Monday, August 10, 2009

Levels of Kung Fu Mastery (UFC 101/WEC 42 observations)

Who am I?

UFC 101 and WEC 42 over the weekend had some stunning moments, especially in their main events.

From Anderson Silva's backpedaling one-punch knockout of Forrest Griffin to BJ Penn's thorough domination of Kenny Florian on land, air and sea to Brian Bowles' barreling through Miguel Torres to capture the WEC bantamweight belt, these two events produced highlights that will never be forgotten.

With the main fights having been a minefield for matchups between fighters between different styles and levels of MMA mastery, watching UFC 101 and WEC 42 was like watching a great kung fu movie.

I did my best to categorize and describe what I see as the four levels of kung fu mastery.

1. Demigod : Has mastered almost every single skill in fighting. Toys with opponents, makes them pay for their mistakes. Capable of doing so with hands and footwork alone. Often untouchable and subliminally creative.

Footwork like Michael Jackson - fight becomes a dance. Throws combinations like a Street Fighter character. Watching a demigod fight is like watching Pai Mei school Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill 2. Hits with chi power and timing possible to have only through years of smart training and knowledge of self.

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : Anderson Silva

2. Legend : Has perfected most of the most important aspects of fighting (footwork, punching, grappling, takedown defense). High-level mastery of essential skills overrides shortcomings against fighter of lesser caliber. Dominates a lesser fighter's will. Possesses the finer skills that a master may not have (e.g. difference between jiu-jitsu of BJ Penn and Kenny Florian).

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : BJ Penn

3. Master : Understands the rhythm and spacing of fighting. Good at most aspects of MMA, and great at a few. Generally able to avoid direct hits from the junkyard dog but not the legend or demigod. Seemingly minor imperfections make him susceptible to upsets by bloodthirsty underdogs (e.g. Miguel Torres' lack of one-punch knockout power costing him against Brian Bowles).

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : Miguel Torres, Kenny Florian

4. Junkyard Dog : The scrapper. Possesses a rudimentary, but effective, skill set that's his meat and potatoes. Gets hit a lot in order to dish out punishment. Superbly conditioned and truly a live underdog. Describes most mixed martial artists fighting at the major league level.

UFC 101/WEC 42 archetype : Forrest Griffin, Brian Bowles

Although it's more likely that a higher level fighter would defeat a lower level fighter than vice versa, there are so many variables that happen all at once that an upset is possible at any given moment.

So whether you watch MMA to see poetry in motion, be inspired by human triumphs, or both, there's much beauty in a sport that seems so violent and bloody on the surface.

"Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bald-Headed Avengers

I like the fact that the three biggest names of this weekend's MMA events (UFC 101, WEC 42) have interesting hairstyles.

Miguel Torres, the badass from East Chicago, has a mullet and always shows up to fight.

BJ Penn and Anderson Silva are bald, and as I predicted in my preview of this weekend's mega fights, the two will come out with a vengeance after lackluster performances.

They will thus become immortalized as The Bald-Headed Avengers.

CULVER CITY, CA - MAY 30:  (L-R) Actors Natalie Martinez and Jason Statham present the 'Most Dangerous Man' to UFC fighter Anderson Silva onstage during the taping of Spike TV's 2nd Annual 'Guys Choice' Awards held at Sony Studios on May 30, 2008 in Culver City, California.  The show airs on June 22, 2008 at 10PM ET/PT on Spike TV.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

I'm not bald, but bald can be beautiful, as long as you forego the combover or wig. If you crop your hair or shave it all off, then women may even find it sexy.

Besides Penn and Silva, some cool bald-headed luminaries include Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Dana White, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Kingsley and my old basketball coach Izzi Metz.

Baldness need not be a handicap. In fact, it should not be.

Because baldness is a cosmetic condition - not a disease.

If cripples can master deadly kung fu in three years and strike down upon their enemies with great vengeance and furious anger, then you should never get down on yourself just because you're bald.

The handicapped from Crippled Avengers (one of the greatest kung fu movies ever) are what Masta Killa from the Wu-Tang Clan referred to as the "dumb, deaf(-mute) and blind" - as well as those without legs or arms.

The Crippled Avengers needed devices like invincible prosthetic limbs and mirrors as well as skills like sensitive hearing, tactile language and teamwork in order to get their revenge.

The bald need only a razor, hair trimmer, shaving cream and mirror to get the job done.

So while I'm not saying that BJ Penn and Anderson Silva wouldn't respectively kick Kenny Florian and Forrest Griffin's asses anyway, their aerodynamic chrome domes may enhance their kung fu.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't Play With Fire

In my previous piece "The Living Hell of Michael Vick - Repentance," I went over how Mike Tyson did nothing but play with fire during his boxing career and how disgraced NFL star Michael Vick is in good hands compared to Tyson's predicament.

Well, even Mike Tyson's fate as a young man was child's play compared to the totally sinister accomplishments of former UFC fighter "Lightning" Lee Murray : If Mike Tyson was a severely misguided young man, then Lee Murray was straight from hell, getting involved with gangs as a youngster and advancing to the highest levels of professional fighting and criminality.

Murray's long rap sheet includes being accused of almost beating a motorist to death during a fit of road rage, getting into bar brawls (including one in which he almost died from a stabbing) and of course, the $92 million dollar heist, in which he and some heavily armed buddies commando-raided a Securitas depot to accomplish what became Britain's greatest cash robbery ever.

courtesy of ESPN

I know it's f***ed up, but the only reason I'm sorry to see Lee Murray locked up in Morocco is that I would've loved to see him in a rematch against Anderson Silva, because the type of fighter that would whoop Tito Ortiz in a street fight and try to take Anderson Silva's head off in the cage is precisely the kind that belongs.

Sure, Murray got schooled by Silva in their Cage Rage bout in 2004, but he had his moments. He may have been outclassed but he wasn't outfought, in the sense that he tried his best to take the fight to Silva.

Just like Murray's been playing with fire his whole life, Dana White and Zuffa are throwing three of their world class fighters - Kenny Florian, Forrest Griffin and Brian Bowles - into the respective hellacious furies of three of the most dominant fighters in MMA in BJ Penn, Anderson Silva and Miguel Torres.

I love KenFlo, but he's fighting BJ Penn at the worst possible time. BJ Penn is pissed off as hell after getting his ass kicked by Georges St. Pierre, and it's not like everything's cool between him and Florian either.

If you want to get technical, Florian's got some nice Muay Thai and sharp elbows, but I don't think he punches very hard. He's got nice footwork, but so does Penn. I see Penn being able to counter almost everything KenFlo throws at him and more in the standup game.

Since Penn's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is even better than Florian's considerable ability in that area, Florian's best chance is to outmaneuver Penn in the clinch, but ultimately, I just don't see it making much of a difference when the two square off at UFC 101 on Saturday night (10 PM ET, August 8, Pay-Per-View).

Kenny Florian is a tough, resilient dude, so I don't think he'll get knocked out or submitted, but I see him getting singed by BJ Penn via unanimous decision.

I see something similar happening to Forrest Griffin against Anderson Silva in the co-feature of UFC 101.

If you bet on Silva to lose against Griffin because he didn't look too good against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, I fear the woe that will come upon you.

The Anderson Silva that we saw against James Irvin will come alive.

Forrest Griffin is not going to play possum just to avoid getting knocked out, which is precisely why I think Anderson Silva will knock him out on Saturday.

Griffin is the fighter with the heart and talent that will motivate to The Spider to bring out his best, and we all know what happens when Silva steps up to the plate.

Once Anderson Silva has worn out Forrest Griffin with his pressure and strikes from unexpected angles and rhythms, expect him to finish with a stoppage victory in Round 3.

Lastly, I hate to sound so dismissive of yet another gifted contender, but I don't think the well-rounded game of Brian Bowles is nearly good enough for the well-rounded game of Miguel Torres when Bowles challenges Torres for the WEC bantamweight title on Sunday August 9 (9 PM ET, Versus).

Both Torres and Bowles have heart and guts, so may the best man win : Miguel Torres via submission in Round 4.

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