Saturday, June 11, 2011

UFC 131: Kyle and I pick 'em

We haven't posted any fight picks in quite a while, so when Kyle suggested it, I jumped at the idea. This fight doesn't have a ton of big-name competitors, but the main event is sure to be a heavyweight slugfest that you won't want to miss.

Here are our picks for the preliminary fights that are not on TV but that you can watch on Facebook or on YouTube.

Darren Elkins vs. Michihiro Omigawa

Mark: One of these guys is unlikely to have a UFC contract by the end of the day Tuesday. Elkins has lost twice, and Omigawa has gone 0-3 in the UFC. This fight feels like it's made for Omigawa to notch his first UFC win, and he will.

Kyle: In his last outing, versus Chad Mendes, Omigawa looked a step behind the entire fight. But Mendes is a beast, and Elkins should be a big step down in competition. Omigawa's excellent judo and journeyman-level striking should be enough to win him the decision.

Aaron Rosa vs. Joey Beltran

Mark: These two big guys will beat on each other as they gradually slow from lack of cardio conditioning. The lighter Beltran, aka "The Mexicutioner," will hope to keep it standing, but Rosa will get him down, spend a lot of time laying on him, and ultimately get the decision victory.

Kyle: Joey "The Mexicutioner" Beltran is tough as hell and has one of the best nicknames in the business, but he's going to have his hands full with Aaron Rosa, who has a similar brawling style and who outweighs Beltran by 15 pounds. This is going to be an ugly fight, but in the end Rosa should be able to do more damage and get the win.

Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young

Mark: I haven't watched any of Jason Young's fights, but he's English, and Poirier is a far better wrestler, so Young will hit the mat and receive a lot of punishment until the ref pulls Poirier off him and hands the TKO win to Poirier.

Kyle: Poirier looked impressive in his January victory over featherweight prospect Josh Grispi. He's ready for a step up in competition, but instead he's drawn Jason Young, a British fighter new to the UFC. Expect Poirier to utilize his superior American wrestling base to take Young down, control him on the ground, and grind out a win.

Nick Ring vs. James Head

Mark: Nick Ring looked good on The Ultimate Fighter until he got hurt. Now, he's recovered from surgery, and I expect he'll look good again--for a round or so. Then, James Head will pull ahead and win the decision.

Kyle: Ring has some good kicks, but in his time on The Ultimate Fighter he looked hesitant when facing a striker with good hands. Combine that hesitation with Ring's questionable recovery from his most recent knee surgery, and Head's superior boxing should be good enough for him to win the day.

Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Mike Massenzio

Mark: Soszynski is going to run right through Massenzio, who's fighting up a weight class, and win via TKO in what should be a short and brutal fight.

Kyle: Poor Mike Massenzio. Dana White, the president of the UFC, loves fighters who step up when called, but Mike Massenzio has gone beyond the call of duty. After going 1-2 in the UFC in his first three fights, he's getting another chance to fight in the big show on six days notice and against an opponent twenty pounds heavier than the middleweights he's used to fighting. The stone-fisted Krzysztof Soszynski isn't likely to give him a gentle welcome to the light-heavyweight ranks. Soszynski by knockout.

The next two fights will be available for free on Spike TV.

Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt

Mark: Weidman kicked butt in his debut a few months ago despite having to take the fight on two weeks notice. He also is a fill-in for this fight, this time for Court McGee, but again it's likely to work out well for him. He's a great wrestler who will dominate Bongfeldt and earn a victory on the ground.

Kyle: Chris Weidman is an elite wrestler who's integrated the striking skills of a true mixed martial artist with uncanny ease. It's going to be a long night for Jesse Bongfeldt, with Weidman shooting for take-downs when he tries to strike and throwing strikes when he goes to sprawl. Weidman for the win.

Yves Edwards vs. Sam Stout

Mark: Both of these fighters have excellent striking arsenals, and we'll see them in this fight--until Edwards starts to gas or to lose. At that point, he'll try to take down Stout, and then we'll see how the fight will really go. I'm betting Stout will get up and continue to hurt Edwards enough to win a decision victory.

Kyle: Expect this fight to stay on the feet for as long as it lasts, with Stout and Edwards both playing a highly-technical Muay Thai chess match. In the end, though, the years and the mileage are likely to slow Edwards down in the later rounds. Eight years older than Stout and with more than twice as many professional fights, Edwards is unlikely to be able to sustain the pace of the younger, hungrier fighter. Stout to win.

Now, we move to the main card, which you must buy the PPV to see.

Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha

Mark: You have to feel sorry for Rocha and yet also admire him a bit, both because he had to take this on short notice and because he is debuting against a very dangerous fighter. Cerrone is going to punish Rocha for three rounds, be smart enough not to end up in his opponent's guard, and get a unanimous decision victory.

Kyle: Rocha undoubtedly has superior Brazilian jiu jitsu, but Cerrone has shown impeccable take-down defense in his recent fights. It doesn't seem likely that Rocha's going to be able to get this one to the ground. On the feet, Cerrone should be able to use his long reach and great timing to nail Rocha again and again. Cerrone by KO.

Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz

Mark: I want to pick Maia, because I want to see him work his crazy submission skills, but I'm betting that Munoz has gained just enough self-control not to follow Maia to the ground. That plus the sheer power of Munoz's hands will give Munoz the victory and set him up to be one of the next contenders for Anderson Silva's whirling house of pain.

Kyle: The underrated Mark Munoz is one of the best fighters in the 185 lb. division. Demian Maia is no slouch, but his one-dimensional skill set leaves him somewhat vulnerable. He has one of the best submission games in MMA, but his striking is serviceable at best. His only chance is to get this fight to the ground. But Munoz, a former NCAA wrestling champ, isn't going to the ground unless he decides to. Considering his advantage in throwing heavy leather, he'd be stupid to do that. Munoz isn't a technical striker, but he throws hard, hard punches. Look for him to finish this one by knockout.

Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman

Mark: Some heavyweight fights are great slugfests--ref. dos Santos vs. Carwin below--but many end up being yawns as you watch big guys play it safe and slowly gas. I fear this fight may be one of those. The big question is whether Herman can keep it standing. If it goes to the ground, Einemo, who has serious jiu-jitsu, will carry the day. If it does not, then Herman will grind out a win.

Though the oddsmakers have Herman a heavy favorite, I'm betting that he gets sloppy, lets Einemo take him down, and falls prey to a submission. Einemo by something painful on the ground.

Kyle: It's a battle of the giants as 6'5" 233 lb. Dave Herman faces 6'6" 261 lb. Jon Olav Einemo. Herman's a brawling striker with a wrestling base. Einemo is a submission master who's coming off a four year hiatus from MMA. Both men are making their UFC debuts. There are a lot of unknowns in this fight. But given Einemo's thirty-pound weight advantage and assuming he's honed his striking skills in his time with Holland's Golden Glory fight team, I'm going to pick him to win over Herman.

Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes

Mark: This one comes down to Florian's cut. If his drop in weight class went well, he should dominate. If, however, he comes in wasted from the cut--and he was definitely already thin--then Nunes could take him. With a new nutritionist, a new strength and conditioning coach, and Firas Zahabi training him, I'm betting the cut went well for Florian. I expect him to dominate and ultimately end the fight with either a submission or a TKO.

Kyle: Kenny Florian will be venturing into his fourth UFC weight class when he drops to 145 to challenge Diego Nunes. The winner may be the next fighter to face champion Jose Aldo. Nunes comes off a three-fight win streak, including an impressive split decision win over former champ Mike Brown. Florian comes off a decision loss at 155 to Gray Maynard--nothing to be ashamed of, considering that Maynard went on to fight a five-round draw for the lightweight belt. Florian's used to tougher competition than Nunes in a heavier weight class. The question is how well he's going to perform after cutting another ten pounds from his already emaciated frame. He's got good training in nutrition, strength and conditioning, though, so I'm betting that he'll come through the cut okay. Florian by being the bigger, better kick-boxer.

Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin

Mark: In what is sadly a rarity in this sport, this fight features two guys who disdain trash talking, appear to be genuinely good people, and who have great skills. Of course, all most fans want is to see them beat the holy hell out of one another. I expect the fans will get their wish, because unless Carwin takes down dos Santos and falls victim to a quick submission attempt, an outcome that is possible but unlikely, someone's getting knocked out. The oddsmakers are going with dos Santos, probably because of his superior striking and conditioning. I really want to buck them, and Carwin does have a game plan for victory: take down dos Santos and punish him. The problem is, dos Santos is notoriously hard to get on the mat, and he trains with the Noguiera brothers, so he gets up quickly when he is down. So, I have to side with the oddsmakers and call this one for Junior dos Santos.

Kyle: This should be a short fight. In twenty-six fights between them, Carwin and dos Santos have only had three go past the first round. Expect both men to come out swinging hard. Carwin will try to get a take-down. Dos Santos will probably stuff it. In striking, Carwin has the edge in power, but dos Santos has dazzling speed for a heavyweight. Carwin is fifteen pounds heavier. He's also nine years older and recovering from spinal surgery. Dos Santos is younger, faster, and fresher. He has ample knockout power. Nothing in his previous fights has suggested that his chin is anything but granite. This should be a short fight. It will end in KO. And Junior dos Santos' hand will be raised in victory.

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

Friday, June 10, 2011


As some of you know, I almost never watch current TV shows. Instead, I wait for series to come out on DVD, listen to the recommendations of people I trust, and then pick up the DVD sets. This approach is both efficient with time--no waste even skipping over commercials--and usually yields good results.

I'd heard a lot of good things about Justified, but I'd decided not to add it to my DVD collection because none of those positive comments came from folks I knew. Then, Elizabeth told me about it and recommended it, so I gave it a try.

I'm glad I did.

The series is complex, violent, and full of interesting, very flawed characters. Timothy Olyphant is great in the lead role of Marshall Raylan Givens, but for my taste the most compelling performances come from the marvelously weird Walton Goggins, who plays a criminal named Boyd Crowder. Goggins was a strange duck in another of my favorite shows, the now sadly complete The Shield, but his weirdness here escalates to new levels. He is a wonder to watch.

I don't want to give away any of the plot elements, so by way of summary let me simply say that the series came from an odd Elmore Leonard short story and then evolved into something odder still.

I definitely recommend Justified.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mumford & Sons under the stars

Last night, four of us went to see Mumford & Sons at the Raleigh Amphitheater. As much as I enjoy outdoor concerts at night, I have to say that the conditions for this one were far from ideal. The day was hot, the sun set late, and the night cooled very little, so we all ended up steaming in our own sweat.

None of that mattered to me, however, once the band took the stage. They were exactly as they come across in their videos, maybe a bit more energetic, and their music was even more powerful live than on their marvelous debut CD.

They opened with "Sigh No More," which is also the first track on the album of the same name.

During the rest of the show, they mixed all the other songs from that album with several new tunes, including two they debuted here. About two-thirds of the way through their set, they hit us with their first single, "Little Lion Man." It was amazing to hear live!

The encore was short, just a couple of songs, but it ended with a surefire winner, "The Cave."

I should also note that we had the pleasure of listening to two opening bands.

The first, Matthew & The Atlas, quite charmed me, and I picked up two CD singles of theirs.

The second, The Low Anthem, is better known than Matthew & The Atlas but did not interest me as much. Still, I plan to give their music another listen.

Overall, the evening was magical, and I feel very lucky to have gotten to attend the show.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ask Dr. Efficient, the Love Guru:
Dr. Efficient Answers All, #2

Warning: The following is an adult entry. If you are underage or simply do not want to read about sex-related topics, stop now.

I must also note that all opinions are those of Dr. Efficient.

Welcome to the second installment of Dr. Efficient's guest column on my blog. This time, we managed to snag a few minutes of his time at three different airports as he flew around the world in search of new secrets of the Tantra to share with you. In those precious moments, he answered three more of our reader questions for him. All came from U.S. women who chose to remain anonymous.

As long as you keep sending in questions, more answers will follow in later installments.

How does one entice a partner who has apparently given up sex into wanting to fuck again?

You're really not giving me a lot to go on, here. Did it occur to you that my advice might differ depending on whether you're an obese odoriferous octogenarian burn victim married to a woman who just can't stomach the nightly horror show anymore or you're a shapely twenty-five-year-old bit of skirt dating a man who's suddenly realized that he was born to be a sausage jockey?

Still, some universal rules do apply, the foremost of which is: You can't change other people; you can only change yourself. The lover of your reality is not going to become the lover of your dreams. The best you can hope for is some accommodation that leaves you marginally more content than you are now. You have three options:

1. Get over it. Find some other outlet for your sexual energies. Consider some alternatives: Exercise. Dance. Porn. Painting. Dressage. Porn. Writing. Suicide. Porn. Maybe if you can find more fulfillment elsewhere, getting your itch scratched will seem less indispensable to you.

2. Mix-and-match. Clearly your partner satisfies some of your needs, since you're still together. He--for simplicity's sake I'm going to assume that you're a straight woman because (a) it makes no difference and (b) no man would ever ask me this question. If you're a woman dating another woman, refer back to reason (a). Anyway, as I was saying, your partner merely doesn't satisfy you sexually. So find someone who does. If your partner is sufficiently open-minded or sufficiently oblivious, there's no reason why you can't have your cake and eat it too.

3. Manipulation. If you're too inhibited to tend to your own needs or find someone who can, your only hope is to try to manipulate your current lover into providing some trouser action in spite of himself. Good luck with that. The key here is to find activities that your partner likes and try to gradually redirect them so that they end with your getting shagged. Would he like a back rub? Start with that and try to turn it into a front-rub. Does he like dessert? Invite him to lick chocolate off your nipples. Does he want to bone someone else? Invite that person to join in! Etc.
Why is love so important to a woman and not so much for a man? And, no, saying "I love you" just to have sex doesn't count.
Like most differences between men and women, this one has its root in basic biology. An act of sexual intercourse requires only the slightest investment of time and attention on the part of the man. But it may leave a woman pregnant with a child that she has to bear for nine months and (unless she abandons it) until it's old enough to fend for itself. Male reproductive effort is an abundant resource. Female reproductive effort is a scarce resource. Hence women are likely to be more selective than men.

As with our cravings for salty and fatty foods, the desires shaped by hundreds of millennia of evolution are hard to overcome. The neolithic men who survived to pass along their genes had lots of children by lots of different women. The neolithic women who survived to pass along their genes secured the commitment of men to provide for themselves and their children. These instincts, obviously, make little sense in the modern world. Conditions have been altered by the advent of birth control and the availability of abortion as a more palatable alternative to the traditional infanticide. It's no longer expected that children will be raised exclusively by their mothers or that women need men to provide for them.

In sum, love is obsolete. It's a vestigial sentiment that hangs on past its time like an emotional appendix. But you still want it because you're basically a Neanderthal at heart.
What is it about big breasts that makes men go catatonic?
The American male's fascination with breasts is about ten percent intrinsic behavior and ninety percent cultural.

Men are naturally going to pay a certain amount of attention to distinctive sex characteristics. In an eye-tracking study, men looked at the breasts, face and crotch of a bikini-clad woman, but men also looked at the crotch of a bathing-suit-clad man. Presumably men quickly focus on distinctive sex characteristics because it was important for our caveman ancestors to rapidly classify strangers as threats (male) or reproductive opportunities (female). (Women in the same study didn't pay much attention to breasts or genitals. Presumably identifying a stranger's sex is less important to women because all women are to some extent inherently bisexual.)

So men are going to pay a certain amount of attention to breasts and crotches. But the amount of attention paid covers a pretty broad range. The pages of National Geographic are filled with pictures of bare-chested aboriginal women surrounded by aboriginal men who are neither staring nor fapping furiously. Yet those same pictures are all the inspiration teenage boys in America need to stroke one out. And walking down a street in Riyadh wearing a halter top is likely to get you more unwelcome attention than walking down a street in San Francisco without one. This wide range of male reactions to what women do or don't expose suggests that what's interesting to men isn't so much breasts per se as a chance to see bits of female anatomy that, in their particular culture, are usually kept hidden.

So if you want men to stop going dumb at the sight of your breasts, start going topless. I promise we'll get used to it and stop treating it like such a big deal.


There might be a certain amount of wanking before we get there.

Dr. Efficient will return soon! To get him to answer your questions, email them to me or send them via the Contact page on my site.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun

The name alone would have been enough to interest me in this movie. Add Rutger Hauer as the lead and online trailers that promised violent strangeness, and I knew I had to go if it ever came to town. Amazingly, it did, so earlier tonight a group of us went to the lovely Carolina Theatre to check out the very odd cinematic offering.

Hours later, I still haven't decided how I feel about Hobo with a Shotgun.

It begins with a color-saturated Technicolor look that is just amazing. We then see close-ups of Hauer's face, who looks like he died seven years ago and no one thought to tell him. The huge amount of wear and tear on his face serves to make his blue eyes even more vivid than usual.

Once he gets off the train, however, the violence starts. Hobo with a Shotgun is easily the most violent, over-the-top, blood-soaked, seeking-to-offend, non-Japanese film I have seen in years, maybe ever. A few samples: A head torn off by a car pulling on a barb-wire noose. Beating bums to bloody pulp while laughing and filming. A twisted Santa speeding away with a kidnapped child in the back seat. Beating hookers.

All of that happens in a five-minute span in the beginning, while the film is still stretching its violence muscles.

Later, it gets far, far worse, often going farther than I would have believed any filmmaker would go. Example: Two bad-guy brothers, one of whom is carrying a flamethrower, enter a school bus full of children and turn all the kids into charred skeletons.

I could go on, but that's plenty.

The audience reactions varied wildly. For example, two women in our group embraced the over-the-top spirit and hooted and hollered through the entire blood-splattered film. Two others left early, unwilling to take any more. Everyone winced from time to time.

Hobo with a Shotgun is something Roger Corman might have made if you had removed all the rules he had to obey, cranked him up on crystal meth, killed his family in front of him, and then handed him Rutger Hauer, a shotgun, the men who killed his family, and a camera.

When I stood to leave, I was amazed at how far the film had gone in so many violent directions, liked that in some ways and hated it in others, and ultimately felt uneasy about the movie. I still do.

One thing is certain: Do not go to this movie if you are not prepared to see violence beyond the limits of what even most Japanese ultraviolent film directors will produce.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Hollywood Career-O-Matic

Eric turned me on to this article, and though I rarely make a whole blog post from a link to another site, in this case I simply must. The reason is not the article itself, entertaining though it is. The reason is the interactive tool that the fine folks at Slate included, a tool that lets you compare the careers of different actors, directors, and so on. Check it out here.

What I find particularly interesting is that this assemblage of ratings from Rotten Tomatoes shows how very up and down most careers are. As near as I can tell, no one is a sure-fire winner, even Will Smith (though I still want him to option the Jon & Lobo books). If you're going to have a long career, you're going to get panned sometimes.

The most fun, though, comes from comparing the paths of actors, particularly bad ones. Chuck Norris vs. Steven Seagal. Chuck Norris vs. Dolph Lundren (which Kyle observed resembled a suicide pact). Pick your comparisons, and have fun!

We also finally have, as Kyle also noted, proof positive that Michael Caine will appear in absolutely anything.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Panciuto, take 3

A couple of weeks ago, a group of us headed back to Panciuto to give it a third try. If a restaurant delivers three exceptional meals on three visits spread out a bit in time, I figure it's a safe bet to call the place exceptional.

Panciuto definitely earned that distinction.

Once again, every dish we tasted was excellent. Though many of them were close to previous ones we'd tried, none were identical to their earlier incarnations. The bruschetta, always a wonder, was once again amazing, but in slightly different ways. The rabbit with pasta was a great blending of southern frying with Italian classic pasta and sauce. The cheese-stuffed ravioli were so much better in every area than what you get at most places that it's almost a shame they have the same basic name. And so on--every one a winner.

If you haven't yet been to Panciuto, make a reservation now. It's one of the Triangle's top restaurants, and it deserves your attention.


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