Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grantland: Fantasy Island Competition (Loser)

A fantasy writing opportunity? Keep dreaming. (Getty images)

Bill Simmons' site, Grantland, on ESPN launched a contest to find their next fantasy football writer. Now, as a purveyor of sports/fantasy knowledge, aside from the odds being against me, I was forced to enter at the mere shot of getting into the competition.

The rules were simple enough. Pick your top 5 fantasy players and 1 sleepers, keep it to 750 words, and be original. Ok, I can do that. As a matter of fact, I can easily do that.

As I focused in on writing my 750 word essay, I started to think of the implications of what I was doing. The essay would only get me into the contest, where a varied point system would be developed among the 10-12 other contestants in order to pick a winner at the end of the football season.

Would you believe it, but some people took the cynical approach and "thanked" Grantland for offering to get free fantasy football content for a year and then offer up a "meager" contributor contract to write for Grantland for a year (and I guess potentially longer if you're the bee's knees).

I write and maintain Lockration. not because I have some delusion of becoming the next Bill Simmons or that ESPN or Yahoo or CBS will shoot me an email saying they like my stuff and want me to work for them full-time. I know that requires this site to get probably close to 100K hits a day, which this site is currently running behind by about 99,989 hits. I would write about fantasy sports, MMA, major sports, or that sport where the horses dance around with braided manes if I could earn a living off of it. This is fun for me. This is leisure. Each post is basically a first draft I write off the top of my head, do a little research for links and such, and I post it. All-in-all, I can write something up in about 40 minutes. This is my zen.

This takes me back to the implications of entering the contest and wanting to really, truly win. I was having dreams of winning, I felt it in my guts. You'll see in the entry below for my sleeper pick of Kyle Rudolph, I make some very similar comments to a Bill Barnwell (see. Copycat Contract) article posted days later! I was basically writing as a Grantlander already! Now, of course, I'm no where as prolific, good, or anything positive compared to Barnwell, but to me it was a sign.

If I entered this, did my best, and didn't win, then what? Would I sully my zen? Validation is a word I always tied to a weakness. Validation is something a person needed to know they belong. How could they possibly ever know if they were good enough if someone didn't pat them on the back? I thought it was weak, lame, and unnecessary. But as I wrote the article, submitted it, and waited for the results, what I was looking for was...validation. I wanted a pat on the back welcoming me to a new life and career path with unlimited potential and making me probably one of the happiest people on the planet.

In that instance I saw when people say validation, what they meant. Most stories you hear of people needing validation are famous cases. A QB getting the starting gig, a baseball Hall of Famer tabbing a youngster as the future of the sport, a maligned NBA superstar finally getting his first/overdue championship. These are not instances of weak people but people that are seeking to find that cozy spot in life where they know and feel they've always belonged.

That's what getting into this contest would have represented to me. So, now that the  results are out and I'm posting this article, clearly that did not happen. While I was bummed for about 10 minutes, I was happy to realize that this did not mess with my head. I didn't say screw this writing stuff. I was happy to continue on this path that I'm making and come of it what may.

Plus when I saw some of the entries that were posted online for this contest, they were horrible! I mean HORRIBLE! So I know that my entry wasn't the worst, but it wasn't the best either.

The gist of what I've gathered regarding the winners submissions they were a little more over the top than my entry. My thought process was, they're asking for the Top 5 Fantasy players and a sleeper not to judge your football acumen (as many Top 5's are the same thing) but rather narrow the scope to judge the best writing. So maybe I should have authored another essay but only made it Game of Throes themed or something more outlandish to really...show...my chops.

But it's also possible the other articles were just vastly superior to mine. It's happened before, it'll happen again. Nonetheless here are my Top 5 Fantasy picks for Football (note: some of the links may not work since I copied and pasted it).


Arian Foster, RB
Last year dramatically shifted the way fantasy football is played. Four of the top six all-time single season passing yardage records were set in 2011, tight ends put up wide receiver numbers, and numerous cable packages geared towards fantasy football revealed to an untold number of significant others how pathetic the person they thought they loved really was.
With all that changed in fantasy, some things stay the same. You take the best running back available with the #1 pick. Foster, the pontificating point-smith of fantasy, has said he doesn’t care for the hobby, but he certainly plays like he does by averaging 140.25 total YPG and 1.03 TD/G. Also, for those nervous about injuries, or Ben Tate, or Ben Tate injuring Foster Showgirls style – don’t play scared.
Aaron Rodgers, QB
Rodgers is fantasy’s cool ocean breeze at the par 4 No. 8 at Pebble Beach, as innovative as a James Murphy track, and as comforting as a guaranteed 20 points a week (which Rodgers did in every week last year but one). He threw all of 6 INTs last year while scrambling for an additional 3 TDs. Also, he’s the only player that has been in the top three in fantasy points the last four years.
His football environment breeds success. He may not get much better, but at his numbers that’s perfectly alright.
Ray Rice, RB
Rice may be the best running back in football, but that doesn’t mean he’s the best fantasy running back. Aside from being healthy (playing the full 16 the past 3 years) and coming off a career year (eclipsing his personal record for total TDs in a season by 7), the concern with Rice has always been his supporting cast. The thing that makes him as valuable as he is – is his greatest weakness: he’s all the Ravens have on offense. Every week the opposing team’s defense focuses on stopping Rice. Now you can file that under ‘E’ for Easier Said Than Done, but accounting for 48% of a team’s offensive touches week by week can lead to inconsistency.
LeSean McCoy, RB
You know you’ve arrived when you’re known by your nickname. Happened with my buddy, Patch (he had a birthmark over his left-eye…kind of like the Target dog). For Shady, scoring 20 total TDs helped him dash and cut his way to the elite RB table and grab the big piece of chicken.
Shady’s fantasy potential is contingent on the exact opposite issue Rice has. “There aren’t enough TDs to go around!”[1] He’s grabbed 40, 78, 48 passes the past 3 years in Philly’s hybrid West Coast offense and led all backs in FootballOutsiders.com’s effective yards. The Eagles have many weapons, but even if Shady loses a couple goal line scampers, he’s still elite…although you might want to discuss that with this blasphemer.
Calvin Johnson, WR
There isn’t a more fun player to watch play football than Johnson. He passes the eye test, science test, and nerd test. He needs to be included in any-and-all, “What if this guy played this other sport” and “who needs their own YouTube channel” conversations.
There are some Optimus Primes sullying the Megatron love-fest. The pesky regression police have increased their jurisdiction from fantasy baseball to fantasy football.  No receiver has caught the number of TDs (16) Megatron did last year and matched/increased that number the following season. But he did score 73 more fantasy points than the next best WR, and that receiver has him or him hurling hog-hind and reading defenses. In a shallow pool, take the elite level wideout.
Kyle Rudolph, TE
Football is a copycat sport. Someone finds a Madden-type-glitch in the game and people follow suit.  Looking at the breakout stars of 2011; all signs pointed to tight end and Kyle Rudolph. He may just be Gronk-incarnate.
The 6’6 2nd-year pro started only 1 game (played 8), but he managed to haul in 3 TDs. Along with a nose for the end zone, it’s also important to show that Rudolph can utilize his size to catch the ball and stretch the field. Looking at advanced stats, he was able to do this with an above-average catch rate of 66.7% and 20% of pass attempts his way being beyond 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.  While he has been injured during the preseason, the Vikings have the offense to make Rudolph a fantasy factor and continue the TE trend.



[1] Quote: Scared Fantasy Owner

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fun with MMA Headlines

I find it humorous that subsequent headlines on ESPN.com discuss whether current UFC light heavyweight champ Jonny "Bones" Jones could use some humility in his game, along side an article about Chris Weidman discussing how he can beat middleweight honcho Anderson Silva.

These are different writers discussing different fighters in different situations, but the script should be flipped on this. In reality, it is, but for the sake of writing something interesting, not so.

Anyone that honestly assesses the situation without bias it's amazing Bones isn't more arrogant. He comes across as wildly confident, and I think to myself, if I was his age, beating up the toughest guys on the planet, having money thrown at me...man, I'd probably get drunk and crash my $200,000 Bentley into a telephone pole. Ok, that happened to JBJ, and it was his most egregious mistake as a young UFC champ. But still, there is a difference between humility and embarrassment. From what I gather about Bones, is that he does have humility about him. Some of the stuff he says comes off as too planned, leaving a taste of fake humility in some people's mouths, but at least he acknowledges what humility is. People are looking for him to not be humble, but to be embarrassed. To be unsure. To lack confidence. Those things are taught through experience. Maybe in his past, he learned those things talking to girls or singing in the choir or playing defensive lineman in pee-wee football, but he hasn't experienced that in the Octagon.

Meanwhile, Chris Weidman is talking about how he can give Anderson Silva something no one else has. While I have no doubt Weidman believes he can win, that doesn't amount for much. Chael Sonnen believed he could beat Silva, and he almost did once and got crushed the other time. I wouldn't pick Weidman to beat Chael at this point, let alone go take down the greatest MMA fighter that ever lived. Certainly all this talk is to draw attention to Weidman, makes some noise for a potential opponent that Anderson Silva probably has little to no idea of who he is.

The purpose of these articles is clear, but the scope might need adjusting a bit.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fantasy Funkhouser: Deadline Passing Doesn't Mean You're Dead

Carlos Gomez apparently needs to hire a fantasy baseball PR firm. (Getty images)

Most fantasy trade deadlines have passed, so the only resource you have is what's out on the waiver wire. Before trades went the way of Brett Gardner's fantasy value, managers should have fortified their team. Top teams should have looked for proven players to make that run through the playoffs, where fringe playoff teams will be looking for more lightning in a bottle (Manny Machado, if you please). Either way, both are in the same boat...the lone bastion of fantasy value available outside of your squad is on the waiver wire.

This doesn't have to be a death sentence, nor a reason to stand pat. This time, above all else, is a time to ride streaks, ditch the "names", and be on the constant look out for players that can have the greatest impact on your team for the rest of the year. Flags fly forever, this is not the time to be stubborn and wait for Mike Napoli to make it back from the DL and turn things around. Where you drafted a player, his perceived value are all irrelevant. All that matters are hot streakers, category stackers, and toe tappers.

I made note of some value plays earlier in the year, so let's see if we can find some treasures. Here are some players to target that are available in half of Yahoo! leagues.

HOT STREAKERS

These are guys that are and have been on a tear for at least a couple of weeks. They contribute across the board, and while their star power may be limited, it should be around long enough to help your squad. This isn't uncommon throughout the year to find a guy on a streak, but finding a player that finishes the season strong is a major win.

Jon Jay, STL - OF (21%)

Did you know Jon Jay played in 159 games for the Cardinals last year? Maybe if you're Jon Jay you did, but for those of you new to baseball, that's almost a full season worth of games. Aside from hitting .297 last year, there wasn't much to write home about for Jay. In the past week, however, he's been placed atop the Red Birds' line-up and responded accordingly. He is 15 for his last 28 (.538), and he's been walking at a higher rate than he ever has.

That ability to get on base has paired nicely with a dramatic turnaround in Jay's stolen base percentage. Prior to this year, Jay was 8-19 in stolen base opportunities. This year: 13-15.

Ryan Ludwick, CIN - OF (45%)

To balance the force in the year of Josh Willingham, the NL has their own version of the Hammer, Ryan Ludwick. Both former power hitting corner outfield prospects have had some success in the bigs, but inconsistent play and injuries have gotten them off track to this point. Now, at 33 and 34 respectively, Willingham and Ludwick have come into their own. While Willingham is long gone in your league, Ludwick has only hit .344 with 8 homers in the last 30 days. Those 8 homers in that span puts him on par with Buster Posey, Carlos Beltran, and, of course, Willingham.

Now, Joey Votto has been out for much of this time, but when he does saunter his way back, Dusty Baker has no choice but to keep Ludwick in the line-up. Now, we all know Dusty can make some interesting decisions (Mark Prior was asked for an interview, but did not return Lockration.'s calls), but to bench or spot start a guy with 21 homers would be a stretch. Also, keep in mind that while Votto will gobble up RBI opportunities like Tim Tebow as Jesus gobbles up web hits, but Votto is an on base machine. Ludwick will still get his chances.


Carlos Gomez, MIL - OF (30%)

The ying to Willingham's yang (sb.mlb.com)
Initially touted by the Piano-man himself, Gomez has come on as of late for the Suds (sorry, Minny). Owned in ONLY 30% OF LEAGUES, this is perhaps the biggest head-scratcher we'll probably find on this list. There is no reports of Carlos Gomez doing something directly reprehensible to 70% of the fake hardball community, but it must be something. Even historically, Gomez may be a bit of a post-hyper, but he's not Alex Rios for god sake! Don't think that name change fooled us victims, Alexi Rios.

Gomez certainly strikes out a lot and doesn't walk. Typical WARNING signs, but in spite of that and Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke curiously dropping Gomez to 7th in the line-up the past couple of games instead of batting him ahead of formerly magnificently quaffed Ryan Braun (maybe that high testosterone test just comes from having a great head of hair?), Gomez over the last month has only [deep breath]: scored more runs (22) than Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Andrew McCutchen; out homered (6) Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, and Curtis Granderson; out RBI'd (14) Braun, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Adam Dunn, and Robinson Cano; stolen more bases than anyone not named Rajai Davis (who we will get to). [Big exhale]. But, yeah, that's all. Could his run be coming to an end? Possibly, but the owners who have had him aren't regretting their decision like you may be.

Erick Aybar - LAA, SS (37%)

Started off horribly, good team, scoring runs, premium position. Could also go for Josh Rutledge or Machado. I'm still winded and annoyed that more people don't own Gomez...

CATEGORY STACKERS

If you're coming up short in one category, these guys will help push you along. Whereas the hot streakers are more overall contributors, the value for these players comes with the potential to win you a category by themselves, or provide a major boost.

Salvador Perez, KC - C (35%)

At the catcher position, Perez can flat hit. Since coming back from a knee injury that took away most of his 2012, the young catcher has already clocked 8 home runs. That's already more than pre-season faves Joe Mauer and Alex Avila. Granted the amount of people that drafted Mauer for power should be gently told it's not 2009 anymore. His hot finish to the season can provide an upgrade right now for those teams looking for power, but Perez should also be noted for 2013 as a sleeper.

Rajai Davis, TOR - OF (22%)

If the question is, "Where do I get steals from?" Rajai Davis is the answer. He clearly has the green light to do as he pleases on the base paths for the best stealing situation this side of Miami. Now, Davis is notoriously streaky. Getting hot enough at times to melt the hockey rinks in Toronto and can get cold enough, no not to zamboni those rinks to a smooth hockey playing surface, but to play himself out of a job. At the very least, if he can keep it going for a couple more weeks, he's not at risk of losing his job with the likes of Anthony Gose playing everyday.


Eric Young, Jr., COL - 2B, OF (17%)

You waited. Oh, you were complacent. You had Jason Kipnis on his way to a 30/30 year and surefire keeper status, and hey, you drafted him late, but if he got injured or whatever, ultra utility man Michael Young; owner of numerous 200 hit .300 AVG seasons to back him as well as anyone else at 1B or 3B. Yes, life was good back on June 1st.

Kipnis had you sitting pretty in June. (cleveland.sbnation.com)
Since then, not so much. Kipnis hit the wall, and I mean THE WALL for his second straight Summer derailing his momentum into future star this year and raising questions as to what the hell happens to him once the mercury rises in the thermometer. Too many Bud Light limes? He hasn't hit a homerun since June 17th, and his average has dropped 30 points. It's been dark days in Kipnisville.

MY has been more of a year long disaster. Some people, including your humble narrator, bought in to MY's early struggles as a buy low candidate. I didn't buy low enough. Young has batted .257 over the past month with zero homers and 10 RBI. That really takes away from his average for the year of .269 and 45 RBI. Young has always been consistent, the only difference is this year he is consistently bad. The Rangers have done everything outside of cut the brakes on the car he drives to the ballpark everyday to get him out of the line-up. Top prospect Mike Olt has been called up to little fanfare, and there are even rumors tippity-top prospect Jurickson Profar may make an appearance as early as Monday to challenge Young for playing time.

So after the rubble clears, there's EY. Eric Young has too been anointed the everyday lead-off man in Colorado. His speed, and recent power streak, along with 2B eligibility make him an ideal play. Of course, this recent hot streak has coincided with a Colorado homestand at Coors, but high altitude doesn't cure speed. EY can run with the best, and can help stack that category.

TOE TAPPERS

The absolute best strategy down the stretch is playing match-ups and streaming. Some teams, just by the nature of their schedule, will have better match-ups, pitchers can wear down or spring forward this time of year. This might as well be the Doug Fister Memorial because last year and this year he has basically turned into a Cy Young candidate the last 2 months of the season. It's just those other couple months of the season he needs to work on.

Lucas Harrell, SP - HOU (12%)

Buried on the worst team in baseball is a 10 game winning pitcher. Lucas Harrell has been an ace for Houston. Now, that's a little different than being an ace in Houston, where that was Wandy Rodriguez until he was shipped to the Steel City. But Harrell has been on a streak as of late. Since the All-Star break, he carries a 2.06 ERA and 38 K's in 43 2/3 IP. Now, assuming management is still paying attention in Houston, Harrell's late season explosion may be cut short due to an innings cap. He's over 140 as of now and threw a grand total of 68 innings the past two.

Mike Minor/Kris Medlen, SP - ATL (42%/34%)

The Braves have a deep staff with vets and young guys with live arms. Minor and Medlen fit into the latter category. The staff is so deep that with Tommy Hanson's imminent return from the DL and new acquisition Paul Maholm pitching very un-Paul Maholm like, the Bravos are moving to a 6-man rotation battle royale over the next 2 weeks where the best and healthiest will emerge. I'd say Minor has a bit of a lead on Medlen, since Medlen was on bullpen duty before he got thrown in, but Medlen has been pitching better than Minor over the past month. Also, don't sleep on another top prospect, Julio Teheran. He put together some strong outings in AAA, and could see a September call-up. Nothing is guaranteed, but such is life in a post deadline world.

Brett Anderson, SP - OAK (5%)

Anderson is currently on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery. Recovery isn't pretty for many pitchers, even great one's like Adam Wainwright, but Anderson was an up and coming ace in Oakland. His rehab starts have gotten progressively better and his velocity is where it needs to be, but control is always the last thing to come back from TJ. He's worth a flier because he has the pedigree and plays in that ballpark. Make a note if you have an open DL spot (and if you do shame on you!), Anderson should be back within 2 weeks.


The Funk-man says: "You know, I thought Ryan Ludwick needs more support."(screenrant.com)


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Slobblog: Tashan - SWAG on Infinity


We know how you feel, Will. (fanpop.com)

"Dude come over,, [sic] we need you here" - text message sent from a Slob hours before Slobfest.

An urgent message from a Slobfest member. Something must be happening at Tashan, and it must be awesome. Some thoughts on what that could have been:


  1. Indian star Aishwarya Rai may be in the house dining on some of Tashan's Best of Philly rated Indian cuisine.
  2. Another celebrity may be in the house. Just recently food gurus Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey have been seen out and about in Philly.
  3. Another celebrity/sports related idea.
  4. A curry wet t-shirt contest.
  5. And, I started running low on ideas that didn't include famous people or hot chicks.
Upon my response to this urgent message, it turns out this was not a rallying cry, but rather a distress signal.

The Thursday we Slobs were due to meet up at Tashan, there happened to be another event booked there as well. Swagger Night. Or, should I say, SWAGGER. The details of SWAG are linked, but basically it's a happy hour thrown once a month at Tashan by the Philly chapter of LGBT. So what a couple Slobs walked into was a happy hour for any willing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgendered individual in Philadelphia. Needless to say they were overwhelmed and needed back up (there may or may not be photographic proof that these Slobs were getting their SWAG on).

Can't be sure, but I doubt this is a part of a Bear Weekend.
Now, we here at Slobfest are open to all creeds, sexes, religions, colors, or other all-encompassing adjectives to get their Slob on and enjoy our company, so this is nothing against the LGBT, but rather a humorous tale of strangers in a strange land. A la Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Doogie Howser, MD.

But alas, SWAGGER at Tashan was merely a coincidence, not an avenue for a "very special" episode of Slobfest where a Slob comes out to the group. So while we were appreciative of the attention, learning new terms like "Bear Weekend" and "Daddy's Kisses," and the continued awkwardness throughout the night it was time to sit down and dine on some modern Indian Cuisine.

The Slobfest crew was playing a little shorthanded, while one long-time member returned from an extended absence due to test taking and Vegas gambling, another 3 were on the shelf for the evening. Even at a 5 top, we were still a formidable Slobfest force.

Tashan is like no Indian place you've been to. Overtly sleek and elegant the ambiance of this new establishment from Tiffin owner Munish Narula is meant to enthrall just as much as the food. The kitchen is stainless steel, exposed, and surrounded by a large bar, booth and table seating that hardly makes you feel, or smell, like you're at an Indian restaurant. 

It's not delivery, it's Tikka paneer on lentil dough.
Even at a glance at the menu would leave one guessing. Beef? Pizza? Yes, it's all there with an Indian flair along with an extensive alcohol menu. Tashan certainly takes its chances stretching the noted curry, spice, and tandoor flavors to the extreme.

While some Indian traditionalists question the concept of messing with just how great "regular" Indian food is, or dealing with expensive Indian food it can be a little contradictory to how a person typically enjoys this type of cuisine.

At Tashan, they are able to mix some traditional food (butter chicken) with some more off-the-wall ingredients like venison or King crab. The key is the balance of still serving Indian food, but outside the confines of what typical Indian food is.

That is not to say that Tashan strays from it's roots that far. You can still help yourself to a big bowl of naan, which is always appreciated.

NAAAAAAAAN!

As we started to order our food, it's important to note that Tashan is family style. So while normal people would have known this and shared amongst the group, we each took on our own apps and entrees so the service was slow regarding getting all of us Slobs our food in a timely manner. Some were picking apart naan as others feasted on Kobe kababs and Mangelorean sausages (no SWAGGER jokes were said at the table), but we eventually all got our food, but any food dropped off at the table was quickly devoured.

One Slob called this the best food he's ever had at Slobfest, while most others seemed to agree this was not only a great meal, but worthy of a re-pick for a future Slobfest or even potentially taking a date here. That is high praise for sure.

Leg of lamb, and traditional chicken bowl.
If there was a complaint about Tashan, our waiter was either terrible at his job or hated us. It probably didn't help that upon requesting the hot hostess to be our server, she went ahead and tried to find a replacement for the waiter. Needless to say, Ryan didn't leave his post and it was a struggle to get water, food, beer, or virtually anything else one would request from a waiter. Now, did we request a female because we were a group of men at SWAGGER night? Perhaps. Hey, the cinnamon ringed drinks, orange sherbet colored shirts, gelled hair, and manicured facial hair didn't help our cause. Perception matters. We are Slobfest of course. 

The other downside came at dessert. Now, Indian food is not known for dessert, but we heard these donuts they had were the tops. Two or three separate people went out of their way to recommend these things, so of course a couple of us were suckered into these dry, non-flavored bricks of, I guess, chocolate? Even though DJ G-Jamz creme brulee caught my eye, I was left disappointed.

One Slob ordered the flaming coffee, of course. What wasn't known is that Ryan in all his incoherent mumbling, sounding like Droopy Dog self actually prepared this table side. Not going to lie, it was cool and impressive. Even our neighbors across the way were enamored, leading to the best exchange of the night.

Flaming.

Guy in Striped Shirt: Could you send me that picture.
Slob 1: I can't, but he can.
Slob 2: Uh, yeah sure.
Striped Shirt: Can you send it to me on Twitter?
Slob 2: Uh, I guess.
Striped Shirt: Do you have Twitter?
Slob 2: No.

So in an attempt to not get a guys number, Striped Shirt's request was passed around like a hot potato eventually falling to one Slob who ended up with a business card and probably an unfulfilled request for a certain photo. Should have sent him to Slobblog!



All in all the night was...interesting. Certainly a completely different experience than Slobfest has ever had culturally or culinarily. It added an element for sure to the festivities and a grand old time was had by all. While I still may lean a bit more towards a $10.95 dinner buffet at a traditional Indian joint, Tashan made an impression, and I'm sure we will return.

Screw you, donuts. You sucked.
-Slobs Out.

Tashan
777 South Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA
267.687.2170


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Looking for a Fight: UFC on Fox 4 - Men of Mystery

Rooby-rooby-roo! It's fight night. (wikipedia.org)


Mysteries can be interesting. Most of them are able to bring an entire story full-circle. Develop ideas or drop some hints in the beginning, take the viewer/reader/etc. on a wild chase, and upon the conclusion reintroduce those early hints for the big reveal to get that always important, "Of course!" reaction.

The most consistent form of mystery story telling is of course Scooby-Doo. Just when Shaggy, Scoob (sometimes Scrappy), Fred, Daphne, and Velma roll up in the Mystery Machine and meet the old in-keeper, carnival ringleader, librarian, rich businessman who is apparently in need, by the time the show is over and the literal mask comes off, and every those initial characters were, shock, the villain who would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids.

Didn't see that one coming.
Important to how any mystery unravels isn't so much the conclusion, but how everything leading up to that conclusion ties into what you know, what you didn't know, and how unexpected and caught off you were by the result.

UFC on Fox 4 on Saturday will not only be providing potentially the best fight card Fox has ever had, but it will also be taking the viewers on it's on magical mystery tour with some of the most enigmatic fighters in the organization. Mauricio Shogun Rua, Brandon Vera, Lyoto Machida, and Ryan Bader have all shown elite talent and limitless potential, and also seemed incredibly beatable and crushed under the weight of expectations from themselves, fans, and media. Having all been whooped on by Jon Jones doesn't help one's aura of invincibility either.

Each fighter has had their ups and downs. Aside from Shogun's time in Pride, sustained success has been hard to come by. The way the mystery of these fighters' UFC career has converged in Los Angeles. After Dana White's own "Call Me, Maybe" impression with Rua v. Vera being the #1 title contender fight, maybe, after some backlash from fans, the UFC Pres left things a bit more wide open to include both 205 fights.

Sure, this might be to add some excitement to a Fox card, much to Alex Gustafsson's Swedish chagrin, but we do know no matter the winner, should Jones beat Dan Henderson in September it'll be a II.

The fight surrounded in the most mystery is Lyoto Machida v. Ryan Bader.

Machida with his mojo.
Bader himself had a lot of momentum going until he met Jones in the Octagon. Since then, his one-dementional fighting and inability to put the mix in mixed martial arts set him for a shock loss to the nearly (at the time) retired Tito Ortiz and two losses in a row. Two wins followed, and he actually has the most momentum going into this weekend.

Of course, he's also going against a fighter that couldn't be more different from himself, Machida. Bader is a strong, powerful wrestler with a straight-forward mentality has to track down the notoriously elusive Machida. A fighter who once had an era...that lasted for one fight.

As Machida looks to turn around a scary sight after being choked unconscious by you know who. There is a need for him to regain his mojo. The idea that Machida can't be figured out is a myth. People have done it, and the way to do it is to pressure him, but not chase. Overwhelm him, but not open yourself up to counter striking.

It's hard to imagine that the crumpled man on the ground during that fight with Jon Jones also front jump kicked Randy Couture into retirement and one of his canines into press row, but that's how talented Machida is. His reputation of Brockaphobia (fear of punches) has stalled his progression by becoming too passive. He's saying the right things leading up to the fight, although you have to imagine his confidence is high against Bader. Machida should have a big advantage in the striking and footwork categories. A confident Machida is a dangerous one. Also keep in mind he's extremely tough to take down, even for a guy like Bader.

BREAKDOWN


I look for an old school performance from Machida. He wants a shot at the title, and while a presumably great performance by Rua will trump anything Machida does, it will make Machida aggressive and implement his game plan against Bader. Bader will have to move in, lacking the foot speed to really cause Machida much trouble.

With a focused Machida, I would expect a TKO for the former LHW champ. Bader was dropped up close by a punch on the button by Tito, and Machida knows how to pick his spots. 2nd Round TKO.

Interesting note, Jon Jones tweeted that Bader has a big right hand, the same kind of looping punch that Rua used to give Machida trouble. Worth noting because, well, no one solves mysteries like Jonny Bones.