What a night of fights. I’ll probably have coherent and sober analysis on a night when I’m, y’know, sober- but I will say for the moment that if you were a UFC fan going into UFC 100 you were almost certainly satisfied unless you were a committed Lesnar hater or one of those “hardcores” who spits the dummy for non-BJJ groundwork, and if you were a first time buyer it’s hard to imagine that Lesnar’s murderous victory and cockheaded promo afterwards didn’t go some ways towards making you a long term fan. Throw in GSP looking once again like one of the best two fighters on earth alongside Manny Pacquiao and HENDO scoring a horrifying KO over the cocky foreign heel, and this show was almost 100% win. I believe I went 6-4 on picks for the night including the boxing, and hey- if I missed calling Mark Coleman having a gas tank for the first time since the Cretaceous era despite apparently looking like second hand death on the scales, so be it. I’ll takes what I can gets. Random thoughts:
– Right now the view from Michael Bisping’s chair is the blue screen of death. Dude got destroyamolished; I feel for him.
– I don’t recall off the top of my head ever seeing a fighter look worse after one round than Frank Mir tonight. Like he fell head-first into a wheat thresher.
– Best of luck on the indy scene to Mac Danzig, who got outpointed in apparently fairly noncompetitive fashion on the untelevised undercard, 30-27.
– And speaking of, it’s probably squeaky-bum time for Stephan Bonnar. Yeah, he’s Stephan Bonnar, but he’s lost his last two including one to Mark frigeakin’ Coleman in which he inexplicably lost the third and deciding round. He won’t be around forever, and he probably needs a win next time out in order to stop someday from being that day.
– I read Ben Miller at wrestlingobserver.com talking about how Alves was the fresher fighter at all points of his fight vs. GSP, and how he couldn’t be hurt standing and how you could have given him the fight if you just looked at post-fight conditioning. What the fuck? It’s not a beauty contest: you expend energy to win rounds, not conserve it to look pretty at the end. GSP got something like 70% of his takedowns in this one, controlled 80% of the fight, scored the only standing knockdown in the 3rd, and won every round despite tearing a muscle in the third round by his own admission. Are we really down to taking shots at him for not looking pretty enough at the end of a 5 round unanimous won-all-five-rounds decision over the consensus #1 contender, a man with no loses in the last 3 years?
– Again from Miller, on Alves: “He has to feel like if he just could’ve been more patient and kept his distance to avoid takedowns, he might have had a better chance.” And how does he get close enough to do anything with his Muay Thai, then? GSP was taking him down with counter shots all evening- catching leg kicks for single legs, following strikes up with doubles, etc. If you’re close enough to strike, you’re close enough to be taken down by those means- and if it works 70% against you AND you get outstruck in the fight, “patience” and “distance” aren’t the difference. Alves got Jon Fitch’ed in this one, except not quite as one-sidedly since GSP injured himself in the 3rd and Alves is nearly a middleweight. No shame in that: Alves is only 25, and GSP might end his career as the best ever. But what happened happened: it’s not an accident that Alves got brutally outwrestled anymore than it was when Koscheck, Fitch, Trigg, Sherk, Penn, Hughes etc. were.
– And Miller concludes by complaining about how Lesnar’s promo might have turned off fans. You know, the fans who just spent $50 to watch CAGE FIGHTING ON PAY PER VIEW, who apparently won’t buy another show because a main eventer was rude and bombastic. Which is why Floyd Mayweather never draws on pay per view, right? Crap like this is why hardcores can never run a promotion (see: Affliction, IFL, etc.)- a combination of obsession with Pure Sport and a profound historical illiteracy about what at every point in history in every fighting sport has drawn money. UFC probably doesn’t exist right now in anything like its current form without Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz’s mouths turning 3 mediocre fights from a sporting perspective into 3 goldmines on the business side. But you know, don’t let that from stopping you.
– About Lesnar’s middle fingers to the crowd: I have zero problem with that. If you go to the show and pay your money, you have the right to boo and say things short of racial, sexual or really vile personal stuff, I think. By the same token, if you avail yourself of that right, don’t get upset if the fighters (or other athletes) go back at you in kind. This is cage fighting, it’s not the opera, and you are owned nothing beyond an honest effort by the fighters. I’m going to see UFC 101 next month and there’s a decent chance I’ll boo a fighter there; but if BJ Penn or Andy Silva tells the crowd- me- to go fuck ourselves when we- I- do, fair play to them. Whining about how the fighters are classless to respond while fans are justified is ridiculous.
– And as I always say to fans about athlete outbursts of all kinds: if you want a man to train for months and months to give his all for an hour or less and have his whole existence judged by the public on the basis of that performance, you must respect and deal with the reality of the intense emotions which such a process engenders. Athletes are human; and their humanity is on display in all its fullness far more than for most people, and more intensely. As they say, there’s no lies in the ring; and I can’t ever shake the sense that fans who criticize athletes from the safety of their couches in the most strident terms with no attempt to understand the people they attack do so because they’re afraid of what similar circumstances would reveal about them.
– Giving it some real thought- God bless Mark Coleman. I wrote him off. I discounted him. Gave him no chance whatsoever, and I was completely 100% wrong. He beat a good fighter in Stephan Bonnar, and proved that his very late career comeback to the UFC was no joke. Dude was reportedly utterly dead on the scales, and yet still had gas enough to win the 3rd and deciding round. That’s deeply impressive and he deserves kudos and respect for his win tonight. I’ll be interested to see who he faces next.
– I’m listening to the post-UFC100 press conference as I type this, and someone just asked about Fedor. Lemme tell you: I still favor Fedor over Brock, but if Fedor finds something else to distract himself from UFC after Affliction 3: We’re Out of Money, he may end up old enough by the time he eventually hits UFC that he may be beatable by the younger and huger class of heavyweights now dominating the division. This is a hand he’ll have to play well: if he goes to UFC at age, say, 34, has lost a step and gets drilled by Lesnar/Carwin/Valasquez, the UFC hype machine will talk forever after about how he was an overhyped nothing who lost quickly to “real fighters in the best company in the world”, the same way as they do with Cro Cop whenever he’s on the outs with them. Not so great for a legacy, or future income.
– On the boxing side, I’m not going to lie: I was really drunk by the end of the evening, so I can’t stand behind my scorecard to the death or anything, but for my money I thought Agbeko took the fight fairly easily and that despite having picked Darchinyan. The major difference ended up being a mix of aggressiveness, handspeed and the straight right- Agbeko just punched Darch in the head over and over with that shot before Darch could get into his offense, and Vic was in face-first brawler mode and much more available for that shot than he had been in recent fights. He had his moments but often looked confused and out-paced for much of the fight, and I had a very hard time figuring out why any of the press row crew (or the official scorers) had the fight as close as they did.
– Another random MMA Junkie post:
“Gorthorg on Jul 12, 2009 at 1:50 am ET I’m sorry, I don’t know what fight you were watching, but a split decision in “Sexyama’s” favor is probably one of the most favorable judging decisions in recent history. 10/10 of us agreed that Akiyama deserved the win, but definitely not unanimously.”
Imbecilic. And this is one of the posters who’s able to form full sentences and everything. Learn the scoring system, you daffy pricks.
Probably more on these events later.
With a bit of analysis, getting these in before the show.
Brockules vs. Frank Merr
The defining feature here is the advantage a world-class wrestler has over most opponents: the ability to determine the level at which the fight proceeds. If Brock wants to stand, they stand; if Brock wants to roll, they roll. Mir can compete with Brock on either level and from nearly any position, but he can’t make Brock go where he wants him to with any degree of regularity. In a 3 round fight perhaps Mir could get Brock where he wanted him once or twice, perhaps suckering him to the ground by playing possum, Noguiera-style, or perhaps scoring a lucky takedown which Brock would not expect. Maybe that steals Mir a round. In a 5 rounder, if it goes long (which I don’t expect, but for sake of argument), while Mir might be able to win a round or threaten here and there by such means, it’s not a winning strategy as time will allow Brock’s superiority to tell. So the major question is: what does Brock want to do?
I think he wants to stand, for several reasons: I don’t believe he respects Mir’s striking as much you might expect, since he’s well aware of the difficulties Noguiera had going into his fight with Mir and in his own first fight with Mir he clobbered him quickly on the feet; Brock’s coming off of a KO victory himself; and there are reports (per Dave Meltzer, for instance) that Brock’s been working in training on what you might call the Randy Couture Fight, a lot of ugly grinding Graeco-style clinchwork and dirty boxing against the cage. That’s the strategy which almost certainly works best for Brock, and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t know it. He can force that style of fight by bull-rushing Mir, it allows him to impose a probable strength advantage, it lets him lean on Mir and wear him down while preserving his own gas tank, it minimizes the chances of getting caught in a submission, and it allows Brock to negate Mir’s advantages in the standup which are mostly quickness and greater technical fluidity. There’s no guarantees in MMA, but this is probably the approach which maximizes Brock’s chances to win and it’s also probably the one which is hardest for Mir to answer. If Brock takes Mir down, there’s a million things he can try off of his back, even if Brock’s submission defense has improved; standing outside of the clinch Mir is quicker and more varied in what he can offer and could potentially win rounds simply with movement and variety, point-striking and moving away. Brock could still win either of those styles of fights since he’s becoming smarter and more disciplined with his ground-and-pound and leaves fewer openings to be caught with a submission, and his ridiculous gorilla arms make it harder to move and stay on the outside against him than most other plodding boxers, but the Randy Couture Fight is the higher percentage play.
Prediction here is that this looks somewhat like Couture-Lesnar. Brock mauls him against the cage for a round and a half, lets the clinch go, and just wallops a tired Mir with a giant right hand as he plods back to the center of the cage. Lesnar KO2 Mir (Straight right—>GnP, TKO.)
Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves
From a purely sporting perspective this is the best fight on the card and has a real chance to be a classic. The basic dynamic is clear: Alves is the best striker in the division while GSP is simply The Best in the division, the most complete fighter in the sport today with essentially no clearly exploitable weaknesses at this point in time. Mentally he appears stronger now than ever before; his chin, while not perfect, is still very good; his cardio is inhuman and was showed off to best effect in going 5 hard against Jon Fitch and 4 in dominant fashion against BJ Penn, after which he looked as though he could have gone 10; he out-wrestles top level wrestlers, out-strikes excellent strikers, clowns jiu-jitsu world champions on the ground; and at 28 he appears to be only now entering his athletic prime which is a truly terrifying thought. Throw in that he’s out of the Greg Jackson camp and has Jackson’s gameplanning skills to call on, and it’s hard to see who beats him or how. And yet, Alves is the kind of fighter who, just for a second, gives you pause: his Muay Thai striking is not just the best in the division outside of GSP, it’s flagrantly so; he’s a preposterously huge man for the division, so much so that he’s both missed weight and been busted for an illegal diuretic at various times trying to make 171; he’s got a fantastic sprawl which makes his standup as effective as it can be; and he hasn’t lost in nearly three years, bringing all the confidence in the world into this fight. MMA is about finding ways to win, and it’s tempting to look at Alves and think- here’s a man who, if not as well-rounded as GSP, is at least his equal and probably better than him in one area and may well have the skills necessary to force the fight into that zone. Since no one out there now is going to be as great in all areas as GSP, the idea to beat him is to find someone better in one area who can make that the fight.
Only, I don’t buy it. It’s essentially the idea we heard about in the BJ Penn fight the second time around- that while GSP could take anyone down, he would find himself in trouble once he ended up in BJ Penn’s guard which was a whole different world than taking down someone like Josh Koscheck. Then GSP passed that guard and beat 5 kinds of shit out of Baby Jay. GSP does this sort of thing- he appears to be so generally great at everything that, in conjunction with excellent coaching, he has the ability to develop shockingly quickly in certain areas if he puts his mind to it in connection with a specific fight. We saw it when he trained his wrestling to out-wrestle wrestlers, than his BJJ to pass Penn’s guard. I don’t exactly expect him to out-strike Alves (though with a better jab and greater quickness I honestly don’t dismiss the possibility), I do expect that if he wants this fight to go to the ground it will go there eventually. Alves has a very good sprawl but it’s not impossible to take him down, and GSP is as good a wrestler and a better athlete than anyone else out there at 170. If Matt Hughes can get Alves down, GSP can, especially since GSP is a good enough striker to at least compete on the feet which makes his take down attempts harder to anticipate and harder to stop. He may also be the only man in the division quick enough to catch an Alves leg kick for a single leg. Of note as well is something Mike Coughlin brought up on his podcast, that Alves seems to have trouble with being forced backwards and more difficulty stopping clinch-based takedowns than shots. If that’s true, Greg Jackson will have noticed it.
Once they’re down Alves is deeply screwed as you might expect from a huge welterweight who was once tapped by Spencer Fisher. His BJJ is not in the same universe as BJ Penn’s and Penn’s availed him nothing, and the size difference matters less off his back than anywhere else. GSP is almost impossible to sweep, his ground and pound is brutal, he might be a better BJJ practitioner than Alves (so far as I can tell he’s a couple of belt ranks ahead, which may or may not mean something) and Alves tends to flop around a bit on the ground from what I’ve seen, trying many things but also leaving himself open a lot for submissions or passing attempts rather than closing down and looking to stand up or for a stand up. Most importantly this is where the cardio issue will really come out. GSP especially from top position can fight essentially forever- we know for a fact that he can go 5 hard rounds at a world class level. Alves on the bottom and taking damage for any serious length of time is a very good bet to gas, as are almost all fighters who cut the insane amount of weight he does. Once he’s gassed, he’s dead, and GSP can finish him anyway he wants to.
To win this fight Alves needs everything to go right. He has to stuff the takedowns of the best wrestler in the division, KO a guy with a very good chin who’s learned from hard experience how to survive when buzzed, and hope he can do it all before he runs out of gas and without GSP and Greg Jackson having come up with a solution for him. GSP only needs to do what he’s been doing recently- take guys down, out-wrestle them, and pound them stupid. I’ve reached the point where I refuse to bet against GSP until someone actually beats him by being better (as opposed to catching him with a flukey shot), and on this one I’m sticking with the majority and making the trendy submission pick. GSP Sub4 Alves (Gassed helplessness—>armbar).
Michael Bisping vs. HENDO
Maybe the simplest fight on the card, and one of the hardest to pick. I could write a bunch on this, but the bottom line is: what does Hollywood Hendo have left? In his prime he destroys Bisping and picks his teeth with the splinters, but for my money at least he looked more than a step slower last time out against Rich Franklin. If he’s really slowed, Bisping could just dance around him controlling range and point-striking him while Hendo lumbers after, trying to find a home for that big right hand he falls in love with. If Hendo is even 80% of what he was in his prime and decides to make this a wrestling match, he’s still much better than Bisping and could totally control the majority of the match with Randy Couture Fight against the cage and mauling Bisping from top position. Will he? Search me. Oddly, even though I’m totally rooting for Hendo in this one, my instincts say Bisping- with judging the way it is, a younger flashier guy who throws many more strikes is rarely a bad bet (see: the Matt Hamill fight). And yet…I’m going with my head and the opinions of most others on this one. Hendo’s a smart guy, he’s seen everything there is to see and he doesn’t get rattled, and if Bisping wins the first round and Hendo can’t land that right I think he reverts to wrestling mode and grinds Bisping into the cage and mat to win the last two and take the ugly decision. Hendo dec. Bisping (29-28). The only thing I’m confident on here is that this one’s going all 3 rounds.
Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago “Not Alves”
There’s officially too fucking many Thiagos in this promotion, though this fight may help sort that out.
Jon Fitch once appeared on the TV show “Mythbusters”; now he gets a chance to bust the myth that there’s more to Paulo Thiago than a lucky punch, a questionable stoppage, and Josh Koscheck’s recent habit of falling in love with his standup to excess. Thiago was losing that fight handily before he nailed Koscheck, that contest was in fact his only previous fight outside of Brazil, he’s never had to perform on a stage like this before, UFC didn’t even offer him a lasting contract before the Koscheck fight which tells you what they expected out of him, and now he’s got the world-class Jon Fitch in front of him for this fight. Mike Coughlin’s comment on this was “Fitch should run right over him”, and I’m not really coming up with any obvious reason to disagree with that- Thiago has a fine ground game but Fitch’s wrestling will likely make that a non-factor, and the odds on two consecutive lucky punches aren’t great. Fitch remains a fantastic fighter who would probably be a champion if it wasn’t for the presence of GSP; if Alves happens to get lucky on the evening, Fitch will probably get a second chance to become one anyway. Fitch Dec. Thiago (Probably 30-27)
Akiyama Yoshihiro vs. Alan “Bad Nickname” Belcher
This is one I don’t feel comfortable analyzing too much, since I’m not nearly as familiar with Akiyama as I should be. The matchmaking is interesting: the last time the UFC had a Korean-heritage middleweight from a Japanese promotion who they appeared to want to showcase Belcher also got the call as his debut opponent, and that didn’t work out so well for Denis Kang. There’s questions about whether Akiyama is damaged goods stemming from a nasty KO loss (later changed to NC) to Kazuo Misaki about a year and a half ago, and Akiyama hasn’t been in tough since then. If nothing else the Belcher fight will probably let us know whether Akiyama can answer those questions and have a meaningful career in the UFC starting at age 33. Belcher’s a sturdy, honest test.
On the hunch that the transition from Japan to the UFC is always rough and Belcher is underrated, I’ll take him. Belcher KO2 Akiyama (Knee—>ref stop, TKO). I have a suspicion Akiyama may want to put on a show and thus keep it standing, leaving himself more vulnerable to what Belcher’s best at.
Bonnar vs. Coleman: Coleman will gas during introductions and hold on with heart the way he does, then get beaten into retirement shortly thereafter. Bonnar KO2 Coleman (Heart attack—>GnP, TKO).
Miller vs. Danzig: Miller, if there’s any justice or taste in the world; I’ll say 30-27 decision. Cows and chickens are about the only fans of Danzig, who’s lost his last 2 and is 2-4 in his last 6 entering this one, being finished by Mach Sakurai and Josh Neer and losing decisions to Clays Guida and French. Ultimate Fighter or not, he’s probably getting cut if he loses this one.
O’Brien vs. Jones: Martian Manhunter takes it, a 2 rounds to 1 decision. Outworks him early, gasses late, holds on against a non-finisher.
Kim vs. Grant: Kim’s undefeated and clearly talented, but he’s also sloppy as fuck at times and facing a guy with 12 submission wins. I’ll take him despite that, but I’m not hugely confident about it. Let’s say decision 30-27.
Dollaway vs. Lawlor: Dollaway. He’s got holes, but Lawlor’s not the guy to exploit them. Let’s say he taps him, powers up his special bar and goes for his Peruvian Necktie finisher (Up, Up, Left, B button).
Grice vs. Gugerty: Grice, just outwrestles him. Decision, probably 3-0.
And finally: 1.3 million total buys for this one, the all-time non-boxing record.
Three examples of a larger point today, about injuries and outcomes:
Let’s start with Arsenal. Fans have been saying this entire season that Arsenal have been hobbled badly by injuries, and just wait until all of our hurt players come back- we’ll be a force then. An example from today at Arseblog: “…imagine this formation with Arshavin and Walcott in place of Eboue and Bendtner and with Cesc in the centre of midfield.” I don’t mean to pick on Arseblog here, this is simply the most recent example of this I’ve seen.
I don’t buy it, and never have. The premise is that Arsenal’s injury woes are somehow uncommon or unexpected, a freak occurrence which is unlikely to be repeated and thus has little predictive value for the future performance of the team. There’s two major problems with this line of reasoning. The first is that while this year’s team have had a few freak injuries which were largely unpredictable in that they happened to usually durable players (like Cesc, or Kolo’s malaria), there have also been players like Robin van Persie with very long histories of frequent injury who have been almost totally healthy all year long. The uncommon and possibly unrepeatable outcomes have been on both sides of the ledger, so it’s difficult to say that Arsenal’s luck has been exceptionally bad from the standpoint of reasonable expectations of player health.
The second major problem is the assumption that injuries are usually non-predictive events. Arsenal are, in fact, a team full of fragile players: Diaby is rarely good for more than 2 or 3 games at a stretch, Eduardo, sadly, has suffered minor issues after the majority of games in his comeback after a year away, Rosicky’s problems are well known, RVP is usually injured for substantial stretches, Gallas has suffered his share of pulls and muscle problems and such (and is now over 30), Walcott has natural issues with his shoulders which have put him out more than once for extended periods- the list here is substantial and no doubt you can add to it. In all of these cases, there’s a track record of repeated injuries of a similar character which arise from the normal conduct of play, the sort of things which a player is simply going to have to do in order to perform. A non-predictive injury would be one like Cesc’s, where there’s no history of similar injury, or one like the tackle which put Eduardo out for a year which was exceptionally vicious. When Diaby, for example, misses several weeks with a muscle strain, that’s simply to be expected based on prior performance; if that sort of thing was in fact not repeated next year, THAT would be a freak occurrence because of how far it would depart from reasonable expectations. Assuming that next year’s Arsenal will have a better track record of health than this year’s is an expression of hope, not reason.
So what, you may ask? That’s our second example. Take this article as an example of what happens when people fail to take into account the overall team-wrecking effects of having star players with major injury histories which are ignored.
(Aside: I just wiki’ed Eric Lindros, whose page as of right now has been edited to read “Eric “Biggest Waste of a Hockey Player Ever” Lindros (born 28 February 1973 in London, Ontario, Canada) is a retired professional ice hockey player.” Lol, as the kids say.)
The article attempts to defend the acquisition of Lindros on the grounds that what was traded for him ended up being no big deal, and that Lindros was ok. This is foolish analysis on the face of things, since Pavel Brendl’s eventual flameout was not known at the time, and therefore his perceived value could have been used to acquire many other players than Lindros; the trade shouldn’t be evaluated just on the basis of what each player did, but on the potential value of what each asset in the deal could have been used for at the time.
That niggle aside, the real problem with Lindros wasn’t the trade, but what Lindros did when he was with the Rangers. Wiki has the stats; you’ll note a good first year, healthy, followed by a healthy second year with a major statistical collapse, and then a third injury ravaged year before he left the team. If you’d been watching regularly (I had season tickets at the time), you’d have seen a player who was playing in a totally different fashion than he had previously in order to shield himself from further injury (Lindros had a history of concussions which ended his career, for those who don’t know), who had given up his physical style of play and was avoiding certain positions in order to minimize his risk.
The problem for the Rangers then was twofold: firstly they had ended up trading for a player who, even when healthy, was not at all the player he had been before his injuries became a constant risk, and the similarities for Arsenal fans to the situations with Eduardo, Risicky, etc. should be obvious; the second was a much more insidious cost, which is usually still not recognized. Read that article again, and focus on this sentence: “Losing puck-mover Kim Johnsson was somewhat more painful, though not the franchise-magnitude sacrifice Bondy would have you believe compared to the potential upside of Big E. “
That’s everything wrong with this mentality in one line. By the time he reached the Rangers, Lindros had suffered seven reported major concussions. SEVEN. Each concussion suffered predisposes the sufferer to a greater risk of another- was it at all reasonable to assume that a player who had suffered 7 major concussions in 8 NHL seasons was unlikely to suffer any more? But because Lindros was big and strong and had a good touch, people continued to fall in love with his “upside”- even the author of this article, 5 years after Lindros washed out of New York due to…a concussion.
Lindros was at all successful with the Rangers because he changed styles to minimize his risk, becoming less effective but more durable; this was entirely predictable based on his history, because the only other option for him was to continue to suffer debilitating injuries which were likely to be career-enders. While he was still somewhat effective, the unjustifiable assumptions (which were not his fault) that any day now he would play just like he did in Philadelphia ended up hamstringing the team for years on end, as they budgeted and made player moves around the idea that big number 88 was going to give them far more than he was physically able to do. The result was three years of failure in which the team finished 11th, 9th, and 13th in the conference, with no playoff appearances. The implications for Arsenal here should again be fairly obvious.
A final example to illustrate probability and outcomes. Take the fighting world, where these distinctions are usually clearest: at UFC 95 recently, Paulo Thiago fought Josh Koscheck. Kosckeck, a striker and wrestler who had previously fought the current champion, was a heavy favorite in that fight and considered a top-5 welterweight in the world; Thiago was considered a less experienced and less well-known UFC debutante reliant on his jiu jitsu. So of course Thiago knocked Koscheck clean out in the first round with a two punch combo.
And yet, anyone who gave the matter much thought would realize that if these two were to rematch, the smart money would all be on Koscheck. He has a far greater skill level, a stronger track record, more options in a fight; that Thiago knocked him out despite a demonstrably lesser skill level is what is colloquially called a lucky punch, but should be understood more specifically as an unlikely but possible outcome. Let’s say you could get those guys to fight 100 times under identical conditions- odds are, Thiago knocks Koscheck out, say, 8-10 times out of a 100; maybe he submits him another few times, ekes out a few decisions, etc. Kosckeck still probably wins 60-80% of those fights based on greater demonstrated ability. That doesn’t make Thiago’s victory hollow, or unimportant; it makes it an uncommon outcome which was always possible, but which it would be foolish to bet on happening more than a small fraction of the time.
An even better if less recent example would be the two Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra fights. GSP, clearly the more talented of the two, got knocked out in the first round in their initial encounter; in their second, he humbled Serra badly and destroyed him in the second round, and not once since then has there been any talk of a third meeting- for many reasons, one of the biggest of which is that UFC matchmakers and most fans instinctively understand the concept of possible but unlikely outcomes, which because they’re so infrequent, have little predictive value for the future.
To summerize: Arsenal have been badly hit by injuries this year, it’s true; but they have not been more badly hit than might have been expected given the histories of their players, and if you’re banking on them being substantially more healthy next year, you’re either assuming they’ll have substantially different personnel, or else you’re counting on a miracle.