The Emotional Tug-of-War of MMA's Careless and Cautious

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FastKnockout
11/21/11 4:00:27PM
It occurred to me on Saturday night as I watched former UFC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres dismantle Nick Pace on the UFC 139 undercard that we really are a bunch of petulant children. Despite the fact that Torres beat Pace in every department, whether it be on the feet or the ground, we bitched incessantly about Torres' hesitance, relegating him to a landfill of past greats who tasted the leather and didn't survive. In the minds of many fans, Torres was washed-up goods, and his performance against Pace only confirmed that he didn't fit into the mold of what we love.

Five fights later, Stephan Bonnar dominated Kyle Kingsbury with an exhibition of his underrated grappling acumen in the opening bout of the UFC 139 main card. As one would expect, Bonnar was met with boos during the post-fight interview, and it only got worse when Bonnar confirmed that he didn't want to let Kingsbury pull off the incredible by doing something stupid in the late rounds of the bout.

Even former ruler of the mixed martial arts' world Fedor Emelianenko isn't immune to the criticism. He shocked fans with an evolved approach against hulking heavyweight Jeff Monson on Sunday morning at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow, Russia, utilizing quick footwork, a ranged kicking game, and short punching combinations to lessen the risk of being caught. The reaction? The Twitterverse erupted into one of the winiest daycare facilities on the face of the Earth, complaining that Fedor had lost his edge and should have finished Monson in the first round.

I'm not going to fabricate an opinion that I'm completely disgusted with the majority of MMA fans out there who think Torres is boring, Bonnar should have went for the finish, or Fedor should have blasted Monson into next week. Obviously, there is a part of me that wants to see Alvarez vs. Chandler, Rua vs. Henderson, and Silva vs. Le over and over again because those types of battles are pleasing to the mind and eye. Like the emotional struggle within a fighter to find, as Joe Rogan stated during the Torres' bout, the delicate balance between the two styles, fans also have that internal emotional struggle.

It's much simpler for fans however. Our lives aren't dependent on the choice. The choice only affects how we see the entertainment value in a fight. I can make a conscious decision to believe Torres' performance was great. He won, he won decisively, and he is a presence in the upper-echelon of the division. Conversely, I can write him off as boring and the value of his future fights, in my mind, isn't remotely close to what it was when he was wrecking everyone put in front of him during his early days in the WEC.

For fighters, the choice is difficult and temporary. It can change from fight-to-fight, but it's more likely that, with age, a fighter makes the conscious choice to pick his health over fame. The careless, immature 20-year-old brute who buried his opponents in a whilring dervish of violence ten years ago isn't the same fighter he used to be. Now, he has a wife and kids who nervously sit in front of the television hoping he makes it out of a fight unscathed and makes it home for dinner every night.

Naturally, the heavy-hearted thoughts of a person whose riddled with regrets and slowed speech are prevalent among fighters. They understand the risks they are taking every time they step into the Octagon. They also understand that fighting carelessly and recklessly can bring massive success, help you keep your job even when you lose, and give you a chance to earn an enormous bonus check at the end of the night. In order to make next month's mortgage payment, which makes the most sense?

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warglory
11/21/11 6:35:37PM
Don't forget about Wandy. He said himself after the fight that he was cautious because he didn't want another embarrassing defeat like his fight with Leben.

I think a lot of fans want this to be a sport, but they don't want to accept the responsibility that comes with being a sustainable professional athlete, instead, they want flash and brutal violence asap. Wandy actually put it pretty succinctly, by stating that the best fighters are in the UFC, and you need to fight smart in order to survive. When Wandy says this himself (essentially saying that his style is not viable anymore), I think people need to start listening.

Excitement does not have to equal recklessness. I thought Bonnar's fight was awesome. I don't usually enjoy watching Bonnar for the reason why others love him. The dude has tons of potential, but he blows it often because of his reckless style, but Sunday night, Bonnar fought incredibly smart and it resulted in a surprisingly entertaining fight.

People need to appreciate mma as a sport, not as a bloodsport.
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