Sunday, March 2, 2008

Apex Predators in their Respective Divisions


(Photo by Big Joe Miranda)

In the jungles and the forests of Africa, the lion has no competition from other predators (crocodiles need to stick close to the water). It has no fear of claiming its prize. Only another hungry lion poses a serious threat.

Last night, Rafael Marquez and Israel Vasquez, two hungry lions, met for a carcass in the form of a title belt in the Super Bantamweight Division. Though their paltry size may have shed less light on them than say two boring Eastern European titlists, pound-for-pound, the smaller fighters would have devoured their competition, leaving no scraps.

Marquez and Vasquez bore into each other as if their purse and lives were at stake from the opening bell and never let up.

Literally.

The first round seemed like a mirage: This couldn't possibly go the full 12, could it?

The second through fourth rounds were close though Marquez controlled the pace a bit better and even dropped Vasquez in the fourth. But then, when Marquez closed in for the finish, Vasquez roared back with his potent left hook and hurt Marquez badly, only to have Marquez roar back with punches.

In the fifth through eighth rounds, Marquez and Vasquez traded bombs, with Marquez landing most of the shots, and Vasquez mostly landing the hurtful shots. Round 7 would seem to contradict the last sentence as both men took turns hurting each other throughout.

The ninth through 11th rounds were equally as brutal as its predecessors with Marquez (justifiably) losing a point as referee Pat Russell finally deducted a point after about the fifth low blow landed. Amazingly, as many punches as both fighters endured and as hard a shot as some of the low blows were and the amount of times they were staggered, both fighters met full throttle for the 12th and final round.

But finally, we were reminded that if two fighters at such a high level of combat could go back and forth, one would inevitably wilt. Vasquez came out looking for the KO. He landed straight right hands on Marquez almost immediately and forced the former champion to hold on, the first time both fighters would clinch. He would repeat this three more times until, finally, another Vasquez combination sent Marquez crashing into the opposite corner, held up by the ropes with precious few seconds left in the round. Marquez argues Russell's knockdown call but the ropes did indeed break his fall, constituting a knockdown. Vasquez put his stamp on a legendary fight that would forever link Marquez whenever his career is spoken.

The decision, which was close and could have gone to Marquez, went to Vasquez who had probably won the most decisive round of this fight. A fight of legendary status. ESPN Classic should run their trilogy whenever their ratings take a hit.

And the dismal heavyweight division should be locked in a room and forced to watch this fight. It will teach them what a professional warrior is all about.

(This is a fight the heavyweight division and uninspired, overpaid fighters should be subjected to. A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick, 1971, film. for more go to pbs.org)

Silva Continues Ascension toward Greatness


(for more go to mmaweekly.com)

Not to be outdone a few hours later, dominant UFC middleweight champion, Anderson "Spider" Silva, continued his march into greatness with perhaps his most impressive victory to date against his most decorated opponent, Dan "Hollywood" Henderson aka Hendo.

Interestingly enough, both fighters fought for PRIDE but never met each other during their tenures there. Henderson, who was coming off a hard fought loss to the larger light heavyweight champion, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson seemed to be ready to unify his PRIDE belt against Silva's UFC belt.

Silva, who has been as dominant as Wanderlei was in PRIDE during his run and Matt Hughes was during his UFC heyday, promised to continue his winning ways.

Brazil's finest met one of California's finest in the fine state of Ohio. He started off darting his lethal legs at Henderson until Henderson took him to the mat and kept him there for the remainder of the scheduled 5-round championship unification fight. He landed some hard hammerfists on the side of Silva's face, but never seemed to hurt him.

Round 2 began almost the same as the first with Silva shooting his legs out like the arcade character from the Street Fighter series Dhalism. This time though, kept Henderson at bay and avoided a takedown by striking. As Henderson left his game plan and traded with Silva, he was caught in the same trap the former UFC middlewieight champion was caught in and was caught with a knee to the face. The knee, along with follow up punches hurt Henderson. Silva took a dazed Henderson to the ground and fired punches to his head. When he got his back, he wrapped his legs around Henderson's rib cage and constricted his breathing ala python.

Then the surprise of the night, at least in this corner. Silva got Henderson's back and applied a choke forcing Henderson to tap. Henderson, a great wrestler, has only been submitted by jiu-jitsu masters the Nogueira brothers, who have submitted almost everyone they've fought.

Silva, now the unified PRIDE and UFC middleweight champion faces a dilemma which can spell doom for most dominant fighter; boredom.

Silva, who is a consummate professional and trains as such, needs to be tested. He just passed the toughest test of his career but there is always another. Though there are many great fighters who may land a lucky punch or a surprise submission (see Ryo Chonan) only a special type of fighter may be able to bring out the best of Silva and extend him as no one else has.

That fighter may be one of Silva's closest friends and training partners, Lyoto Machida. The karate expert may be the ying to Silva's yang in more ways than one. Though Machida is nowhere near as exciting as Silva, he is just as undefeated. He's a pure winner. But before any speculations are further made, let's see how Machida fares against Tito Ortiz in a few months.

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