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Postcard From The South: “Strikeforce: Nashville”

(Disclaimer: If you’ve read stories of mine before you know what you’re in for. So if you’ve stumbled here for straight news and verbatim feel free to click elsewhere. No hard feelings. Jerk. )

Eric Learns Nothing From Last Flight; Pays Price

You really have to love MMA to cover a non-local show, otherwise, wading through airports and the people who inhabit them will surely churn your brain matter into a Slurpee-like goo. Long story short, I was forced to “yellow check” my carry-on roller suitcase which contained my laptop. I did not have enough time to remove the laptop from the suitcase, as I was informed of this procedure on the jet-way while being rushed away by various flight attendants.

As a last resort, I tried tipping the baggage handler an unusually large sum in return for a safe passage for the laptop, but the kind lad wouldn’t accept any gratuity. Nonetheless, the upstanding gentlemen assured me all belongings would be juuuust fine. I prayed, and boarded.

Two hours later. The tiny plane touches down in Nashville. I remain intact but cannot say the same for the laptop. The Dell Inspiron, despite being shielded by a padded case and a rather large pillow, managed to suffer a giant chip to the plastic covering. F-me. I hate flying and everything about it. Thank you terrorists for making even the shortest of flights a nearly humiliating and profoundly annoying experience.

Southern Hospitality

I’ve never been to the south (Nashville is the south, right? I thought maybe Midwest but my hosts tell me it’s the South) and know very little about this mythical land. However I quickly learned that Southern Hospitality is a very real thing. It also made me realize how rude I and everyone I know must come off to folks who aren’t from my neck of the woods. I could feel it the moment I stepped off the plane in Nashville. Trying to find my pick up ride (photographer Andew Gehman, who moved here six months ago) I asked three different people for directions and all were beyond helpful, and smiling no less. Even the cops. A strange world, indeed.

I arrived in Nashville shortly before dinner time and there’s only one thing I want to sink my teeth into: Barbeque. My hosts tell me there is only one place we need to go. And that would be Martin’s, located about 20 minutes outside of town. Friday night and the bbq line is snaked around the building. We waited about thirty minutes, ordered alas, and I gorged on some ribs that could re-assure a suicidal man’s faith in life. The baked beans were also ridonkulous, and I could see gaining a pound or 40 if I were to live in close proximity to such an establishment.

Honkey Tonk’s & Blondes

Here’s my quick and likely unjust assessment of the Broadway Strip in downtown Nashville: No one swears, somehow. All girls are pretty. They are all blonde and tan. If they aren’t naturally blonde, their hair is bleached blonde except for the dark roots. If they are already blonde, their hair will only be dyed a lighter shade of blonde. They almost all have a male companion, but even if they don’t it is impossible to strike up a conversation as the live rockabilly music from each “honkey tonk” bar (with no cover charge, anywhere) could drown out an approaching 747.

I thought I disliked all country music but, as is often the case, I was wrong. The live rockabilly music was refreshingly awesome, it actually reminded me of punk rock- fast, screeching guitar, just substitute the moshing for dancing. Like, real dancing, not grinding denim clad private parts together. This was no Jersey Shore. It also doesn’t hurt that the faint aroma of bbq permeates throughout the Strip. I can almost smell it now…

The Running Back, The Grim, and Marshall Law

7 o clock Saturday night- its go time. Andrew and I hit the main floor of the Bridgestone Arena, looking for good photo angles and victims to interview. I first snagged some time with Herschel Walker who is about the most fan-friendly person you will ever meet. And he’s ridiculously jacked, in case you didn’t see his last fight. Herschel said he’s very eager to get back into the cage and mentioned Cain Velasquez as the AKA member who roughs him up the worst in practice. Yea, that sounds about right.

Brett Rogers was also shaking hands and posing for photos when I shoved a digital recorder in his face. Brett said he has absolutely no fear of standing toe to toe with Overeem and thinks Allistair is absolutely taking him lightly. Specifically, Rogers thinks Overeem is doubting his speed, which will be the deciding factor.  Brett also explained that he shaved his head to go back to “the old school” as he only rocked the Mohawk on a dare and it stuck. I asked Brett if he thinks Overeem will have any trouble passing a drug test on American soil, to which he replied “Hell yea, it is what it is, but he can’t super strengthen his chin anyways.”

For a guy was only there to watch other people fight, Cung Le didn’t seem all that relaxed, though he was kind enough to answer a few questions. Cung said that acting is officially on the shelf for the moment, and the Tekken movie in which he starred probably didn’t have enough money thrown into its budget. He may have a point there. Cung is already deep into his training camp for the Scott Smith re-match which will likely be in Strikeforce’s home base of San Jose.

What Do You Mean You Don’t Understand? He’s A Moneyweight. What’s Not To Get?

King Mo vs. Gegard Mousasi surprised the hell out of me in every way imaginable. The ever-stoic Mousasi was completely unprepared for Lawal’s wrestling prowess and failed to do anything worthwhile off his back. Both gassed pretty hard going into the championship rounds, something I didn’t expect since neither has to cut much weight to make 205lbs.

Mousasi and Mo are excellent fighters and showed flashes of brilliance early on, but neither were ready for a true war on Saturday night. The contest was merely a drawn out battle, proving only that Lawal still has to round out his game while Mousasi was perhaps placed upon too high a pedestal.

Shinya Aoki Loses Tights, Uneventful Match, Pride, Blood, Tears, and so forth.

It’s difficult to root against an American but what can I say, I’ve got a soft spot for Aoki and those brightly colored magical submission pants. The crowd in Nashville seemed to deal with conflicting emotions during this bout, enjoying the fact that American Gilbert Melendez was winning but clearly upset that the contest remained less than exhilarating.

After the decision victory Melendez stated that he should at least be considered in the top 5 lightweight rankings. Gilbert also mentioned in the post fight conference that UFC fighters are often ranked higher simply because they’re UFC fighters. Melendez added that Aoki was clearly uncomfortable and out of his element in the Strikeforce cage, and that it was easy to neutralize the rubber guard against the fence.

Everyone Hates Jake Shields. Everyone.

Or they just really, really like Dan Henderson. To say that Henderson was the fan favorite at the Bridgestone Arena last night would be like saying Ivan Drago was slightly favored when he stepped in against Rocky Balboa. The crowd practically combusted when Hendo walked down the ramp and burst into mega-chants every time he got the upper hand.

Yet as we now know, the brief moments of Henderson’s dominance quickly turned into the Jake Shields mount-and-punch fest of 2010. The crowd does not like this. Most everyone leaves before the decision is even read. Suckers. You missed the post fight melee. Ah well. I’m sure you caught it later on your DVR, unless CBS edited that part for some reason. But why would they be concerned with something like that?

In other musings…

-So, who exactly is to blame for the network TV headache that was the infamous Nashville post fight scrap? You could say Mayhem Miller should have known better than to do anything remotely controversial in the presence of the Diaz brothers, but really the man was just trying to sell some hype and get his name back out there. I’m not a huge Mayhem fan however what he did wasn’t exactly unheard of or unprecedented. If Rashad and Rampage can keep their composure in a post-fight face off it isn’t unreasonable to expect the same from the Cesar Gracie camp.

-King Mo and Gegard Mousasi both commanded larger crowd reactions than I would have anticipated. And Dana White says that no one cares about Strikeforce, pff.

-Dan Henderson should stick to competing at 205lbs. Especially at his age, the cut to 185 is just too taxing on conditioning and endurance, which more often than not wins fights. (See Edgar, Frankie.)  Obvious guy says Hendo should take on Mousasi at LHW since he’s also coming off a disappointing loss. Make it happen, Coker.

-I don’t know what you all saw on television, but it looked like the broadcast crew used models from the EA MMA game in the “keys to victory” segment. Nice way to work that in, Strikeforce, you sly devil.

-I couldn’t help but find it ironic when Shields had Henderson mounted on top of the Clinch Gear logo. See, Henderson owns Clinch Gear, so it’s like…nevermind.

-I don’t know why, Gus Johnson, but somehow calmly stating “This is on national television, gentlemen” didn’t succeed in breaking up a post-fight brawl between testosterone fueled MMA fighters. Seems kind of like when Mr. Burns tried to break up that fight between Homer and Smithers, eh?

-When Yamasaki called foul on Meledez for pulling a scooting Aoki in for the death punch, I cringed. Bad, bad reffing. Or maybe I just didn’t have the best vantage point. Correct me if you like as I have not yet seen the telecast.

-Sure there are a few other fights out there, but I am genuinely intrigued in a rematch between Melendez and Aoki in DREAM. The fact is it’s a completely different fight in DREAM and I’d be all shades of curious to see exactly how large a role the setting plays in the contest. I guess my ex-girlfriend was right; I do sound like a nerd…

-I still can’t deal with bourbon. I don’t know how you people do it.

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