UFC 217

By: S. Davis

I last wrote about martial arts for UFC 214 so I wanted to do my best to write about the return of Georges St-Pierre to the sport. He’s on my short list of favorite fighters along with Jose Aldo, Jon Jones and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos to name a few. St-Pierre, in my eyes, is as perfect a fighter as there’s ever been in mixed martial arts. He’s returning to action, at middleweight, after being away for 12 days shy of four years.

Yet the world surrounding the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC, specifically, are crying that he cuts the line at middleweight? He’s the ill of the UFC roster? So St-Pierre returning to an immediate title fight is a threat to the integrity of the sport? Right.

The UFC, itself, has done a fantastic job of subverting their entire roster with the proliferation of interim championships, ignoring the fundamentals of match-making based on meritocracy and a rankings system comprised by some questionable outlets – which makes those numbers listed next to a fighter’s name hollow and plot points for marketing purposes only…among other maladies. The mess that the lightweight and – to a smaller degree – featherweight divisions are currently mired in drive this point home.

There is a pile of crying about Michael Bisping’s title reign. Is it his fault that Luke Rockhold walked into the cage with a smug demeanor, treating a fellow professional fighter like he shouldn’t have dressed to compete and was overconfident? He held a prior win over Bisping, and the Brit had only two weeks to prepare so it was a cake walk, right? I’m sure the majority of media and fans had this thought.

Bisping knocks Rockhold into the clouds and turns around to defend his title against Dan Henderson and championship merit evaporates completely? He’s the sole culprit in this kind of behavior? There are some selective memories around this sport if that’s the case. Bisping is taking a torch to the structure of all of mixed martial arts by trying to get win back? At least that was a title defense – against an opponent that can obliterate anyone with a pulse. Haven’t we seen rematches with far less importance to the sport; to their respective divisions as well? We’ve seen rematches pause entire divisions because ego trumped the responsibility of holding that gold strap with the shiny U-F-C letters.

Bisping’s wrong for looking to get the financial purses only a few fights can net him? St-Pierre is undeserving? With his resume of performances and consistent, spectacular, representation of a company that has been disrespectful, and at times classless – queue up the post-fight press conference at UFC 167 – he should be able to take part in some fantasy booking.

Most of the fans following MMA, or specifically the UFC, are fools. I’m not saying it’s the best fight to make for either man. It’s not – and that’s clear. Yet to look at this bout as a virus in the sport, the bane of competition among all the other fires the UFC has set for itself is a gross exaggeration. I would rather have both athletes compete in their natural weight classes against obvious opponents but I won’t begrudge either of them for taking advantage of a great opportunity from either point of view.

As for the actual fight, I have no clue where it goes. Do you? GSP has been on the shelf for four years. You can complete an undergraduate education in that time. How does his sabbatical go unnoticed here?

Secondly, as the fight coverage intensified over the last three weeks I’ve heard that his fighting style is outdated. Honestly, I don’t see that. He’s (still) probably the best MMA-wrestler with excellent cardio. He’s a good striker – and we all know the piston-like jab. He dominated opponents with top control and efficient ground-and-pound. His takedown defense is/was among the best in the sport. Which of the aforementioned skills are ancient?

Fast forward to present day and I do worry about his gas tank once the cage door closes. The defending champion pushes a torrid pace and doesn’t hit the brakes even if he’s hurt or on the verge of being finished. Bisping’s conditioning paired with St-Pierre’s lack of activity makes this main event such a chore to predict.

Bisping is on the verge of being the only fighter to claim a victory over Anderson Silva and GSP; let that sink in. The guy is overlooked at every turn but he has the most wins in the history of the promotion for a reason; let that sink in. If he can keep the fight standing, St-Pierre will need more than precise footwork and a jab to survive.

An aspect of the fight that intrigues me is the amount of damage GSP can endure. While he’s been a fighter that traditionally checks all the boxes, he’s been alarmingly bruised and bludgeoned in his last handful of fights. I’m not sure if he’s become lazy with head movement or his reaction time has dulled with age but it’s a point to consider. Look to the punishment he absorbed in the Johny Hendricks battle and there’s a tangible reason so many people felt he lost the welterweight crown. Personally I think he managed to win because he took round one and round five when Hendricks coasted to the bell, evidently pleased with his performance. Taking all that into account, my eyes widened when the decision was read.

Size will probably be the biggest factor in the outcome. GSP was resistant to move to 185 during the time the super-fight with Silva was simmering. Why didn’t Dana White – or anyone – pitch that fight at 177, by the way? Although it’s great for marketing, they didn’t have to put the middleweight title on the line if the two supernovas ever passed each other in the universe.

Sorry, I’m back on track now. How will Georges react to the extra weight? Putting on mass is one thing but competing with it against a larger, natural, middleweight is something no amount of sparring can adequately mimic. There’s a reason he’s been training on his grappling with elite submission practitioners; I think he’ll aim to snatch a swift submission victory to avoid five-round tug-of-war.

The rest of the card…

This Team Alpha Male vs. TJ Dillashaw feud is…whatever. So it’s a crime for an athlete to train with other camps/fighters/instructors to ensure he maximizes the short window he has to compete at an elite level? Has everyone forgotten how training and improving works, across ALL sports? Lastly with the intensity of the smear campaign coming out of Sacramento, why would they want him on the team? Isn’t this behavior proof that he made the right decision? If he’s such a traitor, why are they holding on so tightly? They’re treating it like he abandoned them at the altar. It’s tired – and it never should’ve garnered the level of attention that it has. If they truly valued him as a teammate and friend, shouldn’t they be happy for the improvements he’s made in his career? Wouldn’t you be elated for a friend if they’re living their best life?

I’m going to table the feelings I have towards the treatment of Rose Namajunas by Joanna Jedrzejczyk over the challenger’s battle with mental and emotional obstacles in her past. Depending on the event, I stay away from the UFC Embedded series that precedes the pay-per-view. I watched the episodes for UFC 217 and it lived up to some of the quotes I’ve heard and read from some of the journalists I read within the sport. The champion doesn’t come across and someone that’s…personable. She’s a fighter, I get that, and she’s kind and cheerful in a way that a lot of competitors in MMA can’t purchase at a yard sale. However she does not come across well on television when belittling Namajumas.

As for Thug Rose, I just don’t think she’s ready. She’s earned the fight, unquestionably, but I think it’s a byproduct of a dearth of contenders in the division. She’s 25. Two years from now I think this is a completely different title fight.

Enjoy the card!

Picks: Bisping, Dillashaw, Jedrzejczyk, Thompson, Costa and Duffy.

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Travel Diary: Salzburg Airport

By: S. Davis

 

September; Austria:

Berlin tried its best to kill me and although I resemble humans I’m not of this earth; I’m from a planet long ago destroyed by the name of Krypton. My resistance to alcohol, nightlife and women are far greater than that of mere mortals; well…let me think about that last one a while longer.

When the bus shuttled across the tarmac to meet the humming jet for my next flight on this trip, longingly I wanted to remain in Berlin. Let’s stay another day? We can push the itinerary out! No! Dude if we stay longer we’ll have less time in Salzburg – and Austria’s a large component of this trip. Besides those German women are smart; if I’m exposed to them for another 24 hours I’m sure a shard of kryptonite will miraculously appear and then I’ll have to worry about applying for a work visa, future residency, a shotgun wedding and learning a new language. That escalated swiftly now didn’t it?

We’re approaching the landing strip and there’s a 360 degree panoramic view of glorious mountains, luxurious green spaces and clouds both thick and thin. How is this an airport? I admire how the city engineers drew this up when they were mapping Salzburg. I feel as if I’m going to a camping retreat of some sort.

I clap and whisper a prayer to God as I always do when I land safely on solid ground and power up my phone. A cool text from Sprint greets me, welcoming me to Austria and I check my messages to see if there are any new replies from Nina. The flight from Berlin was delayed and she and I were messaging up until I had to power off the phone. Her message explains that she’ll run home to charge her phone battery and drive back to pick me up.

As the staff lead us off the aircraft I take in the view and feel my lungs expand. That’s no exaggeration. My chest inflated, as if my lungs got an upgrade and went to higher level, similar to a video game achievement. The sinus pressure in my head and ears were released like the air from a tire and I truly thought I was on the verge of levitation. At least that’s what I was hoping to do. I still think I’m going to wake up one morning and fly; I want to be Superman. Don’t judge me, please; like you wouldn’t want superpowers.

I check my mobile: She’s waiting.

As I stop in my tracks and smile at the buffet my eyes are feasting on, an older couple smiles and I wave in response. I snap a few photos. This is how you greet visitors or locals to Salzburg? I like this.

We’ve all seen movies, television shows or other people have someone waiting for them at the airport, right? Isn’t that cool? I’ve always thought it was. Specifically, as in a person there as you enter the airport waiting for…you. Neat. I breeze through baggage claim as I’m reasonable enough to travel with one carry-on (with a backpack that collapses into it if needed) even though I’m on a month-long voyage. I don’t have time for extra weight. With my personality, if I felt my bag was too heavy I would either throw the extra clothing away or wash them and find a local church for a quick donation. I actually feel this bag could be lighter. I’m into my third week in Europe and I have shirts I have yet to wear.

As the automatic doors slide open I see a familiar face. “Seaaaan! Heyyyyy, you’re here!” We laugh, we hug. I thank her for coming to collect me from the airport to which she tells me to “shut up.” Yeah, that sounds like the drummer girl I met four years ago when we were both figuring out what the hell we were going to do in Los Angeles. Her, a talented musician looking to follow her career path away from her home; myself, a writer and actor chasing a purpose, happily, with New York City in my rearview mirror. Los Angeles is definitely a city that brings dreamers together. That should be the official slogan of the city tourism board.

She expresses herself in the most straightforward way; blunt and unapologetic. Intelligent, funny, kind and her accented English is a treat to the ears. Make no mistake she’s fluent although she’ll ask me if she’s expressing herself correctly. Like I created the English language; keep on talking Nina. Ha!

“It’s been four years since we were in the same place,” and she nods before laughing. Her maniacal driving forces me to tell her about it and she says she’s not “that bad” as if she’s aiming to convince herself. Ugh! I haven’t had to drive in over two weeks and I’m getting flashes of the assholes on the 405. I’m sorry Los Angeles; traffic on that slab of concrete bullshit will hasten my move back to NYC before anything else does.

We mention how glad we both are that we stayed present with one another. It wasn’t always consistent communication but we hovered around one another through our fb inbox. She’d send a message, I’d send a Motorhead song and we’d remain active, I would say, in each other’s lives. Months ago she sent a picture of the Hohensalzburg Castle with a caption that read, “Get your ass over here!” She should teach English. I remember getting the message and spitting my drink all over my laptop. It was worth it.

In the car she’s going from topic to topic, all over the place but under control at the same time and I just nod my head. Her hair’s dark again, letting go of her blonde look of years prior. She still has that weird smile and her eyes are as expressive as I remember. Bright. She laughs with her whole head and neck as I recall. This is familiar again, it’s like we left off at the hostel or when we were roaming Hollywood after leaving Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard because she just had to eat pancakes…again.

She doesn’t put up with bullshit and I think that’s the characteristic that resonated with me. I think I have to keep her in my life – or make the attempt to keep a line open to her. That was the most potent thought in my head once I left the hostel in LA. I’m not the type to stay present with people – a characteristic related to my upbringing – and it’s not that I pull away from those that matter, it’s just…I’m comfortable living my life without updating every one on every thing…for large chunks of time. As crass as it may sound, it doesn’t bother me if people I care about are upset over that. If they truly know me, they know me. They know that. We stayed in touch and it wasn’t the least bit weird when we were in the car, talking, after all these years.

We dropped my things off, went to pick up groceries, eat and then stroll around her neighborhood. This is crazy! We walk about five minutes from her apartment and this is the type of view Salzburg supplies:

I haven’t been in town two hours and I want to live here. Or over there where the horses are eating…five minutes from Nina’s apartment. Oh, wait there are cows over there. We talk about deep, life, subjects and we’re blowing past all the superficial friendly talk and real substance is on the menu now. It’s seamless, it’s raw, it’s heavy, it’s funny…it is real.

As we walk along another path a kind stranger waves at me, specifically, obviously, as if he wants me to know he’s welcoming me to his country. Nina and I look to one another, I shrug my shoulders and then we both laugh. Without missing a beat, “Yeah, he thinks you’re a refugee.”

We both laugh, loud. “I’m American; I’m not here for your jobs!” This becomes a running joke for the remainder of my trip with Nina coming close to taping my mouth closed at every inappropriate public place that I utter it. With the way things are in the United States, I might have to seek refuge soon. I might be back in a few months for everyone’s jobs. Did everyone on the flight think I was a refugee? That charming couple on the runway that smiled at me?

Her skills as a tour guide are without peer. “Fortress, fortress, fortress, green, green, green…take pictures here or do whatever. You already paid me so let’s get on with this.” I’m so glad she’s a musician because she’d be an abysmal person to lead tourists. They’d get lost while she’d be drumming somewhere or eating noodles.

We’ve got a week to renew our friendship. I’m glad we didn’t lose touch. I’m glad we didn’t lose touch. She’s unique.

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)
Part 3: Berlin

Travel Diary: Berlin

By: S. Davis

September; Germany:

Why am I crying? Of all places, here?

As I’m connecting the dots over the last 24 hours and strolling to the Naturkundemuseum with a chunk of cheesy bread in my mouth the noise of the city begins to dissipate, as if the volume is controlled by a DJ. There are fewer people on Chausseestr and it’s now silent in the early afternoon. Shops are busy, life is abundant yet you can hear whispers as if they were screams. According to my map, I’m a few blocks away from my destination – which happens to be in close proximity to the Berlin Wall Memorial as well. I have this afternoon filled just like that.

My neck is tight. What the hell happened last night? Did I go clubbing again or did Whitney and I get drinks? Was it both? Was I with Natasha yesterday? Maybe I should check my phone for clues. That’s not going to shed any light on what happened before I fell asleep; my nights are meant for memory-making and not picture-taking, especially when I’m on vacation. My phone spends most days, shut off, and in my locker. There’s no real point to being on vacation and being tied to an electronic leash. Its primary use is as a backup camera to my traditional model.

I’m rambling now and I’m flummoxed as to why my neck feels like someone put a screwdriver through the left side of it and kicked it through, puncturing the skin on the right. I need to eat more. Rewe’s right over the bridge…done. Wait, I already went there and I haven’t finished the bread or fruit cup yet.

The clouds are gathering once more – and I’m certain it’s about to rain shortly. It’s quiet, even the cars are less noisy along this street. Greenery, fantastic; oh, this isn’t a park in the city. It’s the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery. It’s so peaceful. Tranquil. Is it open to the public?

I have time. I can walk around for a bit, I think. Let’s put this food away, this is not a space of recreation at all. After taking a gulp of water I carefully enter the gates and feel the ambience. Two senior women are wrapped in a conversation on a nearby bench and smile as our eyes meet, I smile in return. I examine the headstones: the names, dates of a human’s existence, the family plots, the long lives and the incredibly short ones all resting here.

Pellets of rain rest on my right hand and I look to the sky. There’s still a great deal of sunlight so I have some time before I have to find cover, maybe 15 minutes or so…I guess. A marble headstone catches my attention and then an intricate tomb, another plot holding several generations of an entire family line, a teacher, a wife and her husband, a mother and her son, a beloved brother, the headstone of a child; the rain subsides.

My feet swiftly become fastened to the cement. My shoulders feel heavy. I rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise. I’m centered and I’m not able to move forward or backward; I stop spinning. As I look to the sky, the tombs, the women on the bench near the entrance and the dog walking its owner along Chausseestr…

Why am I crying? Of all places, here?

I spent hours at the Holocaust Memorial and I felt intense gloom. The lives shattered, entire families wiped out of existence; pointless extermination. Murdered; killed for no other reason than they were born and were labeled by a tyrant as different. Some of the notes I read at the exhibit forced me to sit and soak in the despair. Why didn’t I shed tears there? A few times I felt as if I was on the verge especially when I listened to the story of a woman in Nazi Germany, her name adorned the wall from the projector and under her name was a date of birth yet there wasn’t a date of death. It was empty. I’m melancholy as I type this with that image so clear in my mind. I’m in that room once more; that sad, elegant, respectful, poignant, tragic presentation that I listened to for a long stretch of time.

Tears traversed my eyeballs and not a single one escaped my eyelid. Could it be that I expected to cry, at least subconsciously, and therefore it didn’t materialize because of that same underlying expectation? There’s no answer and I’ll leave it at that.

Clouds are beginning to block out the sun as a tear runs down my cheek. I focus intently as it splashes on my sneaker and I look up at a statue of a pained woman. She’s braced on an urn, unable to stand upright with her grief. It took wind out of my chest. Maybe I’m repressing inner pain but I bent over, almost taking one knee, stared at my sneakers and let the process take over. It hurt and I was heartbroken.

I licked the tears from my top lip and exhaled. There was a child’s headstone that took me to another level. I’ve been in cemeteries before – and I’ve never had a reaction like this…but on this day, for reasons unknown, it was befitting. I grieved and didn’t wipe a single tear from my face. I wanted to feel it all. There are times I can be robotic, to the point where I even question what’s brewing within my soul. My heart’s beating and I’m in tune with my emotions. A human exists; Sean is still there.

Death doesn’t shake me; I’ve been exposed to it more than I’d like to admit. When life gives you lemons, right?

My brain begins to send signals to my feet and I’m able to move again. The tombs are intricate, large and small. Some are worn and others look new or freshly cleaned. A small portion of the headstones have recent dates of death and those affect me immediately. A light drizzle turns on a dime and the rain intensifies which forces me to pull on my beanie. I feel angry, I feel depressed, I feel weak, I feel strong, I felt it all. I shut my eyes and say prayers as I walk along the resting.

I mourn. I’m sure the emotion here is connected to this cemetery, these people, and the experience at the Holocaust Memorial. This was a slight detour. The ones I love when traveling without a plan. It’s the reason why I don’t make any.

Lastly, to the three joggers and two bikers: You’re assholes.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Diaries
Part 1: France
Part 2: New York City (JFK)

Travel Diary: New York City (JFK)

By: S. Davis

September; New York City:

Strange. Odd. Revealing. Empty.

I sit here waiting for my connecting flight to Paris and…nothing. No anger or sadness, no happiness, excitement or joy. I’m home – as much as I can call an airport that, but nonetheless I am technically in New York City and not a single emotion is rising to the surface.

Apathy?

I’m thinking about all my failures, mistakes and questionable decisions; good, bad…unclear. The outcomes those choices yielded – and how I processed and lived through them. What were the lessons, the silver linings? I can’t find a single one at the moment. I’m sure they exist but I feel like a robot at the moment. The planes are rolling around, awaiting signals to reach the runway, outside of the window and I’m staring at Queens. I am in my city, my heart deeply in Brooklyn yet inside my chest is silence.

My eyes fixate on five birds; it all seems so simple for them. Envy? Sure. The simplicity fascinates me. I place my hand over my heart to make sure I’m actually existing in this moment and I haven’t died in a plane crash or I’m deep into a dream unaware it’s time to make my way to LAX. Am I asleep?

After stepping away from the window I press my right hand into my chest – to the point of discomfort in order to feel my beating heart. Faint, eerily so. My cellular battery is at full capacity thanks to the charging station. As I sit, I contemplate every woman I dated, my education and, above all else, my childhood. My mother, my sister; the concept of home.

What exactly is home?

Where have I gone? What have I accomplished?

Besides surviving some cruel luck I can’t answer that in a tangible manner. I love my true friends with every bit of my heart and whatever’s remaining of my soul but I hate when they attempt to sing my praises for overcoming a devastating upbringing. Life doesn’t award medals just for living it, I suppose. Actually I’m sure it doesn’t. My sister didn’t celebrate a tenth birthday and I’m older than my mother was at the time of her death. Is that true? It is. Does a silver lining exist there?

There are times when I’m maniacally convinced that my life is being televised to another dimension where wagers are being placed on the exact time I break, mentally. Twelve? I was on the brink. Fourteen? Fifteen? Sixteen? Twenty-four? Twenty-nine?

Why am I at my happiest with my backpack, foreign currency and a map finding my way through a foreign country?

I would sell every one of my possessions and leave everything behind to travel the world for the rest of my days. If I found a career path that paid me a salary to travel, I wouldn’t need a full week to shut down my life in Los Angeles.

I’m trying to create luck and opportunities for myself but, personally, I feel that I’m failing, once again. I’m acting, writing and performing but not to the point where I can pursue those avenues solely according to the standards I’ve set for myself.

Shockingly, I find myself inundated with anxiety. I’m bathed in the shit. It’s like a sticky, thick, pungent film that I can’t seem to wash off. It’s resting in my subconscious and it invades my sleep. It won’t subside even on the days I feel like I’m progressing. It’s eroding my ability to self-motivate. I’ve never been a person that felt victim to that emotion and now it’s a consistent, troubling insecurity I cope with.

I’m 37. I’m running out of time.

Travel Diary: France

By: S. Davis

 

For three weeks of September I was in Europe behaving like a caveman pumped with gallons of absinthe. It was fantastic. The last time I had a chance to travel – over international water – was 4-5 years ago and that was a crazy jaunt through the majestic island of Puerto Rico.

Since I have a few of these journal entries – I bring a small notepad to write during quiet moments – why not publish them? I have some that go back as far as eight years ago that I have to track down and once I read them, they’ll be here.

This overseas voyage took me through France, Germany, Austria and England. I’m not publishing these in order because I don’t always value linear storytelling and they weren’t written in that fashion to begin with.

September; France:

A few days into the trip; I’m eating dinner at Le Café Palais Royal, directly facing the Louvre. This has been a looooong day, though it started at a snail’s pace. However it’s one of the hidden nuggets of travel that you uncover while in the middle of it: The day always finds a way to fill itself out, no matter the beginning.

Paris is a beautiful city. The Eiffel Tower is worthy of its reputation yet I find myself exponentially drawn to the Louvre over anything else I’ve seen thus far. I love museums; I could spend an entire day browsing. In fact I spent my first day in Paris within the massive structure for over six hours. I could’ve stayed longer if I didn’t want to eat my arm for dinner.

I admit it wasn’t one of my brightest ideas when you include that I didn’t sleep much the night before and my body refuses to relax on a plane. Additionally, I spent over 12 hours in combined flight time getting to France so my internal clock was flummoxed, not to mention the two-hour tarmac dance at JFK. Aren’t there regulations against that sort of thing?

First, we were delayed an hour and then it took another 60 minutes until we got to the runway, hoping for an opening to takeoff. Akin to painfully cruising through the parking lot of a packed supermarket while fighting the urge to urinate on yourself while at the same time holding the urge to scream waiting for a car to open up an available spot. Just like that…but worse.

Side Note: The elongated game of “Will We or Not?” most definitely cost me a chance at a fun flight with a stunner named Chellie. So I arrived at my aisle seat to find this striking woman sending a text and resting her head on the window. I checked to make sure my seat was correct: 39 H. Yes, it’s on my boarding pass. She’s seated in 39 J. It could be much worse. She’s got the window; I have the aisle and the near future includes a seven hour flight to get to know her. Why wasn’t her seat 39 I? It comes after H in the alphabet though. Sean!

I’ll get back to the Louvre in a second…

Once I sat, I smiled to myself as I absorbed the scent of vanilla, cinnamon, lilies, peach, coconut and baby powder seeping from her skin. Mistakenly I kicked her foot – not a mistake – to get her attention. I apologized and she politely waved it off with a smile. She returned to her phone and as hard as I tried I couldn’t get a sight at who was demanding so much of her attention. Boyfriend? Husband? Girlfriend? Has to be, right? Now there wasn’t any bauble on her fingers but what does that mean? C’mon what are the odds here?

After placing my backpack in the overhead compartment I sat down and she placed her phone into her purse and fussed with reading a novel adorned with a fluorescent cover in…French. This is it; my opening to diplomatic relations with France. Our countries need a better working relationship and I’m the guy for that.

Now over the last few years I’ve felt that my future wife won’t be American. I feel strongly about it. It’s not that I don’t find American women attractive – they’re women, attraction takes care of itself. Emotionally and mentally, there’s a connection I find with international women that I just can’t explain. There are sensibilities…about life that I share, overwhelmingly, with women of an international upbringing. It’s lacking with the women in my country and I’ll simply leave it there. The woman who gets me to utter, “til death due us part” will, more than likely, have an international passport. French women were on my list but in the bottom half of my top ten. Where is my list?

Back to Chellie: She skimmed over a few pages, checked her phone one more time before sliding it into her cappuccino colored, leather purse. She rested her head on her chair and gazed out to the sunny, New York, afternoon with a great view…of the airport terminals. Ugh! I was reading an article on my phone and she took a deep, long, breath followed immediately with a long sigh. I looked over. “Let it land, give her a few seconds before you go all Sean.”

I let a moment pass and inquired about the reason for the sigh. “A little tired,” she spoke softly, barely above the volume of a whisper. She rubbed her eyes and then checked the time on her wristwatch. “I’m Sean, hello.” I extended my hand and she sat forward, “I’m Chellie, nice to meet you.” Then the conversation picked up for about two minutes until the captain announced a delay – which prompted her friend to walk over to our section. Miraculously there was one open seat in the cabin to which she wanted Chellie to fill. What are the odds? Yeah…so that was curtains for that.

So I now had two seats to myself. Yayyy! Ugggggggh! The flight was banal, unspectacular. Totally memorable as I hate flying but I love seeing the world.

Tangent over…

The famous glass pyramids of the Louvre courtyard is ripe for those looking for selfies and such but the actual collection of art itself surpasses the grandeur of the unforgettable glass structures. Impressive is an understatement – and I’ve visited some of the most renowned museums in the world. Hell, I’m from New York City and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is my gem along with a trove of other popular collections of art. The Louvre is damn special. Truly.

Honestly I was dragging my body through the halls and I felt the weight of each individual limb. With the exception of a brief nap, really brief as in I dozed off for 14 minutes before my body remembered that I was on a flying bus and responded accordingly, and flying across several time zones – departing from LAX is abhorrent – I was sleep deprived for over 30 hours. It wasn’t the ideal way to begin my tour of Europe but I’ve done it before. Taking a look back the two-hour delay was a blessing as I was scheduled to arrive in Paris at 7am instead of the 10:30am(ish) time the plane landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport (from which I hopped on the train to my hostel).

There was a stretch of time where I sat for an hour in the museum, people watching mostly, until my legs ceased throbbing. I had a moment where it was obvious that my body had enough. I’ve prided myself on being great when it comes to directions: Where I am in a foreign city, how to get home, what wings I’ve seen in a particularly massive museum, etc. I knew my tank was on empty when I was walking in circles, walking through corridors I’d previously visited, seeing the same staff members in the same places as earlier and trying to find an exit when a kind employee gave me clear instructions on how to accomplish that. Clearly my brain was powering down all systems.

I yearned for the two glasses of red that I had on the flight but I knew that it would be a bad idea to stop for more considering my energy level at the Louvre. It rained for the entirety of that afternoon and the downpour only intensified as the sun fell. I gathered myself and looked at my city map. “Where exactly is the Eiffel Tower in relation to where I am?” The night was here and I was collecting my jacket, having found my way to the main hub before exiting. Boy was it a great idea to buy a jacket before leaving the weather-averse confines of SoCal. I don’t own a coat at all. I donated all of my winter garments before leaving NYC. Being from the east coast and innately familiar with the weather patterns in the beginning of the fall, I knew I would need something heavier than a simple sweater but less clunky than a legitimate winter coat.

My calves burned but I wanted to get the Eiffel Tower done. I have this drive to knock out several major attractions within the first two days in an international city so the rest of my time there I can mill around aimlessly. I was determined to get it done. It was a chilly, rainy evening but those are the types of nights I ache for now that I no longer live in New York City. I’m doing this!

After passing over the Seine River – by the way of Pont Du Carrousel – and seeing the tower illuminating the sky I ignored how the water began to add weight to my jacket. Maybe I should’ve gone with a waterproof option? No question. I made my way down Quai Voltaire/Quai Anatole France with my pace speeding up as the rain become more unrelenting. Underneath my jacket was a simple v-neck t-shirt and I was warm but my forearms were cold. I felt goosebumps. I knew exactly what was happening. I stopped at the Musee d’Orsay to get out of the weather. Rain had penetrated my jacket to the point were there was one layer keeping me from feeling like I was standing in the shower, drenched. D’Orsay was closed but I stood there to track my position on my map and remove my hat which was saturated with enough water to where my head couldn’t possibly remain dry for more than five minutes of consistent exposure.

I wasn’t that far. I murmured to myself as I fished my scarf from my backpack and wrapped it around my neck. I took a brief detour down Rue de I’Universite, Rue de Bac, Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue de Varenne for no particular reason. I can look a little disjointed at times but it’s fun because I allow myself to get lost in order to remember neighborhoods, restaurants, etc. Streets, monuments, shops get burned into my brain that way (more on that in a later entry) and yet this was not the time to explore. I picked up some euros from an ATM and scurried back to the shelter of the Musee d’Orsay. My will finally, mercifully, listened to the message my body, and more importantly, my brain were sending: You have to punt on the Eiffel Tower tonight. Reluctantly, I listened. As I crossed the Seine for the second time and was on the cusp of crossing Quai Francois Mitterrand along Place du Carrousel I noticed the Eiffel. I snapped a grainy, wet, photo and smiled. Maybe my camera had enough too; the battery indicator was blinking; drained. Poetic.

I made it back to the hostel, soaking wet and exchanged pleasantries with fellow backpackers I would have time to converse with throughout my stay. I flirted with the women and went to my room to change. There are new encounters to be had in a new city. Hell yeah! I fought my body for as long as I could. Whatever, brain, I’m going out to meet some women.

After sitting to peel off my wet garments and feel the warmth of the room – I really should’ve remained on my feet – my brain vetoed any further actions along with my carnal desires for the evening. I completely powered off. I was on auto pilot so I was able to hang my clothes and keep my area neat before falling swiftly into a deep slumber. It was a long day. Europe will have me for a month; a night of rest was needed. A night of rest it shall be.

One-Way

By: S. Davis

Suffocating transition,
Heart engulfed in pain,
Despair and pity,
Bump my head against the ceiling,
It was time to leave my City.
How do I breathe? I feel stagnant.
Uninspired, slowly dying; I’m praying and l’m crying,
Out of character, I’m whining.
There was a glimmer of the future
Of which said future featured you;
It would’ve been simple to buy a ring,
Create a life and start anew.
Thank you for loving me,
It reveals a soul currently exists inside.
I don’t want to leave my city;
A race started that I’m late in running,
Three thousand miles away my baby-girl,
She’s just effortlessly stunning;
Will ruthless ambition be my downfall?
Possibly…probably
Yet before 13 I’d already lost it all.
Normalcy then complacency
Job, commute, house keys
Homework, chores, day-to-day
Doctors visits, flu shots, meetings with the PTA
Yearning, my heart, craving much more
Wondering about the path on the other side of the door
Drifting, searching
Finding Sean
Drifting, searching
Hoping to find Sean

UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones 2

By: S. Davis

 

Has everyone made weight?

I’ve been writing about mixed martial arts for a few years and I’ve been a consistent viewer since 2008-ish. As I’ve become more educated about technique, psychology and the skill involved to even step into a cage…for a fight, I’ve always had a great deal of fun picking winners. Everyone does it with any sport that they spend their attention – and dollars – on.

Who doesn’t? I’m not a gambler in any sense – at least not financially – but selecting winners does add a little mini-game to the viewing experience. Since Jon Jones’ UFC debut I’ve watched every one of his fights. I’ve picked him as the victor early in his career just based on athleticism, honestly. I didn’t know much about him so I was just throwing stuff at the wall, so to speak. As he’s grown to become one of the best martial artists to compete in such a young sport – mind you he’s already considered as the best fighter EVER – choosing him to have his hand raised after he competes is easy. It’s chalk selections on an NCAA bracket. Easy work!

However there is one time I picked against him: UFC 128. Close your mouth, relax and don’t revolt. Walk with me for a minute…

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua seemed – at least to me – as if he was about to replicate his Pride FC form as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He came off taking the title from Lyoto Machida – after being robbed in their first bout – and looked healthy, strong and sharp. I heard about his Pride run, specifically his 2005 year, and I was blown away by the resume. He defeated Hiromitsu Kanehara, Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona; stopping each with the exception of Nogueira in the span of…six months. I thought he was going to defeat Jones. Mind you, I felt Jones would eventually earn a rematch, setting up a trilogy of fights, in which “Bones” would ultimately prevail as the king of the division. I considered the notion that Rua would then feast on the division, possibly getting back to Jones, or dropping to middleweight for a run there. In hindsight you may think I’m crazy and it’s possibly a questionable selection in 2017 but I felt justified – and I stand by it.

Daniel Cormier will enter the cage as prepared for any fight he’s had in his entire career. There’s a chorus of MMA idiots who also happen to hold doctorates in armchair psychology screaming to other idiots – by another name: MMA fans – that Cormier is “scared.” Sure. Hey doctors, I have a prescription that imbues you with the power of Superman for three days. I’m willing to sell you a pill for $100.00 each; how many do you need?

I would agree that this is probably the biggest fight in the current era of the UFC – and possibly the most important in the history of the sport to date. I’m not one for hyperbole, I detest it, but the statement is grounded in reality. Now the magnitude of the main event is in no way related to the possible outcome.

About that outcome….

It would be a splash for the sport if Cormier successfully defends his title. It books a trilogy and heightens their rivalry for another year or so. A Jones victory ridiculously invalidates Cormier’s reign – sadly, it’s easy to connect the dots to reasonably agree with that conclusion – and possibly pushes him to his media career, as his only career. Whether he walks out victorious tomorrow evening he’s firmly in the top five-to-seven fighters ever; if not higher. His resume glows – and he’s legitimately a champion in two divisions. There’s no debate there.

I’ve only picked against Jones once.

So ring rust is easily tossed around when other fighters experience long stretches of inactivity but many are overlooking it as it pertains to him. Rather recently I’ve been reading about how that will be Jones’ automatic excuse if he suffers his first, true, loss of his career. Since UFC 182, Cormier has been far more active; winning four fights while Jones’ terrible decisions have enabled him enter the cage once.

Did I miss something in Jones’ fight with Ovince Saint Preux? Ever since winning he was tagged as having a bad night when I felt going five rounds was something he would be able to benefit from being that he needed to get back into competition. I guess I’m wrong here. I’m not overlooking the lack of activity because it just has to matter here, somewhere, right?

Cormier turned away Anthony Johnson (twice), Alexander Gustafsson and Anderson Silva. He’s been in the cage consistently. I’m sure Jones has been training over the time of his self-induced exile from the UFC but training, sparring, cardio, biking, lifting, etc; is not equivalent to a real fight, with real stakes and enormous pressure. Especially when you consider that he’s been at the top of the sport since dethroning Rua in 2011.

I’ll be watching for pacing in the bout as Jones’ cardio has always been a positive whereas Cormier admitted it was an issue for him in their first meeting. It’s no secret the weight cut to 205 is arduous on him and we all remember the towel trick he pulled back in April. With the amount of time Jones has spent outside of MMA competition, can Cormier press the action to make the challenger wilt? Will he institute a wrestling-dominant approach hoping to break him in the championship rounds? I think it would be wise for Cormier to go there.

As for Jones, he’s proven he can win in any arena of fighting. He’ll wrestle with the decorated grappler, he’ll stand and trade with the dangerous striker, he’ll choose to dirty-box the opponent that excels in tight quarters and he’ll put on a showcase for five rounds if he can’t produce a finish. He takes it upon himself to challenge his opponent in their area of expertise. It’s one of the reasons I find him and Georges St-Pierre so compelling.

With all the real hatred, I guess, coming from them at the slightest mention of the other I think they will both push for a finish…a memorable one; the type of exclamation point that will be added to highlight reels for decades to come. If Jones earns a finish I see it happening from the mounted crucifix position with a barrage of elbows or – for some reason – a standing guillotine choke. As for Cormier, I can see him earning a stoppage after an abundance of suffocating wrestling leads to a rear-naked choke in the later rounds.

I think Jones will look to utilize his patented oblique and body kicks to hamper Cormier’s pursuit. His elbows will also be a large factor in this fight and I think he’ll fire them like jabs, sudden and hidden, as in not telegraphing them at all, like he managed to in his title defense against Rashad Evans. I like Cormier to get in close and fire uppercuts, selectively, as I do think he’ll be watching for Jones’ wrestling. This should be a stellar title bout. This event looks to be the best MMA card of the year.

I’ve only picked against Jones once.

Observations for the rest of the card:

1. Cristiane Justino vs. Tonya Evinger has been ignored, honestly. It’s viewed as a forgone conclusion and I understand that but what’s the future of the UFC Women’s Featherweight division if “Cyborg” ascends to her throne? Why aren’t the owners creating a season of The Ultimate Fighter based solely on women that can compete at 145? It takes time to populate any division and they need to get, at least, 12-20 challengers in a fertile weight class so that Justino has opponents lined up…you know, provided she becomes the champion.

One thing that’s been picking at me for months, no years, is how she draws scorn for testing positive for banned substance use in 2011 – yet it’s easy to forget that she passed every drug screen since then. She was wrong for failing in 2011 and deserves blame but fans are quick to move on when it comes to her male counterparts who have tested for performance enhancing drugs on several occasions and yet find themselves draped in acclaim and love. The internet trolls make me want to vomit when it pertains to her. I know she had a USADA infraction in December of 2016 which was attributed to a substance which aided her in her recovery from a weight cut but even after she was granted a therapeutic use exemption – and had her suspension lifted – she’s a “cheater.”

I wish there was a reality show hosted by Luke Thomas or Joe Rogan that located “Cyborg” trolls – by their IP addresses – and knocked on their doors with complete gear and pads. Rogan or Thomas – hell, both – would put a microphone in their faces, pepper them in regards to their hideous posts about Justino and take them outside of their homes where an Octagon is affixed to a platform towed behind a massive “Cyborg” truck. Inside, she’d be shadowboxing while the host brings the troll to the cage where Herb Dean, John McCarthy or Dan Miragliotta is waiting to start one, five-minute, round. How many of them would soil themselves and apologize? How brave would they attempt to be when Justino is standing across from them ready to knuckle them into ground sirloin? Who doesn’t watch this program? Hey, WME can you grant me an “executive producer” credit, a per diem and a few million dollars in salary for the idea? Let’s get this done!

2. Why are most people ignoring that Donald Cerrone is recovering from a blood infection and is competing so soon after healing? I bet the same jerks that were killing Amanda Nunes for backing out of her title defense against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 213 are happy that the doctors cleared Cerrone for this. Does it seem safe? Does anyone remember how he was knocked out, twice, by Jorge Masvidal?

What about Robbie Lawler; what will we see from him? Lawler and Carlos Condit took something away from one another at UFC 195 that can’t be recovered. Lawler left that contest and was knocked out by Tyron Woodley in the first round of UFC 201, surrendering the UFC Welterweight Championship. Condit fought Demian Maia, got submitted in the first round, and said he was stunned by a punch Maia fired that didn’t seem to have much steam on it; he hasn’t competed since. The MMA world is pumped for this fight while I’ll be watching with a grimace the entire time.

3. Woodley vs. Maia has flown under the radar as well and I think it speaks to the power of the main event. Woodley is a bad style matchup for Maia as he’s a great defensive wrestler and a knockout artist that can close a fight at any time. However Maia scares everyone because once he closes distance and grabs even a strand of forearm hair, a submission is probably next on the checklist. I want to see the chess match if they’re locked into a grappling exchange. How quickly will Woodley disengage? What traps will Maia set?

Picks: Fili, Ortega, Sterling, Lamas, Oezdemir, Lawler, Justino, Woodley…#AndStill/#AndNew, Jones.