Some perspective on the past few weeks in MMA and a look ahead to the next few weeks of college basketball by our jack of all trades Kenny Rice
HELP ME RONDA
The Beach Boys had a classic hit in “Help Me Rhonda,” the Hall of Fame group’s second number 1 single in the 1960’s. The UFC version would be “Thank You Ronda.” Rousey has sparked more widespread interest in the sport than any fighter in history. Key word here–interest. Just as Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell helped give legitimacy to MMA, Rousey has added popularity in a wider scope. Here debut win might have set a record (and it would if records like this were kept) for most mainstream media recognition of a single UFC fight.
An attractive, articulate and intelligent woman who has tremendous athletic skills, couldn’t have been dreamt up any better on Madison Avenue than Ronda Rousey. This past week in a very unscientific poll of my own, I was approached a dozen times at a boxing match I was calling, a concert later that week and the grocery store yesterday inquiring about Rousey. From “is she really that tough?”; “is she truly smart?”; to “is she a flash in the pan?’ The answers: Yes, Yes and No. She is the real deal and a welcomed boost to the UFC and all of MMA.
Thanks for helping, Ronda.
CBI ADDS TO MARCH CRAZINESS
It’s lonely at the top. Well, this year in college basketball that isn’t exactly correct. No one has stayed at the top long enough to know the feeling. Minnesota stunned Indiana this week no doubt dropping the Hoosiers from that spot once again. And they aren’t alone with such notables as Duke and Louisville having brief stays in what might not be such a coveted position this time around.
March will be the craziest month for round ball ever with no clear-cut dominant team like Kentucky was last year. While upsets are the norm in the early going of the tourney each year, what is a real upset takes on a new meaning this season. Who can say that there aren’t ten legitimate claims at being the best just over three weeks away from the start of all the madness?
Factoring in to this hoops heaven of a month is the College Basketball Invitational that will air on AXSTV. It’s the preview tourney for 2014, who might be ready to take off, or what player is ready to standout like Doug McDermott two years ago.
In it’s short history the CBI has provided a gauge for those teams who are young and improving or was besieged with injuries and didn’t have the chance to live up to their potential. VCU is the obvious star of CBI alum going from that tournament title to the NCAA Final Four the next year. Then there are Creighton, Davidson, UCF and Morehead State who was on the verge of future early season and NCAA surprises that played the season prior in the CBI. Pittsburgh and Butler came out of the 2012 CBI and have been nationally ranked this year.
So while the focus will be of course on the NCAA tournament and all that ensues with shockers and near-misses, the CBI is a real hoops lovers dream scene with a void filler between the more ballyhooed games and a good indication of what to expect next year.
The Gazelle Group does an amazing job of selecting which teams still have the heart and drive to continue on in March after falling short of the NCAA, so to try and predict now is above my pay grade. I’ll just show up at the venue and enjoy from a pure basketball standpoint how competitive a group they have chosen once again. But for fun now look at the A-10, Colonial, Missouri Valley, C-USA,Pac 12, Big East, Ivy, Mountain West and OVC and notice particularly those teams that are in the middle of the pack with still something to play for. Not that they need me for this, but a few guesses like Temple, Villanova, Indiana State, California, Eastern Kentucky, Air Force, Princeton and Tulsa are interesting prospects.
MMA ALREADY HAS OLYMPICS
When the IOC pulled the doors closed and slammed wrestling to the mat for the 2020 Olympics in a meeting a few weeks back there was an expected question from MMA fans. Does this mean a cage replaces a mat for future Olympics? In this column several times before it has been pointed out that it won’t happen and if by some unforeseen circumstance it did, fans might be disappointed at how the game would be radically changed for safety of staging a three-week tournament.
In retrospect there is already an “Olympics” in the sport. It’s the UFC. The best fighters in the world are already competing in a fashion that makes the sport interesting and exciting. No quick turnarounds, time to have camp to prepare, and again the best fighters are here. From Brazil, Canada, Japan, Europe, Australia and the U.S. they are going at it on a grand scale right now. It couldn’t be any better or make the sport any more popular that it is now if there was an Olympic opportunity in the distant future.
Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Friday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now
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