Ultimate Fallout: Fat Guys, Kimbo, and Controversy at The TUF 10 Finale
As has become the norm for UFC cards now apparently, this past Saturday’s “Ultimate Finale” card was marred by a near Tiger Woods-esque amount of controversy. There were also generous helpings of fan scorn, disbelief, and disinterest – many in the MMA media are already pointing to this event as further sign of the UFC’s terrible misfortunes as of late. And that was before the news broke that Dan Henderson was heading to Strikeforce. Ay Carumba.
Long story short, the last month has been a pretty much never ending series of bad news breaks for MMA’s premier brand, and it had just kept on coming. Still, fan controversy and righteous, indignant anger aside (there’s nothing MMA fans love more than being righteously indignant and angry) the event was a huge success for Zuffa in the one way Dana White cares most about: the bottom line. The event drew an overall viewership of 3.7 million, peaking at 5.2 million for the Kimbo Slice/Houston Alexander “fight”. It dominated the coveted male 18-34 demographic and came within a few thousand viewers of outdrawing the Fedor/Rogers bout, which was a headline fight on network television.
So Zuffa made some money off this event – and as the jaw droppingly poor announcement of Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell as the next coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter” shows, there’s no end in sight for the reality tv juggernaut. Still, it would be wrong to ignore the drama and controversies spun off from this Saturday’s event (I am an MMA fan after all…bring on the righteous indignation!) starting with the most severe…
Jon Jones loses match, Mazagatti loses credibility.
Before the anticipated Jones/Hamill fight, I had predicted Hamill to take the win. Nothing against Jones, who is as white-hot a prospect as you can find in the 205 lb. division right now. But I felt Hamill had the superior experience, Octagon poise, and plain old strength advantage to impose his will on Jones, control him, and pressure him to a decision.
I guess not.
From the opening bell, Jones tore into Hamill. He used effective striking to control the range before tripping the NCAA Division III national champion to the floor with surprising ease. He mounted Hamill, controlled him on the ground as no one had, and began to rain blows down onto the increasingly defenseless “Hammer”.
Here’s where things get screwy. Jones continues to land blows, while referee Steve Mazagatti hovers nearby. As his unanswered blow tally soars into the double digits and Hamill continues to flop around like a floundered salmon, Jones begins to look at Mazagatti, questioning why there isn’t a stoppage. Mazagatti, predictably, continues to do nothing. I mean, who cares about fighter safety, right? This is the referee that forced Brock Lesnar to tap “I submit now” in Morse code on Frank Mir’s leg before he decided to step in.
Jones then loses his cool, and in the heat of the moment throws two 12-6 elbows from the top position, the first of which opens a nice gash on Hamill’s nose. Mazagatti finally decides to step in, pulling Jones off Hamill and deducting a point. He asks Hamill if he could continue, gets a negative response, then calls the fight over. Jones puts on his sponsor’s hat and shirt, expecting a TKO win, only to get a DQ loss and watch his opponent, bloody and unmoving on the mat, take the win.
As you can predict, the internets exploded in a kitty fuck of both anger and support for Mazagatti’s decision(s). The support really mystifies me, as this was one of the most boneheaded calls from a man even Dana White admits “shouldn’t be a referee”, yet many fans including close friends of mine support his decision.
I can’t understand why. To my mind, Mazagatti made several incorrect decisions in a row, starting with his decision to not stop the fight long before any illegal elbows were thrown. I’ve read that Jones landed as much as twenty unanswered blows before the illegal elbows that ended the fight – surely the fight merited stopping for some time while Jones rained shots down in Hamill’s mount.
Then, he stepped in to punish Jones for landing the 12-6 elbow (which in itself is a mindless rule based on questionable assumptions – but nonetheless the rules are the rules and it was illegal) and deducted a point. He then asked Hamill if he wished to continue. Hamill, unknown to anyone else at this point, had suffered a dislocated shoulder during the Jones takedown and could no longer defend himself (I’m guessing he wanted Mazagatti to step in long before he did, as well). When Steve asked him if he wished to continue, he said no because of this, not because of the blood in his eyes. Next thing you know, Mazagatti is declaring Hamill the winner of the fight.
Am I missing something? First off, why was this not called a “No Contest”? Even if the elbows directly caused the ending of the fight (which was Mazagatti’s claim and which the statements from Hamill clearly disprove) a DQ win usually implies that the illegal blows cost a fighter the match. That he “would have won” if not for his opponent hitting that illegal move. In a case like this, where (let’s be honest) the illegal elbow had exactly 0 impact on the course or momentum of the fight, a “No Contest” is what is rightly and justly deserved.
This kind of behavior from a senior official of our sport is borderline unacceptable. In this rare instance, I’m with Brock – Mazagatti is a fucking dick.
Houston, We Have a Problem.
Nothing, I suspect (aside from movies based on 80’s TV Shows) gives Dana White as much of a headache as fights not living up to expectations. God knows he and his UFC marketing machine go to extreme depth of hyperbole in order to get fans to fork over their hard earned money and rivet their ADD-esque attention spans. On this season of TUF, Dana White’s secret weapon in either department has been a certain Miami street brawler.
Kimbo’s only regular season match-up against Roy Nelson is the most watched fight in UFC history, shattering previous record for the promotion and for the Ultimate Fighter. The constant teasong of his return (ultimately false) kept fans going the whole season long. Come the finale, Dana was once again looking for Kimbo to deliver the goods. He was paired up with Houston Alexander, a fighter with “I have no ground game” practically tattooed across his chest, ensuring a stand-up war. Whether he killed or was killed, Dana was banking on a good old behind the Burger King parking-lot worthy brawl to anchor the evening.
Well, as I discussed above, Kimbo delivered the numbers. He just didn’t deliver the fight.
He tried, I guess. But both men were hesitant to pull the trigger, and a largely boring, amateur hour fight played out. For a whole first round, Alexander circled Kimbo, refusing to engage, which earned the hatred of the crowd. In the second round, Kimbo got some great throws that managed to wake up the part of the crowd that wasn’t booing. In the third, it was back to the staring contest, with the added bonus of near complete exhaustion on the part of both men – the ending of the fight itself was one of the greatest moments of unintentional comedy I’ve seen this year. Kimbo gets the nod as the crowd boos, boos, boos.
Yes folks, it really was that bad. I mean the FightMetric numbers say it all – the two men threw only 23 COMBINED strikes in the first round. That’s not exactly the Frye/Takayama bloodbath that Dana White was hoping for. Ok, so Kimbo showed some slight improvement in the ground game with those takedowns and a handful of submission attempts. But it’s not hard to look good on the ground against Houston Alexander, who has been utterly obliterated on the ground every time he’s gone there. Eric “Red” Schafer finished Alexander on the ground effortlessly – so I think it’s a little early to say Slice has a complete game now.
The real problem is what to do with either man. Ok, not really with "The Assassin", who will probably see his contract with the organization “assassinated”. But man, what do you do with Slice? He’s a big name, commanding big attention (and money), and thus must be placed in fights that justify his level of exposure (he is, after all, the most watched fighter in MMA history, which itself says everything about the MMA fan). But he’s also somewhat old, very slow to pick up new skills, and has some massive holes in his game. Against almost any of the top 10 at Heavyweight, those holes will be exploited in quick fashion. He's a big, strong guy that does some stuff well, but he doesn't have the time or the mileage left on his body to ever put together a serious run at the title. Fedor's been knocking out guys lik this for years. "Freak" fight appeal is really all Kimbo has left - which is just fine for Kimbo, but it still leaves a big question mark for his next opponent.
For me, the only fight that makes sense for Kimbo – either at heavyweight or at the 215 lb. catchweight – is a rematch with Seth Petruzelli. Think about it for a minute – there is a built in storyline for this match, as everyone saw Kimbo’s dramatic loss the last time. Dana has shown he’s not above stealing the storyline’s of other promotions – provided those promotions are bankrupt. This would be the ultimate “redemption” fight to cap off Kimbo’s Ultimate Fighter reinvention, and could comfortably anchor a TUF Finale Broadcast or Ultimate Fight Night, drawing huge television ratings in a win/win situation for Slice and the UFC.
“Big Country” takes a big step in his career.
A friend recently pointed out that this season of TUF was a “Mac Danzing” situation all over again, and I heartily agree. In season 6 of TUF, Danzig – a PRIDE veteran with a wealth of international experience – stood head and shoulders above the other competition skill wise, and the whole season was so much of “laying down the carpet” for him to become the eventual TUF winner. This season, it was Nelson – a BJJ Black Belt and former IFL Heavyweight champion – who towered over the field in terms of experience, as most of the cast consisted of either former football players, genetic freaks, or Wes Sims.
To Nelson’s discredit, he looked much worse tearing through his field then Danzing looked tearing through his – who can forget the incredibly mediocre display against Justin Wren? Still, when it was all said and done, it was “Big Country” who held the 6 figure contract, mostly by following a simple gameplan – take opponent down, get side control, and rain shots while smothering said opponent with my gut. Say what you will of the guy, but in a Vince Lombardi “winning first” kind of atmosphere that is the modern MMA world, whatever it takes to get your hand raised is praiseworthy enough. It should also be noted that he secured the contract with a highlight reel KO - no belly rub nessassary. Despite still not having joined a major fight camp, he's clearly improved his striking somewhat since the show.
The only problem is that Nelson may be the most unexciting winner of the Spike reality bonanza ever. He has displayed nothing that would make me think he could give any of the top heavyweights a serious challenge. I don’t see Nelson’s “bully smother” technique being very effective against Brock Lesnar, who is 30 pounds heavier than him of fast twitch muscle fiber (or was, anyways – reports claim this intestinal infection has caused him to lose as much as 50 lbs.) Nogueria would walk through his punches and tie him in a doughy pretzel. Congo or Dos Santos would treat him like a giant heavy bag – with results to match. Let’s not forget that Nelson has recent losses to Ben Rothwell and Jeff Monson – hardly the crème of the crop of MMA heavyweight contenders.
I see the most interesting fights for Roy being either a rematch with Rothwell or a match with Cain Velasquez. Call me crazy, but I want to Velasquez try to slam around Nelson’s Staypuff Marshmallow Man physique. Whether he can’t or he can – either outcome would be pure entertainment.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Roy Nelson entered to "Fat" by Weird Al Yancovic - easily the most badass fighter entrance music ever given.
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