3.31.2008

State of the U[fc]NION (#2)(Part 1)

For this article, I’ll be taking a look at the welterweight division, as suggested to me by my friend Puddin’…..who for now will be referred to as Puddin’, until he gives me another name to call him.

Anywho, the welterweight division article will not be nearly as focused on one person as the Middleweight division because there are much more contenders, as opposed to the Middleweight division, in which you pretty much have Anderson Silva.

However, because of the large number of contenders and standouts in the division, so as not to make this article 100 pages long, I’m going to split it into two parts which will cover the fighters below, either listed under “Part 1” or “Part 2”. I know, my organizational ideas are genius, and original – feel free to use them yourself. (Also, aside from my personal knowledge on the subject, the rest of my info comes from my favorite, Wikipedia, mmajunkie.com and sherdog.com – both are very comprehensive MMA sites.)

THE LIST:

PART 1
Matt Serra (current Champion)
Georges St. Pierre (interim Champion)
Matt Hughes
Marcus Davis
Mick Swick
Josh Burkman
Karo Parisyan
Jon Fitch

PART 2
Josh Koscheck
Diego Sanchez
Dustin Hazelett
Luigi Fioravanti
Luke Cummo
Chris Lytle
Thiago Alves
Tommy Speer/Anthony Johnson


First, a clarification – the Welterweight division of the UFC is made up of fighters who, on weigh-in day, weigh in at no more than 170-171 pounds (one pound for possible scale error), and no less than 156 pounds. (For last time – Middleweight fighters can weigh in at no more than 185-186 and no less than 171.) However, even though these guys weigh in at 170, if you were to weigh them during their time off, you might find some of these guys weighed as much as 190-200 pounds. Nearly every fighter “cuts weight” before a fight. Initially, this starts with a restricted diet, generally about two months or more out from a fight. This diet is restricted more and more until a fighter is anywhere from 5-10 pounds above their fight weight. Then, on weigh-in day, a fighter will truly “cut weight” by not eating or drinking anything, running or doing other exercise a lot, or just sitting in a sauna under 3 or 4 layers of clothes. This allows them to purge themselves of water-weight, and get down to the fighting weight. FYI, the weigh-ins are the day before the fights, so after the weigh-ins, the fighters will generally start slowly drinking water again, and eating, to get their weight back up. So even if a welterweight fighter weighs in at 170, if you were to weigh him right before the fight, it would probably be closer to 180-185.

Weight cutting is a source of controversy among fight fans and critics, in that it can have very harmful side effects (because fluctuating your weight so drastically can throw off your electrolytes, among other things), but also because the fighters weigh in the day before the fight, so in reality, they have the ability to gain as much weight as they want in the 24 hours before the fight. Now, many fighters have had problems cutting weight, and this can obviously lead to decreased performance because of dehydration or sheer exhaustion….but on to the welterweights….

I’d like to start the actual fighter section with a brief discussion of the former Welterweight Champion, Matt Hughes. Now, while Hughes (41-6) may be past his prime in the UFC, he is still a legitimate contender. Hughes is a country boy, now fighting out of Hillsboro, Illinois, from his new gym, Hughes Intensive Training (H.I.T.) even though he trained, until recently, with the famed Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf, Iowa. Dana White, President of the UFC, often refers to Matt Hughes as (much to my grammatical ire) “The greatest welterweight of all times.” (I wish, just once, he would say “all time” instead of “all times”, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.)

Hughes is a two-time UFC WW Champion, and he had 8 successful title defenses (for more info on his fights, feel free to check out http://www.sherdog.com – another great MMA source).

During his reign, Hughes took out great fighters such as Carlos Newton (2x), Hayato Sakurai, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg (2x), Georges St. Pierre (GSP), Chris Lytle, current UFC Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn, and MMA Legend Royce Gracie.

However, Hughes lost his title to GSP (15-2) via TKO at UFC 65, and then lost an interim title match to GSP via verbal submission at UFC 79.

Now, you may be asking why I’m spending so much time on Hughes when he’s not even Champion anymore. It’s because Hughes, as of now, probably is the greatest WW of all “times” and he set a high standard the WW fighters of today have to live up to. Even though Hughes has two losses to GSP now, I’d be willing to bet he could still take out most of the people on that list above, with very few problems. He has incredible strength for his size, his wrestling is great, and he has experience far beyond anyone else on that list.

However, because I don’t think Hughes will be having another fight in the UFC anytime soon, let’s move on to everybody else on the list, most of whom will be fighting within the next couple of months, or just fought within the last couple of months.

First, the current Champion, Matt “The Terror” Serra (although the way he says it with his New York accent, it’s more like, “The Terra”). Serra is 9-4, and were it not for “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, he likely would not have gotten another shot at the title. However, after winning the competition on the show, he received a shot at GSP, who was facing his first title defense after defeating Hughes the first time. Serra TKO’d GSP in the fourth minute of the first round. He caught him with a couple good punches, and then when GSP faltered, Serra pounced and landed a flurry of punches before the referee stopped the fight.

Here’s the thing – almost nobody expected Serra to win that fight. GSP had just TKO’d Matt Hughes and taken the title, and in that fight GSP, only 25 at the time, seemed like the heir apparent to take over the title of greatest WW of all time. Serra had just come off winning a shot at the title from winning on the reality show, and many people thought he would have not been seen again in the UFC were it not for that. GSP choked in his first title defense – choked hard. Maybe it was because it was his first title defense, maybe it was because Serra was more experienced having been in the fight game longer – regardless, GSP wasn’t totally focused, and he paid for it.

GSP and Serra were scheduled to rematch in late 2007, but Serra had to pull out of the fight with a back injury, so Hughes got another shot at GSP for the Interim WW Title, with the winner to face Serra later.

By the way, for those of you who may not be familiar with combat sports, or the terms “interim title” or “interim champion”, it is just what it sounds like. When the true champion becomes unavailable, be it injuries, legal issues or whatever, depending on how long things will take, the execs sometimes decide to name the interim champion, so as to designate a clear number-one contender that the other fighters know they will have to beat to get to the champ, but also to continue to draw bigger numbers for Pay-Per-View Events and things like that. Even “Interim Title Fight” sounds better than just “Welterweight Fight”, and thus draws in more fans.

Back to the Interim title match – many fans and critics wondered how quickly GSP would bounce back from his loss to Serra. Serra was a guy that most people would have picked GSP to walk through, and yet he got TKO’d. Now we were all wondering if something similar was going to happen in his match with Hughes, because GSP wasn’t totally focused when he fought Hughes the first time, and he lost by submission in the first round.

There was no choking this time. GSP basically dominated the first two rounds, and at the end of the second round got Hughes in an armbar and cranked Hughes’ arm so fast that Hughes didn’t even had time to tap – he had to verbally submit. For a guy like Hughes, that’s worse than just tapping, because you actually have to vocalize the fact that you’re getting your ass kicked because you have no other way to save yourself.

Many critics and fans consider GSP one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Winning or losing to Serra in their upcoming match will either solidify that label, or GSP is going to get knocked down a few rungs on the fight ladder. Even though GSP has fought (and beat) other great fighters such as Sean Sherk, B.J. Penn, Josh Koscheck, Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Frank Trigg, and Karo Parisyan, I'm not going to go back and rehash all of that, because it is this upcoming fight that is going to define GSP's career. I'm not trying to take anything away from Serra, because he is a solid fighter, but GSP is poised to take back his championship, and how he handles himself will determine how he is viewed for more than the next few fights. Even if GSP were to lose, he'd still be one of the top contenders, but NOT the Number One Contender, so he would have to work his way back up once again - and there are plenty of hungry guys who want their shot at the title and would be more than happy to fight GSP to get there.

So I'll leave it at that on GSP and Serra for now - I'll do an update just for them after their fight, because the end result will make for some interesting comments.

There are more than a few left, so we’re moving on.

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (14-3). I love this guy. Davis started his UFC career as a fighter on season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter. Davis didn’t do great on the show, and my friend Puddin’ really rags on him (appropriately so) for blaming a loss on a shoulder injury after Davis stated before the fight that if he lost, there would be “no excuses.” Now, Davis alternates his time training with Jorge Gurgel’s team outside of Cincinnati, and with Sityodtong (muay thai kickboxing) out of Massachusetts However, from that point, Davis has been on a tear. After losing to Melvin Guillard (via TKO due to a cut), Davis has won 11 fights in a row, 6 of them in the UFC. Davis is a former pro boxer who made a great transition into Mixed Martial Arts – and lately, he’s arguably been the most exciting UFC fighter in the welterweight division, if not one of the top two or three most exciting UFC fighters, period. The MMA site www.mmajunkie.com recently joked that if you’re a fighter on a card with Davis, you’re likely not going to get any of the bonuses.

Another quick explanation – the UFC gives out bonuses after each event for (1) Knockout of the Night, (2) Submission of the Night, and (3) Fight of the Night. Bonuses have ranged anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000, and this can be a huge payday for guys whose salary for a UFC fight would be somewhere between $8,000-$10,000, even with a win. Even the loser in the “Fight of the Night” gets a bonus for that. Granted, many of the bigger names do get higher salaries, but you have to be a champion, or former champ to command something over $40,000.

Regardless, Davis has recently been on a “bonus” tear. At UFC 72, he got the knockout bonus for knocking out Jason Tan. At UFC 75, he got the submission bonus AND fight of the night bonus when he defeated Paul Taylor by armbar, after he took a kick in the neck that almost put him down. And at UFC 80, he got the knockout bonus for knocking out Jess Liaudin.

However, while his opponents are quality fighters, they are generally not names you would place in the upper echelon of the WW division (i.e. none of them are on my list). Because of this, some wonder how Davis will fare against a more seasoned fighter. These people will soon have their answer, when Davis takes on the Mike Swick at UFC 85 on June 14, 2008, in London, England.

Mike “Quick” Swick (11-2) got his nickname when he won both of his first fights in the UFC (albeit in the middleweight division) in less than 25 seconds each. His next two fights were longer, but neither made it to the three-minute mark. After a disappointing loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 69, Swick decided to drop down to WW. Swick trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, with fellow welterweight standout Josh Koscheck. His first fight at WW came against Josh Burkman (who will be discussed next), and Swick got a Majority Decision win over Burkman. Frankly, I think it was a split decision at best, but clearly the judges thought otherwise.

As another aside – First, the UFC, and most other Mixed Martial Arts fighting organizations, operate on what is called the “Ten Point Must System”, meaning the three judges who score the bout must award, per round, 10 points to the fighter who they each thought won the round, and 9 or less to the other fighter. Now, if there is a knockout (KO), technical knockout (TKO) or submission (sub), this all becomes moot, but if the fight goes to a decision, it is very important – and if the fight does go to a decision, you have four possible endings.

Unanimous Decision – all 3 judges see the same fighter as the winner.
Majority Decision – 2 judges see the same fighter as a winner, and the third judge indicates he thought it was a draw.
Split Decision – 2 judges see the same fighter as the winner, while the third judge feels the other fighter won.
Draw – The scores indicate a tie – draws are rare in mixed martial arts, but they do happen.


But back to Swick – in spite of the loss to Yushin Okami, Swick impressed me much more at Middleweight – that said, he’s only had one fight at WW, so we’ll have to see what he does next against Davis. Both fighters have great striking, and great submissions, but Swick will have a slight reach advantage, and likely come into the fight heavier than Davis, which could give Davis more problems than his previous opponents. However, Davis has been at WW longer, the weight cutting will likely affect him less.

This fight has potential to be awesome. Both fighters like to stand up, and both still have something to prove at WW – because of the intensity of each fighter, I don’t see this fight going the distance. I’m going to say Davis by TKO (due to strikes) in late round 1/early round 2. Both guys are going to come out swinging, and I really don’t think that can last more than one round unless they spend a lot of time scouting each other out for potential weaknesses, in which case they’ll come out swinging like crazy in round 2, and it will be over in the first minute. Regardless of who wins, I think the winner will likely get KO of the night bonus, and both participants will get the Fight of the Night bonuses. Depending on how exciting the performance is, if Davis wins, I think he could be looking at title shot after this fight, or at the very least, a match against somebody like Karo Parisyan for Number One Contender Status.

Next, we have Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkman (9-5). Burkman is another alum of The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, and his UFC record is 5-3. May not seem so great, but his three losses in the UFC came against Mike Swick, Karo Parisyan and Jon Fitch (all guys on my list). Burkman trains with Team Quest out of Portland Oregon, and part-time with Team Punishment out of Big Bear, California. Burkman has a strong wrestling background, good ground and pound skills, and is known for big slams – meaning just what it sounds like – he picks people up and slams them back down.

Burkman’s next fight is against Dustin Hazelett on June 21, 2008, at the conclusion of the upcoming season of the reality show. Hazelett is also on the list, and will be covered in part 2. Hazelett probably has the edge in wrestling, but Burkman is a better striker. I’d say majority decision for Burkman.

Now, for Karo “The Heat” Parisyan (18-4). Karo’s family came to America from Armenia when he was 6. His most obvious fighting style is Judo, but he actually trained, until 2005, under the Hayastan Grappling System, which combines Judo, Sambo, catch wrestling, freestyle fighting, Greco-Roman Wrestling and Muay Thai. (Check out Wikipedia for more.)

Karo is an exciting fighter. He is able to successfully use his judo techniques in the UFC, and is known for his elaborate throws and sweeps that are both flashy and effective. He holds wins over some great UFC fighters (Matt Serra, Nick Diaz, Josh Burkman, Ryo Chonan) and even in his loss to Diego Sanchez (which was a b.s. decision, in my humble opinion) he was exciting. He survived getting a tooth knocked out, and managed to give the crowd a good show when he essentially flipped Diego onto his head, which I think was something everybody wanted to see.

Karo was previously known for simply not training for fights. He admittedly had a great deal of raw talent and skill, so he would not train for fights. This became evident as Karo started getting more and more tired the longer his fights would go on. However, he has more recently claimed that he’s making a run for the title, and knows he has to be in better shape for that. However, something that has never been out of shape for Karo is his mouth. He trash talks with the best of them, even though he doesn’t always make the most sense. He’s cocky, for sure, but can back most of it up.

Karo’s next match is actually this Wednesday night at the UFC Fight Night in Broomfield, Colorado, against Thiago Alves (also on the list). Alves, who will be discussed more in part 2, is a decent fighter. He last beat Chris Lytle (on the list) when he broke Lytle’s nose the doctor on the scene stopped the fight between rounds (tko). That was big for Alves, as he was just bouncing back from a 6 month suspension for using a banned substance – a diuretic, Spionolactone, which he stated he used to help reach the 170 pound weight limit.

Alves has won 6 of his 8 fights in the UFC, and I would give a slight striking advantage to Alves, because he is more precise. I would say overall, Karo hits harder, but throws more wild punches. Alves likely has a slight advantage on the ground, as he is a black belt in Brazilian ju jitsu, but Karo has more experience, and definitely more confidence.

I don’t think Alves can take Karo out early in the fight, so I’m going to call a Unanimous decision win for Karo.

We now come to the last fighter in Part 1 – Jon Fitch (16-2). Now, Dana White recently stated that Fitch would be next in line for a title shot – Fitch has a perfect 8-0 record in the UFC, and has fought such standouts as Josh Burkman, Diego Sanchez, Thiago Alves, Luigi Fioravanti, and most recently Chris Wilson (he’s not on the list, but it was a good fight at UFC 82 in Columbus).

Fitch trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy, with Mike Swick and Josh Koscheck. Fitch was, until recently, a bit of a dark horse. He rarely made it to the televised card of any of the UFC’s Pay-Per-View events, but he was beating everyone they put in front of him.

Not much to say about Fitch – he’s a solid fighter, has beaten quality opponents, and is well-liked with the fans. He has the ability to win fights early, but his fights that have gone to a decision have been exciting. Since Fitch just fought in the first weekend of March, he has no opponent on the horizon just yet. However, if he does not get the next title shot, look for a fight against Davis (if Davis beats Swick), for the Number One Contender Status.

So – that’s it for Part 1 – only about 7 pages – no biggie.

If you’ve made it this far, and you’ve watched UFC at all, you know that there are guys in part 2 that are standout fighters – I’m not trying to say they’re not by sticking them in Part 2, I just listed the fighters in the order I thought of them and then split that list down the middle when it became obvious that this article was going to be much more in-depth than the last one.

Oh, and be on the lookout – so I don’t have to keep putting explanations in these articles for terms and such, after Part 2 of the WW, I’m going to do what I should’ve done in the first place – an intro to everything Mixed Martial Arts – okay, not everything, because that would run on forever, but a lot of the basic stuff, so even people who aren’t serious fights fans can follow along.

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1 comment:

Puddin' said...

I've come around on Marcus Davis. He just rubbed me the wrong way by making the ultimate pussy move... i.e. going from "no excuses" to "my shoulder was injured" when he lost.

Since then, he has impressed me with his fight style and speed. But my concern is that Dana & Co. are protecting him. His UFC resume boasts only wins against lower-tier or first-time UFC fighters. Why the kid-glove treatment, Dana?

My hunch is that while Davis excels against lesser opponents, he still has some head problems. As such, I predict that when he doesn't enjoy his usual success against a more challenging opponent than he's used to, he lets it get to into his head... Swick by TKO.