Friday, July 27, 2007

The Superheroes of MMArvel

To say the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has it's fair share of larger than life characters and comical personalities would be a great understatement. At times these 'modern day gladiators' remind us more of superheroes than professional athletes.
MMA Central presents The Superheroes of MMArvel:

A perfect mix between Superman and Red Son equates to the most dominant force in MMA history (Fedor Emelianenko).

"When Captain America throws his mighty shield,
All those who choose to oppose his shield must yield!
If he's led to a fight and a duel is due,
Then the red and the white and the blue will come through,
When Captain America throws his mighty shield!"

Captain America (Randy 'The Natural' Couture).

The greatest entertainer in the world of Mixed Martial Arts as The Joker (Kazushi Sakuraba).

The man with the expertise in the area of inflicting pain, The Punisher (Mirko 'CroCop' Filipovic).

The fist lady of the MMArvel superheroes, Chun-Li (Gina Carano).

"Puny humans. I've come to smash." In his last fight that's exactly what this monster did. He is of course The Hulk (Gabriel Gonzaga).

MMArvel's Other Superheroes:

Akuma (Rickson Gracie).

Herr Starr from Preacher (Bas Rutten)

Venom (Anderson 'The Spider' Silva)

Two-Face (Matt Hughes)

The Silver Surfer (Georges St. Pierre)

Raven [from Blade] and The Iceman (Quinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell respectively)

Storm (Kyra Gracie)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Rise and Fall of MMA's First Empire

October 11th, 1997: Anticipation fills the Tokyo Dome as 47,000 men, women and children wait eagerly for Pride Fighting Championships inaugural Mixed Martial Arts event, they aren't quite sure what to expect. The night was put together to showcase a match up between the very popular Japanese pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada and the Gracie families proclaimed champion Rickson Gracie. This night would signify the beginning of one of mixed martial arts finest chapters, the birth of Pride FC.

Whilst the rest of the MMA world was trying to find ways to make their events seem like anything other than a barbaric exhibition of violence, Pride was showcasing to the world exactly how graceful and glamorous the sport could be. Whilst everyone else was desperately trying to find ways to attract more than just a few thousand hostile fans, Pride showed that it was possible to fill major sporting arenas with audiences respectful and understanding of the intricate art behind 'fighting'. They dignified a widely misunderstood sport, bringing respect to it and its athletes. They set the early benchmark for what mixed martial arts should be.

Over the past decade Pride has held over 65 MMA events and provided fans with unforgettable sporting moments and fond memories. People from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds have had their imaginations captivated by Pride's unique representation of mixed martial arts. They gave birth to some of MMA's biggest names, from Wanderlei Silva and Kazushi Sakuraba to Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Their fighters were built into larger than life characters. The production levels of their events were unparalleled. They were the driving force behind MMA, along with the UFC.

Just two years ago Pride FC appeared to be an indestructible force in MMA. But since then it has been evident that they have served as their own worse enemy, with questionable business practices that have been the target of heavy criticism in recent times. On the 5th of June 2006 Fuji Television Network, Pride's primary broadcasting outlet, publicly announced the cancellation of their television contract with the MMA company due to breach of contract from Dream Stage Entertainment(DSE), the parent company of Pride FC. The termination of the contract was to take effect immediately. Consequently Pride's revenues were drastically reduced instantaneously and for the first time in it's illustrious history, Pride's sustainability was under serious threat.

The reputation of the organsiation was taking a battering in Japan during this period, with newspapers and tabloids claiming a connection between the MMA company and the Yakuza, an infamous Japanese crime organisation. Pride and DSE tried desperately over the next few months to obtain another major television deal but never managed to get one. They were to continue with their scheduled events, as previously planned, but it was clear they couldn't continue long without a television deal in Japan.

After months of heated speculation and denial from Pride's hierarchy it was finally made official that Pride FC and all it's assets were to be sold to their biggest rivals, UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. The announcement took place on Tuesday 27th of March, 2007 at a Pride FC press conference. The deal was reportedly worth just under $65 million US. Since the acquisition Pride events, including the opening round of the Lightweight GP, have been postponed indefinitely.

Right now the future of Pride is unclear. What will happen to Pride's devoted staff in the long run? Will we ever see another Pride FC event? It is a matter of time before these questions and more will be answered.

With all the uncertainty surrounding Pride FC right now, only one thing is clear; Pride as we know it will never be the same again.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Top 5: Fights of 2004

The year was 2004. The world of Mixed Martial Arts was just around the corner from mainstream popularity,Wanderlei Silva was the most feared fighter on the planet, a very young Georges St. Pierre would start the year as a unknown and finish it as the 'next big thing', Pride FC was holding a Heavyweight GP with Mirko 'CroCop' and 'Minotauro' Nogueira having their eyes fixed on Fedor Emelianenko's head, The Ultimate Fighter program was non-existent, the UFC were to scrap their lightweight division, the year would end in breathtaking fashion at Pride's annual Shockwave event, and the fights? Well they were simply spectacular.

Top 5 Fights of '04 Countdown:

5. UFC 47 - Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz
Download Link

4. Pride Shockwave 2004 - Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Download Link

3. UFC 50 - Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre
Download Link

2. Pride Shockwave 2004 - Wanderlei Silva vs. Mark Hunt
Download Link or Dailymotion Stream

1. Pride 28 - Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson
Download Link: Coming Soon, in the meantime Dailymotion Stream

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sherk and Franca Test Positive for Steroids

Leading up to the Lightweight title match-up at UFC 73 both Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca were praised for their work ethics, passion and dedication to not just MMA but life. During the lead up to the match-up Sherk's intense training regiment was illustrated on UFC All Access, and it was evident his dedication and hard work was unmatched by any other that has been on the show. Hermes Franca on the other hand revealed to us the passion and love he has for his sport, students and life, all revolving around MMA. Judging on their character and dedication, very few would have suspected these two of testing positive for banned substances, but in the past few hours both have, according to the state regulatory body, California State Atheletic Commision (CSAC).

Sherk has tested positive for a banned substance called Nandroline Metabolite. His Nandrolone levels were measured to be twice the threshold allowed by the CSAC. He has officially been fined the maximum levy of $2,500 and suspended from competition for 365 days. Neither Sherk or a representative have yet made a official statement.

Franca has also been fined $2,500 and been suspended from action until July 5, 2008. Franca told that he infact did use a 'banned substance' prior to the bout. "I offer only an explanation and not an excuse," he said. "I made a decision during a difficult time in my training for the fight that I regret." Hermes claims a injured ankle that he wanted to speed up the recovery of prompted him to make the decision to take the banned substance.

It is unclear right now what will happen to Sherk's Lightweight Title, with the champion being unable to defend it for a full year, or what will come of either fighters careers, with such a long gap between competing during their most successful periods as fighters. One thing is clear though, this sort of violation of rules and conduct only acts to tarnish the reputation of both fighters, the sport and the title they were fighting for.

Monday, July 16, 2007

'Babalu' Arrested!

Pictured Left: Sobral's mug shot for the Tampa County Police.

UFC Star Renato 'Bababu' Sobral has seemingly had nothing but bad luck surrounding him as of late and things got even worse for the Brazilian on the 14th of July 2007, when he was arrested and released on $1000 bond. Early reports suggest the incident leading to his arrest involved a confrontation with bouncers at the Hardrock Hotel/Casino in Tampa, Florida, where he allegedly spat on a bouncer. He has been officially charged with Battery and Trespassing.

After his first lose to Chuck Liddell at UFC 40 Sobral went on a impressive streak, amassing 10 consecutive wins all across the world, including wins over the likes of Mauricio Rua, Jeromy Horn and Mike Van Arsdale. These performances would earn him a shot at Chuck Liddell's UFC Light HeavyWeight title and a chance at redemption. From here things go down hill for Babalu rather quick. He would once again prove no match for Liddell at UFC 62, losing via TKO 1:35 secs into the first round. His next fight, against Jason Lambert at UFC 68, would start off much better for the Rio De Janiero native. Sobral would dominate until late in the first round when a upper cut from Lambert dazzed the Brazilian. Sobral never recovered from the blow but did manage to hang on for a while, eventually being knocked out late in the second round. The Lambert loss is widely regarded as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

These last two performances are far from what fans have come to expect from Sobral, who has been a consistent force in MMA for years now. Right now it seems his position with the top Mixed Martial Arts organisation in the world is at jeoperdy. One or two more similar performances could see 'Babalu' fighting in smaller organisations and for much less pay all over again.

This arrrest can only serve to tarnish Sobral's reputation and act as a embarassing distraction from his proffessional pursuits. The alleged incident itself seems very uncharacteristic of Sobral, who is respected by and respectful to collegues and fans alike. Sobral is yet to make a official statement regarding his recent arrest.

Link to official Florida police arrest details:

Minotauro's Debut: Didn't Quite 'Stack' High Enough?

UFC 73 marked the debut of one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, a forefather of modern MMA. His long awaited debut for the biggest MMA organization on the planet was far from what most expected and an anticlimax to many UFC fans who were exposed for the first time to Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.

From the moment he was sitting cage side besides UFC President Dana White at Ultimate Fight Night 9 to when he finally stepped into the octagon as a fighter for the first time on Saturday night, Nogueira was carrying great expectations, from spectacular performances he had for Pride Fighting Championships in Japan for the past half decade. These performances made Nogueira famous for his world class Brazilian Jui-Jitsui, as well as his
technically sound boxing skills. He won the hearts of many fans and developed a dedicated following during his time as a Pride fighter for his incredible ability to take punishment and to pull out victories in the brink of defeat. His most notable performances include victories over Mirko "CroCop", Bob Sapp, Sergei Kharitonov, Semmy Schilt, Dan Henderson and Mark Coleman. He has never been stopped during a fight and has avenged two split decision losses in dominating fashion. He has only had two other losses in his 35 fight career(with one no contest), both being two unanimous decision loses to current Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko. It could be argued if it wasn't for Emelianenko, Nogueira would be arguably the best heavyweight ever.

Saturday night he faced a very familiar foe in Heath Herring. The two had fought two times prior in Japan. Their first encounter, in November of 2001, would crown the first ever Pride Heavyweight Champion. Nogueira would walk away that night with a new belt around his waist after earning a unanimous decision victory over Herring in an exciting but one sided battle. They would meet again in June of 2004. This time Nogueira would exhibit his incredible Brazilian Jui-Jitsui skills by forcing a tap out early in the second round via Anaconda Choke.

UFC 73 would signify the third time the two fighters would lock horns. The fact that the fight itself would be taking place surprised many because of Minotauro's two previous convincing victories over Herring. Nogueira started as a heavy favorite, for obvious reasons. The first round started off as many expected, Nogueira seemed to be in cruise control. He was getting the better of the stand up with his crisp boxing skills. Herring was back stepping most of the first until near the end of the round when he unleashed a high kick that Minotauro ducked right into. The huge upset victory was mere inches away from Herring now, all he had to do was drop some punches down on a dazed Nogueira who was lying flat on the canvas. Herring tried some ground and pound but Nogueira begins to regain some composer and eventually starts to control Herring slightly who is now in his guard. Herring then decides to make a still dazed Nogueira stand. Not long left in the round and Herring doesn't mount much of a offense on his hurt opponent.

In the begining of the second it was clear Nogueira still hadn't found his feet, but still Herring doesn't attack for the finish. During the round Minotauro gets his composer and confidence back and for the rest of the round he takes control again, scoring two take downs and mounting Herring for a brief moment. The third is much the same with Nogueira landing shots in the stand up and scoring take downs at will. Nogueira eventually gets the unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring the bout 29-28.

It's hard to make a fair evaluation of Nogueira's debut. He definitely didn't live up to the hype that was surrounding him, with many expecting Herring not to last a round, but he got the task done and showed the heart and determination that has made him a fan favourite in Japan. Are battle scars of previous wars finally catching up with 31 year old Nogueira? Was he just nerves on debut? Or was it just one of those nights? It is hard to say right now but Nogueira will have a chance to answer all these questions and more with a possible rematch with Mirko CroCop around the corner and potential meetings with the likes of Randy Couture, Andrei Arlovski and Gabriel Gonzaga in the future.

Whether or not he will reach the pinnacle of success he tasted during his time at Pride in Japan in the UFC is uncertain. But what is certain is that "Minotauro" Nogueira is a real threat to all heavyweights and his place in MMA history is just about secured.