Oddly, the biggest story seemingly coming out of UFC 129 wasn't Lyoto Machida knocking out Randy Couture with a move straight out of a movie. It wasn't John Makdessi delivering a spinning backfist that completed removed Shonie Carters name from our memories. It wasn't even watching Mark Hominick, with an alien lifeform poking out of his forehead, nearly pulling off the upset against top P4P ranked Jose Aldo. The huge story coming out of Toronto this past weekend was that Georges St. Pierre went to decision against Jake Shields, a man the Vegas odds, news pundits and fans alike declared was the figurative sacrificial lamb to be fed to Rush in front 55,000+ thousand screaming fans in Toronto.
The UFC and St. Pierre both tried to hype Shields as a true, worthy threat to the current WW kings throne. To his credit, Jake gave Georges his hardest fight in years, managing to damage his left eye, leaving him blinded for half the fight. He even secured 2 rounds on two of the judges scorecards. But none of this fans knew would happen before hand. The hype was not being bought. The world knew the truth. GSP would win. Decisively. He might even get the finish. GSP was certainly confident he would, even being quoted as saying "Don't Blink" to reporters before the fight. But there was also fear coming into this fight. Would St. Pierre be aggressive enough to push for the finish. His most recent track record certainly gave cause for alarm. He came into this fight riding an impressive 8 fight winning streak, but the last 3 of those wins were decision victories against foes many though he should have finished. Fans forget quickly, and most are of the mentality "what have you done recently?" They wanted a finish in Toronto.
It was not to be. After 25 hard fought minutes, Georges St. Pierre managed to scrape by again with a unanimous decision. The fact that he fought through an eye injury and was still able to mostly neutralize Jake was lost on most. That fact is, it was a decision. That dirty D word in the world of MMA. The fact that not all decisions are made equal does not matter to most. For every Edgar/Maynard II quality fight you get, people would much rather complain about and remember Silva/Maia. Despite that at the highest levels these decisions are really as dominating as (for the most part) as any first round knockout doesn't matter. We all want the finish. As expected, fans went into an uproar about St. Pierre's win.
A lot of the complaints coming from UFC 129 are again on how decisions seem to be the most prevalent form of winning a fight at the highest levels of MMA. The notion is that people don't pay money on expensive PPV fights to see it go to the judges scorecards. They want a finish. Who can blame them? Most fans don't get excited for Jon Fitch because they know there in for a 15 minute grind. It's much more logical to get excited for Rampage Jackson as the threat of a one punch KO is always there. Both men have created a successful career by honing their style. But rankings wise they are at very different places. While Rampage is huge fan favorite he currently sits about #4-5 on most light heayweight consensus rankings and is fighting for the chance at title contention against Matt Hamill (#17). By comparison, Jon Fitch, the epitome of watching a living sleeping pill to most fans, is ranked #2 on the welterweight consensus and hasn't moved fr om that spot in 4 years. The argument is also possible that he belongs somewhere in the bottom 3 spots of the top 10 P4P (always a subjective list). He has only been beaten by Mike Pyle (his first fight), Wilson Gouveia (who can fight at LHW) and Georges St. Pierre (#1 WW, #2 P4P). But fans don't like him. He fights to decisions. He doesn't have to. He trains at AKA. He's trained Muay Thai in Thailand. He's a black belt in Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu. But he fights to decisions. As do many more fighters at the top of the fictional P4P list. Why is that?
One of the most informative pieces I've read on BE recently was the article that correlates finishes, submissions and decisions to weight classes (by Kid Nate I believe). An excellent piece that everyone should read. As most know, when you head towards the smaller weight classes, the chances for finishes dropped significantly while the chances for decisions skyrocketed (39% for WW, 45% for LW, don't have stats for FW or BW). Going to a decision is the highest percentage way of winning a fight when you go from WW down. As has been mentioned, both GSP and Fitch are traditionally branded as being decision fighters, so they both fall into this demographic perfectly. Other fighters that are all P4P members (or are close to) and belong in this decision demographic include Dominick Cruz, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Jake Shields. All have built there recent success on a fighting style that revolves around dominating your opponent on way to a decision victory. This list has the very real chance of getting bigger when Chad Mendes faces off with Jose Aldo later this year. These are all fighters at the top of their class, but for some reason fans don't really like and/or respect them. Their accomplishments are undeniable but we ignore.
An interesting statistic that's noticeable about many of these fighters is that they did have a successful career of finishes before their current P4P status. Before St. Pierre became the WW king (beating Serra), he was 15-2, with 11 finishes to his credit. Before Jon Fitch fought for #1 contendership against Diego Sanchez , he was 16-2-1, with 10 finishes to his credit. Before Dominick Cruz become impossible to hit and was even in the WEC, he was 10-1with 6 finishes to his credit. Even Jake Shields, who seems to go on almost bipolar streaks of decisions then finishes and back again, boasts a 26 wins to his credit, half of which are finishes (3 T/KO's, 10 Submissions).
What that shows me is that when the stakes are at their highest, when the chance to truly create a legacy is on the line, when fighting on the grandest stage of them all, it's easiest (possibly hardest? who are we to say) to fight with a dominating gameplan and take your opponent the distance. To go into the deep waters and trust in the judges at ringside. Barring Shields loss on Saturday, this strategy works. None of these men have lost in years. But by creating long, undeniable legacies, are they somehow cheating themselves of something else? Would Jon Fitch give up his win streak for a chance to have a legendary KO like John Makdessi's spinning backfist? Should he? Does becoming a top 10 ranked fighter come with the responsibility of fighting more safely then your brethren? I don't know. I know as I make my way through life I make what I believe are more responsible decisions in my work as the years go by and success grows. There are things I would have done at work in my youth that I would never try now. MMA is nothing if not a job to these people. Do fighters follow the same principle? That is what I would like to know and what I pose to you. From these listed fighters perspective, it certainly seems so, but what do you think?