Good news (for those of you who like watching a dude talk into a camera for short periods of time)! “The MMA Minute” is back for another episode, breaking down all the action from this busy weekend and giving you more insight than you probably needed into my personal life. This time I discuss which organization came out looking like the winner in the showdown between Strikeforce and the WEC, and then I more or less stare awkwardly into the camera until the strain of all the attention becomes too much for me and I burst into tears. That’s what it felt like anyway. Hope you enjoy it.
But if you thought it was tough to do a network TV promotional push with Brett Rogers doing all the work as the only fluent English-speaker in the main event, get ready for things to become even more difficult. Werdum doesn’t exactly speak the King’s English, and selling a fight between an inscrutable Russian and a fairly bland Brazilian to casual sports fans via a series of translators and facial expressions is no easy task. Maybe they can hype this thing through interpretive dance?
(King Mo accidentally gets some Rockstar in his mouth while attempting to lather the mat with it. Photo courtesy of Fight Magazine.)
Two competing MMA events on Saturday night made for a busy weekend of arbitrary numerical calculations for the Potato Index’s super computer. We didn’t even get to play our customary Sunday game of “Oregon Trail,” that’s how hectic things were. But the numbers are in from Strikeforce: Evolution and WEC 45, so let’s take a look at who’s up and who’s down after Saturday night.
Scott Smith +109 A technically brilliant performance it wasn’t. Smith was clearly overmatched, but he hung tough, wore Le down, and then put his power to good use. It might not have been the best performance of his career, but it’s one people will remember for a long, long time.
Cung Le -77 He can say his acting career had nothing to do with the loss, but something made him fade down the stretch. He got tired and he got lazy and then he got knocked out. It’s almost as if taking a fight between movie roles as a favor to your boss is a good way to get your nose smashed into a pulp.
Mike Whitehead enjoyed significant advantages in both MMA experience and sheer poundage when he faced off against "King Mo" Lawal at Strikeforce: Evolution last night, but neither could keep him from getting knocked into a wonderland of confusion before the first round was up. That might be partly because when Whitehead fights as a heavyweight he shows up looking a little more rotund than usual, which doesn’t seem to help his speed or explosiveness any. Or it could just be because Lawal really is as good as he says he is.
Whitehead came into this fight thinking he was getting hosed by being labled an underdog, despite having twenty-five more fights than Lawal. That vacant stare in his eyes as the referee comes over to pull Lawal off of him? We’d like to think that’s Whitehead looking into the abyss and seeing just how wrong he was. Maybe with a change of attitude and a little less excess weight it could have been him guzzling Rockstar like it was neon pink champagne last night.
Related: Only one undercard fighter missed weight for tonight’s Strikeforce event. Also, Mike Whitehead will have a 43-pound weight advantage over King Mo in their heavyweight scrap. CagePotato.com’s liveblog of the Showtime broadcast kicks off at 10 p.m. ET. Don’t be a stranger.
Since Cung Le came to MMA in 2006 via the untraditional route of San Shou, many fight fans are still unfamiliar with his early work. Well, that ends right here and now. As part of our attempt to get hyped for Saturday night’s Strikeforce: Evolution event (which we’ll be liveblogging, natch) we’re taking a look back at some of Le’s finest moments in the cage.
We begin with his MMA debut against Mike Altman in a 2006 Strikeforce event. Take note of color commentator Ken Shamrock‘s stunned disbelief at Altman’s game plan. Shammy is blown away that Altman decides to stand and trade with Le, and his concern proves to be well founded. Le picks Altman apart with ease before putting him to sleep late in the first round, proving once and for all that in all matters not related to finance, workout "supplements," and appropriate expressions of rage, you should probably listen to Ken Shamrock’s advice. Hope you’re paying attention, Scott Smith.
The Cung Le knockout-apalooza continues after the jump.
Since his submission loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 82 last March, Henderson has gone 3-0, scoring victories over Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, and Michael Bisping. Shields most recently picked up his 13th straight victory with a workmanlike decision over Jason Miller, but finished his eight previous fights, which included submission wins over Nick Thompson, Paul Daley, and Robbie Lawler. Compared to Shields, Henderson is larger, has fought more elite-level opponents, and has an obvious power advatange with his punches, but it’s hard to count Jake out when you look at the dominant run he’s had over the last four years. At any rate, it’s a great matchup, and it only makes sense for Strikeforce to put their new star into a title fight right away.
(Using real settings instead of a cheap green screen? Matt Lindland wouldn’t do that.)
It’s been too long since we’ve had Matt Lindland‘s particular brand of no-nonsense bad-assery in MMA. That’s partly because his last fight ended in a 37-second knockout loss to Vitor Belfort, resulting in a frightening few moments for the 39-year-old Lindland immediately afterwards. Turns out he was fine, just got caught, and all the other typical post-fight clichés, but the good news is "The Law" returns to action at Strikeforce: Evolution this Saturday night, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Lindland is sort of like the ornery grandfather of the MMA world. He isn’t about to put up with your bullshit, isn’t impressed with the way you’ve chosen to waste your life with internet porn and video games, and he isn’t going to lie to you about any of it. Tomorrow night he goes from facing one tough Brazilian opponent to another, as he takes on Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in what ought to be an intriguing clash of styles. Will Lindland’s suffocating wrestling attack and awkward, orangutan-like striking style be enough to pull off the minor upset? Or is Souza too young and too skilled on the mat for him?
What you may or may not know is that these two already met once in the submission grappling arena back in the 2003 ADCC. It was six years ago and there was no punching or kicking, so it’s not necessarily comparable to an MMA fight, though one man was clearly superior on that day. Check out the video after the jump, then let us know whether you think it’s a harbinger of future doom or just an irrelevant footnote.
(You know Donald, at some point the hat ceases to be an accessory and starts being a prop.)
MMA fans face a very minor conundrum this weekend. On Saturday night both the WEC and Strikeforce will venture back into the cage and onto TV screens, and even in the age of the DVR that allows us to never miss a fight or a re-run of “Designing Women” ever again, we still have to decide which is worth watching live and which gets mostly fast-forwarded on Sunday morning.
But again, this is only a minor conundrum. One look at the respective fight cards tells us that Strikeforce has more must-see quality fights, although the WEC still has a couple of scraps worth watching and maybe even losing some money on, assuming your gambling habit has been upgraded from ‘problematic’ to ‘compulsive’ by now, and we have every reason to believe that it has. Why don’t we look at some odds then, courtesy of BestFightOdds.com:
As excited as we’ll be to see both Fedor and Hendo fighting for free on CBS once April rolls around (assuming we make it through the winter without being eaten by wolves, and we never assume that), that puts a five-month gap between Strikeforce’s network TV events. We can’t help but pose the question: is that really the kind of scheduling pace that builds brand loyalty? Sure, it gives them time to stack the card using the full might of Strikeforce’s roster, but at this rate they’ll only do about two network TV events a year. Is that the kind of thing that builds a fanbase, or just tries to quickly exploit whatever existing fanbase is already there?
"Let me ask you a question. Do you think that there’s any guy we can’t get that I want? Other than Fedor [Emelianenko]? So far, he’s been the one guy we can’t get. But everyone else that we’ve wanted, we got. If I wanted Dan Henderson, I could’ve signed him…
For the money he wanted, he’s not worth it. He’s not a big pay-per-view star, he’s not a big attraction, and he’s not going to sell out arenas. He wants way too much and he doesn’t bring anything to the table…I could care less. Here’s the reality: If I wanted him, he’d be in the UFC. It’s not like, ‘F***, Strikeforce beat me out.’ He’s been a free agent for a long time. If I wanted him, I would have signed him by now."
There are positives and negatives to either decision, but the pressure’s on. The board members want answers and the Captain is tired of defending your crazy antics to the Comissioner. You’ve gotta make the call and make it soon. So what do you do, hot shot? What do you do!?
What we really want to know, however, is how long until the Noons and Diaz clans get to go at it again. There’s some serious unfinished business there, and with Nick Diaz’s recent wins over Frank Shamrock and Scott Smith while Noons was off being a mediocre pro boxer, maybe "King Karl" can see fit to give Diaz a rematch and settle this thing once and for all, weight classes be damned. Like the prophet said, "Thou shalt not be scared, homey." Only if/when those two do get together again, maybe Strikeforce shouldn’t plan on doing it California. MMA’s Rosa Parks still isn’t ready to make nice and give up his seat just yet.
Listen up, Strikeforce middleweights. If you woke up this morning feeling an unexplained aching sensation in your skull region, it’s not an allergic reaction to last night’s Nyquil and Vicodin cocktail, it’s just your body preparing itself for what’s to come. It’s all because terrifyingly aggressive Dutch striker Melvin Manhoefjust signed with Strikeforce to fight exclusively for them in the U.S. That means Manhoef will still be able to do his thing in Japan from time to time, but he’s expected to make his Strikeforce debut some time between now and early 2010, and is supposedly even being considered as a replacement opponent for Robbie Lawler on the December 10 "Evolution" event in San Jose.
The thing about Manhoef is, while he will almost certainly never be champion in an organization with so many adept grapplers, he’ll also never be in a boring fight. Yeah, he can be taken down and submitted, and ideally you’d like to see more improvement in that area of his game from a guy who’s been in the sport for that long. But the man is a human tornado of pain. To put it in terms Dana White would appreciate, if you had a basketball game on one corner, a baseball game on another, a football game on a third, and a fight on the fourth, a crowd of people would still walk to the next block to see Manhoef go crazy on some poor bastard. I mean, the guy knocked out Mark Hunt for crying out loud.
If you don’t believe it, get your fill after the jump. Unless you’re a fan of Sakuraba, Evangelista Santos, or intact brain cells.
According to MiddleEasy, Houston-based kickboxer/model Sarah “Sugar Foot” Ponce may be tapped as a competitor for the 135-pound women’s tournament that Strikeforce is planning for next year. Though Ponce has never competed in MMA, she’s a fairly seasoned kickboxer, with a 12-1 pro record and appearances in the World Combat League and the Wushu Tournament Beijing 2008. When she’s not modeling swimwear, Ponce hones her craft at Houston’s Kickboxing Gym with trainer Mike Altman. Could we be looking at Strikeforce’s next breakout female star? More photos of Sarah await you after the jump, courtesy of UjENA/UjENANetwork.
(Bad news like this is never easy to hear. Nick’s just going to have a minor freakout and then he’ll be with you in a moment.)
As any California resident with ADD and a desire to make jam bands seem worth listening to already knows, getting a prescription for medical marijuana in the Golden State is really no problem. Fighting for a living after smoking said medical marijuana, however, that’s a trickier issue.
Because the Compassionate Use Act only provides a defense to criminal charges, any argument that the Act would allow an athlete to use the drug without consequences to his or her license must fail. If the Court were to take up a similar challenge to discipline of a licensee, it would likely find that the Commission has a legitimate interest in whether or not an athlete uses the drug because marijuana could slow a fighter’s reflexes and endanger his or her health and safety in the ring or the cage.
Therefore, given the limited reach of the Compassionate Use Act and the rationale of the Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire Telcomm, the Commission may safely discipline an athlete without running afoul of any law or court decision.
It’s a fact of life in the world of MMA: when it comes to getting big paydays in a hurry, fame trumps skill every time. We saw it with Kimbo Slice, who made half a million to dollars to lose to a mid-level fighter in the weight class below him. We saw it with Brock Lesnar, who debuted in the UFC with just one pro fight to his credit and made $250,000 in guaranteed show money. But we also see it in small ways, such as Kim Couture’s $10,000 take for her losing effort in Strikeforce Challengers last Friday. By comparison, Kerry Vera, who starched Couture in the first round, made four grand to show and another four to win. Main eventer Tyrone Woodley made $3,500 and $3,500. His losing counterpart in that bout? He took home just $2,500.
So how is it that a 1-2 fighter who has yet to prove that she has the skills to warrant an appearance on TV can pocket the biggest check of the night on a card that features several more experienced up-and-comers? Simple. She shares a famous person’s last name, which makes her kind of famous. Sort of.
As Dana White pondered when Walker’s Strikeforce signing was first announced: "Which athletic commission is going to let this guy fight? Who the fuck are they going to find to fight Herschel Walker? A guy in a wheelchair?” We now know the answer to the first question is "Florida," the state that previously signed off on Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock at the same venue last October. As for Dana’s other hypotheticals, we hope that Herschel Walker’s opponent has some kind of disability, considering that Walker has only been training in MMA since last month, and it wouldn’t really be fair to make him fight a guy who has both fighting experience and the use of all of his limbs. I mean, if Strikeforce really wants to put Walker against Fedor Emelianenko in the spring, they’d better give him a beatable first opponent.
Kerry Vera and Kim Couture are set to go at it tonight in the Strikeforce Challengers event in Kansas City. Since they both share the names of famous UFC fighters who just faced one another, it probably seemed like a genius idea to Strikeforce. But "Sugar Free" is a Couture in the same way that Ivana is a Trump. When a name helps that much you hang on to it, even if you didn’t hang on to the husband.
So what do you think, is your interest in this bout harmed by the somewhat disappointing display put on by their male counterparts at UFC 105? Or does Kim’s shiny weigh-in bikini erase all those memories from your mind? Not trying to juge or anything, but when these girls show up wearing more than you…
But just because they technically lost the overall ratings battle to a network TV event (which is expected), doesn’t mean they can’t hype their own numbers in the young male demographic that the UFC and Spike TV collectively own.Just check out this handy breakdown they provided:
I was supposed to be the fifth of six fights on the undercard, and then they were going to go to the main card which was going to be aired on CBS.I was warming up backstage, getting ready to go on, and they told me that they were going to skip us to make sure the women got their fight in, and then after the Fedor-Rogers fight they were going to let us fight after that.I said, ‘Whatever, that’s fine.’I unwrapped, chilled out for a little bit, then as it got closer to the main even I got warmed up again.When the Fedor-Rogers fight ended I heard them call back on the walkie-talke to the athletic commission that the last fight was going to be a no-go.I was kind of confused at first.I wasn’t sure what was going on so I stayed wrapped and stayed warm, just in case, but they came back and told us for sure that it wasn’t happening.They told me the reason was that in the beginning of the fights there was some problem with production.I don’t know, I was kind of surprised by it all so I wasn’t paying too much attention to what they said.
("I’m gettin’ too calm and emotionless for this shit." Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)
— Though it was initially rumored that Fedor Emelianenko could be out-of-action for 4-6 months due to a jacked-up left thumb he suffered in the first round of his fight against Brett Rogers, his condition has been upgraded. Sherdog reports that the Last Emperor underwent surgery yesterday to fix his injury, and will have a half-cast removed in just 4-6 weeks:
[T]he fighter’s reps said two pins were placed in Emelianenko’s hand to correct the dislocation, and that the bone had not fractured… Emelianenko also said that his nose was not fractured, as was earlier suspected…Emelianenko said he planned to return to training, sans striking, upon his return to Russia later this week. M-1 officials said Emelianenko could headline his second co-promoted Strikeforce card in the first quarter of 2010.
— Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos is expected to make her first Strikeforce title defense against Marloes Coenen on January 30th in Miami, according to MMA Weekly. Santos was originally slated to compete on last Saturday’s "Fedor vs. Rogers" card, but her return was pushed back after she suffered an injury during the 2009 ADCC‘s in September.
Though the entire broadcast of "Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers" averaged 4.04 million viewers — placing it behind Kimbo-headlined CBS cards like "EliteXC: Primetime" (4.85 million viewers) and "EliteXC: Heat" (4.56 million viewers) — the ratings for Saturday night’s card shot up during the main event. MMA Weekly reports that 5.46 million home viewers were in attendance between 11:00 p.m. and 11:15 p.m., making the Emelianenko vs. Rogers match the ninth-most-watched fight in U.S. MMA history. You can check out this slightly outdated list to see where that puts them, but basically, the fight fell just 15,000 viewers short of Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill, and about 1.8 million viewers short of the reigning champion, Kimbo vs. James Thompson. Senior Executive Vice President of CBS Primetime Kelly Kahl was pleased with the numbers:
“I think its impressive we got 5 and a half million viewers to see a guy that to a good part of the country was an unknown. The young male demos speak to MMA’a increasing popularity. To go toe-to-toe with college football says something about the growth pattern of MMA.”
Not coincidentally, the 11:00-11:15 p.m. block coincides with the time when the UFC’s "Main Events" broadcast on Spike had just ended — so a large part of the bump could be attributed to MMA fans switching from one channel to another. (No word yet on how Spike did that night.) The question is: Can Fedor draw even better ratings in his next CBS appearance, now that he’s more of a known quantity? Will he ever approach — dare we say it — Kimbo-esque levels of stardom?
(Photo courtesy of FightMagazine.com, where total Midwest mark Neal Taflinger makes the case for more MMA shows in the Midwest. Weird.)
Sometimes – not often, but every once in a while – I really wish Dana White would change up his script just a little bit.Nothing drastic.He doesn’t have to call Shinya Aoki the world’s best lightweight or insist that there’s plenty of room for all promotions under the big tent of MMA.But maybe just once he could offer a reaction to a competitor’s event that isn’t painfully predictable. For instance, he could say that he enjoyed it, or even that he just totally forgot it was on. You know, get passive-aggressive instead of aggressive-aggressive for a change.
“CBS would be out of their mind to put that rinky-dink [Strikeforce] . . . on the air again . . . and without that backing, [promoters] won’t have the money to pay [Emelianenko]. …The guy just got his face smashed in by Brett Rogers. Do you know what Brock or Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez would do to Brett Rogers?It’s time to bring this guy [Fedor] in, to see Brock Lesnar smash his head.”
Here’s some footage I took at the Strikeforce post-event presser on Saturday night, which all the main event fighters showed up for. You’ve already heard what Fedor had to say, but check out the reactions from everybody else…
— Fabricio Werdum says he’s earned a shot at Fedor, who Werdum believes is the best fighter in the world. After a week of rest, he’ll be back to training hard.
(‘I don’t want to freak you out or anything, Brett. But having you here in my arms, it just feels right, doesn’t it?’ Photo courtesy of SI.com)
After a brief layoff for scheduled maintenance to its supercomputer, the Potato Index is back to sort through the winners and losers of Saturday night’s Strikeforce event on CBS with its arbitrary numerical rankings system. Huzzah!
Fedor Emelianenko +86 It’s hard to get a big boost in the Index when you’re a 5-1 favorite going into the fight, but he delivered with another right hand murderball, and even gave the casual fans a little blood for their trouble.But were the ratings good enough to get CBS’s attention?
Brett Rogers +4 So he didn’t shock the world.Honestly, who expected him to?He still landed some good shots and took a couple as well, but the biggest positive for him is how he performed on the mat.He’s still got some improvements to make, but he showed that he’s not all hype and a trendy haircut.
Two days after we were introduced to the new-hotness that is Marloes Coenen, I had the opportunity to be charmed by her in person. The Golden Glory veteran’s domination of Roxanne Modafferi at Fedor vs. Rogers secured her shot at Cris Cyborg‘s 145-pound Strikeforce title, though Coenen was pretty much the last to find out. In the above quickie-interview, Coenen discusses how she matches up with Cyborg, and her eerily focused demeanor before a fight. (You kind of had to be there — hopefully the video will emerge at some point.) Will Marloes be able to exploit her grappling advantage over Cristiane Santos when they meet up in January?
Following the Fedor vs. Rogers press conference on Saturday night (more on that later), I was one of several MMA scribblers to corner Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker for a family-style follow-up interview. Some highlights are above: Coker revealed that Marloes Coenen will be the next challenger to Cris Cyborg‘s 145-pound women’s title, threatened that he would be Strikeforce’s heavyweight champion if Alistair Overeem continues his shucking and ducking, and gave his generally positive analysis of Strikeforce’s first CBS show. Regarding his rivalry with the UFC, Coker says "Every day when I wake up, I’m thinking about what Strikeforce needs to do, not what somebody else needs to do, or another company’s doing" — which seems a lot more pleasant than Dana White’s morning routine. More viddys to come…
Here’s the video of last night’s Strikeforce main event on CBS for those of you who, like me, relied on your DVR to record the entirety of last night’s event, only to become enraged when the recording cut out early in the first round. Or if you just couldn’t tear yourself away from another gripping episode of "America’s Most Wanted," that’s cool too. Who knows? One of these days you might see your neighbor on there. Then won’t you be glad you missed things like awesome fights and the weddings of family members in order to stay home and stare at fugitives on TV.