Monday, December 30, 2013

Post-mortem on UFC 168

Here's my longer analysis of UFC 168 other than, "Whoa, Chris Weidman is a badass."

Dustin Poirier looked great when he clobbered Diego Brandao.  I like Poirier quite a bit as a fighter, he's the kind of quirky guy that I visualize I'd be if, y'know, I was a savage killing machine.

Dan Miller pulled off a great submission against Fabricio Camoes but I can't help think that he's past his prime.  Despite Joe Rogan saying that Miller gets better after every loss, I don't think that's true.  Miller has got a good skill set, he's a tough fighter and I like watching him fight . . . but I don't see him getting to the top of the heap.  Whenever he's had that big fight that might put him into title contention, he's lost it.  Unlike Martin Kampmann, I don't think this is because he chokes, but because he fights at lightweight and it's the toughest division in the UFC.  You've got to be razor sharp to make it . . . and a little luck doesn't hurt, either.  Miller keeps coming up short against top five fighters and this performance doesn't change my opinion.

Uriah Hall played a very good counterstriking game against Chris Leben.  Hall didn't throw very much, but when he did, ouch.  I'm still not sure if Hall has the kind of toughness it takes to be a mixed martial artist.  He's clearly got the skills and oodles of physical ability, but you've got to be a really tough guy to succeed in the sport and I'm still not sure he has it.

As for Chris Leben . . . man, we love you, Chris, but you've lost four straight.  You're slow and you aren't hitting with the power you once had.  Your chin is going, too.  Your take a shot to deliver a bigger shot style only lasts as long as your chin does and it's going, if not gone.   Please, Chris, retire.  Go to your gym in Hawaii and train dudes and hang out on the beach.  It's that time.

I wasn't sure if Travis Browne was the real deal.  He is.  He's murdered Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and now Josh Barnett.  He's going to get a shot against Fabricio Werdum for a title shot against Cain Velasquez - if he beats Werdum, he richly deserves it.  Good luck, Travis.

Miesha Tate . . . you should have stuck to the gameplan.  But time and again you dove head first at Ronda Rousey.  Unsurprisingly, Rousey then dumped you on your head and tried to break your arm while punching you in the face.  Surprisingly, it took more than two rounds for Rousey to sink in that armbar.  Had you not been so intent on grappling and tried to strike from the outside, not giving Rousey nearly so many changes to break your arm . . . well, you didn't do that and you lost.  You're probably not going to get another title shot as long as Rousey is champ.

But, damn, Ronda, I've said in the past how you're a creep, but you still are.  You have no concept at all of how human beings act.  Here's a brief lesson, again.

People you train with for six weeks on a reality TV show aren't your family.  Even if they were, Tate didn't say anything bad about them.  If you were referring to her pranking you and your coach, that's humor, not a personal, hateful insult.  You're a creep and I really, really hope that Holly Holm comes into the UFC or that Sara McMann with her Olympic caliber wrestling can beat you just to wipe the smug smile off your face.

I mean, here's the thing with Rousey's dominance - she's currently a big fish in a small pond.  Rousey is the first really world class athlete to get into women's mixed martial arts (with the exception of Cris Cyborg, who is in another weight class and promotion).  You look at the credentials of a fighter like Miesha Tate, and almost all of the women in that generation of women's MMA fighters, none of them have world class athletic achievements.  So, Rousey came in from judo with world class physical prowess and is steam rolling the older school of fighters who don't have her athleticism.  

We saw the same thing with MMA, too, when guys like Mark Kerr got into MMA - he was this world class athlete and he just messed up dudes until other world class athletes came into the field.  Ronda Rousey is the Mark Kerr of women's MMA.  Kerr won his first eleven fights, dominated the UFC 14 and 15 tournaments and the early Pride FC fights.  There's a lesson here, I think.  Unless Rousey gets out of the game, soon, she could well be remembered with all the fondness of Mark Kerr, if Kerr was a giant asshole.

It's changing fast, too.  Holly Holm is in MMA, now, and before she was in MMA, she proved herself as a boxer with multiple world championships to her credit.  You can see the same thing with Sara McMann - a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics, so clearly a top notch athlete.

It is quite possible that Rousey's dominance will be contexutalized in the ongoing professionalization of women's mixed martial arts.  Or, at least, I'll provide that contextualization, with some snark because I don't like Rousey.

The best is last!  Weidman and Silva.

Weidman is a monster.  There's a growing narrative out there that Weidman got lucky, again, against Silva.  This is bullshit.  Weidman checked Silva's kicks hard enough to break Silva's leg.  This is a technique people can learn and use - it doesn't often result in a break, but it can.  Ernesto Hoost was very good at it during his stint as the greatest kickboxer in the cosmos.  It was a technique that Weidman studied because Silva's leg kicks hurt him in their first fight.  Not luck.

I mean, seriously.  Weidman has fought Silva twice, now.  Both fights went to the second round, but in both first rounds, Weidman dominated Silva.  In both fights, in the second round, Weidman conclusively finished the fight.  There was no point in either fight when Weidman was in any trouble!  Neither victory was luck.  In both cases, Weidman was the dominant fighter and in both cases he finished the fight.  He didn't "get lucky".  He won.  In both cases, he beat Silva on the ground and standing.  Face it, Chris Weidman is a beastly fighter.  He's got great timing, a lot of power, and an excellent all-around game - he's got great takedowns, submissions, ground and pound along with excellent striking.

Anderson . . . you might want to retire.  You didn't look bad against Weidman.  The guy's an animal, right?  But he shattered your leg.  You're 38 years old and now you've got a pin in your leg.  Sure, in six or nine months you'll be able to start training, again, but it will be a long time before your leg is as strong as it was before Chris broke it.  It could take years, years of your fighting on a weakened leg.  

I know a lot of professional fighters don't know when to quit and their last several fights are an increasingly miserable lot as they slip down the rankings, being decisively beaten by increasingly irrelevant fighters.  I don't think any of us want to see that.  So, please, retire.  Go join Georges St-Pierre on a beach.  Get a belly.

For my part, I'll be looking forward to being able to talk about Anderson Silva without the hype machine of the UFC going full blast all the time, too.  While Silva has a fantastic legacy regardless of what happens moving forward, I think in the future we're going to acknowledge that he beat a lot of second rate fighters - it's easy to look good when you're crushing cans and all the best dudes at your weight class refuse to fight you because of a convenient network of personal relationships . . . so guys like Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua stayed up at light heavyweight rather than fight their friend.  So, instead, Silva fought losers like Thales Leites and Patrick Cote and Travis fucking Lutter.  Yes, he beat them but let's be honest . . . it's nothing to brag about.  I look forward to this day when Silva has been reassembled as a human being in the same way guys like Fedor Emelianenko and Mike Tyson have been reassembled as human beings.

So, that's my recap.

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