Archive for the ‘Editorial Feature’ Category

The Smashing Machine

September 21, 2011 1 comment

This post could also be called “The Netflix DVD that has been sitting on my desk for a fucking month.”  It’s not that I don’t want to watch this, it’s just that I don’t often have 90 minutes to sit down and watch a documentary.  I’d rather use that time doing a write-up for the UFC or PRIDE, but here we are.  I’m not sure what this post is going to be, but I just plan on watching The Smashing Machine and writing – kind of like I do with everything on this site.

Basically, this documentary is fucked up because Mark Kerr is fucked up.  Here we have a man who has put his body through years of torture through wrestling, mixed martial arts, injuries, and steroid abuse.  And it’s not just these things that make Kerr an interesting figure, but that he also seems like a very smart and respectful guy.  The voice coming out of the man just doesn’t fit his vessel, but that’s part of the reason why this is such a compelling piece.

This is the man who was so nervous prior to his first ever MMA fight that he couldn’t even keep down a small glass of water.  Of course, then they show the footage of Kerr absolutely pummeling Paul Varelans, Mestre Hulk, and Fabio Gurgel in his very first MMA tournament.  These three fights are perhaps the scariest fights I’ve ever seen Mark Kerr compete in.  My God, he is absolutely terrifying.

This is the man who is shown injecting his own anabolic steroids in the bathroom of his Arizona home before leaving to fight Igor Vovchanchyn in Japan.  Whose initial time in Japan consists of being paid with a large envelope of American money while discussing his contract with men who seem to barely speak English.  I like that we get a closer look at PRIDE and Japanese MMA as a whole, since we see some of how business is done in Japan.  We get to see some footage of the fighters’ meeting prior to this event, where the rules are discussed and questioned by the fighters and their representatives.

The Vovchanchyn fight is notable not because of Kerr’s girlfriend Dawn constantly cheering in his corner, but because this appeared to be Kerr’s first loss in MMA.  Kerr immediately complains to the referee once the fight is completed and only later would the result be changed to a no contest.  Kerr stops to complain to the promoter before he breaks down crying in his locker room.  Dawn interestingly notes that she expected a loss, since Kerr had hardly been training and was partying mere weeks before this fight.

Kerr describes after the fight the kind of high he gets from fighting and he sounds ready to jump out of his own skin.  He sounds so jumpy and amped up at this point that it’s very scary.  Kerr and Vovchancyn get a chance to talk in the post-fight press conference and exchange pleasantries, trading stories of their battle scars from the contest.  Kerr also unsuccessfully tries to score some narcotics or opiates from the event doctor, as he doesn’t have the necessary “certification.”

Drugs play a very important part in this film, as that’s one of Kerr’s primary struggle in his fighting career.  After his return from Japan, Dawn tells Mark that the only way she would ever leave him is if he didn’t stop taking drugs.  Kerr sounds willing, but doesn’t sound able to stop since he “loses control” of his body more and more each month.  Certainly not the mark of a man who can live without his various narcotic indulgences.

Flash forward to October 1999, where Kerr has been admitted to the hospital on the verge of death due to a drug overdose.  Dawn explains that Kerr can’t stay awake for longer than 30 seconds at a time and the doctor’s don’t know if he’ll pull through.  Some of Mark’s friends come by the hospital when he’s doing better and do their best to get him off the drugs as he starts sobbing once again.  Once home, Kerr gathers up all of his drugs and drug paraphernalia, which all fits into a very large shopping bag, before leaving it in a dumpster.

In one of my favorite lines from the movie, Mark Coleman reveals that he had to learn other skills once headbutts were outlawed.  It’s certainly not a good sign when the banning of headbutts forces a man to change his gameplan so drastically.  Coleman still manages to be successful in his return to Japan against Ricardo Morais, a 6’8″ Brazilian fighter nicknamed “The Mutant” who look like the lovechild of Alistair Overeem and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Kerr, meanwhile, halts his fighting career to enter rehab as Coleman goes through his fight for PRIDE.  Dawn is shown to be a great influence on Kerr, drinking quite consistently starting around noon.  Dawn has broken promises to stop drinking around Mark, who feels uncomfortable with the fighting in their relationship and sees fit to call it quits.

When Kerr returns to PRIDE, he spends much of his time apologizing from his previous withdrawal due to rehab, explaining that he had some kind of allergic reaction.  Kerr will be facing Enson Inoue in the round of 16 in PRIDE’s 2000 Openweight Grand Prix.  Kerr calls on an old friend to help him get ready for his next fight.

Who else but “El Guapo” Bas Rutten?  Bas says that Kerr is the first wrestler he’s seen that has branched out to expand his skills into striking and submissions.  Bas says that Kerr’s had some problems from carrying around too much weight and that PRIDE’s rule changes have made Kerr more ineffective since he can no longer knee on the ground.

Kerr looks much leaner in his fight with Inoue, though he’s still frighteningly sized.  I guess it goes to show how gassed out of his mind Kerr was in his prior contests.  Kerr ends up defeating Inoue by decision and is overjoyed once the fight is complete.  Coleman and Kerr both advance to the quarterfinals of this Openweight Grand Prix and Kerr says that he’d have no choice but to fight his friend with $200,000 on the line in this tournament.

Kerr seems to be working on his relationship with Dawn, which Bas thinks is a bad idea given how volatile their relationship seems to be.  Kerr halts his training early to go traveling with his girlfriend while Coleman continues his own training at Ohio State University in Columbus.  Kerr also seems to have picked up his drinking prior to this fight, but saying it’s not a big deal compared to all of the steroids he used to take.  Unsurprisingly, things continue to go poorly with Kerr and his alcoholic lady friend.

Coleman is successful in his fight against the very tough Akira Shoji, while Kerr is not as lucky.  He falls to Kazuyuki Fujita by decision, dropping out of the tournament in just the quarterfinals and avoiding a semifinal confrontation with Coleman.  Perhaps it’s because Kerr looked an awful lot like the very unpleasant Sam Hoger in this fight.

Fujita ends up injuring himself in this fight, giving Coleman a much easier road to the finals where he’s able to defeat Igor Vovchanchyn to win the Openweight Grand Prix.  Coleman is shown celebrating his victory while Kerr is in back being stitched up after his loss.

In the postscript of the film, we’re told that Kerr made the very wise decision to marry Dawn, further extending their tumultuous relationship.  I’m glad the documentary ended here, since I couldn’t bear watching Kerr bloat up any further while he and his wife emotionally beat the shit out of one another.

Before ending, a couple of interesting notes:

  • Kerr is getting treated for various injuries early in the documentary and then explains his profession to some unsuspecting poor woman in the waiting room.  Of course, he only told her after she asked what was wrong with his eye, so I’m not sure why she should be surprised by Kerr’s answer.  She can’t seem to fathom how someone could fight when they don’t hate a person.

  • So Mark Kerr has a sister named Kathy who also happens to look exactly like him.  I also think she’d be able to kick my ass, but then again, that could just be Mark in a wig.

I think this might be the best place to stop.  The Smashing Machine is an interesting look at MMA during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but more than anything, it’s fairly depressing.  I think now would be a great time to enjoy some ice cream and watch Mayhem on the premier of the Ultimate Fighter 14.


Categories: Editorial Feature

July a Month for Women to Shine

July 9, 2011 Leave a comment

July 2011 is shaping up to be one of the more interesting months in recent MMA history.  We’ve already seen a historic Bantamweight Title fight in the UFC between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber at UFC 132, the same event that featured a stunning return to the win column for Tito Ortiz.  This has been a crazy start to a promising month of mixed martial arts action, and while the UFC might be done for the month, there are still some incredible fights ahead of us.

Later this month, there’s a DREAM card featuring champions Gegard Mousasi and Hiroyuki Takaya, a huge 123 pound Title fight for Shooto between top ranked fighters Yasuhiro Urushitani and Yuki Shojo, and a potentially classic fight between MMA legends Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson.  We’ll also see great bantamweights like Masakzau Imanari, Masakatsu Ueda, and Akitoshi Tamura; we have the semifinals of the Bellator summer series featherweight tournament featuring Marlon Sandro and Ronnie Mann; we’ll see some other great Strikeforce fighters like Paul Daley and Robbie Lawler.

But as great as these fights are, they’re not what I’m looking forward to most over the next few weeks.  Don’t get me wrong, Fedor vs. Hendo and Urushitani vs. Shojo are fantastic fights that I can’t wait to see, but I’m even more excited for the women’s action in the month of July.  Take a look at the fights we can look forward to this month.

  • Women’s Welterweight: Sheila Bird (1-0) vs. Kim Couture (3-4)
  • Women’s Featherweight: Megumi Fujii (23-1, No. 2 WFW) vs. Mika Nagano (8-4, No. 15 WFW)
  • Women’s Featherweight: Mei Yamaguchi (8-2-1, No. 3 WFW) vs. Seo Hee Ham (8-4, No. 12 WFW)
  • Women’s Welterweight: Roxanne Modafferi (15-7, No. 3 WWW, No. 3 WLW) vs. Hitomi Akano (17-8, No. 6 WWW)
  • Women’s Middleweight: Hiroko Yamanaka (11-1, No. 2 WMW) vs. Esui (2-1)
  • Women’s Featherweight: Yuka Tsuji (22-2, No. 4 WFW) vs. Saori Ishioka (11-6, No. 14 WFW)
  • Women’s Featherweight: Kyoko Takabayashi (11-4-1, No. 5 WFW) Celine Haga (1-7)
  • Women’s Lightweight: Elsie Henri (4-4) vs. Amy Salopek (0-0)
  • Women’s Welterweight: Sarah Kaufman (13-1, No. 2 WWW) vs. Liz Carmouche (5-1, No. 8 WWW)
  • Women’s 120 lbs. Title: (c) Sally Krumdiack (8-4, No. 7 WLW) vs. Sarah Maloy (2-1)
  • Women’s Featherweight: Tomomi Sunaba (16-13-1) vs. Sadae Suzumura (1-0-1)
  • Women’s Lightweight: Casey Noland (2-1) vs. Nina Ansaroff (1-2)
  • Women’s Welterweight Title: Marloes Coenen (19-4, No. 1 WWW) vs. Miesha Tate (11-2, No. 3 WWW)
  • Women’s Welterweight: Alexis Davis (9-4, No. 9 WWW) vs. Julie Kedzie (16-8, No. 7 WWW)

Most of these fights will be taking place for the Jewels and Strikeforce promotions, though we’ll see fights for Freestyle Cage Fighting, Pancrase, and King of the Cage.  In all, we have 14 fights featuring 17 ranked fighters including the number three fighter in each weight class, three of the number two fighters, and one of the top ranked fighters in the world in Marloes Coenen.  In all, this could be the most stacked month of fights in the history of women’s MMA.

As much as I love men’s mixed martial arts, it’s possible that I enjoy the women’s fights even more.  In most sports, the women’s product is decidedly inferior to the men’s product.  The WNBA has been a punchline for over a decade, women’s softball has been frequently lampooned, and the Lingerie Football League is a terrifying prospect that insults the intelligence of all mankind.  Female sports are often poor substitutes for their male counterparts, but I don’t feel like that exists in MMA.

When watching women’s MMA, I never feel like the female fighters lack the skills of the male fighters.  I feel like Cristiane Santos and Marloes Coenen are every bit as talented as the top male fighters in MMA.  The fights don’t feel sloppy or inferior compared to the men’s fights and are every bit as entertaining.

The ratings for women’s MMA have also proven to be very good.  Strikeforce’s Cyborg vs. Gina Carano fight was one of the highest rated MMA fights in Showtime history, while fighters like Carano and Miesha Tate have quickly become fan favorites.  Some of this can certainly be attributed to both fighters being very attractive, but I think fans respect that these fighters kick serious ass when they step into the cage.

Of course, women’s MMA isn’t without its flaws.  We still see personal dust-ups between fighters, though they’re not nearly as entertaining as what we see from Chael Sonnen.  Miesha Tate and Tara Larosa recently had a very ugly exchange on Twitter that didn’t reflect particularly well on either fighter.  Most male fighters don’t get so personal with their trash talk, so it’s disheartening to see something like this from great fighters like Tate and Larosa.

There will also be a sect of MMA fans that always appreciate women’s MMA solely for the aesthetic qualities.  Some men seem to be incapable of appreciating women’s MMA for anything other than the fighters being attractive.  It’s at least good that these people are watching the fights, but does it matter if they’re only watching because a fighter looks good?

I’m hopeful that women’s MMA will be able to grow and thrive in the years to come.  With Strikeforce under Zuffa control, the future of women’s MMA in that promotion is up in the air.  Strikeforce abandoning the female fighters would be a serious blow, as the promotion is the largest to feature women’s fights.  Strikeforce has been a good showcase for women’s talent and I would like to see that continue.  For now, I’ll enjoy all opportunities I get to see these fights.

Categories: Editorial Feature

The UFC is MMA

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

In a weekend largely filled with bad news for MMA, the UFC came out as the big winner.  Shooto and Jewels were forced to cancel shows due to the massive Japanese earthquake, Sengoku lost primary sponsor Don Quijote and is close to death, and Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, purchased primary competitor Strikeforce.

With this acquisition, Zuffa has added 20 additional top-25 fighters to its MMA umbrella.  For the top five men’s divisions, the UFC has gone from housing 69.6% of those 125 fighters to now holding contacts for 85.6% of those fighters.  With the dying Japanese MMA scene, the UFC stands to add even more top tier fighters, especially at the lighter weight classes.

Dana White has already come out and stated it will be business as usual for the two promotions, which will operate as separate entities (for now.)  Strikeforce will continue on with Scott Coker in charge of the promotion, while White will continue to helm the UFC.  The UFC and Strikeforce will maintain separate rosters of fighters and the Diaz vs. Daley April 9 show for Strikeforce is going on as planned.

Of course, this arrangement likely won’t last long.  When the UFC purchased PRIDE, they didn’t keep that promotion alive in any form.  Of course, PRIDE was already dying and there haven’t been any big signs of trouble for Strikeforce.  The UFC has also obtained significantly more fighter contracts this time around, so it makes sense that these two promotions operate separately for now.  As fighter contracts expire, Dana says that fighters will be able to negotiate between Strikeforce and the UFC, but I just don’t see that happening.

Keeping Strikeforce alive for now is delaying the process of killing the Strikeforce name and promotion.  Fighters need to continue fighting, and frankly, the UFC is currently unable to facilitate the number of events to keep two rosters of fighters active.  So it’s convenient that Strikeforce already has a lot of 2011 mapped out, with title fights arranged and a Heavyweight Grand Prix already in progress.

I honestly think 2011 will be business as usual for the two promotions, though there will likely be defections to the UFC.  Any top fighters with easily transferable contracts will show up in the UFC sooner rather than later.  Strikeforce’s roster will continue to thin toward the end of the year and the promotion should close at the end of the year.  UFC and Strikeforce champions will fight to unify titles in 2012 and the roster should be assimilated completely.

Next year, it wouldn’t surprise me if the UFC doubled their events from the 30 in 2011 to between 60 and 70 in 2012.  That’s more than one fight a week, so we may see a week where the UFC holds events on Thursdays and Saturday.  Or perhaps there would be two fights on the same day in two separate countries?  The UFC has eyed international expansion, and now it’s possible that they have the roster to follow through.

Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do, and Zuffa has the rest of 2011 to figure it out.  Sengoku is close to death, so that could be yet another roster of fighters the UFC could obtain.  Fighters like Josh Barnett and Paul Daley are not UFC favorites, so will they be left in the cold?  And Dana has previously said that women will never fight in the UFC, so where does that leave Strikeforce’s top female stars?

I worry the most about the women’s fighters, as they definitely deserve a home to compete.  One scenario I would love, and it’s a pipe dream, is if the UFC was the top men’s promotion and Strikeforce was kept as the top women’s promotion as a part of Zuffa.  That way, Dana will never have to see women in the MMA and they can have a home to compete.  I think there’s enough female talent out there to populate an entire promotion with 8-10 big events per year.

For the men, it might be worthwhile to start a cruiserweight division.  I’ve been in the camp for flyweights in the UFC, but with these new contracts, adding a 220-230 lbs. weight class might accommodate this influx of new fighters.  “Rampage” Jackson, Jon Jones, Randy Couture, and Fedor are four names I can think of for this division.  This would be a good home for the heavier 205 pounders, while lighter heavyweights would have a more legitimate home.

There are so many different scenarios and I’m so excited to see how this acquisition shapes up.  More details will emerge in the coming weeks and months, but I’m thrilled that more top fighters are all part of the same parent promotion.

Prior to this purchase, many fans refused to crown the UFC as the king of MMA given the top talent outside of the promotion.  Now I don’t see any way you can argue with this notion.  The UFC is the home of so many fantastic fighters that it is slowly becoming the only place that matters in MMA.

Categories: Editorial Feature

Harold Howard: A Tribute

March 10, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve just completed the UFC 7 recap for the Ranking the UFC series and that means one thing: we’ve seen the last of Harold Howard in the UFC.  I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my hero, and yours, Harold Clarence Howard.

More than any other early UFC fighter, Harold Howard captured the imagination of all mixed martial arts fans.  Combining the looks of a wild Canadian lumberjack and the fighting skills of a wild Canadian lumberjack, Howard was a combat sports tour de force.

Prior to competing in mixed martial arts, Howard was a decorated jujutsu and karate practitioner.  Harold won numerous Canadian championships in the early and mid-1980’s, a tremendous feat given the reputation of the Canadian martial arts community.  Not since “Bad News” Allen Coage had there been such an outstanding Canadian martial arts talent.

A back injury forced Howard out of competition in 1988, but the man made a triumphant return in 1992 winning awards in Sport Karate.  And it was at UFC 3 that Howard became a legend of MMA, narrowly defeating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Royce Gracie.  Howard’s (forfeit) victory over Gracie was surely the peak of his mixed martial arts career.  When that towel flies from the Gracie corner into the cage, Howard celebrates the win with the class of a true champion.

Though a finals loss to Steve Jennum put a pall on the entire tournament, you still can’t take away what Howard earned that night.  Jennum had the liberty of not having previously fought that night, or else Harold Howard would have likely won that tournament.

Howard would not return to the octagon until UFC 7, where his championship hopes were derailed by Mark Hall, who resorted to hair pulling and groin shots in order to win the fight.  Howard was gracious in defeat, as he heartily congratulated his opponent.  Hall was a lucky man that night, as he easily could have been decapitated by a Harold Howard karate chop.

This would be Howard’s final appearance in the UFC, as he would move on to run Harold Howard’s Self-Defense Systems, based out of Niagara Falls in Ontario.  Howard spent many years out of the limelight, living off of the hundreds (thousands?) that he made in the UFC.

That is, until one fateful day in December 2009.  In what must be an awful misunderstanding, Harold Howard was arrested in charged with multiple crimes including attempted murder and assault with a weapon.  The Harold Howard that MMA fans know is a loving, beautiful soul who left us before his time was truly done.  I cannot reconcile this man with the Harold Howard who assaulted his sister and nephew with a hammer and drove his truck into a casino.

Perhaps this was a case of mistaken identity, or maybe it’s a conspiracy against this legendary fighter.  Maybe it was because Howard was hopped up on painkillers, who knows?  I can only hope that Howard will be exonerated for these crimes that this reasonable man of sound mind could not have committed.

In the end, Harold Howard won’t go down as one of the greatest fighters in UFC history.  Rather, he’ll be known as THE greatest fighter in UFC history beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The great fighters of modern MMA owe a debt to Howard, who paved the way for mainstream MMA acceptance.

Harold Howard should never be forgotten by the MMA community, as he’s taught us all that hard work and perseverance will truly pay off.  He’s also taught us all to not load up on Oxycocet and drive your truck after trying to beat your family to death with a hammer.  Harold Howard will live on inside of me, just like I know there’s a little piece of Harold Howard in every one of us.

Categories: Editorial Feature

The Legacy of Fedor

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Fedor Emelianenko’s loss to Antonio Silva on Saturday, February 12 was just the third in his eleven year career.  Most, if not all, MMA pundits and fans discount the first loss as the fight was ended due to a cut.  The second loss occurred in Fedor’s second to last fight, where he was submitted by Fabricio Werdum in June 2010.

Prior to these two losses, many felt that Fedor was unbeatable and undoubtedly the greatest heavyweight ever.  Most chalked up the loss to Werdum as a hasty tactical error which means little to Fedor’s legacy.  The Silva fight is another story, as “Big Foot” manhandled Fedor in the second round after a competitive first, swelling the Russian’s right eye shut and effectively ending the fight.

These losses have called into question the legacy of the former PRIDE and Rings heavyweight champion.  Let there be no doubt that Fedor Emelianenko was one of the greatest heavyweight fighters in MMA history.  Fedor dominated just under two years in Rings up until the promotion’s closure in 2002.  His time with PRIDE was even more impressive, winning more than a dozen fights with just a single no contest on his record.  PRIDE’s closure has allowed Fedor to explode into America, fighting for BodogFight, Affliction, and now Strikeforce.

Noticeably absent from the list of Fedor’s suitors include the UFC.  Fedor has famously spurned MMA’s flagship company, the most recent instance occurring after Affliction’s collapse in 2009.  It is unclear how much of the failed negotiations are due to the UFC, Fedor as an individual, or Fedor’s management, but if Dana white is to be believed, M-1 Global has very unrealistic expectations of co-promotion with the UFC.

Ultimately, this is where the legacy issues come from.  Because Fedor has never competed in the UFC, many consider his resume to be incomplete.  The opinion is that since UFC is the home of the best fighters in the world, Fedor’s failure to “step up” and take on the best of the best is damning to this MMA legend’s reputation.  Frankly, I don’t buy that.

There are two parts of the Fedor/UFC argument that need to be explored: quality of competition and popular opinion.  To a certain degree, both of these concepts are subjective, though quality of competition can more easily be quantified.  By popular opinion, I mean how Fedor’s career is viewed by fans, pundits, and other figures in MMA.  More specifically, I’m curious about the arguments made by those in the anti-Fedor camp (including one very vocal UFC President.)

Regarding quality of competition, we need to look at Fedor’s prime years.  That certainly wouldn’t be in the recent past, as Fedor was 32 when he made his Strikeforce debut.  Most athletes peak in their late 20’s, which happens to coincide with Fedor’s time in PRIDE in the early to mid-2000s.  Fedor defeated fighters such as “Minotauro” Nogueira, kickboxing star Semmy Schilt, first ever UFC Heavyweight Champion Mark Coleman, and Mirko Crop Cop.  Comparable UFC fighters during this time were Tim Sylvia, Ricco Rodriguez, Frank Mir, and Andrei Arlovski.

The UFC may be the premier promotion today, but as far as I’m concerned, Fedor fought and defeated the best heavyweights in the world during his prime.  Today, Arlovski, Sylvia, and Rodriguez are all having severe difficulties outside of the UFC, while Cro Cop and Nogueira are still around.  The fighters that Fedor competed with have had incredible longevity, though both Cro Cop and Nogueira are not the fighters they once were.  The top of the UFC heavyweight division from 2002 through 2006 are either slumming it in smaller promotions or being repeatedly knocked out, with the sole exception being Frank Mir (yuck.)

If you want to judge Fedor’s career accomplishments, you have to look at his work in PRIDE above all else.  At his peak, Fedor was literally unbeatable.  He went nine years without being defeated by a single fighter while competing in the most competitive MMA organization in the world.  While it was around, PRIDE was the number one spot for MMA while the UFC was still working to grow.  Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Fedor, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, and Cro Cop were all better fighters than anyone the UFC could offer, which includes Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes.  That Fedor was able to accomplish so much in PRIDE is just remarkable.

Dana White has attempted to capitalize on Fedor’s recent failures, stating that the Russian hero has always been overrated and never done anything for MMA.  White’s revisionist history comes as no surprise.  Since he proved unable to sign Fedor, White has had little good to say about the man.  I’m a big Dana White and UFC fan, but this looks like nothing more than sour grapes.  Fedor’s greatness can’t be negated by a couple of losses toward the later part of his career.

Fedor’s failure to join the UFC is a very calculated move, as this wasn’t done solely for financial reasons.  Someone in Fedor’s camp, or Fedor himself, was smart enough to know that he’s no longer good enough to beat top-ranked heavyweights like he did years ago.  Junior dos Santos or Cain Velasquez would be too much for Fedor now, but that’s to be expected.  That’s what happens to fighters as they age – their skills diminish.  And that’s not to take anything away from the wins by Silva and Werdum, as both men defeated a good fighter, but they beat a fighter who is historically the best ever and not currently the best.

Still, most MMA fans have unrealistic expectations when tuning in to see Fedor fight for Strikeforce.  Watching Fedor now is like watching Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards or Brett Favre on the Minnesota Vikings.  You’re watching an all-time great in the twilight of his career, not an athlete who is dominant in his current state.  It doesn’t help anything that Strikeforce is marketing Fedor as the greatest fighter ever.  Fedor no longer has the skills that made him into the best in the world, but he’s still very good.  That said, I worry that people newer to the sport see Fedor and can’t help but think he’s overrated.

It just a shame that so many fans missed out on Fedor in PRIDE.  His win/loss record couldn’t even begin to tell the whole story.  It wasn’t just that Fedor was great, but how he was great, always managing to slip out of compromising situations to score yet another victory.  Devastating offense by Kevin Randleman and Cro Cop couldn’t stop the stoic Russian from racking up the wins.  Not only did Fedor survive three fights with the dangerous Minotauro Nogueira, but he didn’t lose one of those fights.  Fedor was so good that he seemed barely human, which is something that can be said about few other fighters.

Though his skills are diminished, the mystique around Fedor will likely never fade.  I experienced that first hand when Fedor fought Brett Rogers in the Chicago suburbs and I’ve never been part of such an electrifying atmosphere.  To see Fedor fight is an experience unlike any other.  That is something that will never fade away, as Fedor has truly been a special fighter throughout his career.

That Fedor is still able to captivate crowds today is a real testament to his legacy.  Fedor is the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time, and potentially the greatest fighter ever.  To go 28 fights without a single loss is an incredible feat worthy of the label of greatest of all time.  And he’s not just the greatest fighter to never compete in the UFC, but the greatest fighter period.

Categories: Editorial Feature

Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping?

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, Anderson Silva came out and said that he wouldn’t mind fighting Michael Bisping in the UK.  I haven’t seen a full text of the interview, so I’m not sure if this was unprompted or if Anderson was replying to a specific question.  It doesn’t sound like Silva is unequivocally saying that he wants to fight Bisping, so I’m hoping this was just a polite response to a question about fighting in England or English fighers.

With that out of the way, this is a fight that I do not want to see.  In any way.  At all.

Michael Bisping has zero chance of defeating Anderson Silva.  None.  I can’t see a scenario in which Anderson Silva would ever be defeated by Michael Bisping.  Anderson has already shown that he has a bit of a weakness against great wrestlers, but even then, he managed to defeat Chael Sonnen.  Bisping, on the other hand, has an obvious weakness against great fighters.  Champions manage to find a way to beat the best, and in bouts with Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, and Rashad Evans, Bisping has come up short.

That’s not the worst of it, though.  I see this potential fight ending in a more decisive fashion than Silva’s fight with Forrest Griffin or Bisping’s with Henderson.  Michael Bisping would become the first fighter murdered in the UFC.  I worry about Anderson Silva doing very terrible things to Bisping to the point of the UFC having to stop filming the fight.  The gap in talent between these two fighters is so tremendous that I feel like the UFC would be irresponsible to make this fight.

Really, both fighters have better options.  For Anderson, Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen are more worthy contenders than Bisping.  We also can’t rule out the long discussed superfight with Georges St-Pierre.  Bisping would be better suited fighting someone like Demian Maia or Alan Belcher.  Both are very good fighters and would certainly challenge the Brit.  Even in those fights, I feel like Bisping would struggle to beat either Maia or Belcher.

I think that Michael Bisping is a good fighter, but he’s certainly not great.  He’ll have a long career in the UFC as a middleweight gatekeeper, but I don’t think he’ll ever elevate himself to the level of title contender.  Should Bisping ever be awarded a fight against Anderson Silva, I’ll watch the fight – just with one eye open.

Categories: Editorial Feature

Oleg Taktarov and the UFC? DO WANT.

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

An interesting development in the world of MMA is that Oleg Taktarov has recently met with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta.  As a big fan of the classic UFC events, any collaboration with some of the original UFC champions is a great thing.  To give you perspective, I look forward to potential UFC returns for Pedro Rizzo and Ricco Rodriguez.  Perhaps I’m not the most objective party when it comes to UFC legends.

The purpose for the meeting, as translated from “The leader of international [promouterskogo] center ‘star’ Oleg Taktarov conducted business meeting with the leaders and the owners OF UFC. In the course of encounter were discussed the prospects for mutual collaboration, and also the selection of the best soldiers on MMA in the territory of Europe and countries of the CIS for their participation on the championships UFC.”

Yes, that makes a lot of sense.  So it seems that there will be some kind of collaboration between the UFC and Taktarov regarding the UFC utilizing Russian talent.  Since Oleg’s been retired for a number of years, this surely won’t lead to a return to the Octagon for the legend, but this is still a great thing.  Oleg Taktarov has done very well for himself acting on American television shows and in movies.  He’s long been a very popular fighter and can potentially be an important figure in the UFC’s desired international expansion.

It will probably just be a matter of time until there are a number of smaller UFC promotions overseas that act as feeder systems for the main UFC in America.  The Middle East has already been targeted, given the investment made by Abu Dhabi based Flash Entertainment.  An event in Brazil scheduled for 2011 is a huge get for the UFC and I’m sure Japan is a target.  Continued shows in Germany, the UK, and Australia help to maintain the UFC’s presence in foreign markets.

Holding events outside of North America is just the start for the UFC.  The development of the UFC’s international product will be a big story to watch in 2011 and 2012.  Tie Quan Zhang, who has recently fought for the WEC, will become the UFC’s first Chinese fighter when he debuts in February.  George Sotiropoulos has been the most successful Australian fighter in UFC history and a little bit of Greek heritage doesn’t hurt.  Fighters like Yushin Okami, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Michihiro Omigawa have been representing Japan and the UFC will always have great Brazilian fighters.

Given the international talent on board, it seems like the UFC is primed to expand their international presence.  Only time will tell us how successful the UFC can be in these foreign markets.  Zuffa seems committed to going all out to bring the UFC to more countries throughout the world.

Categories: Editorial Feature