Monday, February 27, 2012

UFC 144: Bigger in Japan

Benson Henderson (R) beat Frankie Edgar for the UFC lightweight title proving size does matter.
Frankie Edgar's title run has been magical. Two defeats of BJ Penn and three classic fights against Grey Maynard, and Frankie was the underdog in all of them. It wasn't until UFC 144 in Japan that Frankie was the favorite against Ben "Smooth" Henderson, the former WEC Champ before that title was Showtime Kicked from him in the last fight in WEC history.

Aside from beating a seemingly more talented fighter in Penn and a much stronger and bigger fighter in Maynard, the most talked about aspect of Frankie's game was how undersized he was for the lightweight division. In an industry where dropping 20, 30, or even 50 pounds leading up to a fight is a norm for a competitive advantage, Edgar walks around right around the required weight limit of 155 pounds.

The talk was that the lack of dehydrating his body and putting it through a grueling drop in weight is that it fueled his energy, later round strength, and speed that fueled his boxing game and movement. Sure, that worked, and it sounds great, but what Edgar ran into Sunday morning (if you're in Japan) was a man in Henderson who had all the speed, cardio, and energy Edgar had, only the size to boot.

Henderson showed no concern in throwing everything and anything Edgar's way. Knees, kicks, subs were all on the menu as Henderson's cardio matched Edgar's, and his size and wrestling background negated any other weapon Edgar had.

With that said, Frankie and Henderson had a great back and forth battle that was tightly contested. Ultimately, Henderson did enough for the win, but credit should be given to both fighters for a great 5-round fight.

There are no talks of a rematch as the lightweight division is stacked and a dynamite match-up of Henderson versus Anthony Pettis of the aforementioned Showtime Kick seems to make the most sense (I can't wait to see that kick on replay about 3,000x). While Edgar has never hesitated that he has no intent of dropping a weight class, maybe this time off should give him pause to consider a move. His skills are dynamic. With a strong wrestling base and great boxing (he did out box BJ Penn), his skills would translate well at featherweight. A stocky build, Edgar could easily shed the 10 lbs. needed to make weight and then become one of the bigger fighters in that division. Sure, the fighters would cut into some of Frankie's quickness, but his other skills match up better than some of the bigger fighters at 155.

This is no knock on Edgar. It's just hard to understand in a sport like MMA why someone wouldn't want every legal advantage he could get. We can talk about speed and quickness all you want, but guys like Henderson, Pettis, Jim Miller, Gilbert Melendez (remember him?), and even Nate Diaz there are people that will continue to cause Edgar fits.

A fighter causing another fighter fits can be said about any division, but outside of Jose Aldo, Frankie could rule that division for a long time. Especially after Aldo makes his anticipated leap to lightweight (or he could fight in both weight classes, which I would like to see happen). Either way, the future for Edgar is a little brighter in the featherweight division.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

UFC on Fuel TV 1: Blackout

From Nightmare, to Dream, to Gatekeeper?

The UFC will host the first fight on Fox owned Fuel TV. Unfortunately due to the limited availability of Fuel in homes, I won't be watching it. Which is a shame because Diego Sanchez puts on entertaining fights as does co-headliner Stefan Struve. Sanchez has a tough test and interesting challenge taking on streaking Jake Ellenberger. This is a potential cross-over match for Diego as he hasn't been able to ascend to the throne at 155 or 170, but the winner of this match will be right in the thick of it (especially after the whole Diaz thing). For Ellenberger it might be a bump in the developmental road, but for Sanchez, this could be his gatekeeper coronation. Ellenberger is performing at a top level, and I feel he has more strength than Diego, which might be too much to handle, even with all Diego's positive-Tony Robbins reinforced thoughts.

But, sadly, I can't watch it. I know the UFC is trying to rectify this ASAP, but I'll just turn it over to our friends at Sherdog and the UFC to give a breakdown.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

About Face

Condit (L) and Diaz will have a rematch for a fight they never envisioned having in the first place.
In not-so-surprising-surprising news, UFC president Dana White announced that the next fight for the UFC interim welterweight title would be the same fight that named Carlos Condit the current interim champ. Condit Diaz II will take place sometime in the not too distant future. With a history of making fights the fans want to see, White obliged the ever increasing clamor for the rematch and got Condit and the now un-retired Nick Diaz to put pen to paper to go at it for a second time.

The argument for the rematch is dependent on how you look at the fight. Some fans are saying that it was closely contested (true), and some fans are saying Diaz won (false). Ask any knowledgeable fight fan about it, and while it is a close fight, a vast majority will side with Condit as the victor.

So what we have is an instance where a rematch is in place for a fight that was neither epic or, for those in the know, that hotly contested. If things just settled and Condit went on to fight injured welterweight mac daddy Georges St-Pierre, then most people would be able to carry on with their lives. What makes this instance interesting is that the reason this fight is happening is not to resolve a score between two fighters, but resolve a score between two types of fight fans.

In the red corner, we have Diaz supporters. People that view fighting in it's most elemental form. Trash talking, bravado, and when things go bad, you stand and bang. These fans view what Condit did as running. Diaz was stalking, pushing the tempo, and looking to trade combos with Condit and do what Diaz normally does. This strategy has worked exceedingly well for Diaz who has basically used his boxing to work his was to be a top welterweight contender. The flurry of punches Diaz can put together, backed by his Olympian level cardio typically overwhelms opponents. The constant barrage of slap boxing, expertly mixed with stiff, straight jabs and crosses often confuse his opponents and leave them vulnerable to drowning under the Diaz attack. It's an entertaining style of fighting. Diaz talks the talk pre-fight and brings it in the Octagon.

In the blue corner, we have Condit supporters. What Condit did was not get sucked into Diaz's antics like all of his previous opponents had. Condit said himself after the fight that if he did stand and bang with Diaz, he probably would have lost. Instead, Condit employed a cerebral game plan where he used his excellent cardio to continually roll away from Diaz, avoid those combos, and jump in and out landing strikes to Diaz. He set the UFC record for leg kicks and probably spinning back elbows, but this difficult strategy was risky because of the appearance of not pushing the pace and the aforementioned running away.

Most fights are built around expectations. Styles make fights is the common phrase thrown around. This fight was billed as two guys that are about to go to war. When Condit failed to fit those expectations, he caught Diaz off guard. While that ended up in a victory, it also raised the ire of fight fans looking for a striking battle. Condit was booed after the fight, and the message boards were swarmed with fans who supported Diaz. Further more, many Condit supporters turned their back on him for a lack of perceived fighting and taking the more tentative way of the fight with Diaz. That's why we were left with the demand for a rematch that didn't need to be made.

The UFC, Dana White, and Nick Diaz all have reasons to make this fight, but what is Condit's? He could have waited for GSP to return in a lucrative championship fight. Reports are that the UFC sweetened the pot for Condit, and while that's all well and good, the presumption is that Condit won't enter the ring against Diaz, ditch a winning game plan, and just attack Diaz. He'll be out to win the fight, and the onus will be on Diaz to figure out a way to cut down Condit's angles and change up from a straightforward boxing approach.

Knowing what's been said about Condit, there had to be a part of him that hated how people were perceiving the biggest win of his career. With a little Dana White coaxing, he wanted to get back in there against Diaz and deliver a more decisive victory, but just through the same strategy.

It will be interesting to see how this rematch is hyped and what the fighters say going into it. Ultimately the prize at the end of the rainbow is too great to mess around for Condit. He's taking a risk, but not taking risks is what got him into this situation in the first fight.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI: Prop Joe

I'm Proposition Joe. You fuck with me, I'll kill your whole family.
For most people the Super Bowl is an excuse. An excuse to pretend to care about football, an excuse to have a party, an excuse to drink, an excuse to gamble, and an excuse to hope for passing glances at Gisele watching from a luxury box. If you need an excuse for any of those things, I feel bad for you.
Perhaps the best part about Prop Joe isn't that he's the coolest character in the Wire. He isn't even in the Top 5, but people all have nothing but positive things to say about him. The reason is that he's a character that can be put in any video game ever made. He's reassuring, and a guy that can get you (or your video game character) what you need. I can easily picture stopping into his mushroom hut to buy a womp womp in Mario Party or purchasing armor from him in Dragon Age or mimicking his dancing in Dance Dance Revolution. Think of any video game you can and Prop Joe fits in. 
But what about those who aren't Giants or Pats fans? The tried and true football fans whose teams fell barely short, disappointingly short, or were never close? To add some joy to this game for people that obsess about football, there are prop bets. You can bet on virtually every aspect of the Super Bowl. I picked some nice ones to pay attention to. All lines are courtesy of

Coin Toss 
Heads  -101
Tails  -101

Bet: Tails never fails.

Team to Receive the Opening Kick Off
Giants  -220
Patriots  170

Bet: Pats don't want the ball first. The Giants could trip things up by deferring if they win, but don't mess with success. Giants get the ball.

Will Either Team Score 3 Straight Times w/o Other Team
Scoring (Conversions Excluded) 
Yes  -170
No  140

Bet: Seem like odd odds? Don't be fooled. A team scoring 3 times in a row is more common than you think. Stay away.

First Touchdown of the Game will be 
Passing Touchdown -200
Any Other Touchdown 160

Bet: While I think the first TD will be passing, pretty favorable odds if one of these teams can rush, QB sneak, defensive turnover, or kick/punt return their way to the end zone.

Jersey Number of Player to Score First Touchdown in Super 
Bowl XLVI 
Jersey Number o80.5(-110)
Jersey Number u80.5(-120)

Bet: The play makers in this game are all receivers. Whatever you heard about Rob Gronkowski's (#87) injury leading up to the game, rest assured he'll have enough adrenaline going to be around for the first TD.

Eli Manning - Will he Throw a 3rd Quarter Touchdown Pass - 
Must Play 
Yes  160
No  -200

Bet: Now, the Pats will probably be getting the ball out of halftime, and Madonna's 30 minute halftime show won't help, but seems like good odds to take.

Ahmad Bradshaw - Total Rushing Yards on First Attempt - Must 
Play (No Rush Attempt - Under is Winner) 
Yards on 1st Attempt o3.5(+105)
Yards on 1st Attempt u3.5(-135)

Bet: The Giants have a good play action game, and while the Pats D has been playoff strong, it's not too much to ask Bradshaw to bust off a 4 yard carry for his first touch.

Brandon Jacobs - Will he Play Soft - Must Play (debatable) 
Yes  180
No  -240

Bet: Ok, I made that up. How there isn't a highlight every game of Jacobs demolishing some defensive back is a mystery to me. 

Henry Hynoski - Total Rushing + Receiving Yards - Must Play 
(No Rush Attempt or No Reception - Under is Winner) 
Rushing+Receiving Yards o4.5(-130)
Rushing+Receiving Yards u4.5(Even)

Bet: This is the Gary Russell Award pick from Cousin Sal on the BS Report. Bascially if Hynoski touches the ball, you win. We need to start getting into some more dumber bets.

Victor Cruz - Will he Score a Touchdown - Must Play 
Yes  120
No  -150

Bet: I don't like Victor Cruz from an overall production standpoint in the Super Bowl. Outside of some spectacular plays, teams have sort have made him disappear from time to time. He's like a greater version of Torrey Smith. But + odds that he'll score a touchdown? Sure.

Tom Brady - Total Passing Yards - Must Play 
Total Passing Yards o320.5(-115)
Total Passing Yards u320.5(-115)

Bet: Not great odds, but this is an easy under. If Tom Terrific does throw for over 320, the Pats are losing.

Tom Brady - Will he Score a RUSHING Touchdown - Must Play 
Yes  450
No  -700

Bet: Don't knock Brady's sneak game. He showed in Baltimore he'll do what it takes to get those 6 points. And if you think he wouldn't be inclined to put the game away by jumping into the end zone and getting revenge on the team that gave him his greatest defeat ever...well, you don't know Tom Brady.

Deion Branch - Will he Score a Touchdown - Must Play
Yes  175
No  -220

Bet: He's a former Super Bowl MVP. Belichick loves this symmetry stuff.

Rob Gronkowski - Will he Score a Touchdown in the 1st Half - 
Must Play 
Yes  160
No  -200

Bet: If he does score, it'll be a 1st Half score.

Aaron Hernandez - Total Receptions - Must Play (No 
Receptions - Under is Winner) 
Receptions  o5.5(-115)
Receptions  u5.5(-115)

Bet: I'm not guaranteeing if Gronk is less than 100% Hernandez is just going to turn in a Gronk like performance. If the Giants can have Antrel Rolle focus on Hernandez, that will cause some difficulties. But the tightends are just too vital to the Pats offense that I can't see Hernandez pulling in less than 6 receptions.

Chad Ochocinco - Will He Have At Least 1 Reception - Must 
Yes  120
No  -150

Bet: No. Just no. Ocho has been a non-factor all year. Keep in mind that this was a player, when he was Chad Johnson, that was putting together a Hall of Fame resume. Now, he's a laughable bet with really next to no chance of making an impact positive impact in the Super Bowl! He can't learn the playbook, know where to be on the field, and aside from buying the team Dr. Dre Beats headphones, really has done nothing. With how his career is unraveling along with Terrell Owens, make note you "Give me the Damn Ball" receivers. Your time is nigh.

Who Will Have More on Feb 5th 2012 - Listed Players Must 
Play (Barclays Premier League) 
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) Goals
(Soccer)  0(+220)
Brandon Jacobs (Giants) Touchdowns 0(-300)

Bet: Rooney has been off his game, but with Man U in a tie for first in the Premier League with Man City against a wobbly Chelsea squad, I could see #10 hitting the back of the net. Now if Jacobs does score, you're in trouble.

Super Bowl XLVI MVP (All Bets Action) (Dead Heat Rule 
Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) 8-1
Ahmad Bradshaw (Giants) 15-1

Bet: It's too easy/boring to pick QB's so I'm not going to do that. It's not easy to dethrone the QB as MVP if you're a TE, but if Gronk can have a Gronk game, paired with his injury buzz; that's an MVP. Terrell Owens would have won MVP if the Eagles, you know, won the game. Bradshaw has been getting dumped on by a lot of odds makers, but he's a nice potential MVP. Truth be told, I would have liked to vote for a Giants defensive lineman like Osi Umenyiora who always makes big plays, but all I could get were 6-1 odds in the Field category. No thanks.

Player to score the 1st 
Touchdown (All Bets Action)
Jake Ballard (Giants) 20-1
Julian Edelman (Patriots) 40-1

Bet: Ah, the bet that gave me my biggest money win in my prop gambling life. Jordy Nelson last year (+1500). Normally for this I like to go with double digit odds because no one really knows, and who's going to be excited winning a 1st TD bet with Hakeem Nicks? I was on the Manningham bet bus, but with all the buzz of him being covered by Julian Edelman, I feel like it's too over done. So I'm taking higher odds and Jake Ballard. Speaking of Edelman, he catches, he returns kicks, he runs a little, and he's playing defense! That's a lot of ways to score a TD.

Tom Brady (Patriots) Total Passing Yards in Super Bowl XLVI
241-260 Passing Yards 10-1

Bet: There's no real reason to suspect Brady will go off in this game. He can manage it, have good numbers, no turnovers and win. But throwing for 350 yards? That would be surprising. This range of passing yards is the last before they drop to 8-1 and back up at the 341 passing yard mark.

Ahmad Bradshaw (Giants) Total Rushing Yards in Super Bowl 
151-160 Rushing Yards 100-1
161-170 Rushing Yards 100-1
171-185 Rushing Yards 100-1
186-200 Rushing Yards 100-1
201 or More Rushing Yards 100-1

Bet: We're going roulette style on this one. Best 100-1 odds you'll find this year. Bradshaw gets going early, busts a couple big early runs and a late one to put the game away? Take your lump sum amount and spread it out to every range, mayyyyybe stopping at 186 and above, but at 100-1, why not?

Unfortunately I can't access the more ridiculous novelty prop bets. But from what I can remember I like: Kelly Clarkson and the under on the National Anthem, Kelly Clarkson at no mid-drift exposed (lock of the game), Madonna not wearing a jersey during the halftime show, the Gatorade bath will be blue, and the MVP will thank his teammates first.

As for the actual game? Well as an Eagles fan, I'm a loser either way, but if it's between Eli getting his second and Tom getting his fourth, I'd like the Pats to win. Sadly, it may play out differently.

Giants 31 Patriots 27

Gambling is a 27 point favorite to beat your humble narrator.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

UFC 143: Does that Make me Crazy?

Crazy or not, here they come.

Leading up to UFC 143, the headlining fight of Nick Diaz v. Carlos Condit has caused a lot of crazy talk. Not crazy in the sense of "that's ridiculous," but rather quite literal, "I'm fucking crazy" talk. Now, choosing to make your living training developing a hodgepodge of martial arts skills to go fight a different man three to four times a year who also has his own set of martial arts skills may make you crazy by default, but in every environment, crazy carries a distinction. There will always be the craziest guy in the office, at the Starbucks, at the football stadium, etc. So when you can find a couple of crazies in the MMA world that can seriously bring it, you have yourself quite a fight.

Crazy is a word that is commonly thrown around. Sometimes it's used properly, but more often than not, it's used as a synonym for misunderstood. People who don't know or want to know more about something or someone will just throw that crazy word at it to make it go away, to dismiss it as something no normal person should want to understand. With the help or, possibly, the influence of UFC's Prime Time series, audiences get to see a Nick Diaz that is different from his in ring and press related persona.

He doesn't seem crazy. He just seems like someone that doesn't like talking in front of a big crowd or dealing with press junkets answering the same question over and over again. In the ring, he's a fighter that has a style and bravado all his own. His taunting during and after the fight doesn't give him an aura of respect for the sport, but that's how he has to be to be at his best.

Taunting antics have yet to catch up to Diaz in the ring.
The reason for this attitude appears to be part of two things in Diaz's life. First, it's just who he is. He's wired that way. To do what he wants and act the way he does either due to indifference, stubbornness, or more poignantly highlighted on Prime Time because he is afraid of being bullied and intimidated by others. The way he responds to this fear he has is not to be a bully but go right after anyone that might be on to this weakness of his.

Second, is that he grew up in Stockton, California and resides in the neighborhood he grew up. From all accounts Stockton is not the greatest place in the world, and growing up there surely creates an environment where violence and testosterone are needed to survive. Gangs were in pursuit of Diaz simply for his toughness and attitude. That was before he acquired his elite level jiu-jitsu and boxing skills. Being a product of that environment, you need to create a suit of armor around you and naturally be distrustful of people you don't know. Diaz doesn't know or care to know the media, other UFC fighters, and that's an awkward thing to experience first hand and see on TV. It's easy to view him as anything but normal.

Away from the pressure and not having to be Nick Diaz the fighter, there's a whole lot of Nick Diaz the athlete. He runs marathons, participates in triathalons. He has wanted to try his hand at professional boxing. He's at the Caesar Gracie Gym virtually everyday as that is where he prefers to be. Even though the UFC cameras did great getting access to Diaz, you have to imagine he's even more at peace when there are no cameras to see his day to day actions at Caesar Gracie.

Pretty sure that's not his blood.
Compared to the perceived craziness of Diaz, Carlos Condit comes across as calm and relaxed. A family man that grew up the son of the Chief of Staff to former Arizona Governor Bill Richardson. In that, we must realize that Condit is someone that grew up fighting. He views it as legitimately a fun time. He's nicknamed the Natural Born Killer.

And, one of my favorite stories, when he visited a military base in Afghanistan back when he was WEC Champ, he was sparring with some of the soldiers. One frisky soldier asked Condit, "How fast do you want to go?" Condit replied, "as fast as you want." So the soldier started sparring slowly, gathering some speed and perhaps confidence. Condit let the soldier control the pace, but once the soldier went all out, Condit ended up knocking him out. Yeah, Carlos is no sane person.

He's also the owner of some of the more devastating finishes in recent memory. His flying knee to Dong Hyun Kim and flash KO of Dan Hardy are the epitome of the kind of striking skill Condit brings into the ring. He wants to finish the fight, to have his opponent beaten, and he's been successful doing so in 26 of his career fights.

Condit appears disinterested in being the crazier guy in this fight. He only seems focused on getting the Interim welterweight title on Saturday and turning that into the real welterweight title.

Oddly enough that turns our attention to the reason there is an interim title on the line. Georges St-Pierre's injury will force him out until late Summer at best. So his two prior foes will square off for the right to welcome him back to the Octagon in a title fight.

It's known that GSP was so infuriated with Diaz doing his Diaz thing and calling out the champ that GSP demanded the fight from Dana and one of the most surprising things in Prime Time history was when the shows second episode dedicated the last 10 minutes to the injured welterweight kingpin as he started rehabbing his injured knee. During the interview that anger was still fresh on GSP's tongue.

He could only talk about Nick Diaz and wanting to fight him. That GSP has a dark place himself. Much darker than anyone can imagine, and when he goes there, it's trouble. That is pretty shocking stuff from the usually amicable and professional face of the UFC. It was apparent that this was not the usual trash talk pre-pre-fight, but Diaz was able to set something off in GSP. Something that the UFC has never seen before. It just may be that GSP is the craziest of them all.

Saturday the fight Gods will probably side with Diaz, like they did with Rashad Evans against Phil Davis. Some fights need to happen, and even though it's a close fight going in, GSP/Diaz is what has to go down. Then Joe Rogan can definitely let rip a famous, "Craaaaaaaaazy." And he'll mean it.