I know it’s a little late for Christmas references, but I’m going to make one anyway: UFC 108 was the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Scraggly and unappreciated at first, it cleaned up pretty well by the end. All that was missing was Dana White and Joe Rogan locking arms and belting out “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.”
Of course, I was in no mood for singing after the third round between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva. 2010 is barely two days young and those five minutes are an early contender for Dumbest MMA Thing of The Year. Like a New Year’s hangover, let’s purge it from our system with some ranting right now.
“You’re telling me I should throw these in *combinations*? That doesn’t sound right.”
The first two rounds of the main event were relatively uneventful and played out how we thought they would. At some point in his training camp, Evans was reminded by Greg Jackson that he could, in fact, wrestle. And so he did, chasing combinations of punches with takedown attempts that put Silva to the canvas time and again. There was no finish in sight (although Evans did get to one solid mount in the first round but could not keep it in control) but Evans was coasting to a decision victory and some much needed proof that he was ready to get back to basics. That’s exactly what he needed after an impetuous gameplan left him stanky against Lyoto Machida. Meanwhile, Silva was being kept completely off his game, his explosive power held in check by the takedown threat. Instead of closing distance and delivering huge combinations, Silva attempted probing shots like a fencer lost at range. That’s not the Chute Boxe way.
The frustration (and exhaustion) written on Silva’s face indicated that both men knew the score: two rounds to none, Rashad. That’s what made the events that took place with about three minutes left to go in the fight so bizarre. Silva, who hadn’t been attacking all fight, started posturing and preening like a third-grader impersonating Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, instead of attacking and shooting – or keeping distance – Evans lowered his guard and was rewarded by a peppering from Silva. Then, when Thiago could have pushed the advantage, he seemed more interested in venting his frustration, bobbing his head like the move Evans had added to his repertoire for the fight. Had he been throwing those combinations all fight, he might have won, but it was too little too late. Evans took a clear 29-28 decision across the scorecards.
Let me remind you, Mr. Silva, that your first name is Thiago, not Anderson. It’s one thing, as when Spider fought Thales Leites, if the opponent steadfastly refuses to engage. It’s another when the opponent has dominated you for two rounds and you are now down to needing a stoppage to win or a 10-8 to tie. As a show of frustration, it was tacky and needless. As a fighting strategy, it was stupid and disrespectful. Thankfully, it will be a while before Thiago is relevant in the division again.
Phew! Glad I got that out of my system, because all told UFC 108 was actually quite an entertaining show. In spite of a hilariously long list of injuries that decimated the card, the fights we saw featured some good MMA and some solid exhibitions for prospect fighters.
I hate fatties, and Paul Daley tops my Fattiewatch 2010 list by missing weight for his fight against Dustin Hazelett by two pounds. It’s disappointing that he couldn’t get his cut right, because the tremendous series of left hands that flattened Hazelett in the first round shouldn’t be sullied. The fight was decided early by the strange-looking “McLovin” when he chose to stand and trade with “Semtex” – huge mistake. Hopefully Demian Maia will buy him a drink sometime this week and they can compare notes about how not to get blasted in the face as a submission fighter.
Jim Miller did me proud as a fellow Jerseyan – it’s been so rough to be from the Garden State these days, all I hear is “Snooki” this and “fistpump” that – by executing a delightful knockdown/side control/full mount/armbar finish to put away Duane Ludwig. Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos, who finished Gilbert Yvel with a huge shot, really needs to have his name tossed around more in the mix at heavyweight. I’d be happy seeing him against the Nogueira/Velasquez loser after UFC 110.
Fight of the Night, however, ought to go to the rumble between Sam Stout and Joe Lauzon. Stout looked in trouble early when Lauzon exploded his forehand with a nice elbow after a takedown, and Lauzon had a rolling arm-wrench that never developed but looked like it did some damage. The round winded him, however, and Stout controlled the pace and positioning of the next two rounds, peppering Lauzon with shots and stuffing takedowns. A late guillotine attempt by Lauzon might have been trouble but Stout was too tough for it and took the unanimous decision. UFC’s lightweight division might be too stacked right now for him to break through to the top tier, but at least you know that Hands of Stone is going to give you a hell of a fight.
His efforts and those of the undercard fighters made it a surprisingly solid night for the UFC – in spite of Thiago Silva trying to antic the goodwill away.
Image from the Houston Chronicle.