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January 29, 2010

The future of women's MMA

The only relevant female mixed martial arts fighter that’s currently active, Cris “Cyborg” Santos, fights this weekend. Did you know that? I did, only because it’s my job to know. If I was a casual fan though, I wouldn’t have noticed. I would’ve seen all the news about Herschel Walker and I would’ve realized Nick Diaz and Bobby Lashley are also on the card, but Cyborg? It would’ve been a coin flip at best.

Obviously, they can’t promote her fight as heavily as they did when she was facing Gina Carano. At the same time, Strikeforce is the biggest promotion showcasing women’s MMA. And while it’s not there yet, a decision on the future of women's MMA is likely coming soon. Is women’s MMA going to be the next women’s tennis or the next WNBA?

People care about women’s tennis, and sometimes not just because the competitors are hot, while the WNBA plods along in oblivion. Now, without its biggest star, what’s going to happen to women's MMA?

I’m still on the fence, I don’t know if women’s MMA can be as entertaining as the real version. But, maybe there is a future beyond Carano. Perhaps it can go the route of the LPGA. There could be mild interest and basic recognition of extraordinary talent (Annika Sorenstam) and the occasional intriguing freak show (Michelle Wie).

In fact, that may be the best hope for women’s MMA. Not quite women’s tennis, but not as awful as the WNBA either.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:50 AM | | Comments (5)
        

January 26, 2010

Does Liddell have another title run in him?

An interesting feature from MMAjunkie.com on Chuck Liddell as he gets ready for his upcoming coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter.


Liddell claims he has one more run at the title left. He compared his situation to when Randy Couture came back to win the heavyweight title.


"He came back, and he's still fighting. He won the heavyweight title. I just needed some time off,” Liddell told MMAjunkie.com.


So, does anyone buy that Liddell can recapture the light heavyweight championship? I love the guy and hope he wins a few fights, but a title is out of his reach.


The big difference with Couture’s return and championship win is that it came at a time when the UFC’s heavyweight division was at its weakest. The UFC’s light heavyweight division is stacked, which would make things much, much harder on Liddell.


I definitely don’t agree with Dana White that he’s too old to fight effectively. If White is going to let a guy like Mark Coleman fight, then Liddell should be able to fight until he’s done.


But, at the same time, let’s not kid ourselves. While it would make for a great story, Liddell’s days of being a UFC champ are behind him.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.)

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:17 AM | | Comments (0)
        

January 22, 2010

Is Herschel Walker good for MMA?

We’re still a week away from Herschel Walker’s MMA debut but I can’t escape the biggest question that surrounds that card: Is Walker good for MMA?

His debut is certainly getting plenty of exposure, which is always good for the sport. He’s been in front of just about every camera and talking with anyone holding a notebook, whether they are a reporter or not. It seems like he's appeared on every show ESPN has and, just as important, he’s been saying the right things all along.

He’s not treating this as a joke, he’s bringing new eyes to the sport and he’s been a good spokesman for the sport. Common sports fans respect Walker and when he says this new thing (MMA) is legit, people will believe him. And he’s not another Kimbo Slice, as Slice was a circus act even before his MMA debut. Walker is a world-class athlete.

At the same time, it is still sort of a circus act. Age 47 is not when you make your debut in something as serious as MMA. If you want to pick up a set of golf clubs at 47, fine. But to start fighting at age 47 and fight in one of the top organizations in the U.S.? Not a great idea.
I’m not entirely sure what needs to happen in that fight for the sport to look good. If Walker wins, the casual fan will see this as a sport that any athlete well past his prime can pick up and have success right off the bat. If he loses (a likely possibility, if he follows the pattern set by other past players trying to break into the sport), it keeps MMA relegated as a sideshow.

I don’t think the sport needs fights like this, not anymore. I think it’s starting to gain acceptance among sports fans and there are a small handful of fighters who are making names for themselves for the right reasons. I can tolerate a Brock Lesnar, who is a big name from another profession but who is also young enough to compete at the highest level in the sport. Walker isn’t exactly going to be gearing up for a title run anytime soon.

I’m clearly going into this card as a skeptic. Plenty of athletes excel late in their 40s, but most don’t do it picking up a completely new sport. That being said, I’m willing to give Walker a shot.

 I just hope it doesn’t set a precedent. I don’t want to see Strikeforce promoting a fight with Shaquille O’Neal in three years or trying to ride the coattails of another athlete past his prime. Walker sounds serious about his fight and he better be, because if he isn’t, all the extra eyeballs he brings to the sport will just make it look foolish.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 3:39 AM | | Comments (8)
        

January 20, 2010

Lesnar is back

Brock Lesnar announced his return on ESPN this morning, confirming he's healthy and will be fighting this summer against the winner of the Frank Mir v. Shane Carwin fight this March. Say what you will about Lesnar, I don't think any fight fan wanted to see his career ended. UFC 100 (and his antics) are not how we wanted to remember Lesnar.

While I always thought the career-ending rumors were overblown, it's nice to have this behind us now so we can go back to prognosticating about Lesnar's ceiling as a mixed martial artist and we can see him actually fight again.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:44 PM | | Comments (4)
        

January 14, 2010

First to lose: B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva?

 

The three most dominant fighters the UFC has (I’m leaving Brock Lesnar out of this due to his injury, but he’s going to be tough to beat whenever he’s healthy) are Penn, St. Pierre and Silva. They have dominated the lightweight, welterweight and middleweight divisions for awhile now and seem to be on a completely different level than all their challengers.

So, my question for you is, which one of the three loses first? Now that it’s confirmed Frank Edgar has the next title shot against B.J. Penn (Dana White said Maynard didn’t do enough Monday to earn it) and Dan Hardy is next in line for St. Pierre, is it crazy to think Anderson Silva will lose first?

For the past two years, Silva has been the most dominant UFC champ, handling every opponent thrown his way with ease. Even when questions began to arise with Silva, he silenced his critics by manhandling Forrest Griffin. And of the three divisions, the middleweight division is the weakest. If you asked me this a year ago, I would’ve thought Thiago Alves had a good chance to take down GSP and that either Kenny Florian or Diego Sanchez could have a shot with Penn. Penn and St. Pierre utterly destroyed the trio.

Still, St. Pierre and Penn have upcoming opponents that they will be expected to win. Silva has a bit of an unknown in Vitor Belfort. Belfort handled Rich Franklin, which is something only Silva has done.

Even if he survives Belfort (which he probably will), with the way he’s been flirting with the light heavyweight division, he might get another big-time fight right away. And with Silva’s contract winding down, I don’t know that we’ll get anymore Thales Leites-level fights for Silva.

Now, if a B.J. Penn-GSP rematch is made, perhaps it could be Penn that loses first. Otherwise, I think Silva will be the next elite champion to fall in the UFC.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.)

Posted by Andy Knobel at 1:02 PM | | Comments (9)
        

The UFC's newest partner

The UFC sold a minority stake in the company to Flash Entertainment, a wholly owned subsidiary of the government of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It “will permit the UFC to do things unimaginable even five years ago,” according to Yahoo Sports.

This is a big deal, even if it won’t make a splash for the common fan. Dana White has always said the UFC wouldn’t rule out adding partners, but that they wouldn’t sell just for a cash grab. This certainly lives up that, as Abu Dhabi can be a very valuable ally when it  comes to expanding the UFC brand and opening up new markets to the UFC. Even if you aren’t a UFC fan, you have to admit that a move like this is good for MMA. This news is definitely impressive, to say the least.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 12:44 PM | | Comments (0)
        

January 12, 2010

UFC Fight Night 20 recap: Maynard next for Penn?

Another solid Fight Night by the UFC and although Gray Maynard (pictured) prevailed over Nate Diaz, I’m not entirely sure it was enough to earn a shot at B.J. Penn. Diaz is tough, no question, but is a split-decision win over Diaz enough to earn a title shot? It wasn’t for Joe Stevenson, the last guy to defeat Diaz, but Maynard is a different beast because he’s undefeated.

Either way, does it really matter? B.J. Penn is at the absolute top of his game in the lightweight division and I haven’t seen anything from Gray Maynard that makes me think he can hang in there with Penn.

This is two straight split-decision wins in a row for Maynard and while he certainly will be a player in the lightweight division for a long time, he’s not ready for Penn. I’d like to see him fight Kenny Florian or Diego Sanchez next. However, with Penn needing an opponent in the spring, Maynard has a good chance at earning the shot.

The rumor has been that Frankie Edgar may get it, but the undefeated thing for Maynard makes him an easier sell, in my opinion, and Maynard has a decisive win over Edgar as well. Neither guy has much of a chance taking down Penn though.

As far as the other fights go, I was also impressed with Amir Sadollah. It was cool watching him fight in front of the hometown fans, and he handled Brad Blackburn. I was on the Blackburn bandwagon too, but Sadollah made me a believer tonight.

Aaron Simpson and Tom Lawlor got Fight of the Night honors and they put on a great show. It was disappointing that it went to the judges because that fight was so close.

In other news, it sounds like Brock Lesnar is out of the woods. His wrestling coach and Randy Couture both seem to think he will be back this spring/summer. That’s probably too early, but I hope we get to see a healthy Brock sometime in the next 8-10 months.

Here’s the story from MMAweekly.com.

(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, Inc.)

Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:28 AM | | Comments (2)
        

January 7, 2010

MMA odds and ends

* While the future of Brock Lesnar is still up in the air, a host of other injured UFC stars will be finding their way back to action over the next several months. Frank Mir fights Shane Carwin, Anderson Silva faces Vitor Belfort, Georges St. Pierre takes on Dan Hardy, B.J Penn defends his lightweight title, Matt Hughes will battle Renzo Gracie and Jon Fitch will go up against Thiago Alves. We may even get Rashad vs. Rampage before the summer. Those are just some of the fights we’ll be treated to in the next four months (I’m sure I’m leaving out others). We’ve had a few cards recently that were light on big names, but we’re due for some big shows in the near future.

*A nice story from MMAweekly.com on Rich Franklin entering the twilight of his career. You have to respect a guy like Franklin who cares first and foremost about putting on fights the fans want to see. He’s jumped weight classes and fought several bouts at a catch weight, with few complaints. I hope he goes out on top, but even if he doesn’t, I’m looking forward to the last 4-5 fights we’ll get from him.

*The UFC is suing a bar in Massachusetts for $640,000 for illegally showing UFC 104. This will be an interesting case to watch as the UFC has been on a campaign to crack down on illegal pirating of PPV shows. To me, this is one of the biggest problems the UFC has: PPV. If Dana White wants to get bigger than (or at least on the same playing field) the other sports in this country, the fans should be able to watch the big events for free. Football fans aren’t shelling out $50 to watch an NFL game, even the Super Bowl. Luke Thomas, from Bloodyelbow.com, thinks the solution is an MMA version of iTunes.


Posted by Andy Knobel at 2:45 PM | | Comments (1)
        

January 3, 2010

UFC 108 and beyond

UFC 108 was a solid show, all in all. A good night of fights, even without a title fight or major fight on the card. Given what that card had to deal with, it has to be considered a major victory that the UFC was able to put together a fairly entertaining show. I didn’t feel ripped off at all for shelling out the cash for that show. A lot of the post-fight buzz has been about whether or not the UFC has succeeded in always putting out quality shows, regardless of what potential matches fall apart. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but what do you think? Is there anyone out there that will pay for every card, regardless of what fights are on it?

While I find myself paying for most, I still take it on a card-by-card basis (those that I don’t buy I still watch, just at a sports bar or a similar establishment). Either way, UFC 108 was a decent show.

With the win, it looks like Rashad Evans will be taking on Rampage, which is the same fight we should’ve had a few months ago. Regardless, the hype will be there for whenever these two finally step into the Octagon. It will be interesting to see if Rampage really goes back to making movies, like he’s threatening.

Paul Daley was the big surprise of the night to me. I really thought Dustin Hazelett would give him a better fight. I think Daley needs to get someone from AKA next before getting in line for a title shot. Give him a Jon Fitch and see how he fares before we talk about him moving to the front of the line. Or even a bout with Thiago Alves. Daley was impressive, but that win shouldn’t make him a No. 1 contender just yet.

Posted by Andy Knobel at 11:32 PM | | Comments (1)
        
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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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