Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

Chael Sonnen: Bad guy or great promoter?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

Dana White recently made a bold statement about UFC middleweight contender and wrestling dynamo Chael Sonnen. White claimed he’s “never seen anyone who can talk like this guy can since Muhammad Ali. Seriously. Since Muhammad Ali – the stuff that just comes right off the top of his head, and is hilarious. And you don’t know what’s real and what’s not real.”

I don’t want to join the Sonnen/Ali debate at the moment. Instead, I’d like to latch on to the end of White’s comment. We don’t know what’s real and what’s not real. That’s what interests me so much about Chael Sonnen. As much as he’s developed a villain persona – it’s hard not to when you’re busted for banned substances and money laundering – I wonder how much of his brash personality is the real Chael.

In fact, I’d go as far as staking a claim that Sonnen is not the bad boy he builds himself up to be and is instead simply one of the sport’s hardest-working promoters. It’s true that he says utterly shocking things – about the Nogueira brothers and the nation of Brazil, for example. And he’s made his share of bizarre and often disrespectful talk-show appearances. But consider these pieces of evidence that it may be an act:

1.  He never trash talks about his friends. Look at Brian Stann and Mark Munoz, Sonnen’s most recent conquest and his upcoming opponent. Sonnen has personal relationships with both and made a point of not only saying nothing bad about them, but singing their praises (in Stann’s case).

2. He showed a nice- guy side at UFC 136 with an 11-year-old boy. The boy’s father published a heartfelt defense of Sonnen, chronicling how Sonnen took his son behind the scenes of an event, introduced him to fighters, signed autographs, posed for photos and took him to the section where the fighters sit as spectators. The story is actually backed up with video evidence (in a blog in which Sonnen is inadvertently seen and heard with the boy in the background). What’s most interesting about it is that the UFC made no attempt to publicize it, almost as if it didn’t want news of Sonnen being benevolent to get out and tarnish his villainous image.

3. He has reportedly turned down the latest opportunity to coach The Ultimate Fighter. Why would Sonnen, the mouth of all mouths, refuse the ultimate chance to have the spotlight to himself? My theory: because he’s actually a nice guy. He’d be exposed as a good coach and be seen genuinely helping fighters.

The evidence is circumstantial at best – but I believe Sonnen is a normal guy behind the scenes who simply plays the bad guy, just as a WWE wrestler does. If he was truly a villain, we wouldn’t find contradictory examples of him being a nice guy. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Dana White and the UFC were in on it.

Whether he’s for real or not – I say keep up the good work, Chael. At least in MMA, there isn’t a better mouth today.

The top three wrestlers in MMA today

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

After debating with some friends over whether or not Georges St-Pierre is MMA’s best wrestler, it got me wondering: who would be my picks for the top three active practitioners in every MMA discipline? I’ll start with wrestling.

1. Chael Sonnen

Is he MMA’s most experienced wrestler? He’s a former Greco-Roman national champion and was dominant wrestling at the University of Oregon. His takedowns are explosive and he regularly manhandles bigger guys on the ground. Just ask Nate Marquardt and Brian Stann.

2. Georges St-Pierre

If the Canadian Olympic team wants you to try out, you know you’re a pretty good wrestler. Georges St-Pierre has transitioned smoothly from a Karate practitioner to a guy who relies more on boxing and especially wrestling to win fights. Unlike Sonnen, he works hard to pass once he’s on top and in an opponent’s guard, but Sonnen gets my No. 1 spot because of his experience edge in pure wrestling.

3. Cain Velasquez

Because the weight range is so wide, we see bigger size discrepancies at heavyweight than in any other division. That’s what makes Cain Velasquez particularly impressive. He is one of the smallest heavyweights in the UFC yet the undefeated champion has embarrassed guys who are not only bigger, but comfortable on the ground. He absolutely had his way with the hulking Ben Rothwell, for example. Even when the gargantuan Brock Lesnar took Velasquez down, the champ managed to do what no one else has done against Lesnar; get back up.

Velasquez rounds out the top three because he’s living proof that technique is more important than size and strength. In fact, that theme is prevalent among all three of these choices. What do you think, fight fans? Keeping in mind that I’m not factoring in retired fighters like Randy Couture, have I omitted someone better?

UFC 136’s fallen contenders: What’s next?

Monday, October 10th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

UFC 136 was a phenomenal mixed martial arts card. In fact, some people are calling last Saturday’s event the best in UFC history. While we saw two champions defend their titles and at least one other fighter earn No. 1 contendership status, several other top contenders saw their hopes dashed. What’s next for the fallen stars of UFC 136? Let’s have a look at four fighters’ whose fates have greatly changed after Saturday.

Gray Maynard (155 pounds)

Gray Maynard had his second shot at the UFC lightweight title against Frankie Edgar and, boy, did he blow it. Their third bout opened exactly like their second, with Maynard hurting Edgar badly and almost finishing him. Maynard looked like an evolved man at first, conserving his energy, but sat back too much, threw nothing but haymakers and let Edgar back into the fight before the little guy knocked him out.

The defeat was Maynard’s first ever as a pro, so his future remains bright. The lightweight division, however, is the most stacked in the sport. It looks like the winner of Ben Henderson and Clay Guida will get Edgar next (unless Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez swoops in), so I’d give Maynard someone hanging around the top five.

Recommended fight: Anthony Pettis

Kenny Florian (145 pounds)

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny. He just can’t win the big one. The perennial bridesmaid at least gave a solid effort against Muay Thai master Jose Aldo but I wonder if he’ll ever be a champ. At bigger weight classes, Florian got pushed around. At featherweight, he has to cut so much weight to fight there that he loses muscle and can’t use his size advantage. Aldo was the stronger man on Saturday.

I honestly wonder if Ken-Flo would be better off retiring and becoming a commentator. If he doesn’t, though, he should consider jumping back into the lightweight fray against a lower-tier top-10 guy.

Recommended fight: Nate Diaz

Brian Stann (185 pounds)

After tearing through his first three middleweight opponents, knockout artist Brian Stann had no answer for his friend Chael Sonnen’s wrestling. With his striking and marketability as a decorated U.S. Marine, Stann will still land another big fight next. Demian Maia would make sense after winning has last bout. So would Yushin Okami. But the idea of Stann battling Vitor Belfort in a striking war is just too fun. Do it, Dana!

Recommended fight: Vitor Belfort

Melvin Guillard (155 pounds)

Like Gray Maynard, Guillard is tremendously talented but, like Gray Maynard, Guillard makes too many mental blunders. He was too confident and fired up against Joe Lauzon on Saturday and got caught with a punch before Lauzon tapped him out. The Young Assassin’s ceiling remains high if he can mature.

Instead of giving Guillard a striker to run through, I’d test him right away and see if he can learn from his mistake. Someone like Jim Miller, a BJJ expert who is a threat to submit him, would make sense.

Recommended fight: Jim Miller

Should we believe Chael Sonnen’s story?

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

By Matt Larkin
Guest Writer

Somehow, the loudest man in mixed martial arts, Chael Sonnen, has managed to stay out of the limelight since he was booked for elevated testosterone levels following his near-miss title fight against Anderson Silva last August. The California State Athletic Commission suspended him for one year and we went months without hearing much from him.

Suddenly, he’s back in the news. After an eventful, complex hearing last week, the Commission voted to reduce Sonnen’s suspension to six months, making him eligible to fight again in March.

The suspension was reduced because Sonnen, his lawyers and Dr. Mar Czarnecki sold the commission with their explanation of why his testosterone levels were so high. Was it a sob story or legit? I really can’t decide.

On one hand, the findings make sense. Dr. Czarnecki says he diagnosed Sonnen with a condition called hypergonadism in January 2008; the condition gave him extreme exhaustion and mental “fogginess” as a result of deficient testosterone levels.

The condition may have come to be as a result of cutting weight for years during his wrestling career. Czarnecki insisted that Sonnen’s body couldn’t handle the stress of MMA unless he self-administered shots of testosterone (twice weekly) to keep his levels up.

That makes sense. But a few other factors look fishy to me. First off – if Sonnen medically required testosterone shots twice a week, why didn’t he disclose it to the UFC? Sonnen’s camp claims he was “embarrassed” to share the information. Really? You take testosterone, which clearly will show up as a banned substance on a drug test, and decide to keep it a secret because it’s “embarrassing”? It just doesn’t make sense. Especially for a fighter as intelligent as Sonnen.

Secondly, if Sonnen required those shots to get his testosterone levels back to those of a normal fighter, why were his levels above normal levels when he was caught? If he had higher-than-normal testosterone levels, his performance was enhanced artificially. Again, I can’t see how Sonnen and his camp wouldn’t know that such high levels would make him look suspicious.

It looks like the case is closed and we may never know the truth behind Sonnen’s story. But, admittedly, the facts don’t quite add up for me.

Is Chael Sonnen the man to take down Anderson Silva?

Friday, May 7th, 2010

He talks the talk like no one else in mixed martial arts. But can he walk the walk?

I have to admit, Chael Sonnen has really grown on me. I didn’t think much of him when BJJ master Demian Maia choked him out last year but all Sonnen has done since then is beat the tar out of people. The highly accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler (two-time NCAA division-1 champ) has a lot of strength in his wiry frame and fights with a courageous, relentless, smothering style that wears opponents out. Just ask Nate Marquardt.

Better yet – there may be no better quote in the sport day-to-day than Sonnen, who is also running for office in Oregon. One of his best recent quips, of course, was that he had a “moral obligation to beat up Anderson Silva.”

While it isn’t confirmed, Sonnen appears highly likely to get the next crack at Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight championship belt. While we certainly know how badly Sonnen wants to destroy Silva – he pretty much hates the guy – the question is whether or not he can actually do it.

Whatever happens, I see a Sonnen/Silva fight as win-win for the UFC. Even if Sonnen can’t defeat Silva, he’s a virtual lock to make him work harder than any recent challenger has. Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Demian Maia – all were extremely tentative, too respectful of Silva’s striking. They were afraid to engage and it frustrated, even bored, Silva.

Look at the guys who’ve brought out Anderson Silva’s most spectacular results: Chris Leben, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin. What do they have in common? They’re all tough as nails, absolutely fearless, willing to risk taking a beating, willing to make the Spider work for the victory.

Sonnen fits this exact bill. He’s tough, he has a strong jaw and he’s fuelled by contempt. Even if he gets his clock cleaned, he’s still a great choice to battle Anderson Silva. Sonnen is underrated – his wrestling could cause trouble if he gets close – and, more importantly, he’ll force Silva to give the fans a spectacular finish.

Make ’em sign, Dana!

By Matt Larkin
Guest Writer

Wrestling Clubs North York, Brampton, Etobicoke, Markham, Mississauga, Oshawa, Peel Region, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Thornhill, Toronto, Vaughan, Woodbridge, York, York Region Ontario Canada.

Which Martial Art is Best? Part 3: WRESTLING

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

We’ve covered Judo and Karate so far in the great debate about which martial art is most effective when push comes to shove – pun intended. Both are powerful but incomplete arts; is wrestling the answer?

Wrestling is so part of our public consciousness that it hardly needs an introduction; we all know it’s centuries old and has a basic goal of pinning an opponent to the ground. For our martial arts debate, we’ll focus on the most popular form of wrestling: freestyle.

Famous for its appearance in the ancient Greek Olympic Games, wrestling differs from combat-oriented martial arts like Karate and Muay Thai in that its origins are tied to sport as opposed to pure fighting and self-defense. However, that doesn’t mean we should consider wrestling ineffective in real battle.

Freestyle wrestlers use their entire bodies in arm and leg holds (which can set up submissions), throws and, most commonly seen in MMA, powerful takedowns that sap opponents’ energy.

Famous freestyle wrestlers: Mark Coleman, Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck

If you want evidence that wrestling commands respect as a potent method of combat, look no further than the names listed above; I omitted Mr. Couture as he focuses on Greco-Roman wrestling. Mark Coleman won a UFC heavyweight title, by combining his wrestling with “ground-and-pound,” bludgeoning downed opponents with strikes that used his whole body weight.

Velasquez and Koscheck are even better (and more modern) examples of why wrestling is an extremely dangerous martial art. Since wrestling demands outstanding conditioning and strength training, wrestlers are often good natural athletes. That makes them difficult to hurt or overpower and, more importantly, quick learners. Koscheck’s athleticism has helped him develop heavy-handed boxing to accompany his wrestling skills. Suddenly, he can go toe-to-toe with powerful strikers from other disciplines.

In my opinion, wrestling deserves major consideration among the best bases in martial arts. It creates strong, fit fighters who are rarely on their backs and can wear more skilled opponents out.

By Matt Larkin
Guest Writer

Find a Wrestling club in Toronto

Is Bobby Lashley the next Brock Lesnar?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

We have to hand it to Strikeforce. The MMA promotion has clearly emerged as the UFC’s main competition and it has a genuinely interesting fight card to behold this weekend. Among Saturday’s competitors is Bobby Lashley; the former WWE superstar now draws lanky Wes Sims in what should be a cupcake matchup for him.

The big question on most of our minds is whether or not Lashley is the next Brock Lesnar.

To me, the more compelling question is: do we want him to be?

It’s easy to draw similarities between the two. Both men come from highly accomplished collegiate wrestling backgrounds. Both were quite popular in the WWE. Both have to slim down and drop water weight just to make the 265-pound limit. Both, love them or hate them, are outstanding athletes – “next generation” mixed martial artists.

But for now, there’s one crucial factor separating Lashley and Lesnar: their mouths.

Lesnar embraces the heel role and it’s helped him fast-track his way to the top. He wanted the best right away and landed a title fight in his fourth career bout. Since then, he’s defamed sponsors, referees, Canadian health care and more. In the process, he’s infuriated any mixed martial artists, professional or immature, who respect the sport’s honour.

So far, so good for Lashley. He’s confident – any fighter should be – but not brash. He openly admits he’s too green for the likes of Fedor or Alistair Overeem after four pro fights. He knows he has to develop his striking and submission defense before he can hang with the big boys.

Eventually, though, Lashley could reach a crossroads. As hated as Lesnar is, he’s “good television.” He drives ratings, starts water-cooler discussions and has unquestionably raised the UFC’s profile. As the UFC’s competition, Strikeforce knows it could use its own heel. Might it pressure Lashley to run is mouth more and drive up ratings? By doing so, Lashley will earn bigger pay days.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t give in. Instead, I’d love to see him emerge as an anti-Lesnar, a guy with the same career background but a different philosophy for fighting. And wouldn’t that make for a great rivalry if Lashley one day migrated to the UFC?
By Matt Larkin
Guest Writer

Wrestling Clubs North York, Brampton, Etobicoke, Markham, Mississauga, Oshawa, Peel Region, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Thornhill, Toronto, Vaughan, Woodbridge, York, York Region Ontario Canada.

Georges St-Pierre’s Olympic wrestling dream becoming a reality?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Despite the superior popularity of hockey, basketball and football in Canada, there may be no more unifying athlete in the country than Georges St-Pierre. Through his dedication, class and sheer domination of mixed martial arts, he’s become an icon. As Dana White says, “The guy deserves to be on Wheaties boxes.”

Already a masterful striker thanks to his Kyokushin karate background, St-Pierre took his game to a new level by (a) developing his wrestling to such a dominant level that he could defeat NCAA division-1 champs like Josh Koscheck and (b) joining Greg Jackson’s team, which includes training partners like Rashad Evans and Shane Carwin. Anyone who wrestles those guys for practice has an edge over on his opponents.

We’ve heard the rumour for years – that GSP wants to wrestle in the Olympics. Reportedly, Team Canada wanted him in 2008 but the timing was wrong. Now, his dream is very close to happening. He admitted in a recent interview that he will decide whether or not to focus entirely on the Olympics after his UFC welterweight title defense against Dan Hardy. Committing to the 2012 Olympics would require 18 months of intense training, he says. He would wrestle at 185 pounds rather than cut major weight to reach 163, the next-lowest weight class.

We’ve seen plenty of fighters go from Olympic wrestling to MMA – such as Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson. But MMA to the Olympics? That’s a new story and a testament to St-Pierre’s phenomenal athleticism. He certainly has a challenge ahead but, based on his success against Koscheck and legendary wrestler Matt Hughes, I wouldn’t bet against him.

As Olympic wrestlers endure major weight cuts, St-Pierre would likely face men who walk around 20 pounds heavier than him. But how did that work out for the hulking Thiago Alves at UFC 100? To quote St-Pierre, “technique always beats strength.” Here’s hoping he’s right. Committing to London 2012 would mean relinquishing his welterweight title, but seeing Georges with a gold medal around his neck would be worth it.

By Matt Larkin
Guest Writer

GSP: Olympic Wrestler?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Not content to be the UFC’s welterweight champion, George St. Pierre has announced that he’ll be making a run for Canada’s 2012 Olympic Wrestling Team.

Ranked as one of the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artists around, GSP has proven to be highly effective against world-class wrestlers turned mixed martial artists,  the likes of which include Matt Hughes, John Fitch, Josh Koschek, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg et al.

A never say die attitude, killer instinct and superior cardio should help him in his  latest quest, but is that enough? Missing are the years of wrestling-specific preparation and competition held by Canada’s elite wrestlers, of which he’ll have to get past to make it to London in 2012.

Mind you, the fact that his personal wrestling coach just happens to be Gia Sissaouri – 1996 Olympic Silver Medalist and 2001 World Wrestling Champion – sure doesn’t hurt.

At only 28 years of age, Georges may have enough time to hone his wrestling skills and build upon an already impressive legacy, one that just may include an Olympic medal.

Wrestling Clubs – Toronto, Acton, Ajax, Aurora, Barrie, Belleville, Bolton, Bowmanville, Bradford, Brampton, Brantford, Brockville, Burlington, Cambridge, Chatham, Cornwall, Elliot Lake, Etobicoke, Georgetown, Guelph, Halton, Hamilton, Kanata, Kingston, Kitchener, Lindsay, Leamington, Listowel, London, Markham, Midland, Milton, Mississauga,  Newmarket, Niagara Falls, North Bay, North York, Oakville, Orangeville, Orillia, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Peel Region, Peterborough, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Sarnia, Scarborough, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Thomas, St. Catharines, Stratford, Sudbury, Thornhill, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Toronto, Trenton, Vancouver, Vaughan, Waterloo, Welland, Windsor, Woodbridge, Woodstock, York, York Region Ontario Canada.

Georges “Rush” St. Pierre (GSP) in Toronto

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Georges “Rush” St. Pierre will be appearing at Takedown MMA, one of Toronto’s newest Grappling and MMA clubs, on October 10, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

GSP is considered one of the best pound for pound fighters in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as recently evidenced by a decisive win over Thiago “Pitbull” Alvez at UFC 100.

Accompanying Georges will be Gia Sissaouri, his personal wrestling coach and 2001 World Wrestling Champion.  The clinic will feature world class wrestling skills that have helped Georges dominate the UFC’s welterweight division in recent years.

The cost is $150.00 and space is limited.

To find out more, contact Takedown MMA…

Wrestling Clubs – Toronto, Acton, Ajax, Aurora, Barrie, Belleville, Bolton, Bowmanville, Bradford, Brampton, Brantford, Brockville, Burlington, Cambridge, Chatham, Cornwall, Elliot Lake, Etobicoke, Georgetown, Guelph, Halton, Hamilton, Kanata, Kingston, Kitchener, Lindsay, Leamington, Listowel, London, Markham, Midland, Milton, Mississauga,  Newmarket, Niagara Falls, North Bay, North York, Oakville, Orangeville, Orillia, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Peel Region, Peterborough, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Sarnia, Scarborough, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Thomas, St. Catharines, Stratford, Sudbury, Thornhill, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Toronto, Trenton, Vaughan, Waterloo, Welland, Windsor, Woodbridge, Woodstock, York, York Region Ontario Canada.