Rule one before reading this piece: recognize that this PPV is being put on by Golden Boy, the owner of The Ring; as such, this article represents in effect a message- perhaps a threat- directly from the promoter. This is not journalism. That said:
As the article half-notes, the idea that the undercard can’t draw is a known fallacy in some circumstances, a story that (mostly boxing) promoters tell themselves because it’s easier to stick with familiar methods than to try something new. For a specific example of an undercard working in a related sport, try UFC 92- a show with a solid but unspectacular Rashad Evans vs. Forrest Griffin main event that did over 1 million buys on the strength of an undercard which featured Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage Jackson (second on the PPV) and Frank Mir vs. Big Nog (semi-main). For an additional example try UFC 101, a show with two guys who at the time were minor draws (BJ Penn, Andy Silva) and one real star in Griffin which ended up doing 850,000 (and no, it’s not just Forrest- his next fight with Tito Ortiz did less than half as many buys with him on top) This is one half of the argument for loaded undercards- the idea that depth on a card can be as much of a draw as overall star power at the top within certain constraints. Whether or not you buy that argument in general is one thing, whether you buy it as applied to boxing is another, but one thing should be very clear: no one card is going to settle the discussion to any reasonable degree, especially this one. Let’s look at this thing:
The main event is JM Marquez vs. Juan Diaz. It was a very good fight the first time, but it also had a clear and definitive result and both guys have looked badly faded in losses since then. Both are likely 1-2 fights away from retirement. This is a very weak PPV headliner, so already we’ve moved from seeing if we can enhance a good main event with a strong undercard to seeing if we can salvage a weak one. Second from the top is Daniel Jacobs vs. Dmitry Pirog. I am at this point a slightly more than casual boxing fan; I have never, ever heard of Dmitry Pirog. Perhaps that’s a failing of my knowledge, perhaps he’s a wonderful fighter, but the point is- people like me are the swing buyers you’re looking to attract with this undercard and for all I know this is Jacobs squashing another jobber. It’s not like Pirog has been featured or promoted anywhere which would convey to the ignorant who he is, exactly. I like Jacobs, think he’s a very fine prospect, but this is not an adds-buys fight. Third from the top is Rocky Juarez vs. Jorge Linares, which is an interesting fight of two guys who basically mean nothing right now. Juarez is the perpetual underachiever, while Linares is a very high level former prospect looking to come back from a brutal first round KO loss. It’s a fun fight, but it’s also a BAD opener in terms of promotional value. Minor buys. Last if not least is Joel Casamayor vs. Robert Guerrero. It’s actually a very good semi-main in some ways insofar as Casamayor is a real name and Guerrero has some recognition and a good deal of talent and it could be a competitive (if ugly) fight, but it’s hardly a massive, massive must-see. Minor buys, which may as well be the tagline for this show as it’s probably going to be the result.
In essence you have what looks at first blush like a weak main event, a solid edition of BAD, and a bonus jobber squash. Given how desperate I am for good boxing to me that’s a buy; but it’s hardly a massive, massive blow-away show, and if this card goes down it’s not going to prove that a solid undercard can’t draw. Framing it as buy-this-or-else is setting up the whole concept to fail since this lineup is easily weak enough to not pass the smell test with a substantial portion of the intended audience; that Schaefer is using this framing tells me that he doesn’t really want this concept to succeed, he wants an “example” to point to to argue that it can’t. Worse still this is a card at cross-purposes with itself, confusing badly the two very different kinds of loaded undercard in a way which serves neither purpose for which a loaded undercard is intended and thus isn’t really a fair test of either.
No one at Golden Boy seems to have more than a vague inkling of the other reason why you load undercards: to make stars. The biggest problem with boxing these days is that because fighters won’t take fights, won’t show up on undercards of bigger names and fight so rarely (among other reasons) it has become very, very difficult to ever make new stars, to grow them organically from the undercard to the main event. Mosley vs. Mayweather had Saul Alvarez on the undercard and that was a great idea. So why isn’t he fighting here, the big new Mexican prospect for Golden Boy on the undercard of two of the bigger current Mexican and Mexican-American stars? Where the hell has he been, anyway? And the answer is fighting against no one in Mexico for fast money and scheduled to face the mighty TBA in Los Angeles in September so far as I can tell, off of US TV in both cases. By the next time he gets onto US television he’ll be utterly forgotten by anyone who saw his fun fight on the Mayweather undercard and isn’t already a hardcore. Daniel Jacobs is here and that at least the start of a good idea, but Schaefer is talking as though he expects Jacobs to add buys rather than develop as a star, which shows a massive miscalculation about where Jacobs is in his development as a TV property. It’s a confusion of the two completely different kinds of loaded undercards. Jorge Linares couldn’t get on anyone’s undercard to help build him up when he was viewed much more favorably than he is now, and so with no American TV exposure to let anyone here know who he is or why they should care he’s being thrown in there- one fight removed from his first KO loss and reportedly looking bad of late- with a guy whose major asset is his power, again in a fight which is expected to add buys rather than develop a good young talent. For years the knock on Golden Boy has been that they’re wonderfully adept at maximizing return for big fighters and poaching stars, but they can’t develop any fighters of their own from scratch. The senselessness of this card shows you how true that charge is, and why.
Bottom line: there are two ways to load an undercard. One is to put several great competitive fights together from guys who are stars but not superstars, and hope that together they can add up to a superstar-level draw. This is proven to work in MMA, and I see no reason it shouldn’t in boxing. The other is to load up fights involving prospects and young contenders on the undercard of a true superstar, exposing those fighters to the widest possible audience so that they can have a chance of catching on and becoming superstars themselves. The second of these is the more important over the long haul, but it’s not even a reasonable possibility below a mediocre main event like Marquez/Diaz unless you want to do something specialized like showcase a Mexican like Saul Alvarez below two Mexican headliners to try to rub their audience off on him. The first of these is getting only the most marginal and weak of trials on this card, since the card itself is basically a half-assed hodgepodge of fights that should be used for the star-building purpose (Jacobs/Pirog), fights which appear to be wildly premature risks for prospects who don’t have the stature to be draws yet (Linares/Juarez), and fights which actually may serve as cumulative undercard draws (Casamayor/Guerrero).
What’s sad about this is that I understand why Richard Schaefer, Dan Rafael, Eric Raskin and others regard the putting together of this card as a Herculean achievement. It is hard as hell to be a boxing promoter sometimes: star fighters demand huge chunks of the budget; managers, other promoters, trainers, “advisers”, TV executives, fighters’ families, girlfriends (boyfriends?), assorted hangers-on and others all demand a say in the process and control; fighters have become so coddled that fighting twice a year is considered an active schedule; no one ever wants to fight outside their local area or comfort zone; everyone is incredibly unrealistic about their standing in the sport; star fighters disappear with “personal issues”; entire weight classes seize up as fighters wait to see if they can land a giant payday as a B-side to a true superstar and on and on and on. Putting together a single fight of any meaning is incredibly hard today, and putting together a card of meaning is exponentially harder as you try to get probably 50 or more people to all sign off on these four fights, sync up the fighters’ training schedules, bargain endlessly about revenue splits, negotiate options and future incentives, etc. I have sympathy for Richard Schaefer and Golden Boy on this- it’s epic cat-herding.
But when I read Oscar De La Hoya saying “Everybody knows these fights are exciting. Everybody knows these fights can go either way” about a card featuring Dmitry Pirog in a money slot, all I can think is that these guys are completely out of touch with the knowledge level of their fanbase. When I read Oscar saying “We didn’t think about or care about how much money we spent. We just wanted to make sure that we have great fights, that the fans are happy, because it’s good for boxing” and that’s immediately followed by Oscar’s boss Schaefer saying “This is a major financial commitment on our part, and we do hope that the fight fans, those who always complain out there — ‘Well, there wasn’t really a good card or this wasn’t good or that wasn’t good’ — are going to come out and really support that card. Because at the end of the day, who likes to lose a few million dollars? Nobody I think these guys are two-faced, can’t get their story straight AND are going out of their way to insult the very fans they claim to be trying to appeal to. When I read Schaefer saying if fight fans are going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m not really going to buy it and so on,’ then it becomes a huge loss for us. Then I really don’t want to hear any more, ‘Well, you know what? This is not good or that is not good” about a card which honestly isn’t as good on paper as UFC on Versus 2: Matyushenko vs. Jones despite coasting $50 more, I lose all my sympathy. These people are clowns who think fans owe them something, and that’s boxing’s problem in the proverbial nutshell: the arrogance of those in power to believe that everything they have is owed to them by right, that none of it has to be worked for, that things can just go on forever the way they always have. These people are living in the shadow of the volcano, chattering away about what a lovely day it is.
Here’s a reality check for Schaefer and the rest: cards like this cannot be the once-a-year exceptions in a healthy sport. MMA raised the bar: UFC shows are better than this in terms of strong talent in competitive fights month after month after month, Strikeforce shows are close, even useless tertiary dead promotions like Affliction and Elite XC were in the neighborhood. That is now the state of the art in the PPV fighting market and in large parts of the free TV market, and while the boxing and MMA fanbases are for the moment separate enough that boxing can hide from this it’s not going to be that way forever. Right now boxing is surviving on a vast pool of ingrained cultural appreciation for the sport, on ethnic appeals and on the memories of people who grew up with Leonard, Duran, Hagler, Hearns and their ilk as the leaders of the sport. The next generation of fans- people like me and those younger- are growing up with UFC, with Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez and Rampage Jackson, and with the dominant boxing story in the press being the inability of anyone to agree on even the most lucrative of fights. I’m old enough to remember George Foreman as the heavyweight champion of the world, which was the fight which made me a boxing fan at age 12 or 13; I have no clue what would make a 12 year old a boxing fan today.
Sooner or later either fighter pay and demands are going to have to come down or profit margins are going to have to be squeezed, because right now boxing can’t put together big fights, can’t put together big cards, can’t build stars consistently, and looks ever more like a clown sport to anyone who actually does watch MMA. It doesn’t have to be this way; there is no reason on earth why MMA and boxing shouldn’t be able to coexist, shouldn’t in fact be able to compete their way into mutual improvement. But so long as Richard Scheafer thinks his potential audience owes him something, so long as this card is what he thinks is a blow-away show, so long as he’s willing to write off a Jorge Linares without ever giving him a chance, boxing is going to keep shooting itself in the foot. Schaefer thinks he’s being magnanimous, doing us all a favor by being so good as to put together this show; thinks that if this doesn’t draw he can go right back to doing things the way they’ve always been done, telling us it’s all our fault for not giving him our money when we had the chance. It’s that insufferable arrogance which will ruin this sport- that belief that fans can be abused endlessly, can be sold anything, that they’ll never have standards and will never find someplace else to go.
This month you get Antonio Margarito and Richard Schaefer’s stick up show, and you’d better like it. Or you get UFC for free showcasing a guy who could be the best fighter alive in 5 years. Do they think no one’s ever going to notice?
Rubber meets the road time now for a lot of people who have issues with Margarito. The bottom line is that his cheating has now proved a major advantage for him: it enabled him to reach a point in his career where he was considered a viable option for one of the biggest money slots in the sport. If you buy this PPV, you’re endorsing that and endorsing his use of weapons to cheat in a(t least one) fight in a way which was potentially deadly to his opponent. You’re saying that as a boxing fan you really have no interest in the safety of fighters and that you’re willing to accept anything in the name of your sport- that you have no standards whatsoever. What’s more, you’re incentivizing any number of lesser-known, struggling boxers out there watching these events to cheat the same way as Margarito did, confident that the penalties are easily paid when the potential reward is millions of dollars in life-changing money even after the cheating is discovered. If you buy Margarito vs. Pacquiao, the next loaded glove in this sport is in part your fault.
Personally I assume this fight is still going to do between 500,000 and 800,000 buys on PPV, because that’s about what I think of the combination of Pacquiao’s drawing power and the moral decency and self-respect of boxing fans at this point. I will not be one of them, and I dearly hope I’m wrong about how many will. We shall see.
“I lost because of what happened”- Fedor Emelianenko
Let’s see what we can do with this wonderful new linguistic tool. Let’s try it out a bit:
I was late to work because of what happened.
I parked illegally because of what happened.
I set a blender on fire because of what happened.
I cheated on you because of what happened.
I defrauded the federal government because of what happened.
I signed with the Miami Heat because of what happened.
I didn’t fight Manny Pacquiao because of what happened.
Works for all occasions! This could be my new favorite phrase, because of what happened.
There’s been a million and six things said about this non-fight not happening (I counted… believe me), and it’s really pointless to pile on and add more. And will that stop me? Like fun it will.
– I have written many times about my fears about where boxing is going, but ironically this fight not happening doesn’t really worry me to any great degree on that account. My concerns are all about the day-in, day out business of the sport which includes 95% of all fights and fighters. This fight and these fighters are very much not part of that category, and I don’t believe that this fight not being made has much effect on the health of boxing overall at this point. There’s going to be people who look at it and think “God, this sport can’t even get this right”, and they’ll have a point, but it’s a point which has been true or assumed to be true for a very long time and the people for whom that’s enough to drive them off were driven off many years back, to be honest. This is not a revelation; hell, it’s not even the first time this particular fight has died on the negotiating table. The biggest problem with the sport is the inability to make new stars as fast as the old ones are used up, and this fight, whatever else it may have done, certainly wasn’t going to make a new star or use up an old one. Which ironically is part of why it not being made is so frustrating- it’s the kind of fight where even the loser would come out ahead.
– That said, with this fight having died twice already I strongly doubt that it’ll be made in its current form. Perhaps in time when both guys are more broken down and more in need of a payday (think Jones/Hopkins II) it may happen, but as it stands it’s fallen through twice when the pot of money involved was as big as it was going to get AND when both guys didn’t really have a credible fallback position. They just don’t want the fight. Dan Rafael’s dropping hints about it being re-made for May ’11, but why would it work then? By May, ‘Weather will be talking about how he hasn’t fought recently enough and needs a tune-up against whatever the 2011 version of Henry Bruseles is and Pacquiao will have some other excuse, and we’ll start hearing about no, really, just wait ’til November this time. As long as both guys can keep stringing this out they can maintain an artificially inflated interest in their fallback fights which the press will treat for a while as preludes to a big event, instead of mediocre money-spinning time-wasters. Don’t think this hype comes about by accident; all parties to this- Golden Boy, Top Rank, Pacquiao, Mayweather, Al Haymon, the boxing press, etc.- have an interest in keeping alive the hope of the fight without delivering. Part of the art of promotion lies in recognizing how long this can be done without driving down the value of the eventual fight; I think they’ve already missed the mark. I also think, in this case, many of the principles don’t care if they have.
– Speaking of, if Mayweather wants to fight Sergio Martinez at a reasonable weight (say, 154? Anything lower is no good) that’s a fine substitute fight in my opinion, though I’d be surprised if Floyd took the fight. Pacquiao has no good options at all: Arum wants to keep it in-house with Margarito and Cotto and both of those fights suck. Cotto is a great fighter and a warrior, but he tried his luck with Pacquiao and took a career-shortening beating which left no questions in anyone’s mind about who the better man is. Margarito is a fucking dirty cheat of the lowest order, and a fight with Pacquiao for him is all of a bad matchup, a no-buys spectacle, a sporting mis-match and a moral offense.
– As a result, I’ll say this- as great as both men have been and still could be, it’s probably best to think of them both as retired from here on out. They’re in their 30’s at relatively smaller weights, and both have reached a point where there aren’t many serious fights left for them and those that are they won’t take because the money isn’t right. Neither man has the mind of a Lennox Lewis, looking to clean out their weight range against younger contenders like Andre Berto and Tim Bradley the way Lewis did at heavyweight against David Tua, Michael Grant, Vitali Klitschko, etc. Both men have gone about as far up in weight as they can- Pacquiao might fight once at 154, but it’ll be against a guy he KO’d at 147 and not, say, Sergei Dzindziruk. Neither guy is likely to go down. So what do they do? Most likely Mayweather will fight one random easy touch a year for a bit longer to fund his “being Floyd Mayweather” habit and possibly a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya, and Pacquiao will probably get another year or so out of fighting first Cotto, than Margarito, and then maybe another 6 months out of fighting some other random Top Rank guy before he fades into politics and then eventually bankruptcy and a faintly shameful comeback over the next 5 years. The point is: I think it’s more likely than not that when we look back in 10 years, we’ll end up saying that Mayweather vs. Mosley was the last great competitive on-paper fight either guy ever took.
– The invocation of time brings the question of perspective, and that will be crueler to both men than their contemporaries and their cronies are. That both men are great, great hall-of-fame caliber talents is unquestionable; but to say that they are begs comparison of them to other fighters in that class, and by opting to not fight each other both men will always have something to apologize for in that company. This has been said better, but to put it in perspective: to me it says it all that Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta beat the fuck out of each other 6 times over 9 years for less money total than Floyd and Manny turned down to fight each other once. For all Mayweather and his fans want to talk about how he’s the greatest of all time, this is just another of the million ways in which he’ll never be able to carry Ray Robinson’s jock; and for all the boys at PacLand.com want to talk about how their man is the toughest thing around, this is another of the ways he shows he’s a step behind the LaMottas and Durans who really would fight anyone at any time at any weight, just to prove something. And not something to do with drug testing, either.
Overall I can’t say I’m upset about this really, or even disappointed exactly; even before this latest call-off I was utterly fed up with the BS around this fight, to the point where my interest was basically historical and not emotional, wanting to know what would happen rather than caring. I haven’t had that slightly-nauseated-in-a-good-way feeling in the pit of the gut you get when a really great matchup is on the table for this one since after the Pacquiao-Cotto fight, which was the time and place when things were hottest. At this point Pacquiao vs. Mayweather honestly isn’t even #1 on my personal list of boxing matches I want to see badly (that would be Alexander vs. Bradley, with Bute vs. Ward and Dirrell vs. Ward slightly behind). Mostly I just want this whole saga to be over; as great as Pacquiao and Mayweather are, at this point their sour selfishness is starting to distract from some of the good things happening in boxing, and I’m ready for them to get off stage and let someone with a real fight scheduled take their place under the lights. It’s come to this: can we please get to the Andre Dirrell fight already?
99.9% of the time when people say a fight was fixed or someone took a dive, it’s horseshit; this Paul Briggs vs. Danny Green fight may honestly be the exception. If you’re going to work a fight that’s pretty much how you do it- have a guy go down on the first solid punch that lands. Trouble is, this time there wasn’t one. It’s a farce of some sort, anyway. Link may not work as these appear to be getting yanked off of youtube quickly- do a search, it’s worth seeing.
Look at this, then. You know you’re dealing with a stacked show when Diego Sanchez- a long-time star, former PPV headliner and title challenger- is listed 4th from the top in a really interesting, competitive fight. On paper this has the potential to be the card of the year, especially if Brock! vs. Velasquez delivers the all-time classic MMA heavyweight fight I think it may.
There’s also a clever bit of card-building at work here: Jake Shields is a major investment for the UFC insofar as they expect him to be a major part of top-of-the-card matchmaking at both 170 and eventually 185 in future years. Yet, he’s currently a non-draw and a somewhat unfamiliar name to a lot of their fanbase. What to do? The answer they came up with- and it’s a good one- is to stick him in a featured place on a card which already has two other gigantic draws on it and which is likely to be 1 million+ buys show, against a recognizable name opponent who he matches up well with. His position on the card is enough to signal his importance, and by putting him on such a major card they guarantee that pretty much their entire PPV audience is going to be familiar with him after the evening. Kampmann, while hardly a slam dunk, is a good matchup for Shields- he doesn’t have the wrestling background to keep it standing, which means a lot of the fight is likely to be Shields raining down elbows from the top. If Shields can win impressively he’s probably made as an acceptable semi-main level guy and a potentially legitimate challenger to GSP if other fights go the right way. If Kampmann wins, great- that’s a high-profile win for him, 3 in a row and 5 out of 6 since he made the drop to 170. All of a sudden he’s a contender too. It’s this kind of strategic star-creating matchmaking and card-building which has kept UFC hot long after many people expected this boom to fade.
Jack that MMA straight into my bloodstream, please. Of all the sports out there, the NFL and MMA are right now the only two about which I have absolutely nothing bad to say. They’re just fun, and that goes a long way.
* Light Heavyweight bout: Jon Jones vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Make no mistake: this is a showcase fight. Matyushenko is still a solid fighter, but he’s 39, he went to a split decision with Eliot Marshall last time out, his best asset (wrestling) is something Jones is also very strong in, and he has something of a name and an impressive-looking record such that beating him does mean something. He’s here to get mack-trucked by Jones in brutal fashion if the UFC has their way. And I don’t really doubt that they will; anything can happen in this sport, but the odds of V-Mat pulling this one off are just about random chance, the 5% I think any competent professional MMA fighter has against any other. The only real question to my mind is whether Jones gets extended at all and has to work, or whether he does to V-Mat what he did to Brandon Vera. I’m hoping we see Jones put on his back at least once here, to see what he does or does not have from that position; but I’m not confident in seeing it though, sadly. Jones KO2. Matyushenko’s a tough fucker and will hang around for a while, but he’s going to get mauled.
* Middleweight bout: Yushin Okami vs. Mark Muñoz
And here’s round one of “let’s play a nasty booking trick on the Japanese guy” for this card. Two fights ago Okami lost because he faced a superior wrestler who just kept sticking him on his back, and had no back up plan. After a squash against Lucio Linhares, his reward is… a former NCAA D1 wrestling champ. I don’t want to say the UFC is trying to get rid of Okami (if they wanted to they could have cut him after the Sonnen fight after all), but they certainly are trying to make him prove something here. I like Munoz a lot, personally; at 205 he was out-sized and over-matched, but at 185 you can see his athleticism come through, and he’s got natural power and some wicked GNP that does serious damage to guys. His last time out against Kendall Grove he showed real heart and a chin to come through some brutal early adversity and pound out the taller and younger man in a fantastic fight. Okami can win if Munoz doesn’t tuck his chin and try to get this down quickly, but I suspect he’ll have learned what he needed to from his own last fight and Okami vs. Sonnen, and will just keep driving Okami down and wailing on him from the top. Munoz KO2 in what might actually be a pretty fun fight.
* Welterweight bout: John Howard vs. Jake Ellenberger
Love this fight. Love it. Ellenberger’s been a midcard favorite of mine since the Carlos Condit fight, and while I’m not sure exactly what his ceiling is he’s got a lot going for him: 27 fights already at age 25, big for the weight, nasty power, a solid wrestling background, apparently strong submission defense awareness from the top, good GNP; the only major knock on him right now is cardio, which was how he lost the Condit fight. Howard is similar in many respect- experienced at a fairly young age including against name opponents (Dennis Hallman, Tamdan McCrory, Dan Miller, etc.), strong and powerful, some solid wrestling, uncertain ceiling, etc. I like Ellenberger here in what could be a really fun fight. He’ll have to finish it relatively early or dominate the first two rounds if he still has the cardio issues, but I think his wrestling and submission awareness should be good enough to do that against the somewhat undersized Howard- takedown, holddown, beatdown. Ellenberger by decision, probably 29-28.
* Lightweight bout: Tyson Griffin vs. Takanori Gomi
And here’s round 2 of messing with the Japanese guy. When you’re done you’re done they say, and Gomi has looked really, really done of late. I don’t count him out here completely given that he’s still a pretty damn big lightweight and Griffin is a smaller one, and Gomi is likely to still be competitive on the feet, but the odds are against him. Griffin is about the worst possible opponent for Gomi at this point given that Gomi’s biggest problem is going to be cardio: he fights measured early these days because he clearly doesn’t trust himself to go 100% from the opening, and yet he still fades late. Against an unfinishable (so far) waterbug cardio monster like Griffin that’s just a recipe for disaster and a loss due to being outworked. Keep an eye on him leg-kicking Gomi repeatedly as well to take away Gomi’s power and set up takedowns. I think Griffin ends up winning a clear decision.
* Lightweight bout: Paul Kelly vs. Jacob Volkmann
So you tell me: do we get the Volkmann with the excellent wrestling who had such a fun ground fight with Paulo Thiago which he nearly pulled out, or the guy who decided he wanted to kick-box with Martin Kampmann and got utterly destroyed? On the basis of the Ronneys Torres fight, I’m going to guess we get the good Volkmann; and since he was able to roll for all 3 with Thiago and not really be in danger of being stopped, I’m going to assume he’s not going to charge into a guillotine the way Kelly’s previous big wrestler opponent, Matt Veach, did. So Volkmann by decision.
* Welterweight bout: DaMarques Johnson vs. Matthew Riddle
A loathsome spectacle, this- just two unlikeable guys probably having an unlikeable fight. I don’t really think much of either guy’s long-term potential: at 28 Johnson just is what he is (and what he is is “somewhere below Court McGee on the TUF alum ladder”), while Riddle just doesn’t seem to be getting much better. Big and strong, yes, but also not really all that skilled and unable to translate his strength into serious striking power. Riddle will probably keep taking Johnson down and laying on him like a dead underwear model made out of lead, and maybe Johnson will pull something out off his back, and maybe not, and blaaaaaah. There’s a reason this isn’t on the televised portion. Let’s say Johnson finds a way to win. KO3.
* Light Heavyweight bout: James Irvin vs. Igor Pokrajac
Loser-leaves-town stipulations on this one, as both guys are coming off of two consecutive losses and Irvin’s bid to reinvent himself at 185 was foiled by the fact that he looked like he’d just been rescued from an Andean plane crash at the weigh in, then fought like a zombie before losing to an eyeball-punch. Weird things always seem to happen with Irvin. Nothing at all seems to happen with Prokrajac by contrast, who’s kind of a definitional “just a guy”, a marginal talent who’s in the UFC because of whose training partner he is (Cro-Cop) and who’s never really done much in his MMA career to distinguish himself for good or ill; realistically either Irvin or Vladimir Matyushenko, who beat him, is probably his highest-profile opponent. I suspect this is intended as a get-well fight for Irvin who I will take by KO1.
* Middleweight bout: Brian Stann vs. Mike Massenzio
Ordinarily I’d like Massenzio fairly easy in this one since Stann, bless him, has no ground game, but Massenzio hasn’t fought in over a year and a half after losing his last bout by KO. That’s a bad sign. Stann is also coming down from 205, which might hurt him with the first-time cut or it might make him too big for Massenzio to do much with. It’s a bit of a crapshoot. I’m going to still take Massenzio by decision, but I will not be at all surprised if Stann catches him cold, waffles him early and leaves him laying.
* Lightweight bout: Darren Elkins vs. Charles Oliveira
No pick. I know nothing about these guys, especially Oliveira.
* Middleweight bout: Rob Kimmons vs. Steve Steinbeiss
Let’s say Kimmons due to experience.
There’s not a ton here of great future significance, but it should be a fun show and Jones has the potential to be one of those ultra-dominant, special talents who’s always worth watching no matter who he’s fighting.
Through the magic of an arcane statistical ritual, John Hollinger projects the Miami Heat’s win total and comes up with…. 68 wins next season. You know, NEXT season, before they get the chance to really gel with increased time together and add more talent through the draft, midlevel exception, etc. in future years. People still do not quite understand how good this team is going to be- they probably have a better chance of going undefeated in the next 5 years than they do of not winning a title in each year. The NBA is no longer really a competitive league; it’s closer to Scottish football, where there’s Celtic, Rangers, and the useless teams they beat up on to fill out the schedule. It’s Heat—>Lakers——————————>Other.
“There is a good chance Emelianenko’s next fight would be done in New Jersey, to attempt to promote toward the Russian community in New York.”- WON
Here’s hoping this actually works out. There have been rumors of Strikeforce coming out here behind Fedor for a while, and it’s never quite come off. I don’t really think he’ll end up being a massive draw or anything, but given how starved the area is for good MMA, I’d say they could probably do 10-15K with a decent undercard at the Rock. I’ll go, anyway.
And yes, I realize posting here has slowed to a crawl. These are the doggest of the dog days of summer, and nothing much worthy of comment is going on. I’ll try to throw together a Fight Night predictions post soon.
I can’t seem to escape this topic at the moment, but today’s friendly between Celtic and the Seattle Sounders was yet another instance of, in my opinion, a referee showing an amazing lack of common sense. In this case, Paul Ward did follow the letter of the law by sending off Sounders goalkeeper Terry Boss for a last-man infraction. But, there is a difference between law and application of law, and this was one time where a little situational analysis would not have gone astray.
In the 29th minute, a nice through-ball split the Seattle defense and Giorgios Samaras was in alone on Boss. Boss came out and dove at Samaras’ feet – and clearly clipped his ankles as Samaras was going around him. It was a nailed-on penalty, and as stated, the letter of the law indicates that the last man who prevents a goal due to foul play is to be issued a straight red card (it’s a stupid fucking rule as I’ve ranted about many times before – a penalty AND a red card is entirely too harsh a punishment for the crime). Here’s the thing, though – Samaras quickly regained his feet enough to sweep the ball into the net. Much like the Catalan Pricks vs. Arsenal Champions League final a few seasons back, one simple advantage call would have resulted in a goal being scored and the conceding team being able to retain their goalkeeper and play 11 v 11. Instead, much like Terje Hauge that awful night, Ward opted for the ridiculously harsh nuclear option of the red card. In a friendly. In the 29th minute.
This was mind-bogglingly stupid on multiple levels. First, as mentioned, Samaras had scored within a second or two of going down. If the numbnuts with the whistle had held on for 1 or 2 seconds, it’s an easy decision to play the advantage – it’s 1-0 Celtic (which the play deserved), and the game goes on. Beyond that though, did I mention this was a friendly? Look – if this were a competitive match of any sort, I would not be posting this right now. Ward absolutely should produce the red card in that case…and I have no sympathy for the keeper there either. When you as a fan pay your money to watch a league or cup game, you do so in the knowledge that a team can lose a man as early as the 1st minute, it could finish 6-0 to the visitors, a referee may make a galling mistake, etc. That comes with the territory. But in an exhibition match such as this, I believe there is an underlying expectation from the fans that they will get 90 minutes of 11 v 11 and the ability to see the players that they have paid to watch. Sure, if someone loses their rag and goes in studs-up or something, then fine…send him off. Violent play should never be tolerated under any circumstances. Here though, we have a game where it’s now 11 v 10 for 2/3rds of the contest, one team has lost their starting goalkeeper AND a high-profile attacking winger (Freddy Montero) had to be subbed off – again, IN A FRIENDLY – so that a barely-beyond-fetus just out of college can be subbed in between the sticks…all as a result of a play WHERE THE FUCKING GUY FUCKING SCORED ANYWAY.
I’m sure that Paul Ward is a perfectly competent referee at MLS level, but he cocked this one up badly. Again, in a competitive match this would not hold water, but 46,000 people paid their money (premium prices due to European opposition, I assume) for an exhibition of high-class football and got this instead. I’d be pissed if it were me.