Saturday, November 17, 2012

UFC 154: Kyle and I pick 'em

Many, many months have passed since Kyle and I last posted our UFC picks, and many, many months have passed since UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has defended his title.  To celebrate GSP's return, here are our picks for tonight's thirteen--yes, thirteen!--fights.

We start with the undercard fights that will be available only on Facebook. 

Steven Siler vs. Darren Elkins

Mark:  After three rounds of high-energy striking and the occasional take-down, neither featherweight will be breathing hard, and Dana White will be wondering why his company led off with a fight that has no chance of a finish. Siler will win a decision via landing more strikes. 

Kyle:  He doesn't look much like a fighter, but Siler's crisp combinations and decent take-down defense should let him take this win.

Ivan Menjivar vs. Azamat Gashimov

Mark:  Gashimov possesses the better record, but his victories were all back home in Russia against fighters many steps down from UFC-level competition. Menjivar knows he needs a victory, so he'll come out aggressive.  Expect Gashimov to experience a rude welcome to the UFC and Menjivar to emerge victorious. 

Kyle:  Menjivar's coming off a loss in his last fight to Mike Easton, but Gashimov is taking a big step up in competition after going 7-1 back in Russia.  Expect Menjivar to make his welcome to the big show a rough one.  Menjivar for the win.

Matt Riddle vs. John Maguire

Mark:  Maguire is a Brit taking this fight on short notice. Riddle is a big 170-pounder who with any luck will have remembered to stay sober long enough to pass his inevitable drug test. Riddle will win, though probably in a safe and thus somewhat boring style. 

Kyle:  Matt Riddle just wrapped up a suspension after testing positive for marijuana in his last fight.  Here's what he had to say about that:  "To be honest, this drug tester tested me right after the fight. I was super-dehydrated. My pee was brown. It was the pure essence of Matt Riddle. They got the concentrated Matt Riddle in a cup, and I popped."  Pure essence of Matt Riddle is straight THC, and if he can beat up Chris Clements high, I bet he can beat John Maguire sober.

Antonio Carvalho vs. Rodrigo Damm

Mark:  Damm won his octagon debut, as did Carvalho, so both men bring a 1-0 UFC record to this matchup. Damm, though, has lost most of his previous fights, while Carvalho has done rather better of late. Expect Carvalho to notch another victory for Canada.

Kyle:  Does it feel like we've been here for a while?  Well we're still not even halfway through the prelims!  I've seen Damm fight since back in his BodogFight days.  At the time, he impressed me less than his sister did.  His stint on the Ultimate Fighter Brazil didn't do much to change that.  Carvalho should win in front of his Canadian countrymen.

FX will be broadcasting four additional preliminary fights.

Sam Stout vs. John Makdessi

Mark:  Sam Stout beat Spencer Fisher six ways from Sunday back in June and in the process looked like an old dog who had definitely learned some new tricks. Makdessi should serve nicely as the next act in Stout's personal renaissance. Stout for the victory, most likely by decision. 

Kyle:  Makdessi's never beaten a recognizable name in the UFC.  Stout looked really impressive in his handling of Spencer Fisher back in June.  I think Stout's stepped up his game enough to beat Makdessi and send him packing out of the UFC.

Mark Bocek vs. Rafael dos Anjos

Mark:  dos Anjos has the power to knock out Bocek, but a knockout is unlikely in this one. Instead, dos Anjos will try to take the fight to the ground where his great BJJ skills will give him the advantage.  Bocek will, of course, fight to stay on top when the fight goes down, but expect him to score little as he does so.  dos Anjos will emerge victorious, though probably via decision and not submission. 

Kyle:  dos Anjos has some impressive jiu jitsu and brutal striking, but I like Bocek for this one.  Bocek's a good controlling grappler.  I think he can hold dos Anjos down and avoid submissions to get a decision.

Cyrille Diabate vs. Chad Griggs

Mark:  The only parts of Chad "the Gravedigger" Griggs that were big enough for heavyweight, his former weight class, were his huge sideburns. They should survive the cut to 205, which is a much better weight for Griggs.   Cyrille "the Snake" Diabate is a taller fighter and so should be able to keep Griggs on the outside for a while, but in time Griggs will close the distance and take down Diabate.  At that point, expect the Gravedigger to bury the Snake and Griggs to walk out the victor.

Kyle:  Finally, some normal-sized human beings!  Maybe even a little above normal, in the case of 6'6" Diabate.  Diabate's a throwback to the early days of the UFC when fighters were one-dimensional:  his striking is awesome, but his grappling is barely rudimentary.  Diabate's been tapped out in two of his last four fights, and that's Griggs' path to victory, if only he can make it past Diabate's long reach and lightning-fast kicks.  I think Griggs will manage to clinch and take Diabate down before he gets knocked out, and it should be a short fight from there.  Griggs to win, but either way, this one's not going to decision.

Patrick Cote vs. Alessio Sakara

Mark:  Early next week, the loser of this fight is probably going to receive his walking papers from the UFC, and both fighters know it.  That level of motivation is going to lead to a hard-hitting fight, which is exactly what Canadian Patrick Cote needs to put him back on the winning list. Matchmaker Joe Silva knows all this, and he also knows it's good to have the homeboys win a few. Cote will walk away with the win, probably by some form of knockout. 

Kyle:  The real winners are the fans with this one, because both men like to stand and bang.  Cote's curse is that he wins all his fights outside the UFC and loses all his fights in the UFC.  He's probably still a tougher opponent than anyone Sakara has managed to beat before.  I think Cote's the better striker, and he'll earn his first UFC win since July 2008.

To catch the five fights on the main card, you have to pop for the Pay-Per-View event.  

Mark Hominick vs. Pablo Garza

Mark:  Hominick stood at the edge of stardom and fought the champ, Jose Aldo.  He lost--everyone has when facing Aldo--and then Hominick went on a bit of a skid.  Garza is a very tall 145-er who debuted strong but then fell quickly against good competition. As long as Hominick plays it smart, which he will, because his UFC career may well be on the line, he will walk away the winner. Hominick by decision. 

Kyle:  We've gotten to the main card!  So exciting.  Hominick shouldn't have any problem handling Garza, just like he shouldn't have had any problem handling Eddie Yagin in his last fight (which he lost) or Chan Sung Jung in the fight before that (which he lost).  Well, this time we mean it.  Hominick to win and get his career back on track.

Nick Ring vs. Constantinos Philippou

Mark:  I really wanted to see Philippou again, but the UFC had to cancel this one.  Darn.  This probably means that the UFC will shuffle the card a bit and move one of the above fights to the main card, so don't be surprised if our ordering here ends up being off.

Kyle:  Oops!  Cancelled.  Too bad, I was looking forward to this one.

Francis Carmont vs. Tom Lawlor

Mark:  Carmont is a home-town man who trains with GSP, has a great physique, is incredibly athletic, and has two consecutive submission victories.  Lawlor is good enough to make the main card but just so; he's on this one to make sure that at least one person from GSP's gym goes home a winner.  Carmont for the victory, almost certainly by submission. 

Kyle:  Carmont is an amazing athlete who's submitted his last two opponents.  Lawlor has good hands, but has lost two of his last four fights by submission.  Carmont should be able to muscle Lawlor to the ground and choke him out for the win.

Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann

Mark:  Two great welterweights face off in this battle for number-one-contender status.  Both have fought many of the best at 170, and each has fared well. If you study their records alone, you could make a case for either to win. Kampmann is the more well-rounded fighter, but Hendricks is a superb wrestler whose ground game will be too much for Kampmann. Though both have the power to end this one, both are also likely to play it safe. Expect Hendricks to win a decision victory through pure wrestling dominance. 

Kyle:  The top ten fighters at 170 pounds are an amazing study in parity.  As you go down their records, you see one split decision after another.  You see loops like:  Kampmann beat Rick Story who beat Johny Hendricks.  But Hendricks beat Josh Koscheck who beat Diego Sanchez who beat Martin Kampmann.  This is really anybody's fight.  But I give Hendricks a slight edge.  He has momentum coming off a couple of really impressive wins over Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck.  And his strong wrestling base should be an advantage; Kampmann's good at everything, but not great at anything.  Hendricks, probably by split decision.  In theory this fight will determine the next welterweight challenger.  Whoever wins should be hoping that Georges St-Pierre loses, since a GSP victory will mean sitting out a year while GSP goes up to 185 to fight Anderson Silva.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit

Mark:  Questions surround this fight:  Will GSP be the champion of old or another great athlete brought down by a torn ACL?  Will "The Natural Born Killer" show up, or will the Carlos Condit of his early, split-decision UFC fights step into the octagon after nine months of inactivity?  Is GSP going to unify the belts and once again make everyone at 170 wish they could fight higher or lower, or is Condit the new sheriff in town?  My money's on GSP, and not just the GSP of old, but a better, stronger GSP. GSP has a luxury most fighters don't: huge income streams that allow him to get the best possible medical care and take as long as he wants before fighting. Condit at his best--and we will see him at his best tonight--is a great fighter, but GSP is something else, another step beyond great. After five rounds, GSP's hands will be up in victory, and we'll all be waiting to see if the Anderson Silva indeed steps into the octagon and challenges him to a superfight--and if GSP accepts.

Kyle:  This is why we have fights.  Georges St-Pierre is coming off a year and a half off recovering from a torn ACL.  Is he still the same man that he was when he left, head and shoulders above the rest of the welterweight division?  For that matter, is Condit, who hasn't fought since winning the belt nine months ago?  Condit's first couple of fights in the UFC were struggling split decisions against Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger.  Then he turned on the octane and finished Rory MacDonald, Dan Hardy, and Dong Hyun Kim in dominating style.  Which is the real Carlos Condit?  The one who's just part of the 170-pound pack, or the one who dominates the other fighters in that pack?  Before a fight there are only hypotheses.  A fight is an experiment that brings answers.  My own hypotheses are that Condit really is that good, but that GSP hasn't lost a step, and that GSP at his best is even better than Condit at his best.  GSP for the win.

Finally, nicknames from tonight's show:  Super.  Deep Waters.  The One.  Pato.  Pride of El Salvador.  Tough Guy.  Hands of Stone.  The Bull.  The Grave Digger.  Snake.  The Machine.  The Scarecrow.  Limitless.  Filthy.  Bigg Rigg.  Hitman.  Rush.  Natural Born Killer.  Pick your favorite!  Try to match the name and the fighter!

Tune in tomorrow to see how we did.

As always, don't rely on us for betting advice!

Friday, November 16, 2012

On the road again: Silicon Valley, day 5

All of my daylight hours today went to travel.  I left the hotel at 6:15 a.m. in the rainy darkness, and I arrived in Raleigh at 6:15 p.m. in the cool darkness.  In between, I saw daylight only through airplane and airport windows and, twice at DFW, directly through small openings in the seal between the jetway and the plane.  An odd way to pass a day.

In between, I sat in exit-row seats--good for leg room and working--but not on the aisle, which meant that by the end of the day my shoulders and back were sore from curling inward to try to avoid invading the space of my seatmates.  That part sucks.

The best parts of this trip were that both planes offered bandwidth and the first was early enough that I had time to enjoy a delicious Red Mango parfait at DFW. 

Now, to catch up on the mail and bills and other life that happened on this coast while I was on the other one. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the road again: Silicon Valley, day 4

Work and driving between meetings ate almost all of today.  Lunch was a half hour at a small but busy taqueria in Palo Alto.  Dinner was a pleasant couple of hours with Gina's daughter, son-in-law, and their kids in Oakland.  All else was work.

Some days are like that.

Some days you get to stick your fingers in the ocean.  Some days you work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On the road again: Silicon Valley, day 3

Let's skip the vast majority of the day, which went to work, and focus instead on a slightly less than three-hour period.

We were heading north on the 101 in the worst of the rush-hour traffic, our last meeting over and a ton of backed-up email ahead.  We'd already bagged a late dinner reservation at a great place in favor of more time for email.  We'd gone less than nine miles in forty-five minutes.  I saw a sign saying the 92 exit toward Half Moon Bay was half a mile ahead, and suddenly I knew it was time to change the plan.

Years ago, we came out here a week a month to work with a group here that reported to me. Every now and again, we'd go to Half Moon Bay for dinner.

I took the exit and headed over the mountains toward the sea.  Two resolutions filled me instantly:  I would eat again at Mezza Luna, and I would put my fingers in the Pacific Ocean. 

And so I did.

Dinner was lovely, exactly what I wanted.  Mezza Luna has the feel of a large, family-oriented Italian restaurant, with lots of local patrons who seem to all know one another.  We chowed down on bruschetta, caprese salad, Caesar salad, and gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce.  I'd remembered the food as being good, but I've eaten at a lot of great places since my last time there, so I was concerned that I'd be disappointed.  No worries.  The food was excellent, the gnocchi as good as any I've ever had.  I recommend this place highly.  I left with a smile on my face.

It happened to be the first night of crab season, so we moved down the road to the marina, walked to the end of a pier, stretched out on the wood, and I put my fingers in the Pacific.

 Yeah, the picture is fuzzy--we're talking an iPhone with flash at night--but it's at least a vague proof.

Back in the car, back over the mountains, and back to work.  I had to stay up super late to finish, and I won't get much sleep, but it was worth it.

Every now and then, you have to stick your fingers in the ocean.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On the road again: Silicon Valley, day 2

Work dominated almost all of my waking hours, and, as usual, I can't talk about it.

I did get to have lunch at a local favorite of mine, the Pancho Villa taqueria in San Mateo. The food is nothing fancy, but, man, is it delicious.  I particularly love the Al Pastor Super Burrito, which is a thick tube of tasty goodness.  (Hold those dirty jokes.)  This restaurant also makes one of my favorite beverages, the almost-too-sweet, made-fresh-there mandarina.

While driving around the area to meetings, I saw my first Tesla Model S.  Wow, is that a gorgeous car!  I almost wish I hadn't seen it, because I'd made peace with not getting one, and now I'm lusting for it again.

Dinner was at another long-time favorite, a little strip-mall restaurant where I ate monthly for over five years, Tokie's.  The sushi is still good, and the atmosphere is that of a neighborhood bar.  I definitely recommend it if you're in the area.

Monday, November 12, 2012

On the road again: Silicon Valley, day 1

I slept very little and rather poorly last night, so when today's first flight failed to deliver on the bandwidth it promised, I mostly dozed and twisted and turned in my oh-so-comfy exit row slice of space.  I'm sure if I was under five feet tall and less than 100 pounds in weight, with shoulders no more than a foot wide, that my seat would have been luxurious; alas, I am none of those things.

We had to rush between gates at DFW, but we were able to make the second flight in the half hour we had for the task.  This plane's in-flight bandwidth setup was actually working, so I worked pretty much the whole time.  That's a good thing, because it meant I wasn't as far behind when I landed as I would have been.

As is my habit when staying at this particular hotel, I drove by a nearby Safeway to pick up some Coke Zero and pretzels for the room.  The Safeway was no longer there, though construction was well along on the replacement bigger store.  Fortunately, a nearby Walgreens offered the same merchandise, albeit at a higher price.

Dinner tonight was at Max's, where once again I ate the patty melt and sent a photo of it to Elizabeth, a woman who loves a good patty melt as much as I do.  I'm sure she appreciated the photo.

Most of the rest of the evening went to work.

Tomorrow, meetings I can't discuss!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Support John Picacio's calendar Kickstarter

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way first, so no one can rationally accuse me of hiding anything. John Picacio is a friend of mine.  We're not super-close guys who live in the same city and hang out together, but we're pals, and I like him.  He did the cover for my most recent novel, No Going Back. In case you've forgotten, it's an awesome piece of work.

(As always, click on any image to see a larger version.)

I love John's work, which is sensible of me, because it's amazing.  So do a lot of other people:  he's won pretty much every major SF and fantasy art-related award there is, including this year's Hugo for Best Professional Artist--on his eighth nomination, after seven losses.  I strongly supported him winning this award, as I made clear in this earlier post.  I'm even going to get my birthday in his 2013 calendar; I've pledged to his Kickstarter program at the level to enable that. 

None of that, however, is why I'm supporting John's newest effort, a Kickstarter program to allow him to create an amazing 2013 calendar and a new company, Lone Boy

No, I'm getting behind John for three reasons. 

First, I want this calendar.  Its cover is beautiful.

The rest of the months aren't too shabby, either.  (Yes, that's sarcasm; they're amazing.)

The printing and design are cool; check out this January layout. 

Gorgeous, just gorgeous.

Beyond simply wanting the calendar, though, I'm supporting John's Kickstarter and his company because he's trying to do something cool:  connect directly with his fans and other art lovers.  John's a canny guy, and he understands that disintermediation is a trend that started with the Web and is continuing for the foreseeable future.  I want to see his company do well, and I'm more than a little curious to watch its progression.  I care enough that I pledged his Kickstarter at the $250, "Art Warrior," level. 

Finally, I want John to succeed because I want him to create the Loteria deck that he dreams of making. I firmly believe all artists do their very finest work when they set themselves to some task they desperately want to do.  When John and I were discussing No Going Back, I said that I thought the cover he most wanted to do would be the best one.  He went that route, and the result is the best it could be, simply wonderful.  I am sure of it. 

If you like John's art, or if you just want to buy a cool calendar for $25, go here and pledge at least that amount.  You'll get to see a different wonderful piece each month for a year, you'll be helping an artist reach his goals, and maybe, just maybe, you'll help me encourage him to put the No Going Back artwork in a 2014 calendar.

Hey, a guy can hope.


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