Running out the clock in the Octagon
Raise your hand if you're as sick as I am of formerly great, 40-something pro athletes migrating to the octagon for one last shot at the spotlight.
For former WWE stars like Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley I can see it. After years destroying opponents in scripted matches they need legitimate competition and find it in the octagon.They're still in their early 30s, explosive enough to compensate for their inexperience, but young enough to learn MMA's more subtle skills.
Works for me, and when either of these two enters the octagon we watch, eager to see how much they've learned since the last time out.
But spare me Herschel Walker, the former NFL running back who at age 47 will make his MMA debut at a Strikeforce event later this month.
Walker's workout regimen is legendary, and he remains in outstanding shape for a guy born during the Kennedy administration, but do we really expect him to impress us Jan. 30 against an opponent who remains TBA?
Granted, he looks okay in this public workout, but unless he's fighting a mannequin I expect his opponent to move just a bit faster than the coach in the video.
Anyone who crumbles before that low-speed attack is clearly too bad of a fighter to make anybody look good, even by contrast, and anybody with some skill and a chin figures to give Walker fits.
A tough sell once you get past Walker's famous name.
Meanwhile an even bigger name (at least in the world of pugilism) is threatening to enter the octagon.
That would be James "Lights Out" Toney, the 41-year-old former heavyweight champ who has tailed UFC president Dana White to the last two pay-per-view-events, hoping to score a meeting and, eventually, a UFC contract.
Toney, a former middleweight champ who ballooned into a 230-pound heavyweight, finally cornered White last weekend after UFC 108, and Sportsnet's Showdown Joe Ferraro was among the folks lucky enough to witness the conversation. (Warning, some adult language here)
Before you let Toney's big talk sway you (be warned -- more adult language), understand this proposed move isn't at all like a prime Michael Jordan ditching basketball for baseball in 1993-94. It's more like Marion Jones' upcoming tryout with the WNBA -- an attempt to make a splash when lucrative options dry up in the sport that made you famous.
The thought of Toney in the octagon holds marginally more appeal than a Herschel Walker bout simply because it attempts to address the question of who would win in a fair fight between a top boxer and an MMA practitioner.
Not that Toney is still a top boxer. He's about 10 years and 40 pounds past anybody's pound-for-pound list, and after hearing him slur and mumble through the video clip above it's clear the only thing thicker than Toney's waist is his tongue. A troubling sign for a guy trying to get licensed in yet another combat sport.
Still, for all his bluster Toney's right when he says his years of boxing training put his knuckle game light years ahead of even MMA's best boxers. Fact is, the spectacular one-punch KO's that help make MMA so popular wouldn't happen so often if MMA fighters could box a little better. Even a novice boxer knows leading with an uppercut can get you knocked out, but Chuck Liddell had to learn that lesson the hard way.
So against a co-operative fighter with limited skills, Toney should have a puncher's chance and then some.
Problem is finding such a fighter in the UFC.
Of course, heavyweight is far from the UFC's deepest division, especially not without its most compelling competitor. But everyone there earned his spot by defeating lesser foes elsewhere, so MMA credentials of the UFC's heavyweights make them bad test cases for any proposed James Toney experiment.
Traditionally the UFC forces you to prove you can fight (not just wrestle, box or grapple) before they bring you aboard.
Lesnar, for example, fought on a K-1 card seven months before debuting in the UFC.
And Internet sensation Kimbo Slice had to fatten his record on a few has-beens and never-wases in Elite XC, even losing to UFC castoff Seth Petruzelli before finally earning a spot on season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter.
If that pattern holds look for Dana White to demand that Toney serve a stint in MMA's minor leagues before earning a promotion to the UFC.
Here's hoping he loses interest before then.