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Fight Critic: Breaking down UFC 84


While there were no fight of the year candidates and the presence of several lulls during some of the fights, UFC 84 was still an excellent show that was full of drama and excitement.I will have a rundown of all the fights later in this piece, but as usual, I will first break the show down from a production standpoint.

First, I noticed a tremendous improvement on the HD telecast. The way UFC 84 looked on my television last night is finally the exact same way that their live telecasts on Spike TV look like. The picture was of higher resolution and many of the graphics looked more crisp. I also didn’t see that effect where it looks like there is static on my screen when the white lights rotate above the center of the cage. The sound quality was also better than usual.

I don’t know, maybe they didn’t do anything different, but I noticed a lot of changes on my end. I could be wrong, but I think they streamlined a lot of the filler before fights. Instead of using the waterfall confessionals set to STEMM’s stale music beds, they only used pre-taped packages for the three main fights and for those fights, it looked like they re-used footage from the countdown show — which have a higher-production value and gives the telecast a higher-end feel.

For once, I felt like it was worth buying the HD telecast.

Another major improvement was the pacing. The show started off slow and we were subjected later on to a Ninja Gaiden II commercial (I will never accept being subjected to ad spots for a broadcast I pay for), however, after the first two fights, things really picked up and it felt like non-stop action. If my math is correct, we got to see nine fights in a little less than three hours. You have no idea how happy I was to see both the Carwin vs. Wellisch and Sokoudjou vs. Nakamura fights.

I also felt the broadcast did a much better job with the corner audio, which is something else I’ve complained about in the past. I really appreciate being able to hear what the corners are telling their fighters. Hearing Tito Ortiz ignore Ricco Rodriguez’s sound advice of trying to utilize a double jab and then shoot was rather intriguing, as was getting to hear Shawn Tompkins offer instruction to one of this fighters. This isn’t the first time they’ve used corner audio, but it just seemed more prevalent than usual.

The UFC also continues to excel in how well it mics it’s crowd, as well as its lighting scheme. Some telecasts are very dark, however, when looking beyond the cage during a UFC broadcast, you can clearly see what people look like in the first sections of rows. This makes the arena look full and makes the event come off as big. And getting that sound of the crowd really enhances the adrenaline-level you feel during a fight. Not everyone likes the Fox Sports approach of over-dramatizing everything, but in a sport such as MMA, I think the drama is warranted.

From a production standpoint, this was one of the better UFCs that I have watched in quite some time.

I even have to give the UFC credit for how they handled the Ortiz situation. While they didn’t handle it well leading up to the fight (i.e. keeping him away from the pre-fight press conference), I thought it was tremendous that they let him speak on mic. And to think, we thought they might not let him talk even if he had won, and here they are going to him in spite of a loss. All things considered, Ortiz handled himself with class while on the mic, making sure to thank the Fertittas and the fans. He referenced his beef with Dana White, but didn’t go overboard. This is the third time Ortiz has been at odds contractually with the UFC and while they don’t always cover MMA like a sport when they do their pay-per-views, they’ve always handled Ortiz’s situations completely out in the open (remember Ortiz running up and down the stairs in the crowd with his flag after he beat Vitor Belfort?). Perhaps because with someone such as Tito, he’s not going to allow you to try and sweep anything under the rug so you might as well go with the flow?

And while they did they to sweep Sean Sherk’s situation under the rug somewhat, Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan still made a few steroid references. But for the most part, the reason why Sherk lost his title wasn’t talked about with any sort of openness. I really don’t understand why they didn’t. I remember when Tim Sylvia tested positive and was stripped of the title that when he came back, they talked about it openly. I even remember Rogan saying that he asked Sylvia why he did it and Sylvia said because he wanted more definition. They handled things openly then so why not now? Sure, they mentioned he lost his belt “in the courtroom,” but failed to get into specifics.

One thing I have an issue with is Rogan’s reference to the polygraph test. I’ve asked this before, and I will ask again: is there any documentation that such a polygraph test was taken? What were the results? What questions were asked? Who conducted the test? To me, unless Sherk’s representatives release documentation about this test, no one should reference it because it’s absolutely meaningless unless there is evidence to support such a test took place and that Sherk in fact passed it. When Phil Baroni re-tested for steroids, he opened the whole process up to members of the media. Why hasn’t Sherk done the same in this regard?

Okay, time to talk about the fights.

Thiago Silva def. Antonio Mendes via submission (strikes) at 2:24 of Round 1 - This was my personal fight of the night. It was a short fight, but Mendes came out like a ball of fire and scored a knock down with a kick. Silva went down a second time, but I am not sure if he fell or if he was knocked down. Regardless, Silva was in the hole early but rallied to win in dramatic fashion. He’s without question a top 10 light heavyweight in my opinion and with Rashad Evans now without an opponent, I think we’ll see a fight between the two re-scheduled for either August or September.

Lyoto Machida def. Tito Ortiz via unanimous decision - Like I predicted, this was an exciting-boring fight, if that makes any sense. Not a lot of action, but I was still thoroughly entertained and on the edge of my seat the whole time. The crowd really enhanced the experience in this one for me.

Ortiz didn’t fight poorly but I think his back is a major issue because many of his takedowns looked sloppy. Correct me if I am wrong, but did he not shoot in at one point and whiff completely? If Tito doesn’t learn to set up his shots better so he doesn’t have to start his shot from as far then he’s going to need to completely change his game if he wants to be able to beat top ten light heavyweights. One thing that is really lacking is Ortiz’s ability to take someone down from an upper body position. He body locked Machida several times after rushing him but really couldn’t capitalize. He needs to either take some Judo lessons or train with a Greco Roman wrestler, because if he can’t improve his leg attacks, then upper body takedowns could be a different way for him to get fights to ground.

And it was great to finally see these submissions skills of Ortiz’s that some people have told me about. It’s about time he’s started using them. The ending sequence of the fight was absolutely breathtaking. I had such an adrenaline rush that it felt like I was fighting. He was so close to such an amazing comeback. Just seeing Ortiz work off his back was surreal.

You have to give Ortiz credit though because he carried the UFC at a time prior to the advent of TUF in which the financial prospects of the promotion were very bleak. Ortiz was front and center against Vladimir Matyushenko when they returned to PPV in 2001 (it was a bad match, but Tito was still their headliner) and then he did 150,000 buys with Ken Shamrock in 2002. Without that buyrate, would the Fertittas still have been willing to continue to absorb losses?

I don’t think the fight hurt of helped Tito’s open market value. Yes, he’s now 0-2-1 in his last three fights and that’s not good, however, he still has a superstar aura that few fighters in the game possess right now. And while Machida beat him, he did not steamroll Ortiz. Ortiz fans will see the fight as Machida being reluctant to engage and just trying to outpoint Ortiz, while Ortiz nearly finished the fight at the end of the third round. Basically, it was an open-ended conclusion that both sides will be able to spin to their advantage.

As for Machida, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I am entitled to mine. I apologize, but Lyoto Machida’s fighting style is just very boring to me. You might agree and you might not, but this is simply my own personal opinion. If you want to tell me how I should feel, knock yourself out.

One thing that caught me off guard was when Machida took Ortiz down from an upperbody position in round 1. I didn’t realize Machida was that strong. Man, that was very impressive.

Do not get it misunderstood though, I still have a tremendous amount of respect for Machida’s ability (which should be evidenced by the fact that I have him ranked as the number two light heavyweight in the world). As someone who comes from a traditional martial arts background, I can appreciate Machida’s counter-fighting style. He’s amazing in how composed and patient he is when he fights. It’s not easy shutting out all of the emotion and adrenaline and be able to operate in a highly-tactical manner.

I also do not find fault with Machida for his style and am glad that he’s in the UFC. He’s a tremendous martial artist. His style is his style. That’s the way he came up and I respect him for staying true to a style that has been very successful for him as opposed to going the WWE-route and adopting a new style simply because it’s more entertaining. This is a sport, not performance art.

Shane Carwin def. Christian Wellisch via KO at 0:44 of Round 1 - I said prior to this match that Carwin’s striking was a question mark. Well, we don’t know if he’s a versatile striker, but we do know that fighters need to worry about his right hand in addition to his submission wrestling. Carwin works hard so while he still might be a little rough around the edges, I think he’ll be ready for whatever the UFC throws at him. His guarantee is low enough that the UFC can afford to take a much more patient approach with him than they are with Brock Lesnar.

Goran Reljic def. Wilson Gouveia via TKO at 3:15 of Round 2 - This was a pretty solid fight with some very impressive leg kicks by Reljic. It was a strong debut for him and I think the UFC might have something in him. Hopefully they will try and get him on a UFC Fight Night card in order to get him additional exposure. As for Gouveia, he didn’t look bad in this fight and in a lot of ways, actually looked better than he did in a winning effort vs. Jason Lambert this past January. But the UFC light heavyweight division is stacked and a loss can really set a fighter back.

Wanderlei Silva def. Keith Jardine via KO at 0:36 of Round 1 - Wow, the primal warrior that is Wanderlei Silva has returned. This fight dropped me to 9-2 in my predictions, but I really didn’t care, as this was a tremendous outcome for anyone who considers themselves a true Silva fan.

As much as I enjoy Kimbo Slice fights, I have to say that Silva was the original Kimbo as far as bringing a ruthless, raw aggression to his fights where he somehow elevated the level of violence in the manner in which he pounced on his opponents. But somewhere along the way in recent years, we got to see less and less of that Silva. It was back last night and it was an awesome thing to get to experience again.

Seeing guys like Wanderlei, Chuck Liddell, Kimbo — and even Tyson — that have that ruthless aggression is just amazing. A lot of people look up to superheroes because of their ability to perform superhuman tasks during adverse situation. But I could never get into that stuff because it was all make believe. To me, Silva, Liddell, and Kimbo are real life superheroes because they are one-man wrecking machines that possess a tremendous level of intensity during situations in which the common person would be overcome by fear.

I don’t know what it was, but Wanderlei just looked so much better than he did against Dan Henderson and Chuck Liddell. He didn’t look at big as he did in PRIDE, but he still appeared to be packing more bulk on his upper torso and in his upper arms. When he fought Liddell at UFC 79, he just looked very lean. And for this fight vs. Jardine, he fought with the same headhunter style that allowed him to become a fan favorite. If the real Wanderlei Silva is back for good, he’s going to make a ton of money for the UFC. Look at just how strong of a reaction he got fighting in front of the UFC crowd in just his second match for the promotion since the turn of the century? He’s a superstar in Japan and he’ll be one in the U.S.

But if the UFC was smart, they’d capitalize on the momentum that was created by Silva’s performance last night and convince him to move to 185 lbs. and book a mega-match between him and Anderson Silva. I think Silva vs. Silva has much more revenue potential coming off a performance such as the one we saw last night as opposed to a loss. The time is now. But I’m okay if Silva stays at 205 as well. I am starting to get the feeling we’re going to see Silva vs. Liddell II. And why the hell not?

It was a tremendous relief to see Jardine walk off under his own power. However, I’m still concerned. He looked to be in bad shape after the knockout. It was almost as if he was having a seizure. For a brief period of time, I was even worried he was paralyzed. I was at a Pat Miletich seminar once and he said that if there are 22 fighters on a card, 11 are going to the hospital and in regards to most of the guys, we won’t even hear about it. I would really like the UFC to do an injury report on its web site after each show that addresses all of the post-fight injuries and updates the condition of everyone. I sincerely would like to know how Jardine is doing right now.

Rousimar Palhares def. Ivan Salaverry via submission at 2:36 of Round 1 - Palhares is put together but at 5’8”, probably would be a better fit as a welterweight. The arm bar transition was very slick, especially when you consider that Salaverry himself is very strong on the ground. Kind of strange that Joe Rogan decided to drop Palhares’ name in with Anderson Silva’s during the replay, but maybe he really thinks that with a few fights, Palhares could be a challenger to him. He’s a good prospect, but I don’t see him being able to have much success against an accomplished striker that will have the reach advantage that Silva will have on him.

I found it interesting that the announcers didn’t even hide the fact that Salaverry is done in the UFC. Perhaps he announced his retirement in the days leading up to the fight. His retirement has been rumored for quite some time now.

Yoshiyuki Yoshida def. Jon Koppenhaver via submission at 0:56 of Round 1 - Koppenhaver is a good fighter, but still has a lot of room to grow as a mixed martial artist. He’s just not ready for the UFC in spite of an impressive win over Jared Rollins last December. I mean, let’s face it, he got schooled here by Yoshida. Maybe Koppenhaver gets another UFC bout and maybe he doesn’t? Who knows. But I’d like to see Yoshida again soon, and against a step up in competition. Why do I get the feeling that he’ll be fighting Karo Parisyan next?

B.J. Penn def. Sean Sherk via TKO (referee’s decision) at 5:00 of Round 3 – Penn continues to look amazing. I haven’t had a chance to hear the post-fight press conference, but I wonder if Dana White started a campaign claiming that Penn is without question the number one lightweight in the world? That’s a grandstand from a promoter I could actually get behind. And don’t give me Takanori Gomi, because Penn beat him once and he’d beat him again.

I am completely indifferent to what Penn does next. If he stays at 155 lbs. and fights the winner of Kenny Florian vs. Roger Huerta, then that will be exciting and great. And if he goes back up to welterweight to fight Georges St. Pierre, that will be exciting and great too. As long as a motivated Penn continues to fight, the fan wins no matter what weight class he’s in. But thinking out of the box a little bit, one thing I can’t believe no one else has brought up yet is the idea of Penn fighting Anderson Silva.

Yes, Silva would have a huge size advantage, but Penn’s BJJ prowess could neutralize some of the size differential because he’s used to tapping out bigger fighters all the time. If the fight stays standing, obviously Silva has the advantage. But if it does to the ground, you never know what might happen. And hey, if Dana White is so eager to put Penn out there with Kimbo Slice, why not put him out there with Silva?

The UFC could make the fight at a 180 lbs. catchweight so that it doesn’t have to be for a title. If Penn wins, you move him down to 170 lbs. for an immediate fight with Georges St. Pierre. And Silva lost at 180 lbs. you could always point to the weight cut as hurting him and simply operate as business as usual at 185 lbs. If Silva wins, his legacy gets even bigger. As for Penn, the guy is teflon. It doesn’t matter if he loses, people will still want to see him fight. His credibility with hardcore fans is unconditional.

The finish to the round was extremely thrilling and Penn added to the drama by motioning to the referee that the fight should be called. It was a little presumptive on his part but it’s B.J. Penn, so who cares?

I do have a bone to pick in how Penn tried to make nice with Sherk after the fight. I don’t want to single him out, because it’s been happening a lot in “grudge” matches lately where the two fighters will get real personal leading up to their fight and then after the fight come out and say “Oh, I just said all that stuff to sell the fight.” Oh really? I didn’t know this was pro wrestling. Wasn’t the UFC’s tag line for so many years “As real as it gets?” And I’m not singling out the UFC; I have a beef anytime two fighters engage in contrived tomfoolery just to “make a fight bigger.”

I would prefer that fighters treat each other with respect leading up to a fight. But I won’t lie; when things get personal, it does increase my interest level. However, I just can’t buy into the whole “I didn’t mean it” speech after a grudge feud concludes. Look, I’m all for bygones being bygones, just don’t tell me that everything that was said leading up to a fight was essentially fake. And if that’s the case, then just don’t let me know about it. Let me enjoy the illusion. If fighters keep doing the “I didn’t mean it” speech, eventually the majority of the public will become skeptical every time fighters speak out against one another. Just keep it real.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou def. Kazuhiro Nakamura via TKO (referee’s decision) at 5:00 of Round 1 - Nakamura was really sluggish in this one and was messed up pretty bad towards the end of the fight. So much so that he fell off the stool following round 1. Good call by the ref to end the fight at that point. Sokoudjou looked good — not as good as he did vs. Arona and Rogerio, but still pretty good. Good move on his part to call out Shogun once again. I think that is an excellent idea. If I was the UFC, I’d have that fight headline the UFC Fight Night that will be held in September in conjunction with the premiere of TUF 8. Yes, Sokoudjou vs. Shogun will put the card over budget since it is a Spike show and not a PPV, but it will help from a marketing perspective in the long run. Shogun and Sokoudjou badly need the exposure and whoever wins that fight will be in a better position to draw against a high-profile opponent.

As for Nakamura, he really does look like a bloated middleweight. He’s had two fights in the UFC and has looked bad in both. I don’t see him being brought back and I think it’s likely his next fight will either be for Sengoku or DREAM.

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