If Mike Rio ever wins a major mixed martial arts championship, or if he ever becomes more than a blip on the radar screen, he'll need to publicly thank Urijah Faber.
Faber is the former world champion and UFC star who, along with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, is serving as a coach on the current season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Following Al Iaquinta's overtime victory over Myles Jury on Friday, Faber had the right to make the pick for this week's fight, which will be live on FX. He knew Rio had an injured knee and would be at his most vulnerable.
But when Faber chose the matchup, he picked Jeremy Larsen of Team Cruz to face his fighter, Mike Chiesa. Never did he consider going to Rio, despite the fact it may have been the most certain path to another win and knotting the score.
"These guys are here with a dream and I don't want to take that dream away from them, even guys on Dominick's team," Faber said. "That would be exploiting them. If he were the guy we were going to pick anyway [before learning of the injury], that would be one thing.
"But I wasn't going to pick him just because he was [injured]. Who knows what might have happened? I want to see the guys win or lose on their own merits, and that isn't anything you'd see me try to take advantage of."
The win by Iaquinta prevented Cruz's team from going up 3-0 and perhaps sweeping the competition. It was critical from a number of standpoints, but Faber said he's made up his mind that he'll be Mister Positive for the duration of the season, regardless of the results.
He said things easily could have been different. In Week 1, Team Cruz's James Vick knocked out Daron Cruickshank, but it was a fight that Cruickshank had been winning. Had Cruickshank not been caught with the knee, he likely would have won the fight and that would have allowed Faber to control the next match instead of Cruz.
"There is a lot of talent here and I think there are going to be guys who become regulars in the UFC," Faber said of the cast of Season 15. "The Cruickshank thing was unfortunate and bad luck, but it put us at a big disadvantage and put them in a position where, if the matchups fell the right way, they could have possibly swept them.
"Guys have the ability [to fight in the UFC], but it's up to them how they decide to take advantage of it. A lot of these guys, I think, are going to drop to 145 [from lightweight], but there is some legitimate talent here."
• For most of the time he was in the UFC, Brock Lesnar railed against the WWE. Toward the end of his four-year MMA stint, Lesnar didn't even want to speak about professional wrestling. That's why it was odd that Lesnar, who announced his retirement from MMA after losing to Alistair Overeem on Dec. 30 at UFC 142, is back in the WWE. He's going to work an abbreviated schedule in the WWE, apparently, but the things he didn't like about wrestling – the travel, the physical toll on the body – haven't changed.
• When the Iaquinta-Jury fight went to an extra round, it put "The Ultimate Fighter" over its time slot yet again, which is becoming a significant problem. The fighters then had to wait four minutes, instead of one, to fight the "sudden victory round." That's just begging for a fighter to get injured because their muscles get tight while waiting.
• Bellator has put on some great fights this season, but they're hard to watch in standard definition on MTV2. EpixHD.com is showing the fights in high definition, but the product going out on MTV2 is substandard. It can't be helping viewership.
Overeem is going down
What better way to defeat a striking legend like Alistair Overeem than to get a takedown and steal a round or two? I think a lot of people agree when I say this is the worst matchup UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos could have gotten. He clearly hasn't seen anyone with Overeem's striking. In fact, his boxing alone has been good enough to handle anyone until Overeem. That all changes now. Look for dos Santos to take the fight to the ground. I think he tries takedowns early in the match. We might see a few fake jabs, then takedown attempts. Overeem is as nasty as they come on his feet, but clearly lacking on the ground. Dos Santos is an MMA fighter, not a boxer, and I'm sure his camp sees this and will take advantage. I like dos Santos in this fight by ground-and-pound KO.
I wouldn't at all be surprised if the fight went to the ground at some stage, but I don't think it's going to be early. I think you'll see each guy try to play to his strength, which is stand-up. It's a fascinating fight because there are so many ways it can go, though.
Happy with Bellator fights
This comment is in response to your article on Bellator. I have to say I love watching the weekly show. Almost every fight is action-packed. There seems to be a more entertaining feeling you get from the fighters. They don't seem to be as concerned with points and judges' decisions, and they put it all on the line. I hope they are here for the long haul, because I, for one, can't get enough MMA.
Bellator's been on a hot streak with a series of good shows. That's good for the sport, because it always helps to have a viable second promotion.
'Condescending' athletic commissions
Kevin, why is it that so many athletic commissions seem so condescending? I have been a fan of MMA for more than 10 years and have watched several commission hearings and read some transcripts. Everyone seems to be a trial. Maybe I am misunderstanding, but isn't the commission going to give the same punishment whether they are told the truth or not? In the case of Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, I understand where you are coming from as far as the reaction, but I can also understand that he was upset. He was speaking English in the hearing and he also is a college graduate. So I think the regulator can assume that he speaks and reads English fluently. Worst case, she could word it like that, do you speak and read English fluently? Doesn't that sound more like someone asking a legitimate question and less harsh? I just don't understand how the commissions work. They seem like the ultimate authority. But what if one of the regulators has an agenda in regard to a particular fighter or organization? What is to stop them from convincing the others regulators they have a good reason to not allow something to hurt a fighter or organization? The commissions I have seen in action always start out with a guilty-first assumption and then grill whomever is in front of them to make them seem stupid. It just seems to me like it could be done differently.
Cody, the commissions have no obligation to be "nice" or cordial, as so many think. They are questioning someone who is accused of breaking the rules, to begin with. And, in many cases, it's someone they suspect of not being honest. This whole bit about the questioning of Lawal and asking if he understands English has gotten way overblown. That is a lawyer laying a foundation. It happens in court rooms across the country to people of all races every day. Pat Lundvall, the commissioner who has come under fire for her questioning of Lawal, noticed that Lawal signed a pre-fight questionnaire in which he said he didn't have a knee injury and that he hadn't taken any prescription or over-the-counter medications. It turns out that Lawal's defense is that he did have a knee injury and it's why he took the supplement that led to his positive test. Lundvall was trying to erase a defense that he didn't understand what he signed. The only reason it created any buzz beyond Lawal's tweets is because so many people are so unfamiliar with the legal process.
UFC should consider Emelianenko
Although Fedor Emelianenko's last couple fights with Strikeforce did not look good, don't you think its a mistake for the UFC to pass on negotiations for him this time around just to prove a point? True MMA fans would love to see Fedor in the UFC, even though a lot of people would say he's past his prime. Fedor is arguably the greatest MMA fighter ever and if he wants to fight in the UFC, shouldn't the UFC honor his request? Obviously, Fedor's negotiating power is lowered, so the UFC should offer him a reasonable purse and chance to prove himself in the Octagon with a three-fight contract. People will pay to see Fedor and I think he still has it in him to spank Alistair Overeem. What's your take, Kevin?
Thanks, Rob. At his peak, Fedor was the greatest heavyweight in history and, as you say, maybe the best fighter in history. His peak, though, was 2005. It's now 2012. I question whether he can get back to where he was. If he can, then I think the UFC should pursue him. That said, wins over Jeff Monson and Satoshi Ishii hardly prove he's back to his old self. And remember when it comes to a contract, it takes two to tango. Fedor's management has never pulled back on the desire to co-promote and that's a non-starter for the UFC.
"Having an upset early and losing control forced me to realize early, 'I can't let this thing get to me.' I can't let it bother me and I can't let it deter me from what I want to do. When the going gets tough, I basically had to sit and say, 'OK, I can't lose my mental game with a bunch of people I just met.' Do you know what I mean? I had to learn that quickly and I'm glad I got the worst-case scenarios out of the way right up front." – Faber, talking about coaching TUF while also preparing for his fight with Cruz.
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