Saturday, October 12, 2013

Give your baby a standing ovation

This past week the UFC had two fights they featured on Wednesday night. One was headlining a live 'Fight Night' card in Brazil, while the other was just the next fight in the on-going 'Ultimate Fighter' television series. One featured a grappler vs. grappler match, while the other was striker vs. striker. However, the most glaring comparison was one paired two male welterweight contenders, while the other featured two females trying to make a name for themselves and their sport, women's MMA.

In the end, the battle of the sexes on the same night wasn't even close. That's no slight towards welterweight (170 lbs.) contenders Demian Maia and Jake Shields as much as it is a compliment to bantamweights (135 lbs.) Jessamyn Duke and Raquel Pennington (pictured above). As you can see by the photo, Duke and Pennington went toe to toe for three rounds, in a fight many are calling a defining moment for women's MMA. Some are even saying that this fight may end up being the equivalent to what Forrest Griffin vs. Stephen Bonner was to MMA in general in the finale of 'TUF' season one; that fight was voted as the number fight in MMA history, so you can imagine what this fight was like to be mentioned in that same breath.

It wasn't so much that they went toe to toe as much as it was that Duke and Pennington (in blue) displayed a heart and determination that is rarely seen in most fights. It's the type of heart that you only speak about when you discuss legendary battles such as Griffin/Bonner or Gatti/Ward and Barrera/Morales in boxing; it will go down as a classic!

Now some may argue that I'm only saying this because the girls were striking versus grappling, thus I'm hating against the ground game. Let me begin by saying that as a student of the game, I love submission grappling and jiu-jitsu. Second, I'll respond by saying that Nick Diaz vs. Diego Sanchez is still one of my favorite fights of all-time and that was a three round non-stop tussle back and forth on the ground. However, that had something that the Maia/Shields bout didn't; action.

When the Demian Maia/Jake Shields fight was put together, I was actually looking forward to it. Finally you were pitting two undisputed jiu-jitsu masters against one another. Ultimately though that was the problem; this was not a jiu-jitsu match. This was a mixed martial arts fight and when push came to shove, when they did grapple on the ground they neutralized each other so much, it ended up being more a positioning game than anything else. In the end it was a disappointment in my eyes, though the fight was very close.

Duke/Pennington on the other hand was a pleasant surprise where one wasn't expected. Sure they took it to each other and both refused to back down, but they did so while showing skill and technique. These weren't two girls swinging arms wildly in a schoolyard. These ladies know how to fight and they displayed it with punch combinations, knee strikes in the clinch and an arsenal of kicks.

In the end it was Pennington's hand that was raised in a very narrow decision victory, but more importantly what these ladies did for women in MMA will ultimately be the bigger picture. They showed those who doubted that women can fight, they do belong in this sport and there is talent outside Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate in his weight class. Are they at that level yet; probably not? However, on this one night these two ladies stole the show and showed the world that when it came to the battle of the sexes, it wasn't even close. Kudos ladies; as The Dells once sang, "Give your baby a standing ovation;" you girls deserve one!


  1. Great column Sam. That was an incredible fight. I hope Duke gets another shot in the UFC.

  2. Thank you Jeffrey for reading and for your commentary.


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