musings on mixed martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and all things mano-a-mano
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Posts from — April 2011

Gymnastics, GSP and a glimmer of doubt

Catching up with the second episode of UFC Primetime: GSP vs. Shields and I was struck by a couple of things.

First, beneath all the hyperbole and workout porn (hitting pads, lifting weights, grappling), we’re shown Georges St. Pierre training in gymnastics. Gymnasts are among the most fit and strongest athletes on the planet, and, as GSP’s trainer Firas Zahabi says, take 10 athletes from 10 different sports and have them all compete in each other’s sports and the gymnast will fair better than all the rest. Now, I don’t now how true that is or if there’s even a way to verify such a statement, but it certainly sounds plausible give a gymnast’s strength, conditioning, stamina, flexibility, co-ordination, etc. What I wonder, then, is whether GSP training gymnastics will lead to a rise in the sport’s popularity among MMA fighters and weekend warriors looking for that extra edge.

Second, and on this point I have to thank Revolution MMA top dog Joel Gerson for bringing it to my attention, there’s a moment in the final seconds of this clip where GSP admits to being “scared as hell” about defending his welterweight belt. This is one of the rare moments that actually feels genuine and honest, where we actually sense the human being inside the MMA machine, a glimmer of doubt behind the rock-hard facade and infinite hyperbole about his greatness. Wish there was more of that.

April 24, 2011   No Comments

Nick Diaz ponders retirement and boxing, although therapy might be more advisable

Whether or not Nick Diaz retires from MMA or not, his decision to fight Fernando Vargas in a boxing match should ensure that somebody continues to put a microphone and camera in his face so he can say more crazy shit and make folks uncomfortable. His life’s “a living hell.” WTF?! He’s the Strikeforce welterweight champ and could live a pretty comfortable lifestyle if he’d tone down the passive-aggressive reefer-rage act a little bit so that more fans/sponsors and ultimately Dana White would come on board his crazy train. A little nuts is a marketable commodity, a lot nuts is alienating.

April 14, 2011   No Comments

Anderson Silva documentary “Like Water” looks like birdshit

There’s little in this trailer for Like Water, the documentary about UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, to suggest that it’s anything but a hagiographic handjob with a Tapout commercial sheen. It’ll play well with the folks who like the UFC Primetime specials, which is really just MMA training porn interrupted by Facebook status platitudes. And that’s what this movie, which will play the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, will be. With bird-shitting parables. And subtitles. If you want to see an MMA documentary with actual depth, you can’t go wrong with Fightville, which I guarantee is superior to Like Water. Unless you like birdshit parables and subtitles.

April 14, 2011   1 Comment

Exclusive outtake from UFC Primetime: GSP vs. Shields

I’ve no doubt that UFC 129’s main event will be one of the most-thoughtful bouts in UFC history, featuring as it does two of the more methodical and strategy-minded fighters in MMA. I’m sure it will be quite ponderous. I’ve made this comment before, that welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre is like a puppet on strings – his coaches plot a course of action and he implements it. He out-thinks his opponents as much as he beats them. Jake Shields, to a lesser and less-well-rounded degree, is similarly pre-programmed. This sense of puppetry also applies to the super marionettes’ personalities. Just check out UFC Primetime: GSP vs. Shields. Here’s an exclusive outtake from the show.

April 14, 2011   1 Comment

Every MMA fan must see Fightville

Fightville is a gritty and brilliantly gripping bruises-and-all documentary about small town fighters with UFC dreams, and it far surpasses my already high expectations. I’ve just come from a screening of the film, which focuses on UFC vet Tim Credeur and a couple of his proteges (notably, UFC newcomer Dustin Poirier), and I’ll be writing a full review a little closer to its premiere at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto on April 28. But I want to get a few impressions out there while they’re still fresh (and while you still have time to seek out tickets to one of its three Hot Docs screenings).

No hyperbole here, this is a sharply observed and richly told drama about what it means to be a fighter. Not the big-money contracts and sponsorship deals and pay-per-view bonuses, not the ring card girls and cage fighter groupies, not the glamour and the glory and spectacle of arena-filling action heroes like Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre. This isn’t some glorified Tapout commercial.

This is about the average guy, the average guy who also likes to throw down, who likes to hit and be hit, who finds a certain peace and centeredness once the cage door clangs shut behind him, who goes from mild-mannered Clark Kent to Superman-punching cage fighter, who does it because he doesn’t know how to do anything else, even if it means making 500 bucks a night to get his face punched in while working in a restaurant kitchen to make the mortgage payments.

Guys like Poirier can be found in almost every serious, legitimate MMA gym in the world. And filmmakers Mike “The Truth” Tucker and Petra Epperlein, who made the amazing Iraq War doc Gunner Palace, take us into that world in a way that is visceral and real and as intense as any documentary can be. After the screening several critics asked me if that’s what the MMA world is really like and the answer, plain and simple, is yes.

It’s obvious that the filmmakers were given unprecedented access to their subjects, notably Poirier and Gil Guillory, an always-hustling promoter for the barn-burning feeder organization USA MMA and a family man who’s earnest passion for keeping his business afloat is a sharp and refreshing contrast to the image of shady promoters with a used car salesmen sheen. In fact, it’s Guillory and his wife who help put the whole sport in perspective with their insights into the school of hard knocks.

The photography is vibrant and alive and in-your-face, especially during the training sessions and bouts, but without that amped-up and over-processed Tapout commercial gloss, which makes the stories being told all the more vivid and their impact all the sharper, like the snap of a four-ounce glove to your cerebral cortex. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack just plain rocks.

And not to take anything away from Tucker and Epperlein, but they struck cinematic gold with their cast. Credeur is a grizzled marine-drill-instructor-type character who reminded me of a slightly gentler, more philosophical (and definitely crazier) John Kreese whom young fighters willingly follow into battle, grinding it out day after day in a few hundred square feet of gym in Lafayette, Louisiana, all in the hopes of earning a spot on Guillory’s roster.

As I’d hoped, Fightville does what all great documentaries do – it burrows deep into its subject to unearth larger, more universal truths. Sure, the film will easily satisfy MMA fans (at least to the point that they’ll be tearing up the seats demanding more), but it should also excite casual viewers who perhaps aren’t interested in fighting or are even turned off by the thought of it. Because while the moral/political good-or-evil debate surrounding MMA is touched on, the film shies away from making any judgments and simply humanizes the people involved. It shows what it means to be a fighter, blood and broken bones and bad pay cheques and all, and it does it with respect for its subjects and for its audience. I couldn’t ask for more than than.

Addition: I’ll get into more of this at a later date, but I couldn’t not mention Albert Stainback, one of the young fighters profiled in the film whose cage entrance is an homage to A Clockwork Orange. Fucking brilliant. Jason “Mayhem” Miller must be kicking himself for not having thought of it first.

April 12, 2011   No Comments

Nick Diaz and Paul Daley bury the hatchet after their fight

Perhaps you’d expect a few sparks to fly, a few choice words to be exchanged between Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz and Paul Daley, especially after their one-round war (and preceding trash talk) on Saturday. So this encounter in a restaurant is surprisingly civilized. Then again, it goes a long way toward showing that fights are settled in the cage, that it is a job, not personal. Well, mostly not personal.

April 12, 2011   No Comments

Even Dana White thinks Nick Diaz is nuts

I love how UFC boss Dana White takes the piss with Ariel Helwani by taking a page from Nick Diaz’s playbook (and from this wackjob interview, specifically) . Funny stuff.

April 11, 2011   No Comments

Nick Diaz is one paranoid android

Chemical imbalance. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Nick Diaz. The Strikeforce welterweight champ gave another questionable interview to Ariel Helwani following his beating of Paul Daley on Saturday. Seems Diaz is a bit paranoid. Or does he actually have reason to believe he’ll be suspended as a result of the fight? And if so, what for?

April 11, 2011   2 Comments

Strikeforce more entertaining than recent UFC cards

In a nutshell: Saturday’s Strikeforce was a far more exciting event than recent UFC cards have proven to be. Of course, with finishers like Gilbert Melendez, Paul Daley and Shinya Aoki on the roster, it’s a near-certainty that the judges will have little to do.

It took less than two minutes for grappling ace Aoki to toss Lyle Beerbhom to the ground and neck-crank him into submission. That gives Aoki his fourth straight win and puts him back on track for a rematch with lightweight champ Melendez (assuming Melendez doesn’t vacate the belt to pursue a UFC title).

While Aoki finished on the ground, Melendez defended his title with a blitzkrieg of strikes that left Tatsuya Kawajiri crumpled on the mat. The question now becomes whether Melendez stays with Strikeforce or is moved over to the UFC to test his mettle against the likes of Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller, Clay Guida and even Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard. I don’t think Melendez should get an immediate title shot, but he should be next in line after Pettis.

It’ll be interesting to see whether UFC boss Dana White wants to make that shuffle so quickly after Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, or, as he claimed at the time of the deal, whether he will allow Strikeforce to continue “business as usual.” Melendez competing in the UFC might be what fans want, but I’m not sure it’s in the best interest of Strikeforce, assuming Zuffa foresees a future for the promotion.

A similar question arises with regard to Nick Diaz. The welterweight champ again found little use for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt as he went toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow against the human haymaker, Paul Daley. The result was 4:57 of the most exciting MMA thus far this year, as each fighter found themselves rocked, until the crisper striking (and bruising body shots) of Diaz finally put Daley away at the end of the opening frame.

Only the return of Keith Jardine would find its way to the judges, as his bout with Gegard Mousasi was ruled a majority draw (Jardine took the first round 10-8 thanks to an illegal up-kick). Frankly, I don’t think Jardine could’ve expected better given he took the fight on nine days notice and was clearly out-classed by Mousasi, who picked him apart with punches but couldn’t put him away. Hardly a one-and-done situation, expect Jardine to shift into a gatekeeper role in Strikeforce’s light heavyweight division.

April 11, 2011   No Comments

Nick Diaz and Ariel Helwani share awkward moments together

FW friend and occasional contributor Joel Gerson passed along this interview with Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz. “Uncomfortable,” is how Joel describes it and I’d also like to add “awkward” and “discommodious.” It’s also par for the course when it comes to Diaz, who defends his belt against Paul Daley on Saturday and generally comes across like a cocksucking extra from Deadwood.

I feel bad for Ariel Helwani, who’s a great interviewer stuck with a subject who’s a complete dick. You can see in Helwani’s eyes that he’s scrambling to keep the interview going, dealing with being accused of being a shit-disturber (which, if you’ve paid attention to Helwani’s laid back and always professional style, is completely ridiculous), with Diaz stating he’s being forced to do the interview, that he doesn’t get paid enough yet gets paid too much (whah?!) and on and on down the rabbit hole.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: professional fighters should behave like the professional athletes they claim they are, and that includes doing interviews. Perception is reality. If Diaz was in the NBA of NFL I’m pretty sure his team owner, the head of the league, his agents and his managers would be all over him for his complete lack of professionalism. But because this is MMA and personalities sell tickets – and I’m using the term “personalities” in the loosest sense in relation to Diaz, although it’s quite possible that there’s more than one voice screaming for attention inside his head – this behavior is excused.

April 8, 2011   1 Comment

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