Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Lowdown: January 2010

By the end of 2009 MMA was practically on the operating table bleeding out. It seemed every major MMA promotion was being hit with injuries and ailments with fight cards all over the world receiving CPR and emergency rescue surgery. This was no better evidenced than at the ‘cursed’ UFC 108, which had over 8 fighters sidelined due to injury. The UFC’s first show of 2010 originally had some mouth watering match-ups, Silva-Belfort, Carwin-Lesnar etc. Whilst the eventual fight card was not quite as blistering as the one initially proposed it was good to see the UFC still manage to put together a somewhat competitive event, more on that later.

2010 started with a bang or a ‘snap’ shall we say. On New Years Eve Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki seized the arm of Sengoku champion Mizuto Hirota with an esoteric hammerlock. He broke it and then followed it up with a middle finger to his opponent, his corner and the audience… oh the teenage angst of it all. I think this was Aoki’s way of saying to America ‘I’m a marketable badass, come get me”. Any publicity is good publicity as they say. It seems to have worked as Strikeforce are courting his signature and it looks likely we will be seeing him fight in the U.S this year.

Speaking of middle fingers we found out this month that Brock Lesnar is officially back. As frank and confrontational as ever, he cussed Canada’s healthcare system where he was initially treated, as being like a ‘Third world country’. He then proceeded to call Frank Mir a ‘stalker’. "I don't think I beat him as bad as I could," said Lesnar. "For me to get my hands on that stalker again ... Frank Mir has made it a mission of his life [to get a rematch]. It's been a while since I've had a stalker but we'll take care of that." (ESPN Radio 1100) …brilliant.

Then there’s former multi-division world boxing champion James Toney, MMA’s latest sideshow. After UFC 108 there were reports of him busting down Dana Whites door and declaring himself a ‘commodity’. He was quoted as saying "I ain't going to allow none of them boys to lay on me like a lil' fag, you know what I'm saying?" Yes Toney, we hear what you are saying. The question is do you hear what you are saying?

Kimbo Slice, Herschel Walker, DMX (yes, I said DMX) are all commodities flirting with MMA. The very fact that former pro-American footballer Herschel Walker’s fight was scheduled for the weekend of the pro-bowl says it all. These ‘personalities’ draw in the casual punter and make the fast buck. Celebrity fighters are an inevitable side-effect of the growing popularity and success of MMA. In ten years time I imagine this will not even be a possibility. The sport will have inevitably progressed so much that wannabe celebrities will be so out of their depth that entering the cage will result in death. Real life celebrity death-match, now that does sound entertaining.

Promotions were busy at the start of the New Year signing up free agents and exciting new talent. Bantamweight prospect and the U.K’s very own Brad Pickett signed a five-fight-contract with WEC. He opened his WEC account by submitting Kyle Dietz in style with a Peruvian Necktie at WEC 45. Jimmy Wallhead has finally landed a much deserved multi-fight contract with a prominent promotion by signing for Bellator FC. The 36 month contract allows Wallhead to compete in the lucrative Bellator FC tournaments as well as compete in other single bouts and, with the clearance of Bellator officials, fight for other promotions in the off-season. These fighters’s are bolstering the U.K’s already growing presence in the international MMA scene.  

Jimmy Wallhead is just one of a number of quality signings made by Bellator FC so far in 2010. The new year saw them signing 2008 Olympian Ben Askren, Arizona Combat Sports standout Jacob McClintock, Judoka Ferrid Kheder  and Sengoku veteran Dan Hornbuckle. The UFC have signed have signed Takanori Gomi, once regarded as the best light-weight in the world and Strikforce clinched the controversial signature of Dan Henderson.

So far January has treated us to some great fights, as well as a number of great future bouts being announced. WEC continues to ambitiously fly the flag of the lighter divisions and is really growing in popularity. Ben Henderson unified the 155-pound title by submitting reigning champion Jamie Varner with a guillotine choke in the third round at WEC 46. The same event saw the ever popular Urijah Faber return to the cage with a victory over Raphael Assuncao via rear-naked choke in the 3rd round. This sets up a mouth watering fight with 2009’s break through sensation Jose Aldo.

UFC 108 saw a return to his wrestling base for Rashad Evans. He managed to dictate the fight against a dangerous Thiago Silva and grind out the decision. Hopefully we will see Rashad fighting Mr.T soon. In the same event we saw Paul Daley knock out Dustin “McLovin” Hazelett. This has to be my candidate for knock out of the month. As a consequence of the knock out Hazelett suffered from a right orbital blow-out and nasal fractures. This reiterates just how hard Daley punches.  Daley not only picked up the win, he also got the ‘knock out of the night’ bonus which made losing 10% of his fight purse for missing weight of little consequence. I know this might be predictable but the Cole Miller submission on Dan Lauzon is also my submission of the month. Not only was it a sweet inverted triangle, but he also slapped on a kimura at the same time. Wikipedia amusingly call it a ‘modified Kimura’.

Strikeforce offered up a somewhat gimmick riddled fight card right at the end of the month. However, the Diaz – Zaromskis fight delivered a blistering TKO victory for Nick Diaz. I had sweaty palms right until the end. In true Diaz brother fashion he called out GSP in the post-fight press conference... you got to love this guy. The afore mentioned Herschel Walker delivered a less than embarrassing debut and at least has shown himself to be a student of the sport. And what happened to the masterful Melvin Manhoef... he hacked away at Robbie Lawler’s legs like a frenzied lumberjack for three minutes and then...BOOM! He got felled by a vicious right hand from Lawler to the jaw. Lawler limped away victorious, while Manhoef got carted away unconscious to the hospital.... ah the beautiful unpredictability of MMA. Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos eventually TKO’d crafty opponent Marloes Coenen in the third round. Recently Rashad Evans commented on ESPN’s MMA LIVE that he cannot see any woman handling her strength in the women’s divisions. He suggested she sign up for the WEC and fight Urijah Faber, equal rights an all that...Scott Coker, make it happen.

January has also provided its fans with some great banter and amusing behaviour. Alex Reid has really been flying the flag for U.K MMA on Big Brother....pity he never attempted a triangle on Dane Bowers. It would be too easy to rip him apart from the comfort of my keyboard, so I’ll just say he seems a somewhat confused and misunderstood guy. Paul Daley’s post-fight comment that Josh Koshcek looks like a ‘fraggle’ sparked another Photoshop frenzy not seen since the Hardy-Davis fiasco. You need to get online and see the creative genius this has sparked. One of my personal favourites is of Paul Daley as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. There has also been amusing talk on the web of ‘tag team MMA’ one day in the future. That is a ridiculous, but priceless idea. I spent a whole afternoon making up teams in my head. I think the pairing of Tom Lawlor and Dustin Hazelett could be this generations ‘Bushwhackers’.

It has been a great start to the year and it looks like it is going to be another explosive year for MMA. The cards being put together by various promotions as well as the locations (Abu Dahbi, Austrailia etc) are all looking very exciting. Silva-Belfort, Hardy-St Pierre, Faber-Aldo, Rampage-Rashad, Shields-Henderson, Emialenko-Werdum . We also have the new season of TUF ‘Liddel- Ortiz’ to look forward too. Ortiz has already publicly ‘outed’ Liddel as a recovering alcoholic. Whether his accusations are true or not, it promises to be a scandalous season.

Roll on February and the rest of 2010….


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