'UFC 2009': Diary of an Ultimate Fighter

Sometimes I just feel like punching people in the face.

Yeah, I've always been more of a "Madden" or "NBA 2K" kind of guy, but all sim and no sin makes J-Rob a bored gamer.

That's why I was so excited to finally get my hands on an advanced copy of "UFC 2009 Undisputed." Not only will I be able to get my aggression out with my polygonal fists, but I can bend arms in ways they're not meant to be bent, clobber opponents with my running knee and smack fools around as my favorite fighter, Cheick Kongo (cool name, even cooler kicks).

And while I worked out the kinks in my game in practice mode with Kongo, I figured I would create my own character and start a journey through the UFC's elite as my chiseled and chest-thumping alter-ego, Jrob Andsteal.

After entering your name, first thing you need to do is pick a nickname that the announcers will shout out during your fights. Everything from Quick Silver to Hands of Stone is available, but I go with The Headhunter as I am all about big head kicks to finish off my opponent with the knockout. I then decide to make my fighter 6-6, 235-pounds of muscle and mayhem and give him fighting styles of kickboxing and judo.

The next decision I make for my fighter is just as major as my fighting styles. I am given 285 attribute points to split up in between strength, speed and cardio. I decide to give the majority of my points to strength, followed by cardio, then speed. I figure it's more important to be strong and to be able to last in fights when I'm first starting out, but since this is the first UFC character I'm creating, it's really just a guess at how I see the early fights of my career going.

I'm then given 160 points to spend on upgrading a variety of areas from standing strikes and standing kicks to ground strikes and submission offense and defense. I decide to concentrate the points on my standing kicks offense right from the jump, then go heavy on submission offense, submission defense, takedown, and grapple offense/defense. I like how they let you really mold your fighter and the way he is going to fight from the start.

I add a couple of dragon tattoos to my arms, some knee and ankle support to add a little color to my fighter, and then it's time to start my career. And since THQ made it so you can save up to 100 created fighters in the game, I'm sure this won't be the last guy I build from scratch (I just hope he's my best).

When career mode begins, you're given a choice of different trainers to enter boot camp with. I go for a guy named William who immediately gives my standing kicks offense and defense +5 in attribute points.

The game then flashes to UFC president Dana White giving you a talk on what it means to be in the UFC. "If you're not willing to put everything on the line, I'll find someone else who is," he says. He wants me to prove to him, to the fans, to myself, that I'm a real fighter. "This is as real as it gets," White explains. Or at least as real as a video game simulating real fights can get, I guess.

I'm immediately thrown into my first fight. There are only a handful of fans in attendance, and I start off with some nice kicks to my opponent's dome. But after 30 seconds go by, I'm caught with a hook and am knocked to the mat. How embarrassing. Luckily I hop back up before too much damage is done, then I'm so pumped about getting dropped, that I deliver three fierce head kicks that send my opponent sprawling. I jump on top of him and hammer five straight blows and the ref jumps in to stop the fight.

I win my first heavyweight bout in just 1:35 by TKO. Not bad, but boy do I still have some work to do.

Next day I'm at the gym where you're told everything that career mode entails. Move up the ranks to get a title shot. Win the title and you'll defend your belt. Get enough impressive wins in your career and the UFC Hall of Fame committee will take notice.

Your fighter's schedule is kept on a calendar where you'll need to manage his time and stamina. Everything you do to train for your fight costs you some stamina, so you need to be careful not to train too much leading into a fight or you might step into the octagon exhausted.

Dana White then sends me an e-mail that says: "If you want to get to the top of this sport, you have to be part warrior and part business man. Good luck." Looks like I'll need it.

I then get an e-mail from UFC matchmaker Joe Silver who says they have a spot for me on the pay-per-view in 11 weeks. I am then given the choice to fight one of three opponents: Mark Emerson, Ivan Heleno or Rolando Aguilar. Emerson is the highest ranked of the three, so I figure I'll go after the top dog and challenge the Providence fighter to a match.

I then have the choice of training (which increases fighter's strength, speed and cardio), sparring (increase fighter skills or assign fighter points), rest or check out the status of my sponsors. I decide to do some intense strength training in order to add some extra power to my kicks.

The next week I add in a cardio workout, then I go back to strength training. By the fourth week I need to rest, then I decide to do some sparring to get my game right before the big fight.

What's cool about the sparring is your opponent actually tries to mimic your upcoming opponent. So since Emerson is primarily into kickboxing and wrestling, my sparring partner comes at me with kicks and takedowns in order to help me better prepare for my fight. After the session, I'm given 22 points to add to my fighter skills.

A few more weeks of training, followed up by a rest week before the fight and I'm actually at 95 percent stamina after going through the whole balance-your-time-correctly mini-game.

Mark Emerson versus The Headhunter. Should be a good fight.

I use a few big left kicks to the head and open up a huge gash on Emerson's face. I knock him down, but before I can pound him, he kicks me then hops to his feet. He then smacks me with a Superman punch that makes me nervously remember that the game does have block buttons, then I calm down and try for the takedown. Emerson blocks my move, but I back up and hit him with a devastating kick that sends his mouthpiece flying as he falls to the mat like he just got hit by sniper fire from the roof. Emerson's blood is all over the mat as I raise my hand in victory and am awarded KO of the Night for the pay-per-view to earn a nice performance bonus.

I love this game.

The thing about "UFC 2009" is that there is so much brutality, but at the same time, there's quite a lot of strategy between the takedowns, transitions, clinches and spinning backfists. If you just watch someone fight, you think it looks fun because of all the blood and arm-bending, but the more you play, the more you learn real MMA strategy.

I get ready for my next fight by knocking out my poor sparring partner in just under a minute. Poor guy. It's one thing to put your opponent to sleep, but I kind of feel bad for the sparring partner who just has to take it.

Next fight and once again, I get the knockout with a head kick. I'm on a mission to be the next Mirko Cro Cop.

Once again I'm awarded KO of the Night honors, and with the success comes all kinds of opportunities. THQ wants to feature me in print ads, a new kickboxing trainer wants to work with me, a sponsor wants to put their logo on my shorts, and I got some upgraded gym equipment to help with my strength training.

A couple of knockouts later and I face my toughest battle to date, Heath Herring. I duck one of his punches and take Herring down to the mat, but when I hesitate trying to lock in my submission hold, he rolls through and ends up on top of me. He gets a few good punches in, but I manage to strike back enough so I'm able to escape the hold and stand up. A few minutes later, I hurt Herring with a wicked kick to the eye, then when he crumbles to the mat, I pounce on top of him and punch him eight times in the head, opening up a nasty cut on his face before the ref stops the fight.

After the fight I'm given a new sparring partner who actually gives me more skill points per session. Sweet.

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