It’s amazing how something as simple as expectations can change the way you see a fight. By any reasonable analysis, Marcus Davis and Chris Lytle just had a hell of a fight. It was a nice mix of boxing and kickboxing, with Davis using smart movement to avoid the worst of Lytle’s attack and countering his way to victory. Both men took home an extra $40,000, sharing fight of the night honors with Mark Coleman and Mauricio Rua. But despite this solid effort, with Davis throwing a great bodykick/jumping knee combination we are sure to see repeated all year long, despite Lytle throwing bomb after bomb at a desperately covering up Davis, despite a great back and forth fight- I was left disappointed.
Before the fight, both men told anyone who would listen that they weren’t just looking for a great fight. They were going to have the fight of the night. Of the decade. Of their lives. Of all time. “A lot of times people talk about fights and then they’re not that great,” Davis said prior to UFC 93. “This fight is going to be better than the buildup.” It wasn’t. It was a fight damned by expectations.
There’s also something dangerous about the mentality Zuffa has inspired in many of its fighters by offering bonuses that often exceed the fighter’s regular purses. It has created an atmosphere where winning isn’t a fighter’s main goal. Don’t take my word for it. Chris Lytle explained his thought process before the fight in a Five Ounces of Pain exclusive.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this ended up being fight of the night. I’m not really planning on the fight going to the ground and I doubt he is either. That’s kind of what I’m anticipating. I’m expecting a stand up war,” Lytle said. “Back to back fight of the night honors would definitely make me very happy. That’s my main goal this year, when people hear that I’m going to be on the card I want them to want to order the pay-per-view because they know it’s going to be an exciting fight. I want to be in high demand and I want people to want to see my fights.”
Winning “Fight of the Night” — that was his main goal. Not winning fights, just fight of the night honors. After all, he could make more money losing the kind of fight he knows Zuffa loves than he ever could with a Yushin Okami style winning streak. Caring more about entertaining than winning is the beginning of the end of integrity, the first step down a slippery slope from sport to spectacle. And it leads to the type of gentleman’s agreement we haven’t seen since the days of Pancrase. In those early 1990’s fights, stalwarts like Ken Shamrock and Bas Rutten agreed not to hit each other when the fight went to the ground. Davis and Lytle took it one step further, announcing beforehand their intention not to take the fight to the ground.
“We never made any type of agreement and Chris will tell you that,” Davis protested to reporters after the fight. “We both said we wanted to do this because we knew that we could bring it out of each other and have an exciting fight. Other people ran with that.”
Whether or not there was an agreement set in stone, it was obvious neither man was going to the ground. Even when it became evident that Lytle was losing the standing exchanges and didn’t have the quickness to keep up with the elusive Davis, he never once thought about taking the boxer down. He wasn’t driven by a will to win. He was driven by his pocketbook. And the distinction between pro wrestling and MMA just got a little bit blurrier.