What We All Learned From UFC 106
Watching UFC 106 this past Saturday was a great experience, but I feel I owe something of an after the fact apology. A combination of alcohol, a packed and rowdy bar, more alcohol, an ever expanding table of friends, a lack of food for some reason but still more alcohol resulted in my being fairly…exuberant come main event time. Or as my friend told me the next morning, in equal parts embarrassed and amused, “Dude…you were easily the loudest person at the bar last night.”
So to the patrons of Wink’s Bar and Grill…my apologies. It’s UFC. It’s Forrest. It’s John Labatt’s Blue. What to you want from me?
This UFC was unique because many of the fights, as so often is the case, were surrounded by fan questions. Ok, so that’s not that unique - but what is unique is that in many cases, those questions got definitive answers. What did the MMA fandom learn from Zuffa’a latest offering? In short - don’t believe the hype. In long, let‘s take a look at the 3 biggest fights from UFC 106:
Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin
What Happened: Griffin looked to pick Ortiz apart with jabs and kicks while Ortiz - surprise - looked for the takedown. Ortiz managed to drag Griffin to the floor a few times where - surprise - he cut him open with little to no effort. In the third round, Ortiz faded big time while Griffin poured it on. Another split decision, this time for the Ultimate Fighter 1 winner.
Lesson 1 - The more things change, the more they stay the same:
For all the time that had passed since their first meeting in April 2006, for all the injuries and off time and growth as a fighter and roller coaster rides for both fighters, this fight looked almost exactly like the first one. You rarely see a rematch where both fighters come in with essentially the exact same gameplan as they had the last time, and the fight plays out along almost the exact same lines.
If there was an improved fighter, it was Griffin. He fared much better off his back then last time, always looking for submissions and scrambling back to his feet. He even utilized a Robert Drysdale inspired sweep to gain top position on Ortiz for a period. On the feet, Griffin looked great, lighting Ortiz up with 3 and 4 hit combinations and some great kicks - though looking impressive on the feet against Tito is not that difficult, as he was once again stiff and hesitant with his stand up.
Lesson 2 - Tito Ortiz is full of shit:
For the millionth time, we were told that this fight was going to be the “return” of the “old” Tito Ortiz. Hell, that exact same line was used to sell the original Ortiz/Griffin fight back in 2006, and seemingly every Tito fight since. This time for some reason we all bought it. Hard to blame us though, really. He had been gone for 18 months, and had gotten back surgery in that time. We saw him lifting weights and training hard, and every ten seconds Tito was happy to talk about the new and improved him. Now, finally, we would see the return of the 2001 era “Huntington Beach Bad Boy”.
The “new and improved” or “old, badass” Tito Ortiz (depending on which interview of his you read) was nowhere to be found. In his place was the same guy we’ve been watching for years - good takedowns, along with stiff, uninspired standup, limited Jiu-Jitsu outside of ground ’n pound from the guard, and ever fading cardio. Tito has essentially become a one trick pony, relying on his explosive shot to win him a decision - and even that is now failing him, as Forrest (not the greatest wrestler at LHW) was able to shrug off a fair share of double legs.
Tito Ortiz has not had his hand raised in victory in over 4 years. I think it’s time for his fans and him to realize that it’s not his back, his “cracked skull”, emotional problems, lingering injuries, a feud with Dana White or anything else to blame for his lack of success. Tito Ortiz is over the hill, a one-dimensional fighter with a long history of injuries that simply cannot, at this point, evolve his game.
I said before this fight that one guy would leave no longer an elite fighter. That guy is Tito Ortiz. Make no mistake - he’s still a giant PPV star and visible face for the UFC, and he will almost certainly fight again. But “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” will never again contend for a major world title, and he needs to realize it before his ego - or his body for that matter - takes too much damage.
Josh Koscheck vs. Anthony Johnson
What Happened: Both guys came out more amped then Chuck Liddell on blow. Scramble leads to a blatant knee to a downed Kos’s head. Crowd boos. Replay shows Kos mostly blocked the knee. Crowd boos even more. Fight resumes. Koscheck eye gouges Johnson twice. Crowd is booing all the time now. Koscheck finally takes it to the ground, advances to Rumble’s back, and gets the rear naked for the tapout in the 2nd.
Lesson 1 - Josh Koscheck needs to shut up
Ok, so my description isn’t being totally fair - in the periods where they weren’t hitting each other with illegal strikes, there was some great striking exchanges. Both men landed some hard shots, and Joshson buckled Koscheck’s legs a few times. It even won “Fight of the Night” over Ortiz/Griffin, much to Tito’s displeasure. Someone get him a violin.
What’s getting headlines in this fight more then all that though is his calling out of GSP and Dan Hardy after the fight. The former wasn’t a surprise - he said he would do it if he won - but the latter certainly is. He wasn’t discreet in his criticism either. He said Hardy didn’t deserve the shot because “he’s never beaten anyone” - which must surely have hurt the feelings of Koscheck’s team mate and friend Mike Swick, who Hardy just beat to earn the next crack at GSP.
He continued down this same road at the post-fight press conference, claiming repeatedly that he was the #1 contender. The only problem is the facts don’t support this claim.
Make no mistake - Koscheck is a good fighter. With his amazing wrestling, improving standup, and excellent work ethic, he’s going to be a staple in the top 5 for a few years at least. The only problem is that unlike GSP, he has not yet effectively learned how to blend all the different styles of MMA together. He either strikes with you or wrestles with you, and his fight with Johnson showed just how obvious that gear change is in a fight. Thus his striking, while good, will never be better then Thiago Alves, and his wrestling will never be better then GSP’s - meaning the welterweight title will stay out of his hands until both of those men vacate the division.
And all speculation aside, Kos is 3-2 in his last five fights - hardly a sterling record for a #1 contender. He was picked apart with ease by Thiago Alves and totally demolished by unranked Paulo Thiago in the last year - for him to proclaim he’s the rightful #1 contender over even Dan Hardy, let alone fellow AKA team mate Jon Fitch is ludicrous. Besides, it’s not like his last fight with GSP was super competitive - he was outgunned in every area of the fight game, and I don’t see anything changing in the rematch.
Until he improves his overall MMA game and puts some consistent wins under his belt, Josh Koscheck needs to shut up.
Lesson 2 - Anthony Johnson vs. Paul Daley needs to happen
Seriously. Joe Silva. Book that shit right now. Striking fireworks guaranteed.
Rogerio Nogueria vs. Luiz Cane
What Happened: The fight begins. Nogueria completely runs over Cane’s shit. Fight over.
Lesson 1 - “Little Nog” is the real deal
Lesson 2 - The Nogueria Brothers are going to be huge
Ok, this isn’t really a lesson so much as a prediction - but I’m pretty confident in making it. Now that both brothers are established stars in their respective divisions, I see their popularity exploding. Their styles are perfect for drawing fan support - exciting, well rounded, and with more chin and heart then any other twin tag team in MMA. And let’s face it - the while fighting twins thing is just too awesome an angle for the UFC marketing machine not to exploit. Throw in the trifecta of Anderson Silva, and I see the “Black House 3” and the Nogueria brothers in particular only getting more and more popular as time goes on.
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