Singapore, why no support for Kawajiri and Imanari?

In this past Saturday’s ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) event held in Singapore, DREAM standouts  Tatsuya Kawajiri and Masakau Imanari fought in Southeast Asia for the first time in both their careers. Both made quick work of their opponent, with both victories coming by first round submission, Kawajiri by Triangle Choke and Imanari by his signature leglock.

Despite being veterans of major promotions like Dream and Strikeforce, both Japanese veterans received surprisingly muted responses as they entered the cage. This is a strange roundabout from the vocal crowd who nearly tore the roof down when local fighters Nicole Chua and Quek Kim Hock won their respective fights. Even lesser known names like Zorobel Moreira and Eddie Ng received louder cheers.

I don’t get it. Here we have two of the best fighters not under the Zuffa umbrella fighting courtesy of a deal with Dream, and yet the crowd doesn’t seem overly excited. It is especially disappointing for Tatusya Kawajiri, who has fought in front of crowds triple the size of the Singapore audience in Pride and Strikeforce and headlined title fights in Dream.

It is expected for local fighters to get louder cheers, and Eddie Ng, Zorobel Moreira and several others train out of Singapore so are considered local favourites as well. It could also be that Tatsuya Kawajiri’s grinding ground and pound style is not the most exciting and crowd pleasing.  But their countrymen like Yuya Shirai and Yoshiyuki Nakanishi got louder cheers despite being less popular in Japan, and even Richie Whitson whose most notable for appearing on a reality television show got a louder pop.

Full credit goes to both of them, as that did not seem to deter them in their bouts. 

Leave a comment

Filed under MMA

Playoff Predictions after Week 15 (NFC edition)

You can read about my AFC predictions here.

NFC

The NFC playoff picture is done and dusted, and week 16 will be a mere exhibition for all playoff bound teams. We shall see which team rests their players and which teams believe that playing time is crucial in developing momentum.

NFC Wild-Card Round

Philadelphia Eagles versus Dallas Cowboys

 

Will the Cowboys actually break their jinx and win a match in the postseason? If that were to ever happen in this lifetime, I doubt it would be this year. The Eagles look to be gaining steam at the right time and are playing well on offense with or without Brian Westbrook. The Dallas Cowboys still look erratic, although Tony Romo is showing maturity in handling the famed December meltdown.

Prediction: Eagles 21, Cowboys 14

Arizona Cardinals versus Green Bay Packers

This match would actually take place twice in a row, as they would face each other come week 16. The Green Bay defense is playing their best football in recent memory, and Aaron Rodgers have proven he can be a leader. Now let’s see how he leads in the playoffs. Green Bay to win in a shootout.

Prediction: Green Bay 39, Arizona 34

NFC Divisional Round

New Orleans Saints versus Philadelphia Eagles

 Should the Saints be worried about their two game losing streak? I say no. This team may be inexperienced in the playoffs, but they have leaders who have been there before and can rally the team. Drew Brees and Darren Sharper are veterans and essential to the team’s success not only by their performance, but also by how well they can motivate the team.

Prediction: Saints 41, Eagles 27

Minnesota Vikings versus Green Bay Packers

How much of a feud is there between star quarterback Brett Favre and coach Brad Childress? Viking fans should hope that it wasn’t much. The Vikings and Packers are evenly matched with playmakers catching the ball, and studs on defense. The one thing that the Vikings have that the Packers don’t? A certain player with the initials A.P. Favre to do a trey on his old team!

Prediction: Vikings 25, Packers 18

NFC Championship

New Orleans Saints versus Minnesota Vikings

Unlike the AFC, the NFC championship will be the two top ranked teams from the conference. Brett Favre likes to throw it, so does Drew Brees. The Saints have more playmakers on defense though. This should be a match for the ages, but the Saints will probably come out on top, while Favre and Childress exchange punches on the sidelines (only half kidding!).

Prediction: Saints 32, Vikings 30

Superbowl

New Orleans Saints versus Cincinnati Bengals

The grandest stage of them all! The black and gold of the Saints will take the field on a Starlit February night in Miami to take on the orange and black stripes of the Bengals. I think the New Orleans Saints will outmatch the bengals where it matters, with Brees putting up 200+ yards while the Bengals cannot get their run game going.

Prediction: Saints 26, Bengals 10

Superbowl Champions: New Orleans Saints

The end of a fairytale story that started shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The team have boosted the morale of a city and state that needed something to cheer for.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

Playoffs Prediction After Week 15

Now that week 15 is almost in the books (other than the one Min/Chi game that would not affect the standings), let’s take a look at how the playoff picture looks now.

AFC

The AFC division leaders are all confirmed. We have New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts reclaiming their position as AFC East champions and AFC South titles respectively after losing it last year, the Cincinnati Bengals as new AFC South champions and San Diego Chargers coming out tops in a very mediorce AFC West division.

Right now, there are 5 teams in the wild-card race. If Baltimore Ravens win against the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets win against a Bengals team that might be looking to rest their starters, and I believe they will, then the two teams will secure the two wild card spots, with the Ravens being the higher ranked team based on a better record against common opponents. The Denver Broncos need either of them to lose, while the other two teams, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers, need all three teams to lose to be in with a shout.

For the sake of discussion, we shall assume that the Jets and Ravens both win.

AFC Wild-Card Round

The Jets will face division rivals the Patriots in what is surely to be a heated contest. The Ravens will then face their division leaders as well in the Cincinnati Bengals, while players from the Chargers and the Colts can enjoy the action from their living rooms as they get a bye.

New England Patriots versus New York Jets

The teams split the regular season matches with one apiece, but the Jets victory came in week 2 when Mark Sanchez was on fire and Tom Brady have yet to discover his Midas touch. Their 4 straight victories leading up to week 15 claimed the AFC East Crown, and also unveil the Tom Brady of old. The Patriots defense looks suspect at times, but expect the Moss-Welker-Brady axis to be too strong for the Jets defense.

Prediction: Patriots 34, Jets 10

Cincinnati Bengals versus Baltimore Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals play with heavy hearts as they lost two endearing members of their team. Wife of defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, was like a mother to the players while wide receiver Chris Henry passed away in an unfortunate incident. The Ravens have been inconsistent this year, and have not strung together consecutive victories since week 3. Expect the Bengals defense to torture Joe Flacco and the Bengals to come out on top.

Prediction: Bengals 21, Ravens 17

AFC Divisional Round

Indianapolis Colts versus New England Patriots

There is no way to choose between the two most successful franchises of the decade and be absolutely sure of your decision. I’ll go with the New England Patriots because they have a coach in Bill Belicheick who has to be considered in best coach ever debates, while Jim Caldwell is still unproven in the playoffs. Expect a squeaker.

Prediction: Patriots 28, Colts 27

San Diego Chargers versus Cincinnati Bengals

The Chargers are riding a 10 game winning streak and there have been calls for Phillip Rivers to be considered as NFL MVP of the season. I don’t think he deserves the award. I also don’t think their defense can stop Cedric Benson. The bye week is probably a bane rather than a boon for the Chargers, who I predict will go one and done in the playoffs, then costing Norv Turner his job.

Prediction: Bengals 21, Chargers  17

AFC Championship

New England Patriots versus Cincinnati Bengals

Yes, I’m predicting the 3rd and 4th seeds to be in the AFC Final. It’ll be a classic battle of a running Bengals offense against a passing Patriots offense in a battle to see who can wear down the opponent more and who can put more points on the board. The Bengals are going to the Superbowl!

Prediction: Bengals 17, Patriots 14

3 Comments

Filed under NFL, Uncategorized

10 most successful fighters from The Ultimate Fighter

 It’s been ten long seasons since The Ultimate Fighter(TUF) made its debut on Spike TV. It can safely be said that TUF is a roaring success. Not only has it helped the UFC discover a whole new legion of fighters, it can also be credited for helping UFC gain mainstream coverage and helping them move into the television sets of the general public. We look back at the ten best fighters to have emerged from the show.

Honourable mention:  Mike Swick

Mike ‘Quick’ Swick competed in the inagural season of the Ultimate Fighter, eventually losing to a larger Stephen Bonnar. Mike Swick’s record after the show was over is nothing short of amazing. 9 wins and only 2 losses, with the most recent being a decision against Dan Hardy. He’s also incredibly versatile, going from Light Heavyweight while in the Ultimate Fighter, eventually dropping down to Welterweight, a good 35 pounds lighter. His two losses has to be considered costly though, as on both occasions, he was on the cusp of getting a title shot.

10. Keith Jardine

Keith ‘The Mean’ Jardine has defeated top fighters in Chuck Liddell and Brandon Vera, but have also notched up losses against the likes of Stephen Bonnar (who despite reaching the final of TUF season 1, has never really been at the level of his opponent that night, Forrest Griffin), Houston Alexander (the guy Kimbo Slice defeated in his UFC debut) and Thiago Silva. He’s a decent Light Heavyweight but will probably never come close to the title.

9. Joe Stevenson

Winner of the Ultimate Fighter Season 2, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson has had a tumultous journey in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He’s come close to tasting gold in his fight against BJ Penn for the interm Lightweight title, but eventually fell short.

He’s has notable losses against fellow TUF alum Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian which has put a blemish on his record.

8. Josh Koscheck

Josh Koscheck lost to eventual winner Diego Sanchez in the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, but he got his revenge when he received a unanimous decision victory over Sanchez in UFC 69. He’s defeated several notable names, including Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, Frank Trigg, Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Chris Lytle.

He has been defeated 4 times in his UFC career though.

7. Gray Maynard

While on the Ultimate Fighter Fighter season 5, Gray ‘The Bully’ Maynard was not particularly impressive, losing in the semi-finals and drawing in controvesial fashion against Rob Emerson in the finale.

He’s been unstoppable ever since, notching up 6 consecutive victories, and is still the only person who has defeated Frank Edgar. His next fight is against Nate Diaz and a showdown against his TUF coach and current Lightweight champion, BJ Penn is on the horizon. Should he be able to do what Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian and Joe Stevenson have failed and capture the title, he will surge right to the top of the rankings. Till then, he’ll have to be satisfied in this position.

6. Kenny Florian

Kenny ‘Kenflo’ Florian have beaten almost everyone there is to beat in the Lightweight division. His fallen opponents includes Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Roger Huerta, Joe Lauzon and Sam Stout.

He would have been ranked alot higher, if not for the fact that he could never beat the very best. He fought both Sean Sherk and BJ Penn for the Lightweight championship, and was not able to overcome that final hurdle on both occasions. His fight with BJ Penn was particularly embarassing, being completely dominated for four rounds before being locked in the rear naked choke and forced to tap out.

5. Diego Sanchez

For those who do not already know, Diego ‘Nightmare’ Sanchez was the winner of the first season, and looked unstoppable while on the show. He continued the impressive streak in the UFC, but has 3 losses to his name thus far. His first loss in the UFC came against Josh Koscheck. He revealed after the fight he had a severe staph infection. A staph infection weakens a fighter. His other loss came against a larger Jon Fitch, and the recent loss to BJ Penn, who is arguably the best fighter ever in the Lightweight division.

4. Michael Bisping

Michael Bisping entered the house with an unbeaten record, and he left the house with his record intact and a new contract to boot, becoming Season 3’s Light Heavyweight winner.

Since then, he has only lost twice, to Rashard Evans (who might still make an appearance in this ranking), and Ben Henderson. Perhaps his hardest test is to come in UFC 110 when he faces former Pride Light Heavyweight Champion, Wanderlei Silva.

3. Matt Serra

The top 3 fighters have all become champions in their respective division. Matt ‘The Terror’ Serra was the winner of Season 4 ‘The Comeback’, earning a shot at the UFC welterweight champion at that time, Georges St.Pierre. Nobody gave him a chance in that fight, and he posted what most consider the biggest upset of the new millemium by catching GSP and then pounded on him before the referee stopped the fight, making him the new Welterweight champion.

He eventually lost it back to GSP in the rematch.

2. Forrest Griffin

The match between Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar to become the Ultimate Fighter is considered by many (myself included) as the best match of the decade in all of Mixed Martial Arts. Griffin eventually came out on top that night.

Here’s a rundown of who’s he defeated, and you’ll understand why he’s here. Stephen Bonnar in a rematch, submitted Mauricio Rua, defeated Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson to become Light Heavyweight champion, and a win against Tito Ortiz, who he lost to earlier in his career. He’s lost the title to the #1 ranked person on this list though, which explains why he’s second best.

1. Rashad Evans

The brash, arrogant jerk from The Ultimate FIghter Season 2 turns out to be quite the fighter after all. Since winning in Season 2, he’s only been defeated once, to current Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida. He’s been able to defeat the likes of Chuck Liddell, Michael Bisping, and Forrest Griffin for the Light Heavyweight title. His record stands at 8-1-1, with a draw coming against Tito Ortiz.

He has been entrenched in the upper echelon of the Light Heavyweight scene, and will be for several years to come.

 We shall see what the more recent fighters, like Ryan Bader, Efrain Escudero and Roy Nelson have to offer in a few years down the road.

4 Comments

Filed under MMA

Should they go for 16-0?

As the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints continue their trailblazing form, the question grows bigger and bigger. It looks likely that it will be answered, or at least half of it anyway, come this thursday when the Colts face the Jacksonville Jaguars. The question? Aim for 16-0, yes or no?’

Let’s look at the positives first. You get the chance to go for the holy  grail. To some, going undefeated might just be bigger than winning the Superbowl itself. Every year, a new Superbowl champion is crowned. But it’s rare to see a team go undefeated. To see either the Colts or Saints join the Patriots in the same decade would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Even if they don’t win the Superbowl, going undefeated will immediately put u in an elite class of unbeatables like the Miami Dolphins of 1970 and the New England Patriots of 2008.

Why they should go for 16-0

Another reason why you should just go for broke and aim for 16-0 is the momentum it brings going into the postseason. The starters will play at an extremely competitive level all the way to the postseason, and they still get a week to rest before their playoff journeys begin. If everything goes as planned, the players will be fresh and they will remain competitive. It’s a win-win situation.

It also brings an air of excitement to the city, and keeps the hype on the team. All that attention would bring additional pressure on the team to succeed. It would be a pre-playoff test of how your players handle the pressure. This is particularly important to the New Orleans Saints, where most of their players have yet to taste Superbowl glory, while the Colts retain a large part of their 2007 Superbowl winning team.

Why they should not go for 16-0

It isn’t a bed of roses though. The risk of injury would linger every time a player is slow to get up. That’s the main motivation for the decision makers, Sean Payton and Jim Caldwell, to sit their starters. If they choose this route, they would hope giving them an extended period of rest would bring the players back, more rejuvanated than ever to make that final push for the season.

It also gives your backups a chance to shine. By the way the team performed this year, many of the players would expect a raise in salary. By having your backups play, and if they could do a commendable job, it gives u a bargaining chip on the negotiation table where they don’t necessarily need to overpay if they have a capable replacement already on the team.

What they should do

Jon Madden pointed out in a recent interview that by resting some players while others play is creating a hierachy system in your team and it destroys the all-for-one, one-for-all concept. There’s the risk of creating disharmony in the locker room if they try this, which is why they should’t.

What they should do instead is put them in for the first half. Tell your first team players that they should try to put as many points on the board before the match is handed over to the backups. At half-time, regardless of the score, pull the entire first team offense and defense. This also gives the backups an additional incentive to not  let the team down.

Thoughts?

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

What’s next for BJ “The Prodigy” Penn?

Diego Sanchez questioned BJ Penn’s cardio in the pre-fight show. Conditioning was supposedly BJ Penn’s biggest downfall. After thorougly dissecting Diego Sanchez in UFC 107, and destroying Kenny Florian in equally devastating fashion, it’s safe to say that the perceived weakness in BJ’s game is eradicated. With 2 succesive title defenses in 2009, there is almost nobody left in the lightweight division who could pose a challenge. So what’s next for the Hawaii’s prodigial son in the year 2010?

1. Stay in the division and continuing dominating.

There’s really two lightweights left that are even close to a title shot, namely Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. When the two crossed paths in 2008, Maynard walked away with a victory and have continued his undefeated streak since.  Edgar have bounced back from that setback to record three wins as well, and that remains the only time he has lost in the UFC.

Maynard is scheduled to fight Nate Diaz next on 11 January, while Edgar jus defeated Matt Veach. That leaves both of them free to face BJ Penn somewhere in the middle of next year.  Since Maynard is still undefeated, it would only make more sense for him to get the next shot, provided he gets past Nate Diaz first. He’s almost the same size as Penn, and have about the same reach. There’s a story to their relationship already. BJ Penn was his coach in TUF 5, where he volunteered to be on BJ’s team.

The one glaring weakness in his game is that he’s not had a knockout or submission in the past two years. With BJ Penn’s improved cardio and the likelihood of the fight going five rounds, the lack of a potential knockout punch might prove costly. He’s also not fought anybody close to BJ Penn’s level, the closest probably being his next fight against Diaz. He might need another match against a Clay Guida or a Kenny Florian as a gauge to see how well he does against quality top-10 opponents.

Other than that loss to Maynard, Frank Edgar have been outstanding, with 11 wins and only that one loss. However, as Joe Rogan pointed out in his fight with Matt Veach, his small frame makes it easy for his opponent to outwrestle him. He would be destroyed by Penn if there were put in the same ring. 

Neither contenders are main event quality like Sanchez or Florian, which makes it even more unlikely that Dana White would make it a main event fight.

2. Catchweight bout with Jose Aldo

If you don’t know who Jose Aldo is, shame on you. He’s the current featherweight champion in the WEC, UFC’s sister promotion. All 6 of his fights in the WEC so far have ended in TKO. He’s already beaten WEC stalwarts Mike Brown and Cub Swanson. Sooner or later, he will clean out the division just like how BJ Penn is doing.

There’s only so far he can go if he stays in the WEC. The casual viewer would still not be able to recognize him. He could bulk up and move to 155, and a potential fight with BJ Penn would make the hardcore fans salivate. The only question is, would the PPV buys drop if an unknown like Aldo is facing one of your champions?

3.  Move up to fight Georges St Pierre

BJ Penn’s arch nemesis, Georges St Pierre is tearing through his Welterweight contenders much like Aldo and Penn are in their respective divisions. GSP has an upcoming fight with Dan Hardy at UFC 11,  but after that, there is only a short line of welterweights left that can hold a torch with GSP.

This feud has been one of the most entertaining in recent memory. Many people thought Penn should have won the first fight, followed by the Grease-gate saga in the second. Penn wants another shot at GSP, the only question that remains is whether St Pierre feels the same. If he does, Dana will make this fight in a hearbeat.

If this fight were to happen, Penn has to once again, move up to Welterweight. There is no chance a catchweight fight happens for two reasons. The first is that rumor has it that GSP is looking to move up a division, and is putting on weight. If that is the case, it would be impossibly hard for him to go any lower than 170, the Welterweight weight limit. The second reason would be that if it was at a Catchweight, neither titles can be on the line, so what happens after the fight? They go back to tear through their opponents in their respective divisions?

It also gives the UFC to build more credible challengers in both divisions. This fight is the most likely to happen. All it needs is for GSP to say yes. Expect GSP vs Penn, UFC 120.

Leave a comment

Filed under MMA