Thursday, June 16, 2011

UFC 131

I've been out of the social networks for a few days, formatting and uploading and proofing Psychomancer. It's currently up at B&N and Smashwords, but as usual Amazon is lagging. I just spent entirely too long going through my feeds, having neglected Google Reader for several days. Here's the report:

*Samuel L. Jackson read the audio version of Go the Fuck to Sleep. I was kind of tired of hearing of this book, but this is brilliant. I wish I were this savvy so that I could be rich.

*The Guardian has released their list of The 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books. While I've read a very respectable chunk of the Modern Library's 100 greatest novels of the 20th century list, I've only read the few of these books that everyone had to read in Western Civ for their undergrad. I've been watching way too many movies recently and not reading enough. Maybe I'll pick some from this list.

*Writer James Everington is wary of a practice amongst writers which he has dubbed MBS, or mutual back slapping. He posted about the most hilariously horrific case of MBS ever over at his blog.

*Does anyone else often work in openoffice? Did you know that most of the developers have gone over to libreoffice? I just found out. They left after Oracle aquired it. Anyway, there's not a huge amount of difference right now, but from what I understand the improvements will be happening much faster on libreoffice because most of the talent is now there.

God I love fighting. I've watched MMA and kickboxing since before The Ultimate Fighter launched it into the public eye, and the difference between then and now is amazing. With its increased popularity comes a much larger pool of practitioners, and with that has come an incredible evolution in the ultimate sport.

That's right, fighting is the best sport. Sports are all symbolic combat. MMA is the best of that, the closest we can get to the real thing while ensuring the safety of the athletes.

So here's my analysis of the latest event, UFC 131:

The first thing I noticed is the absence of a title defense. That is absolutely ridiculous. There should be a title fight OR TWO on every card. With the addition of bantamweight and featherweight, there's no excuse. Pay per views should have one or two title fights, one or two top contender fights, and the rest super fights and grudge matches. There should be a weekly event for other fights. Since the UFC has nearly become a monopoly, it has too many fighters to stick to the ppv event every 3 or 4 weeks.

Vagner Rocha v Donald Cerrone
Lightweight (155lbs)

This was Rocha's UFC debut and Cerrone's second UFC fight since coming over from WEC. It was an explosive, entertaining fight. Cerrone came out winging hard kicks at the legs and crotch (oops). Rocha immediately realized he was in too deep on the feet and tried to take it to the ground, but Cerrone's takedown defense was great. Stuffs, explosive sprawls, and embarrassing whizzer tosses. Rocha succeeded in getting one takedown in the first round after Cerrone threw a knee, and immediately Cerrone showed Rocha that he didn't want to be on the ground with him, either. Not even on top. He went from rubberguard to triangle to arm bar to standing in a mad scramble that Rocha was very lucky to escape.

For me, the best part of the match was that it was all about the leg kicks. There's just something about watching someone crack out leg kicks that I love. For one thing, I know how much they hurt. It's really interesting to watch someone go from casually eating leg kicks in the first round to falling over or spinning in the third. Cerrone devastated Rocha's lead leg. What a lot of people don't understand is how that messes with a fighter's ability to—well, do anything. You can't shoot for a takedown. You lose massive punching power. And all you can think about is the pain coming your way as you get less and less able to avoid the coming leg kicks.

The fight went the distance. Cerrone won the decision easily.

Post fight, Cerrone apologized for not finishing Rocha. In the last minute he turned it on and started landing hard headshots, but for most of the fight, in his own words, he “fought to not lose, not to win.”

Still, I think Cerrone has a very good future in the UFC. He's tall and long, muscular, explosive, and seems to have a limitless gas tank. 155 is kind of up for grabs right now, without a GSP or an Anderson Silva.

John-Olav Einemo v Dave Herman
Heavyweight (265lbs)
This was an ugly, but entertaining fight. It was advertised as BJJ v wrestling, but their respective grappling skills kept the match standing.

In round one, Herman threw kick after kick after knee. I love seeing that with the big guys, who tend to more often stay planted. Herman is 6'4 and apparently has some great leg flexibility. His knees come fast and high, and really put Einemo off the takedown for fear of catching one to the face. When Einemo took Herman down against the cage and got side control, a place where he could have put his submission skills to work, Herman walked the cage and rolled through to standing. Very cool to see a big guy do this. The round ended in a clinch with knees and hooks flying.

In the second round Einemo charged, punching. Herman unfortunately does what I do, which is to try to escape backwards. His head goes back, totally exposing his jaw, and he really just runs backwards. This is a TERRIBLE instinct. If he does this in sparring, it must be all his coaches yell at him about. If he only does it under the pressure of a big fight in front of tens of thousands of people, maybe he can calm down and keep his damn chin down. The 3rd round looks like a boxing movie. You know how no one can avoid a punch in a boxing movie, they just walk each other from rope to rope with huge headshots? It was really amazing how much punishment these guys could take and still throw hard. Herman finally dropped Einemo by the cage where he couldn't scramble away and delivered some ground and pound until the ref called a TKO.

Besides the fact that a puncher would have taken Herman's head off, he's also at that really unfortunate size since the UFC eliminated the 220 weight class. At 233, he could practically cut to 220 with just water. Instead, he's too big to get to 205 (unless he wants to look half-dead like Forrest Griffin), so he gets to look forward to fighting guys who cut to get down to 265, guys who carry 40 pounds more muscle than he does. Ugh.

Demian Maia v Mark Munoz
Middleweight (180lbs)
This should have been a grappling match, too. Demian Maia is one of the most amazing BJJ practitioners in the world, and Munoz is a freakishly strong NCAA champion wrestler. Once again, their grappling skills cancel each other out, and we got a standup match!

The crazy thing was that Maia came out swinging for the damn fences. He charged with dangerous punches and kicks and stalked Munoz around the cage for the entire first round. By the second round Munoz managed to mentally switch gears, and though he didn't do any damage, mostly through his strength he maintained control of the fight. There were some great submission battles. At the end of round two, Munoz finally managed to get Maia on the ground and against the cage where he couldn't twist his crazy self away. Maia managed to control his own posture, though, and didn't take much damage.

Munoz clearly won the third round, but Maia's attempted crucifix was the highlight. In the end, Munoz controlled the second and third round and won because of it. He's got to be close to getting a title shot. From how he performed against Maia, I think he'd have little to worry about Silva's submission skills. But the fact that he basically has to ground someone before going Donkey Kong on them means to me that he's almost certain to be another of Silva's victims. I don't think Munoz has the takedown skills of Sonnen. But who knows.

Though Maia lost, his performance really impressed me. It sure shocked the hell out of Munoz. Maia began his UFC careers with 5 wins in a row, despite his inability to throw a punch. He's become a much more complete fighter.

Kenny Florian v Diego Nunes
Featherweight (145lbs)
Kenny made his debut as a featherweight and became the first fighter to fight in 4 UFC weight classes. He entered the UFC as a middleweight with the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, then moved steadily down. He was a good size at lightweight, but not a big 155. Now, he's the big man in his weight class. He had a 4” height advantage over Nunes, and a 7” reach advantage, though I have to think that some of that is due to his freakishly wide shoulders.

From the first round Kenny stalked Nunes, and his reach advantage was apparent. Kenny has always had good reflexes, but the fact that Nunes had to extend so far made it very easy for Kenny to avoid getting hit. He did get rocked by a left hook and put on his back at the 10 second clapper. He very quickly attempted a dangerous looking triangle, which made Nunes rethink charging in.

In the second round, Kenny came out bouncing and Nunes came out swinging big. Nunes reversed a takedown and ended up on top, but from the bottom Kenny carved him up with those signature elbows and opened his scalp, then went for a triangle. After that, Nunes backed away, acknowledging that Kenny's guard was just too dangerous for him. The round ended with Kenny on top dealing out some vicious ground and pound.

Kenny stepped into the third round totally fresh, and Nunes was drained. In the last couple of minutes Nunes poured everything out, but Kenny evaded and popped his jab. Then, at about the 2 second mark, Kenny got dropped to one knee by a big right hook. Wow.

This was the sort of fight that you weren't sorry to see go the distance. Great action on the ground and on the feet. Kenny seems to have really found his place, and after all this time being a great fighter and not getting a title, I would love to see him win the featherweight title. With his combination of strength and long limbs, both his ground game and his standup have gotten even more dangerous.

Junior Dos Santos v Shane Carwin
Heavyweight (265lbs)
After the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter, the coaches were supposed to fight to see who would be the top contender for the heavyweight title against Cain Valasquez. Unfortunately, Lesnar is sick again with diverticulitis, so Carwin got the shot. Carwin weighed in at only 254 when he had previously cut water to get to 265. I don't know if this was intentional, like with Frank Mir, or if it was due to the neck surgery he had in January.

This fight was brutal to watch. By the end it was difficult, even for a fight fan.

For the first minute the two big men circled each other, neither throwing a punch. Then Junior feigned a punch and Carwin shot for a single. Junior shook it off easily with his legendary takedown defense. Junior started popping jabs. Stiff, brutal jabs, again and again and again. Junior dropped him by the fence and starts to pound on his head, but Herb Dean wouldn't call the TKO. I was surprised, because Carwin wasn't really defending himself, just holding up his right hand beside his head. It was probably the right decision on Dean's part, though, because the punches weren't hurting Carwin that much. If he'd been facing the opposite direction and been eating Junior's right, I guarantee the fight would have ended right there in the first. Instead, Carwin walked to his corner a bloody mess.

In the second round Carwin comes in knowing he can't stand with Junior. He charges, but Junior's jab stops him short with every charge. You can't shoot through a punch that straight. A hook or uppercut, yes, but getting your head snapped back completely stops your momentum. The fact that the stiff jabs were right into an obviously broken nose didn't help. Though it looked like Junior could have capitalized on the damage he did at the end of the first round to finish Carwin, he worked methodically, picking him apart. Carwin ended up only landing 2 good punches.

In the third Carwin managed a takedown but Junior worked his way right back to his feet. Carwin fought the entire round with his mouth open as there was no way he could breathe through his mashed nose. At one point Dean called in the doctor, who asked if Carwin could see. Without hesitation Carwin said, “Oh yeah.” Junior finished the third round with a couple of pretty big takedowns.

Joe Rogan constantly talks about how the jab is the most underutilized tool in MMA. It is. Maybe a good jab is more difficult to develop than I think (my jab is my only really good punch). In boxing you don't get anywhere without a jab, so you don't see many professional boxers who can't throw one. In MMA, those guys must slip through based on other skills. But while the jab is safer to throw than any other attack, it can yield great cumulative results. Despite the fact that Carwin had several inches of reach on Junior, Junior looked like the longer fighter due to the way he took a small step into his jab and locked his shoulder entirely behind it. Besides making the punch longer, this makes the punch fast and loose, and then at the final second turns it into a jackhammer. Junior throws a true boxing jab, ending with his shoulders completely in line with his extended arm, and it won him this fight. UFC 124 shows how devastating the jab can be in a couple of matches, including the title fight between GSP and Koscheck, where GSP wrecked Koschek's face.

Overall, this was a good event.

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