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MMA Roundtable: Silva vs. Sonnen 2′s Pay-Per-View Possibilities, Greg Jackson’s Game Plans and More

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The biggest fight of the year is almost upon us and that means we’ve got some big questions to answer. That’s especially true in a situation as bizarre as the one between UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and challenger Chael Sonnen. Was Silva’s recent outburst on a media conference call genuine? Whether it was or it wasn’t, what does it all mean?

And while the first meeting between Silva and Sonnen did respectable numbers on pay-per-view, can the second meeting in a little over a week live up to the expectations of pulling in over one million buys?

My colleague Dave Doyle and I do the brave work of tackling these issues. We also discuss Clay Guida’s game plan against Gray Maynard at UFC on FX 4 as well as our favorite Fedor Emelianenko moments on this edition of the MMA Roundtable.

1. UFC 148 is likely to be the biggest fight of the year. Will it sell one million pay-per-view buys?

Thomas: I certainly think it’s possible, but I’m not sure how likely it is. In part, I can’t know. It will be far easier to judge how far a UFC event is going to go in terms of mainstream appeal – and let’s be clear: anything successful in terms of pay-per-view buys is one that corralled casual fans – as we get close to fight time.

What I can tell you is what I hope will happen. I am hoping FOX rallies behind the UFC for this one. Without their participation, I’m not sure this event can sell one million pay-per-view buys. UFC 148 preliminary fights will air on FX, but I’m not just talking about that. Just as big FOX aired the Primetime series for Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos, I am hoping FOX uses its larger assets to promote this fight. There are two reasons for this. First, I believe the UFC-FOX deal tilts in favor of FOX in most circumstances. FOX is certainly under no obligation to do more than they are contractually required, but it’d be a nice demonstration of commitment to the UFC when the UFC matters most. Second, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Supporting UFC 148 won’t have any immediate or even measurable gains for FOX, but helping MMA to shine when it’s most capable ultimately pays dividends for all invested parties in the long run.

Doyle: To draw a mega buy rate, you need the planets to align. Obviously you need the right match-up. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen fits the bill. A grudge rematch? Better still. Two of the three biggest buy rates in UFC history, UFC 100 (Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II) and UFC 66 (Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz II) were title rematches featuring two guys who genuinely didn’t like each other. Charismatic fighters who know how to sell a fight put the cherry on top. That helps account for Lesnar’s fights with Mir, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, and Randy Couture, Liddell-Ortiz, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Rashad Evans at UFC 114, all of which hit the magic million mark.

So the UFC has all the pieces in place that they can control. The other end of the equation is whether the fight breaks through and captures the general public’s imagination, and what else is going on in the sports world that weekend. There will be little competition for the UFC’s attention among sports fans on July 7 beyond an ordinary slate of baseball games. The Fourth of July weekend event is traditionally a big seller. The big media push began two weeks out from the fight. All the indications are that the event is already picking up a head of steam. Will it reach a million buys? I’m not going to make a prediction, but all the conditions are there.

2. What do you make of Anderson Silva’s heated rhetoric toward Chael Sonnen on Monday’s UFC 148 conference call?

Doyle: I think it means Chael Sonnen will be in for a difficult night on July 7. Sonnen has been given a long leash by the MMA media simply because he’s so engaging in front of the cameras and recorders. We know he’s playing a character. I’ve had more than one UFC fighter tell me that Sonnen has admitted as much to them behind the scenes.

Silva’s words on Monday were so forceful because they cut through all the facades we in the media have allowed Sonnen to build. Sonnen is, in fact, a convicted criminal. Silva didn’t mince words on that count. He also called Sonnen a cheater. You can debate the semantics on that one, but the fact remains Sonnen was suspended in two states.

Sonnen basically didn’t have a comeback to any of this.

The stakes have changed since their first meeting. Silva is now a superstar in Brazil. He wasn’t two years ago. He’s got magazine cover spreads and big-money endorsements. This time around, he sees himself as the defender of his country’s honor against a guy who has repeatedly insulted his people. What you heard on Monday was a fighter who is ready to get down to business and leave the sideshow behind.

Thomas: I hear Dave’s point and I naturally gravitate to that position, but there’s so much hot air in the fight business it’s really often difficult to gauge what is foreshadowing the future and what isn’t. It’s true an uncharacteristic Silva took everyone by surprise, maybe even Sonnen himself. And there’s no way Silva walked away from their first fight at UFC 117 thinking everything had gone according to plan. Change is in order if he wants any measure of success and Silva must recognize as much.

I also admit Silva sounds motivated for this contest. How can he not be? But talk and proclamations of exacting amateur reverse cosmetic dentistry aside, the list of combat athletes who were intensely motivated to defeat rivals and said as much to anyone who would listen to them only to fall short is endless. Silva still faces the reality he has porous takedown defense among a host of other stylistic problems that Sonnen will be able to take advantage of. More than any declarations of intent, the actual challenges Silva faces in the fight (and Sonnen’s, too) are by far the most important elements to consider.

Do Silva’s words mean anything? I’m not saying yes. I’m not saying no. I’m saying we can’t know what they really meant until after the fight is over.

3. Greg Jackson has taken a lot of heat for the strategies employed by Clay Guida against Gray Maynard and Carlos Condit against Nick Diaz. Is this fair?

Doyle: Yes and no. No, in that people tend to fixate on Jackson when he comes up with a conservative game plan for one of his fighters, but credit his fighters for their performance if they’re exciting. If you watched Friday night’s card, you also saw another Jackson fighter, Cub Swanson, score an exciting, knockout of the night-worthy win over Ross Pearson. Did Jackson get any credit for this? And of course, Jon Jones trains with Jackson. Has anyone ever called Jon Jones a boring fighter?

Jackson tailors his game plans to fit the needs of his fighter in any given fight, which is usually a good thing. But it also means he also should get some of the flack when things don’t work out.

With Condit, at least you have the justification that he got the decision over Diaz in their February bout. Even then, though, Condit took a lot of grief from fans and some in the media for his sticking and moving. There were a couple points during the fight where he could been docked a point for running, if the referees ever bothered enforcing that little corner of the rule book.

In Guida’s case, though, he didn’t even get the W. Jackson took a fighter who has made his name on the excitement level of his fights and took him out of his element to the degree that while Guida didn’t take a beating, his reputation did. Fans can watch Dancing with the Stars for free if they’re so inclined. They’re less inclined to appreciate dancing if they’re tuning in to see a fight. Jackson is one of the game’s master strategists, but if his strategy is hurting his fighter’s reputations, is that a good thing?

Thomas: I think Dave’s dead-on here. If you’re going to give a game plan to a fighter that is anathema to their style (even if it’s justified in adopting from a theoretical point of view), then you have to be prepared to eat it when said game plan completely back fires. Which it did.

Nick Diaz is not Gray Maynard and Carlos Condit is not Clay Guida. But that’s sort of the point. Condit, a fighter with significantly more striking ability, was able to execute a similar game plan to Guida’s, but against an opponent who is much more linear in movement. Trying to get Guida to copy a facsimile of what Condit did to Diaz was almost destined to fail. Guida just doesn’t have the skills to incorporate enough striking to keep evasion from looking like running.

We shouldn’t be too hard on Guida or Jackson. Even the world’s best trainer and one of his best fighter can’t always get it right. There are going to be some duds along the way.

Yet, I can’t help but think of how in conflict Guida’s performance was with Jackson’s guiding ethos. I could be mistaken (and if I am, by all means correct me in the comments), but I recall Greg Jackson once saying fighting is the art of breaking another man’s will. I’m not here to debate if that’s true, but let’s assume it is for the sake of conversation. If it is, how on earth is what Guida did to Maynard even approximating that? I’m sure it was frustrating for Maynard, but that’s hardly breaking his will.

Defense is a hugely under utilized tool and talent in MMA. Too few fighters use or respect it. But defense without offense is not offense by default.

4. Forget all the talk about Fedor Emelianenko’s handlers and management for a moment: When all is said and done, what was your single favorite Fedor moment in the ring/cage over the years?


Thomas: There are too many to count, but for me his comeback win against Kazuyuki Fujita is my favorite. Emelianenko was still basking in the glow of his incredible victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and was widely expected to blow past the former wrestler in Fujita. But something curious happened along the way. An errant right hook landed on the side of Emelianenko’s head, rocking him badly. Before the Russian could latch onto Fujita for dear life the Japanese crowd rose to their feet in surprise and delight. A Japanese heavyweight champion? They were about to see it happen. But Emelianenko being who he was, he was able to hang on even after being taken down. Fedor eventually rose back to his feet and nailed Fujita with one of the most devastating middle kick-hook combinations I’ve ever seen in professional mixed martial arts. It sent Fujita stumbling and that’s when Emelianenko finished the show, soon thereafter putting Fujita away with a rear naked choke.

It was a sensational performance: first Fedor at his most human, then his most incredible. Emelianenko’s face was bloody and guest PRIDE commentator Rampage Jackson kept remarking what a champion Fedor was for being able to fight back in such spectacular fashion. I can’t say I disagree.


Doyle: When you cover mixed martial arts for a living and sit cage-and-ringside for hundreds and hundreds of fights, eventually, everything starts to blur together. When that happens, your strongest memories are of the most vivid moments in time. Randy Couture dropping Tim Sylvia with that big overhand right at the start of their 2007 fight, and the thunderous response from the Columbus crowd, was one. Brock Lesnar shooting a double on Frank Mir at the start of their first fight, getting the takedown, and pounding the bejeezus out of Mir while the crowd absolutely lost its mind, is another.

And then there was Fedor’s knockout of Andrei Arlovski. I had the good fortune of not only having a front-row press seat for Emelianenko’s Jan. 2009 win over the former UFC champion, but also the dumb luck of sitting exactly aligned with the spot in the ring where the knockout went down. From where I was sat, I never actually saw Fedor’s fist. I saw Arlovski, back turned to me, suddenly vault toward Fedor, then do a 180-degree turn in midair and crash to the mat with a terrible thud as the crowd exploded. When I replay this scene in my head, it slows down as if in the climactic scene of an action movie.

As Luke notes above, there are plenty of Fedor highlights from which to choose. But when you’re lucky enough to see a Fedor knockout up close and personal (and one that reminds you that you’re lucky to get to do what you do for a living), it’s a memory you never forget.

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Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy Spar Over Team Greg Jackson’s Game Planning

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Luke Rockhold takes any threat to his Strikeforce middleweight championship seriously. Slap a “No. 1 contender” tag on anyone, and Rockhold will bare his teeth, stake his ground and dare you to move him off his spot. That certainly applies when an opponent is accomplished as Tim Kennedy, a former Army Green Beret who boasts a 14-3 record and stoppages in five of his last six wins.

While he’s on guard for Kennedy’s challenge, that doesn’t mean he’s a huge fan of Kennedy’s style, or the approach of his fight team at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s. The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based gym is alternately one of the most feared and criticized camps in mixed martial arts. Its proponents say it’s a gym that makes champions. Its detractors contend that the head coaches — Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn — often favor conservative strategies that lead to lackluster performances.

Rockhold, who trains at fellow mega-gym American Kickboxing Academy, is among the latter camp, a sentiment he voiced during a Tuesday conference call for his July 14 Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy fight.

His viewpoint became clear when he challenged Kennedy to bring the fight to him, saying “I’m not the biggest fan of Greg Jackson game plans.”

But asked by MMA Fighting if his judgment was directed at the coaching staff or based more specifically on something he had seen from Kennedy in the past, Rockhold didn’t hedge his words.

“I think that’s kind of across the board,” he said. “It’s Tim’s style, it’s his previous fights. I mean, there’s a lot of fighters who come out of that camp, they have a smart game plan, they follow the game plan and it’s not the most exciting game plan a lot of the times but it wins them fights sometimes. It doesn’t excite me much. I’m not a big fan of his style.

“Also, he yells the guys names in the corner, like, ‘Great job, beautiful low kick Tim Kennedy,’ and this and that,” he continued. “I think he tries to play into the minds of the judges a lot, and it’s a form of, I think, cheating to some extent. I’m there to fight. I’m confident in my abilities, and I’m not going to let this fight slow down. Whatever he brings to the table, it’s not really going to matter because I’m going to nullify it, and I’m going to play my game.”

Team Jackson-Winkeljohn came under fire most recently over the weekend, when Clay Guida used a tactical strategy of minimal engagement for the majority of his five-round fight with Gray Maynard, which he ultimately lost by split decision. Prior to that, they guided Carlos Condit to an upset win over Nick Diaz in another bout that was criticized heavily for cautious engagement.

On the other hand, the team has also generated and worked with some of the sport’s most exciting talents and fight-finishers, including current UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Shane Carwin and Donald Cerrone, a fact which Kennedy brought up in defending his home gym.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “That same night when people were harassing Clay Guida for his performance, we had the Knockout of the Night with Cub Swanson going out there and doing some insanity in the cage to finish one of the best kickboxers in the division. But did anybody mention what a great performance Cub Swanson had and how fantastic that finish was? And hey, Greg Jackson, congratulations for having Knockout of the Night?

“No, they were like, ‘Clay was running,’” he continued. “Well, Gray hits really hard and he’s a really great wrestler. I think that Clay had nearly the perfect game plan for that fight. It wasn’t flawlessly executed. He should have done more sticking than he did moving, but he had the right idea, and it was an extremely close fight. And the Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit … I’m a Nick Diaz fan but if i was going to fight Nick Diaz, that’s how I’d fight him, is the way Carlos did. So I think the criticism is completely unfounded. I think Greg is a fantastic coach. We have more finishes, more knockouts, more submissions, more champions than any other camp out there. It’s asinine and I think it’s just people lashing out at somebody’s who’s very talented at coaching fighters.”

As far as Rockhold goes, it’s nothing personal. In his mind, Kennedy’s earned the right to face him and is proven as the No. 1 contender, and he’s planning to protect his space at the top, no matter how Kennedy approaches him.

Whether his comments were meant to provoke Kennedy, were an honest viewpoint on a recent topic, or a little bit of both, Rockhold knows his actions will ultimately have to back up his words.

“I just hope he comes out and fights me in the middle and fights me everywhere,” he said. “This is mixed martial arts. I quit wrestling for a reason; I want to fight. I’m looking for a fight.”

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Sam Stout Credits ‘All-Around MMA Game’ for Rubber Match Win Over Spencer Fisher

A rivalry that began more than six years ago came to a close Friday night, as Sam Stout took a unanimous decision over Spencer Fisher in their rubber match at UFC on FX 4.
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Sam Stout Credits ‘All-Around MMA Game’ for Rubber Match Win Over Spencer Fisher at UFC on FX 4

A rivalry that began more than six years ago came to a close Friday night, as Sam Stout took a unanimous decision over Spencer Fisher in their rubber match at UFC on FX 4.
Recent News on Sherdog.com

For Jamie Varner, Stunning UFC 146 Win Was a Product of Work on Mental Game

There was only one fighter Jamie Varner didn’t want to meet in his UFC return.
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Meet The Fighters of The “Bellator: MMA Onslaught” Video Game

Meet The Fighters
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With yesterday’s announcement at E3 between the UFC and EA Sports, another mixed martial arts promotion is about to step into the virtual world with the upcoming release of “Bellator: MMA Onslaught” for the Xbox 360 and PS3 gaming systems. This exclusive feature shows some of the arcade game play featuring some of Bellator’s top fighters including Pat Curran, Michael Chandler, the Pitbull brothers, and Marlon Sandro, along with many others. The game goes live and will be available for play on July 4th. Learn more about the game at www.bellatorthegame.com.

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UFC, EA Sports Announce Partnership for UFC Video Game at E3

Michael Cohen, Getty Images

Fans of the UFC Undisputed video game series are about to say goodbye to THQ, and hello to EA Sports.

Zuffa LLC, parent company of the UFC, and EA Sports officially inked a deal to transfer THQ’s exclusive UFC video game license to premier developer Electronic Arts Inc, effective immediately. UFC President Dana White announced the partnership during EA’s presentation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) on Monday afternoon.

“Our fans are so passionate, it’s insane,” White declared. “Now we’ve hooked up with the biggest video game company on the planet. We can now distribute this game to the 175 countries, 22 different languages, and over half-a-billion homes worldwide that we’re in.”

“This is a huge day for the UFC, a big day for the fighters, and more importantly, for you, the fans.”

THQ’s UFC Undisputed series covered the span of three games, beginning in 2009 and concluding with this year’s UFC Undisputed 3.

“Over the last three years, THQ has delivered best-in-class, all-encompassing experiences to MMA fans, sports enthusiasts and fighting gamers around the globe with its UFC Undisputed series. We want to thank them for their stewardship of our brand,” Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta wrote in a statement. “We look forward to joining forces with EA to leverage their sports platform, and expand our brand in the video game space.”

EA Sports previously entered the mixed martial arts arena in 2010, releasing the seminal cult-favorite EA Sports MMA much to the dismay of White, who at the time declared war with EA due to a long-standing grudge over an alleged past rejection. That animosity, however, seems to no longer apply.

A timetable for the first EA Sports-backed UFC video game has yet to be announced.

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ONE FC’s Victor Cui Expects Asian MMA Summit to Be ‘Game Changer’ for Eastern Region

ONE FC

Sometimes it’s easy to forget mixed martial arts is, above all else, a business, with various competing interests all fighting to grow a product. The product just happens to be two grown adults trying to render each other unconscious.

That’s not to dismiss the artistry, because MMA is obviously deeper than just two men punching each in the face, but none of this success would be possible without the wheeling and dealing behind-the-scenes. It’s the reason 8 million people can watch Junior dos Santos smash Cain Velasquez on FOX, and it’s the reason Bellator has climbed from a blip on the radar to a national promotion.

Few men understand this point quite like Victor Cui, the CEO that built ONE FC into an eastern powerhouse in less than a year and united Asia under the ONE Network. His vast web of alliances now stretches across country lines, from Singapore, to South Korea, to Australia, and is why, worlds apart from the thirteenth UFC show of the year, Cui has called together a meeting of the minds.

Dubbed the ONE Asia MMA Summit, over 150 of the major players in eastern MMA will converge on a hotel that resembles something out of a James Bond movie, Singapore’s $ 8 billion Marina Bay Sands Resort, in the hopes of sketching a blueprint that will carry Asian MMA back from the dead.

“[It's] one of the most personally satisfying and difficult projects I have ever worked on,” Cui admits.

“This is the start of something great, mark my words. Every step that ONE FC has taken has already led to new levels of cooperation, and the ONE Asia MMA Summit is a game changer for Asian MMA.”

In an industry where promotions grind to the bone to distinguish themselves from the pack, Cui’s united eastern front is a strangely unprecedented venture, but one that in hindsight, was born out of necessity.

With representatives from ONE FC, DREAM, Deep, URCC, Road FC, CFC and even eastern über-gym Evolve MMA among those in attendance for this weekend’s Summit, Asian MMA has evolved from a fractured web of dissidents, into a single community with a collective goal. And after talks close on June 3, that community will have it’s master-plan.

“We are only really limited by our creativity for collaboration,” Cui eagerly explains. “It’s bigger opportunities for fighters, gyms, promoters, sponsors and the list goes on.

“I have no doubts that everyone will leave the summit fully confident in their role in Asian MMA, and will be looking to continue building.”

Cui’s expectations may sound lofty, but they seem to have done alright so far. 11 months ago ONE FC was just an idea. Now the promotion owns a remarkable 10-year broadcast deal with ESPN Star Sports and delivers its product to over 500 million fight fans throughout Asia.

And while the pressure of raised expectations goes hand-in-hand with such abrupt success, Cui has yet to shy away from them. Rather, in a region starving for leadership he has taken hold of the reins, because the way he sees it, those expectations must mean you’re doing something right.

“The pressure is there to succeed, as it is any organization,” Cui frankly acknowledges. “But I can’t think of anything more exciting in the world to be doing.”

Ultimately the impact of the ONE Asia MMA Summit is not one that will be measured in days, months, or even years. Cui’s motivation, much like that of UFC President Dana White, is much less tangible.

The mortality of mixed martial arts still looms large over the eastern region, but with the right collaboration and long-term focus, Cui, like White, believes MMA can one day become “the biggest sport in the world,” and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that dream a reality.

“We still have a long way to go and this is really just the beginning of even more great things to come,” Cui promises.

“One thing is for sure — after the Summit, Asian MMA will be on a completely new level.”

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Chael Sonnen has mad rap game (Video)

Just when you thought Chael Sonnen couldn’t have another awesome skill, he proves us all wrong once again. He fights, he trash talks, her runs for congress, and now brace yourself… He RAPS.That’s right, Sonnen busted out a very personal rap for someone he holds near and dear to his heart, Mr. Anderson Silva. Oh …
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