Judges, Jackson and torn legacies
For once, the problem wasn't with the judges during a mixed martial arts event; it was with the rules they were instructed to follow.
After two rounds, Lyoto Machida performed the most significant attack in a fight against Quinton Jackson on Saturday at UFC 123 by taking him down, mounting him, attempting a submission and landing blows from on top. He had accomplished substantially more in one round than Jackson had in two. But under the rules of the game, you can't win one stanza out of three and take the fight. Machida lost a split decision.
If Jackson had burned Machida for those first 10 minutes before getting burned himself, there wouldn't have been much discussion. But because his edge was almost imperceptible -- mostly based on coming forward and grabbing one brief takedown -- the totality of the fight was weighed against him.
Fighting, like most sports, is intended to conclude who the better man (or team) is. When it doesn't -- either because of ambiguity, bureaucracy or both -- fans are left to make up their own minds. Was it a win for Jackson? Sure. Does it mean he's the better fighter? Didn't look like it. You saw much the same fight judges did. The result they offered isn't necessarily the one you have to accept.
Next for Machida: The loser of either fight.
New questions: UFC 123
Why was Parisyan on the schedule?
Parisyan, who had well-documented troubles with panic attacks in his prior UFC stint, was afforded another opportunity following only one fight in a regional show -- where he allegedly insisted on going in earlier than scheduled in order to combat his anxiety. Does that sound like a stable athlete to you?
UFC president Dana White was acting like the philanthropist he's glad to be perceived as in allowing Parisyan another chance. But one look at his sunken chest might have indicated Parisyan still had troubles, preventing him from his usual conditioning.
There's nothing wrong with second chances. But the stiff, lethargic Parisyan that was in the cage Saturday could have been hurt in a way no one would have forgotten.
Is Penn ready for what's coming?
After being in the cage celebrating longer than he was fighting, Penn intends to follow up his win Saturday with a fight against Fitch -- a massive welterweight with smothering wrestling who usually cranks on athletes at or near his size. There might be 25 pounds of difference between the two on fight night. While we continue to wait for a Georges St. Pierre/Anderson Silva catch-weight fight, the UFC doesn't have much reservation in matching Penn against significantly bigger men. (Including St. Pierre, who handled him.)
Beating Fitch might be the biggest accomplishment of Penn's career: few men have, and certainly no one as compact as Penn is. But the problem with resisting all of that weight is that it wears on you. Penn might defend a tackle for five minutes, but the next 10 are going to burn.
Is Machida's style beginning to work against him?
Machida prioritizes not getting hit above all; a good thing, especially in light of increasing concern about brain trauma affecting combat athletes later in life. But there may be no such thing as fighting without suffering: Against Jackson, Machida dropped two rounds (and the fight) by leaping out of the way and backpedaling when Jackson got too close for his comfort. If Machida can evade while attacking, he might be the most cognitively functional of all former champions. But if he can't mount an offense, no one is likely to remember him too fondly.
Is Maiquel Falcao too aggressive for the UFC?
Early fight footage of Chute Boxe fighter Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves is not flattering: Falcao had to be pulled off a downed opponent like it was personal. And against Gerald Harris on Saturday, Falcao was scolded by the referee for holding a choke at the bell in the first round. Maybe larger promotions should consider the conduct of fighters as heavily as they do their skills. A Falcao meltdown would not play well on TV.
• Dana White insists Parisyan is "done" with the UFC once again following a shaky performance against Hallman. Parisyan will get opportunities elsewhere, but the question is whether those offers should be extended without compelling evidence he's fit to fight.
• According to MMAJunkie, the Palace at Auburn Hills was filled with more than 16,000 attendees, a typically large turnout for a low-traffic UFC destination. The main event was mostly hot air, but enough happened on the undercard to retain most of them as fans.
• Penn got $80,000 in bonuses for knocking out Hughes in record time; Hughes' three previous TKO losses took at least five minutes.
• An interesting promo for December's St. Pierre/Josh Koscheck bout at UFC 124 was atypically creative for the promotion, featuring both men tearing up photos of past opponents before pinning up one another, "Rocky III"-style.
• There's resumed argument that all UFC main events should be five rounds in order to cut out confusion over scoring. So let me resume the idea that it's an awful suggestion: it means some fighters will get five rounds to work while others get three, all based on box office drawing power. Not fair. And with longer fights, you'll have fighters taking longer layoffs due to injury.
• Decision of the Night: Dana White putting down the idea of a Jackson/Machida rematch. I'd sooner pay for an industrial video on concrete pouring.