Monday, May 10, 2010
5 things I learned from UFC 113
By Andrew Plante
Mauricio Rua's knockout of Lyoto Machida proved there's no fighter who can't be beaten.
MMA lives on Live! -- Other than landing a broadcasting deal with a major network, being covered on ESPN is about as “mainstream” as you can get for the sport of mixed martial arts. UFC 113 was the first time that the pre and post-fight analysis from ESPN’s MMA Live was aired on cable television via ESPN 2. This is quite a milestone for the organization and ultimately for mixed martial arts.
Everybody hates Koscheck. -- I’ve never been a big fan of Josh Koscheck. Ever since his antics on the inaugural season of the The Ultimate Fighter, I’ve come to the realization the Koscheck is a jerk, albeit a talented one. That jerk is also an All American Div I wrestler that sported a 42-0 record his junior year at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. He’s obviously got game.
I was quite disappointed by the crowd’s behavior and the commentating for his fight against Paul Daley.
Everything seemed to go down hill when Koscheck was hit with a “phantom” knee to the head while he was still on the ground. Most in the audience as well as announcer Joe Rogan, believed that Koscheck wasn’t touched by Daley’s illegal knee attempt. I certainly didn’t see an obvious connection, but I also didn’t see enough for me to doubt that he could have been rocked by a glancing blow. Rogan began calling Koscheck out as an “actor” and reminding the crowd of a previous situation where he feigned injury from another “phantom” strike. I guess I would have expected such comments from the crowd, but not by an MMA announcer as seasoned as Rogan. I understand that Koscheck has a history of this sort of stuff, but I don’t think there was enough information to go by, to start calling Koscheck out.
In addition to the knee-strike issue, the fans and Rogan were both voicing their disagreement with Koscheck’s overall performance. Again, I guess I should expect this from fans, but NOT from the announcer. Rogan, indicated that Koscheck “Eeked” out the win. For a guy that claims to promote all aspects of mixed martial arts and dislikes the referee stand-ups when fighters are stalled on the canvas, Rogan certainly didn’t show much love for the wrestling game in his comments. In the end, a lot was on the line for Koscheck. If he wins, he gets a title shot against George St. Pierre and also gets the opportunity to coach on the TUF 12. What did you expect from Koscheck, who was facing one of the deadliest strikers in the division? He took the fight to his comfort zone and schooled his opponent from bell to bell, thereby reaping the rewards.
Machida didn’t stick to his game plan. -- Without a doubt, the fighter that has the most elusive yet opportunistic style in all of MMA, seemingly backed away from what got him the belt in the first place. Machida spent way too much time in the pocket against Rua, a fierce muay thai striker. The inside striking game is the bread and butter of muay thai, and of Rua’s skill-set. Despite controlling much of the first round on the ground, it seemed obvious to me that Machida was anxious to finish the bout. I’m sure the controversial decision in their first matchup had something to do with it. Instead of seizing opportunities that came his way, as has always been his strategy, Machida tried to create opportunities that didn’t exist -- and was rewarded with a right hook to the temple for his efforts.
Dana White deserves respect. -- The president of the biggest MMA promotion in the world made two decisions over the weekend that deserves a lot of respect from the MMA community. First and foremost, he immediately kicked Paul Daley out of the UFC for his sucker-punch of Josh Koscheck at the end of their fight. Strikeforce had a more significant fight at the end of their main event a couple weeks ago with nobody receiving any sort of reprimand as of yet. The UFC knows how fragile this sport really is. Any bit of negative press will push casual fans away. This is something that Strikeforce has yet to understand.
The second decision is the termination of Kimbo Slice. I’m not necessarily happy about this decision because I’d love to see him get one more shot. But with that said, I still think White is making the right choice. Kimbo’s loss, against 1-0 Matt Mitrione, clearly demonstrated why he doesn’t belong among the elite fighters in the UFC. Normally this would be a no-brainer type of decision by the organization. The UFC consistently dumps a fighter or two after each event based on performance. The reason that this is such a big decision is because the former street fighter has proven to be a huge ratings draw for the organization. Despite the potential money to made, Dana White has put his foot down, erring on the side of fighter quality. He gave Kimbo a shot. It didn’t work out. Bye bye Kimbo.
Rua and Sonnen have Silva cornered. -- Anderson Silva, the current middleweight champion, hasn’t faced a worthy opponent in over two years. In his last bout against, Demian Maia, he was berated by the fans and UFC president, Dana White, for goofing off in the middle of his fight. Can you imagine being so bored by your opponent’s abilities that you have to entertain yourself during the fight?
Chael Sonnen and Shogun Rua are two fighters that have an approach that I think can threaten Silva’s pound-for-pound status. Stylistically, both Sonnen and Rua will walk their opponent down the cage, ignoring feints and body gestures, which seem to have gotten the better of Silva’s opponents to date. Although both fighters have very different backgrounds and are in two different weight divisions, both of them have similar tactics on initial engagement. Where Sonnen might bulldoze, Silva to the ground, Rua would run right over Silva with a barrage of knees and elbows. Whether Silva stays in the middleweight division or moves up to light heavyweight, it looks like he’ll have no choice but to face one of these two contenders ... and actually fight.