Sunday, December 12, 2010

UFC 124 Round Up

- St. Pierre in Another Snoozer -

GSP is afraid to take chances
   In the build up to this fight much ado was made of a supposed “fiery and passionate” Georges St. Pierre. Multiple articles on Sherdog and Yahoo Sports were written on it, and commentators like Joe Rogan and Kevin Iole even pointed out how this was allegedly the angriest St. Pierre we had seen, and it would surely translate into a monstrous performance driven by a desire to punish the trash talking Josh Koscheck.

   Well, surprise surprise, all of that turned out to be nothing more than the standard pre-event hypebole from the usual suspects of Zuffa shillery. What the fans saw during UFC 124’s main event was the lamentable sight of what was once an exciting MMA fighter that has since been gelded by Greg Jackson’s style of decision based game planning.

   Fans around the world sat with folded arms, patiently waiting for the champion Georges St. Pierre to boldly defend his title from the trash talking challenger who had disrespected his French-Canadian ethnicity during pre fight build up, but nothing significant ever materialized. Instead the fight unfolded as a twenty five minute jab-a-thon with all the urgency of a dark match on a regional card. This did not feel like a championship fight between two elite fighters. Koscheck couldn’t do anything and St. Pierre had no interest in doing anything. Even in fighting a half blinded opponent after Koscheck’s eye swelled up almost immediately, St. Pierre refused to turn up the heat. When any other fighter would have pounced on his opponent’s weakness, St. Pierre, in classic Greg Jackson style, simply stayed the course and rode out a steady as she goes decision, disappointing fans around the world in the process.

   The old Georges St. Pierre who mauled Sean Sherk, trashed Jay Heiron, and pounded Travis Galbraith is gone, replaced by a meek imposter. The once wild boar with its aggressive instinct, razor tusks, and fiery eyes has become a bloated pink bellied pig, fat and lazy off the slop of farmer Jackson. If a steady pay check is what St. Pierre wants, perhaps a nine to five desk job may be more appropriate, and a lot safer for a man seemingly terrified to take a risk in a sport that is supposed to be inherently risky.

- UFC Heavyweight Roster Proven A Joke... Again -

34 year old Internet Troll Sean McCorkle
   As if bringing in Sean Gannon based off of a youtube fight video wasn't bad enough, the UFC stooped even lower by signing internet troll Sean McCorkle, and now that he has been thoroughly spanked by Stefan Struve, a fighter who struggles against even sub-par opposition, as demonstrated in his knockout defeat to Roy Nelson, lets see if Zuffa will send him back to internet forum flaming where he belongs.

   The UFC heavyweight division is in a miserable state, and what an admission of this fact the co-main event of UFC 124 was. A clash between thirty four year old internet troll Sean McCorkle and Stefan Struve, whose notable victories are over no names like Christian Mooecraft and Chase Gormley, is what passes as a co-main event in the UFC nowadays? How absurd that these are the kinds of heavyweights that are being tailored for a title shot while simultaneously UFC president Dana White is verbally attacking rival organization Strikeforce as a “minor league promotion.” I guess a stable which includes MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, MMA and K-1 champion Alistair Overeem, and Fabricio Werdum is of lesser renown than one consisting of a hodgepodge of WWE wrestlers, untested paper tigers, aging internet trolls, and obese pro wrestling wannabes.

   By now it is abundantly clear that any heavyweight MMA fighter who wishes to prove himself great must do so by fighting competition outside of the UFC, as it is impossible to prove anything of significance against the likes of the current UFC heavyweight roster.

- Matchmaker Joe Silva Again Plays the Fool -

Joe Silva's Incompetence Sabotaged Oliveira's Career
   UFC match maker Joe Silva has once again proven himself a fool entirely incapable of properly grooming a potential star. Just as he threw the rising prospect John Hathaway to be torn apart by the crafty Mike Pyle, he again repeated this lunacy by prematurely matching a young prospect with loads of potential against a grizzled veteran fighter. Charles Oliveira in his two previous UFC fights demonstrated a unique dynamism that the majority of fighters simply don’t have, a mixture of seamless striking and grappling which is as appealing to the fans as it is effective in the cage. So what does Joe Silva do with this potential star? He matches him up against the worst possible opponent for him at this point in his career.

   Jim Miller is a top tier grappler, both offensively and defensively, with a strong wrestling base and competent striking. While Oliveira had much hype surrounding him coming in, he had not faced anyone with even close to the skill set of Jim Miller. This fight really could not have gone any other way. At this point in his career Oliveira does not have the power to knockout Jim Miller, he does not have the grappling to submit him, nor does he have the wrestling to dictate where the fight happens, so how did Joe Silva think this fight would be competitive? This is not how you treat a young prospect with potential star qualities, this is how you treat a one-and-done body brought in as a showcase opponent. So because Joe Silva is an incompetent matchmaker, Oliveira must now attempt to bounce back from being dominated by an established veteran at such a pivotal point in his young career.

- Enough of TUF -

TUF continues to ruin the sport
   Danzig’s knockout of Stevenson was an awkward back pedaling jab that seemed it would have struggled with the cracking of an egg, but it was enough to win this fight which epitomized what so many UFC fights are nowadays, a clash between two TUF alumni with names bigger than their abilities. Joe Stevenson and Mac Danzig are regional show quality fighters who get opportunities on the main card because the common fan is familiar with them, and this name recognition may help to push a few more pay-per-view sales. This is fine if you are a Zuffa big wig that gets a cut of the PPV cash, but to the MMA fan who pays to see high level fighters, its an outrage that this is what gets pushed by the self proclaimed “super bowl of MMA.”

   It raises an important question: How many times can an organization promote c-level fighters before that organization becomes a c-level promotion?

- In Summary -

Strikeforce is gunning for the UFC
   Overall, UFC 124 was yet another paint by numbers event. The majority of the UFC has become staler than week old bread. Too many events, too many TUF’ers, too much hesitation, too much decision based game planning, simply put: Just too much. It is vital at this point in time for Zuffa to scale back operations and have events only once a month, although this seems unlikely with the WEC merger, and instead fans will probably be subjected to more filler and a whole new division for TUF losers to water down.

   In order to maintain some level of relevance, Zuffa must weed out sub par TUF fighters and totally rework their abysmal heavyweight roster. If they want to bill themselves as the world’s elite MMA organization, then they had better start proving the title, and a stable full of TUF rejects is not going to cut it. The fact is that TUF has proven itself a complete failure in terms of producing high level talent, instead generating gatekeepers at best, and utter wash outs at worst.

   Strikeforce has long since surpassed the UFC in the heavyweight division, and now is making tremendous gains in other divisions as well. The passed five UFC’s combined could not match the excitement generated by Strikeforce’s latest event, and with the next UFC card scheduled to be headlined by a twenty five minute fight between perennial snoozers Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, its hard to see anything but further disappointment in the UFC’s future. The hardcore fans have long since known this, but one has to wonder what will happen when the casual fan discovers it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekend Roundup: UFC Plods as Strikeforce Shines

- The UFC -

Rock Em Sock Em is a child's game on par with Garcia's technique
   Zuffa loves to pass low level brawlers off as elite mixed martial artists, and continuously gives sub-par fighters like Leonard Garcia the spotlight to showcase their utter lack of technique. Tonight saw the poster boy for this flailing style put on a cringe inducing performance as he winged wild punches at his opponent, each one loopier than the next. In response, Nam Phan would cover up and circle, peppering Garcia with the occasional jab. Undeterred Garcia kept trudging forward looking like a windmill in fight shorts. At one point the fight became so absurd that UFC color commentator Joe Rogan opined that Garcia appeared to be throwing rocks rather than punches, his flailing style being so wild and devoid of any semblance of technique. It wouldn’t be such an egregious act if this were a rarity in Zuffa’s promotions, but more and more it is becoming the rule rather than the exception. And the truly unfortunate aspect of this, the rotten cherry atop this embarrassing display by Garcia, was that he was actually rewarded with the decision victory. This must be discouraging to fighters of actual skill, to see these school yard brawlers not only continuously brought back by Zuffa even after losing, when others like Gerald Harris and so many more have been cut immediately after a single loss, but to now have to watch these flailers routinely garner blatantly unjust decisions. Lets hope it does not drive talented fighters to windmill tactics.

   Yet another lamentable aspect of the flailing fighter is in how the common fan has been force fed by Zuffa into accepting them as exciting examples of mixed martial artists. The UFC has provided two options, if you want excitement, you must turn to flailers such as Leonard Garcia, Forrest Griffin, Chris Leben, or any number of the irrelevant no names they bring in for short stints, and if you want technique, you must look to snoozers like Georges St. Pierre, Lyoto Machida, Frankie Edgar, or any number of the lay-n-pray blankets they bring in from collegiate wrestling gyms across America.

Meet some of the UFC Windmills

   And that’s what the UFC has become, you want some sorry excuse for excitement? You get Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Phan. You want technique without fire? Here’s a couple of fighters in Demian Maia and Kendall Grove who can’t utilize their talents in an appealing or effective manner. You want some mundane mixture of the two? Grab a pillow and watch Rick Story and Johnny Hendricks. You want two irrelevant neophytes more fitted for a regional show‘s under card? Here’s Jonathan Brookins and Michael Johnson. How outrageous that this is what passes as elite level mixed martial arts in the minds of so many. On this particular UFC it was especially abhorrent how the televised card was filled with tedium as the dark matches contained two fine examples of both technique and killer instinct, with both Nick Pace and Pablo Garza finishing their opponents in dominantly exciting fashion. Ninety-nine percent of the casual fan base, however, will never see their efforts because the UFC insists on pushing the predictable brawlers. Thankfully, however, Strikeforce is providing an excellent alternative for the true MMA fan.

- Strikeforce -

   As the UFC drunks were yelling for body bags while watching human windmills, Strikeforce’s audience was privileged with an amazing night of dynamism and excitement, packaged in the wrappings of beautiful fistic technique. Paul Daley is what Leonard Garcia wishes he was. If Daley had demonstrated the skill level of a Leonard Garcia he would have embarrassed himself for fifteen minutes and been deservedly showered with boos after the final bell. But that didn't happen, and instead, Daley, with his shockingly brutal knock out of Scott Smith, showed what powerful and exciting combative ability executed in an effective manner can do. How very refreshing it is to see a talented fighter confidently using the cage as a platform to showcase the fruits of the hard work he puts in day after day in the gym. Daley trained for the fight as a knock out artist, and when given the opportunity to prove himself, he rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion.

   As devastating as Daley’s knockout victory was, it certainly has competition in how Robbie Lawler dispatched of former UFC #1 contender Matt Lindland. Lawler initially dropped Lindland with a beautifully placed counter right hand, and without a moment’s hesitation followed it up with a powerful punch to his dazed and grounded opponent, leaving him unconcious for several minutes. Not a single fighter on the UFC’s televised card even hinted at such an ability. This is yet another example of how an emphasis on technique and the focused willingness to utilize it is what produces truly memorable moments in MMA. As if the two previous knockouts weren’t enough, Strikeforce came through with an incredible main event between two relevant fighters which ended in yet another amazing knockout as former two division Pride champion Dan Henderson put to sleep former UFC #1 contender Babalu Sobral with a shattering ground and pound barrage. What better way to end an event than with three contenders for knockout of the year, and all from elite fighters, rather than irrelevant journeymen.

   It must be acknowledged that these three marvelous knockouts were all the result of focused determination and skill, and the capacity to implement them in the cage. There was no flailing. There were no loops. There were no windmills. And there was certainly no impotence in imposing one‘s will on the opponent. Only deliberately placed strikes by high caliber fighters. Perhaps Dana White should think twice next time he goes head to head with rival promotion Strikeforce, and consider making an effort to promote high level mixed martial arts of quality. What a contrast between the UFC’s offering of an awkward mixture of plodding decisions, vapid technique, and nugatory fighters, and Strikeforce’s brilliant showcase of high energy relevant fighters demonstrating technique as effective as it was explosive.