Sorry for the ugly post, guys — WordPress is acting up, so no pics and no links. The show must go on.
Last night’s UFC 123 was one of those “anything can happen” events that showcases both what is so riveting about the sport of MMA, but also so frustrating. Some notes below (and I should make clear that when I do these things, opinions are mine, and not necessarily those of Kombat or Kombat’s instructors):
George Sotiropoulos def. Joe Lauzon via submission (kimura), round two
I love watching Lauzon fight. Most people pegged him to lose, but you couldn’t tell by the way he waded in and brought the fight to Sotiropoulos. Sotiropoulos, however, was a little too slick for Lauzon on the ground, and grabbed a super-tight kimura in the second round.
Phil Davis def. Tim Boetsch via submission (kimura), round two
A good night for second round kimuras. Davis did something interesting by trapping Boetsch’s arm behind his back. After the fight, his modified kimura was named the “Mr. Wonderful.” Check out a pic of it here: (http://bit.ly/wonderfulkimura) Looks kinda painful, yeah?
Maiquel Falcao def. Gerald Harris via unanimous decision
This fight was getting a lot of boos from the crowd. Harris was very reticent, and Falcao spent the first little while slowly following him around. Eventually, Falcao found his rhythm and opened up with strikes and a rear-naked choke attempt. He won the first two rounds and in the third opted to rest on his laurels and wait for the judges. Harris did nothing to try and steal the fight except throw some half-hearted punches.
B.J. Penn def. Matt Hughes via knockout (punches) round one
“Which B.J. will show up tonight?” is always the question people ask before Penn fights. His walkout is probably the most telling of all championship-level fighters. Once I saw him onscreen, fired up and muttering to himself, I knew we had a fight on our hands. Which turned out to be only half-true. Penn started fast with a one-two. Hughes responded with a kick attempt that was caught by Penn. Penn answered with a right hand that knocked Hughes out cold. Penn followed with a couple more shots before the ref stopped in. In just 21 seconds, Penn answered all questions about whether or not his heart was still in fighting.
Here’s the thing with Penn: I totally understand why fans get frustrated with him. His level of motivation seems highly erratic. But I’m really glad that he put Hughes out in this fashion, because I don’t think he got a fair-shake from the fans after his losses to Frankie Edgar. Sure, that was two losses in a row, but they were to the same guy, and were both title bouts (i.e. Top two guys in the world fight here, sheesh). I never saw why Edgar being that slick had to equal Penn being “overrated” or “over.” MMA fans are silly sometimes and incredibly fickle. B.J. Penn is still B.J. Penn. Take that to mean whatever you want it to mean. To me it means he’s one of the best, even when he’s at his worst.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson def. Lyoto Machida via split-decision
Rampage made good on his promises here by looking like the old Pride-days Rampage. He walked Machida down for the first two rounds and threw some heavy hands, looking for the knockout. Any time they clinched and pressed against the cage, Rampage kept his weight on him and mixed up his attack-level, stomping the feet, hammer-fisting the thighs, and punching to the face on separation.
Machida worked his usual strategy of evasion and counter-strikes. The southpaw karate stylist made good use of his rear-leg kick, firing it at will to Rampage’s lead leg and torso, and a few attempts to the head as well. He also landed a mean, deep knee in the second round. The two first rounds were very close. I had round one for Rampage, round two for Machida, but really, I can’t blame anyone who gave the second to Rampage as well for his constant forward movement and cutting-off of the cage.
In the third round Machida did what his fans were waiting for — hit the counter-right and crash forward with a flurry. Rampage got tagged, covered up and backed to the cage. He answered with his own flurry, only one strike landing well, but enough to make Machida tie him up and take him down. It’s rare that we see Machida use his BJJ, so it was interesting to see him calmly work his way to mount and then attempt an arm-bar. Rampage was having none of that and tried to slam his way out of the submission, but Machida knew what was up and let go, landing on his feet. Machida got Rampage against the cage and it ended in another scramble with Machida looking for a submission. This round clearly went to Machida.
Rampage expressed his own surprise at his decision win and said he wanted to give Machida a rematch. In some ways, it feels like karma for the wrongful decision Machida won over Shogun Rua. But really, this fight could have easily been scored two rounds for Rampage, one round for Machida, by anyone. If anything, this isn’t one of those fights that speaks poorly of the judges’ decisions, but maybe of the entire scoring system of MMA. On the 10-point must system adapted to UFC from boxing, yeah, Rampage won this sporting event. In terms of this being a three-round “fight”? Machida, no question. Considering Rampage comes from Pride, where judges based their decisions on the fight as a whole, I can understand why he said what he did at the end. With all the controversial decisions we’ve seen over the last little while, I’m not sure just saying “don’t leave it in the judges’ hands” is the appropriate solution anymore. Perhaps it’s time to overhaul the system?