NOTE for the reading comprehension impaired: The fix was NOT in at UFC 117 and those who actually read this piece will see that I actually refute the leading conspiracy theory. The point is that when a UFC title contender goes on ESPN and obviously lies in the build up to the fight, the credibility of the sport is damaged. Nate
There's been a split amongst the MMA cognoscenti (ie Luke Thomas and myself), over Chael Sonnen's say anything approach to building the UFC 117 fight. I wallowed in how brilliant it all was on Friday -- combining as it does my professional admiration for carnival pitchmen, lying policitians, pro-wrestling and post-modernist philosophy -- but then on Sunday morning I was wringing my hands because if a guy lies to build a fight, he might just
cheat quick tap to win it.
Luke meanwhile has been consistent in his disdain for Sonnen's bald-faced lying and ridiculous pro-wrestling style antics. Luke's all about the sport.
Two posts today made me think of another reason Luke may be right about all this and Kid Nate may be wrong again.
First is this break down by Black Lesnar that lays out how the pre-fight build up and the improbable outcome combined to build a narrative worthy of pro-wrestling's best days:
A big difference between pro wrestling and MMA is that one is pre-determined and one is real. Shocking revelation, I know, however that refers to the in-ring part of the respective "sports". Funny thing is, as much as MMA and MMA fans want to distance themselves from "wrasslin'", both entities are cut from the same cloth. As I've stated on numerous occasions, MMA is not in the "pure sport" business, they are in what I have coined the "entertaining sport" business. This is the exact opposite of pro wrestling which puts on entertainment and presents it as a sport; MMA puts on a sport and presents it as entertainment. Both businesses depend just as much on the entertainment outside of the ring as they do on the in-ring product.
Sonnen had done his part as the heel; there was a buzz about the fight. However, if Anderson were to have gone into the cage and destroyed Sonnen, it would've proved a momentary increase in face status (similar to the post-Griffin bump). No, for this to work, Chael was going to have to back up his words and bring the fight to Silva. If Hogan goes in and beat on King Kong Bundy for four minutes and beats him 1-2-3, it means the whole build was for nothing, Hogan did what we thought he would. Same with Silva, he goes back to the world-beater we already knew him to be. What Silva needed to do was show major weakness, show the fans he had an Achilles heel, he had Kryptonite. A similar occurrence happened at UFC 116 with Lesnar and it needed to happen here. And it did.
In a fight that couldn't have been better scripted by Dusty Rhodes himself, we saw exactly what needed to happen; Anderson was shown in a weak spot. For 24 minutes, Sonnen beat on Anderson. Starting with an opening punch that stumbled Silva to takedown after takedown, Sonnen dominated the 1st round. That wouldn't be enough as Lutter and Henderson had already done similar to Silva before losing. Sonnen came out and took him down again and again for the next 3 rounds. Anderson, in between takedowns, showed some "hope spots" (moves to show the fans he's not completely out of it) when he rocked Sonnen and cut him with an elbow from the bottom. It kept building and building until the fans were at a fever pitch, the champion was seconds away from losing. Then the unthinkable happened.
Emphasis mine. I was really enjoying the read right up until that line. Not because I disagree with the man who calls himself Black Lesnar, but because he's exactly right.
Why did that line send chills up my spine? Simple. Several of the people I'd talked to about the fight since Saturday night have told me they thought it was fake. Despite the fact that truth is often stranger than fiction, many people are just skeptical of things that appear to be too good to be true.
More in the full entry, including a debunking of the most widely shared conspiracy theory.
Middle Easy then went and broke down one of the more popular conspiracy theories about the fight (emphasis theirs):
Personally, I don't believe Anderson Silva let his UFC 117 title defense pan out five rounds only to win by a seemingly miraculous but meticulously planned triangle. However, a large portion of you have been rocking your tin-foil hats ever since the end of UFC 117 so I'll take a voyage in your world of potentially outlandish jiu-jitsu conspiracies, title preservation theories and general MMA nuttiness and hopefully return back to reality just in time for dinner.
If Anderson Silva planned to hesitate until the very last moment of the fight to pull of a victory, perhaps this clip of Ando securing a kimura on Chael Sonnen late in the second round only to voluntarily release it may be the shred of evidence needed to polish off that conspiracy theory you've been constructing over the weekend. Here we see Anderson Silva securing an almost Sakuraba-like kimura. The wrist control is there, leverage seems to be adequate, Silva even appears to have Chael Sonnen wedged against the cage in such a manner that if Chael tried to spin out of the submission, he would undoubtedly be impeded by the wall. In a moment of sheer 'WTFness', Anderson Silva lets go of the kimura and casually transitions to somewhat of a heel hook. Is this the smoking gun needed to establish Anderson Silva as the Andy Kaufman of MMA? Probably not. Most of you don't even know who Andy Kaufman is. 80s n00bs. Regardless, securing a kimura only to voluntarily let it go just adds to the never ending intrigue of the only guy you've ever known from Curitiba, Brazil.
But the thing is this, Chael Sonnen had systematically made a public joke of himself in larger and larger forums. By the time he was on ESPN telling Jim Rome that he hadn't made the Lance Armstrong comments -- despite Jim Rome playing the audio back to him -- Sonnen's credibility was comparable to Baghdad Bob's denials that the Americans were making headway in Iraq even as the American tanks were visible in the background as he spoke.
Is there any reason casual fans shouldn't expect a sport that produces someone like Chael Sonnen who's willing to blatantly, obviously lie to be capable of putting the fix in a fight? Especially when most fans only experience with professional grappling is the WWE?
I have to retract my earlier stance that it's a good thing for Chael Sonnen to lead MMA into the hall-of-mirrors that is post-kayfabe pro-wrestling promotion. The advantage those guys have is their product is fictional and everyone knows it. MMA has no such luxury. If we want to be accepted as a legitimate sport, MMA fighters and promoters must maintain a shred of sporting dignity and refrain from blatantly and openly lying to the press and public.
Dana White might want to absorb this lesson as well. He's got a record of lying to the press in a situation where he knew he'd be caught and he also gave Sonnen's antics the thumbs up. Careful Dana, your product doesn't need "kayfabe", don't give casual fans the impression that you are just a shady carny fight promoter who can't be trusted ever.
Gif by Middle Easy:
I'm not even going to bother calling in Luke Thomas, AboveThisFire, Seph Smith or any of my usual BJJ resources to tell you why Silva released this hold: he doesn't have control of Sonnen's hips. Watch Silva's legs (or look in the photo at the top of the story): he never gets full guard or even half guard in this sequence. The closest he comes is draping his left leg over Sonnen's left thigh. That's not going to give him the leverage he needs to torque Sonnen's left arm out of its socket. No way, no how.
His decision to transition to a leg lock attempt by wrapping both of his legs around Sonnen's left leg and letting go of the arm is just smart jiu jitsu. Note how he immediately has Sonnen's heel trapped in the crook of his arm, ready to torque for a heel hook. Sonnen escaped that attempt too, but Silva made the right move in giving up the kimura.