Category Archives: Tim Sylvia

The Reign of Minotauro Begins

When Tim Sylvia dropped Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with a hard right hand in the first round of their “interim” heavyweight title bout, it looked Big Tim might be on his way to reclaiming the most recent facsimile of the title.  As “Minotauro” hit the mat, visions of boring title defenses and five-round snoozers must have danced through Dana White’s mind as he watched from ringside.  But it wasn’t to be, as Nogueira showed his resiliency yet again, claiming the belt with a third-round submission victory and possibly saving the UFC’s heavyweight division in the process.

The scouting report on Nogueira tells you everything you need to know about why the outcome of Saturday’s fight went the way it did.  “Minotauro” is no stranger to punishment.  He’s taken the best shots from some of the best fighters in the world, heavy hitters like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and Mark Coleman, to name a few.

And yet, the Brazilian has never been knocked out.  Staggered?  Sure.  Battered and hurt and woozy?  You bet.  But try as they might, no one seems able to push him over that edge.  He hangs on, clears his head, and then the submission you never saw coming is suddenly tightening around your throat.  It happens that easily.  Just ask Tim Sylvia.

Hopefully the UFC realizes what a gem they have in Nogueira.  He’s a heavyweight with the full MMA toolbox, something that doesn’t come along every day.  He can take a punch as well as he can give one, and his submission skills are slick enough that even the fans who boo as soon as a fight hits the mat will get excited to see him work his magic.  Perhaps most importantly, his illustrious record in the sport proves his credibility as a champion.  He is now the only man to hold both the Pride and UFC championship belts, and that could go a long way toward making people forget that his UFC title has the word “interim” in front of it for entirely political reasons.

Beyond that, however, Nogueira is both humble and likable, traits not often applied to Sylvia.  He exudes the aura of a champion, which is exactly what the UFC has been starving for in the heavyweight division.  Had Sylvia won the title, it would have made Couture’s absence all the more noticeable.  It was, after all, “The Natural” who last liberated the heavyweight strap from Big Tim.  Nogueira brings with him the promise of a new era, one that the UFC can build on even if Couture never competes again.

The only question now is who gets the first crack at “Minotauro”.  One thing’s for sure: it won’t be Brock Lesnar.

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Filed under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, MMA, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC

The Personality Test That Is UFC 81

It’s difficult to say what the main event of UFC 81 is this Saturday night. A better way of putting it is, the match you choose to think of as the main event says a lot about what kind of person you are. Kind of like a Rorschach test, only with blood inside an octagonal cage. I realize I might be freaking you out right now, so allow me to explain.

The two big fights this Saturday will feature Tim Sylvia taking on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the “interim” heavyweight title, and former WWE star Brock Lesnar facing former UFC champ Frank Mir. Officially, Nogueira (or “Minotauro”, as he is commonly known) and Sylvia are the main event. Their match is, after all, for the title that Randy Couture vacated but which the UFC somehow refuses to strip him of.

And yet, the UFC’s advertising team didn’t get the memo. On billboards and taxi cabs in some areas, they are allegedly hyping the Lesnar-Mir fight instead. The reasoning is fairly simple: people know Brock Lesnar. By people, I mean pro wrestling fans. They are legion and they have money to spend on their various obsessions. MMA promoters have been trying to win them over in earnest for the last few years, and Lesnar is the best bet since Kurt Angle turned out to be more bark than bite.

That’s why this event is as much a personality quiz as anything else. Are you the aficionado who wants to see what will be the more meaningful, though probably also the more boring title fight between Sylvia and “Minotauro”? Or are you the sensationalist who wants to see the fireworks between Lesnar and Mir?

Read the rest of this article at Crave Online

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Filed under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, MMA, Tim Sylvia, UFC 81

Brandon Vera Is Nothing If Not Honest

If you watched Brandon Vera’s last fight — a three-round decision loss to Tim Sylvia in which Vera broke a bone in his hand early on — chances are you were bored.  Well, Vera doesn’t blame you.  In fact, he’d like to apologize.

“I wanted to punch Tim so hard,” he recently told MMA Weekly.  “I should have just kept touching and moving, instead of trying to light him up early. He started hitting me; I couldn’t hit him back. I started throwing short elbows to try and catch him on his way in. I sucked. That was one of the most boring fights ever. I’m ashamed to have been a part of it.”

That’s refreshing.  It was one of the most boring fights in recent memory (I wouldn’t say ‘ever’, so maybe Vera is a little too hard on himself), and as lame as it sounds, as a fan I appreciate Vera saying so.  It’s a nice departure from the standard Tim Sylvia line, which usually mentions something about a game plan and something else about how all he cares about is winning, no matter what the fans think of his performance.

Vera, unlike Sylvia, seems to realize an important part of the fight game: the fans make you.  It may be Dana White’s signature on your mysterious bonus check (for an undisclosed amount of money) at the end of the night, but it’s really an indirect way of rewarding you for making the fans happy.  Fighters for whom putting on a show is a priority do well, even if they don’t win every time out.  They are entertainers, and entertainers stick around, sometimes well past the point where they are competitive.

Vera seems to have struggled emotionally with his loss to Sylvia, especially because his hand injury will likely keep him out until May.  In the meantime he has to watch Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira battle it out for the heavyweight title vacated by Randy Couture.  But Vera is the kind of guy who will undoubtedly be back.  If he’s smart he’d drop to light heavyweight for that return, but that’s another story.

Still, it’s hard not to appreciate a guy who’s willing to admit when he didn’t deliver.  Tim Sylvia should be taking notes.  The fans will forgive a poor performance if you sincerely want to do better.  They’ll even forgive it more than once, but first you have to admit that you care what they think.  And you do.  God help you, Tim, you do.

 

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Filed under Brandon Vera, MMA, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC

The Ethical Question: Do I Buy Matt Hughes’ Autobiography?

As many of you have probably heard via the world wide web, Matt Hughes’ autobiography, Made In America, was recently released. Forgetting for a moment that it shares its title with an early 90’s Whoopie Goldberg-Ted Danson movie, this book has prompted me to do some soul-searching. You see, I want to read Hughes’ book, but I don’t want to give him any money for it. It’s not because I’m cheap, either. It’s more because I don’t want Hughes to have any more of my money, especially not for a book I’d mostly be reading in order to revel in my dislike for him.

Essentially, I’d be reading it the same way I read Romo: My Life On The Edge, which is hilarious and awesome for all the wrong reasons. At least with that one I managed to wait until I could get it from the library. With Hughes’ book, I’m not sure I can wait that long to mock the man’s completely fabricated value system and overblown sense of self-importance. You see the bind I’m in.

For instance, if I could buy the book from one of the many street vendors in my Astoria, Queens neighborhood — one of the North African guys who sells a mixture of comic books, hip-hop gangster novels, and cell phone cases — and if I could be assured that the book was stolen and that Hughes would see no profit from it, I’d buy it in a second. And why? Well, just take a look at this excerpt from the very first chapter:

They say there’s a lot you can do in five minutes. You can change a tire, eat a sandwich, or choke out Frank Trigg (again). But that October 13, I wasn’t doing anything but a whole lot of crying in the five minutes between my birth and that of my twin brother, Mark. “The doctor says they’re fraternal,” Mom said, “but I think they’re exactly alike.” But just because we were alike didn’t mean that we weren’t going to be rivals. I say that everybody with any sense knows that being born is a race, which means that I won because I was first. But Mark tries to argue that it’s a test of stamina to see who can hold out the longest, so he won.

Not only does Hughes manage to work in a reference to his two submission victories over Frank Trigg into the story of him being born (which is probably the most cliched way to start an autobiography), he also espouses a belief that “everybody with any sense knows that being born is a race”. I’m asking you, after that one paragraph, how can you not want to read this book?

If you’re not sold on it already, let me offer another excerpt that’s been getting a lot of attention on the internet. In this one, Hughes is confronted by former UFC heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia for generally being a jerk to the big man:

“Tim Sylvia walked over to me during practice. His back was hunched a bit, like Pat’s is, but Pat I could look in the face.

‘Can I talk to you a second?’ he asked.

“Sure thing.” He led me into an office and we sat down on two chairs.

“No one here’s got a problem with me except you,” he began.

“When I first started, Jens would say I’m a fat piece of s*** who’s never going to amount to anything, and he’d get me crying, but now even Jens likes me. Is there a problem?”

He was waiting for me to tell him there was a big misunderstanding or to apologise, like I wasn’t aware of what I was doing.

“Yeah, I really don’t like you,” I told him.

Hughes then proceeds to tell Sylvia that he doesn’t train hard enough and isn’t a team player. Sylvia’s response to these criticisms is particularly interesting, especially when you consider that it’s Hughes who’s telling the story:

“I’m actually hurt to hear you say that. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for a long time and I’ve been trying to model myself on some of your work ethics, and the way Jens works out and stuff like that, and it’s too bad you feel like this. There’s nothing more that I want than to be accepted by you and the rest of the guys.”

“You don’t become accepted by buying yourself a ticket to Vegas, following us around while we’re there when no one really invited you, and then crying – again – when Jens calls you out on it.”

“Is there anything I can do to be friends with you?”

“Well, right now I have enough friends and I don’t need any more friends,” I said. “Is that it? Are we done here?”

He let out a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Good.” I got up and left.

This is pure genius. Nothing sells a book like writing about a very personal encounter with one of your teammates, wherein he tells you that you’re his hero and wants to be your friend and you tell him what an asshole you think he is. I’m certainly not a Tim Sylvia fan, but even I feel bad for him after this.

The strange part is that I can’t tell whether to accept this as a faithful recounting of events, or as a blatant exaggeration by Hughes. And really, which would be worse? If he’s telling the truth, then Hughes is a jerk for putting this in his book. If he’s exaggerating, then he’s a jerk for going out of his way to make Sylvia look bad.

This excerpt is also interesting in light of Hughes’ posturing as a good, wholesome Christian man. For a guy who passes out Bibles to his TUF team, I’m starting to wonder if he’s even read it. Did I miss the parable where a sad, misguided giant comes up to Jesus and asks to be his friend and Jesus tells him to go away because he already has, like, a bunch of friends who follow him everywhere? Wasn’t Jesus’ whole deal that he loved everyone and was kind to them, even lepers and whores and what not?

Ordinarily I would not advocate comparing people to Jesus as a way of pointing out their personality flaws, but if you open that door yourself with a bunch of Bible-thumping on cable TV I have no problem walking through it.

I guess what I’m saying here is, I know I’m going to buy this book. I have to. I enjoy mocking the value systems and prose styles of others too much to stay away from it. I just want you all to know that as I read it and report back, I’m not doing it because I want to. I’m doing it because I have to.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, MMA, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC

Silva Looks Flawless at UFC 77

Anderson Silva isn’t just the best middleweight in the UFC. He’s an artist. He has so many different weapons at his disposal, it must be hard for him to choose which to employ from one moment to the next.

Just ask Rich Franklin, who began last night with high hopes for winning his belt back, but left, much like everyone else, in complete awe of “The Spider”.

When it came down to it, Franklin couldn’t find any way to mount an effective offense against Silva, who slipped punches and checked kicks with relative ease. Though Franklin did briefly exploit Silva’s notoriously weak takedown defense, he was unable to capitalize. He was also unable to avoid Silva’s clinch, despite assurances that he had learned how to defend against it after being demolished in the clinch in their first meeting.

Simply put, there wasn’t anything Franklin could do better than Silva. After picking “Ace” apart on the feet and nearly finishing him with a right hand at the end of the first round, the TKO that finally came early into the second round had already begun to seem inevitable.

While the victory in his third straight title defense is a big one for Silva, what was most impressive was how calm and smooth he looked in the process. In at least one exchange he varied his attack — punches to the head, then leg kicks, then a shot to the body — so deftly and with such precision that Franklin appeared lost just trying to keep up.

It makes you think that Silva’s problem now, as much as there can be one, is the lack of competition in the 185-pound class. Aside from Paulo Filho, who is missing in action right now, the UFC might have to convince a few light heavyweights to move down in weight just to keep providing Silva with credible opponents.

If they do, I have to think that Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping could top the list. Both could conceivably make the weight (Henderson really should have debuted in the UFC as a middleweight), and both may soon run out of options in the stacked light heavyweight division.

In last night’s heavyweight clash, Tim Sylvia promised that his days of winning boring decisions were over, and that he intended to come after Brandon Vera and knock him out. Sylvia lied.

His game plan was not so much to come after Vera as it was to clinch with him and press him against the cage, smothering the smaller man with his weight. That’s how he began the fight and it was the strategy he returned to in every round as he plodded his way toward — you guessed it — another boring decision victory.

But Vera is as much to blame for the lackluster fight as Sylvia. He showed flashes of his speed and dynamic striking from the outside, but they were just frustrating glimpses. He refused to use his kicks to keep Sylvia at bay, like his corner implored him to do, and he was clearly hampered by breaking his left hand early in the fight.

It may have added up to another mark in the win column for Sylvia, but he didn’t do anything to change the perception of himself as a plodding big man who puts on a snoozer of a show.

He tried to generate a little heat after the match by calling out Cheick Kongo, even telling him to pick on someone his own size (despite the fact that Sylvia is much bigger than Kongo), but the crowd seemed unconvinced.

In other action, Kalib Starnes and Alan Belcher put on an exciting show before a huge cut on Starnes’ forehead became too nasty to ignore. The doctor called the fight and Starnes had a mini-blowup at his corner, who apparently thought their fighter wanted out of the fight.

That’s troubling because it makes you wonder what his corner has seen from Starnes in the past that would make them jump to that conclusion. It’s really too bad the fight was called before it could be decided, but it also makes you wonder if keeping elbow strikes legal is really worth the early stoppages.

Stephan Bonnar did as expected in his win over Eric Schafer, despite a couple of early scares. Bonnar still seems like a guy with plenty of potential, but he’s got a hard climb ahead of him in the light heavyweight division.

Jorge Gurgel got hammered by Alvin Robinson, which he deserved after deciding to lie on his back and absorb punishment with an expression that suggested he was just waiting for the fight to be over. Not a great night for hometown boys in Cincinnati.

Oh, and in case you missed it somehow, they call Cincinnati “The Queen City” and it was “Hostile Territory” on this particular night. But you knew that because Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg repeated it like a phone number they were trying to commit to memory. I can’t wait for UFC 84: Punch You in the Face.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Brandon Vera, Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping, MMA, Rich Franklin, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC, UFC 77

Fun With Betting Odds for UFC 77

So you say you have some disposable income and you don’t know what to do with it? You’re looking for a good time this Saturday night and you’re tired of helping that one stripper at the Foxxx Club “work her way through college”, especially now that it’s been like six years and you’re starting to have your doubts about whether she really is pre-med? Lucky for you I have the solution, for both problems.

To start with, when that girl says “college”, what she means is “meth”. And if you really want to have some fun with your money, why not have the kind of fun that brings with it at least the possibility of paying you back?

Obviously, I’m not the guy you go to for financial advice. I keep my money in an empty box of fish sticks in the freezer. Always have. But the one thing I do know a little something about is mixed martial arts, and here’s how I’d bet on tomorrow night’s card (based on odds from betus.com):

Anderson Silva (-210) vs. Rich Franklin (+170)

It’s interesting that almost nobody is picking Franklin to win, and yet he’s not a tremendous underdog in the betting lines. That’s a testament to Franklin’s tenacity and work ethic, if not his natural ability. It’s hard to count him completely out of this, even if I can’t see how he might win.

In the first fight Franklin seemed surprised that Silva was as good as he turned out to be. It was as if Franklin had become too accustomed to winning easily. When Silva dismantled him in the clinch the look on Franklin’s face was like a man who had just fallen through the ice.

But this time he knows what to expect, one assumes, and knows his career is at stake. Will that be enough? Will we see a revitalized Rich Franklin?

My Pick: Silva.

If the line was better, Franklin might be worth the risk. I don’t doubt his ability to retool his game plan and his determination to overcome this obstacle, but at +170 it isn’t worth it. The fight is in Franklin’s hometown, so if it goes to a decision he should have the edge there. But Silva is just so very, very dangerous in so many ways.

Tim Sylvia (+120) vs. Brandon Vera (-150)

Say what you want about him, Sylvia is tough to figure out. To some he’s a plodding fighter who gets by with a lack of athletic ability because of his sheer size. To others he’s a constantly improving knockout artist, at least when he wants to be. Sylvia himself has said that he will no longer fight cautiously to win at all costs, and that’s both a good and bad thing.

Vera is the more athletic and explosive of the two, but he’s giving up at least six inches in height and more than thirty pounds in weight. If Sylvia really does come after him then Vera won’t need to worry about finding a way inside the big man’s defenses. At the same time, “The Maine-iac” is awkwardly powerful, and we’ve yet to see Vera work his way out of trouble.

My Pick: Vera.

If the line on Big Tim gets to +200 or above, then he’s definitely worth it. But right now it’s too close to even. It’s a hard bout to predict, and the line reflects that, as usual.

So where can you make some money if not on the main two bouts? How about the undercard, which always features enough unknown quantities to create problems for oddsmakers.

Take a hard look at these fights:

Jason Black (-350) vs. Matt Grice (+250)

Josh Burkman (-350) vs. Forrest Petz (+250)

Stephan Bonnar (-350) vs. Eric Schafer (+250)

What all three of these have in common, aside from identical lines, is somewhat well-known favorites against untested underdogs. Chances are that one of these three dogs will win, yielding a considerable payout, but who will it be?

Bonnar is the toughest of the three favorites and Schafer is mostly a submissions guy (going against someone who’s never been submitted), so that’s probably not the best choice in the bunch.

Petz is a fighter still trying to find his way, but he’s also an Ohio boy fighting in Cincinnati. That means two things: 1) he’ll get a boost from the crowd and a little help from the judges if it goes to a decision, and 2) the UFC may have put him on the card purely to have another local guy for the benefit of ticket sales. Burkman is a great athlete, but he doesn’t seem to want it enough at times, so Petz could shock him.

Lastly, Matt Grice is a wrestler turned MMA fighter, like his opponent, Jason Black. Black is the favorite because he’s fought the bigger names on the bigger stages, but that doesn’t mean Grice couldn’t be a diamond in the rough. He’s younger and less experienced, sure, but he could come up with something big, and Black has underperformed in fights before.

My Pick: Grice.

For the odds, I say he’s the least risk with the greatest reward. He’s still not anyone’s favorite in this fight, but a hundred dollars will get you $250 if he wins, and it’s not so far-fetched a possibility.

Least ways, it’s still better than buying some girl named Misty another handbag and coming home smelling like the cosmetics counter at Rite Aid. Seriously, it is.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Betting, Brandon Vera, MMA, Rich Franklin, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC, UFC 77, Uncategorized