Silva vs. Diaz: A Super Fight…

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Saturday’s collision between Anderson ‘the Spider’ Silva (33-6) and Nick Diaz (26-9) in the headliner of UFC 183 might not qualify as a Superfight (neither man is a champion and both are coming off a brace of losses) but the star power and enigmatic nature of both men, combined with so many unknowable factors make this a fight to get excited about.

A year and a half ago, Silva was the no.1 pound for pound fighter in the world and the consensus Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) but a knockout loss to Chris Weidman and a broken leg in the rematch dimmed his star and led to over a year on the shelf.

Now that he has returned, we can only wonder if Anderson can be close to the near-mystical figure he once presented in the Octagon. Will the first back-to-back losses of his career, a horrific injury and lengthy spell on the sidelines have diminished his skills, his passion?

It’s also worth remembering that Silva turns 40 in April, which is a truly impressive vintage for an elite level fighter, especially coming up against one of the most renowned cardio machines in the sport.

Diaz has long been considered one of the best Welterweights in the world, but frustrating decision losses in title matches to Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre and his typically difficult relations with the UFC management have led to almost 22 months in the wilderness.  However, as Nick is eight years Anderson’s junior and does triathlons for fun, I don’t think we can read too much into that period of self imposed exile.

It is rare that a fight between two competitors on a combined 0-4 run and 35 months worth of inactivity attracts such attention, but in this instance we have a pair of the most popular, divisive and mercurial talents in MMA.  Interestingly, right up until Anderson’s second leg break, this would be considered a drastic mismatch (indeed, many still see it that way) albeit one likely to provide a fun fight whereas now, it seems a little fairer…

Diaz gives up height, reach and weight to Silva and has never possessed the same aura against regularly top class opposition or displayed the same creativity in terms of striking prowess. However, with Anderson ageing and coming off a serious injury, Diaz’ confidence, relentless pressure, endless cardio and top notch boxing could be a nightmare for the returning ‘Spider.’

So much relies on how Silva’s mind and body have recovered from the reverses of the past few years and if either let him down, we could easily see Diaz swarm him and pick up a career defining victory. Nontheless, most will be assuming that Silva will pull off some implausibly creative knockout, as we’ve seen so often in the past…

Either way, we find ourselves with a truly compelling contest between two legends of the sport – and despite the exponential increase in the number of UFC cards and bouts, that’s not something we can say all that often.

Expect middle fingers from Diaz, hands down taunting from both men and a stark contrast between intensity and Zen-like calm.

Oh, and expect the unexpected. This is not one to miss.

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Seven Claimants To The Crown

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There has been a lot of debate about who’s next to challenge for John Hendricks’ shiny new Welterweight title.  Let’s have a look at the options…

#1 Robbie Lawler

As one half of the most compelling title fight in some time, ‘Ruthless’ is still right in the mix for another title shot.  With a lot of folks (especially those who watched live or didn’t have the commentary turned on) scoring the fight in his favour and everyone agreeing that the it was an epic and close fight

With the lack of a clear cut number one contender and a solid story built in, a rematch would be competitively credible and do good business.

#2 Tyron Woodley 

Saturday’s co-main event was all but billed as a title eliminator and while ‘The Chosen One’s victory over Carlos Condit is tainted for many due to the nature of Condit’s injury, it’s worth remembering that Woodley was winning the fight and Condit was injured while defending offensive moves (a takedown followed by a low kick) so it’s not like Carlos just crumpled with Tyron unable to take credit for it.

Having Woodley as challenger would be interesting as he is one of the few at 170lbs who can come close to matching Hendrick’s wrestling ability and sheer power, which could promise a surprisingly even and hard hitting contest.

#3 Hector Lombard

While his win over Jake Shields on Saturday might have lacked sparkle and highlights, we have to remember that nobody beats Shields in impressive fashion (his KO to Jake Ellenberger being the exception, and arguably down to extenuating circumstances) and you can’t argue that Lombard has looked to be an utter beast since his drop to welterweight.

A deadly striker with an impressive grappling pedigree, there are far worse choices than Lombard, even if I think he could do with one more (preferably impressive) win to really put him over as a challenger.

#4 Rory MacDonald

For so long the heir apparent to the division, MacDonald’s loss to Robbie Lawler blunted his ambitions just as it seemed the way had cleared with his mentor, Georges St-Pierre going on hiatus.  Rehabilitated with a commanding (if not exactly fun filled) victory over Demian Maia, Rory is a clear and present threat to anyone in the division and a built-in Hendricks vs. Tristar storyline would surely help sell some pay per views.

#5 Nick Diaz

He’s on a 0-2 streak, hasn’t fought in a year and hasn’t beaten a top ten ranked welterweight in forever (no, BJ Penn and Paul Daley do not count) but Nick’s peculiar charisma remains a draw and his persistent snipes at other fighter’s style or lack of professionalism, combined with his ‘champion of the outsiders’ schtick keep him in the frame.

From a purely sports point of view, Diaz shouldn’t be any closer than a brace of wins from a title shot, but he makes tremendous if unconventional copy for the media, has a committed (as in ‘the men from asylum are here to take you home now’) fan base and does his damnedest to fight in an entertaining way (which just so happens to suit his high output, cardio machine boxing and slick jiu-jitsu.)

Nick has tremendous skills both in the cage and in promotional terms so it could happen even if he REALLY should, y’know win a few fights first…

#6 Dong Hyun Kim

Almost totally overlooked in most articles on this subject, ‘Stun Gun’ has rebounded from his losses to Carlos Condit and Demian Maia in 2011-12 with a four fight win streak and his two most recent of those coming by the kind of epic knockout that doesn’t just become a fixture on highlight reels, it makes seasoned fight fans wince and consider watching a less brutal sport like fox hunting.

Of course, Kim lacks the box office appeal and top 5 wins of the other runners here but his high level grappling and newfound knockout power are a threat to anyone and with the UFC looking to expand its Asian operations, he could be pushed forward in the mix.

#7 Georges St-Pierre

The undefeated former champion continues to haunt the division and as long as he’s fresh in the memory, never mind continuing to attend events and give interviews speaking about the UFC he’ll be one decision and a fight camp away from a rematch.  A Hendricks-GSP rematch would do huge business (but in Dallas or Montreal?) and they do say it’s hard to walk away…

If I Had The Book…

…and we were booking an immediate bout for say June or July, I’d give it to Robbie Lawler, who has earned at least one more big payday and I don’t think anyone would grumble overmuch about seeing a rematch of Saturday’s main event.

That would give the rest of the division some time to sort themselves out and one fighter to break ahead of the pack with an impressive victory.

However, Johny Hendricks has intimated he’s prefer an autumn return rather than a summer title match (fair enough giving that Lawler dished out a fair beating and he’s done 2 x 5 round matches in four months) so the rest of the division might be best served trying to find a definite no.1 contender.

With that in mind, I’d book Robbie Lawler against Nick Diaz, as there is an in built storyline (Nick handed Robbie the loss that saw him released from the UFC back in 2004), the fight would be an almost guaranteed classic and the winner would be well placed for another crack at the belt.

As for the other contenders, I’d book Woodley vs. Kim in a battle of the grapplers with knockout power, with Hector Lombard facing Rory MacDonald in the spare match.

Surely one of those bouts would produce either an epic fight or truly memorable finish and we’d have our unquestionable no.1 contender.

The Dope Show

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I wake up today to news that yet another UFC fighter (Pat Healy) has failed a test for marijuana use, had a big win reduced to a no contest and lost over $130’000 in win bonuses.

That’s really sad, but also a little dumbfounding that a professional athlete would indulge in a substance which is a) specifically banned under the rules of the sport and b) has well established negative effects.

What’s even sadder is the inevitable blowing up of my Twitter feed with folks saying that dope shouldn’t be banned, it’s not a performance enhancer and advocating all sorts of things, such as the idea cannabis is actually good for you etc.

Now, I’m no starch collared conservative regarding drugs – I’m very much of the belief that all drugs should be legalised for personal use and the net benefit to society of reducing the power of organised crime, increasing the tax base and putting one tenth the resources into education and treatment that we currently put into the ‘war on drugs’, would be significant.

However, it remains that as a currently, largely illegal drug – marijuana IS banned in MMA and fighters will risk bans, having results overturned and fines if they get caught having used it.

Why a pro fighter would use marijuana eludes me – its not like your average stoner is the fittest, most focused individual on the planet. If nothing else, can you imagine being stoned while sparring? Getting the munches during a weight cut? Sounds like great fun to me.

Checking up on the many effects of marijunan – I notice a few interesting facts, which back up things I’ve noticed in friends who are heavy stoners (I play guitar in rock bands, this stuff isn’t exactly alien to me.)

Firstly, the psychological effects of addiction (and marijuana IS psychologically addictive) include paranoia, aggression, anxiety and other things which can surely not be good for someone who’s daily routine involves getting beaten up.

Dope causes laxity, a tendency to procrastinate and prioritise towards getting your dope and having your smoke, over all other things. Have you ever gotten between a stoner and his dope, questioned their need to spend their rent money on a bag of herb? The reaction is often very aggressive.

See Nick Diaz and Matt Riddle. Aren’t they just the LOVELIEST boys?

Secondly is a little footnote that says “Heavy marijuana use lowers men’s testosterone levels and sperm count and quality. Pot could decrease libido and fertility in some heavy-smoking men.”

Hmn, a ‘recreational’ drug that lowers testosterone. In a climate where steroid use and TRT is increasingly becoming a huge issue in MMA, the fact that top level professionals are being found to be partaking of a drug that could hide the effects of such, more intensely banned substances is… interesting.
The bottom line is this. I believe you should be legally allowed to take whatever you like, it’s your body after all. However if your profession states that a certain substance, or practise is banned then its pretty incumbent on you to NOT DO IT.

Furthermore, please don’t be sidetracked by the chorus of folks telling you that dope is good for you, has no harmful side effects etc. Chances are, every single one of them is a heavy stoner who is looking for a justification for their habit.

To his eternal credit, Pat Healy has come out with quite possibly the best fighter statement I’ve ever heard in such a situation.

“I would like to start off by apologizing to the UFC, Jim Miller, the MMA community, its fans, my family, teammates and coaches for my positive testing for marijuana after my UFC 159 fight with Jim Miller,” he stated. “I was fully aware of the UFC and state commission’s drug policies and made poor life choices.

“I stand behind the UFC and state commission’s disciplinary actions. I support efforts to make MMA (and sports) a clean, safe and fair place to compete.

“I made a very poor choice to socially use marijuana and now I must face the consequences of that choice. I can assure you that I will do everything the UFC and state commission asks of me and beyond. I will make a conscious effort to be a better role model within the MMA community.”

He takes responsibility, admits to having done wrong and makes no excuses, no weak assertions that dope isn’t a PED or he needs it to regulate his temper. He broke the rules, he apologised and will take his lumps.

Well done Pat, for responding like an adult and a man, you’ve actually gone up in my estimation. Lets hope the apologists take note.

Strikeforce: Invasion!

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages… imagine that the world’s premier sports entertainment company bought out their closest domestic opposition and after realising it couldn’t be maintained as a going concern on its own, folded that promotion’s fighters into it’s own ranks.

Of course, the winning organisation couldn’t be seen to have ‘it’s’ stars outshone by those created in another company… could they?

Thankfully, MMA is a proper sport and the UFC are quite willing to build on a fighter’s past accomplishments now that they are a UFC fighter, rather than Dana White displaying the ego of a certain Mr McMahon and having all of Strikeforce’s talent job to established UFC names.

Well, unless they decide they want to face GSP, everyone jobs to GSP.

To say that in general, the Strikeforce imports have impressed in the UFC thus far would be an understatement. They’ve won the vast majority of their bouts, and often in some style. Not only are they swimming in the deeper waters of the UFC, they are punching the sharks in the nose and going in search of a bigger boat.

The same has been true of the imports from the WEC, who had spent years being told they were a second class organisation. A few years on from that company being folded into the UFC and a WEC product is Lightweight champion, while a few others (Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Jamie Varner) are more than competitive in one of the most cutthroat divisions in the sport.

This weekend sees the UFC ride into Strikeforce’s old back yard, San Jose promoting a card stacked with veterans who are more than familiar with the HP Pavilion.

Strikeforce’s last lightweight champ, Gilbert Melendez faces former WEC, now UFC Champ Benson Henderson in the main event which is almost undoubtedly for the crown as the #1 lightweight in the world.

Also on the card, Josh Thomson, Daniel Cormier, Jordan Mein, Lorenz Larkin, Jorge Masvidal and Roger Bowling take on established UFC fighters with all but Mein making their debut.

Mein has already tasted victory inside the Octagon, like Maximo Blanco, Nah-Shon Burrell, Robbie Lawler, Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Bobby Green, Tyron Woodley and Derek Brunson in the first few cards of this year.

What I’m pointing out is that fighters who come in from supposedly lesser promotions seem to be adapting quite well to the UFC.

Why is that, do you think?

I mean, EVERYONE knows that the UFC is the peak of the sport and any given fighter hasn’t proven a damn thing till they’ve done it in the UFC. I mean, it’s the elite level of competition… it says so on their website!

It’s evident that this isn’t quite true, and while the UFC undoubtedly has the deepest roster in the whole sport, it really does seem like less heralded names from less monied promotions can definitely swim in the deepest waters of the UFC without a length acclimatisation process.

Would anyone really care to bet that the seven former Strikeforce fighters go winless on Saturday? After all, it’s common knowledge that fighters with UFC experience are better, right?

Isn’t it?

Ben Henderson is an example to all, and there is no good reason why Daniel Comier, Jordan Mein or anyone else shouldn’t follow his lead and show that you don’t have to pay your dues as a jobber in the UFC to thrive. Real sport doesn’t work like that.

My first point here, is that Strikeforce had a damn fine roster, and it was quality of booking and media partner issues that led that promotion to fall, not the quality of its fighters.

The UFC clearly know that – former Strikeforce contenders have been awarded/earned title shots on six occasions in recent years. Not always straight off the bat, and sometimes they’ve squandered the opportunity through idiocy but the point is that the UFC put someone else’s product in such a position.

My second point, is that all those folks who say a fighter isn’t UFC class because they haven’t fought there yet need to lift their heads and see the wider pantheon of the sport. Strikeforce was good, Bellator, Cage Warriors, Invicta and so many others are putting on cards of consistent quality. It’s just that they aren’t on FOX and don’t have foul mouthed, media friendly spokespeople backed by far and away the best marketing team in the industry.

Think… a year ago, women were never gonna be in the UFC because everyone knew they weren’t good enough. Now we’ve had two fights and Dana is already looking at adding the rest of the divisions, because the girls are impressing so much. Who knew? Actually those of us who look past the UFC knew…

The quality is out there, don’t dismiss it just because you’re too damn lazy to see it.

WeightGate or “what’s 0.4lbs between friends?”

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As I am sure you are all aware, following his comprehensive decision loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC158, Nick Diaz‘s camp released a secret video (how cunning of them) showing a UFC official explaining that the local commission in Quebec would allow a weigh in of up to 170.9lbs for their title match as they ‘don’t count the decimal.’

While that’s weird enough, contrary to the way things are handled everywhere else and in direct violation of the contractually agreed weight limits for the bout the fact that nobody really thinks a weight of less than a pound makes any difference in the fight added to the fact that GSP handled Diaz in exactly the same fashion he has his last seven challengers, nobody was really clamouring for a rematch, aside the Diaz camp and his mildly insane loyalists.

Of course, a weight difference of up to 0.9lbs accounts to a pair of jeans or a big poo and as such is of no real, competitive advantage BUT rules is rules, and if you sign up to fight at a weight you should, professionally speaking make that weight.

In a few promotions, I’ve seen rulings where if a champion misses weight going into a title defence, they are still allowed to fight. However if they win, the title is vacated and they have to win the vacant title back in a bout against the new no.1 contender, while if they lose, the challenger wins the title – it’s unfair to penalise a challenger for a champion messing up his contractual obligations after all. For an example, see how BAMMA handled Jack Marshman missing weight for his British Middleweight title defence against Andrew Punshon.

I quite like this rule, as it keeps a meaningful main event on a card and doesn’t penalise a challenger. However, this wasn’t done in the case of GSP-Diaz, because of course his weight was announced as 170lbs and I’m not sure if the UFC apply that rule anyways.

Well, that’s fine…

Except GSP has gone on to admit to a French speaking Canadian publication that he believes he weighed 170.4lbs on the scale.

For sure, he was wearing shorts and could have done the dance behind a towel, gone and sat in a sauna for an hour to lose the last 4lbs or whatever so it might not have been an issue, but the fact is that by his own admission, he doesn’t believe he was on weight when he was on the scales, even though the commission announced that he was.

The question is, did the Quebec commission KNOW GSP was a bit heavy and wilfully ’round down’ his weight, rather than risk the time limit to lose the remaining half pound not working and the main event of a jolly big card being skuppered?

While I don’t for one second believe the bout would have gone any other way, had GSP been required to lose those 4lbs or had been stripped of his title, we’d still be sitting here with GSP-Hendricks for the Welterweight title coming up next and Nick Diaz on a 0-2 streak with a petted lip. So who cares?

Well, Diaz for one, as he surely (and rightfully) feels that GSP broke his contract with the collaboration of the commission and/or the UFC. That kind of suggestion is something that this sport simply does not need.

Oh, and if GSP had missed weight, Nick would be getting half of Georges’ pay check, which is enough to keep him in Scooby snacks for quite some time I’d imagine…

I’m not interested in a rematch, GSP has more compelling business with Johny Hendricks, Anderson Silva and perhaps Jake Ellenberger or Rory McDonald coming up.

However, the suggestion that any commission are willing to bend rules for big names, champions or hometown heroes sits ill with me as it draws the whole validity of our sport into question.

Dana White can rant and rave about the Swedish federation’s decision to stop Alexander Gustafsson fighting last week, but they acted in the interests of fighter safety and fair play. Dana hasn’t ranted about Quebec, because they caused him no hassle, but they have acted in a way which jeopardises the idea that this sport is fair and regulated.

I know which commission I’d rather place my career in the hands of…

UFC 158 St-Pierre vs. Diaz Results

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It felt like something special, but for long stretches UFC 158 was an endurance test of patience and faith.

The undercard saw a job saving KO win by Rick Story over Quinn Mulhern, an impressive Octagon debut for Jordan Mein, defeating veteran Dan Miller and some dubious officiating as Yves Lavigne stopped Darren Elkins from delivering further damage to Antonio Carvalho when most would say he was merely rocked, although a TKO did look imminent.

Last of all in the prelims, we saw Patrick Cote make his 170lb debut in a great scrap with Bobby Voelker which we had as a 29-28 win for Voelker but the judges scored for the Canadian. Funny how often that happens.

The main card started in super dull fashion with Mike Ricci and Colin Fletcher, followed by Chris Camozzi and Nick Ring in active yet strangely lukewarm contests which resulted in one deserved decision win for Ricci and a surprise decision win for Camozzi.

Business picked up as we rolled into our unofficial welterweight grand pix as Jake Ellenberger earned a highlight reel moment, knocking Nate Marquardt out in the first round. I urge you to hunt for replays of this knockout because it was a thing of great and terrible beauty.

Former interim champion Carlos Condit faced on-a-roll Johny Hendricks in what was reckons to be a no.1 contenders fight and did not disappoint. Both guys pressed forward, with Condit and Hendricks taking each others best shots and smiling about it. Hendricks repeatedly took Condit down but couldn’t keep him down, although on balance it was the takedowns that made the difference on the scorecards.

Seriously, if it wasn’t for Wanderlei vs. Stann, this would probably be my fight of the year so far. Check it out.

In the main event, the question as to whether Nick Diaz had gotten into GSP‘s head enough to throw him off with his gameplan was answered with an emphatic NO.

St-Pierre’s double leg takedowns were as inescapable as ever and while Diaz showed his impressive ground skills in avoiding damage and seeking subs, GSP was always the man in the ascendancy.

Curiously in later rounds, Diaz spent more time taunting GSP than pressing for a finish and GSP more than held his own in the striking contests, especially at one point where Diaz threw a speculative crescent kick, GSP answered with a more picture perfect, textbook version of the same move.

In the end, it was a business as usual, unanimous decision for GSP who ties Matt Hughes for most UFC appearances (18) and passes him in terms of title defences. GSP was gracious in victory, asking the Montreal crowd to applaud Diaz, who once again intimated that he intends to retire from MMA.

All in all, the event didn’t quite live up to billing as Nick failed to get GSP’s dark place to extend into the Octagon and we were left with a feeling of same old, same old from the main event. However, the quality action on the undercard and from the other main card welterweights more than made up for it. Now we get a few weeks off before UFC Sweden.

Kumite Fight of the Night: Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit
Kumite KO of the Night: Jake Ellenberger (vs. Nate Marquardt)

Full Results

Georges St-Pierre def. Nick Diaz via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) to retain UFC Welterweight title
• Johny Hendricks def. Carlos Condit via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Jake Ellenberger def. Nate Marquardt via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:00
• Chris Camozzi def. Nick Ring via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Mike Ricci def. Colin Fletcher via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Patrick Cote def. Bobby Voelker via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Darren Elkins def. Antonio Carvalho via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:06
• Jordan Mein def. Dan Miller via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 4:42
• John Makdessi def. Daron Cruickshank via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Rick Story def. Quinn Mulhern via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:05
• T.J. Dillashaw def. Issei Tamura via KO (knee and punches) – Round 2, 0:26
• George Roop def. Reuben Duran via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

UFC 158 Weigh In Results & Pic

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At the UFC 158 weigh ins, all the fighters made weight and as such our Welterweight championship grudge match is locked in for tomorrow.

Oh, and Nick & Georges had one last, intense tangle, quickly broken up by Dana White.

We’re excited. Are you excited?

Full UFC. 158 Weigh In Results

MAIN CARD
Champ Georges St-Pierre (170) vs. Nick Diaz (169) – for welterweight title
Carlos Condit (169) vs. Johny Hendricks (171)
Jake Ellenberger (170) vs. Nate Marquardt (171)
Chris Camozzi (185) vs. Nick Ring (183)
Colin Fletcher (155) vs. Mike Ricci (156)

PRELIMINARY CARD
Patrick Cote (169) vs. Bobby Voelker (169)
Antonio Carvalho (145) vs. Darren Elkins (145)
Jordan Mein (170) vs. Dan Miller (171)
Daron Cruickshank (155) vs. John Makdessi (155)

PRELIMINARY CARD
Quinn Mulhern (168) vs. Rick Story (169)
TJ Dillashaw (135) vs. Issei Tamura (135)
Reuben Duran (135) vs. George Roop (135)