- You really couldn’t have scripted a better Bellator debut for Rory MacDonald. I was hardly surprised at the fact MacDonald won decisively over Paul Daley on Friday, but I’ll admit that had he lost I wouldn’t have been that surprised. We’ve seen a few high profile free agents join Bellator and then be underwhelming in their debut, but that certainly wasn’t the case for MacDonald. As I stated last week, I’d really prefer to see him face Douglas Lima instead of Lorenz Larkin for the title in the next few months because that matchup intrigues me more than a showdown between two former UFC welterweights.
- It’s time for Bellator to crown a new heavyweight champion. Cheick Kongo became the winniest heavyweight in Bellator history on Friday (he’s gone 9-2 in Bellator), and I think it’s time that Bellator finally finds someone to face him for the vacant heavyweight title. As I said last week, I’m in favor of seeing the winner of Fedor Emelianenko/Matt Mitrione face him for the vacant title. But if Bellator ever decided to go another route, because they are signing a lot of aging legends lately, I’d be somewhat okay with seeing Bellator bring in Mirko Cro Cop to fight Kongo for the heavyweight title. As bizarre as this might sound at first, Cro Cop could make sense because he is on a 7 fight winning streak and he recently defeated one of Bellator’s poster boys King Mo Lawal back in December en route to winning the Rizin Open-Weight Grand Prix. But otherwise, I’d prefer to see Kongo face the winner of Emelianenko/Mitrione, or maybe even face King Mo Lawal for the vacant title since Lawal did defeat Kongo in a superfight back in February 2015 and has defeated the likes of Rampage Jackson and Satoshi Ishii in heavyweight fights over the past few months, which in my opinion makes Lawal a qualified candidate to fight for the vacant Bellator heavyweight title. Regardless, however, Bellator really needs to aim to crown a new heavyweight champion in my opinion because for a major MMA promotion to lack a heavyweight champion for as long as they have is a bit ridiculous in my opinion.
- I commend the WWE for trying something different with Jinder Mahal as champion. I honestly have not watched the WWE regularly for a little over a year now (I still watch the pay-per-views when I have the time, since I do have a WWE Network subscription because I like the old episodes of WCW Monday Nitro and their documentaries), but I’m unsure how much I like putting the title on Mahal right now. It’s nothing personal against Mahal, but it’s just hard to comprehend him as champion when it was literally 6 weeks ago that he was jobbing to the likes of the Big Show, Big Cass, Cesaro, and Mojo Rawley on television and at house shows. Had the WWE spent a few months building him up with a winning streak then I’d probably like this more than I do at the moment, but I’m curious to see where they go with this.
- I finally started my book project. For at least for a couple of years, I’ve wanted to write a psychology book based on my life experiences and my interpretations of what I’ve learned over the course of my studies. I’d like to publish it before 2019, so I’m under a bit of a time crunch, but I look forward to writing it and really getting my message out there.
- So, who else here was shocked by how the WWE booked the Goldberg/Lesnar match on Sunday night? I know I certainly was. Being there firsthand was great for me, because it let me be a 9 year old again for 86 seconds. But the rest of the Air Canada Centre didn’t seem to know what to make of the match. An overwhelming portion of the crowd was cheering for Goldberg, but the general consensus was that most people wanted the match to go the standard main event length of time of about 15-20 minutes. For me personally, I dug the quick finish because I’ve said for a long time that I’d love to see a highly hyped main event match end quickly just to swerve everyone, and on Sunday night we saw that finally.
- I scored Saturday night’s Andre Ward/Sergey Kovalev fight 116-111 for Kovalev. Part of me feels Kovalev was robbed, but it wasn’t the worst “robbery” I’ve seen in combat sports. A lot of the rounds were close, but if you go by the old adage that the champion, in this case Kovalev, should get the close rounds then Kovalev “should” have won. Perhaps had Ward won via split decision, then I wouldn’t have been so annoyed by the verdict. I hope that Kovalev gets a chance at redemption, and soon.
- With Ryan Bader entering free agency, I’d actually really like to see him go to Bellator and fight Phil Davis for their light heavyweight championship. Even though I have Bader pegged at around 6th in the world at light heavyweight right now, I really can’t see him winning the UFC light heavyweight title, so I think a move to Bellator might be in his best interest.
- On another free agent note, I’m curious to see what happens to WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje after his contract expires. He’s 16-0, but honestly I don’t think he’s that He is a good fighter, and is the face of the WSOF, but I don’t have him in my top ten for the lightweight division and I don’t think he’s among the elite of the lightweight division. Hopefully he gets a chance to go to the UFC or Bellator and hopefully he proves me wrong, but it will be interesting to see what’s next for him.
- As someone who loved pro wrestling as a kid, and still tunes in on occasion nowadays, Sunday’s Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar match at WWE Survivor Series intrigues me. While I expect the WWE to have Lesnar win the match to avenge his loss to Goldberg at WrestleMania 20 in 2004, the whole concept of this match is interesting to me. Mainly, while I understand Goldberg’s desire for his wife and son to watch him wrestle, I’m just a little surprised to see a guy who seemed to have a disdain for the wrestling business after his retirement 12 years ago come back simply to lose to Brock Lesnar in his comeback/final match. I have read nothing on “dirt sheets” about this match, but I suppose it wouldn’t surprise me if Lesnar wins on Sunday, and then this sets up a trilogy bout with Goldberg/Lesnar 3 taking place at WrestleMania 33 in April 2017. Nonetheless, I’ll be at the show in Toronto on Sunday and I look forward to re-living my childhood for a few minutes during their match.
- Moving from the world of “fantasy warfare” to the squared circle, the fight I’m most excited for this weekend is Saturday night’s light heavyweight boxing matchup between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward. It’s unfortunate this fight hasn’t gotten a ton of mainstream attention, because it very well might be the best boxing match that can be made in 2016. Kovalev is 30-0-1 and holds the WBA, WBO, and IBF versions of the light heavyweight championship. Ward is 30-0, and was the WBA, WBC, The Ring, and lineal super middleweight champion before vacating those titles to move up in weight. It’s very rare to see two of the undefeated pound-for-pound best go at it in their prime, and Saturday night’s fight is a real treat for the hardcore boxing fan, and the winner of this fight makes a legitimate claim to not just being the best light heavyweight boxer in the world, but the top pound-for-pound boxer as well.
- Finally, I’m looking forward to tuning into some MMA this weekend. There’s a Bellator event and a pair of UFC events on tv, and while none of the events have the buzz that UFC 205 had, there’s still plenty of solid fights to check out. In particular, I’m looking forward to the Bellator lightweight title fight between champion Michael Chandler and former UFC champion Benson Henderson. On the UFC side of things, the fights that really have my interest are Gegard Mousasi’s rematch with Uriah Hall, former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov making his UFC debut against Tim Johnson, former flyweight title contenders Kyoji Horiguchi and Ali Bagautinov squaring off, and then light heavyweight contenders Ryan Bader and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira engaging in a rematch of their 2010 fight. In the case of fighters like Mousasi, Bader, and Nogueira, there are some potential title fight implications.
In a nutshell, if you’re someone like me who enjoys watching quality prizefighting, both real and make believe, then this is a pretty solid weekend for you.
I’m getting set to play in The Destroyer Open this weekend, which is a park golf tournament near Buffalo, New York. The tournament is named after Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, a former four-time world heavyweight professional wrestling champion and hall of famer who owns a park golf course near his home. Beyer held the WWA world title on three occasions, plus the AWA world title under the disguise of Doctor X. But where he had his most notable success was in Japan, where he once wrestled Rikidozan in front of a televised audience of 70 million people!
So of course, being a wrestling fan and a miniature golf enthusiast of sorts (I like to refer to park golf as mini golf on steroids), I paid this place a visit a few weeks ago and really enjoyed playing the game of park golf. So much so, that I went back again the following week to play some more. But this time, I had a vintage wrestling magazine with The Destroyer on the cover which I asked him to sign before I teed off that morning.
I went out and proceeded to shoot a +3 (I’d shot a +6 in my first round the previous week, so I was making progress). As I was heading toward the 18th hole, The Destroyer (I refer to him as such since that’s how he introduced himself to me initially) and a friend of his who was visiting from Japan approached me on a golf cart. He introduced me to his friend and told his friend about the old magazine I’d had of him earlier, and we discussed vintage wrestling for a few minutes before I finished my game (I asked him if he ever met Whipper Billy Watson during his career because I never saw Watson’s name mentioned in his book, to which The Destroyer told me “I never wrestled him, but I met him when I was first starting out. At the time he was a big star and I was just a jabroni”).
After I was done, I grabbed the old magazine out of my car and showed it to his friend who appreciated taking a look through it. As a matter of fact, The Destroyer’s daughter who runs the golf course took a look through the magazine as well. It was a pretty cool moment for me to see them reminisce about old times, since I was semi-responsible for it by having the old magazine on hand with me. As we were talking, Beyer told his daughter he was about to head to lunch at a local diner with his wife and his friend from Japan…and then he asked me if I wanted to come along too! Of course I accepted the invitation.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s really hit me how big of a superstar he is/was (there’s not a whole lot of available video of his matches from his prime, and sometimes it’s hard to gauge how big of a star someone was by reading accounts secondhand), but I can tell you that I was kinda starstruck by the day, which says a lot because I’ve met countless athletes over the years, and I virtually have never gotten starstruck. I tried not to ask too many fanboyish questions (I did ask some, such as “Did you wrestle at Maple Leaf Gardens?” “Where was your favorite place to wrestle besides Japan?), but it was a really cool experience and I’m glad to say that I had the rare opportunity to enjoy lunch with such a legend in the industry.
Needless to say, I still play park golf when my schedule allows it (it’s about a 90 minute drive from my house, so it’s not the easiest thing to pencil in amongst my other travels), and I have every intent of trying to win the tournament this weekend (of course I’ll be a good sport if I don’t, which I don’t expect to since I have less experience than the other competitors). But I have a great time every time I head out to play park golf, and have the opportunity to talk to a legend of the industry.
If you’re interested in learning more about park golf, check out the link below:
I was doing some reading over the weekend (big surprise there), so I’d like to share some of my thoughts on what I was reading, along with some quick thoughts on UFC 202 and WWE SummerSlam, and of course the Jays series with the Indians.
- The first book I read some of was The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris. I’m only partway through the book, but I really enjoy reading his perspective on confidence and how we seem to fall into a trap when it comes to obtaining confidence. He does a great job of reiterating how confidence comes from experience, and how even if we have confidence it’s still very normal to feel nervous. In addition, his take on how you should view thoughts as “helpful” and “unhelpful” instead of “positive” or “negative” is pretty intriguing. It wasn’t until I read this book that I really thought about how negative thoughts can actually be helpful under the right circumstances because they make you ask yourself further probing questions. I’m looking forward to finishing this book, as it’s already made a pretty big difference with my mindset, which I think really helped me out with setting a new personal best score while I played park golf (it’s a Japanese game, but there’s a course nearby) yesterday.
- The second book I’m in the midst of reading is called The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan. I only had a chance to read the first chapter over the weekend, but Sheridan discusses an interview with 1972 Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable (one of the greatest wrestlers in history) and during the interview, Gable said something interesting that I have always felt. He discussed how no matter how well you’re performing, or what the “gold standard” (my words, not his) is, there is always another, greater level that you can achieve. Personally, I agree. Regardless of how I’ve performed a task, I’ve always felt that I could’ve done “a little bit better.”
- If I can combine my two “book reviews” here, it seems like it’s important to acknowledge how you can always achieve better, but to avoid being too harsh on yourself along the way. It’s good to be a realist and take accurate assessments of yourself, but not to the point to where you’re killing your self-esteem and self-acceptance and making yourself miserable in the process.
- I enjoyed the main event of UFC 202 over the weekend. I’m not sure if I’d label it an “instant classic” like some of the media have, but it certainly was an enjoyable fight to watch. I had McGregor winning it 48-47 (I wouldn’t have argued it if someone scored it 48-47 for Diaz since the second round could be seen as a little ambiguous, but I was surprised by one judge scoring the third round 10-8 for Diaz), and was very surprised at the way McGregor rebounded in the fourth round when it looked like he was set to gas out. I wasn’t a big fan of the immediate rematch between these two, but it was a fun fight to watch so I’m happy they went through with it. But I’m not super eager to see part three of the trilogy quite yet, so I hope that they put that off for a year or so and let the two fighters return to their natural weight classes for a little while.
- Meanwhile, I feel like I’m one of the only people who enjoyed WWE SummerSlam as a whole last night. Mind you, it felt like the show sucked after the A.J. Styles/John Cena match, but I think that’s cause that match might’ve been too early in the card (to be honest, the match order really puzzled me…I know it’s “fake” but why would you have a United States title match on the card after the two upper-tier title matches?). Furthermore, I didn’t have much of an issue with Brock Lesnar winning via TKO over Randy Orton, but the sequence of events just seemed weird. It felt almost as if some sort of an audible was called on the spot due to Orton bleeding (I’m convinced he didn’t blade). It does kinda annoy me though when wrestling fans complain about the particular finish of a match, however, without waiting to see how the story unfolds after the fact.
- The Jays series in Cleveland was fun to follow. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch Friday’s game (I saw the obligatory highlight of the walk-off inside-the-park homer and immediately thought about how angry I’d be at that moment had I driven all the way to Cleveland to watch a loss like that…) but have to say that even though the Jays lost two out of three, all three games were pretty closely contested and that a playoff series between the Jays and Indians would be fun.
- I don’t have an issue with the Jays sending Aaron Sanchez down to the minors for ten days since he was going to skip a start anyways, but I kinda would’ve preferred they call up a bench player rather than another reliever. However, I do understand calling Loup up since they needed another lefty in the bullpen, and Loup has done very well for Buffalo as of late.
- Lastly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but if you can’t accept the randomness that occurs during a 162-game season, then find a different sport to watch and comment on. I just cannot believe how after every Jays loss I have to read comments like “good teams don’t allow this to happen.” “Good teams” in baseball still lose about 70 games a year. When you think about it, a “good” team in baseball finishes with pretty much the same winning percentage as a team who finishes 9-7 or 10-6 in the NFL does, while the “bad” teams finish with the same winning percentage as an NFL team that finishes 6-10 or 7-9 does. When you think about it, that’s a decent amount of parity. Shit happens along the way, and baseball fans just need to accept that.
It seems like people I meet are always surprised to hear that I enjoy watching mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Perhaps it’s because I have some sort of a geeky demeanor, or I seem too “upper class” and clean cut to enjoy watching two people stand inside of a steel cage octagon and beat the hell out of each other. The truth is, I wasn’t always a fan of the sport, and had you told me ten years ago that I’d not only be a fan but would have attended ten mixed martial events (including 5 UFC pay-per-view events, witness 7 world title fights in person) and would yearn to become a historian of the sport, I would have…probably laughed at you or something, because for a long time I thought the sport was barbaric like most of the general public did.
I suppose my journey to being an MMA aficionado actually started back in 1998, when I became a fan of professional wrestling like most kids my age. I mean, seriously, who wasn’t watching Monday Nitro or Raw Is War back in the late 1990s? I always knew it was predetermined, but I loved the “sport” nonetheless. Over time, legitimate competitive sports took more of my interest, and my love for pro wrestling subsided sometime in 2003 or so (honestly, I don’t know what made me “stop” watching wrestling or even when I stopped watching regularly, but it was sometime when I was attending private high school and literally no one there was watching wrestling).
Let’s fast forward to 2008. I’m 19 years old, and starting my junior year of undergrad. My interest in wrestling sort of returns when I see Sting on an episode of TNA iMPACT! (he’s my all-time favorite wrestler), and mixed martial artist Frank Trigg (a former welterweight title contender) was making a cameo on the show as part of a storyline with A.J. Styles. I suppose this is when MMA was starting to catch my interest. I knew who guys like Tito Ortiz were, and somewhat considered myself a fan of Ortiz’s much the same way the casual boxing observer who knows nothing about combat sports considers themselves a fan of Floyd Mayweather or any other big name prize fighter out there. Weeks later, I saw that Brock Lesnar, the former pro wrestling superstar was headlining a UFC event for the UFC heavyweight championship. I bought the pay-per-view, and the rest for me was history.
I had actually seen an MMA event on tv before that when I watched the infamous EliteXC: Heat event a few weeks prior. Of course, MMA fans know how that turned out with Ken Shamrock being pulled from his fight with Kimbo Slice at the last second and being replaced with Seth Petruzelli, then Petruzelli knocked Slice out in 14 seconds, and then EliteXC went out of business shortly thereafter.
It’s funny too, because I knew nothing about MMA, much like the general public had misunderstood it. I watched Lesnar defeat Couture that night to win the title, and I was hooked on the sport. I started buying pay-per-views regularly, watching the live fight night shows, and even buying MMA magazines much the same way I had watched wrestling, bought wrestling PPVs, and bought wrestling magazines in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I even attended UFC 97 in Montreal, just a mere five months after becoming a fight fan.
Over seven years later, I still love the sport. I’ve not only read countless books on how the sport has evolved since the first UFC event in November 1993, but I’ve watched several prior old events. In the summer of 2015, I made it my goal to watch every UFC and PRIDE event from before 2008 so I could better understand how good various fighters from before my time as a fan truly were, so I could have my own opinion instead of relying on the opinions of those who have written books on the topic. A year later into that journey, and I’ve watched the first 12 years of the sport thanks to the UFC Fight Pass library, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I enjoy having friendly debates with other fans about who would win a match between a prime Fedor Emelianenko and a prime Randy Couture, among several other fantasy matchups that we unfortunately never got to see.
I’m not sure what’s drawn me to watching MMA. As a matter of fact, no one else in my close social circle even watches the sport, so it certainly wasn’t like in elementary school where part of how I started watching pro wrestling was because “all the cool kids” were watching it. I guess there’s just something about watching some of the greatest combat athletes in the world fight to prove their superiority that entertains me and keeps me coming back for more. Needless to say, you can be assured that I’ll be somewhere this weekend watching UFC 202 at a bar with other fans of the sport, enjoying every moment of what I’m watching.