"The Champ is here…"

UFC 172 Picks
-Jones vs. Glover
It seems absurd that anyone is actually buying Glover as Bones’s biggest threat to date. Quite simply, he isn’t — not by a country mile. Is it feasible he could emerge with the gold? Sure; he has huge power, even though he’s become incredibly predictable with his punch selection, is a beast on the ground (even though we haven’t seen it in the Octagon much) and… did I mention that power? Will he win? No, no he won’t. The narrative for this encounter is that while Jones looked super-human in his contests previous to his encounter with Gustafsson (save the first round vs. Machida), dispatching the cream of the 205 crop with contemptuous ease, his battle with the Mauler showed the young champ that he could be outboxed, hit clean, and often, hurt and pushed to the limit — that he was, in fact, mortal. The question pundits are asking of this bout is: will Jones bounce back with a dominant performance or will he be cautious and gun-shy in the wake of his tooth-and-nail battle with the number one contender? The answer, of course, is Jones will dominate. While the Swede matched up very well, height- and reach-wise, with the lanky American, and rose to the occasion against the champ in ways few imagined, Glover lacks the physical gifts to negate Jones’s genetic and athletic advantages, or the striking prowess of Gustafson. Glover does have massive power, but, as Jones’s fights with Rampage, Shogun, etc. proved, power is meaningless if you can never get in range, and Jones is a master at controlling distance against smaller opponents, hurting them and picking them apart when they try, futilely, to get inside. While Alex utilized angles, footwork and superior boxing skills to win rounds and push the champ, Glover stalks forward, looking to throw the cross-counter — his favourite weapon. Against someone as talented and skilled at game-planning and adjusting on-the-fly as Jones, this predictability will be death, and you can expect a very similar-looking fight to Jones’s clash with Rampage, with the same result. Only, considering how often Glover has been rocked against lesser opposition (Bader, Maldonado), Jones may just record his first KO.

-Davis vs. Johnson
Couple simple truths: Anthony Johnson should never, ever have been fighting at 170, or even 185. And Phil Davis lost his fight against Machida, no matter how the judges scored it. While Mr. Wonderful has fixated on the champ in interviews leading up to this fight — clearly trying to position himself as Bone’s next challenger via trash talk — overlooking Rumble is a major mistake, as he’s been on a tear since bulking up, KOing and (T)KOing almost everyone in his path, as well as breaking Andrei Arlovski’s jaw during their HW clash, which he also won, via decision. That doesn’t mean that Davis isn’t the favourite — with his combination of wrestling (a four-time Division I All-American) and improved striking (mainly with kicks), he should be able to exchange with Rumble on the feet and set-up takedowns, where he can control position and work for subs. While Rumble had exceptional takedown defence in his previous UFC run, much of that was due to being the bigger/stronger fighter (at least during the initial rounds), and Davis matches up well with him, being the same height (six-two) and actually possessing an inch reach advantage. If Mr. Wonderful has focused on Jones and overlooked the returning UFC vet, there’s a chance that Rumble will catch him early and put him to sleep. The more likely scenario is that Phil grounds him after some feeling-out kicks and either wins by decision or hits a sub in the later rounds.

-Rockhold vs. Boetsch
The final Strikeforce Middleweight Champion was obliterated by a rampaging Vitor Belfo(T)rt in his UFC debut, but bounced back against the overmatched Costas Philippou to score a quick KO via body-kick. Boetsch, meanwhile, was given a gift decision in his last bout against C.B. Dollaway and was on a two-fight losing streak prior to that. The hard truth is that the Barbarian has been offering diminishing returns for a number of fights now — remember, he was being dominated before staging a miracle comeback against Okami — and is clearly here to pad Rockhold’s ledger with another highlight (T)KO to establish him as a viable MW UFC contender after his slip against Vitor. Boetsch, obviously, has other ideas, but considering his preferred method of combat is to crowd opponents up against the fence, clinch-fight, dirty box and look for trips/takedowns, the odds are not in his favour here. Rockhold is the quicker, more technically proficient fighter, with a three-inch reach advantage, and he’ll work to control the Barbarian with kicks and avoid his clinch-attempts/bullrushes via speed and superior footwork. Considering his first two UFC fights were against perennial contender Belfort and the higher-ranked Philippou, this is a fight Rockhold must win, but should with little trouble via (T)KO.

-Miller vs. Medeiros
And here’s where the “stacking” of UFC 172 officially ends, if it hadn’t already with Boetsch in against Rockhold. Still, this is an intriguing match, as before being handled rather easily by the returning Pat Healy — a win for Pat that was later changed to an NC after Healy tested positive for the sweet leaf — Miller’s only losses had been to LW title holders or challengers (Nick Diaz, Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Grey Maynard). Miller rebounded well with a first round sub over Fabricio Camoes and this looks like another bout to rebuild his confidence and re-establish him as a potential title contender. Yancy, on the other hand, had his impressive KO of Yves Edwards overturned after testing positive for — you guessed it — the demon weed, and will be looking to throw a wrench in Miller’s plans. The problem is, Miller has fought a much higher, near-elite level of competition throughout his career, and has worlds more experience. While Medeiros will want to keep this standing, as he’s shown good power and striking in his previous outings, save leaving himself a little vulnerable to counters, Miller will want to engage just enough to transition to takedowns and scrambles, where he excels, but also demonstrated against Lauzon that he is no slouch on his feet, especially with his elbows. “It’s Miller Time” is too much for “the Kid,” and will win via sub or decision.

-Holloway vs. Fili
And a prelim fight makes the main card, over better bouts featuring Gomi and Benavidez. Still, the UFC needs “compelling” fights so people will watch the various prelims, and Fili/Holloway is interesting enough, in its own way. While “Touchy” Fili easily wins the moniker battle against “Blessed,” it’s inside the Octagon that counts, which is where Holloway has faced the higher calibre of competition (McGregor, Benavidez, Poirier). Of course, it’s been with mixed results, as Max lost each of those fights and is four-and-three in his UFC tenure. Fili (who trains with Team Alpha Male) made his debut against against journeyman Jeremy Larsen, whom he promptly (T)KO’d early in the second round. Holloway is a more accurate measuring stick of how good FIli is/can be, however, and should provide a greater challenge on the feet, even though Fili has a three-and-a-half-inch reach advantage. Giving his work with Team Alpha Male, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fili attempt to get “Blessed” to the ground, as McGregor exploited Holloway’s TD defence after injuring himself winning the stand-up exchanges. Fili by decision.

For our money, Bisping can never get punched in the face enough.

For our money, Bisping can never get punched in the face enough.

"Hi, mom!"

It seems like we’re once again apologizing for our lack of posts (although we just published one on the Big Nog/Nelson fight, even if we had to watch it on terrible hotel wi-fi). It’s not you. No, if anything, it’s us. But that’s going to change; we’re going to change, although it’ll take time, especially since we’re currently on the way to Quebec City (via train) to catch the TUF Nations Finale: Bisping vs. Kennedy, and consume a great deal of poutine. Besides cheering on Kennedy as he punches Bisping in his face (which never gets old), we’ll be supporting hometown hero/friend/Team Spartan honcho Elias “the Spartan” Theodorou as he faces fellow Team Canada finalist Sheldon Westcott for the right to be the first Canadian TUF Middleweight winner. Our pick? Well, we might be a little biased, but we’re staunchly behind the Spartan, who we fully expect to outwork his opponent, as well as control the striking range, in what will either be a (T)KO or decision win. We’re also going with Kennedy by decision via being a tenacious, crazy bastard, Côté by KO or (T)KO, Chad Laprise by (T)KO (as Olivier is has a habit of coming slow out of the gate) and Dustin Poirier via whatever he wants.

It seems like we’re once again apologizing for our lack of posts (although we just published one on the Big Nog/Nelson fight, even if we had to watch it on terrible hotel wi-fi). It’s not you. No, if anything, it’s us. But that’s going to change; we’re going to change, although it’ll take time, especially since we’re currently on the way to Quebec City (via train) to catch the TUF Nations Finale: Bisping vs. Kennedy, and consume a great deal of poutine. Besides cheering on Kennedy as he punches Bisping in his face (which never gets old), we’ll be supporting hometown hero/friend/Team Spartan honcho Elias “the Spartan” Theodorou as he faces fellow Team Canada finalist Sheldon Westcott for the right to be the first Canadian TUF Middleweight winner. Our pick? Well, we might be a little biased, but we’re staunchly behind the Spartan, who we fully expect to outwork his opponent, as well as control the striking range, in what will either be a (T)KO or decision win. We’re also going with Kennedy by decision via being a tenacious, crazy bastard, Côté by KO or (T)KO, Chad Laprise by (T)KO (as Olivier is has a habit of coming slow out of the gate) and Dustin Poirier via whatever he wants.

That certainly wasn’t easy to watch, especially for nostalgic PrideFC fans around the world hoping that the former heavyweight kingpin had one last trick in his once deep bag of them. Unfortunately, he didn’t. When this match-up was announced, everyone knew it wasn’t a good one for the aging legend, whose once granite-like chin has eroded with the inevitable passage of time, and who was three-and-four in his last seven contests, with brutal stoppages against Mir (twice) and champ Cain Velasquez amongst them. The venerable Big Nog began this brief contest well, utilizing his favourite technique — the dipping jab — to keep Roy off of him and negate the mulleted one’s power. Unfortunately, Big Country adjusted swiftly and countered perfectly with a right uppercut, and from there it was just a matter of time before the tragic end. Big Country was patient, dropping Nog again and again, before setting a classic Nelson trap (backing his opponent into the fence and edging increasingly closer to his left, so that opponents instinctively retreat into the more open, opposite direction — squarely into the path of his mammoth overhand right), laying out Big Nog in a stiff, ugly, Nate Quarry-like manner. What’s next for the legendary Pride HW? Well, Nog has already called for a third match with original bane Frank Mir before retiring, but at this point in both their careers, this looks like almost a gimmie for Mir (and a much-needed one), after KOing and then breaking the former champ’s arm in their first two meetings. For Nelson? Surgery, as he broke his hand — guess which one? — KOing Minotauro. Afterwards? The talk of him facing Mark Hunt has picked up again, and who wouldn’t want to see that stand-up war? Although, as always, our money is on the Super-Samoan. 

That certainly wasn’t easy to watch, especially for nostalgic PrideFC fans around the world hoping that the former heavyweight kingpin had one last trick in his once deep bag of them. Unfortunately, he didn’t. When this match-up was announced, everyone knew it wasn’t a good one for the aging legend, whose once granite-like chin has eroded with the inevitable passage of time, and who was three-and-four in his last seven contests, with brutal stoppages against Mir (twice) and champ Cain Velasquez amongst them. The venerable Big Nog began this brief contest well, utilizing his favourite technique — the dipping jab — to keep Roy off of him and negate the mulleted one’s power. Unfortunately, Big Country adjusted swiftly and countered perfectly with a right uppercut, and from there it was just a matter of time before the tragic end. Big Country was patient, dropping Nog again and again, before setting a classic Nelson trap (backing his opponent into the fence and edging increasingly closer to his left, so that opponents instinctively retreat into the more open, opposite direction — squarely into the path of his mammoth overhand right), laying out Big Nog in a stiff, ugly, Nate Quarry-like manner. What’s next for the legendary Pride HW? Well, Nog has already called for a third match with original bane Frank Mir before retiring, but at this point in both their careers, this looks like almost a gimmie for Mir (and a much-needed one), after KOing and then breaking the former champ’s arm in their first two meetings. For Nelson? Surgery, as he broke his hand — guess which one? — KOing Minotauro. Afterwards? The talk of him facing Mark Hunt has picked up again, and who wouldn’t want to see that stand-up war? Although, as always, our money is on the Super-Samoan. 

Well, that certainly didn’t go as planned. For the first two rounds of their epic rematch, Shogun Rua looked phenomenal: he was in shape (you could see a bit of a six-pack, not witnessed since the halcyon, roiding days of Pride); he had a nice jab going (although he began to bring it back lower and lower as the fight wore on); he threw hard kicks and controlled the range — even mixing in a knee or two. Oh, yeah, and he dropped Hendo — twice. Considering Rua’s (well-deserved) reputation as one of the most feared and vicious finishers in the sport, it was his inability to stop Henderson — twice — in their second bout that ultimately allowed the aging wonder to catch Shogun breaking from a clinch with both hands way, way too low and out of position with a right hook (note: it wasn’t an overhand right/H-bomb). From there, with his nose relocated to a different part of his face, Dan pounced, eventually finishing Rua with another shot and some questionable strikes to the back of the head while the former UFC light heavyweight champion turtled-up. There’s been some talk of the shots referee Herb Dean missed that Hendo ended the fight with, but considering the state of his nose — utter carnage — it would have been stopped if Rua had survived.
The thing is, up until that right hook, Hendo was getting beat-up by Rua — badly. Going forward, there’s great cause for concern for fans of the aging MMA legend, as he will no longer be allowed to use TRT (at least in North America), his greco wrestling hasn’t looked good in some time, he’s getting caught and dropped with increasing regularly, and besides that right hand, Hendo’s arsenal has shrunk each outing. Plus, he turns 44 in August — his first MMA fight was nearly 17 years ago. Who will he face next? Daniel Cormier needs a name on his ledger before he’ll likely be allowed to challenge current champ Jon Jones, especially if Double J has any say in the matter. That’s a bad match-up for Hendo, but unless he wants to take a step back and fight lower ranked LHWs (Bader, Manua, Te Huna), he’s going to be the underdog against any top-five LHW opponent.
For Shogun? While there’s no denying he looked scary in his obliteration of Te Huna (although James did gift him the KO, coming in with his hands at waist-level), and for the first two rounds, dominated Henderson, and should have finished him, the fact is he came up short against the American for the second time. However, there’s still that rematch with Lil’ Nog fans have been clamouring for since their unforgettable back-and-forth war of attrition at Pride Critical Countdown 2005. Providing, of course, Nog can stay healthy long enough to make it to an actual fight.

Well, that certainly didn’t go as planned. For the first two rounds of their epic rematch, Shogun Rua looked phenomenal: he was in shape (you could see a bit of a six-pack, not witnessed since the halcyon, roiding days of Pride); he had a nice jab going (although he began to bring it back lower and lower as the fight wore on); he threw hard kicks and controlled the range — even mixing in a knee or two. Oh, yeah, and he dropped Hendo — twice. Considering Rua’s (well-deserved) reputation as one of the most feared and vicious finishers in the sport, it was his inability to stop Henderson — twice — in their second bout that ultimately allowed the aging wonder to catch Shogun breaking from a clinch with both hands way, way too low and out of position with a right hook (note: it wasn’t an overhand right/H-bomb). From there, with his nose relocated to a different part of his face, Dan pounced, eventually finishing Rua with another shot and some questionable strikes to the back of the head while the former UFC light heavyweight champion turtled-up. There’s been some talk of the shots referee Herb Dean missed that Hendo ended the fight with, but considering the state of his nose — utter carnage — it would have been stopped if Rua had survived.

The thing is, up until that right hook, Hendo was getting beat-up by Rua — badly. Going forward, there’s great cause for concern for fans of the aging MMA legend, as he will no longer be allowed to use TRT (at least in North America), his greco wrestling hasn’t looked good in some time, he’s getting caught and dropped with increasing regularly, and besides that right hand, Hendo’s arsenal has shrunk each outing. Plus, he turns 44 in August — his first MMA fight was nearly 17 years ago. Who will he face next? Daniel Cormier needs a name on his ledger before he’ll likely be allowed to challenge current champ Jon Jones, especially if Double J has any say in the matter. That’s a bad match-up for Hendo, but unless he wants to take a step back and fight lower ranked LHWs (Bader, Manua, Te Huna), he’s going to be the underdog against any top-five LHW opponent.

For Shogun? While there’s no denying he looked scary in his obliteration of Te Huna (although James did gift him the KO, coming in with his hands at waist-level), and for the first two rounds, dominated Henderson, and should have finished him, the fact is he came up short against the American for the second time. However, there’s still that rematch with Lil’ Nog fans have been clamouring for since their unforgettable back-and-forth war of attrition at Pride Critical Countdown 2005. Providing, of course, Nog can stay healthy long enough to make it to an actual fight.

One word: Shogun.
"Pride Never Die"

One word: Shogun.

"Pride Never Die"

With a new welterweight UFC champ crowned after years of domination by GSP — congrats, Johny Hendricks — the division is wide-open for the first time in memory, which is an incredibly exciting proposition. Who will emerge to challenge newly minted kingpin Bigg Rigg (and possibly take back the extraneous Gs in the process)? Will there be an immediate rematch of the instant classic he had this past Saturday with the Ruthless One (doubtful, if Jones/Gustafson is a precedent)? Was Tyron Woodley impressive enough in his win, marred by injury though it was, over Carlos Condit to earn the nod? Or, after being soundly beaten by Lawler in their fight back in November, is a dominating second- and third-round comeback victory over Demain Maia enough to bring Rory MacDonald’s stock up to the level of title-challenger? Well, as unabashed supporters (for life) of the Stockton Bad Boy, we have two words for you: Nick Diaz. Sure, he hasn’t fought in a year and is riding a two-fight losing streak (to GSP and the aforementioned Condit); however, in terms of money fights (and remember, the UFC is first and foremost about making profits and putting on “entertaining” bouts), there isn’t currently a bigger draw for the WW division and new champ, unless GSP is ready to end his hiatus after only a few short months. While Diaz had a readymade narrative with Lawler should Robbie have emerged victorious (being the only man to KO the Ruthless One — way back at UFC 47), with incredible foresight, Nick managed to insert himself into Bigg Rigg’s bearded business, heckling the now-champ during his weigh-in issues this past Friday, and smack-talking his win the moment the PPV ended, going as far as to call his stand-up “amateur” and claiming Lawler “whupped his ass.” While realistically most would like to see Diaz earn such a shot with a high-profile W or two, possibly avenging friend/teammate/fellow 209er Jake Shields’s defeat at the hands of Hector Lombard or even facing Woodley or MacDonald in a number one contender match, considering Diaz is one of the most intriguing/frustrating/enigmatic fighters in the sport, his fanatical, cult-like following, that despite his recent two losses, he is 11 and two in last 13 efforts, and, save GSP, is the highest profile challenger currently available for Hendricks, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the UFC would pull the trigger and give Diaz what he wants (a title match return). What would be in it for Hendricks? Simply this: the opportunity to have his first title defence be against one of MMA’s most compelling personalities, and one of its top draws, in terms of celebrity. Sure, others may “deserve it” a bit more, but when it comes to dollars (and that is the UFC’s bottom line), Hendricks/Diaz simply makes sense.

With a new welterweight UFC champ crowned after years of domination by GSP — congrats, Johny Hendricks — the division is wide-open for the first time in memory, which is an incredibly exciting proposition. Who will emerge to challenge newly minted kingpin Bigg Rigg (and possibly take back the extraneous Gs in the process)? Will there be an immediate rematch of the instant classic he had this past Saturday with the Ruthless One (doubtful, if Jones/Gustafson is a precedent)? Was Tyron Woodley impressive enough in his win, marred by injury though it was, over Carlos Condit to earn the nod? Or, after being soundly beaten by Lawler in their fight back in November, is a dominating second- and third-round comeback victory over Demain Maia enough to bring Rory MacDonald’s stock up to the level of title-challenger? Well, as unabashed supporters (for life) of the Stockton Bad Boy, we have two words for you: Nick Diaz. Sure, he hasn’t fought in a year and is riding a two-fight losing streak (to GSP and the aforementioned Condit); however, in terms of money fights (and remember, the UFC is first and foremost about making profits and putting on “entertaining” bouts), there isn’t currently a bigger draw for the WW division and new champ, unless GSP is ready to end his hiatus after only a few short months. While Diaz had a readymade narrative with Lawler should Robbie have emerged victorious (being the only man to KO the Ruthless One — way back at UFC 47), with incredible foresight, Nick managed to insert himself into Bigg Rigg’s bearded business, heckling the now-champ during his weigh-in issues this past Friday, and smack-talking his win the moment the PPV ended, going as far as to call his stand-up “amateur” and claiming Lawler “whupped his ass.” While realistically most would like to see Diaz earn such a shot with a high-profile W or two, possibly avenging friend/teammate/fellow 209er Jake Shields’s defeat at the hands of Hector Lombard or even facing Woodley or MacDonald in a number one contender match, considering Diaz is one of the most intriguing/frustrating/enigmatic fighters in the sport, his fanatical, cult-like following, that despite his recent two losses, he is 11 and two in last 13 efforts, and, save GSP, is the highest profile challenger currently available for Hendricks, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the UFC would pull the trigger and give Diaz what he wants (a title match return). What would be in it for Hendricks? Simply this: the opportunity to have his first title defence be against one of MMA’s most compelling personalities, and one of its top draws, in terms of celebrity. Sure, others may “deserve it” a bit more, but when it comes to dollars (and that is the UFC’s bottom line), Hendricks/Diaz simply makes sense.

Sure, it’s only mid-March, but we already have a strong “fight of the year contender”: Saturday’s incredible five-round battle of attrition between Bigg Rigg and the Ruthless One. While I’m sure few predicted that the contest between the two powerful (T)KO strikers (who combined for an incredible 308 significant strikes — a new record) would go to a decision, that’s exactly what happened. With the combatants virtually fighting in a phone booth and trading hellacious shots throughout, after four rounds of blood, guts and violence, it was dead even going into the fifth. Unfortunately for fans of the Robbie Lawler comeback narrative, it was Hendricks who had the slightly larger gas tank, being able to outwork Robbie in the fifth to rightfully take a decision victory. However, if Robbie gets an impressive win in his next outing, after their first war, there’s little doubt he’ll be facing Johny again sooner rather than later (depending on who the new champ fights next). Speaking of which, names being bandied about for Hendricks’s first title defence include Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald, with Lombard likely taking himself out of the conversation, for now, with his decision win over Shields. However, for our money, there’s a certain heckler from Stockton that would make for an intriguing first defence, even if he’s on a two-fight losing streak and realistically should have to earn a victory or two first for such a shot.

Although it may not be as prestigious as fighting on a PPV or Fox card (especially where the cheddar, as Rampage would say, is concerned), with little fanfare, the UFC has delivered two Fight Pass cards full of entertainment, (T)KOs and subs in the last week that have been just as exciting, if not more so, than some of their more recent higher-profile offerings. The latest FP event was yesterday’s card from London, England, and while it may have felt eerily similar to watching Bamma or Cage Rage, due to the accents (although with better fighters, and no Paul Daley), in terms of action, it unquestionably delivered. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in any sport is beat the opposition you’re supposed to, and while Manuwa didn’t appear to be an incredibly difficult hurdle to a title shot for the number one contender, anything can happen in the Octagon. Still, credit is due to the Mauler, who accomplished what everyone expected and dismantled the previously undefeated Brit inside of two rounds to earn his rematch with double J. (No offence to the Poster Boy, but there’s a huge leap between the likes of Ryan Jimmo and the top LHW contenders.) While initially even on the feet, with Jimi’s power vs. Alex’s range, footwork and technique, the end began for Manuwa early in the second when Gustafsson locked on a quick Thai clinch and landed a huge knee on his shorter opponent. From there, the Mauler lived up to his nickname, pouncing on his foe and the fight was quickly waved off. With the win, the UFC stated that Gustafsson would challenge the winner of the upcoming Jones/Teixeira LHW title match-up, despite the champ’s suggestion that the Swede should face Daniel Cormier for the right to challenge him next, looking by Glover in the process. Considering how close and exciting their first contest was, not to mention the significant threat Cormier presents to Jones as well, it appears  the champ is politicking, trying to soften up his next opponent without ever setting foot in the cage, as well as not taking Teixeira as seriously as he should, which could be a grave mistake, considering Glover’s KO power.