Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tonight's UFC 113: Kyle and I pick 'em again

The UFC is holding another pay-per-view event tonight, this time in Montreal, so of course Kyle and I have to weigh in with our picks.

As always, we start with the undercard.

Jason MacDonald vs. John Salter

Mark: Nothing warms up a crowd like a hometown boy winning the first fight. David Loiseau was supposed to be that boy, but the Quebec Athletic Commission killed that deal (and for no good reason). Jason MacDonald is from another part of Canada, but, hey, he's Canadian, so he got the chance to be the warm-up act. MacDonald's not with the UFC any more--except for this fight--for a good reason: He can't handle the newer competition. Expect him to fail again this time as he finds no way to control Salter. Salter for the win, either by TKO or, more likely, decision.

Kyle: Salter stepped up as a last-minute replacement to fight Gerald Harris at UFC Fight Night 20. He lost that fight, which left him with a 4-1 record. But the UFC appreciates guys who help them out by taking fights on short notice, so they gave Salter a fight against Nick Catone, who's 8-2 overall but only 2-2 in the four fights he's had in the UFC. Then Catone had to pull out of UFC 113 with an injury, and now Salter's fighting Jason MacDonald, a Canuck with a 24-13 record who's had more fights in the UFC than Salter and Catone combined. Salter has a solid wrestling base, but he's not used to fighting guys of MacDonald's caliber. MacDonald to win.

T.J. Grant vs. Johny Hendricks

Mark: Either of these guys has more skills than Mitrione and Ferguson combined, but they're not marquee fighters, so we may not get to see them. Regardless, Hendricks' superior wrestling skills should let him control this fight and win either by ground-and-pound or decision.

Kyle: Hendricks--a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion--will get to determine whether the fight takes place on the feet or on the ground. Grant has better jiu jitsu than Hendricks does, but unless he also has better striking, he's in for a painful night. I don't think he does. Hendricks by knockout.

Tim Hague vs. Joey Beltran

Mark: Hague looks like he belongs in a bigger weight class than Beltran, and he has the size to push around his smaller opponent. I think, though, that Beltran has continued to improve, while Hague has not. I expect Beltran to run around a lot, box when he can, and ultimately either knock out Hague or win a decision by landing more strikes.

Kyle: Hague weighed in at 266, and presumably cut weight to hit that. Beltran weighed in at 239. Neither guy is likely to be the next heavyweight title contender, but Hague should be able to lean on the "Mexicutioner" and wear him down enough to grind out a win.

Yoshiyuki Yoshida vs. Mike Guymon

Mark: Guymon will see his UFC contract end next week after Yoshida makes him look bewildered and ineffectual. The only question is whether Yohsida will win by submission or KO. I'm guessing submission, but either way, Yoshida will win.

Kyle: Yoshida has decent wrestling and heavy hands. Expect him to bully Guymon and get a knockout.

Jonathan Goulet vs. Marcus Davis

Mark: The UFC wants to keep Marcus Davis on its roster. He puts butts in seats, and he delivers knock-outs. Goulet is just the guy to help Davis. Expect Davis to win by KO within the first two rounds.

Kyle: Marcus Davis is a popular fighter. The Irish fans go wild for him every time the UFC does a show in the UK. He puts on exciting fights with highlight-reel knockouts. But he's lost two bouts in a row now. Presumably that's why the UFC is throwing him Jonathan Goulet, a Canadian who carries his hands low and lacks effective takedowns. Expect Goulet to put up about as much fight in this match as the slab of beef did in Rocky.

Joe Doerksen vs. Tom Lawlor

Mark: If Doerksen had been able to train for a complete camp, he might make two full rounds against Lawlor--before losing. Given that Doerksen had to take the fight on three weeks' notice, he has no prayer. Lawlor will destroy him.

Kyle: Lawlor just lost a split decision to undefeated all-around-badass Aaron Simpson. Joe Doerksen just won a split decision against 6-5 Chad Herrick. Chad Herrick is no Aaron Simpson. Doerksen's got a lot of hard miles on him, and even if he weren't taking this fight on short notice, Lawlor's energy would just be too much for him to handle. Lawlor by total domination.

Now, to the main card.

Alan Belcher vs. Patrick Cote

Mark: If Cote weren't Canadian, this fight wouldn't be on the main card. I've waffled a lot on this one, and I've even told Kyle that I was going with Cote, but I can't. Cote has a repaired knee and a ton of ring rust to torment him, and Belcher has been improving. In a call I still can't make wholeheartedly, I'm going with Belcher by points from strikes in a close decision.

Kyle: A year and a half ago, Patrick Cote earned the dubious distinction of being the last middleweight that Anderson Silva actually bothered to finish. To be fair, it seemed accidental, as Cote suffered a knee injury that ended the fight and has kept him out of the cage since. In the months that Cote has been inactive, Alan Belcher has beaten Denis Kang and Wilson Gouveia in the UFC and lost a close decision to Yoshihiro Akiyama. Belcher's a tough dude. He'll be happy to stand and trade with Cote, and I think he hits harder than Cote does. Belcher by beat-'em-up.

Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson vs. Matt Mitrione

Mark: I don't understand why anyone is picking Kimbo in this one. Mitrione doesn't have tons of skills, but he is a box of bricks with legs. I expect him to knock out Kimbo.

Kyle: It pains me that Marcus Davis and Tom Lawlor are on the undercard, but the main card has room for bad kickboxing between a former backyard brawler and a former pro football player. That said, Mitrione should win this easily. He's thirty pounds heavier. He's five years younger. His head is granite. And he's half ogre, which as any D&D fan knows gives him +2 Strength and +2 Constitution.

Jeremy Stephens vs. Sam Stout

Mark: This fight should be full of action, and both fighters are likely to take a lot of damage. In the end, though, I expect Stout to carry the decision.

Kyle: To make up for the bad kickboxing, the UFC is following it with good kickboxing: Sam Stout's Muay Thai vs. Jeremy Stephens brawling style of American kickboxing. The only takedowns you're likely to see in this fight come on the end of a fist. It should be close, but I expect Stout's superior technique to edge him out the win.

Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley

Mark: If Koscheck is stupid enough to ignore his wrestling and stand with Daley, or if he's sloppy enough to let in a Daley haymaker in the first few minutes, then he'll lose. I'm betting, though, that he's neither of those things, and so he'll win handily.

Kyle: In a fight that'll sort out the top ten rankings, a powerful North American welterweight with solid striking and fantastic wrestling takes on a loudmouth Brit with excellent striking and no takedown defense whatsoever. I feel as though I've seen this fight. Recently. And it went about like you would expect. Since this fight's pretty much a forgone conclusion, here's an interesting bit of trivia about another promotion's fighter: Josh Koscheck was the 174 lb. NCAA Div. I wrestling champion in 2001. Bobby Lashley was the 177 lb. champ of the less-prestigious NAIA organization three years earlier. Now Josh Koscheck is fighting on TV at 170 lbs. And Bobby Lashley weighed in for his last fight at 252 lbs, looking like the Michelin Man, only with muscles for tires. Draw your own conclusions.

Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

Mark: Shogun left Machida limping after their last fight, and many people, including me, thought he won that bout--but the judges did not agree. This time, though, Machida will be ready for Rua's kicks--and Rua won't have a better answer for Machida. Thus, Rua will either try that plan again--and lose a clear decision--or engage more--and end up knocked out. Either way, my money's on Machida.

Kyle: We've also seen this fight before--literally--but I expect it to go a little differently this time. In their first fight, Rua controlled the middle distance with punishing leg kicks while covering up to avoid Machida's punches. You can bet that Machida's been drilling how to check leg kicks ever since he healed up enough to walk again. Rua, on the other hand, is looking for a way to finish the fight instead of leaving things in the hands of the judges this time. I expect Machida to do a better job of avoiding mid-range engagement in the rematch, either staying outside and lunging like a fencer or clinching and using his dirty-boxing skills. I expect Rua to try to take things to the ground, where he can apply his wicked submission game. If so, then the fight should go more conclusively to Machida this time around: he has fewer adjustments to make and more ways to score, while if Machida can counter Rua's brutal kicks--admittedly a big if--Rua has few other tools to apply.

Wish us luck with our picks! I'll report tomorrow on how we did.

And, as always, don't treat this as betting advice.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

We went to see this film today, and I had a grand time. The simplest summary is this: If you liked the first Iron Man, you'll like this one--but not as much.

For one thing, this one has more of everything than its predecessor: more important characters, more special effects, more chewing the scenery, more explosions, more action, more exotic locales. So, you'll enjoy a lot of that--but you'll also probably feel that at times more was just too much.

The plot structure is also weaker, as you'd expect. In the first movie, we followed Tony Stark's transformation from jerk to hero. Once he's a hero, though, the second can't follow that same progression, right? Wrong. This is Hollywood. Make him a jerk again, just not as bad a jerk, and give him a reason for the descent. I don't think this part of the movie works very well, but so it goes.

Basically, this is the kind of sequel that you will enjoy tremendously if you walk in, sit down, turn off most of your higher reasoning functions, and say, "Entertain me." I expected that movie, I did those things, and I had a fine time. I wouldn't want a steady diet of films like this one, but if you're looking for your first summer action blockbuster, buy a ticket, settle down, and have fun.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A moment of perfect potential

I was talking to a friend a while ago and mentioned my theory of moments of perfect potential and how much I value them. He asked me to explain, which caused me to realize that not everyone thinks about these things (well, about most things) the way I do. So, I thought I'd illustrate this concept with one of my favorite examples.

Saturday night, nine o'clock or so. Paris. Stand about twenty yards in front of Notre Dame facing the Left Bank.

You can stay still and enjoy the amazing cathedral, the night air, the pedestrians, the relative calm in the center of the wonderful human swirl that is most of the city right then.

You can turn to your left and walk around the cathedral. The shadows show you things the daylight hides, and they evoke different feelings.

You can keep going left and walk into Isle San Luis, find a restaurant with laughter and lots of people, and you'll have a good meal in a place that will make you happy.

You can also walk straight ahead, dive into the mass of humanity congesting the Left Bank. Sure, a lot of the places are touristy, but it's the Left Bank, and if you open yourself to it you can almost drink in the history and the art that so many people have made there.

You can turn right instead, stop to gaze up at the Eiffel Tower in the distance and then proceed toward the Louvre and the Tuileries and on into the fashion district.

What you can't do is make a bad choice. Everywhere is wonder.

It's a moment of perfect potential.

Of course, such a realization invites more philosophical speculation: are all moments so perfect if we but open ourselves to them? Is that magic available everywhere, every moment? I don't think so, because too many places and too many moments present us with a choice among tough, unpleasant options, but I am sure that there are many, many more moments of perfect potential than we notice.

This one, though, this one is a sure thing.

Yes, I'm still yearning to go back to Paris.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What am I doing now?

A few folks have asked me what I'm doing now that I've finished Children No More, so I thought I'd give a quick run-down of the various projects on my non-day-job plate.

Children No More: Yes, I finished writing it, but now I'm reviewing the proof pages. That does take time.

Wake Up Horny, Wake Up Angry: I'm doing the premiere of this spoken word/stand-up comedy show at one minute past midnight late on Saturday night/early on Sunday morning at Balticon. If you're in the area, you should definitely come to the con and see the show; the con is great, and the show should make you laugh. Right now, I'm still working on the show, and I'll probably be doing so until about three seconds before I step on stage. Maybe a little longer than that.

The Wild Side: I'm editing this anthology of erotic urban fantasy stories. Most of the stories are in, with one in rewrite and my own still to come. I'm also collecting the afterwords from the authors and their bios. I'll tell more about this one in a few weeks. I'm working on my story now.

Fatal Circle: This near-future thriller will be my next novel project. Because I already have about a third of it in first draft and have a huge (26K words) outline for it, I hope to finish it far more quickly than most of my books.

In addition to these projects, I have three interesting things in the works that I can't discuss quite yet. One is the surprise announcement I mentioned some time ago, and the other two are still not ready for me to discuss. It's all good, though.

Seeing such a short list makes me wonder why I'm feeling overwhelmed. I clearly have to work harder!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Holden strikes again

The other night, we decided to have fruit salad for dessert. We picked up a couple of small loaves of angel food cake to add that all-important starchy/fatty goodness that dessert so frequently requires--but without adding too much of either. The first loaf actually went to us.

The second was not so lucky.

We'd taken a thin slice from it, wrapped it in its original plastic, and put it on the back of the counter, near the bread box. The next day, it was gone.

We puzzled about its disappearance for a day or so, and then we realized that Shibori, Holden's sister, had been playing with a chunk of plastic wrapper. Shibori has never taken food from counters, so all eyes turned to Holden, my lovely dog who has eaten whole loaves of challah, half of a large pizza, and other tasty bread goodies.

Yes, Holden the Starch Hound had again pulled a bread-like substance from the counter and consumed it. This time, he'd upped his game by setting up his sister to take the fall.

You have to admire his skill--and his dedication to saving us all from extra calories.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mad Men

I'm only four episodes into the first season of this show--I watch TV shows almost exclusively when they appear on DVD--so I will have more to say about it later, but I can already recommend it. I can't recall another show that has made me feel so uncomfortable--but in a good way. Its depiction of the era is scary and, I hope, over the top, but it also rings true. The writing operates effectively on multiple levels all the time, managing to be both too broad and quite subtle in the same scene. The performances are uniformly strong.

If you're not already watching it, definitely check it out.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

When I saw the first trailer for this movie, I figured it wasn't for me. It looked too young and too simple to keep me entertained. After receiving recommendations from several folks, however, I decided I had to check it out. Last night, a group of us headed to our local atomic megaplex to see it.

I'm glad we did. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though I did not love it the way my recommending friends did.

The basic story was familiar but felt richer and more layered than most like it: young boy who's a disappointment to his powerful father uncovers his true talents and ultimately proves himself. His talents stemmed from what some saw as his weaknesses, as you'd expect, but in this case a key moment hinges on the fact that he really was a very fearful person, at least for a while. I liked that. The alternating training montages--with him and his dragon learning each other while he and his mates trained to kill dragons--meshed nicely and were entertaining. The soundtrack was quite good and worked well with the animation. The ending went where you came to expect it would go but was ultimately a little more complex than you would expect.

All in all, it was a superior example of this type of film.

So why didn't I love it? I'm honestly not sure. For reasons I can't pin down, it never quite fully latched onto my heart, though, again, I liked it.

On balance, I recommend you check it out.


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