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June 30, 2009

Does Lesnar cheapen UFC 100 for purists?



The UFC has been building up UFC 100 for months. It’s a topic that was on the minds of fans and media members for months before. It’s being billed by the UFC as the biggest event they have ever had.

So, with that in mind, how much does it offend MMA purists to see Brock Lesnar in the main event of this card? With his pro wrestling background and the fact that he got a title shot after going 1-1 in his first two UFC fights, he had his haters from the beginning.

Is this just more salt in the wound, having a former pro wrestler with less than 10 MMA fights headlining the biggest card in UFC history as the heavyweight champ? Or have fans finally accepted Lesnar?

It’s hard to deny he’s one of the top fighters in the division after his destruction of Randy Couture, so maybe fans have finally accepted that Lesnar is here to stay. The guy is still raw in a lot of areas but he’s got amazing strengths in his game as well. There’s no denying he’s good for the sport, as he’s a huge PPV draw.

After the UFC was forced to move the Mir-Lesnar fight, it was just smart marketing to put it at UFC 100. With Mir coming off a big win and with the revenge factor surrounding this fight for Lesnar, it’s got to be one of the easiest main events to market.

At the same time, though, you’ve got Georges St. Pierre fighting Thiago Alves for the welterweight championship. The GSP bandwagon has been growing exponentially and it looks like St. Pierre could be the new face of the UFC after Liddell’s fade from the limelight.

What better way to reaffirm that then to make his fight the main event at UFC 100? Alves is a more than worthy contender and that should be a heck of a fight. Lesnar’s fight will be interesting as well, but that’s more because we’re still trying to find out what holes Lesnar has in his game -- not because it’s a fight between two guys near their primes as fighter.

I don’t think the Lesnar main event cheapens UFC 100, but I am curious what the purists think on the topic.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.)

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:14 PM | | Comments (32)
        

June 25, 2009

The real main event at UFC 100?

Am I the only one who thinks the Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves fight is the best on the UFC 100 card? The quick answer is no. At least I have the UFC color guy and stand-up comedian (anyone catch his special on Spike? It was incredible) on my side, as he seems most excited for that bout as well.

Everyone else is seemingly buying into the Brock Lesnar-Frank Mir hype. I get it, Lesnar is a beast and is looking to avenge his embarrassing loss to Mir. Mir thinks Lesnar shouldn’t have been given a title shot and thinks he will roll him easily again. Both fighters are coming off strong showings, but how much do we really know about these guys?

Mir is coming off arguably his best fight in his destruction of Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira, but Nogueira also was recovering from a staph infection heading into that fight. Before that, Mir was getting whomped by Lesnar until he caught a lucky break.

Lesnar has even more question marks. He beat Heath Herring and looked even better beating Randy Couture, but neither of those guys have styles that are very conducive to facing Lesnar. Lesnar still has questions about his chin, ground defense and cardio.

St. Pierre, meanwhile, is coming off a big win in a superfight with B.J. Penn. He’s at the top of his game and the welterweight scene is much deeper than the UFC’s heavyweight division. St. Pierre has defeated several of the top contenders already, but Alves presents several new challenges to GSP. His last loss was almost three years ago and he’s a big and athletic welterweight. He’s also, in the words of Rogan, the best striker GSP has faced.

The UFC 100 card will be awesome because of this and the Mir-Lesnar fight (I couldn’t be less excited for a big fight than I am for Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping). One of those main events is a big attraction for the right reasons. The other is a big fight but doesn’t have the same merit.

Then again, other insiders I've talked to think Alves doesn't stand a chance because of GSP's strong wrestling and Alves' inability to prevent St. Pierre's takedowns, so there's that. 

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:08 AM | | Comments (7)
        

June 20, 2009

Catching up with Joe Rogan

Joe Rogan’s comedy special “Talking Monkeys in Space” airs after The Ultimate Fighter season 9 finale on Spike TV this Saturday. Rogan is one of the more intriguing comedians working today (his interviews in podcast and satellite radio form with people he knows are incredible) and his special should kick ass.

I spoke to Joe earlier this week about the special and his work with the UFC.

JOE ROGAN

On his special

All of my specials mean something at the time. This one means more because it’s the new one. I have a real good relationship with the Spike guys, they have seen me perform at comedy clubs many times and the beautiful thing is they are owned by Comedy Central. So the reruns will be on Spike and eventually on Comedy Central.

On doing comedy and UFC commentary
It’s fun, it’s an interesting way to do it. I like to go to these towns and do comedy one night and the UFC the other night. It’s been working out and has been the best of both worlds.

As a human being you evolve and your thinking evolves. As a comic and artist your comedy evolves as well. The more you do something the better you get at it. I think I enjoy it more now.

On balancing writing new jokes versus research for MMA commentary

All the research I do for MMA commentary is stuff I would do anyway. I’m a huge fan of mixed martial arts and I’d be going to the same websites, watching the same fights and same videos. I’m just a huge fan. I’m very fortunate to be a paid professional fan of the UFC. The more stuff you do the more your perspective is enhanced. The more different things I’ve done the more my comedy is enhanced. The better I am at comedy the better I am at commentary.

On Sanchez-Guida

Diego has a very good chance. It’s a very interesting fight. Clay Guida is a juggernaught. He has great conditioning, great wrestling, sets a relentless pace and is great taking fighters out of their game plans. But, at 155, Diego is a different animal. His jiu-jitsu is off the chain.

On his favorite fighters

I like different varities of fighters. I like fighters that are exciting and intelligent. I love Wanderlei Silva, he’s my favorite fighter of all time. He doesn’t have a safety sense style at all. He has that reckless abandon and just attacks with the most aggressive style ever. I really enjoy that and then I again I enjoy Lyoto Machida. He takes no damager, fights intelligently and is amazing to watch.

You can’t do commentary on the ground game unless you’ve done it. You can call a triangle while it’s locked on but you won’t see the setups, the transitions. There are too many steps before you finish that you won’t catch on. Doing jiu-jitsu has definitely helped my commentary.

Some sports fans just think UFC guys are all a bunch of meat heads. That they aren’t real athletes and that they aren’t intelligent. That’s the biggest misconception.

On the growth of MMA

The outcropping of new organizations like Strikeforce is very important. There are so many up and coming guys that need places to fight and I believe competition is good. New organizations are great for the sport. I just think this sport has so much potential. It’s exploded over the past few years and there’s so much more room to grow. I truly believe it’s the most exciting sport in the world.

On GSP vs.Thiago Alves at UFC 100

Thiago Alves is the very best striker GSP has ever faced. In his career he has one loss from a grappler and one loss from someone who struck with him. Alves is way more powerful than Serra, was more dangerous on his feet. Georges has to be careful in the standup aspect. But how will Alves handle GSP’s wrestling? GSP is the best mixed martial arts wrestler in the business. He’s the best at executing a game plan. His execution is flawless.

On Kimbo Slice joining the next season of The Ultimate Fighter

He’s got Roy Big Country Nelson on that show. He’s a really good jiu-jitsu guy with a ton of experience. He’s a dangerous fight for a guy who has a hard time on the ground. Kimbo will have a real hard time with guys who are good grapplers. It takes too long to learn the grappling game. You have to love it and do it for years before you can defend yourself from a high level guy. I don’t know that Kimbo is that guy. I don’t know if he trains all the time with the right people and goes over positions.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 3:50 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Q&As
        

June 19, 2009

Catching up with Joe Stevenson

I also caught up with Joe Stevenson, who is taking on Nate Diaz at The Ultimate Fighter season 9 finale.

JOE STEVENSON

 

On his TUF fight:

I think whoever dictates the pace has the best odds. We’re both very seasoned and very good fighters. You can never count out either of us.

On his hopes for the fight:

Ideally, he walks in, slips and falls, and they raise my hand. I’d also be happy if he slipped right into a choke.

On the MMA video game:

I like the game. I’m honored to be part of it. I’m also glad they did the digital scan of my body right before I had to make weight for a fight so my body fat was down.

 

On MMA's reputation:

The biggest misconception casual sports fans have is that we’re brutes. That we’re just in it for the rock and roll part of it. A lot of us that have made it to the top went to college and put in a lot of time and sacrifice to get here. They see one person back at home act that way and assume everyone acts that way.

On the B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian fight:

Well, I married a Hawaiian so I’m picking B.J. Penn. I think B.J. is awesome and will prove to be too much for Kenny on that day.

On his maturation:

I’ve grown a lot throughout the years. I’m training with Greg Jackson now and I think fans will be excited to watch me fight as I mature in how I fight. I think there will be a lot of happy fans out there.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 8:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

June 18, 2009

Catching up with Diego Sanchez

Diego Sanchez is headlining The Ultimate Fighter season 9 finale Saturday on Spike TV in a match against Clay Guida and I recently caught up with him for a few minutes to get his thoughts on the fight.

DIEGO SANCHEZ

On his gameplan at TUF 9:

The key to the fight is me executing my gameplan. I’m a better fighter with better fights on my record. I have more experience and am going to have the fight of my career.

On his opponent, Guida:
I have respect for his heart and conditioning, but when he gets on top of people and lays there and holds them down? That won’t work with me. It’s a boring style and I’m ready for anything he tries to do.

On his strategy:

I’ll hit him with elbows, attempt triangles, hitting armbars, sweeps, guillotines. I will be constantly attacking from my guard.

On his current condition:

I feel strong and faster at 155, especially with my wrestling. My takedowns have improved as the guys I fight walk in weighing 160 now as opposed to 190.

On the future:

My plan is when I turn 30 -- I’m 27 now -- I want to turn back to the welterweight division and fight the best. I want to win the belt here and hold it and when the time is right, move to 170. Truthfully, I could fight in both weight classes.

On the MMA video game:

Oh, man, it is so awesome. They did such a good job with the video game. They made me a 90 rating and I’m pretty good on there. I don’t have knockout power but maybe in the next edition I can get that added.

On Georges St. Pierre:

It’s weird ... I fought GSP five times in a row and got my butt kicked. It sucked watching myself get knocked out five times so I switched weight classes.

On what fans don't know about him:

I think my fans know everything about me. What they don’t know they can wonder about.

I also caught up with Joe Stevenson and Joe Rogan, so keep an eye out for those interviews later today or early tomorrow.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 7:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Q&As
        

June 12, 2009

Looking at UFC 99

UFC 99 is finally here (well, it will be tomorrow) and the main event of Rich Franklin taking on Wanderlei Silva is a very interesting one. Is it worthy of the headline status? For a show overseas, probably. For a fan to shell out the same cash they will for UFC 100? Probably not.

Whether you watch it at 3 p.m. live or at 10 p.m. on tape delay, it should be an entertaining card. Silva and Franklin both like to stand and bang, and both guys need a win. Silva is trying to make a case for a title shot against Anderson Silva for his middleweight tile. Franklin is trying to gain legitimacy in the scene at 205 pounds. Both guys have gone too long without a defining win. Franklin is the Vegas favorite (-160) and Silva is the pros favorite (according to sherdog.com) and it’s a tough one to call. I think Franklin will get the win with a third-round TKO, but very little (other than a submission or a boring fight, maybe) in this one will surprise me.

The fight between Cain Velasquez and Cheick Kongo should be intriguing as well. Velasquez is an impressive heavyweight prospect, but Kongo seems in line for a title shot after Brock Lesnar faces Frank Mir. While the heavyweight scene in the UFC doesn’t look as bland as it used to, there still isn’t a ton there and Velasquez moves much closer to a title shot with a win. One would have to think Kongo is officially next in line with one. I know Kongo was a late addition to this fight but I’m not ready to jump on the Velasquez bandwagon just yet.

And, for those of you interested in the past, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is on the card. His bout with Mustapha Al-Turk will be interesting because Filipovic will kick Al-Turk in the head and Al-Turk will lose consciousness. This will cause everyone to rave about how the old Cro Cop is back and is going to set the UFC heavyweight division on fire. Then he’ll go on to lose to Gabriel Gonzaga again or to the loser of the Randy Couture vs. Minotauro Nogueira matchup. It will be cool to see the highlight knockout, but I’m not holding out hope for the old "Cro Cop" to return to the MMA scene.

I’m also pumped for the Mike Swick vs. Ben Saunders fight. I saw both of these guys at UFC’s Fight for the Troops and Swick seems like the real deal. He should win this bout but both of these guys are talented fighters. This should be a fun one to watch.

The Marcus Davis vs. Dan Hardy matchup is intriguing because of the amount of trash talk going on between the two. Davis is a fun guy to watch and he’ll probably add another knockout to his highlight reel in this one.

When all is said and done, this could end up being a really underrated card. It's definitely worth checking out. If I was a betting man, I’d be throwing my money behind Franklin, Kongo, Davis, Swick and "Cro Cop" (in the mentioned fights).

A few quick links

Thefukerton.com has a couple links to check out. They caught up with the TapouT crew and will have the UFC 99 weigh-in streaming live at 10 a.m. EST.

ESPN.com has five things to watch for at UFC 99

Foxsports has an interesting read on the tough reception the UFC is getting in Germany.

It's amazing to see some of the reactions from opponents. Banning minors from attending the event is just excessive. When are people going to realize it’s not two drunk guys locked in a cage beating the crap out of each other? It’s not a freak show. These are well-trained, athletic martial artists. It’s a sport, not a spectacle.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 2:43 AM | | Comments (0)
        

June 11, 2009

Anyone for Wanderlei Silva vs. Anderson Silva?

After watching the UFC 99 Countdown special it looks like a Wanderlei Silva vs. Anderson Silva fight is on the horizon. I don’t get the hype for this, especially so soon. I like the whole back story of “they used to be close friends but now hate each other!” and the wrinkle of Anderson Silva training with Rich Franklin for his UFC 99 bout with Wanderlei.

Still, I’m not terribly interested in seeing that fight. I used to be a huge Wanderlei Silva fan, especially when he was in PRIDE, but I’ve soured on him lately. I’m fine with his move down to middleweight but I’d like to see him fight a few guys at middleweight before taking on Silva. I’d like to see him fight Demain Maia or even Yushin Okami.

The winner of one of those fights would rightly deserve a shot at Anderson Silva’s title and that match could be a decent draw. I also don’t think Wanderlei is going to take down Franklin (Franklin is favored in Vegas, for what’s it’s worth).

Wanderlei would be a much better opponent than Thales Leites or James Irvin, but we’re running out of Anderson Silva fights (potentially). If he beats Forrest Griffin, he should stay at 205 unless he gets a superfight with Georges St. Pierre or until a clear challenger at 185 establishes himself.

Back tomorrow with a full look at UFC 99. 

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 4:01 PM | | Comments (3)
        

June 8, 2009

WEC, Strikeforce, UFC 99 and Fedor in the UFC?

A few quick thoughts for a Monday...

*Anyone else surprised Mike Brown was able to retain his WEC featherweight title over Urijah Faber last night? Impressive performance and a very solid show.

*Jake Shields was very impressive in his submission of Robbie Lawler in Strikeforce’s show Saturday. He’s fun to watch and I’d love to see him in the UFC, against the other best welterweights in the world.

*Brett Rogers is a fine fighter, but knocking out Andrei Arlovski in 22 seconds? No knock on Rogers, but that’s a quick fall for Arlovski. I wasn’t impressed with him towards the end of his UFC days, but he looked impressive in the first few minutes against Fedor Emelianenko. He was winning the fight before his colossal error in judgment. He went from having a shot at taking down Fedor to getting knocked out in less than 30 seconds by Brett Rogers. That’s quite a fall.

*Gina Carano finally signed with Strikeforce and will face Cris Cyborg in the August event. It’s good to see Carano back in the limelight as she’s the torchbearer for women’s MMA. Hopefully she’s getting paid what she deserves in Strikeforce. That should be a great fight. The only real question is what happens after that (rematches?) since those are the two biggest fighters in women’s MMA.

*A very interesting read from CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel on the UFC breaking through the mainstream sports wall with the addition of Kimbo Slice on The Ultimate Fighter and the inevitable signing of Fedor Emelianenko after his fight with Josh Barnett in August. A Fedor-Brock Lesnar main event would be the highest-grossing UFC PPV ever.

*UFC 99 is this Saturday and in my opinion, it’s a very underrated card. Granted, it’s not great, it’s not going to be as big as the next two UFC shows, but there are some entertaining fights on this card. Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva should be very interesting and I think the Mike Swick vs. Ben Saunders fight could be a darkhorse on that card. I’m excited to see the Cheick Kongo vs. Cain Velasquez bout but could care less about seeing Cro Cop fight again.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 2:50 PM | | Comments (9)
        

June 2, 2009

Kimbo Slice ... heading to the UFC?

Kind of.

Against all odds, it looks like Kimbo Slice is one step closer to being in the UFC. Slice is expected to compete on the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. The move is beyond puzzling.

White has repeatedly said the only way he’d let Slice in is if he competed on The Ultimate Fighter and Slice will breathe new life into the TUF franchise, so it’s a no-brainer for White. Especially if a no-name competitor manages to clown Slice the way Seth Petruzelli did in his last EliteXC bout, which would just make White look better.

It’s puzzling to see what Slice has to gain from this. He’s professed a desire to go into boxing and even if that didn’t pan out, he could’ve gone overseas to fight in Japan. Japan is probably the only place he could get a reasonable fraction of his EliteXC paydays, as they seem to be big fans of freak shows over there.

I hope Slice is getting paid for his appearance on the show, otherwise he’s got almost nothing to win and a lot more to lose. Either way, it looks like another win for Dana White and especially for Spike and the TUF franchise.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:48 PM | | Comments (6)
        

June 1, 2009

Worthy challengers for Machida?

With his devastating win over Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida has opened the eyes of many doubters. Machida has always been “elusive” and “technically sound” but was never considered to be an overwhelming fighter.

His style made him a tough matchup for most fighters, and now that he seems to be getting better every time out (his last two fights were two of his best, in my opinion), it looks like he could have a lengthy title reign.

Lengthy is a relative term in mixed martial arts, especially for the light heavyweight class, which is generally recognized as the deepest in the UFC. But on the surface, it doesn’t seem like there are too many challengers on the horizon for Machida.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was supposed to be next in line for a title shot, but he turned it down to coach on The Ultimate Fighter against Rashad Evans. That takes two top-five fighters out of the equation in the near future. Forrest Griffin is another highly-ranked light heavyweight fighter, but he has a match with Anderson Silva on the horizon at UFC 101. Griffin is a talented fighter but isn’t going to be favored in that fight.

Silva has repeatedly said he won’t fight Machida and that he didn’t even want to make a run at the light heavyweight title because he felt it was Machida’s to win. I don’t know that too many people took him seriously, but they have to now. Dana White says they will fight, but there would have to be some extreme arm-twisting to get the two to fight and I don’t see it happening.

At that point, I think you take a step down in light heavyweight contenders. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is Machida’s first scheduled title defense, but Rua hasn’t looked like the Rua that fought in PRIDE for some time. Beating up on older fighters past their prime doesn’t give us much of a gauge on where Rua will be at 104.


If he’s not in top shape, there’s really nowhere else to go. It’s not clear where Dan Henderson will go after fighting Michael Bisping at middleweight and Rich Franklin could possibly be on the horizon for Machida, but Franklin still has a lot of work to get done at the light heavyweight level before earning a title shot.

It looks like Machida may hold onto the title for awhile just based on the lack of quality challengers. And it will still probably come back to Rampage after he wraps up The Ultimate Fighter.

Posted by Mark Chalifoux at 12:57 PM | | Comments (2)
        
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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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