UFC 119 –are there worse things in the world than not being liked? Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is viewed by the politically correct as a sport far too violent for mainstream consumption. As an advocate and fan of the sport I think there are bigger threats than “Captain Social Conscience” and the recent (25/9/10) UFC 119 in event captured them both. The Snoozer:- The opening fight and the main event of UFC 119 were at best kick-boxing matches and at worst a jazzercise class without the jazz. Kick boxing is fine, but not when you’re looking for MMA. Guillard v Stephens was billed by the commentators as a potential for fight of the year. Both were impressive in recent wins but neutralised each other by “fighting not to lose” rather than fighting to win. The Mir v Filipovic main event featured the quintessential grappler v striker style match-up but delivered a rd sparring match. Deep in the 3 round with the striker not striking and the grappler not grappling a seemingly innocuous knee from the clinch (that needed a replay for the commentators to find) to Filipovic’s chin sent the aged warrior to the canvas for nap-time. Sometimes the hype is exactly that and the barn burner doesn’t materialise as with Guillard v Stephens. But basing a main event on 2 older fighters with “win some, lose some” recent records was a risk. To be fair Filipovic took the fight on 5 weeks notice (normal fight camps are 10-12 weeks) replacing an injured Rodrigo Nogueira. However, the Chris Lytle v Matt Serra re-match earlier on the card featured 2 of the most popular fighters in the UFC, was of main event quality on paper and should have been bumped up when Nog got injured. The UFC maintain they put on fights fans want to see…… hmmmmm this one, not so sure. The Screw Job Not enough people understand MMA – the critics of the sport, the fans of the meathead variety but worst of st all some judges from US State Athletic Commissions. To be fair, they are boxing judges and when they 1 put on the Athletic Commission blazer, they never expected to be cage side at a fist fight that made a mockery of the Queensbury rules. Evan Dunham is a future star of the UFC lightweight division and in the words of UFC president Dana White in the post event press conference “got f***ing screwed” in his decision loss to veteran Sean Sherk. MMA bouts are scored on striking, grappling and octagon or ring control. In black and white Sherk seemed to win the grappling with 4 take-downs and Dunham seemed to win the striking with the extra reach he used to pepper Sherk from range. Result, Sherk gets his hand raised to a chorus of boo’s from the crowd. Why? If you take-down an opponent and you wind up in a choke that could result in you submitting, it shouldn’t score as effective grappling for you, you nearly cost yourself the fight!! Sherk repeatedly took down Dunham only to end up in a guillotine choke. As Sherk won, the judges must have scored the take-down as effective grappling but not the submission attempt. For me (and the crowd on the night) a fight winning submission attempt is more effective grappling than a sloppy take-down. What also may have swung it for Sherk was perception. He opened above the left eye of Dunham early in round 1. To the untrained eye/judge the fighter is badly cut. The fight was stopped to allow the fight doctor to assess and cleared Dunham to continue. It should have counted as effective striking, true, but obviously rd weighed more on the judges scorecards than the Dunham knockdown of Sherk in the 3 round with a thunderbolt right. For Dunham his cleaner strikes were the Frank Lampard World Cup goal that never stood. On a positive note, the UFC are the match makers not the commissions and I’d imagine Dunham will not have to take a backwards step because of the loss. Wrap MMA is a thrilling sport that’s growing in popularity globally. So far the UFC is one of the few MMA organisations to get mainstream approval and remain a viable business. The critics will remain but thankfully are getting fewer. Lets hope the Snoozer and the Screw Job go the way of the critic.
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