The unpredictable nature of mixed martial arts is part of the sport’s appeal, yet the abrupt end to UFC 171’s simmering co-main event between Tyron Woodley and Carlos Condit almost makes one wish we could occasionally exert some control over the chaos.
Few things are more frustrating in MMA than a freak injury in the middle of an absorbing fight. It leaves everyone in attendance feeling unfulfilled, including the fighters.
This lack of closure breeds a sense of uncertainty. What if the bout had continued? Would Woodley have faded down the stretch? Would he have been able to knock Condit out and emerge as the clear No. 1 contender at 170 pounds?
Would Condit have come on strong in the third, as he so often does?
How fair is it to question the legitimacy of such wins?
Those who view Woodley’s victory as decisive have argued that he induced the injury, and they may have a point. Indeed, his takedown caused Condit to land awkwardly on his right leg, which led to a torn meniscus and a potential ACL tear, according to Mike Winklejohn, who spoke to MMA Junkie.
At the post-fight press conference, Woodley claimed that his win is no different to securing a limb-snapping submission: "I think if you break someone’s arm in an armbar, if you choke them out and they don’t tap...You know, it wasn’t like it came from a pre-existing injury. It came from a double-leg takedown. I saw that he was hurt and I went for the finish."
However, the reason we feel inclined to pencil in an asterisk next to the win is because there appears to be an element of luck to winning via injury. Tearing an opponent’s meniscus off a takedown is seen as a less deliberate act than targeting a specific limb and cranking it to its breaking point.
The same logic can be applied to fights that end on cuts. Depending on the damage inflicted by a strike, our perception may shift dramatically. Understandably, we tend to emphasise the role of intent in the outcome of a fight.
While knockouts and submissions are viewed as intentional acts, we perceive cuts and injuries as incidental and orthogonal to the fighter’s primary goal.
Consider how different the reaction might have been had Condit dominated the fight up until the injury. Would we view the outcome in a similar light to Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, or would our focus instead shift to Condit’s misfortune?
I’ll let the readers determine the legitimacy of Woodley’s win and his place within the welterweight division. Cast your vote in the poll and offer your thoughts in the comment section.