Archive for the ‘SPORTS’ Category

By Jason Sutclifffe

Sports used to be easy–the objective, simple, easy to understand, you are there to win. If you win all your games than you’re in first place and if you’re in first place than you’re the best team and if you’re the best team, you get the big trophy. That is what you were playing for, the glory of being the best, the big trophy. What used to be black and white is now a weird shade of grey.

Eight years ago the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) implemented a grassroots program for youth soccer in Ontario. Under the new program scores, standings, promotion and relegation have been removed at both the house league and competitive levels for kids under 12-years-old. There are a large number of people who take issue with the changes especially at the competitive level. Bert Lobo has been involved in player development and a coaching for over 30 years, and is one of the people, that believes the grassroots program should not apply to kids playing elite soccer.

“Overall it’s okay, I don’t believe in long-term player development the way they ‘ve got it set up; no scores, no standings for the competitive level,” said Lobo. “What is the incentive, and then you just can’t turn it on and say now you’re thirteen now you have to play to win.”

According to the OSAs grassroots advisor, Carl Horton, the OSA has created a healthy environment for kids to learn the game of soccer.

DSC_0196         “We have not removed competition we have just removed scores and standings,” said Horton. “Children are allowed to go out there, and if they make a mistake it’s ok, because no one is going to lose the game. No one should be shouting at a player from a parents and coach’s perspective. There allowed to make the mistake and they will learn from that mistake.”

North Americans grow up in a highly competitive environment. It is a challenge to convince parents that winning and losing is not important or that keeping the score is unnecessary.

The face-lift to youth soccer, and at the request of parents across the province Bert Lobo removed himself as a registered member of the OSA and created the Youth Soccer League of Ontario (YSLO). The YSLO is a league, which does not operate under the OSA banner and holds on to the traditional concepts of youth soccer. They keep scores, standings, scoring leader stats, etc…. The league completed its first season and Lobo says things are very promising.

“We ended up with over 4000 members,” Lobo said. “Whole clubs are not joining but its individual teams that are starting to join.    It is all quality teams that are joining because they are looking for a pathway that is not offered to them by the OSA system.”

Where Lobo shines and where the kids can benefit the most is from his connections. Lobo has been networking himself across North America and Europe for years. He has helped numerous players and teams get into tournaments where they are showcased in front of university scouts from across the USA. He is also in part responsible for a local 9-year-old, Toronto boy being scouted and signed by Chelsea of the English Premiere League a couple of years back.

According to Horton, it is these sort of early pressures that has 70% of young athletes quitting sports by the age of thirteen because the game is no longer fun. These are the reason’s the OSA created and implemented the grassroots program.

“Children don’t have the coping skills to deal with winning a game, losing a game, promotion or relegation,” Horton said. “We are creating an age and stage appropriate learning environment for children, to fall in love with the game, learn the game of soccer, and to become a better athlete. “

DSC_0180          Lobo sees things a little bit differently. In fact it is right there in the leagues slogan: Winning and losing builds character. A statement he stands by.

He believes the only reason his league didn’t have major success in its first year was due to fear. The OSA made parents fearful of their children losing opportunity and exposure.

“People were scared, the OSA kept threatening, if you leave the system your kids not going to play for Canada,” Lobo said. “Where do you get that from? If you are that good, are you kidding me, they are going to be knocking at your door.”

In fact it is quite the opposite Lobo says, if you are trying to enter an elite showcase tournament in the USA. They want to know what level you’re at, what place you finished, how competitive you were, the level of competition you have played against. If you have nothing to give them. They have nothing to go on. In many cases a team will be denied on a lack of history.

“You have these high level opportunities that are not available by being a member of the OSA,” Lobo said. “If you don’t have a record, they don’t know how good you are, they really don’t care. “

The OSA distributed a survey to youth soccer players last year asking them why they played soccer and Horton described the results as amazing and insightful. He revealed it wasn’t competition or trophies that kept kids playing soccer.

DSC_0089

“Children don’t care about winning a trophy, and children don’t care about promotion or relegation,” Horton said. They want to go out, they want to have fun, they want to play with their friends, and they want to be healthy.”

It is important to understand, Horton said, the OSA did not take competition out of soccer; they only simply removed the scores and standings. Horton made the point that if you put a ball between two, seven-year olds they are going to compete for it that is natural. However, kids don’t care about standings and scores.

Lobo disagrees that kids don’t care about scores and standings, and says the number of kids dropping out of the OSA every year supports that. The YSLO in its first year had 4000 registered kids, and the interest in the league has been growing by staggering numbers going into its second year.

“I could say definitely 50,000 are going to leave,” Lobo said. “I got contacted by an organization who has 168 teams in their league. They have pulled out of the OSA; right there that is 3500 kids. One club contacted me they wanted to join that is another 4500. The numbers start adding up.”

It is clear that the OSA is not going to change their stance on youth soccer in regards to scores and standings. However, it is also clear that there is always going to be a large number of people who believe that sports are competitive and that learning to win and lose is an important part of life. For those people Bert Lobo has provided a choice. The YSLO, a league dedicated to keeping competition in sport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

A week ago the Toronto Maple Leafs announced the contract extension of captain Dion Phaneuf; 49 million dollars over seven years. Leafs nation seems to be fairly divided. Some support and agree with the decision and others show disdain and frustration towards the idea of paying Phaneuf 7-million/year.

What do I think about it? I am a here and now kind of guy. I do not care what a player has done; I care about what he has done lately. There are definitely pro’s and con’s to Dion’s game, and what he brings to the Leafs.

He plays an average of 24min23sec/game against the best the league has to offer and to this point is an impressive plus-13. Passing up on resigning the 28-year-old captain would have left a big hole to fill on the back-end. Those are a lot of minutes.

It is important to note that it is not filling the minutes in a single game that is the challenge but across a long, physical, 82-plus game season.

Dion brings durability to the Leafs blue line; he has only missed 18 games since joining the club. That consistency is tough to find. For me, his desire to be here is his biggest selling quality. I always like guys who enjoy playing here and want to be here.

Unfortunately, when we are paying him 7-million/year he needs to bring more to the table than a desire to play here, and the ability to play a lot of minutes.

Offensively Phaneuf is not pulling his weight this season; he currently fails to crack the top thirty among defenseman in. goals, assists or points. In fact, Phaneuf only sits in the top ten in two statistical categories, plus-minus and penalty minutes, he is ranked 10th and 5th respectively.

Statistically, Phaneuf appears to be mediocre, even amongst  the Leafs defense core. Other than Dion’s plus/minus there is not much that makes him stand out, he is pretty well par with Franson, Gardiner, and Reilly.

Big price tags bring big expectations; expectations that he will be a player the team can lean on, and look to for a big play or a big goal. Dion has struggled to be that guy; he has not scored a PP goal, or a GWG this season, and has taken some very untimely penalties.

The elite defenseman in the NHL seem to be elevating their games to a higher level than Dion–at least thus far. Phaneuf currently shares a tax bracket with the likes of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Drew Doughty and is earning more than Duncan Keith, Eric Karlsson, Keith Yandle, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. This season, statistically, Dion is not showing the same all-round game as these other players.

Phaneuf is not a bad defenceman he is actually quite good. However, he is not worth 7 million a season. That is a statement made only by the comparison of him to the other elite defenceman earning the same money.

Fans are freaking out because money brings expectation—everything is relative. If Dion played 18-21 minutes a game, making between 4-5 million/year and was putting up the same numbers, believe me everyone would love Dion.

To conclude I have no deep-rooted hatred for Dion as some other fans do, but I do think that his contract was too lucrative for what he brings to the table. Hopefully he proves me wrong—Go Leafs Go.

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

Cain and Junior put on a show Saturday night, and it was a good one. The outcome was not a favourable one for the UFC. The heavyweight division is at a place where there are two or three elite heavyweights, and then everyone else. A watered down division and a lack of serious contenders have left the UFC with a what to do about Junior Dos Santos situation.

If you look at the top ten in the UFC heavyweight division there are very few fighters who are in the position, and capable of challenging Cain for the title. You have Dos Santos, Cormier, Werdum, Silva, Browne, Barnett, Overeem, Mir, Miocic and Nelson making up the top ten.

Cormier has made his intentions clear; he will be making the drop to the 205 division and trying his luck down there. He has said over-and-over again that he will not fight Cain no matter what. That is arguably the division’s best prospect gone.

Werdum is waiting in the wings and will most likely get the next shot at Cain. This fight is going to be very difficult to promote; Werdum does not have much drawing power. Werdum was in a position where he was the only one in the top ten who was not either leaving the division, in a fight already, coming off a loss or just plain not ready.

Silva was beaten by Cain twice, and the way the fights went there is not going to be anyone calling for that fight anytime soon. Also, he will headline UFC Fight Night on December 6th in a fight with Mark Hunt. Even if he destroyed Mark Hunt he is years away from another fight with Cain.

Browne and Barnett will meet at UFC 168, and the winner will more than likely be at the top of a very short list of contenders. The division is so shallow that the loser of this fight will probably still only be a fight or two away from a title shot.

Overeem is ranked #7 in the top ten, and his only UFC win came over Brock Lesnar. He is currently 1-2 and is coming off two loses. His next fight with Frank Mir is likely a win or go home situation, and yet. Mir his opponent is also in the same boat; he has not won inside the octagon in almost two years and is coming off three consecutive losses.

Miocic is a good, up and coming prospect but is nowhere near ready to take on a fighter like Cain. He is likely two or three fights away from UFC brass even considering him in a title fight conversation.

Finally, Roy Nelson—Roy is not anywhere near getting a title shot or even being considered for a title shot. He dropped an upset loss to Miocic, and this past Saturday he was completely outclassed by Daniel Cormier. So coming off back-to-back losses, he is multiple fights away from that discussion.

So, what does Dana do with Junior? He is pretty clearly to this point the second best heavyweight. In the top ten, there is only Werdum and the winner of Barnett/Browne who are even close to a title fight. Where does Junior go from here? This is a very difficult situation.

Junior has fought Cain three times, and in the final two fights he was beaten from pillar to post. They were not even close, so much so that I am sure another one would be a difficult sell for the UFC. They could try to use Junior as a launching pad for one of the other fighters in the division, but who? Junior will steamroll the rest of the top ten with maybe the exception of Barnett who’s style is a terrible match up for Junior.

I think there will inevitably be a fourth and depending on how that goes a fifth fight possibly. Dos Santos is going to have to wait a year, or maybe two so that the UFC can form some marketable angle, but with the state of the division I do not see the UFC being able to prevent it.

The heavyweight division is in trouble; when the number 7 and 8 fighters in the division are virtually in a win or go home situation. That says a lot about the depth of the division.

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez are two of the very best heavyweights in UFC history. This is more than a fight; this truly is a legacy fight. When they meet in the Octagon, this Saturday the winner will emerge as the best of this era and perhaps any era of heavyweights in UFC history.

This is a very fun fight; it is a classic grappler vs. striker match-up, and two completely different fight philosophies.

In their first fight, Junior was able to land the perfect punch, and not because it was lucky but because that is what he does. Junior is not a “dog fight” type of fighter like Cain is. Junior prefers to use his footwork and throw calculated, accurate, powerful punches.

His takedown defence has been so good in his career that, that game plan has worked for him. He has more stopping power than Cain, and he knows it. He knows that if he can land a clean shot he can stop Cain.

Cain has more avenues to victory than Junior does; his grappling, cardio, clinch boxing, and striking output are all problems for Junior. Junior has to respect Cain’s wrestling ability to the point where it opens up opportunities for Cain to get the better of the striking exchanges.

Cain’s pace broke Junior early in the second fight; He is relentless and has that wrestlers work ethic. He never stops—ever. He stays in your face and active for the whole 25 minutes.

Much like the second fight Cain has to get off first. Junior is not a counter boxer he is an aggressive power puncher. If Cain can beat him to the punch he should be able to back Junior up and nullify a great deal of his power. It will also be important for Cain to beat up Junior’s legs, and slow his movement down. That will make it a bit easier for Cain to get in on the legs of Junior and score some takedowns.

Junior will have to do a lot of things differently if he wants to be successful against Cain. He needs to mix things up; he has got to make Cain think about something other than his boxing. He needs to throw in some kicks, or shoot for some takedowns, anything that makes Cain think. That will open up opportunities for Junior to put his boxing to work.

Also, Junior needs to focus on the body of Cain in the first round, maybe the first two. He needs to take away Cain’s advantages in the later rounds. Junior hits hard, and if he can unload on the body of Cain he will be able to slow him down and bring his hands down a bit, and open up Cain’s head. If he can do that the advantage should sway Junior’s way.

I have to lean Cain’s way in this one. I believe that his pace and style of fighting makes a horrible match-up for Junior. Junior has one avenue that brings the title back to Brazil with him, and that is to KO Cain Velasquez. Cain, has the ability to ground-and-pound Junior, out point Junior with his grappling skills, and also to grind Junior out, and make him wilt under the constant pressure. Cain in my opinion is going to grind Junior down and dominate him to a 5 round decision.

The Leafs

By Jason Sutcliffe

The new look Toronto Maple Leafs will take to the ice at the ACC tonight for their home opener against the Ottawa Senator’s. The battle of Ontario is one of the best rivalries in hockey and is sure to be a hard-fought game. The Leafs have started off the season very well, but the Senators led by goaltender Craig Anderson will be a good test, and tell us a lot about the depth of our team.

With Clarkson sitting out his ten game suspension and Fraser injured for approximately ten games, The Senators will test our depth as both players are key pieces to the puzzle.
The upside is that we will get our first glimpse of highly touted prospect Morgan Reilly in regular season action. Reilly skated with the Leafs in practice and was paired up with Jake Gardiner, but Carlyle has said he is unsure who Reilly will be paired with come game time.

It is going to be interesting to see how Rielly handles the pressure of playing his first NHL game in the middle of the Hockey Universe. There are very high expectations for Reilly, and his skill set is certainly deserving of those expectations. There is going to be an adjustment period for sure, and he will need to adapt. Personally I think his skill set is suited for the fast paced game, and we should get a glimpse of that tonight.

Reimer and Bernier are both fighting tooth and nail for the starting position, and it is unclear as of yet who will get the nod the home opener, but I have to think that it is Reimer’s job to lose. It is a good time to be a Leaf fan with two highly skilled and reliable goaltenders between the pipes.

It is a new look in Ottawa this season as for the first time in ten years the “C” will not be worn by Daniel Alfredsson; instead the reigns have been handed to number 19 Jason Spezza. Spezza was groomed for this role right from his draft day. I am curious to see how they respond to a new leader as I am a firm believer that attitude reflects leadership.

Normally the loss of a guy with the offensive ability of Daniel Alfredsson would crush a team, but the addition of Bobby Ryan from Anaheim I believe makes them stronger. This is going to be a good, competitive hockey game, and I am looking forward to these divisional rivals bumping heads all season long.

The Senators have a lot of good, young talent, right from the net out, but I believe the Leafs are the stronger team. The Leafs have the depth that Ottawa does not have. We have three solid lines that can score goals, and a lot of young talent on the blue line.

Also, with so much depth it gives Carlyle more options. He can throw many different looks at teams if things are not working out. Having those options readily available makes coaching a lot easier.

The ACC will be rocking tonight, the boys will be ready, and Rielly will make his debut on the biggest stage in the hockey world. I can’t think of a better home opener than the battle of Ontario. Tonight is going to be a great game.

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

Some of the rule changes in the NHL this year are just ridiculous and lack insight into the game. The two that stick out for me is the new “hybrid-icing” rule and the “keep your helmet on” rule in regards to fighting.

The hybrid-icing rule is just ridiculous, and how they believe that it will effectively reduce the amount of injuries is mind-boggling. Simply put the rule says that if the defending player is clearly winning the race for the puck icing will be automatically called, but if the race is close or the offensive player is ahead than they will let it go.

This makes absolutely no sense. How will injuries be prevented if icing is not waved off during a close race for the puck? Those are situations where career or season ending injuries happen. The only thing that this rule efficiently does is save the defencemen from having to skate back and touch the puck when there is no race for it.

If it is truly the NHL’s objective to remove these types of injuries from the game than they should have implemented the “no touch-icing” rule that would make a lot more sense. Where the play would be blown dead as soon as the puck crossed the red line. I am not saying that I am a fan of “no touch” icing, but if removing these injuries from the game is a priority for the NHL than that is the only way that they can effectively do it.

The new rule in regards to players keeping their helmets on during a fight will prove to be completely useless. There is a fraternity among NHL enforcers, and if anything this new rule will show that. What we are going to see a lot of this year is both players removing their helmets before a fight and taking the extra two minutes penalty.

The league implemented this rule in an attempt to prevent injuries. During hockey fights, many times both players end up wrestling each other to the ice, and on occasion players have smacked their heads off the ice resulting in injury.

The leagues enforcers will be more than willing to take the chance of that happening as opposed to breaking their hands punching a helmet, which is much more likely.

This was clear during the Leaf/Canadien’s game when Fraser and Moen squared off. Both guys dropped the gloves, and Fraser gestured to Moen to take his helmet off and after a few seconds they simultaneously removed their helmets. We are going to see this all year long, and for years to come, especially now that they have grandfathered in the visor rule.

For anyone who does not know what that term means, it is now a rule that anyone who has played less than 25 games has to wear a visor starting this year. It is the same thing they did with helmets in the 80’s. As players retire over the next ten years or so, everyone in the league will be wearing a visor.

I am all for changing the rules to make the game safer for everyone involved, but only when the rules make sense, and are functional.

Jason Head_Shot 2[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

There has been discussion surrounding Phil Kessel and his new long term contract that has him making $8 million-a-year for the next 8 seasons. There are a lot of people who believe that Kessel is not worth that, and the Leafs have grossly overpaid for him.

There are some glaring faults in Phil’s game that is for sure. However, if you look at Phil Kessel based on performance he is right where he should be in regards to his scoring. He was 8th in the league, 6th the year before that. Both years he was a handful of points away from cracking the top five in the league.

It is true that, guys like Crosby and a few others missed a bunch of games and may have finished higher than Phil, but that is part of the deal. Phil is reliable and durable; he has not missed a game in the past three seasons. It has been almost impossible to keep all of our scorers healthy, but Phil has been a mainstay in our lineup.

At the end of the day, what this comes down to for me, is simple; how many people are there that can do what Phil Kessel does, and out of those players how many are available during the next off-season. Phil was quite possibly going to walk next July, and you can not just replace a point-a-game guy. There are less than 10 in the league, and we have one.

Also, Phil proved he was able to perform in the playoffs, and did so facing the team he has had the most trouble scoring against. He had 6 points in 7 games.

I am not a fan of certain parts of Phil Kessel’s game, but I am a realist, and just letting Phil Kessel go is not an option. It is extremely hard to snag players who have the upside of Phil Kessel.

One stat that jumped out at me though was that last year Phil was a –4. That is unacceptable if you are going to be our big scorer I would think that being a plus hockey player is imperative. Phil will have to continue to improve defensively, and become a little more aggressive along the boards in order to become a complete hockey player, and gain the confidence of the best hockey fans in the world.

The added depth and secondary scoring added to the Leafs lineup should open up the game for Phil a little bit. Teams can no longer just shut down our top line and walk away with two points. Our lineup will force teams to spread out their defensive specialists putting some of the focus on our 2nd and 3rd lines. If Phil can stay healthy, this could be the year that he breaks the top 5 in league scoring. GO LEAFS GO!!!

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

So David Clarkson and Phil Kessel have both been handed suspensions for their actions in the brawl with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night. Clarkson has received 10 games for leaving the bench and joining the fight while Phil Kessel is suspended for the remainder of the preseason, but will lose no pay and will not miss a single regular season game.

There are mixed reactions towards the incident and the subsequent suspensions. Some people feel as though Kessel should not have received any punishment at all, some people feel as though the three games is just right, and some people feel as though it was not harsh enough. I for one feel as though both suspensions were fair and fit the crimes.

Clarkson’s suspension is standard for anyone who leaves the bench and becomes involved in an altercation on the ice. So I was not so surprised, and I do not think many others were either. I think it does need to be said though that Clarkson needs to practice better judgment. We are not paying him 5.5 million a year to be an enforcer. He is useless to us suspended for ten games. There is a whole slew of guys on the bench that can play that role.

As for Kessel I had no problem with the first slash, it was the second one and the spear that followed which I have the problem.

There are a lot of people, who are calling Phil Kessel a coward for his actions, and maybe they are a right, but his actions were no more cowardice than John Scott’s. Scott is an enforcer in this league. He is one of the tough guys. He is also 70 lbs and 8 inches taller than Phil Kessel. What exactly was Phil Kessel supposed to do? Fight him…He would have gotten the beating of his life.

Scott had no business attempting to fight with Phil Kessel. Kessel does not fight, and it was pretty clear that he was scared to death. It was nothing more than a bully tactic by Scott, and one that he will have to pay for as you can bet that Orr and McLaren will be in the line-up the next time these two meet.

With a physical altercation clearly not an option for Kessel he did what came to him in the moment; and frankly I do not blame him. Kessel did nothing to initiate a fight with Scott it was a targeted attack on Scott’s part against a player unable to defend himself effectively. That is a cowardly move on Scott’s behalf and goes against the unwritten code of the enforcers and the game. The Leafs are not short on tough guys for Scott to take a poke at, to go after Kessel is ridiculous.

I view the first slash as nothing more than a slashing penalty, but the second slash and the spear after Scott engaged with Clarkson was un-necessary. Kessel crossed the line there and deserved to be suspended for that. He at no point initiated the fight, and for that reason I think that the suspension is fair. I was also glad to see that the Buffalo coach has been held accountable for his actions in sending out the “goon squad” for a premeditated attack.

The Leafs may have done okay in the battle, but they certainly lost the war. Clarkson’s an addition that is a central piece of our puzzle, and we will not have him in our lineup for the first 10 games. In a division where 9th and 5th were separated by 6-8 points, we will need every point we can get, and we need every piece of our puzzle healthy and in the lineup.

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

My prayers have been answered; BJ Penn will return to the octagon at Featherweight to take on Frankie Edgar in a trilogy bout. Since the induction of the featherweight division into the UFC I have personally thought that where BJ belonged, I have debated this with people for a while.

BJ Penn’s issue has always been his conditioning. It is no secret that BJ is one of the greatest natural talents this sport has ever seen, but his work ethic has left a lot to be desired. When Penn comes into the octagon prepared there is no one better.

When Penn fights closer to his natural weight his conditioning is never an issue. That is until his fights with Edgar. I personally believe as though Penn had ruled the roost for so long that he had begun to take his reign as champion for granted.

Penn’s heart and warrior spirit in many cases has been his worst enemy. Most fighters do what is best for their careers and fight at a weight class that offers them the most advantages come fight night. Not Penn. BJ has never given jumping divisions a second thought. He is willing to give opponents huge size advantages in order to fight at welterweight or higher.

When he takes to the cage to fight at Featherweight, he will have fought in five different divisions during his career. He is a warrior he fought as high as heavyweight taking Lyoto Machida to a decision.

He seems extremely motivated to get back in the octagon with Frankie Edgar. I for one think that is just part of the reason. BJ has talked about his legacy on a number of occasions and his desire to go down as one of the best in history. I think he is motivated to be the only person in the sport to hold a title in 3 divisions. Can BJ do it? Only time will tell.

However, I do think that everything is aligned for BJ to make a solid run at it. Usually when BJ has problems it is when the bigger guys lean on him and make him carry their weight. Guys like Rory, George and Nick who could all fight at middleweight easily. At 145, it is going to be more challenging to do.

In order for BJ to make 145 he is going to have to put more emphasis on his cardio, conditioning and diet. That will pay huge dividends for him, and ultimately bring him into the octagon in tremendous condition. He says he is feeling great after the eye surgery and has been doing a lot more cardio than he has in the past, so I am looking forward to seeing how BJ looks on fight night.

All that aside, I am looking forward to the interaction between Penn and Edgar on the Ultimate Fighter as coaches.

Jason Head_Shot[1]

By Jason Sutcliffe

Pettis vs Henderson

It was a great night of fights that saw Josh Barnett make his return to the octagon, the “Smooth” era end, and the “Showtime” era begin in the lightweight division, and Chad Mendes get one step closer to his rematch with Jose Aldo. The main event saw a re-match years in the making. Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson took to the octagon with the lightweight title on the line.

This is probably going to be a very un-popular statement, but right from the start Benson looked scared to strike with Pettis—to me anyway. He came out aggressively pushing Pettis backward and looking to take the fight to the ground. The two fighters had a couple of brief exchanges both ending with Pettis defending the takedown against the fence.

Benson was landing some very effective short kicks to the legs of Pettis while he had him pinned against the fence. When the two fighters separated Pettis landed four hard body kicks that seemed to get Ben’s attention. He then went for a flashy cartwheel kick. Pettis ended up on his back with Henderson in his guard. It did not take long for Pettis to lock in an arm-bar forcing Benson to tap verbally.

The “Showtime” era has officially begun!!

What’s next: Anthony Pettis- I am not sure if TJ Grant will get his opportunity, but if not Jose Aldo, Jose Aldo, Jose Aldo Dana needs to make that fight happpen. Ben Henderson- Ben is going to want a fight that keeps him relevant I would like to see him square off with Rafael Dos Anjos.

Josh Barnett vs Frank Mir

The fantasy fight between Josh Barnett and Frank Mir came to fruition last night, and it did not last long. Right from the start the War Master was all over Frank Mir. He closed the distance pinned Frank against the fence and began to utilize some effective dirty boxing. He landed a solid knee, Mir’s body went limp, and he dropped. Barnett landed two more punches and the ref jumped in and stopped it.

There was some controversy surrounding whether the referee stopped the fight early as Mir jumped right up and was immediately protesting the stoppage. Personally I think maybe it was a little premature, but it was not going to change anything. Mir’s chin just is not capable of taking heavy shots from the elite heavyweights, and his wrestling is not good enough to dictate where the fight takes place. In my opinion, Mir needs to retire. He has had too good a career to drift into obscurity on the under-cards

What’s next: Josh Barnett- I would love to see Johs and Travis Browne go to war I think that would be a great fight. Frank Mir- Honestly I really want to see Frank retire. He is one of the greats and it has just come to a point where he can no longer compete with the best fighter’s in the division. He has had a great career and I don’t want to see him go out like Tito–period.

Chad Mendes vs Clay Guida

Duane Ludwig has proved to be an extremely valuable piece to the Team Alpha Male camp, and in particular Chad Mendes. Mendes has TKO’d his last four opponents and yesterday became the first person to stop Clay Guida with strikes. There are other fighters in line for a title shot like Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, but Mendes has absolutely placed himself in that line.

It took Mendes a little bit to get his timing, and find Guida’s chin, but in the third round he found his range and landed a right hand that dropped Guida. That was the beginning of the end, as Chad was able blast Guida with one more right hook that ended the fight.

What’s next: Chad Mendes- I would love to see him fight cub in a #1 contender fight. Clay Guida- I think a fight with Erik Koch would be good and it would keep one of them relevant in the division.

Brandon Vera vs Ben Rothwell

Brandon Vera vs. Ben Rothwell was a good fight. Vera spent the first two rounds moving around the outside and frankly looked scared of Ben Rothwell. He hit Ben with some very good body kicks, which Ben seemed to walk through without much of a problem. In the third round, the beast in Big Ben awoke, and he rushed Vera landing some solid punches, dropping him with a knee and moving in with some ground and pound forcing the stoppage.

What’s next: Ben Rothwell- I know he called out Travis Browne but I would rather see Barnett and Browne go at it. I think a good fight for Ben would be Shawn Jordan. Brandon Vera- I do not think he can hang at heavyweight in this era of MMA and to be honest I think at best he could be a gate-keeper in the light heavyweight division.

Dustin Poirier vs Erik Koch

Dustin Poirier vs Erik Koch was my choice for the fight of the night. It was a great fight and was nearly stopped on numerous occasions.

Dustin Poirier hurt Koch early in the fight, but as soon as it hit the mat Koch was able to lock in a very tight triangle choke. Poirier showed great poise survived, and punished Koch with heavy strikes through the first two rounds. Koch proved to be very durable, and in the third round had Poirier’s back, but instead of aggressively attacking for the finish he rode his back for the entirety of the round, which after losing the first two rounds I did not understand. Poirier took home the unanimous decision.

What’s next: Dustin Poirier- I would like to see him and Frankie Edgar go at it I think that would be a good fight. Erik Koch- As I said earlier I would like to see him and Clay Guida, the fight would keep one of them relevant and would be an exciting fight.