Saturday, 7 April 2018

UFC 223 Picks

The relatively light scheduling, only one event in the last five weeks, has come in handy allowing the UFC to stack their April Pay Per View so even though the loss of Tony Ferguson is devastating, it's not disastrous. More scarce scheduling also leaves fighters free to step in on late notice although there are some who notably did not jump sat the chance. It also proved however that it is not vital. No one missed it while it was gone and any equity they built in the summer years of Ronda and Conor has well and truly been squandered. Regular service is set to be resumed with packed weekends ahead so here are some thoughts on some upcoming fights before we look at the card coming on Saturday...

Dustin Poirier vs Justin Gaethje: It should go without saying this is going to be fun and a well fitting main event for big FOX. Things do not get easier for Gaethje. It perhaps would have been better for 'building' him to match him with someone else coming off a loss. I think Poirier is peaking and ready to challenge the top of the division.

Alexa Grasso vs Tatiana Suarez: Whoever thought this booking was a good idea would be fired in my UFC. Easy win for Suarez.

Stephen Thompson vs Darren Till: This is not quite as big a mismatch but the principle is similar. I don't think Till as a striker is anywhere close to the level of an undefeated karate champion. Till is talked about as a knockout artist but has only finished two of five fights in the UFC. It's much easier to knock guys out at regional level. Thompson seemed to tire towards the end of his fight with Jorge Masvidal but if Till as he enjoys claiming is a Light Heavyweight fighting at Welterweight he too will wear down and the adjoining dehydration will be an impediment to his hopes of staying conscious. Too much too soon?

Jimmie Rivera vs Marlon Moraes: In an ideal world, Moraes would take out the most boring fighter on the UFC roster but 5 rounds I have a suspicion "Magic" will come out emotional and suffer a severe adrenaline dump allowing Rivera to poke and leg kick his way to a decision win. If the UFC does a show in Mexico, Houston or New Jersey late in the year, look for him to get a title shot on that card.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

UFC 222 Picks

Apart from glancing at it on the televisions at the gym, I watched not a minute of the recently passed Winter Olympics of my own volition. I did however visit some relatives over Chinese New Year who had recorded some of it for us to watch in the afternoon with a particular emphasis on figure skating.

For them figure skating is not just an Olympic diversion, it's a sport they follow all year round, all around the world. They eagerly anticipated the performance of the apparent superstar Yuzuru Hanyu and his stablemate, the Spaniard Javier Fernández. Rounding out the podium was Shoma Uno or was he was dubbed, Fei Jai - Fat Kid (allegedly). Ageing Canadian Patrick Chan was described as a beautiful skater but incapable of jumping.

Then there was the supposed dark cloud of the event. China is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022 and are thus pumping untold millions into developing competitors who will ne capable of winning medals. Like many things that emerge from regimes historically culturally crushed by communism, the results are somewhat mechanical. Exhibit A: Jin Boyang. As my uncle explained to me, "This boy, he can really jump. But his art is shit. We don't want people like that in our sport."

I of course couldn't really tell one way or another apart from noticing he seemed to rush through a lot of his performance. It got me thinking about how this sentiment could relate to a sport I know much better - MMA. Who are the kind of fighters we don't need in our sport? Flyin' Brian of MMA Mania asked this week what is more important to you when watching MMA, high level technique or entertaining storyline/personality? I would lean towards the former but for me really it'd be option three: Willingness to trade.

What are the fights and who are the fighters who live longest in the memory? Robbie Lawler's war with Rory McDonald. Shogun-Henderson. Anything involving Justin Gaethje. Those are the types of fights as a fan you take along to your uninitiated friend and say, "Here, watch this!" knowing it will get them as hyped up as you. They don't need a storyline, the action sells itself. In fights like these technique goes out the window because the combatants are punch-drunk, exhausted and desperate. That's a beautiful thing. That's not to say true fight IQ and patience are not also beautiful things but it's not quite the same rush of blood to the head.

Kamaru Usman has been chatting up a storm on social media trying to call out Cosby Corbynton, a fight that makes sense from a matchmaking perspective. They're both outstanding wrestlers capable of winning any fight they're booked in. Neither is a guy I care to watch. I want to watch fighters WIN a FIGHT. Not hold someone on the ground for fifteen minutes. Nor do we want staring contests or point fighters who have no way of finishing opponents. What's particularly maddening about someone like Usman is he is clearly capable of great things but too often plays it safe.

Sometimes you will get screeching shills like Ariel Helwani chastising fans for booing Tyron Woodley in his last two fights. But if a fight is boring, it's boring. Enabling such inactive gameplans, "fighting smart" as they call it, contributes to the slow death of cage fighting. I don't want that for my sport.

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

On Petra Kvitova's Greatness

"POJD!!!"
The trademark scream of Petra Kvitova rings out across center court in Doha as she wins a critical point in the final of the tournament against former world number one and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza. Roughly translating from Czech as "Come On!" it's a sure sign that both her head and heart are now firmly engaged in the contest. After starting the match 0-5 she has fought all the way back to tie it at a set a piece and is poised to take control. Her greatest comeback though was made last year.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

UFC 221 Picks

With Max Holloway out of his title fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 due to an injury, the Las Vegas based promotion has reshuffled its deck and come up with a new main event that's the surest sign yet that it's high time the UFC drastically scale back their PPV business if not spike it entirely. We'll wait for it to roll around and see if the scheduled fights actually happen before commenting too much on that front.

With FOX spending big for Thursday night NFL rights, the bargaining position for UFC broadcast rights continues to weaken. There's no chance whatsoever they'll be able to extract the $400m per year they were reportedly hoping for but a step in the right direction would be guaranteeing more title fights for the broadcast network. Frankly I'm not even sure Cyborg vs Kunitskaya would be a legitimate FS1 main event. But at least people would know who they were and maybe start caring a little if they could watch them without having to pay for them.

Meanwhile I'm ready to announce the first main event for the Oceanic Fighting Championship (formerly Openweight Fighting Championship but retaining the same initials). Before Stipe Miocic broke the consecutive Heavyweight title defence record last month, Daniel Cormier had talked about going up in weight to defend Cain  Velasquez's honor in that regard. Now he and Miocic are fighting for real in the summer. So in the meantime how about Cain goes and defends DC's honor? Battling at Openweight I present to you Jon Jones vs Cain Velasquez. Since we're in international waters, both can do whatever steroids they need to in order to make it to the fight. Who says no to that?

Picks after the jump.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

UFC 220 Picks

With Uriah Hall's illness and subsequent withdrawal from Fight Night St Louis, there are sure to be the usual rash of stories decrying the evils of weight cutting and calling for hundreds of new weight classes to be added to official competition. We won't get into why that's dumb (and it is very dumb), instead I have a better idea.

With Robert Whittaker's injury and inability to defend his title at UFC 221, Yoel Romero jumps in to replace him and OF COURSE fight for an interim belt coming off a loss. Rockhold-Romero is still a fun fight and could go five rounds with no hardware but why not. The UFC is telling us they don't give a shit about belts, they're just a meaningless prop so who cares? Forget about belts, forget rankings because they're also irrelevant in UFC matchmaking.

And now, with all the weight cut issues, why do we need weight classes? Back in the good old (?) days there was no such thing anyway. Do two guys look roughly comparable in size? Good enough. Apparently a Saudi fund wants to invest in WME. Get one of the sheikhs to loan you a yacht, sail into international waters and unveil the Openweight Fighting Championships, baby. No tax either so you can pay your constantly complaining fighters a little more and keep them happy. Now we can finally make fights the fans want to see. I've solved your problems, UFC.

Picks after the jump.