Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bellator 15, my first live event

I know I'm a hardcore MMA fan, so it may shock you to hear that my first ever live event was just this past Thursday at Bellator 15 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. I have to say, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. First of all, tickets were just $35. That's about 1/4 the price for the nosebleed seats at UFC events. The seats were absolutely phenomenal for the price. I was about 7 rows back from the cage (including floor rows) and right next to the entrance walkway. I could hear Will Romero scream as Patricio "Pitbull" Freire torque in the heel hook that ended the fight. I would watch Kevin Mulhall do his pre-fight knuckle-touch live from seats instead of in front of a TV. Dan Hornbuckle was literally inches away from me at one point (should have asked for his autograph...damn my nerves!).

All of the fights were spectacular. The night started off great with hometown fighter Rich de los Reyes pulling off an impressive win over newcomer Brylan van Artsdalen, and continued with impressive first round stoppage wins for Friere, Hornbuckle, and Ryan Thomas. The main event of the card was Steve Carl and Brett Cooper, and with good reason. The two battled on the feet and on the ground for three rounds. Carl got the decision, but it was obvious who we at the arena thought won (watch a video of it and listen to the boos). I have to say, the best part of the night was meeting Dan Cramer. For those who don't know, Cramer was on Season 7 of the Ultimate Fighter on Team Rampage. He had won an impressive decision earlier in the night, and was just hanging around by the entrance way. I congratulated him on his victory, and asked him for a picture, which he gladly took with me. Very cool person, and I hope he makes it back to the UFC soon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010, is when I officially crossed one of my biggest dreams of my bucket list: seeing a live MMA event. It was everything I though it could be. Nothing compares to seeing MMA live.

The Girlfriend's Guide to MMA, pt. 2

Ok, here's the last part of the girlfriend's guide to MMA.

3. Women's MMA - Show her that girls can kick as too! Many MMA fans know one of the sport's best kept secrets is the women's division. These girls can fight, and some of them are kinda cute too. To prove how far it has come, Strikeforce recently headlined two events with female MMA fights. The first was Gina Carano vs. Cris "Cyborg" Santos for the Strikeforce Women's 145lb. title, and the next was Sarah Kaufman vs. Takayo Hashi for the 135lb. women's title. To add to that Strikeforce is pushing female fighters such as Erin Toughill, Miesha Tate, and Kerry Vera. Female MMA fights are fun for a girl or a boy, so maybe she'll like that girls can show their skills too.

2. Take her to a live event - That's what I did. She really enjoyed herself. She found herself clapping and cheering for all the fighters, and got a laugh with how awestruck I was when I met Dan Cramer. The thrill and the energy of seeing a live MMA event does not compare to watching it at a bar or on TV. If all goes according to plan, she'll really like the atmosphere and the energy.

1. Sell her on the technique and skill, not the violence - Most girls don't like fighting, let's be honest. My girlfriend now cringes if someone is getting ground-and-pounded too brutally, or let out a gasp when someone connects with a big high kick. But, when watching Melendez vs. Aoki on TV during the Strikeforce: Nashville event, she said she liked the technical aspects of the ground game and the strategy the fighters would have to employ to win the fight. Now, she doesn't have to becomke a hardcore MMA fan like me, but if you follow these steps, I'm sure you'll at least get your significant other to at least appreciate the fastest growing sport in the world.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The girlfriend's guide to MMA

In my 5+ years of following the sport of MMA like my religion, I can honestly say I have never seen a live event. That all ends when I get my chance to see Bellator 15 at the Mohegan Sun Arena this coming Thursday. There was one problem though, I wanted someone to go with and share the experience with me. Most of my friends from college aren't interested enough in the sport to see a promotion like Bellator, and my friends from home just don't have the money. So I asked the last person on my list to go; I knew it was a longshot, but I was on my last legs. I decided to ask my girlfriend to go with me. I expected an instant "No," but I was shocked when I heard her say "Yeah, that'd be interesting." Still, she has very little knowledge of MMA. I know a lot of guys are in the same predicament as me, so I decided to dedicate this post with (hopefully) helpful tips to get your girl to at least understand the sport we all know and love.

5. Reality TV - Jersey Shore makes me sick sometimes, but let's face it, girls love drama. What better drama comes from reality TV? Let's not forget that MMA has it's own drama-filled, action-packed reality show: The Ultimate Fighter. Filled with crazy moments like Chris Leben peeing in Jason Thacker's bed, drunken brawls, and the quest for glory is enough to keep drama junkies watching, let alone MMA fans. Let's also not forget that past UFC champions like Matt Serra and Forrest Griffin have come from the show. It's a good starting place.

4. "I want the Canadian guy to win. He's hot." - I used to hate phrases like that when they initially made their way from some girls mouth to my ears. I'll be at the bar with my friends when some liquored-up bimbo will shout about how sexy she thinks GSP is and all the naughty things she was going to do to him. It was kind of annoying at first - it still is in fact - but now I'm looking at it in a different light. Some of these fighters are good looking guys, and if you can't sell her on the competition and spirit of the fights, at least she'll still have a reason to watch.

(Stay tuned for the next installment!)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pound for Pound, part 2

OK, to finish my top ten pound for pound list, we pick up at number two. Now some people may disagree with me but...

2. Anderson Silva - Face it, this guy is damn near unstoppable at this juncture in his career. Forget the bizarre and lackluster performances against Maia, Leites, and Cote, lets not forget what made Anderson the champion in the first place. He destroyed Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, and Rich Franklin (TWICE!). Then he moves up to light-heavyweight and decimates James Irvin, and straight up embarrassed former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. This guy has the skill set to dominate both middleweight and light-heavyweight. The list of opponents he has defeated in his unheard of run of 11-0 in the UFC is the most impressive of any fighter during that span, in any weight class. Period. But, because of the disrespectful performances against Leites, Cote, and Maia, I can't put him at number one. That slot is reserved for a true lion...

1. Jose Aldo - Let me explain. Sure he's young, and sure, he hasn't even defended his title yet, but this kid is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Guaranteed. Aldo's first WEC fight was against veteran featherweight Alexandre Nogueira, a regarded veteran in the division. This was young in my MMA following, so the only thing I knew was that Nogueira was a favorite amongst the "hardcore" fans and Aldo was a promising prospect. So, when I saw Aldo had steamrolled through him, I thought it was more a Nogueira hiccup rather than Aldo being good. Boy, was I wrong. This kid is a human highlight reel. His speed, technique, and power in that division are unparalleled. Look at his 8 second double-flying knee KO of Cub Swanson or his domination of former WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Brown as evidence. If he beats Urijah Faber in impressive fashion at this weekend's WEC Pay-Per-View, he can retire today as the best featherweight of all time in my opinion. As Dana White said on the countdown special: "This guy could win the 135 lb. belt, he already has the belt at 145, and he could even go up to 155 and challenge BJ Penn." I agree with that, as well as this simple statement from Joe Rogan: "Jose Aldo is a destroyer." This guy comes in, and puts on an exciting fight ever single time. Oh yeah, he's finished all of his WEC opponents by KO or TKO, never going to a decision once. Not to mention we haven't even seen his black belt BJJ skills. Wait, did I forget to mention he's only 23? 23! This kid is the definition of a phenom, and I really think he could be the first fighter to hold a belt in three different weight classes. That is why, for right now at least, that Jose Aldo is my #1 pound for pound fighter.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My top 5 Pound for Pound list

With a lot of the top fighters in each weight class fighting or getting a fight booked recently, I figured now was a good time to post my Top 5 Pound-for-Pound fighters list. This is a topic of great debate amongst the MMA community, so I feel obligated to take a go at it and post my top 5, and give my reasoning behind it.
*Note: This will be two parts.

5. Lyoto Machida - The current UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Machida is the only undefeated champion in the UFC at a staggering 16-0. Machida's elusive style gives opponents fits in the ring, and Joe Silva fits as he tries to match up fighters with Machida. Since coming to the UFC, "The Dragon" has plowed through the likes of Sokoudjou, Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva, and Rashad Evans. Although it was a controversial one, Machida most recently picked up a win against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. However, the ensuing controversy that would follow led to an immediate rematch being booked for May. Despite the fact many, including even myself, thought Shogun was the victor that night, it still goes down as a win for Machida. He does have an impressive resume of big wins under his belt, and the fact he is still undefeated at this stage is practically unheard of. Machida's quick and elusive Karate-based style and unblemished record earns him this spot on my list for now, but the door is open to movie up or down depending on how he fares against Shogun next month.

4. Georges St. Pierre - Many people may wonder why I have the welterweight kingpin and UFC face so low, but let me explain. He beat Matt Hughes, twice, when it was still something to brag about. He avenged what many called a "fluke" loss to Matt Serra in dominating fashion. He won exciting decisions against Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Karo Parisyan, and BJ Penn, and had stoppage victories over Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg along the way. Still, I just feel like he's not living up to his potential. Ever since the first Serra fight where he was KO'ed, he's seemed more tentative on the feet. He's dominated Fitch, Alves, and Hardy lately, but the fact that he couldn't finish them in some way just leads me to believe he's holding something back. Is he an excellent fighter and ambassador for the sport? Absolutely, there's no questioning that, and that's why he's on my list. I just won't move him up until I see the real GSP.

3. Fedor Emelianenko - "The Last Emperor" was also the last PRIDE Heavyweight Champion. The fact that he beat Big Nog, Cro Cop, Andrei Arlovski, and Tim Sylvia when they were all prime, Top 5 heavyweights is enough to certify Emelianenko as the greatest heavyweight of all time if he retired today. There are two things keeping me from putting him higher on this list right now though. He hasn't fought relevant competition lately, and the only fighters who could give him a run outside the UFC are Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem. If he beats them, what's next? The second thing is he will, in all honesty, most likely fight in the UFC, where all of the top young talent is now. Unless Fedor signs with the UFC soon, it will be a struggle for him to stay relevant.

(Part two coming soon!)

Phil Davis step up, and get your slice

Wanting to stay away from the Anderson Silva debacle that ensued this past weekend at UFC 112, I have decided to focus this post on one very positive happening at the event that may have been overlooked. Collegiate wrestling standout Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis picked up his 2nd UFC win and 6th MMA win overall in impressive fashion. He submitted young up-and-comer Alexander Gustafsson with a beautiful, textbook anaconda choke just before the end of the 1st round. In his first UFC fight, Davis defeated former WEC Light-Heavyweight Champion Brian Stann by unanimous decision. Both of those victories were against talented, young, and experienced fighters. Davis looks like and is an athletic freak, which also contributes to his recent success.

What we are witnessing is the changing of the guard. Legends like Liddell, Ortiz, Cro Cop, Nogueira, Coleman, and others are fading off into obscurity. In the heavyweight division, we are seeing witness to the rise of the new era of top talent. Guys like Carwin, Lesnar, Velasquez, dos Santos, Duffee, and Barry are taking over the division and should hopefully provide us with great fights for years to come. We're starting to see it at light-heavyweight as well. Jon Jones has dominated Steffan Bonner, Matt Hammill, and Brandon Vera, and make it look easy at the same time. Don't be surprised if Jones/Davis becomes the next Liddell/Couture. Right now, Davis needs a victory against a seasoned veteran at the bottom end of the top 15 to get over the hump into the title hunt. In my opinion, the best option for him is Vladimir Matyushenko. He's a good veteran fighter with some good wins and an impressive record, not to mention a two-fight win streak in the UFC. It would be perfect for a main card slot on a future Spike or Versus card. You listening Joe Silva? You should be...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My newfound appreciation for Bellator

It started with an inverted triangle choke. Then, it was a spinning backfist. I watched the impressive finishes provided by Toby Imada and Yahir Reyes on YouTube, since they were so graciously provided directly from Bellator Fighting Championships. The promotion didn't have any big names (Eddie Alvarez is only big to hardcore fans currently), and was banking on young talent to carry them into the limelight. Even after seeing those impressive finishes, I wasn't sold on Bellator being a serious threat to the UFC. Then, about a week ago I saw Bellator being aired on some 100+ digital cable channel. The commentary was in English (Bellator was also aired on ESPN Deportes in an effort to attract a Latin American audience), so I figured I'd give it a shot. And what I saw...really impressed me.

I know I go back to it all the time, but I have to make the comparison to PRIDE, since I feel that was the best organization of all time. I loved PRIDE because no matter who the fighters were, from the headliners to the no names, from the most technical practitioners to the guys just making the transition, they all brought it. Every fight, no matter what. Bellator gave me a nostalgic feel, reminiscent of the glory days of PRIDE. These guys are young, hungry, and talented, and Bellator is a great vehicle to showcase these fighters. The best examples I saw were from Bellator 10. Seeing Israel Giron come back from one of the worst accidental nut-shots I've ever seen to submit Phil Brown was an awesome display of heart. I was already impressed, but that was nothing compared to Saad Awad vs. Diego Garijo. The first round started with Awad and Garijo swinging for the fences. Awad dropped Garijo numerous times, but was unable to finish him. I wondered how much more Garijo could take. Then, towards the end of the round, Awad looked like he had punched himself out and Garijo capitalized. He took Awad down, got the back, and sunk in a choke. What made it even crazier was all that took place inside one round! It was an amazing display of heart, will, and technique by Garijo. The only thing those two fights had in common was that I had no idea who any of those four fighters were. Still, I walked away thoroughly entertained.

Bellator has continued the trend. Eddie Alvarez vs. Josh Neer is going to be a great match-up, as well as Hector Lombard vs. Paulo Filho. The additions of top prospects like Joe Warren, Dan Hornbuckle, Ben Askren, and veterans like Jeff Curran, Bryan Baker, Ryan McGivern, Bao Quach, and Roger Huerta were excellent steps forward for Bellator. Add that to their roster rising stars like Toby Imada, Hector Lombard, Lyman Good, and Joe Soto, as well as its established veterans like Eddie Alvarez and Wilson Reis, and I'm smelling a recipe for success. I was very, very skeptical of Bellator when it was initially created, but I'm very happy I gave it a chance. With any luck, they'll stick around for a little while longer. As long as they keep on showing great fights, I for one won't be complaining.

Monday, April 5, 2010

DREAM's irrelevant Grand Prix

At the end of May, DREAM will begin it's Light-heavyweight Grand Prix. In PRIDE, which DREAM is the spiritual successor of, the Light-heavyweight Grand Prix were the sources of some of the best fights ever in the promotion. The 2003 GP had Rampage manhandle the UFC's poster boy, Chuck Liddell, and then his devastating KO loss to Wanderlei Silva in the finals. All in the same night. The 2005 GP had Wanderlei Silva's first loss in the light-heavyweight division in just about four years to Ricardo Arona. It also was the birth of the legend known as "Shogun." Mauricio Rua defeated Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, and Ricardo Arona all in about an eight month span. Rua was a relative unknown at the time, and all the men he beat were top 10 205ers at the time. Those memorable fights and moments are what made PRIDE (in my opinion of course) the greatest organization of all-time.

However, DREAM is not doing well to follow the legacy of PRIDE's past success. The only announced fighters for the GP this year are Strikeforce Light-heavyweight Champion Gegard Mousasi, UFC and Strikeforce veteran Renato Sobral, PRIDE and UFC veteran Sokoudjou, and serviceable journeyman Chris M'Pumbu. Aside from them, the only options left outside the UFC are "King Mo" Lawal, Ricardo Arona, and Rafael "Feijao" Calvancante. Sadly, only one of them, Mousasi, is a top 10 heavyweight. Sobral is losing his luster, Lawal may still be too green, and Arona has fought once in the past two and a half years. None of those fighters, sans Mousasi, are even close to the top 10 at this point. They might as well have called it the Mousasi Grand Prix. In my opinion, this GP is pointless, unless they find a way to mix in promising new blood, like a Mauricio Rua. The only problem is, the UFC has ALL the talent at light-heavyweight. In my opinion, DREAM should have never done this GP. Just give Mousasi the belt and let him defend it against whoever can earn it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The King Without a Crown

In the sport of mixed martial arts, there was always a "king without a crown" for certain periods of time. The last fighter of note who had that role was Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic until he won the PRIDE 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix. Since then, no one has cleared out a division, but has failed to capture a title. Then along came Kenny Florian. Florian has evolved and grown so much since he was a competitor on the original Ultimate Fighter. Since dropping down to 155 lbs., Florian has wins over the likes of Sam Stout, Din Thomas, Joe Lauzon, Roger Huerta, Joe Stevenson, Clay Guida, and most recently, former PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi this past Wednesday at a UFC Fight Night event. His only two loses during that time were to Sean Sherk and BJ Penn, both were ironically for the UFC Lightweight Championship. With two straight stoppage victories over top contenders Guida and Gomi, many are starting to believe Florian is ready for another run at the title, but can he finally get over the hump?

Much like Cro Cop from 2004 - 2006, Florian has cleaned out the vast majority of the division's top contenders, but has failed to gain a title. Florian looked overwhelmed by Sherk's relentless pace, and looked completely outclassed against Penn (but then again, who doesn't at lightweight?). With the way Sherk has looked in his most recent outings, a rematch with Florian may go differently. However, it seems Gray Maynard may be on the horizon for Florian, as Maynard called out the winner of Florian/Gomi in a recent interview. That would be an excellent fight, which at this point would determine the true #1 contender for BJ Penn's title. If that match comes to fruition and Florian gets another shot at the belt, he'd better hope BJ gets bored of 155 and moves to welterweight. Otherwise, he'll end up being the Rich Franklin of the lightweight division.

Monday, March 29, 2010

An Open Letter to John Buccigross

Dear John,
What you did today on Sportscenter was inexcusable. During the Top 10 highlights for the weekend, Shane Carwin's knockout of Frank Mir was #9, and instead of giving Carwin the time and respect he deserved, you said "20 unanswered blows to the head, that's going to cause brain damage or something." You didn't even mention to say Shane Carwin's name. You painted Carwin to be a 'roided-up bouncer they pulled away from the bar who was fighting for his next drink. Did you mention Shane is a full-time engineer? No. Did you mention he was a Division II National Wrestling Champion? No. Did you mention that he is undefeated with all of his fights ending by stoppage in the first round? No! You simply just insulted one of the best athletes in the sport of mixed martial arts on national television. A sport which is getting a show on your very own network quite soon, I might add.

I am training to be a journalist myself, and the first thing I learned is that a journalists job is to report the facts, not personal opinion. So John, do your fucking job and report the news. If you don't like MMA, so what? You don't have to be so pompous as to share your opinion with the whole world. Do your damn job and report the facts, which in this case was that Shane Carwin had an impressive victory over Frank Mir for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship. If you want to talk about golf, get a show about golf. That way, only old men and people with insomnia trying to fall asleep will hear the sound of your insignificant voice. Leave the reporting of the real sports to the real professionals. So, on behalf of MMA fans who felt as outraged as me, I only have these last few words of wisdom: Shut the fuck up and fuck off!

A man who will probably take your job in 5 years :P

PS You're a jackass.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Small Show Round-up...Late March Edition

With all the recent big name free agents like Dan Henderson and Josh Barnett finally getting contracts, one may have forgotten that Roger Huerta remained without a job. However, he recently signed a contract with the fledgling Bellator promotion. This is huge for Bellator for a number of reasons. Bellator had been trying to gain an audience in Latin America ever since it's inception, and Huerta is the most well-known Latin American fighter, as well as one of the most recognized fighters regardless. While Eddie Alvarez may be the better fighter, Huerta is definitely the bigger name, largely due to the UFC hype machine. This also big because Bellator finally has the chance to put on a true marquee fight. Huerta vs. Alvarez would be huge for both the casual and hardcore fan alike. These are two guys that just don't quit. Huerta may be the less talented, but has the heart of a lion. Alvarez has been the 3rd wheel to Shinya Aoki and BJ Penn in the lightweight rankings, but being behind two superstars of that caliber is nothing to be ashamed of. With this signing, Bellator can now put on big fights that will attract a new audience, and finally be able to compete with the UFCs and Strikeforces of the world.

Seemingly riding on the coattails of James Toney's recent UFC signing, King of the Cage announced that Ray Mercer would be facing Ron Sparks at an event in April. Spark's 5-0 record may look good on paper, but four of those wins were against fighters who had never fought before or after their fights with Sparks. Mercer is 1-1 in his career, with a submission loss to Kimbo Slice (I still ROLFMAO when I see that video), but KO'ed former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia in just 9 seconds in his last bout. Some people actually blame Mercer's KO of Sylvia as the reason many boxers have announced their involvement in MMA recently (Toney; Ricardo Mayorga has a fight coming up as well). At 49-years-old, it's hard to image what Mercer has to prove in the sport. Maybe it was that boxers can hang with mixed martial artists, or maybe he's just chasing another payday trying to stay relevant. With all that's going on lately, I wouldn't be surprised if Dana gave him a call asking him to come to the UFC. Mercer vs. Toney in a cage anyone? As sick as that thought makes me, this is MMA after all, it could happen...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lost in the Crowd

Sengoku 12 was this past Saturday. It featured Impressive KO wins by up-and-coming Brazilians Maximo Blanco and Marlon Sandro, as well as a great five round Middleweight Title bout between Jorge Santiago and Mamed Khalidov. The problem is, does anyone know or care? Since the demise of PRIDE, there has been a struggle between four major organizations to gobble up as much talent as possible: UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, and DREAM. Sengoku is trying to hang tough as the fifth wheel, but a string of bad luck has seemingly plagued the organization. Takanori Gomi, the former PRIDE Lightweight Champion and the man who supposed to be a Sengoku poster boy, lost two straight fights for the organization, including a title fight to Satoru Kitaoka. After rebounding with two straight wins in Shooto, he signed a contract with the UFC. Kazuo Misaki, the PRIDE 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix Champion, was supposed to be another star for the organization. However, he lost the title fight to Santiago, and was recently knocked out by DREAM standout Melvin Manhoef.

Former Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Hidehiko Yoshida, who is a huge star in Japan, announced he is retiring from the sport in April. Aspiring MMA fighter and 2008 Judo Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii was signed, but doesn't look like he has what it takes for MMA. While Sengoku has been able to feature good talents such as Hatsu Hioki, Mizuto Hirota, Marlon Sandro, Satoru Kitaoka, Masanori Kanehara, and Jorge Santiago, they lack that "big name" headliner that fans wants to see. It also doesn't help that Michihiro Omigawa, a featherweight underdog that has risen into a top-10 prospect, has been on the favorable side of some controversial decisions (watch the Sandro and Hioki fights).

However, there is hope. Sengoku and DREAM collaborated for Dynamite!!! 2009, which was a huge success. DREAM and Strikeforce also have an agreement to exchange talent, so if the three of them continue to collaborate, Sengoku may finally be able to build a name for itself. However, rumors of poor ratings and the threat of going out of business have run rampant with Sengoku recently, and it will be an uphill battle for them to hang tough. Still, they have good talent that should be showcased. They are still making good moves to expand their audience. But the fact remains: How much longer can Sengoku play the fifth wheel with four other power-hungry organizations gobbling up top talent? Good luck Sengoku, hang in there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The fall of Miguel Torres

Up until WEC 42, Miguel Torres was considered among the top pound-for-pound athletes in the world. He was racking up quite a streak as the WEC's Bantamweight Champion, and had just come off a fight of the year performance against Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 40. Then, things started to fall apart. Torres lost his title to Brian Bowles at WEC 42 via KO in a fight it looked like he was winning until the KO, and just recent lost to Joseph Benavidez this past Saturday by submission. Throughout the fight, it looked to me that Torres couldn't deal with the speed of Benavidez, getting caught numerous time with punches and looking sloppier than usual on the ground. Eventually, Benavidez cut Torres with some vicious ground and pound, and finished the fight via Guillotine Choke in the second round.

This is two straight losses for the formerly vaunted champion. It didn't look like he was prepared for the speed and pace of Benavidez, much like Bowles looked against Dominick Cruz the same night. For Torres, he needs to keep learning from his mistakes and not let this streak get to him. He still has a very well-rounded skill set and a wealth of talent. It's not over for him. What this does do is likely set up a rematch between Cruz and Benavidez, this time for the title. The last fight was very fast paced and exciting, and both have looked even better in their most recent bouts. This is definitely shaping up to be quite a fight. Still, Torres needs to find it in him to stay strong and get back on the right track after this latest setback. There's no reason why he can't re-climb the ladder and get back into the pound-for-pound conversation. He has the tools, but he needs to learn how to use them better.

Friday, March 5, 2010

James Toney signs with the UFC...and I just puked

That's right, former boxing champion James Toney officially signed with the UFC last week. The thought of this makes me sick. At least Kimbo went the TUF route, and Lesnar was a ground specialist. The fact of the matter is boxers do not translate well to MMA. While it is true Toney is probably the most talented one to make the transition, an article on broke down beautifully the failure rate of boxers who have transitioned to MMA previously. Will Toney have the best hands out of anyone in the UFC? Unquestionably, but the fact of the matter is the ground game is much harder to grasp for strikers transitioning into the sport. Kit Cope, a vaunted Muay Thai practitioner, never had success in MMA because of his failure to adapt to the ground game. Ray Mercer, a former Olympic gold medalist in Boxer, was submitted by Kimbo Slice (yes, KIMBO SLICE!)in his first go at MMA. Guys that are experts in wrestling of jiu-jitsu typically have more success early on because they understand the aspect of control when it comes to combat.

This signing completely baffles me. Dana White preaches over and over how he hates freak show fights. He'll rip on guys like Herschel Walker, and even Kimbo in his early days, and then he goes and does something like this. Granted, Toney came to him, but just like our parents used to say: just say NO! This is nothing more than a sideshow attraction. Toney hasn't been relevant in boxing in years, and at 41-years-old, his success rate can't be that high. Rumors have by flying since the signing of who Toney will fight. Names such as Couture, Griffin, and Kimbo have been thrown around. If the UFC wants any chance of Toney getting a win, they'll match him up against someone who will be dumb enough to stand and trade with him. Any threat of a takedown will endanger Toney's chances of survival.

When I sit down and think about it in the sense of a sport, it would be cool to see an NCAA Division 1 Champion wrestler like Brock Lesnar face a boxing champion like James Toney. However, Toney will have to earn the right to face a man like Lesnar, and who knows if he'll make it that far. Kimbo, Toney, what's next Dana? The Green Ranger??

Monday, March 1, 2010

Overeem finally fighting for Strikeforce

Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem hasn't fought for the promotion he is champion of for almost two and half years. Instead, he has opted to fight K-1 kickboxing and MMA matches in Japan. Ever since his dismantling (albeit a "No Contest" due to accidental groin strikes) of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in Dream and his knockout of premier talent Badr Hari in K-1, people began to see the potential in Overeem. However, his lack of facing top MMA talent recently has left MMA fans yearning for a chance to see if Overeem can prove himself and legitimately establish himself as a top heavyweight.

The wait is over. Overeem is scheduled to face Brett Rogers Strikeforce's May 15th event. This fight makes a lot of sense. Rogers has beaten Andrei Arlovski, and gave Fedor a run for his money in his last fight. Rogers powerful stand-up game and ground defense will prove to be a great test for Overeem, and a win will likely put him next in line against Fedor. This is very important because many fans, including myself, feel that Overeem and Josh Barnett are the only tests for Fedor outside the UFC, and we all know it doesn't look like Fedor will end up there anytime soon (unfortunately). It looks like a lot of questions will be answered on May 15th, as this will be the litmus test to see if Overeem really does have what it takes to hang with the big boys.

Tim Sylvia: The Downward Spiral

It was just about two years ago when Tim Sylvia fought Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction: Banned. At that time, Sylvia had just been axed by the UFC after a loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but was still considered a sought after free agent. Affliction announced its foray into MMA events, and the fight was set up. The fight had huge hype surrounding it. It was Fedor's first fight against a top heavyweight in some time, and many thought Sylvia's style and size could derail Emelianenko.

Not quite. Emelianenko choked out Sylvia in less than a minute. What followed next can only be called bizarre. Sylvia was set to headline Adrenaline MMA 3 in a boxing match against former Olympic boxer Ray Mercer. Then, the fight was changed to an MMA fight days before the event. Then, it happened. Mercer knocked out a noticeably overweight and out-of-shape Sylvia in just 9 seconds. Yes, the same Ray Mercer that was submitted by Kimbo Slice in his first fight in the sport. After beating up and comer Jason Riley at Adrenaline MMA 4, it seemed that Sylvia was ready to take another shot at climbing the ladder.

However, it now seems that Sylvia knows his best days are behind him. He turned down a fight with top (although marred) heavyweight Josh Barnett, and his next choices of opponents are baffling. There's former World's Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski, and Ultimate Fighter 10 alum Wes Sims. These choice are absolutely ridiculous if Sylvia wants people to take him seriously. Pudzianowski may be strong, but Sylvia will likely have the technique and experience to exploit the strongman with relative ease. After an embarrassing performance on the Ultimate Fighter 10, Sims had an equally humiliating performance against rising star Bobby Lashley in his last fight. After those performances, there is seemingly nothing Sims can offer Sylvia, and serious promoters should just let Sims fade away at this point. Both these fights are nothing but "freak show" fights, hardly something Sylvia should do since he constantly has to prove to fans that he is a top heavyweight. If he really wanted to prove he still has it, he would have taken the Barnett fight. The downward spiral ends here Tim. Welcome to rock bottom.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Small Show Round-up

Strikeforce Challenger Series VI was supposed to be headline by veteran fighter Trevor Prangley and rising star Karl Amoussou, but last night they changed the main event to the Women's 135lb. Title bout between Sarah Kaufman and Takayo Hashi. I must say I didn't know much about Amoussou, but after watching some videos on Youtube, I am very excited to see him fight. Still, I think it's great that Strikeforce decided to move the women into the main event spotlight. Just like what the WEC is doing for the lighter weight classes, Strikeforce is doing a great job of giving a platform for female MMA. This ain't the WNBA folks. These girls always put on exciting fights, and follow all the same rules as the men. This is the second women's title Strikeforce has established, the 2nd being Cris "Cyborg" Santos's 145lb. title. Strikeforce is doing a great job helping put women's MMA on the map.

Seemingly lost in these packed weeks of fights was Jason David Frank, the Green/White/Red Ranger (yes, he was all of those at some point). He notched his 2nd MMA victory in less than a month at a recent Lonestar Beatdown event. This time, it was by TKO in the first round. Frank looked like Anderson Silva, getting his opponent, Chris Rose, in the Muay Thai clinch and reigned knees upon him. After Rose fell to the mat after some heavy strikes, Frank pounced and pummeled him until the referee pulled him off. Frank is doing everything right so far. He's taking smart fights and trying to get better, not get into the spotlight (not yet, anyway). I hope he continues to win and gets good; the sport could use an ambassador like him. "When times are tough, you gotta fight your way out of it. You only have two choices: you can sit there and wallow in your pain and feel sorry for yourself, or you can be a fighter," said Frank in an interview with Inside the MMA. His attitude is great, and he is showing that he has legitimate skills. Being a former Power Rangers nut, you know if there's any developments on Jason David Frank, you can find them here.

Also, at last night's Bitetti Combat 6, the saga of Paulo Filho continued. While Thales Lietes and Glover Texiera picked up good wins, it was Filho who marred the night. He was originally slated to face veteran fighter Yuki Sasaki, but withdrew from the event because of personal issues. Hours later, he retracted his statement and said he would fight at the event after hearing Sasaki would only fight him. However, Filho no-showed the weigh-ins, and the fight was scrapped. I can't speculate what's wrong with Paulo Filho, but I hope he hasn't relapsed, and I wish him luck to find the help that he needs.

Why do all of my heroes die?

UFC 110 this past Saturday was a great event. It was the coming out party for fighters like George Sotiropolous and especially Cain Velasquez, and all the fights were exciting and competitive. Still, I couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia on this card. I must admit, I loved PRIDE Fighting Championship more than any other organization. Ever. The UFC included. This card featured three of the fighters that made PRIDE so enjoyable for me: Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.

Nogueira and Cro Cop were once considered two of the top three heavyweights in the world at the time of PRIDE's demise. Nogueira was known for his dangerous submissions, and Cro Cop was the most feared striker in the world. I remember bragging to my "casual fan" friends about how bad ass they were, and how they would dominate the UFC heavyweight division. Like a lot of other PRIDE fans, I feel like I've been let down. Big Nog is 3-2 in the UFC. He's looked sluggish, slower, and (except for the Couture fight) pretty lackluster. He had never been finished before his UFC career, but both of his UFC losses have been by TKO in the 2nd round or earlier. Cro Cop hasn't looked good either. 3-3 in his UFC career, Cro Cop is now tentative and stagnate. Gone is the stalker who would bully his opponent with kicks and punches. He looked good against Anthony Perosh this past weekend, but who is Anthony Perosh you ask? Exactly.

My memories of Wanderlei Silva in PRIDE have also been getting tarnished by his recent stretch in the UFC. Since coming back to the UFC, Silva is just 2-3. While two of the loses were close and exciting decisions against Liddell and Franklin, he suffered a brutal knockout against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, a man he had brutally knocked out twice in PRIDE. While I'm beginning to think Nogueira and Cro Cop's best days are behind them, Silva was the one bright spot from my PRIDE heroes on UFC 110. He beat Michael Bisping by decision, and looked the best he has in a long time. It looks like there's new hope for good ol' Wandy at middleweight.

Part of what made PRIDE so great for me and many other fans were the fantastic wars and battles that were fought in PRIDE. It seems like the wear-and-tear from those memorable duels are catching up to them. Brock Lesnar and Nogueira are just one year apart in age, yet Nogueira has been fighting since he was much younger, and may explain why he's looked 10 years older in the cage. It seems like the memory of Gabriel Gonzaga's high kick haunts Cro Cop. Believe me, these guys are my heroes, I'm not trying to bash them. I just hope they really do have it, and can prove me wrong.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

They Stay Fly....

The flyweight division in MMA is possibly the sport's best kept secret. These guys are the quickest and some of the most athletic and dynamic athletes in the sport. However, since it is the lightest weight class allowed under the unified rules, not a lot of organizations have the weight class. With the WEC's management assuring fans that a flyweight division is on the horizon for the organization in 2010, I have begun paying more attention to the division. I highly recommend that any MMA fan watch the Flyweight title fight between John Dodson and Pat Runez in the UWC. That fight is not only a great example of what these guys are capable of, but it's simply one of the best MMA fights I've ever seen. With the fighter's superb quickness and explosiveness, the flyweight division has what it takes to catch fire and win over lots of fans. So, my hopes for this post are to educate the MMA fan on some flyweight names that could be on a screen near you in near future. Here are some fighters to keep an eye on.

Jussier da Silva - Don't let his meager 3-0 record fool you. His crafty ground skills earned him a unanimous decision victory over Shinichi Kojima, Shooto's 125 lb. champion and formerly the consensus #1 flyweight in the world.

Shinichi Kojima - Although he lost his last bout, a non-title affair with da Silva, he is still the Shooto 125 lb. champion. His two victories over former Shooto kingpin Mamoru Yamaguchi helped cement his reputation.

Mamoru Yamaguchi - Former Shooto 125 lb. champion. Recently captured the King of the Cage Flyweight Championship by defeating Frank Baca in impressive fashion.

Pat Runez - PFC and UWC Flyweight Champion. Trains at Arizona Combat sports with Jamie Varner, and can bring it on the feet or the ground. Fight with Dodson was a classic.

Rambaa Somdet
- Muay Thai specialist, extremely quick and dynamic striker. American fans would love this guy.

Kiyotaka Shimizu - Pancrase Flyweight Champion, recently beat Mitsuhisa Sunabe to capture the title.

Mitsuhisa Sunabe - Former Pancrase champion, at 5"8', he is quite possibly the tallest guy in the division. Quick hands and good wrestling.

Alexis Vila - Former Olympic Medalist in wrestling, his size and skill make him a force in the division.

John Dodson - Explosive and powerful, Dodson lost an extremely competitive and hard-fought decision to Runez in his last fight. If he can overcome his tentativeness, he could be a serious threat to anyone in the division.

From one fan to another, I encourage you all to watch these fighters and spread the word. These guys are extremely talented and deserve to have their names out there with all the rest of MMA's top talent.

The Subtle Art of the Freak Show Fight

Ah, the freak show fight. The fights that MMA fans love, hate, and love to hate. With the sport becoming more and more mainstream, all sorts of people want a piece of the pie. MMA fans hate the freak show fights because it seems like they set MMA back a step. What business does Jose Canseco have taking an MMA fight? At the same time, people just can't look away. I watched the Canseco fight numerous times, because there's no guiltier pleasure for me than seeing him get pummeled by a 7 foot 2 inch Korean kickboxer. With all the talk of Strikeforce considering matching up the aforementioned Conseco and Strikeforce and NFL vet Herschel Walker, it got me thinking about the effect the freak show fight has had on MMA.

The freak show fights are extremely popular in Japan. Japanese grappling ace, Genki Sudo, a natural 155 lb. fighter, once took on 400+ lb. boxer Eric "Butterbean" Esch. The legendary Royce Gracie battled Sumo legend Akebono. Bob Sapp was a staple in the olden days of PRIDE and K-1. Even though the fights were meaningless in the big picture, the intrigue of the fights and fighters were enough to attract attention and viewers. The wave is hitting America too. We've got former pro wrestlers, a bearded street brawler, a power ranger, a disgraced baseball player, and a football icon (just to name a few) all taking a stab at MMA. While people like Lesnar, Lashley, Jason David Frank, and even Slice are taking the sport seriously, people are beginning to wonder where to draw the line.

The ultimate freak show fight was definitely the Kyle Maynard fiasco. In case you missed it, this kid was a wrestler who had amputated legs and arms, who still became a decent wrestler, and had a dream to compete in MMA. He got his wish when a small Auburn promotion allowed him to fight. The advertised the hell out of him, and set him up to be the main attraction. While I thought it was indeed an inspirational story of a man who refuses to let his disabilities stop him, I still had one pressing question: How in the f**k did ANYONE expect this kid to win? He has no arms, so he can't block punches or defend/attempt submissions. His only offense would be to lay on his opponent and pray he has zero knowledge jiu-jitsu and wrestling exist. That was the first time I ever thought a fight should be held in a circus tent, and not an arena with MMA fans. By the way, Maynard's opponent was merciful and let the fight go to a decision, which Maynard lost unanimously.

So what's the point of these fights? Is the scrutiny worth the reward for these promotions? Absolutely, the bottom line being money. Even after slamming him repeatedly, Dana White signed Kimbo Slice to a contract. Does he think Kimbo can make a run at the title? Probably not. Will Kimbo rake him in tons of money? Hell yes. So, how could a promotion exploit an amputee knowing full well he had little chance of winning? The bottom line is people love to watch to see if the "freak" can fight. I was giddy when I found Jason "The Green Ranger" Frank's MMA fight on YouTube, as he was a childhood hero of mine. I was even giddier when he won. If a promotion is desperate enough, they'll try anything to get a big break. I guess Biggie Smalls said it best: The more money we come across, the more problems we see. As long as people will watch these crazy freak show fights, and they will, promoters will continue to put them on.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Paulo Thiago: The Real Deal

A man stepped into The Octagon at UFC 95 to face Ultimate Fighter alum and highly touted welterweight Josh Koscheck. This man was 10-0, but it was against lesser competition, so no one really knew who he was. But after that night, the world would know just who Paulo Thiago was.

Thiago knocked out Koscheck with an uppercut-hook combination, and was immediately thrown into the fire that is the UFC's welterweight division. His next fight was against Koscheck's teammate, widely regarded No. 2 welterweight Jon Fitch. Thiago hung in there, but lost the decision. He returned to his winning was at UFC 106, defeating Bellator FC veteran Jacob Volkmann by an impressive decision. However, Thiago returned to the trial-by-fire when it was announced he would rematch Koscheck at UFC 109. Things didn't even get easier for Thiago when Koscheck withdrew from the fight with an injury. Apparently American Kickboxing Academy took great offense to him upsetting Koscheck, as another one of his teammates stepped up to replace him and fight the Brazilian. This time it was Mike Swick, the former UFC middleweight contender, who had dropped to welterweight and was making a run at the title until losing to current No. 1 contender Dan Hardy at UFC 105.

The fight was a lot closer on the feet then people thought. Thiago was landing good punches, and staying out of trouble if Swick looked to start taking control. In the second round, Swick hit Thiago with a good punch, but Thiago was able to counter with a hook that floored Swick. He followed the AKA product to the ground, and locked in a D'arce Choke that left Swick unconscious. With that win, Thiago proved his loss to Koscheck was no fluke. His only loss is to Jon Fitch, and with the consensus having him as the No. 2 guy behind GSP, there's no shame in that. I still want to see Thiago fight Koscheck again, knowing that Thiago isn't a pushover anymore. I would also like to see how fairs against someone like Thiago Alves, another high-caliber welterweight he was rumored to fight. Either way, if Thiago doesn't get burned by the flames, this gauntlet could lead him to welterweight gold.

Randy Gives Us Another Dandy

Randy Couture. The Natural. Captain American. All are names for the 46-year-old legend who still continues to put on high level performances with each appearance inside the octagon. After a two-fight skid with loses to Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, he returned to the light-heavyweight division and faced Brandon Vera. After an unimpressive, somewhat controversial decision victory over "The Truth," people began to wonder if The Natural still had it. At UFC 109: Relentless this past Saturday, Randy once again that he can still hang with the big boys.

In a fight that was originally scheduled to happen at UFC 17 (that's right, UFC 17!), Couture went to battle with fellow UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman. The two have been innovators of the sport and have won multiple championships. Needless to say, the nostalgia value of this fight was reason enough for a fan to buy the pay-per-view. After a loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in his return fight to the UFC, Coleman beat Steffan Bonner at UFC 100, his first win at light-heavyweight. In this fight of old men, Couture looked more like a fighter in his twenties. He neutralized all of Coleman's takedown attempts, used sharp boxing to pick him apart on the feet and "dirty boxing" in the clinch to wear down Coleman in the first round. The second round offered more of the same. Couture eventually rocked Coleman, took his back, and submitted him with a rear naked choke.

What this fight proved more than anything was how these two legend's careers are going in different directions at this point. Couture seems primed to make a final (though with Randy you never know) run at the light-heavyweight title. Couture has the knowledge and tools to give "The Dragon" fits, so it's a fight a lot of fans want to see. On the other side, Coleman seems to be on his last legs. His stand-up looked atrocious, he seemed to gas out midway through the first round, and just didn't seem like he had anything to offer Couture. He and Tito Ortiz apparently got into an altercation after the post-conference, and Coleman has stated he wants to fight Tito after having to withdraw from their UFC 106 date due to injury. This would be nothing but a novelty fight, and, if it happens, win or lose Coleman should probably hang it up. Who knows, maybe there are more "legends" fights to be had. Someone should give Dan Severn a call...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Strikeforce Puts on Another Gem

Strikeforce: Miami was held this past Saturday, and it was another sign that the UFC now has competition right in it's own back yard of North America. The first fight featured former WWE star Bobby Lashley against UFC-vet Wes Sims. Sims had taken the fight on short notice and looked to be in horrible shape. After a short time on the feet, Lashley immediately took Sims down and began to work. Lashley eventually got the back and pounded on Sims causing the ref to stop the fight at just over two minutes in the first frame. Sims tried to protest that it was an early stoppage, but from the look of it he was spared from an even worse beating than he already received. Even though Lashley looked impressive, Wes Sims isn't anywhere close to a top-tier heavyweight anymore, and even he agreed it's time to step up the ladder. In fact, I'll go as far as saying the post-fight scuffle between the two was more entertaining than the fight itself.

Next was Herschel Walker vs. Greg Nagy. Much had been made of this bout as Walker, the former Hiesman Trophy winner and NFL-vet, was making his MMA debut at 47-years-old. The fight was sloppy and one sided, with Walker controlling and hurting Nagy on the ground for much of the fight. Nagy offered seemingly no offense or defense against Walker's onslaught. Walker won via TKO in RD. 3 after it looked like Nagy couldn't take anymore. It was an impressive win for Walker, but as a whole, this fight meant nothing in the big picture in the MMA world. However, I can't take away all of the positive publicity that Walker has brought to the sport because of this fight, and I have all the respect in the world for Walker because of it.

The next three fights were definitely why I enjoyed this event so much. Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler had one of the most spectacular endings I have ever seen in a fight. Manhoef, the vaunted Dutch striker, was in control for practically all of the fight. He pressured Lawler, landing punches, combinations, flurries, and leg kicks that had Lawler limping by the end of the fight. A leg kick and flurry from Manhoef around the three-minute mark in Round 1 looked to spell end of the fight, and it did. For Lawler. Lawler, who was backed up against the cage, threw a hail Mary right hook that connected with Manhoef, severely hurting him. One more left from Lawler put Manhoef unconscious on the mat. Great way to get back on track for Lawler, and a really entertaining fight.

Cris "Cyborg" Santos
defended her Women's 145-lb. title with relative ease against Marloes Coenen. The fight was all Cyborg, using her Muay Thai skills and ground and pound to stop Coenen. Coenen fought valiantly and even landed some counter-punches against Cyborg, but couldn't find the rhythm she needed. Erin Toughill, the former pro-boxer who once fought Laila Ali looks to be next for Cyborg, but with the way she's been rolling through people of late, you'd have to wonder who could stop her. Since her nickname is Cyborg, her performance reminds of a quote from the Governator's classic, the Terminator: "You can't stop it, you can't kill it, and it absolutely will not stop. Until you're dead."

The night ended spectacularly with the main event, headlined by perennial bad boy Nick Diaz and DREAM Welterweight kingpin Marius Zaromskis. This was a fight with fireworks written all over it. Zaromskis was coming into this fight as a human highlight reel, winning his last three fights by head kick KO, and Diaz's style is tailor made to make good fighters look bad. The fight lived up to the hype. The entire first round was the same story: Zaromskis was the aggressor and tried to lad anything he could on Diaz, but Diaz would use his reach and land cleaner, more effective counter-punches on the Lithuanian. As the seconds wore on, it was obvious Zaromskis was fading quickly and Diaz could smell blood. After a last ditch effort by Zaromskis, Diaz was able to put away the DREAM champ by TKO with just 30 seconds left in the first round to become Strikeforce's first Welterweight Champion. This was undeniably a great performance by Diaz, who I believe has now solidified himself as a top-10 Welterweight. And with this card, Strikeforce has now solidified itself as top competition for a certain Las Vegas promotion. Watch your rear view mirror Dana...

Go Go Power Rangers

Jason David Frank. You remember the name, right? No? Well remember that show Power Rangers from the mid-90s? That's right, a power ranger has stepped into the sport of MMA. Honestly, I couldn't have been more excited for this fight. I credit the Power Rangers show for my involvement in martial arts, and therefore also my interest in MMA. When I first heard Frank was signed to fight, I nearly peed myself. Not only was I a fan of the show, but the Green Ranger was always my favorite. What many do not know is that Frank not only has created his own martial arts form, Toso Kune Do, he has also been dabbling in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He even created the popular line of fighter gear Jesus Didn't Tap. Needless to say, I was excited.

Anyway, onto the fight itself. Frank's opponent was Jonathon Mack, a relative unknown, under the Lone Star Beatdown promotion in Texas. The fight started out nothing like I expected. After seeing one his Muay Thai fights on Youtube, I thought Frank to be the better standup fighter. Aside from a few leg kicks though, it was Mack who was dominating the stand up, rocking Frank twice with big punches. However, once Mack attempted a takedown, it was Frank who took charge. As soon as Frank hit the mat, he locked Mack in an omaplata, getting the tapout at just 1:28 in the first round. The fight, although it was short, showed a lot about Frank. He was able to take big shots, recover, and show that he does have a ground game. Even though Mack was a nobody, an omaplata is one of the hardest submissions to pull off. I hope Frank continues with his MMA career. He's got a great attitude about the sport, and seems to have the tools to back it up. He's older though, so at age 36 it may be harder to improve and get better. Either way, after his showing Saturday night, he'll always have one fan watching.