Matt Hughes is a legend in the sport of mixed-martial arts. Few fighters have accomplished more inside the Octagon, while doing more outside of it to help the growth of the sport than Hughes.
Although Hughes was victorious in his fight with Renzo Gracie, he hardly showed signs of being the former, most dominant welterweight in the world.
The 36-year-old Hughes won via TKO at 4:40 of the third and final round in his Sat. night bout. He caught Gracie with a late flurry of punches, but the final few seconds easily had the most action in the nearly 15-minute contest.
Hughes was able to land vicious leg kicks to Gracie's left leg throughout the bout, and they definitely took a toll as the fight progressed. However, Hughes seemed hesitant, if not reluctant, to try and follow up on any opening he was given.
Respect in this sport is great, especially after Anderson Silva's performance, but there is a fine line between having a healthy respect for your opponent and not wanting to do what is needed to win a fight.
It appeared that Hughes and Gracie had almost too much mutual respect for one another, and neither wanted to take advantage of the other in any way.
Sadly, this was only the latest in a string of underwhelming performances in the UFC.
Since losing the Welterweight Championship to Georges St. Pierre in Nov. 2006, Hughes has won three of his five fights. He lost in a rematch to GSP for the vacant Welterweight title, and he was dominated by Thiago Alves in their catch-weight fight at UFC 85.
None of his three victories rank anywhere near the top of the list for best fights in his storied career. In addition to his win over Gracie, he won unanimous decision fights over Chris Lytle in 2007 and Matt Serra last May. He looked good against Lytle, but there were some that felt that Serra actually got the better of Hughes in their match-up.
Hughes has lost speed in his stand-up game, and the power in his ground-and-pound game over the past few years. Alves and GSP made him look like exactly what he has become: an old warrior competing with faster, stronger, and younger athletes that have passed him by.
Up until this point in time, Hughes has done nothing to tarnish his sure-fire Hall of Fame career. That's not to say that it won't begin to get tarnished the next time he steps into the Octagon.
Hughes could still remain a viable draw for pay-per-views, but he can no longer compete with the elite of the sport. It's time for him to become an ambassador outside the Octagon, and continue to coach and mentor young fighters.
It's always hard for a legend to walk away, but after his lackluster win over Gracie at UFC 112, the time has come for Hughes to call it a career.
As much as anyone else in the sport, Matt Hughes has earned the right to walk away when he chooses to do so. However, he should swallow his pride and bottle his ego to walk away a winner, before he is forced to leave as a shell of his former self.
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