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Musings of a Converted Laker Fan

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I used to hate the Lakers. Hate is understating it. I do have much more disdain towards the Spurs, having rooted for the Suns since Steve Nash went back to the desert. I will never ever forget the heartache of seeing  Metta World Peace (then named Ron Artest) making the putback off a Kobe airball in game of 6 of their Western Conference Finals and propelling the Lakers to the Finals and Kobe got his fifth ring.

I used to hate Kobe Bryant.  I was rooting for Allen Iverson back when they faced each other in the 2001 NBA Finals. Though that’s a thing of the past since he visited an orphanage in Manila and I got to see a different side of Kobe, a side I have since liked.

I am sucker for rooting for the Underdog. But this time I have no choice but to root for a powerhouse. Call me a converted Laker fan. Where Steve Nash goes, I follow.

Now with Dwight Howard finally going to the Lakers, they are now the Top Dog in the Western Conference, at least on paper. But the big thing here is that anyone who has played with Steve Nash has always had a career year. Just ask Boris Diaw, Jared Dudley, to name a few. The most critical part of the trade is that of Pau Gasol no longer being included in the trade. I would rather have Pau Gasol over Al Harrington any day. Add to the mix Antawn Jamison coming off the bench. Somewhere I can see Grant Hill shaking his head. With this trade, he certainly wishes he chose the other team in LA.

Big key though is how much is Kobe willing to sacrifice. How much is he willing to shoot less and make more plays now that he has this lineup around him. Kobe Bryant would do everything just to get back on the mountaintop again. Another key is the Lakers changing to the Princeton offense. They hired former Sixers and Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to facilitate the Princeton offense. I think that Andrew Bynum would have fared better but I will give Dwight Howard some leeway here. There’s a big difference with playing with Steve Nash than playing with Jameer Nelson and a big difference with playing with a Kobe Bryant and playing with a Jason Richardson. Given Steve Nash’s history with making other players around him better, chances of Dwight Howard having a disappointing season are slim.

Right now Miami is at the top of the mountain. But with this trade, they surely would have the Lakers in their minds all season. Let’s get one for Steve and one more for Kobe! This is one of the happiest days of my life as a Steve Nash fan and as a basketball fan in general. Now all Laker fans say Amen.

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UFC 145 Preview: Jones vs Evans

On April 22, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will finally face each other in UFC 145 as Jones looks to defend his title for the third time against another former Light Heavyweight champion. The UFC has been promoting this fight heavily since it has been almost two months (UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan) since the last UFC event.

The UFC has even released a couple of ads for the event:

 

The first episode of UFC Primetime: Jones vs Evans is definitely a must-see for any UFC fan:

The UFC is clearly promoting Jones as the new face of the UFC. Rashad Evans looks to throw a wrench to the Jon Jones bandwagon and get his belt back. He wants to show that he’s got Jon Jones’ number.  Jealousy, bitterness and betrayal. Two men who used to be former teammates. One showed the other the ropes in the sport and treated the other like a brother and a protege. Mix all of this together and we have ourselves a pretty intriguing main event.

In the first episode, Rashad said that Jon is a fake, that he is fraudulent. Jon then goes on to say that there are many sides to him. The show first focuses on his side as a father and then shows his side as a younger brother. His older brother Arthur not only accompanies him to his fights, he trains with Jon for every fight.  It also showed his side as a competitor, trying to best his brother in everything.

The second episode starts showing us a side of Rashad Evans as a brother and as a member of his new team, the Blackzilians. It shows his relationship with his coach Mike Van Arsdale, who suffers an injury and would need surgery.

It then shifts back to the Jones brothers and we see how hard Jon Jones trains. The highlight of this episode is one very touchy subject:  the death of Jon Jones’ older sister, Carmen, who died in December 2000 at the age of 17.  Jon first talked about this in an interview in UFC In the Moment: Jon Jones . Here we see that the pain is still there. Jon Jones is not exempted from this. He pauses again and is at a loss for words. A loss of a loved one  is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

At that time, I couldn’t really relate to Jon as I have never really experience losing someone that I was really close to. But last November, my stepfather passed away. He was one of the bigger influences in my life and was my biggest supporter. He was my best friend. We used to watch these events together and analyze the fights. He would even predict the score cards of each fight and almost all the time he was spot-on. He likes Jon Jones and was a lot worried when Jones was to meet Machida last December, a fight that he was not able to see.

It was a treat, seeing a personal side of both fighters. It gets me more excited to see this fight. Who will come out on top? Does Rashad Evans has Jon Jones’ number? I don’t think so.

First thing that Rashad needs to deal with is Jon’s reach. Rampage had a very hard time dealing with Jon’s reach and was kept at bay with his improved kicks. Yes Rashad has dealt with Jon’s reach during their sparring sessions but you don’t go full blast in sparring sessions. The stakes are higher in a real fight.

It has been over a year since Evans left Team Jackson. A lot can happen in a year, just ask Jeremy Lin. In less than one year, Jones has strung together an impressive streak with wins over former champions Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida.

He not only won each fight but he finished all of his opponents. The experiences of facing these opponents has not only added to Jones’ experience, it has elevated his confidence level.

This is not the same Jon Jones that Rashad Evans trained with a year ago. We can also add the fact that Jones looks better and better with each fight. After this fight, I see everybody jumping on the Jon Jones bandwagon. Let us not also forget the most important fact: the only guy to defeat Rashad Evans was the last guy that Jon Jones defeated back in December, Lyoto Machida.

The only chance Rashad has of winning this fight is if he gets to take Jones down and deal some damage. Otherwise, it will be a long night for Mr. Evans.

UFC 144 Review: Edgar vs Henderson

“The most boring UFC Champion”, that’s what one of my friends call Frankie Edgar. I happen to agree with him. Among all those who hold a UFC belt, Frankie Edgar is the one I liked the least. You can say the same for UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominic Cruz.

A true fighter finishes fights. Georges St.Pierre has lost quite a few fans because he started trying to win rounds instead of finishing his fights. Other than his last title defense againt Gray Maynard, Edgar has not finished his fights. He does not have knockout power, he has no ground and pound and his submission skills are mediocre. He does have good cardio and has good accuracy with his punches and leg kicks thought they do very little damage. The end result is most of his fights always goes to a decision. Most people say he fights a weight class lower (He walks around at 155 and does not cut any weight) and I agree. Unlike Edgar, Benson Henderson has never been accused of trying to win rounds. He always tries his best to take his opponents out and finish fights.

Former WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson is one of the biggest lightweights around. He cuts a lot of weight, similar to Edgar’s previous foe, Gray Maynard. He is one of the most well-rounded fighters and has no holes in his game. His striking is his biggest weapon, he has very good submission defense. Since moving on to the UFC from the WEC, Henderson has been on a tear, taking down top contenders Jim Miller and Clay Guida. Despite his huge weight cuts, his cardio is top-notch. He seems to be the better match-up with Edgar than with Maynard.

A big part of Henderson’s game are his kicks. He is a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do. Seeing them in the cage together, they do look like a weight-class apart. It reminded me of the time when Jon Jones faced Shogun Rua last March for the UFC Light Heavyweight title.

First Round: Henderson threw a lot of leg kicks with Edgar catching a few of them. The leg kicks do land and does damage before being caught by Edgar. Joe Rogan says that this is a popular move in Muay Thai and something that Edgar has definitely practiced with his Muay Thai coach Phil Nurse, who happens to be the same Muay Thai coach for Jon Jones. This seems to be a big part the champion’s strategy as he repeatedly does this throughtout the entire fight. Henderson also lands several knees to the body and at the end of round one a big welt can be seen on the left eye of Frankie Edgar.

Second Round: Round two starts pretty much the same as round one. Henderson lands powerful leg kicks and knees to the body with the Edgar catching a bunch of them but he fails to land counters. Edgar does take Henderson down with a couple of minutes left and attempts a guillotine choke. He switches position and tries to take the challenger’s back. Henderson counters with a standing kimura and Edgar lets go. Henderson will employ this tactic for the rest of the fight. With a minute left, Edgar takes Henderson down again and they trade elbows. Henderson tries to go for an armbar and Edgar tries to stack him up and employ some ground and pound. The challenger then lands the most devastating upkick that I have ever seen. This staggers the champion and the challenger ends the round with a flurry of elbow strikes to the body. On to the third round!

Third Round: The upkick that Henderson landed has broken Edgar’s nose and his left eye is almost swollen shut. It is not looking good for the champion. The size difference is very evident when they trade and land strikes. Whatever Edgar lands has very little effect on the challenger. Henderson continues to land leg kicks and knees to the body and even gets a takedown in the middle of the round. He lands a couple of shots but they do get back up. Before the round ends, Edgar takes Henderson down but lands nothing. Edgar looks damaged and tired while Henderson looks the exact opposite, unmarked and untouched. We now enter the championsip rounds!

Fourth Round: Henderson continues to employ the double right jab and a leg kick. With two minutes gone, Henderson lands a knee with Edgar going for the takedown. Henderson goes for his favorite submission move, the guillotine choke. The champion stayed calm and composed and is able to escape and winds up on top. Edgar tries to go for Henderson’s back and again Henderson counters with a standing kimura and again Edgar is forced to let go. Henderson keeps on landing the leg kicks and Edgar keeps on catching them but does nothing afterwards. It looks impressive but Henderson makes sure he pays for continuing to employ this tactic. This round goes again to Henderson for landing more significant strikes and for the guillotine choke attempt. Now heading to the fifth and final round!

Fifth Round: As the round is about to start, Henderson’s corner asks him if he has five good minutes and he responds by saying he has 15 more and he was exaggerating. Edgar’s corner, on the other hand, tells him to stop catching the kicks. He did continue catching the kicks. It figures as it would be very hard to stop doing something that you have trained to do and judging by the accuracy of Edgar in catching the kicks, it’s pretty safe to say that he did spend a lot of time training to catch the kicks. I do question employing this tactic as it does not score you points unless you land counters after catching the kick. Edgar does land a couple of hard shots in this round. He tries to take the challenger’s back and again Henderson counters with the standing Kimura and Edgar is forced to let go. Less than two minutes left in the round, Edgar staggers Henderson but Henderson just shakes it off. Edgar looked before wobbly and tired as the round is about to finish. Henderson winds up on top with a couple of seconds left in the fight and lands a few more powerful shots as the horn sounds.

After five rounds, the judges scored it 49-46, 48-47, 49-46 for Henderson. Benson Henderson is the new UFC Lightweight champion!

Frankie Edgar said in the post-fight interview that he thought he did enough to win it. Dana White echoed the same sentiments in the post-fight news conference. Having seen this fight for five times now, I cannot recall a time when Edgar really put any threat to Henderson. Henderson, on the other hand, landed the more powerful kicks and knees, he also landed that powerful upkick at the end of the second round and his guillotine choke in the fourth round were the highlights of this fight and it showed off is well-rounded game. Judging from the pics below it’s not that hard to see clearly who won the fight. Henderson’s face was pristine after 25 minutes while Edgar had a busted nose, his left eye badly damaged.

Who Henderson faces next has been the big question since this fight. Dana White seems geared to giving Edgar a rematch but he has also said that he will give a title shot to the winner of the Nate Diaz-Jim Miller fight in May. I personally would like to see Anthony Pettis face Edgar and the winner of the Diaz-Miller fight face Henderson in his first defense. As for Frankie Edgar, a move down to featherweight seems like the best move for him.

The Lightweight division is indeed the deepest and toughest division in the UFC right now. Henderson is more than capable of reigning for a long time but it surely will be no walk in the park.

UFC 135 Review: Rampage vs Jon Jones

I have been waiting for this fight ever since UFC 134, where my other favorite fighter Anderson Silva, proved why he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. I have been counting the days since and it sure was worth the wait.

The Light Heavyweight division is the deepest and toughest division in the UFC. The Light Heavyweight title has not been defended successfully for a while now. It has changed hands from Chuck Lidell to Rashad Evans to Lyoto Machida to Shogun Rua and now resides in the hands of current champ, Jon “Bones” Jones. Jones was up against one of the best Light Heavyweights in UFC history, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Rampage was his usual self entering the Octagon with his trademark nasty scowl and an icy stare. Jones looked very tense and anxious, a big contrast to how calm he looked again Shogun. He loosened up by hitting the Octagon’s beams with elbows and kicks. The pressure is clearly on Jon Jones.

Unlike the weigh-ins, Jones resorted to not making eye contact with Rampage before the fight started. He just looked downward and wanted to get down to business.

Round One: Jones started with a very weird crawl-like stance. He shot for one leg right away but was not get a takedown. With Rampage pressed to the cage, Jones unleashes a couple of knees to the body and thighs. After a brief exchange, Rampage eats an elbow. To say that Jon Jones is unpredictable is an understatement. All throughout the first round he kept on throwing various kicks (Head kicks, Front kicks, side kicks and leg kicks) like jabs and kept Rampage at bay. Less than a minute left in the round, he unleashed another spinning elbow like the one he let out during the Shogun fight. I saw him setting it up and it really is a thing of beauty. Round one belonged to the Champ.

In between rounds, Rampage’s corner kept on yelling “Find your range”. With a reach disadvantage of 11 1/2 inches, it’s easier said than done.

Round Two: Right of the bat, Rampage chases Jones but the reach difference is to big to overcome. The height difference and the reach difference is too obvious. Jon Jones is like Anderson Silva, only longer. He’s not right there with the boxing yet but the kicks he has thrown are very precise and effective. Before the round ends, Jones attempts a flying triangle. Yes you read that right, a flying triangle. With more strikes landed, Jon Jones takes the second round as well.

Round Three: As with previous rounds, Bones kept on attacking Rampage’s legs. With another leg kick, he was able to set up a take down and instantly moves into side control and then to a full mount. Multiple elbow strikes rain on Rampage’s head, one cutting his right eye brow. Rampage was able to get back up but he looks really gassed with a couple of rounds left. Jones continues targeting Rampage’s knees and legs. Jones lands a flying knee before the round ends and is able to slink away before Rampage can close in. That’s three out of three now for JBJ.

Round Four: Championship round. A minute into the round, Jones takes Rampage down and unleashes a couple of knees to the body. He is able to get Rampage’s back and quickly slips a rear naked choke. Rampage tries to fight it but taps out after a few seconds. This is the first time that Rampage has been stopped in the Octagon. this is also the first time that the Light Heavyweight Championship was successfully defended in quite a while.

Rampage was very gracious and humble in the post fight interview. He even takes his hat off and declares that Jon Jones is for real. A very class act by Rampage. Jones let his fists, legs and elbows do the talking and Rampage surely got the message. He requests a rematch with Shogun in February. Highly unlikely as Shogun will be facing Dan Henderson next in his return at UFC 139 in November.

After the Champion was interviewed, Rashad Evans goes into the Octagon, same as when Jones won the Championship in March. Jones was clearly irritated and even remarked that Evans has “ruined my special night twice now.” It clearly is a classless act. Kind of like being served four bottles of finest wine only to be served an extremely cheap wine in the end. It clearly spoils the night for the Champion. It all but adds fuel to the fire. Jon “Bones” Jones is now on another level, rapidly progressing at a rate unheard of. I can’t wait for his next fight. Welcome to the Jon “Bones” Jones era ladies and gentlemen!

Movie Review: Super 8

There were two movies to see last week: Xmen First Class and Super 8. I decided to go with the Super 8. I made the right choice.

A trailer says a lot about a movie. But at times it’s the other way around. You go see the movie only to find out that the trailer gave away all the good stuff in the movie, there’s nothing else left to see. Super 8 is an exception.

Very little was known about this movie before it came out. I even tried to Google it after I saw the trailer and came up empty. This piqued my curiosity. I decided that I will go see for myself once the movie comes out.

Knowing that this movie was produced by Steven Spielberg made me more excited. It was written and directed by J.J. Abrams, acclaimed director of hit TV series’ Lost, Alias and the sci-fi movie, Cloverfield.

Super 8 reminded me of an interview with Steven Spielberg published in one of the local newspapers. He talked about how he started making films as a young kid on his Super 8 camera. He said on the interview that he also used model trains and cars to make movies as a young man. J.J. Abrams started making films the same way. Both mentioned this in interviews before the movie was released. This seemed to be the inspiration for the movie.

The movie has a very good story. The story is said to be a combination of different stories that J.J. Abrams was writing and he decided to integrate it into just one story and everything worked out perfectly.

The producers went by the “Less is more” route. No big name stars here. This ploy makes the audience focus more on the characters and not on the actors themselves. A real rarity in movies these days.

I was a big fan of Kyle Chandler in Early Edition and he was a great choice. The gem of this cast though is Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning’s younger sister. One cool trivia: she appeared as the younger version of Dakota in the film I am Sam. She’s a natural just like her sister.

The movie’s train wreck scene was definitely a sight to see. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Simply spectacular! It definitely made me hold my breath. If you happen to have seen Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter‘s Tsunami scene recreated in that movie then you should know what I’m talking about. The trailer actually showed a different vantage point than the one actually used in the movie which, I thought, was pretty clever.

Another nice touch is giving just peeks and glimpses of the Monster that was inside the train. The camera shows you just enough of it, making it more intriguing. A really different type of approach indeed. Again, less is more.

This movie also reminds me of another Spielberg film that I wasn’t particularly happy with, the remake of War of the Worlds, but minus the flat storyline. The story revolves around the kids and always goes back to them and this is the recurring theme all throughout the movie.

If you have not seen this movie and it’s still showing in you area, I definitely recommend that you go see it. It has a wonderful story, blended with nice twists, spectacular effects and great acting. It is definitely worth seeing. It has an old-school vibe! Definitely a classic! You can even let kids see this movie with no worries. Another rarity in movies these days. I definitely can’t wait to see this in High Defnition.

The Verdict: Top Box! The Clumsy Idiot gives this movie 9.5 out of 10.0!