St.Pierre vs. Diaz: Emotions Run Deep
By Mike McPhee
After injuries, cancellations and a variety of unique circumstances the UFC welterweight championship fight between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz will finally happen. This Saturday from St-Pierre’s hometown of Montreal, QC the long anticipated title fight will headline UFC 158.
Over the course of the last couple years many things have kept this fight from happening. From St-Pierre’s ACL injury that forced him to miss well over a year, to Diaz blowing off pre-fight obligations and subsequently a suspension for a failed drug test have all led us to this point.
St-Pierre generally conveys a calm professional persona. In this instance he is more emotional due to Diaz’s repeated negative comments and perceived unprofessional actions. St-Pierre seems to want to make a statement and not only defeat Diaz but do it emphatically. Diaz will be using mind games in the final days leading up to this fight. During interviews and the weigh-ins expect Diaz to be not only vocal but demonstrative in his feelings toward St-Pierre.
St-Pierre normally doesn’t let his opponents get into his head. He stays on an even keel and implements his game plan in the octagon flawlessly. With his emotional display and very public negative feelings toward the challenger it will be interesting to see if he can remain focused during the fight. Diaz is well known for taunting his opponents during the fight. Undoubtedly he will do the same with St-Pierre since he has already received a reaction from his pre-fight antics.
Diaz has a lot to prove in this fight. He has been a champion in other organizations but earning championship gold in the largest MMA promotion in the world will cement his legacy. Diaz disappeared and missed several required pre-fight obligations when they were last scheduled at UFC 137 in October 2011. He was replaced by Carlos Condit in the title fight and was not pleased that St-Pierre did not do anything to keep their fight intact. Granted it was out of St-Pierre’s control at that point but he wanted some effort from the champion.
Now over a year later the two will finally step into the octagon. Emotions will run high on both sides. In the past this has not been a problem for Diaz to handle. We will see if St-Pierre copes with it or loses focus and can not defend his precious championship belt.
Both fighters are polarizing figures in the MMA world. While St-Pierre is clearly one of the best fighters on the planet he has a lot of people who are not fans of his. He can be perceived as a safe or boring fighter and does not finish his opponents very often. St-Pierre has not ended a fight in over three years when a corner stoppage was called at UFC 94 against BJ Penn.
His true fans respect his skills and ability to dictate the pace of every fight he is in. His top level wrestling has allowed him to take opponents down at will and control the fight. He has utilized his striking well in recent fights with Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields. He was able to keep their grappling at bay with his pin point jab and while mixing in some wrestling with spectacular take down defense.
Diaz’s fans enjoy his exciting style. He is a very active striker who throws a tremendous amount of punches each round. While they are not all power punches the sheer quantity is enough to rattle almost anyone. With a black belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Diaz is comfortable when the fight goes to the mat. This may be a place he spends a lot of time this weekend if St-Pierre can use his wrestling to control the action.
The other side of Nick Diaz is what turns many fans off. He is brash, loud and unapologetic. His lack of professionalism when it comes to interviews or press conferences leading up to a fight, trash talking or antics in the cage turn a lot of the MMA public away from him. These same actions draw another segment to him. Diaz is a fighter that you are definitely a tremendous fan of or you simply detest.
Regardless of the fans feelings toward either fighter they are both elite welterweights. Their resumes are impressive and are proven winners. St-Pierre has taken out fighters such as Shields, Koscheck, Jon Fitch, BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, Sean Sherk and many more top UFC welterweights.
Diaz has taken down fighters in several organizations such as Penn, Paul Daley, Hayato Sakurai, Frank Shamrock, Robbie Lawler, Chris Lytle and Marius Zaromskis.
Each man has the ability to win on any given night. While Diaz is coming off a loss to Carlos Condit he is still a threat to the champion. Some may feel he doesn’t deserve this opportunity due to his recent loss but St-Pierre demanded it and UFC President Dana White could not pass up the opportunity to cash in on this charged headliner.
UFC title shots have been given out in a controversial way lately. Whether fans agree with it or not it is going to keep happening and fights like St-Pierre vs. Diaz will likely draw a large number of pay-per-view buys justifying the decision in the eyes of UFC management. The UFC is a business first and will make the fights that can earn the most revenue as often as possible. This does not always coincide with the matchup that is the most deserved due to success in the octagon.
These two fighters have been on a collision course for years. It should have happened already but due to odd circumstances and injuries it has been pushed back until now. Both men are confident and extremely dangerous. With the added emotional element both of these men are destined to deliver a classic fight not to be missed.
Georges St-Pierre’s Arduous Journey To Mental Readiness
By Mike McPhee
When the UFC made its long awaited debut in Ontario for UFC 129 no one would have imagined it would be the last time Canada’s most dominant MMA fighter would be seen for nearly two years. UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre finally makes his return to the octagon this weekend for UFC 154. He will take on interim champion Carlos Condit in a unification bout after a 19 month layoff due to a knee injury.
In December 2011, GSP was training for his title defense against Nick Diaz. Diaz’s trash talk was able to get under the skin of the champion. St-Pierre told UFC President Dana White "He's the most disrespectful human being I've ever met and I'm going to put the worst beating you've ever seen on him in the UFC."
It was surprising to hear a statement like that from him as St-Pierre is well known for his calm and professional demeanor. In training for that highly anticipated fight, St-Pierre tore the ACL in his right knee and the fight had to be called off. Diaz went on to fight Condit for the interim title at UFC 143. Condit earned a decision win and has been awaiting St-Pierre’s return to unify the titles.
An ACL tear is one of the most devastating injuries a professional athlete can suffer. Generally this type of injury is minimum a year off rehabbing and the knee does not always fully recover and regain its previous strength.
GSP is one of the best conditioned fighters on the planet. Several of his championship fights over the last few years have gone the full five rounds and at no time does it appear he is wearing down to the point of having no energy remaining. A knee injury such as this one could have not only a physical effect on the champion but a mental one. Recovering athletes with this injury talk about trusting the knee enough to not let it be a problem.
Minnesota VIkings running back Adrian Peterson suffered a torn ACL ten months ago and remarkably came back ready to play this season. He was asked to give some advice to Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose who is trying to come back from the same injury.
“My advice for him would be to just attack it. Right now, the ligament is strong enough to cut with it. Don't be hesitant. When you're out doing drills, do it as you normally would any other day. Push yourself and challenge yourself. That's the only way you'll build the strength and confidence to where it should be.”
That is the attitude GSP will have to take. If he does not have complete trust in the knee there is no way he can implement his game plan and be victorious.
GSP will have to develop some new tools in order to defeat Carlos Condit. The two were teammates at the famed Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA camp in Albuquerque, NM. Head trainer, Greg Jackson will be stepping aside from this fight and will not be cornering either man. St-Pierre will prepare at his primary facility with trainer Firas Zahabi head of Tri-Star Gym in Montreal.
The two will not share trainers or camps this time for obvious reasons. However, their past training sessions will be locked in their memories as they prepare game plans for this weekend’s bout.
There are many examples of “ring rust” being a problem for returning fighters. Being away from training and regularly scheduled fights can have a detrimental effect on any fighter. Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez tore a rotator cuff in his shoulder after defeating Brock Lesnar for the championship. After a long 13 month layoff he returned to face Junior Dos Santos on the first UFC on FOX card. He lost only 1:04 into the first round by knockout.
Instances like this may weigh on St-Pierre’s mind. He has always been known for his physique and athleticism and that may make him immune to the negative effects a long layoff. Unfortunately he will not truly know until the cage door closes and the fight starts.
The UFC is no doubt ecstatic that one of the most dominant champions in the MMA history is back. Dana White has stated on several occasions that St-Pierre is a huge draw for pay-per-views and means a lot to the promotion’s bottom line. With the fight being in his hometown of Montreal a large raucous crowd will be on hand to warmly welcome him back.
Doctors have told GSP he is ready to go. His trainers will have him prepared physically and with a game plan. It is now up to him to put the injury behind him by trusting the knee and returning as the dominant champion all his fans remember.
MMA legend and commentator Bas Rutten has always said that fighting is 100% mental. If you can not have your mind in the right place, you can not fight or train correctly and that is the most important thing for St-Pierre to do right now. He must be in the right frame of mind and fight like the injury never occurred. If he hesitates or is focused on the knee once the fight starts then he will undoubtedly lose. Condit is a good enough fighter to beat him on any given day. Being unfocused will only make Condit’s job easier.
Many people would not be surprised if GSP loses as it seems to occur quite often for returning fighters. Champions like Anderson Silva or St-Pierre are not thought of like many others in MMA. He has been considered one of the pound for pound best fighters on the planet for many years and is held on a pedestal due to his incredible skill and dominance.
Fans expect more from fighters of his calibre. We all have to remember that he is still human and has to prove not only to his fans but to himself that he is 100% both physically and mentally, and can regain the impeccable form he had before the injury took him out.
Roger Hollett’s Tumultuous Road To UFC 152
By Mike McPhee
This Saturday in Toronto, Nova Scotia native Roger ‘The Hulk’ Hollett will realize his dream & compete for The Ultimate Fighting Championships at UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. It has been an arduous journey but he has finally made it to the largest MMA promotion in the world & hopes to put on an unforgettable performance to ensure he stays where he feels he belongs.
When the match-ups were first announced, Hollett was scheduled to face Matt ‘The Hammer’ Hamill, but was subsequently pulled from that fight. A lingering contract issue with the promotion he last fought for held him up and he was replaced by long time MMA veteran Vladimir Matyushenko. In his training camp for the fight, Matyushenko suffered an achilles injury. A replacement was needed & Hollett lucked out as he was finally free to sign.
The original problem with his previous employer, Bellator Fighting Championships, was due to a medical test. He was penciled in to fight in their upcoming light heavyweight tournament but a bad EKG rating raised an issue.
He was diagnosed with an athlete’s heart, which is common to high performance athletes. Bellator wanted him to undergo further tests but unfortunately the doctors were not able to get him in quick enough to be cleared for the tournament. He was then given his release from the promotion.
When Hollett tried to sign on with the UFC for the bout with Hamill, Bellator used a clause that allows them to match any offer from his next contract wherever that may be. They did so & his UFC dream was seemingly done. Hollett wanted out but legally there was nothing he could do. The UFC could not sit around & wait for their dispute to end so they booked Hamill another opponent.
Once the new opponent was announced, Bellator then decided they did not want to match the offer & freed him up. Of course by this time it was too late to be aded to the UFC event.
Fate stepped in for Hollett when Matyushenko became injured & he is now back on the card facing his original opponent. He comes into UFC with a 13-3 professional record. He is well known for finishing his opponents as only 2 of his 13 wins have gone to a judge’s decision.
Every fight of his, including this weekend’s, has been contested in Canada. It is common practice for the UFC to load up on local or national talent when holding events outside of the U.S. Hollett will receive tremendous fan support from his fellow Canadians when he enters the arena. He will also receive a great deal of notoriety around the world as his bout is on the pay-per-view portion of the card.
Hollett does not want to look back at the problems he had trying to free himself from Bellator. He is focused on his next fight & a potentially bright future in the UFC. A victory over a popular alumni from The Ultimate Fighter reality show will undeniably do that.
Being the son of a former Canadian boxing & kickboxing champion tends to lead you in one direction when you train. Hollett has knocked out several opponents but he knows as every fighter does that you can not be successful in MMA with only one set of skills. His seven submissions prove he has developed an all around game & can be a threat in every facet of the sport.
His fight with Matt Hamill may very well turn out to be a striking war. Hamill does have a pedigree in amateur wrestling but enjoys a stand up fight. Wrestlers have the advantage of being able to take fights to the ground if they begin to lose the striking war. Hollett will have to be wary of that if he gets the upper-hand on his feet.
On paper this fight appears to have the ingredients for an exciting bout. Both men could stand in the middle of the octagon & slug it out until someone drops. Each man has skills well beyond the striking game but fans hope to see at least some of that intense action.
After fighting for small Canadian promotions, Hollett made his way to a large promotion in Bellator. While that is a big step, the step to the UFC is the largest one he will ever take. We see fighters come & go in the UFC all the time. The window of opportunity is small so when you have the chance to showcase your talents you can not hesitate. Hollett now has his chance & he will undoubtedly do everything in his power to capitalize on it.
The UFC Returns To Toronto
By Mike McPhee
For the third time in history, the Ultimate Fighting Championships will visit Toronto with UFC 152 on Saturday September 22. The promotion made history with its first visit here in April 2011 with UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre. More than 55,000 fans attended the stacked card & made it the largest attendance in UFC history.
The second visit was last December when UFC 140 was held at the Air Canada Centre. The card was not as well received as their initial visit due to a lack of current star power to entice fans. Past favorites such as Tito Ortiz, Frank Mir & Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira were on the main card but all of them are past their prime & are not considered threats to any titles.
The main event featured a light heavyweight championship fight between champion Jon Jones & Lyoto Machida. While it was a solid main event the card itself lacked the energy & action UFC 129 delivered.
The UFC looks to bring back the excitement back to the city like their first visit by delivering a more attractive card. After the disaster of UFC 151 being cancelled due to Dana White not being able to setup a new challenger for Jon Jones, the light heavyweight champion will now take the main event slot in Toronto against Vitor Belfort.
The second championship on the card is for the inaugural flyweight championship. After winning their semi-final tournament bouts both Joseph Benavidez & Demetrious Johnson will battle in the co-main event to crown the first champion of this new weight division.
Having two title fights on the main card raises the interest of the event for fans in Toronto. In addition to those two fights, Michael Bisping versus Brian Stann will also be on the main card. Bisping has been calling for a shot at champion Anderson Silva for quite some time now and with a win on the 22nd it is possible he will earn that chance.
In the previous Toronto cards there has been a tremendous amount of Canadian talent fighting. Using home town or national favorites is always a great way to sell tickets to the event, yet this time around there are only three on the card.
Sean Pierson & TJ Grant each have a fight on the undercard airing on Sportsnet in Canada starting at 8pm EST. Pierson is from Toronto so he will undoubtedly have a large fan base cheering him on. TJ Grant is from the Maritimes but anytime a Canadian fighter takes to the cage in this country he is always supported whole heartedly. Mitch Gagnon from Sudbury will be on the preliminary card that will be aired on Facebook before the television coverage begins.
Originally a fourth Canadian was set to fight on this card in a high profile fight. Rory MacDonald was able to pull future Hall of Famer BJ Penn out of retirement. MacDonald suffered a cut in training & the bout had to be moved back to the end of the year.
With the loss of that fight Toronto fans began to groan as the card took a big hit & lost some of its luster. Fans quickly lucked out when Jon Jones was added to the event. He is not fighting one of the obvious challengers like Dan Henderson or Lyoto Machida but he is one of the most talented fighters out there & will draw a crowd.
Jones may draw a crowd for a very different reason too. When his original opponent Dan Henderson had to pull out of their UFC 151 fight a couple different opponents were brought to Jones to keep the fight from being cancelled. Jones did not take the fights due to very short notice & the UFC took the unprecedented move of canceling the entire card.
Jones took a lot of heat from fans as they blamed him for ducking opponents & being the reason for the card’s cancellation. Dana White held a conference call where he blasted Jones & his trainer Greg Jackson for not taking a fight & keeping the card in tact. Dana White has since passed some of the blame on to Dan Henderson & his injury. Dana has done a fantastic job deflecting all blame away from himself & made his fighters take the all the blame.
Regardless of what fans & Dana White currently think of Jon Jones he will be making history as he will walk to the octagon decked out in Nike gear. Jon Jones recently signed a global deal with the sports giant & will have his own line of clothing similar to Tiger Woods & Michael Jordan. It is an enormous step for the growth of mixed martial arts having one of their star athletes sponsored by a company as recognizable as Nike.
Jones may be making history but he is likely to receive a very negative reaction. Jones has taken a lot of heat lately as almost everything he says & does is negative or at least perceived as negative. His opponent Vitor Belfort is a fan favourite to many due to his aggressive striking style. He may feel like he is back home in Brazil with the rousing reception he is likely to receive.
Fans in the area seem much more excited for the UFC event this time around. An entertaining card does not have to be made up of superstars or marketable names that fans will flock to. In many instances cards that appear weaker on paper deliver a much more captivating card. With the two titles on the line & other notable names on this card the excitement is stirring & fans anticipate an action packed night. Now it is up to the fighters to deliver & make this visit to Toronto by the UFC another success.
The full UFC 152 card:
Champion Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort (Light-heavyweight title)
Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson (Flyweight title)
Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann
Matt Hamill vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Charles Oliveira vs. Cub Swanson
Vinny Magalhaes vs. Igor Pokrajac
Evan Dunham vs. T.J. Grant
Lance Benoist vs. Sean Pierson
Marcus Brimage vs. Jim Hettes
Seth Baczynski vs. Simeon Thoresen
Mitch Gagnon vs. Walel Watson
Charlie Brenneman vs. Kyle Noke
Sarah Kaufman Looks To Reclaim Her Title
By Mike McPhee
The majority of the time in the sport of mixed martial arts the focus is on the male fighters. Canadian fans should be proud of one of the best female fighters in the world in former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman. The B.C. native is set to fight for a title once again Saturday August 18th against current 135 lb. champion Ronda Rousey.
Kaufman enters the fight with an impressive 15-1 record. The only loss of her career was to Marloes Coenen when she lost the bantamweight championship. She has strung together three wins since that defeat including her last fight which was a crowd pleasing brawl with fellow Canadian Alexis Davis.
Kaufman began training in mixed martial arts at age 17 when a school opened right where she was taking dance classes. She initially joined the gym to take aerobics kickboxing classes but eventually joined more classes as she grew more interested in the different aspects of the sport.
Kaufman debuted as a professional fighter in June 2006 & went on a 12 fight win streak before her first & only loss. Of her 15 wins she has had 10 KO/TKO victories. She has yet to earn a submission win but will have to be able to defend submissions when she faces Rousey.
Rousey is a former Judo Olympian who has parlayed that into a successful MMA career. Rousey is young in the sport but is 5-0 with five first round armbar submission wins. For Kaufman to survive Rousey’s grappling she will need to keep the fight on her feet & have phenomenal submission defense. Her purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will be put to the test if she finds her back on the mat.
Rousey has quickly become the new face of women’s MMA due to her attractiveness & brash personality. She recently graced the cover of ESPN’s The Body issue & has been featured on late night talk shows. Kaufman may be able take over as the face of the sport of she can defeat the undefeated champion. With Kaufman being the consummate professional that isn’t a concern to her. Her goal is to bring that championship belt back home with her.
Kaufman will easily have the striking advantage in this contest. In Rousey’s previous fight where she defeated Miesha Tate for the championship it was thought Tate had the striking advantage. Rousey was able to survive the barrage at the beginning of the fight & eventually earn a takedown that lead to the impressive armbar victory.
Kaufman has produced some incredible highlights in her career. Her power slam knockout of Roxanne Modafferi in July 2010 made all of the highlight reels. Many of her fights have turned out to be very entertaining as her heart & determination have come through in fan friendly bouts.
She will have to rely on her experience in the cage & ability to out strike Rousey to win this fight. She has been champion before & whole heartedly wants the belt back. She is smart enough to not let the mystique of Rousey’s armbar get inside her head. As noted in the media conference call for this fight she treats every fight the same & her confidence has never wavered.
Rousey comes into the fight as high as a 6-1 favourite but as we have seen far too many times in the sport the underdog surprises people. Betting lines are not always indicative of the true abilities of each fighter but react to who the money is being put on. The fighter who is more famous or has their name out in the public much more can have the money flow toward them when bets are placed. Rousey is a master at garnering attention & being noticed. Kaufman is a quieter person content to stay out of the spotlight & focus on the task at hand.
Strikeforce has been a proponent of women’s MMA for some time. Once again the women will headline a card as the promotion understands that women’s fights tend to steal the show. The fact a title is on the line made it a shoe in for the main event slot. With Rousey’s personality, looks & incredible abilities on the mat along with Kaufman’s exceptional striking & resume this fight should receive plenty of notoriety. With their recent bouts in fan’s memory nothing less than a phenomenal battle should be expected.
Nationwide MMA Legalization Is One Step Closer
By Mike McPhee
Late last week legalization of mixed martial arts across Canada took another step to becoming a reality. The Senate has authorized a bill to go to the House of Commons that would amend the Criminal Code to allow MMA fights across the country.
Senator Bob Runciman introduced this bill originally but oddly enough is not a fan of the sport. He does recognize the law that has not been updated since 1934 is very out of touch with the times & can see other sports or competitions being labeled illegal under the current writing of the Criminal Code.
Some provinces have found ways around the law by interpreting MMA bouts as boxing fights. Any event that is being held in the country is illegal but they have never been enforced. By re-wording the law it would remove any issues with promoters putting on cards & have a national set of regulations.
Runciman has a sponsor for the bill once it is up for debate in the House of Commons. A Liberal MP from Montreal, Massimo Pacetti will be behind this change when it goes to the House floor. Runciman is a Conservative & is pleased with another political party being behind this. With both sides of the house supporting the change it should be able to pass & have the law re-written.
Whichever side of the political spectrum is talking about the sport it all comes down to money. The provincial Liberals in Ontario allowed the sport to be promoted here because they could see the Ultimate Fighting Championships sell out the Bell Center in Montreal repeatedly. The government & UFC officials had spoken on numerous occasions about the promotion’s intent to put on shows in Toronto. The government could not pass up on the revenue & passed a provincial law to allow it.
On a national level the event was still illegal if you go by the letter of the law but it was never enforced. The UFC brought a show to Toronto in April 2011 & sold out the Rogers Center with over 55,000 fans. Experts have said that up to 40 million dollars was brought into the local economy for that event & the Fan Expo held leading up to it. In these difficult economic times a revenue generating machine like that is welcome regardless of the politicians personal beliefs about the sport.
By having the Criminal Code altered to allow MMA every province & territory will be able to put on events without any worry about prosecution. Promoters coming into Canada do not have to be concerned with any legal issues & can deal with a standard set of regulations province to province.
We have seen issues in parts of the country where not just province to province but city to city have different rules & fees. Unifying them under one set of regulations will breathe some much needed consistency & legitimacy into the sport in Canada.
Moving through the Senate is a good step. The House still needs to pass this law & as citizens of a democratic country we all know how long the political process can take. All we can hope for is that it is not held up & passes through as quickly as possible.
The fans of this sport in Canada deserve it for being so patient. The athletes growing up who will become the next generation of stars deserve it. The country needs the revenue & the sport has been proven to be safe when properly regulated. It should only be a matter of time before nationally the sport will not only be legal but grow exponentially.
The Predator Finds His Way Back To The UFC
By Mike McPhee
Injuries are a part of any sport. In mixed martial arts it is very prevalent due to the rigorous training camps the fighters go through. Fight cards are announced months in advance but are always changing as injuries occur. UFC 147 on June 23 underwent a major change in the main event as Vitor Belfort broke his hand & had to back out of his fight with Wanderlei Silva. This move caused a ripple effect that will benefit a veteran Canadian fighter.
Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin was scheduled to fight former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le July 7th. Franklin has stepped up to take Belfort’s spot opening up a slot on the July 7th card. It was just announced that Quebec native Patrick ‘The Predator’ Cote has re-signed with the UFC to take that fight.
Cote first debuted for the promotion back at UFC 52 in October 2004. Over the next couple years he became a regular & worked his way up to a title shot. At UFC 90 he finally had his shot against middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Silva was a dominant force & no fighter had even come close to beating him. Cote hung in there until the 3rd round until he took a step forward & his knee collapsed under him causing the fight to be stopped.
That fight was a turning point in his career. After riding a 5 fight win streak going into that fight, the loss started a 3 fight losing streak & ending his run in the octagon. He lost to Alan Belcher at UFC 113 & Tom Lawlor at UFC 121 before being released.
Facing an uncertain future Cote took almost 7 months off before he stepped back into the cage. Cote came back home & fought for the Ringside MMA promotion in Quebec. He took on former UFC fighter Kalib Starnes in the main event that night and he toughed a hard fought decision & was back to his winning ways.
His next post-UFC fight was back in Ringside once again, earning another decision win over Todd Brown. Cote has won 2 more fights since then and fans began a Twitter campaign to bring him back to the UFC. The campaign seemed to be going nowhere until the Belfort injury had a ripple effect through two events.
Cote will return to the octagon for the first time since October 2010 and the response from the fans has been very positive. With a 17-7 record Cote has the credentials to belong in the world’s largest MMA promotion. Only 9 of his 24 fights have gone to a decision so generally his fights end early which is always pleasing to the fans. With a fight setup against a quality striker like Cung Le & 2 knockout of the night bonuses during his UFC career it would appear this fight will not go to the judges either.
Cote was snake bitten in his championship fight with the knee injury. At the time it seemed Cote was bound to get back to the title picture quickly but his career took a downturn. Now back on track he tries once again to work his way back up the UFC rankings. Taking this fight on short notice will put him in UFC President Dana White’s good books. So even with a loss to Le it may be very likely he gets one more shot to the show he belongs.
If Cote is able to earn a victory over a tough opponent it will position him for a shot at a higher ranked opponent & be that much closer to Anderson Silva once again. It was a long road back to the UFC so expect Cote to use this opportunity handed to him through injury & circumstance. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. It is up now up to Cote to take advantage of the situation.
PROVINCIAL ATHLETIC COMMISSION COMING TO B.C.
By Mike McPhee
The British Columbia provincial government took a big step today to establish an athletic commission with the introduction of Bill 50 in parliament. This is an overdue move by the government, but a welcome one for fans, promoters & athletes.
Bill 50 is intended to create a governing body to regulate all combat sports such as mixed martial arts, boxing & kickboxing and the legislation would replace all of the local commissions present now in the province. The new commission would make fighter safety paramount. It would unify all rules within the sports province wide & bring some consistency to any fees or taxes that are required by the athletes & promoters.
The commission would be under the guidance of the Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development. They would allow major MMA organizations such as The Ultimate Fighting Championships to work with a professionally run competent commission as seen in other provinces or states across North America. Previously in British Columbia there were far too many uneducated people running local commissions & major promoters have walked away not wanting to deal with their volatile behavior.
Vancouver lost a potential UFC event this summer to the city of Calgary with UFC 149 now July 21 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. In previous years, Vancouver was a stop for the UFC as they promoted across Canada. UFC President Dana White had expressed some frustration in dealing with the Vancouver commission & the restrictions placed on them. This step by the province is meant to bring major events like a UFC fight card back to the city which will bring millions into the local economy.
UFC pay per view events have been estimated to bring in anywhere from 4-12 million dollars into the area where the event is held. In these tough economic times an influx of money from people attending a UFC show has to be seen as a positive regardless of a politicians stereotypical view of the sport.
There are other promotions out there other than the UFC who would like to hold a show in a large city such as Vancouver. Whether it is the other Zuffa owned organization, Strikeforce or a Canadian promotion such as the Edmonton based Maximum Fighting Championships, there is no doubt arenas will be booked for events. The city has too large of a population for promoters to ignore. With outlandish fees & erratic local commissions it just wasn’t worth the trouble before. Once this bill becomes law you will see a rush to book combat sports events in the province just as we saw when MMA was legalized in Ontario in 2011.
A professionally run organization with people who understand the sports they are regulating is a necessity for putting on quality events. Promoters & athletes need to understand very clearly what is required from them whether it is the fees, medical tests or specific rules the province feels they need to enforce. With a clear understanding of all these B.C. will be seen as a welcome place to hold events. Fans will then be able to see more fight cards in their local areas and this will help grow the sports from the amateur & grass roots ranks. B.C. is on their way to becoming much more relevant in the combat sports community with this very wise political decision.
RORY MACDONALD: THE NEXT CANADIAN MMA STAR
By Mike McPhee
Canada has produced many great MMA fighters over the years. We have seen fighters like Carlos Newton & Gary Goodridge lay the foundation. Their trailblazing led to veterans Joe Doerksen, Denis Kang & David Loiseau. This then led to the current crop of stars such as Patrick Cote, Sam Stout, Mark Hominick & of course one of the greatest of all time, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. A new generation of fighters is on the rise with B.C.native Rory MacDonald leading the way.
At only 22 years of age Rory has compiled an impressive 13-1 record. His only loss was to current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. It was a fight Rory controlled & virtually dominated until he was caught very late in the final round & lost by TKO.
Since debuting in the UFC at a Fight Night event in January 2010, Rory has put together a 4-1 record. With a very impressive win at UFC 145 in April, Rory is on the cusp of taking on the elite of the division & moving up the ladder for a title shot possibly in 2013.
The issue with a title shot is that his friend & training partner Georges St. Pierre is the current champion and both have stated they have no desire to fight each other. Of course, with GSP coming off a serious knee injury it is yet to be seen if he will be the same fighter. He is hopeful to defend his title in late 2012 against the interim champion Condit but nothing is official at this time. Rory has stated if he was asked to fight GSP he would move up in weight to Middleweight to avoid it. A lot can change between now & that potential date so it is hard to even speculate that it will happen.
The UFC’s welterweight division is in a bit of disarray at the moment. With the two champions set to fight each other at an undetermined time & Nick Diaz currently suspended for a failed drug test many other contenders such as Jake Ellenberger, Johny Hendricks & Josh Koscheck are lining up fights to trying to inch toward contention. Whoever becomes the next challenger their title shot may be months if not a year away. With Rory coming off a dominant win he now waits to see how some future fights are determined. With 2 more wins this year against top ranked opponents he will be ready for his shot at the champion at that time.
The fans have begun to appreciate the dynamic skills of Rory McDonald. Of his 13 wins, 6 are by KO/TKO, 6 are by submission & only 1 has gone to decision. From an entertainment perspective, Rory delivers when he fights. Fans are being drawn to him as they enjoy fighters who finish fights & have an exciting style.
There are many fighters Rory matches up well with. He can give any elite fighter in his division problems but at the age of 22 he still has a lot to learn when fighting on the biggest stage of them all in the UFC. Having a training partner like GSP can only help him understand the pressures & requirements associated with being at the top. As he continues to defeat top competition & becomes closer to a potential title shot he will be in demand from the media & his sponsors. Being able to balance commitments without it taking away from his training will be key to his continuing development.
Rory has a bright future in the sport for many years to come. Even if he loses to a top fighter & has to fight his way back to the top he has a long time to do that. He has not entered the prime of his career but is showing signs of being a dominant force & a marketable fighter for the UFC.
With bigger sponsors coming on board to the sport of MMA & his affiliation with GSP, Rory has the potential to be a very rich person. As we have seen with GSP he needs to keep a level head & act professional. Some fighters act disrespectful or bring a side show with them. That will attract some fans but the bigger sponsors are not always drawn to someone like that due to the controversy & negative press they can bring.
The UFC is on network television now & continues to grow in popularity. The fighters are in the spotlight much more & have to watch what they say & do. Rory is still a young person who may trip up, but his support group has done well to keep him on the straight & narrow. He has all the elements to make his country proud. If Rory continues this & keeps winning, we will see a lot more of this future star in the making, in & out of the octagon.
SCORE FIGHTING SERIES RETURNS
By Mike McPhee
The Score television network had found an important niche in the MMA market by covering Canadian MMA events across the country. When MMA was legalized in Ontario for 2011 they took the next step & began to produce their own shows under the Score Fighting Series banner. This Friday they are set to put on their next event at the Hamilton Place Theatre in Hamilton, On.
The Score Fighting Series has always had a focus on Canadian talent. This will continue Friday with the main event involving Ryan Healy taking on Vancouver born John Alessio. Both men are coming off wins & look to continue that momentum with a good showing.
Alessio has had a very long career starting back in 1998, leading to a current 29-14 record. He has fought for organizations all over the world including the UFC, WEC, Pancrase, King of the Cage, MFC & Dream. With the UFC planning a trip out west this summer, Alessio would like to earn another victory & find a way on to that card. He trains at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas with the likes of UFC hall of famer Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin, Vitor Beflort, kickboxing legend Ray Sefo & current Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. With a powerful camp behind him, Alessio will be prepared for this fight.
Ryan Healy comes from a very good camp as well. As a member of Team Quest he trains with his brother Pat Healy and UFC veterans Chael Sonnen & Matt Lindland. With a 19-9 record, Healy is also a veteran of the sport who will not be easy to finish and has yet to be submitted in his career. With Alessio having 14 submission wins on his record, he will look to be the first to tap out Healy.
Another Canadian fighter on the card is Stoney Creek, ON native Josh Hill. The Bantamweight had a fast start to his career by winning all seven of his fights. He has fought for the Score Fighting Series previously & has a strong fan following in his home province.
Josh will be taking on fellow Canadian Eric Wilson. The Saskatoon native is 5-1 in his young career and he has the ability to submit Josh Hill so no doubt he will try to get the fight to the floor. Hill has one submission on his record but with 4 decision wins & 2 KO/TKOs on his record he will do his best to keep the fight standing & entertain the local fans.
Lithuanian born Sergej Juskevic adds some international flare to this exciting night of fights. He will take on former UFC fighter Forrest Petz. On paper this appears to be a striker versus grappler matchup. Juskevic has 7 of his 11 wins by submission & Petz has 11 of his 24 wins by KO/TKO. A contrast of styles which should lead to a tactical battle.
Several fighters on the card are very early in their careers but have already established themselves as future stars with impressive starts. Alex Ricci has fought on two previous Score Fighting Series cards & for Bellator Fighting Championships. He has 4 KO/TKO victories in his first four career fights. He does not disappoint the crowd & the Hamilton faithful will be anticipating another highlight reel knockout. His fellow Ontario resident Iraj Hadin will do everything he can to stop this from happening. He has the experience advantage with 9 fights under his belt & will use all his tools to stop Ricci in his quest to remain undefeated.
Currently there are 11 fights scheduled with combatants from all over North America. The card will range from the heavyweights all the way down to the 135 lb. action packed bantamweights. With several up & coming Canadian fighters & an intriguing main event there is no doubt the Score Fighting Series will once again deliver a great night of MMA action.
I always recommend checking out a local MMA event. You will see young hungry fighters looking to make a name for themselves. The cards are action packed & promoters want the fans entertained so they will keep coming back. If you are in the southern Ontario region, the Score Fighting Series has established itself as the top local promotion. They have brought talent in from all over the world who have fought for many large MMA promotions yet they stay focused on the young Canadians looking to break out.
If you can not make it to the show Friday evening it will be carried live on TheScore.com starting at 7:30pm EST. The fights will be shown on the TV network at a later date. With tickets only starting at $30 it is an affordable option for MMA fans who can not afford the exorbitant prices of larger promotions. Enjoy the fights & support your local MMA promotions.
AMATEUR MMA IS COMING TO ONTARIO
By Mike McPhee
Good news has come to young aspiring MMA fighters in the province of Ontario. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Sport has announced that amateur mixed martial arts will now be allowed in the province. 2011 saw the first professional MMA fights and now an amateur level will be established. This setup will help grow the sport from the ground up & prepare young fighters for a long, safe career in the combat sport.
Two years ago the President of Kickboxing Ontario requested the Ministry allow his organization to run the amateur aspect of MMA. In a letter to Kickboxing Ontario the Ministry has allowed them to be the governing body giving them the responsibility of setting rules for the athletes & competitions.
A chief official will be named to determine any safety standards & handle coaching certification across the province. Young fighters will receive proper training allowing them to compete safely & prepare for a professional career. The chief official will have the power to shut down events if they are not following the strict guidelines that will be in place.
One of the main concerns the Ministry had was with unsanctioned fights. With the establishment of the professional & now amateur levels of MMA the hope is these unregulated fights will stop. They want the fighters to not be at risk participating for a promoter who is not licensed & can not ensure the safety of those involved.
Fighters in the amateur ranks will not be subject to the same rules as the professionals. While all the details & rules have not been determined some guidelines have been released. The amateur level of the sport will be for youth 10 years up to 19 years old. They will feature light contact similar to what karate permits in competitions. The combatants will not be allowed to strike an opponent's head when the fight goes to the floor. Fighters will win by accumulating points, but exact details of the scoring system have yet to be determined.
The province has been monitoring mixed martial arts for quite some time & understand the size of the fan base. The economic impact was not something the cash strapped province could pass up. The Ultimate Fighting Championship packed over 55,000 fans in the Rogers Centre for UFC 129 this past April. Along with the event a 2 day Expo was held. Hotels, restaurants & local businesses in the downtown core reaped the benefits of tens of thousands of fans in the area for the festivities.
Amateur MMA will provide another type of event for fans to attend while establishing a safe entry level for fighters who want to become a professional. With all governing bodies around the world, the safety of the fighters is paramount. An amateur level is the best way to ensure this. Youths will learn and understand the finer points of MMA from qualified coaches. This will allow them to better protect themselves & fight within the rules. Their development will increase rapidly & create more professional fighters in this burgeoning sport. Ontario is one of the hottest spots in the world for MMA. The creation of the amateur system will assist the growth of the sport for many years to come.
BELLATOR MAKING A HOME IN ONTARIO
By Mike McPhee
When MMA was finally legalized in Ontario, fans were very excited to see their favorite fighters & promotions visit their home province. The arrival of the UFC was highly anticipated & many smaller organizations popped up wanting to cash in on the MMA hungry province. Bellator Fighting Championships is one of the top promotions who took advantage of the surge of events with two visits to the province in 2011. They are now planning two more very soon.
Bellator 47 was held at CasinoRama near Orillia, Ontario July 23 and was the promotion’s first event outside the U.S. The second Ontario event on November 12 was Bellator 57 & was held at the same venue. Caesars Windsor appears to be the host of a Bellator event on April 6th and CasinoRama will host another event May 4. At that point Bellator will have held the most events in the province of any of the major promotions.
The promotion is well known for its tournaments to crown champions & determine number one contenders. These tournaments progressed during the Ontario events but there was also a focus on homegrown talent. At Bellator 47 we saw well known local names like Chris Horodecki, Will Romero & Alex Ricci. During Bellator 57 other Canadian fighters such as Roger Hollet, Chuck Mady & Denis Puric were utilized.
Bellator understands the draw to a fight card when local stars are placed on it. Fans have seen these fighters progress through smaller promotions in nearby places like Quebec or Michigan before they were able to fight in Ontario. Bellator gives them a bigger stage to perform on as they have TV contracts in place for both Canada & the U.S. Their recent utilization of SpikeTV’s website for the preliminary bouts allows more fights to be seen by fans.
In addition to the local talent, the promotion uses known MMA stars in the tournaments or in special attraction fights to add to the drawing power of the card. We have seen fighters in action at the Ontario events such as Ben Saunders, Douglas Lima, Marlon Sandro, Ronnie Mann, Pat Curran , Neil Grove & Alexander Schlemenko. They are using a great mix of former UFC talent, fighters from other Canadian MMA organizations & international talent. Fans have been able to see these fighters perform in other organizations on TV & can now see them live.
The UFC came to Ontario & put on a massive event with over 55000 fans in April 2011 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. They returned late in the year for another event on a much smaller scale. With no current plans to come back to Toronto & Strikeforce not planning an event at this time, Bellator is easily the most frequent major promotion to visit. Ontario has a wealth of smaller venues for promotions that only want a few thousand in attendance. Bellator has used Casinos for events all over the U.S. and so far they have used those venues on their Ontario visits.
Bellator’s future is as bright as it has ever been. The promotion was recently purchased by corporate giant Viacom and starting in 2013 Bellator will air on Spike TV. This was home to the UFC for several years. Their relationship ended & once the terms of the contract expire in 2012, Viacom will move Bellator from MTV2 to Spike TV. Spike TV has a much larger reach across North America than MTV2. With the TV exposure & financial backing Viacom offers, more & more fighters will make their way to Bellator.
With Bellator’s future looking bright & its past success in Ontario, MMA fans in the province can expect to see the promotion regularly. There is no doubt other promotions will return or visit for the first time. MMA is still a hot item in Ontario but the fans here are educated. The UFC found this out on its second visit to the province that putting on a subpar card on paper will hurt ticket sales. The sluggish ticket sales were also attributed to the astronomical prices, sagging economy & proximity to Christmas. It became apparent fans will not pay a premium price for tickets without a strong lineup. Bellator has fair prices & the fans have filled the building each time. Bellator understands the Ontario market & will continue to visit to the delight of fight fans.
HEAVY HEART FOR HANDS OF STONE
By Mike McPhee, 12 Jan 2012
This Saturday at UFC 142 London Ontario native Sam ‘Hands of Stone’ Stout returns to the octagon for the first time since going through one of the toughest periods of his life. His coach Shawn Tompkins passed away in his sleep on August 14, 2011 at the age of 37. Sam was scheduled to face Dennis Siver at UFC 137 in October but Sam pulled out of the fight as he could not focus on training & was not mentally ready after the devastating loss.
Now prepared to return, Sam faces Thiago Tavares in Brazil this weekend. His Team Tompkins teammate Mark Hominick will be with him & carry on the legacy of their coach. The relationship between the two men was much deeper than just professional. Shawn had married Sam’s sister Emilie & the two shared a special bond that went far beyond a fighter-coach relationship.
Shawn had been there since the beginning of Sam’s career. Even when Sam was an amateur kick boxer Shawn was cornering him. This will be the first fight for Sam that he will not have the familiar face in his corner. The connection between the two was unmistakable during a fight. Shawn’s voice can always be clearly heard during the action & between rounds. Sam would respond to the instructions given & put them into action immediately. The faith Sam had in his coach was unflappable.
Their relationship beyond the cage was seen publicly prior to his last fight when Sam, Shawn, other UFC & NHL celebrities took part in a charity event to raise funds for anti-bullying & domestic abuse. The two cared for each other & their community. That bond will still be there Saturday night as Sam enters the cage. Even though Shawn will not be physically there Sam knows his spirit is with him & he will make Shawn proud with his performance.
Sam’s last fight at UFC 131 where he earned knockout of the night is considered one of the most brutal knockouts in the history of the UFC earning him a $70 000 bonus. Sam has used his paydays from his UFC fights to help his family & open up a new gym with his Team Tompkins teammates. Adrenaline MMA located in London Ontario, is run by Sam, Mark Hominick & Chris Horodecki. It is the only fully functional MMA & athletic training facility in the area. With the recent legalization of MMA in Ontario gyms of this nature are required to grow the sport from the grass roots & find the next stars.
Professionally this fight Saturday night is very important. With 3 previous fights of the night & only 1 loss in his last 5, Sam is moving up the ranks quickly. Another exciting win this weekend should set Sam up against a top contender & one step closer to a title fight. A future opponent such as Donald Cerrone would appear to be another fight of the night waiting to happen.
Being a professional fighter the mental game is everything. If you can not focus on training properly & be in the right frame of mind when you enter the cage you have already lost. Sam knows this & has always been prepared to bring the fight to his opponent. But fighters are human & the void in his corner will weigh on his mind.
Fans have seen Sam in tough fights many times. He is a mentally strong fighter & will use the loss of his friend as a motivating factor. Shawn may not be there Saturday night but the years of training, friendship & love will serve Sam well. Team Tompkins will live on & Sam Stout is a prime example of the type of fighter & human being Shawn Tompkins would be proud of.
JORDAN MEIN IS EMERGING
By Mike McPhee, 1 Jan 2012
This Saturday, January 7th, Strikeforce will hold their first event under their new television deal with Showtime. This renewed optimism & security for the promotion will allow them to grow & introduce the world to new stars. One of these new stars is Lethbridge, Alberta native Jordan ‘Young Gun’ Mein. The young welterweight is coming off a successful promotional debut in September against a very tough veteran Evangelista Santos. His next bout will be by far his toughest test in MMA.
One of the other young fighters Strikeforce is looking to as a future star is Tyron Woodley. Mein & Woodley will face off in the main card & both are looking for a title shot in 2012 if they can secure a win. With the departure of champion Nick Diaz to the UFC there is no welterweight champion within Strikeforce. The promotion intends to fix that in 2012. The winner of this fight may be in line for a spot in that future title fight.
Jordan’s father Lee operated a local Alberta promotion called Rumble in the Cage. This is where Jordan began his MMA career. His first amateur fight was at age 14 and he complied a 6-1 record before turning professional. Jordan’s first pro fight was against current UFC fighter Rory MacDonald. Rory was able to win via rear naked choke but it only inspired Jordan to work harder.
In his early 20s Jordan has already racked up 30 professional fights while some fighters do not fight that much over an entire career. Jordan may be young but he is clearly a veteran of the sport. With all of his experience at his young age Strikeforce knows they have a emerging star on the roster.
Jordan is currently on a 6 fight win streak, & with only one loss in the last two years, the timing is right to elevate him in a major promotion. Matching Jordan up with another rising star in Woodley gives us a glimpse into the future of the division in Strikeforce. The two men should be at the top of the promotion for years to come. Jordan seems to peaking at the right time for this very difficult match up.
Tough fights have been put in front of Jordan before. In August 2010 he was set up to face current Strikeforce fighter Jason High in the Rumble in the Cage promotion. High took the decision in the fight but Jordan used it a launching point to take the next step in his career.
Only 3 months later Jordan began the 6 fight win streak he is currently on by defeating Chase Degenhardt. With this bounce back win Wreck MMA called & matched him up with MMA veteran & former UFC fighter Joe Riggs. Jordan took the fight to Riggs & earned a TKO victory in the 2nd round.
Mein moved back to the Rumble in the Cage promotion & earned yet another decisive victory over Keto Allen. With that win he was set to face another former UFC fighter in Josh Burkman. In a very difficult fight Jordan was able to walk away with the decision win. After that victory he was ready to take on even tougher opponents on a bigger stage.
The Score television network has been broadcasting a number of local Canadian promotions. They have now decided to operate their own promotion as well. They brought Jordan in for what would be his toughest opponent to date. Japanese based promotion Dream’s welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis was put in the main event of the evening against the young Canadian. The fight began with Marius storming out of his corner trying to land a quick shot. Jordan was very patient & absorbed some punishment. The young fighter showed his true veteran qualities & remained patient while beginning to find his range. He turned the fight around & took the fight to Maruis earning a very deserved unanimous decision.
It was now time for Jordan to move up to one of the world’s largest promotions. Strikeforce called & wanted him to fight Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos. Jordan signed a 4 fight deal with the promotion & prepared for the fight. Santos is a veteran of over 30 fights & has fought for all over the world against some of the toughest fighters out there. Some of the fighters on his resume are Nick Diaz, Gegard Mousasi, Melvin Manhoef, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua & Zaromskis.
In September 2010 on the Strikeforce World Grand Prix card Jordan announced his presence to the world by earning a TKO victory in the third round over Cyborg. Jordan’s win streak was growing against increasingly tougher opponents. Strikeforce feels he is close to the top of the division & wants to have two of their top young fighters face off in what should be a very skilled battle.
Jordan has always risen to the occasion when called upon. If he came out on the losing end he would always come back stronger. After a tough 3-4 start to his professional career Jordan has gone 19-3 since. Expect the best Jordan Mein we have ever seen on Saturday. We should also see the best Tyron Woodley. Strikeforce has booked an incredible fight on paper. I have no doubt this will live up to the expectations.
Mike is a well respected writer for Vendetta Fighterand has a unique take on Mixed Martial Arts from around the world. Sit back and enjoy his columns, we know we do. Disagree?? Email us at
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