Archive for May, 2008

More UFC in Hawaii talk

May 27th, 2008
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Prior to BJ Penn’s fight with Joe Stevenson in January, I was able to talk to UFC President Dana White and asked him about the possibility of the UFC holding an event in Hawaii. The story, which can be found here, details how Aloha Stadium is where White wants to do his first outdoor UFC event. The only hold up is the state’s regulation of mixed martial arts, which doesn’t go into effect until July 1st of next year.

After Penn’s win against Sherk Saturday night in Las Vegas, White was again asked about having an event in Hawaii. “When we do, do an outdoor, big stadium, it will definitely be in Hawaii,” was his response.

When I last spoke to White, he was very adamant about waiting for the regulations to go into effect, saying he didn’t want to be “like all the other cheese dog shows” that have held events here. He also expressed an interest in showcasing a few Japanese fighters to cash in on the Japanese influence here in Hawaii.

Obviously BJ Penn would be the headliner, but who would he fight? With all the talk and the sudden momentum for a Penn/Georges St.-Pierre rematch, I can’t see that fight not happening in the next 12 months if GSP gets by Jon Fitch and Penn, if it’s not GSP, runs through the Kenny Florian/Roger Huerta winner. Could this be the time the UFC throws a bunch of money at Takanori Gomi to fight Penn in a rematch of their fight in Rumble on the Rock from a few years back? Who knows. With so many questions regarding Penn’s future and what weight class he fights at, it’s hard to think of a suitable opponent for him a year from now.

Whatever happens, one thing is for sure. The UFC at Aloha Stadium would be the measuring stick to see just how big the sport of MMA is in Hawaii. It will be very interesting to see how many people would attend. I believe the record for attendance for a mixed martial arts event in the United States is 19,000 (Silva/Franklin rematch in Ohio). If BJ Penn drew 12,000 + to the K-1 show three years ago, I think 20,000 a year from now is a legit possibility.

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Penn dominates Sherk to retain belt

May 24th, 2008
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Hilo’s BJ Penn defeated Sean Sherk by TKO at the end of the third round in the main event of UFC 84: Ill Will to retain his UFC lightweight championship.

The fight was a 15-minute boxing fest that fit perfectly into Penn’s strength. Penn used his three-inch reach advantage to pepper Sherk’s face with jabs while Sherk struggled to get close enough to Penn to do any serious damage.

I don’t know if it’s true, but in the middle of the third round, it looked like Penn may have broke Sherk’s right hand. After an exchange, Sherk is seen flexing his hand and you don’t see him throw too many punches with his right hand the rest of the round.

Coming into the fight, the one thing I wanted to see was whether Sherk could take down BJ and then stay on top of him. He tried once in the opening seconds, but that was it. I think a lot of people who have only seen Penn since he returned to the UFC two years ago see his fights with Hughes and GSP at 170 pounds and don’t realize how much of a monster Penn is at 155.

Hopefully he gets a chance to move up and avenge his loss to GSP in what I think is probably in the top three biggest fights that could be done in mixed martial arts right now. I’d love to see, but will Dana White let it happen? He’s been on record as saying Penn needs to clean out the division before he moves up. Is beating Pulver, Stevenson and Sherk enough? We’ll find out.

A word with BJ Penn

May 22nd, 2008
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UFC 84: Ill Will

UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn left for Las Vegas Monday to get ready for Saturday night’s showdown with Sean Sherk in the main event of UFC 84: Ill Will.

 

Before he left, I had a chance to talk to “The Prodigy” and here’s a sampling of some of the things he had to say.

On how he trained for the fight: “I used a lot of short guys to do the sparing with. I brought in a lot of national champion wrestlers, All-American wrestlers, and great jiu-jitsu guys with great takedowns. I had all kinds of guys. I’ve done everything I can. Conditioning, striking, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, nutrition. You name it, I’ve done it.”

On what Sherk can expect: “He’s going to be surprised that I’m stronger than him. I’m going to throw him down and beat the crap out of him. This is a different fight you know. I plan on just beating him up.

On Sherk’s “alleged” steroid use: “For me, if you put so much into something and here’s another guy on the side cheating, it’s just ridiculous. There’s no place for that.”

On plans for the future: “You know what, back in the day I used to think about what I’m going to do next. Right now, I’ve just got to beat Sean Sherk. Nothing happens until Sherk is done.”

On what happens Saturday: “I’m going to walk straight up and start unloading combinations. If he shoots, I’m going to stuff him down on the ground and get on top of him. If he’s on top of me, I’m just going to have to go for the basic armbars, triangles and omoplatas. Try to slap him in his ear and break his eardrum.”

Expect more on the fight in tomorrow’s Star Bulletin.

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X-1 recap: Reiner/Wolff steals the show

May 18th, 2008
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(Kudos to Richard Walker, host of the Photo Lounge, for all the photos.)

Chad Reiner vs. Brandon Wolff

X-1: Legends is in the book and after a very slow start, things picked up tremendously in the final three fights.

Most notable was the X-1 welterweight title fight that saw local boy Brandon Wolff earn a split decision victory over Chad Reiner of Omaha, Neb. The fight went the full 25 minutes as Wolff won by a razor-thin margin. I compared it to the Baroni/Hose fight in Icon in March, but what was different about this war was that you had no idea who was going to win. In the third round, it looked like Wolff was about to gas out and Reiner started going to work with vicious shots. Reiner even had a couple submission attempts that looked close to finishing the challenger, but Wolff found it in the fifth round and I thought clearly won the final five minutes and thus the fight. In a fight as close as that one, the guy who ends the strongest seems to (and should IMO) get the advantage on the score cards and thus Wolff is your new champion.

Like I mentioned, this fight was right up there with Baroni/Hose in excitement value, but unlike Baroni who clearly didn’t look like he had a chance to win the fight after round 1, you never knew who was going to win this fight. Huge props to both Reiner and Wolff, who earned themselves a ton of fans Friday night.

Chad Reiner

The only true knockout of the night came in the lightweight title fight that saw Alaska’s Richie Whitson drop Ray Cooper with a punch late in the first round to become the new champion.

X-1 lightweight champion Richie Whitson

Second win in 10 days for Whitson (4-0), who deserves a lot of credit for taking the fight on less than a week’s notice, flying all the way out to Hawaii, and bringing it against a guy many believed could make a serious comeback at 34-years-old. Cooper hit Whitson with a hard shot early, but seemed like he wanted to wrestle with Whitson and try to take him down. Whitson did a tremendous job avoiding the takedown and then caught Cooper during an exchange that put a quick and sudden end to the fight.

Egan Inoue vs. Hans Marrero

Of course, most of the estimated 2,500 in attendance Friday night came to see Egan Inoue, who didn’t take long to dispose of Hans Marrero. I was able to talk to Egan for a couple minutes after the fight, and surprisingly, he mentioned how he thought Marrero was disrespecting him prior to the fight, which is something he didn’t talk about going in. The two seemed to get along, but Egan felt Marrero was talking a little too much before the fight and made him eat his words with a 59-second TKO victory.

Because the fight didn’t last long, Egan wasn’t able to truly test himself and see if he’s ready to make a full-time comeback. He wouldn’t commit to anything, but I’d be shocked if we didn’t see him back in the ring later this year, and MAYBE as soon as X-1′s next card July 12.

The last three fights helped overcome what was a very tough start to the evening. Sean Sakata didn’t make it 10 seconds before suffering what looked like a horrible knee injury on a simple leg kick attempt. The second fight was stopped after one of the fighter’s complained of a rib injury in between the second and third rounds, and maybe the most surprising event of the night happened when Ron Jhun didn’t answer the bell for round 2 of his fight with Dylan Clay, instead stepping through the ropes and abruptly leaving. Jhun did get poked in the eye early in the fight and that may have had something to do with it, but Clay also seemed to be the better fighter. Don’t be surprised to hear more from him in the future.

Overall, a decent night of fights highlighted by a couple of upsets and complete dominance by Egan in the main event. I covered the very first X-1 fight a couple years back and they have done a tremendous job increasing both the entertainment value and quality of fights for their events.

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X-1: Legends is here

May 15th, 2008
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The beginning of the biggest summer of MMA in Hawaii is upon us. X-1 kicks off a crazy four-month period of fights with “Legends” Friday night at the Blaisdell Arena.

The fight card has seen its share of changes, but as of today, the eight bouts for the first Oceanic PPV televised event in Hawaii are:

Main Event
Egan Inoue vs. Hans Marrero
Welterweight title fight
Chad Reiner (champion) vs. Brandon Wolff
Lightweight title fight
Ray “Braddah” Cooper vs. Richie Whitson
Kolo Koka vs. Michael Brightmon
Ronald Jhun vs. Dylan Clay
Flyweight title fight
Kana Hyatt (champion) vs. Albert Manners
Brandon Visher vs. Lorenzo Moreno
John Vistante vs. Sean Sakata

Of course, the big news heading into the fight is the sudden change in the lightweight title fight. Hilo’s Shane Nelson, who was the champion a week ago, pulled out of the fight on Friday and surrendered his title. No official word was given on why, but rumors circulate that he may have been offered a chance to compete on the Ultimate Fighter reality show. Now I’m not sure how that would affect his status for fighting Friday night, and as with guys like BJ Penn and Kendall Grove in the past, guys asked to be on the show can’t say a word about it without possibly losing their spot on the show, so nothing is official, but if that is the case, it’s an opportunity Nelson couldn’t pass up. I know a lot of people are upset at the timeliness of him pulling out, as Nelson/Cooper was one of the biggest fights on the card, but I think we should all reserve comment until we find out the exact reason for Nelson’s absence.

I had a chance to talk to Nelson’s replacement, Richie Whitson, who seemed a little overwhelmed at all the media attention at Wednesday’s press conference. He’s 3-0 and just got done beating a guy in Canada last Wednesday, but is in good health and great shape for Friday. He likes to stand and be aggressive, so this could be a sleeper fight. Cooper may still have his work cut out for him, although he will clearly be a heavy favorite.

We will have more on the card in tomorrow’s Star Bulletin, with photos and a closer look at Ray Cooper as the 34-year-old father of six returns to the ring for the first time in over two years.

Until then, feel free to share your thoughts. What fight could steal the show? Is Egan in over his head returning at 42-years-old? What about Koka vs. Brightmon and Jhun vs. undefeated Dylan Clay? Should be a fun night. Hope to see you there.