Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Johny Hendricks plans to ignores laws of physics, GSP's fist

Johny Hendricks seems to believe that he can teleport through Georges St-Pierre's hand.  He says that he is willing to eat a jab to land a right hand.  I'm sure Ellenberger said the exact same thing.  "Oh, I'll just take the jab and . . . wait, he has longer arms than me?"

Georges St-Pierre's reach is around 77 inches.  Johny Hendricks reach is around 69 inches.  Break that down, each one of Georges St-Pierre's arms is around four inches longer than Hendricks arms.

Johny, you won't be able to phase through GSP's punches.  When you come forward into the jabs, your forward momentum will be neutralized by GSP's forward momentum, and your arm will still be four inches away from Georges' shoulder.  To "walk through" the jabs, you'll then have to reset and press forward, but by then, Georges will be doing something else - perhaps another jab, starting the whole process over, again.

But this is physics, dude.  Don't think that because you can press past guys in training, who neither have Georges' length, who are hitting you with sparring punches and wearing boxing gloves, that you'll be able to do it against GSP.  The energies involved will be totally different.  He'll be hitting you with literally 300% more power than those other dudes.  This will stall your forward motion.  Because it's physics and never try to win against physics.  You never, ever will.

I think that Weidman did Hendricks no favors.  I understand the boost in confidence that Silva's fall brought - a stark reminder that these people are mortals, after all.  But my mental telepathy is telling me that Hendricks sees himself in Weidman - which is awful, because not only is Weidman a different fighter from Hendricks but GSP is an altogether different fighter than Anderson Silva.  Weidman would never fight a fighter like GSP with such a crude strategy - Roy Longo and Matt Serra would not let him.

I also think I understand why fighters like Hendricks and Ellenberger, who have fundamentally crude striking games, got this far.  For years, welterweight in the UFC has been under the shadow of GSP.  The guys at the top - Fitch, Koscheck, poor Alves who was ruined by Georges, even Condit - have been planning to fight GSP, even when they fought each other.  Strong wrestlers who used it to stay up and throw heavy leather is something that people haven't seen in welterweight in a long time.  Guys who did it in the recent past - Melvin Guillard and Robbie Lawler - never went anywhere, being consistently beaten (in the past, I mean, the ruthless one looked like a far more mature fighter, recently) by technical strikers and wrestlers, meaning they never got to the top of the division (save flukes like Dan Hardy).  The division was surprised by Ellenberger and Hendricks.

But not GSP.  GSP is the one guy in the whole division who never worries about what GSP is doing.  And from his loft at the top of the division, by the time anyone gets to him, he's not surprised by whatever they're doing.  GSP - like Rory MacDonald against Ellenberger - will not be surprised.

But I hope Hendricks is lying.  I hope that his coaches have analyzed GSP's fights and come up with a better actual plan than "defy the laws of physics to hit Georges".

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dana White mouths off after MacDonald v. Ellenberger, pretending that winning and losing are the same

Dana White blasts MacDonald and Ellenberger because of their slow fight.

First, of course, since I am mentioning this, look, hostile workplace environment!  Your boss going out and calling you names in front of the press!  Jesus, someone sue this man.

Moreover, I dislike these simplistic analyses.  Sometime, even fights can be dull.  The styles of the fighters don't mesh very well.

But what mostly gets me is that Dana White pretends that winning a slow fight has the same consequences for the fighter as losing well.  Dana says that it isn't good for MacDonald to fight that way - but you know what's worse?  Losing.  Even Ellenberger admits he froze up (something I wish I had predicted on my blog so I could point and say, "I knew that would happen"; for the record, I think that MacDonald v. Ellenberger prefigures GSP v. Hendricks and I think there's a very good chance that Hendricks will freeze up in the same way).  But you know what would have unfrozen him?  If MacDonald had started charging in.  I bet that he would have perked right the fuck up.  He would have suddenly remembered how to throw bombs off of stuffing a takedown and the value of counterpunching, which are his usual strategies. 

But losing well doesn't match winning poorly.  When you win, you get double your base pay, for most fighters.  Even the UFC's morally and legally dubious undocumented discretionary bonuses don't do that.  Sure, while boring fights aren't likely to thrill sponsors, losses are worse.  A "bad" win might not get you much closer to the title, but a loss gets you further away from it (something that is certainly on Ellenberger's mind, right now, after losses to both MacDonald and Kampmann - his title dreams are shot until he can put together a decent winning streakk, again).

What about head trauma?  Careful fighters fight longer, they avoid injuries, they aren't laid up with long periods of time where they can't fight or train.  It is the difference between fighting until you're 40 or fighting until you're 32, it's the difference between three fights a year and two fights a year.

Let's face it, a "bad" win is just better than going out on your shield - except for the UFC, who knows that fans like dramatic finishes more than measured, tactical fighting.  A decent one time discretionary bonus isn't worth what you lose if you do lose - sponsors, greater distance from a title shot, your health.

So every time a tactical fighter wins tactically, Master of Hostile Workplaces, Dana White, goes to the press and bitches and moans about it.  That kind of win is bad for a fighter's career!  It's bad for the sport.  When the truth is, it's bad for Dana White's vision of how an MMA fight should look.  Only Dana, whose body and career aren't on the line, can pretend that losing well is the equivalent of winning badly.

I am not particularly defending MacDonald.  I think he could have been more aggressive, I think he could have hunted Ellenberger down more.  But I don't think he should have been too much more aggressive.  Ellenberger was clearly turtling up.  It's really hard to finish a fighter who is not engaging.  Dana White should know that.  It is not for MacDonald to try to get fighters to come out of their shell.  They should arrive physically and mentally prepared to fight.  Ellenberger wasn't.  But that isn't Rory's fault.  Dana should fucking know better, Dana should know it takes two to fight.

Benjamin Webb is a wannabe tyrant, why public relations is viewed badly and the BBC is crazy

Dear Benjamin Webb of Deliberate PR, as per the BBC,

The reason why PR executives have such a bad reputation is because everyone knows they exist entirely to manipulate people.  Which is what your article is - sheer manipulation, trying to pretend that their job isn't to make us pay too much for shit we do not need is somehow for the good of society.  Which is bullshit and we mostly know it, even as we continue to be addicted to it.

It does not matter how many times manipulative PR fuckwits such as yourself assert that mass media puts the powers in the hands of the majority.  Nonsense.  The majority has no say whatsoever in what advertisements are thrust upon it.  No one says to me, "Hey, Chris, what do you want to see on that billboard?"  A small group of rich, mostly white guys (such as yourself) in offices in places like New York and London decide what advertisements we see, that all of us see.  They do not poll us for our opinions, they shape their advertisements to manipulate us for the purposes of greater profit for their clients.  We know this.

Benjy even quotes Edward Bernays, who said in his book, okay, this is it's real title, I'm not making this up, and Bernays is considered the inventor of modern advertising . . . the book's name is Propaganda, and Bernays writes, "the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

(This is not taken out of context.  Bernays says this stuff all the time, about how it's the duty of rich guys to manipulate public opinion for their own good.)

Benjy goes say that Bernays didn't consider this corrosive to society.  Well, that's the problem.  Sure, Bernays applied it to helping the NAACP but the idea that it's okay to have a group of people out there who form an "invisible government" isn't an anti-democratic idea is the problem because it is massively, intrusively and obviously anti-democratic.  That Bernays, himself, used it for good doesn't mean it's a good idea to have a shadow government manipulating the masses and there are, of course, TONS of examples of PR being used malevolently.  Because I don't like bringing up the Nazis so much, though any discussion about PR and shaping political consciousness is truncated without talking about Goebbels (whom, I note, you do not mention, Benjy), I feel no trouble at all in bringing up the Iraqi War, which was sold to the American people using big Madison Avenue PR firms, based on lies and fear-mongering. 

Basically anyone can come up with their own examples of how PR leeches manipulate people because it is the common experience of people living in industrialized nations to be bombarded with a constant stream of propaganda, er, I mean, PR.  How can one say that the PR firms that are selling us lies about, say, global climate change aren't the enemies of democracy simply because there are other firms saying the exact opposite?  That just makes you mercenaries, which is a real insult - that you'll do anything for money, no matter how destructive.

Then this thick-witted moron says, okay, again, I'm not making this shit up, "If anything, PR now needs to go back into the shadows, which probably sounds more sinister than intended." 

Here's a hint, Benjy, if you end your paragraph admitting that sounds fucked up, there's a pretty good chance that it is, in fact, fucked up.  It sounds exactly as sinister as it is and your failure to realize this is a giant part of the problem.

Benjamin Webb, the thrust of your article is this - stripped of all it's manipulation and ego.  You say that advertising should return to the shadows to better implement Bernays' desire to form a hidden, unseen government that directs democracy, and you say that modern technology will help PR guys do this.  Yes, exactly, that is why we hate you.

As to the BBC, well, if this is a subversive attempt to show what a terrible group of people PR people are, good work!  I don't think that, though.  You're not, precisely, a subversive paper.

So, in the more likely event that this is serious, shame on you.  Seriously.  What editor reads this and goes, "He has a good point.  Maybe we should throw out democracy and give our government into the shadowy tyranny of PR flacks."  It's a position that is so stupid, so crazy and bizarre and grotesque, that . . . well, okay, it is of a piece with the other stuff you write.  Touche.

But, still an example of why editors are fucking jokes if this sort of thing passes muster at what is thought to be one of the best news agencies in the world.  Just absolutely bizarre and shocking, except it is also of a piece with their clumsy editorial policy of cowardice.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Johny Hendricks wants to make GSP "exciting", ignores reality

I know that the odds are with Hendricks in a way that they haven't been with a fighter, against GSP, since BJ Penn.  And with Weidman's victory over Silva, well, I'm sure that's added a heady air of optimism for Johny Hendricks and Alexander Gustafsson.  It's proof that these dudes aren't invincible.

That said, Hendricks has a big, big uphill battle.  The battle comes on two fronts.  The first is that he's fighting Georges St-Pierre and the second is that he's fighting Georges St-Pierre.

The problem is that GSP isn't like Hendricks other opponents in terms of technique.  There is probably no fighter in the UFC who is as technical in so many areas as GSP.  The guy has all the core strengths of MMA down at an expert level. 

I hope that Hendricks is spewing BS when he says stuff like all he wants to do against GSP is punch him in the face.  Because that's the plan of a moron and if he does that, GSP will handle him like a child.  Confidence is great, but taking your opponent's skills likely is just arrogance.

The second problem with fighting GSP will be when the cage door closes and he's in there against GSP.  I think the real difference between GSP and Hendricks is that GSP will fight a very smart fight.  You listen to one of his strategy guys, John Danaher, and he talks about how it's reductive to just say, "Oh, this guy's jujitsu is better than this other guy's, or his striking is better".  He talks about how they train for key transitional states and develop strategies for them.

Johny Hendricks has several key transitional states, shall we say.  Well, two.  In particular, he uses the threat of a takedown to cover for his crude striking technique.  This was in particular evidence in the Hendricks-Condit fight.  Pretty much every time Condit started to get off on his striking, Hendricks took the fight to the mat.  He couldn't hold it there, but he took Condit down time after time, which nerfed Condit's superior striking and opened the door for Hendricks to land strikes of his own - which he would not have otherwise been able to do.  The other key transitional state is Hendricks ability to cover distance to connect with an overhand right.

However, that's pretty much the catalog of his skills.  When being outstruck, take a person to the mat, and use the hesitation caused by his ability to take people down to use his ability to cover distance to connect with the right.

This is not a bad strategy.  It is, furthermore, a strategy that has been employed successfully by one of GSP's former opponents, Josh Koscheck.  It a great style . . . but styles make fights and Hendricks doesn't have a great track record against people with good takedown defenses.  He got a split decision against Koscheck and Mike Pierce and he lost to Rick Story.  Sure, he KO'd Fitch - but that has the air of a fluke, it happened in 12 seconds.  But, in general, he's struggled with wrestlers.

He has not, of course, fought an MMA wrestler of GSP's ability, because GSP has the best MMA wrestling skillset with the possible exception of Jon Jones.  GSP has a great takedown defense.  He's not going to be worried about Hendricks ability to take him down.  So one of the key transitional areas for Hendricks to win is going to be nullified by GSP's fantastic takedown defense.  Which leaves Hendricks ability to cover distance with the overhand right . . . and we know what GSP's defense against that is going to be.  He's going to jab.

If Hendricks goes in there thinking he can just re-fight the same fight he used against Condit, Koscheck, Pierce, etc., on GSP, that ignores the differences in the skillset that GSP has.  If he tries to fight the same fight - which, to be honest, he probably will because he always fights the same fight - he will likely find his offense stifled by GSP's command of those key transitional states, that GSP will have answers for the questions that Hendricks poses.

Which is the real crunch time for people who fight GSP.  It's the same dilemma that fighters have faced since GSP's striking has gotten really good, since after his defeat to Serra.  A fighter is very likely going to find themselves in a situation where the regular tools they use to win fights don't work.  Nick Diaz was not able to employ his rolling style of BJJ to grab an arm or leg to transition into a submission or sweep while GSP's control of distance nullified Diaz's boxing.  Condit was only briefly able to use his striking effectively against GSP.  Shields couldn't use his submission game and only showed as well as he did because of five pretty flagrant eye pokes that the ref did not see.  Koscheck could not close to land his overhand right or take GSP down.  Alves so feared GSP's shot that he did not aggressively pursue his leg kicks.

All of these fighters - with the momentary exception of Condit when he got the head kick against Georges - shut down when they realized how little they could do to him.  They withdrew into their shells and did not aggressively pursue an offensive strategy.  And waiting for GSP to make a mistake is, generally, an exercise in futility.

Hendricks is going to have to face that when the cage door closes.  He'll come at GSP for a little bit but he'll get his takedowns stuffed, he'll get jabbed when he tries to close the distance and there's a real good chance he will get taken down.  Then he will realize that nothing he has done in the past will work.  He needs to change things up, right then, right there.

A few fighters can do this - Jones showed it in his fights against both Machida and Evans.  I think Weidman has it, too, the ability to change the context of the fight into one that favors your abilities - Weidman headbutted Silva's hand!  How about that as a way to show your contempt for Anderson Silva's striking.  Dominick Cruz can do it, too.  But it's rare and Hendricks hasn't shown any abilities in that area.  He has one fight.  He fights that one fight.  And it's a good fight and if GSP wasn't there, it might be enough to make him a champion for a long time.  But the same could have been said of Jon Fitch.  Fitch fought a good fight and he was very good at fighting that fight.  He was on an 8 fight winning streak before GSP beat him, and then he had a five fight winning streak before his career kinna fell apart.  But since it was the same fight, when he got into the cage with Georges, Georges just hit him like a train.  There's a really good chance that Hendricks is going to be hit by a train, too, because a guy who fights one fight is like a gift to GSP.

And when Hendricks realizes this, there's a really good chance he won't "make GSP exciting" (though I would characterize it more as, "Hendricks won't make Hendricks exciting") as he clams up and his offense flags due to his inability to deal with the multifacted nature of GSP's skillset.  He'll stall and GSP will have to carry the fight and it's really hard to finish a guy when all he wants to do is make it out of the round standing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

MMA Junkie's "Twitter Mailbag" and the strategies of Anderson Silva

Ben Fowlkes over at hardly ever says anything even vaguely intelligent, but he brought up a point about the Silva-Weidman fight.  It's not a good point, but it is certainly a point.

People like me asserted that Silva held his hands down and clowned because Silva thought it was the best way to win.  It wasn't arrogance, but a strategem, one that Silva had used in the past quite successfully.

Fowlkes rejoinder was, on MMA Junkie's July 11th Twitter mailbag, is that it had to be arrogance because Silva could have no doubt employed other strategies against Weidman.  Silva tried this strategy, it didn't work, it clearly wasn't working, so to keep doing it was arrogance.

A few points.  The fight was barely six minutes long.  Something like two-and-a-half of those minutes were Weidman in total top domination.  Silva had barely three minutes of striking time.  My first rejoinder to Fowlkes would be that's not a lot of time to do something.  It isn't like Silva said, "Oh, this didn't work, I'll try this other thing, instead!"  It was more, like, "I'll clown him, HOLY SHIT I'M UNCONSCIOUS!"

Second, well, most fighters have only got a few effective strategies.  Silva has four.

1.  Striking from the outside.  Silva is a really good striker, very accurate and with KO power.  On the down side, he's not very aggressive and prefers to counterpunch.

2.  Striking from the outside plus clowning.  When a fighter won't engage aggressively, Silva taunts them into striking.

3.  Muay Thai clinch.  Silva had murderous knees.

4.  Bottom game Brazilian jiu jitsu that he employs when he's been taken down.

He has a fifth, ineffective strategy:

5. Jazz hands.

In his effective strategies, he tried three of them against Weidman.  He came out, in the first, in his usual stance.  He did not clown.  Weidman took him down.  Then Silva tried his bottom game BJJ.  Weidman was having none of that and utterly controlled Silva, passing his guard pretty easily.  Then, after Silva got out of a pretty rough spot with a kneebar, he got up and employed the striking plus clowning.

It's been a while since Silva has seriously gone for the plum clinch at all.  I'm not sure why he's gotten away from it, but he has.  However, it was the only common strategy Silva had left, though trying it with a wrestler wouldn't be the smartest move in his career, either.

I grant that the strategy that Silva committed the most to was the clowning.  But he did it for around three minutes.

The hands down strategy has the very good advantage for Silva of having his hands, right there, to push away an attempted takedown, too.  I think that was the primary reason Silva did it - because, no, he couldn't think of another way to win.  He has four effective strategies.  He tried outside striking but his raised hands left his legs too vulnerable to the shoot.  His BJJ was trivial compared to Weidman's top control.  Clinching with a wrestler is just asking to get taken down, and it isn't something Silva does, anymore.

I don't imagine that Fowlkes will read this, but I ask him: what is this magical new thing that Silva would do, that he hasn't done in 38 fights?  Is he really learning new techniques, especially when those four strategies have been enough for him to dominate middleweight?  I grant that his style has shifted, from the aggressive style typical of Chute Boxe fighters to one of the purest counterstrikers in MMA, but the development was reasonably slow.  It wasn't like he just tossed out the aggressive plum clinch and developed jazz hands, it was a progression, it was incremental.

In short, there was no reason to imagine that Silva would come into the Weidman fight with a hot new strategy.  He did come in with a modest revision of his hands down, clowning strategy - he's much better as using that to counter takedowns, which he also did against Sonnen in the second round of their second fight.  Part of that incremental change was an even more outrageous clowning than we've seen in the past, but it wasn't a tidal change in his style.  It was fairly vintage Silva, really.  I think it's facile to say that Silva had lots of options and it was his arrogance that made him choose that one.  I think he really thought it was the best way to win the fight, better than his other traditional strategies, because they had already failed.

I admit that Silva didn't test them very hard, but he tested none of them very hard, not even the clowning, because Weidman beat him so fast.

I suppose that is the structure of the piece, though.  "Twitter Mailbag".  What you do is take 300 characters that someone else has written and devote as much space as you want on a forum where you're the one in charge to refute those 300 characters.  It makes it very easy to appear clever when the person could neither fully develop their point in the first place due to Twitter's character limitations while you can respond at length in a forum where you're the authority figure.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bad news story of the day: MMA Underground's "Is the outrage over Cyborg really about aesthetics?"

In just bad news reporting, MMA Underground has an article that is titled "Is the outrage over Cyborg really about aesthetics?"  It mentions how Cris Cyborg seems to be excortiated for steroid use in a way that many other male fighters aren't.  He mentions how the most popular women's fighters - Gina Carano and now Ronda Rousey - are attractive as if it's relevant.  It is not.

But . . . what makes the article horrible isn't that it wonders if Cris Cyborg is being discriminated due to comparisons with prettier fighters.  What the article does is talk about how, y'know, when men are caught for steroid use it doesn't effect their popularity.

The question asked isn't if Cyborg is being discriminated against because she's not pretty but if she's being discriminated against because she's a woman.  Not because she's a not a pretty woman, but more because she fails to satisfy the criteria that most men have for "womanhood".

The answer to that is, "Well, duh, yeah."

A deeper analysis would talk about how men like to define acceptable womanhood and Cyborg has always been a contentious fighter because she destroys male stereotypes about what a woman should look like and how a woman should be.  The idea that a woman should be as physically powerful as a man, more than most men, with the kind of aggression in a fight that one associates with someone like Wanderlei Silva . . . well, that's disturbing to a lot of men.  That she then totally fails to court any particular image of conventional womanhood is doubly troubling - which is why male fight fans embrace fighters like Rousey and Carano, because while they fight, they still "look like women".  They don't challenge as many stereotypes about what a woman should "be", or, more precisely, what a man thinks a woman should be.

So when this unrepentant physical woman fighter, incredibly strong, not just for a woman but period, who has the kind of aggression we associate with the most terrifying fighters, who then goes on to reject most of the forms of womanhood - she doesn't try to go around pretty, she walks around pretty much exactly like any elite male athlete might go, lots of t-shirts and comfortable shoes, sexist men look for a reason to hate her.  Her steriods bounce merely gave them that rationale.  They can say she's bad for the sport, she's a cheat, so forth and so on, even when they're far less interested in condemning male fighters for the same misdeeds (much less the discussion about testosterone replacement therapy, where men can legally acquire anabolic steroids!).

The question isn't if Cris Cyborg is discriminated vis-a-vis other women.  It's simply how much she's being discriminated due to sexist bullshit.  (Right answer: a lot.)

So, bad article!  Bad!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Little known and never enforced MMA rule against foul and abusive language

There's been a lot of hay made over whether Anderson Silva was "disrespectful" of Chris Weidman.  I've argued, and I think pretty well, that, yeah, that Silva disrespected Weidman but as an intentional ploy.  That his hands down wasn't so much a sign of arrogance, but an attempt to drawn Weidman into a striking match where Silva thought he'd have the advantage.  But, without doubt, mocking your opponent openly is pretty disrespectful and it isn't the first time that Silva has done it.

However, MMA's rules are not particularly well enforced.  Unknown to almost everyone, including, it appears, both MMA referees and the president of the UFC, is a rule that says, using abusive language in the fenced ring or fighting area is a foul. 

I don't know what Silva said.  Vitor Belfort didn't like it, but he didn't specify and I don't speak Portuguese.  I do, however, speak English and a bunch of fighters use abusive language in the cage.  I'm lookin' at you, Diaz brothers.  They do it openly.  Just watch their fights and even though you can't see them, it doesn't take that much lip reading to see them calling their opponents pussies, bitches, punks, faggots and various other swear words, like fuck, that are generally regarded as abusive.  I don't know if Silva used abusive language - though it certainly looked like he did - but I do know that MMA . . . ignores it's own rules in this regard with great regularity.

More importantly than the question of whether or not Silva was disrespectful of Weidman, there's the issue of whether his behavior in that fight, and fights past, qualifies as a foul.  I'm pretty sure that could be determined.

For my own part, I don't really care if fighters swear at each other.  I find it slightly distasteful but I don't think it's a big deal.  However, what I hate is when rules are enforced selectively and we have the idiocy of seeing the president of the biggest MMA organization in the world pretending he doesn't know what "respect" is in the context of martial arts.  If there's a rule, enforce it.  If you don't want it to be a rule, take it out.  While you're at it, allow knee strikes to the heads of downed opponents.  That'll also clear up a bunch of messes and be awesome.

Monday, July 8, 2013

More BBC nonsense - their inability to understand what "murder" is

The BBC has a story, "Leaked report reveals Pakistan failures on Bin Laden", that says something everyone knows - a lot of people in Pakistan helped protect Bin Laden.  Duh.

But one of the things they say is, "A version of the report leaked to al-Jazeera says the killing of Bin Laden by US forces was a 'criminal act of murder' ordered by the US president."

Well, yes, when you send in your special forces into a country we are supposed to be allies with and those people then shoot an old man dead, yes, that's a criminal act of murder.  That's just fact.  It doesn't matter of it's Bin Laden or a sweet little old lady - the US President ordered troops into a country we are supposed to be allied with and they killed someone.  The designation of "enemy combatant" - even were it not a farcical term - does not give Obama the legal right to order executions in a foreign country with whom we are at peace.  What the US did is, indisputably, a criminal act of murder if you're actually bothering to go by the normal standards of international law.

(If you don't see that, do a little thought experiement and imagine how outraged people in the US would be if China send commandos into Nebraska where they then killed a murderer of Chinese people.  We wouldn't care if the guy was guilty.  It would be an intolerable violation of our sovereignty.  Everyone knows that China has no right to send soldiers into the United States to kill people, no matter who that person is, no matter if the Chinese government had designated that person an enemy of the people.  Just because Pakistan can't retaliate doesn't change the law.  It was just as illegal and immoral for us to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan as it would be for Chinese soldiers to kill an admittedly guilty person on US soil.)

The inability of newspapers to say things that are obvious and true is quite amazing.

BBC headline: "Egyptian interim leader calls for calm". Translation: "Forget the coup that happened and accept your new overlords".

The language of newspapers is, to me, fascinating.  So, the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party, with nearly half the seats in the Egyptian Parliament, "has accused the army of staging a coup".  To me, that's fascinating.  The BBC isn't calling the coup a coup, it's just reporting that some people in Egypt are calling it a coup.  Why the hesitation to call a spade a spade?  When the army tosses a constitution in the garbage, arrests a legally elected head-of-state and then puts their own stooge in power, that's a coup.  That's pretty much the dictionary definition of a coup.  But they can't call it that, they merely "report" that people in Egypt are calling it a coup.

Then, in a move that stunned, well, it didn't stun me, the Egyptian army committed a massacre.  But the BBC asks, "Who fired first?"  How about this, BBC, who fucking cares?  Even if the official story is true and the protesters tried to charge machinegun nests to overcome the Presidential Guard barracks - where the deposed leader of Egypt was reputed to be staying - the army is still the bad guys because the committed a coup!  That fact, that illegal, constitution destroying fact, justifies action against the tyrants who deposed a legally elected leader.  Even if the army was attacked, by fighting back against people moving to secure the legal President of Egypt merely worsens their crimes.  That they shot kids in the process is just icing on the cake.

The the absurdity increases.  There are just layers of newspeak going on.  The White House has said it is not aligned with any political movement in Egypt but cutting military aid to Egypt is not in US interests.  So . . . America isn't supporting any political movement, just the Egyptian army . . . ?  It's bafflingly stupid. As statements go it's literally self-contradictory, it literally contradicts itself in the same statement, but the BBC does not deign to notice the absurdity of what the White House said or what it reported.

And this is one of the most respected new sources in the world!  But they refuse to use common language to describe events, they dutifully report on things that make absolutely no sense without also reporting that it makes no fucking sense.  That Washington is spewing out statements that make no sense is, itself, a story, guys!  It's a story that Washington is lying, saying one thing ("We don't support any political group in Egypt!") while doing another ("Giving weapons to the very army that performed the coup.").  That's relevant, but unreported.

It's fascinating and black humor all at the same time.

No more MMA superfights! This is a good thing.

While I'm busy recapping my various feelings, Silva's loss means that all the nonsense around "superfights" is off. 

Mostly, superfights are a stupid idea.  If Silva wanted to fight at welterweight, he would have fought at welterweight.  If GSP wanted to fight at middleweight, he would . . . assuming either fighter could either cut the weight or gain it to meaningfully participate in the other weight class.  We will no longer be subjected to the spectacle of Anderson Silva wanting to fight GSP, while dodging Jon Jones.  We will no longer see GSP make excuses about why this isn't the time to fight Anderson Silva, where he'd probably have twenty or twenty-five pound weight disadvantage . . . which is, no doubt, the same reason why Silva wasn't so hot to fight the bigger Jon Jones.

Now that lynchpin is pulled.  Silva is no longer desireable as some sort of superfight contender.  GSP won't be dodging him, Silva won't be dodging Jones.  The fighters can fight at their own weight classes and I'm, generally, comfortable with that.

(Yes, I KNOW that boxers often fight above their weight classes.  But boxing isn't like MMA in some serious ways, in this regard.  In particular, there are several promotions that have a fair bit of credibility and because boxers have so much control over their opponents, they can sorta . . . pick and choose.  And they do.  Which has it's good points and bad points, but boxers fighting above their best weight is often akin to something that can never happen in MMA - it would be like GSP going over to Bellator and kicking Alexander Shlemenko's ass.  It changes the complexion of fighting at different weight classes entirely if that sort of thing was possible.  The UFC dominated top talent in MMA, so there's no fudging around the different promotional championships to look for different kinds of championship fights.  I'm not judging the way boxing does things, but boxers do have this privilege.  So when Manny Pacquiao goes up in weight, he decides, more or less, who he's going to fight, not the guys who run the promotion.  This is a huge difference between how fights are made in boxing and how they're made in MMA.)

So, now Silva can either focus on a rematch with Weidman or take other fights, almost certainly as a middleweight, GSP can worry about dudes like Hendricks, Ellenberger, MacDonald - he's got things to do at welterweight, which has a large talent pool.  Jon Jones can beat up more people at light heavyweight, if they can find them, or go up to heavyweight without the specter of a "superfight" looming.  Let's set about that business.

Anderson Silva did not fight most of the best middleweights

As part of my series about burying Anderson Silva, I think it is important to realize that Silva didn't fight many of the best middleweights in the world, because arrogance kept them up at light heavyweight.

Fighters who SHOULD have been fighting at middleweight but can't resist the allure of being one of the big guys include: Shogun Rua, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans.  All of these guys are about normal sized for middleweights.  Much of Silva's best competition never fought him because of, well, ego and an unwillingness to cut weight.

It's hard to emphasize enough how bad Anderson Silva's competition has been.  Even guys like Sonnen, who had the skillset to beat him, suffered this bizarre contempt for BJJ and a kind of mental weakness - watch the second fight, after Sonnen misses with the spinning backfist, he falls down and sits there.  Like you can take a break in a championship fight!  And even guys like Dan Henderson - I mean, I love you, Hendo, but I'm going to be frank, here - well, he's 6-4 in the UFC . . . and if you discount his UFC 17 wins, back in 1998, he's 4-4; that's not the profile of a great UFC fighter, Dan's best years were in Pride).  And so many of Silva's fights have been against downright bad fighters, because so many of the best middleweights weren't fighting middleweight.  Not just Shogun, Machida and Evans, but guys like Michael Bisping and Tim Boetsch were wasting their time at light heavyweight for far too long.  But when Yushin Okami or Thales Leites seems a convincing championship title fight choice, let's face it, your division sucks.

(Even Vitor Belfort, who has been looking like a beast in his last two fights, well, we should remember his pretty . . . mediocre UFC record.  If you look at his fights after his first run in the UFC (when the sport was almost nothing like what it is, now), he's 7-5 and has never had more than a two fight winning streak in the UFC.  Sure, he's a good fighter, but thinking of him as a great fighter requires a lot of slight of hand.)

Compare to, say, GSP's opponents.  Jon Fitch was 15-4-1 in the UFC.  Josh Koscheck is 15-7.  Matt Hughes is 16-6.  GSP's next opponent, Johny Hendricks, is 10-1 in the UFC.  But even when you compare the best fighters in Silva's fightography you find that . . . their records are pretty mediocre.

Compare THAT to the UFC records of Lyoto Machida (11-3 in the UFC) and Rashad Evans (13-3-1) - bearing in mind both fighters are fighting above their weight class!

Silva is a very good fighter.  But when you look at the relative level of his competition, it really stinks and, specifically, key fighters who should have been fighting at middleweight were fighting at light heavyweight.  This tendency for fighters who should fight at middleweight to fight at light heavyweight has made LHW a very interesting division, but drained MW of most of it's best talent.  In many ways, MW is where fighters who can't win at LHW go, since so many LHWs are small for the weight class.

Dana White is the UFC's big daddy, alright

One of the things I like the least about the UFC is how Dana White act the role of big daddy to all of the fighters.  Not only do I dislike that on a personal level and think it should be, well, illegal (and I think that many UFC fights have a real case to make for workplace harassment, which I believe is related), but it has hurt the career of fights I like, who have no interest in playing into Dana's daddy issues.  Fights like Jon Fitch and Roy Nelson have had their careers effected in large ways because of their unwillingness or inability to treat Dana White like their big daddy.

It can be hard to pin that down, though, that Dana sees himself as the patriarch to his fighter employees.  But, recently, he's showed his hand more than a little with Chris Leben.

Talking about Leben, Dana said, "His fight style isn't healthy for him, the way that he fights.  He's getting up there in age, and the big layoffs don't help him either.  I don't know. I've got to figure. I've got to figure out what I think will be best for him, which people hate when I say that and do that."

So, Dana has to figure out what's best for a 32 year old man, because White thinks that Leben's lifestyle isn't healthy for him?  Where does Dana White get the moral authority to make those kinds of decision for another adult?  Oh, he's the UFC's big daddy.

Look, Dana, I dig it that you love Chris Leben.  But you're not his father.  You're his boss.  And the right choice is easy.  Leben is shot.  He doesn't have what it takes to be in the UFC.  We all knew this day would come, and that it would come sooner rather than later because of his problems with substance abuse and his fighting style.  Yes, if you fire Leben, he'll have to cope with that, but he's an adult.  Yes, he has had problems with alcohol and drugs but there's nothing you can do to fix that.  Chris Leben has to fix it.  Like you, Dana, I wish him all the best, that he can find it inside of himself to stay away from booze and drugs.  I absolutely wish him the best and I recognize the road is long and hard.  But you're his boss. 

If you really want to be his friend and help him, fire him.  Then still be his friend, but don't expect it to be the same when you're not the guy signing his paychecks, when he's got no reason to think of you as an authority figure.  But it is cruel to keep him in the UFC to maintain your paternal hold over him.

Anyway, the idea that Dana White feels the moral authority to make decisions about Leben's health and well-being, rather than sticking to his fucking job as the president of the UFC, making decisions based on athletic and business criteria, is a pretty clear indication that Dana sees himself as more than his employee's boss - that he sees himself as a father figure to the fighters in his employee.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chris Weidman does not need a rematch with Anderson Silva - that's absurd

Sometimes, it's vexing that only ten people read my posts, but I'll say it anyway: Chris Weidman does not need a rematch against Anderson Silva.  Weidmen, okay, I'm going to say this but it's true, Weidman dominated Silva.  When Anderson held up his hands, Chris took him down.  When Anderson kept his hands down, Weidman knocked him the fuck out.  I am not here to praise Silva but to bury him.

Silva is, without doubt, a great MMA fighter.  But let's face it, he's had just about as much luck as a man could have in his opponents.  Most of his opponents would have been gatekeepers, at best, in other weight classes - and we have examples of this, such as Demain Maia and Nate Marquart.  While Maia has done well at welterweight, Marquart has done less son; neither looks like championship material.  The subsequent careers of people like Patrick Cote and Thales Leites should indicate, as well, how absolutely mediocre many of Silva's opponents have been.  Travis Lutter didn't make weight for their championship tilt - he didn't make weight for a championship fight! - and he was weak and slow during the whole fight.  Yushin Okami has always been a C+ fighter, good at nothing in particular, but he's big and strong.

His notable wins are against Dan Henderson, a fighter whom I adore but has never been able to do as well in the Octogon as in other promotions, a pre-TRT Vitor Belfort and the workmanlike champion, Rich Franklin.  When one looks at the killer's row that every other champion (with the exception of heavyweight, which has always been the weakest division) has faced, Silva's opponents have been, generally, a sorry lot.

The only person who had Silva really threatened, before Weidman, was Chael Sonnen.  But Sonnen's contempt for Brazilian jiu jitsu cost him the first fight with a bare two minutes to go and Sonnen's mental collapse during their second fight lost him the battle, there.  Sonnen had all the physical skills to beat Silva but few of the mental ones.  Sonnen chokes at the highest levels of competition.

Silva's non-middleweight fights are worse.  James Irving?  Who cares?  Oh, then there is the mediocre Stephan Bonnar - an amusing fighter, at times, but why on earth was he in the same fucking cage as Anderson Silva?  Silva's luck abounds with his opponents.  (As it did with Forrest Griffin, too, who fought a stupid fight, winging shots, overreaching as Silva danced around him, rather than using his greater size and strength to take it to the ground where Griffin could have won the fight.  But, nope, Griffin dispensed with the kind of strategy that allowed him to beat Rampage and decided, instead, get into a fist fight with Silva!  If he'd fought that way against Rampage, the fight would have ended the same way.  Lucky, lucky Silva.)

Furthermore, what Silva did he did for a reason.  It was not hubris or arrogance.  In the first round, when Silva had his hands up, Weidman took him down and beat the shit out of him.  Silva has had, traditionally, good head movement, and with his hands down, he was in a much better position to stuff Weidman's takedowns.  Silva has won fights with shadow punches but it was clear Weidman had trained against that - he was not hurt by Silva at all.  But the strategy that Silva employed was out of necessity.  He needed his hands down to stay on his feet, which he needed to do to win, and he clowned around to try and get Weidman to charge in, swinging, so he could catch him with a shadow punch.  Alas, because for perhaps the first time in Silva's career, he fought a fighter who had actually prepared to fight him (including, apparently, dealing with Silva clowning him), one who had prepared to fight the fight that Silva fights . . . and he dominated.  Weidman dominated on the ground, he dominated standing up.  Weidman is the better fighter, or at least he was this time.

Rematch with Silva?  Yeah, Weidman beats Silva up in the first round, knocks him out in the second.  There is no need for a rematch.  Weidman ran away with it.

Facile reporting interpretations of Silva vs. Weidman

I also find it very interesting how superficial the fight analysis is - no one is really saying that Silva put his hands down for a reason, to help him sprawl out against Weidman's shot.  When Silva had his hands up, Weidman took him down.  When Silva had his hands down, he was able to sprawl out from the shot.  It's the dilemma that a striker fights a grappler.  If a striker unloads on the grappler, they've basically got one chance to win - a "puncher's chance".  Alternately, they can try to develop a strategy to stop the takedown from happening.  Silva did something he'd done before, something he did against Chael Sonnen and Forrest Griffin.  Put your hands down to push against the shoulders of a wrestler coming in for the shoot while trying to goad them into a fist fight.

They are also saying that Silva was arrogant (someone even used hubris) in the fight.  It wasn't arrogance on Silva's part.  He had done this very successfully in the past.  (And with middling results, too.  Demian Maia and Thales Leites refused to fall into the trap, which gave us weird, boring fights with Silva clowning to the point of absurdity.)  The difference between the clowning with Demian Maia, Thales Leites, Chael Sonnen and Forrest Griffin is that Chris Weidman has knockout power.  This dude hits hard, he can knock dudes out.  But the strategy Silva used he used against other fighter's, too, guys who definitely had the ability to beat him, like Sonnen.

Almost no one seems to have seen this.  It's the mystique of Silva.  The UFC has told us so often, it's been a constant loop, that Anderson Silva is an unbeatable killing machine, the greatest fighter of all time, blah, blah, blah.  This mystique has been a tremendous boon to Silva's career but as a result we don't really talk about the giant hole in Silva's game - wrestling - and how really good takedowns and a really good takedown defense change a fight.  We talk about it all the time with other fighters.  GSP fights a great striker, they frequently aren't that great because they're always worried about the takedown.  Or how Johny Hendricks can really swing bombs at dudes because he's so hard to take down.  Likewise, it is taken as normal when a very good striker fights a takedown artist that the striker's striking is going to be messed up.  This dilemma is well-known and well understood.  It's why Sonnen did as well with the striking as he did against Silva, it's why Weidman knocked Silva out, it's why Silva didn't put away Maia and Leites.  But to mention such things is to ice skate uphill against the UFC hype machine who has presented Silva as immune to the normal forces that shape fights.

Of course, it is no news to me that reporters suck.  Most of my posts are about how badly reporters suck, one way or the other.  You're probably not going to get very far as an MMA writer if you critique the UFC's hype machine.  Since almost no one wants to talk about the extent to which they are effected by advertising, to go against the UFC's hype machine is to align yourself against ideas that have been internalized not only by the audience but by other writers and editors of MMA journals.  You're stuck, like me, out here in the fringe.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The BBC's offfensive lines

It happened, again, a story so bafflingly stupid that it makes my toes curl.  In the BBC, there is a story, "The offensive line", that is about crime and NFL players.  In it, they conclude - mind you, conclude - that because the arrest rate of NFL players is 1 in 47 (instead of 1 in 6 for their age and gender cohort) that NFL players behalf considerably better than the average person.

At no point does anyone consider, even briefly, any intervening hypothesis as to why NFL players should be arrested 1/7th as often as men of their age.  Such as, perhaps, that NFL players are not likely to be arrested because they're professional sports figures, not to mention rich.

I grant, that sort of questioning requires both the ability to ask questions and the desire to do research, but both seem in slight demand in newspapers.  Still, the idea that professional athletes, along with other rich and famous people, are given numerous breaks by law enforcement isn't a real reach, not to mention the ability to hide many crimes that comes along with wealth - when you live in a big house with good soundproofing on a large lot and all your neighbors do the same, well, not a lot of calls get made when you disturb the peace . . . or beat the shit out of your girlfriend.  (All NFL players are rich.  Their base pay is around $400K a year.)

I mean, every time I read a biography of a sports figure, I'm just stunned at the crazy shit they get away with, shit I am quite sure would get me arrested for everything from rape to assault if I did it.  Likewise, my friends who have been college athletes just have crazy stories of fights and crazy parties where the cops came by but, well, it's the college football team, so they just got off with a warning.  So, both in sports biographies and according to my personal experience, yeah, athletes get off real light from the authorities.

So, it isn't reaching to say that perhaps there's a reason why NFL players aren't arrested as much as their poorer, less famous cohorts.  Yea, verily, an obvious reason.  But why bother actually researching something.  It's much easier to find some raw data and write a couple of hundred words off the top of your head.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bad news and the case of Morsi in Egypt

Generally speaking, the new reporting, newspapers, news TV and news blogs are bad.  I don't delude myself into thinking it was ever any good, generally.  Newspapers have always been owned by people who shaped their papers according to their interests - from William Randolph Hearst to Rupert Murdoch, from the New York Times to the BBC.

The BBC is where I am starting this little adventure.  In Egypt, they have had a lot of anti-democratic protests that have lead to the Egyptian army ousting the legally elected President of Egypt, suspending the Egyptian Constitution and installing a stooge.  As of me writing this, the BBC, nor any news source I've seen, has called this an anti-democratic military coup that demonstrates the lack of both democracy and the rule of law in Egypt.  The Egyptian army is now in the business of deposing civilian leaders as they see fit.  Egypt is a de facto military oligarchy, a banana republic, with elections and the rule of law a farce.

For some reason, the BBC - my primary news source - doesn't seem to recognize the banana republic nature of Egypt or the generally recognized belief that military oligarchic dictatorships are horrible forms of government even when they seem to be supporting populist causes.  That support is entirely coincidental.  Almost always, military oligarchies end up in civil war as either they shift from supporting populist causes to opposing them for their own gain and/or the colonels who run the military carve out their own private fiefdoms and start squabbling with each other.  The fact that Egypt is quite likely set on a course of protracted civil strife and/or warlordism is simply not brought up because, I think, the narrative that the recent populist uprisings in the Middle East - the so-called Arab Spring - are essentially benevolent and democratic in character, rather than the horrible clusterfuck that has made Egypt, in whole, an even worse place than when under more stable forms of dictatorship.

It's like when we in the West don't like a government, we have this incredibly, just shockingly naive view that any revolution is a good one.  Which is why in Afghanistan we supported al-Qaida and the Taliban, why we supported Saddam Hussein against Iran, why we supported the brutal Shah of Iran in murdering Mossedegh, why we propped Manuel Noriega's rule in Panama, the list just goes on and on.  We think that because we don't like a ruler that anyone resisting that rule must be a-okay.

We're currently making the same mistake in Syria, too.  Is Assad a tyrant?  Yes.  But there's a lot of reason to think the rebels are every bit as tyrannical as Assad and anti-West.  Oh, plus, it could start another cold war with Russia and China.  But here we are, supporting crazy religious zealots against a secular tyrant because we dislike Syria's persistent autonomy and it's unwillingness to line up as a client state of the US.

Likewise, we're praising the Egyptian army's impending warlordism and Egypt's civil strife even as the supposed Arab Spring turns more and more into an Arab Winter as sectarian violence grips the area.  Even as religious hostilities in Iraq increase, and the American withdrawal from Afghanistan highlights how little power the Kabul government has, even as our missile strikes into Pakistan continue to destabilize that country socially and politically, as war rages in Syria, as demonstrations get violent in Turkey, the newspapers are essentially reporting that the destruction of the rule of law and the rule of colonels in a banana republic in Egypt are a good thing.