Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Quick update to last post

I wrote the post below, and then had my power turned off for 12 hours (I'm actually prepaid, but this stuff happens in the Bahamas.) Since I finished it up, White made his appearence and shot down the Mayweather deal, which I believe him about, that McMahon will have anything to do with the UFC, which I also beleive, and that there will not be a network deal, which I think might be semantics on his part. As I said, ESPN or HBO are not networks per se.

Sorting Throught the "Big Announcemnt" Rumors

When Dana White says a big announcement is imminent, most MMA fans have learned to get to intrigued. As often as not in the last year or so, White has shown that he jumps the gun on suggesting big news is on the horizon, leaving people doubthing his word.

But when he rents out a "undisclosed location" and brings the entire staff of the UFC in for an announcement that will indicate "where the sport is going over the next five years," a lot of us get sucked up in the hyperbole and are wondering what the hell is going on.

And no one seems to know. When Sam Caplan and his friends over at 5oz's get catch more than the slightest whiff of what's going on, when Zach Arnold and Fight Opinion have barely mentioned anything, and when no site has anything more than a pie in the sky rumor, you know whatever is happening is known by only a few people, and they're keeping it close to the vest.

The rumors out there are breaking down into three main categories:

1. Talent Announcements

Floyd Mayweaterh
The day after White made his comments about a big impending announcemnt, boxing's pound for pound best fighter Floyd Mayweather made one of his own. Saying he didn't have the drive for "this sport" anymore, Mayweather announced his retirement from boxing.

ON the surface, a lot of people have taken that to mean that he has an interest in MMA and will make the switch. MediaTakeOUt.com has gone so far as to suggest that Mayweather is being brought into the UFC and being given an equity share in the company...to the tune of $200 million.

Somehow I don't see it. While the story of having the world's second most famous active boxer jumping would be big, and a big blow to the world of boxing at the same time, it's in no way worth $200 million. OR anywhere near that. I don't think the UFC is losing out on too many PPV buys to boxing right now, so it's just not worth it.

On Mayweather's side, I can't see it either. He's a great boxer, but one with little power and brittle hands. Put 4 ounce gloves on him, and I'll guarantee he breaks at least one hand in his first fight. Beyond that, he's far too small to compete even at lightweight in MMA.

And finally, Mayweather is not known in boxing circles as looking to take on big challenges. He mostly picks fights he can win and avoids fighters - Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito - that could pen his first loss.

The most likely scenario for Mayweather's retirement is that he's trying to position himself to be De La Hoya's retirment fight, and not just his second to last fight.

Anderson Silva
He's been the most dominant champion the UFC has seen in a while, blowing the only two fighters given a chance against him out of the water, and really has no "money" fights left at 185. So what do you do with Anderson Silva?

Why, move him up to 205 and have him main event against Chuck Liddell at the UFC's Atlanta debut in September.

Sounds good to me, I'd imagine it sounds good to everyone involved.

And while I think this is a rumor that will likely come to fruition, I don't think it's big enough to be THE announcement.

2. The Sale

As the main rumor goes right now, Dana White has put together a conglomerate to buy out the Fertitta brothers and now will run the UFC himself...which he pretty much does now, so I'm not sure how big a deal this is.

The 'OMG!!!" part of the rumor has Vince McMahon and the WWE as one of the major investors.

Let me just go out on a limb and say......HAHAHAHAH! If there's anyway at all that White would allow the UFC to be tainted by association with "fake" wrestling, then I'm a monkey's uncle.

Other than the WWE part, I can actually see this happening as rumors were swirling about two months ago that the UFC was up for sale. ANd while this would be a "big" announcement, I don't think a White-headed purchase would be that earth shattering.

3. TV Deal

I think this one has BIG legs. We know various deals have been in the discussion stages for a while, but with the success of EXC on CBS, you've got to imagine that a few people on the TV side of things got a lot easier to deal with.

And the field is WIDE open. NBC has Strikeforce late nights on Saturday right now, but if they're happy with that show, I'd imagine they'd love to get in bed with the UFC. ABC is a possiblity, but I really can't see Disney putting MMA on their main network. THat leaves FOX out of the big 4, and on the surface they seem like the best fit. We'll see.

But network TV isn't the end all be all right now, and some other attractive avenues are probably open as well.

Disney might be uncomfortable putting MMA on ABC, but it'd be a better fit for them on ESPN. With the coverage given MMA on Sportscenter, the biggest sports channel of them all has been slowly coming around on MMA. It's not unreasonable to think they might want to air some live shows, or maybe even do a Friday Night FIghts kind of deal with MMA.

And let's not forget HBO, where all this talk started. Some of the plans on how to use HBO in the business and marketing plan of the UFC sounded pretty fleshed out last year so finally getting that deal done might be the big announcement. Of course, that's been sititng on the vine so long, the deal may have rotted.

Personally, I'm thinking it's a combination of options two and three - a new TV deal, with either ZUFFA selling or a network buying equity.

Of course, it could be something totally different. Here's my guesswork idea:

With all the problems they've been having with unhappy talent, the UFC will be switching to a salary pay scale with all new contracts. Fighters will be signed to a yearly salary, but given large incentive bonuses for fights/good performances. At the same time you'll see a big raise in salary, with the low end contracts being for $50000 minimum.

Who knows.....

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Questions after the weekend

Where does Matt Hughes goes from here?

Well, the obvious answer is to the doctor to get that knee checked out. He walked out of the cage on his own, but it sure looked like Hughes did some internal damage when he fell awkwardly at the end of the fight. It looked to me like the flying knee from Alves landed more on his shoulder/chest, and it was the knee injury that dropped him down.

That being said, Alves was handling Hughes pretty easily throughout the fight (more on Alves next), and it's a legit question to ask how much Hughes has left in the tank. He hasn't looked good in a fight in a long time - as in since he fought Royce Gracie. BJ Penn was schooling him for two rounds before he gassed, GSP has dismantled him twice with little difficulty, he looked sloppy in taking a decision from Chris Lytle and now this latest defeat. It's obvious that he'll stick around for at least the Serra grudge match, but I don't think you can any longer pencil in Hughes as the victor in that one.

The biggest problem may not be age or injury for Hughes though. It may be that since leaving trainer Pat Militech behind and opening his school that Hughes has lost the guiding force he's needed to be succesful. His game plans in his last few fights have been less then stellar, and his obvious shots on Alves looked like something you would have seen 5 years ago in MMA. With no set up, his shots were weak to say the least.

Now, Hughes may have a good bit left and Saturday wasn't indiciative of where he's at because...

How much credit can you give Alves?

Yes he won, and yes he finished the best welterweight champion ever, but does that really count when you're a middleweight?

Hughes probably weighed at least 175 stepping into the cage and, seeing as he looked bigger than Michael Bisping did earlier, I'd say Alves was at least 185. That kind of size/power advantage could very well have been the difference in his stuffing shots and tying up Hughes from the bottom.

It could very well be that Alves would have won the fight if he had made weight, but the fact that he didn't makes every question about his performance a legitimate one, and it's his fault that they are.

And his requesting of a title shot? I certainly hope he doesn't get one, as he should at least make weight in the fight prior to a title shot. I'd like to see him in with a top contender like Josh Koscheck or the loser of GSP/Fitch before getting a title shot.

Where do the middleweights go from here?

Rumors have started to pop up that Anderson Silva will be vacating the middleweight title and moving up to 205. I'll talk more about that if it comes to fruitiion, but let's just say it opens up a world of GREAT fights.

But if he does leave, where does that leave the 185lb division?

Even without Silva, the division is really talented at the top end. Ritch Franklin, Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, Thales Leites, Yushin Okami and Michael Bisping have all looked good against everyone not Silva, and with him gone from the division, all have to be considered title threats.

The UFC appears to abhor tournaments, but a 4 or 8 man tournament spread over 2 or 3 shows really would be enjoyable. It probably won't happen due to the injury concerns, but it doesn't change the fact that if Silva leaves 185 just might become one of the most hotly contested divisions in the sport.

A surprising new contender at 155

Myself - and a lot of others - gave Matt Wiman next to no chance against Thiago Tavares, but he sure made us eat our words.

Wiman looked great against a tough opponent, and the work he's put into his jiu jitsu and stand up was evident. He looked so much more impressive than he ever has in the UFC that it's hard to believe he's the same fighter.

He may not be in BJ Penn's class, but Wiman served notice that he may be able to handle the best in the division. If he keeps improving at this rate, he just may be able to challenge Penn with a few more fights.

Personally, I'm running through a Nate Diaz/Wiman fight in my head and wondering how much fun that would be.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

UFC 85 Thoughts

Well, I went 3-8 in my picks. NOt exactly stellar, but there were a few bad calls/upsets in there that make MMA such a hard sport to call.

Miragliotta is probably the most unpopular ref in history right now. Stopping the Vera/Werdum fight with 15 seconds left in the round and vera not terminally hurt was really disappointing. Hopefully the UFC sees fit to pull a near immediate rematch. WIth the (interim) heavyweight title tied up until Mir and Big Nog tie up, there should be no problem time wise. Hell, you could even have it as a heavyweight double header on the same card.

Lietes and Marquardt put on a hell of a show, and is another fight that should be rematched after the bad point deduction by Herb Dean for the elbow. Lietes is as tough as they come to take the illegal knee and fight through a broken nose while laying on his back.

Swick and Davis kept up the good fights. Swick looked a thousand times more comfortable than he did against Burkman in ending Davis' 11 fight win streak. He belongs at 170lbs and could very well be a factor at the top end of the division in another fight or two. As for Davis, we learned that he is good, but not top of the division good. If he had problems with Swick on top of him, imagine if he was in there with GSP, Koscheck, Fitch or Hughes. That being said, after a performance like this, I can't wait for him to get back in the cage. Exciting fighter.

Bisping looked like a beast in dismantling Jason Day. Yes, Day is a newcomer to the UFC and he may not be an elite fighter, but he is a tough, solid fighter. And Bisping systematically took him apart. The Brit served notice that he is a force at 185, and it will be interesting to see how he does when he steps up to fight at the upper end of the division. And no, he is NOT ready to fight Silva anytime soon.

I don't know what to think about the main event. Alves looked massively larger than Hughes, and that suprised me. Hughes is a pretty big welter who makes a decent cut to fight at 170, so for him to be physically dwarfed you know Alves was huge. That definitely played a factor, but the fight was so one sided I'm not sure if it would have made a difference.

It was pretty laughable to hear Alves ask for a title shot and say he's been a good boy. A diauretic suspension and not making weight for your first main event certainly isn't good behaviour in my book. It will be interesting to see what the UFC does with him. Personally, I'd like to see him take on someone like Josh Koscheck and see how he does. Or just move up to middleweight.

Friday, June 6, 2008

UFC 85 Picks

I have no idea if anyone out there will actually stumble on this, but I figured I'd post my picks for this weekend's card. These are part of a roundtable over at 411mania as well, so go check out the other guys' picks there as well.

Antoni Hardonk vs Eddie Sanchez

This is a weird fight in that I don't feel either of these guys are at a level where they should be in the UFC right now. Hardonk is a one dimensional striker who has been utterly lost every time someone has taken him down. That being said, if he's able to keep a fight standing, he does have one punch/kick KO power. This might be a fight where he gets to show that as Sanchez has shown a willingness to bang with strikers, even when he shouldn't. He's got a good chin, but he also has a better all around game than Hardonk. I look for an early takedown after he tastes some of Hardonk's power, then he'll pound out a stoppage.

Winner: Sanchez, TKO, Round 1

Paul Taylor vs Jess Liaudin

Taylor has lost twice in the Octagon, but he's been pretty damned exciting in doing so. He's shown some good power in his fists and a decent chin, so he's the kind of guy who has shot against anyone who's not the elite. Since Liaudin is certainly not one of the elite at 170, he definitely has a chance in this one. Liaudin will likely be looking for the submission early as I don't think he has the power to take Taylor out standing, while Taylor will be looking to stay on his feet and pound on Liaudin to set up the KO. If his sprawl is good, Taylor should be able to pull it out here.

Winner: Taylor, TKO, Round 2

Banha Cane vs Jason Lambert

I really didn't get to see enough of Cane in his UFC debut to see what he's got, but an 7-0 record before that DQ loss with 6 TKO's means he has the requisite skills to handle the glassy chinned Lambert on their feet. The question will be whether or not Cane will be able to handle Lambert's wrestling and ground and pound to have a chance at the KO. After losing all the momentum he had from the Babalu win, I'd look for a slightly more cautious Lambert to ground the fight and methodically pound out a win.

Winner: Lambert, Decision

Roan Carneiro vs Kevin Burns

I don't know much about Burns other than he fought less than a month ago, but I do know that I love to watch Carneiro fight. His jiu jitsu is great and his stand up is good enough to set everything else up. Newcomers to the cage are always a bit of a wildcard, but as long as Carneiro doesn't take Burns lightly, he should be ok.

Winner: Carneiro, Submission, Round 2

Matt Wiman vs Thiago Tavares

I'll just be blunt about this one and say that I don't see any way at all that Wiman pulls this out. He's a talented mid-level fighter, and could probably be a champion in something like EliteXC, but Tavares is a beast and a legit threat to anyone not named BJ Penn at 155 in the UFC. Wiman doesn't have anywhere near the wrestling skills that Tyson Griffin used to frustrate the hell out of Tavares, so I'd look for a nice submission win for the Brazillian in this one.

Winner: Tavares, Submission, Round 1

Jorge Rivera vs Martin Kampmann

I'm really looking forward to this fight as it should answer a lot of questions about both fighters. Rivera looked like a world beater against Kendall Grove, but is that because he's re-dedicated himself to the sport or because Grove didn't really show up? As for Kampman, it's his first fight back after his long injury layoff, so will the rust show or has working with Xtreme Couture sharpened him up? This is going to be a stand up war as both guys have confidence in both their striking and chins, but I give the edge to Kampmann. He was on the verge of contending at 185 before the injury, and starts the road back here.

Winner: Kampmann, TKO, Round 3

Fabricio Werdum vs Brandon Vera

A year ago, Vera was essentially the uncrowned UFC champ and considered the future of the division. Another 5 months of a contract holdout, followed by a broken hand and a loss to Tim Sylvia really took the bloom of his rose, but if you think Vera is anything less than super talented, you're wrong. He's a dynamic striker with an underrated ground game who can beat anyone in either the heavyweight or light heavyweight division. For his part, Werdum looked good in beating Gonzaga, but was it more of a case of an inconsistent Gonazaga rather than a dominating Werdum? This should be an exciting fight as both guys are comfortable in all aspects of the fight game, but I think Vera's wrestling may come into play here more than it has in his other fights as he uses it to set up some heavy hands and knees.

Winner: Vera, TKO, Round 2

Nate Marquardt vs Thales Leites

Matt McEwen: Leites is good. Marquardt is VERY good. (I wanted to say "Great", but I decided that was just too cheesy.) I don't see Leites taking out Marquardt on their feet as he isn't that big a puncher, but if they go to the ground - where Leites usually has the advantage - he's screwed. Marquardt is a wiz on the ground. If you like ground fighitng, I have a feeling you're going to enjoy all three rounds of this one.

Winner: Marquardt, Decision

Marcus Davis vs Mike Swick
Matt McEwen: As I'm doing this preview, I'm getting more and more interested in this card. This is another fight that may not be main event quality, but it sure is intriguing. After giving in to the general consensus and dropping down to 170, Swick went out and laid an egg against Josh Burkman in one of the more disappointing fights in recent memory. Doing the cut for a second time and the added incentive of needing to put in a good showing should make for a good action fight, as Davis will be more than willing to oblige. He's on a ridiculous win streak right now, and he finally gets a chance to test himself against a higher level of competition. As long as this isn't a borefest, the winner here can make a case for being a top 10 welterweight in the UFC right now. And for the record, the quarter is picking the winner here.

Winner: Davis, TKO, Round 3

Michael Bisping vs Jason Day

Day made a nice debut in Montreal, and stepped up to take this fight just a few weeks ago after the Chris Leben mess. Nice of him to take one for the team, but I'm afraid my fellow Canuck is going to take it on the chin here. The big question will be whether or not Bisping has the power to put Day out when he puts one on his chin. He looked aggressive against Charles McCarthy, but he landed a lot of big blows that didn't seem to do a lot of damage. Even though this is his second fight at 185, it will be the first time we really see how good he'll be at the weight.

Winner: Bisping, Decision

Matt Hughes vs Thiago Alves

There's two ways to look at this one. First, Matt Hughes is the second best 170lber in the world, and a class above everyone not named GSP. Secondly, Hughes is an aging, over confident fighter who really hasn't looked good in two years (in the Gracie fight). And here's the crazy thing - I subscribe to theory #2 (Penn beat him up for two rounds, GSP schooled him twice and he looked sloppy against Lytle) and I still think he's going to win this fight. Alves is a dynamic striker, and he's coming off a big win, but I don't think he's strong enough to deal with Hughes' wrestling and ground and pound. As long as Hughes doesn't decide that he can kick box with Alves, he should be able to get out of the fight without too much damage.

Winner: Hughes, TKO, Round 2