Archive for June, 2009

Regulations come with a whimper

June 30th, 2009

Remember when there was so much talk about regulating mixed martial arts in Hawaii? How necessary it was to legitimize the sport. How it was needed to bring the UFC and hometown hero B.J. Penn back for a fight at Aloha Stadium?

Well, tomorrow is the official date new regulations will be in place to legally sanction MMA events in Hawaii.

And suddenly nobody seems to care.

With the way the economy is today, it doesn’t seem likely StrikeForce will pony up the necessary funds to bring a show out to Hawaii in the near future. As of the last time I talked to UFC President Dana White, he was still adament that he wouldn’t be bringing an event to Hawaii soon as was once hoped.

T. Jay Thompson, the man behind SuperBrawl, Icon Sport and now KINGDOM MMA, has run exactly two shows over the last year, and neither one created the excitement or intensity that filled the arena circa 2005 and 2006.

Mike Miller and X-1 are still doing shows in small venues, but haven’t had an event at the Blaisdell since May of last year.

J.D. Penn and the Rumble on the Rock crew seem perfectly content to hve small Beatdown shows in Hilo.

Basically, the sold out and 5-6,000+ crowds attending MMA shows in Hawaii is all but dead. The Robbie Lawler’s and Frank Trigg’s of the world are making big enough salaries now that it doesn’t make financial sense for local promoters to bring these guys back for events with much lesser revenues.As much time as Jason “Mayhem” Miller spends here, his fight with Kala Hose in Hawaii could be his last here since the Japanese promotion DREAM is paying him much better money than he’s seen here.

With the big-name draws fighting for more money than ever, significant cost increases for promoters trying to have fights in Hawaii under the new regulations, and a downturn in the economy all playing key roles, the only MMA you probably will be seeing will be amateur events, since those are much cheaper to put on.

Nobody is going to tell you that regulating MMA is a bad thing. It had to be done. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to mean MMA will get a “second wind” in the islands.

If big crowds, a crazy atmosphere, and legitimate professional MMA fights are what you’re looking for, hold out hope that Dana White decides it’s worth it to put on a fight here. Hold out hope that Scott Coker at StrikeForce does well enough that he thinks he can put on a show here that will net him significant gains instead of big losses.

Because other than that, the future of high-profile MMA in Hawaii looks bleak. And all these sanctions and regulations that go into effect tomorrow may rarely ever come into play.

Pretty sad for a state that at one time was the biggest hotbed for MMA in the entire country.

Scoring Guida-Sanchez

June 22nd, 2009

One of the most eventful UFC cards of the year took place on free television Saturday night as the Ultimate Fighter Finale show for season 9 produced exciting fight after exciting fight, as evidenced by the fact that Dana White gave out $25,000 Fight of the Night awards to six different fighters.

One of the more controversial decisions came in the main event as Clay Guida matched up with Diego Sanchez with a lot at stake. The winner most likely either gets, or is one fight away, from a lightweight title shot.

Sanchez wound up pulling out a split decision, winning 29-27 and 29-28 on two judges scorecards and losing 29-28 on the third. Opinions seem to be all over the place on how the fight should be scored. I seem to be in the minority since I had it 29-28 Guida and here’s why:

Sanchez clearly won the first round with a tremendous barage early in the round that badly hurt Guida and a mean high kick to the face that put Guida down. The question isn’t who won the round, but should it be a 10-8 round? I’m of the opinion that you don’t give out 10-8 rounds that often and only do it under the most dominant of situations. Not only did Guida regain his composure in the round, but he also spent a portion of the round controlling Sanchez on the ground. To earn a 10-9 decision from me, you need to dominate a round from the first second to the fifth minute, and I didn’t think it was enough to give Sanchez a 10-9.

Round 2 saw Guida switch from the standup and take down Sanchez and spend the entire round on top of Sanchez. While he struggled to consistently do damage from that position, he still hit Sanchez with plenty of shots to the face and bloodied his nose despite taking a bunch of elbows to the head. The takedown, position control and enough damage from strikes on Sanchez’s noggin gives Guida round 2.

Round 3 went down to the wire as not much happened early on. Nobody took the advantage in the standup and when it eventually went to the ground, Guida found himself on top. Very close round, I have no problem with calling it a 10-10 draw, but I thought Guida had just enough of an advantage on the ground to earn the round and get the 29-28 victory.

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Wanderlei’s future

June 17th, 2009

I’m hesitant to write about a fight that I have yet to see, but I’ve read a lot of reaction to last weekend’s fight between Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva.

A few years ago when I started getting into mixed martial arts and would watch PRIDE shows, Silva was the one guy that immediately captivated me. From the tatoo on the back of his head to the way he moved his wrists with that stare before fights, Silva instantly became one of my favorite fighters. The way he destroed Japanese legend Sakuraba and Rampage Jackson on multiple occasions made his nickname “The Axe Murderer” so perfect.

So when after so many false rumors, Silva finally made the jump to the UFC in December of 2007 to fight Chuck Liddell, I was as pumped as I’ve ever been for a single fight up to that point (Only outdone now by Penn-GSP II). The fight was a war and went the way most people thought it would. Liddell was the more technical, calculated striker. Wanderlei was a wild man and struggled to get in on Liddell, close enough to where he could land his thunderdous right hand.

It wound up being a decision win for Liddell, but Silva didn’t lose much in taking a loss. He showed he was exciting, an animal, relentless in his ways. But with that said, he was 0-1 in the UFC and had lost three fights in a row (he lost to Mirko Cro Cop in the open-weight tourney and Dan Henderson in PRIDE’s second event in the USA).

Back to the drawing board Silva went and he rebounded well with a crushing first-round TKO victor over Keith Jardine, who had beaten both Liddell and Forrest Griffin. Maybe Silva was back. Maybe it was time for him to climb up the light heavyweight ladder and get a title shot. Instead, his hopes ended with a first-round KO loss to Jackson, a man he absolutely DESTROYED twice in his heyday in PRIDE.

1-2 in the UFC and with no real future prospects at 205, he took this fight with Franklin at a catch weight at 195 pounds. Again, everything I’ve read said it was a great fight, back and forth, with both men having each other on the ropes. But in the end, another decision loss for Silva.

Silva is now 32-10-1 in his career, but 1-3 in the UFC and 1-5 in his last six fights. Until Cro Cop bloodied him up before knocking him out with a head kick, Silva had never been stopped on the big stage. Now, he’s been knocked out brutally three times over the last two years.

Just 32-years-old, it seems quite young for Silva to call it a career. But where else does he go from here? He looked freakishly small against Franklin, and even though a lot of people tend to think he’s dropping down another 10 pounds to middleweight, will he be able to survive the weight cut and still be the power fighter he is? A loss to Franklin says he has no chance against middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva, and outside of him, what other marquee fights does he have at that weight? A third fight with Dan Henderson maybe? Michael Bisping?

He’s not going to quit fighting. That much I’m sure. If he can do it the right way and cut down to 185, that’s probably the way to go. But if he does go that route, Silva, Henderson and even Bisping should wait.

Who should Wanderlei fight next? Let’s see. A wild, always coming forward, never backing down, exciting stand-up fighter looking for a fighter of similar nature at 185 pounds? Seems simple to me. In fact, I think that guy might exist right in our own backyard, maybe even at a school on University Ave?

Wanderlei “The Axe Murder” Silva vs. Chris “The Crippler” Leben.

Who wouldn’t want to see that?

Weekend MMA awards

June 8th, 2009

Two awesome MMA cards this weekend with StrikeForce Saturday night and WEC on Sunday. Instead of just repeating the winners, I’m going to hand out some personal awards in discussing the ramifications of the weekend.

Breakout superstar award: Jake Shields. Sorry Mike Brown, but Shields gets the nod for the simple fact that you couldn’t finish off a guy with one hand. Not only did Shields finish a guy with two hands, but he finished a top-5 middleweight in the world while making a 12-pound jump. Granted, Shields looked weak when Lawler easily stuffed Shields’ first takedown attempt, but the former Rumble on the Rock welterweight champion gathered himself, looked much better on his feet than any of the SHOWTIME announcers were giving him credit for, then saw his spot to lock on a wicked guillotine choke and before you know, Shields has a marquee win over Robbie Lawler.

The fight was at 182 pounds, 12 more than his natural weight of 170. Who wouldn’t kill to see Shields fight the winner of Thiago Alves/Georges St-Pierre which takes place in July? If GSP runs through Alves, Shields becomes the only viable guy to knock off GSP at 170. He might not be in the UFC, but with every win in StrikeForce, the clamoring for GSP/Shields only gets bigger and bigger, and makes his stardom that much greater.

Breakout star award: Brett Rogers. Shields became a superstar moments after Brett Rogers became a star after his devastating KO of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Rogers gets a measure of respect he covets and a future title shot against Alistar Overeem is up next, but he’s not on the superstar level of Shields yet. While Shields suddenly is a viable contender to GSP, Rogers still hasn’t shown he could hang with heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko. Sure, his quick win over Arlovski is a HUGE one, but Arlovski took the fight on late notice, was focused on an upcoming boxing fight, and has always had a suspect chin. Wanna become a superstar Rogers? Beat Overeem convincingly and show off an all-around fight game. Show us you can do more than throw bombs. Make us believe you can go more than 2 minutes against Emelianenko. Do that, and you can become a heavyweight superstar in this sport.

Tough as nails award: Urijah Faber. Shatters his right hand in the first round and fight another 22 minutes or so one-handed against Mike Brown, the No. 1 145-pound fighter in the world. Faber might have this look of the pretty Cali boy who’s been the face of the WEC longer than anyone, but he proved he has just as much guts and toughness as any fighter out there. Broken hand? Fine, I’ll throw nothing but elbows with the right arm the rest of the fight. He last 4+ runs against the top guy with a broken hand, and heck, probably would have ended it in the fifth round with a choke if he could grip his hands together. He’s as exciting as there is and will be a big name in the fight game for a long time. Hopefully he can come back sooner rather than later.

Gained the most in a loss award: Phil Baroni. OK, I’ll admit to bias here because I always tend to lean towards people that have been a focal point of MMA in Hawaii and Baroni certainly was that when he made a name for Kala Kolohe Hose. Yeah, Joe Riggs was the better fighter and deserved to win, but that was a Baroni that we haven’t seen. That was a dedicated Baroni. That was a motivated Baroni. That was an in-shape Baroni that showed a ton of skills in fighting out of Riggs’ takedowns and reversing Riggs on the ground. It wasn’t just a hard-punching Baroni who gasses out after 3 minutes. He made for an entertaining fight and proved there’s a reason why he is still a main card fighter even though his record is 13-11.

Thanks for memories award: Jens Pulver and Kevin Randleman. As tough as it was seeing Randleman scared to throw more than 10 punches in 15 minutes against Mike Whitehead, watching Pulver last 33 seconds against someone named Josh Grispi was much worse. Pulver was a legend and absolute stud in his heyday and was the guy that beat B.J. Penn when nobody thought possible first. He wants to fight, he has the will to fight, and while the WEC did him no favors putting him in the cage against Faber twice, Grispi is another story. Don’t know if either fighter will be back (there’s always a chance since these guys need money), but I don’t want to see Randleman go through another 15-minute borefest again and we don’t need to see Pulver stopped in under a minute again either.

GREAT weekend of fights. Hope you guys didn’t miss it.

Breaking down StrikeForce

June 5th, 2009

**Thanks to doug18 for pointing out in my last update that I forgot about WEC: Faber vs. Brown II on Sunday on VERSUS. Another awesome fight making this weekend one of the best MMA weekends in awhile.**

Photos: Esther Lin, StrikeForce

Lawler vs. Shields

ICON vs. Rumble in the main event as former ICON champion Robbie Lawler (16-4) faces Rumble on the Rock welterweight champion Jake Shields (22-4-1) at a catch weight of 182 pounds, 3 pounds less than the normal for a middleweight fight. Lawler is 8-1 since leaving the UFC with five straight wins (his only blemish came in Hawaii in a loss to Jason “Mayhem” Miller). Shields has won 11 in a row (last loss in Dec. of 2004), with four of those wins coming in Hawaii (Menne, Okami, Condit, Verissimo).

Obviously it’s a clash of styles between the striker (Lawler) and the jiu-jitsu specialist (Shields). Pretty clear that if the fight stays standing, Lawler has the advantage, but once it goes to the ground, it’s all Shields. Big question is if Lawler has learned anything from the Mayhem fight, when Miller showcased Lawler’s weakness on the ground. If he has grown from that and can stuff some takedowns and force Shields to brawl, then it’s Lawler’s to win. I usually tend to go with the ground guy in these types of fights, so even though I’m a big Lawler fan, I think Shields might ground out a decision.

Arlovski vs. Rogers

The suddenly active Andrei Arlovski (5 fights in 16 months) faces undefeated Brett Rogers (9-0) in a heavyweight bout. Arlovski is coming off a KO loss against Fedor Emelianenko while Rogers has just slowly climbed his way up the mountain. This is BY FAR his biggest test to date, and if he beats Arlovski, he’ll suddenly become one of the elite heavyweight fighters in the world. I wasn’t that impressed with his last fight and don’t see him overcoming Arlovski, who despite a 15-6 record, is still one of the top heavyweights in a row. Just look at his losses (Fedor, Sylvia twice, Ricco, Rizzo).

Diaz vs. Smith

Nick Diaz (19-7) vs. Scott Smith (16-5)

Good chance this steals the fight of the night unless Diaz decides to take Smith down early, which is probably the smart thing to do. But Diaz also likes to entertain and put on exciting fights. That could be a mistake as Smith has tremendous punching power, maybe the hardest puncher at middleweight even though this fight is at a catchweight of 180 pounds. Same deal as Lawler/Shields. Stays standing, Smith wins. Goes to the ground, Diaz wins.

And here’s two photos from the other fights that will definitely be shown on SHOWTIME beginning at 7 p.m. (3 hour tape-delayed) in Hawaii.

Baroni vs. Riggs

Phil Baroni (13-10) vs. Joe Riggs (29-10)

Whitehead vs. Randleman

Mike Whitehead (23-6) vs. Kevin Randleman (17-12)

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