Before I get into it, a quick recap of last night's action. Let me start by saying I've been extremely critical of Strikeforce this past year. In my mid-year report card, I graded them a 'D' and it's largely because I feel Scott Coker's, Strikeforce president, handling of business has actually been a detriment to the promotion. That said, they put on an extremely exciting and entertaining show last night.
In another situation where they were going head to head with the UFC, Strikeforce stepped up to the plate and salvaged a card that was almost ravaged by injuries. In the main event, 205 lbs. former UFC veteran and Pride champion, Dan Henderson, (26-8, 11 KO's 2 subs) showed he still has something left in the tank and some power left in that right hand. He pummeled Renato 'Babalu' Sobral (36-9, 5 KO's 18 subs) for a first round finish in under two minutes.
That seemed to be the trend of the night for Strikeforce, as the two fights previous to that one saw first round KO's as well. At welterweight (170 lbs.), hard hitting Brit Paul 'Semtex' Daley (26-9-2, 19 KO's 2 subs) needed just a little over two minutes to finish Scott 'Hands of Steel' Smith (17-8, 14 KO's 3 subs). With a series of left hooks, Daley dropped Smith face first on the mat. Up next for Daley, a potentially exciting fight with the fast hand punching KJ Noons.
Meanwhile, 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler (18-6, 15 KO's 1 sub) outdid both of those guys, as he used up all of 50 seconds to send one time UFC middleweight (185 lbs.) contender Matt 'The Law' Lindland (22-8, 8 KO's 7 subs) into possible retirement. The big question here is, why did two-time Olympic Wrestling Silver Medalist Lindland, choose to stand and trade with Lawler? The guy has 15 KO's in 18 wins; hello, is anybody home?
As for the UFC, not much to talk about or better yet, not enough time as each fight on the main card went the distance. In the headliner of the night, 'Ultimate Fighter' season 12 lightweight (155 lbs.) participants Jonathan Brookins (12-3, 2 KO's 8 subs) and Michael Johnson (8-5, 4 KO's 2 subs) did put it all on the line. Brookins came back, after losing the first round, to win a unanimous decision and a contract with the UFC.
That brings me to easily the fight of the night, yet the biggest disappointment as well. In the opening bout on the main card, the UFC's first ever in the featherweight division (145 lbs.), Leonard 'Bad Boy' Garcia (15-6-1, 3 KO's 9 subs), who came over in the WEC merger, fought fellow 'TUF' season 12 participant Nam Phan (16-8, 7 KO's 5 subs) (pictured above). As was expected when the lighter weights were brought over, this was an action packed fight.
Garcia, known for his wild style of "swinging for the fences" on every punch, is also known for split decisions, win or lose. On this night, he won, although in my opinion and apparently everyone else, he shouldn't have. While Garcia was throwing haymakers, he was like a power hitter in baseball who usually either connects or whiffs. If Garcia were a baseball player, he would've struck out swinging.
He did manage two takedowns throughout the fight, but Phan quickly got up on both and sustained no damage. Meanwhile, Phan was technical in his approach, using quick countering punches in combination and vicious left hooks to the body throughout. I even texted someone and said, "Nam Phan is the Mike McCallum of MMA, The Body Snatcher." A reference to the former 80's boxing champion.
Phan also knocked down Garcia in the second round and had his back for well over two minutes, where he punished with punches and tried to secure a rear naked choke submission to no avail. I guess all this wasn't enough in the judge's eyes. Once again, they dropped the ball as was clearly evidenced by the chorus of boos in the arena and color commentator Joe Rogan's disdain.
When explaining The UFC has no say about the judges as they are assigned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Rogan said, "this is just another example of utter and complete incompetence on behalf of the judges and it will not stop until judges are educated in the sport." He also went on to say, "this is the type of thing that can give a black eye to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts because people will start to believe MMA is corrupt."
I am in total agreement with Rogan on this topic. I've been critical of MMA judging in the past and have stated openly that the main problem is education. Not enough "MMA people" are involved in judging these fights. It's usually people experienced and licensed to judge boxing, which is only one facet of the sport. Also, scoring the ground game has not been clearly defined, thus to the novice eye, the person on top is generally construed as winning.
Until these issues get corrected, we will continue to have scenarios where bad judging supersedes KO's and decisions in exciting fights. I think Nam Phan summed it up best when Rogan asked him in the post fight interview what he was thinking upon hearing the judges decision, "I was thinking, can't an Asian brother get some love."