Sunday, November 15, 2009

UFC 105

I sat down with friends to watch the UFC event last night, not really expecting much of anything since it was free. Still it's always nice to see Randy Couture fight, like Joe rogan, he's my hero. It was a boring fight for the most part with Brandon Vera being game on the stand up portion and defending the take downs pretty well. I personally prefer to see the Randy that fought Tim Sylvia, bobbing and weaving; throwing right hands and then ducking in for the single-leg. This was more vintage wall-and-stall by the Natural who really only needed to avoid the (T)KO to get the win.

Dan Hardy won a good decision against Mike Swick in a fight to decide the next victim of GSP. I like Hardy a lot but that's pretty uninspiring. The UFC needs Jake Shields.

Knockout of the Night had to be the one laid on Roli Delgado by Andre Winner, WOW.

Michael Bisping scored a decent win over a severely slumping, one-time brillian Denis Kang. Yay. I almost put the 'yay' in all lower case just to show how un-enthusiastic it was but the grammarian in me just couldn't allow that. Is grammarian a real word? If not, I call artistic license. Hell, whey didn't I just do the yay in lower case, call that artistic license and be done with it? Too damn easy!

More on this later..........

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Return of the Punisher

Riding an eight fight win-streak going into the Rashad Evans fight, September of last ’06, Jason Lambert looked to have the opportunity to earn a few fans with a win over another Ultimate Fighter alum. The athletic Rob MacDonald being the first, succumbing in just a couple minutes into the first round. Obviously things have a way of working out a little different than what you hope. Rashad would eventually get mount and pound out the Punisher.

That win-streak, with fighters like IFL standout Matt Horwich, MacDonald, Brandon Lee Hinkle, thunder-handed Terry Martin and journeymen Travis Wiuff and Marvin Eastman on it, counted for very little after the loss. It was time to regroup. Lambert would have to make it a hasty regrouping because it was not too long before the UFC called with another match-up. It wasn’t a ‘gimme’ to help Lambert get on track though, not at all. How about “Babalu” Sobral after, as if that wouldn’t be tough enough, losing to Chuck Liddell and, presumably, wanting to get that taste out of his mouth. Many guys would have shied away at this prospect but we’re talking about a guy who fights at 205lbs but probably could make middleweight and has fought heavyweights before, including UFC heavyweights like “Cabbage” Correira and Tim Sylvia. Lambert went for it.

The first round was a study in technique and survival as Babalu came at him hard and had his back for a while and was close to the dreaded rear naked choke. The Punisher though fought through it all and ended the round on top of the Brazilian courtesy of a right hand that probably left an impression on the jawbone of Sobral. Lambert would end the fight in the second round scoring the upset.

So what do you follow that up with? Some time off. Babalu was Jason Lambert’s fifth fight in a year’s span and rather than strike while the iron is hot he decided it might be best to regroup and come back fresh. And what sight to come back to, the light-heavyweight division is a wasteland of upset fighters looking to get back on track and a victim to be the first step on that road.

I recently had the opportunity to have a quick Q & A session with Jason and this is what we spoke about:

Why so long since your last fight?
I fought 5 times from March to March. So my trainer wanted me to take a
little time off. When I wanted to get back in there in July the fight
cards were already booked. So they said Sept. and then Gouveia got

What have you been doing with the time off?
I've been training the whole time, never stopped. It's been positive because I'm
really hungry to get back in there.

A lot of guys are calling opponents out such as Tim Sylvia calling out Kongo, is there anyone you want to call out?I just want to get back in there and compete.

Any idea who your next fight might be?
They want me to fight on the London show in Jan. No bout agreement yet

You were in law enforcement before, tell me about that.
I was an instructor at the academy. I wasn't a sworn deputy. I liked
that job a lot because I taught firearms too. I miss shooting at the
range all the time.

Are there any fighters that you enjoy watching more than others?
I like watching Manny Rodriguez fight. He is the KOTC HW Champ.

Any thought about dropping down to 185lbs, is that a possibility? Or even moving up?
I'm not doing bad at light-heavyweight, so I'm not going anywhere. Especially not back
to heavyweight.

Do you think you could do better against Tim Sylvia now?
I lost to him in a tournament. We are both different fighters now but I
would fight him again. I'll fight anybody.

What do you think about the demise of Pride and the Fedor Emelianenko situation? Where does he rank?
The Pride thing is just business. Fedor is a very talented guy. I would
like to fight him because I feel I match up well against him.

With a lot of the highly ranked LHW’s losing lately you must be chomping at the bit to get back in there. Who of them do you think you would be best suited to fighting, if you had your pick?
Yeah, I can't wait to get back in there. I would love to fight Wanderlei.

As you can see Lambert is a fighter who will, and in some cases already has, fight anyone. I for one am looking forward to the return of the Punisher and with the landscape of the 205lbers being what it is, truly anything could happen. Looking at the UFC’s current roster LHW’s there’s a few top guys looking for dance partners. Could we see Lambert against Tito, Forrest or Jardine in the near future?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Goodbye, Randy Couture.

With the surprising announcement of the retirement of Captain America all of us MMA fans are reeling. Is he really leaving to star in movies, is there some hidden injury, does he want more money or is he ticked that he won't be fighting Fedor in the UFC? All of these things are being said, and more, but it's just about impossible to know what the truth is without being inside Randy's head. Let's examine them.

The Legacy
There is no one else in the world of MMA for Randy to prove himself against they say. I say, close but not quite correct. Cro Cop has come up MIA and Fedor would prefer to stay in Russia, this much we know. Couture showed Tim Sylvia what it means to be the champ and what year it is and where the belt is have nothing to do with that. Guys like Andrei Arlovski and Brandon Vera are up and comers but not on the level of one of the all time greats. What about Antionio Rodrigo Noguiera though? This is a guy also destined to go down in history as one of the all time greats. Sure he has been proven to be number two to Fedor but still a match with Couture has immense value. A point could be made that he or Barnett would be a half-step below the upper echelon, where Randy and Fedor reside, but I don't think Couture is the sort of ego-maniac to squabble over something as trivial as that half-step. Barnett is right at that top level as well and owns a win over the Natural which would make a matchup even more flavorful. I'm not sure this reason holds water.

The Money
Word has it that Randy is number two in the UFC right now in terms of paycheck heft. Sure he might be looking at Chuck Liddell's back but is Randy that hard-up for cash? Does his ego need that monetary gratification? Maybe I've got the man on a pedestal, maybe we all do, but I really don't think so. It could be argued that Randy is more the face of the UFC. With him holding a belt, being a BIG draw and being one of, if not the best, announcer for the organization that seems to be a rock solid conclusion. Is the UFC being stingy with the green? I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't pay this man a ton of cash, he's hot. He's Jordan returned and he just beat the reigning champs in four games in the Finals. Maybe if he's Jordan returned and asking for a three-year deal this becomes an issue but not for much of anything else. The UFC is raking cash in with pay-per views, it's spawning all sorts of shows such as Wired, Unleashed, TUF and in some ways the Human Weapon on History Channel. It's a full on cultural phenomenon. With the organization booming like this do you not pony up some cash for your hottest asset? I'm not seeing that. I'm not saying they have unlimited cash flow, not at all. You have a business, you have overhead it's simple. Recent reports have put a spotlight on the UFC's money showing that while they may not have tons of liquid assets they aren't hurting. This being the case I could see them needing to not spend money like they've got more on the stove but to not pay one of your biggest moneymakers? Everyone knows you have to spend money to make money.

The Respect
If your forty-four years old and just won the hearts of America, again, with a David and Goliath battle for the ages does not making as much as one other person in your profession really bother you so much that you just walk away? Okay, potentially two people with it being discussed that Fedor could have possibly came to the USA for a huge bank roll. Does it stick in your craw just a little? Yes, it could. Does it stick in Randy's? Again, maybe he's up on that pedestal but I don't see Couture worried about getting paid less than the Iceman who beat him two out of three times. Maybe getting paid less than Fedor, especially with all of those Pride fighters coming into the UFC and getting bombed on. But then what if Randy fights Nogueira, a eminently worthy
opponent, and beats him. Doesn't that pretty much annihilate any chance of Fedor getting paid more than Captain America? Why pay more for a guy that comes from an org that just, shockingly, seems to be a step behind in terms of quality of talent? Even the most dominant fighter from that body?

The Fame
Lastly, I think, is the notion that Randy Couture has left to pursue an acting career. This one perplexes me I have to admit. On the one hand, I don't see him as a guy (Randy can you hop off that pedestal man, you're blocking my light? Thanks) who would feel the need to pursue the Hollywood dream. On the other hand he's not getting any younger. On the other, other hand do you leave your meal-ticket, possibly burning some bridges, to pursue something that you haven't even done enough to find out how good you are at it? It wouldn't be the first time some Hollywood types whispered the right words into a man's ear, urging him to grab a brass ring that turns out to be only cheap plastic. Then again what does a real brass ring go for? Five bucks?

A lot of potential avenues for the UFC seem to have been coming to naught lately. The HBO deal seems to be in advanced rigor mortis. Fedor Emelianenko, the single biggest attraction in MMA, sorry Randy, has signed elsewhere. Josh Barnett continues to be in limbo. A fighter that should be a lock to return, one of the top heavyweights in the world and former UFC champion. Heck, maybe Randy is worried about having to fight Barnett, the man that beat him years ago who has only gotten better. Maybe he's afraid if he lost to Barnett again that would be it, end of the ride?

I think more likely Randy's playing at some stratagem. We know it's entirely plausible that the man could un-retire again (careful not to play that card to many times though Champ) so maybe he's trying to add the element of time to negotiations with one or more of the big names, Barnett for example. He's not getting any younger and if these guys want a piece of action from the legend then they better quit squabbling over BS and put ink to paper. Or maybe that stratagem is aimed at the UFC itself. Maybe this is a way for Randy to say, "Hey, I have other options. Make something happen and quit frittering away opportunity because you're worried about dollars and cents." I personally think the HBO thing is probably a bigger deal than a lot of the other stuff. I think Randy would like to see the UFC on HBO, I think he would love to fight on HBO and who more likely to take part in the telecast than the legend himself?

Tito Ortiz has made it very public that he has won the right to pursue contract negotiations with the Fertitta's themselves, going right around Dana White. If they would extend that courtesy to A former champ who's lost a step, wouldn't they do that for a present one who seems to be in his prime, the legend we call Randy Couture?

Kelly Thomas

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breaking down the UFC welterweights

With all of the attention the light heavyweights are getting lately I figured I would take a good look at a different class. The welterweights are a deep bunch of talented fighters but with recent events things are very much up in the air.

What we do know is that Matt Hughes will be fighting Matt Serra to get his title back, December-ish. I look for Hughes to win the show and more certainly to win the fight. I think Hughes will gain a lot from his time off, time not gearing up for the next number one contender. His last fight was Chris Lytle. Not to dis Lytle but I doubt Hughes put in too much work before that fight. Hughes showed against Royce Gracie that his knowledge of BJJ is strong and the odds of him being tooled on the ground are slim. What else does Serra have? I'm sorry I am not ready to bank on his 'heavy hands' just yet.

After that Georges St. Pierre is clearly next in line for whoever holds the belt and will possibly have a layoff of himself with no real competition out there. Look for him to fight the winner of the Sanchez/Fitch fight, and win.

Speaking of that fight. Fitch is on a roll and has showed some striking ability to go with the incumbent wrestling he has. I would give him a slight edge in the stand-up though I have to say that Sanchez may have the heavier hands. Right, Joe Riggs? Does Fitch have a guard though? I think we'll find out. Even if Fitch wins the takedown battle, if he even wants to, Diego's jiu-jitsu is so good it won't be long before he sweeps him and takes superior position. The Nightmare is not one for submission attempts either. He'll bang Fitch out and only take a sub if Fitch runs up the white flag.

So a possible Diego against Georges match-up looms and I admit it has appeal. As long as Diego can get the fight to the ground, or get GSP to do it for him. If the fight stays on the feet, and with GSP's phenomenal takedown defense it probably will, it will be nothing pretty. Neither will Sanchez's face. A grappling match between the two presents a little danger for the Canadian despite his brown belt in BJJ. Diego is a cut above your usual grappler.

The other top tier fighter looking around for a dance partner is Karo Parisyan. St. Pierre is a possibility but I don't think a likely one. It would't seem to be fair for GSP to have to fight another top ranked fighter to prove he's next in line. I don't think that will be it. Mike Swick would be one option but he's injured his ribs reportedly, no telling when he'll be able to fight again. Unless that was bunk to get him out of fighting Goulet so he could go up against a contender of Karo's stature. I'm just sayin'. Who else is there really? Marcus Davis is the only other name that comes to mind. Karo against Marcus would be a damn fine fight. Both have strong all around games but predominantly have one area where they are among the elite. The idea is growing on me.

The other welterweight fight of note is the upcoming bout between Kuniyoshi Hironaka and Thiago Alves, who's just back from suspension. Alves looks to be, along with
Marcus Davis, the best striker in the division. Hironaka on the other hand has a black belt in judo and jiu-jitsu so should this get to the ground it could be his fight to win. Alves though is so athletic and at his best at range, I don't see him letting this spend much, if any, time on the mat. Sorry, Hironaka.

Looking down the road

Well it's September, a busy month for MMA fans, and we here at Following the Flow are loving it! We just attended the Real Fighting Championships in Tampa and the champ, Edson Berto put on another dominant performance. But we'll get more into that later.

In the UFC we've had several interesting happenings. Rampage Jackson managed to outlast an elite fighter in Dan Henderson. I personally loved the fact that they both came out swinging. No Diego vs Koscheck feeling out, pussy-footing around. For Chuck Liddell fans this is bad news though because as long as Jackson holds the belt Chuck will only be able to stand at the screen door drooling. Then again if the Iceman does finally get to fight Wanderlei Silva and manages to beat him....well what better credential is there for another title shot? Okay, yeah maybe beating Shogun too, which probably would have to happen or some similar feat.

Roger Huerta continues to impress, wait no, amaze. It's hard to say who his next fight will be with Sherk still suspended and the title picture thus rendered hazy. I'd love to see BJ against Huerta but it might be too soon. Again, it all depends on what shakes out with the current champion. Clay Guida has a bad habit of making fantastic fights so he and Huerta would be simply explosive. Stevenson seems like he was primed in his last fight, a nice one against Kurt Pellegrino, to get a title shot. He's still very suspect on his feet though. I really thought that Pellegrino was the more impressive all-around fighter.

So with Sherk out does that mean Stevenson fights the number one contender, Penn? Or do we finally see another Pride fighter make his UFC debut. Could we see Takanori Gomi, the reigning Pride lightweight champion, get a shot at avenging a loss to BJ Penn? Wouldn't that be one hell of a fight.

Sorry to run off but I have stuff to do. More later, I promise.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

AfterMMAth : UFC 74

What a nice fight card brought to us by the UFC braintrust. It was solid from top to bottom and all of the fights were keepers. Maybe not truly "great" fights but all exciting and well fought. And then again maybe that Huerta/Crane fight deserves the tag of "great" on second thought.

All of the fights were hard fought but this had to be the fight of the night. Despite having a huge advantage in the striking arts Huerta showed that he was more than willing to go to the mat against savvy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Alberto Crane. The two fought like two anacondas over the last piece of dinner and, miraculously, Roger Huerta seemed to be the better grappler as well. This guy seems to be the real deal and like a Clay Guida always seems to be in the full-on wars. Speaking of Huerta and Guida..............hmm..........damn...I think I lost my train of thought.

Joe Stevenson notched another victory on his way to an eventual title shot when he beat Kurt Pellegrino in a nice little battle that went to and fro. The two grapplers put on an exhibition on par with the one shown by Crane and Huerta. They roamed all over the cage seeking submission attempt after attempt but neither was quite able to finish against his highly skilled foe. Pellegrino really seemed to have the better hands and a lightning jab but there was no way this fight would stay on the feet for long. In the end Stevenson pulled off the unanimous decision but we have not seen the last of Pellegrino.

Some people sold Georges St. Pierre short, questioning his heart after a tough loss to Matt Serra. Frankly, I didn't see it. Anyone can get caught and he did, early. He never recovered and caught a beatdown by a more experienced fighter. Looking back though I remember a truly heartbreaking loss to Matt Hughes where "Rush" could have held on to go to a second round but tapped a little too early. Did that ruin his career, damage his soul or even cause an unsightly blemish on his skin? No, he bounced back and beat BJ Penn in what was probably his most hard fought fight ever. Beat an absolute phenom who himself had beat "the most dominant welterweight in the world." Next up, Matt Hughes and he embarassed the champ on the way to an 2nd round TKO.

So, no I didn't expect to see a hollow man with a fleur-di-lis on his calf. I said going in that he the takedown exchanges would be key and hotly contested. I didn't know how right I would be! Ouch.........damn....ow ow ow.......I think I just dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back. Damn. Okay, I'm going to try and finish this post for you guys with one arm. Where was I? Oh, GSP took down Koscheck (who stated before the fight that he would not be outwrestled) multiple times and stuffed at least one such attempt of Kos' in spectacular fashion. Deciding to put a guy like Koscheck on his back is absolutely the right gameplan and it paid dividends as GSP controlled the fight and indeed did out wrestle Josh Koscheck exhibiting strong takedowns, takedown defense and base. Unanimous decision for the Canadian crusher.

The main event saw Randy Couture continue to be the the real American hero. Though his opponent, Gabe Gonzaga, was a bit over touted by many he was still a legitimate threat. He looked plenty the worse for his time in the Octagon with the Natural but still managed to show promise for the future. Randy tooled him with his patented punch to the face while ducking in for the clinch or for a leg and continued to brutalize him in the clinch and with takedowns.

In Gonzaga's defense an accidental broken nose incurred in one such takedown really made his day much harder as he had to spit blood and breath through his mouth for the duration. With Randy leaning on him the whole time. All in all though Gonzaga looked pretty good on his feet, showing the ability to kick and punch in good timing when coming out of clinches and whenever the opportunities arose. One such kick caught Couture on the head nicely as he leaned in to his left but Captain America simply shrugged it off and took Gonzaga down, scoring more points.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

UFC 74 Preview

Couture vs Gonzaga

Okay let me just say this from the get-go. I’m not buying the Gonzaga hype and I’ll see about catching a seat on his bandwagon later. Looking at the cold hard facts I see little reason for people to take him over Randy Couture who’s fought and beaten some of the best fighters in the world. It’s entirely possible that Gonzaga is going to prove all his fans correct but in looking at their respective records I have to say Couture will win.

Neither am I necessarily buying into this “this is the best Randy Couture we’ve ever seen” stuff. I do think that Randy is the better all around fighter and the most experienced by far. Look for him to be aggressive early so that, should it make it to the later rounds, he would have the advantage of experience and quite possibly stamina.

Randy technically sound on the standup, don’t look for his hands to dip low enough to allow a kick to the head. In fact Gonzaga would be better served utilizing low kicks, trying to chop the champ’s legs. If he lands a few it could really impact Randy’s speed and takedown attempts. Not that Gonzaga doesn’t want to go to the ground but it’s always nice to limit your opponent’s ability, not to mention that that is the best way to lower a fighter’s hands, by going low. If they go to the ground look for Randy to be on the top and I really wouldn’t expect him to get caught in a submission attempt from the guard at this stage of his career. Unfortunately, the Natural isn’t one of those guys who can do massive damage from the guard either, so he’ll need to improve his position which I think he could have trouble with. So, bottom line, we could see some stall-outs and stand-ups when it goes to the ground unless Randy can get to side control on his takedowns.

Some issue has been made of the fact that Randy has trouble with the big heavyweights but I don’t know that Gonzaga really qualifies. He’s the same height, or maybe even an inch shorter, and about twenty or thirty pounds heavier. That’s not exactly Ricco Rodriguez or Josh Barnett dimensions.

Winner: Randy Couture

Georges St. Pierre vs Josh Koscheck

Much talk in this fight has been about GSP’s heart. Against Matt Hughes, the first time he did have a mental lapse. Against Matt Serra though, I’m not sure he did. He got belted numerous times and got totally dominated yes but I’m not sure most other fighters wouldn’t have succumbed to those shots. If history is any lesson GSP comes back stronger after his losses. Just look at his overwhelming performance in the revenge match with Hughes. Has Koscheck fought anyone on Hughes’ level, the most dominant welterweight in the world, let alone beat them? Hell, no. Has he had a three round battle with BJ Penn? No. Koscheck is the fighter with something to prove, period.

There are several interesting facets of this fight. Can Kos, probably the best wrestler in the UFC now take down St. Pierre, one of the very best takedown defenders? Matt Hughes couldn’t in their second fight and he looks a bit stronger than Josh Koscheck. Can “Rush” take down Josh who has fantastic sprawl-work as well. Remember the Canadian took Sean Sherk down at will.

Also Josh’s hands look very strong against Diego, he seemed to be a better boxer than what GSP has shown himself to be but St. Pierre has the quicker hands and probably better kickboxing.

Winner: Georges St. Pierre

The rest of the card look to have some really nice looking fights. Huerta is an up and comer with strong all around skills, look for him to showcase them. Cote against Grove is a tough one to call. Grove’s toughness and stamina make him seem like he’s carved from wood or something. Cote though has serious punching power. I’ll take Grove but it could be a war. Mir vs Hardonk is intriguing. A former world champ, and BJJ stylist against a kickboxer. Look for this to go to the ground and Mir to win but Hardonk is improving and at some point he’s going to go on a tear, will this be that time?

My money says that the show stealing fight will be Clay Guida against Marcus Aurelio. Guida makes great fights, his bout with Tyson Griffin is probably my favorite all-time fight. Aurelio is a dangerous ground fighter who beat Pride champ Takanori Gomi in a shocker not too long ago.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Keith Thurman Interview

Keith Thurman is a man on a mission. On a mission to prove that he’s the best amateur welterweight in the nation. On a mission to prove he deserves to represent his country at the 2008 Olympics. Just speaking with him I can hear the conviction in his voice. He’s carrying his gym, his coach, and possibly all of St. Petersburg on his back and he’s not going to let anything get in his way for his date with destiny. Not Charles Hatley, not Demetrius Andrade and certainly not Tropical Storm Erin. Keith Thurman is coming Houston and he’s bringing his right hand and unconquerable spirit.

Just earlier today Keith and Coach Getty were stranded at the hotel as Erin raked across Houston. All amped up, and no place to go. But judging by his disposition this is just a tiny blip on a trip that he could only sum up as “incredible” mentioning as well the “great gym and great sparring.” In what is likely his last tournament as an amateur the kid is enjoying the ride.

For those of you that don’t know him Keith trains at St. Pete Boxing under Ben Getty. The heavy-handed righty has already made the rounds touching gloves with guys like Jeff Lacy, Winky Wright, Antwun Nichols and up and comer Francisco Bojado. In company like that there is knowledge to be gleaned from every punch.

The young boxer has been so dedicated to his craft, and you can hear it when you speak to him, that he had to shelf school to focus on his dream. A dream he’s been pursuing since he started training at seven years old.

Inevitably some people will read that and shake their heads disapprovingly but who doesn’t look back on missed opportunities once they reach middle age? Why not put everything you have into achieving that which you want most? You can’t argue with the results he’s getting.

He sums it up himself best, “This is what I do.”

I mentioned earlier the conviction in his voice but what I left out was the humility. Not manufactured but pure humility that only someone laying their heart and soul on the line can truly achieve. This is why Ben Getty speaks about his pupil with such warmth and confidence, I’m sure. And Getty has been around, working with guys like Olympian Ken Gould and Sugar Ray Leonard.

When asked what fight he was most looking forward to in Houston it wasn’t Boyd Melson who beat him earlier this year in what he calls his toughest loss, a fight in which Melson managed to tie the fight late and eke out a victory in the overtime session. No petty grudges here. Thurman has his eye on the prize, he wants Charles Hatley; the number one prospect at welterweight who Keith says is “just an all-around strong fighter.” He speaks of his previous fight with the young boxer from Dallas in reverent tones saying how it was a war they both fought their hearts out in and it was just a great fight to be involved with.

In this day of spoiled professional athletes it is the amateurs that remind us of why we love sports. Listening to him talk I couldn’t help mentioning the knowledge he displays about his craft and again Thurman’s humility shines through in his response.

“Bottom line you just got to hit the other guy more than he hits you.”