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.