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Posts from — June 2009

Showdown Joe roughs up the refs

ufcreferee

Referees in the UFC have made some lousy – make that just plain bad – calls lately.

Yves Lavigne’s late stoppage of the Matt Brown/Pete Sell fight at UFC 96, for example. Brown destroyed Sell, firing strikes as Sell backpedaled, fell, got up, got hit some more, fell some more. Sell clearly wasn’t protecting himself and at one point Brown actually paused and looked at Lavigne clearly asking for him to step in and put an end to the beating. Clearly asking Lavigne to do his damn job. Which Lavigne did a few seconds later, ending the bout.

The exact opposite thing occurred on the undercard of the same event. Shane Nelson landed a few punches on Aaron Riley, including a right hand that sent him to the mat, at which point – just 44 seconds into round one – referee Rick Fike waved off the bout, even though Riley was conscious, coherant and clearly capable of defending himself. It was not a knockout punch. Not even close.

But these are just the latest. UFC president Dana White has stated unequivocally on a number of occasions that referee Steve Mazzagatti “has no business being in this business.” Mazzagatti, you might recall, was in the cage when Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar fought the first time at UFC 81. He was the one who stood the two fighters up while Lesnar was in mid-maul so that he could deduct a point from Lesnar for punches to the back of the head. Even on the replays it’s hard to tell if Mazzagatti had ever warned Lesnar about the illegal blows. What is clear is that Mir was being pummeled pretty severely at the time they were stood up and that Mir then went on to win the fight with a kneebar submission. Clearly, Mazzagatti will not be the man in charge of the action for the rematch at UFC 100.

And yes, before I go further, let me say that referees have a tough job and it’s awfully easy to sit here and be a backseat referee with my instant replay and multiple angles. That’s why I think I’ll leave the rest of this argument – that the officiating needs to be better regulated – up to “Showdown” Joe Ferraro.

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If you pay attention to MMA, at least here in Canada, then you probably know Joe, the sports broadcaster. He’s a good guy and he knows MMA. And now he knows refereeing, too. Joe was in Edmonton last weekend where he took “Big” John McCarthy’s C.O.M.M.A.N.D. (Certification of Officials for Mixed Martial Arts National Development) course. McCarthy’s been with the UFC since the beginning and made his debut as a ref at UFC 2, and his course is the only one of its kind. (Most MMA refs come from a boxing background or a karate background and probably don’t know a kimura from Cap’n Crunch.)

Joe says that would-be referees must know and identify over 25 takedowns, 35 submissions, 25 positions and seven sweeps, reversals and transitions, as well as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts front to back as part of the course. Then they have to get in the cage and referee an actual fight, on which they will be evaluated. A passing grade is 90 percent and the failure rate is 75 percent.

It’s a great story, and it’s an important story. As Joe points out, judges may have the outcome of the fight in their hands, referees have the fighters’ lives. Here’s Joe’s basic argument (and the answer is a no brainer any way you look at it):

If the four major sports leagues — the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — mandate that officials are properly trained before being allowed to step onto the playing surface, why doesn’t MMA do the same? If this sport is expected to be taken seriously then this type of certification must be the bare minimum an athletic commission requires from an applicant prior to receiving their license to ref or judge.

I could go on, but Joe says it way better than I could. Go check out his story.

June 30, 2009   No Comments

Rapid fire 2: even rapider

June 30, 2009   No Comments

Rapid fire

June 30, 2009   No Comments

“Hollywood” Hendo

Ignore the ego-stroking backslap/handjob Dana White gives himself by plastering his glowing airbrushed and Photoshopped mug all over the cover of the first issue of the new UFC Magazine like he’s Oprah freakin’ Winfrey. Ignore also the mag’s mostly disposable Maxim-meets-Details content. Real fight magazines have stories about, well, fighting, not jerk-off fighter profiles and bits about sunglasses and face creams (sorry, skin replenishers).

What caught my attention were the Vanity Fair-like photo shoots to promote UFC 100. More specifically, I dig this behind-the -scenes video from the Dan Henderson/Michael Bisping shoot. Why? Well, Hendo looks more like “Hollywood” Dan than he ever has before, like he’s ready for his close-up, very Spartacus/young Kirk Douglas (his stock since TUF season 9 has certainly shot up in my mind), and Bisping doesn’t say a damn word in the video.

Here’s the much-less-interesting, very typical, vaguely homoerotic rap-video-style shoot with Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves. Yaaaawwwnnnnn. Their fight better hold a few more surprises.

June 29, 2009   No Comments

Gojira!

Frank Mir professes no respect for Brock Lesnar’s stand-up ability or his ground-and-pound. He doesn’t sound cocky about it, just confidant.And that makes me excited for their UFC 100 heavyweight championship unification bout.

Forget the “Mir submitted him the first time” vs. “Lesnar’s a different fighter now” arguments because only one of those statements is true. Lesnar isn’t a different fighter now, unless he’s plugged his Easter Island skull into the Matrix in the past 17 months and downloaded a mixed martial arts program. His strategy will be the same as it always has been – bum-rush Mir, pin him against the cage, take him to the ground and pound on him. In that scenario I like the faster, smarter, more skilled, better-equipped Mir’s chances.

Then again, I think Mir needs to take another look at what he’ll be facing, an opponent so vast that Japanese townsfolk flee in fear, someone who should make Dana White consider signing Mothra to a UFC contract.

June 29, 2009   No Comments

Roger dodger

missing-roger-huerta

Roger Huerta appears to be out of Dana White’s doghouse. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I’d love to see Huerta vs Clay Guida II but that Huerta had pissed White off – Huerta has one fight left on his contract and refuses to renew because he wants to become an actor – and didn’t know when or who or if he’d fight again.

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Well, maybe the Guida/Diego Sanchez brawl reminded the UFC prez of what an exciting fighter Huerta is as he’s locked the lightweight star to a showdown with Gray Maynard at the 19th edition of the UFC’s Fight Night series slated for September 16 in Oklahoma City.

Huerta is coming off a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Kenny Florian in August of 2008 while Maynard is 5-0 after beating Jim Miller at UFC 96. Thanks to Sherdog.com for the heads-up.

June 29, 2009   No Comments

Not quite Carano

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I’ve always admired the Round 5 non-bobbleheaded dolls/inaction figures (sans kung fu grip). The likenesses are quite something. But 20 bucks – ok, $16.99 plus tax – is a bit steep for a toy you can’t really play with, something that just sits on a shelf or your desk, something to express your love of MMA to the people in the cubicles around you, like wearing an Affliction T-shirt to the bars and clubs on Saturday night.

Still, I’d love to line my shelves with them, cuz, you know, they’re cool.

Round 5 is releasing the fourth series in the line, which includes Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Gina Carano, Matt Serra, Dan Henderson and Cung Le. Really love the Hendo one, terrific likeness. Ditto Serra and Shogun. The only disappointment is Carano’s. It just doesn’t capture her glamour and kinda looks like Kate Jackson circa Charlie’s Angels, which is too bad as this is probably the first one most fanboy/toy collectors will want.

round-5-cung-leround-5-gina-caranoround-5-matt-serraround-5-mauricio-shogun-rua

June 28, 2009   No Comments

Aussie rules footbrawl

Found this vid on UFC vet Jeff “The Inferno” Joslin’s blog and I agree with his comment about the exchange at the 3:02 mark about MMA fighters rarely fighting that well while moving backwards.

June 28, 2009   No Comments

Axe to grind

If former UFC champ Vitor Belfort returns to the Octagon, and UFC president Dana White is working hard to make that happen, there’s one matchup I’d like to see first: Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva.

Belfort TKO’ed the Axe Murderer in just 44 seconds during their first encounter at UFC Brazil in 1998, steamrolling him with punches that resulted in one of the most stunning losses in Silva’s storied career. Both fighters used to be 205-pounders who have dropped to 185, making a rematch a natural.

And it seems Silva is anxious for it. He recently told Sensei Sport TV that Belfort was seriously stressing out before their first fight: “That sequence of punches, I don’t know whether that was technique or anxiety. Many people told me he was dying of fear to face me so that must have been anxiety [that drove him]. Sooner or later [the rematch] is going to happen. I’m ready to face anyone, including him.”

Props to Fighters Only Magazine for the find

June 28, 2009   No Comments

Turning the UFC LHW division upsidedown

The Jon Jones hype machine is gearing up (and with this post, FW has become another cog in that machine, I guess). Jones is 2-0 in the UFC after wins over Andre Gusmao and Stephan Bonnar and he’ll face veteran Jake O’Brien as part of the UFC 100 card. He’s 21 years old and the future of the light heavyweight division.

UFC 94 Bonnar Jones Mixed Martial Arts

MMAjunkie has a decent profile of the fighter up. Interesting stuff. I didn’t know Jones was twice offered a wrestling scholarship at Iowa State, turning it down the first time because his grades weren’t good enough and the second time because he knocked up his girlfriend and decided to find a job to support his family. Gotta respect that.

I always thought Jones was a striker, not a grappler, throwing fists and elbows from all sorts of angles. Turns out Jones see himself the same way.

Here’s an excerpt that gets at the fight-fight-fight attitude he has, how he’s a wrestler who doesn’t like to grapple:

But Jones isn’t your average wrestler-turned-MMA-fighter. Even during his days a junior college wrestling champion, Jones looked for something more exciting than grappling with his opponent on the mat.

So he often would take down his opponent, let him up and begin the chase to take him down all over again.

“During my collegiate wrestling career, I was always the type of wrestler who didn’t want to get involved in ground too much,” Jones said. “I didn’t look at the ground as being exciting. I’d always win my matches by taking my opponent down, scoring the two points, and then allowing them to escape back to their feet. I’d do that over and over and over again. I’d take him down and let him up, take him down and let him up.

“When I got into MMA, I had the same mindset. I didn’t want to roll around with people and grapple with people.”

So Jones trekked to his local bookstore and scoured YouTube, looking for techniques on how to strike. And when he began to use his hands, he found something that he was a natural at.

He might not be able to dribble a basketball or catch a football, but there weren’t many people around who could punch or kick or elbow the way he could.

What makes Jones unique, though, is that his striking is so unusual. He’ll throw punches or elbows or kicks from any angle, often drawing audible gasps from the crowd. He dominated veteran Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94, never allowing his opponent to get into the fight by landing shots neither he could expect nor see.

And here’s Jones on light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida from a recent story in USA Today:

“I think Machida is getting a lot of hype, and I know he has lots of big wins over a lot of big fighters, and a lot of experience over me. I don’t think he’s Christ; I think he’s very beatable. They’re looking at him and his karate like he’s Bruce Lee. He’s not Bruce Lee. He’s very beatable. I honestly believe that a great Muay Thai champion will beat a great karate fighter any day; it’s been proven on lots of occasions. If Machida has (the belt) by the time I get to that level, I’ll be ready for him. I’ll have a lot of game planning and a lot of strategy ready.

I want to be that greater Muay Thai fighter to beat a great karate champion. I don’t think Rashad Evans came with any type of game plan, but to look really cool or look really fancy, dancing around in pretty footwork stances. He really didn’t come up with any way to beat him. I didn’t see any of his strengths. I didn’t see any takedown attempts or any straight right hands that are always good against southpaws or anything. He was just out there looking flashy. I’m going to go out there and pull the trigger if I ever get to fight Machida. I respect him a lot, but I definitely think he’s very beatable. I know I have a lot of time before I get to that level of fighting him, but when I do, I definitely won’t be nervous or intimidated by him at all, and (I’ll be) ready to fight him.”

June 28, 2009   No Comments

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