Saturday, December 12, 2009

UFC 107 Preview

Some quick picks for the fights tonight:

Kenny Florian v. Clay Guida
Florian, Round 3, Unanimous Decision
As much as I like Guida, I just don't think he has the tools to defeat Florian, who has better skills in just about every range of the fight. He'll frustrate Clay by sticking to the outside, and then threaten with submissions if Clay shoots for a takedown. Even without subs, Kenny has the skills to sweep for his own ground-and-pound in an dominant position. Clay's good, but I don't think he's at the same level as KenFlo.

Frank Mir v. Chiek Kongo
Mir, Round 2, Submission
Kongo is definitely the most dangerous striker in the UFC heavyweight division, but he doesn't have the skills to put him with the top fighters. As long as Frank doesn't try and prove his striking credentials by standing with Kongo, it should be a relatively easy night for him.

BJ Penn v. Diego Sanchez
Penn, Round 4, T/KO
Sanchez has certainly made a name for himself recently, but I'm still surprised to see him in title contention. I really don't think he's ever been in this kind of high-level fight before, and I don't see him winning in any way for this match. Penn has better skills standing, on the ground, and everything in-between. Sanchez says that he plans using his cardio to outlast the champ, but with BJ's much improved strength and conditioning program, I see that as a shaky strategy at best. I suppose anything can happen when BJ is fighting, but everything seems to be in his favor tonight.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My legs tell a story

My legs tell a story.
Lumps and bruises up and down my shins,
Skin worn raw and red from my toes to my knees,
And I am happy.

Strike hard with all the guts left in you,
Strike fast as the timer counts down,
Don't let them catch you
Slacking off.

We are here for one reason
And one reason only.
We are here to learn to fight-
All else is secondary.

Fight for our lives and our livings,
Fight because we have to,
Fight because we goddamn want to.

I have been searching for many years,
And am not even close to finding a real answer
To the real question I have just begun to understand:
What am I fighting for?

I don't know.

But I will drag myself to the gym anyway,
Tired and sore and hungry and cold,
But I'll keep going and going 'til I'm dead or I'm old
There's just something inside me saying I've just got to go
Get stronger and faster and master the flow,
To be feared and loved and known 'round the globe,
I can't ever stop.

Why should I?

My legs are tired from working,
They protest as I walk out the door,
I'm pushing until they can go no more;
Only then, will I be happy.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Evolution of Fighters

Like all skills, learning to fight is a constant work-in-progress. As we age, our minds and bodies change, and we often change our fighting styles with them. Sometimes the change is for the better, as we've seen Anderson Silva go from a ferocious Thai clinch-boxer to an evasive and accurate counter-striker. Sometimes the change is for the worse, which is especially apparent as we watch Mirko Cro-cop begin to feel his age, or when we see Karo Parisyan succumb to drug addiction. Fighters are still human, and carry all the transitive baggage that comes with it.

Tonight we saw the next stage in the evolution of two of the most feared strikers in the UFC, Kimbo Slice, the infamous street brawler, and Houston Alexander, the one-punch knockout artist. They were billed as essentially the same type of fighter, aggressive and dangerous beasts that would explode on the bell, clashing in the middle of the cage in a kill-or-be-killed slugfest. This was not the case, much to the disappointment of many fans. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.

Houston began his career with the UFC two years ago, making a big splash as he ran through Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara with highlight-reel knockouts. However, as he faced stronger competition, he didn't measure up, hitting a three fight losing streak that almost lost him his UFC contract. In an unheard-of show of grace, Houston was allowed to fight in a smaller organization after a year of just training. He scored an amazing TKO victory in Adrenaline MMA 4, displaying a discipline never seen before from him, as well as adding devastating leg kicks to his arsenal. Coming into the Kimbo fight, knowing that Slice has a bad left knee, he strategically attacked the lead leg with low kicks, keeping the pace slow to wear on his opponent. Perhaps he displayed a little too much caution in this fight; there were times I felt like he should have capitalized more on Kimbo's weakness, but it was still an impressive performance from Houston. While not perfect, he has found the next piece of the puzzle in his fighting style, and now simply needs to combine it with the dynamic aggression that made him famous.

Kimbo, on the other hand, found his fame as videos of his backyard brawls spread across the internet, creating a fanbase unlike any that has ever been seen in the sport. Three of the four most-watched events in MMA history have starred Slice, making him possibly the biggest draw in the entire sport. Many dedicated fans have criticized his lack of grappling technique and experience, his one-dimensional fighting style, and his street-fighter status. Still, as he's made himself into a legitimate combatant, the surprises continue to pile up. From his humble and earnest personality revealed in the Ultimate Fighter reality show, even more fans flocked to his side. And now, after displaying some serious grappling skills in his fight with Houston, I expect many dedicated fans to begrudgingly admit his competency as well, much as how people came around about Brock Lesnar after his victories over Randy Couture and Frank Mir. Kimbo isn't quite there yet, but it's definitely a much better start than when he debuted on EliteXC.

I know the UFC will be handing on to Kimbo Slice. Even if he loses his next three fights, I imagine that he will still have enough pulling power to make them immense amounts of money each time he fights. If he continues to improve and win, this will only increase his popularity and cash-cow status. Houston Alexander, on the other hand, may be on thin ice. I can only hope the UFC recognizes Alexander's potential, and allows him to develop into the amazing fighter I know he's capable of becoming.