School's In: The Biggest Lessons Of UFC 109
After the events of this past weekend, one thing is very clear. Somewhere, a legend hangs his head in disappointment, in the agony of defeat.
He has nothing to be ashamed of, really. He prepared as diligently as he ever had. He had a good team around him, and a solid coaching staff. Against lesser competition, he might well have prevailed. But it was not to be. For a man who has lived most of his professional life under big time pressure, he let the pressure get to him for the first time. In his shot at greatness, at absolute immortality, he let it all slip away.
And Mark Coleman is probably pretty bummed out as well.
Sorry Peyton, but your shot at “greatest ever” will have to wait until next year. That’s right everyone - the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in a dominating performance, just like I predicted. Ok I said they’d squeak it out by a field goal, but still - I was right and my streak of correctly calling the Super Bowl is firmly back after the embarrassment of picking the Patriots and the Cardinals in the last two games.
Like George Costanza - I’m back, baby! And to all you Peyton fans, don’t worry, he has lots of time to firmly establish his king of the world status. Just not this year.
This weekend also played host to the UFC’s annual Super Bowl weekend show, traditionally one of the promotions most blockbuster events. Originally to be headlined by Lesnar vs. Carwin, the show instead played host to the somewhat less then epic Coleman vs. Couture “Senior’s Circuit” championship match (#1 contender’s match coming soon with Tito vs. Chuck 3). Prior to the event, I described it as MMA’s “Night at the Museum” but now I think it’s more fitting to call it MMA’s “Night in the Twilight Zone”.
There were some odd happenings indeed, with the expected outcome rarely being the outcome in reality. We start with the biggest story coming out of this past weekend’s UFC, featuring a man who is rapidly becoming one of the sport’s most controversial new stars.
World…meet Chael Sonnen
I’ll admit it - I didn’t think Chael Sonnen had a prayer in his fight, ostensibly a #1 contenders match against Nate Marquardt. To hear the MMA media prognosticate this fight, you’d have totally agreed with me. Nate had better standup, better submissions, was bigger, stronger, and would have a better gameplan. His victory was only a formality on the road to a rematch with Anderson Silva.
Only nobody told Chael Sonnen. He took his only advantage - world class wrestling - and ran with that bitch. Working from within Nate’s guard, he maintained positional control and rained down shots for 15 straight minutes. The versatile Marquardt seemingly had no answer for Chael’s grinding, ground-and-pound style. He cut him badly with elbows from the bottom and almost submitted him with a guillotine choke late in the fight. But Chael powered through it all and wore Marquardt out to take the unanimous decision. Gotta love that Team Quest mentality.
Shocking as it may be to write, Chael kicked Nate Marquardt’s ass - and elbowed it, and kneed it, too. And just like that, the UFC’s middleweight division has a new star.
It seems like Chael has been waiting for a long time for someone to thrust a microphone in his face. Now that he has the spotlight, he has become a fountain of sound bytes. Nothing will turn MMA fans on you quicker then the deadly combination of 1) being an “in your face” Republican, 2) relying on wrestling to grind out decisions, and 3) having a gigantic ego (or as I like to call it, the Matt Hughes equation).
Hey, I’m not getting on Sonnen’s case (or Hughes’s for that matter) - whatever sells your fight. You can’t deny that Sonnen has, by virtue of his mouth and this key upset victory, established himself as a contender and a fighter people want to see fight. He went from being a B-level nobody to looking at a big money Anderson/Vitor title match this summer and having an army of journalists follow him around for his every word.
He’s a self made star, and for that I gotta give him props. Expect more sound bytes from him in the near future - especially if Anderson does something that riles his right-wing feathers.
Paulo Thiago is legit
A year ago, Paulo Thiago was an unheralded, part time fighter nowhere near any title picture. As of this past Saturday, he was a firmly established top 5 ranked welterweight who had run the AKA gauntlet against some of the best fighters in the division and come out 2-1, with two devastating stoppage victories.
Not bad indeed.
Against Swick, the Brazilian SWAT team officer has never looked better. He was able to negate Swick’s distance, and match his accuracy in the standup. The fight remained close until Thiago caught Swick early in the second and dropped him. Once on the floor, Thiago slapped on a beautiful D’arce choke and put Swick’s lights out.
Combined with his stunning KO of Josh Koscheck, Thiago is quietly amassing one of the best highlight reels in the sport. Now he fins himself only one fight away from serious title contention. I say give him the winner of either the Fitch/Alves rematch in March or the Koscheck/Daley fight in May. Any of those four guys would pose interesting problems for Thiago (even in rematches) and a win would establish him as #1 contender in the 170 lb division.
Frank Trigg needs to Retire
This fight had about as much doubt as the first 5 minutes of "CSI Miami".
Seriously now. Trigg's gotta go. Against Koscheck, he looked lost, confused, and out of his league. Against Matt Serra, a smaller, less heralded welterweight more his own “speed”, well…he looked even worse.
In less time then it takes to play a game of brick breaker, Serra sent a glassy eyed Trigg to the canvas permanently for the second time in his “UFC comeback”. It’s time for “Twinkletoes” to face the uncomfortable truth - his days as an elite level fighter are over. Simple as that.
If that was his last fight, it makes sense for the UFC to keep him on as some sort of on-air personality. He has displayed some skill in front of the camera in past efforts. Still, if they aren’t giving an on-air role to Renzo Gracie, I don’t see them giving one to Trigg any time soon, meaning it may finally be time for the former champion wrestler to “rear naked choke” his career into retirement (and about that Renzo comment - seriously, someone in Zuffa needs to get him on camera, as fast and as often as possible. He’s a gold mine).
As for Serra, well that’s a little trickier. Coming into this fight, I called him taking it easily - either subbing him with his superior BJJ or knocking him out with his superior boxing - and the self proclaimed “guido” didn’t let me down. There’s talk of him re-matching GSP, but let’s be honest - even though he dominated this fight and I felt edged out Hughes as well, he is not on GSP’s planet anymore. This fight doesn’t have a chance of happening unless MMA suddenly gets legalized in New York and Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Paul Daley, Paulo Thiago, Anthony Johnson and Matt Hughes are all killed in a plane crash.
So who do you match Serra up with? To my mind, it’s gotta be the winner of the Jon Goulet/Marcus Davis fight in May. This would give Serra lots of time between fights, accommodating the relaxed competition schedule he has adopted in recent years. Neither guy would look to take the fight down, so it’s guaranteed fireworks one way or the other. Against Goulet, you could milk the whole “Canada’s/GSP’s revenge” angle (already successfully milked once to 550,000 PPV buys). Against Davis, you have a great Fight Night main event/co-main event between two boxing based standup fighters who are going to swing for the fences.
Makes sense to me.
The Last Name Gracie is no longer a free “Give a Shit” card with the fans
Randy Couture defeats Mark Coleman…naturally
Finally I discuss the main event…but what is there to say, really?
On paper, Randy had the advantages of better boxing, better cardio, better submission skills and better game planning. He used all those advantages to full effect on Saturday night.
Coleman’s only advantages going into this fight were his dynamite takedowns, his ground and pound, and his mental unflappability. He decided not to use any of them, and ended up on the wrong side of an ass-kicking.
Couture used crisp, technical boxing to smash Coleman on the feet. Once Coleman’s tiny gas tank had expended, he took him down with ease, mounted him, and choked him out. It was a virtuoso display of MMA proficiency by “The Natural” and left his adoring crowd chanting for more of "Captain America".
Much was made of the men’s respective ages in this bout - but age, really, had nothing to do with it. Randy Couture was actually the older man in the cage on Saturday, but you’d never know it by watching. Even in their fighting prime’s, I feel the fight would have gone down in similar fashion. Randy has evolved with the game, always adding new tools and trainers and looking to refine his skills in every discipline of MMA. Coleman has a strong double leg and has rode it as far as it will take him.
So what now? Well, isn’t that the million dollar question. This win may have positioned Randy for a title shot - though the winner of the looming Rashad/Rampage tussle seems like a more worthy and lucrative #1 contender. Still, you have to match up Couture with big name opponents - his pay check per fight demands it.
If Jon Jones beats Brandon Vera on Versus, I think that would be a fantastic fight - the ultimate old lion vs. young lion match. If not, then I say match him against…wait for it…Kimbo Slice. Why the fuck not. You telling me that fight wouldn’t be absolutely gigantic? I’d pay to see it.
Oh and on a final note:
The “Ice Bag” incident was the hardest I’ve laughed during a UFC event in a long time.
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