The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

UFC 116 Thoughts

These will be jumbled.

– What a toweringly great card that was. Not a single bad fight in the bunch, several contenders for fight of the night (I liked Brock/Carwin for drama, but Leben/Akiyama could easily have taken it), no stupid refereeing controversies, no stupid judging controversies, one of the most memorable heavyweight title fights in UFC history, and the guy who came out the winner is the guy who stands the best chance to continue expanding the appeal of the sport. A total win.

– I was one Krzysztof Soszynski win away from calling all 11 fights on the card. I’ll settle for 10-1. I am a total egotist about these things, what can I say? I will also own up to being one of the assholes who thought there was no chance Brock/Carwin could end in a submission. Dunce-cap me.

– Interesting possible technical point from the Sotiropoulos/Pellegrino fight: Sotir has really developed an excellent jab, making him one of several lightweights who make far more liberal use of that punch as a damaging blow than almost anyone in a high weight class. The common thread? They’re all strong BJJ players with limited wrestling like Kenny Florian, Sotir, BJ Penn- the only exception if Frankie Edgar, and he’s not a BJJ slouch so much as he just has the wresting into the bargain. Ultimately I think it’s an evolution of the non-wrestler MMA skill set- if you’re not as worried about being taken down, or if you know you can’t do much about it if your opponent tries, you may as well make every second standing count by throwing damaging strikes. It’ll be interesting to see if strong BJJ players continue to fight more like orthodox boxers in future, and when if ever this change starts showing up in higher weight classes.

– The refereeing tonight was really excellent. No excessively quick finishes, no excessively quick point deductions, in general no tomfoolery. Most of these fights were comparatively easy to ref, but the jobs done were still exemplary.

– We learned a lot tonight about Brock Lesnar. We learned he has a hell of a chin- he got hurt, but no one else has ever survived being hurt by Carwin. We learned his recovery time after being hurt is outstanding as he came out for the second and immediately executed his gameplan. We learned he has surprisingly skilled defenses off of his back. We learned he actually does have a submissions game of the kind wrestlers often employ. We learned that he seems to have survived the diverticulitis in fine form and hasn’t lost much if any of his size or athleticism. Most importantly, I called him MMA’s Tyson in my preview and I was wrong in one major respect: Tyson never had that kind of heart. It’s a fallacy that Tyson was always prone to crumble at the first sign of resistance, but he never had the kind of willpower and resolve required to take an almighty beating early in a fight and then battle back under fire to defeat a feared challenger considered by many his equal. That is impressive, in some ways the most impressive thing a fighter can do. Brock’s been called a bully; but bullies don’t act that way, they pack up and go home when the pressure’s put on them. Lesnar is a warrior if that word means anything in this context.

– Shane Carwin really has nothing to be ashamed of here. He came thisclose to being the heavyweight champion, and if he gassed himself out in the first trying to finish Brock that was hardly unreasonable- almost no one expected this to go distance, and probably the only people in the world who thought Lesnar had a chance to recover there were the referee and Brock himself. I don’t know where Carwin goes now, though; he can always beat anyone out there with his power, but having lost a title shot it’ll be a long road back to another with UFC’s heavyweight roster so deep these days, and Carwin is not a young man. Hopefully he won’t retire- he’s the kind of guy who has gifts which may let him age well (wrestling base, massive natural power) and his fights are always exciting.

– Cain Velasquez looked, let’s say “apprehensive” when the camera was on him to build up his shot at Brock, and it’s hard to blame him. The idea behind beating Brock if you didn’t have Carwin’s fist-nukes was to take him into deep water, pressure him, make him work, discourage him, outlast him. Maybe Cain can still make that work, but goddamn if it doesn’t look a LOT harder after tonight. Velasquez absolutely can win that fight, but he’s going to have to be almost-perfect early to not get caught on a counter, force Lesnar to struggle for takedowns and expend energy, and hope that he can either get a finish late or use his vaunted cardio to win a decision by taking 3, 4 and 5 as Lesnar tires. He’ll have a massive technique advantage over Lesnar in the standup, but giving away 30+ pounds is going to be a problem.

– I’m still not a Yoshihiro Akiyama fan, but he actually impressed me a bit in defeat tonight. He still gassed out and he’s still in the wrong weight class, but he seemed to actually be able to use his judo to a degree and wasn’t nearly as physically out-matched by Leben as I’d anticipated.

– Speaking of Leben, I think I finally am starting to understand him. He may be the fighter who it’s most obvious is either having good times or bad times away from the cage. Good times, we get the guy from the last two weeks where he looks healthy and happy and active and can be a major danger to everyone at 185 who’s not Andy; when it’s bad times (and this was reported at the time) we get the guy who got choked out by Jake Rosholt. Long may the good times continue, because that mooted fight with Wanderlei Silva sounds like all kinds of fun.

– This was an amazingly pro wrestling card. From The Rock, Steve Austin, Dave Batista and Jim Ross in the audience to Seth Petruzelli using double axehandles on Ricardo Romero to the AA spinebuster finish in Branch/Harris to Brock Lesnar headlining the show to Brock and the Rock being shown hugging backstage after the fight (a brief reunion of the Summerslam 2002 main event, and yes I tragically know that off the top of my head), this was as good a piece of proof as you could find of the way MMA has really become what pro wrestling used to be.

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July 4, 2010 - Posted by | MMA

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