26 April 2008

UFC 83

It has been a while since I last wrote on MMA in general, and UFC specifically, on this blog. I had planned for a few months to get back into it (the writing rather than the watching; the latter has been unbroken in its regularity), but only now am I actually doing it. I may even work back to where I left off, though we'll see how this goes first. I had been a tad concerned in the past about a lack of consistency in the accepted 'best' fighters, rendering them vulnerable to internet disses.

We have seen it time and time again, from CroCop and Nogueira to Shogun and even GSP himself. Sometimes, a la the Croatian, one can reasonably assume the fighter is a bit poor nowadays. With others, the slightly different 'past his prime' (there is no doubting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a fantastic fighter; he is just not quite as quick, as lacking in concussion, as he once was). Then you get the category of fighter who has been exposed as just not that great in the first place (Heath Herring), though often observers mistake one of the former two categories for the latter.

I recently noticed Dave Walsh had written a piece on the show, and mentioned that he thought it poor. I can't say I agree with his stance (I could, but I'd be lying), so I have just decided it might be fun to do some cross-posting! I'll state at the outset that I think his perception is coloured by his love of fake fighting, and he's drawing some parallels that just do not apply. Some do, but we'll deal with his points on a case-by-case basis. I'm doing it this way partly because the Total MMA blog is locked for comments and I'd rather write this here than at their forum. Excitement!

I'll also say at the outset that I didn't read their 'live blog' because I saw the show and am not a particular fan of description/kneejerk reaction unless I hadn't seen something (such as today’s Chelsea vs. Scum match) in the first place. So Mr. Walsh surmised that the show brought up 'more questions than answers'. That's fine, but he seems to contradict himself a tad when he suggested it didn't 'set up future fights'. I'd have thought leaving questions and not answers suggests room for future development, but perhaps that's just me.

The fake-fighting tendency is actually quite visible in that 'setting up of future fights' line. I'd have thought the primary objective of a sporting event would be less to set fights up for the future than to establish which competitor is the best in a given field; Dave refers to ‘setting up fights’ as though the UFC has a say in the results of a match. I’m not saying Zuffa shouldn’t plan anything, but when a sport is as prone to upset as MMA, it becomes a bit hard to book matches that are good for bidneth or whatever. So when Walsh disses the card for existing solely to 'highlight Georges St. Pierre and use him to draw in Canada', I ask what exactly is wrong with that. It was a case of 'UFC flexing its muscle in Canada' according to his write-up, but there is surely no better place to hold such a show than St. Pierre's native Quebec.

GSP was roundly abused in his last match with Matt Serra, his opponent on this show. That threw his status of best in field into question. If nothing else, it parted him and the belt. While I'm sure nobody thought that fight meant Serra was a better fighter in the abstract, the New York fighter was nevertheless the champion. Therefore it would make sense that the man who ran through Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes in quick succession should face the champion.

Walsh referred to the rematch as a 'foregone conclusion', but then so was the first fight, before it actually happened. Perhaps Dave would rather Dana White just bestow the belt onto St. Pierre, rather than have to fight Serra for it. Dave gets sarcastic about GSP being the best in his division, and suggests that 'hopefully this will erase the doubts people have towards GSP once and for all'. It should indeed, unless he gets smashed into unconsciousness by another bloated lightweight.

Personally, while I have been a Serra fan since 2002, I was glad GSP won in such clear fashion. While he is pretty much the best in the world at 170, he was a champion without a belt, and a podgy Long Islander was lording it over him. He is now the Anderson Silva of the welters. Or at least he should be.

Speaking of Silva, there was some action in his 185lb division. There was also a Kalib Starnes fight. I wholly agree with Walsh that the Starnes-Quarry fight stunk, though don't particularly understand his exasperation with the actual fight quality. Zuffa didn't know such a crap fight would occur (though his Leben fight was a definite indication), so it was just a case of giving two of their TV stars a main card slot and those fighters (one of them, at least) wasting that opportunity. Thankfully, I have heard rumour that Starnes has been cut from the UFC, so some good has come from the card.

This show also saw the middleweight debut of Mike 'The Count' Bisping. I love Bisping: he is a crisp-striking, very aggressive and charismatic fighter who really seems to rile a lot of American MMA fans. Pretty much perfect, other than the void where his wrestling skills should be. Walsh bemoaned this fight against Charles McCarthy by joking that it was 'push[ing] him right into the heat of competition'. I have no issue with the matchmaking here. Bisping is an unknown quantity at 185, so you match him with someone decent but not amazing, so his debut at the weight is less likely to be a tragic one. He won, and in the impressive fashion he had to, Thai clinching and kneeing his opponent to brutal stoppage. From here he can hopefully step up in competition and we viewers can see where his ceiling at the weight lies. I don't see the issue here.

Speaking of a step-up in competition, the solid #2 midddleweight in the UFC was also in action. Rich Franklin has to be kept occupied, as he is a very skilled fighter with presumably some name value, and he can't just get hammered by Anderson every few months. So, in a battle of Anderson victims, the former teacher fought the disgraced Travis 'I wonder if Osama Bin Laden gets as much hate mail as me'* Lutter.

Lutter actually acquitted himself well against Silva when they fought and, though it was pretty sad (but not really) seeing a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teacher get triangle choked to stoppage, he at least did better than Franklin or Nate Marquardt did. He just happened to get very tired and useless. My thinking, going into the fight, was that Lutter could provide quite the threat to Franklin as long as he didn't fatigue. And he did provide something of a threat. And, tragically, he fatigued in a massive way.

Lutter fatigued in a way that was more embarrassing than Alberto Crane making desperate lunges at Roger Huerta's feet. Well, it was pretty much the exact same thing, only Lutter was even less potent than Crane had been when his tank ran empty. It was a waste of a fight, and Lutter is an idiot for having such poor cardio in such an important fight; especially when that very same limitation cost him so dearly in the past.

Elsewhere on the card, TUF winner Mac Danzig was made to look rather less special than he had on the show, thanks to erstwhile Frankie Edgar conquest Mark Bocek. We already knew Danzig could be made to look unimpressive, but the fact he was so troubled by Bocek fills the picture in a bit. Maybe Bocek is just better than we thought. Maybe Frankie Edgar is just that good. I'm going for the latter. So my view of the show didn't differ that much from Dave's, just where it really mattered (the main event and Bisping fight). Maybe I would be singing a different tune if I had to pay $45 to watch the show, but I didn't so licks on America.


* Yes he actually said that.

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