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Reprint: The Ghost of UFC 151

A commentary article I wrote for Studio MMA about the first cancelled UFC under the Zuffa banner.  Interesting to see how much has changed in just a short time--especially the redemption of Jon Jones since rejecting a fight that would essentially collapse an entire UFC event.

STUDIO MMA – NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA – If you’re anything like me, you are going into this Saturday’s UFC 152 with a bit of an odd feeling. Almost as if something’s… missing.

About this time last month, we learned that Dan Henderson had been sidelined from his title fight against UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. And while injuries have been known to send previous cards into disarray, this was the first time the UFC publicly admitted that a suitable replacement could not be agreed upon.

In fact, even the attempts to find a replacement for Jones at UFC 151 are now the thing of legend: Jon Jones has an opponent, Jon Jones loses opponent, Jon Jones comes under scrutiny for rejecting a fight on eight days notice and becomes a scapegoat for the cancellation of UFC 151 (which, as it turns out, is a pretty big deal).

Not only does this weekend mark the longest hiatus between UFC events for the calendar year, but this event also now comes with a ton of baggage (of which, only a fraction will be settled by the conclusion of Saturday’s PPV). For a closer examination of the ripple effect of the UFC 151 cancellation, one need only look at the title branding for this Saturday’s promotional poster.

Upon cancelling the September 1st event last month, the UFC announced plans to refer to this Saturday’s event as UFC 151. However, those plans were quickly scrapped and the UFC decided the September 22nd card would remain labeled as UFC 152—meaning the event once referred to as UFC 151 would now be disavowed and referred to as a “lost event.”

Yep, a “lost event.” Just take a moment to think about that. Would the NFL ever jump from Super Bowl 46 to 48 if Super Bowl 47 were never played? Apples and oranges, I know. But there’s something about the sequencing and, more specifically, the UFC’s knee-jerk reaction to the branding that suggests a pivotal moment in the organization’s history.

For one, it’s the first time under the Zuffa banner that the UFC was forced to outright cancel an entire event. While debate over the past four weeks has ranged from accusing the UFC of oversaturation to vilifying Jones as a full-fledged “heel,” there are a few questions based on this alternate timeline that I think merit consideration:

1) Can Vitor Belfort really pull this off?

2) What about the other fighters from the UFC 151 card?

3) Was Chael Sonnen merely a genius ahead of his time?

I’ve got thoughts on all of these, but allow me to start with the later of the three.

Chael Sonnen: Genius or Ingenious?

Earlier this year, Sonnen made his way into a UFC press conference wearing Anderson Silva’s “championship belt,” saying he had stolen it from middleweight champion “like a gangster in the night.” The action, which was taken in jest and chalked up to Sonnen’s borderline WWE-persona, may have helped to hype the fight, but ultimately fell flat when the two-time middleweight contender failed to beat the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter on the planet.

But that’s Anderson Silva and he’s practically a jedi, right?

Now imagine, if you would, if Sonnen had pulled this same stunt with Jon Jones?

After volunteering to step in as Henderson’s replacement for the September 1st event, Sonnen was able to reframe his reputation as a trash-talking contender to a hero acting in the best interest of the fans. But, as per Greg Jackson, Jones apparently wanted nothing to do with that.

Never mind the fight making absolutely no sense for Jones or the fact that Sonnen would arguably be an easier fight than Henderson, the mere act of offering to step in provided a win-win situation for Sonnen after a year of public and personal tribulations. And if the public could be persuaded to forgive him for trying to save the day, just imagine what a free pass like a “lost event” would have given Sonnen?

Justification to show up with a “stolen” light heavyweight championship belt? Completely. Reason to make appearances on TV and sports radio calling out Jon Jones at every turn over the next six months? Yep. And (most valuable to Sonnen) the ability to rewrite the history of UFC 151 however he deemed fit? You betcha!

He still might. Time will tell. But if he does, I’m going to demand a HUGE royalty.

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Undercard?

As for the other fighters, the disruption is one that’s especially heart breaking given the amount of time and training allocated for these kinds of fights. I, however, applaud the UFC’s stance of reallocating all of the fights to other cards and publicly stating that fighters on the undercard will be compensated.

While what exactly is meant by “compensation” is still shrouded under the UFC veil of secrecy, it’s my great hope that UFC President Dana White does the right thing here and gives the fighters ample pay for their efforts.

And, finally, I believe that the UFC and Jon Jones now have something in common going into this Saturday’s PPV. Despite all of the hoopla and bad PR surrounding the UFC and Jones during the past six weeks, UFC 152 offers a unique opportunity for the pair: a chance for them to show how they respond to pressure.

Walking into this fight, Jones has stood firm, almost defiant, in the way that he has carried himself throughout this debacle. And although turning down the Sonnen fight may be unpopular to fans now, it will likely be perceived as the right decision (for him) in due time.

At today’s press conference, Jones seemed slightly irritated that he has to actually defend himself. He even claimed that he didn’t know at the time UFC 151 would be cancelled if he didn’t agree to a fight against Sonnen. But sadly, with only hours before his matchup against Belfort, whether that statement is true or not is almost irrelevant right now and certainly not the fight the light heavyweight champ needs to be concerned about.

After this weekend, Jones will have plenty of time to reassess his response, the way that he communicated that message, and the manner in which he allowed others to reframe the argument (which really is the reason Jones is taking the brunt of the criticism here).

Jones, like the UFC, can counter all of this bad publicity simply with a great fight. Something I think Belfort and Jones are capable of.

But Seriously, Can Belfort Really Pull This Off?

Stylistically, Jones has a significant advantage in this fight. His elusive fighting style and athleticism easily put him as a favorite. I see him needing to stay away from Belfort’s punching rage, but given the champion’s reach advantage and experience avoiding other opponents in the Octagon, I don’t see it as something Belfort can overcome lightly. Overall, I favor the incumbent based purely on the amount of weapons he has in his arsenal.

And while it may not be the fight we were all clamoring to see, I think at it’s one that’s worthy of your time on a Saturday night. But, maybe that’s just me. What do I know?

What about you: Will you be willing to forgive the UFC and/or Jon Jones this weekend?



Professional Road Rage Drivers Sadly Try to Fight "MMA"

This one happened right in my own backyard, so I feel I gotta do this.  This story took place a whopping 3 minutes away from my hood, so there's already a sense of "what'd the valley do this time?"

Oddly, I thought a saw a promo for this on our local ABC affiliate, but ultimately thought it was another case of my brain having #UFC/#MMA on the mind.  Turns out, I didn't make up anything.  It really was two "professional business dudes, throwing down" and the news was reporting on it.

Before I go any further, a few notes:

  1. Road rage is a real thing in LA.  It makes you do and say crazy things.
  2. The Valley is one of the weirdest places on earth.  To help put that in context, it's the intersection of a portion of the entertainment industry, the porn industry, the meth industry, the gang industry, that also shares a border with upscale rich types who you'd casually see on The Real Housewives franchises and other various reality show contestants.  A real slice of life you might call it.

Anyway, according to the footage, one guy gets out, decks another dude.  They whine about their BMWs or something and then the guy who got decked decides, "hey, that wasn't cool" and applies a rear naked choke.  Cue shock and awe from the mass media.

Some girl, in turn, video records all of this and BAM, you've got eye-witness news.

To be fair, they're right near the 405 -- which is the absolute worst Freeway/Highway known to man -- so heightened tensions are always expected.  But I guess it serves as a nice cautionary tale that even when you least expect it, always be prepared.  I know I'll be working extra hard in my own self-defense classes just to be ready, as I encounter dozens of terrible drivers on a daily basis.

Obviously these guys are idiots and you shouldn't do this, etc. etc. etc.  But if pressed to judge, I'd score the round 10-9 for the guy in the white shirt.

Internet, what did this video teach us today?



"The One" and Big Slow are Maniacs

John 'The One' Maguire clearly makes an argument to be cast in the remake of Flashdance and we wish him the best on his journey to UFC 161.

But perhaps the biggest discovery here is the European Gangster, Luke Barnatt.  Here, the Big Slow is proves he's anything but on the dance floor and cleraly brings his A-game when following the intense lead of "The One," John Maguire.  And, frankly, we don't know that we've seen a bigger smile on the guy before this.

Some of you may recall, Mr. Barnatt was gracious enough to do an interview with us here, but I think we're going to have some serious questions for him about this next time we speak with him.

We hope you are prepared, sir.



I'm Just Here To Pay My Dues: The BJJ Notebook

ABJJ Notebooks some of you may know, the podcast and website are more than just hobbies for Kevin and me.  We both train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recreationally and are big proponents of the "gentle art."  So even when we're not toiling away editing articles or the podcast, we're always trying to learn more about the craft. Over the years, I've seen this book pop up more than a number of times in my social media news feeds, but was never motivated to actually purchase it (and if not this one in particular, others like it).  Ultimately, I figured I could just make my own version of this book if I really wanted to.

And I did!  I tend to use a lot of moleskin notebooks a lot to jot down notes, jokes and observations and decided about a year ago to dedicate one such notebook solely to my BJJ training regimen.

It worked... for awhile.  I made a regular routine of writing down the lessons each day and figuring out what parts of my training I needed to concentrate on.  But, over time, I stopped writing in it on a regular basis.  I'd constantly lose it or forget to go over the day's featured technique.  Pretty soon, I found that lessons of the day would go by the wayside—leaving all that knowledge I was working so hard to build to just rot away in my brain (which, itself, is a fragile thing).  And, lo and behold, that happened to be exact moment when I felt parts of my training recall and execution were becoming stagnant.

It bugged me.  I'd occasionally pick up the book and try to start the routine over again, but, for whatever reason, it never seemed to stick.  Eventually I just figured it was gonna take something pretty big to motivate me to get back on track.

Enter our interview with Rafael Lovato Jr.

The night of that interview something just snapped.  Here we were interviewing a guy who didn't have the luxury of a nearby Black Belt teaching him how to improve his game when he was coming through the ranks.  He had to travel thousands of miles out of his way just to learn more about the process.  It wasn't just about wanting to be better, it was about making the commitment to be better.

Suddenly the "tough" challenge of writing in a journal didn't seem like such a difficult task by comparison.  Try as I might, I just couldn't justify my own excuses for skipping out on the BJJ journaling process—especially as a guy who likes to consider himself a writer.

Promptly after the interview, I saw a link for the book again that praised it's usefulness.  At this point I said to myself, "screw it, if I'm going to do this, my money should go to someone who took the time to make this and who appreciates the craft of BJJ like I do."

Moreover, I wanted the accountability.  The safest way to ever force yourself to do something is to make it an investment.  Suddenly I wasn't just forgetting to write in a training journal, it was now "hey dummy, you're wasting money if you don't keep this up."

So keep it up, I shall.

I'm happy to report that it landed on my desk two days after I put in the order and, as of this moment, I've already filled out two days worth of entries on a heavy training week.

Additionally, now that Kev and I have the luxury of the extended family that is the community, I feel it entirely appropriate to occasionally wax poetic on my own BJJ struggles to an audience who can either appreciate my perspective or have been there themselves.

I hope you all will keep me accountable on this and, in return, I'll try to bring the same eye for fun, nonsense and humor about my trials and tribulations with training in the same light I do for all things MMA, BJJ, and UFC posted on this website.  I'll let you know how my progress comes along (or doesn't).  It'll be a great time.

Sound good?  Deal!

Thanks in advance and I'll see you on the mats.



Is Anderson Silva the Black Dana White?

Now we weren't joking when we said it's been a slow news week for all things MMA, but I can't tell if this video further exemplifies that idea or is legitimately interesting in its own right.

Anderson Silva must know that fans are so bored with the MMA news cycle they'll take any headline that helps get them through the drought of any legitimate news (he truly is a Jedi who sees through the MMA matrix).

Anyway, for whatever reason,  "The Spider" decided to give us something to talk about today. And that something is that he is completely fine with referring to himself as the "Black" Dana White (because apparently that's what the world needed).

Maybe Anderson Silva should start referring to himself as Dana Black (missed opportunity?)?

We know Silva is a fan of Spider-Man, maybe he can be the Venom to Dana White's Spider-Man?  And in this world, Venom is the good guy to...  you know what... yep, it's a slow news week, I've started trying to make this connect to comic books.

Ok, I'm done for now.  What do you think, gang?



We Got Swag

IMAG1320 Admit it.  You kinda want one, right?

I know I'll be rockin it out at work today.

We did a small vanity press, but if we have enough interest we'll be looking to order some more.  So let us know if you're interested.



For Argument's Sake: Chael Buys the WWE

We here at VERBAL TAP are proud to present the latest addition to our website: a column that by-passes the rumor, the fact-checking, and maybe even the research to ask, “But what if…”  Without further ado, we hope you’ll indulge a little segment we like to call For Argument’s Sake: ChaelSonnen-610x406Over the weekend Chael Sonnen reportedly told some dirt rag that he wasn’t interested in just being in the WWE, he’d rather buy the company outright.  Now we've all learned to take most things that Chael says with a grain of salt (i.e. "Hispanic accent"), but according to said dirt rag’s “very reliable sources,” he apparently isn’t joking this time.

Of course, anyone who knows a single thing about the WWE knows that the company is far from ever selling its half-billion empire to a mouthy UFC fighter with a few "investor friends" (also it's a publicly traded empire, but I'm getting ahead of myself here).  That doesn't even include the insane death grip that Vince McMahon and his family have on the business, which many speculate will eventually be run by his daughter Stephanie and her real life husband/occasional sledgehammer enthusiast HHH.

But, for argument's sake, let's just pretend this could happen.  Imagine the possibilities.  The overlap between Chael the UFC fighter/entertainer/promoter isn't all that different from the potential of Chael the WWE wrestler/entertainer/promoter.  He has a love/hate relationship with fans (that works perfectly here!).  We all know the man cut's a mean promo.  He's got a strong wrestling background that's proven helpful to guys like this.  And this.  And, hell, even this guy.

I mean even Chael's own book cover looks similar to Kurt Angle's.

But, even if you don't buy all of that, consider the following irrefutable argument:

Sonnen Roperumblecling

If "The Bad Guy" can channel Shawn Michaels, it goes to say he is a natural for the Royal Rumble (thus becoming a #1 contender for one of the two World Championship titles, see how fast this is all coming together?).

Now that we've proven that Chael is a good fit for the organization, what if he got his full wish and actually got to run the company (shh, quiet logic, you have no place here)?  Don't worry, I've got you covered.

Before I begin, please keep in mind that some of these plans will be written in kayfabe (pro wrestling speak for “fake reality”), which may seem odd for Sonnen until you realize most of his UFC career has been spent “in character.”  With that, please consider the following multilayered plan:

  1. Revive “Tough Enough” with Chael as a coach.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we’ve already seen the impact Sonnen can have as a mentor to young athletes.  He's good for ratings, he'll promote the hell out of the show, and since he's trained with the host of the last incarnation (Stone Cold Steve Austin) for his UFC fights, I'm sure he'll have the blessing of the bionic redneck.
  2. Trash-talking your way into a championship match isn’t just welcomed, it’s required.  Lots of people think Chael talked his way into a fight for the Light Heavyweight title (he did!)—and, in this world, it’s exactly the kind of thing that's expected.  Only this time, the WWE Superstars now have the added benefit of going through a rigorous Chael Sonnen media preparation class, with lessons ranging from: playing up to the home crowd, utilizing new media to cut promos, and, of course, proxemics
  3. Steroids are mandatory for all on the WWE roster (just to even the playing field, of course).  It’s really more of a health issue.
  4. Chael also gets control of WWE’s film division.  It’s a well established fact the Chael-CM Punkcompany's film division has been hurting for a hit.  Why not invest in a low-budget action adventure?  He's already friends with CM Punk; put the two of them together in a buddy cop comedy and let the moderate box office magic happen ("One of them's a straight edge, the other lives on the edge. West Linn Gangsters, Summer 2015!").  Besides, I hear that Chael's got great connections to secure filming locations.
  5. Chael becomes new Mr. McMahon.  In it's Attitude hey day, the WWE, (I'm sorry) WWF created a fictionalized version of it's owner, Vince McMahon, that was designed to be so evil it could put over any other wrestler.  And he'd wrestle matches just to give fans the escapism of watching their boss get the crap kicked out of them.  It was a genius idea and one that helped to solidify the anti-hero status of Stone Cold Steve Austin—a model that has since been used to help elevate other wrestlers who have needed notoriety or exposure over the years.  Vince is CrazySince the Attitude era, Vince has made fewer on-screen appearances to fill whatever storytelling void is needed, but has admitted himself that at his age he doesn't really need to get in the ring all that much anymore (even if he still does bat shit crazy stuff like this).  And even now with HHH filling in for the role of corporate guy who occasionally wrestles as an "in betweener," he doesn't have the same pathos to pull this kind of high-wire act off (the fans still identify too much with him after all these years).  What the WWE needs is someone it can turn against.  A symbol.  Someone who can be an extremely non-silent guardian.  A watchful protector, if you will.  But how does Chael become the new Dark Knight of the WWE...
  6. Chael Sonnen vs. HHH at Wrestlmania 30: I know many of you will argue that current WWE roster guys like CM Punk or even former UFC champ Brock Lesnar would make for an ideal opponent, but hear me HHH-Challenges-Lesnarout here.  Sonnen comes out to say he wants to buy the company, HHH comes out to confront him says “the family will never do it,” Sonnen challenges him to a match at the 30th anniversary of Wrestlemania for control of the company.  BOOM.  There you have it.  A new main event to headline Wrestlemania.  HHH loses via a run in from CM Punk, allowing Chael to hit his finisher (a spinning back fist) and Chael now “runs” the WWE.

Well, there you have it.  Problems solved, everyone makes money.  I'll be waiting by my mailbox for my royalty checks if anyone's looking for me.

In the meantime, let me know if I missed any magic in the possibilities of Chael Sonnen running the WWE (along with your argument as to which finisher would be a better fit for Sonnen) in the comment section below!



What Does it Take to Corner Nick Diaz?

I'm not going to reveal how many times I've watched this, I'm just going to let it speak for itself. The video here was brought to our attention via the good folks over at Middle Easy.

As they mention on their website, I'd get on this immediately before someone smartens up over at the UFC and takes it down.  But, for now, please enjoy that magic that was Nick Diaz's corner during his fight against Carlos Condit.

Oh, but that's not all, act now and you'll get Diaz's fight against BJ Penn as well.  Click the link and start laughing now.

And, yes, because of this video, we are officially adding a 209 category to our website to catalog all things Diaz bros.



Cinco de Mayo Diaz Bros Style

As you'll see in the video above, Nick Diaz decides to give one of his drunk friends a simulation of what it would be like to fight him in the octagon, only minus all of the taunting and "don't be skurd homie."

A personal favorite is when the art easel falls right on Diaz ("Get the fuck off me easel, this ain't your fight dawg.")

I can't guarantee you this is how the Diaz brothers are celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but, in my brain, this is what it would look like.

Nonetheless, Happy Cinco de Mayo to all of you looking for an excuse to drink the night away. Just remember, tonight everyone's Mexican, which means you're likely to be deported if you're driving through Arizona.




Sonnen to Stay at 205, Not Retiring

I think at this point and time there are two people in the world: Chael Sonnen fans and liars.

Well, maybe that's not true, but doesn't that sound like something he'd say.

We've had lengthy arguments about the West Linn gangster for some time now.  But even his biggest critics have to admit in moments of defeat, Sonnen makes a lot more sense than we'd like to admit.

While I'm giving a free pass to Ken Flo for standing by his UFC Tonight partner-in-crime (who seemingly is just happy to see his co-host alive and makes no attempt to hide how much he wants to gush about it), this interview could have really turned into a self-congratulatory PR stint.

Instead, we get some real admissions from Chael: Jon Jones is better than him, there are a few fights left worth pursuing for him, and even a sound reasoning as to why Jones could be the one to beat Anderson Silva (assuming Chris Weidman doesn't do the job first).

I don't know many fighters who can come out of a loss like that and sound this... dare I say... optimistic about the proceedings.  Admitting there were several fronts he was never going to beat Jones at.

This may not erase the multitude of gaffes, illegal wrong-doings or general insults to other human beings and countries that have "crossed the line," but let's be real: there's no denying the bad guy still has a spark in the eye for talking all things UFC.  And I still think he's got some things to contribute to the game.

But what do I know?  Feel free to sound off in the comment section below.  I'll welcome a discussion or even your thoughts on if the decision for Chael to stay at 205 even makes sense.



Tribute To GSP

If you've listened to the latest installment of Verbal Tap (and, really, why wouldn't you have already?) then you know there was a song that shook me to my core. It spoke to me in ways I never thought I could be moved, which is why I am here to share it with you all today.

Just know, you do not have to thank me for providing the following gift of nature. Just please do your part by sharing this page and passing on the magic that is Cora Watson's musical tribute to Georges St. Pierre.

And if someone happens to know Cora personally, get in touch with us STAT. We need to have her as a guest on our show.