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August 31, 2009

UFC 102 fallout

UFC 102 was an interesting show, to say the least. Some incredible knockouts and some interesting changes in several different weight classes and we got one of the better main event bouts in some time.

Antonio Nogueira may have handled Randy Couture at times but it was a hell of a fight and Couture impressed, especially since he was able to hang in there and make it interesting. You really can’t count him out. There were at least five times during the fight that I leaned over to someone I was watching with and said “that’s it, he’s not getting back up from this,” and he did.

I’m surprised to see Couture signed a new six-fight deal though, especially at his age, but I’m definitely looking forward to watching him fight again. I’d like to see him move down to light heavyweight, at least for a few fights. I think pairing him with Frank Mir at heavyweight could be intriguing as well. The guy will always be a draw, no doubt about that.


AP photo

As for Nogueira, he certainly made people forget about the Mir debacle. He wasn’t 100 percent healthy and I’d love to see a rematch with Mir when he is. For now, though, I hope he’s next in line for Brock Lesnar. If he looks like he did Saturday it could make things interesting for Lesnar, especially since Nogueira is very good on the ground.

And perhaps the most important part of UFC 102 was having Jardine knocked out of the co-main event status by Thiago Silva. He’s a fine fighter but he’s not co-headlining material, at least not when the roster at light heavyweight is as deep as it is.

What did everyone else think about UFC 102?
Posted by Andy Knobel at 10:48 AM | | Comments (6)
        

August 28, 2009

UFC 102 lacks depth

 

UFC 102 is on the horizon and looks like it should provide some decent fights. Honestly, the card is a little underwhelming, especially since I was looking forward to the Matt Hamill-Brandon Vera fight until Hamill pulled out with an injury. Nate Marquardt-Demian Maia is a very intriguing fight and Randy Couture taking on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira should be a classic main event.

Ultimately, I’d like to see Nogueira in a rematch with Frank Mir, as Nogueira probably should have pulled out of their past match due to medical reasons. No one would deny Nogueira wasn’t 100 percent for that bout, his only disappointing showing in the Octagon.

Hopefully the winner of Couture-Nogueira will be next in line for Brock Lesnar after he dispatches Shane Carwin because I’d like to see either of these guys in the cage with Lesnar, even if it’s Couture’s second go with him.

And, frankly, I think Couture needs this one more. He claims to be in the best condition of his life but there’s no doubt his career is in its final stages. He’s won three fights in the last four years, against Mike Van Arsdale, Tim Sylvia and Gabe Gonzaga. The latter two were huge matches at the time, but, in retrospect, that’s not exactly a killer lineup. I think it’s fair to have some questions about Couture and how much he has left. Beating Nogueira would go a long way in cementing Couture’s legacy, which is already heavy on the hype to begin with.

I’m not too crazy about the rest of the card, although I’m hoping Keith Jardine vs. Thiago Silva turns into an exciting fight.

This may be a good one to catch at a sports bar rather than shelling out cash to watch it at home.

(photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.)

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:19 AM | | Comments (3)
        

UFC president Dana White on Michael Vick

Dana White went an impromptu rant about Michael Vick at a news conference for UFC 102 and dropped the following gem, among many great quotes (you can read the rest at Yahoo Sports).

“I hope Michael Vick wins the Super Bowl, makes $3 billion and is the greatest comeback story in the history of sports, man,” White said. “When are they going to stop crucifying this [expletive] guy?

White has nothing to gain by standing up for Vick. It’s pretty clear most people on this planet can’t stand the guy. From a business standpoint, it’s probably safer to stay out of situations like his and no one would’ve blamed White for a “no comment” if he was even asked directly.

But that’s what makes Dana so great. He’s not going to play it safe and politically correct. He’s going to tell it like he sees it. And on the Vick issue, he’s dead-on. Vick is getting destroyed even though he’s done his time. It makes no sense that other athletes can get away with taking human lives and only have to serve a month while Vick served years for what he did.

It’s not easy to come out in defense of Michael Vick these days, especially when you’re the head of an operation like the UFC, so White deserves credit for that.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:04 AM | | Comments (19)
        

August 25, 2009

Couture's end game?

Dana White was very vocal in his desire for Chuck Liddell to retire from the sport. He claimed the Iceman had nothing left to prove and shouldn’t even bother stepping into the Octagon again.

Why doesn’t he have the same rap about Randy Couture? He’s retired before and came out of retirement when he saw a beatable (in his eyes) heavyweight champ in Tim Sylvia. He defended his title, had his contract dispute and then lost his title to Brock Lesnar. What does Couture have left to prove? He’s an MMA legend and former champion, and other than his bout this weekend with another MMA legend, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, there’s not much left for Couture at the heavyweight level.

There may be other interesting fights for Couture, but he certainly shouldn’t stick around to be the gate-keeper of the heavyweight division, assuming he loses. We don’t need to see him fight Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. A fight with Mirko Cro Cop could be interesting, but both are past their primes.

Couture has stated he would go down a weight class to fight Lyoto Machida if the UFC was interested, but I don’t think that’s realistic. The light heavyweight division is deep enough to keep Machida’s plate full of challengers. Although that might not be a bad way for Couture to fade into the limelight.

He has one fight left on his contract after UFC 102. If he beats Nogueira, let him go out with a title shot against a man he can’t beat. Lesnar is only getting stronger and has already defeated Couture. Still, Couture is a big draw and that could be an interesting fight, promotion-wise.

Either way, Randy needs to start thinking about the end game. He’s still one of the best heavyweight fighters in the UFC and can still fight. But so can Liddell. Couture is 46 and, like Liddell, has nothing left to prove.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:09 PM | | Comments (2)
        

August 21, 2009

Lukewarm on the Carwin-Lesnar fight

 

With Fedor Emelianenko out of the picture, it looks like MMA fans will get Shane Carwin vs. Brock Lesnar at UFC 106 in the next battle for the heavyweight title. The problem I have with this fight is that Carwin poses arguably the top threat to Lesnar (at least among heavyweights on the UFC’s roster). He’s 11-0 and, like Lesnar, he’s huge. He is also a former collegiate champion wrestler and he’s got a very powerful right hand.

The problem is, he’s not going to beat Lesnar. And then the UFC is without a clear opponent for Lesnar. Velasquez will be near the top of the list, along with the winner of the Randy Couture-Antonio Nogueira fight at UFC 102. Mirko Cro Cop could find his way on that list but not without two more wins first. And none of those fights are as interesting as the bout with Carwin.

Lesnar is good at all the things Carwin’s good at, and Lesnar is arguably better in all of them. Carwin’s size is on his side as he’s probably the biggest fighter Lesnar will face, but Carwin will still be the smaller fighter come fight night. Carwin has the longer resume but Lesnar’s fought much better competition. Carwin is a good wrestler but he’s been taken down by guys that aren’t outstanding wrestlers and Lesnar is an outstanding wrestler.

Don’t get me wrong, this will be an exciting fight, but I just can’t see Lesnar losing this one. I’d like to see this fight a year from now after Carwin has a few more tests, but for now, it’s the best fight the UFC can give us with Lesnar.

Photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:16 AM | | Comments (14)
        

August 18, 2009

The Gina Carano reality

Thank God Gina Carano is hot. Because if she wasn’t, there wouldn’t be nearly as much interest in women’s MMA. In fact, most fans of women’s MMA are really just fans of Carano. And that doesn’t change just because she got mauled in the first round of the title fight with Cris "Cyborg" Santos.

It may hurt her promotional value somewhat, but do you really think the casual fan cares about whether or not Gina Carano is a champion? I don’t think the casual women’s MMA fan is breaking down fighting styles and salivating over dream matchups of the top pound-for-pound women’s fighters. They like Gina Carano because she’s hot and she’s a decent fighter.

This isn’t just a problem for women’s MMA either. The LPGA, women’s tennis and the WNBA all deal with it. The casual sports fan only shows an interest if the ladies involved are, well, attractive.

Is it chauvinistic? Of course. It’s not fair but it’s reality. Especially when it comes to the pay scale. Feminists may raise hell when Gina Carano does a photo shoot for Maxim but that’s how female athletes get paid. They aren’t going to get LeBron James money from Nike. They aren’t going to get the same purse for winning a tournament or headlining a pay-per-view. Female athletes don’t have to just be good to be relevant, they have to be attractive.

The sad part is that Gina Carano’s star is almost as high as it can be. She doesn’t earn much more respect by destroying solid competition because there just isn’t enough of it on the women’s side. Her popularity is now directly tied to the popularity of the sport.

She may not be the best women’s mixed martial artist, but she is the hottest and that’s what matters most.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 9:06 AM | | Comments (14)
        

August 13, 2009

Does women's MMA have a future?

Is there a future for women’s mixed martial arts? Sure, Gina Carano will be headlining the Strikeforce show Saturday on Showtime, but is it really the boon for women’s MMA that most are making it out to be or is the boon solely a credit to Carano?

There’s little doubt that Carano is the reason this is a headlining bout. She’s not only the biggest star in women’s MMA, she’s the only star. It’s good to see her in the featured spot as I think she was grossly underpaid and undervalued by EliteXC.

She is a very capable fighter but the reality is that most people wouldn’t care about this fight if it was between Cristiane Santos -- Carano's opponent Saturday -- and another talented fighter. Right now, women’s MMA is all about Carano.

So what happens if she loses? Does that set the women’s part of the sport back awhile until the “next” Gina Carano comes into the limelight? The women’s division isn’t incredibly deep and you have to wonder how committed Strikeforce is to promoting women’s MMA beyond Carano.

I’m sure everyone at Strikeforce is hoping that’s a question they don’t have to deal with come Aug. 16.
Posted by Andy Knobel at 11:56 AM | | Comments (8)
        

August 9, 2009

UFC 101: Anderson Silva is amazing

There’s plenty from UFC 101 to discuss, including B.J. Penn’s masterful title defense, bogus quick stoppages, fighters with poor gameplans and new ring girls, but the main story line of UFC 101 is Anderson Silva.

Un-freaking-believable. Tonight we saw vintage Anderson Silva. He wasn’t fighting a no-name either, he was fighting a top-5 light heavyweight. A man one fight removed from being the light heavyweight champion. A guy who recorded back-to-back wins over Shogun and Rampage Jackson.

And he didn’t belong in the same Octagon as Silva. Silva was faster, stronger and outclassed Griffin in every way. Silva looked like he was having fun, he looked loose and he looked like the "Spider" most fans were expecting against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites.

Incredible. At this point, what’s next for Silva? Dan Henderson again? No one else at 185 has a chance with Silva, not even Demian Maia. There are few people at 205 that would be tough fights for Silva. Lyoto Machida is at the top of that list, but the two friends have said they would never fight each other.

And, for those new fans (or haters) out there calling this a fixed fight, get over yourselves. Forrest Griffin got his butt kicked and was rocked twice before getting knocked out. It could not have been any plainer. If the UFC was ever going to fix a fight, it would be to have Griffin win. He’s the company guy and would be a great face for the sport. He’s probably even a bigger PPV draw than Silva. There is no way this was a fixed fight.

It was nice to see Silva break in some English during the post-fight interview. It stinks he hasn’t learned the language better because he should be a huge star at this point. He could be the Tiger Woods or Roger Federer of MMA but will never get the marketing push if he has to go through a translator for everything.

Anderson Silva. Wow.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:51 AM | | Comments (31)
        

August 7, 2009

UFC 101... Silva-Griffin or Penn-Florian?

With all the hype around Fedor Emelianenko and UFC 100 fallout it’s easy to forget about this weekend’s UFC 101. That would be a mistake. I think this is a solid card. It’s not as stacked as 100, but it should be a very entertaining show.


Although just as with UFC 100, I think the main event isn’t the featured bout. Kenny Florian challenging B.J. Penn for the lightweight championship is the main event while Anderson Silva’s fight with Forrest Griffin will have to settle for the rung below.


Florian and Penn should be a great fight. It will be really interesting to see how Penn looks in this bout. I’ve waffled on this one more than a few times. I could definitely understand if Penn wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him in the past, as he’s coming off a disappointing and controversial loss. He’s also getting to the bottom part of his career and won’t be around forever.


Still, it’s B.J. Penn ... fighting at lightweight. It’s one thing when he moves up a weight class or two for a major fight, but he’s at his best at lightweight. He’s been overwhelmingly impressive at 155 and even though I think Florian is the best the weight class has to offer, it’s just so hard to go against Penn.


With Silva, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen him at the top of his game. He’s been efficient in handling two lesser opponents, but it’s been less than enthralling television. Forrest Griffin is an underrated fighter, which is insane because he’s a consensus top-five light heavyweight and is one fight removed from winning the championship. The man’s won two straight Fight of the Night honors and he’s going against one of the most feared strikers in the sport.


Griffin will not back down like Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. This could be a very interesting fight, even if it doesn’t stay standing. Silva, who some would contend is the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, has a lot to prove in this bout. Which, again, is insane for someone who is undefeated in the Octagon and is a champion.


Still, knocking out James Irvin at 205 is different from facing someone of Griffin’s caliber. This is the type of fight Silva deserves as there’s no one in his division, save for a rematch with Dan Henderson, that can deliver a match of this caliber.


I’m excited to see how Penn looks at 155 again, but I have to think the Griffin-Silva fight is more intriguing and more meaningful overall.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:15 PM | | Comments (3)
        

August 3, 2009

The Fedor problem

UPDATE: Since this entry was posted, Fedor Emelianenko has signed a contract with Strikeforce. Read the AP story here.

After a crazy week in MMA, I thought it would be a foregone conclusion that Fedor Emelianenko would be in the UFC. It makes perfect sense. Affliction is a goner and his biggest payday is in the UFC. Also, for a guy that isn’t very popular in the U.S., joining forces with the UFC marketing machine would’ve made him an insanely wealthy man as opposed to comfortably wealthy. The UFC made a number of concessions to bring Fedor into the fold and he foolishly turned them down, unwilling to accept any deal that doesn’t include a co-promotion with M-1 (a ludicrous demand).

The problem is the UFC needs Fedor now more than ever. Brock Lesnar is well on his way to becoming the top dog in the sport (especially since his road to defend his title is much easier than it is for Georges St. Pierre, currently the biggest name in the sport). The UFC’s heavyweight division isn’t overly deep. Lesnar realistically has only two foes on the horizon. The winner of the Cain Velasquez-Shane Carwin fight and the winner of the Randy Couture-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira bout. As Lesnar continues to win, his publicity and press will only increase and it’s pretty impressive already. His post-fight antics after UFC 100 weren’t very classy but they worked wonders in getting him on the radars of casual sports fans. Lesnar's star will only get bigger but it’s hard for MMA fans to get behind him when the best heavyweight in the world doesn’t even get a crack at him.

This has a boxing feel to it, where the top two guys won’t get to face each other because they are with different promotions and because of politics. UFC president Dana White prides himself on putting together the fights the fans want to see so I'm betting this has to annoy him to no end.

Fedor isn’t worth the money the UFC is throwing at him. He’s not a pay-per-view draw and he certainly doesn’t deserve the biggest contract in the company. So if he’s not willing to play ball with the UFC’s latest offer, there’s not much more the UFC can or should do. The blame lies with Fedor and his idiotic management.

Lesnar will still have some big fights and big challenges but from a fan perspective, it stinks to know that the biggest fight in the heavyweight division is one that won’t happen for some time.

Let's face it, the UFC heavyweight division isn't even that interesting. It's not nearly as deep as the welterweight or light heavyweight divisions, but those champions and contenders aren't given the respect their due. St. Pierre should be the main event in every show he's on.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:09 AM | | Comments (14)
        
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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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