Lessons Learned from UFC 154
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 with each night of fights that passes. This past Saturday, the UFC returned to Montreal, Canada for UFC 154. The card marked the long-awaited re-emergence of welterweight king Georges St. Pierre, and was packed to the brim with upsets and entertaining fights that left the octagon’s canvas painted with blood. With St. Pierre’s successful return and a solid night of fights in our wake, here are the lessons we can take away from UFC 154.
The Return of the King:
If you wondered what affect ring rust would have on Georges St. Pierre when he finally returned to the cage against Carlos Condit, you weren’t alone. With well over a year of inactivity and a severe injury behind him, nobody expected his return to be easy. And according to the man himself, it wasn’t. Despite winning the fight via a clear-cut unanimous decision, St. Pierre did not hesitate to announce that his fight with Condit was his toughest to date. Although St. Pierre landed crucial takedowns in each of the fight’s five rounds, he was nearly finished by Condit in the third round, and left the octagon black and blue. Tough fight or not, however, St. Pierre made a statement in his comeback fight, reaffirming that he is the most dominant welterweight to ever enter the octagon. Neither layoff nor injury could keep the man they call “GSP” down, as he emerged from his welterweight title fight with another lopsided win— his tenth in a row. Since his last defeat, a historic upset loss to Matt Serra, St. Pierre has served up impressive wins over the likes of Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and Jake Shields, to name a few. At UFC 154, St. Pierre added Condit to his long list of victims and reinforced the opinion that he is the greatest welterweight of all time. Love his fighting style or not, when we watch St. Pierre fight, we’re watching a performance by one of the true legends of our fine sport.
Don’t let Johny Hendricks Touch your Chin:
Georges St. Pierre wasn’t the only man on the card to make a significant statement with his win. In the evening’s co-main event, Johny Hendricks flattened an always-game Martin Kampmann, leaving the tough Dane pancaked on the canvas just moments into the first round. The knockout was Hendricks’s second in less than a year, and made clear one undeniable fact. If you don’t keep your chin protected when you’re in the cage with him, he will turn your lights out. In theory, the win solidified Hendricks’s role as the number one contender for St. Pierre’s welterweight crown, but with a widespread desire for a super fight between St.Pierre and middleweight king Anderson Silva circling, it’s difficult to say when Hendricks might get a shot at the welterweight title. When he does however, the champion will need to keep his hands up and his chin tucked. Hendricks’s wrestling credentials make him a dangerous grappler, but the locomotive he packs in his left hand provides an interesting x-factor in any fight he’s in, even if he’s standing across the cage from a dominant champion like Georges St. Pierre.
You’d be hard pressed to find a fight fan who would qualify the hailstorm of strikes Alessio Sakara dropped on the back of Patrick Cote’s head as legal. Post-fight, the sportsmanlike Italian was quick to apologise for his mistake. And while the most pressing issue is certainly the well-being of Cote’s brain, the other glaring issue that arose from this fight was the legitimacy of Sakara being handed a disqualification loss for the strikes he dished out. Many fans are of the opinion that Miragliotta should have warned Sakara before stopping the fight. After the fight, Miragliotta claimed that he had done so, but if he did, it managed to escape the replay. Furthermore, if he did warn Sakara, why did he let him continue instead of separating the two men and giving Cote time to recover? No such attempt was made by the hulking ref. Miragliotta is widely respected as one of MMA’s best referees, but no one is immune to mistakes, and at the end of the day, this fight probably would have been more fairly ruled a no-contest. Whether the Italian aims to appeal the verdict and have it changed to a no-contest is yet uncertain, but MMA’s officiating clearly still needs some work. In a sport where the athletes’ job security is so easily hindered by losses, referees must be bang-on with their decision making.
The bizarre fight results did not end with Alessio Sakara’s loss to Patrick Cote. On the main card, after proving the odds-makers wrong and outworking Francis Carmont for three rounds, Tom Lawlor was mysteriously handed a loss. Despite mounting very little offense and twice being threatened by tight guillotine chokes from his opponent, the judges sided with Carmont, awarding him a split decision, and baffling the vast majority of onlookers in the process. It’s not breaking news, but judging in MMA, like the refereeing, could use some serious remodeling. A win over Carmont would have done wonders for the career of Lawlor, who has been floating in the middle of the pack since entering the UFC. Instead, despite performing in a way that should have amounted to one of the bigger upsets of the night, Lawlor was prevented by a loss, and will remain largely stationary in the division. No perfect solution to this problem has been suggested yet, but it is a problem, and it can’t be ignored forever.
Tune in on December 9th for Lessons Learned: UFC on FOX 6 edition.