It's a weird thing, but fights where one guy dominates in the first round and then goes on to lose big-time are fascinating, prompting combat sports fans to contemplate what went wrong.
In the case of UFC 162, which took place last night (Sat., July 6, 2013) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, the pay-per-view (PPV) bouts between Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver and Tim Kennedy vs. Roger Gracie provided two examples of this kind of fight.
In many cases, the causes are well-known, traceable to earlier cases. The first-round surge of Dennis Siver, where he muscled Cub Swanson to win the opening stanza in impressive fashion, was followed by two rounds of declination. In fact, he was pretty much sleepwalking in the third round until Swanson registered the brutal finish.
Like many guys dropping a weight class, Siver's problems with conditioning are the grim trade-off for his initial size and strength advantage. Mastering the weight cut is a huge factor in mixed martial arts (MMA), especially when jumping down a division.
And it can take several fights for the body to acclimate.
It also must have some psychological effects, knowing you're so much bigger than the opponent, yet wondering if maybe the temptation to go "all-in" early and just blow them out is the best course of action. To his credit, Swanson stuck it out through the tough first round, went to work in the second and stepped up the pressure for the final-round finish.
It was definitely a win for consistency and a loss for the massive weight-cutting approach that plays a huge, largely unseen role in MMA (at least to casual fans).
Tim Kennedy, meanwhile, had the same approach against Roger Gracie, but instead of giving up huge amounts of size, he banked on his well-roundedness to carry him against the Brazilian's far-superior grappling. In the first round, Gracie had him in some compromising positions, but Kennedy's awareness and ability to ride them out and escape gave him chances aplenty to return to the feet and work standing.
I've always had the theory that MMA fighters with one phenomenal "core" area have far less cardio in other phases of the game simply because their bodies aren't acclimated to doing it. Wrestlers tend to get more tired striking, and vice-versa for strikers.
It's truly the mark of a great athlete that can do both at a sustained pace.
Kennedy banked on that, and proceeded to sap energy from Gracie in the second and third. Using clinches, working on the feet, and tiring out Gracie, the strategy paid big-time dividends as he scored a win in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut.
Gracie, meanwhile, was gassed out in the third, after a fight that started his way and then went decidedly in another direction.
The better-conditioned and well-rounded guy doesn't always win, and when he's bested, it's often in spectacular fashion. But, Swanson and Kennedy made a good argument Saturday that it's probably better to be consistent than overpowering or incredibly skilled in one area.
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst