Archive for September 2009

UFC 103 Main Card Predictions

September 19, 2009

Tonight’s latest installment of the Ultimate Fighting Championship will take place in Dallas, Texas.  Although recent past cards have featured bigger names, tonight’s event features a strong lineup that should feature some good fights.

195 pound catch weight contest – Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort

Rich Franklin has been trying to make the move from middleweight to light heavyweight but keeps having to take detours through the 195 pound highway.  His last fight was at this same catch weight when he defeated Wanterlei Silva by unanimous decision at UFC 99 back in June.  In that fight, Franklin showed a patient game plan and improved boxing skills to keep Silva off balance.  Although Silva was able to land a couple of solid shots, Franklin controlled the pace of that standup contest throughout.  Meanwhile, Belfort returns to the Octagon for the first time in over four years.  In his last fight against Matt Lindland back in January, in what turned out to be Affliction’s final event, Belfort scored one of the most devastating knockouts of his career.  No one has ever denied that Belfort is a solid striker but I see this eventually going to the ground where Franklin has the better skill set.  Belfort had trouble making weight initially for the fight and I feel that’s a factor that will eventually show itself in the second or third round.  My prediction is Franklin by split decision.

Heavyweight bout – Mirko Cro Cop vs. Junior Dos Santos

Back in his days of competing in the now defunct Pride Fighting Championships Cro Cop earned a reputation of being one of the most feared strikers in the sport.  After making the transition to the cage Cro Cop suffered a devastating KO loss at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga.  That loss was followed by an uninspiring defeat at the hands of Cheick Kongo.  Even in his most recent fight, which was a win over Mustapha Al-Turk at UFC 99, Cro Cop did not look nearly like his old self and was aided by a controversial non call when he accidentally poked Al-Turk in the eye and the ref did not step in.  Dos Santos is 8-1 overall in his young career and 2-0 in the UFC with two wins coming by TKO.  That tells me that he is a very good striker who is aggressive and likes to finish opponents quickly.  Cro Cop no longer looks like the hungry fighter that he once was.  My prediction is Dos Santos by TKO in the second round

Welterweight bout – Martin Kampmann vs. Paul Daley

This matchup was originally supposed to feature Kampmann taking on Mike Swick but Swick had to withdraw after suffering a training camp injury.  Kampmann is coming off an impressive split decision victory over Carlos Condit.  In that fight Kampmann showed impressive overall skills.  Whether the fight was standing up or on the ground, Kampmann looked very comfortable in his surroundings.  I have not watched Daley fight but from what I’ve read he’s a solid striker.  I look for Kampmann to display his superior ground skills and take Daley out of his comfort zone.  My prediction is Kampmann by second round submission.

Welterweight bout – Josh Koscheck vs. Frank Trigg

At one time Koscheck was considered one of the best young up anc coming fighters.  After going 3-3 in his last six fights including a devastating TKO loss in his most recent fight against Paul Thiago some of that luster has worn off.  Trigg returns to the octagon for the first time in four years.  When looking through his win-loss record I see a reoccurring theme in that Trigg has a tough time against fighters with strong ground skills.  Koscheck falls into that category and as long as he tries to exploit that strength he should be able to win.  If Trigg keeps the fight on its feet I think he stands a good chance of emerging victorious but I see Koscheck learning the lessons from his last fight against Thiago and taking things to the ground.  My prediction is Koscheck by second round submission. 

Lightweight bout – Tyson Griffin vs. Hermes Franca

These two fighters are evenly matched with both of them possessing good striking skills.  Griffin is considered better at taking down his opponents.  Franca will have to display a better takedown defense in this contest to have a good chance.  I look for both guys to keep the fight standing up and trade punches which should make for a good fight.  My prediction is Griffin by split decision.

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UFC Fight Night Predictions

September 16, 2009

For the first time since UFC 4, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to the Sooner State for tonights UFC Fight Night.  Here are my predictions for the main card bouts:

Lightweight Bout – Nate Diaz vs. Melvin Guillard

After beginning his UFC career on a five fight win streak,  Diaz enters this contest having lost his last two fights with defeats coming at the hands of Clay Guida and Joe Stevenson.  Meanwhile Guillard has won his last two fights, his last being a split decision win over Gleison Thibeau back in June.  Both fighters have a strong stand up game but the difference in this contest will be on the ground.  Diaz is very good at scoring takedowns as well as defending them.  I have a feeling this fight will start with both fighters looking to finish each other off by KO but when that doesn’t happen, Diaz will take things to the ground where he will be able to show off his superior skill set.  My prediction, Diaz by submission in the second round.

Lightweight Bout – Gray Maynard vs. Roger Huerta

Like the main event fight I see this contest playing out in similar fashion.  Both fighters have strong abilities to score points and defeat their opponents with their striking abilities.  But like in the main event, one of the fighters possesses a stronger ground game and that fighter is Maynard.  While Huerta is a very strong fighter which is evidenced by his 22-2 record, Maynard is 8-0 inside the octagon and is very skilled on the ground.  Huerta has shown that he can be taken down regularly in recent fights against Kenny Florian and Clay Guida.  When the fight is not won standing up, Maynard will go to plan b and take it to the mat where he will be able to out wrestle Huerta and score a victory.  My prediction is Maynard by third round submission. 

Welterweight bout – Carlos Condit vs. Jake Ellenberger

This fight was originally supposed to feature the former WEC Welterweight Champion in Condit taking on Chris Lytle but Lytle was forced to withdraw after suffering a serious knee injury back in August.  Stepping into replace Lytle is Ellenberger who will be making his UFC debut this evening.  Condit’s UFC debut was spoiled after losing by split decision to Martin Kampmann back in April.  I look for Condit to come into this fight very focused and with the mentality that his back’s against the wall and because of that I expect him to be at his most dangerous.   While I commend Ellenberger for taking the fight on late notice, the lack of preparation time will be a big obstacle to overcome against an extremely talented fighter like Condit.  My prediction is Condit by TKO in the first round.

Middleweight bout – Nate Quarry vs. Tim Credeur

Credeur comes into this bout with an unblemished 3-0 record inside the octagon but he will undoubtedly face his toughest opponent to date in Quarry.  Despite the three fight winning streak Credeur has shown that his striking skills are lacking.  If the fight goes to the ground I think it could be anyone’s game but I don’t see it getting that far.  With the advantage in striking I look for Quarry to try and put Credeur early.  My prediction is Quarry by first round KO.

The “Raider Way” Has Become Old And Tiresome

September 10, 2009

As a sports fan, we are taught that if you are a real fan of a team you stick with them through thick and thin.  I’ve had more than my fair share of good times rooting for the LA Lakers.  They’ve won nine of their 15 championships in my lifetime and have only missed the playoffs twice during that time. 

Although its been over 20 years since the Dodgers last tasted October glory, they have made several playoff appearances to at least wet the palette. 

This brings me to the other side of my sports fan spectrum.  When it comes to the ice, I am a life long LA Kings fan.  Outside of the Wayne Gretzky era from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s when they were in the playoffs every season including a run all the way to the finals in 1993, there have been a lot of lean years to suffer through. 

The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2002 and that’s saying something when over half the teams make the playoffs in the NHL.  What keeps me coming back to drink from the Kings trough in recent years is it seems they have a plan in place and are sticking to it and with young talent like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty their future is definitely a bright one.

The second team in my life who rears their head on the “bad” side of my sports fan spectrum is the Oakland Raiders.  Anyone who’s familiar with the history of the league knows the Raiders were once a proud franchise.  From the beginning of the Super Bowl era to the end of the 80’s they had the best winning percentage in all of football, were the only team to make a Super Bowl appearance in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s winning three championships in that time and were a trend setter by hiring the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores and the first African-American head coach in Art Shell.

Growing up in southern California in the mid 80’s there were two teams playing in the LA/Orange County area and the Rams did nothing for me.  As a boy, I loved the silver & black, bad boy image the Raiders offered.  They most certainly had an outlaw feel to them and most importantly were winning games. 

Since 1990 when Bo Jackson played his last NFL game, the Raiders have only four double digit win seasons.  In the 1990’s they were at least competitive finishing with eight wins or more seven times.  Since their Super Bowl run to complete the 2002 season the Raiders have finished with double digit losses every year.  That’s six straight years with 10 or more losses, which unfortunately for fans of the silver and black, is a NFL record. 

Just when I think it can’t get any worse as a Raider fan, signings and trades that turn out to be abject failures rear their ugly head.  DeAngelo Hall and Randy Moss anyone?  Hall was a pro bowler with Atlanta.  Moss a perennial all-pro with both Minnesota and New England. 

The following draft picks in this decade have come nowhere close to fulfilling their potential:  Derrick Gibson, Phillip Buchanon (as a return man I will give him credit), Robert Gallery (yes he starts but is nowhere near the franchise type offensive lineman he was projected to be), Fabian Washington, Michael Huff.  These were all first round draft picks.  I just don’t understand how a team can miss the boat that many times.

As all of us know, everything with the Raiders points to one person, Al Davis.  Historically, he has been a maverick owner who has done a lot of good for the game and that’s proven by the fact he is in the hall of fame.  Three Super Bowls wins (albeit the last one came 25 years ago) is something that any owner would love to have on their resume. 

All that said, the game has passed him by.  Because he runs the Raiders like a dictator along with the fact he employs no one who is in charge of player personnel means that the end of gloomy days is not expected to come anytime soon.  I’m sorry fellow Raider fans but the “Raider way” has gotten old and tiresome.  The only time the Raiders enjoyed a nice string of success was during the four years Jon Gruden was the head coach.  Guess what?  He didn’t do things the Raider way.  Gruden’s tenure was the only time I can remember the Raiders not being amongst the league leaders in penalties.  Much like the first round draft picks of this decade, trading Gruden to Tampa Bay for draft picks was a mistake. 

The bottom line for me is that I’m ok with suffering through some lean years if I feel there’s some kind of plan in place.  If there was one, the Raiders wouldn’t be one of the jokes of the league for six years running.  The NFL is the ultimate parody league.  Every year it seems as though a team goes from missing the playoffs the previous year to playing in the postseason the next.  For a team to be this bad in today’s NFL is inexcusable. 

I’ve always contended that the most successful teams are where the owners get out-of-the-way and let the people they hired do their jobs.  Jerry Buss of the Lakers and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots are two owners who are shining examples of this. 

In the end, I don’t see the Raiders having any type of success let alone being able to win a Super Bowl as long as Al Davis is running the team in a dictator like fashion.  Until he hands over the reigns the team will always be stuck in the past, failing to catch up to the present.  The only way I see that happening is when Davis’ time on earth here is done.  

Never in my life have I thought about jumping ship from a team I consider myself a fan of but with the Raiders I’m closer than I ever have been.  As fans of any team I think we need to ask ourselves how long  can we take an owner continuing to make one poor decision after another thus creating a losing product on the field year after year. 

All I ask for from my teams is to have some kind of a plan in place.  I understand sports is very cyclical and it’s unrealistic to expect my team to be on top every year but if there’s no clear vision on the future, a team will be on the bottom for a longer period of time than they should.  Even though we might be in the middle of a storm, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to see the sun off in the distance. 

The Raiders are operating with no plan and because of that I don’t know how much longer they’ll be in mine.

Dodgers Acquire Jim Thome, Jon Garland For Playoff Push

September 1, 2009

Last month I wrote how unexcited I was about the Dodgers non-waiver trade deadline when they acquired reliever George Sherrill from the Baltimore Orioles.  Although it was a wise move by General Manager Ned Colletti that has paid dividends I never get excited about a relief pitcher. 

Fast forward to Monday night, with the years final trade deadline looming the Dodgers made one final splash by acquiring Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome and Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Jon Garland just before the 9 PM deadline.

Thome who has played both third base and first base in his 19 year career will be a big time bat off the bench the Dodgers will be able to turn to late in games.  Thome has played in the playoffs several times and has appeared in two World Series with Cleveland in 1995 and 1997.  Although he is 39 the guy is still a virtual lock to hit 25-30 home runs and drive in 80-90 runs if he is an everyday player.  In a article by Jim Peltz of the LA Times, Colletti has already gone on record saying  “We’re not bringing him over here to play first base.  We’re bringing him over here to come off the bench and be a great influence in the clubhouse.”

Thome will indeed provide a great influence to the clubhouse.  Younger players like James Loney, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier should benefit the most from his leadership.   Most importantly he is a good friend to Manny Ramirez who as all of us know has a history of being an emotional wild card during his career.

In addition to what Thome  brings to “The Azul” as Fox Sports Radio’s Vic “The Brick” Jacobs likes to say, it takes away from the San Francisco Giants who are in desperate need of a bat.  Considering the Giants operate on a tighter budget than the Dodgers, it’s likely the only way they could made a move for Thome was if he passed through waivers unclaimed which meant Giants General Manager Brian Sabean could have signed him at a reduced rate.  No Giants fan could argue that Thome would not have been a better fit at first base than Ryan Garko who has given them relatively nothing since being acquired from Cleveland in a trade roughly a month ago.  In sports there is addition by addition and addition by subtraction and the Dodgers accomplished both by bringing Thome to Chavez Ravine.

By acquiring Garland the Dodgers pick up a quality fifth starter or someone that could provide them long relief out of the bullpen.  Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP this season on a very poor Arizona Diamondbacks team that is near the bottom in runs scored,  but if you look at his numbers closer he is 4-7 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP since June. 

Like Thome, Garland has playoff experience including a World Series ring he won with the Chicago White Sox in 2005.  Garland has won 18 games twice in his career and while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season he posted a record of 14-8 with a 4.90 ERA.  Garland is the type of pitcher that will not go out and dominate a game but he gives you a chance every time he toes the rubber which is all you can ask for from your starter.  While the need for a starting arm was a definite priority it was also a way of saying “touche” to the Giants acquisition of Brad Penny, a former Dodger who was recently granted his release by the Boston Red Sox. 

These moves should give the Dodgers the boost to finish the season strong while capturing their second consecutive NL West title and provide the team with some momentum entering October.  Should they make the World Series, fans will be ecstatic that the left handed, right handed power hitting combination of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez and JIm Thome will be on display in AL parks.