Friday, March 8, 2013

UFC 158 GSP vs. Diaz Conference Call - Best. One. Ever.

Probably the single best conference call in the history of the UFC - instead of me describing in too much detail, set aside 45 minutes of your life and prepare to laugh hysterically as Nick Diaz jumps on the call late, gets confused, rants, swears, interrupts, argues, apologizes, compliments, goes on tangents, and generally just behaves like the Nick Diaz we've all come to love (some people hate, but I can't help but love the guy).


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Should You Have Your Girlfriend Corner You?

The UFC on Fuel 8 took place this Saturday, with a fight between Bryan Caraway and Tezuka Mizugaki serving as one of the preliminary fights on the card (headlined by Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann).

In a night where most of the fights were pretty dissapointing outside of the Main Event and Co-Main Event (Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt), the Caraway vs. Mizugaki battle was a pretty entertaining display of MMA featuring all aspects of the sport, plus heart and tenacity from both fighters as Mizugaki escaped a tight choke in the 2nd and Caraway escaped being knocked out a few times in the 3rd.

What was most surprising to me in the fight was that Bryan Caraway had his girlfriend cornering him, top female MMA fighter Miesha Tate. While it isn't entirely unfamiliar to have a brother or father cornering a fighter, it was different and somewhat strange seeing someone's lover give them fight advice, especially when it turned out to be such terrible advice.

The first round of the fight was a very even round with Mizugaki edging the striking and Caraway trying to steal the round with a late takedown (I gave the round to Mizugaki as did all three analysts scoring the fight on Sherdog). In the second round Caraway hit Mizugaki with a big right hand and pounced on a guillotine attempt, incredibly close to getting the finish but unable to, but at least finishing the round with a body-triangle from the back in a round that was clearly his.

Heading into the third it seemed to be pretty clear that this fight was up for grabs, but Miesha Tate didn't believe so as she told Caraway (paraphrasing) "you definitely won both rounds - just coast, you can do whatever you want." 

It's bad enough advice to tell someone they definitely won both rounds of a fight where one round was very close, it's even worse to tell them to coast; and it's even worse than that to tell them to do whatever they want when they clearly have an edge in one particular area.

It calls into question the ability of a significant other to give corner advice in a close fight, where their personal bias of what is happening might be coming into play. Though it could also just be that Tate isn't the best corner and should stick to fighting.

Mizugaki came out firing on all cylinders in the third and almost stopped Caraway with strikes, who responded with tenacity and survived the onslaught to make it to the end of the fight. When the fight was announced a split-decision victory for Mizugaki he broke out in tears, having snatched a defining victory in front his hometown fans. Tate and Caraway were not happy about the decision, as Tate later took to Twitter to vent to Dana White:

In a close fight where each fighter clearly took one round and the other was contentious, I don't think complaining via social media to your boss for a win bonus for your boyfriend who you gave terrible advice to is the best idea, but that's just me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Danger of Going for Early Submissions

Getting an early submission is an amazing way to end a fight, as Ryan Bader recently showed against Vladimir Matyushenko in their recent bout at the UFC on Fox 6 by notching the fastest tap-out in LHW UFC history at 50 seconds into the fight with a modified guillotine choke.

While there have been lots of fast knockouts and referee stoppages from strikes in Mixed Martial Arts, it is far less atypical to see a fight ended in the opening minute or two by a choke or joint-attack of some kind.  When submissions are achieved in lighting quick-fashion they are typically the result of an opponent being damaged by a strike and exposing themselves in the recovery process, being too hurt or distracted to properly defend or realize the opening they are creating. Case referenced in point, Matyushenko had just been floored by a powerful strike by Bader and in the process gave up his neck to try to defend against follow-up ground and pound strikes.

The reason that fighters are less apt to go for submissions early in fights is because they risk using a great amount of energy and losing position. In his rematch with Rashad Evans at UFC 133, Tito Ortiz attempted a jump-guard guillotine, spending the last of his energy trying this maneuver, only for Rashad to escape and pass his guard in the process. Tito probably was thinking this was his new go-to move, as he had recently finished the previously mentioned Ryan Bader by first-round guillotine. However, in that fight he had just rocked Bader with a punch so Bader exposed his neck (very similar to how Bader got his choke on Matyushenko), so the situation was different, as were the results. Instead of finishing Rashad it contriubed to him gassing and put him in position to take significant damage.

At the UFC on Fuel 7 this past Saturday there were two notable preliminary fights where experienced grapplers and submission fighters Josh Grispi and Paul Sass both went for early submission attempts that I feel were significantly responsible for them losing their fights. Both Grispi and Sass went for triangle-chokes in the opening minute of their fights without their opponents being significantly hurt enough to be distracted from the submission-attack they were facing, ultimately contributing to them spending a lot of energy early without much to show for it.

In Grispi’s case he had slightly hurt Andy Ogle with some strikes and attempted a clinch takedown; in the ensuing scramble he ended up in a triangle transition. However, he was stacked against the cage and Ogle had his trapped arm well-hidden so that the choke needed numerous adjustments. With Grispi unable to attack with strikes to make Ogle move his arm (as he was too stacked against the cage), he was never going to finish the triangle. Instead of recognizing this and bailing on it early, he held the attempt for 3 more minutes, completely gassing out his legs in the process. For the next two rounds his stand-up was lethargic, he lost scrambles he would typically win (as he is a superior grappler to Ogle), and he just looked like he didn’t have anything left in the tank in my opinion.

Holding someone in a triangle choke takes a great deal of energy if they are trying to posture, so if you can’t make the adjustments to finish the submission soon, you need to either transition to a new submission/sweep or bail quickly before your opponent can capitalize. Grispi did neither and now likely finds himself with a pink slip from the UFC after going on 0-4 in the organization, a far cry from a man who was once scheduled to fight featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo before a back injury forced him off the card (though we can only imagine the beating he would have received at the hands of Aldo after the string of losses we’ve seen him endure).

Sass’s case was different, but similar – probably the most dangerous submission-only fighter in the UFC, Sass has been able to bull-rush many opponents with a flow of submission attacks that they can’t seem to properly defend against. In his fight with Danny Castillo, Sass chose to jump guard early in the fight and ended up in a flying triangle while Castillo was standing. While re-adjusting the triangle at complete vertical height (with his head likely six to seven feet in the air), Castillo used his powerful wrestling to power-bomb Sass down with complete force, slipping out of the triangle and likely damaging Sass’ ribs or at the very least knocking the wind out of him. From that point forward Castillo was content to stay patient in Sass’ guard looking for short elbows and not exposing himself to triangles. When Sass did attempt leg-lock attempts or additional triangles that he is noted for they seemed labored and without the ability to hold down the explosive wrestler Castillo.

Being in a standing triangle on someone can end well sometimes, but it typically isn’t the best place to have a triangle locked up on someone (you’d much rather be on your back where you can hook the leg to prevent the person from slamming you).  In the best case you have it completely locked up and the person slams you down and sets it in even deeper (Stefan Struve vs. Pat Barry), in the worst case they power-bomb you so bad it becomes the stuff of MMA legend and knocks you out completely (Rampage vs. Arona), and in the freak incident case it chokes out your opponent who then slams you and knocks you out (Hughes vs. Newton).

What all three of these referenced fights had in common was that the submission was not being attempted in the very beginning of the fight against a fresh opponent; Struve had already been grappling and striking with Barry so that he was slightly gassed (the sub came early in round 2); Rampage had been fighting for over 7 minutes and had already been KO’d with heel strikes but due to shady refereeing and his great recovery ability he came back to get put in the triangle and then the famous power-bomb ensued; Hughes had been in a taxing grappling match with Newton in a fight that he had taken on 2 weeks-notice before getting the Newton's legs wrapped around his neck and head in the 2nd round.

In each instance Struve, Arona, and Newton were attempting submissions on opponents who were not completely fresh and in great position to defend (despite the results from all three fights being quite different). Looking at the three fights in hindsight it’s easier to see that Barry never should have slammed Struve in the first place since he was already gassing and Struve didn’t have it completely locked in yet, Rampage should have been (and actually was) KO’d/TKO’d but shady Japanese refereeing and Arona’s unwillingness to continue to kick an unconscious man in the face led to one of the greatest submission counters of all-time, and Hughes won because Big John McCarthy failed to notice both fighters were unconscious after they fell to the mat (it should have been ruled a draw/no-contest).

Only a few fighters like Masakazu Imanari and Shinya Aoki have shown that they have the submission abilities to legitimately finish high-level opponents in the opening minutes of fights without damaging them with strikes first. But that is in large part because their striking ability is so poor that they are completely reliant on setting up submissions to win fights and must seize whatever opportunity their opponent gives them to attack with submissions and create transitions for the sake of openings. There are only a few fighters in the UFC that fit this mold and the two best examples are Rousimar Palhares and Paul Sass.

Fighters in the UFC would be wise to learn from the history of quick submissions and recognize that there are great dangers in going for a submission too soon, perhaps even greater than in going for a KO. At least if you don’t get the KO you will be gassed but your opponent will be badly damaged, while if you don’t get the submission you will be gassed but your opponent will be undamaged and in a position to put a beating on you. As fighters get stronger and their submission knowledge and defense keep improving, this would seem to be a wise lesson to learn.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The 10 Best MMA Head Kick KO GIF’s

Like many others fascinated by moments of violence, what initially got me interested in Mixed Martial Arts was finishes.

I marvel at submissions, whether they are the standard (arm-bar/triangle/d'arce) or the exceptional (gogoplata/inverted triangle/von flue choke).  I adore KO punches and knees that snap heads back and crumple bodies into odd shapes. But for artistic purposes there is nothing I find more entertaining and exceptional in MMA than a Head Kick KO.

Maybe it’s because I grew-up in the 90’s watching Jean-Claude Van Damme Head Kick his way through countless opponents in movies that ranged from great (Bloodsport, Kickboxer) to terrible (Lionheart, Double Impact, Nowhere to Run).  Good or bad I still watched every Van Damme movie, in awe of the way he made it seem so simple to just lift up your foot and place your shin across someone’s skull.

I really wanted to believe it was a possibility for most of us to accomplish such a feat, but even as a kid I knew it was action film-making playing to the crowd and I’d probably never get to see such a thing happen in real life (only in action movies that embellished the truth for the sake of entertainment).

That was until I discovered Pride FC on the internet while in college in 2003 and met my first MMA Hero, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, a Croatian Ex Counter-Terrorist who was Head Kicking everyone in his way into oblivion. I first was introduced to “Cro Cop” when I stumbled across a video online of him fighting Alberto Rodriguez, who was fighting under the nickname “Dos Caras Jr.” 

Rodriguez had the gall to enter the ring wearing a Lucha Libre mask, which honestly didn’t seem like a good idea as this wasn’t Pro Wrestling. You’d almost think the fight was faked or staged if not for the reaction of the Rodriguez’ corner and the referee, who couldn’t possibly fake their shock and horror as they rushed to resuscitate what they hoped wasn’t a lifeless body after it took a shin to the head and a follow-up uppercut to the jaw while already unconscious.

Here I have compiled a list of my 10 favorite MMA Head Kick KO GIF’s, inspired by Uriah Hall’s vicious spinning back-kick KO on Adam Cella that was featured on last week’s episode of TUF 17.

I based my list on how spectacular the KO was in terms of damage, how difficult the technique executed was, how memorable it was, and how tough the opposition it came against was (obviously this is open to debate)

My Top 10 MMA Head Kick KO’s of All-Time

10.   Matt “The Hammer” Hamill vs. Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz
UFC 96 – Jackson vs. Jardine (March 7, 2009)

9.       George Roop vs. Chan Sung “The Korean Zombie” Jung
WEC 51 – Aldo vs. Gamburyan (September 30, 2010)

8.       Rashad “Suga” Evans vs. Sean Salmon
UFC Fight Night 8 (January 25, 2007)
(note - I know there were follow-up punches thrown by Rashad, but they were completely unnecessary as Salmon was completely out already – it’s listed as a Head Kick KO)

7.       Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva 2
Pride FC – Final Conflict Absolute (September 10, 2006)

6.       Pete “El Duro” Williams vs. Mark “The Hammer” Coleman
UFC 15 – Redemption (May 15, 1998)

5.       Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim
UFC 142 – Aldo vs. Mendes (January 14, 2012)

4.       Gilbert “The Hurricane” Yvel vs. Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge
Pride 10 – Return of the Warrior (August 27, 2000)

3.       Adam Haliev vs. Alexei Belyaev
League Sambo 70 (December 22, 2011)

2.       Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
UFC 70 – Nations Collide (April 21, 2007)

1.    Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Igor Vovchanchyn
Pride FC - Total Elimination 2003 (August 10, 2003)

My Top 20 MMA Head Kick KO’s of All-Time (Honorable Mentions)

11.   Dan “The Handler” Hornbuckle vs. Akhiro Gono
12.   Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs. Randy “The Natural” Couture
13.   Marius “The Whitemare” Zarmoskis vs. Jason “The Kansas City Bandit” High
14.   Pat “Paddy Mike” Curran vs. Marlon “The Gladiator” Sandro
15.   Eddie Alvarez vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Friere
16.   Marcus "Lelo" Aurelio vs. Keegan Marshall
17.   Cole “Apache Kid” Escovedo vs. Yoshiro Maeda
18.   Alessio “Legionarius” Sakara vs. Joe “The Doctor” Vedepo
19.   Daron “The Detroit Superstar” Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez
20.   Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson vs. Daniel “The Anvil” Stittgen

I did not include fights where an amazing Head Kick was landed but additional follow-up punches were needed to actually stop the fight. But here’s a short list of some of my favorite Head Kick & follow-up Punch KO/TKO’s (they are all listed under Fight Finder as KO or TKO by Head Kick and Punches):

·         Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort vs. Michael “The Count” Bisping
·         Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon
·         Anthony “Showtime“ Pettis vs. Danny “Last Call” Castillo
·         Marius “The Whitemare” Zaromskis vs. Hyoto “Mach” Sakurai

Monday, February 4, 2013

Alistair Overeem - Shades of Ken Shamrock

After watching Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva knockout out Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem at UFC 156, I was temporarily in awe. The bar I was watching the fights in with some friends went insane, as it was somewhat packed with Brazilians and it was just a devastating knockout that people had been waiting for, as every other fight on the main card went to a decision. Maybe the shock was in part due to recently seeing far less experienced strikers than Overeem such as Daniel Comier and Mike Kyle go to town on Bigfoot's humongous head, both breaking their right hand in the process (though Comier was able to continue his ground and pound assault to garner an amazing win, while Kyle was unable to finish and was eventually submitted by the monstrous Brazilian; nothing to be ashamed o for Kyle since he is actually a light heavyweight).

In hindsight there shouldn’t have been as much surprise; Bigfoot has been perpetually underrated his whole career and has plenty of recent quality wins before and after the two losses to Comier and current champ Cain Velasquez. He hits like a truck, can take a beating, and has heart for days – just watch the amount of abuse he was able to sustain from either Kyle or Velasquez; the man can take a beating with the best of them. Overeem has long been a fan favorite because of his exciting style and imposing demeanor, but has a long history of not reacting well to getting hit and allowing aggressive strikers to swarm him (see his earlier fights against Shogun Rua, Chuck Liddell, or Sergei Kharitonov). Having since moved up to Heavyweight and having won the K-1 World Grand Prix, many have claimed Overeem is a far different fighter now, though K-1 isn’t MMA and the level of strikers he has faced in MMA at HW aren’t near the level of the guys he was facing at LHW (except for Mirko Cro Cop perhaps, who he fought in the twilight of Cro Cop’s career).

There are some interesting parallels to draw between Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem and Ken “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Shamrock . There are obviously some big distinctions between the two (Overeem is a Dutch Kickboxer while Shamrock was an American Catch-Wrestler), but some of the similarities are quite uncanny.

Both have incredible builds that made them poster boys for the sport; both were suspected of steroid use and ultimately caught; both were champions in organizations outside of the UFC (Overeem in K-1 and Strikeforce, Shamrock in Pancrease); both have great charisma and utilized Pro-Wrestling trash-talking throughout their careers (Ken even did Pro Wrestling for a while); and both have let their promoter down when they were heavily banking on it.

Shamrock lost to Tito Ortiz in 3 separate UFC fights, probably the latter two of which came because of Shamrock’s marketability and Dana White’s dislike of Ortiz. Shamrock also pulled out of the UFC 3 Finals after Royce Gracie dropped out in the tournament semi-finals due to exhaustion from a battle he ultimately won in the first round against Kimo Leopoldo, as he was so determined to get revenge for his UFC 1 submission-loss to Gracie. This ultimately led to replacement fighter Steve Jennum winning one fight against Harold Howard to capture the UFC Tournament Championship. When Shamrock did get the his chance for the super-fight with Gracie at UFC 5 he fought so conservatively that the 30-minute time limit with a 5-minute overtime came into play; it was an automatic draw if time expired, which is what happened (originally Shamrock wanted no time limit rules so he could physically wear down someone he outweighed by 40 pounds over the course of 2 hours – not exactly the most confident game-plan).

To his credit Shamrock did ultimately win a UFC title against Dan Severn at UFC 6 and successfully defended it twice (and got a draw in-between) before relinquishing it back to Severn in a rematch at UFC 9 that almost killed the UFC and the sport of MMA in the United States by destroying buy-rates and getting the UFC kicked off Pay-Per-View by Senator John McCain. So we’ve got to give him credit for that too unfortunately, though Severn definitely shoulders equal blame in that fight as well (widely considered the most boring fight in MMA history, commonly referred to as “The Detroit Dance”, as both men circled each other for 15 minutes without a strike being thrown or a takedown being attempted).

Overeem would lose by KO in PRIDE to Shogun in a fight that would have gotten him into the LHW Tournament Final and lost in the K-1 Hero’s Tournament Final to Kharitonov by KO. He also lost in the opening round of the PRIDE Elimination 2003 tournament where PRIDE was really only hoping Overeem would beat Chuck Liddell since he was an American import from the UFC (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson would do the Japanese that favor in the tournament semi-finals).  In the UFC Overeem had a clear path to a Heavyweight title shot against Cain Velasquez, which was completely derailed by Bigfoot.  The possible match-up against Velasquez (or Junior Dos Santos, had he won in his rematch with Velasquez) was a guaranteed big-money fight for the UFC and has left Dana White scratching his head with whom to match-up with Velasquez next.

While the parallels aren’t perfect, they are almost eerie in reflection of two amazing fighters who both have a penchant for overconfidence in their abilities or underestimation of their opponents. Both of these fighters carried themselves with an air of supreme confidence outside the ring/cage that carried over into their performances; against lesser opponents it typically served them well, against top-level opponents it was sometimes their downfall.  At one point both Shamrock and Overeem were each one of the most marketable fighters in the world in terms of skill-set, appearance, and ability to sell a fight. Overeem probably still has all these facets going for him in spite of the loss and that many who dislike him are relishing in his recent defeat.

Former UFC Promoter Art Davie once said of Ken Shamrock, “You are talking about a guy who was given more opportunities to be a star in the UFC, [yet] every time someone handed him a spear and asked him to throw it, he figured a way to drop it and not throw it at all.” Unless Overeem is able to re-assess his attitude outside and inside the cage and how it is possibly affecting his performances, he could be walking a tight-rope we have seen before - the fall is a long way down based on what we have seen happen to Shamrock and his career.