Binky Jones signs two-fight deal with BodogFight, also appears on PPV
With the Orioles nesting in familiar territory close to the bottom of the standings in both the American League East as well as the American League and the Ravens still a couple of months away from tackling their regular season schedule, Baltimore fans may be wondering if they have any winners to root for during these hot summer months.
Well, Baltimore's own James "Binky" Jones may be just the cure for area summertime sports blues. Jones -- fresh off capturing the Ring of Combat lightweight tournament title in April -- will be quite active over the next couple of weeks, reaping some of the benefits of his recent success.
Jones' title fight against Ian Loveland will be one of the bouts featured on the inDemand Pay-Per-View show documenting the tournament. The program will first air Friday, June 29 at 10 PM at an advertised price of $19.95. There will be re-broadcasts airing throughout the first couple of weeks in July.
In addition, it was recently announced that Jones will be fighting July 14 on BodogFight's card in Trenton, N.J. His opponent that night will be Nick Agallar. According to the Team Ground Control Web site, Jones signed a two-fight deal with BodogFight.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will have much more news on Jones' big move to the major MMA promotion and his upcoming fight with Agallar. In addition, I hope to be in Trenton to cover his debut fight with BodogFight.
I'm heading off for five days of R&R starting Thursday. I have made the conscious decision to unplug myself during this vacation and not take my laptop or stay tuned in to MMA news. With that said, I will miss Friday night's EliteXC Strikeforce event featuring Frank Shamrock vs. Phil Baroni. In addition, I won't be watching Saturday night's TUF 5 Finale headlined by BJ Penn vs. Jens Pulver.
Therefore, I'm asking you the reader to help me out over the next couple of days. Drop me a line by either posting to this blog or emailing me and let me know your thoughts on both events. I will be relying on your accounts to get a feel for how the two events went and for fight breakdowns. I'll post the best comments or emails on this blog sometime next week.
Before I go, I have culled some late-breaking news regarding the Shamrock-Baroni event. Sherdog is reporting that Murilo Rua has passed his most recent physical and will be able to fight Joey Villasenor Friday night. Rua had failed a physical last week. In addition, Phil Baroni has also been cleared to fight in the headline bout after speculation that he might not be able to do so.
And, finally MMA blogger Luke Thomas is reporting on his Bloody Elbow blog that Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett is in jail until July 16 for "felony charges regarding his violation of probation." Bennett was scheduled to fight Victor Valenzuela on the June 22 card, but unless the bout is held in Bennett's jail cell, I don't see how this fight can take place.
Enjoy another exciting weekend of MMA action. I'll be back next week!
This Friday in San Jose, former UFC middleweight champ and MMA legend Frank Shamrock takes on Phil Baroni in a fight that has been building up for close to a year now. The two fighters square off for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight belt (in an event co-promoted by EliteXC), but a shot at the title seems to be the least interesting aspect of the fight.
The brash and cocky Baroni -- a veteran of UFC and PRIDE -- began the war of words last year by calling out Shamrock online. Shamrock retaliated on YouTube late last year with this video after a previously scheduled bout between the two was canceled.
In recent weeks, even UFC President Dana White has stepped into the fray. White and Shamrock have had a beef dating back to Shamrock's UFC days. And according to Baroni in this video, White has offered to double Baroni's June 22 payday if Baroni knocks out Shamrock.
I'm not sure if it's even possible, but hopefully the fight itself will be as entertaining as the hype and trash-talk leading up to it.
The rest of the card
Word out of California last week was that main event fighter Murilo Rua had failed his physical, leaving his opponent Joey Villasenor currently without someone to fight. There is no word on who Villasenor's new opponent will be or even whether he will fight on this card.
In the under card, Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett returns to action in a bout against Victor "Joe Boxer" Valenzuela. Fans will remember Bennett as the entertaining, trash-talking machine who stopped KJ Noons cold in EliteXC's debut event in February. Bennett will look to continue his unpredictable ways and celebrate a victory on Friday with his customary back flips off the top of the cage.
Online and televised coverage
The under card of the event will be streamed live for free at proelite.com beginning at 7:30 PM EST. The main card will air live on Showtime pay-per-view beginning at 10:00 PM EST.
For more information on the Shamrock-Baroni fight as well as all the other fights on the June 22 card, visit elitexc.com.
This Saturday, TUF 5 culminates with the The Ultimate Fighter 5 finale. However, the most anticipated fight of the night will not involve the two lightweight contenders, Manny Gamburyan and Nate Diaz, contending for the TUF 5 crown. Instead, the fight everyone has been talking about is the grudge rematch between TUF coaches and arch rivals BJ Penn and Jens Pulver.
Penn vs. Pulver
Penn and Pulver first fought in 2002. That fight was Pulver's second defense of his lightweight crown and he won the five-round bout by majority decision. The two didn't like each other back then and that animosity has continued to this day. Much like TUF 3 capitalized on the rivalry between coaches Tito Ortiz and Frank Shamrock, TUF 5 did the same with Penn and Pulver.
In the first episode of TUF 5, the two coaches were asked to pick fighters for their respective teams. Penn -- in an attempt to get inside the head of Pulver -- asked the contenders which ones wanted to fight on his team. Most of the fighters raised their hands in the hopes that Penn would pick them. This tactic clearly did not sit well with Pulver.
Dana White added fuel to the fire with a $10,000 ping-pong match in the last episode of the season. Pulver won that match as well, adding to his string of victories over "The Prodigy".
Gamburyan vs. Diaz
While the Penn-Pulver fight could have easily headlined UFC 72, the fight between Gamburyan and Diaz to crown the TUF 5 champ shouldn't be a bad one either. Both fighters trained with Team Pulver on the reality show and both had to win three matches to get to the finals. Diaz -- brother of former UFC fighter, Nick -- sports a seven-inch height advantage over the stockier "Pit bull", Gamburyan. This fight for the automatic UFC contract will most likely be won on the ground.
The rest of the card
In addition to the two main event fights, there are other fighters of interest on the card. Roger Huerta, who defeated fellow lightweight Leonard Garcia at UFC 69 and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, fights Doug Evans. Garcia fights on this card as well, this time against TUF 5 round one loser and relative MMA novice Allen Berube.
Other TUF 5 fighters to look out for this Saturday include Joe Lauzon (who beat Pulver in UFC 63 and was a TUF 5 semi-finalist), Cole Miller, Gray Maynard (another TUF 5 semi-finalist), and Matt Wiman.
The TUF 5 Finale will air live on Spike TV this Saturday starting at 9 PM EST. For the entire fight card, click here.
With UFC 72 in the books for about 24 hours, here are some of my thoughts on the event.
Attendance: This was UFC's first event in Northern Ireland and from numerous reports, attendance for the event was a thousand or so short of the Odyssey Arena's 9,000-seat capacity. UFC President Dana White has acknowledged in the past that UFC 70 in Manchester, England was a financial hit for the promotion and also seemed candid about the fact that yesterday's event was not a sellout. According to White, this is the price for bringing UFC to new markets.
On the other hand, as I watched the event on pay-per-view I was struck by how knowledgeable the fans in attendance were. They also appeared to be quite into the event. At one point during Forrest Griffin's bout, they chanted in unison as if at a soccer (football) match.
Yushin Okami's lost opportunity: Okami can only look back on his main event fight against former UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin and ask himself "What could have been?" Okami was passive the first two rounds and allowed Franklin to do enough to capture both rounds on the judge's cards. When the third round started, Okami had put himself in a do-or-die position and he finally fought with some urgency. And when he did, he looked very good. Okami was able to take Franklin to the ground and control him there, even achieving full mount at one point. The fighter from Japan almost submitted Franklin twice before time finally ran out.
If only Okami had been more aggressive in the first two rounds, he may have come out of this match with a victory and a title fight in his next match. Instead, he will have to question his UFC 72 tactics. Regardless, Okami has established himself as one of the top contenders in the division. He is big and strong, with a terrific ground game, submission skills, and ground-and-pound arsenal. A couple of more wins against top-level fighters in the division and I believe UFC will have no choice but to give him a title shot, probably sometime in 2008.
Forrest Griffin wins but doesn't finish: Griffin is clearly one of the scrappiest fighters in the UFC light heavyweight division. He has tremendous heart and appears to have worked quite a bit on his stand-up game in recent months. He came into last night's bout against Hector Ramirez in fantastic shape. Ramirez was the smaller fighter and didn't look like he was in very good shape. Griffin controlled the Octagon the entire fight and moved in aggressively when he needed to, doing enough to score points and eventually earn the unanimous decision.
Given that Griffin was the more dominant fighter, I would have liked to have seen him finish the fight and not send it to the judges' cards. Instead, Griffin appeared content to not make the big mistake and earn the victory any way he could. I just don't know if he showed enough in his UFC 72 fight to be considered a top UFC light heavyweight quite yet. For example, how would Griffin fare against fellow TUF alums Michael Bisping or Rashad Evans, let alone the elite in the division such as Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, or Quinton Jackson?
Food for thought: Griffin has now fought seven UFC fights (going 5-2) and has only finished two of those fights.
Lightweight division continues to shine: Yesterday's lightweight fight between Clay Guida and Tyson Griffin was yet another example of why Dana White's decision to bring back this division was such a good one. This fight was fast-paced and showcased great technical skill as well as non-stop action. Unfortunately, the decision came down to the judges' score cards and I don't envy them because I believe the fight could have gone either way.
I can't remember the last time I saw a boring UFC lightweight fight, can you?
International Fight League (IFL) held its final regular season card last night in Las Vegas. From an IFL press release here are the results:
New York Pitbulls (3-0 team record, 10-5 individual record) def. Toronto Dragons (1-2 team, 8-7 indiv.), 3-2 185 lb: Brent Beauparlant, Dragons, def. Fabio Leopoldo, Pitbulls, via TKO (injury), 2:22, 3rd 205 lb: Andre Gusmao, Pitbulls, def. Wojtek Kaszowski, Dragons, via submission (rear naked choke) 3:53, 1st 155 lb: Wagnney Fabiano, Dragons, def. Erik Owings, Pitbulls, via submission (armbar), 0:58, 1st 170 lb: Delson Heleno, Pitbulls, def. Gideon Ray, Dragons, via submission (armbar), 1:29, 2nd 265 lb: Marcio Cruz, Pitbulls, def Rafael Feijao, Dragons, via disqualification (repeated illegal head kicks), 3:42, 3rd
Nevada Lions (2-1, 8-7) def. Tuscon Scorpions (0-3, 4-6), 4-1 185 lb.: Daniel Molina, Lions, def. Seth Baczynski, Scorpions, via submission (heel hook), 1:32, 1st 170 lb.: Pat Healy, Lions, def. Mike Guymon, Scorpions, via decision (split), after three rounds 155 lb.: John Gunderson, Lions, def. Gabe Casillas, Scorpions, via submission (rear naked choke), 2:58, 2nd 265 lb.: Roy Nelson, Lions, def. Shane Ott, Scorpions, via decision (unanimous), after three rounds 205 lb.: Mike Whitehead, Scorpions, def. Vernon White, Lions, via TKO, 0:54, 2nd
With the regular season complete, the 4-team IFL playoffs are now set. In the semifinals (which take place August 2 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey), the Tokyo Sabres square off against the New York Pitbulls in a matchup of unbeaten teams, while the 3-0 L.A. Anacondas square off against the 2-1 Quad Cities Silverbacks. The Silverbacks sneak into the playoffs by virtue of having a better individual record than the Southern California Condors and Nevada Lions, which were also both 2-1 in team competition.
For more information on the IFL, head over to IFL.tv.
UFC heads to Northern Ireland today for UFC 72, a pay-per-view event that comes in the middle of a two-week stretch that features three UFC events. As far as pay-per-view events are concerned, this one is a notch or two below UFC 71 and the upcoming stacked UFC 73 card. There are no title matches on the card and no main event matches to truly capture the imagination of the public.
In addition, with so much UFC action on cable TV (for example, BJ Penn vs. Jens Pulver next Saturday on Spike TV), many fans may choose not to fork over the $40+ to their cable provider for a less-than-eye-catching card. Viewership in the U.S. may also suffer because of the time difference -- the event is being televised live on the East Coast at 3 p.m. and many fans may not want to spend a nice spring day indoors.
Regardless, there are a couple of local establishments in the Baltimore area showing UFC 72. Huckas on Boston Street in Canton is one of them and the cover charge is $10 per person. In addition, area Hooters restaurants are also showing the card. A call to the Towson Hooters confirmed that there is no cover charge to watch at Hooters.
I will be making my way to one of these establishments to watch UFC 72, so here are some of my thoughts on the card.
Balanced card: UFC 72 features eight fights, with each weight class represented at least once. Most of the fights -- five of them -- are in the middleweight and welterweight divisions.
Best fight on paper: The main event fight features former middleweight champ Rich Franklin against rising contender Yushin Okami. Franklin stopped Canadian Jason MacDonald in two rounds at UFC 68, while Okami defeated Mike Swick by unanimous decision at UFC 69. Does a title shot await the winner of this fight?
Forrest Griffin: Griffin -- the TUF 1 fan favorite -- returns to action for the first time since his loss to Keith Jardine last December at UFC 66. Griffin needs this win badly to even be considered a legitimate contender in the UFC light heavyweight division. Griffin's opponent is Hector Ramirez. Though Ramirez is 0-1 in the UFC and only recently became a full-time fighter, he shouldn't be taken lightly. Ramirez has joined up with new trainer Juanito Ibarra, the same man who trains current UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton Jackson. In addition, Ramirez helped Jackson train for his title fight with Chuck Liddell, an experience that can only help him in today's fight against Griffin.
Other fighters I'll be watching closely: I'll be interested to see how middleweight Jason MacDonald does in his first fight since losing to Franklin. MacDonald is the self-proclaimed "TUF killer" after having beaten TUF alums Chris Leben and Ed Herman last year. Today, MacDonald faces another TUF alum -- TUF 3 fighter Rory Singer.
Heavyweight Eddie Sanchez -- better known as Mirko Cro Cop's welcome mat to the UFC --- also returns to action for the first time since his loss to the Croatian and former PRIDE star. Sanchez is no slouch (he boasts an 8-1 MMA record) and today faces Colin Robinson, a fighter making his UFC debut.
And finally, I'll be watching middleweight Ed Herman to see if he can continue his winning ways. Herman is a TUF 3 alum and his UFC career got off to a rough start with two straight losses. But, he righted the ship with a first-round submission victory over Chris Price in January. Today, Herman faces Scott Smith, who is 1-2 in UFC.
For information on the entire card, you can visit ufc.com.
TUF 5 episodes 11-12 recap: I hereby challenge Jens Pulver to a ping-pong match
An open letter to Dana White and Jens Pulver:
Dear Dana and Jens,
I watched last night's final two episodes of TUF 5 with keen interest. I've enjoyed this fifth season of TUF quite a bit. As exciting as the UFC lightweight division is inside the Octagon, TUF 5 proved that these guys know how to have fun outside the arena too.
Last night in episodes 11 and 12 we saw a fruit war at the house, we saw a drunk Cole Miller get the back of his head shaved, and we saw Karo Parisyan in a verbal confrontation with Nate Diaz.
We also saw Manny Gumbaryan defeat Joe Lauzon via unanimous decision after controlling Lauzon on the ground for three rounds. We then saw Diaz work some beautiful technical moves on the ground to choke out Gray Maynard in the second round of their fight. Both fights set up what should be a very exciting finals match between Gumbaryan (Parisyan's cousin) and Diaz.
But, what really intrigued me last night was the ping-pong match between coaches Jens Pulver and BJ Penn. And, I have to say, much like GSP, "I am not impressed."
I grew up with a ping-pong table in my basement and played almost every night for 10 years. I think I could come into the Ultimate Ping-Pong Championships (UPPC) and run the table.
Dana, much like you've brought in some of the best fighters from throughout the world to compete in UFC, you need to shore up UPPC's ranks as well. Jens is an admirable champ, but his number one contender is Penn. Bring me in. Give me a warm-up match just to introduce me to the billions of ping-pong fans (they're mostly in Asia, but that's an untapped UFC market -- think of all the UFC-UPPC cross-promotions we could do). But, let's be careful. My warm-up opponent could get lucky and upset me, squandering all the marketing dollars that would go into promotion of a match between Pulver and Mohapatra.
So, instead I suggest you just give me an immediate title shot. Fans will learn to love me once I have the title. I don't have Quinton Jackson's personality but I am definitely more interesting than drying paint or growing grass.
Let's talk ground rules for this match. No elbows, knees, foot stomps...or illegal serves. Let's make it a best-of-five match, each set up to 21, win by two.
I've even got a catchy name for the event: "UPPC 1: The Writer vs. The Fighter." We can do a whole Spike TV documentary centered around my training as well as Jens' training. And to Spike TV, I will show up for the weigh-ins. We can donate the pay-per-view proceeds as well as live gate receipts to charity or if we agree, all the money can go to you, me, and Jens.
And, I'll also go out on a limb and make a bold prediction for our match. Borrowing from Rampage, "I'm gonna whoop Jens' butt...in ping pong."
Dana, let's make this happen. I've already begun training.
Quick hits from Ultimate Fight Night: Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher
Fight of the night: Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher
The main event fight was also the best fight of the night. These two lightweight fighters fought once before with Stout winning a split decision at UFC 58. On Tuesday, Fisher came out swinging and hit Stout early and often with very accurate punches. Stout -- to his credit -- showed a very strong chin and was able to counterattack effectively. However, Stout didn't do enough in any of the rounds to threaten to win the match. This fight was a stand-up war and went to the judges' scorecards with Fisher coming away with a unanimous decision (30-27 on all the score cards.)
As I've mentioned before, the lighter weight classes in MMA provide some of the most exciting bouts -- this fight and WEC's card last week showed us again why this is the case.
Most impressive submission: Thiago Tavares
While Jon Fitch looked very good against Roan Carneiro, winning by rear naked choke in the second round of their fight, Tavares was downright scary in his fight against Jason Black. Tavares -- another exciting lightweight -- showed excellent technical skill on the ground, eventually winning in the second round with a neatly executed triangle choke. Still unbeaten in MMA action at 12-0, Tavares has won 10 of those matches by submission. Against Black, Tavares dominated on the ground and also looked confident on his feet. The young Tavares (he's only 23) has a bright future in an already stacked division.
Most impressive TKO/KO: Drew McFedries & Anthony Johnson
Drew McFedries stopped Jordan Radev 33 seconds into their fight with a couple of punches standing up before stiffening Radev with three shots to the head on the ground. Anthony Johnson looked quite explosive in his UFC debut against Chad Reiner, winning by TKO 13 seconds into the fight.
McFedries is now 2-1 in UFC (with all his fights ending in the first round) and looks to move up in the middleweight division with this win. Johnson's impressive debut should get him additional looks in a crowded welterweight division.
Ratings for Ultimate Fight Night
Ultimate Fight Night ran from 9-11 p.m. Tuesday night. Of course, sports fans had to choose between that and Game 3 of the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. I think you know what I chose to watch. And, when I switched channels at 11 p.m. to catch the score of the NBA game and saw that it was 55-50 at the end of the third quarter, I knew I had made the right decision. All I had missed was yet another ragged "defensive struggle" (read: offensive nightmare). What I did see was some fantastic MMA action, and I had a chance to get a read on some up-and-coming UFC talent.
Anyway, according to Spike TV, Ultimate Fight Night averaged a 1.16 household rating including a 1.49 in the key male 18-34 demographic. The NBA Finals on ABC (which also began at 9 p.m. EST) brought in a 6.4 household rating and a 4.8 in the male 18-34 demographic.
Just a little over one week since we had three top-level MMA events in three days, we will have three more MMA events this week.
UFC has two events scheduled this week. The promotion kicks things off Tuesday night with "UFC Fight Night: Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher", which airs live from Florida on Spike TV starting at 9 p.m. EST. On Saturday, UFC travels to Northern Ireland for "UFC 72: Victory", which will air live on pay-per-view starting at 3 p.m. EST. While UFC 72 isn't a star-studded affair, the two biggest fights on the card feature Rich Franklin vs. Yushin Okami in a middleweight showdown and Hector Ramirez vs. Forrest Griffin in a light-heavyweight battle.
IFL holds its last regular season event on Saturday, traveling to Las Vegas for its final stop before the playoffs. The Vegas event features two team matches -- Toronto Dragons vs. New York Pitbulls and Nevada Lions vs. Tuscon Scorpions. The Lions, Dragons and Pitbulls are all still fighting for two remaining playoff spots, while the Scorpions look to play the role of spoiler.
For those of you who aren't satisfied with just the live events, there's plenty of other MMA TV programming as well. Spike TV has a full slate of UFC programming this week, including the latest episode of TUF 5 Thursday at 10 p.m. Versus has pre-packaged WEC programming as well as their weekly one-hour reality show Tapout (the next episode airs tonight at 8 p.m. EST). MyNetworkTV has the two-hour IFL Battleground show this Monday at 8 p.m. EST.
Even with UFC 71 over for close to two weeks, Chuck Liddell and his momentous loss to Quinton Jackson have certainly been topic number one in the media the last couple of weeks. Here are some interesting (and in some cases surprising) quotes from the last week or so:
In an interview with thaformula.com, Jackson's trainer Juanito Ibarra said the following about Liddell's demeanor at the UFC 71 weigh-ins:
He [Liddell] was totally intimidated...I seen it and I told Rampage after. I said you got in his head right now son. I see it in his eyes. Absolutely I seen it. Rampage was definitely in his mind.
In an interview with the Minnesota Star-Tribune, UFC President Dana White made the following, rather surprising comment about Jackson's knockout victory over Liddell:
Chuck getting knocked out was the equivalent of Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson.
And finally, the omnipresent Tito Ortiz continued a running feud with Liddell (this round of the feud was over Ortiz's no-show for a boxing exhibition with White and Liddell's subsequent trashing of Ortiz because of that no-show) by calling Dana White the "puppet master" and Liddell his "puppet." These comments came in a video interview with NBCSports.com.
I wonder how Liddell would respond to these comments. If only I had a way to ask him...(ALERT! You have just experienced a literary technique commonly known as foreshadowing...)
Other MMA news
Last weekend, FEG (parent company of K-1) in association with Pro Elite Inc. (parent company of EliteXC) held its Dynamite!!USA event at the L.A. Coliseum. Ivan Trembow of MMAWeekly.com does an excellent job of breaking down the attendance figures for the event. According to his article, the unverified attendance number for the event is 42,757. However, the verified number is only 3,674. The number of people of walked through the turnstiles at the Coliseum was 18,340. And the Japanese media reported attendance as 54,000.
Confused? You're not alone. I don't think anyone really knows how many people paid for their tickets and attended the event live. Check out Trembow's article to find out how many different ways these attendance numbers can be manipulated.
Trembow also breaks down the WEC's first live event televised on Versus. The two hour event averaged 416,000 viewers and drew an average rating of 0.4, according to Trembow. These numbers aren't UFC-type numbers seen on Spike TV, but as Trembow illustrates, they are not bad for the Versus network, which is available in 70 million homes.
In case you missed it, MMA has taken over the airwaves. Dynamite!! USA aired live on Showtime on Saturday and WEC 28 aired live on Versus on Sunday. I was able to catch some of the action from both cards. Here are my thoughts on the fighters I did see.
Nice MMA Debut
Brock Lesnar -- The former WWE superstar and collegiate wrestling champ handled Min Soo Kim fairly easily, winning via submission due to strikes early in the first round. Kim entered the fight with a 2-5 record and was a late replacement for Hong Man Choi, so I don't know that we can read too much into Lesnar's victory. Still, he got off to a better start than Johnnie Morton...
Terrifying MMA Debut
Johnnie Morton -- Morton -- the former NFL star -- found out very quickly that being a superb athlete is not enough to make it as a MMA fighter. Morton was completely outclassed by Bernard Ackah and knocked out by a right hand that was similar to Quinton Jackson's punch that knocked Chuck Liddell down in UFC 71.
Morton left the ring in a neck brace and on a stretcher, but his loss may be a good thing for MMA in the long run. Why? Because it showed everyone that MMA fighters are very skilled top-level athletes. Stars from other sports can't simply train a few months in MMA and expect to be competitive in the sport.
I will be very interested to see whether Morton returns to competitive MMA after losing in such a devastating fashion.
Old legends compete one more time
Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba gave the L.A. Coliseum fans more to boo than to cheer for in their rematch Saturday night. Gracie is 40 and Sakuraba is 38 and it showed. By the end of the fight, it looked like Sakuraba -- who has been through some wars in his day and his body has suffered for it -- was waiting for the final bell to sound. There were only a few brief flurries of activity in the fight and while fans were certainly hoping for one last flash of brilliance from both fighters, sadly none was in evidence in this fight.
Other notable performances
Jake Shields (EliteXC), Urijah Faber (WEC featherweight champion), and Brock Larson (WEC) all looked dominant in their victories this weekend. The grappling in Faber's fight against Chance Farrar was especially entertaining to watch, while Shields did nothing to dispel the notion that he is one of the top welterweights in the world.
And finally, I have to say that after watching the WEC card on Sunday and seeing more and more of the lightweights in action in UFC, the lighter fighters are undoubtedly some of the most exciting fighters to watch. The lighter weight classes provide fans with fast-paced and extremely technical bouts that never seem to let up in terms of action. I'm looking for some big stars to come out of these divisions in the very near future.
A big weekend of MMA action got started last night, with Everett, Wash., playing host to IFL. Here are the results from the event (provided by IFL):
Tokyo Sabres (3-0 team, 9-6 individual) def. Portland Wolfpack (1-2, 7-8), 3-2 265 lb.: Orville Palmer, Sabres, def. Devin Cole, Wolfpack, via decision (split), after 3 rounds 185 lb.: Matt Horwich, Wolfpack, def. Kazuhiro Hamanaka, Sabres, via knockout (kick), 2:07, 1st 205 lb.: Vladimir Matyushenko, Sabres, def. Aaron Stark, Wolfpack via TKO (strikes), 2:49, 1st 170 lb.: Antonio McKee, Sabres def. Mike Dolce, Wolfpack, via decision (unanimous), after 3 rounds 155 lb.: Ryan Schultz, Wolfpack, def. Savant Young, Sabres, via decision (unanimous), after 3 rounds
Los Angeles Anacondas (3-0, 11-4) def. Seattle Tiger Sharks (1-2, 8-7), 3-2 185 lb.: Benji Radach, Anacondas def. Bristol Marunde, Tiger Sharks, via TKO (strikes), 1:28, 1st 155 lb.: Chris Horodecki, Anacondas, def. Shad Lierley, Tiger Sharks, via decision (unanimous), after 3 rounds 170 lb.: Brad Blackburn, Tiger Sharks, def. Jay Hieron, Anacondas, via TKO (strikes), 0:40, 1st 205 lb.: Alex Schoenauer, Anacondas def. Allan Goes, Tiger Sharks, via TKO (strikes), 3:00, 1st 265 lb.: Reese Andy, Tiger Sharks, def. Krzysztof Soszynski, Anacondas, via decision (split) after 3 rounds
Tonight, Dynamite!!USA takes place in Los Angeles at the L.A. Coliseum. This card has undergone somewhat of a transformation since it was originally announced, with Hong Man Choi, Antonio Silva, and Gina Carano all no longer on the card. However, the card still has some intriguing fighters including Brock Lesnar -- the former pro wrestler -- and Johnnie Morton -- the former pro football player -- both of whom are making their pro MMA debuts. In addition, the most anticipated fight of the night features a rematch between MMA legends Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba. The two first fought in PRIDE in 2000 with Sakuraba winning the epic battle in 90 minutes.
Dynamite!! USA will be televised on Showtime from 9 p.m. - 10 p.m. EST and then on Showtime pay-per-view from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. EST. I will be interested in this event for several reasons. First, I'm interested in seeing how many people pack the spacious Coliseum to watch the event live. In addition, I'll be curious to see what the final Showtime and PPV numbers.
For the full Dynamite!! USA fight card, click here.
And finally, tomorrow night WEC (owned by Zuffa, LLC, the parent company of UFC) holds an event in Las Vegas, Nev., that will be televised live on the Versus network. Coverage begins at 9 p.m. EST. One fighter in particular that I'll be watching is Brian Stann. Stann, a light heavyweight fighter, graduated from the Naval Academy and has served two tours in Iraq.
A leaked promo video for UFC 75 (currently dubbed "Unacceptable") can now be found online. As you can imagine, this video has been making the rounds on many of the UFC blogs. So, I figured I couldn't keep my readers in the dark. Enjoy! - Pramit Mohapatra
Last night, I watched part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ABC before I switched over to this week's episode of TUF on Spike TV. First of all, I wanted to say it's a welcome development that we are giving some of our nation's academically-inclined students some well-deserved publicity. After all, we do a great job of glamorizing professional athletes, but realistically speaking, making it in pro sports is about as likely as winning the lottery.
Trust me, I know that there are severe inequities in our nation's education system that prevent many of our kids from realizing their true academic potential (my wife is fighting the good fight on this front). Still, if kids grow up idolizing more people who have figured out a way to earn a living with their minds, maybe more of them would make that their goal. And that's a goal that is very attainable (and glamorous in its own right.)
Don't get me wrong -- I've been into athletics my whole life as both a participant and a fan. However, I also learned early on that I had a much better chance of earning a decent living doing something other than chasing a dream to be a professional athlete. So, I focused on academics. This is a message I think more of our kids need to hear and see.
So, where am I going with all this? Well, as I was sitting there watching the spelling bee and TUF, I was struck by some of the similarities between the two shows:
1) Both are intense competitions
In case you missed it, the winner of the Spelling Bee was Evan O'Dorney of Danville, Calif. He won by correctly spelling the word "serrefine" (even my spell-check couldn't spell this word.) ESPN did a nice sports story-like write-up here.
As far as last night's episode of TUF 5 is concerned, the quarterfinal match featured Brandon Melendez (Team Pulver) against Gray Maynard (Team Penn). The fight was a good one, featuring two distinct fighting styles -- Melendez prefers the stand-up game, while Maynard prefers the ground-game. While the fight was back and forth, I think Maynard controlled the tempo with numerous takedowns. After attempting numerous chokes (which Melendez impressively defended), Maynard finally applied the winning choke at about 4:05 of the second round.
With the victory, Maynard moves on to the semifinals and Team Penn evens out the series with Team Pulver, 5-5. Next week's episode features the final two quarterfinal matches.
2) Both feature riveting drama
In the spelling bee, I was fascinated watching the spellers ask for languages of origin, definitions, alternate pronunciations and use of the words in sentences. The spellers then synthesized all this information in the ultimate moment of truth as they began spelling the word. One letter wrong and the event was over.
The drama we've seen in TUF has been just as compelling outside the Octagon as inside. In last night's episode, we were presented with Melendez's desire to switch to Team Penn (he wasn't allowed to), his struggle to overcome his hand injury in training and his quest to cut enough weight before the weigh-ins (which he did, thanks to teammate Andy Wang.)
Things were fairly quiet on Maynard's front (which probably portended well for him in the elimination fight.)
3) Contestants in both shows are skilled but sometimes display adolescent behavior
This is somewhat expected in the spelling bee, considering the oldest kids in the competition are in eighth grade. In fact, I thought that for the most part, the contestants handled their time on the national stage with poise and dignity.
I wish I could say the same for some of the TUF contestants. To be fair, I can't imagine being locked up in a house with 15 other guys for six weeks with no outside contact. I'm sure it would make even the most mature person a little batty. But, somehow I think the presence of TV cameras would be enough to sober me up.
Regardless, in last night's episode, we were treated to a little tiff (good-natured?) between Cole Miller and Nate Diaz. Their late-night antics resulted in two mattresses being tossed into the pool and Miller being "antiqued" (to those who haven't enjoyed this privilege, that's being doused with ice-cold water followed by baby powder.)
In the end, both shows proved to be highly entertaining. While you only have to wait one week until the next episode of TUF, you'll have to wait a year before you get to witness anyone trying to spell words like "aniseikonia". Either way, it's a good time.
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.