Breakthrough Stars and Performances from UFC 187

This is my new piece, highlighting the best performances and standout stars of UFC 187.
http://lastwordonsports.com/2015/05/28/breakthrough-stars-and-performances-from-ufc-187/

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Ryan Bader: The Unlikely Contender Should Soon Get His Day In Court (link)

If you saw the post fight press conference, you saw a confrontation between newly crowned light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, and top contender Ryan Bader. This is my piece on why that bizarre incident might have been a blessing in disguise. (http://t.co/zCwmxr0NHO)

– Courtesy of lastwordonsports.com

Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier Breakdown

I just recently began writing for lastwordonsports.com, there’s an exclusivity deal in place so I will not write many MMA articles on here but here’s a link to my breakdown of the UFC 187 main event between Anthony Johnson & Daniel Cormier.
http://lastwordonsports.com/2015/05/20/cormier-johnson-ufc-187-breakdown/

Breakthrough Stars and Performances from UFC Fight Night 65.

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Australia has had a steady stream of visits from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, since they made their debut in 2010 with UFC 110. The eight sided cage made a rather quick turn around back to the land down under, only six months after the last Fight Pass event in Sydney, to Adelaide, a first time host to the UFC. The UFC’s last offering in Australia last year was considered by some, the event of the year, last night could also be in the running at the year’s end for best event of the 2015. There were finishes aplenty, remarkable comebacks and statement making beatdowns in Adelaide, Australia last night, so with UFC Fight Night 65 now wrapped up, let’s take a look at who shined brightest.

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BREAKTHROUGH
Stipe Miocic
It’s no secret that Stipe Miocic is a good fighter, he’s a top 5 ranked heavyweight in the world, but his performance against Mark Hunt was an undeniable statement. Miocic came on to the radar of mixed martial arts fans after his last fight against former champion Junior Dos Santos. Miocic was dominating some of the early portions of that fight. Dos Santos didn’t seem to have an answer for his boxing and pressuring pace, but as the fight went on, Junior gutted through to win a decision. The scorecards were not met with much agreement, many, including myself, believed Miocic should have won that fight, and although he lost, he put on a performance that put all men weighing above 220 pounds know that he was a formidable opponent.

If the fight against Dos Santos won Miocic a pat on the back and some praise from the MMA world, his mauling of Mark Hunt last night was his coming out party. Miocic won virtually every second of the bout after the referee said “Fight.” Solid fundamental boxing combined with his collegiate wrestling were simply too much for the former K1 World Grand Prix champion to handle. Miocic layed some heavy hands on Hunt but never left himself vulnerable, using small steps in his foot movement to circle away from the Super Samoan’s power strikes and utilizing his reach by throwing crisp straight punches down Hunt’s center line. Mark Hunt seemed flustered and exhausted by the end of the first round and Stipe Miocic never gave him, even an idea, that this onslaught would stop. Following the first, Miocic began to actively search for takedowns and seemed to succeed with them, almost at will. The ground and pound by Miocic wasn’t delivered with massive fight finishing potential, but it was relentless. Short elbows and punches took it’s toll on Hunt, and by the latter portion of the contest, it was quite clear that it was only a matter of time until Miocic had his hand raised. The end came halfway into the fifth round, after Hunt could no longer muster any form of intelligent defense to the pounding Miocic was inflicting.

So with that big name under Stipe Miocic’s record, what’s next? A fight against the Travis Browne/Andrei Arlovski winner wouldn’t be too bad, but his performance last night showed he is very capable to give the champion problems. If Miocic is willing to wait, give him the winner of Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. His pace, boxing, tenacity and wrestling could be ripe ingredients to defeat either man.

STARS
Robert Whittaker

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There is a new contender at 185 pounds, his name is Robert Whittaker. Whittaker’s speed is almost indescribable, his accuracy is outstanding, his style is unique. The speed and power that Whittaker hit Brad Tavares with was jaw droppin,. It only took 44 seconds for Whittaker to end the fight. After throwing a front kick that missed, Whittaker threw a left hook that staggered and dropped Tavares, after quickly getting back up, another left hook dropped Tavares again and two rapid right hands shut the lights out.

The 24 year old Kiwi is full of potential and after that quick finish last night it is clear that middleweight is the right division for him. Whittaker’s on the coattails of the top 15 right now, a fight with the likes of Roan Carneiro, or the winner of Uriah Hall/Rafael Natal would be a good test for all potential combatants involved.

Daniel Hooker

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After going 1-1 in his first two appearances in the Octagon, Daniel Hooker made a name for himself in the featherweight division with his knockout of tough Japanese fighter Hatsu Hioki. The first round of the fight was fairly competitive but Hioki had an edge. In the second, Hioki got a little looser with his striking and hurt Hooker with a kick to the body, but mere seconds after, Hooker unleashed a head kick that sent Hioki plummeting face down to the canvas.

Dan Hooker could be in the top 15 rankings next week, so it’s fitting he fights a lower ranked 15 opponent. Hacran Dias is a stern test for most featherweights, he’s very physical, has a grinding grappling style, and still holds some good power in his hands. Dias could be the stepping stone for Hooker’s entrance into the top 10.

PERFORMANCES
Sam Alvey

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“Smile’n” Sam Alvey is quickly becoming a standout at middleweight. Alvey knocked out Dan Kelly with some vicious right hands in under a minute last night. Alvey’s greatly improved his boxing since his time on The Ultimate Fighter, and now with another first round KO to his resume, he’s steadily climbing up the middleweight ladder. With three knockouts in a row, the big names in the middleweight division are fast approaching. Alvey said in his post fight interview that he would like to fight TUF Nations winner Elias Theodorou next, it’s a good matchup, but there’s no harm in pairing him with a ranked opponent either.

Bradley Scott

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With all the middleweight fights scheduled, it was difficult to stand out but Bradley Scott made all of the opportunity. Scott got a big name win last night in Adelaide, the Brit submitted New Zealander Dylan Andrews with a textbook guillotine choke and showed he has great skills that are bad news to many 185 pounders. Scott’s in fighting is top notch, his utilization of the clinch is very good, his chin is iron, and his ground game is lethal. Andrews hit Scott with some big shots and Scott never retreated, no matter what Andrews threw at him he kept pressing forward. Even after a tough first round, Scott got the fight to the floor, hurt Andrews with some hard top position elbows and subsequently got the tap.

Getting a win over a dangerous opponent like Dylan Andrews is always a great thing, especially in a growing talent pool division like middleweight. It’s tough to know what could be next for Scott but if the skills he showed in the Octagon last night keep improving, it can mean a lot of trouble for middleweights out there.

The Album that Changed My View on Music.

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(TENSION TOUR 2013. Taken at Nine Inch Nails’ show at Staples Center, Los Angeles, California, on November 8, 2013)

There are moments in our lives we will never forget. The first love, first heartbreak, family deaths, first child, but I will never forget the moment my view on music was changed forever.

This week holds a very special date to yours truly, May 3rd is the tenth anniversary of Nine Inch Nails’ fourth full-length album With Teeth. Nine Inch Nails released With Teeth after a six year hiatus. The Fragile,  the album prior to With Teeth, was a double LP filled with diversity and a much different vibe than Nine Inch Nails previous album, the all-time classic, The Downward Spiral. With Teeth would be referred to in today’s age as a “return to form” or a “back to basics” style album, but Nine Inch Nails has never been one to form with the mold.

Pretty Hate Machine, the debut album from Nine Inch Nails was a revolution for industrial rock. Industrial rock, a blend of hard rock and electronica, that was widely considered as a joke by most people at one point was popularized by this band. Repetitive, looping beats, combined with ear shattering guitar riffs and screaming guttural lyrics were the prime ingredients of industrial music, needless to say those elements were not ones that were gonna propel the genre or the artists forward. Nine Inch Nails flipped all of that on its head and put all of those criticisms to rest with the release of their debut album. Adding several pop elements and adding some emphasis to the electronic aspect of to the traditional elements of industrial music, frontman Trent Reznor made industrial music much more palatable for the masses.

I was unaware of any of this history or even of the band’s makeup when I first heard With Teeth. I knew of Nine Inch Nails since I was about nine years old, I got into music at a very young age and I remember seeing a Nine Inch Nails performance on television during the 1999 Video Music Awards. The song was The Fragile, from the same titled album, and although I had no idea who they were, I sensed that it was a big performance and that this might be a band I like in the future.

I remember shortly after With Teeth came out, I went to a friend’s house and saw the album on his desk. My friend had apparently traded CDs with someone and was recommending the album to them, I wanted to ask him about it, but never did. A few weeks later, I kept getting an itch to listen to the album. I had heard “The Hand that Feeds” and got kind of obsessed with it, even though the track had been released as a single for some time, it caught my ear and I fell in love with the riff and the lyrics.

I finally bought the album and began listening. The first listen was pretty strange, I sat and listened to it as if it was a movie, alone in my room in absolute complete silence. The first track “All the Love in the World” was a bit odd at first, kinda long, very heavy on the electronic beats and samples, but it started growing on me towards the end. Once I heard the second track I knew I was in for a treat, “You Know What You Are?” was much more in my wheel house. Loud, angry, aggressive, with double petal bass drum beats and roaring guitars. Once I heard Trent yell, “DON’T YOU FUCKING KNOW WHAT YOU ARE?!” I knew this could be an album that I listen to for awhile. The following track “The Collector” was in the same vein as the previous; loud, in your face, unforgiving. “The Hand that Feeds” was one of my favorite songs during that time, and after a few dozen listens, it only cemented it’s place of all-time favorite tracks. “Love is Not Enough” was a song that although I liked at the time, came to mean something much more important to me a few years later. “Every Day is Exactly the Same,” just from the title, I knew I would like it, and sure enough, I did. The lyrics seemed like a journal entry of my life at that point, and I began to feel some adoration toward Trent as a writer. The title track “With Teeth” was simultaneously the most quintessential of Nine Inch Nails songs and the most different, traditional Nine Inch Nails rhythms with atypical instrumentation. “Only,” the second single off the record, a plea from a self destructive mental patient, amused me with my strange fascination for the insane. “Only,” also quickly became one of my favorite tracks. The offbeat Trent Reznor take on punk rock, “Getting Smaller” was another descent into my angry adolescent taste. “Sunspots” a soft, yet chaotic breed of Reznor angst caught my attention for almost unknown reasons. “The Line Begins to Blur,” a sort of return to the melancholy sounds of The Fragile. “Beside You in Time” was the one and only song I could never get into, just too repetitive for me, but it didn’t matter because it was made up and then some, with the last track of the album.

Had With Teeth ended with “Beside You in Time,” it would’ve been a good solid album that I may hear a few times a month, but the last track changed my view of Nine Inch Nails forever. “Right Where It Belongs” is the final track on the album, and it also happens to be my favorite song of all-time, a full decade later, “Right Where It Belongs” remains my favorite song ever and I still see no evidence of it changing. I have yet to hear any song as thought provoking as this. I have said ad nauseum to anyone that I’ve shown that song to that “it is the only song that you’ll ever hear that’ll make you happy if you’re sad, and make you sad if you’re happy,” I have yet to hear one person who disagrees with this statement. One five minute song of Trent Reznor asking haunting and uncomfortable questions changed everything for me.

Prior to becoming a Nine Inch Nails fan, I was a purist. I listened to mostly rock music, a little bit of hip-hop, and little of anything else. My favorite band was, and still is, Rage Against the Machine, and the one thing I loved and respected about them was that they never used any type of samples or synthesizers in their music. Being that Rage was my favorite band, I looked down at any rock group who used drum machines and synthesizers, in fact, I was almost insulted by them. How? How could a “rock band” use synthesizers and computer programs to create music? In my purist perspective, it was shameful, almost blasphemous to a point, that all changed after I listened to With Teeth. I became a huge Nine Inch Nails fan and I quickly began reading up on the band’s history and began searching for their album catalog. Once I found out that Nine Inch Nails was not an actual band, but a one man group comprised exclusively of Trent Reznor, my mind was blown.

I liked With Teeth, I really did, but learning that Nine Inch Nails was basically a rock experiment of a genius producer and musician, made me a die-hard Nine Inch Nails fan, and it rewired every idea I had about music. I listened to hip-hop, I enjoyed some electronic music as well, so why couldn’t I enjoy the music of Nine Inch Nails? Over some stupid holier than thou ideas of music? Trent Reznor is an incredibly talented musician, I was cognizant of that, but with my dumb stance on musical purity, I would not be able to acknowledge it or accept it, so I rejected my own ideas.

Music was now actually music to me. I no longer judged songs for their lack of acoustics or voice changing effects. A pop song can be catchy and still be good, a rap song can be nonsensical, and still make you want to dance. I became accepting and I became a music fan, genres were just perforated pages from the same book now, as far as I was concerned.

If it wasn’t for Trent Reznor creating that album, I would’ve been stuck in my ancient, idiotic way of thinking. If With Teeth was done in the style of Pretty Hate Machine, I would’ve never become a big Nine Inch Nails fan. It had to be mean, in your face, aggressive rock, for me to finally appreciate it. Once Nine Inch Nails opened that door to the music universe I climbed in and never looked back. I bought every album that Nine Inch Nails ever came out with over the next few years, and my musical variety expanded as well. Without Nine Inch Nails, I would’ve never listened to artists like Amy Winehouse, whose Back to Black album also helped me through some difficulties during a period in my life. Björk, Portishead, Frank Turner, Neon Trees, Lauryn Hill, Bebé, Honeyhoney and many more would not have been introduced to me, if it wasn’t for With Teeth. To Trent Reznor, and every other person who worked on that album I just want to say, thank you, from the bottom of my heart and every part of my soul, thank you for changing my life.

The Never Ending Dilemmas of Jon Jones and the UFC PR Machine.

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Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 is a date that will be remembered as the day that one of mixed martial arts finest talents lost his chance to be transcendentally great. Jon “Bones” Jones, the most dominant champion in light heavyweight history, and number one pound for pound king was stripped of his title and suspended indefinitely by the UFC Tuesday night after Albuquerque police arrested him on a suspected hit and run.

After an accident left a young pregnant woman injured with a broken arm, Jones (allegedly) fled the scene of the crime. Jones ran a red light and crashed with two vehicles, he immediately took off, but then ran back and stuffed a large amount of cash into his pockets, as he went to run off again an off-duty police officer identified Jones and after the police were notified of the woman’s injuries, the misdemeanor was upgraded to a felony and and a warrant was written for his arrest. The punishment he’s facing is unclear at this moment, although Jones was released on $2,500 bail, the charges are not set in stone, but it is possible he can face up to three years of incarceration.

Everyone involved can agree, this is not a good look for the UFC, and definitely not good for Jon Jones. Jones’ past run-ins with the law and personal problems outside the octagon are all very well-known at this time. DUI, getting in a brawl at a press conference, testing positive for cocaine; not very good PR for a man who may be the biggest star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At this point in time, Jon Jones’ problems are very far from over, but the UFC might have done the biggest possible favor in his life by removing him from his title fight at UFC 187, suspending him and stripping the 205 pound belt.

Since the night of March 19th, four years ago, when Jon Jones originally took the light heavyweight strap from then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, it was said that this young man could be great, barring any acquiescence to temptation. The beating that Jones put on Rua was equal parts amazing, and just plain hard to watch, and the aura surrounding UFC 128 immediately after Jones’ performance was that he was already one of the top pound for pound fighters in the sport. Jones did his part for the better part of a year, but on May of 2012 he tasted his first serious run-in with the law after he crashed his Bentley into a telephone pole and was charged with driving while intoxicated. Plea bargains were made, fines were paid and Jones kept dominating opponents in impressive fashion until 2015.

After Jones’ last fight, the long anticipated grudge match against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182, it was revealed that Jones had tested positive for cocaine during his training camp a few weeks prior. However, due to strange circumstances surrounding the test, there were no significant repercussions, but all these snafus were relatively mild compared to last weekend’s ordeal.

Jon Jones is a one of a kind marvel that come perhaps once, maybe even two or three lifetimes. Jones length, his athleticism, and just overall sense of getting the game is outstanding, the man is an absolute natural. The improvements he made from his UFC debut to even his next fight were astonishing. The sky really was the limit for Jones, even as the champion, he still seemed to be getting better with each fight.

The hit and run incident was being discussed in many matters. People were upset, some people said it was getting played up too much, but the undeniable truth is, it is a crime. If one decides to withhold judgement, it is their prerogative to do so, however the UFC does not have the same privilege. The UFC needed to make a decision, letting Jones resume training and allowing him to fight at UFC 187 would have been incredibly foolish, negligent, and above all greedy. Due process is owed to any citizen under U.S. law, employers don’t require the same rights.

The UFC has been scrutinized in the past for many different things, from botched drug testing to fighter pay, but everything requires a process. This is not to excuse or justify the UFC in any manner, many criticisms have been well deserved, and after the actions they decided to use against Jones, it is becoming evident Dana White and company are getting a grasp of what it means to be a mainstream sport. The more eyeballs the UFC draws, the harder the eyebrows will scowl. The UFC is finally starting to get it, but it seems Jon Jones still hasn’t.

Jon Jones did not grow up privileged, he was a relatively normal child with a typical American family upbringing, but you can’t blame a guy who may have some disillusions given his accomplishments. Jon Jones is a man who after two appearances in the Octagon was already being named a future champion, he’s the man who destroyed Shogun, one of the most feared and respected fighters in mixed martial arts history, with only six weeks of training and 3 years of overall MMA experience, and still holds the record for the most defenses in light heavyweight history and the youngest champion in UFC history.

It’s safe to say Jon Jones is different than the majority of people reading this right now, he is a world-class athlete and fighter, but his mental state is endlessly fascinating. How can a person with this clear deficit in decision making, be such an exceptional talent? It is not out of the realm of possibility that his poor decision making skills may overlap with his combative nature. What coach would ever advise to throw a flying knee in the first ten seconds of a title fight? What fighter throws spinning back elbows after he’s caught a kick? What junior college level wrestler gets the idea to clinch and takedown Olympic level wrestlers like Daniel Cormier? There is only one man with these attributes, Jon Jones.

Jones is a daring individual, the things he displays in the cage take a lot of skill, but also a lot of confidence, and some parts madness. It has been said that combat shows one’s true nature and true character, if this is accepted to be true, Jones actions should not be all too shocking. Jones fights like a madman, like Pablo Picasso met Edgar Allan Poe and decided to use their unique brand of art to conjure a fighting machine. Jones’ unique brand of artistic beatdowns are a clear product of his mentality, and his bravado allowed him to get away with things that he shouldn’t have, but fate can only be cheated for so long until it catches up.

The time came and on Tuesday he received a strong and appropriate punishment, but in addition to the UFC doing the more conscientious PR move by stripping and suspending Jones, they also did him a big favor. Jones is a young man with some time to still right the ship, the legal proceedings are a given, he will have his day in court, but this isn’t a problem that is solved with some time in jail or some fines. Jones has the world at his fingertips, he’s young, rich, famous, and can literally be labeled as the baddest man on the planet. One can forget that Jones is just a regular person like most of us, but that is why this unprecedented course of action is so significant. Jon Jones is now closer to being one of us, he has lost a prized possession, the tag of the elite, the UFC made a statement; no matter your ranking, star power or revenue making capabilities, there will be consequences for your actions even outside of the Octagon.

Jones maturity is a ripe target at this point in time. The man who notoriously posts inappropriate tweets only to delete them mere moments later, shows that his poor sense of judgment doesn’t only apply to his recreational use of illegal substances and questionable decisions behind the wheel of a car. This is no way, a diatribe about Jones growing up and getting his life together, it’s not a question of morals, it’s about common sense.

Jon Jones has a family, and anyone with a little common sense can see that these problems that he’s having are made exponentially harsher when you consider his loved ones. Great figures are not always great people, in fact history seldom has any examples of the two coexisting in one being, Jon Jones is no exception. In the grand scheme of things, the narrative surrounding this unfortunate incident will be of a highly privileged MMA champion being his own worst enemy, but let’s take a step back and disassociate spectacle with the real world.

The longer it takes for Jon Jones to come back into the cage the better, time away from the circus that is mixed martial arts should do much more good than bad in his personal life, and although some of his prime moments in his career may be cut short, the rearranging of his priorities can finally be set correctly.  Moreover, the time away from the cage will undoubtedly make his aura glow even brighter. If all turns out well, Jon Jones will return sooner rather than later and can possibly headline a card at Madison Square Garden, and just imagine the atmosphere in the arena that night. Jones walking out first, waiting in the cage for the man who is holding the belt he never lost, in front of a hometown crowd. Will he shine through as he always has, or fold under the pressure? Only time will tell, and time is Jon Jones’ best friend right now.