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UFC 76: Post-show thoughts on Jardine and Griffin upsets and more

I don’t know where to begin.

But let’s begin with Liddell vs. Jardine:

Remember when I said they should have canceled the match? A lot of you said I was crazy. Remember when I said this was a legit main event caliber match? A lot of you said I was full of it. Well, I have to eat crow when I make bold picks like Koscheck over GSP that don’t pan out and I have to own up to it but there are a lot of you that need to own up to your reaction to my comments.

Liddell simply fought a poor tactical fight. I’m sure he prepared. He just didn’t prepare for Keith Jardine specifically. The fact that at this stage of the game he doesn’t know how to defend leg kicks is a joke. And did John Hackleman really tell Liddell not to worry about the kicks? Not only were they hurting Liddell’s mobility and limiting his punching power, Jardine was scoring points with them. Liddell wasn’t answering them and taking the points back. That’s one of the first things I learned in Muay Thai class: someone scores points on you, answer back and neutralize the scoring.

I’m a crappy wanna-be MMA fighter and even I can defend kicks better than Liddell. Did he check more than one kick? And the kicks became predictable. Why didn’t he try and catch some of those kicks and pull Jardine in close and pop him on the chin? Or even catch him and sweep him and put him on his back and ground and pound him?

It just seemed like Jardine really started to get confident in round two. He was inviting Liddell to walk into him and engage because he had the reach advantage and almost every time Liddell tried to advance Jardine greeted him with a left jab, a left hook, a teep, or a cut kick. I mean, who the hell throws a Muay Thai teep in an MMA match as much as Jardine did tonight? You don’t see teeps happen in MMA all too often because a fighter can catch them and put a guy on his ass. But since Liddell had no kick defense Jardine could do whatever he wanted.

Liddell lost the match because he had a crappy game plan. Plain and simple. Looking at my notes here, I scored every round 10-9 for Jardine. That’s right, I even felt Jardine won the first round.

And why was Wanderlei clapping after round two? He should have ran his ass down to cageside and screamed at Liddell to get his shit together because he was going to cost him millions. This match never should have happened. You know, Dana ripped Pride last year for blowing the Liddell vs. Silva match when Cro Cop “murdered the axe murderer” so what’s his explanation for this?

You know what? Fuck it. Dana, please book Chuck vs. Wanderlei for UFC 79 on Dec. 29 anyway. With a strong undercard with matches like Serra vs. Hughes and Penn vs. Stevenson, I think you can get away with it. To try and spot Wanderlei or Liddell with wins would risk further putting their careers into the abyss unless you want to give Liddell a total slam dunk and book him against someone like Alessio Sakara.

When I was on with Steve Cofield tonight on ESPN 920 in Vegas he made a point that it might not be fair to match Liddell vs. Silva up in December when Jardine and Griffin are more worthy of facing Wanderlei. Well, Steve is right but I’m just a hopeless fanboy who has been dying to see Silva vs. Liddell for five years now. The two aren’t getting any younger. To wait any longer would jeopardize us never having gotten to see the two fight. Really, you could match Jardine or Forrest Griffin up vs. Wanderlei but what happens if one of them beat him?

Let’s move onto Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua:

Sorry, but I am going to talk more smack. I’ve got some haters on the Junkie comments area who always rip me whenever I write an article and give me crap for my Koscheck vs. GSP prediction. Well, I told everyone that Griffin was going to make this a closer fight than most people were anticipating. Some of you agreed while others slagged on me. I got some pretty nasty e-mails based on my preview of the fight. Well, where are you haters now? Man, I just wish I had had the balls to to man up and go all the way and predict the upset.

Forrest is just a smarter fighter now. He’s had good offensive boxing skills from day one and now he has good defensive boxing skills. He’s also not too shabby on the ground. Having a tactician like Randy Couture as your head trainer is invaluable. They had the perfect gameplan and they executed it perfectly.

Also, am I the only one sick of people using the different rules excuse for the reason why so many Pride fighters have struggled in the UFC? I’m all about what Rampage says in his belief that’s a fight is a fight. Are the rules different? Of course. Do some adjustments need to be made? Sure. But the difference between fighting in Pride and UFC is way overblown. People act like it’s two separate sports. It’s not like someone is crossing over from boxing to wrestling. It’s all MMA. I’ve fought in a ring and a cage and sure there are some differences but a fight is a fight.

Why do I think some Pride guys have struggled? Maybe the lifestyle change. How much time did Cro Cop and Shogun spend in Japan before their fights? It was a long ass commute so they pretty much hunkered down at their respective camps in Croatia and Brazil. Then they come to the U.S. and the expectations are different. Cro Cop doesn’t spend much time stateside but he seemed a bit thrown off by the media coverage and the fan response. In Japan, he could kind of do whatever he wanted and wasn’t under constant scrutiny and there was less pressure. Was Sakikabara ever critical of his performances like Dana has been at times?

As for Shogun, we saw his brother gas out vs. Robbie Lawler last Saturday and we saw him gas tonight vs. Forrest. The Ruas claim they are still with Chute Boxe but from what I hear they are spending a lot of time in LA. Maybe too much time.

Also, what the hell is Shogun doing getting married two weeks before his UFC debut? Maybe I’m talking out of my ass here because for all I know is he could have trained the morning of his wedding, had the ceremony, and then trained later that night. Somehow I doubt that though. If I got married to a Victoria’s Secret model I don’t think I’d be spending my wedding night in the gym.

Jon Fitch vs. Diego Sanchez:

This match went exactly how I and a lot of other people expected. I just muffed the prediction. Sanchez was the better grappler but Fitch was the better wrestler. We all knew this. Diego tried to catch Fitch in submissions but couldn’t seal the deal. Fitch was the stronger fighter and his strength is deceptive in my opinion. He was really able to control Diego most of the match.

I don’t think there are any excuses for Diego though. I believe the change in camp helped. I believe he wasn’t lying to me when he said he had given up the party lifestyle and was refocused. We saw the old warrior spirit from Diego right out of the gate when he bum rushed Fitch as soon as the match started. He wasn’t the same guy who fought Koscheck. Diego simply got beat by a better fighter. Fitch is the real deal and is the third best welterweight fighter in the UFC right now behind GSP and Matt Hughes. If you disagree, you’re entitled to your opinion but your opinion is wrong.

Sanchez may have made a tactical error though. Despite being the better submission guy, maybe exerting so much energy trying to take Fitch down wasn’t a great idea in hindsight. I think maybe he should have tried to keep the fight on the feet more and work the standup. If Fitch has a weakness, it’s his standup so why not make that the area that you’re going to attack? Perhaps Diego could have stolen a round or two.

I had this fight 10-9, 10-9, 10-9 for Fitch. The third round was a little closer than the first two but Fitch really controlled Sanchez on the ground even though he didn’t do a lot of damage. I’m pretty sure the scoring will come into question here for this one. My take is that yes, Fitch didn’t do a lot of damage and Diego had more submission attempts. But Fitch controlled the majority of the match and how much damage did Diego do with his submissions when Fitch kept getting out of trouble? Doesn’t he deserve some points for submission defense? How many points should you get for a submission attempt if your opponent neutralizes it?

I think the best thing for Sanchez might be a move back to headlining UFC Fight Nights for now and let him work his way back to PPV since he’s coming off two losses.

Lyoto Machida vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura:

I’d like to issue a public apology to Spike TV.

A few months back I ripped Spike for promoting a Machida match and then editing it off the telecast. Now I know why you guys did it and I just wanted to say thanks.

Look, Machida is a hell of a fighter and he belongs in the UFC based on the merit of his abilities. But that doesn’t mean it still isn’t painful to watch the guy fight.

Can I be real with you all for a second without you guys jumping down my throat?

I actually nodded out during the last two minutes of round three and missed the entire Sanchez vs. Fitch fight. Luckily, I magically woke up right before Forrest vs. Shogun. And I was also luckily able to find a copy of the Diego vs. Fitch fight online so I could watch it and be able to comment on it.

Seriously, who needs Ambien when you have Machida? Doctors should prescribe DVDs of his matches to their patients who suffer from insomnia.

I feel bad for making those smart ass comments about the guy because I wish I could be a quarter of the fighter he is and I definitely believe he deserves to be in the UFC. I just have no desire to watch him.

Oh yeah, remember when I said on Luke Thomas’ “Any Given Saturday” show this week that they should move Machida to 185 lbs.? Can we forget I said that? Because what’s the point? He could cut to 185 and he’s still going to be boring. He could cut to featherweight and he’d still be boring. He’s just is who he is and he has an effective fighting style that just doesn’t happen to be crowd pleasing to most people.

The issue is that the UFC will never let him touch one of their elite fighters because there’s a good chance he might beat one of them and then what do you do with him? If you allow him to elevate himself into high-profile matches you’re going to see a very boring guy hurt the credibility of marketable fighters.

BTW, I gave all three rounds to Machida 10-9.

Thiago Tavares vs. Tyson Griffin:

Normally I am a big defender of Mike Goldberg but when he suggested Griffin should take the fight to the ground, I cringed. I think he’s a strong announcer who gets a bad wrap. I just think instead of making statements he should phrase more questions to Joe Rogan. He already defers to Rogan a lot, but I’m saying he should do it even more. Maybe not as much as Todd Harris of the WEC in what he does with Frank Mir, but I think you get the drift.

Speaking of the WEC, this reminded me of a WEC match. Frenetic ground fighting with a lot of transitions and momentum changes.

Both Tavares and Griffin are tremendous fighters and this easily deserved match of the night honors. All Tyson Griffin, Spencer Fisher, and Clay Guida do is put on great fights. These guys should be rock stars and I hope Dana is hooking them all up with nice bonuses.

I really liked the spot where Griffin flipped Tavares off his back and into side control and then there was another awesome transition in round 3. The live crowd reacted to it really nicely. See, I think MMA fans do appreciate ground fighting — so long as there is action. Fans boo the standup too sometimes if guys aren’t doing anything. It’s not a ground vs. standup issue. It’s an action vs. inaction issue.

One other thing I liked was the corner audio for this fight. They had some audio for a few of the other fights but it was not mic’d properly. I love how HBO gets the between round audio for boxing and I think all MMA shows need to follow suit. It gives you insight into adjustments that might be made and you can kind of tell who has a strong corner and who doesn’t. To be honest, I think you or I could give better strategic advice then some of these corners in MMA. But it seemed like Griffin’s corner did a good job. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Randy Couture as one of your corner guys but I was more impressed with what Jay Hieron was saying.

I scored the fight 10-9 Griffin in the first, 9-10 Tavares in the second, and 10-9 Griffin in the third.

General Comments:

On a scale of 1-10, I give this show a nine. Did I want to see Shogun and Liddell win? Yeah. But the fights were both good and I enjoyed the drama of the upsets. Especially Griffin’s reaction after the fight. I also will always have a lasting memory of Liddell slouching down against the cage in disbelief after the decision was announced. Did anyone else see that too?

Bottom line, I thoroughly enjoyed this show and felt I got more than my money’s worth.

I also loved Mayhem clowning it up whenever they cut to Wanderlei. Does that dude know how to market himself or what? You know Zuffa couldn’t have been happy with that. He’s got one fight left on his WEC contract and if they don’t sign him to a UFC deal my prediction is that he’ll make his way to EliteXC. Hell, he’s already at their offices whenever he does stuff for I know for a fact that Zuffa is really unhappy about that but Mayhem has got to pay the bills. Pro Elite is trying to make this guy a star and they don’t even have him under contract. Why isn’t Zuffa doing the same thing when they are the ones who have him?

A couple of other notes:

What was Dave Doyle doing working security tonight inside the Octagon tonight? I’m just kidding. But that dude was a ringer for Dave.

I should have some audio here later of an appearance I did with Steve Cofield on ESPN 920 in Las Vegas (weird, I was on ESPN 920 in Philadelphia this morning and then another ESPN 920 in Vegas at night… but I guess most of you could care less about that useless bit of info. I was pretty heated.

Tomorrow I’m going to start a new column called “What’s Next.” Basically, I am going to analyze the repercussions of the outcome of all the fights last night and give my thoughts on where I think each fighter should go from here.

Also, please remember to keep checking back for the Inside the Cage Radio show that we taped earlier today with Kenny Florian, Ricco Rodriguez, and Joe Riggs. I can’t say enough about how awesome the show went.

Please feel free to leave all your post UFC 76 comments here and be sure to praise me for saying that Liddell vs. Jardine is a fight that never should have happened.