American Picker

By: Brian Knapp
Feb 10, 2013

Joe Flandermeyer was drawn to mixed martial arts as a teenager when he tuned into UFC 2 on March 11, 1994 and saw a lanky Brazilian named Royce Gracie submit four opponents and win his second consecutive Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament.

“I must have been sick for UFC 1,” Flandermeyer told Sherdog.com. “I don’t know how I ever missed that.”

Like so many others, he was hooked.

“I talked my dad into getting me two heavy bags,” Flandermeyer said. “I set one in a standard garage ceiling hook, while the other laid flat on the floor. I’d also put that bag in my guard and punch away at its ‘ribs’ and ‘head.’ I did have a speed bag, but I never once actually used it correctly; that would have required skill.

“The heavy bag in the hook fell out of the ceiling several times before I created my own customized setup that would keep it from dropping down,” he added. “My hands and wrists were always sore from socking the bags. I have weird bumpy knuckles on my right hand from too much punching.”

Flandermeyer, a 35-year-old Walnut Creek, Calif., native, has put his MMA knowledge to good use, as the first winner of Sherdog.com’s MMA Pick’Em fantasy game. He scored 25,680 total points and participated in every event.

Within Sherdog MMA Pick’Em, players earn points based on correct match-by-match predictions for a given event. A maximum of 210 points can be picked up in a single match. Players are awarded 50 points for each correct pick, along with 30 additional points if they choose the correct method: decision, knockout/technical knockout or submission. If the method involves a finish, 30 additional points will be awarded to players who choose the correct round in which the finish occurs. Players are also allowed five boosts per event through which they can notch an additional 100 points for outcomes about which they feel particularly certain. However, any incorrect selections involving boosts cost the player 50 points.

“When I saw the game, I quickly knew that it would take off,” Flandermeyer said. “This makes the events more fun to watch. Fights that I wouldn’t have cared too much about before are now more interesting to me. I wish that we’d always had this game. Whoever invented this deserves a lot of credit.”

Flandermeyer outperformed the fantasy game averages in all critical categories: accuracy (65 percent to 57 percent), perfect picks (30 percent to 18 percent) and boosts (71 percent to 62 percent). He was at his best for UFC 154, which featured welterweight champion George St. Pierre’s triumphant return against Carlos Condit. His 1,400 points ranked third among all participants.

“I usually just go with the decision,” Flandermeyer said. “Early on, I tried to get creative with my picks, but it was too frustrating when the fights kept going to a decision and I’d lose out on those points. These fighters are very tough and durable in 2013. It’s harder than ever to finish them off. It’s also very difficult to predict something like, say, a submission win in round three.”

Flandermeyer followed other patterns and strategies in the fantasy game.

“I always use up all of the available boosts given,” he said. “I rarely pick against the natives in Brazil who are fighting outsiders. I can empathize with how that must be very tough to fight there as a foreigner, but that’s the job, so you go where they need you.”

The son of a schoolteacher and a microbiologist and genetics scientist, Flandermeyer still enjoys the training involved with mixed martial arts.

“I have long considered self-defense to be the most fun, beneficial and practical way to get my exercise,” he said. “I’ve trained at some schools in California. I never got into the old stuff like karate. Self-defense is fun, and to stick with any exercise plan, it has to appeal to you. Show me a 100-pound treadmill, and I’ll show you a 100-pound paper weight. These days, I mostly pop away on the heavy bag. That has been my favorite exercise since I was around 15.”

Flandermeyer is no casual observer. He has attended a number of major MMA shows in person: UFC 13, UFC 48, UFC 107, UFC 117, UFC Live 2 and Strikeforce “Heavy Artillery.” “I was going to attend UFC 61 but had to cancel late, and we sold our tickets,” Flandermeyer said. “Obviously, that turned out to be a blessing.” For him, there has always been a natural lure to the cage and the fighters who compete within its confines.

“The high stakes, excitement generated and how courageous and invested the athletes are is what I enjoy most about MMA,” he said. “When you risk your face, body and even your life in the cage, that’s the most genuine motivation and dedication. It goes far beyond what other sports offer.”

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