Welcome back to TGIFighting, where we talk to top fighters, preview the weekend's combat sports action and make crotchety observations about the news of the day. Let’s go.
It's been almost a week since Jake Paul outfought former UFC welterweight champ Tyron Woodley for a split-decision victory.
Woodley tried repeatedly to close the distance and connect with that sledgehammer of a right hand, but Paul mostly stayed well clear of the danger zone and never waded into the phone booth. According to stat keeper CompuBox, Paul (4-0) outlanded Woodley (0-1) 71-52 over eight rounds of their boxing match.
Two things on this.
First, Paul and his team know what they're doing. It's important to remind everyone that he'll never be a contending-level boxer, but he's good enough to do what he did last Sunday indefinitely. What he did to Woodley was the same thing he did in the spring against Ben Askren (19-2, 1 NC in MMA)—a champ in Bellator and ONE as opposed to the UFC, where he crashed and burned, but he carries a decorated resume nonetheless.
Paul's secret sauce is hiding in plain sight. His team's real savvy shines through in opponent selection. In Woodley and Askren, he found opponents with sparkly MMA credentials but who were and are wrestlers. In other words, Paul isn't boxing real boxers. As long as he keep that going, and as long as there are MMA luminaries willing to go outside their athletic comfort zone for a pay day, Paul will have it made in the shade.
But let's get to the second, larger point, and that is to call out this latest step down a dark trail for the career of Tyron Woodley (19-7-1). More than two years ago, the now-39-year-old relinquished his title to Kamaru Usman (19-1), and he hasn't won since. His most recent UFC fight, a first-round submission loss to Vicente Luque (21-7-1) in March, was his fourth straight L and the last bout on his UFC contract. Before his loss to Usman, his last defeat came to Rory MacDonald (22-8-1) in 2014.
Even correcting for age and the wear and tear of a long career, this decline has been striking for its depth and the sheer speed with which it came on. But it's not without precedent—far from it. In fact, some were worse.
Perhaps the most famous example is Renan Barao (24-9, 1 NC), who assembled a 33-fight unbeaten streak and a near-two-year reign as UFC bantamweight champ before suffering a fifth-round knockout to TJ Dillashaw (17-4). He only won two of his next nine contests and was dismissed from the UFC in late 2019.
During the WEC days, bantamweight champ Miguel Torres (44-9) was in or around plenty of pound-for-pound top 10 lists. Back when the UFC didn't have 135-pounders, the WEC was a prime destination for top talent in this division, and Torres was at the head of the pack, winning and then defending the the strap on three occasions.
But after losing the title to Brian Bowles (10-3) in 2009—just the second loss of his career—Torres never regained the magic. A UFC run ended with a disappointing 2-2 record. A subsequent 0-2 stint with World Series of Fighting effectively ended his career in high-level MMA.
But we still haven't reached the sharpest decline. For that we turn to someone named Ronda Rousey (12-2).
One minute, she was 12-0 and seemingly unstoppable. During the most dominant four-fight stretch of her meticulously documented career, her average time to victory was 33 seconds.
Then came 2015 and Holly Holm's (14-5) head-kick heard around the world. One loss to Amanda Nunes (21-4) later, and Rousey was on her way to professional wrestling.
Even now, Rousey is only 34 years old. In the span of one year, she went from being a champion and the most famous MMA fighter on the planet to being out of the sport. This one might take the cake for sheer precipitousness.
(Although, if a certain Irishman continues a certain slide into mediocrity and empty controversy, this discussion may soon have another entrant. But that's another story.)
Worth a Watch: Using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Reduce Police Violence
In the mid-'90s, the Gracie family devised the UFC not so much as a new sport but as a living, breathing marketing campaign for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the martial art designed as an equalizer for people facing larger or stronger opponents.
Now, MMA's first family, led by instructor Rener Gracie, is touting BJJ as a way of helping America through its ongoing reckoning with use of excessive force by police. These efforts were the subject of a recent profile on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
It's probably best to watch the full episode, which you can do below, but one key takeaway is that BJJ has indeed made a difference in the use of excessive force, at least according to one police department that has committed to providing BJJ training for its officers.
(Warning: Video contains disturbing footage.)
Jake King, a major with the Marietta Police Department in Georgia, told Real Sports journalist David Scott that jiu-jitsu has translated to fewer injuries during encounters with the public.
He told HBO:
"I found that there was a 48 percent reduction in officers being injured. So then I started researching more, and we reduced injuries to suspects by 53 percent. ... And the data showed even further that if you scuffled or resisted arrest, you were 200 percent more likely to be injured by a non-jiu-jitsu officer than somebody … who was a practitioner of jiu-jitsu."
University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton noted that other tactics aimed at reducing brutality have failed in the past, and cautioned against treating BJJ as a panacea.
And while hardcore fans may find some of the background explanation to be glib or tedious—the show's producers clearly presumed viewers had never previously heard of the UFC, much less Brazilian jiu-jitsu— the show still was able to present a nuanced exploration of why BJJ could be part of the solution to this long-standing problem.
Also Worth a Watch: Jumping Knee from Hell
Did you see this show-stopper from Dana White's Contender Series? If not, that's understandable. The UFC has a lot of reality programming. Good thing there's a video clip.
AJ Fletcher (9-0) landed a huge jumping knee to earn the knockout. Although he landed a few academic blows while the referee rushed in, it was essentially a walk-off. Fun stuff.
UFC Fight Night 191: This Debuting Fighter Could Be Europe's Next Big Thing
The latest Cage Warriors transplant is ready for the big stage.
The London-based Cage Warriors is Europe's top MMA promotion, incubating UFC champions Conor McGregor (22-6), Michael Bisping (30-9) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4), among other standouts.
When Paddy Pimblett (16-3) takes the cage Saturday in his UFC debut against fellow lightweight Luigi Vendramini (9-2), he'll be riding a big wave of hype. But don't let the blond mop fool you; this guy's good. Really good. Mainly a submissions guy, he has seven such wins, but he adds five knockouts.
As a charismatic Cage Warriors alum, the McGregor comparisons are inevitable. I don't think I'll go that far, but I will say that if the 26-year-old Pimblett can win with the same level of style he did in Europe, U.K. MMA fans may have a new favorite son.
Stone Cold Lead-Pipe Lock of the Week
Record to date: 17-4
OK, we took a little summer break, but we're back with the column and the picks. So welcome once again to the corner of the MMA internet unabashedly dedicated to the conservative bettor.
Anyone who saw the most recent episode of The Ultimate Fighter with Liudvik Sholinian (9-1-1) saw that he's a fight fan's fighter, relentlessly coming forward and letting the chips fall where they may. Here's guessing they're all going to fall on his head this time. Jack Shore (14-0) is a well-rounded up-and-comer who should get this to the ground at will as a -490 favorite (bet $490 to win $100).
Sholinian also took the fight on roughly a week's notice, so, yeah. The deck is stacked here. Make this the unsinkable leg of your parlay, and for extra spice, pick the knockout.
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