Friday, November 14, 2008

"Funny Money Only" Picks of the Week

photo by Chris Cozzone

Main Event – UFC Heavyweight Championship

Randy Couture Sub3 Brock Lesnar
(Look for Couture's experience and timing to offset the young Brockner's aggression)

Joe Stevenson L3 Kenny Florian
(Look for Ken-Flo's defense to be the decisive factor in a close battle)

Josh Hendricks KOby2 Gabriel Gonzaga 256
(Look for Gonzaga to use his experience and strength to win this in a must win fight)

Jermain Taylor W12 Jeff Lacy
(super middleweight)

(Taylor has more all-around skill and a lengthier resume than Lacy. Taylor by lopsided decision)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brock Lesnar vs Captain America: Spectacle or Sport?

Can the juggernaut known as Brock defeat 2-Time UFC Heavyweight Champion Couture?

From MMA to spectacle may be the first thought for those not too familiar with the UFC's history. It was only a few years ago that the UFC made a concentrated effort to turn the spectacle that was pitting discipline versus discipline into a neo-fighting sport that showcased the best athletes with cross-discipline in a variety of disciplines.

Enter former WWE Heavyweight champion turned 2-1 MMA fighter, and yes, now a heavyweight contender. Now, in the days of no holds barred MMA, this was the type of match-up that would probably feature a man wrestling an alligator on the undercard. But give Brock credit: He's former NCAA wrestling champion who apparently didn't know his own strength in the world of professional wrestling and hurt a few "opponents" while performing choreographed moves.

Luckily for the UFC, he will be facing a man who is symbolic of the progress MMA has endured in the past 10 years. Enter Randy "The Natural" Couture, or as UFC commentator Joe Rogan refers to him Captain America (Couture was a former sergeant in the U.S. Army), MMA's version of boxing's Bernard Hopkins, or George Foreman (or even the great Archie Moore). A 40+ year-old (actually, 45) facing fighters much younger and bigger foes than him.

Fighting and beating behemoths in the cage is no new task for the ever aging Couture

But the difference is that Lesnar will be a facing a Couture who has been off for more than a tear and lost a legal battle that took away the fight he wanted most against pure winner Fedor Emelianenko. How deflated Couture is following a defeat to the UFC remains to be seen. His exile was a forced one due to legal obligations, a plague which has affected many a boxer and fans for years.

Lesnar, on the other hand,is amped about the opportunity and plans to learn from his mistake against Frank Mir, and continue the momentum he made with a dominating win over the always game Heath Herring. Lesnar's acceleration to the top of the UFC mountain is purely financial. A financial gain for the UFC brass. How else could you explain a title shot for a fighter with a 2-1 MMA record, and 1-1 in the UFC, with his lone win against a top 15 heavyweight, at best. You'd think Don King was the promoter.

Nevertheless, it remains an intriguing match up between an aging, inactive champion against a young beast who looks to devour his competition. Brock isn't just a mass of muscle akin to a comic book hero or villain. He is very agile and quick on his feet as evident on the video below. Whether or not his muscles will receive the amount of oxygen needed remains to be seen, if needed at all.

Couture has already shown his fabric in the cage. He has won by submission and punches and has lost the same way. Lesnar has only been submitted once in a fight he was winning. Neither fighter look like a KO puncher but Couture seems to have the better hands if the fight were to remain on the feet, which Lesnar will make sure it does not. When Lesnar dropped Herring with a punch in the opening seconds of the first round, he immediately ran across the octagon and dived in to tackle his opponent.

But will taking Couture to the ground be in Lesnar's best interest? Many, including Lesnar believe so. Of course, so did Gabriel Gonzaga, a big, strong jiu-jitsu expert who succumbed to Randy's wrestling skills and improved striking skills.

The guess here is that Lesnar will bolt out of his corner and immediately impose his 250+ lb. weight advaantage on the not so diminutive Couture, possibly even taking him down. If Lesnar chooses to fight on his feet, Couture will set the tempo and take it to the ground when he want to. Once on the round, look for Lesnar to drop elbows, forearms, punches, and the kitchen sink at Couture. Look for Couture to smother most of the strikes and look to submit Lesnar. Also, look for Couture to reverse the position, gain the dominant mount, and rain down punches the like of Lesnar has not had to endure.

Unless Brock's "brockness," as coined by another writer, gets the better of the battle-worn Couture, look for the current champion to remain just that by a 3-round submission win. But surely, Father Time must catch up to Couture as it already has with Roy Jones Jr. It is doubtful it will come in the form of Lesnar.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Calzaghe Cuts & Conquers Jones

Only Rocky Marciano has assumed this pose more than Calzaghe

Some fighters will always have bad timing. No, their reflexes and timing of their punches may be on the target. But the said date of meeting true greatness may always be as elusive as their defense in their primes. This is something that the best of the best cannot help. Maybe Joe Calzaghe should have been phoning Mike McCallum a few years back when it seemed he would be the new millennium version of the former champion.

Like McCallum, who came along right after the Fabulous Four of the '80s--Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns--Calzaghe came after Roy Jones Jr., James Toney and Nigel Benn had left the middle/supermiddle weight divisions. But just like McCallum did agaisnt Donald Curry, there was one name from past greatness left for Calzaghe to nibble after; Chris Eubank. Like Curry, Eubank was already coming two losses to Steve Collins when they met. Calzaghe immediately dropped the reliable Eubank and earned a hard-fought 12-round decision. McCallum commenced to knockout Curry. Both McCallum (loss to RJJ was academic at the age of 39) and Calzaghe (who beat a 39-year old Jones) went on to have hall-of-fame careers.
McCallum and Calzaghe have much in common

But last night, Calzaghe got another chance to fight another fighter whose dominant days were well past behind him, though Jones was still seen as a live threat. This was no longer the dazzling Jones who, inappropriately had been compared to the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, and also named Fighter of the Decade by the Boxing Writer's Association. Instead, this was a Jones who was coming off a three-fight win streak against decent opposition only after coming off three consecutive, convincing losses. Nevertheless, Jones still possessed speed and power and a wealth of world-class experience. Father Time would have to wait. And wait it did, but Jones still didn't respond.

For reasons known only to Jones, he did not go for the ko after dropping and hurting Calzaghe in the first round. Ever since Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson knocked Jones into the unconscious Jones, he has never has the zest to go for the close, even after dropping Felix Trinidad in his last fight. Not to say Jones, always a safety-first fighter, has been comatosing light-heavyweights. You'd have to go back to his 1997 rematch with Montel Griffin to truly see a one-punch ko to the jaw (sorry, Glenn Kelly does not qualify). After that round, Jones confidence and punch output left New York and went further than Pensacola.

From the second round on Calzaghe walked to Jones with his hands down and his confidence way up. He took a chance and it paid off. He began throwing his usual punches in bunches and by the end of the third round had proven to all that it would take a vintage Jones performance to make this close.

Unfortunately, being knocked out takes a toll on the psyche more than time takes a toll on physical reflexes. Jones, whose speed and power were still there, allowed Calzaghe to wade in arms down, and even taunt him,without throwing any meaningful punches. Maybe Jones should have looked at the .Robbie Peden-Nate Campbell fight to know how to deal with that situation.

Jones, whose been used to fighting fighters 10 punches slower than him, finally faced a fighter who would always throw punches and would not be discouraged. Jones fought back intelligently in the 5th round, pot-shotting Calzaghe with straight rights, but Calzaghe won the 7th with straight left hands and also opened up a cut on Jones' already swollen left eyelid.

By the 11th round Calzaghe had assured victory after sweeping all the rounds with his higher punchrate. Jones would need to go for the knockout to win. But Jones, who oddly was the one coming forward after his cut, was never used to having to do this and did not. Give Jones credit for coming forward, but give Calzaghe more credit for never resting on his substantial lead. Maybe in his prime Jones outclasses Calzaghe. Or maybe this would have been the same result more than 5 years ago. This is what happens when dominant fighters allow economics to pick their opponents. If Floyd Mayweather does come out of retirement, he may want to remember this instance.

Fitness Jiu Jitsu