First off, Alistair Overeem—the man expected to bring some excitement to the heavyweight division—was knocked out by Antonio "Big Foot" Silva, a fighter generally considered to be nothing more than gatekeeper material.
Then, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans was outboxed and outworked by Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a bout that saw “Suga” look indecisive and uninspired all night long as he basically gave away his position as one of the top dogs at 205.
Of course, every gym has its ups and downs, but the Blackzilians seem to be stumbling more often than not.
Evans has lost his last two bouts, Overeem has been kicked down the rankings and is probably three to four shots away from a title bout and Vitor Belfort has lost his last two title fights.
Thiago Silva hasn’t won a meaningful bout since defeating Keith Jardine, Michael Johnson saw a three-fight win streak derailed by Myles Jury last December, Melvin Guillard has lost four of his last five bouts, Marcus Aurelio has lost his last three UFC fights and the list goes on.
The team has some fighters new to their UFC careers, but its big names are struggling on the biggest stage.
Of course, some would say this is much ado about nothing, and they might be right. None of the above-mentioned fighters are beyond mounting a comeback; they are all talented and proven competitors, and losing some bouts is expected given the level of talent in the UFC.
But there was something alarming about the performances of Overeem and Evans at UFC 156—something that hinted at a serious deficiency in their preparedness, game plans and motivation.
Overeem seemed to think that Silva was no threat to hurt him. It doesn’t matter who you are, though: Dropping your hands to your sides is never a good idea.
A fighter as experienced as Overeem should have learned that a long time ago.
Even though on paper Overeem is by far the superior striker, he never showed it against Silva; he wasn’t really aggressive, and he never played to his strengths.
In short, aside from a takedown and some ground-and-pound, Overeem never honestly tried to impose his will on Silva, leaving the door open for his opponent.
Evans, as great a fighter as he is, seemed far too content to try to win the bout one punch at a time. Most of his shots missed, and the few that did land didn’t seem to hurt Nogueira in the least.
Instead of dictating how the fight would be fought, Evans looked to be playing the role of counter-puncher, and in the process allowed himself to be outscored by Nogueira, whose weapons seemed limited to a jab and some kicks—none of which were impressive, either.
In truth, Evans lost a bout that conventional wisdom says he should have won; he’s younger, stronger, far more athletic, faster and more explosive.
In retrospect, both Overeem and Evans seemed less than highly motivated. This is shocking, considering that both men were looking at high-profile fights (a title bout for Overeem and a possible fight with Anderson Silva for Evans) were they to win.
Instead, what they gave us were the efforts of men who either didn't know how to do any better or just couldn’t find the motivation needed to attack with the energy and enthusiasm due the moment.
Given the pedigrees of both men, we know better than to lend credence to the former, and that leaves us with the latter.
And the latter left many fans out in the cold.
Everyone eventually stumbles in the fight game, and a gym is known just as much by its lesser parts as by its greater parts. As Nathaniel Hawthorne says in his book The House of the Seven Gables, “Families are always rising and falling in America.”
One of the greatest attributes of championship-level fighters is consistency; they either deliver the goods or go down swinging, because they know that in the fight game, you really are only as good as your last performance.
The sad thing is that we know Overeem and Evans are much better than their last performances.
But none of that matters the morning after.
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