Category Archives: Light Heavyweight

One Punch: Dan Henderson’s Most Important Fight

Image

Tonight’s UFC Fight Night 32 will put two of mixed martial arts’s biggest icons: Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort against Dan “Hendo” Henderson, a rematch from their Pride fight in 2006. Let’s state the obvious that this fight is a must win for both fighters especially since both are still as dangerous as any young gun and are still vying for a title shot. But for Hendo, this is do or die. This is his most important fight. He has to beat Vitor Belfort. His entire career depends on it.

Divergent Paths

vitor-belfort-vs-dan-henderson-large

Both Hendo and Belfort have a combined 29 knockout wins in their careers. All of Belfort’s wins in the UFC have come via finish. That’s right. Out of the 12 UFC opponents he has beaten, he has submitted two and knocked out ten. The Phenom has looked phenomenal, excuse the bad pun, as of late. Thank a little TRT exemption – but his last two wins, both spectacular finishes against middleweight contenders, Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold means he’s on a path of destruction back to contendership (listed #2 ranked middleweight by UFC.com).

Hendo in contrast has lost his last two fights by split decision to former light heavyweight champions, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. A lot of the naysayers may think Hendo’s on a downtrend and retirement may be in the horizon but Hendo stated he has no plans of and wants to fight for at least two more years. That’s plenty of time to get back into title contention.

Before Hendo lost his last two fights, he was Jon Jones’s next opponent until his injury infamously made history by cancelling the first ever UFC 151. This and being on a two-fight losing streak pretty much has Hendo on the back end of a short line of contenders for another shot. But one punch can change everything. One knockout can change Hendo’s fortunes for good. But he has to be the one pulling it off.

Turning Back Time: 2011

dan-henderson1

Hendo is only two years removed from a magnificent 2011, which was arguably his greatest year since his Pride days. In 2011, Hendo knocked out highly-touted Black House prodigy, Rafael “Feijao” Calvacante to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship. He followed this up with come-from-behind knockout of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, the first time the great Russian has been felled mid-fight by strikes.

And as an encore to the year, Hendo engaged Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in what many pundits and fans alike have called one of the greatest fights in MMA history. He would win the war by unanimous decision.

Hendo would go 3-0 for the year, which would earn him the aforementioned title shot against Jones. But it’s worth noting that his wins have come with asterisks. Cavalcante as highly regarded as he was isn’t a top ten light heavyweight at least not in the UFC. Fedor was on the downswing of his career coming off of two losses and several fight metrics had him losing to Rua.

TRT or Retirement?

vitor1

Since his injury in 2012 and bowing out of the title fight, Hendo just has not looked the same. He certainly didn’t seem as explosive in both his fights against Rashad and Machida and has looked slower and more sluggish. Being permitted a TRT exemption isn’t good news, it’s more concerning. But should Hendo decide to undergo it, would it make a big difference?

TRT users indeed report “increased alertness and well-being, increase in lean muscle mass and concomitant decrease in body fat” (source: Gan EH, “A UK Epidemic of Testosterone Prescribing 2001-2010) . It has certainly helped the resurgent Vitor Belfort as he has looked like a new man, arguably at his best ever since he’s fought professionally. It’s also helped Chael Sonnen as he submitted Rua within just a round. But it didn’t really help either man against Jon Jones.

A reinvigorated Hendo could definitely end up like Vitor Belfort. There’s no guarantee but should Hendo lose to Belfort, and should he lose badly (as in first T/KO loss), maybe retirement is a better path?

Does Hendo want to fade away like other greats before him: Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson and the abovementioned Fedor Emelianenko?

Hendo is a man of great pride and he has aged gracefully. I’m sure he as well as any of his fans believe he’s capable of putting on even more fights but what if he isn’t? As a Hendo fan, I would hate to see him get trashed on his way out of MMA.

One Punch

mike-bisping.jb.c

One punch. Sometimes that’s all it takes to end a fight. And it can happen at any moment against anyone. It happened to Anderson Silva against Chris Weidman, the greatest mixed martial artist of his time flattened by a punch. Hendo and Belfort are both familiar with the power both possess. Whether it is Hendo who uncorks an “H Bomb” and floors Belfort or the Phenom finally accomplishes what over 30 fighters couldn’t and that is to stop Hendo in his tracks with punches (or a kick).

If Belfort loses, he’d be slightly derailed from his hopes of another title shot (since the fight is taking place at light heavyweight, he will still be technically unbeaten at middleweight since losing to Anderson Silva). But if Hendo loses, this could put him on the verge like what Frank Mir is currently facing.

If Hendo wins however and if he does so in spectacular fashion, he’ll be back in the hunt since the only men who have beaten Belfort in the UFC are or will be in the Hall of Fame. One punch could change Hendo’s fortunes: back in title contention or one step closer to retirement or the purgatory of the gatekeeper status.

As such, this would be Hendo’s most important match. It isn’t for a title. It isn’t of the same magnitude as the Fedor or Anderson Silva fight and it likely isn’t Hendo’s last. But it could very well be one that would define his legacy. One punch: Hendo goes back on the road to the title… or the road to the end.

Advertisements

Jones-Gustafsson Rematch Should Happen… But Not Yet

jonesgus_original

September 21, 2013 will forever be remembered as the night Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson achieved legend when he broke down the godly aura of Jon “Bones” Jones. As an 8-1 underdog, many had Gustafsson losing within the first 3 rounds either by TKO or submission. The Mauler would simply go on to put a brilliant display of boxing, rearranging Jones’s face – including bloodying him – like no one has ever seen. Everything changed.

In spite of a furious Jones rally in round 4 and takedown in round 5, Gustafsson looked to be in prime spot to score the upset of the ages…

But not so. A tightly contested match left to the judges and they gave it to the champion. I didn’t dispute the decision but many did and I couldn’t blame them entirely. Gustafsson looked more impressive than Jones, taking him down in round 1 and landing significantly more head strikes.

But take another look. This time with fightmetric’s tally:

http://blog.fightmetric.com/2013/09/jones-vs-gustafsson-official-ufc.html

By fightmetric’s scoring of significant strikes and total strikes, Jones would have won 4 of the 5 rounds. You can argue Gustafsson had significantly more head strikes versus Jones’s ineffective leg kicks. But you can also counter argue that Jones did more damage to Gustafsson in round 4 alone than Gustafsson did the whole fight. Jones also took Gustafsson down in round 5 to get back that takedown he surrendered to him in round 1. Point being, it was too close to be a robbery as some people would think so.

A rematch will and should happen… but not right away. This is different from the Lyoto Machida-Shogun fight from UFC 104 where fightmetric and everyone including their mom had that fight for Rua.

This was Gustafsson’s coming out party. He’s vastly improved and truly showcased his footwork, boxing and even wrestling. He should be back in the title fight as soon as two fights later. The light heavyweight division is his playground now as well. Meanwhile, future contender Glover Teixeira is somewhere salivating over Bones’s apparent weakness to boxing. But at the end of it all, the champion showed heart and got the job done. Both fighters’ stocks rose dramatically and so did the UFC. Amazing fight. Everyone’s a winner (except those who bet on Gustafsson, oh well).

This fight wasn’t a robbery, it was a blessing for fight fans everywhere.

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

0503-chael-sonnen-tmz-wwe-3

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

tumblr_mo5jhdf4LM1rkf4k0o1_500

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

Chael-Sonnen-American-Gangster-Walkout-Shirt

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

cmpunk

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

Chael-MMA-Live

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.