I've been thinking a lot about Jon Fitch lately. (Not in that way). A lot of MMA fans don't like Fitch. They don't like his style, they don't like the string of decisions, and some of them even want him to be dropped by the UFC (which is incredibly asinine). I've been thinking a lot about Jon Fitch lately because I'm been trying to figure out why people don't like him. It's not all the decisions that I believe bothers people, it's how he gets those decisions. It's because he risks nothing.
I like fighters like Carlos Condit who will take risks. Fighting is risky, but to have a guy like Condit go all out in his stand-up with no fear of being taken down because he is so confident in his ground game, is why I like fighters like him. He's willing to give up a safe, positional game for the finish. He's fearless.
But I like Fitch too. I don't expect others to like him, and I'm definitely not going to sit here and be condescending with lines like, "You just don't understand his fighting style..." or "The quality of opponents is incredibly high, thus harder to finish..." I just like him because of who he is. He's humble, he's a hard worker, he's methodical, he's probably one of the toughest fighters out there (both physically and mentally), and he's relentless. It's rare to find all these qualities together in one exceptional fighter. And he is exceptional. You don't go 13-1-1 in the UFC if you're a chump. There is something absolutely intruiging and special in watching someone with a fighting style that all but a couple of the absolute elite have been able to figure out.
But he absolutely refuses to give up a safe position to go for the finish. And that's his problem. The decisions, the fan hate - they're all symptoms of the disease. He's a wrestler, so I understand the need for control and positional advantage. But I wish he would incorporate more submission attempts into his fighting.
Look, Jon Fitch is quicksand. The more you struggle under him, the worse it becomes for you as you tire out and enventually break mentally. Just look at BJ Penn's expression right after their fight. He knew he was drowning. I believe Jon Fitch would do better to just attempt more submissions. He doesn't have the KO power to knock people out standing. But he has the smothering top control to wear people down and eventually submit them if he tries. I believe even if he loses position for a finish and doesn't get it, he has the skill to take almost anyone back down, and regain position. Take down, get position, some ground'n pound, then try for a submission. Wash, rince, repeat.
But he won't do that. He absolutely refuses to give up positional control, mostly because it is counterintuitive to him. And that is why he will forever be chasing a title shot. Sure, eventually if he keeps on winning, the UFC has no choice but to give him that shot. But they'll delay it for as long as they can, making him take fights against high risk, low reward fighters. If he loses, he may never get back to where he is in the welterweight division, which is why I see this as a self fullfilling prophesy.
I love Fitch. He's a brilliant fighter and I'll always be a fan. But he frustrates me sometimes.