It took two tries to get a satisfying resolution to Demetrious Johnson-Ian McCall, so why does it feel so unsatisfying, anyway? At UFC on FX 3, the two fought hard, albeit without the fight of the year candidate vibe that the first bout between the two produced. Still, while we were fortunate enough to get a clear-cut victor, we can’t forget that this all should have been settled months ago.
I’ve noted before that because of the fast pace of the UFC’s schedule (as well as the large number of MMA events in general), everything is forgotten quickly and we have induced ADD in those who follow the sport. A fight that happened two weeks ago is old news, and the same applies to the judging and refereeing tragedies we have sadly gotten so used to witnessing.
By Friday night, the fact that this fight should have been settled months ago was barely a part of the storyline, either because people just don’t care anymore, the UFC doesn’t want fans to dwell on the weaknesses of the sport, or a combination of both. The pink elephant in the room was that someone, likely Ian McCall, should have already been gearing up to face Joseph Benavidez in the final.
You have to hand it to Demetrious Johnson- it was clear from the onset that of the two fighters, he was the one who made the necessary adjustments to ensure that this fight went better than their first meeting. He was ready for McCall’s wrestling and was more proactive himself in his approach when it came to wrapping up McCall on the mat. McCall looked frustrated and unable to land significant shots without being cracked himself as the fight went on. It was a very good performance by Johnson and worthy of the elite fighter he is.
So, we move on to Johnson-Benavidez. McCall will undoubtedly be in the title picture from here on out anyway, but it visibly bothered him not only to disappoint his supporters (and himself) with a lackluster performance, but to miss out on the chance to be the first flyweight champion in the biggest organization in the sport. The plus side here is that there are many great fights yet to come, including the flyweight final between Johnson and Benavidez, as well as Benavidez-McCall and even Johnson-McCall 3 at some point. Let’s hope they’re all five-rounders, by the way.
–Who would have thought that there would be not one, not two, but three better fights on the main card than Johnson-McCall? While the UFC is still finding its legs on FX, those who can’t figure out that the stuff Spike TV is showing is old really missed out on some good fights and crazy finishes.
–The early leader for Worst Scorecard of the Year turned out to be a misunderstanding, as nobody scored a 30-27 fight in favor of Carlos Eduardo Rocha against Mike Pierce. All three judges, Ric Bays, Richard Davis, and Chris Lee made the easy call and gave Pierce all three rounds. Still, the fact that the scorecards ended up being announced incorrectly is troubling. Why are we having so much trouble translating scorecards from the paper to the fans’ and fighters’ ears?
–Leonard Garcia has now lost three in a row, with his one UFC win being the dubious split decision win he took over Nam Phan back in December of 2010. In fact, his last three wins were extremely controversial victories, as the WEC 48 robbery of Chan Sung Jung is his second most recent win, while his third-latest victory was another split decision against Jameel Massouh in 2009 in a fight many thought Massouh won. You have to go back to November of 2008- at WEC 36 against Jens Pulver- to find a clear-cut win for Garcia, which was 11 fights ago. He’s an exciting fighter, but he clearly should be cut, especially with the UFC’s famously short leash nowadays that they give slumping fighters.
Beautiful Loser Award
You can hardly blame Josh Neer for thinking he had Mike Pyle in trouble on Friday night. Pyle looked strangely wobbly after the two worked their way to standing late in round one, even though he didn’t appear to get hit with anything on the mat. Then, he backed up and seemed to have little to offer as Neer began to confidently unload on him. Of course, we’ve seen many of these comebacks in the last couple of years (with Kongo-Barry still being the gold standard), and Pyle came out of nowhere with a perfectly-timed straight right to put Neer away. By the way, the straight right (or left, for southpaws) is the most underutilized punch in MMA.
Movin’ On Up Award
Who else but Erick Silva could get this award? Sure, Mighty Mouse unseated the consensus #1 flyweight in the world, while Eddie Wineland made a move into just about everybody’s top ten, but Silva has responded to every new challenge with even more impressive performances. Charlie Brenneman is no pushover. However, no matter what Brenneman did, Silva had an answer, leading up to a exquisitely-executed rear naked choke to make Brenneman tap inside the first round. Silva needs to start facing top ten opponents. He’s ready.
(By the way: Carlo Prater, the guy who Silva was DQ’ed against for punches to the back of the head? He has some of the best wins against fighters before they were famous you’ll see. In one five-fight stretch in 2003-04, he defeated Melvin Guillard, Spencer Fisher, and Carlos Condit. Not bad.)
Holy $#!% Award
I actually like the Wineland TKO better from an aesthetic standpoint, but that finish can’t beat the “holy shit” factor of an unexpected one-punch comeback like Pyle’s knockout of Neer. Neer landing flat on his face and Pyle’s ice-cold walkoff just made the moment that much more impressive. Fighters, it’s way more badass to do that than to frantically get as many shots in as you can until the ref breaks up the fight. Pyle wins this one, as well as the UFC’s KO of the Night bonus, which is probably slightly more prestigious since it came with a $40,000 check.