Excited for St-Pierre vs. Shields?

April 26th, 2011
By billy hull

So how many of you are excited for UFC 129 this weekend from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada? Something like 50,000 people are expected for an event headlined by two of the most dominant fighters of the last five years.

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre ranks only behind Anderson Silva as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He’s reeled off eight straight wins since his stunning knockout loss to Matt Serra, and his 15-2 overall record in the UFC ranks near the top in the organization.

In terms of win-loss record, challenger Jake Shields is no slouch either. The former StrikeForce champion has won 15 fights in a row, including wins over Yushin Okami and Carlos Condit on the same night in a Rumble on the Rock event at the Blaisdell Arena 5 years ago.

The resumes are impressive enough that you’d think it should be a classic fight and contender for one of the best all year.

Me? I couldn’t care less.

If there’s one word that’s rarely used to describe either fighter, it’s exciting. Shields had the entire Blaisdell Arena crowd booing his victory over Condit in the welterweight tournament final, which consisted mostly of him taking down Condit, staying on top, and doing very little damage.

Sound familiar? St-Pierre has turned it into an art form in his recent title run, going 25 minutes in each of his last three fights to win unanimous decisions. Has he been dominant in that stretch? Sure. But forking out 55 bucks to watch a couple of guys do their best to hold the other on the ground isn’t something I’d be extremely excited about.

You’d think knowing this, the UFC would try to build the rest of the card around fighters known for putting on a show when they step into the ring.

Instead, we get Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture. For the fan that’s watched Couture over his career and wants to pay homage to the man that’s helped build the UFC to where it is as much as anyone, it’ll be a nostalgic moment to see the seemingly 60-year-old fight what is expected to be his last bout. For me, it’s just a reminder that I was forced to sit ringside through the Couture/Toney fiasco that to most people who watched on PPV, felt more like they should be paid for having to watch that than vice versa.

Jose Aldo and Ben Henderson are two guys that set the WEC on fire, so checking out their UFC debuts is something worth watching. Nate Diaz is also on the card, yet for some reason, he can’t even get a PPV spot and is instead relegated to the undercard that is being broadcast on SPIKE TV. Understandable putting him on the free lead in to get people to order the fight, but once they do, they’ll be treated to Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brillz. Yes, in the era of the UFC owning all of the major fighters in the world, somehow Brillz vs. Matyushenko is taking up a PPV spot.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some unreal fights I’m looking forward to (And no I’m not talking Edgar/Maynard III). Overeem vs. Werdum is in June and even though both B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch had to withdraw from UFC 132 with injuries, that is shaping up to be the best PPV I can remember. Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben, Dominck Cruz vs. Urijah Faber, Condit vs. Kim, George Sotiropolous is fighting, plus the chance to see Tito Ortiz get beat down? SIGN ME UP.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until July 2. The UH baseball team is on the road for the first time in two months, so because I won’t be at the stadium, I’ll probably watch being the fan that I am. But my expectations for the event, which I think will end with another St-Pierre decision in a snorefest, are about as low as they’ve been for any UFC PPV in recent memory.

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Fitch out; Who should Penn fight?

March 30th, 2011
By billy hull

According to multiple reports online, Jon Fitch has been forced to pull out of his July 2 fight against B.J. Penn at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Fitch apparently injured himself in training severely enough to withdraw from a fight that is still over 3 months away.

No replacement has been named as of yet to take Fitch’s place. Any ideas? Who would you like to see fight Penn in July? If Josh Koscheck was healthy, I think that’d be an intriguing fight at 170, but I’m not sure he’s fully recovered from that devastating eye injury suffered against Georges St-Pierre. If Nick Diaz beats Paul Daley on April 9 in StrikeForce and with the UFC’s recent purchase of the company, could we see Diaz vs. Penn?

Vitale’s last big chance

March 15th, 2011
By billy hull

While B.J. Penn has done amazing things  promoting the state of Hawaii in his memorable UFC career, Niko Vitale has more than pulled his own weight.

Unlike Penn, who has only fought in Hawaii a couple of times, Vitale has been the staple of local MMA fights for a decade. From SuperBrawl to Icon Sport to X-1, Vitale has been the man more people have come out to see locally than anyone else. Over 20 times, he’s stepped into a ring or a cage in Hawaii to establish himself as one of the true local legends of the sport.

On Saturday night, Vitale added another win to his impressive resume, knocking out Dylan Clay in the first round of their X-1 main event fight in front of approximately 1,500 fans at the Blaisdell Arena. The big news came after the fight, when Vitale announced he would relinquish his 185-pound X-1 belt to give an opportunity to the younger up-and-coming fighters that aspire to be part of the next great wave of MMA fighters.

Don’t be fooled, Vitale isn’t going away forever.

Vitale has what likely will be his last chance at a run through major organizations, signing a two-fight deal with Bellator Fighting Championships. Vitale will face one of the best fighters not currently under the Zuffa banner in Hector Lombard. The fight will be shown on MTV in May.

I imagine before Vitale’s career is all said and done, he will fight at least one more time at the Blaisdell to give all the fans that have followed him a proper time and way to say goodbye. But as Vitale said after his knockout of Clay, he doesn’t feel he’s done yet, and beating a guy like Lombard would be the perfect statement that he’s ready for one final run against some of the best fighters in the world.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a fighter as nice and respectful as Vitale has been to me in the five or six years I’ve known him. Anytime you want an interview, he’ll talk, and he’ll answer every question you ask. If there’s anybody that deserves one last big run on the national stage, it’s Vitale, but to do it, he’s got to defeat Lombard, which will be an extremely tough task.

The fight is May 14 on MTV2. Don’t miss it.

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X-1 back at the Blaisdell

March 8th, 2011
By billy hull

Ready for some mixed martial arts fights at the Blaisdell Arena?

Niko Vitale is back to main event the third installment of the X-1: Champions series as he defends the X-1 world middleweight title against 8-2 Dylan Clay, the organization’s welterweight champion, in one of four world title matches on the card. The event also features six state championship fights and an amateur bout and will be televised on Oceanic PPV Channel 260 in standard def and 1260 for the HD broadcast.

The full fight card is as follows:
Niko Vitale vs. Dylan Clay
Harris Sarmiento vs. Max Holloway
Ricky Wallace vs. Eben Kaneshiro
Russell Doane vs. Van Oscar Penovaroff
Sale Sproat vs. Collin Mansanas
Kurrent Cockett vs. Dustin Kimura
Jordan Kekino vs. Zane Kamaka
Nicole Johnson vs. Raquel Paaluhi
Puka Bell vs. Lolohea Mahe
Will Shutt vs. Steven Saito
Kala Koa vs. Paea Paogo

All four world title matches are intriguing, as is the fight between Mansanas and Sproat. Of all the up-and-coming fighters I’ve seen recently, Sproat is the one guy that blends a little of everything together so smoothly. I saw him fight in on the GalaxyMMA shows where he finished his opponent by strikes in roughly 2 minutes. Very excited to see how he’s progressed since then.

Whether you’re a hardcore or simply an occasional MMA fan, X-1 is the one organization trying to keep the sport alive on the big stage in Hawaii. Check out the fights Saturday night at the Blaisdell. Doors open at 6 and the first fight is set to go off at 7 p.m.

Agreed with Penn/Fitch result

February 27th, 2011
By billy hull

Was quite hectic trying to follow the B.J. Penn fight at the same time UH pulled out a dramatic 15-inning victory over No. 6 Texas tonight, but was able to get home and catch the replay. It was a little different knowing the result of the fight before watching it, but I have no problem with the fight being scored 28-28. I thought Penn definitely won the first round and Fitch easily won the third, doing enough to earn a 10-8 round. Round 2 is probably the toughest one of the three to score, but the takedown by Penn was better than a reversal on the ground by Fitch, plus Penn busted up Fitch’s nose with an elbow, so that in my mind was enough to score the bout a draw.

I applaud Penn’s gameplan to come out and do to Fitch what Fitch usually likes to do to everyone else. He was able to explode in and get the first takedown and nearly was able to secure the choke. It was a strategy I would have loved to see Penn employ against Frankie Edgar. Fitch did a great job getting out of trouble and reversing position on the ground, which was kind of surprising. Overall, I know some people thought Fitch was a bad matchup for Penn, but it turned out to be a pretty close fight until Penn got tired in the third round.

The big question obviously moving forward is whether the two will have a rematch and if Penn is even willing to get in the cage again. He didn’t sound like a guy that had fought his last fight in the post-fight press conference, but his comments in the ring following the draw were a little telling. As long as Penn wants to continue to fight, a rematch is clearly the right move. With the possibility that Georges St-Pierre will move up in weight if he beats Jake Shields in his next fight, then it could be a fight for the vacant title. Three different reigns as world champion would be a remarkable achievement, and if Penn has the chance, I can’t see him balking at it.

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