There are two UFC events this weekend: One in the Asian gambling haven of Macau headlined by Michael Bisping and Cung Le, the other in the MMA hotbed of Tulsa, headlined by Benson Henderson and Rafael Dos Anjos. Quick! If I lined up Rafael Dos Anjos, Raphael Assuncao, and Renan Barao in a row, could you tell me who was who? Sadly, I doubt it.
Now, listen here loyal followers: Even with an event as weak as this Saturday’s card in the boonies of Maine, I wasn’t going to leave you without your ALar fix. In my mind, this card serves one purpose: to let Dana White hang out at his Maine vacation compound during fight week. That’s about it, I mean, OSP/Bader is a solid light heavyweight tilt, but it should by no means be a Main Event in the UFC in the year 2014. You can see the full card after the jump.
What a Great Week!
Ed and Jean DeCosta hosted a training camp on August 4 through 9, 2014, in celebration of the dojo’s 40th anniversary. Congrats again to Ed and Jean, and thank you for your many years of dedication and service to others! I think all in attendance can agree that they did a great job planning everything, and the training was top notch.
Master Nakahodo, Master Higa, and Mr. Nakasone viewed and critiqued katas for five days straight and presided over a dan test on the sixth. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank them as well!
The opportunity to meet karateka from throughout this country was an added bonus. We put together an e-mail list for networking purposes. I know I met a lot of great people I’d like to keep in touch with. Please e-mail me if you’d like a copy of the list.
A recap of the week including pictures, training notes, and a special video follow after the jump!
If you practice Uechi-Ryu or Shohei-Ryu karate in New England you likely know that my senseis, Ed and Jean DeCosta, owners of the Okinawan Karate Dojo are hosting a training camp on August 4 through 9, 2014, in celebration of the dojo’s 40th anniversary. Congrats Ed and Jean!
Seminars will be during mornings and evenings this week. Master Tsutomu Nakahodo, 10th dan, Master Toshio Higa, 10th dan and the President of Okikukai, and Asao Nakasone, 4th dan, kata champion in 2010, 2011 and 2012 of the Okikukai World Championship are the special invitees. They will hold a special dan test at the end of the week followed by a farewell banquet.
I hope to see many of you in attendance. Either way, check here for notes, pictures, and some of the training tips I gather throughout the week!
PS – I have been fortunate enough to train with Masters Nakahodo and Higa in the past. Here’s a clip of Nakasone san performing Sanseiryu. If you watch it, you’ll see why I’m so excited to meet him this week!
Like a million years ago (ok, last December) I announced that local artist, Marissa Dziedzic, and I wrote and illustrated a children’s book all about Shohei-Ryu karate. The title is Cranky Kenny Learns Karate, and, if you couldn’t guess, it’s all about how karate helps a young boy to control his temper and to treat others peacefully and with fairness.
We promise the book is fun as well as educational–even for kids not interested in the martial arts. The original publication date has been pushed back a bit, and we hope to have the final draft out by the holidays. Here are two things to tide you over until then . . .
(Psst! A leaked preview of the book is after the jump!)
Tonight’s Main Event FOX has all the makings of a legendary fight. One fighter possesses an iron will that simply refuses to let him lose, while the other combatant unleashes unbridled brute force with every swing of the fist. When you ask fight fans about Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler, you will get fervent responses telling of vicious knockouts, righteous comebacks, and outright dominant performances. Both fighters have put together some of the best UFC fights in recent memory and now are meeting to determine the number one contender for Johny Hendricks’ Welterweight strap. What more can you ask for?
Even though both of these athletes take up residency at the top of the 170 lb. division, each took a different route to get there. Matt Brown is the everyman. He is the ultimate story of resolve and determination. In the midst of legal troubles and a drug addiction, Brown decided to leave his party life behind and commit himself to the fight game.
Seeing him walk into the house on TUF 7, you never thought he was much more than a bar brawler with a ton of heart. He seemed like a guy that would be sitting alone at the end of the bar, sipping a snifter of Wild Turkey, that you had ZERO intention of messing with. Nothing more. Even after earning a UFC contract due to his attack first, ask questions later style, we didn’t think the scrappy Brown would amount to much. Boy, were we wrong…
After a seemingly fireable three fight losing streak in 2010, Brown has completely turned over a new leaf in the cage. He says defiantly that, “No one wants this more than him,” and it is hard to argue with that fact. He has rattled off seven straight wins with six (friggin’ six!) coming by KO or TKO. The man has a will that I have never seen in the cage before. He can battle back from the limits of consciousness and return fire to his opponents with reckless abandon, bombing his way to victory. Simply put, the man is must watch TV.
Opposing the “Immortal” Brown will be long time veteran and fan favorite Robbie Lawler. It is tough to not like a guy that has been storming into his opponents range and throwing brutal hooks, straights, and kicks for over a decade. At first, Robbie Lawler was a phenomenon akin to BJ Penn. They showed up early in the ZUFFA era, kicked ass, and went home. They each had “debates” with UFC management and left to find greener pastures. Lawler saw some success in EliteXC and Strikeforce, but his heart never seemed to be fully in the game in those days.
A return to the UFC sparked something in Lawler. It turned him into one of the fiercest fighters to ever walk on the planet Earth. Like Brown, Lawler punches first and thinks of the consequences at a date to be determined later. In his second UFC run, ‘Ruthless’ has perfected a hybrid of punishing power and complex technique. The way he slipped punches in his title fight with Hendricks was nothing short of masterful. The beating he put on the technically gifted Rory MacDonald was an awakening. No longer was Robbie just a brawler, he was a technical striker that learned to harness his otherworldly power.
To reiterate an aging trope, this fight is a physical representation of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. What will give in first? Brown’s iron chin or Lawler’s infallible technique? Either way, this is going to be a hell of a fight. As Dana White always says, “fighting is in our DNA.” Turn on a good fight, and everyone in the room will watch. This is the fight to invite your “casual fan” friends over to watch. This fight could be the Griffin/Bonnar of the FOX era. Make sure you are on your couch with a frosty brew in hand to witness it. I know I will be. (Update: I wrote this whole thing before Brown missed weight, but regardless, it should still be epic!)
In case you have been living under a rock for the last week, Dublin’s own Conor McGregor is headlining a UFC card in his hometown on Saturday. If you don’t know, McGregor is the brash, cocky, and deftly skilled featherweight that has been plastered all over your favorite MMA news site for the last 7 days.
In the vacuum created by the extinguished stars of Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre, the UFC universe is in dire need of a fresh hero. In my opinion, Conor McGregor is just the man for the job. That isn’t just the Irish blood running through me saying that either, I believe the organization could bank on this kid for years to come.
First, the Notorious One can handle the media like no other. Few fighters can give a thought-provoking and entertaining interview like Conor can. Just look at any of his appearances on The MMA Hour or his recent walk and talk with Ariel Helwani. He has a dignified, yet defiant tone when he speaks. He can talk intelligently about the sport’s past and where he is going to bring it in the future. All while letting you know he is undoubtedly going to crack his opponent’s skull come fight night. Do you think any other fighters the day before weigh-ins are going to take the time to fully engage an MMA journalist? I doubt it. His personality comes naturally, which is a rare trait for athletes in this sport.
McGregor has a colorful personality that is genuine, yet still cocky enough to sell a scrap. He isn’t the type of guy to say he will fight, “whoever the UFC wants” next. He will loudly call out anyone and everyone from the Featherweight title holder to the Lightweight champ if he wins come Saturday night. In an organization lacking characters, McGregor fills a role that desperately needs to be casted for the sport to continue to thrive.
Second, the man has a nation behind him. As Helwani pointed out in that interview, the last time we saw a country show such rampant support for an MMA fighter it was with GSP and Canada. This event in Dublin was the quickest sell out in the history of the UFC. That was with Conor slated to fight the humdrum Cole Miller. Diego Brandao isn’t much of a step up, but he will show the fans in attendance the definition of a ‘stand and bang’ scrap. Conor said it himself, he is bigger than the UFC in Ireland. More people know who he is, rather than what he does. That will change come Saturday night, when Ireland is introduced to the addictive UFC machine.
Even after putting on the performance of a lifetime against Jon Jones, Alexander Gustaffson didn’t have enough pull to get the rematch booked in a stadium in his native Sweden. Conor McGregor could pack a stadium in the UK to the rafters, with thousands left standing in the parking lot. I don’t think it even has to be a title fight. Throw him against Swanson, Edgar, or say… Nate Diaz in a soccer stadium and let the seats fill themselves. He has the market cornered and can basically authorize the UFC to print money in the UK.
Finally, and most importantly, the kid can fight. He always puts an emphasis on his movement and how it is just… different. “I don’ move like errbody else in dis division,” he says. He’s right. His low base and rapid direction changes make him one of the most unusual fighters in the sport. His striking technique seems to be a combination of boxing, karate, and stuff he saw on YouTube then tried in the gym. Have we seen his ground game fully tested? Not really. Training with a mat stud like Gunnar Nelson on a daily basis certainly should help improve that area though, right? The kid has it all. A will to finish, a warrior’s spirit, and elite technique. If you ask me, that is all you can ask for when creating the ideal UFC fighter.
Conor’s prediction of holding UFC gold prior to the end of 2014 may be a bit of a stretch, but would you bet against the guy? He has triumphed over every goal he has created for himself.
Sign with the UFC? Check.
Earn a stoppage in his first UFC fight? Check.
Overcome a major knee injury? Check.
Bring the UFC back to Ireland? Check.
What’s next? A title fight on European soil? Being the third two-division UFC champion? Who knows… Though, let it be know that the sky is certainly the limit. I for one, am putting all of my eggs in the Conor McGregor basket. He is not the fighter the UFC deserves, but the fighter that the UFC desperately needs.
Tonight two of the most electrifying Lightweights on the planet will tangle in Atlantic City. In a city used to a Jager fueled boardwalk scuffle, this tilt should put all of the intricacies of MMA on full display. You can’t ask much more from a Wednesday night card with other notable fighters like Edson Barboza, John Lineker, and Pat Healy entering the cage. This specific post will take a look at the icing on the cake of this event, the five round scrap between Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and New Jersey native Jim Miller. On to the preview!
“You know what is going to happen!”
“Why do you want to watch a bunch of sweaty dudes jump around in tights?”
These are the questions that the run of the mill professional wrestling fan faces whenever the subject is brought up. Admittedly, the questions are somewhat valid. The fighting is indeed more acting than combat. The outcomes are very much predetermined. And yes, many of our favorite wrestlers parade around in nothing more than glorified underoos. Yet still, I find it within myself that I must advocate for this supposed “silly” form of entertainment. Pro wrestling is a hybrid of athleticism and entertainment that is overlooked by many fans of the traditional martial arts as well as casual sports fans. They fail to see past the pyrotechnics, crappy acting, and oversized muscles to see the purest form of American entertainment that currently exists. I hope by the end of this treatise you would be willing to watch a minute or two of Monday Night Raw when you hastily scan past it in your TV listings.
In the midst of this brief MMA lull, I have a few pro wrestling posts in the pipeline for my loyal readers. This initial post will hopefully change some opinions about the adolescent f0rm of entertainment I have reconnected with in the past few years. I’ll describe why I came back to the WWE Universe in a subsequent post, but this one is all about changing preconceived notions.
Sure, this stuff is “fake”. John Cena really doesn’t punch Randy Orton in the face thirty times a night. Daniel Bryan’s ‘Yes Lock’ really doesn’t threaten to snap the limbs of his opponents. Though, does Jack Bauer really shoot 30 terrorists in the head on every episode of 24? Does he really save the world in a mere 24 hours once or twice a year? No. No, he doesn’t… But the millions of people that watch ’24’ aren’t considered idiotic, white trash neckbeards who date their cousins now are they?
There is a stigma attatched to pro wrestling that is just unwarrented. To the casual passerby, the wear and tear that these athletes put on their bodies is an afterthought. WWE Superstars are some of the toughest SOB’s on the planet. The fighting is fake, but would you sign up to do what Jeff Hardy did up there? The impacts of the falls are all too real and these athletes are trained to take them with the least resistance possible, two hundred nights a year. Lebron James plays maybe 100 games a year if his team makes the playoffs. Peyton Manning tops out at 19 if he wins the Super Bowl. Jon Jones is lucky to fit 3 fights in 12 months. John Cena wrestles a full match 3-4 times a week, 52 weeks a year. Add in Pay Per View weeks, and the guy puts on a show around 200 times a year. Combine that with his intense committment to the Make A Wish Foundation and you would be hard pressed to find a busier individual than the 15 time WWE Champion. Sure, he isn’t catching a right straight from Roy Jones Jr. every night, but he is putting his body on the line more often than you go to the grocery store.
Oh, so the outcomes are predetermined? That turns you off from the product? Jack Bauer always saves the world. The UConn Women’s Basketball team wins every game by 20 points, but the stands are still packed. When is the last time the guy didn’t get the girl in a crappy RomCom? The outcomes of pro wrestling are predetermined, but it is not like they are openly disclosed to the fans. Even the most dedicated internet ‘smart’ fans are surprised on a nightly basis. They may hate the outcome, hence the popular ‘Cena Sucks!’ chant. Still, it is entertainment, there are certain themes, tropes, and outcomes that the public demands for. Let there be no doubt about it, pro wrestling certainly serves them up in spades…
Those sweaty dudes jumping around in their underwear are some of the best entertainers on the planet. I didn’t say athletes, and I didn’t say actors. WWE Superstars are the ideal hybrid of the two. Tell me Roman Reigns, John Cena, or Big E couldn’t put the biggest, baddest dude at your gym to shame in a lift-off. Tell me CM Punk, Dave Bautista, or Dolph Ziggler aren’t going to put a whipping on some of the weekend warriors at your dojo. I mean, the former UFC Champion does happen to be the king of the sport right now, and we all know that his credentials are as legit as they come.
This post may not sway you to become an avid consumer of the WWE product, this post may not make you respect professional wrestling. Still, as your favorite MMA blogger and a clear fanatic of that sport, I compel you to give sports entertainment a shot. Don’t let the societal stigmas of the sport hold you back. Next Monday Night, grab a cheap domestic brew, sit down on your weathered leather couch, and check out Monday Night Raw. Sure, it can be cheesy, hokey, and laughable but that’s the point. It supposed to be fun, enjoyable, and entertaining. Watch for the athleticism, the dedication to the craft, the pure entertainment. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Just say ‘Yes!’ to pro wrestling…