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UFC 143 Parting Shots

By on February 8, 2012

Who would have thought that what was probably the third most questionable event from UFC 143 would end up being the most (only?) enduring storyline afterward? Sure enough, even with a razor-thin split decision given to the hated Josh Koscheck on the main card and an unprecedented two-point deduction costing Alex Caceres his fight on the prelims, the only thing people have wanted to talk about is Diaz-Condit.

I can’t blame them, in a way: the fight was the perfect lightning rod for a number of MMA-related debates. You have the always-maligned scoring system, which has come under fire yet again because fans aren’t happy with some of the ways a fighter can win a bout. There’s the issue of whether the fighters are in the cage principally to win at any cost or to entertain us without regard to the outcome. Finally, one of the competitors involved (Diaz) is perhaps the most controversial fighter in the sport today.

A couple of notes on Diaz-Condit and then I’m done with it. I promise. Well…for this column, anyway.

1) I’ve heard a lot about the “baby leg kicks” Condit landed, and the crux of many Diaz apologists’ argument is that those kicks weren’t doing damage. Now, Diaz has a high threshold for pain, but the kicks obviously affected him. He switched stances regularly throughout the fight and the pace of his movement slowed dramatically later on, too. It’s no coincidence that when you look at Diaz’s striking, the first two rounds were his strongest. Later on, he was slowed too much by the damage he had taken to close the distance effectively. Also, anyone who has ever sparred knows that it is hard to deliver punches properly when someone is chopping at your legs as soon as you step into range.

2) One fascinating angle of this story is that a fighter who lost unanimously (with two 49-46 scorecards no less) was about to be given an immediate rematch nonetheless, solely on the strength of fan demand. Diaz’s fans mobilized in a major way and the debate surrounding the scoring of the fight encouraged Dana White to agree to letting the two scrap once more.

Of course, Georges St. Pierre’s injury, which will keep him out of the cage for at least another nine months anyway, meant that there would be plenty of time for a rematch. Never mind that Condit would be getting screwed by having to beat the same guy twice to get his shot at the real title; the fight was going to happen, anyway. Now, for unknown reasons, Diaz won’t be taking the fight, according to his trainer, Cesar Gracie. Still, it’s interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the question, “If Diaz fans thought the fight was so awful, why are they so anxious to see it again?”

3) Lost in the outcome is the fact that Condit is the first of the Zuffa-era WEC fighters to win UFC gold. Sure, it’s an interim belt, which means it’s essentially an imaginary title, but being the number one contender is still pretty impressive stuff. Look at Condit and fellow WEC veterans Chael Sonnen, Brian Stann, and of course the lightweight trio of Ben Henderson, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone- it’s clear that the UFC’s little brother had plenty of legitimate talent. Dana White always wonders why the MMA media is willing to rank non-UFC fighters, but fairly often it turns out to be the right move. Plenty of highly-touted fighters from other organizations, including the WEC, have come into the UFC and proven that their hype was well-earned.

Late-Round Takedowns: So What?

–I had Mike Pierce winning the fight against Josh Koscheck, but in a fight that close it’s hard to be too angry about the decision. If there’s anything I have issue with, it’s that the commentators and everyone else seems to make too much of late-round takedowns that don’t lead to anything.

In the third round, when Koscheck got a double-leg takedown that kept Pierce down for all of 22 seconds, during which Koscheck didn’t land a single strike, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg said it “could be critical”. We were told pretty much the same thing when Koscheck got a takedown with a minute left in the second round that lasted all of 35 seconds. This time, at least, Koscheck landed a solid left hook as Pierce tried to stand up.

The problem is, why are we encouraging fans to overvalue these insignificant takedowns that don’t lead to any offense and are nullified within half a minute? When four minutes and thirty seconds of a five-minute round have been spent striking, we’re supposed to think that a thirty second takedown where nothing happens and the bottom man simply stands back up is supposed to be the deciding factor? It’s ridiculous and has nothing to do with the actual judging criteria, as I mentioned in my last column.

Quick Shots

–In terms of the Koscheck-Pierce fight itself, I thought Pierce was very impressive and showed much better head movement, defense and overall boxing skill than Koscheck. Koscheck sorely needs to work on his head movement, which is practically nonexistent and has allowed everyone from Pierce to Matt Hughes to land jabs effortlessly on him. Perhaps he needs to move a bit more instead of settling down right in front of his opponent, only to hold still and do nothing while looking for an opening for his straight right. In that situation, the opponent will pull the trigger on the jab every time.

Adventures in Refereeing

Herb Dean is often called the best ref in the game, and while he generally does a very good job, I’ve always thought it silly to single out one person when every referee makes huge mistakes now and then.

Dean’s mistake in the Alex Caceres-Edwin Figueroa fight was particularly heinous in that it wasn’t a matter of him having a bad viewing angle and missing a foul or stopping a fight too early or too late due to how fast things were happening. Instead it was a willful decision to penalize a fighter not one, but two points in a three-round fight because of two low blows.

After the first low blow, Figueroa was in obvious pain and Dean issued a “strong warning” to Caceres. Never was it explained what this “strong warning” meant, although expecting a point deduction for another foul wouldn’t be out of the question. However, even though Figueroa later reacted as if he’d been fouled on a legal shot, when he was hit a second time and dropped to the canvas, Dean decided to take the two-point deduction, completely skipping the whole one-point deduction that we’re all so familiar with.

You might as well disqualify a guy if you’re going to do that, and sure enough, Caceres lost by decision with scores of 27-28 (twice) and 28-27, meaning that the two points literally cost him the win. Even with a one-point deduction it would have been a majority draw. Was a deduction even necessary? How many times have we seen two low blows go un-penalized, with a warning given instead? So, because these ones hurt more, they get a two-point deduction?

Another interesting thing to note is that on Herb Dean’s own site, the refereeing guidelines under unified rules state that a two-point deduction is given an injury is produced by “intentional fouls”. Did Dean think the second kick was intentional? If you watch the kick carefully (after all, they provide several slow-mo replays), you’ll see that when Caceres starts to kick, Figueroa starts to squat down. His squat actually causes the kick to land to his groin, as his natural stance would have left the kick on his upper thigh where Caceres intended it to land.

It reminds me of when a football player goes to make a legal hit with his helmet at chest level and the offensive player scrunches down to take the shot, lowering his helmet and turning it to a helmet-to-helmet hit. Who’s fault is that? You’re supposed to alter a kick or tackle that has already begun because your opponent lowers his body?

Also of note is that Dean was Miragliotta-esque in his quick separations and warnings during the Koscheck-Pierce fight. Furthermore, even though he issued two warnings to Koscheck about putting his open hand in Pierce’s face, when an inevitable eye poke happened in the third round, no point was taken from Koscheck. Consistency, anyone?

Say What?!?

You’re up three to one, okay?– Ill-fated words from Nate Diaz to brother Nick after the fourth round of Diaz’s fight against Carlos Condit. Now, it’s one thing to be a little biased in favor of your own brother, but if the rounds are very close, don’t you owe it to him to let him know that it could go either way? This is especially true when considering how unpredictable MMA judges are. I’m not saying that you tell a guy, “You’re losing every round! Get it together!” or anything, but at least tell him, “You’re doing great but this is a close fight, you’ve gotta go balls out,” or something similar. A lengthy, but interesting transcript of what was said in Diaz’s corner throughout the fight is available here, thanks to some kind soul with too much time on his hands.

Movin’ On Up Award

Renan “Barao” didn’t have a highlight reel finish, but beating Scott Jorgensen as soundly as he did is a huge accomplishment and proves that he’s ready for the very best of the bantamweight division. I said last year that I was excited to see Barao against the better 135-pounders, and he’s proven that he’s ready for it, as he just beat one of them.

Beautiful Loser Award

This would have to go to either Alex Caceres or Mike Pierce, as neither really lost, in my view. Caceres was particularly screwed over, since the judges had it right besides the ridiculous two-point deduction. Have I mentioned that half-point scoring would be much better, in part because you could penalize fighters less than a full point and not cost them the entire fight with a deduction? One point deductions are another ill-fitting procedure that came from boxing and doesn’t fit with MMA. Top boxers fight twelve rounds, so a one point deduction isn’t the end of the world. How in the world is that fair for a three round fight, though?

Holy $#!% Award

Stephen Thompson, the highly-decorated karate fighter and kickboxer, made a huge splash in his UFC debut with a beautiful lead leg head kick knockout of Daniel Stittgen on the prelims. He threw the right kick after a right hook, so that Stittgen’s head was partially turned and Stittgen’s own shoulder hid the kick from his view until it was too late. Exquisite timing and great tactical fighting by Thompson, who fights a very interesting style reminiscent of another karate-based fighter you may have heard of named Lyoto Machida.

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1 comment
  1. Mick says:

    This post is well stated. My opinions of the Condit/Diaz fight as well as the Koscheck/Pierce bout are nearly identical. I guess I just don’t have the “golden tongue” talent that you have.

    Question 1- What possible motivation (besides the bucks) would Condit have
    in rematching Diaz?. Is it for the interim belt again? Regardless of any reasonable answers to that question the entire St. Pierre/Condit/Diaz soap needs to have a grand finale. Yes I like to watch cage fights. I also happen to be a blood and guts kinda of guy but not necessarily ahead of seeing some great skill and technique demonstrated. It’s just that the thought of a Condit/Diaz rematch (ever) just doesn’t excite me at all.

    #2 – Koscheck lost his fight with Pierce. I am over-ruling the judges and the entire Nevada Athletic Commission as well as Zuffa, Fox, White, Rogan whomever. Never before has the phrase coined and perpetuated by Dana White himself “don’t let it go to the judges” rung so loudly and alarmingly. Your reference to the almighty take-down and it’s abilities to erase everything and anything that happened previously is alive and well in MMA. I leave that falsity in Joe Rogan’s lap. He built it over his years of color commentating for the UFC. While many know the actual value of a take-down in a combat environment is to control the foe
    toward a fatal end in their attack. When you put that realistic definition into a less than lethal situation you actually decrease it’s value. Strikes with hands, elbows and knees along with kicks are the essence of where the blood and guts is derived. We also know that a take-down or attempted one is frequently the result of the fighter not doing well in the stand-up contest and the mat becomes a more comfortable option.

    Can you tell me who to send post to besides you so I can get the records of the UFC and the State of Nevada Athletic Commission changed to reflect my over-ride?

    Damn I love MMA.


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