Friday, December 30, 2011

UFC 141: Time for Fitch to Make his Run

Jon Fitch's path to an elusive title is clear in 2012.

Jon Fitch has long been the punchline to many a jokes on message boreds boards and forums (my personal favorite is an image of Fitch simply weighing-in with the comment "I'm already bored" under it. Simply, yet, effective, but then again, so is Fitch). His style is grating on his opponents and on the fight viewers who are drawn to the spectacular rather than the methodical.

No Top 10 fighter has been more widely criticized or hated on for simply winning. Georges St-Pierre started to feel some wrath for not finishing lesser opponents in a fashion worthy of a Milan runway, but complaints for GSP can only go so far. He is the most dominant welterweight of all time, a fan favorite, ambassador of the sport, and marketing tent pole for the fastest growing sport on the planet.

Fitch, however, is not a champion. He has had as many title shots as losses (1) while with the UFC, and for a man that prides himself on the notion that hard work will get you what you want, he has grown increasingly perplexed why he has yet to receive another title shot after going 5 rounds with GSP.

While the owner of one of the cooler ring entrances, Fitch has not been considered a fan or perhaps more importantly UFC favorite. He has steadfastly rejected fighting fellow teammate Josh Koshcheck, to Dana White's dismay, and he was also involved in a dust up with UFC management several years ago regarding fighters' rights, which resulted in him being cut for about 24 hours.

He's done things his way, and it's gotten him this far. So that is why he is so stubborn. He shows up to press conferences, makes weight, and wins. There shouldn't be any more requirements to get his title.

Of course, in the UFC world there is always more. The winning, while irrefutable can be easily glossed over by style of wins. KO's and subs get bonuses. Thoroughly wearing down your opponent for 3 rounds on the mat doesn't.

Coming off a long 10-month layoff due to a shoulder injury didn't help things, but as he enters the ring to Johnny Cash's "Rusty Cage" cover to face another Jo(h)n, Johny Hendricks, tonight at UFC 141: Lesnar v. Overeem his path to a title shot and to claim that belt has never been more apparent.

A decisive win over Hendricks would put Fitch in prime position to get the winner of Diaz v. Condit on Feb. 4th. But should Fitch struggle with some rust in the cage, he should immediately get back in for another fight in early 2012. I'm going to assume that Diaz and Condit won't come out of that fight unscathed in enough time for a quick turnaround should Fitch not be given the title shot by Dana White. So with about a 90 day recovery for Diaz or Condit along with GSP being out for 4-5 months from that February fight date, Fitch's window of opportunity is right there.

Beat Hendricks and get the title shot. Or beat Hendricks and take another fight no later than March with a higher ranked opponent to give the UFC no choice but to put him in that Interim title fight some time in early Summer. That will be Fitch's opportunity.

There will be no rematches or GSP in the fold to clog things up. It's win and you're in for Fitch. No doubt, once GSP is healthy he will get a shot to get his belt back, but if Fitch can win (flashy or not) he will be the one holding court, which is where Fitch is at his best.

Fitch isn't regularly on the Top 10 P4P lists by accident. Experts acknowledge Fitch is a tough match-up for pretty much anyone. His size and excellent MMA wrestling allow him to take his opponents down and do what he does...grind them into the Muscle Pharm logo on the mat.

Death, Taxes, and Jon Fitch have been constants over the past several years, and while we may get the same old Fitch tonight, it's time for all of that hard work to pay off. He just has to do what he always has done, whether the fans and the UFC like it or not.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Slobblog: Tinto - Spanish for Too Little Food


Huh? What about the Borgata? Love it there!

The last Slobfest of 2011 took place at Tinto, Jose Garces' bastard child of previous Slobfest and more famously whole suckling pig Slobfest Amada.

More on Tinto right after I make a reservation at the Rainbow Room for 12pm on a Wednesday.


Tinto, while a small space on Sansom, does provide a nice area for dining. The floor is open, with a side area reserved for a bar. We were comfortably seated for 7 of us. One slob couldn't be in attendance due to holiday duties, but we did bring on our 8th permanent Slobfest member.

It just so happens that this new member was playing me in our fantasy football championship this week and Arian Foster was T-minus 40 minutes from taking on the Colts. I was sure to keep him up to date and talk a little novelty trash. When we departed, Foster had a TD and was averaging 9 YPC (Foster finished with 158 yards and 1 TD). And yes, writing that on a Saturday at 11:15am fully makes me expect to lose in awful fashion.

I was able to stop by the wine bar prior to our seating and it was a comfy, casual feel with mainly Spanish wines, but nothing by the glass that really caught my attention.

While one slob was out at a party, two of the last arrivals were arriving from a marathon outing with a vendor. An outing where clearly alcohol was served.

While I had my own ideas of what tapas items I would have purchased, we all just decided to do the tasting menu that Tinto offered. While I'm usually all in for this, the food at Tinto hasn't been as raved about as Amada, where I did take part in the tasting menu. But I wasn't totally sold one way or the other, so I went along. For the sake of argument, here's what my picks would have been:

Rillette, Pork Belly, Pulpo, and Butifarra

Remnants of the tasting menu apps.
For the record, neither the tasting menu at Tinto or Amada had the pulpo on it. Damn you, Garces! All I want is some damn pulpo in my tasting menu!

The tasting menu started with smaller apps, almonds and olives which weren't big successes with the slobs at the table, but I found them to be very tasty. That said, certainly not slob worthy.

What followed was stronger, there was a cheese and charcuterie plate that impressed. The charcuterie more than the cheese, but it was at that point I realized this is much more of a wine, date, small meal place to go to rather than an opportunity to properly slob out. The quality of food was there, just not the quantity.

The last of the app part was a great duck dish (my favorite of the night), some mussels, prawn, and figs. All very well done, but with one offering per person, just not enough to justify the tasting menu.

After apps, it came to light that two slobs have joined the ranks of those in relationships...with women!

One has been going for several months, which for this slob measures in dog years regarding relationships. She even got him to publicly announce it on Facebook. Unheard of!

Diet Coke, please.


Montanditos - Duck
The other relationship is yet to be officially anointed, yet it's on the boyfriend/girlfriend 1 yard line with William Perry lined up in the backfield and a d-line made up of Taiwanese bike messengers. Needless to say it's basically a done deal.

We always enjoy blossoming relationships as Slobfest is the perfect mile marker for relationships since it happens once a month. Here's an example:

Slob 1: "How long have you been seeing that girl?"
Slob 2: "About 3 Slobfests."
Slob 1: "Wow, that's a nice run."
Slob 2: "Yeah, she probably won't make it past 5 Slobfests."
Slob 1: "Understood."

Then we had a lively argument about the importance of iPod integration in cars over a glass of Garnatxa. Ultimately, I fall on the side of it's more about the car that is driven, rather than the ability to sync an iPod, but I'm a technology guy, so something inside of me would hurt if I wasn't up to date.

Entrees soon arrived, and it was more of the same. Good quality food that didn't pie smash, nut tap, bitch slap you out of your seat, but just wasn't enough. We were hoping the food kept coming, but after a couple forgettable deserts we were settling the bill, which included a 20% gratuity! We all agreed, hey, we usually leave a 20% gratuity, but don't make us leave that amount. The newest Slobfest member made a key contribution by adding a quarter to our tab, so technically the tip was 20.00000000002%. You're welcome stuck up, weirdo beard guy with thick framed glasses.

Sure, help yourself, waiter guy.
With all of us now with some alcohol in it and some members fully intoxicated we were not satisfied. Thankfully there was a Capogiro right next door. We sauntered over to order some gelato, and after a I found our slobs at a table dining on some gelato servings and one calling the girl behind the counter, "Gimli, son of Aldar." I was ordering at the time, so I have absolutely no idea what this came from (I Google searched it, and this is what popped up), but it was said with such disdain that we were all tearing up. Needless to say, our night was over. So other than finding out Mark Sanchez may be dating Kate Upton, it was a great night. So ends another year of Slobfest.

From Slobfest, have a Slobby Holiday Season...Slobs Out.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Fantasy Football Hero

Roddy White (#84) was smiling, along with his fantasy owners.


With many fantasy football leagues beginning playoffs this week, no one player loomed larger on Thursday night than Roddy White. He had 10 catches for 135 yards and 2 TD's. A foe to those that went against him, but for his proud fantasy football owners he is...a FANTASY FOOTBALL HERO

Friday, December 9, 2011

UFC 140: Bloodsport II

Bricks may not hit back, but Jon Jones does.
There's a lot to like about UFC 140: Jones v Machida. The mixed martial artistry, the interesting skill match-up of these two unorthodox yet technically sound strikers, seeing if Jon Jones can being a reign at light heavyweight, seeing if the Nog brothers finally pull off the old WWF trick where one rolls under the ring and a fresh "twin" rolls out and wins the match...but for me, it's the Bloodsport comparisons.

"I like the haircut, Lyoto."
While Bloodsport set the bar for tournament fighting movies and pushed the "Based on a true story..." line to its limits, Lyoto Machida has always reminded me of the Jean-Claude Van Damme character Frank Dux. It starts as simple as a disciplined martial arts background. And not a background like most MMA fighters have, what separates Machida is that it seems like you always see him in a gi making karate type motions behind a backdrop of crashing waves, waterfalls, or standing on a floating training ground on the water. UFC publicity or not, this is the image I have. Very zen, very Dux.

Watching Machida fight his way to the light heavyweight belt, I would always make the references to Bloosport, and little things just started to build and build. That from this quiet, respectful individual, fury and violence can come forth and really damage people. Much like Dux's 95 mph kick (again probably false) there was an aura that was following Machida. He was the Rubik's cube of MMA.

Bahhhh-HHHHHHH!
Dux was an undersized and well groomed guy who entered the underworld of the Kumite, all while being chased by the FBI and getting friendly with a hot blonde reporter covering the event! But after some respectable showings, he was gaining steam and impressing the bed sheet wearing judges. I won't spoil it for you, but Dux's final battle is against Chong Li, the return champion and along with being the most muscular Asian ever, has a bit of a mean streak. Good vs. Evil battles, and morals and sports jackets and slacks with no belts win for all.

Ahhhh-HHHHH!



Continuing with Lyoto's Frank Dux-ness, he started exhibiting similar traits like his patented scream face (see above and to the left). A constant bewildered look, and while still maintaining his aura of invincibility, was never quite intimidating, but pulled out the fight in impressive fashion (split and shot to the nuts for Dux; sweep and punching Thiago Silva's face into the ground for Lyoto).





That's all well and good, and it brought me joy, but as I started to move on from my Bloodsport comparison, the more it kept reappearing. Before his title fight against Rashad Evans, there was mention about his father Yoshizo Machida. And wouldn't you know it, but Machida's dad looks like the goddamn master that trained Frank Dux in Bloodsport. I've always liked Machida as a fighter but this just took him to a whole new level of enjoyment most fight fans probably wouldn't care about.


Now as a conclusion, the obvious continuation would be for Machida to beat Bones and steal the night on Saturday in Canada. Machida is a heavy betting underdog, and no one expects him to win against he more formidable Jones. The fans will be chanting for Jones, not Machida, and we all know there will be a hot girl sitting ringside to watch.But there won't be any powder pill, there won't be any triple spinning jump kicks (at least not from Machida),and this time the Chong Li character will win. Only do so respectfully and not by killing a couple guys in the ring and breaking Machida's best friend's leg.

A loss Saturday will probably put a cap on the 33-year-old Machida's shot at winning the title again, but I hope he continues to fight for a bit more. After two poor showings against Shogun Rua, the retirement word was being passed around, but for someone like Machida who has absorbed little damage in his fight career, I hope he exhibits that fighting spirit. Splits on the top of buildings are not necessary.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Han on the LAM

Jose Reyes' arrival in Miami isn't sitting well with former face of the franchise Hanley Ramirez.
With the baseball off-season hot stove at full burn, here's what we can say right now.

  1. The Miami Marlins are spending money like the New York Yankees.
  2. Jose Reyes got paid $100M+ to play about 131 games a year.
  3. Hanley Ramirez's shift to 3B is not going to be easy.
So while that's where we are today, that's not necessarily where we will be by the time the 2012 season begins. It may be fun to speculate what the Miami Marlins line-up may look like with Albert Pujols smack dab in the middle of it, for the purposes of being current what we are looking at is a team that acquired a new $100M shortstop to supplant their current $70M shortstop. And wouldn't you know it, the $70M shortstop might just be better. That's why the announcement of Jose Reyes signing is causing almost as much turmoil down on South Beach as another announcement.

That's good fodder for Buster Olney and Jayson Stark, but what I'm concerned with are the fantasy baseball implications. 

Let's dream Han-Ram is a Marlin in 2012. A happy Marlin.
Two years ago, Hanley was the best player in all of fantasy, let alone best player at the shortstop position. Injuries, questionable behavior, and quite frankly a downturn in production has made this upcoming season a pivotal one for the 27 year old. So, I can understand, coming back from shoulder surgery, supposed to be the face of the franchise, and generally a bad teammate why Hanley is opposed to a move from his natural position even though it seems to make sense (makes the team better, he's a poor fielding shortstop, he's too big to play shortstop).

For the sake of not predicting the future, let's say all of that subsides. Jeffrey Loira works some magic, and Hanley and Jose are happy teammates on the Miami Marlins. Hanley is hitting like 2009 Hanley and all Hanley fantasy owners can rejoice that their frustrating franchise player is back to where he needs to be.

Hanley is the key member of my dynasty league baseball team, so all opinions moving forward are a tinge on the optimistic side.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons why fantasy owners shouldn't panic about Hanley. 
  1. If everything breaks correctly and Hanley is happy and healthy in 2012, he'll be a top 10 fantasy player again and still carry over his SS eligibility from 2011. This won't provide much long-term solace for dynasty fantasy owners, but it's no reason to panic and trade Hanley away so you can draft J.J. Hardy.
  2. Now, if things break like I say, Hanley will be the everyday 3B for the Marlins. This does jeopardize his 2013 SS eligibility, but the good news is, the guy taking his spot is Jose Reyes, who has played in 36, 133, and 126 games each of the past three years due to a nagging hamstring injury. Reyes steals bases and runs...a lot. The likelihood of him re-injuring or getting some rest to stave off injury is likely. Should the Marlins give Hanley those starts, then SS eligibility retained for another year (depending on your individual league's format).
  3. Ok, so Hanley plays 3B is happy, and has Reyes playing SS and batting in front of him. Well, he loses SS eligibility in 2013, but offensively he has Jose Reyes in front of him. Reyes is one of the most prolific leadoff men in the league, and a key part of the line-up that Hanley has been missing ever since the leadoff hitter was Hanley himself. Emilio Bonifacio had a great year, and can be a solid player, but there's no comparison to what Jose Reyes does on the basepaths. Reyes' OBP averages 20 points higher than Bonifacio, and while Bonifacio hasn't scored more than 78 runs or stolen more than 40 bases in his career, Reyes has 4 years of 100+ runs (not including a 99R year) and 40+ steals. That equals run production for run producers. Better pitches at the plate getting statistical payoffs for doing what Hanley does. No more 33 HR 67 RBI seasons for Hanley.
  4. The Great Unknown.
  5. There's a new ballpark. With new ballparks always comes the great unknown. Parks have been built as pitcher friendly only to turn out hitter friendly and vice versa. It has to do with jet streams or something. All indications are the new home for the Marlins, fish tank and all, will be more hitter friendly than the old football stadium they used to pack with 19,000 whole (announced) fans. A better offensive ballpark will help Hanley and his cast of characters.
  6. If all doesn't end well when the 2012 season wraps up, or maybe even earlier, Hanley will be traded. You're not moving Reyes' contract anywhere, and if Hanley can bounce back can fetch a great price for the Marlins to build up their pitching staff. Hanley should be entering his prime years at a fairly sane contract number. Assuming clubs want to plug him back at SS then there should be demand for his services from nearly every team in baseball. Odds are, more likely than not, he will make his way to a contending team and continue where he left off.
The drama in South Beach is just starting, but like the new Marlins logo hints at, sunny times are ahead.