In recent years, Bellator fighting championships has solidified its hold as the nation’s #2 Mixed Martial Arts promotion, behind only the UFC in terms of revenue and exciting fights. Well, revenue, anyway. After last Thursday’s Bellator 90, in which there were six fights and six finishes on the main card alone, Bellator has strengthened an already compelling argument that it can deliver the goods.
This coming Thursday, Feb 28—as in, the day after tomorrow—Bellator is coming to the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo. Several local fighters are on the card, including boxer Holly Holm, who will be taking her third MMA fight against Katie Merrill.
Holm comes in as a favorite, at least in terms of hometown sentiment and big fight experience. But in the world of MMA, both Holm and Merrill are newbies. Merrill has a ground game, if she can get the fight there. Holm, one would expect, wants to keep it standing. The decorated boxer has a mean kicking game as well as boxing, having ended her first MMA fight via kicks to her opponents’ legs. Holm’s world-class striking will be a lethal asset as long as she can stay on her feet. If she gets tested on her back, the hometown crowd will surely be gritting its teeth.
However evenly matched it is, Holm has the most to lose. Just ask Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who came in as a heavy favorite and ended up on the wrong end of a highlight-reel knockout. “Mo” came out with his hands low, as if he believed merely having Jeff Mayweather in his corner would grant him powers of immunity. Emanuel Newton ended that fantasy with a perfectly placed spinning backfist that hit the “off switch” as perfectly as a single punch could.
Holm, we assume, won’t be bogged down with that kind of hubris, even though she has an even better striking coach in her corner, Mike Winkeljohn. And I can attest that she will come in shape. I saw her last night at Wink’s Gym, where she trains and teaches a weekly cardio heavy bag class. (She won’t be teaching this Thursday; the gym will be closed because everyone will be at the fight).
She wasn’t there to train last night, but to hold pads for a teammate. I briefly chatted with her, and she was relaxed. She may have a lot more to lose than her opponent, but if she couldn’t handle that kind of pressure, she wouldn’t be a fighter.
Tomorrow, look here for updates on some of the other local fighters on Thursday’s Bellator card at Santa Ana Star.
A whale bit my legs off and all I got was sex with a musclebound Belgian
By Devin D. O’Leary
It’s possible the ailments afflicting the French drama Rust and Bone are not the result of anything culturally specific. They could simply be the the sole artistic bias of writer-director Jacques Audiard, with no reflection on his fellow, Sorbonne-educated countrymen. But damned if—in their dark, existential, ennui-riddled self-importance—they don’t feel oh-so-French.
Frank Gomez vs Aaron Cerda, courtesy of swfight.com
The Jackson’s MMA Series touches down for the ninth time on Saturday, September 8th in its new home: Tingley Coliseum. As usual, the card is comprised of members of the world-famous Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA squad taking on challengers who come from all over the Southwest, including El Paso, Las Cruces, Phoenix, Socorro, Colorado, as well as from other gyms in Albuquerque. In fact, the card’s main event was scheduled to be a cross-town showdown between Jackson’s product Frank Gomez and Mikey Lovato of Lovato Total Fitness in Albuquerque.
At Friday’s packed press conference at the Hotel Albuquerque, promoter Ricky Kottenstette announced that Lovato had sustained a knee injury the day before, and was being replaced in the main event by Aaron Cerda, from Tye, Tx.
It’s worth noting that Kottenstette was able to orchestrate this last minute switch because he had taken the precaution of arranging Cerda as a possible last-minute substitute, should one of his main event fighters get injured. Cerda had already been medically cleared and knew there was a possibility he’d be asked to compete.
I bring this up because the Jackson’s academy, as well as Jackson’s fighter Jon Jones, were recently blamed by UFC President Dana White for the collapse of UFC 151, a fight card that was scheduled to take place September 1st in Las Vegas, NV. You can read about the sordid details here, but suffice it to say White said some fairly not nice things about Jackson’s trainer Greg Jackson and UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones.
So it jumps out at me that unlike UFC president Dana White, Jackson’s MMA Series GM Kottenstette had a plan B. There was no drama, no blame-gaming, and the show will go on.
Lovato Total Fitness will still be represented in the friendly cross-town rivalry, as Lynae Lovato takes on Emily Kagan of Jackson’s, who will be making her pro debut.
The co-main event features rising Jackson’s star Hunter Tucker taking on Nate Patterson of 3 Crosses BJJ in Las Cruces. Patterson may have something to prove after getting one-punch knocked out at a pool party in April of this year, in a story that made national news. Tucker, we assume, will be out to re-test Patterson’s chin, as well as end a three-fight losing streak that Jackson’s fighters have against Patterson.
Also on the card, Eric Dodson, the younger, larger brother of UFC star John Dodson will be making his amateur debut, as a bantamweight. Another fight to watch, also on the amateur card, is Ricky Esquibel of Jackson’s taking on Chris Brewer of Longfellow MMA in Monte Vista, CO. I saw Esquibel’s debut amateur fight last October, and was impressed.
The fun starts at 7 pm on Saturday, September 8, at Tingley Coliseum. Tickets start at $20, and are available at holdmyticket
Who's says revenge isn't sweet? Holly Holm got some much need retribution in a unanimous-decision victory over Anne Sophie Mathis on Saturday night at the Route 66 Casino. In December, the pair fought a back-and-forth affair that saw Mathis getting the better of Holm with a seventh-round knockout. In the rematch, Holm used a strategy to outbox Mathis instead of engaging in a brawl to avoid getting knocked out. The gameplan may have not been the most crowd pleasing but it got the job done and impressed the judges to earn the 97-93, 96-94, 99-91 victory. Now the debate begins over what move Holm will make next. Along with being an accomplished boxer, she's also had success with mixed martial arts. Despite women's MMA being relatively new, the sport has already made some popular stars and Holm could be next if she makes the full transition. But in the meantime, Mathis will most likely request a rematch away from Albuquerque and in her home country of France. For now, Holm looks to enjoy some time off, but whatever decision Holm makes, the Burque boxing fans will be watching very closely.
LeBron and the Heat took a 2-1 lead over OKC on Sunday night.
Lebron James has been declared the best player in the world by many NBA experts. James has every basketball ability any player dreams of. But when the NBA Finals began, everyone was quick to declare Kevin Durant the new king. Because of James' past inability to perform in the Finals, it has opened the door for Durant to become the league's best player. Despite tuning the media out with antics such as reading The Hunger Games prior to a big matchup, James seems to have taken his game to the next level by averaging 30 points during the 2012 Finals. In the critical game three, James put his finals nightmares behind him, scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He proved the reign of King James has perhaps only begun by hitting a clutch three in the fourth quarter and outplaying Kevin Durant.
Durant did have 26 points and 6 rebounds, but was in serious foul trouble throughout the game (just like in game two). The Thunder made a run in the fourth quarter to cut the Heat lead, but Miami scored the final seven points to prevent any Oklahoma City comeback. The 85-91 loss puts the Thunder in a 2-1 hole and makes game four a must win. Luckily for the Thunder, it’s been in this situation before, being down 2-0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. OKC will need to correct the mistakes if they are going to get back into the series. So far Durant has performed well in his first Finals appearance, but he'll have to find a way to outplay a more determined and focused Lebron James. Game might be the beginning of the King James era, or it may end before it even gets started.
Despite a strong start, Cotto couldn’t keep up with Mayweather.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. Vs. Miguel Cotto
The sport of boxing may only have a couple of mega stars, but whenever they’re in action the sports world always takes notice. Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. fought Miguel Cotto for the WBA Super Welterweight title in what turned out to be a compelling fight this Saturday night.
Despite Cotto being the champion, he was a massive underdog among casual fans and Vegas odds makers. Usually, whenever any fighter faces Mayweather, he is overmatched and often embarrassed by defensive boxing skills and technique. Surprisingly, Cotto was aggressive and was able to damage Mayweather. Many experts in chat rooms and Twitter had the fight close heading into the second half of the bout. But eventually supreme conditioning and counter punches carried Mayweather into victory. While the judges scorecard of (118-110, 117-111, 117-111) for Mayweather conveyed a lopsided win, Cotto seemed to have gained more fans and respect in defeat than any of his wins. If Cotto gets a couple of high profile wins, it wouldn't be out of the question to request a rematch or face Manny Pacquiao for the second time.
As for the now 43-0 (26 KO) Mayweather, his next opponent will be a jail cell as he serves time for misdemeanor domestic violence. Once he's done serving his 87-day sentence, the pressure of putting together the super fight between himself and Pacquiao should reach its boiling point. The potential matchup would be the biggest pay-per-view attraction in the history of the sport, but fans’ patience is starting to wear thin. If Pacquiao is dominant over Timothy Bradley, hopefully the wheels will start to go into motion for Pacquiao and Mayweather to finally collide.
UFC on Fox 3
Diaz emerged victorious against Miller
It was a jam-packed weekend of sports, but lost in the shuffle was the Ultimate Fighting Championship on network television. While the card was lacking in star power, it tried to make up in exciting action. The main event featured Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller to possibly determine the next challenger for the Lightweight title.
Before the fight, Miller had a slight edge among mixed martial arts experts, but when they squared off, Diaz used superior boxing to confuse and damage Miller. Then, in round two, Diaz used his signature Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to gain the guillotine choke and make Miller tap for the first time in his career. Ever since Diaz moved to Lightweight, he’s looked almost unstoppable by dominating Takanori Gomi and Donald Cerrone. Now Diaz has proved he's a worthy challenger for champion, Benson Henderson. Since Henderson will face Frankie Edgar in a rematch in August, Diaz would most likely take another bout to stay active rather than take a long break. Since older brother Nick Diaz is suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Nate has gained all the attention and maybe has become a breakout star for the UFC. If Nate Diaz takes another fight and defeats Anthony Pettis, he will no doubt stand on his own as an elite fighter in MMA.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship made its return to the land of the rising sun this past Saturday and delivered an entertaining night of fights featuring knockouts and comebacks. Despite having the shadow of Japanese MMA looming over the event, most fans will have fond memories over the potential fight-of-the-year featuring Frankie Edgar v. Benson Henderson for the Lightweight title.
Edgar has put on many exciting performances as champion but is considered undersized, while Henderson has been on a huge role since his loss against Anthony Pettis in 2010. Once the cage door shut, both men engaged in nonstop action with neither able to have a clear advantage in the first round. Round two featured Henderson scoring a huge up-kick which immediately drew blood on the champion, but like many times before Edgar continued to press forward.
When the final round started many experts and fans had the fight dead even. Henderson may have finished landing punches in the dominate position when the bout ended, but the round was still razor close. Surprisingly, all three judges scored the bout for Henderson and ended the “Edgar Era” in the Lightweight division.
Also shocking has been the support for Edgar to move to the Featherweight division and for Pettis to receive the next title opportunity. While Pettis is an exciting fighter with lots of potential, Edgar deserves his rematch, especially since B.J. Penn and Grey Maynard got their second chance. Other than Edgar no one in the UFC Lightweight division stands out as an immediate title contender. The current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez is the only other fighter deserving as he has been the second-ranked fighter in the division for years. Hopefully UFC President Dana White will see the light and grant Melendez a chance to prove he belongs in the elite tier.
2012 NBA All-Star Game
No doubt this year’s edition of the NBA All-Star Game was somewhat overshadowed by the lackluster Slam Dunk Contest and Dwight Howard trade rumors. But the actual game still provided some noteworthy-enough moments to prevent fans from changing the channel to the Oscars. Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant was the focal point for his quest to become the all-time leading scorer in All-Star games. Bryant's 27 points helped the West dominate the East for most of the game until LeBron James caught fire in the fourth. James had 36 points and hit two huge threes to bring his squad within striking distance. But costly turnovers and bad execution in the final minutes allowed the West to escape with a 152-149 victory. Kevin Durant captured the game's MVP with 36 points and seven rebounds.
In a highly technical and strategic fight, Albuquerque's Carlos Condit defeated Nick Diaz via decision. The judges' verdict has Diaz fans crying fowl, claiming Condit was "running" from the fight by not allowing Diaz to trap him against the cage and tee off on him. According to Fightmetric, the UFC's official statistics provider, Condit outstruck Diaz 151 to 105 in significant strikes, a big margin.
Not surprisingly, Condit's head coach Greg Jackson agrees with the decision and defends the strategy. "A stick-and-move game plan against a guy that’s such an amazing fighter and such a tough guy as Diaz, for me is a no-brainer," Jackson says. "If you look at the numbers, we hit him many more times than he hit us."
After the decision was announced, Diaz said he would retire in protest. Interestingly, Diaz' last opponent, B.J. Penn, also retired after Diaz beat him.
With the win, Condit holds the UFC's interim welterweight title. He says he'll wait until November—when injured welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre is expected to be healthy—to fight St-Pierre and unify the belts. Many are calling for a rematch between Condit and Diaz, but with Diaz' retirement, it's unclear how that would work.
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.