Monthly Archives: August 2013

MMA Fanboy’s Manifesto

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a HUGE sports fan. I won’t brag about being the most hardcore fan or talk about any insane antics or hefty dollars I’ve spent to prove it. No, in fact I would say I’ve been modest and there’s always a crazier fan around the corner.

I’m still a relatively “young” sports fan, not having been for more than a decade. I initially followed the NBA then transitioned to the NHL after moving to Toronto then the NFL and MLB followed. I follow other sports to an extent but casually: college basketball and football, tennis, soccer on an international level and pro wrestling if you count that.

But it wasn’t until April 9, 2005 as what Dana White would call “the most important fight in UFC history” that I got sucked into the world of MMA. I’ll always remember that fight as the sporting event that had me glued to the TV set from the moment it started to the moment it ended. Here’s the fight in its entirety:

Eight years, hundreds of UFC cards and endless fights later, I’ve finally decided to blog about MMA. I’ve tried blogging in the past about past sports or all of them and it turned out to be too much and I slowly faded.

But not this time. MMA is the sport I write about and it’s the sport I’ve decided to stick to. I love it, I respect it and I’ll continue to watch it till the day I die or till the day it dies (hopefully never). Here’s some reasons why I love it so much and why you should:

Young Sport but the Fastest Growing Sport Worldwide

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The sport of MMA is pretty young especially if you compare it to other combat sports such as boxing and wrestling. The UFC, the biggest MMA promotion is only 20 years old versus the big four sports leagues, which are all about a thousand years old. The promotion actually began at a time when I was not only alive but at a conscious age. I can trace the UFC and MMA back to its roots and actually recall it easier or watch it and it’ll be more accessible as opposed to baseball. Good luck finding older videos or tapes.

Despite being young, MMA is the fastest growing sport in my opinion. It’s a global sport that is big in all continents from North America to Asia to Europe to South America and so on. The only two sports I can think of that are more popular in a global scope are football (soccer) and basketball.

There are over 90 fighting promotions based in (n) different continents and the UFC has been to every continent (but Africa and Antarctica) and is being broadcasted in over 130 countries and they’re not slowing down any time soon. For the UFC to have been so successful and not use the state of New York, arguably the hottest market for anything sports-related speaks volumes.

From a career perspective the sport of MMA is the place to be. As an aspiring public relations, events and writing student I would want to be a part of a sport that I can only see continue growing and expanding. The sport of MMA I feel is only as young as I am. This is the sport for me and my generation.

Most Diverse Sport

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There are over 25 different nationalities in total competing in the UFC alone. Tito Ortiz (above) reps both his Mexican and American heritages. There’s over a hundred women competing, making it one of the largest if not the largest organized sport for women worldwide. There are over ten weight classes ranging from as light as 105 lbs to 265 lbs over. You have fighters as small as being under 5 feet and behemoths the size of Shaquille O’Neal. Needless to say, no matter what your ethnicity, sex or build, you have a spot in the world of mixed martial arts.

As a diminutive Asian, there weren’t many athlete role models I could take after. Asians are particularly nonexistent in the realm of sports and women’s sports are but an afterthought. You also seem to need to be over six feet tall to be given better consideration in most sports. But if I ever wanted to strap up, train and go HAM at least I know that pint-sized people like myself have a weight division to compete in.

Best Sport to Follow

There is no “offseason” in MMA. No waiting around for an entire season feasting on the endless trade and signing rumours, top ten lists of underrated and overrated fantasy players and whatever your favourite player is having for dinner.

There is an event perpetually every week or a PPV every month. Fighters only fight within three to four months, maybe two if they take fights on short notices or fight in multiple tournaments but that isn’t common especially for the big name fighters. Within one calendar year, the average MMA fighter fights 2-3 times. Assuming you follow or love about 20 fighters, that’s still only about 10-20 events you can catch in a full calendar year distributed quite evenly.

Also, in an age where there’s distractions everywhere *cough* ADHD *cough* Internet *cough*, the three-round five-minute format of the UFC for instance is easier to watch in its entirety than a 90 minute football match or a 60 minute American football game.

Not About the Violence… it’s Respect and Discipline

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Every MMA opponent would always argue the same thing: it promotes violence and is human cockfighting. Two people causing short-term and long-term physical and psychological injuries to each other for the sake of our petty entertainment… allow me a pause for brief laughter.

The relatively young sport of MMA is relatively no more as violent as other sports like hockey, American football, rugby, lacrosse, even pro wrestling if we want to stretch it that far. MMA just happens to be the most visually striking among all sports and the violence is direct with kicks to heads and faces caked in blood. You’d be hard-pressed to find deaths within major MMA organizations such as the UFC or One FC.

But it’s not about all of that. It’s about the respect and discipline each fighter puts in night in and night out. I’m not a fighter and I can respect every competitor that puts their body, mind and soul on the line. And at the end of a fight, even bitter rivals like Nick Diaz and GSP shake hands for respect. Because there are only two things that can overcome hatred: and respect is one of them. It’s a strange juxtaposition of something that is graphically bloody and violent with a great show of sportsmanship.

Every MMA fighter trains continuously maintaining strict diet to get to their respective weights.

Most Exciting Sport. But it’s about the Story.

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MMA is the most exciting sport, period. I haven’t been on the edge of my seat more times than MMA fights and I’ll always remember the nights I stayed up an extra two-three hours just skimming online for whatever fight videos I can see or going through Wikipedia or Sherdog reading up on fighter profiles, tracing fight history and reading up on various fighting styles.

But it’s beyond that sometimes. Sometimes it’s about what MMA – particularly the UFC – has stood for: truth and honour. Ties in to my earlier point on respect and discipline. It’s about what Royce Gracie started way back in UFC 1 (video below). It’s about the average guy, 170 lbs making much bigger fighters – hulking bullies like Ken Shamrock at 205+ lbs tap out. It’s about the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu adding this new dimension – this new image of fighting that has changed it forever – at least in the mainstream world.

What Royce Gracie showed was how the smaller man could beat the bigger man because it wasn’t just about someone’s size in a fight. He gives underdogs – pipsqueaks such as myself a chance to get ground and pounded instead of getting straight up knocked out the ability to defend myself from nearly anyone.

Sure, the world of MMA is very mainstream and commercialized now. It’s transcended what it originally meant and maybe it has no meaning at all for most people. As simple as two guys beating each other up for everyone’s amusement. But to me it’d always be about underdogs overcoming odds to win. And it’s just not just limited to Royce Gracie’s original domination of the first three UFC’s. There’s plenty wherever. From Matt Brown overcoming a heroin overdose to becoming one of the hottest welterweights currently to Frank Mir overcoming a motorcycle accident to pave a Hall of Fame career to bitter rivalries that span months or years from Tito Ortiz making peace with Ken Shamrock or the aforementioned GSP and Nick Diaz settling old scores in a handshake and hug at the end of their fight.

MMA isn’t so much about the gratuitous violence as it is about the passion, respect and triumph of human courage. You can beat each other to death (and potentially cause future physical risks) and still be best friends is why I love this sport.

With that said, I leave you with the video – the event – the night that changed it all.

Adios.

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Forget the UFC: What if Sonnen went to the WWE?

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Here’s a guy who’s quite notorious for “talking his way into title fights” and is still one of the most popular fighters. Saturday night just saw him return to form in a dominant manhandling of Maurico”Shogun” Rua, submitting the former Light Heavyweight Champion in one round.

It didn’t take long for Sonnen to get back on top of the trash talk; right after his victory, Sonnen went on air to diss Wanderlei Silva. Not long after, both Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida took to twitter to express their enthusiasm in fighting the loudmouth American. That’s instantly THREE guys wanting a piece of Sonnen. His popularity never fades, not even for one night.

Sonnen is going to be fighting soon again some time in 3-4 months most likely either Belfort or Silva. He may end up fighting all three by the end of next year. He’s got his work cut out for him.

Not too long ago though, before Chael signed his new five-fight deal with the UFC, he mentioned wanting to purchase the WWE after he was finished fighting. Fat chance this would happen. But why not join the WWE after Sonnen goes through his five fights?

I love guys like Sonnen. The UFC and sports in general need more athletes like him. Athletes who aren’t only great in the ring but also away from it. Sonnen is the best promo guy the UFC has and the only pitfall to all his yapping is his behaviour outside the octagon has overshadowed his ability in it. Fans and fighters alike either appreciate Sonnen or just wish for him to keep quiet. A lot of fight fans just want their mixed martial arts quiet and plain jane I guess.

That is why I can’t help but speculate that Sonnen’s colourful outspoken character would fit better with the WWE. I’m looking forward into the future (or an alternate reality) where we have the American Gangster in the land of pro wrestling…

From MMA to Pro Wrestling: Been There, Done That

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It’s nothing new for a professional mixed martial artist to venture into the world of pro wrestling. Ken Shamrock, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawel and the equally colourful and controversial Quinton “Rampage” Jackson have tried their hands in pro wrestling to name a few.

Shamrock made a brief but memorable WWE run back in the late 90s Attitude Era and even won the Intercontinental title and played a big role with Vince McMahon’s notorious Corporation stable. He would also go on to win the NWA World Title with the fledgling TNA in 2002. Both King Mo and Rampage are a part of TNA’s roster as of this year.

And of course, there is the special case of Brock Lesnar. Pro wrestler turned MMA fighter turned pro wrestler again. Brock’s second run with the WWE on a part-time basis had him emphasize on his MMA training moreso than his wrestling background and it has worked very well in his favour having him do shoot fights that go as far as bloodying John Cena in his first match.

Shamrock and Lesnar’s stars are more likely bigger than Sonnen’s. Shamrock was a legend and one of the pioneers of MMA as a sport and Brock Lesnar was just a big superstar having already gained his following in his early WWE days where was a three-time WWE Champion.

Nonetheless, Sonnen is a celebrity in his own right and has a large enough following (n amount of twitter followers) to make an impact in the WWE. His strong promotional skills can only help him. In fact, I liken Sonnen’s clear voice, emphatic deliveries and clever subject matter to a certain WWE superstar we’ll get to later.

Gimmicks and Alignment

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Gimmick?! What gimmick. Chael Sonnen is most interesting as himself. Sure, his ability to sell himself based on his outlandish comments and promos paint him as a colourful character and the prospect of diving into a totally new character seem interesting but it shouldn’t be applied. If anything, his gimmick should be temporary as a surprise gimmick for him to make a strong debut similar to Chris Jericho way back in 2000 when he had the countdown or most recently, Alberto Del Rio pushing the Mexican aristocrat gimmick.

The American Gangster moniker can thus be Sonnen’s gimmick if he were to adapt one. Sonnen’s “gangster” can come across as anti-mainstream and antisocial and pick apart everything that is “fake” with pro wrestling, its wrestlers and its fans. Sonnen is a natural heel and he’s certainly sold himself as one. He has an arrogant character, an aggressive grappling style and a seemingly infinite resource of insults and narcissistic speak.

But all this falls way too close in the territory of the aforementioned superstar who we are getting close to revealing…

Potential Fights and Feuds

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CM Punk! He may be worlds different from Sonnen but the way he cuts promos and speaks strikes familiarly. His versatile background that includes Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujutsu and wrestling and propensity for pulling off death-defying stunts arguably makes him the best in-ring worker the WWE has had since Kurt Angle. A feud between him and Sonnen would be a promotional clinic and it’s intriguing to see who can outperform who. I can’t see a feud like this failing.

Brock Lesnar is the next most obvious choice. No way this fight would’ve happened in the UFC but thanks to the WWE we get to see this. This would have to be a semi-shoot and I’m sure there won’t be a shortage in trash talk…

Other notables would include Daniel Bryan who may be legitimately around Sonnen’s size and is an intense in-ring competitor and top 5 fan favourite. Chris Jericho when he’s around for the sheer entertainment value. Jericho’s an all-around showman. A potential four star match easily. And Alberto Del Rio would be a good for Sonnen’s American Gangster gimmick. No actually I’m just excited to see Sonnen talk about Del Rio’s stint at MMA and his epic match with Cro Cop

Can’t forget, John Cena. Just to see what kind of outrageous ideas Sonnen has in plan to make fun of everyone’s not-so-beloved superstar.

Non-Wrestling Roles

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Sonnen can double in joining the announce team. He’d definitely bring some relevance and credibility to the group. He’d make a fantastic play-by-play commentator and relieve Michael Cole of having to add “vintage” or “modified” before a third of the wrestling moves he sees. His voice quality is also crisper and easier to understand and that’s the same reason I had him feuding with Punk.

More than likely Sonnen will settle in as a 3rd colour commentator. He could very well act as a foil to Jerry “The King” Lawler’s whimsical devil’s advocate personality by being the no-nonsense logical heel commentator, a role not many from the broadcast team have done well since Paul Heyman in 2001. Hell, it might even be better if Sonnen breaks the 4th wall once in a while to add that dimension to the announce team.

It’s definitely an interesting idea but just an idea for now. It may come to fruition in a few years and I don’t doubt a person of Sonnen’s interest would consider some spotlight in the WWE. It is after all, an experience like no other. Much like much of Chael Sonnen’s segments.

Who should Aldo Fight Next?

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Pardon the bluntness. UFC 163 absolutely sucked. Where is Dana at? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him. The best fight of the main card: John Lineker versus Jose Maria ended quite abruptly with a freak accident to Maria. Tom Watson put on such a sad performance he walked out to the Backstreet Boys in a mask and bad judging reared its ugly head again after Lyoto Machida found himself on the wrong end after, despite out-striking and controlling most of the match lost a shocking unanimous decision to Phil Davis.

And the main event – the event that pitted arguably the two most exciting dynamic fighters in their division – Jose Aldo and the Korean Zombie – fell flat on its face. The main fight just seemed to go from bad to worse especially for Zombie who dislocated his shoulder and lost the match via TKO. Aldo and Zombie looked lethargic the whole match and honestly I’ve seen sparring matches more entertaining for what could’ve been the Fight of the Year. Disappointment just isn’t strong enough of a word.

But I wish Korean Zombie well on his way to recovery and a win is a win for Aldo who never looked in danger throughout the whole match though he looked gassed by the 3rd round, which reminds me of how Edgar out-cardio’d him in their fight earlier in the year. This may very well be Aldo’s only “flaw” if we were to nitpick him.

Jose Aldo sports one of the best takedown defenses in the UFC, he has the most lethal leg kicks and tramples absolutely every fighter he’s faced and his striking in general is surgical. He also fights aggressively and has a killer mentality. Jose Aldo may very well be the next coming of Anderson Silva as differently as they are and as much as I would hate to use this comparison. But he might just be the P4P greatest Brazilian fighter when Silva inevitably fades away (as surreal as that is to imagine right now).

I’m getting ahead of myself. Other than his cardio, Aldo has also been injured repeatedly. Now he’s dealing with a broken foot. He’s suffered at least an injury each year since the WEC/UFC merger and I can’t help but think if Aldo’s career is ever going to live to its GOAT potential should his litany of injuries keep piling up.

As it stands, Aldo is in the top 4 P4P MMA rankings and while I feel he doesn’t have to prove anything any more, the featherweight division (in my opinion, the most exciting division in the UFC) is ripe with scintillating matchups. I’m balling trying to pick who should get Aldo next.

Here’s a look at five contenders (three of whom Aldo has already faced, one who he should’ve faced) who could (or should) get next crack at the champ along with some extra (loose) criteria such as a) likelihood they get the next shot and; b) their chances of beating Aldo. Their rankings are based on UFC.com’s rankings:

Ricardo Lamas (#2 Featherweight)

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Height: 5’8”
Reach: 70 in

Lamas wants a title shot. Scratch that. Lamas DESERVES a title shot; hard to argue with a guy who is undefeated (4-0) in his time at featherweight and with the UFC. He’s the last person to beat Cub Swanson (see below) and the first to finish off highly touted prospect, Erik Koch.

It is very likely Lamas fights Aldo next or at the least fights for a #1 contender’s fight (most likely with Cub Swanson). Though I’m not entirely confident how well Lamas is going to fare against Aldo given how his stand-up game is not anywhere close to keeping Aldo honest. Aldo’s takedown defense (as you will see me refer to like a broken radio) is all-but legendary and his two losses came via KO though they were at lightweight. Anything can definitely happen and Lamas can shock the world with a stunning upset but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Likelihood: High
Chances of Beating Aldo:
Moderate

Cub Swanson (#4 Featherweight)

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Height: 5’7”
Reach: 70 in

My pick for the guy who needs to fight Aldo next; without a doubt Cubby has been the hottest featherweight contender outside Lamas and his 4 knockout wins in his last 5 fights speaks enough for itself. Aptly named “Beautiful Destruction”, Swanson transformed what was an up-and-down WEC career into a brilliant UFC career since joining Greg Jackson.

The last time Cub fought Aldo was the latter’s WEC debut and a freak double flying knee ended the fight quite abruptly. Cub’s vast improvement would make things more interesting. Cub is also most likely the most explosive (if not strongest) striker Aldo will have to face and his BJJ background makes him more than capable on the ground. I like Cub’s chances at pushing Aldo, maybe even pull off the shocking upset. Maybe.

The more likely scenario is Cubby fights Lamas in a rematch for the chance to face Aldo while he waits for his foot to heal. Losing to Lamas (again) will slow down Swanson’s momentum some but he’ll hang around the title picture. If it’s anyone Dana loves, its guys who finish fights and Cub will get his shot sooner rather than later.

Likelihood: High
Chances of Beating Aldo: High

Frankie Edgar (#3 Featherweight)

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Height: 5’6”
Reach: 72 in

A Frankie Edgar-Jose Aldo rematch is something that will inevitably come provided neither fighter decided to call it a career and go Yeti-hunting. Frankly (no pun intended :p), I see little reason why this rematch will be too different from the first. Aldo clearly won the first three rounds of the fight and seemingly “gassed out” although it’s hard to find fighters who can out-cardio Frankie Edgar.

What’s notable is Frankie being able to throw Aldo into the mat. Given Aldo’s takedown defense, that is impressive and Frankie is going to have to pull a couple more of those from nowhere to secure a decision over Aldo. Frankie is one of the quickest strikers in the UFC and usually against most competition he can outscore them in this category but that is considering if he can keep eating Aldo’s leg kicks. It’s only a matter of time before the iron-chinned lion-hearted fighter eventually succumbs to his physique. But I’m rambling here. Bottom line: Aldo will still secure a decision win though this next fight may be slightly closer than the first. Maybe a split decision win? Hmm.

Likelihood: Moderate
Chances of Beating Aldo: Moderate

Chad Mendes (#1 Featherweight)

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Height: 5’6”
Reach: 66 in

Chad Mendes was approximately a second away from making it into round 2 with Jose Aldo during their title fight a year ago. That marked his first ever loss and it lit the proverbial “fire up his ass” as he tore through his next three opponents knocking them all out within 2 minutes of the fight. That stat while impressive should still be taken with a grain of salt as none of those three opponents were in the top 10.

“Money” is a force to be reckoned with and is probably the closest thing to Urijah Faber during his golden WEC days.  He faces Clay Guida next in what could be a #1 contender’s match for Mendes. This would also be the first top 10 guy Mendes faces outside of Aldo in his UFC career and should be a good indication if he is a pretender or a contender.

While I love Mendes’s combination of strength, endurance and aggressiveness, I don’t see how his second go round with Aldo will yield an entirely different result. He may probably take Aldo all the way to a decision and wear him out with his strong wrestling background but he isn’t any better than Frankie Edgar or Faber when they faced Aldo. I don’t see Mendes getting another shot at least not over the aforementioned fighters and I see even less of an upset chance.

Likelihood: Low
Chances of Beating Aldo: Low

Anthony Pettis (#2 Lightweight)

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Height: 5’10”
Reach: 72 in

This match is going to happen whether Pettis wins the Lightweight title or not. It has to happen and I’m not the only one who feels this match is still owed to us fans. Physically, Pettis is the most imposing of all fighters listed. He is taller and has longer reach than Aldo and his striking skills are just about as lethal and creative. You’re looking at a kid (only 26) who finished 13 of his 18 opponents and beat 16 of them. He’s coming off of two huge knockout wins over two well-regarded lightweights and is the last guy to have beaten Benson Henderson over three years ago. Here’s a reminder:

With that overhyping behind us, Pettis hasn’t fought a guy with the same pedigree as Aldo. As great as Bendo is, he hasn’t nearly looked as dominant in his title defenses as Aldo – who has all but trampled his competition – even whilst suffering through injuries. Aldo ranks 5th in significant strike defense (72.1%) and 2nd in takedown defense (89.7%). Aldo’s also notable for giving a lot of guys such as Mendes, Swanson and former WEC champion Mike Brown their first KOs. Is Pettis next?

That said, I like Pettis’s chances the best out of all the fighters. Maybe slightly over Cubby. Pettis has one of the most diverse striking backgrounds and is a slick BJJ tactician. Styles make fights and he definitely has the style to pull off the upset. Though the likelihood of this fight happening is very hard to predict though if Pettis wins the Lightweight title back it would be a “Superfight” in its own category.

Likelihood: Wildcard
Chances of Beating Aldo: High