The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 53 | Combat Sports Recap, part 1 of 2 (MMA)

Leaving Proof 53 | Combat Sports Recap, part 1 of 2 (MMA)
Published on Monday, October 24, 2011 by

Been a while since I last posted a combat sports recap column, so let’s get right down to it. The most significant mixed martial arts fights of the past seven weeks, and my thoughts on them:

10 September 2011 (heavyweights): Josh Barnett def. Sergei Kharitonov (submission 1); Daniel Cormier def. Antonio Silva (TKO 1)

Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier have set up an all-American Showtime/Strikeforce heavyweight tournament final by defeating Sergei Kharitonov of Russia and Antonio Silva of Brazil, respectively. Not exactly the star-studded final people were looking for, I think, in an event that, at the beginning, counted surefire draws like Fedor Emelianenko (eliminated by Silva in the first round) and Alistair Overeem (withdrew from the tournament due to an alleged injury and replaced by Cormier) among its participants. Barnett vs. Cormier isn’t a bad fight, though. On paper, they’re two of the best MMA heavyweights outside of the UFC: his history of past PED use aside, I believe Barnett can bang with the top five UFC heavyweights and Cormier, while significantly less well-rounded as a mixed martial artist than the best big men in the sport, is a top-flight wrestler (one of the best in MMA, I would think, given his Olympic pedigree) and has the strength and athleticism to turn a fight around with just one well-placed shot as evidenced by how he repeatedly rocked the bigger Silva. Still, the tournament has lost a lot of luster with the loss of Fedor and The Reem and as unfair as it sounds to the hard-working people at Showtime and Strikeforce who put it together, I think the real prize for the winner will be an almost-guaranteed ticket to the UFC, and not the Strikeforce heavyweight trinket.

17 September 2011 (welterweights): Jake Ellenberger def. Jake Shields (TKO 1)

In “The Battle of the Jakes,”  former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields lost to UFC veteran Jake Ellenberger in a fight that lasted all of 53 seconds. Ellenberger caught the once-beaten Shields in a textbook Muay Thai clinch about 45 seconds into the first round and quickly blasted him with a knee to the body immediately followed by a knee to the head. With Shields on his knees and elbows, Ellenberger started raining down strikes and after about six unanswered shots to the temple, referee Kevin Mulhall stopped the fight. Was it an early stoppage? On multiple repeat viewings, it does seem to me like Shields was still in the process of mounting a defense when Mulhall stepped in to halt the bout. Then again, would a few more seconds have been enough for Shields to get out of a bad and indefensible position on the ground? Hard to say. In these cases, it’s better to err on the side of caution, particularly when one guy is taking multiple hits to the head with no way to defend against them, but I can understand why Shields felt like he wasn’t given a fair opportunity by the ref to improve his position and get back into the fight. As for Ellenberger, he gets a fight with Diego Sanchez (a step down in competition from Shields in terms of talent, in my opinion, but hey, what do I know, I just watch the fights) and a likely shot at the winner of St. Pierre-Condit and the UFC welterweight belt.

24 September 2011 (light heavyweights): Jon Jones def. Quinton Jackson (submission 4)

Jon “Bones” Jones continued his dominance of the UFC’s 205 lbs. division by utterly overwhelming Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in a title match that saw the 24 year old win every round en route to closing the show in the 4th round with a perfectly executed rear naked choke. I don’t think this fight really showed us anything we didn’t know before about Jones… the 33 year-old Rampage has seemingly had one foot out of the MMA door (and into Hollywood) for a few years now, but even a disinterested and aging Rampage is still a dangerous opponent, although one would not have known it watching Jones manhandle the former unified PRIDE and UFC  middleweight champion. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find a reason to bet against the talented Jones, whose unconventional fighting style, awkward timing, and ridiculously long reach coupled with the mentoring of Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn make him damn near untouchable when he’s got his game on. I’m not ready to call him the next Anderson Silva just yet, but he’s well on the way to becoming the consensus best fighter in MMA if he keeps winning, and winning in convincing and definitive fashion, against the top competition in his weight class. Next up for Jones: a match with modern karate poster boy and former UFC light heavyweight titlist Lyoto Machida (no stranger to the “most unconventional fighter” label in the UFC himself).

01 October 2011 (bantamweights): Dominick Cruz def. Demetrious Johnson (unanimous decision 5)

I think few people would argue that Dominick Cruz isn’t the top 135-pounder in MMA right now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a fighter that fans want to see. The bantamweight division is the forgotten weight class in MMA in terms of casual fan awareness, and Cruz’ efficient, defensive style and relatively low knockout and submission ratios (he has 6 KO wins and 1 submission win out of 19 wins total) aren’t going to change that anytime soon, I think. I’d have loved to see the former customer service rep take more risks and try to be more active in pursuit of the knockout against the skilled-but-ultimately-too-diminutive Johnson (who—at 5′ 3″—is quite undersized even by MMA bantamweight standards). Still, you have to give Cruz credit for taking over the division, as he’s been in with some of the best little men in the sport (Faber, Benavidez, Bowles) and has beat them all (avenging his lone career loss to Faber via a unanimous decision in his UFC debut). I don’t know what’s next for Cruz from here. A third match with Faber seems like a given since it’s probably the most marketable fight at 135 lbs. right now, but personally, I’d like to see him take on Miguel Torres sometime in the next 6 to 8 months.

08 October 2011 (lightweights): Frankie Edgar def. Gray Maynard (TKO 4)

A legit Fight of the Year candidate that featured multiple momentum changes and a thrilling stoppage finish. Edgar has slowly but surely developed a UFC fan following after taking the lightweight strap from fan-favourite BJ Penn but his stunning Rocky-esque performance in his third fight against Maynard could be thing that catapults him into Penn-Hughes territory in terms of popularity. I thought Maynard had Edgar out on his feet for sure in the first round, but just like he did in their second meeting (which Edgar won by a razor-thin split decision), Edgar showed incredible between-round recovery ability and started regularly timing Maynard with a combination of overhand rights and flush straights to the chin by the beginning of the third round. A great fight and a fitting final chapter to Edgar and Maynard’s rivalry, if this indeed is the last time they meet in the cage. What’s next for Edgar? I would love to see him against Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez early next year, as I think it’s the only fight that really makes sense for him at this point, although a bout with former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson would also be an intriguing match-up.

Discuss this article in the Column Forum or e-mail zuludelta (please put “Leaving Proof” in your e-mail’s subject line). Also, don’t forget to read Part 2 of the article here.
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