MMA Rundown #3: Independence Day Weekend Recap, Hasta La Vista 176

There were so many Independence Day weekend fights that I’m combining all of them together in my mind. Going from memory, a congenital amputee lost the UFC women’s bantamweight title in 16 seconds after being ragdolled by Dana White’s voice. Or something.

Let’s get to it.

OK, so … who at 185 is messing with Chris Weidman?

I have no idea, but I do know that I ain’t buying Vitor Belfort as that guy. There are way too many potential pratfalls there. Historically, he gets tired and stops throwing offense, and he gets discouraged and sad when you’re getting the better of him. This is a guy that was pulling guard at the start of the 2nd round of his 2006 PRIDE bout with Dan Henderson. They should have just stopped the fight right there and awarded it to Henderson. This is also the dude who laid on his back and allowed Kazushi Sakuraba to kick his legs 352 times. Once Weidman figures out how to stay composed and savvy enough to avoid Vitor’s trademark blitzes (an inevitability since Weidman is far more than “I’ll just run at this guy swinging, and my pure athleticism will make him crumble”), it’s done. You heard it here first.

Chris Weidman has all the tools to become an all time great, but he’s also a really smart fighter. The fashion in which he approached the Machida fight showcased composure that would suggest he’s had far more than 12 pro MMA bouts. You don’t dismantle Lyoto Machida for the better part of 25 minutes without a smart gameplan.

Jacare, Rockhold, Vitor … good night, and good luck.

BJ Penn and Frank Edgar cobbled together one of the most depressing fights I can remember in recent memory. I asked the same thing when the fight was announced, but I’ll ask it again: Why? Seriously … WHY?!

This was a baffling waste of time on both sides. After losing three straight title fights (even though most people agree he should have won two of them), Frank Edgar got back in the win column in July of last year with a unanimous decision win over Charles Oliveira. It was the kind of fight that left you wanting to see Edgar fight frequently, and actually see him fight a variety of good fighters. As opposed to, you know, fighting the same 3 guys his entire career. Instead, he took a coaching gig on the Ultimate Fighter, which is where relevant fighters go when they want to needlessly stall their careers filming something barely anyone watches. And you can see why this is so alluring. Who doesn’t want to waste months and months of their prime trying to teach Matt Van Buren not to suck?

Edgar’s reward was fighting a guy he had already beaten soundly 4 years ago. The second Edgar-Penn matchup was totally justified, as Edgar benefited from more than one questionable scorecard in their first encounter. The UFC set up the rematch quickly, and a wrong was righted. Justice was served. Edgar got his chance to shine again, and shine he did. So why run it back 4 years later after Edgar has done nothing but improve and Penn has done nothing but sit on the couch in between demoralizing, emasculating beatings? I get that BJ Penn has always been a sneaky good draw for the UFC, and I also get that they need good draws now more than ever. But still. This felt like a stretch.

That brings me to Baby Jay Penn. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what his mindset was in last Sunday’s fight. He offered no significant responses to Edgar’s attacks, seemed totally at ease with the idea of being on his back and playing a guard that was seemingly supposed to be offensive (but never was), never made a concerted effort to get his boxing game out of first gear … it was just odd. If he knew that this was going to be his “retirement fight” beforehand, you would think he’d have gone in there with a little bit more fire up his ass. You would think.

By the third round, he was little more than a punching bag with lungs. Edgar obviously looked great. Then again, so would you if you were fighting a guy that didn’t seem interested in fighting back. If Penn had gone out there and gotten destroyed, but went down swinging, it would be a little bit different. The takeaway would be more “Wow, this guy doesn’t have it anymore. Great career.” Instead, he calmly allowed himself to get beaten up. The whole scene was weird and off putting. You know you’re behaving erratically in a fight when Kenny Florian is openly questioning just what the hell your objectives are.

I’ll let Jens Pulver take us home …

“What got to me watching that was, I understood. It’s the hardest thing to realize when you’re in there, because in your mind you’re like, ‘I can do this.’ But once you’re in the fight, it’s like you’re not doing anything. That was the hardest part for me to watch. I was looking at him in that fight and going, ‘I get this. I know that feeling.’ Nobody told us how to get old. Nobody told us what getting old was supposed to feel like. There’s no magic switch where it all shuts off.”

That may be a great quote, but more than anything else, it affirms my position that this fight shouldn’t have been made. I want to see Frank Edgar fight the cream of the crop, not guys who peaked 6 years ago.

UFC 176 has gone the way of the dodo (and of UFC 151). Chad Mendes said stuff. Jose Aldo said stuff. What does it mean that these two individuals said stuff? And how inevitable is it that the cancellation of pay-per-views is going to become more common?

Chad Mendes talking trash about Jose Aldo might be posturing, or self-encouragement, or a little of both. But the fact is that it must be weird to hear someone you savagely knocked out say that you’re afraid to fight them. Chael Sonnen’s “Anderson Silva didn’t beat me, I beat his ass for 23 minutes! Then he wrapped his legs around me for 8 seconds, and they call HIM the champion?!” routine played great, because it was completely tongue-in-cheek, and because, in a sense, he was right (I mean, not really. He lost. But when you describe the fight in those terms, you could talk a casual fan into thinking “That IS kind of bullshit!”). But Chad Mendes was the victim of one of the most iconic and precision knockouts of the past several years. If that were me, I’d be eating giant slices of humble pie every day leading up to the fight.

As far as the pay-per-view being cancelled, I’m torn. On the one hand, it seems crazy that the UFC couldn’t find SOMEONE to step in and fight for an interim belt against Chad Mendes. If you’re Cub Swanson, you scramble to be ready in a month. You never know what could happen to your promised title shot.

On the other hand, the UFC was already going to take a bath on this card, and without Aldo, it only would have gotten worse. At a certain point, you have to pay respects to the people who buy your product. You can’t just arrogantly and flippantly throw something together and expect people to buy it anymore. They can just watch the next free card on FOX.

Cancelling was the right move. Happy trails, UFC 176. Say what’s up to UFC 151 for me.


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UFC 175 Preview: I’m Not Dead Yet! (& Why I Like Machida)

The UFC’s pay-per-view model is dying a slow and painful death, as evidenced by the reportedly ghastly numbers that last months UFC 174 did. Since the UFC partnered up with FOX, two things have been proven. One is that, because of the ubiquitous number of cards, coupled with the idea that the UFC is the only legitimate game in town, people really will tune into just about anything with the letters “UFC” on it. The other, though, is that this is true as long as it isn’t a pay per view. Shelling out 55 bucks and planning a night around Demetrious Johnson and Ali Bagautinov is a little bit different than catching them while you’re dully surfing through channels.

The UFC is going to put forth their best effort to alleviate that PPV stink with their annual 4th of July weekend show. The 2014 edition features two title fights … and not a whole lot else (Sure, this is due to the fact that this lineup featured approximately 246 failed drug tests over the past few months … but still). At least, not on the main card. You could make an argument that the prelims are actually more compelling than the main card as a whole. And since I’m the snob making that argument, I’m going to mow through the prelims as well. You only live once.

Rob Font vs. George Roop

Rob “Times New Roman” Font has to close the distance and throw overhand bombs. If he does this, he has a 84% chance of knocking the scarecrow-esque Roop senseless. This is going to happen, most likely, because George Roop has proven that he’s awesome at consistently doing the one thing a guy with his frame should never do, which is throw strikes and find himself in the pocket with his chin straight up in the air. Roop can wrestle a bit and land decent offense from distance, but the knockout always looms, and he isn’t getting any younger. Font by first round knockout.

Chris Camozzi vs. Bruno Santos

If the name Bruno Santos sounds familiar, it shouldn’t. He is not a compelling or gripping fighter in any way. Chris Camozzi is the workmanlike everyman who is decent at most aspects of MMA, stellar at none, and sometimes yells in hilarious fashion when he gets hit. Santos is a grinder, but Camozzi should have enough juice and experience from the southpaw stance to tag Santos on the feet with punches and kicks. Camozzi by decision.

Ildemar Alcantara vs. Kenny Robertson

Ildemar Alcantara is a decent fighter, but Kenny Robertson has really been coming on strong as of late. He laid a succinct, sobering beating on Thiago Perpetuo in his last outing, the kind that had the Brazilian crowd even more silent than usual. Robertson is a tenacious wrestler, good scrambler, and solid submission finisher, with power in his hands to boot. He can get a little bit wild and leave himself open, but Alcantara isn’t the kind of fighter to come in and flatten a guy with strikes. Robertson takes a decision in this one.

Urijah Faber vs. Alex Caceres

I understand that Bruce Leeroy looked great against Sergio Pettis, and has made widespread improvements in his MMA game … but come on. This is a ridiculously mismatched fight. It’d be like the UFC saying “Phil Davis looked great against another ridiculously green prospect in Alexander Gustafsson … I think he’s ready to fight for a title!”. Not that Caceres is a hot prospect or anything, but he’s a sacrificial lamb here. He’s going to get pressured, taken down, and choked. Possibly even unconscious, courtesy of that nasty Faber squeeze. Faber by submission in the second round.

Marcus Brimage vs. Russell Doane

Here’s the “Wait … this is on the MAIN card?” head scratcher, which is becoming more and more of a UFC pay-per-view staple. I understand that Faber is supposed to bring people in on free TV and convince them via his sheer awesomeness to buy the pay-per-view, but almost everyone who is going to buy this card is going to be sitting there, beer in hand, ready to watch some fights featuring guys they’ve heard of … and then Russell Doane is going to grace their television screens. I’m sorry, but profanity is going to follow that moment.

That being said, Russell Doane is a pretty good fighter, somebody to keep an eye on at 135 pounds. His athleticism, relaxed disposition, and knack for finishing fights should propel him to victory against Brimage, who is best known for being the first UFC punching bag for featherweight standout and all around unfortunate human being, Conor McGregor.

Doane by early knockout. I’m even giving you the technique: Overhand right.

Uriah Hall vs. Thiago “Marreta” Santos

“Marreta” has truly been trick or treat since he’s been a UFC employee, losing his first bout in 47 seconds and winning his next in 53. It was quite an impressive 53 seconds, though, as he destroyed a normally sturdy fighter in Ronny Markes with a lethal kick to the body and follow up punches on the ground.

Uriah Hall has been a disappointment so far in his UFC career, as he seems to want to smile and engage in bro time high fives more than he wants to hurt his opponents. He made a washed up Chris Leben quit on his stool between rounds in his last fight, but he has a long way to go to live up to the silly “Everyone in the Ultimate Fighter house is scared of this guy! He’s booking guys trips to the hospital left and right!” rhetoric that sloppily flew out of Dana White’s mouth when Hall was taping the Ultimate Fighter.

Thiago will likely force Hall’s hand by coming out aggressively, and it’s going to come down to Hall’s reaction to that aggression. So far, complacency has been Hall’s undoing, and I predict Thiago will push the envelope and walk away with a decision win after simply seeming like he wants his win bonus more.

Matt Mitrione vs. Stefan Struve

It’ll be nice to see Struve back in action, because that means he has a clean bill of health. Good stuff. If he looks even 75% as competent as he was before being sidelined, he has a great shot to beat Mitrione.

Struve could always get hit in the face and fold up like an unsuccessful business, and Mitrione’s last KO showed that he can effectively throw killshots when his opponent is hurt, instead of needlessly getting too excited and flailing. I just don’t like this matchup for Mitrione. He could get tapped in a myriad of ways, he could get outstruck with leg kicks and punches from the rangier Struve, he could lose a decision after getting outgrappled … I just think he’s in over his head here. Still, this is a solid heavyweight fight, and one that I’m actually looking forward to seeing. Mitrione will give Struve a couple of scares with punches, but ’ol skyscraper will earn a tapout sometime in the latter part of the fight.

Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis

83.4 percent of me sees this as another juicy arm for Honda to take home with her, but then I start thinking a little more deeply. When I do that, I realize that Alexis Davis is the best grappler Honda has ever fought, and that she’s a cool enough customer to at least not go into a defensive shell as soon as Rousey gets ahold of her.

Since I’m an idiot when it comes to women’s MMA, I’ll just get up on my soapbox and scream this to the masses: War Alexis Davis!!!

“Ronda Rousey: Women’s Icon” … “Is Rousey The Biggest Star In The UFC?” … “Ronda Rousey Is An Empowering Role Model For Young Women Everywhere”. Any time this kind of rhetoric starts flying around, I have to morally root against you. It’s just the way my fudge is packed. Davis can kick Rousey’s legs, initiate scrambles, and find success on top if she can make it there. She’s a stern test for Rousey in every sense of the word.

Rousey by armbar, round four.

Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida

Weidman is an absolute monster. He’s hitting his prime, and his only known weakness is the best possible one to have, which is this: We don’t know. The word “weakness” hasn’t come up when describing Chris Weidman. He looked noticeably subpar in his fight with Demian Maia, but he took that fight on 8 days notice, cut a comical amount of weight, and still easily outpointed a very good fighter. Alessio Sakara gave him a surprisingly tough test in the first round of his UFC debut, but Weidman regrouped and bludgeoned Sakara on the ground.

Other than that? Not much to work with in the weakness department.

Enter Lyoto Machida, everyone’s favorite urine drinking uni-browed middleweight. Other than Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and the Jon Jones second round naptime choke (in a fight he performed well in), nobody has really taken it to Machida. He’s the great equalizer. You say you’re a great fighter? I want to see how you perform against Lyoto Machida. He’ll lull you to sleep with perceived inactivity, then take a round off you with one well-timed flurry. Guys will try to put pressure on him, and he’ll sidestep them and run them right into one of his fists. He’s perfected the step in knee to the body (not an easy technique to land), and his kicking style helps him stay away from guys power shots. Goldberg always talks about Machida being elusive, but that’s not really true; he really just takes what you give him. He doesn’t make stupid mistakes. If you beat him, you either have to flatten him, or make sure Sal D’Amato is judging.

(Quick side note: When I wrote that last sentence, I swung over to mmadecisions.com to see who had judged the Rampage and Phil Davis heists. I instinctively knew D’Amato had to be involved in those sad transgressions. And guess what? He was!  How unbelievable is Sal D’Amato?)

I like this to go five rounds, and I foresee a lot of back and forth action, stretches where Weidman is clearly getting the better of Machida, and vice versa. Weidman’s wrestling is too good to not get on top at some point, and Machida is potentially in trouble from there. Weidman has good standup, and is more of a physical presence than anyone else at middleweight other than maybe Jacare. But Lyoto Machida is Lyoto Machida, and nobody else gives you that look. And I just think it’s a great look to fight Chris Weidman with. Call it a weird hunch. Hey, he’s gotta be vulnerable sometime, right?

Against most logic, I like Lyoto Machida to pull off the upset. He can keep Weidman at bay with his movement and quick-twitch kicks, and throw him off balance with his flurries. I just like the way his rhythm matches up with Weidman’s boxing skills. He’s got to be careful not to get counterpunched (but when has that been a problem for Lyoto?), and he can’t get stuck on bottom too much. Give me Machida by a razor close split decision that will cause the internet to spontaneously combust.


The MMA Rundown #2: Bon Voyage Bjorn, Hello “In A Week Or Two”

Well, then. I make my triumphant return to writing last week, thinking that I’m going to thoroughly tackle things I found important on the MMA landscape, and then things went Bizarro World on me. Happy trails, Bjorn Rebney! Hello Japan, Scott Coker! Mike Kogan!! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria! WELL, THEN!

(I’m going to continue to do these bullet point style, and I figure choosing three prominent topics per piece seems appropriate. I’ll try to limit myself.)  

“This nigga needs to make up his mind. Or more like stick to his guns and stop flip-flopping.” – Mike Kogan (referring to featherweight champ Jose Aldo’s money gripes)

I’m not bringing this statement (and subsequent story) up to drag Mike Kogan’s name through the mud, or to get up on my soapbox and scream about racism and ignorance. Rather, I’m going to use it as a setup for an old-timey joke, followed by an example of a problem I have with many white people.

First off, Mike … you already said he needed to make up his mind. “Stick to your guns” and “stop flip flopping” was unnecessary to add. If you need to find Mike Kogan, you can reach him at the Department of Redundancy Department … of Redundancy.

Second, I almost always hate being in the room whenever a white person says “nigga”. It’s usually uttered by the types of awesome dudes who “know black people” through hip hop, movies, and other stuff they saw on TV while they were pondering what desperate persona to adopt. But, even worse is when a white guy drops it into a room with an unsuspecting black guy, with zero self awareness. I had this happen to me recently, and it hung in the air like a Dirk Nowitzki three pointer. Look, here’s the thing … I don’t find it offensive in a “This guy is a racist!” kind of way. It’s more like the George Carlin bit about white guys wearing their hats backwards … “You’re never gonna be as cool as the black guys. You’re white … and you’re lame.”

(This isn’t to say that that certain white people don’t have an inexplicable license to say it. I have a close friend who says it quite a bit, and it’s never awkward or forced. Some people are like that. This dynamic muddles and confuses an already loaded topic. But you know it when you hear it.)

Also, a white guy throwing it out there with the dreaded “E-R” at the end (ESPECIALLY if you don’t know him) isn’t just a bummer for black people to hear, but it also sucks for white people who could potentially be lumped into the same category as this dumb racist jackoff who uttered it, just because he has the same color skin. It’s almost like he’s challenging you. Like, “You cool, man?” If you let it slide, then you must be cool with it. If you address it for what it is (outdated and stupid), then you’re forced to shit on the guy who said it. Which is fine, but it’s just not a situation you want to be forced to deal with. It’s like a guy walked into your life and just randomly pulled his cock out. How rude.

So simmer down, Mike Kogan. You’re white … and you’re lame. To make it worse, you’re a semi-public figure who tried to get overly bro-ey on his semi-public Instagram account. Just no need for it at all.

Even though Bjorn Rebney has obvious flaws as a fight promoter, I’m going to miss having him at the forefront of Bellator discussion.

I’m going to miss the way he called Eddie Alvarez “Ed”. I’m going to miss the classy, biting way he dealt with Dana White throwing poop at him in regards to various subjects. I’m going to miss the way he would make absolutely OUTRAGEOUS statements as though they were obvious truths (and then have you believe it anyway).

“This Alexander Volkov kid, I’m telling you, he’s going to be a pound for pound great. Guys like him are why having a heavyweight division is a necessity for Bellator.”

He certainly made his fair share of mistakes, like openly lying about gate attendances (among other things) to assembled media, putting an emphasis on signing washed up stars, and refusing to budge when it came to the tournament model … but this must be said: Bjorn Rebney went to war for his company. Through thick and thin, he was a Bellator guy. Even though something deep inside of my soul knew he had to be completely full of shit … I liked him. I admired him. The way he carried himself, the way he gave interviews, the A-level spin control tactics when things went sour, the fervor with which he promoted his product. He was the only promoter I would go out of my way to listen to on an interview.

He was also at this Bellator thing for quite awhile, making adjustments where they were needed and developing quite a bit of good young talent. I went to Bellator 100 in Phoenix, and Bjorn never stopped moving, never stopped shaking hands, never stopped being the Magic Man. Apparently he was a bit of a hardass control freak type behind the scenes, the kind of guy who stubbornly stuck to his guns even though pretty much everyone he worked with disagreed with his direction for the company (i.e. steadfastly committing to tournaments even though this is 2014 and we’ve figured out time and time again that they don’t generally work, for a plethora of reasons). He’s definitely full of himself, and not in the Dana White “bleep everybody who doesn’t agree with me, they can all go bleep themselves in the expletive deleted” kind of way. With Bjorn, it was more like “I’m Bjorn Rebney. People like me, because I’m kind of a big deal. And you should, too.”

Don’t believe me?

Holy smokestacks! Imagine walking into a room full of executives and pitching them that promo. And keeping a straight face the entire time. Now he can go start Combate Thackerville or something. We hardly knew ye.

Scott Coker takes the helm for Bellator Fighting Championships. You can probably guess some of the things that will happen next.

1. He will be vague and apathetically evasive with the media, but he should have that problem cleared up in a week or two. He’ll be sure to let us know when he does.

2. He will play whatever kind of ball Spike execs want him to play. I loved the comment Dana White made this week, when he called Coker a “much better fit” for Bellator. Wait, you’re saying the guy you effortlessly strong armed into signing away his promotion (and the guy who you will possibly replay that exact scenario in the future with) is a better fit than the guy who actually seemed to care? I can’t believe it! That’s crazy talk.

3. At some point (or maybe at EVERY point), there will be a shot of Scott Coker in the crowd at some random Bellator event (probably in Council Bluffs, Iowa) looking like he wants to kill himself right then and there. 3 weeks later, the UFC will give him another ludicrous sum of money to go kick it in the Caribbean for a couple of years, right up until they need to set up the demise of another MMA promotion. At least then, we’ll finally get to see what it looks like when James Thompson straps on UFC gloves.