Category Archives: Jon Fitch

Exclusive Chris Wilson Interview

Yesterday I did an interview with Team Quest’s Chris Wilson, who’s making his UFC debut this weekend against the highly-touted Jon Fitch.  I’ve admired Wilson ever since I got to know him when he fought in the IFL, and it should be interesting to see what he can do against a tough guy like Fitch on Saturday night.

He had some interesting things to say about Octagon jitters and training with Dan Henderson, so go check out the interview here.

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Filed under Chris Wilson, Jon Fitch, MMA, UFC, UFC 82

Chris Wilson: Moving on Up?

As was first reported by The Oregonian, former IFL and Bodog fighter Chris Wilson will be joining the UFC to take on Jon Fitch at UFC 82. Wilson took the fight when Akihiro Gono was forced to pull out with an injured hand, but what’s perhaps most surprising is that “The Professor” will be taking a pay cut in his move to the UFC.

“I’ve never had a thing for or against the UFC,” he said. “It’s always been a matter of taking care of my family, and the other contracts I signed paid a little better. The UFC is a bit of a pay cut actually, but it is a great opportunity right now.”

Let me first say that I’m a big fan of Wilson’s. He’s an exciting fighter to watch, very intelligent and humble, and he has some great striking skills. But I’d be wondering what kind of future the UFC is envisioning for him if they’re signing him to a low-paying contract that begins with a fight against Jon Fitch.

As much as I respect Wilson’s skills, Fitch is a tough matchup for him. Wilson is at his best when he can stand and pick an opponent apart with his highly technical striking attack. Fitch, on the other hand, is a powerhouse wrestler who is almost guaranteed to put you on your back at least once or twice. Not to mention, the UFC clearly has high hopes for Fitch. Bringing Wilson in to face him and paying him peanuts to do so isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for the Team Quest fighter.

The career trajectory for Wilson is especially interesting when you consider that he left the IFL solely because he thought he could make more money as a free agent. In his first year out he fought only twice for Bodog, and garnered much less exposure than he had in the IFL. Now he’s making a big move to the UFC, one that could do wonders for his career if he goes on a winning streak there, but he’s making less money in the process.

The gamble Wilson is taking is very clear. He needs to beat Fitch in this high profile fight in order to garner his share of the spotlight in the UFC’s loaded welterweight division. If not, he drops to the rear of the pack, likely fighting on Ultimate Fight Night shows or untelevised pay-per-view bouts, duking it out with mid-level welterweights for a meager paycheck.

It’s a big risk, but that’s nothing new for Wilson. Now he just has to make it pay off.

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Upsets Leave Uncertain Future for UFC Stars

At the top of last night’s UFC pay-per-view broadcast, announcer Mike Goldberg mentioned that Chuck Liddell would fight former Pride champ Wanderlei Silva if he beat Keith Jardine in the evening’s main event.

He didn’t. Now we don’t know what’s going to happen to Liddell or Silva (much less Jardine). If Goldberg’s statement is any indication, neither does the UFC.

What’s interesting about that comment is he didn’t say that the winner of Liddell-Jardine would face Silva, which is usually how these things work. Phrasing it that way told us two things about the UFC’s mindset going into last night’s main event: 1) they weren’t making Jardine any promises about his future, no matter how well he did, and 2) they only made this fight so Liddell could get another highlight reel KO and bolster his status before fighting Silva.

The irony is that Dana White went out of his way to criticize Pride when they made a similar mistake, putting Silva in last year’s Open Weight Grand Prix where he got head-kicked into dreamland by “Cro Cop”, the tournament’s eventual winner. White called them stupid (among other names) for not making the Liddell-Silva match happen when the two were at their peak and the money was on the table.

And yet, by refusing to wait until November or December to put Liddell in the Octagon again, when Silva said he’d be ready to fight, White made the exact same mistake. He thought Jardine would be an easy win for Liddell, but it turns out Jardine is a lot tougher and — probably thanks to trainer Greg Jackson — had a better game plan than anyone expected.

Liddell looked like he’d never defended against a kick in his entire life, as Jardine chopped away at his legs and body all night long. Almost every kick landed cleanly, sapping Liddell’s energy and leaving him unable to summon the knockout blow he’s depended on his entire career. Jardine weathered the early storm of punches from Liddell and came back with some bombs of his own, dropping Liddell in round two and completely controlling the final frame.

In what basically amounted to a kickboxing match, Jardine managed to stay on offense without getting too aggressive — a feat few Liddell opponents have been able to accomplish. The result was a well-deserved split decision victory that left the humble Jardine nearly speechless while Liddell crouched against the cage, staring numbly at the mat.

It will be hard for the UFC to justify the Liddell-Silva match now, with Liddell coming off two straight losses. They also don’t know how much fight Silva has left in him, considering the beatings he’s taken in the last year and a half.

To further complicate the issue, Pride import Mauricio “Shogun” Rua lost his UFC debut when he gassed out against Forrest Griffin. Rua looked good for most of the first round, scoring with punches and transitioning well into takedowns.

But it quickly began to seem as if he hadn’t trained to fight more than five minutes, as his hands dropped to his waist and his takedowns deteriorated into lazy dives at Griffin’s feet. Griffin fought through an ugly cut to submit Rua with a third-round rear naked choke, and he may have turned a corner in his career with the victory.

Griffin is one of the UFC’s most likable fighters, and his style is dynamic and exciting to watch, even when he loses. Hopefully he doesn’t develop Pedro Rizzo syndrome from being cut open in fights too often, because in an organization that allows elbow strikes to the face a vulnerability to cuts is a weakness he can’t afford.

For Rua, the future is uncertain. Losing in his debut makes him significantly drop in value, but the UFC isn’t going to give up on this investment just yet. If he had been in shape to go three rounds, I still think he would have beaten Griffin, so maybe this will serve as a wake-up call. A Rua-Liddell fight wouldn’t be out of the question, since both fighters need to pick themselves up right now and prove they’ve still got some skills worth paying for.

The two other televised bouts on the card — Diego Sanchez vs. Jon Fitch and Thiago Tavares vs. Tyson Griffin — both ended in decisions. While the decision victories for Fitch and Griffin were the right ones, they did prompt Joe Rogan to adopt the need for revised MMA scoring as his new pet cause.

Several times on the broadcast he mentioned the inadequacy of the “ten-point must” system for MMA bouts. While I agreed with the decisions that this system rendered last night, I do see Rogan’s point. That system was designed for boxing. It wasn’t designed for a sport where submissions attempts and controlling ground positioning also have to be factored in.

Rogan even took his newfound cause into his post-fight interviews, but the fighters didn’t have any answers for him. Should a submission attempt count in a fighter’s favor? Should escaping a submission count? What about controlling your opponent on the ground without doing significant damage?

There’s no quick fix here, but I do agree that some revision in the system is needed, as well as some more formalized directives for judges that don’t include the phrase “Octagon control”. But maybe that’s just me.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Dana White, Forrest Griffin, Jon Fitch, Keith Jardine, MMA, Shogun Rua, Sports, UFC, UFC 76

UFC 76 Preview and Predictions

Chuck As difficult as it is for me to turn right around after the IFL Finals and get up for UFC 76, I’m going to dig deep and come up with as much enthusiasm as possible.

As usual, my preview and picks are coupled with the current odds from betus.com. Maybe this time I’ll lay some money down, although after I lost my side bet at the IFL Finals (note to self: never underestimate Deividas Taurosevicius again, no matter how difficult his name is to spell), I’m a little lighter in the wallet.

Chuck Liddell (-350) vs. Keith Jardine (+270)

Predictably, Liddell is the heavy favorite here. Liddell needs this win after losing his belt to Quinton Jackson, and Jardine is a good opponent for a counter-puncher with good takedown defense, which describes Liddell perfectly.

The UFC originally wanted to match Liddell against Pride import Wanderlei Silva in this match, but Silva wanted more time to prepare for his move to the U.S. Instead of waiting until November like Silva claims to have requested, the UFC chose to put Liddell against Jardine, who is coming off a TKO loss to Houston Alexander.

Jardine is far from an easy opponent. He’s extremely aggressive and has good punching power. He ran right through Forrest Griffin last December, and looked impressive doing it.

But if Jardine tries the same approach against Liddell that he’s shown in recent fights, he’s going to wake up in the dressing room. Liddell loves for guys to come right at him. His footwork is great for evading a charging opponent and, like so few MMA fighters, he can strike effectively even while moving backwards.

My pick: Liddell.

Assuming he doesn’t take Jardine lightly, Liddell should get the win here. Jardine probably knows he needs to be more tactful than usual, but once he gets hit and becomes frustrated, a fighter usually reverts to what he knows best, which for Jardine is pure aggression. I’ll be surprised if it goes more than one round.

If Liddell does lose, look for Dana White to have a heart attack at ringside, as the big money Liddell-Silva bout he’s planning for New Year’s Eve will be dismantled.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (-300) vs. Forrest Griffin (+230)

For many American fans, “Shogun” is the best fighter they’ve never heard of. He seemed poised to take over in Pride before its collapse, and the UFC is now begrudgingly marketing him as a contender for the 205-pound belt. First he has to get past Griffin, who is better than he gets credit for.

The loss to Jardine hurt Griffin’s status, especially since it came soon after his decision loss to Tito Ortiz. Two lackluster decision wins also made him seem like he might have been overinflated to begin with. But Griffin has real skills when he doesn’t fight conservatively. He may have lost some confidence in the last two years, but if he could pull out a win over “Shogun” it would catapult him to the top.

My pick: Rua.

“Shogun” is a buzzsaw in the clinch and has deceptively good submission skills on the ground. Griffin might have better strikes from long range, but that’s probably the only advantage he has. Look for “Shogun” to make a dramatic debut, though it could be a war.

Jon Fitch (-115) vs. Diego Sanchez (-115)

As the odds indicate, this is a tough one to call. Fitch has quietly climbed up the ranks, but Sanchez remains one of the few TUF stars who has proved himself in the tough battles. His loss to Koscheck was the result of a bad gameplan, but Fitch is a better style match-up for him.

My pick: Sanchez

He needs this to get back on track, and I think we’re going to see the athleticism and overwhelming aggression of “The Nightmare” propel him to victory.

Thiago Tavares (+120) vs. Tyson Griffin (-150)

I’m a little surprised to see Griffin as the favorite here. He’s been touted as a lightweight poster boy for some time, but his loss to Frank Edgar showed some major weaknesses. I think people are underestimating Tavares, and if I were going to lay down a bet in this event this would be the fight.

My pick: Tavares.

He’s got phenomenal submissions and great cardio. He’ll outlast and outperform Griffin.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Diego Sanchez, Forrest Griffin, Jon Fitch, Keith Jardine, MMA, Shogun Rua, Sports, UFC, UFC 76