Saturday, October 31, 2009

By MMA analyst Joseph Lupoli

MMA isn’t boxing.

But American MMA matches, particularly the UFC, seem to be heading in a boxing-like direction. Why is that? Has anyone noticed that a higher percentage of MMA fights have been less than exciting, especially lately?

I believe that multiple rounds encourage the stand-up game. Of course, the grease, the sweat, and the gloves also discourage many fighters from pulling guard or shooting in—and possibly squandering valuable energy by going for submissions, only to get tangled up.

A lot of MMA fighters prefer to take their chances bouncing around the cage striking. They know the bell will ring... and when. They can take a breather and drink some water, so what’s the rush? They might as well feel each other out and see if they can exploit something from each other.

Besides, most casual MMA fans prefer to watch a striking match anyway. It resembles what they feel comfortable with, boxing or kick boxing. And because boxers are greatly restricted as to what they can do, rounds are required.

In boxing fighters can only punch pre-determined target zones. They must use a specific portion of the glove to punch—and the ridge hand and back fist are prohibited.

MMA has no such restrictions, and yet they still have rounds. (I know…it’s the States Athletic Commissions). Then, to add insult to injury, the UFC, among other MMA organizations are forced to use boxing judges! Ask fighters like Matt Hamil and Shogun Rua how the boxing judges worked for them.

Also, just like in boxing, the corner men of MMA fighters start pounding on the canvas ten or so seconds before each round ends—they want their fighters to pour it on so that the judges will have that last impression in their minds when they score the round.

Most MMA non-title fights are 3 rounds of five minutes per round. Many fighters adjust their game plans according to the rounds. And so do the male fans in the arena. Those round girls have more jiggle than hospital jello—except for their breasts. Silicone tends to keep things overly firm.

Okay, my mind wandered for a second. That’s enough about the laws of physics for the time being.

The question is: Are MMA rounds really necessary? Yes—according to the vast majority.

They want the fighters refreshed between rounds in order to regain that essential energy to go back out slugging. And so long as those fighters can jump back into the fray reasonably energized, the fans are happy.

But, I believe, depending on how any given MMA match unfolds, those round breaks can actually increase the chance of serious injury to a fighter—or worse.

Suppose a couple of fighters who are known as heavy hitters (and there are plenty), turn their MMA match into a stand-up slug-fest. Picture their four-ounce gloves repeatedly crashing upon each others noggins. The bell rings to end round 1 and their corners ice their fighters up and close the cuts.

They drink some water and the bell rings again. The fighters bound off of their stools, and they land punches at nearly equal speed and force as in the previous round. With all that punching, they soon tire. So they eat up the clock by clinching until the bell rings to end the round.

Then the same drill again. The fighters rest. They get corner advice while being cooled off. The third and final round starts and both fighters are exhausted. But they are still looking to end it. Maybe they do, or maybe it goes to the judges.

Ten minutes after the match, one of the fighters is feels little nauseous as he sits in the dressing room. That was a lot of head trauma for three rounds of fighting. The fighter recovers, but a month later, he's at it again in some other arena. After a while, things can become risky, medically speaking.

And that leads me to wonder what direction this example fight would have taken if the match had just one 15-minute round (and one 20-minute round for championship fights). My guess is that the fight would have ended between the five to ten minute mark.

Why? Because a one-round, 15-minute MMA fight now becomes a battle of attrition in a purer sense—a contest of cardio, of will, of heart. No rest for the weary. This is Mixed Martial Arts—less boxing like.

And when the fighters’ limbs get heavy from striking, they might be more inclined to think take-down. And when MMA fighters go to the ground, they generally take a short breather before they begin jockeying for side mount; half mount, or full mount.

Then, whoever has more talent, or whoever wants it more will either end the fight via ground strikes, or by submission—there's much less chance of the match going to the judges.

In all likelihood the matches would be faster paced because the fighters know there is no break to rehydrate and regroup until the final bell (unless a cut warrants a doctor’s examination). It seems logical that most fighters will do anything not to hear that bell.

And that’s all the incentive MMA fighters would need to get the job done as quickly as possible. They'll take more risks. No more endless clinching or lying on the ground doing next to nothing. The referee will be instructed to quickly restart the fight.

Result? Fast paced, shorter, more exciting fights, more fights per card, and improved fighter safety—and all because of the single 15-minute round.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Movie review by Joseph Lupoli

Hello, film buffs. Welcome to my first installment of Fri
day Night at the Movies!

Okay, so my own wife accuses me of being a "film snob."

Maybe it's not an endearing term, but she's probably right. I'm always looking for realistic and thought provoking international films, including American. My DVD home library is loaded with some of the best movies ever made. Mrs. Lupoli prefers fluffy American "Dramedy" chick flicks and movies made from those Jane Austen English classics.

And Joseph? Well, for a "manly man", as my wife describes me, my film genre preference doesn't include the usual testosterone laden, force-fed formula action flicks. I go for 'minimalist drama', a term often used by film insiders. The fewer characters, the better... and I want gut wrenching subject matter and plenty of dialogue. For whatever reason, Hollywood has never been a hotbed for that sort of film making, although a few gems did manage to worm their way through the Tinseltown cracks.

For the most part, regions such as The Far East and Europe have been cranking out top quality cinema since the 'silent era.'

Tonight's film feature is: Krzysztof Kielowski's, The Decalogue 1987-1989. Actually, it's not a move... it's a ten-part series from Poland. The Decalogue is loosely based on each the Ten Commandments. Each episode is titled after a Commandment and they all tackle Commandment related issues. The individual films are about 55 minutes in length.

Stark realism and very heavy subject matter is rule here. The stories revolve around the intertwining lives of people who live in or near a bleak apartment high rise complex in a Polish industrial city. Every episode delves deeply into the consequences of moral choices stemming from life problems involving relationships, per chance encounters, and the dynamics of various family units. Mainstream dilemmas such as infidelity, child custody, guilt, deaths of loved one's due to accidents, financial disputes, and even murder are carefully examined from from several points of view. you will notice that many of the lead characters in any particular series episode may be mere passerby's in other Decalogue films.

The Decalogue is an internationally critically acclaimed film series the world over. It's a must-see for anyone who likes pure and cerebral drama with great writing, and understated yet powerful acting, sans unnecessary special effects, gratuitous violence, or over-the-top soundtrack scores... and, of course, for those who don't mind subtitles.
Netflix this gem at once!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By MMA analyst Joseph Lupoli

It’s the future of MMA.

While it may not save the likes of Ken Shamrock, I think a 40-and-up MMA league is long overdue. Aging fighters should be rewarded, not neglected or tossed out like yesterday’s newspaper. Remember: Somebody’s bruised; over-ripe bananas are somebody else’s tasty banana bread. Wouldn’t you like to see Bas Rutten vs. Don Frye go at it? It can be billed as: “Age in the Cage.” Well, here at the Fixodent Fighting Championships, you can have your Cream of Wheat and eat it too!

For starters, the heavyweight division is stacked with crotchety, arthritic warriors. Some were light heavyweights in their prime, but these days they need ‘relaxed-fit’ jeans. Besides Bas and Don, we’ve got, Dan “The Least” Severn (who is, at 52, already reaping AARP benefits); there’s Mark “The Hammered” Coleman, Randy “Captain Crunch” Couture (especially if he can’t get by “Block” Lesnar); we have David “Tanked” Abbot, and Maurice “I Beat Abbot” Smith.

But wait! Why even bother with weight-classes? These grandpas are already in a separate age class. Hell, since they’ll soon be too old to train, let’s just call it “The Overweight Division.” Toss them all in … even the guys who are not yet age-40, but almost.

How about inviting Royce, Carlson, and Rorion “Graceless”, Kimo “Slice” Leopoldo, Shonie “Mr. International House of Pancakes ” Carter, Gary “Big Granddaddy” Goodrich, Jeremy “Ear” Horn, “Toto” Ortiz, “Cry” Metzger, Wallid “Ugly As Sin” Ishmail, John “Big Bust” Dixon, and Chuck “Canvasback” Liddell.

Of course, we need a referee who’s old enough to identify with the fighters, but young enough to remember their names. So, who better than the former LA cop and UFC veteran, Big "Job" McCarthy”? He wasn’t really ready for retirement anyway. And to insure fighter safety, four fight doctors, including a heart surgeon, a geriatric nurse, and an Alzheimer’s specialist should be in the ring during all fights.

Picture this: Instead of having the fighters aggravating their gout and bursitis by walking to the cage or ring all the way from the locker-room, they should drive themselves there in MMA approved Power Scooters. And for Heaven’s sake, replace those hard ring-stools with Lazy-boy recliners. Also, oxygen tanks should be fastened to the outside of each ring-post or cage-post. I mean, what if some poor sap has a seizure while in the clinch? Have him suck on some oxygen, then resume the action.

Also, it might be a good idea to hold FFC events close to a hospital and an “Independent Living Retirement Community.” There, fighters can train in water aerobics and shuffle-board to keep their minds and bodies sharp in between fights.

Now for the fight structure: Three 5-minute rounds with a one hour break in between rounds. And to keep the fans entertained during the breaks, Jackie Mason and Jerry Stiller can provide some MMA related stand-up (or sit-down) routines. Maybe Wayne Newton and Tony Bennett can woo the ladies with a few numbers.

Just think of the promotional possibilities here! I’ll bet there’s Probate Attorneys who are dying to buy space on the fighter’s trunks. That would practically finance the entire venue. Instead of MMA gear logos and energy drinks names plastered on the ring/cage canvas, the ring posts, and on the fighter’s trunks, replace those with geriatric products. Nobody wants to talk about ‘Depends’ and ‘Preparation H’, and Metamucil, and that’s exactly why those companies will pay big bucks for advertising space.

And last but certainly not least, especially in this case, save a spot on the canvas for Guardian Health and Life Insurance.

With this kind of a set-up, Randy Couture could become the Jack LaLanne of MMA!

It was a good one... nice turnout too. I had a great time.

Most of the developmentally disabled "kids" who attended these dances reside in group homes. And the majority of group homes suck. The managers offer low pay to mostly unmotivated, under qualified personnel. I mean, who else would want the job?

So, I feel bad that the residents can't receive the quality of life that they deserve. Often times the parents, in all fairness would have to give up their entire lifestyle to take care of their special needs child. And many parents, due to advanced age, or other life circumstances, have no choice but send them to group homes.

It's the one sad fact about being in this field. But fortunately, the developmentally disabled who are under my direct care do have parents who's child lives at home with them. They are able deal with the daily strain of attending to their children and their many needs.

I don't even know what my job title is: 'support worker', maybe? And I wear a lot of different hats. Besides my year-round counselor/sports coach job at a therapeutic recreation facility, I attend dances and other special events.

Can I see myself ever giving this up for a different, more financially lucrative career? Hell no!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here's the thing... I never went to a high school dance. One reason for that was, I was expelled from school for good at age-16 for repeatedly defending myself against bullies. Hell of a reason, huh? In all fairness though, I never did homework or classwork either. Why? Because I hated school.

To me, school was a day prison; to be attended only because it's against the law not to. And the cops will pick you up for got going. School was not a place where I'd want to stay late in order to play for their varsity sports teams or to learn social skills by attending proms and whatnot.

So, how ironic is it that I, at age 52, can't wait to attend tonight's Halloween dance? This is no high school dance... it's way better. It's the annual Elks Club sponsored Halloween dance for adults with developmental disabilities. And I am a full time counselor/sports coach/mentor for special needs children and adults.

I've been in this field for five-years now and dances are held twice a month my area. I don't attend these things just to sit around and watch the collect collect a paycheck and go home. Nooooo! I go there to dance my ass off right along with them! And the grand daddy of all dances is right around the corner. It's the annual big semi-formal dance coming up in November. And I can't wait! Whodah' thunk?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

By MMA analyst Joseph Lupoli

Sometimes, you look at a product and you just shake your head.

You think back to when the product was first made available. It was almost perfect, but it wasn’t legal. Through time and hard work the product was greatly altered so that it could be legalized. And now it is a best seller.

Yet, somewhere during the process of modification, the product became substandard—its flaws stuck out like a sore thumb.

You still like the product and you have fashioned ideas on how to eliminate its shortcomings, but the majority of people simply wouldn’t think of altering the product. They see the same flaws you see, but they’re satisfied with the status quo because it’s legal—it’s easily attainable.

What’s the product, you ask? It is the UFC and its very substandard scoring system.

Recently, one of Bleacher Report’s top writers, Jad Semaan, penned a pair of brilliant articles titled, New Rules, Part One: Methods to Improve the Judging System in MMA and, Methods to Improve MMA Judging, Part Two

Now, I would like to offer my take on this central issue.

As fans, we know that any MMA organization which employs judges to score fights, controversial decisions will happen. So why did I select the UFC? It’s simple.

Unlike many MMA organizations, UFC contracted fighters are not generally given a lot of leeway. It is not acceptable for a fighter lose a couple of key fights at key times, especially if a lot of money (and hype) was invested in him.

If he fails once too often, he may be fired. And who really wants to see a good UFC fighter terminated or demoted because he won a couple of big money fights, only to lose the decisions?

One enormous UFC obstacle is The State Athletic Commissions. They have forced their ten-point must boxing system for scoring on the UFC. To make matters worse, some UFC judges are also former or current boxing judges. Hmm...

If boxing and Mixed Martial Arts are completely different combat sports, why should MMA judging fall under the umbrella of the boxing scoring system? This problem calls for nothing less than a complete scoring system overhaul. The UFC must find a way to distance the boxing-like mindsets of MMA judges.

As Jad Semaan suggested, increasing the number of judges from three to say, five, will likely reduce the number of controversial decisions. Five judges is a terrific idea and it’s a great start, but neither Jad nor I think it’s enough. Suspect decisions might still worm their way through the cracks.

Perhaps expanding the number of rounds or changing the length of each round may lead the way to improved judging accuracy. Still, where ever there are judges, human error will subsist. And when UFC fighter’s careers are at stake, half measures simply won’t do.

If the old axiom, "history repeats itself" holds merit, an entire UFC overhaul might be necessary. Sometimes an architect must reevaluate his foundation in order to continue building upward.

Let’s take a look at some options which could be presented to the States Athletic Commissions attention for perusal.

The introduction of ‘protective’ gloves changed the destiny of MMA. Gloves encouraged more stand-up fighting. Gloves increased the likelihood that more fights would go the distance. Gloves made fight-ending submissions harder to execute.

I propose the exclusion of gloves. Bare hands would encourage kicking, standing elbows, and more submission attempts. Consequently, most fights would end sooner and without compromising fighter safety. I also propose this option: a 30-minute (single round) fight. It would keep the judges away. If the final bell rings, it's a draw.

Are these ideas Radical? You bet. But the beauty of it is: simplicity, exciting fights, and cut-and-dry winners.

Unlike the UFC days of old, when nobody understood anything about anything, today's top fighters are truly gifted athletes. They ought to know enough not to punch their opponents to the head while on the ground. They should take care and avoid broken hands by utilizing palm strikes and hammer fists.

If some fighters still insist on punching their opponents to the head while on the ground, their fractured hands will send clear a message to other fighters: Thou shalt not breaketh one's hands by punching your opponents melon.

If the judges are to be kept away from the UFC, the organization must revert back to actual fighting.

The product must lose its excess fat. No gloves, no rounds, and just the following five rules: No biting; no eye-gouging; no fish-hooking; no elbows to the head, and no groin strikes. However, knees and stomps to the head should be permitted, so long as the fighters do not grab the fence for leverage.

No elbows to the head while on the ground should be an absolute rule. Some fighters, (Kenny Florian, for example) throw short, rapid-fire elbow smashes to turn fights into cutting contests. If you're winning a fight big, but your opponent drives your cheek through your molars with elbows, and the referee stops the fight because you're bleeding like Niagara Falls, would you be happy?

Elbows should be allowed only if there's no rounds and no time limit. With no time limit, fighters would need more methods at their disposal to end fights more expediently.

It is important to note that no UFC fighter was ever seriously injured even prior to the induction of judges, the plethora of rules, rounds, and gloves. And with the original three rules of the UFC and its grueling tournament format, the fighters were still okay, save for some nasty looking superficial cuts and a broken hand or two.

I really doubt that bare-knuckle UFC fights, even today, given the five aforementioned rules and no time limit, would last more than ten or fifteen minutes each on average. The referees would restart any fight that stalls. And a yellow card system for stalling or rule infractions would surely keep the action going.

And so what if a UFC event takes longer than its allotted 140-minutes? How hard would it be for Dana White to cut a deal with PPV? I don’t think the UFC fans would mind seeing more fights with more action.

Even if this rather extreme trial test should fail, and it turns out that some fights still last a long time, I'm still against rounds. Perhaps the 30-minute time limit should be instituted, at least on an experimental basis.

To keep the offense moving crisply the referees need to be interactive—they should issue more concise warnings, and stand the fighters up sooner during ground stalls and fence clinches.

As I touched on, each yellow card issued means a 10 percent purse deduction. This rule should keep the action pretty intense, especially when the fighters know that a third yellow card will result in a disqualification.

As a battle wears on and fatigue sets in, the fight will slow down—as it should. However, if a fighter stops moving despite the verbal warnings and two yellow cards, the referee should pull a third yellow card and stop the fight, declaring the aggressor the victor by disqualification.

The third yellow card ought to be shown sparingly, but fighters should know that it will be pulled if they flagrantly stall or break the rules.

The referee's primary function, besides ensuring fighter safety and enforcing the rules, is to make sure the fighters are engaging each other at all times.

I'm trying to visualize how the Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie ninety-minute marathon might have gone if: there were no rounds and no gloves in Pride FC. I really believe the fight would have gone to the ground fairly soon. Somebody would have been submitted within twenty-minutes or so.

I don't believe that many UFC fights will go more than thirty-minutes even with the time cap, so long as the referees work hard to keep the action going. But invariably some fights will last for some time. A series of three five-minute overtimes would help to insure a final victor. The minutes should be tacked-on as the combatants fight.

Round breaks would defeat the purpose. The breaks will refresh the fighters, and increase the odds that the fight will last even longer. Then fighter safety becomes at risk. In the rare event a fight does goes the whole 45 minutes, it is ruled a draw.

Also, it's important to note that there is very little risk of breaking your hand on a moving opponent during stand-up exchanges. Here's why: the face is a lot softer (especially with a mouthpiece in) than is than the back of the head when a fight goes on the ground.

Yes, these would be drastic renovations indeed. My theories are far-reaching. The UFC would wind up going full circle, but not without significant modifications.

What you have read here is merely a rough sketch—a series of proposals in which to improve or remove the inadequate UFC scoring system. Are there other opinions? Yes, I am certain. Feel free to add your comments.


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