Quick Hits

Quick Hits

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One reason so many people love MMA is because of its pure unpredictability. When you take away that aspect of a sport, it ceases to be a sport. That’s why professional wrestling is now classifi ed as “sports entertainment.” Only a drunken hayseed would be impressed with professional wrestling’s unpredictability. But I digress.

Upsets happen on almost every fi ght card. Some are so shocking that they leave you speechless. Some may even make you rich. Some just make you sick. But for every blind squirrel that fi nds a nut, so too does a true underdog fi nd a way to win. Here are the 10 that left me speechless (and one that left me rich enough to pay everyone’s bar tab at my table. See #6).

10. ELVIS SINOSIC DEFEATS JEREMY HORN UFC 30, 2001

Jeremy Horn’s MMA resume rivals that of any badass in the history of the sport. In his more than 100 professional fi ghts, Horn has posted victories over notables such as Forrest Griffi n, Chuck Liddell, Vernon White, David Loiseau, Chael Sonnen, and Gilbert Yvel. Elvis Sinosic’s resume reads as follows: “Hi, I’m Elvis Sinosic, and I like to fi ght. I’ve been beaten by Michael Bisping, Forrest Griffi n, Renato Sobral, Alessio Sakara, Evan Tanner, Tito Ortiz, and Frank Shamrock, to name a few. However, I once beat Jeremy Horn via a triangle choke.” Sinosic can go to bed every night and remind himself of this mind-boggling upset. If I were Sinosic, I would make sure this fact ended up on my tombstone.

09. RANDY COUTURE DEFEATS VITOR BELFORT UFC 15, 1997

Before Randy Couture upset the likes of Gabriel Gonzaga, Tim Sylvia, Chuck Liddell, and Jeremy Horn, he upset Vitor Belfort—a man who was annihilating his opponents up until this point. In Belfort’s four previous fi ghts in the UFC, none had gone past 1:17.

Utilizing his dirty boxing and wrestling skills, Couture overwhelmed Belfort and left him in a bloody mess smushed against the Octagon cage. The funny thing is, Couture was considered old back then, and this was in 1997.

08. FORREST GRIFFIN DEFEATS MAURICIO RUA UFC 76, 2007

At the time of this barnburner, Mauricio Rua was the numberone- ranked 205-pound fi ghter in the world, and Forrest Griffi n was the number-one-ranked 205-pound lunatic in the world. Griffi n’s lunacy transformed to genius as he bashed his way to a rear-naked choke victory in the third round. Everyone knows what happened next: Griffi n went on to capture the UFC light heavyweight championship less than a year later with his victory over Quinton Jackson.

07. GABRIEL GONZAGA DEFEATS MIRKO “CRO COP” FILIPOVIC UFC 70, 2007

The winner of this fi ght was guaranteed a title shot with newly crowned UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture. Ironically, the only person who gave Gonzaga a chance to win was Couture, who was commentating that night.

The reason this fi ght is such an upset is not the fact that Gonzaga won—it’s how he won. Although Gonzaga had somewhat of a low profi le to casual MMA fans, it was no secret that he possessed amazing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. Now, you can imagine why a high kick to the head is the last thing Cro Cop was expecting. It was also the last thing he didn’t see that night as Gonzaga knocked out the former PRIDE open weight grand prix champion in the fi rst round.

06. NICK DIAZ DEFEATS TAKANORI GOMI PRIDE 33, 2007

How do you beat Takanori Gomi? Only a handful of people, including BJ Penn and Marcus Aurelio, know the answer. Nick Diaz came up with his own way: smoke some marijuana, slug it out, and then put Gomi in a gogoplata. OK, maybe that wasn’t his game plan, but that’s basically what happened.

The victory was later ruled a “no contest” by the Nevada State Athletic Commission when Diaz tested positive for THC. The most amazing fact about this upset: It wasn’t even the best one at PRIDE 33. Keep reading.

05. MAURICE SMITH DEFEATS MARK COLEMAN UFC 14, 1997

In 1997, Mark Coleman was one of the baddest dudes on the planet. He was the fi rst UFC heavyweight champion titleholder, and he was beating people into oblivion with his wrestling pedigree.

Maurice Smith was a kickboxer with a losing MMA record. Somehow, Smith was able to keep the fi ght standing up and punish Coleman with punches and kicks. Smith’s unanimous-decision victory was one of the fi rst great upsets in the early days of MMA.

04. BJ PENN DEFEATS MATT HUGHES UFC 46, 2004

Matt Hughes was running through his competition at this time like no other UFC champion in the history of MMA—to the point where there were no welterweights left for Hughes to beat up. The 155-pound BJ Penn was eating burgers, mastering BJJ, surfi ng, and fi ghting when he felt like it. On January 31, 2004, Penn felt like fi ghting. For a lack of a better phrase, Penn beat the crap out of Hughes, winning the UFC title with a rear-naked choke at the end of the fi rst round.

03. DAN HENDERSON DEFEATS WANDERLEI SILVA PRIDE 33, 2007

Wanderlei Silva knocks out people for fun. Of his 32 MMA victories, 22 were by KO or TKO. So, when PRIDE welterweight champion Dan Henderson moved up a weight class and delivered a left hook to Silva’s head in the third round, MMA fans all over the world were stunned . Silva was fl oored, and Henderson became the new PRIDE middleweight champion. Henderson also became the fi rst fi ghter to simultaneously hold titles in two different weight classes in a major MMA organization. Even if Henderson never gets another KO, no one should ever call him “Decision Dan” after this performance.

02. RANDY COUTURE DEFEATS TIM SYLVIA UFC 68, 2007

Couture had been retired for more than a year. But for some reason, he felt he needed to fi ght heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, a man on a six-fi ght win streak. Not only was Couture moving up to the heavyweight class, he was freaking old.

However, in his normal fashion, Couture utilized the perfect game plan, and beat the Maniac to a pulp to earn a unanimous-decision victory. By this time, you would think Vegas would stop making Couture the underdog. Some people never learn.

01. MATT SERRA DEFEATS GEORGES ST. PIERRE UFC 69, 2007

Georges St. Pierre just won the UFC welterweight title by crushing Matt Hughes. Matt Serra just won The Ultimate Fighter television show by defeating a bunch of antiques. This fi ght should have been a no-brainer—I’ll bet $10,000 on GSP. If you made that bet, there is a good chance a bookie came by your house the next day and threatened to cut off your pinkie fi nger if you didn’t have the money by the end of the week.

In the most stunning upset in the history of MMA, Serra connected with punch after punch and put GSP out of commission at 3:25 in the fi rst round. The BJJ black belt truly did shock the world—not with world-class grappling, but with KO power. Of Serra’s nine MMA victories, this fi ght is his only KO.

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After capturing an NCAA wrestling title, was it your dream to make it to the UFC?

The UFC wasn’t necessarily my dream. My dream was to be the best, but Dana White would probably argue that if I dreamt of being the best then that included the UFC, so in that aspect, yes [laughs]. I guess that would include the UFC. I want to be the best, simply put.

Do you feel because you were a champion in wrestling you’re destined to be a champion in MMA?

I don’t think one thing makes you good at another thing, no. Just because you’re a good lawyer doesn’t mean you’ll be a good congressman.

I know you’re looking for a new nickname. Your nickname “Mr. Wonderful” is from pro wrestler Paul Orndorff. If you could name yourself after another pro wrestler, who would it be?

The Ultimate Warrior, hooo!! What kind of question is that? That’s obvious, duh [laughs].

Did we just find you that new nickname?

That’s still an open forum. Have everyone Twitter @ philmrwonderful and please let me know what your suggestions are.

What’s the frontrunner?

I got some funny ones. This chick looked me up and down real quick, this lady, this older lady, “Hmm, the Stallion.” The Stallion? Alright!

Your athletic achievements tag you as a fighter to watch, creating lots of hype. Do you welcome that?

You can’t acknowledge the positive aspect of keeping the hype around you and having people talk about you without acknowledging the negative aspects. Having people say ah, “You know, this guy’s overrated or that guy sucks or anybody can beat that guy.” Some of the things these people say on these Internet forums are absolutely horrible. So honestly, no, I don’t really look forward to it, but it’s going to happen and you might as well embrace it.

I know you’re a big positive thinker. Who are some of your favorite positive thinkers?

Joab…Noah…Faith is one of those things—not even to be preachy, just it doesn’t even have to be religious faith—but in order to say to yourself, “This has never been done before but it will happen for me,” to have that kind of faith in yourself and what you’re able to accomplish, that’s an amazing gift.

What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?

Party in America. Goodness, I can’t think of her name. I want to say, what’s that chick’s name, is that Miley Cyrus? I don’t know if it’s Hillary Duff or Molly Cyrus. [Editor’s note: The song is Party in the U.S.A. by Miley Cyrus, but we had to look it up.]

Have you ever cried during a chick flick?

You call it a chick flick, I call it a wholesome movie.

What’s a movie you know sucked but have to admit you liked anyway?

Aw man, Pootie Tang.

What’s the most authentic: KFC, Taco Bell, or Domino’s?

Well, Domino’s is probably the closest to real Italian pizza. [laughs]

Could you beat Prince in a game of basketball?

No.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?

Probably Captain Planet.

You’re the only person who has ever said that. Tiger Woods: Hate the player or hate the game?

I felt bad for the guy. Here’s the guy with a couple of problems and enough money to hide all of his problems. I felt bad for him. I feel bad for Tiger. I hope he can work through it.

What’s something not-so-wonderful about you?

I can’t spell sometimes. You see, the great part of texting is you can shorten your answer and spell things however you want to and you don’t even seem illiterate. Oh, well, he meant to spell it that way.

If you weren’t fighting or wrestling, what job would you want?

I would want to be an astronaut.

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Makeup & Hair by Lesley Thorton/ Wardrobe By Lydia Walters of TheStylist LA

If good things come in small packages, consider Xyience spokesmodel Amanda Corey the best package in the world. When the former Playboy Playmate isn’t hitting the beach for some fun in the sun, she’s raking in the chips at the blackjack table.

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Where are you calling home these days?
I’m 50 percent in Vegas and 50 percent in Huntington Beach, California.

Which do you like better?
The O.C. I’m a beach girl. I need the ocean and sand for my daily relaxing. But Vegas has its perks too. It’s beautiful, just too hot in the summer.

I hear you like to play a lot of blackjack?
I do. I tend to get crazy. I love it. It’s the competitor in me. I hate to lose. I’ll keep playing if I’m losing. But when I win, I stop.

What’s the most you’ve ever won in a single night of playing?
$7,000. I was in a casino down in the Bahamas for a bikini contest I used to do every year. They had a tournament—like 50 bikini models. I got to the final table, and they gave us $500 in real chips. I played on that until I got up to $7,000.

Do you split 7s when the dealer is showing a 6?
That’s a tough one. Yes, but I’m a huge believer in intuition. I definitely go the way I feel, so I don’t always follow the rules. I go with my gut.

image descI hear you have a good bar trick.
Yeah, I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order. I’ve got a lot of truckers in my family, so I always studied maps when I was young. I memorized all 50 of them.

Has it ever come in handy?
Yes. I used to do Hawaiian Tropics bikini contests, and they always ask you a question. They would give you the question beforehand so you wouldn’t clam up, and naming the states was always one of my talents. It got me first place.

So it had nothing to do with how you looked in a bikini?
Well [laughing], I’m sure the bikini part didn’t hurt.

Any other secret talents?
I used to be a cheerleader, so I’m very flexible. I’m doing a lot of yoga these days. I can do the scorpion pose.

Every guy reading this is now Googling “scorpion pose.”
Yeah [laughing], it’s harder than it looks.

It looks impossible. Honestly, how tall are you? No lies.
I’m 5’0” but I like to say 5’1” because I like to squeeze in that extra inch. But good things come in small packages.

What’s the hardest thing about being vertically challenged?
It’s hard to explain, but I’m so used to seeing things at a certain level. However, if I wear really tall heals, I can see so much more. When I take them off, I don’t get to see what everyone else sees. And moving through crowds is tough, but other than that, I love it.

You’ve been a spokesmodel for Xyience since 2010. What part of the job do you enjoy the most?
There is so much I love about Xyience. I didn’t know anything about the UFC before I started. The two best things are getting to know the fighters and traveling to all the cool places. Meeting new people, fighters, fans, and people in the industry opened a lot of doors for me. They are great people, and they have great products.

What’s your favorite Xyience product?
Their cherry lime Xenergy drink. It’s a little sweet and a little tart. I drink half a can every morning to get my day started.

What are you going to be for Halloween this year?
I’m still brainstorming. Last year, I was a loofah.

Come again?
[Laughing] Me and my friends were all different color loofahs. You know, the bathroom scrubs. We made the costumes ourselves.

Did anyone know what you were?
I had a bar of soap in my hands, so about 90 percent could figure it out, especially when we were in a group.

image descHow are you staying in shape for this year’s costume choice?
I like to do group classes at the gym. It helps keep me motivated. I like to do yoga on the sand, and I bike when I can. I’m pretty active. I’ll even run and play with my dogs. The best part is, I usually eat what I want, so I don’t pay attention to my diet that much.

What’s your food weakness?
Desserts. Actually, Oreo cookies. I’ll have two, then go back and get two more, and then two more. It’s hard to stop.

You appeared in Playboy a few years ago. Is it liberating or scary to be naked in print?
It was liberating. I had been to the Playboy Mansion and met Hef prior, so I knew what to expect. Everyone was so nice. I’m really proud of it.

I think we all are. Are you ready for the Speed Round?
Go for it.

What’s your favorite hobby?
Bowling.

Do you have a high score?
I haven’t been lately. Right now, probably something like 110.

That’s awful.
[Laughing] I didn’t say I was the best.

Favorite fighter?
Dan Hardy. We do a lot of work together for Xyience. He’s great.

What food makes you gag just by thinking about it?
I hate the spice chipotle. Anything with that sauce or flavor—barf.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without a shower?
Three days when I was camping. But I need my daily shower.

What movie can you watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it?
Due Date.

Favorite vacation spot?
It was the Bahamas. But I just went to Turkey for a wedding. It was incredible.

What Pandora station are you on?
I rotate between Biggie Smalls, Kanye West, and Rihanna.

Ever been in a fist fight?
Once, when I was in ninth grade. It was over a boy.

Did you win?
It was more about pulling hair back then. It was a draw.

If you could punch someone right now, who would it be?
[Laughing] I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Keep on loving. We’ll take care of the fighting.
Deal.

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Keep up with Amanda online at:
facebook.com/xyienceamanda
twitter.com/AmandaCorey25

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What have you been up to lately?

 

I’m co-hosting a reality TV show with Joanna Krupa about female fighters. It’s called The Ultimate Women’s Challenge, airing on NBC on September 25. Basically, these girls go through a series of challenges, and at the end of the show, after all the challenges, they’ll be chosen to fight. It’s just been a real cool experience. This is actually gonna be my first national TV show as a host. Other than that, I’m still the Xyience spokes model, and I just got back from the fan expo at UFC 118 in Boston.

 

What’s been the experience like being part of something that’s growing—not just MMA—but women’s MMA?

 

Most people expect fluff from girls, but you’re not getting that from these girls. They’re the real deal. It’s a premium show, watching these girls fight and persevere through all of the challenges we put them through is awesome. It’s been a really cool experience—being on set with a supermodel like Joanna Krupa.

 

Were you intimidated stepping on set?

 

Not at all, I was actually really excited. This show—being the first of its kind—really goes in depth with training and challenges. They give me a basic script, and I’m just allowed to go with it. I actually feel more comfortable on the fly.

 

What’s been the most exciting part of filming?

 

I really think people are going to be excited when they see the kinds of things that we put these girls through. Some of these challenges are fun, of course. We want it to be fun, but some of these challenges I’d be surprised to see a guy complete. We’re really taking them to every level and kind of pushing them beyond their breaking point, which is exciting. We also have a lot of guest coaches and popular fighters coming in, which I think fans will enjoy seeing.

 

What’s the grand prize?

 

I think the grand prize is $50,000 and a one-year membership to a training gym and a contract with an organization for at least a one-fight deal. It’s going to be a great opportunity for the winner. It will really open some doors for these girls.

 

Did you ever see yourself as the host of an NBC show when you first started in MMA?

 

Not on the MMA side of it, but I’ve always known that’s where I wanted to go with my life. I’ve always wanted to act and model. Hosting and MMA have just been a part of it. It wasn’t a driving force, it wasn’t something I pursued, it’s kind of something that fell on my lap and it’s wonderful. I’ve already actually been offered two more hosting jobs on Fox and FX, so if I can land those as well, this is gonna be a tremendous year for me.

 

A lot of fighters are doing movies now. Who is a fighter you’d like to work with on a movie set?

 

Probably Forrest Griffin. He’s like a natural actor, and he’s hilarious.

 

What kind of roles are you looking for?

 

I think I can play a lot of different kinds of characters. I definitely have a comedic side to myself, but serious or romantic or action—I’m up for it all. I’ll do anything.

 

Who are some actresses you admire?

 

Lately, I’ve been getting Megan Fox—“You’re like Megan Fox.” That’s cool to me because she’s a young, new actress also, and she’s like the new hot thing, so that’s been cool for me.

 

You’re just putting yourself in line.

 

That’s right!

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Every fi ght organization has a brain trust when it comes to putting on a show. In mixed martial arts, promoters often appear as the face of the organization – the creator or destroyer of all things good in the sport. But matchmakers are the ones cooking up the cards that electrify or disappoint crowds. From a blank page to a sweat-stained ring mat, the minds of the matchmakers conjure the chaos of the cage.

The job of a matchmaker entails putting names on a page, passing the paper along, and waiting to see if those names make an impression in the three-dimensional world. Fighters may have the daunting task of standing across from danger incarnate, but without good matchmakers, the mix would be more baking soda and vinegar than C-4.

“It’s like chess. You gotta think of the next fi ght; it’s gotta be the next fi ght. When I’m making a fi ght, I’ve got to be three fi ghts ahead. That’s the way I’ll put it all together,” explains Dave O’Donnell, Cage Rage’s mastermind.

EliteXC’s Jared Shaw has a similar mindset, but realizes no matter how much planning, how much stock is invested, “At the end of the day, everyone’s going to fi ght a fi ght in a cage.”

Scott Adams of the WEC recognizes the complexities of matchmaking, yet he maintains a bare-bones attitude: “We’re trying to put on the fi ghts that fans want to see.”

What determines what matchups fans want to see? It is a delicate balance. Zealous MMA crowds want local favorites, international credibility, and personalities that entertain. On top of that desired mix, there is still a matter of putting on the best fi ghts – the art of matchmaking.

“I close my eyes and like to imagine a fi ght…sometimes it’s right on the money,” reveals Shaw.

“Not always do the two number one guys make the most exciting fi ghts,” Adams added. Signing a fi ght is as much about entertainment as it is about determining the best in the world. Excitement is where losers can become winners. A boring victory does not equal stardom, but an enthralling loss might.

In defeat, fi ghters can see their fan base grow exponentially: Ross Pointon’s gritty cut stoppage against Marius Zaromskis, Mike Aina’s dropped decision against Nick Diaz, and Clay Guida’s tapout versus Roger Huerta are just a few. Shaw scoffs at the notion that surprising performances from underdogs undermine a star, alá Mike Aina and Nick Diaz. It is not the snuffi ng out of a star (Diaz); it is the emergence of another (Aina).

“You’ve got to think about press, media, selling tickets, new people getting involved,” continues O’Donnell. The Brit has the uphill battle of pushing MMA into the UK mainstream. While MMA’s mainstream status in the US is solidifi ed (EliteXC will be featured on CBS, and Versus’ broadcasts of the WEC are available weekly in 75 million homes), the Americans are not exempt from considering those factors.

“Everyone can be marketed properly, they just have to do it themselves in the cage,” Shaw asserts. “There are no easy matchups when we make matchups.”

As a fi ght unfolds, matchmakers watch their long hours condensed into a few minutes of swirling, magnetic action, or a plodding version of what they envisioned that seems lengthier than their workdays. “I feel like I am cheating fans,” said Shaw of a fi ght that misses its mark. O’Donnell relates there are so many variables in making a fi ght, but those pale in comparison to the anomalies of a fi ght.

The occasional disappointing fi ght is inevitable. “In boxing, you pick one fi ght, in MMA, you pick nine,” he said.

These matchmakers enjoy a strong voice in their respective promotions. Scouting talent, domestic and worldwide, is a supplement to their work. It pays off when a card features variety; local talent riles audiences, while national talent – from American Kickbox Academy to American Top Team – comprises MMA’s elite. These dynamics sell a card. Adams believes that when the arenas are packed, “It doesn’t matter where they came from, we just want the best.”

Choosing a fi ght is not all in the hands of the matchmakers. Adams claims fi ghters have more of a voice than many realize. Of course, the fi ght has to make sense – calling out a champion after a loss will not work. When fi ghters issue challenges, it simplifi es the process. After all, as Shaw points out, no one can force someone to fi ght.

Criticism that certain fi ghters receive special treatment is dismissed unanimously. All fi ghters have a chance to shine, but champions inherently are the faces of a promotion. However, a champion is only as good his competition, so favoritism helps no one. “True championship fi ghts, where somebody has something to lose, that’s when you’ll see the most exciting fi ghts,” Adams muses.

The caliber of weight class kings and their contenders are the most integral aspects of matchmaking. A fi ght card and a promotion mean less without respectable champions.

Cross-organization title unifi cation talk persists in the world of MMA. Shaw believes EliteXC will continue to call out Dana White to pit Pro Elite champions against the UFC. Adams foresees the Zuffa-owned WEC will keep its titles within their cage, despite future potential of co-promotion with the UFC. As unanimously recognized champions are far off, organizations must perpetuate their own stars.

Showcasing champions, providing spotlights for challengers, and fi nding the next stars are the business of matchmaking. Adams describes it as a 24-hour, seven-daysa- week job. “It’s a lot of hard work. I’m underpaid,” said O’Donnell with a laugh.

But the rewards are immense. When spectators spill their drinks or damage their throats cheering on adrenaline-charged fi ghts, the matchmakers are right there with them. And they have the unique ability to say those spectaculars moments were their idea.

“[Anderson Silva’s] warpath was so enjoyable to promote,” remembers O’Donnell. Shaw fi nds it troublesome choosing a favorite fi ght, but Murilo “Ninja” Rua and Robbie Lawler stands out. And, “How could you not enjoy [Frank] Shamrock demolishing [Phil] Baroni?” Adams avoids specifi cs completely. “[Title bouts] that have not gone to a judges’ decision, they have been my favorite and most exciting [fi ghts]. It proves why he is defending that title. There’s no controversy, no judges’ decision, those are my favorite fi ghts.”

It is diffi cult to disagree with him. Funny how mad scientists often make sense.

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My search for the best fi ghts in all of the land brought me to Chi-town. I came to see the perennial showman, Shonie Carter, headline an action-packed fi ght card for PRIMETIME FC. Jacob Stahler, founder and president, called his fi rst event “Inception,” but I think he should have titled it “Mayhem” because it is the only word that I can think of to describe the night.

For a fi rst event, Jacob did very well — this is the most entertaining card that I have ever seen. The show was a little rough around the edges, but the professionalism that Jacob and his staff maintained was unmatched. As for the actual card, only a few in my lifetime could have compared to it.

Check this out … the fi rst fi ght was over before it started. I blame Tito Ortiz for this. Before the fi ght, one of the fi ghters entered the ring and tried to do his rendition of Tito’s warm-up jump. The problem was, he is not Tito — and he blew out his knee when he landed.

Up next was what I considered to be the fi ght of the night between Jon Murphy and Jeremy Ashley. This battle went the distance — it was back and forth the entire time, and these guys threw bombs, transitioned well on the ground, and left their hearts in the cage.

Jason Guida was Jon Murphy’s cornerman; and although his fi ghter had an amazing fi ght, Jason stole a lot of the attention. When the referee stood up the fi ghters for inactivity, Jon was struck with a knee following the stand-up. Jason didn’t agree and proceeded to start a fi ght with the ref, Jacob, and Jacob’s father.

Unfortunately, Jason was not kicked out of the event. This took a lot of the luster from Jon Murphy’s amazing battle and put it on Jason. Jacob handled the situation with professionalism where most others would not have.

Finally, we moved on to the main event. Shonie Carter entered the ring wearing a fl oral print Speedo and was accompanied by his infamous female entourage. Once the action began, Shonie controlled the entire fi ght and pulled off some amazing moves, such as a perfect belly-to-back suplex. Shonie got the victory and ended the night in an exciting fashion. All in all, this was an amazing card with a ton of fi reworks.

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Our favorite curly headed surfer girl is back— or maybe she never really left. This month, we check in with former UFC ring girl Natasha Wicks to find out about her return to cage side, her Olympic running aspirations, and her obsession with Shark Week.

Hi Natasha, it’s been awhile, what are you up to?

I just finished getting caught up on the last season of “Dexter!”

I’ve heard it’s a great show.

Oh, you have to check it out, it’s an amazing show!

I’ll move it to the top of my Netflix queue. What is that noise?

It’s my Juicer.. I’m doing a 10 day juice cleanse. Kale, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, a bunch of stuff. I just watched that movie Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, so I am trying to clean out some of the toxins.

Do you have a favorite recipe?

My favorite is apple, carrot, ginger.

Good mix. What’s been going in with life?

Well, I’ve started running full time again. I’m sponsored by Ryno Running in Las Vegas, and I’ll be running track and cross-country. My focus will be the 10k though, that’s my best event.

Any specific goals in mind?

Actually, I’m working with Marion Jones’s coach, and my goal is to try out for the 2016 Olympic team. I ran all through high school and college and did very well, but took a break after college.

We’ll be cheering you on for sure. In the mean time, what’s this I hear about you and Invicta?

Invicta FC! They are an all woman’s MMA promotion. I am going to be their ring card girl for their first show, on Saturday, April 28, 2012, in Kansas City, Kansas. I’m very excited!

It will be great to see you working the fights again. What other adventures have you gotten into lately?

I went to Iraq last year, again, which was pretty interesting because I fell on my skateboard right before the trip.

I think I saw the picture on facebook. It looked awful. How did that happen?

Well, I had just gotten a new board, and the trucks hadn’t been put on tight enough. I was doing a shoot with a photographer friend, and he wanted to shoot me riding down this hill that I’ve been down a hundred times. Well, halfway down the hill, I’m doing about 25 mph and I started getting speed wobbles. I thought ‘oh man, I’m going to eat shit,’ because I was definitely going faster than I could run. I ended up tumbling off, and got a second degree burn on my butt from the road rash. I also had gashes on my hands, my arm, and my shoulder.

Ouch! How did that affect your trip?

They almost didn’t want me to go because they were scared it might get infected. So I had to scrub it every day before the trip, and every day that I was out there, it was awful. The first few days, I could hardly move.

Tough girl. Do you do any other “extreme” sports?

Yup. I like to surf and paddle board, not really that extreme, but it’s fun. I love rock climbing. I love anything outdoorsy. I’m pretty much outside all the time. Unless it’s Sunday. That’s my day to lay around and watch TV.

Any wing suits in the future?

That would be amaaazing. But I think I’d rather watch. I don’t want to be crashing into the side of a mountain. But skydiving, I love skydiving. I’m also planning on going diving with great white sharks in October. Like get in a cage.

That sounds absolutely terrifying.

Oh I am obsessed with sharks. I’ve been watching Shark Week since I was a child. I love it.

Speaking of love, rumor has it you’ve been dating UFC Light Heavyweight Kyle Kingsbury. What’s it like dating a fighter?

Dating a fighter, and not just any fighter, but him, is awesome! He is so manly and strong , but he’s also caring and kind.

Does it bother you to watch someone you’re close to, fight?

Definitely! Watching him, or any of my friends in the Octagon is nerve wracking! You want them to win, obviously, but even just watching them take hits is no fun. Kyle fights Glover Teixeira on May 26, and I am gonna be a ball of nerves. Whether it’s an easy or hard fight, it doesn’t matter.

Let’s pretend you’re single for a moment. What do you find attractive in a guy?

I always love a guy with a great sense of humor, and I love when a guy is affectionate. I love cuddlers! Being healthy and athletic is important, so he can keep up with me. Goals, dreams. and a driven attitude are very important too. And of course, a healthy appetite for the bedroom is a must!

How would you go about letting a guy know you’re interested?

I’d just tell him. I’m a no BS kinda girl. If I’m interested in you, I will be very flirty and touchy!

Tell me a little about WonderCon. How did you end up with that gig?

I went to WonderCon with my friends who have a webseries called “Help! I’m Alive…” I worked as a booth babe to bring the nerds in, and I loved it! I’m a big nerd myself and felt star struck seeing all the awesome costumes.

Will fans get to see you at ComicCon?

It’s very likely. I want to dress up like Mystique!

And a fine Mystique you’ll make. Thanks for the time Natasha!

Follow Natasha on Twitter @NatashaWicks

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Toe Jam
Head trainer John Hackleman was the man behind Chuck Liddell’s famous painted toenails. He convinced Liddell to paint his nails a decade ago, but he can’t persuade pupils Court McGee or Glover Teixeira to follow suit.

Take On Me
In his unanimous-decision victory over Abel Trujillo at UFC 160, Khabib Nurmagomedov registered a UFC record 21 takedowns.

Losing Steam
With Miesha Tate stepping in for injured Cat Zingano against Ronda Rousey, it will mark the fourth time this year a fighter coming off a loss will fight for a UFC title.

Sweet Science
While waiting for Bellator Season Six Featherweight Tournament winner Daniel Straus to heal from a broken hand, Bellator Featherweight Champion Pat Curran is expected to make his pro boxing debut this summer.

Perfect Score
Four members of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Wrestling team have a combined MMA record of 29-0—Daniel Cormier (12-0), Ben Askren (11-0), Henry Cejudo (4-0), and Steve Mocco (2-0).

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So, uh, pretty much single?

Ya, I mean. I’m single but dating. I have men in my life, but I seem to pick the wrong ones.

How does one become the right one?

Someone that is confi dent, but not cocky. There’s a fi ne line there. I like someone who is motivated but not threatened by another strong, motivated person. And a sense of humor. You have to make me laugh. I know it sounds so cliché, but its very true.

What do you do there in Baltimore?

Well, I’m graduating college at the end of the year in television production. I bartend and do some modeling stuff here and there. Also, me and some people from school are looking to make a documentary on MMA.

Do tell.

We want to do a piece on everything about the fi ghters. How much training is involved. How it is much more than just fi ghting. Their backgrounds. Inside their lives. Let the fans know what truly goes on.

We hear you did quite a bit of traveling when you were modeling full time?

Yes, I had to scale down the modeling quite a bit when in order to fi nish school. But when I was really going at it, I traveled all over the country and even the world. I traveled to Greece to do a shoot and actually ended up living over there for a while. I lived in New York City before coming back to Maryland. I met all kinds of great people and it was a very fun, rewarding experience. Modeling certainly helped me with how I felt about myself as well. I know some models have confi dence issues and say modeling was bad for them, but it was quite the opposite for me. It did wonders for my self confi dence.

What else keeps you busy?

I’m really into cars. I spend a lot of time fi xing up and working on cars. It’s like an obsession. Also, I’ve got fi ve horses, well, four and a mini. I do all the stuff that you’ve seen on TV. I clean the stalls, turn them out, give them their hay, whatever.

Nobody that looks like you should shovel shit!

I just throw on my muck boots and headphones and rock out while I’m shoveling.

When you’re not in much boots, are you more jeans and T or Prada?

It depends on the event. But I’m certainly more comfortable in a sexy pair of jeans and a T. I think the person exudes sexiness more than the clothes.

Who is your favorite fi ghter?

I really like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. I used to like Tito, but not so much anymore.

Aww, Ortiz is like Jello, there’s always room for Tito. Man, that was awful. Anyway, thanks for the time Jacqueline and we’ll be looking forward to that documentary.

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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: Kevin Swanson

Nickname: “Cub”

Professional Record: 11-1

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 145lbs

Discipline: Shoot Fighting, Muay Thai

Notable Wins: Micah Miller, Tommy Lee, Charlie Valencia

 

Fighters say that you learn more from a loss than you do from a victory. Well, if that is true, Cub Swanson is one quick study. The World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight contender lost his first professional bout, but has been on an 11-fight winning streak ever since.

Swanson fought his way up through the Total Combat promotion in Tijuana, Mexico and then the venerable King of the Cage organization before he was offered a shot in the WEC.

Like most light weight fighters, Swanson often had to compete in the 155 pound division before the WEC came along. With the promotion’s emphasis on lighter fighters, Swanson jumped at the chance to fight consistently in his true weight class at 145 pounds. He also benefits from the exposure that comes along with the WEC and their national television deal with the Versus network.

Not wasting any time, Swanson, a California native, quickly submitted one of the Midwest’s best fighters in his WEC debut. In little more than three minutes, Tommy Lee (not the drummer from Mötley Crüe) tapped out to Swanson’s guillotine choke.

Returning to the WEC cage on the night of the promotion’s live debut on Versus, Swanson was largely considered an underdog to an undefeated Micah Miller. Swanson and Miller put forth one of the night’s most exciting battles as they exchanged punch combinations and knees to the body while standing, and displayed an array of submission attempts on the ground. Swanson seemed to always be a half step ahead of Miller, and landed the cleaner shots en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Swanson is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has been training under legendary martial artist Erik Paulson, as well as at OC Muay Thai. Naturally athletic, he also has a background in soccer.

Under the guidance of Paulson, his professional mixed martial arts record now stands at 11-1. Having shown the management at the WEC that he is a true contender, winning both of his WEC fights decisively, Swanson is now in line for one of the biggest and most exciting challenges of his career.

Famed fighter Jens Pulver is making the move from the UFC to the WEC so that he can fight at his natural weight of 145 pounds, much like Swanson. Pulver’s first opponent in the WEC? You guessed it, none other than Cub Swanson.

In fact, it was Swanson that chose Pulver as an opponent. He was given the choice between Pulver and Canadian Mark Hominick for his next bout. In choosing Pulver, Swanson stated matter-of-factly, “Jens is a little bit of a bigger name. They’re both real tough, but I felt this was the better matchup for me.”

Despite Pulver’s pedigree as the first ever UFC Lightweight Champion, and being a veteran of several top promotions including PRIDE FC, Swanson knows that the challenge Pulver presents comes with a payoff. “A win over Jens is definitely going to help build my career.”

Although it’s a big fight for his career, Swanson still seems to keep things in perspective, not letting the aura of Jens Pulver take over his psyche. “The whole [featherweight] division is exciting. It’s nothing but tough guys, bring ’em on one by one.”

 

Name: Leonard Garcia

Nickname: “Bad Boy”

Professional Record: 10-2

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 155lbs

Discipline: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing

Notable Wins: Alan Berube, Justin James, Jake Hattan

 

Debuting in 1999, it wouldn’t seem that Leonard Garcia is “new blood” material. But considering that he has been on a three-year hiatus and has only fought three times in the past year and a half, Leonard is still pretty new to most fight fans.

 

Nathan Marquardt. Duane Ludwig. Pete Spratt. Thomas Schulte. Justin James. These are just some of the fighters that Garcia cut his teeth with when he started out with manager Sven Bean’s Ring of Fire promotion.

Now, with a 10-2 professional record in mixed martial arts, Garcia is on the cusp of becoming a widely known fighter. He made a name for himself at the grass roots level on shows like Ring of Fire and in the United Shoot Wrestling Federation.

His return to fighting in April of 2006 was once again under the Ring of Fire umbrella. True to his Jiu-Jitsu roots – Garcia started training in the discipline when he was 16 years old in an attempt to stay out of trouble – he submitted an overmatched but tough Rocky Johnson in his old stomping grounds in Denver.

Following the win over Johnson, it took a twist of fate for Garcia to take the step up into the Octagon.

Fellow Ring of Fire veteran Alvin Robinson was on tap to face Roger Huerta as the UFC made its Texas debut in Houston. As luck would have it, Robinson injured his knee in his last fight prior to UFC 69 and had to withdraw from the fight.

With only three weeks to go until the Houston date, in stepped Leonard Garcia, long anticipating this day.

He had a tough task in front of him in Huerta. Although he ended up losing a unanimous decision, he and Huerta earned “Fight of the Night” honors and a healthy bonus check when all was said and done. The two threw blows and searched for submissions for the entire three rounds of their bout, but Huerta was a little more effective with his hands and maintained top position throughout most of their time on the ground to get the win.

Garcia’s thoughts on his first time in the Octagon? “The first round, I was extremely nervous. It was the big stage, [but] I was having the time of my life in there. I can’t explain how it felt. It’s been my dream since the UFC started to fight there.”

Not only did Garcia get his shot in the UFC, but in the process, he found a new home. “For [the fight with Huerta] I came up to Greg Jackson’s camp to train and get ready and actually got signed to the team,” explained Garcia. “So now I’m an official part of Jackson’s team.”

It was a great new experience for the Texan. “I’ve trained Jiu-Jitsu for a lot of years, and fought MMA, but I’d never been to a camp where I trained with a lot of MMA fighters.

“I live there at the gym. It’s like being around family all day long,” says Garcia.

It is definitely an empowering experience for Garcia to finally find a place where he has the support of other professional fighters. “When you come out and you’re ready to go and you see all your guys, they’re not telling you anything, but with the way they look at
you…it’s all coming down to this one moment…and I think it makes us fight harder.”

Again on short notice, Garcia followed up his battle against Huerta by accepting a fight with The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 participant Allen Berube, on the show’s season finale. This time, Garcia wouldn’t be satisfied with an exciting loss. This time he wanted to walk away with the win.

And he did.

At the 4:22 mark of the first round, Garcia called upon all those years of Jiu-Jitsu training and locked a rear naked choke that left Berube gasping for air and tapping out of the fight.

It was a nice bit of retribution for Garcia. He was among the 19 finalists for Season 5, but was left out of the final 16 due to a hairline fracture in his wrist.

Adding a win to his UFC dream, Garcia could hardly find words to explain his first victory in the Octagon, “It’s an unexplainable feeling. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”

He is on tap to face Cole Miller, another UFC reality show veteran, in late September. But Leonard Garcia hasn’t forgotten his first time under the bright lights of the UFC, and isn’t shy when asked who he really wants to fight.

“I’m going to definitely be looking for Roger [Huerta] again. I want to see what we both do against each other when we both have a solid training camp. Who knows? I might just throw the game plan out the window again and try to go to war. I’m not a guy that likes to work position. I’d much rather try for a submission. If I miss it, get myself in a better position and go again.”

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