Apparently BROCK! has mono, and won’t be fighting until March at the earliest. If you’re scoring at home that’s Lesnar out with mono, GSP out with a groin issue (overuse?), Machida out with hand surgery, Thiago Alves out wit a busted knee ligament, Dan Henderson gone with strong rumors of having signed with Strikeforce, Matt Hughes out with not wanting to fight, Rampage Jackson out with butthurt, Anderson Silva out with an elbow issue- probably, Wanderlei Silva out with new face, and a million undercard guys like Todd Duffee and Kurt Pellegrino out with various injuries and issues. The second quarter of next year is going to be packed and a ton of fun, but I have legitimately no idea how they’re going to fill all of these shows between now and March. There’s talk about Cain Velasquez and Big Nog in January; I’m not sure that’s a main event (though it is a great fight), but it may be the best thing they’ve got. It’ll be interesting to see how UFC’s popularity explosion handles a slack period like this, whether buyrates snap back in March/April or whether a few months of minimal hype and mainstream coverage cools off some of the more casual interest.
If Dana comes out on a stage Friday and just says “our first ESPN live event will feature Brock vs. Fedor and Tito vs. Rich Franklin, on January 2nd” I can’t say I’d be surprised at this point. The rumors are THICK out there, and denials are conspicuously thin on the ground.
(Accidentally held over from Friday)
I wish I could link to Dan Rafael’s chat today as illustration of this, but it seems ESPN’s awful software has eaten his responses for like the 5th week in a row. Before that happened however, Dan (who I usually really like) had one of those awesome Old Boxing Fart moments. He took something like 5 or 6 MMA comments during his boxing chat and all of them about Brock, buried Brock and defended boxing against people who brought up Tyson, et al. by citing a chatter saying at least someone like Floyd Mayweather only pretends to disrespect his opponents (which is apparently better). He also complained mightily about Brock’s disrespecting the paying customer with his middle fingers; which was fascinating given Dan’s own insult-and-ban chat gimmick and that Brock’s doing so got him a bunch of attention from Rafael and mentions in a forum he’d never otherwise come up in as a result of his actions. Almost like he was self-promoting and looking for attention. Self-awareness is a terrible thing to lose, kids- especially if your job is substantially composed of deciphering promotional bullshit.
It remains a damn shame that boxing and MMA are far enough apart as sports that it’s very difficult to come up with a functional and logical way to draw on this kind of animosity to build an event. The best I’ve been able to come up with is that Brock vs. Wladimir Klitschko under something like modified San Shou rules would be a huge money fight (prediction: 2 million buys), but unfortunately it’s also got 0.0% chance of ever happening given the injury risk to Klitschko on takedowns, the decent chance that Lesnar would get KO’d quickly, and the fact that both guys can make huge money without it. I will say though- someone in Fedor’s camp should at least bring up an idea like this if they’re determined to avoid UFC once Affliction is cured.
Side note: Rafael also took a sideways shot at “MMA reporters” for letting Brock off easy. I hate when people do this- and there’s been a lot of it about of late in things I’ve read with Arseblog and Goodplaya also taking shots at Myles Palmer/ANR without using his name. My philosophy on these things is simple: if you’re willing to criticize someone for something, you should name them and link to what you’re criticizing if possible so that a reader can make up their minds for themselves. I recognize that this runs the risk of looking like trolling for controversy if it’s a smaller blog criticizing a larger one, but that’s not a good enough reason in my mind to avoid doing so- one of them is a functional problem and the other is an image problem. It’s just way too easy consciously or unconsciously to construct a strawman or engage in over-sweeping generalizations, otherwise.
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.
Continuing All-Brock Lesnar, All-The-Time week here at TSBS….
This is intended as a very rough draft of some thoughts; these are issues I don’t have a strong handle on as yet.
It fascinates me in some respects that Brock isn’t covered in what you might call a more explicitly racial fashion. I don’t want to say he’s unique and I’m sure there’s a variety of people I’m forgetting (arguably including half the NHL), but he represents a very rare thing in American sports: a white American athlete defined by pure, raw physicality who’s become a very large star and arguably the face of his sport. There’s big physical white linemen in the NFL of course, but few people can name more than a handful especially if they play for other teams, few if any would be stopped or recognized on the streets as anything other than “that big guy”, and none are what you’d call memorable public figures. The NBA periodically turns up a David Lee type who does get attention for being white, American (unlike a Dirk Nowitzki) and good in a largely black sport, but few NBA fans would say Lee is among the 50 best or most memorable players in the league. Baseball is so non-physical (and substantially white) that the comparisons don’t really even make sense. What does this mean? I don’t know, but here’s a variety of open-ended musings:
– I’ve read a lot of newer fans in various places outside the MMA blogosphere focus in on Brock’s size when discussing the factors responsible for his success. Unquestionably, his size matters and is an important factor; but would people be as quick to focus on that as the key issue if Brock were black? He’s an astonishing athlete for his size, a true physical freak in that respect who’s essentially unprecedented in his sport for the combination of the two. The standard read in American sports- and I believe in some non-American contexts- is to overstate the athleticism of black athletes and the hustle/heart/intelligence of white athletes, and to understate the inverse. Brock’s not stupid and he works hard, but he scrambles this social tendency by being defined by unteachable, natural athleticism which dwarfs that of most of his competition- a phenomenon Brock himself touched on with his infamous “built like a black man” comments. If Brock continues to dominate, does he make the sports world safe for the recognition of big natural white athletes? Does that make it safer to recognize the Doug Glanvilles of the world, the small smart hustling black athletes? Does he make it easier for people in this country to acknowledge that Manny Pacquiao is as athletically gifted as any athlete today?
– How many people in discussing Bobby Lashley and Brock Lesnar together have emphasized the fact that Brock has substantially superior natural athleticism by any measure you care to use, including amateur wrestling credentials and things like 40 yard dash time?
– MMA is a sport supported by many races, many cultures, many countries and increasingly, many continents even; but its face in the US is as the sport of tattooed white guys. Does Brock reinforce this? Is that part of his appeal? It’s tempting to wonder if a non-white fighter could draw as many buys, except that last year’s largest buyrate- UFC 92- was drawn by a triple main event featuring two white Americans, two black Americans, and two (I believe) mixed-race Brazilians. It beat out that year’s big Brock fight against Randy Couture by a slim margin as I understand it. The buyrate for Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans- two black former champions, with a full season of TUF to promote them- will be fascinating to compare to some of Brock’s. My honest expectation is that it will be largely similar to Brock’s non-UFC100 stuff.
– There are people who have flipped out insanely over Brock’s promos, people who have said they’re worse than anything Mike Tyson ever did. I’ve made my arguments against the rationality of these statements, but I’m still unclear as to the motivation. Is it because Brock was a pro wrestler? Because MMA is still a young sport? Or is it because we unconsciously in this nation expect black athletes to act in ways much of the public considers stupid and offensive, but find it vastly more shocking when a white athlete does so? Does it matter if the person making the Tyson/Brock comparison is black? To make it clear I don’t personally believe there’s a meaningful difference between the two groups on the basis of race, and the difference in assumptions is a manifestation of what’s described as “soft bigotry of low expectations” combined with a hefty dose of selective memory.
– Who was the last white American athlete to be unquestionably top-3 in stardom in his sport and not be a quarterback? Larry Bird? You could argue Chuck Liddell, although I’m not sure he ever broke through to the mainstream as strongly as Brock has.
– I can’t shake the sense that Kimbo Slice and Brock Lesnar are hilarious negative images of each other who a good novelist would have a great deal of fun with, if they weren’t the sort of characters considered too unbelievable for fiction. Kimbo is a black fighter who may have consciously played on white fears and stereotypes about scary-looking black men as part of his self-promotion, who nevertheless is unfailingly intelligent and low-key in his interviews, and who can’t fight a lick at the professional level- and has what some would call a stereotypically “white” style of straight ahead boxing. Brock is a white fighter who looks like a larger version of every other white fighter but whose style is based around stereotypically “black” elements (dominant, otherworldly athleticism), who comes off as completely unhinged and what some have called white trash in his interviews, and is a dominant fighter. They both fuck with people’s racial expectations in very different though related ways; I consider this progress, personally.
And finally, and not in regards to Brock specifically- one of the things I find fascinating about fighting sports is just how nakedly racial and ethnic they are and have been, from the days of blacks vs. Irish vs. Italians vs. Jews in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s in boxing to Muhammad Ali in the 60’s and 70’s to Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney to the endless Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry in boxing to Cain Velasquez’s “Brown Pride” tattoo to a year ago when Bernard Hopkins told Kelly Pavlik after he beat hm stupid for 12 rounds that he needed to learn to compete with “slick black fighters.” The old cliche about there being no lies in the ring is even more true than you might expect. All sports in nearly every country with a major pro sports league have a racial component, but when the sport is combat, feelings run high and the issues which are hidden elsewhere come to light. I love sports for their own sake, but I also love what they can tell us about the world we live in and the people we share it with, which is why I believe these sorts of issues are worth considering.
She comes up with 4 options- Fedor, Shane Carwin, Alistair Overeem, and Bobby Lashley. Let’s take a look at those:
This one really cannot and should not be evaluated until it can be made. Brock as a fighter is still in the process of changing rapidly, so if this fight is made in 6 months it’s a very different affair than if it’s made in 2 years. Ultimately it will probably depend on whether Brock can get the takedown without being preemptively murdered in the standup and whether he can both hold Fedor down and do sufficient damage from the top. I’m not sure anyone really knows the answers to those questions, but probably the biggest compliment you can give Brock right now is that they might be yes. Only a fool doesn’t favor Fedor right now, but as time passes….
Hendricks lists Carwin for two major virtues, his equal size and his greater experience level. One of these is a bit of a myth: Carwin is 11-0, but those 11 wins came in only about 12 and a half minutes of cage time while Brock went 15 minutes against Heath Herring alone. Brock has also faced the much higher level of competition and performed on the much larger stages and believe it or not, Brock even has more fights in the UFC for the moment. Nevertheless, of the 4 men she lists I would put Carwin behind only Fedor in their chances against Brock simply because of his wrestling background and his punch. He may be able to keep it standing longer than most will, and while he’s standing I honestly believe he’s got the power to knock anyone out. The odds are against it happening and Lesnar probably has an equal chance to KO Carwin from that position, but “an equal chance” from any position is better than what most heavyweights will have against the big man.
If Overeem passes the drug test he may not even be in the right weight class for this one, and if this fight ever came off I can’t possibly see a scenario in which Lesnar doesn’t score the takedown in the first 30 seconds and then turn Overeem into paste shortly thereafter. Just a hideous stylistic matchup for the Dutchman.
Properly promoted in the UFC this is probably a very many buys fight, but from the sporting perspective… Lashley’s totally screwed, isn’t he? He’s basically Brock Jr. in many respects: a big, raw athlete with a wrestling base who’s known as much as anything for his pre-MMA career path. The trouble is that he’s smaller than Lesnar, he’s less athletic than Lesnar, he’s not as good a wrestler as Lesnar, there’s no evidence that he’s as good a striker as Lesnar, he almost certainly doesn’t hit as hard as Lesnar, there’s no evidence his cardio is better than Lesnar’s and some evidence form the Guida fight that it’s worse, he’s actually older than Lesnar by almost exactly one year, and he’s clearly vastly less experienced than Lesnar. When big men in small gloves throw hands anything can happen, but it’s hard to imagine Lashley winning by anything other than an awesome fluke.
At this point Lesnar has to be considered a major favorite over every fighter in the UFC with the exception of Shane Carwin (I’d make him a mild favorite over Carwin), and a dog to only Fedor. Worse still if you’re trying to find someone to beat Lesnar, he fights in a style which plays the percentages very well for him. MMA does produce many more flukey results than boxing, but a very large percentage of those results are a product of punches thrown in very small gloves, Matt Serra-style; this is a sport where anyone can get knocked out in the standup. But because Brock is such an explosive athlete and such a great wrestler- and unlike some wrestlers in this situation like Sean Sherk, he’s committed to his wrestling as his first mode of attack- he reduces the chances for such a flukey result against him by spending such a relatively small amount of time in the stand up position. There’s not a lot of jiu jitsu heavyweights out there dramatically better than Frank Mir, and Mir couldn’t do anything with Lesnar last time out; it’s hard to see Lesnar getting caught again with a submission from the bottom, especially since he’s had more time to train and even as his skills improve he retains a dramatic strength advantage over almost everyone along with strong positional awareness. It’s rarely going out on a limb to say that a champion is likely to retain his title, but with Lesnar I really think the odds are that unless Fedor joins UFC or Carwin beats him, he could run for a long time as champion until his athleticism really begins to erode, unexpected new challenges emerge or someone just gets really, really lucky.
Steve McNair apparently cheated on his wife and was then murdered by his girlfriend; Arturo Gatti’s wife is currently in jail in Brazil, detained as a person of interest in the investigation into his death; everyone reading this can name a hundred asshole athletes starting with Alex Rodriguez who’ve famously cheated on their wives at one point or another and gotten into major trouble for it….
And the big news of the day appears to be people (see: Franklin McNeil, according to Dave Meltzer) complaining that Brock Lesnar is worse than Mike Tyson and will stop UFC from becoming mainstream because he… talked about having sex with his wife. Are you kidding me? A married man expressing lust for his wife- the mother of his child- is worse than anything done by a convicted rapist? I swear, something about this sport just draws the worst, most insane press coverage of any sport I can think of. And I’ll tell you this- if this seems bad, I can’t even imagine the racial stupidity that’s going to come out of the press coverage of the Rampage Jackson/Rashad Evans/Kimbo Slice season of TUF upcoming. Problems.
What a night of fights. I’ll probably have coherent and sober analysis on a night when I’m, y’know, sober- but I will say for the moment that if you were a UFC fan going into UFC 100 you were almost certainly satisfied unless you were a committed Lesnar hater or one of those “hardcores” who spits the dummy for non-BJJ groundwork, and if you were a first time buyer it’s hard to imagine that Lesnar’s murderous victory and cockheaded promo afterwards didn’t go some ways towards making you a long term fan. Throw in GSP looking once again like one of the best two fighters on earth alongside Manny Pacquiao and HENDO scoring a horrifying KO over the cocky foreign heel, and this show was almost 100% win. I believe I went 6-4 on picks for the night including the boxing, and hey- if I missed calling Mark Coleman having a gas tank for the first time since the Cretaceous era despite apparently looking like second hand death on the scales, so be it. I’ll takes what I can gets. Random thoughts:
– Right now the view from Michael Bisping’s chair is the blue screen of death. Dude got destroyamolished; I feel for him.
– I don’t recall off the top of my head ever seeing a fighter look worse after one round than Frank Mir tonight. Like he fell head-first into a wheat thresher.
– Best of luck on the indy scene to Mac Danzig, who got outpointed in apparently fairly noncompetitive fashion on the untelevised undercard, 30-27.
– And speaking of, it’s probably squeaky-bum time for Stephan Bonnar. Yeah, he’s Stephan Bonnar, but he’s lost his last two including one to Mark frigeakin’ Coleman in which he inexplicably lost the third and deciding round. He won’t be around forever, and he probably needs a win next time out in order to stop someday from being that day.
– I read Ben Miller at wrestlingobserver.com talking about how Alves was the fresher fighter at all points of his fight vs. GSP, and how he couldn’t be hurt standing and how you could have given him the fight if you just looked at post-fight conditioning. What the fuck? It’s not a beauty contest: you expend energy to win rounds, not conserve it to look pretty at the end. GSP got something like 70% of his takedowns in this one, controlled 80% of the fight, scored the only standing knockdown in the 3rd, and won every round despite tearing a muscle in the third round by his own admission. Are we really down to taking shots at him for not looking pretty enough at the end of a 5 round unanimous won-all-five-rounds decision over the consensus #1 contender, a man with no loses in the last 3 years?
– Again from Miller, on Alves: “He has to feel like if he just could’ve been more patient and kept his distance to avoid takedowns, he might have had a better chance.” And how does he get close enough to do anything with his Muay Thai, then? GSP was taking him down with counter shots all evening- catching leg kicks for single legs, following strikes up with doubles, etc. If you’re close enough to strike, you’re close enough to be taken down by those means- and if it works 70% against you AND you get outstruck in the fight, “patience” and “distance” aren’t the difference. Alves got Jon Fitch’ed in this one, except not quite as one-sidedly since GSP injured himself in the 3rd and Alves is nearly a middleweight. No shame in that: Alves is only 25, and GSP might end his career as the best ever. But what happened happened: it’s not an accident that Alves got brutally outwrestled anymore than it was when Koscheck, Fitch, Trigg, Sherk, Penn, Hughes etc. were.
– And Miller concludes by complaining about how Lesnar’s promo might have turned off fans. You know, the fans who just spent $50 to watch CAGE FIGHTING ON PAY PER VIEW, who apparently won’t buy another show because a main eventer was rude and bombastic. Which is why Floyd Mayweather never draws on pay per view, right? Crap like this is why hardcores can never run a promotion (see: Affliction, IFL, etc.)- a combination of obsession with Pure Sport and a profound historical illiteracy about what at every point in history in every fighting sport has drawn money. UFC probably doesn’t exist right now in anything like its current form without Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz’s mouths turning 3 mediocre fights from a sporting perspective into 3 goldmines on the business side. But you know, don’t let that from stopping you.
– About Lesnar’s middle fingers to the crowd: I have zero problem with that. If you go to the show and pay your money, you have the right to boo and say things short of racial, sexual or really vile personal stuff, I think. By the same token, if you avail yourself of that right, don’t get upset if the fighters (or other athletes) go back at you in kind. This is cage fighting, it’s not the opera, and you are owned nothing beyond an honest effort by the fighters. I’m going to see UFC 101 next month and there’s a decent chance I’ll boo a fighter there; but if BJ Penn or Andy Silva tells the crowd- me- to go fuck ourselves when we- I- do, fair play to them. Whining about how the fighters are classless to respond while fans are justified is ridiculous.
– And as I always say to fans about athlete outbursts of all kinds: if you want a man to train for months and months to give his all for an hour or less and have his whole existence judged by the public on the basis of that performance, you must respect and deal with the reality of the intense emotions which such a process engenders. Athletes are human; and their humanity is on display in all its fullness far more than for most people, and more intensely. As they say, there’s no lies in the ring; and I can’t ever shake the sense that fans who criticize athletes from the safety of their couches in the most strident terms with no attempt to understand the people they attack do so because they’re afraid of what similar circumstances would reveal about them.
– Giving it some real thought- God bless Mark Coleman. I wrote him off. I discounted him. Gave him no chance whatsoever, and I was completely 100% wrong. He beat a good fighter in Stephan Bonnar, and proved that his very late career comeback to the UFC was no joke. Dude was reportedly utterly dead on the scales, and yet still had gas enough to win the 3rd and deciding round. That’s deeply impressive and he deserves kudos and respect for his win tonight. I’ll be interested to see who he faces next.
– I’m listening to the post-UFC100 press conference as I type this, and someone just asked about Fedor. Lemme tell you: I still favor Fedor over Brock, but if Fedor finds something else to distract himself from UFC after Affliction 3: We’re Out of Money, he may end up old enough by the time he eventually hits UFC that he may be beatable by the younger and huger class of heavyweights now dominating the division. This is a hand he’ll have to play well: if he goes to UFC at age, say, 34, has lost a step and gets drilled by Lesnar/Carwin/Valasquez, the UFC hype machine will talk forever after about how he was an overhyped nothing who lost quickly to “real fighters in the best company in the world”, the same way as they do with Cro Cop whenever he’s on the outs with them. Not so great for a legacy, or future income.
– On the boxing side, I’m not going to lie: I was really drunk by the end of the evening, so I can’t stand behind my scorecard to the death or anything, but for my money I thought Agbeko took the fight fairly easily and that despite having picked Darchinyan. The major difference ended up being a mix of aggressiveness, handspeed and the straight right- Agbeko just punched Darch in the head over and over with that shot before Darch could get into his offense, and Vic was in face-first brawler mode and much more available for that shot than he had been in recent fights. He had his moments but often looked confused and out-paced for much of the fight, and I had a very hard time figuring out why any of the press row crew (or the official scorers) had the fight as close as they did.
– Another random MMA Junkie post:
“Gorthorg on Jul 12, 2009 at 1:50 am ET I’m sorry, I don’t know what fight you were watching, but a split decision in “Sexyama’s” favor is probably one of the most favorable judging decisions in recent history. 10/10 of us agreed that Akiyama deserved the win, but definitely not unanimously.”
Imbecilic. And this is one of the posters who’s able to form full sentences and everything. Learn the scoring system, you daffy pricks.
Probably more on these events later.
With a bit of analysis, getting these in before the show.
Brockules vs. Frank Merr
The defining feature here is the advantage a world-class wrestler has over most opponents: the ability to determine the level at which the fight proceeds. If Brock wants to stand, they stand; if Brock wants to roll, they roll. Mir can compete with Brock on either level and from nearly any position, but he can’t make Brock go where he wants him to with any degree of regularity. In a 3 round fight perhaps Mir could get Brock where he wanted him once or twice, perhaps suckering him to the ground by playing possum, Noguiera-style, or perhaps scoring a lucky takedown which Brock would not expect. Maybe that steals Mir a round. In a 5 rounder, if it goes long (which I don’t expect, but for sake of argument), while Mir might be able to win a round or threaten here and there by such means, it’s not a winning strategy as time will allow Brock’s superiority to tell. So the major question is: what does Brock want to do?
I think he wants to stand, for several reasons: I don’t believe he respects Mir’s striking as much you might expect, since he’s well aware of the difficulties Noguiera had going into his fight with Mir and in his own first fight with Mir he clobbered him quickly on the feet; Brock’s coming off of a KO victory himself; and there are reports (per Dave Meltzer, for instance) that Brock’s been working in training on what you might call the Randy Couture Fight, a lot of ugly grinding Graeco-style clinchwork and dirty boxing against the cage. That’s the strategy which almost certainly works best for Brock, and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t know it. He can force that style of fight by bull-rushing Mir, it allows him to impose a probable strength advantage, it lets him lean on Mir and wear him down while preserving his own gas tank, it minimizes the chances of getting caught in a submission, and it allows Brock to negate Mir’s advantages in the standup which are mostly quickness and greater technical fluidity. There’s no guarantees in MMA, but this is probably the approach which maximizes Brock’s chances to win and it’s also probably the one which is hardest for Mir to answer. If Brock takes Mir down, there’s a million things he can try off of his back, even if Brock’s submission defense has improved; standing outside of the clinch Mir is quicker and more varied in what he can offer and could potentially win rounds simply with movement and variety, point-striking and moving away. Brock could still win either of those styles of fights since he’s becoming smarter and more disciplined with his ground-and-pound and leaves fewer openings to be caught with a submission, and his ridiculous gorilla arms make it harder to move and stay on the outside against him than most other plodding boxers, but the Randy Couture Fight is the higher percentage play.
Prediction here is that this looks somewhat like Couture-Lesnar. Brock mauls him against the cage for a round and a half, lets the clinch go, and just wallops a tired Mir with a giant right hand as he plods back to the center of the cage. Lesnar KO2 Mir (Straight right—>GnP, TKO.)
Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves
From a purely sporting perspective this is the best fight on the card and has a real chance to be a classic. The basic dynamic is clear: Alves is the best striker in the division while GSP is simply The Best in the division, the most complete fighter in the sport today with essentially no clearly exploitable weaknesses at this point in time. Mentally he appears stronger now than ever before; his chin, while not perfect, is still very good; his cardio is inhuman and was showed off to best effect in going 5 hard against Jon Fitch and 4 in dominant fashion against BJ Penn, after which he looked as though he could have gone 10; he out-wrestles top level wrestlers, out-strikes excellent strikers, clowns jiu-jitsu world champions on the ground; and at 28 he appears to be only now entering his athletic prime which is a truly terrifying thought. Throw in that he’s out of the Greg Jackson camp and has Jackson’s gameplanning skills to call on, and it’s hard to see who beats him or how. And yet, Alves is the kind of fighter who, just for a second, gives you pause: his Muay Thai striking is not just the best in the division outside of GSP, it’s flagrantly so; he’s a preposterously huge man for the division, so much so that he’s both missed weight and been busted for an illegal diuretic at various times trying to make 171; he’s got a fantastic sprawl which makes his standup as effective as it can be; and he hasn’t lost in nearly three years, bringing all the confidence in the world into this fight. MMA is about finding ways to win, and it’s tempting to look at Alves and think- here’s a man who, if not as well-rounded as GSP, is at least his equal and probably better than him in one area and may well have the skills necessary to force the fight into that zone. Since no one out there now is going to be as great in all areas as GSP, the idea to beat him is to find someone better in one area who can make that the fight.
Only, I don’t buy it. It’s essentially the idea we heard about in the BJ Penn fight the second time around- that while GSP could take anyone down, he would find himself in trouble once he ended up in BJ Penn’s guard which was a whole different world than taking down someone like Josh Koscheck. Then GSP passed that guard and beat 5 kinds of shit out of Baby Jay. GSP does this sort of thing- he appears to be so generally great at everything that, in conjunction with excellent coaching, he has the ability to develop shockingly quickly in certain areas if he puts his mind to it in connection with a specific fight. We saw it when he trained his wrestling to out-wrestle wrestlers, than his BJJ to pass Penn’s guard. I don’t exactly expect him to out-strike Alves (though with a better jab and greater quickness I honestly don’t dismiss the possibility), I do expect that if he wants this fight to go to the ground it will go there eventually. Alves has a very good sprawl but it’s not impossible to take him down, and GSP is as good a wrestler and a better athlete than anyone else out there at 170. If Matt Hughes can get Alves down, GSP can, especially since GSP is a good enough striker to at least compete on the feet which makes his take down attempts harder to anticipate and harder to stop. He may also be the only man in the division quick enough to catch an Alves leg kick for a single leg. Of note as well is something Mike Coughlin brought up on his podcast, that Alves seems to have trouble with being forced backwards and more difficulty stopping clinch-based takedowns than shots. If that’s true, Greg Jackson will have noticed it.
Once they’re down Alves is deeply screwed as you might expect from a huge welterweight who was once tapped by Spencer Fisher. His BJJ is not in the same universe as BJ Penn’s and Penn’s availed him nothing, and the size difference matters less off his back than anywhere else. GSP is almost impossible to sweep, his ground and pound is brutal, he might be a better BJJ practitioner than Alves (so far as I can tell he’s a couple of belt ranks ahead, which may or may not mean something) and Alves tends to flop around a bit on the ground from what I’ve seen, trying many things but also leaving himself open a lot for submissions or passing attempts rather than closing down and looking to stand up or for a stand up. Most importantly this is where the cardio issue will really come out. GSP especially from top position can fight essentially forever- we know for a fact that he can go 5 hard rounds at a world class level. Alves on the bottom and taking damage for any serious length of time is a very good bet to gas, as are almost all fighters who cut the insane amount of weight he does. Once he’s gassed, he’s dead, and GSP can finish him anyway he wants to.
To win this fight Alves needs everything to go right. He has to stuff the takedowns of the best wrestler in the division, KO a guy with a very good chin who’s learned from hard experience how to survive when buzzed, and hope he can do it all before he runs out of gas and without GSP and Greg Jackson having come up with a solution for him. GSP only needs to do what he’s been doing recently- take guys down, out-wrestle them, and pound them stupid. I’ve reached the point where I refuse to bet against GSP until someone actually beats him by being better (as opposed to catching him with a flukey shot), and on this one I’m sticking with the majority and making the trendy submission pick. GSP Sub4 Alves (Gassed helplessness—>armbar).
Michael Bisping vs. HENDO
Maybe the simplest fight on the card, and one of the hardest to pick. I could write a bunch on this, but the bottom line is: what does Hollywood Hendo have left? In his prime he destroys Bisping and picks his teeth with the splinters, but for my money at least he looked more than a step slower last time out against Rich Franklin. If he’s really slowed, Bisping could just dance around him controlling range and point-striking him while Hendo lumbers after, trying to find a home for that big right hand he falls in love with. If Hendo is even 80% of what he was in his prime and decides to make this a wrestling match, he’s still much better than Bisping and could totally control the majority of the match with Randy Couture Fight against the cage and mauling Bisping from top position. Will he? Search me. Oddly, even though I’m totally rooting for Hendo in this one, my instincts say Bisping- with judging the way it is, a younger flashier guy who throws many more strikes is rarely a bad bet (see: the Matt Hamill fight). And yet…I’m going with my head and the opinions of most others on this one. Hendo’s a smart guy, he’s seen everything there is to see and he doesn’t get rattled, and if Bisping wins the first round and Hendo can’t land that right I think he reverts to wrestling mode and grinds Bisping into the cage and mat to win the last two and take the ugly decision. Hendo dec. Bisping (29-28). The only thing I’m confident on here is that this one’s going all 3 rounds.
Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago “Not Alves”
There’s officially too fucking many Thiagos in this promotion, though this fight may help sort that out.
Jon Fitch once appeared on the TV show “Mythbusters”; now he gets a chance to bust the myth that there’s more to Paulo Thiago than a lucky punch, a questionable stoppage, and Josh Koscheck’s recent habit of falling in love with his standup to excess. Thiago was losing that fight handily before he nailed Koscheck, that contest was in fact his only previous fight outside of Brazil, he’s never had to perform on a stage like this before, UFC didn’t even offer him a lasting contract before the Koscheck fight which tells you what they expected out of him, and now he’s got the world-class Jon Fitch in front of him for this fight. Mike Coughlin’s comment on this was “Fitch should run right over him”, and I’m not really coming up with any obvious reason to disagree with that- Thiago has a fine ground game but Fitch’s wrestling will likely make that a non-factor, and the odds on two consecutive lucky punches aren’t great. Fitch remains a fantastic fighter who would probably be a champion if it wasn’t for the presence of GSP; if Alves happens to get lucky on the evening, Fitch will probably get a second chance to become one anyway. Fitch Dec. Thiago (Probably 30-27)
Akiyama Yoshihiro vs. Alan “Bad Nickname” Belcher
This is one I don’t feel comfortable analyzing too much, since I’m not nearly as familiar with Akiyama as I should be. The matchmaking is interesting: the last time the UFC had a Korean-heritage middleweight from a Japanese promotion who they appeared to want to showcase Belcher also got the call as his debut opponent, and that didn’t work out so well for Denis Kang. There’s questions about whether Akiyama is damaged goods stemming from a nasty KO loss (later changed to NC) to Kazuo Misaki about a year and a half ago, and Akiyama hasn’t been in tough since then. If nothing else the Belcher fight will probably let us know whether Akiyama can answer those questions and have a meaningful career in the UFC starting at age 33. Belcher’s a sturdy, honest test.
On the hunch that the transition from Japan to the UFC is always rough and Belcher is underrated, I’ll take him. Belcher KO2 Akiyama (Knee—>ref stop, TKO). I have a suspicion Akiyama may want to put on a show and thus keep it standing, leaving himself more vulnerable to what Belcher’s best at.
Bonnar vs. Coleman: Coleman will gas during introductions and hold on with heart the way he does, then get beaten into retirement shortly thereafter. Bonnar KO2 Coleman (Heart attack—>GnP, TKO).
Miller vs. Danzig: Miller, if there’s any justice or taste in the world; I’ll say 30-27 decision. Cows and chickens are about the only fans of Danzig, who’s lost his last 2 and is 2-4 in his last 6 entering this one, being finished by Mach Sakurai and Josh Neer and losing decisions to Clays Guida and French. Ultimate Fighter or not, he’s probably getting cut if he loses this one.
O’Brien vs. Jones: Martian Manhunter takes it, a 2 rounds to 1 decision. Outworks him early, gasses late, holds on against a non-finisher.
Kim vs. Grant: Kim’s undefeated and clearly talented, but he’s also sloppy as fuck at times and facing a guy with 12 submission wins. I’ll take him despite that, but I’m not hugely confident about it. Let’s say decision 30-27.
Dollaway vs. Lawlor: Dollaway. He’s got holes, but Lawlor’s not the guy to exploit them. Let’s say he taps him, powers up his special bar and goes for his Peruvian Necktie finisher (Up, Up, Left, B button).
Grice vs. Gugerty: Grice, just outwrestles him. Decision, probably 3-0.
And finally: 1.3 million total buys for this one, the all-time non-boxing record.
And a thousand sherdoggers light up a smoke.
Here’s the deal: nothing makes the fighting world go round, MMA or boxing, like Fighter A bitching that Fighter B is a paper champion/running from him/a total punk. 95% of it is baloon juice. The way you can tell the legit 5% from the rest is, look at the actual fights being taken on by the accused fighter- is he dodging challenges of all sorts, coasting on fame and public recognition, or is he fighting a high caliber of opponent if not yet the guy making the initial grandstand play? If Brock were fighting crackheads, geeks, freaks, cans, hobos, dead bodies and so on this would be a legit complaint; but he’s fighting Randy Couture and almost certainly Big Nog. Them’s not hobos. If he somehow beats them and then tries to run out a title run against the Cheick Kongos of the world, he’ll deserve the complaints. But as for right now, cut the man some slack.