Archive for July 2009

Why Competition Is Good For The Growth Of MMA

July 27, 2009

The third event from up and coming mixed martial arts promoter Affliction was supposed to have taken place on Saturday, August 1 in Anaheim, Calif.  The show was entitled “Trilogy” and was supposed to feature a main event of Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko battling Josh Barnett.  Last week Barnett tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was denied a license to fight by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). 

A few days later it was announced that the show was cancelled altogether largely in part to the fact a replacement for Barnett could not be found on such short notice.  Almost immediately after the cancellation of “Trilogy”, Affliction announced they would be ceasing operations as a fight promoter and they would go back to being one of the UFC’s biggest clothing sponsors. 

When I found out Affliction ceased operations as a MMA fight promoter, I felt like a kid in one of the old Frosted Mini Wheat commercials.  The pure fan in me was excited at the thought of Emelianenko, arguably the world’s top heavyweight being able to sign a deal to fight in the arguably the world’s top MMA promotion, the UFC.  However the part of me that enjoys competition and feels its good for the growth of the sport was disappointed to see yet another in a long line of failed MMA promotions.

I am someone who thinks that competition is a good thing because it gives the consumer a choice of where they want to spend their dollar.  It also forces the competing companies to provide the very best product possible thus making their respective shows better for the fans to enjoy.  Having competition is also good because it gives the fighters themselves choices of where they want to ply their craft to earn a living.  While I enjoy the UFC and am a regular viewer of their products, occasionally I like to get my MMA fix from a different outlet. 

I enjoy watching promotions like San Jose, Calif. based Strikeforce and have even had the opportunity to cover a couple of their shows.  I enjoyed Affliction for the fact that I was able to see talented fighters like Emeliananko have a chance to fight in America under terms that he was comfortable with.  Without competition for the UFC, talented fighters like Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, Nick Diaz, Josh Thomson, Vitor Belfort, Chris Horodecki, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Cung Le and Renato Sobral would not have a viable outlet to showcase their abilities in front of the American fan.

If history has shown us anything it’s that another company will come along to try and make a dollar on the world’s fastest growing sport.  But if anything else can be learned, whoever does should take a page from the Strikeforce playbook and pay the fighters similar to the same pay scale of what the UFC does.  Affliction overpaid many of the fighters on their roster and in the end they weren’t able to sustain themselves. 

While Strikeforce is small by comparison to UFC they are doing many things right.  They have acquired several fighters with name value; have a solid outlet on Showtime in which to showcase their product and have a contract with CBS to broadcast live shows on network television which is something that UFC doesn’t have. 

MMA will continue to grow in leaps and bounds over the coming years.  Let’s just hope there will be enough outlets to give us the best product possible.

MLB Trade Deadline 2009 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

July 23, 2009

Toronto Blue Jay pitching ace Roy Halladay is undoubtedly the biggest name available in this year’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.  The Dodgers have been mentioned as a possible destination for the seven time all-star and 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner.

Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has set a July 28 deadline for any trade involving Halladay to be completed.  Considering the kings ransom that Ricciardi is seeking for the two-time 20 game winner, I just don’t see him winding up in Chavez Ravine.  Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is a shrewed negotiator who doesn’t believe in mortgaging the future for a quick fix.

At last years deadline Colletti parted with Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris in the three way deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox which brought Manny Ramirez to LA.  That’s the equivalent of acquiring one of the biggest bats in the game for “a magic bag of beans”.

According to a recent report by SI’s Jon Heyman, Ricciardi is believed to be interested in a price tag that would include either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw along with one of their outfielders, either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier and a prospect or two.  Even though Halladay is one of the top two or three pitchers in the game and would undoubtedly give the Dodgers a legitimate “number one” starter, I just don’t see Colletti paying that kind of price tag. 

What I can see the Dodgers doing is trying to add depth to their bullpen in light of recent developments with the toe of closer Jonathan Broxton and fellow relievers Ronald Belisario and Cory Wade currently being on the disabled list.  Another possibility I can envision would be to try and find another back of the rotation starter and move the recently struggling Hiroki Kuroda to the bullpen.  A player to fulfill those needs can be had without the Dodgers having to mortage one of their prized minor league possessions. 

Fortunately for the Dodgers they have the luxury of depth in both their infield and outfield positions with guys like Mark Loretta, Juan Castro and Juan Pierre available to give the usual starters a day off when needed.  Bench play is an important factor in making a postseason run in October.  The first example that comes to my mind is Dave Roberts who came off the bench to get a crucial stolen base for the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS which ultimately helped Boston to win the championship.  A second example is Geoff Blum who hit a home run in the top of the 14th inning that won Game Three of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox. 

The Dodgers will undoubtedly be making a move within the next week but if you’re looking for a blockbuster deal involving a certain pitcher north of the border, I think your eyes are focused on the wrong place.  But what I can see is Colletti making a move to satisfy short term goals without sacrificing long term visions.

Derek Fisher Hits Amazing 33 Foot Shot

July 22, 2009

Lakers guard Derek Fisher hit this shot from 33 feet away and several stories up while at Nokia Plaza to promote the Lakers upcoming 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament that will be held Aug. 14-16 to benefit Ronald McDonald House of Charities in Southern California.

UFC 100 Thoughts

July 13, 2009

Coming into this past Saturday, UFC 100 was the sports highest profile and most anticipated event of the year.  Featuring a stacked card with many of the sports biggest names, the event more than delivered.

Brock Lesnar showed us a couple of things about himself.  The first is that he is clearly the most dominant heavyweight in the UFC.  Between his powerful striking and premiere wrestling background he should be able to hold on to the belt for quite some time.  Looking over the heavyweight roster, I don’t see anyone who can defeat him.  Lesnar not only avenged the only loss of his career by defeating Frank Mir by TKO in the second round to retain the heavyweight championship, but he did so in dominating fashion.  Mir looked like he had been to hell and back after just one round.  The second thing that Lesnar showed us is that while he is clearly out of the WWE, the WWE isn’t completely out of him.  Lesnar seems to relish in the role of playing the “bad guy” in the sport. 

After the victory, he flipped off the crowd amidst a chorus of boos, took a jab at Bud Light, who was one of the main sponsors of the event, and followed all of that up by giving us a possible preview for what could be in store for him later that night saying, “Hell, I might even get on top of my wife tonight.” 

With those words and actions, Lesnar gave those that already disliked him more reason to do so and likely helped those that were undecided make up their minds.  While I will not dispute his talents inside the octagon, with each opening of his mouth, it gets a little tougher for me to root for him.

In the nights other title defense, Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre made his case for being the best pound for pound fighter that much stronger by completely dominating Thiago Alves.  The judges scored it 50-45, 50-44, 50-45 in favor of St. Pierre, and it wasn’t even that close.  Coming into this fight, Alves was thought by many to have a striking advantage.  For five rounds it was St. Pierre that dominated that facet of the match. 

St. Pierre controlled the pace on the mat, scoring take down after take down while successfully grounding and pounding Alves.  The match was so one sided that Alves raised St. Pierre’s hand in victory as soon as it was over.  It is truly amazing how St. Pierre has dominated such a talented welterweight division.  Match after match, he continues to make some of the best fighters in the sport look like chumps.   

In a match up of the the two coaches from the Ultimate Figher 9, Team USA coach Dan Henderson scored a victory over Team UK coach Michael Bisping with a thunderous right hook in the second round that knocked out Bisping before he hit the mat.  For good measure, Henderson followed that up with a flying forearm to the jaw of the already prone Bisping before referee Mario Yamasaki was able to step in and put a stop to the fight. 

Henderson was in control from the start while having Bisping on the run.  The coach of Team UK seemed to be moving backwards throughout the whole match.  At one point, Bisping tried to wrestle with Henderson but had no success.  The former Pride Champion just shook off Bisping and gave him a look as if to let him know that he would not be able to have any success in that area of the fight. 

Throughout the whole season, Bisping did a lot of trash talking on the show to both Team USA coaches and fighters alike.  He was quick to gloat when welterweight James Wilks and lightweight Ross Pearson of Team UK each won the Ultimate Fighter Finales of their respective weight classes giving the Brits a clean sweep for the season.  But in the end, it was Henderson that stood victorious in the battle of the coaches, letting his actions do the talking in the form of a powerful right hook and a vicious elbow. 

In a welterweight battle, Jon Fitch scored a victory by decision over Paulo Thiago.  Fitch was able to out wrestle Thiago in the second and third rounds to take control of the fight and get the win.  Fitch continues to be at the top of his game having won 17 of his last 18 fights.  His only loss in that stretch was to St. Pierre by unanimous decision at UFC 87.  I felt bad for both of these guys because their fight was moved to after the main event because the UFC was worried that both title fights would go the full five rounds and cause a real late finish to the viewers in the east.  Talk about a tough act to follow.  The energy of the crowd had been completely exhausted and the fans had already seen the nights biggest attractions.   

In the main cards first fight of the night, Yoshihiro Akiyama won his UFC debut by defeating Alan Belcher via split decision in a battle of middleweights.    I thought that it was tough to pick a winner in the first two rounds but that Belcher won the third round.  One of the judges scored it unanimously for Akiyama.  Sometimes you have to wonder if the judges are really paying attention to whats happening inside the cage. 

On a side note, I have no idea what the significance of Akiyama’s entrance music was but he’s obviously not trying to strike fear into the hearts of opponents with it.

UFC 100 Predictions

July 10, 2009

This year’s most anticipated MMA event UFC 100 will be taking place this Saturday night, July 11 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.  The card is stacked to say the least and features six of the top fighters in the world today.  Below are my predictions on the main event:

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir – UFC Heavyweight Title Bout

This is the second time these two will have squared off in the Octagon.  At UFC 81 Mir defeated Lesnar by leg lock submission 90 seconds into the first round in their previous encounter.  In that fight Lesnar was able to get a take down just seconds into the fight and seemed to be in control early by using his size and strength advantage to pound Mir early.  Mir was able to keep his composure and took advantage of a Lesnar mistake by being able to get him into a leg lock and get Lesnar to tap.  Lesnar has admitted that he abandoned his game plan in the first fight which was to stand and strike with Mir and use his power and reach to his advantage.  I look for Lesnar to stick to that game plan this time around and wear down the smaller Mir in the same way that Lesnar was able to over power Randy Couture in his last fight in which he captured the UFC Heavyweight Title.  If Mir is able to weather the striking onslaught that is sure to come from Lesnar and take the fight to the ground then I like his chances of using his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills to score a second victory over Lesnar.  Mir looked impressive in his last fight with a TKO victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira while Lesnar has rebounded from the first defeat of his career with impressive victories over Heath Herring and Couture.  Lesnar lost to Mir the first time around because he got caught after making a mistake.  I don’t see him making that same mistake twice.  My prediction:  Lesnar by TKO in the second round.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves – UFC Welterweight Title Bout

UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre is arguably the best pound for pound fighter in mixed martial arts today.  He dominated B.J. Penn in his last fight to the point where Penn’s corner threw in the towel after the fourth round.  No matter what persona a fight takes on, GSP has proved time and time again that he has ability to adapt to any in ring situation.  Alves enters this contest on a seven fight winning streak including victories over Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes.  Five of those seven victories were by KO or TKO.  On the surface, it looks as though Alves should have the advantage with his impressive striking ability while GSP should have the upper hand if the fight gets taken to the ground.  With all that being said, I like GSP’s ability to adapt to a stand up contest better than I do Alves ability to adjust to a potential ground game.  My prediction:  St. Pierre by decision

Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping – Middleweight Bout

The two coaches from The Ultimate Fighter Season Nine will finally get the chance to settle their differences in the octagon.  Henderson is a well accomplished veteran having simultaneously held the light heavyweight and middleweight championships while he competed in PRIDE.  Bisping is one of the best young fighters in the world of today having started off his career with an impressive 17-1 record.  Both fighters possess strong striking skills with Henderson having the advantage on the ground with his superior wrestling skills.  In the end I think that the more experienced Henderson will be able to use wrestling to his advantage and take Bisping out of his comfort zone.  My prediction:  Henderson by decision

Jon Fitch vs. Paul Thiago – Welterweight Bout

Fitch is one of the top welterweights in the world and has only lost once in his last 17 fights (a decision loss to St. Pierre at UFC 87).  Thiago enters this fight undefeated after scoring a TKO victory against the always tough Koscheck in his last fight.  That victory was a departure from Thiago’s usual strength which his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills.  Fitch has a solid ground game with a great wrestling background.  In addition to his skills on the mat, Fitch has a better striking skill set and should be able to use it to his advantage.  My prediction:  Fitch by TKO in the second round.

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alan Belcher – Middleweight Bout

Having competed previously for DREAM and K-1, Akiyama will make his UFC debut against the always tough striker Alan Belcher.  Akiyama has better  take down and submission skills and should be able to use that to his advantage.   My prediction:  Akiyama by second round submission

Kings Acquire Ryan Smyth in trade with Colorado

July 8, 2009

Last week I wrote that the Los Angeles Kings offseason had been a disappointment up til then as they were unable to make any moves to add a solid veteran forward to their young and talented core of players. 

Just hours after posting that story, Los Angeles was able to acquire veteran winger Ryan Smyth in a trade with Colorado for defensemen Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing along with a fifth round draft pick in 2010. 

While I would rather the Kings have been able to add someone to the team through free agency, this is the next best thing.  When the offseason began the Kings had only three players on their team that were 30 or older (Handzus 32, Ivanans 30, O’Donnell 37).  While all of these guys are good players, none of them are the type that can take the Kings to their next level of development. 

Smyth has tremendous toughness and grit and is more than capable of leading the Kings both on the ice and in the locker room.  At 33, he is still productive having scored 26 goals and 59 points for Colorado last season.  Smyth is a 14 year NHL veteran with many years of international experience and was a big reason why the Edmonton Oilers advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.   

Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi showed a belief in his young team that they can take the next step and reach the postseason next year.  Most importantly, he was able to do it without sacrificing too much of his young talent. 

The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since losing in the first round in 2002.  Die hard fans are clamoring to see post season hockey return to the Staples Center.  With the addition of Smyth and defenseman Rob Scuderi, their chances of making it back to the playoffs have greatly improved.

Lakers Re-sign Shannon Brown

July 8, 2009

Now that free agents can officially sign with teams, the Lakers made a wise move in re-signing  guard Shannon Brown to a two-year, $4.2 million deal.  The second year of the deal is a player option.  Plain and simple, this was a signing that needed to be done. 

Brown provided solid contributions off the bench during the Lakers run to the NBA title this past season.  The first play that comes to my mind was the dunk over Denver’s Chris Andersen.  That play turned the momentum of the series and eventually led to the Lakers eliminating the Nuggets from the Western Conference Finals in six games. 

Brown is still  young and will only be turning 24 this November.  He has shown the ability to play both guard positions and his solid defensive play gives Los Angeles another option off the bench and provides them with insurance in case they have to move Jordan Farmar for any reason. 

 I have read various reports indicating that Farmar could be added to any deal if the Lakers become aggressive in wanting to move the bad contracts of Adam Morrison, Sasha Vujacic or Luke Walton.  In addition, there have been reports indicating that Farmar doesn’t like the triangle offense and that the Lakers are less than pleased with his overall development as their point guard of the future.

Most importantly the signing of Brown brings back another important piece of last year’s championship run and provides continuity for the Lakers as they they begin defense of their title next season.