Posts Tagged ‘UFC’

By W.G. Ramirez

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Bishop Gorman senior running back Russell Booze leads Southern Nevada with 797 yards. Photo: W.G. Ramirez

So here it is in a nutshell after Friday night’s demolition derby at Fertitta Field, the ‘apparent’ top two teams in the nation battled one another and Bishop Gorman simply outclassed St. John Bosco in a 34-31 victory.

On such a stage, in the spotlight, with a chance to officially stamp Bishop Gorman as a national power, the Gaels delivered.

I’ve watched five of their first six games, seeing three in person and two on television. They’ve shown improvement progressively, and last night, everything came together as the Gaels played like a well-oiled machine. And they couldn’t have asked for a better moment. The game was shifted from ESPNU to ESPN – the flagship station of the network – for the world to see.

And just like he’s done week after week, pounding and grinding, digging in as deep as it gets was an offensive stalwart the team has been able to depend on all season.

I’m not speaking about Alize Jones – who epitomizes the description I just gave you, and has never wavered from greatness this season – and I’m not talking about the explicit improvement by quarterback Tate Martell, whose decision-making was on point in Friday’s win.

I was referring to senior Russell Booze, who heading into Saturday night’s full slate of prep football, leads Southern Nevada with 797 yards on 96 attempts, with nine touchdowns. While averaging 8.3 yards per carry, he’s averaging 132.8 yards per game.

I won’t avoid saying that Mojave’s Ty Flanagan should pass Booze on Saturday, when the Rattlers face Faith Lutheran. But I also won’t deny this: now 60 percent through its season, Booze has arguably proved to be Gorman’s offensive MVP.

“He makes big plays, week in and week out,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “Booze is an absolute stud.”

Both Sanchez and Booze praised the offensive line first and foremost, each saying ‘if it weren’t for them,’ while also crediting running backs coach Craig Canfield for his impeccable knack for fine-tuning the backfield.

“That’s what it’s all about: if you can sustain drives and keep the clock running, especially against an explosive offense like (Bosco),” Sanchez said “You want to be able to run the ball methodically, you want to be able to take the time off the clock.”

They’re called blue-collar yards, and Booze has worn his hard hat all season, for each demolition.

While the 797-yard figure seems elementary for a top-notch running back from the valley, let me put it in better perspective, game-by-game: 65, 100, 118, 185, 170 and 159.

He’s improved each game, while literally becoming the go-to guy the entire time. Sure, Jones has been the ‘need a big play, go-to guy,’ because he can go over the middle and create a mismatch most times. But Booze, this kid runs, and runs, and runs.

As a youth, when his practice would end simultaneously with his older brother’s, he would race the running backs from the older team in 50-yard sprints, and win. Handedly. He’s always wanted to run. And he’s always been able to do it well. Whether he’s a scatback searching for a crevice in the line, or straight-on hitting the A-gap, Booze has been someone who can be coached, follows instruction and responds with the right results.

“We just run hard every practice, and we finish every run at every practice, Coach Canfield taught us that,” said Booze, whose nine touchdowns lead the team, as do his 54 points. His nine scores are 28 percent of the team’s total.

For his efforts, Booze has been the game’s leading rusher in five of Gorman’s first six games. He’s been every bit a leader to this team, as he is to his running back unit. He tends to be the calm in what can be a frenetic offense when the tempo runs high. Booze tames his unit’s occasional erratic nature.

But you wouldn’t realize he’s a leader when the headlines are generally focused on someone whose family relation has helped increase the national exposure. I mean, Snoop Dogg was part of the pregame B-roll and ended up in the booth at halftime, and UFC’s upper brass – Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White – was amidst the G Block.

Snoop’s son Cordell Broadus caught four passes for 64 yards, while Fertitta’s son, Nicco, swarmed the secondary and made his presence known on defense. SportsCenter featured Broadus and Jones, plus Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen, but missing was Booze.

After running out of the big-name players who always get publicized, Sportscenter fumbled terribly by ignoring Booze’s 80-yard TD run, most of it untouched, though his yardage did get embedded in a graphic.

Nonetheless, Booze has made a statement as a fixture in this offense.

After six games, 36 percent of his season tally came from the yards combined from each game’s longest run. What that means is 64 percent of his yards came on 92 rushes. When you take those 288 longest-run yards away from his season tally, it leaves you with 509 yards, or, 5.5 yards per those 92 other carries.

Short quick blasts, blue-collar yardage that sustains drives, just as Sanchez and Canfield prescribed.

And Booze is getting the job done, quietly.

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By Jesse Granger

Saturday night the UFC Octagon will be back in Sacramento, for a card stacked with superstar fights of the lighter-weight variety.  While the average weight of the eight fighters on the main card is 140 pounds, these midgets will put on a hell of a show. 

Joe Lauzon (-175) vs Mac Danzig (+155)

To start off the card on national television, lightweights Joe Lauzon and Mac Danzig will face off.  Motivation won’t be a problem in this one, as both fighters will be fighting for their careers.  Both Lauzon and Danzig enter the bout on two-fight losing streaks, and have lost three of their last four.  While the odds are fairly close, I think Lauzon is a significantly better fighter, and will pull off the victory.  If you are seeking better odds than -175, a bet on Lauzon by submission might not be a bad idea.  18 of Lauzon’s 22 wins have come by way of submission, including his last five.

Chad Mendes (-800) vs Nik Lentz (+550)

There’s not much to talk about from a betting perspective in this one.  In all likelihood, Mendes will annihilate Lentz, hence the -800 line.  Mendes’ record is nearly perfect, with his only loss coming to pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo.  With those type of odds, there isn’t much value to be found here, unless you want to parlay Mendes with some other fights for a few extra bucks.

Urijah Faber (-155) vs Michael McDonald (+135)

This fight is guaranteed fireworks.  Faber and McDonald are two of the fastest bantamweights on the planet, and both possess unique finishing ability for their size.  McDonald has the most value of any underdog on this card.  The 22-year-old from Modesto, Calif. has won nine of his last 10, with the only loss coming to interim-champion Renan Barao.  Of those nine wins, seven have been by submission or (T)KO. He is the much younger fighter, and is riding a title wave of momentum.  McDonald has proven to be excellent at taking advantage of mistakes, and Faber’s wild kickboxing has plenty to take advantage of.  McDonald would probably be favored, if not for the fight being in Sac-town.  Faber will be fighting in his home town of Sacramento for the fifth time in his career.  Interestingly enough, that hasn’t served Faber all that well in the past, as he’s lost two of his last three fights there. 

Demetrious Johnson (-135) vs Joseph Benavidez (+110)

The oddsmakers have all but eliminated any shred of value in this main event by putting Benavidez at only +110.  These two faced off at UFC 152 in September of 2012, and the champion, Johnson, barely escaped by the skin of his teeth via split decision.  The fight was razor close, and no one could name a clear winner after 25 minutes in the octagon.  While I lean slightly towards Johnson in this one, there isn’t much value at -135 when these fighters are nearly dead even when it comes to skill.  Johnson has the speed advantage, but only by a hair, and Benavidez makes up for that with technique and fluidity in his boxing.  This is a great fight to watch, not such a great fight to bet.

Been awhile since I’ve blogged – since we’ve chatted – and I apologize. Been swamped and crazy with so much going on personally and professionally, and I’ll be giving you a better effort toward staying in touch at least once a week. After all, we have plenty to discuss, with the MLB season well underway, the NBA Playoffs around the corner and the NHL Playoffs off to a rousing start.

Today, though, I want to get you into the octagon and talk about UFC 145, a blockbuster event taking place Saturday night in Atlanta at Philips Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Newest MMA sensation Jon “Bones” Jones, arguably the No. 1 guy in the UFC right now, takes on veteran Rashad “Suga” Evans.

Jones (15-1), a 6-foot-4 athletic monster who specializes in wrestling, jiu-jitsu and muay thai, and Evans (22-1-1), who stands 5-11 and is known for his takedowns and bottom work, are old acquaintances. It’s complicated, sort of, and a bit detailed to get into for what this blog’s about, but the fact these two used to be sparring partners on the same team, ahem – Jones was still up-and-coming and provided Evans with solid workouts during his climb to fame – makes the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship that much more intriguing.

“There’s a lot of hype and drama behind the fight, which is only great for the sport,” Jones said Thursday, during a televised interview with Evans on split-screen.

The two touched briefly on their history, but more so, sound confident about their own fighting games leading into Saturday’s showdown.

“We had a good relationship, we had a relationship I was trying to build and grow,” Evans said. “There was some distrust in the beginning from my point of view when he came into the camp, cause I was really reluctant to let him into camp. After a while, I got to know Jon a little bit and I liked working with him … he was one of the better partners that I ever got to train with.”

Nonetheless, Evans said, the team wasn’t the same and it was time for him to move on. Since then, he believes leaving coach Greg Jackson was a “blessing in disguise” so he could get the best for his career.

This could very well be the make-or-break fight in his UFC career, just as we saw with legends such as Tito Ortiz and Chuck Lidell, when they still brought mad game, but it was quite obvious after significant bouts with younger fighters their careers were on the downslide.

Said Evans: “I know how he gets when the battle gets tough, and maybe he’s changed some ways – but maybe he hasn’t – and I’m going to test how he is on the inside and see where his heart is.

“You can’t make the emotions bigger than the event … I have to go out there and put it on the line … doesn’t matter, I’m going to go in there and get that win.”

Jones sounded just as confident, saying he is ready for his older, former teammate to put his “power, will, tenacity and heart” to the test when the two get it on for real.

“I see a lot of differences from his game (from) when he was in his 20s,” the champ said. “I just don’t see how he can train at the level I train considering his age.

“You have to go into the fight extremely confident and believing you have every advantage. I’m a younger fighter, I believe I’m just as fast, could possibly be stronger … I have more championship experience … so I think I’m prepared for this.”

Jones, who says his relationship with Evans took an obvious decline when he left Coach Greg Jackson’s team for Grudge Training Center in Denver, and separated himself from the team, pointed out he’s coming in after monster matches with “some of the meanest men in sports history,” while Evans is in after relatively easier matches against an “older Tito Ortiz and Phil Davis, a rookie.”

Nonetheless, and all hype aside, both men articulated well and paid nothing but homage to one another throughout the chat, while Jones went as far to insinuate the wrong fighter is favored in Saturday’s night mega-match.

“I get to fight one of the best fighters in the sports history,” he said. “Rashad has a bigger record than mine, he has more fights, more experience. He’s been in the game longer. In some ways I kinda feel like I should be the underdog in this fight.”

Right, (wink, wink), but he’s not.

Jones, the champ, is favored across the board over his former teammate.

As off Noon pacific on Thursday, you could find the following odds at the following offshore books:

JUSTBET: Jones -500, Evans +400

5DIMES: Jones -485, Evans +385

BETONLINE: Jones -470, Evans +385

PINNACLE: Jones -450, Evans +385

BOVADA: Jones -450, Evans +325

SPORTSBOOK: Jones -400, Evans +300

I’m venturing into the handicapping octagon with Las Vegas’ own Danny DEE1 Davis, “the rapper/scrapper,” as he and I had a chance to discuss a few of the bouts, including the main one. Davis, whose current pro record is 6-5-1, nearly made it into your living rooms last year, as he made it on to the show The Ultimate Fighter 11. However, the same day he got the call to confirm he’d been booked and won his way onto that season, he was contracted for a King of the Cage fight, and broke his ankle in his bout that night. Davis has appeared several times at the Orleans Arena recently, and is making his way back into the spotlight, hoping to catch the attention of the UFC within the next year. His next fight is up in the air right now, though he said he’s hoping for May or June, and is still negotiating with several organizations.

In the meantime, and literally in between training sessions, Davis and I bantered on the following bouts and came up with the following for you (lines courtesy of the LVH SuperBook):

JON JONES (-450) vs. RASHAD EVANS (+375)

DAVIS: “Jon Jones has all the attributes to defeat Rashad Evans,” Davis said. “Jones is young, is very athletic, pretty tall. He has the longest reach in the UFC right now, as far as I’m aware. He hasn’t been taken down, plus, he takes everyone down in the UFC. We saw against Rampage that he is developing nicely, he moves well on his feet and he has the endurance to go the distance. With Evans, one of the key factors is experience. Not in fighting, but more so in that he’s aware of Jon Jones’ habits since they’ve trained against one another. He’ll already be comfortable in stepping into the fight. He won’t need to settle into it at anytime, he’ll be ready. Not to mention, he’s an established wrestler and he has the big right hand.” Pick: Jones

CJ: “I understand what you’re saying Danny, and something we’ve seen all too often in the UFC, is when the younger protegé who has overwhelmed the crowd and fan base, sends a favored veteran into retirement – or at least toward it – with a sound victory. Iceman did it to Tito; Rashad arguably was the one to send Iceman into his decline. Now we have this. Honestly, as a sports bettor, I look for value, and you tell me I can get Suga Evans at +400 at some places, well, you have to wonder if we’ll ever see a price like that on such a great fighter. That’s value. But I tell you what, after watching video clips of press conferences, and interviews, and watching the one I quoted live, I see victory in Jones’ eyes, and tentativeness in Evans’. I hate to go against either one, as they both come across as such nice guys outside the octagon. And while I’m going to admit my heart is with Evans, and would love to see the upset, I don’t think this current star is falling from UFC’s sky anytime soon.” Pick: Jones

RORY MACDONALD (-550) vs. CHE MILLS (+425)

DAVIS: “I hear (Mills) is a very good striker. If there is an upset, this could be it. Rory’s camp is going to have to game plan off of hearsay. If there’s an upset it’ll be this fight. This one is hard, because Che Mills is sort of making his debut. He’s been in the ring with some good opponents and has apparently had some good fights. Because Rory McDonald has been in the ring before and won’t have first-fight jitters, you’d assume he’s the favorite.” Pick: Macdonald

CJ: “Now this is the type of fight I can pinpoint the value. See, it’s like looking at a major-league pitcher Danny, one who is making his big-league debut, especially in the first month of the season. There is barely any film, no scouting reports and you have no idea what kind of arsenal he will have on the mound. I love the fact this kid Mills has a scary reputation following him into the octagon Saturday night, and seemingly has a no-fear attitude in facing Macdonald. Ironically, Macdonald is somewhat being referred to as this year’s version of “Bones” Jones, as he was once in GSP’s camp, and is now the upstart fighter many have to watch out for. But what about Mills? He’s an English mixed martial artist who appeared on the UFC 138 card against Chris Cope in November, winning by way of TKO. This is being hailed as the co-main event, and you have to wonder, what makes this bout that big, that it’s the main bout on the undercard behind a fight like Jones-Evans? The bout-makers know something, and have confident this is no easy cakewalk. Good spot for the dog? Well, I keep thinking about the last time MacDonald fought with the spotlight this bright. Uhm, yeah, he was knocked out with seven seconds left to go by Carlos Condit.” Pick: Mills

BRENDAN SCHAUB (-300) vs. BEN ROTHWELL (+250)

DAVIS: “Brendan Schaub has shown a glass jaw in his last two fights, while Ben Rothwell has gassed out in his last couple. Schaub’s weakness is that he’s still relatively new. His ground game isn’t all that and he’s still learning and developing as a fighter. Overall, experience is his biggest fault. That being said, he has shown improvement. Rothwell is a veteran, but even in having Mark Hunt on the ground, he couldn’t submit him. And if I see a veteran who can’t close it out against someone with no ground game, and you’re letting him up, that tells me he is losing a step in his ground game.” Pick: Schaub

CJ: “To go along with that jaw that might be too pristine against the hard hitters, it might be safe to say that youthfulness you speak of means he struggles with his psyche a bit. I can’t imagine what it took to overcome the loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. As close as Schaub was to winning that much, how do you get yourself right, and confident for the next go-round. One of two things had of taken place, either he’s trained harder and will realize he has to finish his opponents off, and he’s simply become tougher mentally in time for this one. Or, he’s letting it linger, and any sign of the crowd turning on him or backing “Big Ben” will haunt him in the middle of the match an bring in memories of his gut-wrenching loss.” Pick: Schaub