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Anatomy of a UFC upset

Eight Sides to Every UFC Story
By Jesse Holland
Special column to UFCmania

I remember waking up Sunday morning and flipping on the replay of UFC 69 just to be sure. Nope ... I wasn't dreaming. Matt Serra stopped Georges St. Pierre in the first round with strikes.

Now that it's behind us and the reality of the situation has set in, I couldn't help but wonder if there was an upside to this unlikely turn of events. While I don't envy Joe Silva now that the welterweight division has turned into the Wild West, I do think this particular upset will help the sport in terms of fan and maybe even fighter expectations.

The UFC has been around in some form or another for several years, yet the new era of mixed martial arts is still in its infancy. Deciding what makes a fighter great continues to be largely a matter of opinion rather than cold hard facts.

Can we really know how great a fighter is when the only thing we have to compare him to is another current fighter?

Sure we have a handful of pioneers but let's just go ahead and say it: Any great fighter of yesteryear in his prime would be a deer in the headlights against today's best.

That's why I think the GSP upset was good for the sport. It will at least -- for some -- put an end to the petty squabbling over the damage one loss can do on any given night. And in turn how that loss affects the legacy of a fighter over the span of his career.

Honestly, does anyone think that GSP is any less talented because he was stopped by a journeyman? I certainly don't.

Still, every fighter has their detractors. Chuck haters were dancing in the streets when he lost to Rampage – Rampage of all people – back in 2003. It's not like he was knocked out by Vernon White ... this was one of the top fighters in his weight class.

Mirko Cro Cop went from iron chin to glass jaw in one fight with Kevin Randleman. I don't care if you're Mark Hunt, if you let a guy as strong as Randleman hit you on the chin in a forward motion with all his might – you sir are going out.

Now it's GSP's turn. Browse the UFC forums and you'll see a variety of topics that try to exonerate their fallen hero or condemn him. Some cry foul and blame an errant punch to the back of the head. Others lambaste the UFC housekeeping policy for having a sweaty ring that made GSP slip into a Serra haymaker (as if there is a sweat zamboni that comes out between fights to powder the floor).

Even some are stooping as low as to call the whole thing fixed. That's just bettor's remorse. Hey with those odds I wish I had put money on Serra too, but at the time it seemed like a fool's bet.

And finally a handful of fans are convinced that GSP was never really that good to begin with. I'd say it's probably Matt Hughes using a nom de plume but I'm not sure he knows how operate any equipment not made by John Deere.

I know fans (and probably the UFC brass) will be looking very closely at this fight trying to determine how such a thing could have happened. GSP didn't help matters either. I know his enormous fan base was hoping -- praying -- that he would disclose a devastating injury that occurred just minutes before the fight that left him blind in one eye or some other crazy mishap.

Instead they got the truth: He was in shape, trained hard, followed his strategy and lost. That's a hard pill to swallow when you hang your hat on a particular fighter. If you're a fan and you're in mourning, imagine how GSP must feel.

Not that you would know it. For a fighter that just lost everything he held dear, St. Pierre was the picture of class. Guys like Tim Sylvia should be taking notes.

Let's not just pick on fans either because it should be a wake-up call for overconfident fighters. We've all heard the redundant sound bites from the usual suspects about not taking fighters lightly and not looking ahead and blah-blah-blah.

But, let's cut the bull.

Most fighters are guilty of looking past an opponent they think is inferior in skill because it's human nature. Every red-blooded male has been guilty of it at one point or another.
Pretend you're on a date and some schmuck pinches your girlfriend's backside. Of course you would have to take action. If you confront the transgressor and he's wearing a red shirt with a crocodile emblem and is shaped like Ziggy, you're going to be swinging for the fences.

But if you confront him and he's wearing a Team Quest shirt and has a torso that looks like it was carved out of ice, you're going to choose your words (and actions) a bit more carefully.

A smart fighter will hopefully remember UFC 69 for a long time. They'll remember it because if it can happen to GSP, it can happen to anybody.

Just ask Andrei Arlovski.

Did anyone think during his second fight with Sylvia when he knocked Tim down with a devastating punch that he would be the one losing by knockout?

GSP wasn't supposed to lose. A lot of fighters aren't. But it happens sometimes and that's part of what makes this sport so exciting. I said the GSP upset was good for the sport and it is, because it reminds us that fighters don't have to be perfect to be great.

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