Bull/Matador

Cain Velasquez is a mad beast.  A bull in a china shop.  Actually he is more like an aggressive robot set to kill, bereft of emotion.  If his opponent leaped from the window of a skyscraper just to get away, it’s no stretch to imagine Velasquez jumping after him.  Yes, I’m saying he’s basically an agent from the Matrix.

Whatever he is, it’s terrifying and wonderful.

It is almost irresponsible, at this point, to put the majority of UFC heavyweights in the octagon with him.  They will leave with ugly physical and emotional scars, like Brock Lesnar, Bigfoot Silva, and now Junior dos Santos (click for images).  For a brief moment, dos Santos had convinced us that he was the matador to handle Cain’s charge.  His boxing was good enough for him to boast of a desire to match up against the Klitchko bros., his footwork and use of distance perfectly tailored to maximize his quickness advantage over other heavyweights.  Handspeed, accuracy: phenomenal.  Plus, he’s solid as an oak.  Taking him down had proven impossible before UFC 155, and in their first fight Cain had scarcely even tried before getting thumped above the ear.

None of that mattered for a single moment.  It seems as though nothing short of military intervention could stop the newly returned champ.  His brand of carnage is typically reserved for wars and horror films.

UFC 146 Photos - MMA Fighting-1

The bull/matador dichotomy between Velasquez and dos Santos reminds me of just how different the sport of mma is from boxing.  I recall not too many years ago when the two sports seemed to be at odds, with defensive boxers threatening to enter the octagon to display their superior combat skills.  JDS is an mma fighter who seems as though he would have been a boxer in another age, and his handspeed and use of distance and brilliant timing would certainly have made him a force in the ring.  Hell, he may have had the stuff to become the heavyweight boxing champ, back when that was a thing.  But one thing his boxing abilities cannot solve–and the same goes for all professional boxers–is how to fight masterfully against a multifaceted mma attack such as Cain’s.  In all fairness, no one in mma can either–Cain is much like Jon Jones in this regard, with too many attack vectors for opponents to defend against for long, only much more aggressive.

But in a boxing ring, the sport has evolved to favor the matador.  That’s why Mayweather would have always been favored, odds-wise, in a fight against Pacquiao.

In boxing, you can dance.  You can stick and move.  In mma you cannot rely on this alone, whether you are Junior dos Santos or Anderson Silva.  You cannot keep your hands up and keep your hands at your waist to wrestle an opponent from your hips simultaneously.  You can attempt to rely on boxing or a muay thai knee to a charging bull, such as Allistair Overeem will likely rely on if he is the next to challenge for the belt, but if it doesn’t land, the matador is squashed.  Welcome to mma.

As with most of the belts below it, I think the heavyweight belt will be tough to remove from its current owner.


New Day?

PacquiaoTKO

I’m curiously happy, after watching my favorite boxer of his generation viciously knocked out in a fight he was handily winning by an opponent who seems all-but destined to be embroiled in a PED controversy in future times.  I should be indescribably angry and let down, looking for undeserving avenues to vent my frustration (stupid [insert thing], I hate that thing!), but I am not.

I’m happy because it feels like a new day for boxing.  The stranglehold of Top Rank vs. Golden Boy rages on, but it will no longer be expressed through Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, and that makes me quite fucking pleased.  I no longer have to experience the anxiety of worrying that this once-in-a-generation opportunity will be wasted.  It was thoroughly wasted.  The fact these two all-time greats never fought, being the same weight, peaking athletically at the same time, both unbeatable during the same window, is the most pathetic, shameful, embarrassing thing I’ve ever witnessed in professional sports.  Sure, I’m sad they never fought, but mainly I’m glad this awful bullshit is over.

I’m not optimistic about boxing’s future in America.  Not in the slightest.  But at least we don’t have to face this anymore, this awkward stalemate, this ugly melodrama of the two highest paid athletes in the world being treated like puppets by their savvy and soulless promoters.  It has been a straight up fucking extortion of the two greatest of their time, and it’s perfectly correlative to where boxing is today to try and imagine a past in another universe where Ali and Frazier never fought once.

You want to know why Pacquiao never fought Mayweather?  Bob Arum makes double the purse if his star fights another fighter he also promotes through his company, Top Rank.  Having Pacquiao fight Mayweather would be making  a 1-to-1 bet on his brand vs. Golden Boy’s brand, and he decided instead to keep raking in money with Pac fighting Top Rank fighters until he finally lost.  Everything went perfectly according to plan for Arum.  His stable of fighters was deeper than Golden Boy’s and he reasoned that they needed the fight more than he did, so he wasn’t going to give it to them.  Any other rationale you hear is just noise.  It was  a business decision.

As for Mayweather, who I believe commands greater control of his promoter than Pacquiao, his decision to not push the fight was perhaps more complex, but also motivated by money.  His record for most of his career reflects a fighter who would rather take the second best challenger and avoid the most dangerous challenger.  His money is dependent upon his undefeated record, and he was never in a rush to fight Pacquiao while both were in their peak.  He could have been motivated to fight–I’m not claiming that Mayweather was necessarily afraid, but rather saw it an unnecessary risk–but the friction between competing promotions was enough to stall negotiations form reaching a pressure point for Mayweather.  He consistently provided obstacles for Pacquiao, such as the purse and the blood testing, and that was enough.

In the end, Mayweather has more in common with Bob Arum than most fighters do.  You can tell by his nickname.

For what it’s worth, I believe Pacquiao would have beaten Mayweather during his peak.  The Pacquiao who blitzed De La Hoya, destroyed the career of Hatton, deconstructed Cotto, and double-punched Clottey would have been victorious, too fast and powerful for Mayweather to hold off for twelve rounds.

Anytime after (or before) that small window, however, the fight would have belonged to Mayweather.  If they were to fight in 2013, not a single boxing insider would bet a penny on Pac.  And not because he got KO’d by Marquez, but rather because of the steady but noticeable decline in Pacquiao beginning with the Margarito fight, where he walked through the much bigger man but was not the brilliant shining light on the art of pugilism he had recently been.  In the Margarito fight, he was the faster man and he could take the shots that came his way, but a piece was missing.  There was a gap somewhere, and with each sequential fight it widened a bit.

Top Rank and Golden Boy have treated these two special fighters as if newer versions will come along behind them as soon as their careers are extinguished, so they can continue their battle of attrition with impunity, no harm, no foul.  Un-fucking-likely.  Instead, what’s occurred amounts to a death knell, with the public demanding just one fight for years, giving boxing more public interest than it’s enjoyed the since the days of Mike Tyson, issuing a guarantee that one fight could generate the highest Pay-Per-View gross of all time, for any sport.

The promoters each separately did the math and said, “We can make more money with two or three worthless fights,” and that was the final word.

Sports writers are already publishing speculative articles about “the next Pacquiao”.  When the next Pacquiao arrives, if we are given another, nobody will have to search for him.  We won’t be able to look away.  And Lord help us if Bob Arum is still alive.


Bob Arum, Withered Old Fool, Evil Genius

One day, Bob Arum is the withered old fool more responsible than anyone else in the world for the current decline and future demise of boxing in America.

The next, he’s the evil genius who put in the fix for Pacquiao/Bradley, which has temporarily made boxing interesting again.

Both are true.  Both are the same man, the same brain, making the same unabashedly selfish yet shrewd business decisions without regard to what will happen when Pacquiao is gone, when Mayweather is gone, when boxing fans in America are gone, watching the UFC instead.  Arum has gone on multiple tirades about how the UFC is terribly boring, or horribly ugly, or unfortunately gay, or a different business model that does not apply to boxing, never making a single accurate statement (and getting publicly laced by Dana White), blabbering on like the old fool he is.  Last Saturday, after the decision Heard Round The World, Arum was the most vocal spokesman for the idea of a fixed (or at least unacceptable) outcome in all of Las Vegas.  The old fool was putting in overtime as he bellowed to the media that Bradley’s manager, Bradley’s trainer, and the fighter himself all personally told Arum that they knew Pacquiao actually won the fight.  Each of those men have denied what Arum claims they said–and they have cause to lie, but if you have ever taken Bob Arum for his word you are a fool as well.

The evil genius was hard at work, too.

Arum is still protesting now, in the days after the event, demanding an investigation, withholding the notion of a rematch unless a full investigation/explanation is offered, even claiming that the ticket brokers are currently forecasting poor sales for a rematch.  Bullshit.  This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  People will act out, they will feign disinterest, but they will watch the rematch.  Arum is being a businessman, whipping up demand for his product.  The rematch is a bankroll event.  It was the first thing Arum said when the decision came in last night.  It took him less than 24 hours to change his tune completely.

I’ve had a solid grip on the conspiracy-theory lobe of my brain for quite some time, but right now it’s like the 4th of July in there.

If you didn’t know, everything that’s happened in boxing since the fall of Don King has been about who controls the fighters.  The promoters have been engaged in civil war like princes plotting for the crown for nearly a generation of fighters now.  The last big names to fight under Don King are retiring and the plotting princes have split his former kingdom and ruined it in the process.  Pacquiao is with Top Rank, Mayweather with Golden Boy Promotions.  These are the two most important sentences in boxing.  Bob Arum has been pulling the puppet strings to keep Pacquiao from fighting Mayweather since the first story was printed about a matchup (I believe, like Roy Jones Jr, that Floyd never wanted to fight Manny, but it takes two to tango).  Arum and Top Rank take home ALL of the gate when Pacquiao fights a Top Rank fighter; the Mayweather fight is an unnecessary risk for them, and they’ve never, ever wanted it.

Teddy Atlas mentioned on ESPN that rumors have been flitting around Vegas that Pacquiao is perhaps unhappy with Top Rank and ready to leave Top Rank because of the Mayweather situation.  His contract is up in 2013.  Pacquiao has been more than willing to act as Arum’s puppet soldier in this civil war of promotions for a long time, becoming the biggest Asian sports star of his generation in the process, but it makes sense that he’s growing weary of Arum’s complete unwillingness to make the Mayweather fight.

I don’t actually believe that Bob Arum fixed the fight.   But I do know that if this were a movie plot instead of real life, I’d expect Bob Arum’s character–the evil genius and the withered old fool combined–to behave precisely how the real Bob Arum is now.  If he were to have fixed the fight, then he should behave EXACTLY HOW HE IS LITERALLY BEHAVING, demanding inquiry, refusing rematch, bellowing like a rich withered old rich fool.  No matter the outcome of the fight, Top Rank will pile in the money, and Golden Boy Promotions (via Mayweather) will never get to be a part of it.

The evil fucking genius put in the fix, all right.  


Notes Regarding Muhammad Ali and Jones/Evans

PARALLELS

If either of the fighters in the upcoming UFC Light Heavyweight title bout bears a significant resemblance to Muhammad Ali, historically speaking, it is Rashad Evans. The parallels between the main event of UFC 145 and Ali vs. Foreman in Rumble in the Jungle in 1974 are actually a little startling. Evans is in place as Ali, Jones as Foreman.

Rashad Evans is 32, the same age as Ali when he stepped in the ring against George Foreman, fighting an undefeated 24 year old champion in Jones who most view as virtually unbeatable (I’m ignoring Jones’ technical loss to Hamill). Foreman, likewise, was 25 when he met Ali in Zaire. He had never lost or come anywhere close, having brutally cleaned out the entire heavyweight division with shocking efficiency; he was 40-0 with 38 knockouts. He had recently blitzed Joe Frazier to win the heavyweight belt, knocking the champ down 6 times in less than 2 rounds. No one could remember anyone like Foreman, except maybe Sonny Liston (who Ali defeated at 22 to get the belt, but was a huge underdog going into that fight as well). Foreman had also demolished Ken Norton in a similar fashion for another 2nd round knockout of a former champ who had previously defeated Ali.

Ali, meanwhile, went to Africa as a former champ of quickly advancing age who everyone thought was certain to lose.  Some feared for his safety against Foreman.  At that time he had just two losses in his career.  Evans, similarly, has only a single loss going into UFC 145.

Jones’ merciless finishes of Rua, Machida, and to a lesser extent Jackson line up beautifully with the historical context of Foreman quickly blasting a series of foes which Evans either lost to or did not finish. Like Evans, Ali’s only losses came from men who the current champ had easily destroyed. What I mean is, the inconsistent method of what we lovingly call MMA Math helps us all to see now what people saw in 1974, that the new champ was a stud the level of which an older former champ could not hope to match, and we got there by comparing common opponents.  If anything, Ali had performed worse against his common opponents with Foreman than Evans has against his common opponents with Jones.

Ali and Evans were (are) both also cajolers, fighters who intentionally direct their pre-fight media hype to getting inside the head of their opponent. Everybody talks smack, and nobody can best Ali in this regard, but Evans has made it a regular practice of stirring up the bile in his opponents with antagonism and not caring much about his public perception while doing it, the strategy Ali mastered against the likes of Foreman and Frazier. Evans is currently doing it with Jones, he did it with Davis, with Tito, with Rampage, and so on. At least, he’s more like Ali in this category than Jones, whose displays of condescension an indignation is a much quieter form of intimidation, whereas Ali was the most accomplished loudmouth in modern sports history.

Ali’s victory over Foreman in Rumble in the Jungle was so miraculous that it cemented his legacy forever in many ways. His strategy to bait Foreman into tiring himself out was brilliant and sophisticated, and so flawlessly executed that the term Rope-a-Dope has become a common part of the American sports lexicon. Unfortunately for Rashad Evans, it will probably take something just as remarkable for him to recapture his belt as well.

**

NARRATIVE

More and more is being made of the comparison between Jon Jones and Muhammad Ali, which is almost completely a comparison based upon image. A recent spread in UFC Magazine features Jones striking underwater, directly reminiscent of the famous Ali image.

Other fighters have been in the place where Jones finds himself now, such as Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Fedor Emilianenko, Sonny Liston, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, etc. That is to say, this list of fighters at one time were each undefeated and considered without a challenger in their sport (numerous fighters have been at that spot, but it is more significant when they are undefeated). It is Ali, however, that we immediately leap to when searching for Jones comparisons.

In a pre-fight press conference leading up to UFC 145, Jones has said he hopes to surpass Ali (for the record, this marketing misadventure was thrust upon the champ; it wasn’t his idea, as he explains). While I admit that I find the comparisons between Jones and Ali to be excruciating, at best, in their deficiency, it doesn’t bother me that he has such aspirations, being a young and confident champion. Foolish statements are part of that territory. However, it seems as though perhaps he should try to grasp how Ali shaped himself as a public figure, and what he stood for, and why an undefeated record and a gigabyte of Twitter posts will never exactly match up, to put it most lightly.

Here’s one simple step I offer to Jones on how to begin surpassing Muhammad Ali: sacrifice three years of your career, at your physical peak. Three and a half, actually. Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into Vietnam, breaking a long tradition of popular public figures in America going to war when the government said to (Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio, Elvis Presley, etc.) and it cost him three of his best fighting years, from 25 until he was almost 29. Three years you will simply never get back. Do it because you believe in something more profound than yourself or your bank account or your win/loss record, and you refuse to compromise for anyone.

Doing this will get you started, and there is a long, long way still to go.

What we love about a fighter, and what defines them for better or worse, is their narrative. Nothing is more important, nor equally important. Ali was not technically the greatest fighter of all time. Not in terms of wins/losses, not in terms of dominance in the ring under any measurable scale. We call him “The Greatest” for a bulky collection of reasons that are all incorporated into his narrative, such as his bombastic and groundbreaking public persona, his noble and brave sociopolitical opinions and willingness to sacrifice his career for them, his intelligence, his remarkably sophisticated (and, yes, mostly dominant) performances in the ring, his underdog victories, and so on. “The Greatest” is an honorary title, not a literal ranking. When we confer it to Ali we are talking about him as a figure and the big picture surrounding him. We are talking about overcoming turmoil in order to find victory—now that’s a narrative worth hearing.

For Ali, it was one narrative of many.

For Jones, it hardly seems possible. Not if he simply fights and wins and fights and wins. That doesn’t get you up with Ali. It doesn’t get you close.

–Dustin Atkinson


The Doping Hall of Fame – Chael Sonnen

Let’s congratulate our first-ever inductee to the Doping Hall of Fame, Chael Sonnen!  Way to go, Chael!

Mr. Sonnen’s testosterone levels were nearly seventeen times higher than normal on the night he almost defeated, but was submitted by, the Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva, at UFC 117.  Though his doping skills were clearly on display for the biggest fight of his life, one can’t help but wonder: if he’d just bumped up his testosterone a bit, perhaps to twenty times the normal level, maybe he could have beaten the legend he can never be?

Sonnen has a second chance at the belt coming up this summer, in Brazil, just three years shy of the champ’s 40th birthday.  Here’s to hoping Chael can focus on his Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and give the bout his all, plus the extra stuff his doctor injected.  They don’t really test for doped-up athletes in Brazil, so Sonnen can potentially elevate his testosterone levels to a number that would embarrass Jose Canseco in 1990.  Today’s Canseco simply cannot be embarrassed.

On a sidenote, Sonnen has only lost one fight to a non-Brazilian dating back to 2005, while dropping three matches to Portuguese-speaking gentlemen in those seven years.  Career wins against Brazilians?  One.  No wonder he has a bit of a quarrel with the entire country.  They are the only ones who can beat him + Testosterone in a fight.

Parabéns a você!


The Altercation…begins.

Hello, out there.  I’ve decided to start a blog about mixed martial arts in order to satiate my time-crippling addiction to the sport.

I plan on talking a lot of shit here, so feel free to let me know what you think as well.


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