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Sunday Night Week in Review
With a plethora of mixed martial arts and sports news transpiring the past two weeks, it seemed only reasonable to examine all the new happenings. With the NBA season coming to an end and football season still months ahead, MMA should continue to entrench itself into mainstream sports and find its niche. This was an exciting week for sports fans with a lot of moves being made. Some specific ones are deserving of extended recognition.
Anderson Silva Makes His Move
Anderson Silva has all but cleared out the middleweight division. His ascension through the 185-pound ranks has been nothing short of epic. He has left an array of brutally beaten, top-notch opponents in his wake. In an attempt to combat the upcoming Affliction pay-per-view, the UFC announced they would be providing a free event on Spike during the same time. Middleweight champion Anderson Silva will be headlining this event. The surprising news though, came in the form of Silva’s opponent, James Irvin. Instead of defending the title, Silva will be moving up to the light heavyweight division, in order to see how he fairs (without relinquishing the middleweight belt).
The list of future opponents at light heavyweight and potential mega fights for Silva is abundant. But, the UFC is running the risk of negatively affecting Silva’s credibility. Irvin, albeit a solid prospect, is not an established star. Losing to Irvin would certainly dent Silva’s seemingly invincible armor. Understandably, Silva and the UFC want to experiment with him at 205 pounds. But, if Silva loses, it obliterates any future bouts with the likes of Chuck Liddell or Wanderlei Silva. A loss to an elite light heavyweight would not diminish Silva’s star. But, a loss to a lesser-known fighter would be a major set back.
How Silva copes with the weight gain will be critical. If he is able to compete with the much bigger opponents then the list of great fights is endless. The issue will be a matter of pure strength. Silva is by no means physically imposing. He relies on impeccable footwork, accurate punching, elusiveness, and a dynamic arsenal of strikes. If Irvin uses his size to bully Silva than it will be clear he belongs strictly at 185.
Affliction Boasts Impressive Line-up
Whether or not the July 19 Affliction pay-per-view amasses good ratings remains to be seen. What is certain though, is that the event has been built around some of the best fighters in the industry. Rarely does an event contain the collection of talent that will be on display July 19.
Centering the card on some of the best heavyweights in the world, Affliction has made it a priority to showcase top tier fighters. Never before has an MMA event offered such a quality group of heavyweights in one night.
Despite the UFC’s attempt to provide MMA fans a different outlet on July 19, this writer will be ordering the Affliction pay-per-view. Rarely does a card provide so much star power and I expect the fights to be well worth the coin.
This is a momentous occasion for mixed martial arts in general. Out of all the upstart promotions, Affliction is the first to put together an event that could rival that of the UFC’s best. They are the only legitimate promotion that I have seen, with the capabilities to challenge UFCs’ supremacy down the road. The July 19 event has the potential to be a defining moment in the sport’s history and I implore you not to miss it. My suggestion is to tape the UFC card, watch Affliction live, and judge for yourself the quality of Affliction’s product.
Money Mayweather Retire’s
Floyd Mayweather is not a mixed martial arts fighter, but still a central figure in combat sports. He was regarded as the pound-for-pound best fighter in all of boxing. In his prime, at the age of 31, Mayweather turned down a potential $25 million payday against Oscar De La Hoya, and walked away from the sport. Through his unbeaten career, “Pretty Boy” cemented his legacy amongst boxing greats. Yet, with his retirement, it would not be a stretch to question his warrior spirit.
Mayweather beat many solid opponents. But, when it came time to fight the very best, Pretty Boy chose to fight for money, rather than greatness. Top tier opponents like Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito awaited their shot at the champ. Instead, Mayweather chose to fight lesser opponents in De La Hoya and Rickey Hatton. Furthermore, a potential blockbuster fight between rising star Miguel Cotto and Pretty Boy never materialized. These fights would have pit Mayweather against the toughest competition of his career.
Unlike his predecessors (Sugary Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker), who were willing to put it all on the line, Mayweather was content to use his slithery defense and speed to pick opponents apart, without having to exchange. At no point in his career did he stand toe-to-toe and take the risks that show a fighter’s heart.
Champions contain the innate drive that forces them to fight the very best. A champion wants to test himself at the risk of losing. True champions are willing to thrill the crowd in order to finish a fight. Mayweather never fought the very best and never exhibited a champion’s heart. For that reason, I believe his legacy, while ingrained in boxing history, will be forever tainted.
Amir Sadollah Flashes Potential
Throughout this season of the Ultimate Fighter, each fighter had a clear identity. Jesse Taylor was strictly a wrestler. Dante Rivera was a jiu-jitsu practioner. C.B. Dolloway adhered to a nasty ground-n-pound. Amir on the other hand, has no distinct style. He is a dynamic striker who likes to use a set of devastating kicks. Amir can also utilize the muay Thai clinch and a series of knees. He can scramble while on the ground and slap on submissions in dire situations, as he displayed against Dolloway. Despite being put in precarious situations against Matt Brown and Dolloway, the kid never lost his composure. Lastly, Amir has shown his granite chin and enormous heart. Simply put, the kid can take a beating without ever being shook.
Most importantly, out of all the Ultimate Fighters, it seemed to me that Amir had the most upside. Clearly, he is very raw. But, he has the talent and potential to be a well-rounded fighter in the UFC. I believe Amir has the best chance to develop into a quality fighter and is somebody to keep an eye on.
I don’t care how bad your team is, whether or not you get along with your coach, or how unhappy you are with your contract. If you are immersed in a series deciding NBA Finals, and your team is blown out and embarrassed, there should be no comparisons to Michael Jordan.
I’m talking about the Houdini of the finals, Kobe Bryant. Against the Boston Celtics, Bryant put on a disappearing act, because he failed to show up in big games. Props to the Celtics. Their smothering defense rendered Bryant utterly useless at crucial junctures of the series. For a player who prides himself on being the best and the media who adore him, the man was a disappointment.
Forgetting stats altogether, the Lakers were out hustled, bullied physically, and simply didn’t want it as much as the Celtics. Bryant, whose name was being mentioned amongst the great Michael Jordan, allowed his team to be losing by 40 points at one point in game six. Never have I seen Jordan so powerless, on such a big stage. Until Kobe Bryant can dominate and win an NBA championship without Shaq, the MJ comparisons needs to stop.
Personally, Kevin Garnett has always been one of my favorite players. Besides his obvious skills, it’s his intangibles that I love. He is the consummate teammate, always unselfish. He is a leader, somebody whose presence leaves an impression on you. He is a student of the game, studying plays and learning schemes. His work ethic is impeccable, a workout maniac who consistently gives 100%. But, what I admire most is the passion in which he plays the game of basketball. His ferocity and unrelenting spirit inspires his teammates. His love for the sport elevates his teammates performance. When a whistle is blown and the opposing player shoots the ball anyway, knowing the shot won’t count. Kevin Garnett swats those shots, never allowing the ball to go in. That intensity and mindset of protecting the basket at all times is a reflection of his entire career.
By largely contributing to the success of the Celtics this season, KG got what he deserved, an NBA Championship.
Dana Sends a Message
Call it harsh or unfair, but Dana White sent a very poignant message by ousting Jesse Taylor as one of the finalists on the Ultimate fighter. It’s clear that White considers the UFC a business where a certain level of professionalism needs to be upheld.
Being part of the Ultimate Fighter is a gift. White provides the fighters with an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He provides fighters with the potential to catapult their careers into stardom. It was irresponsible, careless, and egotistical of Taylor to make a mockery of the show and the opportunity. White seemed adamant about the sport being represented in a positive light.
While I agree with the decision to give Taylor the boot, I couldn’t help but feel as though it was a marketing ploy. Drunken buffoonery has been one of the show’s trademarks. And, although Taylor’s was far more inappropriate, I couldn’t help but laugh at how much advertising went into accentuating the fact that someone was kicked off the finals beforehand. The right decision was made, but it was certainly used to hype ratings as well.
Taylor took the news like a champ. He took responsibility for his actions and realized the error in his judgment. Nonetheless, he squandered a huge opportunity and was made an example of by White. I applaud Dana for staying consistent with his no-nonsense approach to running the UFC.
My vote for the least talked about event of the week goes to Brandon Vera’s decision to drop down in weight to light heavyweight. Although it had been talked about before, I didn’t expect it to come to fruition.
The heavyweight division has thinned out considerably with the losses of Cro Cop, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, and the resignation of Randy Couture. Vera was a well-known fighter with a strong fan base. In his last fight, he held his own against talented Fabricio Werdum and has never been knocked out.
Needless to say, I was surprised with this move. Not only does it leave the heavyweight division with yet another lost star, but also adds to the already stacked LH weight class. With news that Vera may have turned down a fight against Lyoto Machida, concerns over his own confidence and ability have intensified in my mind.
He is an exciting fighter who is reaching a crossroads in his career.