Saturday, March 27, 2010

Our picks for tonight's UFC 111 Pay-Per-View event

Tonight, a group of us are gathering to watch UFC 111. Kyle and I will both be there, and as usual, we agree on most fights. Here's how we see the fights, starting, as usual, with the undercard.

Ricardo Funch vs. Matt Riddle

Mark: Funch is going to spend most of the fifteen minutes with Riddle on top of him as Riddle grinds out the classic wrestler's decision victory.

Kyle: Riddle should have the wrestling skills to dominate Soto from the top and take the win.

Tomasz Drwal vs. Rousimar Palhares

Mark: The odds currently favor Palhares, but Sherdog, which both Kyle and I use for advice, is picking Drwal. In a risky move, I'm siding with Sherdog and betting that Palhares won't be able to out-muscle Drwal. Drwal for the win, probably a long, slow one.

Kyle: Both fighters are tough men, but I expect Palhares to use his caveman strength to get things to the ground and to get a submission.

Jared Hamman vs. Rodney Wallace

Mark: In December, we saw Rodney Wallace live at the Pearl for the Ultimate Fighter Finale, and Brian Stann dominated him. Fortunately for Wallace, Hamman isn't as good as Stann, so Wallace's superior wrestling skills should net him the win and keep him in the UFC.

Kyle: From what I read, Wallace is pretty much a pure wrestler and Hamman is pretty much a pure striker. These types of match-ups usually end up with the striker on his back eating leather for fifteen minutes. Wallace by ground and pound.

Ricardo Almeida vs. Matt Brown

Mark: The last time I checked the odds, Almeida was a slight favorite. I don't buy it. Brown has been steadily improving, while Almeida keeps showing up as the same fighter again and again. Plus, Brown is a natural welterweight, while Almeida is making a big cut. I expect Brown to wear down Almeida and ultimately grab the win.

Kyle: Almeida has always had fantastic jiu jitsu, but his game hasn't evolved over the years. In the decade that he's been fighting his weak striking and nonexistent wrestling have remained, respectively, weak and nonexistent. Despite winning his last two fights at 185, Almeida's dropping down to 170 pounds to take on Matt Brown. But he was well-sized for 185 and is going to be weakened by the weight cut to 170. Brown should be able to keep the fight on the feet and outstrike Almeida for the win, much as Patrick Cote did back in 2008.

Nate Diaz vs. Rory Markham

Mark: This time, I agree with the oddsmakers: Diaz is going to win this fight despite the large weight disadvantage. His weird striking style and long reach are going to give Markham fits, and if the fight hits the ground, Diaz's advantage only goes up.

Kyle: Markham's a good striker, but he's going to have trouble dealing with Diaz's five-inch reach advantage. On the feet, Diaz will use his usual pitter-patter of light jabs to control the space and keep Markham off-balance. If he can get the fight to the ground, Diaz should have a tremendous advantage. Diaz by submission.

The undercard often contains fighters we barely know and sometimes have never seen, so we have plenty of excuses for calling those fights incorrectly. On the main card, though, we usually have a fair amount of data and so at least in theory should do better.

Jim Miller vs. Mark Bocek

Mark: If we haven't taken an ice cream break by this point in the evening, we may well want to do it during this fight. Bocek's only real way to win is via submission, and I just don't believe Miller will give him the chance to do it. I expect Miller to grind out the classic wrestler's decision victory: take down Bocek, keep him down, hit him a little, get stood up by the ref, repeat.

Kyle: Jim Miller's a badass. This should be an easy win for him.

Jon Fitch vs. Ben Saunders

Mark: You have to respect Ben Saunders for moving up on the card to replace Thiago Alves (out with a "brain irregularity" that a pre-fight scan found) against Jon Fitch. You also, though, have to wonder why Saunders wanted another loss on his record. Saunders has reach and striking and great knees going for him, but Fitch is a top-ten welterweight with insane wrestling skills who fights smart. Unless Saunders gets in a lucky shot early, Fitch will take him down and keep taking him down until he wins. Fitch vs. Alves was a tough call, but here choosing Fitch is easy.

Kyle: Ben Saunders is being a good sport by stepping up when Thiago Alves had to pull out of his fight with Jon Fitch on two days' notice. That's not going to save him from being taken down and ground on by Jon Fitch until there's nothing left, though. Fitch by superior wrestling.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. Fabricio Camoes

Mark: Ice cream will again be calling to us during this fight, because Pellegrino, a UFC vet who's been inching his way upward, is not going to take any chances with Camoes. Pellegrino will be thinking take down, pound, repeat--just like Miller. Expect it to work for him and result in a unanimous decision for Pellegrino--and a UFC contract in jeopardy for Camoes.

Kyle: Pellegrino is a conditioning machine. He'll mix strikes with takedown attempts until Camoes is worn out. Then he'll take the fight to the ground and work for the rear naked choke.

Frank Mir vs. Shane Carwin

Mark: Frank Mir looked unstoppable before his motorcycle accident. After his return, he appeared to be on the edge of fading out. Then, Frank Mir version II appeared, and he looked great again--until Brock Lesnar smothered and then punched him out. Since that time, Mir has gotten bigger, improved his boxing, and been working on ways to beat Brock. Frank Mir version III is a scary fighter indeed. Shane Carwin, by contrast, has always been a scary fighter, but we've never gotten to see whether he's improving, because his fights end too quickly. My rational self says Mir, but I want Carwin to win, I think he has a chance because Mir should have a hard time taking him down, and so I'm going against reason and picking Carwin.

Kyle: Mir has great striking and great jiu jitsu. Carwin has great striking, great wrestling, and a solid blueprint for how a guy like him beats Frank Mir in Mir's second fight with Brock Lesnar. Mir has always been willing to take punishment to get a submission, and that would be a big mistake to make against an iron-fisted striker like Carwin. That said, I expect Carwin to take a different approach than Lesnar did. He'll use his wrestling skills to keep the fight on the feet, where he'll throw heavy leather. This fight's unlikely to make it out of the first round. Somebody's going to end up unconscious, and I'm guessing it'll be Mir. Carwin by KO.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Dan Hardy

Mark: Dan Hardy has a puncher's chance in this fight, because he definitely possesses one-punch knock-out power. That's all he has, though, while GSP has an insanely well-rounded game, is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, and trains with, among others, Greg Jackson. I expect GSP to avoid Hardy's punches and turn in another dominating performance that culminates in a win, probably a TKO.

Kyle: With their UFC Primetime specials, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has done a great job of putting Dan Hardy over as if he's a legitimate contender. He's not. GSP has already beaten all the legitimate contenders at 170. Everything Dan Hardy does, Thiago Alves does better, and St. Pierre beat Alves like a dusty rug. GSP is going to take Hardy down at the beginning of every round--and it's going to look like a lion taking down a zebra on Animal Planet--and then GSP is going to pound on Hardy until he breaks. That took all five rounds with Thiago Alves, but I'm guessing that Hardy won't last as long.

Tune in tomorrow to see how we fared.

As always, don't use us for betting advice!

Friday, March 26, 2010

When you read

this io9 article on the raunchiest science-fiction comedies, how do you react? Do you

(A) Quickly hit the back button and wonder what you were thinking for clicking on the link in the first place

(B) Despair at the state of filmed SF

(C) Hope desperately that Hot Tub Time Machine isn't anywhere near as bad as these notable bad-movie classics, because otherwise you're never going to talk your friends into seeing it

(D) Note with satisfaction that you've seen almost all of them

(E) Gasp in amazement at the mere thought of One Eyed Monster and immediately order it from Amazon
If you're me, you do all of C, D, and E.

Yes, I really will watch anything.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


The weekend before last, I caught Tim Burton's Alice. A few folks have asked what I thought of the movie, so I figured I'd answer all of them here.

I should note up front that I am a big fan of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. I entered the movie expecting and wanting to like it a great deal.

I emerged with very mixed feelings. Overall, I enjoyed it enough that I was glad I'd seen it. It was certainly visually stunning, as saturated with the strangeness of Burton's imagination as his best work. (The 3D effects were fine but nowhere near as good as those in Coraline or Avatar, so I won't go into that topic again.) His re-imagining of this classic was always a treat for the eyes.

The movie suffered greatly, though, from several weaknesses. First, Helena Bonham Carter had way, way too much screen time. Her Red Queen was fine in small doses, but Burton fed us big gulps that quickly turned cloying.

Burton also misused Johnny Depp. Rather than restrict Depp's Hatter to the moments that made sense for the story, Burton thrust him into way too many scenes, almost as if he was saying, "Hey, it's Johnny Depp! Isn't he cool?"

The biggest weakness, though, was the story. Burton kept tweaking the tale to accommodate his vision, and most of those changes resulted in weak film. The greatest sin was the tacked-on message ending, which was downright gag-worthy. When (and this is a spoiler, but the movie's been out for weeks, so deal) Alice near the end declares that she's going to do something useful with her life, the film should have faded to credits. All that followed was at best dull and at worst offensive to all common sense and history.

Now, having advanced all those negatives, let me close by saying again that on balance I enjoyed the film. The power of Burton's imagery and strange storytelling is such that even with so many flaws, it won me over and left me glad to have seen it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

She sure can write

I love reading Sarah's writing. I know I'm biased, but in this case, I'm also right. For samples, check out the blog she and some friends are doing, a site I've mentioned before: A Year In Prose.

This entry of hers in particular grabbed me. Who hasn't missed someone that way?

I was surprised by her post this week, because it's skiffy of a sort and unlike any of her previous writing.

While you're reading her entries or any of the others on this blog, be sure to listen to some of the music. They've provided a nice selection of songs, and you're almost certain to encounter something you've never heard before.

Okay, enough bragging about my daughter. What can I do to atone for such an indulgence?

I know! A little bonus Blue Rodeo. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two tunes, two bits of Jon & Lobo trivia

When I wrote the first Jon Moore story, "My Sister, My Self," I conceived of it as the opening chapter to a novel. (You'll be able to read this story in Jump Gate Twist, due this summer at bookstores everywhere.) I wrote it to stand alone fairly well--well enough that it sold, but not so well that its real purpose wasn't clear to many.

I had planned to open each chapter with a quote from a song that had influenced my writing during that chapter, so I put a few lines at the start of this story. Those lines cost me $25, the fee Bruce Springsteen/ASCAP charged for using them. Considering I earned something like $150 for the whole story, that was quite a chunk of my earnings. Those lines won't appear with the story in Jump Gate Twist, however, because I don't have the time to secure the rights again.

The next chapter of that book I never wrote was to be called "Benny the Geek." The events of that chapter appear in Children No More, albeit in many chapters and with some changes from my original vision. I'd already outlined most of that chapter before I put aside the book, and I'd already chosen the song lines to use.

I'm not sure if it's fair use to give you the two sets of lyrics here, but I am sure it's okay to link to YouTube videos. So, here's a lovely live version of the song from which I pulled the quote for "My Sister, My Self."

For "Benny the Geek," I used lyrics from this tune. (Warning: This one plays far louder than the first at the same volume level.)

Damn, but the teen me had a thing for Grace Slick based entirely on her voice.

I'm pretty sure I can say yes or no if you guess the correct lyrics, so feel free to do so in comments. Or not; you can always just enjoy the music.

Monday, March 22, 2010

UFC on Versus: How we fared

Last night's UFC show promised to be an evening of finishes, and though there were a few odd moments along the way, it basically delivered. Let's get right to the results and see how Kyle and I did. As usual, we begin with the undercard.

Jason Brilz vs. Eric Schafer

Only one prelim made it to Versus, and this was not it. From what I read, though, it was a long and not always pretty struggle. In the end, Brilz won the decision.

Unfortunately, Kyle and I had both chosen Schafer, so we kicked off the evening with a bad call.

Mike Pierce vs. Julio Paulino

I said Pierce would take down Paulino and dominate him. Kyle said Pierce would win by TKO. Though it went to the judges, from what I've read, Pierce definitely dominated Paulinho and earned the unanimous decision.

Brendan Schaub vs. Chase Gormley

For this one, I went vague and simply called the fight for Schaub. Kyle also chose Schaub, but he said it would be a KO. We were both right in picking Schaub, though Kyle was closer, as Schaub won with a quick TKO.

John Howard vs. Daniel Roberts

Versus filled in some dead time with this short fight, and it's easy to see why. Roberts came hard at Howard and was controlling Howard for a while, but then Howard dumped Roberts. Howard stood by Roberts' feet, launched a hard downward left punch, and knocked out Roberts. I picked Howard, so I was happy. Kyle had gone with Roberts, so I was now one ahead of Kyle.

Duane Ludwig vs. Darren Elkins

We didn't get to see this fight, but that's probably for the best, because from what I read Ludwig's leg broke in the middle of his shin after Elkins took him down. Kyle and I both chose Ludwig, so we notched another bad call. I sure hope the poor guy's leg heals okay.

Eliot Marshall vs. Vladimir Matyushenko

Kyle tied it up with this fight, as he called Vladdy and I did not. I wish I could have seen this one, even though it sounds like three rounds of slow action, because I love Vladdy's complete willingness to keep coming forward. Though called all three rounds for Matyushenko, the judges made it a split decision. Still, Vladdy won, and Kyle tied it up.

Clay Guida vs. Shannon Gugerty

From the bits I read, Guida did as he had promised and stuck to his wrestling roots. Partway into the second round, he grabbed an arm triangle choke and submitted Gugerty. We both got this one right.

So, as the last of the seven undercard bouts ended, we were tied on the fights we'd called differently, and we'd agreed on two wrong choices. At this point, we were both 4-3.

On to the main card.

James Irvin vs. Alessio Sakara

The televised matches began oddly, as three minutes into the first round the ref stopped the fight because Irvin complained that Sakara had poked him in the eye. As the replay clearly showed, Sakara had not poked Irvin's eye, but he had hit it squarely with a punch. Unfortunately for Irvin, that's a completely legal blow, so Sakara won via a TKO by injury stoppage.

I'd gone with Sakara, while Kyle had chosen Irvin, and this was the last fight on which we'd disagreed, so I won our disputed bouts 2-1.

Cheick Kongo vs. Paul Buentello

Paul Buentello is famous in MMA circles for being tough. In the third round, he tapped from Cheick Kongo hitting him repeatedly in the thigh with elbows. I can only imagine how hard those blows were. Of course, that finish is far from the whole story. What really happened is that Kongo so dominated and punished Buentello that eventually Buentello just didn't want to take any more. We both called Kongo, so notch another correct choice for us.

Junior Dos Santos vs. Gabriel Gonzaga

Damn but Dos Santos looks good. Gonzaga got him down once, but Dos Santos was up in no time. A couple more minutes passed, Gonzaga threw a kick, and Dos Santos perfectly timed an arcing left counter-punch that dropped Gonzaga. Dos Santos followed him to the mat and unloaded with a few more punches before the referee pulled him off and called the KO. We got this one right, also, and Dos Santos stepped up again on the heavyweight ladder.

Jon Jones vs. Brandon Vera

Jones controlled this fight for the short time it lasted. Before the first round was over, he rained elbows on Vera's face and ultimately won the TKO. I don't know how Jones will do against the elite at light heavyweight, and he made some mistakes, such as leaving his right arm too exposed, but he keeps looking better and better.

I ended the night 8-3, while Kyle went 7-4. It was a slim victory for me, but I'll take it.

Next week, we'll be back with our choices for UFC 111. As always, don't use us for betting advice.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another excellent Raleigh restaurant: Saint-Jacques

As I've noted before, the Triangle area has developed into a small-scale foodie paradise. With lots of very good restaurants, a few top-drawer ones, and a wide selection of wonderful locally grown and raised food, this small part of North Carolina has become a great place to go out to eat. I'm now happy to add another name to the list of top-drawer local dining establishments: Saint-Jacques French Cuisine.

Saint-Jacques has been around for several years, so I'm not sure why I took so long to try it. Maybe it was the strip-mall location, or the fact that a far less interesting French restaurant once occupied the same spot. Regardless of the reason, I was wrong to wait. Saint-Jacques is pricey for the area but worth every penny. The food is classic French, with all the wonderful sauces you'd expect, but it's never too heavy. Chef/owner Lil Lacassagne keeps dishes from his childhood on the menu, and both it and the more traditional ones that we sampled were superb.

Lest I mislead anyone, I should note that Saint-Jacques is never going to win three Michelin stars, because neither the dining room nor the service could meet those exacting standards. The two rooms are pleasant enough, but a little decorating help would go a long way to improving them. The service was good and friendly, but aside from the sommelier, no one else seemed fully aware of what it would take to serve as well as the kitchen cooked.

Those are nits, though, and I do not want to stress them. Six of us had a wonderful meal, and over five courses--yes, we were oinking piggies by the end--only one part of one dish (a risotto that had turned the sad corner to gummy) was anything less than excellent.

If you live in this area, you owe it to yourself to save up and catch a great meal at Saint-Jacques.


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