Monday, May 23, 2011

Profiles of Team Velvet Fist: Petey the Pelican

Favorite Fighters: Georges St-Pierre, Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture
Nickname: the Edge

Age: 5 years
Height: 13"
Weight: 11.9 oz/0.37 kg/0.053 stone
Reach: 21.5"
Styles: Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, second degree black belt in Kyokushinkai karate
Fighting Out Of: Santa Cruz, California

Bio: The Santa Cruz native, born on a cliff near Natural Bridges State Park, Petey has long been interested in high level competition. With his long reach and the natural ferocity of a pelican killing machine, Petey dominated the NCAA Division I plushieweight Greco-Roman wrestling league, wrestling out of UCLA. He racked up an impressive four times All-American wrestler and his in his final year went 42-0.

But Petey says, "I don't think of myself as a wrestler, but as a mixed martial artist. I see the strengths of wrestling, of course, in controlling the action of the fight, but I know that in modern MMA you can't just do one thing well, you've got to do everything. And I've been doing Kyokushinkai for years so I've got a good basis for striking."

Petey has racked up an impressive series of wins, not only because of his completionist mindset, but also his clever tactical abilities.

Petey says, "I see it as a chess match. Most fighters are predictable. I know what they're going to do. I just need to figure out a way to counter that, to predict them to the second or third level. Then, victory inevitably follows."

What about his name, the Edge? "I'm edgy, that's just the way it is. I take everything to the edge! I think it's my vicious predatory nature, I like to go in for the kill, I live life in an extreme way, I don't back down, I don't give up or chicken out. It's just who I am."

Watching Petey fight is impressive. Not simply because he is skilled, but because of his remarkable composure and intelligence. The chess metaphor grows in believability watching him predict his opponent's tactics and having counters for every one. And yet, when the moment comes, Petey swoops in for the kill with the instinct of a natural born killer. Covered in the blood of his enemies, Petey is inevitable to reach the top of the fiercely competitive plushieweight division.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz -- FIGHT!

It seems increasingly likely that Georges St-Pierre is going to fight Nick Diaz, probably in Montreal, probably in December. While part of me would like GSP to go up to middleweight (not just for Anderson Silva, but because he needs new people to fight, generally), I like the idea of GSP-Diaz, too, because fuck Nick Diaz. He's a jerk. I generally root for Californians, and Diaz is Cali to the bone, but he's such a jerk I can't do that.

It is also looking like there's a grudge happening between GSP's gym, Tri-Star in Montreal, and the Cesar Gracie camp in Stockton, CA. In UFC 129, Tri-Star's Rory MacDonald defeated Cesar Gracie's Nate Diaz (younger brother to Nick). The same night, a mostly blind GSP defeated cheating bastard Jake Shields. (C'mon, Jake? Five eye pokes in one fight? You should be fuckin' fired. But, hey, I guess your buddy Chuck Liddell covered for you.) And it seems probable that GSP will be fighting Diaz, next. I guess the UFC has decided that Tri-Star needs to clear out Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

I don't think Nick has much of a chance. (Neither do the bookmakers. The odds are about 7 to 2 in GSP's favor, right now.) When Diaz fights guys with good takedowns, his high volume punching skills degrade because his footwork changes. He has to try to defend takedowns, so he can't put his feet in the right way to keep up his volume punching. Additionally, GSP is faster and has a longer reach, so Diaz's normal tactic of pitter-patting a fighter on the way in won't work with GSP. GSP also has great disengages -- it's like teleportation, a guy tries to punch him and he'll be across the ring, it's beautiful to watch and GSP is one of the most elusive fighters in MMA, right now. (I believe he is the most elusive fighter actually fighting, with the possible exception of Lyoto Machida.) GSP will snap out with that jab like an iron bar that destroyed Koscheck's face, or lunging overhand rights, to set up spinning body kicks while looking for the roundhouse kick to the head. If Diaz adjusts his footwork for a lot of punches and GSP doesn't want to engage and disengage (which he might, he has liked to defeat people where they're strong in the past), he'll just take Diaz down.

Indeed, there is probably no condition under which Diaz won't be taken down by GSP if GSP wants to take Diaz down. And there is no condition under which Diaz will be able to take GSP down. No one has been able to dominate GSP on the ground. Not Matt Hughes, not Josh Koscheck, not Jon Fitch. If GSP can dominate Hughes, Kos and Fitch on the ground, I don't think anyone doubts that Diaz will be easy. GSP hasn't been in any threat of submission for half a decade against better submission artists than Diaz.

GSP will also have a massive advantage in physical strength. He's probably the strongest welterweight in the world (with the possible exception of Thiago Alves). He's stronger than all middleweights with the exception, perhaps, of Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen.

(In terms of endurance, they're probably equal. I gotta give Diaz's conditioning credit. If it goes to the later rounds, it will be as hard fought in the fifth as the first. Both men are machines.)

So, how can Diaz win? Diaz needs to work on engaging, he needs to press the fight, cut off GSP and land precision shots. He also can't let it go to the ground, he needs to work on his takedown defense.

Will it be enough? Probably not. GSP has really good evasions, he's got speed, strength and reach. GSP was equal to Thiago Alves on his feet when GSP had a pulled groin muscle. Still, that's probably Nick's best shot. He is a high skilled, well-rounded fighter and if he can keep it standing and cut off GSP, he has a chance.

For me, the good thing is . . . this will be the first fighter in a long time that won't be frightened of GSP. Diaz won't work on his footwork to cut off GSP. He'll press forward, basically offering his head to GSP, like he does to everyone else. And when GSP bangs him up, Diaz will keep offering it. I think that will make the fight exciting, rather than the line of timid fighters GSP has had to deal with since obliterating BJ Penn.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rockin' the medical high

I don't believe in free will. Recently, this belief has been reinforced by my experiences with medicine. I'm gonna explain what I mean about that.

Some of my earliest memories were of incredibly fury and frustration. As a child of single digit years, I would literally be writhing on my bed in silent fury so intense it was a kind of agony. Other times, I felt a mind-numbing ennui that robbed me of all strength. I told no one of these feelings . . . except my mother, who helpfully told me to hide it. After all, said she, everyone feels angry and frustrated sometimes.

That's what I did. For years, decades. I assumed everyone else felt the same way I did. That they felt the same curious, intense and unspecified angers and frustration. That they felt the same crushing helplessness and hopelessness. I just assumed that they had more determination or willpower than I had.

It wasn't until I lived with Adrienne that I realized that, no, that wasn't normal. Not even a little bit. During this time, I was able to structure my life (or our lives) in such a way as to more or less remove all external sources of meaningful anxiety or frustration. By this time, I could give voice to the specific forms of the malady -- depression and anxiety. Still, despite a long standing belief that willpower is a sham primarily used to manipulate people, I was captured by the old belief that my problem was my will. If only I were stronger!

Several years ago, I started taking St. John's wort for depression. It worked pretty well, not completely, but it took the edge off. I noticed about this time, however, a worsening of my creativity and drive. Still, the respite from depression made SJW worth it. This January, I talked to my doctor about my depression and anxiety. She gave me citalopram which dismantled my depression in the middle of winter, where I have my darkest moods.

However, my creativity and my sense of language failed me. So I talked to a psychiatrist about that. My psychiatrist gave me Adderall.

Again, my life changed. I realized that the happiness I felt under St. John's wort and citalopram was merely the absence of depression. Which is an amazing feeling after being depressed my life long. I also realized that I was suffering a side effect common to both SJW and citalopram: emotional flattening. The absence of pain is not the presence of joy. Adderall, a combination of different flavors of medical speed, reintroduced (introduced?) me to that. Suddenly, women were prettier, music sounded sweeter and I was occasionally struck by the remarkable beauty that surrounds me here in Santa Cruz.*

Additionally, under citalopram, I was able to lose weight. Forty pounds since late January. This is unprecedented in my life. It appears that eating food was a kind of crude self-medication for depression -- fatty and sugary foods increase serotonin, which regulates mood. Adderall has the side-effect of making me not hungry, which is a different pathway . . .

Where is willpower through all of this? All I can find is a bunch of messed up neurochemistry. It just seems like, during my various development phases, or perhaps genetically, I got some damaged neurological pathways. My body doesn't regulate serotonin very well. My body has a damaged dopamine pathway. So taking one drug helps one, another drug helps the other. It gives me clarity of mind, calmness of spirit and . . . I can feel my command of language and creativity returning. I can focus.

At the same time, my problem with weight seems to be diminishing. I don't eat to feel better because I already feel better. And I'm just hungry less often. I have never had such a command over my diet! But I didn't "do" anything to get this command except take a couple of pills.

Wither will? I can't see it. I just see myself as a big ol' chemical reaction, doing things because the interplay of atoms and energy that I call "me" interacts with the environment in particular ways, determined by no one, going nowhere. My life has all metaphysical intentionality as ripples in a pond. What I feel to be intentionality is a chimera, a fantasy created by a heavily negentropic system that evolved in terrestial environment.**

Plus, as a nifty side-effect of all of this, I feel great. Even if I can't sleep as much or as well as I might want. It is a tiny, tiny price to pay!

* Medically, the current theory of what was going on in my brain runs like this: my depression was caused by too little serotonin. The citalopram increased the amount of serotonin in my body, removing the depression. However, I likely also have a short circuit in my dopamine pathways, which are important in the regulation of "rewards" for successfully completing tasks and even simple things like appreciation of beauty. The Adderall stimulates those pathways, making me happier, which allows me to focus better and take pleasure from the exercise of creativity.

** Which isn't as nihilistic as it sounds. Even if there is no spiritual component to human existence, no dualistic "mind", the existentialist truth still abides: we invest value into all components of our existence. How splendid! How . . . liberating! But, Chris, you might ask, how about me deciding if I want to get Cheetos or Doritos at 7-11? Clearly, you might say, I have some free will, if I can choose between those two tasty snacks? I believe that it is simply that we don't have the sense or intellectual ability to process all the factors going into our decisions. This creates a very powerful illusion of free will, but it is no more than the die not understanding the forces acting upon it as it is rolled. And, of course, we are going to react to that sensation, but insofar as no one, anywhere, can understand the factors acting upon us, ideas of will remain a useful fiction for purposes legal, moral and so forth and so on. But we shouldn't kid ourselves, I feel. We are controlled by forces we cannot understand, both internal and external. As we understand these internal and external forces, we will be able to act upon them -- we are acting upon them, which is basically the point of this entire post! My fallacy of free will was getting in the way of my mental health, and because lovely scientists were able to figure out some of the mechanisms of depression and reward, I am subsequently much healthier. And, of course, medical science isn't the only field interested in controlling you. There's always advertising . . .