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UFC Versus 4 was an insane event that ended with an insane knock out.  Poor Pat Barry.  He did everything right until he rushed in.  An historic knock out if nothing else and of the best comeback knockouts in UFC history.  A week full of drama ended in a fight full of drama.  You see, Barry V. Kongo was a “co main event” that turned into the Main Event – and a Main Event it was!

Nate Maquardt V. Rick Story was the other featured “co main event."  That is where the drama unfolded; Maquardt “failed his medicals.”  In doing so, he got himself both banned from the fight and fired from the UFC.  Story went on to fight Brenneman who was originally slated to fight TJ Grant.  The Grant V. Brenneman fight was cancelled earlier in the week after Grant took ill.  Confused yet?  Well you should be.  Two fighters lost in the final hours leading to the versus 4 and yet the fight goes on!  This is how you know class act fighters when you see them.

Wait!  Fired for failing medicals?!  Yes, fired for failing medicals and as you would imagine, the MMA blogosphere is flooded the assumption that Nathan “Nate he Great” Maquardt’s failed medicals are steroid related.  While his history would suggest that Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) could have been the culprit to Marquardt failing his medicals… you may remember the whole Vegas thing after his defeat of Salaverry that got him banned in Nevada.  Speculation is further driven by Marquardt’s weight loss. 

Being from Pennsylvania and having both boxed and kickboxed in the state, there are certain things a fighter needs to clear the medical screening process prior to fighting.  A fighter must demonstrate negative HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B status while further providing annual medical physical documentation and pertinent medical appropriateness to coordination, neuro, cardio and the like.  Going into a fight, a fighter has roughly six weeks to produce the required medicals.  Failure to do so will ban you from the event. 

 Dana White made it crystal-clear, “… but I think it’s pretty clear to the fans and everybody else that I’m pretty disgusted with Nate Marquardt.  He’s been cut from the UFC. He won’t fight in the UFC ever again.”  Dana White is incredibly forgiving and believes in his fighters, but at the same time, Dana White has been cleaning house as the organization expands.
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Marquardt will set the record straight Tuesday.  In setting the record straight, Nate will at least bring end to the needless speculation.  The Athletic Commission not so subtly insinuates a disease process is at hand while it could be argued that Dana White’s position is one of a boss who is pissed for being left hanging by an athlete who blew off his requisite conditions of a contractual agreement.  Fret not fellow the MMA fans, time will bring speculation to pause.

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The drama of the week however, was not strong enough to overshadow the drama that unfolded in the cage.  In case you missed it…

In case you have been keeping track of the contradictions: PA Athletic Commission clearly states a drug test was not failed.  Danna White is clearly pissed.  This means; 1) Nate is ill with a communicable disease transferable through blood and serum, 2) simply did not take the time to collect the requisite medical for the Athletic Commission, or, 4) refused to take the drug prior to the bout.  Dana White's reaction... 4).

Since everyone else is speculating, there is my two cents.
 
 
MMA fans love a good a fight.  A good fight can end many ways, a submission, a knock out or simply be a slugfest to the closing horn.  When it comes to a slugfest, the winner looks better than the loser; regardless of what the scorecards say.  Recently, one such slugfest ended in a “loser” being declared the victor.  It happens, MMA fans are quite accustomed to it.

UFC on Versus 3 contained a loser that won; Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez who looked like his nickname when the fight was over, well in the second round actually.  When you “lose” in such fashion, there are things you do not do in the days following the fight.  One of them is talk crap on the guy who just beat your face to a bloody, swollen and barely recognizable pulp.  Still sporting sunglasses to hide his swollen, battered, and bruised eyes, Sanchez now claims Kampmann’s punches packed very little power.

The fight was “fight of the night” and each fighter was awarded an additional $40,000 with Dana White giving each fighter an additional $140,000 on top of that… perhaps knowing Sanchez may need a little additional cash for plastic surgery.

This morning, Sanchez took to Twitter insisting that looking like a loser and being a loser are two completely different things.

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Kampmann, understanding that looking like a winner and being a loser gives him a certain edge of advantage.  And let's face it, he does need a win and decisively knocking Sanchez off would be the boost his career needs.
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Sanchez is actually thinking twice.  And rightfully so, I am sure his face still hurts enough to make him think twice about squaring off with Kampmann any time soon.
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The moral of the story?  When you get your ass kicked, deep down inside in you know it; scorecards play a very small role in that bitter reality.  A shot at a better fight?  Not after that performance.  The Nightmare proved that his face could double as a punching bag, while Kampmann demonstrated he could repeatedly hit it with laser like accuracy while preventing Sanchez from entering into his fight strategy.  Though Sanchez “won” the fight, he was relentlessly beaten during the fight.  In the end, what is most memorable about the fight is not Sanchez’s hand being raised; it the damage inflicted upon him that has been etched into the memory of MMA fans.
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Rematch?  Sanchez better train this time!

 
 
It has never been questioned that Jon “Bones” Jones was a lethal MMA fighter.  I truly noticed him during  his complete and utter destruction of Matt Hamill.  Granted, he committed a foul during the match, but his unique skills were undeniable.  He was a fighter destined for a shot at becoming champion.
That shot is being delivered on March 19th at UFC  128 against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.  All of Bones Jones’ fights are must see fights, but a title shot for this young, risen star is an absolute.  The fight hype has not been greatest and both fighters are more about fighting, less about talking.  With that in mind, the blows and elbows will do all the talking during the fight that the fighters did not engage prior to the fight.
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Dana White has just headed out to New York to get the festivities started.  The week will loaded with parties, raffles and scavenger hunts for fans.  The week will also highlight the rising of the risen star.  Spike TV will premiere “UFC Presents Jon Jones: In the Moment.”  The 90 minute program will showcase Jones’ journey to Saturday’s championship fight.   

Win, lose, or draw, Jones has earned his shot at the title and faces a fighter that has better chance of defeating him than previous opponents.  Tune in, it will be worth your time.

 
 
LIVE FEED
 
 
Edgar v. Maynard II was a truly epic. five round championship, back and forth slug fest that ended in draw.  Though both fighters were highly disappointed in the outcome; perhaps neither was more disappointed than Anthony Pettis who was slated to fight the winner.

Pettis and his matrix style kick will have to wait as Dana White insists upon a well deserved rematch between Edgar and Maynard.

Dana White told MMAjunkie.com, "After Craig made the announcement, I had a lot of people talking to me, and the reality is, Gray Maynard deserves that fight. We had planned on doing Anthony Pettis next, but Gray went in there and fought his ass off and deserves another chance.

"In the UFC, we do the right thing, and the right thing is to put on this rematch."

And he’s right, the two deserve the rematch, the fans deserve the rematch and most of all, it is the right thing to do in this case; the question is more of a matter of when.

In a show of class, after being informed he would fight Pettis, Edgar stated he preferred the fight Maynard.  Maynard, highly discouraged at the post fight conference expressed his disappointment in the fight’s outcome, “I worked my ass off for this.” he somberly stated.

The fan reaction is highly mixed.  Many feel that the UFC keeping its word to Pettis is more important than seeing the third fight between these two come to fruition.  Others feel a fight against Pettis is unfair until a clear winner is determined.  To them, a title retention via a draw is inadequate for a follow up title fight against another champion.

Satisfied with the fight results or not, angry over the Pettis put off not; the next two UFC Lightweight Championship fights are sure to be as epic as Saturday nights championship thriller!

 
 
 Written by David A. Avila    Friday, 31 December 2010 08:25

Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased - you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.
 
 
Edgar-Maynard is just one of several intriguing matchups and fun fights on Saturday night.  Chris Leben faces Brian Stann in what should be a good ol’ fashioned slugfest.  Brandon Vera stands squarely at a career crossroad, and ferocious striker Thiago Silva stands ready to try and prevent “The Truth” from turning around his recent run of misfortune. Frankie Edgar has only experienced defeat once in his professional career.  The current UFC Lightweight Champion was given a wrestling lesson for three rounds en route to dropping a clear unanimous judges’ decision.

Edgar followed up that loss with five consecutive wins, including back-to-back wins over BJ Penn to win and successfully defend the 155-lb title.  That is the good news.

The bad news is Edgar’s lone professional loss came at the hands of number one contender Gray Maynard, and during those five fights since getting bullied by Maynard, Edgar doesn’t appear to have changed his game in any way to prevent déjà vu.  Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention, Edgar will face his nemesis once again on Saturday night with his title on the line.

That is just one of several intriguing matchups and fun fights on Saturday night.  Chris Leben faces Brian Stann in what should be a good ol’ fashioned slugfest.  Brandon Vera stands squarely at a career crossroad, and ferocious striker Thiago Silva stands ready to try and prevent “The Truth” from turning around his recent run of misfortune.  Marcus Davis and Jeremy Stephens may very well throw down the gauntlet for Fight of the Year.  And the “New York Bad Ass” Phil Baroni returns to the middleweight division to face upstart Hawaiian tough guy Brad Tavares.

EDGAR VERSUS MAYNARD

Edgar is a smallish, ultra-quick lightweight who makes his living with constant movement and short bursts of fistic activity, all the while maintaining great balance so that he can either defend a takedown or take the action to the canvas, if the situation calls for it.  It is a style designed to win on the judges’ cards, not necessarily one that will finish many fights.  To wit, the champ has only ended two of his eight UFC bouts inside the distance.

I don’t think anything will change with Edgar’s game plan against Maynard.  The reality is that the champ wants to keep as much separation as possible, while constantly changing angles with strikes.  He knows he cannot outwrestle Maynard.  He knows he won’t win a power contest, either.   He needs to fight in precisely the same way that he did in his title-winning and title-defending efforts.  

Maynard should come out with the same game plan that he had in the first fight, which was to score takedowns early in every round, keep Edgar on his back, and grind away for a stoppage or a judges’ decision.  “Should” is the operative word because I’m not convinced that Maynard will come out and fight with a disciplined game plan.  He may get too caught up in the moment and embark on a headhunting campaign with his always improving boxing skills.  “The Bully” has more than enough juice to stop the champ with his fists, but Edgar is the cleaner, more polished striker, so I think he will dominate in the standup arena, for as long as the fight remains there.

At the end of the day, this fight is all about the matchup, and the breakdown on paper suggests that the UFC Lightweight Championship may change hands on Saturday night.  Just like Edgar was BJ Penn’s kryptonite, Maynard may indeed be his.

LEBEN VERSUS STANN

One year ago, Chris Leben looked like he was on the fast track for a one-way ticket out of the UFC.  Having lost five of his prior eight bouts, including two in a row, he desperately needed a win when he faced Jay Silva on January 11, 2010.  Mission accomplished after three hard-fought rounds.

The win was like a shot of adrenalin for “The Crippler.”  Actually, I liked “The Cat Smasher” moniker much better.  I digress.

Leben followed the win with a statement win over previously undefeated prospect Aaron Simpson via spectacular knockout and then put himself back into the 185-lb title picture with a dramatic, last-second, come-from-behind submission win over Yoshihiro Akiyama 14 days later (an almost unprecedented turnaround time for UFC-level bouts).  

Leben now faces former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion and legitimate American hero Brian Stann.  Forget about mixed martial artists or any other athlete proclaiming that they are warriors.  This guy is a true warrior after having served in the United States Marine Corps and earning the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor in combat, for his leadership during Operation Matador.

Stann is a lot like Leben stylistically—an all-action standup fighter with an underrated ground game.  This fight may very well turn out to be a hockey brawl, with the fighters trading power punches until someone falls down.  If that happens, I like Leben all day every day.  

Few fighters in the world have a thicker set of whiskers than Leben.  He seems almost impervious to shots on the chin thrown by anyone other than Anderson Silva.  The reality, though, is that even the sturdiest of jaws crack over time, and this guy has a ton of mileage for a 30-year-old fighter.  Sooner or later he won’t be able to take those same shots.  See Chuck Liddell’s career for a vivid example.

Even though Leben’s jaw can’t last forever, Stann would be foolish to engage in a firefight.  He needs to come out and use a lot of angles and pick his spots.  Takedowns are possible, but not probable because Leben has excellent takedown defense and Stann doesn’t have great wrestling.  Thus, the most likely method of winning for the Marine Corps veteran is to outpoint his foe.

Leben will do what he always does—stalk and fire.  He wants to land his big left hand, so he will focus on winning the battle of the feet.  Meaning he will constantly work to keep his right foot on the outside of Stann’s lead left foot in order to keep a throwing lane for his bread-and-butter punch.  Leben might mix in a takedown or two, just to keep Stann guessing, but that won’t likely be a major focus of his game plan.

VERA VERSUS SILVA


Remember when Brandon Vera was a can’t-miss prospect?  It wasn’t that long ago when he smashed Frank Mir in 69 seconds.  Back in those days, Vera was viewed as a possible future heavyweight champion, if not a possible future two-division champion since his frame was always better suited to the light heavyweight division.

Vera then suffered a multi-year stretch where management issues and a string of bad performances left him as more of an afterthought than a legitimate title contender.  None of that changes the fact that this guy has the athleticism and skills to be great.  

Thiago Silva might be the best fighter in the UFC 205-pound division who hasn’t yet challenged for a title.  This guy is an absolute animal inside the Octagon, always attacking in the traditional Muay Thai style that longtime fans of the sport are accustomed to seeing from Chute Boxe Academy fighters.  Now that Silva is part of the American Top Team, his game is more complete.  The only thing that has prevented him from challenging for a title is his conditioning.  He had Rashad Evans badly hurt and ready to go in his last bout, but he had nothing left in the tank and had to watch with his hands at his sides as Evans finished the third round on a pair of ice skates.

This fight is critical for both men.  Vera is likely fighting just to stay in the UFC.  Three straight losses is often a ticket to a stint in the regional promotions.  Silva needs a win to remain relevant in the light heavyweight title picture.  That sort of pressure sometimes leads to guys fighting passively.  It will not have that affect on Vera and Silva.  I expect this to be a very spirited affair, with intense exchanges on the feet.  Nevertheless, Vera would be well served to take a page out of Evans’ book and use takedowns and ground control to wear down Silva in the first two rounds before looking to take him out on the feet in the final round.

If Silva can stop the takedown, then the fight becomes a tossup.  In a striking affair, leg kicks may carry the day.  Both men throw leg kicks with bad intentions, and they can use that strike to both chop down the other man’s explosiveness and also open the door for punches upstairs.

DAVIS VERSUS STEPHENS

Remember that game Rock-em, Sock-em Robots?  I might be dating myself right now, but that was one of my favorite games as a kid.  No, it was not a video game.  It was an old school two-player action toy game first manufactured 56 years ago and still for sale today.  The object was simple:  each player caused his or her action figure to furiously throw punches until it knocked off the head of the opponent’s action figure.  

The preliminary card matchup between former welterweight contender Marcus Davis and lightweight fan favorite Jeremy Stephens is the personification of that game.  Both of these guys fancy themselves to be elite-level MMA boxers.  They will plant their feet, grit their jaws and fire away until someone falls down.

Davis might look for a takedown, if things aren’t going his way.  Stephens won’t.  

It is impossible to predict how Davis will fare in this fight.  This will be his first fight at 155 pounds.  I have no idea if he will able to cut the weight without severely diminishing his explosive power or depleting his gas tank.  I also don’t know if he is going to cut the standard 10 to 15 pounds that most top lightweights shed before the weigh-ins, or if he has lowered his fighting weight significantly so that he does not have to cut a material amount of weight in the 30 hours leading up to fight time.

If Davis is overly depleted at lightweight, he will suffer a very short and painful debut in the lightweight division thanks to the sledgehammers that Stephens brings with him into the Octagon.  If Davis really is fighting at his more natural weight, then this fight becomes very interesting.  

Matchups that are guaranteed to be barnburners often fail to live up to the hype.  A perfect example is Stephens’ last fight against Melvin Guillard.  This fight could similarly fail to live up to the crazy expectations.  Davis might come out looking to take the fight where Stephens is at his weakest—on the ground.  I’m not sure why, but I don’t see that happening.  This is going to be an all-out war.  Davis is the bigger guy, though he is likely on the downside of his career at 37 years old.  Stephens is the younger, fresher, more explosive fighter.  He wins this matchup more often than not.

BARONI VERSUS TAVARES

Phil Baroni will forever grace the UFC’s highlight reel thanks to his savage knockout win over Dave Menne back on September 27, 2002.  After an up-and-down career since that time, he will square off against The Ultimate Fighter alumnus Brad Tavares in an effort to prove that he is not a gatekeeper for prospects looking to make their mark in the UFC.

Baroni has a couple of ways that he can win this fight.  He can take down Tavares and beat him up on the ground, or he can get in his face with aggressive strikes and look for the early knockout.  Say what you will about Baroni’s recent performances, but this guy can both punch and take a punch.

Tavares is not nearly as aggressive as Baroni, but he still loves a good scrap.  In some ways, he is Baroni-lite, in terms of his style and power.  And he is definitely coming to the MGM Grand to make a name for himself at Baroni’s expense.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Baroni is going to shoot for a takedown right off the opening bell.  Nobody expects him to do that, and it can be a very effective tactic, if he sets up the shot with a feinted right hand.  Baroni is a much better wrestler than most realize.  If he gets Tavares on the ground, he will be able to score some points with his ground and pound.  

But that isn’t what I would recommend, if I were in the New Yorker’s corner.  I would have him come out of his corner like a bat out of hell firing away with both fists.  He hasn’t done that in years—probably since the first Evan Tanner fight.  Baroni is at his most effective when he creates early chaos.  That is his key to beating Tavares.

The key for Tavares winning is to survive the opening round and try to use his size advantage to tire out his foe.  He needs to smother Baroni to prevent him from getting full power into his punches and generally crowd him with the hope of scoring a takedown.  Tavares doesn’t want to find out if Baroni’s return to 185 pounds after 18 months fighting at 170 pounds means a return of his devastating punching power, particularly in the first round.

By
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    Author Note:

    MMA is now of my favorite sporting events.  I have always wanted to write about it and have included this page solely for my personal entertainment.

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