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UFC Vegas 23, The Morning After: Can Mike Perry be saved?

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UFC Fight Night: Perry v Rodriguez Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Like most everyone else, my first impression of Mike Perry was not a particularly positive one. Fake handshaking Hyun Gyu Lim is now somehow a minor footnote in the “Platinum” story — surely a whole chapter for a more normal fighter — an early reason for fans to root against him

My second and third impressions came in his first pair of actual UFC fights, and they told a different tale. Against a large, powerful man in Lim, Perry lead the dance and countered with great accuracy (63 percent per UFCStats), dropping his foe three times en route to the first-round victory.

His second UFC fight showed a different aspect of Perry’s gift for combat. Against a rangy Southpaw sniper in Danny Roberts, Perry walked through some stiff left hands. Despite his opponent pulling ahead with volume, Perry hurt or knocked Roberts down at the end of every round. Despite seemingly being ahead, Perry pushed the pace in the final frame, and he put Roberts to sleep.

Natural instincts, ridiculous power, an iron chin and warrior mentality — 2016 Perry had these attributes in spades. It’s my job to watch fights, analyze combatants and recognize potential ... and Perry seriously impressed me.

Five short years later, and the 29-year-old is almost unrecognizable. He kept the habit of walking straight into left hands, but many of the positives are absent. He’s lost his instinct for timing, and his power doesn’t seem to scare opponents anymore. Oddly enough, the modern Perry is a better wrestler than striker. In his last three fights, his only real positive moments came from takedowns.

Against Mickey Gall and Tim Means, there was at least reason to remain optimistic that the Perry who gave Vicente Luque all he could handle still existed. Sure, he didn’t fight particularly well in either bout, but he did so with his girlfriend in his corner. Poor preparation leads to poor performance, and there is little doubt Perry was running his own camp and screwing around ahead of those bouts.

That excuse doesn’t exist this time. Perry showed up in shape. He might have bitched on Twitter a lot, but he made weight, and his cardio did not fail him at any point. MMA Masters is a very legitimate gym with a considerable roster of UFC fighters, a camp well-suited to help Perry rebound.

Unfortunately, Perry’s technical performance did not improve. His footwork was strangely upright and hoppy, and Perry did not appear to understand how to move his head off the center line. Punch after punch after punch from Daniel Rodriguez should have motivated Perry to start slipping, but it never happened.

Perry tried his best, and it didn’t seem to help. Don’t take my outsider analysis as fact though, take it from the man himself:

“I use to be great,” Perry wrote on Instagram after the loss. “Idk what happened. I have a fight left on my contract. I’ll train hard, I’ll give it my all for my family. Whatever I have to do to give them a better life. I’ll bleed every day for them if I have to.”

At this point, it has to be asked if Perry is shot? His chin is still holding up, that’s for sure; however, has five years of scrapping it out already destroyed Perry’s previous potential? Can MMA Masters — or anyone else — save “Platinum?”

I don’t know. It doesn’t look good right now, but sometimes, it takes a couple fights for athletes to adjust to their new coaches and training systems. Hopefully, a few months of rest (as in active training without fighting) and a step back in competition are the remedy for Perry’s woes.

Maybe Perry can rebuild — I’ll very much be rooting for him. Until we see a sign of progress, however, the situation looks grim.

For complete UFC Vegas 23: “Vettori vs. Holland” results and play-by-play, click HERE!