Sunday, March 22, 2015

MMA Blogging: My Hobby

As much as I would love to blog about MMA full-time, there are these things called "bills" which I have to pay.  For that reason, I will just treat it as a hobby for now.  If things take off in the future and I can make money off my hobby, great.  Meanwhile, I will just do it for fun whenever I get some free time.

That means that I will not be able to review every single UFC event.  It used to be that there would only be one UFC PPV a month.  Now, on top of those PPVs, there are free events EVERY WEEK.  I simply don't have the time to keep track of every match anymore, so I have to be picky about which events I write about.

Additionally, as much as I love MMA, I primarily train in the traditional martial arts, so I want to blog about those, too.  Even though Kung Fu isn't trendy anymore, it is still valuable for self-defense and is AMAZING when it comes to physical health.  The Kung Fu kata, in particular, have done wonders for me when it comes to stress relief, improving my overall energy level, healing my joints, and preventing injury.  It's basically yoga for warriors.

For these reasons, I will be cutting back on my MMA posts.  Even though I will cover as many PPVs as I can, the UFC is just one of many aspects of the martial arts.  Therefore, it will only be one of many aspects of my martial arts blog.         


Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Showtime" Gets Cancelled At UFC 185!

"Through Jesus, you can do all things!"

That's what Rafael Dos Anjos yelled after giving Anthony Pettis a five-round beatdown en route to becoming the first Brazilian UFC lightweight champion.  His "David vs. Goliath" victory capped off an amazing PPV which also saw Joanna Jedrzejczyk crush Carla Esparza in two rounds, which was another upset I didn't see coming.  Here are my thoughts on each match of the card.

Caraiso vs. Cejudo: As expected, Cejudo schooled Caraiso in a grappling clinic to get the decision.  Caraiso did almost get a heel hook near the end of Round 3, but it was too little, too late.  Even though I don't think Cejudo's quite ready yet, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a title shot after this, especially if "Mighty Mouse" wins next month.

Nelson vs. Overeem: Overeem made me eat my words by picking apart "Big Country" en route to a decision.  In particular, flying knees to the chest and body kicks which turned the entire right side of Nelson's body red were the keys to victory for "The Reem."  He also showed better defense, dodging (and a couple of times, running from) Nelson's fists and covering up when Nelson wailed on him to protect his chin.  Wagging his finger at Nelson to taunt him after stuffing a takedown may not have been the classiest move, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Hendricks vs. Brown: Has Hendricks' "punch-punch-takedown" style become formulaic?  Yes.  But hey, it works.  He basically smothered "The Immortal" for three rounds, using his wrestling to stymie all of Brown's submission attempts, including a couple of inverted triangle attacks.  Not to mention that the slams that "Bigg Rigg" used, especially the one when he carried Brown to the center of the octagon and planted him into the mat, made me nostalgic for the days when WWE was actually good.

Esparza vs. Jedrzejczyk: Joanna is the Polish She-Hulk!  First, she sprawled, stuffed or reversed nearly all of "The Cookie Monster's" takedown attempts.  Then Jedrzejczyk broke the former champion's face with brutal straight rights until she finished Esparza against the cage with a flurry in Round 2 for the TKO.  In all honesty, though, Jedrzejczyk had crushed Esparza mentally long before that.  With her wrestling completely neutralized, Esparza had no clue what to do.  She fell into the insanity trap of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, seemingly unable to believe that the wrestling ability which took her to the top was completely useless against her opponent.  Overeem made me eat my words; Jedrzejczyk, the new women's strawweight champ, shoved them down my throat!

Pettis vs. Dos Anjos:  Dos Anjos was way too nice to make me eat my words.  Instead, he politely served me humble pie, slice-by-slice, through manhandling the best striker in the UFC.  Dos Anjos used straight lefts to smash Pettis' right eye so that he couldn't see.  Then he used multiple takedowns to ground the high-flying champ and brutalized him with ground-and-pound.  On top of that, he rode Pettis' back and nearly got a rear naked choke not once, but twice.  Additionally, he almost got a kimura.  Pettis did attempt a kimura-sweep in Round 5, but Dos Anjos wasn't having it.  In the end, Dos Anjos claimed the lightweight throne as his own before acknowledging the real source of his victory: Jesus Christ.

Ironically, Dos Anjos admitted in a post-fight interview that he had almost pulled out of the fight due to a torn MCL in his right knee.  However, Dos Anjos prayed to God and God told him that he would be fine.  I can only imagine what Dos Anjos will do when he is at 100%!             

Saturday, March 14, 2015

UFC 185: My Predictions

Two championship fights, a former welterweight kingpin trying to climb his way back to the top after being screwed out of his title, and the heavyweight division's most entertaining KO artist attempting to make a comeback?  Sounds like an awesome PPV to me!  Here are my predictions for UFC 185.

Caraiso vs. Cejudo: I'll go with my gut and say Cejudo via decision.

Winner: Cejudo

Nelson vs. Overeem: Nelson has cinder block fists and Overeem's chin is about as strong as an antique vase.  This one is a no-brainer: another first round KO for "Big Country."

Winner: Nelson

Hendricks vs. Brown: Matt Brown has the toughness and the heart to hang with the welterweight elite, but he simply does not have the skill.  I believe that "Bigg Rigg" will achieve the impossible and finish "The Immortal" with a KO in Round 3.

Winner: Hendricks

Esparza vs. Jedrzejczyk: It's nice that Jedrzejczyk pulled an upset over Claudia Gadelha in her last fight.  I just don't see it happening against "The Cookie Monster."  Esparza will defend her title by grinding out Jedrzejczyk en route to getting the submission in Round 3.

Winner: Esparza

Pettis vs. Dos Anjos: Dos Anjos may have knocked out Benson Henderson, but I believe that Pettis is way too fast and dynamic for him.  Even though Pettis' last two wins were by submission, I see "Showtime" returning to his striking game and knocking out Dos Anjos by Round 2 at the latest.

Winner: Pettis

Sunday, March 1, 2015

UFC 184: "Just...F@#$!"

"Just...F@#$!"

Zingano's exclamation during her post-fight interview pretty much sums up everyone's reaction to Ronda Rousey's 14-second victory over her, including mine.  With this victory, Rousey demolished the last of the "murderer's row" of the top female bantamweights in the world and cemented her place as the undisputed Queen of MMA.



Let's just face it: this belt isn't going anywhere unless Ronda Rousey (pictured with her sister and mother) retires. Image by MMAJunkie (Link to: http://mmajunkie.com/2015/03/ufc-184-post-fight-facts-ronda-rouseys-ridiculous-resume-is-beyond-amazing)

Here's my take on this night of exciting finishes:
  
Ferguson vs. Tibau: Ferguson rocked Tibau with a right to gain the upper hand early.  Several choke attempts later, "El Cucuy" had Tibau in a deep rear naked choke with double leg hooks to get the victory via tapout.

Walsh vs. Jouban: Walsh's forward pressure and aggression was turned against him when Jouban caught him with a left elbow as he rushed in and got the TKO victory after the referee stopped it.  I personally felt this was an early stoppage.

Ellenberger vs. Koscheck: This looked like it would be the most boring fight of the night.  Both Ellenberger and Koscheck appeared to be afraid to engage on their feet.  Koscheck looked like he was trying to cruise to a decision victory by smothering Ellenberger with takedown attempts.  Fortunately, that ended in Round 2 when "The Juggernaut" caught Koscheck in a standing guillotine and took him down into a North-South choke (which I've never seen before in my life) to give him his first submission loss in almost 10 years.

Holm vs. Pennington: This was the fight of the night in my opinion.  I believe that this should have been a unanimous decision victory for Holm instead of a split.  The only round in question was Round 3, when "Rocky" caught her with several hard rights, including one that dropped "The Preacher's Daughter" near the end.  Nonetheless, Holm clearly controlled the rest of the fight with great takedown defense and pressuring Pennington with boxing combos and head kicks.  The real question, however, was whether or not Holm could prove she was a threat to Ronda Rousey.  The fact that Holm had such a hard time defeating the 14th-ranked woman in the division is proof that she is not.

Rousey vs. Zingano: Zingano clearly took Rousey by surprise with a flying knee followed by a suicide throw which had the champ doing a somersault in the octagon.  Unfortunately, Rousey was too level-headed and technically sound to be taken aback for more than a few seconds.  During the scramble that ensued, Rousey took Zingano's back, transitioned into an omoplata, and from there had the second-best female fighter in the world tapping in a straight armbar within 14 seconds flat.  I'm not sure what impressed me more: the fact that Rousey crushed her challenger in record time with a type of armbar that I had never seen before, or her display of sportmanship and class afterward, in which she consoled a clearly distraught Zingano with an embrace and kiss on the cheek.

This completes a face-turn which Rousey began when she commended the effort of her rival, Miesha Tate, at UFC 168 and I can honestly say that I am now a huge fan of the champ.

Now that Rousey has slain every dragon that WMMA has to offer, what should she do next?  Well, she could defeat Holm and Jessica Eye as a formality.  In fact, to make things more efficient, the UFC may consider making Eye and Holm face off in a title eliminator to decide who gets the next beatdown at the hands of the champ.  As another formality, Rousey can go up to catchweight to smash Cyborg (provided that the latter continues to lay off the 'roids).  I would appreciate this, not because I think Cyborg is a credible threat without PEDs, but because it would make her foot-kissing fans shut up.  If Rousey does those two things, she really has nothing left to accomplish and would be better off moving on to bigger and better things such as Hollywood or getting married and starting a family.

At any rate, two things are clear: Ronda Rousey is the undisputed Queen of Queens of MMA, and her character has finally caught up with her talent.           

   

Saturday, February 28, 2015

UFC 184: My Predictions

Can Zingano complete her comeback from adversity and topple the undisputed Queen of MMA, Ronda Rousey?  I certainly hope so, not just because I am a big Zingano fan, but it would be the icing on the cake for her recovery from a severe knee injury and the suicide of her husband.  That being said, I've gained a lot of respect for Rousey, not least because she hasn't had a major drug scandal like her male counterpart, Jon Jones, and Jones' predecessor, Anderson Silva.  That makes this match a win-win for me, so here are my predictions for the entire card.

Ferguson vs. Tibau: This will probably be a three-round war which ends with Ferguson taking the decision.

Winner: Ferguson by decision.

Jouban vs. Walsh: I don't know anything about either of these two fighters, so I'm going with my gut.
Winner: Walsh by KO.

Ellenberger vs. Koscheck: Despite a major upset to Kelvin Gastelum in his last fight, I see Ellenberger climbing back up the ranks of welterweight to take Koscheck's spot as a heavy-handed gatekeeper.  I'm a big fan of Kos, but his chin is gone, so I see "The Juggernaut" knocking him out in the first round to regain his spot as a top-ten mainstay.

Winner: Ellenberger by KO. 

Holm vs. Pennington: This is easy. Holm smashes Pennington in the first round in a fight designed to make her look unstoppable in her UFC debut a la "McMann vs. Gaff."  Then, like McMann, Holm will probably be thrown to the wolves, getting fast-tracked to a title shot instead of getting a proper test against a top contender like Jessica Eye or Miesha Tate.

Winner: Holm by lopsided beatdown, er, I mean "KO."

Rousey vs. Zingano: Zingano is a gritty, tenacious fighter with a never-give-up attitude.  Unfortunately, Rousey has perfected the art of making gritty, tenacious fighters give up, usually by breaking limbs.  Zingano will heroically throw everything but the kitchen sink at Rousey.  However, by Round 5 at the latest, I see Rousey keeping her belt by technical submission, breaking at least one limb of a contender who won't tap out in the process.

Winner: Rousey by technical submission, and a possible career-ending injury to Zingano if "Alpha" doesn't tap (and she probably won't).       

Monday, June 16, 2014

The First-Degree Black Belt: Obtaining The Holy Grail Of The Martial Arts

Unfortunately, I must take a break from martial arts blogging until late August due to circumstances beyond my control.  However, before I do that, I will cover the steps necessary to reach the most important rank in the martial arts: the first-degree black belt.

When you become a black belt, you've proven that you have mastered the basics of your system and developed the necessary foundation for expert-level training.  For those two reasons, the first-degree black belt is the most important milestone in the martial arts and can be considered the holy grail of self-defense.  Even if you choose not to pursue expert-level training, going to the gym/dojo a couple times a week to practice your techniques will ensure that you keep the ability to make it home safely every night.  However, to reach this milestone, you have to overcome certain obstacles, which you typically face at four stages of training.  These four stages are beginner (typically white belt), intermediate (usually green belt), advanced (normally brown belt) and the honeymoon period right after you first earn your black belt.  In order to help you succeed, here are the major obstacles you will face, as well as tips on how to overcome them.

White Belt Obstacle: Unrealistic Expectations.

Many white belts watch too many Jet Li movies or episodes of "Xena: Warrior Princess" on Netflix and believe that THAT is self-defense.  Or they see a UFC PPV with their friends and believe that they can become the next Jon Jones or Ronda Rousey with 45 minutes of training.  When white belts discover that realistic self-defense techniques are a lot simpler and less entertaining than what they stream on their tablet, they get turned off and quit.  Or, when they realize that the techniques take intensity and hard work to master, they wimp out and go back to watching Netflix on their couch.

Overcome this obstacle with:  Research!

Find out what true self-defense and set realistic goals BEFORE you start taking classes.  Accept the fact that life will never be as spectacular as the movies because movies are FAKE.  Trust me, this will save you a lot of grief in all areas of your life.  Realize that it takes UFC stars like Jones and Rousey YEARS of insanely hard work to get to that level.  As a beginner, you will have to fight your heart out to even win a club tournament, much less win a title in an organization where multi-time NATIONAL and WORLD champions routinely get their butts kicked.

If you do your due diligence and set realistic goals, you will overcome this obstacle. 

Green Belt Obstacle:  Discouragement

When a student becomes a green belt, they are put through the grinder.  Because they have a fairly good grip of the basics, the master pushes them to their physical and mental limits by teaching them increasingly difficult and complex moves.  The master also makes green belts spar more with each other and advanced students, so things can get cutthroat pretty quickly.  When this occurs, one of two things happens:

A) The green belt gets injured and becomes too scared to resume training
B) Due to the increase in competition, techniques which used to work for the green belt stop being effective, which means that the green belt starts losing, which in turn means that they get frustrated and give up. 

From personal experience, this is the rank at which most students quit. 

Overcome this obstacle with: Perseverance!

Even if it seems like you aren't making any progress, keep practicing.  Don't give up on the new techniques just because they have a few extra steps: drill them until you finally succeed.  If you are injured, continue to observe classes (or read martial arts magazines/watch instructional DVDs if you can't leave your hospital bed) to remind yourself why you decided to train in the first place.  If you are on a losing streak, ask your master and more advanced students to help you find your Achilles' heel and to show you how to fix it.  

Remembering that hard work pays off (and doing that hard work) will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

Brown Belt Obstacle: Burnout

The best part about being a brown belt is that you've learned most of the essential techniques of your system.  Unfortunately, that is also the worst part.  Unlike green belts, brown belts don't learn very many new techniques (if they are taught any at all).  Most of their training revolves around refining what they already know, and that gets very boring, very quickly.  Not to mention that masters tend to make brown belts wait a long time before they test for black in order to observe their character and test their patience.  This is why some brown belts become impatient, burn out, and quit the martial arts entirely at the eleventh hour.  Or they see a new and shiny martial art on Youtube and jump ship to pursue that one, only to quit again when that new style gets boring, too.   It's the martial arts equivalent of dumping your fiancee for that hot new girl (or guy if you're female) at college or work.

Overcome this obstacle with:  Patience!

The night is always darkest before the dawn.  Even if it seems like your master will never let you test, keep practicing and, if you are not already doing it, help out around the gym/dojo.

Sooner or later, your dedication will pay off and you will be allowed to test for the holy grail of the martial arts: the first-degree black belt.

Black Belt Obstacle: Overconfidence.

From personal experience, most people quit the martial arts at green belt.  However, I've observed that first-degree black belts have the second-highest attrition rate.  Many people believe that once they've become a first-degree black belt that they are invincible.  Even worse, they believe that they will be able to remember every technique and do it effectively even if they never study or practice again.  This is a tragedy because a black belt who quits basically spent all of their time learning their system only to throw it (and years of their life) into the trashcan.

Overcoming this obstacle with:  Discipline!

Try out advanced training to find what you are giving up if you decide to stay an "expert beginner" the rest of your life.  If it truly isn't for you, still go to the gym/dojo a couple times a week to keep your skills sharp.  That way you won't find yourself completely screwed if you are attacked on the street and can't remember that rear naked choke defense which you learned 20 years ago. 

Keep your techniques sharp and you will keep making it home safely every night.  

  
 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Choose Your Destination: Picking A Rank In The Martial Arts

Imagine that you had a GPS, but didn't know where you were going.  So you just typed "anywhere" into the address field.  What would happen?  You would probably get some variation of "address not valid."  In the same way, you must have a destination for your martial arts journey.  Otherwise, you are no better than a car that is burning gas and wasting time searching for an invalid address.  

In the martial arts, your destination is the rank which you want to earn.  This will vary significantly based on what you want out of your system, so to help you, here are the key milestones in self-defense training.  While each system has its own ranking system, the most important ranks typically fall into these four categories:

Instructor: You have internalized the basic techniques of your system to the point where you can do them instinctively.  Not only that, but you have adapted these techniques to your body type and personality.  You should have enough focus, discipline and integrity that your master can trust you to lead a class of beginner, intermediate, and advanced students without their help. 

In most systems, an instructor is a first-degree black belt.

If your primary goal is self-defense, make this your destination.

Chief Instructor:  Through constant study, you have gained a thorough understanding of the principles of self-defense.  In other words, you don't just know how the techniques work: you know why they work.   You should know your system well enough to independently train a student from beginner to instructor level. 

In most systems, a chief instructor is a fourth-degree black belt.

If you do the martial arts as a fun hobby, make this your destination.  

Master:  To become a master, you must be able to consistently apply the principles of self-defense in new and innovative ways.  A chief instructor can get away with being book smart, but you must be street smart.  This is probably the most fun rank because you get to constantly experiment to discover which techniques work (or don't work) in the modern world.  It's also the stage where you can do research to rediscover "forgotten" techniques and decide whether or not to reintegrate them into the system.  Additionally, a good master will cross-train in other systems to keep their skills sharp and to "borrow" effective techniques to refine their own style.  At this stage, you should be able to run and manage your own martial arts school. 

In most systems, a master is a fifth-degree black belt.   

If you want to teach the martial arts, or self-defense is an integral part of your career (i.e. you're a cop), this should be your destination. 

Grandmaster:  The rank of grandmaster cannot be earned.  It must be given.  Some systems don't even have an official exam for the rank of grandmaster; it is awarded as an honorary title.  To receive this rank, you must have dedicated your life to the improvement and spread of the martial arts.  You must also have demonstrated the inner principles of the martial arts (i.e. integrity, respect, discipline, selflessness, etc.) through improving your community.  As a grandmaster, you understand that your martial arts journey never truly ends.  Not only do you continually refine your body and mind, but your heart and spirit as well.  When masters of other schools and systems are coming to you for instruction, then you are probably a grandmaster.

In most systems, a grandmaster is a tenth-degree black belt.       

If you are so passionate about self-defense that you are willing to dedicate your life to ensuring that your fellow man experiences the benefits of the martial arts, then you will become a grandmaster.  Eventually.

It should be noted that, no matter which rank you get, you will still need to practice to keep your skills sharp.  This is especially important at the instructor-level/first-degree black belt rank, because you'll be tempted to believe that you know everything and simply quit.  However, self-defense is like any other skill: if you don't use it, you lose it.  So even if you become a grandmaster, always remember to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!