Would YOU sign Ben Askren?

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Ben Askren finds himself in a strange predicament. He’s undefeated, a champion, finished his last two fights and is broadly ranked as a top ten welterweight – but Bellator don’t want to keep him and the UFC don’t seem to want him either.

The reasons for this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Despite Askren’s flawless record, he remains a relatively one dimensional martial artist, winning his fights via exemplary wrestling and even his TKO stoppages tend to come from volume of strikes against an opponent who can’t improve their position, rather than any truly impressive striking or power.

In short – he’s a bit dull for anyone other than a committed wrestling afficionado.

This is by no means a rule for wrestlers in MMA as a legion of fighters – notably including Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Michael Chandler, Johny Hendricks – have all added dynamic striking to the positional advantage that wrestling gives them and hence have earned their share of highlight reel KO victories.

Does a lack of appeal for the casual or ‘just bleed’ fans make a top level fighter actively unattractive to top promotions?

Is it right that big promotions pass on a successful fighter just because he’s not as fun as he might be? Isn’t this a sport, where athletic achievement is what matters most?

On the other hand, MMA is a solo sport, an entertainment sport where fans pay to watch compelling fighters over and above any attachment to tournament, promotion or championship.

From a purely financial PoV, you can have dull footballers who are regarded as top level and even beloved by their own club’s fans, but that’s because football is marketed more on established competitions and local/hereditary loyalty.  There is room for one part of the machine to be all graft so long as others have that highlight reel cutting edge and/or as long as the team wins…

Dana White has advised Askren to go to WSOF and there are a bundle of interesting fights for him there – Steve Carl, Josh Burkman, Jon Fitch, Gerald Harris, Aaron Simpson and Jorge Santiago could all provide compelling challenges, but wouldn’t bouts against Rory MacDonald, Dong Hyun Kim, Gunnar Nelson, Josh Koscheck, Mike Pierce etc. be even more so, and surely it’s best to have such a talent in house than potentially evolving into a megastar elsewhere?

Dana clearly doesn’t see dollar signs or at the very least, value for money in Askren as things stand but he’s signed fighters with far less evident upside and shouldn’t the UFC have the ‘elite level’ fighters where possible, even if they aren’t all as much fun as their more flamboyant peers?

In any case, I ask you – would YOU sign Ben Askren?

Tom Niinimaki vs. Walel Watson – Cage 23

Ahead of Tom Niinimaki’s UFC debut tonight, we thought folks should check out his last fight, a victory over five time UFC veteran Walel Watson on home turf in Finland’s CAGE promotion.

We rate Niinimaki pretty highly as you can see from our rankings posted earlier today and we’re expecting him to ale a splash in the UFC.

Up against Rani Yahya, he’s being tested out of the blocks but his wins over Watson and Chase Beebe show that he’s got what it takes to compete in these deeper waters.

Well worth checking out the prelims for…

European MMA Rankings, November 2013

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Following an offhand Twitter comment from Cage Warriors’ Paul Dollery, we thought that European rankings might be a fun thing to have a crack at, being definitely more interesting (and more work) than UFC or world rankings (which are in some divisions almost the same thing.)

We’ve assembled these rankings based on a ‘what have you done for me lately’ premise, rewarding good form over reputation, largely concentrating on a fighter’s record over the last three years.

Wins by stoppage, over name opposition in bouts of consequence are weighted most heavily, with a narrow, competitive loss to a quality fighter often being worth more than three wins over horridly outclassed opposition.

For us, is who you fight and how that matters most, not the cold win/loss record…

Let’s get into it…

Legend –

The information at each fighter record is
#Ranking- Fighter Name (Nation) overall record, record in last three years, promotion (biggest/most recent wins)

Heavyweight

1- Vitaly Minakov (Russia) 13-0, 10-0 Bellator (Alexander Volkov, Ryan Martinez)
2- Stefan Struve (Netherlands) 25-6, 5-2 UFC (Stipe Miocic, Pat Barry)
3- Cheick Kongo (France) 20-8-2, 5-2 Bellator (Matt Mitrione, Pat Barry, Shan Jordan)
4- Alistair Overeem (netherlands) 36-13, 3-2 UFC (Brock Lesnar)
5- Andrei Arlovski (Belarus) 20-10, 5-2 WSOF (Mike Kyle, Mike Hayes)
6- Alexander Volkov (Russia) 19-4, 10-2 Bellator (Rich Hale, Vinicious Spartan, Brett Rogers)
7- Alexey Oleinik (Ukraine) 53-9-1, 10-2 IND (Mirko Filipovic, Jeff Monson, Dion Staring)
8- Damian Grabowski (Poland) 18-1, 5-0 IND (Stave Economou, Dave Huckaba)
9- Magomed Malikov (Russia) 7-2, 5-2 M-1 (Jeff Monson, Aleksandr Emelianenko, Alexey Oleinik)
10- Sergei Kharitonov (Russia) 21-6, 4-1, IND (Andrei Arlovski)

Light Heavyweight

1- Alexander Gustafsson (Sweden) 15-2, 5-1 UFC (Shogun Rua, Thiago Silva)
2- Jimi Manuwa (England) 14-0, 5-0 UFC (Ryan Jimmo, Cyrille Diabate)
3- Attila Vegh (Slovakia) 29-4-2, 9-0-1 Bellator (Christian M’Pumbu, Emanuel Newton, Zelg Galesic, Travis Wiuff)
4- Mikhail Zayats (Russia) 22-7 , 10-2 Bellator (Renato Sobral)
5- Gegard Mousasi (Armenia) 34-3-2, 4-0-1 UFC (Mike Kyle, Ovince St-Preux) *returning to Middleweight in February,
6- Jan Blachowicz (Poland) 17-3, 5-1 KSW (Goran Reljic, Houston Alexander, Rameu Thierry Sokoudjou)
7- Victor Nemkov (Russia) 19-4, 10-1 M-1 (Vasily Babich)
8- Linton Vassell (England) 12-3, 7-0 Bellator (Zelg Galesic)
9- Jason Jones (Netherlands) 20-10, 5-1 BAMMA (Max Nunes, Tatsuya Mizuno, Przemyslaw Mysiala)
10- Cyrille Diabate (France) 19-9, 3-2 UFC (Chad Griggs)

Middleweight

1- Michael Bisping (England) 24-5, 4-2 UFC (Alan Belcher, Brian Stann)
2- Frances Carmont (France) 22-7, 9-0 UFC (Costa Phillipou, Lorenz Larkin, Tom Lawlor)
3- Alexander Shlemenko (Russia) 49-7, 11-0 Bellator (Doug Marshall, Brett Cooper)
4- Mamed Khalidov (Poland) 27-4-2, 7-0 KSW (Melvin Manhoef, Kendall Grove, Jesse Taylor)
5 – Luke Barnatt (England) 7-0, 7-0 UFC (Andrew Craig)
6 – Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (Russia) 23-2, 13-1 M-1 (Trevpr Prangley)
7- Michal Materla (Poland) 19-4, 6-1 KSW (Kendall Grove, Matt Horwich)
8- Tom Watson (England) 16-6, 3-2 UFC (Stanislav Nedkov, Jack Marshman)
9- Ramazan Emeev (Azerbaijan) 11-2, 8-0 M-1 (Mario Miranda)
10- Nicolas Musoke (Sweden) 11-2, 7-1 UFC (Alessio Sakara) *returning to Welterweight 

Welterweight

1- Tarec Saffiedine (Belgium) 14-3, 4-1 UFC (Nate Marquardt)
2- Martin Kampmann (Denmark) 20-7, 3-3 UFC (Jake Ellenberger, Thiago Alves, Rick Story)
3- Gunnar Nelson (Iceland) 11-0-1, 3-0 UFC (Jorge Santiago, Damarques Johnson)
4- Cathal Pendred (Ireland) 13-2-1, 8-1-1 Cage Warriors (Che Mills, Gael Grimaud)
5- Adlan Amagov (Russia) 13-2-1, 6-1 UFC (TJ Waldburger)
6- Andrey Koreshokov (Russia) 13-1, 12-1 Bellator (Lyman Good, Marius Zaromskis)
7- John Hathaway (England) 17-1, 3-0 UFC (John Maguire, Pascal Krauss)
8- Rashid Magomedov (Russia) 12-1, 6-0 IND (Alexander Yakovlev)
9- Gael Grimaud (France) 19-6, 10-2 Cage Warriors (Jesse Taylor, Bruno Carvalho)
10- Nicolas Dalby (Denmark) 11-0 7-0 Cage Warriors (Morten Djursaa)

Lightweight

1- Khabib Nurmagomedov (Russia) 21-0, 12-0 UFC (Pat Healy, Gleison Tibau)
2- Rustam Khabilov (Russia) 17-1, 6-1 UFC (Jorge Masvidal)
3- Alexander Sarnavskiy (Russia) 25-2 Bellator (Ricardo Tirloni, Marcus Davis)
4- Ross Pearson (England) 15-6, 4-2 UFC (George Sotiropolos)
5- Musa Khamanaev (Russia) 13-3, 8-1 M-1 (Daniel Weichel)
6- Norman Parke (Norther Ireland) 19-2, 5-0 UFC (Jon Tuck, Colin Fletcher)
7- Steven Ray (Scotland) 14-4, 10-3 Cage Warriors © (Jason Ball, Sean Carter)
8- Piotr Hallmann (Poland) 14-2, 10-1 UFC (Francisco Trinaldo)
9- Marcin Held (Poland) 16-3, 6-2 Bellator (Rich Clementi)
10- Ivan Buchinger (Slovakia) 24-4, 8-2 Cage Warriors (Jason Ball, Diego Gonzalez)

Featherweight

1- Conor McGregor (Ireland) 14-2, 10-1 UFC (Ivan Buchinger, Max Holloway)
2- Dennis Siver (Germany) 21-9, 4-2 UFC (Diego Nunes, Nam Phan)
3- Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (Russia) 21-5, 11-1 Bellator (Mike Richman, Marlon Sandro)
4- Tom Niinimaki (Finland) 20-5-1, 6-0 Cage FC (Walel Watson, Chase Beebe)
5- Shabulat Shamhalaev (Russia) 12-2-1, 6-1-1 Bellator (Mike Richman)
6- Joni Salovaara (Finland) 14-7 7-2 IND (Olivier Pastor, Chase Beebe)
7- Graham Turner (Scotland) 23-7, 7-1 Cage Warriors (Nad Narimani, Fouad Mesdari, Nathan Beer)
8- Sergei Greicho (Lithuania) 15-5-1, 8-2 OC (Joni Salovaara, Olivier Pastor)
9 – Niklas Backstrom (Sweden) 6-0, 4-0 IND (Sergeio Greicho)
10 – Akira Corassani (Sweden) 11-3, 2-1 UFC (Robbie Peralta)

Bantamweight

1- Brad Pickett (England) 23-8, 4-3 UFC (Mike Easton, Yves Jabouin)
2- Brett Johns (Wales) 8-0, 8-0 Cage Warriors © (David Haggstrom)
3- James Brum (England) 13-2, 9-2 Cage Warriors (Olivier Pastor, Moktar Benkaci)
4- Timo-Juhan Hirbokangas (Finland) 8-2, 7-1 Cage FC (Niko Gjoka, Artemij Sitenkov)
5- David Aranda Santacana (Spain) 9-0, 3-0 IND (Olivier Pastor, James Doolan)
6- James Pennington (England) 9-1, 7-1 Cage Warriors (Kris Edwards, James Doolan)
7- Martin McDonough (Wales) 11-4, 6-2 Cage Warriors (Alex Enlund, Stee McCombe)
8- Sirwan Kakai (sweden) 9-2, 5-1 IND (Jose Luis Zapater, James Doolan)
9- David Haggstrom (Sweden) 7-2-1, 3-2 IND (Artemij Sitenkov, James Doolan)
10- Cory Tait (England) 7-2, 5-2 UCMMA (Spencer Hewitt, Nathan Beer)

Flyweight

1- Ali Bagautinov (Russia) 12-2, 10-2 UFC (Tim Elliot)
2- Neil Seery (Ireland) 13-9, 5-1 Cage Warriors © (Mikael Silander)
3- Phil Harris (England) 22-11, 3-2 UFC (Ulysses Gomez, Neil Seery)
4- Pietro Menga (England) 10-0, 10-0 FCC © (Artemij Sitenkov)
5- Mikael Silander (Finaland) 8-3, 7-3 IND (Wade Choate)
6- Paul McVeigh (Northern Ireland) 19-8, 2-2, Cage Warriors (Paul Marin)
7- Paul Marin (Romania) 6-3, 6-3 Cage Warriors (Shaj Haque)
8- Shaj Haque (England) 3-1, 3-1 Cage Warriors (Kris Edwards)
9- Steve McCombe (Northern Ireland) 19-21-1, 6-7 IND (Scott Pooley)
10- Scott Pooley (England) 6-4-1, 3-1 SnA (Kris Edwards, Martin McDonough)

Women’s P4P

(due to the less developed state of Women’s MMA we’re ranking our top ten female fighters from across the weight classes – we hope to expand this section in future)

1- Marloes Coenen (Netherlands) 21-6, 3-2 Invicta FC (Romy Ruyssen, Liz Carmouche)
2- Katja Kankaanpaa (Finland) 8-0-1, 5-0-1 Invicta FC (Aisling Daly)
3- Joanne Calderwood (Scotland) 7-0, 7-0 Invicta FC (Asjley Cummins, Sally Krumdiack)
4- Rosi Sexton (England) 13-4, 3-2 UFC (Aisling Daly, Roxanne Modafferi)
5- Milana Dudieva (Russia) 8-3, 3-2 ProFC (Danielle West, Sheila Gaff)
6- Maria Hoegaard Djursa (Denmark) 5-4, 3-0 IND (Alexandra Buch)
7- Shiela Gaff (Germany) 10-6-1, 3-3 UFC (Jennifer Maia, Aisling Daly)
8- Pannie Kianzad (Sweden) 4-0, 4-0 IND (Milana Dudieva)
9- Aisling Daly (Ireland) 12-5, 4-4 Cage Warriors (Jessica Eye)
10- Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Poland) 4-0, 4-0 (Julia Berezikova)

In the interests of amusement, I decided to tally up the totals per nation, awarding points in reverse order (10pts for a first place ranking, 1pt for a 10th place ranking) just to see which nation in Europe is the most awesome at MMA right now.

European National Rankings

1 – Russia – 119 pts
2 – England – 92 pts
3 – Finland – 34 pts
4 = Ireland – 28pts
4 = Netherlands – 28pts
6 = Poland – 25pts
7 = Sweden – 21 pts
8 = France – 20 pts
9 = Scotland – 16 pts
10 = Denmark – 15 pts

We here at Kumite welcome our new Russian overlords…

TUF 18 Season Recap and Finale Preview

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Ok, the latest TUF series wraps tomorrow, so time to wax lyrical about how awesome the season was. So do I start with the coaches? Best not. The average quality of fights? Hmmm… probably not. The professionalism of the male contestants? Nope. Ummmm…

That fight between Jessamyn Duke and Raquel Pennington was pretty good, wasn’t it?

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to take away from this season…

Hopefully the finale is a more positive experience and from the relatively big name trilogy fight in the main event as Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard search for relevancy and bragging rights, through the bouts from show contestants to the overlooked undercard, the possibility is very much there.

Diaz and Maynard are an interesting stylistic matchup, each with a marked advantage in more than one area and as a rubber match, between two guys coming off memorable KO losses, there is quite a bit to prove for both men.

The female tournament final between Juliana Pena and Jessica Rakoczy seem imbalanced in favour of Pena but Rakoczy has the better experience (her three pro losses all coming to top notch talent) and you don’t finish Roxanne Modaferri and decision Raquel Pennington without having something to offer.

For the men, it’s almost the best match that could have come about as Team Tate’s #1 Chris Holdsworth puts his undefeated record on the line against Manchester’s Dave Grant, who despite getting to the final via a bye has more fights and wins over some top notch talent such as James Pennington. This should be a very competitive fight.

The girls who put on the best fight of the season, Raquel Pennington and Jessamyn Duke are rewarded with fights on the main card, against Peggy Morgan and Roxanne Modaferri and both of those bouts promise much, even if I can’t see past Pennington and Duke for the wins.

On the undercard, there are some very cool fights as Finnish featherweight Tom Niinimaki makes his UFC debut against veteran Rani Yahya and Akira Corassani looks to improve his UFC streak to 3-0 against Maximo Blanco.

Lastly, or more appropriately in the curtain raising position we have highly ranked American flyweight Joshua Sampo making his UFC debut against fellow noob Ryan Benoit.

That’s not a bad card at all, and as we know, it’s the ones with no real buzz that so often surprise…

First Fighting Championship 4 Videos Duncan vs. Brooks, Bungard vs. Richards

How better than to open our new regular video feature with a brace of videos from Friday’s FFC4 event at the Alona Hotel in Motherwell.

This is the state of Scottish grass roots MMA at the moment, and it fills me with anticipation of how the sport is growing in my country.  Please watch and share, not for us, but for the guys who are working so hard to put on events like this and the fighters who are putting on bouts like this in the name of a dream, rather than celebrity and pay checks.

THIS is as real as it gets.

First up, we have a genuine Match of the Year contender between Mark Duncan and Kevin Brooks…

Duncan rightly earned the Per4mance of the Night award for scoring the upset victory there, which snagged him an all expenses paid trip to train with Team Curran in Crystal Lake, Illinois.  Good night’s work, that…

Next up, we have the pro match between Chris Bungard and Tom Richards…

How to Score an MMA Match

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The fact that so many fans and apparently judges don’t understand how to score an MMA contest under the unified rules has bothered me for a while. So as a thought exercise, I figured I’d try and put together a flow chart of how I understand a bout should be scored. You can see the fruit of my labours above.

Now, this is how I interpret the rules as they stand and a few additional things need to be noted.

1. You score over a whole round, without bias towards the end of the round.
2. If a round takes place mostly on the ground, with relatively little striking taking place, you score effective grappling ahead of effective striking – i.e. If fighter A rocks fighter B after the opening bell, but fighter B responds by taking them down and generally rag dolling them for the next four minutes, then fighter B wins the round. On the other hand, a takedown at the end of a round does not outweigh a striking advantage over the earlier part of the round.
3. DAMAGE IS NOT A SCORING CRITERIA.
4. Fighting Area Control and Effective Aggression does NOT mean pressing forward in a heedless fashion, and conversely a counter striking style, scoring off the back foot is not regarded as ceding control or lacking effective aggression. Of course, if this tactic is working, the fighter should be landing more clean strikes and you shouldn’t even be thinking about either Fighting Area Control or Effective Aggression.

Ok, that’s about all I can think of right now…

It’s worth mentioning that I don’t quite agree with some of the rules as they stand, for example I feel the specified definition of Effective Striking as being awarded to the fighter who scores the most legal strikes is a bit off, as not all strikes are created equal.

Of course, using damage as an indicator of effective striking is silly as fair skinned or veteran fighters will tend to mark up easier than darker skinned or younger fighters, but I can’t help feeling that a strike that noticeably makes your opponent wince, snaps their head back or causes them to change their gameplan (the all too common ‘I just got rocked, go for a takedown’) should be worth more than half a dozen taps.

Similarly, I feel that sub attempts and an active guard should count a bit more, but this is more to do with most judges being of a wrestling background and automatically feeling top position scores over bottom, no matter how much more offensive the fighter on bottom is being. Given that pulling guard is a big part of BJJ, it seems insane that MMA judges tend to score the resulting position in the favour of the guy on top…

Anyways, the above chart is a blunt yet well meaning instrument intended to help educate folks who don’t understand the scoring criteria and perhaps provoke a little discussion.