Warriors

UFC 126 -- What you need to know for Saturday

273601.jpg

UFC 126 -- What you need to know for Saturday

Feb. 4, 2011MMA PAGE Carmichael Dave
CSNCalifornia.com

What's on tap for UFC 126 ...

ANDERSON SILVA vs. VITOR BELFORT
Two records.

12 and 7.

Anderson Silva has fought 12 times in the UFC, coming out on top each time.

Anderson Silva has defended his 185-pound title belt seven times, and walked out of the octagon seven times wearing gold around his waist.

Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay events center in Las Vegas, those streaks could come to an end.

Vitor Belfort has long been a sought after opponent for Silva, possessing unequaled hands in a sport filled with fantastic strikers. Known as "The Phenom", a nickname born when he was a teenager cutting down opponents much older and wiser, he has gained a sense of wisdom and control over his actions in the cage over the years.

Silva, by all counts, should not be bringing his title belt with him Saturday night. Were it not for perhaps the greatest comeback in MMA history (over Chael Sonnen at an August bout in Oakland), this would simply be a matchup between two top contenders. Woulda coulda shoulda means nothing, however; Silva proved last summer you can never count him out.

Yet his recent performances have shown an uncharacteristic chink in his formerly invincible armor, be it the thrashing he took at the hands of Sonnen (taking more punches in that fight than his previous 11 combined), or the debacle vs. Damian Maia back in Abu Dhabi. Silva will go down as one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, but all good things must come to an end.

One can never count out the heart of a champion, or a fantastic game plan. Anderson Silva is still one of the most gifted fighters out there, but whether it's his mental makeup or physical prowess, there has been a detectable slip recently, and this is a sport that does not allow for even a slight decline.

Belfort has the hands, and an underrated jiu-jitsu game overshadowed by his highlight-reel knockouts. He is not even close to unbeatable, as he has proved in the past. Mental lapses have been commonplace, and he can be bullied around (as Randy Couture once proved). But Silva seems to be tailor-made for Belfort, and the cliche "styles make fights" has never been more appropriate.

Look for a new champion to be crowned late in the first round, and another unbeatable goliath to come back to the land of mere mortals.

PREDICTION: BELFORT TKO RD1FORREST GRIFFIN vs. RICH FRANKLIN
Saturday night will feature a nice selection of current and former champions, and two face off in a probable elimination bout for a shot at Shogun Rua's title. Griffin is the improbable former 205-pound champ, while Franklin was the long-time belt-holder at 185 (until the aforementioned Silva came on the scene).

Both fighters have very little in common at first glance, save for each being on the bad end of highlight knockouts by "The Spider". Yet, when you look deeper, their styles aren't that far off when it's all said and done. Both guys prefer to stand up, yet have underrated ground games. Each guy also is known for having solid game plans, and out-thinking their opponents.

However, since his shocking wins over both Shogun and Rampage Jackson, Griffin has been in somewhat of a rut. There was the embarassment at the hands of Silva, although most of Silva's challengers were embarassed by him at one time. Throw in the TKO loss to Rashad Evans, and Griffin has only a split decision over the shell that is Tito Ortiz as a positive on his record over the last 2 12 years.

Franklin was simply outclassed by Silva in each of their bouts, and was similarly throttled by Vitor Belfort. There was the controversial split-decision loss to Dan Henderson, but beyond that, Franklin has adjusted and overcome, versus the likes of Wanderlei Silva and an also aging Chuck Liddell.

On paper, this is a pretty even matchup, but the planning and psyche of Franklin, a former math teacher, will prove to be the edge. Griffin has spoken of leaving Xtreme Couture for a more organized camp with a full-time head coach, and this is just the type of fight to make that decision seem sound. The fight should be extremely entertaining, but Franklin will find ways to frustrate the Ultimate Fighter Season 1 champ, and expose those weaknesses.

PREDICTION: FRANKLIN via UNANIMOUS DECISIONJON JONES vs. RYAN BADER
To me, the fight of the night. In addition, the toughest one to pick.

One of the reasons why MMA, and the UFC in particular, are dominating boxing in the hearts and minds of the fans is the willingness to make fights like these. If either of these guys were promoted by Don King or Bob Arum, you wouldn't see them fight until they were in their early 30s - with at least 20 fights under their belts. There's no WAY a boxing promoter would risk his prime prospect slamming up against a fellow diaper dandy for anything less than a title belt, much less a stepping-stone fight.

In Bader and Jones, you have two of the top 5 (and possibly top 2) prospects in the entire sport facing off. Bader is a recent Ultimate Fighter champion who has steamrolled his way to a 12-0 record, and in fairly easy fashion. Jones has perhaps been more impressive, amassing an 11-1 mark, with the only loss due to a technicality while absolutely annihilating perennial prospect Matt Hamill. Jones has provided both flashy KOs and moves rarely seen this side of Urijah Faber.

This will be by far each man's biggest career test. It's an extremely tough fight to call for a myriad of reasons. Should Bader be able to take Jones down and use his fantastic wrestling effectively, we may see the air let out of the balloon pretty quickly, most likely to a cascade of boos. That option is really everyone's nightmare, from fans to promoter alike. No one wants to see an elite prospect showdown turn into the lay and pray show, especially given Jones' penchant for shock and awe. To be honest however, if I'm in Bader's camp, it might be exactly what I tell him to do. You don't french-kiss a dragon.

However, there's a reason "Bones" Jones has rapidly become MMA's next big thing. I haven't seen this much raw talent since a French-Canadian names Georges St. Pierre came on the scene a few years back. Every 4-5 years since this sport's inception, someone comes along and turns things on their head. When GSP arrived, we all marveled at his superhuman athleticism, and waited patiently as he got the "yips" (to borrow a golfing term) out of his system to become the complete and dominant all around fighter he is today. Jones has the same type of next-level capabilities, and Saturday's matchup will prove to be a coming-out party, or a lesson well-learned.

Make no mistake about it, Jon Jones will hold the 205-pound belt someday. Whether Ryan Bader can temporarily derail the Bones Train remains to be seen. I don't think so, but again, this is a hell of a tough fight to call. Should it get into the 3rd round, it should be to Bader's advantage, but I don't think we get that far.

PREDICTION: JON JONES TKO RD. 2

Please join us next week for another exciting round of "Boy Dave was wrong, how did he ever get an MMA gig?"

Until then please enjoy Saturday's card. After a minor hiatus, MMA is about to ramp up a nice run of exciting fight cards, and you won't want to spend too much time at the fridge during this one.

Poole's 2017-18 NBA predictions: It's the Warriors ... and everyone else

warriors-predictions.jpg
USATSI

Poole's 2017-18 NBA predictions: It's the Warriors ... and everyone else

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1) Warriors: Rave all you want about Steph and KD and Klay and the incredible offense, but the foundation is the hyperactive, highly intelligent defense.

2) Rockets: Behind James and CP, they will score and score often. They will be better on defense. This will push them, for the second time in 20 years, past the Spurs.

3) Thunder: Russ, PG and Melo all together in GM San Presti’s petri dish. There will be fireworks, and it shouldn’t take long to see if they’ll be beautiful or destructive.

4) Spurs: LA is plodding, Kawhi is limping and Tony P is at least two months away from being a ghost of his former self. This is Pop’s biggest challenge.

5) Nuggets: Millsap is going to help this team. A lot. If Joker stays healthy and the point guard play is solid, they could make a run at a top-4 seed.

6) Timberwolves: Thibs has gathered many pieces, some good and some duplicative. Why does this feel like a salad mixing old avocados and tomatoes with fresh lettuce?

7) Clippers: CP3’s absence gives this bunch a strange look, like a room without a roof. Not much to be ‘Happy’ about, though, except what The Logo can do for the future.

8) Trail Blazers: Points are going to come, but can anybody play D? Some team has to earn the 8-seed and I like the work Dame, CJ and Nurk put in late last season.

9) Pelicans: Boogie and The Brow. This could be epic, or epic fail. Only if Jrue stays healthy and Raj plays young (good luck with that) can this squad make some noise.

10) Jazz: Gordy and G-Hill are gone. Exum may miss the season. Coach Quin is solid, yes, but how far he can go if the second-biggest paycheck is going to Aussie Joe?

11) Grizzlies: Gonna miss oldes Zach and Vince and also The Grindfather, the best nickname in the league, in his element. Glory days are gone, so invite the dawn.

12) Mavericks: Someday, maybe 25 years from now, Cubes will let Dirk limp his way to the Hall. Until then, it’s mediocrity and less. How long will they pack the house?

13) Suns: They’re young and tantalizing. They may be good someday, but for now it’s the Desert Day Care center, with Papa Earl trying to keep the peace and survive.

14) Lakers: The Ball family is in the house, and Lonzo brings the promise of joy. They’ll be more half-watchable this year, because you don’t wanna see this D.

15) Kings: Titanic may be rising from the deep. Nice idea, adding old heads to work with youngsters De’Aaron, Skal and Buddy. But the Kangz are in the wrong division.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1) Celtics: This could take a few weeks. That five-game homer, post-Thanksgiving, should be the time for Kyrie, Gordy & Co. to go to work. What you got, Coach Brad?

2) Cavaliers: This is the year LeBron reaches the dark side of the mountain. That’s trouble for The Land. They could win 55, which is about how many games he’ll play.

3) Wizards: It’s time for John Wall to prove it, to take the Wiz to unfamiliar heights. If Brad Beal can stay on the court (that’s asking a lot), they’ll breathe on the Cavs.

4) Bucks: The D improved when Young Jabari went down, and he’ll be out until February. Hmm. OK. It’s close-up time for the Greek Freak. Can anybody make a J?

5) Raptors: The guards can score but can’t/won’t defend. How much does Serge have left? They’ll have it rough unless the big addition, CJ Miles, has a career year.

6) Heat: Love the Dragon. Love/hate Dion and Hassan. Don’t like much of the rest of the roster, though. Coaching truly matters with this bunch, and they have a fine one.

7) Hornets: A 35-win team in the West, which translates to 44 in the East. Malik Monk is OK, but Kemba’s the engine. It’s a low bar for Dwight. Can he reach it?

8) 76ers: Young Ben, aka Fresh Prince, is our pick for Rook of the Year. We like Saric. We believe JJ will help. But this is about The Process. If he plays 50 games, they win 38.

9) Pistons: Avery B will help the D, but until SVG finds a taker for Reggie J, the playoffs are MIA. Stanley J has skills. It’s time for him to show it.

10) Nets: Hello, D-Lo. We see you, Mr. Crabbe. The clowns won’t be so funny this season. Coach Kenny has ’em playing hard and fast. They can go from 20 wins to 30.

11) Magic: Other than AG’s hops, Jonathon Simmons’ grit and Mo Speights’ smile, there is nothing to see here. This club is 20 percent highlights, 80 percent yikes.

12) Pacers: After making the playoffs in six of seven seasons, you flip four of your top six scorers, including PG. What the . . .? It’s Lottery Time in Indy.

13) Knicks: New York works its rump off to make its teams relevant. The Knicks don’t care. KP6 is saddled with a frat-house clothes hamper of an organization.

14) Bulls: They’ve demolished the franchise MJ made famous and slithered into the basement once occupied, seemingly for decades, by the Sixers. We’re thinking 12-70.

15) Hawks: Baze and Schroder are the best Travis Schlenk has on a team that could go 0-for-the-West. We’re thinking 10-72, only because the least of the East is so junky.

--

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Warriors over Rockets in 5

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Cavs over Celtics in 6

NBA FINALS

Warriors over Cavs in 4

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”