JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #9: Back From The Dead

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.

#9: Back From The Dead
What: The sport of boxing enjoys one of its best years ever
Where: Squared circles across the world
When: The year 2007

One of the most hysterical subplots of ’07 was how every non-boxing sports writer under the sun had declared the sweet science officially dead. I suppose most of these folks don’t care to do research because if they did they would realize that the sport’s PPV numbers and HBO ratings were as strong as ever. I guess it just made for a good story or something. Consider this short list of tremendous fights 2007 gave us:

* Mayweather-De La Hoya
* Cotto-Judah
* Calzaghe-Kessler
* Pavlik-Taylor
* Vazquez-Marquez I and II
* Pavlik-Miranda
* Mayweather-Hatton
* Mosley-Cotto

And the best part? 2008 is shaping up to be potentially better. So keep talking about how boxing is dead. I’ll gladly take another dead year all over again.

Further Enlightenment:
Plenty Of Good Candidates For Fight Of The Year [Yahoo! Sports]
2007 Ends With Hope For The Future [HBO]
The Sports Guy Now Does Not Think Boxing Is Dead [No Mas]

Park Prognostication: UFC 79

In our last installment of Park Prognostication, I defeated Andrei Arlovski’s model girlfriend Patrycja Mikula with a score of 8-1 to 3-6 when predicting the winners of The Ultimate Fighter Finale. So, I’ve decided to take things up a notch and challenge Between Rounds girl and UFC lover, Kayla Cypher, to a prognostication duel. It’s kind of like how Andy Kaufman went around the country challenging women to wrestling matches.

Below are our respective picks for UFC 79. Feel free to join in with your own picks in the comments section. Click here for the official card.

Kayla’s Picks:
GSP
Silva
Sokoudjou
Guillard
Sanchez
Cane
Gamburyan
Radev
Desouza
Bocek

JarryPark’s Picks:
GSP
Silva
Sokoudjou
Guillard
Palelei
Irvin
Gamburyan
Lister
Carneiro
Evans

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #10: UFC Goes Mainstream (For A Week)

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.

#10: UFC Goes Mainstream (For A Week)
What: UFC lands on the covers of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated on the same week. ESPN also covers UFC 71 as a major sporting event.
Where: ESPN and Sports Illustrated
When: May 2007

Am I the only one who feels that the week leading up to UFC 71 now was all just a dream? Did the UFC actually land on the cover of SI and ESPN The Magazine on the same week? Were they really the lead-in story on the 6 p.m. Sportscenter the Friday before Memorial Day? Was that really Joe Rogan debating Lou Dibella? And, if so, where has all that coverage gone?

I remember witnessing all this mainstream press and thinking “wow, MMA is going to start getting covered everywhere: Box scores, highlights, magazines etc.” Then I realized that my first mistake was thinking that MMA was the popular term of the day when it was actually UFC. Most casual sports I know have no idea what MMA is or means but can definitely tell you about the UFC. My next mistake was thinking the UFC was really going to receive a consistent stream of media coverage. It has certainly increased since this time last year but, sadly, that week in May has since proved to be the exception more so than the rule.

Further enlightenment:
Chuck Liddell Graces ESPN Magazine Cover [AOL Fanhouse]
The New Main Event [Sports Illustrated]
Sports Illustrated on MMA [Prophet Fighting]

The New Face Of Professional Wrestling

Most wrestling fans will look at the title of this post and think this will be about TNA. Sorry to disappoint but as much as we love some of the personalities in TNA wrestling we would never think of bestowing them with such a compliment. ‘WWE light’ seems more a propos.

The real new face of professional wrestling is based in Pennsylvania not Tennessee. They wrestle in a traditional ring not a six-sided one. And, most importantly, they don’t make any of their wrestlers wear reindeer or turkey costumes if they lose a match. Ladies and gentlemen meet the best kept secret in combat sports: Ring of Honor.

The Park has been accused of covering ROH more than any other pro wrestling company out there. This is true for two main reasons:

1. They are the only company that has not banned us from talking to their athletes. True story.

2. We truly believe that while there may not be a crossover between fans of boxing/MMA and WWE/TNA, our entire audience will really love the ROH product.

To help officially introduce everyone to Ring Of Honor we invited Pulse Wrestling‘s ROH savant, Aaron Glazer, to give us a history lesson on the promotion and to discuss what the future holds for it. Take a listen below.


Aaron Glazer – 12/25/07

(Can’t listen to the interview right now? Download this one and all of our great interviews by clicking on the iTunes or Odeo link at the top right of the page.)

Jake O’Brien’s Year To Remember And Forget

Almost one year ago, UFC Heavyweight fighter, Jake O’Brien, was on top of the MMA world. He had just defeated veteran Heath Herring in Herring’s UFC debut at Ultimate Fight Night 8 on Spike TV. Most, if not all, believed Herring would make quick work of the Indianapolis native but O’Brien’s wrestling skills proved to be too much for the former Pride FC star. While the victory would never make anyone’s highlight reel it was, in fact, a victory.

Then came rumors that the 10-0 O’Brien would fight Brandon Vera next. UFC officials believed that Vera – once a fighter billed as the future of the UFC’s Heavyweight division – was going to leave the company after he fulfilled the last fight on his contract. They believed O’Brien could further cement his status as one of the rising stars of the division by defeating him but, for whatever reason, that fight fell through. Instead, O’Brien was set to face Tom Murphy at UFC 72.

However, that fight never materialized either. A week before the bout in Ireland, O’Brien suffered a painful nerve injury known as “stingers” that originates in the spine. While the former wrestler had experienced this kind injury earlier in his career the pain was now unbearable. In July, he was forced to undergo possible career-ending surgery when doctors inserted a titanium rod in his neck and cadaver discs in his spine.

Miraculously, five months later the 22-year-old is back to training full-time and hoping to return in February or March 2008.

For more on this incredible story check out my interview with O’Brien. We discuss the origins of his injury, his road to recovery and his plans for the future.


Jake O’Brien – 12/24/07

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #11: Cro Cropped

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.

#11: Cro Cropped
What: Gabriel Gonzaga stuns the MMA world by almost knocking Mirko Cro Cop’s head off
Where: Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England
When: April 21, 2007

To fully appreciate the shocking sight of little-known Gabriel Gonzaga knocking out Mirko Cro Cop one must fully understand the kind of vicious fighter Cro Cop was in Pride FC. At one point in time, the former Croatian law enforcement officer was the most feared fighter in the world. Something about his stone cold demeanor and his deadly head kick KOs (ironically, the same maneuver Gonzaga used to finish him off) made some of the baddest men on the planet quiver in their shorts when he stepped in the ring. For whatever reason, that aura failed to travel with him across the globe when he signed with the UFC earlier this year. His Octagon debut was an unimpressive victory over Eddie Sanchez – a fighter most pundits believed Cro Cop would defeat in less than a minute.

Then came the bout against Gonzaga. From the moment both men entered the cage you had the sense something weird was about to happen. Cro Cop didn’t have that same killer look in his eye and Gonzaga, well, he looked unimpressed. At 4:51 of the first round MMA fans witnessed the official end of the Mirko Cro Cop era. Most would never had imagined it would go down like this. Not against Gonzaga. Not this soon. Not with a head kick. The shot heard ’round Croatia, indeed.

Further enlightenment:
Gonzaga Knocks Out Cro Cop In First Round At UFC 70 [CBS Sport]
‘Napao’ Stuns Cro Cop, Earns Shot At Couture [UFC]
Cro Cop And The “R” Word [Houston Chronicle]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #12: Here Comes The Pain

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.

#12: Here Comes the Pain
What: Former WWE champion Brock Lesnar makes his MMA debut
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA
When: June 2, 2007

What a sight it was for pro wrestling fans to finally see the man once dubbed as “The Next Big Thing” in World Wrestling Entertainment make his MMA debut. Sure, he fought on the K1 Hero’s Dynamite!! USA show which will go down as one of the most flawed MMA cards in history. Sure, his opponent, Min Soo Kim, took the fight on one week’s notice and showed no real interest in putting up a fight against the former NCAA champion. But, regardless, on June 2, 2007, Lesnar officially became the first major North American wrestling star to make the transition into MMA (Ken Shamrock went from MMA to wrestling then back to MMA) and has since been signed by the UFC.

Lesnar will make his Octagon debut against former UFC Heavyweight champion, Frank Mir, at UFC 81 on 2/2/08. A curious matchup simply because Mir is an accomplished MMA fighter and Lesnar, well, not-so-much. That said, I think it’s brilliant match-making on the part of the UFC. If Lesnar wins, well then, he just beat a former UFC champ. And if he loses the promotion can always say there is no shame in losing to a former title-holder. Heaven forbid he would lose to a no-name fighter. Then the UFC’s million dollar gamble would prove to be a million dollar bust. One thing’s for sure: We can expect his match against Mir to last longer than the minute and nine seconds it took for him to dismantle Kim. But we have several weeks to dissect Lesnar vs. Mir. For now, let us remember 2007 as the year “The Next Big Thing” arrived in “The Next Big Sport.”

Further Enlightenment:
The MMA Education Of Brock Lesnar [Sherdog]
The Big Debut [Yahoo! Sport]
The Day After: Brock Lesnar’s MMA Debut [411 Mania]

Seeing Is Believing

(The following post was written by yours truly for the great No Mas Online. It’s good to be back with my old friends over there and I thank Large for the opportunity to share my thoughts with his readership. For Large’s views on this story click here.)

“UFC’s champions can’t handle boxing. That’s why they are in UFC. Put one of our guys in UFC and he’d be the champion. Any good fighter, he’d straight knock them out…Take Chuck Liddell, put him in the ring with a (boxer) who is just 10-0 and Chuck Liddell would get punished.”

-Floyd Mayweather Jr.
April 2007

To those who follow mixed martial arts, Floyd Mayweather’s latest flirtation with the sport is actually old news. Think back to the weeks leading up to De La Hoya-Mayweather. At this point, the boxing vs. MMA debate was the talk of the combat sports world and naturally Money May felt compelled to dress down MMA (while Mayweather mentions the “UFC” in his quote I have to think that he was talking about the sport in general. Contrary to what the UFC says, there are, in fact, other viable MMA organizations out there).

In light of his comments, UFC president Dana White reportedly offered up then-UFC Lightweight Champion (155 lbs), Sean Sherk, to face Mayweather and settle the debate once and for all. I mean, that’s why MMA was created in the first place, right? To see which form of combat sports would reign supreme in a given match or tournament. However, for one reason or another, any talk of an MMA vs. Boxing mega-fight quickly died down following Mayweather-DLH (and, no, Kimbo Slice vs. Ray Mercer doesn’t count).

Now comes news that Mark Cuban is trying to lure Mayweather to compete for his new MMA promotion – HDNet Fights. ESPN and every other sports news outlet under the sun is buzzing over this rumor but let it be known that it was in an interview with JarryPark.com that Cuban first mentioned his intentions of signing Mayweather to an MMA fight.

Truth be told, I have some mixed feelings about all this. I honestly don’t believe that we will ever see Mayweather fight an MMA match anytime soon. Maybe in five years when all his mega boxing fights have been accounted for but, right now, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The biggest issue with these discussions is that both sports are actually really different. Just because an athlete runs in a football match and a basketball game doesn’t make the sports similar. But I suppose that’s a different argument for a different day.

Let’s forget about my cynical ways for one second. Let’s just say he really is interested in settling this debate once and for all. In order for this fight to be presented properly there are several hurdles to conquer: First off, he will probably have to go up against a featherweight MMA fighter (145 lbs). While White offered Sherk as a potential opponent, I can’t see Mayweather fighting at 155 lbs nor could I see Sherk or any other MMA lightweight fighter move down to 145 or 147. Right now, the top 145-pounder in the world is the current World Extreme Cagefighting champion, Urijah Faber. He may also be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world too. The problem with Faber is that his contract is owned by Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC). Cuban has 30 million dollars to spend on a guy like Mayweather. Zuffa doesn’t and it would never lend out one of its fighters to another promotion. Witness the fact that they would rather let Randy Couture sit on the sidelines than co-promote a bout between him and the universally recognized top heavyweight fighter in the world – M-1 Global’s Fedor Emelianenko.

The next problem is that the WEC is home to most of the top featherweight fighters in North America (Jens Pulver and Jeff Curran come to mind) so if Mayweather really wants to prove himself against the best, well, he is barking up the wrong tree by dealing with Cuban.

That said, they don’t call him Money May for nothing. If Cuban is really interested in signing him for 30 million dollars he could challenge a top Japanese fighter like Akitoshi Tamura or Takeshi Inoue. It would be like Inoki-Ali all over again! On second thought, maybe we would rather not see that again.

Anyhow, for the sake of this discussion, let’s just say Mayweather and Faber end up fighting each other. For Mayweather’s debut to truly mean something to MMA fans Faber needs to be the one representing the sport. The California Kid is almost as cocky as Pretty Boy Floyd (almost), holds an impressive record of 20-1 and is currently enjoying a 12-fight winning streak.

But here comes Mayweather’s next hurdle: Faber is a former Division 1 college wrestler, the all-time wins leader for UC Davis (how’s that for a coincidence Mr. Large?) and a two-time NCAA D-1 qualifier. Simply put, the man can wrestle. Mayweather, on the other hand, can’t.

So, the fight begins. Mayweather is dancing around feeling his opponent out and looking to work in his jab and then…BAM! Faber shoots on him and takes him to the ground. Unchartered territory for the boxing champ, indeed. MMA purists love to point out that you can always teach a wrestler how to box but it’s a lot tougher to teach a boxer how to wrestle. They just aren’t used to it. Furthermore, a former wrestling champion like Brock Lesnar will probably make a smooth transition into MMA (his UFC debut is on 2/2/08, by the way) because his wrestling skills will lead to a better understanding of jiu jitsu which is the foundation of MMA. You see, Faber’s wrestling skills will only take him so far in an MMA match. Once he is on the ground he then goes into jiu jitsu mode. He can look for the ground-and-pound or a whole host of different submissions. How in the world is Mayweather going to defend this? Does he know how to fight off his back? Does he know how fight off an arm-bar submission or a rear-naked choke? Of course not, although he could certainly learn.

And that’s where the next and final hurdle comes in. For Mayweather to successfully compete in MMA he needs to learn at least two (maybe three) fighting disciplines. Learn them. From scratch. We’ll give him a pass on kickboxing but there is no way he can enjoy the kind of success he is used to in an MMA cage without mastering the art of wrestling and jiu jitsu. Faber has been at this for several years now. He’s also been honing his boxing skills since making the transition from wrestling to MMA. This could be one of his easier fights ever.

Mayweather has been actively competing in professional boxing for over eleven years. As witnessed in 24/7, his body has experienced its fair share of bumps and bruises. Is he even able (or willing) to learn two new fighting disciplines at this stage of his career? That remains to be seen.

Floyd, you won’t be fooling anyone by taking a fight against another boxer turned MMA fighter where they never go to the ground once yet are competing inside a cage. That’s not MMA. If you really wants to excel in your new-found “interest” go away for 18 months – at least. Learn jiu jitsu, learn how to wrestle and while your at it learn how to throw some kicks. Then we can talk. Until then, shut up and fight Miguel Cotto already.

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #13: Mark Cuban Joins The Party

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.

#14: Mark Cuban Joins The Party
What: Mark Cuban’s HDNet starts covering and broadcasting whole lot of MMA
When: September 2007
Where: Dallas, TX

I know HDNet Fights has been getting a lot of coverage around these parts lately but it’s with good reason. When it comes to MMA in 2008, we honestly feel as though Cuban’s presence in the sport will be the story to watch. With two shows under their belt, I think they are doing everything right and for anyone who thinks that Cuban alone can not make a promotion successful just look at what he did with the Dallas Mavericks. Before he bought the franchise they were universally regarded as one of the biggest laughing stocks in sports. Now, they are a perennial favorite to win the NBA title every single year.

He currently has the combat sports world buzzing over the news that he is trying to lure Floyd Mayweather to MMA (NOTE: Cuban first told us about this earlier in the week but I guess some people out there chose to ignore it). The best part about Cuban is that he doesn’t come from the world of combat sports. He comes from the media/business world and it’s skills in those departments that many promoters lack nowadays. In addition to starting his own promotion, Cuban’s network, HDNet, broadcasts the only hour-long weekly MMA news show in North America and is showing more live MMA events this month than any network this side of the globe has every done before.

Further Enlightenment:
Cuban Sees Bright Future For MMA [ESPN]
Cuban’s Slow Brew [Yahoo!]
Mark Cuban Looks To The Future [JarryPark]

Jamie Varner Really Likes His Chances Against Razor Rob

It’s official! Jamie Varner (right) will challenge “Razor” Rob McCullough for the WEC Lightweight title at the promotion’s next event February 13, 2008. The 23-year-old fighter told The Park he signed his contract for the bout yesterday.

We certainly found it a little weird that the WEC organization didn’t mention who McCullough would be defending his title against at their last show but I guess we now know why.

Nevertheless, Varner (13-2-0, 2 NC) says he has been training for his shot at the title since September and feels his wrestling skills will pose a big problem for McCullough – a five-time Muay Thai champion.

This contest will be Varner’s second for the WEC after fighting twice in the UFC. And while he appears to be extremely happy with his move to World Extreme Cagefighting he still has very serious plans to someday capture the UFC Lightweight belt.

I caught up with Varner to talk about his huge match against Razor Rob, how he ended up in the WEC and where he ranks himself among the top 155-pound fighters in the world.


Jamie Varner – 12/21/07

(Can’t listen to the interview right now? Download this one and all of our great interviews by clicking on the iTunes or Odeo link at the top right of the page.)