Monday, June 27, 2016

UFC 200

This is a post I have been waiting to do for a long time. Unfortunately, I entered the world of MMA fandom shortly after UFC 100, meaning I missed the hype of the MMA super-show. I have had my share of big cards since then: UFC 129, UFC 189, UFC 194, UFC 198, UFC 149 (joking of course), but the magnitude of UFC 100 was on a different level. As it has been approaching, I have been getting more and more excited for what UFC 200 will mean to the MMA world. Initially, I was disappointed because initially it would be headlined by Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz in a rematch that didn't matter, but after the UFC called Conor's bluff about pulling out of the fight (thank God for that), they started making fights that matter more.

Here, I will talk about some of the more important aspects of each of the main card fights, as well as areas each fighter should focus on in order to be successful and get their hand raised on what could be the biggest card in MMA history.

Honorable Mention
Diego Sanchez vs Joe Lauzon
All of the fights on this card should be good and I want to focus on the main card fights, but I cant avoid talking about this fight. I have been wanting this fight for a long time because, ranking-wise, it makes sense. Both fighters have picked up bigger wins here and there, but neither are anywhere near title contention and simply need to schedule fights that will entertain the fans. This is the ultimate fan fight. Lauzon has won 13 fight night bonuses throughout his career, including two instant classic fights in one year (vs Jim Miller and vs Jamie Varner) and beautiful submissions (vs Melvin Guillard). While Diego has had no finish bonuses or performance bonuses, he has an impressive 7 fight of the night bonuses, including multiple fights considered fight of the year (vs Karo Parysian, Clay Guida, and Gilbert Melendez). In other words, neither are ever in a boring fight. Win or lose, the fans will win no matter what.

For Lauzon, he needs to focus on two things for the win: picking shots and submissions from guard. Sanchez is notorious for luring people into wild punching matches where he gets the advantage. While this is what makes his fights exciting, it would be wise for Lauzon to avoid this. Instead, he needs to pick his shots against Diego strategically, choosing to counter shots as Diego runs in while escaping the war. This will frustrate Diego because it is not his way of fighting. This leads to the next point. When frustrated, Diego may instead use his wrestling skills to score a takedown. This could work for Lauzon, who is a very gifted submission artist. Diego has great submission defense, but if done properly, Lauzon could pull of a surprise submission from guard (possibly triangle choke?) and become the first man to submit Diego Sanchez.

As previously mentioned, Sanchez loves a good war. His style is to bite down on his mouth piece and swing for the fences. This style has won him many fights (some controversial decisions) and made him a fan favorite. This style is successful for him so do it. However, if there is one thing he is also known for, it is turning it up in the third round. Many times, Diego loses the first two rounds but is a savage in the third round. My suggestion: downplay the third round a little in order to up the first and second round. Chances are, he will not be able to finish Lauzon. Joe has a fantastic chin and great submission defense. Diego needs a decision to win and if he can be consistent in the fight, it's his to win. The key is to be aggressive, but not too aggressive that he gets caught by a great finisher, 24 finishes in 25 wins to be exact.

 1st Fight - Cain Velasquez vs Travis Browne
Cain Velasquez was on his way to being the best heavyweight in UFC history (sorry Randy) by defending his title twice in a row and going for the record for most defenses. Then Fabricio Werdum and constant injuries happened. Now he is fighting to prove that he still has what it takes to be a top fighter, as well as possibly a third time champion. Travis Brown has had a roller coaster of a career. He has had big wins (knocking out Alistair Overeem) and been dominated from bell to bell (Fabricio Werdum). Both are fighting to show relevance.

Cain needs to do what Cain does: be a takedown machine and apply the pressure. Cain is probably one of the best wrestlers the UFC has had. He took down and beat down a much bigger Brock Lesnar (we'll get to him) and beat him with savage wrestling. Browne has shown fantastic takedown defense, mostly with vicious elbows when his opponent tries to take him down against the cage (Josh Barnett). However, he has shown some gaps in takedown defense. Cain needs to take advantage of this hole and score the takedown. The Werdum fight for Browne also showed what happens when you apply pressure: he wilts. Cain is the king of pressure, just ask Junior dos Santos. Pressure and bully Browne to either score a dominant decision or vicious finish.

Browne needs to use his natural advantage: his length. At a height of 6'7" and a reach of 79" reach, he can out-reach almost anyone. Combine this with his fantastic and creative striking, he can pick his shots as he moves out. He also needs to use his takedown defense to maximum effectiveness. As previously mentioned, Velasquez is a beast of a wrestler and Browne needs to stuff the takedown to keep the fight standing.

2nd Fight - Interim Featherweight Title Fight
Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar II
The first title fight of three for the night (how stacked is this card again?) pits the now former Featherweight champion Jose Aldo against former opponent and Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. The first fight was very back and forth with Aldo getting the judges nod, although some feel that Edgar did enough for the decision. Since then, Edgar has gone on a 5 fight win streak against high level opponents. Aldo defended his title successfully three times after Edgar, but fell in his last fight against Conor McGregor in 13 seconds. This fight establishes who is the champion of the division not named Conor McGregor (maybe even the true champion considering Conor's tendency to not defend his title). This will either set up a rematch with McGregor for the former Featherweight kingpin or Edgar becoming the third two-division champion in the UFC.

For Frankie, the answer for this fight is in takedowns and pressure. Aldo has a lot to prove in this fight, which may lead to him being distracted and making mistakes. Frankie needs to capitalize on these mistakes by taking Aldo down and working on him with ground-and-pound. Catching Aldo when he rushes, a-la Conor, could be useful as well. Edgar has shown great knockout abilities as of late and this could be his chance to show it on a bigger level.

Aldo is in a strange situation. He has beaten Frankie before using his usual style. Frankie has evolved greatly since the last fight and his usual bag of tricks may not be enough. The first thing is necessary: stuff the takedown. Jose has great takedown defense and he needs to continue it. Frankie also has shown great striking, which Aldo also has. Aldo needs to neutralize this by counter-striking when Edgar comes in. The biggest thing Aldo can do is utilize leg kicks. He has shown he can be successful with this in the Urijah Faber fight and it should lessen Edgar's takedowns and footing for striking. Lastly, Jose is typically a very composed fighter, rarely showing emotion. When he showed emotion in the McGregor fight, he failed. He needs to keep calm and keep composure.

3rd Fight - Woman's Bantamweight Title Fight
Miesha Tate vs Amanda Nunes
The women's Bantamweight division is in a very odd situation. The top three fighters are playing a game of rock, paper, scissors that is as follows:

Miesha Tate = Rock
Ronda Rousey = Paper
Holly Holm = Scissors

Rock beat scissors, paper beat rock, scissors beat paper. Truth be told, the current champion is probably the weakest link of this grouping. Luckily for her, paper and scissors are sitting this fight out. This fight has two outcomes: Tate gets a rematch against either Holm or Rousey (most likely Ronda so that they can set up a Rousey/Holm rematch) or Amanda Nunes pulls off an amazing upset, putting even more question marks on the division.

Miesha is a very well-rounded fighter but not excelling at anything in particular. She has effective striking but is not on a Holly Holm level. She has good grappling skills but is not on Ronda's level. But her ability to blend the two is what makes her successful. This is what she needs to do against Nunes. Blend the styles to add pressure and show that she is the better fighter.

Amanda Nunes has had some big wins, even submitting Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann, something Tate could not do. She has good grappling skills and striking skills, like Tate. What she needs to do is train in one aspect specifically and use it to her advantage. Her striking skills are better than Tate's and she needs to use this to her advantage and catch the champion off guard. If done right, she can pull off the upset.

4th Fight - Brock Lesnar vs Mark Hunt
I'm still not sure how I feel about Brock Lesnar coming back, but I know I will watch this fight. When watching UFC 199 and seeing the promo for UFC 200 only to hear Brock yell "Can you see me now" at the end gave me goosebumps. The opponent had not been announced, but my mind immediately went to Mark Hunt. Hunt vs Lesnar is the ultimate striker vs wrestler match-up. Lesnar is a former NCAA champion who took down and beat Randy Couture. Hunt is a former K1 Grand Prix champion and known for his insane knockout power. Lesnar has not performed in a MMA match in almost 5 years while Hunt has fought 9 times since then, racking up 5 wins (all knockouts) and what is considered one of the best fights ever against Bigfoot Silva.The reason I am unsure about Brock's return is my feelings about him in the past. Brock had an insane following while in the UFC, mostly because he was not famous for being a fighter, but a pro-wrestler. He was a good athlete and great amateur wrestler, but his WWE background always made people think he was better than he actually was. The other reason is health problems. Brock was plagued by health problems during his original UFC run. There will be a lot of questions in this fight.

Obviously, the first thing for Brock to be successful is to be healthy. He wanted to come back because his original run was full of health problems so the assumption is that he is now healthy. The big problem with Brock is that he runs into troubles when he is hit. This is a major issue against possibly the hardest hitter in MMA history. Instead of focusing on his wrestling prowess, he needs to strengthen his striking and movement. His wrestling is strong enough that he doesn't need to worry about it. If he can work on his striking and his movement, he can avoid the big shots from Hunt and use his striking to set up a takedown rather than rushing Hunt to take him down and get caught on the way in with Hunt's cinder block (aka his fist). 

Hunt needs to worry about two things: Brock's wrestling and size. While Hunt has good takedown defense, he has shown holes in the past. He has been submitted six times in his career. While Brock is not a submission expert, he has shown he can pull one off (Shane Carwin). He needs to strengthen his defense in order to keep the fight standing. When the fight is standing, he does still need to worry about Brock's size. Hunt is a small Heavyweight, with a height of 5'10" and 74" reach. Compare this to Brock, who is 6'3" and a 81" reach. Being forced to close the distance while avoiding the takedown will prove to be difficult. Mark can fix this by lunging in with a hard punch. If he connects, Brock will most likely fall.
Main Event: Light-Heavyweight Title Unification Fight
 Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones
This will be an interesting fight. Obviously the history between these two is quite volatile with lots of smack talk and even a fight at a press conference. The first fight had Jones as the winner, securing takdowns and avoiding most of DC's takedowns. What people seem to forget is that the fight was somewhat close. Not Jones-Gustafsson close, but still enough that DC was not dominated by any means. Combine this with DC beating Gustafsson and dominating Anthony Johnson and the performance Jones put against Ovince St-Preux, things should be interesting.

Jones honestly should not have to change too much from the previous fight. It is possible that the sloppyish performance against St-Preux was due to ring rust and even then, it wasn't a terrible performance, just not what we are used to from Jon Jones. He needs to use his incredible length to strike at DC from a distance (keep the fingers to yourself and out of his eyes). In the previous fight, Jones did a good job at defending DC's takedowns. He should look to implement a similar strategy this time around. Lastly, he needs to keep off of cocaine and have others drive him around before the fight. If he implements these tactics, he will win his title back.

Cormier is in a different situation. He is without a doubt the best Light-Heavyweight in the world not named Jon Jones. In the previous fight, he was successful with some of his takedowns, a feat few have been able to do against Jones. This time, he needs to shoot in and try to bully Jones against the cage. Even if he is not able to secure a takedown, pinning him against the cage and implementing some dirty boxing would most likely be the best strategy for him to keep his belt. By shooting in, he should be able to get past Jones' reach and since Jones is not known for his knockout power, he should not be knocked out in doing so.

This card is stacked beyond belief and should be the ultimate card for any fan, casual or hardcore.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Rejuvinated Heavyweight Title Picture

Since 2010, the Heavyweight division has been rather weak. There are talented guys in the division, but the reason it became boring was you had a champion that was very dominate and the only contender that could seemingly beat him knocked him out once and then took two severe beatings that showed the champions dominance. Thus is the story of Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.

When I found out that Fabricio Werdum was going to fight for the title, I became excited. He has a solid and creative striking game and outstanding Jiu-Jitsu skills that made him a viable candidate to dethrone the champion. After Velasquez was injured (again), Werdum fought Mark Hunt for the Interim title and put up a blockade to the K1 star's resurgence. However, at the same time, Werdum began to cement his career comeback.

At UFC 188, Werdum, an underdog in his title unification bout, battered Velasquez with strikes and finished him with a submission. This freshened up the once dead division because while Werdum is a force to be reckoned with, he has shown vulnerability in the past, which opens up better stylistic matches with opponents he has either not fought or not fought in a long time. So who should he defend his title against first?

Out of the top 10 Heavyweight fighters in the UFC, three fighters currently hold a win over Werdum. Alistair Overeem beat Werdum in 2009 (Werdum's last loss) and ended his chance at the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix title. However, since beating Werdum, Overeem has gone 4-3 in his MMA career, with the three losses being brutal knockouts, so a title fight or even contender fight is unlikely after a two fight win streak against non-top 10 fighters. With a win against a top 10 fighter, the title picture could be in Overeem's future but not immediately.

Junior dos Santos has been in limbo the past couple of years. He is an elite Heavyweight that can finish anyone at any time. His problem? While he knocked Cain Velasquez out to become the champion, he had two other title fights against him that were both one-sided beat downs that proved that Velasquez is the better fighter. While Cain was champion, it was highly unlikely that Cigano would fight for the title again. With Cain out and Werdum in however, it is more likely to happen. Dos Santos beat Werdum in his UFC debut, knocking him out with an uppercut. Since then, Cigano has beaten some of the best and is currently on a "cold" streak, going 2-2 in his last four fights with the two losses being one sided beatdowns by the same man and one of the wins being a close fight against Stipe Miocic that many believe dos Santos lost. Is his reputation enough to garnish a title fight? Junior will most likely need to beat another top ranked opponent before challenging for the title again.

Stipe Miocic is a fighter that came out of nowhere. He has been in the same realm as Stefan Struve or Gabriel Gonzaga for some time: a good fighter who never seemed to get that "big win". With wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson, he had a decently impressive resume when it was announced that he would fight Junior dos Santos. This seemed as though Stipe would be murdered but he proved he belongs in the same talk as other great Heavyweights by holding his own to a razor thin decision against the Brazilian. In his next outing, he destroyed the ultra-tough Mark Hunt, finally finishing him in the 5th round. Could this win along with the unconvincing loss to dos Santos be enough to gain a fight against the new champion? Like dos Santos, Stipe may need one more fight to prove himself worthy. Because of the excitement of the previous fight and the unconvincing end, would a contender's fight with Stipe and Junior be an option?

Cain Velasquez just lost his title on Saturday, so why is he already on the list of possible title contenders? Cain has a long history of fighting while injured, due to his vulnerability to injuries. When he was knocked out by dos Santos, he had been injured for quite some time before that and after the rematches, it seemed as though it was the injury that caused the loss. It is possible that the same thing happened against Werdum. And that is precisely why he will not get an immediate rematch. Velasquez has been in the title picture for a long time and is injured entirely too often. It would be a big risk to schedule an immediate rematch only to have Cain end up side lined again and have the other contenders already booked. Let the former champ show he is healthy and show it consistently.

I never thought I would say this, especially in 2015, but Andrei Arvloski may be the most logical pick to challenge for the UFC Heavyweight title. Let's be honest, even when Arvloski was the UFC champion, it was a dark time in the division, even darker than now. He lost to Tim Sylivia twice, then followed up with big wins over Werdum, Roy Nelson, and Ben Rothwell. Then a loss came to Fedor...then Brett Rodgers...then Antonio Silva...then Sergei Kharitonov. Things were not looking great for the former champ. He even lost against Anthony Johnson in a Heavyweight fight. Then when he was brought back to the UFC, he won against Brendan Schaub in a good fight, but not the most convincing decision. Then he knocked out Bigfoot Silva, a decent feat for any fighter. Then, in a fight that was his to lose, Arvloski knocked out Travis Browne. With a five fight win streak that includes some big names and a previous win over the new champion, Andrei Arvloski may be the best bet for the new challenger.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Ultimate UFC Card

It seems that every year, the UFC puts on at least one card that is suppose to be the ultimate fight card of the year. This year, the card that sticks out seems to be UFC 187, although there have been changes that have knocked the hype down slightly. This got me thinking: What would be the ultimate fight card at the moment? Obviously this is a thought that can change along with the rankings and new champions, but it is a thought provoking question regardless. What is a card that not only would be the best of the year, but possibly one of the best events of all time? My criteria is simply to make an event that has 12 fights that make the most sense.

Preliminary Card
John Dodson vs Hendry Cejudo

The card starts with the little guys. The champion Demetrious Johnson has basically cleaned out the entire division at this point. His actual challengers that are worthy are few and far between. This is why this match-up for a number one contender's fight is intriguing. On one hand, you have John Dodson, a fighter who has previously lost to the champion but took him into deeper waters than any other challenger, making a rematch a hopeful shake-up in the division. On the other hand, you have Cejudo, a relatively new fighter, with only eight fights on his record, but also the youngest American wrestler to win a gold medal at the Olympics. His skill set, while inexperienced in the octagon, is definitely something to be reckoned with. This would be a great fight to start the pace of the night.

Carlos Condit vs Matt Brown
Both men are currently competing at the top of the Welterweight division, one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC. Both also have a long history of being hungry fighters that seem as though they are willing to die for a fight rather than simply losing speed and pace. In the current UFC rankings, Condit is rated at 4 and Brown is rated at 5. The two fighters were scheduled to fight each other at UFC on Fox 9, but Brown had to pull out for a back injury. This would be a perfect fight not only to confirm each man's position in the Welterweight rankings, but put on a fight that will be remembered for years to come.

Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida II/Joe Lauzon
Diego Sanchez, along with becoming a magnet for controversial decisions, has participated in some of the most exciting fights in the history of the company and has a reputation as a fan-favorite scrapper. One of his most famous fights was a war against Clay Guida. Guida has since moved down to Featherweight, where he has had a mix of success and defeat. Sanchez has been hot and cold at both Lightweight and Welterweight. He has recently tossed around the idea of moving down to 145 as a way to get a new start. What better way to get a new start than against an old rival? The fight makes sense and would be entertaining and fast paced enough that it would need to be filmed at a slower speed than the rest of the fights. What could be better?
The answer is a fight between an exciting fighter like Sanchez and a man who holds a record for the most post-fight bonuses: Joe Lauzon. Both fighters are notorious for wars that result in a bloodbath where both give it their all and refuse to be finished. This fight would have fight of the year written all over it.
Mauricio Rua vs Rashad Evans

Both are former Light-Heavyweight champions and have been in the top of their division for years. Shogun has been going downhill over the course of his past few fights while Evans has been out for a year and a half. This fight could be great for both of them. Neither fighter has beaten a current UFC top 10 Light-Heavyweight. This could be an opportunity for Shogun, currently ranked #9, to show that he can still handle the best in the world. Likewise, this is a chance for Rashad to show that he can handle a top 10 fighter without showing ring rust. This is a fight that was suppose to happen in 2011 and could still be an exciting bout today.

Luke Rockhold vs Ronaldo Souza II

These two warriors have fought each other before. Their previous bout was for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship, where Rockhold bested Jacare in a decision victory. Both fighters are very different from where their skill sets were in their previous fight. Jacare has not lost since that night while Rockhold, who was knocked out by Vitor Belfort, has gone up against four top Middlweights since his last defeat, finishing every one of them, including being one of only two people to submit Lyoto Machida. Rockhold has shown he deserves to fight for the title while Souza, who was supposed to fight Yoel Romero but had to settle for Chris Cammozi, has shown he can defeat the best of the best. Why not have these two duke it out for the number one contender's spot?

Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber III
Grudge matches are big business for the UFC. Some of the biggest, most hyped fights in history were fights where the fighters legitimately do not help each other, such as Lesnar vs Mir II, Jones vs Cormier, Evans vs Jackson. Another fight that was a grudge match brought to life was Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber. The two do not like each other, leading back to their first fight in the WEC. Faber beat Cruz in their first fight while Cruz edged Faber in their second outing. A third fight was scheduled at one point but Cruz' constant injuries caused the end of the bout. This fight would be needed for Cruz to show that he can still take on a top fighter before fighting for the title that he was stripped of while Faber can use this as a stepping stone to show that, despite losing when fighting for a title each time, he is still champion caliber.
Junior dos Santos vs Travis Browne


An obvious choice would be to pick dos Santos vs Alistair Overeem, but this match up makes more sense. Dos Santos and Browne are both top 5 Heavyweights with a strong stand-up game and very tough chin. This fight works for dos Santos because it allows him to remain active among top fighters while Cain Velasquez is still champion, since while Cain is the champ Junior will not be receiving another title fight anytime soon after taking two extremely brutal beatings from the champion. Browne has had big wins at Heavyweight but needs to prove himself against a top Heavyweight since losing a decision to Fabricio Werdum. The big strikers would most likely set off fireworks in the main event of the preliminaries of this fight card.

Main Card
Dan Henderson vs Nick Diaz


Dan Henderson is at the end of his career and everyone knows it. After dropping fights to actual contenders such as Daniel Cormier at Light-Heavyweight and Gegard Mousasi at Middleweight, he needs to either hang up the gloves or simply take novelty fights. This is where Nick Diaz comes in. Diaz has already shown that he is willing to fight at Middleweight against an opponent that is simply for the novelty of the fight when he fought Anderson Silva earlier this year. The two have very strong chins, striking, and a ground game. Diaz has criticized fighters in the past who wrestle their opponents to a decision and has expressed his desire to fight "real hitters". Dan Henderson, despite being an Olympic wrestler, could be just that striker. Diaz toyed with Silva during their fight since Silva is a counter striker. Henderson is as aggressive as possible, giving Diaz the war that he has been asking for.
  Anthony Pettis vs Conor McGregor

Whether it is at Lightweight or Featherweight, this fight makes sense. Pettis recently lost his Lightweight crown to Rafael dos Anjos and lost it very convincingly. The idea of him getting a rematch soon does not seem like the best idea, especially with a division so deep in talent. Pettis has toyed with the idea of moving down in weight previously when he had the chance to fight Jose Aldo for the title. With McGregor fighting for the title, Pettis could possibly fight him for the title should the Irishman beat the current champion. If not for the title, the two should still fight. McGregor has shown very crisp and stylistic striking, as has Pettis with his famous Showtime kick. This fight could be Pettis testing the waters in Featherweight or McGregor doing the same in Lightweight. Either way, someone is going to sleep.

Anderson Silva vs Georges St-Pierre

Now the big guns come out. Sure, this fight would have made more sense in 2012, before Silva was made minced meat by Weidman and before St-Pierre was beaten down like never before in his "win" against Johny Hendricks. Sure Silva will most likely not fight for a title again and GSP is contemplating whether or not he will ever even return. So why does this fight cause so much excitement among fans? Despite recent events with both fighters, they are both considered by most, if not everyone, to be the top two fighters of all time. One is currently still an active fighter and the other is taking a hiatus and could easily return. It doesn't matter if the idea of the fight is slightly outdated. This is the Mayweather vs Pacquiao of MMA (but hopefully much, much, much more exciting than that fight). People will pay and pay greatly for the chance to watch the two G.O.A.Ts fight each other. Obviously this could headline any pay-per-view but for this card, this works as the top non-title fight.

Co-Main Event: Women's Bantamweight Title
Ronda Rousey vs Christiane Justino (Cyborg)
I believe that there is no fight currently that makes more sense than this fight in the Women's Bantamweight division. Ronda Rousey is an amazing athlete. In fact, she is too good. The rest of her division is light-years behind her in regards to skill set, resulting in her last two fights totaling only 30 seconds. Her toughest challenger was Miesha Tate, who is the only fighter to go past the first round against the champion. There is only one other woman fighter that seems to be at Rousey's skill level: Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino (Santos). Cyborg is the former Strikeforce Women's Featherweight champion and the current Invicita FC Featherweight champion. She has shown her dominance in the Featherweight division for years now. She is currently planning on moving down to Bantamweight. After a test bout, she will be eligible to fight Rousey and set up the biggest women's fight ever and one of the biggest MMA fights of all time.

Main Event: Heavyweight Championship
Cain Velasquez vs Jon Jones
This is possibly the most intriguing fight on the card. Rousey vs Cyborg makes the most sense but most likely, Rousey would win. This would be a toss-up. Cain Velasquez, when he is healthy, is one of the most dominate champions we have. He has only lost one fight, a quick knockout at the hands of Junior dos Santos, and has VERY convincingly shown that his only loss was simple luck from his opponent. Other than his lone loss, he has not lost a single round. He battered dos Santos to a bloody pulp twice, with the second resulting in a 5th round finish. He brutally knocked Minotauro Nogueira out. He beat Bigfoot Silva so badly that it looked like a murder scene. But his big name opponents are few and far between along with his fight schedule due to injuries. Jon Jones is well on his way to becoming the greatest of all time. He has only truly been tested once, by Alexander Gustufsson, and has dominated the rest of his opponents. He uses his size, length, and strength to batter opponents. This brings up a good question: how would he fare at Heavyweight? Jones' frame is massive for the 205 pound cut off for Light-Heavyweight. He could easily make Heavyweight and still beat his opponents. Comebine this with the lack of depth in both divisions and you have a major fight that could go down as one of the biggest fights of all time

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The On-Going Tale of Jon "Bones" Jones

There have been many controversial fighters in the history of MMA due to different reasons such as drugs (Chris Leben) and general dishish nature (Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping). However, these have all wrapped into one entity: Jon Jones, FORMER Light-Heavyweight Champion. Jones has had a troubling past few years that saw him being on the receiving end of a DUI, being blamed for the first ever cancellation of a UFC event, a brawl in the middle of the MGM Grand that resulted in a $50,000 fine, testing positive for cocaine, and, most recently, a felony charge for a hit-and-run accident that resulted in the injury of a pregnant woman. Combine this with a personality that rubs many the wrong way due to him being perceived as arrogant, fake, and a dirty fighter, and you have one of the most controversial fighters in history.

The UFC higher-ups seemingly have been protecting Jones with all of his controversies, possibly due to him being one of the company's biggest draws. However, with his most recent events, the UFC finally took action by placing the Light-Heavyweight on indefinite suspension as well as stripping him of his UFC belt. This leads to a big question being thrown around at the moment: What should be done with Jon Jones?

Stripping the champion of his belt was the first step the UFC took to deal with the problem, and it was a positive step. Jones needs to know that he has an example to set outside of the octagon as well as inside, and if he cannot live up to that expectation, then taking away his belt is a logical choice. The next question is when should Jones come back? He is officially suspended indefinitely and Dana White has recently said that the UFC will choose when he comes back. A full investigation will happen regarding Jones' criminal behavior so his comeback date is in the air. He will most likely be out until after his trial is over and, if he is sentenced, after he does a stint in jail.

Should Jones come back after he is released? Most likely, the UFC will be hesitant to take Jones back immediately. He has been a source of bad press as of late and will want confidence that he has figured out his private life before returning to the octagon. If drugs were involved in his most recent offense, as some have speculated, a rehab stint will most likely occur, with the UFC deciding the length so that Jones will not decide he has had enough of rehab after only one day.

Lastly, as a champion who had his title stripped from him, should Jones receive an immediate title fight when he returns? This is a topic that will be of interest for fans. There have been a handful of instances where the UFC has stripped a champion of their title and each case has had different results when the fighter returned. For example, Randy Couture and BJ Penn were both stripped of their title for the same reason: contract disputes. Couture received an immediate title shot when he returned. Penn did not and instead fought against GSP for a title shot, which he did not win. Even fighters who were stripped of their title for serious offenses, such as Tim Sylvia and Sean Sherk both being stripped of their titles for testing positive for steriods, received an immediate title shot upon their return while Dominick Cruz, who had his title stripped due to inactivity because of injuries, did not receive a title shot when he finally returned.

So what should the UFC do? I believe that if a fighter has done something severe enough that is in their control to have their title stripped, they should not receive a title shot upon their return. Not only will Jones most likely have had a long lay off from fighting when he returns, he needs to show that he is indeed the champion that he believes he is and that his performance will not be impacted by his personal life. Possibly give Jones a title contender fight so that he can prove himself and then let him fight the new champion.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ten Greatest MMA Upsets of All-Time

Ten Greatest MMA Upsets of All-Time

It has been a long time since I have made a post on this blog. I thought I would return with a topic that sports fans in general can connect with: underdogs. Every sport has teams or athletes that are so good that they are expected to win. Whether it is the New York Yankees or the LA Lakers, fans at times become bored of watching the same people win time after time. But every once in great time, there comes an opponent that is expected to lose only to shock the entire world and beat their "superior" counterpart. Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that thrives on the underdog story. As this list will prove, even the greatest fighters of all time can have a bad night or simply have an opponent that has yet to prove their self worthy. My criteria for this list is not only a shocking win, but a win that was either extremely dominate or a finish that is so shocking, nobody could have seen it coming.

Honorable Mentions
Rameau Sokoudjou vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Rameau Sokoudjou was only three fights into his career and making his Pride FC debut when he fought Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Lil Nog). Nogueira had proven himself a viable asset to the company with notable wins over Sakuraba, Nakamura (x2), Alistair Overeem (x2), and Dan Henderson. He had also recently been in one of the most exciting fights in the promotion's history against Mauricio Rua. It was very clear on paper who would win considering Nogueira's experience, wins over notable competition, and the fact that he was a Brazilian national boxing champion. It only took Sokoudjou 23 seconds to prove everyone in the world wrong. The reason this only receives an honorable mention is the fact that despite this win and Sokoudjou's next win (a knockout of another Pride star Ricardo Arona), the African failed to gain anymore big wins throughout his career, showing that his biggest win was simple luck.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen I
Ahh the upset that almost was. Anderson Silva was undefeated in his first 11 UFC fights (7 of them title fights) and seemed completely unstoppable. He had dominated every opponent convincingly up until his fight against Sonnen. The level of intensity going into the fight was high due to Sonnen's impeccable trash-talking and threats to shock the world.

And shock the world he did.

Not only was Sonnen beating Silva, but he was dominating the champion. It seemed that there would finally be a new Middleweight champion for the first time in nearly four years. Had it not been for Silva's extreme heart and jiu-jitsu skills, Sonnen would have succeeded. As history goes however, this was not the case. Silva threw a hail-mary triangle choke and finished the would-be champion. The fight, in this fan's mind, is the best example of the unpredictability that MMA brings to its fans. Had Sonnen won the fight, this would have easily been the number one pick.

Ryo Chonan vs. Anderson Silva
Where Chael Sonnen failed, Ryo Chonan succeeded years before. Before Silva fought and dominated in the UFC, he fought for various organizations, including Pride. Silva was showing some of the dominance that he would later show in the UFC in the Japanese organization. He knocked out former UFC champion Carlos Newton with a flying knee and beat journeyman Jeremy Horn by a hard fought decision. Silva picked Chonan apart for most of the fight. Chonan, who had not been in the fight at all, went for a flying scissor heel hook, a move that very few have actually succeeded in. He caught Silva by surprise and submitted him. Like Sokoudjou, Chonan missed the list due to his lack of other big wins and the fact that Silva was still young into his career when the submission occurred, indicating that Chonan got lucky.

10. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp
This entry is not to imply that Nogueira is a lesser fighter. The man is an absolute legend and was even the Pride Heavyweight champion going into his fight against Sapp. The thing that made him an underdog was the pure size and strength of his opponent. Sapp, although only a couple of fights into his career, ran through the competition with his gigantic 350 pound frame. Compared to Nogueira's 235 pound frame, it seemed that the Brazilian did not have a chance. Only seven seconds into the fight, it seemed that everyone's fears for the champion were confirmed.


Nogueira was spiked onto his head by the behemoth and seemed as though he could have been dead. Past the first seven seconds did not seem much better for the decorated champion. Sapp used his size advantage to control the champion. However, never one to be out of a fight, Nogueira fought his way back from adversity and eventually locked in an armbar, submitting the Goliath to his David. This fight continues to show that even when faced with adversity, the smaller underdog can always prevail.

9. Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia
This fits into the same category as the latter entry. Randy Couture is a legend of the sport, being the only person to hold the UFC Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight championship. After a hard streak in the Light-Heavyweight division that involved him being knocked out twice by Chuck Liddell, Couture retired from the sport for over a year. However, he decided to return to the sport and return to the weight class that initially made him famous: the Heavyweight division. He was given an immediate title shot against the 6'8" Tim Sylvia. We as fans obviously view Sylvia as a joke by today's terms but Sylvia was the UFC champion, on a six fight win streak, and had beaten notable names such as Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson. Combine this with the fact that Couture was a natural Light-Heavyweight, had not competed at Heavyweight in nearly five years, and the fact that he was going into the fight at the age of 43, it seemed as though it would be a bad day for the Hall of Fame fighter.

Then Couture threw the first punch, dropping the champion.

It seemed as though Couture got lucky and knocked the champion out, but Sylvia refused to be finished. Instead, Couture showed that it was more than luck that had him drop the champion. He used his immaculate skill set to control Sylvia in the stand-up and controlled him on the ground. At no point was the massive champion in the fight. Couture showed that age is simply a number and won the UFC Heavyweight championship at the age of 43, making him the oldest champion to date. Not only did he win the championship, which he would defend before losing it to the ultra-massive Brock Lesnar, Couture went on to have some of the best fights of his career when he was even older, showing that it is never too late to get a second chance.

8. Frankie Edgar vs. BJ Penn I
When this fight was made, it made a lot of people scratch their heads. As the champion of the Lightweight division, Penn had been on a terror, showing his dominance and that he deserved to be the champion. He beat down Joe Stevenson to win the title in one of the bloodiest fights in history, knocked out Sean Sherk with a flying knee, submitted Kenny Florian, and dominated Diego Sanchez to a doctor's stoppage, the only stoppage in Sanchez's career. Edgar had also defeated Sherk, but in a forgettable decision, and received his title shot by defeating Matt Veach (if you ask yourself who that is, you are proving the point). Many people felt that Penn had cleared out the division and that he was taking title fights against lesser competition. Edgar, however, was out to show that he had simply not came into his own yet.

Although the fight had a controversial decision, with many feeling that Penn slightly edged out the challenger, the level that Edgar pushed the champion was something that nobody saw coming. Penn received an immediate rematch to quiet the skeptics, only to be met with an unquestionable decision with for Edgar. While we today realize the talent that Edgar has, his heart truly showed when facing arguably the greatest Lightweight champion of all time.

7. Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko Cro Cop

Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery. That is the story of Mirko Cro Cop. The Pride legend was arguably the biggest asset when the Japanese organization merged with the UFC roster, considering he had recently won their Open-weight Grand Prix and beat three different former UFC champions while with the organization (Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, and Josh Barnett a total of three times). His devastating head-kicks dominated the likes of Igor Vovchanchyn, Alexander Emelianenko, and the ultra-tough Wanderlei Silva. Cro Cop dominated Eddie Sanchez in his initial UFC fight, showing that he was a viable asset to the company. His fight against Gonzaga would yield the next challenger for the UFC Heavyweight title. Experts and fans saw Gonzaga as a sacrifice for Cro Cop to receive his highly anticipated title fight against Randy Couture. Gonzaga, who was primarily a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, had only fought one big name before when he was knocked out by Fabricio Werdum. There was almost guaranteed to be a vicious knockout. And there was.

The fight started out tentatively, with both fighters picking their shots carefully. When Cro Cop went for a high kick, Gonzaga took advantage and took him down. On the ground, Gonzaga surprised people by beating the Croatian down with elbows. The referee eventually stood them up, a huge disadvantage for Gonzaga in the eyes of the fans. Then, with nine seconds left in the first round, Gonzaga threw a head kick, one that will be burned in the minds of fans for years to come. Gonzaga Cro Cop'ed Cro Cop. The knockout was so brutal that Cro Cop's foot twisted under his leg. Not only did nobody see Gonzaga winning the fight in any form, nobody could have possibly seen him take out the kickboxer with his own signature move. Gonzaga went on to fight for the title, for which he was unsuccessful, and fought some other bigger names. Because of the Cro Cop fight, he was catapulted into a whole different level in the Heavyweight division. Cro Cop never again achieved the momentum he had going into this fight. It seemed that this underdog destroyed Cro Cop's psyche.

6. Forrest Griffin vs. Shogun Rua I
This is almost the same story as the previous entry. Shogun destroyed all the competition that he faced in Pride, only losing to Mark Coleman because of an injury he suffered during a takedown. In his reign, he dispatched of Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem (x2), and Ricardo Arona, all by knockout. He also had a fight of the year against Lil Nog. His knockout of Arona earned him the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix title. A rematch against Jackson seemed to be in Shogun's future. The only thing in his path was Forrest Griffin. Griffin was a fan favorite that was famous for winning The Ultimate Fighter against Stephan Bonnar in a fight that most consider to be the greatest fight of all time. Besides this and two losses to higher level competition (Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine), Griffin had no experience that could compare to Shogun's accomplishments. According to Dana White, he actually received messages from fans asking why they would put Griffin against Shogun.

Griffin shocked the world not just by getting lucky with a knockout or submission (as some people thought Gonzaga had against Cro Cop) but rather by genuinely beating the Brazilian over the course of the entire fight. With only 30 seconds left in the fight, Griffin had Rua controlled on the ground and could have easily waited the clock out to earn a decision win. Instead, Griffin showed extreme heart by sinking in a rear-naked choke and submitting Rua with only 15 seconds left in the fight. Griffin earned his title fight and, in another upset, beat Jackson to become the champion. This fight shows that even a fighter who most people count out right away can make a career with enough heart.

5. Rafael dos Anjos vs Anthony Pettis
This one is still very recent but I think it will leave a lasting impression on the fans. Critics believed that Pettis was well on his way to being the best Lightweight champion of all time. He had won the championship by being the first person in the UFC to finish Benson Henderson and being the first person ever to finish Gilbert Melendez. He is also the only person to finish Donald Cerrone, delivering a body kick that floored the notoriously tough kickboxer. I even had my doubts about the legitimacy of Pettis, but after his finish of Melendez, he had me convinced. Dos Anjos' UFC career has had high points and low points. The man who was previously finished by Clay Guida and Jeremy Stephens was riding a wave of success. He had beaten fellow Lightweight contender Donald Cerrone (although not convincingly), knocked out Benson Henderson (in a somewhat controversial referee call), and had only been beaten by Russian superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dos Anjos went into his fight against Pettis with a dominate win over Nate Diaz. Having been the underdog in four in his past five fights, it seemed that dos Anjos would be going in as a sacrifice to a man Dana White called the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

When I heard about the fight, I was very sure that Pettis would win. He had superior striking to the Brazilian and had a slight edge in submissions, having submitted two people who are notoriously difficult to submit. I wanted dos Anjos to win and succeed his career comeback, but it did not seem possible. The variable I did not consider was pressure. Pettis' lone UFC loss was to Clay Guida, a man known for pressuring fighters with a barrage of of strikes and takedowns. As soon as the fight against dos Anjos started, it was clear that it would not be an easy night for Pettis, as many people predicted. The Brazilian challenger pressured the champion in every way possible. He controlled the stand-up. He dominated the champion on the ground. He looked for submissions. I remember texting my friend during the 5th round and told him Pettis' only way to win would be to pull an Anderson Silva and finish dos Anjos in the 5th. The champion could not muster the Brazilian's heart and by the end of the night, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that there was a new champion. This fight holds a special place in my heart. Everyone loves an underdog story, with many simply being fighters who have yet to prove themselves, but this one was different. Dos Anjos had attempted to prove himself throughout his career and had previously failed. He had lost his first two UFC fights, a streak that could send other fighters to different organizations. But he stuck with his career and improved himself with every fight. Sure, it is great to see a fighter finally prove their self worthy early in their career, but seeing a career make a massive comeback is a heart-warming experience.

4. Fabricio Werdum vs Fedor Emelianenko

If you are not familiar with Fedor Emelianenko, then I am not sure why you are reading this blog. Fedor is a legend in the sport of MMA, having accomplished things that other fighters could only dream about. Some of these accomplishments include winning the Pride Heavyweight belt, the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, beating some of the best fighters of all time that includes Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop, and going nearly a decade without a loss. After the closing of the Affliction organization, it was announced that Fedor was coming to Strikeforce, an organization that was famous for having a list of famous Heavyweight fighters. His first fight for the organization was against Brett Rodgers, a fight that saw the Russian knockout the powerhouse. His next fight was against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Fabricio Werdum. Werdum was a decent Heavyweight, having picked up wins against big names like Alistair Overeem and Fedor's brother Alexander while with Pride, but was nowhere near the level that Fedor was at during his reign. Emelianenko's lone loss in his career was due to a doctor's stoppage due to an illegal elbow, which was almost a decade before his fight against Werdum.

The fight started and Fedor showed the fans why his aura was on Chuck Norris level by dropping Werdum with a punch. Werdum was rushed by the Russian with a flurry of ground-and-pound. However, the Brazilian stayed calm and looked for a hole he could exploit, which he found by locking in a triangle choke. Fans were shocked but still thought Fedor would pull through the adversity, as he did when he was slammed on his head by Kevin Randleman and still pulled off a submission win. The more Fedor fought, the tighter Werdum locked in the hold. Then the unthinkable happened: FedUFCor tapped. Werdum had accomplished what some of the greatest of all time could not do in just over a minute. This was the MMA equivalent of Superman being beaten by one of the reporters he worked with, it just didn't seem like something that could happen. Werdum set up a path for Fedor that had him losing three fights in a row. The Brazilian lost his next fight, but transitioned back to the UFC, where he is the current Interim Heavyweight champion, showing that it takes one big win from a "lesser" fighter to catapult them into being the best.

3. TJ Dillashaw vs Renan Barao
UFC 173 was set to be one of the biggest cards of the year. The card was set to have Chris Weidman vs Vitor Belfort (and later Lyoto Machida after Belfort withdrew), Chael Sonnen vs Wanderlei Silva in a grudge match, and Junior Dos Santos vs Stipe Miocic. However, the pay-per-view had it's share of problems and many of the fights were cancelled or rescheduled. The event was left with Robbie Lawler vs Jake Ellenberger, Daniel Cormier vs an undersized Dan Henderson, and a title fight between Renan Barao and TJ Dillashaw. The first two fights peaked some interest but the title fight left people scratching their heads. Barao, like Fedor before him, had been unbeaten in almost a decade, only losing his first fight and undefeated in his next 33 fights, including the domination of the UFC Bantamweight divsion such as Urijah Faber twice, Michael Mcdonald, and Eddie Wineland. Dillawshaw lost the Ultimate Fighter, was one for two in his previous two fights, and his biggest win came against Mike Easton. The perception was that Barao had cleaned out the division and was just keeping himself busy until the former champion Dominick Cruz came back from his injury. Some sources gave Dillashaw only a 6% chance of winning his fight against the Brazilian.
Dillashaw went on to prove to everyone what the heart of a champion is truly made of. He dominated the previously dominate champion over the course of five rounds, securing a guaranteed decision win over the champion by dropping him with multiple strikes and dominating the fight in every aspect. Then, in the 5th and final round, Dillashaw hit Barao with a head kick that dropped the champion again, allowing Dillashaw to finish the champion with strikes. This fight was special because not only was Dillashaw given no chance of winning only to dominate and finish the champion, but he also saved the card from fading into obscurity. He took a boring concept of a fight and turned it into something that people will remember for years to come.

2. Chris Weidman vs Anderson Silva I
This was the fight that made my neighbors hate me due to the screaming that ensured. Anderson Silva is easily the greatest fighter that ever lived, having dominated the Middleweight division for years, beating the best of the best. His striking and Jiu-Jitsu skills stumped even the best fighters in the world to the point of obscurity. With every fight came a new contender who claimed that they would be the next to beat the unstoppable champion, but each one failed to keep their promise. When Chris Weidman came up as the next contender, he made a similar promise. He did have the tools to beat the champion, but it did not seem like he would be able to. His only way to win would be to take the Chael Sonnen route and out wrestle Silva. His last fight saw him brutally knock out Mark Munoz, but Silva's chin has been tested by some of the best strikers in the world.

The fight was rather strange. The first round saw Weidman taking the previously mentioned route to success, taking the champion down and landing several hard punches on the ground. It seemed like he could shock the world by taking the champion to a dominate decision. In the second round however, the champion stuffed the challenger's takedowns, preferring to keep the fight standing. He then began to toy with the challenger, taunting him by dropping his hands and inviting the challenger to attempt to punch him. When Weidman did make a connection, Silva toyed with him more, pretending to be stunned by the punch, while dodging the challenger's incoming punches. Then Weidman connected...hard. Silva dropped to the ground in a heap, only to be pounced upon by Weidman in an attempt to finish the fight. But the fight was already finished. The arena erupted with a collective gasp. And just like that, we had a new Middleweight champion for the first time in nearly seven years. Weidman is obviously a great fighter, but the likelihood that he would defeat the greatest fighter of all time, especially by knockout, seemed unlikely. We were very very wrong.

1. Matt Serra vs Georges St-Pierre I
When the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter was announced, it was an interesting concept. The show brought back former UFC fighters to give them another shot at the world's most famous MMA organization. Not only would they receive a contract with the UFC, they would also receive an immediate title shot. This was a cheap gimmick as most of the fighters on the show were mediocre fighters that didn't fare well in the early days of the UFC and would likely not fare well against the two champions at the time: Anderson Silva at Middleweight and Georges St-Pierre at Welterweight. The Middleweight winner, Travis Lutter, did not even receive a title shot against Silva as he did not make weight for their fight, one he eventually lost. The Welterweight winner was Matt Serra. Serra was a stepping stone of sorts for up-and-coming fighters to go through before making it big, such as BJ Penn and Karo Parisyan. His most famous fight was against Shonie Carter, where Serra was knocked out with the first spinning-back fist that was seen in the UFC. When you are most famous for being knocked out by a fellow mediocre fighter and you are fighting Georges St-Pierre, things are not looking good for you. The betting odds agreed, giving St-Pierre a -1100 to Serra's +700.

The fight started out as a decent back and forth between the two, with St-Pierre using his reach well against the shorter, stockier Serra. Then Serra connected with a strong punch that rocked the champion slightly. Serra smelled the blood and went in for the kill. He overwhelmed the champion with strong punches that dropped St-Pierre multiple times. Before St-Pierre could recover, the referee called the fight. Jaws hit the floor worldwide. The man who was literally given a title shot rather than earning it had just knocked out the greatest Welterweight of all time. Serra would only gain one more win before retiring from MMA, but one win cemented his legacy in the sport. With the other fighters on this list, their legacy started with their underdog win, but with Matt Serra, his legacy is his win in the biggest upset of all time.