Posts tagged: Versus

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Alvan, Preparing Gonzaga for UFC Live

World-class trainer and manager Marco Alvan has helped develop some of the MMA world’s most talented fighters.  Alvan, the head instructor for Team Link BJJ in Ludlow, Massa., is currently training heavyweight Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga (11-4) for his upcoming fight at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones.

Gonzaga and Alvan

A successful MMA fighter and grappler in his own right, Alvan began training in Judo in 1981 at just eight years old.  At the age of 15, he began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Master Jorge Pina Barbosa.  Barbosa brought Alvan to the original Gracie Barra school in Alvan’s hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Alvan began training under Master Carlos Gracie Jr. at Barra Gracie, where he shared the mat with Renzo, Ryan and Ralph Gracie at the same time as they were developing their BJJ skills.  He ended his training at Gracie Barra, after receiving his blue belt, and joined the Brazilian army at the age of 19.

Master Carlos Augusto, a fourth-degree BJJ black belt under Master Reylson Gracie, soon opened up a gym in the town that Alvan had relocated to.  Alvan began training at the gym and earned his black belt under Augusto. Alvan taught BJJ in the Brazilian army for seven years.

In 2001, Alvan came to America to help Augusto at his affiliate in California, but he soon decided to relocate to Massachusetts, where he had family.  He had trouble finding a job as a BJJ instructor at first due to location and language barriers, but eventually established a large enough student base to found his own academy and fight team, Marco Alvan BJJ.

Alvan at the NY International BJJ Open

The team changed its name to Link BJJ with the addition of Gonzaga in 2006.  Team Link is now host to many notable MMA fighters and grapplers, including Gonzaga, UFC welterweight Ricardo Funch (7-1), former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho (19-1), World Fighting League and XCFL light-heavyweight champion Alexandre Moreno (10-2), heavyweight Brian Olsen (9-1) and many other developing fighters.  UFC light-heavyweight Thiago Silva was formerly managed by Alvan and trained at Team Link.

In addition to being a distinguished MMA team, Link BJJ holds many achievements in grappling competition.  Team Link has won the title of North American Grappling Association (NAGA) New England overall team champion for six consecutive years.  Alvan holds many individual accomplishments in grappling as well.

On Feb. 4, 2006, Alvan was named Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor of the year (2005), and inducted into the U.S.A. Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  In 2009, he placed first in the black belt division of the New York International Open Championship hosted by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF).  Alvan also holds a purple belt in Judo.

Alvan was scheduled to meet UFC veteran and TUF season four contestant Jorge Rivera in a 10-minute NAGA no-gi superfight on Feb. 6, but the grappling match was postponed due to Rivera’s upcoming fight with Nate Quarry at UFC Fight Night 21.  Alvan has a background competing in MMA as well, going 3-1 in professional competitions in both Brazil and America before retiring.

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Paulo Filho is expected to meet Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard in a non-title fight at Bellator Fighting Championships 19 on May 20.

Ricardo Funch was scheduled to face Matt Riddle at UFC 111, but was forced out of the fight due to a foot laceration.

Gabriel Gonzaga will meet Junior Dos Santos in the co-main event of UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones Sunday night. The event will air live on Versus at 9 p.m. EST.

Video: Marco Alvan at NY International BJJ Open (2009) and Team Link instructional videos

Vera To Play The Role of Gatekeeper at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones

Brandon “The Truth” Vera (11-4) broke onto the scene five years ago as a young, up-and-coming heavyweight prospect with intentions of proving himself by beating the best competition that the UFC had to offer.

Vera ran through opponents in the two years that followed, but was denied his title intentions due to defeats from more experience UFC veterans.

Brandon Vera

On Sunday, for the first time, Vera will play the role of “the gatekeeper” when he faces young, up-and-coming light-heavyweight prospect Jon “Bones” Jones (9-1) in the main event of UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo.

Fighting out of San Diego, Calif., Vera is a former WEC heavyweight champion. Vera, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, currently trains with both Team Lloyd Irvin and Alliance MMA in San Diego. He has also trained at Linxx Academy and Hybrid Academy.

Vera gained experience wrestling in high school and continued wrestling at Old Dominion University, and then with the United States Air Force. However, he is best known in the MMA world for his effective muay thai skills.

Through the first four years of his MMA career Vera went a perfect 8-0, with seven of his wins coming by way of stoppage and four earned in UFC competition. Arguably his most impressive performance came at UFC 65 when he stopped Frank Mir at just 1:09 into the first round via TKO (punches).

In his next two matches Vera saw a step up in competition, losing a decision to Tim Sylvia and a TKO to Fabricio Werdum. These back-to-back losses, to much larger opponents, prompted Vera’s move to light-heavyweight competition. Vera now holds a 3-2 record as a light-heavyweight. His two losses came via close and controversial decisions.

Vera vs. Fabiano Scherner

MMA veteran, TUF cast-member and UFC newcomer Krzysztof Soszynski (19-9-1) went the distance with Vera at UFC 102. Vera won a unanimous decision by controlling the fight, avoiding the takedown and dominating on the feet with strong kicks and combinations.

Vera saw a step up in competition in his next fight as he went the distance with UFC Hall of Famer and five-time UFC champion Randy “The Natural” Couture in the main event of UFC 105. Couture controlled the fight from the clinch utilizing dirty boxing while Vera dominated the striking from the feet, hurting Couture badly with kicks and combinations in each round.

Vera was caught in Couture’s clinch, fighting off the takedown, for the majority of the competition. However, Vera landed very effective strikes from the feet. He dropped Couture in the second round, but was unable to finish him. After bearing an assault from the clinch Vera landed a series of body kicks that hurt Couture in the third round and followed up by taking him down and transitioning to full mount. The fight ended with an intense exchange.

All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Couture. The ruling surprised Vera and was very controversial.

Jon Jones is a young (22 year old) prospect with impressive striking and wrestling skills. Vera’s muay thai skills will be much more relevant in his upcoming fight than in his last two, which saw him trapped in his opponent’s clinch for the majority of the fight. However, Vera, a BJJ brown belt, will likely have an advantage in the unlikely case that the fight goes to the ground.

Vera has been in Jones’ situation a number of times early in his UFC career. Jones will face the toughest test in his young MMA career at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones. For Vera, a victory will likely put him back in the title-mix.

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The event will air live on Versus at 9 p.m. EST

The Ultimate Fighter 9 Big Board: Episode 12 – Wilks vs. Lester II

In the last episode of The Ultimate Fighter 9: US vs. UK, foes-turned-friends James Wilks and Frank Lester once again faced off, this time with a spot in the welterweight finale on the line. In the end, Team UK’s Wilks once again put Team USA’s Lester away to advance to the finale and face Demarques Johnson for TUF 9′s welterweight title. In the country-versus-country tally, Team UK enters the finale with a 3 fighters as opposed to USA’s single one.

TUF: Season 9 UK vs USA

TUF: Season 9 UK vs USA

The first round was a slow and tentative affair where Wilks used his reach advantage to pick away at Lester. The clinches against the fence provided nothing of note, while Wilks seemed fine with dropping his hands and inviting Lester to try and take a swing at him.

An accidental low blow started off the second round, but after that, Wilk’s straight jab continued to hurt Lester. Lester’s hands couldn’t match Wilk’s reach, and Wilks’ strikes continued to get through Lester’s defense. Lester managed to keep the fight standing and defended the takedown well enough, but Wilks was content to initiate and let the jabs add up on Lester as the round ended.

Lester came out swinging in round three, but Wilks caught him early and once again pushed Lester up against the fence. In a case of deja vu, Wilks made Lester feel his knees once again, until Lester could take no more punishment and was saved by the ref.

It was a well-executed game plan by Team UK and Wilks, who exploited Lester’s obvious lack of technique and fatigue from his previous fights. Wilks never tried too hard for the takedown, but was instead confident enough in his striking to finish Lester without taking much damage.

TUF Finale – With both finale matchups now set, who will walk out with the UFC contracts?

Lightweight

The Favorite – Andre Winner

The Underdog – Ross Pearson

Winner will enter the TUF 9 ligthweight finale as the slight favorite due to his size and experience advantage. In a battle between two strikers who can also finish with submissions, Winner will need to impose his will on the smaller man both standing and on the ground. For Pearson, the key will be to once again push the pace and try to harass Winner into losing his composure.

Welterweight

The Favorite – Demarques Johnson

The Underdog – James Wilks

Johnson will enter the finale as a slight favorite against Wilks. Johnson seems to have a complete game, but as his semi-final fight showed, he can be rattled by strikes that come fast and early. Wilks will have to bring some ruthless aggression and not let Johnson settle into any kind of game plan. Both men are good on the ground, so stand-up prowess might make all the difference in this matchup.

Brown, Faber rematch shows best of MMA

WEC Brown Faber

The first fight I ever watched converted me into a follower.


I never watched any type of Mixed Martial Arts match from start to finish. Fighting just wasn’t something I had considered to be entertaining. I’d linger when I channel surfed, but all it was to me at the time was a bunch of scary-looking guys beating each other up; it was something I never really saw myself getting into, despite being a sports nut.


But after watching overly dramatic commercials on the rematch between Mike Brown  and Urijah Faber being the fight of the year, I just had to see what all the fuss was about. And boy, did I find out.


After five rounds of action-packed punches, elbows and kicks, Brown defeated “California Kid” Faber by unanimous decision.


The upset of last year’s World Extreme Cagefighting Championship by Brown over Faber was unexpected and led Faber to say he was “eager to get some redemption,” as said to the WEC.


The rematch of this fight took place Sun., June 7, at the ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif. and was much anticipated. The fights leading up to the main event were nearly as exciting. Notably, one match lasted only eight seconds, with Jose Aldo knocking out Cub Swanson with a flying knee.


The match took place in Faber’s hometown, and when he walked into the arena the crowd erupted with cheers. Several times throughout the fight, chants of “Faber, Faber!” could be heard. Despite this, Brown came away from the fight victorious.


“I heard the boo’s coming in and I actually – I almost like it,” Brown said in an interview with WEC.tv. “When I’m the hometown guy, when people cheer for me, I almost am nervous, like ‘Oh no, I don’t want to let these guys down.’ But when I’m booed it makes me want to fight.”


Faber arguably took Round 1, while Brown dominated the rest of the fight, and won by unanimous decision after five hard-fought rounds, once again making him the WEC Featherweight Champion.

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After breaking his hand early on in the fight, Faber did a good job of hiding it from the viewers and from his opponent for several rounds, eventually throwing more elbows instead of punches.


About halfway into the fight, Versus announcers called the fight “a classic in the making,” giving credit to Brown and Faber as both being talented and persevering athletes in the MMA world. Wec.tv called the fight “epic” and “one of the most memorable bouts of the year.” Philly.com called it one of the “biggest events in the history of the WEC.”


This sport got to me for several reasons. It showed strong emotions, determination, mental and physical toughness and extreme athleticism. It had me yelling at the television, screaming “Hit him!” and wondering how in the world the fighters got out of some of those holds (the guillotine and triangle chokes are insane!).


When the fighters teared up after losing or winning, I felt for them. Despite being an individual sport, it was still all about teamwork and supporting all the trainers that helped them get to the fight.


I admire their toughness even when injured. You can’t name too many professional athletes that would continue to play despite breaking a hand.


So, I think I learned my lesson: Don’t judge a sport ‘til you watch it!

MMA Mania

The Ultimate Fighter 9 Big Board: Episode 10 – Johnson vs. Osipczak

TUF: Season 9 UK vs USA

TUF: Season 9 UK vs USA

In the first welterweight semi-final, Team USA’s Demarques Johnson grabbed the first spot in the finale by winning a slugfest against Team UK’s Nick Osipczak.

At the start of the show, the semi-final matchups were set by the head coaches and UFC President Dana White. The lightweight matchups were Andre Winner against Cameron Dollar while Jason Dent would face Ross Pearson. The welterweight matchups were a rematch between Frank Lester and James Wilks, while Osipczak was paired with Johnson.

The fight this week was an absolute gem, where the underdog Osipczak gave the welterweight favorite Johnson all he could handle. In the first round, Johnson started strong, peppering Osipczak with punches while scoring takedowns. However, Osipczak was game, landing hard elbows from bottom position while fighting off multiple attempts by Johnson to take mount. At the end of the round, Osipczak caught Johnson with a big uppercut while getting up from the ground, and the round ended with a flurry of punches from both men, with both connecting more than once with shots to their opponent’s face, with Osipczak getting the better of the late exchange.

Despite Johnson still showing the effects of the brawl from round one, stand-up fighter Osipczak foolishly went for a takedown at the start of round two, a takedown which was easily turned into top position by Johnson. Johnson tried to both ground-and-pound and then lock a kimura, but Osipczak again avoided taking major punishment on the ground until giving up back mount. Johnson, for some reason, didn’t go for a choke, but rode out the round raining punches down on Osipczak, who did little more than cover up.

In the decisive round three, Osipczak (after answering the bell defiantly) was again on the receiving end of jabs and punches from Johnson. With both men gassed, Johnson secured another takedown, but was rolled over after trying to take mount again. Unfortunately, Osipczak had no strength left to deliver any more effective strikes, leaving Johnson to win the well-earned decision.

The next episode will feature both lightweight semi-finals, and hopefully those future bouts will be able to match the excitement of the fight from this week.

TUF Top 3

Demarques Johnson claims the first spot in the finale, while both lightweight spots will be filled by next week.

Lightweight

  1. Ross Pearson – Team UK (Previous rank: 1)

The illegal knee to Ritchie Whitson will surely be up for much debate among TUF fans, but Pearson was already winning the stand-up exchange even before the knee. Pearson picked up right where he left off in the prelims, outslugging and overpowering his opponent while roaring back to the top of the lightweight heap. He will face Jason Dent next week for a spot in the finale.

  1. Andre Winner – Team UK (Previous rank: 2)

Winner, an early favorite coming into the show, was shaky in his prelim fight but turned up the heat against Santino DeFranco, beating the American in the stand-up game before finishing on the ground. Winner’s combination of strength and length will provide a matchup nightmare against Cameron Dollar next week.

  1. Cameron Dollar – Team USA (Previous rank: 3)

For all of the trash talk, antagonizing his own teammates, and then pre-fight crisis of confidence, Dollar still managed to put on a solid ground showing versus Martin Stapleton. He will have his hands full with Andre Winner in next week’s episode.

Welterweight

  1. Demarques Johnson –Team USA (Previous rank: 1)

Johnson solidified his status as the welterweight to beat so far with his quick submission of Dean Amasinger and decision victory over Nick Osipczak. Johnson might have to work a little on his cardio, but is still the clear favorite to claim the welterweight TUF 9 title.

  1. James Wilks – Team UK (Previous rank: 2)

Wilks, who submitted the notable Che Mills in his prelim fight, handled Team USA’s Frank Lester in brutal fashion, showing a hard Thai clinch and knees before finishing things up on the ground. While Lester wasn’t exactly the most seasoned welterweight on the show, Wilks proved that he is no slouch on his feet in addition to being a definite danger on the ground. A rematch with Frank Lester for a spot in the finale beckons next.

  1. Frank Lester – Team USA (Previous rank: 3)

Heart is usually the vaguest thing to measure in a person, but whatever that toughness “X Factor” is, Lester has it in spades. Lester gave Team UK favorite David Faulkner all he could handle, outlasting him and grabbing the final spot in the semifinals, where he will once again meet James Wilks.

Quote of the Show:

“Yeah I want to fight Dent…. He’s a fucking crybaby.”

- Cameron Dollar, on why he would rather fight Jason Dent in the semi-finals than either of Team UK’s fighters.

The Ultimate Fighter 9 Big Board: Episode 9 – Faulkner vs. Lester

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 9 USA vs U.K.

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 9 USA vs U.K.

In the final first round fight of the season, Team USA’s Frank Lester was chosen to replace Jason Pierce and fight against Team UK’s David Faulkner in a welterweight showdown. Lester then disposed of tournament favorite Faulker when Faulkner declined to get out of his corner in the third round

Lester, still suffering from the bruises and wounds of his previous loss to James Wilks, was battered by strikes from Faulkner in the first round, but was able to muscle out of takedown attempts and clinches before things got too dangerous. Faulkner won round one, but was visibly gassing already by the round’s end.

On the advice of his corner, Lester swarmed Faulkner with punches and knees of his own in round two, and while Faulkner was gassed, he was able to both survive and also throw enough strikes of his own to keep things competitive. Both men were tired and swung for the fences at the end of the round, but an extra round would be needed to decide a winnerFree Shipping.

Faulkner however, proved himself to not much more of a real fighter than Jason Pierce when he declined to continue the fight, presumably because he was too tired. In a battle of wills, Lester, despite being bruised and battered from his last fight, proved that he wanted to be a UFC fighter much more than Faulkner did.

In the non-fighting portion of the show, Michael Bisping decided to squirt a water bottle in the face of Demarques Johnson in retaliation to something that was said during the coach’s tennis match. Except it was Cameron Dollar who actually uttered the taunt in question. Bisping’s douchebag-like behavior should add some spice to the season finale and the Bisping-Henderson fight at UFC 100.

For the first time in TUF history, a hypnotist was brought onto the show, to help Faulkner try to mentally overcome a gag reflex issue that made him constantly spit out his mouthpiece. It didn’t work, as Faulkner ended up spitting out his mouthpiece once at the start of round two. Perhaps next time Faulkner can get the hypnotist to correct his tendency to give up when things really matter.

Spike TV’s teaser of the next show advertised a welterweight slugfest for a casino online spot in the finale.

TUF Top 3

Lightweight

  1. Ross Pearson – Team UK (Previous rank: 1)

The illegal knee to Ritchie Whitson will surely be up for much debate among TUF fans, but Pearson was already winning the stand-up exchange even before the knee. Pearson picked up right where he left off in the prelims, outslugging and overpowering his opponent while roaring back to the top of the lightweight heap.

  1. Andre Winner – Team UK (Previous rank: 2)

Winner, an early favorite coming into the show, was shaky in his prelim fight but turned up the heat against Santino DeFranco, beating the American in the stand-up game before finishing on the ground. Winner’s combination of strength and length will provide a matchup nightmare against whichever lightweight stands in his way next.

  1. Cameron Dollar – Team USA (Previous rank: 3)

For all of the trash talk, antagonizing his own teammates, and then pre-fight crisis of confidence, Dollar still managed to put on a solid ground showing versus Martin Stapleton. Despite Jason Dent’s lack of aggression, Dollar is still probably the matchup both Winner and Pearson would favor.
Welterweight

  1. Demarques Johnson –Team USA (Previous rank: 1)

Johnson solidified his status as the welterweight to beat so far with his quick submission of Dean Amasinger. While Amasinger wasn’t one of the top welterweights, Johnson’s finish was still convincing enough for him to keep the top spot.

  1. James Wilks – Team UK (Previous rank: 2)

Wilks, who submitted the notable Che Mills in his prelim fight, handled Team USA’s Frank Lester in brutal fashion, showing a hard Thai clinch and knees before finishing things up on the ground. While Lester wasn’t exactly the most seasoned welterweight on the show, Wilks proved that he is no slouch on his feet in addition to being a definite danger on the ground.

  1. Frank Lester – Team USA (Previous rank: n/a)

Heart is usually the vaguest thing to measure in a person, but whatever that toughness “X Factor” is, Lester has it in spades. Lester gave Team UK favorite David Faulkner all he could handle, outlasting him and grabbing the final spot in the semifinals.

Quote of the Show:

“If you’re not willing to sacrifice for your dream, it’s not really your dream, and you’re not meant to have it.”

- Frank Lester, on taking on David Faulkner despite losing some teeth in his last fight

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