Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tonight's UFC 104: Handicapping the fights

Once again, Kyle and I are going to try our hands at predicting the results of tonight's MMA bouts. I'll report tomorrow on how we did.

I'll take them in order from the top of the card to the bottom.

The main card fights:

Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

Mark: Shogun is an emotional fighter who gained a significant number of his victories from soccer (and similar) kicks. Machida preys on emotion in his opponents, enticing them to make errors, and those kicks are illegal in the UFC. Though Shogun has a puncher's chance to catch Machida, it's a slim one due to the way Machida leans back. Shogun has a decent chance of surviving the first round and a tiny one of finishing the second, but I'll be stunned if he makes it out of the third.

Kyle: Shogun is a tailor-made opponent for Machida. His dubious record in the UFC is built on victories over 39-year-old Chuck Liddell and 44-year-old Mark Coleman. The last time Shogun beat somebody under 35 was February 2007. Shogun is an aggressive striker who constantly moves forward and counts on accurate combinations to keep his opponent too off-balance to respond. Machida is a precise counterpuncher who doesn't get off balance. I expect this one to look like Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin, with Machida in the Anderson Silva role.

Cain Velasquez vs. Ben Rothwell

Mark: Unless Velasquez has improved mentally a great deal since the fight with Cheick Kongo, he's going to make some mistakes. That means Rothwell has a chance of tagging him--not a big chance, but a chance. If Rothwell doesn't, however, then Velasquez is going to take Rothwell down repeatedly, beat on him, and ultimate win via either TKO (my hope) or a decision (my fear). So, Velasquez it is.

Kyle: This fight is a lot less clear. Velasquez has fantastic wrestling skills and an undefeated record. Rothwell, despite being the same age, has been fighting professionally three times as long and faced stiffer competition. Rothwell's also got about thirty pounds on Velasquez. He'll try to keep the fight standing, use his weight, lean on Velasquez and wear him down. Velasquez will try to take Rothwell down and ground and pound his way to victory. I pick Velasquez to edge out the victory, but it could go either way.

Josh Neer vs. Gleison Tibau

Mark: Neer took the fight on short notice and has been training in the middle of nowhere with a camp of no particular renown, probably at least in part because of his scrapes with the police. With a good camp and adequate prep time, he would be my pick, but he had neither, so I'm going with Tibau instead. I expect Tibau either to submit Neer early or grind out a dull decision. This one, though, is close and hard to call.

Kyle: Neer has beaten Joe Stevenson and Melvin Guillard. Tibau has lost to Joe Stevenson and Melvin Guillard. So my money's on Neer... though since Neer is currently serving a seven-year suspended sentence for DUI and fleeing the police, I'd really be happier to see him lose. What do you have to do to actually get sent to jail these days?

Joe Stevenson vs. Spencer Fisher

Mark: I don't expect this fight to be exciting unless Stevenson gets a bad attack of the egos and the stupids. Assuming he sticks to the game plan Greg Jackson will have crafted for him, Stevenson should take down Fisher and grind out a decision, maybe even a ground-and-pound victory.

Kyle: Fisher's on a three-fight winning streak while Stevenson's been losing to top competition lately. But styles make fights and as long as Stevenson remembers that he's not a boxer I think he'll be able to take Fisher down at will. Look for Stevenson to finish from the top.

Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida

Mark: Johnson is bigger (especially after failing to make weight by six pounds), stronger, a better striker, and the proud owner of a huge reach advantage. Unless Yoshida can get him down and keep him down long enough to submit him, Yoshida is in for a very long night. The only factor that gives me pause is that Yoshida trained for two weeks with Greg Jackson, but it was only two weeks. Johnson by TKO or KO.

Kyle: This is another tough fight to call. Both fighters have fast hands and explosive power. Expect punches in bunches and whoever lands a clean strike first to walk out the winner. If forced to pick, I'll go with Yoshida.

And now, we venture into large stretches of terra incognita with our predictions for the preliminary bouts:

Yushin Okami vs. Chael Sonnen

Mark: Okami is the better fighter in just about every area and has fought tougher opponents than Sonnen. I like Sonnen, but he's over-matched here. Neither man is likely to finish, so this will be a long and quite possibly dull three rounds. When it finishes, though, Okami will emerge with the win, most likely via decision.

Kyle: Between them, Okami and Sonnen have had 27 fights go to decision, which is why this match between top-ten middleweights is on the undercard. Sonnen looked good in his WEC fight last year against an addled Paulo Filho, but Okami has been doing well against a higher level of competition in the UFC. Expect Okami to pull off a lay-and-pray victory.

Pat Barry vs. Antoni Hardonk

Mark: This fight should be short and exciting as two kick-boxers with minimal ground games pound on each other until one falls. I'm betting Barry will fall, and Hardonk will emerge the winner.

Kyle: Hardonk by TKO.

Jorge Rivera vs. Rob Kimmons

Mark: As an old guy, I like to root for the older guys in fights, but I can't believe in Rivera enough to do it this time. Expect Kimmons to take him down and submit him.

Kyle: Rivera because (a) he's done passably well against a higher level of competition in the UFC and (b) I like seeing guys my age getting by.

Ryan Bader vs. Eric Schafer

Mark: Unless someone feeds Bader a stupid pill right before fight-time, he'll take down Schafer immediately and then smother him. Schafer has a chance to submit Bader, because Bader is still young and inexperienced, but the more likely outcome--and the one I'm picking--is Bader winning. Whether Bader will win by holding down Schafer for three rounds or pounding him out is harder to call, but Bader should take it.

Kyle: Bader's a powerful wrestler. He'll take Schafer down and either pound the hell out of him or get triangle choked. I expect the former.

Kyle Kingsberry vs. Razak Al-Hassan

Mark: Unless the winner in this match pulls off the victory in strong style, we won't see him again in the UFC. The loser is definitely out of The Show. These guys are likely to beat on each other and so have an exciting match, but because the fight will go that way, it's hard to call. That said, Al-Hasan is my pick.

Kyle: Both fighters are coming off losses. The loser probably won't be seen in the UFC again for a while. I give Al-Hassan the slight edge.

Chase Gormley vs. Stefan Struve

Mark: Struve is huge, and he has a big reach advantage, but I still expect Gormley to close the distance, take Struve down, and pound out the win.

Kyle: Gormley. He's undefeated. He beat Eric Pele last year. And he's got fifty pounds on Stefan Struve. Gormley was originally supposed to be fighting Ben Rothwell on this card, so being pushed down into the prelims is a bit of a demotion for him.


Kyle and I disagree on only three fights, so the margin of victory for either of us won't be big. Tune in Sunday to find out which of us will carry the prediction day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In case you've been wondering

just what fried cookie dough looks like, you can see Sarah showing it--and her reaction to it--in this photo, courtesy of Gina.

Gina also provided all the other pictures for this entry; thanks, Gina.

Fried mac and cheese? Little golden triangles of cheesy goodness, as I demonstrate here. Sure, they used Kraft macaroni and cheese, but it still tasted great.

Ah, but what about fried cheesecake, you ask? Here it is, just before Scott attacked it.

As yesterday's entry proved, we didn't eat only bad things. We also had our fruits: these fried plantains.

You may also be curious about just how low a burger can go. This photo should answer that question. Take a flat burger. Smush it flatter. Cook until shoe leather. Drop in water with fellow victims. Wait three hours. Remove, toss on soggy white bun, and drench with twelve-hour-old cheese whiz. Hand to writer.

Of course I ate it.

By the way, in case you wanted proof we're in the South, check out this food stand. I bet you don't see chitlins, collards, side meat, and hush puppies at any of those fancy Northern or Californian fairs.

Of course, nothing says State Fair like odd crafts, and this chicken made of recycled soda cans, only one of several of his kind and the product of students at a local school, proves that NC kids can hang with anybody. Forget our SAT ranking; check out our metal chickens!

Weird creations are not only from children, as this traffic safety barrel creation demonstrates. As we were leaving, we walked by this one, and I found it a fitting summary to our time on the fairgrounds.

As I said in the other post, I already can't wait to go back next year.

Why last night's blog was so late

Blogger croaked on me--and a lot of other people--around 2:00 a.m. last night. It also managed to eat everything I'd written. So, I had to rewrite the post this morning and backdate it.

Sorry about that, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Of food and flu shots

Last night, seven of us descended on the State Fair for our annual extended family visit. We wandered the midway, checked out the amazingly large vegetables--a 376-pound pumpkin and a 210+-pound watermelon were my favorites--enjoyed looking at the prize-winning animals, and so on. Our main mission, however, was to locate and consume a broad variety of foods whose only common point was that they were bad for us.

Mission accomplished. Some of the many things that went down our gullets included the following:

* pretzel with salt and butter

* fried plantains

* ginger beer

* Ting

* fried cheesecake drenched in chocolate and then covered with sugar

* fried cookie dough

* fried macaroni and cheese

* fried pickles (are you sensing a pattern?)

* ham biscuit

* hot dog with cheese

* cheeseburger

* kettle corn

* six enormous bowls of delicious NCSU ice cream of various flavors

* turkey leg

Please note that I did not eat all of these (just many of them).

I'm sure I missed something, but you get the idea: we consumed enough calories to warm the entire population of Livingston, Montana on a cold night when the pass is snowed over.

In one of the odder moments of the visit, we were walking toward the gardens (where I enjoy the benches and moments of contemplation while others stare at flowers and plants and rocks and things), when we spotted a booth giving flu shots. I hadn't gotten mine yet, and I wanted one, so in I went. The shot turned out to be free for those of us with my company's health-insurance provider, so less than ten minutes later, I emerged, as did Jennie, with a flu shot. What an excellent and well-done service.

I love the Fair at night, when the darkness obscures the grime and the lights transform the rides into magical conveyances. I also love the people watching, which frequently includes folks who clearly hope one day to become people of Walmart. Let's face it, folks: some of us can look more than a little scary when in our Fair regalia and so wired from sugar that we could power the rollercoasters ourselves.

I can't wait until next year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One big house

At a party earlier tonight, a very intellectual gathering, several of us were debating the relative merits of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and America's Next Top Model (ANTM). Some of the people in the discussion had actually watched both shows. I was participating from a vantage point of nearly complete ignorance about ANTM, because I've never seen a whole episode of it. Instead, in my commentary, I relied entirely on Sarah's reporting of it, filtered, of course, through my own inability to tolerate more than ninety seconds of it.

I suggested then what I have proposed to others (and possibly in this blog) before: If we want a blockbuster hit, we need to put all the models and all the fighters in one big house.

Think about the huge benefits of this approach.

First, the non-training scenes would be amazing. We're talking a house full of testosterone-crazed fighters and gorgeous models. Forget the TUF masturbation jokes; this place would need condoms in every room.

Second, the DVD sales would be through the roof, because though you could broadcast only the TV-M-rated bits, on the box set you could show it all. We're talking amateur porn, fighting, and modeling all in one enormous DVD collection. Pure money, baby, pure money.

The opportunities for new events are also huge.

Pose-offs for the men. With the exception of this season's heavyweights, these guys generally have great bodies. Make them learn to walk the catwalk, and dress them in thongs; women who normally avoid TUF would now give it a look.

Fights for the women. Pit the top two in any modeling event against each other in the cage; I guarantee you men would tune in.

For the finales, you go with cross-gender fighting by total weight and with clothing restrictions, say two or three of the women taking on each man, with high heels mandatory for all. The kinky crowd would not miss this.

Something for everyone, that's what we're talking. Okay, maybe not anything for anyone with any real taste, but fortunately most of America would still be in our demographic.

I clearly should work in TV programming.

Will Smith, want to produce my show while you star in my film?

Why don't you ever call?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wanna know how dumb I can be?

Sure you do. Here's an example.

The handle on my main travel suitcase broke a while back. Gina agreed to take care of it for me by sending the broken one to the Tumi mothership for repair. In the meantime, though, I had to travel again and so needed another bag. My solution, which Gina implemented (my credit card in hand): Get another Tumi. Just to try it, we went for one with four wheels instead of two.

The reason for my brand loyalty to Tumi is another story for another time. Remind me sometime, and I'll tell you.

Anyway, the suitcase came, and off on a trip I went. The whole journey, the suitcase steered like a drunk with a noisemaker, unable to stay on course and squeaking the whole time. I came to hate that bag--a first for me with a Tumi. Still, I thought, perhaps it's just not broken in. I don't send back things, so I figured I had to get used to it. Penance for my sins (small penance).

Next trip comes, and the damn thing still sucks. Finally, as I'm griping about it, Gina says she'll take it back for me. As we're talking, she looks at the suitcase and notes that it has brakes on two of its wheels--and one of those brakes is engaged.

She disengages the brake and, voila, the thing rolls straight and true and silent.

Brakes on a suitcase. Who knew? Clearly, I did not.

Given that the suitcase's behavior perfectly mimicked that of a bag with one stuck wheel, which was exactly what it was, I should have noticed this issue on my own and fixed it. But, no: I preferred to gripe and live with it.

Gina and Tumi: 1. Mark: 0.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On the road again: Bouchercon, Indianapolis, day 6

Today was one of those travel days, albeit a friendlier one than most. The rhythm of these days is all the same: get up, work, shower, work, head to airport, work, fly and work (unless the plane seats make that impossible, as they did today on the commuter jet), repeat if multiple legs (today had only one; hurrah!), and ultimately end up at home, where I am now. The flight wasn't full, it arrived early, the flight attendant was pleasant and even gave us peanuts, and my luggage arrived. I have no complaints.

So, now it's late, and I'm alone in my office, as a writer should be. Blue Rodeo is singing from speakers behind me that we are all lost together; amen to that.

My book proceeds, slower than I'd like but every day.

I have no clue if it will be any good at all, but like Greg Keelor on this song, I'm pouring my heart into it.

The book deserves no less.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On the road again: Bouchercon, Indianapolis, day 5

I'm writing this part of the blog at 10:45 a.m. and wondering what in the hell I'm doing awake. A Sunday morning, and I'm already up! This is wrong. What could cause such torture?

The Bouchercon book bazaar, that's what. In an exercise in marketing and masochism, I signed up to participate in this event, one that as a fan I would love but as an author dreaded. Picture four long rows of tables, and I do mean long, easily sixty feet or more. Behind each half table sits or stands an author, a hand-scrawled name placard in front of him or her. Each author has 50 books--the minimum their publisher (or they) had to pony up--and some have more. Publisher Toni was mucho generous, so I had 100. Yes, 100 SF mysteries at a mystery convention. Each convention attendee received five tickets, each one good for one book. Additional tickets were available for a buck each. Your mission as writer: move your books.

Ninety asshole-clenching, humiliation-drenched, tense minutes later, and all my books were gone. My hand hurt from signing them. I suck at this. When someone genuinely wanted the books, as many did, it was fun; we'd chat, I'd sign, and off they'd go. Much of the time, however, I looked around forlornly, like a dog willing to take a beating just for the attention. I wasn't the last author standing, but I was in the last twenty for sure, maybe the last dozen.

These feelings no doubt represent my own insecurities more than the reality, because all 100 books went, and the people were unfailingly nice. I just found it difficult.

One woman stood out. She had bought a ton of tickets and was using them to purchase books for troops at medevac stations in the Middle East. She was hoping writers would sign something encouraging for the troops. Good on her. I refused to take her tickets, wrote stupidly encouraging words--what could really help someone there?--and offered her four books. She would take only two. I was proud to shake her hand.

To my great surprise, half a dozen or so folks already knew my work, had read all the books, and were picking up extras for friends. Talking to them was fun, of course.

I suppose if you're one of the writers everyone knows and whose books they all want, then this event is easy and fun. Maybe that'll be the case for me one day; I like to think so. Until then, however, I'll keep doing it--because this sort of marketing is part of the job--but I'll continue to be that perpetually awkward and embarrassed guy behind the table.

Lunch was at a nearby Steak 'n Shake, which was in most respects the same as the one in which I ate once as a teenager. So, it was completely adequate, but no more.

For dinner, we decided to take a chance and try the hotel's revolving rooftop restaurant, the Eagle's Nest. The dinner menu hinted at modern preparations, such as in its foie gras ravioli, the OpenTable reviews were solid, and it's always nice to take in a city from on high. So, off we went.

Mistake. Big mistake.

The chef had probably held the foie gras ravioli near a picture of foie gras, but that was as close as it had come to a goose's liver. The ravioli were lukewarm and paper thin. Sitting atop each of them was a dollop of cold apple butter. Amazing.

The lobster bisque was a burning orange generic seafood soup so thick with pepper that my tongue couldn't shake the taste for several minutes. The wine-poached pear and duck confit salad featured bitter pear slices, so-so duck strips, and greens we could not identify and which frightened us.

The main courses were no more successful, with the chicken tart more a leaky chicken pot pie than a proper tart, and the reasonably tasty duck among the chewiest pieces of meat I've ever experienced. Pepper abounded again.

The highlight of the feature dessert, our waiter told us with great pride, was "in-house made whipped cream." We passed on it. We ordered traditional desserts to go and fled, afraid to open them in the restaurant lest their appearances provoke hoots of laughter. We were right to leave, because both were floating in pure white heavy cream in their little cardboard boxes.

Next time, we go somewhere reliable.


Blog Archive