Saturday, August 28, 2010

UFC 118: Kyle and I pick 'em

Last time around, Kyle and I disagreed twice, and he was right on both counts. This time, I hope to do much better. Here's how we see tonight's fine slate of fights in Boston, starting, as usual, with the undercard, most of which we probably won't get to see.

Mike Pierce vs. Amilcar Alves

Mark: The only way Alves can win this fight is if Pierce postures up too much on the ground and opens himself to a submission. Pierce isn't going to do that, so he'll emerge the victor of what I expect will be a boring fight.

Kyle: European, Japanese and Brazilian fighters frequently find themselves stymied by the powerful top game of strong Amerian wrestlers. Alves reportedly has slick jiu jitsu skills, but he's unlikely to have fought anyone quite like Mike Pierce before, while Pierce has had ample opportunity to learn to defend himself against jiu jitsu stylists. Pierce by ground-and-pound.

Nick Osipczak vs. Greg Soto

Mark: Osipczak has one of the harder-to-pronounce names in the UFC, and he also has a hard game to defend. His last fight, a split decision loss to Rick Story, pitted him against a far better fighter than Soto. Osipczak should be able to beat Soto until his opponent learns to say his name.

Kyle: On paper, Osipczak looks like a bigger, better version of Soto. Osipczak has a similar record of wins by TKO and submission, but against stronger opponents. For example, Osipczak's last win was over Matt Riddle, who just handed Soto his first loss. Osipczak for the win.

John Salter vs. Dan Miller

Mark: Not long ago, I would have considered betting money that Miller would win this fight handily. Then, Miller seemed to fall apart personally, and his fight game suffered as a result. Consequently, I expect Salter to emerge the victor, probably through three rounds of boring wrestling top-game dominance.

Kyle: Dan Miller is coming off of three straight losses, and if he loses this fight too it's probably the end of his career in the UFC. That said, Miller's last three opponents were Michael Bisping, Demian Maia, and Chael Sonnen. He's been swimming in the deep end of the pool and John Salter is a big step down in competition from that lot. I think Miller's going to reverse his slide and pull out a win to save his job.

Spike TV is airing two of the fights, so we'll definitely tune into them.

Andre Winner vs. Nik Lentz

Mark: In this striker vs. grappler match, the striker, Winner, is good enough to tag his opponent frequently, while the grappler, Lentz, isn't quite fast or strong enough to take down the other man at will. So, Winner by KO or TKO.

Kyle: Winner's got some smooth striking that's going to frustrate Lentz as long as the fight stays standing. Lentz's best chance is to get things to the ground, but he won't have as big an advantage there as Winner will have on the feet. I pick Winner to live up to his name.

Joe Lauzon vs. Gabe Reudiger

Mark: Lauzon is a fighter who gives geeks everywhere hope that they, too, might one day be dangerous. He's unlikely ever to contend for the title, but he's more than good enough to beat Reudiger, who's back in the cage only because he was willing to take the fight as a replacement. Lauzon will probably submit Reudiger, but however it goes, he'll win.

Kyle: Reudiger made weight for this fight, which is more than he was able to accomplish in his time on The Ultimate Fighter. That's likely to be the limit of his success, though. Lauzon is a smart fighter with good reach and a wicked scramble. Expect him to make his hometown crowd happy. He'll come in with a solid game plan and shut Reudiger down.

Now, to the main card, which you have to buy the pay-per-view event to watch.

Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis

Mark: Davis still has plenty of power, so he has a puncher's chance of winning this fight. The Diaz boys can take punches, though, and keep on coming, and what Nate Diaz will bring to Davis is far more than Davis can handle. Diaz for the win.

Kyle: Davis is clearly a fighter reaching the sunset of his career. He's lost two of his last three fights and he's been plagued by injuries in recent years. That said, I like his chances against Diaz. Diaz has a reach advantage, but his style is to throw lots of quick arm punches instead of sitting into his blows and turning them into knockout power shots. The constant storm of fists that Diaz throws takes a lot of fighters out of their game, but I don't think it's going to stop a veteran boxer like Davis. I expect him to walk through the punches and knock Diaz out.

Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard

Mark: My mind tells me Maynard is going to use his wrestling to win this match by lay and pray, but my heart wants Florian to out-punch Maynard and eventually to submit him. This time around, I'm going with my heart and picking Florian.

Kyle: This is a fox vs. hedgehog matchup: Kenny Florian knows many things, Maynard only one. One good one. Florian has great striking and very good jiu jitsu, but Maynard has the wrestling skills to take Florian down at will and apply crushing pressure from the top for three straight rounds. Maynard by long slow grind.

Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda

Mark: Whether Maia wins this fight depends entirely on whether he's willing to put his ego aside, admit he's a far, far better submission artist than striker, and take down Miranda. Maia has to be scared of maintaining his contender status at 185, so I'm betting he and his camp find a way to get him to play to his strengths. Doing so will give him the win, almost certainly by submission.

Kyle: Maia may be the most effective jiu jitsu artist fighting in MMA. He can finish anyone he can get to the ground. Maia's not a great wrestler, but even so nothing in Miranda's history suggests that he has the take-down defense to keep the fight standing. Maia by submission.

Randy Couture vs. James Toney

Mark: Toney certainly has a puncher's chance of knocking out Couture, and if he does, the MMA blogs will be on fire for weeks. A far more likely scenario, however, is that Couture plays it very safe for just long enough to push Toney against the cage, take him down, and beat him up. Couture has been winning primarily by decision, but in this one I expect him not only to win, but to finish Toney.

Kyle: Take a turtle. Turn it over on its back. Watch for a minute as it feebly waves its arms and legs in the air, unable to right itself. Then step on it. That's James Toney.

Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn

Mark: When Edgar beat Penn for the championship, I was as stunned as every other MMA observer. Unlike many of them, I felt Edgar deserved the victory, though barely, because he dominated the pacing and nature of the fight. He used his speed to sting Penn with small punches, and then he danced away. Penn helped him by stupidly never going for the clinch or the take-down. I just don't see Penn being that stupid the second time around. Penn is stronger, bigger, and better at submissions. I expect him to close the gap, get his hands on Edgar, and come away the champion once again.

Kyle: In their first fight, Edgar used his small size to his advantage, flitting about Penn like a mosquito and ducking in to jab before flitting away. B.J. Penn fought a lackluster fight and played to Edgar's game plan. This fight will not be a repeat of the first fight. Penn has had a chance to learn from his mistakes and will look to take the fight to places where he's stronger: in the clinch and on the ground. In short, he can adapt and win, while Edgar has to exactly replicate his success from their first match to have a chance. Penn for the win.

Check back tomorrow to see how we did.

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lessons from a militarized childhood:
Their world is not your world

(In this entry, I assume you are aware of my goal of raising a lot of money to help child soldiers by donating all of my earnings from sales of the hardback of Children No More to Falling Whistles. If you're not, you can go to the Children No More site and learn more there. I'll be here when you return.)

What I experienced in my three years in a militaristic youth group is nothing compared to what true child soldiers undergo. I believe, however, that they and I, as well as many abused children, emerge from our experiences having learned many of the same lessons. To help folks without these backgrounds understand some of the challenges facing these kids--and those who seek to help rehabilitate and reintegrate them--I'm going to talk about some of the lessons I learned--and that I believe they did, too.

Before I do, though, I want to make clear that I know how unhealthy these lessons are, I don't live my life by them, and so on.

They are, though, what such kids learn, and they are what I learned at that age.

Also, beware that there's going to be rough language and generally harsh stuff in all of these lessons. That's the nature of them.

Enough disclaimers. Let's get on with today's lesson:

Their world is not your world

You know they exist in the same space as you; after all, they can hurt you. You quickly figure out, however, that space is about all you share.

In their world, people can scream at each other and think that five minutes later it meant nothing. In your world, the scream is the precursor to violence, so when you hear it, you ramp up: adrenaline floods your system, and you prepare to fight.

In their world, people threaten one another with no intent of following through. In your world, you never make a threat you're not prepared to complete, because if you ever do, no one will take you seriously again, and you need them to know that fighting you is not a good plan.

In their world, they'll say that they'll kill you if you do that again. In your world, you stand ready to kill them if they do it again.

In their world, hurt feelings are the worst that will happen. In your world, blood and broken bits occur all the time, and you understand completely that they are far from the worst that can happen. That has happened.

In their world, concepts like team and loyalty and giving your word are as insubstantial as morning mist, notions that are powerful for a short time and then vanish in the light and heat of the day. In your world, they are everything, all that you have to give, and when you give them, you give them completely, fully understanding that the price may be dear.

In their world, they are safe no matter what they do. They mock the man in front of them in line, not noting the gun bulge or the telltale drug-induced alertness. They walk down the dark street because it could be a shortcut. They see no threats, because nothing has hurt them. In your world, you know that safety is as easy to rip apart as skin, that threats are everywhere, and that if you haven't spotted the attack before it starts, you screwed up, and you will pay.

Their world is a much nicer place than yours. You wish that you could live in it, that you didn't know yours existed, but those wishes are even flimsier than safety, because once you've lived in your world, you live there always.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to college she goes

Move-in day was in most ways simpler and less emotionally wrenching this year than last, because we all now understand how it works. The move itself went as smoothly as possible given the usual hassles of a crowded environment, and Sarah has a great room in an absolutely beautiful dorm.

The hardest part, of course, is seeing her go. I wrote last year about it leaving a hole in my heart, and it did so again this year. I believe that is all as it should be: she should leave, she should have a great time at college, she should be moving on with her life, and I should miss her terribly. As Sarah and Scott move on, I expect to always miss them both tremendously.

When the kids were young, I felt it was my job to take care of them and to lead them and protect them when the world turned dark. I was to be their light in the dark. I still feel that way, but more and more I also realize that they have from the first moments of their existence lit up the night for me.

May we always be lights for one another.

This Josh Ritter tune isn't about parents and children, but Sarah got me interested in Ritter, and we both love this song, so I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 4

Today was one of those unfortunate travel days that began early. I do not like seeing six-anything on my bedside clock, but I saw that this morning.

Fortunately, the travel was largely uneventful. I say "largely" because DFW likes to mess with me; I swear it does. I arrived at gate C27 (or so) facing a three-hour break between flights. No problem: off to the Admirals Club I went to work. The big board told me my flight would be out of gate A23, right opposite the A terminal's club, so I headed there. "What could be easier?" the nice woman at the welcome desk said to me as she confirmed my departure gate.

Fifty minutes before departure, they moved my gate: to C31.

As I said, DFW likes to mess with me.

As I was settling down with a glass of water and a glass of Diet Coke, I overheard this wonderful whispered exchange between a couple as they were packing up to leave. Relevant to the exchange is the fact that the woman was quite busty.

Her: Does this bra make my tits look too big?

Him: Huh?

Her: You heard me: does it make my tits look too big?

Him: Is that possible?

Her: Asshole.
At that point, she sighed, shook her head, and gave up.

He stood there staring into space, his mouth open, trying to figure out what he'd done wrong, and then he followed her out of the club.

Tonight was the last night home for Sarah before she returns to Duke, so we celebrated with the meal of her choice, dessert, and her film selection: The Boat That Rocked. She and I both love that movie. It makes me so happy. If you haven't seen it, you really must.

Speaking of musts, I must return to settling back into home.

Tomorrow morning, we help her move into her dorm.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Today began very early and is ending rather late, and I can't talk about most of it.

Dinner, though, is fair game for discussion. We ate at The Carillon at UT's AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. The building was certainly impressive, and the restaurant's design was, too. The six-course tasting menu, however, did not live up to the space. Don't get me wrong: It was a good meal. Fifteen or so years ago, it would have been the best meal I'd ever had. Today, though, it was a tasty but unsurprising and unremarkable offering. The experience reminded me of how quickly and easily I have raised my standards.

On the first night here, we drove down a road named 2222. The moment I saw it, I thought of the Zager and Evans song, "In the year 2525," because, well, my brain's like that. Now, the damn tune won't get out of my head. So, give this a listen, and maybe it'll infect you, too.

Or maybe you're wired more sanely, and it won't.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 2

I can't talk much about these business trips, but it was a very busy day.

I can mention the rather odd way it began: about half an hour before I had to get up, a time period that was a large chunk of the sleep I got, my alarm clock exploded to life with the words, "Bill O'Reilly is mad at Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian."

Weird words to wake up to.

I suppose it serves me right for not following my usual travel rituals and verifying the alarm is off each night before I go to bed.

Dinner tonight was at Max's Wine Dive, whose URL you can unfortunately read as, "max swine dive." That prompts my imagination to create many images, such as a pig on a high board, the highest of high boards, about to leap for a record.

Or maybe that's just me.

In any case, we went there because the menu featured so many just plain messed-up dishes that I had to try some of them.

Such as this concoction, the Texas Poutine, which includes jalapeno grit fries, bacon gravy, house made pickled jalapenos, and Water Oak Farms cheese curds.

It was tasty and odd, exactly as I'd hoped. I would have preferred a stronger brown gravy and a bit more jalapeno in the fries made of grits, but I'm still very happy I tried it.

Tastier still was the Texas Haute Dog, which we, of course, ordered Texas-style: an Angus Beef dog on an artisan bun with chili, jalapenos, and cotija cheese. It was wonderful and enough different from any other hot dog I've tasted that I was proud to have added it to my long list of hot dog variations I've eaten.

Note the onion rings on top: they and the peppers were as close to vegetables as this meal came.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On the road again: Austin, day 1

Business brings me again to a city I quite like, but, wow, is it hot here. The high temperature every day I will be in Austin will be over a hundred. Fortunately, air conditioning is everywhere.

Sunday is the key day I try to catch up a bit on sleep, but not today; this morning, I was up before eight for an unusually long day of flying. Austin via Chicago is just not as quick as Austin via DFW, but that was the best route I could find given all my criteria.

After much driving and working, though, came a glorious evening double-header: barbecue dinner at The County Line By the Lake, then dessert at the Amy's Ice Creams at the Arboretum.

Check out this vision of loveliness.

Ignore the sides and focus on the beef rib, the brisket, and, barely visible under the rib, the sausage. We are talking seriously good eating.

God bless Texas, indeed!

The IQ-enhancing powers of barbecue and ice cream had my brain soaring.

After an Amy's small (six ounce; this is Texas) cup of half dark chocolate and half cinnamon, I wandered over to the nearby Barnes & Noble. The store had all my novels and Jump Gate Twist on the shelves, so I signed stock and explained about the Children No More charity program.

I could gripe about having to work late, but whining about any evening with all of the above wonders would be downright ungracious, so I will return to my tasks happily, barbecue and ice cream still with me.


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