Picture by Evan Shoman – Shomanart.com
(Drawing by Evan Shoman, who the best MMA artist in the world, in my book. Check out his MMA drawings at Shomanart.com)
(Each week, MMAWeekly’s very own Ryan Bennett breaks down the MMA world by answering your e-mails about the state of the MMA game. For those who are new to the sport, Bennett is the founder of MMAWeekly.com. He also hosts the only daily MMA radio show in the world with pro fighter Frank Trigg at mmaweeklyradio.com, and is the lead broadcaster nationally for The Fight Network, which is the first 24-hour television station devoted to the fight game— MMA, boxing, and kickboxing. Bennett also does play-by-play for some of the top MMA organizations in the world. As one MMA promoter put it, Bennett is “the most influential person in the MMA industry.” Here is this week’s edition of the Bennett Breakdown.)
When all is said and done, despite not selling out the Staples Center, UFC 60 was still a big hit for Southern California. The official attendance was 14,802, and the announced capacity for the Staples Center was 16,947 for this particular event. I’m not sure how much they papered the place and how many tickets where given out, but even on a Memorial Day Weekend and with pay-per-view buys expected to be huge, it was a pretty good weekend overall for the UFC.
Star Watch – This was easily the most star-studded UFC event to date, with a who’s who of Hollywood in attendance. There were tons, and I mean tons, of celebs in the building. Former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson was in the house, plus Adam Sandler, Nicholas Cage, David Spade, James Caan, Damon and Marlon Wayans, Paris Hilton, Cindy Crawford, Michael Clarke Duncan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Everlast, Paul Walker, Kevin Nealon of Saturday Night Live fame, and even the great Kazushi Sakuraba were all in the house this weekend. Now, let’s get right to your e-mails.
“Ryan, what is the deal with K-1 and the UFC. Is there a working agreement?” Matt Freeman – Seattle, Washington
I didn’t think so going into the event, but after seeing that my boss, Mr. Tanagawa from K-1, not to mention Sakuraba (who absolutely hates flying) made the ten-hour trek from Japan to Los Angeles, it makes me think more and more that something definitely is up. “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge was there, and Heath Herring has gone on record saying that he wants to fight in the UFC, and Jerome LeBanner has specifically eyed Tim Sylvia… it’s either one hell of a coincidence, or there is something brewing. Did I mention that Royce Gracie was “on loan” by K-1 to the UFC?
“Was this Royce Gracie’s last fight in his career?” Jose Anjuendro – Mexico City, Mexico
The simple answer is no. Royce stated over and over after the fight that he has two more fights left in him. His next fight will definitely be in Japan on the Dynamite card on New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure what K-1 will do with him, as far as who they put him up against. For Royce, you can look at this weekend in two ways. One is that you were dominated by the most dominant champion in the welterweight division, Matt Hughes, so anybody else will be a much easier opponent. The other way to look at this weekend is that age is catching up with you, as you were dominated for the first time ever in your career and you haven’t looked good in your last few fights. Matt Hughes aside, many thought that Royce was dominated by Hideo Tokoro in Japan last December. The fight was ruled a draw, as it went the full time limit and it was agreed that there would be no judges for the fight, not to mention the fact that Tokoro is a fighter who competes at 155 pounds. It’s not a great way to make a statement if you’re Royce Gracie and you out-weigh your Japanese opponent by 38 pounds, but you’re not able to win the fight. I take Royce at his word, and I believe that he will fight two more fights.
“Am I blind or did Diego Sanchez lose his fight to John Alessio?” Mark LeBlanc – Toronto, Canada
I would say it was definitely Alessio’s fight to win. However, if Alessio would have just done something, he would have won the fight. I actually scored the fight 29-28 for Sanchez. Here’s why I scored it that way. Diego definitely won the third round, and Alessio won the first. In the second round, Alessio would have won the round easily if he threw more than a stiff jab. Instead, he was so worried about defending the takedown (which he did perfectly the entire fight, I might add) that his offense went totally out the window. He didn’t throw more than a one-time combination the entire fight. Alessio clearly inflicted more damage and had a great sprawl, but he didn’t let his hands go. Alessio will kick himself when he looks back at the tape, because if he would have just won the last ten seconds of the second round, then he would have won the fight. One more thing about Diego: He apparently threw out his back in the first round. Diego told me after the fight that he shot in for a takedown in the first round and pulled a muscle in his back, and he just couldn’t move well the rest of the way. Sanchez also received seven stitches above his left eye and six stitches above his right eye after the fight. Alessio clearly had the power and did more damage, as Alessio didn’t have a scratch on him after the fight. Too bad that he didn’t throw any combinations or engage in the fight more, because he easily would have won the fight.
STAT OF THE NIGHT: Since we are talking about the Diego Sanchez fight, here is your stat of the night. Sanchez executed just ONE takedown in TEN tries during the first two rounds. In total, he had two takedowns in 15 attempts. The numbers tell you that Alessio dominated this fight, and he has nothing to show for it. By the way, how one of the judges could score the fight 30 to 27 for Sanchez (meaning that Diego won every round) is just beyond me. Sometimes I wonder what the judges are truly watching.
“What’s next for Matt Hughes?” Larry Rothstein – Davenport, Iowa
It’s definitely a showdown with George St. Pierre in September. This will be a tremendous rematch, and I can’t wait to see the fight. I believe that if the UFC has their way and if they can get the deal done, the fight will most likely happen in Canada. Right now, they are working vigorously behind the scenes, trying to get a deal done with our neighbors up north, and you could see a GSP vs. Hughes fight in Montreal as the UFC’s first ever event in Canada. “Ryan, who impressed you the most this weekend?” – Kim Panter – Atlanta, Georgia Definitely Dean Lister. Lister shocked me, to be honest. We all knew that his ground game was sick and that it was over if he got it to the ground, but I didn’t believe in his takedowns, and I thought Alessio Sakara would give him fits with his hand speed and by keeping his distance. I was totally wrong on this fight. Trigg and I both predicted that Sakara would win this fight, and I gotta put a shout out to my man, Joey Oddessa, who set Lister as the favorite when the odds came out (and Trigg and I made fun of Joey on the radio show at the time, thinking he was smoking crack). Joey, once again, you are the man and the smartest man in MMA.
One other thing about Lister was the fact that he was really pissed that a few of his former training partners have actually have been working out with Sakara. Alessio recently moved to Southern California, and there were a handful of guys that used to train with Dean who went and trained with Sakara. This didn’t sit well with Lister, and I know he was extremely pissed going into this fight and used it as motivation in the fight. It worked, and Lister looks like he will be very dangerous in the 185-pound weight class, which is where he will be fighting from now on. Two other guys who impressed me were Brandon Vera and Mike Swick. Both Vera and Swick are in a very interesting position. They both could get title shots in their next fights, even though I still think they could each use two more fights. Vera is now a perfect 3-0 in the UFC. He is crushing guys left and right, and the UFC’s heavyweight division is so thin right now that the smartest thing for the UFC would be to just sit back and put Vera in a title fight, either putting him up against the winner of the Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski fight, or giving Jeff Monson the next title shot and then giving Vera the title shot after that. Does Vera need a few more wins? Yes, and he will tell you that, but once again, Zuffa is in a tough position because they need more heavyweight match-ups, and Vera gives them that immediately.
Swick is in the same boat. He could use a couple more fights, but Rich Franklin needs opposition. I think Franklin will fight the winner of Chris Leben vs. Anderson Silva, and Swick can wait in the wings to get his shot after that. By the way, do we all realize how well-rounded Swick is now? A couple of KO victories and now a couple of submissions? This kid is getting better and better, and while he does need a few more fights, he has a great work ethic in training, and it shows in his fights.
“How close is the UFC crowning a champion at 155?” Kelly DeGuess – Boise, Idaho
Apparently, very close. It looks as though Sean Sherk will get a shot at the vacant 155-pound title, as the UFC looks to re-crown a champion at 155. Sherk’s opponent will most likely be the winner of the June 24th fight between Kenny Florian and Sam Stout. The UFC’s first plan was to have Yves Edwards face Sean Sherk for the vacant title, but that fell through when Edwards was shocked by Mark Hominick. Zuffa’s second idea was to put Sherk against BJ Penn, but Penn really wanted to stay at 170 pounds and get a rematch with the winner of the upcoming Hughes vs. St. Pierre fight. So, Sherk is now waiting to fight someone for the title, and the most likely scenario is that the winner of Florian vs. Stout will go up against Sherk for the vacant Lightweight Title, perhaps as soon as August.
(If you would like to e-mail your questions for a future Bennett Breakdown, you can reach Bennett at RyanBennett@MMAWeekly.com)