After suffering difficult losses to league leaders San Diego State and UNLV, New Mexico needed a confidence boost to regain their momentum in the Mountain West Conference. A 85-52 beatdown of Colorado State on Wednesday confirmed the Lobos are still a force to be reckoned with. On Saturday afternoon, UNM continued to beat up on teams they were favored against by cruising to a 71-54 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs. Tony Snell's team leading 18 points and Kendall Williams’ 14 points contributed to a solid 48.3 field goal percentage. The Lobos also receive some good news in the form of Colorado State pulling the 17-point upset over No.12 San Diego State. Head coach Steve Alford has to be happy his team's stretch of 2-2 has put UNM only a game back from the league lead. If New Mexico can split the season series against Aztecs and Rebels, the league championship is within reach.
UFC on Fox 2
With no college football and average basketball teams on television, the Ultimate Fighting Championship had a chance to gain the eye of the causal sports fan. Hardcore mixed martial fans may have overacted in describing the bouts as terrible, but new viewers of the sport may need another couple of shows before they get hooked.
Phil Davis thought he was ready for the big-time but got humbled for five rounds by Rashad Evans. While Davis showed improved standup, he was unable to cause any significant damage—allowing Evans to score constant takedowns. Round after round Evans passed Davis’ guard and gain dominate positions to land hard shots. Even though Evans was aggressive, the fight lacked highlight reel moments or constant back and forth action. The judges reflected Evans’ dominance by scoring all the rounds (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) in a unanimous decision. While some may have changed the channel during the main event, Evans earned a title shot and opportunity to fight rival Jon Jones. Once April comes around, the hype machine will guarantee media buzz and a good PPV buy rate for the UFC.
Once Mark Muñoz went down to injury, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping garnered all the attention from media and fans. Some thought the fight was slow and boring, but instead it should be remembered for as an exciting bout. Sonnen tried to bully Bisping with takedowns and ground and pound, but Bisping stood up and landed hard shots. Rounds one and two were close but Sonnen gained some extra energy in the final round and dominated the action. Opinions differed on Twitter but leaned toward Bisping getting the decision. But the judges saw Sonnen's takdowns being the difference and scored the fight (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). His pro wrestling promo after the fight should add some additional interest in a rematch against Middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Let’s hope Silva finally agrees to the bout, because it could be the most watched title fight in UFC history.
In the opening bout, Chris Weidman ground out a spilt decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Demian Maia. Both men looked gassed throughout the bout but Weidman had a decent excuse, taking the fight under 11 days notice. Maia knew about the fight months in advance and put on an awful performance. Weidman's victory establishes him as a top-10 Middleweight while Maia goes to 1-2 and may be on the verge of being cut.
MMA star Gina Carano debuts in one lean, mean action machine
By Devin D. O’Leary
Must be nice to be Steven Soderbergh. After kicking off the indie film revolution of the ’90s with sex, lies, and videotape, he went on to helm mainstream hits (Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven), Oscar winners (Erin Brockovich, Traffic), existential science-fiction films (Schizopolis,Solaris), micro-budget pay-per-view experiments (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience) and even a TV series or two (“K Street,” “Unscripted”). Few, if any, filmmakers have had the freedom to build such a diverse résumé. Right now, Mr. Soderbergh could be producing and directing Ocean’s Fourteen and no one would be blinking an eye. Instead, he’s off making a low-budget, digital video action flick starring a first-time actor.
Holly Holm hadn't lost since 2004 and was finally starting to get the attention of the casual fight community. With her successful debut in mixed martial arts in 2011, a win over top contender Anne Sophie Mathis could have broken Holm onto the mainstream sports radar. The two fighters met Friday night at Route 66 Casino in front of a raucous crowd of Holm supporters. What started out as a back and forth war, turned into Mathis hitting Holm with heavy shots that left the crowd in stunned silence. Despite Holm taking a extreme amount of damage in round six, the referee refused to stop the fight and left Mathis to finish Holm off with a brutal knockout. With the loss, Holm's MMA career may take a backseat as she is most likely to seek a rematch. With trainer Mike Winklejohn backing her, this loss shouldn't define her career as Holm processes the ability to rebound and continue her success in whatever combat sport she chooses.
Two Team Jackson Fighters fought on the national stage on “The Ultimate Fighter” season finale. Bantamweight John Dodson has been on the radar of MMA fans with his appearance on the Tapout reality series. Since his run to the finals, Dodson has showed superstar potential with his fighting style and personality. Team Alpha Male's T.J. Dillashaw posed a tough challenge, but Dodson’s punching power proved to be the difference. Despite the early stoppage, Dodson looked impressive and may turn into a future title contender. Diego Brandao looked to upstage his teammate when he fought Dennis Bermudez in the Featherweight final. They delivered perhaps one of the best rounds of the year in a down-to-the-wire fight, Then, during the closing seconds, Brandao nailed a textbook perfect armbar which forced Bermundez to tap immediately. Brandao earned the contract, but Bermundez’ performance shoul guarantee him a spot in the UFC. Brandao proved he's more than one-dimensional with submission skills but will need to improve his conditioning to evolve into a top fighter.
Tebow bested rookie QB counterpart Christian Ponder
Tim Tebow may be the sports media’s darling, but he's also turning out to be a legitimate quarterback. Since Tebow has taken the starting quarterback position, every sports talk show has ran the Tebow topic into the ground. The constant discussion has overshadowed Tebow’s story of overcoming many critics’ doubts about his ability and unconventional style. Despite facing another mediocre opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, Tebow had the best performance of his young career. Two touchdowns and 202 yards passing fueled another 4th quarter game-winning victory. The 35-32 win gives the Denver Broncos a share of the division with the Oakland Raiders. Whether Tebow turns into an elite quarterback really doesn't matter—his grit and ability to win prove he belongs in the NFL.
Dos Santos pummels Velasquez in a quick, one-sided victory.
After all the controversy this past week, Saturday delivered an action-packed night of combat sports action. First up was the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut on regular TV, which featured a bout for the UFC Heavyweight Title. Along with the fight, hardcore MMA fans were curious about how FOX would introduce new viewers to the sport. For the most part, they delivered a professional broadcast, treating the fight as a legit sporting event instead of a punk rock show. Gone were the “gladiator intro” and generic rock music and in its place were highlights of both fighters and analysis from UFC personalities. As for the fight, reigning champion Cain Velasquez was rumored to be battling some nagging injuries headed into his bout with Junior Dos Santos. With Dos Santos’ KO of Velasquez taking only 64 seconds, it was hard to tell if injuries affected the former champ. Dos Santos has one-punch knockout power and can finish any heavyweight in mixed martial arts. The victory was impressive considering Dos Santos had a meniscus tear a week before and couldn't walk. Despite the short fight, fans should be happy with a knockout as a first impression to casual viewers rather than a boring five round decision. But FOX's choice to not air the Clay Guida / Ben Henderson fight was the obvious major misstep of the night. Henderson and Guida put on a fight-of-the-year-candidate that only aired on Facebook and FOX Desportes. They showed all the different aspects of MMA that makes the sport captivating and intriguing to watch. But as time moves on Henderson's victory will eventually be shown on television and Dos Santos had a star making performance, so the UFC’s first test run on FOX was a successful one, but not spectacular.
Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez
Manny Pacquiao won a controversial decision.
Next up was the conclusion of the epic trilogy between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Their first two matchups were controversial but thrilling fights that displayed what truly makes the sport of boxing special. After Pacquiao’s victory over Marquez in their second fight, Pacman's career skyrocketed into mainstream America while Marquez campaigned for another shot at Pacquiao. So after three years, Marquez got his wish and on Saturday took advantage of the opportunity. The first half of the fight was razor close with both fighters throwing punches with caution. But then Marquez started outboxing Pacquiao by landing crisp, hard punches. Pacquiao was shockingly tentative and couldn't let his hands go. With the momentum swinging to Marquez' favor, Pacquiao trainer Freddy Roach knew his fighter was behind and pushed Pacman to pick up the action. Pacquiao’s punch output increased and grew even stronger towards the end of the bout. When the fight concluded, most fans and experts had Marquez winning a close decision victory. But when the judges gave the result, one judge scored a draw, while the other two scored the fight for Pacquiao. Fans in the arena and Twitter users were outraged over the decision. Marquez clearly deserved the victory but in the judges’ perspective he didn't have a defining moment that made a case for him getting the win. As for Pacman, he escaped with the win and is unlikely to grant Marquez another fight and will now try to await a possible fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Despite the struggles of Lobo Football, it’s been a landmark year for Lobo sports. Both cross-country teams earned bids for the NCAA championships and the men’s soccer team has had a dream season going undefeated and winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title. So on senior night, the football team finally enjoyed the taste of victory with their win over the UNLV Rebels . For the first time this season the Lobos kept a lead for the majority of the game. Their 14-7 lead disappeared early in the fourth quarter but Lobo senior Carmen Messina caused a fumble and the Lobos recovered. Then quarterback B.R. Holbrook drove the Lobos down the field setting up a Demarcus Rogers touchdown. The New Mexico defense held steady and got the 21-14 victory. Despite having only two games left in the season, getting its first win will improve the team's confidence and could lead to the Lobos ending the season on a high note.
Fielder and Betancourt celebrate Betancourt’s two-run shot
There's no love lost between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams engaged in trash talk throughout the season, which came to a boiling point in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. St. Louis controlled the tempo with David Freese’s three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning. But the Brewers went into their signature “beast mode” and delivered a six-run fifth inning. Prince Fielder's two-run homer, Ryan Braun’s two-run RBI double, along with a Yuniesky Betancourt two-run homer gave the Cardinals pitching nightmares. The 9-6 win was huge for Milwaukee, but the series is far from over as the teams split their season series. Despite barely making the playoffs, the Cardinals still have the pitching advantage and could easily win their home games. But they'll have to find a way to win Game 2 without their best pitcher, Chris Carpenter.
Whoever said real life couldn't mimic Rocky movies has obviously never seen UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar fight before. Edgar fought Grey Maynard on Saturday night for the third time to settle their rivalry. On New Year’s Day of this year, both men fought to a controversial draw that saw Maynard almost knock out Edgar in the first round. Edgar recovered and did enough to convince the judges to rule the fight a draw. Their third encounter shockingly resembled their second fight with Maynard nailing Edgar with a huge uppercut in the first round. Edgar survived and Maynard failed to take advantage. During rounds two and three, Maynard was conservative, allowing Edgar to pull even in the fight. Then during round four, Edgar made Maynard pay for a takedown attempt and finished the fight with a dramatic knockout to retain the title. After two failed attempts, Maynard will have to climb back up the difficult rankings to get another shot at the title. Edgar may get matched up with Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez or fight the Ben Henderson-Clay Guida winner.
Also in MMA, it looks like Anderson Silva maybe seeing Chael Sonnen back in the octagon sooner rather than later. Brian Stann was poised to become breakout fighter of the year with a win over Sonnen. But the 14-month layoff did not bother Sonnen as he dominated Stann with his wrestling, eventually submitting him with an arm-triangle choke. However, the impressive victory was not enough as Sonnen insulted Silva and challenged him to a fight during Super Bowl weekend. Sonnen even put his career on the line if he lost, but with a victory told Silva he had to leave the Middleweight division.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs all over the Jets
The New York Jets struggles continue as the New England Patriots used their running game to frustrate the Jets defense. Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a breakout performance with a career best 136 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to the 30-21 victory. The Jets were down most of the game but managed to make a compelling comeback from 13 points down in the fourth quarter. But the Patriots used good clock management and sealed the game with a field goal with 1:03 remaining. Jets coach Rex Ryan shouldn't panic, despite losing his third game in a row; but losing one more could send the locker room into disarray.
When Jon Jones defeated former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Shogun Rua, many fans declared Jones the leader of the new generation of mixed martial arts. Jones’ physical characteristics and unorthodox fighting style has created signature highlight knockouts and submissions. MMA may be seen as a complicated science but Jones has passed all his tests flying colors. But on September 24th, he faces the most difficult test of his career when he defends the title against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Lately Jackson has been known more for intimating reporters and lackluster fights than his punching power and vicious takedowns. But Rampage claims he's in the best shape of his career after moving his training camp to Denver, Colo. Even his weight cut has gone smoother than normal by making weight a week early. Jackson has even gone so far as to use psychological warfare by claiming Jones has a spy in his camp. Jones denies the accusation, but based on fan uproar and unwarranted media attention, this story could work to Rampage's advantage.
Despite Jones destroying his competition, critics and fans question if he can fulfill his title as the future of MMA. Bones' ability to take a punch has never been tested and despite the submission victories, its unknown what ability Jones has when he's put on his back. Also since capturing the belt, Jones has attracted more mainstream spotlight by appearing in Bud Light and K-Swiss commercials as well as late night talk shows. Meanwhile, Jackson knows the pressure of becoming champion and losing luxuries such as privacy and anonymity. It's hard to predict if Jones can excel under the magnified spotlight or crumble under the pressure.
But Jones remains a 5 to 1 favorite for a reason and should win a decision victory. Rampage has more than a 'puncher chance' but Jones' natural gifts along with his conditioning will be too much for Jackson to overcome.
Co-Main Event: Josh Koscheck vs Matt Hughes
UFC 135 also has a co-main event featuring one of the greatest welterweight fighters ever against a top welterweight contender. Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes was set to face Albuquerque's own Diego Sanchez, but a hand injury forced Sanchez to withdraw from the fight. Josh Koscheck had planned to move to the middleweight division, but when hearing of the open slot, he jumped on the opportunity. Both men are looking to rebound off bad losses and Hughes faces a must-win situation. Hughes looked terrible against B.J. Penn and needs a win to keep his career alive. Meanwhile Koscheck looks to overcome his failure to capture the welterweight title from George St. Pierre and prove he's fully recovered from his eye injury. Koscheck has youth on his side and should smother Hughes with constant double leg takedowns en route to a decision win.
2011 Gold Cup Soccer has gained more mainstream coverage within American sports the last couple of years—Team U.S.A. had relative success in the 2010 World Cup and there's been a growing interest in Major League Soccer. So when the United States faced Mexico in the finals of the Gold Cup, the U.S. was poised to give American soccer some much needed creditability. 93,420 fans filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to witness the U.S gain a quick two goal lead. But Mexico turned up the pressure and overwhelmed the U.S with four unanswered goals to capture the title, 4-2. Along with the loss, many of the fans were rooting for Mexico, jeering the Americans with insults throughout the match. While Mexico earned a birth in the 2013 Confederations Cup, the U.S will look for answers to improve in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
UFC on Versus There was little excitement surrounding the original main event of Nate Marquardt versus Rick Story. And on Saturday afternoon the main event fell apart after Maquardt failed his medical tests. Then UFC President Dana White fired him and named Charlie Brenneman as the last second replacement. Despite all the troubles with this card, the fights delivered some awesome finishes. Former NFL standout Matt Mitrione KO'd Christian Morecraft and Brenneman pulled off the upset by earning the decision against Story. Pat Berry and Cheick Kongo moved into the main event and delivered one of the best comebacks in the history of MMA. Berry caught Kongo with a series of punches and almost finished him, but the referee didn't stop the fight. Eventually Kongo gained his composure just enough to nail Berry and win the fight. The comeback victory could give Kongo some momentum to make one more run at the heavyweight title.
NBA Finals Miami's Chris Bosh has been the third wheel of the "Big Three" for the entire season. While LeBron James and Dwayne Wade garner much of the credit and/or blame for the team's results, Bosh is usually forgotten. But after a 16-foot jump shot to hold off the Dallas Mavericks 88-86 in game three of the NBA Finals, Bosh might be changing some minds. (Not to mention his stellar play against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.) The Mavericks tried to surge in the fourth quarter with the scoring of Dirk Nowitzki but didn't get any help from his key role players. Miami has the momentum, but the Heat were still out-rebounded and received little help from their bench. The Big Three have played well, but if their role players fail to step up, their title hopes could quickly disappear. Meanwhile, if you're a Dallas fan, don't panic. Dirk Nowitzki is possibly the best player on the court and the Mavericks defense is holding steady.
Boxing Saturday night was a good night for New Mexico boxers and MMA fighters making noise on the local and national level. Boxing legend Johnny Tapia earned a unanimous decision victory over late replacement Mauricio Pastrana at the Hard Rock Casino in Albuquerque. Some experts are saying this may not be the last time fans see Tapia in the ring. Hopefully, if Tapia can string a couple of more victories together, a title fight could be the proper send-off Tapia has been searching for.
Mixed Martial Arts Experts and fans labeled Anthony Pettis as the next break out star in MMA. Pettis has been known for throwing the most dramatic kicks in the history of the sport. Promised a title shot, Pettis decided to take another fight after both UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and Grey Maynard fought to a draw. So when UFC President Dana White matched Pettis with Clay Guida, many thought Pettis would easily dispose of "The Carpenter." Guida, a member of Albuquerque's Jackson's MMA, used footwork and takedowns to edge Pettis in a unanimous decision during The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Pettis showed potential with tight striking and submission attempts but Guida's ground strikes were too much. Guida, who was first known as a mid-level fighter, has now placed himself in title contention.
On Saturday, March 19, I'll be live-blogging from UFC 128 in Newark, N.J., as two UFC fighters who train at Jackson's MMA here in Albuquerque will be competing. Nate Marquardt will face Dan Miller in a middleweight bout, and Jon “Bones” Jones will face “Shogun” Rua for the light-heavyweight title. Stop by alibi.com tomorrow for behind-the-scene updates.