UFC at the ACC

December 12, 2011

Fight Night, UFC 140 Round-up Style:

1. Featherweight bout: Canada Mark Hominick vs. South Korea Chan Sung Jung [Jung defeated Hominick via KO (punches) at 0:07 of round 1].

Mark Hominick is best remembered for his performance at UFC 129 in April of 2011, the first ever UFC night in Toronto. People remember him for the heart he showed, and that enormous welt on his head that the other guy gave him. Unfortunately, this fight is best described by Canadian Mark Hominick’s words after the fight, “I’m sorry.” Chan Sung Jung, known as “The Korean Zombie,” knocked Hominick out in seven seconds. That ties the record for the fastest fight in UFC history. In an effort to pay respects to Canadian customs, “The Korean Zombie” also apologized.

2. Welterweight bout: Canada Claude Patrick vs. United States Brian Ebersole [Ebersole defeated Patrick via split decision (29–28, 28–29, 29–28)].

Ebersole employed heavy doses of “dirty boxing.” This is easily the least exciting tactic I’ve seen. Hey, I’m just going to lean up against you and sneak in punches here and there, but mainly I’m not going to let you do anything. Usually fighters use it to get something, but Ebersole was just cool with the leaning and the minimal action. This bout was littered with failure, making it difficult to judge. Ebersole repeatedly failed to take down Patrick. Patrick’s countless attempts at choking Ebersole were to no avail. The Canadian Claude Patrick lost the split decision.

3. Light Heavyweight bout: United States Tito Ortiz vs. Brazil Antônio Rogério Nogueira [Nogueira defeated Ortiz via TKO (strikes to the body) at 3:15 of round 1].

A dude sitting near us was unnecessarily loud when cheering for Tito Ortiz. Everyone at the bar had to listen to him explain to his girlfriend why Ortiz is so fantastic. Apparently, it was Ortiz’ upper body. Antônio Rogério Nogueira has a twin brother whose fight would follow. Nogueira knocked Ortiz down and stayed on top of him for a good minute, where he pounded on the ribs (upper body) of Ortiz. Likely after a few broken ribs, the ref stopped the fight. Dude was much quieter after that.

4. Heavyweight bout: United States Frank Mir vs. Brazil Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira [Mir defeated Nogueira via submission (kimura) at 3:38 of round 1].

The other twin, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, fought Frank Mir next. It is startling how similar his name is to his twin brother’s. It is safe to say that their parents probably dressed them the same for a prolonged period of time. This fight was spectacular. Nogueira had control of the fight, knocking Mir off balance and taking him to the ground. Mir took the punches and manoeuvred out of several different holds, to somehow emerge from all the grappling with Nogueira’s arm in a compromising position. Mir proceeded to snap Nogueira’s arm, ending the fight. The UFC broadcast couldn’t help but show the arm break, over and over again. People stopped looking at the monitors that circled the bar.

5. Light Heavyweight Championship bout: United States Jon Jones (c) vs. Brazil Lyoto Machida [Jones defeated Machida via technical submission (guillotine choke) at 4:26 of round 2].

Jones enjoyed a 10-½ inch reach advantage over Machida. Everything Machida did was described as “karate-like.” Machida had been studying Karate since he was 3. Machida’s quickness allowed him to get close to Jones, land blows, and still duck any counterpunches. Jones kept his composure. In the second round, Jones forced Machida to the ground and pinned him down long enough to land an elbow in Machida’s forehead. The gash on Machida’s head was so big that they paused the fight to let the doctor’s examine the injury.

When the fight resumed, Jones knocked Machida down while simultaneously taking a blow himself. That was the difference in the fight. When Jones landed his punches, it would hurt Machida. But Machida wasn’t hurting Jones. With Machida still wobbly, Jones punched and kicked Machida to the wall of the cage. Jones sneaked into a chokehold and it took the ref a long time to realize Machida was no longer resisting. The ref told Jones to let go and Machida’s body parts fell on top of each other with gravity holding them together.

–When he’s not watching grown men fight, Umar Saeed covers the endless battle between money and people on his website: www.umarsaeed.ca/

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A Different Kind of Champion

September 25, 2011

They say that you aren’t really a champion until you defend your title. The light-heavyweight division of the UFC has seen several different champions in the past few years. Since 2007, all but two fighters lost their championships immediately after winning it, a testament to the strength of competition in this weight class. UFC 135 featured yet another fresh champion, Jon “Bones” Jones, defend his title against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Rampage is one of the former champions that didn’t lose his title immediately after winning it.

Steve and I had basically taken the summer off from watching the UFC (and to be honest, so did the UFC, based on the fight cards they produced). As a rule, we don’t miss fights that involve Jon Jones. I like to compare our enthusiasm for watching the 24-year-old Jones emerge as a champion to what people must’ve felt watching a young Cassius Clay or Mike Tyson. Winners come and go, but there’s a feeling that we haven’t seen someone win like this before.

One of the earlier matches involved two heavyweights who were completely gassed by the second round. Both fighters had troubles lifting their arms up in the air, just to throw a punch. After Steve and I stopped laughing, it occurred to us that the training leading up to this fight was critical. They were in the mile-high city where the air was thinner. This was a title shot, which meant instead of three rounds it would be five. Endurance would matter. Steve mentioned that Rampage Jackson’s training facility was reminiscent of the Russian’s from Rocky IV. If you recall the training montage, the Russian had a technologically superior program while Rocky roamed the Russian wilderness to workout with wood, snow, a trainer who would not stop chanting “no pain,” all the while being spied on by the KGB, as they tried to crack the code of the relentless American spirit in vain.

Jones is a young champion and defending championships takes maturity and experience. He had never faced someone with the power of Rampage Jackson. Our anticipation peaked moments before the main event, during the stare down when Rampage scowled and growled into Jon Jones’ eyes without so much as blinking. Jones simply stared at the ground, solemn and quiet.

The bell rang and Jones started the fight on his hands and knees. He crawled towards Rampage, staying on the ground, swiping with his ten-inch reach advantage at Jackson’s legs, trying to pull him down. The move didn’t work but it was telling. Rampage, a self-proclaimed pit bull, was pensive during a moment when his opponent sat vulnerable on his hands and knees. Despite how young and unproven Jones was as a champion, he clearly demanded respect. Beyond that, nobody could make sense of why Jones would do that.

Most of the fighting was done standing up, which was to Rampage’s advantage. But Jones set the pace with a full arsenal of  lanky leg kicks, swinging elbows, jabs, hooks, and flying crosses. Jones rarely had to come near Rampage to land these kicks and punches because of an unearthly reach advantage. When Rampage gathered himself, he came at Jones with vicious swings. Jones got more comfortable dodging the bag of bricks. He was seeing the punches in slow motion. By the end of the first round, Jones realized he could leave himself vulnerable and trust his reaction to get his head out of the way.

Jones won each of the first three rounds standing up, and like all of his fights, took his opponent down whenever he felt like it. But if Jones was going to finish Rampage, it was happening on the mat.

If this were boxing, Rampage would have to get close to Jones and punch the daylights out of him to win. But unlike boxing, the threat of the takedown changes how you strike someone. If you miss your punch or kick, you’re left momentarily off-balance. Your opponent can take you down, which opens you up to a variety of chokes and submission holds. Even when you’re down, getting up the wrong way can leave you open to arm/leg/neck locks that lead to submission. Reaction time is a big part of all fighting. But in UFC, it’s also about how fast your mind races against your opponents. It’s a chess match involving your body.

It was clear in the fourth round exactly how uncomfortable Rampage was on the ground. Jones took him down. Having been in this position before, Rampage didn’t want to be on his back (in the previous round he took several elbows to the face lying on his back). But in avoiding one form of pain, he let Jones get him in a headlock. Looking back, the fight was over as soon as Jones got this hold. But Jones took his time to get the submission out of Rampage. He methodically fastened the airtight headlock around the neck. Jones then wrapped his legs around Rampage to secure leverage. He had Rampage in a choke hold and was wrapped around him completely, without a hint of hurry. We simply watched for Jones to yank a little on the lever and Rampage Jackson tapped instantly to acknowledge his submission.

After the fight, Joe Rogan asked Jon Jones about the unorthodox start from the crawling position. Apparently, Jones had had an idea the night before to fake a takedown of one leg, then switch to the other, something he was exceptional at. The kid came into the first defense of his championship with a trick play to try and end the fight almost immediately. He wasn’t concerned about the risk of Rampage giving him one swift kick or punch across the face as he knelt before his opponent to open the match.

This is a different kind of champion. Like Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre, Jones is technically brilliant and explosive. But no other champion in the UFC would start a title fight by taking such a risk. Jones has all the focus, drive and talent of a champion but shows no fear of losing what he’s already got.

–When he’s not watching grown men fight, Umar Saeed covers the endless battle between money and people on his website: www.umarsaeed.ca/


Jon Jones is Batman

March 23, 2011

On the way to the bar, Steve briefed me on the much anticipated feature fight for UFC 128: Jon Jones versus Shogun Rua. Shogun was the reigning light-heavyweight champion. No opponent had ever knocked him down. Steve had seen some sports-science show, where they recorded Shogun as having the hardest kick in the UFC, using all sorts of special cameras and gadgetry. Shogun is in his prime.

Jon Jones was 12 years old when his sister died. He got two tattoos in her memory, one with her name written in Chinese. When his mother found out, she immediately took him to the local Chinese restaurant and asked the lady there what the tattoo said. “Peaceful warrior.”

Jones had great expectations beyond high school, where he was the State champ in Greco Roman wrestling. On his way to College, he knocked up his girlfriend. He had to get a job to raise his new family. He then took the advice of a friend and tried out mixed martial arts. Jones has only thirteen fights under his belt, is 23 years of age, and he’s already got a shot at the title.

Through 13 bouts, no opponent had been able to take Jones down to the mat, let alone knock him down. His record was 12-1 going into this fight; the lone loss coming from a disqualification for beating his opponent up without care for the rules.

Jon Jones is Batman. On the day of the fight, Jones got out of Newark and went to a park in Paterson city to meditate when his coaches saw a burglary in progress. The thief was running with some lady’s GPS when Jones chased him down and put him in a leg lock until the police arrived.

From the opening bell, Jones came at Shogun with reverse elbows, spin-kicks, and a wide variety of moves that he clearly picked up from video games, but can get away with it because of his incredible explosiveness and a seven foot wingspan. He’s a hurricane full of fists, elbows and heels. Not only was Shogun worried about avoiding the blows, but trying to get into a wrestling match with Jones was obviously a bad idea.

When the ref stopped the fight in the third round because Jones was pounding the dead horse that was now the former champ, Steve turned to me amidst the cheers and said, “I don’t think Jones took a single punch.” After the fight, Rashad Evans was there to shake Jones’ hand. Evans is a friend of Jones’, they’ve trained together in the past, and he’s first in line for a title shot against the new champ of the light heavyweights. Evans didn’t look too excited about it.

Steve doesn’t seen anyone in the light-heavyweight class that could put a dent in Batman’s amour, and makes an interesting point that by the time Jones reaches his athletic peak, he’ll be a heavyweight.

What we’re witnessing with Jon Jones is reminiscent of what Mike Tyson did when he became the youngest heavyweight champ in boxing history. Tyson dominated the most prestigious weight class during the early eighties. He went 37-0 before losing to Buster Douglas, after which his career and personal life spiraled downward.

But Jon “Bones” Jones is the son of a preacher man. He is the peaceful warrior and the unmasked avenger. And for the next few years, he’s going to be the hottest fighting ticket in town.

 

–When he’s not watching grown men fight, Umar Saeed covers the endless battle between money and people on his website: www.umarsaeed.ca/