Sunday, August 2, 2015

Miesha Tate's Fatal Flaw

Re-watching the rematch between Ronda Rousey​ & Miesha Tate​ and I realize that either Miesha's delusional thinking attracts like-minded people, or she got that way because her cornermen are out of their minds giving her unrealistic advice.

Recently Daniel Cormier​ said that Bryan Caraway​ has a "great grasp of MMA" but you can't tell that by what he was telling Tate in between rounds.

After Miesha got lit up by Ronda (and taken town twice with Judo throws) Caraway was yelling "She's already breaking... she's already breaking!" which was crazy if you look at what actually happened. Maybe that was why Tate started Round 2 smiling, because she believed what she was being told.

Then after 4 more Judo throw takedowns (contrary to what Joe Rogan​ says in the post fight commentary it wasn't "the same throw over & over" Ronda used 4 different throws in this fight) and Ronda dominating the striking Tate's corner told her she was "out-striking" Rousey and that "she used up everything she has, she's done!" and if you look at the fight metrics that was not true about Miesha out-striking Ronda, let alone that Ronda was gassed out.

The proof that Tate's corner was wrong about Ronda's cardio or being "done" was how quickly Ronda was able to get Miesha on the Octagon floor and secure the armbar submission win.

If you look at the fight metrics for the entire fight, Ronda had more total strikes, more significant strikes, more takedowns/knockdowns, more submission attempts, and more time controlling Miesha on the mat.

In no category did Tate has a positive advantage over Rousey. And if you look at the faces of both fighters after the fight at the post-fight press conference Miesha looks like she was in a bad car wreck while Ronda looked fresh and ready to fight again.

Ronda took several up-kicks to the face as well as some unblocked punches, yet at no time was she in serious danger of being knocked out.

And if you needed more proof that Tate wasn't having a realistic view of her performance, listen to the post-fight interview with Rogan where she tried to discredit Ronda's beating of her by saying "she worked on her right SOME" and that "she was the better fighter TONIGHT" - which means she didn't believe what she was saying, but she said it so people didn't think badly of her.

In the post-fight press conference she expands on those concepts & says Ronda allows Miesha to realize how strong she really is... when she should have been seeing it as proof of how mismatched these fighters were/are.

That delusional thinking from Tate is why she thinks she has a chance against Ronda. Miesha's flawed thinking that her wrestling can not only negate Ronda's Judo, but that it can defeat her... when in reality Ronda was using Miesha's over-use of wrestling to her advantage by the MANY Judo techniques she used to take Tate down at will.

Until/unless Tate get realistic in how far apart her & Ronda really are talent-wise she has NO CHANCE of seriously challenging the champion.

Miesha thinks she took Ronda farther than anyone else has... when in truth she SURVIVED longer than anyone else did. Round 1 could have been a 10 -8 round for Rousey... Round 2 definitely was a 10 - 8 in my opinion. It is possible that Miesha was down 20 - 16 going into that 3rd round when her corner was having her think that she might actually be ahead in scoring and in place to win the fight.

Bottom line, as long as Tate thinks the way she does she won't be able to identify all the things she does wrong when fighting Ronda. The sloppy technique that she can get away with when fighting other opponents doesn't work when she is in the Octagon with the most dominant fighter/champion the UFC has.

Even if Miesha is correct in thinking she is the next best fighter after Ronda, that doesn't mean she is in Ronda's league.

Saturday night after Ronda KO'd Bethe Correia in 34 seconds Miesha tweeted "I guarantee that she won't do that to me" - which shows that she still isn't looking at Rousey realistically, especially based on the previous times they faced each other. This is part of why Miesha won't win if she can't be realistic in how she matches up against Rousey.

Miesha would be better off getting rid of the people who can't be HONEST with her and how well/badly she is doing so that she can improve what is wrong and try to get better.

That is her only hope because Tate's time is running out. She is not going to get a 4th chance at Ronda... so this next title shot needs to be done PERFECTLY or it will be a wasted effort.

Miesha needs to realize that it doesn't matter that she is working hard because Ronda is also working hard. The difference is that Ronda isn't just training to be the best in the world on her best day... she is training to be the best in the world on her worst day. Tate needs to understand that Ronda is training so that even if her opponent does everything perfectly, it isn't going to be good enough for them to defeat her.

That is a near impossible thing to overcome. Not totally impossible... but a major hurdle for Tate is this delusional thinking when it comes to her & Ronda.

I wish her the best... but I think her trying to rush this third chance at Ronda will only end with Tate losing to Rousey... again.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Keeping It Short Is Ronda's Best Bet At UFC 190

While Ronda says she wants to punish Bethe Correia tomorrow night I don't think she is going to extend the fight to do that. It's not the smart thing to do & Ronda is a very smart fighter.

Sure it is personal, but the gameplan in Ronda's best interest is to finish the fight as quickly as possible because every second she extends the fight is another second that Correia could pull off an upset.

Bethe is coming in as a HUGE underdog, but that doesn't mean she can't win.

Chael Sonnen has said this is the toughest fight for Ronda Rousey​ because it is in Brazil (even if he admits he hates when people say that about every fight Ronda has) but I disagree.

Ronda CHOSE for this fight to be in Brazil. She didn't have to do that. And while Chael is right that (normally) Brazil is a HUGE advantage for Brazilians because the fans get behind their fighters... this is not necessarily the case for this fight.

Rousey has been very well received by the Brazilian crowd. People were crying when they saw her & one young fan even ran out during the open workout to hug Ronda.

While it is true that Bethe "Pitbull" Correia​ will have her supporters, it is quite possible that Rousey will have more support in Brazil for this fight.

So while I normally agree with Chael Sonnen​ I disagree with him that this fight being in Brazil is a disadvantage for the champion.

I predict that it will be a short but exciting fight & that Ronda will do what she has always done - find what needs to be done & do it to win the fight.

I also predict that Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos​ attending the fights will get more attention than the actual main event will because of how Ronda will quickly defeat this previously undefeated opponent.

I have gone on record that I feel Dana White​ will book Cyborg Vs. Ronda for #UFC200, and that #UFC190 will be the beginning of that hypetrain.

I am looking forward to this event as a whole, but it is possible that after all the build-up the main event can seem anti-climactic if Rousey once again proves that she is far beyond her competition in the division.

So many exciting match-ups for tomorrow nights fight card. SEVEN fights on the PPV and 4 more for the televised prelims according to the current Wikipedia info for this event. That is about as many fights as a regular UFC fight card... but this event also has 2 UFC Fight Pass​ prelims making it 13 total fights for a very STACKED fight card!

There are so many amazing match-ups, but I predict that the women will steal the show! Ronda Vs. Bethe is exciting, but I am equally excited to see two of the very best Strawweights in the world do battle! Seeing Jessica Aguilar make her UFC debut against a very tough Cláudia Gadelha is going to be a "Fight of the Night"  contender for sure!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why I Knew Werdum Would Win At UFC 188

Today on The Dammage Report​ #FightNightRecap #UFC188 edition I explained what I meant when I said I "had a feeling" that Fabricio Werdum​ would beat Cain Velasquez​.

If you saw my posts just prior to the PPV portion of the fight card beginning I explained a little about what it was that caused me to come to the conclusion I did. Between last night & on the show earlier today I briefly explained why the altitude was the major factor why I knew Cain wouldn't win... here is a more detailed post letting you know why this was the reason Werdum won the fight.

Almost any other location for this fight most likely means Cain wins the fight... but because UFC 188 was in Mexico City (at 7,900ft above sea level) what normally is Cain's advantage becomes a fatal flaw in his game-plan.

Cain has been the best Heavyweight in MMA for the past 5 years because of his HUGE advantage in cardio. This allows him to have a furious pace & high output of strikers - even for a fight going the full 5 rounds. Opponents just can't match his pace or output, especially over a five round 25 minute fight.

Normally it is a "pick your poison" situation when you fight Velasquez... do you get taken out by his standing attack, or do you lose because of his wrestling takedowns & ground-and-pound - but last night wasn't a normal situation.

Cain trains in San Jose, CA - which is at sea level. Almost ever other location for UFC events is at or near sea level, so Cain has a distinct advantage. But Mexico City is not sea level... so the "gas tank" that Cain normally has is essentially negated when you fight more than a mile above his normal training elevation.

But that is just one aspect of why Cain wasn't going to win the fight. The other reason why he lost was because his coach (Javier Mendez) either completely failed to realize how the severe elevation would effect Cain's performance, or he was so confident that Cain would be able to do what he has always been able to do (because of the advantage of his cardio) that Mendez didn't even consider having a "back-up plan" to deal with any negative effects the severe elevation might have on Velasquez's performance in Mexico City.

The reason I blame Javier Mendez​ is because of how late in the training camp they chose to have Cain arrive in Mexico City to prepare for the fight.

Is it no secret that the way to deal with fighting at an elevation like 7,900ft is to acclimate your fighter to that elevation by arriving on location as far in advance before fight night as possible.

If you look back you will see that I locked in my pick for Werdum a week before UFC 188 was to happen... this was not by accident. I already knew that Werdum had been in Mexico City for several weeks (almost 2 months) to fully acclimate to the elevation and to maximize his performance potential.

In contrast to Werdum arriving way early the Velasquez camp didn't arrive in Mexico until the week before the fight. While this might seem like enough time to overcome the difference in altitude between San Jose & Mexico City, it wasn't.

The reason it wasn't enough time was because Mendez didn't change the game-plan that Cain usually has for his fights. But the combination of high pace and high output at high altitude without proper/full preparation was destined to end exactly the way it did last night.

I was posting how I felt the experience of Werdum would be an advantage for him... and it seems like he was being the smarter fighter last night.

While his coach was screaming at him for more action - even at the pace this fight had - Fabricio seemed to be pacing himself, and if he was doing this intentionally it was exactly the right thing to do.

Cain started off with some success, as was to be expected. He was fresh & had tons of energy... and he scored some solid strikes for the first minute. But as that first round continued with Cain keeping with the "fast pace, high output" game-plan his strength & power were quickly decreasing.

Halfway through that first round it was clear that while Cain was slowing down, Werdum wasn't looking tired at all. And as the second round was progressing it should have been come clear to Mendez that they needed to come up with something else because going with the usual game-plan wasn't going to work this time.

But Mendez wasn't giving Cain good advice - and in between rounds 2 & 3 he told Cain that he wanted Velasquez to take the fight to the ground. Why Javier thought it was a good idea for Cain to willingly take the fight where Werdum has a huge advantage because of his BJJ skills is a mystery.

Had Cain been at full strength it might have been OK, but Mendez should have seen that his fighter was basically just going through the motions as the second round was ending. Cain had almost zero power in his punches & kicks, and if he did manage to get a takedown he couldn't keep Werdum at a disadvantageous position.

Give Cain credit for not giving up. His will was trying to keep him going, but his body was failing him in that effort. You could see as the 3rd round began that it was only a matter of time before Fabricio was going to win the fight... it wasn't IF it was WHEN and HOW.

Werdum remained calm & executed his game-plan perfectly. He was picking Cain apart and he seemed to have full strength while Velasquez was getting wobbled with every significant strike exchange.

Even when Cain landed a high kick (that would normally rock his opponent) it had almost no effect on Werdum, except in Rogan's mind. Joe was screaming as if Velasquez has snatched victory from the edge of defeat... but really it was the beginning of the end for Cain.

Velasquez was grasping at anything that might pull out the win for him, and rushing in for a weak takedown ended up being Werdum securing the guillotine, and Velasquez went form having a glimmer of hope to needing to tapout because Fabricio locked in the choke & won the fight.

My "feeling" was that after finding out how late Cain arrived in Mexico City I expected that he would quickly run out of power/strength but that he would still keep trying to win the way he usually does. I knew that if they still went with the "fast pace/high output" game-plan all Fabricio had to do was weather the attack until the high altitude sapped everything from Velasquez and it was a matter of time before Werdum would find an opening to finish the fight.

It should have been something that Javier Mendez should have expected, and could have worked to avoid... but he was over-confident in Cain's ability or some similar reasoning, and because Mendez didn't even consider that Werdum COULD win the fight, he didn't properly prepare Cain for any possibility - and that resulted in Cain not having every opportunity to win.

The moment I saw Cain first slowing down I knew it was over. He was basically spent by the end of the 2nd round... and he had nothing to offer as a serious attack for the 3rd round. And because it wasn't going to get better for him as the fight progressed, the best Velasquez could have hoped for was a quicker ending that didn't mean he would take too much damage.

That might not seem like the "best" thing for Cain, but it is. It would mean that he might not have a long recover period (or lengthy mandatory medical suspension) and Velasquez might be able to return to the Octagon soon & hopefully get back to a title shot sooner rather than later. (which would be the case if the fight had lasted longer and/or Cain had taken more damage)

Usually Dana White​ likes automatic rematches when the champ loses... but I don't think he's going to do that in this situation. It is more likely that instead of Werdum/Velasquez II I think the UFC might book the rematch between the champ & the #1 contender in the UFC rankings (as of fight time last night) Junior dos Santos.

This is a possibility because JDS defeated Werdum when they fought... but more likely is that we will see Werdum, Vs. Stipe Miocic​ because that is the fight most fans probably want to see next.

Last night was a great fight to unify the UFC Heavyweight title... and I look forward to a rematch between Cain & Fabricio.

I stand by my assessment that if this fight happened anywhere else except where it did (and maybe Denver and Albuquerque) Cain would probably win, but it most likely goes the distance. I also stand by my assessment that Cain probably wins 3 times out of 4... and because of a combination of the Altitude & Mendez not fully preparing Cain for this fight in this city it could only end with Werdum winning.

That is why I knew who would win... and so many people either didn't see what I saw, or weren't open to the possibilities I knew were not unreasonable, given the circumstances.

Cain is still bad-ass... but last night wasn't going to be his night. But it didn't have to be that way if his coach had not been blinded with overconfidence. Hopefully Javier Mendez learns from this huge mistake he made at the expense of his fighter.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chris Weidman on Garbage Time

Chris Weidman was on this week's episode of "Garbage Time with Katie Nolan" and he had some interesting things to say. Katie asked him about his upcoming title defense against Vitor Belfort at UFC 187 this Saturday, as well as other topics such as his nickname, the system of numbering UFC events, cutting weight, and other subjects. As we find out in this interview, both Katie and Chris graduated from Hofstra University. I feel this was an excellent interview with Chris Weidman, and I learned some things about him that I didn't know before this interview.

Nolan began the interview by asking Weidman about Belfort failing 2 drug tests. His response was: "I can't control what he's taking. I just know that there's an insecurity there obviously that he's trying to fill a void. And I'm going to find that insecurity when I'm in the cage with him and I'm going to beat him up."

When Katie pointed out that she felt Chris's nickname "The All-American" was 'so boring' he agreed and then responded: "I denounced my nickname literally like three years ago. There was another guy named the All-American [referring to former Marine/UFC fighter now commentator, Brian Stann] and he won a fight. He was like a war hero and stuff like that, so I'm like I'm no longer All-American, that's his name, I'm done. And then people just didn't pay attention to me, the just keep calling me All-American."

Nolan had asked Weidman how much he weighed at the moment and he jokingly responded that you don't ask fighters that question, before saying "I weigh, I'm pretty light right now. I'm 205." Then Katie asked him: "How do you lose 20 lbs in one week?" so he could get down to Middleweight limit of 185 lbs and Chris replied: "It's complicated... basically you do no sodium, so you don't retain the water. And then you drink lots of water, it flushes out your system. Then 24 hours before you actually make the weight just do a bunch of sauna workouts, running, and just kind of sweat it out. I'll end up cutting about 10lbs in 24 hours is what it usually comes down to, which is not that bad." When Nolan said: "That's insane." Weidman replied: "I've done 32 lbs in ten days." Nolan said again: "That's insane." and Weidman told her: "I almost died, I don't recommend it."

Then Katie asked Chris: "So it's hard for you to be 185, what is your food weakness? If you were on death row and you got to choose your last meal - entree, desert, and beverage - what would it be?" and he replied: "I'm going pizza and bagels. Together, I have to do it together... maybe bagel bites, but big bagels. For desert, chocolate. Just a brownie with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge & peanut butter somewhere on there. Beverage, am I getting put to death? If I'm getting put to death then I'm going to need something that's strong. I'll go with, just because I'm from Long Island a Long Island Iced Tea."

Katie moved on to a game she called "Punch, Drunk, Love" where she names three people and Chris has to say who he wants to punch, who he'd want to get drunk with, and which person he loves. The first set of options were - Ronda Rousey; The Rock [referring to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson]; and Floyd Mayweather. After Katie cleared up that 'Love' didn't mean making love with that person, but 'Oh, I love...' Chris went with: "Drunk, The Rock; Punch, Floyd Mayweather; and Love, Ronda Rousey." The next set of options were - Kanye West; Justin Bieber; and Miley Cyrus. Chris went with: "Justin Bieber is getting punched. First time I saw him walk out with Floyd Mayweather for his boxing fight I was like 'That dude needs to get punched'. Miley Cyrus; Love, and Kanye West; I guess we're going to get drunk, Kanye West." before joking: "I knind of want to punch them all."

Nolan advised Weidman to go hit the sauna because he had some weight to cut, and to wrap up the segment Katie offered some luck to Chris with the old actors saying of 'break a leg", which is an obvious reference to the main event of UFC 168 where former UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva broke his leg in a rematch with Chris in December of 2013. (Weidman had knocked out Silva to become the UFC's Middleweight champion a few months prior at UFC 161.)

As mentioned earlier, both Katie and Chris went to Hofstra University in the Hempstead Village section of Long Island, New York. Chris earned All-American wrestling honors twice at Nassau Community College before transferring to Hofstra. He became the first junior college wrestler in history to be a NYS Collegiate Champion. At Hofstra, he became a two-time Division I All-American, placing 3rd at the NCAA tournament his senior year. Weidman graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. During the interview Chris says he "graduated a couple of times" but his Wikipedia page & UFC profile only mention the bachelor's degree in Psychology. Katie Nolan graduated from Hofstra in 2009 with a B.A. in Public Relations. Before hosting "Garbage Time" Nolan was a 'digital correspondent' for the former Fox Sports 1 show "Crowd Goes Wild" and hosts a web series on called "No Filter with Katie Nolan".

"Garbage Time with Katie Nolan" is a weekly 30 minute show airing on Fox Sports 1 at 9:30PM Eastern. I am a big fan of Katie Nolan because I like the way she brings he unique perspective as a sports fan to not only her weekly show "Garbage Time", but on all of her appearance on the Fox Sports family of channels & shows as well as what she posts on the Fox Sports website and her YouTube channel.

I find it refreshing to have a "fan's view" on the current events in sports, and I would rather see a show like "Garbage Time" over the 'sports news' shows with their 'cookie-cutter' format, because you can see former athletes and commentators with a background in communications or journalism talking about sports from a predictable (meaning BORING) perspective on any of several channels devoted to sports all hours of the day to the point where things blur together and you can't tell who is who, or even what show you are watching.

Give me a show with someone like Katie's anytime. I can appreciate a fresh approach to a tired format, and I enjoy how she will ask the 'unexpected' questions rather than see a guest answer the same questions that get asked 100 times on every other show. Thinking "out of the box" is one of the main reasons I make sure that Sunday night at 9:30PM I am tuned to Fox Sports 1 for "Garbage Time with Katie Nolan".

You can find past episodes of "Garbage Time" at Katie's YouTube channel - 

 The Chris Weidman episode can also be seen at this link:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why The MMA Unified Rules Need Updated

UFC 182's main event between Jon Jones & Daniel Cormier is a perfect example of why the Unified Rules for MMA need to be updated.

I believe that this fight shows why some rules need to be more clearly defined, and why some rules need to be added.

I am specifically talking about what is considered an illegal action, and what should be done when a fighter engages in illegal action.

Several times during the fight Jon Jones was breaking clearly the rules. Some of these incidents were seen by referee Herb Dean, some weren't. Many were seen & commented on by Joe Rogan - much of the time Rogan was speaking of illegal actions by Jones in a positive way, as if he was doing something right when the rules clearly say he wasn't.

Fort he purposes of this article I will reference two webpages on the rules. One is the Wikipedia page on the unified rules ( and the other specifically references the California rules. (  I realize the event took place in Nevada & not California... but the rules generally cross over among states once implemented.

Violating one or two of these rules might not matter, but when you repeated violate the rules it has a cumulative effect that can negate the legitimate actions of a fighter. At the very least, engaging in illegal activity (or "dirty tactics" not technically against the rules) can alter the overall outcome of a fight.

Some of the infractions I witnessed by Jones for this fight were:

Eye poke
Grabbing the opponent's glove
Strike to the throat/neck
Strikes to the knee
Reaching inside an opponent's glove
Grabbing the fence
Flagrant disregard of the referee's instructions

The main tactic that I feel drastically effected the outcome of this fight is the way Jones repeatedly used the "oblique kick". I stopped counting after 25, but I can say that only 3 (or less) actually landed on the thigh... the rest were clearly attacking the knee, which is illegal.

Another major offense was how Jones repeatedly grabbed Cormier's gloves. Sometimes he was inserting his fingers inside Cormier's gloves, sometimes he was grabbing the gloves (not the wrist) and more than once it either prevented Cormier from doing anything, or it helped Jones engage in other illegal actions and/or "dirty tactics".

A third major offense was the way Jones repeatedly extended his arms with open palms, with the fingers aimed at Cormier's face. More than once Herb Dean warned Jones about not doing this, as seen when Jones eye poked Cormier & the action had to be stopped.

Sometimes Jones used a combination of these illegal/dirty tactics, like when he held on to Cormier's glove and kicked his knee area. Another example is when Jones went from a strike to the knee into an eye poke.

An illegal action that had an effect on the outcome was in the 5th round when Jones grabbed the fence as Cormier went for the takedown. Sure, Cormier ended up getting the takedown, but the fact that Jones grabbed the fence prevented Cormier's takedown from having maximum effect. There have been times when a takedown/slam has resulted in a fighter getting knocked out... so for Jones to grab the fence potentially saved him from losing by KO/TKO.

One illegal strike by Jones was a side kick to the throat/neck that was so obvious Joe Rogan commented about it. However, Joe failed to mention that a strike to the neck/throat is illegal... he was too busy praising Jones for the attack to actually do his job as commentator.

Speaking of that, Rogan was definitely a cheerleader for Jones through-out this fight. More than once he used spin to say a strike by Jones that actually landed on Cormier's knee landed on the thigh. Rogan also down-played the constant tactic by Jones of grabbing Cormier's gloves/hands by saying he was grabbing the wrist. Rogan even excused the way Jones constantly extended his arms with open hands that meant his fingers were potentially very close to being able to poke Cormier in the eyes.

I feel that the NSAC needs to review this fight, and have Herb Dean, Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, and even Joe Rogan present as they explain what was done wrong, and why techniques that Jones did were illegal.

In addition to this I feel the NSAC needs to change the rules to clearly say that the "oblique kick" is illegal, regardless of whether the person is TRYING to strike the thigh or not. As I stated above, more than 25 times Jones used this technique & ONLY about 3 times did it land NOT on the knee.

Here are some screen-grabs to show a few of the times Jones engaged in either illegal actions or dirty tactics.

Jones grabbing Cormier's gloves
Jones grabbing Cormier's glove
Jones extending an open palm playing "patty-cake"
Eye poke from extending an open palm
Oblique kick to the knee
Oblique kick to the knee
Grabbing the gloves & kicking the knee
Kick to the throat/neck
Grabbing the cage

Jones may have won by unanimous decision... but these are just a few examples of why he didn't win the fight without needing to cheat.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Why Bellator Letting Rampage Jackson Go Is NOT A Mistake

I see people are saying that Bellator letting Rampage Jackson get away (and him possibly coming back to the UFC) is a mistake.

I disagree.

It became obvious that Jackson has no interest in fighting the current Light Heavyweight champion (his friend/team-mate Emmanuel Newton) so there's really no reason for Rampage to stay with Bellator. Jackson had earned a title shot when he won the LHW mini-tournament... but he chose not to take that fight.

Like I had said about Rory MacDonald going on record saying he would never fight his team-mate/mentor GSP and Daniel Cormier saying he would never fight his team-mate/friend Cain Velasquez... there's no sense in busting your ass training and fighting only to be "#2" - so something had to give.

For Cormier that meant him dropping from heavyweight down to Light Heavyweight, MacDonald got lucky when GSP retired early... for Rampage the only option for him seems to be leaving Bellator.

So I say people shouldn't be giving Bellator or Rampage a hard time for what is probably the best option of a bad situation.

Jackson isn't getting any younger, and he definitely isn't in the best shape of his career or his life... and until/unless he changes his mind on not wanting to fight a friend/team-mate leaving Bellator is the only choice left for him if he wants to be able to continue fighting.

So the smartest thing for Bellator to do is not fight to keep someone who isn't interesting in fighting for them anymore... it is letting him go wherever he can & focusing on the fighters who do want to fight for Bellator in the LHW division. No sense wasting energy on something that isn't going to work out in the long run when you can apply that effort towards things that will benefit your promotion.

If Rampage does return to the UFC (as reports are saying) I wish both him &  Bellator the best.

What Happened To Rowdy Bec Rawlings

I was distracted by the UFC fights but I wanted to say something about the #TUF20Finale after watching the prelims again earlier today.

Specifically I'm referring to Bec Rawlings.

Between the #TUF20 season, the Finale Weigh-ins & how she fought in the Finale I feel she did herself & her "brand" a lot of harm.

When she was on TUFtalk Karyn Bryant brought up her past history and asked if the way Bec had behaved during TUF20 could be described as her being a "bully". Rawlings said she didn't see it like that at all, and offered excuses (or call them reasons, depending on whether you believed her explanation or not)

Then at the Weigh-ins she showed a total lack of respect/professionalism (in my opinion) by flipping off her opponent for the face-off.

And in the fight we see Rawlings CLEARLY target the injured knee of her opponent, a knee that Bec KNEW was already damaged.

Turns out that Heather Clark won that fight... and that unfortunately only makes Bec look worse. I'm not saying that had she won everything Rawlings had done would have been "OK", I'm just pointing out that when you act like that & then lose you look very foolish.

Rawlings (The other "Rowdy" female UFC fighter besides UFC Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey) basically played herself by her words & actions. If she were a guy people would most likely call it being a dick or a douchebag... and I honestly believe that the UFC will be less likely to book her for a fight because of the negative way she behaved recently.

It's one thing to act that way & win... but to go that route & lose cheapens your stock, and in an atmosphere where bad hype can derail your momentum it's not good for a fighter to be their own worst enemy.

Bec's actions might have put her int he same boat at Nate Diaz - who is most likely in hot water with the UFC execs from failing to meet required pre-fight obligations, walking out on an interview, complaining/talking badly about the promotion, missing weight & then losing his fight.

With more than 550 fighters on the roster fighters have it rough getting a fight... it makes ZERO sense to make that even harder by becoming "hard to want" when it comes to the promotion figuring out who to give a fight opportunity to.

In addition to all of this... I say anyone who would purposefully target an injured part of their opponent's body is not a nice person, or even a decent one.

IF anyone wants to defend that type of unprofessional (not to mention :poop: -y) behavior, don't bother. Responding to this telling me I am wrong on this specific aspect of my rant will only make me have less respect for you as a fighter as well as a person.

Don't be the fighter who is known for purposefully ending another fighter's career - and no matter how much you don't like that fighter (Or even if they are a crappy person) it's not going to make up for your :poop: -y actions.

But for someone who went through what Rawlings did to act the way she has only makes her less sympathetic - and I feel what she has said & done will probably lose her some fans.

I can say that for me, it has effected the way I view her as both a fighter & as a person. I started off TUF20 as a big fan of hers... but what I have seen of her since that first episode has resulted in me not being as much of a fan of hers as I once was.

Hopefully Bec will realize that the way she is behaving isn't in her best interest and she will go back to being the person/fighter that fans could like & respect.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I Believe A Lawsuit Against The UFC Is A Bad Idea

I don't think that a class action lawsuit against the UFC is going to end the way the people involved think it will.

I predict that the UFC won't be found guilty of anything... some people might not be happy with the pay, but if you compare pay I'm sure you will see that UFC fighters are getting paid better than what other promotions are paying. Some fighters might not like having to pay taxes on any fight bonuses (or even have to "share" it with managers/corner-men/trainers) but they can't deny being in the UFC pays better than not being in the UFC. The added revenue that will happen from the Reebok deal might take time to fully impact fighter pay... but eventually people will see more money at the end of the day from this deal than before.

BUT the downside I see from people filing a class action lawsuit will most likely will be the UFC cutting a lot of fighters from the active roster.

There are more than 550 fighters & even with all of the proposed UFC events in 2015 that is too many for the promotion to sustain & remain profitable. Whether they have to pay out any money from this lawsuit or not the logical step for self-preservation by the UFC is to get rid of fighters to minimize anyone having a legit complaint that they aren't being paid enough or treated fairly.

I sympathize with the fighters, but they need to realize that this is a business for the promotion in addition to it being a sport. It is a meritocracy not socialism... you get paid what you EARN & you shouldn't expect top dollar for low level performance.

Look at Robbie Lawler... it was reported that he made just over a MILLION DOLLARS for the fights leading up to his rematch with Johny Hendricks. Robbie put in the effort & EARNED that money, nothing was just handed to him.

Sad truth is that not everyone is going to get top dollar... the ones who perform the best deserve the bigger pay. Realistically this lawsuit should be about making sure fighters don't get underpaid... not making some fighters who under-perform get higher pay when they haven't earned it.

I know there will be people who say that I don't know hat I'm talking about (or don't qualify to express these opinions/views) because I'm not a fighter... and I'll answer that now by saying that is a BULLSHIT statement.

I repeat that I sympathize with fighters and that I'm on your side... but I don't think MMA pay should become socialism where everyone gets paid close to the same, especially when some fighters deserve more because they earned it while others don't.

Bottom line:

While this seems like a good idea, I predict that a class action lawsuit against the UFC will do more harm than good. Many fighters "on the bubble" in the UFC will end up getting cut & find themselves getting paid less by other promotions... IF they can even get fights with other promotions. The UFC might have a flawed system in terms of fighter pay, but a lawsuit isn't the right way to correct whatever flaws do exist.

I wish the fighters well, but I don't think a majority will like the end result of whatever happens from a class action lawsuit against the UFC.

Sometimes fighters don't do things in their best interest & become their own worst enemy. Nate Diaz is a prime example. He's one of the best fighters in the division (in any promotion) but he made poor choices that resulted in lower pay & less opportunities. You can't talk shit about the promotion, fail to make press appearances or other obligations to promote your fight for the promotion, come in overweight and lose your fight then expect to either not get offered less or even be cut.

Fighters need to realize what they say & do outside the cage effects what they get paid. It's not just what they do inside the cage, even if that should be most of what determines fighter pay. Someone who does everything the promotion wants/expects like Conor McGregor is going to get rewarded while someone who does everything wrong like Nate Diaz will either get punished or cut.

Sometimes it isn't fair... but life isn't fair. If you're not doing everything you possibly can to increase your chances for success/better pay you mostly have yourself to blame - not the promotion.

While I am sure the UFC could do more, fighters who complain about not getting paid more or treated well most likely aren't doing much to make the UFC want to do more for them.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The UFC Featherweight Title Picture

First off, I want to say that this post is taking nothing away from from Cub Swanson. He is a true warrior, with tons of heart.

I made a post last night about how Dustin Ortiz was very game, but he was in over his head fighting the #2 flyweight in the world. (give him a year or two to continue to develop & you might see a different result in a rematch)

I said that there was a clear difference in experience & speed between Benavidez & Ortiz last night, and that the UFC had thrown Ortiz into the deep DEEP end of the pool too soon. He rose to the occasion, but wanting to do well just wasn't enough for him.

Now I'm not saying this is the case with Cub in last night's fight... BUT, Frankie Edgar made it LOOK like Swanson was in over his head.

Cub works his ass off & earned that win streak... but (like I said about Ortiz facing Benavidez) Frankie was just the wrong fighter at the wrong time for Swanson.

Frankie seemed to have come in with a chip on his shoulder because of how the UFC & Dana White weren't mentioning him by name in terms of getting a title shot if he won like they did for Swanson.

I had gone on record saying I thought Cub could win by TKO/KO in the 2nd (even though Frankie had never been finished) but that IF CUB didn't finish it early Frankie would win the fight.

When I saw Edgar do his usual "Run to the Octagon" entrance I knew that "The Answer" was going to play spoiler to Swanson's title shot dreams.

Last night Frankie Edgar would not be denied, and it's a shame that Cub Swanson was in his way because Cub is definitely a top tier featherweight. Swanson wasn't out-classed that night... but he was out-worked.

Frankie's DOMINANT performance proves that he is legitimately in the conversation for a title shot, especially when you consider he feels (like many people do) that he won that first fight with Aldo.

The problem with Frankie getting the next title shot is that there's a long time between last night & when Jose Aldo will be ready to defend the Featherweight belt - and in between then Conor McGregor is going to fight.

We saw how Rory MacDonald missed out on his promised title shot because he had an unimpressive performance in his win... and later Robbie Lawler defeated Matt Brown in an Epic battle to move ahead of Rory in the line for a title shot against Johny Hendricks.

Is it possible that Conor could do what Lawler did and leap-frog his way to a title fight with Jose Aldo? The answer is "yes". Will some people say that it will be unfair to Frankie? That answer is also "yes".

I should mention at this point that I am a big fan of Frankie, but I am also a HUGE fan of Conor. There is no denying Frankie secured legend status with that win last night... but the Conor McGregor buzz is reaching freight-train momentum.

You have to admit Conor McGregor is a dream come true for the UFC. MMA promotions NEED stars like a Conor McGregor to thrive. When he fights the entire Republic of Ireland (and possibly even Northern Ireland) basically shuts down as they support their countryman. A promotion eats that kind of loyalty to a fighter because it translates to butts in the seats & PPV buys. For Conor's last fight (which was in Las Vegas) over 10% of the crowd attending the event flew in from Ireland just to see Conor fight. The UFC credited the success of that event to Conor & the people who supported him by either attending the event live or watching it on TV.

Even though I am on the McGregor bandwagon, I am also on record as saying that sometimes the UFC will sign the fight they can hype the most instead of matching up the best fighter with the champion to decide who really is the very best in the division at that point in time. I'm not saying that Conor isn't as deserving as Frankie if McGregor defeats Dennis Siver in January... but I'm sure there will be many who will say that, even if Conor wins very impressively.

Bottom line is that the UFC Featherweight division is STACKED and there are a number of legitimate contenders to challenge the champion for the title. Frankie Edgar has staked his claim on a title shot... and next will be an opportunity for Conor McGregor to make a better claim on that title shot... unless Dennis Siver also plays spoiler - which is also possible in a division as deep as this and two warriors enter a cage wearing 4oz gloves.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

10 Questions With Cody Garbrandt

10 Questions With Cody "No Love" Garbrandt

I've known about Cody Garbrandt for awhile, but where he became known to fight fans here in Central & Western Pennsylvania was because of the events leading up to him fighting Dominic Mazzotta. When Cody walked into the cage after a win by Mazzotta when Dominic was mentioning how Cody had called him out at an event for a rival Pittsburgh promotion and the two got face to face. It took some doing to get this fight to actually happen (I even wrote an article about it where I called this "The Fight That Almost Wasn't") but Garbrandt Vs. Mazzotta went down & was probably the best/most exciting fight in the Pittsburgh area. Cody won that fight, and even though there were some "extracurricular activities" that went on in the crowd after the fight due to some fans who didn't like what happened in that fight basically starting a brawl it appears that the two fighters who started off with bad blood ended with mutual respect.

Cody had been training with Fight Club Pittsburgh, but awhile back he also started training at Urijah Faber's gym with the members of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, CA. It appears that training with elite fighters who have UFC experience as well as D1 collegiate level wrestling has taken this very talented fighter to the next level. After defeating Mazzotta back in March Garbrandt had returned to California to Team Alpha Male to prepare for his next fight - against James Porter at Pinnacle Fighting Championship's Pittsburgh Challenge Series 7 on May 24th.

Cody is definitely a fighter to watch. I'm in the process of  writing an article about fighters I expect to see in promotion like Bellator, WSOF or the UFC soon, and Cody will be in that article. Awhile back I had the honor of interviewing Cody, and I finally got it finished. I appreciate him taking time out of his busy schedule to answer questions about him both inside & outside the cage. I hope you enjoy reading his answers as much as I did learning more about Cody "No Love" Garbrandt.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Cody Garbrandt.  I'm 22 years old, and currently I am 3 - 0 as a professional. (9 - 2 including amateur fights) I have fought at Bantamweight (135lbs) and Featherweight. (145lbs) Since turning pro I have fought mostly for the Pittsburgh-based promotions Pinnacle Fighting Championships and Gladiators of the Cage.

2. How did you get started in MMA?

My mother put me and my oldest brother Zach (10 1/2 months apart in age) into wrestling because all we wanted to do was fight each other. So she thought wrestling was the closet thing to fighting, I played football & baseball and I also boxed, I loved boxing more than I did wrestling, so when I turned 18 I jumped into the cage and fell in love with that. I was constantly fighting growing up and I was heading down a bad path in life. Finding the Lord and getting started into MMA basically saved my life.

3. What gym(s) do you train at and what is it like training there?

 I train at Fight Club Pittsburgh MMA and Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, CA. I train with amazing fighters at both places.

4. What do you feel your strengths are as a fighter? What do you feel you need to work on to be a more complete fighter? 

My strengths would be my striking and grappling, Becoming a more complete fighter would mean believing in myself and putting all my skills together like I have been doing for my past two fights. I'm really starting to find myself in the cage and I'm enjoying my development as a fighter.

5. You sometimes train with Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male. How has this helped you in fighting & what have you learned from training with such top notch fighters and having Duane Ludwig as a coach? 

I have spent my past two training camps with my new Team. It has helped tremendously learning from some of the best coaches and elite fighters in the world. I've been very blessed to have put myself in this position with hard work and dedication.

6. You recently defeated Dominic Mazzotta in what may have been the biggest MMA fight in Pittsburgh history. What did that fight mean to you? 

This fight meant a lot to me to come out and put a tough opponent away in a very hostile environment. Every fight is a step closer to my reaching my dreams.

7. After your win at Gladiators of the Cage you brought Maddux into the cage for the post-fight interview. Tell us about him & your involvement with children like him.

Maddux is a 7 year old kid who is from the same town I'm from. I got to know Maddux and his family over the past few years. He is battling leukemia, my brother called me one day and said maybe you could help this kid out I had no idea who he was so I reached out to his family and wanted to donate my next fight ticket sales to him, is how the relationship started. I met Maddux and he instantly touched my heart. We kept in touch I would visit him when I was in town we would face-time each other he would make videos and send them to me while I was training he helped me stay driven and motivated through his everyday battle and the struggles he goes through just to live life. He has shown me a lot about live and not taking anything for granted. He has a million dollar smile seeing that on his face makes my day. We walked hand in hand he lead me to my battle March 15th its a day ill never forget seeing his smile and eyes light up as he walked in the cage after my fight makes it all worth it.

8. What are your plans for the future? When will you fight again & who will it be against? 

My plans for the future in life is just to be successful and be happy I want peace in my life when my fighting career is over. My goal is to be the UFC champion I would be selling myself short if that wasn't my goal I do this to be the best. Its hard to tell where ill be at in 2-3 years life always keeps you guessing what makes the ride enjoyable. My next fight will be announced this weekend at the Pinnacle Fighting Championship show, I'm very excited for it!!

(UPDATE: The fight Cody was referencing here is against James Porter for the Pittsburgh Challenge Series 7 event going down May 24, 2014)

9. Who are some of your role models?

I have a lot of positive influences in my life my biggest Role Model is my mother she has been through hell and back and has never lost her faith and has never given up on us children. I get my toughness from her, she showed us tough love growing up and everyday I'm thankful to have her in my life. In MMA its Urijah Faber i always been a fan of his, after reading his book a few years ago and visioning myself training with him its a dream come true when he asked me to become apart of Team Alpha Male!

10. Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

My family for always supporting me in whatever I do through the ups and downs. Mick and Melissa for there help and support over the past year and half my Fight Club Pittsburgh teammates, Alpha Male teammates and coaches. My Uncle Robert Meese he is my boxing coach and has been with me since day one. My Sponsors Jeff Brown, Brenton Whitman, Heavy Hand Tattoo, Kelly's Korner, 922 Drive thru, Prime nutrition, Torque, PGH MADE, NOLAC, Quads Not INcluded, Top of the Line Barbershop, Cheerleaders Gentlemen's Club, Dennison T-shirt! Thank the Lord for blessing my life. My management team MMA inc. All my fans, everyone back home in T-county (922) thanks for all the support! 

Grabrandt facing off with Porter for PCS7
With Team Alpha Male team-mates TJ Dillashaw (l) & Urijah Faber (r)
With Team Alpha Male team-mate Joseph Benavidez
With Team Alpha Male team-mates Chris Holdsworth (l) & TJ Dillashaw (r)
With Fight Club Pittsburgh team-mate Jaime Chesney

With Team Alpha Male Head Coach Duane Ludwig

Face-off with Dominic Mazzotta
Celebrating the win with Maddix

With Maddux after the win over Dominic Mazzotta

(Some photos by Christopher Nolan - Met Con Photos - Visit

How to fix a flawed scoring & judging system?

Re-watching The Ultimate Fighter from this week and what Dana White said about the elbow that resulted in Steve Mazzagatti deducting a point not being an illegal elbow is just wrong.

Not only was it a 12/6 which is not allowed by the rules, but it was an elbow to the back of the head, which is definitely illegal. 

Dana was getting all upset over how much he dislikes Mazzagatti's referring and he lost sight of what actually was going on. Sure, the referee was doing a poor job of of letting Roger Zapata know that he needed to stop with the 12/6 elbows (even though the episode clearly showed Mazzagatti explaining things to Zapata between rounds) but there was more to this than just that.

Dana was also upset with the way he felt Ian Stephens was performing. While I agree with Dana that it is frustrating to see someone with wrestling as their main (or only) skill not try to utilize the other aspects of MMA and just be a "wet blanket" and lay on their opponent for as much of the fight as possible, I feel that the fact that the referee let Zapata get away with several 12/6 elbows as well as strikes to the back of the head were the main reason White feels Zapata won the fight.

Another thing that bothers me about this episode is the way Zapata felt the fight should have been scored on how a fighter looks at the end. He was yelling into the camera when producers were interviewing him after his win "Look at my face, and look at his face!" saying that he didn't look like he had been in a three round fight while Stephens had blood on him from multiple cuts & showed damage from taking punches.

That isn't always the indicator of who won the fight. fighters like Sarah Kaufman are known for bruising easily & GSP always looks more beat up than his opponents even though he usually dominated them for most of the fight. Johny Hendricks looked way more beat up in his fight with Robbie Lawler, yet somehow the judges gave Hendrick the win.

Had the judges been paying attention to what really happened in this fight it might have ended differently.

I feel the way attempted takedowns and time where a fighter is on top but not doing any damage or activity is given too much credit in the scoring. In my opinion they should not give credit for just laying on your opponent and in a situation where a lengthy failed takedown attempt should be scored to the fighter to successfully blocked the takedown & not in favor of the fighter who failed to take their opponent down.

Then there is the aspect of Zapata getting away with 12/6 elbows and strikes to the back of the head. Maybe had Mazzagatti done his job better the fight would have either ended differently because he took away points for the many illegal strikes by Zapata, or the judges could have not recognized those strikes as significant when they scored the rounds.

While I don't like the way Stephens went about the fight, I don't think Zapata should have won the fight. Not because I think Stephens actually won, just that had the fight been scored the way it should be & had the referee done a better job Zapata would not have won.

The judging system is flawed and needs to be fixed. Maybe the judges and referees could be evaluated on their performance in a way that allows for feedback from the promotions and the state athletic commissions they work for so that mistakes can be addressed. They should be acknowledged when they are doing well, but also informed when they made the wrong call, especially if it effects the final result of the fight.

One aspect for improving the quality of the way referees work a fight might be to have them wear a "ref cam". I had asked referees on my friend list who have UFC experience (Blake Grice, Kim Winslow, Dan Miragliotta, & Gary Copeland) what their thoughts were on this topic. Kim pointed out that the ref cam that I favored (the one seen used by Big John McCarthy on "Bully Beatdown") was mostly designed to fit Big John, and that it wasn't very comfortable to wear. Blake pointed out that a GoPro style camera mounted on the chest (or the even more bulky camera used by the now defunct Pride promotion) would be a safety problem for the times that a referee might need to separate fighters for various reasons during a fight. Gary seemed to focus on the idea that most promotions (especially the UFC) have several cameras cageside as well as "boom cameras" above the cage that catch most of the action so that the action can be seen from all views. He missed my point that this "ear camera" would not only have the best viewpoint for what is going on because it should be the closest to the action, but it could be used as a tool to critique a ref's performance, especially by showing what the referee is looking at during a fight.

Regarding judges, I feel they should be away from the cage and in a room with several monitors so they have all the angles and the best view of the action. (separated from each other of course so they don't effect the thought process of the other judges) I say do this BUT don't give them access to the audio of the commentators so that biased commentators (like Joe Rogan) can effect the way they score round - as well as eliminate the potential for being influenced by the crowd, especially if one of the fighters is "local" to the city where the event is happening.

Maybe fights could utilize instant replay to address issues that might arise during rounds or after a result is announced to make sure that the correct action was taken or the proper result happened? Enough mistakes in judging & refereeing have happened that the system needs to be improved. Maybe the suggested changes I proposed to scoring, the use of a referee "ear cam" and the other suggestions I mentioned would help improve things... but even if everything I suggest is implemented it would take some time to adjust but I'm sure the end result would be a better situation than what is currently in place.

Making things better is what it should all be about, right?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

10 Questions With Shawna Anderson

I always try to keep current on the up-and-coming fighters. So when someone I consider to be a friend (Little Patricia Vidonic) asks me to interview someone, they must be worth knowing. All I knew before this interview was that Shawna Anderson is close with Little Patricia Vidonic & that she is set to fight Sarah McLeod at Bakken Rumble this week. Do yourself a favor, read up on Shawna now... she is definitely going to be someone you'll be hearing more  about in the upcoming months. A fighter with tons of potential, I feel she is a star on the rise. I want to thank Shawna for taking time out of her busy schedule preparing for McLeod to answer a few questions. Here's 10 Questions With Shawna Anderson.

Shawna Vs. Sarah McLeod - Bakken Rumble

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 28 yrs old and grew up on a farm/ranch near the tiny town of Streeter, ND. After graduating high school I attended North Dakota State University and received my bachelors in Biological Sciences. For the past 2 ½ yrs I’ve worked as a geologist on an oil rig in Western North Dakota. Last fall I moved to Orting, WA and have been traveling back and forth to work and train. In my spare time I love being outdoors enjoying activities such as hiking, skiing, hunting, and boating.

2. How did you get started in MMA?

I’ve always been captivated by MMA and for years I would watch events and think “man I’d love to do that” but it wasn’t until I moved to Williston, ND in 2012 that I started training. I saw a flier for an mma gym and it sparked a feeling inside me that I couldn’t ignore. As soon as I walked through the door and met the coach, who is now my husband, I was hooked. It was definitely intimidating working with pro fighters and other talented guys since I had zero experience but I stuck it out and had my first amateur fight less than two months later.

3. What gym(s) do you train at and what is it like training there?

I trained at Williston MMA for a majority of my career and it’ll always have a special place in my heart. Our motto was “no one works harder than us” and we had some brutal practices to say the least but when you have great teammates it doesn’t seem so bad. I had the honor of working with some amazing people and made some great friendships. It was such a fun, upbeat atmosphere with great motivation; I’d look forward to training every day. Currently I’m not attached to a gym and am working individually with my trainer and husband.

4. What do you feel your strengths are as a fighter?

I’ve been blessed with certain athletic abilities, such as sheer strength, and my amateur career has shown that I can take a beating and don’t quit no matter what- heart goes a long way in a fight. Also, I’ve been studying Shotokan karate and feel this different style will be a huge asset in future fights.

5. What do you feel you need to work on to be a more complete fighter?

I feel that I’m relatively well-rounded but need to improve my movement and how to utilize angles. I also need to spend time working my take downs and ground game. Jiu-Jitsu isn’t my favorite style to say the least but is crucial in the world of MMA.

6. You are set to fight Sara McLeod at Bakken Rumble on May 16th. What do you expect from your opponent and what is your basic game-plan for the fight?

Sarah’s a striker and I expect her to come out hard with jabs and crosses straight down the pipe. I also love to stand so my plan is to keep it standing and beat her at her own game; however I feel my ground is stronger so if the opportunity is there I’ll go for the take-down.

7. Women's MMA is growing in popularity with the UFC & Invicta showcasing female fighters. The UFC has is adding a Straw-weight division to the roster after the success of the Bantamweight division. What do you think of this and women's MMA becoming more mainstream?

Right now is such an exciting time for female fighters. I think it’s wonderful that it’s growing in popularity and that the UFC has expanded to include women. There are a lot of terrific female fighters that are now getting the recognition they deserve and I hope to be a part of it in the near future.

8. Who are some of your role models?

My role models are my parents, brother, and the people that I’ve had the pleasure of training with: Patricia Vidonic because of her amazing work ethic, positive attitude, and selflessness in helping others-she is a true role model for anyone in the MMA world; Kelly Ellingson for her sheer courage and determination. This is a woman that walked into the gym to take a boot camp class, ended up in the MMA class, outperformed most of the guys, and worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. She’s such a terrific person and I’m honored to call her my friend. Last but not least my husband Brandon. His ability as a fighter, how he’s able to motivate and reach others and how much he truly cares for his students/teammates is astounding. He represents the sport very well and I only hope I can live up to the same standard.

9. What are your plans for the future?

I’m committed 100% to my MMA career. I feel I have the tools and ability to make it big so I decided to take a leap of faith, take the summer off from my job, and train like a successful pro fighter needs to train. Up until now my schedule has made it difficult to achieve my goals. I’m so excited to be able to dedicate myself to training, have the freedom to travel to different gyms, spend time with family, and enjoy the outdoors.

10. Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

I’d like to thank my sponsors for helping make this dream possible—Montana Soap, Minute Lube, Dakota Landing, Tri-County Glass, Iron Jaw Custom Mouth Guards, Octane Addictions, You Mad, and Adventure Taxidermy. I’d also like to thank my friends for all their support, my Shihan James McPhaden for spending countless hours molding me into the fighter I’m becoming, my husband for being the best coach/training partner I could ask for from day 1, and most importantly God for giving me the strength and determination to be a pro fighter. Through Him everything is possible and I’m so grateful to my husband for helping me find my faith.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

10 Questions With Rich Cantolina

Pennsylvania is quickly becoming a breeding ground for elite MMA fighters. There are several promotions throughout Pennsylvania providing opportunities for fighters to compete against top-level competition. Like the saying goes: "Steel sharpens steel" and that seems to be true here in the "Keystone State".

Even though MMA has been allowed in Pennsylvania for several years some fighters, especially at the amateur level, chose to fight in other states because Pennsylvania used to have rules limiting the contact of a fight. Since then this has been changed, and a two-tier system is now in place. Amateur fighters with enough fights can fight under the "advanced amateur rules" which are more similar to professional rules for MMA.

But before this was the way things are fighters routinely chose to fight in states like Ohio, Virginia, and even Indiana. Before this most recent boom of popularity for MMA the pool of fighters available was limited, and it is not uncommon for fighters to face each other more than once, especially if one organization was known for being the premier MMA promotion in the area.

Now it is common for fighters to face each other multiple times on fight cards for different promotions here in Pennsylvania and also in states like Ohio when rival promotions try to put the best fighters against each other to make the most exciting fight cards for fans to enjoy. This is one of the benefits of MMA becoming so popular, and when the best fighters face each other the level of competition gets better.

Pittsburgh's own Rich Cantolina is one such fighter. He spent alot of his early amateur career fighting events in Ohio, mostly for Yankee Lake Brawlroom. Cantolina had varied success in Ohio, and his reputation for being a tough fighter led to Complete Devastation MMA choosing him to replace an injured Cody Karlheim to face Zachery Shutlz for the vacant CDMMA Featherweight (145lb ammy) title at CDMMA 8 back on March 2nd of 2013. It was an action-packed fight and Cantolina ended up winning the fight by Unanimous Decision. Then in November Rich faced Central Pennsylvania's Ethan Goss for the Pinnacle Fighting Championships Featherweight (145lb ammy) title at Pittsburgh Challenge Series 5. This fight was an all-out war resulting in a Split Decision win for Cantolina - earning him his 2nd championship title in less than 9 months.

These past two wins have elevated Cantolina's status, and many people consider him to be one of the best (if not THE best) amateur Featherweights in Pennsylvania & the surrounding area, along with fighters like Goss. If there was an Ohio counterpart to Cantolina, it would have to be 10 - 1 Jerrell Hodge. While Cantolina was fighting for Yankee Lake Brawlroom Hodge was tearing up the scene for Ohio based promotion NAAFS. Back in December of 2012 Hodge defeated Central PA fighter Shane Valko at NAAFS: Night of Champions 2012 to win the NAAFS Bantamweight (135lb ammy) title. Then earlier this year in January Hodge faced Ethan Goss at Caged Madness 27, winning the Featherweight title by Rear Naked Choke over Goss in the 3rd round. 

Prior to that, in October of 2013 Hodge defeated Cheyne Jenkins at NAAFS: Combat Challenge 25 by Arm-triangle Choke. Jenkins is a fighter from Cantolina's past, and both times Cantolina faced Jenkins (both times for a title belt) it was Jenkins who came out on top. So, with two common opponents between them some people might think that Hodge having the better performance in those 3 fights might mean that the match-up between Hodge and Cantolina this Saturday equals a huge advantage for Jerrell. 

But that would be too simple, and doesn't take into account intangibles like heart, determination, hard work, or the fact that this fight will take place in Cantolina's hometown of Pittsburgh. Sure, Hodge's hometown of Cleveland is about 2 hour's drive from Pittsburgh... I am willing to bet that the Greentree Sportsplex is going to be filled with fight fans cheering Cantolina on as he attempts to defend his Pinnacle FC title. 

Still, there are people who are saying Rich is the underdog. Over at StandThemUp.Org many people are picking Hodge to win this fight. I like both fighters, and have interviewed them both. Trying to remain neutral, I did a long, hard study of these fighters and their records. Both have two titles, both are considered to be very tough fighters, and both are known for exciting fights. 

I have called this fight a "Clash of Titans" awhile back, and I stand by that assessment. This fight pretty much determines who the top dog of the 145lb ammys in the area. I expect these two to face each other again, especially when they both turn pro... but for now, this Saturday decides who the best is at Featherweight. If I had to pick a winner, I would say that I am leaning towards Cantolina. Even though he only defeated Goss by Split Decision when Hodge won by Unanimous Decision & even though Hodge defeated Jenkins while Cantolina lost both times he fought Cheyne - I'm predicting that IF the fight doesn't end early by TKO/KO then it will be a Decision win for Cantolina. I honestly feel that Rich's hard work & determination plus the home crowd advantage will result in Cantolina successfully defending his title. .

We will find out for sure this Saturday. But before Hodge & Cantolina step into the cage to figure out who is the better fighter Rich took time out of his busy training schedule to answer a few questions for me. I am grateful and I hope you enjoy reading this as I have putting this interview article together. I must admit that I had been guilty of underestimating this tough fighter originally from Ambridge, PA. Back when he was calling out Cody Karlheim as he was recovering from a knee injury I was firmly backing Karlheim. But I am glad that I looked beyond the surface and learned more about Rich. There is more than meets the eye here, and I definitely feel that once Cantolina turns pro it might not be long before a regional or national promotion signs him to fight for them.

Until someone like Bellator, WSOF, or the UFC snatches him away, do yourself a favor and go see this exciting fighter fight locally. If you don't already know who he is, here's your change to get to know him better. Here's 10 Questions With Rich Cantolina.

Me with Rich Cantolina at CDMMA 8

1. Tell us a little about yourself. 

I hope eventually I get to the point in life when I do not have to introduce myself but for now I am Rich Cantolina. My current record is 10-6 and I currently fight in the Featherweight division (145lbs or 66KGs for you overseas folks).  My title defense fight March 29th will be my last amateur fight as I will turn pro after this fight and head to the 135 pound division and if my body permits the 125 lb division.  I do currently have 2 titles.  I am the Featherweight champion for both Pinnacle FC and Complete Devastation MMA.

2. How did you get started in MMA?

I got started in MMA through my high school wrestling coach, Coach Fitzpatrick.  His son was a boxer and worked out at the gym nearby and he said they were starting a MMA program and that I had a little too much aggression and that it might be a good thing for me to check out.  So I started out with Coach Dan Roppo at World Class MMA along with Adam Milstead.  Coach Roppo was one hell of a coach and the word spread fast of the gym and team of killers he was putting together.  I was at World Class for a long time. I loved the gym atmosphere, my coach, and my teammates.  Coach had me fight as soon as I turned 18 which was back in 2008 at Yankee Lake Brawlroom.  World Class Gym was getting bigger and bigger so we moved a few times to bigger gyms as I continued my amateur career.  I was timid to leave World Class because I’m a very loyal person and Coach and I had an amazing relationship.  The only reason I left is because I felt that I had reached that point in my career where I needed to become a little fish in a big pond again and Pittsburgh Fight Club was more like an ocean not a pond.  It seemed that Mic and company at FCP were assembling an elite squad of killers and coaches for each discipline so I jumped on the opportunity when it came about.  I left on good terms with World Class and I’m still friends with Coach Roppo and the World Class Fighters like Travis List and Jason Bailey and James Reddick.  I’m very thankful for everything that Coach Roppo did for me, he literally took me from a kid who couldn’t throw a jab to a complete mixed martial artist.  But FCP was my new home and I embraced the ass whopping that awaited me there every day.  Over the past two years FCP has become one of the elite gyms in the country producing top notch amateur and professional fighters.

3. What gym(s) do you train at and what is it like training there?

Well I guess I answered this one already but I am training at Fight Club Pittsburgh.  Like I said they have assembled the best fighters in the tri state area into one elite squad.  I’ve been there for 2 years and every day of training since I started has been hell.  I get murdered on a daily basis but it’s what I needed it keeps me in my place and makes me stride to get better, actually I don’t have a choice if I don’t get better I’m going to get hurt because of the talent in that room.  Our fight team record speaks for itself and the biggest names are fighting out of our gym.  Mark Cherico, Cody Garbrandt, Justin Steave, Khama Worthy, Anthony Durnell, Shane Chojnacki, Ryan Arreola, Jake Schilling, Matt Conahan are all names I’m sure everyone recognizes as the best of the best.  It’s not only the fight team that makes FCP what it is, it’s the way everyone there leaves their egos at the door and treats every person the same way.  I have never been to another gym that treats people the way everyone is treated at FCP.  Mic and Melissa have made FCP into a family and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.

4. What do you feel your strengths are as a fighter? What do you feel you need to work on to be a more complete fighter?

I believe my greatest strength is my intelligence.  I have a way of picking up my opponents tendencies by watching videos of them and from the first step they make in the cage I take it all in, and then BOOM I exploit them.  I have the ability to slow things down and think three moves ahead but many fighters don’t do that they just go out there like an animal.  I like to call it controlled aggression that I have, I think of each fight as a chess match. Obviously my reach for being 6 foot 1 inches at 145lbs is a big advantage so I use my reach to keep my opponents at bay until they make a mistake after they are frustrated.  I’ve been working on my weaknesses and I think they all have improved to the point now that I have confidence no matter where the fight goes.  People underestimate my wrestling ability but if you look back I did make it to WPIALs my senior year in AAA in PA which is no easy task, I just have a tendency to not use my wrestling because I like to stand and bang to give the crowd their moneys worth.

5. You have won titles for two different promotions in your last 2 fights. What is it like to have such success and to become a fighter some people are calling the best/toughest amateur Featherweight in the Pennsylvania area?

I never imagined in a million years when I walked into the gym on the first day that 6 years down the road I would hold two amateur belts in two of the best organizations in the state.  I remember when Coach Roppo told me a long time ago there will come a time in your career where you just become so comfortable in there and can slow things down and that’s when you know you have turned the corner.  I have finally reached that point in my career now which is why I’ve hit my stride.  Many people ask why I haven’t turned pro yet and why I have so many fights well the answer hasn’t changed.  I started so young that I had the luxury of waiting to turn pro where many ammy fighters have to turn pro due to their age or financial situation.  I wanted to make sure I fought the best around and tested myself before making that jump.  I am very humbled that many people speak so highly of me and to honest its quite surreal but I couldn’t imagine my life any other way right now.  I don’t want to only be known as a great fighter I want also want to be a good ambassador of the sport.  Many people hear cage fighter and automatically think that you are some convicted felon or a bar brawler.  I want to change that stereotype and have people think of mma fighters as contributing members of society.

6. You are set to fight another highly rated Bantamweight, Jerrell Hodge, this Saturday at Pinnacle Fighting Championships Pittsburgh Challenge Series 6. What is your expectations for this fight and what does this fight mean to you?

This fight is the fight that could change my life forever.  Jerrell is a kid who has beaten the best of the best and is out there on everyone’s radar as one of the best up and comers in the game today.  I don’t like Jerrell as a person at all but I do respect what he has done in his career which is why I feel this is my ultimate test to see if I’m ready to turn pro.  I’m tired of everyone skimming over my name in the best featherweights around conversation and once I beat Hodge and keep my title people will finally recognize that I am the real deal.  March 29th will be a date I talk to my kids about someday.  It’s the ultimate underdog story, no one gave me a chance to make it this far but I proved all those people wrong, now people are saying I don’t even belong in the same cage as Hodge and all the journalists are predicting hes going to beat me.  Someday my kids will be able to tell all their friends that their dad beat up Jerrell Hodge back in 2014.

7. If you could play match-maker, who would you like to fight? Is there a fighter you would like to fight again? 

Phew this is a tough question, but if I could fight anyone right now I would honestly choose Jerrell Hodge.  He’s the biggest name in my division in the featherweights and I always want to fight the best.  I would rather be 15-10 and have fought the best there was then to be 7-0 and have only fought bums.  I am no bum hunter that’s for sure.  If I could fight anyone again It would be Cheyne Jenkins and no this is not a call out.  Cheyne bested me 2 times and I hate losing, hell I threw my guess who board as a kid when my mom would beat me that’s just how bad I hate losing.  Cheyne is a good kid and a talented fighter so I don’t have any regrets of fighting him two times, it made me better and drove me to get to this point.  I would also love to fight my friend Ethan Goss again.  Those 9 minutes in the cage with that terminator were the most fun 9 minutes of my life.  I have nothing but respect for Ethan and I know he will be the next king of the featherweights in the ammy division.  Ethan is just one of those kids that shows up ready for a war and those are the fights I love to be in.

8. You have talked about turning pro. What are your plans for the future? When will you fight again & who will it be against?
After this fight I am going to take a break for a bit and try to figure out a schedule on how to manage being a professional fighter with also being a safety engineer. It’s tough as an amateur but as a pro you really have to dedicate your life to fighting so I would need to find a way to work, train, lift, and still find time to spend with my family and friends.  I also have always dreamed of a being a father and hopefully in the near future that is in my plans.  I would love to come back as a pro 135 lb fighter for Pinnacle FC and make my run to the big show.

9. Who are some of your role models?

My parents and my sister are my biggest role models.  There are not many families like mine, we are all very close, we live on the same street, we eat family dinner every Sunday together as one big family, and we all go to church together.  My dad has never missed any of my sporting events from the time of teeball to this Saturday's fight, he would go into work at 3AM just so he could get off early to come whether it was a home or away event.  My family is neither rich nor poor but my parents worked their ass off every day to give me and my sister the best possible life they possibly could and for that I’m thankful.  They are the ones that showed me it doesn’t matter what anyone says about you as long as you work hard and follow your dream anything in this world is possible.  I know this sounds funny but I really do not look up to that many big name fighters of course I have my favorites like Jose Aldo but none of them are my role models.  My role models are actually local fighters.  I have been inspired by many local fighters but 4 of them really have touched my life in different ways and they all should be recognized for what people fail to see, the behind the scenes, their true identities.  First Mark Cherico,  Mark is one of the biggest names in MMA right now because of his undefeated record and his ability to finish his opponents.  People only know and see the Mark Cherico in the cage, the bright shorts, the flashy entrance, and the definition of a true mixed martial artist.  I see a different Mark Cherico, I see the father Mark Cherico.  Like I stated earlier its very difficult to be a professional fighter and have a full time job and add in a family and boy do you have a tough life.  Mark has showed me that its possible, he works full time at FCP, fights as a professional against the very best, and still finds time to raise his daughter and have a great relationship with his wife Nicole. People do not see the amazing father that Mark is.  The first day that my girlfriend April was at the gym, Marks wife Nicole had brought Aubree into the gym to hangout.  April's first comment after leaving was how cute their family was and how great of parents they were.  Ask any fighters girlfriend or wife and they will tell you how difficult it is to date or be married to a fighter between never seeing us, the miserable mood swings from cutting weight, and the stress of watching us live makes a relationship near impossible.  Nicole Cherico is one of a kind and has proven that its possible, she is a great person and an even better mother, if any girl who dates a fighter is looking for a role model, she is the one.  Yes I look up to Mark for his abilities in the cage but I am inspired to live a very similar life to his in the future.  Next Cody Garbrandt, Cody is the biggest name right now after his win over Dom and now its easy to for everyone to see that "No Love" is on the fast track to the big show.  I have gotten to become very close friends with Cody over the past year and I look up to him for many reasons. First, I know in college how hard it was for me to be away from my family and I was only an hour away, Cody is very similar to me in how close he is with his family so I know how hard it was for him to pack up and move to Cali to train with Team Alpha Male, but that’s how driven this kid is to reach his dream, the sacrifices he makes are very inspirational.  Next is his relationship with Maddux who is a young boy battling cancer, and at his last fight I got to witness that relationship first hand.  At one point I actually had to leave Cody's locker room because I was starting to tear up a bit and I did not want to affect Cody's preparation.  These two make the perfect team,  to watch the smile on Maddux’s face from just being around Cody was life changing, it was easy to see the positive effect that Cody has had on this child's life.  At one point right before we walked out Cody asked Maddux to pick which hand he wanted him to knockout Dom with, and Maddux without hesitation chose the right hand!!!  I want to take that kid to Vegas with me because he was spot on with that one.  Everyone in Stage AE got to see the relationship of Cody and Maddux that night as well when after his victory Maddux ran into the cage and jumped into Cody's arms.  I'm pretty sure if everyone wasn’t brawling in the stands there would have not been a dry eye in that arena.  Anyways at first glance many people would be intimidated by Cody because of the tattoos but he's living proof not to judge a book by its cover.  I also have two other role models, Justin Wilcox and Anthony Durnell.  Both of these gentlemen have inspired me in many ways also.  I am inspired by both of them because they are both great fathers, professional fighters, and they both live out their religious beliefs in their everyday lives.  Like I stated before I am a religious person, I do attend church with my family but both of these men have shown me even though its difficult at times its possible to live our everyday lives according to our beliefs.  I still remember the first day I met Justin Wilcox at FCP, I was like holy shit that’s The Silverback from Strikeforce and Bellator.  He treated me the same as everyone else, you would have never known he has fought for the biggest promotions out there.  He left his ego at the door and was eager to assist any of us in any way possible.  I know that was a long answer but I give credit where credit is due and those men need recognized for being great ambassadors of our sport.

10. Is there anyone you'd like to thank?

First I would like to thank all my coaches past and present for making me the fighter I am today.  Thank you to my teammates at FCP for being my second family and pushing me to get better every day.  Thank you to Mic and Melissa and everyone else at Fight Club for all that you do behind the scenes for all of us!  Thank you to my girlfriend April.  There are not many girls like this one!  She comes to the gym everyday with me and supports this dream.  It’s not easy dating me because of my busy life but somehow she puts up with me.  Thank you to my family for always supporting me and showing me that hard work pays off.  Thank you to my sponsors for treating me like family and helping me make this dream a reality.  AutoEffects Monaca, Beemac Trucking, Lionheart Tattoo in Lawerenceville, NOLAC, MetCon Photos, The Unseen Armada who have supported me since day 1, Boze Kennels, and Chippewa Chiropractic Clinic for keeping my body in fighting shape. Thank you to Pinnacle FC for providing me an opportunity to fight for one the best promotion in the world. Thank you to Jeff and others who give us a chance to get our names out there.  Finally thank you to God, for blessing me with everything that I have in my amazing life.  Philippians 4:13

With FCP team-mate Jaime Chesney

Rich Cantolina Vs. Zachery Shultz for the Featherweight Title at CDMMA 8

(If you can't make it to Pittsburgh this Saturday to see the fights, you can purchase the iPPV over at StandThemUp.Org)

(Some photos by Christopher Nolan - MetCon Photos - visit