To say that this past weekend was a big one for MMA is a massive understatement. Besides UFC 139 (Parting Shots coming tomorrow, by the way), we had Fedor Emelianenko’s first fight since leaving Strikeforce, another installment of Bellator Fighting Championships featuring a great title fight between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler, and a Strikeforce: Challengers show featuring the hottest prospect in female MMA.
And know, I didn’t mean it like that. Pervs.
Fedor gets back in the “W” column
In a smart, methodical effort that is unlikely to inspire his detractors, Fedor Emelianenko got back on track after a disastrous Strikeforce run by defeating Jeff Monson last weekend. Fedor won by unanimous decision during the main event of M-1 Global’s latest show with a very patient approach that was at times a stark contrast to his formerly aggressive approach.
Throwing a lot of single leg kicks and using more straight punches than usual, Fedor’s disciplined strategy nonetheless stifled Monson throughout the fifteen-minute fight, which can be seen here for those who missed it. Monson attempted to close the distance with takedowns, but was repeatedly stuffed and often ended up on his back, trying to induce a mat battle only to have Fedor stand up and force him to do the same.
Monson was not able to get any striking going, as Fedor made it a habit to stick him with straight punches and leg kicks whenever he started to get within range. Though Fedor dropped Monson late in the first round with a well-placed right hook, he conceded after the fight that he had opted for a more cautious approach after having a lack of success with his usual aggressive style in recent fights.
For his part, Monson has since revealed that he broke his fibia thanks to a particularly effective leg kick from Fedor, so it’s not as if “The Last Emperor” was there to play patty-cake. It was a workmanlike effort for sure, but I think it proved that Fedor is willing to tweak his game even late in his career to become more effective, which is something that many established MMA fighters have a hard time doing. We’ll see if M-1 Global can continue to make compelling fights for Fedor, which may be the biggest challenge of all. In the meantime, there are rumblings of a New Year’s Eve appearance in Japan for Fedor.
Alvarez drops title to Chandler in an instant classic
Bellator’s 58th show was excellent, featuring not only appearances by Marlon Sandro, Hector Lombard and Jessica Aguilar, but an amazing title fight between Eddie Alvarez and challenger Michael Chandler.
A few observations about the Alvarez-Chandler fight:
-I thought Alvarez looked fine, actually. I don’t know that anyone ever thought he couldn’t be outstruck. It’s more that there are few fighters that can withstand the combination of his underrated wrestling, his excellent striking and his incredible pace. In Chandler, you saw one of the few fighters in the world who could do so. On a side note, I always think that turning the fight into a fight is a sound strategy for anyone facing a highly-skilled opponent, and it worked for Chandler. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
-You might be able to tell from the previous paragraph that I won’t be joining those who are using the Chandler loss as an excuse to brand Alvarez as “overrated”. Will he drop in my rankings? Likely, but when you lose to an unranked opponent my hands are pretty much tied. I do think that, much like when Ben Henderson lost to Anthony Pettis, we will find out in the future that the result was more of a case of Chandler being better than we expected than Alvarez being tremendously overrated.
-Depending on your outlook, it’s either endearing or annoying that those involved in Bellator are so passionate about the promotion that hyperbole simply flows from their mouths effortlessly. We’ve already heard Bjorn Rebney say that Eddie Alvarez is the best lightweight on the planet, but on Saturday night it was treated by commentator Jimmy Smith as an accepted fact rather than a widely disputed claim. Immediately following the fight, Rebney proclaimed that Alvarez-Chandler was the best fight that he’d ever seen. It was a great fight for sure, but clearly Rebney is no more impartial here than Dana White is when he speaks about his own product.
-How crazy is it that Alvarez-Chandler is not only not a lock for “Fight of the Year”, but even for the best fight on Saturday night? It’s a testament to the quality of MMA we’ve enjoyed in 2011, injury plague and all.
Ronda Rousey does it again
If you haven’t seen Ronda Rousey fight before, go ahead and watch this. The fight’s only a half-minute long, so just watch it- I’ll wait here.
Holy crap, right? Aside from the particularly gruesome finish, it’s notable because Rousey is the most exciting female prospect we’ve seen in MMA in some time. Most of the top fighters featured in Strikeforce or elsewhere have been big names for awhile now- Cyborg Santos, Miesha Tate, Sarah Kaufman, Marloes Coenen, Zoila Gurgel- but to have a largely unknown commodity like Rousey ascending so quickly up the ladder brings much-needed intrigue to a part of the sport that still needs all the momentum it can get.
While I will go on record as saying that having Rousey nominated for the “best female fighter” award at the World MMA Awards just reiterates that the awards themselves are a joke (quality of opponents, anyone?), you can’t deny that Rousey has a bright future ahead of her. I understand the difficulty that more established female fighters are having accepting the attention that Rousey has gotten with just four MMA fights, especially since Rousey has a lot to learn yet to become a well-rounded fighter (notice how she is walking into punches to clinch up with Julia Budd in the video). However, as a new fighter on the scene who not only fights with unrestrained viciousness (after a “I didn’t tap controversy” against Sarah D’Alelio, she said she may have to stop being so nice) and has attractive looks, we all know how this is going to go.
And please, no angry e-mails. My recognition of the fact that looks play a strong part in how fast one ascends the ladder in MMA should not be mistaken for an endorsement of that fact. Come on, though: there’s a reason people are still asking about Gina Carano even though she hasn’t been a factor in the sport for years now, and it’s not simply because they miss her muay Thai technique.