Fans have largely panned UFC 119, even though the main card featured a couple of really good fights and only one really poor one. And hey, even the worst fight on the card featured a pretty vicious knockout. Still, whether because of disappointing action, a lack of finishes, or yet more poor judging, UFC 119 will not be remembered fondly by many viewers. Let’s take a look at what transpired on Saturday night.
What defines a “boring fight”?
The old problem for MMA, leading up to the Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar fight at the first live MMA event on basic cable, was that fans didn’t understand or appreciate the ground game. Particularly, fans were subject to becoming very bored in a short amount of time when the action on the mat stalled a bit.
However, if you look at what fans seem to find boring these days, it is just as likely to be a stand-up fight as it is to be a stall-fest on the mat. Previously, fans were fine with fights that exhibited a lower pace, as long as the combatants were swinging for the fences from time to time. Back then, a fight like the one between Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens would never have been called “boring”. Fans never would have sighed at the thought of a rematch to a fight like BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar.
What’s changed? And most importantly, what constitutes a boring fight these days?
The prevailing opinion, even among some “experienced” MMA fans seems to be that the lack of a finish makes for a dull fight. I never understood this logic, though. Was Mir vs. Cro Cop better than Guillard vs. Stephens because Mir knocked Cro Cop out in the fifteenth minute of their bout? How does a submission or knock out suddenly improve the quality of all of the action (or lack thereof) that took place beforehand?
In a way, you have to take it as a good sign, as fans have learned that two fighters who swing (sometimes wildly) and do not connect very often are not putting on a great show. Furthermore, fans have decided that a fight that takes place on the mat can often be far better than one that takes place standing up. Call me crazy, but I even think that fans are disappointed when many fights never hit the mat, as they have fallen in love with the sport largely because of the variety of things that can happen in an MMA fight, and they want to see good all-around fights, not just “ultimate boxing”.
In any case, I have to say that I think fans have been a little harsh on the subject of UFC 119’s quality. Two really good fights, two decent ones and one snoozefest with a pretty memorable finish does not equal a wasted night, by any means. Throw in some good action on the prelims that was shown on Spike TV, and you got 9 MMA fights, with only one real stinker. The fact that we can all complain about that really shows how far the sport has come.
Hey, back in the day when we were all disappointed by UFC 33 (which featured five decisions, including a couple of the least-exciting bouts in UFC history, and was cut off on pay-per-view during the main event for going over the allotted time), we had to stew on that for a couple of months until UFC 34. Nowadays, we have a free WEC show this week and a free UFC event in a few weeks to look forward to.
A step sideways for Frank Mir
In a sport where a win, any win, usually means a step forward within one’s division, Frank Mir gained absolutely no ground in his effort to secure another title shot in the near-ish future on Saturday night.
Let’s see…did Mir beat an opponent that he was supposed to beat anyway? Check. Do so in entirely unimpressive fashion? Check. Piss off the fans and the boss while doing so? Check.
That’s pretty much a loss in every area except on his actual fighting record. On top of that, there was nothing that Mir did that indicated to anyone that a rematch with the two fighters that are keeping him from regaining his former glory (Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin) would go any differently. (In all fairness to Mir, even taking down Cro Cop and pounding him or submitting him wouldn’t have indicated that he’s patched up the trouble areas he faces against powerful, oversized wrestlers)
In reality, Mir is probably going to be staring at a rematch with a healthy Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, which may be another opportunity for Mir to add a well-known name to his resumé, but still won’t allow him to show why he should be considered a worthy title challenger.
Dunham gets screwed
It was unquestionably the Fight of the Night, and would have been on most UFC cards, honestly. From the start, Sean Sherk and Evan Dunham set a high pace of action, with Sherk focusing on landing takedowns and having to escape submission attempt after submission attempt from the victorious Dunham. It was a great fight, though Dunham definitely won rounds two and three through close submission attempts and out-striking Sherk by a 2-1 margin in round two, as well as a 3-1 margin in round three.
Wait…what’s that? Dunham lost? Yeah, I know. I’m not very convincing at acting surprised, but how would I be when we all pretty much expect at least one crappy, ridiculous decision per MMA event? I actually had the urge to not even write about it, because it’s becoming such a cliché to do yet another “judging in MMA needs to be reformed” rant.
However, whether it was Dunham getting screwed by two out of three judges or judge Otto Torriero somehow giving all the third round of the Guillard-Stephens bout to Guillard, horrible judging once again came to the forefront.
Simply controlling an opponent should never be more important than out-striking him or making more dangerous attempts at ending the fight through deep submission attempts. Control is overrated as a scoring area, and needs to be de-emphasized and reserved as more of a tie-breaker for extremely close rounds or where not a whole lot else is going on.
–Ryan Bader took the step I expected him to when he beat a very tough opponent in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. It’s too bad that people are disappointed that Bader didn’t knock out Nog. That’s a lot easier said than done, and Bader has already beat a far better opponent than Jon Jones has ever faced. Yet, people still overlook Bader in favor of Jones.
–Props to Chris Lytle for laying to rest some old demons by beating a game Matt Serra decisively. Actually, props to both fighters, who landed more significant strikes combined than in any other fight in UFC history, according to Fightmetric.com.