Posts Tagged ‘Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)’

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?

Shawn Tompkins: Death of a Canadian MMA legend

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

Hearts are heavy in Canadian MMA this week. Shawn Tompkins, the legendary Canadian kickboxer-turned MMA trainer, died suddenly of a heart attack on Sunday at age 37.

His loss is a major blow the sport we love. But nothing can bring him back now. All we can do is celebrate the man Shawn Tompkins was and what he did for mixed martial arts.

Shawn was a teacher and mentor to numerous high-profile fighters, known for his Muay Thai expertise. He taught Canadians Mark Hominick and Sam Stout; he was married to Stout’s sister, Emilie Stout. Shawn also taught Brazilian striking legends Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort.

Shawn really made a name for himself over the last several years, starting in 2007 when he took over from Bas Rutten as head coach of the Los Angeles Anacondas in the Independent Fight League. He migrated the Anacondas, plus his Team Tompkins from London, Ontario, over to Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

Shawn became Xtreme Couture’s head instructor. In 2009, he left there to become a team trainer at the TapouT Research and Development Training Center. Despite taking on a new job, he remained closely tied to all the fighters he trained, consistently cornering them. He was particularly thrilled when MMA finally gained Ontario sanctioning and cornered several of his fighters’ first bouts in the province.

His sudden death leaves a massive void among the fighters he mentored and most of all, with his wife. It also begs the question: did we celebrate his contribution to Canadian MMA enough while he was alive?

Canadian mixed martial arts is still in its infancy. Naturally, Georges St-Pierre put it on the map like no one else, and several other fighters have risen to prominence since. But there may have been no more respected Canadian MMA trainer than Shawn Tompkins.

Just look at the reactions among the MMA community:

“Shawn is one of my best friends, one of the best if not the best striking coaches on the planet, and I mean this,” said Bas Rutten. “He always puts his students and friends before him, would do anything for them.”

“Sad to hear the news about Shawn Tompkins,” said Chuck Liddell. “My condolences to his family. He was a great guy and coach.”

“RIP Shawn Tompkins – your impact on MMA and this world will be remembered by millions,” said Shane Carwin.

“Big loss for our sport,” said UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta. “Shawn Tompkins. We will miss him!”

Looking at that list of names, it’s clear Shawn was revered around the world. In hindsight, I wish Canada did a better job honouring such a meaningful contributor to MMA.

It’s not too late, however. We can still pay tribute to him by celebrating his life and accomplishments. Here’s hoping someone makes a documentary to tell his amazing story. It would be a major step toward doing him justice.

R.I.P., Shawn Tompkins, and thanks for what you’ve done for our awesome sport.

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

Is Rory MacDonald ready to contend?

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

With respect to a former champ like Carlos Newton and current UFC contenders like Mark Hominick and Sam Stout, Georges St-Pierre remains Canada’s one and only mixed martial arts superstar to date.

He’s the only guy to reach that “untouchable” status, land the “cool” endorsement deals, and become an icon outside his own country.

But is that about to change? Rory MacDonald’s performance at UFC 133 last Saturday was impressive enough to beg the question.

He rolled through Mike Pyle so easily that he almost looked insulted to have been given such an inferior opponent. MacDonald literally brushed off his shoulders after finishing Pyle – an opponent with 21 MMA victories and 17 submissions to his credit.

After walking through Pyle like he was nothing, MacDonald is now 12-1…at age 22. His only loss came to mega welterweight contender Carlos Condit – and Macdonald may have won that fight had Condit not TKO’d him with seven seconds remaining.

MacDonald has all the makings of a superstar. He has a solid wrestling base, he can submit opponents, his technical striking is strong and he has a swagger in the Octagon. Joe Rogan even went as far to say during Saturday’s telecast that MacDonald may have a higher ceiling than GSP.

And that’s what scares me. Is there a risk of pushing MacDonald up the ranks too quickly? He’s already voiced his interest in fighting Jon Fitch, who has lost once in his last 23 fights. I worry that he’s aiming too high, too soon.

The UFC really has something with MacDonald. He’s a new-age fighter who looks like he could be the 170-pound division’s answer to Jon Jones. But I hope the promotion is careful. Instead of Fitch, why not give MacDonald a contender from the next tier down, like Thiago Alves, Rick Story or Anthony Johnson?  To me, a Fitch fight is no-win. If MacDonald loses, his growing legacy gets tarnished. If he wins, he’d likely vault into No. 1 contender status and be forced to fight GSP, who is his training partner. That would be messy.

MacDonald’s emergence as a new potential Canadian MMA superstar is fantastic news. But I hope he isn’t rushed up the ladder too quickly.

Is it a fighter’s duty to fill in for an injury?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

The hoopla surrounding the Rashad Evans fight this week raised an interesting debate topic: whether or not fighters have a duty to replace injured guys for the good of their MMA promotions.

First it was Rashad Evans versus Jon Jones. After Jones pulled out with a hand injury, the fight became Evans versus Phil Davis. When Davis injured his knee, the proposed bout became Evans versus Tito Ortiz. Tito declined for personal reasons. Then it was Evans versus Lyoto Machida. Machida decided the bout was “too soon” and also wanted more money to uproot his camp.

In the end, Tito changed his mind and stepped up to take the August 6 fight against Evans, falling on the grenade for the UFC.

“Honestly, the biggest difference for me and why I took the fight was my commitment to the UFC – showing them I’m there for them when they need me,” Ortiz said.

Weighting Tito’s decision against Machida’s creates quite an interesting debate. Is it a fighter’s duty to step up and help for the sake of saving a fight card? I believe, in most cases, that it is.

For one, by doing so, the fighter is helping the company that pays him or her. If no one stepped up to take Phil Davis’ spot at UFC 133, the card would be heavily watered down and pay-per-view buys could tank. By stepping up, Tito is helping the UFC make more profit, which is never a bad thing for fighters looking to earn bigger paydays.

Some people might disagree on the grounds that the situation varies from fighter to fighter. They might argue that Tito was in the perfect position to step in. He’s on the downside of his career with very little to lose and everything to gain. He also makes a smart PR move be earning “nice guy” points. People might argue that Machida, on the other hand, is fresh off a victory, possibly one win away from a light heavyweight title shot, and would be dumb to jeopardize his shot at glory by stepping in on short notice.

But I think that viewpoint is short-sighted. Promoters like Dana White have always trumpeted that they sincerely appreciate it every time a fighter steps up on short notice. Doing so means so much to the bigwigs, gains a fighter so much favour, that a loss may not even knock him or he down the ladder. You scratch the UFC’s back and they’ll scratch yours down the road.

The only exception I can think of would be an undefeated fighter. Someone with a perfect record has plenty to lose. From the business side, the promotion also wouldn’t want to jeopardize his or her record, as there’s a special mystique and brand equity that accompanies an undefeated fighter’s name. Undefeated fighters like Cain Velasquez are far less common in MMA than in boxing and have to be cherished for their marketing potential.

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

Does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu still “work” in MMA?

Monday, June 20th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

Following his victory over Jon Olav Einemo at UFC 131 two weeks ago, heavyweight prospect Dave Herman made a bold statement that has the MMA community abuzz.

He said Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu “doesn’t work.” The statement came after he beat the BJJ master Einemo with strikes. Herman elaborated to say that it more specifically doesn’t work on a wrestler like him, that it’s mere “trickery” and that it worked better on opponents  who knew nothing about it, as it did when Royce Gracie baffled guys in the early UFC days.

Wow. Talk about Controversial. Do you agree?

I wouldn’t say I fully agree or disagree, but that there is some merit to what Herman says. Do I think BJJ is ineffective? Absolutely not. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t see so many guys finishing fights via submission every week and we wouldn’t see so many non-BJJ fighters adding it to their repertoire.

I do, however, agree that the pure BJJ practitioner can no longer dominate in MMA. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has been beaten down by superior strikers; Royce Gracie returned to the sport only to get ragdolled by Matt Hughes’ wrestling a few years ago; and Demian Maia has been forced to learn boxing after his lack of versatility caused him to hit a roadblock in the middleweight division.

The problem with BJJ as a pure offensive technique is that it’s a form of grappling and it inherently requires strength. In the early days, it was so new and deceptive that the technique could conquer a wrestler or striker’s girth. Now, every fighter has at least some understanding of BJJ and submission defense. As a result, BJJ guys have more and more trouble bringing the fight to their comfort zone.

Look at this past weekend’s Alistair Overeem/Fabricio Werdum fight. The BJJ black belt Werdum wanted to get Overeem to the ground and submit him, so he kept pulling guard, but Overeem was just too strong for him. Werdum couldn’t control his opponent.

Wrestling is a much more effective base in MMA today largely because it goes hand-in-hand with strength and conditioning. Dominant wrestlers tend to also be dominant physical specimens who can impose their will on their opponents.

To me, there is still absolutely a place for BJJ in mixed martial arts today, but I no longer see it as an effective base skill. It works far better as a complementary skill, used to finish off weakened opponents (like Kenny Florian does with his chokes) or as a defense (like Anderson Silva used against Travis Lutter and Chael Sonnen).

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

Weighing in on the “body slams” debate

Friday, July 30th, 2010

You’ve probably seen the highlights of the Sarah Kaufman/Roxanne Modafferi fight for the Strikeforce women’s welterweight championship. It ended abruptly when Kaufman knocked Modafferi out with a spectacular slam. It was amazingly similar to Rampage Jackson’s famous slam on Ricardo Arona –which some consider the greatest knockout in MMA history.

Kaufman’s KO raised a debate on message boards and forums that I consider absurd – but that warrants discussion. Believe it or not, some pundits are posing the question, “Should slams be outlawed in mixed martial arts?”

Hmmm? To me, the argument is so silly that it’s hard to even discuss it. But I’ll try. First off, it’s inspired by a tiny handful of spectacular incidents that stand out because they were, admittedly, violent. But to discuss outlawing a traditional part of grappling in a combat sport is mind boggling.

First off, there’s the suggestion that slams are dangerous in that they can cause head injury or concussion on impact. So does that mean we should outlaw striking? The last time I checked, a Mirko Cro Cop head kick or Junior Dos Santos fist damages opponents’ skulls far more frequently than a slam does.

And what about submissions? Armbars, chokes, neck cranks and kneebars, if held too long, can be seriously hazardous to our health. Should we ban BJJ too?

An even stranger part of the debate is the notion that slams are too “barbaric.” That saddens me. I really thought MMA had evolved past the point of “extreme” culture. It’s not like slams are used in fights just for the sake of causing carnage. Almost every time you see a powerful slam, the fighter doing it is using it strategically to escape a dangerous position. Most commonly, the slam is an attempt to break up an armbar, guillotine, or some other submission attempt.

For anyone out there thinking slams should be outlawed – I suggest you try tiddlywinks.