Michael Bisping Leaves Me Conflicted

I’m so torn…

I’m not sure exactly how to feel about Michael Bisping after his recent loss to Kelvin Gastelum. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about changing my mind about how I have ALWAYS felt about Michael Bisping. To give you an idea, the feelings that come to mind are rage, disgust, and pity…at least with regards to his out-of-the-cage personality. As a fighter, I can’t help but respect the fact that he’s one of the few true veterans of the sport that has stayed clean and has been up to the task of fighting anyone that the UFC puts in his way. However, I’ve realized that this respect quickly dissipates as soon as he opens his mouth for the very most part. Normally, Michael Bisping’s pattern of speech consists of sophomoric insults, trash talk without any hint of cleverness, and monologues bereft of any wit or intellectual prowess. He is, in so many ways, everything I despise about MMA. His cartoonish antics and complete lack of respect for most people in general leave such a bitter taste in my mouth that I have often felt that there is literally nothing he could do to earn my respect (to the disappointment of some of my fellow MMA enthusiasts and admitted Bisping fans).

However, after seeing him get flattened by a fiery Kelvin Gastelum just a short period of time after he was submitted in front of millions of fans around the world, the only feeling I felt was sorrow. The immediate thought was “Man…this isn’t quite as satisfying as I thought it would be” (and, truthfully, satisfaction should not be something felt at the expense of another person’s physical and emotional harm. I’d like to think that, as a fan, I relish in the art of true, practiced combat between the greatest practitioners, as opposed to the sight of a man lying unconscious or having to deal with the emotional stresses of defeat on the world’s stage). I really did feel as though, despite Bisping’s general attitude, he earned true respect when he took a fight in order to save a main event that Anderson Silva nearly destroyed due to his most recent PED accusation. It was a a seemingly impulsive move that, unfortunately, led to the worst case scenario of his defeat and ultimate removal from title contention.

Maybe he did it to redeem himself after losing his title to Georges St. Pierre, maybe he did it because he just felt the itch to fix his mistakes, or maybe he just did it because he loves to fight and can’t stay away from a challenge. It is this precise mentality that led him to his successful, last-minute title shot against Luke Rockhold, so perhaps he thought that another victory against a somewhat smaller middleweight was in his cross-hairs. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as planned, and he gave all the credit in the world to a very deserving Kelvin Gastelum, who had the performance of his career. Bisping made no excuses, took his loss on the chin, and thanked the crowd. This all just made me rethink my dislike for him…at least a little bit.

He is both the consummate professional, and the childish douchebag you just wish would get punched in the face when he starts yammering on about whatever it is he enjoys talking about. He was a questionable champion in the eyes of many, and had a largely forgettable title run which ultimately ended at the hands of a career welterweight…and yet, no one will forget how he got that title – by taking on a prime champion,  to whom he had lost previously on just 2 weeks’ notice. He is a buffoonish jerk, one not opposed to stooping to the lowest levels to get under an opponent’s skin (i.e. ripping up the Cuban flag in front of Yoel Romero, spitting in the corner of Jorge Rivera after defeating him, etc). And yet, he’s a family man, clearly a devoted father and husband who keeps his family, team, and friends in the front of his mind. He both humble and brash, bratty and surprisingly mature. He is the man that UFC fans love to hate, but then have never had the desire to take their eyes away from.

I’ve always hate you Michael Bisping…but now, just a little less. Best wishes to you in the twilight of your career, and may you end with a win.

Wow…Darren Till is ON THE MAP!

Wow…just wow.

If you have not seen the main event of UFC Gdansk, I highly recommend you either find it on YouTube or sign up for UFC Fight Pass, because you just missed an Upset of the Year candidate. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect; in one of the least promoted cards of the year, on Fight Pass no less, we may have just seen the passing of the guard from a seasoned veteran in Donald Cerrone to a brash new contender in Darren Till, who was absolutely brimming with confidence from the moment he was given the opportunity of a lifetime. The premise was intriguing, and the matchup certainly spelled fireworks on paper, but still the question remained…was there to be anything unexpected here? The answer was a YES, which may as well have been broadcasted in neon lights and shouted on a megaphone. This was just unreal, and for all the right reasons.

Let’s start with even how this matchup came about. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, long-time veteran of the UFC and perpetual fight seeker, has gained a reputation for staying unusually active over the course of a year. Not one to back down from challenges, he also proactively seeks opportunities to fight simply out of boredom. It’s really no surprise then that the former lightweight and currently ranked welterweight contender would, after a recent loss to former WW champion Robbie Lawler, want to get right back on the horse. As it turns out, he had just the opportunity waiting for him – a Fight Pass headlining opportunity in Poland against a relatively unknown, but fiery hot, undefeated prospect in a Muay Thai specialist from Liverpool, England. The upside for Cerrone? Not much; he gets to fight on a card with limited broadcast against someone who would not be able to bolster his standing in the division even with a dominant win. However, the real win for Cerrone was just being back in the Octagon and fighting in a place he had never been to. For him, it was just a vacation with some kicks and punches to be thrown in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, by seemingly treating this like a vacation, and by impulsively taking a fight against someone who he knew literally nothing about, he put himself into a predicament against a hungry young warrior who wanted nothing more than this very opportunity. Enter Darren Till.

Darren Till, who is instantly appealing on the microphone with his cocky demeanor, simply oozes confidence every time he speaks. Particularly, he took a fight against a successful, 2-division contender who has proven to be dangerous in every aspect of the game, and expressed absolutely no doubt that he would annihilate this man. He not only KNEW he would knock out Cerrone, but also decided right away that he would be the greatest of all time. When you hear young, relatively unproven fighters say things like that, you can’t help but feel like they are in over their heads, especially when coming up against warriors that have run the gauntlet. Still, there was something about this kid…something that just made you want to believe that he had a shot against the same Cowboy who executed a picture perfect fight-ending combo against Rick Story, and knocked out the ever durable top-10 mainstay Matt “The Immortal” Brown. Darren Till came into the contest with the self-belief and bravado of a 100 fight veteran, and come fight time, I started to think to myself that perhaps this could be more of a fight than I had previously thought.

It turns out that any doubts created by Till based on his previous UFC outings were quickly thrown out the window. In fact, you’d never even recognize Till as the same fighter; there was just something about his aura that spelled victory, and as soon as that bell rang, he quickly passed that message to Donald Cerrone. Till took over the center of the Octagon, demeanor as calm and relaxed as ever. Every single kick Donald Cerrone threw at him was caught and followed swiftly by a shake of the head, as if to say “Try again, son”. He stood in front of his foe, calculating his shots instead of swinging wildly as most might under the pressure of the headlining bright lights against a superstar. Every shot came with speed and ferocity and, soon enough, Darren Till would land a shot in the second half of the first round that would confirm his pre-fight prediction. He staggered Cerrone, and chased him to the cage with added shots that would ultimately crumble his already wounded opponent.

As the referee soon came to the rescue of Cowboy, who was at that point turtled up and having no more of this punishment, Darren Till rose unscathed and rather unsurprised at his achievement. He did what most prospects could only dream of doing in only their 5th UFC fight – he dominated a stalwart in epic fashion, and put the WW division on notice of a bright new star. Contenders beware…stay sharp and alert…

Ladies and Gentlemen…Darren Till has OFFICIALLY arrived. 

Luke Rockhold is Sorta Right, But Needs to Chill

Look, I get it…

The middleweight division of the UFC is in a very rough place right now. The champion, Michael Bisping, has elected not to fight any top ranked MW contenders for his title defenses so far (with his lone defense coming against then #14 Dan Henderson, and his upcoming bout against unranked Georges St. Pierre), and has actually debated retiring after his fight against GSP. Naturally, this is upsetting to both fans and the strongest contenders, but this whole situation has perturbed one man more than anyone else:

Luke Rockhold, the former UFC Middleweight Champion, and current hot-headed contender on a warpath, hellbent on settling the score with his biggest adversary.

After he dispatched #9 contender David Branch in the second round of their grudge match recently, he decided to let GSP know that the former welterweight champion did not belong in his division. He has been vocal about his disapproval regarding this fight taking place in the first place, and he actually told GSP that he would be crushed by Bisping. This perhaps is the most interesting thing to have been said in a post-fight interview recently. Here’s why…

The fact that anyone would ever think that GSP would be crushed by a fighter that is either in the middleweight or welterweight division is preposterous to me. Even if you think he’ll LOSE a fight, there’s no need for this kind of hyperbole. In Rockhold’s situation, I can see it as being more of an emotional reaction catalyzed by his longstanding bitterness following his loss to Bisping in 2016. Was it painful? Absolutely. Could it have been avoided? Of course! Does it eat Rockhold every second of the day? It appears to be that way. But is Rockhold being a bit ridiculous in his prediction, and could it perhaps be a statement motivated more by his visceral hatred of Michael Bisping? Yes, and YES. GSP has every tool to defeat Michael Bisping, and I do believe that he will take the crown from the aging champion. But there’s more to this than just Rockhold’s prediction; we need to dig deeper as to what actually justifies this event’s occurrence.

Let’s call this fight what it really is: a spectacle. It is as much of an attempt to draw money as any superfight we’ve seen recently, and is part of an ongoing trend which has rubbed some the wrong way, while being encouraged by others as the new wave of the sport’s matchmaking. Bisping vs. GSP makes ABSOLUTELY no sense from a purist’s standpoint; we’re looking at a division in which the champion has yet to unify his title with a bout against the interim titleholder (Robert Whitaker, who just came off a scintillating victory over top contender Yoel Romero), and with plenty of able bodied, deserving challengers. Instead, we are given a former champion coming out of his retirement to cement his place in history. And that really is the key word…history.

If the UFC has a chance to allow history to be made, along with a LOT of money, would they really pass up the opportunity in place of the ethical and sportsmanlike route of giving a deserving contender a shot? OBVIOUSLY NOT!! What Luke Rockhold and the others in this division need to understand is that this is a business as much as a sport, and upper management is not interested in anything other than PPV draws and draining their cash cows. Top contenders like Rockhold may get their chance, but only after the UFC has had its chance. For Rockhold in particular, I feel that the opportunity is not terribly far out of reach. He is still an outstanding fighter, a physical specimen, and more motivated than ever to get back his crown. If it takes a little bit of waiting, so be it – he can use the time to fix the holes in his game (i.e. his boxing) and then take what he believes to be his when the time is right. Until then, there’s just no point of him coming out and saying outlandish things that will get him nowhere.

So let’s sit back, and wait for the middleweight division to bring itself back into a normal state. The chaos will soon be over my friends, and I predict that we’ll be seeing Whitaker vs Rockhold for a title shot next year. Only time will tell…

My First BJJ Class in a Gi

You know those moments in your life when you start something new, and you feel like you know literally nothing about the subject matter? It is a feeling which leaves you overwhelmed by an interesting combination of fear, anxiety, excitement and curiosity. You ask yourself how well you might do, and while also potentially considering the worst possible scenario, there is also a thought that says “I’m going to kick ass…how hard can this really be? If I just believe in myself and hunker down, I’ll be fine!”

Let me say this: If you believe that you can go into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class for the first time and whoop some ass, I HIGHLY urge you to try and prove it. Chances are, you’ll find yourself on the ass end of a choke…but you can’t learn unless you know how it feels 🙂

 

Hirsha Gi

Me in my fresh, unused gi

Now as a small disclaimer, I would like to let you know that I have taken a no-gi BJJ class once before, so this is technically my second class overall, but my first with a gi. I’ve actually had my gi for about 7 months, but just never mustered up the courage to throw it on and get on the mat. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to try new things, but I suppose it is human nature to fear things that you do not fully understand. Of course, I think it takes an entirely different kind of personality to volunteer yourself into a combative environment, especially with experienced grapplers. All that being said, I learned a few things that I felt were worth sharing.

Firstly, I learned what I believe is a loop choke from your closed guard (which is a position in which you are on your back and your legs are interlocked around your opponent’s back so that you can limit his or her mobility). Essentially, the loop choke demonstrated is one of most complicated things I’ve ever seen done in a grappling exchange, and I can’t conceivably see myself using it in a real-time scenario until I’m quite experienced. It requires maneuvering of your opponent’s gi, and flawless execution. Nevertheless, it was quite the move to learn for my first time, and highly effective I might add.

Secondly, I learned that it does not truly matter what level you are when you walk into a BJJ class; you will always be welcome. My experience is at the moment limited to the UFC Gym in Soho, but from everything I’ve heard from experienced practitioners and competitors, most BJJ gyms have quite a welcoming environment in which even beginners who have absolutely no exposure will be shown the ropes from more experienced classmates. There were no intimidation tactics, nothing that made it seem like I was a fish out of water. I was even lucky enough to have someone with experience go out of his way to walk me through the drills, and he did not once make me feel like I was slowing him down. As I gain more experience, I’ll be sure to pay it forward with a budding BJJ enthusiast that I may meet during one of these classes.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I was reminded that when you accept a challenge that you’ve presented to yourself, there is nothing quite as fulfilling. Granted, I’m at the very beginning of my BJJ journey, but one of the most challenging things about the initiation of this journey was actually getting myself to the gym and stepping onto that mat in the first place. It is so much easier said than done, and so glamorous in thought. BJJ is arguably the most important and necessary martial art to know and understand for any professional fighter. If you are defenseless on the ground, you are a guppy waiting to be fed to the sharks. To my point, just the thought of being choked into submission was incredibly nerve racking, but I knew I had to do this in order to make the proper strides in both my understanding of martial arts, and my need to overcome hurdles that are in front of me just waiting to my jumped. That is precisely why it felt so rewarding to cross the first threshold, and now I am confident that I will be able to further my learnings despite the fears that will remain.

Can’t wait for the next new experience!

Why, Jon Jones…Why??

The day I’ve dreaded for quite some time finally arrived…the day that confirmed the absolute worst scenario that I hoped could be avoided. Maybe I was deluding myself…maybe I just could not face reality. I suppose like most fans, I was simply caught up in the aftermath of arguably one of the most pivotal championship victories in UFC history. Alas, all the denial and delusion in the world cannot truly shield one from reality, which looms around the corner of every decision and action we choose to take. In this case, reality didn’t just set in – it came and hit me, along with many others I’m sure, like a Mack truck, and then the news today simply felt as though it rolled backwards to inflict just a little more damage.

Today, Jon Jones has officially been confirmed as a multiple time steroid user, as the B-sample from his UFC 214 in-competition drug test came back positive.

For me, this is probably the worst news I’ve received since hearing that Anderson Silva failed a drug test after his victory over Nick Diaz, following a long recovery after a gruesome leg injury after his bout with Chris Weidman at UFC 168. Seeing Anderson Silva lose was difficult enough; I was not yet ready to admit that Anderson Silva was not a mythical creature sent to us from the MMA gods to wreak havoc on his division in dazzling fashion. Seeing him lose AGAIN was even worse, especially given the brutal manner in which he lost, because I felt that I needed to admit to myself that perhaps the GOAT may have finally reached the end of his reign. However, I was more excited than ever after seeing Silva’s long road to recovery finally pay off in spades with a victory over one of the most notoriously aggressive fighters in MMA history in Diaz. Little did I know that this excitement would be short-lived once The Spider failed a drug test, and suddenly everything would change.

Similarly, I just cannot seem to come to grips with the fact that Jon Jones, who has justifiably been considered the GOAT by many due to his nearly spotless record, flawless fight style, and seemingly infinite arsenal, is now the saboteur of his own, decorated career. He had everything – a path to legendary status, the light heavyweight championship belt, endorsement deals, and the adoration of fans everywhere. For a fighter, what more could you really want, and what would you do to keep it? Well, apparently, keeping it did not seem like much of a priority to Jones, who time and time again showed that his own selfish indulgence triumphed over the aforementioned list of accolades. It wasn’t enough to fail a drug test for cocaine. It wasn’t enough to have his title stripped after a hit-and-run incident involving a pregnant woman. It wasn’t enough after he failed a drug test THE FIRST TIME. He just had to fail again, and just when things seemed to be going so well…

I had always hoped that, despite everything we had seen with Jon Jones’ tumultuous career, he would ultimately reign supreme as the greatest light heavyweight of all time. Hell, I could even admit that Jones could have retired with a greater career than Anderson Silva, and he could have been one of the few champions to retire with his belt. When he defeated Daniel Cormier for the second time, I was just at the peak of my fandom. “What would be next for the champ??”, I excitedly asked myself. The sky was the limit…and the key word here is WAS. Now, we shall never know…and perhaps we will never know the reason that he just could not get out of his own way. He’s a professional fighter of the highest caliber, with a well-credentialed team of coaches and nutritionists by his side at every second. There is no excuse this time…there is simply no justification for a misstep of this magnitude. He has failed, and that’s that.

My First Post

Welcome to Hosh MMA! (working title for now)

I’ve been thinking about posting my thoughts about mixed martial arts for some time now, but I’ve been far too lazy to actually make anything happen. It could be that I’m so used to procrastinating that this rather unsavory trait has planted itself even into my actual interests. Nevertheless, I’m going to use this at my outlet to express my thoughts, opinions, and occasional insights.

I am no expert, and I casually practice boxing and Muay Thai, but my goal is to expose myself to different martial arts, increase my knowledge of each, and incorporate my learnings into my writing. Hopefully, I’ll have enough readers that can enjoy my posts while also providing feedback to help me improve the content.

So again, welcome to Hosh MMA, a blog for MMA fans, budding enthusiasts, and people who just like to read something that they haven’t before. I look forward to your responses!