When I entered the American Airlines Center on Saturday I proceeded through the entrance beaming with excitement and anticipation. After being up for 40 straight hours on Thursday and Friday, working and driving I had missed the weigh-in due to complete exhaustion. Saturday I emerged from my slumber revitalized and ready for some action.
It was a steamy evening in the Lone Star state. After a high of 104 the temperature dropped to just below 80 degrees but inside the air was cool and electric with eager fight fans flooding in from every entrance. After three different people bailed on me I decided to do what any single man would do. I took a woman with me. Turns out she is a huge fight fan and yelled louder and more often than I did. After I had a cocktail, nachos and a pretzel I settled in for an evening of mixed martial arts.
As I watched the action unfold I learned a few things that I took with me. As I made the 700 mile trek back to central Tennessee I was alone and had a lot of time to think. I emerged from my journey thinking about three of the bouts from Saturday. After I took two weeks off from writing and another due to a glitch that literally would not allow me to publish for some reason I have returned to my world of mixed martial arts, my laptop and my thoughts.
1. Is Chad Griggs the real deal?
The first thing that I could not get out of my head was the Valentijn Overeem and Chad Griggs matchup. After being tossed to the canvas, Overeem seemed to completely wilt under the punches of "The Gravedigger."
I am not certain if Griggs will climb far up the ladder in the heavyweight division. He has strung together three straight wins, but like Alistair Overeem, people question the quality of his opponents. Griggs has put together three wins in a row in the Strikeforce cage but they were over a overly hyped Bobby Lashley, a relative unknown in Gian Villante and an inconsistent Valentijn Overeem.
As soon as Griggs started to ground-and-pound Overeem the Dutch fighter seemed to just quit. Griggs seems to be the genuine article but we will have to see him compete against better opponents before we declare him to be the real deal.
2. Brett Rogers needs time to develop
Brett Rogers has dropped three in a row after being dominated once again by a much more experienced veteran. Yes it is true that he has lost three straight bouts, but those losses were to Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett.
I really don't think we can sit here and say that Rogers is spent, a bad fighter or has a terrible ground game. The fact of the matter is the man beat a spent Andrei Arlovski and has since been thrown to the wolves. He simply needs time to develop and I think that he needs to return to his roots.
He can always get another Strikeforce, Bellator or UFC contract. But, for now the man needs to strengthen his body, mind and fighting spirit. He should do something similar to what Rocky Balboa did in the third Rocky film. Rogers needs to disappear from the spotlight for 12-18 months. He needs to train his wrestling, add some submission defense and offense and develop as a martial artist.
At this point he is just a heavy handed fighter who needs to improve. Josh Barnett easily took him down and submitted him with very little effort. Brett should train hard on the holes in his game and fight in regional shows. In my opinion he should take a year or so fighting in regional shows and when the time is right he can step back into the spotlight.
I think he should fight as often as possible. He can rack up some victories and work on his game and then after he has improved he can come back, but if he stays in the big shows and does not improve he will end up getting frustrated and may even quit. He is fighting guys who have three times as much experience as him. I personally would like to see him fight maybe 10 times in small MMA shows and get that experience he lacks.
If he does those things and returns he will be a much better martial artist. At this point he is not a complete fighter and that will keep him from the top unless he grows from a striker to a true MMA fighter.
3. Alistair Overeem is better than we thought despite a lackluster bout.
The main event ended up being quite disappointing. I have been saying for over a year that Fabricio Werdum is overrated despite his huge wins over Antonio Silva and Fedor. Some sites even had him ranked above Junior dos Santos even though three years ago dos Santos knocked out Fabricio in less than 90 seconds. My argument has always been that Fedor made a horrible mistake in his fight with Werdum and got trapped in a submission.
Anyone who has followed MMA closely over the last few years knows that Alistair Overeem is a very different fighter than he was when he lost to Fabricio in Pride. Alistair has improved his speed and strength, added "40 pounds of whoop a--" to his frame and won the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix. Werdum has improved his standup quite a bit but to me is still very much the same fighter he was in 2006. Those improvements on the part of the Strikeforce heavyweight champion made all the difference.
The entire fight Alistair tried to move forward and make it exciting. Werdum repeatedly refused to do anything but flop on his back. The odd part was that Werdum seemed to be landing good combinations on the feet but his only gameplan seemed to be pulling Alistair into his guard. When that would happen Overeem would promptly stand back up. Werdum seemed to think he was in a jiu jitsu match and not a mixed martial arts bout.
Any time that Overeem would land a good punch Werdum would just drop to the ground. There was an article that I read today where someone tried to argue that Werdum won the fight due to landing more punches. That is absurd. I was there and I saw Werdum land but never hurt Overeem and then lay on the mat. Werdum was winded by the end of round one and he never hurt the champion.
He never hurt him in the fight and he was rocked at least three times that I saw. Fights need to be won on damage not silly statistics. Alistair landed less punches but they were hard power shots that caused Werdum to back up and then fall to the ground to avoid further damage. There is no way that anyone could score that fight in the favor of Fabricio Werdum.
MMAfighting.com had Overeem ranked as the No. 3 heavyweight after the win. So, clearly the win still skyrocketed his stock even though it was a lackluster affair. The fact of the matter is that Overeem tried to make it a fight and Werdum repeatedly refused. At one point Werdum was laying on his back begging Alistair to come into his guard.
If he wanted him in his damn guard he should have taken him down. No one is going to just jump into the ground game with a former grappling world champion. Werdum looked awful in this fight.
In the end the "Demolition Man" proved that he was the better man and that he is in the top five in the world. Alistair Overeem is an elite heavyweight mixed martial artist. Many of us knew it already but now he will less detractors. Yes, the fight was pretty awful but Overeem was the only one who showed up to fight.
Either way he won and now he will face Antonio Silva later this year. That fight will be much better because Silva won't be flopping on his ass every five seconds. Silva will be there to fight. I lost some respect for Werdum on Saturday and I only hope he returns is impressive fashion.