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.”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ragin' on 'roids

The biggest threat to mixed-martial arts has changed. No longer is it holier-than-thou types barking about how vicious it is or how it’s “human cockfighting”. I think we’ve turned that corner. Not a bit too soon either if you ask me. Fighting is universal, always has been. Is it brutal and painful at times? Yes, but these guys choose to do it. Some people apparently cannot grasp the concept that someone would feel a need push themselves, to see how far they can go and that they would be willing to push through some pain to get there. These selfsame people then go to work where they push their productivity to the maximum. In the big picture it’s kind of funny. Somewhere Friedrich Nietzsche is smirking in his grave.

Today’s hazard is the fighters themselves. These steel jawed duelists push themselves to the limit everyday in training so that when fight time comes they can open their hearts and pour every bit of themselves at their opponent in the hopes that time will prove that they had just a little bit more than he did. I respect that more than I could possibly convey to you guys. Fortunately, since you are reading this, you are more than likely a fight fan and if that’s the case then I am pretty sure you get it. Whew.

The threat comes from the fact that some of these guys are willing to do anything to get what they want. Relentless determination is to be prized but without integrity to shine a light on the proper path you wind up being the villain in your own story rather than the hero.

I can empathize a little. Who wants to put every ounce of themselves into something like this and find out they came just one iota short. What could possibly be more indicative of what you have inside you then a fight? It’s probably difficult to have to say to yourself, or someone else, “I just didn’t have what it took.” Really what else can you say? It’s mano e mano in that cage. Either you pull it off or you don’t, right? I’m sure a lot of these guys cringe more at that thought, and the stinging words of their detractors, more than they do at the prospect of eating a right hand from a guy sitting on their chest.

Dana White, head of the UFC, recently had an interview with ESPN the Magazine about this very issue in which he states bluntly that he would be hitting the fighters where it hurts, right in the wallet. Fail a drug screening and watch your purse dwindle down to the bare minimum. He makes reference to the Stephan Bonnar scenario where a fighter is put out of the UFC for a time and I quote, “
don't make any money.”

My reaction is two-fold. Kudos, for stepping things up. This is a real issue and could effect the integrity of the whole UFC. If fans think things are set up then the interest in the fights becomes next to zilch. What about the other fighters? The guys that legitimately want to see how they stack up. Man to man, not man to chemically-enhanced man. It’s cheating plain and simple. Getting an advantage that the other cannot (legally) obtain is cheating. It was enough for Tim Sylvia to lose his belt a few years ago and rightfully so.

Now for the other side of the coin. Is a paycut enough to stop these guys? Stephan Bonnar was indeed out of the UFC for a while and I am positive lost significant money because of that. But let’s be realistic, he was working other shows around the country. Maybe not fighting but he’s getting paid just to show up. He still made money as a “pro athlete”.

Look at UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk who tested positive after his dominant performance over Hermes Franca, who also tested positive, at the end of the day he’s still the champion of the largest MMA promotion, in the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Take away any hidden bonuses and maybe even his bonus for winning and you still have a guy who is making money from sponsorship deals, appearances and all sorts of lucrative, or semi-lucrative, engagements.

He gets a pay-cut but keeps his belt. Haven’t we learned anything from the bigger sports? Will our sport soon be overrun with chemically enhanced, freakishly athletic wanna-be warriors who are looking for the money and could care less about the spirit of the game? I’m not saying Sherk is this sort of creature, don’t get me wrong. He’s a guy who has put in his time and I have a lot of respect for him. That being said, it’s as simple as the fact that the NSAC has a sample of his urine that is beyond the limit therefore making him guilty until, and unless, he can prove otherwise. I understand that he is working to do just that and if he’s innocent then I hope he’s proven out and vindicated. For the time being though he’s a guy who doped. One of a burgeoning trend, and probably the highest profile guy at that.

In a fight to prove who was the better fighter (it just seems wrong in this case to say the stronger) he, probably more than any other MMA fighter ever, won by sheer power. He had the strength and explosiveness to shoot in and wrestle his opponent to the mat and then bodily control him for five rounds. That was it. That was how he won the fight and he cheated to get that power, that explosion. The likelihood that Sherk could have done these things without the ‘roids is pretty solid if you ask me but I really don’t think its possible for anyone that uses steroids to rely on them quite as heavily as what the champ did in his last win.

Does that deserve a belt?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ultimate Warrior Challenge - Jacksonville

I was recently invited to attend the Ultimate Warrior Challenge in good ol' Jax. I owe a big thank you to Fight Zone magazine and the folks at UWC.

What could be more perfect for the next installment of the Ultimate Warrior Challenge than a full moon in the swamp. While watching the workers putting the finishing touches on the cage I couldn’t help but feel the energy in the air. I’m also semi-surprised at all the work and checking of the cage to make sure it’s ready. Fighter safety is not to be taken lightly and the folks at UWC know it well.

The Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville turns out to be a cozy little spot that none-the-less has an old-school, upscale feel to it, once being a railroad depot. Likening tonight’s series of opponents to two railcars rushing toward each other with the momentum of months of training pushing them on really is a great metaphor and seems to be on point. Thankfully the first fight tipped off rather soon after and I didn’t spend too much time coming up with more railroad analogies for the fight game. Whew!

Marcus Foran and Matt Darsden are the first fight of note. The first round is all Foran who comes in aggressively swinging before changing levels, scooping up Darsden and then dropping him on his head but then was unable to achieve much else being stuck in half-guard. The two work their way back to their feet with some busy-work from the clinch until the round closes. The second round is more of the same stuff but it’s obvious that Darsden is just getting started and Foran’s gas light is on. Foran stumbles forward, or goes for a takedown I’m not sure which and Matt Darsden sprawls, spins and soon sinks a rear naked choke for the 2nd round win.

Lefty, John Skidmore provids what had to be the knockout of the night when he catches John Morrison with a mouth-guard flinging teeth smack that ends his night rather quickly, early in the first round.

Charley Blanchard from Team Obake made quite a statement overwhelming Brazilian Beto Nunes. Blanchard gets the mount quickly but, and credit Nunes on his defense in the mount, he cannot raise up to do any damage. Still it’s only a matter of time before Blanchard uncorks and pounds his man out leaving Nunes looking dazed sitting in a small puddle of blood dribbling from his nose.

The co-main event is a scrap between Jonathan Brookins and Yves “the Tiger” Jabouin. The first thing I notice about Jabouin was that he’s pretty quick but he throws nothing but swinging punches. The fight hits the ground at Brookins’ urging and a short while later I am amazed at how quickly the Canadian moves again as he swivels for an armbar in about half an eye-blink. I’m not sure but I think me have over-shot the mark he was going so fast. After watching more of the fight I’m thinking that Yves may be on of the quickest guys I have ever seen, especially on the mat. JB keeps pushing on inexorably like a terminator throwing punches in bunches, working nice combos. Sheer relentlessness wins out and Brookins finally pins down the shorter man in half-guard and drops elbows on him until opening a cut and stopping the fight.

Last fight, I am not sure what happened but Seth Petruzelli is not fighting. After watching him corner multiple fights I had kind of seen this coming. In his place Chris Baten takes on former running back “Whisper” Goodman. Goodman has one heck of a game face. He’d have the same expression if he was at a barbecue, I’d wager. Having seen Baten before at RFC events, I know that Goodman has his work cut out for him. Baten has the physique of Kevin Randleman but fights more like Anderson Silva.

The two get their feet wet tentatively before Baten seems to tire of the foreplay and comes in swinging hard. The two wind up in an inactive clinch, working for leverage and I soon find myself ogling the ring girls.

A loud “BAM” brings my attention back to the fight where Chris Baten has slammed Goodman to the mat and the crazies behind me are screaming their. Goodman eventually manages to reverse and ends the round on Baten’s back. Maybe the Lion’s Den fighter does have game. The 2nd round has us seeing a short striking display before they clinch yet again and Goodman works hard for a hip-toss that lands him on top in side control. The former Packer is unable to achieve anything significant and Baten gets to his feet.

The fans behind me are yelling “Whisper” at the top of their lungs which I find amusing. I look up at their hero and I’ve heard of stoicism but wow, is he awake? Does he know he’s in a fight? You have got to love his game face. Baten sensing something moves in and the two apparently decide to open up trading fast and furious punches that concludes with “Whisper” being put to sleep. In all that knuckle-chucking I didn’t even catch the shot that caught him. Mayhem and pandemonium ensue in the adrenaline, and beer, charged venue. What a finale! `Chris Baten should have taken a well deserved bow. He’ll get another chance real soon I am sure.

All in all I would have to say the Ultimate Warrior Challenge was a sterling success. Chris Cordeiro’s matchmaking made for some nice fights and a few spectacular knockouts and there were some pretty amazing people watching too. Andrei Arlovski, David Loiseau, Crafton Wallace, Dean Lister, Charles Bennett and Din Thomas were all on hand to check out the competition. A possible future match-up between Wallace and the Crow were hinted at as well. I can’t wait for the next UWC event and if you know what’s good for you, like I do, you’ll be there with me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Looking down the road

Parisyan vs Fitch

Stevenson vs Florian?

Kampmann vs Lister


Cruz vs Werdum

Tim Sylvia

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fighter Analysis : Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

Mauricio is a young Brazilian phenom who has made an excellent repution for himself in Pride FC. He has wins over three top ten 20b lbers in Arona, Nogueira and "Rampage" Jackson. Not to mention two top 20 fighters in Kevin Randleman and Alistair Overeem.

"Shogun" is from Chute Boxe in Brazil which is known for it's kickboxing expertise and his stand-up game does not disappoint. Still, it is not overwhelming either. His greatest asset is pace. He has the means to pour it on and keep pouring it on until his opponent wilts. He looks more fluid than explosive.

But despite that it is his groundgame that really grabs ones attention. The kid is a wizard on the ground, usually working to better his position and achieve mount.

A good defensive technician could perhaps keep Rua on his feet and possibly ineffectual. Definitely anything but 'a sure thing'. A good wrestler who knows how to control his opponent and keep them on their back could also be dangerous to "Shogun". Not that he's helpless on his back, just that it's better than him being on yours. Ironically this skillset seems to be nearly perfectly embodied in the new LHW champ, Quinton Jackson. Well maybe not so much the control, which admittedly could be one of the most key parts, but the defense and takedowns are certainly areas that Jackson shines.

......but then again with Mauricio Rua having already beaten down the champ, that theory could be out the window.

Okay, so who else? Who else would Rua have to watch out for to avoid the almost cliche' seeming upset. Henderson certainly, Ortiz for sure.......maybe even Rashad Evans. Now, "Shogun" can beat any one of these guys I do not doubt but on any given night one of these guys could provide the roadblock.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The FtF Top Ten MMA Rankings

Our Following the Flow rankings are based primarily on record. These rankings are based on what the fighters have proven, not what they are capable of doing.


1.) Fedor Emelianenko
2.) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
3.) Josh Barnett
4.) Mirko Filopovic
5.) Randy Couture
6.) Mark Hunt
7.) Tim Sylvia
8.) Andrei Arlovski
9.) Gabriel Gonzaga. I'm not giving him the keys to the kingdom, yet.
10.) Brandon Vera. He might be better than Arlovski but he hasn't proven it yet.

Light Heavyweights

1.) Dan Henderson
2.) Chuck Liddell
3.) Wanderlei Silva
4.) Quinton Jackson
5.) Mauricio Rua
6.) Tito Ortiz
7.) Sokodjou
8.) Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
9.) Ricardo Arona
10.) Rashad Evans


1.) Dan Henderson
2.) Matt Lindland
3.) Anderson Silva
4.) Nathan Marquardt. A nice win streak with names like Salaverry and Lister helps a lot.
5.) Paulo Filho. He might deserve to be higher with his record.
6.) Rich Franklin
7.) Yushin Okami
8.) Kazuo Misaki. He's lost a number of fights but he's beaten some real heavies.
9.) Denis Kang
10.) Robbie Lawler


1.) Matt Hughes. Losing to GSP does little to diminish his standing.
2.) Georges St. Pierre.
3.) Matt Serra. He needs more than one win to be top dog.
4.) Karo Parisyan. His record and the names on it entitle him to this spot.
5.) Josh Koscheck
6.) Jake Shields
7.) Diego Sanchez
8.) Akira Kikuchi
9.) Jon Fitch
10.) Thiago Alves. Assuming he returns from suspension.


1.) BJ Penn
2.) Takanori Gomi
3.) Nick Diaz. If his domination over Gomi hadn't been changed to NC he might be #2.
4.) Hayato Sakurai
4.) Jens Pulver
5.) Sean Sherk
6.) Hermes Franca
7.) Kenny Florian
8.) Spencer Fisher
9.) Shinya Aoki
10.) Gilbert Melendez

If these seem skewed toward UFC fighters, I apologize but I do not feel that it is necessarily wrong. A lot of people, for a while, assumed that the Pride fighters were on another level because of the depth of competition. I made this mistake too but with the recent defections of several Pride fighters to the UFC and their subsequent wins, not to mention Nick Diaz's upset of Gomi, that seems to have been exposed as a myth. Rampage's KO of the Iceman does little to change that on its own.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Can we make this happen?

With the terrifying upset of Georges St. Pierre by Matt Serra and the minor upet of Diego Sanchez, who has been demoted to a mere 'bad dream' rather than 'Nightmare', by Josh Koscheck things have changed quite a bit in the UFC welterweight division. I think we'll see Kos and GSP hooking up pretty soon and I can't wait for that.

Koscheck's takedowns are phenomenal, arguably better than Matt Hughes himself and it would be interesting to see if he could manage to do what Hughes could not. Namely, take down St. Pierre. The Candadian's takedown defense has become nearly legendary but he's also shown strong takedown ability. Just look at his win over Sean Sherk. Koscheck, for his part, has already said St. Pierre can't take him down and he could be right.

With his improved stand-up game this could be a slugfest between two young, TALENTED fighters. Yes, all capital letters. You bet your ass I mean it.

On the stand up Kos seems to favor hands mostly but he's very light on his feet and his boxing looks to be significantly better than Georges'. On the other hand GSP mixes punches with kicks very well, and put on a clinic with his shins against the former champion, Hughes. Well okay, maybe not the nutshots but I really felt that Hughes over-emphasized at least one of those. I mean really, did he go commando and not wear a cup? Somehow I doubt it.

I think this fight is on the horizon and I couldn't be more thrilled with that possibility. This would be a marquee matchup and would fit rather nicely on the UFC 72 card that just seems a bit weak. Especially when you take in to consideration the blockbuster nature of the following one, UFC 73.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Memo to Lorenzo Fertitta (Thoughts on the next Pride event)

With the recent acquisition of Pride by the Fertitta's the next event will be crucial to them it in many ways. They will need to show a sense of tradition and connection with the Pride fans as well as have a little something for the UFC fans that have been largely unaware of Pride until the acquisition and are just now tuning in to see what it really is. With that in mind I got to thinking about some fights that would be compelling. Okay, yeah basically I was thinking, "Hmmm, if I was Lorenzo Fertitta and had this greatest of all toys to play with what would I do?"

While Cro Cop vs Fedor is an obvious choice for MMA fans. I would be somewhat surprised to see it so soon, as Mirko has work to do in the UFC right now and a next New Years fight between UFC HW champion Cro Cop versus Pride HW champ Fedor would be truly epic.

The African powerhouse known as Sokoudjou has beaten two top-tier opponents and has gained a fairly large following already. Meanwhile, Wanderlei Silva is on a two loss slide. Talk about a fight with long term ramifications. Not to mention short term action!! Sokoudjou wins and he's among the pinnacle of 205 pounders in the sport. If he loses, well losing to Silva isn't much of a black mark on a man's record. A loss for Silva puts him in a freefall whereas a win gives him much needed credibility. Maybe enough for a showdown with Liddell. Another option instead of Silva would be "Shogun" Rua.

Win or lose this next fight Andrei Arlovski would be someone that could make a big impact in Pride and he comes with a built in fanbase. If he beats Werdum then I could see him getting a fight with Fedor sometime before the showdown with Cro Cop, mostly because there really just isn't much competition left in Pride for Fedor. Then again that forestalls an Arlovski/Cro Cop showdown which might even be more compelling. Tough F'in call! Should Andrei lose to Werdum I would say for sure we'll see him in Pride, though K-1 could be an option for him. In that scenario Arlovski against Mark Hunt would be a great fight on paper. Massive chin versus massive right hand.

Renato "Babalu" Sobral would be another good guy from UFC that could bring some fans to Pride with him. Not to mention he's sort of dead in the water in the UFC at 205 as long as Chuck holds the belt. Tito Ortiz would also work but with his match with Rashad coming up I would hazard that is less likely. Babalu against "Shogun" Rua or maybe Alistair Overeem would be a great fight. Babalu is one of the rare fighters with Pride fans and UFC fans.

An appearance from Pride legend Kazushi Sakuraba would be a great choice for the first Fertitta led Pride event. A fight with up and comer, hell who am I kidding he's been here a little while now, Mauricio Rua would be have ramifications similar to the Silva/Sokoudjou fight. Other great grapplers that would be perfect for "Saku" could be either of the Nogueira brothers or maybe Marcio Cruz from the UFC. Babalu, too, would be another nifty option.

Now if I were to take things to extremes and since I do have that tendency let me just lay this one last fight down. I hope I am not reaching for the stars a little too fervently. Dan Henderson is probably the best American fighter Pride has, as his two belts attest. Why not pit him against the young stud "Shogun" Rua. Being from Wanderlei Silva's camp, whom Hendo just beat, would add a very intriguing element to this fight between two apex predators. Just for icing on the cake......Hendo also beat "Shogun's" brother, Murilo "Ninja".

Oh the possibilities! I'm licking my chops people and you should be too.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The FtF Pride Primer

With the recent acquisition of Pride by the Fertitta's and their comments that there will be a once a year 'super show' between Pride and UFC a lot of UFC fans will be paying more attention to Pride and the Pride fighters. This is a great thing since Pride has a truly awesome array of talent. Here is the Following the Flow primer to get you 'in the know'.

Probably the biggest rivalry in Pride is the one between the two major camps, Chute Boxe & Brazilian Top Team. I feel somewhat ashamed to care but it does make for some compelling fights! It only helps that these are two loaded camps with power players aplenty.

BTT boasts Antonio Rogerio Nogueira who is a dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner with wins over some top talent, but not nearly as dangerous (in my eyes) as his twin brother Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Rodrigo, or Big Nog, is the former heavyweight champion of Pride but had his belt stolen by Fedor Emelianenko and has not been able to get it back. Big Nog is a top notch submission expert with improving boxing skills and a chin that would make a sledgehammer cry. Partly due to his chin, mostly to his skill the guy is damn near impossible to finish and remains one of the best heavyweights in the world.

Ricardo Arona is another BTT guy to watch for, holding wins over notables such as Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson. Even Arona's list of victiorious foes reads like a who's who of MMA. Arona's strengths are his great takedowns, among the very best in MMA, and his jiu-jitsu. He's a younger guy who hasn't peaked yet and could be a champion one day.

Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort and Allan Goes are a few other BTT members UFC fans might know.

Chute Boxe may not have the depth of great fighters that BTT has but it could be argued that the top ones are better than BTT's. Wanderlei Silva is the marqee attraction of both Chute Boxe and maybe Pride as well. This is the guy that has been talking about fighting Chuck Liddell and his record speaks for itself. He and Liddell are the apex predators at 205lbs but the Axe Murderer's style couldn't be more different from the Iceman's. It's obvious to me that Silva's philosophy is that if he goes after his opponent 110% at the beginning of the fight using kicks, knees, stomp kicks, soccer kicks and anything else that comes to mind until said opponent has to be scooped up off the floor along with the pooling blood.

The other stud from this camp is Mauricio "Shogun" Rua who, while very young, is already fighting the big dogs and looks to get better. Coming from Chute Boxe you know he's going to stand up and use those kickboxing skills but in all honestly I think it's his groundgame where he really shines. More of a position fighter than a submission artist he nonetheless is exciting to watch even on the mat. He's as promising a young fighter as Georges Saint-Pierre and that is most definitely good company to be in.

Fedor Emelianenko has been ruling the roost at heavyweight for quite some time and it really doesn't seem like that reign will end anytime soon. The Russian's groundgame is flawless, he is MMA's version of the terminator (yes it sounds corny, no you won't think so after seeing his fights), and his record is devastating to opponents. Cro Cop will be his next big challenge but Fedor has already beaten him once.

Wanderlei Silva has been the dominant Pride LHW for quite some time but has lost two in a row, albeit to topnotch fighters, and even lost his belt to Dan Henderson a few months back. Still Silva can beat anybody on any given day. And that's real.

Dan Henderson recently added his name to the list of fighters who has held two belts at different weightclasses with a stunning upset of Wandy last new years. Henderson has that Olympic wrestling ability and a right hand that deserves mention in the same breath as Liddell's, albeit at the end of the sentence.

the lightweight Champ is Takanori Gomi and while he has just recently been upset by former UFCer Nick Diaz it wasn't a title shot and in the past Gomi has shown that ability to turn things around when that belt is at stake.


Alistair Overeem
The young guy is a lethal, rangy kickboxer who gave the Iceman a good fight, years ago.

Mark Hunt
A huge kickboxer with a concrete skull and athleticism for a 290 pounder.

A Japanese hero with great strength, wrestling ability and a titanium jaw.

Josh Barnett
Longtime UFC fans will know this former heavyweight champ who defeated Couture for the belt. The big man has quick hands and excellent submissions to go with his giant size, 6'4 250lbs.

Like some people I was a little worried about the UFC buying Pride. The fact that the Fertitta's bought it on their own seems to me that they will have someone besides Dana White run it. Don't get me wrong White is amazing and has done wonders for both the UFC and MMA but I would hate to see Pride become UFC Europe. Pride has a different feel, different spirit. The UFC is WWE meets boxing whereas Pride is the love child of old school martial arts (think karate, tae kwon do & judo) and Japanese shootfighting. Pride's tournaments are a breath of fresh air and the open weight tournament is unlike anything the UFC can do, do to restrictions here in the states. I'm not knocking UFC, I love it and have watched it since the mid-90's but Pride is different. To me Pride can be summed up in just one word. Bushido

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fighter Analysis : Rashad Evans

I myself never thought Rashad was showboating that first fight in the Octagon on the Ultimate Fighter. He didn't talk trash he was just trying to get his man to open up and throw some punches. Legitimate tactics if you ask me. Had he been running his mouth I could understand where Matt Hughes was coming from. That and Rashad's seeming inability to finish a match are his biggest criticisms and he has been addressing the second one his last two fights. Just ask Jason Lambert, who just recently beat a game Babalu. Oh, and that Salmon guy who might be awake by now.

Rashad is one of, if not the, most gifted athlete in MMA. He's got the best takedowns in the LHW division. He simply explodes on people, too quick and he's also got the power too. His wrestling skills should assure that Rashad will pretty much always be able to choose where the fight takes place. That my friends is a HUGE asset. Couple that with the fact that he has legitimate skill in both areas and you have a guy who can stand up the ground guys and takedown the strikers at will. Nice.

The down side is that on the ground Rashad hasn't shown much else (yet) but the ability to stay on top and not get caught in a submission, which can lead to decisions if he doesn't get the mount and pound it out like he did against Lambert. And he really didn't show any great ability in improving his position for that matter.

Standing up "Sugar" Rashad (and I love the throwback, out of the mold nickname even if it has been used) has sweet moves, yes just like Napoleon Dynamite. He has quick hands, moves very well and seems to be able to take a punch though, and this seems weird, seems to be afraid of getting punched at times. Who knows, maybe thats just good sense. Doesn't he want to have a chance at being Cuba Gooding Jr's stunt double later in life? Can't do that if he gets too busted up! Evans did not show any great ability to land his punches though and I am not 100% sold that the kick that rocked Salmon's snotbox was set up and executed masterfully. Did he look very comfortable kicking? Yes? Did he throw it at the head? Yes. I don't know how many fights he's going to be winning with that tactic though. I'm not saying fluke, just that he's not Cro Cop.

If Rashad beats Tito who has been relegated to gatekeeper status then Evans will get a shot at the man, Chuck "Iceman" Liddell! And well earned I say. This might be a tougher matchup for the champ than say Tito because Rashad's takedowns are just flat better. If Rashad can get the Iceman down then it changes the complexion of things immensely. How will Chuck react to that? Does Chuck have a guard? Can Chuck get back up? If he does and he gets taken back down then that could yield big points for Rashad and if this hypothetical title fight goes to the judges Evans will win. Yes I am out on the limb, i hear it creaking but I think it will hold.

What it boils down to is a guy who can control where the fight takes place but not consistently finish the fight anywhere. He's got a varied striking attack, stellar wrestling ability and can avoid submissions which could lead to some real snoozers but to his credit the guy has come a long way. From the undersized underdog who won a TUF contract but seemingly just barely, to a guy who is soon to fight Tito Ortiz and has already beaten Jason Lambert (who could very well get his own title shot at Liddell soon.) I hear talk about how Kendall Grove has improved so much but to be honest I don't know if any TUFer has improved more than Rashad Evans. If he keeps working as hard as he has, and with Greg Jackson's camp you know he will, watch out!

And that brings us to the final point. His camp. He gets the opportunity to work with Diego Sanchez, Joey Villasenor, Keith Jardine and Nathan Marquardt on a regular basis. You can't beat that kind of help. And as we know from those guys you don't come out of this camp without great cardio. You have to put these guys down or they'll be there at the end giving you that mean look and not even breathing hard.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fighter Analysis : Mike Swick

The most aptly named fighter in all of MMA, i'd say. "Quick" Swick has that blazing handspeed that every fightfan or fighter wants....and the savage KO power that comes along with that speed. Swick seems content to earn his stripes before being thrown to whoever holds the title at any given moment. It will be nice to not see another TUFer get laid out like Leben or Quarry.

I haven't seen enough of anything other than his standup but I can say that with his hands Swick's game should be molded after Chuck Liddell's. Keep it standing, sprawl and brawl. Swick trains at American Kickboxing Academy which fits him perfectly. As does the fact that his two training buddies, Koscheck and Jon Fitch are high-powered wrestlers. That shoud give the Texan ample opportunity to work on his takedown defense.

Swick has won by submission a few times but nothing really amazing. Two guillotines and a RNC. The first subs a fighter learns. Swick's groundgame is largely unknown and will be a big deciding factor in how is near future goes. It helps that he has the lanky frame that a lot of great submission artists share.

His chin is one other possible flaw as his only loss came by way of KO, thanks to Chris Leben. Is it a flaw or was it just a product of the iron hands of Leben. I'm sure in the not to distand future we'll have a rematch and possibly learn the answer to this. In the immediate future is Yushin Okami though and this looks to be the classic striker versus grappler. I'll take Swick, a man for whom the phrase 'a punchers chance' always applies.

With Anderson Silva's dance card seemingly full with candidates like Nate Marquardt and the former champ, Rich Franklin, I don't see Swick getting a title shot just now. Despite the UFC's apparent love of the guy. I would expect a Leben matchup sooner rather than later, despite it not meaning much in terms of helping Swick's rank within the division. Another possibility is Jason MacDonald or Dean Lister. How Swick does against Okami would give us an idea how he might fare against these guys.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

UFC 68 : Uprising

I tell you what guys and gals, Dana White is sporting a chubby the size of Tim Sylvia right now. With Pride's last event showing Wanderlei Silva to be mortal after all, Dana's champ, the Iceman, looks is head and shoulders above anyone at 205 lbs. Okay maybe more like head, shoulders and bellybutton. Don't get me wrong Rampage is a real threat capable of beating Chuck but until he does so, if he can, he's still downward looking up. I'll break down that possible matchup later on.

The next reason for Dana's prodigious protrusion you ask? Last night's UFC was probably the best i've ever seen. Every single fight shown was excellent.

Randy had the whole nation counting down the seconds with him as he just owned Big Tim to take back his belt. Tim does not get the credit he deserves for having a polished game, mostly because he's so much bigger than everybody but I think also because of his steroid issue years ago. I don't know if that means he deserves it or not but it's getting hard to watch. I really feel bad for the guy. On the flip side though......WAY TO GO RANDY! This just opens up a new world as far as I am concerned. Who says you can't fight at a high level into your forties? Chuck's probably at the gym right now himself. If he keeps himself in shape maybe he can eke out four or five more years! That's a thought isn't it? But then Randy always was one of the smartest fighters in the game. He uses sharp technique and sticks to his gameplan.

Rich Franklin had the closest thing to a 'gimme' if you ask me. On paper he should have had his way with Jason MacDonald and he did. Now what happens does he get another crack at Silva or does Marquardt, who beat Dean Lister, get the next one? Probably Rich.

Matt Hughes against Chris Lytle was a very good fight and contrary to my belief Hughes did not look to stand up much. Lytle showed amazing perseverance on the ground and that cage crawling reversal was a thing of beauty. Lytle will get more Octagon time just in light of this fight, and well deserved. For a guy not even in the top ten of welterweights in the world to push the most dominant one to a decision is quite an accomplishment.

In the other upset of the night Jason Lambert survived a masterful first round by his opponent to stun Babalu. It really seemed like the Brazilian was putting on a clinic and Lambert merely survived the first round, although he did get in a nice shot at the end of the first. My personal favorite was at one point they were standing up with Babalu pushing Lambert up against the cage but Sobral was losing his position and for a minute i thought the Punisher would have his back, even if it was on the standup. Babalu just turned and basically did a standing 360 degree turn to get back chest to chest, more or less, with his foe. Such a simple maneuver but it was just one of several such that allowed him to keep the pressure on. Lambert though his massively strong an survived suberbly and later on rocked the Gracie jiu-jitsu fighter with sledgehammer punches finally knocking him down and then pouring it on to win the fight in the second.

Yet another excellent fight was Drew McFedries taking it to the kickboxer, Martin Kampmann. In the little i've seen both of these to fighters I have come to appreciate both of them. The Miletich product, McFedries, seemed to be getting the better of things in the striking department with those explosive hands of his. Seriously, the kid might have the quickest hands in the UFC. He's legitimately up there with Swick, Penn and whoever else you care to name and he's got heavy, heavy hands as well! Add to that the superb training you get in Davenport, IA and you have a guy that can make some serious noise at middleweight. Anyway getting back to the fight Kampmann realized after getting tagged a few times that this might not be his best area of attack against his antagonist scores a nice takedown and follows it up with knees from side control and then a beautiful side choke, ending with what I took to be a move to mount but he kept going and went to McFedries other side to crank the choke more and at the end of it Drew McFedries was limp as the proverbial wet noodle.

All in all it was a great night of fights with upsets, comebacks and gutty competitors enduring mountains of torment in the hopes of that opportunity to get a little payback. Thank you Dana White, UFC and all the fighters. And maybe more than anyone thank you Randy Couture for showing us that miracles do exist.

Friday, February 02, 2007

UFC Divisional Rankings

Well I thought I would change things up a bit. Instead of the Power Rankings this is going to be a straight ranking system and i'll just put my two cents in on who is the most likely contender and whatnot.


1.) Tim Sylvia - Sylvia vs Couture could be interesting. Then again, maybe not. Sylvia is basically a poor man's Chuck Liddell built on a much larger frame. Couture says he see something and I bet that's not all hyperbole, though I doubt it is what he stated it was. I think Randy can use the clinch to his advantage, remember that is his best standup aspect, against the champ. Those long arms and straight-on punching style will be less effective in close with the two guys chest to chest. Not to mention that a takedown would be easier, I think, from that position. I say "I think" because i'm not sure it will ever be "easy" to upend that big of a guy who really doesn't want to get taken down.

2.) Mirko Cro Cop - The resume says it all for Mirko. He's fought and beaten all the big names that Tim has not. Randleman, Wanderlei, Josh Barnett and a whole posse of others. Cro Cop is on the top of his game at this very moment. This is a great 'value' pickup for the UFC as Mirko is of a size that he could be a contender at two weightclasses. Everyone in the world wants to see a Mirko/Iceman matchup. Arlovski would be another world class match up. I put Mirko behind Big Tim as a bit of respect for a titleholder. Yes Mirko has more "name" wins on his resume but I am going to respect Sylvia's game and belt and give him top billing. Tie-breaker is held by the beltholder.

3.) Randy Couture - It's great to have the former champ back in the UFC and really it was a bad time to leave with the sport just blowing up and Randy being the ambassador for the sport that he is. Randy has a chance to beat Tim, I won't deny him that but i'm not saying it's bloody likely. Still, WAR RANDY!!

4.) Arlovski - Andrei looked solid beating Marcio Cruz but nothing special but hey he's got acting lessons now. I still think we haven't seen the most effective Andrei, he's still looking to be popular by standing. There's some fighters you should just take down, it's just good sense. I love the confidence and his standup but you gotta play the smart fight at times.

5.) Jeff Monson - I'd like to see a Monson/Gonzaga fight. I would think that Monson still has fights on his UFC contract so let's make it happen guys.

6.) Brandon Vera - Vera will get the next title shot if he doesn't go to PrideFC. I think he would succumb to Sylvia'a long arms and hard fists and am not sure it's a very compelling offering. It looks like Brandon might be on the outs and a shame it is but there's other fish in the see and with the signing of CroCop and possibly Nogueira, Vera seems more like a guppy. With one fight left on his contract, I believe, I'd like to seem go up against Arlovski.

7.) Heath Herring - Herring looked borderline pitiful in his debute but you could still see some flashes of his ability. Doesn't he have a wrestling background?! Anyway, his striking looked good and I can't see him use it against the likes of some of the incumbent UFC bangers. Arlovski and Sylvia mostly, i'd say. Herring/Sylvia is a match made in heaven.

8.) Gabriel Gonzaga - He's got world class BJJ so he could be dangerous in the right circumstances. His takedowns looked pretty good too.

9.) Cheick Kongo - With the recent additions at heavyweight Kongo is falling further and further down the list. I'd like to see him against Arlovski and/or Herring.

10.) Marcio Cruz - Cruz is a decent guy. If Big Nog defects to the UFC a matchup between the two would be phenomenal.

11.) Antoni Hardonk - Looked decent in his win. I was like how the hell did he knock that guy out with a leg kick!?! In replay it was obvious that he actually got him with a punch then landed another punch then the kick. Nice combo.

12.) Frank Mir - Well, he looked better than last fight.

13.) Jake O'Brian - I think his victory over Herring was mostly just due to style. If Herring had showed any wrestling ability at all he could have handled O'Brian.

14.) Brad Imes - When will we see the big man again? Imes vs Sylvia would be fun to watch. If the Octagon doesn't collapse.

Light heavyweight

1.) Chuck Liddell - Is Liddell/Evans on the horizon? Evans may be the best takedown artist in the UFC, certainly Rampage would have something to say on that but still I did say 'could be'. Evans may be able to follow Rampage's recipe for beating Liddell. Take it to him on the standup and use it to set up a takedown attempt. It could work.

2.) Quinton Jackson - Rampage showed his stuff against Eastman, though only some of his bag of tricks. Sounds like there will be at least one more tune up fight before Liddell. Jackson's only losses have been to great fighters like Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Rua. If you're going to get beat those are the guys to get beat by. It would just about be an honor!

3.) Tito Ortiz - Tito...........Tito.......what can I say. Well now maybe i'll get Ortiz/Sobral like i've been asking for. Any true fan of MMA should be licking their chop-s at tFunny how the best 205 lbs fighters,not named Chuck, are out of the title picture. Okay, okay one question. Where was Tito's shot? He'd drop and just sit there motionless like a turtle on a hot asphalt road. After the first round or so at any rate.

4.) Renato Sobral - C'mon lets get Babalu in the Octagon. Ortiz would be my first choice, Jardine would suffice. It's rumored Babalu will face off against Jason Lambert which should be a nice win for the Brazilian.

5.) Lyoto Machida - Maybe the best undefeated fighter with actual 'name' wins, that you've never heard of. Eventually look for a revenge match with Rich Franklin but in the mean time Machida should be working his way up the LHW ranks. Keith Jardine would be a nice next opponent.

6.) Rashad Evans - Evans' standup looked sweet as 'Sugar' against Salmon but, until that final kick, just about as effective in getting a win. Still it was a big improvement for Evans who stood the whole time and looked at ease doing it. He whiffed a little too much with his right hand and still seemed afraid to be punched a couple times, which seems odd since he does seem to have a decent chin at least. He takes a pretty good punch. A Liddell punch......well i'm sure we'll see fairly soon. Evan's doesn't have the impressive roster of victims that the guys in front of him have so despite probably getting a title shot soon he is only ranked here.

7.) Michael Bisping - Bisping looked solid and Shafer looked pretty exciting with nice submissions skills. I still want to see more Bisping.

8.) Keith Jardine - Wow nice job Jardine. Sit back catch the wind from several whiffed punches, eat one or two and then wait for your moment to put a vicious beating down. Nice recipe. 95% Patience, 5% exertion.

9.) Forrest Griffin - Forrest my man! Go back to the relentless assault that you used to use. Charge them and beat them in transition after transition until they ask for help. Stop this putting on a show crap.

10.) Matt Hamill - Tito's love child will get some action in the UFC and while wrestling/ground and pound is not my favorite style Hamill can do it very effectively. He beat a game Silverback Seth but Seth looked better than last time I saw him on the ground.

11.) Eric Shafer - A nice submission game with nice takedowns.

12.) Seth Petruzzelli - Seth did alright for a guy who at last glance had hardly any groundgame going against an Olympic caliber wrestler. He was way to quick to slide into guard. C'mon work for top position and fall back to guard if need be. Too many guys take up jiu-jitsu and then become too complacent to jump to guard. Seth also needs to work on his hands but the potential is there because he is a pretty good striker already. Good at judging distances and moving away from danger.

13.) Drew McFedries - Martin Kampmann would be a nice fight.

14.)Alessio Sakara - Here's hoping Sakara sticks around a while, I like his game. With standup being the emphasis in UFC I think he's got a good chance.

15.) Wilson Gouveia - This guy looked really good. He dominated the first round and despite collapsing in the final two I believe he was the better fighter. If he works on his cardio he could go bigtime. He was comfortable and light on his feet and his kick boxing was better than Jardine's and Gouveia is a BJJ guy, we didn't even see that part of his game. If Gouveia gets his act together he could be a damn good fighter.


1.) Anderson Silva - Lutter looked pretty good. I was amazed that he kept getting takedowns on Silva. He had him in side mount at one point and I was yelling "hit him with the knees, side or head but use those damn knees!". Lutter didn't hear me. Come on man you need to soften these guys up before going in for checkmate. Does Silva get Marquardt or Franklin next?

2.) Rich Franklin - Franklin vs MacDonald is perfect for Rich. Rich is well versed in subs so he can be competitive in that area but in the arenas of wrestling and striking Rich has a huge advantage. KO, first or second round.

3.) Nate Marquardt - Marquardt beat all-world grappler Dean Lister and has solidified his position among the elite at middleweight. He has a strong case for #1 contender-ship in my mind.

4.) Evan Tanner - What next for the former champ? I'd like to see him go against Leben at some point that would be a war! C'mon Evan Tanner, we need you.

5.) Jason McDonald - A sneaky win against Chris Leben has Jason "Not a stepping stone" McDonald making some waves. I'd like to see him square off against Terrell or Grove. McDonald is so long and rangy he really should work on his boxing or muay thai. If he could strike a bit and use his athleticism and length it would add another dimension to his already super submission skills. He'll get decimated by Ace though.

6.) Mike Swick - Swick seems to be no where on the championship radar right now. A matchup with Marquardt would give us a strong contender for Silva's belt.

7.) Dean Lister - Lister lost a decision to the very experienced Marquardt. Now he needs to climb that ladder. I'd like to see him against Lutter.

8.) Travis Lutter - With an impressive showing against Spider Silva I think Lutter gets some more airtime.

9.) David Loiseau - I want Loiseau vs Spider Silva so bad I can taste it. Loiseau looked like he was seeing ghosts against Mike Swick and he was afraid to throw hands.......and feet. Loiseau/Leben would be fun. A rematch with Evan Tanner would be nice too. Most importantly though lets see the real Crow, not the ghost of him.

10.) Chris Leben - Wow. The Crippler is limping yet again. I'd like to see Chris against Kalib Starnes. That could be a quality matchup, so would Scott Smith come to think of it.

11.) Dave Terrell - Lets see Terrell vs Lutter or Lister.

12.) Kalib Starnes - Despite losing his last fight I think Starnes is an amazing fighter and quite possibly I am lowballing him on this rank.

13.) Kendall Grove - The kid has heart, he's a taller Kenny Florian. Determination seems to be his great, and only, weapon at this point. I'd like to see a Grove/Terrell matchup.

14.) Ed Herman - Herman has serious ground ability. Terrell would be a great matchup, Cote as well. A rematch with Grove is a necessity at some point.

15.) Patrick Cote - The guy has some skills.

16.) Scott Smith - As a guy with decent wrestling who likes to keep things standing and has KO power he might continue to get some fights.


1.) George St. Pierre - I can see no reason to pay to see GSP dismantle and abuse Matt Serra. Bring on Diego!

2.) Matt Hughes - Folk its time to come clean, I have a sickness. Underdogaphilia. I know, I know. My mom didn't warn me either. All the signs were there, a lifelong love of my Detroit Lions...okay that was the only sign but c'mon it's unmistakeable. Lytle is a great matchup for the former champ who seems to want to reinvent himself as a striker. He can certainly stop any takedowns, can get his whenever if he gets rocked and can make something of a name for his hands against a good boxer.

3.) BJ Penn - What now for the former champ? Does Penn drop down to lightweight now with losses to the Hughes and GSP? I'm keeping him here because he may well fight at WW some more and he has a case even at being ranked higher than Hughes. A case, I said.

4.) Diego Sanchez - Sanchez vs Koscheck II is compelling but I am surprised that Diego hasn't gotten a title shot yet. If he beats Kos I myself would say he has earned it or at least a shot at the loser of Hughes/St. Pierre II.

5.) Karo Parisyan - Karo took it to Fickett and was trying to prove a point, especially after catching that nasty cut. Ouch. Karo has the ability beat anyone ranked above him. Believe that!

6.) Jon Fitch - Fitch is coming on strong. He's ultra-aggressive and it works. Those guys make good fights. I'd like to see him and Diaz go at it. Maybe even Karo.

7.) Josh Koscheck - Josh's standup looked very good and very crisp, very light on his feet. He looks ready to make some serious noise.

8.) Joe Riggs - Riggs vs Fitch would be a fun one.

9.) Thiago Alves - Thiago's standup is amazing. Quick hands, easy KO power, nice kicks and a huge, 77" arm length. Alves' sprawl is pure explosion. He's ready to make a splash. I want to see Thiago against Melvin Guillard. Tell me that wouldn't be some Sh!t. Of course his recent substance abuse suspension will hurt him. I'd have him ranked higher if not for it.

10.) Kuniyoshi Hironaka - He lost to Jon Fitch but looked composed, patient and skilled doing it. At least the groundwork. He might even deserve to be ranked higher here but his lack of notoriety in the states hurts him. I'd like to see more of Hironaka myself and am glad the UFC is bringing in more talent from outside the U.S. Let's see Hironaka/Riggs!

11.) Josh Burkman - What next for Burk? I'd like to see him against Kos.

12.) Josh Neer - Neer looks like he can give just about anyone a good fight. I'd like to see a Fickett rematch with Neer rearranging his grill but that's just me.

13.) Marcus Davis - It was nice to see Marcus in the Octagon and his boxing made for some realy fine standup. I'd like to see more of him. Neer would be a strong matchup, Riggs maybe too.


1.) BJ Penn - If Penn beats Pulver at the Ultimate Finale, instant title shot. Instant champion too.

2.) Sean Sherk - The new lightweight champ! He performed about as expected i'd say. He took every round but could not finish off Florian and probably looks worse today than Florian does. I'm sorry to say it looked more like lay and pray, as opposed to ground and pound.

3.) Jens Pulver - Jens needs a good win before going into the next Ultimate Fighter installment.

4.) Hermes Franca - What a win over Spencer Fisher. Franca has those heavy hands and mounts quicker than anyone i've seen.

5.) Joe Stevenson - I'd love to see Stevenson against Franca, hell even against Fisher.

6.) Spencer Fisher - Tough loss for the Kingfisher but i'm sure he can bounce back.

7.) Kenny Florian - Florian is still progressing nicely on his standup. He consistently scored with kicks to Sherk's midsection but could not defend the takedown and despite several game sub attempts never was much of a threat. Great heart staying in there the whole fight though.

8.) Mark Hominick - C'mon UFC let's see Hominick vs Cummo or Pulver.

9.) Dokonjonosuke Mishima - I look forward to seeing more of the guy myself but I do have a soft spot for judoka. Check his record he's got some strong experience. I am a bit surprised that someone with so many decisions on his record caught the eye of Dana White but then again catching people's attention is what Mishima does so well. He's a true entertainer.

10.) Yves Edwards - Got a beatdown from the very strong Stevenson. What next for Edwards who's 0-2 in recent UFC bouts? Sam Stout would be a good start.

11.) Sam Stout - Right about here I would think. I think he would lose to Stevenson so Edwards would be a better matchup.

12.) Joe Lauzon - Bursting onto the UFC with a win against a former champ is a big deal. Lauzon might have been the beneficiary of a bad matchup for Pulver though. Pulver's a striker and wanted to keep things standing but Lauzon had a huge reach advantage. The next fight will tell us if Lauzon is for real or not. Oh, and get a decent nickhame man. J-Lo? Ughhhh. (shivers)

13.) Frankie Edgar - This guy looked really good beating Tyson Griffin who's a guy himself with some skill. Edgar has really, really nice wrestling and threw hands like a guy who's been doing it a while. Nice transitions, when he wasn't grappling he was chucking knuckles.

14.) Tyson Griffin - The guy looks like a midget sorta but is a good fighter. His fight with Frankie Edgar was a classic.

15.) Jorge Gurgel - I was surprised that Jorge couldn't get a takedown on Hominick. Not one and by the 3rd he had a couple shots that he just couldn't take advantage of because of his wind. Surprising.

16.) Dan Lauzon - Got some work to do but could see some fights.

17.) Duane Ludwig - Ludwig against Edwards would be a nice fight. Or Cummo.

18.) Luke Cummo - Luke is rumored to be fighting Josh Haynes who I just simply detest. C'mon Luke, knock him out!

19.) Melvin Guillard - In this the deepest weight class Melvin seems to have the ability to give just about anyone a run for their money on 'any given Sunday'. Raw power, explosive quickness, very good striking, uncanny's just not fair. Melvin vs Sherk would be worth watching, as would a fight against Fisher.