Monthly Archives: December 2007

What A Weekend For MMA

It’s been a long weekend in our sport, and I’m pretty exhausted.  After the IFL Grand Prix and UFC 79, it’s enough to make you wonder how we got to this point from the days of tiny shows in civic center arenas that went straight to VHS tapes.  How far we’ve come.  Anyway, it’s Monday morning now, so back to work…

I keep reading on the internet how surprised people are that Ryan Schultz beat Chris Horodecki for the IFL lightweight title.  Apparently, no one even gave Schultz a chance, which is odd when you consider he’s the only man to beat Roger Huerta, so he must know a thing or two about this MMA stuff.  What’s really strange to me though are the people who seem to think Schultz’s victory spells doom for the IFL.

I mean, really?  First, people complain that the IFL is propping Horodecki up and protecting him as the league’s golden boy.  Then, when he loses his first fight to a tough guy like Schultz, they think the IFL is finished?  I just don’t see it.  Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think the more diversity and unpredictability the IFL has, the better.  Who wants to see the same guy win every time?  Now the division is wide open, and it should be interesting to see Schultz’s first title defense.  I know for a fact that he and John Gunderson have wanted to fight each other for a very long time, and that could be an explosive one.

On the whole, the five championship fights on the IFL card were all great ones, and all ended decisively.  What really surprised me was not so much Schultz winning, but Benji Radach losing.

Matt Horwich has got to be a truly baffling fighter to go up against.  His style is so awkward and it doesn’t seem to bother him at all to get hit in the face over and over again.  Radach was doing a great job in the first round, circling away and landing solid shots.  But Horwich just never stops.  He may be a little on the weird side, but that really only makes him more difficult to figure out in the ring.  I can’t wait to see Horwich and Tim Kennedy go at it, which has got to happen hopefully sooner rather than later.

I didn’t get to see any of the UFC fights until returning home yesterday afternoon, but they, too, were worth the wait.  Georges St. Pierre proved what a dominant fighter he can be with a submission victory over Matt Hughes, and Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva treated fans to a truly memorable battle.

After the GSP-Hughes fight, I have to wonder what Matt Serra is thinking right now.  He shocked St. Pierre the first time, but does he believe he can do it again?  St. Pierre looked to me like one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world on Saturday night.  When he comes in ready and focused, I don’t think there’s a 170-pounder in the world who stands a chance, Serra included.

The other question at hand is, what becomes of Hughes now?  He’s said before that he only has a few fights left in him, and if he can’t beat GSP there’s little hope for him in the welterweight title picture, so what’s he waiting around for?  The answer may be a grudge match with Serra after his GSP fight.  That’s the only thing that makes sense for Hughes, other than retirement.

As for Liddell, the win over Silva is a tremendous career boost and will stand as a hallmark moment in his already Hall of Fame career, but I don’t think it qualifies him for an instant title shot.  I’d like to see him against somebody like Forrest Griffin first, but that probably won’t happen now that Griffin and “Rampage” Jackson are coaching the reality show.  More and more, TUF seems like an albatross for MMA, and for exactly that reason.  It puts the title picture on hold in whatever division the coaches come from.  So what does Liddell do now?

Well, how about a fight with “Shogun” Rua?  He got beat pretty soundly by Griffin, but it might make for a good contender match.  Then again, the UFC will probably just hold Liddell out of action until after Jackson-Griffin, rather than take a chance on him losing and getting tossed back in the 205-pound ranks.  Oh well.

As for Silva, he fought well enough to prove that he can still make some waves in the UFC.  He’ll probably never wear another major MMA title, but a rematch between he and “Rampage” still has some heat, though that’s a long wait for “The Axe Murderer.”  Wait a minute, what’s Keith Jardine up to these days?  Hey, I’m just saying.

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Filed under Chris Horodecki, Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, IFL, Matt Hughes, MMA, Ryan Schultz, UFC, UFC 79, Wanderlei Silva

IFL Grand Prix Play-By-Play

We’re about an hour into the Grand Prix and have already been treated to some amazing fights. You can check out the play-by-play on IFL.tv, or if you’ve got HDNet you can watch it beginning at 9:30 pm EST. If you’re in Canada, we’re also on Fox Sports there.

In the preliminary fights, Tim Kennedy justified my excitement about him. That guy has all the skills and the personality to be a big time fighter, and he’s so non-stop that just watching him in the ring is exhausting.

On another note, Rory Markham maybe didn’t expect new IFL prospect Brett Cooper to be such a handful. He knows better now.

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Filed under IFL, MMA, Sports, Tim Kennedy

Blogging the IFL Grand Prix Finals

It’s been a busy couple of days in lovely Groton, Connecticut.  Yesterday we spent about twelve hours interviewing fighters for web footage, and it was a journey, to say the least.

We started out with big dreams about the array of topics we’d get the fighters to talk about.  That lasted about ten minutes.  It’s harder than you might think to get starving fighters to talk about anything other than how hungry they are and how much they hate doing interviews and photo shoots all day.

One of my colleagues suggested we get the fighters to talk about whether their fame has made it easier to meet women.  That sounded like a good idea, until Chris Horodecki responded by saying it was the stupidest question he had ever heard.  He might have a point.

By the end of the day we were an interviewing machine.  Ken Shamrock, who is a real pro at turning on the energy when the cameras start rolling, gave us some great stuff about his brother Frank and the rumors of a bout between them.  Jay Hieron had a few choice words for Floyd Mayweather, and Ryan Schultz really came alive talking about how much he wants this title fight with Horodecki.

My favorite interview experience on the day, however, was when we sat down with Tim Kennedy.  This is a guy who has a full-time military career as an Army Ranger, a burgeoning pro fighting career, and he agreed to this fight with Elias Rivera a mere two weeks after his three-round battle with “Mayhem” Miller.  But all that aside, he has a great sense of humor and a great attitude.  He entertained us all with his responses to stock questions (his strengths: good striking and looking great in jeans that are much too tight) and he demonstrated for us his special move: the Spinning Tiger Claw, which involves a Bruce Lee-like eye rake.

“Is that legal?” one of our employees asked, following the demonstration.

“Oh no,” Kennedy responded.  “I just made it up right now.”

Any guy who can be that much fun while dealing with starvation and the pressure of an upcoming pro fight is okay by me.  Even when our promo people tried to get him to look menacing for pictures he couldn’t completely erase the smile from his face.  I say MMA needs more guys like Tim Kennedy.  He’s tough enough to know that he doesn’t need to act like a hard-ass all the time.

After the weigh-in earlier today, one of the fights I’m really looking forward to is Benji Radach and Matt Horwich.  Radach is one of the hardest hitters I’ve ever watched from ringside (right behind Robbie Lawler) and Horwich is a deceptively good submissions artist.  In addition to his ground skills, though, Horwich is also, well, weird.  Not in a bad way, mind you.  He seems totally sincere, but when you talk to him you get the sense that one of you is seeing things that the other is not.

I don’t know who I’d like to see win in that fight tomorrow night, but I’m really excited to watch it.

That’s all for now.  Tomorrow is fight day, which means a lot of nervous anticipation for a lot of people in this hotel.  And if you don’t think it’s totally awkward to see two guys who are going to fight in twelve hours rubbing elbows at the breakfast buffet, think again.  Just one more reason I love this job.

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Filed under Benji Radach, IFL, Matt Horwich, MMA, Sports, Tim Kennedy

Fun With Betting Odds: UFC 79

It’s a big weekend in MMA, which is only fitting considering the year we’ve had.  I’m in Connecticut for the final round of the IFL Grand Prix, while across the country the UFC has one of their best offerings of 2007.  That’s enough great MMA in one night to last you several months, but if you really want more there’s always the Fedor-Choi New Year’s Eve show in a couple of days.  In case you haven’t heard, that fight will supposedly feature special rules outlawing knee strikes (aka: Choi’s best weapon), thus upgrading it from a farce to a mockery.

Anyway, now it’s time for one of my favorite little games: breaking down the betting odds.  Bodog has odds on the UFC, IFL, and Yarrenoka! (Fedor’s going off at -1500, in case you were curious), but I’m going to stick to just the UFC so as to avoid any conflict of interest.

Once again, bet on MMA at your own risk.  It probably isn’t a good idea.  But I’m guessing people have told you that before, but you just won’t listen.

Matt Hughes (+190) vs. Georges St. Pierre (-240)

Even after Hughes’ last performance against St. Pierre and his face-heel turn in the last year and a half, I’m still a little saddened to see the line this lopsided.  Let’s not forget that Hughes dominated the welterweight division for years.  Those years seem to be all in the past, but after St. Pierre’s loss to Serra who knows what’s going on in his mind?  St. Pierre needs this win for his psyche and for his confidence.  If he starts out tentative Hughes could shock him, but don’t bet on it.  St. Pierre is still the favorite here for good reason.

Chuck Liddell (+110) vs. Wanderlei Silva (-140)

I’d be interested to know exactly what this line is based on.  Both guys are coming off two straight losses, both are on the downside of once-dominant careers, and both need this win to stay in the game.  Stylistically, Silva seems tailor made for Liddell, but so did Keith Jardine.  I still like Liddell in this one, and though the line isn’t great it might be good enough for small action.

Rameau Sokoudjou (-115) vs. Lyoto Machida (-115)

I’ve seen varying lines on this fight, with most pegging Sokoudjou the slight underdog.  That’s understandable, considering Machida’s ability to slow a fight down and control it.  Sokoudjou is explosive, but still untested.  I like him to win this, but it could easily go either way and the line isn’t much help at all.

Melvin Guillard (-225) vs. Rich Clementi (+185)

Guillard is the more athletically dangerous fighter here, but Clementi is a better tactician and technician.  If Guillard gets reckless Clementi could easily take him.  The line is good enough to justify some risk here.

Dean Lister (-325) vs. Jordan Radev (+250)

Radev had a wrestling background, so this isn’t as lopsided as some previous bouts the UFC has given to Lister.  Still, anyone with anything other than a stellar ground game is probably in trouble against “The Boogeyman”.  This should be interesting to see how Lister rebounds from a previous injury and how his striking game is coming.  If you’re one of the people who believe he’s dumb enough to stand and trade for very long before taking it to the mat, go ahead and put money down on Radev.  I am not one of those people.

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Filed under Betting Odds, Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, MMA, Sports, UFC, UFC 79, Uncategorized, Wanderlei Silva

What’s Really At Stake in Liddell-Silva Bout

In just a few days the UFC will showcase two matches that could easily be main events by themselves, one of which is a dream match of two years ago that MMA fans thought they might never see. Ever since Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva sat atop the 205-pound division in their respective organizations, we’ve wanted to see them square off. It seemed like the definitive UFC vs. Pride showdown, and it also began to seem more and more like one that would forever remain a dream. So now that it’s finally happening, why isn’t there a little more excitement in the air?

One answer is that the UFC hype machine is inexplicably asleep on the job. The same organization that got us to believe any number of other underwhelming matchups would yield the fight of the century seems to think their success was assured the day they inked this fight for UFC 79. The truth is, this fight’s ready-made storyline has unlimited potential. Too bad it’s being ignored.

Liddell-Silva is, in many ways, a good old-fashioned ‘Loser Leaves Town’ match. Two fighters who were once icons of the sport, now in what looks to be the twilight of great careers, squaring off to see who still has it and who should look for a new line of work. That’s essentially what this match is about, even if the UFC isn’t saying it.

That doesn’t mean I believe that we’ll never see the loser of this fight in the Octagon again, or that the winner will necessarily have revived his career with a victory. It isn’t bound to produce any result so definitive, at least not officially. But at the same time this match is a career barometer for both men.

Liddell is coming off two consecutive losses in which he looked like a grim shadow of the dominant fighter who once ushered Randy Couture into a short-lived retirement. Silva suffered two devastating knockout losses as Pride took for granted and misused his services in the last days of their empire. That means both of them are standing at a precipice right now. Both of them have to be asking themselves whether those losses were just an unfortunate string of events, or if they were the death knell of a career.

A lot of people have said that Liddell-Silva is a match two years too late.  That’s true, but only if you believe that the point of the match is to see who’s the best 205-pounder in the world.  The answer is, neither of them.  They haven’t fallen off the top ten list, but neither one is a title-holder anymore.  Even so, this is still an important fight if you view it through the right lens.

We shouldn’t try to look at this as a battle for supremacy.  It’s not about that.  Instead it’s a battle to stay in the game.  That’s about as high as the stakes can get.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, MMA, Sports, UFC, Uncategorized, Wanderlei Silva

Frank Shamrock Talking Crazy

I love when certain MMA fighters get a chance to say what’s on their mind and let us all know just how insane they truly are. Readers of this blog will know that I am a huge Nick Diaz fan, partly for this reason, but the old school master of MMA Crazy Talk has to be Frank Shamrock. That’s why I was elated to find that Shamrock participated in a live chat on the Pro Elite forum yesterday.

Having interviewed Shamrock several times in the past, even I could have told Pro Elite that this was a bad idea. Frank Shamrock will say anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s demonstrably untrue or if it contradicts something that he just said thirty seconds ago, if a string of words pops into his mind he will utter them, seemingly unaware that they have meaning.

For example, Shamrock repeated several times in this chat that he’d like to fight Renzo Gracie in 2008, but he believed Renzo was “ducking” him.  He referred to Renzo as “the actor” and claimed that Gracie was “enrolled in acting classes” right now, and that’s why he wouldn’t agree to the fight. Then, later in the same chat, Shamrock talked about how much he enjoys acting and how he had a supporting role in an upcoming movie. What? It’s enough to make you wonder if he even listens to himself.

Other highlights of the chat include Shamrock once again calling Josh Thompson gay (very mature), nonchalantly remarking that he’d like to fight Robbie Lawler and Matt Lindland (bad idea), and claiming that he will fight twenty-one more fights over the next ten years.

That last one disturbs me most, for some reason. Maybe it’s the specificity of that statement. It furthers my belief that Shamrock has some weird, undiagnosed schizo-narcissistic personality disorder. Maybe it’s not even a documented illness yet. Maybe Shamrock should be studied by a team of scientists in an Austrian institute somewhere just so they can finally figure out what’s going on in his brain. Then again, maybe he should just get choked out by Renzo Gracie. I hear it has curative properties.

For the full original chat, click here.

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Filed under Crazy Talk, Frank Shamrock, MMA, Renzo Gracie, Sports

Couture Remains Adamant About Fighting Fedor

Say this for Randy Couture: once he gets an idea in his head, he doesn’t let go of it very easily. Couture showed up at HDNet Fights this past Saturday and made it very clear that he hasn’t given up on fighting the world’s top heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko. To hear Couture tell it, right now it’s just a waiting game.

“Unless the UFC wants to do a co-promotion with M-1 and make the Fedor fight happen, I’m going to have to wait ’til my contract expires.

I have no intention of breaching that contract; that expires in July. My employment contract expires with them in October. So I would assume the soonest you’d see me fight Emelianenko would be in October.”

I can’t decide if I should be reassured by the fact that Couture is insisting this fight will happen, or if I’m just getting my hopes up for no reason. Maybe the better question is, who is Couture really hoping to put the pressure on by making these announcements?

Note the carefully placed remark about the UFC doing some kind of cross-promotional deal with M-1, the company that hopes to make a profit somehow by renting Fedor out again and again. By not ruling out the possibility that the UFC might step up and make this fight happen, Couture might be indicating to the UFC brass that they can either arrange the fight while he’s still under contract or wait until October and then lose him altogether. No doubt the UFC has some kind of legal contingency plan to keep Couture from taking a fight in October, but all that might do is delay the fight a few months. Couture’s not getting any younger, but it doesn’t seem to bother him much.

The truth is that the UFC isn’t eager to engage in any type of cross-promotional events, and why would they? They know they’re the biggest show in town. Other organizations need them, not the other way around. Still, the fact that their heavyweight champion and the greatest ambassador the sport has ever had (Couture gave a pre-game speech to the Green Bay Packers, while Tito Ortiz goes on Celebrity Apprentice…just saying) is making public appearances so he can look into the camera and say ‘I want Fedor’ over and over, it might be enough to make the UFC swallow their pride.

There’s no question that a Couture-Fedor fight would be a huge success in terms of revenue, and the UFC is already going to run into some problems trying to scrape up main events this spring with their light heavyweight title held hostage on a reality show. The best part is, it probably wouldn’t be difficult to make the fight happen as part of a UFC event if they move fast. M-1 isn’t even close to putting on an event of their own, nor are they close to having enough fighters to fight on it. They’re basically a Fedor rental operation at this point. The UFC should move to make this fight happen in the spring, before they lose Couture and before M-1 has a chance to dig in and match Fedor against a juggling bear or a boxing kangaroo.

If the UFC is afraid of setting a precedent that will allow fighters to “resign” from their contracts, as Couture did, that’s understandable. What’s less so is if they let the fight of the decade slip through their hands just to make a point. I think it’s safe to say that whatever happens, Couture isn’t going to let this go anytime soon.

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Filed under Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC