Monday, April 12, 2010

thoughts on 112

UFC 112 was all about matchmaking. You've got the most like-able fighter in professional sports (Renzo Gracie) against a surly born-again wrestler that you can be pretty sure dunked people's heads in a toilet in high school (Matt Hughes). The enigmatic fistic genius (Anderson Silva) against a ground game artist with a suspect chin (Demian Meia). Hand speed and wrestling (Frankie Edgar) versus hand speed and jiu-jitsu (B.J. Penn).
On paper very damn entertaining... in real life.. mixed results.

I can't stand Kendall Grove. Something about him annoys the crap out of me. He's brash, cocky, and not nearly good enough to be that brash and cocky. but Mark Munoz drives me nuts too, for completely different reasons: He's a decent fighter, good wrestler with a suspect chin who doesn't use his wrestling. Your stand-up isn't that good, and you have a weak chin. Take guys down and pound them into next week.. this you ARE good at.

The strikes to the spine call against Rafael dos Anjos was weird. I'm a firm believer that the referee should be concerned with a fighter's health, and the fighter should be concerned with his record, but that was just silly. I'm excited to see dos Anjos climb the ladder a bit.

Hughes vs Renzo was a great Face/Heel battle in the finest Pro Wrestling tradition. I've said it before that I like Matt Hughes.. mostly because we're from the same area, his walk-out music is awesome and his 'type' is one that is eminently familiar to me: the former high school wrestling stand-out (and probable bully) turned family man.. but I'm pretty lonely in my fandom. Renzo is pretty universally liked he has a fighter's heart and soul, he's funny, and personable. One of the great positive people in the wide world. However, his fight preparation was inadequate.

First thing that happens when guys who fear each others ground game fight: it doesn't go to the ground. So it suddenly becomes a second rate kick-boxing match. Hughes saw the writing on the wall and improved his striking. He adding that vicious leg kick and a little head movement. Renzo didn't. This time around Matt Hughes second rate kick-boxing won the day.

At the top level jiu-jitsu alone doesn't work (I'm sorry to say it but it's true) you either have to have top level striking (like Anderson Silva) to force the other guy to take you down, or top level wrestling/judo to take the other guy down (Jake Shields) Half-assed takedowns and mediocre stand-up combined with out of this world jitz is just as effective as a guy with no ground game at all.

If you're a B.J. Penn fan, please read this entire thing before posting to the comments.

I told a friend on Wednesday that this was a bad match-up for B.J. Penn. If Penn's fans weren't so notorious for sniping over the internet I would have posted it here as well. The problem is that Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan refer to former high school champs like Diego Sanchez with the same language as NCAA caliber wrestlers like Rashad Evans and NCAA champion/olympic level guys like Randy Couture or Dan Henderson. Edgar is of that second tier went to NCAAs a couple times good quick takedowns that translate well to MMA.
Also he has fast hands. Penn is used to being able to let the other guy open the exchange and beat him to the punch. Edgar is too fast for that. Stylistically this is a tough fight for Penn: he can't take the other guy down, he has to worry getting taken down, and he is going to get beat to the punch on the feet.

In my opinion (which is meaningless) Frankie Edgar beat B.J. Penn. I had it 3 rounds to 2 with the 2 being very close. For better or for worse MMA judges value controlling the pace of a fight more than they value landing harder shots. Which is why a guy can fight off his back for 14 minutes and go to the club with a loss and his opponent can lay on top of him and celebrate his victory in the hospital. That is just the way it is, and smart people set their fight plan accordingly. Edgar did a great job of controlling when and how the exchanges took place, he set the pace of the fight, and scored a couple of takedowns (even though he decided not to spend any quality time on the deck.. a dangerous place to be sure) Penn has heavier hands, but without wobbling your opponent those don't score any more than a guy that throws pillows, and Edgar landed his pillows more than Penn landed power shots. If you watch the end of the fight B.J. knew that he had lost that fight. I don't think he'll admit it, but his body language showed it... None of which seems to bother his fans who are already claiming that he got "screwed" by the judges.

On to the hot mess that was Anderson Silva vs Demian Maia. Silva clearly doesn't want to fight any more. He had it all over Maia on the feet, but never went to finish him. He got clipped a couple of times by Maia and in his own words was "surprised." At that point he simply ran away the rest of the fight.

Silva has all the talent, and none of the killer instinct. He doesn't want to hit his opponent more than he wants to avoid getting hit. So he bobs and weaves and toys with his opponent until he either accidentally knocks the guy out, or gets stung once or twice and just shuts down the action. It's a matter of gameness. Silva just isn't a game guy. He doesn't want to hurt people, and he certainly doesn't want to get hurt.

The folks at sherdog make a good point Silva making fun of Maia for not engaging whole heartedly on the feet is like Maia making fun of Silva for not wanting to wade into the deep water that is the ground game with Maia.

So what to do? Well if he wants to fight GSP and can make the weight, I say go for it. If not make his move to 205 permanent.. He won't fight Machida, so there is little chance of him holding the division for ransom like he has the middleweight division. Leave him there as a gatekeeper so that you can hand select his fights. At 35 years of age you can simply let Silva spoil on the vine. It's a waste, but the guy just doesn't have a fighters heart.

That said Maia answered questions about his chin. He took some solid shots and kept coming.

This was one of the uglier UFCs in recent history.
I wish that the UFC would acknowledge when they put on a show that stinks like this one and extend the broadcast to show more of the undercard. It would help salve the pain of spending $45.


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