MMA Preview: Strikeforce & WEC

This weekend Mixed Martial Arts has two solid shows taking place outside of the UFC label. It begins Saturday on Showtime at 10 p.m. with Strikeforce presenting a strong card of recognizable fighters, a few of which are still considered among the best in the world. On Sunday, the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting) takes center state with WEC 41: Brown vs. Faber 2, which is highlighted by the Featherweight championship (145 lbs) rematch of champion Mike Thomas Brown against former champion Urijah Faber. That show will air on Versus at 9 p.m.

Here is a quick breakdown of the feature fights and my predictions for both shows:

Strikeforce at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.

– Kevin Randleman (17-12) vs. Mike Whitehead (23-6) Light-Heavyweight (205lbs): Kevin Randleman was a giant in the MMA world in the late 90’s and in the beginning of the 2000’s, but now Randleman is finding himself in the same position as many of the giants in those days like Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie, where the sport has passed him bye. Loser of five of his last seven fights, Randleman needs a win over UFC veteran Mike Whitehead, who has won 13 of his last 14 and has looked good since his move down to light-heavyweight (205 lbs). I like Whitehead by decision or TKO from ground-and-pound on a tired Randleman.

– Joe Riggs (29-10) vs. Phil Baroni (13-10) Middleweight (185lbs): Phil Baroni and Joe Riggs are classic examples of two fighters that had worlds of potential and never tapped into it. Both men have tremendous power, but both are notorious for their lack of endurance as fights move on. Baroni tries to throw all his power in each punch which limits him later on and Riggs has a suspect chin that has caused quick knockout losses. If Baroni has truly improved his training, I see him winning this one as Riggs is the mentally weaker fighter. I take Baroni by TKO late in round one.

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Mine That Bird a 5/6 favorite to win Belmont Stakes

The 141st running of the Belmont Stakes takes place this Saturday and odds makers have made contender Mine That Bird a 5/6 favorite to win the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Mine That Bird was a 50/1 long shot to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby, but thanks in part to sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs, he shocked the horse racing world by placing first. He also finished second behind favorite Rachel Alexandra at the Preakness, proving that his victory in the Kentucky Derby was no fluke.

According to, Dunkirk has the next best odds to win at Belmont Park this weekend, at 9/2. Following Mine That Bird and Dunkirk, Charitable Man (7/2), Chocolate Candy (13/1) and Flying Private (16/1) round out the rest of the odds for the Belmont.

One of the more intriguing storylines heading into the Belmont is jockey Calvin Borel’s quest to win his own version of the Triple Crown. Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory at the Kentucky Derby and then hopped horses to Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness, and won that race, too.

But with Rachel Alexandra’s owners holding the 3-year old filly out of the Belmont, Borel will once again hitch a ride with Mine That Bird in hopes to claim victory at each of three Triple Crown races of 2009.

Mine That Bird will run out of the seventh post position on Saturday.

Rangers coach suspended for Game 6 today

New York Rangers forward Sean Avery was benched for Game 5 because of his lack of discipline play in Game 4…and now the Rangers will play today’s potential series closeout Game 6 without head coach John Tortorella behind the bench due to his lack of discipline on Friday night.

The NHL imposed a one-game suspension on the Rangers head coach for his tantrum during a confrontation with a fan behind the team’s bench. His actions included Tortorella firing a water bottle into the stands that hit an innocent bystander and grabbing the hockey stick of Rangers forward Aaron Voros to use as a sword.

In the league’s statement about the suspension:

“We do not take this action lightly,” said league disciplinarian Colin Campbell. “It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers’ bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center. That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage. While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot — and will not — tolerate any physical contact with fans,” added Campbell.

Assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld will direct the team in Tortorella’s absence. He is the only other head coach in league history to have been suspended in the playoffs. As the coach of the New Jersey Devils, Schoenfeld sat out Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals as a result of his famous “Have another doughnut” comment to referee Don Koharski following a Game 3 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Tiger Woods plays in Masters. Angel Cabrera wins Masters.

It’s official. I don’t have to write an article about Tiger Woods. Oh wait, what have I done? My apologies Mr. Cabrera, now that Tiger’s back, it’s impossible to keep him out of a golf conversation.

But let’s not take away from Cabrera’s accomplishment, after all, he played better than Tiger and of course better than everyone else on the course. His green jacket is also an important first as posted on

Cabrera, who won the U.S. Open at Oakmont two years ago, finally earned a green jacket for Argentina.

“This is a great moment, the dream of any golfer to win the Masters,” Cabrera said through an interpreter during the green jacket ceremony. “I’m so emotional I can barely talk.”

Sweet. Awesome. I can really get behind a player like that, bringing home a major award, and being the first from his country to do so. But, I’m still reading all about how Tiger also played, and how Tiger also might have won.

Is it wrong that I’m so happy that Tiger didn’t win? When I was living in South Korea I heard that certain pop stars there had something called, “anti-fans.” These were people who were obsessed with certain celebrities just because they didn’t like them. I wonder if I’ve become something of an anti-fan for anybody at the top for too long. I admit to getting much more interested in tennis after Sampras started losing, and again after Federer lost the number one spot.

I suppose it’s only natural that we have a certain amount of enmity towards people dominating their respective fields. I think my particular problem though, is when a sport becomes more-or-less a one man show. It’s hard to care when there’s no competition in the competitions I’m watching. Growing up a Bulls fan was great until their final season with Jordan. It seemed they couldn’t lose, and they hardly ever did. I barely paid any attention at all.

But it’s not any athlete’s fault if they’re too good, if anything it should motivate others to work harder to improve themselves. Should we make Michael Phelps swim an extra lap just to make it more interesting? We can’t handi-cap people for being too good, but I wonder if we can’t focus on them slightly less than we do. Maybe the reason I’m tired of Tiger Woods is because I’m constantly hearing about him. How often was Michael Phelps shoved in front of me last summer?

There’s only so much anyone can take of the same thing. Perhaps we should focus more on what happened and what’s important, and less on the A-list also-rans. I can understand that it’s necessary to grab people’s attention, and using a big name to get that attention is an easy way to chalk up hits on a web page. But there’s got to be a better way. Of course, this article was supposed to be about Angel Cabrera wasn’t it? Not Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods. I’ll try harder (Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan) next time.

Athlete Profile: Brian Orakpo


I remember back in high school when I discovered Final Fantasy 7 and my life changed forever. 10 years later I’m better than all my friends at riding chocobos and using potions. Hooray. I suppose we could compare my gargantuan accomplishment with Brian Orakpo’s if I try really hard. Seems Orakpo started as a mere basketball star, and by the time he matriculated, had discovered he was in fact one of the best defensive football players in the country. Big whoop.

Facetiousness aside, it takes a hell of a lot of work to reach the level that Orakpo has, especially in so short a time. According to Orakpo’s high school teammate Drew Kelson in an article on Inside

“Freshman football was merely about playing in front of all your classmates right on the campus football field. Simply having a uniform and getting a chance to play was cool.”

That is not the kind of atmosphere I have been led to expect from Texas high school football. Shame on you Friday Night Lights. No, I take it back; I can’t stay mad at you.

So Orakpo spent his first couple of seasons at Lamar High School in Houston impressing the ladies and looking good. Not too shabby. But there came a time for the young Orakpo when he realized that he could actually make something out of this football thing, perhaps a big something. By the time high school was over, Orakpo had been recognized throughout the country as a defensive prospect and had been recruited to play for the University of Texas.

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