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November 19, 2008

Couture-Lesnar stoppage a non-issue

I can understand why some people have a problem with the stoppage in the Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar fight. That fight probably brought in new viewers who weren’t used to something like that. Experienced MMA fans could recognize the fight was stopped appropriately. Couture was trying to defend himself and trying to get back into the fight after he was floored by Lesnar.

It really is a complete non-issue. As is the first strike that started the onslaught. Lesnar threw a well-placed punch to the side of Couture’s head to take him down -- nothing illegal about it.
Couture himself, in a piece in the Los Angeles Times, said there was nothing wrong with the stoppage.

I do have to take an issue with one thing in the piece. And that’s this quote:

"When I see stuff like that, it looks like nothing more than a tough man contest," said Todd duBoef, president of boxing promotion company Top Rank, who attended the Couture-Lesnar fight. "There's no way it's safer than boxing."

I especially love this.

“There’s no way it’s safer than boxing.”

Really, Mr. President of a boxing promotion company? There’s no way this hot, new sport, the one that is driving boxing from the mainstream sports scene, is safer than boxing? That seems sort of desperate. If we’re just going to make things up and throw them out there to support boxing, why not get more creative? Like this:

“Watching boxing prevents cancer.”

See ... no one wants cancer. Think about that next time you chose to turn off a boxing match.
That one is for free, Mr. Boxing-lackey. Use it wisely.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:31 AM | | Comments (5)
        

November 16, 2008

A few notes from UFC 91

Outside of the coronation of Brock Lesnar as the new heavyweight champ in the UFC, UFC 91 provided an entertaining night of fights. Only one made it past the second round and that match, a lightweight bout between Jorge Gurgel and Aaron Riley, won Fight of the Night honors, earning each fighter an additional $60,000.

* Speaking of Gurgel, it never made sense to me that the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt would refuse to use his best asset in the cage. When he wanted to take Riley to the ground, he couldn't be stopped. Instead, Gurgel stood and traded blows the whole fight, trying to put on a show. It worked, netting him a huge payday and probably saved his spot in the UFC, but it resulted with another loss. It's frustrating watching him fight now, knowing he's capable of so much more.

* Dustin Hazelett won submission of the night, picking up the 60K prize in the process. Hazelett won submission of the night for his second consecutive fight and he will probably make a habit of this as his BJJ is just sick.

* Demian Maia picked up a nice win and was able to finish off Nate Quarry quicker than everyone thought. Well played there.

* Kenny Florian had no trouble with Joe Stevenson. I don't think Florian will beat B.J. Penn, but at least now it looks like it could be an entertaining fight. I don't think Penn would be motivated enough for it, though, so he probably wouldn't have his A+ game.

* Brock Lesnar's post-fight speech was pretty entertaining. After thanking the Lord, he pointed up to the heavens and said "God bless you ... God bless you." God bless ... the Lord? That doesn't make much sense, for him to bless himself. 

What did you take away from UFC 91?

 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:46 PM | | Comments (9)
        

Could Lesnar beat Fedor?

I've heard rumors from people with no connection to anything (read: pure speculation from my mailman) that the UFC will push for a Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko fight at UFC 100.

That won't happen, because it will be too soon after Lesnar's win over Nogueira, but now that Couture has been taken out of the equation as a top heavyweight, the natural assumption is to speculate on Lesnar's chances against the top heavyweight in the world.

I doubt UFC president Dana White will sign Fedor because he won't have control of him like he does Lesnar. It doesn't do White any good to have Fedor come in for one fight and possibly take his heavyweight championship before fading away again. Lesnar has nowhere to go, as he rakes in big-time cash, including a percentage of pay-per-view buys and money from merchandising and action figures.

Still, MMA fans can dream. Could Brock Lesnar defeat Fedor? 

No. At least not at this point. That being said, Lesnar's size and athleticism make me believe he could give Fedor the best fight. Fedor will demolish Andrei Arlovski when the two meet (Arlovski hasn't done anything to impress in a long time) and would do the same to Josh Barnett. 

Lesnar's aggressiveness and excellent wrestling could at least make things interesting, potentially ... maybe ... possibly. 

I think Fedor would submit Lesnar but it could be interesting. However, I don't think we will ever see it.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:36 PM | | Comments (23)
        

It's Lesnar's time


 

With a second-round TKO of an MMA legend, Brock Lesnar became the UFC heavyweight champion of the world. And, he may have that belt for a long time.

Couture looked efficient in the first round and pushed the pace on Lesnar several times. It looked like it could be another classic upset in Couture's file until Lesnar went on a tear in the second round. When you get down to it, what we saw was a more disciplined Brock Lesnar, one that didn't exhibit any weaknesses and one that showed he has a solid chin.

He took some shots from Couture but was too big, too strong and too fast for the champ. Make no mistake, Couture did not lose this fight; Lesnar won it. Couture wasn't too old or too slow. I still think he could beat every other heavyweight in the UFC. Lesnar simply outclassed him last night.

And with that, the UFC is in trouble. They have a marketable superstar, a legit heavyweight champion, with very few challengers. The only marketable fight he has left is with the winner of the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir fight (which will be Nogueira).

After talking with a few friends around the MMA scene, they all think Nogueira would be in for a very long night against Lesnar. I think Nogueira has a better shot than that, but I would still have to pick Lesnar. After Nogueira, who is left to challenge Lesnar?

A rematch with Frank Mir (he wouldn't stand a chance in a rematch)? A match against Gabriel Gonzaga, an overrated fighter with good jiu-jitsu? Nope. A shock from an up-and-comer like Shane Carwin or Cain Velasquez? Both too young.

The UFC's heavyweight division is not very deep and Dana White's top priority (as far as bringing in new fighters, at least) should be fixing that. They have a very marketable star with a huge fan base with very few challengers. I'm looking forward to his match against Nogueira and a possible rematch with Couture (not likely), but other than those two matches, there's not much else.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:17 PM | | Comments (5)
        

November 14, 2008

Couture-Lesnar bad for MMA?

A commenter left this on an earlier entry about UFC 91:

This fight doesn't speak very well for MMA. I have no idea how Couture is even still around. He is so old.  And to give Lesnar a shot at anything at this point is a disgrace. It's not like he's proven that he deserves it.  So what if he beat down a weak-chinned Korean with a 3-6 record and managed to roll around on the ground with a fat man for 3 rounds for a decision.  Mir was his only real competition, and Lesnar lost. The sport deserves better. MMA should be about grit and determination, not this.

This is something I've seen from a few people and it doesn't make sense. I think UFC president Dana White deserves some credit for putting this fight together because it is intriguing. He always says he wants to put on the fights fans want to see, and whether it's fair or not, I'd much rather see Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar than Couture-Fabricio Werdum, even if Werdum deserved the title shot more. 

Couture is old but is also a legend. He was old when he first got into the sport and he was old when he beat Tim Sylvia for the title at UFC 68. Just because he's old doesn't mean he's not one of the top heavyweights in the world, because he is.

He's a great test for Lesnar, who has been fighting increasingly difficult competition. We will get to learn a lot about Lesnar in this fight and where his future in the sport will be. We will also know if Couture is still at the top of the heavyweight scene in MMA, especially poignant after months of rumors about a possible Couture-Fedor Emelianenko fight. We've since seen what Fedor is capable of and now we'll get to see if Couture could have (we will never see the fight, unfortunately) brought something to that fight.

Lesnar doesn't deserve a title shot, and Couture even suggested that when I spoke with him about this fight. But, everything else about this matchup makes sense. Especially the chief reason it was put together -- because it will sell like crazy.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:51 PM | | Comments (15)
        

The pick: Couture

The biggest fight in the history of mixed martial arts! That's what it's being billed as by some writers and fans (and promoters). It's a big fight and it might do the most buys, but it's not the biggest fight in the sport's history.

Heck, UFC 94 is on the horizon with an even better main event as Georges St. Pierre takes on B.J. Penn. Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar can't top that because neither fighter is at their peak. Couture's best days are behind him and Lesnar's are ahead of him. 

Still, this fight is going to be great. I can't wait for it. I think Lesnar has a higher ceiling than most people want to admit and he will do big things in this sport, but I'm going with Randy Couture in this fight.

He's one of the smartest fighters I've seen and his experience will help him against Lesnar. Lesnar is bigger, stronger, and faster but we still don't know a ton about him. Couture wants to prevent Lesnar's takedowns, but that won't happen. I don't think anyone can stop Lesnar's takedowns. 

I do think Couture will be fine on his back and that his dirty boxing in the clinch will be a difference maker as well. Couture can't treat Lesnar like another Tim Sylvia because while Lesnar is big, he's a hell of a lot better on the ground and is quicker than Sylvia. Still, the rumor is that Couture is planning to do rely heavily on his ground and pound and I think that is a strategy that could work for Couture.

He's not going to be able to submit Lesnar, but I think he could keep him on his heels with an aggressive approach. We still don't know what Lesnar is capable of. He destroyed Heath Herring with a devastating punch early in their bout and Herring never recovered from that. If Lesnar can't get anything going very early, Couture should be able to execute his game plan. Frank Mir got lucky and caught a much more inexperienced Lesnar with a quick submission. No one has pressed Lesnar so that will be the key for Couture. I like him in a fourth-round TKO.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:29 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Randy Couture's secret weapon!

Randy Couture has a secret weapon against Brock Lesnar. I was tipped off to this fact by an anonymous insider (or by a not-so-anonymous PR-type).

Couture will be wearing a customized version of Everlast’s new Omnistrike Fight Trunks. It’s Everlast’s debut into MMA and it is making some great advancements in MMA gear. Or so I’ve been told.

What does this all mean? Apparently, these trunks are designed to give fighters an advantage by providing extra mobility to kick higher and to work with the movements of your body.

Basically, Couture has robot-trunks that will take down Lesnar in less than 10 seconds. Get ready world, because this will have serious ramifications for the sport. Or maybe not.

I do think it will be funny if Couture KOs Lesnar with an extra-flexible head kick.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:29 AM | | Comments (0)
        

What Couture vs. Lesnar isn't

I think one thing people have to understand about this weekend’s showdown between Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar is that it’s not WWE vs. MMA. I’ve heard this a lot (more from casual fans, granted) in the past 10 days and I don’t think there could be a bigger misrepresentation of what this fight is about.

Lesnar’s pro wrestling background is why he’s popular. It’s why he’s getting a title fight in his third fight with only one credible win in his career. It’s why this will be a record-breaking night when it comes to pay-per-view buys. But I’ve heard too many people try to discredit MMA by saying “what does it say about your sport when a fake wrestler can walk right in and take out a legend?”

Lesnar has a legitimate background and was a national champion wrestler. He’s a phenom, legitimately, as his size, aggressiveness and athleticism make him a truly dangerous heavyweight prospect. But, this is something Lesnar is taking seriously. He’s not Kimbo Slice; he’s not a spectacle, he's a legit fighter. There’s not another professional wrestler that could’ve made this type of a leap this soon. Lesnar is a physical specimen, he’s not a clown. He didn’t make a name for himself by lighting himself on fire or by wearing clown makeup and hitting people with furniture. Most importantly, he respects MMA and is trying to do things the right way. He’s never come off as overly arrogant and doesn’t talk a lot of trash. He knows he has a lot to learn and he tries to keep his head down while he learns it.

If Lesnar wins, that will say something about Lesnar and his future as a mixed martial artists. If Couture wins, it will say something about how much he has left in the tank and it will help solidify his status as a legend in the sport. It’s a huge fight with huge consequences, but don’t make the mistake of reading more into this than there really is.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:26 AM | | Comments (28)
        

November 13, 2008

A few other things to watch for during UFC 91

UFC 91 is banking heavily on the Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar main event. The phenom vs. the legend certainly has plenty of intrigue, but what if it’s a short fight? What else is there to look forward to? While this show doesn’t have the depth that UFC 92 possesses there are still two other very intriguing matchups to keep an eye on.

The first is Kenny Florian taking on Joe Stevenson. Florian has established himself as the top lightweight contender and has been on a hot streak, but Stevenson is another elite lightweight and this could be a very entertaining fight. Florian could have waited his turn for a shot at B.J. Penn and the lightweight championship but he wanted to stay active and took the best fight available. Risky play, to be sure, but he deserves respect for the decision.

The second is a fight that was just added to the main card. Welterweight Dustin Hazelett has a future as bright as any fighter in the UFC. He’s young (22) and is coming off a stellar performance against Josh Burkman in the The Ultimate Fighter 7 finale. Hazelett took home Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses for his win. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is not an elite welterweight yet but he’s on his way into breaking into that group. His fight against Tamdan McCrory will be one to keep an eye on. Hazelett is the superior fighter in this matchup and hopefully we’ll get another textbook submission from him in this one.

The Nate Quarry-Demian Maia matchup should also be entertaining. Couture-Lesnar drives this show but Florain, Hazelett and Maia will at least make the rest of the night interesting. This isn’t UFC 92, which has three huge fights, but this card is much better than it’s getting credit for and much better than UFC 90.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:29 AM | | Comments (2)
        

November 11, 2008

Couture-Lesnar has plenty of intrigue

We are days away from UFC 91, which is poised to be one of the biggest shows in the history of MMA. Its place in history will be secured by the record pay-per-view buys the UFC can expect thanks to the main event heavyweight title fight between Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar. This might be the most perplexing fight of the entire year.

There have been better fights, to be sure. Lesnar isn’t in the top 5 in his weight class and Couture has to be considered a question mark after another year off. But as far as intrigue and sizzle, there are few fights that will be able to match this one. It’s almost impossible to predict how this bout will play out as both fighters come into the match with huge question marks.

Couture comes into Saturday night fighting for the first time in more than a year. We will see if that has any effect on him. During Couture’s "retirement," all the talk was about Couture and Fedor Emelianenko squaring off in a showdown of the top two heavyweights in the world (and possibly, the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the eyes of some), so after this event we’ll have a better understanding of where Couture really is as a fighter. That’s a long layoff for any fighter, especially one in his mid-40s.

On the other hand, Lesnar is fighting for the heavyweight title in his third UFC fight. He’s been pushed to the front of the line after demolishing Heath Herring but has a lot on the line. A win over Couture would be the ultimate stamp of legitimacy and would signal the true arrival of Lesnar on the MMA scene. He looked intimidating against Frank Mir but made a mistake that cost him the fight. He dominated Herring. A win against Couture would have to silence some of Lesnar’s critics.

At the same time, Couture seems to be a better version of Herring in that his strengths don’t really play to Lesnar’s weaknesses. Couture isn’t going to submit Lesnar and that might be the best way to defeat him, especially since Couture will be giving up a lot of weight in this fight.
What’s most surprising to me is that Lesnar is favored in this fight. Granted, it’s not a great matchup physically for Couture, but he’s faced long odds before. It’s a given that Couture will have a superb gameplan and has the experience factor. His resume is a "who’s who" of MMA legends. 

I’m not sure yet who to pick in this fight (I’m leaning toward Lesnar but it’s so hard to pick against Couture) but there’s no question it will be an exciting one.

***

View photos of UFC 91 fighters.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:31 AM | | Comments (3)
        

November 5, 2008

Debate time

Barack Obama is our new president-elect but I don’t think he’s going to do much to help the biggest issues in MMA. So, I will leave that debate to myself and the great Kelly Crigger.

Is the WEC’s move to pay-per-view smart?

Kelly: No. This is America. We like things free and get pissed off when the price spikes anywhere above that. In these troubling economic times, Zuffa, LLC, [which owns the UFC], makes enough money that it can afford to give back to the MMA community. Wait -- I sound like a Democrat trying to "redistribute wealth." ... If Zuffa wants to take the WEC to pay-per-view and make money, then that’s their right in a free market economy. The timing is bad since the average MMA fan has less disposable income to spend on pay-per-views, but the jump will also force them to have a better product in order to keep the fans with dough tuning in. It’s risky for Zuffa to take away something everyone has grown accustomed to seeing for free, but if they’ve got the cajones to take a leap of faith, then best of luck to them. I’ll be surfing the Internet for hacked copies of WEC fights and saving my pay-per-view budget for the more intriguing UFC events.

Mark: Hey, I like redistributing the wealth ... I’m not rich, so I’ll gladly take some money off anyone’s hands. But, the WEC needs a program to redistribute the attention. What’s the WEC again? Is that the one with Gina Carano? Or is that the one with Fedor Emelianenko? Hmm ... maybe it’s the one that had the fights at the Playboy Mansion? Without an extreme amount of cross promotion by Zuffa, I can’t see WEC PPVs pulling the numbers needed to make it viable. The WEC is in a tough position because it actually has a stellar product. The hardcore fans know about it but I don’t think most casual fans do, which is sad. I really do think a move like this could work but now is just not the right time.

Why is CB Dollaway vs. Mike Massenzio on the UFC 92 main card while Dean Lister vs. Yushin Okami is on the undercard?

Kelly: I know this is still a long way off, but the UFC announced a finalized card for UFC 92 that included Dollaway-Massenzio on the main card while proven performers are on the undercard. What gives, Chalifoux? Did you have anything to do with this? Not likely, so I’m guessing Joe Silva couldn’t think clearly when he signed this fight. Equally as perplexing are the Matt Hammill-Reese Andy and Ryo Chonan-Brad Blackburn fights on the undercard. Given my rant in our last debate about Chris Lytle not deserving main-card status and then turning in a fight of the night performance, maybe I should shut my cakehole about who fights on what card, but this fight doesn’t deserve to be televised on the UFC’s biggest night of the year. I’m perplexed.

Mark: Kelly, I believe that was a clerical error. There is no universe where Dollaway deserves to be fighting on the main card while Hammill and Okami are on the undercard. Listen, I would be OK with this if it was an attempt to increase PPV buys. A guy like Okami, who fans aren’t as familiar with, is occasionally bumped to the undercard in favor of a more popular fighter. But this is UFC 92 -- it’s already the biggest PPV of the year (in my opinion, although the UFC 91 with Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar will get more buys). No one is buying this PPV because of Dollaway so the UFC should be using the rest of the card to showcase the higher-caliber fighters like Hamill and Okami. This is the one card you can get away with showcasing high-caliber fighters with low appeal because of the triple main event.


Is Gegard Mousasi for real or did he just get lucky in the Dream tournament?

Kelly: Gegard Mousasi is not Houston Alexander. A more appropriate comparison would be to Ralph Nader because before 2008 he had modest wins and a small contingent of believers. Six fights later he’s got Evangelista Santos, Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Ronaldo Souza in his win column. Mousasi can strike and he can submit guys stronger than himself, as evidenced in the Dream middleweight tournament. Of his 24 wins, only one is by decision, a monumental feat in today’s MMA and has only two losses overall (both by armbar) in his five-year career. Mousasi is no fluke and should be considered among the world’s top 10 middleweights. Unfortunately he has no plans to remain there. He’s stated his desire to fight at 205 pounds in MMA and like KJ Noons, he wants to pursue a separate boxing career (let’s hope he has better management). You can’t blame the guy for seeking greener pastures since Dream has no one left to challenge him at 185 pounds and precious few prospects at 205. He’d be an exciting addition to the UFC middleweight division if Dana White could lure him over, but that seems unlikely. It remains to be seen where and when he’ll fight next, but the fact remains that Mousasi is definitely legit.

Mark: I really like the Nader comparison because Nader is a legit politician. At the same time, no one really pays attention to anything Nader does, they just pat him on the head, call him cute and move along. That’s the same thing you should be doing to Mousasi right now. Mousasi is legitimate, but he still needs to make the leap to one of the two big parties so we can see just how legitimate he can be. He’s a big fish in a small pond at this point and Dana White needs to bring him to the UFC because I think he is one of the top five middleweights in the world. Of course, moving up a weight class and trying to box are just two more things that will keep him in Ralph Nader’s scope. He’s in the discussion but only as a sidebar at this point, whereas he should be in the mix with the big boys at that weight level.

Is Anderson Silva trying to fight his way out of his contract?

Mark: Anderson Silva has been telling Dana White he wants to fight every three months. After his lackluster (depending on how you view it) performance at UFC 90, he told White he wants to fight again only a month later. White likes to say this is because Silva loves to compete and loves to fight, yet at the same time all Silva wants to talk about is retirement. I don’t want to believe it but it sure looks fishy and it wouldn’t shock me if Silva was just trying to get done with his six-fight contract sooner. I can’t imagine him leaving the sport, especially if he beats some big-name light heavyweights, but he also wants to box Roy Jones Jr. and was bummed when he couldn’t put that together. Maybe he wants to get out of his contract when he’s still young enough to make that happen (I don’t think we will ever see it) and maybe he’s just trying to finish up this contract so he can get more money the next time around, but I’m not buying that he wants to fight every month because “he loves it so much,” especially while he talks about having nothing left to prove and discussing his retirement.

Kelly: Although I had the good fortune of meeting Silva once, you are much more in tune with The Spider than I am. He’s a gracious guy who will honor his contract with the UFC without complaint (unlike someone whose name rhymes with Shmotoure), but he’s also bored. Whether he admits it or not, he was toying with Patrick Cote the same way BJ Penn toyed with Jens Pulver. Silva is like Alexander the Great, who stood on the edge of his empire and wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. It will be a year or longer before any of the promising 185 pounders are ready to challenge him and he doesn’t want to sit around waiting for that day as his thirties pass him by. I think he keeps throwing these bones out there -- move to heavyweight, box Jones, retire -- because he’s dissatisfied with where he is now -- on top of the world.


Women’s MMA deserves the support of a major promotion

Mark: A lot has been said lately, with the demise of EliteXC, about the possibility of Affliction or the UFC promoting women’s MMA fights. This is a terrible idea because if you give women an inch, they want a mile. We teach them how to read, they demand the right to vote. We let them drive cars, they demand equal pay. We give credibility to women’s MMA, then ... ? Obviously, I'm joking.

Seriously though, I really don’t think we’re at the point where either promotion could sustain a division of women’s MMA. Gina Carano is a big star but there aren’t enough Gina Caranos to make it feasible and while there are many gifted female fighters, I just don’t think the talent pool is deep enough to consistently produce high-level fights.

Kelly: You must have read my post last week where I said Affliction should pick up women’s MMA and run with it. Women’s MMA wouldn’t work in the UFC, but it would certainly be a good idea for Affliction monetarily. EliteXC pumped a lot of money into promoting their women fighters and Affliction could continue the strategy and use women’s MMA to bolster their vaunted heavyweights. Carano is the face of women’s MMA, but she’s not the only one. Julie Kedzie, Amanda Buckner, Tara LaRosa, Cristiane Santos, and Shayna Baszler are all talented fighters. At the rate Affliction produces a show (once every six months seems to be their pace) they don’t need a deep talent pool. Those six women already named plus two more (say Kelly Kobald and Debi Purcell) could fight in a grand prix style and keep them afloat for eighteen months. Like the average red-blooded American male, I enjoy checking out the ring girls, but it’s also pretty damn entertaining when they smack each other around.  


Chuck Liddell will reclaim the UFC light heavyweight championship before he retires


Mark: Yep. Most people will say no these days, especially because the sport of mixed martial arts is evolving and Liddell isn’t. He also fights in the most stacked weight class in the sport and the ranks of talented, versatile, young light heavyweights grows daily. Still, Chuck Liddell is a huge draw. I could foresee him being thrust into a situation like Lesnar where he gets a title shot handed to him for the PPV numbers rather than earning it with wins. He has enough power to take out any other light heavyweight, so he would at least have a shot against most fighters. Still, he’s passed his prime and I don’t see him ever reclaiming his spot at the top of the food chain in the division, even if he manages to win the title again.

Kelly: Nope. Chuck is awesome and will go down in history as a legend, but his days on top of the LHW division are done. Liddell is doomed by his own loyalty, like the band that continued to play as the Titanic sunk. He’s super-loyal to his trainer John Hackleman and his gym, The Pit in San Luis Obispo, which he’ll never leave and is why he’ll continue to lose. Hackleman has taken Liddell as far as he can as a trainer so Liddell has become stagnant and predictable. His game hasn’t evolved in years because it hasn’t had to. He knocked everyone out so successfully that he never had to change gameplans. But now he’s lost three of his last four fights and Rashad Evans’ knockout proved that he can be deciphered and defeated. Unless he changes training camps or severely alters his tactics, I think we’ll continue to be depressed by the sight of The Iceman laying face down in the middle of the Octagon.

Kelly Crigger is a freelance MMA writer and author of the book “Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts.” I am the world's foremost authority on all things Mark Chalifoux-related and am the MMA blogger for baltimoresun.com, the blog you're reading right now.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:13 AM | | Comments (0)
        

November 4, 2008

Q&A with Randy Couture

UFC heavyweight champion and MMA legend Randy Couture is back in the fold with the UFC and will take on Brock Lesnar Nov. 15 at UFC 91 in one of the biggest and most intriguing fights of the year. I recently caught up with Couture and talked about UFC 91.

MMA Stomping Grounds: How many fights have you had that have been bigger than what they anticipate this fight with Lesnar will bring?

Randy Couture: Well, they are predicting a huge [pay-per-view] buy -- I certainly hope it comes through. I take all the fights the same and treat everyone the same. It’s a title fight and every single fight is a big fight and it just feels like another UFC to me.

MMA Stomping Grounds: Do you think Lesnar deserves a title shot against you?

Randy Couture: It’s really not my call. I don’t think they are pretending Lesnar is the No. 1 contender, but I think first and foremost the UFC wants to put on big fights and this is a big fight.

MMA Stomping Grounds: In your mind, who is the favorite in this fight?

Randy Couture: I have no idea, I don’t really care about things like that. It’s all about who goes out and performs on the night. I know I’m preparing and will be ready to go on the 15th of November. Whatever happens happens.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What is the main roadblock at this point preventing a matchup with Fedor Emelianenko?

Randy Couture: I don’t really know what the issues are. I haven’t plugged back into that. I’ve focused on Brock and the fight coming up. If it’s meant to be it will work out the way it was supposed to work out. He has his Affliction contract and a bunch of other stuff to settle and Ill let the UFC deal with that. I just focus on the things I can control and that right now is my training,  and [there's] a lot of that going on.

MMA Stomping Grounds: You were outspoken about the issues facing fighters in the UFC. Have your problems with the UFC and the way it handles fighters been reconciled?

Randy Couture: It’s been reconciled for me, a lot of water under the bridge and you let bygones be bygones. I couldn’t afford to spend another year spending money on lawyers to see what may or may not happen. I gotta fairly short window of competition left here and I had to do what I had to do to take care of myself and my career.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What is your relationship like with UFC president Dana White?

Randy Couture: It’s been fine -- it was never personal between Dana and me. There were never any dispersions cast or personal issues. It was all business things that needed to be worked out and now everything is fine.

MMA Stomping Grounds: Do you think Kimbo Slice did any damage to the sport?

Randy Couture: I don’t think Kimbo has done any damage. I think that they pushed him out there ahead of where his real skills and capabilities, and some athletes were irritated by that. He got the pay and notoriety when his skill level wasn’t really at that point, but Kimbo has never acted that way. He’s been at our training center and I’ve been around him on several occasions. He’s  fairly quiet, humble guy who realizes he has a lot to learn in MMA and what happened to him against [Seth] Petruzelli could happen to anyone. Fault doesn’t lie with Kimbo -- If there’s anyone to blame it’s the powers that be that have marketed him like that.

MMA Stomping Grounds: If you could change anything about MMA, what would it be?

Randy Couture: I guess if there’s anything I could change, it would be that the athletes got things like health insurance and retirement plans and more equal compensation compared to other professional athletes and sports in our country. I definitely think its going to take time, any kind of change, especially like that, you’re talking about a lot of people and money. It’s going to take time.

MMA Stomping Grounds: It seems like there’s a growing number of MMA message boards. Do you follow any of that stuff?

Randy Couture: Nah, I don’t keep up with that. I don’t need to elaborate.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like the most about the sport and the least about the sport?

Randy Couture: I think the one-on-one tactical, technical competition is what I like about it most.
Least? I don’t know, I guess at this point for me it’s sometimes the celebrity status that comes with competing at a high level. It can be overwhelming at times. There can be a lack of privacy and personal space just about everywhere I go at this point.

MMA Stomping Grounds: When did you first notice you were gaining some celebrity status?

Randy Couture: I think it was slow but the thing that stuck out to me was after the second Pedro Rizzo fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Normally I just walk from the arena to the lobby and my room, but after that fight it took me three hours to get down the walk and get back to my room. I had my whole family with me and they were all frustrated by the time we finally got to our rooms. That’s when I realized I had to come up with alternate routes and some security might be in order, but that was the first time it really stuck out to me.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What is the coolest experience you’ve had because of your celebrity status?

Randy Couture: Well I’ve gotten tons of opportunities and met tons of interesting people through this sport and the exposure in this sport, it’s hard to single out just one. Probably going over to Iraq and getting to spend 12 days on the ground there with the soldiers that were putting it on the line over there. That was one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do. The guys were great and they really appreciated that Rich Franklin and I came over. It was a good experience.

MMA Stomping Grounds: How much longer do you think you will fight?

Randy Couture: I haven’t put a date or limit on it. I take it one fight or training camp at a time and go from there.

MMA Stomping Grounds: You recently filmed The Scorpion King sequel. How was that experience?

Randy Couture: That was great. I’ve done seven movies now but this was my biggest part and the six weeks in Cape Town, Africa, were awesome. I really enjoyed the city and the people there and the sights in that part of the world were impressive.

MMA Stomping Grounds: If there was going to be a movie made about your life, who would you want to play you?

Randy Couture: I don’t know, I’m not sure ... probably a lot of guys could pull it off. Maybe a Sean Penn or Colin Farrell.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like to do when you're away from fighting?

Randy Couture: I like the outdoors, motorcycles, mountain biking, hunting and fishing. Anything outdoors.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about MMA?

Randy Couture: Well, I think for a long time the misconception was that we were somehow dangerous or criminal because of what we did. Most of that is gone and I think there're still some people out there [who] think we will walk up and kick peoples' asses on the street for no particular reason.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think has been the biggest change to the sport during your career?

Randy Couture: The fan base. My first fight was in a little civic center in Augusta, Georgia. The weigh-ins were at the Holiday Inn lobby and there were maybe 1,500 people at the show. They just got free tickets to come to a fight, they didn’t know who it was. Our fans are well-educated now.
 
MMA Stomping Grounds: With the economy in shambles, how do you think the sport will be affected?

Randy Couture: I don’t think it will be affected. Even in tough times people want that little escape, they want to forget about things and I think going to one of our sporting events or buying a [pay-per-view] allows them a couple hours where they can relax and not have to do anything but get into the fights.

MMA Stomping Grounds: Have you been affected personally at all?

Randy Couture: I haven’t had any issues: the training centers are doing fantastic, the clothing line continues to grow. We’re coming out in Men’s Wearhouse in November with Xtreme Couture, new blazers and denim and stuff. We have a new sports drink we’re kind of launching that I think a lot of guys will like. We’re building that from grassroots level -- it’s called Undefeated and things are going very, very well.

MMA Stomping Grounds: Chuck Liddell has endorsed John McCain. Are you endorsing any presidential candidates?

Randy Couture: Traditionally I’ve been a Republican, since I’ve been old enough to vote, but I haven’t endorsed anyone yet. It’s fairly complicated so I’m paying close attention to the issues.

MMA Stomping Grounds: Finally, what’s the key against Brock Lesnar?

Randy Couture: Well, I think like every other fight I’ve been in, I need to stick to the plan and impose my pace and my tempo and my will on the fight and things will go my way.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 5:19 PM | | Comments (1)
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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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