And it was ugly.
I don't mean ugly in the sense that it was a sloppy fight, although one could definitely argue as much. I mean ugly as in neither man looked like the elite fighters they once were. I won't take anything away from "Shogun" after this victory. It was a hugely important win for his career and a big step forward in his quest to get back to the 205-pound title. But he didn't move nearly as well as he used to. Those knee surgeries? They're clearly taking their toll.
But no, I want to focus on Forrest and the god-awful performance he turned in last night. He admitted as much in the post-fight press conference and spoke of the disappointment he feels in himself, as well as lamenting his many missed opportunities:
"I know I had a lot of opportunities to go and I didn't go. The game plan was to kind of get off after he kind of missed, and he missed a couple times big and I just stood there and let him off the hook. I didn't stay in the rhythm I wanted to. I had a pretty decent camp going into this, pretty decent nine weeks since the last time we were here. I definitely could have done a lot better. It sucks when you do poorly at your job."
The prevailing theme coming out of last night's contest was that the killer Rua from Pride is back, at least in some form, and ready to make another run at the division crown.
But I couldn't help but focus more on Griffin and his overall demeanor all throughout his time in Brazil, from the moment he stepped foot in the country until the moment he left it. Most alarming, though, was the way he looked while he was in the cage fighting one of the best light heavyweights on Earth.
He looked disinterested.
There are plenty of actual reasons for this and even more issues to speculate on. Let's dive in and see if we can't figure out just what was plaguing one of the most beloved fighters in the history of MMA and why his fight went down the way it did.
So what was the problem? Let's run it down:
1. Forrest's wife was about to have his child and his mind was quite clearly with his family.
This is not only plausible, it's downright reasonable. Worrying about getting punched in the face by a deadly Brazilian while also thinking about the birth of your child is a recipe for disaster. It's no surprise then, that that's exactly what we witnessed. In fact, shortly after the bout and the post-fight press conference, Dana White himself rushed Forrest home in his jet to be by his wife's side.
2. Forrest is no longer interested in competing in the sport of MMA.
This is also an extreme possibility just based on statements he made before the fight. He wrote a blog for Yahoo! Sports in which he outright admitted that he's doing this to continue to provide a good life and home for his family. This whole fighting gig is no longer about becoming the best and building a legacy but rather picking up a paycheck to make sure there are diapers to put on the baby and food to put on the dinner table every night. While that's an admirable trait in and of itself, it's not the mindset of a fighter that will find any measure of success against top tier competition in the UFC. And really, after a decade in the game and continuously going through grueling training camps just to get beat on for 15 minutes, it's understandable that he would be sick of it by now. Who wouldn't?
3. Shogun is simply a better fighter and that's why Griffin looked so bad.
A strong possibility, no doubt. But my feeling leans more towards this -- the "Shogun" that Griffin beat back in Sept. 2007 at UFC 76 is better than the Forrest that Rua beat last night at UFC 134. Again, that's not to take anything away from "Shogun," who might win 8 of 10 fights against Griffin. But I tend to think Forrest's other issues have more to do with the equation than anything else.
4. Anderson Silva took all of Forrest's fighting spirit back at UFC 101 in Aug. 2009.
A loss like the one suffered by Griffin in his fight against Anderson Silva is one that simply cannot be forgotten. And fighting is a business that requires an extremely short memory. The manner in which Forrest was defeated was so embarrassing, so soul-crushing, it's entirely possibly he still hasn't fully recovered from it. As he said himself, against "Shogun," when opportunities presented themselves for him to strike, he didn't. This is the same man that went to war with Quinton Jackson, taking every punch "Rampage" could throw and coming back to land just as many of his own. What would make a man like that gun shy? Getting embarrassed in front of the world and not being able to do a damn thing about it, that's what.
These are completely possible and totally reasonable issues that led to Griffin looking so distracted and disinterested in engaging Rua. Instead of it being any one thing, it's entirely likely it's a combination of all of the above. Forrest himself said before the bout he feels as though he's plateaued as a fighter and he's not getting any better.
Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The fact of the matter here is that if you're not getting better in MMA, you're getting worse. There is no standing still. The fight game evolves at such a rapid pace that if you aren't doing everything in your power to stay ahead of the pack, you'll quickly get trampled and left behind.
Is Forrest Griffin at that point just yet? It's difficult to tell as much after one loss to a top three ranked light heavyweight. But he certainly looked every bit the part last night as he failed to live up to the man we've all come to know after all these years.
No longer is he "The Ultimate Fighter." But I'm not sure if I'm ready to say it's time to retire.
What do you think? Time to start thinking about hanging up the gloves? Or just time to start fighting lower-ranked light heavyweights? You tell me, Maniacs. I can't make up my mind.