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July 30, 2007

MMA Madness and live-blogging at this week's IFL team semifinals

As many of you have noticed, I've been neglecting this blog and haven't been writing as much in the last month or so.  First, I want to apologize for not living up to my end of the bargain and delivering you the latest in MMA news.  Second, I want to say there's a good reason for my absence.

That reason is a new MMA Web site called MMA Madness that launched last Thursday.  I am the Executive Editor of that site and I believe that it will soon be the one-stop shop for all your MMA needs.  At MMA Madness, we have a professional group of international MMA writers, many of whom have extensive prior MMA journalism experience.  In addition, we have a comprehensive list of MMA fighters and MMA events from all the major MMA leagues that continues to grow.  And, we have a unique MMA Fantasy game for fans out there who enjoy competition.

Registration at MMA Madness is free, so please check out www.mmamadness.com when you aren't reading my work here at Baltimoresun.com.

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I also wanted to let you know that I will be at this Thursday's IFL team semifinals at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. live-blogging for Baltimoresun.com.  The event begins at 7:30 p.m. and features two best-of-five team matches -- Sabres vs. Pitbulls and Silverbacks vs. Anacondas.  Click here to find out more about the fight card and the IFL.  (Note: MMA Madness does have an advertisement on IFL's  Web site.)

Posted by at 8:06 PM | | Comments (1)
        

July 22, 2007

Binky Jones on last week's loss

Last Saturday in Trenton, N.J., Baltimore's Binky Jones made his Bodog Fight debut against Nick Agallar.  Jones lost that fight in a very close judges' split decision, ending Jones' three-fight win streak.

I caught up with Jones and mentor John Rallo in the parking lot of the Sovereign Bank Arena that night and it was clear Jones was disappointed with the outcome of the fight.  However, he and Rallo both promised he will be back -- better than ever -- in his next Bodog Fight matchup and that extenuating circumstances more than anything else led to that night's loss.  In addition, Jones mentioned that he immediately asked Bodog Fight for a rematch against Agallar.

Jones and manager Cordell Hunter were kind enough to answer more questions during the last week about Jones' performance as well as Jones' plans for the future.  Those responses were relayed to me by e-mail and here are highlights of what both said.

Q: How did you feel going into this fight?  Was there anything in Agallar's game that worried you?

Jones: I felt real good going into the fight and was not worried about his game.   My job was to do my thing in the ring but it did not happen this time.  I felt that the fight was close and that a couple of different positions mays have changed the whole fight.  Nick is a good tough fighter who was in good shape. He trains with a good team but that is to be expected of everybody at this point.

Q: Were there any mistakes that you made during the fight that you think cost you the victory?

Jones: I think that with more time to prepare, the fight would have been different.  I really did not make too many mistakes during the fight.  You have to take chances and I considered my submissions attempts to be well-calculated risks.  I tried to do a couple of ankle locks, keep good positioning on the mat and work from the guard.  I tried a spinning back fist that did not connect and probably could have done more punching on the ground and standing.  I did get a little extended on a couple of shots and got caught with a couple punches because of that.

Hunter: Binky could have came in in a little better shape with proper time to get ready.  The fight was still very close and Binky tried to push the pace.  Now that he has submitted some top guys, fighters seem to be real cautious on the ground, tying him up and slowing down the pace that Binky would like to fight at.
 
Q: With the result so close, is there any one thing you could have done differently to change the outcome?

Jones: When fights are close you need to leave something in the judges' minds.  I ended the first round strong.  I will try to close out each round strong and punch a little bit more as sometimes [judges] do not look at submission attempts [when scoring fights]. 
 
Q: Was there anything Agallar did that posed problems for you in the fight?

Hunter: Nick slowed the fight down by tying Binky up on the ground.   To me, he was somewhat stalling or being very, very cautious.  At one point, I thought that he was holding onto Binky's glove but he was not, he was just keeping it tight on the ground.
 
Q: Would you like a rematch against Agallar?

Jones: I want a rematch ASAP and asked the Bodog guys for a rematch that night.
 
Q: Did you come out of the fight with any injuries?  Do you know how you got them?

Jones: I feel good -- no major injuries just some aches.  I am training again already and will not take much time off.  I will be focusing on helping my two teams get ready for their bouts.  Team Ground Control and Team Raww Dogg both have two fighters each fighting this weekend in amateur MMA shows.  Team Ground Control will be in Delaware and Team Raww Dogg will be in New Jersey at the Cage of Vengeance.

Q: Have you been handed down any medical suspensions by NJ Athletic Control Board after the fight?

Hunter: No medical suspension, no injuries just some minor aches and little pains. 
 
Q: When will your next fight be with Bodog?  Do you know where it will be?  Do you know who your opponent will be?

Hunter: We do not know who [Jones'] next opponent will be, but we were told that it will be against a good guy.  Yves Edwards was on the show as well and the 155-pound weight class is stacked.

Q: What is your reaction to the news that two of the top lightweights in the world -- Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca -- both failed drug tests for their UFC 73 title fight?

Jones: I can't believe that both Sean and Hermes both failed the drug test. I do give Hermes some respect for writing that apology letter to his family, fans, and to his students. Since Sean is the champ I hope he says something about the issue. I also wonder if the UFC will let [Sherk] keep the belt, because if they do there will be no title fights for the [UFC] lightweight class for one year. That would not be fair to the rest of the guys who fight in that weight class. I hope that all of the fighters try to keep it clean, because it took too long time for the sport to reach this level.

Hunter: It is one of those things that will get some bad press especially with what has happened in Pro Wrestling. So far in MMA several guys have tested positive for steroids -- [Tim] Sylvia, [Nate] Marquardt, Sean Sherk, Franca, [Phil] Baroni, etc.  Now in defense of these guys in a lot of these cases, they were taking steroids for weight loss or injury recovery.  For injuries -- to me -- that is not much different than taking a prescribed antibiotic or whatever.  Sylvia took a weight loss steroid so he would not look flabby on national TV, and you read Franca's response. I do not believe that all steroids enhance performance, but they should be banned until all are researched. No one should have an unfair advantage.

 

Posted by at 10:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

UFC can't escape controversial week in sports

It was a bad week for the world of sports.  Michael Vick was indicted on federal dog-fighting charges; the FBI is investigating NBA ref Tim Donaghy for betting on NBA games, including possibly games he officiated; and David Beckham's much heralded debut for MLS' LA Galaxy was a short one due to a bum ankle. 

Unfortunately, MMA joined these other sports with some bad news of its own this past week.  On Thursday, word came down that UFC 73 lightweight title fighters Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca both tested positive for steroids at UFC 73.  Both fighters were suspended for one year and fined $2,500 for their positive test results.

However, it still remains to be seen what will become of the UFC lightweight division as well as its belt in the aftermath of these events.  Will Dana White strip Sherk of his title?  This seems to be the only logical choice to make, given that Sherk won't fight for at least a year.  White could set up a lightweight title fight in the next two or three months to crown a new champion. 

While the news of the positive drug test results is not good, at least it shows that there is a viable system in place and this system appears to be working.  Now that MMA is beginning to generate more money and garner more mainstream attention, there will be those athletes looking for whatever edge they can muster.  As we've seen in other sports, this is inevitable.  The only thing the sports leagues and sanctioning bodies can do is have a system in place to catch the cheaters.  It appears MMA and UFC have just such a system in place.

Posted by at 9:33 AM | | Comments (0)
        

July 15, 2007

Bodog Fight main event welterweight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Matt Lee

DC area fans may remember Matt Lee from his victory in DC's first MMA event in May.  Alvarez, who fights out of nearby Philadelphia, is clearly the crowd favorite going into this bout.

Chants of "Eddie" rain down as the fight begins.  I give Alvarez the first round.  He controlled the fight standing up with numerous punches landing and also scored a couple of takedowns.

Round two goes to Alvarez as well.  He is the clear aggressor and Lee is just not putting up much of an offense of his own.

Round three is a close one.  Lee turns it on out of desperation and lands a couple of punches as well as scoring a takedown.  Alvarez still has better ring control.  I'll give Lee this round but it won't be enough for him.

I give Alvarez the fight, 29-28.  The crowd (which I would put at about 2,500 for the night) was as loud as it has been all night for this fight with a number of Alvarez fans in the stands.

Official result: Eddie Alvarez wins by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Posted by at 12:49 AM | | Comments (0)
        

Bodog Fight women's title fight: Tara Larosa vs. Kelly Kobold

Women's MMA fights are working their way onto major MMA cards.  This fight is yet another example of this.  I don't know if the two fighters coordinated it but Larosa is in all white and Kobold is in all black. Larosa is from New Jersey and is the clear crowd favorite.

The first round is a close one.  Kobold appears to be the better fighter standing up but Larosa scores a couple of takedowns though she doesn't do much from the top position.  I give the round to Larosa for the takedowns.

The second round has the fans on their feet.  Kobold starts the round with some punches and takes the fight to the ground and controls with ground-and-pound.  However, Larosa is able to reverse, assume full-mount and pound away at Kobold for the second half of the round.  Larosa almost finishes Kobold with an armbar but the bell saves Kobold.  Second round to Larosa.

In third round, Larosa scores a couple of more takedowns and top control switches between the two.  There is less action on the ground as the two fighters are tiring.  Kobold catches Larosa with a couple of knees to the head standing up before Larosa scores another takedown.  Again, I give Larosa the round based on the takedowns.

Kobold scores a takedown to start the fourth round.  Larosa returns the favor a minute or so later.  On the ground, Larosa is able to end the fight with a successful armbar submission. 

Official result: Tara Larosa wins at 2:50 of the 4th round by armbar.  She is the first-ever Bodog Fight women's champ.

Posted by at 12:08 AM | | Comments (0)
        

July 14, 2007

Bodog Fight lightweight: Binky Jones vs. Nick Agallar

This is the fight Baltimore MMA fans have been waiting for.  There seem to be a few Jones supporters who have made the trek up to Trenton. Ground Control co-owner John Rallo is cornering Jones for the fight.

The first round is a close one.  Jones clearly wants the fight on the ground and that's where most of the round is spent.  Each fighter scores one takedown and both spend about the same amount of time in control.  The round could go either way.

Agallar starts the second round with some good ground-and-pound on top of Jones.  After some inactivity, the ref stands the two up and both go for broke with some wild strike attempts.  After a low blow to Agallar temporarily halts the match, the two end up on the ground again with Agallar on top, trying to employ ground-and-pound.  Agallar wins the second round in my book.  He is the more aggressive fighter on the ground and has the better positioning so far.

Jones scores a takedown to start the third round.  Agallar gets the fight standing and unleashes a torrent of punches on Jones before the two end up back on the ground with Agallar on top.  The ref stands the fight up and Jones scores a takedown as he eats a kick.  Jones can't seem to do anything from Agallar's tight full guard.  Jones begins to ground-and-pound and attempts a lower-leg lock.  This was a close round as well.

Generally speaking, I think the fight was very close but I think Agallar was more aggressive and won the second round.  If he splits the first and third rounds with Jones then he wins.

I believe Agallar will get a split decision victory, but it is a very close fight.

Official result: Nick Agallar wins by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Posted by at 11:37 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Bodog fight bantamweight: Dan Hawley vs. Blair Tugman

Hawley appears to be quite a character based on his pre-fight intro video and the bizarre mask he is wearing.  He continues his antics at the pre-fight meeting in the middle of the ring.

Tugman is from New Jersey and has a lot of fans in attendance.

Tugman scores a number of takedowns in the first round but Hawley controls the action on the ground, attempting a triangle choke and trying hard for an armbar.  It's a close round that's hard for me to call. I lean toward giving the round to Hawley for his submission attempts.

In the second round, the two fighters scramble to start the round.  Tugman scores more takedowns in this round.  I give this round to Tugman because he controlled the action for most of the round.

In the third round, Tugman scores a few more takedowns and controls the fight while on the ground.  Hawley attempts another triangle choke and another armbar but can't secure either.  Hawley just doesn't do enough in the fight.

I give Tugman the fight by a score of 29-28.  After the fight, Tugman mocks Hawley, mimicking Hawley's pre-fight antics, to the delight of the crowd. 

Official result: Blair Tugman wins by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).

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

Bodog Fight middleweight title fight: Trevor Prangley vs. Yuki Kondo

Both of these fighters are UFC veterans.  Kondo has also fought in PRIDE and Pancrase.

Prangley controls the first round with a flurry of punches standing up and some nice ground-and-pound and ground technique.  I give him the first round.

Prangley continues to inflict damage in the second round with more ground-and-pound and rocks Kondo with a punch standing up just as the round ends.  Kondo has a cut over his left eye that is bleeding pretty badly.  Second round goes to Prangley.

The referee ends the fight due to doctor stoppage.  Prangley wins the middleweight title and is Bodog's first champion in that weight class.

Official result: Prangley wins at 5:00 of the second round due to doctor stoppage, winning the middleweight title.

Prangley does an post-fight interview in the ring after the fight. Kondo gets a nice round of applause from the crowd as he respectfully bows after losing. 

Baroni is very vocal during this fight, cheering on and instructing Prangley from the stands.

Posted by at 10:00 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Bodog Fight heavyweight: Branden Lee Hinkle vs. Roman Zentsov

I give the first round to Branden Lee Hinkle.  He controlled almost the entire first round on the ground, ending up on Roman Zentsov's back a couple of times, achieving side control, and punching fairly effectively on the ground.

Hinkle wins the second round, using pretty much the same playbook that he used in the first round.  PRIDE veteran Mark Coleman is cornering Hinkle and is quite vocal with his instructions.

In the third round, the crowd is as loud as it's been all night, booing as Hinkle repeats his gameplan from the first two rounds.  The ref finally does stand the two back up but Hinkle scores yet another takedown.  Hinkle is clearly the more dominant fighter in the fight but simply can't finish Zentsov off, to the dismay of the fans.

I score this 30-27 for Hinkle.

Official result: Hinkle wins by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

The crowd boos the result. 

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

Bodog Fight lightweight: Jorge Masvidal vs. Yves Edwards

Guess who shows up right before this fight?  NYBA Phil Baroni and his fiancee.  They are sitting in the first row right in front of the ring.  I hope he doesn't see me (we are about 20 feet away from each other at a diagonal -- eerily similar to our relative positioning at the restaurant).  I don't want to be part of the main event of this card ... thank god I'm inside the steel guardrail barriers and he is outside.

The first round is very back-and-forth and completely fought standing up.  There aren't that many point-scoring strikes landed by either fighter.  I really can't pick a winner in this round.

In the second round, the frenetic pace continues but the strikes begin to land more effectively.  Masvidal lands a couple of punches early and scores a takedown.  Back on their feet, Masvidal lands a vicious punch that knocks Edwards down and ends the fight.

Masvidal somehow injures his right leg in the ensuing celebration -- a very bizarre ending to the fight.  But, he still manages to hug a couple of ring girls on his way out of the ring.

Official result: Jorge Masvidal wins at 2:59 of the second round by TKO

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Baroni can be heard shouting encouragement to Edwards during the fight.

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

Bodog Fight middleweight: Amar Suloev vs. Chael Sonnen

Chael Sonnen controls the first round on the ground and wins the round easily in my opinion.  He attempted a rear naked choke as well as an Americana.  Both came perilously close to ending the fight.  Sonnen was also effective with his ground-and-pound.

Sonnen ends the fight in the second round with a ground-and-pound assault on Suloev's head from side control.  Sonnen pinned both of Suloev's arms to render Suloev defenseless.  Sonnen had controlled the round and the match up to that point, working almost exclusively on the ground.

This was a very impressive, dominating victory by Sonnen.

Official result: Chael Sonnen wins at 3:33 of second round by TKO.

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Interesting side note: Bodog Fight had technical difficulties during the introductions for this fight.  So they are re-filming just the ring announcer intros.

Posted by at 8:31 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Bodog Fight heavyweight: Mark Burch vs. Yoshiki Takahashi

Burch is definitely the much bigger man in this fight.  Takahashi has been in a lot of MMA fights, winning a little under 60% of them according to the media guide (28-21-3).

After back and forth action early in the first round, Burch absolutely devastates Takahashi with two knees to his head the rock the Japanese fighter and end the bout in the first round.

Burch also gets the slowly-gathering crowd to cheer by shouting "USA!" at the end of the match.

Official result: Mark Burch wins by knockout at 3:45 of the first round.

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A couple of notes: Bodog Fight has decided not to go with the well-placed video screens that you see at most MMA events.  Therefore, action in one corner of the ring is a bit obscured from my press row seat.  And the promotion doesn't seem to be going with post-fight interviews either (made so famous by Joe Rogan in UFC.)

Posted by at 8:12 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Bodog Fight featherweight: Eben Oroz vs. David Love

With the first fight about the begin, this event has a very made-for-TV feel to it.  The arena is fairly empty (even EliteXC's debut in Mississippi had more in attendance at this point in the night.)  Does Trenton not love MMA or is Bodog Fight flying that far under the MMA radar?  Or are there too many MMA promotions right now fighting for not enough fan money and/or fan interest?  Or is it just a very late-arriving crowd?

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Eben "The Big O" Oroz has a big O painted/tattooed on his chest.

I give the first round to David Love.  He had a couple of takedowns and displayed some nice kicking ability, especially kicking effectively to the lower leg of Oroz.  There was a nice flurry of action in the middle of the first round in which both fighters attacked each other with kicks.

I give round two to Love as well.  Oroz looks much more comfortable on his feet but Love has been able to take him down at will (I counted at least three takedowns by Love in the second round alone).  And, Love's standup is quite good as well.  Oroz unsuccessfully attempted a triangle choke toward the end of the second round.

Round three is a close one.  Love got two takedowns but Oroz appeared to rock Love midway through the round with a punch.  Both continued to display excellent kicking ability.  I'll give Oroz round three for the knockdown.

Overall, I score this fight 29-28 for Love.  It was a very entertaining fight as are most of the fights in this weight class across various promotions.

Official result: David Love wins a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

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Calvin Ayre is known for promoting his products partly through sex appeal and listening to the fans in attendance. Bodog Fight hasn't disappointed with its choice of ring girls for the event.

Posted by at 7:18 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Live-blogging from Bodog Fight in Trenton, N.J.

Folks,

I'm settled in here at the Sovereign Bank Arena to witness Bodog Fight's first live show in the U.S.  I'm really here to follow in the latest exploits of Baltimore's rising MMA star Binky Jones, but a quick look at the fight card indicates that it should be a good one.  There are some familiar names on the card.

Here's the fight card (though I can't confirm that this is the order of the fights):

Heavyweight: Mark Burch vs. Yoshiki Takahashi

Lightweight: Eben Oroz vs. David Love

Middleweight: Amar Suloev vs. Chael Sonnen

Lightweight: Binky Jones vs. Nick Agallar

Heavyweight: Branden Lee Hinkle vs. Roman Zentsov

Lightweight: Jorge Masvidal vs. Yves Edwards

Women's Title: Laura D'Auguste vs. Tara Larosa

Middleweight Title: Trevor Prangley vs. Yuki Kondo

Welterweight Title: Eddie Alvarez vs. Matt Lee

For those of you who don't know, Bodog Fight was started by Bodog gambling founder Calvin Ayre.  The fights will be fought in a ring (unlike the cage of UFC or EliteXC).  And from what I can see from the information handed out to the media, the program guide and the setup here, the production level for the event should be quite good.  In addition, there are TV camera crews filming the event for a taped show.

According to what I've found online, the arena holds somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 seats.  Fans are beginning to enter the arena with about 30 minutes before the start of the event.

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As an interesting note, I was eating dinner at a nearby establishment and I'm pretty sure that NYBA Phil Baroni, his fiancée, and someone else were eating diagonally from me.  It hasn't been a good past few weeks for Baroni.  He lost to Frank Shamrock at the June 22 Strikeforce-EliteXC event and then word came that Baroni had failed his drug test for that match. 

And I think I may have looked over at his table one too many times because on my way out he gave me a deathly staredown.  I certainly didn't want to be on the wrong end of him taking out a month's worth frustrations.

And, if it wasn't Baroni and his fiancée, then it was two Trentonites who had me fooled.  I'll be curious to see if Baroni is in attendance at this event.

Posted by at 6:51 PM | | Comments (1)
        

July 12, 2007

Binky Jones looks forward to fight against Nick Agallar

Baltimore's Binky Jones takes on Nick Agallar Saturday in Jones' debut fight with Bodog Fight.  According to Sherdog.com, Agallar has a 17-5 MMA record and is a veteran of WEC.  He also fought in UFC 45, where he lost to Yves Edwards by TKO. Saturday's fight will be Agallar's fourth with Bodog Fight -- he enters the bout with a 1-2 record in the promotion.

About ten days ago, I asked Jones about his Bodog Fight debut by email. Here are his responses:

Could you get into the details of your contract with Bodog Fight? 

It's a two-fight deal that ends in December 2007, so I can fight in the Ring of Combat (ROC) tournament that will be held for my region in January 2008.

What do you know about your July 14 Bodog Fight opponent -- Nick Agallar?

I know that he has fought in the UFC and he is supposed to have heavy hands.
 
How did you end up signing with Bodog Fight?

After I found out that I was not allowed to fight in the ROC tournament in September because of where I lived, I told John Rallo and Brian Hamper to find me a fight. The next thing I know [Rallo and Hamper] were asking me if I wanted to fight on the next Bodog show and I said yes right away.
 
What does this opportunity mean for your career?

Since [Agallar] has a winning record and he also fought in the UFC this will be a great win for [me], Ground Control, and Baltimore.

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This Saturday's Bodog Fight card is being held at Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J.  The first fight begins at 7:30 p.m.  I will be at the event and I hope to be blogging for baltimoresun.com.  Visit the blog Saturday night and read my live recaps of all of the action.

Posted by at 1:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

July 9, 2007

Is EliteXC's next event July 27?

It has been a couple of weeks since EliteXC co-promoted its San Jose event with Strikeforce.  Since then, there has been no formal announcement of when EliteXC's next event will take place.  In fact, on EliteXC's Web site there is a short message stating that a "new event is coming soon."

Well, I received a news release from San Diego's City Boxing Friday night that listed KJ Noons' next fight as an EliteXC fight against Edson Berto on July 27.  According to the news release, the event will take place at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, Calif.

If this is true, then the participants in this fight -- Noons and Berto -- are both connected in EliteXC lore by Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett.  Noons lost by TKO to Bennett in EliteXC's debut event in February while Berto stepped in for an incarcerated Bennett to defeat Victor Valenzuela at the June 22 Strikeforce event.  Apparently, Berto suffered little to no damage in that fight since it appears he is ready to fight again a little over a month later.

I'll be very interested to see who else is on this July 27 card.  I have to say that I've been impressed with the caliber of the competition on the first couple of EliteXC cards and I've also been pleasantly surprised by their ability to enlist the cooperation of other MMA leagues in holding events.  I'll pass on more information about this upcoming card as I receive it.

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

July 8, 2007

UFC 73 recap and analysis

UFC 73 was hyped by the promotion as the most stacked UFC card ever.  There were at least four quality matchups and a number of interesting storylines.  So, what did we learn from last night's event?  Here are my takes: 

Kenny Florian makes a good point

After Kenny Florian devastated Alvin Robinson with vicious ground-and-pound to win their UFC 73 lightweight fight, Florian made a very interesting statement to Joe Rogan is his post-fight interview.  Florian essentially called out the rest of the division and said that he finishes his fights.

That statement came on a night when the division's titleholder, Sean Sherk, successfully defended his crown against Hermes Franca but could not finish Franca off.  Although Franca lost, he was the more exciting fighter, landing four knees to Sherk's head that appeared to do little damage to Sherk and attempting a number of unsuccessful guillotine chokes that Sherk used his strength to pull out of.

Sherk controlled most of the fight with a tremendous work rate and fantastic wrestling and BJJ technique on the ground.  However, when he had Franca on the ground, he appeared unable to find a way to finish Franca off.  Some credit is due to Franca for being clever on the ground and being very good with his defense.  But, Sherk was also unable to finish Florian last year in their title match.

This is a disturbing trend for Sherk because while MMA is a sport first and foremost, entertainment has always been a necessary component of combat athletics.  That's why fake versions of combat sports, such as professional wrestling, have always found a home. 

While Sherk has shown that he is the most dominant fighter in the division, he is beginning to follow in the footsteps of former heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia as a somewhat unappealing champion.  Fans want to see dominant champions that remind them why they have the title.  Winning by unanimous decision -- as convincing as those victories may be -- simply does not suffice for the titleholder.

It will be interesting to see whether Florian or lightweight contender BJ Penn can push Sherk to the next level.  Or will Sherk suffer the same fate as Sylvia -- that of a champion that people would just as soon see replaced by a more exciting fighter? 

Heath Herring misses out on a golden opportunity

Heath Herring had already lost twice to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira before last night and there was very little doubt in most people's minds (including I imagine the UFC's) that UFC 73 was going to be loss number three for "The Texas Crazy Horse" against "Minotauro".

However, Herring did the unthinkable and absolutely rocked Nogueira at the end of the first round with a left kick to Nogueira's jaw that sent the Brazilian straight to the canvas.  But, then Herring did something even more unthinkable -- he let Nogueira off the hook.

After making an attempt to stop the fight by pouncing on Nogueira, Herring stepped back at the end of the first round and invited Nogueira to get back to his feet.  Nogueira used that time to recover.  He then used the one minute break between rounds to continue to clear the cobwebs.  Still, Nogueira was on shaky ground when round two began.

So, what did Herring do to start round two?  Nothing.  For a minute and a half the two simply circled in the Octagon and Herring refused to push the action.  By the time the two had re-engaged, Nogueira had found new life and controlled the rest of the match to secure the decision victory.

Herring has established himself as a formidable middle-tier UFC heavyweight, but he will look back on his tactical error at UFC 73 and ask himself if he missed out on an opportunity to be much more.

Anderson Silva is a beast

Anderson Silva proved at UFC 73 that the UFC middleweight division is divided into two groups: him and everyone else.  Including last night's first-round TKO victory over Nate Marquardt, Silva has won his four UFC fights by stoppage in either the first or second round. 

Undoubtedly, the division is weak and the next best fighter is probably former champion Rich Franklin, who lost the title in crushing fashion to Silva last year.  What will Franklin -- who struggled against Yushin Okami in his last fight -- do differently in a rematch between the two?

What I would like to see is a matchup between Silva and two middleweight fighters who don't reside in UFC -- PRIDE middleweight champ Dan Henderson and Strikeforce middleweight champ (and former UFC middleweight champ) Frank Shamrock.  Henderson is currently in training to fight Quinton Jackson for the UFC light heavyweight belt, but he is probably strongest at 185 pounds.  Shamrock is a legend very familiar to old-school UFC fans and would be a very intriguing matchup for Silva because of Shamrock's all-around excellence.  As a bonus for UFC, a Silva-Shamrock fight would be a marketing bonanza for the organization.

The light heavyweight division has many question marks

After Tito Ortiz's lackluster performance against Rashad Evans, the question in the UFC light heavyweight division is who can challenge the trio of titleholder Quinton Jackson, newcomer Mauricio Rua, and former champ Chuck Liddell?  At this point, there aren't a lot of good answers.

While Ortiz did enough to win and probably deserved the draw because of his holding infraction in the second round, his performance last night was yet another indication that these days he may be no more than a middle-tier UFC light heavyweight.  That statement may be difficult for him, his fans, or the UFC to swallow but he has done very little since returning to the Octagon over a year ago to say otherwise.

Ortiz has struggled against TUF-level competition in Forrest Griffin and now Rashad Evans.  While they are no slouches, these two along with Michael Bisping are certainly not on the level of the top three in the division.  Does this mean that age and the increased level of competition have caught up to Ortiz?  It's very possible that this is the case.

The real question then becomes -- with his skills fading, how much longer will Ortiz be a top attraction and a bankable fighter for the UFC?

Stephan Bonnar returns with a victory

While his fight against Mike Nickels was not shown on the live portion of the pay-per-view telecast last night, I was interested to see that Bonnar returned from his drug suspension with a first-round rear naked choke victory over Nickels.  It is difficult to draw any real conclusions from this result because neither fighter is in the top half of the UFC light heavyweight division.  However, Bonnar is well-known to the fans and it's good to see that he is back on the right track.

For a full recap of all the UFC 73 results, visit ufc.com

Posted by at 2:28 PM | | Comments (2)
        

July 7, 2007

Ortiz headlines UFC 73

In the year and a half since Tito Ortiz returned to the Octagon, he has shown that he is still one of MMA's best showmen and one of UFC's most marketable fighters. However, the results inside the cage have been less convincing for the former UFC light heavyweight champ. Ortiz won a controversial decision over Forrest Griffin in his return to the Octagon and pounded overmatched legend Ken Shamrock in two subsequent bouts. In his first true test -- a title fight against Chuck Liddell at UFC 66 last December -- Ortiz was TKO'ed in the third round.

Ortiz hasn't fought since that loss. But, tonight at UFC 73 he returns to action against quickly rising TUF light heavyweight Rashad Evans. The winner of this bout will make a strong claim for a shot at the title currently held by Quinton Jackson. Ortiz and Evans have been feuding through the media in the weeks and months leading up to this fight, engaging in psychological warfare that is a staple in Ortiz' strategy. 

However, Ortiz must be wary. While UFC has chosen to use his fight as the marquee matchup for the night, how much longer will the promotion or fans care about his antics if he loses tonight?  Evans is unbeaten as a MMA fighter and has won his last two fights by knockout even though he is more well-known for his wrestling ability. His last victory was a devastating Cro Cop-esque kick to the head that put opponent Sean Salmon to sleep for a scary amount of time.

Ortiz faces the prospect of having to choose between standing up against a quickly improving striker or go to his bread-and-butter ground-and-pound against a very good wrestler. Tonight, we will find out whether Ortiz is truly back to being a MMA fighter or if he is content being an entertainer and a businessman.

While Ortiz-Evans is the most talked about fight of the night, there are two title fights, the debut of a former PRIDE heavyweight champ, and the return of a TUF 1 darling that also serve as intriguing storylines for the night. Here's what else to look for tonight at UFC 73:

Middleweight Title Fight -- Anderson Silva (champion) vs. Nate Marquardt

This is Silva's first title defense since he brutally defeated Rich Franklin in UFC 64 to claim the belt. Silva's first defense became a non-title affair when TUF 4 victor Travis Lutter couldn't make weight. Silva has tremendous striking ability (as Franklin found out first-hand) but is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt and showed some of that ground skill in his submission victory over Lutter.

Marquardt has an impressive MMA record (25-6-2 according to Sherdog.com) and is 4-0 in the UFC. With the middleweight division fairly weak, he has been presented with the opportunity to grab the belt from Silva. Marquardt has won most of his fights by submission and is himself a BJJ black belt, so his best chance of winning may be to take the fight to the ground. Still, Marquardt does have a number of victories earned by striking so this looks to be a very formidable matchup for Silva.

Lightweight Title Fight -- Sean Sherk (champion) vs. Hermes Franca

Sean Sherk won the vacant lightweight crown last October by defeating Kenny Florian at UFC 64.  This is Sherk's first title defense since then. Franca begged UFC president Dana White for a title fight after his TKO victory over Spencer Fisher in January and White gave the Brazilian his wish.

Both fighters like to take fights to the ground and win there, with most of their victories coming by way of submission. However, both also have a substantial number of victories by striking. So, this fight can truly be won by either fighter either on their feet or on the ground.

If this title fight is anything like other recent fights in this division, look for back-and-forth action that transitions often from stand-up to the ground game and back and an exciting pace all the way through.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira makes his UFC debut

In 2007, clearly one of UFC's main goals has been to shore up its previously weak heavyweight division. The promotion has done this by pilfering the ranks of the Japanese PRIDE organization.  Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is the latest PRIDE heavyweight to make his debut in UFC and he comes to the States with impressive credentials. 

Nogueira is a former heavyweight champ in PRIDE and has taken on the best in PRIDE, coming away with victories over Mirko Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, and Josh Barnett and winning twice against tonight's opponent Heath Herring.  About the only fighter Nogueira was unable to defeat while in PRIDE is Fedor Emelianenko, widely considered the best heavyweight in the world. 

Herring came to UFC with some fanfare but struggled and lost in his debut against Jake O'Brien in January. He righted the ship somewhat with a UFC 69 decision victory over Brad Imes but faces a tall task in tonight's matchup against Nogueira. Herring lost their first fight by decision and their second fight in 2004 by submission. 

Nogueira has world-class BJJ skills and stand-up skills as well and hopes to show UFC fans what the rest of the world already knows -- that he is one of the top heavyweights in the world.

Stephan Bonnar returns from steroid suspension

The up-and-down career of TUF 1 darling Stephan Bonnar came to a screeching halt last summer after Bonnar not only lost a rematch against Forrest Griffin but also tested positive for steroids after that match. Bonnar has served his nine-month drug suspension and returns to the Octagon tonight in a match against TUF 3 alum Mike Nickels with a number of questions left to answer. 

For one, has Bonnar improved his game enough to be considered a serious light heavyweight title contender?  So far -- with a UFC record of 3-3 and a current two-fight losing streak -- the answer is no. 

And, can Bonnar rehabilitate his image with the fans after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug?  It will be interesting to see how the ARCO Arena fans respond to Bonnar during the pre-fight introductions and how they respond to him after the fight -- win or lose.

For the entire UFC 73 card, visit ufc.com.

Posted by at 4:03 PM | | Comments (0)
        

July 6, 2007

July a slow month for MMA events

After a hectic June, most of the major MMA promotions are slowing down a bit in July.  Still, there are a few big events taking place this month, so here's a breakdown of where and when they are.

UFC 73 (July 7; Sacramento, Calif.): I will have a full preview of this event in the next 24 hours.  Suffice to say, this is one of UFC's most complete cards in a while.  There are two title matches (for the middleweight and lightweight crowns) as well as a grudge match between Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans.

Fans not heading to ARCO Arena to watch the fights in person can view them on pay-per-view starting at 10 pm. EST on Saturday.  This card is definitely worth the $40+ bucks it will cost you.

IFO: Fireworks in the Cage (July 7; Las Vegas, Nevada): International Fight Organization (IFO) is Hall of Fame boxing referee Richard Steele's fledgling MMA league.  And while the league should be considered nothing more than a minor league, this next event does boast a couple of well-known fighters in Marvin Eastman and Wes Sims.

Bodog Fight (July 14; Trenton, New Jersey): This is quite an intriguing card that I will be attending live.  There are two title fights (including a women's title matchup), a main event featuring Eddie Alvarez vs. Matt Lee, and Baltimore's own Binky Jones.  I will have more on this card and on Jones' preparation for his fight against Nick Agallar as the event nears.

The August MMA schedule looks quite promising and I will have more news on August events closer to the end of this month.

Have I missed a July MMA event?  Drop me an email or post a comment if there's an event that should be on my radar.

Posted by at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
        

July 1, 2007

Binky Jones earns brown belt Friday night

Friday night I was fortunate enough to be invited by Binky Jones to his fight party at Canton Station.  The party was held on the third floor of the Canton establishment and served as both a celebration of Binky's recent success but also as a pep rally for more good things to come.

The party was very well-attended by Binky Jones' friends, colleagues from his job at the Youth In Transition alternative school, and teammates at Team Ground Control as well students of his from Team Raw Dog.  His wife, Sherry, son Savon, and daughter Kayla were in also attendance as was Jones' MMA mentor and Ground Control co-owner John Rallo.  A sizable number of attendees wore Ground Control t-shirts and while much of the activity centered around the reserved section on the third floor, the party was so big it spilled over onto the second floor as well.

And, interestingly enough it turns out that Officer Thomas "Herc" Hauk (actor Domenick Lombardozzi) of HBO's The Wire is a bit of a MMA fan too.  Lombardozzi trains at Ground Control and was there to show his support for Jones.  I have to admit I don't watch The Wire and were it not for my wife I would have never known who the unassuming Lombardozzi was.

Most of the night, the flat screens on the third floor showed a re-airing of last week's TUF 5 finale.  However, around 11 pm, the monitors switched to the pay-per-view broadcast of the Ring of Combat tournament finals from April.  Jones of course defeated Ian Loveland of Team Quest in that night's lightweight tournament final and that's what many of the attendees were here to watch.  By the time Jones' fight was being shown, the third floor was packed.  Party goers cheered and clapped as Jones overcame an early guillotine choke attempt as well as Loveland's ground-and-pound.  Jones eventually secured an armbar to earn the victory. 

After the fight, Rallo and others in the Ground Control brass presented Jones with his Renzo Gracie brown belt.  Jones is now one step away from joining Rallo as a black belt.  The presentation ceremony was interesting because the three presenters all gave Jones symbolic whacks on his back with the belt.

Jones' next fight is July 14 in Trenton, New Jersey in the first of two fights for BodogFight.  Jones' opponent is Nick Agallar (17-5 MMA record), who is a BodogFight veteran as well as a veteran of UFC and WEC.

If Friday night was any indication, much of Baltimore's MMA community will be up in Trenton in two weeks supporting its newest star.

Posted by at 11:59 AM | | 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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