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Jon Jones UFC 152

In an interview just a few days ago Jon Jones made a quote that I am having hard time agreeing with, no matter how great the young champions short career has been. Jones said:

“Me and Vitor Belfort are from different generations of fighting. I really believe that in my short career, I’ve already fought a lot tougher opponents than he has. I feel like I’ve had more championship caliber fights than he has.”

Granted I have said it many times in the past, the current run Jon Jones is on is truly remarkable. He has beaten 4 straight former UFC light heavyweight champions. They were in order, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, and “Sugar” Rashad Evans. He even more impressively finished 3 out of the 4 and his unanimous decision win over Rashad Evans was pretty dominant to say the least. Now he is facing another former UFC light heavyweight champion in Vitor Belfort to try to extend the streak to five. I am not taking anything away from that streak at all, but to say he has fought a lot tougher competition than Belfort sounds a little naive to me.

Over Vitor Belfort’s almost 16 year career he has fought a true who’s who list of UFC and MMA legends, hall of famers, and future hall of famers.

  •  Starting in 1997 he TKO’d Tank Abbott at UFC 13. Abbott is not a HOF but was one of the         early pioneers of the sport who had deadly punching power.
  •  He fought UFC HOF Randy Couture 3 times. At UFC 15 and UFC 46, and UFC 49. Couture won the trilogy 2-1 with all fights resulting in TKO’s.
  •  He TKO’d Wanderlei Silva at UFC Brazil.
  •  Belfort lost a decision to Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba at Pride 5.
  •  He lost to UFC HOF Chuck Liddell by decision at UFC 37.
  •  Vitor lost to UFC HOF Tito Ortiz by decision at UFC 51.
  •  Was submitted by former K1, Dream, and Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at Pride: Total elimination 2005. Also lost to Overeem in 2006 by decision at Strikeforce: Revenge.
  •  Lost a decision to future HOF Dan Henderson at Pride 32.
  •  Belfort TKO’d possible future UFC HOF Rich Franklin at UFC 103
  •  Was KO’d by future UFC HOF Anderson Silva at UFC 126.

Now I know the majority of those fights resulted in losses for Belfort, and his fight with Jones will most likely end that way too but to say you have fought a lot tougher competition than Belfort is simply wrong in my opinion. I give Belfort credit for moving back up to 205 to take this fight on short notice but to pull off an upset in this fight he will have to channel all that big fight experience and reach down deep and land that perfect left hand to the chin of Jones and if he rattles his cage try to go in for the kill. Crazier things have happened in this sport.

 

Jon Jones Hendo UFC 151 Cancelled

On Thursday at 2 p.m. ET Dana White made the announcement that shook the MMA world to its core. Dan Henderson had no choice but to back out of his scheduled light heavyweight title fight with champion Jon Jones which was supposed to take place Saturday September 1 at The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Henderson has a partial tear of his MCL and was unable to resume his training. Usually what would happen in this situation is the UFC would scramble for a last-minute replacement to fill the void that Henderson’s departure left.

What happened next was the truly shocking part of the whole story. The UFC was having trouble finding a replacement but Chael Sonnen agreed unequivocally. On 8 days notice in a brand new weight class against one of the baddest men in the sport. At this point the UFC thought they had a high quality replacement fight that would might even draw more interest than the original fight. They even went as far as to have their PR team start to make new commercials and press releases. Then Dana made the call to Jon Jones. He was presented with the new option and he said he wanted to speak with his coaches and his team. Understandable for sure. His head coach Greg Jackson advised him that If Jones chose to take the fight with Chael on 9 days notice it would be the worst decision of his career. Jones chose to decline the fight with Sonnen.

Dana White used the term “disgusted” when he described how he felt about the decision. He said he really didn’t expect that response. He was asked on the media call if Jon Jones was made aware of the fact that if the champ declined the fight the whole card would be cancelled. He said Jones was made aware of all the repercussions. This is an unprecedented move by the UFC to cancel a whole event like that. There is a lot of blame to go around. I am from the thinking that if you are the champion and have that supreme confidence in your abilities the way Jones does that he should have taken the challenge. Especially when he is coming off that DUI charge and had his golden boy reputation somewhat tarnished. He would have gained so much respect from the fans, his fellow fighters, and from the UFC brass.

Chael Sonnen UFC 151

Chael Sonnen steps up and proves he really is a Gangster from Oregon.

Three of the fights have already been rerouted to the UFC on FX 5 card in Minneapolis on October 5. Those fights are Jake Ellenberger vs Jay Hieron, Danny Castillo vs Michael Johnson, and Shane Roller vs Jacob Volkmann. This will make that card that much stronger but what about the fans who have paid for airfare and hotel rooms in Vegas already. Yeah, their tickets will be refunded but dealing with the airlines and hotels might not be so easy. At least it is Vegas and hopefully the fans will keep their plans for the trip and still have a great time.

Jones and the Jackson camp are not the only parties at fault here. See this card was really only one major fight deep to begin with. The co-main event was with a fighter in Ellenberger who was coming off a loss, against Jay Hieron who was a last-minute replacement himself because of an injury to Josh Koscheck and he was making his first appearance in the UFC in 7 years. He is known by MMA hardcores but not by casual fans who only follow the UFC. This card besides the Jones-Hendo fight looked more like a UFC on Fuel card. My point is the UFC is stretched way too thin with too many cards. I am not complaining about having a card almost every weekend because for me the more the merrier, but realistically it might be better for everyone involved to scale it back just a bit. This will only make the fans appreciate the cards that much more and provide much more stacked cards. Take into account all the injuries that have plagued the sport, especially in the last year as well. I totally understand that Dana White is a genius in this game and fully knows what he is doing but I hope he can see that all the blame for this cancellation should not fall on Jones shoulders alone.

When the dust settled, we learned Jones will now face Vitor Belfort at UFC 152.

Then Thursday night the story gets even more interesting. It was first reported that Jones would meet Lyoto Machida at UFC 152 in Toronto. Then Machida said he would need more time to prepare for Jones so instead Jon Jones will now meet Vitor Belfort, who volunteered to take the title shot at 205lbs. Dana White announced that because Machida turned down the fight he would now have to fight another top contender before he would receive his title shot. So now the UFC will have to find another opponent for Alan Belcher at UFC 153 in October because of the Belfort development. Probably the least of their worries right now. The co-main event of the UFC 152 card in Toronto will be Joseph Benavides-Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural Flyweight Title and Michael Bisping-Brian Stann is the third main fight now.

Overall a wild day in the world of MMA for sure. The majority of MMA fighters have taken to Twitter to express their displeasure with Jones decision. Only a small handful have taken Jones side in this matter. Most notably “King Mo” Luwal. I am sure the UFC will do right by the fighters affected by this cancellation, but I just hope lessons were learned on all ends and the sport can move on in a positive manner.

Frankie Edgar UFC

It was reported tonight (Tuesday 8/21) on Fuel TV’s UFC Tonight that Frankie Edgar has officially made the decision to take his talents to the featherweight division.

 

The writing was on the wall for Edgar after his second straight loss to the current champ Benson Henderson. That second loss at UFC 150 was a very close decision that I had scored 48-47 in favor of Edgar. I felt Edgar was the aggressor after the first round and did enough to take the belt back. We all know the saying though “Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.” It is all very true, especially when you are taking on the champion. I am a big fan of Ben Henderson, but I feel he has to be more aggressive if he wants to beat a guy like Nate Diaz who clearly knows how to score points and take the fight to his opponents.

 

Back to Edgar’s decision to drop to 145lbs. It makes all the sense in the world for him to do this. He just lost to the current champ twice in a row and in order for him to get another title shot he would have to have like 3-5 convincing and consecutive wins in the talent rich lightweight division. At 145 Edgar will most likely have to prove himself at least once possibly twice before he gets a title shot against whoever holds that belt at the time. Of course there s a very good chance it will be current champ Jose Aldo, but you really never know in this crazy sport where anyone can get caught on any given night.

 

Right now the top contenders at featherweight are Eric Koch, Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, and Chad Mendes. You also have tough competitors like Dustin Poirier, Nik Lentz, and Charles Oliveira and a growing list of young and up and comers. This division is finally starting to fill out.

 

I can personally see Aldo moving up to lightweight eventually but a fight with him and Edgar would really be a hot ticket. Edgar has the big fight experience, speed, grit, and wrestling ability to truly give Aldo fits. Aldo’s mastery of the leg kick could really be a problem for Edgar though. He had a real tough time stopping Henderson’s leg kicks so stopping Aldo’s would be almost impossible.

 

I would like to see Frankie meet Chad Mendes in his first test. They are 2 high level wrestlers who are both very tough. Mendes did have a shot at Aldo and was faring ok until he ran into a nasty knee by Aldo that ended his night real quick. This would be a good fight for Mendes to justify another title shot if he can beat the former 155 king. For Edgar, a solid win over Mendes would prove he has the ability to cut a little weight and still have his speed carry down to the featherweight division. Some are even saying Edgar can drop down to bantamweight if he really wanted, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Just imagine if Edgar can win belts in three weight classes. Not as impossible as it sounds.

 

Looking forward to this fresh start for the ex-champ. The heart he fights with is unparalleled in this sport. He is a guy who really paid his dues early in his career and upset some very tough veterans on his path to the title. Edgar beat a legend in BJ Penn twice at a weight where some people thought he would be champ until he retired. He has victories over Sean Sherk, Tyson Griffin, Hermes Franca, Jim Miller, Mark Bocek, and Spencer Fisher. He will bring all his tenacity and experience to a new home and it will be fun to watch.

 

WEC Lightweight stand outs in UFC

In October 2010 when the UFC decided to merge all the fighters from the WEC into the UFC ranks a lot of people thought the WEC guys would have a real tough time adjusting to life with the big boys. The WEC with its signature blue mat was looked at by some as sort of minor league of sorts compared to the UFC. Especially in the lightweight division of the UFC which is widely known as the most stacked division in the sport. Guys like Benson Henderson, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and Anthony Pettis would have to prove themselves in the UFC before they would receive the respect we now see they deserve. In fact these 3 fighters have compiled an amazing 13-2 record as UFC fighters.

“Showtime” Pettis was even supposed to receive an automatic title shot against Frankie Edgar because he was the last WEC Lightweight champion after his thrilling defeat of Benson Henderson. In this fight he executed the now famous “Showtime” kick off the cage and onto Henderson’s face, but Dana White chose to give Gray Maynard that rematch after that epic second fight he and Edgar engaged in.

If you look at the top 4 current contenders in the 155lb division, they were all at one time WEC fighters. Even Nate Diaz, who is definitely considered a UFC fighter and rightfully so, had a 3-1 record in his early career in the WEC. He has fought with the UFC since 2007 so we can’t really count him as a WEC fighter.

Champion Benson Henderson (5-0 UFC) will fight Nate Diaz in December for the title while Donald Cerrone (6-1 UFC) will challenge Anthony Pettis (2-1 UFC) with the winner having a great chance of being the #1 contender after that. That is pretty amazing in less than 2 years to have those 3 guys all at the top of the food chain of the deepest division of the sport.

Also another former WEC vet Danny Castillo is tasting success in the UFC as well. He has a 4-1 record and is on a 3 fight win streak. He is scheduled to meet highly touted TUF finalist Michael Johnson at UFC 151 on September 1, 2012.

Just goes to show you “It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.” While the UFC will always be the premiere MMA organization in the world you can’t always judge a fighter by where and who he has fought in the past. Yes, sometimes a fighters lack of top-level competition will result in “Octagon Jitters” in their first few fights with the promotion but that doesn’t mean they should ever be taken lightly just because they weren’t UFC fighters in the past.

MMA training

For many decades the United States has been known around the globe for having a reputation of having tough citizens. Kids who grow up in certain East Coast cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia have had no choice but to be able to defend themselves in hand to hand combat. Kids who grow up in the midwest have that wrestling background ingrained in their bodies that make them country strong and West Coast youths were also raised to be tough and stick up for themselves.

When technology advanced and kids started to get into video games and computers more and more, I feel that the kids and teenagers in this country really started to go soft. Instead of being out there interacting with friends and horsing around, a lot of kids have locked themselves in their room and immersed themselves in imaginary worlds. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy video games myself and can really appreciate the strides these games have made since I was a kid with Atari, Nintendo, and Sega Genesis to todays X-Box and Playstation systems.

Then along came the emerging force that is MMA. The sport was first showed in a semi-organized manner at UFC 1 in 1993. This was a dream come true for fans who were tiring of boxing and had a love for martial arts, whether as a practitioner or just a fan of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris movies.

There is no doubt in my mind that MMA has toughened up this country on a whole. Now you have youngsters dedicating a lot of their time and energy to try to prepare themselves to be the next big MMA star. There are so many different MMA gyms now popping up around every corner of the country. I can guarantee you that the average 15-year-old is a lot more capable of defending themselves now in a self-defense situation let’s say 15 years ago.

A lot of the sports success can ironically be attributed to men that were trying to shut it down. Powerful politicians like Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain were spearheading campaigns to shut the sport down because of its brutal nature. They were using terms like “human cockfighting” to describe the sport in their efforts to put an end to it. All they did was take it to another level though. This forced organizations like the UFC to make it a much more legit sport. Gone were the freak show match ups of a 180 lb man fighting a 250 lb man. Gone were the nights when a fighter had to win 3 fights in one evening. Gone were the no holds barred rules that became associated with MMA. Now we have weight classes, a set time limit on rounds, and proper insight from sanctioning bodies across the country.

I think things will only get bigger and better for MMA fans in this country as well. Now you can turn on ESPN and see the results of major MMA events right after NFL, NBA, and MLB scores. It is a good time to be a MMA fan. With the Olympic games about to begin in London there will be a lot of chatter about the possibility of future games having MMA as a competition. I don’t know how I feel about that yet, but that is for a future debate.

Cruiserweight UFC

On Thursdays pre-fight news conference for UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada Dana White was asked by a reporter about the possibility of eventually forming a Cruiserweight Division for fighters who are too big for 205 lbs and too small for the 265 heavyweight limit.

Dana, always trying to keep everyone off-balance countered by saying in fact the cruiserweight division is not even being discussed, but instead if any division will be formed it will be at 115 lbs. There is no name for this proposed division at this time.

I seriously hope that Dana is not planning on doing this any time soon. The 125 lb (flyweight) is still in its infant stages and only has 14 fighters in its ranks. Out of those 14 fighters, 10 of them have two or less fights in the UFC. We don’t even have a flyweight champion yet. Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavides will meet to see who the inaugural flyweight champion will be on September 22, 2012 at UFC 152.

I strongly feel that it is in the UFC’s best interest to try to build the flyweights and bantamweights before even considering a 115 lb class. I personally like watching the lighter fighters because of their high skill level and speed, but there are still a lot of fans who have not come around to the idea of the smaller guys headlining big cards. Most fans like to see the big guys who can end the fight with one punch, kick, elbow, or slam. I like that too, but I also can appreciate the smaller fighters skill sets.

I can understand the UFC’s thought process, that if they did have this new division a lot of the fighters will be from Asia and South America. These are two area’s of the world that the UFC is trying to win fans. I just feel the UFC has to be very careful not to over saturate fans with a watered down roster. I think 125 lbs should be the lightest we see fighters compete in a high level MMA organization at least for quite some time. The UFC has recently added two fighters to the Flyweight division. They are Ulysses Gomez (9-2) and John Moraga (10-1). These are two solid additions and they will be fighting each other on the UFC on Fox: Shogun vs Vera card on August 4, 2012. I have a lot of confidence that in two years time the flyweight division will be a stacked one. These smaller organizations, like Tachi Palace for example are doing a great job in preparing younger and smaller fighters so that when they get the call from the big show they are ready to perform at a high level.

As far as the option of a Cruiserweight division being formed in between the 205 lb and 265 lb weight limit I think it is something that should garner serious consideration by not only the UFC, but all of MMA to help certain fighters compete at a weight that is much more satisfactory for their body types. This can only create more even matches with fighters that are in the best possible shape they can be in.

I am aware I am in no position to question the thought process and decision-making of the higher-ups in the UFC but every now and then you hear an idea that just doesn’t sound like it will work and this was one of those instances.

Dana White Strikeforce Injuries Merge UFCEver since Zuffa acquired Strikeforce in March 2011, MMA fans have been giving their input on what the future of Strikeforce should be. Some say to keep it going and try to bring in new talent, others feel it should be made into a UFC minor league or farm system. Some people, like myself feel it should be a combination of both.

I have thought about this quite a bit and heard several fans points of view on MMA podcasts and websites. I whole heartedly feel the only logical conclusion to this drawn out affair would be to merge all of Strikeforce’s top fighters to the UFC and keep Strikeforce going as a platform for young talented fighters to get experience and television exposure. The Strikeforce Challengers Series in my eyes was very successful. It helped bring along such fighters as Daniel Cormier, Ryan Couture, Tyron Woodley, Bobby Voelker, Lumumba Sayers, Derek Brunson, Quinn Mulhern, and Shane Del Rosario just to name a few.

I understand that Strikeforce has a contract with Showtime and that they might make it very hard to pull this off, but if the brain trust at Zuffa can prepare a thought out detailed game plan, anything is possible.

With the all the reshuffling and cancellations of big fights in the UFC due to injury it would be a smart decision to merge Srikeforce’s champions and top contenders in each division to bolster the depth in UFC’s 155, 170, 185, and 205 divisions. The UFC is already obviously head and shoulders above any other fighting organization in the world, but can you imagine some of the match ups we would see if this happened. Especially with the amount of cards the UFC has lined up in the future. Some of the pay-per view cards have been really affected by these injuries. The UFC’s plan of multiple international cards is a very ambitious one, but if these cards are so watered down by injuries and fight shuffling, it won’t reflect well with fight savvy fans in Canada, Europe, and Brazil.

Light Heavyweight Division

The top fighters in Strikeforce’s light heavyweight division are Gegard Mousasi, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Mike Kyle, and Ovince St. Preux. If you add these guys to the mix in the UFC it would make some of these top contender fights a lot more interesting. If Jon Jones gets by an always game Dan Henderson there are not a lot of tough challenges ahead of him. Alexander Gustafsson is the one guy people are saying might be a threat to “Bones” because of his length and stand up abilities. Not saying any of the Strikeforce guys can beat Jones at all, but they would certainly make things a lot more interesting as far as contendership goes. I would love to see Machida vs Mousasi or OSP vs Phil Davis. How about “Feijao” (when he gets off suspension) vs Glover Teixera or Mike Kyle vs Thiago Silva.

Middleweight Division

This division in the UFC is slowly becoming a very formidable one. With the addition of Hector Lombard and the improvements in Mark Munoz, Tim Boetsch, Alan Belcher, Chris Weidman, Brian Stann, and Michael Bisping the division has more depth than ever. Also Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami, Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Ed Herman, Rousimar Palhares,Vitor Belfort, Patrick Cote, and Jake Shields make this division 15-20 fighters deep of top contenders. You also have young fighters like Ronny Markes and Constantinos Philippou making a name for themselves. If Strikeforce’s top dogs like champion Luke Rockhold, top contender Tim Kennedy, “Jacare” Souza, and Robbie Lawler were brought over, there would be endless match ups that Joe Silva can make. I know it sounds like with all the talent I named in the UFC’s middleweight division that they don’t need the help, but look at what has transpired recently with all the injuries. You can never have enough top talent.

Welterweight Division

In my opinion the UFC’s second deepest division behind lightweight. This division in the past two years is the most improved in the UFC. There are a lot of beasts lurking in the top 10 of this division all looking to position themselves for a crack at the champ George St-Pierre. Names like Interim Champ Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Johny Hendricks, Martin Kampmann, Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, BJ Penn, Erick Silva , and Siyar Bahadurzada are all in the conversation for future top contender spots. The top welterweight fighters that I would bring over to the UFC from Strikeforce are Tyron Woodley, who would be able to hang with a lot of the wrestlers who are dominating the top 10, Nate Marquardt who already has the UFC experience but never got to test himself in the 170 division, Tyler Stinson, Jordan Mein, Chris Spang, and Bobby Voelker. These additions would solidify this division for years to come.

Lightweight Division

Like I said earlier, this is the deepest division in the UFC and all of MMA. With champ Benson Henderson, top contenders Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, Gray Maynard, Jim Miller, and Donald Cerrone this division is bubbling over with talent. There are also plenty of up and coming fighters who are making their way up the ranks like Paul Sass, and Danny Castillo who are worthy and game opponents. Not to mention other veterans like Jamie Varner, Evan Dunham, and Edson Barboza to help fill things out. If UFC can add Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez to finally see what he can do against the UFC elite it would be amazing for the fans who have been clamoring to see this happen. Also veterans Josh Thompson, Jorge Masvidal, Pat Healy, KJ Noons, and JZ Cavalcante are all guys that I would like to see match up with UFC lightweights.

There are still plenty of fighters in Strikeforce who are also great fighters, but you can’t bring over everyone. You will still need some fighters to maintain the Challenger Series like format. This would give fighters like middleweights Lorenz Larkin, Derek Brunson, Roger Gracie, Lumumba Sayers, and Danilo Villefort a chance to get main card exposure. Welterweights like Roger Bowling, Tarec Saffiedine, Nah-Shon Burrell, Quinn Mulhern,and Jason High. Lightweights like Billy Evangelista, Justin Wilcox, Caros Fodor, Ryan Couture, and Conor Heun will really get a chance to carry the torch for Strikeforce.

Of course the women’s 135 division would still be around in Strikeforce with stars like champ Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, and the pending the return of Cyborg Santos. They can also recruit more top women fighters because there will be more room on cards for these women fighters to shine.

If Strikeforce would be eliminated all together other organizations like Bellator and One FC would benefit as well. The UFC would probably sign the top guys, but all the other names I mentioned would be courted and signed immediately. Bellator has shown that they have both eyes open when it comes to signing tough fighters, and One FC is slowly but surely starting to build their roster with big names.

If the UFC were to transfer over all the top names I mentioned it would also give them the option in the future of possibly starting a 195lb division. You can call it Cruiserweight. I just feel that 20lbs in between divisions is a little too much, this would give a lot of fighters in the middleweight division that would prefer not to cut so much weight another option. Guys like Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Mark Munoz, and Yushin Okami can all possibly move up.

It would also give fighters in the Light Heavyweight division who either feel they are a little small for 205 or are on a losing streak a chance to reinvent themselves. Fighters like Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson, or Lyoto Machida could make the drop. This would also create a new champion that could help with main event fights on pay-per view cards. This is just food for thought and probably won’t happen, but the more quality fighters you have in your stable the more options like this are possible.

I know the bottom line in this sport or any other business is the money earned and contract obligations, so I know a lot of these options probably won’t go through, but it is fun to toss around ideas with the hopes that a few of them will stick.

MMA Think Tank Randy NeidichI have been an MMA fan since way back in 1993. I have bought countless pay-per views and have watched numerous events on free tv. Never have I been to a live MMA event. I live in NY, so there haven’t been a great number of events in the area and a lot of the times I had work or just could not afford a ticket to one of the cards in New Jersey.

This past Friday night I finally fulfilled this dream, and I attended the UFC on FX 4 card The Revel Casino and Resort in Atlantic City N.J. It truly was for me like a kid going to Disney World for the first time. The day started with me and two good friends of mine meeting at The Port Authority bus Terminal in Manhattan to take an approximately 2 1/2 hour bus ride out to Atlantic City. After playing around with a few slot machines we made our way over to The Revel. This is an amazing structure. The place has only been open for a month but you would never know it by the level of professionalism, courtesy, and respect displayed by the staff of this property.

See I am a Cancer patient who has recently finished surgeries and treatments that have left me temporarily with the inability to speak or swallow any liquids or food. I have a feeding tube connected through my stomach (PEG TUBE) that only allows me to ingest drinks, nutritional supplements, and my medications with the help of syringe injections through the feeding tube. For me to go through this process I need some time and privacy when I am out in public. This was a concern of mine when the prospects of going to this event came through. My worries were taken care of immediately when I had my friends speak to a security guy on the casino level at Revel. He came up with the idea of bringing me to a nice sized private bathroom in one of the restaurants at the top of the escalators. It was very clean, spacious, had an outlet so I can charge my phone, and nobody bothered me. It takes me about 20 minutes to feed and take my meds. I was very happy with the way it was handled. I feel bad I did not get this young mans name. Me being in the hotel business myself for 15 years I should know better.

It was about 4 p.m. When we arrived and you can feel the buzz in the air at the casino. You see all these UFC fans with there MMA apparel on. Right away as I am heading to the private restroom I see MMA journalist Ariel Helwani and UFC featherweight Steven Siler within seconds of each other. Now I was starting to get in the right state of mind to watch some UFC action.

I’m personally a guy who loves sports and really do enjoy watching them at home on the big screen. I have been to hundreds of MLB, NBA, and NFL games in my life but never a UFC card. We got there for the first fight of the night and the place was maybe half full at best, but filled up as the night went on. We had good seats about 20-30 yards from the Octagon. I have heard from people in the past how when you go to a live UFC event sometimes you can’t see the action, but for us that wasn’t the case.

UFC Gray Maynard

After a five round fight, Gray Maynard takes time out for a quick flick.

I have to first say the UFC and its athletes are extremely good with fan interaction. When I was a kid my Dad used to take me to the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd street and Lexington Avenue in NYC to get autographs from Baseball teams that were in town that week to play the NY Mets. The majority of these guys couldn’t care less about us kids back then. They would walk by you like you were invisible. I mean granted I understand this was their hotel and not the ball park, but it was the way they handled the situation that left a bad taste in my mouth. With the UFC fighters and referees it was the complete opposite. I mean you had guys that just finished having hand to hand combat with another man stopping to take several pictures and signing autographs with fans who paid good money to come support them. This is the way it should be . You can really feel that most of these warriors understood this part of the game. The security at the event was good too. They knew the fine line of letting the fans get close enough for pictures and handshakes, but also keeping the fighters best interest at heart too.

Referree Dan Miragliotta

Referee Dan Miragliotta and Me

In between fights,  NJ native and MMA veteran referee Dan Miragliotta was a complete gentleman. For such a big and imposing figure, he was extremely accommodating talking to the fans and taking pictures like we were old friends from the neighborhood.

Filthy Tom Lawlor

Frankie, Myself, Tom Lawlor and Elvis

UFC Middleweight “Filthy” Tom Lawlor was not fighting on the card, but he was sitting not far from us taking in the action with some friends. After the card was over he was walking around the property taking pictures and being cool with everybody that approached him.

UFC Mike Quicksand Pyle

Mike “Quicksand” Pyle

UFC Welterweight Mike “Quicksand” Pyle, who was in Gray Maynard’s camp was a cool guy too. He saw me take a quick picture of him with my I Phone and he came over and asked me my name. I expressed to him that I could not speak right now because of the surgery I had for Cancer. He made me feel really comfortable about the whole thing. A simple little gesture like that can earn you a fan for life.

The venue in the casino-resort where the fights were being held was called Ovation Hall. I think the capacity was close to 5,000 people. Not the biggest place you will see, but one of those places where there is not many bad seats in the place. The crowd was a mostly an east coast type of audience. Loud, no patience, and loyal to the fighters who they are there to see. Just the way I like it.

Overall, I have to say I had an unbelievable night all around. Me and my friends are already planning to go to the next event the UFC has in the tri-state area. I can only imagine how good a UFC card would be at Madison Square Garden. One day it will happen, but I have to admit those smaller venues like The Revel are probably better for fighter-fan interaction.

I just want to thank the UFC, its employees, and the Revel Resort and Casino for making this night a success. I also want to thank my true friends Frankie and Elvis for treating me to an amazing night and for being there for me throughout this tough ordeal I have been enduring for the past 21 months. I have been very fortunate to have good friends, and family to get me through this. I won’t name them all in this story, but they all know who they are and how I feel.

Paul Daley Bellator Signing

Out of all the MMA organizations besides Zuffa, Bellator has to have the most potential to be a true player for years to come. Bellator is slowly but surely building depth in most of their divisions. In January they are making a quantum leap from being broadcasted on MTV 2 to Spike TV. Spike played a huge role in helping the UFC build its brand mostly by airing the “The Ultimate Fighter.” They would also have frequent free events like UFC Fight Night every few months as well. Granted this relationship was a 2 way street, and the UFC was able to put together such a professional and high quality product that it made life easy for Spike execs. All these years of experience has really trained the people at Spike to know how to promote and produce their programming and make it look extremely legit to the fans. No offense to MTV 2, but they are not exactly known as a fights network.

This past year Bellator lost there most dominant, respected, and exciting fighter when former Middleweight (185 lbs) champion Hector Lombard’s contract expired and he decided to bolt to the UFC. Bellator was negotiating to keep him but the UFC used the smart strategy to include a pay-per-view percentage into Lombards contract offer to sweeten the pot a little for him. Bellator does not put on pay-per-view events yet so it was tough for them to compete with Zuffa’s offer. Plus I think Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney knew that in Lombards heart and mind that he really wanted to test his skills against the worlds best middleweights, and that is by far the talent rich UFC middleweight division that boasts such names like Champion Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, Brian Stann, Mark Munoz, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Cung Le, Rich Franklin, Chris Leben, Chris Weidman, Alan Belcher, Rousimar Palhares, Tim Boetsch, and Yushin Omami. Just to name a few. This division has become extremely stacked over the last couple of years.

Eddie Alvarez, who is the former Lightweight (155 lbs) champion at Bellator is also coming up to a point in his career where he will have to make a decision whether he wants to stay with the company that has really featured him in a lot of their promoting tactics, and admittedly has paid him very generously. Or, possibly also make the move to Zuffa who has made it clear that they are very interested in signing Alvarez to add to their most depth filled division. It is possible Zuffa might make the proposal to put Alvarez into Strikeforce and give him an immediate title shot against there reigning Lightweight champ Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez as well. See Bjorn Rebney has made it clear to Alvarez that in order for Eddie to get a rematch against the man who took his belt away, current champ Michael Chandler he would have to reenter their lightweight tournament again. This is Bellators business model and it looks like they are going to stick to this for the foreseeable future. I respect their stance with the tournament format, but I think they should consider making a few tweaks to this format for fighters who have already won the tournament in the past or have held the title. There has to be a way for these fighters to get title shots or rematches for a title shot a little quicker than guys who have never accomplished these feats. This might help them keep top quality fighters in the future.

Bellator King Mo

King Mo brings the potential star power that Bellator needs to make a splash on Spike TV.

In the last few months though Bellator has made a few splashes with some big name talent. First they signed the charismatic former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight (205 lbs) champion Muhammad “King Mo” Luwal. Luwal is a very talented fighter with an extremely high level wrestling background. He trains out of the famed AKA camp with such MMA fighters like Daniel Cormier, Jon Fitch, Cain Velazquez, Josh Thompson, and Luke Rockhold. Luwals deal with Bellator was very unique and groundbreaking because it was a dual contract to also compete as a professional wrestler in TNA which also airs on Spike. Luwal has always had a dream to do this so Bellator smartly used that fact to their advantage while negotiating with “King Mo.”

Of course Luwal is currently suspended for testing positive for an anabolic steroid. Luwal claims he unknowingly took this steroid. He was released by Strikeforce after making derogatory comments on Twitter about Nevada State Athletic Commission member Pat Lundvall, who during a hearing on Mo’s suspension asked him if he speaks English and if he can write and read English. He was very offended by this line of questioning but handled it the wrong way. He later did the right thing and issued an apology to Lundvall. Overall Luwal is a really good guy and has an incredible knowledge of combat sports. He has commentated MMA and K1 events and makes the rounds on all the MMA podcasts and radio shows and always represents himself and the sport very well. This was a huge coup for Bellator to add Mo to there weakest division.

Luwal will have to enter the tournament next year and barring a huge upset or injury he should definitely be wearing that 205 belt next year. The current champion Christian M’Pumbu is basically an unknown who recently lost a non-titled bout against MMA vet Travis Wiuff. The main concern with this dual contract is can “King Mo” stay healthy? He has a bad history of major knee problems, and real or not Professional Wrestling can take a heavy toll on any mans body. Especially a guy who is new to the sport and doesn’t know the correct way to fall and execute certain maneuvers. Mo is such a great athlete though and I am sure he will get the hang of it, but I hope he puts MMA first.

Another addition to the Bellator family is Paul “Semtex” Daley. Daley has a record of 29-12 with 20 of his wins coming by KO. He has previously fought in a number of MMA promotions most notably the UFC, Strikeforce, and Elite XC. This Welterweight (170 lbs) has wins over Duane “Bang” Ludwig, John Alessio, Dustin Hazelett, Jorge Masvidal, and Scott Smith. His TKO loss to Nick Diaz in April 2011 was one of the most exciting rounds of fighting we have ever seen. He had Diaz in real trouble knocking him down with punches, but Diaz was able to survive the onslaught and get back to his feet and stun Daley with just 3 seconds remaining in the round. It would have been amazing to see that fight go into the 2nd round but Daley was seriously dazed for a few seconds and in this sport that is all the ref needs to see to stop a fight. It was Daleys loss to Josh Koscheck back in UFC 113 that got him booted from the UFC probably for life. He lost a unanimous decision and was so frustrated by Koschecks verbal abuse during the fight and his inability to stop the superior wrestler from repeatedly taking him down over and over again, that Daley lost control after the fight and punched Koscheck in the face. This act enraged UFC President Dana White and he immediately cut Daley.

There is no denying that Daley has serious power in both of his hands and is a great addition to Bellators welterweight division. Though his first opponent has not yet been announced yet, I am sure he will enter next years Welterweight tournament where he will possibly be joined by the likes of Douglas Lima, Marius Zaromskis, Brian Baker, Brian Foster, Karl Ammoussou, Ben Saunders, Dave Rickels, Waachiim Spiritwolf, (maybe War Machine), Chris Lozano, or Lyman Good. I am not saying these are for sure fighters who will be in the tournament but they are the best fighters currently on Bellators welterweight roster. I have to say that is a respectable group of fighters, and probably the deepest division that Bellator has now. The champion is Ben Askren who doesn’t hide the fact that his game plan is to take you down with his superior wrestling and keep you down with his funky style that many fight fans criticize and call it “lay and pray.” not the most exciting fighter, but his results are undeniable. Askren is 10-0 in his career and 7-0 in Bellator. If Daley were to win that tournament Askren is a terrible matchup for him.

Brett Rogers Bellator Signing

Brett Rogers adds some name recognition to the Bellator Heavyweight division.

Just this past week Bellator has signed three Heavyweights (265 lbs) to try to bolster a fairly week division. The most notable of these three is former Strikeforce contender Brett Rogers. Rogers is 11-4 in his career with his biggest win being a 1st round TKO over former UFC Heavyweight champion Andre “The Pitbull” Arlovski. He had a strong showing against MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko. It ended in a 2nd round TKO loss, but Rogers had Fedor in a bit of trouble early on the fight before Fedor landed a quick and powerful right hand that dropped Rogers. Since that loss he is 1-3 including a manhandling by Alistair Overeem and a quick submission by Josh Barnett. He has had some non fighting problems in his personal life, but this has not prevented Bellator from taking a chance on Brett Rogers hopefully reinventing himself in a new environment. His experience against those 3 legends of the sport can only help him against Bellators Heavyweight roster which only has, in my opinion a few guys that can give Rogers a good fight or possibly take him out. Names like Jon Madsen, Thiago Santos, Eric Prindle, Ron Sparks, and Neil Grove are the best Bellator has to offer. They have also signed undefeated (8-0) Russian Vitaly Minakov and American Ryan Martinez (7-1) to help fill out the division. These 8 fighters can make for a decent tournament next year. The champion is undefeated (9-0) Cole “The Polar Bear” Konrad. He is an underrated champion who has superior wrestling that he uses to to smother and sometimes submit his opponents.

The Lightweight division champion, like I mentioned earlier is Michael Chandler who is in my opinion the biggest star right now in the whole promotion. He has that great combination of skill, heart, stamina, and tenacity that very few fighters possess. Not to mention he is a humble and well spoken individual who represents Bellator well. This division, in my opinion is there 2nd best . It has such fighters as 2012 Lightweight Tournament winner Rick Hawn who is going to fight Chandler in an upcoming fight, tournament runner-up Brent Weedman, the colorful but dangerous Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard, the young submission specialist Marcin Held, Thiago Michel, and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. Also Eddie Alvarez, but like I mentioned earlier he has 1 foot out of the door.

The Featherweight (145 lbs) division champion is rising star Pat Curran. Curran is a guy, who like Chandler, Bellator can really promote with their new Spike TV deal. A young, tough , and relentless fighter who has a real killer instinct that he has exhibited in KO’s of Marlon Sandro and former champ Joe Warren. He took Warrens belt in March with a 3rd round destruction that should have been stopped earlier in the round. He smelled blood and really went in for the kill. This division has decent depth as well with fighters like Daniel Straus, who won the Featherweight tournament and will be fighting the winner of Curran and Patricio Freire, Ronnie Mann, Marlon Sandro, Nazareno Malagarie, Waggney Fabiano, Mike Corey, Rad Martinez, Joe Soto, Joe Warren, and young gun Shanon Slack.

The Middleweight (185 lbs) division has no current champion due to the departure of Hector Lombard. The biggest star right now would have to be the flashy Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko. He will be facing Maiquel Falcao, who won the 2012 middleweight tournament for the vacant title. This should be a truly great fight where I will have to believe someone is getting KO’d. Other tough fighters at 185 are middleweight tournament runner-up Andreas Spang, Brian Rogers, Bruno Santos, Vitor Vianna, Giva Santana, and Vyacheslav “Slava” Vasilevsky.

In the Bantamweight (135 lbs) division the champion is the young and talented Eduardo Dantas. He won the belt from former champ Zach Makovsky. This division does not have a lot of depth, but the few guys they have are very good fighters. MMA vet Chase Beebe, Hiroshi Nakamora, Travis Marx, Ed West, Marcos Galvao, Luis Nogueira, and Rodrigo Lima are the top guys. If they can add a few more names from the regional scene they can have themselves a nice little tournament next year.

This rounds out my breakdown of the additions and subtractions of what is Bellator 2012. I think there is a world of potential for them to tap into the European markets as well. There a slew of fighters there that are competing in much smaller promotions and the UFC can’t sign everyone. This Spike deal is bigger than a lot of people even realize right now. There is also talk of them doing their own reality show based on the same premise as TUF. Spike can produce this with their eyes closed. It will really bring to light a lot of their young fighters. Big things for Bellator in 2012 and beyond.

Tito Ortiz UFC Hall of FameUFC President Dana White has announced that “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” or now known as “The People’s Champ” Tito Ortiz, will be the 9th member (8th fighter) to be inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame. The ceremony will take place at the UFC Fan Expo preceding Tito’s farewell trilogy fight against Forest Griffin. The fight will go down on the main card of UFC 148 taking place on July 7th 2012 at 10 p.m. ET at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The main event on the card is the rematch of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.

I without a doubt agree with this decision to add Tito to this fraternity of fighters who already have had the honor to be named as a Hall of Fame members. The list of fighters who are already inducted are Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes. All worthy members. The other member is the late Charles “Mask” Lewis, who was a co-founder of Tapout clothing.

In my opinion the main reason for Tito to be inducted is because of the fact that he literally carried the organization through the darkest period of their existence. His early beefs with the original super camp The Lions Den, which was led by Ken Shamrock were legendary. In 1997 at UFC 13, a very green Ortiz was submitted by Lions Den member Guy Mezger.

He then TKO’d other Lions Den member Jerry Bohlander at UFC 18. In his next fight, which was only his 5th fight, he avenged his 1st loss to Mezger by TKO’ing him in the 1st round at UFC 19.Tito was then given a title fight against yet another member of The Lions Den, Frank Shamrock at UFC 22. Tito had his moments early on in the fight, but he seemed to really tire out and the superior conditioned and highly skilled Shamrock made Ortiz submit to punches in the 4th round. The fight was awarded as Fight Of The Year in 1999. This fight made Tito change the way he prepares for fights, becoming a cardio machine.

Shamrock then suddenly retired so the title was now vacant, so Tito and Wanderlei Silva were chosen as top contenders for the crown. The fight was set up for April 2000 in Tokyo, Japan at UFC 25. Ortiz won a unanimous decision and was the new Light Heavyweight Champion of the world. He successfully defended that belt 5 times. This is the most consecutive defenses by a Light Heavyweight champion to this day. In those defenses he submitted Yuki Kondo, KO’d Evan Tanner with an amazing slam, TKO’d Elvis Sinosic, won a decision against Vladimir Matyushenko, then TKO’d his rival Ken Shamrock. This was one of the most dominant runs in UFC history. Tito was a feared competitor who was on top of his game and was just straight up stronger, more powerful, and more explosive than anyone else by far.

Tito Ortiz beat nemesis Ken Shamrock in their first fight during his time in the dark days of the UFC.

After the 1st Ken Shamrock fight Tito had a 10 month layoff from the sport. The reason was he was on a collision course with friend and training partner Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. It was a well-known fact that when Tito and Chuck would spar that Chuck would get the better of him on a daily basis. According to Tito the reason he was delaying the fight was because he was trying to get the most money possible for him and Chuck. Dana White, who at the time was the manager of Tito and Chuck felt that Tito was avoiding the showdown with Chuck because he knew that he could not beat Chuck. Liddell said when they used to train together that Tito starting not showing up for the striking portion of the sparring. Chuck knew right there that Tito wanted no part of him when it came to slugging it out with him.

Since Tito was holding out, the UFC decided to move on without him and held a fight for the interim Light Heavyweight title. Chuck would get the chance for this belt against former UFC Heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture at UFC 43. This was one of my favorite fights ever. Couture won by a TKO in the 3rd round. This would set the stage for Tito to return and fight Couture to see who the real champ at 205 lbs would be. Couture beat Ortiz pretty convincingly by unanimous decision. Couture even embarrassed Tito at one point in the match by giving him a little spanking on the backside when he had Tito in a controlled position on the ground.

Ortiz title run was now over, but he would still have to face Liddell. This time the fight was set for UFC 47. This fight was so hyped and anticipated by everyone. Two former friends and training partners who have been on a collision course for a few years. In the fight Tito tried to take down Chuck on two separate occasions. Chuck stuffed both takedowns with ease. This forced Tito to stand up with Chuck and this was not a good choice for Ortiz. Liddell TKO’d him in the 2nd with a devastating combination that made Tito collapse against the cage.

Liddell KO's Ortiz

Ortiz loses his match up with former friend and training partner Chuck Liddell.

A very tough loss for Tito. I think his ego was hurt more than anything. He was used to being the guy that would overwhelm and intimidate his opponents and now there was a guy in Liddell that truly had his number. Tito would return and run off five straight wins against Patrick Cote, Vitor Belfort, Forest Griffin, and two more with Ken Shamrock. Tito’s confidence was back and he seemed ready for a rematch with Chuck. Liddell was now the champ after he KO’d Couture at UFC 52. The match would take place at UFC 66. This fight had an even bigger buildup then the first one. Tito was doing a lot of talking saying that he lost the 1st time due to a poke in his eye that forced him to change his game plan. This fight was much more competitive. Tito’s stand up was a little crisper and he was able to wrestle Chuck to the mat. By the 3rd round Liddell had Ortiz on the ground and was raining down punches until the fight was stopped. A TKO loss for Tito.

In Tito’s next 7 fights he went 1-5-1. The one win came in a dramatic submission win against Ryan Bader in a fight where there was talk that Tito was about to be cut. One thing I admired about Tito’s career was his ability to win when his back was against the wall. I agree with Tito’s induction into the UFC Hall of Fame because of his ability to promote the sport by being such a visible and identifiable figure to the fans. He was able to hype fights better than most guys we have ever seen in the sports history. Love him or hate him you definitely knew about him. His last fight against Griffin will be an emotional fight for Tito. What Ortiz accomplished by being in the UFC for 15 years is unbelievable. That is a run that quite possibly will be hard to beat by any current fighter today. A great career for a pioneer of the sport.

Ortiz submits Bader at UFC 132

An emotional Ortiz after his submission win over Ryan Bader at UFC 132.

Tito’s induction brings up the question, of the fighters currently in the UFC today, who will be locks for future HOF bids?

1- Anderson Silva – Silva is 14-0 in the UFC with 9 Middleweight title defenses. He won 2 fights at Light Heavyweight. 12 of his wins came by either KO, TKO, or submission. Recognized as pound for pound best fighter in the world.

2- Georges St-Pierre – St-Pierre is 16-2 in the UFC with 6 Welterweight title defenses. He avenged both of his losses with a TKO against Matt Serra and two stoppages against former champ and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. By the time St-Pierre is retired he will probably be recognized as the greatest Welterweight in UFC history.

3- BJ Penn – Penn is 12-7-2 in the UFC. He won titles as both a Welterweight and a Lightweight. He defended those belts a total of 3 times. He will be recognized as one of the best Lightweight champions in UFC history. His ability to be successful in two weight classes and 2 wins against HOF member Matt Hughes solidifies his spot in the Hall.

4 – Jon Jones – I know it’s a little early to say for sure Jones will be in but he has already accomplished so much at 24 years old, he is well on his way. Jones is 10-1 in the UFC with the one loss coming by way of DQ due to illegal elbows against Matt Hamill. He has defended the Light Heavyweight belt 3 times and beat 4 straight former champions consecutively in a 13 month period.

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