UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. Brown is a must-watch for anyone with a pulse

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?

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Truly Immortal.

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…

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Comeback city, population Matt Brown.

 

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.

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Ruthless victory.

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!)

Are you not entertained?

Are you not entertained?

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Is Conor McGregor the Star the UFC Needs?

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.

article-0-1C1D0A0700000578-862_306x423First, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cowboy Up! A Quick Look at the UFC Fight Night 45 Main Event

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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!

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In Defense of Sports Entertainment

“It’s fake!”

“You know what is going to happen!”

“Why do you want to watch a bunch of sweaty dudes jump around in tights?”

Listen to ALar, because Stone Cold says so!

Listen to ALar, because Stone Cold says so!

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.

Do you even lift, bro?

Do you even lift, bro?

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?

115There 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.

The Streak is over!

The Streak is over!

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…

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The Champ is Here! A UFC 175 Preview

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Here we go!

If you’re an avid MMA fan like yours truly, you have been yearning for this weekend of fights for some time. After tolerating skimpy cards from the world’s largest MMA promotion over the last few months, we finally get a card that is worthy of our attention from start to finish. As July 4th is upon us, this is the one weekend a year when the pop culture world at large actually pays attention to this little sport we call MMA. With Ms. Rousey’s newfound Hollywood stardom, there are going to be an unprecedented amount of eyes on this grandiose event. Let me break it down for you in the preview!

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An Appetizer to the Feast: A UFC Fight Night 44 Preview

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(Author’s Note: I won’t be discussing that laughable Fight Pass card going down in New Zealand. I just feel bad for the fans over in the land of kangaroos for shelling out cash to see that one live…)

We all know what is coming next week: UFC 175 and the TUF 19 Finale back to back! Think of those events as the main course and dessert of our respective MMA palettes. This weekend’s Fight Night card in San Antonio can be looked at as, say, the appetizer to the looming feast. While Fight Night 44 isn’t a guaranteed home run, it should at least be able to wash the taste of that insufferable UFC 174 card out of our mouths. I’m never going to complain when I get to watch Cub Swanson fight on free TV with title implications on the line. On to the preview!

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To Vancouver we go! A UFC 174 Breakdown

UFC-174-flatBoring week in the world of MMA, eh? With the UFC running damage control on The American Gangster’s failed drug test and subsequent finger pointing, there has been little to no fanfare from the promotion about their surprisingly solid UFC 174. The UFC may have scaled back their expectations for this event, as the Flyweight title has never headlined a Pay Per View card and the little guys don’t exactly move units in the MMA market. With UFC 175 quickly approaching, I wouldn’t blame the UFC for scaling back the hype-train on this card that won’t likely appeal to anyone outside of the established hardcore fanbbase. Still, as you scan over each and every fight on 174’s Main Card, it would be hard not to let out a “Dang, I wan’t to watch that fight!” There are few ‘up and comers’ on this card, even better there are fewer foreign crowd pleasers. Vegas even handicaps 4 out of the 5 fights as near ‘Pick ‘em’ situations. Everyone on the card is an established MMA entity and in case you weren’t already worked into a fervor, Andrei Freakin’ Arlovski is back in the Octagon! Need I say more??? On to the preview!

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Home Dojo on a Dime Part Two

Here’s a long overdue follow-up to our old post about building a home dojo on the cheap.  We’ve done a lot of upgrades since starting the Meriden Martial Arts Club, but it’s still dark and dingy–perfect for tough guys and gals who train old school!

Check it out and let us know what you think.  Do you have any other low-tech tips, tricks, or equipment for a garage gym or home dojo?  Let us know!

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Right back at it! A UFC Fight Night: Henderson v. Khabilov Preview

UFC-Fight-Night-42-posterLike most of the online MMA community, I was unable to endure the fight marathon that the UFC provided last Saturday. Whether it was the irrelevancy of many of the bookings, or my social obligations, I had little motivation to sit down and watch the fights from either foreign event. Now, this Saturday’s Fight Night card from Greg Jackson’s Albuquerque stomping grounds, comes to us with the pure excitement that last weekend was lacking.  The headliner may not light a fuse under your MMA fire, but the rest of the card is full of sneaky great tilts. You could combine both of last weekend’s globe spanning events into one, and still not even come close to the talent level on display on this card. I’ll break down the top six fights for my loyal minions as only I could, full of false confidence and snark! On to the preview!

Main Card on FOX Sports 1 (Vegas favorite in Italics)

Erik Perez v. Bryan Caraway

I look at this fight and the Main Event as the ‘bread’ holding the ‘meat’ of this card together. Not that warm, crunchy bread you get at a fine Italian eatery, that Subway bread made with yoga mat chemicals… This fight doesn’t even come close to getting my fight sweats going. Perez is slightly overhyped due to his valuable connection to the Mexican community, while I fully believe that Bryan Caraway’s girlfriend would win this thing if it was a Triple Threat match. Both guys have lost unimpressivly to Takeya Mizugaki within the last calendar year. If you are losing to Mizugaki at this point in his career, you may wan’t to pump the breaks on any sort of hype train. Vegas sees this as a pick ‘em scrap, with some books giving Perez a slight edge. This is most likely due to his affiliation with the hometown Jackson camp. If anything, I can see him using his slightly superior wrestling to grind out a boring decision. He has athleticism on his side and that should be enough to win this one. Perez by decision.

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Yves Edwards v. Piotr Hallman

Now we can have some fun. You wouldn’t think it, but the ‘Thugjitsu Master’ Edwards has stepped into the Octagon 19 times now. He fought Matt Serra at UFC 33! Think about that one… Edwards has held onto his job this long because he always comes in ready to throw down. He may get knocked out in the process, but Yves doesn’t fight to win, he fights to entertain. Sadly, at the latter stages of his illustrious career, Edwards is on the UFC chopping block. He has dropped three in a row (one of those losses overturned due to Yancy Medeiros’ affinity for the reefer…) and that usually means if you lose the next one you can expect a pink slip in your locker.

Opposing Edwards will be Polish finisher Piotr Hallman. I was utterly shocked when he submitted the human tank that is Francisco Trinaldo last September. Piotr isn’t necessarily the most imposing guy, but damn if he doesn’t know how to make the ref step in. I don’t want to see it, but the younger Hallman likely works a submission win. His wrestling is just crisper at this point in time. Hallman by submission.

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Rafael Dos Anjos v. Jason High

The #5 ranked Lightweight in the world (RDA) as the third fight on a FS1 card?!?! I’ll take it! This one isn’t necessarily on squash match level, but it is rapidly approaching that line. RDA is a technically sound, intelligent fighter. Much like the evening’s headliner Benson Henderson, his fights are impressive performances, yet won’t leave you texting your buddies that they missed out on a classic scrap. Opposed to somone like Yves Edwards, these guys fight to win, not really entertain. Opponent Jason High’s greatest trait may be his grappling, still he has little to offer the Kings and Evolve trained black belt Dos Anjos. Could this fight get RDA off his decision streak? I won’t hold my breath, but look for a late round submission. Dos Anjos by submission.

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John Dodson v. John Moraga

This fight could have headlined either of the cards last weekend. Frankly, I’m more excited for this tilt than any other one booked for the month of June in the UFC. These flyweights fight like whirling cyclones with tiny fists. They dash around the cage with unparalleled speed, skill, and precision.  Each guy put it all on the line with divisional champ Demetrious Johnson and each gave DJ a legitimate test. Moraga went to battle for four rounds before being submitted in the final stanza, all while tagging DJ quite a few times on his minuscule chin. That said, in my opinion, John Dodson is the man to defeat DJ. He has the pop of a Welterweight in his 125 pound hands. He mollywhopped Darrell Montague with a vicious shot back at UFC 166 and I have been itching to see ‘The Magician’ get another shot at the Champ ever since. Moraga is too hard-headed to be knocked out, but a back and forth stand up clinic will be put on by this duo. Dodson will ultimately come out on top due to his significant (and freaky) power advantage. Dodson by decision.

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Diego Sanchez v. Ross Pearson

This thing is going to be a real life version of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robots. I can see Sanchez marching right into Pearson’s range and immediately start hucking haymakers. With Pearson being a boxer at heart, I see him gladly obliging. We can throw past records and technique out the window here, the winner will be whoever’s consciousness remains functioning the longest. If I look into my crystal ball, I can see Diego Sanchez making some odd sacrifice to the MMA Gods to win this one in his hometown. And frankly, I wouldn’t hate to see that go down. As long as they ‘Stand and Bang’ for a few good minutes, ‘The Dream’ Sanchez has a shot to put Pearson to sleep. Sanchez by KO.

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Benson Henderson v. Rustam Khabilov

Benson Henderson bores me. There, I said it. He talks a huge game about how he “goes in there to finish fights,” but hasn’t even come close to doing so in the UFC. By the time this fight arrives on Saturday, I will likely have a few delicious IPAs in my belly and could quite possibly be vehemently rooting against the former champ.  Still, it should be noted that Khabilov is not a known quantity in even the most hardcore MMA circles. He has a heck of a highlight reel of suplexes, slams, and all-around badassery, though most of that was against mid-level competition. He looked solid against Jorge Masvidal, but Masvidal isn’t the trained MMA judge pleaser that Bendo is. Could Khabilov lock Bendo up and suplex him around the cage for five rounds? Yes, but that is closer to one of my dreams rather than reality. I have doubts Khabilov can get his hands onto the elusive Henderson in order to ragdoll him in any sort of pleasing manner. Henderson takes this thing home on the cards. Surprise, surprise… Henderson by decision.

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Weekend Fight Watch, May 31st: Dueling Main Events!

The UFC’s quest for world domination is reaching a zenith this weekend. On Saturday, the organization will be throwing two separate cards at the MMA community, which are occurring nearly 6,300 miles apart. While I could kid you with some faux confidence and attempt to preview the entire Main Cards of each, I would only be doing you a disservice. Half of the fighters on the Fight Pass only UFC Fight Night 41: Munoz v. Mousasi card don’t even possess Wikipedia pages. Subsequently, the TUF Brazil 3 Finale features a mish mosh of fighters that I, a so-called ‘MMA Hardcore’ have never heard of. Instead of providing you with filler material, I’m going to hit my loyal fanbase with in-depth coverage of the two Main Events of the day. Gegard Mousasi and Mark Munoz will clash for Middleweight relevancy, while surging Stipe Mioci will look to avoid disaster against late replacement slugger Fabio Maldonado. On to the previews!

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