Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Upcoming MMA Preview Espectacular

Todd Martin: Alright, so we've got three MMA cards coming up in the space of a little over the week, so we're going to have our semi-annual MMA preview discussion. First up on Saturday is the Ultimate Fighter Finale. To start with, how do you think the season has progressed compared to the previous two?

Mike Coughlin: I think it's been wonderful. The first season was special because it was, well, the first season! No one knew what to expect and people like Chris Leben and Josh Koscheck stepped up in a way that I doubt anyone will ever forget. TUF 2 was kind of boring from a personality POV. But this season has really been fantastic. I knew who all the fighters were which is a lot more than I can say about any other reality show I've ever watched.

Todd: I've been a big fan of the season as well. I've heard criticism of it among some for the quality of the fights and the quality of the fighters, but the show is fundamentally about building personalities, and I think this season may have done an even better job than season one in that regard. Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock have hyped their fight well, Michael Bisping is set up to become a star, and they've got a few other prospects that have looked good as well. I think it's a success. Have you seen the Bisping interview on UFC.com?

Mike: Not yet.

Todd: You should check it out. It's hilarious. He so matter of factly runs down how he is superior to Josh Haynes in every aspect of the game. Care to disagree with the man?

Mike: Not at all. He's a tough British bastard and is one of the best things that could've happened to the UFC. He's a damn good fighter, with an exciting style, and a fantastic personality.

Todd: Do you think Haynes will last longer than Ross Pointon?

Mike: I don't know much about Haynes' chin, so if it's decent he'll... aw hell, no. No, I don't. I could sit here and try to convince myself that he will but sometimes you've just gotta say, "He's got no chance in hell."

Todd: Of course the last time I did that, I was watching Andrei Arlovski lying flat on his face. No wait, the last time was Royce Gracie. So the second to last time.

Mike: It is a fight and "anything can happen in a fight," but there's no reason this thing should last past the 2nd round unless Haynes has a Fujita-like chin.

Todd: The other final has Ed Herman vs. Kendall Grove, in what at least has more division as far as what people think will happen. Going into the season, I think Herman would have been the favorite, maybe even a heavy favorite. But he looked mediocre on the show, Grove looked good, and he's been training with Tito for the fight. Who do you like?

Mike: I was strongly for Ed a week back but have seen my pendulum swing the other way a little lately. Kendall is one of those guys that fights above his skill level and he can only be helped by being with Tito (at least from a cardio POV), but Ed has the Couture pedigree. I hate to bet against a guy who has that northwest background, is a strong wrestler, and can control the cage. I still like Ed, but think this could be a really good, dramatic bout.

Todd: It certainly has the potential to be, but UFC has had such luck with the season finales that it's going to be hard to match the drama of Luke Cummo-Joe Stevenson, let alone Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar. I favor Herman, too though. This is a weird analogy, but Grove kind of reminds me of Josh Burkman. Two guys with a lot of potential that are perhaps getting thrown to a higher level of competition than they should at this point in their careers, and would be better off building a series of wins against lower level fighters.

Mike: I can see that. Burkman is a helluva talent. I think Kendall needs to be crisper. He's tough, and that's carrying him at times, but eventually his sloppy striking is going to get him hurt. Sometimes I look at it as, "I think Ed would do better against Rich Franklin than Kendall would, so I'll pick Herman."

Todd: Ed looks so much smaller than Franklin though. I just imagine him getting massacred.

Mike: Oh, completely. I don't think he'd do well at all, just that he'd do better than Kendall.

Todd: I've heard you're a big fan of Kenny Florian, or "KenFlo" as he is known in hardcore Florian fan circles. Is this man the next UFC Lightweight Champion?

Mike: Naw. He's a good fighter, and surprisingly tough in a lot of ways, but I think the next UFC LW champion is either Spencer Fisher or Sean "I can't believe they'll let someone this powerful fight at LW" Sherk.

Todd: See, I just don't get how he ended up in the main event of this show against Sam Stout. It seems to me they should have sent either Rashad Evans-Stephan Bonnar or Chris Leben-Anderson Silva over to this show as the main event. I guess you could call me a Florian hater, but I don't see him as being particularly good to where he's one fight away from getting a title shot. Do you think he can beat Stout?

Mike: My first reaction is to say "yes" but then I remember Stout just beat Fisher, and I'm such a Fisher mark it's not even funny. I think KenFlo will have trouble getting it to the ground and that Stout will take him apart with strikes. But, Kenny's a smart fighter and brains can be an enormous advantage inside the octagon. Still, he just doesn't have that "it" thing that I'd want out of a champion. Stout by KO.

Todd: I'm totally with you on that one. Being you've professed to being a Fisher mark, can I get a second convert to the idea that his fight with Matt Wiman at the last show was one of the best fights of the year so far?

Mike: Oh hell yea! It was a fight that made both bigger stars. It was exactly what MMA is supposed to be: two guys displaying all aspects of the fight game in an effort to win. Just a beautiful fight all-round.

Todd: Any impressions on the rest of the TUF 3 card?

Mike: I'm interested in Jesse Forbes-Matt Hamill, but everything else is just kind of "there." A lot of these guys are somewhat evenly matched so they could be "exciting" fights, but I don't think they'll be technical masterpieces.

Todd: It's on the weaker side in my estimation. I think a lot of those guys could be fighting on their first and last UFC card. The obvious exceptions to me are Kalib Starnes, Hamill and Keith Jardine. But that's not all. UFC comes back on Wednesday for another Ultimate Fight Night special, headlined by Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben. How does this rank as far as all the live fights UFC has ever run on free TV?

Mike: It's one of the best free fights they've ever put out there. Buuuut, I'm a hardcore fan, so I know how awesome Anderson Silva is. Most people probably don't know the first thing about him. I hope people watch though, because I think it'll be really good.

Todd: I think it's still at a point where live UFC fights is enough of a draw, and they've got Bonnar and Leben on the card for casual fans. Obviously, UFC is looking to book the winner of this against Rich Franklin at some point in the relatively near future. Who do you like?

Mike: I'm gonna go with Silva. He can be absent minded at times, and doesn't always fight to his full potential, but if he's on, he's as good as they get at 185. I think he'll be too quick for Leben. Chris is a tough guy (you go around urinating on people, you better be tough), and has incredible power, but Silva fought Lee Murray, who was also a tough guy with heavy hands, and he mauled him. Silva should win by decision, but only because Leben is too tough to be finished.

Todd: I hope Silva wins, because I want to see him against Rich Franklin, but I favor Leben. I think Leben's smart enough to know he has to take it to the ground, and Silva has shown he has flaws on the ground. A slugfest would be ideal, but I don't think Leben's going to trade too long. And he's got a good chin, so he can afford to be stupid for a couple minutes and then get the sense knocked into him that he's better off with a different strategy.

Mike: Either way, the fight should provide a good contender for Franklin. I think the victor is a legit top guy.

Todd: Then in the semi-main we've got Rashad Evans and Stephan Bonnar. I really don't like this matchmaking, because both guys are coming off controversial decision wins where they didn't look all that great. Matching them against each other to me reminds everyone of that, and a boring fight could do real damage.

Mike: Bonnar doesn't really have boring fights, and occasionally has amazing fights (duh). But, he's not someone I really care about that much. Same with Rashad. I think it's a recipe for boredom.

Todd: I think Bonnar scores a decision win. You?

Mike: Yea. He's a more well rounded guy, who's been fighting longer, and he's used to the big stage. He should get the decision.

Todd: From there it's a pretty loaded undercard, that to me is worthy of a regular UFC card. Let's run through it quickly. Jonathan Goulet vs. Luke Cummo.

Mike: I think there's a secret mole in Canada because there sure are a really high percentage of guys from up north. Goulet is a good fighter who looked horrible in his last fight because he got caught by a world class striker. Prior to that, he had a long winning streak with some good wins (Shonie Carter, Tony Fryklund). Cummo is a weird nerd who can do a lot. I'll go with Goulet in what should be a really good fight.

Todd: To me, that fight is going to be interesting as far as what it reflects about Joe Stevenson. If this is a really good fight, Cummo indeed looks legit. If Goulet can beat him more handily, I think it says that Stevenson hasn't been preparing like he should for his fights. As far as which scenario develops, I'm not sure, but I do favor Goulet. Then there is Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves, which very well could be the fight of the night. Total tossup to me. Do you have a favorite?

Mike: I'll lean towards Alves, but I think I've got this inherent bias to favor non-Americans because I think, "If he's from Brasil, and he's fighting here, he's gotta be good!"

Todd: Ha! I wonder if you could get the same reaction if you went to fight in, let's say Spain. Oooh, he's an American. He's gotta be good.

Mike: I'll fight any bull at anytime!

Todd: Dave Menne vs. Josh Koscheck. Clearly UFC would like Koscheck to win over the former champion Menne. I think Menne finds a way to win this fight. Maybe a submission.

Mike: I think Menne has something like 10 times the number of fights of Koscheck, but Josh is a true athlete in every sense of the word. With the exception of one blip, his pro career has been spotless. I think Koscheck will get it to the ground and pound Menne. Dave is tough, and should be able to avoid submissions, but if this is at 170 (which I believe it is), I think Menne may be drawn and weakened.

Todd: Mark Hominick vs. Jorge Gurgel. The hits keep coming. To me, this is more intriguing than Florian-Stout. What do you think of the fight?

Mike: I'm gonna go with Gurgel. 3 of Hominick's 5 losses have been by submission (including in his last fight). However, I could see Jorge getting over confident and wanting to stand in an effort to "prove" something, in which case he could be in trouble. But, once it's on the ground, Jorge will show his superior BJJ skills.

Todd: I want to see Gurgel win, but I'm really hesitant to pick him coming off so much down time, and I don't know if he's back to 100 percent yet. We saw what that kind of layoff can do with Frank Mir, although obviously Gurgel isn't going to come in looking like a bodybuilder. I think Hominick is winning. And any other thoughts on the other three fights?

Mike: None really. Kind of the usual filler with a bunch of guys who are solid, but unspectacular, fighters.

Todd: I like Jason Lambert. I could see him having some extended success. Finally, last but not least Pride is coming up next weekend with the quarterfinals of the Open Weight tournament. What do you think of the matchups as a whole?

Mike: They're interesting. I'm somewhat surprised they didn't make Kazuyuki Fujita/Hidehiko Yoshida in an effort to advance one Japanese star to the final four. With the exception of Fabricio Werdum/Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, all of the other fights feel like the "dream matches" the OWGP first teased us with.

Todd: I disagree. I'm actually kind of disappointed with the matches, really. I also was expecting Fujita-Yoshida, and I figured that would open up other matchups. The matchups don't do that much for me. Really, Werdum-Nog to me is the most intriguing match, because Nog has rarely been tested by guys who are really good submission guys. Obviously though, the show will do very well in Japan based on Fujita-Wanderlei Silva and Yoshida-Mirko Cro Cop.

Mike: I think they'll still get at least one Japanese into the finals though, as I can't see Silva beating Fujita. Fujita is too big, too good of a wrestler, and simply cannot be hurt. It could be a long night for the Brazilian.

Todd: That could be interesting if it goes to the judges. Because we've seen the fans get restless with Fujita before when he just held guys down for a decision. When Ricardo Arona did that against Silva, the crowd got behind Silva and he got a judges decision that maybe should have gone the other way. So even if Fujita is just able to wrestle to control the fight, if he can't finish Silva and Silva gets a few flurries standing, I could see Silva getting the decision.

Mike: I'll say it here and now: watch for Fujita to rock Silva. He's rocked a few guys in his day, despite having kind of crappy boxing, and Silva can be caught!

Todd: Okay, Yoshida-Cro Cop. We all know the drill. Yoshida gets it to the ground he's got a good shot. If he doesn't, he's in trouble. The problem to me is that Yoshida caused Silva problems by pushing the pace. Pushing the pace is the last thing you want to do standing against Cro Cop. He's better off being tentative like Nog and waiting for an opportunity. I don't see him doing that, so I see Cro Cop winning via KO.

Mike: If you can get CroCop moving backwards, though, he's had problems. Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, and Mark Hunt all had a bit of success in forcing Mirko to constantly be on his heels. Of course, the big difference is that unlike those guys, Yoshida has no real striking skills. He's a tough guy, and I think he'll get it to the ground, but CroCop looks to have picked up enough on the ground that I think he can stall for long enough to get it standing. The only "X factor" is Filipovic's cardio. He has gassed in the past and if he does that here, he could be in trouble. But, I'd still favor Mirko via KO.

Todd: Cro Cop's a really good counter striker, though. Fedor was able to go in and then get back out, plus he had the threat of the takedown and GNP. With Hunt, he got caught with some ridiculous shots but he's got granite for a head so he couldn't get knocked out. It's a different ballgame with Yoshida.

Mike: Well, I think Yoshida would argue he's a decent takedown threat as well!

Todd: Yeah, but there's something a lot more intimidating about the prospect of Fedor getting on top of you and throwing down those punches.

Mike: lol. Definitely.

Todd: Barnett vs. Hunt. This should be a fun fight, and a lot is going to depend on conditioning. Obviously Pride would like to see Hunt win, but do you think Barnett will upset their plans?

Mike: If Barnett got up every day and ran 5 miles, he'll win. That's almost all he needs to do for this fight. I love Josh as a fighter because his transitions are some of the best in the sport. Very few guys can go from striking, to the clinch, to GnP to submissions as fluidly as he does. As long as he doesn't gas, he'll win. If he gases, then Hunt will KO him.

Todd: I think Hunt has a good shot of beating him even if he's in optimal shape, in part because Barnett is so comfortable in various aspects of the game. That was the Pedro Rizzo fight in a nutshell. He looked really good, but found out sometimes you're better off trying to run for the hills from the other guy's strength.

Todd: Nogueira vs. Werdum. What do you think?

Mike: Nog should win. He's a more complete fighter. Pawel Nastula was an out of this world grappler and Nog never seemed in serious danger with him, and I don't think Werdum's takedowns are strong enough that he can pin Nog down and do light GnP.

Todd: I agree, although Nastula wasn't as versed in Nog's specific game as Werdum will be. Nog's worst performance outside of Fedor in Pride may have been the Ricco Rodriguez fight, and I think Ricco submitting him in Abu Dhabi had a lot to do with that. And then in the undercard we have Vitor Belfort-Yoshiki Takahashi and Cyborg-Kazuhiro Nakamura. Do you have any interest in seeing Belfort any more?

Mike: Absolutely. I find Belfort to be completely fascinating. He's either going to have a great fight or one of the worst things you'll ever see! This will probably be the latter.

Todd: The thing is, Belfort looking bad just makes me feel sad. I want him to do well but I have no faith in him. Well, that's it. Lots of MMA fun coming up, and then we've still got WFA, Pride Bushido and a UFC special coming in the near future. Should be a fun summer for MMA.

Mike: Agreed. It's getting to the point where there's almost too much MMA.... Almost!

Todd: Oh come on, there can never be too much MMA. Says the fool who will deny ever saying that three years from now.

4 Comments:

Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

Great dialogue.

The MMA issue that you two didn't cover is why hasn't Dana White manned up and brought in Rampage?

Is White afraid that Rampage would make Liddell his bitch again, like he did in Japan? Does this send a bad message that the franchise guy could be beat by a newcomer to UFC fans? Or is White trying too hard to protect Liddell's image?

I showed the Rampage/Liddell fight from a couple years ago to some of my buddies who are casual MMA fans and they were shocked that Liddell looked so ordinary.

6:18 AM  
Blogger 17Haze said...

Great stuff guys. I know that you guys must put a lot of time and work into that but it would be cool to see that more often. I've been watching the UFC for a little over a year now and have started watching PRIDE for a couple months and I love them both. I'm a relative newcomer to the sport and I hope it continues to grow.

I have went back and seen the fight with Liddell and Rampage and I believe Chuck has gotten much better since that fight. I think it would be a whole new ballgame if there ever was a rematch.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

I've been watching Pride for a few years now and its clearly superior to the level of fighting on most UFC programming.

It'll be interesting to see how Rampage does against Lindland at the WFA show. If Rampage handles him, like I think he will, then I hope Dana White steps up and gets an offer out to Rampage.

I'm pretty confident that Rampage could still handle Liddell. UFC could feed Rampage one or two guys that he could crush so then UFC fans could know who he is and then Rampage could challenge the winner of Babalu-Liddell. That is totally playing fantasy booker but it's what I'd like to see happen.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous toddmartin said...

I really don't think Dana is afraid of what Rampage would do to Chuck, as Rampage suggests. If Dana is acting as Chuck's friend over UFC president, he would bring in Rampage, because I'm sure Chuck badly wants the rematch. I also think Dana and Chuk think they would win the rematch. To me it's just a matter of money. They don't want to spend big money for guys without a name in the US, but to me that's stupid with Rampage, because Rampage has unbelievable potential and could gross UFC buckets of money with just a couple personality pieces. I would do exactly what Dave suggests as far as using Rampage. And as far as a prediction for the rematch, I'm not sure. Rampage made the first win look easy, but then again so did Couture against Chuck, and Rampage has had some weaker performances since his fight with Chuck. I think I slightly favor Chuck, but I would root for Rampage.

11:50 AM  

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