Ed’s note: Rather than dwell on Miller/Guillard - from which the only real lesson is that Guillard can’t seem to remember how to defend submissions under pressure - I’ve leapfrogged straight to Evans/Davis with a guest post from writer, MMA-lover and vicious leg-kicker Jon Denton. If you notice that this one’s more coherent and thorough than usual, that’s all him.
What constitutes a boring fight? 15 minutes of Jon Fitch blanket-grinding some poor chump into mush? Nik ‘Stahl’ Lentz leaning you into the cage while tickling the backs of your knees? Or is it now anything that doesn’t live up to the Everestian heights of Shogun/Hendo or Alvarez/Chandler? After Saturday’s perfectly solid, functional and technically sound main event, I was surprised to see such vitriol pouring out of the net’s darkest octagonal corner against Rashad Evans’ dominant, star-affirming turn against the human triangle Phil Davis.
If anything, it reminded me of a boxing main event – an overmatched but supremely talented contender being outclassed round after round. Suga showed his mettle, his drive and most of all his skill as he outboxed, outwrestled and outgrappled Davis in every exchange, breaking him down systematically until his confidence was sapped from his giant mesomorphic frame. If anything, the fight had really begun two days prior at the fantastically entertaining press conference. Rashad’s biting – and at the time seemingly misplaced – barbs seemed to get to Phil. Suga insinuated that Davis had no wrestling technique, that it was ‘trash’. A bold claim against someone with two national titles, when Rashad has few pure wrestling credential of his own. He backed it up, though, and how. This was the first time that Phil Davis hasn’t been the best at something he does. It’ll be interesting to see how Mr Wonderful bounces back.
Perhaps more justifiably slapped with the ‘boring’ tag was the night’s opener, Demian Maia against Chris Weidman. After 20 minutes of dry banter from Curt Menefee, Randy Couture and the deer-in-the-headlights Jonny Bones Jones, we were hungry for action. Instead, what we got was one former jiu-jitsu emperor practising a floppy one-two against a man who’d cut 30 pounds in 10 days and looked ready to collapse at any moment. The fact Weidman was able to power through and take the decision against the plodding Maia is testament to his heart and will, but quite what happened to DM is a mystery. Yes, he’s not a striker, but this is still a man who comfortably outboxed Dan Miller and slammed a closed fist directly into Mark Munoz’ subconscious. Rumours have circulated that he too was poorly before the fight. Regardless, it was not the most spectacular opening to a show on Big Fox. Even worse than those godawful trumpets that burrow their way into your cerebellum.
The most entertaining scrap, of course, was Bisping vs Sonnen, although few could have predicted Mike bullying Chael against the fence for the majority of two rounds and refusing to stay layed-and-indeed-prayed. Bisping’s sprawl still needs work, but his ability – and sheer tenacity - to shrimp to the cage, lock in the wizzer and work his way to the feet is a lesson for any European fighter hoping to make it on the big stage. Just because you get taken down, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
By the third, Chael did manage to maintain top control, and Bisping struggled to summon up the energy to explode back to his feet yet again, but Sonnen did no damage to speak of, while Bisping himself landed the coup-de-grace, actually hauling Chael off his heels, dumping him on the mat and dropping some savage elbows as the final horn echoed throughout the arena. Both thought they’d done enough, and I thought Bisping had the first two in the bag, but the judges saw it the other way.
A controversial decision, then, and a terrible outing for Clay Goodman and his baffling 30-27 scorecard, but it could turn into a win-win for the UFC, Chael and indeed Mikey B. We’ve now got the Sonnen-Silva rematch that the world’s been clamouring for, almost certainly taking place under the bright floodlights of a Brazilian football stadium and primed to make Mixed Martial Arts history. Good. Bisping, though, won the fight in Dana’s eyes. He won in many a fan’s eyes. And he won in his own eyes. He acquitted himself brilliantly in a matchup where no one gave him a chance, and he’s probably only one more win away from a title shot himself. Bisping/Palhares, or Bisping/Munoz? Make it happen.
So, boring? At times, possibly. The decision to keep Manatee-man, Randy and rebellious prefect Jones talking instead of showing off Lavar Johnson’s hideous KO of Joey Beltran, or Cub Swanson’s highlight-reel mouthpiece-rebound right hand, is questionable, but these are the kinks that Fox and the UFC will work out over the course of their gargantuan seven year deal. Sometimes sports just aren’t as dramatic, fierce and air-punchingly, eye-wateringly amazing as we’d like. Suck it up, appreciate the technique, and get the beers in for Condit Diaz. Someone’s getting punched in the face. Hard.