Pep Talk: Bring On the Big Boys
(GSP cracks Hardy at UFC 111. Go here to check out the full gallery.)
Question: Which of the following two groups of fighters would you rather pay your money to watch GSP fight?
Group One: Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami, Aaron Simpson, Wanderlei Silva.
Group Two: Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Matt Serra, Anthony Johnson, Paul Daley.
If you chose Group One, you’ve come to the conclusion that Welterweight phenom Georges St-Pierre has to move to the middleweight division for an appropriate challenge. After watching his complete domination of the incredibly tough Dan Hardy at UFC 111 on Saturday night, who could blame you? GSP used a familiar blueprint we’ve seen in his last few fights of using the best MMA wrestling in the game to take Hardy down early and often in every round of the fight. While GSP is as dominant as he’s ever been, he isn’t the dynamic fighter he used to be. He has chosen to use unstoppable takedowns to win fights, mostly by decision. In fact, the last time he finished a legit 170 pounder was when he recaptured the title from Matt Serra almost two years ago. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you listen to Dana White’s revelation that fans were letting him know their displeasure with the main event via Twitter, it’s not rocket science to say it’s a less fan-friendly approach. Very technical, very successful, just not as exciting to watch. Fortunately for GSP, he is such an amazing athlete and likeable persona that fans will probably tune it to watch him fight just about anybody, at least for now.
To his credit, Hardy displayed unbelievable toughness when he did his best Benson Henderson impersonation in refusing to tap to a deep armbar in the first round and a tough-to-watch kimura in the fourth. At the end of the day, however, the best that can be said for Hardy is the best that could be said for Thiago Alves and Jon Fitch. They were all able to last five rounds, take a lot of punishment and never mount any offense at all against the best 170-pound fighter to ever step foot in a cage. GSP said that he had to finish Hardy to be pleased with his performance. In that regard, he missed the mark. But the distance between him and the rest of the world’s 170’s is so cavernous that fans could ultimately become restless if he does not embrace new challenges, even on a “part-time” basis. At a minimum, he must do what Anderson Silva has done with several trips to 205. Take fights at 185 and defend at 170 as suitable challenges in that division that don’t involve rematches with guys he has already utterly dominated present themselves. GSP has said that he is fighting for his legacy. His legacy at welterweight is already established. He’s the best there has ever been at 170, end of story. If he is to achieve his goal of being recognized as the best pound for pound fighter in mixed martial arts history, he has to say, “Bring on the big boys.”
Shane Carwin, on the other hand, need only say “Bring on the big boy”, singular, as only one man stands between him and his goal of hanging the true, unified UFC Heavyweight Belt in the office when he goes to work as a water engineer. He stood face to face with that man, current champ Brock Lesnar, to hear his newly minted interim belt called a “fake belt”. One thing that is not fake is Carwin’s power. In the longest fight of his MMA career, the engineer KO’d Mir in 3:48, running his record to 12-0, all by first round stoppage. After a feeling out process between the two 265 pounders, Shane muscled Mir up against the fence but couldn’t take him down. When he was able to get Mir up against the fence a second time, he abandoned the idea of a takedown and landed a series of fast, powerful uppercuts that caused Mir to crumble to the ground. A series of punches later, Mir was flattened out, face down and unconscious, taking unnecessary punishment due to a late stoppage. For Mir, some will question if a self-admitted focus/obsession on Lesnar hurt his mental focus coming into this fight, but it matters little now. Carwin scored 65K for the Knockout of the Night, an impressive performance that earns him a trip to the Octagon to finally face Lesnar in early July to unify the heavyweight title. Here’s hoping that the UFC reinforces the cage!
Nope, not a reference to the hit reality show but to the success of the locals fighting at UFC 111. Kurt Pellegrino scored 65K for Submission of the Night in submitting BJJ specialist Fabricio Camoes after weathering a tough storm early in the first round. Jim Miller ran his UFC record to 6-1, squeaking out a decision over a very impressive Mark Bocek. I scored the fight a draw, with Miller taking round one, Bocek taking round two and the third a draw. I have a hard time buying either guy did more than the other to win the round. Ricardo Almeida had a great debut in the welterweight division, submitting tough Matt Brown in the second round. That runs the BJJ ace’s record to 4-1 since returning to the UFC.
Yet another bad night for referee Dan Miragliotta. I’ve heard a lot of chatter over the years at how tough a job it is. Agreed. So is brain surgery and the difficulty of the job doesn’t excuse not doing it properly when fighter safety is on the line. Allowing a beast like Carwin to tee-off on Mir when he was clearly out is just not excusable. Let’s not even address the numerous times that UFC announcer Joe Rogan properly scolded Miragliotta for yielding to the crowd to stand fighters up or telling the fighters to fight when they were clearly fighting for position. And that’s all from UFC 111. I’m sorry, but don’t the fighters deserve better with their careers and health on the line?
Best of the Rest
Nate Diaz had a strong middleweight debut against Rory Markham. Even though the former lightweight made the welterweight limit on the scale, Markham came in at 177. It didn’t matter to Diaz, who dominated Rory en route to a first round TKO. It was probably Diaz’ one and only fight at welterweight. It might make a good trivia question if the UFC ever releases a board game.
Jon Fitch did what Jon Fitch does…grind out a three-round decision over Ben Saunders. That makes his last six wins all by decision for the high level grappler. Jon is a tough out for anybody at 170 not named St-Pierre, but can the UFC reasonably market a rematch between them given the how badly Fitch was dominated by GSP the first time and Jon’s failure to finish a fight in the last 33 months? Dana mentioned Fitch fighting Koscheck for a title shot, which Fitch declined. Dana’s response? “Must not want a title shot”. Will the UFC prez hold to that requirement? Time will tell.