Saturday, November 16, 2013

UFC 167: Kyle and I pick 'em

Kyle and I haven't picked the winners of a UFC event in ages, and we're watching UFC 167: St. Pierre vs. Hendricks together at my house tonight, so we figured it was time to try our hand again at prognostication. 

As usual, we'll begin with the preliminary fights that you can see only on Facebook. 

Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante

Mark:  Both of these light heavyweights lost last to Ovince St. Preux.  The difference, though, is that Donovan was KFTO'd, while Villante lost due to a stoppage from a bad poke in the eye.  Donovan fights by eating shots, a strategy that doesn't tend to work all that long.  Villante will punish him and take him down until the ref stops the fight.  Villante for the win.

Kyle:  Villante is a KO artist who came up through Strikeforce but lost his UFC debut against Ovince St. Preux.  He’s coming in as a late replacement on two week’s notice to fight Cody Donovan, who also lost to Ovince St. Preux in his last fight.   I don’t know much about either fighter, but two weeks isn’t a lot of time to prepare for a fight in the UFC.  Donovan to win.

Sergio Pettis vs. Will Campuzano

Mark:  Pettis, the brother of lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, brings a perfect record to his UFC debut.  Campuzano has four losses and hasn't won in two UFC outings, but he's bigger, stronger, and over his UFC debut jitters.  For those and other reasons, a lot of the folks I've read are picking Campuzano to win.  I'm going against them.  I think Pettis has trained with enough good people to be ready for this challenge, so I'm picking him to win, probably by spending most of the fight landing light strikes and then dancing away from Campuzano's longer reach. 

Kyle:  The betting odds have this as the biggest mismatch on the card, with lightweight champ Anthony Pettis’ little brother better than a 4-to-1 favorite over Will Campuzano.  Campuzano went 1-2 in the WEC and is 0-2 in the UFC, but has put together a five-fight winning streak in other promotions to earn his way back into the Octagon.  Despite the odds, though, I’m picking Campuzano to win.  From the remarkable boner he displayed at theweigh-ins, Campuzano looks like his testosterone levels are high and he’s excited and ready to go.

Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley

Mark: I haven't seen Lapsley fight, but he's certainly on a good winning streak.  He's making his UFC debut, though, and High is not.  High looks to be the better wrestler, and he's not been doing too bad lately, either, winning eight of his last nine.  I'm going with High. 

Kyle:  High and Lapsely are both smallish welterweight grapplers who’ve looked good in smaller shows, but have lost when they’ve faced big names.  Now they face each other in a journeyman bout.  Their skillsets are similar, but High has faced stiffer competition and has looked better in recent fights.  High by submission.

The rest of the card is available on television.  You can find the next four bouts on Fox Sports 1.

Erik Perez vs. Edwin Figueroa

Mark:  Like a few other fights on this card, this one features a fighter with the power to win at any time via KO (Figueroa) against a fighter who's better technically in striking and in wrestling (Perez).  I have to go with the most likely chain of events and pick Perez to grind out a decision victory.

Kyle:  Perez is 3-1 in the UFC, with his loss being by split decision to the formidable Takeya Mizugaki.   Figueroa is 2-3 in the UFC.  Perez has a better record, and I bet it’ll improve to 4-1 after tonight.

Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story

Mark:  Brian Ebersole strung together 11 victories in a row, including four in the UFC, before he turned in a lackluster performance that cost him a loss to James Head.  Story once appeared to be on his way to stardom, but he never made it.  Even so, he's stronger and better at grinding than Ebersole, so he'll pull off the decision win. 

Kyle:  Rick Story is the real deal, a terrific wrestler with wins over Thiago Alves and—improbably—Johny Hendricks.  He’s struggled against stiff competition in recent years, though, while Hendricks has improved his game and soared to the top of the welterweight division.  Ebersole took the UFC by storm in 2011, winning his first three fights in the promotion, only to go 1-1 in 2012 and then disappear for a year and a half because of an injury that he won’t divulge.  If Ebersole had stayed more active, I might pick him to win, but ring rust is a real thing.  Story should be able to take this.

Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites

Mark:  Poor Ed Herman.  He's a good fighter, a very good fighter, but he's never going to make it to the elite ranks of 185ers.  Now he has to face Thales Leites, who is bigger, stronger, and better at BJJ.  I'm not sure if Leites will beat him down and submit him late in the fight, or just win by decision, but I don't see any real hope for Herman in this one. 

Kyle:  Herman and Leites are similar in size and similar in skills.  But Leites has a better record, particularly in recent years. Leites to win. 

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham

Mark:  This one will be a war.  The oddsmakers have Cerrone as a tiny favorite, but Dunham is exactly the right type of fighter--an extremely aggressive fighter who won't back down and who has decent wrestling--to beat him.  When fighters bring the battle to him and close the distance, Cerrone sometimes looks like he doesn't know what to do next.  I want Cerrone to win, but I'm going with Dunham.  Whoever takes this, it's likely to be by decision after three very tough rounds. 

Kyle:  This fight is a strong candidate for fight of the night, as both fighters keep a brisk pace and have shown themselves willing to stand and trade.  Dunham, however, averages 50% more stand-up strikes per minute than Cerrone.  I think his ability to sustain a faster pace than Cerrone will earn Dunham the victory.

To catch the big five fights, though, you have to pony up for the pay-per-view broadcast.  We've already signed up for it.

Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov

Mark:  Kyle tends to dislike the fights with the smaller guys, and at 125 pounds each these two are as small as the UFC gets.  This one, though, should be very entertaining, in part because Bagautinov has the power to end it at any time.  He probably won't, but he will be just enough better in every area than Elliott, who to be fair is a very good fighter, to walk away with the win. 

Kyle:  Elliott is the bigger man, has the better record, and has more experience in the UFC.  Elliott to win.

Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

Mark: Poor Josh Koscheck.  He made it to the mountain--St. Pierre--but like so many before and after him, he couldn't reach the peak.  Now, he's stuck as a gatekeeper at 170.  Facing him is Tyron Woodley, a younger, faster fighter.  Many are figuring on Woodley's speed giving him the edge over Koscheck, but I don't buy it.  This fight will be close, but in the end Koscheck will grind out a decision victory by out-wrestling and out-grinding Woodley. 

Kyle:  Koscheck and Woodley are like old and new models of the same fighter, NCAA All-American wrestlers who learned to love punching people.  The stats say that Woodley is a little bit better across the board:  more power, better accuracy, better takedowns, and better takedown defense.  Woodley to win by being new and improved.

Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

Mark:  In the post-fight press conference and the later media scrum, there's a better than even chance that Dana White is once again going to blast Rory MacDonald for fighting a safe, boring fight en route to a victory.  The alternative is White praising MacDonald for getting a submission victory.  Though Lawler has looked very good lately and certainly has a power puncher's chance to end the fight at any moment, we can expect MacDonald to enter the octagon with a great game plan, execute that plan, and walk away the winner. 

Kyle:  Twenty-four-year-old Rory MacDonald has put together the kind of winning streak in the UFC that Robbie Lawler must remember being his ten years ago.   At 31, Lawler isn’t that old, but he has a lot of miles on him.  MacDonald has energy and accuracy.  He throws 40% more significant strikes than Lawler and attempts more than twice as many takedowns.  Again, I’m picking the younger, better man to win.

Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

Mark:  Sonnen is still on the juice--excuse me, he still has his Therapeutic Use Exemption for testosterone--so he has a chance to win this fight.  I was even picking him for a while, but I've come to believe that his heart just isn't in this one.  He knows he can collect a big payday for a decent performance against his friend Evans, and then he can head to Brazil for an even bigger payday in a fight he genuinely wants against Wanderlei Silva.  Evans needs the win and is a good enough wrestler to mostly neutralize Sonnen's signature take-down and grind game.  In the stand-up, Evans is faster and going to score more often.  This one goes "Suga" Rashad Evans by decision. 

Kyle:  Sonnen does one thing, but he does it well:  He takes men down and beats on them.  That’s not going to be an easy feat with Evans, a Division 1 wrestler who missed being All-American by a hair.  Evans is a much better striker, so if the fight stays on the feet Sonnen’s going to have a rough night.  Nonetheless, I’m picking Sonnen to win.  The Nevada State Athletic Commission is allowing Sonnen to continue using Testosterone Replacement Therapy for this fight, and I think that the anabolic supplementation will give Sonnen an edge that an unaugmented human like Evans can’t match.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

Mark:  Hendricks is a legitimate contender and a worthy opponent for the champ.  He's an excellent wrestler with tremendous power in both hands, and if he lands a clean shot, he absolutely can knock out St. Pierre.  If you were to judge this fight only by the UFC's promotional material, you'd be right to expect Hendricks to beat St. Pierre.  That's a great testimony to the craftmanship of the promotion package the UFC has put together for this fight.

The thing is, though, Hendricks is going to lose.  St. Pierre is going to do what he does:  jab, kick, keep Hendricks at a distance, shoot sometimes--though maybe less than in past fights, out-box the challenger, and execute his usual sound game plan.  He'll do this at roughly the same pace for all five rounds, and at the end the ref will raise his hand in victory.

Kyle:  Hendricks is a wrestler in the mold of Josh Koscheck and Tyron Woodley, who primarily uses his wrestling to keep his feet and strike.  He’ll be the stiffest test yet for St-Pierre, who has used his own superior wrestling to smother recent opponents and ride his way to victory.  Hendricks has amazing knockout power.  If the fight ends early, it’ll probably be ended by Hendricks’ powerful left hand.  But GSP has an amazing 7-inch reach advantage and one of the best jabs in MMA.   I think that GSP will be able to keep to the outside and jab his way to victory.

Amazingly, though Kyle and I generally agree on fight picks, for tonight's card we differ on five of the eleven winners.  One of us is going to be happy tomorrow; check back then to see which of us it will be. 

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

Let me get right to the bottom line, in case you're in a hurry: If you think you might like Thor: The Dark World, you're probably right, and you should go see it.  You'll have a pleasant time, though you will leave the theater less than fully satisfied.  This reaction is one that big-budget summer movies--and ignore the date of its release, because this is a summer movie--frequently cause, so you're probably already used to it.

You'll have a good enough time because plenty of shit blows up real good, as Joe Bob used to say, and the story takes exactly the sorts of twists and turns you expect it to.  A key character dies, another one appears to die, and good people find themselves regularly in bad situations.  Chris Hemsworth takes his shirt off for no good reason.  Etc. 

You'll exit with less than complete satisfaction, though, because there's not much real drama here--no one grows, no one truly changes--and because the story is less a story than a collection of scenes.  Taken individually, each scene is decent enough.  As a group, though, they feel disjointed, almost as if a completely different crew filmed each one and then clipped them together.

If you've read any reviews of this movie, you've probably seen that a lot of reviewers and critics are hating on Natalie Portman.  They're wrong.  She did as much with the cardboard character the writers gave her as anyone reasonably could.  Give Natalie a little love for being a trooper in the face of the sad role she had. 

In the credits, the movie delivers the Marvel Easter eggs we've come to expect, and the greater plot arc marches on toward the next Avengers movie.

So, yeah, I enjoyed it well enough, but it highlighted yet again how much less a film is when it has little heart and a weak story.  It's really a shame that Joss Whedon can't write and direct all the Marvel movies. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On About Time and beautiful sentiment

Richard Curtis, who wrote and directed this film, has earned the odd distinction of being the perfect sentimental movie writer/director for my taste.  (I'm sure he's thrilled at this honor.)  The previous two movies he directed--Love Actually and The Boat That Rocked--unabashedly mix humor and romance with heaping amounts of straightforward, heartfelt sentiment, and both are among my all-time favorite movies.  In About Time, Curtis again focuses on familiar targets, including romance and father/son relationships, again mixes humor and romance and sentiment--and again leaves me loving the result.

The key plot gimmick is a simple bit of pseudo-SF:  When a man in the protagonist's family turns 21, as the protagonist just did, he can travel back in time--but only to moments in his own life.  Later, rules appear, and the protagonist also gets a sense of the cost of time travel.  Over the course of the film, we watch as first his romance and then his life with a woman he loves unfold, and we also see his touching but always understated relationship with his father. 

The movie makes several key mistakes in its handling of time travel, though they all boil down to inconsistent application of the rules.  It also skirts a central issue:  Deceit--his use of time travel to manipulate things--is the very foundation of his relationship with his love.

None of that ends up mattering, though, at least not if the movie works for you, because the metaphor that time travel provides speaks to the very heart of the film, a simple message:  Enjoy every moment you're alive, and particularly enjoy the moments with the ones you love.

Stripped to its barest minimum, this message, like all profound ones, sounds dopey and obvious, but of course it never is, for few, if any, of us are capable of doing that.  I certainly am not.

More importantly, most of us don't go to fiction of any sort--films, books, comics, whatever--for the messages.  We go for the stories, the characters, the plots, the escapes.  The story and characters--all the key actors really deliver the goods--of About Time so charmed me and carried me along that I loved every minute of it, and it moved me deeply at the end, even though I was very aware that Curtis was expecting to move me.

If you hate his other two films, I'd guess you will hate this one, too.  If you don't know his work, though, or if you liked those movies, or if you're just in the mood for a beautiful film about love, both romantic and familial, then do not miss About Time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time for a sentimental song

I'm going to write later about the new Richard Curtis film, About Time, which despite its many flaws I absolutely loved.

For now, though, because it's been on my mind I'm going to share with you a version of the Waterboys song, "How Long Will I Love You," that in the movie a trio in a Tube station play.

I quite like this version.

I hope you do, too.

BTW, the film ends with a second version, the recent cover from Ellie Goulding.  If you want to contrast it to the one above, listen to this one.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Don't you just love this date?  All three numbers right in a row, an event we won't get again for thirteen months.  Seeing numbers occur this way makes me a little happier inside.

Of course, I am weird.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My thanks to our veterans on Veterans Day

I never had to fight for our country, nor was I ever in the military.  I came close to being drafted after high school, but Nixon canceled the draft before I had to show up.  I was and am very grateful for that.  It may be the only thing I like about Nixon.

I've had my share of disagreements with our government about its choices of wars in my lifetime.  As I've written before, I've never felt we should have gone into Viet Nam, nor do I think we were right to invade Iraq, to pick but two examples of where I think politicians have made the wrong choices.

I have, however, never blamed the men and women who've served our country for those choices.  They signed up to do military service, and politicians sent them off to fight.

I tremendously respect and appreciate the service those men and women did.  Though I believe I can never fully understand the prices they paid, through veteran friends and family, including Dave and my stepfather, Ed, as well as via my own PTSD, I have a tiny inkling of that cost. I know they will continue to pay for the rest of their lives. 

On this day, let us thank our vets and honor them.  We cannot thank them enough.

Let us also push our government to take better care of them when they return from active service. 

They have more than earned that care and our thanks.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bill's sabbatical

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Principled Technologies, the company Bill and I co-founded and work at, offers a sabbatical program to all of its employees.  (I gave more detail about the program in this earlier post.)  A key part of the program is that PT encourages employees to do a week of charity work and provides funds either for travel expenses to go to the charity or as a donation to the charity.  As I've also shown in some earlier entries, we're making a series of short videos about what employees have done for charity work during their sabbaticals.  We post those videos on our site and YouTube channel, and we also give them for free to the charities for their use. 

The video for Bill's sabbatical work is now available.  Check it out.

You can get Bill's take on his charity time via this entry on his blog

Bill's been working with this group since long before we created our sabbatical program.  He truly loves spending time with and helping the children there.  He's a good man, and I'm proud to have been his business partner for 28 years.


Blog Archive