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So You Wanna Be A (Virtual) Fighter: Hands on With EA’s UFC 2

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If you’re a gamer, you’re well aware that Electronic Arts (EA) is arguably the biggest name in video games when it comes to sports related games. With annual titles such as Madden, FIFA, NBA Live and NHL, EA has games for virtually every major sport out there. In 2014, they expanded that to include MMA with the release of “EA Sports UFC”. And just shy of 2 years later, they’ve returned to the world of mixed martial arts with the release of EA UFC 2.

As an EA Access member on the Xbox One, I had the privilege of gaining early access to the full version of the game a week prior to release. The first UFC game by EA was a very enjoyable game and I certainly put a significant amount of hours into it, but it wasn’t without its flaws. The sequel has taken steps to fix those flaws, added new game modes, expanded the roster and is an all around improvement on the first outing. It is by no means a perfect game, however. Below, I will break down virtually every piece of the game, from the menus to the game modes.

Menus and Access

The menus are clean and seem to take after the more recent Madden menus in having large panels for each selection. Overall the menus, both main and supplementary, are easy to navigate and it’s clear to you what your options are and where you need to go to access different things.

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Graphics

Graphically this game is fantastic. There are some fighters’ likenesses that the game devs swung and missed on, but for the most part, it’s very clear who is who. They have the looks down well, from the hair and muscles to the tattoos and scars. The walkout and introduction animations are smooth and seem very natural. The damage that your fighter inflicts and absorbs throughout the fight can be clearly seen between rounds and post fight. The referee, cornermen, and for the most part, the crowd, are very clearly defined and on par with the fighters.

Roster

The roster is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Obviously there will always be those who have problems with ratings and things like that but in terms of the sheer number of fighters available it’s hard to complain much with this game. The ability to use certain fighters across multiple weight classes makes sense. With the inclusion of legends like Bas Rutten, Royce Gracie, and Kazushi Sakuraba, fantasy MMA fighters like Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson, and the promise of DLC fighters in the future, it’s hard to argue that they left anyone out of the game. Be ready to live your dream matchup of Pascal Krauss vs Matt Hughes for the Welterweight title. Or you know… Robbie Lawler vs GSP.

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GAME MODES

Next up we have the different game modes that UFC 2 has to offer. Play Now and Online Play make a return from the original but they are joined in this version by KO Mode, Live Event, Custom Event and Ultimate Team. Career Mode also makes a return but I will be covering that in it’s own section.

Play Now mode is fairly self explanatory and is largely the same as in the previous version of the game. Pick a weight class, a fighter, an opponent, settings, and go to work. This is the mode to play if you don’t have time for one of the more time intensive game modes and are just looking for a quick matchup against the CPU.

Online play has multiple modes associated with it. Quick Fight is essentially the same as Play Now, only you are playing against another player online rather than the CPU. Online Rivalries is designed to have you play specifically against your friends list. Ranked Championships is essentially an online tournament where you are in a division and are in the “title chase” where you try and go from prospect to contender to champion, and then hold on to that championship for as long as you can. There are online leaderboards that can be divided by region, division and other factors. The current leader as I write this is in Division 6, his favorite fighter is Daniel Cormier and he has a record of 140-22 (the game isn’t even officially out yet, go outside man).

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The new modes are where this game really starts to show it’s potential.

KO Mode is a modified version of Play Now; you choose a weight class, a fighter and an opponent. You then choose your settings and your score goal (Sudden death, best of 3 or best of 5). In KO Mode, your fighter’s health and stamina meter is replaced by a modified health bar with 5 pieces. When the fight starts, you better either know how to dodge and block, or be faster than your opponent because these “rounds” go quickly and end violently. With takedowns and submissions disabled, the only way to win is to knock your opponent unconscious. This game mode is a lot of fun for when you want to take a break from the more technical aspects of the game and give in to that “just bleed” mentality that everyone can fall victim to every once in a while. This is also another mode that you can utilize if you don’t have a lot of time to spare as you can easily fit multiple games into a short period.

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Live Event Mode isn’t active at the time of writing, this but the premise is promising. Live Event allows you to play through an entire upcoming fight card and win points/prizes that can be used in Ultimate Team if your outcomes match the actual event outcomes. I would expect Live Event to have it’s first event up on launch day or close to it, utilizing the upcoming UFC Fight Night: Brisbane fight card.

Custom Event is basically exactly what it sounds like. Create your own event, from pre-lims to main event and then choose to either sim through it and watch or play through the entire card yourself. Want to customize your own UFC 200 or have UFC 209 take place in California with the Diaz brothers headlining the card? With Custom Event you can do that. Don’t be scared homie.

Ultimate Team is a concept that EA sports veterans will recognize from the developer’s other games. In Ultimate Team mode for UFC 2 you control a stable of up to 5 fighters of any weight class. You have cards that have move sets, skills, specific moves and stats that can be applied to your fighters to improve their overall level. Want GSP’s superman punch or Anderson Silva’s front kick? Those cards are out there. Cards can be universal, meaning they can be used on any of your fighters or they can be weight class specific and are only able to be used if you have a fighter of that gender and weight class. Your fighter’s overall stamina goes down after every fight and there are cards that you use to bring it back up again. Monitoring your fighter’s stamina as well as how many of those cards you have remaining can become a very strategic decision in the long run. Ultimate Team can be played against the CPU or online against other players. You earn “coins” based on how you do in your fight and those coins can be used to buy packs of cards or in auctions to bid on a specific card against other players. You start at the bottom and work your way up with each fighter from prospect to contender, all the way up to become the champion. A loss sets you back a level and your rewards are higher if you become the champion and defend your title multiple times.

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Practice Mode and Skill Challenges are both modes that you can utilize to improve your skills either by drilling specific aspects of the game or sparring against the CPU in practice mode.

Career Mode

Career Mode makes a return in UFC 2 but the changes from the first game make it a distinctly different experience this time around.

The create-a-fighter has more options this time around. You are able to seriously customize your fighter’s body type and overall look. Hair, eye color, nose shape and positioning, muscle definition, and more are all customizable. For those who are fans of tattoos, you are able to layer tattoos over virtually every part of your fighter’s body. My character in career mode has 19 total tattoos, ranging from his arms, back and ribs to the tops of his feet. There are the pre-made tattoos as well as a variety of shapes and letters that give you the option to somewhat create your own designs. There is the option for up to 100 layers in the tattoo section of the create-a-fighter screen so you could potentially create a fighter who makes Cody “No Love” Garbrandt look like a guy who “kinda likes tattoos”. The gear you are able to select from is still fairly limited and the options for sponsor logos are obviously no longer available. Choosing your fighter’s walkout music now has many more options than before as you can choose from a variety of music that ranges from generic instrumentals to some iconic walkout songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Hold On I’m Coming”.

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You still start off as a fighter attempting to earn your spot in The Ultimate Fighter house but that’s about as far as the similarities go. In the previous game, it seemed that no matter how you performed in your fight to “get in the house,” you were inevitably picked last when the teams were picked. Not in UFC 2. In my created character’s career, I won my fight by 2nd round TKO. I did well but it wasn’t exactly a dominating performance. After the fight, one coach told me he had me as a top 3 pick while the other coach had me in his “middle 5”. I ended up being the 1st overall pick of the coach who told me he saw me as top 3, which was a nice change from being picked dead last (reminded me too much of gym class). Instead of being told “this is who you’re fighting next” under the “fight offers” section, I actually had 3 fights to choose from and was able to see the stats and skills of each opponent before making my choice. Having multiple options for fight offers stayed throughout the entire TUF portion with the exclusion of the Finals obviously where my opponent was already set.

The training mode between fights is vastly different as well. In the previous game, you had three training events and were awarded a different “belt” depending on how well you did in each drill. You can now choose what drills you want to do and what difficulty you want to attempt them, with the higher difficulties earning you more experience if you do well. The training activities are divided into three main categories: stand up, clinch, and ground. Each category has four drills with each drill affecting your stats in different areas. Training becomes a much more strategic part of career mode not only due to being able to choose which drills you do, but there is also the potential for injury during training over the three “weeks” that you have to train between fights (there may be points where you have longer or shorter to train, but I did not encounter that in my time with career mode). When you are selecting a drill it tells you the potential for injury from that drill and injuries do have an effect on your fighter going into the fight, generally lowering stats that would be effected by the injury (left hand power lowered due to a left hand injury for example). How well you do in drills is reflected by a grade and your overall camp is shown by a meter that awards bonuses if you pass certain points on it. Finding the balance between maximizing your training and avoiding injury could make the difference between a win and a loss in your next fight.

Every fight now starts out with the walkouts and introductions, they are no longer limited to when you are the champion the way they were previously. You can now touch gloves before each round as well. Depending on if/how you win and how the fight goes, your popularity and longevity is affected. The more popular you are, the more longevity you have which is an interesting touch. Your stats do play a role obviously, but they’re not the sole factor. My character, for instance, is a 75 overall currently (82 standup, 72 clinch, 72 ground), but I’m 9-0 in the UFC with 4 ko/tko wins and 5 submission wins. By my stats alone I should be focused on standup and knocking people out but because of the new submission system (which we’ll touch on later), I have become very good at taking the fight to the ground and submitting my opponents. You can be a victim of your own success, however. My 9-0 start has me ranked 25 overall and a showdown with 21st ranked Glover Teixeira (an 89 overall) is looming.

The last aspect I will touch on for career mode is the moves/perks section. You still spend points to buy different moves but now the move list is even larger but also very specific to different button presses/combos. In addition, each move has levels that you can use points to improve the moves, making them more effective with each level. The same can be done for perks. Every perk is now available to be bought from the beginning with all five perk slots are open. It is just a matter of having enough experience points to buy the perks. The perks can then be leveled up to increase their effectiveness. For instance, Level 1 Ground and Pound increases damage of strikes in the clinch and on the ground by 2%, but if you increase it to level 5, it increases the damage by 10%. Having a wide variety of perks to deal with a variety of opponents skill sets can be crucial.

The Controls

The controls in this game are very similar to the first game as far as the standup is concerned, although the variety of moves and different ways to accomplish those moves will have you changing up what you do quite a bit.

The biggest differences are in the takedowns, clinch, and submission controls. They have been simplified in a sense while still making you work for it. Holding left trigger brings up a small “quick guide” to the screen that tells you which direction to push and hold the right thumbstick in order to accomplish the takedown you want. Similarly, transitions in the clinch and submissions operate the same way. When in a position on the ground, or in the clinch with the addition of flying submissions, hold the left trigger to see what (if any) submissions are available and how to begin them. Countering them operates under the same principle but it involves the right trigger instead of the left and using your knowledge of how your opponent is moving/leaning to counter it correctly. When you have started a submission, the “gates” controls of the last game come into play with using the right thumbstick to either push for the submission or counter it while using the left thumbstick when prompted to advance the submission. Advance the submission enough times and your opponent will tap or go to sleep.

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An added trick to the submission aspect of the game is the inclusion of “submission chaining”. Occasionally when you are attempting a submission, the left thumbstick prompt will be green rather than red, this indicates the opportunity for a “submission chain”. Submission chaining allows you to advance the submission by turning it into a different submission. For instance, I was attempting a triangle choke and received the prompt to chain the submission. When I did so, my fighter flowed into an armbar attempt and my opponent almost immediately tapped out. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does and you’re able to pull it off, it is immensely satisfying.

The movement and dodging is also improved by utilizing the left trigger and left thumbstick to move your head and body more accurately than you were capable of before. It’s a subtle, but nice change that makes defense a bit easier.

There are instances of “glitchiness,” most notably when you shoot for a takedown only to be blasted backward by a knee that your opponent threw after you already secured the double leg or strikes that seem to cancel each other out. It can get incredibly frustrating when it happens multiple times in a row, but overall the controls are improved from the previous game and are fairly smooth and easy to figure out. However, mastering those controls may be a more difficult task.

Overall

The game has its problems, but every game does. I did focus more on the positives and the improvements in this piece but honestly that is because the improvements stood out more than the negatives. Overall, this is a solid game and a significant improvement from EA’s previous UFC game.

The replay factor is definitely there, whether it is in a quest to go undefeated in Career Mode (or going through on a higher difficulty, different weight class, different play style to challenge yourself), trying to reach the top and stay on top of the online leaderboards, build the perfect Ultimate Team, or just go nuts in KO Mode with your friends. There are a lot of options to keep you coming back to this game for a long time. Not to mention, playing through every event as it goes live or creating your own ultimate fantasy card.

If you were a fan of the first game, you’ll love EA UFC 2. And if you never played the first game but are a fan of MMA and gaming, give the game a shot. There is bound to be at least one game mode that you will absolutely love.

I will be getting my official copy on release day, March 15th, so look out for the guy online who keeps trying to successfully pull of a flying triangle choke. I won’t let you hear the end of it if you’re the one I finally succeed on.

Onnit Primal Bells

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GSP vs Robert Whittaker is Easily the Best Fight to Make at Middleweight

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GSP became the new middleweight champion of the UFC this past weekend, and many questions have been asked his way. Is he officially the greatest of all time? Who does he fight next? Does he stay at middleweight?

The G.O.A.T. conversation will never be settled completely. There will always be separation in opinions between Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, and some even say Conor McGregor is the greatest, simply due to the fact that he is the first ever UFC champion to hold two belts simultaneously. Regardless of how that conversation is driven, the biggest question that should be the only concern at this point is the immediate plans for the new middleweight champion.

Where does GSP go next, and who does he fight?

Well, the fact of the matter is, it would not make sense for GSP to go down to the welterweight division again. 170-pounds is alive and kicking at the moment, with new stars emerging such as Darren Till and Mike Perry, to return of veterans like Carlos Condit, and also new additions to the division like Rafael dos Anjos. St-Pierre would have to stay extremely active in order to keep the division flowing.

At the age of 36 and having just returned to MMA last weekend, St-Pierre is unlikely to stay as active as he used to be when he was the king of the welterweight division. Plus, would it really make much sense for him to get on his old diet again in order to make the welterweight weight limit? He looked massive last night, all bulked up, and even seemed like the bigger fighter against Bisping, who used to fight at 205-pounds.

On the other hand, if he decides to stay at middleweight, which is what UFC president Dana White stated would happen yesterday, then there is one clear path for him to take and based on his statements on his contract, will be forced to take: Robert Whittaker.

Whittaker won the interim middleweight belt earlier this year against Yoel Romero at UFC 213, which was a razor close fight that went to Whittaker at the end of 5 rounds. Since then, Whittaker has been sidelined due to the injury he suffered during the fight, damaging his ligament in the left knee.

4 months later, he has seemed to have healed up perfectly, as he was in the arena for the madness last night and even answered a few questions from the media, stating that he is healthy now. The fight against Whittaker would be the best that the UFC could put on at this point in 185-pounds division on a few different levels.

GSP and Whittaker have a lot in common. Starting with the most obvious, they both used to fight at welterweight. Which means that neither fighter will have a massive size advantage. This brings the match up nearly even as far as physicality is concerned.

Then comes the match up itself. St-Pierre and Whittaker both represent the very definition of being ‘well-rounded’. Whittaker, although not an offensive wrestler, proved that his defensive wrestling was second to none in his fight against Romero, a former Olympic wrestler. And while GSP is not necessarily the best wrestler in pure wrestling, his ability to wrestle in MMA is phenomenal due to his timing and fight IQ, which makes this fight even more intriguing to find out whether Whittaker can defend GSP’s takedown attempts.

This fight also represents the UFC an opportunity to see a birth of a superstar. Whittaker, while not a huge talker, is a very marketable fighter especially over in Australia and New Zealand. If he is able to defeat GSP, who’s arguably the biggest draw in the history of the company, it would boost Whittaker’s popularity up an extraordinary amount. And being only 26 years old, Whittaker has the tools and potential to be a dominant champion, much like St-Pierre in his “prime”.

Booking this fight would also clear up the confusing state of the middleweight division. With Bisping’s reign as the champion coming to an end, some hope was born for other contenders in the division. Fighters like Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza were having an extremely hard time getting a hold of Michael Bisping during his reign, and with a new champion now and possible unification of the belts soon, the contenders will have a goal to work for again.

The fight is one of the best fights that UFC could put on for the fans right now and one that can happen as early as February of 2018, which is when the UFC returns to Australia with a PPV. If it can come to fruition, then it will easily be one of the best fights of the year and one that all the fans can count the days down to.

Onnit Primal Bells
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UFC 217: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Rose Namajunas Preview

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UFC 217 is hoping to explode Madison Square Garden with a stacked card featuring three title fights.

One of the three title fights, is a bout between women’s strawweight champion, undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0-0) and rising star #4-ranked Rose Namajunas (7-3-0).

What we have here is a fight between an aggressive, clinical technician in Joanna, and an unpredictable, well rounded submission artist in Rose.

Joanna is regarded as (out of both male & female fighters) one of the best strikers in the UFC. Undefeated in both kickboxing & MMA with her calculated method of increasing the pace and volume as the rounds go by until what looked like a  fight starts to look close to assault & battery.

With Vegas odds having Joanna as -600 to Rose’s +400  there is no secret that Joanna is highly favoured to win. One can get a clearer picture to why this is by looking at some of her records..

  • Has never lost a professional MMA fight
  • Most sig. strikes landed in a UFC Title Fight
  • 2nd most sig. strikes landed in a UFC fight
  • Most legs kicks landed in a UFC fight
  • – List Info pulled from MMAJunkie –

Rose began her UFC career since the weight classes’ inception into the ranks, in the TUF house. Winning all her fights by stoppage, but coming up short against Carla Esparza for the inaugural women’s strawweight championship. Rose went back to the drawing board to reset, improve and come back stronger.

Rose has fought a high level striker from Poland before in Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and lost via split decision on her way to the title. True to Rose’s form however, she came back better, smarter and more dangerous, securing a win over touted UFC prospect Michelle Waterson. Dispatching “The Karate Hottie” with a perfectly timed high kick that she finished off with a rear naked choke in round two.

Rose’s perseverance, will and ability to overcome her career misfortunes & failures as well as personal problems at home, has granted her nothing but success. Her grit & drive is on display every time she fights. Looking sharper, more refined, well rounded and dynamic, achieving the accolade of “Most submission wins in UFC women’s starwweight history.” 

Joanna has shown to be beyond dominant and ahead of her competitors, time and time again. So far nobody has found a real weakness in her game or has been able to exploit one if they did. Out striking strikers, out grinding grinders and nullifying grapplers of all types. Yet she has never faced a fighter as well rounded & explosively creative as Rose, who is happy to strike and then throw a flying arm bar from standing, seemingly out of the blue. Uncertainty and on the fly creativity is hard to train for. So, though on paper the favour is for Joanna, the devil is in the details and the details are what make this fight so compelling!

Jul 8, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Joanna Jedrezejczyk (red gloves) fights Claudia Gadelha (blue gloves) during The Ultimate Fighter Finale at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

If Rose beats Joanna, she achieves the dream she has sweat, cried and bled for over the past 4 years. It will catapult her to a very different echelon of fighter hierarchy, UFC fame and financial security. She will also have beaten one of only two current UFC Champions who are undefeated in their MMA Career in “JJ”. (Cody Garbrandt, who will fight on the same card in the following match up against TJ Dillashaw, is the other).

If Joanna wins, she will tie Ronda Rousey’s record of most title defenses in women’s UFC History. She will have effectively “cleaned out” the division and from there the she can chose to break Ronda’s record, or go up to the new 125-pound division for a super fight.

A lot to lose, a lot to gain, two super elite competitors, two fighters who are known for giving spectacular performances at a high level, to the bitter end. Despite neither fighter reaching 5″7, & only 115lbs, make no mistake, this fight is Monumentally HUGE! Regardless of the outcome, expect to be entertained.

Onnit Primal Bells
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Khabib vs Barboza UFC 219 breakdown

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All Credit to https://article.wn.com for the image

Khabib vs Barboza has been made official for UFC 219 and it promises to be an absolute cracker, so in this article, I’m going to give a full breakdown of this fantastic fight.

UFC 219 just got a whole lot better with the addition of Khabib vs Barboza to the main card, Khabib will be hungry to grab a victory in his first fight since his submission win over Michael Johnson at UFC 205.

However, UFC fans will be crossing their fingers and hoping that the fight does happen as Khabib has been scheduled to fight in the main event, back in April 2016, but his opponent Ferguson had to pull out of their scheduled main event because doctors had found fluid and blood in his lungs. Khabib also pulled out of there fight at UFC 209 because he was hospitalized trying to cut weight for there highly anticipated bout, which played down his chances at him getting a title shot against McGregor. This fight is a chance for him to once again prove himself to get that title shot. Hopefully, we do not see a repeat of these past scheduled fights for Khabib and hopefully, we can see him back in the octagon for UFC 219.

I take no credit for this image

Now onto Barboza, who is an explosive and aggressive fighter, his last three fights have resulted in three wins for the Brazilian who won his last fight by TKO/KO with his latest loss coming from Ferguson by way of submission at the Ultimate Fighter Finale, back in 2015.

This Brazilian fighter prefers to stand and trade with his opponents and usually outclasses his opponents on the feet, however, most of Barboza’s losses have come by submission, one of those opponents being Michael Johnson (who Khabib beat by submission) so Barboza may want to work on his submission defence and ground game altogether because Khabib is a very dominant fighter who can control the fight and has a strong ground game so he will be looking to take Barboza to the ground.

Barboza needs to try to take control of the fight away from Khabib and keep it stood up to try and outclass Khabib, which will make for a very Interesting bout on December the 30th and many will be tuning in to see how it turns out.

I believe Khabib will walk with the victory over Barboza at UFC 219 in a fight which promises to be exciting and aggressive throughout.

Onnit Primal Bells
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