The first in a planned regular feature series.
The "after word" for UFC 118 - the theme, if it had to be boiled down to one word - was ADAPTATION.
Merriam-Webster defines adaptation as:
Adjustment to environmental conditions...modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment.
If there was a theme to the main card of UFC 118, it was the adaptation to the demands of the battle on the part of one party, or absence on the part of the opposition.
In Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard, it was Florian's failure to successfully prepare for the prospect of finding himself on his back over and over again which cost him the fight. This appears to have been partially a failure of proper assessment; Kenny seemed to feel prior to the fight that his time training with Georges St-Pierre had prepared him to match Maynard's wrestling skill. He seemed to not put the priority on, as Joe Rogan espoused during the fight, drilling submissions and escapes over and over from his back - and it showed in the fight. Usually a very well-rounded fighter, Florian's single most glaring weakness - his guard game - happened to be the one area where he had to know he was going to be most tested by Maynard for stylistic reasons. Regardless, when the time came, he had no answers. Dana White now-infamously summarized it as Kenny "choking" in the big fights, but in the best Sun Tzu tradition, I believe the battle is won before it's fought. In the case of MMA, this means your preparation.
In the co-main event, we saw both the upside and the downside of adaptation. James Toney clearly didn't belong inside the Octagon with such a well-rounded veteran as Randy Couture, and unquestionably a few months of training in disciplines such as wrestling or BJJ could not have changed the outcome; but at a minimum, it would have given Toney more of a chance than he in fact gave himself. As it was, he was as out-of-place, as unprepared, as woefully out of his element, as Royce Gracie's competition at UFC 1.
Couture on the other hand - always the consummate strategist - displayed the ideal result of adaptation. Randy is a fantastic wrestler, but is a Greco-Roman guy; shooting the classic single or double leg takedown isn't his normal MO. However, in this fight against such a powerful and skilled boxer as Toney, that was the proper strategy. Randy:
I had to pull out the old low single from college and dust it off because it's pretty hard to counter-punch that. You have to be within arms length to really hit a double leg and guess what, he's got arms. He could hit me with them. I thought I could get to his feet and put him on his butt with the low single leg.
With much of the fight-watching world wondering how Randy was going to get in close enough to clinch and take Toney down without getting clipped, the old man was quietly piecing together the right plan for the battle at hand. He adapted perfectly.
Finally, the main event of the evening showcased a (to most) very surprising inability on the part of former lightweight champ BJ Penn to adapt to Frankie Edgar essaying essentially the identical gameplan - albeit executed even better - that he rode to a victory in their first meeting at UFC 112. In prefight interviews Penn confidently explained how they had brought in Bibiano Fernandes and Antonio Banuelos, top-25 featherweight and bantamweights respectively, to acclimate BJ to dealing with smaller, quicker, slick fighters. The approach sounded right - but on the night he was utterly incapable of putting it together. With the exception of a little life at the start of round 5, Penn looked as confused and unprepared to pull the trigger as he had for 25 minutes in his first encounter with Edgar. The result was a 5-round one-sided loss - the worst loss Penn has ever had at lightweight.
The saying goes that "a smart man learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others." The lessons written in sweat and blood at UFC 118 stand as the golden rule for MMA competitors: adapt or perish.