26 May 2008

UFC 84

UFC 84 easily tops all of the shows in recent memory and that is saying something.
There are two main things any student of the game should take away from the show and those things are as follows. (This blog will only discuss the major fights.)

BJ Penn vs Sean Sherk
Firstly stay out of whatever weight class in which BJ Penn fights. His Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is certainly better than yours, especially in the MMA realm. Also his stand up is better than yours. It was certainly better than Sean Sherk's on the 24th. I picked Penn to win it but I thought he would win it on the ground with the BJJ. I thought this because I thought Sherk would win the take down war and then have to fight to keep Penn off his back until they stood back up or Sherk got choked out. However Sherk had an interesting plan and that was to wear Penn out with the stand up before begining to take BJ down and working his ground and pound. (Sherk tried very early to take Penn down, could not, and ate several punches and a vicious knee to his gut for his troubles.) It wasn't that Sherk's strategy was necessarily bad its just that he wasn't the guy best suited to use it. Penn's stand up is crisp, accurate and destructive. Penn's punches soon had Sherk cut up in at least four places, two bad cuts under the eyes (one of which Penn managed to target over and over again with a stiff right hand). Penn got the better of nearly every punching exchange and with less than twenty seconds to go in the third, ended a very game Sherk's night with a three punch combo followed by a flying knee.

This brings me to my second point that all MMA fighters must note. Throw your jab. Penn wrecked Sherk all because of the jab. It caused Sherk to stand much farther away, thus ending any serious take down attempt. That alone really cost Sherk the entire fight. It is notoriously hard to topple Penn even from the clinch, having to shoot from a mile away gives Penn too much time to stop the take down. From that point Sherk was caught in a stand up fight. (This was part of his plan anyway but as I said it wasn't a plan that fit him very well.) The jab is the tool that many fighters in the UFC seem to completely ignore. You can almost predict when another UFC fighter, Chuck Liddell is going to win by whether or not he respects an opponent enough to utilize his jab. Randy Couture uses it to great effect. The reason it is so important is because whether you are looking to throw more punchs, or crash into the clinch or go straight to a take down, the jab covers your up your bad intentions.
Keep that in mind.

Lyoto Machida vs Tito Ortiz
This went exactly as I predicted. Lyoto's stand up, and elusiveness were just to much for the one dimensional Tito, who could not cut off the ring or trick Lyoto into a stand up war. Tito has one of the best ground and pound games in the business but his ability to get some one down seems to be slipping. The reason for this is probably because it is getting harder and harder to shoot, from a distance, for the single or double leg on today's MMA fighters. Randy Couture and GSP are probably the most successful with wrestling takedowns in MMA and the reason is that they effect takedowns from the clinch, or dirty boxing positions. Anyway Lyoto, who owned the octagon for almost the entire fight, almost lost it in the last 30 seconds when attempting a little ground and pound of his own by falling into what looked like a fight ending triangle choke. But Lyoto trains with Nogueira and managed to slip away from the triangle and pick up another win.

Wanderlie Silva vs Keith "the dean of mean" Jardine.
Okay, I didn't expect for Wand to walk away with the win in this. But I did call the strategy he would need perfectly. Jardine, I told anyone who would listen, was an awkward, jumpy fighter who was hard to read. He has these strange jerking ticks and unorthodox punches. He is a counter puncher's worst nightmare because of this un-orthodoxy. Just ask Chuck Liddell if you don't believe me. So, I said to anyone would listen to me, Wand just has to throw. Don't wait for "the dean of mean" lead, land and do it again.
Just throw.
However Wand gets timid in the octagon and hasn't had much success in the UFC. I was worried he'd fight like nervous Wand and not like the guy who handed Quinton "Rampage" Jackson two of the most violent losses of his career. So I supected that Jardine would take the fight. However....
Wand, did what I wanted him to do, which was throw first and, as it happens, last. Wand was all smiles some thirty-eight seconds after the opening bell, as a prone Jardine was left to wonder what had just happened to his shot at "Rampage" Jackson. Does Jackson want another shot at Wand? Only time will tell.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A movie review

I have to admit, before you get very far into this review that I, generally critical reviewer that I am, turned off, almost completely the critical parts of my brain for this one. For any Jones movie you may want to do this, but for Crystal Skull it is maybe just the tiniest bit more necessary.

With a title like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull you will have realized, or you certainly should have, that you have entered into a kingdom of the kind of pulp fiction that inspired Lucas and Speilberg waaaay back in 1981 when they came up with Raiders of the Lost Ark. This film feels more Lucas and less Speilberg. That is both good and bad. The bad is that Lucas a second rate hack when it comes to actual execution and writing. This leaves us with silly cute elements, as well as the tendency to obsessively put Indiana into world history in a way that would not seem odd to Forrest Gump. I will not spoil what those moments are, one is necessary and not offensive to the brain you have shut off at the door. But the other is if only because it just the tinest bit silly and clearly Lucazian. The good news though is that the film itself is monstrously, uproariously, and necessarily preposterous. Crystal Skull is more Temple of Doom than it is Raiders or Last Crusade, but that isn't a bad thing.

Shia Lebeouf handles himself capably as a Jones sidekick, and get one of the bigger action laughs in the film with something that could only happen in an Indy movie. Harrison Ford is at 65 or so, as capable an action hero as any other actor you can name. His fight and action sequences are all quite good and be on the look out for an excellent double leg take down by Dr. Jones. What is also refreshing is that the Jones action isn't out of step with the other films. That is to say it isn't trying to use wire work, or kung fu moves. Indy is still the same brawler with some Judo moves he has always been. And man I find that refreshing. What also helps to maintain some of the continuity with the first three films is that the special effects seem similar. That is to say that the film tries admirably to be old fashion with a paucity of CGI effects shots. Clearly there are some CGI shots and they are well done. However, Speilberg wisely limited them. Older audience members have a specific Indiana Jones in mind and it is best not to distract from that image too much.

So far Jones is the summer's most pure popcorn movie. If you are of a certain age it will remind of wearing your own fedora, khaki pants, khaki shirt, and, in that time before parents fretted over saftey, your own bullwhip.
Well, that is what it did for me.

17 May 2008

The Amazing Intelligence of Crows

Here is a wonderful talk on one of my favorite birds. It proposes an interesting idea about living in contact with suits of species that thrive in human altered environments. Watch the New Caledonian Crow very, very closely.