Posts Tagged ‘UFC’
UFC Fight Night 24 headliner Phil Davis is unique in many ways, but in a couple of ways he’s just like everybody else.
As a decorated former Penn State wrestling standout and skyrocketing UFC light heavyweight, he shares little in common with the general population. But when Davis thinks of MMA, he thinks of one man, and it’s the same name the majority of our minds draw: Chuck Liddell.
“Chuck, man, Chuck is the best,” Davis told MMADieHards.com. “In my opinion, Chuck is the best fighter ever.”
Davis has a chance to become a little more like Chuck on Saturday when he takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. A replacement for the injured Tito Ortiz, Davis accepted the opportunity and quickly turned “Lil’ Nog” from favorite to big underdog.
The comparisons right now are not between the Harrisburg, Pa., native and Liddell, but instead between Davis and newly crowned 205-pound champion Jon “Bones” Jones, another former wrestler who simply overmatched a sea of previously thought worthy opponents en route to gaining the belt with what appeared to be stunning ease.
“I don’t really think about that too much,” Davis said of the now rampant comparisons between Jones and himself. “He’s had his accomplishments and I’ve had mine. But none of that matters (against Nogueira). The only thing that matters is how good you are that night.”
The pundits expect Davis (8-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) to be very good in this fight.
Davis-Jones comparisons are coming hard and fast. Like Jones, Davis has been speeding toward the top of the storied division. Davis has shown skills that transcend his wrestling background, but he has not yet fought into the top tier of opponents, either.
Are those talking about Davis being the only one who can stop the apparently unbeatable Jones off base, right on or just getting too far ahead? While Jones took his first martial arts class three years ago, Davis is not far behind.
“Pretty much (I jumped right into MMA),” Davis said. “I came in as a wrestler and that’s it. I’m tough. If I have a bad day I know it. But I have plenty of good days. I just keep myself focused on improving and getting better, not letting myself get into a rut and think I suck.”
As Penn State was in the process of winning its first team wrestling national championship in 58 years, Davis could not have been more glowing. While many more eyes were on the surprising performance that propelled the Nittany Lions basketball team into the NCAA Tournament, Davis seemed unaware of – perhaps just disinterested in — the roundballers’ accomplishments.
“I’m pretty close (to the wrestling program),” Davis said. “I have a couple of buddies I talk to on a regular basis. Quentin Wright and Andrew (Long), I expect big things out of those guys, and Frank Molinaro, I expect him to be good, too.”
Davis recognizes a few Nittany Lions who have the skills to compete in MMA.
“It’s one of those things where … in my mind I feel they’re waiting to see how I do to decide if they want to do it,” he allowed. “But I get the feeling a lot of my friends and teammates want to follow suit and probably get into MMA. It’s definitely not for everybody.
“There’s different styles. It’s a style thing. Certain guys I know would be great for MMA.”
He hit the road to MMA as soon as he left State College. Davis rolled into the UFC soon after, and wins over Brian Stann, Alexander Gustafsson, Rodney Wallace and Tim Boetsch advanced him from prospect to prodigy in just over a year.
Recalling the win over Stann, who has since dropped down to middleweight, Davis had fond memories of what he considers his most satisfying win to date.
“I was training for so long, hoping to get to the UFC,” he said. “Then it was like, finally, whew.”
If Davis has a yet-to-be-seen weakness, there is a good chance “Lil’ Nog” could expose it. He might be 34, but Nogueira has two wins over Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and one against its light-heavyweight king, Dan Henderson, not to mention victories over Kaz Sakuraba and Vladimir Matyushenko.
Whether he wants it or not, the respect afforded Davis as a heavy favorite over the significantly more experienced Nogueira is driving public opinion and adding fuel to Davis’ hype train.
At this moment, his handling of the favorable attention and rapidly growing expectations are as big a career factor as his abilities in the cage. If Davis handles Nogueira, there will be serious talk about bringing him into the discussion for title contenders.
But first things first.
“If I don’t get (past Nogueira), there is no title shot,” Davis said. “That’s the most important thing right now.”
While that championship chance might seem far away, Davis needs only to look at Jones to see that a path to the top can be quickly cleared when a fighter mixes smarts, talent, charisma and flair with work ethic. Trying not to get ahead of himself, Davis says he wants to take some time off after this fight, which is happening more quickly than he would have liked, in order to improve his overall game.
Most of his improvements have had to come with little refinement in the gym and lots of on-the-job training. Constantly in camp, this is Davis’ fifth fight in 13 months. “Not really how I would like to have started off in my UFC career,” he says. But he is only concerned with what – or who – is in front of him.
“I watch tape so I can get a picture in my mind of how a guy moves,” Davis explained. “I like to imagine how the fight is going to take place in my mind. I watch the fights so I have an idea, but otherwise I don’t watch the fights.
“Is Nogueira going to fight me the way he fought Jason Brilz? Probably not, because I’m not going to look like Jason Brilz. And I don’t mean physically [laughs]. He won’t fight me the same way he fought Jason Brilz, he won’t fight me the same way he fought Ryan Bader. I hope he does look at us the same, but I don’t think me and Ryan Bader have a similar style at all.”
And then the wrestler dropped a gridiron analogy.
“It’s not quite like football,” he said, “where you can say, ‘If they call hot zone, red 28, they’re probably going to run this play. This is the sequence of plays they run.’ I’m big on mental preparation. I’ll sit down and walk myself through a scenario where I am down a point, I need to get up in impressive fashion, take him down and steal the round; just to walk myself through it.”
Don’t let Phil Davis fool you. He might be unique inside the Octagon, but when it comes down to it, he likes football and Chuck Liddell. Just like everybody else.
We have a new light heavyweight champion, so the challengers are beginning to line up. Phil Davis and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira are certainly in that line, but on Saturday night one of them will move forward while the other returns to the back of the line.
The two light heavyweight contenders will headline the UFC’s latest offering, Fight Night 24, on Spike TV. The event also features a battle between welterweight contenders Anthony Johnson and Dan Hardy, as well as a rematch of between Leonard Garcia and the “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.
The event, which takes place in Seattle, Wash., will air live on Spike at 10 p.m. ET, but fans can also tune into a live internet stream on the UFC’s Facebook page at 7:30 p.m. ET to catch an amazing total of five fights from the preliminary card.
The MMA DieHards panel of writers – Cameron Chow, Conner Cordova, Jason Kelly, Aidan O’Connor and Pete Sumulong – gathered to make their picks for the main card.
Four fighters earned unanimous nods from our panel as favorites in their fights.
The panel likes lightweight Nik Lentz (20-3-2) over Waylon Lowe (10-3) in a battle of former NCAA wrestlers. While Lowe earned multiple NCAA Division II championships, he hasn’t put together as impressive of an Octagon resume as former NCAA Division I counterpart Lentz. Both men tend to fight for points, with seven of their combined eight UFC bouts ending in decisions. There’s certainly a high chance that there will be another reading of the scorecards when this scrap concludes, and Lentz should find his hand raised.
Mike Pyle might have handed welterweight John Hathaway (14-1) his first career loss, but that setback has not discouraged our fine group of prognosticators from putting their confidence in “The Hitman” over opponent Kris McCray (5-2). McCray might have had a decent showing during his time on The Ultimate Fighter 11, but he has yet to notch a win inside the Octagon at a live event. He won’t be able to change that on Saturday, as he lacks the skills and experience to defeat Hathaway. Look for Hathaway to pick up a submission win.
Heavyweight Mike Russow (13-1) might have knocked out Todd Duffee, but that doesn’t mean the panel likes him against TUF 10 alum Jon Madsen (7-0). Madsen is still undefeated and has demonstrated his skills against increasingly tougher competition. While Russow isn’t a step backwards for Madsen, he isn’t really a move up the ladder either. Russow was being dominated by Duffee before landing the knockout blow, but Russow’s real specialty is his submission game. Madsen will have to be careful in utilizing his wrestling against someone with such a skill set, but he’ll stay smart and play it conservative on his way to a decision win.
Light heavyweight Phil Davis (8-0) is known for his wrestling. That’s bad news for his opponent in the evening’s headlining contest, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-4). Lil Nog has not had much luck against wrestling, barely getting past Jason Brilz and then dropping a unanimous decision to Ryan Bader. Davis’ ability to bring his foe to the mat might be even more impressive than that of either of those previous opponents. Once there, Davis has also shown a growing submission game that allows him to do more than just lay-and-pray or look for sloppy submissions. Nogueira might currently be a top-ten light heavyweight, while Davis is just top-twenty, but by the end of the night Davis will prove that their spots in the rankings should be reversed. Look for Davis’ wrestling to be too much for Minotoro, but Nogueira has never been submitted and won’t be here. This one ends in a decision victory for “Mr. Wonderful.”
The panel was divided on the other eight contests, which brings us to the “Counterpunch,” where one of the writers in the minority defends his reason for going against the popular opinion.
MW: Aaron Simpson (7-2) vs. Mario Miranda (10-2)
Picking Simpson: 4 (Chow, Cordova, O’Connor, Sumulong)
Picking Miranda: 1 (Kelly)
Kelly: Miranda faces “A-Train” in a bout which I think Miranda will win.
Simpson is part of that strong Arizona wrestling crew with C.B. Dollaway and Ryan Bader that all train at Power MMA, but his Muay Thai skills are not on par with Miranda’s and Simpson’s ground game will be nullified by Miranda’s jiu-jitsu, similar to how Miranda gave Demian Maia fits on the mat. I do not see any advantages for “A-Train” in this fight that will be effective.
Miranda will prove victorious with a second-round knockout.
WW: Johny Hendricks (9-1) vs. T.J. Waldburger (13-5)
Picking Hendricks: 4 (Chow, Cordova, Kelly, O’Connor)
Picking Waldburger: 1 (Sumulong)
Sumulong: I have been a long time admirer of Hendricks’ work – from his multiple NCAA championship wins to his nine-fight winning streak to start his MMA career. Though his wrestling pedigree is impeccable, I noticed some holes in his game that were glaringly apparent in his loss to Rick Story. Hendricks at times acts way too overconfident in the Octagon, often showing disdain for opponents who he is dominating. He also fights with no sense of urgency, which came back to haunt him as Story, on paper not even close to the wrestler Hendricks is, took him down and out-worked him in their fight last December.
Waldburger is a hungry contender who battered David Mitchell in his UFC debut last September. He is an explosive athlete with heavy hands who can do damage standing and on the ground. I also noticed that Waldburger never takes his foot off the gas pedal and fights for every position, including working his way out of some precarious positions on the ground in the Mitchell fight.
If Hendricks can put the pressure on Waldburger for fifteen minutes straight, then logic would dictate that Hendricks would win the fight easily. I believe Waldburger’s never-say-die attitude will give Hendricks fits and his strikes will make the difference on the way to a decision victory.
HW: Sean McCorkle (10-1) vs. Christian Morecraft (6-1)
Picking McCorkle: 3 (Kelly, O’Connor, Sumulong)
Picking Morecraft: 2 (Chow, Cordova)
Cordova: Both of these guys are very game, and are consistent finishers. This one is going to be a war, but I don’t see it going to the judges’ score cards. Both of these guys have only ever lost once, and oddly enough, for both it was Stefan Struve that shattered their unbeaten streaks. Looking back on those fights, I see Morecraft coming out on top against McCorkle. I think Christian is very underrated in the division, and before he got caught by a nice combo, he was well on his way to beating Stefan that night. McCorkle is good, but Morecraft is better. TKO, second round, for Morecraft.
BW: Michael McDonald (11-1) vs. Edwin Figueroa (7-0)
Picking McDonald: 4 (Cordova, Kelly, O’Connor, Sumulong)
Picking Figueroa: 1 (Chow)
Chow: Picking fights is not an exact science for me. In fact, it’s not even a science at all. Case in point, Figueroa vs. “Mayday” McDonald. Two great names. Since I’m not a Doobie Brothers’ fan I have to take Figueroa in this fight. Plus, being an L.A. native and USC alum, I couldn’t pass up the chance to cheer for a guy named after the street where the L.A. riots reached a boiling point and where the University of Southern California is nestled in the heart of South Central.
Both fighters come into the Octagon as relative newcomers in the UFC. McDonald is 11-1 and comes into the fight on a 4-fight win streak. Figueroa has yet to taste defeat in his pro career at 7-0, although he’s fought in mostly smaller shows. Figueroa and McDonald can both finish fights standing or on the ground. While my method for picking winners may not be sound, my love of a good brawl is pretty solid. This fight should be a good one. I look for Figueroa to win in a fight that will be considered for “Fight of the Night” honors.
FW: Mackens Semerzier (5-3) vs. Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres (4-2)
Picking Semerzier: 4 (Chow, Cordova, Kelly, O’Connor)
Picking Caceres: 1 (Sumulong)
Sumulong: Welcome back Caceres! The arrogant, brash, and often irritating cast member known as “Bruce Leroy” from the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter is all set to make his UFC featherweight debut against WEC veteran Semerzier. Let’s get to the good about Bruce Leroy – he’s a dynamic striker with submissions skills who tapped out Jeff Lentz in his first fight on TUF 12. Caceres then lost a tough decision to house rival Michael Johnson, a much bigger fighter. Caceres showed great heart and fighting spirit in the fight against Johnson, and gave Johnson fits in their two-round battle. Since the end of the reality show, Caceres has spent time training with Georges St-Pierre and I have no doubt that will make a difference in this fight.
Semerzier has lost three straight fights since a surprising submission victory over BJJ ace Wagnney Fabiano. His methodical style will be overwhelmed by Caceres’ dynamic, wide-open attack, and Caceres and his afro should cruise to a TKO victory.
FW: Leonard Garcia (15-6-1) vs. Chan Sung Jung (10-3)
Picking Garcia: 3 (Cordova, Kelly, O’Connor)
Picking Jung: 2 (Chow, Sumulong)
Chow: In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this while wearing a “Korean Zombie” t-shirt. I fully expect the second go-around of Jung versus Garcia to be a war. I don’t know if it can be as exciting, or technically unsound, as the first fight, but if it even comes close it will be a joy to watch. I believe that the “Korean Zombie” was robbed in their first fight and that he will win in this one.
Garcia always brings it, but karma is telling me to go with Jung, who fully deserved to win the first fight. I’m glad that these two will rematch and that we’ll get to watch what I believe will be a replay of one of the more exciting fights from last year. Neither guy is too technical, but both love a good old-fashioned slobber knocker. If you get that reference, extra points for you.
Extra points are what Garcia is going to need if he thinks he’s going to beat Jung this time around. Jung will outwork Garcia in fight that will be entertaining as hell, but end up in the hands of the judges once again. Let’s hope they get it right.
WW: Amir Sadollah (4-2) vs. DaMarques Johnson (12-8)
Picking Sadollah: 4 (Cordova, Kelly, O’Connor, Sumulong)
Picking Johnson: 1 (Chow)
Chow: Sadollah has had a good run. He really has, but Johnson may send him packing from the organization that made him famous. Sadollah has been the consummate company man since winning The Ultimate Fighter. He’s done TV spots and made countless appearances. While he’s proven he’s a likable personality, one thing he hasn’t proven is that he’s a consistent fighter.
Johnson will prove that he is ready to take the next step in his career by beating the well-liked Sadollah in what is sure to be an exciting fight. Johnson’s energy and athleticism will be too much for Sadollah as this fight won’t go the distance.
WW: Anthony Johnson (8-3) vs. Dan Hardy (23-8)
Picking Johnson: 3 (Cordova, Kelly, Sumulong)
Picking Hardy: 2 (Chow, O’Connor)
O’Connor: Assuming Hardy’s opponent can make weight for the evening’s co-main event after a lengthy lay-off, there are a number of factors that work in “The Outlaw’s” favor when breaking down this contest. Johnson’s 16-month absence since a submission defeat to Josh Koscheck is bound to raise questions about the man’s conditioning and any potential ring-rust. Already notable for letting himself go in the first five minutes, when Johnson is matched up against Hardy, who has survived five rounds of grappling with GSP and who is more than prepared for an onslaught in the initial round, I would imagine the longer this fight goes the more it becomes Hardy’s to lose.
In addition, despite a wrestling pedigree Johnson prefers to trade strikes with his opponents. This is an environment where Hardy is all too comfortable. Whilst a combination of over-enthusiasm and fractional mistiming cost Hardy a knockout defeat to Carlos Condit, “The Outlaw” has proven on multiple occasions prior that his movement, combinations and chin strength are all admirable qualities in an arsenal designed to stand and bang. Should Johnson attempt to take the bout to the floor if he tires, one would assume Hardy has worked extensively on takedown defense since UFC 111 and would stand a good chance of neutralizing the massive welterweight.
Hardy outlasts “Rumble” via TKO or decision.