If I've learned anything in my life up to this point, it's that when an MMA event happens and a consensus can be reached on the outcome of most of the fights, expect upsets.
The line "The minute you think you know, you find out you don't" immediately entered my mind as Kevin Iole began live-tweeting results from the impromptu arena they erected specifically for the event.
The last time the UFC put on a card this seemingly lopsided was UFC 104. At that event most felt an over-matched Maurico "Shogun" Rua would have nothing for a then-anointed Lyoto Machida. Joe Rogan did his karate pose in selling Lyoto pre-fight and it felt as if a lamb was coming out to the slaughterhouse as Rua made his way to the cage.
Twenty five minutes later, I was calling “The Dragon” a paper champion, and now at UFC 113 we'll be seeing the rematch to arguably one of the most heinous decisions in UFC history.
As the preliminary card finished and no discernibly large upsets happened, I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea that one of the top three fights on the bill was going to end in a way totally unexpected. So, when Renzo Gracie won a lackluster first round, I was far from surprised, thinking surely this was the upset of the night. The mortal lock who would find himself erased by a heavy underdog...not so much.
As Renzo asked the man who was brutalizing his leg to help him up, I wrote off my gut feeling as nothing more than Pavlovian conditioning. "The minute you think you know, you find out you don't," right?
BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar entered the cage at approximately 3 p.m. my time. As soon as the fight started it became apparent what Frankie Edgar's game plan was going to be in this fight. Circle hard, pop the jab, get out of dodge, and tire BJ out by making him consistently move. Then finish strong and win the fight late.
It was visually impressive and there was no doubt who the faster, more conditioned man was in this fight. However MMA isn't distance running, speed and conditioning are merely supplemental aspects of the sport, not bedrocks of it.
When watching the fight, hope never really built up that this would be the upset of the night. While Edgar's boxing was crisp and tactical, it was rarely effective. He'd circle like a cat cornered by a very large dog, with all the grace and athleticism that entails. However, the fact of the matter remained every time they traded punches BJ Penn was the winner of virtually every exchange of the first two rounds.
Towards the end of the third round, things began to swing. Weather it was the Abu Dhabi heat, a mismanagement in jet lag, or him, again, neglecting his cardio training. BJ Penn hit the wall as he's characteristically been know to in the past.
With about 90 seconds left, and Penn cruising to what I felt was closing the door of an Edgar victory on points, Edgar held his pace, while Penn began to slow down. It wasn't incredibly noticeable at first, a right-hand counter that was landing, now was just missing. A grimace here, a puff of air there, Frankie Edgar was succeeding in doing what only the few that have bested Penn ever have. He began to suck the will from the eyes of the champion.
As the horn sounded, perhaps against my better judgment, I wrote in 10-10 on my fictitious scorecard.
In the fourth round, BJ Penn appeared to know the fight wasn't going the way it usually does. At this point typically, he has his opposition in a state of bewilderment and is usually ready to give them the sweet release of a quick nap.
Noticeably upset at the fact Edgar refused to break, Penn winded up on every counter strike, leading to a few instances of embarrassing flailing at a spot where Edgar once stood, but now no longer.
Frustration crept in, and the fade was on. Everyone of BJ's steps seemed labored and slow, but nevertheless his laser-like jab continually found its home.
At the end of round four, BJ's eyes were swelling shut and when "Stitch" asked, "Are you ok?" it was fairly clear he wasn't.
The round again was even, however what Edgar was hoping to accomplish with his strategy came into complete focus in that fourth round. BJ seemed ready to quit on his stool, and judging as the unified rules intended, the "effectiveness" of Frankie's attack was clear to me. 10-9 Edgar.
The fifth round opened with Frankie Edgar putting his stamp on the fight. Just 27 second into the round, the small lightweight took "The Prodigy" down. However, Edgar lacked the ability to hold him down.
Edgar became overconfident as Penn landed a flurry in a dull, final round that was again fairly even, but the takedown was enough to give him the fifth round.
The fight went to the judges' hands, with my card reading 48-48—a draw.
As Joe Rogan tried to sell that Frankie Edgar had won the fight, I looked back over my card, and determined BJ Penn would likely win a split decision. The third round was probably his, based on things I've heard from regional MMA blogger Paul Miles, that some commissions actually instruct the judges not to turn in 10-10 rounds.
Bruce Buffer hit the mic. BJ Penn looked dejected, Frankie Edgar looked like he had another 10 rounds in him.
"Judge Doug Crosby scores the bout, 50-45." I sat stunned knowing immediately what was about to be read. "Sal D'Amato scores the bout 48-47, and Andy Roberts scores it 49-46, for your winner...AND NEW UFC Lightweight Champion of the World. Frank 'The Answer' Edgar!"
My first thought as I watched Frankie Edgar crumple to the canvas in elation, wasn't wow, what a great moment, or where does BJ go from here? It was what a gong show we have here tonight. I then asked the question, who selected these clowns?
With no commission set up in the UAE, the UFC hand-selected the judges, as it does with all its unregulated international roadshows.
Let me make this clear, selecting Doug Crosby, a man with a sordid judging record (Neer 29-28 over Diaz for example) in big fights to oversee a card with two of your champions is a disgrace. No two ways about it.
With the talk of TUF 12 being about Tito Ortiz and if or when he's going to be replaced by Rich Franklin, many have missed the most important inanity that has entered the brain of Dana White. "Never leave it in the hands of the judges" is the motto, stenciled above the doorway of the locker rooms at the UFC's gym in Nevada.
The implication is clear. Judging shouldn't matter because you should finish every single fight. When you have that stated goal, and you're incensing your fighters monetarily towards such a goal, you can quickly understand that MMA judging selection for foreign events isn't exactly a high priority for them.
And maybe that's for the best long term, as they run a prominent sports company and must keep away the appearance of impropriety that haunts other sports like the NBA. However, if they want to go to unregulated areas, they have to make sure the judges they select are of the highest quality, to reflect the product they're trying to sell.
In the end, any way you try and spin it, Shogun will get a rematch immediately because of the outrage following his bout with Machida.
There's no silver lining coming for Penn. All because one lanky Brazilian decided to turn his fight into an impromptu dance recital.
Color me a shade of disappointed, MMA community.