December To Remember (UFC’s Greatest Month)

Ladies and gentlemen, we are liiiiiiiiive!

How many times did we hear that in the month of December, the year of 2015? On the second weekend of December alone, Bruce Buffer went all out on the microphone 3 times.

Indeed, it is a December to remember.

And for that reason, I decided to start with The Big UFC Prediction Extravaganza.

That was followed by 3 summary posts for these events:

Last night saw the last UFC event of 2015 and what can I say? It ended with a bang. I am a little disappointed at the score of last night’s main event, but it will pass. The reason we are here is to look at my predictions and say a few words to summarize this run of events which delivered.

We Roll:

Randa Markos Vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Another good display from the ladies. I don’t have much to say as I don’t know these ladies well enough. I can only say that both have a chance to shine in this division. Markos showed a lot of grit and physical strength. Along with training at Tri-Star, that pretty much guarantees a good future. Kowalkiewicz showed very technical striking and conditioning. She wasn’t scared to scuffle with Markos wherever the fight went. 1 for 1.

Michael Johnson Vs. Nate Diaz

I’ll be honest with you. Whenever a Diaz brother fights I have only one hope. The hope that the opponent would shut him up already… Alas, Nate showed up with a boxing presentation that was equaled only by his taunting and head games. A typical Diaz fight. But it worked. It worked wonders. Not only did Diaz put on a clinic on a very strong opponent, he was also able to get under Johnson’s skin very quickly, throwing him off-balance and securing the win very early. You can’t deny Diaz his skills, that much is obvious. I just wish – with all my heart – that he’d grow the hell up already so I can cheer for him… Calling Conor and walking out the wrong side of the cage was on par too. 1 for 2.

Junior Dos Santos Vs. Alistair Overeem

I truly believed Junior was going to circle, jab, close in once with a good punch and finish this early. Instead it was Overeem who did the circling, softening Junior a bit with leg kicks and eventually proving Conor McGregor right. Precision beats power. That was a beautifully placed touch which marked the end of the fight. Are we really going to see Reem fight for a title in 2016? 1 for 3

Donald Cerrone Vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

Oh, my heart still aches from this one… See, when it comes to Cerrone, I’m a regular fangirl…I will never pick against one of my all time favorites. I can’t. I won’t. Even when he’s facing someone who already beat him soundly. Even when that guy is a real champion who fights like a war machine. Rafael Dos Anjos just might be the first really dominant LW champion, in a division that has seen the belt change hands more often than it used to, up until Frankie Edgar dethroned BJ Penn. We will be watching as an underrated, under-appreciated champ plows through very tough competition in awe… and Cowboy? Well, Cowboy Cerrone will always be a people’s champion. One of the most fun fighters to watch and cheer for. A personification of MMA. Skills, Heart, Drive, Entertainment. The whole damn package. 1 for 4

Well, this was a terrible predictions night, clouded by my fan-hood, but when I look past that, I have to say that Joe Silva is indeed, a matchmaker extraordinaire. 4 events, very few misses. Title changes, title defenses, new forces emerging, a lot of entertainment. What can we ask more of this? and if you managed to forget, this all came only a month following the kick that was heard around the world!

Time for some wrapping up. We’ve had 4 cards with many fights, even the prelims were loaded with main card mainstay names. I will make a few picks and they will all come from main cards. Ready? Here goes:

FIGHT OF THE MONTH:

This one goes to the UFC Middleweight title fight between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold. A fight that featured nonstop action in all aspects of MMA and ended with a new champion.

Honorable mention: Edson Barboza Vs. Tony Ferguson

KO OF THE MONTH:

You might all be picking the obvious – Conor’s 13 seconds one punch KO of Aldo, and you know what?… you’re probably right. The magnitude of this event overshadows my personal favorite – Frankie Edgar’s KO of Chad Mendes.

Honorable mention: Except for Frankie, Overeem landed a perfect punch which deserves a shout out.

SUBMISSION OF THE MONTH:

Charles Oliveira fought one fight before a main card started… so the submission of the month has to go to Tony Ferguson, with a nice D’arce choke on Edson Barboza. Not only was that executed so well, it also prevented a possible loss due to a point deducted earlier in the fight.

Honorable mention: Supersage Northcutt taking advantage of a reckless drive of his opponent to sink in a brutal guillotine.

Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Leave your comments below. Don’t be scared homie.

That’s all folks.

Before I leave you, I also wanted to share a few more external links to some interesting articles in the wake of this UFC tour de force:

Until next time, have yourself a merry little Christmas and a happy new year!

Bring It!

Hi everyone and welcome back to the dot com.

To quote Bruce Buffer, MMA announcer extraordinaire – “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!!!”

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts and as a combat sport requires the engagement of two individuals in a fight.

The fights in the UFC (and excuse me other organizations for focusing on the main one) are judged based on “mixed martial arts techniques, such as effective striking, effective grappling, control of the ring/fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense.” (Source: http://www.ufc.com/discover/sport/rules-and-regulations#14).

If you’re not a fan, this should at least sound like a pretty aggressive sport. It is.

In recent years, many fans voiced criticism toward certain fighters and fight camps for not being aggressive enough. Some might say that certain fighters avoid engagement (running, backing up) and try not to lose, rather than win. Some wouldn’t settle for a win unless the opponent was submitted or knocked out. In the end of the day, the question I keep seeing is – Is MMA more a sport? or more entertainment? Think about it. The answer may not be that trivial.

To each his own, I guess. I would like to point out a couple of things though, about aggression and engagement. Then ultimately offer my take on the Sport Vs. Entertainment question.

Aggression in a sport could mean more than one thing. In MMA, the way I see it, it means seeking contact, initiating attack and/or forcing the action on to the opponent. Be it by threat (fake), punch, kick, strike, submission attempt, improving position etc.

Engagement means something a little different. One may choose to play the counter striker in a fight, for one of many reasons. That doesn’t automatically put him as less aggressive (Think Chuck Liddell). The important part is to remain engaged and not try to avoid the fight.

Some fighters who were “under fire” and criticized for not being entertaining (read: not being aggressive enough, not trying to “finish the opponent”, running) include Welterweight champion George St. Pierre (GSP), Clay Guida, Carlos Condit, Nik Lentz and more.

MMA coach and master strategist Greg Jackson made more than a few people frustrated by directing his fighters to employ less aggressive (at times ridiculous) approaches to win fights. In many cases Jackson’s fighters got the win, but some of these came at the cost of the fighter’s popularity and the impression he left on UFC president Dana White.

In a wonderfully crafted segue, I want to bring up one thing that I believe heavily contributed to more fighters employing these tactics. Dana White notoriously follow the “Three strikes and you’re out” philosophy. Meaning that quite a few fighters found themselves cut from the UFC after three consecutive losses. Am I in support of this? Well, to some extent yes. The sport needs to stay competitive and there’s an impressive amount of talent waiting for the opportunity to break into the main stage.

The side effect is that fighters (who make their living solely on MMA fighting) do their best to avoid this fate and some end up changing their game and choosing to fight to win, rather than fight to impress. Can you blame them? I never walked in their shoes so I will definitely not judge them.

Another old argument (Which I don’t expect to end here and now) is – whose responsibility is it to make the fights as interesting and entertaining as can be?

First and foremost it’s the people who book them. I will take my hat off and say that they’ve done a pretty good job match making in order to set the stage for good fights.

Then the proverbial ball is in the fighters’ court, Here I would like to divide my answer to two categories. Title holders and non-title holders.

The criticism of George St. Pierre is partly fair. Yes, he is admittedly “fighting safe”, meaning he’s looking not only at winning, but to avoid damage. If you go back up to how the fights are judged and watch UFC fights, there should be absolutely no doubt that GSP has won each and every fight in the UFC except for his first fight with Matt Hughes and the first Matt Serra one. Why? Because he won on all categories. Yes, including that last word – “defense”.

He is a reigning champion who wants to set title defenses record and establish his status as the best Welterweight in history.  He is always aggressive, always pushing forward, never backs down from contact as a tactic. He is always the one who initiates attack on his opponents. He did not “finish” an opponent in a long while and yes, that cost him some criticism.

My problem is not with title holders. Jose Aldo, a big fan favorite has also found it difficult to finish his top contenders (excuse me Korean Zombie) such as Faber, Hominick and Edgar.

My issue is with fighters who are not yet considered title contenders. Like in every work environment, you’d expect to be promoted/move ahead/be considered a real contributor only if you make the effort to excel, In MMA and definitely in the main stage – the UFC, you have to “Bring it!”. Dana White does not give title shots to just anybody (Sonnen is the exception to the rule ;)). You have to earn the shot.

If a fighter earned a shot at the title, whose job is it to be the aggressor? I think that’s a rhetorical question. But I will answer it just the same. It is definitely up to the challenger. The champion has the belt. It is called a “title defense” for a reason. I expect every title contender to take their A game to the champ and do their absolute best to win the title. I expect the champion to do his best to keep it.

So, MMA, sport or Entertainment?

A sport exists only if the interest is there. That’s why ESPN doesn’t carry the world nose-picking competition. The extreme flip side is the WWE. It might be entertaining but it is not a sport,

My answer is that MMA is big enough to give us all what we want. We should know that some fights will be a technical competition and appreciate the skills the two brave people in the cage posses. We should know that some fights will be wild exchanges between two fighters who like to brawl. We should know that in every sport, the finals (championships) tend to be more about the tension, rather than the actual score.

I love MMA for more than one reason. I like a good “Finish”. I like a perfectly executed submission. I also like a 5 rounds fight that takes place all over the cage. As long as it’s competitive and engaging, I’m on board. If one fighter is not only backing up but avoiding engagement and shows no signs of aggression I will use that time to get more beer.

Watch UFC fight night, tomorrow, Wednesday, August 28th (Fox Sports 1) and pay close attention to the two main events.

Don’t forget UFC 164 on PPV this Saturday night (August 31st). Interesting title fight!

What’s your take on MMA Sport Vs. Entertainment? Don’t be shy, leave your comment.

Until the next time