Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend Reset: Jon Jones, MLS, and defensemen score beauties

This will be as regular of a feature as I can possibly make it, since Sunday night is a great time to cool down with a glass of scotch and recap everything we got to see over the course of the weekend.

Jon Jones, GSP, and the pound-for-pound debate

In the last few years in the world of mixed martial arts, there have usually been three fighters who are viewed as the top 'pound-for-pound' fighters in the world. Russia's Fedor Emelianenko, Brazil's Anderson Silva, and, of course, Montreal's own Georges St.-Pierre.

That has all changed. "The Last Emperor", Emelianenko, whose 2009 season was marred by a series of contract disputes, is on a two-fight losing streak and has not won a fight since November 7th 2009. Silva is getting up there in years, and, save his last knockout recently in February, was on a streak of four disappointing bouts in the middleweight division. That left St.-Pierre, who has never knocked anybody out, to sort of budge in and become the consensus Number One in the world. He has gone through seven fights without losing a round and is unbeaten in eight and has cleaned out the Ultimate Fighting Championship's welterweight division twice.

Now, the man challenging for GSP's number one spot is the recently crowed light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones, who fights with St.-Pierre out of Jackson's Submission Fighting and, at 23, is the youngest ever UFC champion. Jones rolled over Shogun Rua to win the title Saturday, with three dominant rounds and several blows, any of which could have knocked out the 29-year old. Jones eventually connected with a jab, followed by a flying knee and Rua fell helplessly to the canvas, like any defeated champion would.

This Jon Jones is something. When GSP fought BJ Penn at UFC 94 in January of 2009, Jones was also on the card, and managed an exciting first round against Stephen Bonnar which was marred by his running out of energy in rounds two and three, leading to a decision victory. Since then, Jones has never had to go to a decision, and has fought six times since then. His run to the title has come seemingly without taking any punishment. The most trouble the prodigy has been in has come when he was delivering so much damage to Matt Hamill that he could no longer to give the man any more punishment legally, and was DQ'd for illegal elbows.

Jones is too big of a fighter for there to even be a remote chance of him facing GSP, but the speed of Jones' rise from up-and-comer to contender to champion has definitely landed him in the discussion of the "pound-for-pound" king. With a string of bouts where GSP has failed to finish his opposition (despite making Josh Koscheck his speed bag for five rounds back in December) critics may start to turn on him.

St.-Pierre fights next on April 30 against Jake Shields at the Rogers Centre, whose run to superstardom took a much different path than Jones. Shields bounced around the middleweight division of lesser promotions, racking up victories against notables such as Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Mike Pyle, Paul Daley, and Jason Miller before vacating his Strikeforce title to move to UFC's welterweight division. Shields is an all-American wrestler, a Pan-American Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, basically a fighter designed to keep St.-Pierre on his feet and prevent him from wearing his opposition down on the ground.

A strong performance from GSP, and hopefully a finish that we have not seen in years, and St.-Pierre will once again reign with a secure consensus behind him as the world's Number One, that is, until Jon Jones next fight in what? 2 months?

Soccer matters in Vancouver

Judging from my Twitter timeline, any self-respecting Vancouver sports fan was tuned into Vancouver Whitecaps F.C.'s Major League Soccer 4-2 win against Toronto F.C. on Saturday. They got to see a cracker of a performance by the local team in front of a raucous crowd. Good. I've long been a proponent of MLS, and more Canadian teams and Canadian rivalries are great to grow the game in Canada so eventually our stars stay and play with Canada's national team and play for Canadian top-flight clubs instead of bolting to Europe.

This match here, however, had some foreign quality. It was the Whitecaps' designated player Eric Hassli, a Frenchman from the Swiss league, who opened the scoring for the franchise in the 15th minute (nine minutes ahead of Toronto, nyah nyah nyah nyah) on a left-footed strike from a lucky bounce in the box, and added another in the 72nd on a three-on-none. Toronto looked like a team very much in the rebuilding stage, and though they capitalized off of their few chances (including Dwayne De Rosario scoring the 8,000th goal in MLS history) they have a lot of work to do. Hassli was running over their defense all game.

PK Subban one-ups Luke Schenn

I bet when you saw this goal by Luke Schenn on Hockey Night Saturday, you assumed that it would be the goal of the weekend from a defenseman:

"Not so fast," says PK Subban, who scored his first of three on Sunday with this beauty.

"Quel spectacle! Quel présence! Quel effort individuel, PK Subban!"

A PK Subban-dedicated post is scheduled for later this week, based on an idea I took from Twitter. Stay tuned.

Also in the news...

-Canada's Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph of the Texas Longhorns find themselves out of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, after it is determined that 4.6 seconds is a 5-second violation.

-The Canadian Press article misspells the name of the Player of the Game and the season MVP as the Windsor Lancers break a 19-year Canada West winning streak in women's basketball to take the national title. Unlike the men's national game, this one was broadcast live nationally.

-And, in what seem to be weekly occurences, Damien Cox is kind of a dick and Matt Cooke should probably be kicked out of the NHL.

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