Names in the Game from the Magazine

Names in the Game from the Magazine

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In the exploding world of MMA, it’s sometimes hard for fans to notice some of the amazing fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. We’ve enlisted the experts at MMAWeekly.com to take you deep inside the sport, and present you with some of the newest names to watch.

 

Name: Eduardo Dantas
Nickname: Dudu
Professional Record: 3-1
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 135lbs
Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Notable Wins: Shinichi Kojima

 

Eduardo Dantas has the potential to be a star.

The Nova Uniao fighter is coming off the biggest win of his short career, a unanimous victory over Shooto champion Shinichi “BJ” Kojima. Prior to facing Dantas, Kojima had not lost a fight in four years. Not bad for an 18-year-old kid who’s still in high school.

 

“I was really happy with the decision,” said the young Brazilian. “However, it was my goal to finish Kojima. I was expecting the judges’ decision to be in my favor because I dominated the fight from the start, both standing and on the ground.”

 

Fighters from Team Nova Uniao are known for their ground prowess, and Eduardo Dantas is no exception. The young fighter earned his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the tutelage of Master Andre Pederneiras. He has won Copa do Brazil and Rio de Janeiro state tournaments in sport Jiu-Jitsu. But while Dantas and his team have a reputation for superior grappling, Eduardo has also shown a proclivity to exchange with opponents, and is not afraid to be aggressive.

 

“I’d describe myself as a very disciplined and responsible guy who likes training a lot. In the future, I’d like to make a living doing what I like, which is fighting. My style is versatile. I like both fighting on my feet and on the ground,” explained Eduardo.

 

“Wherever the fight ends up is fine by me. People used to say Nova Uniao guys only like to fight on the ground. Now it’s the other way around. The guys here like to trade blows, and I like it too.”

 

One of the most appealing aspects of Dantas’s game is his lack of fear. He uses his reach and height to his advantage, and favors throwing kicks and fl ying knees. Behind the young face is a fighter who loves the sport and respects his teammates and elders.

 

“I model myself after Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro. He’s a very disciplined guy, who, even when there’s no one to train with, trains by himself. He’s always on time and I think he’s one of the best lightweights there is. I also look up to Marcos ‘Louro’ Galvao. He’s a very punctual guy and is also very disciplined.”

 

Having only fought in Brazil and Japan, the Rio de Janeiro resident hopes that he will make his US debut soon. “I’d love to fight in the United States because it’s the place with the biggest events, and I’d also like to see the country.”

 

Organizations such as the WEC, Shooto, and K-1 Hero’s continue to showcase many of the lighter weight fighters today. With every win, Eduardo Dantas proves why he is one of the most promising prospects in the world.

 

“For now I just want to fight. I’m in the last year of high school now, which I will finish and then go on to do physical education and physiotherapy in college. My goal is to beat everybody at this weight and then move up in weight after that.”

 

Name: Manny Tapia

Nickname: The Mangler

Professional Record: 9-0-1

Height: 5’5”

Weight: 135lbs

Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai

Notable Wins: Brandon Foxworth, Shad Smith

 

Manny Tapia is a man on a mission.

 

The former King of the Cage 135-pound division champion recently signed with World Extreme Cagefighting, and was victorious in his debut. Undefeated after ten fights, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under Javier Vasquez still has much to achieve in the growing sport of MMA.

 

“I was actually getting ready to retire; there was no money in it. I was done. I did not want to fight anymore,” revealed Tapia. “But then the WEC called and I went for it.”

 

Tapia represents Millennia Jiu-Jitsu, a team to which the Chino, California resident attributes much of his success. “My camp, they’re my role models: Betiss Mansuri, Javier Vasquez, Romie Aram, I look up to all of them. They’re there for me whenever I need them. I look up to my trainers.”

 

Tapia made his WEC debut in May 2007 against Brandon Foxworth. “The Mangler” battered his opponent over two rounds, ending Foxworth’s fourteen fight winning streak. Manny has shown to have heavy hands and favors the ground and pound.

 

“As a fighter…I just go with it. I really don’t go in with a game plan; I just go by whatever my opponent gives me. As soon as I see an opening, I’m going to take it. I can be aggressive or I can be mellow, it just depends on how the fight’s going.”

 

For some fighters, maintaining an undefeated record can add unnecessary pressure.

 

“There’s a little pressure,” commented Tapia, regarding his record. “I train hard. I know a fight can end quickly with just one punch. I’m relaxed when I go into fight, I’m not nervous. As long as I know I gave it my all, I’ve got nothing to lose. I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

 

Tapia was scheduled to challenge WEC 135-pound champion Chase Beebe for the title back in September, but a knee injury derailed his title shot. Now fully recovered, the Millennia fighter has been training hard for his return to the cage and looks forward to getting another shot at the belt sometime in the near future.

 

“I’m really starting to pick things up. I’m not the most technical guy in the world, but once I’m in there I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to fight with my heart and give it my best. I’ll lay it all on the line.

 

Name: Shayna Basler

Nickname: Queen of Spades

Professional Record: 8-4

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 135lbs

Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai

Notable Wins: Julie Kedzi
e, Roxanne Modafferi

 

She’s tough. She’s talented. She can be a little outspoken.

Shayna Baszler takes her fighting career seriously and wants to show the world that she’s one of the best female mixed martial artists today.

 

“I had a normal childhood; no abusive relatives or bad experiences. I was a good kid that got good grades. Never did any martial arts or anything combative, but played many sports,” said Baszler. “I decided to try fighting at a local show and started training after getting my butt handed to me. Caught the MMA sickness and the rest is being written.”

 

The Sioux Falls, South Dakota resident made her EliteXC debut in July, successfully defeating Jan Finney with an armbar. In her second appearance, it took just 44 seconds for Baszler to submit previously undefeated Jennifer Tate.

 

Under the tutelage of former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder

Josh Barnett, Shayna trains hard to improve every aspect of her game.

 

“I train every day with guys that are bigger than me. When I train, everyone’s bigger, everyone’s heavier, and everyone’s stronger,” she said. “I’ve been doing Jiu-Jitsu for a long time and it’s something I really concentrate on, something I love to do. I’m a hard worker and very calculated.”

 

Not one to back down from a fight, the “Queen of Spades” has faced some of the toughest names in the business, including Amanda Buckner, Kelly Kobald, Roxanne

Modafferi, and Tara Larosa.

 

Shayna Baszler and Gina Carano represent the top of EliteXC’s women’s division. Carano has become one of the most recognizable faces in women’s MMA today.

 

“It is very much Gina’s division at this moment, and that’s not a good or bad thing,” commented the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt. “I would love to fight Gina. EliteXC has not spoken to me about a fight with Gina. I’d fi ght her tomorrow if they offered it to me.

With that said, I’m going to fight whoever they put in front of me.”

 

A showdown with Carano seems imminent. For Shayna, a victory over her would garner instant name recognition and help establish her as one of the best in the world. “I don’t want to be known for any one great thing. I want to define an era. I want ‘Shayna Baszler’ to define a period of time.”

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When John McCarthy entered the police academy of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in his early twenties, some two decades ago, he already was curious about a hot topic in martial arts circles: which fighting style was best?

 

“I came from a background of wrestling and boxing,” he said in December in a telephone interview. “I believe in those two things. I went to the Police Academy doing those two things, and then met people who were martial artists.” One of those people was a judo player. When they grappled wearing gis, the 6’4” McCarthy recalled, “I was getting tossed on my head.” That only further inspired him to expand his knowledge.

 

“He was the one that told me about this family,” he said. “All he said was, ‘Hey there’s this family. There are these brothers from South America, and they love to fight on the ground, and you would love it.’”

 

Those brothers were from Brazil, and their name was Gracie. John began training under Rorion Gracie, and became hooked on the grappling style known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. But Rorion Gracie had bigger plans, and those were to get the whole world into Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Rorion partnered with Art Davie and Bob Meyrowitz to produce an event to feature style vs. style fights with almost no rules. That event was called the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

 

“The thing that got my attention and made me like what they did and who they were was the fact that they would step up and, you know what, if someone wanted to fight, they would fight,” said John. “Many other martial artists were saying things like, ‘Oh, I would hit you but I don’t want to do it, this would kill you.’”

 

This real fighting was “what made the UFC successful,” according to John. But although the early UFCs were advertised with the slogan “There Are No Rules,” the truth was, “even though there were very few, there were always rules.” This was mere publicity. Said John, “I never agreed with it, but that was their show.”

 

“Rorion was there to promote his brother and his style of martial arts,” said John. “Rorion was doing it to further Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.” To Rorion, UFC was basically “an infomercial for them.”

 

Rorion’s brother Royce would win three of the first four UFC tournaments. At that time, “No one understood how to fight him.” While the efforts of the Gracies began to revolutionize martial arts and combat sports, another development, this one unplanned, was occurring. A new sport was being born, and it was running into some serious problems.

 

At what became known as UFC 1, the first bout was between standup fighter Gerard Gordeau and rotund sumo wrestler Telia Tuli. “Telia came in on Gerard, and he sidestepped and Telia went down,” John remembered. “Gerard took a nice kick and placed it in the middle of Telia’s face, and the tooth went fl ying out, and Gerard hit him with a right hand. Then the referee stopped the fi ght.” It was over in less than thirty seconds. “I don’t blame him now, but at that time he wasn’t supposed to do that,” John said of the referee. “That’s what basically gave me my start.”

 

Because of the unanticipated danger in this event, Rorion asked him to be the referee for UFC 2. “Rorion didn’t really care about those other guys.” said John. “That was a problem, because a lot of them didn’t know what they were doing.”

 

Some of those fighters, who were the unwitting bait for the shark that was Royce Gracie, would tell their corners, “You stop this fight and I’ll kill you.” With their corners “too stupid to throw in the towel,” John recalled, “Someone was going to get seriously hurt.”

 

He stressed to the UFC organizers, “These other people aren’t smart enough to even understand this kind of fighting right now. And they are going to get their own guy hurt.” He advised, “We’ve got a problem. The referee has got to be able to say this guy can’t go on any more.” They listened, and John Mc- Carthy thus began a career as a referee for this new sport.

 

After the Roger Huerta-Clay Guida fight, held December 8 of this year on a UFC show in Las Vegas, he retired as a referee. He also retired from the LAPD in September 2007, and now serves as an analyst, broadcaster, and strategic planner for The Fight Network, a Canadian-based television network.

 

In those thirteen years, “Big” John McCarthy not only established himself as the most

respected, preeminent, and best referee in MMA, he also has been a tireless advocate of fighter safety. He saw the UFC succumb to political pressure around the time of UFC 8 in February 1996, when he was told not to let anyone get hurt – if there was blood, he had to stop the fight. He observed the gradual evolution of the rules, watched gloves and weight classes become mandatory, and was there as the list of fouls and prohibit
ed tactics grew from show to show.

 

By 2000, the current unified rules were nearly formalized. “Truthfully, the rules the UFC follows now, the unified rules, are basically the rules the UFC was using before Zuffa bought the UFC,” he said.

 

In that time, Big John has seen the athletes evolve. For example, many top wrestlers in the early UFCs stuck to modified wrestling with striking. They “never truly tried to learn much else,” he said. There were a few exceptions in the early UFCs, such as Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich. Both, according to John, had wrestling, striking, and submission skills.

 

Today’s fighters, like Roger Huerta and Clay Guida, both of whom have wrestling backgrounds, are “complete mixed martial artists,” said John. “They may not be unbelievable at the striking game, but they’re very proficient at it.”

 

In John’s thirteen years as a referee, he has witnessed some historic and memorable fights. “Royce Gracie against Dan Severn (UFC 4, December 16, 1994) was a turning point in the sport,” he said. When people watched Royce submit the former All-American wrestler Severn, they thought, “Wow, even a wrestler can’t go with him.”

 

When kickboxing champion Maurice Smith defeated Olympic wrestler Mark Coleman at UFC 14 on July 27, 1997, “that was the next step. [Maurice] protected himself on the ground, [and was able to] do damage on the feet.” Done was the original thinking that “grappling beats striking every time.”

 

Frank Shamrock’s fourth-round defeat of Tito Ortiz by submission from strikes at UFC 22 on September 24, 1999, represented the next changing of the sport. “That was when it showed the complete mixed martial artist.” Frank had the striking and submissions, Tito the wrestling, but in the end, it was Frank’s element of conditioning which prevailed.

 

For John, Tito Ortiz’s win against Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 on November 22, 2002, also started a change in the sport because of the number of people that came to that event, and its success on pay per view. “It may not have been the greatest fi ght in the world or the most competitive fight,” he said, but those factors and the electric atmosphere at the event made up for that.

 

Also on the list are the Chuck Liddell/Randy Couture trilogy (UFC 43, 52, and 57), and the Tyson Griffin/Clay Guida fight at UFC 72 on June 16, 2007. “I thought that fight had everything,” said John. Because of the conditioning, takedowns, stand-up, and submission attempts, “I love that fight.”

 

Now that McCarthy has retired as a referee, he will still witness the fights he loves and be a prominent part of the MMA world. He believes “this is the time to take another step, go in a different direction, and do something different.” Besides running Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy in Valencia, California (http://bjmuta.com/), he wants to help The Fight Network grow, and is encouraging them to add coverage of amateur wrestling and submission grappling. He also has some major goals for MMA.

 

Some involve improving the ten-point system and the training of judges. “There are people judging mixed martial arts fights that have no idea what they are looking at,” he stated. Other goals are more sweeping. “There are so many fighters out there that are world-class fighters, and they should be ranked, and they should be allowed to fight [in co-promotions],” he said. To do that, a truly independent sanctioning body and rankings are essential.

 

Right now, there are “too many champions,” all with separate promotional companies.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It degrades the sport.”

 

With the resistance, especially by UFC, to working together, John realizes that this is not going to happen “overnight or the next year.” But, “co-promotions work [because the fans] really don’t care what promotion is putting on the fight.” He added, “I care about seeing the fights. I don’t pay to watch a promotion. I pay to watch fighters.”

 

Also on his ambitious list is the formation of a fighters’ union, which he admits would be “very difficult to set up.” This, of course, would require some fighter “that’s going to have to take that first step.”

 

These may be longshot propositions, but then again, who have thought that a bunch of skinny Brazilians in gis would revolutionize martial arts and combat sports in a matter of years? And who would have predicted that a boxer and wrestler on the LAPD would become one of the most renowned people in this new sport? One can expect that Big

John McCarthy will be as successful in his next round of fights as he was in the first wave of revolution in the combat sports that yielded mixed martial arts.

 

Eddie Goldman’s No Holds Barred blog is at nhbnews.blogspot.com. His No Holds Barred podcast is at nhbnews.podomatic.com. He can be reached at nhbnews@gmail.com.

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In my last article, I introduced you to some of the basics of MMA wagering, including how to read a betting line and how to convert that line into a percentage. This article builds on that foundation, so if you missed it, check out the first issue of FIGHT! or the MMA Wagering Guide on UFCjunkie.com. It’s important to understand how to convert a line into a percentage, because that percentage – the probability a fighter is going to win or lose – is the cornerstone of MMA wagering.

 

Everything starts with setting my own line for a fight, thus setting my own winning percentage. I then compare my own percentage to the percentage the sports books are setting. By identifying and betting significant differences, I build value in the long run.

I compare percentages instead of raw lines because it is easier and more accurate. A smaller gap between closer lines can actually represent a larger edge! Compare lines of -400 vs. -450 and -160 vs. -190. The percentage gap is more than double for -160 vs. -190, though it may seem smaller just looking at the lines.

The comparison of lines isn’t hard. The hard part is setting your own line. Fortunately, getting started setting a line is easy: simply start doing it. Write down your own line for a fight card, ideally before you see the odds makers’ lines. I recommend you start with a percentage, but you should convert it to a betting line so you’re familiar with both.

Use the market lines to check your work. Note the places where you are far off the market and consider why. Did you overlook a factor, or have you identified value? The first time you make your own lines, you’ll likely fi nd you’re way off. But you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get closer as you gain experience.

Even more valuable feedback is to watch for any “line movements.” If the market lines move (going from -200 to -220 for example), do they move in your direction or away? If lines are repeatedly moving your direction (you set a line of -250, the market opens at -200 but moves to -220), that’s a good indication you are on the right track. If you’re consistently off in the wrong direction, then you know you need to rethink your approach.

Of course, you can’t use a small sample size like one fight card and have a high degree of confidence in your ability to pick winners. But you have to start somewhere.

You can also check your work by grading your line against the actual fight. However, don’t fall into the trap of being too results oriented. Just because a coin lands on heads doesn’t mean the probability wasn’t 50% for tails. Try to evaluate your line based on the whole fight, not just the results.

Explaining the full process for setting your own line isn’t something I can cover in a few hundred words. But I can show you some details on my own process to get you started. So let’s look at some of the factors involved in building our own line for Serra vs. Hughes at UFC 79.

I like to break down a variety of factors when setting my own line. First I draft a bit of a “scouting report” on each fighter, most of which ends up being published in Performify’s Picks on UFCjunkie.com. I start by looking at a fighter’s record, focusing on recent fights. I’m mostly looking at who they fought, how they won or lost, and if the fights were close or clearcut. We all know the maxim “styles make fights,” so I like to break down some additional details on each fighter’s style and tendencies. I also watch a lot of tape. It’s not uncommon for me to watch every fight I can find of a fighter before setting my own line.

With this background information on both fighters, I try to project each fighter’s prospective game plan based on their strengths and weaknesses. I also try to identify unknowns – factors I realize I can’t know – and weigh them, such as the likelihood of existing injury, or questions about a fighter’s conditioning. Finally, I consider public perception; is one fighter overrated or underrated by the general public?

Here’s an excerpt of a scouting report on Matt Hughes, which should give you some insight to factors I consider important in evaluating a fighter.

Matt Hughes (41-5 MMA, 15-3 UFC): One of the most dominant fighters in UFC history. Was tested twice in 2006, and at 34 may be nearing the end of a hall of fame career. A dominant wrestler, he usually sets up submissions or strikes through wrestling and ground control. 22% of wins go to decision. Has shown too much tendency lately to want to stand and strike, and has paid the price with one devastating loss and one near-loss in the last year. Despite a career of dominance, some questions remain about his submission defense; three losses by submission (Penn and Hallman x2), and was nearly submitted again by Penn at UFC 63.

Last fight: defeated Chris Lytle by unanimous decision (30-27) at UFC 68 (March 2007). Used a conservative game plan: takedowns, strong ground control, no significant offense behind it.

Last loss: St. Pierre at UFC 65 (November 2006). Hughes made the mistake of trying to stand with St. Pierre and was dominated throughout the fight on the feet before being stopped via strikes early in the second round.

Also consider common opponents. If the fighters haven’t fought each other before, have they both fought the same person? Have they each fought different third parties who have faced each other? In our example of Hughes vs. Serra, we have several. Both have fought BJ Penn, Chris Lytle, and Georges St. Pierre. Hughes was most recently defeated by St. Pierre, who was in turn defeated by Serra. So if we cut out the middle step we have Serra defeats by Hughes. Bet the farm, right? Unfortunately “MMA Math” (or MMAth), is nothing close to an absolute. In fact many people probably weigh common opponents too heavily, or weigh the wrong ones.

Common opponents are definitely still something you should consider, but go back to the maxim “styles make fights.” Just because Fighter A defeats Fighter B who defeats Fighter C, that doesn’t always mean Fighter A will easily defeat Fighter C.

In this case, I think the common opponent of Lytle is more telling. Serra barely won a split decision over Lytle at The Ultimate Fighter 4 finale less than a year ago, where Hughes recently won a decisive (if conservative) unanimous decision.

A casual fan might feel that it is easy to say Hughes should win this fight over Serra. I certainly would say Hughes should be a significant favorite to regain his title. However, there is a big difference between identifying someone you think “should win” and someone who is actually a good bet as a heavy favorite. I would set the line for Hughes around 80%, or -400. We’ll see what the market says…

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Name: Brian Bowles

Professional Record: 4-0

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 135lbs

Discipline: Wrestling

Notable Wins: Charlie Valencia

 

A rugged wrestler from Georgia, Brian Bowles burst onto the bantamweight (135 pound limit) scene in a big way at his World Extreme Cagefi ghting debut, taking out former King of the Cage champion Charlie Valencia in June.

With the WEC now showcasing both the featherweight (145 pound limit) and bantamweight divisions, it gives smaller fighters like Bowles a place to shine. Until recently, they didn’t have that opportunity.

Bowles trains out of the Hardcore Gym in Athens, Georgia, with fighters such as

Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Rory Singer, and WEC veterans Stephan Ledbetter and Micah Miller. Building on a solid wrestling base, he has slowly been developing the rest of his mixed martial arts game.

Bowles surprised many in attendance by bringing the fight straight to Valencia, who was coming off an impressive knockout of former WEC champion Antonio Banuelos. He controlled the pace of the fight with crisp punching combinations, and by out-hustling Valencia on the ground. Valencia had no answers for the young fighter, and succumbed to a rear naked choke in the second round.

Going into the fight, Bowles had limited experience, having only fought three times in his young career. All three were victories, but against lesser competition than he was slated to face in the WEC, which houses some of the best bantamweights in the world.

Bowles no doubt has his eyes on the prize, the WEC Bantamweight Championship, but in order to get there, he must work his way up the ladder. Slated to face Marcos Galvao in his next bout, Bowles is likely vying with the Brazilian export for a shot at current champion Chase Beebe sometime in

 

Name: Marcos Galvao

Nickname: “Louro”

Professional Record: 5-0

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 135 lbs

Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Notable Wins: Kenji Osawa, Naoya Uematsu and Fredson Paxiao

A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Andre Pedernieras, Marcos “Louro” Galvao is primed to make a splash in the United States when he makes his WEC debut against Bowles.

Galvao trains at the world-renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu factory, Nova Uniao. This camp has produced such decorated MMA fighters as Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, Thiago Tavares, and Thales Leites.

He was thrown to wolves when he made his MMA debut several years ago in Shooto, going up against some of the best bantamweights in world with no experience. Galvao held his own, going 4-1 in the venerable Japanese promotion, with his only loss coming to current Shooto Featherweight Champion Akitoshi Hokazono. In his native Brazil, Galvao has gone 2-0 with victories over Naoya Uematsu and Fredson Paxiao in impressive fashion.

His breakout fight was at Shooto Back to our Roots 3, where he took on highly regarded striker Kenji Osawa, in what was considered to be a number-one contender’s match for the featherweight title. Galvao employed an excellent strategy against the dangerous Osawa, neutralizing his striking by clinching and getting the fi ght to the ground. Osawa had no answer for the strategy, as Galvao earned a three-round unanimous decision.

Someone was paying close attention to that fi ght, as the WEC quickly made an offer to Galvao, which would see the Brazilian fighter make his way to the United States. He is set to make his stateside debut in December.

“This is a great opportunity in my life, and I’ve been looking forward to fighting in the United States,” said Galvao. “Now I have my opportunity and I will give it my best.”

He has proven over the years to be an excellent ground fighter, dominating his opponents with his slick and technical ground game. He muscles his opponents to the mat, controlling them from the top.

“I’m a very calm and technical fighter during the fight,” commented Galvao on his style.

 When he faces Bowles, Galvao will be the first fighter to make the transition from Shooto in Japan to the WEC in the United States. This will be his first fight in a cage, but that shouldn’t have much affect on the calm and collected style of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guru.

 

Name: Jorge Masvidal

Nickname: “Gamebred”

Professional Record: 12-2

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 155 lbs

Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Key Wins: Yves Edwards, Matt Lee, Keith Wisniewski and Joe Lauzon

 

He’s young and cocky, but he has the skills to back up his brash attitude in the cage.

His name? Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. Masvidal has fought in several different weight divisions, but has recently found a home at lightweight (155 pound limit). It’s one of the more talented and crowded divisions in the sport, but he is looking to make waves all the same.

He made a name for himself in Florida, fighting for American Fighting Championship, and was soon noticed by the fledging Bodog Fight promotion. He made his Bodog debut at welterweight, winning a convincing decision over UFC veteran Keith Wisniewski. The fight got him noticed by the MMA community.

After contemplating it for a time, he decided that moving to lightweight was in his best interests, as was a move to American Top Team, which soon followed. Now at home with the world famous ATT, Masvidal works on his game in an already crowded gym.

“Its fun,” he said of training with so many of the top names in the sport, “especially when you’ve got them all in succession. I got Gesias “JZ” Calvancante around, then Din Thomas, then Marcus Aurelio, and then someone in a higher weight class who is also in the top ten.”

Since beginning his training at ATT, Masvidal has been gaining notoriety with his impressive in-ring performances. In July, Masvidal took on highly regarded lightweight Yves Edwards, who is a UFC and PRIDE veteran. He showed his versatility as an MMA fighter by knocking out Edwards in devastating fashion.

Masvidal continued his winning streak when he made his Strikeforce debut in September at the Playboy Mansion. He took on fellow Bodog Fight veteran Matt Lee, who was coming off a solid, albeit losing, performance against Eddie Alvarez in July. Masvidal attempted to take the fight to the ground, but Lee defended well and kept it standing. That would soon be a mistake, as Masvidal unleashed a furious flurry of elbows
that dropped Lee before finishing him off with strikes on the ground.

In Strikeforce, he has the opportunity to face two of the best lightweights in the world in Josh “The Punk” Thomson and Gilbert Melendez. A win over either of these fighters would vault Masvidal into consideration as one of the top fighters in the division.

“I’d love to fight either of them,” he stated. “I’d come out the victor too. I’m dead serious. I’d bet the house on it. If we fight, I’d put a whooping on either of them.” Although he is cocky, this young brash fighter appears to have a bright future in MMA.

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The IFL Finals are in the books, and the SilverBacks/Pittbulls match was a great show!

Jake Ellenberger had the first fight with Delson Heleno; it was a great fight. Ellenberger took the fight to Heleno, and was absolutely not afraid for a takedown. He was standing straight up and defended every takedown defense that Heleno had. When Heleno did take

him down and got the mount, Ellenberger rotated to his stomach. Heleno wanted to go for a rear naked choke, but then Ellenberger rolled inside Heleno’s legs and got into his guard. Heleno went for a straight arm bar; Ellenberger tried to get out by rolling out over his shoulder, but Heleno rolled with him, finishing the fight by way of a straight arm bar in the first round.

Fight number two came up: Deividas Taurosevicius was facing Bart Palaszewski. Both fighters came to fight, both pressing the action. Bart was doing well, and staying just outside Deividas’ reach so he could counter, but Deividas fought back, throwing a few high kicks in the process. Bart went for a takedown and ended up in Deividas guard. Deividas right away went for a straight arm bar, he pulled it, Bart slapped Deividas’ thigh

once, and Deividas let go. Later he would tell us that he felt the arm pop. Some say Deividas kicked Bart by accident in the face; it was more of a “sickle kick,” if you can call it a kick, because if wasn’t even meant as a kick, with the outside of his foot. So it wasn’t intentional and even if it was, it wasn’t illegal because Bart was on both his feet.

The ref saw Bart’s “pain face” from the arm bar, plus Bart turned away from his opponent, so the ref stopped the fight. We found out that one of Deividas’ toes got into Bart’s eye, and he couldn’t see. That was the reason he turned away.

The Pittbulls were now up two fights. Nobody in IFL history ever made a comeback after that, so the Silverbacks were under pressure.

Ben Rothwell was up next, against last minute replacement Ricco Rodriquez. Ricco looked good; he had lost about 40 pounds, and this fight was going to be the biggest test for Rothwell in his career. Rodriquez, a former UFC heavyweight champion, came out strong, as did Rothwell. Ricco put some strikes in to set up a takedown. Rothwell was a little cautious, and didn’t really commit to his punches, being afraid of course of the takedown. After a few takedown attempts from Ricco, Ben felt that he was able to start punching with more power and commit more to his strikes.

Round two was off, and I gave that one to Rothwell. Rothwell came forward faster, and started to land some strikes. Ricco landed a low kick in Rothwell’s jewels, but Rothwell didn’t take too much time to start again, realizing that Rodriquez started to gas a little bit. Like I mentioned, Ricco took the fi ght on four days notice. Although he was training, he was of course not in the best shape he could be. Rothwell also landed some right straight body shots, which are always good to set up another punch. Ricco got in a few guillotine chokes, but wasn’t able to finish Ben with them. It went to a judge’s decision, who ruled in favor of Ben Rothwell! Great victory for Ben; he knows now that he’s up there with the best of the heavyweights!

Ryan McGivern against Fabio Leopoldo was up next. Fabio beat Ryan last time they met, by way of a straight knee bar in the second round. He told us that he had many distractions the last few fights, but that he was ready this time. Boy was he! Leopoldo threw a few high kicks, but Ryan kept pressing the action and throwing huge upper cuts. In round two, one of those connected, and that was the end of the fight!

I always say that you have KO power or you don’t. It’s hard to learn that, but McGivern showed that I was wrong. His footwork looked good, and also his power in his punches. When that comes together; good footwork gives you great power! Good win for the newly wed McGivern!

Now it was 2-2. Whoever would win the last fight would give their team the Championship. No pressure!

Last time Mike Ciesnolevicz and Andre Gusmao met, Gusmao won the fight, so Mike C had revenge on his mind. Mike C came out strong and tried to take Gusmao down, but Gusmao had different thoughts. He stopped the takedowns and got a great position. Mike C was standing, but had one knee on the ground. Gusmao was waiting for Mike C to release that knee from the mat so it would be legal to knee him in the head. As soon as that happened, he threw a knee and it landed right on the button. It was “lights out” for Mike C. What a victory! The whole Pittbulls camp jumped in the ring! Last year they didn’t win a single match, and this year they came out winning it all…what a turnaround!

It was another great night from the IFL.

 

Till next time, like El Guapo always says: Godspeed and Party on!!

Bas

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Houston “The Assassin” Alexander doesn’t take sabbaticals, even when he has a good reason to celebrate. At UFC 75: Champion vs. Champion in London, England, the 35-year-old light heavyweight improved his professional record to 8-1 by dropping Italian- bred Alessio Sakara with a vicious knee to the chin before finishing him off with a flurry of punches.

It’s been five days since that victory, and instead of sipping cognac at a club, Alexander is training at Mick Doyle’s Kickboxing and Fitness Center in Omaha, Nebraska. “I stay in the gym just to make sure the sword is sharpened,” he explains. “If you sit around and let the sword sit out, it’s going to get dull and become rough. It’s better for me to be in the gym than to be out of it.”

However, his workout is constantly interrupted as reporters blow up the light heavyweight’s cell phone to conduct interviews. The impromptu press day takes up most of his afternoon, but Alexander courteously answers everyone’s questions. Around three o’clock, he leaves the large facility with a nearly dead cell phone, and walks towards his ’99 Pontiac Grand Prix. He opens the door, maneuvers his 6’0”, 205 pound muscular frame into the vehicle, and starts up the engine. Then, he rolls out of the parking lot to pick up his children from school wearing black pants, a long sleeve Team Doyle shirt, and a black Chicago White Sox baseball cap. Oversized medallions and platinum grills aren’t included in his wardrobe.

Without a thick skin, a kid growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois usually winds up as prey for the neighborhood vultures. The poverty-stricken metropolis is one of the most dangerous areas in the United States, with alarmingly high rates of assault, murder, and rape. Alexander spent his early childhood there. As a youngster, walking down the street without being harassed was rare. “It’s a pretty rough place. I remember as a kid, I had to

end up fighting every other day because the guys down there are pretty rough,” he says. “If you don’t know how to fight in East St. Louis, you got picked on a lot.”

When Alexander was eight, his mother relocated the family to Omaha, Nebraska to be closer to relatives and escape hood life. There, he blossomed. In high school, he excelled on the football field, on the wrestling mats, and even in the classroom. During his senior year, he was planning to attend the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia, but that plan was scrapped when he learned he was about to become a father. “I chose to stay with my daughter verses going to school,” he admits. “I chose priority over school.”

After graduating highschool, Alexander had his first baby girl and took a job as head machine operator at an asphalt company. He worked there until he applied his impeccable drive to other ventures.

As a teenager, Alexander had submerged himself in the hiphop culture after seeing the graffiti art in Beat Street and witnessing the legendary Rock Steady Crew break-dance in Flashdance. Since then, he had become a breathing Wikipedia of urban knowledge.

In 2000, he turned his passion into an occupation by interning at the local radio station. He spent the next year learning the ropes, and eventually he was hired as an on-air deejay. He has a weekly program entitled Sunday Nite Raw, and was the mastermind of the Culture Shock School Tour, an ongoing project that educates children and young adults about the essence of hip-hop.

During his internship, he wasn’t getting paid. As a result, when he attended an amateur MMA show at Club Amnesia, he accidentally fell into another profession. “A friend of mine, who knew I liked to roughhouse, dared me to get into the ring with one of the guys who was actually one of the champs,” Alexander recalls. “So I signed up for it, got in, and ended up being the winner that night. I kept going back and it’s been a whirlwind experience after that.”

Alexander began competing locally for promoter Chad Ma son and earned between $600-2,000 per fight. For the next several years, he trained alone at a rinky-dink gym located inside an old library in Omaha. He concentrated on boxing, cardio, and muscle strengthening. His peculiar solo workout regimen worked; he kept winning matches, amounting to hundreds of amateur battles. “When I tell people I had over two hundred fights, they probably don’t believe it. But I fought every weekend,” he explains. “Sometimes it would be one person, sometimes it would be two people, and sometimes, it would be six people. I’ve been doing this every weekend for six or seven years.”

Despite being choked out in his pro debut in 2001, Alexander has become unstoppable since then, defeating his next five professional opponents in impressive fashion and continuing to decimate locals by the dozen. In early 2007, Monte Cox became his manager and the knockout artist competed in a tournament at Cox’s Extreme Challenge promotion in March. The Assassin fought two oversized heavyweights and laid ‘em out.

One week later, Alexander was bonding with his children in the park when Cox called his cell phone (it was charged, this time) and asked him about fighting in the UFC. The light heavyweight accepted the offer, even though he never heard of his opponent, Keith Jardine.

Fortunately, he started training with Mick Doyle, an accomplished Muy Thai Kickboxing Champion, and learned more effective striking methods. Alexander utilized those techniques against Jardine in May at UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson, ferociously

uppercutting him in the chin. After 48 seconds of fury, Jardine was on the ground and his mouthpiece was several feet away.

Apparently, Alexander didn’t have any octagon jitters. “I did feel anxious, but I wasn’t nervous because I was doing smaller shows for seven years and I was doing my program every week for five years in front of crowds,” he says. “I felt really comfortable.” Later that night, UFC President Dana White gave him a nice bonus in the locker room and rewrote his contract.

�� �� ��

Alexander pulls his Grand Prix up to his children’s school, puts his vehicle in park, and waits for his kids to come out. As he sits at the wheel, he reflects on the past several months. He transformed from a regional gladiator to one of the sport’s rising stars, having knocked out two of the UFC’s most promising light heavyweights – Jardine and Sakara – in less than two minutes combined. The mainstream visibility boosted not only his MMA career, but it has shined more light on his radio program and his Culture Shock School Tour.

Now, he is inching closer to achieving his lifelong aspiratio
ns. “The goal is to get the belt. There is no other goal but trying to get the belt and give the fans what they want, which is some excitement and passion in the octagon. They’re tired of seeing boring MMA fights in the UFC. I want to keep it exciting for people, and everyone loves drama,” he explains. “Outside the ring, I’m trying to educate people on the sport and educate people on hip-hop.”

Alexander is certainly getting the best of both worlds.

 

Technical Breakdown:

Striking

Houston Alexander is a premier knockout artist. Though he practiced boxing during his teenage years, his striking game has risen to a tremendously higher level since training with Mick Doyle, an accomplished Kickboxer and Muy Thai specialist. “The Assassin” showed his diverse stand-up skills by stunning Keith Jardine with an array of uppercuts and dropping Alessio Sakara with a devastating knee from the clinch. He has proven to have as much power as anyone in the light heavyweight division.

Grappling & Submission

Despite several seconds of pounding Sakara on the octagon fl oor, Alexander hasn’t truly displayed his ground game just yet. In his defense, he hasn’t had the opportunity to show and prove because most of his fights end via knockout in the first round. Although he currently doesn’t hold a belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he maintains having good submission skills. However, he does have a wrestling background and from the little bit that’s been seen, he has excellent takedown defense.

Conditioning

Alexander has pushed the pace in all of his battles. While only one of his nine career fights has gone the distance, Alexander maintains that he has excellent cardio. He runs daily and has a rigorous training regimen with the tough coaches at Team Doyle, which explains why his speed, explosiveness and raw power are top notch.

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Anderson Silva has taken on some of the most talented fighters of his time, even knocking out one of the longest-reigning champions on his way to the belt. Unfortunately, the debate over whether or not Silva is the greatest middleweight of all-time can’t be decided because, after all, he can’t fight the champions of decades past. Or can he?

In this segment, FIGHT! approached three of the most renowned trainers in the sport: Greg Jackson of Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting, Robert Follis of Team Quest, and Pat Miletich of Miletich Fighting Systems. Each has worked with numerous champions throughout the years, they’ve seen more fighters come and go than we can count, and they certainly aren’t shy about their opinions.

We asked each trainer how the fight would go if the legend were in his prime and the modern superstar was in his current state. They were asked to pick a winner and shed some insight as to why the fight would progress as their expert opinions saw it.

PAT MILETICH VS. GEORGES ST. PIERRE

Greg Jackson: I have to go with GSP. He’s incredibly strong, he’s technical, he’s an amazing athlete, and he’s one of my guys.

Robert Follis: GSP’s style is so strong and he can control where the fight would go. He can control the wrestling and he’s so athletic. If you take the fight back to Miletich’s day, I think it’s a different look.

Pat Miletich: Tough fight. That’s a toss up. Georges is a great athlete, well balanced like I was, so I can’t decide.

Verdict: Despite Miletich humbly calling a draw in his own bout (even after being pressed three times), the decision goes to St. Pierre on account of his strength and technical prowess. Georges St. Pierre 2-0.

ROYCE GRACIE VS. BJ PENN

GJ: I would say BJ Penn wins it because he’s got much better stand up and his Jiu-Jitsu is better.

RF: BJ Penn for sure. He is too much. When he’s in shape, he’s a nightmare for anyone at any weight class. The way he trains, his stand up, how hard he is to take down, he would win easily.

PM: BJ Penn is too well rounded; he’s too good an athlete. He’d win.

Verdict: A clean sweep for BJ, who the experts see as being one of the most unstoppable and purely talented fighters in the game. Whether standing up or on the ground, the consensus is that BJ could handle it. BJ Penn 3-0.

DAN SEVERN VS. RANDY COUTURE

GJ: Randy Couture would win because he’s a better wrestler.

RF: Randy’s game is more complete; he’s got a great ability to fight standing up. Randy can work stand up, stop shots, has submission skills.

PM: Randy Couture. He’s a good enough wrestler, better than Severn was, and he’s got better stand up.

Verdict: Another sweep, this time for The Natural, who the experts see as the superior wrestler and the more complete all-around fighter. Considering his career, would you want to bet against Randy? Randy Couture 3-0.

RICKSON GRACIE VS. FRANK SHAMROCK

GJ: Rickson would win because he’s got superior ground skills.

RF: It’s difficult because Rickson didn’t fight the same competition that Frank did. Rickson has this aura of being unbeatable. I’d have to edge Frank Shamrock, because if he kept it standing, he’d kill Rickson. Rickson on the ground poses a great problem, but the fight game has progressed and Frank could keep it standing.

PM: Frank Shamrock because he couldn’t be taken down by Rickson, and when he’s standing up, he’s just better.

Verdict: Our experts seemed to agree that if Frank could keep this fight standing, he would dominate. If he were taken to the ground, however, it would be a different story. Despite this weakness, Follis and Miletich agree that he could avoid ending up in the Gracie’s guard. Frank Shamrock 2-1.

TITO ORTIZ VS. RAMPAGE JACKSON

GJ: Rampage wins because his style matches up well with Tito and his wrestling is solid. He’s got heavy hands too, so the edge in power and wrestling goes to Rampage.

RF: I don’t know that Tito has reached his prime. If Tito was training was correctly, he could hit his prime. If we’re taking what their primes have been, I give it to Rampage.

PM: I’m going to go with Rampage because Rampage hits hard, and Tito doesn’t like getting hit.

Verdict: Even though Follis suggests that Tito hasn’t hit his prime (quite the interesting proposition), all of our experts agree that Rampage’s heavy hands would lead him to the big victory. Rampage Jackson 3-0.

BAS RUTTEN VS. CHUCK LIDDELL

GJ: I’d have to say 50/50 on this one. They’re both great strikers, Bas is good on the ground, but Chuck can get up.

RF: That would be a battle. Bas is probably a little more well rounded, but his wrestling might not be good enough get Chuck down. That’s a coin toss.

PM: Bas Rutten because he’s too well rounded and too accurate of a striker.

Verdict: Only one of our experts was brave enough to weigh in on this bout, but he gave the edge to Rutten on account of his accurate striking. Although two of our experts chose not to pick a winner, all agree that it would be a brutal war. Bas Rutten 1-0.

MIRKO FILIPOVIC VS. BROCK LESNAR

GJ: Cro Cop would win that. He’s the superior striker and he’s got good sprawl.

RF: I would give it to Cro Cop. Give Brock three years and he’s a tough match up. Cro Cop is just too tough.

PM: Brock Lesnar because no one will stop Brock’s take downs. In fi ve years, Brock will have a belt.

Verdict: Cro Cop takes the edge, being the superior striker in his prime. Two of our experts agree that Brock will be a force within a matter of years, but tonight, it goes to the Croatian. Mirko Filipovic 2-1.

WANDERLEI SILVA VS. RAMEAU THIERRY SOKOUDJOU

GJ: I’d have to say 50/50 again. They’re both explosive strikers so whoever lands the big one first would win.

RF: I think Sokoudjou can beat anybody. If you put him in there right now, his athleticism and movement would carry him to the win. If you were to take Sokoudjou from three years from now,
it would be ridiculous. That’s a tough fi ght but Sokoudjou could tear him up.

PM: Sokoudjou. He’s too good of an athlete.

Verdict: In what has to be the most astounding upset of the night, Sokoudjou has won the support of the majority of the panel, thus defeating the most decorated light heavyweight champion in MMA history. They point to his sheer athleticism and explosive striking as reasons for such confidence in the young Sokoudjou. Rameau

Thierry Sokoudjou 2-0.

KAZUSHI SAKURABA VS. ANDERSON SILVA

GJ: Anderson Silva would win due to his striking ability. He just would need to stay off the ground.

RF: Sakuraba is just too crafty. I don’t think Silva would end up TKO-ing him, which is the only way he would win. I’m going with Sakuraba

PM: Sakuraba without a doubt. He was amazing in his prime.

Verdict: Even with Anderson Silva’s recent tear through the UFC, the consensus of our experts is that he’s still no match for Sakuraba in his prime. Sustaining the aura around

“The Gracie Hunter,” the trainers offer little else in their explanations other than “He’s just Sakuraba.” Kazushi Sakuraba 2-1.

 

For this second section, we pitted legends of mixed martial arts against masters of single disciplines. We then asked some of the same trainers to weigh in on the fantasy bout. But, there’s a catch. The master of the single discipline gets a year of complete MMA training at any school he chooses.

 

BRUCE LEE VS. FEDOR EMELIANENKO

GJ: Fedor would win because Bruce Lee is too light.

RF: Bruce Lee is too small. Bruce was a great athlete but part of what made him special is that he was creating MMA. I think with five years training, he could do something, but he’d never be athletic enough to beat Fedor.

PM: Fedor by destruction.

Verdict: The trainers all agree again, giving appropriate respect to the father of MMA, but recognizing that Fedor is too big, too strong, and too good. Pat Miletich even took it upon himself to invent a new way to win a fi ght (apparently, submissions and knockouts are for mere mortals; Fedor wins by destruction). Fedor Emelianenko 3-0.

CHUCK NORRIS VS. CHUCK LIDDELL

GJ: Chuck Liddell would win because Norris is too light.

RF: Liddell. Chuck Norris wouldn’t even come close, even with a year of training.

PM: Chuck Liddell because Norris was a good point fi ghter and a decent kick boxer, but he couldn’t deal with Chuck’s style.

Verdict: Another shut out for the MMA superstar. Despite that the fact that Norris has excellent kick boxing skills, a good amount of BJJ training, a black belt from the Machados, and years of experience selling Bowfl ex machines to late-night TV viewers, our experts chose the heavier and unorthodox Liddell. Chuck Liddell 3-0.

MUHAMMAD ALI VS. ROYCE GRACIE

GJ: Royce would win because he could probably get him down.

RF: Muhammad Ali, with as good of range control as he had, he would win. If you could teach him to stop the takedown, he’d be great.

PM: Muhammad. You’d have to teach him how to stuff a takedown, but he’s a great athlete so he’d be fine.

Verdict: It is fitting that the first single discipline fighter to be awarded a decision is the incomparable Ali. The majority of our experts have him winning with his outstanding range and all expect that he’ll spend the year at their facility learning how to stuff the takedown. His athleticism and pinpoint striking are unlike anything Royce (or any other MMAer) has ever seen. Muhammad Ali 2-1.

MIKE TYSON VS. RAMPAGE JACKSON

GJ: I’d have to say 50/50 because if Mike Tyson connects with 4-ounce gloves, it’s over. But if Rampage can get him on the ground, he would win.

RF: Mike Tyson with a year of learning sprawl and a ground game, he’d be a really tough match up. I’d still go with Quinton because I think he could get it to the ground. Give Tyson two or three years and I change that story.

PM: Rampage Jackson takes this. He’s too strong and he’d be able to take him down.

Verdict: Even though the trainers offer proper deference to Mike Tyson with 4-ounce gloves, they’re confi dent enough to pick Rampage unanimously. So, who wants to tell Mike the bad news? Rampage Jackson 3-0.

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