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Size Isn’t Everything

If only big fighters came complete with big gas tanks.

Big fighters bring something to the table which the smaller guys simply do not and it is not just about marketability, it is about raw power. Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar both hit very hard. The type of blows which would be no more than an irritation if thrown in the lighter divisions suddenly become the stuff of which knockouts are made of when thrown by one of these two men.

Witness the uppercuts which ended Carwin’s fight with Frank Mir. Normally short, sharp blows of this nature are only used to rough an opponent up not finish them off. Look at the hammer fists with which Lesnar brutalized Randy Couture. What these shots might have lacked in technique they more than made up for in raw power.

There are examples to be found outside of MMA as well. In last year’s K-1 Grand Prix Heavyweight final Semmy Schilt knocked Badr Hari down and very nearly out with a jab. Schilt weighs almost 300 lbs and there is absolutely no way a smaller man would ever be able to jab with such devastating effect.

Fighting giants such as Schilt, Carwin and Lesnar are able to generate the sort of power which would be unthinkable in any other weight class. Unfortunately there is a catch and it is one of the reasons why entertaining heavyweight fights have been so few and far between in any combat sport in recent years.

Heavyweights simply cannot maintain the same sort of pace that the lighter fighters are capable of. This is the major reason that the WEC has been such a huge hit with fight fans. The fights might not carry the same sort of prestige as those within the actual UFC but they are fought at a far more frenetic, fan pleasing pace.

The allure of the heavyweight division is that the best in that division can legitimately claim to be the best actual fighter in the world. Pound-for-pound Anderson Silva might be a superior mixed martial artist to Lesnar but if the two met in a fight there is little doubt in most people’s minds that Lesnar would win. In the unlikely event that Silva wanted to test that particular theory he would need merely pile on a few pounds to be able to do so.

While the pound for pound debate will always be a hypothetical one heavyweight fights can provide definitive answers. This is what makes fights for the heavyweight title that much more significant than title fights in any other division. They are not just about finding out who is the best fighter at a specific weight class, they are about finding out who is the best fighter, period.

The physical equation which dictates that a man who weighs in excess of 265 lbs can hit harder than a man who weighs 155 lbs does not work in the bigger man’s favour in every aspect of the sport. The amount of energy required to perform any sort of physical activity is going to be that much greater for the man with the bigger frame. Bigger fighters do not come with bigger gas tanks as Carwin recently discovered to his cost.

The first round went almost entirely according to plan for Carwin. He rocked Lesnar with punches, leaving the UFC heavyweight champion with no option but to cover up as Carwin picked him off at will. Once the fight went to the floor Carwin continued to land some brutal shots but not sufficiently brutal for the fight to be stopped.

The game plan which had served Carwin so well in his first twelve fights came up short this time around. Carwin might have done severe damage to Lesnar’s face but, for the first time in his career, he found himself facing a second round with the burst of energy with which he nearly finished Lesnar having visibly taken its toll.

It was fairly obvious prior to the start of the second round that Carwin was struggling and it was no surprise when Lesnar was able to secure the takedown. The manner in which he finished the fight, with a well executed arm triangle, demonstrated the extent to which the much maligned Lesnar is evolving. Carwin by contrast was made to look much more one dimensional. However it is difficult to criticize him for expending so much energy trying to finish the fight because he came so tantalizingly close to succeeding.

Fight fans will always find it frustrating when a fighter lacks the necessary stamina to properly showcase his skill set but it would be wrong to question the cardio of Carwin. I suspect it would be physically impossible for any man of his weight to sustain such a frenzied assault for any length of time. By going all out for a first round stoppage he was effectively gambling for the greatest stake in MMA and, unfortunately for Carwin, that gamble did not quite pay off.

Meaningful heavyweight title fights are few and far between and the fact that the UFC is finally in a position to put them on is undoubtedly cause for celebration. It is still worth remembering that, while the big guys might bring the glamour, it is often the small guys who offer the real action.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    ill disagree with the notion that HWs have bad gas tanks. sure the Rothwell Yvel fight was a prime example but Lesnar, Cain, JDS, and countless other elite heavys have all shown good conditioning. its not so black and white.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 24 Thumb down 13

  • James Goyder says:

    Saying they have bad conditioning implies that there is something wrong with their preparation, which definitely wasnt the point I was trying to make.

    I just think bigger fighters tend to fight at a lower pace.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  • Rece Rock says:

    Size isn’t everything…

    That’s what she said.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  • stone says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Weak-Sauce. Thumb up 6 Thumb down 19

  • Makington says:

    Yeah, I’m sure Rothwell and Yvel train just as hard as Velasquez, JDS, and Lesnar. They are just normal people though, and they just can’t have good cardio with such large muscles. The freaks of nature though with Velasquez, JDS, and Lesnar just have that athleticism in them that lets them keep going.

    Very well written article sir!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  • BigDave says:

    i think that somewhere you are mistaking big guys for heavly muscled guys. guys no matter what weight class that have an over abundance of muscle generally have a bad gas tank cause it takes so much to power the muscle mass. guys like cain or brock although they have alot of muscle the are not body builders and as such are able to power there large frame more efficeantly. so saying they are al slow with less of a gas tank is just plain false.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Whats the thesis of this article? that smaller guys are more exciting? that size isnt everything? because the first half of the article pretty much contradicts that… or is the thesis that Carwins lack of cardio prevented him from utilizing his talent? because the 2nd half of this article turns into a post fight analysis basically. The whole thing just lacks cohesion and direction.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

  • Dr. Sardonicus says:

    I believe I agree with the author if I understand him correctly.

    Big, tall, well built athletes have more total muscle mass than smaller athletes with comparable physiques.. More muscle mass requires more oxygen during exertion. As a group, large, heavily muscled fighters can train to their own individual peak cardiovascular potential; But on average, that potential will be less than in comparably muscled smaller athetes.

    On the other hand, larger fighters can do more damage to their opponents in a shorter period of time. That is why featherweights, as a group are usually more active, than heavyweights but their strikes have less force. Featherweights tend to inflict damage more cumulatively and heavyweights more quickly.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  • James Goyder says:

    @ Dr. Sardonicus

    I couldn’t have put it better myself :)

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  • bigbadjohn says:

    But everybody knows that. its mmot like the author attackddd the subject with a new stance. You put brock in a cage with BJ penn we know what will happen. BJ would be quicker, and have better endurance but Lesnar would squash him with strength and size. Small guys lack power, big guys cant go at top end for as long. and an established MMA site with established fans need this article why? Im not trying to be a douche, but if that was truly the intent of this report I dont see the reason and the execution was poor.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  • Makington says:

    I thought the article was fine. Definitely written better than I could. Of course it’s a highly talked about subject but I like reading all points of views anyways.

    I don’t pretend to be some english major so maybe my bar is set a little lower, but bigbadjohn seemed like he is a professional online article free-to-read critic, so I can’t wait to read his article that talks about some sort of brand new mma subject that has never been talked about before. He must be a genius, because I can’t think of a single subject to do an article about that has never been done before.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  • FightFan313 says:

    Carwin saw the 3 round battle with Crazy Horse. . . he knew. Carwin lost his head in there. I’ll have to wait to see number 2 but I can’t wait.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Im sorry, Make. Were you questioning english/journalism credentials of mine upon which was pure speculation? I overstepped my boundaries and critiqued the almighty author. How dare I question the word of the gospel!? Us MMA fans are supposed to be dimwits, i forgot. Ill remember to be more respectful and just take what is given. What great advice, I should have written my theses on that.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9

  • Dr. Sardonicus says:

    I enjoy discussions of all aspects of MMA, the fundamentals included. Lots of times, a rehash of established principles can give new perspective. Posters reacting to the article might shed new light on the subject with their unique point of view.

    “Size Isn’t Everything” is partly about the dynamic in play between Carwin and Lesnar. To me, it’s good grist for the mill and really quite different than what’s usually written on this board.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Well after reading this twice. My unique point of view is: Duhhhhhhh. Bigger fighters hit harder and smaller ones baan keep a higher pace. Next are you going to tell me that technique can overcome strength? Because I just thought MMA was a strong man competition.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  • Mad_Hatter_XX says:

    It isnt so much about size it is about what you can do with that size. More muscles does require more oxygen but, if one is used to having alot of muscle mass and is used to exerting alot of energy while carying that muscle your gas tank will be larger.

    The same works in reverse as well. How many times have we seen a fighter who cuts too much weight for a fight and gasses out because they used thier energy to make weight?

    Most of the HW’s are well conditioned athletes and not bodybuilders. There are exceptions but, guys like Brock and Carwin have always been big guys normally walking around between 270-290 pounds so carrying the weight isn’t usually an issue.

    Same goes for guys like BJ Penn. I suspect he only cuts a small amount of weight to make 155 and is comftrable there and that allows him to have exceptional cardio.

    Side note Penn v. Lesnar would be like RockyIII with Hogan and Sly lol.

    I think Carwin got caught in the moment and went for broke and against most others it would have paid off. Like was said a gamble that didn’t pay off. No reason to quit doing it becasue Lesnar is the exception rather than the rule as the previous 12 guys Carwin took out can attest to.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  • Makington says:

    Yeah, I guess I speculated on your journalism skills, but I thought it seemed pretty obvious I was just being a little sarcastic. Maybe you are a great journalist, in which case I’m waiting for your article that puts this one to absolute shame.

    Just seems like you’re trying to attack the article now for no reason. You’re not even trying to look at it with an even mind. He made a lot of valid points, and went into great detail with concrete examples to back them up.

    Just because it’s a topic that has been written about before doesn’t mean it is useless to talk about again. It is also a very appropriate topic considering it is 100% related to the event a few days ago and gives a pretty comprehensive look at it. It’s also extremely likely that many non-hardcore fans are blaming the loss on what they think is Carwin’s zero cardio and just haven’t thought of it from this perspective. Even though I didn’t read anything mind-blowing that I’ve never seen before doesn’t mean it is useless or a bad read.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  • elsicilian says:

    bigbadjohn makes a fair point. the article’s thesis is unclear, its structure is somewhat confusing, and its argument is kind of meandering (as the author himself appears to concede, Dr. Sardonicus synopsis is much more concise). i don’t think you need an advanced degree in english or lots of journalism experience to have a valid opinion on an argument’s effectiveness (any more than you need a black belt in BJJ to have an opinion on an MMA fight). maybe mr. goyder will consider it as constructive criticism (which is doubtlessly the spirit in which it was offered).

    that said, it seems like a lot of the articles on this site are designed to provoke discussion as much as educate the unenlightened; in that respect, i think it is a fine contribution, and getting hung up on structural complaints kind of misses the point …

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  • elsicilian says:

    PS – lost in all this is mr. goyder’s excellent point that i’ve not heard articulated very often. like heavyweight boxing champions of yore, the UFC heavyweight champion now represents the most competitive fighter in the least-restrictive combat sport’s most dominant weight class, and as such lays genuine claim to the title “baddest man on earth.” accordingly, UFC heavyweight championship fights (especially ones contested by dynamic personalities like Lesnar) can create a frenzy of interest that transcends the sport, and engages the public in a much more culturally significant way.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0


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