Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Very Good WEC Card On Tap June 1st

Since its purchase by Zuffa in December of 2006, the WEC has become a legitimately solid fight promotion. Zuffa made the prescient decision to continuing operating the organization as a separate entity with its own roster of fighters and independent matchmaking, primarily to serve as a vehicle for the fighters whose contracts it acquired from the purchase of the World Fighting Alliance, including current UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Urijah Faber. Why that happy fate befell the WEC and not the similarly purchased, and inarguably stronger, PRIDE Fighting Championships is open to debate, but the fact is that PRIDE was shuttered while the WEC has thrived under the ownership of the Fertitta brothers.

Seemingly improving with every show, the WEC has been putting on events in larger and larger venues featuring better and better fighters. Two of the WEC's current divisional champions, Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres, can make reasonable arguments for being the world's premier fighters in their divisions, granting a new level of respectability to the WEC. Those divisions, featherweight and bantamweight respectively, however, have not had the promotional exposure to gain traction with fans, leaving many quality fighters plying their trade in relative obscurity.

But now, with the WEC's Zuffa-endowed advertising budget and a cable television deal with VERSUS, even casual fans of MMA recognize Faber, and to a lesser extent, Torres. June 1st's card features both champions defending their belts, along with a handful of above average undercard fights, making it by far the strongest and deepest card promoted by the WEC to date. Other than Faber Vs. Pulver and Torres Vs. Maeda, both of which have the potential to be excellent fights, keep your eye on Alexandre "Pequeno" Noguiera Vs. Jose Aldo. Noguiera, a superlative grappler and former SHOOTO 143-pound champion, is making his WEC debut, and if the main card bouts stay short and punchy, there's a chance it could air.

Here's the full card:

Main event

WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver

Main card (televised)

WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres vs. Yoshiro Maeda
Mark Munoz vs. Chuck Grisby
“Razor” Rob McCullough vs. Kenneth Alexander

Under card (may not be broadcast)

Donald Cerrone vs. Richard Crunkilton
Jeff Curran vs. Mike Brown
Chase Beebe vs. Will Ribiero
Tim McKenzie vs. Eric Schambari
Alex Serdyukov vs. Luis Sapo
Alexandre Noguiera vs. Jose Aldo
Charlie Valencia vs. Dominick Cruz

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm back!

I know, I know...I went waaaay to long between posts. I promise it won't happen again.

To make up for it and to help you through the grueling work week now underway, I'm going to post an excellent two part video highlight of K-1 legend Andy Hug. Hug is one of the most respected combat athletes of all time, both for his incredible skill and his role in popularizing fighting sports. He is best known for his stupefying axe kick, a difficult move Hug used to notch shockingly sudden KO's throughout his career. Hug's arsenal also included a spinning heel kick that made ground meat out of his opponents legs (and makes me suck air and rub my thighs just to watch.)

The videos below trace Hug's career from its beginnings in full-contact karate tournaments through his K-1 World Grand Prix Championship in 1996 and finally to his untimely death from leukemia at age 35 in 2000. Long live the Blue Eyed Samurai (his Japanese nickname)!

Best of Andy Hug by mart- Part 1

Best of Andy Hug by mart- Part 2

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tatsuya "Crusher" Kawajiri Interview

Following his harder than expected decision win over Kultar "Black Mamba" Gill in the first round of the DREAM lightweight grand prix, Tatsuya Kawajiri discussed the fight, his possible opponents in the coming rounds of the tournament, and his desire to trade scalps with Vitor Belfort. It also gives some insight into Kawajiri's strategy in the tournament and how the format changes his gameplan, which I'm always curious to hear fighters discuss. Thanks to Suki MMA for translating:

Kawajiri had an interview with DREAM on Mar 16.

- You had a tough fight yesterday. Are you injured?
I'm fine. I didn't even get any power punches.

- I heard you saw your opponent before the fight.
Yes. We accidentally saw each other at the hotel in that morning. I was waiting for an elevator to come. He was there when the elevator door opened. He gave me a gesture to come in. We actually saw after the fight, too.

- How did you react??
I return him a gesture saying "After you. I'm going to take a next
one." I didn't see any reason to squeeze in an elevator packed with my
opponent and his supporters, especially on the same day we were going to
fight. I saw him after the fight though.

- Did you see him after the fight again?
Yes, I met him at the parking. He is a very nice and friendly guy.
Although we couldn't make any verbal communication, I felt a good
vibration from him and took a picture together.

- What do you think about your fight?
He was a strong fighter and I'm glad to have this experience. My fight plan was that I threw punches, took him down when he was cautious of my punches, and submitted him on the ground. Though our fight went as I planned without getting his knee kicks, I couldn't finish him because his ground techniques were a lot better than I expected.

- After the event, Black Mamba said he wanted to exchange punches in the standing position though?
This is the 1st round of the tournament and have to consider about my next fight which is within 2 months. I paid attention not to be injured because I have broken my hand bone before.

- You got applause when you entered the stadium.
I know. That raised my motivation because I knew everybody expected me a lot and supported me. I wanted to do better to correspond with their expectations. I'm disappointed about my performance though.

- I believe many fans were surprised to see your hair style. Where does your hair style come from?
When I debut as a professional MMA fighter, I always had a weird hair style. I had a normal black hair at the time of fighting in PRIDE though. Now I changed my hairstyle to stand out. I tried to have a hair style which Vitor Belfort had before. I don't know this is popular or not though.

- How was other people's reaction?
Well, I suppose they lost their words. Nobody said anything at first. They said, "It's OK, I guess".

- I think it's cool! Anyway, any thought about this event?
The light weight consists of many good fighters like I said before. If
we work on our mission which is to have attractive fights, DREAM will be the better event than PRIDE and HERO'S.

- When do you start training for your next fight?
I take a break for a week and start.

- What kind of techniques do you want to develop?
I still have lots to learn as a MMA fighter and would like to develop the whole technique. What I felt yesterday is to control the pace of the fight. I always devoted all my energies to finish as quick as I could from the beginning to the end. Now I think I should adjust my pace to deal with my opponent effectively.

- You have fights constantly since NYE. Do you feel any differences in your training?
Yes. If I continue to win, I have fight in May and July. It's easy to set my schedule and my conditioning. Having an short term goal makes me motivated to train hard.

- Who do you think is the most dangerous fighter?
Everybody. I think all fighters have a chance to win this competition. I got to be ready to fight anybody.
- Eddie Alvarez got the spotlight in the after the fight interview.
I didn't watch his fight because it was before my fight. He is aggressive and know how to fight, and also has his own fighting style. I suppose a fighter who has his own style is tough and strong.
- Any message to your fans?
I want to survive and have a good result. Come and see my fight!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Video Of The Week

This week's video comes from Sherdog forum wizard Juggo. It's the second installment in his "Don't Blink" highlight series, and true to it's name, it delivers nothing but the fastest, most jaw-dropping finishes in MMA. Especially impressive is the mind-boggling array of events represented, some of them so obscure I have no idea how this guy found the footage. And unlike most highlight videos which feature the kind of atrocious music popular with mall rat 14 year olds, the music here compliments the on-screen action rather well. It's a long one, but stick with it to the end; it gets better as it goes. Enjoy, and thanks to Juggo for putting it together!

Bonus video link: last night's ICON Middleweight Championship fight between Phil Baroni and Kala Kolohe Hose, which was streamed live (and free) on, was a real barnburner and very much worth the small annoyance of registering for the website. Here's the video link:

Friday, March 14, 2008

MMA Limps Into Theatres, Drops Massive Turd

There may be nothing I enjoy more than reading well-written reviews of brutally awful movies (except perhaps such reviews of brutally awful books, which can be dissected at greater length and detail.) They give movie reviewers the opportunity to exorcise all their pent-up enmity by spending hours concocting perfectly vicious prose-dagger, often leading to hilariously snide and relentlessly entertaining reviews.

The fact that such reviews are currently being directed at a film based around my preferred sport makes me a little apprehensive, but the reviews of Never Back Down contain so much extravagant negativity, I can't help but be amused.

In that vein, here are some of the choiceest quotes from reviews of Never Back Down (thanks to Fight Opinion for compiling the links):
  • I suspect that sometime in the near future the scenario in the adage "Give a monkey a typewriter and. ..." will actually happen. Studio executives tired of dealing with the diva whims of writers and directors will find a group of trained chimps and force them to crank out a film. I also suspect the resulting film will show more imagination than the 110-minute waste of your life that is "Never Back Down." (News & Observer)
  • If “Mystery Science Theater 3000” ever makes a comeback, I’ve got its first movie. A soulless blend of bad action, bad acting and worse writing, “Never Back Down” is tolerable only if merciless wisecrackers are offering commentary. (Kansas City Star-1 Star)
  • It's certainly not as much fun as The Karate Kid, so seriously does it take itself amid its coleslaw of half-hearted life lessons, and ludicrous fighting-is-not-the-answer message (in a movie that breaks more ribs than a cardiac surgeon in a career). (Winnipeg Sun. How friggin' perfect is "coleslaw" in that sentence?)
  • The very height of teen-oriented idiocy, this wrong-headed ode to violence is aimed at two particular niches: vapid girls who want to watch sweaty, shirtless young men fight each other; and meathead guys who believe macho douchebaggery is the answer to all life's problems (and who also, incidentally, want to watch sweaty, shirtless young men fight each other). (
On a happier note, the LA Times published a very good, in depth look at the entire crop of new MMA-based movies, some of which actually sound worthwhile, among them two indie documentaries. Most interesting to me was this quote from Hong Kong action star and director Donnie Yen, who says MMA is changing the way fight scenes are choreographed. From the article:
"I think MMA is here to stay," Yen said by phone from Shanghai. "For me as an action director, it's where action filmmaking is going. Now people will laugh at you if you do all that fancy jumping in the air. It wouldn't work in a real situation. I think you're going to have MMA in contemporary action films from now on."
No more flying scissor kicks on sped up film? That would be tragic, but an array of flying armbars, triangles, and spinning backfists should be an adequate replacement.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Saucy Suplex & Heavyweight Musings

Josh Barnett, another top fighters who has been on ice since the demise of PRIDE, finally returned to the ring last week. After taking more than a year off from MMA, Barnett returned to competition at World Victory Road's inaugural event, "Sengoku." He took on Japanese judoku Hidehiko Yoshida, and managed to pull-off a bone-crunching suplex early in the first round. Despite the sweet move, Barnett (unsurprisingly) showed some ring rust in his return. Watch the video below.

Burning question of the day: which promoter will be able to unite the top heavyweights (one a free agent, one in legal limbo, one with WVR, one the UFC champion) under one roof? Sadly, I'm not sure anyone will, but if I had to bet, I'd say DREAM, despite the fact that they don't have any of them currently signed (with the possible exception of Cro Cop, who I'd say has some work to do before he's "top" again), based on their apparent willingness to spend, potentially large audience, and the fact that three of the top four prefer fighting in Japan.

Follow up: how much would you pay to see the following four man tournament?

Fedor Vs. Randy
Big Nog Vs. Josh Barnett

Check out the suplex at 1:19 into the video below.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

UFC Has Fighters Fold Hands And Look Straight Ahead

The photos above are both of UFC Light Heavyweight Keith Jardine. Can you guess which one is from the UFC's new campaign to legalize MMA in New York? If you chose the one on the left, in which a blood-spattered Jardine, hissing like some kind of demonic leprechaun, looks like he's about to decapitate Chuck Liddell, you guessed wrong. If you chose the one on the right, in which Jardine appears to be posing for an 'Employee Of The Month' plaque at Best Buy, you are correct.

Zuffa's website,, is the public component of the corporation's campaign to repeal former governor George Pataki's wrongheaded MMA ban. His mesmerizing and fluid rhetoric on full display, Pataki said at the time, "To have someone who wins by using choke holds and kicking people while they are down is not someone our children should be looking to emulate."

Like Pataki, the "MMA Facts" website makes for a pretty slow-moving target. It's about as persuasive as a D.A.R.E. ad and it reads like an undergrad marketing paper, so I'll just point out one particularly choice element. The section entitled "The Fans", which claims to show that "mixed martial arts draws [a] diverse and enthusiastic fan base", features a large-scale photo of a remarkably homogenous crowd consisting almost entirely of lily white frat boys, captioned by this gem: "The fans of Mixed Martial Arts include women, families, celebrities, and members of both the middle and upper classes."

Aside from the seemingly equal value given to women and celebrities (who, last I checked, don't quite make up half the human population), it's worth pointing out that boxing has been kept alive for the last century or so with the hard-earned dollars of the working class, members of which have also been known to attend MMA fights. But maybe that's unlikely to persuade New York lawmakers, who Zuffa apparently believes will be more impressed by a list of celebrity attendees, including such luminaries as Nick Lachey and Barry Bonds.

But the website is just the public face of a behind-the-scenes campaign that began in the fall. According to the NY Times, "In November, Zuffa retained the Albany lobbying firm Brown, McMahon & Weinraub for $10,000 a month, state records show. Then it hired a political consulting firm used by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the Global Strategy Group, for media relations. For good measure, the company made a $25,000 donation to the state Democratic Party in mid-January."

Let me see if I've got this right: Las Vegas casino owners, formerly major supporters of Rudy Giuliani, drop 25 grand on the Democratic Party? Hire a consulting firm close to ethical paragon Eliot Spitzer? Spend 10 Gs a month on grease-palmed lobbyists?

In a rapidly changing world, it's comforting to know there are some things that will never change, like Albany being the private slush fund of New York's political class.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled Zuffa is playing the game. MMA fans aren't exactly the grassroots campaigning type, so without the Fertitta brothers and their coin, the sport would probably never make it into the Garden. Still, you can't help but feel a little queezy at the way it's getting done.

Bonus photo from "MMA Facts", just because it's hilarious:

"I don't know man, are you sure this haircut takes the focus off my ears?"

Best caption posted in the comments section gets ten thousand bonus points.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Video Of The Week

Each week I'm going to personally select one extremely boss MMA video for the enjoyment of my video-starved readers. Rather than forcing you to scroll through countless mediocre fight videos during your precious cubicle hours, you can be guaranteed of finding a video here that will completely blow the doors off your life.

This week I've chosen a highlight reel of Glaube Feitosa, the 2005 K-1 World Grand Prix champion. He's famous for his "Brazilian kick," a move so deceptive and acrobatic that you will definitely tear your groin attempting it after watching this video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ruptured ACL Is A Major Setback For Shogun

The UFC announced today that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has withdrawn from his fight with Chuck Liddell, scheduled for June 7th in London, after suffering a ruptured ACL in his left knee, the same injury he sustained last year. The knee was surgically repaired following his fight with Forrest Griffin, and now he will undergo the same surgery for a second time.

The big question is this: will Shogun ever be the same? Most likely, he will not. In fact, he may not even be able to compete again. The Brazilian fighter already looked somewhat diminished in his fights following the broken arm he suffered at the hands of Mark Coleman. With this second rupture of his knee, Rua has now had three major injuries in the last year and a half, injuries from which many athletes never recover.

In football, when a running back tears an ACL, it's almost guaranteed he'll never be the same again. While there are a few exceptions to the rule, most are a shadow of their former selves (see: Edgerrin James.) Of course, MMA doesn't require the same high speed change of direction as football, but, as anyone who has trained in MMA can attest, the sport places considerable strain on joints and ligaments. Now consider a rupture:
Complete ACL ruptures have a much less favorable outcome [than tears.] After a complete ACL tear, some patients are unable to participate in cutting or pivoting-type sports, while others have instability during even normal activities such as walking. There are some rare individuals who can participate in sports without any symptoms of instability. This variability is related to the severity of the original knee injury as well as the physical demands of the patient.
Shogun has had two ruptures in the same knee, making a miraculous comeback far less likely. There is a chance, however small, that he is one of those rare individuals who can fully recover
from a ruptured ACL, but the chances of him recovering from two are incredibly slim.

Now here are some choice excerpts from a numbingly thorough Australian article on ACL ruptures:
Rupture of the ACL causes significant short term and long term disability...The most common cause of ACL rupture is a traumatic force being applied to the knee in a twisting moment. This can occur with either a direct or an indirect force...I have also noticed a significant number of patients having ruptured their ACL who also have instability of the shoulder. I believe both these groups have a generalized ligamentous disorder.
He goes on to say that hyper-fit athletes may be able to resume training six months after surgery if they receive an immediate diagnosis and early surgery. So at the very best, Shogun is going to spend 6 months on the shelf, which probably means he couldn't be back in fighting shape, if he is able to train at a high level again, for at least 9 months (more realistically 12.) Additionally, his knee will almost certainly have some permanent disability, to compliment whatever damage remains to his arm/psyche from the Coleman bout.

Far from just mourning the cancellation of the much anticipated Shogun/Liddell match-up, fans ought to wonder if they will ever see Shogun fight again. Not what anyone wanted to hear, I know, but an injury like this cannot be glossed over. With luck and perfect genetics, he may be able to put this early-career crisis behind him and smash his way back to the top of the MMA world (cross your fingers.) Without it, he may become a highly sought-after coach.

Monday, March 3, 2008

UFC 82 Breakdown, Part 2

As you can tell from my previous "Breakdown" post, I'm not doing a minute-by-minute analysis of the fights, which can easily be found elsewhere. Instead, I'm focusing on elements that stood out, moments of particular interest, or conclusions that can be drawn, which, in the spirit of this blog, is harder to find on other sites. It is the nature of commentary to be subjective, so feel free to disagree (thoughtfully) in the comments section.

Cheick Kongo Vs. Heath Herring

While not a total slog, this fight lacked the fireworks both fighters appear capable of delivering. Kongo's improved wrestling was immediately noticeable; it allowed him to take down the defenseless Herring almost at will. Once on the ground, however, Kongo seemed lost, and he was incapable of maintaining the advantageous positions afforded by his takedowns.

Equally surprising was Herring's inability to submit Kongo, a novice grappler who was repeatedly underneath Herring in side-control and north-south positions. Herring chose to drop heavy knees to Kongo's midsection instead, a useful but not fight-ending technique. Several times Herring loaded up knees aimed at the floundering Frenchman's head, only to stop himself at the last second.

Perhaps the best reason to watch this fight (if you haven't already) is to see the perfect example of a match that would have been dramatically improved with knees to the head of a downed opponent. Both fighters had opportunities to deliver them, and both fighters were forced to use less effective and less exciting techniques instead. So rather than, say, knocking Kongo out with a series of crushing knees to the side of his shiny dome-piece, Herring ecked-out a sloppy split-decision. Bummer.

Yushin Okami
Vs. Evan Tanner

It's hard not to like Evan Tanner. Here's a guy who taught himself submissions from instructional DVDs, held the UFC middleweight title, and temporarily walked away from the sport to travel and grow out his beard. He's also the proprietor of a famously detailed and personable MySpace page, which is far more entertaining than whatever work you're supposed to be doing right now.

That said, at 37 years old and coming off of a two year lay-off, Tanner didn't stand a chance against the tediously efficient Okami. It would never occur to Okami to shrug off fighting for a few years to ride his motorcycle or to drop out of college to gain a "real world education." Unfortunately, it also didn't occur to Okami to duck, chin first, into a hard left knee, as Tanner did before crumpling to the canvas like a sack of moldy tangerines.
Okami is strong as an ox, patient to a fault, and always in impeccable physical condition. His counter-punches are cruelly accurate, and Tanner was paid in them every time he moved forward.

While Tanner's comeback looked more like a farewell tour, Okami is clearly on the rise (a trying, monotonous rise, but a rise nonetheless.) His "defeat" of Anderson Silva at Rumble On The Rock 8 should have been a "No Contest" (Silva was disqualified for using a totally sweet heel-kick from guard that knocked the kneeling Okami senseless), but a rematch between the two fighters would make sense at this point. Here's hoping that Silva would inject some excitement into the match-up.

Jon Fitch Vs. Chris Wilson

I'm not a huge fan of Jon Fitch, whose wrestling-oriented attack I find less than completely fascinating to watch. I also have a soft-spot for enormous underdogs, so I admit that I pretty quickly began pulling for Chris Wilson, a late-replacement for the much more capable Akihiro Gono.

Wilson showed that he's a gamer though with a strong stand-up attack and a kitchen sink-style ground game (i.e. constantly working for a submission.) He also threw a few solid roundhouse kicks to Fitch's midsection, a risky move against a wrestler, but one he executed fairly well. Wilson trains with Team Quest and has competed in SportFight, Matt Lindland's entertaining promotion (which has been shown on HDNet.) While he was clearly worn-out by Fitch's repetitious tackling, he definitively took the first round and came very close to submitting Fitch with a deep triangle at the end of the third.

Wilson may be not have enough experience to take on a guy like Fitch, but he showed enough skill to be a promising new fighter in the division.

Chris Leben Vs. Alessio Sakara

It's hard to understand why Alessio Sakara continues to get fights in the UFC. It's even harder to understand why his fight with Chris Leben, the Cabbage Corriera of the light heavyweight division, was on the main card when Andrei Arlovski, Diego Sanchez, and Josh Koschek were inexplicably relegated to the undercard. Without a single impressive win on "Legonarius's" resume, I've gotta assume it's his tattoos that keep him on TV, which are as impressive in their detail as they are insipid in their subject matter.

The funniest part of the fight had to be Joe Rogan's lecture on the relative merits of having a large head. Rogan earnestly contended that fighters with large heads are better equipped to withstand punches to said body part. When Sakara's smallish head proved incapable of coping with a hard left-hook from Leben, whose elephantine skull smoothly weathered Sakara's own stiff punches, Rogan briefly looked like some kind of a stoner genius. Amusing as it was, perhaps such live-action cranial experimentation can be left off the main pay-per view card in the future.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

UFC 82 Post-Fight Breakdown, Part 1

Dan Henderson Vs. Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva's striking gets more impressive with each fight, which seems like it should be impossible. He is continually praised for it, but after watching him, one can't help but point-out that he is just ridiculously good at hitting people. In each of his last seven fights, he has shown command over a different aspect of the stand-up game, making him the most well-rounded fighter facing elite-level competition today (note caveat.)

His feet, knees, and fists are almost always well-aimed and well-timed, so much so that he nearly makes it look easy, the true sign of transcendent skill. Dan Henderson is no slouch on his feet, but Silva made him look like an improvising brawler. His wild overhand rights and ill-timed bull rushes provided a stark contrast to Silva's viciously calculating muay thai game.

That said, Henderson inarguably won the first round, an impressive feat in its own right. Although he didn't do much damage, he controlled the pace and location of the fight and landed more shots than Silva. I doubt if anyone could smear Silva across the canvas for 25 minutes, but the strategy was working for the time being. Why Henderson chose to stand and trade with Silva in the second round is anybody's guess, but he clearly regretted the choice in his post-fight comments.

So where does Silva go from here? He has casually discussed changing weight classes or taking on a professional boxer, both poor options when there are still worthwhile challengers to Silva's crown. The only viable move at this point is for the UFC to import some talent, both for the sake of Silva's legacy and to shore-up the promotion's marshmallow-soft middleweight division. Fights against Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kazuo Misaki, Paulo Filho, and Robbie Lawler would solidify Silva's claim to pound-for-pound supremacy, and add needed credibility to the UFC middleweight title. In the meantime, Silva can answer any remaining questions by avenging losses to Yushin Okami and Ryo Chonan, who both reside in the UFC already.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Genki Sudo Moves Into The 3.5 Dimension

When one of my all-time favorite fighters, Genki Sudo, announced his retirement a little over a year ago at only 28 years old, he cited persistent neck and ankle injuries, in addition to a long-standing desire to become a Japanese pop star. I had mixed feeling about the announcement: as much as I would miss Genki in the ring, I looked forward to the hilarity of watching him perform bubbly Japanese lounge-pop in elaborate Pee Wee Herman costumes.

Well, Genki's first album, Love & Everything, is now out, and unfortunately there's nothing even remotely funny about it. I stumbled across the video of the title track, and let me tell you, it contains grimly bad music. The video shows Genki singing along terribly in utter seriousness to hideous soft-rock while clad in a baseball cap and jeans. The entire thing is completely bereft of humor or showmanship, which needless to say, didn't exactly characterize Genki's MMA career. I've posted the video for Love & Everything below (which I doubt anyone will get through), but just so that's not the taste left in your mouth, I've also posted my favorite highlight of Genki.

Anyway, I still admire the guy a lot. Enjoy.

Love & Everything

Genki HL

Friday, February 29, 2008

Photo Of The Week

I couldn't stop laughing at this. The standard UFC intro video, featuring a fighter shadow boxing in a cloud of mist offset by Roman gladiator imagery, is so lame I avert my eyes when it comes on. Evan Tanner looks like he feels the same way. "Are we really doing this? Really? With a spritzer thingy?" Click here for Tanner's full set of photos and comments on his fight tomorrow.

Short Jabs

  • ProElite Inc.'s stock (Symbol: PELE), parent company of EliteXC, finished the day at $7 a share, a 137.29% increase from the previous day's close of $2.95, a 52-week low.
  • I guess updating your blog is a good way to get noticed by your employer. Ryo Chonan posted this yesterday: "I got a call from my manager about my next fight this afternoon. What a coincidence! I wonder if someone who works for the UFC read my blog yesterday? I'm going to accept a fight with any fighters, so I think I can officially announce my next fight sometime soon. I am motivated to train."
  • Kazushi Sakuraba is opening his own gym. He's calling it "Laughter7," adding yet another chapter to the great Japanese tradition of giving mundane things bizarre English names ("GOD Coffee" to start your day? How 'bout some "Pocari Sweat" after you're work out?) Sounds intimidating, eh?
  • Tito Ortiz was fired last night on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice." Click here for a summary of how it went down.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

EliteXC Moves To Network TV

Obviously, the huge news today is EliteXC signing a multi-year television deal with CBS, the first time MMA will be shown on a major network in the U.S. (the IFL was technically the first on network television with its events on MyNetworkTV.) The deal is reportedly for four live fights a year on Saturday nights, probably in the 9-11PM EST slot, with the first fight set for sometime in April.

The implications of the deal are vast. First, a broad new audience will have the chance to watch MMA, and whether or not they tune in (and keep tuning in) will probably make or break the sport's future on network TV. If the ratings are big for CBS, other networks may hurry to cut their own deals with other promotions, and the sport could go mainstream.

But as Dave Meltzer points out, the highest rated UFC event ever, UFC 75 on September 8th, drew 4.7 million viewers. EliteXC will have to do quite a bit better than that to be considered a network success, a tall order for the young promotion. If it flops, MMA may become the next poker: a sport that grew too fast, too soon and is now relegated to cult status.

Second, EliteXC has positioned itself as the only legitimate rival to the UFC in the near future. The UFC's bizarre insistence on maintaining total production control over their events (what other sport would even think of doing that?) allegedly scuttled their own network TV negotiations, and that stubbornness has now come back to haunt them.

EliteXC pales in comparison to the UFC in most categories (quality of fighters, production values, promotional reach), but this deal may well change all that. EliteXC, a partnership between Gary Shaw and Showtime, clearly had cash to begin with, as evidenced by their purchase of a handful of other promotions, but now they'll have a lot more. The agreement requires CBS to purchase 10% of the company, an immediate injection of cash that, if it is used to sign big name fighters and improve production quality, may completely change the look of EliteXC.

Dana White has long stated his desire for MMA to be synonymous with the UFC, a nightmare scenario for those that value the health and diversity of the sport. While the confusing factionalism of contemporary boxing would be just as bad, fans will benefit from the healthy competition this deal creates.

And hey, it's free MMA on TV. Can't argue with that, right?

Nothing To Do This Afternoon?

If you answered "yes" to that question and you've got ten bucks to burn and you're a geek for obscure Brazilian MMA events, then you might want to check out the Rio Fight Club event happening today.

It's actually a pretty solid fight card for what it is, with guys from Brazilian Top Team, Nova União, Gracie Barra Combat Team, Black House, and Gracie Fusion fighting. Some of the fighters have competed in international events like DEEP and Shooto Japan, but the most intriguing competitor has got to be William Vianna, who has won two straight 8 man tournaments in the vale tudo competition Rio Heros. This guy won three straight fights in the same night under bare knuckles, vale tudo rules twice in the space of three months (the last one about a month ago, listen to him talk about controlling his ego after that feat.) It'll be interesting to see how he does under MMA rules against stiffer competition.

Anyway, I'm not getting paid for plugging this or anything, I just thought it sounded better than playing solitaire in a cubicle or watching Seinfeld reruns.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jake Shields Gets A Black Belt

EliteXC contender and life-long vegetarian Jake Shields was awarded a black belt by Cesar Gracie on Tuesday. Shields joins Nick Diaz and David Terrell as the only fighters to receive black belts from the well-known jiu-jitsu trainer.

Shields, the former Shooto world champion, is reportedly set to take on Drew Fickett for the first ever EliteXC welterweight title on March 29th.

Perhaps some day Shields and Mac Danzig can fight it out for the title of world's most dangerous herbivore.

Check out the video of his most recent fight, against Mike Pyle, here.

Ryo Chonan Needs Some Bread

From Ryo Chonan's most recent blog post:

"It's sucks that I'm not injured but have no fight schedule. I know PRIDE light weight fighters were very patient last year.

My friend in the US talked to the UFC staff and told me that they offer me a fight sometimes soon. I haven't fought for a while and have no money. I cannot wait anymore, and decided to go to the US for 6 months from the middle of April."

He had his friend talk to the UFC 'staff', whoever that is? How in the hell are fighters communicating with Joe Silva? Seems a bit odd that there aren't more direct lines of communication between a fighter under contract and the company's matchmaker.

And he's out of money? Because the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board won't release fighter payouts, we don't know how much he made at UFC 78, but a public comment like that from a mid-level fighter should provide more ammunition to those that say the UFC underpays its athletes. Granted, he had two other fights in 2007, both for DEEP, which I'm sure isn't some kind of financial utopia for fighters, but a guy fighting in the big show shouldn't be hard up for cash.

Here's Ryo pulling off his legendary flying scissor heel-hook on Anderson Silva with some nice commentary from Josh Barnett:

Monday, February 25, 2008

UFC Turns Down Lindland, White Begins Search For Vertical Toupée

Dana White is one of the most vocal and relevant critics of boxing today. "Vocal" because, well, vocal is his style. "Relevant" because he's the face of the sport that is quickly replacing boxing in the hearts and minds of young sports fans.

Criticizing boxing is part of White's usual stump speech. He will tell you that Don King and Bob Arum have mortgaged the long-term health of the sport for selfish short-term gain. He will tell you that boxing is a mess because the egos of its power elite prevent fans from seeing the best fights. And when he says those things, he is right.

He also is fond of saying that MMA will never go down the path of boxing, that his sport will not be held hostage by its promoters. As recently as a few years ago, he was believable. In 2003, he sent one of his biggest stars, Chuck Liddell, to compete in the middleweight tournament of rival promotion PRIDE's Grand Prix. It was a huge win for the fans: Liddell knocked out a cocky Alistair Overeem before being mauled by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, memorable fights both of them.

The exchange was supposed to be part of a trade involving Liddell and Wanderlei Silva, the second half of which never materialized supposedly due to the duplicity of PRIDE's ownership. Perhaps the sting of that failed transaction killed whatever goodwill remained in White's heart because he's looked more and more like King and Arum every day since.

Today comes the news from that Matt Lindland, a top-ten middleweight in the estimation of many observers, tried to get a fight with the UFC and was flatly turned down. According to Lindland, "I made it very clear to Dana (White), and he’s the final decision-maker on all that stuff, I made it very clear that I was looking for them to make me an offer. I said, ‘Make me an offer, and let’s talk. Let’s do business.’ I got back a, ‘We’re not going to make you any kind of an offer’ response."

For those not familiar with the back story, Lindland was let go by the UFC supposedly for wearing an unapproved sponsor's logo to the weigh-in of UFC 54. It's hard to believe that the sport's preeminent promotion would part with a quality fighter over such a minor squabble, so we're left to wonder if there might not have been other issues at play. Whatever the reason for the split, White's apparent inability to push aside his towering ego two and half years after the logo incident is one step down the same painful, self-destructive path pioneered by boxing.

Like him or not, Lindland is a top-flight middleweight, a world class wrestler and grappler who competes at the UFC's weakest weight class. Refusing Lindland's offer undercuts the UFC's credibility as the world's premier fighting organization and deprives fans of the best possible fights. If personal enmity prevents fans from seeing Lindland fight Rich Franklin, Nathan Marquardt, Yushin Okami, and UFC champion Anderson Silva, then White will have truly begun a Dorian Gray-like transformation into that which he despises most.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Revisiting "The Smashing Machine"

Yesterday I rewatched the HBO documentary "The Smashing Machine," a part biopic, part exploration of MMA (mostly PRIDE) in the early 2000's. The ostensible subject of the film is Mark "The Smashing Machine" Kerr, a talented but flawed fighter trying to make a living fighting in Japan.

It's a stimulating film, but not exactly a flattering portrait of Kerr or MMA. While not necessarily designed to be unflattering, the director's choice of Kerr makes for dramatic viewing rather than a representative example of mixed martial artists. The result is a brutally honest look into the life of a guy barely holding it together while competing at the highest levels of his sport.

"The Smashing Machine" isn't a favorite of many MMA fans, and it's not hard to see why. Watch as Kerr head butts, gouges, and stomps his way through early vale tudo tournaments. Watch as he pumps himself full of an alphabet soup of painkillers every single day, his career slipping further and further away with each injection. Watch as he ODs on opiates, makes a heroic recovery, and then fails to learn from his mistakes inside and outside of the ring. Watch Kerr's face get stitched back together as Mark Coleman, Kerr's longtime friend, wins the 2000 PRIDE Grand Prix instead of Kerr. Not exactly upbeat stuff.

Kerr's life and career are true stories, but the film does nothing to correct the impression that all fighters exist in some state of desperation. Part of the fault for that can be laid on Coleman, who is constantly saying that he fights to put food on the table, often with his young children in the same shot (this is Coleman's standard line even now, many big purses later. Makes you wonder if the Coleman family is subsisting on a diet of nothing but truffles and caviar). Kerr also says he fights for the money, but it's harder to sympathize with his money problems when he's shown driving a $70,000 sports car. Either way, there's the distinct impression that fighters are driven to brutalize each other because they couldn't survive any other way--a vast oversimplification.

Kerr is more compelling when he talks about the unparalleled emotional high of fighting and winning, a high he seems to love more than his own body. There's a lot Kerr's fight footage in the film, and you can't help but root for the poor guy. But as Coleman humbly admits early in the film, the sport passed by guys like Kerr and Coleman, leaving them with nothing but their ground and pound game. Admittedly, it can be viciously effective in some cases, as the many close-ups of punches landing on prone heads can attest, but it's not enough to win consistently on the sport's biggest stage.

Kerr has tried to continue his MMA career, but the results have been underwhelming. He's 2-5 since the film was made, and he hasn't shown anything in the ring to indicate that he's improved much in the last seven years. He's obviously an intelligent, charismatic guy, but he's also a relic of the past, as is this film in many ways. There are certainly still drugs, brutality, and desperation in the sport, but the same can be said of football, among other sports.

The world is still waiting for a great MMA documentary, one that shows all the highs and lows of the sport as it is now contested. Until that time, "The Smashing Machine" will serve as a reminder of just how far the sport has come and how far it still has to go.