Typical of a sport that grew up on the internet, there’s a ton of nonsense and misinformation. FO breaks down the truth about some of the most polarizing topics that plague comment sections and forums to this day.
The myth: Pride was the best
The truth: Pride Fighting Championships rightfully holds a special place in many MMA fans’ hearts thanks to its 10 years of chaotic matchmaking, over-the-top production and celebration of enduring MMA heroes. Because of that, however, there are some people who get a bit too misty eyed when they remember the beloved Japanese organization. While it did deliver some of combat sports’ most iconic and unbelievable action, there was an awful lot wrong. A lack of drug testing, some dangerously uncompetitive matchmaking a, yes it’s true, some truly boring fights – just try sitting through five, 10-minute rounds of Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta (or, indeed, Kimo Leopoldo vs. Dan Severn, embedded below) – meant the UFC’s modern iteration of MMA is far superior… We’d still welcome the fireworks, knees on the ground and that music back in a second, though.
The myth: Never leave it in the hands of the judges
The truth: We get this is a phase designed to encourage exciting fights, and we’re all for that, but this mantra is more than a little problematic. First of all, it suggests no one who has ever been to a decision didn’t try and get a finish. As anyone who has ever fought a granite-chinned warrior like Dan Henderson or rubber-limbed grappler like Ben Henderson can attest, sometimes that doesn’t happen no matter what offense you throw their way. Second, sometimes, it’s actually better to try and win a decision. Take, for example, ‘King Mo’ Lawal’s upset win over Gegard Mousasi in Strikeforce – in which the wrestler spent five rounds on top of the powerful striker. It wasn’t pretty, but standing with a man with more than four times the MMA experience was asking to be knocked out. Sometimes you just have to fight smart. Finally, as much as we lament judges, they should be good enough to make the right decision. It’s not the fighters’ fault if they end up on the wrong side of a contentious decision they deserved.
The myth: To be the champ you’ve got to beat the champ
The truth: Being the champion does not give you an advantage in a title fight. They do not have a divine right to keep their belt just because a challenger does not get a knockout, submission, or blowout decision on the judges’ cards. In a perfect world, every fight would end in conclusive fashion, but if someone can squeak by and win three close rounds in a title fight to earn 48-47 scorecards, they are victorious – even if they clearly lost two rounds by a clear 10-9 margin. It’s not ideal, but those are the rules. Just because Georges St-Pierre stayed conscious in his fight with Johny Hendricks, you won’t find too many people who said he didn’t deserve to take the belt home that night, especially seeing as he certainly beat up the champ. Dana White criticized him for leaving it in the judges’ hands, too!
The myth: Fedor was a can crusher
The truth: It’s true that Fedor Emelianenko didn’t always fight the best competition. It’s also unfortunate that he never got to take on the best fighters in the UFC towards the end of his career. However, during his best years, he did more than enough to prove he was the best heavyweight in the world. Twice he annihilated ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira, the man who had been the world number one before comfortably sitting in the number two spot for the next half a decade. He also beat Mirko Cro Cop – the best heavyweight striker and the world number three – at his own game, and took out a number of former UFC champions who were all highly rated when they faced ‘The Last Emperor’. Sure, Zuluzinho the fat Brazilian was not a worthy foe, but plenty of others were for his 10 years at the top.
The myth: Leg kicks don’t finish fights
The truth: This egregious falsehood became the topic of heated debate after Lyoto Machida’s 205lb title defense against Mauricio Rua when judge Cecil peoples defended his decision to score the fight for the champion. The controversial official argued ‘Shogun’s offense wasn’t effective enough to justify winning the fight. Anyone who has taken a shin to the thigh or quad from a good striker will tell you otherwise. If you’re yet to experience the horrors, it could be compared to having a baseball bat slammed into your flesh. Don’t believe us? Ask anyone who’s fought Edson Barboza. And even if you’re not getting finished by leg kicks, you can be close to crippled by them – like Urijah Faber in his traumatizing fight with José Aldo.
The myth: Fighter X from in his prime would beat fighter Y
The truth: The hero worship for some of MMA’s pioneers in understandable. The champions that helped build the sport earned their legendary reputations by being as tough as nails and beating the best of their era. But to argue they could have had the same success in the modern era against the well-rounded, freakishly-athletic, complete mixed martial artists that stand on top of the fighting world today is crazy. Royce Gracie on his best day would never have beaten Georges St-Pierre and Chuck Liddell would have been beaten by Jon Jones – just like everyone else. No disrespect to those greats from days gone by, the sport has simply evolved since their days in the sun.
The myth: Matt Hamill was robbed against Michael Bisping
The truth: There is no shortage of alleged miscarriages of justice in the annals of MMA, but one that enraged more people than possibly any other – at least on the western side of the Atlantic – was this debated decision from UFC 75. Whether that’s got anything to do with Michael Bisping’s lack of popularity in America in 2007 is up for debate. ‘The Hammer’ supporters would contend he had the most effective offense of the fight in round one, which under ‘Pride rules’, where the bout is scored as a whole, means he should have won. But this was the UFC, and though Bisping landed fewer strikes, he certainly did enough to edge the final two rounds, giving him victory by scorecards of 29-28. That is undeniable. His detractors – there were many and still are – said he benefitted from a biased decision at home in the UK, but the only British judge on the panel, Chris Watts, scored the bout 30-27 for Hamill.
The myth: Kenny Florian choked in big fights
The truth: ‘Kenflo’ was one of the most unlikely martial artists to mix it up in the elite ranks of the UFC, but he made it to three title fights thanks to exponential improvement after his time on TUF 1. Unfortunately for him, he was defeated in each of those fights. The other losses on his UFC ledger were in The Ultimate Fighter finale and a top contender bout. That led to accusations of him being unable to handle the pressure of the big occasion. Nonsense. The Massachusetts native was just unlucky enough to face some of the toughest competitors of his era when gold was on the line. Sean Sherk was vastly more experienced with five times the number of fights at that point in his career, B.J. is the best 155lb fighter ever and José Aldo is the best to do it at 145lb. Kenny Florian was a great fighter, but he wasn’t quite great enough to topple some of the best fighters in history – and that’s OK.
*** This feature originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Fighters Only magazine ***