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February 25, 2009

UFC 96 slightly less than intriguing

Is anyone else a little down about UFC 96? The UFC usually puts together some solid shows in Ohio, but this one is lacking all around.

The main event was supposed to be a fight between Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for the light heavyweight championship. That fight is interesting enough to sell a PPV. The current main event, Jackson vs. Keith Jardine (Evans wasn’t ready to fight again just yet), is not. Jardine has looked good at times (and bad at times, most notably in losses to Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva) and this will be an interesting fight, but it’s just not a main event-caliber matchup.

The co-main event of Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga is another intriguing fight, but it’s not enough for co-main event status. It’s a good fight, but it’s not going to do much to sell the PPV. I like the Brandon Vera-Mike Patt fight on the undercard and Ohio native Matt Hamill is in action against Mark Munoz, which could be mildly entertaining. Still, in tough economic times, that’s a tough decision to plunk down 50 bucks. It may be a good one to catch at a sports bar.

For as much as Dana White likes to say he makes big fights the fans want to see every month, this one is lacking a little bit. I’m not thrilled about UFC 97 either, although I think it’s worth a buy to see Anderson Silva in action again and to see Chuck Liddell take on Mauricio Rua, among others.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 2:17 PM | | Comments (6)
        

February 19, 2009

Q&A with UWC's Mike Easton

There’s a very cool event this weekend at the Patriot Center at George Mason. The UWC has put together an entertaining card Saturday at 7:30 p.m., headlined by Mike Easton against Chase Beebe. If you’re into women’s mixed martial arts, Felice Herrig will be fighting against Iman Achhal.

It should be a fun show, and I spoke with Easton earlier this week about it.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: For fans who aren’t familiar with you, how would you describe yourself?

MIKE EASTON: An exciting fighter who loves the stand-up game. Also, I’m very versatile on the ground, and I have a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I like to push the pace.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: What’s the key to your fight Saturday?

MIKE EASTON: Just being in shape, that’s the main thing. Pushing the action, pushing the pace and just putting him in situations he’s never been in before. The game plan is to make it an exciting fight. I feel unbelievable, I’m ready.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: What’s one thing you want fans to know about you as a person?

MIKE EASTON: You can just come up and talk to me. I like to have fun, and I’m always smiling and joking around. I have a son that’s about to turn 2-years-old in May and an 8-year-old stepdaughter and a beautiful fiancee. I’m a family-oriented guy, and I love being in the gym.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: What do you like most about MMA?

MIKE EASTON: The art. You have to work on your striking skills, grappling skills, wrestling skills, and conditioning. There’s just so many aspects of the game you have to practice and work on, which makes it so beautiful.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: How did you get involved in MMA?

MIKE EASTON: I’m a black belt in tae kwan do, and I bought a UFC tape -- one of the early ones with Dan Severn -- and then I saw their New Year’s special. Once I saw that I said, "Man, that’s what I want to do." Tae kwan do wasn’t enough contact for me.

MMA STOMPING GROUNDS: What’s your ultimate goal in this sport?

MIKE EASTON: To sit on top of the bantamweight division and to get MMA big in the mid-Atlantic and [Washington] D.C. area. I just want to show everyone that my city and my area has some of the best fighters in the world. I want to be one of the first guys to put Maryland, Virginia and Baltimore on the map. People talk bad about this area sometimes and how things are going wrong, and I want people to look at things differently and say, "These guys are awesome, they are good people and good athletes and do great things." I want to give kids in our area more role models.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Q&As
        

February 16, 2009

Local seminar

I just got this note about a seminar in the area:

Ultimate Fighter Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah will be conducting a seminar at Maryland Martial Arts in Timonium on Sunday, February 22 from 1-5 p.m. For more information contact Jon Tissue at 410-561-KICK (5425) or via e-mail info@marylandmartialartsllc.com. The gym is located at 2080 York Road Suite 200 (corner of York & Timonium Roads).

Here's a link to Sadollah’s Web site: http://amir.suckerpunchent.com/.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:14 AM | | Comments (0)
        

February 12, 2009

Q&A with Urijah Faber

Urijah Faber is one of the top stars in mixed martial arts and one of the top featherweights in the WEC. I recently spoke with Faber, and here’s our conversation.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What would you be doing if you weren’t a fighter?

Urijah Faber: I’d probably have some sort of small business or something, or else be a teacher, and still work out a lot. I think I would be involved in some wrestling.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like most about being a professional athlete?

Urijah Faber: The thing I like most is the lifestyle, working out all day. It’s pretty healthy. I like the challenge of it and I like the camaraderie of it, the team thing. I like a lot of guys I train with, and basically just the lifestyle in general.

MMA Stomping Grounds: If you could change one thing about the sport, what would it be?

Urijah Faber: That the fighters would get paid more. It’s a difficult sport and if you look at other combat sports, like boxing, and other professional sports like basketball, football and baseball, the pay scale is way low for us right now. It’s a new sport and that will be changing, I look forward to it changing, but it’s not where it needs to be right now.

MMA Stomping Grounds: The sport has grown a lot. What part of the growth has you the most excited?

Urijah Faber: I’m just excited about the knowledge people are getting about it. People are becoming educated and becoming true fans of the sport. It’s growing so fast and it won’t be long before it takes over the world as the No. 1 sport. You can see how much it’s grown in the last few years and I imagine it’s going to get better and better.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think is the biggest misconception casual fans have about the sport?

Urijah Faber: I feel like there’s still some misconceptions about the fighters on a personal level, and kind of what goes into it. Some people still see it as really brutal and a street-fight type of thing, but you’ve got an Olympic-level athlete who is a high-level, high-disciplined, highly technical fighter from kickboxing, judo, wrestling and sometimes I think people overlook the fact that fighters are extremely technical. It’s just like the NBA, the NFL or anything else -- there are a lot of things that need to happen to really become a good fighter. I don’t know if people understand that.

MMA Stomping Grounds: When did you first start to realize you were becoming a star in this sport?

Urijah Faber: I don’t know exactly when it happened, but when Zuffa took over WEC and they started playing my fights on Versus a bit I felt it more. I was at the right place in the right time to be at the forefront of a new station and new organization and a newly sponsored event. It happened pretty fast.

MMA Stomping Grounds: Have you ever had any weird fans along the way?

Urijah Faber: I feel really lucky about being able to live a life that revolves around my passion. People are really supportive and I‘ve got some great fans.

There’s some weirdos out there, a few stalker fans out there, but nothing I can’t handle. People are just going out of their way to hunt down information and get a hold of me. People call obsessively or things like that.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What’s the best part of your job?

Urijah Faber: The best part is I don’t even really feel like I’m working. I’ve kind of lived the same lifestyle I’ve had since I was a little kid. Basically, working out and hanging out with my friends and competing. I feel like a really lucky guy. I haven’t had to do anything I don’t want to do in life, and that’s not the case with everyone.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What advice would you give a young fighter who wants to become a pro someday?

Urijah Faber: I’d tell them that they really need to be consistent and surround themselves with the right environment and the right trainers. You can be the toughest guy in the world and if you’re not plugging away at the right techniques and living a lifestyle dedicated to the sport -- if it’s not your life -- you won’t succeed.

MMA Stomping Grounds: What’s one thing people don’t know about you that you think they should know?

Urijah Faber: I guess that I’m really close with my family, my immediate family. My mom, dad, brother, sister, uncles. I’m kind of -- I guess you could say -- a momma’s boy.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 5:01 PM | | Comments (1)
        

February 10, 2009

Super fights

On paper, B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre was one of the biggest fights the UFC has made in recent history. Two of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world squaring off in their prime. It’s tough to top that. Yet, with GSP’s win, the next rumored superfight is a potential middleweight bout between GSP and Anderson Silva, a fight that has even more intrigue than GSP vs. Penn II.

Moving up a class would probably hurt St. Pierre more than Penn (since Penn had fought at welterweight before) but it would still be an epic tilt. Beyond that, what are the great fights left? If you could match up any two guys, who would you like to see?

I think we’ll probably see Anderson Silva move up to light heavyweight for a big money bout, possibly with Chuck Liddell, at some point. But I don’t think we’ll ever see Silva compete regularly for the light heavyweight title. Assuming Fedor Emelianenko doesn’t end up in the UFC, Silva vs. St. Pierre is probably the best possible fight the UFC can put together. Still, in a perfect world, these are five fights I’d like to see.


1.    Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre (for reasons explained above).

2.    Anderson Silva vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Top two pound-for-pound fighters going at it, although Silva probably gives up too much weight to make this as competitive as it could be.

3.    Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar. Fedor is the greatest heavyweight fighter of all time, Brock Lesnar is one of the most popular. Lesnar is a freak athletically and is a future star in the sport. I’d love to see this fight 15 months from now. I’d take it tomorrow if it was possible though, just for curiosity’s sake. Fedor would probably armbar Lesnar in the first or second round.

4.    Anderson Silva vs. Rampage Jackson. If Silva is going to move up, I think this could be the most interesting fight for him.

5.    Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko. MMA usually gives us dream fights a year or two too late (Chuck Liddell’s fight with Wanderlei Silva is a perfect example of this) but this would still be an intriguing fight. Not nearly as big as it would’ve been before Lesnar beat Couture, but it still would be entertaining.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:01 PM | | Comments (7)
        

February 5, 2009

Strikeforce acquires select ProElite assets

The San Jose-based Strikeforce promotion has announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire select assets from ProElite, Inc., including certain fighter contracts.

What does this mean? According to Sam Caplan, from Fiveouncesofpain.com, the CBS/Showtime contract was one of the crown jewels of the deal.

It's rumored Strikeforce could have shows on CBS within months. Strikeforce has always been the third best promotion in MMA, and the best non-Zuffa entity (both the UFC and WEC are Zuffa brands). The people there have experience in the sport and didn't try to bite off more than they could chew. The question now becomes, can Strikeforce, with the EliteXC roster additions and the CBS television deal, compete with the UFC?

Honestly, probably not. But it's still fun to speculate and competition in the sport is always healthy. Strikeforce is at least the most formidable challenge the UFC has had since the fall of PRIDE. I think the guys there know what they are doing a little bit better than the people in charge for EliteXC and Affliction.

Strikeforce already has some stars and if they add the contracts of the bigger EliteXC stars, that would make for a decent promotion. Alistair Overeem, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Cung Le, Frank Shamrock, Brett Rogers, Robbie Lawler, Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez, Jorge Gurgel, Nick Diaz, Jake Shields and Gina Carano provide extra star power. How Kimbo Slice would fit into the mix is another story, and one I’m anxious to see Strikeforce deal with.

I don’t think it’s been released which contracts Strikeforce owns and which fighters it will have options on. Still, this is certainly a major development in the MMA scene, especially since many of those EliteXC fighters have been hanging out to dry for months.

More from SI.com’s Josh Gross.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 5:02 PM | | Comments (1)
        

February 4, 2009

UFC 94 fallout -- What's next for Penn and St. Pierre

Outside of the controversy surrounding the main event, UFC 94 was a solid card. Really, with a main event like that (on paper), it’s hard to find fault with the rest of the card. I expected more out of Nate Diaz and was very impressed with Lyoto Machida. He has to be the next in line for a title shot at light heavyweight (after Rampage, apparently), and while he’s not as terrifying as Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva or B.J. Penn, I think Machida could put together a decent run as champion. I like his chances better than the rest of the light heavyweight crop, at least. If he gets by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (who will get the first title shot after beating Keith Jardine in March), then Machida could string together a few successful title defenses.

Regardless of what happened, the main event was going to be great because it was going to tell us a lot about both fighters. We saw St. Pierre at the top of his game, proving Penn simply doesn’t belong at welterweight. Years ago, Penn could’ve been on top in both divisions but he’s at his best at lightweight and Penn will likely never get another shot at the welterweight title. Both fighters are in their prime, and fans expected a fight similar to their first match -- a very close and entertaining bout. Instead, what we got was an absolute rout.

St. Pierre now has a stake in the claim for top pound-for-pound fighter. It was Anderson Silva’s title for the past year, and some would argue he's still at the top. Fedor Emelianenko has made his claim with brutal wins over Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, and now St. Pierre has made his case with a dominating win over Penn. It’s hard to ignore St. Pierre’s stake because of the way he dominated Penn, who was also considered a top 5 pound-for-pound fighter. In the biggest fight of his career, St. Pierre delivered. In the biggest fight of his career, Penn disappointed.

What’s most interesting to me is what’s next for both fighters. SI.com is reporting that Penn may be considering retirement. That type of talk isn’t uncommon after a loss, so I think it’s likely we’ll see Penn fight again. Still, it’s not like there’s a plethora of challenges for Penn at lightweight. Unless the UFC can sign more of the top lightweights in the world, I wouldn’t rule out retirement for Penn in the next few years. Penn is still a great fighter and the best lightweight in the world though, and as the sport continues to grow over the next few years, he would be foolish to retire at this point.

If he does, how will it affect Penn's legacy? He was poised to become one of the all-time greats in the sport if he had defeated St. Pierre and held both titles at the same time. Now, after the brutal loss, Penn is still one of the greatest lightweight fighters of all-time. His legacy definitely takes a hit though, but probably takes a much bigger hit if he doesn’t fight again. It wouldn't be good for new fans of the sport to remember Penn just from what they saw on the UFC Primetime shows and from this fight.

St. Pierre’s next title defense will be against Thiago Alves. I’m excited for this fight as I think Alves is the best challenge for St. Pierre right now. Alves is a huge welterweight and can match St. Pierre’s athleticism. Obviously, St. Pierre will be a huge favorite, but this could be a very entertaining fight. After Alves, it’s rumored St. Pierre could move up to middleweight. The logical move would be to put together a St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva superfight, as that would be one of the biggest fights in the sport’s history. Both St. Pierre and Silva have a title defense to get through first, but when this fight is put together (late this year or early next would be my guess), it will be incredible.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 3:04 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Vaseline-gate ... is it an issue?

I've been out of commission for the past few days due to a bout with pneumonia, but one of the biggest questions coming out of UFC 94 is how much of an effect Georges St. Pierre's greasing had on his fight against BJ Penn.

Apparently, Penn complained about St. Pierre being slippery early in the fight, which led Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Keith Kizer to give St. Pierre's corner a "stern talking to." It looked like a vaseline-like substance was being rubbed on St. Pierre's chest and back between rounds. You can find more on the story in this LA Times report. SI.com has St. Pierre's side to the story.

Dana White acknowledged the controversy after the fight, lending it credibility, before brushing it off. White said it didn't play a big role in the fight, but that you still shouldn't be doing it. 

Penn's camp has yet to file a formal appeal (and reportedly will not), but does this tarnish GSP's victory at all? Or is it a crutch for angered Penn supporters? 

I'm inclined to side with the group saying it wouldn't have made a difference in the fight and that St. Pierre was going to win regardless, but if a member of the athletic commission has to say something to your corner during the fight, that cannot be ignored.

Where do you come down on Vaseline-gate? Certainly is disappointing to have this conversation after what should've been a big night for GSP.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:49 AM | | Comments (12)
        
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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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