“ROWDY” USHERS IN A NEW ERA
Let’s start with the obvious. Ronda Rousey crossed the gender line by becoming the first female to ever compete in and win a fight in the UFC. That is an amazing accomplishment.
Now, let’s move to the substance. Rousey is a ridiculously talented mixed martial artist. It was no secret heading into the fight that she wanted to win by armbar—first-round armbar, actually. Each of her previous six professional fights ended in the first round by that submission hold.
Her opponent, Liz Carmouche, prepared extensively to defend the armbar. Yet, she lost by that very hold. Why? There is a massive difference between someone who has practiced a move literally hundreds of thousands of times over the course of a lifetime versus someone who picked up a sport just a few years ago.
I’m going to go so far as to suggest that Rousey is the greatest armbar artist in the history of the sport. Yes, I’m including Royce and Rickson Gracie in that analysis. Think I’m crazy? I really don’t care. Rousey is an Olympian twice over. She was the youngest competitor in the ENTIRE Olympic Games the first time she competed. Her second trip resulted in a bronze medal, making her the first US woman to ever medal in judo.
Say what you will about the famed Gracie family, they aren’t winning judo medals. Armbars existed before Helio Gracie and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And Rousey is better at that move than anyone who has ever competed in our sport.
Yes, Marcelo Garcia, I’m including you in that analysis.
Whether Rousey goes on to Anderson Silva-like greatness remains to be seen. There will be tons and tons of distractions for her over the course of her championship reign. She is already a rock star in the sport. She is just steps away from becoming an icon. That presents unique challenges for any human.
Nonetheless, Rousey made history on Saturday night, and I’m truly happy that I witnessed it.
MACHIDA NEEDS TO MOVE SOUTH
I know. I know. Lyoto Machida won. But I don’t see any way that he beats reigning 205-pound champion Jon Jones. Thus, the Brazilian needs to drop to middleweight, where he could very well become the next dominant champion.
Machida weighed 202 pounds for the fight. That seems to be his sweet spot. The world’s greatest color man, Joe Rogan, talked about how the lighter weight makes him quicker than most light heavies. True. But that isn’t the entire story.
Machida doesn’t cut weight, so he is a natural 202 pounds. In other words, he is probably 20 pounds lighter than most opponents by the time the fight actually gets underway. I doubt he gave 20 pounds to Dan Henderson. Maybe five or six pounds. But the point holds.
At a natural 202 pounds, Machida could easily cut to 185 pounds. At that weight, he would be one of the bigger, stronger competitors, rather than one of the smaller guys at light heavy. Yeah, yeah, I know his close friend Anderson Silva is the reigning champion at middleweight. Who cares? This is a business. Machida needs to drop down and challenge him—period.
HAS THE ARCH TURNED?
Dan Henderson is no spring chicken. He is one of the oldest competitors in the UFC. On Saturday night, he looked like it, too.
I don’t know what the judges were thinking. There is no way Hendo won two rounds. That should have been a unanimous decision for Machida. I say that in light of the fact that Hendo is one of my favorite athletes in all of MMA.
Hendo’s problem in the fight was he relied almost exclusively on his big right hand. He needs to do more. Stalking an expert counterpuncher is not the right way to approach any fight. Hendo proved that in the third round when he put his elite wrestling skills on display by putting the Brazilian on his backside.
Had Hendo done that in one of the two opening rounds, he would be first in line for a fight with Jones, assuming the champion dispatches Chael Sonnen in the spring, which I’m quite confident he will do.
The results of the fight make me wonder whether Hendo has started the inevitable decline that all professional athletes face at some point in their career thanks to Father Time. I guess we will find out when he next competes
“RUTHLESS” RETURNS IN THE RIGHT WAY
The late, great Evan Tanner once told me that, if all else is equal, the bigger, stronger man will win a fight.
Robbie Lawler had been competing in the middleweight division for the last several years. He achieved mixed results—spectacular knockouts and sleepy performances. But it bears mentioning that he wasn’t competing at the top of the sport’s food chain during that time.
Now that he has finally returned to the true “big leagues,” it is great to see him returning to the weight class that best fits his frame. I acknowledge that few humans like cutting 20-plus pounds for a fight. Heck, I don’t like flying across the country every other month to spend a week apart from my family. But we all do what we have to do in order to put ourselves in the best position to be successful.
For Lawler, that absolutely means competing at welterweight. He is a legitimate contender in that division. He is an opponent at middleweight.
Lawler’s return was the feel-good moment of the night for me. I say that in light of the fact that Josh Koscheck remains one of my favorite fighters in the entire sport. Nonetheless, it felt like a full circle moment for the UFC, with its prodigal son returning with a spectacular win.
WAS IT TOO SOON?
Speaking of Kos, was he robbed on Saturday night?
Lawler certainly didn’t think so. He mentioned in his in-cage interview that his foe wasn’t escaping that position so carnage was sure to follow. I’m not so sure.
Herb Dean is the best in the business. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I’m not second guessing the big fella. He probably saw Kos’s eyes glaze over after that first clean right hand, so the stoppage was probably a good one.
But there is no denying the fact that the punch that made Kos’s eyes glaze over was quickly followed by one that woke him right back up.
When the fight was waved off, Kos definitely had all of his faculties. His head was up off the canvas, and his hand was up in a defensive position. Sure, he was getting hit with shots. That is part of the sport. He wasn’t by any means defenseless.
Quick stoppages are just part of the business. Kos knows that. Lawler knows that. Dean knows that. Do I wish Kos had been given more of an opportunity? Absolutely. With that said, I’d always have a referee err on the side of caution than wait one punch too long.
I’m sure Kos agrees with me, despite the fact that he was on the short end of the stick on Saturday night.