Saturday, October 23, 2010

UFC 121: Kyle and I pick 'em

Tonight's UFC PPV event features a bout between Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and challenger Cain Velasquez for the title. The whole card is pretty good, but this match has understandably generated a lot of buzz. I look forward to watching the fights--and, of course, I hope to make more correct picks than Kyle.

Let's start, as usual, with the undercard, none of which is currently slated to be televised.

Jon Madsen vs. Gilbert Yvel

Mark: Yvel has a ton more experience and has been in the cage with some serious fighters. I believe, though, that he's on the way down, while Madsen is still growing as a fighter. I'm going with the younger, stronger Madsen in an ugly victory.

Kyle: When a wrestler without much stand-up fights a striker without much ground game, anybody might win, but the wrestler usually does. Expect Madsen to throw a few perfunctory punches, take Yvel to the ground, and make him uncomfortable for the next fifteen minutes. Madsen by long slow grind.

Dong Yi Yang vs. Chris Camozzi

Mark: Yang has an unblemished record and knockout power, but he's never faced UFC-caliber competition. Camozzi isn't going to set the world on fire, but he's definitely faced tougher competition. I'm really torn on this one, so I'm going to hope for explosive striking and go with Yang.

Kyle: Neither man has faced enough known quantities for this to be an easy call, but Dongi Yang, coming off eight straight TKO wins, has the more impressive record. Yang to win.

Sam Stout vs. Paul Taylor

Mark: This one should be a striking fan's dream to watch, because both fighters love to throw down. Stout can and will hit Taylor in a far wider variety of ways, however, and that should be enough to net him the victory.

Kyle: Stout is a technician and Taylor is a brawler, but both men will be happy to keep this fight on the feet. This is sure to be a Fight of the Night contender, but in the end I expect Stout's superior technique to carry the day.

Mike Guymon vs. Daniel Roberts

Mark: I'm not at all confident about this match-up, so I'm going with the bigger fighter, Guymon, to win.

Kyle: Guymon's a 36-year-old on the down slope of his career, but he has a lot of experience and has conditioning that belies his age. Roberts is still learning, and I don't think he's learned enough yet. Guymon for the win.

Spike TV is airing two preliminary fights.

Patrick Cote vs. Tom Lawlor

Mark: I fear that Cote is past his prime, but I think he's just enough of a better striker and just good enough at avoiding take-downs to out-punch Lawlor and win by decision.

Kyle: Lawlor is a great entertainer outside the cage, but inside he's a struggling journeyman fighter. He won his first two fights in the UFC, but since then has lost two in a row. Cote's career is longer and has oscillated even more wildly between success and failure: He lost his first 4 fights in the UFC. Then he won 4 in a row, earning a title shot. He lost his title fight against Anderson Silva, suffering a crippling knee injury in the process, and lost his first comeback fight against Alan Belcher. Whoever loses this fight is likely to be sent back to the minors to win a few before fighting in the UFC again. My guess is that Lawlor's going to be the one sent packing. He doesn't have the striking skills to hang with Cote on the feet, and I don't think that he can hold Cote down.

Ryan Jensen vs. Court McGee

Mark: McGee is a crazy-looking dude who won last season's Ultimate Fighter finale after no one gave him much of a shot initially. A former drug addict with an insane work ethic and a frantic pace, he's now facing a real step up in competition with Jensen. That same pace, though, will make him a very tough opponent for Jensen. Add the fact that McGee has been able to train full-time for months and appears to learn very quickly, and you have a formula for victory. McGee for the win, probably late in the first or the second, most likely by submission.

Kyle: All you really need to know about this fight is that McGee is the well-liked winner of the last season of The Ultimate Fighter whose ascension to the UFC caps a personal drama of his struggle against addiction. The UFC has a history of bringing TUF winners along slowly and giving them a chance to build their skills before dropping them into deep water. Jensen has a good enough record to be a credible opponent, but he just wouldn't be there if the UFC expected him to win.

To see the five main-card matches, you have to buy the PPV.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Brendan Schaub

Mark: Gonzaga is by far the more experienced fighter, and for a while he looked set to make a run for the title. He hasn't really upped his game, however, while Schaub is looking tougher every fight. I'm bucking the oddsmakers on this one and going with Schaub, probably by KO late in the first.

Kyle: Schaub is an explosive knockout artist. Gonzaga is a giant gorilla with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. The fight is going to hinge on Gonzaga's ability to get Schaub to the ground. Unfortunately take-down defense is Schaub's Achilles' heel: On The Ultimate Fighter he showed a surprising inability to keep his feet, clinging to the fence for dear life and later admitting that he'd rather have a point taken away for doing so than spend the fight on his back. That attitude might be enough for him to eke out a win on The Ultimate Fighter, but not in the big show. Gonzaga by ground-and-pound.

Matt Hamill vs. Tito Ortiz

Mark: Part of me sees this one going this way: When this fight is over, and Hamill's hand is raised in an ugly decision victory, expect Tito to reveal an injury that he had been hiding in all his previous statements that he was a hundred percent.

Another part of me sees it like this: Tito will bring his usual strong conditioning to the fight, and coupled with his size advantage, he'll wear down Hamill enough to grind out a decision victory and prove that he's not quite done yet.

After much backing-and-forthing, I'm going with Tito by psych-out, as Hamill, his former Ultimate Fighter student, fails to be able to get nasty enough to win.

Kyle: It's not the years, it's the mileage. Ortiz is only a year and a half older than Hamill, but he's had more than twice as many fights, and more than twice as many surgeries. He used to explode into double leg take-downs like a miniature Brock Lesnar. Now he plods around the ring, a sluggish striker with no knockout power. Except for the even older and more damaged Ken Shamrock, Ortiz hasn't finished an opponent since 2001. He hasn't won a unanimous decision since 2004. Hamill's a slow grinder who throws strikes with more power than technique, leaving himself gassed in the later rounds. This isn't going to be a pretty fight, but in the end, Hamill should be able to do more damage and get the decision win.

Diego Sanchez vs. Paulo Thiago

Mark: The far stronger Thiago should convince Sanchez that it's time to return to 155. Expect Thiago to wear down Sanchez for three rounds and grind out a decision victory.

Kyle: Thiago and Sanchez come from very different backgrounds but actually have pretty similar skill sets. They're both well-conditioned athletes with pretty good hands and even better jiu jitsu. Thiago's a little bit bigger, though. His striking is a little bit crisper. His submissions are a little bit slicker. Wherever the fight goes, I expect Thiago to outwork Sanchez and use his superior technique to win the day.

Martin Kampmann vs. Jake Shields

Mark: Another close fight, but this time I'm going with the oddsmakers and choosing Shields by dominating wrestling skills.

Kyle: Watching Shields, who normally fights at 170, manhandle Dan Henderson, who normally fights at 205, was an eye-opening experience. Kampmann has good take-down defense for a striker without a wrestling background, but I don't expect him to be able to keep his feet against Jake Shields. The only wild card in this fight is whether Shields' conditioning and speed are going to suffer from his going up in weight to fight Henderson and then coming back down again. I'm guessing that Shields, like most accomplished wrestlers, has done enough weight-cutting in his life to know how to do it without hurting his own performance too much. Shields by top control.

Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez

Mark: However this fight goes, expect it to be awesome. Velasquez is an amazing striker and possesses awesome cardio. He also has far more ways to beat Lesnar than Lesnar has to finish him. What he doesn't have, though, is the ability to stop Lesnar from taking him down or the ability to get up every time Lesnar does. Once on top of him, Lesnar will grind him down and either get the TKO or a submission victory.

Kyle: The UFC heavyweight belt is the biggest prize in the most prestigious organization in mixed martial arts. Lesnar holds the title, and Cain Velasquez wants it. Both men come from wrestling backgrounds. Both men were NCAA Division I All-American wrestlers in college, which Lesnar capped with a Division I championship. But Lesnar has relied on his explosive take-downs and crushing top control in the Octagon, while Velasquez has developed top-notch technical boxing to complement his surprising agility and relentless conditioning. Lesnar's at least twenty pounds heavier and much, much stronger than Velasquez. But despite the unnatural speed of his shot, I just don't see him holding Velasquez down if he gets him to the ground. This fight will be decided on the feet, and for all Lesnar's power, he can't match the pinpoint accuracy of Velasquez's striking. Velasquez for the win, either by decision or by knocking out a tired Lesnar in the later rounds.

Tune in tomorrow to see how we fared and, as always, don't rely on us for betting advice!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Cary Public Library

was earlier tonight, and I was one of the six writer guest speakers. David Drake, John Kessel, and I represented SF, and after the introductory remarks by various public and library officials, we retired to the kids section to answer questions. Yes, we sat under the same little cover as before.

Up in the Big Kids' section, Margaret Maron and two other writers whom I did not get to meet held court. Though I joked with John about the ghetto-ization of SF, it's hard to begrudge anything to Margaret Maron, who has earned her every accolade and who was as nice in person as she could be.

We all talked a bit about what libraries had meant to us, answered a few other questions, and then signed books that folks at the Cary Barnes & Noble were kind enough to supply.

When I was talking about my earliest library experiences, I commented that the library was a safe place where it was okay to be smart, okay to be a reader, okay to want to lose yourself in books. I hadn't until that moment made the obvious connection between safety and libraries and reading and books. Dumb of me, but at least now I know that little bit more about the young me.

In another response, I mentioned that I fell in love with books and thought one of the two coolest, sexiest things a person could do was have his or her name on a book's spine. (The other was to play for the Boston Celtics, but that was never going to work out for me.) I still feel that way, and I am grateful to all of you who buy my books and give me that opportunity.

I also mentioned how odd and sometimes hard it was to be an SF fan geek. Shortly thereafter, the discussion group ended, and we headed to the signing area. A woman intercepted me and said that if I thought that was hard, I should have been a girl SF fan. She said that the first time someone called her a space cadet she wondered if they had just read the same book she had.

She was right. She had it harder than I did, and I hadn't fully appreciated the difference before.

She came up a few minutes later with a copy of One Jump Ahead that she'd just bought. She was a lovely woman with large, smart eyes and a quick smile. She was holding the hand of an equally lovely daughter. The girl also loved to read. I've rarely been more proud to be an SF geek. I was trying to put words to my feelings, but before I could, they vanished.

On the off chance that she reads this blog, let me say now what I wish I could have said then. I wish the world weren't hard on smart girls (or on smart boys, come to that). I wish she and every other smart girl had been able to walk an easier path growing up. Still, though their journeys were difficult, they made it and turned into smart women who make the world far, far better than it would be without them.

As far as I'm concerned she and all the smart women I know are amazing, simply amazing, and I'm honored to know them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The State Fair

Each year, a group of us make an extended family pilgrimage to the cradle of increasingly more amazing bad food: the State Fair. We go to eat the latest weird offerings, check out the animals, wander by the giant gourds, and skim the odd crafts.

For me, tonight's feast began with this delightful creation. (Click on any of the pictures to see a much larger image.)

Yes, it's a pretzel dog on a stick. How could anyone resist it? The more traditional pretzel next to it is Sarah's, a salt-and-buttery-topping combination she quite enjoyed.

Next up was the inevitable, something you know I had to try once I became aware of its existence.

Come on: could you resist a Krispy Kreme cheese-and-bacon burger?

Three of us split this extremely sticky sandwich. We all expected it to taste bad but agreed we had to try it. To our surprise, we all liked it--not so much that we wanted another or would order it anywhere on a regular basis, but enough to agree it was tasty.

This next stop on our culinary train to diet hell required six people to finish.

As you can see, a double-bun, one-pound hot dog is a beautiful thing to behold. We were all again pleasantly surprised by its taste: it was a damn fine tube steak, and easily the biggest I've ever seen.

The last item we shared was a traditional one.

That's cherry vanilla from the North Carolina State University dairy. What you see there is what was left after I'd consumed a third of it. For four bucks, this one-gazillion-calorie bowl of creamy goodness is the bargain of the Fair.

The most amazing ride of the Fair award went to this bit of strangeness.

Yes, those are kids in giant gerbil balls in a small pool.

If they had offered grown-ups the chance to get into one, our party would have been there in a heartbeat. Think of the insane game of bumper ball you could have!

While wandering through the crafts, we spotted a familiar piece.

This blue-ribbon-winning beaded TARDIS is the creation of our friend, Merrie, who puts astonishing amounts of time and work into making this unusual art. The picture doesn't do it justice, but we were happy to see her winning this award.

As we were preparing to leave, Sarah spotted the swings she loved, so we detoured so she could ride them.

I couldn't capture her in any of the photos I took, but this one should serve at least to convey some sense of the ride.

I have to say that the look of sheer joy on Sarah's face as she rode round and round was a wonderful thing and a treat for a father to observe.

I wish all of us many, many moments of such pure happiness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On the road again: San Francisco, day 8

I am so completely spoiled by planes that provide Internet connectivity that when I have a long flight without any bandwidth, as I did today, I feel shortchanged and frustrated. How quickly we become accustomed to new luxuries and capabilities.

The flight itself was a decidedly mixed bag. On the plus side, it was a single plane from SFO to RDU, though it stopped in ORD, so missing my connection was not an issue. I also had an exit row seat, albeit a window one, so I could work. Unfortunately, because a plane's interior wall is often cold, I had worn a long-sleeved shirt--and this plane had waves of heat rolling off the wall to my right. As a result, I overheated and soaked in my own sweat for the better part of seven hours. Couple that slow cooking with a completely full aircraft that couldn't manage to generate much air flow, and I was just one piece of meat slowly browning in a giant can of ass stew.

I'm home now, though, and nearly caught up, so that is good. Also good, excellent even, was the impromptu Andante Dairy cheese tasting that seven of us held shortly after I made it to my house. All seven of the cheeses we tasted were delicious; the amazing Acapella we had tried previously was indeed a harbinger of more great cheeses to come.

Yoga starts in eight and a half hours, so I'm going to finish working and ultimately grab a little sleep.

Tomorrow, our annual extended family trip to the North Carolina State Fair!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the road again: San Francisco, day 7

When the only things you do all day that aren't work are shower and eat (quickly), and when your work is confidential, there's not a lot you can discuss. Today was one of those days. Work was interesting, and my client meetings were fun and informative, but I can't talk about any of it.

Lunch was a treat: barbecue at Armadillo Willy's, an old favorite from when I used to spend a week a month out here. For a California restaurant chain, they make surprisingly good Texas barbecue.

I also indulged in a late-afternoon treat: a delicious ice-cream sandwich from Ruby Jewel. If a store near you carries these tasty goodies (we found them at a local Whole Foods), you owe it to yourself to try one.

I've been on the road too long right now, so I'm ready to get home. I'll be flying that way tomorrow. Here's hoping for a first class upgrade and a plane with bandwidth (neither of which, alas, looks at all likely)!

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the road again: San Francisco, day 6

Today was one of those days filled with work, so I don't have too much I can discuss. After a morning of email and phone meetings, I moved hotels and am now in easier reach of clients in Silicon Valley. The process involved the Enterprise car rental company and convinced me that I really don't want to rent from them again if I can avoid it. The people in their San Francisco office were unhelpful and broke commitments they'd made.

My meals today were simple but deeply enjoyable, because they were at two favorites of mine: the Pancho Villa Taqueria for lunch, and the nearby Max's for dinner. A super burrito and a mandarina at Pancho Villa is enough to make any day better, and a patty melt at Max's is similarly powerful.

Janis Joplin has, for no particular reason I can cite, been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought I'd close with a classic from her. She was a force, a damaged, crazed beast of a singer. Enjoy.

More audio from the SF in SF event is now available

If you go to this page, you can now listen to both the panel discussion that followed the readings and the interviews that Rick Kleffel did with Amelia Beamer and me. As always, I haven't listened to them, but I trust from Rick's past work that the audio quality is pretty darn good.

Thanks to Fred for bringing these to my attention.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

On the road again: Bouchercon, San Francisco, day 5

Last night's dinner was a very late (10:00 p.m.) seating, the only time we could get, at the much-praised Spruce. The dining room has a great big-city vibe: dark, elegant, loud but not so loud that you can't talk at your table, and lots of energy. The food was definitely good, but also definitely not great; I'd return to Zare before going back to it. Still, if you want a restaurant with an upscale feel and good food, Spruce could fit the bill.

This morning brought the Anthony Awards brunch. The food was plentiful and exactly what you'd expect from a nice Hyatt, and the awards ceremony was quick and to the point but still entertaining. The mystery field feels, at least to me, so much more like a family than SF that I am amazed at how a bigger-selling genre manages to achieve so much camaraderie.

In the afternoon, the hotel wiped away all traces of Bouchercon and replaced it with the next convention; I didn't even check to see the name. I always find these transformations both amazingly fast and rather sad, whole social universes being destroyed in mere hours.

Indeed, the entire convention phenomenon, in both SF and mystery, is a rather amazing tornado of intensity and emotion, as friends and colleagues descend on a location, swirl around one another, hug and fight and build and damage relationships at lightning speeds, and then vanish as if never there. Inevitably, of course, I end up feeling both an outsider and a failure as a writer, but I keep coming back both for the friends and for the equally inevitable reaction I have a few days later: that I can do better, be better, and someday deserve to belong. That, of course, is nonsense thinking, because to belong one must only decide one belongs, but it is the way my brain works.


Blog Archive