For Total MMA
All that aside, though, I suppose the show raised a few pertinent questions. One of those is quite clearly ‘who (if anybody) is going to beat Randy Couture?’ we should probably deal with that one before moving on to any further posers. While generally split, the MMA populace had somewhat decided that Gonzaga was a very dangerous fight for Couture. I suppose the fact that Randy dismantled his young Brazilian challenger so comprehensively is kind of the reason why he is Randy Couture and we’re not. Yes, in another display of strategic acumen and fighting skill, Couture decided he would neither swing with the stocky Gonzaga nor risk two-hundred-and-fifty pounds of jiu-jitsu in his face by herding him into the fence and draining his will to live in the dreaded Couture clinch.
It was only recently that I actively realised that Couture’s clinch is one of the most devastating weapons in modern MMA, along with the likes of Fedor’s ground-and-pound, ‘Cro Cop’s left roundhouse, Shinya Aoki’s rubber guard and Tank Abbott’s body odour. I have no idea why this realisation should have come so recently, because I can barely recall a time when it wasn’t an incredibly dangerous weapon. It was certainly the primary difference between the first Couture-Liddell fight (which Couture won, fact fans!), and the other two (in which Couture was parted with his consciousness in much the same way an unwary traveller would be separated from his wallet in Dubai. Seriously).
Of course, this impressive display of fighting nous sent lesser writers scurrying to their crayons in paroxysms of wonder about how Couture was defying the otherwise immutable passage of time; how he has been sent from the future (because, silly, when we do manage to get the space-time continuum to bend to our whims, priority #1 will be to send a middle aged man to the recent past in order to beat people up. Well, I guess it worked in Terminator 2). The reality is far more prosaic than that: Couture is a very smart man who seems to live in an incredibly clean fashion. And when compared to fighters who seem to be slowing, like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, he is arguably aided by the fact that his losses have come to Chuck Liddell rather than, say, Fedor Emelianenko. Now, I’m no brain surgeon (which explains writing about people fighting as a hobby), but personally I’d rather be sparked out by a single shot than pummelled mercilessly for twenty minutes by a Russian heavyweight. That’s it: Couture has a body that hasn’t been regularly concussed (compared to other mid-forties professional fighters), and he is incredibly good at enacting his battle stratagems.
And speaking of strategising, being smart and Russians who ground-and-pound, we arrive at our theoretical answer to the original question. The fan favourite in terms of ‘who can beat Randy?’ is none other than Fedor Emelianenko, A.K.A. the greatest fighter ever in mixed martial arts ever, ever, ever. Err, since 1993. But seeing as we are discussing this very topic in the next issue of this fine publication, I’ll say no more.
Another, less big, question proffered by the show was whether the speedy victory of one Frank Mir over an Antoni Hardonk was evidence that the ‘old’ Frank Mir was, indeed, back. I would certainly say so. ‘But why?’, I hear you ask, ‘he only had a quick fight, we didn’t see any great feats of stamina or really anything outside an effective application of a submission hold’. And, to that, I would say ‘exactly, mortal!’ Mir made his name (in fights with the likes of Roberto Traven, Pete Williams, ‘Tank’ Abbott and ‘Tim’ Sylvia) by forcing quick submissions (none of the above fights went over sixty-five seconds each). None of those were wars, and none of them involved any great displays of intestinal fortitude or stamina.
When he was forced to go over sixty-five seconds, against such non-elite fighters as Wes Sims and Ian Freeman, he suddenly didn’t look so hot. So it is for all of the above that I say the ‘old’ Frank Mir is indeed back, as the Hardonk fight exemplifies what Mir became famous for. Some say time will tell whether Mir is back, blah blah bling bling blah, but as far as I’m concerned, time will really be the judge of whether the ‘old’ Frank Mir was actually great shakes to begin with.
I reckon that’s probably it in terms of questions, leaving us primarily with that finest of media wines, controversy. Yes, the under-card bore witness to probably the most intense fight of the night (and the answer to another question – OK, so I was wrong – of where all that blood on the canvas had come from. It came from David Heath’s head). Apparently, Heath had called Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral a ‘motherfucker’. Some say Heath wore Sobral’s recent mug-shot on a t-shirt at the weigh-in. Whatever happened, Sobral was irked, and he made this known in incredibly visceral fashion as he spread Heath’s plasma onto the canvas like so much I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter before gator rolling into an anaconda choke.
This would ordinarily have been an exquisite end to the fight, as evinced perfectly by Nogueira-Herring II, and rather less so by Couture-Van Arsdale, were it not for the fact that Heath tapped out and then… nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen when bizarrely-moustached referee Steve Mazzagatti attempted to loosen Sobral’s grip on Heath. Only when Heath was unconscious did ‘Babalu’ relinquish the hold, and then lots of people started crying about Sobral’s conduct. The Nevada State Athletic Commission withheld the win bonus, and Dana White cut ties with the last light-heavyweight to beat divisional golden boy Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
According to White, the ramifications of Sobral’s behaviour would have been far more severe if what he had held onto was a joint lock as opposed to a choke. Sure, I can get behind that; nobody wants to see permanent injuries in MMA, especially within the moral grey area the sport inhabits in the minds of many powers that be. The one fact White seemed to be overlooking here was that Sobral wasn’t holding onto a joint lock. Reverend White’s sermonising was the equivalent to claiming that Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva would be a very bad man if he was literally an axe murderer.
In the real world, Silva is not actually an axe murderer, Matt Wiman is not actually handsome, Sean Sherk isn’t a ‘muscle shark’ (largely because that one doesn’t exist), and Sobral wasn’t breaking anyone’s ankle or arm. Not to excuse his behaviour, as I know I wouldn’t want to be choked out after tapping, and it must have sucked to be Heath for those seconds (and the preceding minutes. And during the Machida fight), but there seemed to be a level of MMA jungle law on display here. Fighter A gets somehow wronged by Fighter B; Fighter A finds himself in a position of dominance and decides to teach Fighter B a lesson. I’m not saying this is right, but Sobral no more deserves firing than B.J. Penn, or Martin Kampmann for that matter.
Perhaps it’s a matter of penitence; Kampmann expressed ignorance about Drew McFedries being unconscious and Penn playfully dismissed his bit of bonus choking. Sobral, on the other hand, explained his behaviour by making reference to the ‘motherfucker’ accusation.
I don’t know, if I’m David Heath, maybe I should train hard to make sure I don’t get completely dominated, rather than expending my energy on trying to get under someone’s skin? And if controversy occurs on the under-card does it really make a sound? And does a couple of seconds of choking really justify the jettison of an elite light-heavyweight? Is it ironic that this occurred on a card named ‘Respect’? Is choking someone out in the heat of competition really a more heinous P.R. crime than getting arrested for misdemeanour battery this past July? I knew I shouldn’t have said that was the end of the questions. Whatever the case, Sobral must now be feeling like a bit of an idiot for his display of hubris.
Final thought: Am I the only person who is really starting to resent the constant UFC fellation of Roger Huerta? Quite apart from making a career of exclusively fighting (admittedly game) UFC debutants, the amount of praise being lavished on him is sickening. Yes, the strategy of using the big screen to see his opponent was novel, but ‘redefining intelligence’, as Goldberg moistly proclaimed? Maybe a couple of those elbows split an atom or two without my knowledge.