Photo by Esther Lin for MMAfighting.com
Former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion Miguel Torres, who not too long ago was considered among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, has been stripped of the fighting spirit that once made him so great. His losing performance last night at WSOF was the cherry on a disappointing sundae.
Miguel Torres will never touch a major title again.
This is not a reflection of his talents -- he has phenomenal physical tools and one of the best ground games in the 135-pound division. He will never touch a title because what made Miguel Torres the best Bantamweight on the planet was beaten out of him.
Anyone whose seen my work (which is all of you, since I conned that shmuck Myers into putting this crap on the front page) knows how much I love Takanori Gomi. I will, to the death, insist that he is one of the top three lightweights to ever walk the Earth.
But, even if he reverses his decline and brings back the brilliant boxing and wrestling that made him great, he'll never be a champion again. And you can thank Marcus Aurelio for that.
Both men, at their peaks, didn't just look invincible -- they fought like they were invincible. Torres was as scrappy as an aircraft boneyard, disregarding his enormous reach in favor of getting right in your face and breaking you down. Similarly, Gomi was a juggernaut who would as soon slap his mother as take one step back.
Then they were shown that they weren't invincible and everything fell apart. Brian Bowles knocked Torres clean out and Aurelio put Gomi to sleep.
If you look at them nowadays, it's almost like watching different fighters. Torres hangs out at range, flicking out the occasional jab, but never committing to any power shots. Even disregarding how sloppy Gomi's punches have gotten, everything about the way he fights has changed -- he's on his back foot, waiting on his opponents. Just watch the first and second rounds of his fight with Eiji Mitsuoka to see the difference between Gomi moving backward and Gomi moving forward.
I find this phenomenon fascinating, and being an absolute sucker for portmanteaus, have dubbed it the "Invincebo Effect." My theory is as follows:
A fighter who fights as though he is invincible will be so only as long as he believes himself invincible.
Gomi and Torres were kings because they believed in their abilities to be such. When Gomi moved forward, forced his opponents to fight a reactive fight, tenderized them with precise aggression, they were helpless against him because he fought like they were helpless against him.
Torres did the same thing. And while people like Takeya Mizugaki had early success against him, his relentlessness, derived from a belief in his own superiority, eventually turned the tide in his favor.
They can't do that anymore.
Gomi is so worried about the takedown that he can't do what he did against Tatsuya Kawajiri, which is bully them until their takedowns are desperate and predictable. He's so focused on defending them that, paradoxically, he's more vulnerable to them than ever. Torres can't pressure because Bowles and Michael McDonald taught him fear. He may be slightly more sound on a technical level, but he's fighting a fundamentally different fight than he was when he was great and is losing because of it.
One could argue that Chan Sung Jung is indicative of a weakness in the theory because after the George Roop fight, he went from an amusing novelty to one of the top five fighters in the division. I would say that he doesn't fit the criteria. I would say that, before that disaster, he succeeded in spite of his belief in his own invincibility. Once he'd been knocked out, he looked at what made him successful and realized that it was his aggression and grappling ability, not his hands-down style, and rebuilt his game to maximize those advantages.
Miguel Torres is an interesting study in a lot of ways, such as his "striking and guardwork over wrestling" approach, but he most intrigues me is as a shining example of a fighter whose confidence and success form a feedback loop.
Break one and you can never rebuild the other.