Kenny Florian staring blankly at a monitor showing a suddenly darkened Bojangles coliseum, before suddenly realizing the camera was on him and going into his usual backstage warm up for the cameras. High comedy.
Yep, there’s another one. Total forgotten show, this. Buzzless.
* Lightweight bout: Kenny Florian vs Takanori Gomi
Promotional sidebar for a moment: I really do not understand this matchup at all. Gomi means the square root of fuck-all in the US and UFC doesn’t do meaningful business in Japan, so their goal presumably has to be to develop Gomi into a star for their domestic market. So why is he in a main event first time out, when he’s no buys currently? And why put him in there with Florian of all people? KenFlo is an extremely dangerous opponent who has an excellent chance of beating Gomi possibly in brutal fashion, thus blunting his momentum straight out of the gate and relegating him to secondary contender status alongside Clay Guida et al. What does that achieve? I doubt UFC out-bid the Japanese promotions for whom Gomi is much more valuable in order to use him as a midcarder. I’d have rather seen Guida vs. Gomi which A) would have gotten a lot of eyeballs on Gomi in his debut, B) would have been a hell of a fun fight, C) would have been a much more likely Gomi win, D) would have been less of an issue if Gomi lost since a win for Guida is at least as useful if you ever want to try and use him for a PPV title shot someday, and E) shouldn’t have been too hard to make since both guys would have reasons to take the fight and both ended up fighting within a couple of weeks of each other anyway. I can only assume this is a case of the Zuffa hierarchy getting a hard-on for a mythic matchup involving an ex-PRIDE guy which they can finally put on (possibly to prove a point long since proven about PRIDE vs. UFC), and not thinking through the situation fully.
Anyway, to the fight. I like Kenny Florian pretty strongly in this one, for all the obvious reasons: Gomi’s had a couple of bad upset losses of late and reputedly hasn’t looked much like the fighter he was in his prime, he’s 31 in a lighter weight class, it’s been a while since he faced what you’d call top-flight competition, he’s an ex-PRIDE guy coming to America with all that entails, he’s not used to the cage and facing a guy who knows well how to use the cage to his benefit, etc. etc. The Florian of today vs. the Gomi of 5 years ago would be a hell of a fight, but the current Gomi just has too many factors working against him in this matchup for me to pick him. There’s also the sense that Florian for all his faults is a continually evolving MMA fighter who’s added to his game, while Gomi has been drifting for a while and hasn’t meaningfully developed from what he was in PRIDE. Florian gets the RNC in the third.
* Heavyweight bout: Roy Nelson vs Stefan Struve
This is going to look like the number 10 trying to commit suicide. I feel sorry for Struve in some ways; there have been times in the past where the UFC would have killed for an interesting young heavyweight prospect who creates exciting fights like him to come along, and now that he’s here he’s stuck behind three other guys who all have better credentials than him in Carwin, Velasquez and Dos Santos- JDS even has a KO win over Struve. Heck, in a way this even applies to Nelson; while he’s a decent and legitimate enough fighter his appeal as an attraction is as the freak show fat guy, and he’s finally broken through to the UFC at a time when UFC already has Kimbo Slice and James Toney occupying the top ranks of the freak show roster above him. This is how Struve and Nelson end up as the semi-main of a forgotten and overshadowed Fight Night card instead of being used in more prominent positions. Timing is everything.
As for the fight, I like Nelson. Struve’s stand-up is what people who don’t like Jon Jones think Jones’ is, wild and undisciplined with gigantic defensive holes in it, and Nelson is a compact and disciplined type who should be able to counter-punch Struve to death especially as the Dutchman tires and starts to stand right in front of Nelson. The only way Struve wins a standing battle is if he shows a previously unseen ability to use his height and length to maintain range and take advantage of Nelson’s bad defensive habit of covering up and going into a shell when he sees a strike coming. It’s possible to technically out-strike Nelson by moving, maintaining distance and using a jab to freeze him, but that takes a lot of precision and conditioning to do consistently for three rounds. Struve’s not there yet, I think. Nelson KO 2.
* Lightweight bout: Ross Pearson vs. Dennis Siver
A strangely intriguing fight given how improved Pearson looked last time out against Aaron Riley. Riley’s a solid journeyman type and Pearson abused him badly on his way to a second round TKO, showing much more precision and power than he did on TUF. That improvement also makes this one a bit hard to predict; is Pearson a young fighter getting better, or a guy who took advantage of a journeyman deficient in his area of expertise to look better than he really is? My general TUF matchmaking rule applies here (“TUF guy vs. non-TUF guy on a Spike TV live card means UFC thinks the TUF guy should be favored”) and Pearson did have very brief moments where he looked contender-ish against Riley, so what the hell, let’s say he wins a back-and-forth decision. Breaks my heart to pick against a German.
* Middleweight bout: Nate Quarry vs. Jorge Rivera
Quarry, KO. Nate looked bad by his standards last time out against Tim Credeur, but he’s facing a 38 year old who went to a split decision with Nissen friggin’ Osterneck two fights back- a guy whose stand up apparently consists of head-butting the other guy’s fists. Fun as long as it goes.
Preliminary Card, AKA “dudes too boring or unknown to get onto UFC 111’s card”
Full disclosure: I’ve written like 4 preview posts in the last week already and I don’t have a great handle on half these guys. None of these are picks I’m at all confident in except Torres/Volkmann.
* Lightweight bout: Andre Winner vs. Rafaello Oliveira
Figure UFC is doing this to get Winner a… victory… so let’s go with him by decision. Fun fact: Oliveria apparently fought someone named “Wigman Big Big” twice, as well as a “Fabio Fabio”. Frankly, I’m kind of sad that he won.
* Lightweight bout: Jacob Volkmann vs. Ronnys Torres
I like this one. Torres impressed me last time out against Melvin Guillard- I thought he could have gotten the decision from some judges. He did a good job both on his feet and on the mat in that one before getting worn down by the pressure of a superior striker. Volkmann is not a superior striker and has lost two on the bounce (the last of which he was finished in), but he is a larger man coming down from 170 to debut at lightweight which may give him some physical advantages over Torres. Still, a first time cut has unpredictable effects and Volkmann seemed to panic and fight thoughtlessly last time out- I get the sense that he may be a case of a formerly undefeated fighter losing his confidence after a first lost. I’ll take Torres by submission- a Guillotine in the first.
* Lightweight bout: Rob Emerson vs. Nik Lentz
Rob Emerson’s surprisingly entertaining and memorable gatekeeper career continues. He’s done about as well as a guy who started his career 0-4 could hope to, fighting all over the world in many notable promotions against recognizable fighters, and doing quite well for himself despite being roughly .500 as a pro. Lentz won his first UFC bout and drew his second, and I assume he’s in here with Emerson to see if he’s the kind of prospect who’s truly ready for the big time now, or if at 25 he still needs a bit of seasoning. I’m betting he’s ready and will use his wrestling to get the decision here.
* Lightweight bout: Caol Uno vs. Gleison Tibau
So this is that Godzilla remake they’re talking about, right? Tiny Japanese guy against giant foreign monster? In any case, while this could be a stinker it is the kind of fight I wish we got more of on these shows sometimes, just for a change. Uno is Uno, a rugged 14 year veteran wrestler who’s seen just about everything in this sport at one time or another, and can largely be counted on to perform at his given level every time out. Tibau is the mystery- he’s been in UFC more or less non-stop for 3 and a half years since debuting at UFC 65 in a loss to Nick Diaz, and in that time he’s fought a string of recognizable names at 155 to a roughly .500 mark. He’s 26, gihugic for a the weight, trains with a great camp in ATT, and yet… somehow he’s never put it together to where you think there’s a meaningful run for him in the offing at lightweight. He’s reaching the point in his career where he’s either going to spring past the level he’s stuck at (somewhere between Josh Neer and Joe Stevenson), or end up pigeon-holed permanently as a gatekeeper. He needs to be able to beat a Caol Uno. I think he’ll be able to since it’s a decent stylistic and a great athletic match up for him, but I have little confidence in this pick.
* Middleweight bout: Yushin Okami vs. Lucio Linhares
A get-well fight for Okami, as Linhares is old and doesn’t have the style to beat Okami anyway. Decision, probably. Sigh.
* Middleweight bout: Gerald Harris vs. Mario Miranda
Interesting little fight. I’ll go with Harris; I’m a sucker for a big athletic wrestler who can hit hard. Real hard in this case.
* Welterweight bout: Charlie Brenneman vs. Jason High
Should be a fun little show, although it’s a bit of a twinkie- tasty and fun but lacking in much real value. You’ll enjoy it and come away without any strong urge to see any of these guys again immediately, most likely.
I think you have to be either a basketball nerd or live within 20 miles of the Alamo to get Tim Duncan, honestly. I mean really: read this.
I’ll state up front that I think Tim Duncan is easily a top 10 of all time player, and has been for a good long while. Let’s look at some of his achievements along a few dimensions:
Defense: My favorite Tim Duncan stat is this one– he was the defensive anchor and best player on the two greatest defensive teams of the modern (post 3 point shot) era… and no one notices. In some ways that sums up Duncan’s career right there. Beyond that, he’s placed first overall 3 times in individual defensive rating, is the current career leader among active players and second all time (note that this is before a potential decline phase, though he is 32), is the active career leader and 8th all time in defensive win shares, and has made the NBA All-Defense first team 8 times- and the second team every other year of his career. He may be the greatest defensive player of all time. Russell might have been better and there’s some statistical information to back that up, but it’s very hard to compare across eras especially given the number of rules changes which have happened over the years. At worst he’s probably #2 overall.
Offense: Duncan is 8th in career PER neatly sandwiched between Bob Pettit and Neil Johnston. He’s 33rd in career offensive win shares (8th among active players), not bad for a player whose chief value is in his defense. He did lead the league in offensive win shares in ’01-02, and has placed in the top 10 in the league for PER every year of his career.
Longevity: Duncan has played 66 games or more in every full season of his career despite being in the playoffs every year as well and thus accruing additional wear and tear. He’s just outside the top 50 players of all time for minutes played, and at age 33 is putting up a PER in line with his career average and the second best offensive rating of his career. That PER is good currently for 4th in the league this year. He seems to finally be slipping a little on the defensive end, but he’s still in the top 10 in the league for defensive rating.
Other Considerations: Duncan has won 4 titles with the Spurs, on all of which he was considered the best player and go-to guy. On the last two of these he arguably did not have a second HOF-caliber player alongside him, and on the 02-03 version his chief sidekick was the 37 year old version of David Robinson in his last year in the league. Duncan is one of the very few NBA players to have essentially had two completely different title winners built around him, the Robinson version and the Ginobili/Parker version. Duncan led his team in playoff win shares on 3 of the 4 title winning Spurs squads, and was named Finals MVP 3 times. basketball-reference.com has a HOF probability tracker to summarize the chances of a player being voted into the hall based on his total achievements; Duncan places second among active players (behind Shaquille O’Neal) and 8th all time behind: Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Shaq. That’s just about fair when you look at his overall place in history.
Now Shauna…Shaghna…Sughna…Shaun Of The Dead‘s article isn’t any good really and has no merit on its own pitched as it is at the level of poncy message board trolling, but it is instructive for the biases it contains which are fairly common among ignorant people commenting on the league. Such as:
– “Then again, learning that Duncan is only the fourth player in NBA history to scored 20,000 points with 10,000 rebounds, 2,000 blocks and 2,500 assists (alongside Kareem, Hakeem and Shaq) makes me take him much more seriously”
This is what happens when people who have payed zero attention to the statistical evolution of analysis try to use numbers- they use outmoded stats which don’t really capture best the topic at hand, and report them without any context. In this case, it’s basically a selection of three random endpoints for three random stats; why not steals, rebounds and points? Why not blocks, points and turnovers? These numbers tell you almost nothing.
– “It’s like when you realize that Frank Thomas and Jim Thome are solidly ensconced in the 500 home run club.”
Same basic issue, except this compounds the problem by demonstrating total lack of awareness of the way statistical thresholds mean different things at different times. 500 home runs means less after the steroid era the same way perimeter defense in the NBA is completely different after the changes to the hand checking rule, or how the league as a whole has changed dramatically since the introduction of the 3 point shot.
– “That leaves Oscar, Jerry West and Cousy — the holy trinity of old guards. You can certainly try to argue for Duncan over one or more of those three, but I’m not buying.”
“I learned everything I need to know about this sport in 1986 goddamnit, and you can’t make me learn anything new. Old guys forever!”
In all seriousness, the NBA currently is in a remarkable second golden age. There’s probably 4 players currently active who you could make a case for in the top 15-20 all time (Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, Garnett) and several more who may well be in that zone by the end of their careers (LeBron, Wade, Chris Paul, Nowitzki, Durant), one of whom (LeBron) has a legitimate outside chance to be the greatest player of all time by the end of his career. That’s extraordinary. The league right now has more talent and more exciting ball being played than at any time since the mid 80’s; feel free to ignore it if you don’t care for basketball, but if you’re going to write about the sport in a major publication at least have the decency to notice these things.
This also misses out on one of the under-noticed factors about old-timey NBA eras: they kind of sucked. The league went through a fairly massive popularity explosion in the 1980s and it’s drawn a lot more talent and interest to the game in the intervening years. The level of available talent has gone up, coaching has improved, standards have been tightened up at every level, etc. The way those old teams played defense might as well have been invented in the early 80’s- every game used to look like the All-Star games does now. To a degree it’s only fair to judge players relative to their own era, but if we’re having the best-of-all-time discussion for a sport which has had major league-altering changes on several different levels over the course of its existence, that should be addressed and considered. Put succinctly, Bob Cousy never had to guard Chris Paul on the perimeter.
– “Bill Walton calls him the Pete Sampras of basketball. That makes him great … and a little boring.”
This is one of the reasons I despise 80% of stuff in the major media, because it translates as “he didn’t give me stuff to write a story about therefore he’s not that good.” It’s a failing which is incredibly common among old-line mainstream media, which implicitly assumes that the relationship of a player to them is a major factor in what that player is worth or how he performs. Hell, even someone like Bill Simmons is increasingly prone to this sort of solipsism.
Anyway, this could go on forever, so let’s end it here. Suffice to say that A) the NBA is still getting some of the worst mainstream coverage of any sport out there, and B) don’t let anyone tell you different- Tim Duncan is the man.
“He broke down a more-talented Victor Ortiz last year and, on Saturday in Las Vegas, he did the same to Victor Cayo before ending the fight with a nasty body shot.”- Golden Boy magazine on Marcos Maidana
“Some have the speed and the right combinations
If you can’t take the punches it don’t mean a thing”- Warren Zevon, “Boom Boom Mancini”
This is one of those abuse-of-English/conceptual-failure things which drive me insane when they come from people who talk about the fight game for a living. The ability to take punches and keep coming is every bit as much a physical talent as miraculous hand speed is. You can say Ortiz is more skilled, insofar as “skill” refers to learned technique perfected through repetition, but to argue that he’s more talented when he lost to Maidana through being physically overmatched and outlasted is a pernicious abuse of the language leading to confusion about the underlying reality. Maidana is a very talented boxer, albeit one whose form of talent is not always recognized as such; where he lacks is in the skill department.
Put your damn pants back on. What is that, the third explicit photos controversy this year already?
That is all.
Things which happened tonight:
– There’s a rumor going around that Rory Markham deliberately blew weight because he knew Diaz would take the fight anyway and wanted the advantage.
– Joan Guzman blew weight by 9 pounds for a rematch unjustly gifted to him, lied about being on weight in the days before the bout, and used his extra size to steal a close win over a fighter who has now been fucked over, what, 3 or 4 separate times now?
– Arthur Abraham deliberately hit Andre Dirrell when he was down, possibly to get out of a fight that he was losing in semi-embarrassing fashion, possibly out of malice.
– I disagree with this, but many people feel Rousimar Palhares deliberately held his heel hook on Thomas Drwal excessively long and thus badly injured Drwal; Palhares has since been suspended.
What the fuck is wrong with these people? Abraham was just an idiot and has already been justly punished, the Palhares thing is debatable, but there need to be vastly harsher suspensions, fines, and institutional penalties in the future for fighters failing to make weight. On the boxing side HBO need to stop pretending that they don’t have major influence on the sport and take the lead on this- they enabled Joan Guzman by promoting his first fight with Funeka after his weight debacle against Nate Campbell, they enabled him by giving him an idiotic and pointless rematch after the judges fucked Funeka on the first fight, and the odds are they’ll enable Guzman again after his win tonight. The problem with this is less serious than but similar in type to the one with Margarito and the loaded gloves: if you allow fighters to abuse the rules that badly and profit by their cheating or negligence, you incentivize every other fighter out there to do the same in the future. It’s not an accident that this sort of thing seems to be getting more common, and it needs to be killed off now before it becomes combat sports’ answer to the NHL’s head shots problem.
I SAID, HOLY SHIT A WINNING STREAK. By which I mean, in part, words to the effect of the concept of HOLY SHIT A WINNING STREAK ZOMG LOL WHOOOOOOO.
I’m almost sad the Nets won’t be alone as the worst team ever just because somehow I always figured this franchise had a season that bad in it somewhere, and if this isn’t it that means it could be yet to come. But hey, what can you do? Just so long as they stop winning before they run down the T Wolves from behind, I’m happy.
There’s a blog post on why I completely forgot about these upcoming. Anyway, a few quick picks for some of the bigger fights this weekend:
Victor Cayo vs. Marcos Maidana
I don’t have a strong read on these two having seen only one fight from Maidana and a bit less from Cayo. Frankly, I’m stunned that this is an HBO headliner- it’s a great fight on paper, but it is, frankly, a pair of tiny foreigners of the kind who don’t usually get this kind of attention from HBO. This pick is a semi-ass pull, but I think I like Maidana- I assume HBO thinks he can beat Cayo since they apparently want to do Maidana/Amir Khan at some point (far, far) down the road, and while I don’t like almost anything about Maidana on a technical level he is tough as nails and he does have 12 rounds and big power to work with. Cayo seems to drop his hands and go straight back at times, doing that I-wanna-be-Roy-Jones BS which has gotten more than one dude KO’d over the last 15 years. He doesn’t seen to have the power to hurt Maidana given that he didn’t have the power to hurt the husk of Julio Diaz and from what I’ve seen he’s rarely planted when he throws, so let’s say eventually Maidana catches up and erases him. 8th round?
Ali Funeka vs. Joan Guzman
Hate this fight. Hate it. Funeka bomb-dropped Guzman the first time and won almost every round but got fucked on the cards, leading to… a replay in which almost nothing is likely to change? Guzman’s 33 at a lighter weight where guys ages quicker, seemingly un(der)-motivated, has been battling his weight despite moving up and looked sluggish and old against Funeka last time out. He’s probably more talented and if he had his head together I could/can see him making adjustments which might let him win this fight, but… why is he getting the chance? He lost the first one, and it bothers me that he’s basically getting a free do-over in a high-profile spot on HBO’s dime. I don’t like to see judging incompetence ignored, and if they were going to show a second fight with Maidana/Cayo I’d rather be watching Kameda and Wonjongkam. Anyway, Funeka is still tall and has a great jab so I’ll say the next 12 rounds will be like the last 12 rounds and he’ll perform better over them. Maybe that’ll be enough to win this time.
On a side note, the worst part of this for a viewer? The first fight between these two was all kinds of fun and this one might be as well, except… you’ll sit there for all 12 rounds of it going “are the judges actually watching this? Is someone about to get F’d in the A again?” It’s impossible to relax and enjoy a fight under those circumstances, for me anyway.
Andre Gazelle vs. Arthur Abraham
Let us all really, really hope Abraham wins. He’s a better fighter, he has a better track record, he’s a bigger draw, he makes better fights, there’s a bunch of guys I’d like to see him against and no one I’d like to see Dirrell against, but…it’s just not a great style matchup for Abraham and maybe a worse one for viewers. Abraham pressures and grinds and blocks jabs with his great arm guard, but he doesn’t throw much and relies on his power to break guys down. Dirrell runs and dinks and dipsy-dos and dances and oscillates and flounces about the place throwing jabs which aren’t as effective as you’d like and little behind them, holding and grabbing and often making for God-awful fights- especially against guys with power like Abraham, who he sometimes seems scared of. The danger is that if you get bad judges who give Dirrell credit for jabs which get blocked or for “activity” which is ineffective,you could see Dirrell getting a really bad decision here, especially since he does seem to have a decent chin and is used to going rounds with his bad style. Bear in mind that this fight is in Dirrell’s home region and Abraham is infamous for giving away the early rounds. I’m warning you now this could be an excruciatingly bad fight, bad enough to take some of the stream out of the Super Six especially with Ward/Green delayed into June.
I’ll take Abraham, on the theory that Dirrell may try to plant his feet and open up more on offense which will give Abraham a target to hit, especially if Dirrell uses more grabbing than running which will bring him close enough to be tagged to the body and worn down. It will probably be a terrible fight, and it will probably go to the cards.