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December 29, 2009

Previewing the UFC 108 card

No better way to come back from an extended holiday than with another UFC pay-per-view event.

Of course, the UFC 108 card is on its fourth main event and has been perhaps the most plagued show of the recent problems the UFC has faced.

Nevertheless, Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva is a big fight for the light-heavyweight division. Both guys are in the mix for a title shot, although I still want to see the Evans vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson matchup, which we probably won’t get for awhile if Evans wins.

Dustin Hazelett vs. Paul Daley is a battle between rising stars in the welterweight division. Hazelett’s jiu-jitsu is so strong that it would be enjoyable to watch him against anyone, but Daley should be a good test for him.

There is a pair of interesting lightweight fights but I think the Junior dos Santos vs. Gilbert Yvel fight could be one of the sleepers on this card. Hopefully there are some fireworks in that one because if that main event doesn’t deliver, this card is going to need a lot of sleepers to take the stage.

On a side note, I did want to draw some attention to the story on Corey Hill by Yahoo’s Kevin Iole.

I was there the night Hill’s leg snapped -- and it was brutal -- so it was nice to see this story about his comeback. I hope things turn out for the guy.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:04 PM | | Comments (3)
        

December 21, 2009

Strong showing for Strikeforce

What was the opinion of the masses on the great weekend of MMA?

I think Strikeforce has to take the nod as they put together one of their best shows. The Scott Smith v. Cung Le fight was incredible. I wrote Smith off at least three times (like most people) and the fact that he was able to catch Le at the end was amazing.

I know a lot of people are pointing to the officiating in that fight as being a prime example of how it's done, since lesser officials would've ended that fight prematurely.

I can definitely see that argument, especially with some of the poor calls we've seen in the UFC lately.

The Smith-Le fight wasn't the best of the night though, as the Gilbert Melendez v. Josh Thomson fight was even better. Easily one of the best fights of the year.

I do think it's funny to hear them calling out all the other top lightweights in the world after that bout. They are talented guys but need to slow down just a bit. I don't think either takes down a Diego Sanchez or Kenny Florian.

Strikeforce doesn't have the depth of the UFC but they have some guys who can put on entertaining fights and Strikeforce didn't even have to roll out all their top guns for that show. MMA is better with a productive Strikeforce and I'm glad to see their expansion hasn't ruined them (yet). It's good for the sport.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 6:22 PM | | Comments (1)
        

December 18, 2009

Mixed martial arts odds and ends

Some odds and ends on a Friday:

* Strikeforce won the big Dan Henderson sweepstakes, as shocking as it seems to many. And by sweepstakes, I mean they overpaid for a guy Dana White undervalues. Henderson, in my opinion, is the second-best fighter not under the UFC’s umbrella. Fedor Emelianenko is obviously the other, which is why it’s puzzling White would let him go. Maybe he was asking for big money but Henderson has a few miles left in his tank and he still had some interesting fights left in the UFC. I’ll defer to White’s business sense, but letting Henderson fall to the competition is puzzling.

That being said, there are a few fights I want to see now that he’s in Strikeforce. Gegard Mousasi is one -- that would be a fight I’d pay a considerable amount of money to see. Henderson vs. Fedor (which is somewhat feasible, considering Fedor isn’t a HUGE heavyweight) is another that could be good. After that, what’s left? Jake Shields has talked about moving up to middleweight, so he could take on Henderson at that weight class but that might be a bit of a stretch.

* The UFC cut ring girls Logan and Natasha loose. I have prepared my response with the help of a 14-year-old girl: OMG, UFC ... WTF?

* The UFC had Lorenzo Fertitta in D.C. on Wednesday to testify in front of a House Judiciary Commitee about the proliferation of illegal Web streams that steal pay-per-views. He said at least 140,000 people viewed UFC 106 illegally and for free. Translation? Fertitta hates poor people and doesn’t think they should be allowed to enjoy the UFC just because some people have fallen on hard times in this poor economy.

Because 51 percent of the people in this country don’t understand sarcasm, the above translation was a joke. People shouldn’t steal UFC events. They can always do what I used to do in college: go to the home of your future in-laws and make them buy the PPVs. Sure, I feel obligated to repay them down the line with a grandkid or two but it definitely saved me money in the meantime.

* Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is coming back to the UFC. Of course he is. Did anyone think this wouldn’t happen?

* It looks like Frank Mir and Shane Carwin will face off for the UFC’s interim heavyweight championship. I like the pairing, which could make for a really interesting fight. Would much rather see Carwin-Brock Lesnar, but with Lesnar still on the shelf, this will do.

* Strikeforce has a great show this Saturday. I can't wait for the Gilbert Melendez-Josh Thomson fight and the Scott Smith-Cung Le bout. Looks like it will be a great night of fights all around.

*The WEC also has a strong show this Saturday, with Donald Cerrone taking on Ed Ratliff in the main event. Some tough decisions to be made this weekend.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:39 AM | | Comments (7)
        

December 14, 2009

Fallout from UFC 107

*B.J. Penn is unquestionably the greatest lightweight the UFC has, and I don’t think there’s anyone currently on the roster that can challenge him at that weight. Is it time he gets another shot at Georges St. Pierre? Given the whole grease-gate brouhaha the first time around and the fact that the next-in-line contender for GSP is Dan Hardy (weak), would it make sense to make this happen again? And if it did, would the outcome be noticeably different? White says he’ll have to fight the No. 1 contender at welterweight before getting a shot at GSP. If that’s Hardy, I’d like Penn’s chances. If it’s Fitch or Alves, it would get a lot more interesting.

*Frank Mir’s win over Kongo says just as much about Kongo as it does about Mir, at least to me. Kongo is not an elite heavyweight (even in the UFC) and Mir is back in the hunt. I don’t want to see him against Lesnar anytime soon (the only positive of this would be the fact that Lesnar could fight soon, which would mean he’s healthy again) but I would like to see a rematch against Nogueira. If he takes down a healthy Nog, then the next title shot is his. And if Lesnar can’t go and they need an interim champ, the Carwin v. Frank Mir bout is the way to go. Velasquez is good, but not good enough for Carwin and possibly Mir at this point.

*Wilson Gouveia and Alan Belcher certainly put on a show, solid enough to earn Fight of the Night honors. Tough to point to any other fight on the card that could’ve deserved it, especially among the featured bouts.

*Kenny Florian had an easier time with Clay Guida than I thought he would. Florian and Sanchez is a fight I’d like to see next. Those guys look impressive against anyone other than B.J. Penn, which says a lot about Penn. He’s just on a different level, but Sanchez and Florian are elite-level lightweights.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 4:34 PM | | Comments (7)
        

December 11, 2009

Can Penn be stopped at 155?

UFC 107 is Saturday and the main event is B.J. Penn against Diego Sanchez for the lightweight championship. Penn, when he’s at 155, is at his best. He looked strong against Kenny Florian and never looked like he was in trouble. Florian was everyone’s best guess as to who could stop Penn at 155.


Right now, Penn is on a different level from the other lightweight contenders in the UFC. He’s like a Georges St. Pierre at welterweight or Anderson Silva at middleweight. No one looks like a fair fight. When Penn moves up a weight class, he can have some trouble, but at 155 he is king.
I really like Diego Sanchez. I think his move to lightweight was the right one for him and he’s won Fight of the Night honors both times he’s been at lightweight (after recently moving down). Still, can he stop Penn? I’ve seen nothing that would say he can. But I hope he at least makes it interesting.


This card needs a great main event because the rest of it is rather lackluster. Frank Mir vs. Cheick Kongo is only intriguing because I want to see how Mir bounces back and the Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida fight will be great. Outside of that, I’m not overly excited about any of the other fights. Thiago Alves vs. Jon Fitch would’ve been solid if Alves didn’t get hurt, but the way it is now, if the lightweight fights don’t deliver, it will be a long night.


I’m hoping I’m wrong, as it usually seems like the card with fewer expectations usually ends up being a good one.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:36 PM | | Comments (0)
        

December 7, 2009

Thoughts on The Ultimate Fighter finale

The Ultimate Fighter season finale show on Spike was an enjoyable night of fights, even though some of the fights involving TUF cast members were fairly predictable. Obviously, the big draw of the night (season?) was Kimbo Slice's UFC debut.

I think the UFC envisioned a much different fight when they paired Slice with Houston Alexander, who was somewhat disappointing because he seemed hesitant to engage Slice. So Kimbo was able to grind out a win, using some good ground-and-pound technique in the process.

That means the Kimbo Slice experiment continues, but I don't know that I care as much as I used to. Granted, a win over a legitimate fighter is a great accomplishment for Slice. There's no question this was his biggest win.

Still, he didn't look that great in the fight and if Alexander presents a lot of problems, I just don't know how much progress Slice can make. He's not getting any younger and while he's a lot better than when he started, I can't see him progressing past the sideshow role. 

If there was one impressive fighter on the card, it had to be Jon Jones, who was robbed of a victory over Matt Hamill. It wasn't clear when Hamill hurt his shoulder, but it did seem like a loss was inevitable before Jones was disqualified for an illegal elbow. 

I think Hamill is a pretty decent fighter and I thought this would be a good test for Jones. Instead, he ran right through Hamill. Even though he lost, this has to move him up in the rankings. It's time to throw him into the mix and get him a top-10 light heavyweight spot.

Dana White also announced the new coaches for The Ultimate Fighter 11. It's going to be Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Great call by White. Another round of Tito-Chuck will be a big hit with fans and it's a home run for two guys without many options. Neither is good enough, anymore at least, to contend for the championship, but they will be good opponents for each other. I just hope season 11 is a little more unpredictable than season 10.

Roy Nelson was a lock to win it all and that's not very exciting. I don't like his chances against many of the better heavyweights in the UFC, but he probably won't be the worst champion the show has produced either.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.)

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:09 AM | | Comments (6)
        

December 4, 2009

TUF season finale

The Ultimate Fighter finale is this Saturday and I cannot wait for this card. First, yes, it was sort of a lackluster season of TUF after Kimbo Slice was eliminated and because Rampage Jackson pulled out of the Rashad Evans fight. Still, the card gives at least three fights that will be pretty intriguing.


The Roy Nelson vs. Brendan Schaub fight should be decent enough, even if everyone predicted Nelson winning this season.

The fight I’m looking forward to the most is Jon Jones vs. Matt Hamill. Jones has established himself as one of the hottest up-and-comers in the division. Hamill used to have that kind of heat but people have forgotten about him, even though he only has one career defeat (Rich Franklin- Bisping was stolen from him). This will be a great fight.

And then there’s the fight most people will tune in for, Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander.

Honestly, I think the Slice experiment is drawing to a close. Dana White has taken enough crap just to have signed Slice (which is hypocritical, based on past statements he’s made) so I can’t see him sticking around without a great showing Saturday.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 10:57 AM | | 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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