The Elephant in the Octagon: 10 UFC 129 Thoughts

Writing about MMA comes naturally to me. Writing is the love of my life and I’ve been watching the UFC since 1997. Right now, however, I picked a helluva time to write the first post here at Doc Octagon. Today, writing about MMA in the usual context is impossible. There’s an elephant in the room. He’s 6-foot-5, has a long black beard and is aided by a cane and a dialysis machine. Or I should say was. We can now give that cane and dialysis machine to someone in need who actually deserves to live.

Osama bin Laden is now dead. The global supervillian who took countless American lives and made us remember just how trivial sports truly are has been vanquished. Kudos to the U.S. troops, who are as good as Anderson Silva at what they do. They are the best P4P military in the world. Kudos to President Obama. Jon Jones winning the light heavyweight title and apprehending a purse-snatcher in the same day was legendary. Obama shutting up Donald Trump and shutting off the most-wanted man in the world in the same week seems mythical. Will Smith couldn’t even pull that off in a summer popcorn film. Kudos to the American people for putting aside their differences to come together and celebrate this milestone in our history.

May 1, 2011 was one of the more important days in American history. Let’s celebrate it today by remembering how lucky we are to be able to drop $44.95 on the sport we love every month.

Top 10 Post-UFC 129 Thoughts:

10. Nickname Breakdown

UFC 129 had some of the best monikers — The Dragon, GSP, The Natural and Scarface — and some of the worst — The Athlete, The Juggernaut and The Waterboy. MMA is in the midst of a bad nickname epidemic. Because of that, I’ve appointed myself MMA Czar of Nicknames. Expect my first nickname report tomorrow.

9. New MacDonald

Keg stands notwithstanding, most 21 year olds aren’t among the world’s best at anything. Rory MacDonald can now make that unusual claim. Saturday night, he suplexed his way onto the welterweight map. He’s probably not ready to face anybody in the top 10 just yet, but this kid could very likely become the champ at 170 someday. He has been training in all the mixed martial arts disciplines since he was young and it shows. One day he very well could become GSP 2.0 — he even has the same camp.

(By the way, the absence of Cesar Gracie really affected Jake Shields and Nate Diaz. Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz need to stick to fighting and leave the cornering to the experts.)


8. “It’s Not a Tum-ah”

I joked on Twitter Saturday that the hematoma on  Mark Hominick’s head looked like Kuato from Total Recall. Those type of injuries are more cosmetic than they are serious, typically, but dude’s face was all busted up. Both the doc and Big John McCarthy gave him an out, and Hominick insisted on finishing the fight. Not only that, he pushed Jose Aldo to the limit in that fifth and final round. Hominick lost the fight and shouldn’t get an immediate rematch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Aldo vs. Hominick II went down in the next 18 months or so.

7. Fantastic Finishes

The UFC (and Strikeforce) can make sure fights happen and routinely stack their cards to ensure that somewhere there will be fireworks. With more fights, lighter gloves and more ways to finish fights, MMA is much more capable of delivering exciting finishes than boxing. In fact, I can’t remember the last UFC card where there wasn’t a “holy sh**” finish, even if it did happen on the undercard. On this card we had a nose-crunching elbow K.O., a spinning back fist K.O., a Karate Kidesque Crane Kick K.O. and a flying triangle choke submission. Eat your heart out, Bob Arum.

6. The Machida Era is Back?

Personally, I don’t think Machida ever went anywhere. Shogun Rua caught him being overaggressive and knocked him out. As a result, Machida fought conservatively against Rampage Jackson in his next fight and lost. It seems Machida has moved past those mistakes. If Rampage hammers Matt Hammil as expected, then Machida should face Rampage at UFC Rio. The winner of that fight would get the winner of Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans. Yes, I know Phil Davis is fighting Rashad first. No, I do not think he has a chance given his current Pre-K striking level. His nickname should be changed to Mr. Wonderful Except His Stand-Up.

5. PPV Production Value

Most of the UFC’s production value is tremendous, but the gladiator intro is starting to look dated. If the UFC wants to keep it, and maybe they should, why not update the gladiator motif with bigger, better production? The UFC is a leader in sports media and production. They need to stay ahead of the curve. They can hang on to tradition while doing so.

4. The Fountain of Youth

Randy Couture looked damn good against probably the second-best light heavyweight in the world for six minutes. This despite him being old enough to be Machida’s dad. A large percentage of men need medicine to be able to get an erection at 47. This almost fiftysomething is throwing down with world-class athletes who are still in their prime. We might not see another 47 year old fighting at a top-10 level this century. Let’s celebrate that modern miracle of sport, science and will.

3. The UFC’s Growth

When I first watched the UFC, the shows were happening in tiny towns. Sumo wrestlers and one-gloved douchebags were running around the cage. This past weekend, UFC 129 was arguably the big sports story of a weekend that included the NFL Draft and NBA Playoffs. 55,000 is a helluva accomplishment for the UFC. Here’s hoping that next year’s Super Bowl card will be in Big D where 100,000 fans will show up to see Silva vs. St. Pierre.

2. Master Steven Seagal

This Steven Seagal thing has to be a Black House publicity stunt. Who cares? It’s an awesome one. Maybe the tuteledge of “Master Steven Seagal” has enhanced the arsenals of the Spider and the Dragon. There is no way, however, that he is totally responsible for these crazy front kick finishes we are seeing. He’s acting like he’s Pai Mei from Kill Bill or something. This is a washed-up action movie star teaming up with two fighters with an “English” problem. Seagal gets thrusted back into the spotlight while Machida and Silva get a little Americanization. Win-win. This is about publicity, not martial arts. Actually a bit surprised he hasn’t taken credit for what went down in Abbottabad yet.

1. Let’s Build Legends, Not Tear Them Down

Forget what Chuck Lidell, Ma and Pa Shields, “the 209″ or the UFC 129 judges will tell you. Jake Shields lost all five rounds of that fight to Georges St. Pierre. GSP has now won 35 rounds in a row. GSP also beat one of the top five welterweights in the world with only one eye for a good portion of the fight . He also was pushing for a flashy knockout with Superman punches, spinning kicks and video game-like overhand rights. It just did not materialize.

At first I was disappointed by the lack of the finish, but then I remembered something. Anderson Silva was drawing the same criticisms from MMA fans and pundits before delivering perhaps the greatest submission and knockout in UFC title fight history in back-to-back fights. Why did he deliver in those fights but not against Demian Maia? Matchmaking. I always said Joe Silva was more to blame for the Spider’s less entertaining matches, and I have the same opinion when it comes to GSP.

Honestly, Randy Couture hasn’t always been the most exciting fighter. He’s had a lot of decisions and a lot of losses. But he’s a five-time UFC champion who took on all comers and came out on top more often than not. He also is a stand-up guy, a tireless worker and an ambassador for the sport. Because of all this, we viewed him as a hero as he went out on a shield compliments of Lyoto Machida.

One day, we’ll think of GSP much the same way. Until then, let’s cut Captain Canada some slack. True, he’s been finishing fights about as much as Mary Kate Olson finishes meals, but that will change. Put him in the Octagon with Nick Diaz or Silva and there will be a finish, one way or another. Let’s also remember that Randy Couture’s longest winning streak was three wins the next time we judge GSP. GSP is probably not the best P4P fighter in the world. Who cares? Isn’t being its best welterweight and ambassador enough?

Tags: GSP Jake Shields Jose Aldo Lyoto Machida Mark Hominick Randy Couture Rory MacDonald Steven Seagal

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