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Sunday, Oct 07, 2012

Lessons Learned: UFC on FX5

UFC on FX 5 heavyweight main event fighter Travis Browne

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 weekend, the UFC returned to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for UFC on FX 5. It was a card that overflowed to the brim with spectacular finishes and unpredictable upsets. With the event now in the rear-view mirror, here are the lessons we can take away from UFC on FX 5.

“Boring” fighters:

Mike Pierce’s come-from-behind knockout win over Aaron Simpson, and to a lesser extent, Jacob Volkmann’s submission win over Shane Roller, reminded us that even the fighters who are most notorious for dragging out lackluster wins can end fights in the blink of an eye.

Pierce, in particular, reminded us that ten boring fights in a row do not guarantee a boring eleventh fight. In his last outing, Pierce held Carlos Eduardo Rocha against the cage for the majority of three rounds in a fight most fans would choose to forget. His win over Simpson, however, was thrilling.

Of all the fighters out there who are criticized for their conservative styles, who will be the next to wow us with a dazzling finish? Might it be Jon Fitch against Erick Silva? Or could it be Georges St. Pierre against Carlos Condit? History tells us that neither option is all that likely, but Mike Pierce reminded us that anything is possible. So the next time you go refill your drink, light up a smoke, or take a bathroom break as a notoriously unexciting fighter enters the octagon, just remember: you might miss something awesome. Sure, you can replay it, but there’s nothing like a knockout, live and unpredictable.

Down but not out:

Pierce’s win over Simpson and Michael Johnson’s win over Danny Castillo reminded us of another important fact in MMA. Both Pierce and Johnson appeared to be on the verge of defeat in the first rounds of their respective fights, as both were flattened by punches and worked over on the ground. Both appeared to be totally outclassed by their opponents from the get-go.

If you counted either man out after round one, you were certainly not alone in doing so. But this is MMA, and even the most battered fighter can turn things around with a well-placed punch. Pierce did, and Johnson did. Both fighters showed grit and determination, characteristics that are integral to the success of any mixed martial artist, as both came out to thrash their respective opponents in the second round. In a sport with as many variables as MMA, it’s never a safe bet to count a fighter out after a rough round.

Punching above their weight:

The flyweight division still has a lot of skeptics. Outside of a handful of hardcore fans who are satisfied merely by the technique and speed of the division’s fighters, many fans just aren’t sold on the little guys. This is largely due to the fact that, as smaller, less powerful men, flyweight fighters produce fewer knockouts than their heavier peers.

But as John Dodson reminded us in his win over Jussier Da Silva, just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of doling out some quality violence— the kind that is important to many fans. This is the fight game after all, and as important as technique and agility are, there’s no denying the aesthetic masterpiece that is a knockout.  Dodson reminded us that, while flyweights might dish out fewer knockouts than the heavier weight classes, they’re still going to provide us with some quality finishes, sweetened by the agility and acrobatics they bring to the cage. And given that the weight class is still young, as the UFC continues to bolster its roster with new talent, we can expect more and more finishes from the little guys.

Outside of the hard-hitters the UFC flyweight division already has (such as Dodson), guys like Kyoji Horiguchi are out there laying waste, just waiting to bring their fight-ending power to the UFC’s lightest division.

Endless variables:

Without discrediting Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva’s win over Travis Browne at UFC on FX 5, there is no denying the importance of Browne’s apparent mid-fight knee injury to the outcome of the bout. Midway through the first round, Browne appeared to tweak his knee significantly enough that it hindered him from mounting any kind of major offence. Bigfoot, being the intelligent fighter that he is, noticed the injury, and started teeing off on Browne.

From there, it was only a matter of time before the deal was sealed. This is not to say that Bigfoot didn’t deserve the win—he did—but rather to point out the endless variables that play into the fight game. There is so much more to MMA than knockouts, submissions and decisions. Last weekend, at UFC on Fuel TV 5, we saw Duane Ludwig lose a fight due to a knee injury. He collapsed to the ground, clutching his knee, and the fight was waved off.

In Browne’s case, the injury was either less severe, or he was able to cope with it better. Regardless, it clearly changed the course of the fight, as Bigfoot zeroed in on Browne like a lion on an injured gazelle. Sometimes we forget how unpredictable this sport can be. Fighters train for weeks on end for a fight; developing their conditioning, learning to defend against strikes and submissions properly, only to injure themselves by fluke in the first round. Such is the fight game.

Tune in next weekend for Lessons Learned: UFC 153 edition.

posted by FCF Staff @ 3:37 pm
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