As usual with the Aftermath pieces, a look at some of the fallout from the weekend’s events. The prospect of Anderson Silva taking on Jon Jones in a superfight has been dealt with in yesterday’s ‘Split Decision’ piece so here’s some of the other items of interest:
We might be witnessing the rebirth of Demian Maia.
I touched on this in the event report posted yesterday, but it bears repeating - top-level grapplers seem to tread this path of entering the UFC and deciding that they need to prove they can have a fight on the feet. Whether this is a perceived pressure to ‘be exciting’ or a desire to show they aren’t a one-trick pony, its often ludicrous. They become bad kickboxers and drift away from the talents that got them to the UFC in the first place.
Things came to a head with Maia when he fought Chris Weidman in January. A man who beats Gabriel Gonzaga in open-weight jiu jitsu showed no signs of wanting to take the fight to the floor. Instead we got three-fives of bad kickboxing and another strike-through for matchmaking formula that has fights looking great on paper but terrible when they transpire. After losing to Weidman in his K-1 debut, Maia dropped to welter and got an immediate result when Dong Hyun Kim fell apart while being thrown.
It wasn’t so much Maia’s efforts as pure luck that broke Kim’s body, but it was an auspicious start to his new weight and perhaps reinforced in Maia’s mind that the clinch and floor were where he should be fighting people. So when he was matched with Rick Story, who can wrestle, Maia wasted no time in hitting the takedown; no more Peter Aerts posturings for him.
Once on the floor, he was all over Story, who was like a man drowning in treacle. The end result was obvious a good while off but it was slow, inexorable in coming. Maia choked Story with such force that Story’s nose burst; we’ve never seen that before. This is the way for Maia to go and if he stays on this path he is going to be the contender we all thought he could be when he first turned up in the middleweight division.
Purple Heart Awards
Everybody loves a winner but, as the first Rocky movie makes clear, we love a gritty loser almost as much if not more. To see a fighter face impossible odds, get the beating of a lifetime and still throw himself back into the fray is a special thing. It is the epitome of their art and their spirit. For me personally its really the essence of the sport, that never say die attitude. The Japanese call it Bushido.
Late last month, Kyle Kingsbury demonstrated it in spades when he literally had his face broken by Jimi Manuwa yet kept fighting and wanted to carry on even after his left eye sealed shut and his broken nose stopped working. Cracked bones, one eye and inhaling blood and mucus with every laboured breath, yet Kingsbury was ready to wade into hell for another round. Magnificent.
On Saturday night it was Fabio Maldonado’s turn. Taken down early by Glover Teixeira he underwent a sustained hiding, the only interlude being Teixeira briefly looking for an arm-triangle choke. For Maldonado that half-a-minute defending the choke was a like a drowning man bursting clear of the surface and taking big deep breaths of crystal-sharp wonderful air. The pure exhilaration of freedom. But moments later it was the terror of being pulled back under the surface as Maldonado took mount again and carried on battering him.
Incredibly, Maldonado managed to take advantage of a moment of improper weight distribution on Teixeira’s part. He rolled out to his feet and started throwing punches. The contrast couldn’t have been sharper - he looked like he had been in a car crash, Teixeira fresh as a daisy. And so the latter decided to showboat a little, inviting Maldonado to do his worst. When Maldonado complied, landing a massive left hook square on the jaw, one of the upsets of the year was at hand.
Teixeira staggered backwards; had he fallen over unconscious I would have fainted. As it is I need to clean the ceiling because everything on my lap went skyward as I vaulted to my feet and screamed incoherent obscenities at the television. But Maldonado was to be denied his moment of glory; Teixeira righted the ship and got back in control.
A second round of much the same was endured, until Maldonado too had his left eye closed. The doctor took a look halfway through the round and let it go on, but in the interval before the third he called the fight off. Maldonado protested but he was in no condition to continue. And even though the result puts him 0-3 in his last three, he emerges with a sort of moral victory. His was by far the most inspirational performance of the night and, pleasingly, he had a prior agreement with the UFC that he wouldn’t be cut if he lost, because he had stepped up at late notice.
The UFC should implement some sort of award for these kind of performances. I’ve no doubt they get a nice backstage bonus but some public recognition would be awesome. The US military gives out purple hearts for conspicuous bravery, the UK give out the Victoria Cross. Fighters like Maldonado and Kingsbury should get some sort of special patch to wear on their shorts. Plus some money, obviously.
Wagner Prado, record-setter
Despite taking a beating on Saturday night, Prado wrote himself into the UFC history books by becoming the first ever fighter to recover his hat from the dreaded hat-thievery that has become such a staple of ring entrances these days.
Grasping hands have relieved many a fighter of their headwear on the way to the Octagon and its been considered a problem that can’t be solved. But Prado has spent hours working on his hat-recovery game, via multi-person drills in his gym,* and it showed with his lightning reflexes and black belt hat recovery on the way in. But of course he would have preferred to lose the hat and not get submitted by Phil Davis.
(* not really)
Full-Fat Humble Pie
Dave Herman pre-fight: “I’ve never been submitted. I’m going to go in there and prove jiu jitsu doesn’t work”
Dave Herman, post-fight after being arm-barred by Rodrigo Nogueira - conspicuously silent.
There have been few UFC fighters who have been served such monumental slices of humble pie so publicly. There was an element of hyping the fight in what Herman was saying but all the same, what a galling, embarrassing way for him to lose after saying all that.