Thursday Blog: Flawless UFC Victories -- Part IV

May 21, 2009

Behind The Scenes: Signing Arlovski-Rogers and What it Means for Strikeforce
By Loretta Hunt ([email protected])
Thursday, 5:05 p.m. ET: I was as surprised as anyone when Strikeforce suddenly added a bonus matchup between heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers to their June 6 event at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. You hear a lot of rumors in the biz –- no secret stays one for long -- but this was a big one that seemed to slip through the cracks.

That is until I heard the deal had been masterminded in the wee hours that Tuesday morning.

I love last-minute deals –- it’s just another perk of this unpredictable sport. So, I asked Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker how it all went down.

“This fight was supposed to be between Alistair Overeem and Brett Rogers, and then Alistair hurt his hand in the last seven days, we were waiting to see if his hand was going to heal or if he was supposed to come out [to the U.S.],” Coker said Tuesday. “It turns out that he could not, so Brett Rogers was left without an opponent. At that time, the opportunity for Andrei Arlovski to fight on our card appeared on our doorstep, and we thought it would be a great fight with him and Brett.”

With a main event between the Terminator that is Robbie Lawler against jiu-jitsu ace Jake Shields, as well as the scraps that will likely be Nick Diaz versus Scott Smith and Phil Baroni trading blows with Joe Riggs, I hardly thought this card needed an extra boost.

“Anytime Andrei Arlovski is able to fight on your card, why wouldn’t you want him?” Coker told me. “That’s the goal with the big fight cards, between us and Showtime people, to put on a card that’s stacked from top to bottom.”

Of course, Arlovski’s introduction into the Strikeforce stable –- whether it be for one fight or more –- is tantalizing, to say the least. Can you say Alistair Overeem?

As Coker told me, “There’s a lot of great fights ahead.” But will he be able to land Arlovski full time?

Arlovski has a single fight remaining on his three-bout contract with Affliction. Arlovski’s management wouldn’t discuss where this impromptu fight falls, and Affliction VP Tom Atencio did not return calls to clarify.

“I don’t really know the contract status of Andrei Arlovski, but this is a two-pronged question,” said Coker. “One is when he’s a free agent, we’re going to have conversations with every free agent out there. The other answer is this: we’ve had a good relationship with all of the other organizations out there, including Affliction. When they wanted to use Paul Buentello, we said OK. When they wanted to use [Renato] Babalu [Sobral], we OK'd it. We have a working relationship with them, so this is something where we’ve done ‘fighter sharing’ back and forth. It just that this one happens to be Andrei Arlovski, who’s a superstar of the sport today.”

Arlovski is currently training with boxing guru Freddie Roach in Los Angeles. The 30-year-old fighter was set to make his pro boxing debut on June 27 under Golden Boy’s banner. No word yet if that bout has been put on ice.

Coleman Promises Better Showing at UFC 100
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 3:17 p.m. ET: Yahoo’s Steve Colfield, who recently endured a distressingly intimate interview with a shirtless Matt Hughes near a well-tousled bed, had a much more normal chat with Mark Coleman. The former UFC champion is adamant his performance at UFC 100 July 11 will erase the memory of a wheezy bout against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in January.

“I told people I was going to stand up with this guy, and everybody said I was full of s--t,” Coleman said. “Unfortunately, my instincts took over, I took him down early and I hadn’t done enough wrestling myself. I feel like I wore him out wrestling, but at the same time, I wore myself out early.”

“The Hammer” is in camp with noted trainer Shawn Tompkins, and that’s a good sign. Coleman’s Hammer House regime of old frequently lacked game plans and a focused training strategy, which eventually piled on the losses for both Coleman and protégé Kevin Randleman.

When Coleman trained with Pat Miletich in 2000, he made the most dynamic comeback in the history of the sport by winning the Pride grand prix. The corner matters, and aligning with Tompkins is smart business. I still don’t like his odds against the younger, more versatile Stephan Bonnar, but a dialed-in Coleman should make anyone at least a little nervous.

Back Against the Mat (BAM): UFC 98 Edition
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 2:51 p.m. ET: Not all fighters enter fight night facing the same repercussions. A loss could mean a handshake from brass and a pat on the back for one, walking papers for the other. Getting knocked out after a firefight might net a nice bonus, or press and promoters agonizing over your cognitive functioning.

Three guys with the most to lose Saturday night, above and beyond the “L” mark on their record:

Matt Hughes: There are financial rewards to be gained from playing out your dislike for an opponent over the air -- ill will sells seats -- but there are also significant risks. If you lose to a guy you’ve labeled mediocre, what does that say about you?

Hughes’ verbal warm-up with opponent Matt Serra has stirred interest that might not otherwise exist, but it’s Hughes who stands to suffer for it the most: the fighter has absorbed losses in three of his last four bouts. Serra is 4-1 if you care to count his “The Ultimate Fighter” detour. A loss here -- particularly when Hughes appeared to be operating at a fraction of his former ability against Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves -- could make a strong case for his retirement.

Quinton Jackson: Jackson isn’t fighting Saturday, but his next payday could fluctuate tremendously depending on the outcome of the Rashad Evans-Lyoto Machida main event.

As a proposed coach for the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” against Sunday morning’s titleholder, Jackson could deliver big ratings and bigger gate receipts with verbal jockeying against Evans; Machida’s cooler persona and limited English may not be ready for prime time.

Dana White: The sport’s premiere huckster admitted he felt embarrassed after April’s plodding bout between Anderson Silva and Thales Leites, which typified the kind of fight that had imploded the UFC banner once before (Severn-Shamrock II, 1996).

Once was bad enough. What happens if headliners Evans and Machida, so defensively-minded and protective of their valuable, blemish-free records, decide to stalk instead of attack?

As White well knows, there’s an accusation more damaging to the sport’s reputation than calling it overly violent or morally bankrupt -- calling it boring.

Sonnen: 36 Pounds in 22 Days
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 2:09 p.m. ET: ProMMARadio helped narrate an interesting story coming out of UFC 98 this Saturday: Chael Sonnen, stepping in on late notice for an injured Yushin Okami, is currently walking around at 221 lbs. To make the middleweight 185-pound limit, he’ll have to cut the 36 pounds in just over three weeks. Apparently, temporary relocation of organs is now an accepted weigh-in practice.

Sonnen also expressed disappointment at this fight effectively replacing his UFC 102 bout with Wilson Gouveia, which he had already agreed to for an Aug. 29 date in his home state of Oregon. Strange, since he’d have a reasonable three-month buffer to prepare. Is the UFC positioning itself to cut Sonnen with a loss here, even though he’s doing it a “favor” with the late hop-in?

NY Books Potentially Depressing Date for MMA Deliberation
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:51 p.m. ET: New York is positioning itself to look either very informed or very silly: on June 3, the State Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports will debate bill 2009-B, which proposes to regulate mixed martial arts. Two more Committees need to deliberate before the bill hits the Assembly floor -- hopefully not while on fire.

John McCain incarnate, Assemblyman Bob Reilly, intends to present his indefensible case against regulation in what is sure to be sourced from a fumbling, pockmarked joke of a docket. Precedent: Reilly’s hysterical think-of-the-children rant, recently disseminated and picked apart like a holiday turkey.)

Every generation seems to have its moral umbrage agenda: rock music, shock radio, comics, video games and now fighting -- which mirrors the earlier distaste for boxing at the turn of the century. The world will never be completely homogenized for everyone’s taste, and I’m not at all interested in the argument that MMA “damages” impressionable youth. Pay-per-views cost $45, and any modern television has channel-blocking features. The state has enough responsibility to own up to without attempting mass child rearing.

Stop trying to baby-proof the world, Bob.

UFC, Burger King Sneak You Backstage
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:41 p.m. ET: Fighters are advised not to go spelunking for boogers backstage: the UFC has announced a co-op deal with nutritional giant Burger King that will install cameras in both main event fighter locker rooms, at the fighter entrance and near notoriously reclusive UFC President Dana White.

Notable was the press release’s judicious avoidance of the word “microphone.” The idea of watching Rashad Evans or Lyoto Machida compose themselves before a bout is interesting -- or probably will be for five minutes or so -- but it’s unlikely any combustible conversations will go out over the air.

The Whopper dealer also plans to have an Octagon logo presence for the first time. Breaded chicken shaped like dinosaurs and blended Oreo IVs: what champions are made from.

Kaufman-Baszler, Sexton-Aguilar Coming at You
By Loretta Hunt ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:25 a.m. ET: The women’s movement marches on, and a couple of promotions are giving it an extra little push.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker informed Tuesday that undefeated Canadian Sarah Kaufman will get a fast turnaround from her impressive outing against Miesha Tate last Saturday in Fresno, Calif.

The confident and competent striker will face guitar-toting Shayna Baszler on the next Challengers card on June 19 at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash.

Kaufman (9-0) and dance partner Tate presented a strong argument for five-minute rounds at the promotion’s first Challengers event. The fiery pair traded blows for all three 180-second periods and had some to spare.

Kaufman, who once lamented that she couldn’t get a fight for the life of her, walked away with the unanimous decision, and a guaranteed callback against Josh Barnett-trained Baszler.

Baszler (9-5) had a five-fight win streak crushed by Christiane “Cyborg” Santos ten months ago in EliteXC, but in all fairness, Baszler was fighting up in weight against one of the 145-pound division’s more vicious competitors.

Kaufman-Baszler will be contested at an appropriate 135 pounds.

Bellator Fighting Championships, which also shared in the perks of hosting a women’s bout between spitfires Kerry Vera and Leslie Smith last weekend in Chicago, won’t be left out of the game either.

Bellator matchmaker Matt Stansell says the promotion has enlisted Jessica Aguilar and Rosi Sexton for a 120-pound bout at their June 19 finale at the Hard Rock Seminole Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

Aguilar (5-2) hails from the venerable American Top Team, while Sexton (9-1) is widely recognized as the U.K.’s brightest feminine export.

Flawless UFC Victories: Part IV
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Thursday, 1:05 a.m. ET: Counting down the most immaculate performances by headlining athletes in the UFC. Fights had to go two rounds -- it’s easily to avoid mistakes when your first punch sends someone to the ER -- and it must’ve been a paper-even bout.

Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia (UFC 68, March 3, 2007)

If you’re ever in the mood to be contrary and regard Randy Couture as overhyped, watch this fight first. From the opening moment when he knocks over Grimm’s fairy tale foe Sylvia to the final bell, it’s clear the 44-year-old stood a better chance of getting injured walking to the ring.

Sylvia may not be a technical wizard, but his boxing is perfectly suited for his ungainly frame, and he’s kept some terrific fighters at the end of his jab. Not Couture. While the wrestler took Sylvia down plenty, he also spent the majority of the bout standing and landing, using excellent head movement to flummox Sylvia. During a brief lull when he was turtled and Sylvia had control -- a rare moment of possible advantage -- Couture wisely kept his hands touching the mat so Sylvia couldn’t bring up a crushing knee to the brainpan.

A little moment? Sure. But Couture’s fights are full of moments like that. His aversion to damage has kept him properly enunciating words well into his 40s.

His fight with Sylvia may be the most tactically proficient, damage-free 25 minutes in main event history.

Check the blog all day for more entries.

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