Thursday, 8 April 2010

March: Floating bones, the Amish and James Cagney MMA pioneer circa 1946

March was a welcome return to some hectic MMA scheduling. The calender was jam packed with various promotions holding a number of mouth-watering match-ups. My Sky Plus box had a very busy month and I was having to delete my back-log of pre-recorded 'House' episodes to cope with the demand.

If events were not to be found on T.V then I was on the internet  at work covertly hunting down highlights and fight reports and then hiding them in downsized windows. It was glorious, a very welcome and healthy dose of fistic medicine.

I have to say I have grown to love the UFC Primetime specials. The BJ Penn – GSP one was great, but they really stepped it up for the Hardy-GSP fight. You can call them 'cheesy' or 'contrived' but I think they are awesome. The guy that does the voice-overs is gold “In a quiet corner of the snowy Montreal inner-city hides the Tri-Star gym, home to UFC welter-weight champion...”. It is pure theatre and very entertaining.

I loved the bit in part one when Dan Hardy was packing his bags to leave for America. As he got to the elevator the camera switched to a straight on shot and he took off his hood, revealing the trademark Mohawk and then smirked. It is classic Dan Hardy and a truly masterful dramatic climax.

I think these Primetime shows play into the childhood nostalgia and excitement of the Karate Kid and Rocky films. Who doesn't love a good training montage? The build up, the alternative training methods of each camp, the war of words. It just draws you in and gets you pumped. I have to say I think scripting the character of Matt Serra into the drama was plot-line genius. They way they built it up was priceless. Dan Hardy on the phone to an unknown trainer with 'inside information' on GSP. I know it was absolutely ridiculous, but I indulged it.  It was completely unnecessary training wise for Hardy, but it made for  great viewing.

March was the backdrop to some particularly viscous beat-downs. This was no better  demonstarted than in the one handed to Brandon Vera by Jon Jones at UFC on Versus. It is liking watching Tekken when he fights. He utilized those marvel comic-esque elbows to devastating effect. His elbow-centric ground and pound is one of the very few instances in MMA where I actually feel the desire to look away. He broke Vera's face! Vera is now scheduled to undergo facial surgery to correct a dislocated cheekbone. His manager Matt Stansell  expanded -

 “It broke his cheekbone in three places and it’s sort of floating right now. (The bone) is kind of laying on the muscle of the right eye, which is preventing Brandon from looking to his right, and it’s pushing his eyeball forward.”

It's sort of floating?....So it could turn up in his arm-pit?

Last month I mentioned the cut  received by Anthony Perosh at UFC 110 at the hands  of Mirko Cro Cop. One of my readers suggested I was exaggerating by metaphorically referring to it as being 'the size of the Grand Canyon'. Upon seeing the cut inflicted by Joseph Benavidez on Miguel Torres at WEC 47  I am inclined to agree that my assessment of Perosh's cut was a little overboard. Torres cut made Peroshs look like a slight crack in the pavement. Torres required 20 stitches. The dude looks like he just stepped out of a scene from the Texas Chainsaw massacre.

Continuing along the line of beat-downs and gore, Palhares was banned for 90 days for his particularly nasty heel hook on  Tomasz Drwal We were given a plethora of replays in real time and slo-mo to conclude what we already knew...he held on way too long. I understand the argument that he wanted to make sure the referee had seen the tap, examples abound of how prematurely releasing a submission can hurt a fighter’s chances.

Palhares trainer  Bustamante was on the receiving end of a missed 'tap' in his bout with Matt Lindland in 2002 . Lindland appeared to tap to an armbar but told referee “Big” John McCarthy that he didn’t and got a restart. Is that justification enough for the extra-time Palhares seemed to hold on for, even after the referee had clearly observed the submission? Another factor is the role of adrenaline in a fight. Is the 'power' of adrenaline an adequate excuse for effectively  sending a fellow pro to the operating table?

It reminded me of the Razak Al-Hussan versuses Steve CantwelI at UFC Fight Night 16. If you did not see the fight, Cantwell basically bent Al-Hussan’s arm in a very obscene and unnatural direction. The referee had to stop the match because Al-Hussan had not tapped and his arm was basically hanging off. Cantwell then proceeded to celebrate by shouting down the T.V camera “I always wanted to do that”. 

This is different from the Palhares incident. Technically Cantwell did nothing wrong, he was just following the submission to it's inevitable conclusion. I think what I am trying to highlight is the mind-set of fighters in relation to injuring each other and the sports growth. To be fair in the heat of the moment  we can all say and do stupid things (Brock Lesnar...anyone?) and I think Cantwell later apologised for his comments as did Palhares for his actions. However, the reality is that holding onto that submission and public comments like Cantwells do nothing to push the sport forward in terms of challenging the wider public's mis-conceptions.

You just have to mention 'cage-fighting' (most people do not recognise the term MMA) to an everyday person and they instantly grimace, followed by a predictable tirade of comments that clearly demonstrate they have no idea about the rules (they don't think there are any) or culture. I saw an interesting discussion on this on the CageWarriors forum after an article on MMA in The Guardian stirred up a lot of reaction from the readers .

Maybe MMA is just not for the masses and we need to accept that. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has recently been banned from German TV because in part to 'strikes to a downed opponent'. Are the rule changes and sensitivities within the sport to brutal fights and sensationalist comments (Frank Mir *cough*) examples of a violent combat sport that is being domesticated and tamed in order for a maximised business opportunity? Would the 'real fans' want  knees to a downed opponent reinstated, as well as 12 to 6 elbows, at the expense of worldwide recognition of the sport?  Maybe this sport is just not for everyone?

Let's be honest Hardy survived against GSP at UFC 111. When are fighters (and fans) going to stop treating a five-round survival with GSP as some kind of moral victory? Sure, Hardy showed guts and determination, but he did not seize the opportunity. For a minute let's stop criticising the champion. He has a belt and a career to protect, he is not a pop-star who's primary job is to entertain us. He is an athlete who's primary concern is to win.

Hardy as the challenger was the one with nothing to lose, yet when given the rare opportunity to throw his hands he seemed cautious and hesitant.  Did he just want the notoriety of survival? I think Hardy will go away train aspects of his game and return a more formidable challenger . Lets just hope he comes back and fights like he has got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 I really enjoyed Pellegrino vs. Camoes at UC 111. It was great to see some world class grappling in the octagon, carrying on from where Sotiropoulos left off at UFC 111. Camoes had a few submission attempts in the first round, threatening with a standing rear-naked choke, a triangle and an omoplate, all which Pellegrino defended well. It was BJJ 101. However, Kurt Pellegrino earned a $65,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus after he stopped his fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a second-round rear-naked choke.

“I want to beat you at everything I can beat you in”  Frank Mir

Vintage school-yard Mir. Does that sentence even make sense?

However, MMA is one contest Mir cannot beat Carwin in. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Coloradan picked up a $65,000 bonus for  “Knockout of the Night” after he put on hold  Mir's psychotic march towards Brock Lesnarr with short powerful uppercuts against the cage at 3:48 into the first round at UFC 111. Carwin is legitimate....a scary legitimate monster. The Carwin vs Lesnar ring showdown didn’t quite have the sparks Dana White was probably hoping for. Lesnar uttered some lame manufactured trash talk about Carwins belt being 'make-believe' that he probably rehearsed in the car mirror on the way to the venue.

I was gutted about the Alves – Fitch fight. I was looking forward to seeing how Alves had evolved. Fitch instead administered one of his trademark shut-outs. He was conservative and consistent. A bit like the Amish. Actually Jon Fitch looked like an Amish man in the octagon....no?

It will be interesting to find out how the whole AKA gyms bro-mances will play out. Will these guys eventually fight each other? White recently suggested that Fitch should fight Koscheck next. When Fitch was asked if he was open to fighting his team mate for the No. 1 spot, he quickly said no. Dana White quipped back "I guess he doesn't want the title shot that badly”. It will be interesting to see how the whole welterweight  division plays out this year. Particularly if BJ moves up into the mix.

Clayton McKinney from TUF 11 did not seem to have the same problem when he fought his friend to get into the TUF house. He spread his nose across his face. The first episode was good in terms of fights, the middleweight division could definitely do with a burst of new life. Not sure there were any potential world beaters in the mix.

So things I liked last month...

-         Kenny Florians jab
-         Junior Dos Santos knockout
-         These T-Shirts....Tom Lawlor and Jens Pulver

_    Grappling in the octagon

-         UFC Primetime

-         Big Country's self-deprecation

-         And this.....James Cagney doing MMA in 1945. Please watch right to the end for his sloppy arm-bar and repeated jabs to the throat