Photo by Jeff Sherwood of Sherdog
It's hard to please MMA fans.
I checked out the comment section of Bloody Elbow's Bellator 40 live blog after the event last night. In the main event, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren dominated veteran Nick Thompson over the entirety of fifteen minutes. Askren took Thompson down at will, and he unloaded a healthy volume of strikes while passing the guard with ease. Yet, the general opinion in the comments seemed to be filled with disappointment, especially with Askren's inability to finish the fight.
It's a consistent, if curious, part of the MMA fan's psyche. In his sixth professional bout, Cain Velasquez battered Cheick Kongo for three rounds en route to a one-sided decision at UFC 99. His performance wasn't free from legitimate criticism -- Velasquez left his head open standing leading to a couple of a couple of scary moments for him, but plenty of fans pooh-pooh'd his blue-chip status because he allowed Kongo to survive until the final bell. Nevermind the overwhelmingly dominant performance with nearly 100 strikes landed per round.
Velasquez is now the UFC heavyweight champion, but what of that other wunderkind, Jon Jones? Jones tore through the light-heavyweight division with three finishes before reducing Mauricio Rua to mush to win UFC gold at UFC 128.
It was only three years ago, however, that Jones took failed prospect Andre Gusmao and TUF journeyman Stephan Bonnar to decision, neither performance showing as much dominance as Ben Askren last night.
That's not to say that Askren's inability to finish isn't a concern. (Not only does Askren have four consecutive decision victories, but Thompson had never gone to a decision in thirteen losses.) I believe that a knack for stopping opponents is one of the better predictors for long-term future success, much like strikeouts for pitchers in baseball.
Still, a dominating performance is a dominating performance. Askren worked Thompson and continually looked to improve position without putting himself in any danger -- in his eighth pro fight.