Thursday Blog: ‘Taps’ for Rival Promotions

May 14, 2009

One vs. Two
By Jordan Breen ([email protected])
Thursday, 8:10 p.m. ET: Fights between the figurative number one and number two in a weight division are rare, but MMA is due for another.

Deep has announced that the promotion's June 28 card at the Toyama Techno Hall in Toyama, Japan, will be headlined by hometown hero and Deep 106-pound women's champion Miku Matsumoto defending her title against the last woman to defeat her -- Lisa Ward -- in a pairing of the two top women in the weight class.

Matsumoto and Ward met in September 2006 in the Smackgirl ring, where Ward took a dominant victory, locking up a scarf-hold armlock for the first-round submission win.

Since their bout two-and-a-half years ago, Matsumoto has turned in 10 straight MMA wins, the only decision in that span coming in her August 2007 Deep title win over star Hisae Watanabe. Matsumoto has also sharpened her striking in the Shoot Boxing ring over the last year, and showcased her improved stand-up last month in Deep, brutally polishing off Nicdali Calanic in just 21 seconds with a battery of knees from the clinch.

Ward has struggled to find bouts stateside in her preferred weight class, and has competed largely at 115 and 125 pounds recently. Ward lost to her two most notable opponents in that span -- 115-pound standouts Megumi Fujii and Ana Michelle Tavares -- but the two-time FILA grappling world champion is coming off of a second-round submission of Patti Lee last July.

The June 28 card will also feature Toyama favorite Yoshihiro "Barbaro44" Tomioka taking on longtime Pancrase veteran Takafumi Ito in a lightweight bout and popular Pancrase brawler Kenji Arai meeting Kiyoshi Tamura pupil Kunihiro Watanabe.


Bellator Preview: Menne/De La Cruz
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Bellator VII hits Chicago on Friday with a one-day tape delay for ESPN Deportes viewers.

Dave Menne -- whose battle with Lyme disease has piqued media attention -- squeaked out a win against Norman Paraisy four weeks ago with a late submission. (A little rust is excusable: Because of health issues, Menne had only competed once in the past several years.) He now faces Omar de la Cruz, a jiu-jitsu purple belt who hails from the talent-suspicious Dominican Republic. Is De La Cruz getting pushed by guys who can outhustle him there? And will the tight Bellator schedule prove to be a cardiovascular nuisance for athletes fighting on one-month turnarounds?

The winner of Menne/De La Cruz will face the winner of Lyman Good/Jorge Ortiz for the welterweight tournament championship. Date TBA. (Hopefully not Sunday.)


Lashley Meets Cook Friday
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET: Inflatable Bobby Lashley will attempt to build on his 2-0 MMA career at Friday’s Maximum Fighting Championship (airing live on HDNet at 10 p.m. ET) when he meets 7-3 athlete Mike Cook.

Numbers, as usual, only tell some of the story: Cook recently had a very auspicious loss to Rueben “Warpath” Villareal, who hasn’t beaten a fighter with a winning record since 2005 … unless you count Cook himself.

If Lashley beats him, Cook could wind up going 0-2 against former WWE performers: He lost to Daniel Puder in 2006.

CraveOnline related link » Bobby Lashley articles at WrestleZone


Noons, Previously Uninterested in Diaz, Now Interested in Diaz
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 4:20 p.m. ET: You remember KJ Noons: excellent stand-up ability; prone to post-fight West Side Story rumbles in the cage; bloodied and battered Nick Diaz for an EliteXC title of some kind last year. (Light fly-welterweight, something like that.) Resisted attempts by Elite to sign a rematch and headed back to pro boxing.

Now Noons, who has a boxing fight coming up on May 28 in Houston says he’s ready to get back into MMA. It is probably not a complete coincidence that the change of heart coincided with the change in Showtime’s MMA management from Gary Shaw to Strikeforce and Scott Coker.

Noons gives credit to Diaz for beating Frank Shamrock, but liked Diaz’s chances less in a Noons rematch: “I’m his kryptonite, man.”

Two variables that could contradict that statement: Since their 2007 bout, Diaz has had scar-tissue removal surgery -- documented by this author in the latest issue of Real Fighter magazine -- that may prevent him from leaking with the same volume of plasma as in their first fight.

Diaz also appears ready to take on super heavyweights. Reputed to walk around at over 200 pounds, he missed weight by eight pounds for a 160-pound bout in the summer of 2008.


Puder, Tiki to Compete Saturday
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 4:15 p.m. ET: Slightly lost in the big event weekend shuffle -- both Strikeforce Challenger Series and Bellator VII go off Friday -- Call to Arms will be held Saturday in Ontario, Calif., and features a returning Daniel Puder against kickboxing-proficient Jeff Ford.

Puder, absent since September 2007, gained cult infamy in 2004 when he gave Kurt Angle some problems during an impromptu wrestling match in the WWE. (Puder, then auditioning for their “Tough Enough” rookie roster, was expected to let Angle roll over him.) Attempts to match Puder/Angle for a real fight were unsuccessful.

Jason Lambert and Vladimir Matyushenko top the card, which also features Tiki Ghosn taking on Brian Warren.


NSAC: UFC 98 Quartet Tests Negative
By Brian Knapp ([email protected])
Thursday, 3:48 p.m. ET: Former welterweight champions Matt Hughes and Matt Serra tested negative for anabolic agents and drugs of abuse in advance of their grudge match at UFC 98 “Evans vs. Machida” on May 23 in Las Vegas, along with one-time lightweight titleholder Sean Sherk and his opponent, Frankie Edgar.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission released the pre-fight test results on Thursday.

Partners in a longstanding feud that dates back to their appearances as opposing coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter 6” in 2007, Hughes and Serra were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 79. However, Serra (9-5), then the welterweight champion, was forced to withdraw from the bout with a back injury and went on to lose the belt in a rematch with Georges St. Pierre at UFC 83 a few months later.

Hughes (42-7) has not competed since he was smashed by American Top Team standout Thiago Alves at UFC 85. The 35-year-old tore knee ligaments during the bout, which many believe marked an end to his time as an elite welterweight.

Sherk (33-3-1), meanwhile, tested positive for suspected steroid use after a successful title defense against Hermes Franca at UFC 73 in July 2007. Based out of the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, the 35-year-old served a one-year suspension and was stripped of the lightweight crown, though he never once wavered from his proclamation of innocence. He returned to the cage at UFC 84, only to succumb to strikes against reigning champion B.J. Penn. Sherk last appeared in October, when he outpointed Tyson Griffin in a memorable confrontation at UFC 90.

Edgar (9-1) rebounded from his first career loss to defeat Franca by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 14 in July. Though talk has surfaced regarding a potential move to 145 pounds, he remains a viable threat in the UFC’s talent-rich lightweight division.


Shaw: Slice to Box This Summer
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 2:00 p.m. ET: The Miami Herald (via Fanhouse) brings grim news: Briefly popular Kimbo Slice, who built and summarily destroyed EliteXC’s fortunes over the course of one year, is set to make his pro boxing debut this summer.

Unwise. Slice could still have a go at MMA, albeit against mediocre competition, but boxing demands more technical proficiency -- Slice’s brawling style and bully tactics aren’t going to take him very far unless he’s up against some seriously gasping opposition.

His fanbase isn’t terribly likely to follow him, either: Slice was an Internet phenomenon, and that’s a culture that’s been weaned on mixed martial arts, not boxing. If your career role model is Eric “Butterbean” Esch, you’re getting some bad advice somewhere along the line.


White Takes Bait, Responds to Atencio
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:55 p.m. ET: And I had such high hopes for the high road: UFC President Dana White responded to Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio’s grandstanding challenge to fight him last week with typical reserve, telling Yahoo’s Kevin Iole that Atencio is a “f---ing loser” who needs to worry about plugging the financial leaks in his promotion first.

“When I was $44 million in the hole, the last thing I was doing was leaving the office and going out to train for a joke of a fight,” White said. “… He should be worried about the millions and millions of his bosses, or his partners' money, whoever it is, that's he's burning. That's a complete joke."

It appears White may be correct: While Atencio has been distracted by his bizarre pseudo-fight career, Affliction has gone and signed dust-coughing Gene Simmons as their “brand ambassador.” Paul Stanley is in final talks to assume the role of matchmaker.


Week of White Continues: ‘Taps’ for Rival Promotions
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Photo by Sherdog.com

Dana says signing Mirko
"Cro Cop" was the end of Pride.
Thursday, 3:00 a.m. ET: ESPN.com’s cross-examination of UFC president Dana White continues this week by picking up on a select sound bite from former employee Tito Ortiz. In White’s “E:60” profile, Ortiz alleges his ex-boss was positively ecstatic about the demise of ProElite and that he takes competition burial very seriously -- let’s-put-the-UFC-logo-on-a-shovel seriously.

True or not, something clearly motivates White to squelch rivals before they have a chance to breathe. Some choice obituaries for failed promotions:

International Fight League (2006-2008): Ambitious attempt to shoehorn team athletics into the most individualized sport in the world; wasted no time in antagonizing White by hiring away two of his employees and asserting that the UFC sabotaged a TV deal with Fox Sports; for good measure, broadcast a ridiculously hyperbolic primetime series premiere that brought the sport back to the stone age, dwindled rounds down to four minutes to confuse consumers, and expected fans to care about tape-delayed events airing at dartboard-random times.

Cause of Death: Insufficient funds.

White’s Eulogy: “I actually watched the IFL once, and it was f---ing painful.”

World Fighting Alliance (2001-2006): West Coast fight promotion with a nightclub aesthetic; ran three shows before taking a sabbatical and returning under new management, including future EliteXC honcho Jeremy Lappen; spent money like it grew organically by signing Quinton Jackson, Matt Lindland, Lyoto Machida, and Bas Rutten; briefly flirted with signing Tito Ortiz when Ortiz’ UFC contract was up.

Cause of Death: Over-spending, public apathy, internal turmoil -- Lappen sued the company in 2006 for non-payment; White sifted through the rubble, purchasing assets that included the contracts of Jackson and Machida.

White’s Eulogy: Strangely restrained. “Zuffa is committed to giving our fans the best fights between the best fighters in the world. This acquisition helps us continue fulfilling that goal… bringing the WFA fighters into the Zuffa family is the best thing that could happen for the fighters -- and for the fans.”

Oh, wait. Here we go. “Jeremy Lappen, the three-time loser … you have a law degree. Get a real f---ing job.”

PRIDE (1997-2007): Alternately spectacular and brain-dead fight promotion that mixed sport and spectacle in ways never seen before, and likely never to be seen again; believed for years to have the superior fighters under roster before exiles looked human in stateside competition; ran two mildly successful shows in Las Vegas, secured Fox Sports best-of deal; perpetual thorn in UFC’s side.

Cause of Death: Yakuza (mafia) scandals stripped major TV deal that was significant source of funding; UFC purchased brand and assets in 2007, but never ran a show under the banner.

White’s Eulogy: “When Mirko Cro Cop’s deal came up, we went after Mirko aggressively, signed him, and that really started to unravel PRIDE. He was really tight with them, so once we were able to take him away, all the other fighters started talking to us too. And that was basically the last nail in the coffin for those guys.”

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