Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cold Truths and Hot Realities

   Welcome to the premier issue of Cold Truths and Hot Realities, where we burn heathenous hacks with icy facts. With this initial salvo we will explore the difference between a Champion and a belt holder, and examine the current man atop each weight division in both the UFC and Strikeforce to determine which are truly deserving of the prestigious title of Champion, and which are just occupying space.

UFC: Cain Velasquez

Cain Velasquez recently defeated former WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar to become the UFC heavyweight king, defeating this fledgling MMA wannabe inside of the first round. Such a win holds no glory, as it was more of a father-son disciplinary spanking than it was an MMA fight. Before this, Velasquez’s victories were a KO win over the once proud Nogueira, who has long since been a shell of himself, a premature stoppage against mid-west brawler Ben Rothwell, and a controversial decision eeked out over black Frenchman Cheick Kongo. This is not what creates Champions, this is what creates belt holders.

Verdict: Belt Holder

Strickforce: Alistair Overeem

Nightmarish strikers like this are a rare breed in MMA. Also rare is a dominant two sport fighter. In a time where the likes of KJ Noons are being labeled as the “most successful two sport fighter” by media dopes, despite his enormously underwhelming achievements in both MMA and boxing, it is refreshing to see someone as real as Alistair Overeem succeeding at the high levels of both MMA and K-1. With Overeem the night may end in punches, kicks, knees, or submissions, you just cannot know for sure. Exciting, dynamic, dominant, this man is a Champion.

Verdict: Champion

Light Heavyweight:
UFC: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Shogun initially defeated Lyoto Machida by decision to win the UFC light heavyweight strap, but due to incompetent judging it never became official. Such a thing is of no concern to a Champion such as Shogun, who rebounded in their immediate rematch to violently knock out the point karate stylist Machida to become officially recognized as the UFC’s light heavyweight Champion.

Verdict: Champion

Strickforce: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante

It was not long ago, June of 2009 to be exact, that Cavalcante embarrassed himself by showing up in abysmal shape to fight Mike Kyle. Feijao got what he earned in that fight when bad boy Kyle knocked him out with strikes in the second round. Three fights later over relatively tame competition and Cavalcante is wearing Strikeforce light heavyweight gold. A solid fighter? For sure. A Champion? Not quite.

Verdict: Belt Holder

UFC: Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva has shown flashes of both sides of this coin. The Silva who made a mockery out of the fight game in his contests with Thales Leites, Patrick Cote, and Demian Maia is no Champion. However, the Silva who dismantled the likes of Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, and Nate Marquardt shows that somewhere inside his body lies the strength of more than a mere belt holder. There can be no doubt that he is arrogant, seems delusional in regards to his actual level of fighting ability, and enjoys mocking both his opponents and the sport in general, but he has done enough to earn the title of Champion. Lets just hope he remembers all of his arrogant mockery when Vitor Belfort strips him of that title.

Verdict: Champion

Strickforce: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

Recently crowned Strikeforce middleweight king after winning a mundane decision over Tim Kennedy, Jacare is one of the elite BJJ players in the MMA game today. He is one of those fighters who will excel against certain types of fighters, namely other grapplers and jack-of-all-trades master of none types, but fail spectacularly against others, namely guys who can strike. It is for this reason he cannot be labeled a Champion. A Champion stares down any opponent, in any form, and devours him. The fact that he has proven himself so vulnerable on the feet is a major kink in the armor of Jacare. He is a high level fighter, but he has not yet shown Championship MMA skill.

Verdict: Belt Holder

UFC: Georges St Pierre

St Pierre has quite the luxury fighting in a division filled with GSP-prototypes, all of which are clones of himself minus a few skill points in each combative attribute. Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, and now we can add Jake Shields to that mix. All of these guys are to an extent, some more than others, just lesser version of Georges St Pierre. Oh sure, you can throw in the occasional one dimensional striker like a Dan Hardy or a Thiago Alves, but even then St Pierre can’t finish the fight. Georges St Pierre must be pretty grateful that there are no fully dynamic killers in the UFC‘s welterweight stable, otherwise he wouldn’t be holding on to that belt for as long as he has.

Verdict: Belt Holder

Strickforce: Nick Diaz

One of the most interesting fighters in the game today, both inside and outside of the cage, Nick Diaz claimed Strikeforce’s 170 lbs. belt after knocking out Marius Zaromskis, the head kicking monster who went into the Diaz fight with three vicious head kick KO wins in a row. This didn’t bother Diaz in the least, and that’s no surprise as he has never shown an inkling towards fear. The Zaromskis fight is exactly the kind of fight which forges a Champion. When Diaz walked into the cage that night in January of 2010, he was in there with a beast, a proven killer of fighters, and Diaz prevailed in spectacular fashion. Nick Diaz is a Champion.

Verdict: Champion

UFC: Frankie Edgar

Edgar is the archetypal American wrestler in MMA. Yes, he’ll keep a high pace, the fight will probably be filled with some scramble action, but with guys like Edgar, its never the sort of scrambling which has you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of an immanent submission or knockout. In this regard he’s not like an Eddie Alvarez, a Diego Sanchez, or even a Hideo Tokoro. All of Edgar’s fights have the air of high paced excitement, but lack the substance. Champions own their opponents, not necessarily through every moment of the fight, but by the end of the fight a challenger will look up to the Champion, even if the challenger is the physically taller man. Edgar does not leave his opponents like this, Edgar leaves his opponents wondering if they’ve even been in a full contact fight.

Verdict: Belt Holder

Strickforce: Gilbert Melendez

Melendez is somewhat of a jack of all trades, but not in the typical sense in which that would usually be followed by the phrase “but master of none.” He’s a stand out in wrestling with high level grappling and solid striking. There aren’t really any glaring deficiencies in his game, and he’s taken the two losses of his career and bounced back to avenge both of them. Its hard to see anyone in the lightweight division, regardless of promotion, that can defeat him right now. Gilbert Melendez is the lightweight Champion of MMA.

Verdict: Champion

UFC: Jose Aldo

A true killer. Dominates his opposition, destroys, demolishes, decimates, dismantles, devastates, dispatches, and decapitates. You can get as hyperbolistic as you wish with Jose Aldo, it all applies. The man is a killer, the man is a Champion.

Verdict: Champion

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fighter Flavor of the Month - Cain Velasquez

   In this inaugural Fighter Flavor of the Month, I want to make its purpose clear. This feature is not to derogate the fighters which it highlights, whom we respect, rather, its purpose is to splash a bucket of ice water on the raging hormones of the wild fan boy stampede which forms after every major victory for any fighter. It is to encourage rational and unbiased analytical observation.

   Now, in honor of his UFC 121 heavyweight championship victory, and in opposition to the likes of Joe Rogan with his proclamation of yet another “new era,” let us begin with a look at the current Fighter Flavor of the Month, Cain Velasquez.

Cain Velasquez, current UFC heavyweight belt holder
   At UFC 121 Cain Velasquez shamed Brock Lesnar with a spanking inside of the first round to become the new UFC heavyweight champion. With this victory came scores of giddy voices labeling him the new Fedor, proclaiming him unstoppable, and even going as far as to say we have entered the “Cain Velasquez era.”

   Now I don’t know about you, but I always thought eras were defined by dominant reigns spanning multiple years, and not by a single victory over a questionable fighter with only three year’s experience and five wins to his name. It’s clear that this “new era” talk is empty hyperbole, targeted towards the common fan who will gleefully swallow anything Zuffa spits.

   Is Cain Velasquez a killer? Maybe, maybe not. At this point in his career it is impossible to say, as he has not fought the elite opposition of his division. Simply holding a UFC belt does not automatically make you the number one ranked fighter in your division, despite what the MMA media hacks want you to believe. Brock Lesnar was not even in the top 5 when he lost to Cain.

   The most significant moments in Cain’s career, the most telling moments, came in his fight at UFC 99 against gate keeper Cheick Kongo.

Cain Velasquez being rocked by a Cheick Kongo right hand at UFC 99
   Kongo dropped Cain twice on two separate occasions, first in round one, and again in round two.  While its commendable that Cain survived and fought on to win the decision, it is quite possible that under Pride rules Kongo would have gotten the nod as he nearly finished Velasquez twice, when all Cain did was ride out a positional based decision win while barely giving Kongo a bloody nose.

   Cain has not shown anything to even come close to warranting the accolades he has been getting. Calling him Fedor v2.0 is laughable in its wild absurdity. Junior Dos Santos, whom Cain fights next, has shown all the skills which give Cain fits in the cage, namely power coupled with take down defense. If a gate keeper like Kongo, someone who can’t even defeat a no name like Travis Browne, can nearly knock him cold twice, what is a proven killer like Dos Santos going to do to him?

It appears Rogan, who infamously christened the “Machida era” which lasted all of one fight, will again be eating crow when Dos Santos exposes the gaping holes in Cain’s game.

The MMA Haus Top 10 Rankings

The MMA Haus top 10 rankings have been posted. View them here.