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May 30, 2007

In the unpredictable UFC, picking the underdogs is a worthwhile gamble

As 2007 has shown us, picking the winners of fights in UFC is more difficult than ever.  While the main event upsets have gotten the most attention, is it possible that fights up and down the ranks are just as difficult to predict?

My good friend Dex has been testing this theory for the last couple of domestic UFC cards (UFC 69 and UFC 71.)  A long-time fan of UFC (as well as MMA in general), Dex has been known to wager a little dough on fights.  Well, over time he came to the conclusion that there is no science to picking UFC fights.  No matter how much he broke fights down, he couldn't come up with a reliable system.

So, did Dex stop betting on these cards?  No.  He went simple.  Starting with UFC 69, Dex decided to pick only underdogs in a given fight card.  Why?  If we suppose a given fight is really a 50-50 proposition (no better than a coin flip), the way to make more money over the long haul is to choose underdogs because underdogs pay more (by definition.)  Even if Dex only picks half the fights correctly, he still comes out ahead.

Dex enjoyed betting success at UFC 69 and went to Vegas this past weekend to attend UFC 71.  He bet on seven fights on the UFC 71 card and chose the underdog in every one.

So, how did Dex do?  Let's break down his night on a fight-by-fight basis (we'll look at who Dex picked, what he bet was, what the odds were, and how much money he won on or lost each bet):

Picked Carmelo Marrero        bet $20    odds: +205     lost $20
Picked Jeremy Stephens       bet $20    odds: +250     lost  $20
Picked Kalib Starnes               bet $40    odds: +185     won $74
Picked Houston Alexander    bet $20    odds: +350     won $70
Picked Terry Martin                 bet $50    odds: +135     won $67.50
Picked Josh Burkman             bet $50    odds: +200      lost $50
Picked Quinton Jackson         bet $70    odds: +140     won $98

Dex went 4-3 picking the underdogs.  His net profit for the night was a cool $219.50.  At 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in Vegas this was probably just enough money to get him a cab ride back to his hotel room one mile away from the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  Oh well, as UFC has taught us, you can't win them all...

Posted by at 6:32 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 29, 2007

Was Quinton Jackson properly marketed before UFC 71?

A good friend of mine, Brad, sent me an e-mail about UFC 71 Tuesday morning.  In the e-mail, he asked, "So what's up with Liddell getting rocked?  [Is he] past his prime or [was the punch] just a lucky shot by Rampage?"

Brad is a smart guy and a UFC fan. Unfortunately, his question best summarizes what a number of people have asked me since Quinton Jackson defeated Chuck Liddell to claim the UFC light heavyweight belt.  Brad's question hits at what I believe was a flaw in the way this title match was set up.  Jackson himself repeated this a number of times prior to the fight and even at the post-UFC 71 press conference, after having won the belt.

The problem with the way the fight was set up was that many UFC fans were not very familiar with Jackson prior to his fight on Saturday.  All UFC fans, however, know who Liddell is.  And, Liddell had been getting the lion's share of coverage heading into Saturday's bout.  The Iceman was featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine and he made a cameo appearance on HBO's Entourage.  Liddell had won seven fights in a row in UFC, all by KO or TKO.  He had been champion for the last two years, during UFC's surge in popularity.  Rightly, he was beloved as a champion.

However, in my opinion, Jackson was every bit Liddell's equal going into their UFC 71 fight.  In his pre-UFC career (mostly in PRIDE and also one fight in WFA), Jackson fought some of the best light heavyweights in the world.  He had beaten Ricardo Arona, Matt Lindland, and Kevin Randleman (a former UFC heavyweight champ).  His losses came against some of the best fighters of the past decade in his weight class -- Wanderlei Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Mauricio Rua.  And of course, let's not forget Jackson's 2003 victory over none other than Liddell in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix.

The problem for Jackson and UFC was that most of Jackson's big fights took place outside the U.S. and many took place before MMA's recent surge in popularity in this country.  Therefore, Jackson would have benefited from a longer introduction to American MMA fans in general and UFC fans in particular.  If Jackson had been allowed to fight two or maybe three fights before challenging for the title, fans would have been able to see what a complete and charismatic fighter he truly is.  Instead, he got one fight (a UFC 67 victory over Marvin Eastman) before the showdown against Liddell.  (And, Jackson was booed for his showmanship at UFC 71 -- a quality that endeared him to Japanese MMA fans.  If fans could have seen more of the witty, funny, playful Jackson that I saw in the post-UFC 71 press conference, they would have likely embraced him.)

Instead of seeing Jackson as Liddell's true equal, many fans saw him as they saw most of Liddell's other recent opponents -- as fodder for their hero.  And now that their hero has fallen to someone they hardly know, how many of these fans are devastated or confused?  Liddell clearly didn't lose to a chump.  In fact, he lost to one of the top light heavyweights in the world.  But, because many UFC fans didn't know who the victor was, they wondered if Liddell had gotten too old or whether Jackson had gotten lucky.

My answer to Brad is the same one I propose here.  Liddell is not too old and Jackson was not lucky.  On Saturday, the better fighter won.  Period.  Over time, UFC fans will realize this was the case. 

But, wouldn't it have been nicer if these fans could have learned more about Jackson before Saturday's fight?

I hope UFC carefully considers what it does with the new wave of fighters it is bringing into the promotion.  When UFC announced the signings of Mirko Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Dan Henderson, the fans in attendance at each announcement hardly seemed to recognize these world-renowned fighters.  I hope UFC considers bringing these fighters along slowly and giving them the sort of marketing they give their TUF fighters.  I would be willing to argue that more UFC fans know who Forrest Griffin is than Dan Henderson.  And yet Henderson is the one with two PRIDE belts.

Henderson is being given an immediate title shot against Rampage and since he is the PRIDE champion this makes sense.  But, what happens if Henderson defeats Jackson?  Will a loss in his first title defense make Jackson's victory over Liddell seem like an even bigger "fluke" to fans who don't know who Henderson is?  Or, what if Henderson loses to Jackson?  Will those same fans understand the magnitude of such a victory?

These aren't easy questions to answer and UFC has many tough decisions to make as it moves forward as the leading promoter of MMA in the world.  Clearly, fans pay big bucks to see the best matchups.  However, UFC 71 showed that there is a learning curve associated with introducing a fighter to the public.  Unless fans appreciate both fighters in a fight, they will not realize the magnitude of the matchup they are witnessing, even if their beloved champion goes down in 1:53.

 

Posted by at 11:07 PM | | Comments (2)
        

May 27, 2007

UFC 71 post-fight press conference

The press conference was highlighted by a number of humorous comments by the new light heavyweight champ, Quinton Jackson.  Here's the serious stuff:

- Dana White announced that the Zuffa takeover of PRIDE is now complete.  He said the deal was finalized in the last couple of days.

- White also said that the Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva matchup now makes sense since both are coming off losses.

- White promised that UFC is working hard to bring all the best fighters over from PRIDE

- White reiterated that Chicago and New York will hopefully be UFC destinations by the end of 2008.  He also said he believes an outdoor stadium event would work in Hawaii.

- White said UFC is working on an international version of The Ultimate Fighter.

- White also said that he doesn't like tournaments and that there won't be any tournaments in UFC.  While he reiterated that the PRIDE situation is still a bit uncertain, there may still continue to be PRIDE tournaments since that format seems to work in Japan.

- White said UFC 71 was a sold out event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Posted by at 1:54 AM | | Comments (1)
        

UFC acquires Dan Henderson

With Quinton Jackson's victory over Chuck Liddell barely in the books, UFC makes a major announcement at the end of UFC 71.

UFC has acquired the rights to Dan Henderson, the current middleweight and light heavyweight champion of PRIDE.  Henderson is in attendance for UFC 71 and enters the Octagon with both PRIDE belts draped over his shoulders. 

We also learn that Jackson’s first UFC light heavyweight title defense will apparently be against Henderson, who is a good friend of his.  The two friends trade friendly barbs as the announcement is made.

Posted by at 1:04 AM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC 71 light heavyweight title: Chuck Liddell (champion) vs. Quinton Jackson (challenger)

This is the fight everyone has been waiting for.  A showdown like no other.  The video screens have been showing each of the fighters as they have gotten ready for the fight throughout the night.  Fans cheer whenever they see Liddell on the screen.  The reception for Jackson is a bit more mixed.  You know it’s a big fight because Big John McCarthy will be patrolling the Octagon as the referee.

The crowd stands in ovation as the fighters are introduced.  Jackson comes in with the trademark chain around his neck and lets out a couple of howls on his way to the Octagon.  Rampage is greeted mostly by boos as he enters the Octagon.

As Liddell approaches and then enters the Octagon, the cheers are deafening.  This is the fight everyone’s been talking about for a while now.  And it’s finally here.  The crowd is standing as the fight begins.

Not much action to start the fight, and Jackson gestures as if to ask Liddell “Why aren't you fighting me?” Well, soon enough we learn why.  Rampage knocks Liddell to the ground with a big right hand and pounces on top of the fallen Liddell.  Jackson finishes the fight with a number of shots to Liddell’s head.  McCarthy steps in to end the fight.

Jackson is now 2-0 against Liddell and clearly has the game and skills that befuddle Liddell. 

Jackson will certainly be an entertaining champion based on all his pre- and post-fight interviews.  Liddell gets a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd.

Winner: Jackson wins by TKO at 1:53 of the first round.  We have a new UFC light heavyweight champion – Quinton Jackson. 

Referee: John McCarthy

Celebrity search: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf witnessed this Rampage victory.

Posted by at 12:55 AM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC 71 welterweight: Josh Burkman vs. Karo Parisyan

This should be another excellent fight.  Both fighters come out swinging wildly.  Parisyan catches a Burkman kick and and punches Burkman and then takes him down.  Back on their feet, Parisyan catches Burkman with a couple of more nice punches.  The two continue to exchange strikes standing up.  Parisyan goes for a kick, which is caught by Burkman.  Burkman takes Parisyan to the ground but the two are back standing soon.  The action is fast and furious and Parisyan gets another takedown on Burkman.  Not much happens on the ground and the two are up on their feet again.  The two grapple near the fence as the round ends.  This is what the fans wanted to see and they show their approval for the pace of the bout as the round ends.  I give Parisyan the first round.

In the second round, Parisyan catches Burkman with a couple of punches. The two circle the middle of the Octagon and are soon exchanging strikes again.  The crowd reacts with every blow landed.  Both fighters land solid punches to their opponents’ head.  Parisyan lands a knee and a punch near the fence.  Parisyan is dictating the tempo of the bout and landing more often than Burkman as the second round ends.  Burkman appears to have a solid chin as he absorbs a number of punches to the face.  Burkman’s pace has slowed considerably from the first round.  I give Parisyan the second round as well.

Parisyan raises his arms to start the third round, appearing confident.  Burkman forces the action to begin the round, throwing some punches and going for a couple of wild ones, which he doesn’t land.  The two fighters grapple near the fence before Burkman lifts Parisyan and slams him to canvas.  Burkman is on top, in Parisyan’s guard.  The two get back up to their feet before ending up on the ground momentarily.  They end up clinching on their feet again and separate in the middle of the octagon.  The pace has slowed down but the action is still riveting.  I give Burkman the third round.

The two fighters hug as the fight ends and the fans applaud what was a very entertaining fight.

I score the fight 29-28 for Parisyan, who has made a habit of winning by decision.

Parisyan asks for a title shot in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.

Winner: Parisyan wins by unanimous judges’ decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Referee:  Herb Dean

Posted by at 12:51 AM | | Comments (1)
        

UFC 71 middleweight: Terry Martin vs. Ivan Salaverry

The two fighters circle the Octagon to start the first round.  Martin begins to force the issue and lands a couple of punches that score.  Martin attempts a couple of slams and is successful on his third attempt. Salaverry appears to land on his head and is stunned. Martin throws a number of undefended punches to Salaverry’s head and referee Mario Yamasaki steps in to end the fight.

Winner: Martin wins by TKO at 2:04 of first round

Referee: Mario Yamasaki

Celebrity search: David Spade is in the house.

Posted by at 12:48 AM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC 71 light heavyweight: Houston Alexander vs. Keith Jardine

Alexander is making his UFC debut.  Jardine is coming off a victory over Forrest Griffin in his last fight. Jardine is greeted with cheering when he enters the Octagon.

Jardine catches Alexander with a punch that staggers Alexander.  But, Alexander comes back with a vengeance, unleashing a torrent of punches that absolutely rock Jardine.  Jardine loses his mouthpiece on the way down as Alexander applies the finishing touches.  Referee Steve Mazzagatti jumps in to stop the fight as Alexander wins impressively in his debut.

The crowd truly appreciates Alexander’s performance.

Winner: Alexander wins by TKO at 0:48 of the first round.

Referee: Steve Mazzagatti

Posted by at 12:46 AM | | Comments (2)
        

May 26, 2007

Technical difficulties

We are having technical difficulties with the wireless Internet connection at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Pramit will continue to post as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Posted by Chris Handzlik at 11:05 PM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC 71 middleweight: Kalib Starnes vs. Chris Leben

This bout features a couple of TUF alums who are both coming off losses.  This should be a good one -- it's definitely a fight I've been looking forward to.

The Garden Arena crowd appears to have finally arrived.  It looks like we have close to a sellout in the arena. Starnes comes in with Rage against the Machine.  Leben comes in with Tupac and an interesting dye job -– he has what looks like an “X” painted on the back of his head.

In the first round, the two measure each other before Leben begins to push the issue, moving in and striking with punches and knees.  Leben attempts a kick but loses his footing and falls but the fight remains standing.  Leben continues to push the issue though Starnes does land a nice right kick to the body.  Starnes attempts a number of takedowns before finally converting with a minute left in the first round.  From full guard, Starnes ground and pounds.  As they get to their feet, Starnes lands some shots but the round ends.  This is a close round, but I give it to Starnes for his takedown and work in the last minute or so of the first round. 

In the second round, Starnes scores another takedown and pounds on Leben.  The fight returns to standing and Starnes lands a nice kick to Leben’s leg.  Leben returns the favor a minute or so later.  Leben appears to have a burst of energy and attacks Starnes but Starnes puts an end to that with a knee to Leben’s abdomen.  The two fighter continue to exchange punches as the round ends.  I give this round to Starnes as well.

In the third round, the two exchange a number of punches and kicks to start the round.  Starnes gets Leben with a kick that stops him in his tracks.  Leben takes Starnes down and works on top from the full guard.  Leben is able to get to half-guard but Starnes reverses and he now works from the full guard on top of Leben.  Starnes lands a nice elbow to Leben’s head.  The two punch with little effect on the ground.  Starnes moves to half-guard and begins to ground and pound.  I give this round to Starnes as well, though barely.

It was a great fight.  Both fighters showed a lot of heart in this fight and receive a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd as they hug in the Octagon.

I score the fight 30-27 for Starnes.

Interestingly, Starnes says he thinks Leben won the fight in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. 

Winner: Kalib Starnes wins by unanimous judges’ decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)

Referee: Mario Yamasaki

Posted by at 10:56 PM | | Comments (1)
        

UFC 71 intermission

Well folks, it's the intermission between the dark portion of the card (the portion of the card not televised on pay-per-view) and the main card (which will be televised on pay-per-view).  The main card will begin at 10 PM EST.  Because all the fights have been fairly quick ones, I have about half an hour to kill.

The arena is still filling up.  It's a very late-arriving crowd.  I can't even tell if the arena will be sold out for this event.  I'm not sure why this is the case -- maybe because it's Memorial Day weekend.

I can pass on a personal story regarding the attendance at this event.  I'm here with a few friends enjoying the fights and the long weekend in Vegas.  One of my friends, Steve, didn't have a ticket to UFC 71 so he decided to see whether he could obtain one right before the event began.  It turns out he didn't have a difficult time at all.  In fact, he was able to purchase a $500 ticket for only $200 and a beer (seriously, my friends are nice people, aren't they?).  With what I'm seeing in the arena and my friend's story, I'm betting this event won't be sold out.  This is a bit shocking to me, especially given all the hype UFC has been getting in the national sports media recently (ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated) as well as the magnitude of the Liddell-Jackson fight. 

Posted by at 9:51 PM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC light heavyweight: Thiago Silva vs. James Irvin

Silva comes out with UFC heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga (of devastating-leg-kick-to-head-of-Mirko-Cro-Cop fame) in his corner.  Silva trains with the famed Brazilian camp, Chute Box, and enters this fight unbeaten in MMA competition.  This is his UFC debut.

Irvin gets a nice round of applause from the crowd when he is introduced.

Irvin starts out strong, giving Silva some problems on the feet.  Irvin attempts a guillotine choke on Silva near the cage, but Silva is able to work free and take Irvin to the ground.  On the ground, Irvin writhes in pain with an apparent knee injury and referee Herb Dean ends the fight.  Replays show that the Irvin's knee twists awkwardly during the takedown.

Irvin is in apparent agony after the fight ends.  After laying on the ground for a while, he is able to limp off.  It is his right knee that is injured.

The crowd boos Silva when the result is announced.

Winner: Thiago Silva wins due to injury to Irvin -- who cannot continue -- at 1:06 in first round

Referee: Herb Dean

Posted by at 9:28 PM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC light heavyweight: Sean Salmon vs. Alan Belcher

This is a quick one.  After some back and forth in the opening moments of the fight, Belcher applies a standing guillotine choke on Salmon and jumps on Salmon, wrapping both legs around Salmon's body.  The weight of Belcher on Salmon causes both to fall to the ground.  The choke is sunk in deep and Salmon taps out.

Winner: Alan Belcher wins by guillotine choke at 0:53 of the first round.

Referee: Steve Mazzagatti

Posted by at 9:25 PM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC 71 Lightweight: Jeremy Stephens vs. Din Thomas

This fight starts with a takedown by Thomas.  Thomas then assumes side control and eventually gets on Stephens' back.  Thomas attempts a choke on Stephens with his hooks in.  Toward the end of the first round, Stephens is able to break out of the chokehold much to the delight of the fans.  Stephens gets to his feet and attempts to strike Thomas who's still on the ground.  Thomas eventually gets back to his feet but the first round ends soon after this.  I have Thomas winning the first round.

In the second round, Stephens and Thomas stay on their feet for a while with Stephens attempting to strike with punches and kicks.  The fight ends up on the ground with Stephens on top in Thomas' full guard.  Thomas begins to apply an armbar.  Stephens slams Thomas in an attempt to loosen the armbar but Thomas only digs in deeper.  Although Stephens doesn't tap, referee John McCarthy calls an end to the fight, with the belief that Thomas had the armbar locked in.

Winner: Din Thomas wins by TKO due to armbar at 2:44 of the second round.

Referee: Big John McCarthy

Posted by at 9:21 PM | | Comments (0)
        

UFC 71 Light heavyweight: Carmelo Marrero vs. Wilson Gouveia

Folks, I'm here Octagonside at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for UFC 71.  There's a lot of media here so I'm getting to know my neighbors quite well.  And I've been battling some wireless signal issues.  But, it's all good now.

The Vegas crowd is filing in slowly.  At the beginning of the first undercard fight, I would say only half the seats were filled.

In the first fight, Wilson Gouveia dominated Carmelo Marrero standing up. The fight quickly went to the ground where Gouveia was able to apply a guillotine choke from the mount at 3:06 of the first round.

Winner: Wilson Gouveia wins by guillotine choke at 3:06 of first round.

Referee: Mario Yamasaki

Posted by at 9:09 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 25, 2007

UFC 71 Weigh-ins

Folks, I have landed in Vegas for UFC 71 weekend.  It's good to be back.  The last time I was here was a little over two years ago for my bachelor party.  One of the major highlights of that visit was attending UFC 52, which also took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  The main event on that card was none other than Chuck Liddell against the then-light heavyweight champ Randy Couture.  Liddell won that fight and has held the belt ever since.

A couple of years later, Liddell is again in the main event fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena -- this time as the champion.  He defends his belt against, of course, Quinton Jackson.

Shortly after landing in Vegas, I headed over to the arena for the UFC 71 weigh-ins, which took place around 4 p.m. PST.  The weigh-ins were divided into the main card weigh-ins and the non-main card weigh-ins.  The main card weigh-ins were televised by ESPN News.

For the weigh-ins, UFC had about 1/4-1/3 of the arena seats available for fans to watch.  Most of the seats were taken.  Interestingly, during the lull right before the ESPN News coverage, Joe Rogan did a little stand-up routine and the crowd ate it up.  In addition, as the ESPN News coverage began, the fans were cued by UFC handlers as to when to cheer.

Other than that, the weigh-ins went pretty smoothly.  One fighter would step on the scale, the next fighter would step on the scale, the two would briefly pose, stare each other down, and then onto the next bout's fighters ...  The only real build-up was for the Liddell-Jackson fight, with a video clip shown on the arena screens right before both fighters came on to the stage.  The weigh-ins for Liddell and Jackson understandably elicited the largest cheers from the crowd.  Some fans shouted "Rampage! Rampage!" while others booed Jackson.

And thankfully, all the fighters made weight.  Here are the official weigh-in results (pounds):

Chuck Liddell (205) vs Quinton Jackson (205)

Josh Burkman (171) vs Karo Parisyan (170)
Houston Alexander (202) vs Keith Jardine (205)
Kalib Starnes (186) vs Chris Leben (185)

Terry Martin (186) vs Ivan Salaverry (184)
Thiago Silva (202) vs James Irvin (204)
Sean Salmon (205) vs Alan Belcher (205)
Jeremy Stephens (156) vs Din Thomas (155)
Carmelo Marrero (205) vs Wilson Gouveia (204)

Here a couple photos I took during the Liddell-Jackson weigh-in. The media section was pretty packed so I didn't get as close to the stage as I would have liked, but hopefully you get a feel for what the event was all about.

Rampage_2

Quinton Jackson approaches the stage.

Liddell_4 Chuck Liddell on the scale.

WeighQuinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell stare each other down after weighing in.

Posted by at 10:23 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 22, 2007

UFC 71 week at the MMA Insider

I don't think I have to tell MMA fans out there that UFC 71 is this Saturday in Vegas.  And I don't think I have to remind you that the main event fight features UFC light heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell squaring off against Quinton Jackson.  There are some other very good fights on this card, but there is no doubt that Liddell-Jackson overshadows all of them. 

Remember when Michael Jordan played for the Bulls and we became accustomed to calling his teammates the "supporting cast"?  Well, that's what the rest of the UFC 71 card is compared to the Liddell-Jackson fight.  Not because those other fights aren't very good in their own right (similarly, Jordan's supporting cast consisted of players such as Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman -- no slouches there).  It's just that Liddell-Jackson is that good.  This fight has to be one of the most anticipated fights in recent UFC history.

Why?  Because Jackson not only has a legitimate shot at beating Liddell, he's already done it once before.  In fact, Jackson is the only fighter Liddell has faced in his career and hasn't beaten.

Most UFC fans are very familiar with Liddell's exploits.  However, many may not be as familiar with Jackson, who is fighting in only his second UFC bout.  Jackson made his reputation in Japan, fighting in PRIDE.  His first fight in PRIDE came in 2001 when he fought MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba.  While he lost his debut fight, Jackson was so impressive, he was invited back and the rest is history.  Check out Jackson's first PRIDE fight below (thanks to Fight Opinion for the video find.)

Liddell and Jackson first fought in 2003 in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Semifinal.  For those of you looking to whet your appetite for this weekend's showdown, here is the video of that first fight:

----

So, how will MMA Insider be covering UFC 71?

For starters, look for my UFC 71 preview article later this week.

In addition, I will be traveling to Las Vegas to cover UFC 71 for Baltimoresun.com.  So, look for my live blog (assuming Southwest can get me to Sin City on time) from the UFC 71 weigh-ins around 7 PM EST on Friday.  On Saturday, I will be live-blogging the entire UFC 71 card starting right around 8 PM EST.

Because of my travel schedule, I won't be doing a TUF 5 recap or a MMA Weekly Digest this week.  I hope this one time you can forgive me.

Posted by at 8:29 PM | | Comments (2)
        

May 20, 2007

Brock Lesnar discusses his June 2 MMA debut in "Dynamite!! USA"

While the world of MMA is focused this week on UFC 71 and the epic battle for the light heavyweight crown between Chuck Liddell and Quinton Jackson, there is a MMA event the following weekend that features some interesting bouts as well.  The “Dynamite!! USA” card -- being co-promoted by Pro Elite Inc. (parent company of EliteXC) as well as F.E.G. (parent company of  K-1) -- takes place June 2 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.   The first hour of the fight card will be televised by Showtime and then switches over to Showtime pay-per-view for the remainder of the card.

The two co-main event fights on the card are a match between former professional wrestler and NCAA wrestling champ Brock Lesnar (making his MMA debut) and 7’2” South Korean Hong Man Choi, as well as a rematch between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba. 

On Friday, a conference call with Lesnar and Jake Shields (who fights Ido Pariente on the undercard) was held for the media.  Though I did not participate in the call, I was able to obtain a transcript from the folks at Showtime.   Here are some of the highlights from the call.

Brock Lesnar

Question: How do you prepare for somebody so big and is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
Lesnar:  I think the things to prepare for are very obvious. He is a very large man. He has a long reach. He is fairly agile. I have got to up-weight his hands and be able to get inside and create angles, and angles create openings for my hands and for my takedown. So we have been working extensively on that program.

Question: Can you compare the learning curve of MMA to the learning curve you experienced when you first took on the NFL or wrestling? 
Lesnar:  With each sport, you really have to break it down and the advantage that I have had to train for fighting has been I have had plenty of time. When I trained for the NFL, I was in football camp and football camp is a short period of time and everything gets thrown at you very fast. So you want to comp a lot of things in a short amount of time. As a fighter, I have had plenty of time to learn each discipline. The more time you have to spend with something, the better you are going to get at it.  By the time I learned something in football, we were already on to another chapter. So I have had enough time to train.

Question: So, now the money is there in MMA to be a draw for big time wrestlers like yourself?
Lesnar:
  Well, yes.  MMA is huge.  So there is money to be made and I am enjoying it.  I have been a fan of mixed martial arts (a long time). So I have been a follower. And it has been something that I wanted to do for a long time, but a guy has got to make a living too.  I was not going to go fight in some Bingo hall for $250 a night.

Question: As a pro wrestler, did you ever sustain any serious injuries? 
Lesnar:  Out of the four or five years of being a pro wrestler, I sustained more injuries than I did as an amateur wrestler. Even though it is choreographed, the things that I did were very unforgiving on my body. But nothing (terribly) serious. I have had arthroscopic surgeries here and there and nothing really serious, thank God. I could have very easily ended up in a wheelchair. But no, knock on wood, and I am back down to 270 pounds, back to my college wrestling day’s weight.  So I feel really good.

Question: Do you have any heroes that have influenced you?
Lesnar:  I am a big fan of Couture and Coleman and Shamrock.  I enjoyed watching those guys.  Those guys were very fun to watch.  Couture and Coleman were amateur wrestlers and so I kind of followed the amateur wrestling guys.

Question: Without giving away your strategy, what weaknesses in Hong Man Choi do you see that you figure you could exploit?
Lesnar:  Well, I think being because he is very large, there is going to be one definite difference in us.  I will be able to move a lot better.  He is very agile for a big guy, but I think I will exploit that he is not as agile as some people think.  So hopefully that is the case.

Question: Would it be safe to say that if you do get cogged pretty well from Hong Man Choi that you will take the fight to the ground?
Lesnar:  Well, yes. Obviously, my game plan is to try to get this guy on the ground and to smother him. I want to come out and set the stage for this fight. I want to set the pace. There is one thing that I do have control over and that is my cardio and I want to set a fast-paced fight for this guy, and one where I want to make sure I know that he will not be able to keep up.

Question: What was it that really frustrated you about wrestling and how much do you estimate that you lost financially by getting out of the business?
Lesnar:  Go on and read on the Internet. I have talked so much about pro wrestling, I am tired of it. It is not all about the money. It is about being happy and being close to home every night, waking up and having my daughter run into the bedroom and wake me up. Being able to put my kids to bed at night and not be on the road 300 days a year was the main reason.

Question: What do you think is the possibility for Curt Angle actually getting into Mixed Martial Arts are?  If he does, do you think it would ever be you two in the ring?
Lesnar:  I hope so. I would really like to fight Curt. If somebody is willing to promote that fight, I am all for it. I think Curt has done enough jaw jacking where -– I have said it before –- he has got to either put up or shut up. It is time for him to stop running his mouth and to physically do something.  I am the kind of guy who is going to walk the walk, and I do not do a lot of talking.  So if there is a promoter out there that is willing to back this fight, I am all for it.  If Curt has enough “guts’’ to do it, then let us do it.

Jake Shields

On his background

Shields:  I am fighting on the Cesar Gracie fight team and Fairtex team in San Francisco, Calif. I have been fighting for quite awhile, probably about six or seven years. I originally started fighting on the San Luis Obispo wrestling team. [A long time ago] Chuck Liddell had a little gym. I stopped by and hooked up with Chuck and started working out a little bit. [I] kind of got into it from there. [I] fought in a few small shows in California. Then I moved to San Francisco to wrestle and that is when I hooked up with Cesar Gracie and then from there he got me in Shooto. [I] Fought in Japan for quite awhile and won the Shooto world title.  I recently hooked up with Rumble on the Rock and won the Rumble on the Rock Grand Prix tournament and their championship. Then I did a couple of other shows.  Now, here I am with ProElite and ready to fight.

Question: You are fighting a guy, Ido Pariente.  What do you know about him?
Shields:  I do not know too much. He is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu. He supposedly has got pretty good Muay Thai (skills).  I have only gotten one fight of his, but he was pretty good.  I think he is someone I should beat, but it is hard to tell. He is pretty much an unknown because of only having one fight and coming from Israel. It is hard to know too much about the guy.

Question: How would you describe your style?
Shields:
  I started as a wrestler and then got into Jiu-Jitsu. Lately, I have been doing just Muay Thai and boxing. I am trying to round it out but originally I was definitely more of a grappler.

Question: Are you worried that since Nick Diaz is now with ProElite that you guys might come into conflict with one another in the future, where you might have to compete against each other, or one of you has to step aside for the other to get a world title shot?
Shields:  That is a little bit of a factor, but we are good friends and I am sure we can work it out. I doubt we would fight each other. It would have to be a lot of money to get us to fight each other, to make it worthwhile. As far as one of us holding the title, the other person could always either go up or down in weight or figure something out. It is just good to have a good training partner like that to really push [you].

Question: What has been your toughest fight?
Shields:  I have had some tough fights, but Yushin Okami was really tough.  He comes to mind. 

Question: What has been your most pleasing victory?
Shields:  I’ve had a good amount of good victories, but beating “Mach” Sakurai was really nice because I was completely unknown at the time and he was one of the biggest name fighters. 

Question: As a lifelong vegetarian, what do you eat and how do you prepare your food when you travel, or go overseas?
Shields:  I try to bring some food with me, obviously. When I was going to Japan, I started even bringing my own little stove so I could cook my own food.  Especially in Japan, it is hard to eat because everything is fish and meat. But around the U.S., I am able to find vegetarian food. But when it is fight time, I try to bring extra food with me.

Question: How old were you when you decided you wanted to pursue a career in MMA?  Were you a tough kid growing up? 
Shields:
  I was a pretty tough kid growing up. I grew up in the mountains and it was a tough area.  My parents were kind of hippies. I had longer hair when I was a kid. So growing up there, I had to fight a lot. It got me kind of tough. But I never really thought I wanted to be a fighter. I always watched fights and then kind of got caught up in them by accident. In the first few fights, I did not think I wanted to make a career out of it.  I was just doing it as more of a hobby, and then kind of got hooked from there. A few years ago, I decided to pursue it as a career.

Question: What is your deal with ProElite in terms of fights on your contract? Is it a single fight or multiple fights? 
Shields:  Three fights, but there is a little bit of a non-exclusivity to it.  So I will still be able to fight in some other shows. 

Posted by at 12:20 PM | | Comments (1)
        

May 19, 2007

A look back at D.C.'s first sanctioned pro MMA event

Last Saturday, I attended the first sanctioned professional MMA event in our nation's capital. The event, dubbed "The Revolution" by its promoter, Mixed Martial Arts Championship (MMAC), took place at the DC Armory. Here are some of my thoughts on the event.

Production

While no one would mistake this for a UFC event, fans also didn’t have to pay UFC money to enjoy the fight card. Ticket prices ranged from $30 to sit in the bleachers to $100 for ringside seats.  One-third to one-fourth of the Armory was curtained off to provide a staging area for the fighters, but the ringside seats appeared sold out as well as much of the lower level of the available bleacher seats.  The attendance estimated by the event PR staff was about 2,000 fans.

The event had an underground feel to it, harkening back to the early days of mixed martial arts.  The live event production was raw, with less polish than is seen in major promotions such as UFC.  But, this was to be expected for the promotion’s first major fight card.

On the other hand, all the seats -- both ringside and bleacher sections -- were close to the ring, providing an intimacy not generally available to most fans at UFC events.  Fans with ringside seats often stood on their chairs for better views when action inside the ring got hectic.  Some fans even rushed toward the ring out of pure excitement.

In addition to being close to the action, fans also enjoyed the two video screens in the arena that allowed them to continuously follow the action, even when hindered by bad viewing angles or blocked sight lines to the ring.  And TV cameras filmed all the action, which will be televised in HD this summer in three installments on the TV One network.  Based on the video displayed on the screens in the arena, the production value for the televised program promises to be quite good.

Fight card

Fans in attendance were treated to entertaining action between some quality fighters.  The fighters on the card represented countries from all over the world as well as famed fight camps such as Team Quest in Oregon, Lion’s Den in Nevada, American Top Team in Florida, and Brazilian Top Team.

The promotion even brought in a big gun to referee some of the matches.  Veteran UFC referee Mario Yamasaki refereed about half the fights, while his brother Fernando refereed the other half.

One of the notable fighters on the card was former Green Bay Packer running back Herbert Goodman, who won his light heavyweight fight over Shane Dezee in just 36 seconds, using a guillotine choke to force a tap out.

Baltimore was represented on the card by Antwain Britt, who won his heavyweight fight with a decisive first-round knockout of Patrick Barretine.  While Britt’s knockout earned cheers from the crowd, his self-congratulatory post-fight comments received a smattering of boos. 

Along with the expected fight night storylines, the D.C. event also presented fans with a bit of the unusual.  At one point, heavyweight Rocky Batastini was thrown through the ropes by his opponent Jose Edson Franca, first landing on a ringside table before eventually falling to the floor.   When Batastini returned to the bout, fans chanted “Rocky!! Rocky!!” in appreciation of his courage, though he would eventually lose by unanimous decision to Franca.

Another unusual moment came when an incident outside the ring during the Killa B. Niimi-Chris Manual fight diverted the attention of most of those in attendance.  A couple of members of the crowd were involved in the incident, which temporarily halted the fight in the ring.  At least one female member of the audience was led away by event staff.

Fan reaction

Fans at the event appeared to be knowledgeable about MMA and most – if not all – came because of their love for the sport.  As Jeff Faberman of Rockville, Md., explained, “I’m a huge MMA fan.”

And the fans I spoke to genuinely seemed to appreciate the night's fight card.  As Joon Oh of Alexandria, Va. said, “They got a lot of good fights in ... a lot better than some of the fights I’ve seen on TV.  I was really surprised.”

The most common complaint expressed by those in attendance was that the heat inside the Armory was overwhelming at times.  As Oh’s friend, Dee Chu, said succinctly, “It was hot” in the arena.  Faberman concurred, saying the event could have used some air conditioning.

In addition, some fans were miffed by the lackluster ending to the final fight of the night -- the co-main event bout between Homer Moore and Fabiano Capoani. A few minutes into the first round, Moore appeared to call timeout and was declared the loser as a result of “verbal tap out.”  Apparently, Moore aggravated a pre-existing knee injury and was seen sitting in the ring, ice on his injured knee, long after the conclusion of the bout.

As Michael Beauvais of Manassas, Va., said, “Most of the fights were cool.  I enjoyed [them].  This last [fight], I don’t know what happened.”

Still, MMAC appeared to win over fans with the event.

While Beauvais hopes MMAC brings bigger name fighters to its next event, he did admit, “They’ve got a fan in me.”

Oh agreed, saying, “I’m glad they brought [MMA] to D.C.”

And what about MMA sanctioning in Maryland? While Faberman believes MMA sanctioning in Maryland will occur soon, for now he's OK with traveling to events in D.C.  For someone who has traveled to New Jersey to watch sanctioned MMA action, D.C. is an appealing alternative.  In fact, Faberman said he can “take the subway [to D.C.] and get [to an event] in half an hour” from his home in Rockville.

What does the future hold for MMAC and D.C. MMA?

MMAC Director Omar Olumee has already stated that the promotion will hold its next event sometime in September.  And, as mentioned earlier, last week's event will be shown on TV sometime this summer.  These developments -- along with a nice first event and the audience's positive reaction to it -- make D.C.'s MMA scene worth following closely over the next six months. 

Posted by at 4:15 PM | | Comments (0)
        

May 18, 2007

TUF 5 recap (episode 7)

There were two more fights in this episode.  Both were quick and both were won rather easily in the first round by Team Penn's top two fighters.

In the first match, Gray Maynard (Penn) defeated Wayne Weems (Pulver) by first-round TKO.  Maynard started the fight with an overhand right that caught Weems.  Maynard followed that punch with a takedown and worked his positioning so that he ended up mounted on Weems' back.  Maynard then went to town on Weems' head and body before the fight was stopped.

In the second match, Matt Wiman (Penn) followed a similar strategy to defeat storyteller extraordinaire Marlon Sims (Pulver).  Wiman caught Sims with a right hand and followed that by taking the fight to the ground.  On the ground, Wiman was able to get on Sims' back and eventually choke out Sims in the first round.

With these losses, Team Pulver is now up only 5-3 going into the quarterfinal matches.

The only drama of the episode involved Andy Wang of Team Penn.  In an effort to shake up his team, coach BJ Penn decided to kick Wang off the team for being stubborn and not listening to the coaches in training as well as during his match.  Jens Pulver -- with the approval of his team -- decided to pick Wang up to give his team 9 fighters.  Inexplicably, Wang was resistant to being picked up by Team Pulver.  I couldn't follow his reasoning, given that Penn had made it clear he didn't want Wang back and the only other option appeared to be a trip home. 

With his antics, Wang joins Gabe Ruediger as someone on the show who hasn't been helping his public image very much.

Posted by at 10:26 AM | | Comments (1)
        

May 15, 2007

Eric Schafer out of UFC 71

I received an e-mail from Eric Schafer last night saying that he will no longer be fighting in UFC 71.  According to Schafer, he broke a rib in practice on Monday. Schafer said the injury was confirmed by a doctor, who also told him that the "break should take 4-6 weeks to heal (or longer if there is some cartilage damage). "

Schafer says he is "bummed" about the injury, which he called a "fluke."  According to Schafer, the injury took place when he was "drilling some light boxing ... and I took a right body hook. I could feel something crunch in my torso and I took one deep breath and I knew something was screwed ... I laid down in disbelief.  [The punch] was not too hard, but it must have just hit the rib at the right angle."

Schafer was scheduled to meet Sean Salmon in a light heavyweight matchup at UFC 71 on May 26.  In his e-mail, Schafer said that Salmon has already found a new opponent for the fight, though Schafer didn't disclose the new opponent.

Posted by at 8:56 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 11, 2007

Weekly MMA Digest (Week of May 7)

- In sad news, the IFL's Jeremy Williams passed away this past weekend.  The middleweight fighter for the Southern California Condors, Williams died of unknown causes at age 27.

- Melvin Guillard was suspended 8 months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and fined $2,100 for testing positive for a cocaine metabolite after his April 5 UFC Fight Night loss to Joe Stevenson.  Guillard has admitted to trying cocaine before the fight.  Check out Ivan Trembow's full article on MMA Weekly, where he broke the news.

- Has boxing's demise been greatly exaggerated in the press?  Very possibly, especially if you read MMA Weekly's article on the gate receipts for last weekend's Mayweather-De La Hoya fight.  In fact, according to the article, the fight broke records for pay-per-view buys and gross revenue.  While the live gate receipts haven't been tabulated yet, those numbers are expected to break records as well.

- Regardless of the status of boxing, MMA is clearly gaining more and more mainstream acceptance.  Evidence: UFC light heavyweight Chuck Liddell is on the cover of this week's ESPN Magazine.  This is the first time an MMA fighter has been on the cover of that magazine.

- Locally, Washington, D.C., is holding its first-ever sanctioned professional MMA event on Saturday, May 12.  Click here to read MMAC Director Omar Olumee's thoughts on the event.

- Baltimore's Tenyah Dixon (Team Ground Control) travels to New Jersey Saturday to take on Aaron Miesner in a middleweight fight at Battle Cage Xtreme.

Posted by at 12:15 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Weekly TUF 5 recap (episode 6)

Episode 6 featured two fights.  After last week's debacle involving Gabe Ruediger, this was much-needed.

The first fight -- pitting Joe Lauzon (Team Penn) against Brian Geraghty (Team Pulver) -- was a short one.  Lauzon, who already defeated coach Jens Pulver in UFC 63, made quick work of Geraghty.  Lauzon slammed Geraghty to the mat, grounded and pounded for a few seconds, jumped on Geraghty's back, and ended the match early in the first round with a rear naked choke.

Lauzon was impressive.  His win gave Team Penn its first victory of the season, but Team Penn still trailed Team Pulver 4-1 going into the episode's second fight.

The second fight matched up Corey Hill (Team Pulver) against the resurrected Rob Emerson (Team Penn), who was brought back to replace Ruediger.  You will remember that Emerson had already lost to Nate Diaz earlier in the season.

The one bit of information we learned during this episode was that Hill was a very inexperienced fighter coming into TUF 5 -- in fact, he only had two amateur MMA fights under his belt going into his bout against Emerson, so Emerson had the clear experience advantage.  Hill, on the other hand, had the height advantage standing at 6 feet, 4 inches -- a full eight inches taller than Emerson.

Hill and Emerson picked their spots during the first two rounds, attacking with brief flurries before pulling out and circling in the Octagon.  Most of the first two rounds were fought standing up, but the real action occurred on the ground as the second round came to a close.  Emerson had Hill in a nasty heel hook but Hill was saved by the horn.

Based on the evenness of the first two rounds, the fight went into a sudden-death third round to settle matters.  The third round was fought standing up again and neither fighter did much to differentiate himself, in my mind.  Still, the victory went unanimously to Hill (though Dana White felt that Emerson had won the fight.)

Hill is definitely an imposing presence in the lightweight division because of his height and reach.  His inexperience could hurt him as he advances in the show.  It will be interesting to see how he does against the top fighters so far in TUF 5 -- for example, Lauzon, Diaz and Manny Gamburyan.

As things stand, Team Pulver is up 5-1 going into next week's episode and controls the fight selection.

Posted by at 10:11 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 10, 2007

MMAC's Olumee discusses D.C.'s first sanctioned MMA event

Washington D.C.'s first sanctioned professional mixed martial arts event will take place Saturday, May 12, at the DC Armory.  The event is historic for MMA fans in both the nation's capital as well as those traveling from Maryland, where the sport is still not sanctioned.

Saturday's fight card -- dubbed "The Revolution" -- is being promoted by Mixed Martial Arts Championship (MMAC), which is "comprised of experienced martial art professionals" and advertises itself as Washington's first licensed organization, according to its Web site

The two main event fights on the card are Homer Moore vs. Fabiano Capoani and Amir Rahnavardi vs. Nino Schembri.  Moore has fought in the UFC, IFL, and WEC and sports a 24-8-2 MMA record.  Capoani, on the other hand, has far less experience with only a 3-2-1 record and no fights in any of the major organizations.  Schembri has fought in a number of PRIDE fights and carries a 3-4 record into the ring this weekend.  His opponent -- Rahnavardi -- has fought in PRIDE (two losses) as well as WEC and IFL and has a 9-7 record.

MMAC Director Omar Olumee answered a few questions by e-mail about the event. What follows is the transcript of that interview.

How are preparations going leading up to the event? 

Preparations are always difficult when you have to manage a number of people.  But my staff and business partners are wonderful people to work with and have been doing an amazing job!

Who will administer the drug testing of the fighters? 

[The] fighters have gone through D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission requirements as [far as] getting their medicals done.  I'm not sure if they will be tested afterward.

How many tickets have you sold so far? 

We expect a very good showing for our first ever event.

Was MMAC involved in having MMA sanctioned in Washington?  If so, in what ways were you involved? 

We were the ones who approached the commissioner about the sanction and after many meetings and discussions and reviewing of the rules we were able to get MMA sanctioned in D.C.

Are you fighting for sanctioning in neighboring jurisdictions, for example Maryland?

We are very happy that MMA enthusiasts in Maryland are interested in having fights and we support any state or jurisdiction who have fans that support MMA.

Do you have any plans to take your promotion to other jurisdictions where MMA is currently sanctioned, for example Pennsylvania or New Jersey?

Well, D.C. is the hub for us and we are of course interested in making sure D.C.'s fan base gets the best of MMAC.

How significant is "The Revolution" for the sport of MMA in D.C.? 

It is very significant [with] D.C. being the nation's capital and full of sports fans that we are able to grow the sport here.  If you ever go to the mall on Saturday you will see loads of young professionals playing football, soccer, softball and many more sports.  This shows DC is not a sleeping town and can handle the excitement of MMA.

The casual fan may not know many of the fighters on this card.  Are there one or two fighters on this card we should follow, who could end up being future stars in the sport? 

All of the fighters are strong and unique in there own way with great skills and heart. I believe the fans will find new fighters to love on May 12.

Do you know when and where your second event will be? 

MMAC looks forward to its next bout at a location to be determined in September.

What are the long-term goals of MMAC?   

Right now our goal is to wow D.C. with the excitement of MMA.

For more information about the event, visit www.mmacdc.com.

Posted by at 7:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

May 9, 2007

IFL Battleground battling back?

IFL Battleground debuted nearly two months ago on MyNetworkTV.  The weekly two-hour show started out on shaky ground, as I chronicled in my critiques of the first two episodes (here and here.)  However, I promised I would give the Monday night show another chance and decided to check in again this week.

I was pleasantly surprised by the numerous changes the show's producers have made since the second episode.  While I only caught half of this most recent episode, what I did see was enough to make me want to come back for more next week. 

One very noticeable change was that there were far fewer fights shown in the most recent episode.  In fact, only five fights were shown on Monday's telecast and -- as far as I can tell -- all the fights were shown in their entirety.  Because all five fights were taken from the April 13 match between the New York Pitbulls and Portland Wolfpack, the show's progression was logical and easy to follow.

The program also made use of the time between fights to feature vignettes about fighters and present pre- and post-fight interviews.  During the fights, coaches as well as other fighters on both teams were also interviewed.  More time was spent building up the personalities in each fight and creating a bond between the audience and those in the ring. 

And because the action was uncut and easier to follow, it was much easier to appreciate the skill of some of the fighters.  Delson Heleno was particularly impressive in his decision win over Mike Dolce and Devin Cole posted an impressive come-from-behind KO victory over Bryan Vetell.

Other improvements I noted were the constant display of time and round on the bottom left corner of the screen; a graphic showing us the fighter trunk colors; and another graphic displaying team scores between fights.  While subtle, these details help keep the audience oriented during the program.

In addition, we were given a sneak peek of next week's episode, which will include a new segment featuring IFL's search for new ring card girls.  From the few moments presented in this past episode, this segment could prove to be very entertaining.

And gladly, the same can now be said about IFL Battleground as a whole.

Posted by at 9:50 AM | | Comments (2)
        

May 4, 2007

Weekly MMA Digest (Week of April 30)

This week's dominant headline in combat sports is the Floyd Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya boxing match coming up on Saturday.  The interesting thing about this fight is how UFC's name has been dragged into the conversation repeatedly by the boxing establishment as well as its proponents.  Boxing clearly sees MMA passing it in popularity (especially in the key demographic of males 18-34) and quite frankly this fight between Mayweather and De La Hoya isn't going to change that much. 

My question is why do fans of boxing feel that the combat universe doesn't have enough room for both boxing and MMA?  Why are boxing fans so threatened by MMA that they feel they have to attack the sport so viciously?  One thing I've noted is that MMA fans and writers do not exhibit the same vitriolic attitude toward boxing -- in fact, many of us started out as fans of boxing and gave up after years of boring fights, corruption and a confusing plethora of belts that made titles almost meaningless.

Let's sample some of what the boxing establishment has been saying this week and over the last few weeks leading up to the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight:

- Mayweather dissed UFC and its champions -- including Chuck Liddell -- in this article by Yahoo Sports.

- Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon (columnists I enjoyed reading in The Washington Post when I was a kid growing up in Silver Spring) showcased their own ignorance about the sport this week on their ESPN show Pardon the Interruption. According to MMAWeekly's writeup of their comments, Wilbon and Kornheiser bashed the sport and compared MMA fights to "bare-knuckles" boxing.

- And, of course Mike Freeman wrote a piece for CBS Sportsline a couple of days ago in which he coined the clever phrase Ultimate Farcical Clown for the acronym UFC and said MMA wasn't a real sport.  I talked about his vapid piece in an earlier blog entry.

The MMA world responded to the insults hurled by boxing's fans, though no response was truly needed to the undignified attacks.  After all, the growing popularity of MMA speaks for itself.  But, here's what some in the world of MMA said to counter boxing's wild last-gasp punches:

- UFC President Dana White responded to Mayweather a couple of weeks ago by saying the UFC's lightweight champ Sean Sherk would easily defeat Mayweather in an MMA fight.

- CBS Sportsline columnist Gregg Doyel responded to Freeman's anti-UFC article with a well-written retort stating that this weekend's Mayweather-De La Hoya fight amounts to a "funeral" for boxing.

----

In UFC news, the UFC 71 card has been finalized.  Along with the megafight for the light heavyweight title between Chuck Liddell and Quinton Jackson, some other notable fighters on the card are Karo Parisyan, Keith Jardine, and Chris Leben.  For the full card, click here.

Posted by at 1:12 PM | | Comments (1)
        

TUF 5 episode 5 recap

For those of you who didn't catch last night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter season 5, you're fortunate.  You didn't miss much in terms of MMA action.

Corey Hill (Team Pulver) called out Gabe Ruediger (Team Penn) for the elimination match. Ruediger's weight had been an issue since day one of the show and he made a half-hearted attempt (according to coach BJ Penn and his teammates) at cutting weight and gave up with under an hour left before weigh-ins and about 4 pounds left to cut.  In fact, Ruediger was taken to the hospital by ambulance to be re-hydrated.

UFC President Dana White was so upset about Ruediger's lack of discipline and inability to cut weight that he summarily booted Ruediger from the competition and kicked him out of the house.  White brought Rob Emerson (a loser to Nate Diaz in episode 3) back into the competition to replace Ruediger on Team Penn.

And Corey Hill didn't get a free pass from White either.  White stated that Hill will still have to earn his way into the second round of the tournament.

Because there was no fight this week, there will be two fights next week and both matchups were set at the end of last night's episode, with Team Pulver choosing both.  The two fights in episode six will be:

Brian Geraghty (Team Pulver) vs. Joe Lauzon (Team Penn)
Corey Hill (Pulver) vs. Rob Emerson (Penn)

While there was no fight to watch last night, viewers were given yet another glimpse into what it's like to be an MMA fighter.  While episode 4 underlined the importance of strategy and following your corner's instruction (which Andy Wang did not do in his fight), episode 5 showed us what it's like to cut weight before a fight. 

Shedding pounds is clearly an important part of pre-fight preparation and even in the best of conditions, it's not an easy thing to do.  A lot of fighters fight far below their walking weight so that they can gain as much of an advantage as possible against the other opponents in their weight class.  So, unless these fighters are monitoring their weight during training, they may be left with a lot of weight to lose in the last few precious hours before the weigh-ins.  In Ruediger's case, he had about 20 pounds to lose to get to 155 pounds.  He tried to lose that weight over an 18 hour period by riding a stationary bike and hitting the sauna.  Though he came close, in the end Ruediger's lack of preparation cost him an opportunity to perform in the Octagon.

I'll be interested to see what Ruediger says in the press over the next few days.  He had a golden opportunity to make a name for himself in this sport and he blew it.

Posted by at 11:23 AM | | Comments (0)
        

May 2, 2007

CBS Sportsline columnist rips MMA

CBS Sportsline's Mike Freeman desperately needs readers, which is why he wrote this article comparing boxing and MMA:

http://cbs.sportsline.com/columns/story/10162545

This is one of the most inane articles about mixed martial arts you will read today.  It is amazing to me that the editors at CBS Sportsline allowed this piece to be published because it is baseless and factually incorrect on multiple points.

It is one thing to debate the merits of boxing and MMA on an educated level.  Freeman's article does not come close to doing this. 

My hunch is that no one is reading Freeman's boxing articles so he included whatever he knew about UFC in his article (which is clearly very little) to make the article more newsworthy and to attract readers.  And to a certain degree, he succeeded -- after all I'm bringing him more readers by posting the link on my blog.

However, in the process, Freeman has exposed himself as ignorant of the facts.  In the end, he is the Ultimate Farcical Clown.

Posted by at 10:22 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Breakout victory for Baltimore's Binky Jones

Click here to read my article about Binky Jones' victory in the Ring of Combat lightweight title match this past Friday.

Posted by at 4:15 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Dana White appeared on Scott Ferrall's radio show Tuesday night

UFC President Dana White was on Scott Ferrall's radio show on Sirius satellite radio during the 9 o'clock hour (EST) Tuesday night. I caught the last 25 minutes of the 30-35 minute appearance.

Here are some highlights:

- White said a lot of the fighters in PRIDE have been overrated for the last few years, when discussing Mirko Cro Cop's loss to Gabriel Gonzaga in UFC 70.  He said UFC has the best fighters in the world.

- White said that Quinton Jackson wasn't happy with his contract when he entered the UFC and White has taken care of that issue -- Jackson's contract was renegotiated recently.

- White said he is in talks with network TV for a deal to televise UFC.

- White said Matt Serra's next fight (and first title defense) will be against Matt Hughes as part of the TUF 6 finale.  Serra and Hughes will be the coaches on TUF 6.

- White said that the Floyd Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya boxing match this weekend is the last big fight for boxing.  He also predicted Mayweather would win the fight.

-  White said that newly signed heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will be on the UFC 73 card in Sacramento, Calif., against an undisclosed opponent.

-  White said that UFC "took it on the chin" financially in putting on UFC 70 because of all the marketing money spent in England.

- White said that UFC "is very actively" pursuing PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko.

- White said that the whole boxing match fiasco with Tito Ortiz has only made their relationship worse.

- White said that UFC will be holding an event at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2008.

-  White said that Kimbo Slice of online streetfighting fame would "get killed" in the UFC and the circuit has no plans to sign him.

Posted by at 8:24 AM | | Comments (1)
        

May 1, 2007

Visual appeal

I don't know why, but I'm really into how Web sites look and feel.  In this day and age, Web sites are marketing tools and are often the first impression a consumer has of a particular product. 

So, I'm happy to say that I clicked on the WEC's league Web site today and I noticed they had upgraded it.  Ever since Zuffa purchased the league, I've been waiting for this upgrade because I wasn't a big fan of the old WEC Web site.  Looking at the WEC's new Web site, I had a hunch it was designed by the same company that designed the UFC's Web site.  And I was right.  Looking at the bottom of both league Web site home pages, I found that a company named Getfused designed both.

Now that Zuffa owns PRIDE, I'm waiting for PRIDE's Web site overhaul, which I think is overdue as well.  I imagine if PRIDE gets a new Web site, the new site may share some of the same elements as UFC's site. However, given that PRIDE Is based in Japan, there may be some culturally-specific differences too.

----

Speaking of visual appeal, I received a press release today stating that Tito Ortiz has been selected as one of the 50 most beautiful Hispanic celebrities by People en Espanol.  According to the press release, the magazine hit newsstands today.  You think Rashad Evans is going to buy a copy of this issue?

Posted by at 9:19 PM | | Comments (0)
        
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Kevin Richardson has been a fan of mixed martial arts competition ever since UFC 3, when 600-pound sumo wrestler Emmanuel Yarborough was beaten by Keith Hackney. Kevin will cover the world of MMA — in Baltimore, nationally and internationally. He plans to take readers into the locker rooms and MMA schools, where they'll hear from local fighters and trainers. If you have a news tip or suggestions for the blog, please e-mail him.

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