I Fight for Me: What Fedor Can Learn from Ivan Drago

Despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world, UFC President Dana White announced today that although he has tried his damnedest, he has still not been able to sign free agent heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko to a UFC contract.

The baddest man on the planet? Or is he ducking Brock Lesnar?

The best of all-time? Or a coward?

If the reports are true, White’s offer to Fedor’s camp was apparently quite substantial (or as White himself put it, “insane”) — a guaranteed six fight / $30 million deal (including an immediate title shot against UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar), an agreement that would allow Fedor to also compete in Russian Sambo events when he’s not fighting in the Octagon, and perhaps most shocking of all, the UFC would even provide Fedor’s management team, M-1 Global, with a portion of all pay-per-view revenues.

But apparently that wasn’t good enough, because Vadim Finkelchtein, the head honcho of M-1 Global (a rinky-dink MMA league based in Russia), is demanding that any fight card featuring Fedor must be co-promoted under a joint UFC / M-1 banner. Finkelchtein obviously doesn’t care about what the fans or the fighters want (which is a Fedor vs. Lesnar superfight to determine who is truly the best heavyweight in the world). Instead, he only cares about leeching off of the UFC’s established brand in hope of gaining some sort of foothold in the North American market for M-1 Global. And as we all know, Dana White will never allow that to happen, which means Fedor will continue to fight freak shows and UFC castaways like Tim Sylvia until the day he retires.

If only Fedor would do the same to Vadim Finkelchtein ...

If only Fedor would do the same to M-1.

A lot of people have compared Fedor Emelianenko to the character Ivan Drago in Rocky IV — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that can murder people in the ring with his bare hands (although to be fair, former Pride fighter Sergei Kharitonov looked a lot more like Drago than Fedor ever did). Only now do we see even more parallels to that film — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that is constantly getting jerked around by a posse of managers and politicians, and the fact that Lesnar, in the Rocky Balboa role, would probably have to drop the UFC title and travel to Russia in order to make such a fight a reality.

In my opinion, Fedor should continue to emulate Ivan Drago’s character arc by standing up for himself and becoming his own man (savage beating of Apollo Creed is optional, of course). Much like how Drago got fed up of taking orders from the Commies and being used a pawn in his country’s Cold War ambitions, Fedor needs to nut up, grab Finkelchtein by the throat, and announce to the whole world, “I fight to win! For me! For me!”

Then, once he tosses the M-1 Global trash aside, he does the right thing and takes Dana White’s offer, battles Brock Lesnar in the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history, and finally proves once and for all that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts.

Or he could continue to damage his legacy by hiding behind a two-bit, small-time MMA promoter until the end of his career. It’s his call.

Would Fedor love to fight in the UFC and challenge himself against the best of the best? Most likely, yes. He is a fighter and a warrior, after all. But until he can separate himself from Finkelchtein and get a manager that actually cares about the progress of his fighter’s career (and not the bottom line of his own company), that day will never come, despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world.

The question is, when will Fedor fight for himself?

The question is, when will Fedor fight for himself?

The Men With No Name: Yojimbo vs. A Fistful of Dollars

Known fact — Clint Eastwood is a badass. In fact, I never really understood why Chuck Norris got all of the attention, when everybody knows that Eastwood is superior in every way.

Forget about Chuck Norris. Eastwood is the true power.

Forget about Chuck Norris. Eastwood is the true power.

While Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan might be his most famous role, I much prefer the character that Eastwood used to propel himself into Hollywood superstardom — The Man With No Name. I recently rewatched all three movies in Sergio Leone’s fantastic Spaghetti Western trilogy starring this character (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), and while The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is clearly the best of the three movies (albeit a bit too long, in my opinion, clocking in at nearly three solid hours — I mean, was the “blowing up the bridge” sequence really that critical? Just get to the damn shootout at the cemetery already!), I must admit that I have a genuine soft spot for A Fistful of Dollars.

First, it’s because Fistful is Eastwood’s film and his film alone. No Lee Van Cleefs or Eli Wallachs to steal the spotlight here — it’s nothing but Eastwood being Eastwood, which is pure, unadulterated awesomeness. Second, the movie has a very solid cinematic and narrative foundation, mostly because it shamelessly rips off some very excellent source material — Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, starring the always exciting Toshiro Mifune as the Samurai With No Name. Now, it’s not quite a Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, but it’s damn near a scene for scene remake of the original jidaigeki samurai piece. Which definitely isn’t a bad thing, since Yojimbo is a hell of a fine flick.

Granted, since Kurosawa Yojimbo was more or less an homage to the Hollywood Western, it wasn’t much of a stretch to replace the Japanese actors with Americans and Italians and swap out the katanas for pistols. It’s still the same dusty town, the same shootouts on the desolate streets. Whether it’s cowboys or samurais, it all adds up to one excellent cinematic experience.

But the real question is … which film is superior? A Fistful of Dollars or the O.G., Yojimbo? Buckle up, kids, it’s time for some science!

The Heroes

When comparing these two films, it really only boils down to one question — Eastwood or Mifune? Which film god reigns supreme?

So he wears a housecoat. Are you gonna tell him not to?

So he wears a housecoat. Are you gonna tell him not to?

Man … is it actually possible to pick one over the other? I mean, Clint Eastwood is Clint Friggin’ Eastwood — quick on the draw, rocking an awesome poncho, and staring a hole through his opponents with his rock-hard glare. He’s not a very talkative character, but you know he’s gonna whoop some ass when the time comes.

Mifune’s Sanjuro Kuwabatake (a fake name, of course) is a bit more laid back that Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He likes his rice and sake, sports a pimpin’ kimono, and is more likely to pause and think things through before taking action. But like Eastwood, when the time come, he can carve suckas to shreds with the best of them.

However, it seems that Mifune’s lone ronin has a bit more character to him that Eastwood’s mysterious cowboy. He’s not just some guy out to make some easy cash — he’s at a crossroads in Japanese history and is attempting to make a new life for himself. Due to his samurai past, it’s clear that he has a sense of right and wrong and a strong code of honour. But hey, if he can make a few ryo while cleaning up the town’s scum and villainy, well, why not?

Don't you dare make fun of his mule.

Don't you dare make fun of his mule.

Still, can you argue with that look? It’s the squint that launched a thousand ships. A true movie icon. While Mifune’s character is more well-rounded, Eastwood is much more memorable.

So let’s call it a draw, shall we?

The Villains

Of course, no villain could ever hope to stand up to power of Clint Eastwood or Toshiro Mifune. But hey, somebody’s gotta try. Ramon Rojo and Unosuke are decent villains, I suppose, but aren’t all that special. They are both the brother of the gang leader and ultimately the meanest, cruelest, and smartest members of their respective gangs, but that’s about it.

However, there is one big difference between Ramon and Uno that tips the scales in Yojimbo‘s favour — weaponry. In A Fistful of Dollars, it’s supposed to be a big deal that Ramon is an excellent shot with a rifle, and he emphatically states that in a duel between a man with a pistol and a man with a rifle, the man with the rifle always wins. It must be one hell of a rifle then, because I’m pretty sure Eastwood mowed down four dudes in about half a second with his revolver when he first walked into town. Yet we’re supposed to believe that one guy with a rifle is gonna be pose a major threat? Sorry, but I ain’t buying it.

But when you bring a gun to a swordfight … well, that changes things considerably. It doesn’t matter how badass Mifune is with his katana — Unosuke has a gun, and that makes the audience truly reconsider Mifune’s strengths and advantages over his rival. After all, how can a sword beat a gun?

Always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Well, as Mifune proves, it’s rather easy, actually, as he uses a throwing knife to get the jump on Uno before rushing in and gutting him with his katana. As quickly as it ends, however, it’s a much better final battle than in Fistful, which requires a little too much from the suspension of disbelief department. To counter Ramon’s deadly accuracy when “shooting for the heart”, Eastwood wears a giant hunk of metal under his poncho and dares Ramon to blow him away. This is acceptable for the first couple of shots, but it gets rather silly as Eastwood shrugs off about a dozen shots and Ramon still foolishly aims for the chest instead of going for, I dunno, a headshot? Sure, Ramon may be proud, but in a life or death situation I doubt he’d act that stupidly.

His gun is bigger than your gun.

His gun is bigger than your gun. That makes him better than you, no matter how skilled your revolver is.

In the end, I have to give the edge to Yojimbo, simply because the lame gun versus gun dynamic in Fistful really, really bugs me.

The Goons

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that Yojimbo can be quite confusing at times (especially the first time you watch it), since all of the Japanese names sound the same, the two gang leaders sorta look the same, and it’s hard to keep track of which guys work for Seibei and which guys are part of Ushitora’s crew. Thankfully, A Fistful of Dollars doesn’t have this problem, as the gangs are easily marked and instantly identifiable — it’s the boring white guys versus the villainous Mexicans.

The face only a mother could love.

The face only a mother could love.

Unfortunately, the way Fistful draws such a definitive line between the two gangs goes against the very core of Kurosawa’s original. In Yojimbo, Mifune made several visits to both gangs and a good chunk of time is spent on the samurai playing both sides against each other. Both gangs are equally vile, and Mifune knows he will wipe them both out — but you never really know which gang will get the upper hand until actually happens. Fistful, on the other hand, has no such shades of grey (and not just because the movie is in colour). The Rojos are evil, and that’s that. In fact, the Baxters are practically irrelevant and hardly have any screentime at all, making it more “Clint Eastwood versus the Mexicans” than “lone cowboy versus a corrupt town”.

Another problem is that while the Mexicans are easily identifiable, they are all rather generic (with the exception of Ramon). The Japanese gangs, however, had some truly memorable characters, such as the ugly monobrowed son and the giant thug with the mallet, which made the movie a bit more fun to watch.

Giant man with a giant hammer. I see nothing wrong here.

Giant man with a giant hammer. I see nothing wrong here.

Gotta give the edge to Yojimbo once again. While their appearances are perhaps played more for laughs (keeping with the overall lighter tone of the film when compared to Fistful), the goons are definitely more memorable in Kurosawa’s film. Plus, the equality of the two gangs actually works within the framework of the plot, which, you know, is a plus.

The Crowning Moment of Awesomeness

Apart from the final showdown, the big scene in each film occurs when the lone samurai / cowboy first arrives in town and wants to make a strong first impression on their potential employers. Naturally, he decides to slaughter a few local homeboys and proceeds to ask the undertaker for some coffins (“… better make it four.”). The Fistful version is ultra cool, simply because Eastwood is at his squinting, scowling, and growling best, delivering the classic lines about how it’s not wise to make fun of his mule before prematurely ending the day of four of Baxter’s toughs.

The equivalent scene in Yojimbo, on the other hand, directly influenced Star Wars:

"No blasters! No blasters!"

"No blasters! No blasters!"

That severed arm was, and still is, pretty hardcore. Still, Mifune’s lines aren’t quite as excellent as Eastwood’s (the samurai mocks the gangsters, saying that they look cute and probably couldn’t hurt a fly), and the low angle from behind The Man With No Name as he shoots up the Baxters allows the viewer to soak up all of the action as opposed to Kurosawa’s quick, frenetic swordplay.

Let’s call this one a draw, too, as both scenes are equally great.

And so, the winner is …

I guess the scorecards say Yojimbo, and I think in my heart I want to say that Yojimbo is clearly the better film due to its superior characters and narrative … but there’s just something about Clint Eastwood wearing that dirty brown poncho and smoking that cigar to the sweet, sweet sounds on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack that is the very essence of cinematic awesomeness. It just goes to show that film is an intensely audio-visual medium, and that certain images and characters can burrow their way into our brains and make us overlook the obvious flaws that a movie may contain (such as Fistful‘s absolutely atrocious dubbing and voicework).

Try as I might, I truly can’t pick one over the other. Hmmmm. How about I say that we all win for having the chance to witness two great version of the same story? Unless, of course, you haven’t seen either movie. In that case, you’re clearly the loser of this contest.

Game Developers on Acid: Megaman 2

Probably not the developers' fault. Still terrible, though.

Probably not the developers' fault. Still terrible, though.

Look, I’m not here to bash Megaman 2. Far from it. It’s one of my favourite games of all-time, and it is undoubtedly the crowning moment of awesomeness for the entire Megaman series (with Megaman 3 a close second, naturally).

While we’ve all heard the tale that Keiji Inafune and his team at Capcom somehow managed to produce this epic masterpiece during their spare time — a true labour of love, if you will — that doesn’t mean that the developers are completely infallible, however. In fact, some of the stuff in Megaman 2 is absolutely batshit insane, enough to make you scratch your head (although probably not literally, unless you have lice or something) and mutter to yourself, “just what in the blue hell were they thinking?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Subterranean Fire-Breathing Dogs

Woodman, wanting to stay close to his roots, lives in a forest. Okay, makes sense to me. Forests usually contain animals. Yup, I’m with you there. One of the animals featured in Woodman’s menagerie of arboreal terror is a wolf. Nothing out of the ordinary. Things start getting a little bit fuzzy, however, when you realize that these wolves can only be found in underground caves. Oh, and they spit fireballs, too.

There are many things wrong with this picture.

There are many things wrong with this picture.

Okay, the kickass dragon at the end of the first Wily Castle level, it makes perfect sense for that guy to shoot fireballs. You know why? Because it’s a freakin’ dragon. But a dog? That lives in a cave? And shoots fireballs in a perfect parabolic arc? That just makes my brain hurt.

Forest, Rainforest … What’s the Difference?

Wrong type of forest, jerk.

Wrong type of forest, jerk.

While we’re on the topic of retarded enemies found in Woodman’s stage, there’s one bad guy that just doesn’t seem to fit in with all of the others. I can imagine the conversion between Inafune and his crew going something along these lines:

Inafune: “Okay, so we’ve got bats, rabbits, subterranean fire-breathing dogs, and rampaging chickens … but we still need some more enemies in this level. What other animals live in a forest?”

Developer: “Gorillas?”

Inafune: “Yeah, sure, why the fuck not.”

Dr. Wily’s Greatest Creation — Flying Hamburgers

These guys didn’t make any sense when I was in the second grade, and they sure as hell don’t make any sense now. Yes, I’m talking about the ridiculous rotating robots that hover about the territories of Heatman and Crashman and can only be described as flying hamburgers.

Would you like fries with that?

Would you like fries with that?

Could Dr. Wily have created a patrol drone that was any less threatening? Well, probably. Maybe flying robo-kittens wrapped in pink ribbons, perhaps. But at least they would theoretically have claws and mouths with which to shoot fireballs at you. The flying hamburger, on the other hand, just spins and slow bumps into you. Truly terrifying.

The Fish That Shoots Shrimp

Not as bad as the robotic Richard Simmons, of course.

Not as bad as the robotic Richard Simmons, of course.

Bubbleman: “I suggest you leave immediately.”

Megaman: “Or what? You’ll release the fish, or the shrimp, or the fish with shrimp in their mouths so when they bark they shoot shrimp at you? Well go ahead, do your worst!”

Yes, it’s true. The Simpsons outright stole the idea of dogs with bees in their mouths from Keiji Inafune and Megaman 2.

Like any giant enemy in the Megamaniverse, the fish has to shoot something, but since it lives underwater, even the developers realized that fireballs were out of the question. But why rocket-propelled shrimp? I would have accepted other fish (in the same vein as the frogs that spit little tiny frogs at you), or bubbles, or even electricity from its hanging bulb. But shrimp? Really?

Suicide Crabs

I went to Bubbleman's stage and all I got was a bunch of crabs.

I went to Bubbleman's stage and all I got was a bunch of crabs.

Still in Bubbleman’s realm for a moment, at the very end of the level you encounter a rather odd enemy — the rare flying crab. At least, it’s possible that they’re flying crabs, descending from the heavens to destroy Megaman like a bunch of avenging crustacean angels.

Of course, it could be that the crabs simply possess lemming-like qualities, causing them to leaping en masse over the edge of the waterfall that is prominently featured in the background of the level. They don’t even try to land on Megaman’s platform (but if they do, hey, whatever), instead choosing to blissfully plunge to their watery graves. If this is indeed the case, it would make the suicide crabs perhaps the stupidest AI Dr. Wily has ever programmed.

Yes, even dumber than the flying hamburgers. At least those make a conscious effort to annoy Megaman.

Hothead Gets Lost

Alright, let’s take a long, hard look at the following enemy:

Hey guys, I'm here for the party. Guys? Hello?

Hey guys, I'm here for the party. Guys? Hello?

He’s red. He’s got a big flame on his head. He throws angry little fireballs at you. His name is Hothead. So naturally he’s found in Heatman’s level, right?

Bahahaha! Keiji Inafune laughs at your pathetic logic!

Hothead, the enemy robot that perhaps fully captures the essence of heat and fire (yes, even moreso than Zippoman — er, I mean, Heatman), is actually only found in Quickman’s level. Buh? That would be like having the fat guys with fans in their stomachs appear not in Airman’s stage, but in Woodman’s. Was this a programming error? Deliberate mistake? Inside joke? Seriously, what’s the deal here?

Wily’s Not Even Trying Anymore

Wily intended to sell these in Australia.

Wily intended to sell these in Australia.

What is this thing? A boomerang dispenser? Sentient springs? Wobbly lasers? Come on, Dr. Wily, have a little pride in your work and at least construct something useful for a change.

Indeed, there’s a lot of crazy stuff in Megaman 2, and I’m fairly certain that not everything can be attributed to Japanese / North American cultural differences. But hey, the game turned out to be one of the greatest of all-time, so who am I to tell the developers at Capcom what to and what not to smoke while they create their masterpieces?

Virtual Sports Illustrated News Update, Vol. 2

Today’s top stories from the world of virtual sports:

NBA IN MOURNING AFTER TRAGIC DEATH OF SHAWN KEMP

The NBA and its fans are still in shock following yesterday’s sudden death of Seattle Supersonics power forward Shawn Kemp. During the third quarter of last night’s game versus Atlanta, Kemp spontaneously combusted in a ball of flames, writhing in agony on the court as the blaze engulfed his entire body. Paramedics at the scene extinguished the fire and attempted to resuscitate the fallen superstar, but his injuries were too severe. Kemp was pronounced dead en route to hospital.

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

RIP Shawn Kemp: 1969 - 1994

Sources from inside the Seattle locker room claim that Kemp had spoken to trainers during halftime with complaints that he was “heating up”. It has been reported that the trainers brushed him off, however, believing that the “Reign Man” was instead referring to the elevated stature of his game that night, having registered an incredible 42 points at the half.

Understandably, Kemp’s teammates are devastated by the sudden passing of the team’s franchise player. “I still can’t believe he’s gone,” said a teary-eyed Detlef Schrempf. “I mean, he was playing so well. You always hear about a player being ‘on fire’, but I never thought in my wildest dreams that it could, you know, actually happen. I can’t even put into words how I feel at the moment.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued the following statement: “The National Basketball Association expresses its deepest condolences to the entire Kemp family, both legitimate and illegitimate. This is a very sad day for the remaining basketball fans across this great country. Please, MJ, with Kemp out of the picture we need you back more than ever. Come on, we both know this baseball thing isn’t gonna work out. Just come back home. Daddy needs you.”

DOPING SCANDAL ROCKS KARTING WORLD

Racing fans across the world were stunned by the news that fan favourite kart racer Yoshi has tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing steroids. As a result of the positive test, Yoshi will forfeit all points earned during this season’s Mario Kart Grand Prix and will be suspended for the entirety of next season. Yoshi had been in second place in the overall GP standings with 24 points, just behind Luigi, who had 36 points.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Alleged doper and disgrace to kart racing.

Mario Kart officials first became suspicious of Yoshi’s conduct following a string of unbelievable second place finishes, including last month’s race on Koopa Beach. At the time, the entire racing community was buzzing about its incredible finish, which saw Yoshi knocked into the last place with only a half-lap to go courtesy of a well-placed Luigi green shell, only to storm back and finish in second place — just milliseconds behind the winner, Luigi.

“I think we all knew, in the back of our minds, that something wasn’t right about the way Yoshi performed on the track”, said fellow kart racer Toad. “You always heard rumours of the rubber bands in his engine, but in the end, I guess his skills were too good to be true, I suppose.”

Others were less forgiving, including his chief rival, Luigi. “Yoshi is a dope fiend and should be banished from this great sport,” he said.

While Yoshi himself declined to comment, his representative issued the following statement on his behalf: “Yoshi! Yoshi yoshi yoshi! Bowowowowow! Yoshi! Brrrrrap! Dum dum dum dum. Yoshi!”

GRETZKY SETS NHL SCORING RECORD AS KINGS BURY HABS

It was a night to remember for #99, as “The Great One” scored 38 goals during the last night’s 61 – 0 romp over the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings got to Patrick Roy early and often, seemingly scoring at will against one of the league’s best netminders.

Los Angeles ran up the score by continuously lobbing the puck on goal from the middle of the ice just outside the Montreal blue line. Time and time again, the puck would sail in a perfect arc up and over Roy, who just stood there at the lip of the crease, seemingly frozen by the ridiculousness of the half-shot / half-dump.

“I don’t know what happened. I just can’t explain it,” said Roy following the game. “Maybe the lights got in my eyes or something. Yeah, that’s it. The lights.”

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Patrick Roy fishes yet another puck out of the net.

Montreal coach Jacques Demers took some of the blame for the loss. “I should have recognized the situation and made adjustments on the fly,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was no option in the pause menu to configure my defensive strategy, so really, I was powerless to do anything to affect the outcome of the game.”

BOXING MATCH CANCELLED DUE TO UNRULY FANS

Irate boxing fans are asking for their money back after veteran WVBA referee Mario Mario called off yesterday’s main event at the Iowa State Fair between Glass Joe and Don Flamenco halfway through the second round.

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

Is Don Flamenco more concerned about his hair than his career?

The two boxers, both looking to avoid a loss that would send them tumbling down the WVBA rankings, both employed an extremely defensive strategy for the fight — in fact, the first punch wasn’t thrown until approximately 40 seconds into the opening round. Flamenco spent the majority of the round taunting his opponent and asking to be hit, while Glass Joe simply stood his ground, perhaps mesmerized by Flamenco’s world-famous hair. What punches were thrown during the first round were nothing but weak hooks and were few and far between, prompting the fans to boo the two pugilists mercilessly.

When the lack of action spilled into the second round, the fans soon started throwing debris into the ring. With the canvas littered with pop bottles and popcorn bags, Mario had no choice but to call the fight.

“It was-a for the safety of the fighters,” said Mario. “The fans, they were going-a crazy. They wanted blood.”

When reached for comment about the fight, Flamenco simply said: “People like my hair. Don’t mess my hair!”

WVBA officials have not yet decided if the fight will be rescheduled for a later date.