In the wake of GSP's impressive dismantling of Carlos Condit Saturday night, I was loudly informed by much of the commentariat that the main event was "what high-level MMA should look like" and that any MMA fan failing to derive delirious pleasure from watching GSP work his methodical magic should reconsider why they follow the sport in the first place.
"If you don't like that fight, you don't like MMA," was the refrain. So now I'm trying to adjust to my new reality as someone who, apparently, dislikes MMA.
It's not that I hated the main event. Watching GSP do his thing is kind of like watching prime Michael Jordan or Barry Sanders. You know you are seeing something historic, regardless of how much you enjoy the actual viewing experience in a vacuum. GSP is the best 170-pounder in the short history of our sport, and one of the best fighters period ever to ply his trade. The value of that historical import can't be denied.
That is probably what led me to buy the card, despite only really being exited about one fight on it (Hendricks-Kampmann). GSP is much-watch TV for MMA fans.
But the hosanas being sung to that fight, including by my dear crime fighting partner Muckie (of Muckie and Stumbler fame) are so completely divorced from my experience of it, that I have a hard time believing that we saw the same thing.
What I saw was your standard-issue GSP fight, with a little bit more blood, and a fractional amount of drama, courtesy of a funky head kick that Condit landed solid in the third. Take away the blood, and the 30 seconds or so when the momentum swung the other way, and it was a GSP fight: dominating, controlling and utterly predictable.
I first started seriously watching UFC events around the time that GSP was emerging as a force at WW, and as soon as I saw him, I was instantly a fan of both him, and his teammate David Loiseau. I loved their barnstorming style, aggression and athleticism, as well as their unbridled enthusiasm for the sport.
But as GSP has gotten better at winning, I have gradually grown less interested in watching him win. The evolution of GSP's style probably doesn't need to be rehashed and parsed here for the billionth time, but suffice to say, while I can appreciate the skill involved with what GSP does, it leaves me cold as a fan.
Which brings us back to last night. If you like the way GSP fights, then I can totally understand liking that fight, but the idea that he somehow "shut up all the haters" with a completely different and unexpected performance is truly bizarre to me. It was a GSP fight. He did what he always does. Controlled striking, perfect takedowns, busywork on top, lather, rinse, repeat.
The three things that made it a little different were:
1) He was coming off a pretty serious injury/layoff -- ok, fair enough, that was impressive, though every report pointed to him making a remarkable recovery, so maybe it shouldn't have shocked everyone.
2) It was bloody -- Condit got cut early and leaked a lot. I don't think you can just sprinkle blood on a fight and call it exciting, but honorable people can disagree I guess.
3) That wildly overblown kick in the third -- I'm sorry folks, that was soooooooo much less of a big deal than the commentary team made it out to be. GSP got clipped lost his balance and recovered as his butt was hitting the ground. He defended completely intelligently, and was never in real danger of being finished. It was a legitimate knockdown and an exciting moment in a sea of domination, but it wasn't a massive momentum swing, and it was over very quickly.
So there it is. Pull my fan card, I guess, but I wasn't all that stoked about it. But do me a favor and wait to revoke my membership until after 155, cause that shit looks awesome.