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.