With UFC 129 quickly approaching, there's been a lot of talk about the career arcs of Randy Couture and Georges St. Pierre.
And if you spend much time reading about MMA online, you'll hear this kind of talk eventually:
"Randy is like a scientist who will deconstruct you one atom at a time until your willpower is forever broken. Fighters are never the same after they fight him."
"GSP is a monster. He can beat you anywhere, but mostly, he'll beat you mentally and spiritually. Fighters are never the same after they face him."
And maybe the original:
"Fedor doesn't just beat you. He breaks you. You're never the same after you fight Fedor."
And then, as if to prove their point beyond a reasonable doubt, they'll point to Win/Loss records.
"Before this guy fought Randy, he was 10-2. Afterwards, he went 3-3. Randy broke him!"
For the sake of the article, we will use Randy Couture's numbers. Thanks to JBSchroeds on Sherdog message boards for compiling these, and I'm trusting his math:
"Opponents W% PRE-Couture: 72.4% (205-64-14)
Opponents W% POST-Couture: 57.3% (86-62-2)"
At first glance, those numbers appear to hammer home the point. But what do they really say?
It's actually pretty simple.
Unless your name is Brock Lesnar, you don't enter MMA and immediately fight Randy Couture.
Ninety-nine percent of MMA fighters spend their early years fighting in smaller promotions, building their records against less talented fighters before they fight guys like Fedor, Randy and Georges.
It's only if they win often and build a name for themselves that they will fight the higher ranked guys in their division.
So, you're not going to get a guy who is 3-10 fighting one of the greats. More likely a 10-2 record or even 15-2.
What I'm essentially saying is that most of a fighters wins are going to be slanted towards the beginning of their careers when, not only are they younger and stronger, but they also fight lesser competition.
And once a fighter is established as a winner, and even as a draw, the chances of them fighting the same type of fighter they fought in local promotion a parking lot in Omaha dwindle significantly.
So, a good fighters level of competition will increase throughout their career until they are fighting the best. And THATS when they will normally start fighting guys like Couture and St. Pierre.
So yes, if a fan were to look at an elite fighter's record from the beginning, and then arbitrarily draw a line when they fought BJ Penn, Anderson "Spider" Silva or some other great and say their record was worse afterward, it's true, obvious—but it doesn't at all mean what fans often want it to mean.
Do you believe in the Couture/Fedor/GSP 'effect'
I'm all on board for giving top fighters the respect they have earned in the sport. But let's not give them credit they don't actually deserve.
Is it possible that the fighters listed in this artcle can dish out an insane amount of damage? Absolutely—and damage can absolutely have lingering effects.
Just don't let the numbers fool you. There's more to the story than 'Fedor ends careers.' He may end your night, but you will probably recover.
So, next time you see somebody try to make some outrageous claim like this online, you can point them to this article.
Because they're probably wrong.