The Ship Be Sinking

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Strikeforce Fedor vs. Rogers Predictions: How Many Hardcores?

A solid card; but will it draw solid ratings? The fights here will all be entertaining for what they are but if this thing dies on CBS- which it may- that will have far more long term impact for the sport than any individual results. Essentially this card consists of a bunch of foreigners who speak iffy English and have very little mainstream exposure, plus Jake Shields, Mayhem Miller and Brett Rogers- of whom only Miller may mean something as a draw off of his MTV exposure. I’d like to say the origin and language skills of the fighters won’t matter, but they almost certainly will. Showtime has had a Countdown-ish show and CBS did run some ads during football and perhaps that along with the ever popular Russian Superman gimmick will help draw in some UFC only or more casual fans, but if it doesn’t there’s no reason to think this show will do much better than the Elite XC on CBS show without Kimbo or Carano did. That’s simply not a sustainable rating for a network television show- there’s just not enough hardcores yet.

It’s a real crossroads for Strikeforce: with a serious network deal- and a thousand other things falling into place from here- they still have the potential to be a strong and important #2 promotion in America and Canada; without it, it’s hard to see them ever generating the interest and revenues required to be a top-level player purely off of Showtime exposure. My hunch is that the rating will come in in the gray zone, probably good enough to justify a second show but not good enough to make the future secure. That in itself would be a form of defeat for Strikeforce, as with such a limited roster there’s only so many loaded shows (which is what this is for them) they can put on and even hope to draw reasonably well with. The Gegard Mousasi situation demonstrates this most clearly- he’s already squashed Babalu, so if he beats Sokoudjou, who’s left? Mohammad Lawal isn’t anywhere near ready as a star, Dan Henderson’s signing hasn’t been confirmed, Robbie Lawler, Nick Diaz and Jake Shields are too small to be taken seriously, and no one wants to see Matt Lindland in that position. Strikeforce needs to knock this one out of the park because if not, they could end up locked into a financially dangerous Fedor deal without much hope of expanding their revenue streams to pay for it. The name “Strikeforce” needs to get over here.

Anyway, the fights:

Fedor vs. Rogers

I just finished reading a book of ancient Mediterranean history, which took note of the Graeco-Roman habit of sacrificing an animal- or in rare cases humans- to appease a wrathful deity. Not sure why that’s coming to mind, but there you go.

Seriously: Rogers CAN win, but it would probably be the greatest MMA upset of all time. Rogers has size, and he hits hard, and he’s younger; that’s the end of his advantages. Fedor is more skilled, more athletic, more talented, more experienced, might even hit harder, etc. etc. There’s just not much more to say about it; Fedor’s in a completely different talent bracket, and unless Rogers gets a very quick fluke KO he’s almost certainly screwed. Fedor by 1st round submission.

Shields vs. Miller

Ah, Jake Shields, a fighter with standup so iffy that it’s gone past rudimentary all the way to vestigial, as though he’s evolving backwards into the Royce Gracie of 1994. He’s a fine fighter, he’s clearly the more talented of these two, he’s defeated the far higher level of competition, he’s undefeated since 2004, he’s…so goddamn unconvincing. It’s entirely possible that I underrate him because I’m tired of reading message boards full of “ZOMG SHeidls wull ta p GSp” posts, but every time he fights I’m strongly tempted to pick the other guy. Miller winning would be a huge upset; yet I can’t shake the sense that all he has to do to win is keep it standing for 60% of the fight. Of course, the same thing was true of Paul Daley and Robbie Lawler, except more so. I’m going to take Shields, by boring decision, but I won’t be shocked if he loses.

Sokoudjou vs. Mousasi

I like the fight simply because Sokoudjou is a recognizable and quasi-legitimate guy to challenge for the title- certainly as legit as you could get for this show- off of his two signature wins, and if Mousasi annihilates him the way he did Babalu it’ll be the best thing possible for getting Mousasi over as a star, which Strikeforce simply must do. I can’t think of anything Sokoudjou has shown in his two recent wins against Bob Sapp and Jan Nortje which suggest that he’s a different fighter than the one who lost to Babalu, Machida, Luiz Cane, etc. which is to say he’s still decent but no where near good enough to beat Mousasi barring a total fluke. Much like the main event it’s two different talent classes. Sokoudjou hits really fucking hard; but he gasses quickly and seems to mentally break and get discouraged, turning passive, and his striking tends towards the rudimentary and telegraphed. His ground defense is not so hot. Mousasi doesn’t for the moment appear to have many clear holes in his game per se, and I suspect he’ll be patient, gas out the bigger man and then take him to the mat for the 2nd round RNC.

Bigfoot Silva vs. Werdum

One sign of good matchmaking for a promotion like Strikeforce whose big shows usually feature the same talent is that there’s a fight on the undercard which is designed to throw up a challenger to the winner of the main event. I’m not sure either of these guys against Fedor is a big draw, but hey- they’re doing it the right way at least. So far as the fight goes I don’t buy Giant Silva and I never have, and I probably buy him even less after he got busted for horse steroids and had to hide out in Japan for a year. His career best win is a split decision over the husk of Ricco Rodriguez, he moves with the grace and quickness of a disoriented whale, he’s really got not much but size working for him. Werdum is just much better, quicker and more skilled on the ground if it goes there, and as long as he stays defensively responsible he should be able to pick Silva apart standing and possibly shoot in to take him down as a counter. Silva’s chance is to time Werdum and throw a big counter himself (something like a right hand over a leg kick), but despite his size I’m not even sure he hits all that hard; it might have to be a perfect shot. Werdum by decision is a pretty easy pick here.

All in all it’s not the most competitive card in the world but it should be fun, with several legitimately world-class talents on display. You could do a lot worse for a free show.

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Bonus sidenote: Glen Johnson is rematching Chad Dawson on HBO this weekend as well in the return match from their close and kinda-sorta-maybe controversial first fight which Dawson won. I’d pick Dawson as the easy choice in the rematch as the younger man who won the first fight and is now fighting in his home territory in Connecticut, but I’ll add- Dawson will have to knock Johnson out twice to get any respect here. Glen Johnson is a wonderful fighter, but he’s also one of the biggest complainers and whiners in the sport, and virtually no matter what happens I guarantee he’ll be back on Monday claiming he was rob-jobbed. It’s a pretty crucial fight for Dawson- despite some signature wins over Johnson, Tarver, Adamek etc. he’s not really broken through to star status and has been a negligible draw in many places, and Johnson is one of the very few legitimate opponents left for him at 175 who are realistically available. he needs to do something to capture the public’s attention, or he risks becoming the Kelly Pavlik of 175. He seems like a really nice guy, so I’m hoping he can avoid that fate.

The opener to the HBO telecast is Harry Joe Yorgey vs. Alfredo Angulo, and if you don’t know those guys all I can say is watch out- it won’t go the distance, and it’ll be a great fight.

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November 6, 2009 Posted by | Boxing, MMA | , , , | 1 Comment

Come The Fuck On.

Apparently Fedor’s first opponent in Strikeforce may be RICCO RODRIGUEZ according to multiple sources (MMA Junkie, Steve Cofield). RICCO. ROD. RIGUEZ.

Absolutely 100% farm-fresh government certified industrial-strength NO BUYS. In fact it’s so tremendously NO BUYS that it tells you exactly who has the whip-hand in the Strikeforce/M1 “partnership”, if the first opponent selected to build to a Fedor-headlined PPV is someone with name recognition only to hardcores, who are precisely the fan population who knows what sort of competition Rodriguez actually represents at this stage of his career. But in the meantime M1 and Fedor will get a healthy check for fighting guys a half-step above tomato-can status who represent no risk, and if the PPV does bloodbath numbers they aren’t on the hook for any of the losses because their “co-promotional” deals are structured to shield them.

The amazing thing is just how tone-deaf a move this would be by M1. At a time when more fans than ever are convinced by the Fedor-fears-competition-he’s-not-really-that-good narrative they’re throwing him in there with an opponent who last had a really meaningful fight in 2003 when he went 0-3 in consecutive fights against Tim Sylvia, Big Nog and Pedro Rizzo to wash out of both UFC and Pride, never to return. Since then he’s lost every meaningful fight he’s had against the likes of Travis Wiuff, Jeff Monson, Bigfoot Silva, Ben Rothwell, etc. and lost his last nationally televised fight against Silva by showing up pudgy and indolent. 17 of his 27 post-UFC opponents don’t even have wikipedia entries, and wiki has articles on the likes of Jimmy Ambriz and Rob Broughton. It doesn’t matter if Fedor crushes Rodriguez in the first 15 seconds, which he might; there’s no way to escape from or hide the fact that the matchup itself is a joke which proves nothing, which means Strikeforce/M1 would be essentially promoting on their own television the exact line of argument which Zuffa are using to discredit them.

There are real and serious if not quite top-class heavyweights for Fedor to face in Strikeforce: Fabricio Werdum, Brett Rogers, Paul Buentello, Bigfoot Silva himself if you could get him licensed, even some of the light heavyweights like Gegard Mousasi would be better- if not great- choices. That the people in charge might be thinking of unearthing Rodriguez says it all really. Hopefully this one turns out to either be pure rumor, or a working idea that gets shot down by fan revolt.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , , , | Leave a comment

You Spin Me Right Round Baby, Right Round….

The big ZOMGFEDOR news of the day is that eventually someone from M1 was found to deny yesterday’s leak (presumably from the UFC side) of the contract terms which Carmichael Dave reported that he had confirmed previously with M1. Now it’s possible the right hand and left at M1 aren’t in communication, or Dave is just wrong or lying here, or someone at M1 accidentally confirmed this before they had decided as a group how to respond. But leave all that aside for the moment; in what way is M1’s denial an actual denial? They claim that such terms were never offered- that may well be true, depending on how you interpret certain clauses or phrases. But there’s two ways to respond to that. One is simply to deny it, as they’ve done, and emphasize that you continue to demand things which were never mooted in the leak as being part of the offered deal. That’s what you say if you’re playing for PR and don’t want an actual deal of the type which was leaked- notice how the comments from M1 emphasize their claim that Fedor and M1 are the same thing, and that all of the M1 circus has to be included as part of any agreement. Their “denial” boils down to a reemphasis that no deal is possible along the lines of the leaked framework virtually regardless of the dollar figures.

The other option is this: you call UFC’s bluff. Put out a press release which says in effect that no such terms were ever offered, but if UFC would care to make the generous offer which has been discussed in the press that M1 would be happy to agree to a deal in principle along those lines. That’s the press release you put out if you’re actually looking to get a deal done with UFC and are simply trying to extract every last dime in the process. Even if you don’t actually mean it, it’s an obvious PR spin move to rally public support if you intend to continue negotiations. What’s obvious at this point is that there’s a fundamental divide between what UFC considers (in my view rightly) to be reasonable and what M1 is willing to accept- if anything. Draw your own conclusions as to why.

Bonus quote:

“ll I can say on this is both sides are putting out propaganda attempting to get the public to see things their way. In the end the issue isn’t money to Fedor as much as control of Fedor and M-1 Global won’t give up that control unless they have no other alternative. Right now, they still believe there are alternatives. ”

Dave Meltzer

“Control”. When a manager “controls” his client and theoretical ownership partner…there’s a story.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , | Leave a comment

BTW

Carmichael Dave on the Underground provided the actual terms of the last UFC offer to Fedor. In short: 6 fights for $30 million guaranteed, immediate title shot, promotional cut of PPV revenue to M1 over and above Fedor’s purse, Fedor allowed to wear as much M1 gear as he liked, yes to combat sambo. They turned this down.

Think about what their motives for doing so were.

EDIT: Apparently Carmichael Dave said on his show that he verified these numbers with M1 as well before reporting them.

There is a story…much as there is a house in New Orleans…going around about an additional request from Fedor’s side to have elbows on the ground banned for his fights. God knows if that one’s true, but it tells you something that it’s even believable. And if it is…I mean, seriously. These are not good faith negotiations, they’re a PR stunt, and a bad one at that.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , | Leave a comment

Goofy Stuff

Apparently that Fedor/M-1 presser today was a completely ridiculous affair, highlighted by Finkelchtein or someone suggesting that it was important for MMA to have competition to the UFC, so UFC should co-promote with M1 on all events with Fedor. They really said this.

If you ever wonder why Fedor isn’t in the UFC, it’s not because Fedor’s scared or UFC isn’t paying enough, or because Fedor wants his SAMBO (which is an enormous red herring), or anything at all other than that the M1 people are intransigent crazies who at best don’t have a quarter of a clue, and at worst DO have a clue and also a completely separate agenda. Which of those it is I don’t know; I do know that if I were the UFC braintrust I’d be incredibly hesitant to do any kind of serious business with these people, especially if I didn’t need to. UFC doesn’t really need to; in the end that may be the most important factor.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to Fedor 5-10 years after he retires.

EDIT:

“–The only thing we can say on the subject is that two different sources have told us negotiations between UFC and Fedor have fallen through again.”

Dave Meltzer

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: Fedor is in serious danger of becoming a joke, entirely because of the ridiculous and shady behavior of the people surrounding him. This isn’t 2002 when there was a seriously competitive and arguably superior other promotion for top level fighters to compete in; if Fedor doesn’t end up in UFC he ends up- from a competitive and possibly a business perspective- nowhere, and the only real reason that might happen is the creepy behavior of the M1 team. There’s serious rumors out there about who these guys are and who they represent, but leave that aside for the moment; ask yourself this question: why are something like 80% or more of the monies paid to Fedor for his fights channeled into M1 instead of being paid to the fighter directly? Why are people who claim to be looking out for Fedor’s best interests holding his career hostage in order to hopefully win a co-promotional deal which won’t result in greater revenues directly paid to the fighter whose ability is the driving force behind M1’s demands? Fedor got $300,000 on the books for each Affliction fight (plus a previous undisclosed signing bonus), and the last reported UFC offer was something like $5 million a fight. If you gave a damn about Fedor and were negotiating in good faith on his behalf, what possible reason could you have for turning that down on the basis of Fedor’s own interests? And the answer is obvious: none. The only reason M1 have is because tying Fedor to UFC takes him out of their control and deprives them of the ability to use Fedor’s name and fame to build their business ventures, of which Fedor gets at best a pittance. This is why managers (who have a duty to their client) and promoters (who have a duty to themselves) should never be the same: there’s a massive, massive conflict of interest.

UFC is rightly criticized for some of their sketchier and more counterproductive financial dealings- principally the habit of never fully disclosing fighter pay- but they are fundamentally an above-board organization run along fairly clean and intelligent business lines. They aren’t in the same universe of shadiness that M1 is, and fans really should realize that.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , , , | 1 Comment

Carry Go Bring Come

Bare rumors a-gwaan

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.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , , | Leave a comment

“Crazy Things”

Dana White on all sorts of stuff

Everything will depend on the specifics of the deal, but I will say- I don’t think a lot of people quite get what UFC on ESPN with a good deal at this moment can mean. I’ve been a boxing fan for a long time and I’ve gone some small way towards trying to educate myself on the history of that sport; I’ve also gone some way into trying to understand the history of pro wrestling as an industry for a variety of reasons. Both of those businesses bear on UFC’s long-term potential, since MMA is essentially a collision between many of the elements of both: the one-company business model and sustained focus on building larger-than-life stars of wrestling; the legitimacy and uniquely compelling competition of boxing (and in this, MMA is really superior), the ethnic rivalries and fire of fighting sports which they both share, and many more besides. One of their other shared elements is that there was a time in American life when they were both much, much bigger deals than they are now- before boxing destroyed its fanbase in a thousand ways, and before wrestling became congealed and identified with WWE’s style alone. Wrestling at one point in this country sold tens of millions of tickets a year in a country with a much smaller population; boxing once ran club shows which sold out every night and drew 100,000 to the old Soldier Field for Dempsey vs. Tunney.

I never thought I would live to see days like those in my time as a fan. Boxing had just gotten kicked off of the networks when I began to follow it and while wrestling had its late 90’s boom period, that was always an obviously ephemeral thing which didn’t have the emotional attachments to its audience which that business used to have. But human nature doesn’t change all that much; and the people who once flocked to boxing and wrestling but now wouldn’t be caught dead at either one, those people are still out there and MMA under the UFC banner right now is the best hope I’ve seen for calling them back. MMA doesn’t have deep cultural roots yet, obviously, but it’s working on developing them with every show and every intelligent business deal that UFC makes. If they can take their current product- which is, let’s be honest, far and away the best it’s ever been- to ESPN and maintain the things which have made them popular, all of a sudden they have the chance to reach a far vaster audience than ever before. There’s nothing like network TV in the 1950’s available today, but ESPN maintains in a fractured entertainment universe an essentially unique hold and influence over the sports-following public.

Being on ESPN conveys legitimacy; it’s hard to see how Ontario and New York can hold out much longer with bans for something shown regularly on basic cable on maybe the most famous cable channel alongside the NBA and other major sports leagues. Being on ESPN also gives UFC a chance to embed itself as a sport, to reach out to the sort of younger viewers who they don’t draw from now but who can watch on basic cable what they can’t buy on PPV. Yes, that was possible with Spike before, but ESPN is of a wholly different order from Spike TV in drawing fans and dictating what matters in the sports world. Being on ESPN gives UFC and MMA a chance to grab older fans, channel-flippers and curiosity viewers who’ll come across MMA in a way they never would have when it was banished to PPV or vaguely embarrassingly-themed 3rd tier cable channels. In general ESPN gives UFC the platform they need to expand beyond what is for the moment still an intensely energetic and committed but limited fanbase of 25-40 year old white males, the chance to compete with boxing for Latino fans in a country becoming more Latino every day, the chance to expose vast amounts of people to a sport which is even now still a slightly underground, word-of-mouth industry. And it bears mention that ESPN and ABC are jointly owned.

This is a sport which has had two or three major breakouts before, which continues to find new ceilings to its popularity. My sense is that with the sport starting to break into Mexico and the potential for a major ESPN deal coming on the back of the most successful UFC PPV in history, that we’re right on the brink of another one. I don’t think MMA will ever be able to be quite what boxing was in the 50’s due to entertainment fragmentation primarily; but I think far more of the types of people who were fans in that era are recoverable than is commonly believed to be the case. The day may come when 1.5 million buys on PPV is considered average for UFC, and when 30 or 40 million people in North America watching a show is achievable. Everything has to go right for that to happen- but so far, nearly everything is.

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Side note: MMA Fanhouse is reporting that Fedor wants to go to Strikeforce. Three quick thoughts:

1. If this is for negotiating leverage, than it’s a good ploy and fair play to Fedor’s handlers.

2. If he does go to Strikeforce that may be a serious aid to them in building their brand, and they’re desperately in need of new stars.

3. However, with that said, if Fedor goes to Strikeforce for less money than UFC offers then he’s officially become a punchline no matter how skilled and talented he remains. Strikeforce’s heavyweight division is terrible- it’s basically Notastar Overeem when he shows up once every two years or so, Brett “One Good Win” Rogers, Fabricio Werdum, and the vague hope that Bigfoot Silva gets off suspension this decade. That’s it. Fedor hanging out in San Jose fighting that assortment becomes MMA’s Floyd Mayweather: a brilliantly talented individual living off a reputation derived from things done years in the past, who appears so terrified of testing that talent that after a while it becomes impossible to take them seriously when they spend more effort avoiding fights than fighting them. There’s 5 guys in UFC (Brock, Randy, Mir, Carwin, Velasquez) who I and probably most MMA fans would rather see Fedor fight before the first guy in Strikeforce, and arguably another 4 (Cro Cop, Kongo, Dos Santos, Noguiera) who could put up a better fight than anyone in Strikeforce.

Simply put, if Fedor is offered a generous deal and still opts to turn it down to fight 2nd and 3rd tier opposition, than fuck ’em; he’s no longer a going concern in the sport of MMA in any meaningful sense.

July 26, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , , | Leave a comment

And It’s Official

Affliction=Muerte

Bottom line: Affliction spent several million dollars and two years of their time in order to fund a two-show vanity promotion and then get their old sponsorship agreement back. Way. To. Go. From a sporting perspective, two quick thoughts:

1. Fighter-wise, this means likely nothing. Anyone UFC wants they’ll get except Fedor, but given the way Affliction contracts were structured (non-exclusive/1 more fight on them) they’ll probably all have to be renegotiated anyway and UFC would have had their pick as the industry big dog even without this deal. Don’t expect Babalu and Fedor on the UFC 105 card or anything. Vitor obviously is a guaranteed signing now, given UFC’s publicly expressed interest; him and Andy Silva is a fun fight.

2. The major, major, and less apparent impact of this is that more than ever before, UFC has almost all the negotiating leverage in the industry. Strikeforce is an intelligently run semi-regional promotion, which means they’re guaranteed jobs for some mid-level or slightly higher fighters, but they’re not a major-money option for top stars at this point. Affliction was, but they’re now gone. Japan can offer good deals to some fighters especially ex-Pride guys or lighter-weight guys, but they’re not major competition for stars and even for Fedor, they’re probably not a serious money option unless he just wants to do Sambo and live off one big New Year’s payoff. And even if he wants that, his people won’t.

Expect the knock-on effects of this one to go on for a while; fighters had better hope that Strikeforce grows into a legit #2 in the industry, because if they don’t it’s going to be hard times. I honestly believe that the death of Affliction is a watershed moment for the industry as it represents the real end of the cowboy era in MMA. Once the UFC boom began in 2006 or so, there were a lot of companies with different backing and different plans who all got into the act: IFL, Affliction, Elite XC, Strikeforce, Bodog, etc. All of them except for Strikeforce have died somehow, most in humiliating fashion due to their own terrible business plans or bad promotional gambles. Pride obviously predated the boom but found themselves going under in the same period due to their own inherent weaknesses (yakuza ties, etc.). All that’s left are UFC, Strikeforce, DREAM, and a collection of smaller promotions of varying but universally minor import. There’s no obvious next big money mark with some revolutionary idea on the horizon, no next promoter who fancies himself the genius who can out-think the UFC; organizationally the MMA universe is what it is for the moment with few prospects for change in the future. There’s a lot of knock-on effects of this which deserve their own posts in time, but to sum them up: Yahoo’s changing their MMA tab to UFC may have been accidentally prescient, as the two are probably closer to being identical terms now than at any time in over a decade.

EDIT: ok, betting’s open: who’ll be the first joker who tries to promote Josh Barnett vs. Seth Petruzelli?

July 24, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , | Leave a comment

Loss Unu

Josh Barnett a gasup-gasup, fail off pon substances. He’s denying it, “it” being his second positive test.

Affliction, y’all! A snakebit promotion this one is. Personally it won’t affect my interest much and I can’t say I honestly think it’ll mean 10 buys either way for the PPV, but as a sporting matter it kills the show largely dead outside of Mousasi vs. Babalu. Vitor is Vitor, and there’s a small chance he’ll hit a lucky punch; but the odds are extremely high that he’ll be mauled and destroyed quickly, especially given that at least in theory he’s 2 weight classes below Fedor at this point. Lashley- God bless him, he’s a decent fighter and a decent pro wrestler, but he’s out of training and nowhere near the caliber of fighter Fedor should be fighting. From a business standpoint I understand why you try to make that fight; from the sporting perspective it’s a comical blowout. It’s almost appropriate that Affliction’s probable last show ends this way, given all the issues with this promotion from jump.

It’s amusing as well that this transpires on the same day or so which sees Strikeforce Theoretical Heavyweight Champion Notastar Overeem pull out of his defense against Fabricio Werdum on the 15th of next month. Too bad UFC doesn’t have some sort of fighter- some heavyweight, some talented guy who could grab the public imagination- to step in and seize this moment of disarray among their competitors. Snarky? Me? I will say this- if Lashley or Vitor actually pull this off, Affliction: No Buys will be among the most memorable PPVs of all time, and replay business will go bail. I’m not sure Josh Barnett meant anything to the buyrate in the first place, so if Atencio’s backers are already out of Barnett’s guarantee this may accidentally prove to be a solid break for everyone except the guy who failed the test. Barnett, sadly, is going to have to come up with some solid evidence to avoid a career epitaph of “failed a drug test after his biggest win; failed another before his biggest fight.”

EDIT: I ain’t the guy’s biggest fan, but when Bryan Alvarez on the F4W/Wrestling Observer boards suggested that Tom Atencio himself should replace Barnett, I laughed until it hurt. This really needs to happen. If you can’t do quality, do comedy.

July 22, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , , | 3 Comments

The Next Champ

Maggie Hendricks on who beats Brock.

She comes up with 4 options- Fedor, Shane Carwin, Alistair Overeem, and Bobby Lashley. Let’s take a look at those:

Fedor Emilianenko

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….

Shane Carwin

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.

Alistair Overeem

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.

Bobby Lashley

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.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | MMA | , , , , | Leave a comment