Sunday, August 28, 2011

UFC 134 Reflections

Some things learned from UFC 134...
  • In case there was any question left, Anderson Silva is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. His second round destruction of Yushin Okami was incredibly impressive.

    You could see the set up for round 2 at the end of the first round. Okami actually won the first round (at least in my view); Okami hit more strikes while controlling the Octagon and playing the aggressor. However, at the end of the first round, Silva hit a high kick which stunned Okami and lead to Silva ending the round in a dominant spot.

    In the second round, Silva knocked down Okami, and then let Okami up. This harkened back to the bad days of 2009/2010, when you could tell Silva was the dominant fighter but he chose to instead clown around instead of finishing a fight. Luckily, Silva seemed to have the opinion that he needed to finish the fight, and after he clipped Okami again, Silva made a move to get into a dominant position over the prone Okami, and then Silva rained down punches until Herb Dean stopped the fight.

    Silva showed a killer instinct that had been somewhat lacking prior. Whether it was his experience with Chael Sonnen, or if it was his desire to impress the Brazilian live crowd, Silva came out and finished a fight that in the past he would have instead messed around with, content to ge the decision victory. If this is a demonstration of Silva's new desire to show how dominant he is, then nobody can touch Silva as a fighter, including Georges St. Pierre. What makes this even more remarkable is Silva's age; Silva is doing this at age 36, when MMA is proving to be a youngman's sport.

    There is in question in my mind that we are witnessing something special - the greatest MMA fighter still performing at an elite level. Our only job as a fan is to appreciate what we are seeing.

  • With all those platitudes towards Silva stated, Yushin Okami had a terrible fight plan. As mentioned in my preview, Okami's only chance was to take down Silva and dominate him on the ground, like Chael Sonnen. Okami failed on both parts - he did not get Silva to the ground, and more importantly, Okami attempted to pick his spot to take Silva down. After Okami failed once, he never went back to a takedown attempt.

    The beauty of Anderson silva's fighting style is how much Silva depends on reacting to his opponent. The first round of the fight was Silva timing Okami's punches, along wiht his takedown attempts. Silva managed to avoid any hard punches and at the end of the round Silva struck hard. OTOH, Okami looked for his spot - a strategy that has proven to be futile against Silva. Sonnen gave us the game plan to beat Silva - commit yourself ot taking him down, and just doing it. Do not look for the perfect opening; this just gives Silva more of an opportunity to find the gap in your defenses and then counter attack. So immediately you need to press the action against Silva, and commit to take him down early.

    Okami did none of this, and looked out of his league in the second round. For Silva's part, you could watch him timing Okami's blows and then attacking. Okami failed to live up to his part, and looked completely outclassed once the second round came along.

    The next middleweight contender looks to be either Brian Stann or Chael Sonnen. Whomever ends up being the top contender should look at this fight for an idea as to what not to do as a strategy.

  • With 10 out of 11 Brazilian fighters winning, it seems like there is a hometown advantage for Brazilian fighters. You could tell that Antonio Rodrigio Nogueiro and Shogun Rua were excited to be fighting in their home country. And while Forrest Griffin might have had a reason to be distracted (his wife went into labour during the PPV), both he and Brendan Schaub did not deliver in their opportunity to provide a memorable result in a high profile fight.

    In Toronto, there was a similiar sentiment to get as many Canadians on the card in hopes they would dominate. After a 6-4 record though, the same could not be said. Given the history of MMA in Brazil, there was probably more pressure on the Brazilian figthers to perform, which they did in spades.

    There's a lot of thoughts that added pressure of a hometown fight can hurt the fighters; in the case of the Brazilian fighters, they made sure to rise to the occasion and honour the history of their ancestors.

  • The question that always exists after a card is "What's next?" Specifically, what is next for each of the winners on the card?

    For Anderson Silva, the next fight seems obvious - the winner of Brian Stann/Chael Sonnen is likely to get the next title fight. Vitor Belfort is lurking in the wings, but is still to close to his loss to Anderson Silva to be considered a contender.

    Shogun Rua is waiting on the Rampage/Jones fight in September. If Jones wins, Rua is in a holding patter. He would need another win to even be considered a slight threat to Jones. But if Rampage wins, Rua could be considered for a title shot if Rashad Evans is gets hurt. A next fight might be with Rich Franklin.

    For Rodrigio Nogueira, he could be the next opponent for Brock Lesnar. Lesnar is coming off of a long layoff after losing to Cain Velasquez, and could use a fight before being put into a title match. For Big Nog, a victory over Lesnar could make him a threat to Velasquez; at a minimum it would make Big Nog seem like he is back, and would provide another title match for Velasquez.

    In all, the short term looks interesting for the UFC. OTOH, the long term looks even more muddled, and is really depending on having some fighters up their game significantly, or else there will be a set hierarchy for all the divisions.


***
My predictions ended up being 9-3, putting my record for the year at 70-38-2. My theoretical wagers ended up winning my $4, putting my winnings for the year at $73.80.

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