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Myth Martial Arts: Chael Sonnen Talks His Way to a Title Shot

August 22, 2012

There are some irrefutable facts about Chael Sonnen’s two bouts with Anderson Silva.

1) Sonnen did a whole lot of talking before each of them. Long before each of them, as a matter of fact.

2) Silva was of the opinion that Chael did not deserve the chance to fight for Spider’s title, particularly for the rematch.

These two facts have combined together to form a meme that Sonnen had talked his way to a title shot at Middleweight, and that he is looking to do so again at light heavyweight with his current war of words with champion Jon Jones. Silva’s own manager cited the meme in his latest round of explaining why nobody deserves to fight Anderson, saying the following of fighters calling for a shot at the belt:

“That’s a big joke,” Silva’s manager, Jorge Guimaraes, said about Chris Weidman, Tim Boetsch and Alan Belcher’s challenges. “Everybody saw that it worked for Chael, and he got really famous with that, and now everybody wants to be on the spotlight”.

While it may well be true that Sonnen’s words man end up helping him get to Jones’ belt faster,  no matter what Dana White claims, to say he earned his shots at Silva with anything other than his fights inside the cage is to misrepresent Sonnen’s impressive resume as a UFC middleweight. Sonnen’s mouth sold his two title shots, it didn’t book them. Read more…


The Dangers of Rose-Colored Glasses, with the MMA Blogosphere

July 16, 2012

I’ve not dusted off the ol’ MMA blog for awhile, but have been inspired to do so again after seeing a pair of articles in the past two days which perfectly highlight the problem of sugar-coating and often dismissive nature of any perceived threat to MMA by some of the sports’ bloggers. A lot of fans of the sport have been around since the days when it was compared to human cock-fighting. Those that haven’t been around as long have still heard the horror stories, and even to this day it’s not uncommon to see laughable misrepresentations of the sport in arguments made by those who oppose its legalization. Rest assured that if any murderer has had so much as one amateur fight in an unregulated state ten years ago for which he never so much as trained in the sport, the headline on many a story will tell of the MMA fighter who turned psycho killer, and those that don’t will only be different in their use of UFC instead of MMA.

So, it’s only natural that after being subjected to many a tenuous complaint hurled MMA’s way, that many who love the sport are quick to defend it from criticism. Unfortunately, this often remains the case even if the criticism is fair. Take the recent death of amateur fighter Dustin Jenson, a 26 year old who died on May 24, six days after suffering a triangle choke defeat in an unregulated amateur bout in South Dakota. As the Rapid City Journal’s Ryan Lengerich reported, the autopsy for Mr. Jenson was recently released:

The autopsy indicated the cause of death was a subdural hemorrhage resulting from blunt force trauma to the head. A subdural hemorrhage is a collection of blood on the surface of the brain and often causes brain injury and death.

The cause was related to an injury about a week earlier, according to the autopsy. The Sheriff’s Office said there is no conclusive evidence the injury was sustained in the fight.

Essentially, the coroner determined Mr. Jenson’s death was a result of blunt-force trauma on-or-around the date of the fight in question, however it can not be conclusively determined that the injury was definitely sustained in the fight. In other words, there’s every indication that the likely cause of the fatal hemorrhage was Mr. Jenson’s fight, but there is no way to prove it 100-percent without knowing he did not partake in any other activities on-or-around fight day which could have led to head trauma. Unfortunately, Bloody Elbow and Cage Potato, two of the most popular MMA blogs online, reported with the following headlines, respectively:

Now, before I continue on, I want to stress that I am not trying to claim that either author willingly deceived readers in order to portray MMA in a better light. I’m simply saying the desire to protect the sport and a history of reading baseless attacks led to the authors, as well as nearly all commenters on the Bloody Elbow article, to see the article as “you’re off the hook, MMA.”

Sadly, that just isn’t the case here. Had the time-frame Mr. Lengerich was establishing been one week prior to the fight, not one week prior to Mr. Jenson’s death, the article would have said so explicitly as there had been no reference to the fight in the current or prior graf and as such some note to tie “one week earlier” to that reference point would be needed.

Fortunately, BE reader Stephen Koepfer found a second source in the form of this KOTA TV story, which further clarifies the timing of the key events.

According to a news release, the autopsy indicated the cause of death was a subdural hemorrhage, due to blunt force trauma to the head, that was related to an injury approximately a week prior.

Although the timeline for the injury is consistent with the event on May 18, 2012, there is no conclusive evidence that the injury was sustained in the fight.

Now, I would hazard that most readers of the Rapid City Journal piece who didn’t have a dog in the fight had no problems distinguishing when the injury was believed to have taken place. However, two separate MMA blogs and the vast majority of readers who commented on those blogs instead saw through the rose-colored glasses which led to misunderstanding that Mr. Jenson’s injuries were believed to have occurred a full week before his bout. This is a dangerous way to approach important stories in our sport. Yes, it’s important to seek to disprove the tenuous or downright farcical ties to violence or danger that are often lobbed at MMA. On the flip side, however, it is equally important to be honest with ourselves about the dangers that truly are present. MMA is no different than any other sport, in that all high-level athletes know they are risking their bodies at a rate above the average human in one way or another. In MMA, one of those ways is through repeated blunt-force trauma. Is the sport as brutal as critics would have us believe? No. But we don’t do ourselves, or the sport, any favors when we let our love for it lead to sweeping the very real negative occurrences under the carpet.

Mayhem and Rampage want to Remind You, it’s Still Misogynistic Martial Arts

April 6, 2012

Mixed Martial Arts is still a man’s game, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I mean, sure, the casual MMA fan will lower himself down to watching a women’s MMA fight, just as long as one of the participants is a knockout aesthetically as a primary trait, and capable of delivering one as a distant second priority. Because after all, if a woman athlete isn’t sexy, what’s even the point? Sure, this is a horribly embarrassing truth of the average view of women involved with MMA, but if you think it’s wrong you’re fooling yourself.

In the past I’ve discussed the absolutely horrific treatment of Maggie Hendricks on nearly any article she posts, as well as Bloody Elbow’s Brent Brookhouse who had the audacity as a male writer to not think demeaning women is the bee’s knees. This week, two of MMA’s most popular personalities are here to drive home the point that misogynistic attitudes are still accepted, even praised as hilarious, by an embarrassingly large percentage of the MMA community.

First on the docket is Rampage, who has far from the greatest track record of treating women like actual people as opposed to simply objects on which he can rub his groin. Whether it was dry humping a female reporter mid-interview or pretending to motorboat Karyn Bryant, Rampage has proven more than once that acting sexually aggressive towards a woman while he is supposed to be giving a professional interview is the highest of comedy. So, it’s really saying something to note that his latest offering is offensive by the standards he has already set out. Have a gander at this lovely little piece on the finer points of picking up a woman using chloroform and zip-ties.

Now wasn’t that just the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. I mean, it has all of the funniest things you could ask for. Making light of rape? Check. Insulting the transgender community? Check. Labeling the only disgusting in it that Rampage had to be close to another penis? Check. A trifecta of deplorable behavior. The response from the UFC to Jackson can only be deemed appropriate with his release. Some are arguing it’s what Rampage wants, and made the video for that sole purpose, to which I say who cares? Mixed martial arts is a sport whose fans argue tooth and nail that the sport we love is no worse or corrupting on its viewers than the big four, and if we want anyone to take that seriously than we have to hold companies in it to the same bare-minimum standards we’d expect of any major company. I think “don’t make videos which ‘jokingly’ tell people how to rape women in empty parking lots with no surveillance,’ is a pretty good bare-minimum ethics requirement. If it’s what Jackson wanted all along, well good for him, all he had to do was prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a classless, gross person to get it. The thought of making him hang around to fulfill his contract as a punishment, and earn another seven-figure payday in the process, is absurd. The only response should be immediate termination. Sadly, history says it’s an outside shot he’ll get more than a slap on the wrist.

One would hope that response from fans would be one of unanimous disgust, but of course that’s wishful thinking. Instead, opinions are split between those who don’t believe in letting PC go mad, and the uptight, no-fun killjoys who can’t take a joke.  And don’t try to point out that we live in a society which helps to enable rape, in no small part due to attitudes such as those who claim that saying “creating a ‘humorous’ blue print of how to rape women isn’t funny,” just proves that people need to lighten up. Rape and sexual assault is a disgustingly under-reported crime. A society that continues to make light of it, and continues to blame victims for totally asking for it with their short skirts and cleavage is to blame. Stopping bullshit like this video is one admittedly-small step towards rectifying that and making things just a little less terrible.

Read more…

Frankie Edgar is the Greatest UFC Lightweight Champion of All Time

February 24, 2012

As Frankie Edgar gets ready to defend his belt for the fourth time, a feat which would set a new UFC record for successful defenses of the lightweight title, it has led to speculation about where another win would put him relative to BJ Penn as the GOAT of the UFC’s lightweight division. How many more wins does the current champ need to pass “The Prodigy” on the all-time leaderboard?

None, as far as I’m concerned.

So many articles have been written about how underrated Edgar and his accomplishments are in the past year that you’d think it couldn’t possibly still be the case. After all, there’s only so many times you can be called underrated before it starts to seem like everyone agrees you’re pretty damn good. I’m a Pittsburgh Steeler fan with an undying man-love for Hines Ward, but even I have to admit that there came a point when all the “most underrated wide receiver in football” talk was laughable. And yet, in the MMA community on the whole, it doesn’t take much reading around to find many people once again willing to discredit the champion and his accomplishments despite all the experts falling over themselves to point out people really ought to stop doing it. What many point to in continuing to crown Penn as the best there’s ever been is the dominance with which he battered all of his opponents. Well, all of his opponents until Edgar, at least. Unfortunately for those pointing to that argument, not all opponents are created equal. For example, I have it on good authority that the guy Edgar beat to win the title, and the guy he beat in his first title defense, would beat the pants off of anyone that Penn fought for the title. Call it a hunch.

Simply put, Edgar has faced a substantially higher level of competition in his title fights than Penn. Put Gray Maynard in the cage with Penn and he is likely to, at worst, fare better than any of Penn’s three defense opponents did. Put Edgar in there with Stevenson and even the most ardent Penn-backer would have to admit that a one-sided fight is in store for “Joe Daddy.” Similarly, Sanchez and Florian face a very similar problem in Edgar that Penn posed — an opponent with the grappling to keep things standing, and the striking to pick them apart. When Edgar faced Sean Sherk, he dominated from bell to bell when they fought.

When you get right down to the brass tacks of it, here’s how their records as UFC lightweights stack up against each other:

Penn is 10-3-1, with a 4-3 record in title fights. He got half his wins in the early days of the sport when the level of competition was not as high. One of the three losses is avenged.

Edgar is 9-1-1. with a 3-0-1 record in title fights. He also has a win over the man responsible for the only loss and only draw on that record and fought in a time when the level of competition was higher. For the kicker, he holds a 2-0 record over Penn.

Now, has Edgar accomplished more than Penn in the sport? No. On the great theoretical totem pole of MMA accomplishments, Penn has a higher rung (for now) thanks to his work outside the UFC and most of all to his successful challenge for the UFC welterweight title. But none of that has any bearing on who the best UFC lightweight to date is. Take the names off, and as a result lose the resulting influence of accomplishments outside the UFC’s lightweight division. Just look at the records from an unbiased perspective and it’s hard to see how Edgar is not already the owner of the best record in UFC lightweight history.

Varner Breaks Fickett at XFC 16 – High Stakes; Samman, Kheyfets Earn First Round Stoppages

February 11, 2012

The main event of XFC 16 saw a pair of Zuffa-veteran lightweights both looking to take another step back toward the big leagues as Drew Fickett took on Jamie Varner. The bout held extra intrigue as Varner began his career training with Fickett before the relationship soured, culminating with a series of videos by Fickett which mocked Varner in the lead up to the fight.

Fickett came to the cage with permanent marker stars, a play on Varner’s star tattoos, still on his chest, however it was Varner who had the last laugh as a straight right dropped Fickett just seconds into the bout. Fickett tried to fight on but Varner was relentless, soliciting a tap to strikes at the forty second mark.

After the fight, the two embraced, and HDNet microphones picked up Varner telling Fickett, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

Varner remained thankful after the fight as he spoke with Pate Miletich.

“Drew Fickett is the guy that got me into this sport,” Varner said. “I was a junior in college and I went to a fight [of Drew’s], and he was a wrestler who was well rounded and had all this heart. I looked up to him even before I knew him.

“He took me under his wing and introduced me to Trevor Lally. I love the guy and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

Although Varner entered the bout confident, it did not come without butterflies.

“I was scared,” Varner said. “He was my teacher. Even though I thought I was better than him – I knew I was better – he taught me.

“The right hand was the gameplan. It was a combination of timing, opportunity and luck, and I took it.”

The win improved Varner to 19-6-1, while dropping Fickett’s record to 41-17. Read more…

Nick Diaz’ Camp is Failing Him

February 7, 2012

In the main event of UFC 143, Nick Diaz spent 25 minutes walking down Carlos Condit, who spent the majority of those minutes circling off the cage, then landing more strikes than Diaz when the action was in the center of the cage. While just looking at stats alone does not tell the story of a fight, one look at the FightMetric numbers shows that Condit landed more strikes than Diaz in four of five rounds in a fight which only saw ground fighting in the final minute. Naturally when the decision came down in Diaz’s favor, fans were treated to the most predictable of outcomes. Diaz was irate at the decision, and used his mic time to point out Carlos didn’t fight and the sport of MMA is a joke, before letting it be known he was taking his ball and going home forever.

The reaction from Diaz at the end of the fight was as sure as a sunrise, and unfortunately so too was the interview Cesar Gracie gave to Ariel Helwani in which he steadfastly asserted that Diaz won and everyone knows it but the corrupt judges.

[All the judges] had him losing the first round, and two of the judges had him losing the second round. At that point there’s nothing we can do. If Nick would have had the same fight — if he’d fought like the first round the whole way through he still would have lost. If you think about that, that’s amazing.

I think they think he is disrespectful and they are going to find a way to judge against him. I don’t think Nick can get a fair fight in Las Vegas. I think that, in my opinion, the judges there don’t like Nick. He talks in the ring. At one point Carlos was running and he slapped in the face and said “quit running.”

That is a problem. A few weeks ago I discussed Anthony Johnson and how he refuses to learn from his mistakes when it comes to making weight, both by repeatedly making the error then continuing to blow off the mistakes like they are no big deal. In the case of the Diaz brothers it’s the same story, just with a slightly different title. Time and time again Nate and Nick run through opponents who play into their “we come to fight” game, and time and time again the first time somebody doesn’t oblige by standing in the pocket and letting the damage absorbed slowly pile up it’s because they’re a coward who came to play points, not fight like men, and the game is a bunch of horse shit. And you know what, that’s a perfectly acceptable attitude for a fighter to have, just as long as he’s content never being a champion. But the Diaz brothers want to be the best, and aren’t shy of letting it out they think that they are, and if either ever wants to truly be able to make that claim it’s become clear at this point somebody from without the duo needs to drive home that just coming to fight won’t always be enough. MMA isn’t a barfight, it’s a sport, and every sport has rules. The rules of MMA say that if your opponent can put you on your back and punch you from on top, or can stay outside your range, hammer your legs, and throw more strikes while landing with a higher accuracy than you, you are not going to win that round. Lose more rounds than you win and you lost the fight. Sorry, but “look at his face,” isn’t a recognized scoring method. Gracie could not conceive of a way the judges had scored the first round for Condit beyond fraud, despite the fact many, many, many, many, many MMA experts saw the round the exact same way the judges did.

The next night, the New York Giants got more yards of offense than the New England Patriots. Had they not scored their winning points in the final seconds, would they still have been declared Super Bowl champions? After all, the point of every play is to move the ball as far down field as possible and they did that better. Of course not. In the sport they were playing, there were clearly delineated rules for how to win the game, and by those rules the game was close, but the Giants came out on top only when they got the last few points, yardage be damned. By the rules of MMA, Carlos Condit scored more points than Nick Diaz in three, in some opinions four, of five rounds. If nobody finishes, that’s how you win an MMA fight. Nothing in the rules say that the Cesar Gracie camp has to like those rules, but if you want to play the game, either accept them or accept that you’re going to keep losing fights that you think you won on pride.

Nick was there for a dogfight. That was what Carlos promised for the fans, that they were going to go at it, and that was not a dogfight.

If Nick had been knocked out by Carlos, I would feel better right now than what I do. I don’t like that camp (Jackson’s MMA) and I’m not going to take that back. I like the fighters there, but when you have coachs that tell people to fight like that, I don’t like it. I am proud to not corner my guys like that and I never will, we have a code and I’m proud of the way we fight.

These are the most telling quotes from Gracie’s interview, as Gracie acts like it is some great affront to integrity that a fighter didn’t tell the truth about his gameplan before a fight. In what world would we expect an athlete to come out and say nothing but 100-percent truths about his plans, ensuring that his opposition knows exactly what to expect. If Diaz’ camp truly did prepare only for the in-close dogfight that Condit “promised” to bring, that is an embarrassingly unprofessional mistake to make. Gracie is never afraid to point out his distaste for Jackson MMA fighters’ “safe” gameplans, so Diaz coming in with his same style and showing no apparent ability to adjust and react to a counter-strategy that was beating him is a bad sign for him and his team.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to pin down exactly whether or not Diaz could have adjusted to Condit’s unexpected approach or if Diaz simply only is willing to fight with the same style of fighting he showed because his corner kept telling him he was winning.

I would have switched it up if I had thought Nick was losing the fight, but I was so confident that I felt I didn’t need to.

I agree with you, I thought he won the first, the second and the fifth. The third was kind of a toss up, but when it’s that close I always give it to the other fighter. At the end of the fourth I went up there to the cage, and Nick turned around and said “What do you think.” In my mind it probably was 3-1, but I said, “it’s 2-2, let’s go out there and win this fifth round.”

BE reader KGNLuc was kind enough to offer a full transcription of the Diaz corner for the fight, which is similarly enlightening. As you can see, Gracie only felt the need to go up and stress urgency to Nick before the fifth round, a point at which he had already lost the decision, barring a stoppage or a 10-8 to earn a draw, as he trailed 3-1 on two of the scorecards. What’s more, Gracie was promptly overruled by Nate anyhow.

Somebody says: What do you think. Maybe Nick
Nate: No. No, no, no, no, fuck that, you got every round.
Somebody, maybe Nick (Although it doesn’t sound like him) says: “Don’t lie to me”
Nate: He might have got that last round but that’s it. You got the rest. You’re up three to one, okay? Rinse it out, take a drink. Let’s get a couple of ten second intervals in this one, ok? Whenever you want, whenever you’re ready.

Diaz is assured that maybe he lost round four, a round he clearly lost, but definitely won the other three (he didn’t sweep any round.) Ultimately I don’t even think the problem is one you see commonly, where a cornerman decides it is better for his fighter to stay confident and knows he is lying saying his fighter won the round. Nate was sure Nick was winning, because he was coming forward and taunting, while Condit was just running and throwing spinning shit.

The conversation in the corner during rounds and on the stool between them is similar in tone, with the Gracie team dismissive of anything Condit is doing while positive Diaz is cruising to an instant victory. Shortly before the decision is read, Nate pulls Nick aside to tell him to remember Condit just did what he had to to survive. No doubt it was to remind Nick to be gracious in his victory speech, since a win was surely forthcoming. Instead, it served to have Nick’s last input before the read being that his opponent was lucky to walk out of the cage intact, setting the stage for the post-fight anger and retirement talk.

Both the transcript and the interview are worth checking out, and further drive home concerns about the ability of Diaz and his team to learn from this fight and use it to fix the holes Condit exposed. There’s the ludicrously silly complaints about Condit greasing with water; more talk about Nick’s boxing career, which he can’t have while under contract with the UFC, retirement or not; and claims every fighter Gracie talked to scoring it for Diaz which may have been true, though when a source fighters wouldn’t feel pressured to give a biased answer to were asked MMAJunkie apparently found a majority of fighters they got reached felt Condit won.

Nick Diaz is a great fighter, and Cesar Gracie is a great trainer who runs one of the best camps in the world. The unfortunate truth of any sport is that every participant is going to have holes in their game. In an ideal situation, the holes of one member of a team align with the strength of another. In this case, it seems that Diaz’ “real fight” blind spot to the realities of the sport is one that is shared by those he trusts most, and for a fighter at the top of the division, that little bit can be the difference between great and greatest.

Melvin Guillard and the Wasted Potential Fallacy

January 21, 2012

Last night in the main event of UFC on FX: Miller vs. Guillard, Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard had a fight where both showed everything they were known for. Jim Miller showed there is no shot hard enough to stop him from searching for a submission, while Guillard showed dynamite in his hands and looked helpless on the ground against a superior grappler. No sooner had Miller taken Guillard’s back and locked-up the fight-ending rear naked choke than fans on the web the world over began tweeting and commenting with one main theme — “Why won’t Melvin just work on his jiu jitsu, already? He’s got so much wasted potential.”

Well, that’s a load of BS.

Allow me to present a quick case study of two fighters.

Fighter A is a hard-nosed fighter. After every fight he diligently breaks down his performance to find holes in his game, win or lose, and spends his time working his ass off to fill those holes. This hard-working style works well and he grinds his way into the top half of the division in the UFC. Fighter A finds himself fighting for the title more than once, but ultimately he just does not have the physical tools to get over the hump and be the best, no matter how hard he works.

Fighter B is a physically gifted fighter. While his work ethic in regards to assessing his problems, learning from them, then drilling until they are no longer so glaring is often criticized, nobody can deny the natural gifts that Fighter B possesses. He fights with a speed and strength unmatched by anyone in the division, but ultimately fails to ever put together a long run at the top of the division as he finds his weakness exploited by top fighters every time he starts to sniff a title shot.

By the masses, Fighter A is considered somebody who maximized his potential, and just never was somebody destined to be physically capable of winning a title. Fighter B is bemoaned as a waste of talent, somebody good enough to win the title if he could just get his mind straight for a couple years in a row. For some bizarre reason, a fighter with a physical deficiency who achieves more is considered less viable as a true potential-champion than a fighter whose flaws are mental but has never reached the heights of his counterpart. Why is this? Read more…