The Americans had lost their last game, against Costa Rica, on Friday night. They were whooped, 1-3, and they lost the mental edge of having the longest win streak in the world, at 12. Moreover, they lost Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler for the Mexico match due to those players picking up their second yellow cards of the qualification process. Michael Bradley also sat out against Mexico, having suffered a freak injury during warmups when he sprained his left ankle.
Due to those absences—particularly Altidore, whose performance for the team has been impressive, to say the least—and the long-standing disadvantage America has maintained while facing Mexico, there were some who doubted the team's chances despite the home field advantage. However, the Mexican team seems to be in complete disarray, suffering from the endless tailspin that inevitably follows a sudden departure from previously winning ways.
However, when it came time to get things done, the team stepped up as a whole with their depth tested, and the team answered the call. The previous stars were particularly adept, with Eddie Johnson scoring in the 49th minute, once again off a header. He was spelled by Mikkel Diskerud in the 76th minute. Reviled when his plan didn't seem to be taking right away, coach Jurgen Klinsmann now looks like a genius, particularly when it comes to substitutions. Diskerud played a smart ball of a throw in with a deft first touch, putting the ball right in front of the Mexico goal. Clint Dempsey had a brilliant look at the clincher but whiffed his attempt. Luckily, Landon Donovan was there, as he's been for Team USA ever since making his comeback. Donovan put his goal in at the 78th minute.
When Honduras tied Panama nearly an hour after the USA/Mexico game finished, the work of the night was complete. Team USA is now officially qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It's worth noting that, of the 207 nations in the world who compete in the qualification process, only 32 make it. Eight nations have won the World Cup; the United States is not amongst that number. With this qualification, though, the United States becomes only the 13th nation to qualify for the ultimate tournament 10 times.
When the University of New Mexico Lobos took the field for the first regular-season game on Saturday afternoon, things felt fine. The weather was good, the pre-season had gone well and second-year coach Bob Davie was looking to continue down the trail of improvement that he'd begun last year. For the first quarter—and most of the first half—things seemed like they'd stay pleasant. By the end of the game, though, the Lobos offense showed that it could not advance beyond an early spurt, and the defense proved porous the entire game long. The Lobos fell to the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners, 21-13.
The game started on a positive note, as SaQwan Edwards returned a fumble for a touchdown. Coach Davie, showing confidence in his team, went for two, but missed the conversion. A disappointment for the Cherry and Silver home crowd, certainly, but never a bad move at home, in the first game, after such an early touchdown. The first quarter ended with UNM up 6-0 and the second quarter proved more of the same; the Lobos scored quickly again on a perfect pass from second-year quarterback Cole Gautsche to a wide-open Marquis Bundy. UNM took the easy kick this time, and sat pretty on a 13-0 lead.
However, the Roadrunners began their comeback at the end of the second quarter, and the Lobos never scored again. The Lobos lost the game on every conceivable benchmark, possessing the ball for just under five minutes less than the Roadrunners, while throwing and running for fewer yards as well. As impressive as the game began, the Edwards touchdown came off the only turnover in the game. With the Roadrunners playing a protective game, UNM wasn't aggressive enough to cause any other opportunities. While Gautsche provided an impressive running game, tallying 118 yards, he only completed four of 12 passes, for 65 yards. In stark contrast UTSA's quarterback, Eric Soza, threw for 237 yards, completing 21 of 34 attempts. The Roadrunners ran for another 157, dominating a Lobos defense that seemed lost at times.
The Lobos have come a long way from going win-less through entire seasons, or winning a mere one game per. But the home opener proves that they still have a long way to go. Their next two games are at UTEP on September 7 and then at Pittsburgh on September 14, before getting a bye week and finally coming home. When the Lobos return to University Stadium, it will face a UNLV team that lost their first game as well (against the Minnesota Golden Gophers) and will have had three games in between. The game will be played on Saturday, September 28 at 6 MST.
NIck Urso, right, at the weigh-ins for Jacksons MMA Series XI, pictured with Jackson's welterweight Clint Roberts
Jackson’s MMA Series XI is set to rock Tingly Colliseum tonight. The first bout of the amateur undercard starts at 7 pm. The undercard features one of my favorite amateurs to watch, Eric Dodson, younger brother of UFC Flyweight contender John Dodson.
The main card is headlined by a Featherweight contest between Conrad Padilla of Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA and Nick Rhoads, who makes the trip from Tucson into hostile territory.
Also on the under, Jackson/Winkeljohn product Nick Urso takes on Ronnie White of Lovato Fitness in Albuquerque, in what should be an exciting cross-town rivalry in the Flyweight division. Urso is just a win or two away from a shot at the UFC, according to his striking coach Mike Winkeljohn.
If you’ve never been to a Jackson’s MMA Series event in Tingly, it’s worth a trip. The flashing lights and bone-shaking sound system are on par with the big shows, like UFC and Bellator, and the caliber of fights usually are too. If you’re stuck at home, like I’ll be, you can stream it live.
On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball dropped the hammer on Alex Rodriguez, handing down a 211-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. Biogenesis, which billed itself, while it was operating, as an 'anti-aging' clinic located in south Florida, is the center of a long investigation by MLB involving performance-enhancing drugs. 12 other players were also suspended—and all 12 accepted their suspensions with deals that limited the terms to a mere 50 games. This willingness to accept the suspensions—and the mea culpas that accompanied the punishments—open the possibility of All-Star Nelson Cruz rejoining his team, the Texas Rangers, when the playoffs begin. Cruz joins two other All-Stars, Everth Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta, as well as nine others, as the latest players punished by MLB. However, there is no doubt that Rodriguez is the biggest fish.
Rodriguez has always invited a certain kind of scorn. He was never Derek Jeter, diving into the stands for a fly ball. He was a machine, programmed to hit baseballs, longer and father than had been done before, seemingly destined to break records. One reporter at least, wonders: Why did Rodriguez feel this need? What he stands accused of now is willfully flaunting that fate, spitting in the face of a league that he could have ruled. All 12 other players accused in the Biogenesis case accepted deals for shorter suspensions and gave up their right to appeal the sentence.
Rodriguez, however, as seems to be par for his personality, is intent on fighting. Unique amongst his peer group in this case, A-Rod suited up for the Yankees and played on Monday night. For those who delight in schadenfreude,New York was squashed by the Chicago White Sox, 8-1. Rodriguez himself went 1 for 4, striking out once, flying out twice—once to center and once left—with his one hit going left.
For some baseball fans, these latest revelations prove to be a bridge too far. They seem to indicate that Rodriguez was never clean. And the greatest shame of yet another dark day in baseball's fight to clean up the sport is that Rodriguez was supposed to be one of the greats to lead the way out of the PED-era. MLB, it seems, is still waiting for that player to come along.
Funky is Ben Askren’s official knickname. I might suggest "Glue." Or better yet, "Velcro." His tight curly hair looks like one half of that material, and he has a way of sticking to his opponents. He need only make contact with a single point of his opponent, and then he doesn’t let go. He leans on them, tangles them, applies his weight to the exact leverage points to make them work their hardest. He holds them down and hits them.
Askren won the first round while inflicting little damage, but in subsequent rounds he ratcheted up the pressure, eventually out-striking his opponent 293-3 in what seemed like a foregone conclusion. Askren attempted a few submissions, but gave them up when they opened up opportunities to improve his position. Koreshkov came out at the beginning of each subsequent round looking more and more terrified of being taken down. All Askren had to do was fake a takedown and he’d jump backwards. Koreshkov fought gamely at first, but seemed to lose his will.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment was at the beginning of Round 3, when Koreshkov caught Askren with a knee as he shot in for a double leg. It was a good knee, and such a knee is a potential Achilles heel to any wrestler. But if the knee hurt Askren, it wasn’t apparent. He continued doing his thing, which was basically what a cat does to a living mouse. Askren toyed with Koreshkov until he gave up and stopped fighting back, and Askren was awarded the finish by TKO.
“Snap crackle pop,” is how he described his treatment of Koreshkov afterwards, in his post-fight interview with color commentator Jimmy Smith.
It was unarguably a brilliant, dominating performance, but the crowd hadn’t liked it. This is Duke City, after all, and they hadn’t come to watch a wrestling match. During the fight there had been a few half-hearted chants of USA, USA, USA—Koreshkov was, after all, a foreigner—but these were soon drowned by in a sea of boos. This hadn’t been the only wrestling match of the evening. Mohamed “King Mo” Lawal had also dry-humpted his way to a tko victory due to ground strikes.
Perhaps, in hindsight, feeding a wrestler-heavy card to an Albuquerque crowd, following a prelim card that consisted of squash matches where local lambs were sacrificed to Bellator prospects to pad their records and their highlight reels, wasn’t the best idea. And the crowd wasn’t MMA-nerdy enough to appreciate the surprise announcement of Rampage Jackson vs Tito Ortiz, on a November 2nd Pay-per-view. But then, this was a card designed for television. The ABQ fight fans were there to fill the place up, and 3,000 + showed up.
In his post-fight interview, Askren called the crowd communists for booing him, and announced that he’s the best fighter in the world. Ten minutes later, freshly showered, Askren pranced around the cage-side VIP area, completely unmarked, taking thumps-up photos.
The fisticuffs-craving crowd got what it wanted in the final fight, as Michael Chandler quickly and ferociously knocked out David Rickels in 42 seconds to defend his belt. Not much more to say, as it was so quick, except that even in that short window of a performance, it’s clear that Michael Chandler is an explosive, impressive athlete. After the fight Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney called Chandler the best lightweight in the world. One reason he didn’t say the same about Askren is that he hadn’t just signed Askren to a multi-fight contract, as he had Chandler. Askren, in fact, had just fought his final fight on his current contract.
Askren and Chandler. Two different fighters, two different but dominant performances. Two Bellator champions that could give their UFC counterparts runs for their money.
Michael Chandler and David Rickels square off after their weigh-in
Albuquerque MMA fans are in for a treat today, as Bellator 97 is going down at the Star Center in Rio Rancho. This is the promotion’s second trip to the 505 this year, and diehard MMA nerds are calling this the best card in the promotion’s history.
At the top of the card, Bellator Lightweight (155lb) champ Michael Chandler will attempt to defend his belt against David “The Caveman” Rickels, who I recently interviewed for the Alibi. This should be a fast-paced war between two relentless fighters. Before that, Bellator Welterweight Champ Ben Askren defends his strap against undefeated Russian import Andre Koreschkov. And Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal will try to back up weeks of smack talk against Jacob Noe in a light heavyweight bout.
Tickets are still available, and several local fighters are on the undercard, which kicks off at 3:30 this afternoon. Starting at 5 the fights will be broadcast live on Spike TV. These local warriors include: Cris Leyva (Farmington), Mike Barreras (Albuquerque) and Frank Baca (Albuquerque).
Following the championship bouts there will be four additional “feature” fights that will include more local fighters: Adrian Cruz (Rio Rancho), Russell Wilson (Albuquerque), Richard Jacques (Albuquerque), Felipe Chavez, (Albuquerque), and Donald Sanchez (Albuquerque).
The Alibi will be on-scene, posting updates to the blog. Stay tuned. Or show up yourself and see what all this fuss is about.
This thoroughly enjoyable video from a surveillance camera in Moscow is only satisfying, unfortunately, because women are typically vulnerable to the boundless assholishness of men.
In an attempt to counteract this sad reality, a very cool class is being taught this Saturday, August 3rd, at Wink’s Gym in the Northeast Heights (7610 Carmel, near Wyoming and Paseo). The class, Smart Girl Self-Defense, combines fighting skills with mental tactics on how to think on your feet and derive power from fear. It’s taught by husband and wife team Mike and Heather Winkeljohn.
a girl kicking ass in a subway
Mike is the striking coach at Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA, where many of the world’s top fighters come to train. Heather has a degree in psychology with an emphasis on the psychology of abuse.
Together, they’ve put together a course that teaches women to use their brains to stay out of trouble, and defending themselves if a physical confrontation is unavoidable.
Saturday’s course is part of a two-part series. Signing up or completing the other portion is a prerequisite for Saturday’s class. Call 505-822-6326 for more details.
On Sunday afternoon, at Soldier Field in Chicago, on a cool day of merely 68 degrees but with plenty of wind, the United States Men's National Team won the Gold Cup championship, playing against an unexpected but totally justified team from Panama.
The match began under the cloud of controversy, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann—ejected in the 87th minute on Wednesday's semifinal match against xxx—and on Friday, the CONCACAF ruling board decided the head coach could not be on the sideline during the final match. Assistant coaches Martin Vasquez and Andreas Herzog were declared co-coaches for the match, with Herzog being listed as the official manager on the score card.
Panama got the first corner kick of the match in the 10th minute. The United States got their first in the 17th minute. When Panama attacked on the counter, Stuart Holden took a hit on the knee and went out of the game, leaving the US with only 10 for a brief time. The disadvantage was enough that the replacement coaches felt the need to make an unusually early substitution, bringing in Mikkel Diskerud in the 23rd minute. Holden's history of injury—he broke his leg in 2010, tore his ACL in 2011 and suffered from knee cartilage damage just 6 months after that ACL tear—made his quick disappearance from the game particularly disappointing. Grant Wahl reported that Holden had sprained his right knee and would be evaluated further at a later date. The biggest bit of action in the first half was the 9 fouls on the side of the US, to Panama's 5. The red, white and blue did control 75% possession in the first half, but neither team had any shots on goal.
In the second half, Landon Donovan continued his impressive performance during the Gold Cup, completing his comeback tour for the men's national team with something of an aberration. When Brek Shea came in for Joe Corona in the 68th minute, he scored almost immediately—in the 69th—off a Landon Donovan whiff that was fortunately a miss. Had Donovan touched the ball, it certainly appeared as though Shea would have had to be called off side. It was an unusual way for Donovan to put his imprint on the game, but it was undeniable fun.
57,000 out of the 61,000 seats were filled and after this game, the national team will return to World Cup qualifying matches, playing in Costa Rica on September 6 and Mexico in Columbus on September 10.
When David “The Caveman” Rickels got the call to face Michael Chandler for the lightweight—155 lb—title at Bellator 97 in Rio Rancho, he weighed 205 lbs. That was in early June. Faced with a 50 pound weight cut, Rickels had to dig deep into his caveman roots. His training regime is based on the paleo approach. Not just the paleo diet, but he actually has a set of metal clubs that he swings around like the savage he claims to be.
“It’s a great workout swinging those clubs. Hitting tires. You can swing them around, above the head, between the legs, like a kettle bell swing. The way you hold them, because of the way the weight is distributed, if you hold it at the end it makes everything way harder. It’s just a different workout. It totally satisfy’s a man’s need to bash on things.”
I asked Rickels if the paleo diet had anything to do with him blowing up to 205 between fights.
“During training, my diet is 95% paleo. Whatever a caveman could walk out and pick up. I don’t do grains, obviously. It’s mostly fruit, vegetables and meat. I do a lot of juicing, too. The cavemen didn’t really have juicers, but that’s where we’ve one-upped them.”
So you train in the paleo era, but when you’re blowing up to 205 you’re more of a Neolithic man?
“I’m basically a paleo eater during training, and then I’m a scavenger, like a great white shark would be, eating anything that I can find, preferably chocolate stuff and fried cream cheese. I really do enjoy my naughty food as much as my healthy kicks.”
When you’re in scavenger mode, eating whatever you can between fights, are there any paleo foods you can’t give up, even when you’re allowed to eat at the Chinese Buffet?
“I love beef jerky, I find it to be a great snack food. Beef jerky and nuts. I really like almonds. That kind of stuff for me is awesome snackage. Nuts bring in a lot of calories so I can’t eat too many of those when I’m training, but that’s something I enjoy. Peanut butter, holy crap, that is the bees’ knees.”
How did you decide that paleo diet would be good for a caveman fighter?
“A couple of my buddies had fights going up, and they were dropping down to lower weight classes. And the paleo diet really worked for them. I was fighting at 170 lbs at the time [welterweight], and I wasn’t really cutting that much weight, so I didn’t pay much mind to it. But when I started dropping down to 155 lbs, I had to cut a lot more weight. That made things different. I was like ‘hey, let me try out this paleo diet, blah blah blah.’ Those first couple cuts I had were really good. I just stick with what works, and it works really well for me.”
Just after he signed on to fight the Bellator champion, Michael Chandler, Rickels found out his girlfriend was pregnant. I asked him what it was like evolving into a family man.
“I used my money from the Bellator tournament to buy a house. We just closed the deal on a house yesterday. I’m really excited about it. It will be where I raise a family. Man, Caveman the family guy. That’s something strange to think about.”
This unexpected development caused Rickels to cancel plans to move his training camp to American Kickboxing Academy in California, in favor of keeping his new family, and his training, closer to home.
“I train at Combative Sports Center in Manhattan Kansas. We have a lot of tough guys in that room. A lot of good wrestlers from Kansas. It’s a good room.”
How is the fight going to play out, July 31st in Rio Rancho?
“I’m gonna do a backflip and kick him him in the face and knock him out in the first ten seconds.”
“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a back and forth war. He’s a really tenatious guy. He doesn’t hold back. Neither to I. One of the things that I do better than a lot of people is I think I’m really good at rising to the occasion. If someone’s pushing me I’ll push back. This is a really interesting fight and I think it’s going to be great one.”
And how does he thank that Michael Chandler will prepare for the Caveman?
“Man I don’t know. He’s been pitching the first pitch at the Padres game, going to Comic Con, doing the VMA thing, the BET video awards, I don’t know what he’s been doing.”
Are you suggesting Chandler might be looking past you?
“I mean maybe. I don’t know. He doesn’t want to lose. He’s got a lot on the line, being the face of Bellator. I mean, I hope he’s looking past me, because when that first punch lands he’ll know he’s in a fist fight.”
Do yourself a favor: Do not do a Twitter search for the name Ronnie Daniels. And now that I've said not to do it, I'm sure some of you have or will. And for those who did, I hope there's some small percentage of you who are feeling unsteady. Perhaps some combination of shame and voyeurism, maybe some disgust with our fellow humans? I'm sure there are some who will simply pile on. I'm sure there are some who already had done so. Just another story of a gifted athlete who people say wasted their talents. Nothing new here, just another chapter to add to the stereotype storybook.
New Mexico Preps has largely taken a hands-off approach, presenting what they simply call a Ronnie Daniels timeline. They did diligent work documenting his greatness while he was breaking records at La Cueva High School, but there's only one hyperlink in their timeline that's directed toward those positive memories. There are plenty of naked facts, such as his seven touchdowns against Manzano. But when it comes to the negative news, starting with his dismissal from Texas Tech in 2012, it's time for the linkbait. I'm unaware of any other news organizations' practices or standards, but I know that I've backlinked to stories from the Alibi. Keep the traffic on our site.
NMPreps, though, is just doing its job: reporting some topical news. There's no doubt that this is a big story, especially in Albuquerque. KOAT reported it first and the gossip devolved from there. There's been little follow-up, other than more bad news.
The Ronnie Daniels story has already been written, concluded, and filed, according to some. But there's a lot more that goes into any person's story, at any time in their life, other than what's happening right now. Past chapters of Daniels' story include the idea that he had given up on football after initially committing to San Diego State following his dismissal from Texas Tech. What caused the whiplash? We'll probably never know, but the possibilities are certainly worth considering given this most recent and most astonishing turn of events.
I knew Ronnie Daniels from the time he was in 8th grade to the time he left Albuquerque for Lubbock. My experience with him was multi-faceted: I was his teacher, I worked with him during the basketball season, and I was fortunate enough to be close with many of his friends. While he was in my class, Ronnie was an exceptional student. When he was on the basketball court, he loved to compete. He wanted to beat the other team, no matter who they were, badly. But he was also a willing passer, giving up shots to get his teammates involved. When he left middle school, most of us knew that he was destined for bigger and better things. He proved us right almost immediately. Despite being a fairly large sports star at a fairly successful high school, any time I ran into him in the stands during a girls basketball game, or before one of his own, he was polite, respectful and showed more than a modicum of humility. He was neither the best nor the brightest student I've ever had. He was neither the most dedicated nor selfless athlete I've had the privilege of working with. But he was a good, talented kid. And he remained a solid, well-rounded individual any time I ran into him and we had a chance to converse.
Ronnie could also be a cocky jock, perpetually ready with a quick, smug remark about his athletic prowess. But his arrogance was almost entirely justified with truly gifted play, whether on the basketball court or on the football field. My friends and I jokingly referred to him as Boobie Miles on occasion, but I personally never saw him skip a basketball workout. He was no slouch in the classroom either, winning the spelling bee in my class. This isn't to say I never heard tales from his peers, that he was too sure of himself or, later, that he'd begun to (if he hadn't already been in the habit of) skip those steps. But Daniels was an incredible talent at a school renowned for their decorated athletes amongst other things, and some level of that has to be expected.
The case study of the talented kid who lets it all go to waste has already been written. Instead of dredging up old school rivalries or condemning a young man for the admittedly huge errors he's made, maybe we should take a turn trying to remember that this young man, as so many others are, is clearly in need of help.
Daniels did not succeed or fail because he went to La Cueva, not any more than he succeeded or failed because he is from the city of Albuquerque or the state of New Mexico. As a fan of New Mexico youth and sports in general, I'll be thinking of Ronnie often over the next few weeks. I'll be hoping that he turns out as well as many of my other former students, who might not have been as talented but put in just as much, if not more, work. They didn't have the expectations foisted upon them that Ronnie did and for that, during their time in school, they might have been envious. Now it appears the tables have turned. His undeniable success on the football field, though, probably contributed to his problems now, and it's worth remembering the ways in which he dazzled people in our city and state during his time in high school athletics. If we were wowed by him then, perhaps we can spare the extra moments that it takes now to think of him as a human, a young man, not even at the age yet when those who are fortunate enough to go to college have graduated, as opposed to yet another cliché.