Category Archives: Middleweight

One Punch: Dan Henderson’s Most Important Fight

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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.

R.I.P. Yushin Okami’s UFC Career

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I’m still reeling from this one. Yushin “Thunder” Okami, who Dana just proclaimed “the greatest UFC fighter from Japan” not too long ago just got his walking papers today. Wow. Should I be worried about my near-minimum wage job any time soon?

Okami is a top 10 middleweight. He’s listed as #6 middleweight in UFC.com.

UFC Ranks

He was on a three-fight win streak and has a 13-5 UFC record overall. Most of these losses have come against middleweights who held the title or have fought for it. To say his release is shocking, inexplicable and questionable is… understated.

Dana “Explains” Okami’s Release

Dana during UFC 168 media day attempted to explain Okami’s release. In short, that sounds to me like along the lines of “if you’re not a title contender, you’re cut”. I guess he still sees Michael Bisping as a title contender. Is that why he suddenly pulled out against Mark Munoz? All joking aside, it seems to me that Okami wore out his welcome in the UFC. Did they expect him to be a title contender? Kind of hard when that division was ruled by two UFC Hall of Famers in Rich Franklin and Anderson “The Spider” Silva.

Wrestling is Boring but Necessary

With all due respect to Okami, his wrestling heavy style was… boring. To say the least. I mean the IOC removed wrestling from the Olympics in 2012 because of the same reason (among others). Pure wrestling honestly is just not a crowd pleaser. Georges St. Pierre, future Hall of Famer and top 5 MMA fighter all time has drawn the ire of many fans due to sporting a similar style. Not too long ago, Jon Fitch, a top 10 welterweight was also let go after a decision loss to Demian Maia. If Gray Maynard gets humiliated by Nate Diaz in The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in a few months, I won’t be too surprised to see him cut loose as well.

The UFC is a sport. But it’s also a business. Frankly, guys like Okami don’t draw a lot of fans in. I won’t lie, I usually zone out every time an Okami fight comes on. Same with a Gray Maynard fight or a Jon Fitch fight. From an entertainment stand point, they’re terrible and deserve to be cut. But this isn’t just about entertainment. It’s a sport and at the end of the day, as a pro MMA fighter trying to pay the bills and feeding yourself and your family, I don’t blame them for employing such sleep-inducing tactics.

“Slavery” comments from Ortiz Resonate:

Bad timing from a humanitarian PR perspective. This firing is coming not too long after Tito Ortiz (among many others) have constantly berated Dana White and the company for mistreating their fighters even going as far as mentioning “slavery”.

http://msn.foxsports.com/ufc/story/tito-ortiz-on-dana-white-i-thought-slavery-was-over-a-long-time-ago-082913

But it’s business. Fighters have to recognize the risk and their expandability but this Okami firing has ratcheted things up a whole new level. There was an unwritten unofficial “rule” somewhere that usually losing two or three fights in a row is the death knell for most UFC fighters. For under carders, maybe one or two bad losses could spell their doom but top carders and upper tier fighters where Okami belongs in don’t usually just get fired after losing a match to a top 5 opponent and future title contender.

There really isn’t a solution to this issue. Most of the power lies in the hands of one Dana White and his evaluation process of a fighter’s job security is as stable as a Diaz brother. The business will go on, Okami will find a job elsewhere (World Series of Fighting and One FC appear very keen) and this news will be forgotten and people move on.

It would just be good to have a more official stable of rules regarding fighters’ job security but until someone lobbies or advocates for it, each UFC fighter – or MMA fighter – leave the fate of their hands to the hands of a few who primarily makes decisions on subjective factors whose guess God only knows.

It’s more likely a totally hypothetical combination of entertainment value, profitability, record and overall quality of work. I would say Okami arguably has a good record in most of these but apparently in Dana’s eyes, he does not and I think most “just bleed” fans would agree with him.

I’ve never been a fan of Okami and would admit enjoyed seeing Tim Boetsch and Jacare plant him. But this release now has me (sort of) writing his obituary

R.I.P. Yushin Okami’s UFC Career

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.

Greatest Upset in MMA History – not really

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That is exactly what transpired on UFC 162.

Then the questions came like a torrent: did Anderson Silva lose on purpose? Was it finally just Silva’s time to be humbled? Was it simply poetic justice that the showboater gets his just desserts? Whatever reason it was, it just shows the impact.

The majority of Anderson Silva’s wins have come from him counter-punching and striking down his foes. That is also why he’s constantly goading his opponents. It all started with the Demian Maia fight. It’s always worked since until Chael Sonnen exposed his kryptonite: the ground game. Wrasslin’.

Chris Weidman was an undefeated (9-0) powerful wrestler hot off the gates. Everyone knew his potential. Guys with championship pedigree like Georges St. Pierre and Frank Mir  boldly predicted him to upset Anderson Silva. Heck, Chael Sonnen is also picking him to win and if anyone knows Silva’s weakness it’s him:

Georges St. Pierre:

I believe it’s a bad matchup for Anderson Silva. Very bad, style wise. Anderson’s weaknesses are Weidman’s strengths. I’ve trained with Weidman and his wrestling is on another level. Not only is Chris Weidman going to beat Anderson Silva, I believe he’s going to finish Anderson.

Frank Mir:

Anderson has shown one weakness – he can be controlled on the ground by powerful wrestlers – and Weidman is the most powerful wrestler there is in the division.

Chael Sonnen:

I think Weidman takes Anderson down at will, I think he blows past Anderson’s guard, and I think he finishes him. Taking Anderson down isn’t a hard thing to do.

And that’s only discussing his wrestling ability. Weidman has knockout power in those fists. He hasn’t finished a lot of guys via KO. In fact he’s only done it twice but in two notable fashions: his first knockout came against Uriah Hall who is one of the more lethal strikers in the middleweight division. But check out how Weidman puts out Hall:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lAo_eAM_Hsg#t=239s

Poor quality, but Weidman hits Hall with a left punch right in the chin similar to where Weidman caught Anderson Silva:

http://www.sportsnet.ca/mma/ufc/watch-ufc-central-on-sportsnet-see-chris-weidman-knockout-anderson-silva/

What’s worth noting is Uriah Hall has an 80.5 inch reach compared to Anderson SIlva’s 77.6 inch reach. Chris Weidman is familiar with striking with an opponent who has long reach.

His most latest KO before Silva was Mark Munoz, who coincidentally won his fight last night as well. Munoz has never been stopped at middleweight but Weidman put him out with an elbow, not too unlike Anderson Silva in the creative department:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bXNXkoilRQ

Needless to say, Weidman’s hype had the evidence to make it look real. Chris Weidman was legit.

Silva is a cocky guy and one might think he stayed a champion without having to overexert himself and used his supreme striking skills to put away each guy. But I’m sure he does his research right? Why would you goad a guy who has knockout power at a reach that can very well catch you?

He didn’t throw the fight. But he certainly didn’t seem like he was in any way trying to win it either. Silva’s done some somewhat “strange” things during the fight promotion most notably his amiable demeanor towards Weidman going as far as this:

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Symbolic for passing of the torch? I’m being too dramatic here right? After, Silva said it’s all just promo:

http://youtu.be/gguPLDzkZJI?t=31s

Maybe he foresaw his own defeat at the hands of a legitimate threat who could potentially outwrestle him like Chael Sonnen did?

The other side of the equation is Anderson Silva and camp simply didn’t do their research enough or he simply let his arrogance cloud his better judgment and got clipped as a result. It doesn’t make sense from a fighter’s objective perspective since Silva didn’t even win the first round.

Weidman was able to briefly showcase why he was so hyped. He took Silva down within the first minute of the first round and managed to almost get him into a leg submission that it looked like for a brief moment the Spider would get caught and tap. But he got out of there alarmingly quick.

You’d think since Silva lost the first round he’d get fired up and attempt to finish Weidman or go after him more fiercely. But in true Spider fashion, he threw caution to the wind and began taunting Weidman and dropping his hands choosing to dodge Weidman’s flurry of punches ala Spider-Man style until a few of those punches finally found their mark ending his night quite abruptly.

The impact of Weidman’s stunning upset – the entire bar I was in fell eerily silent as I’m sure happened everywhere else outside Weidman’s hometown – will forever be foreshadowed  by Anderson Silva’s careless conceitedness.

I was literally the only person applauding in the crowd but I wasn’t sure if I applauded Weidman’s win or Silva getting beaten for making a mockery of an honourable sport. Maybe both. Or maybe I just applauded seeing something that I would’ve thought to only see in pro wrestling. Did Vince buy the UFC from Dana overnight? Is that what’s up?

It wasn’t about Weidman pulling off the upset of the decade, it wasn’t about Anderson Silva going down in a blaze of glory leading many to question his career and it certainly wasn’t a fight for the ages. It was a cautionary tale of fighting etiquette coming from the fighter many consider to be the greatest mixed martial artist ever. It was a tale of the greatest fighter making a costly arrogant error more so than the underdog pulling off the win for the ages.

Silva needs to challenge Weidman again for that belt but I wouldn’t blame him if he just retired given how he’s never taken the sport seriously since God knows when. But for justice’s sake and if Silva still has any pride left he would at least attempt to reclaim the belt and maybe we would actually see the legitimate fight we all came to expect.