Monthly Archives: March 2010

Round 2 Down Under: Australian Grand Prix

Coming at you from the temporarily sunny Sunset neighborhood in SF for the second round of the 2010 F1 season at the Australian Grand Prix!  Today’s street circuit race is set up around Albert Lake Park, just outside of Melbourne, and is one of my favorites on the F1 calendar.  The circuit, despite its temporary setup, has a challenging layout that showcases all the extraordinary performance capabilities of a modern F1 car.  The drivers generally agree that the circuit is relatively fast and easy to drive, but also the driveability of the track improves as the weekend progresses, so everyone expects that by race day the action on the grid will be competitive and entertaining.  I particularly like turns 11 and 12 on the track, as the drivers take their cars through a drawn out left-right chicane at over 150 mph.  Enjoy this onboard pole position lap by G.O.A.T. Schumi back in 2004.

The question is can he do it again, only this time in a Mercedes?

Qualifying:

Before the qualifying session on Saturday, the media was focused on the rumor mill in the paddocks, and today’s hot topic is that some of the teams, McLaren in particular, have been making a big fuss over accusations that Red Bull is utilizing a ride-height adjustment system that lowers the car during qualifying, and then raises the car to a normal ride height for the race.  It’s purely speculation at this point, but it merits mentioning, as the teams are in unanimous agreement that the RB6 is the fastest car on the grid.

I don’t feel like glossing over Q1 and Q2 of qualifying, let’s fast forward to Q3 to the cars that stand a chance of winning, to be frankly honest.  I must mention, however, Lewis Hamilton’s continued bad fortune at Albert Park.  After last year’s “Liegate” scandal, Lewis showed up this week stating he learned a great deal from last year’s ignominy.  But in revealing fashion, Hamilton was pulled over and his car was impounded Friday night by Melbourne police for driving extremely aggressively, including a burnout on a main road packed with bars.  According to the police report, Hamilton expressed concern over the potential damage the incident would have on his reputation.  Hamilton’s persona is eerily similar to Tiger Woods’ in some respects: He’s a precocious talent, but he’s also somewhat disingenuous and at times very transparent about his highly manufactured image.  Hamilton fancies himself a distinguished Englishman, but really he’s just a extremely competitive and arrogant race car driver, albeit a very fast one.  So to see him not even make Q3 was karmic justice, as he was likely not entirely focused on the task at hand.  Hamilton is a former world champion, but it’s clear that he still has a few things to learn as a person.

Hometown driver Mark Webber looks intent on claiming his first pole position of the year and his first at his home race.  He just set fastest lap at the beginning of Q3, and teammate Sebastian Vettel stands the best chance to oust the Aussie from P1.

Vettel takes it!  He just set an absolutely blistering lap, nipping his teammate’s time by 12/100ths of a second.  Webber is well liked and respected by his peers, but he simply is not as fast as his younger and more exuberant German teammate.  Vettel is the prohibitive favorite to win the Drivers championship this year, and his second straight pole position was another small step towards that reality.  At only 22 years of age, Vettel owns a slew of F1 records, mostly for youngest driver to achieve a certain feat, and if he wins the Drivers championship this year, he will surpass Lewis Hamilton as the youngest world champion in F1 history.  Time to fast forward to the race start.

Race Day:

It’s ten minutes before the race start, and a slight drizzle is starting to come down on the track.  Unlike all the other sissy motorsports that don’t race in the rain, F1 drivers view driving in the wet as the ultimate challenge.  Some of the top drivers on the grid, particularly Schumi and Fernando Alonso, are masters in the rain and some of their greatest performances were on wet circuits.  Schumi, who qualified 7th, is probably praying in his cockpit for the weather gods to unleash their wrath, so that he can unleash his.  It’s drizzling, but not pouring, so the drivers will likely switch to intermediate tires, and not the full wet weather tires.  The race, before it’s even started, just got a lot more interesting.

Turn up the volume for the start of the Australian GP!  Vettel and Webber get away somewhat tentatively, and Webber drops one spot as Massa, who had a great start, passes both Alonso and Webber to slot into 2nd.  Alonso’s start goes from bad to worse, as he gets pinched between Lewis Hamilton and Schumi, and gets spun 180 degrees out on the track.  Alonso is now in last place, and Schumi damaged his front wing as a result of the contact.  Samurai Kamui Kobayashi’s’ front wing literally flies off his car, and as result he plows into the side of Nico Hulkenberg, bringing out the safety car.  Wow, what a start to the race, maybe this F1 stuff isn’t so boring after all.

Lap 6:  Button decides to come into the pits for slicks, talk about a gamble!  McLaren was concerned about the tire degradation of the intermediates, so this isn’t exactly surprising.  This is a high risk/high reward decision, if it pays off, he could find himself in a podium position.

Lap 9: Traffic jam on the pit lane, as everyone is coming in for slicks.  It looks like Button’s gamble paid off.  After everyone’s pit stops, the order is now from the top: Vettel, Button, Kubica, Rosberg, Massa, Webber, Barrichello, Hamilton,  De La Rosa, and Alonso filling out the top 10.

Lap 16: Webber passes Massa on Turn 1, and Hamilton capitalizes and swoops past Massa also.  Hamilton gets greedy and tries to pass Webber immediately afterwards, and the two are side by side going in to Turn 3, and Webber brakes too late and goes off into the gravel, and Massa regains his original position by passing Hamilton.  Boy oh boy, that was some exciting three way racing.  Meanwhile, Schumi is languishing in 13th behind Jaime Alguersuari.  It seems Schumi is struggling to regain his old form, and his mystique takes another slight dent.

Lap 22: Hamilton passes Massa, moving up to 5th, and right behind them is Alonso, who unwittingly gets passed by Webber.  Not a great 30 seconds of racing for the Ferrari team.  Cazzo.

Lap 26: Hamilton makes a great pass on Rosberg on the Turns 11 & 12 high speed chicane.  The race leader is out!  Vettel is on the gravel, it looks like he suffered some sort of mechanical problem.  Talk about bad luck, what a waste of speed, Dieter Mateschitz must be rolling in his grave right now.  It looks like Button is primed for his first win this season and as a member of McLaren, I wonder how Hamilton feels about it.

Lap 28: Webber passes Massa.  Massa has not looked good all weekend, let’s hope he can manage the rest of the race and bring it home in a points winning position.

Lap 33-35: Schumi, Rosberg, and Hamilton pit for a second time.  Hamilton has been constantly attacking the entire race, let’s see what he can do with fresh slicks.  I don’t think he has a chance of winning now, as it’s very likely Button, whose smooth driving style is easy on the tires, will finish the race on just one stop.

Lap 45: Timo Glock is out, which means Virgin is o for 4 in having a driver finish a race this season.  Compounding their problems is the recent revelation that they designed the VR-01 with a fuel tank that is not large enough to finish some of the longer races this season.  Much has been made of Virgin’s pioneering decision to strictly use only CFD to design their car, but what’s the point if they make these kind of boneheaded mistakes?  Talk about embarrassing…

Lap 48: Hamilton is closing in on both Ferraris, and Alonso, in response to his engineer telling him Hamilton is 3.5 seconds behind and closing, says “I don’t want to know.”  The truth is even before Schumi retired the first time, Alonso took over the mantle as the man to beat in F1, and I think he’s regained his panache.  I’ll say it now, I think Alonso will be World Champion once again at this season’s end.

Lap 56: Primadonna Hamilton just radioed to his team complaining why they brought him in for a 2nd stop.  What a wanker.

Lap 57: Karma strikes a 2nd time on Hamilton.  He tries to pass Alonso on the outside, and Webber runs into the back of Hamilton, and both go off the track.

Finish: Button wins, what a master stroke of strategy and foresight to pit first on slicks, and the fact that he lasted over fifty laps on soft tires is impressive and says a lot about both Button’s race management skills and the long term integrity of the Bridgestone tires.  Kubica comes in 2nd, which is a great result for him and the Renault team.  Massa rounds out the podium in 3rd, with teammate Alonso right behind in 4th, which is good result for both drivers, especially Massa.

Today’s race was a reminder how thrilling an F1 race can be, given the right combination of race conditions.  Hopefully today’s grand prix silenced the critics’ grievances from the past two weeks, and we can now focus moving forward on the stuff that really matters, which is the battle for the Drivers and Constructors championships, which are starting to looking very interesting. Here’s the standings for both titles after two races:

Driver Pts
1 Fernando Alonso 37.0
2 Felipe Massa 33.0
3 Jenson Button 31.0
4 Lewis Hamilton 23.0
5 Nico Rosberg 20.0
6 Robert Kubica 18.0
7 Sebastian Vettel 12.0
8 Michael Schumacher 9.0
9 Vitantonio Liuzzi 8.0
10 Mark Webber 6.0
Team Pts
1Ferrari 70.0
2McLaren 54.0
3Mercedes GP 29.0
4Renault 18.0
5Red Bull 18.0
6Force India 8.0
7Williams 5.0
8Toro Rosso 0.0
9Lotus F1 Racing 0.0
10Virgin Racing 0.0
11Hispania Racing 0.0
12Sauber 0.0

No bye week between races this time, which means two straight weekends of F1 action.  Next up is the Malaysian GP, see you in Sepang!

MP

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A Weekend in Paradise(almost)

Chelsea/Aston Villa, UFC 111, and the Australian Grand Prix all rolled into one weekend?  Sounds like a formula for great success, or quite possibly disaster, if you ask me.  And for all you NCAA hoops fans, I’m sorry, I lost all interest when my beloved Bruins were not worthy of an invitation to the Big Dance, not to mention even a measly NIT bid.  My how things feel eerily similar, or even worse, to the Lavin era(shudder).  But i digress…

I would just like to say that a bike ride is the greatest way to start a day, period.  It was 70 degrees today in SF, with clear skies and little to no wind, which qualifies as a great day weather wise for the city(Not to start a firestorm, but that’s pretty much every day in certain parts of L.A.  And for all you bay area locals, don’t waste your breath hating on L.A.  It’s lame, and we don’t care).  But no, really, thanks to my friend AZ, I rode today on a group ride which included the esteemed Professor Roger Park from Hastings.  I really wanted to challenge him to a heads up game of texas hold ’em, but I decided I’ll save it for next time.  Watch your chips, Professor, because the day when the student is ready, the master will appear.

So my beloved Blues, still recovering from the disappointment of being knocked out in the Champions League, are now focused on winning the Premier League title and the FA Cup.  Chelsea stood a measly single point behind 1st place Man U before today’s match against Aston Villa, and nothing changed at the end of the day.  In what was arguably the team’s strongest performance of the season, the Blues slaughtered the Villans 7-1 at the Bridge.  Frank Lampard, who went MIA against Inter, scored four goals, two on open play and two on penalty kicks.  Perhaps today’s match was a turning point for the team, and it certainly bodes well when we face Aston in the FA Cup semifinal in two weeks time.  Chelsea has dealt with their fair share of injuries this season, and the recent loss of Ricardo Carvalho to an ankle injury is just another drop in the bucket.  But the core of the team, despite all the drama on and off the pitch, is resolved to salvage what’s left of this season.  Next week’s informal derby match against Man U could possibly determine the fate of both teams, I know I’ll be watching, and more than likely with a Guinness, or a few, in hand.

For the evening’s main event, the UFC made to trip to Newark, NJ of all places in their Quest.  It’s not exactly the most glamorous destination, but if you could somehow convince UFC Prez Dana White and the state athletic commissions to introduce an amateur audience member fight card to their production, this would be the perfect place for its debut.  Just another reason why I should be the Commissioner Overlord of all sports.  Did I mention that I’ve been drinking bourbon and beer today since three in the afternoon?

First fight of the night is the undercard matchup of Ricardo Almeida vs. Matt Brown.  Almeida is an odd fellow: He’s as a Brazilian-American born in New York and now resides in the small town of Bordenton, New Jersey.  Isn’t half the appeal of being Brazilian the fact that you get to lay on the beach all day surrounded by tanned, beautiful women?  If you ask me, Almeida got screwed out of the chance to live life like a carioca.  Instead he fights for a living and lives in Jersey.  Tough break.

I have always liked Matt Brown’s style, I think he has a cool name, but it turns out I was wrong in my assumptions of Mr. Brown.  Judging from the entrance music he played in the past, I always assumed he was a southern redneck, but it turns out he’s a midwest redneck from Ohio.  It’s remarkable how life always manages to surprise you when you least expect it.

The fight starts, and apparently Almeida has taken a chapter out of the early Matt Hamill days, and is utilizing the vaunted “Bear” offense.  The Bear offense is a comprehensive fight strategy where you pretty much just swarm your opponent, not necessarily inflicting damage, but rather overwhelming him with your enormous non-human mammalian strength.  Almeida is employing this strategy with great effectiveness.  To state that the first round wasn’t action packed is like saying Brock Lesnar is an actual redneck.  If you’re not sure what I mean by that, check out this clip of him when he’s “relaxing” at home.

Considering he’s the heavyweight champion of the world, he can spit and shoot clay pigeons alone all he wants.  I’m not a fan of Lesnar, but this clip makes him almost likable, and that he doesn’t hate everybody.

Second round, and Almeida is continuing with his wall n’ stall tactics.  Almeida catches a kick from Brown, and takes him down.  Almeida eventually takes Brown’s back, and mercifully puts Brown and the audience out of its misery by rear naked choking him at the 3:30 mark of Round 2.  I need another drink after watching that.

Next up is Nate Diaz vs. Rory Markham.  Apparently Markham came in seven pounds over the 170 lb weight limit.  My guess is win or lose, Markham is gone after this fight.  Dana usually doesn’t have much patience for fighters who don’t make weight, or much else for that matter.   Last time a fighter didn’t make weight, like Gabe Ruediger did on the TUF 5, Dana gave his legendary “Do You Want To Be A Fucking Fighter” speech.  Here’s the original version in all its glory.

I love how he makes it so simple.

Joe Rogan is raving about the Diaz brothers’ exceptional cardio, citing their participation in triathlons as part of their training, cuz everyone knows that swimming, biking, and running is an essential part of making sure you don’t tire from hitting someone in the face.  I guess the endurance training came in handy, as Diaz stopped Markham in the first round from a barrage of strikes.  Markham is definitely gone, and Diaz is probably going to celebrate his win by either picking a fight with some juicehead in the stands or playing Skate or Die on his old school NES.

Dan Hardy just gave an interview in the locker room wearing the red contact lenses he wore at the weigh ins.

Apparently the Devil heard the UFC is in town for the weekend and decided to swing by.  Either that or a really bad case of pinkeye, maybe he got it from Vinny when he ran into him at Bamboo friday night at the Shore.

I think Rousimar Palhares just permanently crippled Tomasz Drwal’s left leg.  He cranked on that heel hook submission for a solid five seconds after Drwal tapped, the referee might as well have used the Jaws of Life to break the hold.  Good thing for Obamacare!

Jim Miller just walked into the arena to the Sopranos’ theme song for his fight against Mark Bocek.  I admit I am somewhat unintrigued by this matchup, although I acknowledge the strong pedigree of both their fight resumes.  The fight ends up being a back and forth three round affair, and Miller ekes out a decision win.  I’m not sure if Miller had any home field advantage, but the decision could have gone either way.  Oh well, Jersey Goatee 1, Red Hair 0.

Next up is Jon “The Grinder” Fitch vs. Ben Saunders.  FYI, the Grinder isn’t Fitch’s official nickname, but it might as well be, and any educated MMA fan knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The guy just grinds on his opponents in a fight.  To make a long and boring fight short, Fitch went the distance and grinded out a hard fought unanimous decision win against Saunders.  Now someone get that man some ground chuck.

Here come the big boys!  Heavyweight contenders Frank Mir and Shane Carwin face off for the unfulfilling title of “interim” heavyweight champion, as reigning and undisupted heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar watches from his seat in the stands.  Talk about awkward.  The UFC just listed on their graphic that Carwin is 6’5″, which he is clearly not.  Judging from the staredowns at the weigh ins, it was clear that Carwin is slightly shorter than Frank Mir, who is listed at 6’3″.

Which one of these big boys looks taller to you?  Mir is on the left, Carwin on the right.  Not that it really matters, but the clear discrepancy was something everyone noticed.

Interesting start to the fight, as Carwin decides to grab Mir and push him up against the cage in the clinch.  Mir looks completely unfazed, considering he’s been in the Octagon with some of the most physically imposing and intimidating fighters in the game.  You could draw a lot of comparisons between Carwin and Lesnar, they both have wrestling and football backgrounds, they both have freakish strength and knockout power, and they both wear XXXXL gloves.  BOOM!  Carwin just unleashed a flurry of uppercuts that rocked Mir, and he then proceeded to swarm Mir with a barrage of punches on the ground, and then the pizza delivery guy rang the doorbell…

Needless to say, Carwin destroyed Mir and won the fight, rendering him unconscious by the time the referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in.  Carwin is now 11-0 and has never been in a fight that’s gone past the first round, which is insane, he’s the young Mike Tyson of MMA heavyweights.  After Carwin’s post fight interview, Lesnar entered the ring, and had some choice words for Carwin’s interim title moniker, calling it “make believe.”  It’s evident that the two have a mutual respect for each other, but they might as well have had a peeing contest in the cage to determine who’s the dominant bull.

Time for the main event of the evening!  Welterweight champion and super athletic martial artist Georges St. Pierre is facing off against British punk brawler Dan Hardy.  Hardy has a history of being an irritant, but his mind games are no match for GSP’s world class skills.  I expect Rush to absolutely tear through Hardy, but at the same time Hardy is dangerous on his feet, but GSP will undoubtedly be fully prepared to handle The Outlaw.

I could spend several hundred words describing the fight, but I could also do it easily in twenty.  For five rounds, St. Pierre dictated the action of every minute of every round, and spent the majority of the fight on top of Hardy on the ground.  St. Pierre could and should have won the fight in the first round, when he had Hardy in a fully extended armbar that Hardy somehow inexplicably managed to get out of.  It was probably the most gutsiest submission escape I’ve ever seen, and after that point it was obvious this wasn’t going to be a short affair.  St. Pierre nearly finished Hardy again in the fourth round, this time with a kimura on Hardy’s left arm.  Hardy escaped yet again, but it was clear he had nothing to offer as a threat to GSP in the fight.  At the end of the fight, Hardy looked humbled, but not defeated.  And despite his utter domination of Hardy, GSP acknowledged in the post fight interview that he was impressed by Hardy’s performance and not so much with his own.  Nonetheless, GSP proved yet again just how much better he is than his competition, and with all respect to Matt Hughes, with every win he continues to cement his legacy as the greatest welterweight champion in UFC history, and MMA by extension.  Now if the UFC somehow finalized a super megafight between St. Pierre and middleweight champion Spider Silva, we would have our elusive answer to the question of who is the best pound for pound fighter in the world.  But as of today, fight fans can only dream of the day those two meeting face to face in the cage.

Today was a good day by most standards, but the weekend is not over just yet.  Up next is the Australian GP, stay tuned, as the F1 circus takes its act to sunny Melbourne.  Rest up, or get your work done, cuz I predict a lazy Sunday, and it should be glorious.

MP

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The UFC on Versus – A New Chapter

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time! The UFC in their neverending quest to take over the combat sports genre(and eventually the world) decided to take their promotion to the Versus network.  The inaugural event on the sports oriented channel, despite not having the biggest names, was filled with young talent and some intriguing matchups. Headlining the card was Brandon “The Truth” Vera vs. Jon “Bones” Jones, with Gabriel Gonzaga and Junior Dos Santos filling the co-main card. The buildup around the Vera/Jones matchup was well warranted; Vera, at 32, is for all intents and purposes a UFC veteran, with eleven fights in the promotion. Vera has fought some of the biggest names in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, with fights against UFC legend Randy Couture and former heavyweight champions Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir. Despite his impressive fight resume, some feel Vera hasn’t showcased his full potential, while others feel Vera has already plateaued as a fighter and at best will be a top tier gatekeeper. Whether you’re in the former or latter camps of thought, his classic standup kickboxing style is a perfect counterpoint to Jones’ ad-libbed freestyle of fighting. In just four fights Jones has already built a substantial fan following, showcasing a wide array of unconventional strikes and takedowns that have rarely if ever been seen in MMA. If you’re not familiar with his work, here’s a nice highlight reel of Jones in action.

The spinning back elbow at the 1:58 mark is one of Jones’ signature moves, I think the perfect name for it would be the Tornado. What makes Jones so dangerously dynamic is you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do next: his relatively short MMA career to this point means we haven’t seen his full arsenal of weapons, and at just 22, he’s still learning and growing into the fighter he’s destined to become. Jones is already for many a talismanic star in the MMA universe, and I fully expect him to contend for the LHW championship in the near future. That’s enough said about my man-crush on Jonny, time to get to the fights.

Alessio Sakara vs. James Irvin

At the weigh-ins on Friday, the first thing I noticed, as did Joe Rogan and UFC president Dana White, was the drastic and quite honestly hideous transformation James Irvin underwent to make the 185 lb weight limit.  I’m not sure exactly how much weight he had to cut, but considering this is his first fight at middleweight after fighting primarily at 205 lb, I would guess he had to cut close to 30 lbs or more, and who knows how much of that was in the last week. If you didn’t see the physical state of Irvin on Friday, check out this picture of him.

He kinda reminds me of Skeletor.

Notice the resemblance? I wonder who would win in a fight between the two. But I digress…

Anytime a fighter has to cut a substantial amount of weight, it doesn’t bode well for him during a fight, at least in the cardiovascular endurance department.  Not surprisingly, Irvin looked hesitant to engage throughout the fight on Saturday.  He barely reacted to any of Sakara’s strikes, as he just stood in the pocket and absorbed them. Any questions concerning Irvin’s physical ability to go a full three rounds were moot, however, after Sakara landed a left hook that landed square on Irvin’s right eye, temporarily blinding him. Irvin immediately backpedaled in pain, thinking he was poked, but referee Josh Rosenthal correctly waved off the fight, giving Sakara the TKO win. Props to Rosenthal for making the right call; eye pokes are commonplace in MMA due to the fingerless gloves, and anytime a fighter gets poked he’s allowed time to recover. Irvin wasn’t poked, so any temporary stoppage would’ve been an unfair reprieve. Now someone get that man an ice pack and a cheeseburger and milkshake, stat.

Cheick Kongo vs. Paul Buentello

My first thought about this matchup is why is Paul Buentello still in the UFC? He’s the MMA equivalent of a tomato can, I don’t think anyone honestly believes he is a current or future contender in the heavyweight division, but rather his main value is making possible contenders or promising young fighters look spectacularly strong in the ring.

Touch of gloves, and they’re swinging away. Buentello looks bouncy on his feet, while Kongo looks like a stalking predator. Buentello doesn’t seemed intimidated, however, and is willing to trade punches, which is a formula for disaster for him. Ouch, apparently Buentello dislocated his pinkie finger, and referee Herb Dean, thinking it was an equipment “malfunction” of Buentello’s glove, allowed the ringside doctor to pop it back in place. I suppose it’s not exactly like what happened to Irvin, but any non-foul or cut related stoppage technically shouldn’t be allowed, but who am I to complain? Buentello is a gamer, but he’s simply outclassed by Kongo, who is taking his opponent down at will. It’s the third round, and Buentello just tapped the mat, as he was getting battered by Kongo’s knees and ground and pound. This could possibly be Buentello’s last fight in the UFC, if it is it’s too bad he couldn’t finish on a higher note.

Junior Dos Santos vs. Gabriel Gonzaga

Yayuh! Time for a heavyweight matchup that has real championship implications. Gonzaga, despite his mediocre 3-3 record in his last six fights, is still widely considered a top 10 fighter in his division. Dos Santos, much like Jon Jones, is an up and coming fighter who has only impressed fight fans with his performances. Dos Santos may not be as big as Gonzaga, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed.

The two open up by gauging the distance of each other’s reach. Gonzaga throws a few high kicks for good measure, but nothing lands square. It’s clear that Dos Santos has the speed advantage, and that he’s waiting for the perfect moment to unleash his devastating counter right. Nevermind, make that a counter left hook! Dos Santos perfectly timed his punch as Gonzaga threw a high kick, dropping Gonzaga to the floor. Dos Santos calmly but quickly jumped on top of Gonzaga, finishing him off with some ground and pound to win by TKO in the first round. Dos Santos is clearly a contender in the heavyweight division, the question now is who’s next for him? There are rumors about a fight with fellow heavyweight phenom Cain Velasquez, which would be absolutely electric. But I don’t want to kill two birds with one stone in this instance. Velasquez has already earned his title shot, and Dos Santos could use a few more fights under his belt. Why not just have the two heavyweight winners from tonight face off? I would definitely take Dos Santos over Kongo…

Brandon Vera vs. Jon Jones

Time for the main event! Jon Jones is walking into Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, not a bad choice, but overplayed at this point. Jones also just hit one of the security guard escorts in the back of the head and didn’t even realize what he did. He must be in the zone at this point. Brandon Vera walks into some Latin hip hop track that I’ve heard before, and he looks amped for the fight. Yessss…

It’s inevitable that UFC announcer Bruce Buffer is going to blow a vocal chord at some point. Granted he brings it every card, but he should take a cue from his older brother Michael and conserve his chops, the UFC isn’t going anywhere, and BB’s main concern should be career longevity.

The bell rings, and Jones immediately takes the center of the octagon. Both fighters have a base in Greco-Roman wrestling, but it’s evident that Jones is on another level, and he’s throwing Vera to the mat with ease. Vera was at one point in his career training to be on the Olympic wrestling team, and Jones was a junior college national champion. Jones clearly has the upper hand in grappling, and I’m convinced other than Georges St. Pierre, Jones is the best pure grappler in MMA. The fight hasn’t been the standup battle that many were hoping to see, but it certainly has been very tactical. Ooh, Vera just landed a solid upkick to Jones’ face while his knee was on the ground, which is a foul on Vera and a one point deduction. He does it again, but this time the kick hits Jones on the shoulder.

It’s all over! Jones lands a vicious roundhouse left elbow that lands flush on Vera’s right eye socket, and he immediately winces in pain. Jones starts pounding away after that, and the ref jumps in soon afterwards.  You could hear the elbow landing, it sounded like a baseball bat making solid contact with a ball. According to the post fight medical report, Jones broke Vera’s orbital bone in three places. Believe the hype, cuz Jon Jones is for real.

On a side note, I’ve been feeling a sense of ennui lately, both on my part and my readers, perhaps more than anything because of all my posts on F1 and the general lack of interest in the topic. F4D has no limits, and I could easily write about anything and everything, but what’s the point in that? My vision of the future is quite clear, but it’s true that if you don’t take a step back, you won’t be able to see the forest through the trees. In the end, the most important thing is building the connection between myself and the reader. Or in other words, are you not entertained?!

MP

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Reflections in the sand – What we learned from Bahrain

WAAAA!  So the feedback on the Bahrain GP from various factions in the F1 sphere was mostly negative, with many of the critics claiming the racing was too boring and uneventful, and that the race was largely a procession.  Clearly the comments were heard throughout the paddock, and many F1 officials, including Supremo Bernie E., along with the team principals of numerous F1 teams, chimed in on the issue with their own observations.  My response to the critics is pretty much one of exasperation, and the whiners need to either loosen their diamond studded britches and relax or find another jetsetter pastime to indulge in.  F1 has never been about constant overtaking and close quarters racing, and clearly it’s going to remain that way.  What’s ironic is many of the new design regulations introduced in 2009 were implemented in hopes of increasing the amount of overtaking by improving an F1’s car aerodynamic efficiency in another car’s slipstream.  Switching from grooved tires to slicks, incorporating a taller and narrower rear wing, and eliminating extraneous bodywork were all changes to switch the emphasis from aerodynamic grip to mechanical grip.  Conceptually they all should have been effective measures, especially when you consider their aggregate effect, but an evil two-headed monster reared its ugly face(s) in the double diffuser.

For those who don’t know, a diffuser is a shaped section of the rear underbody of a car that manipulates its aerodynamic properties.  A diffuser increases the velocity of the air traveling underneath the car which reduces pressure, and the subsequent effect is the slower velocity/higher pressure air flowing above the car creates a downward pressure effect on the car, creating the mystical yet very tangible aerodynamic principle of downforce.  In its simplest terms, think of a diffuser as an inverted wing installed on the bottomside of a car, and the faster the car goes, the more atmospheric pressure presses downward on the car.

Downforce is a vital lifeblood for the performance of a race car: it increases the grip level of the car, allowing it to turn and brake, especially at high speeds, at a rate that would be impossible to match without it.  Downforce is what allows an F1 car to drive on an upside down road at just 80 mph theoretically(Could your car do that? Neither can mine).  Diffusers are particularly efficient because they create less drag than an external wing would to create the same amount of downforce.  The only downside to the use of a diffuser is that it leaves a high speed wake of air, which is the precise problem that today’s F1 car has to deal with.  The extremely high velocity air leaving an F1 diffuser, which by nature is located lower than air flowing over a rear wing, compromises the aerodynamic stability of another car following from behind.  The lack of aerodynamic stability was evident from the drivers’ comments that the cars were twitchy and difficult to handle when in another car’s atmospheric wake.  2009 was the first year that incorporated the new diffuser regulations, and was in my opinion was the most influential aspect of F1’s design regulations in determining the winner of both championships.  Brawn GP designed a controversial double decker diffuser, seen below, and the performance advantage they gained from it was so substantial that almost every other team was forced to play catchup to Brawn’s design interpretation throughout the entire season.  Diffuser design is again a hot topic this season, as McLaren’s and Mercedes’ car designs were scrutinized for having a diffuser with too big a center hole(that’s right, I said it).  The FIA allowed every team to incorporate their own design for a DDD for this season, but as of next year they intend to ban their usage.

Now that’s a rear end only an F1 fan could grow to love.

An interesting example of innovative diffuser design is in the Red Bull RB6, which Adrian Newey created so that its exhaust system worked in conjunction with the diffuser.  The RB6’s exhaust pipes are now located underneath the rear suspension, which allowed Red Bull engineers to divert the exhaust gases into the diffuser, energizing the air flow in the diffuser and as a result creating more downforce.  It’s a brilliant design feature, but the downside is the rear suspension and axle could possibly be at risk of damage from overheating.  And another downside effect is a trailing car would also be more prone to engine overheating due to the artificially heated air flowing much more directly into its air intakes.  Not surprisingly, both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who were for much of the race trailing Sebastian Vettel in his RB6, were concerned about their engine temperatures.

The most logical measure to improve the racing for this season is one that was voiced by numerous F1 team officials, which is to mandate two pit stops to change tires.  It seems like a measured first step, which is an important consideration here.  For those who think F1 is broke, of course they would want to take drastic steps to fix it.  But considering the worldwide popularity of F1 and my love for the sport, my position on the matter is a little different: I say tinker with the problem, but don’t taint the product.

MP

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Drunken St. Patrick’s Day Revelation

So I was walking home earlier tonight after a long day of studying…

Kidding!  It’s St. Patty’s day, and the only appropriate thing to do today is drink bourbon out of a flask and Guinness out of a tap, which is exactly what happened, and it was glorious.  But I really did have to walk home at some point, and with my trusty iPhone playing, I marched home to the beat of my favorite track in the whole wide world.  Now I don’t necessarily have a favorite band, but I do have a favorite song, and it’s When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin, who is definitely somewhere on my top 5 list.  Earlier today I discovered that an alternate version of WTLB was recorded, but never officially released, and my mind was completely blown away.  Imagine growing up your whole life with a best friend, only to find out he/she had an identical twin that you never met.  How would you react?  That’s kind of what I experienced today, and I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but you get the idea.  I must have listened to the alternate version at least ten times before the reality of the situation sunk in.  And then I realized none of this really matters, what’s important is that I was entertained, which is the greatest gift that art can give.   Now you could say that art is meant to inspire and evoke emotion, but isn’t the truth that we create and observe art to enhance the reality of our own existence?  And isn’t that what entertainment is all about?  Granted this post is just a bunch of drunken rambling, but there is a point to all this.  I submit to you the original version and its long lost twin.  It’s a long track, but it’s seven minutes of pure and unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.

And now it’s equally awesome man in the mirror…

Can you tell the difference?  The most noticeable aspect is Robert Plant’s vocals, as the lyrics vary between the two, but the essence of the two tracks is one and the same.  The truth is I prefer the original version, but if the alternate version was released in its place, it wouldn’t change my feelings one iota.  I’ve seen Led Zeppelin live, but unfortunately they’ve never played the track live, for several reasons.  The legendary drum beat by John Bonham was recorded at the bottom of a stairwell of all places, hence they slightly muffled sound, the guitar, bass, and harmonica parts were recorded in the studio afterwards, and then finally the vocals on top.  But what makes the song so challenging to recreate is because the track was recorded at double speed, and then slowed down to create the unique swirly echo effect.  The harmonica part was also recorded with the microphone behind Plant, creating the backward echo effect.  And despite the repetitive nature of the drum, guitar, and bass tracks, the song is constantly changing and in flux, as if the whole thing was improvised like a jazz session.  It’s an ambitious piece of absolute virtuoso, and not a day goes by where I don’t listen to it for at least a few minutes.  If you’re not convinced that the song is an audible tour de force, I dare you to listen to the symphonic version created by the good people at the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Time to pass out soon, but it’s safe to say I won’t ever forget St. Patrick’s Day of 2010.

MP

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The Boys in Blue – The end of an era?

CHAMPIONS!  Just not this year.  The Chelsea-Inter matchup in the knockout Round of 16 of the Champions League was the most intriguing of all the pairings, on and off the pitch, and sadly my Blues were eliminated today after a 1-0 loss and 3-1 on aggregate goals.  I can accept today’s defeat, unlike the Slip of 2007 and the Sabotage of 2008.  The question is where do we go from here?  And what is going to happen to skipper Carlo Ancelotti, not to mention some of our key pieces in Joe and Ashley Cole, and Nicolas Anelka aka the Lamar Odom of European football?  My intuition tells me Anelka and Ancelotti will be back, and the Coles will likely be shipped out after season’s end.  Chelsea will undoubtedly be a player in the offseason transfer market, the names that keep popping up include Franck Ribery of Bayern Munchen, promising young prospect Alexandre Pato of AC Milan, and David Villa of Sevilla, who would be fantastic alongside my beloved Didier Drogba.  But who knows?  It’s not like the season is over just yet, Chelsea still has the Premier League and the FA Cup to play for, but the truth is our main aspirations were in the Champions League, and now that’s its over, are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the modern day Blues?

It’s not like our first team is filled with spring chickens.  Drogba is 32, Frank Lampard is 31, as is Anelka, Captain and World’s Worst Husband John Terry is 29, although he looks like he’s a solid five years older, and Michael Ballack is 33, which hopefully means he’ll hang up the cleats sometime in the near future(if you guessed correctly, I’m not a fan of the German).  Thankfully we have some young players in Daniel Sturridge(20) and Gael Kakuta(18) to complement our middle aged midfielders Michael Essien(27), Florent Malouda(29), Cole(28), and Yuri Zhirkov(26), who I think has the potential to grow into a formidable box-to-box wingback. But realistically the nucleus of the current squad has a shrinking time window to recreate the success of 2005 and 2006, when they won back to back Premier League titles.  The shift could very well start after this season, as Ashley Cole’s discontent likely means he’ll be gone, and there won’t be a shortage of suitors for the talented yet temperamental left back(He’s high on Real Madrid’s wish list).  Anelka has shown flashes of fine form, evidenced by his play earlier this season, but he always seems to regress and more often than not looks like a lost space cadet out on the field, and now he wants a hefty pay raise to the vicinity of 125,000 pounds a week, which is a steep price for a mediocre second striker.  Joe Cole has had to deal with injuries which have affected his play, and his hardline negotiating stance with team management seems to have backfired, as there has been an ominous lack of contract discussions to keep the hometown player with the team he supported since his childhood.  And Deco has been somewhat of a bust, although he can’t be entirely faulted for his shortcomings, as a lack of playing time has hampered his integration into the system.  Despite his previous commitments to staying in London, he recently admitted he would like to return to his homeland Brazil to play for Corinthians.  I don’t blame him for wanting to leave, the body of work he’s achieved merits an opportunity to play full time, and as a veteran he could provide a steadying presence on the pitch in addition to sharing his wealth of knowledge of the game to his younger teammates.

The other question mark looming over the Bridge is the future of Ancelotti, who has brought stability to a team that in the last three years went through more managers than Tiger went through hoebags at his local restaurant/strip joint.  Ancelotti may not be as magnetic or cerebral as the Special One, but think of him more as an endearing and conservative uncle, as opposed to the fiery and petulant primadonna Mourinho.  I hope Abramovich decides to keep uncle Carlo, but you know how those Russian billionaires can be…

It’s time like these when I wonder if I chose the right team to support, but the sting of defeat is only temporary, and I still love my Blues.  Contrary to what my friends Charles and Michael, who are Arsenal gooners, say about Chelsea fans being fair weather bandwagonners, there is still a strong legion of fans who support our team, in the lean and fat years.  Abramovich has brought an expectation of success to the club, and while you may not like his business tactics, at least he’s made them relevant again, which you couldn’t say about Chelsea before he arrived.  I imagine this is kind of what Chicago Cubs fans feel every year, hopeful that their team will finally make the Leap, but not surprised when they come up short.  Oh well, no time to dwell on what could have been, tomorrow is a new day.  In the mean time, I’m going to listen to the Chelsea song to keep my spirits up, want to join me?

“Blue is the color…Chelsea is our name!”

MP

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Bahrain Grand Prix

Coming at you live from sunny Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix!  Well, not really, I’m watching the race at my friend’s apartment in Oakland, but if you close your eyes…Technically this isn’t going to be a live blog, because I’m watching it off a DVR, but if you’ll indulge me I’m going to attempt a running diary of the race.

On a sidenote, did you catch Lady Gaga’s new music video Telephone?  The production was a visual cornucopia of police perimeter tape and ridiculous dance sequences, with a healthy dose of Gaga’s over the top fashion pieces, which includes her now infamous full frontal fishnet shot that was partially blurred(you’ll see).   The video had a highly stylized feel to it, but I’m not so sure how Gaga’s fans will respond to the collaboration between Gaga and Director Jonas Akerlund.  Unlike Bad Romance, I wasn’t exactly mesmerized by Telephone, neither was my friend Michael, and we both usually go gaga for Gaga.  But hey, at least she found some work for ex-NSYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick, Tyrese, and a whole bunch of latex and leather donning backup dancers.  Beyonce looked her usual bootylicious self, but I’m curious what was going through her head as they were filming(“This bitch is crazy!  But I look good, so who cares?).  At first I thought the video was trying to channel the cinematic experience of Thriller and Alice In Wonderland, but it was quite clear by the end there was a strong allusion to Kill Bill and Thelma and Louise.  Not to mention the rampant product placement, which I hope was Gaga’s nod to the Pop Art genre, and not just her shamelessly selling out.  In the end, I give the video 4 out of 5 stars, thumbs up on the ambitious scale and scope, but I felt like I should have been(or was) on acid while watching it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is…

I don’t know what this says of my expectations of Gaga, but on Friday while I was out at dinner I looked up Telephone on my iPhone, and I found this video on Youtube and first thought it was the actual video, but I soon realized it was a parody.  I attribute my mistake to the poor clarity of the video, and I distinctly remember thinking the video seemed a bit low budget for Gaga, but the truth is I kind of find it more entertaining than the official version.  Check it out…

But I digress…

In the words of Bob Varsha, turn up the volume for the start of the Bahrain GP!  Pretty uneventful start, Alonso and Massa switch places and are now 2nd and 3rd, respectively, with Hamilton losing a spot, and is now 5th behind Nico Rosberg.  Apparently Red Bull topped off Mark Webber’s engine with as much oil as possible, and he left two huge smoke plumes in his wake, and Adrian Sutil in his Force India car spun out as a result.  Meh.

Both HRT cars retired by lap 19, F1 padawan Karun Chandhok hit a bump on lap 2 and crashed into the wall as a result, which he later attributed to his lack of knowledge of the circuit, and and no one is surprised.  His teammate Bruno Senna retired on lap 19 after what seemed like a blown engine, but hey, at least he ran enough laps for us to witness HRT’s first live race pit stop, which they appropriately managed to bungle.  I’ve been highly critical of HRT’s decision to participate this season despite missing every testing and practice session.  But then I realized maybe that’s been their intention all along, I suppose the mantra “there is no such thing as bad press” is apropos here.

Richard Branson sighting, who apparently has not committed to fully funding his team for the entire season.  WTF?  You’re one of the richest men in the world and you moonlight as an entrepreneur and connoisseur of all things jetsetter fabulous, and you won’t even commit to a full year in an elite playground of the rich and famous?  Poor form, mate, but you know what they say, form is temporary, class is permanent.  Let’s hope he sees the light and rectifies the situation.  I think the racing karma gods were watching intently, and Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi were both out of the race by lap 21 with the same recurring hydraulic issues that have plagued them during preseason testing.

Apparently Clive Owen is an F1 fan, which makes sense given his pedigree as an action star with a particular skill for driving scenes.  If you’ve never watched The Hire series by BMW Films, I highly recommend it, they’re a series of short films produced by renowned Hollywood directors and cast with established actors, with Clive Owen as the main character in all of them.  My favorite of the bunch is The Ticker, enjoy.

Ooh, something finally happened among the frontrunners!  Apparently a spark plug in Vettel’s engine is misfiring, and he is now racing on less than 100% power.  Both Alonso and Massa overtake him with relative ease on lap 35, and Lewis Hamilton passes Vettel three laps later.

Ferrari finish 1-2, forza!  Alonso and Massa cruise to finish line, and Hamilton finishes 3rd, nearly 17 seconds behind Massa.  Vettel impressively manages to hold off Nico Rosberg to finish 4th, and his car limps forward to the pits almost right after he crosses the finish line.  I’ll say it again, Red Bull may have the fastest cars on the grid, but if they can’t improve the RB6’s reliability, 2010 may be a repeat of 2009.  It’s a shame, and in the words of Manny, it’s not how you go into the party, it’s how you go out.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the race was the lack of pace of the Mercedes cars, as Nico Rosberg and G.O.A.T. Schumi came in 5th and 6th and never made a real challenge to pass the leaders.  It’s a long season, and I’m sure Team Deutschland will improve as it progresses, but today’s result is further proof that in F1, it really is about the car.

Alonso is pumped, he just beat his chest four times after getting out of his F10.  No champagne for the podium placers, apparently alcohol consumption is highly restricted in Bahrain, so instead they get fizzy fruit cider.  Oh well, Ferrari is back on top, and all is right again in the F1 universe.  Cue the anthem!

See you in two weeks in Melbourne, in the mean time, stay classy, and Happy St. Patty’s Day!

MP

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