UFC 163: Freak Injuries
UFC 163 was a strange event overall. Lyoto Machida lost a decision in Brazil, Thales Leites outstruck a British striker and, in the main event, neither of the fighters looked anything like they have through the rest of their careers.
There was a lot to like in the night, but equally it rarely went as expected and casual pay-per-view buyers tend not to enjoy that.
We'll look at Machida vs. Davis in my next piece, and props are due to Thales Leites, who showed the excellent jab, which seems to be working its way through the Nova Unaio team like a glorious infection.
Fight cards often carry an accidental theme—whether it be robberies, knockouts, armbars or something else, a card will be remembered in a fan's mind for one element which seemed to recur through the night.
UFC 163, as I viewed it, could not help bring to mind the simple fact that the human body is not designed for striking. As much as boxing and kickboxing have become beautiful sciences, the human skeleton just does not hold up well when bounced off of other hard objects.
In the opening televised bout, Jose Maria Tose did a fantastic job of making highly touted striker John Lineker look very average.
Through constant movement and switching of stances, Tose was able to keep Lineker off of him and avoid looking inactive in the long breaks between his own strikes, something which Dominick Cruz does masterfully.
Lineker stalked, waiting to throw his right hand in answer to the snapping kicks which Tose was throwing out with little behind them. Tose, however, caught Lieneker completely off guard with a good spinning backfist which he connected mainly with his forearm.
The wonderful thing about unorthodox techniques like the spinning backfist, is that they act as a true equalizer in a bout where one side has a clear technical advantage.
Lineker spent the remainder of the round looking awkward and plodding, not really looking anything like the dangerous striker he came in as. The bout unfortunately ended as Tose seemed to injure his standing leg on a kick and fell to the floor with Lineker following and finishing him with strikes.
One of the dangers of having such active footwork and attempting to switch stances unpredictably and kick out of both is that fighters are not always going through practiced foot movement. Every fighter can shuffle in all directions from their favored stance without thought, and the kicking footwork of someone like Tyrone Spong—who has repped out thousands out switch kicks and shuffle up-kicks—is something to behold.
The problem comes when jumping between stances and trying to play the mad man. Often a fighter can come down awkwardly or not have his weight set right to kick. Kicking from a bad position is such a dangerous habit, not just because one can be countered or bundled over, but putting all of your weight on one knee while in fast motion is a dangerous proposition at the best of times.
Being a crazy and hopping around does make conservative strikers of even the most aggressive fighters—a nice comparison is with the hunting method of the stoat—but if a fighter gets carried away, he can do more damage to himself than the opponent. Just look at Patrick Cote blowing out his knee while bouncing around on one foot in his bout with Anderson Silva.
Another fighter who was punished for his unorthodox form at UFC 163 was The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung. Jung had unarguably been losing the bout, but he was hardly battered from pillar to post. Aldo himself was reportedly fighting on a broken foot which was captured in some gnarly stills and photos from the bout.
Noticeably absent from the bout was Aldo's respected and brutal low kick. On the one occasion that Aldo did throw it, he seemed to clip Jung's knee cap and relented from the strategy for the rest of the bout. This foot swelled up throughout the bout and demonstrated amply that even experienced, conditioned kickers can injure themselves if their foot ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The more Aldo moved on his feet at the start of the second round the more uncomfortable he looked. Despite boxing well, Aldo was eventually forced to go to his wrestling. Midway through the second round, Aldo slipped a left hook and took an angle beautifully, then noticeably stumbled and failed to follow up as the Zombie moved away and reset the distance.
Aldo looked sluggish moving away from punches with his footwork, and after eating a good overhand, soon got the fight to the mat.
The third round was fought predominantly in grappling, but for the few moments at the end of the round that the two featherweights were striking, Jung actually got the better of it.
In the fourth round, Jung's own injury ended the fight for him just as he was starting to look like he could have some success.
In answer to the arcing right which Jung had connected well a couple of times in the bout, Aldo slipped and threw back his own left hook.
Unbeknownst to Aldo, the punch acted more as a shoulder crank as Jung's arm got caught between Aldo's elbow and neck.
I pointed out before the fight that Jung has some of the most self-endangering punches in MMA, winging with almost straight arms and connecting with the inside of his fist or wrist.
What is peculiar, though, is that this injury was not simply a bad connection, it was a miss and an opponent's counter missing and cranking the arm as it moved past its intended target.
Would I suggest it's a great idea to throw arcing rights like the Zombie? Probably not, but it works for him and he did hit Aldo clean with the same punch a couple of times. Unlike Tose's injury, Aldo and Jung's ailments were simply things that can happen when you are trying to hit another man as hard as you can.
That they happened in the same bout is even stranger, but then it is the unpredictability of the fight game which keeps us coming back.
Pick up Jack's eBooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking at his blog, Fights Gone By.
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