Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com
Want to be a mixed martial arts (MMA) champion? Well, then, you better be prepared to fight five full rounds.
A favorite exercise of mine is the Five Round Rule, wherein I extrapolate what might have happened if a three-round mixed martial arts (MMA) bout had had two extra rounds, or vice-versa for a five-rounder.
It's a fun game to play with all sorts of fascinating implications.
Saturday night's main event at UFC on Fox 6 between Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson is a great example of the Five Round Rule, for it perfectly illustrates how the complexion and outcome of a bout can change things dramatically with a different distance that both guys have to go.
Johnson, getting counterpunched and readily drilled by the excellent Dodson, would've likely lost a split decision if that bout had gone three. But, with his superb conditioning and the extended distance, the two championship rounds allowed him to dictate the action over a pair of dominant stanzas that ultimately swung the bout in his favor by scores of 49-46, and 48-47 (twice).
There are some guys who are just going to be better in five-round fights, so much so that if you set odds for a three versus five-rounder, they'd probably swing considerably in their favor.
Take Jon Fitch, whose ability to close the show down the stretch of a hard-nosed fight is as good as anyone's. Several sportsbooks currently have him pegged as about a 8-5 favorite over Demian Maia this weekend in their three-round welterweight fight at UFC 156. It's definitely a bout where Fitch's ground-and-pound style would benefit from two extra rounds, as he's incredibly tough to submit -- he has the best submission defense in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history.
Yet against Maia, you get the feeling that if it went the distance, those two extra rounds would be a huge advantage given Fitch's grinding style.
The incredible closing round efforts Fitch delivered against B.J. Penn and Erick Silva are the reasons he's always been one of my favorite fighters to watch. Fitch brings little flash, hype or self-promotional badassery into a bout -- he just comes equipped with a hard-nosed blend of solid fundamentals and an incredible gas tank.
Like Johnson, whose similar tools wore down and outlasted the more explosive Dodson, there's a certain leveling effect for some guys in five-round fights, and it's definitely a factor in picking winners.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst