Friday, 7 April 2017

UFC 210 Picks and an NFL non story

For those who did not watch last Saturday, Paddy Pimblett was dethroned at Cage Warriors 82 by Nad Narimani. I scored it 49-46 for the challenger Narimani with only the second round for Pimblett. He was thoroughly dominated in all aspects of the fight yet this morning, local journalists like Jim Edwards are still trying to defend him, talking about how he will one day be the face of MMA in the UK.

For my part, I'll admit that Pimblett is very young and has room and time to improve. But if he wants to reach the lofty goals that he himself has boasted off, a UFC roster spot and a potential future showdown with Conor McGregor, he has a very long way to go. The unwavering belief that some pundits still have him in despite his last two performances is an example of how intractable some people can be once they've adopted public positions. As Colin Cowherd often speaks about, for them it's about being right rather getting it right.

This is particularly noticeable when discussing about Colin Kaepernick's continued unemployment in the NFL. He has never proven himself to be an adept starter outside of one season's worth of games when people did not yet have tape on him. He can't read defenses, has never been able to and when called on it, blustered and revealed his ignorance. According to Dan Graziano, his salary demands are high, in the $9-10m a year range and he wants a shot at being the starter. Yet somehow according to the blue Twitter checkmark brigade this is one of the great injustices currently facing us in the world.

"A source" claims that the salary demand is fake news. However, I would note that Kaepernick switched agents heading into free agency, leaving XAM Sports where he had followed a friend of his and signing with Select Sports Group. His previous contract with the 49ers had been noted as unusually team friendly, ie "I ain't gettin' paid enough" territory. His supporters claim that he is being blackballed because of his political stances.

I would not say "blackballed" but do I think that puts off GM's? Sure - but why shouldn't it? While he has the right to kneel for the national anthem, it does distract from team unity - we've mentioned before how many athletes and coaches are inherently conservative. It does put the spotlight and focus on self rather than team goals and a winning mentality. For me it's magnified by my lack of conviction in his sincerity - something borne out by his sudden and convenient abandonment of said kneeling policy.

I had a brief back and forth with Mina Kimes of ESPN on this topic and brought up Bill Romanowski's claim that Blaine Gabbert outworked Kaepernick in terms of film study prior to being named the starter which she rejected out of hand due to his supposed unreliability. Michael Crabtree had suggested something similar in regard to his willingness and ability to study tape but on-field or in the case of Paddy Pimblett, in-cage evidence is not enough when you have predetermined agendas to promote.

It's really nothing new when it comes to sports 'journalism'. The difference now is that the average fan has so much more access now that we should know better. Use your own eyes and mind when making your judgments. The truth will reveal itself to you as long as you are open to it. I guess that's what I'm trying to say.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

UFC 209 Picks

I was thinking about ruminating on why MMA fans seem to be overwhelmingly conservative in nature but then big fight news came down this week as Georges St. Pierre's return became official as he challenges Michael Bisping for the Middleweight title at UFC 2??. Well, most likely UFC 213 during International Fight Week in July. Plenty of people are complaining but I don't hate it and am looking forward to the fight.

The chief grievance most people have is that this feels like a gimmick, money fight rather than one based in actual sporting intrigue given that GSP has not fought in three and a half years and has never competed at Middleweight. They have a point there but the inference that WME is interfering in matchmaking to pay off the vig and that this would never have happened under the reign of the Fertittas is risible. Anyone remember when Chael Sonnen got an undeserved shot at Jon Jones? Brock Lesnar had the name but not the credentials when he fought Randy Couture. Multiple fighters have been handed title shots coming off losses. While technically under the WME banner, there was also a rather large event at Madison Square Garden where a a very popular fighter got a shot at a belt with a grand total of zero wins in that division in the UFC that no one complained about that you just know old Zuffa would've been all about. So it's not unprecedented.

Moreover, I don't feel bad for Yoel Romero. Is he the clear number one contender? Sure, I guess. But he's also extremely lucky not to be in the midst of a two year USADA suspension. There was highly unethical conduct by his corner in the Tim Kennedy fight and also repeated fence grabbing against Jacare Souza which saved him from being underneath a BJJ warlock. So it's tough for me to muster a lot of sympathy. While there is also grumbling about a logjam being created at Middleweight - a logjam of two, by the way - it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Better than what you have at Women's Bantamweight which has no clear challengers after Valentina Shevchenko. There's a real complaint you could hurl the UFC's way which was also evident under the old management - would it kill them to book a few more women's fights?

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

UFC 208 picks

I'm not sure the UFC are taking this "Pay-per-view" business seriously. Compared to the FOX card two weeks ago, this event has no fights of divisional significance on it at all. That includes this completely bogus title fight headlining the card. With Cris Cyborg out of the picture for who knows how long, there is no point whatsoever in having a Women's Featherweight division - the depth just isn't there right now, as evidenced by having two bantamweight contest the belt.

If the UFC wanted to add another women's division, 125lbs should have been it. It bridges the gap between 115 and 135 for intermediate fighters and opens the possibility of a superfight grudge match between Future title challenger Valentina Shevchenko and strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Also, people won't like hearing this but it's true - the smaller girls are more marketable. Now they've backed themelves into a corner it'll be interesting to see what they do. Even though Dana White said Amanda Nunes would not be allowed to come up and challenge for a second belt, JI bet it ends up happening if she wins her next fight because what the hell else are they gonna do?

Picks after the jump

Friday, 30 December 2016

UFC 207 picks

There was more WME-IMG inspired at UFC HQ this week as Mike "It takes a lot of energy to be a rock star" Goldberg got whacked. His final show will be tonight and I expect his next job to be MC at the county fair. It's fairly self-evident why he ultimately lost his job but I can't help feeling a twinge of regret and pity for the guy. As the rumors swirled and the pressure mounted over the last few weeks, he definitely broke with even more flubs than ever spilling from his mouth - I'll never forget that time he called Michelle Waterson "Michelle Waterman" right after the biggest win of her career or the other time he called this a body kick.

Something similar happened two years ago when the Jacksonville Jaguars moved their flagship radio station from WOKV to 1010XL. Play-by-play announcer Brian Sexton who had been with the team since their inception in 1994 was replaced by a resident 1010XL host and announcer. Sexton, like Goldberg, had his own unique style while also being error-prone and loathed by a section of home town fans. He attempted to branch out into other ventures around town as Goldberg attempted to do NFL games for FOX but nothing ever quite stuck. As Sexton's tenure with the team went on, he became more uptight when engaging with fans and seemed to adopt a "Don't you know who I am?" kind of attitude. Goldie is similarly known for his erratic behavior.

Sexton's replacement on the Jaguars broadcasts was Frank Frangie who is not a Jaguars fan and is also kinda terrible at the job. Similarly Goldberg's rumored replacement is Jim Rome, a guy who back in the day said that MMA was not a legitimate sport and the UFC would fail. I'm not sure how anyone thinks that would work - if your goal is to present yourself as the worldwide leader in your industry would you not attempt to fill your staff and roster with people who have experience in the field? Well, I guess not anymore. As far past his time as Goldberg was, this smacks of a power play by the new ownership, pulling the rug out from under and installing their own stooges in prominent positions - rarely if ever a good idea. The Jaguars have been in a soul destroying slump of losing since the change on ownership and in particular the new broadcast team. Let's hope the same will not be true of the UFC.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

UFC 206 picks

With the paucity of star power on display at UFC 206, especially coming off the larger than life New York card, I almost get the feeling that much like Tony Soprano, I came in at the end and the best is over. New UFC owners WME-IMG appear at this point to have no clear vision of how to carry the company forward. By all accounts, it was their refusal to compromise that led to Georges St-Pierre not being a part of this event that was clearly arranged with him in mind. I'm thinking his presence on the card would have been a great help after Cormier-Johnson was called off. Expect the PPV numbers for this event to be atrocious. With Conor McGregor's hiatus, Ronda Rousey's likely retirement and GSP's exile, if the best they can offer us is a Woodley-Thompson rematch, that situation will not improve anytime soon.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

UFC 205 picks

The UFC has been accused of over-saturating the market with cards in recent times but with only one event since UFC 204, which I completely missed due to being overseas in a country where the bouts take place circa breakfast time, I feel refreshed and ready for more action, plus of course sufficiently jet lagged to stay up all night with minimal effort. With all the layoffs and cuts at the company since WME took charge, the way has been paved for a significant streamlining going forward which will hopefully mean fewer fights between no-names at big events and an end to having to pretend to remotely care about said no-names. While the dream would be to reestablish itself as a federation for the truly elite, there's no avoiding the dilemma at the lower end of Merit vs Marketability. While I might huff and puff about Conor McGregor not deserving a title shot at 155 lbs, I have to admit I saw this story about Demi Lovato's possible plans for 2017 and got irrationally excited. Apparently I've learned nothing from CM Punk.

Picks after the jump.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

NFL Picks Week Six sponsored by Studio Yukupo

I am going on holiday next week so mercifully for all my t̶e̶n̶s̶ five or fewer loyal readers, no column in the mean time because I am far too l̶a̶z̶y̶ fearful of an unreliable connection, schedule and super confusing time difference. Hopefully my skills of precognition will improve without the pressure of public scrutiny and I am on the right track having hit the comeback trail last week with thanks to the AFC and NFC South teams whose games I went 5-0 with. Of all my half-backed predictions, it is gratifying to see the Panthers fall away with the expected post Super Bowl hangover. Few in the mainstream NFL media saw anything but another NFC Championship parade for Cam Newton but as Conor McGregor once said, "It's like in the jungle. One king gets old. He starts getting sloppy. He starts stagnating. Then a young gorilla comes up and kills him and takes everything he owns. That is what is happening here." That goes for you and three point lead too, Chris.

Picks after the jump.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

NFL Picks Week Five sponsored by Studio Yukupo

Not to brag but I went 5-0 with my UFC picks last night. Not that it was especially hard to predict given it was such a ho-hum card but with my season of NFL picks careening off the tracks and into a concrete wall, I need something to cling onto so I'll take whatever I can. Once again I stand by my picks from last week except for the Ravens who I should have known were not good after they only just barely scraped past the awful Jaguars the week before. You often forget about the coaches in these scenarios too. It seems obvious in hindsight that John Fox would o̶u̶t̶f̶o̶x̶ outcoyote Jim Caldwell but as always on the day itself you get swept up in non-logic such as "well the Lions are 1-2 but they're better than they looked". Sure, of course they are.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

UFC 204 picks

The UFC hits Manchester tonight though don't tell Sergei Rafalov that. Says Rafalov, the CEO of Ukrainian football club Zorya Luhansk, "Manchester is a dirty city, full of drunks and men kissing in the street". The first part of that sentence is pretty rich coming from someone fighting (with their words at least) out of the former Soviet Union but by the time the main event kicks off at UFC 204, even the drunks and the possibly effeminate blokes will have cleared off back inside because the start times for the fights have not been adjusted for local time. For some inexplicable reason, they've decided to cater first to the PPV audience back home in America which is baffling because this card is completely devoid of draws and I would be shocked if it got to 250k buys. Perplexing decisions by the UFC are par for the course at this point though. More on that next month.

Picks after the jump.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

NFL Picks Week Four Sponsored by Studio Yukupo

Another sub-par week of picks but this time I stand by them - how was I to know that it turns out Tom Brady was s system quarterback all along?* How was I to know that Carson Wentz is football Jesus and how was I to know that Blaine Gabbert was not a Real American? How was I to know that the Patriots would not be playing the Jaguars next despite the fact I had been reminding myself for months that the first game after Brady's suspension would be conveniently versus the Jags?

Anyhow, while my scatter-brained approach to pick games has not proven to be so insightful thus far, there are a few things we do know after three weeks of action:
  1. Bill Belichick is a warlock. I guess we already knew that.
  2. Gus Bradley is not a warlock. Who will be fired first? Charlie Strong, Rex Ryan or Gus Bradley?
  3. Miko Grimes still hates Ryan Tannehill
  4. The success of the Cavaliers and Stipe Miocic has not rubbed off on the Browns
  5. The Vikings are for real but will still lose in the playoffs in excruciating fashion.
Picks after the jump.