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Why There Are No Locks In MMA

Posted by mmaplayground Saturday, September 26, 2009 12:00 AM




How many times have you heard or seen it written? "This guys a lock”, ”guy can't lose”, "a sure thing”. Not in MMA. Their really isn't in any sport, but MMA has more variables than other combat sports. Next time someone tells you to bet the farm on a MMA fight, remember these reasons why it can all go to hell in a hand basket quick, and slow your roll.

1. Bad/Inconsistent refereeing - Some refs just outright either miss illegal blows, fence grabbing, glove holding, think a guys in trouble when he's not, and miss attempted taps. Others just don't call the fight by the same rules. One guy stops a fight on flash KO's, while another one wants a fighter to take repeated blows and see if he responds. Another stands up fighter too quick, while his counterpart doesn't believe lay and pray is a problem. Some guys make calls out of position, and others get so close they can't see the frantic tapping happening on the other side of the body. Illegal head butts not only can knock a guy out they can cut you. If the ref doesn't see it can cost you the fight right there, or the cut can ruin your vision, and contribute to a loss. Some judges see the blood as a big score and give it a lot of credence despite its illegal origin. What if Matt Hughes hadn't recovered in time after Frank Trigg landed that nut shot and almost finished him in their second fight? The only damage Matt Serra did till the last minute of the fight in his battle with Hughes was directly correlated to an illegal head butt in the first round. Now it looked unintentional, but so what? It's still the rules, and without time to recover sometimes guys just lose. How bout eye pokes? BJ Penn and Chuck Liddell are famous for accidental eye pokes the ref didn't see. Some refs seem outright biased towards certain fighters even if it’s unconscious. I remember Tony Desouza taking a horrible beating from Thiago Alves, where he was not defending himself for long periods, and still Big John didn't stop the fight. I saw him say in an interview something to the effect of he knew Tony, and knows he can take a lot of punishment. He thought he would give him a chance to get out of trouble. Now whether this is because he knows Desouza well from watching him fight in the past, Tony is a BJJ guy and taking punishment till they pull out a sub is often their plan, or the fact that Big John is a BJJ guy himself is irrelevant. What if the fighter was unknown to Big John or the guy is kick boxer with no known ground game, or the ref isn't Big John the BJJ black belt? It’s not the same for everybody. I have seen Big Jon stop plenty of fights for a lot less. A ref called Steve Steinbess submitted against Ryan Jensen this week, even while Steinbeiss was throwing his thumb up in the air to show he was fine, but the ref just missed it. Are you kidding me? Or how come local boy Jake Ellenberger can unload multiple back of the head shots without the ref making a peep but when Condit grazes the head he gets a warning? Now I am in no way accusing the refs of intentional bias, but they are human and your subconscious is a powerful thing. Also there is noise from the crowd, screaming corner men (sometimes in multiple languages), bright lights, flash bulbs, and adrenaline, all possible distractions. Don't even get me started on fights where there is no athletic commission. Places where the mob holds sway, or promotions where refs seem to favor a particular fighter, or where nationalism comes into play. Does anyone remember the ref dragging a completely destroyed Yoshida to center ring in Pride when Yoshida couldn't do it himself? Trying to help a guy display “warrior spirit" or whatever, that ref almost got Yoshida killed! There needs to be extra refs at cage side and at least one catching it on TV to see as many angles as possible. At the very least some fights could be reversed right away, declared a no contest or, a point could be deducted between rounds, and the judges could be notified when and what took place. That's not they way it is currently though and refs seems to mistakenly decide at least one fight per card these days .This doesn't mean the same fighters wouldn't have won some times. We just don't know what would have happened if the illegalities had been witnessed and enforced by the refs, or never happened at all. What happens when the ref doesn't see a guy grab the cage or shorts, but sees his opponent do it? Their are just too many way for a ref to affect the outcome for any sure things.

2. Game plans implemented or just stupid ones - Jorge Gurgel is the king of bad game plans. A BJJ stud who likes to show how tough he is by standing and banging with guys even as his face gets pummeled. How many people expected Couture to clinch Nogueira against the fence, work dirty boxing, and then secure a good take down and work position? I did, and man was I wrong. Who thought Ricco Rodriguez shouldn't have tried to “get that respect" and prove he could stand with Sylvia? Now hindsight is always 20/20, and occasionally a guy will have game plan we don't expect that is either brilliant or just shows he has more than we thought in an area. The first Fedor / Noguiera fight weren't you shocked when Fedor stayed in Big Nog's guard the majority of their fight, He not only avoided the subs easily, but actually beat the crap out of Nog for 20 minutes. Still the majority of the time there is big game plan surprise it’s the loser who pulled them. How bout Pe De Pano trying to outbox Monson for 3 rounds. Hmm... 2 world class grapplers standing for 3 rounds and only one of them has had some pro boxing matches. Pe De Pano needed to keep trying to get that takes down or even pulled guard to have a chance, but he didn't. Hell, Melvin Guillard had the right game plan against Nate Diaz and was implementing it for awhile, but he got stupid for a minute and Bamm! Another loss. How about Dan Henderson fighting Kazuo Misaki. Hendo knew Misaki lacked the power to hurt him, was tired of the “decision Dan" moniker, and thought he would eventually land the big shot. He didn't and the elusive Misaki out pointed him. Does anyone really think Hendo couldn't have taken him down, kept him there, and beat on him for 3 rounds? Hell, Frank Trigg did it right after just to show it could be done, and Trigg's no Hendo in my book.

3. Unknowns- fighters, injury's or training (good and bad) - Most of us just have to take what the fighter or his camp tell us as the truth. A lot of real MMA insiders won't even break a story till after a fight to avoid giving a fighter’s opponent an advantage. If you knew Big Niog was hurt and recovering from Staph infection would you have still thought he was going to win against Mir? Probably not. How many times did Frank Mir tell us he was in shape and %110 and lie about it. At least 3, and then we would later hear that he wasn't even training 3 days a week leading up to the fight, or his leg was still bothering him. Then when Mir really was back few of us suspected it. He cried wolf before so why would we believe him? How about when a guy rapidly improves in an area and plans to use that in his fight. Sherk/Egdar is the perfect example. If you had asked me who had better stand up before the fight I would have sworn it was Sherk. Edgar trains his butt off, has a solid game plan and the fight I thought was lock of the night was an upset. Bonnar against a worn down Coleman. Huge amount of people favored Bonnar. No dice. Wednesday the 3 fights I heard and saw called locks the most all looked a lot different than most of us expected. Cantwell over Stann in their rubber match- in a fight we had every reason to expect (after the first 2 were) was going to at least be a first round slug fest either way. Cantwell was a 3 to 1 favorite for an early KO, and instead a plodding Stann victory (that had many booing) ensued. Mike Pierce over Brock Larson. 95 % of the mmaplaygrounds members picked Larson over the relatively unknown Pierce. Even in the film I could find he didn't look that impressive and he hadn't fought a lot of established competition. How bout Ellenberger? 92% of us favored Condit, and who was this Ellenberger guy anyway. What he never heard of the UFC jitters? Condit may have got the decision but it could have gone either way, especially with the inconsistent refereeing. So 2 out of 3 " locks " were upsets, and the 3rd was hard fought split decision victory. Sure sometimes people make excuses after the fight, but often they are telling he truth and we go in betting blind.

3. Inconsistent, uninformed, obstructed, or just plain bad judging- How many times have you seen a guy slip and go down and a judge rules it a knockdown? That's usually a point in boxing or kickboxing, but it shouldn't be in MMA, so it's even worse if it was a slip and a judge gives them a point lead. It’s not a rule, but there are still some judges who come from those standup fighting backgrounds and automatically use those criteria. It used to be worse, especially if you were a BJJ guy, and the athletic commission appointed a bunch of boxing judges to your fight. Sometimes judges either have a bad angle or are just too far away to judge if a shot really landed, and how much damage it did. Many of the judges who consider themselves MMA aficionados still don't understand the finer points of grappling as well. Does a fighter get points for keeping guard, omaplatas, wrist control, and his ability to avoid shots from his back? Probably not enough with most judges, and too much with others. Some favor top control (all are actually supposed to by UFC rules) and some reward activity, even if it’s largely ineffectual. How about when a guy took one or 2 big shots but got outfought the majority of the fight .One guy landed 2 good blows , but his face is mostly unmarked, and the other guy tooled him , but his eye is swollen nearly shut and he is bleeding from a knot on his forehead. Some promotions, especially those without athletic commissions seem to favor their home grown fighters, or the hometown boy the judge is familiar with sees it differently than other judges. If you saw the Quaryy/Creduer fight Nate looked worse and a judge gave the fight to Tim, even though everyone I saw it with thought Nate won for sure.

4. Anyone can get caught- Punchers chance, high on adrenaline, or overconfident- How many times have you heard a guy just say " Hey, I got caught, it happens”? Sometimes they are right. If they fought he same guy a 100 times they would probably win 95, but since no one does fight a person that many times, it only takes one of the 5 to cost them a win. George St.Pierre's loss against Matt Serra comes to mind. Serra not only rocked him with a shot to the head, but unlike some, Matt has a killer instinct. He didn't lay back and let him recover. He kept rocking him, and smartly stood in his guard and pounded him, instead of working his GNP and giving GSP a chance to tie him up. Now not many welterweights are squatty enough to stand in a fighters guard and dish out punches, but Serra is, and did. GSP dominated and overpowered Serra in the rematch, but I still think if they fought 100 times GSP would at least win 95. Pet Sell vs. Scott Smith. Sell hurts Smith, an instead of coming in smartly and maybe throwing a kick from the outside to finish, he barrels in and gets clocked. Jens Pulver vs. Jou Lauzon. Now in hindsight maybe Jens was just near the end, or lightweights had just gotten too big for him now, but he was jogging around the ring like he was going to a sparring session. He got overwhelmed and finished just like that. There are too many instances of this phenomenon to even go deeply into it.

5. Drug testing and weight cutting- Some times fighters come from a place where drug testing is non existent or a sham. Whether they are using these drugs to enhance performance, dull pain, or cut weight they definitely give a competitive advantage. Maybe Nick Diaz didn't get a advantage from the weed when he fought Gomi, but he sure survived some vicious shots and kept coming .Diaz got dropped and had his orbital bone broken, but kept coming till he finished Gomi .If steroids didn't give some fighters an advantage how come these guys usually win when they test positive, and then sometimes look and fight like a different person when they don’t. There is no refund at the betting window when the fight is overturned (if it’s overturned) days later when it’s discovered a winning fighter failed his drug test. Or you could be fighting a guy who only fought places where they tested before, and now you are fighting in a venue that doesn't test. Whether your opponent is just suddenly huge and gorilla strong ( roids), has boundless energy ( stimulants) ,or suddenly can't be hurt( nerve deadeners and pain killers) ,that directly affects the fighters performance. There are tons of guys many suspect ( rightly or wrongly) that have never tested positive before and while I won't mention any by name, I am sure many share my concerns. Josh Barnett seemed a very different fighter when he passed his test, and couldn't finish (low ranked) Gilbert Yvel till late in the fight. When he has to fight someone like Couture or Fedor he suddenly can't pass a test. Intriguing and raises a lot of questions doesn't it? If you come from a wrestling background weight cutting is a science. Fighters often cut 10 - 15 % of their body weight and are far larger than someone who can’t (or doesn't know how) to cut well. Often a fighter without weight cutting skills is fighting in a weight class above what they could if they had it down better. Others believe weight cutting actually saps their wind and won't do it

6. MMA skills are different than single discipline skills- GSP over Koscheck showed how a decorated amateur wrestler can get out wrestled by a guy who has adapted his wrestling best for MMA. I thought for sure GSP would be trying to keep it standing, but he took KO's down and dominated him. Fitch? Same thing. Matt Hughes? Dominated him on the ground too. Maybe a BJJ guy like BJ Penn could stop him? Nope, took him down and overpowered him as well. How about stand up. Mirko Cro-cops striking for MMA is fundamentally different from his K-1 striking. Different stances and adaptable techniques are necessary to avoid the take down. Then theirs the clinch. You can't grab the back of the head in K-1 and use it to knee a guy out. Anderson Silva is a rarity in MMA because he uses all 8 points to strike with, and is a master of the clinch for striking. If it’s in the octagon there is also a lot more room to maneuver than a K-1 ring has. Would Anderson Silva do as well in K-1? Maybe, but I doubt it. He would need a lot of time to adapt his striking and tone down his repertoire. What if he actually got his dream boxing match with Roy Jones JR.? How long would it take him to get used to not throwing kicks, knees and elbows? If it was the Roy Jones JR from 10 years ago I think Jones would embarrass him, but we will never know. The over the hill Jones still might though. Consequently a K-1 guy needs a fair amount of time to adapt his striking for MMA. Then there is GI vs. no GI jujitsu. There are so many more ways to tie up and submit a guy with a GI that the transition can take years. That's part of the reason many world champion GI BJJ guys don't make it big in MMA. Getting used to getting hit hurts them some too.

7. Styles make fights- A dominant wrestler, with good sub D, and a strong chin can beat anyone anytime in a 3round fight. All they need is to avoid the big shot coming in, get the take down, stay on top, and stay moderately active to grind out a round. Now in a 5 round fight this is usually less noticeable, as often they will eventually get caught coming in, but in a 3 round fight it can mean a decision wins. Or their GNP can wear a guy down, or a cut or injury could happen because they are trapped on the bottom. Styles are important for all types of fighters as well. I was always of the opinion that Chuck would beat Wandy when they finally fought because Chuck had more reach, threw more (still not near enough though) straight punches and Wandy throws a lot of a short armed body hooks. It worked out, but many more technical strikers have given Chuck fits lately. Chuck vs. a wrestler with rudimentary stand up is still a good bet though. What if he fought Arona? Would Chuck just back up and knock him out when Arona shot it in? A better technical striker like Luis Cane would probably have a bad time against Arona. He doesn't have Chucks TD defense and doesn't generally KO people backing up. Randy Couture seems to do great against some good strikers, strikers like Tim Sylvia and Pedro Rizzo, but is over matched against bigger wrestlers. The myth MMA math is easily disproved by certain styles of fighters beating others.

8. Style over substance- Often a guy will land a few early highlight KO's against weaker opposition , talk a good game, or is unknown enough to surprise his opponents, and we start believe in him. There was a time when many people thought Tito Ortiz was the best wrestler in MMA. Why? He was a junior college champ, and NCAA champs and Olympic wrestlers abounded in MMA. The media, the UFC, and Tito related it so often that many started to believe it. Then Tito fought Randy Couture. Out wrestled, and manhandled like a child for 5 rounds, Tito was humbled. Chuck KO'd a lot of wrestlers but Keith Jardine, Rampage, Rashad and Shogun all beat him on the feet. I am not saying his legend is undeserved. He won a lot of big fights against a lot top fighters, but his stand up prowess was exaggerated. He has regressed as a stand up fighter, and rarely uses his jab. Chuck mostly throws power shots now, throws body punches from too far outside, and rarely throws kicks anymore. Not even near the best striker in his weight class, but 3 years ago many thought Chuck the best striker in MMA. How about Sokoudjou? Yes he KO'd Lil Nog and Arona right out of the gate with explosive power. But take him to the ground and he's lost. I jumped on that bandwagon after the Arona fight myself and was sorely disappointed. If you listened to Melvin Guillard talk on TUF 2 you would think Fedor would kneel before him. Josh Burkman was not intimidated by all his brashness and took it to him. Junie Browning is another style over substance guy. Runs his mouth like BJ Penn should just hand him his belt, but Cole Miler finished him quick, and Roli Delgado took him to a decision on TUF.

9. Cuts, freak injuries, good cut men and doctors opinions - Then there is blood How often does a cut make a fighter look worse than he is? Edwin Dewees got cut on an episode of the ultimate fighter, and even though he was leaking like a faucet he was winning clearly. Not only can the judges give to much credence to this, but a doctor could stop the fight. I mean he was bleeding continuously, and some got on the fighter beneath him. What if it gets in his eyes? That's all up to the individual doctor and ref, and some will stop that fight, while others will let it continue. How about the razor sharp elbows of Kenny Florian? It wouldn't matter if he was getting owned by BJ, if he cut him over the eye and BJ couldn't see, and the cut man couldn't control it. Now BJ is one of those guys whose face is either structured to make him hard to cut, or he has thick skin, so this wasn't a problem that time. It was a problem when he fought Alex Karalexis and Chris Leben, with Leben clearly ahead when the fight was stopped. If you’re Nick Diaz or Spencer Fisher your scar tissue or bone structure makes you more susceptible to cuts, and Diaz had surgery to make himself less susceptible to it, but will it last? Then you have Fedor /TK. Fedor is still undefeated in my eyes, and I understand the tournament rules made it mandatory that someone had to be declared the winner, but come on! It was an illegal blow that caused that "loss”. When Vitor threw a blow that resulted in his glove grazing and cutting Randy Couture's eyelid, he became the UFC light heavyweight champ! Talk about anticlimactic. That was the worst main event ever, but Vitor got the win. Randy had finished him before and finished him in the rematch, but Vitor got the victory. Some fighters believe so much in Jacob " Stitch " Duran 's abilities to keep them fighting ,that they won't sign a contract without a guarantee that he is in their corner. A good cut man can alleviate some of the one time shot variables, or make a fight that should be stopped continue longer than it should.

In the end very little in sports is certain, and MMA is far too unpredictable for people to be thinking they know it all. So spread out your bets and don't go chirping to everyone in ear shot about a lock. You’re just as likely to get humbled, eat crow, and have people blaming you for the money they lost.


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