what Frank Reich was to the Buffalo Bills during their Super Bowl years. Reich was the backup of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and whenever he got time on the field he was a leader yet good enough that the Bills did not need to rush Kelly back onto the field before recovering from injuries.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
Best Draft Picks: Jimmy Smith, CB (Round 1), Torrey Smith, WR (Round 2), Tandon Doss, WR (Round 4), Anthony Allen, RB (Round 7)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: The Ravens did a good job at drafting value in each round. Jimmy Smith in my opinion was a better college cornerback then Prince Amukamara (who was drafted earlier in the 1st round). Torrey Smith is a deep threat wideout and Tandon Doss is an excellent possesion receiver who is great on third down and in the Red Zone. They needed depth for their secondary and wide receiver corp so they addressed both successfully.

Cincinnati Bengals
Best Draft Picks: AJ Green, WR (Round 1), Andy Dalton, QB (Round 2), Dontay Moch, LB (Round 3), Ryan Whalen, WR (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: With Carson Palmer wanting out of town and the uncertainty of Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson's future production the Bengals needed to do some retooling. They drafted the best Wide Receiver in the draft (Green) while picking up in the second round the most underrated Quarterback in this year's draft class (Daulton). Andy Daulton skills and collegiate career compare very well to another underrated Quarterback who was drafted in the second round: Drew Brees. Moch and Whalen add depth to the team at their respective positions. Their draft grade would have been higher if they had addressed the offensive and defensive lines in the draft.

Cleveland Browns
Best Draft Picks: Greg Little, WR (Round 2), Jordan Cameron, TE (Round 4), Owen Marecic, FB/LB (Round 4)
Draft Grade: C-
Comments:The Browns used their first 2 picks on defensive lineman that did little to impress me in college. Phil Taylor showed flashes on talent but was inconsisten while Jabaal Sheard was not as a big a factor while playing at Pitt as the "experts" hype him to be. Little can be a solid NFL Wide Receiver while Cameron has similar skills to Kellen Winslow Jr. (who the Browns drafted in 2004). Owen Marecic is a great locker room guy who works hard and plays bigger then his size. Yet in the end the Browns could have done more to address their needs at Wide Receiver, Offensive Line and Linebacker.

Pittsburg Steelers
Best Draft Picks: Cameron Heyward, DE (Round 1), Marcus Gilbert, OT (Round 2), Curtis Brown, CB (Round 3), Keith Williams, OG (Round 6)
Draft Grade: B
Comments: The Steelers organization understands that if they want to stay a playoff contender they must keep reloading through the draft. They are getting old on the offensive and defensive lines. Heyward is a beast and an underrated talent in a deep defense line class. Curtis Brown was the "other Texas Cornerback" playing opposite of the talented Aaron Williams. Brown is a smart corner who can immediately contribute as a solid Nickel cover guy. I was expecting the Steelers to pick up a Running Back in the middle rounds but instead they passed on many of them which makes me wonder if they will add to their RB depth via free agency.

AFC South

Houston Texans
Best Draft Picks: JJ Watt, DE (Round 1), Brandon Harris, CB (Round 2), Shiloh Keo, S (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C
Comments: The Texans are changing to a 3-4 with new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips and JJ Watts is the perfect Defensive End for that scheme. But Watt is the major highlight of the Texans draft since they used most of their picks on players who most teams were not looking at it seems. Harris and Keo will add depth and can contribute their rookie seasons but the Texans did not get any real "steals" in this years draft.

Indianapolis Colts
Best Draft Picks: Anthony Castonzo, OT (Round 1), Benjamin Ijalana, OT (Round 2)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: Colts beefed up their Offensive Line with two big, solid Tackles to protect Peyton Manning. Castonzo is the best NFL ready OT in the draft while Ijalana is probably the most underrated Offensive linemen in this year's draft class. After those two good picks, the Colts had only three other draft picks and they didn't do much with those picks. Sixth round pick Chris Rucker is a wild card for the Colts because he has the talent to be a Pro Bowl level Cornerback but Rucker had maturity issues at Michigan State and has made some bad off the field choices in the past.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Best Draft Picks: Blaine Gabbert, QB (Round 1)
Draft Grade: D+
Comments: This is the second straight year the Jaguars have had a draft full of players that makes me scratch my head. They have one of the most accurate, solid starting Quarterbacks in the NFL yet they draft a talented QB "for the future". Since they gave up draft picks to move up to pick Gabbert, the Jags used their remaining four picks to select players who really did not stand out in college. Being able to workout great in shorts and looking good in a weightroom does not always translate to on the field production (just ask the Packers how Tony Mandarich worked out for them).

Tennessee Titans
Best Draft Picks: Jake Locker, QB (Round 1), Akeem Ayers, LB (Round 2), Jurrell Casey, DT (Round 3), Colin McCarthy, LB (Round 4), Karl Klug, DL (Round 5)
Draft Grade: B+
Comments: Some people think the Titans reached for Jake Locker yet people forget that Locker would have been the number one pick in last year's draft AHEAD of Sam Bradford. Locker went back to school to get his degree. Sure he had a down year but that down year can help him develop into an even better NFL QB. He reminds me of a right handed Steve Young; many of the criticisms of Locker coming out of college is what the "experts" said about Young when he was drafted. The Titans also drafted one of the most talented Linebackers available, two underrated-hard working Defensive linemen, and a hard-nosed Inside Linebacker. They got a franchise QB to replace the departing Vince Young and strengthened their defense with guys who can play as rookies.

AFC South

Denver Broncos
Best Draft Picks: Von Miller, LB (Round 1), Rahim Moore, S (Round 2), Orlando Franklin, OG (Round 2), Quinton Carter, S (Round 4), Virgil Green, TE (Round 7)
Draft Grade: A-
Comments: Denver had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. So they hired a new Head Coach who knows how to build defenses and be a winner. John Fox is the perfect head coach to rebuild this team and this draft is a great foundation for their future. Von Miller could be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this coming season while Moore can start next to Brian Dawkins Week 1. Franklin has the skills to develop into a solid starting Guard. The criticisms of Green that he "lacks size" and needs to develop as a better route runner and blocker was also said about a former Bronco that he reminds me of: Shannon Sharpe.

Kansas City Chiefs
Best Draft Picks: Jonathan Baldwin, WR (Round 1), Allen Bailey, DE (Round 3), Ricky Stanzi, QB (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: The Chiefs drafted what they needed in this year's draft. They needed depth at Wide Receiver, Defensive and Offensive Line, as well as at Linebacker. Selecting Stanzi is a nice backup for Matt Cassel (since Brody Croyle has never won an NFL game). But none of their picks were exciting or flashy. Maybe thats what the Cheifs wanted: good, professional football players. They didn't really fill all of their needs though so if I was a Chiefs fan it would be hard for me to get too excited.

Oakland Raiders
Best Draft Picks: Stefen Wisiniewski, OL (Round 2), Chimdi Chekwa, CB (Round 4), Danarius Moore, WR (Round 5)
Draft Grade: C
Comments: Raiders picked up some solid players in this year's draft. Wisiniewski can start immediately in the NFL and could develop into a 10 year, solid starter. Chewka was one of the best defensive backs in the Big Ten Conference this past season. Moore got some bad reviews from "experts" because he did not have the performances or stats other SEC receivers did yet he was the Vols go to receiver and played under a different offensive coordinator with difference offenses in each season he was at Tennessee. But as usual the Raiders drafted the NFL Combine stars who showed little while in college (Demarcus Van Dyke, Taiwan Jones, Joe Barksdale) so the good picks balance out with the bad selections.

San Diego Chargers
Best Draft Picks: Corey Liuget, DL (Round 1), Marcus Gilchrist, CB (Round 2), Shareece Wright, CB (Round 3)
Draft Grade: C+
Comments: While the Chargers strengthened their defensive depth, they did so with players who are not going to "wow" anyone. Liuget has the most potential to be a good starter but he needs to work at it. Gilchrist is a jack-of-all-trades defensive back who needs a specific position. Mouton made some good plays at Michigan State because most Big Ten teams gameplanned against letting his teammates beat them. Aside from Wright, the rest of their 3rd round and later draft picks did not impress me in college. Obviously the key to those excellent drafts the Chargers use to have was former Head Coach Marty Shottenheimer and not General Manager A.J. Smith.

Monday, May 2, 2011

UFC 129 Aftermath

In front of the largest crowd in UFC history, the biggest MMA fight card of the year played out and now its time to review and look ahead

UFC Welterweight Champion George St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields
Result: St. Pierre via Unanimous Decision

George won in very unenthusiastic fashion. While this is a big name for GSP to add to his legacy as he builds his resume as one of the best in MMA history, he has shown a pattern of wanting to win safely more so then win convincingly. Both fighters refused to turn this into a war; neither Shields or St. Pierre really went after the other. Even when GSP had damage to his eye Shields did not capitalize. St. Pierre won because he did more then Shields not because he really "won" the fight.
Next for GSP: It seems like when the stage is the biggest (UFC 100 against Thiago Alves; UFC 129 against Jake Shields) George can't muster enough aggression when expectations are high for whatever reason. Hopefully someone in his camp will take the time to explain to him that putting on an indifferent perfomance hurts his image, reputation, and legacy as a fighter. I do not want to see GSP fight Anderson Silva until he shows in a fight the drive to dominate and be the best. A matchup with Strikeforce Welterweight Champ Nick Diaz would answer a lot of questions at this point.
Next for Shields: The reason why Shields won 15 fights in a row because he was determined to find a way in every fight to win at all costs. Yet Saturday night he looked nervous and unwilling to push the pace of the fight. The best thing for Shields is to get back into the Octagon and fight again soon. A matchup with Josh Koscheck would be good for the morale of both fighters after they both lost to GSP.

UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick
Result: Aldo via Unanimous decision

This was one of the most exciting fights of the night. Hominick showed that a solid standup fighter who is willing to maul an opponent on the ground has a chance against Aldo. Have to give alot of credit to the Champ for perservering through Hominick's pressure for five rounds. Aldo won more rounds then Hominick, its just ashame someone had to loose.
Next for Aldo: At the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White announced that Aldo would next defend his Featherweight belt against Chad Mendes at UFC 133 in Philadelphia. Seems like a short amount of time between fights for a guy who got his share of damage in a five round war. Three months and a week? Before you know it Aldo will channel his inner-Nick Diaz and complain he is being overworked and forced to fight too often....I'm just kidding.
Next for Hominick: Hominick may not have won the fight but he earned great respect from the fans, other fighters and the UFC brass. After he has sometime to heal from his "cosmetic injuries" and time with his new born child, a fight with either Josh Grispi (if he beats George Roop) or Diego Nunes (if he defeats Kenny Florian) would make sense and also ensure he doesn't drop to far back in the rankings top heavy featherweight division.

Randy Couture vs Lyoto Machida
Result: Machida via Knockout

Either Randy Couture didn't execute his gameplan right or the Lyoto Machida that dominated Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans is back. Machida used an old school Kyokushin Karate kick (also known in Kung Fu as a form of the "Craine Kick") to knockout Couture. Steven Seagal and the Blackhouse Camp can try to spin this all they want, but Machida's extensive background in Karate is where that kick came from.
Next for Machida: This win stops a two fight losing streak for "The Dragon" and gives him the opportunity to start working his way back into contention for the light heavyweight belt. Although he wants to fight on the UFC 134: Rio card, all of his potential competition is booked for the next couple months. Best thing for Machida is to take sometime and see how fights such as Jackson-Hamill, Griffin-Shogun, Franklin-Little Nog, and Evans-Davis turn out. Only other option is for Strikeforce to loan the UFC Renato Sobral to fight Machida on the Rio card (unlikely, but it would be an interesting fight between two brazillians).
Next for Couture: After the fight Couture looked convinced he was done fighting. He's going to be 48 years old and he said he doesn't want to do what Chuck Liddell did (you know receiving brain damage in your last few fights before you get a desk job as a UFC executive). Couture has many hollywood options to go with and he will appear from time to time as an "advocate" for MMA fighters. The man is a legend and one of the best all time, let him walk away on his terms.

Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz
Result: Matyushenko via Knockout

Vlad "The Janitor" showed that there is still serious power left in his hands. Brilz lacked the saavy or refined skills to stay with Matyuskenko for long and the fight was over quickly.
Next for Matyushenko: Vlad isn't going to be working his way up the ranks to fight for the belt at this point in his career, but he is good enough to hang around for some interesting matchups. If Tito Ortiz beats Ryan Bader then you can have Ortiz-Matyushenko 2 or if Vlad "The Janitor" doesn't want to wait around too long for his next fight a matchup with Brandon Vera would workout for both fighters.
Next for Brilz: Going 3-3 in six fights in the UFC is respectable but its not going to help your chances of staying in the big leagues. After losing two fights in a row against MMA veterans, Brilz needs a fight against a fighter who isn't so saavy. A fight with Alexander Gustafsson would be interesting, testing Brilz standup skills and Gustafsson's wrestling skills.

Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson
Result: Henderson via unanimous decision

Although it was not the most exciting fight, Henderson won because he wanted it more the Bocek. Bocek had the crowd behind him but it wasn't enough as Henderson got his Mojo back and was able to counter Bocek's takedowns and not allow Bocek to do any damage.
Next for Henderson: Now that he has excercised the demons of his loss to Anthony Pettis in December, Henderson needs to keep working his way up the ranks of the crowded lightweight division. A matchup with either Sean Sherk or Takanori Gomi would be a good test for the former WEC Lightweight Champ.
Next for Bocek: At this point in his career, Bocek has showed that he is basically a gatekeeper to the top level of the lightweight division in the UFC. His four losses have been to Ben Henderson, Jim Miller, Mac Danzig, and Frank Edgar. Maybe its time that Bocek and Kurt Pellegrino fight to see who stays relevant in the UFC Lightweight division.

Quick thoughts on some Preliminary Card Fights

Rory McDonald vs Nate Diaz: After consecutive losses to McDonald and Dong Hyun Kim its apparent that Diaz does not have the strength to hang in the Welterweight division. McDonald threw him around like a rag doll in their matchup. Diaz put on some entertaining fights as a lightweight so maybe he will go back down to 155 or maybe he needs to spend more time in the weightroom ASAP. Meanwhile McDonald bounced back well from his last second loss to Carlos Condit. A fight with Paulo Thiago would be interesting.

Sean Pierson vs. Jake Ellenberger: Ellenberger has now won four straight fights. He is a tough fighter and has proven that he can hang in the UFC's welterweight division. Matching him up to fight John Hathaway would be an interesting measuring stick for both young fighters. In the meantime, Sean Pierson isn't getting any younger. The UFC may keep him around for the next Canada fight card after Vancouver and there is no telling when that will be.