Several analysts including BE's own Mike Fagan have noticed a slow and steady rise in decisions in the UFC. It seems a rise in decisions could indicate a decrease in the skill difference between fighters at the top of their games; Former top ten fighter Keith Jardine seems to have lost less than half a step and fallen off any respectable LHW ranking all at once.
“Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.” - Vince Lombardi
It seems logical to conclude then, that as fighter skill levels continue to grow closer, fighters are more willing to fight a safe fight and secure several decision wins rather than several spectacular knock out losses that land them in Jardine's shoes. Fans and promoters are torn on whether to praise a fighter's winning ways or chide their lack of “killer instinct”. It seems strange to me, however, that nary a word is said about the loser. Often I think: is there anything less attractive than a fighter passive enough to lose by decision?
I believe since a lack of attention has been paid to decision losers by fans and promoters, fighters spend much more time considering the repercussions of a boring win than anything other than a horrific loss. However, a decision loss, horrific or not, places you one or two more fights away from a pink slip in the UFC.
“He's gotta realize he has to do something drastic here” - Joe Rogan
It is the responsibility of the fighter behind on points to lay on the heat in the closing round or rounds of a fight. He has nothing to lose in the short or long run. A passive closing round results in an unexciting fight and decision loss. In the short term a fighter receives no win bonus and in the long run, he may be cut from the UFC. On the other hand a fighter that “brings it” in the final round of a fight will at the very least leave an impression on the judges, the fans and the promoter as a true warrior.
Not surprisingly these warriors have much longer careers in the UFC than their cautious counterparts. Fighters like Wanderlei Silva and Nate Diaz are rarely faulted even after difficult losses. Nor should they be. In a best case scenario, these determined individuals steal victory from the jaws of defeat. Some of these performances are anointed as the most enjoyable fights of the year. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen will live on in infamy rather than a rather one sided and forgettable beat down.
In the end, some fights will inevitably go to decision in a glorious fashion. Two fine individuals will match each other blow for blow, submission for escape, pass for sweep. When this happens it is a piece of art rather than a mark of shame or weakness. One has to look no further than Edgar vs. Maynard II which gave fans anything they could possibly ask for in a fight. In fact such an occurrence is a rare treat to be savored. And it shouldn't be confused with a situation in which a fighter well aware of his unfavorable score on the card complacently waits for the final bell.