The MMA Movement’s 4th Annual Year End Awards: The Subs

Tapouts have always fascinated me. They come in so many different forms. There are the outright goofy (Tim Elliott tapping to Joe Benavidez with both feet; Alexander Emelianenko tapping Josh Barnett’s ass; Joe Riggs doing Joe Riggs things), the understatedly dramatic (Fedor Emelianenko’s one tap special to Fabricio Werdum), the slow burners (Where guys initially defend the submission effectively but eventually succumb), and anything Rousimar Palhares has ever done (0 KO’s, 14 subs, 9 heel hooks, at least 5 guys screaming in agony, at least 8 total weeks of MMA media scrutiny).

But which one’s were the best this calendar year? Let’s sift through and see what my muddled brain comes up with. Here … we … GO!

Liam McGeary vs. Kelly Anundson @ Bellator 124

I’m getting this one out of the way early, only to point out that it was absolutely ridiculous. Anundson took McGeary down, and proceeded to get his ass kicked on top (in side control!). McGeary flopped his legs around for the better part of an entire round, hoping to secure a preposterous low percentage submission that he eventually secured because Anundson gave up right away. Then one of the Bellator announcers proclaimed “Wow, that’s the 3rd inverted triangle we’ve had in Bellator!”, inadvertently insulting Bellator’s talent pool. Absurd.

Adam Fritz vs. Jeff Mack @ Hardcore MMA 60

Hey, here’s your annual “Guy who looks like Ed Herman Jr. gets armbarred by a guy in grappling pants and Mike Pyle’s haircut” number. Very nice. Jump to 6:41 for the finish.

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Ben Saunders vs. Chris Heatherly @ UFC Fight Night 49

Finally, an omoplata inside the octagon. Cross that one off of your UFC Bucket List. To be fair, this matchup was the perfect storm for a potential omoplata finish. You had a veteran fighter with super long legs and an active guard taking on a subpar opponent that had the full deer-in-the-headlights look going right from the opening bell. This wasn’t a shocking, high level tapout like … well, we’ll get to that in a minute. Still, pretty cool stuff.

Brandon Halsey vs. Alexander Shlemenko @ Bellator 126

Halsey put Shlemenko to sleep in under a minute, hurt his feelings, and took his belt, leaving him nothing but his gold chain and trademark Russian stoicism. Most people had Halsey favored here, but to see a longtime champion (and a good one, at that) in a high level promotion get taken to the woodshed in just 35 seconds was absolutely bananas. Can we get Shlemenko in the UFC? I want to see him take the heads of C+ level fighters and rack up performance bonuses.

Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus @ Bellator 112

Lots of Bellator subs on this list. That wasn’t my predetermined intention, trust me. I guess when I think of 2014′s UFC submissions, mercy killings like Cormier-Hendo come to mind. What a somber bummer of a fight that was. Dan pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes with that Shogun KO. He’s been done as a high level mixed martial artist for about 5 fights now.

Anyway, this one gets drama points out the wazoo, having occured 24 minutes and 46 seconds into the fight. It was a close contest up to that point, but I still had Curran down 3-1. He needed a finish to win, and if there’s one flaw Pat Curran has, it’s fighting from behind. He fights with the exact same level of intensity and urgency every second of every round, whether he’s losing soundly or picking someone apart. So when he got the back and went for the RNC with about a minute to go, my thought was “Oh wow, good start, Pat, but come on, you ain’t finishing Daniel here. You’re losing a 48-47 decision.” And for most of the sub attempt, it looked like I’d be right. Then, he started grimacing and squeezing, and the “Holy shit, he might get this thing!” thought occured just as Straus was tapping. Unbelievable. Pat Curran actually won a race against time.

Eduardo Dantas vs. Anthony Leone @ Bellator 111

The Moonwalk RNC! Dantas basically defended a single leg attempt by doing a trust fall right onto Leone’s back. In order to come close to a sub of the year candidate, it’s good to leave people saying “”I’ve never seen anything quite like that before!” (Check), and the stakes need to be relatively high (Even though Leone was kind of a lame challenger, I think the Bellator’s bantamweight belt being on the line qualifies). This one isn’t quite the sub of the year to me, but Eduardo Dantas gets serious style points for subbing Leone in about zero seconds flat. Very cool.

Charles Oliveira vs. Hatsu Hioki @ UFC Fight Night 43

Ding ding ding! I love high level, aggressive grappling, and the second round of the Oliveira-Hioki fight was legitimately thrilling. Takedowns, reversals, guys diving onto submissions, guys going for broke … just a ton of fun. It looked like it was going to be a three round grapplefest, with the winner being tough to decide because I don’t peg Sal D’Amato and those like him as dudes who would be particularly astute at judging that kind of fight correctly (or any fight correctly, for that matter).

So when Oliveira dove onto Hioki’s neck and actually had the sub so tight that he was able to CLUTCH HIS BICEP … I mean, you don’t just … trap Hatsu Hioki like that.

Hioki’s losses normally come because he undermines himself with poor strategy. Not this time. Great fight, and a giant feather in Charles’s cap. It’s my call for the 2014 MMA Submission Of The Year.



The MMA Movement’s 4th Annual Year End Awards: The KO’s

I haven’t posted an article since October 29th. This is due to a variety of reasons, but in my defense, it feels like about a week and a half has passed. This happens every year; Halloween happens, then I blink twice and it’s time to bang out my annual year end awards. Which is fine, really. I love writing these, and I love that people read them. Lists! How bout ‘em?

(As always, I will accept all arguments for snubs, and counter arguments against whatever I pick as the KO/sub/fight of the year. This is open for discussion. There’s a reason I didn’t rank everything. You can create a list that doesn’t drown in it’s own minutia by simply not doing rankings. Being in the discussion is what counts here.)

2014 was a fantastic year for knockouts, and I mean “knockouts” in the purest sense of the word. There were boatloads of times where guys found themselves face to face with a naked Indian in the desert, and whittling this list down to a reasonably-timed read is going to be difficult. I’ll try to keep it in the “one solid bowel movement” range.

Before I begin, a few honorable mentions: Big Country finally taking Big Nog out back and shooting him in the head for good (In a troublesome year for Brazilian legends, this moment of euthanasia stands out as particularly sobering); Albert Tumenov vs. Matt Dwyer (Matt Dwyer isn’t super skilled or anything, but the fact is, he’s a head taller than Tumenov. They had one of the most ludicrous weigh in photos ever. It looked like a grown man was about to fight a 7th grader who had just sprouted his first pube. And Tumenov went upside his head twice. Twice!); Marcus Brimage vs. Jumabieke Tuerxun (Brimage sliced through Juma’s face like a Goddamn Slap Chop)

Onto the brain rattlers …

Daron Cruickshank def. Erik Koch @ UFC Fight Night 40

Double headkick alert! Cruickshank grazed Koch with a right kick upstairs, then followed up immediately with a left headkick that found it’s target. A maniacal flurry of ground strikes followed, and that was a wrap for Erik Koch, once considered a can’t miss featherweight prospect. Now, he’s getting wiped out, losing 3 of his last 4. In Koch’s defense, he always seems to get hit with hellacious shots. It seems like he’s been running into the best possible version of his opponents. Ricardo Lamas scored his signature win over Koch, ripping open his face and brutalizing it with elbows on national TV. Dustin Poirier just laid a schoolyard ass kicking down on Erik. And then, this. Poor Erik Koch. He’s still a very skilled guy, and he’s only 26. Let’s not wave the white flag for him yet.

It was a pretty good year for Cruickshank, as he won 3 out of 4, 2 in spectacular fashion. Thumbs up to “The Detroit Superstar”, or as I call him, “The Pride of Chernobyl”.

Johnny Eduardo def. Eddie Wineland @ UFC Fight Night 40

Tons of violence on that Cincinnati card, huh? That was the card that Matt Brown took Erick Silva’s life. Ugh.

Anyway, hell of a knockout here for Johnny Eduardo, just your typical everyday 36 year old Nova Uniao product who’s been fighting pro for 18 years and was coming off a nearly two year layoff. Totally the kind of guy you’d expect to come in and plunk a perennial contender.

Huh?

Yup. This wasn’t a fluke knockout, either. Eduardo showed a speed advantage early, lured Wineland into an exchange, and obliterated him with a counter right hand over the top. He made Wineland do the “wacky inflatable arm flailing tubeman” before running in and landing a crushing follow up right hand for good measure.

Where’s Johnny Eduardo, Sean Shelby? Break him out of that fire extinguisher case you have him concealed in and match him up with more good bantamweights. This guy has something special for dudes on the feet.

Ronda Rousey def. Alexis Davis @ UFC 175

Sixteen seconds.

Damacio Page def. Brian Hall @ Legacy FC 36

Super slo-mo …

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… pineboxed. *in Bruce Beck voice* Our thoughts are with Brian Hall right now …

Josh Samman vs. Eddie Gordon @ UFC 181

Eddie Gordon made that face people you can’t trust make right after you ask them how their marriage is going.

Mike Wilkinson vs. Niklas Backstrom @ UFC Fight Night 53

This was your classic “Up-and-coming fighter gets a favorable matchup to look awesome in front of his home crowd” scenario … what could go wrong?

Well, it’s probably not a good idea to throw the laziest front kick this side of Nick Diaz with your hands down on a guy who’s already clearly pissed off that everyone in the building thinks he doesn’t have a snowballs chance in hell of winning. Uppsy daisy! We even got the obligatory moment where the ref takes 0.9 seconds too long to realize that the fight’s over, and during that time Wilkinson dribbles his head off the canvas like Muggsy Bogues.

Come back stronger, Niklas. And less lazy.

Dong Hyun Kim vs. John Hathaway @ UFC in Macau

This one does it for me, and it’s a totally biased pick for KO of the Year because I’ve always immensely enjoyed watching Kim fight. But to watch him make a conscious decision to change the way he fights, and then to follow through on that decision by knocking out a very good fighter with a low percentage technique was something special. Sure, he got brutally finished in his next fight because of this change of heart, but still. Let the record show that this one was scintillating. John Hathaway might still be asleep on the canvas in Macau. Long live Dong Hyun Kim.

Subs of the year coming tomorrow.



MMA Rundown #5: Aldo’s Back, McGregor’s Here, And Siver’s Effed



Joseph Waldorf and Chip Melendez (© Greg Savage & Jordan Breen) put on a fantastic fight. But before I get into all of that, here are a few other tidbits I took away from UFC 179.

Can we get some sort of petition going to find Gilbert Burns a more Brazilian sounding name?

Maybe it’s the fault of my subconscious cultural expectations, but I hear “Gilbert Burns” and picture a guy in my head that looks like a young Ving Rhames. For some reason, I don’t think this when I hear “John Lineker”, even though that name sounds just as non-Brazilian. The fact that John Lineker has a non-Brazilian sounding name somehow fits with his other quirks. Gilbert Burns just confuses me. It’s like finding out that Marcus Giles is white all over again. Can we call him Gilberto Burneiro?

Naoyuki Kotani has officially wormed his way onto the prestigious “We need to put a prospect over, let’s drunk dial someone” list.

He’s right up there with Efrain Escudero, Ryan Jensen, Paulo Thiago … it’s a great list. At least those guys had moments in the UFC where they didn’t look completely helpless and overmatched, though. Hell, Ryan Jensen was taking Court McGee to the cleaners before he predictably fell apart. Paulo Thiago has Josh Koscheck making the “Uh oh, dad just came home, and he’s drunk” face.

Naoyuki Kotani? Nope. Nothing. Four fights chock full of him being emasculated, pounded on, tapped, and being removed from his consciousness. If he gets another UFC look, I’m firing off an angry letter to Kotani’s gym.

Phil Davis won, answered a few important questions … and it still wasn’t that great.

On the bright side, the first round of Davis-Teixeira was almost a career saving revelation for Phil. He showed that when he actually commits to throwing punches and staying in the pocket, he can render an opponent inert. I thought he did a great job of keeping constant punching pressure on Teixeira in the first frame, and that served as a great appetizer to the takedown parade that followed. He had never done anything like that before. Before this fight, Phil Davis’s striking game could be boiled down to “Kick the legs and body to set up takedowns, and hope like hell that I can score them, because if not, I’m going to be reduced to a skittish catastrophe that seems terrified of his opponent”. It was an important win for Phil, who needed one in the worst way.

And yet … it wasn’t fun to watch. At all. His punches kept Teixeira on the defensive, but you wouldn’t exactly call them effective offense. They were more akin to a house fly that won’t leave you alone. What I’m trying to say is this: It was a good win for Davis, but it also left you realizing that his ceiling is a notch or two below the top fighters in the division. He can climb and climb, but he won’t reach the mountaintop.

The featherweight division is fast becoming one of the UFC’s most compelling, and it isn’t just because of the Irishman.

A common belief amongst Conor McGregor backers seems to be that because Jose Aldo ditched his conservative style and really opened up against Mendes, that somehow leaves him more vulnerable against a superb offensive striker like McGregor. While I can see the logic behind this argument, I definitely don’t agree with it.

Aldo has a great chin. That has to factor in. Those uppercuts and left hooks Mendes was hitting him with would have KO’d at least half the featherweight division seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Secondly, and I know this is a trite argument, but a motivated Aldo is a more dangerous Aldo. You think 4 months of listening to Conor McGregor talk about how pathetic of a fighter he is isn’t going to fire up an already semi-prickly Aldo? He certainly seemed stoked about fighting Mendes, and the fact that his fifth round was one of his strongest was incredibly telling for a guy who usually hangs on for dear life as the fight gets deeper. Lastly, throwing yourself into the fire is always going to carry with it a certain degree of risk, but Aldo has phenomenal hand speed, counters like a champ, and always has those A+ leg kicks to fall back on if he doesn’t like the way things are going with McGregor in the pocket.

Of course, Conor McGregor has to get past one Dennis Siver in Boston on January 18th. Dennis Siver is a good fighter. I think it’s reasonable to say he’s exceeded expectations when it comes to discussing his UFC career trajectory. This was a guy that was quickly knocked out by Melvin Guillard and quickly armbarred by the immortal Jess Liaudin.

He started winning. A lot. Using his physical power and compact frame, he developed an excellent volume based striking game. One of the things you always notice about a Dennis Siver fight is that he never stops throwing meaningful strikes. His wrestling has evolved over the years, too.

But Conor McGregor is a ghoulish matchup for him, and this, of course, is by design. Conor will use his length to fight Siver’s hands and set up a fight ending strike. Actually, that isn’t specific enough; what’s really going to happen is that Siver is going to walk (or bounce) directly into something terrible. After struggling against a still-green-as-shit Charles Rosa (that’s not a knock on him, by the way … Rosa might be good), I’m supposed to believe that Siver can take McGregor’s precision on the jaw and keep fighting meaningfully? Get lucid. This is a lamb being led to the slaughter.

At least we know Siver won’t be as openly rattled fighting Conor as poor Dustin Poirier was. We know that Conor McGregor won’t be confused with Floyd Mayweather when it comes to defending strikes. We also know that Siver will give it his best go. He won’t back down. And that’s the problem.

Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor, Memorial Day weekend. Book ‘em, Dano.