Well, Kenny Florian is the best commentator in MMA today, which isn’t saying much, but it is something. He knew what he was talking about, had done his homework, and didn’t blow a gasket trying to “sell” a fight. Everyone else that straps on a mic for an MMA booth could learn from him. Kenny was a welcome contrast to the joke booth Strikeforce had on offer.
Perhaps that comparison is a bit unfair, as it seemed the WEC had everything go its way, with a truly fantastic card full of interesting and exciting fights, easily outshining even standout fights like Diaz vs. Smith.
Brown Gets It Done
Mike Brown showed that he had the heart and will of a champion in five hard-fought rounds with Urijah Faber. Brown looks like someone’s dad out there, just straight manning it up with a very rugged beard and a bullying style. If Brown can work his game that well against Faber, one of the most difficult to control and high-cardio fighters in the division, it’s scary to think what he could do to weaker fighters that cannot resist as successfully.
It’s truly a shame that such a good fight will be marred by Faber breaking his hand so early, and the built-in excuse taking some of the legitimacy off of Brown’s win. Of course, it’s impossible to say how the fight would have transpired, but it’s not unreasonable to think that Brown would have continued to control and dominate Faber in the clinch and on the ground, perhaps even working more to avoid striking, with the same end result. Faber was obviously preoccupied with the hand from the moment he was injured, and it’s difficult to find the proper reaction to that. There is precedent, in the form of Rich Franklin and Fedor Emelianenko, to name two, for fighting through the pain and bashing an opponent repeatedly with a busted appendage, but a shattered hand is not something to take likely either. Faber definitely seemed to get discouraged and accept an inevitable loss, although he hung tough and tried to turn the tide. Perhaps such a trying fight will be an opportunity for growth for Faber.
While Brown did demonstrate many crucial features for a long-reigning champion–the cardio to hang with anyone, the ability to control a fight’s pace, a hard head, a wide enough array of skills to adapt to various situations, and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to overcome adversity and never crumble, even if your opponent is game for all five rounds.
However, Brown did demonstrate a few weaknesses that are likely to hurt him, given that as champion he will be fed a diet of elite-caliber fighters. For one, Brown, coming off of two huge one-shot bombings, seemed to headhunt and swing for the fences, with little success. Some cleaner, tighter, quicker boxing might have served him better. More dangerously, he seemed to be hit by almost everything Faber threw at him. When a fighter is limited to only throwing elbow strikes, it shouldn’t be that hard to avoid getting jacked in the face over and over again. While Faber isn’t the world’s biggest hitter, if Brown relies on his brick-like head rather than defense against the likes of Jose Aldo, his face may melt, Raiders of the Lost Ark style.
One of These Things is Not Like the Other
When they made Andrei Arlovski, they gave him all the tools to be an elite heavyweight. He’s huge, strong, agile, poised, well-conditioned, and has big natural punching power. Unfortunately, a solid chin was forgotten, so he’s the Ford Pinto of MMA heavyweights. He cruises along just fine, but if he gets hit in the wrong place, it all goes down in flames. It’s terribly sad, because it seems like Arlovski was struck by the existential angst of this as he stared blankly into the camera after this loss. Heart-breaking stuff.
While the punches that finished off Arlovski would likely send any heavyweight this side of Mark Hunt reeling, few would have been as off-kilter as Andrei after that first glancing left. After that, Andrei, in a compromised mental state, made the same mistake so many other fighters do and moved straight back instead of circling, which is a no-no for exactly the reason Rogers demonstrated–it’s not too hard for a slugger to take another step straight forward and throw another punch, or repeat that several times.
The stoppage was a bit premature, as the fight was stopped when Andrei fell awkwardly, without giving him any chance to attempt to stand or not, which he would have ideally been given. The standard criteria for stoppages must be set higher than “an awkward fall” and it must be applied evenly, as I’ve argued before. Letting Andrei take a few arm punches to the side of his head would most likely not have scrambled his brain beyond repair. Regardless, the most likely case, given the fighters involved, is that Andrei would not have gotten his feet under him and would have been completely finished, so little harm done. But as the ACLU will tell you, when it comes to enforcing the rules, the marginal cases are often the most important!
Goodbye, Jens Pulver
While much of the “what’s next for Brown” talk has centered on the absolutely electric Jose Aldo after he crushed Cub Swanson’s face, Josh Grispi’s domination of faded legend Jens Pulver, a man who similarly destroyed Swanson not too long ago, should put him neck-and-neck with Aldo and teammate Wagney Fabiano for the next crack at Brown.
While I expected Pulver to lose to Grispi, I was surprised to see him get submitted so quickly, as Pulver weakness for the last couple of years has been a trick chin more than anything, and he’s never really struggled as a grappler. Granted, Grispi did tap him a bit before locking in the guillotine, but it was impressive nonetheless. Grispi is the real deal.
It’s heartbreaking to see Jens, one of the pioneering “little guys” unable to compete and earn the money he never made as champion, but that’s the nature of the beast. Nobody goes out on top.
Ever Met a Retired Cowboy?
With the way Donald Cerrone fights, he certainly won’t be the first one. “Cowboy” goes into the octagon and simply wilds out, pursuing a hyper-aggressive finish-oriented style that puts most opponents on the back foot immediately. This is terribly exciting and quite effective for him so far, since he’s a better striker and grappler than virtually all of his opponents to date, but he really should clean up his style so he gets hit less and perhaps is less ‘open’. Against Varner and McCullough he took some huge shots, and flying around the ring with no defense is only going to get more dangerous as he fights stronger opponents. Currently he’s insulated by the fact that he isn’t in the UFC yet and that there aren’t a lot of dominant KO strikers at 155 in North America.
No Surprises in Shields/Lawler
This result should shock no one. Shields is that nasty of a grappler, and Lawler isn’t an abu dhabi champion (slamming out of a guillotine is not black belt level stuff). Shields looked incredibly uncomfortable on the feet, but actually threw some robotic strikes successfully, which is a big improvement for him, so perhaps one day he won’t be hopeless on the feet. This is probably the most cosmically balanced result, as Shields is trying to make his way to the UFC, and Lawler is content to be a big fish in a small pond, so this doesn’t hurt his future much.
The New Nick Diaz
It’s become received knowledge; Nick Diaz is already so good, and he’s so young, that he’ll eventually improve and be incredibly good. It’s been said since even before he washed out of the UFC, but there’s been little evidence that this process was actually occurring. For years Diaz fought the same fight the same way, with little to no improvements and the only change being an apparent physical deterioration, until he looked incredibly slow and weak in his eliteXC fights.
With his back to back stoppages of Frank Shamrock and Scott Smith, Diaz looks like he’s finally made a massive improvement and might live up to some of that hype. He still gets hit more than he should, he still can’t wrestle, and he still stands and bangs with fighters that he could obliterate with grappling, but he actually looks much faster at 180lbs than he did at 160. It really seems that he had enervated himself by staying so artificially light, and that his performance in the Shamrock fight was not just due to the contrast with the physical capabilities of an old, broken down fighter (as I thought at the time).
All in all, a good weekend for MMA fans.