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September 29, 2009

Avoiding Nelson vs. Slice spoilers

It’s tough, it really is. I’m trying like crazy to avoid all the reports and stories about this fight Wednesday night on The Ultimate Fighter. Roy Nelson is taking on Kimbo Slice in what’s supposed to be one of the most viewed fights in the show’s history. It’s getting so much recognition that they held a conference call Monday with Slice.

I sat that one out because it’s impossible to avoid interpreting every comment one of them makes. It’s tough because this isn’t a live fight. This happened awhile back, so anytime Nelson or Slice talks publicly, it’s tough not to search every quote for contextual clues about the outcome of the fight.

I have a pretty strong feeling of how it’s going to go down but I’m just going to ignore all the stories and all the chatter until Wednesday night now and just focus on other MMA stuff. Like, for instance, the UFC 108 middleweight fight between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort.

Anderson Silva looked very good against Forrest Griffin and there may not be a better striker in the game right now. That being said, Belfort quickly handled a fighter Anderson Silva respects a great deal in Rich Franklin.

Silva hasn’t had a true threat in a long time, probably since Dan Henderson. I don’t think Belfort wins, but it will be interesting to see Silva tested again. That usually brings out the best in him.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:20 AM | | Comments (0)

September 24, 2009

The end of Kimbo Slice?

The end of Kimbo Slice?

A forgettable episode of The Ultimate Fighter really served to set the stage for the Roy Nelson vs. Kimbo Slice fight on next week’s episode. Rashad seems to have this whole “coaching” thing figured out, which is why he put his most experienced fighter against the biggest question mark in show history. In a move destined to hurt ratings, Nelson vs. Slice was a smart move for Evans.

What was more surprising is just how bad Rampage is at making fights. He picked two poor bouts to start the season and from the looks of it, he will never get control back. I will say that it looked like Wes Shivers was beating James McSweeney. I think it’s insane that two judges gave the first round to McSweeney. Both guys gassed ridiculously early and while McSweeney had some excellent leg kicks, Shivers definitely controlled what action there was (until midway through the second).

A sloppy fight, but the real excitement came when Evans set the fight for next week’s episode. I would bet $100 gabillion dollars Kimbo Slice loses because let’s face it, the guy has very, very little MMA training. He has acceptable stand-up skills (but still not major league quality) and NOTHING ELSE.

And he’s fighting the heavy favorite to win the season in Roy Nelson. Nelson gave Andrei Arlovski problems. I’m sure he won’t struggle with Slice. That said, if Slice is taken out, what could be in his future? E-mailer Damian Siwek argues a bout with Mirko Cro Cop.

"However, even if Kimbo makes an early unceremonious exit next week, I still think he will fight in the UFC at couple of times.  Dana [White] underestimated how many fans Kimbo has. He admitted the ratings went well beyond what they expected for the first show.  Kimbo will no doubt generate PPV revenue, but he's in no way in line for a title shot.  So who could he fight?

Kimbo vs. Mirko Cro Cop.  Here's why:

1.)  Both of these guys have unbelievably massive fan bases.  If UFC 103 showed us anything it's that people still LOVE Cro Cop, despite the fact he's a shell of his former self.  TUF ratings show that Kimbo can still draw plenty of eyes.  People will tune in for this.

2.)  Here are 2 guys who are both 35 with something to prove.  Cro Cop has looked pedestrian in his last 2 fights, but he still has the chops to kick Slice's head off.  If Kimbo wins, he would beat a legend which would give him some credibility as a mixed martial artist (although beating Cro Cop now would not carry the weight it once did).  Basically this is a winnable fight for either guy which could keep their careers alive.     

3.)  With Rampage leaving the UFC, one of the biggest fights of the year (Rampage v. Rashad) is off the table.  Kimbo v. Cro Cop is an intriguing fight which is exactly what the UFC needs right now to fill the void." -- Damian

Any bout involving Kimbo Slice will be intriguing, but can the UFC really hold onto a guy that is 100 percent gimmick? A guy that hasn’t proven anything in the Octagon? I would be shocked to see the UFC keep him, even if he does get ratings. I would be even more shocked to see him as a featured fight on a PPV. And I think Cro Cop, even in his advanced age, would destroy Kimbo.

I’d still pay to see it though.

Truth be told, I think the rumors back up Damian on this one. The popular rumor is that Kimbo will be (has been) signed by the UFC and will fight in December. Who knows, there may be life after TUF just yet even if Slice doesn't win it all.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:51 AM | | Comments (27)

September 23, 2009

Rampage Jackson done with UFC?

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson stated on his blog that he’s done fighting, mainly due to the injuries he’s received over the years and due to a list of disagreements with Dana White.

You can find the Yahoo story here.

Chief among those disagreements, obviously, has been White destroying Rampage frequently (although not always by name) for taking a role in the upcoming "A-Team" movie. You can’t fault guys like Rampage for wanting to do something else besides fighting until they hit 50. He’s doing what he needs to in order to have a life beyond fighting.

It probably comes off as unfocused and little more than a distraction, but for Rampage it’s a brilliant career move. Anything that gets him in the spotlight like that is a good move.

Now, the question becomes, is he really done with the UFC? I have a hard time believing that. It seems like it’s just an off-the-cuff, knee-jerk reaction. I’m sure he’s been frustrated and is pissed about Dana blasting the movie, but do you really think he would fight anywhere else?

Especially after the way Dana handled his "episode." White could’ve gotten rid of Rampage pretty quick after that and no one would’ve blamed him. It was a bizarre incident that could’ve ruined his career. Instead, Rampage was kept out of the spotlight until it blew over and then given full backing by the UFC. He was even tabbed to coach again on The Ultimate Fighter.

The UFC, and White in particular, went more than the extra mile for Rampage in a tough time and I find it very hard to believe we’ve seen the last of Jackson in the Octagon.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:55 PM | | Comments (3)

September 18, 2009

Quick look at UFC 103

The UFC 103 card isn’t the greatest in the world, but I think I’ll be shelling out the cash just to see how Vitor Belfort does against a real opponent.

That is sort of a theme in the only two fights that really matter on this card as Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic takes on Junior Dos Santos as well.

Will we see the Vitor Belfort that was dubbed "The Phenom" and destroyed competition? Or will we see a Belfort that has struggled against elite fighters? If Belfort is sharp and impressive, he could be an intriguing player in the middleweight scene, especially since Anderson Silva has no real threat at that weight outside of Dan Henderson (possibly).

A Vitor Belfort vs. Anderson Silva title fight could be huge, but only if Belfort is at the top of his game.

That’s what makes this fight with Rich Franklin so intriguing. Franklin is very good on his feet as well and is coming off a terrific win over Wanderlei Silva. It’s impossible not to like Franklin, who has only lost to three fighters in his career (two if you don’t count the miserable Henderson split-decision). The guy never complains even as the UFC uses him as the company’s ambassador to new cities and countries.

He expressed a desire to fight at light heavyweight and make a run at the title there, but hasn’t complained about fighting Saturday and against Wanderlei Silva at a catch weight of 195.

More than winning another title, Franklin just wants to put on a good show for the fans in good fights. That’s why I know this UFC 103 main event will be a good one.

As for Cro Cop, if he destroys Dos Santos, does that throw him in the mix for Brock Lesnar? I’m still not sure if we will ever see the Cro Cop that the UFC thought they signed when he first came to the organization, but I’m curious as hell to see if that Cro Cop still exists somewhere.

I know injuries have hurt the card, but it should still be a decent show. Anyone else excited for Franklin-Belfort?

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:08 PM | | Comments (0)

September 17, 2009

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 10 premiere

Anyone catch TUF 10 premiere after a great Fight Night? Spoiler alert: Rampage Jackson is not a very smart coach. Why he picked the first fight he did is beyond me. That was one of the most one-sided fights I've seen since Demian Maia went down. It was truly shocking too, because how could any fighter lose with Rampage in his corner?

"Get up, get up, get ... up!" was about all Rampage said during the fight. Maybe his fighter couldn't hear him, because he clearly did not take the advice. Maybe the fighter (still not naming him just for those who TiVo'd, although it should be fairly clear after watching 10 seconds of the first episode) didn't even think about that as a gameplan.

It should be an interesting season, especially because of the inclusion of Roy "Big Country" Nelson. How is that guy not anyone's first pick? He's going to win this season and he was picked towards the end. 

And how long is it before Kimbo Slice gets knocked out? It has to be in the first fight he has, right?

UFC 103 preview coming tomorrow.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:49 AM | | Comments (9)

September 15, 2009

MMA vs. Boxing? Haven't we settled this?

There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding UFC 103 this weekend because it’s another showdown between the worlds of mixed martial arts and boxing as the Rich Franklin-Vitor Belfort pay per view goes up against the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez fight. This is a big story line for some of the media covering the event, but is this really still a debate?

This boxing vs. MMA debate was relevant two years ago. MMA has passed boxing as the premier combat sport and there’s little question about it. There are too few great boxers left and boxing promotion is a joke.

Say what you will about the UFC and Fedor and everything but, for the most part, the UFC gives the fans fights they want to see. They put together exciting cards with big fights and they do it on a regular basis. Boxing can’t keep up and produce that consistently.

Take this debate out of the hands of boxing and MMA people. Ask a random Ravens fan which combat sport is more popular. Ask a baseball fan. Ask a college football fan. They will all say the UFC. You don’t even need to get into Spike’s TV ratings against the other major sports.

The boxing show could outdraw UFC 103 this weekend but it’s clear that the future is in the Octagon. It’s an ADD-society, one that responds more to the complexities and multitude of styles in MMA rather than the punch-punch-clinch style of boxing. MMA is simply the evolution of boxing.

I’m sure there will always be people who like boxing better. That’s fine. There are people that like horse racing more than the NFL but it’s clear which one is more important on the national stage.

Is this a story line that any MMA fans find interesting for this weekend? Is this really a big deal to fans?

I’m still interested in the whole “is MMA mainstream debate” but could not care less about this fictional rivalry with boxing. Am I wrong on this, is this really what’s on the radar of MMA fans this week?

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:39 AM | | Comments (23)

September 11, 2009

Dream fights

For awhile, the fight everyone wanted to see was Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Then Brock Lesnar happened. With Fedor ducking the UFC, it’s not likely we’ll ever get Lesnar vs. Fedor, but is that still the fight everyone wants? In a perfect world, what fights are at the top of the wish list for most fans?

I think at the top of my list would be Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. Dana White says he won’t make this fight because Silva is too big for St. Pierre, but before they each won their last fights this was a bout White hinted at on more than one occasion. Both look unbeatable and I’m sure both would be up for the challenge.

Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor
still has to be on the list, even if it won’t happen. Lesnar’s size, strength and athleticism have to make him a foe, right? It would be interesting like all of Lesnar’s fights, you just don’t know what to expect from him because he’s still fairly raw but he’s also an athletic freak.

Fedor vs. Silva. Silva had no trouble destroying a huge light heavyweight in Forrest Griffin and Fedor isn’t a HUGE heavyweight, but would he be too big for Silva? And if that’s the case, I’d like to see Lyoto Machida take on Fedor.

GSP vs. B.J. Penn. Greasegate made enough waves to make this an interesting bout. Given a rematch, would Penn fair differently? We probably won’t see it because it would be almost like the UFC acknowledging that the greasing decided the outcome of the fight. But St. Pierre doesn’t have a plethora of enticing fights on the horizon so I’d definitely pay to see this one again.

Lyoto Machida vs. Anderson Silva. Another fight that will never happen, but it would be awesome to see two champions undefeated in the UFC square off.

My list is probably vastly different from most, so what fights would you add to the list? Of the big fights you want to see, which do you think are most likely?

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:59 AM | | Comments (8)

September 8, 2009

Gina Carano backlash?

It was reported in Variety that director Steven Soderbergh has committed to directing a spy thriller starring the face of women’s MMA, Gina Carano. Which means less time in the gym for Carano and that it will probably be awhile before we see another women’s MMA fight headlining a major card.

In instances like this, it’s always fascinating to see how the hardcore fans take it. When a tennis player like Anna Kournikova decides to spend more time posing seductively for cameras than working on her overhand, “true fans” go ballistic. They feel she’s tarnishing everything she has done for the sport with her visibility and that she’s doing nothing to show young girls out there that they can be successful without becoming a model at the same time.

Those people are annoying. They are wrong. And, most importantly, their opinion doesn’t matter.

I don’t know how Carano’s fans will take the news. If they are reasonably intelligent, they should be happy for her. But I’m sure you will have plenty of fans question her dedication to the sport and her desire to be a great fighter. And it’s true that this move for her will mean women’s MMA takes a step back from the spotlight, at least while she’s involved in this project (and maybe longer, if it does well).

I really hope her hardcore fans don’t vilify me for this, because you don’t see too many people upset with Randy Couture, Rampage Jackson or Rich Franklin (among others) when they take movie parts.

I’m sure a lot of people will call her a sellout but she’s done more than her fair share for women’s MMA and she deserves a payday bigger than what she’s getting currently. She should do what’s right for Gina Carano, not what’s right for women’s MMA.
Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:57 AM | | Comments (12)

September 4, 2009

Frank Mir and UFC 102

One of the more interesting developments coming out of UFC 102 has been the way Antonio Nogueira’s loss to Frank Mir has been diminished. After a strong showing against Couture, it seems like more fans are giving Nog a pass for his poor performance against Mir due to the knee injuries and staph infection before the fight.

While Mir’s right in his assertion that many fighters come into big fights with injuries here and there, most don’t come into bouts with the degree of the problems Nogueira faced. And, to his credit, Nogueira wasn’t the one making a big deal out of them. Still, the Nogueira that beat Randy Couture, in my opinion, is good enough to take out Frank Mir.

I hope it’s a fight we get to see. It’s a logical opponent for Nogueira if he loses to Brock Lesnar, which Mir is already counting as a given. I do agree with Frank on that one, but unlike Mir, I definitely think Nogueira has a chance (if he is the next to face Lesnar after Shane Carwin). And I think he has a much better chance of taking Lesnar’s title than Mir did.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:43 AM | | Comments (2)
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About the blogger
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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