How to Play Next Season
This was the night of the underdog, with 5 of the fighters that were picked by under 10 people winning and 3 of these underdogs earning bonus points. If you didn't take any calculated risks then you won't have done well on this event. This may have made a mockery out of the majority of people's picks (with a couple of notable exceptions) but it also made tonight's card that much more exciting. With highlight reel KOs, crazy comebacks, career revivals, the end of an era and and an entertaining back and forth main event this event had everything and was a welcome addition to the illustrious history of Japanese Mixed Martial Arts.
I had high hopes for the Frankie Edgar vs Ben Henderson fight and this time the fight that I hyped up lived up to my high expectations as both guys put on a striking and grappling clinic. Ultimately it was Henderson who landed the more effective strikes and displayed the better grappling which saw him become the first WEC alumni to win a UFC championship above 145lbs. Frankie actually landed a greater volume of strikes but it was Ben's that caused the most significant damage and it was Ben who got into the better positions on the mat and attacked with more submissions despite Frankie attempting and landing more takedowns. The key moments of the fight that sealed the win for Ben were a vicious upkick at the end of the second round that was the turning point of the fight and caused a nasty cut on Frankie's nose and a slick jumping guillotine choke that he's used successfully so often in the past, but on this occasion Frankie had the heart and technique to survive. Great fight and in my opinion the right man won, congratulations Benson.
The co-main event between Quinton Jackson and Ryan Bader was the one that split the pool, with 20 people picking Rampage and 17 choosing Bader. With Rampage coming in 6lbs overweight it was always going to be a question of how motivated Quinton was and how seriously he was taking Bader. And unfortunately for Rampage and his fans he did not put on a good performance. He was able to land a trademark slam in the second round that saw Bader land horribly on his neck and right arm but after he recovered from that Ryan was able to take Rampage down and control him on the ground on multiple occasions much to the derision of the Japanese fans and anyone (me) daft enough to pick a 211lb and arguably disinterested Rampage. This could be the victory that sees Ryan Bader move on to the next level and become a legitimate top contender at 205. It was great seeing Rampage pay tribute to Pride with his entrance and the slam was vicious but his return to Japan couldn't have gone much worse in all honesty. I don't know where he goes from here.
The Heavyweight clash featuring kickboxing specialists Mark Hunt and Cheick Kongo saw another exciting finish and another big upset as the former Pride superstar Hunt made quick work of the UFC veteran Kongo. Mark landed a clean left counter punch that dropped Kongo before pressing Cheick against the cage and landing several big right hands that dropped the Frenchman. Not bad for a guy who was signed by the UFC because they were contractually obliged to do so as a result of the Pride buyout. And anyone who called Mark Hunt being a top contender in the HW division in 2012 is a liar. Unreal.
Jake Shields was able to get back to winning ways courtesy of a unanimous decision victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama in the judoka's Welterweight debut. It wasn't pretty but ultimately Shields did enough to win a decision thanks to his aggression as he pressed the action with more strikes and takedown attempts. It took Jake until the final minute of the fight to really find success on the ground as he took Sexyama's back and tried to finish the fight with a rear naked choke. It was underwhelming but as a Shields fan I was happy to see him get the victory, especially after everything that he has gone through over the last few months.
"That was the greatest comeback I have ever seen in the UFC". I'm still in shock. After a dominant 2 rounds it looked like it was a matter of how and when Yushin Okami would beat Tim Boetsch. Yushin outclassed Tim in the striking exchanges in the opening round, displaying an excellent jab and landing several headkicks. In the second round Yushin took Tim down and dominated him from on top, easily transitioning to mount and coming close to submitting Boetsch. Matt Hume told Tim to go for broke in the third and man he did. It took Tim less than a minute to grab victory from the jaws of defeat as he came out swinging and battered Okami with vicious uppercuts and overhands to finish the fight. Sometimes fighting with wreckless abandon when you have nothing to lose does work. Unreal.
The night's hot bout was the Featherweight clash between Hatsu Hioki and Bart Palaszewski. After an underwhelming UFC debut Hioki had a lot of pressure to make a statement in his homeland and thanks to his superior grappling he did that. Hatsu spent the majority of the first and third rounds on top, displaying his BJJ skills in particular his superb transitions. Bart showed a lot of heart to survive Hatsu's submission attempts and ground and pound including the mounted crucifix and in my opinion won the second round but ultimately he was outclassed on the ground. This was a much improved performance from Hioki over a dangerous opponent and puts him right in line for a championship fight with Jose Aldo.
"Oh my goodness". There's not much more you can say about the Lightweight match-up between Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon as Showtime brutally knocked out J-Lau with a vicious left headkick. I wasn't impressed with the matchmaking in the first place as Lauzon is very inconsistent but an emphatic highlight reel finish in under 90s sees Pettis back in as a relevant title contender. I think that he needs another fight or 2 before taking on Ben Henderson in a rematch of their classic WEC encounter, but he has to fight a top 5 guy next.
And I was wrong about the intro. It's better than the gladiator guy but it's nowhere near as good as I hyped it up to be.
In an event in which the majority of players struggled one man put on a personal best score to earn himself $20 as well as a spot on the Playground leaderboard (he came joint 2nd overall) with an outstanding score of 98. Congratulations freenow82, this was a superb display of fight picking. He picked 9/12 fights correctly including full points on 6, which were Ryan Bader, Riki Fukuda, Chris Cariaso (including an underdog bonus), Hatsu Hioki, Jake Shields and Ben Henderson. He also picked up an extra 2 points by picking Tim Boetsch to win. Now that he's moved up from 16th to 4th freenow is a genuine contender for the money and just at the right time.
Another man who produced a great score that saw him make the leaderboard (joint 7th) was the Australian Darksider scarnon as he scored 88. Like freenow he also picked 9/12 fights correctly but didn't score full points on as many fights. The 4 that he did pick perfectly were Riki Fukuda, Mark Hunt, Hatsu Hioki and Ben Henderson as well as picking up bonus points for Vaughan Lee and Tim Boetsch. Great job mate, you were very unlucky not to win anything tonight.
An abysmal season has just gotten that much worse for the Commissioner as jay slumped to a season low total of 15 and a season record collapse of -55, picking only 3/12 fights correctly (Takanori Gomi, Anthony Pettis and Jake Shields) and no methods. For a man who was once considered a top 10 level picker and was chosen to represent Team Mania against Team BE at the expense of notable regulars like David W-S and Ricky Dooby it's been a sad and sorry fall from grace. This is what the pressures of command does to a man. Now you get a sig of shame from your old nemesis freenow.
Honourable mentions to the Darksider that missed this weeks e-mail as Thorazine was only able to put up a paltry 26. Like jay he also picked Gomi, Pettis and Shields as winners but was spared last place by having the sense to pick Riki Fukuda by unanimous decision. Even on a night of upsets Steve Cantwell was a kamikaze pick.
The dark lord continues to impress as DetroitDrew1980 increases his lead to 52 points following another impressive performance. To put this into perspective it's almost the same number of points that I need to get into the top 3. Again Drew proves that consistency is the key to winning the pool as he moves further ahead despite still not winning a single event himself. He has now picked 54/71 fights correctly which is a winning percentage of 76%. Tonight he scored 67, a top 5 score, after picking 6/12 fights correctly including Ryan Bader, Riki Fukuda, Hatsu Hioki and Jake Shields. The 11 points on Bader were the most significant for Drew on this occasion.
It should be noted though that the other 2 players to score 67 were fellow Darksiders Loonz and Jido. In fact Jido's correct picks were exactly the same as Drew's. Co-incidental?
Best Prediction of the Night
unambig: Hunt's got nothing. It's actually embarrassing anyone picked him.
Always Listen to the Darkside
Thorazine: I hope so but this is also a tough fight. Lee's problem is he keeps his head straightup and gassed last time in the 2nd round but he might choke the shit outta Kid Yamo.
Patrick L Stumberg: He won't choke Kid out. Winning via top control would make sense, though.
Rolandando: Seriously. If Darren Uyenoiusfkisueofis couldn't choke him out, Lee sure as hell isn't
However the biggest fail here was Thorazine not actually picking Vaughan by submission in the pool.
Never Listen to Children
Rolandando: Hey Shivan didn't you have Lee, then switched to Kid?
The Pride: Because of me
MMA Playground season 12: The Dirty Dozen
7 / 10 events complete
4. Ulf Murphy
Highest score: BNF 101 UFC 143
Lowest score: jay 15 UFC 144
Biggest lock: Charles Oliveira UFC on FOX 2 (picked by everyone)
Biggest underdog: Nate Diaz UFC 141 (picked by Ricky Dooby and TuffGong)
Most improved: BNF 31 UFC on FX 1, 101 UFC 143 (+70)
Fastest decline: jay 70 UFC on FUEL TV 1, 15 UFC 144 (-55)