So our toe to toe predictions have been pretty good lately. We've picked mostly winners. My one big screw up was picking Hunt over Werdum. You picked Swanson over Edgar. Silly goose.
David: I don't think the matchups lately have been all that tricky to unpack, although the Lawler/Hendricks, and Miocic/dos Santos were competitive affairs. I can't tell if the divisions are feeling a little more stagnant, if there's too much flux, or if I'm just not paying attention.
Phil: I still think our Barboza pick is probably our crowning moment of late- even though he was a betting line favourite, very few credible analysts were picking him to win.
If I had to put a main reason for our success, it'd be the sadly prosaic fact that the main events are just way easier to pick than the undercards. We mostly know these guys, and we have a reasonable idea for how they match up. If you can pick the match-up between Jungle Fights Alumnus X and TUF Runner-up Y with confidence? That's real MMA analysis. Or being a giant nerd with no life. One of the two.
David: That's the one thing I miss about the Pride vs. UFC days. With the splintered landscape following prospects was more interesting because they usually came from organizations with an actual shelf life ala Shooto. Being a nerd doesn't require the hard work it used to.
So Machida did what he always does to Dollaway like fighters, which is put em' down like a Fulton Reed slapshot. Are we ready for Wiedman vs. Machida II?
David: I think I'm ready. I just hate the idea of pitting up two contenders who have already more or less earned it up against one another. Give Machida another shot. Then give Rockhold another shot. Whoever you want to give it to first, but please stop letting the contenders feast on each other's liver. And no I haven't forgotten Jacare.
Phil: I love Machida. Love him. But please no more rematches for the forseeable future. I'd like to see Weidman fight some new blood (assuming, as everyone does, that he steamrolls Vitor). I know Machida is getting up there in years, but I just have to assume that he's getting at least one more fight before he gets another crack at the belt. From the sounds of it, he's going to fight Rockhold, which should be a fantastic showdown. I think Machida has a reasonable stylistic edge, as Rockhold remains over-aggressive and hittable... but you simply cannot overlook what a fast, strong, freak athlete Rockhold is.
David: This is where the steroid debate makes me conflicted. I don't want to see Weidman beat a testosterone free Belfort. I want to see Weidman beat the Vitor who fights like he's a villainous boss from The Raid. I mean, isn't this the allure of sports to begin with? I want the scene of Weidman draped in that American flag to mean something: like the US vs. the Axis of Evil. Not the US vs. Winnipeg. If we get old Vitor + TRT enhancement, I think the Vitor fight is a bit closer than people suspect. I really think Rockhold is the darkhorse though. I also think his style could be problematic for Machida given his speed, and athleticism.
Speaking of returning to form Brazilians, how did you think Barao faired against Gagnon? Was he a little underwhelming, or was it the clash of styles?
David: Gagnon is a good fighter, so it's a good win. I think it was competitive, but I didn't think it was that competitive. Gagnon was clearly determined in the first, but really seemed to just flat out gas as the fight wore on, and never really threatened Barao. What I do know is that he does not beat Dillashaw.
Phil: I feel like 135 is perhaps the division which people apply the least real analysis to, where a lot of picks really come down to name picks rather than seriously looking at how the fighters hold up against one another. I always felt Barao-Dillashaw was the classic example of this: if you watched footage of the fighters devoid of context, there isn't really much that jumps at you to say that the Brazilian guy is absolutely going to stomp the American. However, this was much of the consensus going in, because it seemed like people allowed themselves to get caught up in the "unbeatable P4P" narrative.
Similarly, Gagnon-Barao was a classic example of a good, underrated fighter with a tough, rugged style who just had the misfortune to be up against a great fighter. Gagnon did his very best, but he was outclassed in a few key areas. In particular, Barao remains extremely tough and hard-hitting, and possessed of probably the best combination of defensive grappling and offensive top game in the sport.
I do agree that he still probably doesn't beat Dillashaw though. I just think Dillashaw's control of the outer range, lateral movement, and (perhaps most importantly) his much cleaner, sharper punches in the pocket make him a nightmare for Barao. But, it's worth noting that Barao's historical success has been against a whole array of different styles, and Dillashaw has yet to really prove himself against that kind of diversity. He might be poison for Barao, but what if he comes up against someone like, say, Michael McDonald, and McDonald shocks the world and just explodes forward and blows TJ's head off while he's in the middle of switching stances? Could happen.
David: You sound like you're describing a crime scene from the Power Rangers with that last sentence. But you raise a good point about how people analyze BW. I wouldn't say it's necessarily laziness though. Rather, there's not the usual crossover that allows for deeper analysis, so the division comes off as random. In addition, it's just not that interesting. The top ranked fighters are guys who have either hit their ceiling (everyone besides Dillashaw basically), or guys trending downward. Sadly, the latter may include Cruz, which is unfortunate because a prime Cruz and (dat) kneetap is a fascinating foil to TJ.
Phil: I think Zane has mentioned something similar, but 135 is still that division where the prospects have yet to catch up. It's not a lack of raw material- there's a decent amount of young ‘uns out there (unlike, say, anything from middleweight up), but there's still a distinct, visible gap in the "conveyor belt" which takes fighters from prospects to contenders.
No fight of the night was rewarded. However, let's say we're not the cheapskate Dana is. If we had to pick, which fight would it have gone too?
Phil: Magomedov-Silverio. This was a fun fight on paper, and fun in actuality. Magomedov showed beautiful, crisp counterstriking, including some lovely multi-punch combinations that ended with those blisteringly quick body kicks. Silverio was mostly outclassed, but he was game as hell, and eventually went out on his shield. Magomedov still seems like he might have some Machida-esque problems with upping his aggression, but he really put on a clinic for the most part.
Silverio is still a great prospect (just the ability to go that hard, for that long, for a lightweight as titanic as he is, remains enormously impressive) but I think he learned a valuable lesson about how far attempting to enforce your game without any strategic base will get you. Equally gifted athletes with a more grounded, realistic technical focus are kryptonite for this approach. Messrs Sasaki and Carlos Jr also looked like they learned this the hard way.
David: Not much else to add. Magomedov vs. Silveiro was a unique bout involving two guys fighting with their potential only meeting them halfway.
Off topic: best movies with a Christmas setting? All the cool kids do these lists. So Lethal Weapon? Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang? Gremlins? Edward Scissorhands (Depp was so awful in the god awful Tusk that I'm almost afraid to revisit it)? In Bruges? Meet me in St. Louis? A Christmas Carol? Black Christmas? Jingle all the Way?
Phil: Sentimentalists will pick Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life. Comedy buffs will go Bad Santa. People who like action will pick Die Hard. But there's only really one Christmas movie worth mentioning: Santa's Slay.
Bill Goldberg is an evil Santa who murders his way through a small town, drowning the (largely jewish) cast in eggnog, using Christmas tree stars as shuriken, setting them on fire with brandy and stuffing them with turkey until they die. There is a small, plot-centric scene where an angel goes head-to-head with Santa in a curling competition, which is rendered entirely in claymation. I fully recommend it to any readers out there who enjoy "so bad it's good" early-2000s dreck.
On a further note, if anyone out there is struggling for a last-minute Christmas gift, it looks as though you really can't go wrong with the Team Alpha Male Calendar. It won't get there in time for Christmas day, but it'll be worth it.
David: I can't believe there's somebody else wasting time on Full Moon level trash. Especially Full Moon level trash involving a plot about a demon losing a bet with an angel. Wait...did we just become best friends*?!
I haven't seen Santa's Slay though. I feel like in the age of 2 girls 1 cup, pop culture has lost its threshold on taste. Hence the popularity of stuff like Sharknado, which I haven't seen and don't think I will. Not to make some sort of profound statement, or to protest, but because I'm more interested in sincere trash: trash done by people who are interested in the theatrics of absurdity more than the mechanics of absurdity.
Hence why I don't think I'll ever stomach Evil Bong vs. Ginderdead Man. Santa's Slay sounds awful, but then you mention the claymation scene, and my curiosity never stood a chance. Back on topic, if you want weird, little seen Christmas movie horror, check out Finland's Rare Exports. Gremlins wins this round for me though. I'm a sucker for creature features. And Phoebe Cates.
I would have included Love, Actually up there, but Christopher Orr from The Atlantic did such a good job eviscerating it, I couldn't, not in good conscience. Thanks for the heads up on that Alpha Male calender. I'll be sure to put that on my 'awkward interpretations of cool' list. For actual cool, go watch The Guest. Nothing groundbreaking, but its 80's Carpenter era vibe doesn't feel gimmicky, and you never forget you're watching a fun little action-thriller.
*Probably my favorite scene from Stepbrothers: the awkward hug.