Archive for August 2009

From Hattiesburg to Minneapolis: The Return Of Favre To The NFL

August 20, 2009

To get an idea on how I feel about Brett Favre and his return to the NFL please read this post I wrote back in June.

When I first expressed those thoughts Brett Favre was in his annual offseason state of constant back and forth.  I could picture him spending the majority of his day attached to some kind of communication device asking any one of his friends or family members who would listen, “Should I come back or should I retire?” 

Like his play on the field, his inability to make up his mind on his future in the game had become legend.  As NFL fans we had spent as much time discussing “WWBFD?” (What will Brett Favre Do?) as we did discussing his actions on the field that contributed to his lore in Lambeau for guiding the Packers to a Super Bowl win while setting several all-time quarterback records.  This offseason had been no different than the previous three or four. 

Everyone of them had played out in the same predictable fashion.  In February Favre would either be crying or on the verge of tears saying  he was going to call it a career.   Fast forward to April where right before the draft Favre would announce his intent to return and give it another go for one more season. 

Like some of us fans, the Packers were no longer interested in being part of the yearly drama known simply as “As The Favre Turns”  so they decided to move on and see what their future had in store for them by handing the reigns over to 2005 first round draft pick Aaron Rodgers.

As most of us know, Favre was eventually traded to the New York Jets where he played the 2008 season and once it was over, he decided to once again cue up the annual NFL offseason drama “As The Favre Turns”.   As had been the case in the past, Favre announced to the football world that he was done.  No longer would we see the famed number four on an NFL gridiron.  Or so we thought.  This time though Favre was a free agent and was in complete control of his playing destiny. 

Enter the Minnesota Vikings, a team thought by many to be on the verge of being able to make a run deep into the playoffs and possibly a Super Bowl in a wide open NFC Central.  Once again while Favre was spending time with his family in Hattiesburg, Miss. while throwing the pigskin around in his Wranglers with his buddies he started to get the itch to return. 

Finally the stars were aligning.  Now was the perfect opportunity for Favre to play for a team that he wanted to a season ago.  A division rival of the Packers that Green Bay refused to trade him to.  Now was his chance to exact revenge on the franchise that he felt discarded him and the GM in Ted Thompson that sent him into Gotham exile.  He wanted them and they wanted him.  It was a match made in heaven as far as both Favre and the Vikings were concerned. 

I held out hope that the image of Favre wearing a purple and white number four was something that would never come to pass but I should have known that it was going to happen.  Like death and taxes it was going to happen and on Monday it did.  The runaway freight train from Hattiesburg to Minneapolis was going to get there one way or another and there was nothing we could do to stop it. 

Are the Vikings better off with Favre as their starter?  They certainly are both on the field and in the revenue department.  The Vikings have already sold 3000 season tickets and 10,000 single game tickets since his signing on Monday.  Is the league better off for having one of its legends to market one more season?  Only time will give us the true answer considering that Favre must play well but right now I’m going to say “yes”.

Despite the points I just made in the aforementioned paragraphs I am in no way happy with this football marriage because as I’ve said before on this site, Favre is doing this for selfish reasons and to stick it to the franchise that gave him a chance to be a legend and stood by him during every high and low both on and off the field for 16 seasons.  For Favre to say ” If you’re a true Packers fan, you’d understand” is insulting to the loyal fans that have stuck with him. 

I’m not a Packers fan so I guess I don’t understand.  But what I do understand is that Favre is selfish.  He believed that he was bigger than the team and when they made the decision to split from him and not vice versa his ego was bruised and he refused to handle it like a professional. 

Brett Favre is still one of my favorite players for the enthusiasm with which he’s competed, for the toughness he’s displayed en route to starting 269 consecutive games at quarterback and for his ability to shine in adverse situations much like the way he lit up my Raiders on that Monday night in Oakland the day after his father passed away. 

Considering he committed no actual crimes (see Plaxico Burress or Donte Stallworth) I am going to forgive him for his selfishness sooner than later, but like Kobe Bryant’s selfish performance in Game Four of the 2004 NBA finals, somewhere I will always have a bad taste in my mouth.

Strikeforce: Carano Vs. Cyborg Main Card Preview

August 15, 2009

Tonight in San Jose, Calif. at the HP Pavilion a sport dominated by male competitors will be taking a backseat to the women as champion Gina Carano battles challenger Cris “Cyborg” Santos for the women’s championship in what is undoubtedly the most anticipated match in women’s MMA history.  The card will also feature Renato “Babalu” Sobral taking Gegard Mousasi for the Light Heavyweight Title.  In the Lightweight Interim Championship Bout Gilbert Melendez will take on Mitsuhiro Ishida.  Rounding out the main event card Jay Hieron battles UFC 7 alum Jesse Taylor.  Lets get to the predictions.

Gina Carano vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos – 145 lb Female Championship Bout

Gina Carano is easily the face of women’s MMA and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to any who follow the sport.  In a fan base dominated by men, it’s not hard to figure out how an attractive woman who can kick some butt became so popular.  Carano comes into this fight undefeated while Santos has only one loss on her record which came in her MMA debut back in 2005.  I was able to see Santos fight in person against Hitomi Akano back in May on the undercard of the Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz show.  I have to keep in mind that Santos did not make weight but Akano and her camp still chose to proceed with the fight.  After seeing Santos fight in person, I can tell you that she is absolutely huge.  She used her size advantage to completely dominate the smaller Akano.  Santos overpowered her as far as positioning and just overwhelmed her with strikes.  While I don’t think she’ll have as easy of a time with Carano, I look for her to employ the same strategy and take the fight to the champion.  I see Carano trying to strike with a “stick and move” strategy to frustrate Santos as well as take the fight to the ground where she can use her solid jiu-jitsu skills.  In the end I think the aggressive strategy by Santos will be too much for Carano and the Santos will become the new women’s champion.  My prediction is Santos by KO in the second round.

Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Gegard Mousasi – Light Heavyweight Championship Bout

This fight was supposed to happen two weeks ago at the ill-fated Affliction: Trilogy show.  Strikeforce was able to add both fighters to their stable and bring the fight to tonights card.  This match up features a complete contrast in styles.  Mousasi likes to keep the fight on his feet and out strike his opponent while Sobral likes to keep the fight on the ground and use his submission skills to defeat his opponent.  While Mousasi is a talented fighter, he is moving up in weight class for this matchup and that in itself could pose some problems.  Sobral comes in with lots of experience with tonight  being his 44th professional fight.  When you get down to it, I look for Sobral to score some takedowns and earn points on the ground with his superior mat skills.  My prediction is Sobral by split decision.

 Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida – Lightweight Interim Championship Bout

This fight was originally supposed to be for the Lightweight Championship with Melendez looking to avenge a loss against Josh “The Punk” Thomson who currently holds the title but Thomson had to withdraw the from the match as he continues to recover from his leg injury.  These circumstances give Melendez to try and avenge another loss in his career which came against Ishida back in 2007.  When these two fought the first time Ishida was able to control Melendez with takedowns and wrestling.  I look for him to do more of the same.  If Melendez can somehow keep the fight standing up his chances of victory will dramatically improve.  In the end I don’t see Melendez having an answer for Ishida’s takedown and ground game.  My prediction is Ishida by split decision.

Jay “The Thoroughbred” Hieron vs. Jesse “JT Money” Taylor – Welterweight Bout

This matchup was supposed to be Hieron taking on Nick Diaz for the Welterweight Championship but plans had to be adjusted after Diaz failed to get licensed after failing to submit to a drug test.  Because of these circumstances Taylor, who made his name on The Ultimate Fighter Season 7, steps in to give Heiron an opponent.  Taylor comes into this fight having fought less than a month ago with little time to prepare for the experienced Hieron.  Both men are good wrestlers but Hieron has the striking advantage.  It’s that advantage along with the Taylor’s short time frame to prepare for this match that will lead to a victory for Hieron.  My prediction is Hieron by second round TKO.

UFC 101 Predictions

August 8, 2009

You could say that I’m a little late to the party as far as getting up my predictions for tonight’s UFC event that will be taking place in Philadelphia, PA.  Many of the MMA websites have had theirs up since Wednesday or Thursday, but the way I look at it, late is better than never, so here goes:

BJ Penn vs. Kenny Florian – UFC Lightweight Title Bout

The timing couldn’t be better for Florian to get this opportunity as he is riding a very solid wave of momentum having won his last six fights inside the octagon including victories over Joe Stevenson, Roger Huerta and Joe Lauzon.  Florian has looked more impressive with each win.

Meanwhile UFC Lightweight Champion, BJ Penn has seen his aura of invincibility shaken after a humbling defeat at the hands of UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94 in which he was throroughly dominated to the point where he didn’t come out for round 5.  Along with the “grease gate” controversy that was part of the fall out of that defeat, Penn has seen his image as one of the top all around fighters take a little bit of a hit.

I see Penn as a very prideful fighter with a wounded ego and because of that I believe that he will be coming into tonight’s title defense against Florian as someone who is highly motivated with many doubters to prove wrong.  Although Florian will give Penn his toughest challenge to date in the lightweight division, Penn will remind everyone why his nickname is “The Prodigy” and emerge victorious.  My prediction is Penn by submission in the fourth round. 

Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin – Light Heavyweight Bout

Without a doubt the most intriguing match up on tonights card is UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva moving up in weight to take on former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin.

Silva is regarded by many as the best pound for pound fighter in the sport and enters tonights contest on a nine match win streak inside the octagon.  However in his last two victorirs over Thales Leites and Patrick Cote, Silva has looked anything but impressive causing some to question his place in the pound for pound argument. 

Griffin enters the octagon tonight for the first time in eight months not having fought since losing the Light Heavyweight Title to Rashad Evans last December at UFC 92.  Preceding the loss to Evans was a win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and an impressive come from behind victory Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.  Griffin has proven time and time again that he is not afraid to get down and dirty and take the fight to an opponent. 

There could be a number of reasons why Silva has not looked like his dominant self in recent fights.  Leities, his most recent opponent did not seem like he wanted to engage at any point in the fight constantly running and sometimes dropping to the mat while hoping to entice Silva to engage in a ground game. 

I believe that Griffin’s aggressive style will play right into the hands of Silva who has proven time and time again that he is at his most dangerous when forced to engage.  If Griffin has shown us anything in his career, its that his fights are anything but boring and this fight will certainly be no different.  When the dust has settled, Silva’s win streak will reach 10.  My prediction is Silva by knockout in the second round.

Amir Sadollah vs. Johnny Hendricks – Welterweight Bout

The Ultimate Fighter Eight welterweight winner will be making his return after a year on the sidelines thanks to a broken clavicle and staph infections.  Hendricks is a solid wrestler but Sadollah showed a strong ground submission game during his run on the UFC’s reality show.  Because of his time on the sidelines, I think he’s had plenty of time to further progress his submission skills.  My prediction is Sadollah by submission in the second round.

I don’t really have a strong opinion on the other two main card fights but since I’m giving my predictions I have to pick a side so here goes:

Middleweights – Kendall Grove defeats Ricardo Almeida by third round TKO

Lightweights – Josh Neer defeats Kurt Pellegrino by second round TKO

Fedor Signs With Strikeforce

August 4, 2009

For the better part of the past two weeks, the big question surrounding members of the Mixed Martial Arts community and fans alike has been, “Where will Fedor wind up?”

Fedor Emelianenko, the man regarded by many as the top heavyweight fighter in the world was scheduled to compete on August 1 in the main event of Affliction: Trilogy against Josh Barnett.  In the days after it was announced that Barnett would not be granted a license by the California State Athletic Commission for failing a urine test which showed traces of a banned substance, the news came down the event was going to be cancelled altogether. 

Affliction, who had co-promoted the event with M-1 Global, signed a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to become one of their main sponsors, thus closing its doors as a promotional entity.  This left Emelianenko and his management team at M-1 Global on the outside looking in. 

The talk around the water cooler amongst MMA fans for several days was on the fate of Emelianenko.  Would he finally be heading to the UFC to face their top heavyweight in Brock Lesnar?  Will he be heading back overseas to resume his career?  Does Strikeforce, the small but strong MMA promotion based out of San Jose, Calif. have a chance to sign the powerful Russian heavyweight?

After days of negotiating between M-1 Global and UFC President Dana White, a deal seemed about as close as it ever had been.  UFC  made concesions on many levels.  According to an article by Yahoo Sports Kevin Iole, UFC’s proposed deal allowed Emelianenko to continue to compete in the Russian sport of combat sambo, offered to pay him more than he’s ever made which was between $3-$6 million depending on the success of his pay-per-view appearances, was willing to allow him to advertise M-1 on the fight shorts and apparel  he wore along with the banner his cornermen brought with him to the cage. 

 In the end, what kept Emelianenko from competing inside the octagon was his manager Vladimir Finkelchtein, who is also the president and co-owner of the M-1 Global company, insisting that the two sides be full promotional partners.  If I was in the position of the UFC I would have walked away from the table as well.  Considering the fact that UFC is the biggest promotion in MMA with most of the worlds top fighters, it made no sense for them to essentially give away half their company.

The failure to land a deal opened the door for Strikeforce, a strong and respected promotion in the North American MMA market but a distant number two behind the UFC powerhouse.  Monday it was announced by Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, that Emelianenko had signed a multi-fight deal  which would have him headlining multiple events co-promoted by both M-1 Global and Strikeforce.  Emelianenko is scheduled to be making his debut some time this fall against a yet to be determined opponent. 

The deal is undoubtedly huge for Strikeforce who has a contract to air their events on Showtime as well as options to air events on network television through CBS.  Fedor is already a huge name amongst the die hard MMA fans and now Strikeforce has the opportunity to give him exposure to build his name as well as the Strikeforce brand through network television. 

Although network television exposure is not enough to sustain a company by itself as we saw with Elite XC, it is a huge factor of building a name in the worlds fastest growing sport when ran properly.  Coker has shown a track record of running a company the right way.  He keeps his costs low, has negotiated a good television contract with the potential for great exposure and often runs shows in events where he knows that Strikeforce can draw good live crowd numbers. 

In a previous blog I wrote that competition is good for the growth of MMA.  By signing the top name available on the MMA free agent market, Strikeforce showed they are alive and well as a MMA promotion despite being nowhere near the level of the UFC juggernaut.  Only time will tell if the signing of Emelianenko  catapults Strikeforce to the next level but for the time being I’m glad to see someone in a strong second place position regardless of how far back they might be.

Trade Deadline: Anticlimactic in Los Angeles

August 3, 2009

Last year at this time the Los Angeles baseball community was still buzzing at the recent trades that had been made.  There was much to be excited about whether you rooted for the Angels or the Dodgers. The Halos had just acquired Mark Teixeira, one of the best switch hitters and defensive first baseman in the game while the Dodgers  more or less “gun and ski masked” one of the most productive bats of the last 15 years in outfielder Manny Ramirez.

Both teams had made impactful moves at the deadline giving their respective fans lots to be excited about.  For the fans that were big on local bragging rights, the possibility of a Freeway Series in October was as real as ever.  We all know how it eventually ended with the Angels losing to the Boston Red Sox in ALDS play while the Dodgers lost to the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.  Although each team came up short of baseball’s biggest prize, both Teixeira and Ramirez were huge factors in their teams success down the stretch a season ago. 

Now lets fast forward to this year.  Much like a season ago, both the Angels and Dodgers were rumored to be be looking for big named players at this years deadline.  Both had been mentioned as participants in the sweepstakes for Toronto pitcher Roy Halladay and Cleveland pitcher Cliff Lee (since traded to Phiadelphia). 

There were also reports that the Dodgers were interested in Cleveland catcher and first baseman Victor Martinez (since traded to Boston) and San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  The one common denominator that the Angels and Dodgers shared was that both were interested in bullpen help having been linked to trade rumors for San Diego closer Heath Bell.

After weeks of build up with numerous reports of trade rumors that had fans both in LA County and Orange County buzzing with anticipation of another blockbuster move that would catapult their team into October glory, the final result of several weeks of hype?  Drumroll please…the Dodgers have acquired reliever George Sherrill from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for two minor leaguers.  Meanwhile, the Angels were unsuccessful in pulling off a trade.  That was the equivalent of hoping for Metallica and then eventually getting a local high school garage band.

While the move was a solid pick up for the Dodgers and one that I had correctly anticipated in a previous blog it’s not one that will have me buzzing for days afterwards and keep me glued to my seat like a Manny plate appearance or a Halladay start. 

Bullpen help is very important for the stretch drive of the regular season and into October but lets face it, its just not exciting. No baseball fan will ever say to another, “Do you remember where you were when (insert name of middle reliever) came in and retired the only batter he faced before giving way to (insert name of second middle reliever)?  Boy was that awesome or what?”

Meanwhile, Angels fans have to be disappointed that they didn’t at least leave the dance with some kind of door prize. Obviously their management felt that the price tag on what they were targeting was not worth the price they were willing to pay. By acquiring Teixeira a year ago, Angels General Manager Tony Reagins has already shown me more of a willingness to pull the trigger than his predecessor Bill Stoneman.  I firmly believe that if the right deal could have been made then he would have done it.

Both Reagins and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti obviously know what they’re doing.  Each has put together a strong roster of talent that should be able to contend for a minimum of a playoff berth for a few years to come. I know that some times in sports, its about the moves that you don’t make as opposed to the moves that you do. However, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the trade deadline of 2009 was a great 30 day story but with a ho hum ending.