MMA Review – What’s Next For Matt Hughes?

UFC 85: Bedlam – Thiago Alves TKOs Matt Hughes.

After another stunning loss, Matt Hughes may have just exposed himself as a fighter past his prime. Like the Mike Tyson of old, facing Hughes warranted courage just to step in the octagon, but the aura & mystique have long since passed. Matt Hughes has lost three of his last four fights, and none were even close contests. A 9-time welterweight champion, Matt’s contribution to the UFC, and mixed martial arts are unquestioned. His future in the sport is what many are pondering.

Steve Cofield makes some good points that perhaps it’s not so much Hughes being old (if 34 can be called old), as it is 2008 debuting a better breed of MMA fighters. I have watched Matt Hughes fight many times, and his powerful takedowns were absolutely impressive. In his last bouts, the other fighters have been faster, their takedown defense better, rendering Matt Hughes as a mere mortal.

In this new age of MMA, the best fighters are pushing the limits of the sport. It’s simply not striking vs grappling anymore. The longevity of a fighter and his (or her) success depends on a complete set of MMA skills not just a specialized mastery of techniques.

After the fight Matt Hughes called out Matt Serra giving way for perhaps his last MMA contest. It begs the question, with so many talented MMA fighters out there, what audience is going to pay to see these two fighters both coming off significant losses?

Personally, I think Matt Hughes is up to the challenge. Time will tell if he feels the same way.

MMA Review – Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson

EliteXC made their mainstream debut on CBS network television this past Saturday night (May 31). I was curious what changes (if any) would be in place for an MMA experience that previously was only available on the Showtime cable network. I think the sponsors will be happy with the Nielsen ratings, but there are definitely some improvements that can be made. Here’s my breakdown of the main event Saturday night:

– Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson –
Kimbo Slice has been making a name for himself on the YouTube circuit for many years now with a showcase of streetfights. Before his MMA debut on Showtime, comments were abundant about how Kimbo would fair in a true MMA arena. His first test was an unsanctioned streetfight against Sean Gannon, a former Boston Police officer trained in MMA. That YouTube video is one of the first known defeats suffered by Kimbo, however, controversy rose at the time due to Sean using his MMA skills. Brought to media attention by an online marketing machine it was inevitable that Kimbo would make his way into the MMA.

Kimbo came to this fight undefeated, a record that could be argued as being “light” in terms of competition. Listening to Pugs & Kelly (Live 105.3FM) this afternoon, it is clear that many have the opinion that EliteXC may be padding Kimbo’s fight resume, feeding the marketing machine in order to capitalize on this fighter’s story. It’s safe to say many expected this fight to end quickly, under some power-punches by Kimbo or perhaps a quick submission. Little did anyone know that James Thompson (coming off a few losses) would not easily submit the match.

In the ensuing rounds, James matched Kimbo blow-for-blow, and managed to take him down in the first round. Fans got more than they expected as most of Kimbo’s fights have been stand up affairs favoring his striking ability and power. Could Kimbo win on the ground? How would he fair in a strong MMA battle? The first round proved two things – Kimbo had worked a bit on his wrestling skills (ground game), but his conditioning needed A LOT of work.

The second round would prove to be controversial. Again the fighters exchanged blows, with Kimbo throwing more power-punches, and James trying to match. James once again took the fight to the ground, and Kimbo’s lack of MMA experience, and poor conditioning started to be painfully obvious. Even though Kimbo managed a few “pile driver” submissions, he couldn’t maintain the hold for long as James repeatedly freed himself. Towards the end of the second round, James had managed to smother Kimbo, pounding him with a barrage of elbows. In fact, with one minute & thirty seconds left in Round 2, Kimbo took roughly two dozen elbows & hammerfists to the head. If this were a UFC fight, it would have been stopped. Kimbo was doing a poor job defending, and while he may not have been hurt, he was clearly being outgunned by James Thompson.

Slow to get up after the bell, a winded Kimbo made his way back to his corner. Entering the third round, both men were tired, but Kimbo managed to get off a final assault of power-punches. James’ ear burst open, and after taking four headshots the referee stopped the fight. James was visibly upset, and pushed the referee, but the match was ended. Kimbo celebrated by laying down in the ring.

EliteXC did a lot for the sport with a network television debut. I have to agree with comments made on the Pugs & Kelly show that by running on network vs cable the fights were managed differently. I concur that the Gina Carano vs Kaitlynn Young, and Robbie Lawler vs Scott Smith fights would not have been stopped had they been shown on cable tv. Scott Smith clearly could have (and wanted) to continue, and while Kaitlynn was a bloody mess, she didn’t seem down for the count. (Gina demolished her last opponent even worse on Showtime, and that fight came to decision)

I heard somewhere that Dana White the President of the UFC stated he would pit BJ “The Prodigy” Penn (the current lightweight champion) against Kimbo if there were ever a UFC bout. After watching the match, I agree that Kimbo has a long way to go in his quest to become a respected MMA fighter. In my opinion, top on his list should be his conditioning. More MMA experience will only make him a better fighter, but I think Saturday’s fight only proved Kimbo would be vulnerable to a top-ranked MMA veteran. Brock Lesner made a similar appearance in the UFC, and lost due to his lack of complete MMA skills. While some consider the UFC the “bully in the schoolyard” I’m of the opinion that they have the best MMA brand right now. However, healthy competition from competing brands will only make the MMA fight market better.

UPDATEKevin Leong has an editorial on the flaws of this CBS debut, and Ben (the ultimate MMA fan/practitioner) chimes in.

Movie Review – Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian - The Chronicles of NarniaThe Plot – It’s been over a thousand years since the High Kings & Queens ruled Narnia and it is not the same magical place. Telmarines have invaded & conquered the land, leading many Narnians to go into hiding. It is only when Prince Caspian, heir to the throne, is betrayed by his Uncle Miraz that events are put into motion that bring the Pevensies (Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy) back to Narnia in its time of need. Will the High Kings & Queens be able to save the Narnians once again?

The Review – I first became aware of the C.S. Lewis series when I was in the third grade. I watched the first story, “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe” on TV as an animated movie. Within the next few months I had read the entire series of books. When word came that the series was going to be launched in epic movie fashion, I envisioned something grand along the lines of the Lord of the Rings series. The first movie was a bit of a disappointment. Good, but not great.

I found that I enjoyed the sequel a lot more. The original actors reprise their roles as the Pevensie siblings, and new faces are introduced. Unlike the Lord of the Rings & Harry Potter, this series does not call upon the same characters in every book, which may allow for all seven stories to be brought to screen. I thought the characters & story were better developed in the sequel, and overall it drew me more into the film.

While not Oscar winning performances, I was moved by Peter’s growth through the story as his arrogance leads to failure at the expense of Narnian life, and his willingness to accept his failed faith brings about a moment of redemption. The pace of the movie kept the Peter/Pevensies story arc from overtaking the rise of Prince Caspian, but the Prince felt like a support character at times.

Overall I was happy with the film, and hope the quality of the series continues to improve as the next books are brought to life in film.

Grade: B+ (The series hasn’t quite reached EPIC status yet)

Movie Review – Redbelt

Redbelt MovieThe Plot – Mike Terry is a Jiu-Jitsu instructor who shuns competitive money fights because he believes competition weakens a fighter. He seems content to run a small dojo west of Los Angeles until a series of events begin to intrude on his daily life forcing him to evaluate his principles, and their impact on others.

*Spoiler Alert*

The Review – This is not an action film. This is a drama about the internal struggle of a martial artist, and his principles. The movie trailer, and IMDB reviews would lead you to believe that this is a film of emotional substance. Fans a David Mamet showered IMDB with praise for message of this film, and its artistic qualities. I must have missed all that.

While Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a good performance, and spouts some memorable lines, I found the lack of character development makes the movie fall flat. Now I can appreciate the minimalist approach to setting up the story arcs, but when the film ended (with a hug) I found myself asking what did any of the characters have to do with the story?

One of Mike Terry’s students is a brooding police officer. Maybe it’s not important to know why he’s brooding, or what troubles he has with his wife, but these plot points are just dropped on the viewer as factual items. When the officer in question commits suicide, I was neither compelled to feel the honor of that act, or the impact it had on his family. In fact, the introduction of his wife could have been completely left out, and it wouldn’t have changed the impact of that scene.

Mike Terry’s wife chides him throughout the film for not being financially responsible, or more to the point his principles keeping him in the poor house. When she sells him out, I really didn’t see why she would have stayed with him for over five years in the first place.

Given the one-dimensional snapshots of every character in the film, the story was very predictable, and only Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Mike Terry led me to believe something was about to happen. That’s probably my largest complaint about the film. The emotional moments that are meant to inspire the audience, seem pointless because of the lack of character development.

Grade: C- (Maybe this is the type of movie that requires multiple viewings to get the point)

Blandford Visual Art

There are quite a number of great photographers I have had the pleasure of meeting personally during my travels around the country. They’re the folks with the books, the seminar series; the photographers every wants to meet, and say they’ve met.

The trouble with the famous or up-and-coming, is they generally know they’re famous, and some act the part. I have been surprised by the modesty of some, not so surprised at the vanity of others.

Which leads me to today’s post. Keith Blandford is a local north Texan with a love of photography. I met him during a class on Adobe Bridge I conducted for GUILD some time ago. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of Keith’s work in person, and he recently dove head first into iWeb to publish his work online.

Keith is a minimalist when it comes to digital editing, and his work certainly does not need any post-processing help. I envy admire his ability to see through the lens. His landscape photography catches my imagination, and I can’t help but study his images each time I look at his collection.

I would encourage you to visit his website Blandford Visual Art, and browse his pieces. Keith also has photographs for sale, which he masterfully prints himself.