Mailbag: Jonesing for a fight

Much has been made of Kimbo Slice’s decision to accept an offer from Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White to appear on the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike TV.

Slice had become a star while fighting for Elite XC, and while his ability clearly doesn’t match his notoriety, he had far more lucrative ways to go.

Slice, though, isn’t the only one who willingly agreed to start at the lowest level.

Marcus Jones, a defensive end from North Carolina who was the first choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1996 NFL draft, had retired and was enjoying the good life when a wild weekend with friends landed him in mixed martial arts.

And that decision earned him a spot on TUF 10, which debuts on Spike on Sept. 16, and the chance to win a contract to fight in the UFC.

“I was retired and a couple of my college roommates came up and we had a little mancation, which we do every year around March,” Jones said. “We got really drunk and decided to clear out the room and try some [mixed martial arts] like we see in the UFC. We started doing it and trying moves that we had seen.”

The friends found out quickly the great shape MMA fighters are in. It wasn’t 30 seconds, Jones said, before each of them was breathing very hard from their grappling. One of his friends, who had experience in Kenpo karate, suggested they stand and try to strike. He caught Jones on the chin and then slammed him to the floor.

The next day, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound one-time NFL lineman decided he needed to take self defense classes.

“I had never thrown a punch in my life,” said Jones, 36, who is now 3-1 as a pro MMA fighter. “He caught me right here [indicating a spot on his jaw]. I know it was there because the next day when I went to eat, I could feel it. I realized, ‘Man, I was a victim.’ ”

That led Jones into fighting and he hopes to win his way into the UFC. He said that while both football and MMA are extraordinarily physical sports, they’re difficult to compare.

He said some people don’t believe him when he insists how much better cardiovascular conditioning has to be in MMA.

“I tell people this all the time, that in football, a play might last five, six seconds tops, and if it does, it’s probably a touchdown,” he said. “In MMA, you have five minutes before you can catch your breath again. You better hold on to whatever you can and pray to whatever God you pray to and batten down the hatches. You find out pretty quickly that five minutes is a long time.

“That being said, cardio-wise, you have to train under duress where you don’t get a chance to catch a break and take a deep breath. In football, you get 30 seconds before the next play. You get television timeouts. You can tap your helmet and they’ll come get you out if you need to come out. Think about that. Then the offense comes out and you get to sit and watch them.

“[In MMA] you’re the offense, the defense and the special teams all rolled into one in that cage.”

Jones said that despite his athletic background, he felt the same fears that the average person feels when starting to train in MMA. He had never been in a fight before and didn’t really know how to do it.

It didn’t come naturally to him and took him a while to adjust.

“I literally threw my first punch of my life five months before my first fight,” Jones said. “I felt like a robot. I completely felt like a fish out of water. It takes time. Over time, you gradually pick up stuff, but it’s so much quicker and things happen so much faster. In football, you can see where the shoulder pads are going and what the guy is aiming for.

“But when you have to deal with leg kicks, head kicks, head punches, takedowns, submissions,” he said. “Come on! Just learning jiu-jitsu alone is enough to baffle most people.”

Jones said he is prepared to live in the house and not be adversely affected the way some were on previous episodes because he was used to going away and staying in a similar environment in training camp in the NFL.

He’s an imposing man physically and it’s going to be interesting to see how he does. I see Roy Nelson, the one-time International Fight League champion, as the odds-on favorite, but there are numerous top-tier athletes in the cast, so it should be a fun season.

With that, please remember to follow me on Twitter. Now, let’s jump into the mailbag for your questions and comments.

I know a lot of people really want to see UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar go down, but I can’t understand why so many seem to think that Shane Carwin is going to be the guy to do it. He seems quite gifted as a fighter, but even his heavily-touted explosiveness does not seem to be in the same galaxy as Lesnar’s. Carwin obviously packs a punch – I do not dispute that – but he comes off a bit sluggish. If you watch Lesnar’s footwork, with the best example being the opening moments against Herring, it looks almost as if the video has been sped up. He looks too quick for Carwin, and if Carwin is going to win, it’s going to have to be a lucky shot, very early, before Lesnar takes over the round. But that seems pretty unlikely, given Lesnar’s freakish speed and conditioning. Maybe I’m missing something. I’d appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!
K.B.
Minnesota

I favor Lesnar slightly in the fight, but he’s never met anyone with Carwin’s combination of size, power and wrestling ability. In his two fights against Frank Mir, he had a huge advantage both size- and wrestling-wise. He was a far better wrestler, was bigger and more powerful than Heath Herring. And while Couture was his equal as a wrestler, Lesnar was far bigger and hits harder. With Carwin, they’re roughly the same size, though Lesnar is taller. Both are outstanding wrestlers. And both clearly hit hard. As I said, I favor Lesnar slightly, but I believe you’re underestimating Carwin.


I read your column on Shane Carwin and saw all the self-effacing comments from him that you included. I believe this guy has you all fooled. Humble people don’t go around telling everyone what a humble, “stand-up” “class act” they are. I’d rather an honest [expletive] Lesnar than a fabricated, manufactured personality catering to the fans.
Ed
Pennsylvania

If you’re going to call someone phony, it has to be both ways, Ed. Brock clearly put on an act after UFC 100. Even Dana White said that’s not the Brock that he knows. I haven’t known Carwin long, but for as long as I have known him, he’s always represented himself with class. Is it an act? I don’t think so, but time will tell.


Thank you for your article on Shane Carwin. It is refreshing to see a guy so big and talented actually act like a normal guy, humble. Brock is an [expletive], which he proved at UFC 100. I told a radio guy in Indianapolis that before UFC 100. He said, “If you are a UFC fan, don’t you want Lesnar to be the champ?” That shows that even sports radio hosts don’t know the real appeal of MMA. We don’t want Lesnar’s attitude in our sport. That’s what we expect from all the bandwagon jumpers that claim to be fans. Where were they 15-20 years ago when I was importing tapes from Brazil and Russia?
Cy Floriana
Marion, Ind.

After you said nice things about me, I’m going to probably make you angry, though that’s not my intention, Cy. I would much rather see athletes conduct themselves like Carwin does, but I want to focus on your last point. I don’t get this bashing of what you call bandwagon jumpers. Should you not be able to eat at an old, very good restaurant, just because other people were going there 15, 20 years ago and enjoying the food? Of course you should. I’m glad the sport is growing and drawing more fans because it’s only going to give fans more opportunities to see and enjoy it. You have the right to your opinion, Cy, about how you want an athlete to act, but how about speaking for yourself and not the sport?


Although I agree that Shane Carwin is a likeable guy with solid skills and match-changing knockout power, let’s not forget the people he has beaten. Gabe Gonzaga was his toughest opponent to date. Including that fight, I believe Gonzaga has gone 3-3 in his last six fights, which isn’t exactly stellar. And let’s not forget that Carwin was knocked down with a glancing blow prior to recovering and knocking Gonzaga out. A big shot can end any fight, but do you really see Carwin being the man, likeable or not? Lesnar will continue to dominate; Carwin will be his next victim.
Fred K.
San Diego

I hear what you’re saying, Fred, but I think you’re manipulating statistics to buttress your argument. If you want to play that game, I could say, well, yeah, Lesnar beat Randy Couture, but including that fight, Couture is just 3-4 in his last seven fights and is 46 years old. The point is, Gonzaga is a world-class fighter, as is Couture, and Carwin and Lesnar deserve props for their victories. And he deserves credit for getting up after getting knocked down. He showed a quality chin. As I said, I favor Brock in the fight, but the reason I’m looking forward to it is that it’s a fight.


UFC 102 aftermath

UFC 102 was finally the pay per view I wanted to see. It left room to start thinking about some interesting matchups. Nate Marquardt dominated Demian Maia the same way Anderson Silva dominated Forrest Griffin at UFC 101. After Dan Henderson, I think Marquardt deserves his second shot at the beast, Anderson Silva. The other huge matchup I would like to see with Silva is against Randy Couture. This would be the super fight that UFC fans want. Randy won’t be made a fool like Griffin and his takedowns would be an issue with Silva. If he wins that one, then let him go for the light heavyweight championship. Heavyweight has too much talent right now for a “not at his prime” Randy Couture to handle. Let us not forget about Todd Duffee, who should fight the winner of the Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic-Junior dos Santos fight that is slated for UFC 103. He should get a title fight if he wins those.
Chance Savant
Anchorage, Alaska

I think a Couture-Silva fight is inevitable, Chance. I spoke to Ed Soares, Silva’s manager, and contrary to published reports, Silva has not had surgery on his elbow and is not in any way incapable of fighting in November if he’s offered a fight. Soares said he hasn’t spoken to Silva about fighting Couture yet, and stressed that such a fight has never been discussed with the UFC. But he did say, “Anderson wants to fight the biggest and the best fighters out there and Randy Couture falls into that category. After Anderson saw the way he fought Rodrigo Nogueira, he said he became an even bigger Randy Couture fan.” I’m guessing the two will fight eventually. As for Duffee, don’t get ahead of yourself. He’s had just one UFC fight.


Like you, I was entertained by UFC 102. Two of the sport’s greats put on a great fight. My concern is that though Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looked much better than he did in previous fights, his reactions just aren’t there anymore. Watching the fight again, I was surprised how much offense there was in the fight. Couture was clearly unconscious for brief stretches and Nogueira took his share of blows to the head. I am worried that even though Nogueira is still a great draw, he might be past the days when it would be prudent for him to fight. What do you think?
Casey Brazeal
Chicago

I am always concerned about fighter safety and would rather see someone retire too early rather than too late. That said, I don’t see the problem. Nogueira got into great shape against Couture and moved and fought well. He doesn’t show signs of slowing down to me.


I’m completely in awe that nobody acknowledged Chris Leben’s tap in his loss to Jake Rosholt. Not the commentators, (so far) not the media. Referee Yves Lavigne saw it and hesitated, and then Leben went to sleep and then convulsed afterward. Even a second too long is dangerous, especially when it was completely obvious that Leben submitted. I’m very disappointed that this situation wasn’t made an example of.
Dallas
Sacramento, Calif.

I mentioned in my Twitter feed the night of the fight that Leben tapped and Lavigne missed it. But he did stop it very quickly after the tap.


Most dangerous man in UFC

It seems like the most dangerous man in the UFC is referee Yves Lavigne. He let Pete Sell take a savage beating at the hands of Matt Brown. At UFC 102, he watched Chris Leben tap out but did not stop the fight until he passed out and then went into convulsions. What does a referee have to do to get fired?
Nick Albonico
Cypress, Calif.

Nick, I thought Lavigne was horrible in Columbus, Ohio, at UFC 96, but in general, I think he’s a first-rate referee. He missed Leben’s tap, as I mentioned above. I don’t think he saw the tap because he was on the other side and was looking at Leben’s face. Having said all that, I hope that John McCarthy soon begins officiating UFC fights again because there is no such thing as too many good officials.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009