Archive for the ‘UFC/MMA’ Category

I know everybody starts a story about a guy that they are about to criticize with the standard or classic “I respect (insert name here) but…” and go on to grill a guy without showing much in the way of ‘respect’ but I legitimately respect Nick Diaz as a fighter.  As Dana White put it he is a “true fighter” and Diaz will fight anyone, anytime and anywhere – without question.

Nick Diaz possesses solid all-around skills with a good boxing game, awesome ju-jitsu and a nasty mean streak that more than a few opponents have felt the wrath of over his career.  Diaz, only 28 years old feels like he should be in his late 30s with the amount of experience and fights he has had but is really only hitting his prime fighting years now.

In short, he is a fighter who deserves respect and he had mine until he disrespected a guy who has not only fought whoever Dana White has told him to but a who’s who of elite cage fighters – a list that makes Nick Diaz’s career hit list look rather, well, lame.  Maybe Diaz was a bit discombobulated after taking quite a few solid shots from the out of shape BJ Penn when the fight was over and called out GSP.

Rumors circulated that Diaz wasn’t happy about fighting Penn, whom he considered a friend, and was exceptionally angry at St. Pierre. When St. Pierre was injured in training, the fight with Condit fell off the card and White moved Penn-Diaz to the main.

Diaz, though, was angry he was meeting Penn and not St. Pierre. He shouted to St. Pierre from the cage after the bout ended.

“I don’t think Georges was hurt,” Diaz said. “I think he was scared.”

Apparently St. Pierre approached White moments after the fight. The UFC’s ultimate good guy was angry that Diaz continually disrespected him and questioned his injury.

Saying GSP was scared is not only laughable it is borderline ridiculous.  Let’s compare the two fighters, their past 5 years of fights, opponents and results and see if Diaz has a case.  First, tale of the tape:

  GSP Nick Diaz
Age 30 28
Height 5’10” 6’1”
Weight 170 (fight night 185+) 170 (fight night around 180)
Reach 76” 74”
Record 22-2 26-7

Without question GSP will be the bigger and stronger man on fight night but Diaz will not give up much (if anything) with respect to cardiovascular conditioning.  Still, GSP will have a slight reach advantage and will definitely be able to impose his will physically in the clinch, on the ground and against the fence.  Diaz is a crafty and smart fighter but has shown a weakness against powerful wrestlers in the past which could be a key component to the matchup.

There have only been three common opponents that have faced both Diaz and St. Pierre – BJ Penn, Karo Parisyan and Sean Sherk.  Nick Diaz lost to both Parisyan and Sherk via decision while GSP defeated both rather easily (Sherk via TKO and Parisyan via DEC).  Nick Diaz recently defeated a horribly conditioned BJ Penn who managed to hold his own in the first round but was literally out on his feet and dead tired to start the second round – though Diaz could not finish him. 

GSP fought BJ Penn twice and after a subpar performance on March 3rd, 2006 where [GSP] won a split-decision he absolutely dominated Penn with a TKO stoppage in January/2010 – the worse loss of Penn’s career. 

Diaz lost to another ground and pound specialist when Diego Sanchez defeated him on November 5th, 2005 in a unanimous decision victory for ‘The Nightmare’.  The relevance of that fight is the fact St. Pierre is another guy who can dominate the ground game with strong takedowns and ground-and-pound skills. 

What about Diaz’s claim that GSP has been scared to fight?

GSP is currently on an impressive nine-fight winning streak since his loss to Matt Serra on April 7th, 2007 and hasn’t even been tested in any of those contests (outside of an accidental eye poke to Jake Shields).

Date Opponent Result
8/25/2007 Josh Kosheck Unanimous Decision
12/29/2007 Matt Hughes Submission – Arm bar
4/19/2008 Matt Serra TKO – referee stoppage
8/9/2008 Jon Fitch Unanimous Decision
1/31/2009 BJ Penn TKO –referee stoppage
7/11/2009 Thiago Alves Unanimous Decision
3/27/2010 Dan Hardy Unanimous Decision
12/11/2010 Josh Koscheck Unanimous Decision
4/30/2011 Jake Shields Unanimous Decision

None of these fights have even been close with most being complete blowouts/shutouts for GSP against a who’s who of MMA elite. 

Josh Koscheck has been nearly unbeatable against stellar competition himself but posed no threat at all to GSP (twice).  “Kos” has defeated Matt Hughes, Paul Daley, Anthony Johnson, Chris Lytle, Diego Sanchez (who defeated Nick Diaz) and Dustin Hazelett.

Jon Fitch is essentially undefeated in his MMA career outside of one of the worst beat downs of his career at the hands on GSP in August/2008.  Fitch, though not the most exciting fighter in the world (a criticism of GSP as well) has been a winner with an overall record of 22-3-1.  He also defeated Diego Sanchez (who defeated Nick Diaz).

BJ Penn was actually in great shape for the rematch against GSP for the belt in January/2009 and was totally outclassed and destroyed over 4 brutal rounds.  GSP leaned on him, beat him down and made him eat his own words when BJ Penn was forced to “quit”.  We don’t need to rehash Penn’s amazing resume and pedigree – he is a fighter’s fighter and a true MMA warrior/legend. 

Thiago Alves was the scariest welterweight in the world with highlight reel knockouts and GSP made him look like an inferior fighter in all aspects of MMA (including striking).  Prior to his loss to GSP in July/2009 Alves had looked to be one of the top fighters in the UFC with impressive victories over Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Chris Lytle.

Prior to fighting St. Pierre Jake Shields was undefeated since December/2004 (a 15-fight win streak) but was dominated by GSP on their feet for five rounds.  An eye-poke forced GSP to fight at a disadvantage for a majority of the fight but he still handily defeated him 4 rounds to 1 in a one-side fight.  Shields was unable to take GSP down or mount much in the way of a sustained attack.

Comparatively Nick Diaz is on a ten fight win streak and has not lost since his November 10th, 2007 TKO loss to KJ Noons.

Date Opponent Result
5/11/2008 Katsuya Inoue TKO – referee stoppage
6/14/2008 Muhsin Corbbrey TKO – referee stoppage
7/26/2008 Thomas Denny TKO – referee stoppage
4/11/2009 Frank Shamrock TKO – referee stoppage
6/6/2009 Scott Smith Submission – Choke
1/30/2010 Marius Zaromskis TKO – referee stoppage
10/09/2010 KJ Noons Unanimous Decision
1/29/2010 Evangelista Santos Submission – Arm Bar
4/9/2011 Paul Daley TKO – referee stoppage
10/29/2011 BJ Penn Unanimous Decision

A ten fight winning streak is nothing to joke about especially in MMA and the fact Diaz was able to stop/finish so many of his opponents is a true testament to his fighting spirit (only two decisions in ten fights) and I do not mean to downplay his opponents in any way but that list isn’t exactly filled with elite MMA talent. 

I’d venture a guess and say if GSP fought those same 10 fights he would probably have as many stoppages as Diaz.  Conversely is Diaz had to go through the past 9 opponents of GSP I am not confident he would even be victorious over Josh Koscheck (pains me to say that), Jon Fitch (awful matchup for him) or Jake Shields for that matter – let alone look as positively dominant as GSP did.

It has to be said that Nick Diaz wasn’t in the UFC at the time due to contractual obligations with Strikeforce/Elite XC so his potential pool of opponents was always going to be weaker.  However for him to claim GSP is afraid to fight Diaz, Condit or whoever after looking at the above information shows Diaz is either misinformed or just ignorant to the type of career dominance GSP has managed over the past 5-6 years.

Barring any possible setbacks or complications (which aren’t out of the question given the past couple months) Nick Diaz will have a chance to back up his brash remarks on February 4th, 2012 (Superbowl Weekend) when he gets his long-awaited UFC Welterweight title shot versus incumbent super-champion Georges St. Pierre.

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How do Diaz and St. Pierre matchup?

Honestly I think it is an awful matchup for Diaz given St. Pierre’s wrestling acumen and Diaz’s past subpar performance against the strong wrestlers but at the very least it will be an excited lead-up and countdown to what might be the biggest fight in UFC history when the two finally square off in the octagon. 

Given their respective resumes and “strength of schedule” over the past 5 years I expect GSP to go in as a relatively big favorite (my guess betting line will be GSP -250).  St. Pierre said he respects Diaz’s talent and won’t underestimate him.  Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight news conference that St. Pierre told him Diaz “is the most disrespectful human being I’ve ever met, and I’m going to put the worst beating you’ve ever seen on him in the UFC.”

St. Pierre wouldn’t go nearly so far while speaking to Yahoo! Sports, but he sounded as if he were counting the days until Feb. 4.

“This is a fight I am looking forward to very much, and it’s a fight that I wanted very badly,” he said. “This is a very important fight to me personally. I am glad that the UFC did it for us.”

Nick Diaz will give St. Pierre a first-rate challenge and GSP will definitely not go unscathed given Diaz’s ‘never say die’ warrior mentality but I do not see him being able to do what Koscheck, Shields, Hughes, Penn, Alves, Fitch and others could not over the past nine fights– defeat Georges St. Pierre (or even win a round). 

In the end isn’t GSP just in another class by himself (in the welterweight division)?   He trains with the best in each discipline (and spends a fortune on his training camps), is given the best game plans for his opponents (Greg Jackson disciple) and has fought the absolute best of the best in the world.  Nick Diaz, while a gamer has had some losses to a few opponents who aren’t exactly on GSPs level (Joe Riggs, Karo Parisyan, Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk and KJ Noons).

I can see GSP working off his strong jab to setup Diaz for bigger strikes (kicks) while also utilizing his far superior strength to impose his will on Diaz.  GSP will take Diaz down, control the fight on the mat with some nasty ground and pound, and simply win rounds.  Seeing what happened the last time an opponent used his mouth to goad St. Pierre I could also see this being a vicious one-sided beat down (think Koscheck, Josh, orbital bone).

My predictions: GSP defeats Nick Diaz via unanimous decision.

As if beating the legendary “Shogun” Rua to become the youngest UFC champion in history (23 years old) wasn’t enough for Jon “Bones” Jones how about the fact he also subdued a man who minutes earlier attacked an elderly couple only mere hours before this fight even took place?  Much like his opponents superlatives simply are no match for what Jon Jones is and what he can become, he appears unbeatable.

It has to be said that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua didn’t look to be in the greatest shape of his career and he appeared at least to me noticeably less muscular overall.  Questions about condition aside it likely wouldn’t have made much of a difference after watching them circle each other in the octagon for about 15 seconds as Jones looked like he fought two weight classes above Shogun. 

Jon Jones is the Dwight Howard of MMA, a freak show possessing unreal skills.  A physical specimen built to unleash hell on any who dare step into the octagon with him.  He doesn’t only win, he maims, he pillages and he dominates like no other.  He has become so dominant that it appears so easy for him I felt he could’ve ended the fight in the first round had he felt so inclined.

He has patience, poise and a fighter’s spirit at least a decade older than he actually is – he is a warrior.  Who could potentially even give him a good workout let alone a serious challenge in the 205 light heavyweight division?  His next victim opponent is his friend and training partner Rashad Evans whom most feel is a massive underdog to the seemingly invincible Jon Jones. 

Jones is too long, too big and too strong for Evans who will struggle getting close enough to do damage and probably not strong enough to impose his will and take the fight to the ground.  The scary part is Jones is a relative baby to a sport dominated by men well into their thirties.  Jones will soon be counted among the very best in the pound-for-pound argument.

Armed with a fighting style and spirit than cannot possibly be trained or prepared for in the least, who can possibly dethrone him?

“Rampage” Jackson – has not looked overly impressive against opponents who bring less overall skill and talent than Jones.  I think the size/length differential would frustrate the boxer Jackson, who is too one dimensional to pose a real threat.

Lyoto Machida – he will have to put a few impressive wins together to get a shot but this could be a guy who might matchup well with Jones, if there is such a thing.  A highly patient and technical counter-striker might work well but again, the length and sheer size of Jones would make this a difficult fight for Machida.

Thiago Silva – will not be intimidated but does not have overall game to hang with Jones.

There are other contenders like Forrest Griffin, Rich Franklin, Randy Couture and “Little” Nog but it’s hard to imagine any of them warranting or taking advantage of a potential title shot versus Jones.  That leaves other divisional champions and the one that is first mentioned is “The Spider” Anderson Silva.  It would no doubt go down as most anticipated matchup in the history of MMA.

A few problems could arise before Dana White and Joe Silva even contemplate this potential super fight.  First, Silva is getting older and only has a handful of fights left and the rumour mill of a Silva versus Canadian Georges St. Pierre won’t stop churning.  Second, Silva walks around over 200 lbs between fights but I think the size differential would be massive and perhaps too much that Silva wouldn’t even contemplate stepping into the ring with Jones.

Silva has a lot more to lose than Jones in a fight like this as he nears the end of his career a loss would do serious damage to his legacy and possibly even his health.  Though there is a size differential between Silva and GSP there is no one in their right mind who thinks GSP will even consider standing toe-to-toe with Silva.  But Silva’s strength is his stand up game and there is no chance he could take Jon Jones down, nor control him if it did land there.

So if there isn’t a challenge from below than we must look up, way up, all the way to the UFC heavyweight division.  With Jon Jones massive frame still filling out there is little doubt he will land in the heavyweight division eventually anyway.  Can you imagine Jones attempting to hold two belts at the same time and take on current champ who also looks near unbeatable Cain Velasquez?

Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos would also be juicy matches in the heavyweight division.  Or if Dana White has a nasty streak he can put an end to his long time nemesis Fedor Emelianko once and for all with Jon Jones serving as the assassin.  The fact we are even contemplating a lot of these fantasy matchups is a testament to the rising star of Jon Jones, get used to him folks he isn’t going anywhere, for a good long while.

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Although nothing has been officially announced or confirmed after Anderson Silva stunned Vitor Belfort with a front kick knockout (seriously, a front kick KO?) there has at least been overtures made by UFC ‘Don’ Dana White about a potential super-fight versus  welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. 

These are the two preeminent pound-for-pound kingpins and the two most dominant champions of their respective divisions and it is certainly a fight that based on the two names involved alone will qualify as a “super-fight”.  However I contend if the two do end up in the octagon together it won’t be much of an actual fight.

First I have to say that I respect Anderson Silva and the skills he brings to the table, he hasn’t lost in the UFC and outside of one round to Dan Henderson and four and a half to Chael Sonnen he has looked as dominant as anyone in the history of the sport.  But when Georges St. Pierre defeats Jake Shields (likely another 5 round decisive decision victory) and decides to dedicate himself to moving up to the 185-pound division, Silva is in deep trouble.

We have seen the blueprint to potentially defeating ‘The Spider’ and it is fairly clear, take him down, pound on him and frustrate him.  Travis Lutter did this for one round (until completely gassing) and even had Silva mounted late in the first round and in some trouble.  Dan Henderson took Anderson down and pounded on him for a round until taking a few brutal knees while standing and essentially giving up.

Chael Sonnen absolutely dominated Silva for four and a half rounds, beating him every single minute of the fight until seemingly tiring and getting himself caught in a triangle choke for one of the most miraculous comebacks in MMA history.  None of Lutter, Henderson or Sonnen is in the same league as the pound-for-pound best fighter Georges St. Pierre.

GSP is in a league to himself in terms of his wrestling prowess and overall all-around mixed martial arts skill.  Since being knocked out by Matt Serra GSP has run through the division with ease, not even losing a single round against some formidable opponents.  While Anderson Silva has yet to lose a fight it is hard to compare the two in terms of competition fought during their respective careers.

Silva has beat a game but outclassed high-school teacher turned journeyman fighter Rich Franklin, the aging Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort and that’s about it.  GSP has beaten one of the greatest fighters in UFC history in Matt Hughes twice, the legendary prodigy BJ Penn twice, a prime Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch as well as the underrated Josh Koscheck (twice).

Alves and Fitch have literally cleaned out the same division themselves and neither could even manage a single round against St. Pierre.

The issue of size has been brought up given that Silva fights at 185 and walks around over 200 lbs where as GSP fights at 170 and walks around at 190 lbs or so but I would argue that GSP is in fact the stronger man and better overall athlete, a scale be damned.  GSP has already gone on record as saying if he is to move up in class (to middleweight, 185 lbs) he is going to remain there for good and gain weight slowly and properly.

Give GSP a task like that and I am scared to think of what will be the result given his unheralded work ethic and freakish genetics.  Come fight night I wouldn’t give Silva any advantage at all in terms of strength and power, none.  Silva is the bigger overall man of course but he isn’t known for his strength or power, he is known for having the best, most accurate and deadly striking skills in combat sports.

The only size factor is length and reach but if GSP tries to stand with Silva he is a fool, but we all know nobody in MMA brings a more well prepared and sound game plan to each fight than St. Pierre.  St. Pierre is probably the best athlete in MMA and given that Chael Sonnen showed us the way to beat Silva I just don’t see how Silva can possibly defeat St. Pierre unless GSP decides to try his luck standing with the best striker in the world.

The fight won’t be easy for either man and beating Silva who some regard as unbeatable is an unenviable task but if GSP uses his main strength (wrestling) which just so happens to be Silva’s biggest and most glaring weakness I don’t see how Silva will be able to stop what Hughes, Penn, Alves, Fitch, Koscheck, Hardy and countless other fights haven’t.

Georges St. Pierre will handily beat Anderson Silva, either via the usual dominating five round decision or he will catch Silva in a submission in round three or four after frustrating and tiring Silva on the ground.  Anderson Silva will go into the fight as a slight to strong favourite if and when a bout is announced but I give him only the usual puncher’s chance against GSP, it just isn’t a good matchup for him.

So it was another great night of fights as the UFC returned to Anaheim, California for UFC 121 and featured a few dynamic closely fought battles and the beginning of a new era in the heavyweight division.  Here are some thoughts and musings on the matchups.

Brock Lesnar (Heavyweight Champion) versus Cain Velasquez:

-I had a small wager on this fight with a buddy of mine (I picked Brock) as I have just been so thoroughly impressed by his meteoric rise in the world of MMA and I figured his overall size, strength and athleticism would have played a bigger role in this fight.  Not so much.  Cain Velasquez was never going to lose this fight and if there is a style that can beat Brock Lesnar, Cain has it. 

His wrestling ability allowed him to stuff takedowns and get back to his feet quickly when he did get taken down.  On their feet Velasquez was clearly the superior striker.  Lesnar came out with a flawed strategy to say the least as he essentially went for broke in the first minute of the fight with flying knees and wild right hands and was GASSED after a minute and a half.

Velasquez looked surprised by the onslaught but weathered the storm, got up after a nice Lesnar takedown (quickly) and imposed his will (and superior cardio) on Lesnar.  Velasquez dropped Lesnar with a nice right hand and never looked back forcing referee Herb Dean to mercifully stop the fight and Cain Velasquez looked amazing winning the UFC heavyweight championship.

Brock Lesnar’s face was badly bruised, bloodied and cut but he was gracious during the post-fight interview, praising Velasquez’s skills and said he was the better man tonight. 

So where does the heavyweight division go from here?  I don’t see many holes in Velasquez’s game and he has gotten so much better after every fight he could go on a long title reign.   Here are a few of the possible contenders and a quick break down of their chances.

Junior Dos Santos – A great puncher and all around fighter, this guy would give anyone trouble but does he have the wrestling and cardio to avoid takedowns that Velasquez would bring?  This would be an interesting matchup but a tough matchup for Dos Santos with his lack of a wrestling pedigree.

Shane Carwin – I think this is the man who poses the biggest threat to Velasquez with his power right hand combined with just beast like strength.  Carwin is a good enough wrestler to at the very least not get totally dominated on the ground and I think Cheik Congo showed that Velasquez has a ways to go in his overall stand up game.  Carwin could catch him and the loss to Brock Lesnar hopefully showed him the holes in his game, specifically his cardio and conditioning as not every fighter (especially the top notch guys) will be dominated in two minutes.

Frank Mir – This is one guy I feel would have a very solid chance with his proven ground game if Velasquez decided to take the fight there.  However I think Mir would get exposed standing as Velasquez’s boxing is far superior.  Mir will have to get a couple big win’s under his belt, but he has a shot if can do so.

Roy Nelson – Big Country Roy Nelson is a guy few would give much of a chance to become a champion but you can’t deny he always has a chance with his underrated striking and impressive Jiu Jitsu and overall ground game.  Not sure he will be given a chance in the next 12-18 months but a possibility if the top contenders are unimpressive or get injured.

Jake Shields versus Martin Kampmann:

-I thought this would be a very one sided fight but Shields was clearly affected by the drastic weight cut as he did not look overly energetic and allowed Kampmann a chance to win this fight.  After the first round Shields commented in his corner, “The weight cut” referring to the fact he was gassed already.  His corner dismissed it and instead tried to focus him on continuing to battle.  Shields won a close decision but he won’t be beating a top level guy (let alone GSP) unless he can deal with the weight cut properly going forward.

Tito Ortiz versus Matt Hamill:

-Ortiz looked to be in great condition (finally) and his body looked great especially in the mid-section.  The fight started with Ortiz getting the better of the stand up as he was clearly the better boxer and Hamill didn’t try for a takedown in the first round.  I’d give Ortiz the first round, though it was fairly close. 

The second round went about the same for the first half though Hamill slowly started to add some effective leg kicks and finally scored a nice takedown and clearly won the round.  The third round started and Ortiz looked fatigued (again) and was completely dominated.  Hamill scored a takedown and laid a Tito Ortiz ground and pound beat down on Ortiz for nearly the entire last half of the round.

Not sure where Tito Ortiz goes from here as he was completely ineffective for most of the fight and although it wasn’t a great matchup for him (Hamill couldn’t be taken down) it will be hard for Ortiz to get any big time fights going forward for the same reason Keith Jardine was released.  There is no reason for a contender to risk losing to Ortiz while really gaining almost nothing.

Gabe Gonzaga versus Brendan Shaub:

-Pretty boring fight, Gonzaga was gun shy and Shaub dominated on the feet.  I am not a huge believer in Shaub overall and his performance while strong was not that impressive given his competition (or lack thereof) on the night.

Paulo Thiago versus Diego Sanchez:

-This is the fight I was most looking forward to and I was worried they might not show it after I realized they were going to televise the Gonzaga/Shaub fight (for some reason) but they showed it prior to the Shields/Kampmann fight and it was easily the best fight of the night.

I favoured Thiago for his toughness, grit and overall skill level and he was easily winning the fight until about half way through the second round when while scrambling Sanchez ended up on top and from that point on he took the fight to Thiago.  It was a closer fight than the judges scored it in my opinion and both guys fought tooth and nail under the final bell but Sanchez looked extra impressive tonight in the best performance of his UFC career.

BONUS Tom Lawlor versus Patrick Cote:

-I had to review the “Predator” Patrick Cote as he is Canadian and a guy most Canuck’s follow.  However after seeing his physique I was not impressed, needless to say.  He was carrying less muscle mass in his shoulders and more body fat in his midsection and he looked awful the entire fight.  If I were Cote I’d be worried if Dana White might be cutting his contract.