UFC events no longer feature the colorful subtitles they had in the early (and pre-) Zuffa days, such as “UFC 47: It’s On”, “UFC 61: Bitter Rivals”, or my favorite, “UFC 27: Ultimate Bad Boyz”. If they did, the most apt subtitle for Saturday night’s event would have been “UFC 149: No Urgency”.
It’s not so much “boring” fights that I have a problem with. A fight like the one between Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan, while boring, doesn’t leave me with the kind of distaste I get when one or both fighters simply shows no sense of urgency whatsoever. Now, I won’t sit here and tell you that Kongo-Jordan was a good fight, but it at least made sense. Fighter A had an effective (if dull) strategy and Fighter B tried to, but could not, keep Fighter A from executing it.
Again, it makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is a fight like this: Fighter A goes out with a poor strategy that allows Fighter B to do whatever he pleases. Fighter A maintains the same strategy every round, despite not having any success with it. Or how about this: Fighter A stands in one spot and occasionally throws strikes while allowing Fighter B to occasionally leg kick him with impunity. Neither has a clear edge, but in the third round, both are content to do the bare minimum, not push the pace, and simply cross their fingers that the judges score the fight in their favor.
Where was the urgency in the third round between James Head and Brian Ebersole, where Ebersole had clearly won the first round and Head had likely taken the second? Were they both extremely confident that they had won both rounds already? Were they tired? Disinterested? Worried about engaging and making a mistake?
Where was the urgency from Hector Lombard, who obviously wanted to make a memorable debut, but was somehow content to let Tim Boetsch leg kick him over and over while occasionally countering with a couple of big shots that mostly didn’t land?
Where was the urgency from Urijah Faber, who was losing round after round but refused to alter his strategy whatsoever, even with the knowledge that he was likely getting the last title shot he would ever see under the Zuffa banner?
I saw Faber once break his right hand and dislocate his left thumb against Mike Brown, and he still never kept coming forward like a madman. He throw kicks, lead elbows, anything he could in order to try to put a hurting on Brown. That wasn’t the confused, tentative guy I saw in the cage on Saturday night.
Oh, and I know, I shouldn’t be saying such things. Fighting’s really hard! It’s a tough sport! If I can’t get in the cage and fight Tim Boetsch or Renan Barao or James Head myself, what right do I have to criticize someone’s effort?
Give me a break. There’s a fine line between criticizing from an outside perspective and straight-up bashing someone who has done things that you can never do, and I’m on the right side with this one. I may not know what it’s like to get leg kicked by Barao for five rounds, but I do know that it makes absolutely no sense to go out there and not give a complete effort when you know that thousands of dollars, your career, and your very legacy hang in the balance.
I expect a lot from UFC-level fighters because they are capable of a lot. They are certainly capable of going out for a third round that they know they must win and actually giving a full effort to win it. They are certainly capable of letting it all hang out when a decision win is impossible, rather than just letting another round tick by and accepting a defeat they cannot afford. What I can’t figure out is why they sometimes choose not to do those things.
The “Fighting for Bonuses” Mentality Lives On
On the other side of the spectrum, you have fighters who not only fight to win, but manage to fit in the goal of entertaining fans, as well.
Matthew Riddle said before his fight with Chris Clements that if Clements stood in front of him, it could be Fight of the Night. Yet, for some reason he shot for a takedown just 45 seconds into the first round. So, what was all this talk about a stand-up battle? Gamesmanship? Trickery, perhaps?
It turned out to be neither, as Riddle gave up top position just moments later, only to stand and trade with Clements and eventually take him down again. In the second and third rounds, Riddle fought much more sensibly, but it was clear that in the first round, Riddle was giving up position on the mat just to ensure a more exciting fight.
Riddle needs to be told that those same fans who cheered when he put on an exciting fight would just as easily forget him if his “exciting” style cost him three fights in a row and he got cut by the UFC.
When fighters start worrying so much about putting on exciting fights that they willingly put themselves at a disadvantage against their opponents, that’s not a good thing. There has to be some middle ground between a lack of urgency and wanting to please everybody. Oh, wait- there is. It’s called “trying to win.” That’s all that a fighter should be worried about, period. When MMA stops being about pure competition and start being more about entertainment, even if it means fighters willingly allowing their opponents to get offense in to make a fight “more exciting”, that’s when I’ll stop following the sport whatsoever.
–I don’t have any strong opinions about the split decisions in Head-Ebersole or Boetsch-Lombard. When both fighters are content to simply try to eke out a close win without trying to decisively win rounds, they have to take what they get.
–Hector Lombard looked to me to be what I expected him to be: a good (but not great) UFC-level fighter who will occasionally finish people in highlight-worthy fashion, but also occasionally be outworked by tough veteran opponents.
“Fighters shouldn’t be allowed to come up with their own nicknames.”
-Joe Rogan, after being told that Matthew Riddle’s new nickname is “Deep Waters”. Riddle was visibly disappointed when Bruce Buffer announced him without including the nickname, making for an amusing moment.
Adventures in Refereeing
Josh Rosenthal pulled a real boner by momentarily stopping the action when he thought Chris Clements was caught by a low blow from Riddle. Riddle had just hurt Clements with a kick to the body that hurt him, and though the kick landed about a foot north of Clements’ groin, Rosenthal seemed to judge the kick solely on Clements’ reaction instead of by where the kick actually landed, leading to a momentary stoppage for no apparent reason that cost Riddle a chance to finish his opponent.
Movin’ On Up Award
This has to go to Renan Barao. I wish that Barao had been a bit more impressive, but I suppose he did frustrate and out-point Faber, nonetheless. He shut down Faber from the get-go and will make a solid challenger for Dominick Cruz.
Holy $#!% Award
With apologies to Riddle’s beautiful arm triangle submission against Clements, which he locked in while standing after a missed spinning backfist by his opponent, this goes to Ryan Jimmo. Anthony Perosh is no world-beater, but knocking out an opponent in 7 seconds in the UFC is quite a feat, nonetheless.