UFC 150 was (with minor exceptions) a fun night of fights, capped off by another classic, back-and-forth Frankie Edgar world title fight that should leave no one feeling cheated out of their $49.99. Of course, seeing as how it’s a world title match featuring Frankie Edgar, all we’re talking about the next morning is the controversial judging, and the prospects for another rematch at lightweight. The more things change, the more they stay the same. There was more to last night’s card, however, than just the main event, with plenty to talk about, reflect on, and otherwise spill (digital) ink over. Let’s break down the night’s action, and the important lessons we learned and insights we gleaned. But first, let’s mope about the sad fate of MMA’s unluckiest (former) champion.
1) It sucks to be Frankie Edgar
Anyone who read my preview of UFC 150 yesterday knows I have a soft spot in my heart for the kid from Toms River, New Jersey. And yes, I’ll call him “kid” even though he’s older than me by several years. Hey, if Dana White can call seemingly every fighter under contract “kid”, I can too damnit!
What a heartbreaker for Frankie. Going into the judges decision, I had it three rounds to two for Edgar, and I thought that was being conservative. Most folks I was watching it with – and just about everyone online – had Frankie Edgar ahead four rounds to one. Of course, the only opinions that matter are the three judges sitting cageside, two of whom found a way to score that fight for the champion. I swear Frankie Edgar must have done something unspeakably terrible in a past life, because he may have the worst karma of any elite-level UFC fighter. Has anyone stacked controversial decisions atop draws, atop more controversial decisions like Frankie has? All while fans can’t stop whining about his inability to finish and constant rematches.
Now the question becomes “what’s next?”. A drop to featherweight seems the obvious move, and it’s something fans have been calling for since at least the first Maynard fight. But in doing so, Frankie may be forfeiting his greatest advantage, namely his incredible speed. It also has to sting to leave a division after two razer-close decision losses, either of which could have tilted his way. On the other hand, the thought of Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo has me salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs at bell ringing time.
2) Not every close fight is a robbery
Here’s something I wish I could drill into the head of every knee-jerk MMA fan the planet over. It’s something that only became clearer (if it wasn’t crystal clear already) after last night’s decision. I was pulling hard for Frankie Edgar (no, really?). I scored the fight for him and fully expected him to get the nod. But when the judges cards came back for Bendo, I didn’t leap to me feet, scream “ROBBERY!” At the top of my lungs, and run off to get my torch and pitchfork. Was I surprised? Of course. But was I mad? Not even a little.
It was a close fight, folks. Every round – even the ones clearly won by Henderson (the first) or Edgar (the second) were closely contested rounds. The entire fight was a near-run affair, and you need only spend 5 minutes browsing online to see the myriad of different scores turned in by fans, all of whom watched the same fight. And none of them are “wrong”, per se; judging is subjective, and when a fight is this close, you’ll never have a unanimous consensus among fans. Hell, even the judges were split.
Bisping/Hamill was a robbery. Pacquiao/Bradley was a robbery – Pacquiao/Marquez III arguably was, as well.
This fight wasn’t. It was a close fight that’s tough to call – that’s all, folks.
3) “Finish fights, or else” is ridiculous nonsense
So part and parcel with a close decision in a world title fight comes that segment of MMA fandom who will holler to the high heavens that the controversy is all Edgar’s fault. “Finish your fights!” Those fans cry “or don’t be mad when the judges don’t see it your way.” See, this is all the fault of that point fighting, coast to the finish Frankie. For the sake of journalistic integrity, I want to choose my next words carefully when I say that in this case, that attitude is complete clatrap and every single person who feels that way is a moron. Or at least, has never heard of Wikipedia. If they had, they’d have checked Ben Henderson’s record, to see who in the last 5 years has managed to finish him. The answer is no one. Nobody. Nada.
Then if they were feeling froggy, they’d check Gray Maynard’s record to see who has managed to finish him in that same span of time. And wow, wouldn’t you know it, the only guys to finish Maynard are Edgar and Maynard himself. Then, if they really wanted to feel crazy, they’d check BJ Penn’s record at lightweight and wouldn’t you know it – no one has ever finished him at that weight, either.
Yet Frankie gets guff for not “finishing fights”. I implore the fans who feel this way to put down the beer and see about getting into yoga or something – it’ll make it easier to put your foot in your mouth later on.
4) I was wrong about Jake Shields
Ok, enough about the main event. While discussing last night’s card with FanSided big cheese and MMA fanatic Adam Best, I made the mistake of defending Jake Shields. He’s not boring, I said. His fight with Henderson was fun! He stole a round or two from GSP. His fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama featured some fun moments. And the Ellenberger fight was…well, not his finest moment, but undoubtedly exciting. Have faith, I said. The Ed Herman fight has the potential to be great.
Remember that yoga I was just talking about? Looks like I’m going to have to take it up myself, because I was about as wrong in that assessment as it’s possible to be.
Dear God, Jake, what the hell happened? You’re an elite-level grappler, or so I’m told. A Cesar Gracie black belt with some outstanding grappling credentials. Yet this is by my count the third recent fight of yours (also counting Kampmann and Mayhem) where your opponent has decided to fight right into your gameplan – but you can’t put them away. And not only that, but you are singularly unimpressive, riding out a dull decision that sees you heaving for oxygen by the end of the fight while your opponent deals with a bad case of whisker rub.
That’s not to say there’s no future for Shields at middleweight, because he’s still an elite-level fighter who could pose problems for many in the division. I just don’t know how the heck the UFC is going to market his next fight. He collects way too big a paycheck to put fans to sleep and get booed out of the building after every win.
5) The WEC was awesome, after all
Something occurred to me as I was thinking about what fights to make after UFC 150 (more on that later). As we were already told before the fight (much to Frankie Edgar’s later chagrin, I’m sure) the next challenger for the lightweight title would be Nate Diaz. And with Donald Cerrone’s impressive victory over Melvin Guillard last night, it looks like he’ll be getting his wish and facing Anthony “Showtime” Pettis next, inventor of the famous “Showtime kick”. And what’s more, there’s talk that both these fights could be featured on the next “UFC on Fox” card. Now think about that for a moment – if that turns out to be the case, it would mean the next UFC outing on Fox would be, for all intents and purposes, a WEC card.
If I went back in time to when the WEC/UFC merger was first announced, and told you Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone, and Anthony Pettis would become the cream of the crop in the UFC’s lightweight division you’d probably have your doubts. Yet here we are, looking at a WEC-dominated 155 pound title picture. Oh, and did i mention that Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo have maintained strangleholds on their respective divisions, Carlos Condit is set to fight GSP, and Brian Stann is fighting for a shot at Anderson Silva. Not to mention some guy named Chael Sonnen.
The WEC was for real all along – what a wonderful vindication for the guys who made that promotion so exciting to watch through the years.