Brain Clutter

October 26, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 6

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA — brainclutter @ 11:09 am

Leading Edge MMASmaller class today… time for some Q&A!

Last night’s class only had about 8 students, so it was a great opportunity for us to ask Matt to demonstrate some cool techniques (e.g. flying ankle-lock). He also answered questions like: How can I escape a triangle choke?, What are some other ways for me to get out of someone’s full guard?, and Now that I have him in my full guard, what should I try going for?

These may all seem like basic questions but there are plenty of options and counters to each, so it’s nice to know several different escapes, subs, or submission preventions in case your favorite method isn’t working.

We also spent a bit of time at the beginning of the class working on several shoot-driven takedown techniques (single leg, double, etc.). I found this part pretty difficult because I stand 6’5″ tall and have to squat very low to nab someone’s legs. At my height, it’s very difficult to maintain a good “show ’em what you got” posture when initiating a lower body grapple. “Show ’em what you got,”  basically means that you stick your chest and ass out simultaneously while squatting low. I used to think I had pretty good balance for my height (it comes from being a hockey goalie) but these takedowns felt quite awkward…

Part of the problem is that I naturally want to lead with my right foot forward (Southpaw stance), however, my right arm is stronger than my left. I have this issue in hockey as well in that I play “normal” as a forward (stick blade to my right), but I hold the stick that way as a goalie too (catching with my right hand). It’s not very traditional. I suppose this would be more of a problem in boxing than jiu jitsu as there’s not really any striking involved. It definitely took some adjusting.

Here’s what we worked on:

  • Single leg takedown
  • Double leg takedown
  • Chin control + choke from sprawl
  • Chin control + choke from grapple
  • Escape full guard 1
  • Escape full guard 2
  • Prevent triangle choke
  • Escape triangle choke

I’ll fill these in when I get some time.

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October 24, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 5

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA — brainclutter @ 9:24 am

Leading Edge MMATrying to stay alive on day five!

Yesterday’s class was exhausting but fun! This was the most packed I’ve seen the gym since I started and that’s because we have a tournament in Winnipeg, Manitoba coming up this weekend. Also, five weeks from now there’s another one down in Superior, Wisconsin (US).

Am I going, you ask? While I might be seeing signs of very minor improvement having spent a mere five weeks in the gym, there’s no way in hell I feel ready for competition. About the only thing I know how to do with any confidence is establish a position but I’m still quite shaky in maintaining it for extended periods of time. Also, my cardio is the craps right now and I’d get wrecked in any match extending beyond five minutes.

Is that a cop-out? Hells ya! But aside from not being ready physically, I’m also attending two concerts this weekend (Elliott Brood and Craig Cardiff) while my wife drive down to Minneapolis to see a So You Think You Can Dance performance. There are other competition events coming up in late 2007 / early 2008 that I may participate in, so long as I can get matched up against someone with roughly the same experience as me.

Here’s what we learned last night:

  • Shoot-fake neck takedown – Basically, you’re both standing and you want to get into a tighter clinch for the takedown. Fake the shot by dropping to one knee, then immediately stand back up and lunge in with your left arm, hooking his neck with forearm perpendicular to his collar bone (pressed tightly to maintain grip). Grab his right bicep with your left hand and start pushing and pulling him around with your body and hands. Try make him push towards you and immediately walk backwards to create a small gap between your bodies. Shove his head under your right armpit in a headlock maneuver. If you don’t have any arms in there, you might have a good chance at a guillotine. If you do, it can still be done. If you don’t have the best grip, pull him down to the mat and start working on other subs or positions, making sure you sprawl out nicely
  • Anaconda choke – From the previous takedown, you might be able to sink in an anaconda choke. In the previous maneuver, his head should be under your right armpit so reach up with your right hand and place it on his right shoulder, perpendicular to your right arm (sunk under his neck). Grip the bicep of your left arm with your right hand, which should clinch up his neck nicely. Take a quick breath to create a little room to sink it in as tightly as you can. Now, roll your body towards your left shoulder, putting both of you on your backs. Take another quick breath to cinch it even tighter and start walking your body towards his left hip, turning this choke into a death grip.
  • Arm-bar from full guard – Start out in full guard with your opponent postured up and his forearms on your belly. Reach under his left arm and over his right arm, gripping his elbow/tricep with your right hand. Bend your body and head so your torso curves towards the right. Reach behind the left side of his neck with your left hand, crossing his face with your forearm. Push his body to his right (your left). At the same time, release your guard. Take your left leg over to the left side of his head, resting your knee around his neck.  At the same time as you’re positioning your left leg, your right leg should be sliding up the left side of his body. By this point, his arm should be between your thighs. Now you want to tighten the grip. Do not cross or lock your ankles as that will weaken the pressure between your knees. Instead, try keeping your feet parallel and squeeze your knees towards each other for the most snug grip. Pop your hips while holding his extended arm and you’ve got your arm-bar.
  • Oma Plata – If your grip was loose and he managed to pop out his extended arm, you can take his other trapped arm (in this case, his left) and turn it into an oma plata. I can’t quite remember the exact steps for this right now so I’ll come back and edit it ASAP. Basically you want to have it trapped between your legs and on the outside of one of your hips. You’ll also want him with his belly to the mat. Slowly pivot your way up, twisting his shoulder opposite from the way it naturally rotates and he’ll tap.
  • Clock choke (with gi) – You have his back and you’re positioned on his left side. Bring up your right knee to block his left hip from rolling. Reach over his back and under his right armpit with your right arm. Grip his right sleeve with your right hand. Now, try trapping his left arm between your legs. Once the arm is down there, reach through the front side of his left shoulder with your right hand, sink your left forearm under his neck, and grip his collar on the right side. Immediately, swing your legs towards the front of his body so that your right hip is against his left shoulder, preferably against his left cheek. Tighten up your choke grip and start walking in a clockwise spin with your legs. He can try spinning with you to reduce pressure on his neck, so you’ll want to walk faster than him to sink it in deeply enough for him to tap.
  • Sweep (from turtled position – gave up your back) – Pretend you’re in the same position as your opponent was in the clock choke description. Remember that if his weight is higher on your body, you can pop up your hips and walk backwards and try to draw guard. If his weight is near your butt, you can posture up and try standing. If his weight is centered and you can do neither, reach out with your left arm and grip the his left pant leg. Pop up your hips and maneuver your sprawl behind his right thigh to block him posting off it for balance. Immediately roll towards your right shoulder, sweeping him over you. Hopefully you’ll land in side control or at the very least, half guard.
  • Takedown from body lock (reverse bear hug) – This is the same concept, except that it can be executed from standing. You can do two things to take your opponent down from a reverse bear hug. One is to rotate your hips and bring your right leg behind his legs and post it between them. Then grab both his pant legs and lift, using your right leg as a fulcrum against his body to dump him on his head. Secondly, you could move your right leg in the same way, but fall towards your left, trying to take him down with you. Rotate your body so his back hits the mat before you do.

As you can see, this class spent a fair amount of time on various submissions and some of them are fairly advanced. This is because of the upcoming tournament and wanting to prep people for what they might see in competition. Also, our instructor just got back from a training session hosted by Royce Gracie over the weekend and learned a couple new variations on moves he wanted to show off (anaconda choke and the arm-bar).

I spent the last fifteen minutes of class sparring five-minute rounds with three different opponents of various skill levels, though they were all much higher than myself. It was interesting to try applying what I learned in this class and others. It was light sparring, so I wouldn’t say that I earned many of my position gains through strong determination, but it was still cool to get into the flow. I ended up tapping out of several chokes and armlocks (even an oma plata) for good measure.

Of note, my dang Gi still hasn’t arrived from HCK. I’m getting annoyed at having to used the gym’s stanky gear, even if it is better than nothing. 😉

October 22, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 4

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 1:50 pm

Leading Edge MMAOh so many missed classes…

Since I started training BJJ in early September, I’ve missed more classes than I’ve attended. Booerns to that. First I got a minor neck injury, then I went out of town for a week, then I caught an eye infection and a flu bug that put me out for two more weeks. All in all, there have been a lot of lame reasons for missing out on some valuable lessons.

Fortunately, there isn’t necessarily a theoretical training regiment for this martial art, at least, not at my gym. The lessons are definitely structured in terms of having a warm-up session, demonstration period, demo practice session, and light rolling match to end the class but there’s no linear pattern of learning the various techniques. When I first started, we did learn some basics like shrimping, positioning, hooks, etc. and that served as the foundation for everything else we learned but it wasn’t heavily drilled into us. Instead, we learn various kinds of moves each class (passing a half guard, stand-up grappling, holds, submissions, etc.). During the demonstrations and practices we refine some of the finer movements but our instructor’s motto is that there’s no better way to apply what you’ve learned than to work it into your end-of-class sparring.

I like that. It means that I’m not completely screwed if I miss a class. It also makes the classes more free-flowing and dynamic, in my opinion anyway. Each class is well rounded and focuses on various elements of the game. There are so many intricacies in a fight that there’s no perfect pattern of doing step A then step B then step C. Each move might be set up by various steps but if you get tripped up along the way, you need to be able to adapt and try something else. Sure, you could continually try to set up an arm-bar over and over and over, but that’s not going to be your best strategy in terms of keeping your opponent off balance. According to our instructor, you want to try for move A and if that doesn’t work, flip it into something else, etc.

Last class we learned a couple side control holds that can become very uncomfortable and difficult to escape for the guy on his back. If you can sit it out until the end of the match, you’ll win via points, but another benefit is that he may start to panic, which gives you potential openings to exploit.

Here’s a list of some of the maneuvers we put to the test last Thursday:

  • Underhook shoulder control (standing) – Try keeping him off balance by pushing and pulling his head with one of your left hand from the side and back of his neck. Sweep in and underhook his left arm with your right arm and close the gap, pressing your head against his shoulder. Grip his left shoulder with your right hand. The goal is to control his legs with your knee, trying not to allow him to bring his left leg between yours. You can then push or pull him around the mat. If he brings up a knee, grab it and keep him bouncing around on one foot. From this grapple, your intention is to take him down by either blocking his right posting leg at the knee with your left hand and pushing or grabbing the raised knee and lifting straight up (easier for the taller guys or against less flexible/balanced opponents).
  • Half-guard escape to side control – In this example, you’re in your opponent’s half guard and you want to gain side control. First, you want to flatten him on his back rather than allowing him to create space by rolling out his hips. Your right leg is locked in his guard, so first you’ll reach over his right shoulder with your left arm and tuck it behind his head, pressing your left shoulder up to his face. Your head will be on the other side of his face near your left hand to lock up his neck. You want to grab his left shoulder with that same hand and try limit his movement by pressing yourself tightly against his body. Next you’ll block his left hip with your right arm then block his right hip with your left knee. He should be pressed flat on his back with very little space to wiggle. Start to pry at his guard with your right hand and sneak your knee up towards his belly. From there, you want to work it out so that your trapped right leg’s knee slides towards your left leg and hits the mat. Slide it out completely and you’re in side control.
  • Half-guard escape to mount – This is basically the same setup. Rather than using that right arm to loosen up his leg hold, use your right foot. Keep bringing your knee out of his guard until it’s right around the pelvis. Rather than freeing it towards his chest and sideways for the mount, try angling it sideways and slightly backwards as you free your right leg. In this case, he won’t be able to block your knee with his free left hand.
  • Side control torso lock – This move has you keeping the opponent on his back in a fairly uncomfortable position (as uncomfortable as you want to make it really…). You’re in side control, so you’ll want to take your right knee and press it against his right hip with your left leg stretched out to prevent a sweep. This leg will also provide leverage to put pressure on his chest and face with your upper body. You want to reach under his neck with your left arm trying to get your elbow on the other side of his face (above his left shoulder). You then want to underhook his left arm with your right and clasp hands. You can now push with the toes of your left foot to tighten the hold. The goal here is to maintain your dominant position and win the round. Additionally, you could loosen it up allowing him to try work his way out by exposing an arm, neck, or back for submission. That’s only something you might let happen in the last 10 seconds of the match. If you can win by pinning him, why not, right?

This class had me seeing stars. I literally left the gym with zero energy and a pounding headache. I can attribute it to several things, including dehydration, the six chokes I tapped out of, and not being fully recovered from the flu.

I’m feeling a bit stretched on my fitness schedule though. So far, I’m playing hockey on Monday (sometimes twice – noon and 9pm) and BJJ on Tues/Thurs. In the spring, my wife and I bought a gym membership that we’re locked into for a full year. It was really great when all I was doing was playing hockey and working out, but once baseball and my summer hockey kicked in, I just didn’t have the drive or determination to keep going. Now that I replaced baseball with BJJ twice per week, I’m in the same situation. I think the only solution is to create a two-day gym routine and try fitting it in on Saturday and Sunday because after BJJ, I’m just cooked. I also want a couple weeknights to just relax.

I’m seriously considering not renewing the membership next year because I just don’t have the time. Plus it’s expensive ($40/month). Right now I’m just pissing that money away but not taking full advantage of my membership (currently attending maybe once per week).

October 1, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 3

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 8:40 am

Here’s a quick note on Day 3 (because I’m short on time):

Today was the first class we used a Gi since I’ve been with Leading Edge MMA. In fact, I think it’s the first time the classes have used a Gi since last spring, as they did mostly submission grappling over the summer of 2007.

Anyway, the Gi obviously introduces a bunch of new elements into your grappling game, most obviously a whole bunch extra anchor points since you can grab the loose fabric almost anywhere for a good grip on your opponent (or even yourself). Here are some of the moves we practiced:

  1. Suck in our arms and shrimp away to prevent your opponent from getting an anchor for side control (we then tried to draw full guard again)
  2. Two different chokes (from mount and from full guard)
  3. An armbar technique (from mount)
  4. A scissor-sweep from full guard

Once I get some more time, I’ll write up detailed descriptions for these moves.

I’m thinking of ordering my own Gi for training, and standard single HCK (Howard Combat Kimonos) is looking like a great option for beginners like myself. They’re cheap, durable, come with a jacket, pants, and a belt, and the single weave will hopefully keep my poorly conditioned self from sweating into a puddle.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!

Later.

September 28, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 2

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 11:19 am

Leading Edge MMAI missed the Thursday class on September 13 due to the neck injury and both classes on the 18th and 20th due to a pre-planned vacation to Vancouver for my best man’s wedding. However, I have started back up again and my second class in my BJJ training happened on Tuesday the 25th!

Cutting to the chase, here’s what was covered:

  1. Arm drag to leg control (from standing)
  2. Arm drag to body lock (from standing)
  3. Sweeping from half guard to get opponent’s back
  4. Sweeping from half guard to enter opponent’s half guard
  5. Escape from half guard to neutral position
  6. Knee lock from opponent’s half guard
  7. Knee lock sweep from crouch (if you gave up your back)

This was also the first class I participated in light sparring at the beginning and end of class. Each of my opponents was fairly advanced in their technique and very helpful in walking me through some of the moves and steps to achieving those moves. I didn’t roll too long or too hard though, and didn’t really accomplish much except trying to defend myself against my opponent achieving a better position or submission.

Some of the techniques they’re teaching may sound pretty advanced for a beginner and I agree to a point, however, the class is comprised of mostly experienced fighters and the majority of them are interested in the MMA game. They do 1.5 hours of MMA fighting, concentrating more on striking and cardio/stamina, then the next 1.5 hours is Jits, which I’m taking part in. The majority of the students want to participate in MMA tournies, while my goal is to eventually partake in the sport BJJ tournies (submission wrestling and gi).

Some people have asked why I wasn’t joining taking the MMA portion and I tell them that I’m really not too interested in trying to KO someone with my fists, elbows, knees, or feet and I’m REALLY not interested in having it happen to me. I’m not a wuss or anything, but I’m married to a very protective woman and I have a career in the public service. It would look bad for me to sustain black eyes, chipped teeth, a broken nose, or other, much more debilitating injuries at this stage in my life and career. Also, I play hockey and lift weights at the gym, so I need a balance in my weekly fitness routine. I also have other priorities to balance, and 3 hours per Tuesday and Thursday, from 6-9pm doesn’t fit in too well right now.

September 12, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 1

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 1:46 pm

Leading Edge MMAShrimping. Drawing guard. Sweeping to a dominant position. These were just some of the elements we practiced in my first ever Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class last night at Leading Edge MMA.

Hello. My name is Brooke, and I’m a martial arts newbie! This series, Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie, will be my way of tracking some of the exercises learned in my BJJ classes. I’ll also link to useful outside resources in an effort to make it somewhat comprehensive and usable by people other than myself.

Alright, let’s get started!

Let me start by explaining my sports background and reasons for starting up BJJ classes. I’m a fairly active guy who plays hockey one to two times per week (as a goalie) year ’round, softball twice per week in the spring/summer, and lifts weights at the gym (moderately two to three times per week). My current statistics are 27 years-old, 6’5″, 205lbs with about 14% body fat. The primary reasons for learning BJJ are to increase my stamina, focus, and flexibility, and yes, even to learn some of the moves I’ve been such a fan of in Pride FC and UFC (joint locks, choke holds, and sweeps).

In preparation for my first class, I read a few articles so I wasn’t a complete noob:

Armed with this rudimentary knowledge, I set off to the one and a half hour class with a pair of sport shorts, a fitted t-shirt, twenty groomed finger and toe nails (perhaps the most important step of all?), and an open mind.

I arrived a few minutes early to introduce myself but couldn’t immediately distinguish the instructors from the students because the previous MMA and Combat Hapkido classes was still in progress. Once the classes were over, myself and two other newbies (though they each had four months of training at a different academy) asked if we could participate in a free, introductory session to feel out the class. We were welcomed and asked to join the other students on the mats.

Warm-ups consisted of about 15 minutes of rolling (free sparring) at 50% intensity (tournament intensity is considered 100%), which I didn’t take part in because I wasn’t very comfortable with having never taken a class before. Also, some people were putting in a lot more effort than 50%, so it was slightly intimidating. Instead, I spent the time observing and stretching.

After everyone was warmed up, the instructor came out and started giving us some drills. He took note of the newbies in the crowd, and since this was the first session back after a bit of a summer break for many people, he concentrated on some of the “basics.”

  • Shrimping – A fundamental hip movement from your back used in many escapes
  • Two escapes from a kneeling position (when you’ve given up your back)
    • Variation one: You’re kneeling with face to ground while opponent is trapping you down in a forwards facing clinch. Step one is to plant your hands near his knees and lift your butt into the air while your toes stay on the mat. Step two is to creep backwards to throw off their balance – they will now be leaning forwards with a weaker center of gravity. Step three is to pop your head out to the left side (can be done to either side) while maintaining contact of your cheek to his ribs, plant your right knee firmly on the mat towards the same side as your head (left in this case), and reach your left elblow and shoulder towards the sky, while looking up (maintaining face-to-rib contact). This step should result in breaking his grip around your torso/stomach/hips. Step four is to bring your left leg, followed by your body around to the left side, rolling your face to the opposite cheek. This should take you out of his dominant position. Clinch up around his torso with your arms or legs and try to gain his back (leading you into a potential submission).
    • Variation two: Start in the same position and buck up the hips in the same fashion as the previous example. Now, pop your head out to one side and shoot the leg from that same side between his legs and hook his opposite leg (to your head). If successful, you’re now in half guard. You can then try for a half-guard sweep shown in this image. You want to grab under the knee of the leg that isn’t trapped, bridge with your hips, and roll over the trapped leg.
  • Upa variation – A bridge-and-roll technique from half guard
  • Basic guard 1 – One person tries to pass from standing, while the other defends with legs and hands from his back
  • Basic guard 2 – One person tries to pass from standing, while the other defends with hook pressure of the feet only (no hands allowed), while on his back
  • Basic guard 3 – Transitioning from full guard to butterfly guard to half guard, and back again

After these drills, which took about 45 minutes of the class, we were left with about 30 minutes for free-sparring. This is the time when the students are supposed to apply what they learned in the class and do a little bit of medium intensity freestyle, putting themselves in various positions (dominant, neutral, or submissive). Again, I opted out of rolling for a bit of discussion and one-on-one training with the instructor. I asked several questions about belt grading, tournaments, scheduling, training costs, gi vs. no-gi, etc. I explained my goals for BJJ training to give him an idea of what I was in it for.

It was explained that I could also participate in the MMA or cage fighting side of BJJ, but I think it’s a bit too early to make that judgment. I’ve never been much for striking, or for that matter, getting struck, so I doubt I’ll pursue that avenue of training. I’m definitely interested in advancing through the different belts and participating the sport BJJ tournaments as I’m driven by a sense of competition.

Overall, I had a very good experience with the training. I started out with a bit of trepidation because it felt slightly intimidating seeing a bunch of guys with much more skill than me free sparring against each other. After learning a few of the basic moves, I feel confident that I’ll participate in the rolling component in the near future. According to one of the articles I linked to above, the motto should be “position before submission,” so that’s where I’ll be focusing my efforts. In the tournaments, you can flat-out win by submission, but if the match goes to the score cards, all your points will be coming from the various positions you gained during the fight.

So, those are some reflections after my first class of BJJ. I should mention that I did sustain a bit of a pulled neck as I turned my head the wrong way whilst getting swept by a 250lb gentleman. I’m going to have to take it easy on that and pop a couple ibuprofen before my next session on Thursday! I believe we’ll be introducing the gi tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited about that!

My plan is the write up a summary after each of my classes, so stay tuned if you found this interesting.

Update #1: Dangit, I can’t make it out to class tonight because my neck is still pretty sore. Next week I’m off to the west coast, so I’ll be missing two classes there as well. The plan is to get into a good routine starting on Tuesday, September 25, 2007. A friend, who is an out of practice black belt and previous national champion in Judo has challenged me to a sparring match this Christmas when he visits town. There’s some major motivation for ya! =P

September 10, 2007

UFC 75 (Champion vs. Champion) comments

Filed under: MMA, personal, UFC — brainclutter @ 12:00 pm

So, this isn’t a full review of the entire fight card because I just don’t have the energy and I’ve missed the boat in terms of being one of the first people to write one due to a busy weekend. However, I do want to comment on two things that stuck out in my mind about this event, namely Mirko Cro Cop’s loss to Cheick Kongo and Michael Bisping’s dodgy win over Matt Hamill.

Mirko Cro Cop Cheick KongoMirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Cheick Kongo: Cheick Kongo Wins by Unanimous Decision at 5:00 in the 3rd round.

Dang it all, Mirko just can’t catch a break in the UFC versus quality opponents. This is his second loss in a row and his official UFC record is now a disappointing 1-2. Is his heart in it any more? Is he getting old and washed up? Is he just catching some unlucky breaks? Is he simply an overrated in the first place?

Personally, I think it’s a little bit of all those things. Let’s examine (from my perspective anyway).

The guy has a life and career outside of fighting. He’s a politician, part of an anti-terrorist police squad, and was even signed by a football (soccer) club. He has a wife and son, runs his own gym, and has also starred in a motion picture. All these activities would keep anyone pretty busy, especially when you factor in all the training he must do to keep in shape for his fights. This leads me into point number two…

You have to wonder if his heart is in it anymore. On numerous occasions within the past couple years he has mentioned retirement from mixed martial arts. Sure, most of these comments come after defeats, so you could argue that he’s just feeling sorry for himself, but he may have peaked with his 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix tournament. After the victory, he mentioned that if he had lost, he would have quit fighting. That doesn’t sound a very tenacious competitor to me.

Is he getting old and washed up? That’s hard to judge but he turns 33 today (Happy Birthday Mirko!) and his recent losses have been due to physical injuries. If you look at Randy Couture, you might not think age is a determining factor for fighters, but Randy is just a freak of nature… he’s a true athlete, through and through. The older you get, the harder it is to keep up your cardio and the longer it takes for you to get over injuries.

One could argue that Mirko’s recent losses have been due to unlucky breaks. In his fight against Gabriel Gonzaga he claims that he didn’t properly train against elbows (illegal in Pride), which Gabe used to devastating effectiveness. After delivering a nasty body kick, Mirko was taken down by the young challenger and received several elbows to the face which resulted in some impaired vision after they stood back up. I think we all know what happened next, even though Mirko didn’t see it coming. In his fight against Kongo in UFC 75, a rib was broken in the first round and he was kneed in the junk twice in round two. Not only will those injuries affect you physically, but they’re going to mess with your mind. All of a sudden you’re thinking self-preservation… Every time you try mounting an offensive, your injuries are sending pain through every nerve in your body (believe me, I know how nasty rib injuries can be… it’s painful to even breathe). It was no shock that Cro Cop lost that match having sustained such unlucky injuries in the fight.

Finally, is Cro Cop an overrated fighter? Yes and no. He was touted as being the second best heavyweight in the world (good ole’ Fedor is number one), and his 2006 Pride win was a pretty good measure of that title. Given certain circumstances, he’s probably the most dangerous striker out there, unfortunately, he’s not as well rounded as someone like Emelianenko. If given distance and left to impose his will, you’re going to get your head kicked into next month. If pressed upon, clinched, or taken to the ground, his weapons are neutralized. You never really have to fear a submission from this guy (he’s only had one true submission victory – a guillotine choke on Randleman), and while his takedown defense is fairly good, if you do manage to get him down, you have a good chance at doing some damage. Unfortunately for Cro Cop, today’s fighters are starting to exploit his weaknesses and that is resulting in some bad outings for the Croatian striker.

I recently downloaded a torrent with 50+ Cro Cop fight videos and became a fan of his personality and fighting style. Even though he has talked about retirement on a number of occasions lately, I hope he still has the heart to bounce back as he has done many times before. The only other time he’s ever had back to back losses was way back in his kickboxing days (late 2000 against Bernardo and Hoost). If he were to have quit back then, we’d never have seen some of the best KOs in martial arts history. Keep on truckin’ Mirko!

Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill: Michael Bisping Wins by Split Decision at 5:00 in the 3rd round.

Let me start by saying I am a fan of Michael “The Count” Bisping. There, now that that’s out of the way, there’s no way he should have won the decision against Matt Hamill who completely dominated all three rounds of their fight on Saturday.

Matt had heavier hands, pushed the fight forwards almost indefinitely, and easily did the most damage. By my count, he even scored more points, though not by a large margin. One judge saw it my way scoring the bout 30-27 in favour of Matt but the other two scored it 29-28 for Mikey. How does one account for such a disparity of opinion amongst the judges? Hmmm… let me speculate and theorize (conspiratorially).

Michael won the Ultimate Fighter 3 and never got a chance to meet Hamill in their scheduled fight because the doctor’s wouldn’t clear Matt due to injury. Michael went on to face a much easier opponent in Josh Haines (you can’t discount the guy’s heart but his skills are nowhere near Hamill’s or Bisping’s) and destroyed him with strikes. That was the impetus for this fight. In Bisping’s opinion, he never would have truly won the Ultimate Fighter 3 if he couldn’t beat Hamill.

Here’s where the plot thickens. The stage for Saturday’s fight was London, England, Mike’s mother country. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bisping is Dana White’s ticket into the cash cow that is the European mixed martial arts market. I don’t have a problem with that at all because it’s a great strategy but take three factors into consideration:

  1. Bisping’s MMA record was a perfect 14-0
  2. This is a grudge match to determine the true Ultimate Fighter (3)
  3. Michael is fighting in his own country and the UFC is relying on him to expand their market

From a business perspective, would Dana White want Bisping to lose his first match to a guy he should have fought earlier but didn’t, which eventually made his career in the UFC? Would he want to taint an unbeaten record for a guy he’s “counting” on to bust open UFC’s market in Europe? I’m thinking NO on all “counts.” Okay, enough with the puns…

How does one explain a judge scoring the bout as most of the audience saw it (30-27), while the other two split the decision only slightly in Bisping’s favour? Winning this fight (as he should have) would have catapulted Matt Hamill into much greater things, but really… do they need another light heavyweight wrestler in the class (probably not…).

One could argue that Matt relied a bit too heavily on strikes rather than sticking to his bread and butter of takedowns. Had he continued taking Bisping to the ground, a decision win would have certainly been guaranteed simply due to points (look at the Koscheck/Sanchez fight). Even so, just look at the damage that was done to Bisping all over his face and you can see that he took the brunt of the punishment. To me, he even seemed a bit surprised as they announced his win, which says something considering how cocky he normally is.

In conclusion, although I’m still a Bisping fan, I think there was much more considered with the fight scores than points scored in the match. To me, it was an upset for Matt, and a business steal for Bisping.

Wow… surprisingly, this is probably more than I would have written had I simply reviewed the entire fight night, but these are the only two fights that I had passionate feelings for…

UPDATE #1: According to UFC Mania, Dana White has announced a Bisping / Hamill rematch, dubbing it a “no brainer.”

August 26, 2007

UFC 74 Respect (Review) – Couture vs. Gonzaga / St. Pierre vs. Koscheck / Cote vs. Grove / Huerta vs. Crane / Stevenson vs. Pellegrino

Filed under: american idol, MMA, personal, UFC — brainclutter @ 1:23 pm

Watch UFC 74!UFC 74 – Respect was a slobber knocker of a fight night, where the combatants not only displayed “respect” to each other, but each victor demanded it in his performance!

The night began with Guitar Hero II for Xbox 360 (damn you, Jessica on medium difficulty) and Alexander Keith’s (pale ale). By 8:30pm, we decided to head on over to The Fox and the Hedgehog to grab seats for the pre-fight interviews. Nachos were ordered, as well as Strongbow and Guinness, while we settled in for a night of great fighting.

Here’s my review, fight by fight, punch by meaty punch of the best Ultimate Fighting Championships of 2007:

Randy Couture (Heavyweight Champion) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga – WATCH VIDEO

In his first title defense since rocking the giant, Tim Silvia, Couture had quite possibly the toughest fight in his career ahead of him. Gabe Gonzaga, “the man who KO’d Cro Cop,” matches up very well against the champ… on paper that is. He holds a black belt in brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) and is proficient in muay thai and boxing. Couture’s conditioning is second to none in the UFC, especially for his age (44). “The Natural” is also an esteemed greco-roman wrestler and one of the best dirty boxers around.Couture Victorious!

Physically, these two heavyweights were evenly matched, so it really it all came down to heart… and a broken nose. From the get go, Couture was all over Gonzaga like stink on sweaty handwraps. It didn’t take long for them to get into a clinch after exchanging a few blows each, and as you well know, that’s Randy’s favorite place to be. Very quickly, Couture picked up the challenger and slammed him hard onto the mat. In the process, Randy’s head crushed Gabe’s nose into a bloody ruin… Gabe started to bleed profusely but managed to survive until the bell rang so his corner could try patch it up.

It never got any better for the young challenger, even though he very nearly took the champ’s head off with a high kick. Gabe spent most of round two in the clinch finding it harder and harder to breath as his chest and face were smothered with deadly intent. He spit out blood numerous times even asked for a time-out because he was unable to see. Herb Dean allowed the match to continue at Gabe’s behest. Round three saw a huge high kick land on Randy’s jaw, which didn’t even phase him and the fight eventually went to the ground where Couture achieved side mount, postured up, and pummeled Gonzaga. The official result was TKO by ref stoppage.

Randy, The Natural, Captain America, Couture emerged as though from a slaughterhouse with both fists raised. This man, 44 years old, 5-time champion, recent defender of his latest title was victorious. This man shocked everyone again, though in the end it seemed as though a win was never in question. This man took perhaps the toughest title challenger he’s faced to date (16 years his junior) and beat him down like a rag doll. This is a man I hope remains the champion for a very long time because his heart, personality, dedication, and skills are the model of everything MMA.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh KoscheckSt. Pierre Victorious!

What do you get when you take the former UFC welterweight champion, fresh off the biggest loss of his career to Matt Serra and pit him against a world-class wrestler and newfound striker who just delivered Diego Sanchez the biggest loss of HIS career? You get one hell of a fight, though a bit more one-sided than expected.

To be honest, I didn’t actually believe GSP when he claimed he’d out-wrestle the wrestler in pre-fight interviews, and apparently neither did Josh. However, Georges came into this fight with a head full of steam and quickly asserted himself against Koscheck on the ground with a very early takedown. The majority of round one was ground and pound action giving advantage to the recently acquired jiu jitsu brown belt, although, there was a late reversal by Josh to end the round. Round two began with another successful takedown by Georges but this time he managed to do some damage and very nearly submit Kos with a kimura.

By this point you could tell Josh was getting frustrated. Had he concentrated too much on his stand-up to try match GSP in strikes, while neglecting his groundwork? It appeared so, because he was being completely dominated. Round three saw both fighters exchange blows for the first couple minutes and Koscheck’s first takedown attempt. It didn’t quite work out for him as St. Pierre managed a brilliant feat of balance on one leg and a great sprawl, which led into a reversal. Josh was on his back for the third time in as many rounds and he never managed to get himself back up.

This match went to decision where Georges was the clear winner. Both fighters showed signs of mutual respect afterwards and one thing became clear… GSP is back and ready to work his way up to another title shot. This is a pretty big loss for Josh but it will probably benefit him greatly as it showed him humility in his ground game, which will eventually lead to becoming a better fighter in the future.

Patrick Cote vs. Kendall GroveCote Victorious

Another French-Canadian emerged victorious with Ultimate Fighter 4 finalist Patrick Cote defeating Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Kendall Grove. This match was likely designed to feed Grove, a rising star in the UFC, another victory on his road to the middleweight championship. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan.

Grove proved impossible to take down in the traditional sense due to his height (6’6″) and balance so Patrick was forced to try for other strategies. Late in the first round, Cote popped Kendall with a right hook behind his left ear as they were fading out of a clinch. This punch rocked Grove hard and he staggered backward and crumpled like a puppet masterless marionette. Cote saw his chance and took it, lunging for his dazed opponent. He quickly achieved full mount and TKO’d him with right-handed bombs to the side of the head as Grove gave up his back.

I’m not going to lie… it was nice to see trash-talking Kendall get his chops busted by a good ol’ Canadian boy. Maybe this will get him to take his opponents a bit more seriously in the future.

Roger Huerta vs. Alberto CraneHuerta Victorious!

Alberto Crane, only the second American to win the World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu championship was up against UFC rising star, Roger Huerta, who is one hell of a brawling greco-roman wrestler. With Crane’s credentials, I was actually kind of worried for my favorite lightweight, even though it was only his first official UFC bout. As the rounds progressed, I became a little less worried, however, the threat of an instantaneous submission attempt was constantly palpable.

What I love about Huerta is his athleticism and aggression. This guy is always ready to rumble and he’s like the Energizer Bunny… he keeps going and going. He’s very good on the ground, but sometimes, his aggressive tendencies land him in some compromising positions, which was my biggest fear during this match. He gave up his back, arms, and legs numerous times, which is a very dangerous thing to do against a BJJ master. Fortunately, his heavy fists did much of the work for him during this match, as well as his timely escapes from sticky situations. Early in round two, Huerta managed to close up Alberto’s left eye with a barrage of punches from a postured stance in his opponent’s guard. This is when things went downhill for Crane…

Even if his vision was working at capacity, he just didn’t have the steam to keep up with Roger. Crane’s takedown attempts in round three were only marginally successful, and that’s because Huerta smelled the blood and wanted to stay close and finish the job he started on his opponent’s melon. Eventually, an exhausted Alerbto Crane went down by TKO due to ref stoppage as he was being head punched into next week.

Huerta stood up, took a single deep breath, as you or I might after walking up a short flight of stairs, and appeared ready to go another three rounds without breaking a sweat. This guy is very entertaining to watch!

Joe Stevenson vs. Kurt PellegrinoStevenson victorious!

Ahhh, the purple-haired Batman, who is “a wrestling legend… in his home town,” (Goldberg introduced him as such!) vs. Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, winner of Ultimate Fighter 2’s welterweight final. For all the trash talking Kurt did pre-game, he sure didn’t deliver during this match.

I’m not going to lie… I was mostly eating nachos and downing Guinness during this fight, so I don’t have a very detailed fight review to share. All I really remember is that it went the distance, with Joe Stevenson winning by unanimous decision after numerous guillotine choke attempted and a highlight reel quality suplex.

——————————-

I was very happy with the match ups and results of UFC 74, and I’d rank it as the best UFC of 2007. I’m looking forward to September with UFC 75: Champion vs. Champion (Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson), UFC Fight Night on Spike followed by the season premiere of Ultimate Fighter 6, as well as UFC 76: Knockout (Chuck Liddell vs. Keith Jardine). That’s one HELL of a month if you ask me!

June 24, 2007

BJ Penn defeats Jens Pulver then crashes his own website!

Filed under: MMA, personal, UFC — brainclutter @ 12:49 am


Wow, the Ultimate Fighter season 5 finale live on Spike TV was some great entertainment! There were ups, downs, and even a few surprises (including BJ Penn dismissing a post-match interview with Joe Rogan by telling the audience to check out BJPenn.com “if they want to know what I really think”).

Here’s a recap from my point of view.

CO-MAIN EVENT: BJ Penn vs. Jens Pulver

This is the match we’ve been waiting for all season long: “The Prodigy” vs. “Little Evil!”

These guys are expert trash-talkers and they have the hate to back it up (technically, they “had” the hate as they made up after the fight – going so far as to say that they plan on TRAINING together in the future). BJ believes Jens made his career on their last match and wanted redemption for his loss. Jens literally pioneered the 155-pound weight class and believes that by beating “The Prodigy,” he already proved his skill. The stage was set for a brilliant fight!

Round one was hot and heavy! Pulver took a shot immediately after the horn and Penn pounced on the opportunity. Over the course of the first five-minutes the fight went from standing to the ground, back up, and back down again with a couple reversals for good measure. Pulver managed to escape a triangle and an arm bar, while Penn found himself in his own guard a couple times. They both stood up and even went toe-to-toe for about a minute, where Pulver had the advantage due to his boxing background.

Round two saw BJ lay the ground assault the way he does best. While Pulver valiantly defended himself on a number of occasions, he eventually gave up his back and got his arm trapped by a BJ body triangle. Within seconds Penn had Jens tapping out due to a rear-naked choke. The crazy part was that there were about 3 seconds after the ref called off BJ that he kept the choke sunk in. I think that was his little “f-you” for the evening.

CO-MAIN EVENT: Manny Gamburyan vs. Nate Diaz

This was slated to be an epic match-up, and it would have been were it not for the second freak accident of the evening…

Both Manny and Nate trained extremely hard for this fight because the title of Ultimate Fighter was up for grabs, along with a nifty custom watch, and oh yeah… a six-figure contract! They both stand in the shadows of great fighters in their family: Nate’s older brother Nick Diaz is arguably one of the best MMA fighters around and Manny’s cousin is Karo Parisyan, the judo-master who recently tuned Josh Burkman in UFC 71.

The fight started off very similar to the Nate Diaz/Gray Maynard semi-final match-up. Manny came out very strong against Nate and began his ground-and-pound dismemberment. Nate kept going for submissions but Manny is built like a tank, and it was hard for Nate to get a hold of his short, tree trunk-like arms. Round 1 went to Manny in terms of aggression and control but he didn’t actually do much damage to his opponent.

Round two is where I expected things to start going Nate’s way. Even though Manny is a very good ground fighter, he really pushed himself in the first round. As he wore himself down, I was expecting Nate to find a small opening and exploit it. Well… Manny managed to put himself out of the fight just like Gray Maynard three fights previous!

As he went for a shoot on Nate he managed to dislocate his own shoulder. He was in so much pain he actually tapped himself out as Nate was taking advantage of the situation by landing some head blows. Afterwards, he explained this was a recurring injury and that he had popped it out in the semi-final match against Lauzon as well. I’m really want to see a rematch of this fight because I think they’re perfectly matched for each other.


UNDERCARDS: Douglas Evans vs. Roger Huerta

Evans gave Huerta a run for his money during this first fight of the evening but couldn’t quite pull off the victory. His takedowns and takedown defense were great in round one, and he nearly submitted Huerta on a couple occasions. Unfortunately for Evans, Huerta came on strong in round 2, eventually winning the TKO by referee stoppage (rear-mount ground and pound). This would have been a huge upset for Huerta to lose, even though Evans proved himself highly skilled, mainly because he’s one of the poster-boys for MMA right now. Imagine being the first UFC fighter to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated then lose to some complete unknown in your next match! Awkward!

Floyd Sword vs. Thales Leites

Don’t you just hate them Jiu-Jitsu guys? Leites easily dispatched Floyd Sword in the second round, while dominating the ground game throughout their brief match. I bet Sword wishes he spent a bit more time on his sprawl and ground defense. I took a piss break during this match because I didn’t really know either of these fighters beforehand and therefore didn’t really care who won. Sorry I can’t elaborate further! 😛

Robert Emerson vs. Gray Maynard (no contest)

Here was the first big surprise of the night – a double KO! Throughout this season, I’ve never been a fan of Emerson. He’s got the looks and charisma to be marketable, but he just doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct required to be truly successful in this sport. His match against Cory Hill, a guy who had only fought one or two times in his career, was pitiful in my opinion. Even though Robert was robbed of the judge’s decision, he should have obliterated him. I wasn’t Maynard’s biggest fan either but at least he fights with tenacity.

Anyway, Emerson was getting tenderized in the first round and took a body shot that probably bruised and/or fractured his rib. He manned up enough to continue into round two where he was promptly uppercut-ed, right hooked, and pressed up against the fence. This is when Gray decided to capitalize on Emerson’s injured ribs by picking him up and slamming him back first into the floor. Unfortunately, Maynard landed on his head!

Emerson immediately tapped as he was in excruciating pain but Maynard actually KO’d himself on the take-down. The ref stopped the fight awarding the win to Gray, but as the doctors came out, they realized he was seeing stars himself. After a contentious decision by the judges, that was only really contentious to Gray who was either in denial or actually suffered memory loss, they scored the match a “no contest,” which basically means neither of them won!

Brandon Melendez vs. Joe Lauzon

Jo “J-Lo” Lauzon may have a terrible nickname, but he was my favorite fighter during this season. He was aggressive, skilled, and had an even-tempered attitude. Dana White said it best: “This may kid look like a computer geek, but he’ll rip your fuckin’ head off!” Melendez was alright I guess but I wasn’t a huge fan of his whiny drama at times during the season. I honestly didn’t think Melendez stood a chance – and I was almost wrong!

Brandon gave Lauzon a few scares during the fight but eventually became too predictable for his own good. J-Lo is a strategic fighter, not some bubblegum ghetto princess as his moniker might lead you to believe! Brandon kept giving up his back in a seated position up against the fence then kept trying to spin out and drop bombs. Well, finally Joe let Brandon punch himself into a triangle, which he immediately tapped out of.

This is one thing I notice between the seasoned fighters and the newcomers to the sport… self preservation instinct. Jens Pulver found himself in numerous submissions by Penn in the main event, yet he managed to work his way out of all but one. These neophytes get into a scary situation and they immediately panic. It took Brandon 3 seconds in the triangle before tapping. Pulver was in the triangle for about 25 seconds but he stayed calm and worked his way out.

Andy Wang vs. Cole Miller

Apparently Andy Wang is a master Jiu-Jitsu fighter… too bad we never get to see it as he keeps trying to match his sub par striking ability against actual strikers! He managed to piss off his coach, BJ Penn, during season 5 because he abandoned his game plan during his one pathetic showing vs. Melendez and wouldn’t listen to the advice being shouted out from his corner. I guess Dana wanted to give him another opportunity to show his stuff against Cole Miller in the season finale but I wasn’t too shocked to see him get his ass handed to him again.

Cole TKO’d him by ref stoppage in the very first round initiated by a high kick to the head that dropped him hard. Wang was trying to defend himself from the barrage of punches being rained down upon him, but I don’t think he was doing it effectively enough, and apparently, neither did the ref.

UPDATE 1: Wow, this post has been viewed about 1,000 times in the last 72 hours – the most I’ve ever received in such a short amount of time. Where did most of the traffic come from? Search results! Can you believe it? I actually made it to the number two result for “bj penn jens pulver,” just under Wikipedia for BJ Penn in such a short amount of time. Kudos to the SEO prowess of WordPress!

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