It took me a little while to get my head back into mixed martial arts after Monday's Boston Marathon bombings.
I was born and raised in Boston. It's hard to explain Patriots Day to an out-of-towner. It's a Massachusetts holiday which honors the Commonwealth's role as the birthplace of the Revolutionary War.
But it's not just one of those Columbus Day-type holidays. You know, the sort of "holiday" that's basically no different from a regular Monday, except the Post Office is closed. Patriots Day is the unofficial celebration start of spring in Boston after the endless winter. The Red Sox play an 11 a.m. game at Fenway Park every year, and eyes of the world are on our quirky little city for the Marathon, which has run on that April Monday every year since 1897. The weather usually seems to cooperate, as well, lending to the festive atmosphere.
UFC president Dana White is a former South Boston resident, and shared his thoughts on the situation on Thursday with MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani.
"When you've lived in Boston, anyone who is from Boston knows there's so many people in town and all throughout New England who train for this thing, not just the elite athletes who are going to run and win the race, but people who do it just to say 'hey, I ran the Boston Marathon.' Plus, it's a holiday that day. So all the kids are off school, everyone goes around that area and hangs out. [The bombings were] just one of the most chickens---, cowardly, disgusting things ever."
As I processed what happened at the Marathon finish line, I realized the city needs to take its cue from our friendly rivals in New York. New York City didn't stop because of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. America took appropriate time to grieve and rebuild, but life went on. Likewise, anyone who saw the fans at the TD Garden before Wednesday's Boston Bruins-Buffalo Sabres NHL game saw that Bostonians are just as resilient. Bottom line, you can ruin one day, but you can't take the spirit of Patriots Day away from us.
With that, back to the fight world. The UFC is in Strikeforce's old stomping grounds of the HP Pavilion in San Jose this weekend for a UFC on FOX card loaded with ex-Strikeforce standouts, and you've got plenty of questions. So without further ado, on to the latest edition of Fightweets.
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@jmpepito23: Is the UFC taking a risk scheduling so many former SF fighters vs UFC for Sat's event? Could it be a black eye?
How would it be a black eye? The UFC's stated goal going back a decade has been about bringing the best fighters in the world under their roof. They've gone after it with ruthless efficiency. You didn't see them hold back former PRIDE fighters when they came into the company in a egotistical effort to "prove" the UFC was better all along, did you? No, you didn't. (Okay, admittedly they got pretty smug when Forrest Griffin choked out Mauricio Rua. That one I'll grant you). For that matter, Lyoto Machida and Quinton Jackson were both signed to the World Fighting Alliance when the UFC bought out that company. Was it a "black eye" when two fighters in a promotion most people never heard of eventually went on to win the light heavyweight title?
In the end, the "UFC vs. Strikeforce" stuff is for message boards and media members who miss the big picture. The UFC's all about building their brand for the long haul. Saturday's feature fights are being put out there to introduce fighters like Melendez and Cormier to the network television audience. If they win, then, sure, it's a feather in the cap for Strikeforce's legacy. But it also delivers the UFC two new, viable headliners. If a fighter can headline in the company and bring in the big bucks, they don't care if he or she came from PRIDE, Strikeforce, or YAMMA. And that's ultimately the only thing that matters.
@omaresco02: Since Diaz, Shields are 0-2 in UFC title fights, who stands out of former SF champs as legit contenders? Jacare?
I'd say Shields was a legitimate contender. He actually came one round away on two scorecards from taking Georges St-Pierre's welterweight title at UFC 129. And I wouldn't sleep on Gilbert Melendez, either. To me, it comes down to whether he can find the fire which fueled his 2009-10 peak, which was missing as the Strikeforce ship sunk. Beyond that, do we get to count Daniel Cormier's Grand Prix championship as a title? If so, than he's the no-brainer front-runner.
As for the rest, the problem becomes, the last crop of champions came of age as Strikeforce fell apart, so they never really got to test themselves the way earlier company like Melendez and Shields did. Luke Rockhold's a blue-chip prospect, and we'll get an idea how far along he's come when he fights Vitor Belfort next month. The jury's out on Tarec Saffeidine, who looked impressive in finishing a fading Nate Marquardt for the welterweight title, but has yet to give any inclination he's going to be a breakout star. And oh yeah, we probably shouldn't overlook that Gegard Mousasi guy, either. But when push comes to shove, I'd go with Cormier and Melendez as the best bets and the rest of the pack a cut below.
@gigliotrey: Which former Strikeforce fighter has the best chance of winning this weekend, Cormier, Melendez, or Thomson?
I'd keep them in that order. I wouldn't be surprised if Cormier ran over Mir. Melendez, as I've just stated, I consider a live underdog fully capable of winning if he's clicking on all cylinders. Thomson, I just don't see it. Nate Diaz has been lethal against everyone in his division not named Benson Henderson and is going to have plenty of motivation coming off his Henderson loss. Thomson's a gamer, but ultimately one whose most significant win in nearly four years is over K.J. Noons. I just don't see him pulling it off.
Why 'The Janitor?'
@ryan211: What in the world does Bellator gain by signing Vladimir Matyushenko? He's ex UFC and surely doesn't have a lot left in him?
I think there are two levels to this one. The first is, I don't have a problem with this specific signing in and of itself. Vladi's a well-liked dude in this business and I'm glad to see him land on his feet after being cut by the UFC.
But if you step back and frame this in the big picture, it does beg the question of Bellator's stated policy of not taking "UFC castoffs." Why did Bellator skip over Jon Fitch when he was available? Bellator has a talented welterweight champion in Ben Askren, and no one to push him in the cage. An Askren-Fitch fight would have cut through the clutter of the weekly Bellator grind and drawn attention like no fight between fighters within the company currently could. And given what we know about the contract of Eddie Alvarez -- a very talented fighter who isn't an arena draw -- it's not like Bellator would be breaking the bank to bring in Fitch.
Is Bellator looking to test their home-grown champions with the best possible opponents or not? Some consistency either way would help clear things up.
DJ to Seattle?
@GHS_Forever: With Ellenberger-Rory being co-main, do you anticipate a title fight on that card? Perhaps Johnson/Moraga?
Sure seems like a natural, doesn't it? UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is from the Puget Sound area and he's hoping to be cleared from his shoulder injury by June 15, which just happens to be about six weeks before the July 27 UFC on FOX 8 date at Seattle's KeyArena, which would give him a full training camp. I don't have inside information on this one, but Johnson-Moraga is a sensible reading of the tea leaves.
Free Josh Rosenthal
@christopher_kit: With ref Rosenthal's drugs charge, is the MMA circus full of naughty tigers
That's an interesting way to phrase it. I feel more like Rosenthal's case puts a spotlight on the absurdity of our nation's marijuana laws. So someone like referee Josh Rosenthal who, as far as we know, has never run afoul of another law in his life, is potentially facing life in prison. This at a time when Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana and a majority of the country agrees. So Rosenthal is a threat to society, but we're okay with continuing on with a system which enables violent drug cartels south of the border? Are you kidding me?
I'm a resident of California. How about taking the federal money that is going into the Rosenthal case and fixing our highways and schools instead of propping up the Big Prison industry? Rosenthal's operation should be legal, taxed, regulated, licensed. He shouldn't be spending a day in prison.
@dreadhead1336: Where does Uriah Hall go from here to prove he's the "monster" he was built up to be?
I think the first thing we need to do here is disabuse ourselves of the notion Hall was a "monster" to begin with. That was mainly a product of a well-executed marketing campaign. Hall fell for his own hype. I fell for it to the extent I believed he was going to roll over Kelvin Gastelum last weekend. And a whole lot of others did too.
Hall is clearly a raw talent and has potential. Minus the hype train, it's fair to assume the UFC will give him a chance to sink or swim at a measured pace from here. He's still got a name based off his television exposure and still got curiosity around him, so it's likely his next fight will be televised, perhaps as a preliminary feature bout on basic cable before a PPV. A fight or two against lower-tier competition should give Hall a chance to get his feet back on the ground and hopefully live up to his real potential.