Back with the second installment of these.
5. BJ Penn converts to Juan Manuel Marquez.
Similarities: Technically excellent and physically unimposing fighters who’ve fought their careers out slightly in the shadow of an important rival, in Penn’s case GSP and in Marquez’s, Pacquiao. Both as a result have something of a public reputation as whiners. Both are far from imposing physical specimens, and thus rely on a perfection of technique to achieve results- both are amazingly accurate strikers, and Penn adds his famous jiu jitsu while Marquez is the more varied puncher. Both are probably first-ballot hall of famers who’ve somehow always seemed a half-step behind the top 2 or 3 P4P guys in their eras.
Differences: Penn has a sort of perpetual fog of disappointment around him, a sense that he’s not getting the most out of his career whether through lack of conditioning, or lack of improvement, or insistence in fighting at weights which don’t suit him. Marquez by contrast has probably accomplished now more than had been expected of him early in his career, and there’s really no fight you can point to and say conclusively that Marquez beat himself in through lack of preparation. Penn has fought all over the place weight-wise and sought out the big fights, while Marquez has seemed content at times to hang around at one weight and fight scrubs instead of seeking out career-defining superfights. Oddly enough though, when he does have those fights Marquez has shown the heart of a lion in coming back from adversity (recovering from 3 first-round knockdowns against Pacquiao, for instance) in a way which Penn never really has.
6. Randy Couture converts to Bernard Hopkins.
Similarities: The inspiration for this list and the most obvious comparison, it’s two old men who’ve won multiple titles in multiples weight classes and succeeded far past the age of 40, beating up younger men despite being counted out and written off again and again. Both are possessed of brilliant insight into their respective sports and have demonstrated it as excellent TV analysts, both retain far more of their youthful quickness and endurance at this age than they have any right to, both hit harder than they’re expected to and can be counted on for one unexpected knockdown in a thrilling decision victory (vs. Tarver, vs. Sylvia, etc.), both are really good wrestlers, both have a remarkable understanding of positioning and timing, both have a knack for suckering opponents into fighting their fight. Both (if Hopkins vs. Adamek is made) are likely to win their next fight despite being older than things like weather and the moon. Both have fought just about everyone with a nametag in their weight range at one time or another. Both have retired on occasion, and neither has ever meant it. Both have headlined huge shows, and both are regarded as one of, if not the, foremost fighters of their era.
Differences: One’s Sub-Zero, the other’s Scorpion; they’re palette swaps of each other for all intents and purposes, with biography the only serious difference. Couture was a military man and amateur wrestler who was obviously great from the start (“The Natural”), winning the UFC heavyweight title in his 4th pro fight. Hopkins was a criminal who did prison time (5 years), and who lost his pro debut before dropping down in weight and becoming what he became. If you want to really look for something, Couture is more beloved while Hopkins is more respected; Couture has also won more total titles, while Hopkins dominated middleweight in a way Couture never quite did at any weight class.
Fun Fact: in all the furor over this horrible pro wrestler invading UFC, it’s fun to remember that Randy Couture’s first UFC opponent was this guy.
A few other quicker ones, which are more provisional:
7. Cain Valasquez converts to Jorge Linares
Similarities: Both are fantastic young prospects with awesome reputations and a strong measure of early pro success, marred by one crucial flaw. In Linares’ case, he can’t stay healthy enough to fight consistently; in Velasquez’s, he’s got a chin about which people are starting to ask serious questions after Cheick Kongo cracked it twice. Neither guy is so far exactly a killer KO artist either.
Differences: A vast weight difference, and most importantly simply that each guy is early enough in their career that we don’t really know what they’ll become.
8. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua converts to Miguel Cotto
Similarities: Both have been dominant fighters in their division and at times considered the best regardless of who held the actual titles, and both are defined as fighters by their offense. Both had serious setbacks due to physical injury, Cotto from the illegal and disgraceful beating he received from Antonio Margarito’s loaded gloves, Shogun from a long series of knee problems which kept him out for over a year. Both may be walking into a buzzsaw next time out against Manny Pacquiao and Lyoto Machida, though there are people who are picking both men as underdogs. Both have records with very few goobers, derelicts, butt-scratchers and humanoids on them. Both had a good win last time out, but with real questions attached- Cotto about his durability, Rua as to whether the guy he beat was any good any more.
Differences: Rua has a much better and longer track record against top, top, top opposition; however that record is also suspect for a reason Cotto’s can’t be, given the switch from PRIDE rules to UFC.
9. John Duddy and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. convert to Kimbo Slice
Similarities: Vaguely ethnic drawing cards whose fame has come from means other than actual in-ring accomplishments, and who owe the careers they have to shrewd promotion and matchmaking. None are really any good, and all either are likely to or already have folded against the first serious opposition they faced.
Differences: Kimbo’s a lot more famous than those other too goofs, and he’s also shown a resilience as an attraction which they haven’t by getting himself on TUF. Heard anything about Duddy recently since the Billy Lyell fight? Me neither.
All-Brock and MMA week continues! This one’s just for fun, but feel free to use it for barguments. I’ll do the current UFC champs plus a few others. Part 2 on Monday.
1. Brock Lesnar converts to Wladimir Klitschko.
Similarities: They’re both gihugic slow-moving white things with offensive games defined by massive power and minimal technical fluidity. Both have nicknames which reflect that- “Vanilla Gorilla” and “The Ukrainian Robot”. Both are substantially larger than much of their competition. Both have careers defined in some respects by what they’ve not done: Brock proving his success over time and against diverse competition, Klitschko proving himself against another heavyweight who would be considered top shelf from a historical perspective and not just in the current debased heavyweight division. Both are from foreign countries, Klitschko from the Ukraine and Brock from the Midwest. Both have had the reputation of being headcases (of different sorts) at various times in their careers. Both ultimately labor in the shadow of another: Klitschko under Lennox Lewis, the last great heavyweight champion who he never fought and cannot equal, Brock under Fedor Emilianenko who is, and will be, considered by many fans the true heavyweight champ until he retires or someone beats him. Both have developed dramatically as fighters in the course of their careers, yet both still have a whiff of vulnerability to them- Brock to submissions and Wladimir to a big power puncher, which is why Brock compares better to Wladimir than to Vitali (along with Vitali having fought Lewis).
Differences: Brock has actual top-level competition to define himself against; he’s also got a chin and a much more memorable personality.
2. Lyoto Machida converts to Arthur Abraham or Iron Boy Ivan Calderon.
Similarities: All three men are defined by the near-insoluble defensive puzzles they pose for opposing fighters- Machida’s movement and control of distance, Abraham’s perfect high guard, Calderon’s movement and technical perfection. All three have underrated offense, and Abraham and Machida share the quality of not necessarily hitting often, but hitting surprisingly hard when they do open up. All three are undefeated. All three are probably not as big of stars as their talent theoretically warrants, though Machida appears to be growing into it. Machida and Abraham share a common experience of narrowly getting past a better-known fighter in battles they easily could have lost- Abraham against Edison Miranda in their first fight, Machida against Tito Ortiz. None of the three is American or speaks English as their native tongue, and all three began their careers outside the US.
Differences: Machida has power Calderon can only dream of; Abraham has been tested in a fight and proved he could win a war in a way Machida never really has (Tito nearly finished him with that triangle, but was otherwise outclassed); Machida has easily the biggest collection of names on his resume; unlike the other two, Calderon at 34 is in the twilight of his career, especially for such a small fighter.
3. Anderson Silva converts to Manny Pacquiao.
Similarities: Or he did, back when he could be bothered to show up to his own fights. Back then he was, as Pacquiao is now, essentially the perfect striker in his sport: remarkably quick, eerily accurate, calm and composed, and able to effectively throw essentially every strike available to him with bone-jarring power. Both are or were masters at controlling distance and pace in a fight, both are or were ferocious finishers, both have cleaned out large swathes of their respective divisions at various times and now have to look outside of that comfort zone to find real challenges. Both are non-American and have become stars in the US despite limited English. Both have a few early losses in their careers not indicative of their peak abilities, often by odd or non-repeatable methods: Pacquiao at 18 to an 11-4 fighter, Silva to the infamous Ryo Chonan flying heel hook, etc.
Differences: Everything Silva has done in his last two fights. God those sucked. By contrast there really doesn’t exist a bad Pacquiao fight, even when he was pitted against lesser competition like Jorge Solis or David Diaz- there’s a level of professionalism which separates the men, with Silva much more given to the sort of histrionics and open disrespect of fellow fighters that brings to mind many of the stereotypes about Brazilian professional athletes. Silva is 4 years older than Pacquiao, and perhaps starting to show signs of a decline which Pacquiao is not. Pacquiao has also faced the much, much tougher competition in his career- and thus has more great wins, and also more very close fights, than Silva.
4. GSP converts to Floyd Mayweather, Jr..
Similarities: Both are preposterously great athletes who began training at very young ages and as mature professionals are defined by quickness and versatility, able to out-think nearly all of their opponents and often make even the very best (Ricky Hatton, Jon Fitch) look clownishly inept by comparison. Both have more power than you sometimes expect or remember, both are huge stars and major draws, both have immense natural charisma, both have had several career-defining fights (Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra) go in their favor. Both have headlined or co-headlined the single largest-drawing PPV shows in the history of their respective sports, and both will be regarded as the second-most important figure in drawing those numbers. Both are considered by some to be pretty boys without the stones to mix it up, even though both have long since proved against fighters like Fitch and Jose Luis Castillo that that’s total nonsense. Both are expert at forcing their opponents into unfavorable positions, GSP with his wrestling and Mayweather by forcing opponents to come to him as aggressors and leave themselves open for counterpunching.
Differences: GSP is most likely just entering his prime while Mayweather is finishing a period of squandering a large chunk of his, as he spent years farting around against the Henry Bruseles, Carlos Baldomir, Sharmba Mitchell (the aged version) and Chop Chop Corley types of the boxing world. GSP is probably a closer comp to the Mayweather who was coming off defeating Jose Luis Castillo for the second time at age 26.
More of these Monday.