Wow. That was without a doubt one of the greatest fights of all time.
Where exactly does it rank? Who gives a shit! It was one of the greatest fights you will ever see in mixed martial arts (MMA) ... period. It was an incredible experience and I'm going to get to all of that soon but first I have to say one thing that needs to be said.
MMA judging is officially ruining the sport that I love. It is broken, it is bankrupt, it is a veritable fucking mess.
Four split decisions at UFC 195 last night (Jan. 2, 2016), each with serious ramifications for the careers of those who were on the wrong side of the scorecard being written by people sitting cageside, presumably with crayons wedged so far up their noses they've hit brain.
For the record
According to MMAdecisions.com, the judges botched four of the seven fights on this card that required "professionals" to judge their merits. I'm just going to read them out here, followed by the scores of the MMA media:
- Michinori Tanaka def. Joe Soto via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). MMA media scored it 11-6-1 for Soto.
- Justine Kish def. Nina Ansaroff via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27). MMA media scored it 12-5 for Ansaroff.
- Alex Morono def. Kyle Noke via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30). MMA media scored it 16-1 for Noke.
- Robbie Lawler def. Carlos Condit via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47). MMA media scored it 15-3-2 for Condit.
I guess you could argue that media were somewhat split on the Tanaka vs. Soto fight. But, what the fuck were they thinking for any of the others? I mean, the Morono vs. Noke fight wasn't even remotely close.
I'm not being melodramatic when I say that judging is literally ruining lives and careers and losing fans in this sport.
Carlos Condit said after the robbery that he might retire from MMA. Joe Soto will have lost his third straight fight and is likely to get cut. Kyle Noke is 35 and with a loss he might think it's time to hang it up. Nina Ansaroff lost her third straight and will likely be cut.
This is a full-on disaster for our sport. It's at a point right now where you literally have no idea what the judges are going to do even when a fight has an outcome so one-sided that the media are nearly unanimous.
Anyway, let's move on. Who got top marks and who failed to make the grade during UFC 195? Find out below:
Esther Lin photo
Carlos Condit exemplified all of the skill, quality and punishment of a true champion last night. And as far as I'm concerned, he won the belt.
Don't bother arguing with me about the decision. Honestly, I know there are people who somehow believe Robbie Lawler won, just as there exist some people in this universe who believe Georges St-Pierre beat Johny Hendricks. Hell, I bet you could find somebody who thinks that Andre Berto beat Floyd Mayweather.
The fact is that this was an epic fight that will go down as being one of the greatest of all time. And no degenerate level of subliterate mouthbreathing can change that fact. It was poetic violence from start to exhausting finish.
As far as Condit's performance, it was a once in a career kind of defining moment for him. He was nearly perfect in his approach, using a beautiful and diverse range of striking to land a somewhat ridiculous 176 strikes among the 495 he attempted to land on Lawler. Condit landed more significant strikes in the fifth round than Lawler had in the previous four combined.
And Lawler? The man is a true champion, demonstrating heart and resilience, and an indomitable spirit, going out in the fifth round and putting together one of the most memorable rounds in the history of combat sports. Whatever demons of mediocrity haunted "Ruthless" back at Strikeforce have been thoroughly exorcised, bringing one of the most exciting fighters to the pinnacle of his division that this sport has ever seen.
Sadly, the judges botched the outcome. Badly.
Where do we go from here? I don't see Condit wanting to climb back up that ladder and I'm skeptical the UFC will book that rematch right away.
Lawler is likely to face Tyron Woodley next but that sounds about as exciting as rush hour in Los Angeles.
If I had a magic wand I'd rather see Lawler fight a surprise comeback from Georges St-Pierre. Failing that I would literally beg on my hands and knees to watch Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler II.
No, Diaz doesn't deserve a title shot. No, he hasn't earned it. Yes, he whines about everything and yes he continues to lose every fight he's in. But it's the only opponent I can think of for Lawler, whose name isn't Johny Hendricks or Carlos Condit, who might have a chance of winning.
Esther Lin photo
Can I let you all in on a little secret?
I never liked Andrei Arlovski. Not when he was UFC champion a decade ago, not when he was getting his chin shattered in Strikeforce, and not when he somehow weaseled his way back into UFC.
The man is overrated in every conceivable way and yet somehow manages to underachieve even where he's strong. Some of my worst memories in UFC viewing is seeing Arlovski plod around the cage for 25 minutes watching Tim Sylvia and pawing his hands out in some feeble attempt at fighting.
The only times Arlovski is dangerous is when somebody makes the terrible mistake of forgetting the man has knockout power. Rushing in to fight can get you knocked out, which can then mislead the general public into thinking the Belorussian is "back." He isn't. Never was. Never will be.
I predicted terribly for UFC 195, getting nearly every fight wrong. But I somehow knew this one was ending in the first round with Stipe Miocic's hand raised. Not only has he looked phenomenal since his career setback loss to Stefan Struve, Miocic has demonstrated improved striking to go along with his wrestling pedigree.
I'd be lying if I said I could give you a technical analysis of this fight. First of all, it was too short to remember much and the UFC refuses to show replays of its finishes. I'll leave the technical stuff to Andrew Richardson. What I will say is that Arlovski climbed as high as he's likely to go in the UFC and at 36 years of age I predict his Jeff Monson years are coming sooner rather than later.
Esther Lin photo
I didn't think this fight was particularly controversial. Like many fighters who rely on a devastating leg kick, Lorenz Larkin had to capitalize on the damage he did to the lead leg in order to convert that to a win. He failed to do that and in the end failed to convince the judges he deserved the win.
Albert Tumenov, on the other hand, used consistent and effective boxing to outland Larkin the entire fight, pressuring the fighter against the cage and landing crisp combinations to score points. The Russian was the model of consistency, landing 52 strikes to the head and 19 to the body, only bothering to touch up the legs five times.
There was an inverse ratio with Larkin, who landed 47 punishing leg kicks, 10 to the body, and just a dozen kicks and punches to the head. No doubt his most effective weapon was his whipping right leg kick to the lead leg of Tumenov, reducing the power and speed of the Russian over the course of the fight. This seemed to turn the tide in the third round and may have won the day if the fight had gone longer.
But it didn't. Larkin dropped the first two rounds by setting up the conditions to punish Tumenov, and without a finish it doesn't take an "Einstein" to figure out who won the fight. Technically speaking, Larkin landed more strikes in the first round, but by landing a total of zero strikes to the head he convinced nobody of the effectiveness.
If there's a consolation prize here it's that Larkin still looked great at welterweight and clearly belongs near the top of the pecking order in this weight class. It's just that Tumenov's star is rising, and it might be perfect timing given Robbie Lawler is quickly running out of challenges.
Esther Lin photo
It might seem strange giving the guy who lost the fight a better grade than the guy who won, but to be honest there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about for Brian Ortega, excepting his 20 seconds of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and finishing submission.
On the other hand I was really impressed with Diego Brandao, who has improved and progressed significantly since winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 14. He lost, but for two and a bit rounds he looked very good and was up 2-0 on my scorecard headed into the final stretch.
Brandao demonstrated patience, technical striking, and a very Jose Aldo-like strength of combinations and explosive power. (And no, this isn't the time to point out Aldo was knocked out in 13 seconds). It seems like Brandao has all the pieces of the puzzle, but just can't seem to put it all together.
Although he doesn't get lured into sloppy brawls anymore, Brandao continues to struggle with cardio and Fight IQ, losing focus at critical moments. It seems to me that 28-year-old has the potential to be one of the elite fighters at 145 pounds, but has had the misfortune of fighting some absolute monsters throughout his UFC career (including Conor McGregor).
As for Brian Ortega, there's no question his ground game is on a completely different level from everybody else in this division. That alone is impressive enough to warrant his generous grade. But his sloppy striking, relying mainly on a solid chin, and fervent, almost delusional belief that he would take Brandao into "deep waters" and drown him will only backfire against more elite competition.
Ortega has now won two fights in a row where he was down 2-0 on the scorecards heading into the third round. It makes for an exciting conclusion but his undefeated streak will only become more vulnerable as he rises in the ranks. Beating Tiago Tavares and Brandao will likely set him up for a fight against a Ricardo Lamas or a Jeremy Stephens. Neither guy is likely to fold in the third round, so Ortega had better show up with a new "game plan" when we see him next.
I have to admit that I felt kind of bad for Tony Sims. For the first three minutes he was absolutely outclassing Abel Trujillo on the feet, stuffing his takedowns, and touching up the brawler from range.
And then Sims made one slip up, Trujillo grabbed his neck and it was over. Just. Like. That. I was impressed with Trujillo, if I'm being honest, because I didn't know he had that kind of ground game. He'd always just seemed like a mindless zombie fighter, albeit an extremely entertaining zombie. He demonstrated far more skill than I gave him credit for.
Sims is likely done in the UFC, although that would be a shame since I think he's got a real chance of making it as a grinder here. The fact he's able to make 155 pounds with his frame is remarkable in and of itself, and for the first three minutes or so he looked very much like a man who could win a few fights and gain some momentum.
As for Trujillo it's good to see him back in the win column. His brawl with Jamie Varner was unforgettable and despite posting a mediocre 4-3 record in UFC it's not easy battling monsters like Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson. Although he's a bit beefier than I think is good for his frame, he clearly showed he has the strength to finish submissions with those pipes.
Nobody loves to get offended like the Internet loves to get offended. And boy did I offend its precious feelings last night during this fight. Immediately following the one-sided shellacking, I posted up a rather obvious, but politically incorrect observation:
Let's be honest though. Poirier GSP'd that fight. They were even on the feet. #UFC195— MMA mania (@mmamania) January 3, 2016
People widely inferred this as a negative comment, but that really speaks more to their dislike of St-Pierre than it does my observation. In fact, what made St-Pierre such a dominant fighter was that in nearly every fight in his career, he would assiduously exploit the weakness of each and every opponent to his full advantage. Usually, this meant taking down the fighter, beating him up from the top, and eliminating the threat completely.
That is precisely what Dustin Poirier did to Joe Duffy. In a barnburner of a first round, Duffy and Poirier traded somewhat evenly on the feet in exchanges that seemed to be the worse for the American. He could have continued to stand and trade with Duffy and let nature take its course. He didn't. He GSP'd Duffy.
What that means is he exploited Duffy's heretofore unknown takedown weakness, and mercilessly laid the smackdown on top for most of the next two rounds. Whether people choose to remember St-Pierre as an ineffective top control fighter is their own delusionary problem. To me, GSP is one of the single most effective fighters at inflicting damage from the top that mankind has ever known.
Take, for instance, GSP vs. B.J. Penn II. In the first fight the Canadian had taken the worst of the exchanges on the feet and found his jabs, superman punches and overhand rights were no match for Penn's chin. So what did he do? He took Penn down again and again and again, wearing him out, neutralizing his offense and battering him into submission.
It was sad and somewhat ironic to see that happening to a guy who trains out of the same gym as St-Pierre. Yet there it is. And one can't help but wonder whether Poirier's fight with Conor McGregor would have gone differently had he chosen to take the first Irishman down as well. We may never know, unless Poirier continues to rise in the ranks of the lightweight division and McGregor meets him there somewhere along the way.
Quick Hits From The Undercard
- Michael McDonald (B) looked like he was coming off at least two years of cage rust after getting dominated on the ground by Masanori Kanehara (C-) for most of the first round and a bit. And then suddenly McDonald reminded everybody why he used to be ranked in the top 10 of the bantamweight division.
- Kyle Noke (B-) used his considerable size advantage to take down and control the wild and sloppy Alex Morono (C+) for most of three rounds, only fading late and possibly losing the final round well after the game was already at hand. Somehow, inexplicably, the judges gave the fight to the man who lost the first 13 minutes.
- Justine Kish (C-) was getting countered by Nina Ansaroff (B+) in a way very reminiscent to Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm, recklessly running her face into Ansaroff's fist over and over and over again. The MMA media and FightMetric both clearly show the first two rounds as easily being Ansaroff's. How the judges fucked it up is a complete mystery.
- Drew Dober (B+) showed a surprising amount of tenacity and heart in this one, controlling the former XFC Lightweight champion Scott Holtzman (C) on the ground, but more importantly outworking him when it counted. To quote Mike Goldberg, hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard.
- Joe Soto (A-) fought a hell of a great fight against Michinori Tanaka (B-), nearly landing several submissions, including the rare gogoplata. Soto's activity off his back surely offset whatever top control Tanaka may have had, and frankly I can't fathom the score on this one either.
- Sheldon Westcott (A) likely landed about 150 unanswered punches before the referee finally stepped in and let Edgar Garcia (F) take the rest of his career off. FightMetric says he only landed 33 punches (to 1) but honestly, those unanswered blows seemed to go on and on and on and on...
That's a wrap! I'd get excited for UFC Fight Night 81 featuring T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz but now I'm concerned Cruz is going to win all five rounds and lose a 48-47 split decision.
Again, read the top of this post. Ruining. The. Sport.