Welcome back. Firstly we need to mention that if you wish to add your two-cents to proceedings, the comments section at the end of the blog is now set so that everyone can add something, not just gmail users or ‘followers’ of the blog. Get into it.
We’ve got football today with a look around Europe penned by The Supercoach, the promised review of UFC 129 by Star Reporter Barry Munta, and bits and pieces from the rest of the sporting world. Before we kickoff though, a couple of vids to get you going: Avalanche cliff jumping, a pursuit not for the faint-hearted or even mildly vertiginous, and a fifteen minute compilation of hilarious footage that makes the A-League look completely rubbish, featuring some of Jezza Wilson’s faves, long-range own goals, but sadly for him, no luggage related injuries.
Treble Repeat? Feck right off
Just a couple of weeks ago Man U were talking up an FA Cup, Champions League, Premier League treble. Now however, thanks to the early hackings in the throat that may just develop into a fully fledged choke, they are going to have to fight very hard just to get one title. Dumped out of the FA Cup by city rivals City, the loss against Arsenal has put their previously secure Prem title in jeopardy, and with Barcelona to come in the Champs League Final, the only thing the side may secure this season is a darker shade of purple on their manager’s nose. The match against Chelsea this weekend is going to be huge, and while we’re loath to back any side that features the likes of John Terry or Cashley Cole, anything is better than the Mancs. More on that later this week.
At the bottom of the table Blackburn’s win over Bolton might be enough for them, while draws for Wigan and Blackpool coupled by Wolves’ inability to beat ten-man Birmingham and West Ham’s latest defeat mean it is going to be just as tight at the bottom as it may be at the top. In our latest selection, we’re picking West Ham, Wolves and Blackpool to go down.
Meanwhile in The Championship the two automatic promotion places to the Prem have been decided with QPR securing the title for this season and Norwich now safe in second. QPR have dominated throughout 2010/11 and are fully deserving of their elevation. How will they go in the Prem? Well, they’ve got extremely rich owners, which is always a good sign, and in Adel Taarabt they’ve also got The Championship’s Player of the Season. He wasn’t good enough to play at Sp*rs though, which is pretty damning, and it remains to be seen how he can cope in the Prem, or even if he plans to stay at QPR. There’s also the chance that the club will be docked a large number of points for illegally signing a player in 2009, though most seem to think that even if they are penalised they should still have enough of a lead to go up.
Norwich have taken a very different route to promotion than QPR, having only just been promoted into The Championship at the start of this season. In fact they are the first team since Man City in 2000 to secure back-to-back promotions from League 1 all the way to the top flight. This obviously indicates that they are in good form and are being well managed, but that is far from a guarantee of success in the Prem. They’ll need to strengthen their squad judiciously if they want their time at the top to last more than just a single season.
Looking around Europe, Borussia Dortmund secured the Bundesliga title in Germany over the weekend, and AC Milan need just one more point from the last three matches to win their first scudetto in Italy since 2004. Barca and Real both lost in La Liga, but it changes little with Barca still nine points ahead. In France, Lille and Marseille are in a two-club race for the title there, while three teams- FC Twente, Ajax, and PSV- are battling it out in Holland. We’ll let you know who emerges on top.
Super summary that by myself, now it’s over to Barry Munta who was selected to review the three hours of brutality that was UFC 129.
Up until about the two-hour mark of UFC 129, my greatest concern was that my supply of old Rheineck cans that I was shotgunning was dwindling alarmingly. I was also worried that I had discovered a new sporting vice, as the action to that point had thoroughly enthralled me. But then, in the first of the two main events, things changed. The Featherweight Champion, Jose Aldo of Brazil, was fighting and more-or-less dominating against the Canadian challenger Mike Hominik. Most UFC bouts consist of three five-minute rounds, but title fights are extended to five rounds. This match had just gone into the fourth when a reasonably innocuous elbow to the forehead of Hominik as he was pinned to the ground by Aldo suddenly caused a tennis-ball sized hematoma to appear above the Canadian’s right eye. This looked incredibly heinous to me, and I figured maybe I just needed to harden up, but the exclamations from the 55,000-strong blood-hardened crowd when they saw this bulbous nightmare on the big screen convinced me that this was beyond normal.
Now, some explanation for the uninitiated is needed here. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is one of the (thankfully) few activities in life where using ones elbow or knee to attack someone is not just permitted, but actually encouraged and applauded. From what I could make out, you can’t knee someone in the head when they’re on the ground, nor should you hold the back of someone’s head and knee them in the face- though the latter seemed to be something of a gray area- but other than that, go nuts. And they do. The first bout of the night went the full three rounds, and at the end the loser, another Canuck, was bleeding profusely from his heavily cauliflowered ears, his forehead and beneath his eyes. His opponent, a particularly lithe American who kicked every part of his opponent’s anatomy remorselessly, was declared the winner and promptly thanked Jesus, who I’m sure appreciated the shout-out.
Other fights came and went, and were all reasonably entertaining. UFC works because it incorporates a variety of body-shapes and fighting styles. Some guys are ‘strikers’, some employ wrestling-type techniques, and almost all hold at least one black-belt in some form of martial arts. This makes for an interesting mix of action from one fight to the next. The highlight of the first half of the event had been UFC legend Randy Couture being knocked-out by a kick to the face straight out of the conclusion to The Karate Kid, executed by Brazilian Lyoto Machida. But then came the hematoma horror.
The fact of this incredible bruise was bad enough, but after the ring doctor looked at it I was sure the fight would be stopped. The ref spotted the angry red lump, paused the bout, and the doctor entered the octagon. And then astonishingly, after probing at the protuberance, he asked Hominik if he wanted to continue, who replied in the affirmative and on they went. Hominik lasted the round, actually dominated the fifth and final round and came close to winning, but was eventually declared the loser on a points decision. All of which I missed, because it was just too freaking awful to look at (Google Mark Hominik hematoma if you haven’t just eaten).
I tuned back in for the second main event, and saw the awesome George St-Pierre, who hasn’t lost in over four years, beat an opponent, Jake Shields, who hadn’t lost in six years, but the bout was marred by another injury. In the early rounds, despite being constantly on the defensive, Shields jabbed St-Pierre right on his left eyeball effectively blinding him in that eye and St-Pierre, though strong enough and technically adept enough to still win the bout, was unable to do any real attacking and the match was something of an anti-climax. In the post-match interview, St-Pierre said he couldn’t see anything out of his left eye, apologised to the crowd because this had stopped him from putting on a show, and that was more or less that.
By this stage I had dipped into my emergency stash of jalapeno-vodka jelly shooters to try and erase from my mind the Hominik nastiness, but I’ll still try to convey my general impressions. UFC seems to be exactly as testosterone-fueled as one might imagine, with shouting (though knowledgeable) commentators, rabid fans, awesomely intrusive sponsors, and scantily clad ring girls. The unusual side of all this is that many of the actual fighters displayed surprising levels of articulacy and calm before, during and after their bouts; I suspect this is due to the influence of ‘Eastern’ martial arts. I also suspect that there are equal numbers of droid-abusing meatheads, especially amongst the lower ranks and wannabes. The strongest suspicion I have though, is that come UFC 130 I’ll be amongst the audience again.
Cheers Baz. Just a few things to round us off:
-congrats to the Breakers. Those two three-pointers by CJ Bruton midway through the fourth quarter allowed us all to sit back and enjoy the march to victory. Hats off of course to Paul Henare: we don’t have the exact stat to hand, but since the Breakers inception in 2003 he only missed something like seven or eight games. A true champion.
-Novak Djokovic won the Belgrade Open and has now gone 27 matches undefeated in 2011. The real test on clay comes this week at the Madrid Masters, where a full strength field is present. If he can somehow beat Nadal to the title then he will rocket to the top of the favourites for the upcoming French Open.
-a Hurricanes team full of no-names scored a nice victory over the Queensland Reds, ironically winning with a penalty kick after wayward place kicking had looked to have cost them the match. The fearlessness and freedom that they played with in the first half made for some fine entertainment. Such is the way it tends to go when you throw inexperienced nothing-to-losers out on the field.
That’ll do it for today. Get in touch below, and we’ll be back with a weekend preview on Friday.