Category Archives: The Ultimate Fighter

Wave Goodbye To The Light Heavyweight Title

The very poorly kept secret is now official: Forrest Griffin and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will be the two coaches for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, culminating in a title fight at the end of the show. And you thought the UFC would learn from their mistakes.

After making the announcement Dana White promised there would be big formatting changes to the show, but apparently not to the strategy of taking a major championship belt out of circulation for months in order to hype a fight on reality TV. So when’s the next time we’ll see the 205-pound title on the line? How about the summer of 2008.

Honestly, this has to stop. At this rate we’ll see a title defense in MMA’s most exciting and (arguably) most talent-heavy division about once a year. The same strategy backfired in the Serra-Hughes debacle, and it adds to the UFC’s existing championship title woes. Now that the light heavyweight strap is on the shelf, it joins the welterweight belt (the real one, not the interim one), and the heavyweight one that Randy Couture “retired” with.

So what’s left, you ask? Well, there’s the lightweight belt, which Sean Sherk was just stripped of and which will go to the winner of Penn-Stevenson in January. There’s the middleweight title, which seems to be staying put around Anderson Silva’s waist, especially if Dan Henderson fails to take it from him. And, of course, there’s the interim welterweight title, which is fancy talk for the number one contender belt.

I guess the question is, how, exactly, does the UFC plan to get from now to this summer? If you figure they hold about one pay-per-view a month, and if there are at least six months to go until Jackson-Griffin could happen, that leaves some real holes in the PPV lineups. The lightweight title fight happens in January, then the middleweight title in February. After that, I suppose they can force some kind of bout for the vacant heavyweight title, assuming Couture is still missing in action. But that still leaves three months for them to rinse and repeat.

That could force the interim welterweight title to go on the line again if Serra isn’t well enough to fight by April, or it could result in more pay-per-views that are without a true main event.

My main complaint with this process is that it’s so unnecessary to build up a title fight between Jackson and Griffin. “Rampage” is a walking PR machine, and Griffin was the hero of the first season of TUF, so it’s not as if either of them needs to be introduced to the American TV audience. Not to mention, it really dampens my enthusiasm for the reality show now that I correlate the announcement of the coaches with the announcement of who won’t be fighting for a really long time. Meanwhile, the MMA landscape changes shape and moves on.

Another thing that troubles me about this model is the way it appears to be edging towards the follies of boxing. I have always loved that MMA didn’t put all its hopes into having one good fight for each pay-per-view and a bunch of guys no one really cared about filling out the undercard. But this stinginess with title fights makes me think we’re headed in that direction, as much as I hate to say it.

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Filed under Forrest Griffin, MMA, Quinton Jackson, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC, Uncategorized

Betting Odds and Breakdowns: TUF Finale

The finale of The Ultimate Fighter offers a good chance to take advantage of the general lack of knowledge surrounding the reality show fighters.  Few people have seen enough of most of these guys to have a really good fix on what they’re capable of, and the variance in the betting lines from one online sportsbook to another bears that out.

It’s with this in mind that we now examine the odds for Saturday night’s TUF Finale, using the lines taken from bodoglife.com.  As with any analysis that you get for free, you should realize that I stand behind my picks, but am not responsible for/generally don’t care about the state of your finances should you choose to put money down on these fights.  Betting on professional fighting ranks just below scanning the beach with a metal detector as far as financial strategies go, so be warned.

That being said, let’s have some fun.

Roger Huerta (-115) vs. Clay Guida (-115)

Interesting choice here by Bodog.  By giving the same odds on each fighter, and yet making those odds slightly worse than even, they’re basically asking you not to bet on this fight unless you really, really want to.  This is a reflection of how unpredictable this fight is.  We haven’t seen Huerta tested in the UFC, and while Guida has faced some tough guys he hasn’t always done well against them.  Huerta is still my pick, but Guida keeps saying he’ll be surprised when the cage door closes.  I could see this going either way, and that’s why I’m staying away from it.

Mac Danzig (-150) vs. Tommy Speer (+120)

Danzig is the favorite, and for good reason.  He’s more experienced, more technical, and seems to have a sense of inevitability ala Hillary Clinton two months ago (note to Mac Danzig: I apologize for comparing you to Hillary Clinton just now.  I, uh, it just happened, okay?).  The downside is, as Danzig has said, the pressure is all on him.  Speer is just happy to be in the finals, as well he should be.  If he loses to Danzig people will just talk about what a great talent he’ll be someday.  If Danzig loses, it’s going to seem like this torturous experience after such a long climb up was completely wasted.  I’m picking Danzig, but so are the oddsmakers.

John Koppenhaver (-125) vs. Jared Rollins (-105)

I’m a little surprised to see J-Roc as the slight underdog.  He’s an all-around better fighter than Koppenhaver, not to mention that “War Machine’s” mental game is questionable at best.  We all saw him psych himself out on the show, and I have a feeling he’s just waiting for an excuse to lose here.  J-Roc will give him one upside his head, and the odds, while not great, are good enough.

George Sotiopoulos (-500) vs. Billy Miles (+300)

Stay faaaar away from this one.  The only way Miles is beating Sotiropoulos is if he sticks his thumb in his eye.  The odds reflect that.  It’s a longshot that could pay off big time if somehow Miles is a new man on Saturday night, but many a down-and-out gambler has been ruined by hopes like those.  Don’t do it.  I know it sounds cool in Bukowski novels and Hold Steady songs, but don’t do it.

Richie Hightower (-145) vs. Troy Mandaloniz (+115)

I like “Rude Boy’s” chances of pulling off the minor upset here.  Hightower never looked good on the show except against Blake Bowman, who is, you’ll notice, not on this card at all.  Mandaloniz has hopefully asked his friend B.J. Penn for a few jiu-jitsu tips since the show ended, and we all know he has a decent defense and some heavy hands.  I’m going with “Rude Boy”, no question.

Ben Saunders (-260) vs. Dan Barrera (+200)

I think this is going to be a lot closer than the first meeting, so I’m surprised the odds are so out of whack.  Saunders is good at using his lanky, awkward attack on the feet and the ground, but Barrera can be a buzz saw when he wants to be.  He lost that first fight due to inexperience, and I happen to know he’s been training with Tim Kennedy in the interim, which can’t possibly hurt his technical skill level.  I’m going with Barrera, but mainly because the odds are so great.  Saunders is going to be very tough.

Matt Arroyo (-330) vs. John Kolosci (+260)

Wow.  This surprises me.  Arroyo’s ground game gets touted on the internets a lot, but look at his record.  He’s 2-1 against nobody who matters.  Kolosci has had much tougher competition along the way to an 8-4 mark, and he beat jiu-jitsu fighter Erik Tavares, who I’ve trained with and can attest is an overwhelming presence on the mat.  I don’t know what people are seeing that I’m not, but I’d definitely be willing to lay a bet on Kolosci here.  He looked bad against Danzig, sure, but so will a lot of people.  Kolosci is my underdog pick of the night.

Roman Mitichyan (-500) vs. Dorian Price (+300)

I know what you’re thinking, but back away from the ledge.  Price has great striking skills and only needs one opening, but Mitichyan is another bad-ass Los Angeles Armenian who trains with Karo Parysian.  Think he knows how to spike a guy on his head and capitalize once he’s on the mat?  I do.  The odds on Kolosci (see above) are almost as good, and the chances of him actually winning are much better.  Look there if you want a heavy underdog so bad, you jerk.

Jonathan Goulet (-500) vs. Paul Georgieff (+300)

How come Georgieff is the only TUF contestant who has to fight a real, experienced opponent here?  Everyone else gets another reality show guy, he gets Goulet.  Talk about getting screwed.  If I’m Georgieff I’m wondering why they won’t feed me Blake Bowman.  Sotiropoulos gets Miles and he has to fight a veteran?  It just seems mean.  Anyway, I don’t think I have to tell you who I’m picking here.  Unless Goulet is injured or drunk for this fight (both, maybe?), he should get the win.

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Filed under Betting Odds, Clay Guida, Mac Danzig, MMA, Roger Huerta, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, Tommy Speer, UFC

TUF Finale Preview at CBS Sportsline

Our customary “head-to-head” feature previewing Saturday night’s TUF Finals show is now live on CBS Sportsline. This time around there are very few consensus choices, which means either that we should be looking at a pretty competitive card or that none of us has seen enough of these reality show guys yet to really know what we’re talking about.

Either way, fun is fun.

Check out the preview here, featuring myself, Denny Burkholder, Sam Caplan, Todd Martin, and Greg Doyel.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC

TUF Finals Set, Although Not Quite The Showdown We Were Hoping For

As this bizarre season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close, it seemed only fitting that the finals would be decided by more strange circumstances.  First, Matt Arroyo had to pull out of his bout with Mac Danzig due to a cracked rib, a situation which Dana White was as classy as ever about, asking him “Do you have any f-cking idea what you’re giving up?”

Oh, Dana.  You scamp.

Then they interviewed the eligible Team Serra fighters to find a replacement, ultimately deciding on John Kolosci, despite the fact that Danzig had already beat him.  This, after Troy felt he couldn’t make weight and Richie Hightower obviously didn’t want the fight.  The latter is a real shame, since Danzig would no doubt have loved the opportunity to crack Hightower’s skull, though that also explains why Hightower shied away from it.

Danzig seemed to be the only one who realized how odd it was for him to rematch the same guy right away, though he also had absolutely no trouble defeating Kolosci for a second time, again with a choke.  This didn’t exactly have the penultimate feel that a semifinal bout is supposed to have, and maybe that points to some formatting problems with the show.

In the second fight of the night, Tommy Speer (he’s a farm boy, by the way, in case you missed it) took on George Sotiropoulos, who most people agreed was a favorite to win it all.  After some tentative exchanges in the early going — and after being warned about jabbing his fingers near Sotiropoulos’ eyes — Speer went ahead and thumb-gouged him directly in the left eye.

I’m not saying it was intentional.  It certainly didn’t look it, but did the eye gouge have an effect on the outcome of the fight?  I have to say it did.

Part of the blame falls on George, who didn’t take the full five minutes allotted to him to recover.  Instead he jumped back in almost immediately, even though he seemed to have minimal to no use of his left eye.  Here’s where he started eating right hands that he couldn’t see coming, and that’s where the fight turned.  After a hard right to the jaw he went down, and Speer followed up to put him out cold.  You hate to make excuses for a guy, but that was definitely a different fight after the thumb in the eye business.

So now it’s Mac Danzig and Tommy Speer in the finals.  All right.  In case you need a narrative frame for this bout, the UFC ended last night’s show by posing a question about whether or not the farm boy would eat up the vegan.  I’m going to go lie down now.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Life From Watching The Ultimate Fighter

Last night’s episode of TUF made me realize that as much as I complain about the show, I really enjoy it. I also really hate it, but I enjoy hating it. It’s kind of like the way I love making fun of soccer. Sure, when all the Greeks in my neighborhood are rushing down to the pizza joint to watch Athens play some team whose name seems to be made up of hieroglyphic symbols, that’s ridiculous to me, but as soon as the World Cup rolls around I’m watching every game I can.

That’s kind of how I feel about TUF. If looked at as a serious representation of the sport, it’s pretty dumb. If looked at as a goof, it’s hilarious. Take last night’s episode, wherein the main conflict revolved around one team defecating in the top of another team’s toilet. I didn’t know it before watching the show, but this prank has a name: the upper decker.

Huh. How about that.

That bit of wisdom is a trifle compared to the things I’ve picked up over the many seasons of TUF:

1. If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re nowhere near your goal, an ice cream cake will suddenly, magically appear with no explanation. And it won’t hurt if you just have one piece…

2. Fighting outside the confines of sport is unacceptable. Pretty much everything else — including all forms of senseless property damage — is perfectly fine. Apparently no one even drops by to ask you to please tone it down a little.

3. When you’ve done something indefensible, for no good reason, and people ask you why you did it, the best possible response is: “Because I do sh-t like that.” It’s a conversation-stopper.

4. Reading is highly overrated. Unless it’s The Bible.

5. Alcohol is free and plentiful.

6. If you’ve got a big event in your life coming up and a storm rolls in the night before, get out there quick and harness its power. That’s a no-brainer, really. I mean, it’s a storm. It’s powerful!

7. You know commercials, those advertisements between segments of a show? Well, you can also do them within the show, by having people talk about a sponsor’s products. It’s genius, and no one will ever realize you’re doing it. Also, there’s no better place to hang than the Hard Rock.

8. When someone dies in your family, it’s best to find out about it on speaker phone. With Matt Hughes in the room. It’s just better for everyone this way.

9. After you’ve done something you shouldn’t have, go ahead and lie about it even when there was a camera crew following you throughout the whole thing. Who’s gonna know?

10. Nothing motivates people like profanity. Lots of it.

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Filed under MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC, Uncategorized

Is Reality TV The Worst Thing To Happen To Matt Hughes?

As I watched Matt Hughes continue to present as unlikable a persona as possible on last night’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter, I was struck by the strangeness of the fact that I used to be a huge fan of his. There was a time when I might have identified Hughes as my favorite MMA fighter, or at least in the top three. I once considered his second triumphant victory over Frank Trigg to be the greatest moment in the history of the UFC. You know, the one where he gets hit in the groin and then nearly knocked out and choked, only to come back and slam Trigg before choking him? That was great…wasn’t it?

But sitting on my couch last night, watching Hughes on TV, I couldn’t see why I might have ever liked him. Who was I then? Who was he? Have we grown so far apart, so fast? Where’s the Matt Hughes I used to know, the hard-working farm boy who never had anything bad to say about anyone, win or lose? Where’s the guy who was like a welterweight Randy Couture, only with slightly less grotesque ears?

In case you haven’t been watching TUF (and I’m guessing you have if you’re reading this blog, unless you’re my parents or Dan Brooks, who is too busy giving those free massages to sailors who come in at the docks on Wednesday nights), Matt Hughes has spent this entire season a) trying and failing to motivate his fighters, b) attempting to use some kind of junior high psychology against Matt Serra and his team, unsuccessfully, and c) making jerk-off facial expressions.

Last night was particularly special in all three regards. When two members of Serra’s team were forced to move to Hughes’ team, they asked if they could have a talk with Hughes and his assistant coaches to clear the air about switching teams. It seemed understandable. The whole thing had the potential to be very awkward, and as Richie Hightower said, if you have someone in your corner you want to make sure they have your best interests at heart.

So how did Hughes react to this situation? Naturally, he completely blew off Hightower and told him he wasn’t interested in getting to know him or be friends with him. Nice. That’s how you build the relationship of trust and respect that is necessary in any coaching dynamic. Well done, Hughes.

This is when I started trying to trace the beginning of my turnaround regarding Hughes. Did I stop liking him when he got beat by Georges St. Pierre? No, it was well before that. Was it when I learned he was such a fervent Christian, quoting Bible verses and handing out copies of the good book like some kind of disappointing Santa Claus? No, plenty of fighters are religious, so that’s not it.

Then it hit me. It began the first time he appeared on TUF, back in season two. My distaste for him grew when he came back seemingly just to needle Georges St. Pierre in season five, and it passed the point of no return this season.

You see, it’s not Hughes’ fault. He’s probably always been this way. I just didn’t realize it because I only saw what he and the UFC wanted me to see: pre and post-fight interviews, training footage, dominating performances in the cage, commercials with him doing vague farm work, etc.

But reality TV is completely different. It gives us the chance to see a situation and then to hear different people give their interpretations of it. It just so happens that the things Hughes does in these situations and the way he interprets them afterward, I find mostly sad and upsetting (as I do this high school yearbook photo of Matt and his twin brother — yikes).

It probably doesn’t help that TUF features Hughes in what may be his worst role: coach. In my experience, the coaching position is best suited for someone with patience, compassion, and the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. These are not the traits that Hughes is known for. He is an excellent fighter, or at least he was in his prime. Often in sports, excellent athletes don’t make excellent coaches. Babe Ruth’s short tenure as a baseball manager was forgettable, for instance, probably because he couldn’t understand why his players didn’t just go up and hit home runs.

Wow. Did I just compare Matt Hughes to Babe Ruth? I guess I did. Anyway, you see my point. Hughes is stubborn, egotistical, dangerously competitive, and single-minded. Those traits might make him a good fighter, but not a good coach. Reality TV only amplifies these traits — which are considered personality defects in the normal world, but assets in the fighting world — and makes Matt Hughes seem as though he’s become suddenly unlikable.

He hasn’t. He’s probably always been just as unlikable, but we just didn’t know about it. Now we do. Thanks again, TV.

Oh yeah. If you were wondering, Mac Danzig won last night’s fight easily and seems to be on a collision course with George Sotiropoulos in the finals, which ought to be a hell of fight. So there.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC

An Interview With Mac Danzig

Thanks to Crave Online, I got the chance to interview MMA fighter and TUF contestant Mac Danzig. If you couldn’t tell from the show, he’s an interesting guy with a lot of unique viewpoints. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Mac. I know a lot of people probably want a piece of you right now.

Mac Danzig: No problem. I’ve been really busy and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many calls and emails all the time. I’m trying to keep a handle on it but I’m really not used to this.

I’m sure it must be pretty hectic. Did you anticipate that being on The Ultimate Fighter would change your life this much, this quickly?

MD: I did. I’ve known a lot of other cast members from previous seasons. I’m pretty good friends with guys like Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, and Andy Wang. I knew what they told me and so I had an idea of what to expect, but you don’t really understand what it’s going to be like until it happens.

I’m a pretty private person, but I did this for my career. It was a step in the right direction. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not the kind of person who indulges in the type of attention that comes with this. I just like fighting and training and I was trying to put myself in a spot to help my career. I anticipated that it would change my life, but I didn’t really know how much it would change things.

Let’s talk about you being such a private person. At times on the show you’ve made comments to suggest that you’re almost disdainful of the whole process, like you were upset that you had to go on this show in order to get into the UFC. Is that an accurate description of how you felt about it?

MD: I feel bad that I reacted that way. It was just a negative way of looking at things. The problem was that it was hard to maintain a positive attitude on that show. There were some good guys there, but I was also surrounded by guys who I wouldn’t normally choose to be around. Some of them, I don’t even know what they were there for. Maybe they were just there to be on TV and screw around and try to fight.

You’re always going to have some people like that on a reality show, but it just seemed like the percentage was a lot higher this time. I never meant to be disrespectful, but it was just that I was very serious about the position I was in and I was trying to win, and there were more than one or two guys there who were just along for the ride. It’s difficult for me to respect that.

There were definitely times when I wondered, what am I doing here? But I had friends who helped keep my mind right. You could see it in one other guy on (Matt) Serra’s team, George Sotiropoulos. He was in a similar position to me. He was very serious and wanted to work hard and he had these guys who expected him to be an alarm clock for them. I didn’t know that stuff was going on at the time, but when I saw the episode I knew how he felt. There are always guys who are serious and guys who aren’t. The guys who aren’t just get in the way.

Now that these episodes are airing, are you absolutely glued to the TV each Wednesday, anxious to find out how it came out?

MD: I was a little more worried about it at first. I think the worst part is over for me, but you never know what they’ll show and what they won’t. They’ve already chosen not to show quite a few things that I thought for sure they would. On one hand I’m a little concerned about it, but on the other hand what’s done is done and they’re going to show it or they’re not.

The one thing that I really regret was the way I kind of went off on Blake. I was angry and it wasn’t even at him, really. The way that I went about it wasn’t cool and if I could edit out anything it would probably be that. But hey, I did it and everything you do gets filmed, so that’s that.

I get an advance copy of each episode one day before it airs so I can do a little write-up, like a blog I’m doing for Spike TV. Even if I might have done some things I’m not proud of, I know who I am. I can’t help what other people are going to think of me now.

On the show you come off as something of a misanthrope. Do you think of yourself that way or is that just the result of reality show editing?

MD: I have misanthropic tendencies. That’s just part of my personality. Just about anybody has said, at one time or another, ‘Man, I can’t stand people.’ But I actually kind of do feel that way.

I’m a good person and I have a lot of friends, but when it comes down to it I like to be alone and I like nature, so when you stick me in a house with fifteen other guys who have very different personalities, that brings out more of the negativity in me. I’m not saying that I’m better or smarter than they are, but the producers put all those people together on purpose to create conflicts. I don’t hate human beings. It’s just that I would rather be by myself most of the time.

 

Seeing the show now and getting a sense of how things were on the other team, do you ever wish you could have been on Matt Serra’s team? Did you get a chance to learn from him at all while you were there?

MD: Going into it I never had any strong feelings about Matt Hughes or Matt Serra. I knew both guys would be good coaches in their own ways and both would be different from me in their own ways. I’ll be honest with you, I was expecting Serra to pick me second after Joe Scarola, but he didn’t. I was just there to win so I didn’t care too much.

I never really got to train with Serra or anybody on his team after that first day of evaluations. After that we were never in the gym at the same time for anything other than the fights or the weigh-ins. But even though our team had a losing streak I would much rather have been around the guys we had than some of the guys they had. It’s better to be on a team that has to deal with some losses than a team that has three or four complete imbeciles.

Matt Hughes seems to be coming off as kind of a jerk in this season. Do you think that’s accurate? What were your feelings on Hughes after the show?

MD: It’s hard for me to judge Hughes. He was kind of up and down, like the rest of us. The entire experience was an emotional rollercoaster for all of us, even the coaches. I really didn’t like the way he handled his coaching when we started dealing with the losses, but I can’t judge him for that. He’s only human and everybody deals with stuff in their own way.

I mean, I flipped out on Blake and treated him poorly for no real reason, so there were times when I didn’t deal with stuff in the best way either. He may have let his rivalry with Matt Serra cloud his judgment and some of those practices were really negative and made me not want to be there. But he also has good sides to him and is very caring.

He wanted to win and he’s very competitive. Maybe he’s a better fighter than a coach. I guess that’s the best way I can say it. I still don’t really know him. The environment of the show was a synthetic environment. They call it “reality” because it wasn’t scripted, but it wasn’t real either. I have no vocabulary to explain how strange the whole experience was.

Read the full interview at Crave Online.

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Filed under Mac Danzig, MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC, Uncategorized