Fight Scribe Bullets: (Very) Late Afterthoughts on UFC 144

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

I haven’t written any MMA posts for some time now, so let’s have a UFC 144 bullets post. After all, this blog isn’t called Pinoy Boxing Scribe, but Pinoy Fight Scribe. But I guess you’ve already figured that out by now. Duh. Anyway, on to the bullets:

– I posted this the other day in my Facebook account:

Funny how Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg were being a bit biased toward Yushin Okami for the first couple of rounds, and then Tim Boetsch knocks Okami out in the third round. Just because the fight is being staged in Japan doesn’t mean you need to kiss the Japanese fighter’s ass, dudes. Knockout of the night!

OK, now that  I watched the replay, I take back what I said about Rogan and Goldberg being a bit biased toward Okami (yes, most of the time I post stupid stuff on Facebook). I mean, both Rogan and Goldberg can and have been biased in their commentating in the past, but this wasn’t one of those fights. They were calling the fight as it unfolded, and they were correct that Okami had been dominating Boetsch in the first couple of rounds. Until Boetsch connected on some wild but vicious shots on Okami’s mug in round three, that is. I mean, anyone who gets hit flush by Boetsch’s power shots will drop like a sack of potatoes, so the outcome wasn’t really surprising.

Too bad for Okami, though, who got knocked out in front of his countrymen. He could have just hopped on his bike in the third round, considering that he already had the fight in the bag by winning the first couple of rounds handily. In boxing, MMA, and other fight sports that involve striking, power is the great equalizer, and Okami should have realized that. Doesn’t matter if you’re dominating the fight in the scorecards because one punch or kick can change everything.

Oh, and yes, Boetsch didn’t get “knockout of the night” honors. Anthony Pettis did.

– In mixed martial arts, you can’t be a one- or two-trick pony. MMA is one of the fastest-evolving sports, and fighters need to be well versed in striking, grappling, and wrestling to be able to reach the highest levels. Chuck Liddell relied more and more on his right hand (as well as his take-down defense but nothing else) in the latter stages of his career, and he paid the price for it. Same goes for Tito Ortiz who is arguably the best ground-and-pound fighter in history but who possesses no more than a working man’s ability on the stand-up and, not to mention, Royce Gracie who is one of the best ground fighters in the game but has not been able to improve on the other aspects, notably in both striking and wrestling, to be able to compete at a high level with more versatile opponents. These guys are specialists, and what I mean by specialists is that they are  more well-versed in certain aspects of the game rather than being all-around fighters.

Jake Shields is one of the best specialists in the game today. He has a great wrestling and jiu-jitsu background—he is a former NCAA Division II wrestler and has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Cesar Gracie. His weakness, though, is his striking. He doesn’t have much pop in his shots that’s why he always looks to bring the fight to the ground. In his fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama, it was apparent that Shields had a disadvantage in the striking department against  the Japanese brawler and judo master but, surprisingly, decided to fight toe-to-toe with Akiyama for most of the fight. In fact, Shields won a wide unanimous decision mostly because of his striking. I saw an improved stand-up game from Shields, and if he continues to work on his punches and kicks enough to get more power behind those shots, he might just find himself in prime position for a crack at the UFC welterweight title again.

– Cheick Kongo and Mark Hunt aren’t the best MMA heavyweights out there, but I always get a kick (pun not intended) whenever two huge guys fight each other. You just can’t afford to blink, or else you’re gonna miss a devastating and exciting knockout. I’m glad I didn’t blink because the fight was over at around the two-minute mark of the first round. Hunt has heavy hands, and Kongo should have been more wary of the Super Samoan’s fists. Instead, Kongo left his mug open and got cracked by several nasty punches. That’s all it took to plaster Kongo on the canvas. Don’t count on any of these guys to be fighting for the UFC heavyweight title soon, though.

– Quinton “Rampage” Jackson came in six pounds over the light heavyweight limit of 205 against Ryan Bader and, as a result, had to give up 20 percent of his purse. The extra weight didn’t help Jackson, though, because Bader cruised to a unanimous decision victory. Jackson looked like he was out of shape, and there are reports that he was fighting with a hurt hand. There are also some talks that Jackson took Bader lightly. That shouldn’t take anything away from Bader, though, who did what he needed to do to secure the win.  Bader has improved his game a lot, especially his defense, but it’s safe to say that he’s still a long way from a rematch against Jon “Bones” Jones who virtually destroyed him in their first fight.

– Pitbulls were originally bred to fight each other, and dogfighters measure a dog’s worth by its gameness. Gameness is a term that often refers to the eagerness of a dog to accomplish its task despite the threat of substantive injury. A game working dog will keep on working until it accomplishes its task, and a game pitbull will fight on for hours and will shrug off blood loss, dehydration, exhaustion, and even broken bones until it kills the other dog or until it dies, whichever comes first. One journalist put it best when he wrote, “Game is the dog that won’t quit fighting, the dog that’ll die in the ring, the dog that’ll fight with two broken legs.”

In the MMA world, one of the gamest fighters out there is Frankie Edgar. You knock him down, you hurt him, you break his nose—he’ll keep coming. Edgar beat B. J. Penn and Gray Maynard (both of them twice!) because he just wouldn’t quit. Edgar almost beat Ben Henderson (who put in a very good performance but was a little tentative at times, which accounted for some of the fight’s lulls in action) because he just wouldn’t quit. Edgar is a small lightweight, and his walking weight is probably just a couple of pounds over the 155 limit, but he makes up for the size disadvantage  with his speed and tenacity. I’m not a big fan of Edgar, but I’ve got tons of respect for the guy just like, I’m sure, many MMA fans out there. Edgar and Henderson both won “Fight of the Night” honors, and I hope they fight again soon. Edgar might have lost his title, but he shouldn’t be ashamed of his performance. If he decides to go down to featherweight or even down to bantamweight, he might even become a dominant force.

With Edgar’s gameness, I wouldn’t doubt that at all.

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