Leg Man – Did Palhares Get Dirty with Steve Carl’s Leg?

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I’ve lamented in the past about the strange and sad journey of Rousimar Palhares and his run in the UFC.  I try my best to keep fighter criticism to nil, but in the case of Palhares, I ultimately sided with the camp that said, despite how phenomenally talented Toquinho is, perhaps fighting isn’t the best occupation for him given his proclivity to intentionally hurt his MMA opponents…  and his sparring partners…  and fellow competitors in grappling matches.

After the UFC cut ties with Palhares, he found a home with the one fight promotion that isn’t into the whole brevity thing, The World Series of Fighting.  World Series of Fighting president Ray Sefo went on record in December stating that while the WSOF would welcome Palhares with open arms, they would not tolerate any of the shenanigans that led to his UFC release.

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So, after all eyes were on Palhares to make sure he would pass his pre-fight drug test administered by the Nevada state Athletic Commission, all eyes were on Palhares to see if he could manage to submit his opponent Steve Carl and whether or not he would intentionally hold on to the submission as he had done many times in the past.

After all of the context, on Saturday night, this happened:

So, did he or didn’t he? Too close to call?  It all depends on the POV you bring to the fight.

From my perspective, it seems like Palhares held on too long.  I know that Ray Sefo thinks I’m crazy, and I’ve been called worse, but allow me to explain.

Given the position of the referee and the fact that Carl taps before the ref intervenes, Palhares could have let go of the heel hook.  The cameras saw the tap.  The commentators saw the tap.  The people in the arena saw the tap. The referee saw the tap (even is he was slightly out of position to break it up fast enough). It would be impossible to argue that Carl didn’t tap.  It was clear to Carl and everyone else watching that Carl had been bested, yet Palhares held on when he didn’t have to.  When the evidence is that clear, and an opponent knows he has been defeated, shouldn’t the tap be enough?

But what about Matt Lindland and Murilo Bustamante? Aren’t fighters trained to “keep going” until the referee says otherwise?  It’s the fighters’ job to fight.  It’s the referee’s job to protect the fighters, right?

I concede that fighters are trained to continue fighting until the referee says stop and waiting until the fight is stopped by a referee eliminates any second guessing by the fighters or the public.  By the letter of the law and the spirit of the rules in place, Palhares didn’t do anything illegal in Saturday night’s win over Steve Carl. He followed the rules as they are spelled out and obeyed the command by referee Yves Lavigne to stop.  However, shouldn’t we expect more out of the fighters in a situation like the one presented on Saturday night?  It’s easy to write off the responsibility a fighter has to another fighter as something out of his/her hands and that it’s the sole responsibility of the referee to protect the fighters, but can’t we expect a little more from the fighters themselves?  Just because a fighter can crank on a joint once his/her opponent has tapped, does it mean he/she should?  I don’t buy that fighters are machines programmed to do something and not use their own judgment.  There are numerous examples in the cage of a fighter ignoring the advice of a corner and doing his/her own thing. However, it all depends on the fighter/fighters in question.

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Consider the case of Anthony Pettis’ most recent win against Benson Henderson.  Pettis wrapped up Henderson in an arm bar that was so deep, Henderson could only verbal tap out. And even then, due to the position of the fighters and referee Herb Dean, the submission went unheard by the referee and the entire crowd in attendance in Milwaukee.    No one knew what had happened except the fighters who were involved in the fight.  By all rights, Pettis could have held on to the hold and raised his hips, further inflicting damage until Herb Dean came to break it up, but he didn’t.  There was enough respect among both competitors that they knew what had happened even if no one else did at first blush. Henderson could have argued that he didn’t tap if he wanted and likely have gotten a restart.  He didn’t.  The Pettis/Henderson example also speaks to the character of both the victor and the vanquished.

I won’t question Palhares’ character.  I don’t know him.  What I do know is that he was suspended for 90 days in 2010 for continuing to crank on submissions after an opponent and referee had called for a stop to the fight.  What I do know is that he lost his job in 2013 for the very same offense.  What I do know is that every time Palhares slaps a winning leg submission on an opponent, a great number of people will scrutinize just how quick he releases the submission.  Lastly, what I know above all else is that only Palhares has himself to blame for the baggage he brings into the cage.

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Breakfast Battle Royale (With Cheese)

In non-MMA news, but still fight news, Taco Bell fired shots at McDonald’s, specifically, McDonald’s breakfast menu:

The restaurant (and I use that term in the loosest sense) will take on the breakfast market and McDonald’s breakfast menu specifically.  In Chael Sonnen-like fashion, the innovators of the Doritos Loco Tacos and the Draino of the human digestive system began airing ads over the last few days poking the bear by including testimonies of random people named Ronald McDonald, praising the breakfast menu at Taco Bell as greater than McDonald’s.

When asked for comment, my wife, an avid breakfast fan responded, “I don’t know what we as Americans did to deserve a Taco Bell breakfast menu, but I’m sure we can take it back.”

Much like Alien vs. Predator, whichever company wins in the breakfast one-on-one, we lose.

When the Opening Act Eclipses the Headliner – UFC 173’s New Additions

Late to the game this weekend because it’s soccer season, but with the kids watching Frozen…again…and the WSOF on live, I’m taking a minute to weigh in on the new bouts announced for UFC 173.

Murder on the dancefloor

Murder on the dance floor

Two BIG announcements yesterday afternoon saw two BIG fights added to UFC 173’s card including Renan Barao versus TJ Dillashaw as the Weidman/Machida replacement and a welterweight scrap between Jake Ellenberger and Robbie Lawler.

So, yes, I was completely wrong about Rich Franklin coming to save the day and rescuing the UFC once again.  Apparently Rich is content making juice for now.  The bantamweight bout between Barao and Dillashaw makes sense.  It’s a title fight, and those are easier to sell.  Dana White has mentioned quite often how much he thinks Barao deserves to be the p4p king.  Barao is also really being pushed by the UFC marketing machine as a p4p candidate, and rightfully so.  Barao is undefeated since 2005 and has only seen one of his fights outside a single loss NOT end in victory (a 2007 NC).  Barao is simply a stud, but why doesn’t his title reign feel, for lack of a better word, right?  He became the official champion and loss his interim label when Dominick Cruz had to pull out of their last fight due to injury.  He’s defended the belt, interim or not, against top flight competition. He even has a great celebratory dance.

Still, his dominance has left some fans with a case of the Aldos in that there is little drama about the outcome when he steps into the cage.  Enter TJ Dillashaw.  TJ has the wrestling pedigree and has developed a decent set of hands since entering the UFC.  Whether or not that is enough to stop the dancing machine remains to be seen.  While I would never call a title fight in any class a lackluster affair, there seems to be something missing about the main event.  It lacks a certain sex appeal, a certain narrative, a certain battle cry for fans to rally around.  Dillashaw and Barao aren’t as well known to outside of MMA circles, and maybe that’s part of it, but the mere fact that it’s a title fight could help to bolster the expectations that a main event normally carries.

To help bolster the card itself the other announcement made yesterday was that Ruthless Robbie Lawler will make a quick rerun to the octagon and take on welterweight contender Jake the Juggernaut Ellenberger.  Yes. Sir.

This is an atypical case where one of the undercard fights has more significant implications than the title fight in the main event simply because of the new life that has been breathed into the welterweight division since GSP stepped away.

After a phenomenal showing against Johny Hendricks at UFC 171, Lawler will have the opportunity to make his case why he deserves a rematch with Hendricks by making a quick return to the cage.  This is a brilliant move by Lawler.  It gives him first crack while the other contenders have to follow his act, which lately has been a hard thing to do. It also gives him an opportunity for a quick encore, especially after earning a lot of good will from the fans in his barn burner with Hendricks.  If real estate is all about location, the fight game is all about timing, and with Hendricks out and Condit out and with Lombard, Woodley, and MacDonald without opponents, Robbie Lawler is proving that he has great timing.  All it takes is a well-placed shot to Ellenberger to prove he deserves to leapfrog the glut of 170-pound contenders.

Of course it won’t be as easy as just showing up for Lawler as Ellenberger always seems to step up when the competition is at its toughest.  Also, Ellenberger has a habit of TKOing and KOing bigger welterweights.  He made short work of former 185-pound Strikeforce champion, Jake Shields.  He also ran though perennial 185-pound contender turned 170-pound contender Nate Marquardt.  Lawler, who used to fight at 185, definitely has his work cut out for him.  A win over Lawler, especially a win with a brilliant finish could allow Ellenberger to pass the logjam at the top of the 170-pound class.

With the addition of Barao/Dillashaw and Lawler/Ellenberger to a card that also includes a heavyweight tilt between Dos Santos/Miocic, the Weidman/Machida sized hole in UFC 173 seems to be filled.

Lessons Learned from Lion Fight 14’s Co Main Event & Why Cyborg’s Loss has No Bearing on a Potential Fight with Ronda Rousey

via AxisTV

via AxisTV

After Cyborg’s loss to Jorina Baars in last night’s Lion Fights 14 event in Las Vegas, some things became crystalized and other things got foggier.  While this was a Muay Thai fight and not an MMA fight, Cyborg looked sloppy and plodding, but she also showed she was equal parts powerful and gutsy.

Barrs’ striking looked exactly how one might expect someone who is 33-0 in Muay Thai to look: crisp, clean, and calculating.  However, she also looked out of sorts when Cyborg was able to get inside and throw big power shots overhead.  When Baars was being pushed into the ropes, she could only lift her leg to create defense.  When they clinched, and the flashes of MMA were seen in those clinches, Baars offered very little resistance and was tossed on her back with very little effort from Cyborg.

It’s apples to apricots to compare Muay Thai and MMA, sure, but all I could see was the ground openings for Cyborg to pounce and when Baars was tossed on her back. When Baars was on point, she fed Cyborg knee after knee, leaving Cyborg looking more human than cybernetic.  Still, despite being hurt, Cyborg continued to press forward, even if she didn’t have the best defensive strategy as Baars pushed back.  The fight was an entertaining five-round affair, some would argue even more entertaining than the last few women’s fights in the UFC.

Some things I learned while watching Lion Fights 14’s co-main event:

  • Jorina Baars is slick.  With her frame, her footwork, and her intelligence, she could give a lot of MMA fighters fits if they were only allowed to strike with her.  If she learned takedown defense and some submission defense, she could really shake things up in either Invicta or the UFC.
  • Cyborg can take a punch, a knee, a kick, even a shovel to the head. Usually, Cyborg doles out the striking punishment, but in last night’s fight, she absorbed quite a bit. And she was never really out of it.  She was lost to find an answer for Baars’ striking.  She was floored and stumped, but she was never really rocked.  I have yet to see a women’s fighter in MMA with the level of Baars’ striking outside of Holly Holm.  Not Ronda Rousey, not Miesha Tate, not Gina Carano, not any of the other players in the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC or in Invicta demonstrate that level of striking.  That being said, I’d put my money on any of the fighters in Invicta or the UFC’s women’s bantamweight roster in an MMA match over Baars on any day that ends in “y”. All of the fighters in the UFC and Invicta are likely well-rounded outside of the striking game.  They have to be.
  • Tito Ortiz knows as much about Muay Thai as I do, that is to say very little, yet he was there cornering Cyborg.  While Ortiz may not be Cyborg’s manager any longer his presence still casts a skyscraper-like shadow over Cyborg (no; that is not a shot about Tito’s head).  Cyborg already has a great deal of attention and a lot of expectations thrown on her as a result of her past and her potential within the sport.  To continue to keep a lightning rod like Ortiz around is to flirt with distraction.  Tito does not like playing second banana to anyone.  And Tito has proved time and again, he wilts under the media spotlight (see his gymnasium press conference and his post fight interviews with Alliction).  Maybe that can work out in Cyborg’s favor.  If everyone is focused on Tito being Tito and the brush fire he will ignite at some point, it allows Cyborg to stay in the conversation and Tito to be the distraction.  But with the questions around her weight cut, her campaign to get into the UFC, and her past PED use, the road is already a tough one.
  • I cannot watch Muay Thai or boxing matches without getting antsy.  Too many opens for a takedown.  Too much referee interference.  Too little time for any drama to build.  I’m spoiled.  I can appreciate watching the striking abilities of Baars and Cyborg’s heart, but I need to see more than one aspect to a fight.

What the fight proved more than anything was that when you take a multi-dimensional fighter from MMA and put boundaries around her, making her one dimensional, things are going to play out in the favor of participant who is 33-0 in that one dimension as opposed to the participant who is 3-0 in that dimension. It was the inverse of what people learned when James Toney fought Randy Couture—take away the weapons of someone like Cyborg, force her to fight with one approach, and the chances of her dominating a fight drop, making her look less like The Terminator and more like Johnny 5.

I know some will say this loss hurts Cyborg’s chances of getting the fight with Ronda.  And, Jeremy Botter said it best last night:

While I’m not convinced it will be a major hurdle, Cyborg’s loss will be the card that gets played the harder the negotiations play out.  Will it affect how the parties bargain during contract talks?  Sure.  Will it make it harder for Cyborg to get a fight with Rousey?  Not any harder than it already is.  Wins and losses matter when it comes to granting someone a title fight (at least they should matter), and I think this takes a little of the shine off of a title fight between Rousey and Cyborg.   But wins and losses don’t affect a storyline like the one that has been prewritten for Rousey/Cyborg. Title or not, the fight still should and will happen.

Wanderlei wanted to do more than just fight Chuck at one time.

For example, back in 2006, Dana White brought Wanderlei Siva into the octagon with Chuck Liddell after a lackluster Tito Ortiz/Ken Shamrock sequel and announced Chuck Liddell would fight Wanderlei if he were to get through Babalu Sobral, setting up a clash of titans between Liddell and Silva.  The fight didn’t take place until almost a year and change later, after both Wanderlei and Chuck had each lost twice before they finally squared off, after both had lost their respective titles.  The result when they finally were able to face each other was still a truly memorable fight.  A loss (or in the case of Chuck and Wanderlei, four losses) doesn’t diminish the fervor to see two of the best finally face each other (even if the title isn’t on the line).  It simply lowers the stakes and expectations.  And most MMA fans need to have their expectations tempered anyway. Rather than projecting the significance of the fight before it happens, rather than pushing the narrative of historical relevance of the fight before the fighters face each other, fans should allow the fight to happen and then reflect how it fits into the pantheon greatest fights ever.   I’ll step down from the soapbox.

Cyborg fighting Ronda for the title will be difficult to pull off. Movie careers stand in the way.  A weight class stands in the way.  Other contenders stand in the way.  However, there is too much money to be left on the table for a fight not to happen.  It’s simply a matter of when it will happen and where both fighters will be in their careers when it does.  Women’s MMA and the mainstream’s connection to women’s MMA is still in its courtship phase, and if the UFC is in it for the long haul, fans shouldn’t be distracted by the sprint if this is a marathon.

In the meantime, it gives Jorina Baars time to develop a passable ground game and try her hand at MMA.

FIGHT SONGS: AN ALTERNATIVE PLAYLIST FOR FIGHTERS

Jeff Monson enters the cage at Strikeforce: Overreem/Werdum

Jeff Monson runs to the cage at Strikeforce: Overreem/Werdum

When Jeff the Snowman Monson fought Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight championship at UFC 65 in 2006, Monson entered the cage to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  I was watching the event at a bar, and everyone sat in silence, mostly because the majority of patrons were craning their necks to hear what the song was.  Hilarity ensured.  To know Monson and his political slant (and general take on life) is to know the song choice isn’t necessarily out of his wheelhouse.  It was a pretty bold choice, actually. It said everything about him even if it wasn’t the most obvious kinetic musical choice conducive to punching an opponent in the face.

For some fighters their musical choice for entrance is their calling card.  Before Jim Miller switched to The Hollies, you could set your clock to the cold open of “Bad Moon Rising” as he came out of the dressing room (he should go back to it, really).  For others, the selection is picked for them if the promotion deems the choice not “bad ass” or “hardcore” enough to capture, psychologically, the toughness it takes to get into the Octagon (sidebar: I think I’d be more intimidated by a friendlier song choice, i.e. Homer Simpson’s entrance to face Drederick Tatum in The Simpsons).  This predilection to be so on the nose about a musical choice that embodies the toughness it takes to get into the cage, leads to some really stale or obvious choices by fighters and the promotion.

To that end, I’m including a list of musical gems that should be adopted, as well as a list of UFC fighters who could benefit from a new playlist, to break up the monotony in entrance jingles, and to make Burt Watson do a small double take as he leads the fighter and his/her camp out to the check in point.

Frank Mir

Previous walkout song: “Amazing” – Kanye West

Recommended walkout song: “Bad MF” – Pharaohe Monch

A newer selection, but it takes a heavyweight with some pretty violent wins to carry the claim the song exemplifies. Plus, to call yourself amazing sets the bar pretty high and sets the expectation to mean flawless.  Calling yourself a Bad MF doesn’t mean you are perfect just someone with whom to be reckoned.

 

Gunnar Nelson

Previous walkout song:  “Leiðin okkar allra” – Hjálmar

Recommended walkout song:  “Stress” – Organized Konfusion

I actually wouldn’t change Gunnar’s walkout music at all.  There’s something calmingly creepy about this choice of song.  It fits his demeanor perfectly.  However, for the sake of juxtaposition, I’d love to see someone who always looks like he just rolled out of bed and without a care in the world come out to a song that’s about stress.

 

Demetrious Johnson

Previous walkout song: “Go Get It” – T.I.

Recommended walkout song:  “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” – Queens of the Stone Age

This song goes hard, sure.  But because of the hypothetical posed by Jordan Breen on the last episode of “Press Row” with guest Jeremy Botter in which Breen suggested DJ could be a cocaine kingpin and still be allowed to fight in the UFC, I couldn’t resist.

 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Previous walkout music: “You Can’t Stop Me Now” by Bobby Digital

Recommended walkout music: “Bucktown” – Smif-N-Wessun

First of all, I can’t front on Khabib’s previous selection.  However, it seems more like a choice to ride to than fight to.  In order to compliment the head-bobbing feel of the Rza/Bobby Digital choice, I recommend something just as calculating, though a little darker, that could work in his ride or in his walk.

 

Robbie Lawler

Previous walkout music: “Beautiful” – Eminem

Recommended walkout music: “Mr. Saturday Night Special” – Lynard Skynard

Eminem is a go-to choice for a ton of fighters, and it makes sense.  The guy seems to always have the perfect complement of beat, lyrics, and delivery—the kind of balance fighters look for in the cage.  “Beautiful” seems like something you’d listen to for the sake of self-affirmation, and the lyrics really delve into reflection and a journey.  After his showing at UFC 171 and his previous 3 performances, Robbie should not be reflective.  He should be resolute.   He belongs.  As a guy who shows up to fight on PPV Saturday, he deserves a song that punctuates as much as his left hook.

Finally, I’m including a list of general recommendations to make an entrance to, be it the ring, the classroom, or office place.  Though on the next PPV, turn down the volume and play one of the following to see if they work better than what’s being echoed in the area.  I may not bash a fighter’s abilities, but his/her taste in music is fair game.

“Nowhere to Run” – Gravediggaz

 

“Headbanger” – EPMD

 

“War Pigs” – Black Sabbath

 

“Damage” – Blues Explosion

 

“Release Yo Delf” – Method Man

 

“Painkiller” – Judas Priest

 

“Last Caress” – The Misfits

 

“Know Your Rights” – The Clash