Sunday, March 28, 2010

UFC 111 draws varying opinions; good and bad

With much anticipation, the Ultimate Fighting Championship made its return back to the east coast Saturday night with UFC 111 @ The Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Topped with two championship co-main events, one featuring arguably the sports most popular fighter, and stacked heavy with New Jersey born and bred entries, the outlook was promising for an exciting evening of fights.

While some delivered the "knockout punch" UFC brass and its fans were hoping for, others left a bad taste regarding the sport of MMA and some of its fighters. Hard to believe, but this event drew adjectives such as overrated and boring from some of its fans to describe it and more often than not a chorus of boos were heard throughout the night. I did not subscribe to any of these, but then again I am a hardcore fan, which led me to wonder why such an overall negative response?

As I watched the fights unfold in Hi-Def at a friend's house with seven others, I started to notice an underlying tone of disenchantment with the way many of the fights were playing out. This particular fight card was top heavy with fighters who either prefer or come from a grappling background. Rousimar Palhares, Ricardo Almeida, Nate Diaz, Mark Bocek, Jim Miller, Jon Fitch, Kurt Pellegrino, Fabricio Camoes and even Georges St. Pierre are all so proficient at their wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there was no question that all of their fights were going to start and end up in a clinch.

In one case, the fight between Pellegrino and Camoes, the transitions and submission attempts were so frequent; it made for an exciting bout. However, the others were either so predominately one-sided or void of action due to the nullifying of each other's advancements that the casual fan quickly lost interest. Boos frequently rang out throughout the arena and within the crowd I was with, there were numerous expletives flying, especially at the referees for not separating and standing up the fighters.

Ironically, there were two separate cases where a fighter was being chastised for either being too aggressive in his submission attempt or not aggressive enough. Rousimar Palhares, who is known for his expertise in leg locks, made quick work of Tomasz Drwal when he caught him in a heel hook; unfortunately, his decision to let go of the hold wasn't as quick, causing obvious damage to Drwal's knee and distaste among the hardcore MMA community. So much so, he has since been handed a 90-day suspension for unsportsman like conduct.

On the other hand, Georges St. Pierre, who once again completely dominated his opponent with his superior wrestling and underrated Jiu-Jitsu skills, was actually being booed for not breaking one of Dan Hardy's limbs when he had the opportunity. On two separate occasions he had Hardy in serious trouble with a deep arm-bar (pictured above) and a nasty Kimura respectively and both times, when he could have obviously caused some serious damage because Hardy refused to tap, he inevitably let go of the hold. This did not go well with the audience in attendance at the arena and in the living room. They wanted to see a finish, regardless of the consequence.

On another note, one fight that did excite the fans was the Interim Heavyweight Championship between former champ Frank Mir and Shane Carwin. When these two behemoths entered the cage, you knew it wasn't going to last long and it didn't as Carwin unleashed a flurry of fury on Mir that left the former champ laying flat, face first on the mat. Great performance, at least I thought, but one other hardcore fan saw it differently. Instead of looking at it the way I did, he chose to describe Mir as "overrated". That's right, in reference to a two time former heavyweight champion, he used the 'O' word. His argument, who has Mir beaten?

He used the names Tim Sylvia (a former three-time champion), Wes Sims and Tank Abbott and talked about he had lost to Pe de Pano Cruz and Brandon Vera, a light heavyweight, and how he barely scraped by Dan Christianson. My response was he forgot to mention wins over Brock Lesnar (the current champion), Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo; also, as for the losses and poor performance against Christianson, those were right after his return from the motorcycle accident where he was not fully dedicated to his training.

Mind you, I am far from a Frank Mir fan as I have openly stated I think he is cocky. Yet I don't think overrated is a fair word to use in his case. Have we as fans gotten so spoiled with the rapid ascension of the sport and the UFC that it's gotten to the point where anything less than a stunning first round knockout, flashy submission or complete dominance is a letdown?

Joe Rogan, color commentator, openly shares his disappointment when the referee intervenes to separate fighters during either a stand-up clinch or tussle on the ground for dominant positioning. He tries his best to describe the intricacies that are taking place during the chess match that is going on, but he is also quick to point out that American fans are "just not used to or familiar with this type of fighting". In Japan, 70,ooo plus fans will sit quietly while this type of scenario is playing itself out, then they will applaud eloquently, as if at an opera house, when even the slightest maneuver for position is executed.

Here in the states, while the knowledge of the fans continues to grow, the overall majority is still ignorant to the game. Ignorant, meaning a lack of knowledge to fully appreciate the science and not the brutality behind fighting. It undoubtedly helps the appreciation if you have trained and found yourself in these positions once or twice before. Of course, regardless of how much time and understanding passes, you will always have those chosen few that still perceive this as a blood sport, which begs the question, are American fans blood-thirsty or just ignorant?

Some positives to be drawn from UFC 111 have to start with the heavyweights. The aforementioned new interim champ Shane Carwin is just one of the new breed of heavyweights that now dominate the division. Heavyweights that are bigger faster and more skilled than ever before. It wasn't that long ago that the division was stacked with names such as Fabiano Scherner, Cabbage Correira, Eddie Sanchez and Carmelo Marrero. Those names have since been replaced by the likes of Carwin, Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos to name but a few.

This heavyweight generation is the latest evolution in the sport. Also, the UFC has a bona fide superstar in welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. A young fighter in his prime who has clearly set himself apart in his division. He is dedicated to his craft and determined to be the best fighter he can be. Even during his complete reign over the sport, he has a drive to become the greatest pound for pound fighter that has ever lived. He is good looking, well spoken, well liked and most importantly respected by his peers, which makes for the perfect spokesman and ambassador of the sport. However, his overall dominance may ultimately be his undoing. This is just one of many varying opinions, good and bad, that have been drawn from UFC 111.

1 comment:

  1. As to whether American MMA fans are blood-thirsty or ignorant, the answer is both.


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