Rousey’s armbar parade and the state of women’s MMA

As I’ve bragged repeatedly, perhaps because I’m so rarely ahead of the curve on such on things, I was touting Ronda Rousey as a future MMA star even before the 2008 Olympics. She was a badass, she was quotable, and she won a lot of her judo bouts by armbar — a good way of winning MMA fights.

So why am I a little concerned upon waking up this morning (no, I didn’t get a chance to see the fight — glad to see full highlights available) to see that Rousey has taken the Strikeforce title — again by armbar, again in the first round?

Perhaps it’s because I was impressed with Miesha Tate when I interviewed her for espnW. She’s a terrific spokeswoman for her sport. But honestly, I had a few misgivings before chatting with Tate.

Maybe because I don’t like bullies and brash attitudes. I’ll stand by my distaste for Chael Sonnen’s entire approach to the sport. I frankly don’t want to see Sonnen fight Anderson Silva again.

But beyond that, it’s a concern about the state of women’s MMA, a young sport within a young sport.

Think back to boxer James Toney fighting Randy Couture. Toney seemed to think his boxing skills, along with a brief introduction to the other aspects of the sport, would be sufficient for competing in the Octagon. A few boxing scribes turned up in Boston eager to heap dirt upon mixed martial arts, and the “no cheering on press row” ideal went out the window. When Couture wisely used a mix of mixed martial arts skills — a wrestling takedown, a jiu-jitsu finish and the MMA-specific skill of ground-and-pound — to subdue Toney, the crowd released a roar that was equal parts excitement, validation and relief.

To be fair, Rousey isn’t James Toney. Her MMA career has been brief, but she has still worked her way up a ladder. A judo base is also a lot better preparation for MMA than a boxing base — once she gets in a clinch or takes the fight to the ground, she’s in her element.

A better comparison might be Brock Lesnar, who fought for the UFC heavyweight title with a 2-1 record, beating no one of consequence. Like Rousey, Lesnar was a tough, powerful athlete with a grappling base. Even in his loss to Frank Mir, he showed a good set of MMA skills, adding ground-and-pound to his wrestling before showing his inexperience and falling into a submission.

Yet Lesnar’s rapid rise also pointed to a weak division of UFC heavyweights. The heavyweight class isn’t the deepest in MMA, and the UFC at the time was lacking a lot of the world’s best.

So what does Rousey’s rapid rise tell us about the state of women’s MMA?

Michael David Smith takes the half-full view. And he’s right that Rousey’s next fight could be a more compelling test than Tate was. Tate tried swarming Rousey with punches and kicks early, but she’s not a standout striker, and Compustrike only counted eight strikes that landed in 4:27 of fight time. By comparison, Sarah Kaufman landed 141 standing arm strikes — not just leg kicks and ground strikes that are easier to accumulate — in her win over Alexis Davis, even though Davis put her on the ground most of round 3 and wound up outstriking her in the total numbers. (Yes, I really wish I had seen that fight, and it’s a pity Strikeforce/Showtime didn’t put it on the main card.)

Maybe Kaufman will fill the Cain Velasquez role, beating the new champion in a standup battle, or at least the Shane Carwin role, taking it to the champion and forcing a comeback win. Then again, if Kaufman couldn’t keep Davis from taking her down even after punishing her for two rounds, can she keep Rousey at bay?

Like Lesnar (and unlike Toney), Rousey has built nicely on her grappling base, and she finally got a chance to show more of her skills against Tate. Rousey’s previous bouts hadn’t lasted more than a minute, and she was never put in any danger. Rousey had to work for this one. Tate at least got in a few punches and even got on her back at one point. She also got out of Rousey’s first armbar attempt. Rousey even showed off some ground-and-pound skills. Tate held on until her arm reached this gruesome point. (Warning: Not kidding about “gruesome.”)

So we can’t complain too much about her worthiness as a champion, even if she talked her way into the title shot. She’s a terrific fighter. And she’s exciting — fellow fighters lit up Twitter last night to gush about what they had seen.

Perhaps she’ll be the first of a new wave. Already, fellow Olympic-bred badass Sara McMann is blazing a trail through MMA. Men’s MMA evolved when elite wrestlers like Couture and Dan Henderson embraced the new sport. Maybe Rousey, McMann and company can do the same thing.

But just as MMA fans fondly recall the men’s trailblazers, even those who wouldn’t be competitive in the modern era, we should remember the people who fought before fighting was cool. And perhaps a few old-school fans will be rooting for Kaufman to win one for the old guard and teach these new folks some humility.

Welcome to the big leagues, UFC

MMA has a long-standing paradox. A monopoly of power would be a good thing in the sense that fans would have true world champions to celebrate. Yet it could be a bad thing in the sense that fighters could have little leverage over their pay and treatment, and MMA-related businesses could be pushed around.

And so the MMA community has had mixed reactions to the news that Zuffa, the corporation that has built the UFC into the world’s dominant MMA brand, has bought Strikeforce, the No. 2 MMA promotion in the world.

The deal doesn’t quite turn the UFC into the NFL of its sport — the world still has hundreds of promoters of varying sizes. It’s basically the NBA — clearly the best in the world, though other countries have a few good players as well. On a given day, a champion elsewhere might beat the NBA’s best (see Barcelona vs. Los Angeles, 2010), but on the whole, the NBA is the destination for the world’s best.

It’s an imperfect analogy because other major sports have teams that must compete to sign players. Major League Soccer, with its single-entity structure, is an exception but faces much more competition from overseas teams and leagues.

Whatever the structure of the league, most dominant U.S. sports brands have faced legal action and labor strife. The NHL missed a whole season. Congress uses baseball’s antitrust exemption as an excuse to stick its nose in the commissioner’s business. MLS faced a player lawsuit in its early days and went down to the wire to avoid a work stoppage last season. The NFL … well, I’ll assume most people follow the news at least in passing.

I asked about this prospect in yesterday’s conference call. The UFC’s Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White were confident that the future would be a smooth one, pointing to all the other promoters out there who could offer fighters another option.

And at the lower end of the talent pool, where most fans would worry most about fighters’ welfare, that’s surely true. The higher end is less of a concern. The UFC didn’t get where it is by short-changing its top talent, and it won’t stay there by starting now.

But near-monopoly power over the elite levels of the sport will ensure that the UFC will have to be careful. Any predatory practice could trigger an opportunity for a salivating law firm.

So the deal could create the best possible scenario. Fans could have undisputed world champions and a clear hierarchy of talent in each weight class. The pressure on the UFC to treat fighters, sponsors, broadcasters and fans appropriately will come not from a would-be competitor of Strikeforce’s stature but from watchful lawyers.

Over the past five years, the UFC has gone from controlling perhaps 50-60 percent of the world’s MMA market to roughly 90 percent of it. Japan’s once-dominant Pride declined and was sold to the UFC, and the promotions that sprang up in its wake have been teetering since inception. A long line of would-be challengers in North America, ranging from the outright hostile (EliteXC) to the benign but successful (Strikeforce), has either been beaten by the UFC or joined them.

The story of the next five years: How will the UFC manage its near-absolute dominance?

A farewell to Fedor? Plus other Strikeforce thoughts

One unfortunate aspect of being a latecomer to MMA is that I clearly missed some of the best fighters in their prime. I know Chuck Liddell dominated for years, but the first time I saw him in person, Rashad Evans knocked him unconscious. A couple more KOs later, he’s done.

Fedor Emelianenko is a more complicated story. Though he looks like your middle-aged uncle, he’s only 34, not too old for a sport that sees many fighters remain competitive past 40. But his glory years were a long time ago.

Since beating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on New Year’s Eve 2004, the only fighter he has beaten who has had significant wins after facing Fedor is the erratic Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Everyone else was on the downside of his career (Mark Coleman, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia) or not an appropriate matchup (Hong Man Choi, Matt Lindland). Andrei Arlovski was beating Fedor he flew into a Fedor punch, and the man with the vampire teeth has been knocked out three straight times since then. Brett Rogers gave Fedor fits.

Then, at last, came the losses. Fabricio Werdum may have been lucky to land a submission while Fedor was in what seemed to be a good position. But tonight, Antonio Silva manhandled him. The second round teetered close to a 10-7 round, which is as rare in MMA as a T-shirt without a garish design.

Given Fedor’s sporadic activity, the result of nagging hand injuries and his stubborn management, it’s been difficult to assess his dedication to training and his form. Tonight, you’d have to conclude that he’s just not the old Fedor. Had he signed with the UFC, there’s no reason to think Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin or Junior dos Santos couldn’t have done to Fedor what Silva did to him tonight.

Strikeforce’s Scott Coker is insisting we’ll see Fedor again in the organization. At this point, it’s hardly worth it. Fedor hinted strongly at retirement in his postfight comments, and that wouldn’t be a bad decision. Another option: Could anyone blame Fedor if he took a couple of ceremonial farewell fights in Japan and Russia to say goodbye where he was most successful?

Strikeforce simply can’t afford to tie its fortunes too tightly to a fighter who is anything but the crafty, invincible legend he was six years ago. They’re not repeating the mistake of EliteXC in overhyping a fighter (Kimbo Slice) who had never done anything to warrant legend status, but they have to be prepared to move on. The foundation has to be strong enough to stand on its own.

Similarly, the announcing team Showtime has in place does Strikeforce no favors by treating it soooo seriously. That extends to the ring announcers who spend a couple of minutes per fight telling us that the guy walking to the cage is “respected” or “heavy-handed.” Then Gus Johnson gets Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock to explain again how big this Strikeforce event really is. The more they talk about it, the less we’re inclined to believe it.

The funny thing is that Strikeforce looks and sounds much better for the prelims on HDNet, with Michael Schiavello and Bas Rutten on the mikes. They are by no means disrespectful to the fighters, but they have fun. They allow fans to share their excitement rather than imploring them to be excited.

To their credit, Ranallo and Shamrock are perceptive commentators. When the technical skills aren’t there, as was the case in Chad Griggs’ wild-swinging win over Gian Villante, they say so. But when they lurch into salesman mode, they do so rather awkwardly.

Ideally, Schiavello and Rutten could call the fights, with Ranallo doing interviews and Shamrock giving analysis between fights or between rounds. Make it entertaining, and it’ll sell itself.

MMA tournaments: How to, how not to

The UFC started with a simple concept — eight men, one tournament, one winner.

Since then, the “tournament” idea has remained but has been spread over more time. Japanese promotions have often held quarterfinals one night, then held semifinals and finals on the same night a couple of months later. Strikeforce will do the same with a women’s tournament Friday night (11 p.m. ET, Showtime).

Bellator, which opens its third season tonight (check with your local FSN affiliate) has opted for season-long tournaments over a couple of months. The UFC isn’t such a fan of the tournament concept, but that’s essentially what you get in The Ultimate Fighter.

Shine Fights has announced an old-school fight card next month in Fairfax, Va. Eight fighters — some notable — fighting up to three times during the night for a tournament title.

Several reasons why this is a tricky concept:

1. No time to promote. With The Ultimate Fighter, we know the fighters by the time they reach the final.

2. Logistics. Shuffling fighters in and out can be a challenge.

3. Fatigue and trivial injuries that can affect the outcomes. When one fighter has a brutal quarterfinal bout and the other sails through with ease, who do you suppose gets the win? And heaven forbid someone breaks a finger or gets a cut that would normally clear up in a couple of weeks but causes him to forfeit the next fight.

4. Serious injuries. Dr. Johnny Benjamin explains.

The curse of Fedor: Former opponents faring poorly

Dec. 31, 2004. Fedor Emelianenko defeats Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the second time. He is Pride’s heavyweight champion and the winner of the heavyweight Grand Prix. At the same time, UFC is in heavyweight limbo due to Frank Mir’s motorcycle accident. Few can doubt that Fedor is the best heavyweight fighter in MMA.

Fedor has won 10 more fights since then. Some have had good resumes. But at most, one has gone on to do anything significant since facing Fedor.

Call it the Curse of Fedor. Or perhaps bad matchmaking and bad timing. Emelianenko is still ranked No. 1 in the world, a claim helped by the relative inexperience of UFC champion Brock Lesnar and interim UFC champion Shane Carwin. But that ranking isn’t as certain as the No. 1s in the next three classes — Mauricio Rua, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre.

Here’s a breakdown of what Fedor’s opponents have gone on to do:

Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Pride Bushido 6, April 3, 2005 (doctor stoppage after first round): A rematch of Fedor’s only “loss,” a 2000 Rings tournament bout that was stopped early when Fedor was cut by an illegal strike. In most circuits, that would be declared no contest. But someone had to advance in the tournament, so Kohsaka was credited with the win. He went on to lose to Randy Couture in the same tournament and then lost to a succession of top fighters before facing Fedor again.

After Fedor: 2 wins (neither notable), 2 losses. Retired.

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Pride Final Conflict, Aug. 28. 2005 (unanimous decision): Perhaps the last great Fedor fight. Certainly the last time to date that he’s gone the distance. Cro Cop had marched through some of the best in the game — Sakuraba, Vovchanchyn, Barnett and Coleman.

After Fedor: 11 wins, 4 losses, no contest. The best record by far of any of Fedor’s opponents of the last five years, with wins over Josh Barnett (again) and Wanderlei Silva. Yet the man with the short shorts has struggled in UFC fights, compiling a 3-3 record with no big wins and losses to Gabriel Gonzaga, Cheick Kongo and Junior dos Santos.

Zuluzinho, Pride Shockwave 2005, Dec. 31, 2005 (first-round submission to strikes): The glorious world of Japanese matchmaking brought us this Brazilian fighter, who was 15-0 when he made his Pride debut against Fedor. Twenty-six seconds later, he was 15-1. Here’s how:

After Fedor: 4 wins, 5 losses. He went on to lose to Nogueira and Eric “Butterbean” Esch in a not-so-stellar Pride career. Best win was against Ikuhisa “Minowaman” Minowa, whose 45-30-8 record tells the tale of an up-and-down career.

Mark Coleman, Pride 32, Oct. 21, 2006 (second-round armbar submission): Coleman was a fine choice as Fedor’s opponent when Pride made its first trip to the USA. He would later be named to the UFC Hall of Fame, and he was Pride’s 2000 open-weight Grand Prix champion. He had lost to Nogueira, Cro Cop and Fedor himself in the years since then, and his most notable win — over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua — was the result of a catastrophic mistake in which Rua broke his arm.

After Fedor: 1 win, 2 losses. Coleman was inactive for more than two years until the UFC brought him back for a light heavyweight rematch with Rua, in which he fought gamely but showed his age. He then took an impressive unanimous decision over Stephan Bonnar, taking down the younger fighter and beating him up old-school. But he showed little in a loss to Randy Couture and was cut from the UFC despite his Hall of Fame status and the desire of many to see him beat up Tito Ortiz, who heckled him during his postfight interview.

Mark Hunt, Pride Shockwave 2006, Dec. 31, 2006 (first-round kimura submission): The New Zealand kickboxer, whose best results were split decisions over Wanderlei Silva and Cro Cop, wasn’t the top choice to face Fedor in what turned out to be the last Pride heavyweight title fight. He still made a decent go of things before Fedor’s class won out.

After Fedor: 0 wins, 3 losses. All solid opponents — Alistair Overeem, Melvin Manhoef, Gegard Mousasi. All quick losses.

Matt Lindland, BodogFight, April 14, 2007 (first-round armbar submission):  The gambling company’s brief dalliance in fight promotion included a trip to Russia, offering Fedor a chance to fight in his home country for the first time in six years. The choice of opponent was curious — middleweight Matt Lindland, who packed on a few pounds to try to even the scales. The 2000 Olympic wrestling medalist had a respectable 20-4 record, mostly against UFC and IFL opposition, but jumping two weight classes was a tall order.

After Fedor: 1 win, 2 losses. He moved to Affliction and took a unanimous decision over Fabio Nascimento, but Vitor Belfort knocked out in spectacular fashion, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza spoiled his Strikeforce debut. He fights again Saturday against Kevin Casey.

Hong-Man Choi, Yarennoka!, Dec. 31, 2007 (first-round armbar submission): The ultimate in Japanese matchmaking eccentricity is this 7-2 Korean kickboxer. That’s his height, not his record. He had a decent kickboxing record but was 1-0 in MMA coming into this fight, having beaten TV personality Bobby Ologun. Fedor took some damage in the fight, mostly from trying to take down the much larger Choi and having him topple on top.

After Fedor: 1 win, 2 losses, but at least he beat Jose Canseco.

Tim Sylvia, Affliction: Banned, July 19, 2008 (first-round rear naked choke): Surely this would be a more legitimate traditional matchup. Sylvia had held the UFC belt 18 months earlier and was coming off a loss to Nogueira, hardly a shameful result. But the UFC had parted ways with him for some reason. And his next two fights lasted a total of 45 seconds. He survived 36 seconds against Fedor and NINE against Ray Mercer, the former boxer most notable in MMA for losing an exhibition to Kimbo Slice before Slice started training seriously.

After Fedor: 1 win, 1 loss.

Andrei Arlovski, Affliction: Day of Reckoning, Jan. 24, 2009 (first-round KO): Again, a relatively recent UFC champion would face Fedor. And Arlovski was fresh from a second-round win over Roy Nelson, albeit a mildly controversial one. Arlovski took the fight to Fedor early on. Then he rushed toward an apparently stunned Fedor with a flying attack, and Fedor swatted him out of the air and out of the fight with one well-timed punch.

After Fedor: 0 wins, 2 losses. Brett Rogers (see below) took him out in 22 seconds. Then he lost a decision to Antonio Silva.

Brett Rogers, Strikeforce, Nov. 7, 2009 (second-round TKO): Rogers was unbeaten entering the bout, having just beaten Arlovski. He was competitive in the first round, but Fedor caught him in the second and pounded him out.

After Fedor: 0 wins, 1 loss. Overeem finally returned to Strikeforce to defend his title, and he did so convincingly, taking a first-round TKO.


Fedor’s next opponent, Fabricio Werdum, beat Overeem in May 2006. He’s 5-3 since then, losing to Nogueira, Arlovski and Junior dos Santos.

Best of luck to him after June 26.

Monday Myriad: Sparkling play in WPS, short-sighted decision in Italy

We’re starting with WPS for a highlight that probably didn’t make SportsCenter (correct me if it did) but should have. It’s Abby Wambach’s back-heel, throwing off three defenders and setting up the Washington Freedom’s first goal against the run of play as the Atlanta Beat once again looked wonderful but couldn’t finish. If you want to skip ahead to it, go to the 1:17 mark:

Wambach’s header wasn’t bad, either, which is why she gets my Player of the Week vote ahead of Marta. Granted, if I could see Marta’s video highlights, that would help.

The full week (home teams first):

  • Atlanta 0, Washington 2: The Beat might have played the best two games ever without scoring, outshooting the Freedom 21-10.
  • Boston 1, Bay Area 2: Marta has both goals for the league leaders.
  • St. Louis 2, New Jersey 2: Apologies to Laura Kalmari, who scored twice for Sky Blue and won’t win Player of the Week ahead of the bigger names.
  • Chicago 0, Philadelphia 1: Not a very good week for home teams, was it?


Several trophies were on the line, but the decisive games made news for reasons beyond the results.

  • Spain: Barcelona looked as good as ever in beating Valladolid 4-0 to finish the La Liga season with a record 99 points — 31 wins, 6 draws, 1 loss — a season that ranks with Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League run (2003-04) as one of the best ever in a top European league. The only team to beat Barca was erratic Europa League champion Atletico Madrid. Runner-up Real Madrid lost twice to Barca and still somehow kept pace until the very end, drawing 1-1 with Malaga in a result that kept the home team in La Liga next year at Valladolid’s expense.
  • Italy: Inter Milan made their fans sweat a little more, waiting until the second half to score at Siena and hold on for a 1-0 win that clinched the Serie A title by two points over Roma, which won 2-0 at Chievo.
  • Italy/USA: American defender Oguchi Onyewu, who missed much of the season after an injury in World Cup qualifying, worked out a one-year contract extension with third-place AC Milan by offering to play for free in 2012-13. The club have agreed, which is appalling. What happens to the next guy who gets hurt playing in a World Cup qualifier? How much pressure will be on that player to do what Onyewu did? (BBC)
  • FA Cup: Premier League champion Chelsea beat last-place Portsmouth, which played the season under the cloud of financial problems, but the underdogs managed to throw away much of their charm when Kevin-Prince Boateng’s brutal foul on Michael Ballack knocked the German cornerstone out of the World Cup. Boateng, coincidentally, has shifted nationality from Germany to Ghana and may play against Germany — and his half-brother, Jerome Boateng — in the World Cup. Perhaps it was instant karma that Boateng had a penalty kick saved, spoiling Portsmouth’s chance to take an improbable lead. (BBC)
  • German Cup: Bayern Munich 4, Werder Bremen 0. Saturday’s Champions League final (Bayern-Inter, 2:45 p.m. ET, Fox) will feature two teams going for a triple of league, cup and European trophies.
  • England: Congratulations to Oxford United, which returns to League football with an emphatic Conference final win. (BBC)
  • Mexico: Jose Francisco Torres will be available for the U.S. camp without a club-vs.-country battle, as his Pachuca side fell on 3-2 aggregate to Toluca. Santos followed up a 3-3 draw at Morelia by winning the second leg 7-1. What is this — the NASL? Third seed Toluca and fifth seed Santos will be the clubs playing in the Mexican final and lining up to crush MLS teams in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
  • CONCACAF (women’s): It’s a miracle that Haiti is able to field a team at all after the earthquake. They’re doing more than competing — they’ve advanced to the final round of Gold Cup qualifying. (All White Kit)


  • Strikeforce: Alistair Overeem demolished Brett Rogers to retain his heavyweight championship, saving Strikeforce from the PR dilemma of having their heavyweight champion already beaten by Fedor Emelianenko. All eyes now turn to an Overeem-Fedor matchup, assuming Fedor dispenses with Fabricio Werdum this summer. Also, Antonio Silva pushed Andrei Arlovski farther down the heavyweight ladder. (MMA Fighting Stances)
  • Shine Fights: Boxer Ricardo Mayorga was all set to face veteran Din Thomas in Fayetteville, N.C. Then a Florida judge granted boxing promoter Don King an injunction against Mayorga’s participation. After an afternoon Twitter flurry in which the card seemed to be going on with or without the main event, the North Carolina commission scrapped the whole card, though the co-main event of Murilo Rua vs. David Heath isn’t a bad matchup at all for a smaller promotion. King was asked to present a $1 million cash bond, which he did in two duffel bags. (Yahoo!)
  • Washington Combat: Sort of a senior-circuit main event, though Pedro Rizzo has two wins over Jeff Monson in recent years and was on Affliction’s much-hyped debut card against Josh Barnett. His opponent, Gary Goodridge, lost to Paul Buentello on the same Affliction card and lost to solid fighters Overeem and Gegard Mousasi since then. Bloody Elbow’s Luke Thomas says it’s time for Goodridge to hang ’em up. (Washington Post)


  • Giro d’Italia: Through nine stages, the leader is Alexandre Vinokourov, making his first big run since being tossed out of the 2007 Tour de France for flunking a doping test. Cadel Evans is 72 seconds back. American Tyler Farrar leads in points and has the red jersey, the equivalent of the Tour’s green.
  • Tour of California: Mark Cavendish, who won last year’s sprint title while Levi Leipheimer won the overall, won Sunday’s first stage of the eight-stage race. The big climbs are Tuesday and Friday.


  • Madrid Masters (men): After some atypical struggles, Roger Federer is back to normal, reaching the final and then, because it’s on clay, losing to Rafael Nadal. (AP)
  • Madrid Masters (women): Venus Williams reached the final and climbed to No. 2 in the rankings, her best since 2003. She lost in the final, though, to unseeded Aravane Rezai. Maybe she’ll be seeded next year.


  • Swimming: Universal Sports has some video from the Charlotte UltraSwim, including Michael Phelps cruising in the 200 IM. Dancing with the Stars contestant Natalie Coughlin also is back in the pool. (Universal Sports)
  • Track, field and whatever this is: Tyson Gay set a “world best” (it’s not officially a world record because it’s not officially an official event) of 19.41 seconds in Manchester. Makes you wonder how Usain Bolt can run a 19.19 around a curve.
  • Running: Remember the USA TODAY profile on Amy Palmiero-Winters, the amputee who qualified for the 24-hour running world championships? She finished a very respectable 19th, coming just short of 200 kilometers. Scott Jurek covered 266.677k for a silver medal as the U.S. men placed third. Anna Piskorka (10th, 214.417k) was the top U.S. woman as the women’s team finished fourth. (USA Track and Field)


Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky drew in their first meeting at the U.S. Chess Championships on Sunday, likely keeping both of them on track to play again in the “Final Four” in this uniquely formatted tournament. Irina Krush killed my fantasy team by losing out of what seemed to be a winning position against Varuzhan Akobian in a 113-move thriller. (U.S. Chess Federation)


  • Golf and tennis: One sport’s U.S. federation is taking all the right steps to get kids interested and keep them playing. The other is scratching its head as players appear to be abandoning the sport, and the solutions may be quite costly. (Wall Street Journal).
  • Football: Flag football — eventual answer to gender-equity questions? Convenient dodge of gender-equity questions? Waste of time? Great activity? Many opinions here. (New York Times)
  • Skiing/long-running TV shows: Lindsey Vonn was thrilled to do a guest spot on Law & Order. Not so thrilled to hear this is the final season. She’s organizing a group to save the show. (Yahoo! – Fourth-Place Medal)

Monday Myriad: MMA apology time

Quick reminder: Boston Marathon this morning on Universal Sports.

So what happened this weekend?

SOCCER (Americas)

– MLS: The Galaxy look great. The bottom teams look terrible. Full roundup already up.

WPS: Six and a half years ago, Abby Wambach scored both goals in the last WUSA final as the Washington Freedom defeated the Atlanta Beat. On Sunday, Wambach had a goal and two assists as the Freedom won their first WPS meeting with the Beat 3-1. Trivia, true to the best of my recollection (let me know if I forgot someone): The only two players from the Beat’s 2003 final lineup to play in WPS, Briana Scurry and Homare Sawa, are on the Freedom’s roster. Sawa scored for the Freedom.

It was another 3-1 decision in the Bay Area, where FC Gold Pride unleashed Christine Sinclair (two goals) and Marta (one) on the defending champion Sky Blue.

1-1 ties elsewhere: Boston-Philadelphia, Chicago-St. Louis. The great news was that St. Louis’ Lori Chalupny was in action after some concussion concerns, and she scored Athletica’s early goal. Chicago rookie Casey Nogueira, who looked amazing in the W-League a couple of years ago, had the equalizer.

USL/NASL: The early Division 2 pace-setters are the Austin Aztex, who spoiled St. Louis’ home debut with a 2-1 win. Only three goals in the other four games over the weekend, with road wins for Tampa Bay (at Baltimore) and Minnesota (at Carolina), a home win for Portland (vs. Rochester) and a 0-0 tie for Vancouver at Miami.

Charleston took the early lead in USL-2 with a 3-2 win over Charlotte. Former D.C. United developmental player/JoJo video star Mike Zaher scored for the Battery.

Brazil: Botafogo clinched the Rio title. (AP)

Mexico: American Herculez Gomez was red-carded after two goals and will wait through the regular-season finale to see if he can share the league’s scoring title. (AP)

SOCCER (Europe)

England: Arsenal fell from legit Premier League contenders to head-scratching also-rans in 10 minutes in their fourth-to-last game, conceding three goals to Wigan to fall six points behind Chelsea, which left the door open with a loss to Tottenham. The other decisive game: Manchester United got a late goal (again) to beat Manchester City in a classic derby, keeping United within a point of Chelsea and dropped City behind Tottenham in the race for the fourth Champions League spot.

Spain: Real Madrid wins, Barcelona ties — Barca’s lead is down to one.

Germany: Schalke stays within two points of Bayern Munich as both teams win, but Bayern pretty well settles the goal-difference tiebreaker by blasting Hannover 7-0. Steve Cherundolo’s side is in the relegation zone.

Italy: Milan’s loss to Sampdoria likely leaves a two-team race between Roma and Inter. Roma and Lazio “fans” had a knife fight. Shocker.

Americans in action:’s roundup has an unlikely lead — Eric Lichaj scored a vital winner for Leyton Orient. (


The results were surprising for Strikeforce’s CBS show Saturday night. Inexperienced “King Mo” Lawal upset light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi, who re-upped with Strikeforce a couple of days earlier. Jake Shields outwrestled former Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson, and Gilbert Melendez easily handled top Japanese lightweight Shinya Aoki.

The bad news for Strikeforce: All three title fights went the distance and didn’t have a lot of crowd-pleasing action. (MMA Fighting Stances)

Then came the comedy: Jason “Mayhem” Miller, who won earlier in the night, jumped into the cage and demanded a rematch with Shields. Miller, known for entertaining entrances and his hosting duties on MTV’s Bully Beatdown, got a beatdown of his own from Shields’ camp, including the fiesty Diaz brothers. Mayhem’s immediate reaction on Twitter: “Whoops.” He has since issued a more formal apology. Not expecting one from the Diaz brothers.


Think Rafael Nadal is ready for the French Open? He won the Monte Carlo final over Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1. (Yahoo!: Busted Racquet blog)

Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki suffered an ankle injury and retired from her semifinal match at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Daniele Hantuchova upset Jelena Jankovic in the quarters but lost in the semis to Samantha Stosur, who went on to win the final over Vera Zvonareva.


Misty May-Treanor, who reveals in an upcoming book that she and her family struggled with alcoholism, teamed for the first time with Nicole Branagh and swept through the field at the AVP Fort Lauderdale Open. The final was rainy and windy, enough so that the men’s final that was to follow the women was canceled. (Miami Herald)


Alberto Contador seems to be in good shape for the Grand Tours, winning the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. (Velo News)

With Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen not in the field, Belgian Philippe Gilbert won the Amstel Gold Race (Velo News)


Not often that a Ring champion loses. Sergio Martinez landed the upset this weekend over Kelly Pavlik. (USA TODAY)


– Track and field: Penn and Drake Relays start Thursday and Friday.
Soccer: Champions League and Europa League will go on this week despite the volcano.

Friday Myriad: What’s going on this week(end)

It’s a relatively slow time for the sports world outside the NBA and NHL, where the Capitals appear to have started breaking my heart. But you won’t be without viewing options this weekend. Read on for all of those (all times ET) and a look at the midweek news:


Comedy of errors last night in Toronto. Philadelphia keeper Chris Seitz let a Dwayne De Rosario free kick slip through his hands into the goal, and he committed the foul that let De Ro win it from the spot. Danny Califf, the “veteran leadership” for Philadelphia, made a poor backpass and decided to make up for it by slamming his forearm into Julian de Guzman’s face, an obvious red card by any criterion you use. Toronto was lucky to finish the game with 11 men after some gruesome tackles, particularly from Raivis Hscanovics. And Philly blundered by taking off Roger Torres, whose sublime pass set up the game’s best goal, to go for a more defensive shape.

Strong offense = best defense. When will coaches realize this?

Califf took responsibility. Toronto coach Preki snapped back at the media by asking if they would prefer a team of ballerinas. (Toronto Sun)

Grass looks nice, though. And click to #11 in this gallery for the best soccer fan photo so far this year.

This weekend (home teams first; all games Saturday except the last):

  • Seattle (1-1-1) – Kansas City (2-0-0), 3 p.m., DK/MLSS: Pick of the week
  • Houston (1-1-1) – Chivas USA (1-2-0), 4 p.m., TeleFutura: Still a nasty rivalry?
  • D.C. United (0-3-0) – Chicago (0-2-1), 7:30 p.m., DK/MLSS: Which team disappoints you more?
  • New York (2-1-0) – Dallas (0-0-2), 7:30 p.m., DK/MLSS: No, Thierry Henry isn’t playing
  • San Jose (1-1-0) – New England (2-1-0), 10 p.m., DK/MLSS: Any Kraft Soccer demons remaining for Earthquakes fans?
  • Los Angeles (3-0-0) – Salt Lake (1-1-1), 10:30 p.m., FSC: MLS Cup rematch
  • Colorado (1-1-1) – Toronto (1-2-0), 5 p.m. Sun, DK/MLSS: TFC plays twice this week; Columbus idle


Week 2 games Saturday and Sunday. Am I the only person not playing WPS fantasy soccer?

  • Chicago – St. Louis, 8 p.m. Sat
  • FC Gold Pride – Sky Blue, 10 p.m. Sat (or, if you prefer, Bay Area – New Jersey)
  • Boston – Philadelphia, 6 p.m. Sun, FSC
  • Washington – Atlanta, 7 p.m. Sun — 2003 WUSA final rematch at last!


Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett are selling Liverpool, and it’s safe to say they won’t be missed by the fan base. Commentator Jim White accuses them of having as much interest in the club as a real estate investor would in a house he’s flipping. (Eurosport)


  • Manchester City – Manchester United, 7:45 a.m. Sat, ESPN2: Both teams have plenty at stake in the derby.
  • Blackburn – Everton, 10 a.m. Sat, FSC: Tim Howard and company are on the road, trying to keep faint European hopes alive.
  • Tottenham – Chelsea, 12:30 a.m. Sat, FSC: Tottenham is one point behind Man City for the fourth Champions League berth. Chelsea has a four-point lead for first. Another great derby.

Spain (Barcelona lead Real Madrid by 3)

  • Espanyol – Barcelona, 2 p.m. Sat, GolTV
  • Valencia – Real Madrid, 3 p.m. Sun, ESPN Deportes

Germany (Bayern Munich lead Schalke by 2; both teams face Americans on Saturday)

  • Borussia Moenchengladbach – Schalke, 9:25 a.m. Sat, ESPN Deportes
  • Bayern Munich – Hannover, 4 p.m. Sat (delay), GolTV

Italy (Roma lead Inter by 1, Milan by 4)

  • Inter Milan – Juventus, 2:30 p.m. Fri, FSC
  • Sampdoria – AC Milan, 9 a.m. Sun, FSC
  • Lazio – Roma, 2:30 p.m. Sun, FSC

More global listings at Soccer America.


Bellator’s second show of the season had a bit of controversy last night with a premature stoppage giving wrestling phenom Ben Askren a welterweight quarterfinal win. But as my colleague Sergio Non points out, you have to answer when the ref asks if you’re OK. I’d have more of an opinion myself if any local networks would pick up the FSN broadcasts. (MMA Fighting Stances)

The big show this weekend, no credit card needed, is Strikeforce on CBS (9 p.m.), which will have three title fights and a “Mayhem” Miller entrance:

  • Middleweights: Former two-division Pride champion Dan Henderson, who postured his way out of the UFC by getting a big head after his unsportsmanlike win over Michael Bisping, takes on current champion Jake Shields, who might be heading the other direction.
  • Light heavyweights: Former wrestler “King Mo” Lawal takes a big jump up in opposition in his budding MMA career, challenging champion Gegard Mousasi.
  • Lightweights: The hard-core fans are drooling over the matchup of Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez and Dream (Japan) champ Shinya Aoki.


Why do people freak out when the UFC might go up against a big boxing card, and yet no one seems concerned about this Strikeforce-boxing scheduling conflict? We’re not just talking alphabet-soup champions here — Kelly Pavlik has the actual, legit middleweight title. (OK, so his challenger isn’t in The Ring’s top 10.)

On HBO, 10 p.m. Saturday:

  • The Ring/WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik vs. Sergio Martinez
  • IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute (#1, The Ring) vs. Edison Miranda


The big one’s coming up Monday: Boston Marathon, 9:30 a.m.

  • Diving World Series, 5 p.m. Fri/4 p.m. Sat., Universal Sports online
  • Beach volleyball, AVP Fort Lauderdale women’s final, 5:30 p.m. Sun. (delay), ESPN2


Men’s field seems a lot stronger than the women’s field this week.

ATP Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer in one semi; top seed Novak Djokovic vs. winner of Fernando Verdasco-Albert Montanes in the other.

  • Semifinals, 7:30/10 a.m. Sat, Tennis Channel
  • Final, 8:15 a.m. Sun, Tennis Channel

WTA Family Circle Cup, Charleston, S.C.: top seeds in quarterfinals are #1 Caroline Wozniacki (vs. #6 Nadia Petrova) and #2 Jelena Jankovic (vs. #8 Daniela Hantuchova)

  • Quarterfinal, 1 p.m. Fri, ESPN2
  • Semifinal, 1 p.m. Sat, ESPN2
  • Final, 1 p.m. Sun, ESPN2

More TV listings (baseball, NHL, NBA, motor sports, golf, rodeo, college baseball, high school basketball)  at USA TODAY.

If I missed anything, please let me know.