Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Recaping ONE FC Honor and Glory

Recaping ONE FC Honor and Glory
by rick olivares

Nik Harris wins 2nd ONE FC fight against Brad Robinson
In all of Malaysian Nik Harris’s victories, all of them have come by way of stoppage. During ONE FC Warrior Spirit in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Harris beat the crap out of Indonesian foe Zuli Silawanto that he chose not to answer the bell for the third round giving the former his first ONE FC victory and fifth win in seven matches overall

Watching Harris from up close and from afar in the days leading to ONE FC Honor and Glory, he seemed like someone who was going for a pick-up basketball game rather than a MMA fight. He was animated, noisy, and even overly ebullient.

Against American Brad Robinson, he looked even more out of place as he was scrawny and lacking that chiseled and tattooed body that seems to be prevalent among MMA fighters. And unlike his match against Silawanto, Harris was more cautious against the American.

The first two round saw both fighters trade punches but no haymakers. Harris did land more and telling kicks. Robinson backed him up against the cage to attempt to batter his foe or set him up for a takedown but Harris proved stronger than he looked.

An unfortunate kick to Robinson’s gonads forced a temporary stoppage as the American needed a breather. Upon the fight’s resumption, Robinson, known as “Vanilla Gorilla” vented his anger and frustration by landing a couple of solid shots on Harris. But the Malaysian countered and proved difficult to put away.

In the third round, Harris landed a kick on Robinson but got hurt in the process. As he backpedaled, the American quickly realized that he had an opportunity to put away the Malaysian. Harris kept a clear and good head about him not succumbing to panic. He managed to hold Robinson at bay while landing some solid shots and his one and only one-two combination. Then he gave Robinson a different look with a running kick that surprised the American.

Harris’ aggressiveness in the last round and terrific defense against a takedown attempt gave him some points that served him well in a split decision awarded to him.

The Malaysian’s streak of stoppages ended but the sixth win, second in the ONE FC, was the more important one (while Robinson suffered his first loss in three matches).

Expect more from Harris in the cage. Not on the basketball court.

Rahman rocks Tan like a hurricane
Radeem Rahman gave his hometown Singapore fans plenty to cheer about when he rocked Malaysian Raymond Tan like a hurricane in the first match of the main card of ONE FC Honor and Glory.

Entering the Singapore Indoor Arena to The Scorpions’ heavy metal classic, “Rock You Like  A Hurricane,” Rahman soaked in the cheers of support for a crowd hungry for a homegrown fighter to bask in ONE FC glory.

Unfortunately, at least for the first round, it didn’t appear they’d get their wish.

Dazed and bleeding after a first round beating from Tan who staggered the Singaporean with a nasty upper cut that had Rahman weak at the knees, the hometown hero, back in the ONE FC cage after three years, showed no signs of ring rust as he came back mightily in the second round. Rahman actually mounted some late offense in the first round with a takedown but Tan quickly reversed it and landed some hammer fists.

Tan, standing six feet tall, used his length and superior reach to devastating effect. As he closed in for the kill after the first round uppercut, it looked like the crowd that cheered Rahman’s entrance would have to watch the rest of ONE FC Honor and Glory in silence and disappointment.

But Rahman took down Tan twice in the second round. He attempted to slip in an armbar. When that didn’t work, he gave Tan a dose of his own medicine by whaling away at the fallen Malaysian.

The referee stopped the fight when Tan could no longer defend himself giving Rahman second win in two outings. Tan fell to 2-2 with the loss.

Parry-Ngalani bout declared a no contest
Englishman Chi Lewis Parry was aggressive from the opening bell as he attacked Hong Kong national Alain Ngalani.

Dwarfing the smaller Ngalani, Parry looked to make short work of his foe. Except a powerful knee – intended for the stomach – instead hit the former in the crown jewels.

After several minutes of stoppage, Ngalani said he could no longer continue forcing the referee to declare the fight a no contest.

Frankly, I think Ngalani punked out after seeing that there was no way he was going to defeat Parry. Don’t think we’re going to see this dude in the ONE FC again.

Major Overall preempts the World Cup with a kicking finish
Major Overall made a stunning ONE FC debut when he knocked out Brazilian No-Gi champion Bruno Pucci with a powerful right and a soccer kick to the head in the first round.

Pucci looked to overwhelm his American opponent on the canvas but the wily Overall slipped away. With Pucci on his back, Overall pretended to wade in and kick at him.

Referee Yuji Shimada stepped between them as a precaution as the American backed away with a grin on his face.

Moments later, he landed a solid right that caught Pucci flush on the face. As the Brazilian fell, this time Overall rushed forward and kicked him at the head for the knockout.

Major Overall went to 4-1 while Pucci suffered his first loss in four matches.

Fodor forces Ni to submit
Caros Fodor finally got that badly needed win when he forced Dutchman Willy Ni to submit via kimura in the first round.

Fodor was all over Ni from the get-go. After taking down Ni, he popped the Dutchman with an elbow that saw his forehead balloon real fast. Seconds later, he was able to slip in the submission move to his ninth win in 13 matches.

It was a huge win for Fodor, the former King of the Cage, Strikeforce, and UFC fight who has lost three of his last ONE FC fights. Unfortunately for Fodor, a former US Marine, those three loses – including his ONE FC debut win against Yang Seung Ho -- all came via decision whether unanimous or split.

This time around, he left no doubt as to the outcome with a telling victory.

Jadambaa deals Banario his third consecutive loss via UD win
Honorio Banario fighting to regain his honor and lost glory will just have to wait for another opportunity. If it comes his way. The former ONE FC featherweight champion lost steam and the fight to Mongolian Narantungalag Jadambaa via unanimous decision after taking a pounding in the third round.

The lone Filipino bet in ONE FC Honor and Glory looked good in the opening round as he staved off the Mongolian with a variety of strikes and stinging kicks. But Jadambaa showed he was rock solid in absorbing the Filipino’s punishment. He served it back in the second round but the Banario came back strong to finish the round.

With the match pretty much even at that point, Banario gained some huge points with two takedowns including a body slam. But the Mongolian – as he did throughout the match – displayed terrific takedown defense. He threw four solid shots to Banario’s right side. When he backed him up against the cage, Jadambaa hit him with some solid knees or punches to the midsection.

When it was all said and done, the 38-year old Mongolian proved to be tougher as he raised his win total to 9-3-0. Banario fell to 8-4 with four loses in his last five matches.

Vincent Latoel knocks out Eddie Ng in controversial referee stoppage
Vincent Latoel decked Eddie Ng with a right. Before Ng could get up, the Dutchman threw two lefts that had the Hong Kong national staggering backwards. Thinking the fight over as the referee waved him off, Latoel turned around but spied Ng getting back up. Thinking it was still on, Latoel lunged to take another shot but Yuji Shimada pushed back Ng.

The fight – the co-main event of  ONE FC Honor and Glory -- was over and Latoel had his 19th win in 35 matches as Ng tumbled to 7-2-0.

As the crowd angrily booed what they thought was premature stoppage, Ng, in one of the classiest moves I have ever seen, graciously told the crowd to respect the referee’s decision because fighter safety was paramount. As Shimada was separating him from Latoel during the stoppage, Ng looked bewildered and surprised that the fight was over. For the fans, it didn’t look like it was over and that he merely took some hard shots. His takedown defense before the end was terrific as Latoel couldn’t send him to the canvas.

The crowd applauded politely after Ng’s gesture but the grumbles and boos continued until the main eventers were ushered in.

Askren's smashing debut
Bakhtiyar Abbasov sent a message by taking down Ben Askren with a monstrous slam. But the takedown, using Askren’s words, was “like the fly falling into the spider’s trap”. Once on the mat, Askren’s wrestling pedigree shined. He reversed the position from the bottom and dominated the rest of the round by holding a hapless Abbasov down. The Azerbaijani absorbed so many head shots that he switched into an indefensible position where Askren forced him to submit via an arm-triangle submission. In his post-fight victory, Askren called out current ONE FC Welterweight World Champion Nobutatsu Suzuki to defend his belt in their next scheduled bout.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Buying World Cup football jerseys in Singapore

Whenever I go to other countries, I always make it a point to check around for prices before purchasing. And in doing so, I ask around for what sells and what doesn’t. Furthermore, in some places especially at Weston, it's about $10 cheaper and that's a lot. Cab fare or a chicken rice meal even.

In this World Cup year, I’m here in Singapore and I went around from Orchard Road to Peninsula Plaza to Queensway looking for national football kits (with names and numbers) for a promo back home.  

Just to be clear, if you’re looking for generic national kits with no players’ names in the back, they are in abundance. But for those with names in the back, well, happy hunting!

The first batch of orders of these name kits have all but sold out across the stores with a new batch set to arrive next week.

Stores sell an average of 20 name jerseys a day. And this number increases significantly come World Cup time. As a team goes deeper into the World Cup, the higher the sales (there are a lot of people who want to be in too).

And here’s what I found out:

The surprising top seller --- Germany’s Mesut Ozil.

Lionel Messi (Argentina): Running neck and neck with Ozil for most popular name jersey. Pretty much sold out. There are some left in La Vanita (Peninsula Plaza) as GOAL (313 Somerset) and Weston (Peninsula Plaza)  have sold them out (as of May 30).

Sergio Ramos (Spain): Good luck finding one! Not in stock.

Ronaldo (Portugal): It moves but not as much as the Ozil and Messi.

Neymar (Brazil): In stock! Few left though.

Gerrard (England): In stock but going fast.

Most popular football club shirts you’d see around here – Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.

My advice for those looking for name jerseys here – look around first before buying. If there’s like one left, you might want to get it before someone snaps its up. Made a mistake of not getting one for a day then when I went back it was gone.

Check out some of the stats about the marketability of global footballers:

Ben Askren: A debut with many implications

Ben Askren: A debut with many implications
by rick olivares

Bellator’s loss is ONE FC’s gain.

When Ben Askren meets Bakhtiyar Abbasov in the middle of the ONE FC cage during Honor and Glory on Friday night, the match will be one that will not only be watched across Southeast Asia and other parts but also in North America.

Askren, the former US Olympian and All-American seemed to be on the move from Bellator to the UFC when for some still unexplained reason the latter pulled out of negotiations thus paving the way to ONE FC.

Askren’s two-year contract signing as well as the recent announcement that former UFC champion Rich Franklin has taken residence in ONE FC have put the young MMA outfit on the top of search engines. No doubt, a lot of people will be watching – from Asia to the UFC and Bellator to even the American sports sites such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

However, Askren debunks any thought that he settled for whoever was left in the sweepstakes that left him hanging. “ONE FC is a growing organization they are already the biggest one in Asia by far and when it came down to it, they gave me the best offer and I saw the option to be a part of a great team so I took it,” he succinctly says. “It’s a win-win situation for me and for ONE FC.”

First though, he’ll have to defeat Azerbaijan’s Abbasov who sports an 11-2 record. The 28-year old fighter from the former Soviet state is riding a nine-match win streak. He forced five of his foes to submit and knocked out the other five. Whether the competition is lame or not the fact is Abbasov has serious knockout power.

Askren no doubt will have checked on his foe but he insists that following his game plan and not worrying about his unblemished record will win the day. “The most successful way to enter on a competition is to focus on the task at hand so you can win it,” said the curly-haired 29-year old out of Wisconsin. “You essentially go in like it’s zero-zero. The twelve wins don’t matter because they will not guarantee a win. I have to go out tomorrow and execute my game plan.”

The game plan thus far has taken him from the US NCAA to Beijing to Bellator and now, Asia. Not bad for a former wrestler. “MMA was something I wanted to give a try but I thought I needed to concentrate on college and the Olympics first. When that part of my life was over, I looked at it as my chance to try it. I said, I’d try it for a year and if I didn’t like it I’d go on to do something else. I’ve had success obviously so I’ve never stopped since.”

The immaculate record thus far has been helped by that strong wrestling base. “I believe that wrestling is the number one foundation for a successful MMA career,” emphasized Askren. “It has been proven over and over. Six of the eight champions in the UFC have a strong wrestling base. It’s not like they wrestle or learn wrestling for a year. It’s something they do for years on end. Wrestling is big in America and Europe so that helps.

Coupled with his knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – the results have been explosive.

“It gives me a huge advantage,” noted Askren. “I’ve put together pieces from wrestling and jiu jitsu on my own and that has helped me get to where I am at.”

“Now,” summed up Askren. “I’m at zero-zero. I have to go out on Friday night… and bring it.”

That’s not so bad because everyone will be watching. Bellator and UFC included.


Other ONE FC Honor and Glory reading:

Honorio Banario: To win back honor and glory

Rich Franklin is ONE FC's new Vice President

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Honorio Banario: To win back honor and glory

With Honorio Banario at the weigh-in.
This appears on

Honorio Banario: To win back honor and glory
by rick olivares

There’s a look of determination in Honorio Banario’s eyes. When needed especially when putting on his game face, the look in his eyes harden where anyone who looks into them will know they are in trouble. Out of the cage, they soften and you’d say that the Benguet native is one of the nicest guys around.

In Singapore for ONE FC Honor and Glory, Banario is focused on his Featherweight Division fight against Mongolian Jadamba Narantungalag who also totes an 8-3 record. The Filipino would like to add a badly needed win to his totals. It is sorely needed as he has lost two consecutive fights in devastating fashion to Koji Oishi and three in his last five. His only two victories have come against Filipino fighters so Banario would like to see two streaks come to a grinding halt when he takes to the cage of the Singapore Indoor Stadium at Kallang on Friday, May 30.

There’s a buzz on the eve of the fight for UFC legend Rich Franklin is in town as the ONE FC’s new Vice President. For Banario, on any other day he’d be star-struck but right now, he needs to be focused.

When he takes to the cage on Friday night, his usual coach Mark Sangiao won’t be behind him as some urgent business has his attention. In the coach’s place will be fellow Team Lakay fighter Eduard Folayang who himself breathed a sigh of relief with a massive win in the last ONE FC promotion.

Folayang knows all too well what Banario is going through. “One of the hardest things a fighter has to prepare for is his mental toughness,” revealed Folayang in the vernacular. “After coming off a loss, you almost never shake it off. It’s like a scar only its inside of you and not outside. But that should serve as motivation for moving on to your next fight. You have to or else…”

Folayang’s voice trailed off. He related stories of fighters who called it quits because of the pain of the loss and because people never stopped talking about it. “The only way to take it away is to win it back. Besides, there are a lot of young Filipino fighters out there who look up to us. If we quit because of a loss then we are setting the wrong example.”

To hear Banario talk, the word “quit” isn’t in his vocabulary. “You just have to keep getting back up. You cannot go into a fight with negative feelings or thoughts.”

During his training back in Manila, Banario worked on his defense and having a stronger chin. Clearly, the effects of those two knockouts at the hands of Oishi linger on. He admitted that he made a mistake of losing his focus when the referee warded him off on several occasions. Hopefully, he would have learned from that mistake.

“I’m ready,” said Banario before he went up to his room to get some rest after making the weight of 145-pounds (the prescribed weight for the fight with Jadamba).

Those soft eyes of his momentarily changed to that harder look.

Now all he has to do on Friday night is to win back his honor and glory.


Other ONE FC reading material:

Ben Askren: A debut with many implications

Rich Franklin joins ONE FC as its Vice President