The dreaded “injury bug” in MMA is nothing new, but recently the problem seems to have come to a head. UFC 151 was a card that had already been plagued with injuries when one half of its headliner, “Hendo” Dan Henderson (29-8), pulled out with a very late injury. After much scrambling and some controversial decisions by a few parties, the event was canceled. UFC 153 was saved from one injury when “New Breed” Erik Koch (13-1) was replaced by featherweight-come-lately “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (14-3) to face 145lbs. kingpin Jose Aldo (21-1). UFC 153 would not avoid further injuries, however. Both co-main events were marred when “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (32-10) and Jose Aldo pulled out within hours of each other with respective ailments. It has left the UFC, fans, and the media in an absolute stupor, with everyone voicing any number of opinions and solutions for this problem. Some point to over-training as the root of the problem. They suggest the idea of shorter notice fights that will in turn, lead to shorter training camps and less likelihood of injuries. Others go to the extreme of suggesting PRIDE-style late fight announcements to prevent the debacle of constantly switching out injured opponents – not exactly feasible for a juggernaut like the UFC. Others suggest scaling back the ever-growing number of cards the UFC puts on every year, allowing more opportunities for better stacked cards where undercard fights can take center stage when emergencies arise. But there is a much broader opportunity that can benefit both fighters and promotions. A fighter’s walking weight could be the solution to the injury bug problem.
The first and second cards of a burgeoning MMA promotion are always fun and games when a gimmick pays off. For Invicta Fighting Championship, the “gimmick” is the FMMA focus, and it is paying off well. Though Invicta isn’t the first FMMA focused North American promotion, it is the first to successfully market itself as such on a national level. Don’t misconstrue – “gimmick” is not a pejorative, it simply describes what FMMA is to Invicta in business terms, most particularly sales terms. The product they sell is MMA, the reason to buy theirs over others’ is that it’s all women. Much like a car lot offering a chance to win a free car after a test drive on Saturday, the real trick is turning the traffic that shows up for the gimmick into real customers. Invicta has the FMMA crowd, but that isn’t enough to sustain the brand. They also have hordes (relatively speaking) of casual fans who have logged into the free stream and locals who picked up a ticket that are there to take the test drive. Those people will need a quality product from the ground up if Invicta wants them to stick around.
For those who don’t watch the UFC’s undercard fights, you don’t know what you’re missing. And for those that do, we often find that the prelims can be just as if not more entertaining bouts than those on the main card, and can provide valuable insight as to which fighters to keep an eye on in regards to potential future wave-makers in his respective weight division. “Panzer” Pascal Krauss (10-0) is one such fighter.
“Panzer”, a nickname meaning “tank” in his native German language, exemplifies exactly what Krauss has shown in his career – that he is a force to be reckoned with. The undefeated 25-year-old welterweight made his UFC debut at UFC 122 where he not only picked up his first win in the Zuffa promotion, he also earned “Fight of the Night” honors for his three-round war with fellow UFC newcomer “Scanno” Mark Scanlon (7-2). Krauss came into his UFC debut fight as the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship welterweight king toting an undefeated record with ten consecutive first- or second-round finishes, and looking to prove that he belonged in the world’s most prestigious MMA organization. Having shown a variety of skills against Scanlon and earning a fight bonus in his first effort, “Panzer” did not disappoint.
Amid the ever-growing host of lawsuits against streaming sites and their users that pirate UFC events, UFC President Dana White has in recent weeks mentioned a handful of possible futures for the MMA promotion’s future on television. While he has stated that the format of major events on Pay-Per-View supplemented by free TV prelims, The Ultimate Fighter, and free-on-TV minor events such as UFC on FX cards will likely remain in place for some time, both the UFC boss and the fans have kicked around several alternatives, some of which may render online piracy of the PPV events moot if not eliminate the damage they cause altogether. Among these have been ideas where Pay-Per-Views can be purchased in a subscription service similar to the way major sports leagues allow fans to purchase out-of-market games with products like NFL Sunday Ticket or NHL Center Ice and even a complete departure from the PPV arena into a totally broadcast/cable TV approach. From a quick outside glance, either of these options appears to be an easy fix that is win-win for the UFC and the fans, but even when the details fans can’t possibly know about the behind-the-scenes business aspects of making such deals work are taken out, there still are several drawbacks that come with such arrangements. For instance, while putting every fight on “free TV” may sound like a huge win for the fans, there are some benefits of the PPV format that are taken for granted because the UFC has always been a Pay-Per-View first product.
The UFC made its triumphant and long awaited debut on network TV Saturday with a single fight to offer FOX viewers a taste of what the organization has to offer prior to the launch of their long term broadcasting deal beginning next year. The UFC put its most prestigious title on the line between two of its most dominant and exciting fighters as “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (14-1) took on Cain Velasquez (9-1) for the UFC Heavyweight Championship of the World and in just 64 short seconds the bout was over. UFC President Dana White had said before the event that this was the greatest moment in MMA history and he was very correct in calling it that, a moment. JDS landed a brutal right hook behind the ear of the now former champion and pounced, finishing the undefeated heavyweight in short order with a stunning first-round KO. Despite FOX Sports CEO David Hill reporting that “It delivered everything I hoped it would”, the fight, or to be more accurate, its brevity, has drawn mixed responses from the MMA community as a whole. The ratings fell short of what fans had expected and despite managing to pull 5.7 million viewers, more than any previous UFC bout, losing out in the 18-49 year old ratings war only to a major NCAA football game between top ten ranked teams Stanford and Oregon, it left many fans complaining that it was the wrong bout to introduce the UFC to the massive casual fan base hidden within the tens of millions that watch sports on FOX every week. While it certainly is easy to give critique through the rose colored lenses of 20/20 hindsight, the fact of the matter is that the resounding success of the event has been totally eclipsed by the “what ifs” “how wills” and “Should’ve could’ve would’ves” of the perennially pessimistic MMA fan base.
“Eli” Paulo Filho (22-4) was at one time considered the number two middleweight in the world, directly under countryman and UFC middleweight ruler “The Spider” Anderson Silva (29-4). But that was in 2008 – before his first professional loss to the Kryptonite of the MMA kings, Chael Sonnen (25-11). Prior to that loss he was in the midst of one of the longest dominating streaks in the world with 16 consecutive victories, eight by stoppage. Many believed he was the only man to prove a true challenge to “The Spider”, but as he stepped on the scale for his WEC 36 weigh-in for what would be the final middleweight fight before the promotion dropped the larger weight classes, “Eli” began losing his footing at the top of the middleweight mountain, and rumors regarding his descent swirled overhead.
Undersized, underpowered, outclassed. These adjectives have dogged UFC Lightweight Champion “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (14-1-1) since he entered the fabled “mix” in the UFC lightweight division. Many dismissed Edgar long before he entered title contention. After a rousing start to his career in the UFC, Frankie hit a wall in “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-1-1), dropping a one-sided decision to the bigger, stronger wrestler. But after that loss Edgar regrouped. His next few wins didn’t just show a refocused fighter, they showed a man with a plan. He was going to win the title whether anyone cared or not. And seemingly out of nowhere Frankie Edgar was the UFC champ. But just when the shrimpy kid from Toms River, New Jersey thought he was prom king, “The Bully” was back in his face, ready to take his lunch money. Frankie had to win at UFC 136, he had to show he wasn’t just a lucky scrapper. He had to show he was “The Answer” to the question: Who is the UFC’s toughest lightweight?
MMA’s heavyweight ranks in the days of old were largely dominated by a slew of sluggish, unathletic, haymaker-throwing brutes who quite literally used their weight to push opponents around the cage and often couldn’t last much longer in a fight than it would have taken to drop his opponent – or be dropped – like a fallen redwood tree. The past several years have seen tremendous growth in the heavyweight division and have given way to a new breed of competitors who aren’t just physically imposing, but also very fast, well-rounded, and technical, with the likes of Cain Velasquez (9-0), “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (13-1), “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (32-12), “Meathead” Matt Mitrione (5-0), Cheick Kongo (16-6-2), Daniel Cormier (8-0), “The Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (18-5), and “The Hybrid” Brendan Schaub (7-2) leading the way.
Enter: Stipe Miocic (6-0). The undefeated Ohio native has been fighting professionally only since February 2010 but has already managed to cause a few ripples in the pool of talented new heavyweights. Miocic, of Team Strong Style in Independence, Ohio, has employed his brutal brand of striking to finish each one of his half-dozen opponents, just half of whom made it to the second round before suffering the same fate as those before them. On June 4 Stipe captured the first championship title of his career after defeating Bobby Brents (10-2) by second-round submission via leg kicks at NAAFS: Fight Night in the Flats 7. It wasn’t long after that the UFC came calling. Tomorrow night in a preliminary card match-up at UFC 136, Miocic will make his UFC debut against respected veteran “The Mexicutioner” Joey Beltran (11-4) in what promises to be an unabashed slug fest. Just days before the biggest fight of his career thus far, MMA Gospel Editor-in-Chief Mallory Mejia had the opportunity to speak with Stipe on his transition to the big leagues and what he expects come Saturday night.
Mike Thomas Brown (21-8), also known as “MTB”, is the former WEC Featherweight Champion. He is the man who soundly defeated former featherweight champ and UFC bantamweight title contender ”The California Kid” Urijah Faber (25-5) not once but twice, steamrolled and bloodied “Bad Boy” Leonard Garcia (15-7), and was on top of the world at 145lbs. and looked to be staying there for a long time. However, his glory was short lived after he crashed back down to Earth following his defeat at the hands of current champion “Junior” Jose Aldo (18-1). Since losing his WEC belt, Brown has gone 3-3 in his last six bouts and just recently returned to the winning side of the fighting game after earning a much needed and hard fought decision over Nam Phan (18-10). Now with his legs back under him, Brown is looking to take on the rest of the UFC featherweight division but in a wise and well planned out onslaught. However, many fans still don’t understand what was causing the feared American Top Team stand-out to seem human. The issue, in Brown’s words, was a case of “bad luck and tough luck”.
When I drove to Chicago to answer the invitation MMA Gospel received to attend a three week advanced screening of Lionsgate Entertainment’s new mixed martial arts drama Warrior staring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, I didn’t expect much. The few short trailers that had come out prior had piqued my interest though and seemed to imply that the film would offer more than the poor acting of several UFC champions and excessive nudity that previous MMA films had given us, but knowing the mainstream media’s still jaded opinion of the sport, I didn’t expect Warrior to be much more than a basic rehash of every old boxing movie re-skinned to appeal to niche market MMA fans. I was pleasantly surprised. Director/screenwriter Gavin O’Connor put together a movie that appeals to fans of all walks of life and manages to weave a story that is both deeply ensconced in the subculture of mixed martial arts and completely independent of the action in the cage at the same time. The story could have centered around any sport and still had a serious impact on the viewer, but MMA was certainly the best fit.
June 26, the contract between WMMA’s most prominent champion, 145lbs. queen “Cyborg” Cristiane Santos (10-1) and the Zuffa-owned promotion Strikeforce expired. In the days since, many rumors have surfaced regarding her future and the reasons behind the promotion’s decision to waive their rights outlined in her championship clause. These rumors range from extremely likely, (Santos asking $150,000 a fight to continue with the promotion) to the believable if unlikely, (Zuffa wanting to focus on the more talent rich 135lbs. weight class), to the outright absurd, (Zuffa is run by sexist pigs bent on the destruction of WMMA). While these debates will continue until an official statement is released, and indeed, will likely continue after such a statement in the case of the Zuffa-hating conspiracy theorists, the real question is who really comes out as the biggest loser in this situation: Strikeforce for losing a huge draw and exciting fighter, or WMMA itself for seeing its undisputed queen expelled from the biggest stage in the sport?
This past weekend’s The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale was a night to remember. TUF crowned a controversial, yet capable champ in “El Cucuy” Tony Ferguson (11-2). Fans were also fortunate enough to witness up-and-comers like “Kingsbu” Kyle Kingsbury (11-2), Fabio Maldonado (18-4), “C-Murder” Chris Cope (5-1), and others who will likely entertain for years to come. But the night was unfairly lambasted by fans when the co-main event fight between “The Carpenter” Clay Guida (29-11) and final WEC champ “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (13-2) went to the judges’ decision. The fight was derided as boring, “lay-and-pray”, and even incorrectly judged – and all this criticism came down on the winner, Clay Guida. Whether or not the fight was enjoyable is subjective and it is a moot point to try and argue. You either enjoyed it or you didn’t; there is not right or wrong there. However, fans’ displeasure with Guida’s winning tactics are unfounded. “The Carpenter” indeed displays varying skills in a sport that caters to those who know when and how to use their strengths, even if it means using one skill at a time. But it is the bias against wrestling that has misguided so much of the post-fight fallout.
After an exciting night of fights at UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill, my friends and I quipped about how the originally intended title fight between ”The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) and “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0-1) would have been icing on the cake. Their second fight was one for the ages. Maynard showed exactly why he should be considered a serious contender and Edgar rallied back from the brink of defeat to show the heart of a champion. I assumed that a fight like that would gain the respect of MMA fans everywhere. What struck me absolutely dumb however, was the fact that the educated and respectful MMA fans in the room with me were completely unimpressed with Frankie Edgar. Are they talking about the same Frankie Edgar who defeated “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (16-7-2) twice? My friends simply said he was “not that good” and “lucky” and explained away his key victories. As Many MMA fans have echoed these very sentiments on internet forums across the globe so I felt compelled to present their arguments and offer the counter-points as well. Interestingly enough, it has been his title fights that have caused the most controversy in his career and the most often-used arguments against his legitimacy as top dog in UFC lightweight division. Perhaps Frankie is not the champ I thought he was? We’ll break down Frankie Edgar through the many factors that have dogged him since taking the belt.
“Psycho” Karl Amoussou (12-3-2) entered the lion’s den of European MMA with three first-round submission wins that earned him the honor of cutting his teeth in the ranks of the world famous M-1 Global promotion. Toting an 8-2 record within the organization, of which only two bouts saw the judges, Amoussou’s explosive style and finishing power established him as a fan favorite and a powerhouse amongst European fighters. In August 2009 the Frenchman made his US debut also under the M-1 banner in the promotion’s first ever live televised event in the United States, M-1 Global: Breakthrough. Despite disposing of his opponent John Doyle (9-16) in impressive fashion via first-round Rear Naked Choke, the Judo black belt Amoussou still went relatively unnoticed in the landscape of US MMA.
Six months later in February 2010, Amoussou entered the Strikeforce cage against South African fighter Trevor Prangley (23-7) in a bout that many believed the more experienced Prangley would dominate. Against Prangley, Amoussou showed that he’s no pushover. He got the better exchanges and was picking Prangley apart until he received an accidental eye poke and consequently was unable to see or continue the fight. The match was ruled a Draw and despite his commanding performance, the memory of all but the outcome faded in many fans’ minds.
Amoussou would not compete again on American soil until May 21 at Bellator 45. The main card feature fight pitted the 25-year-old M-1 veteran and undercover police officer against King of the Cage veteran “Smiling” Sam Alvey (13-2) for a spot in the Bellator Season 5 Middleweight Tournament. After a three-round battle in which “Psycho” arguably dominated at least 10 of the 15 minutes, two out of the bout’s three judges gave the nod to Alvey and sent Amoussou back to France without a spot in Bellator’s upcoming 185lbs. tournament.
MMA Gospel staff writer Cole Moorman recently interviewed the “Psycho” in hopes of turning the American eye to the bright future of Karl Amoussou.
Though the fight lasted the better part of its scheduled three rounds, it took only one well-placed punch for Bellator Middleweight Champion “Shango” Hector Lombard (27-2) to add “Niko” Falaniko Vitale (27-9) to his long list of knockout victims.
Vitale used his reach and jab to keep his distance from the powerful hands of “Shango” but the Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Lombard still got the edge on the judges’ score cards in rounds one and two by keeping on the pressure and landing solid strikes against the Hawaiian born “Niko”. After ten minutes of a slow paced fight, Vitale came forward with an uppercut to the body but unwisely hung his left arm low. Lombard came forward and slammed a right hook into the jaw of the former Superbrawl champ. Just under a minute into the final stanza, Lombard connected with that fight-ending right hook that left his opponent on the canvas and left fans singing a mixed tune, as the earlier frames were met with boos from the crowd.