Friday, March 28, 2008

San Jose Showdown

Even though the Shamrock vs. Cung Le Strikeforce event has suffered some setbacks - Jake Shields injured, Nick Diaz preemptively banned because of his preference for marijuana "over Ritalin or anti-depressants" - I am still pretty stoked to watch the main fight tomorrow in San Jose.
It's an intriguing fight, pitting the two most notable fighters of the areas, two guys who have in common a following of both rabid fans and fervent haters. It's also an interesting fight, because both bring very clear strength to the ring, as well as huge question marks.

Frank Shamrock is an early days Fedor Emilianenko of sorts. He has a stellar career, and in his heyday, he was arguably the first ever complete fighter. The issue is, after a hiatus of nearly a decade, his come-back has not been exactly conclusive. Taken down at will by Renzo Gracie, winning gassed out against Baroni, winning a meaningless victory against a newbie in Cesar Gracie, his last outings have not provided any clear answer as to whether the Shamrock of today could be as dominant as he used to be.
By contrast, Cung Le has made a name for himself on the San Shou circuit, with an unquestionable striking game. The question is, how good is his ground game? While better prepared than most strikers transitioning to mma, because of the throws incorporated in San Shou, critics have pointed that his mma opponents so far have been handpicked to make him look good. Cung Le is known to be a hard worker, and has no doubt developed his ground, but no one has seen it really tested yet in action. Will that be sufficient to tackle an opponent known for his submissions?
On paper, I would tend to expect Shamrock to win, through experience, power, and his superior ground game; but what makes this fight tough to call is its unknowns - the extent of each of these guys' known weaknesses. Has Frank Shamrock passed his prime? Is Cung Le also able to win when taken to the ground? I can't wait to get the answer, and I expect a good fight, because so much is at stake in this fight, and both guys always come motivated. Regardless of the outcome, I also expect the boards to go into wild discussion mode afterwards, as whoever wins will likely receive no credit, but rather be criticized for defeating an opponent with known shortcomings...

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Smoker, no smoker

Fight and Fitness' last smoker of the year was planned to take place this Saturday, right before the end-of-the-year party, but was canceled pretty much at the last minute by the CSAC, the California State Athletic Commission. Needless to say, that was a big blow for everyone involved, especially the fighters, who usually go through a grueling preparation to get in shape.
What is more worrisome is that until further notice, it seems that all smokers are now suspended in California. I could not find anything on the CSAC's website yet, but the decision would not surprise me. With the recent explosion of mixed martial arts in the US in general, and in California in particular, the commission has stepped in to prevent abuses by promoters, and protect fighter's safety, which is a great thing.
What is unfortunate is that Smokers are a crucial institution in a fighter's development. Smokers are small-scale, non-professional fighting events, held at a gym but opened to fighters of other gyms; they provide an irreplaceable venue to gain a first experience of competitive fighting and meet fighters trained in other places.
The obvious solution to the issue would be to make all smokers official amateur events, but I assume the organization will be more constraining, and impact negatively the number of events. On top of that, it seems that the CSAC is already struggling to keep up with the growth of MMA, with an administrative backlog, and regulations still in flux (see for instance the polemics that surrounded the drug appeals procedures of Sean Sherk recently).
Let's hope that the CSAC is prompt in proposing a reasonable solution, so that we can all keep merrily and safely beat each other up in good spirits in 2008!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Suck it up (Back to the gym)

Fighting-related activities had taken a bit of a back seat as of late, but are making a come-back.
I went to the San Jose Civic Center on August 17th, to attend Born To Fight. Originally a San Shou smoker organized by Cung Le's gym, BTF has evolved over time to encompass more martial arts. This year, it was broken down into a morning of submission grappling, and an afternoon of stand-up (Muay Thai and San Shou), topped with super-fights. It was a great event; about every gym in the area was represented, and, between the 4 grappling mats and the full ring, the place was buzzing with activity, and felt like a celebration to fighting. I messed up the planning a bit though; I arrived slightly too late to see a good friend of mine who was competing in grappling in the morning, and missed most of the fighters of my gym because I had to leave early - but it was still fun.

This week-end, I went to my usual sports bar to watch UFC 74, "Respect", and witnessed a 44-year old Randy Couture demolish in Gabriel Gonzaga a contender over 15 years younger than him, and about 25 pounds heavier; as if this weren't enough, Couture fought the third and final round with a broken arm. That helped put back things in perspective for me. I am finally going back to the gym, training 3 times a week, and have been continuously sore for ten days now; but after seeing Couture's performance, my own physical issues seem much less impressive. Suck it up, and train some more!

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