Sunday, August 28, 2011

UFC 134 Reflections

Some things learned from UFC 134...
  • In case there was any question left, Anderson Silva is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. His second round destruction of Yushin Okami was incredibly impressive.

    You could see the set up for round 2 at the end of the first round. Okami actually won the first round (at least in my view); Okami hit more strikes while controlling the Octagon and playing the aggressor. However, at the end of the first round, Silva hit a high kick which stunned Okami and lead to Silva ending the round in a dominant spot.

    In the second round, Silva knocked down Okami, and then let Okami up. This harkened back to the bad days of 2009/2010, when you could tell Silva was the dominant fighter but he chose to instead clown around instead of finishing a fight. Luckily, Silva seemed to have the opinion that he needed to finish the fight, and after he clipped Okami again, Silva made a move to get into a dominant position over the prone Okami, and then Silva rained down punches until Herb Dean stopped the fight.

    Silva showed a killer instinct that had been somewhat lacking prior. Whether it was his experience with Chael Sonnen, or if it was his desire to impress the Brazilian live crowd, Silva came out and finished a fight that in the past he would have instead messed around with, content to ge the decision victory. If this is a demonstration of Silva's new desire to show how dominant he is, then nobody can touch Silva as a fighter, including Georges St. Pierre. What makes this even more remarkable is Silva's age; Silva is doing this at age 36, when MMA is proving to be a youngman's sport.

    There is in question in my mind that we are witnessing something special - the greatest MMA fighter still performing at an elite level. Our only job as a fan is to appreciate what we are seeing.

  • With all those platitudes towards Silva stated, Yushin Okami had a terrible fight plan. As mentioned in my preview, Okami's only chance was to take down Silva and dominate him on the ground, like Chael Sonnen. Okami failed on both parts - he did not get Silva to the ground, and more importantly, Okami attempted to pick his spot to take Silva down. After Okami failed once, he never went back to a takedown attempt.

    The beauty of Anderson silva's fighting style is how much Silva depends on reacting to his opponent. The first round of the fight was Silva timing Okami's punches, along wiht his takedown attempts. Silva managed to avoid any hard punches and at the end of the round Silva struck hard. OTOH, Okami looked for his spot - a strategy that has proven to be futile against Silva. Sonnen gave us the game plan to beat Silva - commit yourself ot taking him down, and just doing it. Do not look for the perfect opening; this just gives Silva more of an opportunity to find the gap in your defenses and then counter attack. So immediately you need to press the action against Silva, and commit to take him down early.

    Okami did none of this, and looked out of his league in the second round. For Silva's part, you could watch him timing Okami's blows and then attacking. Okami failed to live up to his part, and looked completely outclassed once the second round came along.

    The next middleweight contender looks to be either Brian Stann or Chael Sonnen. Whomever ends up being the top contender should look at this fight for an idea as to what not to do as a strategy.

  • With 10 out of 11 Brazilian fighters winning, it seems like there is a hometown advantage for Brazilian fighters. You could tell that Antonio Rodrigio Nogueiro and Shogun Rua were excited to be fighting in their home country. And while Forrest Griffin might have had a reason to be distracted (his wife went into labour during the PPV), both he and Brendan Schaub did not deliver in their opportunity to provide a memorable result in a high profile fight.

    In Toronto, there was a similiar sentiment to get as many Canadians on the card in hopes they would dominate. After a 6-4 record though, the same could not be said. Given the history of MMA in Brazil, there was probably more pressure on the Brazilian figthers to perform, which they did in spades.

    There's a lot of thoughts that added pressure of a hometown fight can hurt the fighters; in the case of the Brazilian fighters, they made sure to rise to the occasion and honour the history of their ancestors.

  • The question that always exists after a card is "What's next?" Specifically, what is next for each of the winners on the card?

    For Anderson Silva, the next fight seems obvious - the winner of Brian Stann/Chael Sonnen is likely to get the next title fight. Vitor Belfort is lurking in the wings, but is still to close to his loss to Anderson Silva to be considered a contender.

    Shogun Rua is waiting on the Rampage/Jones fight in September. If Jones wins, Rua is in a holding patter. He would need another win to even be considered a slight threat to Jones. But if Rampage wins, Rua could be considered for a title shot if Rashad Evans is gets hurt. A next fight might be with Rich Franklin.

    For Rodrigio Nogueira, he could be the next opponent for Brock Lesnar. Lesnar is coming off of a long layoff after losing to Cain Velasquez, and could use a fight before being put into a title match. For Big Nog, a victory over Lesnar could make him a threat to Velasquez; at a minimum it would make Big Nog seem like he is back, and would provide another title match for Velasquez.

    In all, the short term looks interesting for the UFC. OTOH, the long term looks even more muddled, and is really depending on having some fighters up their game significantly, or else there will be a set hierarchy for all the divisions.

My predictions ended up being 9-3, putting my record for the year at 70-38-2. My theoretical wagers ended up winning my $4, putting my winnings for the year at $73.80.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

UFC 134 Thoughts

A couple of articles going into UFC 134:

Some would argue that the origins of MMA are in Brazil. Dave Meltzer has the history of Vale Tudo and the Gracie family in this article.

For a fascinating look at the UFC's first card that they ran in Brazil, see this Todd Martin article.

The card in Brazil has the chance to be historic. Dave Meltzer makes the argument that a victory by Anderson Silva could make him the greatest of all time.
Thus far, I'm 61-35-2 for the year for my predictions (including an 8-3 record for UFC 133) and I have a profit of $69.80 (after losing $10 on UFC 133). My predictions for UFC 134:


Yves Jabouin over Ian Loveland

Wager: $10 on Jabouin at 2.4 odds to win $24

Yuri Alcantara over Felipe Arantes
Erick Silva over Luis Ramos
Raphael Assuncao over Johnny Eduardo
Paulo Thiago over David Mitchell

Spike Prelims:

Rousimar Palhares over Dan Miller
Thiago Tavares over Spencer Fisher

Main Card:

Luiz Cane over Sanislav Nedkov
Edson Barboza over Ross Pierson

Brendan Schaub over Antonio Rodrigio Nogueira

Schaub is on a hot streak, and has looked great recently, while Big Nog was last seen getting destroyed by Cain Velasquez. Maybe Nog's 18 month layoff has helped him recover from the effects of fighting for a long period of time. But Schaub has shown a remarkable improvement over his last few fights, and his youth will carry him to an easy victory over Nogueira.

Forrest Griffin over Mauricio Shogun Rua

This is by far the most difficult fight to pick on the main card. Griffin has a win over Rua, but that was well before Rua's comeback run of the past year or two. Rua has looked better over the last couple of years, though he did look poor against Jon Jones; Griffin had a great fight with Rich Franklin in February, but had a 14 month layoff after two poor performances.

I am going with Griffin here on the basis of recent performance over top fighters. But I would not be surprised with a Rua victory.

Wager: $10 on Griffin at 2.7 odds to win $27

Anderson Silva over Yushin Okami

Okami knows the way to beat Silva; Chael Sonnen has demonstrated it. Use wrestling to take Silva down, and have no hesitation in doing this. Take the attack to Silva; do not look for your spot. The question is whether Okami can do this. I have serious doubts that he can, as Okami tends to look for his spot and attack from there. If he does that, Silva will knock his head off.

(As a side note, I did make a wager on Yushin Okami to win this fight; the odds that Okami is at - 4.60 on Party Bets, for example - are way too high. I didn't put any significant sum of cash on it, but I am putting it out there to show this is closer than people think.)

Theoretical Wagers:

$10 on Jabouin at 2.4 odds to win $24
$10 on Griffin at 2.7 odds to win $27

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Details you don't want in your heroic story

In BC, a 12 year old boy delivered his own brother when his mother went into labour. She was 2 days past due date, so when Kelly McParland makes note that she didn't seem to have this well thought out, he does have a bit of a point. I'd assume that the labour came out of the blue, and she didn't have time for the paramedics to arrive. (I'm giving the benefit of the doubt here.)

What struck me though wasn't so much the circumstances of her going into labour, it's what the 12 year old boy was doing when she went into labour:
Gaelan, who lives in Campbell River, had been watching a movie about showgirls on television at about 2 a.m. on Sunday morning

I wonder why a 12 year old would be watching "a movie about showgirls" (read: Showgirls) at 2 am?

Note to my friends - should I do something amazing to get me in the news, please claim I was watching Citizen Kane. Thanks.

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On Jack Layton...

I join everybody in offering my condolences to the family of Jack Layton for his passing. I did not agree with many of his political policies, however I certainly can agree that he did love Canada and continually acted with the best intentions to improve the lives of many Canadians.

I wanted to also share some thoughts on the more interesting things I read over the last couple of days...

  • Carly Weeks in the Globe and Mail takes a different angle on the death, choosing to argue that Layton did not lose a battle against cancer. Instead he died of cancer.

    When you think of this, it gives you pause. It's too easy to use the analogy; it's very common and in fact it is the terminology that Layton used himself to describe what laid ahead for him.

    Obviously this isn't what anybody intends to imply. Using the battle/fight analogy is meant to honour the person, not denigrate them. However, that is the underlying message. It's just not the message that you think of when you first are offering your support to the patient, or when you are the patient. The problem, as is pointed out by Mike Marqusee in the Globe article, is when the cancer "defeats" the patient. If the cancer ends up "winning", does that mean the patient did not fight hard enough? Were they not good enough to beat cancer?

    Sometimes it's necessary to take a step back and consider the words that you are using. Even though you might only intend one way of interpretation, they can have unintended consequences. I know that when somebody close to me (or even I) faces cancer, I will offer my support in a different manner than the battle analoy.

  • The National Post lets us know that the State Funeral for Jack Layton is unprecedented. The thing is that having an Opposition Leader die while still in office is pretty well unprecedented.

    Ignoring the political implications that the Post covers, it's just the right thing to do for a politician whose popularity seemed to be increasing only 3 months prior.

  • Christie Blatchford found herself in a bit of trouble for a column that ended up on the internet on Monday evening. In it, she criticized the coverage of Layton's letter to Canadians, which was fair game. The coverage and commentary about the "extraordinary" letter did seem to be over the top at times and probably needed to have a bit of air let out of the balloon. The problem came when she criticized the contents of the letter and Layton's intentions.

    A significant figure dying is always difficult. You have to balance having respect for those who are mourning the death, while also presenting a balanced view of their life. I'm not sure if Blatchford felt as though the scale was extremely skewed towards the praise of Layton and felt she needed to try to balance the coverage all by herself, but whatever her intentions, she failed at them. By putting this column out so soon after Layton's death, any insight she had was buried by the argument over her sensitivity towards the mourners of Jack Layton.

    As for her criticisms of the letter, I tend to end up agreeing with Chris Selley, who notes:
    If you find the letter over-earnest and platitudinous, well, at least it’s genuinely over-earnest and platitudinous. Would you have preferred he’d revealed it was all an act?

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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Quick UFC 133 Predictions

Rafael Natal over Paul Bradley
Mike Brown over Nam Phan
Johny Hendricks over Mike Pierce
Nick Pace over Ivan Menjivar
Chad Mendes over Rani Yahya
Alexander Gustavsson over Matt Hammill
Rory MacDonald over Mike Pyle
Constantinos Philippou over Jorge Rivera
Brian Ebersole over Dennis Hallman
Yoshihiro Akiyama over Vitor Belfort

I think Akiyama's ground game will beat Belfort.

Tito Ortiz over Rashad Evans

Much like last time, this is a hunch pick more than anything else. There are reasons to pick Ortiz: Evans has bulked up for this fight, expecting to face Phil Davis. While the bulk will help, Evans is prone to gassing in the first place, so adding weight on won't help this. As well, Evans is working with a new camp, which is much more lackadasical than the Greg Jackson camp he came from. Ultimately, I can see a replay of their previous fight, only without the point reduction.

Theoretical Wagers:
$10 on Akiyama at 3.5 odds to win $35
$10 on Ortiz at 3.75 odds to win $37.50
$20 on Gustavsson at 1.50 odds to win $30

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

JayRo Watches: Cowboys and Aliens

There's a point in Cowboys and Aliens where Harrison Ford gets told a plan and gets a look on his face whihc seems very familiar. A few seconds later, I recognized it - it was a look that Han Solo would give. It wouldn't be the last time that Cowboys and Aliens drew upon sci-fi inspirations to derive the desired feelings.

Cowboys and Aliens follows a standard western story structure until the final act, when it turns into a sci-fi adventure. It's an interesting concept behind a film; one that works well in general, but sometimes strains to keep the balance.

One of the main ways that the sci-fi/western mashup gets strained are the nods to famous sci-fi movies. Aliens, Star Wars and Return of the Jedi all get referenced in scenes. These should be little winks to the audience but eventually end up distracting the viewer from the actual story. As well, the transformation from western to sci-fi is a bit jarring. It's as though the final scene basically dropped any pretense of western, save for the clothes and weapons used. As well, the kidnapping side plot is contrived as well; when the reason for the kidnappings is revealed, you're left to wonder exactly why the kidnappings are continuing.

With that said, it is a fun film, especially if you can ignore the final act's transition to straight sci-fi. Harrison Ford basically acts as though he is an older Han Solo, and Sam Rockwell turns in a fun performance as the meek barkeep/doctor. Daniel Craig doesn't turn in a great performance, but it is a passable performance.

As a side note, I'd like to commend Cowboys and Aliens on delivering what the title implies the movie is about (unlike Aliens vs. Predator, which was inappropriately named.)

I'd recommend waiting for Cowboys and Aliens to come out on video and renting it. It is a fun film, but it isn't a film that you need to rush to see.

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Random findings

My random find for today:'s baseball analyst/prospect maven Keith Law's list of Top 100 old-school hip-hop songs.

While he admits that it is mostly his personal preferences, comments #21 and #69 cover my complaints about the list pretty well.

(Note: I also posted this for Mike to look at and possibly comment on.)

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