Saturday, 2 December 2017

UFC 218 Picks

Someone, very puzzled, asked why it looked like UFC 218 was having trouble selling tickets when on paper it was a pretty good card. To me, it's not so complicated. The UFC has barely promoted the event at all. Instead we've gotten to hear all about Dana White is so excited to get into promoting boxing, right on the heels of him lashing out at Colin Cowherd for suggesting his fire for MMA was waning. I can't come up with a single MMA fan much interested in having boxing associated with the UFC but he has always deep down been a frustrated wannabe boxing promoter, in the same way that Conor McGregor turned to MMA after failing at amateur boxing.

Some people will say that the ridiculous antics of a guy like Colby Covington are therefore justified because you need to make a name for yourself. Heck no. The job of the promotion is literally to promote you. There are ways in which you can help yourself, for sure. I'll probably talk more about that before UFC 219. But the primary job of the fighter is to show up and fight. With the Ali Act Expansion hearings ongoing the UFC could find itself in a spot where their only job really will be to promote their cards if they actually want to make any money. Wasn't the point of WME coming in as the new owners that they would have the muscle in the industry to really market their product? It's almost as though they have no idea what the fuck they are doing.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

UFC 217 Picks & the Health of the Company

UFC 217 is finally here with very limited fanfare to follow it. It has been terribly promoted by everyone involved, even the fighters. It's almost as though WME has no fucking idea what they're doing with this company. There's something I've had in my mind for a while now, an idea that has started to pick up steam lately as the reality of the situation begins to dawn on people: the over-promotion of Conor McGregor has severely damaged the brand of the UFC and reputation of the sport of a whole.

Michael Bisping was on the Herd last week to promote UFC 217 and of course our friend Colin Cowherd wanted to talk about McGregor to which Bisping replied in an exasperated tone, "Conor, Conor, Conor!" It's my feeling too and I apologize in advance for what's about to transpire but this is important.

Before anyone ever knew who Conor and Ronda Rousey were, the PPV King of MMA was UFC 217's headliner Georges St-Pierre. He wasn't a dynamic personality, he wasn't a trash talker spewing myriad lines of bullshit. He wasn't even particularly exciting to watch all of the time. He was just a highly talented and intelligent fighter whose excellence created an aura and star quality organically.

As long as the product remains first and foremost about competition, you will always have a steady stream of that sort of attraction. It's treated as a real sport and the fact someone has developed into an elite fighter is the most important factor; everything else is just an added bonus.

It ain't that anymore. Some people want to tie Ronda Rousey's over-promotion to the decline of the UFC. I don't think that was it. More often than not, she was booked as a supporting act for Chris Weidman. The last two PPV's she headlined as the champion the notoriety she built as a female novelty allowed the UFC to enter new markets. The current problems in the Women's Bantamweight division stem from a lack of depth and a lack of fights being booked.

As an aside I think the UFC should definitely fold up the Women's Featherweight division and consider doing away with Bantamweight. Most, if not all of the more popular Bantamweights could make 125lbs anyway. The two big stars who made those divisions seem like relevant women's divisions in Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey are gone now. Honestly, I even think they were the only reason people were ever interested in Cyborg, whose record I find unappreciatedly padded.

The beginning of the end really started when Conor McGregor was granted an immediate rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 200. People look back on that (UFC 202 as it eventually became) and think landmark event, they think Fight of the Year. I think of it as a circus freak show that severely damaged the integrity of the matchmaking.

The failure to book a title defense for McGregor despite a catalogue of eligible challengers left the Featherweight division in limbo. Scrambling to create Interim title bouts when the Champion was fit and healthy and ready to defend rendered all Interim belt meaningless. Gifting McGregor an undeserved Lightweight title shot on a one fight win streak so he could make fake history compromised the integrity of the competition and the significance of winning a championship.

Allowing McGregor to box Floyd Mayweather Jr marked the apex of the short term gain they experienced. It made one man definitively bigger than the sport. While Dana White's question "What makes one a star" is well taken, there is a way to handle them. Promoting him at the expense of everyone else involved with the company changed the expectations of the consumers.

Three of the last three PPV cards have turned in atrocious numbers. UFC 213, 215 and 216 between them failed to cracked 400,000 buys. The casual fan catered to by McGregor does not care if it's not a superfight. If the participants don't act like lunatics at the press conference, it's not worth talking about for them. Great fighters who don't talk trash are disregarded as unmarketable. What's the point of putting them in big fights?

I don't expect this card to do as well as the UFC is hoping. It didn't help that Dana White has spent years lambasting GSP's state of mind. As it stands, we are on the lookout for McGregor vs Ferguson to headline the year end show at UFC 219 which will help them end 2017 on a high. 2018 will be a very important year for the future of the UFC. The next TV deal they sign will be very telling. My feeling is that FOX aligns well with their brand, or at least what they ought to be aiming for. they should not under any circumstances sign with the dying yet still somehow reputable ESPN. We'll see where they go from here.

Picks after the jump.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Yamanose Sports Ledger 10/29/17 - Yuli Gurriel, Bob McNair & Some Guy I've Never Heard Of

I had some sports musings that I was going to include in my UFC 217 picks column but it got really long really fast just by itself so I decided to forego them. However, within a matter of days three very similar stories with varying degrees of severity popped up and I felt like throwing in my opinion for whatever it's worth. So I decided to create an entirely new feature, the Yamanose Sports Ledger, a general sports column. I'll probably never do a second edition of YSL but it's here if I need it!

When people are offended now, it can be difficult to judge whether or not the outrage is justified. Clay Travis often says that social media is a funhouse mirror that distorts reality. "Sides" such as they are become polarized and people becoming entirely incapable of debating issues rationally; Everything is either classified as a world ending indignation or the wailing of whimpering snowflakes with no in-between.

Of course, the truth is that everything should be judged on a case-by-case basis and all of reality exists on a scale - a concept those who are especially gender-conscious ought to already be intimately familiar with but often actually aren't. I feel like I'm a very reasonable, moderate person so I'm happy to serve as the arbiter and rank three offensive acts in order of least to most concerning.

Analysis after the jump

Friday, 6 October 2017

UFC 216 Picks & Ramble

The writer Dan McLaughlin has a good mantra for dealing with social media - every time before you log on, tell yourself "They can both be wrong". My enjoyment of the NFL was definitely dampened in week three by the mass protest or rather, as it was spun "display of unity". I can certainly understand where their anger came from.


As LeSean McCoy put so succinctly, the President is an asshole. But let's beclear,the protest and all connected protests are stupid. No one even knows what they're about and everyone involved is doing a piss poor job of explaining it. The condescending and judgmental attitudes of those who support the displays of petulance and #resistance is utterly repellent. I don't even want to talk about ti anymore.

As the culture war rages, those weary or at least myself seek to retreat and find a leisurely respite from entirely fabricated controversies and other weighty issues presented without context or balance. All too often popular media is used as a vehicle to push some kind of agenda. Worthy or not I won't be the judge here. Sports appears to be the next battleground. Seized upon by people who appear to not even much like sports perhaps in resentment of those who do, overwhelmingly traditional and conservative in outlook. If that's off the table, where can we find peace?


One of the things that has always struck me about MMA is how many of the fighters make sure to thank God after they've won. We saw last week in the NFL, although many players are also deeply religious, they can find grace in their teammates. A strong leader oe voice in the locker room can convince you of all sorts of powerful things. What of the solo athlete? What of the fighter?

Achieving greatness as an athlete requires an enormous amount of will and self-determination. To enter an arena and compete and shut out everyone else around bar yourself and your opponent requires courage in spirit and of your convictions. Sports where you have a chance of being severely injured or worse such as combat sports and race car driving. To succeed there you need faith - in yourself and perhaps also in a higher power, one that guides you, sets a path for you to climb and protects you from harm.

A lot of people like to make snarky comments about the statements they make thanking Jesus Christ and so on. But why? I've never been particularly religious but I'm starting to understand the meaning prayer holds for people. It's an act of giving in mind and spirit and in an environment where increasingly people are encouraged to take , to cast themselves as victims, it holds reassurance. If you can find peace in it, I'm happy for you.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

UFC 215 Picks & Quick NFL Predictions

UFC 215 lost a lot of its appeal with the loss of the main event due to an illness supposedly not related to weight cutting. Kevin Lee came out yesterday, and it's a sentiment shared by many others, that the UFC needs to add weight classes to eliminate weight cutting. I am here to tell you that is absolute nonsense. If you add weight classes there would be more weight cutting, not less. You'd have some 190lb half-wit who fights at 170lbs because who wasn't quite able to make it to 155lbs who would then attempt to make 165lbs. Furthermore no one forces you to cut weight. The challenger in the new main event tonight in fact cuts no weight and she's able to have success. So what's your excuse, Kevin?

The NFL regular season kicks off tonight. I haven't followed off-season news as closely as years past so I'm less blithely confident in these predictions as usual but why not try? My main takeaway is that even though the Patriots lost their home opener, a very rare occurrence for a defending champ, they're a team that tends to get stronger as the season goes along and by the end they will be peaking and the most likely champions once again.

I think the Cowboys are due some karmic regression. Funny how everyone has flip-flopped their opinion on alleged domestic violence given the opportunity to rag on Roger Goodell. Mike Lombardi has long been one of the biggest blowhards in NFL media, not an uncommon approach for a former 'football person' but most of them are mercifully not taken very seriously whereas Lombardi is given a platform on the Ringer for his biased, near-sighted drivel where he does a podcast with an awestruck intern. He is on some sort of crusade lately against Doug Pederson of the Eagles, saying he's not qualified to be a head coach, as opposed to say for example Josh McDaniels. He is frequently made to look very silly and I think the Eagles are due and will soar again.

The rest of the Playoffs I envision being composed of the usual suspects though. The Packers meet the Seahawks on Sunday opening week and I believe they'll rematch for the conference title as the two most dominant teams in the NFC. I also like the S̶a̶n̶ ̶D̶i̶e̶g̶o̶ Los Angeles Chargers but that's probably mostly because they have an Asian kicker now. We'll see how long that lasts.


Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

UFC 214 Picks and Herd/MayGregor rant

Liberal sports writers and opinion makers exploded in outrage after the Mayweather-McGregor press tour, decrying Conor McGregor's racially insensitive taunts with some branding him an outright racist and all bemoaning the existence of The Joint Business Venture™ to begin with. It becomes very difficult to tell when accusations of racism are for real with the frequency with which they are leveled nowadays. I don't know what is in Conor McGregor's heart or mind and I doubt any of these pundits do either. I will say this though - McGregor's pathetic excuse that he can't be racist because he loves black culture and listens to hip-hop all the time sounds an awful lot like the outlooks of many, many virtue signaing left-wing white milennial writers, for example almost everyone who works for the Ringer. Those people are all more prejudiced than they understand so who knows?

Of course the most glaring insult is that the people who willed this into existence are the very sports media hacks now decrying it. With 24 hours of content to fill, they all latch on to loudmouths like Conor hailing him as the greatest fighter ever to walk the Earth, mostly because he tells them he is so they don't have to do the resarch and watch the actual fights themselves. they elevated him and made his wishes reality and now that he has offended their sensibilities they're determined to debase and discredit him.

Nowhere is this more evident than with Colin Cowherd. I listen to Colin all the time and enjoy his NFL and college football takes but the guy should just stay away from opining on MMA as he reveals his own ignorance. He mocks MMA fans saying they refuse to see reason and think Conor not only has a chance but will win. No bud, the people saying that are Conor stans. People who are truly invested in MMA think the whole affair is a farce - I've not talked about it all without first being asked about it and have not actively sought out anything about it beyond what appears organically in my feeds. He should be defending his belt(s). Never forget - 4 belts, 0 defenses. Everything he does is in self-interest which is great for him but erodes the credibility of the organization that promotes him and pretty much only him.

Colin has no perspective on MMA and does not do his research. He claims that Conor is the best fighter in the UFC. No, he is the most famous. Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson are both head and shoulders above him in those sorts of accolades. Tony Ferguson is a nightmare matchup for him which is probably why he'd rather fight Khabib upon his return. Cowherd says Conor has lost three times in the UFC. He's lost once - the three are in his career overall. The nuance is important MMA records are toptally different from the type of boxing records to which he was equating with. He says Conor does not KO most of his opponents. In the UFC he has KO/TKO'd 7 of 10 opponents, in his career overall 18 of 24 a rate of 70% and 75% respectively. That sure sounds like most to me. If you cannot get basic facts right why should anyone listen to your presuppositions?

Colin also contends that Dana White is the face of the UFC and we should all bow down and be eternally thankful for that. Bro do you not realize that the non-competing promoter being the bulbous, red face of his fighting organization is a BAD thing? It means he is not doing his goddamn job which is literally to "promote" them. Wacky idea, I know. Finally, he equates Mayweather vs McGregor as Duke vs Coastal Carolina in NCAA Basketball, a #16 vs #1. My analogy would be it's more like Nike & Adidas vs Lavar Ball, another guy you grossly overexposed and with that in mind I'll repeat his catchphrase back to you: "Stay in your lane".

Picks after the jump.

Friday, 7 July 2017

UFC 213 Picks

After holding three events for "International Fight Week", whatever the hell that is, last year the UFC cut back to two this time out. They have been really struggling for main events as evidenced by complete randos like Kevin Lee and S̶e̶r̶g̶i̶o̶ Santiago Ponzinibbio getting the call. Maybe it would help if they didn't wait hand and foot on their biggest stars, allowing one to jaunt off and flounce about in a circus act on August 26th. The other they made a fight despite knowing he would  not be able to go until the fall. Perhaps if they didn't do stuff like that and then bold faced lie about it all, other champions and big names would not get so testy and difficult to deal with and then entire divisions would not be held up. But this game has always been sleazy so it's nothing new.

Some thoughts on other upcoming fights; Travis Browne vs Oleksiy Oliynyk is the exact type of fight I'd book in World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 when trying to get one guy and easy win and burn fights off the other's contract. Shameless. I don't think Oliynyk will be able to get a takedown so Browne's deteriorating skills should hold up.

The fights on the TUF Finale prelims are better than most of the main card. Who the hell is Drakkar Klose? The one to keep an eye out for is Jessica Eye vs Aspen Ladd. Ladd is an undefeated all-rounder with good potential. Women's Bantamweight is struggling for storylines and as of later this year could be struggling for numbers so her rise could be fast. In the main event, I think Michael Johnson is a very bad matchup for newcomer and WSOF star Justin Gaethje. Gaethje has talked about getting a KO finish but I think against Johnson that's easier said than done and his intensity will be matched every step of the way.

Cynthia Calvillo's rise has already been fast and nine days later she takes on Joanne Calderwood in Scotland. The outcome depends on how much Calderoowd's takedown defense has improved. My guess is "not enough". One more win after this and you can expect to see her in a title fight. UFC matchmakers have been very kind to friend of Conor. In the main event, expect Gunnar Nelson to lay waste to Some Guy Who Should Only Be Headlining Prelims and also be a fight away from gold.

Picks after the jump.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

UFC 212 Picks preceded by unrelated comment on Man Utd

I was just generally a bit angry when I wrote my last post and considering the events of last week Monday and the subsequent joy and wild celebrations following the Europa League final victory, I'm prepared not to call Manchester United's 2016-17 season a failure. That's not to say it was a success. We all made fun of Liverpool, quite rightly too back when the won the Mickey Mouse Treble in whatever ancient, irrelevant year that happened so it's a little silly for us to parade our three trophies around now. At the same time, we have three trophies and they have zero and we're back in the Champions League to boot so who can complain about that? I'm content to wait and see what happens next season from here.

UFC 212 meanwhile is not the most superb, star-studded card we've ever seen. Expecting people to pay $60 for what amounts to, main event aside, a Fight Night card seems optimistic to me but there are some interesting, potentially very fun fights on deck...

Picks after the jump.

Friday, 12 May 2017

UFC 211 Picks and some thoughts on Man Utd

We are geared up for the best card of the year with UFC 211 stuffed full of meaningful fights. It has been three weeks since the last UFC event and absence has made the heart grow fonder at least here. The news has been a little slow but I do have two random things on my mind.

First of all, I've become irrationally convinced that Jose Mourinho is low key trying to ruin my life. That has nothing to do with MMA or Shenmue or anything but our Manchester United side has been absolutely dire by their standards in not just recent weeks but in fact recent years!

I heard people talking the other day, asking the question "If United don't win the Europa League, would this season be considered a failure?" Forget that, I say, even if they do win the Europa League the season is already a failure. Manchester City and Arsenal have grossly underachieved, Liverpool have been a barely above average side and somehow all those teams are ahead of us in the league.

To make matters worse Tottenham, who will for sure embarass us in the last ever game at old White Hart Lane, have stolen a march on us at a time where we would have otherwise hoped to pry away key players from their squad like Harry Kane and Eric Dier to augment our own. Failure to take the initiative in our own games has allowed our competitors to strengthen their position against us.

The game on Thursday against Celta Vigo, a razor thin 1-1 draw on the night was so typical of the inefficacy of the team this year. After stumbling out of the blocks and allowing Vigo to dictate play early in the match, United finally settled in and started to knock the ball around with confidence leading to our goal, a header from Marouane Fellaini. But after that, United sank further and further back showing less and less ambition.

Vigo's equalizer instigated full-scale panic because barely a soul in the side has a spine. Athletic lugnut Eric Bailly unwisely shoved his hands in some diving prick's face and got himself sent off. When play resumed, Rooney promptly ran the ball up to the corner flag in an attempt to waste time. Against Celta motherfucking Vigo. Are you fucking kidding me?

I'm not inspired by Mourinho. I'm still irrationally convinced he will win us the league out of nowhere next year but I don't think he'll last much longer beyond that. In the meantime, he will have driven away all our promising youngsters and homegrowns, in particular the beleagured Luke Shaw and no doubt leave us right back where he started from. He truly is a desciple of van Gaal in that respect. To Stockholm we trudge then.

In lighter news, Paige VanZant apparently caused quite the stir when she posted a suggestive video of herself showing off her Reebok undiepanties imploring her followers to buy a set for their sisters or girlfriends. In full disclosure, when I saw the video free of any context (not that there was much to begin with) I believe I exclaimed out loud, "She's gone completely batshit insane!" but as a born contrarion once the criticism started pouring in I started to feel a paternal or perhaps hot-girl-privilege inspired need to defend her. Not that I did that but I would note that yes she is a hot girl and yes that does mean she gets a pass. That's just how it is. I know Angela Hill is a critic but shehas made some odd videos herself in the past but they're not nearly as effective because she is not hot leading me to believe the hate is borne from either jealousy or angry, frustrated virgins. That's how I see it anyway.

Picks after the jump.

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