This past Saturday the finale for the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show concluded. Although the season went out with more of a whimper rather than a bang, many in the MMA community are making it seem far worse than that.
Much criticism has been directed towards the way MMA is judged and the way wrestlers fight (or avoid the fight in the eyes of the critics). This criticism is making it seem like the sky is falling in MMA.
Even former UFC champion and former King of Pancrase Bas Rutten got involved, saying on his twitter that the fight "was not as exciting as [he] thought it would be, Guida vs Pettis, Guida plyd [sic] safe, takedown, holding, Pettis really good from his back".
So, is the "sky falling" in MMA? Is the entertainment value of the sport, specifically of the UFC's events, declining?
The short answer is "No" but in reality the issue is more complicated than just one word (for a lengthier assessment of the issue read fellow Bleacher Report writer Jonathan Shrager's take on the subject).
The truth of the matter, in large part, is the simple fact that the sport is gaining more popularity and therefore more fans of which there is a very vocal minority that expects every fight to be Forest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar (the fight that "put MMA on the map" as it were).
To put it more succinctly: It isn't a problem of fight quality but a problem of unrealistic expectations.
There is little probability of the UFC becoming "boring" and losing it's popularity, the purported surge of "lay and pray" fighters notwithstanding. Concerning fights like Guida-Pettis, people will eventually learn to appreciate the skill involved in what Guida did and in dominant wrestling in general.
However, there is one issue regarding the Pettis-Guida fight that does have some merit.
Once again, Bas Rutten shares his opinion:
If somebody takes you down and just holds you, they should count that takedown AGAINST him. Now, this was of course not the case with Guida, so you can give him the takedown, but on the ground, all the attacks (pretty much) came from Pettis, I am just saying, that should count for something as well.
People say, "Yeah, but submission escapes should count for something as well", yes, but NEVER more then the submission attacks.
Like I said in an earlier tweet, if somebody attacks on the feet, and the other one just defends, and only "once a while" throws something back. Then , even when the person who attacks doesn't land a strike, HE is the aggressor, and in a striking match, HE will win the fight if it goes to a decision.
In a ground fight, the guy who goes for submissions should be awarded more then the guy who defends them and only "once a while" tries one of his own, exactly the same as standing.
There is truth to Rutten's stance on the matter but one must remember his past.
He fought a wrestler, Kevin Randleman, at UFC 20 and was on his back for nearly the entire fight...yet he was awarded the fight and the UFC heavyweight championship in a controversial split-decision. Rutten trained only in striking and submissions, he had no wrestling in his arsenal. Thus, when analyzing Rutten's opinions on the matter, it is important to note that there is a considerable amount of bias.
Nevertheless, his points are well made. If the fighter on top doesn't really try to finish or do anything at all and the fighter on bottom does but fails, shouldn't the fighter who threatened and tried to finish be awarded?
Whatever the answer may be, the question will likely always be ignored by the athletic commissions and the UFC; there is only "outrage" over the issue every couple of events.
In addition, why risk "rocking the boat" when the issue may solve itself? It is possible that when new judges emerge they will understand the sport better and realize that being on top in guard doesn't necessarily mean winning.
Is the entertainment value of the UFC declining? No, the expectations are rising. Is MMA in crisis? No although it may benefit the sport to rethink the rules (maybe knees to the head of a grounded opponent may help the problem?) or the judging.