Here’s a link to a reggae legend performing a song about the immense pleasures of betting on horse racing with your friends. Best I got:
I will say that I applaud any sport in which:
1. It is assumed that most spectators will be blasted.
2. A drink of choice is suggested.
Who had April in the pool for “first legal issue involving a New York Jet in 2010″?
I feel like I should be writing something big and epic for this fight, something about how these two great fighters, careers so long running in parallel, have finally come together to produce one of the most anticipated (and lucrative) matchups of the year. And it’s true, they have, and on paper it’s a very good and historically important fight; but, I’m not feeling it. Like at all, and I’m not entirely sure why. Some of it is Mayweather fatigue, as his act (and it is an act, one he does well) has worn completely thin on me to the point where I’ve been actively trying to avoid reading anything about this fight; some of it is Mosley fatigue, as the people picking him to win this one have for the most part been gigantic assholes about it; some of it is that I don’t regard this as an even matchup on paper; some of it is the atrocious undercard featuring Saul Alvarez and a bunch of guys they found at the bus station; some of it is that it’s not Mayweather/Pacquiao; some of it is the sense that this matchup is happening even as much as 11 years overdue from ’99 when Mosley was God at lightweight and Floyd was a dominant 130 pounder; some of it is that, as that timeline indicates, both of these guys are past their best, maybe long past it.
Somehow this fight, while interesting, just doesn’t have the epic feel that it might have. Despite it being a hundred times better a matchup than Pacquiao vs. Clottey, it lacks the something that that fight had. Ultimately, I think it boils down to the star of the show: Floyd is a truly great boxer, a technical superstar, a fighter’s fighter and a genius in gloves; but he lacks, and has always lacked, a mesmerizing physical specialness that a Manny Pacquiao or a Roy Jones or a Mike Tyson brought to the table. With them, rightly or wrongly, there was always the sense that you had better not miss the chance to see them because there was only one of each and if you took a pass you were out of luck permanently. Floyd, while he’s compensated as a draw by developing one of the great heel characters of modern times, is not unique. He is one of the best versions of what he is, but there are many, many versions of what he is out there and always have been, other fighters who just do the orthodox things the right way all the time.The difference between Floyd and, say, Devon Alexander is more one of degree than of kind.
By skipping out on so many major fights over the years Floyd has also deprived himself of the opportunity to seem unique, special, and truly unbeatable, to pile up the sort of record of dominance which would give him an aura to compensate for his lack of physically extraordinary characteristics; instead he just seems really, really, really good. There is no shame at all in just being very, very good and I’ve long thought that head to head Floyd Mayweather would defeat just about any reasonable opponent, but between not being willing to try too often and lacking that physical “it” factor, there’s just something missing from his fights when he doesn’t have a strong personality dynamic as he did with Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. It was never a surprise to me that he was a non-draw before the De La Hoya fight, and in the years since he’s learned to be an incredible draw to people who usually don’t care about boxing…at the cost of making himself an increasingly ridiculous figure to actual boxing fans. I’d say it’s a Faustian bargain, but I’m sure if you asked Mayweather he’d say it was worth it a thousand times over, and if I were in his shoes I’d probably agree. None of this is news, and much of it has been said better; but something about the gulf between what this fight could or should be and what it actually is brings this into high relief.
So, prediction time. As is I imagine clear, I favor Floyd in this one- not that it’ll be a blowout, not that it won’t be competitive, but I don’t expect it to be controversial either once you filter out the stupider views. With Mayweather, bar a few basic questions he’s never really been called on to answer in his career, you know what you’re going to get; with Mosley, there’s nothing but questions at this point. The biggest one for Mayweather in the eyes of many is what he really has down deep if he’s pushed to his limits. Personally I worry less about this than some, since on the rare occasions when he’s had to dig down, Floyd has done it: against Castillo, he pulled out two close fights; against Judah, he had some trouble early before roaring back to run away with the fight; against Oscar De La Hoya, in a competitive fight, he took the championship rounds to clinch the victory. Hagler/Hearns this was not, but it’s really the only evidence either way on this question and it all speaks well of Floyd. Beyond that… he’s just about immaculate. His handspeed is tremendous, his power is good enough, and in every skill aspect of the game he’s on the highest possible plane. Even his previous hand issues seem to have gone away with time, apparently due to different wrapping techniques. He can be beaten, but it’s going to take an extraordinary effort from an extraordinary fighter to do it, and I don’t know if Shane Mosley is that man anymore.
Mosley has issues. Right now his stock should be at a near all-time high coming off of his smashing of Antonio Margarito, a fight which won him the more or less legitimate more or less linear more or less title of the welterweight division. And yet, he’s something like a 3-1 or 4-1 dog on the books for this fight- people are seeing past that win, and for good reason. How big a win was it really, given all we know and suspect about how Margarito’s standing in the sport was achieved? How much was Margarito into the fight given that he’d just been exposed right before the bell as a loathsome cheat? What does a 15 month layoff take away from Mosley’s sharpness for this fight? At 38, how much of Mosley’s best does he have left? And it’s worth noting that while Mosley has had an amazing career… he’s not exactly been covering himself in glory in recent years. In the most recent phase of his career (post-Winky Wright) he’s beaten a couple of solid if untested young guys (David Estrada, Jose Luis Cruz) by decision, beat up a shot cripple twice (Fernando Vargas long after ODLH and Tito got done with him), won a solid boxing match against the awkward Luis Collazo which may be his best win of this stretch, lost to Miguel Cotto, and then struggled with an ultra-faded Ricardo Mayorga before the Margarito fight. There’s nothing at all to be ashamed of in this record; it’s a solid and impressive record. But it’s not one that’s all that much better than Floyd’s has been in the same period, and there’s nothing on it which screams out that Shane should be picked against Floyd. Both men are as highly regarded at this point for what they appear to be and what they’ve previously done as for anything they’ve been up to lately.
In the ring, it’s a fight which Mosley could win, but probably won’t. The version of Floyd which showed up to fight De La Hoya probably loses this through inactivity and languishing against the ropes thus providing Mosley with a free target, but that’s not the usual Floyd and if he does fight that way it won’t be because of anything Mosley did. If the usual Floyd shows up, he’s got the jab, the footwork, and the defensive movement from the trunk up to consistently score on Mosley while giving him almost nothing to throw back at especially if Shane degenerates back into Power Boxing one-at-a-time punching. Miguel Cotto won the last two rounds against Shane and clinched a competitive fight by getting up on his toes and moving behind a jab; Floyd can fight the same way, except he’s much, much better at it and Mosley has only gotten older since the Cotto fight. People ask if there’s a blueprint out there to beat Floyd, and maybe there is and maybe there isn’t and maybe Shane is or is not the man to execute one if it exists; but there’s definitely one out there to beat Shane, and I have no doubt that Floyd can execute that one.
People who like Mosley talk about his power, but he’s not exactly a murderous banger at 147- he’s got sharp power, solid power, wear-down power, but the chances of him hitting Floyd consistently enough to make that tell are very small, and he’s not going to KO Floyd on a one-shotter unless it’s the greatest and least-foreseen punch of modern times. People who like Mosley talk about how he can match Floyd’s speed, but A) he’s a 38 year old man who hasn’t fought in 15 months; maybe he can’t and B) speed only matters if you can hit accurately and pull the trigger often enough to make it count, and against Floyd’s defense that’s going to be a monumental challenge for Shane. In exchanges he may equal Floyd for quickness, but if he lands one good shot and takes three where does that get him? For Mosley to win he’s either got to jab in more consistently than he ever has and smother Floyd on the ropes, or he’s got to hope he can draw Floyd out and counterpunch, letting his power tell and investing heavily in left hooks to the body. Either way, that punch is probably Shane’s best hope; Floyd leaves himself as open to it as to anything as he sways and shoulder-rolls, trying to catch a left hook off the elbow and not always succeeding. If Shane can hit that punch accurately, and with power, and he invests in it early and often, then he has a chance to lose the early rounds but wear Floyd down enough that he can out-work him late and take a close decision.
But I wouldn’t bet on it, and I’m not. Mayweather UD12. I just hope this ends up as the fight we want it to be and something like what it could have been in ’99; it’s going to do more business now with casual fans than it would have done then, but I’m a little afraid that it may end up being a bit sad in the ring.
A few musings after a second watch of Aldo vs. Faber:
– While he’s been criticized here and there for not finishing Faber, I was actually in some ways more impressed by Aldo taking Faber to a decision than I would have been by an early KO. Early KOs are awesome, don’t get me wrong; they’re impressive and a great promotional tool if used correctly, powerful enough to turn a relatively colorless and quiet fighter like Shane Carwin into a star and strong B-side, and to turn someone with charisma like a Mike Tyson into a gigantic star. They get fans talking, and are the raw fuel which fills video packages and powers the hype train. And yet, early KOs also leave behind sporting questions; there’s things we simply don’t and can’t know about a fighter so long as he or she keeps winning quickly, and the entire history of fighting sports is a testament to the truth that eventually, those questions will have to be answered. While we definitely can’t say we got all the answers about Aldo on Saturday, we have a lot more now than we did previously.
– Most obviously, it’s safe to say now that while Aldo’s cardio is not unimpeachable, it is good enough to go 5 rounds at a good clip. Prior to Faber, no Aldo opponent in the WEC had taken him deeper than 45 seconds into the third round (Jonathan Brookins) and three of his previous four bouts had ended in the first. It should be noted, however, that Aldo completely controlled the pace and level of his fight with Faber, and it remains unknown how his gas tank will fare against someone who will push the pace and can make him change levels frequently. I don’t think that guy exists below lightweight, but if Aldo is in with UFC’s 155 pounders in 2 or 3 years it’s something to watch for.
– We also learned that Aldo can be a patient and disciplined fighter who can stick to a game plan. It’s easy to look spectacular when you KO a guy on a flying knee in 8 seconds; it’s much harder to continue to look so when you’re isolating a body part on the second best guy in your weight class and destroying it with strikes by the third round. That suggests that Aldo is an intelligent fighter who is not wholly dependent on being more athletic than his opponent or staging a devastating early assault to dominate.
– In general, we also got to see the full breadth of Aldo’s skills working in concert for the first time in a while. We saw his kickboxing have to take account of takedown defense, his finishing attempts against a wounded but still dangerous opponent, his grappling for the first time in a while, his defensive footwork and so forth. After he totally dominated Urijah Faber for 25 minutes it’s fair to say that he’s clearly proven that his skills are in total and in specific dramatically superior to Faber’s, which says a lot. I find that more impressive than I would another quick KO against a guy whose chin has been cracked before.
– There are also some new questions raised about Aldo and some old ones remaining. He hurt Faber, but did not finish him; a sign of respect, or is his raw power not as impressive against world class opponents? Having cleaned out the division of top names, how will his mental discipline fare between fights in the future? Will he take a smaller name lightly? How’s his chin? How good is his grappling against a guy with two working legs? When he’s pushed into adversity, how does he respond? There are still many unknowns about the 23 year old superstar.
– As a technical matter, Aldo’s striking was outstanding. Two things stood out to me. First, Aldo mixed up his strikes beautifully- the leg kick was obviously his key weapon and he threw it with different timings, sometimes as a naked lead and sometimes as a counter, and frequently as the second or third strike in a combination. He seemed in particular to like to freeze Faber with a jab upstairs and then come with the leg kick, which was part of the second standout dimension- the man changes levels on his strikes beautifully and has tremendous variety to call on. He’s capable of throwing either kicks or punches at three levels in standup, which is truly exceptional as so few MMA fighters are really quality body punchers, but Aldo doubled over Faber at times with left hooks downstairs. His jab is very good though more of a set up tool than a punishing BJ Penn-style punch. His use of the knees speaks for itself, and it was obvious that after he landed a couple to the body early as defensive counters to Faber’s rushes that he knocked a lot of the desire for an in-close battle out of the California Kid. He also showed, particularly when trying to finish Faber, some excellent uppercuts. This was one of the most impressive small details to me, as that is absolutely the perfect punch to throw against an opponent throwing earmuffs up when hurt; hooks and crosses will clatter off gloves and forearms, but an uppercut goes straight to the point of the jaw.
– Which brings us, by round-about paths, to the Anderson Silva comparisons. Aldo’s use of the uppercuts- thrown in combinations, at the perfect distance- to me seemed to be an example of a very well-trained fighter thinking on his feet and selecting what he knew to be the best tool for the job. That points to Aldo sharing one of Silva’s defining features as a fighter- his eerie calmness in the cage, the sense that to him everything seems to be moving slower than it is for the rest of us. Aldo has hinted at having that quality before, but to show it deep into a fight against the second best guy in the world at his weight convinced me that he’s got it to the same degree that Silva does. It showed in those uppercuts and his awesome accuracy, it showed in his patient gameplan, it showed in his footwork and the way he was able to counter every one of the ultra-quick Faber’s rushes even before the leg kicks did their work. It’s a quality that only the highest of high-level strikers have.
– Speaking of quickness, a side theory: I believe that there’s only so quick a fighter can be, and at this point in time with the quality of athletes in MMA, Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo are at about the same maximal level of quickness. Neither is prime Roy Jones, but both are outrageously sudden and far above the general run of fighters in this regard. And yet, in Aldo’s case it’s somewhat hidden since the general run of fighters is not a constant. Silva is equally quick more or less, but your average middleweight (and even more so, your average light heavyweight) is much less quick than your average featherweight; thus Aldo has maybe a 10-20% advantage over the #2 guy in the world at 145, while Silva has probably a 50+% advantage over most guys at 185 and looks like he’s using cheat codes at 205. Again, on some level Aldo is actually more impressive in this respect- he’s just as dominant as Silva is with less of a relative advantage. On the bright side for fans as well, his relatively smaller advantage will help mitigate against any Silva-style lunatic showboating as well. He’s got far less room to get sloppy.
– One major point of comparison between Aldo and Silva as well is their defensive games. Both are exceptionally flat-footed in the cage, and rely on inordinate quickness both to slip strikes with upper body movement and allow them to scamper away when they have to despite not being up on their toes. It’s a difficult style to employ, fit only for exceptional athletes. Aldo’s version of it seems to be slightly different however. Silva relies on great swings of the head and upper body to slip strikes and at times remains motionless if not forced to move, seeming, I think by design, to be far more hittable than he is. Aldo has a bit more head movement, a bit more foot movement, and seems to rely on the threat of counters more than Silva does. Silva has power that Aldo does not, I think, and thus can afford to slip, dodge, slip, dodge, and then crush a Forrest Griffin or a James Irvin with one massive shot; Aldo looks to land counters to more of an opponent’s strikes both for the value of the damage done and for the deterrence factor. Put another way, Aldo wants to hurt you so you don’t feel so comfortable striking at him; Silva wants you to strike at him so he can kill you with one big counterstrike. This is the root of why Silva can be passive at times (when the root isn’t just that he’s being mental) while Aldo is not. Watch their body postures and footwork some time- Silva, when serious, comes in hands low and always places himself at a distance where he seems to be hittable, pressuring opponents into throwing; Aldo lingers back with his weight more balanced and takes his time coming in, often behind a strike. He’s more, to borrow a phrase, of a boxer-puncher to Silva’s stalking pressure-fighter.
Anyway, more on this later, probably. Aldo fascinates me both for what he is now, and what he might be in 5 years considering how young he is. If he’s truly serious about moving down to 135 and up to 155, we may be looking at MMA’s Homicide Hank Armstrong. The odds are against that of course, but Aldo’s the sort of ridiculously talented guy who makes you wonder- well, why not?
– That, folks, is why I don’t do predictions for WEC events. .500 is basically random chance, which is what happens when you’re still building a knowledge base. Oh well.
– Froch/Kessler was a strong, strong contender for fight of the year in boxing. For whatever it’s worth since there appears to be controversy I had Kessler winning a fairly clear decision. It was one of those fights where if you sit back at the end of 12 rounds and say “gee, I thought this guy won” you could come to a completely different decision than if you watched and scored each round based on close inspection of what actually happened. Kessler was particularly effective with a left jab/right straight to the body combination which visibly wore Froch down, and to me won many rounds for him. In some respects, mostly for the controversy, this fight was a fine example of the truism that boxing judges and fans often underrate body punches the way MMA judges underrate leg kicks.
– Speaking of, if Keith Keiser is not forcing Cecil Peoples to watch tonight’s WEC main event on a loop Clockwork Orange-style, something has gone very wrong. My legs were hurting from running 10 miles on Friday, but after that? I feel great! No troubles here! It can always be worse.
– Antonio Tarver did a fantastic job on commentary tonight. He came up with several useful technical insights which completely escaped me, and provided them in a clear and direct fashion which spoke to the point of things instead of beating around the bush and self-contradicting as a lot of color commentators tend to do. A fantastic job by him. He hasn’t really made a strong impact on me before in this role, but after tonight I’m going to make a point of listening to him in the future; if I learn something new from a color commentator and have nothing to strenuously object to, that’s as much as I can ask.
– Julio/Angulo was what you’d expect. Combined with the main event, HBO’s BAD tonight was like an instructional video on the difference between boxing and running. Tomasz Adamek used his movement and boxing to set up his offense, and at every moment you expected him to land a hard shot; Joel Julio used his movement to run for his life, and at every moment you expected him to vault the ropes and flee into the darkness. It amazes me that so many people had Julio winning clearly at the point that the fight was stopped, which to me amounts to judging malfeasance and a complete misunderstanding of what makes movement into effective movement. The huge majority of punches thrown by Julio- nearly all in the second half of the fight- were flicking shots with no power on them which mostly slapped off of Angulo’s gloves. This isn’t tag or fencing or, God forbid, the amateurs; that’s not effective offense for the most part, and when a guy with 31 KOs in 35 wins gets on his bike like that it’s usually a clue as to who is doing more damage with their punches. At this point, despite looking better than he ever has before, Julio is a busted prospect until and unless he proves otherwise; if he fought every fight and every round the way he fought a couple of the early ones tonight he’d be a scary man, but he doesn’t so he isn’t so he’s an afterthought. Meh, the love child.
– What to say about Adamek/Arreola? I had it close for Adamek, but I was being kind to Arreola in retrospect, I think. Arreola probably fought the wrong fight early, laying back and letting rounds pass seemingly content in the idea that his power would tell later, except that it didn’t and he hurt his hand which all but ended the fight. When the naturally larger man has little going for him but activity and size and refuses to impose his size or let his hands go, he loses. Adamek did a fine job of boxing, but it was the same job which lost him the majority of rounds against Steve Cunningham; Arreola let him off the hook. Adamek moves on to any number of several interesting matchups- his cruiserweight titlist predecessor David Haye foremost among them- while Arreola slips back from contender to also-ran territory. A David Tua fight?
– Korean Zombie vs. Leonard Garcia. Wow. Just wow. One of the greatest MMA fights for action ever. For whatever it’s worth despite picking the Zombie I thought Garcia won rounds 2 and 3 to take the decision, but I won’t argue with anyone who had it for the Zombie and I’d love to see a rematch. You must see this fight. Frye/Takyamaesque. An astonishing fight on every level, and I have infinite respect for both men.
– YOU MUST SEE THAT FIGHT. YES, YOU. GO SEE IT.
– Scott Jorgensen looked splendiferous as always after an early scare, and fully deserved his decision win. Dude is world-class at his weight, and I hope they find space to give him a title fight soon. I do not particularly want to see a rematch with Banuelos despite Goldberg hyping that a bit on the show; in my mind over 6 rounds Jorgensen has won at least 4 of them, and if we’re going to keep doing rematches of fights which are that close than no one is going to get anywhere in this sport. They could easily end up doing three more identical rounds which would “require” rounds 10, 11 and 12, which could end up 2-1, which would “require” rounds 13, 14 and 15, which would end up 2-1, which would “require”….
– Jake Shields and Lex Fucking Luthor ringside was one of the most gloriously hilarious moments in the history of pro wrestling. And MMA I guess, but mostly pro wrestling. Him heading to UFC is probably for the best- In Strikeforce, there’s maybe one interesting fight for him (Jacare); in UFC, there’s 5 or more.
– As predicted, Roller/Njokuani was an IQ test for Roller; I was wrong, he passed, and congratulations to him. If he continues to fight smart and use his grappling and wrestling he’ll be a handful for anyone.
– Didn’t it seem like they were doing whatever they could to keep Mizugaki and Honey, Yeah, Yeah off the air? When you reach the point where you’re showing prelims twice before you show a fight….
– Incidentally, there’s a lot of “oh wow, Carl Froch, what sportsmanship!” out there. Bullshit, I say. When you claim that you were jobbed by the judges on a fair decision and that in your hometown the judges would have properly jobbed your opponent like he deserved, and there’s a million reasons for your loss but no, no you couldn’t be making excuses, and you won but you “don’t want to take anything away” from the other guy (except that he lost, that bastard) you’re a sore loser. He’s a sore loser, and the hypocrisy is particularly rich given that he got every possible call and benefit of the doubt against Dirrell. The fact that he was moderately less boastful than before does not really mitigate this. And now he’s threatening to leave the Super Six unless he’s given home town preference in the future. Oh, what a sportsman, what a classy guy. Can you imagine the crap someone like Floyd Mayweather would get if he tried this?
– Henderson/Cerrone was not what I expected, at all, and yet somehow was not the upset of the night. Not much to say here other than that Cerrone started slow again, and Henderson has developed a really brutal guillotine. There’s not much left for him in the WEC having finished both Varner and Cerrone, so I’m more than comfortable with Zuffa’s mooted decision to fold the WEC 155 pounders into UFC. Henderson vs. any number of guys could be an exciting quality fight. If they want to start him out slow then Takanori Gomi would be an interesting opponent, but I would have no objections to a “unification” fight against the Edgar/Penn winner either.
– Manny Gamburyan vs. Mike Brown was an interesting and strange fight. Not much happened until the finish; and then, out of nowhere, Manny demonstrated a KO power which A) he’s never shown before and B) which no one has ever displayed against Brown before. Who saw that coming? If he’s improved his power or counterpunching to the point where he can do that regularly, then sonofabitch. Technically there may be a ways to go for him, but if the other guy is unconscious he’s not really in a position to critique the technique. I don’t think he really has much of a chance against Jose Aldo, but he’s more than earned the right to take his shot.
– Aldo vs. Faber was exactly what I expected in the general dimensions of it, though not the specifics of Aldo targeting the leg. Aldo is a monster. Godzilla, Mothra, Monster Zero, that thingamabobber from Cloverfield, King Kong, take your pick- a goddamn monster. After Brown got KO’d on the undercard it was fair to say that at the point when he stepped into the cage, Urijah Faber was clearly the #2 featherweight on the planet; Aldo treated him like he didn’t belong in the same building as him. Unless Aldo decides he’s a lightweight now I don’t know who can even compete with him. No one can go strike-for-strike, and if Mike Brown and Faber can’t take him down….
All in all, one of the best nights of fights in a long time. The future is a bit cloudier with WEC having no obvious next big fight and the Super Six threatening to disintegrate (again), but for now things couldn’t be much brighter.
I figure WEC’s first PPV is a fine place to do a first predictions post for them, and hopefully their buyrate will end up better than my accuracy is likely to be or it could be an end to both experiments. On paper, this is a phenomenal card; Aldo vs. Faber is as good a headliner from a sporting and action perspective as any fight which can be made and better than any other at the WEC level from a promotional standpoint, Henderson vs. Cerrone was a wonderful fight the first time, and the rest of the PPV card is full of great actions fighters and guys who are as big as names get in this promotion. The only way it could really be bigger is if Dominick Cruz were also defending his belt, though that for various reasons would not be a great idea for business. I’m excited for this one. Picks will be short.
* Featherweight Championship bout: Jose Aldo (c) vs. Urijah Faber
Such a great fight. Most people seem to fall into two camps on this one: the larger group of people who think Aldo is going to kill Faber dead like a dog in the first round, and the people who think Faber is going to badly expose Aldo. I’m somewhere in the middle, and while I may be overrating Faber because I hate him with a passion nevertheless I still expect this to be a great fight which will go rounds, possibly all five, and which either man has a legitimate shot to win. Faber must get this down- while he’s unlikely to have it all his own way with a Nova Uniao black belt down there, it’s still a much better bet than throwing hands with a guy who at times looks more like Anderson Silva than Anderson Silva does these days. If Faber can get in, make it a wrestling match, control Aldo at least some of the time and do some damage from the top, he absolutely can win this. His game is to hurt Aldo enough to make him give up his back and try to get the choke, or else just control positions as best as he can to steal rounds. Don’t count him out- he’s a remarkable fighter, and if you’re a betting man you should probably consider putting money on this one; the odds currently ridiculously underrate the Kerry Von Erich look-alike.
That said, no, no I’m not picking him. For Faber to win he has to come forward and open up, at least to shoot and probably both to shoot and to strike enough to make Aldo respect his standup and not sit on the shot, and this is probably going to be his doom. Aldo is a a killer striker who has a good chance of KO’ing Faber, not because he has great natural power (he may, but that’s not his major asset) but because he has something of the gifts that a Roy Jones or an Andy Silva have or had- an eerily perfect blend of speed, balance, and accuracy. Guys like this are trouble for anyone, but they’re doom for a wild fighter who likes to charge in and has to take the initiative to make the fight what he wants it to be, and that’s Faber here. Once he opens up Aldo is going to step back as he comes in, time him, and smash him with an uppercut, a hook or a rising knee strike. Faber may or may not be able to shrug that off once or twice, but the nature of the fight is such that he’s probably going to keep getting caught that way and there’s only so many times a man can take that kind of abuse. Aldo KO 3. Speed kills, and accuracy makes it quicker.
* Lightweight Championship bout: Ben Henderson (c) vs. Donald Cerrone
I love this fight so much. To me it’s functionally the main event really, considering the quality of the first fight and the general sense out there that Faber is significantly outmatched in the official headliner. The first fight between these two was almost a coin flip; there’s good reason to expect the followup to be as well. The key factor in my mind is which guy has improved the most since the first fight. What does being a champion do to Henderson? Some guys get sloppy once they win and slack off; some guys (and I expect Henderson is one) improve and fight with greater confidence than ever before. That could be good or bad if it makes Henderson even more likely to walk into submission attempts, but it may also allow him to overwhelm Cerrone if the Cowboy hasn’t improved himself. Cerrone however, leaving aside the championship factor, actually seems to have more room to improve and more reasonable chances of doing so than Henderson does for this fight. Cerrone has the advantages of training with Greg Jackson, he’s had the solvable issue of being a slow starter which probably cost him the first fight, and there were some specific things Henderson relied on in the first fight (stacking Cerrone up on the ground and posturing to a full stand for GNP, etc.) for which there are counters. All of which is to say, the best Cerrone beats the best Henderson… unless being a champion makes the best Henderson better. It’s this kind of intrigue that makes this such a great fight.
I’ll take Cerrone by decision- I think he comes out of the gate quicker this time and sneaks by in another really close fight, setting up either Cerrone/Henderson III or Cerrone/Varner II. Good stuff.
* Featherweight bout: Mike Brown vs. Manvel Gamburyan
It’s the exact same guy, except Brown is bigger, more experienced at the top level, probably stronger, and a more technical striker. Brown by decision, though he may pull of a GNP KO. I assume this is booked to give Brown the Aldo/Faber winner and I understand the desire to showcase a challenger on the undercard for the champion of the main event, but I would not have sacrificed Gamburyan here if I were booking- he’s a minor name and could be needed as a challenger himself soon.
* Lightweight bout: Anthony Njokuani vs. Shane Roller
This fight is basically an IQ test for Roller: if he takes it down he can win, and if he strikes for any appreciable amount of time he’s got a decent chance of being back-boarded out of the arena. Team Takedown guys seem to have an unhealthy fascination as wrestlers with wanting to be strikers, which sorta works if you have the unholy power of Johnny Hendricks and less so if you don’t, and I suspect that’s going to get Roller into trouble here. Njokuani KO1.
* Bantamweight bout: Antonio Banuelos vs. Scott Jorgensen
Every single time I’ve seen Jorgensen he’s been a noticeably better fighter than he was the last time, so I’ll take him to reverse the results of a matchup which he lost in a close fight the first time. Jorgensen by decision, moving him closer to a potentially awesome title showdown with Dominick Cruz.
Spike TV Card
* Featherweight bout: Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung
I am not a giant fan of Leonard Garcia- he’s not bad by any means, but he’s clearly very limited and I’m not sure he’s ever entirely come back from the horrid beating Mike Brown gave him. He’s looked a bit slower and a bit gun-shy since then and seems to be having trouble pulling the trigger on his punches, and those are bad signs for anyone and worse for a featherweight on the wrong side of 30. On that basis and the Zombie’s reputation as a prospect, I’ll go out on a limb and pick the Korean by decision.
* Lightweight bout: Alex Karalexis vs. Anthony Pettis
Pettis KO1. Showcase fight, y’all.
* Bantamweight bout: Brad Pickett vs. Demetrious Johnson
I appreciate a good gimmick as much as the next guy, but Pickett’s “pikey from Snatch” deal is truly ridiculous. I’ll take Johnson here; he’s got a little buzz and Pickett was not hugely impressive in his WEC debut. Decision.
* Featherweight bout: Chad Mendes vs. Anthony Morrison
It’s a set up for Mendes to get a win as a prospect, and I think he’ll take it. Decision, maybe a submission in the second.
* Bantamweight bout: Takeya Mizugaki vs. Rani Yahya
Lovely, an appearance by the only man in the sport whose name sounds like porno dialogue, Honey Yeah Yeah. Yahya is microbial in size at this weight and as a general rule is lost if he can’t tap someone (15 career wins- 14 by submission), so going against a larger opponent with better striking and decent takedown defense probably isn’t a good thing. Mizugaki, decision.
* Featherweight bout: Brandon Visher vs. Tyler Toner
Ehhh, let’s say Toner, KO. The people who like him REALLY like him.
I am stoked for this show. Should be all kinds of fun. My PPV buys prediction is 60,000, incidentally.
THEY DID IT, THEY FINALLY DID IT- THEY BLEW IT UP
Fight is going to be goddamn preposterous and all kinds of fun. I love a good freak show. Let’s just hope that nothing blows it up again between now and then.
Showtime boxing + HBO boxing + Aldo vs. Faber + Bellator + Doctor Who = too damn much to DVR this weekend.
I may or may not get around to doing one of these for WEC; my knowledge of guys in those weight classes is sadly much more limited than for bigger guys. We shall see. Anyway, boxing:
Mikkel Kessler vs. Carl “Karl Frok” Froch
Ah, yes, the Super Six. I remain unconvinced that it’s ever going to actually finish given some of the rumors out there, but in the meantime it’s still at least doing a job of producing good to great fights, of which this is one. I had Frochachiccka-bow-wow picked out as one of the two guys- with Jermain Taylor- who I thought had no chance to win this thing when it started, but my mind has been somewhat changed, I must say, for two reasons: first, I think I’ve underrated his power and his confidence as an undefeated fighter; and second and more specifically, Andre Dirrell is an idiot. As much as I disagreed with the decision in his fight with Froch, Dirrell made it way, way too easy for such a decision to be reached. The version of him which fought Arthur Abraham would have put Froch to the sword, but the points from that fight have been won and lost and can’t be undone, so all Froch needs is to get a little lucky and all of a sudden he’s gone farther than anyone but him expected him to. And now, albeit on the road in Denmark, he faces a fighter who lost his title and his reputation as the top man in the division last time out in a thorough depantsing at the hands of Andre Ward. The last time Mikkel Kessler lost, he all but disappeared from the sport for two full years while fighting nobodies in small fights in Denmark and arguing with his promoters. Is Froch catching another guy at the right time?
He might be. The best Mikkel Kessler should win this easily, jabbing Froch’s head off to keep him at range and dropping a solid right hand behind often enough to work Froch over not entirely unlike the way he did Librado Andrade. I think he’s got the chin to resist Froch’s power for the most part, and he’s a good enough and skilled enough boxer to avoid most of the Englishman’s wild, flailing offense. But I honestly don’t know if that Kessler is going to show up; he’s been proven to have good during-the-fight mental strength, but he has not always been known to handle post-loss adversity as well and it’s been only 5 months since the Ward fight. I can see Froch leaping in with wild hooks, tying up on the inside and banging the body, making it an ugly fight and trying to discourage Kessler early, and maybe that will work; when you’ve got an undefeated cocky fighter against a guy coming off a crushing loss, the mental aspect can’t be completely dismissed. Despite picking against him last time out I still like Kessler, and I’m going to pick him here by close decision, but man… I will not be surprised if he goes into a shell, gives rounds away and loses.
Fun fact: Froch once KO’d a guy named Odin. Whether this gives him an advantage against other Norsemen is unclear.
Chris Arreola vs. Tomasz Adamek
Oh, for this one to be shirts vs. skins. On the one hand I don’t want to dwell on Arreola’s weight, but on the other hand… he’s one of those fighters who sometimes makes you think that by watching him, you’re taking his career more seriously than he is. He also has entered the category of heavyweights who just kind of make you sad: at 28 he’s had his shot at a Klitschko and got beaten on like a heavy bag for 10 rounds until the stoppage, which means while he may have any number of fairly entertaining fights from here on out he’s also got that Kenny Florianesque stink of “never, ever, ever going to be the #1 guy” on him unless he just plain waits out the Klitschkos and rises to the top when they’ve retired. All he can really be in the meantime, in a sense, is a spoiler- if Adamek can take this one than he may well end up facing a Klitschko in the near future, but if Arreola wins than good bye to those plans. Adamek, meanwhile, probably shouldn’t even be here. A magnificent cruiserweight who won the title in one of the greatest fights at that weight in December of 2008 against Steve Cunningham, Adamek ended up moving up to the bigger class shortly afterwards when he discovered that there was no real money to be found at cruiser, even for a rematch with Cunningham. Why that is is somewhat of a mystery, but HBO giveth and HBO taketh away and at least Adamek- consistently one of the more entertaining big men in the sport- has a date this weekend on the network. Ironically, take away the TV money issues and Arreola’s waistline and in another time and place this could have been a hell of a cruiserweight title fight.
I like Arreola in this one, pretty easily. Adamek is tough and game and strong, but Arreola is naturally larger with a great chin and presents a rough style for Adamek to deal with. Adamek likes to jab and time and catch you with one big shot; Arreola throws endless punches and walks men down, pressuring them and imposing his size and strength to break them down, and hits like a real heavyweight. Some guys coming up from cruiser might be able to do the bull-and-matador routine with Arreola, but Adamek is a linear and largely stationary fighter. He’ll probably catch Arreola a few times early, but I don’t think he really has the power at this weight to finish him, and if he can’t finish him he likely has little chance of winning a decision given his limited activity level. I’m thinking Arreola just grinds away at his smaller opponent, outworks him and breaks him down to the head and body, finishing him in the 9th or 10th of an entertaining but somewhat one-sided contest.
Joel Julio vs. Alfredo Angulo
I’m less excited for this one than some people I think, mostly because it seems somewhat one-sided to me. I’ve had the misfortune, perhaps, to see Julio almost exclusively in his losses; perhaps it gives me a distorted view of his ability, but to me this seems as though this should be an exciting but quickly one-sided pounding. Julio is not unskilled, but he’s not the kind of slickish Cintronesque mover who can give Angulo trouble and at times he seems to develop Rocky Juarez disease and become oddly passive- NOT a great idea against a pressure-mauler who comes to the ring in a hound collar and fights like an unfed guard dog. I expect Angulo to go right at Julio from early in the bout and put him in a fight, and despite Julio’s impressive KO record his instincts are a boxer’s- he’s going to jab, back off, reset, move, reset, jab, hold, move, reset, and try to find some space to make the fight into a slower-paced skills contest where he can pick his spots and get into a comfort zone. Angulo will never let him do it, and will be landing to the body and the head the entire time. He may lose an early round or two, but I fully expect him to break Julio down and stop him late on an accumulation of blows. It will be action-packed, if nothing else.
All in all this is potentially a really great night of fights, the kind of night that boxing has really been hurting for so far this year. Let’s hope it lives up to its potential.