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September 29, 2007

MMA Top 10

Well, it's that time of the month -- Yahoo Sports published its most recent MMA Top 10 poll and I was a member of the panel.  Click here to see what the panel came up with, but read on if you would like to see the ballot I submitted.  While I won't explain every choice (because let's be honest, a lot of this is based on personal opinion), I will give you some of my personal guidelines in coming up with this ballot.  It's a work in progress and I welcome any debate and input you may have in helping me refine my ballot in future polls.

First, here are the rankings I submitted:

1) Quinton Jackson
2) Randy Couture
3) Fedor Emelianenko
4) Dan Henderson
5) Anderson Silva
6) Georges St. Pierre
7) Robbie Lawler
8) BJ Penn
9) Urijah Faber
10) Paulo Filho

Before you rush to judgment, let me first explain my criteria.  1) You have to be fighting actively on a regular basis. 2) You have to be fighting the toughest competition. 3) You can't fail a drug test or be in the process of appealing a failed drug test. 4) You have be winning in impressive fashion and show explosiveness and hints of all-around skill.

A number of you may be in shock right now because I dared to place "The Russian Experiment" third.  But, basically he falls short in a number of my criteria. For one thing, a look at his resume the last couple of years really only shows one impressive victory -- his win over Mark Hunt last December.  This year, he defeated Matt Lindland, who is two weight classes below him and hasn't fought any other MMA matches.  Quite frankly, if Emelianenko wants to move up my rankings, he needs to sign with the best heavyweight division in the world and fight the top guys there.  Yes, I'm saying he needs to sign with UFC and start fighting soon.  Otherwise, he will continue to slide in my rankings.  This poll is about who the best fighters are right now and legacy can only take you so far.

Others may note that lightweight sensation Gilbert Melendez isn't on my ballot either (though he did end up on the overall top 10.)  Again, Melendez hasn't fought all year.  Tonight is his first fight (at Strikeforce at the Mansion) and with an impressive victory, he can definitely move into my top 10.

The middleweight division is the most dispersed of all the weight classes, and thus I have three champions representing three different leagues in the top 10 (Silva, Filho and Lawler.)  And, if Frank Shamrock comes back and fights well, he would also be in contention for a spot in the top 10.

And, at 145 lbs, Urijah Faber may be the definition of pound-for-pound.

I gave Quinton Jackson and Randy Couture the edge for being the champions in the two toughest divisions in all of MMA (possibly in the history of the sport) and for successfully defending their titles.

Let me know what your ballot would look like.

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Strikeforce is holding a great event in conjunction with BodogFight tonight at the Playboy Mansion.  Which is why, as a married man, I'll be watching the event much like the rest of you from the comfort of my own home.  The card features a number of top fighters including the aforementioned Melendez, Josh Thomson, Joe Riggs and Bobby Southworth. 

MMA Madness' Leland Rolling breaks down the card here.

You can watch the event on the Internet live beginning at 12 AM EST/9 PM PST tonight over at Yahoo Sports.

Maybe Strikeforce's next event will be at Chuck E. Cheese.  I'll definitely be there live for that one.  And, you can rest assured that I'll be bringing home a stuffed animal from that event.

Posted by at 2:27 PM | | Comments (0)
        

September 26, 2007

IFL wants to be the NFL of MMA

Yesterday afternoon, International Fight League (IFL) held a conference call with the media to make a couple of announcements. You can read MMA Madness' Crystal Hudson's account of the conference call here.

According to Hudson, IFL commissioner Kurt Otto said at the conference call, “We’re building the NFL of MMA.”  And, with that statement, my faith in IFL went up.  Because, at a minimum for any league to succeed, its stated goal must be the right one.  And I believe -- especially as we head into week 4 of the NFL season -- that there is no better sports league in the United States than the NFL.

The NFL is a machine that runs itself.  The sport itself creates drama.  There's drama during the games.  There's drama in the intervening weeks between games.  Even in the offseason, there is much to talk about, whether it's free agency, the combines, or the draft. 

And the integrity of the league is hardly ever in question.  No one can ask why Team A picked first in the draft, or why Team B ended up with the schedule it did, or why Team C beat out Team D for the playoffs.  The rules governing all these critical situations are steadfast and transparent.

The NFL has survived the loss of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the loss of Walter Payton, and most recently the loss of Michael Vick from its ranks.  And yet it continues to march on, regenerating new stars such as LaDanian Tomlinson and Tom Brady, as well as new plot lines (especially this year) such as the Patriots' videotaping scandal.

So, while IFL is struggling to maintain footing in a tough MMA field, I'm glad to see that the executives at least have their hearts in the right place.  IFL is a league I think is worth having around both for its unique team format as well as for the caliber of many of its athletes, who have competed or could compete successfully in other leagues.  In addition, from what I understand, IFL does take good care of its fighters.

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Beyond having the proper long-term vision, IFL also announced a major breakthrough in its TV programming on the conference call.  The league's individual World Grand Prix semifinals will be held on live network television on MyNetworkTV.  This is huge for both the league as well as MMA in general.

What football has more of than any other sport is programming on network TV and basic cable.  MMA has its fair share of programming on basic cable and premium cable, but until this IFL announcement there has been nothing on network TV.

However, from Hudson's conference call recap,

IFL will have its first live television event on Saturday, November 3, 2007 when MyNetworkTV broadcasts a portion of the first round of the IFL Grand Prix tournament. MyNetworkTV will air a single hour of the event, which will take place at the Sears Center in Chicago, IL.

So, while the event won't be shown in its entirety and while this is a trial run, it is still a major step in the right direction for the sport.  And, IFL has tried to make its version of MMA more palatable to mainstream America. If any league can make a positive impression on network audiences, it's IFL.

The one thing I note, however, is that though IFL markets itself as a team league, they are choosing to use their first individual event as the launching point for their live network TV programming.  I find this quite interesting.

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Speaking of MMA on TV, TUF 6 episode two is tonight.  As many of you may recall, Joe Scarola was the first eliminated fighter last week, losing to Mac Danzig.  MMA Madness' Luke Thomas spoke to Scarola one-on-one here. Scarola had a number of interesting things to say about his stint on TUF, including some choice words for opposing coach Matt Hughes.  He also admits that his relationship with coach Matt Serra (who is Scarola's real-life coach as well) is a bit rocky.

But, a comment Scarola made about the daily schedule for a TUF fighter on the show really caught my eye:

You train four hours a day. So besides that, you’re in the house the rest of the time.

Wow, twenty hours a day in a house with 15 other guys. No TV, no outside communication. For six weeks. That's the price you pay to make it to the big show... 

Posted by at 6:36 PM | | Comments (0)
        

September 25, 2007

CompuStrike clarified

I wanted to add a couple of clarifying points to my CompuStrike discussion in yesterday's entry. First, Bob Canobbio, President of CompuBox Inc., sent me the following clarification by email regarding CompuStrike's true purpose in MMA:

"I just want to clarify that the CompuStrike system (like the CompuBox system for boxing) is designed to provide a barometer of a fighter's activity and not designed to score MMA events."

In other words, judges don't use CompuStrike to help score events. The tool's results are unknown to the judges when they are rendering their scores.

Second, CompuStrike is subject to the same sort of human flaws that already make MMA judging controversial -- after all, human beings are responsible for tallying the strikes and takedowns used by the program.

And third, in my opinion, the tool is best served as not only a barometer of fighter activity but also as a way to evaluate a judge's record of scoring fights. If CompuStrike stats consistently show numbers contrary to the way a judge scored those rounds, that judge's competence might rightly be called into question. 

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As an interesting footnote to the Hamill-Bisping controversy, check out CompuStrike's analysis of that fight. To summarize, Hamill landed more strikes total, he landed a greater percentage of attempted strikes, he landed more arm strikes and ground strikes, and he scored more takedowns.  The only category Bisping wins in is number of leg strikes landed.  In addition, CompuStrike's round-by-round analysis also favors Hamill.

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Canobbio also clarified another point regarding the use of CompuStrike at MMA events:

"UFC 76 was the first time the CompuStrike program was utilized by a media company for live stats of a UFC event.  However, it wasn’t the overall debut.  The program was used previously for a live telecast of a CFFC event (not UFC). All other uses of the program were done for our own in-house compilation purposes."

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With all the recent controversy surrounding MMA judging and the MMA scoring system, I decided to devise a system of my own to determine who the winner of a fight is if that fight goes the full three or five rounds.  I call this revolutionary system the "Pramit Club Face Scoring System" (PCFSS for short).  The system is simple, it's common sensical, and I believe it gets to the heart of what a fight is all about. 

In short, if two fighters fight to a decision, they must stand up in front of a panel of five opposite-sex judges who will then determine which of the two fighters can go straight from the cage to a club.  After all, it's a fight.  You lose the fight if you have to hide your face for the next week.  Plain and simple.  If your opponent can shower and hit the clubs and you can't, he/she just beat you. 

Now, of course this system will engender its fair share of controversy as well.  After all, what happens if one of the fighters is simply a better looking person, such that more damage to that fighter's face still results in that fighter having the better club face?  Realistically, it might be tough for our panel of judges -- no matter how objective -- to ever call Georges St. Pierre or Gina Carano losers using PCFSS. 

But, I have faith.  I know these panels will get it right at least as often as our current judges.  I believe that had PCFSS been in place at UFC 58, the panel would have correctly called St. Pierre the loser of this controversial fight against BJ Penn at UFC 58.  Trust me, Penn was already at the club when this interview took place...

Posted by at 6:26 PM | | Comments (1)
        

September 24, 2007

Liddell's status and CompuStrike

In my UFC 76 recap yesterday, I stated that I felt that Chuck Liddell was no longer main event-worthy. However, I also thought he would continue to fight and attempt a comeback. That may not be the case, according to Dana White in an interview with Yahoo Sports. White told Kevin Iole that he wouldn't be surprised if Liddell retired from the sport. Here's more of what White said in that interview:

"There's a hunger thing that you have to have to be an elite fighter and I just didn't see a Chuck Liddell who was as hungry as he used to be," White said Sunday. "Chuck has made a lot of money in this business and he's done a lot of things, but he wasn't the Chuck of old.

"Chuck was never a guy who fought for money; he fought because he loved to fight. He'd just as soon go out and fight in the back yard for free as fight before 20,000 people on a card he was making a ton of money because he just loved to fight."

However, today Liddell's trainer John Hackleman came out and told FightNetwork.com that Liddell has no plans to retire:

“He’s already said he’ll be back in the gym next Monday,” said Hackleman, who has coached Liddell for 16 years. “He’s going to fight again, hopefully as soon as possible, maybe in December. We’re looking at ‘Shogun.’”

So, there we have it.  UFC's own version of the Brett Favre saga.  I'll be very interested to see how this plays out.

Regardless of what Liddell does in the future, his place in this promotion's annals and his place in the history of the sport are secure.  For two years he was the most feared striker in UFC and he was the face of the promotion as it exploded onto the mainstream stage.

---

One thing a number of readers said after the Hamill-Bisping fallout is that they felt there was some sort of UFC conspiracy involved.  I'll never censor my readers' comments but I hope you realize that I have seen absolutely no evidence of such a plot.  After all, Mirko Cro Cop lost a close decision on the same card and two weeks later, Liddell lost a close decision as well.  Clearly, if there was some sort of evil scheme at work, I think having Cro Cop and Liddell come out victorious would be part of it. 

Instead, I think what we see every once in a while is poor judging and a scoring system that is simply not sufficient for MMA.

Dana White (in the same Yahoo Sports interview cited above) also said the following about how UFC would cope if Liddell did retire:

"At the end of the day, we have so many talented fighters in the UFC that we'll be fine," White said. "We're not a one-trick pony, that's for sure. Chuck is always going to be a part of the UFC, whether he's fighting or not, but we're definitely not going to be in any kind of trouble if he quits."

What's great about this comment is that it taps into the essence of what I believe will make UFC successful -- the notion that no fighter is bigger than the league.  I applaud White for making this comment, even at the expense of his good friend Liddell, because it shows that White understands one of the failures in the sport of boxing and that he also understands why the NFL is the most successful sports league in America.  This comment should also assuage any fears that White is pulling strings in favor of any one fighter.  In fact, he believes the promotion can survive the victory or defeat of any of its fighters.

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Back to MMA scoring for a second.  CompuStrike made its debut at UFC 76.  Brought to us by the folks who came up with CompuBox for boxing, CompuStrike is a systematic scoring system that keeps track of strikes (arm, leg, and ground), takedowns, and submission attempts.

I asked Bob Canobbio, President of CompuBox Inc., some questions about how CompuStrike was administered at UFC 76.  Here is Canobbio's response:

 "CompuStrike has two operators seated octagon-side, sharing a laptop computer. They count one fighter each. We have designated keys for arm (punch/elbow) and leg (kicks & knees) strikes landed- from standing and ground positions. These categories produce a total strikes stat. We also count submission attempts & takedowns."

Those of you who have read my previous entries know that I am a fan of making MMA scoring more systematic.  I have to say that from what I have seen, Canobbio and his company have taken a major step in the right direction with their system.

For more on CompuStrike's statistics from UFC 76, click here.

Posted by at 8:04 PM | | Comments (1)
        

September 23, 2007

UFC 76 recap: Ice Age over?

2007 will be remembered as a year of upsets in UFC, and UFC 76 only continued the trend.  But, despite upsets becoming more and more commonplace in the promotion, there's no denying that last night's two major upsets were still stunning and both leave the UFC light heavyweight division in turmoil.

Shogun's debut ruined by vastly improved Griffin

I've never really bought into the Forrest Griffin hype machine, especially in a strong UFC light heavyweight division.  I've always believed that his popularity had more to do with timing and his role as TUF 1 champ than anything he has ever done in the Octagon.  In fact, before UFC 76, Griffin's most notable performance was a close loss to a rusty and not completely healthy Tito Ortiz in 2006.

But, I have noted improvement in Griffin's game in 2007.  First, he showed great poise and Octagon control in his victory over Hector Ramirez earlier this year.  And last night against Mauricio Rua, Griffin showed even more weapons in his arsenal.  Primarily a brawler when he entered UFC, Griffin now looks quite comfortable on the ground and how fitting was it for him to end a fight he was doing quite well in with a rear nake choke?

This is clearly a turning point in Griffin's career, and given how he has performed this year and how his game has improved, I am finally willing to say that Griffin has entered the top tier of UFC fighters.  Finally, I believe his popularity and hype might actually match his game.

Rua, on the other hand, is the latest of PRIDE's superstars to struggle in their cage debuts.  Rua looked considerably smaller than Griffin and had gassed by the middle of the second round.  Rua never looked like he was in control of the fight, which is stunning for a fighter widely considered close to the top of the world light heavyweight rankings.

PRIDE vs. UFC

So, what does this defeat mean for Rua and all the fighters coming over from PRIDE? 

I think it has become quite clear this year that fighting in UFC takes some getting used to.  There are subtle but significant rules differences between PRIDE and UFC; there are very substantial tactical differences between fighting in a ring versus fighting in a cage; and PRIDE encouraged a very different style and pace of fighting than that seen in UFC. 

With that said, that doesn't necessarily mean fighters in UFC are better or that fighters in PRIDE are overrated.  That analysis can only be made years from now, with more data in hand to truly make such assertions.  However, clearly in the current climate of MMA, rankings are fairly meaningless.

We are in such a state of flux in MMA, with the sport experiencing newfound popularity, with more and more athletes entering the sport and with the realignment of promotional power that we simply need to allow things to sort themselves out in the cage.

I believe that Mirko Cro Cop's struggles, Rua's lackluster debut, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's near loss to Heath Herring in his debut, and Herring's own loss in his UFC debut have shown us that any fighter entering UFC should be treated as a rookie and should be made to prove himself in the cage before garnering big-money contracts.  And, this includes Fedor Emelianenko.  After all, why should we believe things will be any different with him?

Some fighters, like Quinton Jackson, have made the transition quite nicely but others, like Cro Cop, may never adjust to the cage or to the UFC fight game.  And at this point, all bets are off as to what Wanderlei Silva will do in his debut in December. 

Liddell loses again

One thing I think we can say for sure is that Chuck Liddell won't be fighting Silva in December.  Liddell may have done enough to win round one last night against Keith Jardine, but after that it was all Jardine, including a knockdown of "The Iceman" in the second round.  While I've called Jardine the poor man's Chuck Liddell in the past, and his herky-jerky movements are surely unconventional, "The Dean of Mean" appeared very comfortable against Liddell and not at all intimidated by a man who used to strike fear in his opponents even before stepping into the Octagon.

Is this the end of the road for Liddell?  It's hard to tell.  There have always been whispers about Liddell's partying and training habits.  But, until his loss to Jackson, those rumors were simply dismissed as examples of Liddell being Liddell.  Now that he has lost two fights in a row, I'm sure the questions will only grow louder -- does Liddell now care more about being a "rock star" and less about being a top-tier fighter?  Only Liddell can answer these questions -- by performing in the cage.

Another question is, who should Liddell fight next?  Clearly, he is not main event worthy anymore, and he certainly won't fight a top-tier fighter anytime soon.  But, what about a rising star (albeit one that many find boring to watch) like Lyoto Machida?  Machida is unbeaten in UFC and a convincing win over Liddell would certainly validate him as a top-level fighter.  For Liddell, on the other hand, a win over Machida could be the beginning of his comeback.

TUF's best night yet

TUF alums have had some nice performances in the past, but the victories of Griffin and Jardine on the same night in back-to-back fights has gone a long way to legitimize the show and the fighters that come out of it.  No longer can TUF be seen as providing fans with only lower-tier fighters -- instead, we now see that with some time and seasoning, TUF fighters can be just as good as those believed to be the best in the world.  TUF can be a proving grounds that serves as step one in a future title holder's career.  Never in the past would I have thought that a TUF fighter could possibly challenge for the light heavyweight title as early as 2008.

Thoughts on future UFC matches

Last night's outcomes have turned the light heavyweight division on its head.  So, given those results, let me play Joe Silva for a moment and tell you who I'd like to see fight next (note that I would really like to see Dan Henderson drop down to middleweight and unify the middlweight title against Anderson Silva, so I haven't included Henderson in this list):

- Wanderlei Silva's debut in UFC should come against Houston Alexander

- Chuck Liddell should face Lyoto Machida next

- Shogun should face Keith Jardine next

- Quinton Jackson's next title defense should come against (gasp) Forrest Griffin

Posted by at 7:52 PM | | Comments (22)
        

September 22, 2007

UFC 76: Knockout preview

UFC 76 is the culmination of a busy stretch for UFC, which has seen the promotion hold three pay-per-view caliber cards and one UFC Fight Night card in the span of about a month. In addition, the promotion launched the newest season of its reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter," this past week.

UFC 76 (being held in Anaheim, Calif. and available to those not able to make it to the event on pay-per-view starting at 10 PM EST) is dubbed "Knockout", so let's take a look at which main card fights could actually end by knockout, along with my predictions for those fights.

Chuck Liddell vs. Keith Jardine

Both of these light heavyweight strikers are coming off devastating knockout losses in their previous fights.  Liddell's last 10 fights have ended in stoppage (none by submission) and he won eight of those bouts.  Jardine's last two fights ended in stoppage.  With the influx of talent into UFC's light heavyweight division including the additions of PRIDE superstars Mauricio Rua and Wanderlei Silva, I'm not sure if Liddell will ever be champ again.  But, Jardine isn't nearly the caliber of fighter those guys are and I think Liddell will get back in the win column in this fight.

Prediction: Liddell wins by TKO due to strikes in the first round

Mauricio Rua vs. Forrest Griffin

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua makes his UFC debut tonight after earning a reputation as one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world with his performances in PRIDE.  According to Sherdog.com, 13 of Rua's 16 wins have come by TKO or knockout.  Griffin, on the other hand, has had a somewhat middling career since he won TUF 1.  He is coming off a decision victory over Hector Ramirez and three of his five UFC victories have been by decision. Until we are shown otherwise, I have to consider Rua far superior to the scrappy Griffin.

Prediction: Rua wins by TKO due to strikes in the second round.

Jon Fitch vs. Diego Sanchez

Diego Sanchez is well-known in the welterweight division and to UFC fans, partly because of his performance in TUF 1 and partly because he was unbeaten in his MMA career before his loss to Josh Koscheck.  However, the relatively unknown Jon Fitch is a rising welterweight who is himself unbeaten in six fights in UFC.  This is Fitch's biggest opportunity since joining the promotion.  He tends to win by submission while Sanchez tends to win by decision.  While these facts would seem to indicate this fight won't end by knockout, in this case, I'm assuming Sanchez will not want to go to the ground against Fitch.  But, I think Fitch can handle himself on his feet as well. I see a standup fight in which Fitch will properly introduce himself to UFC fans.

Prediction: Fitch by TKO due to strikes in the second round.

The other two main card fights are Kazuhiro Nakamura vs. Lyoto Machida in a light heavyweight encounter and Thiago Tavares vs. Tyson Griffin in a lightweight bout.  Nakamura is well-known to PRIDE fans and makes his UFC debut tonight.  While both fights should be good ones, history indicates that neither will be won by knockout.  

For the rest of the UFC 76 card, go to UFC.com

Posted by at 1:00 PM | | Comments (9)
        

September 20, 2007

IFL Team Finals are tonight

IFL Team Finals take place tonight in Hollywood, Florida at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. The teams in the finals are Pat Miletich's Quad City Silverbacks and Renzo Gracie's New York Pitbulls.

MMA Madness is at the event and has video from yesterday's weigh-ins as well as pre-fight interviews with Silverbacks' lightweight Bart Palaszewski (aka "Bartimus") and his mentor Jeff Curran.  Click here for all the video.

In addition, MMA Madness' Ryan McKinnell is live-blogging from the arena.  Since you can't watch the event live on TV, Ryan's account is the next best thing.  Click here to go to his live blog, which should begin right around 7:30 PM. 

Posted by at 6:49 PM | | Comments (0)
        

September 19, 2007

Matt Serra interview, TUF 6, and UFC Fight Night 11

As many of you may be aware, The Ultimate Fighter season six begins tonight on Spike TV. The season will feature 16 welterweights who will be coached by either current UFC welterweight champ Matt Serra or former welterweight champ Matt Hughes. The two have something of a feud going, so I imagine that along with fighter histrionics, the rapport between the two Matts will be quite entertaining as well.

Spike TV has moved TUF 6 to Wednesday (a departure from the show's customary Thursday evening time slot.) Tonight's first episode airs at 11 p.m., after UFC Fight Night 11.

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MMA Madness will be conducting all the exit interviews for TUF 6.  We get things started with Crystal Hudson's one-on-one interview with coach Serra, which you can read here.  Serra talks about everything from what to expect from TUF 6 to his disdain for Hughes.

Here's an interesting excerpt from the interview in which Serra talks about his feelings on the pressures of living in the TUF 6 house and whether rules should be changed to be more lenient on fighters in future seasons:

Hell no! Why? What do they want? To be pampered? When I went in there, I looked at that like a six-week training camp. I remember being in the Jacuzzi…it was myself, Pete ‘Drago’ (Sell), Patrick Cote -- I remember having this conversation with Din Thomas. We’re like, you know, there are guys over in Iraq, there’s people in prison. There are people with real problems out there. We got a six week training camp, that every single one of us, regardless of how we’re going to do, we’re going to come out of this experience better fighters. So, it’s like, ‘What’s the problem, man? What? You miss your girlfriend? You miss your dog? What do you miss?’ Give me a break. You can’t use your cell phone? You want to read the paper? I just don’t understand it, myself. There are a lot of guys that would die to be in that house. So the guys that blow it, I just don’t have a ton of respect for.

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UFC Fight Night 11 airs before TUF 6 tonight, starting at 9 p.m. on Spike TV.  The event features a lightweight battle between veteran Din Thomas and former title fighter Kenny Florian in what may determine one of the contestants for a potentially vacated title.

Posted by at 8:01 AM | | Comments (0)
        

September 16, 2007

EliteXC: Uprising Recap: Lawler victorious, Carano grounds Evinger, more close calls

 

Lawler gets TKO victory over Rua

 

Robbie Lawler finishes off Murilo Rua to capture EliteXC middleweight title (photo courtesy EliteXC).

Lawler takes title convincingly

Robbie Lawler looked confident in the second round, even grinning at times as Murilo Rua looked to be fading in their EliteXC middleweight title bout.  Lawler appeared to know the end was near and proved it in the next round by unleashing a flurry of punches that absolutely rocked Rua and had the middleweight champ doing the splits on the way down to the canvas, where Lawler finished him off for good. 

Lawler looked very impressive in winning the title and along with Rua, Frank Shamrock (Strikeforce middleweight champ), and Phil Baroni the middleweight division appears to be EliteXC's marquee weight class.  And quite honestly, I would put those four up against UFC's top four middleweights (a weight class that is clearly UFC's weakest division) any day.

"The face of woman's MMA" wins by submission

I can't imagine what would happen to Gary Shaw and EliteXC if Gina Carano actually loses a match.  It seems as though the entire promotion hinges on her success.  On Showtime's telecast last night, her dad was even seen hugging referee Steve Mazzagati (who was not the referee for her fight) after she won.  I don't think I've seen so many people in an organization so happy that one person won.

On the other hand, Carano showed us that she can do more than just kickbox by defeating Tonya Evinger by chokeout at the end of the first round.  However, after two fights in the promotion, I'm still not sure how good Carano is.  And, Shaw doesn't appear as interested in finding out or in filling out the woman's division as he does in making sure Carano remains the face of the division.

Jake Shields is hard to beat on the ground

Jake Shields is one of the top welterweights in the world and last night he proved it again, defeating a respected BJJ artist in Renato Verissimo by ground-and-pound in the first round.  Shields looked like he wanted to establish his stand-up game early in the round but soon decided to go to his strength and the took the fight to the ground, where he won.  There's no doubt that Shields would easily be a contender in UFC's welterweight division.

Split decision = splitting headache

After last night's split decisions that favored Nick Diaz (against Mike Aina) and Joey Villasenor (against Riki Fukuda), the bottom line in MMA is that if you want to guarantee yourself a victory, don't leave the outcome up to the judges.  Plain and simple.

Both fights were close and shouldn't at all be compared to the Hamill-Bisping fight at UFC 75.  Both of these fights could have gone either way.  This is especially true for the Villasenor-Fukuda fight, which was rightly scored 29-28 on all the judges' cards.  In the Diaz-Aina fight, I felt that Aina had done enough standing with his heavy punches and one knockdown to take the fight.  On the other hand, Diaz scored two round-ending takedowns and was active on the ground at the end of both the second and third rounds and he scored with some decent punches on his feet.

So, while I didn't necessarily have a disagreement with the outcome of the Diaz decision, I didn't understand how one of the judges could score that fight 30-27 for Diaz. 

After last week's uproar over the Hamill-Bisping fight, I'm of two minds on judging.  Does the system need to be revamped? Yes.  Do judges need to be trained better so that they are all looking for the same thing when they are scoring a fight? Yes.

But, I think a nice byproduct of the seeming arbitrariness of these decisions is that they encourage fighters not to leave the fight in the judges' hands.  And, the pursuit of a true victory by stoppage is what I think will keep MMA from following the path of boxing, which ended up becoming a race to the judges' scorecards.  As long as decisions are unpredictable and fighters fear what may be written on a scorecard, MMA fights will remain exciting.

And, with MMA exploding and better athletes joining the sport every year, the disparity in skill level will continue to get narrower and narrower.  If I'm a fighter in an evenly matched fight, I'd rather take my chances going for a stoppage than leaving the outcome up to what a judge did or didn't see from his vantage point.

So, in the end, maybe the controversial decisions the last two weeks weren't such a bad thing after all.

---

I liked EliteXC's production at their event last night.  I think the nod to Hawaiian culture was done tastefully and I liked the waterfall through which the fighters entered the arena.

In addition, the addition of the "Fight Professor" Stephen Quadros to the ringside announcing crew was a nice one.  Personally, I would like to see the play-by-play done by Mauro Ranallo and the color commentary done by Quadros. I would remove Bill Goldberg from the fight commentary team and limit him to conducting post-fight interviews.

Posted by at 10:53 AM | | Comments (2)
        

September 15, 2007

Uprising preview: Can EliteXC compete with UFC?

In America, UFC is MMA. Much like Xerox is synonymous with copy machines and Kleenex is synonymous with tissue, many casual observers still refer to the sport as "ultimate fighting."

However, there is a league called EliteXC that is beginning to take hold and make moves that appear to position it as a legitimate alternative to UFC for fighters and fans alike.  EliteXC has a long way to go before it matches UFC in terms of brand recognition or depth and quality of its fighter roster.  Still, the promotion has a lot of things going in its favor.

Pro Elite, the parent company of EliteXC, started off strong by recognizing that a TV deal is essential for a league to survive.  The company procured a deal with premium cable channel Showtime right out of the gate.  Since then, the company has also been open-minded in working with other companies, holding joint events with Strikeforce and King of the Cage (Pro Elite just announced that they bought King of the Cage.)  And, now the company has begun buying some of the other established MMA promotions throughout the world such as last week's announcement that the company has bought England's #1 promotion -- Cage Rage -- as well as this week's announcement of the purchase of Hawaii's ICON.

With the Showtime TV contract in place, Pro Elite has also begun holding their version of a developmental circuit known as ShoXC (to mirror Showtime's ShoBox franchise) to showcase (Shocase?) some of the sport's up-and-coming fighters. The Showtime backing along with Pro Elite's reach, which now extends into Europe, should make the company an attractive destination for fighters.

And it seems that it has.  Tonight, EliteXC holds an event titled Uprising in Hawaii that will be televised on Showtime live at 10 PM EST (in addition, www.proelite.com will be streaming the undercard fights on its site after the main event.)  The event is full of names familiar to MMA fans and intriguing bouts that should provide plenty of skill and entertainment.

The EliteXC middleweight title is on the line as champion Murilo Rua (younger brother of Mauricio) defends his belt against ICON champ Robbie Lawler.  Lawler is a former UFC and PRIDE veteran, while Rua made his name coming up in PRIDE.

Another interesting story line features two fights between the BJ Penn camp in Hawaii and the Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu camp in California.  In one fight, former UFC bad boy Nick Diaz (Gracie) goes up against Mike Aina (Penn) in a fight that would put Aina on the MMA map if he could win.  Diaz is coming off a suspension for testing positive for pot at a PRIDE event earlier this year in which he defeated PRIDE lightweight champ Takonori Gomi.   

The other Gracie-Penn fight features one of the top welterweights in the world, Jake Shields (Gracie). Shields goes up against Renato Verissimo (Penn). A win would go a long way to helping Verissimo's standing in the sport.

Another intriguing fight features middleweight fighter Joey Villasenor (who has PRIDE experience) against Riki Fukuda (out of Pancrase).  Villasenor fought and lost to Rua in his last fight in June in the match that earned Rua the title.

While EliteXC appears to be strongest in the men's super-heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight divisions (as tonight's card illustrates), they have also departed from UFC's model by creating a woman's division.  Clearly, the centerpiece of that division is Gina Carano, who gets just as much attention (if not more) for her beauty than for her fighting skill.  This is Carano's second fight under the EliteXC banner and the kickboxer will fight Tonya Evinger in what should be an entertaining fight in the 140 lb. weight class.

As I watch tonight's card on Showtime, I will be very interested not only in the quality of the fights (and I think they will be good), but also in the quality of the production and the ringside commentary (which has drawn criticism in earlier events).  In addition (and this could be the most important part), I will be interested to see what attendance is like for the event and what the viewership numbers are on Showtime.

EliteXC has made major strides in the last year.  Tonight's event will be a good measure of where the promotion is compared to the consensus #1 MMA promotion in the country and possibly the world, UFC.  And as long as a piece about EliteXC contains references to UFC, we all know the promotion still has work to do...

---------- 

MMA Madness Radio did a preview of tonight's EliteXC show that you can listen to here.

In addition, MMA Madness has weigh-in pictures for the event that can be seen here (all fighters made weight.)

Posted by at 4:08 PM | | Comments (1)
        

September 12, 2007

One-on-one with Kenny Florian and Mark Cuban throws hat in MMA ring

UFC fighter Kenny Florian faces Din Thomas next week at UFC Fight Night in a match that could give the winner a shot at a lightweight belt currently in limbo due to Sean Sherk's appeal of a failed drug test. MMA Madness senior writer Luke Thomas went one-on-one with Florian in advance of his showdown. Florian had frank responses and when asked what the biggest lesson he has learned so far, he said,

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but for me, myself, I wish I had more experience. I ended up fighting in the UFC after three fights or I was on The Ultimate Fighter after three fights, anyway. And I was fighting two weight classes above my natural weight. As far as record-wise, I would’ve loved to have had more experience by fighting guys my own weight [class] and just have more experience in the MMA realm, period. I went in there as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu guy, really, on the show two weight classes above my weight and it was very difficult for me. Obviously that inexperience factor hurt me in that finale with Diego [Sanchez]. I was like a deer caught in the headlights out there.

That experience, that training is still something that every fighter should have. You know, having ten fights under your belt as opposed to three. You’ve got guys coming in now with fifteen fights and that’s huge. That’s a huge amount of experience. I wish I had more experience especially fighting guys my own weight.

You can find the rest of the interview here.

---

And, today Mark Cuban -- well-known to sports fans for being the controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks -- held a media conference call to announce details of his venture HDNet Fights, the latest entry in an increasingly crowded MMA race.  MMA Madness writer Crystal Hudson participated in the call.

You can find Crystal's conference call notes here.

And here’s the official Web site of HDNet Fights.

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

UFC 75: Have we killed the horse yet?

Steve Cofield of Fox Sports Radio in Las Vegas invited me on his show yesterday to discuss my "Hamill was robbed" blog entries from earlier this week. I knew beforehand that he disagreed with my verdict on the fight, but this was a good opportunity to engage in some friendly debate and discuss the bigger picture issues that came out of that fight.

Take a listen here and enjoy!

---

I wanted to tie up the loose ends in the Hamill-Bisping controversy before I move on in my future blog entries (no, the world of MMA did not stop turning while this decision took center stage.)

I think I can sum up reader sentiment with the following points:

1) Fans definitely want a rematch between Hamill and Bisping and UFC President Dana White has already promised there will be one.

2) Based on all the conspiracy theories thrown out there by readers, I think White would be wise to put the Hamill-Bisping rematch on Spike TV. Otherwise, feelings that this whole controversy was created for financial reasons will take even stronger hold.

3) Fans want White to say he thinks the decision was wrong. I'm not saying he should say that, but I get the feeling from the comments that they would at least feel that he has heard their grievances if he acknowledges their pain.

4) MMA has to take a long, deep look at the way fights are scored.

And, that's all on this topic ... for now ...

Posted by at 7:03 PM | | Comments (3)
        

September 11, 2007

Bisping, Hamill address controversy and MMA Madness Radio

Michael Bisping posted a message on his Web site regarding the controversy surrounding his UFC 75 fight against Matt Hamill. Here's an excerpt:

As most people will of seen the fight with me and Hamil was a close one. I have seen the controversy surrounding the decision so obviously have to reply. I personally feel he won round 1 and I took rounds 2 and 3. That said it was close and can I understand how some people would think differently. On the night I was given the decision and he wasn't, on another occasion it could of been different. 

Hamill also posted a message on his Web site.  Here's a snippet from that post:

The two judges that scored the win for Bisping obviously need to re-evaluate the way they score a fight. You can't win a fight when you run for three rounds.

---

And, Jeff Hamlin, Luke Thomas and I discussed UFC 75 on MMA Madness Radio, starting with the Bisping-Hamill fight and moving on to Mirko Cro Cop's loss and the main event fight between Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson.

Click here for the audio.

Posted by at 11:10 PM | | Comments (2)
        

September 10, 2007

UFC 75: What the principals are saying

I've had my say and so have many of you.  And, you are quite clearly passionate about the Matt Hamill-Michael Bisping fight.

So, what are some of the principal players in the Hamill-Bisping saga saying about the decision that won't go away?  Here's a look at public comments made by a number of the key figures in the last couple of days.

In talking to Yahoo Sports, UFC President Dana White said a Hamill-Bisping rematch is "a no-brainer and I'm going to be on it right away."  In response to some of the conspiracy theories, White said, "... not a chance in the world I'd even think of trying to influence the judges."  And, finally about holding events in UK, where MMA is not sanctioned, White asserts, "... I'm not going to stop putting fights in the U.K. just because they don't have a commission."

The two judges who scored the fight in favor of Bisping have come out to defend their decisions.  Jeff Mullen and Cecil Peoples both talked to The Fight Network in defense of their 29-28 verdicts.

According to The Fight Network's article, Peoples said:

I gave Bisping the second round, first because Hamill was beginning to run out of gas after the first round. Bisping fought like he wanted that fight. He came back aggressive [from the first round]. Hamill did take him down, but he did nothing with the takedown. Overall, Bisping was more aggressive. Hamill just held him down. Bisping’s punching was more effective.

In the same article, Mullen essentially echoed those sentiments and also explained why the third judge, Chris Watts, had such a drastically different score.  According to Mullen,

Sometimes the angle you see the fight effects your decision. That is why they put the judges on three different sides. Under the criteria we are given for judging I believe I judged the fight correctly.

And, Eddie Bravo (or someone posing as Bravo), well-known for his unofficial scoring of UFC fights for the promotion's telecasts, posted the following message on MMA.tv's The Underground Forum:

The [Hamill-Bisping] fight was very difficult to score with the 10-point must system in place. If you go by the traditional way of scoring a fight with takedowns being a huge factor in the scoring, then Hamill clearly won. But if you score the fights based only on damage done, and only count takedowns if some decent ground and pound follows, then no one won. Hamill did no real damage after the takedowns.

All the [arguing] and bickering about what happened in the fight is just another glaring reminder that the 10-point scoring system is seriously flawed.

The fight should have been a draw.

Posted by at 10:29 PM | | Comments (23)
        

September 9, 2007

The Hamill-Bisping fallout and trust

Wow!  The 24 hours since I wrote my UFC 75 recap have seen this blog light up with the comments of angry UFC fans who agreed with my assessment that Matt Hamill had been robbed in his split-decision loss to Michael Bisping. So far, only one of the comments discussed the potentially more newsworthy fact that Quinton Jackson is the unified light heavyweight champ or the fact that Mirko Cro Cop appears to be at a major crossroads in his MMA career.  No one wanted to talk about the new light heavyweight phenom, Houston Alexander.

The blog comments have been nearly unanimous in their sentiment that Hamill was the victor.  Many readers also didn't appreciate Bisping's comments in his post-fight interview.  Others vowed they wouldn't pay to watch UFC again and some likened this decision to what they have endured with boxing.  Even others felt the outcome was rigged, WWE-style. 

In fact, a petition was started Sunday morning in response to the outcome of the fight: http://www.petitiononline.com/ufc75pet/petition.html

---

I discuss MMA periodically with a friend of mine, Cale, who lives in England and who is himself a big MMA fan.  When he read the response to my blog entry and the comments of disenchanted fans, he mentioned that MMA in general and UFC in particular have to build "trust" during this period of growth.  I couldn't agree with Cale more.

And, as I told him, I think the sport faces two problem areas right now and both come down to how much fans trust the product they are watching:

1) Steroids

Fighters and fans alike want all fighters to be tested and they want the tests to be random.  While this does not fall under the purview of promotions like UFC in states where the sport is sanctioned, these promotions still take a hit for the current policies, whether fair or not. 

It turns out that at UFC 75, drug-testing was under the care of UFC since the sport is not sanctioned in England.  The question then is, who specifically did the drug-testing, how many fighters were tested, and what are the results?

Fans simply will not accept cheating, even if there is only a perception of cheating.  Barry Bonds' reputation with baseball fans is a prime example of this attitude.  But, even the reputation of professional wrestling -- which is not a competitive sport -- has been tarnished by its recent drug scandal.

Fans want to feel that those who hold the power in the sport -- the promotions and the sanctioning bodies alike -- are doing everything they can to combat abuse and appropriately find and punish offenders.  Fans want to feel that the product they are watching is as clean and as fair as possible.

2) Judging

The Hamill-Bisping fight is not the first time a controversial decision has been reached by judges.  The problem with such decisions is the perceived lack of accountability and some very wild differences in scoring seen not only at UFC 75 but also in other events (for example, IFL's team semifinals last month.)

In this case, because MMA is not sanctioned in England, UFC brought in the judges to score the bouts.  Couple that with the fact that UFC is clearly trying to make inroads into England's MMA market and the fact that hometown boy, Bisping, received what many felt was an undeserved victory and you have the ingredients that help make the conspiracy theories so popular.

As I mentioned in my recap, three professional judges should not be able to watch the same fight and come up with such wildly different scores.  Somehow, objectivity must be injected into the scoring equation.  Are takedowns, submission attempts, and Octagon control given proper weight as compared to striking?  Does the power of a punch or kick or damage done with a strike come into play? Should judges have to explain their decisions?  In other words, should judges be held to a higher standard -- not simply render a score based on the 10-point must system but also explain how they arrived at that score?  Do we need something like CompuBox for MMA?

Regardless of the answers to all these questions about steroids and judging, building the trust of the fans should be MMA's main goal.  The sport is enjoying unprecedented success and mainstream acceptance right now.  But, the public is weary of perceived boxing-like flaws and won't tolerate them for nearly as long as it tolerated boxing's indiscretions.

And besides that, shouldn't today's conversation really be about Rampage's victory and Cro Cop's fall and not about a decision between two middle-of-the-road light heavyweights?  Unfortunately for UFC, all the fans want to talk about is the latter and that can't be good for the sport.

Posted by at 10:18 PM | | Comments (66)
        

UFC 75 Recap: Rampage on, Hamill robbed, Houston we have lift off

UFC 75 was yet another tremendous card for the top MMA promotion in the world.  There were plenty of talking points coming into the event and even more after its conclusion.  Unfortunately, some of the discussion surrounding the event has not been pleasant.  So, let's go straight to my thoughts on what we saw.

Rampage is the true light heavyweight champ of the world

UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson added to his impressive UFC resume last night by defeating PRIDE light heavyweight champ Dan Henderson to unify the belt.  Jackson followed up his decisive victory over Chuck Liddell in which he displayed his striking prowess with a fight in which he showed the rest of his arsenal, especially on the ground.

If someone had told me before this bout that the fight would last all five rounds and that most of it would be fought on the ground, I would have said that was a recipe for a Henderson win.  Instead, Jackson showed that he has all-around skills and looked very comfortable on the ground, controlling the action there and rightly walking away with the unanimous decision.

I asked in my UFC 75 preview piece what would happen to the loser of this fight?  Well, in this case, I think Henderson acquitted himself very well in his re-introduction to UFC fans.  Jackson was the bigger, stronger man -- and it showed -- but Henderson also showed fans that he is a very skilled athlete as well.  And, don't forget that Henderson is still the PRIDE middleweight champion. As strange as this sounds, I think he should permanently drop down to middleweight and fight another unification fight, this time against Anderson Silva for Silva's UFC title.  The UFC's middleweight division is the promotion's weakest division and Henderson would instantly bolster its ranks.

As for Jackson, the road doesn't get any easier for him.  The UFC light heavyweight division is so stacked that there are no easy wins anymore.  I believe that if Mauricio "Shogun" Rua defeats Forrest Griffin at UFC 76, Shogun should be Rampage's next opponent.  Newly-acquired Wanderlei Silva is an option as well.  Either way, Jackson is in the midst of one of the most impressive runs in opponent quality that MMA has ever seen and, so far -- under the tutelage of trainer Juanito Ibarra -- Rampage looks like he's up to the task.

Hamill remains unbeaten (in the eyes of many MMA fans)

Read the comments on this blog and other blogs and forums throughout the Internet and one thing is clear -- almost everyone outside London thinks Matt Hamill won his fight against Michael Bisping.  And I agree with them.

I re-watched the fight this morning and rounds one and two easily go to Hamill.  Round three could be seen as a toss-up because Bisping had a couple of nice flurries early on in that round.  But, Hamill scored a couple of takedowns late in the third round and controlled the second half of that round.  I scored the fight 30-27 for Hamill.  Being generous to Bisping, one could argue it was a 29-28 fight for Hamill.  Either way, Hamill should have walked away a unanimous-decision winner.

At worst, Hamill neutralized Bisping standing up (at best, Hamill controlled the Octagon and landed some very nice punches) and clearly dominated the ground game with numerous takedowns and total control on the ground.  I don't remember seeing a single Bisping takedown.  Was Bisping's striking that overwhelming to two judges that they gave him two rounds?  I just don't see it.

The result brought up another interesting question in my mind -- is MMA judging so subjective that three judges watching the same fight can score the fight so differently?  This is an issue that needs to be resolved in the sport in general (I saw the same thing at IFL's team semifinals in August) before people start thinking of the dreaded b-word (boxing) when it comes to decisions.  However, these decisions do remind fighters that the only true way to control one's destiny is to win by stoppage.  If a fighter doesn't want to lose by a controversial decision, then go for the stoppage!

I've also been asked by a number of readers what UFC president Dana White can do to rectify this decision.  In my mind, there's very little he can do.  Occasionally, we see decisions like this in the sport (Ortiz-Griffin comes to mind.)   However, I do think Dana White can somewhat help the situation by treating both fighters as if they won or at least fought to a draw.  Don't punish Hamill and don't give Bisping credit with respect to future matchmaking.  In the end, maybe the only proper solution is a rematch.

Hamill continues to improve from one match to the next and last night he looked more comfortable on his feet than I've ever seen him.  As for Bisping, I would like to see him drop down to middleweight (much like Henderson) and help solidify that division.  I think Bisping would have a better chance being a contender as a middleweight than he would fighting at 205 lbs.  Last night's fight showed us that both Hamill and Bisping are still middle-of-the-pack light heavyweights. 

Houston Alexander continues to impress

Houston Alexander, on the other hand, is a light heavyweight shooting up the UFC ranks.  Alexander put on another show last night in absolutely dominating Alessio Sakara.  Alexander showed a lot of energy and a lot of aggression and he also showed us that along with the fists that he displayed against Keith Jardine in his last fight, he has some wicked knees too.  Alexander is a powerfully built fighter and Sakara could do nothing to keep him on the ground.

I mentioned in my preview piece that I would like to see Liddell fight Alexander next rather than Jardine.  I think Alexander has definitely earned the opportunity to get a shot against someone in the upper ranks of the division.  While Alexander has been impressive, he hasn't truly been tested either.  How will he fare in longer matches or against fighters who can withstand his striking and take the fight to the ground?

I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.  Either way, Alexander has proven to be a gem of a find for White and UFC.

What next for Mirko Cro Cop?

UFC's heavyweight division is no joke either.  And Mirko Cro Cop is finding that out the hard way.  The Croatian was brought into the promotion with much fanfare but through three fights the former PRIDE superstar has been a major disappointment.  Last night against Frenchman Cheick Kongo, Cro Cop had no answers -- instead he looked tentative and listless throughout much of the fight. 

Kongo was Cro Cop's equal standing and did a good job on the ground to wear down the former member of the Croatian Special Forces.  Right now, Cro Cop appears to be a very one-dimensional fighter.  If he can't get his opponent with a left leg kick, how will he win?  He hasn't shown much else in his arsenal since he joined UFC.  He doesn't appear comfortable in the cage or fighting under the slightly different rules of UFC (that allow elbows but don't allow soccer kicks.)

And given how much money White is paying Cro Cop, it appears that there will be no rest in sight for the heavyweight.  And, there is probably no title shot in Cro Cop's near future either.  For now, he has to simply work on improving his game and coming out with a victory.  I will be very interested to see who UFC matchmaker Joe Silva puts Cro Cop up against in his next fight.  Andrei Arlovski, maybe?

Kongo, on the other hand, was impressive in this fight.  He's right in the mix in a strong heavyweight division and may be a couple of wins away from his own title shot.  If Fedor Emelianenko is not signed by UFC any time soon, I would assume that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would get the next title shot against Randy Couture.  And, don't forget about Tim Sylvia, Arlovski, and the recently-resigned Brandon Vera, who are all probably ahead of Kongo in line for an opportunity to fight for the belt.

Posted by at 10:15 AM | | Comments (54)
        

September 8, 2007

UFC 75 Preview

The headlines surrounding UFC 75 have rightly focused on the "Champion vs. Champion" main event between the PRIDE 185-pound and 205-pound titleholder Dan Henderson and newly-crowned UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton Jackson. The PRIDE light heavyweight belt will be retired after this bout in London and the winner will be crowned as the new unified UFC light heavyweight champ. With almost all of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world now under UFC's roof, the new champion may very well be able to call himself the true world champion. (For more on the fight between Henderson and Jackson, check out MMA Madness' Rami Genauer's thoughts here.)

While the main event fight has been garnering all the attention, there are three other fights I will be interested in as well: Mirko Cro Cop vs. Cheick Kongo, Matt Hamill vs. Michael Bisping, and Houston Alexander vs. Alessio Sakara.

Here are the questions I'll be looking to answer as I watch UFC 75:

1) What happens to the loser of Henderson vs. Jackson?  One will be a short-lived champion in the eyes of UFC fans, many of whom don't know of either's exploits in PRIDE.

2) How will Mirko Cro Cop fare in his return bout after being devastated by Gabriel Gonzaga in his last match? Cheick Kongo is a chiseled, athletic stand-up fighter who could give Cro Cop trouble with his size.

3) Will the Cro Cop-Kongo fight be on the ground for longer than two minutes the entire bout?

4) Who will walk away the winner in the TUF 3 grudge match between Michael Bisping and Matt Hamill?

5) Has Hamill's stand-up game improved enough to deal with Bisping while they are on their feet?

6) Does Bisping have the ability to compete with Hamill on the ground?

7) Will we see the same explosive Houston Alexander that we saw in his impressive debut against Keith Jardine?

8) Does anyone else wish Alexander was Chuck Liddell's opponent at UFC 76 rather than Jardine?

9) How will the English fans react to Marcus Davis being allowed to keep his previous nickname -- "The Irish Hand Grenade"?

10) Will I be able to contain myself and wait until Spike TV's airing of the show to find out what happened?

UFC 75 will be shown tonight on Spike TV at 9 p.m. EST (tape-delayed).

Posted by at 10:57 AM | | Comments (5)
        

September 7, 2007

WEC 30 thoughts: Did Stann fight a can?

Brian Stann is a great story.  He's a veteran of the Marine Corps; he has fought in Iraq; and he's won a Silver Star.  He is also an up-and-coming WEC light heavyweight.  It's understandable that WEC would be enamored with Stann because he has a story that draws fans in.

However, I take issue with the matchmaking that led the promotion to pit Brian Stann against Jeremiah Billington at WEC 30 this past Wednesday for a couple of reasons:

1) While Billington is 9-2, I did a quick examination of the won-loss records of his opponents on Sherdog.com and found out that his nine wins came against opponents with a combined record of 16-49 (including one with a record of 1-22 -- Matt Albright.)  Billington has defeated only one fighter with a winning record -- John McElroy, who is 7-4.  Remember, all these fights came in fairly small promotions, too.  Billington's other loss came against Jason Black, who has fought in PRIDE and UFC. 

2) According to WEC, Billington weighed in at 195 pounds in a division where the maximum weight is 205 pounds.  That means Billington probably had to put on weight to get to his weigh-in weight.  In reality, he'd be better suited to fighting at middleweight or even welterweight.  The size disparity between Billington and Stann was very noticeable in Wednesday's fight.  To borrow an old cliché, Stann wasn't even picking on a guy his own size.

So, why do I bring all this up?  First, let me be clear -- I don't blame Stann for this.  He fights whoever WEC puts up against him.  And, of course this isn't the first time a promotion has set up an easy fight for a fighter it has picked to be the chosen one.

However, I do believe that we still don't know that much about Stann after this fight and that we have to be careful before we draw any far-reaching conclusions about his ability as a MMA fighter.  He's taken care of business up to this point but let's see how he does against better competition before we leap too far.

---

If you are looking for more analysis on WEC 30 or a brief preview of UFC 75, check out the debut episode of MMA Madness Radio, which was taped Wednesday following WEC 30.  Jeff Hamlin was the host and Luke Thomas and I joined him to discuss these as well as other topics.  Click here for the audio.

Posted by at 5:09 PM | | Comments (3)
        

September 4, 2007

Zuffa is busy this month

Zuffa (the parent company of UFC, WEC, and PRIDE) is holding four events this month -- three UFC events and one WEC event -- literally throughout the world.  Those of you who have read previous entries of mine know that I'm not a huge fan of so many UFC events in one month.  I think UFC pay-per-views require about a month for decompression from the previous event and build up to the next event to generate maximum impact. 

Regardless, UFC President Dana White clearly feels otherwise and these busy stretches are slowly becoming the norm for his promotion.  I'm sure if/when UFC inks a deal with HBO, we will see even more events spread out over Spike TV, HBO and PPV.  The question in my mind is will the MMA market bear so many events in such a short period of time?

Anyway, here are the events with dates and other information for each one.

WEC 30 -- Wednesday, Sept. 5, 9 PM EST live on Versus.  The main event is Richard Crunkilton vs. Rob McCullough in a lightweight bout. 

UFC 75 -- Saturday, Sept. 8, 9 PM EST tape-delayed on Spike TV.  This event is being held in London and features a main event fight between Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson as well as London native Michael Bisping and Mirko Cro Cop's return to the Octagon.

UFC Fight Night -- Wednesday, Sept. 19, 9 PM EST on Spike TV.  The main event is a lightweight bout between Kenny Florian and Din Thomas.

UFC 76 -- Saturday, Sept. 22, 10 PM EST on PPV.  The main event of this card is Chuck Liddell's return bout vs. Keith Jardine.  This is a less-than-overwhelming main event especially considering both fighters are coming off devastating losses and Jardine is not a title contender.  Another intriguing bout features Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's debut fight in UFC against TUF 1 darling Forrest Griffin.

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

MMA top ten

Dave Doyle over at Yahoo! Sports does a MMA top ten poll with a panel of writers from mainstream media publications from throughout the country and Canada.  I'm fortunate enough to be on this panel and the second set of rankings came out last week.

This poll is one of a number of "pound-for-pound" polls out there.  But, since I'm a voter, I thought I would highlight this one and let you take a look at what we came up with.  If you're interested, I'm willing to publish my rankings in a later blog entry.

As a teaser, here are the bottom fighters in the top ten:

10. Chuck Liddell

9. BJ Penn

For the rest of the rankings and to find out who we crowned the best mma fighter in the world right now, click here.

Posted by at 9:23 PM | | Comments (0)
        

September 3, 2007

Michael Bisping talks UFC 75

MMA Madness' Ryan McKinnell went one-on-one with Michael Bisping a couple of weeks ago.  Bisping is preparing for this Saturday's UFC 75 showdown against fellow TUF 3 alum Matt Hamill.  In this wide-ranging interview, Bisping touches on a number of subjects including what he thinks of Hamill as well as another rising MMA light heavyweight star -- Rameau Thierry Sokoudjo.

Here's what Bisping said about how he is preparing for Hamill:

"...For Hamill, I’ve been working on stopping the takedown -- well actually I’ve been working everything. I’ve been working my jiu-jitsu, getting back to my feet, stopping the takedown, and striking. You know, I’m well-rounded and I have to train for wherever the fight may take me. I don’t think it is any secret that Hamill is going to put me on my back. I don’t really know why he wants to do that though -- it’s not like he’s going to ground-and-pound me from there, and he’s certainly not going to submit me so, you know, he’s pretty limited in what he can do."

To read the entire interview, click here.

Posted by at 9:01 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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