Saturday, November 21, 2009

UFC 106: Picking the winners

Tonight's UFC PPV was supposed to offer a main event pitting the heavyweight champ, Brock Lesnar, against the undefeated challenger, Shane Carwin. Brock took ill, very ill, and ended up having minor (they say) abdominal surgery. Carwin used the time off to have some long-postponed knee surgery. Dana White thus had to scramble to fill the card with a worthy replacement, which proved to be the return of Tito Ortiz in a rematch with popular fighter, Forrest Griffin. All this drama yielded a card far weaker than the original but still one well worth watching--which is what we'll be doing tonight.

As we have done with several, though not all, of the recent UFC events, Kyle and I are going to make our picks. Last time, we sucked; let's hope we're more on the money this go-round.

We'll take the fights from the bottom to the top, saving the main event for last.

First, the undercard.

George Sotiropoulos vs. Jason Dent

Mark: Both of these guys are Ultimate Fighter alums who aren't ready for a main card. Sotiropoulos is dropping to lightweight for the first time and should be the bigger man. The Australian should win this one, probably via submission but possibly by decision. Either way, Sotiropoulos should have a winning lightweight debut.

Kyle: Both fighters have a history of winning by submission, but Sotiropoulos is on another level. When the fight hits the ground, he flows like mercury. Look for him to tie Dent into a human pretzel and win a submission victory.

Caol Uno vs. Fabricio Camoes

Mark: The oddsmakers are all over Uno, giving him a large edge over UFC newcomer Camoes. I think they're wrong. Camoes is going to be much bigger than Uno, show surprising striking skills, and surprise a lot of people by pulling off the victory, though whether by decision or submission, I'm not sure.

Kyle: Six years ago, Caol Uno was fighting for the UFC lightweight title. Now he's lost three of his last four fights.and he's on the prelims fighting a guy who's never been in the UFC before. Camoes has won seven fights in a row, but Uno is going to be a big step up in competition for him. Expect Uno to neutralize Camoes' attacks and hang on for a decision victory.

Brock Larson vs. Brian Foster

Mark: Larson lost his last fight, but I think he'll back in fine form tonight. He will simply overwhelm Foster, take him down at will, and ultimately either submit him or win a decision.

Kyle: Larson by whatever he chooses to finish the fight with.

Kendall Grove vs. Jake Rosholt

Mark: Kendall Grove has the motivation of fighting to stay in the UFC, but I don't think that will be enough. Rosholt is too strong a wrestler. He'll find a way under Grove's reach advantage, take Grove down, and probably win via decision, though a late-fight submission is also a possibility. Either way, Rosholt wins.

Kyle: Grove has lost three of his last five fights, and I see no reason why he should win this one. Look for Rosholt to use his superior wrestling to take Grove down and work to a submission victory.

Ben Saunders vs. Marcus Davis

Mark: If either of these two fighters hits the ground, it'll be because he slipped or was knocked out. They'll stand and trade, where Davis is better and will pull off the decision. This one could get fight of the night honors, because Dana loves to award guys who stand and trade.

Kyle: Davis is a heavy favorite here. He fought Mike Swick to decision a year ago, while Swick recently knocked Saunders out. But I'm picking Saunders to win. Like Swick, Saunders is tall for a welterweight. He's 6' 2" to Davis' 5' 8". Both men are stand-up fighters, and I think Saunders is going to be able to use his superior reach to punish Davis from the outside.

And now to the main bouts.

Amir Sadollah vs. Phil Baroni

Mark: Baroni swears he's a new man, but I don't buy it. I think the UFC created this fight to get Sadollah back on the winning track. Unless Sadollah screws up and lets Baroni tag him early, Baroni will gas, and Sadollah will win by submission sometime after the first round.

Kyle: There are a lot of unknowns in this fight. Sadollah tore through tough competition to win his season of The Ultimate Fighter before being laid out by an early punch in his first real UFC fight. Baroni has beaten down some top middleweights with his heavy hands, but is known for wearing himself out early and fading in the later rounds. Does Sadollah have a weak chin, or did his last opponent just get lucky? Will Baroni be weak from cutting all the way down to welterweight? I pick Sadollah to weather the early storm, take it to the ground and beat Baroni there--but it's all going to hinge on whether or not he can survive the first round.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Luis Cane

Mark: It's always risky betting against a Nogueira, but I'm doing exactly that in picking Cane to win in what will be his welcome to the top ten fight. He's going to push Nogueira hard, keep it standing up, and ultimately win by TKO or KO.

Kyle: Cane has beaten Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Sokoudjou has beaten Nogueira, so if fighting skill were a well-ordered set you'd expect Cane to beat Nogueira. But the real world doesn't work that way. Nogueira is an experienced veteran who's beaten some of the best fighters in the world and he'll be well-versed in Cane's strengths and weaknesses. I expect him to get Cane down and pull off a submission victory.

Paulo Thiago vs. Jacob Volkmann

Mark: Volkmann is an undefeated wrestler who trains in the Minnesota home of such other great wrestlers turned MMA fighters as Sean Sherk and Brock Larson. Thiago is probably more well rounded, but I see Volkmann winning by decision after spending a lot of time holding down Thiago. That said, Thiago pulling off a submission victory wouldn't surprise me, but I have to pick, so Volkmann it is.

Kyle: Thiago's a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert. Volkmann's a former NCAA wrestler. Expect Thiago to spend most of the fight on his back, but to try to use his BJJ skills to keep from taking damage, to reverse the position, and to secure a submission victory. I think he'll pull it off. Thiago to win.

Josh Koscheck vs. Anthony Johnson

Mark: I hate having to call this fight. It's a classic striker vs. wrestler battle, with Johnson, the striker, having a big size and reach advantage. The oddsmakers give it to Johnson, but Koscheck has a clear path to victory: take him down, hang out there a while, repeat. The fight I want to watch is the one in which Koscheck can't do that and Johnson wins, so I'm going with my desires, not my head, and choosing Johnson by KO or TKO.

Kyle: I think that Johnson takes this. He and Koscheck are both huge 170-pounders with explosive power. Koscheck undoubtedly has a stronger wrestling pedigree. But he's adopted a sprawl-and-brawl style over the last couple of years that I think plays to Johnson's strengths. Look for Johnson to use his superior speed and reach to win it on the feet.

Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz

Mark: Griffin and Ortiz are both huge light heavyweights. Ortiz is, as you'd expect, doing all the talking ahead of the fight, and he's pointing to his injury-free status as proof that he is back. I've been an Ortiz fan off and on through the years, but I see him losing tonight. He's still running his own training camp, when he should be working with others to challenge him. His game is still what it used to be, when Griffin's has evolved dramatically. Griffin by decision, with a small shot at a TKO.

Kyle: Two and a half years ago, Tito Ortiz beat Forrest Griffin in a controversial split decision. Tito went on to trounce a geriatric Ken Shamrock twice, then lose to Chuck Liddell, fight Rashad Evans to a draw and lose to Lyoto Machida. When he walked away from the UFC in May of 2008, his stock was at an all-time low.

But while Tito's been away from fighting, events back in the Octagon have made him look better. Griffin, Evans and Machida have all gone on to win the Light Heavyweight belt, and only Shogun has done as well as Tito did against Machida. Tito used his long layoff to get his back fixed and says that he's now stronger than he's ever been.

I pick Tito to win this one. Tito's consistently underrated, but he's as good as any fighter in the 205-pound shark tank. If he's in shape, Tito should be able to consistently put Griffin on his back and ground-and-pound his way to victory.


Kyle and I disagree on quite a few of these fights, so we'll be cheering for opposite sides on several occasions tonight. I'll report back tomorrow on how we did.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 5

As one who sees the highways at six a.m. only reluctantly, I'm always amazed to find them crowded. On today's drive to the airport, they were also slick from hours of rain, rain that continued the entire time I was in the rental car. None of this deterred the experienced Portland drivers, who whizzed along at 75 miles per hour on overpasses that arched high over the city--and that were marked with a 45 limit. The less than half an hour I spent in the car was thus vastly more stressful than any of the many hours I was in the air.

I'm definitely getting spoiled by connectivity on planes. During the first flight, I exchanged email messages with a prospect and set up a phone meeting, which I held from an Admirals Club in DFW. I also caught up on email, video-chatted (but with no sound, as I didn't bring a headset with a microphone), and was generally productive. I know the idea of using the plane time as quiet time is appealing, but the work would have been there when I'm landed, so for me the Internet access was all good.

The second flight was a more typical one with no Internet access, and I found myself complaining about it while on a call. Definitely spoiled.

Winter isn't even here yet, and already I'm aching to go to an island. Why are there no SF conventions in January on tropical islands? (That's a rhetorical question; cons need to provide access to a broad base of fans and fan budgets, and islands are rarely cheap.) Maybe I should start one.

No. One of my rules: Don't work on a con. Write.

And Paris. I really want to go to Paris. Ever since Sarah's concert in Duke Chapel, I've wanted to stand next to Notre Dame at night, stare at the wild crowds circulating on the Left Bank, and then plunge into them.

Tomorrow evening promises to be very interesting; I'll write about it at some point. As a teaser, let me just say that it involves roller derby, barbecue, big men fighting, and this season's special offerings from Jeni's ice cream.

Now, though, a certain book beckons, and so, as I do each day, to it I go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 4

I never saw the sun today, something that my Portland friends and clients assure me is not a particularly unusual occurrence for residents. I don't mind gray skies, but having experienced a lot of them this week, I am ready to return home to sunshine. Still, I love this city and always enjoy visiting it.

Not seeing the sun wasn't a big issue in part because all the daylight hours went to work. Not much to say about that.

Dinner tonight was at Bamboo Sushi, easily the crunchiest sushi place I've ever visited. (To see why, just follow that link to its site.) Our dinner was good but not great, so the next time I'm in Portland and want raw fish, I'll probably try another place just to get a better sense of the local sushi scene. That said, if you live here and haven't tried it, give it a go, because you'll have at worst a decent meal and in the process support some good practices.

I have to get up at oh dark thirty to make the airport run, so I'm going to keep this short and hope to post tomorrow's entry from an Internet-connected plane.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 3

The Internet connection here is really getting on my nerves. I understand that the hotel is teeming with geeks who by day are attending SC09, the supercomputing conference here in Portland, and who by night are consuming all the available bandwidth with their work and personal pursuits, but surely a modern hotel can plan for data-intensive guests. Or not; this place, which I generally love, clearly chose the not. So, at night and in the early morning, my email flows like chilling molasses, and I recall with dread the dial-up days.

In addition to client meetings, I spent some time today at SC09, and it was quite interesting. The increasingly widespread availability of awesome numbers of compute cycles to scientists is changing the face of many sciences, with simulation and brute-force exploration now key tools on the utility belts of many science mystery fighters. The trend will only continue, because Shakespeare was right that there are more mysteries in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. The activity at this show makes it clear, though, that many are working diligently to reduce the size of the universal mystery list.

Business life ate any chance of a good meal out tonight, so when we finally finished grappling with the day's pressing problems and it was nearly ten o'clock, we decided to walk to a nearby theater and see Pirate Radio. Predictably, I loved it, but that's all I'm going to say about it for now, because I want time to process it. I'll discuss the film more in a later post.

Outside, it's raining, taxis and late travelers are splashing down the water-covered streets, and ambulance and police sirens penetrate my fifth-floor window all too often. Inside, though, it's warm and dry and bright with lamplight, by which I shall now return to Children No More and another part of a very rough bit of Jon's young life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 2

At the close of a long meeting today, a client colleague who is also a reader of my novels asked, "How's the fourth book coming?"

I answered honestly, probably too honestly, "It's kicking my ass."

This caused him to ask whether I would finish the book.

His question was very fair, but the thought that I might not finish the novel has never crossed my mind as a serious option. Whatever it costs me, unless I die first (which I most certainly hope does not happen), I will finish it. That it has proven to be a harder book than I ever anticipated speaks more to my own failure to understand the task than to whether I'll finish it. One lesson the bad parts of my childhood taught me well is that no matter how big the job, if you keep at it, eventually you'll finish it. So, I keep at it.

Last night's writing session, though far later than I would have liked, was actually quite a good one. I'm not sure if anyone else in the world will get or like Children No More, but I am now confident that at least I will be glad I have written it. Whether I'll think it's weak or strong when I finish it and start the second pass remains to be seen, but at least at times, such as last night, I end a writing session feeling I've done a few good bits.

Dinner tonight was at Paley's Place, a restaurant where I've enjoyed many good meals but one that has never, in my opinion, quite lived up to its reputation. Until tonight. Each of the dishes we sampled hit their targets, and the portion sizes were just right. My favorite was the rabbit ravioli with house-made bacon. Everything about it was spot on, with the sauce good enough that I would have happily eaten a small cup of it as a very rich soup.

If Paley's were a stock, I'd be upping my rating on it to Buy, so check it out if you're in Portland.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the road again: Portland, day 1

I hate getting up early, but that's what I have to do on these travel days. It's eight in the morning, a time when I should have a pillow pulled over my head and be snuggled into my bed, and instead I'm checking email and beginning this entry in the Admirals Club. Today is a classic modern travel day: no chance of upgrade, no way to sit next to my travel companion, a window seat (which I dislike; I vastly prefer the aisle) on one leg, and so on. Still, I have no room to complain, because I'll be in exit rows on both legs--a perk of Platinum status is that you can see the exit-row seats when you book--and so will be able to work.

Work proved to be easy, thanks to the ability to buy bandwidth on the flight. I love being unconnected periodically, but when it's a work trip, being able to land and be caught up on email is a very nice thing indeed.

When I reached the hotel and had settled in, I learned of a very sad development: Sel Gris, a restaurant I adore and where we had planned to eat tomorrow night, was ravaged by a fire that swept through its building and so will not be open for some time. (Its Web site says it will reopen sometime in 2010; a voicemail message said Thanksgiving.) My thoughts and condolences and best wishes go to Chef Monduk and the staff there. If you live in Portland, please patronize this place heavily when it reopens; the culinary scene would be a poorer place without Sel Gris.

Dinner tonight was at Le Pigeon, one of my favorite restaurants in all the world. It's not that the food is the best I've ever tasted, though the meals Chef Gabriel Rucker and his team create are amazingly good and definitely top-drawer, nor that it's the prettiest or fanciest place ever; it's not. It's a funky, small place, and I simply love it. Walking in the door and, if I'm lucky as I was tonight, sitting at the bar where I can chat with the chefs just makes me happy. Rucker was not in the house tonight, but the three guys who were cooking were on the top of their game. I left fatter but happy.

My starter, a Chanterelle soup with foie gras and candy cap sandwich, was the stand-out among multiple excellent dishes. Imagine being a kid and having your mom serve you a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of mushroom soup. Now, make the grilled cheese sandwich contain foie gras between two centers of white bread so beautifully painted with butter and cooked on a pan and salted perfectly that you'd love to eat them alone, and then seal them around foie gras right on the edge of liquefying. Add chanterelle mushroom soup that was so perfect you realized you were finally for the first time learning what mushroom soup could be, and you have this dish. Wow.

I'm exhausted and have been up almost 21 hours, so I'm going to finish my writing and crash. More tomorrow from your roving correspondent.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How desperate and stupid can men get?

I think this story says it all. I suppose it was an emergency to him.

It doesn't make me feel good that he came from the Tampa Bay area, where I grew up.

Of course, his picture and his criminal record also speak volumes.

Sometimes, it's downright embarrassing to be a man.

Other times, it's worse.

(Thanks to Elizabeth for pointing me to this story.)


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