Monday, February 26, 2007

Another reason to be glad Cowher's Gone

This article seems to suggest that the coaches knew Roethlisberger was gunshy and still let him play. Given the rumors about Cowher's control over his assistants, I can't imagine that it was him who made sure Charlie Batch stayed on the bench while Big Ben INT'ed his way to a crappy season. Thanks, Bill.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

SteelSkins UFC Power Rankings

In a previous blogpost “UFC Gives Too Many Title Shots to Newcomers,” we here at SteelSkins argued that there seems to be a growing trend by UFC President Dana White to promise early title shots to UFC newbees in exchange for them switching from a competitor league like Pride or K-1. While this practice is understandable from a marketing perspective, if overused, we argued, it could lead to frustration among UFC loyalists (and their fans), who might ultimately abandon the league.

Since posting the blog about a month ago, UFC 67 has came and went, and the fight cards for UFC 68 (March 3 in Columbus) and UFC 69 (April 7 in Houston) have been finalized, as well as the announcement that the next installment of UFC Fight Night will take place April 5 and UFC 70 will take place just two weeks later (April 21) in the U.K. April will indeed be a busy month for the UFC.

Since the last post, SteelSkins has also learned of NBC Sports’ UFC Power Rankings []. While we don’t agree wholeheartedly with NBC’s rankings, we are glad to see them, as they attempt to shed more light on who really deserves a title shot.

SteelSkins has been working on a similar project over the last several months—namely the “SteelSkins’ UFC Contenders Database.” This database, catalogued by weight class, features data on every fighter for which the UFC website provides a bio page []. Most of these fighters have fought in the UFC during the last year, while a few—like former UFC legend Vitor Belfort—have since moved on to competitor leagues and are, therefore, listed as inactive (or “N/A”) in the database rankings. The sole purpose of the database: To accurately single out true title contenders by ranking each fighter in their respective weigh classes based on overall MMA record, record inside the UFC Octagon, frequency of fighting in the UFC and UFC opponents faced. (In the future, SteelSkins would like to update the database to feature all opponents faced—both inside and outside the UFC; however this is a tall order and one that is difficult to keep up-to-date for SteelSkins, who has a full-time job that doesn’t include tracking down MMA fighters.)

While every fighter who has fought in the UFC during the last 12 months has been ranked according to the above criteria, it would be impossible to completely match Dana White’s thinking over who most deserves a title shot. As our previous blogpost argued, he has marketability to factor into the equation—something SteelSkins does not concern itself with, as we prefer the title shot to go to the fighter who most deserves it. Additionally, he’s Dana White, and SteelSkins…well…isn’t. White’s knowledge of MMA fighters is vastly superior to our own.

That said, White’s superior knowledge will not preclude SteelSkins from criticizing some of his decisions—not out of personal spite, but for the betterment of the league. As such, there seem to be some inaccuracies in some (but not all) of White’s upcoming fight selections, which we’ll get to in just a moment.

First, in White’s defense, the UFC features 222 fighter bio pages. By our count, there are approximately 45 fighters who we list as inactive (N/A) in the UFC, leaving 177 fighters who have fought in the UFC in the last 12 months. [The breakdown, in case you’re interested looks like this: 29 HWs (14 N/As), 30 LHWs (9 N/As), 43 MWs (9 N/As), 39 WWs (9 N/As) and 36 LWs (4 N/As). For practical purposes, SteelSkins is assuming that all 45 N/As do not have unfulfilled contracts signed with the UFC, and that many, probably a majority, of the remaining 177 fighters do. We’ll say an even 100 do, just for simplicity’s sake.

Now I understand that it has got to be extremely difficult managing 100 fighters’ contracts. Knowing that fighters need some down time to recover from fights and training injuries, and trying to coordinate fights for fighters who have been waiting for their time in the Octagon has got to be a monumental task. To make it more difficult, certain fighters train together and do not prefer fighting each other. It is therefore expected that, occasionally, you are going to see fights scheduled between fighters who have no business fighting each other. For example, you will undoubtedly see a fighter considered to be in the top 5 or 10 fighters in his division having to fight some schlump in the bottom tier, just because there are scheduling conflicts and a host of other problems preventing him from taking on a closer-matched opponent.

That said, included below is a close comparison of SteelSkins’ rankings compared to NBC Sports’ Power Rankings, compared to upcoming fights already announced by Dana White. While NBC Sports only ranks 5 fighters in each class, along with occasionally name-dropping a few fighters on the cusp of breaking into the top 5, SteelSkins has included extended looks into each division, where relevant, to show how we rank NBC’s top picks.

SteelSkins................NBC Sports.............Announced UFC Fights
1. Tim Sylvia..................1. Tim Sylvia.................3/3 Sylvia vs. Couture
2. Randy Couture...........2. Mirko Cro Cop..........4/7 Herring vs. Imes
3. Andrei Arlovski...........3. Brandon Vera...........4/21 Cro Cop vs. Gonzaga
4. Brandon Vera............4. Andrei Arlovski
5. Mirko Cro Cop...........5. Randy Couture
6. Jeff Monson...............6. Jake O’Brien
7. Jake O’Brien..............7. Gabriel Gonzaga
8. Gabriel Gonzaga........8. Heath Herring
9. Marcio Cruz
10. Cheick Kongo
11. Frank Mir
12. Eddie Sanchez
13. Heath Herring

The Heavyweights are an interesting bunch. While Sylvia’s 1-2 record against Arlovski clearly has him at a huge advantage, no one else in the division has proven themselves worthy of de-throning Arlovski’s #1 Contender status (that is until Couture’s comeback was announced). But now that Cro Cop is in the UFC, we fully expect him to rise to the #1 Contender spot (and to win the belt) in a matter of months (we just hope White schedules Cro Cop’s rise fairly, by first going through one or two of the Top 5 to get to that #1 spot).

This is why the 4/21 fight against Gonzaga is so surprising to us. Why pit Cro Cop against a fighter who anyone would rank below him (and by “anyone” we mean us and NBC Sports), if you know Cro Cop is going to rise to the top quickly? A much more exciting fight—and one that is sure to win more U.K. fans over, and thus has more marketability—is to pit Cro Cop against one of the Top 5 fighters ahead of him—namely Arlovski or Vera (who haven’t fought since December and November, respectively). No offense to Gonzaga, but he would be better served whipping O’Brien up (which he would do) or trying to get past Monson’s ground and pound before he faces a devastator like Cro Cop. We give this fight a disappointing “6 Whites” out of a possible 10 on the “Dana White Scale of Fight Selections” (10 being “best decision”).

Similarly, the 4/7 Herring vs. Imes fight is equally disappointing. We rank Imes at #24 among the 29 active Heavyweights due to his 0-2 UFC record and 5-2 record overall. His only marketability is that he was The Ultimate Fighter Season 2 Runner-Up, which gives you about as much bonus points in the SteelSkins world as a cold cup of coffee. Everybody’s talking about Heath Herring as the UFC’s next big thing, only his debut fight against Jake O’Brien was a three round snoozer (both fighters performed badly). If White and the rest of the MMA world want to see Herring rise to the top of the Heavyweight division, he should be fighting Frank Mir, who equally has a lot to prove. The bottom line is, the only reason Herring is facing Imes is to have “The Texas Crazy Horse” fight “The Hillbilly Heartthrob” in Houston, which is about as nauseating as you can get, even for Texas. SteelSkins gives this one a freakishly bad “3 Whites” on the White Scale of Fight Selections.

The 3/3 Sylvia/Couture fight isn’t a bad match-up because Couture will likely dethrone Sylvia. However, Couture should have first faced Vera or Arlovski before being given the title shot. That said, what’s done is done, and we look forward to Couture winning his belt back. We give this fight a solid “9 Whites.”

Light Heavyweights
SteelSkins...............NBC Sports................Announced UFC Fights
1. Chuck Liddell............1. Chuck Liddell................3/3 Lambert vs. Sobral
2. Tito Ortiz..................2. Rashad Evans
3. Rashad Evans............3. Tito Ortiz
4. “Babalu” Sobral........4. “Rampage” Jackson
5. Keith Jardine............5. “Babalu” Sobral
6. Forrest Griffin...........6. Keith Jardine
7. Jason Lambert..........7. Michael Bisping
8. “Rampage” Jackson
9. Michael Bisping

We don’t disagree much with NBC Sports’s Top 5 scale for the Light Heavyweights. We just think they are guilty of what White himself is guilty of in regards to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Jackson’s a keeper for this league, no doubt about it, and SteelSkins likes his moxy. But in the end, we believe he has to earn his shot at the title just like everyone else. Providing him with an early title shot just because he’s Chuck Liddell’s only unavenged loss would do a disservice to the UFC loyalists ranked ahead of him (including Forrest Griffin and Keith Jardine), to Jackson himself (who we believe will put up more of a challenge for Liddell the more Octagon wins he has under his belt), and to the league as a whole. We’d love to see Rampage fight Jardine next.

Being the most exciting fighter out of England, Bisping is sure to fight on the 4/21 U.K. ticket, and well he should. SteelSkins suggests having him face Forrest Griffin. This might be the best move Dana White could make for these two exciting fighters with huge followings, and we’d give this fight, should it occur, “10 Whites.”

As for the U.K. fight’s as-of-yet-unannounced title shot, it will surely come from this division, as the Heavyweight, Middleweight and Welterweight belts would have just recently been defended, and Lightweight Champ Sean Sherk is disappointedly expected to be out until July with a shoulder injury. Liddell holds recent wins over Ortiz and Sobral, leaving the overwhelmingly deserved choice in Rashad Evans. At 5-0 in the UFC and 15-0 overall, The Ultimate Fighter Season 2 Winner holds wins over Jason Lambert, Stephen Bonnar and Sean Salmon, who SteelSkins ranks 7, 10 and 16, respectively.

Unfortunately, we fully expect Dana White to announce shortly that the title shot will not go to Evans but to “Rampage” Jackson. This would be the typical White move, at least. We urge White to give Jackson more time to earn his title shot, and not to risk a meaningless Evans’ loss in the meantime to some schlump who gets lucky with an armbar.

Oh, and the Lambert/Sobral fight? SteelSkins likes White’s decision on this one, big time. We give it “9 Whites.” Way to go, Dana.

SteelSkins...............NBC Sports................Announced UFC Fights
1. Anderson Silva..........1. Anderson Silva...............3/3 Franklin vs. MacDonald
2. Rich Franklin...........2. Rich Franklin................4/7 Swick vs. Okami
3. Mike Swick...............3. (tie) Nate Marquardt
4. Nate Marquardt.......3. (tie) Mike Swick
5. Travis Lutter............5. Jason MacDonald
6. Jason MacDonald

NBC Sports is nearly right on the money with the Middleweights. Only again they are guilty of what White himself is guilty of (along with the rest of the MMA world) with regard to Nate Marquardt, and that is ranking him above (or even neck-and-neck with) Mike Swick.

Following a win over Dean Lister (who SteelSkins ranks 14), White reportedly said that Marquardt would get a title shot in ’07, which has since been reported as occurring in June—most likely Silva’s next opponent. While Marquardt is the only fighter ever to be a 7-time King of Pancrase champion, SteelSkins is tired of hearing about how his 4-0 UFC record earns him a title shot. Mike Swick is 5-0 in the UFC and 11-1 overall, with his only loss coming at the hands of Chris Leben. Marquardt has been beaten 6 times with 1 draw on his way to racking up 28 wins, which is very respectful, sure. But Swick holds UFC wins over Joe Riggs (currently ranked 9th as a Welterweight) and the then-#1 Contender David “The Crow” Loiseau as he came off his own title shot loss to Franklin (SteelSkins currently ranks Loiseau 8th among Middleweights). No matter how you slice it, beating Riggs and Loiseau far outweighs beating Lister.

But beyond this, the true misfortune is if White grants Marquardt the title shot even if Franklin beats MacDonald on March 3 in Columbus. With six straight MMA wins (including most recently over Chris Leben), MacDonald is a formidable opponent for Rich Franklin, who is finally recovered from a devastating broken nose he received at the hands…er…knees…of Anderson Silva. Should Franklin beat MacDonald, he deserves a rematch with Silva, hands down. Should MacDonald win, that title shot should be given to Swick. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities to give it to Marquardt at that time, but SteelSkins thinks the league is better served if it’s given to Swick, and let Marquardt face Lutter.

SteelSkins applauds the 3/3 match-up between Franklin and MacDonald, giving it “8 Whites,” but the 4/7 fight between Swick and Okami is only good if Swick is then granted (or shortly thereafter) a title shot, should he beat Okami, who we rank 11th among Middleweights. We give this fight a cautionary “7 Whites.”

SteelSkins...............NBC Sports.................Announced UFC Fights

1. Georges St. Pierre.......1. Georges St. Pierre..........3/3 Hughes vs. Lytle
2. Matt Hughes.............2. Matt Hughes.................4/7 St. Pierre vs. Serra
3. Diego Sanchez...........3. Diego Sanchez...............4/7 Sanchez vs. Koscheck
4. Josh Koscheck...........4. Karo Parisyan
5. Karo Parisyan............5. Josh Koscheck
6. Matt Serra.................6. Matt Serra

Ranking Parisyan (24-3) ahead of Koscheck (9-1) is arguably a smarter move—after all, Parisyan beat Drew Fickett (who we rank 10th), and Fickett submitted Kos. But we like Kos’ 6-1 UFC record over Parisyan’s 6-2. We also do not like Parisyan’s unanimous decision loss to Diego Sanchez, and we think Koscheck has a good shot at outperforming “The Nightmare” when they face each other on 4/7—a fight we give “10 Whites” to Dana for what should be the best fight of the night.

Also that night, we have a title fight between St. Pierre and Serra. We understand Serra “earned” this fight by winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 4, but we are bored with reality series and cannot wait for this fight to be over and done with. We give it a piddly “6 whites.”

The 3/3 fight between Hughes and Chris “Lights Out” Lytle, on the other hand, is not understandable at all. Lytle—who we rank 16th as a gift to him, is 2-5 in the UFC (21-13-5 overall). We here at SteelSkins think that champions who lose their belts are best served by facing a Top 5 or Top 10 contender, in order to see if they deserve an immediate rematch with the title holder (as is best illustrated by the Franklin/MacDonald fight). Matching Hughes up with Lytle—who has lost to Serra, Riggs and Parisyan, all of whom Hughes either has beaten or could beat—screams of schlumpiness and is like making Couture’s first comeback match-up be against Anthony “The Hippo” Perosh. If you don’t understand this comparison, trust us, it makes total sense. We give this fight a pathetic “2 Whites” and long for the day when either Sanchez or Hughes get theirs.

SteelSkins..............NBC Sports.................Announced UFC Fights

1. Sean Sherk...............1. Sean Sherk....................4/5 Stevenson vs. Guillard
2. Hermes Franca........2. Hermes Franca..............4/5 Florian vs. TBD
3. B.J. Penn.................3. B.J. Penn
4. Kenny Florian..........4. Melvin Guillard
5. Spencer Fisher.........5. Spencer Fisher
6. Din Thomas
7. Joe Stevenson
8. Melvin Guillard

Finally, the Lightweights. We’re disappointed to see Guillard ranked so high on NBC Sports Power Rankings, especially when no mention is made to Joe Stevenson, Kenny Florian or Din Thomas. But beyond that, we’re excited to see B.J. Penn fighting again in the Lightweight division and fully expect him to dominate it by the end of the year, shortly after Franca gets his title shot against Sherk, which we agree he earned by beating Fisher.

We give the 4/5 Stevenson/Guillard fight a perfect “10 Whites” and hope that Dana White pits a deserving opponent up against Kenny Florian, who is coming off his own title shot loss to Sean Sherk. Because Penn is slated to face former Lightweight champ Jens Pulver (who we rank 11th) at The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 Finale, we would love to see Florian face up-and-comer Mark Hominick or Joe Lauzon, while we would pit Fisher up against Thomas.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Something smells fishy...oh wait, that's just my AIDS

So apparently, Tommy Morrison (aka Tommy "Machine" Gunn from Rocky V) is NOT, in fact, HIV positive, as he

Morrison, who once tested positive in 1996, effectively ending his promising boxing career at 46-3 (actually, he fought at least once more later that year in Japan, but whatever), now says it was a misdiagnosis and he has since tested negative multiple times.

The West Virginia State Athletic Commission is cool wit it. Of course the appalachian state lacks mandatory blood testing for boxers (as well as for cousins/candidates for marriage licenses, apparently). Morrison is now contracted for 8 fights.

Said Morrison: "The rug was yanked out from under my feet by a misdiagnosis. All I want to do is fight. ... It's unfinished business."

During the decade that went by since Morrison last fought, Tommy might not have died from AIDS, but the sport of boxing sure did. Nearly the entire pool of fresh talent has swam over to the world of MMA, leaving boxing with little to promote. This sounds like either one of the biggest medical screw ups in sport's history or a cry for help from a corrupt sport right before it hits the concrete on its fall from grace.

Said every boxer in the world: "I ain't fightin' that guy." No offense.

Steel Skins tried to reach Sly Stallone for comment, but he was too busy filming his next picture, Rambo IV (No, I'm not joking). You see what you Rocky Balboa fans have done? You give a senior citizen a can opener, and he'll open up the entire can of worms.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tim Hardaway: Let me nip my bud right here, right now. Do not make gay jokes about me, despite my name and my devestating crossover

Hello, my name is Tim Hardaway. I used to have a devestating crossover that enabled me to blow past my man's defense and slam my ball into the hole. Repeatedly. Other times I made passes through the back door. Early and often.
But I am not gay. No way, no how. And I am going to give you a way to remember.

Just think of my name. And thing of Don Ameche's name. Or John Amaechi, whatever. It's this: "We can do this the "hard-a-way" or, we can do it the "Amaechi-way." Got it? Hard a way is for the ladies, Amaechi-way is for the guys. The gay guys. And I am not gay, so I do it the hard-a-way. That's right, I'm hard.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

2007 Mocking Draft

You picked who now? Gaydy Quinn? That guy wears his sister's clothes and writes love poems to AJ Hawk! He will never see the field, unless they redo Field Turf in pink.

JaMarcus Russell? The poor man's Byron Leftwich? They timed his 40 yard dash with a sundial!

Ted Ginn, Jr.? The first black serial killer to run a sub 4.3 40? I heard Cinncinnati called dibs on him.


Monday, February 05, 2007

I, Archie Manning, have finally been avenged.

I, Archie Manning, have for years now waited in the shadows, waiting, waiting, waiting. TO CONQUER!! All those years not making the playoffs, running for my life, beaten down by big, manly, bear-like men, having to seek solace night after night in the arms of New Orleans best transvestite hookers...My pride stepped on, just like my right ankle, because my right guard had a tendency to trip me up because he was so damn quick and I was so damn slow.

I had 3 sons, just like Vito Corleone. Cooper, the impetuous one, chose to reject my legacy, chose to play Wide Receiver. The Gods punished him, and it was just. Peyton, the whiny weak one. I wrote him off. Eli, the Michael to Peyton's Fredo. He was the chosen one. He went to Ole Miss, followed exactly in my footsteps. He would win me back my glory.

But no! Peyton! I knew it was you! You have won me back my honor! I no longer dream of taking you out fishing and coming back alone. I thought you were whiny and weak, which you were, but you were also brainy and obsessed. You trained and trained and trained like a circus elephant until the neurons in your head snapped and just kept snapping. You beat the odds, didn't you, my lovely middle child, because, as they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again. That and the thousands of dollars I gave to the NFL Referee Retirement Association to actually call pass interference every once in a while. I didn't look at it as a gift, but rather as an investment. In our future.

I, Archie Manning, am avenged! ye Gods, having smiled so smilingly down upon me, now I can come out of the closet in peace and go live with my Salvadoran lover off the coast of the Biminis, just as I so long have dreamed.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Wait...does this sound right?

It's cool to hate Bill Simmons these days. I understand. The first article of his I read he was trashing the Steelers, so I got mad. But he is pretty darn funny, and while it is easy to parody his schtick, it is effective nonetheless.

But if you want to barrage his comments thread, because he said something bad about your blog, maybe, I don't know, but maybe you shouldn't be such asswipes about the comments on your own blog. This isn't a case of the Noonans vs. the Judge Smails, nor underdog vs. overdog, but rather a catfight between two competing brands.