The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 47 | Combat Sports Recap

Leaving Proof 47 | Combat Sports Recap
Published on Monday, August 29, 2011 by

Time for another combat sports recap, where I muse on the latest news and results from the world of boxing, MMA, and other combat-oriented competitive sports and events.

Boxing: Mares goes nuts on Agbeko’s “Golden Boys”

Joseph Agbeko reacts to a low blow from Abner Mares in the 11th round of their IBF Bantamweight title fight. Mares went on to win via a controversial majority decision. 

The biggest story of the past couple of weeks in the boxing world, at least for me, was the terrible officiating in the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament Final that featured New York-based Ghanian Joseph King Kong Agbeko defending his IBF title against Golden Boy Promotions headliner Abner Mares. It was a highly competitive bout that was marred by multiple low blows from Mares and compounded by referee Russell Mora’s refusal or inability to control the former Olympian’s penchant for hitting south of the border. I counted about a dozen clear and unquestionably low blows from the Mexican pugilist, and at least just as many debatable “borderline legal” shots on the belt line. And yet it was Agbeko that Mora repeatedly warned for allegedly pushing down on Mares. Most ridiculous of all, when Agbeko seemed to be turning the fight around in the 11th round, Mares threw an obviously deliberate low blow to Agbeko’s cup, dropping him on all fours. I thought for sure Mora would take a point away from Mares for such a blatant foul. But no, he ended up counting it as a knockdown, which finally got the normally calm and unflappable Agbeko and his corner complaining. But even with two phantom knockdowns (Mora counted a slip by Agbeko in the first round as a knockdown) and Mora’s refusal to deduct a point from Moras for repeated fouls, the scores on the cards were close: Mares eked out a majority decision that was soundly booed by the audience at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A terribly officiated fight. It’s at least the second-worst officiated professional fight I’ve seen televised live in the last decade or so (behind the ridiculous reffing job Dan Kelley did in the first Emanuel Augustus-Courtney Burton match in 2004).

The conspiracy theorists were out in full force even while the fight was going on. Boxing message boards were lighting up over Mora’s obvious favoring of Mares. I’m not normally a Jim Gray fan (I don’t know any boxing fan who is, actually) but for one brief, shining moment, he spoke for the thousands of boxing fans who watched the fight when he absolutely slaughtered Mora in a post-fight interview:

Screencap of Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez’ since-deleted tweet saying “I Love Russell Mora,” posted immediately after the fight (click picture to enlarge).

It didn’t help that immediately after the fight, Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez tweeted “I Love Russell Mora” (Gomez quickly deleted the tweet, but not before it was captured in a screencap that quickly circulated on the web). The next day, a story started going around that Don King (Agbeko’s promoter) had actually requested via a letter sent to the Nevada commission two weeks before the bout that Mora be replaced as the referee because of his reputation as a “Golden Boy referee.” Nevada commissioner Keith Kizer confirmed receiving the letter, but saw no evidence to substantiate King’s claims. To be fair though, Mora did issue a statement the Monday after the fight that upon review, the 11th round knockdown was the result of a low blow and shouldn’t have been counted as such. Kizer has since announced that Mora will be working smaller shows for a while.

The IBF has ordered an immediate rematch in light of the controversy (due to “inappropriate referee conduct” according to their official statement) surrounding the match. The ideal resolution would have been for the fight have been ruled a no-contest, in my mind, but barring any evidence of corruption (i.e., that Mora had been paid to call the fight the way he did), that’s not really happening.

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time Mora’s been in some officiating controversy this year. In February, he exposed bantamweight Fernando Montiel to unnecessary mortal danger when he allowed the Los Mochis-based slugger to resume the fight against Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire when it was obvious that Montiel was in no condition to continue after a brutal knockdown:

As for Mares, I think his career’s momentum is largely unhampered by the controversy, although his reputation with the fans has surely been affected by his last two performances. Everybody loves a winner, as the truism goes, but I think even the most die-hard Mares fans will concede that, of late, he has had trouble keeping his shots to the midsection legal. In the tournament semi-final, he was also accused by opponent Vic Darchinyan of deliberately throwing low (Darchinyan even compiled a video of all the unpenalized low blows and sent copies of it to various media outlets). Is he a “dirty” fighter? I’m not sure. Any fighter who commits to body-punching will inevitably have a few shots stray below the beltline by accident (watch a Miguel Cotto or Mike McCallum fight and you’ll see what I mean). But it also seems like in at least a couple of instances in the Darchinyan and Agbeko fights, he deliberately threw low once he sussed out that the referee, whether by design or incompetence, was likely to let him get away with it. In any event, my enthusiasm for Mares has dimmed somewhat after this fight, and even though I view him as the favorite in the rematch (he’s younger than Agbeko, and has still to peak physically and interms of his overall skills, I think), I’ll be rooting for Agbeko next they meet.

MMA: Post-UFC 134 thoughts

Big Nog shows he still has a lot left in the tank against Brendan Schaub

There weren’t any real big surprises with the main card results of last Saturday’s UFC 134 held in Rio de Janeiro’s HSBC Arena, with the exception of Stanislav Nedkov’s come-from-behind knockout of local favorite Luiz Cane. I even expected Forrest Griffin’s flailing-on-the-ground exit (seriously, he always does that flailing-on-the-ground thing when he’s being battered on his back. It’s almost his trademark at this point). I suppose one could argue that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s knockout of Brendan Schaub was a minor upset, but that entirely depends on how highly one rates Schaub (personally, I think it was a little premature for some MMA journos to talk about Schaub being a legit heavyweight title contender). Perhaps the biggest surprise, results-wise, was that there were no submission wins recorded for the night (not even in the preliminary bouts). I can’t remember the last time that happened in a major UFC event and it’s extra curious happening in Rio de Janeiro, the geographical base of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since the 1920s.

Brazilian prospect Edson Barboza escapes with a split-decision win against the UK’s Ross Pearson

I was disappointed in Brazilian lightweight prospect Edson Barboza’s performance against Ross Pearson, though, despite Barboza getting the split-decision win. Pearson’s a very tough fighter with excellent boxing skills (heck, I think he could probably make a decent living as a pro boxer based on the high-level technique he’s shown in his fights) but a mixed martial artist with Barboza’s training pedigree and obvious physical advantages shouldn’t have struggled so much against him. Going into the cage, Barboza was supposed to be the bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled fighter, but you wouldn’t have known it just by watching the match. Pearson kept coming forward and Barboza kept backing up, and when Barboza had Pearson hurt in the second round, he failed to capitalize on it. I actually had Pearson winning the fight two rounds to one, but have no problem with Barboza getting the nod. It’s a fight that could have gone either way, but it shouldn’t have come to that. Then again, maybe I’m severely underestimating Pearson’s abilities.

Anderson Silva pummels Yushin Okami en route to a stoppage win

Of course, the real reason people were tuning in Saturday night was to see Anderson “The Spider” Silva defend his middleweight strap against Yushin Okami, the last man to have beaten Silva in a professional MMA fight (via a disqualification in 2006). Despite the nature of Okami’s win over Silva, many fans were holding out hope that we would see a barn-burner like the Silva-Sonnen fight (especially since Okami had actually trained with Sonnen for this event).

It wasn’t even close.

Instead of relentlessly pouring on the pressure and taking the fight to the ground like Sonnen did, Okami was content to stalk Silva, which is exactly the kind of thing you don’t want to do against him, as it gives him the room to use his reach and kicks. Even when Okami managed to pin Silva against the cage in the first round, he was tentative and didn’t really land any effective strikes. By the time the second round rolled around, Silva had gotten the measure of Okami, and was basically toying with him, facing him with his hands low at his sides, before knocking him down and pummeling him repeatedly en route to the TKO.

Silva celebrates his UFC record-setting 9th consecutive title defense and 14th consecutive win

What really struck me about Silva’s performance is how easy he made it look. He’s so far ahead in his striking game that less knowledgeable fans and critics dismiss his opponents as chumps after he dispatches them (conveniently forgetting how highly rated they were before coming up against Silva). There don’t really seem to be any serious threats to Silva’s dominance of the division. A rematch with Sonnen is probably the most intriguing fight out there aside from Georges St. Pierre moving up from welterweight (and I think Silva wins against GSP if they fought right now) but I don’t know if Silva would make the same mistakes as in their previous fights. Mark Muñoz could prove interesting, as I think his pure wrestling skills and brute strength would give Silva the same sorts of issues Sonnen gave him on the ground in UFC 117. The problem with Muñoz is that his mediocre stand-up and predictable offense would probably keep him from getting in close enough to take the fight to the ground where he has the distinct advantage.

Whatever the future holds for Silva though, right now, I’m just content to watch him continue his legend-making run atop the sport.

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