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UFC 86: Fight Critic Review

ufc86mr4_medium_medium.jpg If not for one of the best main events I’ve ever seen on a major card, UFC 86 would have been a very disappointing show. I was completely underwhelmed by the undercard but Forrest Griffin winning the light heavyweight title from Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the finale was worth more than the price of the pay-per-view. For those talking about Jackson vs. Griffin the current leading fight of the year candidate, I am in full agreement.

While the main event was spectacular, from a production standpoint, this was your typical run of the mill UFC event. Same rap-metal music beds, same format for pre-fight vignettes, and the same graphics package that comes off dull in HD. Some things never change in life and UFC pay-per-views are one of them. You’re not buying a UFC PPV for production value, you’re buying it to see the fights. As I was watching the telecast last night, I realized that their telecasts aren’t really designed for one or two people sitting at home watching a fight by themselves. It is intended for a group of people watching the card at a party or a bar. Everything on the show is secondary to the fight — even the commentary in a lot of ways.

I do have the say that I was once again appalled at there being another commercial during the pay-per-view. The FCC should enact a law the forbids commercials to be played during a pay-per-view telecast. If you pay full retail price for a broadcast, my feeling is you own the time and that the time is yours. A company should not be allowed to used time someone else has paid for to run commercials. How is that fair to the consumer? The FCC worries about a lot of petty stuff and most of it really doesn’t affect the common consumer. Here’s an example of the consumer being taken advantage of and not a word. The UFC and their production company needs to realize that inserting ads onto a PPV telecast is beyond tacky. It’s classless and unfair.

From classless to classy, I have to point out that Miguel Torres got some brief face time on a UFC pay-per-view. Normally the WEC cameo on a UFC PPV is reserved for Urijah Faber, but Torres deserves and needs the notoriety. He has a chance to become the new top pound-for-pound number one in the world. Much like when George Costanza said he couldn’t envision another opportunity in which he’d be able to have sex, I can’t envision a scenario in which Torres loses a fight at 135 pounds. Also, props to the UFC for improving the pace of the show again.

Two other things I noticed: first, there were a TON of empty seats during the first two fights. Vegas is normally a late-arriving crowd but the local fans are usually good about making sure they are there once the fights go live on PPV. The fact that the crowd was so light even after the telecast started shows just how much of a one fight show UFC 86 was. Second, I found it extremely strange that Rampage came out with a logo-less black t-shirt. That might be the only time we ever see a high-profile fighter enter the cage or ring in a sponsorless shirt. I realize Rampage has a deal with Affliction, but was that his way of protesting? Was it an Affliction shirt being worn inside out?

Onto the fights.

Tyson Griffin defeats Marcus Aurelio via unanimous decision

Wow, I couldn’t get over the size difference. I knew Aurelio was taller, but I had no idea he was going to be that much bigger than Griffin. I couldn’t decide whether it looked like a lightweight fighting a featherweight or a welterweight fighting a lightweight. This was the first time I ever felt Griffin looked too small for lightweight. He’s built pretty solid, but I can’t help but wonder if the guy could cut to 145 pounds. If he could, there would be a lot of money in it for him because they could sell the hell out of a rematch between he and Urijah Faber.

It wasn’t a horrible fight, but it wasn’t terribly thrilling either. At times the fight was about as intense as a sparring session. The difference in body-types made the action awkward at times. Griffin still showed tremendous boxing ability to go along with his strong wrestling. No, the guy doesn’t finish fights but he’s extremely skilled and almost all of his fights in the UFC have been exciting. It’s especially hard to finish guys that have 3-4 inches on you in the height department that are also 12-15 pounds heavier come the day of a fight.

I can’t help but wonder if Griffin could he be a finisher as a featherweight?

Joe Stevenson submits Gleison Tibau on the second round

I enjoyed this fight a lot, in large part because it told a story. Yes, I am a sucker when it comes to a story as it pertains to a fight. Sure, I can watch a fight just for the sake of watching a fight, but I think it’s always more interesting when there is some drama behind things. Fighters are human beings and I like it when we aren’t having fights just to have fights. When it comes to sports, you aren’t going to find athletes with better back stories than MMA fighters. The UFC needs to do more story telling with non-main event fights.

Mike Goldberg revealing that Stevenson’s seven-year old son was in attendance for his fight for the first time ever caught my attention. I thought it was a good call on the part of Joe Rogan to say he hoped that Stevenson didn’t feel any added pressure. Anyone with a child knows that’s a pretty good point. Getting hurt in front of his son is something that had to go through Stevenson’s mind.

The comeback nature of the outcome and Stevenson submitting an American Top Team fighter only added to the drama. I really thought Stevenson was on his way to a loss. I felt that this was tthe only fight other than Jackson vs. Griffin that I was able to derive any pleasure from.

Josh Koscheck defeats Chris Lytle via unanimous decision

I really did not like this fight. It was just another case of Koscheck relying heavily on his wrestling and proving that he is simply too much for his opponent. I almost would have rather seen Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Justin McCully, simply because it would have meant that the UFC would have had a heavyweight fight on the broadcast

Stylistically, I was not a fan of Koscheck vs. Lytle at all. One fight I’d like to see is Lytle vs. Marcus Davis. I think style wise the two matchup much better than Lytle vs. Koscheck..

As for Koscheck, I’m not really sure where he goes from here. He’s already fought and lost to the current champion of his division. The UFC can’t put him in there with anyone they hope to groom as a future opponent for St. Pierre, such as Thiago Alves, because Koscheck will likely put them and kill their momentum.

Patrick Cote wins unanimous decision over Ricardo Almeida

Not a good fight with a total clash of styles. Sometimes the striker vs. submission expert matchup works, but this is one of those times when it didn’t. I also think this is another case of the UFC making an error by promising a title shot before a fight takes place. As I’ve said before, when the UFC comes out and promises the winner of the bout a title shot, they effectively eliminate any motive for a fighter wanting to take any risks during the fight. This isn’t pro wrestling; winning and losing matters to a fighter. You tell them that there’s a title shot at stake and they aren’t going to do anything to piss away a coveted shot.

Does Cote deserve a middleweight title shot later in the year? Sure, why not. But as much as he’s looked improved during his second UFC stint, I don’t think he has a chance in hell of defeating Anderson Silva. A lot of people aren’t excited about the prospect of Cote vs. Silva, which is understandable. But name me a middleweight fighter that Silva hasn’t already beaten that you care about seeing fight for the title? That’s where the problem lies.

Yes, Bisping vs. Silva is intriguing, but it’s a fight that shouldn’t happen until 2009. The UFC also should keep Bisping away from Silva if there’s any concern that Silva might abandon 185 pounds because you at least want to have one guy that could potentially replace him as middleweight champion that hasn’t been destroyed by him.

Forrest Griffin wins unanimous decision over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

There are a couple of points I want to clarify here. To those who claim I scored the fight for Jackson because I am biased, I had to stop myself from laughing. What bias do I have for Jackson or against Forrest Griffin? I am a fan of the sport and a fan of both fighters. I’m totally fine with Griffin as the new UFC light heavyweight champion. I think he’s great for the sport and his title win is also good. It was a close fight and I don’t have a problem with anyone scoring it in favor of Griffin. He fought an excellent fight and the only round that was not close was the second, which clearly went in Griffin’s favor.

The only bias I can think of is that I picked Jackson to win? But that’s a joke. To be honest, I don’t care all that much about how my picks turn out. I’ve made many high-profile picks and have been wrong before. There have been times where the outcome of a fight has gone in favor with my pick yet I am still championing the cause of the losing fighter because I felt he truly won. Over at, it clearly shows my record of major MMA events as over 60%. That’s a pretty strong win percentage so I’m clearly not concerned about how Jackson losing affects my overall percentage, since it’s very respectable. Irrespective of that, I’m not a professional handicapper. If I get a high-profile pick wrong, I don’t lose my job over it. Life still goes on and pretty much goes on the exact same way if I had gotten it right.

It’s just yet another case of people not being able to counter an argument on its merits and hitting below the belt. I just find it humorous because again, what kind of bias do I have towards Quinton “Rampage” Jackson? Someone disagreed with you. Get over yourself. I realize the majority of people out there believe that Forrest won, but I’m not the only won who scored the fight in favor of Jackson. There are also a lot of people that believe neither fighter won.

If you scored it in favor of Griffin, you don’t see me screaming that you’re the one whose biased. Do you see me running around playing the race card against you? Do you see me writing about how the judges were influence by a crowd that was clearly partial towards Griffin? No, because I respect everyone’s opinions. This is a fight that could have gone either way. I can accept the fact that a lot of people believe Griffin won. Jackson left a close fight in the hands of the judges and has no one to blame but himself. I’m perfectly fine with the decision that was rendered. To those who countered my Rampage post from last night in a thoughtful, articulate manner, I am greatly appreciative of your contribution to the comments area. The site is a better place for it.

Also, several people in the days leading up to my fight analysis questioned my comment in which I said Griffin has a “world class chin.” Sorry, getting caught vs. Keith Jardine does not mean you have a glass jaw. Griffin has been in many brawls and has eaten a lot of punches that would have floored the average fighter. He yet again ate quite a few power punches and with the exception of a first round knockdown, he maintained his composure throughout the entire duration of the fight.

That said, I do believe there should be an immediate rematch. I don’t think Jackson was screwed, but the fight was close and the old champion performed well enough that he deserves another shot. As his trainer Juanito Ibarra said after the fight, Forrest did not take the fight away from Jackson.

Just looking at the economic impact of a possible rematch, and I think it’s a shoe-in we’ll see the two fight sooner rather than later. They could hold the rematch off until December, or try to bring them back in October in hopes of having the winner of Jackson vs. Griffin II possibly fight Chuck Liddell in December. That could be pushing it though.

Regardless, I believe that Griffin is a deserving champion and last night’s win makes him the number one light heavyweight in the world. Sometimes I caught some grief from people because of how high I ranked Griffin in my top ten light heavyweight rankings. Where are those people now?

As I stated before, last night’s main event was one of the best I’ve ever seen close out a big show. I liked Stevenson vs. Tibau because it told a story. Well, this fight had a lot of story to it. When Griffin came out and proved right away he was much more a fleet of foot, he instantly showed everyone he felt he had a gameplan to defeat Rampage. As the first round continued, it was obvious in thinking back about all of Jackson’s pre-fight comments that he clearly underestimated Griffin. As time went on, the crowd’s enthusiasm only added to the drama. And as the fight went on, I also couldn’t help but wonder whether we were on the verge of seeing the first-ever “organic” (meaning, a fighter that won TUF that hadn’t previously fought in the UFC) winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” claim a world title? When the fight ended, I honestly had no idea how the scoring was going to go.

In regards to Jackson belittling Griffin in interviews leading up to the fight, I am pretty sure that Jackson has respected Griffin all along and that a lot of what he said leading up to the fight was merely a case of him putting his game face on a little early. There was also some marketing taking place on the part of Rampage. This was proven to me as being fact after Jackson handled himself in such a classy manner following a close loss. The two paid each other a lot of respect during the post-fight interviews with Rogan inside the cage, and it was something I greatly appreciated. Jackson didn’t use the mic time to put himself over and stump for a rematch by questioning the judges. Instead, he gave Griffin his full endorsement as champion. Way to go.

And was it just me, or did Griffin steal the gameplan that Keith Jardine used to fight Chuck Liddell? It was almost verbatim. It also looked like for much of the fight (until the end, at least) that Jackson had gone to the Liddell school of checking kicks. I don’t understand why some fighters just neglect to check kicks. You don’t feel it right away in a lot of cases, but the pain creeps up on you. The pain Jackson feels now in that leg is probably twice as bad now as it was yesterday. If you don’t have good reflexes, checking kicks isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. But you at least have to make an effort. I do think it was smart for Rampage not to switch stances, because then Griffin would have chopped the shit out of the other leg and instead of having one leg he could walk on, he’d have none.

Overall, any time you have a main event that is this high-profile and delivers as far as overall quality, it’s a great thing for the sport, regardless of who wins. It was the kind of fight that can convert non-fans into fans. It was the kind of main event that can help the sport grow and one that every MMA fan can be proud of.

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