Archive for June, 2012

Will Silva’s bite live up to his bark?

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Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva earned a fifth-round submission of Chael Sonnen during their first meeting back in August 2010. (Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

Chael Sonnen had to have been smiling on his end of the phone line.

Isn’t the whole point of trash talking to get your opponent off his game? Yet for the nearly two years since he came closer than anyone in the UFC to beating Anderson Silva, as he threw every insult from “absolute fraud” to “dirtbag” at the middleweight champion, he saw not the slightest crack in the armor. Even after a rematch was announced and Chael ramped up his antagonism, “The Spider” remained hazily soft-spoken, his affect teetering between blasé and bored. That had to be killing Sonnen.

Until Monday afternoon, that is, when a whole different Silva showed up on a conference call with members of the media who’ll be covering UFC 148 a week from Saturday in Las Vegas.

“First of all, Chael is a criminal,” Silva said in response to the first mention of his opponent, speaking in Portuguese that then was translated by his manager, Ed Soares. “He’s been convicted of crimes. He doesn’t deserve to be inside of the octagon. When the time comes and the time is right, I’m going to break his face and break every one of the teeth in his mouth.”

Well, well.

And there was more. Each time Sonnen’s name was mentioned, Silva became more graphic in his pitiless forecast. He promised “to beat his ass like he’s never been beaten before” …
beat him “the way his parents should have beat him to teach him some manners” … “beat him out of the UFC.” It was as if Silva was aping Sonnen’s mean-spirited standup routine, the longest-running comedy act in MMA. So Anderson, how bad is the beating going to be? “He’s going to have to go see a plastic surgeon after the fight.” Ba-da-boom.

As Silva went on, the words sounding so uncharacteristic, I found myself wondering whether he was really just talking about how the weather is lovely these days in Rio, and Soares was translating it as a Sonnen-is-a-dead-man threat in order to boost pay-per-view sales. But several Brazilian journalists took to Twitter to assure us monolinguals that the manager actually had softened what Silva was saying.

Reaction to Silva’s pitbull act puzzled me. The pervasive theme on Twitter and even in some media accounts was this: Boy, are you in for it now, Chael. I don’t get it. Anderson Silva became the deadly fighter he is by being patient, elusive and impassive until it’s time to strike. That is, by being himself. Maybe he’s capable of morphing into a José Aldo-style aggressor and being even more of a killer. If so, Sonnen is in trouble. But it’s reasonable to think that Anderson fighting angry is not Anderson at his best.

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  • Published On Jun 25, 2012
  • Ortiz’s career suffers another blow after bowing out against Lopez

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    Josesito Lopez

    Josesito Lopez (right) broke Victor Ortiz’s jaw in his stunning upset Saturday. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    In eight years as a professional, Victor Ortiz has had some, shall we say, questionable moments. He quit against Marcos Maidana in 2009 and humiliated himself with a leaping head butt in a loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2011. Now this: On Saturday night, Ortiz stopped his fight against Josesito Lopez after the ninth round, complaining of a broken jaw.

    In fairness, getting hit on a busted jaw is probably excruciatingly painful and Lopez, a tough, rugged 140-pounder who moved up in weight and took this fight on short notice after Andre Berto dropped out, was hitting Ortiz on the chin all night. The Showtime commentators suggested Ortiz broke his jaw in the ninth round, but earlier in the fight cameras showed Ortiz pulling cornerman Danny Garcia close in between rounds and whispering something the microphones could not pick up, which is often a sign that there is something physically wrong with the fighter that he doesn’t want repeated on the broadcast.

    I don’t think I would be willing to go out and take sledgehammer shots on my jaw after breaking it. But I’m not looking at a multimillion dollar payday and a high-profile title shot against Saul Alvarez if I won, either.

    That’s what Ortiz lost when he chose not to continue. Granted, the broken jaw would have prevented Ortiz from being ready to face Alvarez in September anyway. But the fight would have been made at some point, and if Ortiz had prevailed despite the injury — he was leading on all three judges cards at the time of the stoppage — chances are it would be even bigger.

    Instead, Ortiz will once again be faced with questions about whether he has the heart to be an elite fighter. Yes, a broken jaw is painful. But Muhammad Ali broke his jaw during a fight with Ken Norton and fought the rest of the way. Vitali Klitschko’s face was split open by Lennox Lewis and he fought until the ringside doctors told him he could not. All great fighters face adversity; it’s how they overcome it that makes them great.

    Ortiz will be back. He’s young and popular and his career will continue. But it seems unlikely he will ever live up to his enormous early potential. Ortiz has tremendous power but he doesn’t box very well and he comes to the ring looking more like a body builder than a boxer, which at times appears to hinder his movement. The fact that he had so much trouble with Lopez, a good but certainly not great fighter, suggests some changes need to be made.

    As for Alvarez, well, he might as well put an ad out for an opponent on Craigslist. Fights with Paul Williams and James Kirkland have already been scrapped, and now Ortiz is out of the mix. There are options for him out there — Gabriel Rosado, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout are probably at the top of the list — but they won’t generate anywhere near the buzz. And with HBO set to broadcast Julio Cesar Chavez-Sergio Martinez on Sept. 15th, the fight will likely force Alvarez’s date to be moved or taken off pay per view.

    Lopez is not a realistic candidate for Alvarez — that’s just way too big of a weight to make — but he now has some serious options as well. There will likely be a rematch with Ortiz, and Lopez now joins a crowded group of exciting fighters between 140 and 147 pounds that should make for many action-packed matchups in the future.

    – Chris Mannix

  • Published On Jun 23, 2012
  • The real Franklin-Silva I: Does an ace cover an axe, or does the axe cut it?

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    Saturday night’s UFC 147 main event is being billed as Wanderlei Silva vs. Rich Franklin II.

    But the fight in Belo Horizonte is actually the completion of a trilogy.

    Four summers ago — a full year before “The Axe Murderer” and “Ace” first stepped into the octagon together at UFC 99 — the fighters squared off in a different kind of mettle testing: at the 2008 USA Rock Paper Scissors Championships.

    No, Silva and Franklin aren’t two-sport stars. Their battle of fists, palms and fingers was a special exhibition, arranged because the rock-paper-scissors event happened to be going on in Las Vegas on the same weekend as that season’s finale of The Ultimate Fighter.

    Check out this first battle between fighters temporarily nicknamed “The Axe-Sharpening Rock Murderer” and “The Glossy Layered Paper That Makes Playing Cards”:

    –Jeff Wagenheim

  • Published On Jun 22, 2012
  • Fedor: “It’s time for me to leave” MMA

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    Fedor Emelianenko

    For some, Fedor Emelianenko’s career will be tarnished by the fact that he never competed in the UFC. (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

    On the same night that King James began his reign in professional basketball, The Last Emperor abdicated his mixed martial arts throne.


    Just as LeBron James’ first NBA title was much anticipated and a long time coming, so was the retirement of Fedor Emelianenko. In terms of performance inside the cage or ring, Emelianenko has been MMA royalty in nothing but nickname the last few years. However, in the big picture — even one tarnished by an undistinguished end game — his name will forever remain majestic in the annals of his sport.

    Fedor. Like Arnold and Jack and Tiger, Kareem and Michael and, yes, LeBron, there’s no last name needed. Even though it’s a pretty regal last name at that.

    Emelianenko will not be remembered for the 1:24 knockout of Pedro Rizzo on Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Russia, or for the two other empty victories he added to his resume after leaving Strikeforce a year ago following a three-fight losing streak. He’ll instead be called to mind as a luminary who, even at age 35 and coming off a string of performances that were more “Fader” than Fedor, still had the star power to sell out the Ice Palace, with Russian President Vladimir Putin among the 12,000 in attendance.

    While his management, M-1 Global, seemed content to squeeze a few more paychecks out of its aging cash cow by removing him from the MMA mainstream and pitting him against barely breathing opposition, Fedor finally said enough is enough. “I think it’s time I quit,” he said after Thursday’s bout, according to a report by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “My family influenced my decision. My daughters are growing without me. That’s why it’s time for me to leave.”

    A more fitting time for him to leave might have been last July, after he was stopped in the first round by Dan Henderson, a guy who usually competes down at light heavyweight, even middleweight. That loss came on the heels of two even more disheartening defeats: a nasty beatdown five months earlier by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and a 1:09 submission loss to Fabricio Werdum back in June 2010. As inglorious as it might have seemed for him to have gone out on three straight losses, there was no genuine consolation prize for Emelianenko in his post-Strikeforce wins over 40-year-old Jeff Monson, Olympic judo gold medalist but MMA neophyte Satoshi Ishii and an out-of-mothballs Pedro Rizzo, a once-stout fighter who at age 38 hadn’t competed in a relevant bout in years.

    Seen in the most generous light, those three career-closing victories represented a victory lap of sorts, as Fedor twice got to perform in front of his countrymen (the Monson bout was in Moscow) and also gave the fans in Japan, where long ago he created his greatest glory, one last peek.

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  • Published On Jun 22, 2012
  • Desperate duel between Tomasz Adamek, Eddie Chambers in New Jersey

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    The best fights in boxing are born out of desperation, and on Saturday night in Newark there is one that will wreak of it. Tomasz Adamek (45-2), last seen on the big stage getting beat up by WBC heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko in 2011, against Eddie Chambers (36-2), last seen being knocked out by unified titleholder Wladimir Klitschko in 2010, for the right to stay in play as an opponent for one of the brothers (9 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

    Chambers, 30, has struggled since his loss to Wladimir Klitschko. He was inactive for nearly a year, returning in February 2011 to outpoint journeyman Derric Rossy. Chambers was scheduled to face Tony Thompson in an IBF title eliminator last October, but was forced to pull out with a back injury. He pulled out of another fight, this time with Sergei Liakhovich, in January, citing a rib injury.

    Chambers says the key to beating Adamek is to break him mentally.

    “Adamek sometimes has a problem with his body movement,” Chambers said. “He can be hit but he can also pepper you with great, surprising punch combinations. But his biggest strengths is his mental strength. He has unbelievable determination. He’s a warrior who never quits. But [when] he was broken by Vitali Klitschko, he could do nothing.”

    Adamek, 35, rebounded quickly from his loss to Klitschko, outpointing Nagy Aguilera in March. Adamek has contended that weight issues robbed him of his movement against Klitschko and hopes that a few wins will put him on a path to fight Wladimir early next year.

    As for Chambers, Adamek scoffs at Chambers’s assertion that he has figured out how to beat him.

    “In this sport, when fighters as accomplished as me and Eddie are fighting, there are no special surprises,” Adamek said. Everybody knows everything about the other guy. But the other side of coin is that knowing something in theory and actually doing it in the ring are different. I dedicate this saying to everybody who believes Chambers’ stories about “knowing” how to beat me.”

  • Published On Jun 14, 2012
  • ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ to change format, but not time slot

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    A few weeks ago, I was chatting with Dana White moments after the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Live had just wrapped up. As the production crew was packing up cameras and lights in the vast Las Vegas gym, the UFC president mused on what he loved about this season — the reality show’s first on FX — more than any of the previous 15.

    “Live,” he said. “There’s no putting it in the can. There’s no keeping it a secret. … Live is the real deal. I love it. This is the most engaged I’ve been in a season of The Ultimate Fighter in a long time.”

    Well, White is going to have to find something new to engage him. Next season the show will revert to the taped format that, prior to this season, had been used ever since TUF launched on Spike back in 2005, he told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.

    The other TUF news White passed along has to do with something he wished were changing but will not be: The show will remain in its Friday 10 p.m. ET time slot. During our recent conversation, Dana said he understood why the Fox network initially had put the fighting show on Fridays — the UFC deal was completed after programmers had settled on much of their season schedule — but was hoping to move it to a better slot for next season. “Friday nights are a bad night for us. We know that,” said White. “We would never go out and air a show that we really cared about on Friday night.”

    Why is that? Friday is not a popular night for television viewing. Indeed, although Fox officials have lauded the viewership numbers and White told Yahoo the show “was a smash hit home run for them,” other observers have dwelled on a ratings dip. However, it’s tricky to compare this season of TUF to past ones: FX is available in more households than Spike, but Fridays are a graveyard compared to the old Wednesday time slot. Suffice to say ratings numbers can be manipulated to tell whatever story you want to tell.

    And so can reality television … at least when it’s, as Dana says, “in the can.” Whereas past seasons have been edited to feature reality TV fodder — pranks and spats in the house where 16 fighters were cooped up for several weeks of no TV, no phone, no outside world — this season was mostly centered upon the live fights. There was the real-life drama of fighter Michael Chiesa losing his father to leukemia in the show’s first week, an ongoing story line that built to the finale, when Chiesa became the show’s winner. But we didn’t see a lot of the old Jersey Shore-style hijinx.

    Maybe FX wants more of that. Or maybe it simply wants the show to end on time (several weeks this season the live fights pushed TUF past its allotted hour). Whatever the case may be, White is at least publicly upbeat, expressing a willingness to accommodate his fight promotion’s broadcast partner for Season 16, which debuts in September, featuring welterweights. But the UFC president surely will be watching closely — even if the show is not live, as he prefers — and if “this next season isn’t up to the standards I expect,” he told Yahoo, “they promised me we can move it to Tuesday or Wednesday.”

    —Jeff Wagenheim  

  • Published On Jun 13, 2012
  • Top Rank requests ‘complete inquiry’ into Pacquiao-Bradley decision

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    Timothy Bradley

    Timothy Bradley defeated Manny Pacquiao in a controversial split decision last Saturday. (AP)

    Top Rank has submitted a request to the Nevada Attorney General’s office for a “full and complete inquiry” into the circumstances surrounding the scoring of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight last Saturday in Las Vegas. Bradley was awarded a split decision win over Pacquiao despite most ringside observers scoring a lopsided victory for Pacquiao.

    Both fighters are promoted by Top Rank.

    “The public has a right to know,” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. “The fighters have a right to know. The only way to restore fans’ confidence in boxing is by letting an independent body investigate every detail of the fight no matter how big or small. Sunshine never hurt anyone.”

    On Monday, one of the judges who scored the fight for Bradley, Duane Ford, defended the decisions in interviews with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    “I thought Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson,” Ford told the newspaper. “I thought a lot of the rounds were close. Pacquiao missed a lot of punches and I thought he was throwing wildly.”
    Skip Avansino, the chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, said he had no problem with the decision.

    “We had three seasoned professionals working and I don’t question their determinations,” Avansino said. “Unless something is brought to our attention that there was improper behavior, we’re not going to take any action. I’m not going to second-guess our judges.”

    – Chris Mannix

  • Published On Jun 11, 2012
  • Three thoughts from Bradley-Pacquiao

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    Timothy Bradley

    Despite being outpunched, Timothy Bradley won by split decision over Manny Pacquiao (AP).

    LAS VEGAS — Three quick thoughts from Timothy Bradley’s shocking win over Manny Pacquiao …

    This was a bad decision. Pacquiao won the fight on my card, HBO’s card and virtually everyone else’s card … except judges C.J. Ross and Duane Ford, who are the only two that matter. Despite Pacquiao outlanding Bradley (253-159), out power punching the junior welterweight champ (190-108) and outperforming him in 10 of 12 rounds, a pair of judges handed Bradley the WBO welterweight title. It was a bizarre and unpopular decision, one that (again) makes you wonder about the competence of judges in boxing. Bradley was active, but too many of his shots were gobbled up in Pacquiao’s gloves. Bradley didn’t embarrass himself, but he didn’t win this fight, either. Said Bob Arum, “Nothing in my career has stunned me as much as this decision.”

    Manny could have done more. Here is why Bradley won: We are in Nevada, and in Nevada the judges have, historically, favored the aggressor. And while Pacquiao was landing the cleaner, heavier shots, Bradley was more active, outpunching Pacquiao (839-751). Every round, every single bleeping round, Pacquiao appeared to give the first minute away. You can’t do that in Nevada. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s the way the judges in this state score a fight.

    Goodbye, Pacquiao-Mayweather. You will never, ever be the same. We could still see that fight happen, and there will always be plenty of money in it. But win or lose, the takeaway from this fight for me is that Pacquiao has lost something off his fastball. We thought we saw it against Juan Manuel Marquez, and it was confirmed tonight. The Pacquiao I saw fight Miguel Cotto walked through punches, threw savage body shots, fired heavy head shots. It just didn’t seem like Pacquiao could put together the punches with the same speed or ferocity like he has used to. It’s disappointing, because we will never know what a Pacquiao-Mayweather in their prime fight would have looked like. And that is the biggest blow to boxing.

    – Chris Mannix

  • Published On Jun 10, 2012
  • Official Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley scorecard

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    Here it is. Sports Illustrated writers Chris Mannix (115-113) and Bryan Armen Graham (116-112) both scored the fight in favor of Manny Pacquiao.

    Judge Jerry Roth (115-113) agreed, but CJ Ross (115-113) and Duane Ford (115-113) both gave the fight to Timothy Bradley, the new WBO welterweight champion.

  • Published On Jun 10, 2012
  • Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard results

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    Guillermo Rigondeaux (left) floored Philadelphia’s Teon Kennedy five times on his way to a fifth-round TKO win to defend his bantamweight title. The challenger managed to land just 13 of 179 punches in the fight. (AP)

    LAS VEGAS — The last preliminary bout beteen Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) and Jesus Rojas (18-1-1, 13 KOs) ended on a foul in the second round and was declared a no-contest.

    Randall Bailey (43-7, 37 KOs) won the vacant IBF welterweight championship with a vicious 11th-round knockout of Philadelphia’s Mike Jones (26-1, 19 KOs), who suffered the first loss of his career in grotesque fashion after a sluggish, methodical opening that prompted boos from the MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd. Bailey, a 4-to-1 underdog, floored Jones in the 10th then connected with a deadly right uppercut in the 11th that knocked him senseless.

    Guillermo Rigondeaux (10-0, 8 KOs) successfully defended his WBA super bantamweight title with an  impressive fifth-round TKO of Philadelphia’s Teon Kennedy (17-2-2, 7 KOs). The 31-year-old Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba who defected and now trains in Miami, floored Kennedy in the first, second (twice), fourth and fifth rounds before referee Russell Mora put a stop to it at the 1:11 mark.

    “All my punches are good, I have no bad punches,” said Rigondeaux, who connected with 58 of 183 punches (32 percent) compared to just 13 of 179 for Kennedy (7 percent). “I think that was my best performance.”

    Said Kennedy: “He’s not the hardest puncher, he just hits you with punches that you can’t see.”

    Ernie Sanchez (13-3, 5 KOs) of the Philippines slugged his way to a unanimous-decision victory over Wilton Hilario (12-3-1, 9 KOs) of St. Louis Park, Minn., in an entertaining eight-round featherweight contest. Judge Robert Hoyle scored it 79-73, while Burt Clements and Herb Santos both had it 78-74.

    Welterweight up-and-comer Mikael Zewski (15-0, 11 KOs) scored an impressive third-round knockout of John Ryan Grimaldo (8-2, 5 KOs) in an eight-rounder. The end came at 0:59 of the third round, when the Fort Collins, Colo., product was unable to make the 10-count.

    Andrew Ruiz (2-0, 1 KO) of Oxnard, Calif., a Robert Garcia trainee, stayed unbeaten with a four-round unanimous-decision win over Taylor Larson of Las Vegas in a junior welterweight bout fought at a catchweight of 143 pounds. Ruiz scored a knockdown in the first round that set the tone. The judges’ scores were 39-36, 40-35 and 39-36.

    In the night’s first bout, fancied 168-pound prospect Jesse Hart of Philadelphia made his pro debut a quick one, blasting Manuel Eastman (0-2, 0 KOs) with a barrage of punches in the corner on his way to a TKO victory just 33 seconds into the first round.

    – Bryan Armen Graham

  • Published On Jun 09, 2012