Lessons Learned from UFC 153
By Tom Taylor
As MMA fans, we learn more about our sport every time we watch a fight, even if we don’t realize it. We might be reminded of something we had long forgotten, or we might be made aware of something we had never considered. And stubborn as MMA fans are, we might even change our opinions on certain issues. Regardless, in one way or another, we learn more about our sport with each night of fights that passes. This past Saturday, the UFC returned to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for UFC 153. What the card lacked in upsets, it made up for in entertaining scraps, and picturesque finishes. With the event now in the rear-view mirror, here are the lessons we can take away from UFC 153.
The Great One:
Hockey had Wayne Gretzky and basketball had Michael Jordan. MMA has Anderson Silva, and love him or hate him, if you watched UFC 153, you watched the most dominant fighter in our sport add another brutal finish of another game opponent to his mantle. Stephan Bonnar, a light heavyweight veteran who held a size and weight advantage, had nothing for Silva. Furthermore, Silva did what the likes of Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, and Lyoto Machida failed to do, knocking Bonnar out in the first round. With each win, Silva ensures that in ten years people will talk about him in the same light as the greats of other sports. Assuming MMA has lasting power and will still be thriving in a decade, Silva will be looked back on as a true legend. This sport is still fairly young, but he is carving out a legacy for himself in a way that no other fight has. In two weight classes, he has made talented athletes look like novices. Yes, we are watching Jon Jones and Georges St Pierre motor through their respective divisions, but Silva has been an absolute predator in the cage. Time and time again, we’ve watched him play with his food, toying with his opponents until he decides they’ve had enough. His in-cage antics might sour the opinions of some fans, but when we watch Silva step into the cage, we watch greatness unfold. At 37 years old, it’s difficult to say what the future holds for The Spider, but for now, sit back, and enjoy him while he lasts.
Glover Teixeira lived up to his own hype in his one sided thrashing of Fabio Maldonado at UFC 153. Maldonado proved hardy, but he just didn’t seem prepared for the level of violence that Teixeira brings into the cage. Still, let’s be careful not to jump the gun. Yes, Teixeira is 32, and his clock might be ticking, but the UFC would be wise not to throw him in with the lions of the light heavyweight division too soon. His two outings in the UFC have been extremely impressive, but both were over men who are nowhere near the top-ten. It is absolutely time for Teixeira to see a step up in competition (the much talked-about bout with Quinton Jackson would do the trick,) but the title fight talk might be a bit premature. With competitors like Dan Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson, and even Lyoto Machida circling at the top of the division, there is no need to push Teixeira as a contender just yet. Let him test his mettle against a top-ten opponent or two before the daydreams of a fight against Jon Jones come to fruition. If Teixeira is as good as his first two fights in the UFC suggest, after all, he shouldn’t have any problems working his way to the top of the division in short order.
Too Much too Soon:
You can’t exactly call the step from Charlie Brenneman, who has now been cut from the UFC, to Jon Fitch a baby step, but it is the step welterweight prospect Erick Silva was asked to take. Silva fought hard and brought the fight to the veteran Fitch, but at the end of the night, it all appeared to be too much too soon. The fight was a perfect example of why it’s important to bring fighters up at a measured pace. The experience of Fitch was the glaring x-factor in their fight, as he was able to take everything Silva dished out, and effectively return fire. Silva is an undeniably talented fighter, and all signs point to his being a champion one day, but he is still green. A fighter can have all the talent in the world, but as Fitch proved, experience has no equal. Let Silva develop his skills against journeymen and other prospects before he takes another shot at the welterweight division’s elite. He’s still very young, so why rush him? Experience is the best teacher, after all.
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover:
There was widespread criticism floating around the internet about the depth of UFC 153’s main card. With Dave Herman, a man who has lost his last two fights by knockout, in the co-main event, this is somewhat understandable. But such is the case these days, as injuries continue to ravage the UFC’s ability to match-make. No matchup is safe, as fighters seem to be pulling out of fights almost daily. Still, UFC 153 proved a valuable lesson. There is so much more to a fight than the celebrity of the fighters involved in it or the relevance of the bout. Everyone knew Stephan Bonnar was massively outmatched against Anderson Silva, but who can deny the pleasure of watching Silva dole out another crippling knockout? And yes, both Nogueira and Herman were coming off significant losses, but their fight in the co-main event was thrilling, as Nogueira, a fighter so widely adored, put on a vintage performance and warmed the hearts of old school fans everywhere. And sure, to the casual fan, Glover Teixeira and Fabio Maldonado’s names don’t spark excitement in the same way that George St. Pierre’s name does, but they certainly delivered. And while Jon Fitch’s typical style doesn’t excite a significant population of MMA fans, his fight with Erick Silva was action-packed from bell to bell. The pay-per-view portion might not have been the most stacked in recent memory, but it provided us with some quality violence, and in doing so became a candidate for card of the year. We’d all be wise to learn not to judge a card until the card is over.
Tune in on November 11th for Lessons Learned: UFC on Fuel TV 6 edition.