Posted on: March 5, 2009 5:25 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2009 5:26 pm

Shane Carwin's First Real Test


Those of you who follow the UFC's anemic heavyweight division can't help but know about Shane Carwin.  The UFC basically has Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Big Nog and...well that's about it when it comes to legit heavyweights.  Nog is nearing the end of a great career, Lesnar is anything but proven and Mir looks good lately but there are lingering questions about his work ethic.  The UFC desperately needs some legitimate new blood to pin their hopes on for the future of the heavyweight division.  The man they clearly seem to be grooming to fill that role is Shane Carwin.

Granted, the stand-out NCAA wreslter has looked good in each of his first two UFC fights, but look at his opponents.  Christian Wellisch and Neil Wain.  Not exactly top-shelf talent.  This Saturday he steps in against Gabriel Gonzaga in the first real test of his MMA skills in the octagon.  Gonzaga is the BJJ black belt best known for the devastating head kick that KO'd Mirko Crop Cop back in April 2007.  So far Carwin has been able to stop his first two opponents in round one.  If he can do the same with Gonzaga he will take a meaningful step towards living up to the hype that the UFC is pumping for him.  However, if he struggles, and especially if he loses decisively, it will be a pretty big blow to his reputation.  After losing to Couture and Werdum, Gonzaga was essentially relegated to a gatekeeper role in the UFC heavyweight division, so if he is too much for Carwin then it stands to reason that Shane is not ready for the big time.  Maybe he never will be.  The UFC needs talent in this weight class but Shane Carwin has a lot to prove before he truly lives up to the role that has been carved out for him.

Question of the Day:  Is Shane Carwin a legitimate contender in the UFC Heavyweight division?




Posted on: February 23, 2009 5:12 pm

Worst Case Scenario for Koscheck


Well, the worst happened for Josh Koscheck on Saturday night.  He took the fight that the UFC gave him against an unranked newcomer (Paulo Thiago) and got KO'd in the first round.  That presumably gives Thiago a big jump in the UFC's welterweight contender rankings but I'm not sure where that leaves Kos.  This was my concern from the start.  Kos had a lot to lose but virtually nothing to gain in this bout.  I think this fight should serve as an object lesson for any proven fighter who is in line for a title shot and is asked to take a fight like this in the future.  I know these guys don't want to say no when they are asked to fight but at some point it has to be about moving up the ladder and not just giving some newcomer a shot at making a name for himself at your expense.


Keith Jardine complained about having to fight Houston Alexander for the same reason, and rightly so IMO.  Jardine became the first guy in the UFC to taste Alexander's brutal punching power.  A few fights later Alexander was exposed for having a very weak ground game and now his weakness is well known.  If Jardine fought him again I doubt he would lose the second time.  But at the time of that fight Jardine was already pretty well established and probably should not have been pressured to take on a newcomer.  He took the fight anyway, lost, and took a few steps backwards in the process.  I don't blame the guys who have already been through the fire when they say they want "quality opponents" (i.e. established fighters where there is film to study).  This is their livelihood and their life ambition.  Asking them to put it on the line blind doesn't seem very fair, but of course there are negative repercussions to turning down fights too.  Tough balancing act.  The UFC (and other promotions) should develop some kind of policy for this, even if it is a confidential and/or informal policy.  The fighters would certainly appreciate knowing that after a certain point they don't have to worry about being anyone's guinea pig.


Question of the day: Should top-ranked fighters be given some latitiude to be able to turn down fights against newcomers without negative repercussions?

Posted on: February 4, 2009 3:17 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2009 3:20 pm

What is the toughest weight class in MMA?


What is the most competitive division in MMA?

Contributed by KPLillis

Every fighter says theirs is the toughest, but which one really is?  In my opinion the order from toughest to weakest is:

Lightweight (146-155)

Welterweight (156-170

Middleweight (171-185)

Heavyweight (220-265)

Flyweight (136-145

Light Heavyweight (186-205)


I think the reason why is pretty logical. The average man is approx 5’9.” If this man is of average build and is in athletic shape he is around 165-170 lbs. If this man fought for a living he would probably cut some weight to fight down at 155. I legitimately think 30-40% of men in the world fall into that category. With so many guys they have the largest talent pool to pull from and therefore they are the toughest (or most "competitive") division. Second, for the same reasoning is 170 pounds. 145 would be third, but people that small tend to shy away from combat sports and many MMA promotions don't host a flyweight division. This is why 185 is next. The next logical step from there would be 205, but HW can pull people from 200 up to about 280 (as opposed to the 10-20 lb increments between the other weight classes). Also the 205 division just happened to have all of their fighters get old at the same time. Wandy, Shogun, Ninja, Sakuraba , Henderson, Tito, Liddell, Belfort, Arona, etc… A few years ago light heavyweight was the toughest division, bar none. Now it’s the least competitive, but this will presumably change in time as new fighters establish themselves in this weight class.


Question of the Day: What is the most competitive weight class in MMA and why?


Posted on: February 3, 2009 11:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2009 11:30 am

Is Machida the #1 Contender at 205 Pounds?


After his devastating KO of Thiago Silva right at the bell on Saturday night, one would think that undefeated light heavyweight Lyoto Machida has earned a shot at the title in his next fight.  But Dana White appears determined to put Rampage Jackson back in the spotlight first.  Certainly Rampage is the more colorful of the two, both inside and outside of the ring, and he has the potential to consistently draw a bigger gate than Machida.  Therein lies the problem.  The UFC wants to run this show as a business, but sometimes the best business decisions aren't what's best for the sport.  Legitimate contenders should be given their shot, regardless of whether or not they are considered a big draw.  Critics of Machida say his style is evasive and boring, but the only person he put to sleep on Saturday was Thiago Silva.  The UFC can keep throwing Machida up against other LHWs seeking a title shot, but if they do that they will be doing a major disservice to an excellent fighter who has paid his dues.  I think the UFC worries that if Machida gets his hands on the belt he could hold it for some time and deny them the exciting big-money title fights that they want to see in all of their divisions.

Question of the day: Where does Machida stand in the light heavyweight contender rankings in your opinion?

Category: Mixed Martial Arts
Posted on: January 27, 2009 9:58 pm

GSP beats BJ - Here is Why...


GSP beats BJ- Here is Why

Contributed by KPLillis

1.       GSP is bigger and cuts weight better. He will be stronger in the clinch, much like last time. Sean Sherk might have gotten ripped up by BJ, but GSP is faster and bigger- and this fight is not at 155.


2.       GSP won the first fight- despite taking thumb to his left eye in the first minute of the fight. He says he essentially couldn’t see out of the eye for the entire first round, until his corner was able to wipe the eye. That was lucky for BJ, and isn’t likely to happen again. BJ also clipped the tip of GSP’s nose in that round, breaking it- and making it very hard for him to breathe. Again- not very likely to happen again.


3.       GSP has fought six people since he fought BJ including Koscheck, Hughes, Serra, and Fitch in the last 18 months. Three of them are tough fights against top-5 guys at 170. Just over 5 months ago he had a very tough fight against Jon Fitch.


In the last 18 months BJ only fought four times since he met GSP last- and only 2 fights (Stevenson and Sherk) in the last 18 months. Before that he fought Jens Pulver - almost 20 months ago. GSP has been much more active at the same weight, against better competition. BJ’s last fight was over eight months ago- against much weaker competition in Sean Sherk- who himself hadn’t fought in a year due to the suspension.


Basically- GSP has much less “ring rust”, has continued to fight top guys at 170, is very familiar with exactly how to make that weight, and has continued to experience top-level fighters at that weight. BJ hasn’t been really tested since fighting GSP. Pulver, Stevenson, and Sherk did not force BJ to dig deep in training or the actual fight.


4.       Last time GSP fought BJ he was 24 years old, whereas BJ was almost 28. Fighters peak physically in their late 20’s. I think GSP has gotten better since then, whereas BJ likely hasn’t improved nearly as much.


5.       The #1 weakness for BJ Penn is his conditioning. This is well known. In the first fight there was no belt on the line and BJ was too tired to keep GSP off of him. I believe the WW belt is on the line this weekend. Therefore this one will be 5 rounds. If BJ does not end this fight in the first round or two his chances go from slim to none.


6.       The last time they fought GSP’s most well-known training partners were David Loiseau and Patrick Cote . Good fighters, but definitely not studs. He trainers were essentially unknowns. Now he is training MMA with Greg Jackson (considered the best MMA trainer today), and is doing MT with Kru Phil Nurse - also a total stud. In addition to David Loiseau (who moved there with him)- he can now train with Keith Jardine , Rashad Evans , Jose Villasenor, Nathan Marquardt , Leonard Garcia (who just KOed Jens Pulver), and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (who just fought Varner for the WEC 155 belt). With the best MMA trainer and those guys to roll with all day- GSP keeps getting better, he is going to have a great gameplan, and he is going to be ready to go.  


In conclusion- GSP won the first one despite not having entered his “prime” yet, and having an unlucky thumb to the eye really impair his vision and bloody up his face for the judges. Now GSP is 27, is extremely comfortable with cutting the weight to 170- and will be coming in bigger, leaner and stronger than BJ by fight time. He is training with the best camp and training partners available in MMA, which he wasn’t 3 years ago. He has been more active than BJ and surely had tough training camps for Fitch, Hughes, Serra and Koscheck. Lastly- this is a 5-round title fight. Unless something freakish happens- neither are finishing the other in the first round- and BJ’s gas-tank will shrink with every minute.


GSP all the way.

Posted on: January 19, 2009 12:02 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2009 2:19 pm

Was Dennis Kang's Debut a Disaster for the UFC?

Although the fighter salaries from Saturday night have not been released yet, we have to assume that the UFC paid a considerable sum to sign former Pride stand-out Dennis Kang to his new UFC contract.  We'll know the exact numbers soon, but we already know that Dana White and company have to be disappointed with his debut performance.  His opponent, Alan Belcher, is certainly no walk-in-the-park but he was presumably selected for Kang's UFC debut bout on the belief that he would give a decent fight but not come out on top.  Belcher has only fought one other opponenent with Kang's pedigree (a loss to Yushin Okami in UFC 62) so he was a pretty big underdog here.

The UFC obviously brought in Dennis Kang to add a new contender to a middleweight division that has already been cleared out by reigning champ Anderson Silva.  This loss to Belcher brings back memories of Mirko Cro Cop's highly anticipated UFC debut, which ended in a brutal KO by Gabriel Gonzaga.  Cro Cop only lasted two more fights in the UFC after losing that debut, and the UFC has been very careful about over-hyping their new stars since then.  What will Kang's future be in the UFC now that he has lost to an unranked contender like Belcher?  Seems that he will now have to win a few (3 or more) high quality fights before the UFC can even think about promoting him in a title fight with Silva.  This was not the plan when the UFC signed him.  I believe they thought he would win this debut fight, they would feed him another one or two like it, and they could line him up for a title shot with Silva within a year.  Back to the drawing boards, folks.

Question of the day: How bad was Kang's debut for the UFC's fight plans in the 185 pound division and what should they do with him next?  (And feel free to comment on the bigger question of who, if anyone, can mount a real challenge to Anderson Silva at 185 pounds right now.)
Posted on: January 12, 2009 7:49 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2009 5:24 pm

Is Koscheck Just a Welterweight Gatekeeper?

Not long ago Josh Koscheck looked like a rising star in the UFC's 170 pound division.  After beating Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision in UFC 69 his stock was peaking and the UFC gave him a shot at Georges St Pierre (in a non-title fight) in UFC 74.  He was good enough to go the distance with GSP but still ended up with a loss by unanimous decision.  GSP went on to reclaim his belt from Matt Serra and then defended it in convincing fashion against top contender Jon Fitch.  Kos went on to score wins against Dustin Hazelett and Chris Lytle so the UFC threw him in against the surging Thiago Alves in a fight that obviously had major implications for the welterweight contender rankings.  Alves won it hands down and decisively pushed Kos towards the back of the bus.

The UFC now seems to be treating Koscheck more like a "gatekeeper" than a real contender.  At the UFC Fight for the Troops on Dec 10th he faced off against relative newcomer Yoshiyuki Yoshida in a fight that meant little to anyone other than Yoshida.  (To his credit, Kos won it with a highlight reel KO.)  Now the news comes out that in UFC 95 he will fight UFC newcomer Paulo Thiago of Brazil in another fight that would seem to offer little in the way of advancement opportunity for Koscheck.  While I admire his willingness to fight whoever the UFC puts in front of him, I fail to see how these types of bouts do anything to help his quest for the title. 

So here's the question of the day: Has the UFC given up on Josh Koscheck as a possible welterweight contender and relegated him to gatekeeper status for 170 pounders on the rise?  Sound off with your thoughts and opinions.  Thanks all.
Posted on: January 9, 2009 4:54 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2009 11:08 pm

Countdown to Affliction: Day of Reckoning

I have to start off this post with some important information for the casual MMA fan: The UFC does not have a monopoly on the sport of MMA!  I repeat: The UFC does not have a monopoly on the sport of MMA!

I have met lots of people who think the UFC is the only game in town when it comes to mixed martial arts.  Some people seem to think that the UFC is synonomous with MMA, much the way that the NFL is synonomous with pro football.  This is simply not true, and on Saturday, January 24th the good people at Affliction (yeah, "the t-shirt guys") will prove this fact when they put on another show with an absolutely stellar fight card from top to bottom.  Affliction's first event last summer was the best MMA card of all-time in my opinion and they are not letting up now.  Here is a breakdown of the main event and a brief summary of the other main card bouts on Jan  24th.

Main Event: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andre Arlovski

Wow.  Get the paramedics ready!  I'm going to have a hard time sleeping the night before this fight.  Fedor is universally regarded as the #1 heavyweight in the world of MMA.  Arlovski is currently ranked #4 at heavyweight but I think he could be as high as #2.  Fedor is virtually indestructible.  His only MMA loss came as a result of a doctor stoppage due to a cut over his eye in a Pride fight that he was winning against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka in December 2000.  (In their April 2005 rematch he dominated Kohsaka for 10 minutes before the doctor stopped it and sent Kohsaka to the hospital for about a week.)  Simply put, Fedor has never been stopped and never lost a decision.  He is the closest thing to an actual cyborg as there is in the world today.  Despite giving up about 40 pounds and 6 inches to Tim Sylvia (former UFC heavyweight champ) he absolutely dominated him in a :36 submission win last summer.  Meanwhile, Arlovski (also a former UFC heavyweight champ) has been on an absolute tear, ripping through some high quality opponents in a blood-thirsty fashion in his last 5 fights.  Only Fabricio Werdum (a top-10 ranked heavyweight at that time) was able to take him to a decision.  In his fight against Ben Rothwell (former IFL heavyweight champ) they actually had to clean Ben's blood off the camera lens in between rounds.  This fight has fireworks written all over it.  Arlovski might just be fast enough, strong enough and technical enough to keep this one going for a while.  Fedor's ground game is definitely superior.  (He was a Russian national Sambo champion many years running) but Arlovski has decent BJJ and knows how to keep the fight standing up.  He has also been working on his hands with legendary boxing coach Freddy Roach.  If this one stays upright I think we will see untold amounts of punishment going in both directions but if it goes to the mat it could be over fast.  Fedor could armbar the Incredible Hulk while wearing handcuffs.  If Fedor wins this fight it reaffirms that he is the best in the game.  If Arlovski wins he instantly skyrockets to the top of the MMA world.  Don't miss this bout.  I suspect we'll be hearing about it for a while.

Josh Barnett vs Gilbert Yvel

The good folks at Affliction obviously felt that having the #1 and #4 ranked heavyweights in the world on the card just wasn't enough, so they're rolling out #2 as well!  Josh Barnett, who made his reputation in the now-defunct Pride FC promotion, will take on the heavy-handed Gilbert Yvel.  Yvel (who has 35 wins, none by decision!) has had some disciplinary problems in the past, including one DQ for eye-gouging Don Frye and another for knocking out a ref.  Perhaps Babyface Barnett can use his superior wrestling to keep the fight on the mat and teach Yvel some manners via a brutal ground and pound assault.  However, if Yvel can stuff the takedowns he probably has the advantage standing up.  Yvel is currently a 5:1 underdog  but this fight will likely be more exciting than that.

Vitor Belfort vs. Matt Lindland

Another awesome bout.  Classic match-up of boxer versus a wrestler here.  Vitor has lightning fast hands and knees (just ask Wanderlei Silva) and Lindland has one of the best ground games in the business.  Matt will try to take it to the mat where he can lay down the law, but if Vitor catches him with a knee while he is shooting in for the takedown this could end quickly with little birdies flying all around Lindland's head.  Matt is currently ranked #3 at middleweight and Vitor is currently unranked (presumably due to lack of recent activity).  Whoever can impose their will and keep this fight where they want it to be will almost certainly win.

Renato "Babalu" Sobral vs. Thierry Sokoudjou

Another classic match-up of ground game versus stand-up here.  Babalu is a BJJ black belt with awesome submissions.  Sokoudjou is a powerful kickboxer with one-punch knockout power.  Babalu was once a rising star in the UFC light heavyweight division who got a shot at the title and got knocked out by Chuck Lidell in his prime.  He later lost his welcome at the UFC when he held an arm triangle submission on David Heath for several seconds after the tap.  Sokodjou was also once a rising star.  With wins over Arona and Little Nog in Pride he came to the UFC with a lot of hype and then lost 2 out of 3 (defeated by Machida and Cane) and found himself looking for a new start elsewhere.  The knock on Sokoudjou is that he carries too much muscle mass to have  the cardio to support it.  The knock  on Babalu is that he has no self-control.  Both guys are very tough and have a lot to prove here.  Should be a good one.

Chris Horodecki vs Dan Lauzon

Horodecki is the most exciting and dominating lightweight to emerge from the now-defunct IFL.  The kid (and trust me, if you haven't seen him before, he really does look like a kid) has a very well-rounded game, awesome cardio and toughness to spare.  He ripped through the competition in the IFL before suffering a tough loss to a very game opponent in Ryan Schultz.  Now he wants to pick up the pieces and reestablish himself in the Affliction 155 pound division.  Dan Lauzon is the brother of talented Ultimate Fighter alumni Joe Lauzon and bears a very similar fighting style.  He is both smart and ruthless in the cage and finds a way to exploit his opponent's weaknesses.  With the exception of Spencer Fisher (who beat him in UFC 64 via TKO) Dan has mostly faced a list of unknowns so Horodecki will be one of the biggest fights of his life.  This one will be nasty and the loser will probably walk away wearing a lot of blood.

Paul Buentello vs Kiril Sidellnikov

Casual UFC fans might remember Paul "The Headhunter" Buentello for his highlight reel knockout of Justin Eilers (RIP).  And dedicated MMA fans know that the highly experienced Buentello has been doing the one-punch KO thing for a while.  However, after ending up on the other side of a one-punch KO by Andre Arlovski he soon found himself outside the UFC, but he has stayed active, amassing a 3-1 record in Strikeforce and Affliction since his departure.  Not much I can say about his opponent, who is a relative newcomer to the American MMA scene and is rumored to be a very heavy hitter on the Red Devil fight team, but any Russian fighter who calls himself "Baby Fedor" (he trains with Fedor and calls him his mentor) should be treated with a certain amount of caution.  Pretty big size difference here so we'll see how that affects the outcome.  This one is kind of interesting simply because of Buentello's KO power and the relative mystery of his Russian opponent.

Those are 6 fights that are all worth watching but the undercard has lots of talent too, including Little Nog, Matyushenko, Jay Heiron and others.  So to the casual fan who read this all the way to the end, I told you the UFC wasn't the only game in town!!!  Mark your calendars and invite your friends over for fight night on the 24th.  This one will be well worth the PPV fee.

Note: All rankings referenced here are from as of 1/8/2009.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or