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March 27, 2009

Anderson Silva's future?

Anderson Silva has struck up talk once again of his post-UFC plans. In a recent interview with Portal das Lutas (by way of Fiveouncesofpain.com), Silva was quoted as saying: “After my contract with the UFC ends and end my career in MMA, I intend to have a boxing match with Roy Jones. That’s something that’s already been arranged, it’s all practically a done deal. Now I just have to wait and see.”

When I interviewed Silva, he mentioned the Roy Jones Jr. stuff but didn’t seem too broken up over it. Now it’s become a major focus for him again, which should have MMA fans concerned. In the eyes of many (myself included), Silva is the most talented pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He’s been the top guy in the UFC for some time now, and has put together a dominant middleweight title reign.

It’s not like Silva will be gone anytime soon as he still has five fights left on his contract, but if he really intends to leave, you’d hope the UFC would start giving him superfights. Bouts with Chuck Liddell and Georges St. Pierre have been rumored in the past. Those would be intriguing bouts, but fighting Thales Leites at UFC 97? Not as much.

Silva said he wants to fight the best and has toyed with moving up to light heavyweight and if he only has five fights left, who do you want to see on that list of opponents? Obviously, the UFC probably wouldn’t want to invest a great deal into a fighter who may be gone in two years, but if you could pair him up with anyone, what would you want to see before he’s gone?

Liddell and St. Pierre would be on my list. I think Rashad Evans and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson might not be bad either. Either way, if he’s really going to retire from MMA after his current contract is up, hopefully we’ll get to see him go out with some huge fights.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:13 AM | | Comments (8)
        

March 20, 2009

Competing with UFC 100 and Greasegate

There are a few puzzling stories in the news lately. The first is the rumor that Affliction may try to go head to head with UFC 100. I don’t know how I feel about this. Check that -- it’s clearly a stupid decision.

While Affliction can compete with UFC pay-per-view replays and free, dumbed-down cards on Spike, Affliction cannot compete with UFC 100. I understand the UFC’s move to counter-program against Affliction, but it makes absolutely no sense the other way around.

If they can still put together a good card, for a fledgling promotion, they would be smarter to do it on a weekend where they can be the focus of the MMA world. In tough economic times, how many people will buy both? And when you come down to it, the UFC hype-machine is much stronger than Affliction’s, which would spell doom for them. You never like to see another MMA outfit stop promoting fights (unless it’s EliteXC).

On the other hand, maybe this will be the final stand for Affliction and they will fall apart after that show. That would free up a lot of fighters to either come to the UFC (and bolster the heavyweight division, especially if a deal is worked out with Fedor) or head to Strikeforce. Competition is good for the sport and more MMA is always a good thing for fans. Strikeforce capitalized when EliteXC fell apart and it could bolster its roster even more by cherry picking some of the top guys that fought for Affliction.

Another thing I don’t get is B.J. Penn’s prolonged attempts to overturn the decision in his fight with Georges St. Pierre. An interesting story in The Canadian Press makes it look like this is going to be long and drawn out. If you’re B.J. Penn, why fight this? Are there still Penn apologists that think this completely turned the fight? Penn is still a great fighter, just not at welterweight. Why not move on and focus on what’s next?

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
        

March 17, 2009

Is Chuck Liddell on his way out?

According to this story from Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press, Chuck Liddell may be on his last legs in the UFC. This quote, in particular, stood out.

"I've made it very clear to Chuck. Very clear," Dana White told The Canadian Press. "It's not about money, it's not about this, that. Chuck is one of my good friends. Chuck (has) cemented his legacy in the UFC and in the fight game. I'm not even saying if he wins, unless he looks incredibly impressive (in Montreal) -- I mean, he's going to have to go out there and dazzle me, for me to want Chuck to still fight."
 
I don’t know that I entirely agree with this. If I had to guess, I’m thinking it’s just White trying to send Liddell a message. Liddell will be able to fight in the UFC for as long as he wants. Especially because he’s still the biggest star in the sport.

I think it’s clear he’s not going to be a factor in the light heavyweight title picture, and it looks like his evolution as a fighter hasn’t kept up to speed with the sport, but he is still a huge draw.  As the UFC continues to expand globally, there’s a lot of value left in the Chuck Liddell brand.

He’s not a headliner anymore, but I think he still has a few years left in him, as long as the UFC helps him out with the fights he’s given. White can say it’s not about money, but he still has a lot of value for the UFC in that area and I wouldn’t expect him to get the boot while that’s still the reality, despite what White says.

This may be a moot point, though, as he should be able to "dazzle" against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 97.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:42 AM | | Comments (1)
        

March 12, 2009

Lyoto Machida gets a title shot

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will not be Rashad Evans' first defense of his light heavyweight title. Jackson is expected to undergo surgery to treat a jaw injury he suffered in preparation for his fight with Wanderlei Silva, according to FiveOuncesofPain.com.

Lyoto Machida definitely deserves a title shot, even though most don't find him to be an exciting fighter. How are people feeling about a Rashad Evans v. Lyoto Machida main event at UFC 98? It's not quite Brock Lesnar v. Frank Mir but it should be a very intriguing bout.

 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:45 AM | | Comments (10)
        

TapouT co-founder dies

A very sad story in the MMA world, as TapouT's co-founder, Charles (Mask) Lewis, died in a car accident Wednesday. The TapouT guys are pretty well-liked by almost everyone in the MMA community, especially since those are guys that truly loved the sport. He will be missed.

Here's the full story.

And here's a great story on TapouT by friend of the blog, Kelly Crigger, for Fight Magazine. It's a few months old, but it is a great primer if you aren't familiar with the clothing company and the guys behind it.

 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:35 AM | | Comments (0)
        

March 9, 2009

Jackson's post-fight comments were a little too much

After Quinton Jackson beat Keith Jardine Saturday at UFC 96, Rashad Evans entered the Octagon to share some talk trash with Jackson to build the hype for their title fight at UFC 98. I know Rampage doesn’t always do a great deal of reflecting before speaking, but there’s one thing he said that sort of irked me (you can tell me if I’m being too particular).

Jackson ended the trash talking by yelling, "There's gonna be some more black-on-black crime" and slamming the mic to the ground.

As MMA fights for legitimacy as a sport and the UFC tries to attract more fans, there are a few things we don’t need. Among them is Jackson’s threats of “black-on-black crime” during a fight.

The naysayers already have the preconceived notion that MMA is “two guys locked in a cage, one man leaves” and Jackson’s statement only fuels this perception. I also could go without B.J. Penn saying “I’m going to kill you Georges, and I’m not even kidding” during the UFC Primetime specials leading up to UFC 94. I know it was probably taken out of context, but you have to think before you even let that out at all.

MMA is a sport, it’s not a criminal act. Nothing Jackson does to Jardine will be illegal and Penn probably would have started crying if he actually killed St. Pierre in the Octagon.

I understand that they are trying to be intimidating, but they can do it without hurting the sport when it comes to gaining new fans.
Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:34 AM | | Comments (22)
        

Recap: UFC 96 just OK

UFC 96 was ... fine. That’s the best way to sum it up, fine. The fights were decent, nothing out of the ordinary. We all knew Quinton Jackson would beat Keith Jardine, but Jardine still proved something in the loss. He hung in there and was much tougher than many, including myself, expected. Still, the rest of the card wasn’t too shocking. Matt Hamill impressed with his win and Shane Carwin did the same with his win over Gabriel Gonzaga. Kendall Grove and Brandon Vera both were successful in must-win fights.

The fights were all right, although nothing spectacular. The only real development from the show was that Rampage was officially named the No. 1 contender for the light heavyweight title. Carwin also moved up the heavyweight rankings, but how far remains to be seen.

Of course, the biggest news to come out of this weekend was the announcement of Frank Mir’s injury and the delay of the Brock Lesnar-Mir fight. The two will battle for the heavyweight title at UFC 100 now. Rashad Evans-Quinton Jackson is the new likely main event for UFC 98. I like the addition of Lesnar-Mir for UFC 100 and I can’t wait for Evans-Jackson. Hopefully that will happen at UFC 98 but that would be a very quick turnaround for Jackson.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 10:12 AM | | Comments (5)
        

March 6, 2009

Ready for UFC 96?

UFC 96 is Saturday night and while I’ve already expressed my opinion on how things are going to play out (Quinton Jackson over Keith Jardine by second-round knockout), I want to know what you think. Are you buying this show or going the sports bar route? Anyone giving Jardine a chance? He’s a stronger kicker so he could follow Forest Griffin’s gameplan to victory, but his chin is also suspect and Jackson should be able to capitalize on that. Is there any fight on the undercard that anyone is looking forward to?

Here are a few quick reads to get you ready for UFC 96:

USA Today talks about who gets the next title shot against Rashad Evans.

The very talented Sam Caplan has a piece on the key UFC 96 story lines.

I’m also a big fan of the CBS head-to-head breakdown of events, but I miss Gregg Doyel in this feature.

USA Today also has a neat piece on UFC refs.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:04 AM | | Comments (2)
        

March 3, 2009

Safe money is on Jackson ... right?

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is a -295 favorite heading into his UFC 96 fight with Keith Jardine. I haven’t felt this strongly about Jackson winning a fight since he fought Forrest Griffin. What does that mean? It means Griffin had a huge upset, which has no bearing on this fight. Griffin was underrated. So is Jardine, but not nearly as much as Griffin was. Jardine can fight, he’s got some good people behind him, which makes him a threat, but not a strong one to Jackson. If he loses to Jardine, he doesn’t deserve a title fight. Jardine has some nice wins, most notably over Chuck Liddell and Griffin, but can he take down Jackson?

The most intriguing part of this fight, to me, is gauging how strong Jackson looks. He’s lost only once in the UFC, to Griffin, in a close decision many think was flawed. That’s not a very convincing hiccup, so you could still argue that Jackson is the top light heavyweight in the world.

Is there anyone out there that thinks Jardine can take down Jackson? Or is this just a chance for the Rashad Evans camp to get a closer look at Jackson? In this tough economy, people need a sure thing. A safe bet. Throw your money on Rampage.

Editor's note: The above post is for entertainment purposes only and should not be viewed as a guide for wagering or an endorsement of gambling.    

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:19 AM | | Comments (1)
        

March 1, 2009

Going another round with MMA author Kelly Crigger

It's always good to catch up with my guy, MMA author/writer Kelly Crigger, to debate the issues of the day. Who’s the true face of MMA and is a new star on the rise? Should Fedor Emelianenko sign with the UFC? Will UFC 100 cripple other shows? We cover it all with this week’s discussion.

Issue 1 – George St. Pierre has eclipsed Chuck Liddell as the face of MMA.

Kelly: True. Chuck Liddell helped get MMA where it is today, but Georges St. Pierre has taken the torch and run with it. His image is the face of a new MMA generation that graces the covers of a wide variety of MMA and mainstream magazines, from Black Belt to Men’s Fitness. He’s a squeaky-clean, non-trash talking national hero in Canada with crossover appeal in the US. He’s a chick magnet who brings women into MMA and could probably get away with describing his crepe suzette recipe on Martha Stewart’s show without his shirt (as long as Martha keeps hers on). Above all else his fights are damn exciting (GSP vs. Jon Fitch is fight of the year in my opinion). He’s the next stage in the evolution of the athlete (sorry to inform you NFL) who can strike, wrestle, grapple, and stay cool under pressure. After his fight with BJ Penn, the crowd booed Thiago Alves the second his mug graced the jumbotron not because they disliked Alves, but because they’ve completely embraced GSP as the sport’s Barack Obama. He even (allegedly) dated Mandy Moore for a brief time, which drives his stock even higher than the ailing S&P 500. The bottom line is GSP is the rock star of MMA who has eclipsed Chuck Liddell as the most recognizable and admired fighter we have. If the UFC is smart, they’ll use his popularity and keep his face on the covers of as many magazines as possible, even if that means a photo shoot for Teen Beat.

Mark: False. The face of MMA is still Chuck Liddell. Until Georges St. Pierre is on Entourage or gracing the honorable pages of entertainment blogs for his Grammys appearance, he won’t be the face of the sport. I agree that he’s the best example of the evolution of MMA. He’s way ahead of the game and he’s one of the most terrifying champs in the UFC  (I still think Anderson Silva is the UFC’s best fighter). But face of the sport? Come on, not even close. GSP’s hurt by his thick French-Canadian accent more than anything. Hell, I’ve got French-Canadian roots and even I had trouble understanding him the last time we spoke over the phone. He can’t make that mainstream crossover without being able to dominate in a SportsCenter appearance just as well as in the Octagon. He may be change, but he’s not change I can believe in (my hand was forced to use some sort of lame campaign slogan connection ever since you invoked the Commander-in-Chief). If anyone is going to eclipse Chuck, it will probably be Rampage Jackson.


Issue 2 – Strikeforce’s new deal with Showtime will finally make them an enemy in Dana White’s eyes.

Kelly: True. Dana White has long stated his respect for Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker because he genuinely cares about MMA, he’s always known his place in relation to the UFC and he’s always stayed true to his roots as a regional MMA promoter. But Strikeforce’s purchase of the defunct EliteXC franchise coupled with their announcement that they have struck a deal with Showtime has raised their profile above the acceptable levels for the UFC, which paints a big red target on their backs. White has a history of crushing his competition like a Whack-A-Mole champion when they get out of line and become a threat to his brand. Until now, Strikeforce has never raised its heads high enough to feel the business end of Dana White’s hammer and has even been praised by the UFC’s president for its business model. But Strikeforce’s recent purchases of several fighter’s contracts (Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Scott Smith, Benji Radach and Josh Thomson, among others) may have pushed them over the edge from friendly coexistence to MMA war. Strikeforce is clearly the second most powerful MMA organization now, especially with Affliction’s future in doubt. I think what is especially painful for White to swallow is Strikeforce’s Showtime contract (if that holds true). For years White negotiated with HBO for a broadcast deal only to come up empty-handed in the end. Suddenly Strikeforce comes along with enough capital to buy a slew of contracts and negotiates a deal that the UFC couldn’t pull off. That’s threatening to a man who’s used to decimating his enemies and currently has few to slay.

Mark: False. An enemy? An organization that has more than one of a division’s top five fighters would be an enemy. That would be an organization that could feasibly compete with the UFC. Strikeforce is still good for the sport because it’s run by guys that know MMA and will help grow the sport, while the UFC will pick off any truly great stars Strikeforce develops. I really like Strikeforce, I’m jazzed about the deal, but they aren’t a true enemy until Affliction falls apart and Strikeforce can pick up those fighters as well (who can wait for Kimbo Slice vs. Fedor? Over/under on that fight’s length - three seconds). Strikeforce will be able to eclipse the WEC for the rights as the second best MMA promotion, but that’s not enough to put them in adversary mode for White. There’s no denying that Strikeforce will try to position itself as a competitor to the UFC, but enemy? The “t-shirt guys” are enemies. Strikeforce is merely a very good minor league system, and a potential threat down the road.

Issue 3 - What should the UFC do with Karo Parisyan?

Kelly: Karo is no longer the top ten welterweight he was when the UFC offered him a shot at then-champion Matt Hughes in 2006. Since then he’s been injured, inconsistent, and allegedly faked an injury to pull out of his UFC 88 fight when he actually suffered from a panic attack. Now he’s come up positive for three - not just one - but three banned painkillers after his UFC 94 fight against Dong Hyun Kim, a fight he barely won. Did that give him an unfair advantage in the fight? Absolutely, so if the NSAC is ever going to overturn a fight, it should be that one. Are those reasons to cut him from the UFC rolls? I think so, but the UFC has a history of keeping guys around when they’re down on their luck. Chris Lytle has lost 17 fights, but he’s still around because he gives it all he has in the octagon. Patrick Cote lost four in a row, but the UFC kept him around because he’s also an exciting fighter. So losing fights is apparently not a criteria to get cut. But stepping outside Dana White’s code of conduct is, as Jesse Taylor and John Koppenhaver (I refuse to call him War Machine) found out when they were cut for mouthing off. Jon Fitch got cut from the UFC for a day for refusing to sign a release for his likeness for a video game. In the TUF house ... well, forget trying to nail down what the “banned from the UFC” criteria is there. Karo’s situation is a little different. It’s not like he came up hot for one banned substance like Sean Sherk did (who was eventually reinstated after his suspension) or is an overly exciting fighter (all of his wins in the last two years were by decision). Parisyan has been caught with a host of banned substances in him and barely wins his fights. If these aren’t grounds to cut a guy from the organization, then it’s clear that the only standards for being released from the UFC are the ones in White’s head.

Mark: I don’t necessarily disagree with many of White’s cuts. While cutting guys like Fabricio Werdum may be unfair, I can see how it could make sense from a business perspective. Parisyan is in a tough spot. If he was an exciting fighter, he’d have more of a leg to stand on. If it’s me, I lose him. The UFC can certainly afford to lose another welterweight, especially since Parisyan isn’t exactly a factor in the title picture. There’s a healthy roster of young welterweights close to having break-out years, so I only see him going down in the welterweight picture. He’s a talented fighter and he’s an excellent gatekeeper at welterweight, that’s for sure. He has a role in the UFC, but is it one that can withstand using banned substances? Probably not. Guys like Parisyan are the ones that are made examples of, while people at the top (like Alves) could get away with something like this.

Switch it up. Mark goes first.

Issue 4 - The UFC will have more than two title fights at UFC  100.

Mark: False. I think they will put together a terrific show for UFC 100 but the rumors about all the titles being up for grabs are just hopeful wishes. That would cripple the shows before and after UFC 100 just for one blow-out show. UFC 100 would be record-setting but it wouldn’t do enough buys to justify the losses they would take on the shows in the months before and after UFC 100. Is anyone going to pay 50 bucks for a card headlined by Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping? What about Mike Swick  vs. Jon Fitch? Lyoto Machida vs. Forrest Griffin? That’s like making someone pay 50 bucks to watch Rampage fight Keith Jardine (whoops). Those are good fights, but not enough to drive PPV sales, so I think UFC 100 will be a little scaled back from what most people think. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar to UFC 92. Dana White has already said GSP will fight Alves, and I would guess Henderson vs. Bisping would be a part of that card as well and that also might be a good time for Rashad Evans vs. Rampage. Put together a few interesting fights on the undercard and you can have a very, very good show. It doesn’t need to be lights out from the get-go, though. It’s just not worth it.

Kelly: It might not be worth it, but we’re talking about the brainchild of an egomaniac. Sacrificing a couple of shows to put on a historical event is right up Dana White’s alley. He’s already proven that he can keep a consistently-entertaining business running when others fall by the wayside, so a huge event that no one thinks he can pull off is just the challenge he drools over. Whether or not he can pull it off is the question. We know the welterweights are probably going to fight and lightweight champion BJ Penn  and top contender Kenny Florian will have plenty of time to prepare if White wants them to. Middleweight champ Anderson Silva could be ready for a new victim if he blows through Thales Leites like I expect him to, but he’ll only have three months to prepare. The light heavyweights (Evans and Rampage) could easily be ready, though Rampage will be at a disadvantage by fighting Keith Jardine first. The heavyweights simply won’t happen. There’s no way the new unified heavyweight belt holder (Frank Mir or Brock Lesnar) will be ready after their UFC 98 fight for another one in less than 60 days. Besides the scheduling, there’s another issue. Even if White demands five title fights, I can’t envision all ten fighters agreeing to it. How many of these guys are willing to be demoted to non-main event status or even be the first fight of the televised card? I think in the end five title fights just won’t be feasible, but they’ll stack the undercard to make it the best UFC ever.

Issue 5 - Fedor Emelianenko should sign with the UFC .

Mark: True. I understand his desire to still compete in Sambo was a potential problem for the UFC and that Fedor’s management has been difficult to deal with, but this is something Fedor really needs to start thinking about. Affliction is on its final legs and then Fedor will be forced to sign with Strikeforce. That’s not a terrible fate, but Strikeforce won’t be throwing money around like Affliction so he’ll have to take a serious pay cut to go that route. On the other hand, he could go to the UFC and dominate the heavyweight division. More importantly, he could have the full power of the UFC marketing machine behind him. As much as Dana White has hated on Fedor in the past, he’d be the first one to jock him once Fedor signed with the UFC (and rightfully so, White is a shrewd businessman). With the UFC starting to expand more globally and signing merchandising deals and putting together UFC Primetime specials, Fedor would be walking into a gold mine. More importantly, it would introduce him to thousands of new MMA fans, cementing his future financially and his place in the sport forever.

Kelly: I won’t argue with you here. The only reason a few guys in Nowhere, Idaho think Fedor’s not the best in the world is because he hasn’t fought in the UFC. But one look at his list of victims and you realize that it’s void of only a couple guys of consequence -- Couture, Mir and Lesnar. The other UFC heavyweights aren’t ready for him, but if he came over to the UFC they would spend millions convincing us that they were. The question is will Dana swallow his PRIDE and deal with Vadim Finkelstein? White got over his grudge against Tito and brought him back to the organization and got through his differences with Couture, so it’s possible. But there’s definite bad blood here to get past first.

Issue 6 - What should Strikeforce do with Kimbo Slice?

Mark: Now that Strikeforce has acquired the contracts of EliteXC stars, like Kimbo Slice, the question everyone has had is: what do you do with them? Scott Coker suggested he needs to have 10-12 fights before he headlines a show but it’s not like Slice is a young guy. He’s not going to get that much better as he ages. He was a huge draw but was exposed as a huge fraud. What EliteXC did with Slice is a huge black eye for the sport. Strikeforce could make some quick cash promoting him even if it’s not in a main event, but the promotion is better off leaving him behind. Strikeforce has the star power and talent to put together great shows, they don’t need a freak show. Let Kimbo go back to Japan ... or better yet, let him go back to YouTube.

Kelly: I, for one, would be very interested to see what Mr. Slice has been up to since his flash KO at the hands of Seth Petruzelli. Has Bas Rutten been developing him as a fighter or has he been getting fat while he gets more gold teeth molds made? Kinda like Brock Lesnar I’d like to see what he’s really made of. You’re right that he’s not getting any younger, but there are plenty of talented, young heavyweights that Strikeforce can throw at him to test him out in short span. If he’s got what it takes in MMA, then he’ll be headlining a show in no time. If Strikeforce doesn’t pick him up there are plenty of smaller organizations that will buy his contract to bring them some notoriety. He’s good for that at least.


What do you think? Let us know.

Kelly Crigger is a freelance MMA writer and author of the book "Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts". Contact him through his website at IntoTheSharkTank.com

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 11:04 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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