Much has happened since my last mailbag. I received a lot of reaction to the passing of Evan Tanner, some of which are posted here. Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts. I also received some questions about Rashad Evans' knockout of Chuck Liddell and the impact of Randy Couture's return to the UFC.
I got to know Evan when he worked out at Team Quest in Gresham, Ore., from around 2002-05 or so. I was in my late 40s, a former mediocre kickboxer and even worse grappler. But I had my in. My son, Trevor, was an accomplished 11-year-old wrestler when he joined Team Quest in 2002, but there were no other kids then, so he worked out with the rest of us. All 105 pounds of him.
Occasionally, Trevor and I got to roll with Evan. For me it was an immense pleasure to work out with someone of his caliber, and though I'm sure Evan never got anything out of it, he was always smiling, always having a good time with it.
Sometimes I would just sit and watch my son spar and grapple, and he, too, had that same smiling face that Evan had. It was as if life had completely filled their bodies and was pouring out by smiling while doing something that most people would grimace. No doubt that these guys were really enjoying every moment.
Trevor died August 11, 2005.
There is something in this life that I can't define, can't organize words around.
That somehow there are those who were destined not to live a long life, but to have the opportunity to pack in so many experiences, so many accomplishments that they just couldn't be here any longer. If you knew my son and if you knew Evan, I believe you would catch a glimpse of what I cannot articulate.
So Evan, where ever you are at and if you can, track down that son of mine. He would love to see that smile again.-- Tom Palmer, Portland, Ore.
Thank you for writing this piece about Evan Tanner. After hearing of his death I looked online for more information and came upon his blog. I couldn't stop reading his posts, one after another I was saddened even more when realizing that being a MMA fighter was the least of his gifts. I was also sad that the reports of his death didn't mention anything about him as a person, just as a fighter. I am an MMA fan, which is how I knew of him, but I wish I had paid more attention to him when he was alive, and I am sure I am not the only one.-- Laura DeWitt, Glen Ellyn, Ill.
What a beautiful introspective reflection on a true warrior. A warrior who did not have any boundaries and lived his life as one should, as every day could be your last, and to cherish the little things that come across your way. R.I.P., Evan Tanner.-- Ben, Freehold, N.J.
Thanks a ton for the Tanner article. I also was intrigued by of what little I knew of him, and I really liked him and his personality in the sport of MMA. Sad to see him go. He's just three years younger then me. But I believe he has lived a more real live then I ever will.-- Scott Emmerling, Bartlett, Ill.
I don't know why I became a fan of Evan -- I just did. Then I read his blogs, looked at his pics and forked over more respect for him than many people I actually physically know. I'll miss him as a fighter, sure, but more as an online friend, someone I traveled with and, most importantly, learned from. His absence should be felt deeply.-- Lisa, Bucks County, Pa.
I noticed [Rashad] Evans since he was knocking down guys when he was a heavyweight. Is he going to get a title shot for sure? I'm sorry for Forrest [Griffin]. I don't know how he won the belt in the first place. Quinton [Jackson] really had a bad day.-- Ali E., Orlando, Fla.
The UFC has publicly said Evans is next in line to fight Forrest. I expect a good title fight.
Chuck Liddell is washed up. He should retire before he embarrasses himself further and ruins his "MMA mystique" like Ken Shamrock [has]. MMA competition has clearly passed him by. Retire, open an MMA school and make money doing cameos in movies.-- Jeffrey, Toronto
Washed up might be a bit harsh. Evans' right hand would've dropped anyone in the division. The problem with Liddell is he's predictable and he's a counter-fighter. That's a terrible combination. He could get away with taking a shot to the chin, stopping a takedown and slugging until he connected. But not anymore.
Why doesn't an experienced camp like Liddell's insist he change or make adjustments? He looked old in that match. He has become one-dimensional and every fighter understands that. Maybe next time Chuck!-- Roland, Royal Palm Beach, Fla.
Liddell's trainer, John Hackleman, has always focused on the power punch. Right hand, left hook. Not much nuance there. Liddell's camp has kept his hands low to defend takedown attempts and to make sprawling and standing easier. The problem is Liddell's reflexes aren't as sharp today as they were two years ago, and that's why he's lost three of his last four fights. Counter fighters get old very fast.
If Fedor is "irrelevant" [as UFC President Dana White claimed], what does that make the UFC heavyweight division?-- Rich, Dallas
No, the UFC heavyweight division isn't irrelevant. And neither is Fedor -- no matter what White and Lorenzo Fertitta say. It's an impossible thing to justify since he's 6-0 against UFC champions, including two wins over current interim heavyweight titleholder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The only way it's not a laughable proposition is if the UFC execs are referring to Fedor's bankability. But that's not the context with which they've been using the "I" word.
The fact that Randy Couture has signed a new deal with the UFC has left me confused. What does he gain from this new deal? Does he really need the money? With a movie career blossoming, his gyms and the possibility of analyzing/commentating when his promotional contract with the UFC runs out, I didn't think he did. If it it's not the money, is he doing it to get closer to a fight with Fedor? We can't really expect Randy to be done with his three fights in less than a year; and without the promise of fighting Fedor in the UFC, what will he have left for this dream match after three more fights at 46 years old?-- Dean, Cooper City, Fla.
So you haven't seen Scorpion King 2?
Unless you're an attorney this whole legal episode was a waste. Couture lost a year and a lot of credibility. The UFC was forced to defend itself in an ugly contractual holdout with one of its biggest stars. And fans were left hanging.
What's ironic is, instead of sitting out, Couture could have fought twice, fulfilled his contract and enjoyed the free-agent market. (Tricky, perhaps, with the "champion" clause in effect. He would have had a much easier time convincing a court to grant his free-agency if he had fulfilled the terms of his deal and challenged the clause directly.) As far as Fedor, Couture and his team say returning to the UFC offers a path of least resistance. I don't see the odds of an Emelianenko-Couture bout improving between Randy's resignation and his return. Dana White refuses to co-promote and has said Emelianenko must sign a long-term deal if he's going to fight in the UFC. Good luck.
I think Randy should have avoided Lesnar at this stage in his career and focus on the inevitable super showdown (i.e. some "easier" opponent). Although Lesnar is a raw talent, he possesses unbelievable strength and the ability to escape any submission (unless you're one of the top submission specialists like Mir-Nog) through sheer strength alone. I just can't see Randy looking good with this matchup. Even with a decision victory in his favor, I believe his image could be tarnished and dampen the excitement of the potential superbout. What's your take on the November matchup?-- Joe, Raleigh, N.C.
Couture-Lesnar is one of the toughest matchups I can remember handicapping simply because of the variables. Will Couture's age finally catch up to him? Can Lesnar's battleship of a body overcome Randy's experience and will? Can Couture do to Lesnar what he failed to do against big grapplers Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez? You have to admit, it's rather compelling, even if Lesnar's only qualification for a shot at the title is selling pay-per-views.