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Sunday, Oct 14, 2012

Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” Jon Fitch Takes Us All To School; and Say Goodbye to The Ultimate Fighter Era

UFC contender Jon Fitch (photo via UFC.com)

By Joshua Molina

Former pro wrestler Ric Flair, after surviving a submission attempt and turning the tables on his opponent, used to scream to the crowd during his matches, “Now, we go to school!”

If Jon Fitch were Chael Sonnen, he would have shouted that phrase loud last night in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Because last night, Fitch reminded us all that sometimes the old guys still win.

After about 70 unanswered punches in Round 3, it became clear that the 34-year-old Fitch was outclassing his 28-year-old opponent.

Fitch derailed the rising star Erick Silva, in a tremendous battle that stole the show Saturday night at UFC 153.

Fitch, once regarded as one of the best fighters in the world, proved that he is still a contender. He stuck to his game plan, showed poise and experience under pressure and avoided a serious submission attempt to win a unanimous decision over an absolutely dejected Silva.

It wasn’t easy for Fitch to go out there in front thousands of people of screaming Brazilians cheering for the other guy, the guy with the momentum, and the guy regarded as one of the next big things in MMA.

But Fitch showed what happens when you stick to a game plan, and don’t melt under pressure. Fitch bounced back from a 12-second knockout to Johny Hendricks to put himself back in title contention.

Silva really had no answer to Fitch’s relentless wrestling pressure and eventually his striking. When Fitch survived a rear-naked choke attempt, Silva was out of gas, mentally defeated and out of the fight.

Silva, however, should not be too discouraged by his loss. He can learn from his beating, and bounce back. The next time he is pummeled into no man’s land, he might have an idea for how to come out of it. Every fighter has to go through that kind of whipping in their career in order to get better. Even Anderson Silva tapped out early in his career.

Some don’t bounce back. Some do.

And speaking of those who do, Anderson Silva continued his dominance Saturday, in a fight that really should never have taken place. If not for a depleting roster of healthy stars, Stephan Bonnar would have never been in a fight with the guy who is regarded as the best mixed martial artist in the world.

In some ways though it’s perhaps only fitting that Silva would destroy the guy who helped launch the UFC’s popularity into the mainstream in 2005.

Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin fought an epic war on free TV, in a fight that most regard as the turning point in the sport’s popularity. The toe-to-toe battle created the perfect storm of interest and momentum. The UFC rode an unstoppable wave of growth and popularity all the way up until earlier this year.

That’s when injuries started to wreck main events. TV ratings started to drop on cable and for its UFC on Fox show. Pay Per View buys also started to fall. The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s onetime “it,” property, the show that Bonnar and Griffin made famous, has fallen to historic viewership lows, as low as 775,000 viewers a few weeks ago.

The boom years of the UFC’s first big mainstream dominance are on the decline and it’s up to Dana White and the Fertitta brothers to take the sport to the next level, or survive under a slightly less successful business model. Nobody knows yet how it will turn out.

But the guys who build the sport toward the second half of the last decade, Stephan Bonnar, Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture and many others, are all retired or soon will be.

Anderson Silva, (who is the exception because at 37 is still on top of the sport) showed last night that the old guard of television stars is fading, and it’s time for a new generation of fighters and a new business attitude to step up.

posted by JoshuaM @ 12:14 pm
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