JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #3: The Death Of WCW, er, Pride

2008 is upon us but we’re still stuck in 2007. For our complete list of the Top 15 Combat Sports Moments of 2007 click here.

#3: The Death Of WCW, er, Pride
What: The UFC purchases Pride and then quietly puts it to sleep
Where: Las Vegas & Japan
When: Spring 2007

The similarities between the fall of World Championship Wrestling and Pride Fighting Championships are eerie. Let us count the ways:

* WCW was purchased by its top competitor – World Wrestling Federation. Pride was purchased by its top competitor – the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

* When the WWF acquired WCW they vowed to rebuild the brand into a better and stronger promotion. When the UFC acquired Pride they vowed to rebuild the brand into a better and stronger promotion (ha).

* WWF signed some of WCW’s biggest stars only to have them fail in their ring. UFC signed some of Pride’s biggest stars only to have them fail in their Octagon.

* WWF planned to run WCW as a seperate entity but quickly scrapped those plans. UFC planned to run Pride as…well, you get the picture.

Oh, and both purchases went down in the month of March (I know the Pride deal took a while to get finalized but it was pretty much official in March).

The jury is still out on who will now become the top MMA promotion in Japan. Will it be K1 Hero’s? Yarennoka? World Victory Road? Will the sport suffer the same hardships as Japanese pro wrestling? Who knows. But one thing is for sure in spite of all it’s political issues outside the ring (and there were many) Pride will be missed. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for WCW anymore since it’s pretty much back in the form of TNA.

Further Enlightenment:
Zuffa-Controlled: DSE Cedes Pride To UFC Bosses [Sherdog]
UFC Buys Pride – How It Can Avoid WWE’s Mistakes [Associated Content]
Did Dana White Blow it in 2007? [Sam Caplan]

“Razor” Rob Is Getting Ansty

Seems to be standard procedure nowadays for title holders under the Zuffa banner to experience long layoffs between title fights. WEC Lightweight champion “Razor” Rob McCullough is no different. The last time he defending his title belt was in September but thankfully for him his next bout is officially scheduled for February 13 against Jamie Varner.

McCullough was one of the contracts Zuffa purchased when they bought the World Fighting Alliance a little over a year ago (however he did fight five times for the old WEC prior to the acquisition). He was quickly placed in a title match against Kit Cope and it was then that he captured the Lightweight crown.

Varner, on the other hand, is coming off a win against Sherron Leggett in August (an even longer layoff than McCullough) and while he did fight twice for the UFC prior to their purchase of the WEC he appears to be transitioning nicely as one of the top contenders in World Extreme Cagefighting.

I spoke to Razor Rob about his upcoming bout against Varner, his current contract situation with the WEC (only two fights left!) and his road back to the WEC.

Rob McCullough – 12/31/07

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Earlier this month, Joachim Alcine retained his WBA Light Middleweight title. Tonight, Georges St. Pierre became the interim UFC Welterweight champ when he defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 79. And next Saturday, Herman Ngoudjo looks to dethrone the IBF Light Welterweight champion, Paulie Malignaggi. Forget about Edmonton, Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh and any other city who has declared itself “The City Of Champions” in the past because, the way we see it, Montreal, Quebec, Canada is the new owner of that title. (At least when it comes to combat sports, ok?)

Needless to say, JarryPark’s hometown of Montreal is filled with a ton of pride this evening, my friends. We weren’t there to celebrate with our peoples but, regardless, watching GSP manhandle Hughes (again) was one of the prettiest sights these eyes have ever seen. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better we witnessed GSP pull off two perfect spinaroonies in the middle of the Octagon. Vas-y GSP, indeed!

St-Pierre-Serra for the undisputed Welterweight crown this April in Montreal? I’m going to have a hard to sleeping tonight.

Oh, and before you accuse me sounding bias or unprofessional please understand that I am still mourning the loss of my beloved Expos so I need to celebrate when I get the chance. It’s all part of the heeling process…or something.

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #5 & #4: Superman Returns…Then Departs

Everyone loves a countdown list so here’s ours: The top 15 combat sports moments of 2007. For the entire list click here.

#5 & #4 : Superman Returns…Then Departs
What: Randy Couture returns to the UFC and captures their Heavyweight title. Seven months later, he resigns from the company vowing to never fight for them again.
Where: Columbus, Ohio and Las Vegas, Nevada
When: March 3, 2007 – October 11, 2007

There was no way we could divide these two stories apart. For the record, we have slotted Couture’s title victory of Tim Sylvia as the fifth biggest moment and his resignation from the UFC as the fourth. The reason for this is that most believed Couture would eventually return to fight at least one more time following his first retirement in February 2006 (at least I did). There were rumors that he would even challenge Tito Ortiz if he would have beaten Chuck Liddell for the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 66. Obviously that never happened but once an opportunity materialized to challenge Sylvia at UFC 68 for his Heavyweight crown, Couture jumped all over it. While it probably won’t be remembered as the greatest technical MMA fight of all-time no other bout has ever possessed the kind of emotion Couture-Sylvia had. There’s just something about Randy, I guess. After defeating Sylvia, Couture knocked off Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. Another inspiring victory and this time he finished off his opponent with a broken arm. At 44-years-old, Randy Couture was sitting firmly atop the MMA world.

However, less than two months later, the honeymoon would end for the UFC and Couture. Whether it had anything to do with the UFC’s inability to sign Fedor Emalianenko, Couture’s contract or something else – we will never know. But, regardless the reason, you would be hard-pressed to find one soul who actually believed that by the end of 2007 Randy Couture and the UFC would be on the outs.

I am always surprised at how many similarities exist between the UFC and WWE not to mention Dana White and Vince McMahon. And, if you think about it, this spat is very reminisicnent of the Hogan-McMahon breakup of the early 90s. Much like most wrestling divorces McMahon and Hogan would make up and agree to work together again (too much money to be made, brother). But I have a feeling that this saga will end differently. In fact, why do I get the feeling that August 25, 2007 may have been the last time we ever see Couture compete in an MMA match again?

Further Enlightenment:
He’s Back- Couture Returns To Face Sylvia at UFC 68 [UFC]
Not Bad For An Old Man”…Couture Wins! [MMA Weekly]
‘Disenchanted’ Couture Resigns From UFC [ESPN]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #6: The Game Changes

As if you already didn’t know, we’re counting down the top 15 combat sports moments of 2007. The entire list can be found here.

#6: The Game Changes
What: HBO Sports introduces 24/7 – a new (and very much improved) way of promoting fights
Where: Home Box Office
When: April 2007

Prior to this year, there had pretty much been a standard way of hyping a big fight: Produce a 30-to-60 minute special highlighting the strengths, the trials and the tribulations of the participants involved and – voila – you’ve got yourself a cookie cutter “Countdown to (enter two fighters names here)” show. But HBO Sports (full disclosure: I used to work for them but left the network almost three years ago) officially blew that formula up and, boy, do they deserve a whole lot of credit for their efforts.

Simply put, HBO Sports’ introduction of De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 may have been the most revolutionary promotional tool to hit the combat sports world since the invention of pay-per-view. No one had EVER rolled out anything like this before. A four-part reality series following both fighters as they prepare for their bout? Tremendous television. And this wasn’t a show shot six months prior to the showdown. Oh no, the content of each episode (save for the main interviews involving the fighters and trainers) was shot in the week leading up to the airing of that particular episode. Revolutionary, indeed. And if anyone is wondering why or how DLH-PBF generated 2.4 million pay-per-view buys (a record), the main reason has to be the impact of 24/7.

HBO followed De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 with Mayweather-Hatton 24/7. While the sequel didn’t generate the same kind of PPV buys as the original (850,000 domestically) here’s hoping more 24/7‘s are green light next year and that the UFC and Spike decide to produce the same kind of shows. However, something tells me that the UFC will never be able to fully duplicate the magic of HBO Sports’ 24/7. There’s a reason why they’re the undisputed king of combat sports and just in case anyone began to doubt their top spot on the totem poll, 24/7 once again cemented it.

Further Enlightenment:
HBO Sports Presents An Exclusive Four-Episode Countdown Series [Pound4Pound]
The Best Damn Sports Show, Period [Slate]
Hatton Joins Mayweather For HBO Sports’ ’24/7′ Sequel [USA Today]

Ending The Year With A Bang(s)

Despite the growing popularity of the sport, I am always pleasantly surprised to see a national newspaper cover MMA. So you can imagine how I felt when I took my seat cageside at HDNet Fights: Reckless Abandon and realized I was sitting next Damon L. Sayles of the Dallas Morning News.

A major paper covering a non-UFC event? This was too good to be true. I’m sure the Mark Cuban association had something to do with it but, whatever, we’ll take what we can get.

So, with one of the most important years in MMA history (in terms of mainstream acceptance) under our belts and one of the biggest weekends of the year (in terms of MMA fights) on the horizon it made sense to invite a writer of Sayles’ stature to give his perspective on the action to come.

Listen below as we discuss UFC 79, the IFL World Grand Prix Finals and Yarennoka! and much more.

If you’re lonely this weekend don’t be – a slew of tremendous fights are upon us.

MMA New Year’s Eve Weekend Preview with Damon L. Sayles

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #7: Terra Rising

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7? from ‘07 and the “8? from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#8: Terra Rising
What: Matt Serra defeats Georges St. Pierre and captures the UFC Welterweight title
Where: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
When: April 7, 2007

Excuse me but this one really hits close to home. You see, I was fortunate enough to witness Georges St. Pierre’s UFC 65 victory over Matt Hughes in a sports bar in my hometown (as well as his) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I kid you not – the roar at that sports bar was akin to anything I heard following a huge Montreal Canadiens victory. Later that night, I dreamed of the UFC making its debut at the Bell Centre with GSP defending his belt in front of his people. But a funny thing happened on the way to La Belle Province…

That’s all I got. Let us never speak of this again.

Further Enlightenment:
UFC 69 Review: Matt Serra Shocks The World [MMA Weekly]
LIer Serra Grabs Title, Shocks UFC [Newsday]
Matt Serra Wins UFC Title, Sportscenter Covers it [AOL Fanhouse]

The Jarry Park Wrestling Awards

Several weeks ago we presented our Jarry Park MMA Awards. Those proved to be such a success we then decided to roll out our Jarry Park Boxing Awards. So, it only made sense to end the year off with our Jarry Park Wrestling Award show. To help hand out the prizes we invited the producer/co-host of Fight Network Radio and Live Audio Wrestling, John Pollock, to do the honors.

For the record our categories are:
* Male wrestler of the year
* Female wrestler of the year
* Tag team of the year
* Feud/storyline of the year
* Match of the year
* Most improved wrestler of the year
* Worst wrestler of the year
* Best PPV of the year
* Promotion of the year
* Best book or DVD of the year
* Feud you would like to see in ‘08

I will forever remember 2007 has one of the most tragic years in professional wrestling. It’s hard to recall the highlights amidst all the negativity but, as you will hear below, John does a great job of looking back at the year that was. Enjoy.

The Jarry Park Wrestling Awards with John Pollock

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #8: Rampage Cameth

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7″ from ‘07 and the “8″ from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#8: Rampage Cometh
What: Quentin “Rampage” Jackson knocks out Chuck Liddell and captures the UFC Light Heavyweight title
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV
When: May 26, 2007

Just a few days before UFC 79, it’s interesting to look back on the night Quentin Jackson knocked out the once-dominant Chuck Liddell for several reasons. Liddell hasn’t won since that fight (he lost another bout to Keith Jardine at UFC 76) but is looking to get back in the win column this Saturday night against Wanderlei Silva. A loss to the Axe Murderer would finally cement the fact that 2007 will forever be known as the year the Iceman melted.

The first time these two Light Heavyweights met was at Pride Final Conflict 2003 in the Tokyo Dome. Rampage dominated Liddell then and did the same in May. While their first bout ended at 3:15 in round 2, Jackson only needed a quick minute and 53 seconds to dispose the UFC’s golden boy. Some (including myself) predicted a Rampage victory but no one really thought it would end that quickly and, most importantly, no one believed the loss would change Liddell’s career forever. Five months later, Liddell enters the cage on Saturday desperately seeking a victory while Rampage gets ready to be a coach on TUF 7 and to officially become the most popular fighter in the world. A year ago the UFC quietly purchased Jackson’s contract from the WFA. Now, with Couture gone, Liddell slipping and Hughes’ impending retirement they look to Rampage to lead the way come 2008. Stay tuned.

Further Enlightenment:
Rampage TKOs Liddell At UFC 71 [Newsday]
Rampage Doesn’t Just Have Liddell’s Number – He Has His Belt [CBS Sports]
Sportsman Of The Year: Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

Tristan Yunker’s Weekend From Hell

yunker.jpgLet us review how rough last weekend was for one Tristan Yunker:

* He does an interview with JarryPark.com and finds out that his opponent at HDNet Fights Reckless Abandon, Pete Spratt, thinks he’s talking smack about him when he claims he never was.

* He fails to make weight for his bout against Spratt.

* They end up fighting anyways and he is forced to quit 1:25 into the fight due to a cut he sustained over his eye. Although, as you will hear in our interview, Yunker claims he never verbally submitted.

* In the post-fight conference he announced that he will be taking off 6-12 months from competing to avoid burn out.

Hopefully, this past weekend treated you a little better, Tristan.

I caught up with Yunker to discuss the events leading up to his fight against Spratt and what the future holds for his still-promising career. Something tells me we’ll be seeing a better Tristan Yunker whenever he decides to resume fighting.

Tristan Yunker – 12/26/07