Photo Credit: Esther Lin/MMA Fighting
In a land once popularized in a Tom Green (remember him?) song – “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)” – the Ultimate Fighting Championship brings a Fight Night card that will hopefully bring more attention than a song about a Canadian’s ass.
The first FOX card of the new year, UFC Fight Night: Sweden, brings the national stage of FOX overseas and gives America a glimpse into the UFC’s ongoing overseas expansion. But unlike previous UFC overseas cards, this one is not short on star power. Let’s see if a clear-cut no. 1 contender for Jon Jones’ light heavyweight title will emerge.
Akira Corassani (16-4-1) vs. Sam Sicilia (13-5) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
This is a matchup of The Ultimate Fighter alumni, with both guys coming off losses and Corassani coming off back-to-back losses to Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier. Corassani’s also been finished early in both fights, while Sicilia is coming off a submission loss. In a crowded featherweight division, a knockout or submission victory would go a long way toward boosting either of these gentlemen’s stock. I like Sicilia to finish Corassani and possibly give him his walking papers after three straight losses.
Winner: Sicilia by second-round TKO
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis (13-2) vs. Ryan “Darth” Bader (19-4) (Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs.)
Both of these guys are poised for another run at the top of the light heavyweight division. Both of these guys are coming off victories and actually faced each other in college when Davis wrestled for Penn State and Bader wrestled for Arizona State. Davis uses his wrestling to smother opponents and grind out unanimous decision victories, while Bader uses his wrestling when necessary but also has lethal knockout power.
I expect Davis to try and get this fight to the ground early, and if he succeeds I think he can use his reach advantage and athleticism to keep Bader down. Bader must keep this fight standing to have a chance, and I think he will avoid the temptation to avenge his college loss to Davis by engaging in another wrestling match. I like Bader to land more shots and score an upset victory.
Winner: Bader by unanimous decision
Dan “Hendo” Henderson (30-12) vs. Gegard Mousasi (35-5-2) (Middleweight – 185 lbs.)
Henderson returns to middleweight after a mostly ill-fated run at light heavyweight, including being tossed around like a rag doll and submitted by Daniel Cormier in his last fight. Simply put, if Henderson can’t land his patented “H-Bomb” right hand for a knockout, he’s easily susceptible to defeat.
I think the wars of years past are finally catching up to Henderson. He will go down as one of the greatest fighters ever not to hold a UFC title, but he simply can’t keep up with the sport’s elite any more. He will leave himself open when wanting to drop the H-Bomb, and Mousasi will take advantage.
Winner: Mousasi by third-round submission
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (16-2) vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (18-4) (Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs.)
The winner of this fight will receive the next shot at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and it would represent a rematch for Gustafsson. He took Jones closer to defeat than anyone else has during their epic 2013 matchup. Depending on who ask, some people think the Swede actually won that fight.
Johnson is rapidly ascending the 205-pound ladder after knocking out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and scoring an upset win over Phil Davis to begin his climb. Johnson also has devastating knockout power and if he lands one such shot on Gustafsson, the Swede’s road to redemption is derailed. But I think Gustafsson uses his reach advantage (which is nearly identical to Jones) to keep Johnson at bay and make Johnson go a full five rounds.
Gustafsson’s striking in the 205-pound division is second to none, and I like him to land enough of those to secure a rematch with Jones later this year.
Winner: Gustafsson by unanimous decision
Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also contributes his thoughts to our site on the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.
UPDATED 1/19/2015 with full interview video:
By: Rich Bergeron
For Mixed Martial Arts fans enthralled by the controversy surrounding Jon Jones and the accidental test that snagged him in a cocaine scandal, “The Interview” is not a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen.
The above clip shows just a few snippets of the full Fox Sports 1 sit-down session surrounding the results of a December 4th “out of competition” test that most MMA fans around the world are now all too familiar with. For those on a different planet who didn’t hear the news, the test revealed Jones had cocaine metabolites in his system.
Tonight, Jones is appearing in a long-awaited “come to Jesus” moment in front of the cameras, but instead of Barbara Walters asking the questions, it’s Charissa Thompson. The Jones Interview is slated for an 11PM EST time slot, long after all the little kids who look up to him go to bed. For more details on what will be covered, check out this preview put out by Fox in advance.
It didn’t take very long after reports of the positive test surfaced for the Scarface jokes , memes and parodies to start circulating. Though the situation is far from funny to many folks who are truly disgusted by these developments, it’s really hard not to laugh at some of the stuff plastered all across the Twitterverse about Jones. Making matters worse are reports that the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion spent only 24 hours in rehab, but folks on Twitter once again found a few ways to poke fun at that development as well:
The one promising development to come out of the whole situation is that the UFC finally stepped up and levied some limited punishment on Jones. Though it seems a day late and a few thousand dollars short, the promotion hit their poster boy with a $25,000 fine and issued the following statement:
“Jones tested positive for cocaine during an out-of-competition drug test conducted by the Nevada Athletic Commission on Dec. 4, 2014. The $25,000 will be donated to a substance abuse prevention program.
The UFC came to this decision after reviewing the facts surrounding the issue, and after receiving confirmation from the Nevada Athletic Commission that Jones passed all required drug tests following his bout at UFC 182 on Jan. 3.”
Did the UFC just remember they have a code of conduct they require all their contracted athletes to follow? It’s a fair question, but complicating matters is the fact that the Nevada Athletic Commission technically overstepped their bounds by even subjecting Jones to a test for something that is not actually banned in an out of competition environment. The UFC’s legal bigwigs had to take a step back and figure out how to defend whatever punishment Jones would face in light of the test.
A code of conduct violation seemed like an open and shut case to most experts, but making the penalty too costly would likely give Jones an avenue to dispute the fine. All he would have to do is call attention to the athletic commission referring to the test itself as an “administrative oversight.” Making the fine into a donation seems like a great way to prevent any legal challenge by Jones.
Still, regardless of which side of this issue you are on, the whole incident smacks of unhealthy favoritism shown by the UFC toward Jones. It’s easy to imagine someone who fights on the UFC’s preliminary cards getting immediately thrown out of the organization if caught in the same situation. Yet, Jones is slapped on the wrist with a minimal fine and literally given high praise for confronting the issue like the champion he is. He even gets to go on national television and explain why he “messed up.”
Even though most cases involving UFC fighters who tested positive for pot in recent years involve completely different scenarios regarding in competition tests, Dana White did not come out in any of those instances talking about how much those fighters needed help. He did not line up any interviews for any of those fighters with a major network the UFC has a multi-million dollar broadcasting deal with.
Some Jones fans might argue that most of the harsher penalties dished out for marijuana users were cases of repeat offenders. Granted, this is a first offense for Jones when it comes to drug testing. Yet, we also cannot ignore the fact that he wrapped his Bentley around a telephone pole, earning a DUI, a few thousand dollars in fines and penalties (including $7,000 to replace the pole) and a six-month driver’s license suspension for his actions on the morning of May 19, 2012. There was no official punishment by the UFC for the crash. He was allowed to defend his title in September of the same year.
It’s hard to imagine even the best athletes in any other sport getting the same treatment by their bosses. Consider the case of Diego Maradona, arguably the best soccer player ever. He was suspended from the sport for 15 months in 1991 after failing a drug test due to cocaine. Back in 2007, Martina Hingis tested positive for the same metabolites found in Jones, but her levels were actually below the acceptable level in the United States military’s drug screening protocol. The International Tennis Federation still suspended her for two years. These are two sports where the stated objective is not to hurt your opponent in order to win. MMA is a different animal, and even in training fighters can often get hurt.
Even though “out of competition” does not include the official fight a particular mixed martial artist is paid to compete in, it’s a period when a great deal of sparring could happen. Though few would argue cocaine is a performance enhancing drug, there’s a reason the phrase “hopped up on cocaine” is so common. If Jon Jones was under the influence of the drug during any training sessions where sparring occurred, he could have put himself and/or his sparring partner in serious danger. Not to mention the damage a long-term cocaine habit can do to a person. Though he insists he’s not an addict, that’s a common refrain of people who have serious drug problems.
Many times, people in positions like Jones just cannot handle the fame and attention that comes with stardom. They then turn to mind numbing substances of the legal and illegal variety. It’s easy to understand why Jones is having these issues, but at the same time it is all the more necessary to refuse to give him such an easy way out.
Even more so than the average Joe who ends up experimenting with drugs, someone like Jones can easily afford to have a really bad habit, and he has every reason to hide it from the general public. This means the hallmark of addiction–using while alone–could conceivably be concealed by Jones for a long period of time.
Offering up minimal punishment, acting like it’s not a serious problem, and allowing him to go on the record to officially deny he has any problem with cocaine could be extremely detrimental to his recovery. This is especially true if he indeed does have a serious problem that he’s trying so hard to avoid admitting.
The worst part of this whole scenario, though, is the message sent by the revelation that there is no hard rule forbidding cocaine use out of competition, at least as far as the Nevada Athletic Commission is concerned. I doubt many mixed martial artists or boxers knew that before this incident made headline news. Now they do, and that could create a very serious problem.
Fighters often come from harsh backgrounds, and instead of perpetuating the behavior that only leads to jail, they turn to fighting to escape from drugs and crime. This incident makes it clear to every fighter who might have refused to get involved with cocaine in the past that he or she can now get away with doing it on a whim, once or twice, or whenever they are not fighting. How many of these fighters will jump right back into that old lifestyle once they get to the edge of the cliff?
How many lives could potentially be destroyed, how many role models will be exposed as frauds, and how many careers will be permanently derailed because fighters now know without a doubt that they can do illegal drugs of all kinds as long as it’s not detected in that small “in competition” window? We will never know, because as it stands we can’t know. We’re not supposed to know. That way the scourge stays forever hidden, which is where drug use and abuse festers and grows more rampant and dangerous to the user and those around him or her.
Whether Jones is an addict or not doesn’t matter. The fact is, he made a bad choice that countless fighters could make if put in the same position. Sometimes it just takes one poor decision to start a downward spiral that only ends in tragedy. Treating this guy differently just because he can get in the cage and throw down with the best in his division is a recipe for disaster.
Even if it’s a six-month suspension from the sport, something more should be done by the UFC to send a different and more important message. The UFC needs their fighters to know this is not OK, will not be tolerated, and should not be repeated by anyone on their roster. The company does not need their fighters thinking that the higher level of fame and status they earn in the sport means the more troubling behavior they can get away with.
This whole idea that stardom or athletic prowess equates to special treatment is exactly what gives the NFL so many headaches every year and puts so many celebrities in early graves. Fighters are supposed to be held to a higher standard, and the best message to send is one that shows it is better to avoid all intoxicants and troubling behavior if you want to be successful in combat sports. Accidents and mistakes happen to the best of people who have the strongest character, but these tiny molehills can become mountain ranges when left unchecked.
I would really like to see the UFC bite the bullet and bring in an organization like the World Anti-Doping Agency to do the kind of random drug testing they once promised they would subject all fighters on their roster to. That testing should include random tests for illegal street drugs in addition to PEDs. If the company brass really cared more about the fighters than their own financial bottom lines, they would want to know how many of their employees don’t have a problem and just need “help.”
Photo Credit: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
By Chris Huntemann, Columnist
Mixed martial arts is a funny thing. Some people who compete in it can become instant stars after one fight. All they need is one opportunity to show what they can do. For Maryland MMA fighter Ron “Choirboy” Stallings, that opportunity may come Sunday night at UFC’s Fight Night card in Boston.
Stallings, who trains with Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, Md., agreed to step in on a week’s notice to face Uriah Hall on Sunday night’s card. Hall is a veteran of season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and is known for highlight reel knockouts, particularly this one.
Stallings carries a record of 12-6 into his fight with Hall with bouts in multiple regional organizations and on Strikeforce’s Challenger series under his belt. He is, however, coming off a unanimous decision loss for his fight on Sunday night. But, when the UFC comes calling with an opportunity, it doesn’t matter if you’ve won or lost your last fight. You take full advantage of it.
Multiple media outlets mentioned Stallings stepping in to face Hall, including MMA Fighting and FOX Sports. I reached out to Stallings personally to see if he could contribute a few thoughts on his first UFC appearance. If I get a response, I’ll post them to this blog.
UPDATE: Stallings shared some thoughts with me via Twitter Friday night through one of his teammates, who is handling his social media accounts.
“The experience has been great so far and the UFC has treated me very well,” Stallings said. Stallings’ coach, Master Lloyd Irvin, learned that Hall’s previous opponent dropped out and contacted Sucker Punch Entertainment, who facilitated Stallings stepping in to face Hall.
“This opportunity is really a dream come true for me, my team and my family. I really look forward to fighting on Sunday,” Stallings said.
June White (@JuneWhiteMMA) will join Tom, Tony and Rich on the FNU Combat Sports Show Thursday to discuss her unauthorized biography on the UFC President known for his brash language and a ruthless approach to building and expanding the UFC brand. Her book is an unflattering, honest look into the life of the former boxercise instructor who now rules over the UFC with an iron fist and a loud mouth. Check out this telling YouTube Promo for “Dana White, King of MMA:”
“Psychic” Tom Padgett, “Rabble Rousin'” Rich Bergeron and Tony “The Tornado” Penecale also have a ton of combat sports events and news to discuss this week. Boxing will be a huge part of the conversation. From Al Haymon’s new NBC Sports venture, to Deontay Wilder’s bout with Bermane Stiverne for the WBC Heavyweight championship this weekend, to Roc Nation’s merger with Gary Shaw Promotions, to the increasing likelihood that Manny Pacquiao will finally fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2nd, there’s a ton of buzz surrounding the sport of boxing right now.
We’ll also discuss this Sunday’s UFC Fight Night event in Boston featuring Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver in the main event and Donald Cerrone vs. Benson Henderson in the co-featured bout. Bellator also kicks off the 2015 Season this Friday with Patricio Pitbull taking on Daniel Straus in the main event.
Click Here to Listen to our broadcast Live from 8-10PM EST Thursday night.
Click on the book photo above to order June’s book.
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