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January 29, 2009

B.J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre: Who are you taking?

This weekend's Georges St. Pierre-B.J. Penn bout is going to be a tremendous fight, one of the biggest the sport has seen. It’s rare that we get fights like this that match two superior fighters, both in their prime. There hasn’t been a fight this big since Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar, but this fight is a blockbuster for all of the right reasons.

Couture-Lesnar was a big draw because of Lesnar’s name recognition and because he has a strong following from his pro wrestling days. Couture is a legend in the sport and was making a comeback after his legal difficulties. Neither fighter was in their prime, and neither did anything truly remarkable that night. The fight gave credibility to Lesnar, but it was more of a curiosity than anything. No one knew what to expect from either guy, which is why it was intriguing. Penn-St. Pierre is intriguing because we have two terrifying (to borrow a phrase from Forrest Griffin) champions going head to head.

This is a tough one to call. St. Pierre took some shots from Jon Fitch and didn’t go down, but I still feel like Penn has a chance to knock out St. Pierre. Penn’s work ethic and focus is always a concern, but he should be ready for St. Pierre. Still, I feel like St. Pierre is the more complete fighter.

I think I’m going with St. Pierre in a decision but if Penn’s cardio isn’t an issue then this could easily go the other way.

What are you thinking on this one?

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 4:48 PM | | Comments (15)
        

January 26, 2009

Who can stop Fedor?

World Extreme Cagefighting, predictably, put on a very solid card Sunday night. On the other hand, Affliction’s show left me wanting more.

Andrei Arlovski looked competent for two minutes and I would’ve liked to see more of that fight. Instead, Fedor Emelianenko racked up another first-round KO, just like everyone assumed he would.

Affliction can’t have too many events left, but I hope we get to see Josh Barnett vs. Fedor. After that, I’d like to see him fight Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar. That’s really all that's left for Fedor, mainly because the heavyweight division is so weak. Still, between Tim Sylvia, Arlovski and the three heavyweights I’ve named, I think Fedor has fought the weakest two in his last two fights. Of course, he’s racked up a pair of highlight wins in the process.

Who can challenge Fedor? If Fedor was a light heavyweight, Dana White would be forced to sign him. But because he fights in the sports’ weakest division, White can let him hang in relative anonymity when it comes to the sports stage, beating up former champs.

Great business move by White, as whichever promotion has Fedor is the only organization not called the UFC capable of being relevant in the sport. It sucks for MMA fans though, because we deserve more Fedor.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:31 AM | | Comments (33)
        

January 23, 2009

Two MMA events this weekend

The WEC has a huge event scheduled Sunday on Versus. "WEC 38: Varner vs. Cerrone" should be excellent, so check it out, TiVo it, whatever. That’s mandatory homework this weekend.

The fight I’m most looking forward to is Urijah Faber’s rematch with Jens Pulver. This could be one of the top fights of the year, and when I spoke to Faber yesterday, he felt good heading into the fight.

"I just got to make sure I don’t make any mistakes, I feel like I’m going to be the better fighter, the faster fighter and more technically sound. I’ll be ready for anything," he said.

After winning in the first fight, Faber said he thinks he has the mental edge over Pulver.

"I think he respects my standup a little more, and I feel like I was playing his own game and beat him at it," Faber said.

I’ll have more from Faber this weekend, so make sure to check out the full conversation on Sunday.

Affliction also has a show this weekend, and the only thing worthwhile about it is the main event of Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski.

I don’t think much of Arlovski. Roy Nelson probably should’ve won the last fight against him, but Arlovski should last longer than Fedor. It’s always interesting to watch Fedor fight, but unless he’s fighting Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar or Josh Barnett, I don’t know that it’s worth shelling out the cash.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 4:34 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 19, 2009

UFC 93 news and notes

UFC 93 was a decent card and a fine show. But upon closer examination, it wasn’t all that great.

The Marcus Davis-Chris Lytle fight was terrific. Denis Kang was a letdown, in my opinion. I was disappointed with Rousimar Palhares as well, as that fight wasn’t that great. Mark Coleman was exactly what we thought he would be: a guy past his prime that tried to cut too much weight and wasn’t effective. What made that fight painful is that it was clear Coleman wasn’t on his game but Mauricio Rua looked even worse in my eyes.

Rua is on pace to be another Pride-to-UFC flop. He’s a younger guy, so he could turn it around and I know he was coming off an injury, but he was fighting a guy that shouldn’t be able to hang with a top 10 light heavyweight. What’s even more disappointing is the rumor that they will try to push Rua vs. Chuck Liddell as a main event fight coming up soon. At least we’ll get to see Liddell with another KO.

The Rich Franklin-Dan Henderson main event was a fine fight, but a little too sloppy. The accidental head butt, the eye poke and just too many other little things took away from the bout. I also thought the judging was messed up. I think you can certainly make a case that Franklin won rounds 1 and 3. Henderson was given too much credit for takedowns and then gassing. Even still, how does one judge give Franklin all three rounds?

And the most disappointing thing to come out of that event is the announcement that Rampage Jackson will be taking on Keith Jardine in Columbus, Ohio at UFC 96. What sense does that make? Rampage is already thought to be the No. 1 contender for the light heavyweight belt. Why make him fight Jardine? Would Jardine get a title shot against his friend, Rashad Evans, if he wins? He certainly doesn’t deserve one. Very confusing.

Almost as confusing is figuring out what's next for Rich Franklin. I’d like to see them move him down to 185 and be the ultimate gate keeper for the title. Any contender has to take Rich down to get a shot at Anderson Silva, which saves us from Patrick Cote vs. Silva and Thales Leites vs. Silva. That frees up Anderson for more big-money fights (Georges St. Pierre? Liddell? More light heavyweight fights?) before he retires, if that’s still his plan.

Otherwise, I’d like to see Franklin fight the loser of the Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva fight at UFC 94.

What did you think of UFC 93? What do you think should be next for Franklin?

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:23 PM | | Comments (10)
        

January 16, 2009

Talking UFC 93

UFC 93 will be broadcast Saturday afternoon from Ireland and it’s not really a fascinating card. The main event of Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson will be interesting because it should be a good fight and both are making a push to stay relevant in the title picture at 205. Which is why this fight is a little disappointing, because the winner gets to move down a weight class to fight Michael Bisping at the end of filming The Ultimate Fighter reality show in Vegas.

I’m interested in the Mark Coleman-Mauricio Rua fight just to see what each guy has left. Rua could still be a star and if he’s anywhere close to where he used to be, this could be ugly. Coleman should thank God he was injured before his potential fight with Brock Lesnar because after what we’ve seen from Lesnar, that could’ve been brutal. Still, I don’t think Coleman is another Randy Couture, so this fight could be ugly if "Shogun" isn’t too rusty.

I’m also psyched for the Marcus Davis-Chris Lytle fight. Those guys will throw bombs all night long and will at least make things interesting. I like watching Rousimar Palhares fight too, so that will be mildly interesting (because he will easily submit Jeremy Horn). All in all, there are too many question marks on this card and not enough big-time fights to be worth the cash. I’ll be watching it in a sports bar in the Midwest and if you aren’t watching it with a bunch of paying friends, I’d suggest you do the same.

Does anyone know of any good sports bars in the Baltimore area showing the fights tomorrow? (I’d recommend staying away from Internet spoilers and watching the 10 p.m. version).

If you’re paying for a show this month, it’s probably the BJ Penn-Georges St. Pierre superfight in a few weeks, but UFC 93 has some potential and is worth watching if you can find a way to defray the cost.

A few UFC 93 links:

Here's CBSSports.com's head-to-head fighter breakdown. I know a few of these guys and they really know their stuff, although my guy Gregg Doyel isn’t part of the committee this time, which makes it less fun to read.

CBS Sports also has an interesting read with Dana White on the UFC Primetime special for Penn-St. Pierre.

Speaking of White, I’m going to be speaking with him on the phone sometime in the next couple weeks. Does anyone have any questions they want me to run past him???

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a nice UFC 93 preview as well.

And MMAMania.com has news that Rampage Jackson may be fighting Rashad Evans for the light heavyweight title at UFC 96 in Columbus, Ohio. That would be a huge fight, although a quick turnaround for both guys after fighting in late December.

What do you think about UFC 93? If you're a betting man, I'm going Franklin-"Shogun"-Davis-Palhares. Franklin-Henderson seems to be the only tough call.

Editor's note: Picks are for entertainment purposes only.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 1:31 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 12, 2009

A few good reads for a Monday morning

Here are a few good reads for a Monday morning ...

FightTicker.com has an interesting read on why people want to see Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson.

I want to see Franklin-Henderson because it will be a great fight but the “prize” for the winner just does not make sense. Neither guy wants to be at 185. Henderson resisted the move for months until UFC president Dana White convinced him to fight Anderson Silva. I can’t see Hendo having any desire to stay at 185 to work his way to a title shot. Franklin has even less to gain from a TUF stint with a Bisping fight at the end of the line. Bisping is being groomed for a title shot at 185. Franklin fights at 205 now. He’s said publicly he doesn’t want to be away from his family for six weeks in Vegas and that it makes little sense for him since he’s trying to make his way at 205.

I get that the UFC is building up Bisping because of his international star power but it doesn’t make sense to do it at the expense of Franklin or Henderson working toward a title shot in their desired weight classes.

Another interesting read is this FoxSports.com story on Joe Frazier. Apparently, he doesn’t like “boxing today” (MMA).

“"It gets me all confused. When a man falls you go to a neutral corner and the referee counts him out, but today a man falls they jump on him, kick him, bite him. I don't really know what's going on." -Joe Frazier on MMA.

I know Joe is getting up there in years and that he’s taken one too many shots to the head, but come on. Biting? What kind of MMA is he watching? Is he sure he’s not watching a National Geographic show about shark attacks?

Here's an interview with Dana White on ESPN.com. Among the news revealed: MMA sanctioning in New York is coming, Rampage gets the next title shot at 205, UFC 92 crushed the PPV buys for the Brock Lesnar-Randy Couture fight at UFC 91, and he will try to sign Fedor Emelianenko after Affliction folds.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:11 AM | | Comments (1)
        

January 4, 2009

Changing of the guard in the UFC?

After Wanderlei Silva was knocked out by "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 92, there were rumors that Silva may look into moving down to middleweight to find better competition. It would make things easier on Silva because light heavyweight is the sport’s deepest weight class, but the reality is that Silva’s time as a factor in title discussions has passed.

Silva is a legend in the sport and no one can take that away from him, yet I can’t see him ever viably defending a title in the UFC. And Silva’s not the only one on that list. I think it’s safe to add Randy Couture to the list. If he was to pull off what he did against Tim Sylvia and come back against a weak opponent, it wouldn’t be long before he fought another legit heavyweight and lost. Couture could compete at light heavyweight, but his best hope would be to break the top five in the weight class -- holding and defending that title isn’t realistic for him either.

Chuck Liddell is another star on his way out. He’s a one-dimensional fighter who isn’t evolving and he fights, again, in the strongest class in the UFC. He may be the biggest draw in the sport but his days of legitimately competing for and defending the UFC light heavyweight championship are over. Matt Hughes is another former champ on his way out of the title picture and Rich Franklin might not be far behind.

Franklin has a chance to earn some relevance by defeating Dan Henderson in a couple weeks. If he can do that, Franklin can still be a player at light heavyweight thanks to his striking. He’s also a top-three middleweight, so while he’s headed the route of Couture/Hughes/Wanderlei Silva, he’s not there yet. The fact that he can’t beat Anderson Silva has certainly made things more difficult on him though, so if he’s going to find new life, it will have to be at 205.

Those are some big stars and big names the UFC will have to deal with "losing" in the near future. Who else can be added to the list? I think at this point, someone like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is safe because of the weak heavyweight division. However, another showing like he had at UFC 92 and he’ll find himself on the way out.

It’s an interesting time for the sport and things are even more interesting with the bevy of star power that has lost relevance in the last 12 to 18 months.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:45 PM | | Comments (5)
        
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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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