Category Archives: UFC 78

The Unpopular Position: Michael Bisping Was Robbed

I don’t expect anyone to agree with what I’m about to say.  I’m not even sure I agree with me, at least not a hundred percent, but something about Saturday’s decision didn’t sit well with me.  Is it because I find Michael Bisping a little more likable than Rashad Evans — whose nickname, “Sugar”, could not possibly be less fitting?  Maybe.  It could also be because I hate seeing wrestlers win decisions for doing very little besides taking people down.  I’m not sure, but just for the hell of it, here are my reasons why Bisping deserved to win that fight.

1. Simple Mathematics

I’ve gone on and on about how I don’t think the ten-point must system is working for three-round MMA fights, so I’ll spare you that lecture this time around.  But even within that system I think Bisping deserved to win.  Evans took round one fairly obviously.  He landed a couple of shots on the feet and took Bisping down, even if he didn’t do much after that.  Bisping, on my scorecard, won round two.  Round three was close, and I think it belonged to Bisping for stuffing most of Rashad’s takedown attempts and landing with greater frequency on the feet.

But the reason I think Evans won round three on two of the judges’ scorecards was because of the way the round finished.  It almost looked as if Evans was about to mount an effective offense, but that last takedown (kind of) meant nothing.  Bisping controlled the majority of the rest of the round, and what happens last in a round shouldn’t influence the judges any more than what happened one minute in.

At the very least, the third round was even, 10-10.

2. Takedowns Do Not Necessarily Equal Offense

Bisping made a point of saying that the reason he thought he won was because he negated Evans’ takedowns by getting back to his feet without sustaining damage.  When he first said that, I thought it sounded like a man trying to rationalize things to himself.  As I thought about it, however, the idea grew on me.

A takedown is, in some way, like a submission attempt.  It is a step in the direction of an effective offense.  It is not, by itself, a significant offense.  KO-inducing slams aside, fights have never been ended by takedowns.  A takedown is a way of getting your opponent into a position more favorable for you to mount an offense from.  If you take a man down and land in his guard, then do nothing to hurt him before he stands back up (note the difference between him standing up on his own and him waiting for a referee standup), why should that decide a fight?

If a fighter preferred to fight in the clinch and was successful at forcing one upon his opponents, even if he couldn’t damage them from the position, should that gain him a victory just for imposing his will?

Think about it: after the first round, what did Evans do well besides take Bisping down?  If we reward takedowns that lead to nothing, we’re essentially rewarding a stall tactic.  That’s not a strategy I want to see become widespread in MMA.

3. The Pride Edict

I’m not one of the people who believes that Pride was superior to the UFC.  Not at all.  But I will admit that I preferred their scoring criteria.  Not only was it free of the phrase “Octagon control”, but it took into account attempts made to finish the fight.  Sure, an attempt to finish a fight isn’t the same as finishing one, but it does encourage fighters to actively look for the victory rather than doing just enough and then holding on for a judges’ decision.  Under that criteria (which is not the UFC’s criteria, I know) Bisping deserved to win.  He was looking to damage Evans throughout the fight, not looking to stall his attack.

I also liked the way Pride scored the whole fight and not individual rounds.  Especially in MMA, where fights are only three rounds, the ten-point must system is deficient (damn, now I’m back on that sermon).  A fight can be drastically different in round three than it was in rounds one and two, but the ten-point must system isn’t equipped to compensate for that.  A fighter can just coast through the third if he’s confident he won the first two, and the worst that’s likely to happen is a draw, assuming the final frame is scored 10-8.

What we’re asking judges to do is tell us who won the fight, and how can they do that until the fight is over?  I realize that will shift even more focus to what happens last, but fighting should, to some extent, be about who can last the distance and not just who can do enough to win individual rounds.  To make a terrible analogy that I will later deny ever making, which part of a war would you rather win: the beginning or the ending?  There.  Glad that’s over with.

Now, having made all these arguments, I’m still not sure I really believe that Bisping should have won.  The fight was close no matter how you look at it, and judges’ decisions are always going to be maddeningly unpredictable.  I suspect that a lot of people wanted to see him lose a close decision because they felt he stole one in his last fight.  It’s kind of like what’s going on with O.J. at the moment, only Bisping isn’t at fault for what the judges did in his last fight and O.J. is, well, really at fault for a lot of stuff.

I guess what I’m really trying to get at here is what I see as a flaw in the scoring system.  MMA isn’t boxing, so why are we using boxing’s scoring system?

The answer (or, for Spike TV fans, the “manswer”) probably has a lot to do with state athletic commissions and their requirements for regulation, but sooner or later MMA is going to reach a critical mass in terms of popularity that will allow it to dictate what form it takes.  When that day comes, I hope the scoring system is one of the things they’ll take a long look at.

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Filed under Michael Bisping, MMA, Rashad Evans, Sports, UFC, UFC 78

UFC 78 Delivers Everything It Promises, Which Isn’t Much

All the promos in the world couldn’t change the fact that last night’s UFC event was essentially without a main event. Nonetheless, Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping put on a decent show with their extremely close three-round bout, and this time it was Bisping who came out on the wrong end of the judges’ decision.

As advertised, Evans relied on takedowns early and often to sway the judges in his favor. Bisping’s inability to stop him resulted in the Brit losing round one, though Evans seemed to fade after that point.

After the split decision was announced, Bisping said he felt that he won the fight and negated Evans’ takedowns by getting up from each one without sustaining damage. I have to admit that seemed like a novel — though mostly fabricated — criteria for judging fights.

Nowhere does it say that getting up from takedowns without sustaining damage negates them. In fact, nowhere does it say anything about how to score takedowns in MMA, which is part of the problem. But Bisping may have been onto something.

In rounds two and three Bisping looked like the sharper fighter on the feet, and while Rashad managed to put him down a couple of times, he never had Bisping in any danger and made very little effort to finish the fight.

I though Bisping deserved to win this decision as much as he deserved to lose the one against Matt Hamill. Maybe this is a way of the universe (or the UFC) evening things out, but Bisping proved that he does have the potential to be a top-ranked fighter down the road, if he fills out his game a little more.

The other fight the UFC tried to hype into a major contest was the Houston Alexander-Thiago Silva match. Alexander has enjoyed a big push from the UFC after his two quick KO victories, but he showed against Silva that for as intimidating and explosive as he is on the feet, he is equally helpless on the mat.

Silva had zero trouble passing his guard and moving to full mount, where Alexander’s answer was to grab Silva’s body and hold on for dear life. For those of you less familiar with the finer point of the ground game, that does not constitute an appropriate defense or escape attempt.

Alexander looked as if he’d done about fifteen minutes of jiu-jitsu in preparation for this fight, and none of it was spent learning how to deal with escaping the mount. Seems odd, considering he knew he’d be taking on Chute Boxe fighter Silva. Did he not know that Brazilians are born with a working knowledge of submissions?

Alexander’s inability to escape led to him being knocked briefly unconscious by a flurry from Silva, then knocked back into consciousness, then back out again. After the first-round stoppage, Alexander seemed angry and confused, which is understandable after that performance.

Other stuff:

– Ryo Chonan never got going against Karo Parisyan, and the heat rolled to another lackluster decision victory. This time he did it without the benefit of flashy judo throws, but a win is a win.

– Ed Herman showed Joe Doerksen just how much he’s improved since their first meeting, although his recklessness almost cost him as he got caught in a tight triangle choke just before being saved by the bell in round two. He would go on to knock Doerksen out with a left hook in the third, and could be heard on the broadcast trying to convince ring announcer Bruce Buffer to call it a KO instead of a TKO. That’s cute.

– Joe Lauzon easily defeated Jason Reinhardt, and announcer Joe Rogan couldn’t stop talking about how “sharp” he looked doing it. While I agree that Lauzon looked good, he fought a 38-year-old Octagon rookie who had no business in there with him. Other than a paycheck, I’m not sure what Lauzon really got out of that fight. The guy beat Jens Pulver, so save the tomato cans.

– Spencer Fisher looked flat-footed and uninspired against Frankie Edgar. Edgar won the decision with takedowns and ground control, and if he can add a few more weapons to his arsenal he might be a title contender someday soon. Fisher never got going at all and seemed tentative the entire time.

Overall, UFC 78 was about as mediocre as it looked on paper. I’m just surprised they didn’t do more during the broadcast to hype UFC 79, which has at least two main events. Moving on.

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Filed under Michael Bisping, MMA, Rashad Evans, Sports, UFC, UFC 78, Uncategorized

Place Your Bets: UFC 78

Ryo ChonanReaders of this blog know that one of my favorite things with any UFC event is breaking down the betting odds. Normally, I use betus.com, but not this time. Betus.com is currently offering lines on only a few of Saturday’s fights, and up until a day or two ago only offered lines on the main event. Could this be because a certain quick-witted sportswriter fleeced them on the Jason Black-Matt Grice undercard fight at the last UFC? Possibly.

I’m also off betus.com because they charge an absurdly high fee for getting your money out once you realize that they run a half-hearted operation. I mean, seriously. They can only pay me through couriered check? What is this, the Old West? Are they sending it Pony Express? Are they charging so much to make up for losses incurred from quicksand and road agents?

Long story short, now I’m using Bodog. At least they give lines on every fight, and not just UFC ones either. Still, there’s a reason Bodog owner Calvin Ayre is flying around in private jets with other people’s money in his pocket. Be warned.

Rashad Evans (-325) vs. Michael Bisping (+250)

For those of you who don’t know how these lines work, the above numbers mean that betting $325 on Evans would net you $100, while betting $100 on Bisping would get you $250. At first glance, it seems like Bisping is worth taking a chance on with these odds. He’s a well-rounded fighter, good athlete, and he has something to prove after his last fight.

But when I lost faith in Bisping was when I heard that he’s back in England training for this fight with his old buddies at the Wolf’s Lair. I’m not saying it’s not a good gym, but who do they have there who can push him the way Evans will? I sincerely hope they brought in a couple of world class wrestlers to help him prepare, because Evans is going to be looking for the takedown and the ensuing ground and pound, and if the fight goes more than three minutes he’s going to put Bisping on his back more than once or twice.

Bisping is a risk, and risks pay, but I’m not willing to put my money against Evans, who finds a way to win even if it’s less than exhilarating to watch.

Thiago Silva (+130) vs. Houston Alexander (-160)

This fight is a very winnable one for Alexander, but even if Silva plays it smart and comes out with a win, the line isn’t good enough to justify the risk. Moving on.

Ed Herman (-140) vs. Joe Doerksen (+110)

Ditto. This one might as well be even, which is an accurate reflection of how hard it is to predict. Doerksen won the first time they fought, but they were both different fighters back then. No significant gains to be had here, and it could easily go either way.

Ryo Chonan (+300) vs. Karo Parisyan (-450)

This is my choice for underdog of the night. I seem to be the only one picking Chonan, but I think he has a very good chance against “The Heat”. Parisyan tends to be aggressive, always moving forward and looking to throw people, so I could see Chonan suckering him into a submission. It’s still a big chance and Parisyan is the heavy favorite for a reason, but Chonan is tricky. Now let’s hope he doesn’t trick me out of some money.

Spencer Fisher (+105) vs. Frankie Edgar (-135)

Fisher is the underdog? Really? All right, but I have to think that this is a case of oddsmakers remembering only what happened last. Fisher is a monster when he wants to be, and he’s a more seasoned pro than Edgar. You’re not going to get rich on this one, though, either way.

Akihiro Gono (-260) vs. Tamdan McCrory (+200)

To my surprise, several of my colleagues say they like McCrory in this one. Sure, he’s tall and lanky and is billed as an up-and-comer, but how is he going to beat Gono? He won’t submit him, probably won’t KO him. His best bet is a sympathy decision if it goes all three rounds and the judges are absolutely amazed that this awkward looking kid is still alive. I think Gono will take it to him, but it’s your money to throw away. I guess your kids don’t really need to go to college.

Joe Lauzon (-450) vs. Jason Reinhardt (+300)

Don’t even think about it.

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Examining the UFC 78 Undercard

This Saturday night one of the most unanticipated UFC events will take place in one of America’s most unlivable cities: Newark, New Jersey.  We’ve all heard the arguments as to why Rashad Evans vs. Michael Bisping is pretty weak main event, but when it comes down to it we’re probably going to watch anyway.

For me, some of the most interesting bouts usually end up being the ones pushed far down on the fight card.  Sometimes the UFC will schedule a good old-fashioned mismatch, or sometimes a real dog fight to try and help them decide who to push in future events.  Often these bouts don’t make the live broadcast and we’re left to wonder whose blood is all over the mat when the pay-per-view portion of the event gets started.

UFC 78 has a couple of intriguing bouts on the undercard, and as usual I am enthralled by the phrase “may not be broadcast”.  There’s just so much damn mystery there I can hardly stand it.  Especially in two specific cases:

Jason Reinhardt (18-0) vs. Joe Lauzon (14-3)

Say you’re Jason Reinhardt.  You’re 38 years old, you’ve gone unbeaten in a bunch of small promotions against nobody who matters, and then the big show calls.  They want you to fight one of their former TUF contestants.  What’s going through your head when you accept?

My guess is it’s either a) hey, I could use three grand, b) at least I can tell my grandkids, in a couple of years, that I fought in the UFC, or c) this is the chance I’ve been waiting for.

I guess my question is, does Reinhardt think this is the beginning of his life as a big time pro fighter, or does he realize he’s being brought in because his record looks good enough on paper to justify feeding him to Lauzon?  I’m sure he’s working cheap, which might be part of his appeal, but he’s got to know that the UFC is not planning on seriously promoting him.

Maybe I’m just a sadist, but I hope they show this fight, regardless of what happens.  I want the chance to look at this guy and try and figure out what’s going through his mind.  And maybe some part of me also wants to see him win.

Akihiro Gono (27-12-7) vs. Tamdan McCrory (10-0) 

Here’s what you need to know about Tamdan McCrory: his nickname is “The Barn Cat”, the UFC website describes his strengths as “well rounded, awkwardly strong, deceiving appearance”, and then there’s his picture.  For his sake, I hope that his appearance is deceptive, because from where I’m sitting the guy looks like an autistic teenager who hates having his picture taken.

But then, the guy beat Pete Spratt, who is, at the very least, an adult.  That’s more than I would normally think the man pictured above could do.  Maybe that’s why the UFC site felt the need to do everything but say, ‘Hey, he’s not as bad as he looks.’

Then again, Gono is a serious fighter.  As long as we’re judging people on looks, he looks like you could stick him in a samurai suit and drop him on the front lines in the 15th century and he’d fit right in.

But looks aside, Gono has over four times as many fights as “The Barn Cat”.  And he fought some of the best Pride had to offer.  Is a guy like McCrory ready for that level of competition, or is the UFC trying to get this kid killed?

I can honestly say I have no idea.  The fact that this seems like such an obvious mismatch makes me think there must be something I don’t know about these two guys.  If the UFC was just trying to help Gono get over by giving him a human punching bag in his UFC debut, why wouldn’t they broadcast it?

This fight just baffles me, and I really want to see it.  If it isn’t aired, I might even pony up the $1.99 to watch it on the UFC website afterward, assuming it goes more than thirty seconds.  And assuming that McCrory doesn’t become the first MMA fighter to die in the cage.

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Bisping vs. Evans a Main Event?

Michael Bisping and Rashad Evans will square off on Nov. 17 as the main event of UFC 78 in New Jersey, the organization announced yesterday. This news made me glad that I didn’t decide to try and purchase tickets to this event, even though it’s the closest the UFC has come to New York City since I’ve lived here.

First, the event is in Newark, which is probably the worst city in America. It combines the squalor of a heavily industrialized town with the rampant crime and violence of an economically depressed one, making for one giant cesspool of unpleasantness.

Second, Bisping-Evans is not a main event. Not for a big time pay-per-view, anyway. If this were a UFC Fight Night or some other free TV broadcast, I wouldn’t complain. But if you want my $39.95 you have to give me a real main event, and some other bouts that are better than the likes of Hector Lombard vs. Karo Parysian wouldn’t hurt either.

For the purposes of this discussion, it may be helpful to determine what makes a fight a main event. Contrary to what the UFC seems to believe, it isn’t just calling it one. As far as I’m concerned, a main event has to meet at least one of three criteria:

1) A championship title is at stake

2) If no title is at stake, it should be a fight to determine number one contender status

3) It is a grudge match of some kind with special personal significance for both fighters

Granted, I’m sure I could think of some exceptions if I really tried hard enough, but I think those criteria are pretty fair. If it isn’t a title fight and it isn’t a fight to see who gets the next title fight, I have to ask why it deserves to be the headlining bout. If it’s because both guys hate each other or have something to prove against one another (a rematch maybe, if the first meeting was great) then I’m all for it.

But Bisping-Evans doesn’t meet any of those definitions. Bisping is coming off a lackluster win with his questionable decision over Matt Hamill. Evans is coming off a fairly exciting draw with Tito Ortiz. It makes sense to have both Bisping and Evans on this card, but why against each other?

This brings up a possible fourth criteria for a main event: if you can’t provide quality, settle for quantity.

I’d be perfectly fine with this card if both Bisping-Hamill II and Evans-Ortiz II were on it, perhaps as co-main events. That way, when I consider whether to spend my money on the pay-per-view (or whether to actually get out in the world on Saturday night), I’m comforted by the thought that with two potentially big rematches on the card, at least one of them will probably deliver.

What concerns me most about the UFC simply labeling Bisping-Evans as the main event (which is what they did, after they announced the match would take place) is that it seems a little lazy, as if they’re taking me and my pay-per-view cash for granted.

One of the good things about the rise of so many other MMA promotions is that the competition for viewers should bring better events. But right now the UFC knows they’re the biggest show in town, and they might be starting to feel like whatever they put out there will sell.

As much as people are complaining about the UFC 77 lineup (which I think is pretty solid), at least there’s a title fight. Maybe one of the reasons there isn’t one for UFC 78 is because the welterweight title has been languishing in reality TV land instead of being up for grabs in the open market.

I’m not saying I can’t understand this decision. Every card can’t have the fight of the decade, and that’s fine. But I’m also not saying that I’m automatically going to pay to see a fight just because the UFC tells me it’s a main event. Sorry.

I’m also not going to stick around on Spike TV and watch Manswers just because it comes on after The Ultimate Fighter, but that’s a topic for another day. A very sad day, which most likely ends with me in tears.

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Filed under Michael Bisping, MMA, Rashad Evans, Sports, UFC, UFC 78