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Is Greg Jackson Bad For The UFC?

June 29, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Greg Jackson is turning into one of the most polarizing coaches in MMA. His track record as a coach is arguably the greatest of any MMA coach from this era. However, I think a fair question to ask is whether these wins & losses are coming at the cost of MMA and the UFC.

Jackson’s list of champions is a who’s who of MMA. I don’t think anyone would question his track record and game planning. Yet after the recent Clay Guida vs. Gray Maynard debacle, I immediately developed an immense hatred for the man and his tactics. Thanks to Jackson’s “game-planning” the UFC delivered one of the most disappointing main-events in their history of television fights. Even worse, Guida’s reputation went from warrior to runner in a fight that saw Guida run for five rounds and walk away with a loss.

Now I will say this about the fight. As much as I hated it, I was shocked Guida lost. I was so enraged when the final buzzer sounded that I turned the fight off. I didn’t bother waiting for a winner to be announced because quite frankly, I thought it was a given that Guida won. I was stunned the next day when I read that Maynard came away with a decision. But at the end of the day it was Jackson that put his fighter in the position to lose.

Fighting in the UFC is a real tricky thing for a Mixed-Martial Artist. There is a real fine line between winning fights and entertaining fans. Guys like Jon Fitch and even Maynard have rolled off numerous wins only to be criticized by Dana White for not producing exciting fights. At the same time, sacrificing a smart game plan for an exciting fan will give you a lousy record and a fast ticket out of the UFC. This is why I always found UFC bonuses to be a little unscrupulous. The UFC is almost manipulating fights by saying, “Hey stand up and throw and you can win a bonus.” That is fine but shouldn’t a win mean more than a lucky punch?

White is no fan of Jackson‘s coaching or the way he conducts business. Between Jackson’s insistence that fighters in his camp don’t fight each other (when it’s convenient) and recent game plans which saw more running than fighting, I almost think White would be happier if Jackson announced a sudden retirement. Yet at the end of the day the UFC is a business and it is time to seriously question whether Jackson is good for the business of MMA?

Jackson took credit for Guida’s game plan, even in the face of a loss. “I wanted Clay to, after he drew Gray out, to engage a little bit more, but I think Clay was waiting for him to open up a little bit and he was able to land some combinations when he did that. But one of the things that I think both Clay and I learned is that … we need to do a little more right after the misses, kind of jumping on him a little bit more. I chalk it up to experience and a learning process, and hopefully we won’t be in that situation again where we have such a close decision. Hopefully we’ll be able to dominate the next time.

It took Jackson until 2012 to realize that his fighters need to capitalize on openings? Come on! Does anyone think for a second that Jackson is seriously going to change his strategies moving forward from this? He didn’t learn when Lyoto Machida knocked Rashad Evans clear into next week and that was years ago. Has Jackson had success with similar plans since then? Fans run when they hear the name “Nate Marquardt.” Sure, Carlos Condit just won the interim title with this brilliant strategy. However, ask yourself how many fans want to pay $50 to ever see Carlos Condit fight again?

Luke Rockhold of Strikeforce is already concerned about Jackson’s game planning regarding his upcoming fight against Jackson-coached Tim Kennedy. “… not a fan of Greg Jackson game plans, so I just hope that [Kennedy] comes out and fights me in the middle, and fights me everywhere.” No fighter wants to step into the octagon and worry about their opponent running away from them for three-five rounds. That is not the competition most of these guys signed up for.

To be fair, Jackson has trained plenty of fighters who deliver exciting fights. Jon Jones and Leonard Garcia are just two guys that come to mind who happen to be two of the most exciting fighters in MMA. So what is the problem here? Is it the fighter or is it Jackson? Is it a case where Jackson has more confidence in some fighters than others? I don’t care what you call it but Jackson has had enough of these snoozers in the last few years to make MMA fans concerned, considering the large number of fighters he coaches.

Stick and moving is fine but not when the moving is about 80% of the game plan. Fighters need to seriously reconsider these game plans before giving Jackson the thumbs up on the strategy. The disgruntled UFC viewer won’t remember that Greg Jackson coached a boring strategy in the fight they just wasted their time or money watching. Fans will remember the fight that walked into the octagon and left looking more like a coward than a warrior. If it works for you in the win column, that’s great, but at the end of the day this is a business and if people refuse to pay for your fights going forward, the fighter, the UFC, and the fans will all be losing in the end.

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MMA Is The Biggest Problem With MMA

June 28, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

This isn’t (expletive) ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ You can’t win a fight by running around in circles – that’s not how fights are won.” – Dana White at the UFC on FX 4 Press Conference

The above quote is from Dana White after watching the UFC on FX 4 Main Event between Gray Maynard and Clay Guida. For those of you who haven’t seen the bout, I would recommend that you probably don’t, unless you have a keen interest in fighters that fail to engage their opponents, or perhaps if you’re having trouble sleeping. Guida’s performance from that bout and his game plan have earned him the ire of many in the MMA community including fighters, bloggers and even the UFC President.

After immediately watching the bout I myself was pretty angry. I am a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC, but fights like that aren’t what I tune in regularly to see. Before I get too far into this let me preface this by saying that Guida is low on my favorite fighters list, in fact, I strongly dislike Guida as a fighter. Secondly, immediately after watching the bout, I said to myself ‘This is all Greg Jackson’s fault.” Like me, many in the MMA community have shared that sentiment and it’s not the first time that Jackson has been blamed for a poor fight due to his game planning.

But really, is Greg Jackson the one to be blamed in all of this? Mixed Martial Arts is a relatively young sport and it is still developing, making rapid leaps and bounds constantly. Because of this, it’s experiencing some growing pains. One of those growing pains is judging and scoring bouts. We all like to complain when fighters are “robbed” as we say, or if a fight is judged poorly and while oftentimes the case is that a judge is uneducated about what they are watching, the other fact is that the judging criteria for the ten-point must system in the UFC is slightly broken.

Let’s start with the source of the problem. We as fans are always following blindly behind UFC President Dana White when he tells fighters “don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.” This is a problem right here. There shouldn’t be an inherent problem with going to the scorecards. MMA bouts can’t go on indefinitely, that’s why there are judges there to score the contests, so why should fighters be fighting in fear of the scorecards?

The first problem is the broken perception that fighters who go to decisions are boring fighters, or that fights that go to Decisions aren’t exciting fights. If you can’t see the flawed thinking in those two statements then I question how much MMA you have truly watched in your lifetime. There are a number of fighters that I could name off who regularly fight to decisions, but are among the most exciting in the world; Dominick Cruz, Frankie Edgar, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin and Clay Guida just to name a few.

The second problem lies with the UFC and the make up of the sport. Fighters are paid to show up and win, they’re expected to entertain, but the ultimate goal is winning not entertainment. The people calling for Jackson’s head because of his game planning need to look hard at the UFC itself. Game plans are part of the sport and no one should be criticizing a fighter for fighting intelligently, in a contest between two evenly matched fighters, the one who fights more intelligently and more to his strengths and his opponents weaknesses will win the fight every time. In other sports; take the NFL for example good game planning is called good coaching. Is anyone ever going to call Tom Coughlin bad for the sport of football because he’s shut down Tom Brady in two Superbowls? Unlikely at best.

So if game plans aren’t the problem and fighting to a decision isn’t the problem, what is? I think right now the sport itself is the problem. While we watch fights to be entertained, the goal of the fighter is to win. Most fighters are inherently entertaining, or will try to entertain as much as they can, but rarely is an intelligent fighter going to sacrifice the chance to win to entertain the fans. If the UFC wants to make fights more exciting, than they need to take a look at the scoring, officiating and judging of MMA bouts.

Currently, MMA uses a ten-point must system. Whether or not this is the best system for MMA and the UFC, is a whole other argument, we’re stuck with it for now, so how can it be improved? Better definitions of what causes a round to be won or lost. Better definitions of effective aggression, octagon control and their impact on a round. Better use of the ten-point must system, including the use of 10-10 rounds as well as 10-8 and 10-7 rounds.

In the final round of the Guida vs. Maynard fight, referee Dan Mirgliotta had seen enough in the fifth round of the fight and issued Guida a warning for being timid and refusing to engage. A warning like this needs to be delivered sooner than the final round. As well, the implementation of Pride’s Yellow Card system might be a welcome addition to the UFC. In the Golden days of Pride Fighting Championships a fighter was issued a Yellow card for excessive stalling and timidity, if issued a yellow card that fighter was fined 20% of his purse, per violation. A system like this or a quicker warning to Guida could definitely have changed the way this fight played out.

The bottom line is that fighters are in the sport to win. And who can argue with them, it pays to be a winner. To take a look at the UFC’s top earners per fight, I would venture a guess that the top ten is nearly a who’s who of UFC Champions and top contenders. (Due to the nature of the UFC, it’s impossible to know 100% accurately what fighters make per fight.) However, according to several lists top fighters in 2011 included Michael Bisping; a top Middleweight contender, Jon Jones; UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Vitor Belfort; Top Middleweight Contender, Lyoto Machida; Top Light Heavyweight Contender and former Champion and Rashad Evans; Top Light Heavyweight Contender and former Champion.

Are game plans bad for the sport? Absolutely not, there’s nothing wrong with fighters who fight to their own strengths and into their opponent’s weaknesses. Are coaches like Greg Jackson bad for the sport? Of course not, intelligent revolutionary coaches in other sports like NBA, NFL and NHL win yearly awards for coming up with intelligent game plans. The problem is bad game plans and public perception.

Greg Jackson is probably the easiest target for fans and media members alike. This isn’t the first time he’s been thrown into the fire over game planning and fighting intelligently. The last time he simply typed up a list of various Fight Night awards that his fighters had won in the past and sent it to the MMA media. This time, he’s said basically nothing. But he really shouldn’t have to. His job is to help his fighters win fights, and this weekend for Clay Guida he did that.

Call Guida’s fight against Maynard what it was a crappy fight, based on a crappy game plan that was poorly executed. It’s not the first time a Team Jackson-Winklejohn fighter has tried to turn a fight into a point-sparring match, Carlos Condit did it infamously against Nick Diaz earlier this year. The difference was Condit used his game plan of constant movement to frustrate Diaz and out strike him, while Guida used it to run around for five rounds. However, this was the worst performance of one of those game plans that’s ever been seen.

For those people who are hating on Jackson relentlessly and saying that the Condit-Diaz fight is nearly the same as the Guida-Maynard fight, here’s a few numbers to help prove you wrong. Over the course of five rounds Guida threw 321 Significant Strikes and landed 45, for an awful connection percentage of 14%. He was out landed by the man he was trying to frustrate Gray Maynard by only 4 Significant Strikes (49 of 225) but was out struck by an 8% accuracy clip. Condit on the other hand, over the course of a five-round fight landed 151 of 320 Significant Strikes, landing at an impressive 47% rate. Condit also significantly out landed his opponent that night, Nick Diaz who landed 105 of 246 Significant Strikes.

Let’s face it folks, game planning and intelligent coaching is here to stay in MMA. And as long as Greg Jackson produces winners and champions, fighters will continue to flock to him for advice and training. But it’s not all bad, game plans aren’t bad for the sport, it’s proof that the sport we love is continuing to grow and evolve. Call the Guida-Maynard fight for what it was, a less than entertaining bout between two fighters who are capable of more. When two NFL teams stink up the field, we don’t stop watching them, don’t give up on MMA yet fans, there’s plenty more entertaining scraps to come.

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UFC Targets Two Big Fights For The Fall

June 12, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos SantosWe aren’t even into summer yet and the UFC is moving ahead with some big fall plans. According to several reports, two big championship fights are heading your way and the UFC has tentative dates for both headline fights.

The first big and I do mean big fight will head to Toronto, Canada on September 22. The UFC have targeted UFC 152 to hold the highly anticipated Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez UFC heavyweight championship rematch. The fight will be supported underneath in the co-main event with BJ Penn returning to the octagon to fight Canadian Rory MacDonald.

The second big championship fight will touch down on November 3 at UFC 154 also in Canada, specifically Montreal. Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will return after a lengthy hiatus to defend (or challenge) his belt against UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. The date is tentative as GSP is still recovering from a torn ACL. Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann will support in the semi-main event.

These are two huge fights and the UFC will close the year out with big numbers thanks to these two headline fights. In my opinion the Dos Santos vs. Velasquez rematch will be the biggest fight of the year and could rival UFC 100 for the top buy rate spot. 5.7 million people tuned in to Fox to watch their first fight. Over 500,000 people paid to watch their last fights on the UFC 146 event recently. There are a lot of people who know who these fighters are, have watched both knock out opponents, and appreciate the rivalry. I don’t think there is any other fight on the books right now that can rival this series.

The tipping point in my mind is Cain Velasquez’s brutal TKO victory over Big Foot Silva at UFC 146. Fight fans love a great heavyweight fight, especially when it comes to two sluggers. Fans expect to see a knock out here and if they expect heavy hands, they will buy the fight. This one has the makings of an all-time classic when it comes to hype and I think Velasquez just sold himself to any doubters that think Dos Santos would run through him again.

The GSP fight is a tricky one to predict. Georges is still one of the most recognizable and popular fighters in the UFC. He still draws on his name alone and people are curious to see how GSP reacts coming off of a big injury. Unfortunately for the UFC, this is not the fight the fans want to see. The fans want to see Diaz vs. GSP and that could be a problem here. I am intrigued by seeing Condit vs. GSP but the timing is just off when it comes to business.

Add Dan Henderson vs. Jon Jones to the September docket and you have a jam packed fall schedule for the UFC. With Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen fighting in early July, there is a great chance that the winner would also be ready to fight before the year is up. While things can always change due to injuries, fight fans have a lot to get excited about come this fall courtesy of the UFC.

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Nick Diaz Fined & Suspended For One Year

May 22, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

The Nick Diaz-Nevada State Athletic Commission saga has finally come to an end. After legal maneuverings from Diaz, he finally had his day in court with the NSAC and while he gave a valiant effort, Diaz will be put on ice for one year.

This was some scene today as Diaz pleaded his case to the NSAC for what seemed like hours. I tried watching the proceedings but it just didn’t end. Diaz to his credit told his story and answered all questions from the NSAC. Yet the end of the story concluded the way most MMA experts predicted with Diaz on the losing side of the legal battle.

The hearing today came as a result of Diaz testing positive for Marijuana metabolites after his UFC 143 fight with Carlos Condit. Diaz was suspended with a hearing pending Diaz producing a medical exemption card. Diaz sued claiming that the NSAC failed to give Diaz a hearing within the legal time frame. That argument was thrown out and the NSAC will punish Diaz for his positive test.

It was a unanimous vote against Diaz. Diaz will be suspended for one year effective February 3, 2011, the date of his last fight. Diaz will also have to pay a $79,500 fine which I am sure he isn’t happy about considering how often he complains about money. So for those of you doing the math out there, you will have to wait nine months before the chaos known as Nick Diaz comes back to the UFC.

I did find Diaz’s attorney fascinating during the hearing. To be honest, I was almost convinced that Diaz would get off after hearing some of Ross Goodman’s arguments. One of Goodman’s main points was that there was no conclusive way to determine whether Diaz used marijuana within the fight time frame. He also argued that the metabolite Diaz tested positive for was an inactive metabolite.

A fascinating tidbit from the hearing came from Keith Kizer. Kizer testified that Diaz’s sample after the BJ Penn fight came back diluted. He did not positive, but Kizer believed it was diluted. I had never heard or seen that reported anywhere.

I don’t necessarily feel sorry for Diaz but there is a part of me that thinks his punishment was a bit harsh. It is hard to argue in my mind that what Diaz did by having metabolites in his system is a lot worse than what Alistair Overeem and the circumstances surrounding Overeem when it came to trying to cover up his infraction. Yet after all is said and done Overeem got 9 months and Diaz got 12 with a heavier fine. It just smacks of inconsistency which is a major problem I have with these state athletic commissions.

So there will be no Diaz vs. Condit rematch nor a Diaz vs. GSP fight in 2012. This presents an interesting predicament for the UFC. Condit won the “interim” welterweight title when he defeated Diaz in February. Condit has said publicly that he didn’t want to take another fight until GSP comes back which would not be until November. Some felt that Condit and/of the UFC were just stalling until the Nick Diaz situation played out. Now that Diaz is on ice, will Condit fight before November? If not, what was the point of crowning an interim champion? Will the UFC force Condit to fight?

I am and have been a Nick Diaz fan for a long time. I hope that at some point the worlds align for the GSP vs. Diaz fight in 2013. Other than Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva, it is the biggest fight that the UFC could make. I just hope that this grudge match hasn’t gone up in smoke for good.

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Time For UFC To End The Interim Title Fights

May 10, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Dana WhiteDominick Cruz will miss his UFC 148 fight with Urijah Faber and could miss up to a year with a torn ACL. Dana White has announced that the UFC will create another interim title while Cruz is gone, once again wasting our time with a phantom title which in the end will render meaningless anyway.

Once I heard that Urijah Faber will fight an unnamed opponent at UFC 148 for this interim title my blood pressure started boiling. If there is one thing that is starting to become a pet peeve of mine it would be these meaningless UFC interim titles. Once again the UFC will try and pass this farce off as a real championship match when in the end, this title means as much as the fake belt that Chael Sonnen has been walking around with for the last several months. Quite frankly Sonnen’s belt may mean more!

It really came to a head for me when Carlos Condit “won” a phantom UFC interim championship at UFC 143 from Nick Diaz. Condit jumped into the fight after Georges St-Pierre suffered an injury that took him out of the fight and out of competition for up to a year. It wasn’t so bad that Condit won the fight but really set me off was when Condit announced after the fight that he would not take another fight until GSP returned, opting to sit out and wait to fight St-Pierre than defend his phony title. Wait, what?

Let me get this straight. The UFC went to the trouble of creating this interim welterweight title because Georges St-Pierre wouldn’t be able to fight until November. I would imagine the idea behind this would be to keep a championship belt active while GSP sat out for ten months. Now the UFC has a situation where the interim champion is sitting out nine months to wait and fight the real champion. So what is the freaking point of an interim champion when the interim champion is telling you not only does his title not matter, he isn’t fighting either?

Quite frankly the UFC overplayed their hand with the welterweight title and are about to do it again with the bantamweight title. By having an interim title, the UFC are going to miss out on the GSP vs. Diaz money fight. Instead of going right to Diaz, GSP now has to go to Condit since Condit is the interim champion. Could the UFC go with Diaz vs. GSP anyway? Sure they could, but it really wouldn’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things.

The UFC is about to make that same mistake again with Faber. Faber vs. Cruz is the money fight here. They have a storied rivalry which has taken center stage thanks to The Ultimate Fighter Live. By creating an interim title, the UFC now has to bank on Faber not only winning that fight, but at least one more by the time Cruz returns. Could he do it? Yes, but the odds are against it. So what happens when Cruz comes back? A year from now he’d have to fight the interim champion and depending upon where Faber is at during that time, a championship fight may not even make sense. I don’t know how you ever get back to Faber vs. Cruz if Faber is an ex-champion in the midst of a losing streak when Cruz does come back.

The irony here is that every fighter that has ever won an interim title in the UFC will tell you flat out that the title means nothing. Every one of those fighters continued to call out the champion and acknowledge that they aren’t holding the division’s legitimate title. There aren’t a whole lot of professional athletes that would have the nerve to say otherwise.

The UFC has two options here. One would be to just strip the champion of his title and make that interim title fight an actual championship fight (such was the case when BJ Penn fought Joe Stevenson when Sean Sherk tested positive for PEDs). The other of course would be to just keep the championship belt on the champion, allow him to recover, and pick things up where the UFC left off.

I am inclined to think that stripping the champion of the belt would be the best option. Is it fair? Maybe not, but if a champion isn’t active for a year those are the breaks. The champion should be given an immediate title shot upon his return. Everyone wins here as the division isn’t put on hold, the UFC can continue booking title fights, and those title fights actual mean something.

At the same time, allowing the championship to remain with the champion while he is idle isn’t a bad choice either. Would it really kill business for the UFC to leave the bantamweight title on Dominick Cruz over the next year? No, but it would make fighters in the division cautious about picking the right opponent. No contender wants to take himself out of the game by making a bad business decision. It isn’t fair to those fighters, which makes me think that just stripping the champion outright makes the most sense.

I took a look at all of the past interim UFC championship fights. There is no real good reason in my mind that the champions weren’t stripped for their titles as opposed to creating these secondary belts. It is time to end this farce and either strip the titles from the champions or give the champs time to recover and defend their belts. The only bad choice here is to continue with these phony, meaningless title fights, telling fans they are getting something they aren’t.

There is no perfect answer here. Either way you will risk your money fights but advertising a phony title is not the answer. End the interim title fights and move on!

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Nick Diaz Sues The NSAC, Wants To Fight Carlos Condit Immediately

April 27, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Nick DiazNick Diaz is not going down easy. The former Strikeforce welterweight champion has been idle since February and under suspension by the NSAC. The layoff has been long enough for Diaz and he is willing to sue his way back into the UFC octagon.

Diaz filed suit yesterday against the Nevada State Athletic Commission in what could turn out to be a ground breaking legal decision if the law finds in Diaz’s favor. If Diaz is victorious in his conquest, it could alter the authority the NSAC has over temporarily suspending fighters and how quickly they are due their day in court.

MMAfighting.com has all of the details. I am not a fan of a lot of copying an pasting so I’ll summarize, yet encourage you to go read their piece for a more detailed explanation of the Diaz lawsuit. According to the piece, there are three issues at play here.

Diaz would like injunctive relief on two issues, meaning he wants his suspension lifted immediately. The third issue is that Diaz believes he did not have due process rights and this was violated by the NSAC not giving Diaz both injunctive and declaratory relief. So what does this all mean?

The first issue is that Diaz believes the NSAC violated the statutory code NRS 23B which requires the commission to determine the outcome of a proceeding related to suspension within 45 days of the date of the suspension. 45 days have passed and there is no hearing scheduled. According to Diaz’s team, his license has been indefinitely suspended without actually being found guilty of anything as a result of a hearing.

Statute NRS 467.117 has also been violated according to the lawsuit. The gist of this one is that Diaz’s temporary suspension is illegal “because no basis has been established that demonstrates suspending Diaz was done as a matter of preserving public health.”

Diaz is hoping that these statute violations will allow him to walk without any further proceedings back inside the octagon. The court will have to ask whether Diaz was suspended illegally in the first place and if by the NSAC not acting in 45 days is in fact cause to dismiss the case against Diaz.

Diaz has also officially ended his retirement. Check out this interesting nugget from the lawsuit.

On February 7th, 2012, the UFC’s President publicly announced that Mr. Condit agreed to an immediate rematch against me. It is my understanding that the winner of that rematch will be offered a contest against Georges St-Pierre, the current UFC welterweight champion. The summary suspension against me, made without any consideration of the merits of the Complaint, is the only reason I am aware of that a rematch against Mr Condit has not been scheduled. If the summary suspension is set aside, I would be prepared to compete against Mr. Condit or against any other opponent deemed suitable immediately.

According to Dave Meltzer, Diaz has a hearing scheduled on May 14 seeking a preliminary injunction that would more or less lift his suspension and allow him to fight. This explains why Carlos Condit has remained idle since winning the interim UFC welterweight title from Diaz back in February. I never understood what the point was of having an interim champion if that champion was just going to sit and wait for the real champion to return and fight.

All of this drama could create an electrifying atmosphere for a Diaz vs. Condit rematch. The irony here is that their first fight wasn’t even really that good. Yet the elaborate backstory here could be enough to erase those memories from fan’s minds and create interest in a fight that disappointed the first time around.

The risk here for Diaz is that if he loses the case, he is going to make a lot of people angry on the NSAC. That could come back to haunt him if the time comes for Diaz if he has his day in court.

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Gold Rush: The UFC Championship Calendar

March 20, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson SilvaThis piece will undoubtedly curse at least one of the fighters mentioned in it. To anyone who is injured over the course of the next few months and is rendered unable to fight for (or defend) the UFC title in his respective weight class?

Consider this a preemptive apology. You are a professional mixed martial artist, however, so you probably know the risks involved. Therefore, my conscience is free and clear! From Rashad Evans pulling out of UFC 128 with Shogun to Brock Lesnar’s ongoing diverticulitis to GSP’s torn ACL in late December, it is safe to say that 2011 was a year of Madden Curse-like series of unfortunate events.

Given this injury-laden 2011, I am happy to say, with as much exuberance as I can from my computer, that “It’s title season!” for the UFC. Try to imagine that sounding like Vince Vaughn saying “It’s wedding season!” to Owen Wilson in the 2005 hit comedy Wedding Crashers. Anyway, two weeks ago at
UFC 144, Ben Henderson kicked things off with a very close decision win over Frankie Edgar to claim the Lightweight belt. This set off a flurry of “Who Gets the Next Shot?” blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets…until Edgar was awarded the rematch (and rightfully so, but we’ll get to that later). In the meantime, let’s take a look at the calendar:

UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans
Other than Silva/Sonnen, you’d be hard pressed to find a more heated rivalry in the UFC right now. We all know the story: training partners, close friends, betrayal, severed alliances, schedule delays and now the upcoming showdown (sounds like a really bad daytime soap opera). With Evans finally healthy and coming off back-to-back wins against a briefly-revitalized Tito Ortiz and a talented-but-still-green Phil Davis, he’ll get his shot at the most dangerous fighter in the UFC and arguably all of MMA. Jonny “Bones” Jones has torn through everyone he’s faced and will have a significant size advantage (I do expect him to win handily). However, and I preface this with the fact that Jones and Chuck Liddell are very different fighters at what would be different points in their respective careers, Evans did ruin the party for The Iceman the last time he was in Atlanta so you never know what could happen if he somehow finds his way inside Jones’ Stretch Armstrong-like reach.

UFC 146: Dos Santos vs. Overeem
UFC 146 will take place on May 26th at the MGM Grand and features Junior dos Santos defending the Heavyweight belt against Alistair Overeem. Please forgive my use of the following term, but this fight has “fireworks” written all over it. You can now throw up somewhere over my use of the “fireworks” cliché and comeback to your computer. On one hand you have a champ with some of the best boxing in MMA who’s finished 6 of his 8 opponents in the UFC taking on the 265-lb Dutch kickboxing behemoth in Overeem, who has not lost a mixed martial arts contest since 2007. I know his competition has been less than stellar with a TKO win over a checked-out Brock Lesnar, an ugly decision over a flop-happy Fabricio Werdum and a KO over the grossly overmatched Todd Duffee, just to name a few. Still, with his K-1 background, size and brutal use of knees in the clinch, he’s still earned the #2 spot in the weight class. Plus, with the UFC giving some collective marketing power to the pay-per-view by adding an all-heavyweight main card? This is a blockbuster start to summer 2012.

UFC 147: Silva vs. Sonnen 2
As I’d mentioned earlier, Middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen have the most intense rivalry in the UFC other than Jones/Evans, but for different reasons. While Jones/Evans is composed like a Shakespearean tragedy with their “friends to enemies” storyline, Sonnen’s trash-talking dismissal of Silva’s skills, accomplishments and country escalated their first contest to new heights to a pro wrestling faceoff. He became the perfect foil to the oft-demure Brazilian with his contrasting personality and stellar wrestling background that could potentially have been Silva’s Achille’s Heel (and it was for most of the fight until Silva’s jaw-dropping Hail Mary triangle win in the final frame). Sonnen’s suspension due to elevated testosterone levels delayed the sequel, but with both fighters rattling off two straight since their first go ‘round and, more importantly, with the fight expected to take place in Silva’s homeland of Brazil? Grab some friends, do a few shots of aguardiente and get excited for this one.

UFC 148: Cruz vs. Faber 3
Last Friday night the newly reformatted season of The Ultimate Fighter kicked off on FX. Current Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber will spend the next six weeks coaching their respective fighters and their frequent interaction will most certainly add fuel to the fire en route to their rubber match, slated for the July 7th in Vegas. Cruz avenged his only MMA loss by out pointing Faber at their last meeting at UFC 132 and then followed it up with a decision win over now-flyweight Demetrius Johnson at UFC Live in October. Faber rebounded with a submission win over Brian Bowles, earning him another shot at Cruz. With both fighters known for a breakneck pace and a penchant for exciting fights, unwind from your 4th of July debauchery a few days earlier and watch what should be a fitting end to the trilogy.

Without a date:
Four cards out should be enough, but we all know there are several more belts that may not have dates on paper, but will happen (again, barring injuries) this year:

– Henderson/Edgar II was recently confirmed and with Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller and Nate Diaz waiting in the wings, the Lightweight division continues to prove it may be the most stacked division in MMA

- We should have a confirmed final for the inaugural Flyweight tournament that took place last week, but the judging error (read: basic math) from Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson’s fight left semi-final winner Joseph Benavidez without an opponent. Dana & Co. have assured us the Johnson/McCall rematch will happen and we’ll have a new Flyweight champion in 2012, which I must admit, excites me more than I thought it would. I mean, who doesn’t like watching what are essentially uber-athletic horse jockeys on speed throwing down in a cage?

– The most famous acronym in mixed martial arts (GSP) will return from injury to take on the always hungry interim champ Carlos Condit…if Condit doesn’t defend (and lose) his somewhat useless belt between now and the end of the year. HOPEFULLY, we’ll have a definitive, unified Welterweight champ by the start of 2013.

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Nick Diaz Tests Positive For Marijuana Following UFC 143 Fight

February 09, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Nick DiazThe UFC 143 rematch between  Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit was on and off within 24 hours without much explanation. Well a new report by the NSAC fills us in and reveals that Nick Diaz failed a drug test before the fight for marijuana and will now face a likely one-year suspension.

What was speculated for the last 24 hours has finally been confirmed. The Nevada State Athletic Commission reports that Nick Diaz has tested positive for marijuana metabolites following his UFC 143 fight against Carlos Condit. Diaz will now face disciplinary action which will likely be a one-year suspension from professional fighting.

The news is crushing for MMA fans hoping to see the Condit vs. Diaz fight and Diaz fans in general. Diaz is without a doubt one of the most polarizing fighters in the UFC. You either love him or hate him. A lot of people love him and today, they are having a hard time making excuses for their hero.

As a fight fan and a Diaz fan, I am completely baffled. The kid was turning into one of the biggest drawing cards in the UFC. Early estimates for UFC 143 are at around 400,000 which is an impressive number for a non-title fight. The Georges St-Pierre fight would have hovered at anywhere between 800,000-1,000,000 buys. How anyone could throw this all away for marijuana is just stunning.

The kicker here is that if Diaz won the fight, he would have been idle until at least November for the St-Pierre showdown. He could have had plenty of time to do as much marijuana as he wanted and clean up before his next fight. Obviously the guy is smart enough to know what he was doing. Why he would put everything in jeopardy is a mystery.

This is Diaz’s second positive drug test, so he’ll get an automatic one-year suspension. Diaz was first suspended back in 2006 when he fought Takanori Gomi in Las Vegas, NV for Pride FC. It was Diaz’s first fight after leaving the UFC. That was five years ago and somehow over the last five years he has been able to remain clean. Diaz did say that he was going to retire following his UFC 143 fight. Now he won’t have a choice, at least for a year.

The irony here is that whenever Dana White was asked about Nick Diaz over the last several years, he responded that he’d love to have Diaz back in the UFC if he could play the game. In only two fights, Diaz has managed to miss several press conferences and fail a drug test. It would appear to someone like me who only took one psychology class in college that the guy has a big problem with pressure. Getting popped in his first Pride FC fight and now for a test before the biggest fight of his career isn’t a coincidence.

So Diaz is out until at least next February, barring some kind of miracle appeal. It actually works out well for the GSP fight. If GSP fights in November, he should be ready to fight Diaz in February win or lose against Condit. I have never been a fan of a guy failing a drug test getting a big fight in his return but there is way too much money on the table here for the UFC to lose.

Condit will likely fight the Jake Ellenberger vs. Diego Sanchez winner next. Needless to say, Condit vs. Ellenberger/Sanchez will bring in nowhere near the money of a Diaz rematch. Unfortunately that is neither Condit nor the UFC’s fault.

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Update – Announced Nick Diaz Vs. Carlos Condit Rematch Off

February 08, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts

Condit vs. Diaz rematchOnly days after one of the more controversial decisions in a long time for the UFC, Dana White will be signing a Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit rematch immediately. In other words, the Nick Diaz retirement lasted a grand total of four days.

One of the best MMA insiders on Twitter, @FrontRowBrian was the first to break the news. I have been critical about MMA reporters and their lack of ability to break big stories over the last year. Brian is not a reporter and probably breaks more stories in a day than they do in a month. He was right on the mark with this one.

From industry sources: Malki Kawa and Cesar Gracie are both posturing. UFC has already approached both camps for a rematch this summer.” – @FrontRowBrian

UFC president Dana White officially broke the news on Twitter after Brian’s tweet started making the rounds.

@justScrap85 @carloscondit @malkikawa the rumor is true. Carlos did accept the fight today and Carlos is coming on Friday not thur.” – @DanaWhite

The quick agreement is a bit of a surprise after you had Diaz retire on Saturday night and Condit tell numerous media outlets that he had no interest in fighting Diaz again. Most MMA analysts suspected that money could change Condit’s tune so it wouldn’t surprise me if that is the case.

The UFC 143 main-event ended in some controversy, I say some because there are some that thought Diaz won, while others thought that Condit won. The majority of articles and reports I read seemed to indicate that most felt Condit won, although some did sympathize with Diaz. It was nowhere close to the outrage that some felt after the first Rua vs. Machida decision or the second Edgar vs. Maynard fight, but the chatter was definitely there.

Condit taking the fight does not surprise me at all. He needs this fight, maybe even more than Diaz. Diaz can go fight one guy, get a win, and earn just as much money fighting Georges St-Pierre as he would if he fought him after beating Condit. As for Condit, the interest is minimal at best in seeing a GSP fight. Between losing the fight that the fans wanted to see and Condit’s less than exciting performance Saturday, he needs a win and a big one at that to drum up serious interest in fighting GSP.

Diaz ended his retirement in just a matter of days. I don’t think anyone really expected to Diaz to stay retired. He is too good, still young, and let’s face it, he is always complaining about money. I am a little surprised that the UFC gave in and granted him a rematch so fast with Condit. I expected him to have to work for it yet nonetheless, he and the UFC have another shot of giving the fans the fight they really want to see, Diaz vs. GSP.

Business is generally not good for rematches. The Maynard vs. Edgar III buyrate was not very good and that was arguably a much better fight that was being rematched. Fans are already complaining about paying for what they thought was a less exciting fight than advertised thanks to Condit’s game plan. This is going to be a tough sell. It wouldn’t shock me to see this one land on a UFC on Fox special.

As a fan, I am pumped for the rematch. I am intrigued to see the different game plans that these guys bring into the rematch. Diaz will have to do something different or he will just be chasing Condit around again for five rounds. Condit will have to be more aggressive if he expects to draw any money off the win with the GSP showdown. It should be a fascinating chess match for fight fans.

Update: It appears that there was a big snag in putting the fight together. While nothing official has been announced yet, it appears that something from the Diaz camp has precluded the fight from taking place.

*BREAKING NEWS* Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz II will NOT happen. An issue arose from Nick’s camp last night. Nick will NOT be able to compete” – @FrontRowBrian

It also appears that Condit will sign to fight Georges St-Pierre and remain inactive until November. So again I ask, what was the point of interim champion if the champion AND interim champ will not compete for nine months?

 

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UFC 143: Diaz Vs. Condit Results – Condit Wins, Diaz Retires

February 05, 2012 By: Category: Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, Videos

UFC 143 winnerThe never ending saga of Nick Diaz has taken another strange twist following his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 143. Nick Diaz told Joe Rogan after the fight that he is done with MMA after suffering his first loss in 12 fights, ending and an 11 year career.

Diaz’s announcement came after losing a unanimous decision to Carlos Condit. Diaz called Condit’s leg kicks “baby kicks” and mocked Condit for “running away from him” for five rounds. Diaz said he gets paid way too much for this and then ended his interview by telling Joe Rogan that he would continue to help out his teammates but that he was done “with this sh*t.”

I can certainly understand the frustrations of Diaz. Condit really did a phenomenal job of staying disciplined for the full five rounds and keeping Diaz at a distance for most of the fight. I wouldn’t call it running away, but Condit did his best not to engage with Diaz. On the other hand, Diaz was a one trick pony at UFC 143. His game plan was obviously to strike with Condit and when that wasn’t working, he had nothing. I can understand Diaz’s frustrations but quite honestly he was outsmarted by a more disciplined fighter tonight.

The UFC really boxed themselves into a corner leading up to UFC 143. The company spent more time promoting a Nick Diaz vs. Georges St-Pierre fight than the actual fight that was headlining UFC 143. So now the UFC is caught in a situation where they have to sell the fight that nobody wants, including their own company. Quite frankly the company backed the wrong horse at UFC 143 and it bit them in the behind.

Condit could have saved this and made himself those missed Diaz millions. Rogan asked Condit about fighting GSP after the fight. Condit could have cut a pro wrestling style promo on the UFC and GSP for overlooking him and created a new grudge match. Instead he said it was an honor and made fans even more disappointed that they weren’t listening to Nick Diaz trash talking GSP. I admire his professionalism, but professionalism isn’t going to help promote a fight that nobody wants to see.

It really is a bitter pill for Georges St-Pierre. GSP now has very little motivation to work harder to recover from his injury. Dana White recently told Ariel Helwani that GSP would be back in action by the summertime and that he was ahead of schedule. Mike Goldberg said that GSP told him that he won’t begin full MMA training until June and was targeting a November return. How could Dana White even say such a thing if GSP won’t even begin to fully train in June? In other words, don’t count on GSP fighting in the summer.

Condit is now the UFC interim welterweight champion. I really don’t understand why the UFC created an interim title for this fight. The announcers mentioned throughout the night that the winner would be challenging Georges St-Pierre for the title and referred to GSP as the champion. If GSP is still recognized as the champion, what is the point of this interim title?

The fight business is an interesting game. It would not shock me whatsoever to see Carlos Condit suffer some kind of “mysterious” injury in September or October, setting up Diaz vs. GSP in November after all. I am not a big conspiracy theory guy but there is a lot of money on the line here and in the end, this business is about making money.

I would be surprised to see Diaz retire and never fight again. He has threatened to enter the boxing game and maybe that is what he does. However, he makes a lot of money fighting in the UFC, money he would likely never make boxing. In the end, all Diaz needs is one win to justify a GSP fight. I think he returns to fighting by the summer and UFC fans get that Diaz vs. GSP fight sooner than later.

Full UFC: Diaz vs. Condit results…
Carlos Condit defeated Nick Diaz via unanimous decision to win the UFC interim welterweight championship
Fabricio Werdum defeated Roy Nelson via unanimous decision
Josh Koscheck defeated Mike Pierce via split decision
Renan Barao defeated Scott Jorgensen via unanimous decision
Ed Herman defeated Clifford Starks via rear-naked choke
Dustin Poirier defeated Max Holloway via submission (triangle/armbar)
Edwin Figueroa defeated Alex Caceres via split decision
Matt Brown defeated Chris Cope via second-round TKO
Matt Riddle defeated Henry Martinez via split decision
Rafael Natal defeated Michael Kuiper via unanimous decision
Stephen Thompson defeated Dan Stittgen via first-round KO

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