Archive for the ‘Coaching’ Category

Cats are dicks, but I had some good picks this time around, so there.

This is probably my least stupid set of Stupid Predictions™ in a while. Even when I got it wrong, I got it right. It was entertaining but also vindicating, especially after the miserable failures I’ve had with the past couple of cards. My record has now improved to 33-17 (66%) in main cards, and 64-41 (61%) overall since I’ve started the segment.

Ricardo Romero vs. James Te Huna

Te Huna by KO/TKO. Thank you, and good night. Rob 1-0, Probst 0-1.

Cole Escovedo vs. Takeya Mizugaki

I didn’t expect a finish, but I did expect dominance, and either way a win’s a win. Rob 2-0, Probst 0-2.

Junior Assuncao vs. Eddie Yagin

I got this one wrong, but I did pick a decision. I feel only slightly vindicated, but with the success I had with predicting how this card would go, it’s tough to ignore any degree of success. Besides, Probst got it wrong, too. Rob 2-1, Probst 0-3 (and looking a lot like me over the past couple of cards).

Tim Boetsch vs. Nick Ring

A slightly better pick for me, as the decision wasn’t really that close. Boetsch clearly won the second and third rounds, and one judge (not me) even gave him the first. Still, both Probst and I get the win here. Oh, and Boetsch also. Rob 3-1, Probst 1-3. Congratulations, Jason; you’re on the board!

As for Boetsch, I told you so, though I wasn’t the only one. The middleweight division is a better place for Boetsch. He’s faster (of course) and better conditioned. What he loses (again, of course) is knockout power, which is possibly why he didn’t finish Ring. If Boetsch settles into this weight class and regains his knockout power, watch out. He could be on his way through the division, getting his opportunity to lose to Anderson Silva.

Tony Ferguson vs. Aaron Riley

This is the only pick I made with my heart and not my head, but a loss is a loss. However, I’m at least right in this respect: Aaron Riley remains a winner in my book. He had his jaw broken and seemingly dislocated as well. (It looked like the disfigurement was more than just swelling.) Still, he fought on, taking several shots to an already broken jaw. He’s a tough S.O.B. While Ferguson was clearly winning the fight, it was a weakness in Aaron Riley’s jaw (caused by an earlier break) that most likely caused the break. Still, Ferguson looked good and represented TUF alumni well. Rob 3-2, Probst 2-3. Jason is catching up.

Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi

Again, I’m slightly better than Probst on how this fight played out, but not by much. This went as expected, but it’s important to note that Diaz outpunched the puncher here, landing 36 significant strikes to Gomi’s 4!. No, that’s not a typo. Gomi had nothing on his feet, throwing wild, desperate punches. His ill-fated takedown attempt was out of desperation. He would have gotten knocked-out if it weren’t for the submission. This is a major step in the right direction for Diaz, not only snapping a two-fight losing streak, but doing so in style. The question now is whether my pre-fight assumption is correct: Is the Japanese market so important to the UFC that this dismantling of Gomi won’t be enough to get him fired? Rob 4-2, Probst 3-3.

Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton

This one also went exactly as I predicted on Fight Fans Radio. I stated that Browne would dominate, but Broughton was tough enough to take a beating through 2-1/2 rounds before finally gassing out an getting knocked-out in the third. The only thing I didn’t predict is how the altitude took away Browne’s knockout power so that by the time the third round arrived, he was no longer capable of throwing the finishing blow. However, at least in hindsight I’m seeing this. What’s being lost on every commentator whose work I read (this is not a surprise) is that the UFC made a tremendous mistake in using a card set in Denver as their opportunity to showcase and develop the heavyweight division. Fighters can’t chose where they get to fight, but the promotion does, and choosing to have heavyweights fight at that altitude potentially skews the results. After all, Browne attempted 51 strikes in the first round and only 14 in the third, demonstrating the significance of altitude in this fight. Rob 5-2, Probst 4-3.

Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt

This leads us to another loss for me but with an important caveat. Would Mark Hunt have beaten Ben Rothwell at sea level? Possibly, though I doubt it, but regardless of who would have won, the fight would have gone very differently. Rothwell took every shot Hunt threw at him, and he was able to deal with that power. His game plan was perfect, choosing to take the fight to the ground rather than on his feet. Hunt’s ability to avoid Rothwell’s shoots for a full three rounds and even get some of his own was clearly the result of conditioning. By attempting so many takedowns (a smart strategy at sea level), Rothwell tired out early, making Hunt’s attempts in later rounds trivial. Also, Hunt was able to stay fresher as he had a less draining strategy. So, while I got this wrong, I stand by the pick if the fight is at sea level. In either case, Mark Hunt and Travis Browne didn’t look nearly as good in victory as they would have under other circumstances. This was not the proper way for the UFC to showcase the heavyweight division and establish new contenders. Browne didn’t grab anyone’s attention, and Rothwell, who should be on his way up, now looks like a loser. That will cost the UFC in the long run. Rob 5-3, Probst 5-3, but I still say I’m winning. This fight shouldn’t even count.

Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck

Probst and I saw this going the exact same way. On the Stupid Predictions™ segment of Fight Fans Radio, I even said I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a first round knockout. This was such an easy pick that only wishful thinking explains a pick for Hughes. This played out in exactly the way you should have expected, and though we both picked knockouts in the second round, how close is it when the fight is finished with one second to go in the first? Rob 6-3, Probst 6-3.

As a side note, I want to mention that George St. Pierre didn’t invent the jab. If someone runs into Mike Goldberg, please let him know that not everyone that throws a jab is doing so to emulate GSP.

Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

Finally, we get to the main event. I’ve written three posts analyzing Jon Jones, analyzing Lyoto Machida, and dealing with a possible matchup between the two. While that’s a lot of reading to do, it’s almost necessary to understand my views, but I’ll try to deal with the fact that most of you don’t want to go back and read them before continuing to read this post. (If you’re going to read only one of the three, though, the best would be “Machida’s Unsovability” because it’s more an analysis of all fighting styles you’ll see in mixed martial arts.) Probst and I got it right giving us a 7-3 record for the night.

Bones had trouble taking down Jackson. Nice wheel kick, though. Click me for animation

Moving onto the fight, Jones won every round of the fight. He used his legs and 11-1/2” reach advantage (almost a foot!) to keep Jackson at bay, and when Jackson did get inside, Jones immediately grabbed Jackson’s right wrist, preventing any possibility of the right hook (Jackson’s only chance). When they were on the ground, Jackson was obviously and expectedly outclassed. This gives Jones the advantage in both effective grappling and effective striking. However, if you recall my explanation of the rules from my UFC Fight Night 25 Postmortem (more reading, I know), Bones arguably didn’t claim the (less important) effective aggressiveness criterion. The numbers show that he attempted six takedowns and landed only two of them. Attempting takedowns and failing is not effectiveaggression.

Jones definitely won the fight, though. Click me for animation.

Let me make this clear: While it was still Jones’s fight 50-45 at this rate, other than Lyoto Machida, what you saw was the most competitive fight you’ll ever see involving Jones against the current stable of light heavyweights, and that doesn’t surprise me in the least. In fact, I predicted it. The only three fighters that can stylistically match up against Jones well enough potentially to give him a real fight are Rua, Jackson, and Machida, with Machida giving him the most problems. After that, the light heavyweight division will be a predictable, boring mess of Jones beating his opponent (including Rashad Evans) senseless on the feet, stuffing every single desperate takedown attempt against him (he’s never been taken down in his career), followed by a finish. Whether Jones chooses to finish by taking down the opponent or continuing to batter him on his feet is impossible (really stupid?) to predict. It’ll be based on his mood, and it’ll be unstoppable.

The only way for Jones to lose is if he gets food poisoning before the fight or decides to fight with an injury, neither of which could be predicted. He’s simply that much better than everyone else.

“Rampage Sucks!”

Go ahead. You tell him he's finished as a fighter.

All of this leads me to address the following argument: “This fight proves that Jones is the best in his division, and Rampage sucks!” That crap has already started. Let’s address this and see why it shows complete MMA ignorance and poor reasoning skills. We’ll look at the second one first. The argument is fallacious on its face. How can you say, in the course of a single sentence, that this fight proves Jones is the best and Rampage is a chump? You don’t prove yourself to be the best in the division by beating a chump. You also aren’t exposed as a chump by losing to the best. Maybe on Bizarro World you could argue either of those points if the fight was a first round finish by the champ in 5 seconds or less, but this was the most competitive and dangerous fight we’ve seen Jones endure, going over 16 minutes. Therefore, the argument fails on its face.

As for the ignorance the argument shows, Jackson’s ability to effortlessly slip so many of Jones’s hand strikes was masterful. It would have been embarrassing for Jones at times. In a boxing match, Jackson would have destroyed Jones despite Jones’s remarkable reach. While MMA is not boxing, it shows how dangerous and “still in the game” Jackson is, being virtually unbeatable by knockout against anyone in the division. Jones himself showed absolutely no ability to knock out Jackson while they were on the feet, requiring attempts at submission or ground-and-pound to have any chance to finish the fight. Moreover, against other opponents, Jackson’s extensive experience in MMA should (and as we’ve seen, does) give him wins and allows him to stuff takedowns. Saying he’s finished due to a perceived inability to fight shows ignorance. (Saying he’s finished due to a perceived emphasis on movie-making is another matter.)

Either way, Jackson is far from through as a fighter. He might even be, as he claims, better than he’s ever been. The numbers also show us that Jackson took 34% less leg kicks from Jones than he did from Forrest Griffin, arguably showing improvement in at least that area (though not necessarily). I’m sure Jackson has every intention of taking the next logical fight: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. While Rua has a fight on his plate already (against Dan Henderson at UFC 139 in November), Jackson will be waiting in the wings for his shot at revenge. In the mean time, there are plenty of other fights for the UFC to give him if circumstances dictate he stay busy, and don’t be surprised if Jackson wins whatever he’s given (for example, eliminating Ryan Bader from the UFC’s light heavyweight roster in the process).

If you don’t like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, that’s fine, but give him his due for a job relatively well done against an impossibly good opponent. Even my friend, Michelle, did that. 🙂

Matt Hughes Retirement

As a final note, my personal dislike for Hughes is well-known, based in no small part on, but not limited to, his ringside behavior at the first fight between George St. Pierre and Matt Serra. Nevertheless, I’d be a hypocrite for not giving him his due. Hughes was a remarkable fighter for the UFC, and in the end his primary job is to put on entertaining fights. He did his job expertly and helped change the sport for the better. As he moves from fighting to, I assume, training fighters full time, I thank him for his efforts in the Octagon and wish him well. If he chooses to become a trainer for fighters, he’ll continue to contribute to the sport in a way that might get lost on future generations (see, e.g., Pat Militech). I want to thank him in advance for that in case he never hears it again.

Make sure to listen to Fight Fans Radio Monday through Thursday at 3pm for MMA news and analysis. Also listen in on Saturdays at 3pm before fight cards for my live Stupid Predictions™ segment.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
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Follow Jason Probst on Twitter @jasonprobst
Follow Jon Jones on Twitter @Jonnybones
Follow Quinton Jackson on Twitter @rampage4real
Follow Josh Koscheck on Twitter @JoshKoscheck
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Follow Nick Ring on Twitter @Promise_RiiNG
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Follow James Te Huna on Twitter @JamesTeHuna
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Follow Michelle Jackson on Twitter @luvinGSP

Gary-kneel

Last Thursday, my fellow University of Maryland alumni and fans learned that Gary Williams, coach of the men’s basketball program, is retiring. Needless to say, over two decades of memories have been pouring out of everyone’s brains. Scott van Pelt of ESPN, a Maryland graduate himself, was being interviewed on ESPN 980 this afternoon on a segment about remembering Gary’s greatest moments, and that caused my favorite memory to jump to mind.

It was 1993, and I was one year out of Maryland working my first job as a software engineer. It was an exciting time. I had a little disposable income and recently had been a Washington Capitals season ticket holder. It was an exciting time, both personally and professionally, and sports were a part of that.

My extended family on my mother’s side consists primarily of Maryland fans/alumni and Georgetown fans/alumni. Georgetown had refused to play Maryland for 13 years, telling us they were too good for such a low program, but the ACC and Big East entered into a deal, and Georgetown was forced to play us. The Hoyas in the family told us, “Be careful what you wish for,” but we knew we had Joe Smith, we knew we had Kieth Booth, we knew we had “X-Ray O’Hipp,” and we knew we had Gary Williams.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, November 26, 1993, the two teams took to the court at the US Air arena (which I thought of as the Capital Center until the day it was demolished). I was watching from Croton-on-Hudson, NY, where some of the family lived. The game was back and forth, and you could see the frustration in the eyes of the Hoyas. Maryland just wouldn’t go away.

It was the end of the game. Maryland had the lead. Georgetown had one chance to force overtime. The Hoya passed the ball inbounds to his teammate, but the teammate ran out of bounds and inbounded the ball to someone else. Possession should have gone to Maryland. Game over, right? Nope. Big time programs are always coddled by the refs. The ref that was right on top of the play didn’t call it. It was classic “screw the little guy” we expect in college and pro sports. At that point, the Terp fans began to have their doubts. If the refs wouldn’t call the game objectively, how could we win?

I’ll let you watch if you’d like.

Final score, Maryland 84, #15 Georgetown 83.

Joe-Smith

I was so proud of my alma mater that I asked my cousin, John, to design a t-shirt with an anthropomorphic terrapin dunking the head of the Georgetown bulldog. The image was nothing like I was expecting, but as always, the artist outdid even my imagination. A coworker made the shirts for me, and they came out great except the date was wrong. 😦 I had 12 shirts done and gave one to each current and past Maryland and Georgetown alum/student in the family for Christmas.

After we won our first national championship, my friends and I went from Champions in Crystal City (where we watched the game) to College Park, MD and joined the “riot.” When Maryland beat #1 North Carolina at Cole Field House, my cousin Tom and I rushed the court with everyone else. When #3 Maryland beat #1 Duke but Kansas was given the #1 ranking that week, I loved it when we beat Kansas in the Final Four one our way to our first national title. (“Who’s #1 now, bitches?”) All of these were fun and important.

For me, though, Maryland’s first step on that journey — beating #15 Georgetown in 1993 — is my finest Gary Williams moment.

Thanks, Coach.

Williams-Podium

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Follow me on Twitter @UMTerps

CapitalsRedLogo

This is one of those wonderful moments when I can proudly say, “I was wrong.” The Crapitals got out of the first round for the first time in three years. So how’d they do it? I’m not going to get into hockey strategy, only some of which I could intelligently discuss. Instead, I’m going to answer that question at a higher level, which is the same way I’ve been phrasing the problem for the past week. Let’s look at how Game 5 differed from the rest of the series.

The Differences

The Caps didn’t have a scoreless tie going into the second period

The Caps scored in the first period, and when you’re outplaying a team in all other areas of the game, even a one-goal lead can be insurmountable. They repeated the effort in the second and third periods, surrendering a goal only when the Rangers had an empty net, and thus an extra forward. When a team has to play catch up, it always changes their style of play, opening up chances for the team in the lead. The fact that the Rangers were also in desperation mode due to the threat of elimination helped the Caps. The fact that the Caps are better skaters, puck handlers, and hitters also helped the Caps.

The Caps “solved” Lundqvist

Any team that wins a game does so by scoring, but “solving” a goalie clearly has happened when you embarrass him. Ovechkin did exactly that, embarrassing Marc Staal along the way. In the second period, Ovi streaked down the ice, harassed the entire way by Staal, and despite the extra human baggage, faked out Lundqvist like he was . . . well, me. Lundqvist was truly beaten at that point. Semin’s goal was icing on the cake. Oh, and by the way . . .

Alexander Semin Scored

He didn’t get a hat trick, but for a guy who scores so much in the regular season, he has no business twiddling his thumbs while watching everyone else play hockey. (Remember last year?) Keep in mind that a player scoring even a single goal generally indicates that he’s spent the game working hard and getting into position. I watched this game in a bar, and the TVs weren’t huge, so I can’t be certain, but I get the impression Semin worked hard this game. In fact, one difference between this year and last year that I never really noticed is that Semin has been scoring. He scored in games 1 and 4 as well. He’s officially productive, and that looks dangerous to the rest of the league.

Boudreau

The Good Stuff

I’ve been tearing down the franchise during all of these posts, but did once point out that there are plenty of things that give us hope as Crapitals fans.

Coaching

First and foremost among them is our coaching. Bruce Boudreau is the model of an NHL coach. In my day, the superstar players ruled the roost. If the best player on the team didn’t like the head coach, he’d go on TV or radio, talk about how his coach sucked, and before he could hang up the phone, management would have fired that coach. Times have certainly changed, but old habits die hard, and the culture still has that feel to it.

Boudreau could easily have survived that era as a head coach. There’s no question he’s in charge of strategy and the team in general, an as the HBO documentary “24/7” showed, he’s more than willing to say “fuck,” but he’s a “players’ coach.” Players like him. Hell, I like him even though I’ve never met him. He comes across as a father figure without treating these grown men as children. The fact that he’s Pillsbury Dough Boy-ish helps, too. He just comes across as a good guy. This is the kind of person you need as your hockey coach, especially with a young team who’s failures in the past can be directly attributed to their inexperience and relative immaturity. Combine that with his actual competence as a head coach, and you have a one championship need completely filled.

Offensive Zone

A second thing worth mentioning is that it still amazes me how well the Crapitals control the offensive zone. We can all tell easily when a team has an extra man on the ice. They easily control the puck in the offensive zone, and the defensive players are always either a step or two behind or standing still waiting for something bad to happen. The Crapitals seem to be able to do that to teams even when both teams are at full strength. You’d think with all those players on the ice, and no team having a man advantage, that such control shouldn’t be possible, but the Caps do it. Consistently. The only time I’ve really seen that done consistently was in the 70’s and 80’s when teams would do that to the Crapitals. This is definitely something that differs from teams in the past. We really do have one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the NHL techincally-speaking.

However . . .

I wouldn’t get too excited, and I really hope the Crapitals don’t get too high on themselves. Arrogance is the enemy. Once you think you can’t lose, you can’t win. I hope they keep grounded. As I said, Bruce Boudreau is the model hockey coach, and I have faith he’ll keep them in check. The only question that remains is whether he’s finished molding these guys into champions. Eventually he’ll do it, at which point I’ll stop annoying my friend, Hal, with the “Crapitals” moniker, but has he done that already?

Ask me that question again in June. I might not know before then.

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