Earlier today, Bloody Elbow's esteemed KJ Gould wrote an article proclaiming the Shawn Jordan vs Cheick Kongo fight to be a good one, and if anyone disagreed, it was due to lack of knowledge about the position. In the comments section, he asked if any fans could present an intelligent rebuttal to his argument. I don't know how intelligent it will be, but I am going to give it my best shot here.
I will agree with KJ's assertion that both fighters were trying to do something more than lay of the cage for 15 minutes, but that in itself does not make for a good fight.
It wasn't the most exciting or technically brilliant of fights, but there was a lot going on in the clinch against the fence that left me satisfied that both men were always working hard to get an edge that unfortunately never quite happened.
I believe this quote from KJ's article shows where our opinions differ in regards to this fight. A fight can be exciting but not technical, and the fans will enjoy it. A fight can be technical but not particularly action packed, and the hardcore fans of the sport will be thrilled at seeing elite fighters battle in a close contest. If a fight is neither technical nor exciting, then why should we see it on a UFC main card in 2012? That is to be expected on regional cards, but those are not PPV bouts on the biggest stage.
Keep reading after the jump for my analysis on the fight.I am not out to write a hatchet piece about how terrible this fight was, so I will include the positives that I took away from the fight, which I wish there were more of. Kongo and Jordan both showed a good understanding of how to use the whizzer and an underhook on the other side to change positions in the clinch against the cage. Jordan was aggressive looking for takedowns when he was able to get Kongo against the cage, though they were wholly unsuccessful. Kongo displayed solid takedown defense throughout the whole fight, and appeared in total control of the fight in all aspects, especially at range.
While both fighters showed a good grasp of the basics of clinch work, this is the UFC. A little more than simply basic knowledge is, and should be, expected from the fighters. Both fighters were making mistakes throughout caused by either inexperience or lack of knowledge that kept this fight from being a good one.
While Shawn Jordan looked to do more in the clinch in my opinion, he was severely hampered by mistakes elite fighters do not make. Jordan had a bad habit of burying his head down while shooting for double legs in the clinch, making it easier for Kongo to stuff the takedown by merely using a whizzer and pushing down the head of Jordan. Another critical mistake made by Jordan led to his back being taken multiple times. Jordan continually would reach back in positions where he was at a slight disadvantage against the cage, allowing Kongo to get his back in every round of the fight. One of the first things taught in wrestling is to never reach back at an opponent, but Jordan's inexperience showed through here.
Kongo was not without his share of mistakes as well. He displayed a high level of control throughout the fight, but seemed lost when attempting to do anything other than hold in the clinch. Over and over, Kongo would get Jordan's back, but he seemed to have no understanding of putting in hooks to secure back mount. The only time he made an attempt was with :57 remaining in the second round, where he secured the right hook, but completely failed to transfer his weight before attempting to place the left one in, causing him to fall off to the side, giving Jordan top position in half guard.
One thing that made the fight more unpleasant is the rule that says if a fighter has a hand down, then they are a downed opponent. Jordan used that rule repeatedly to save himself from knees to the head, often putting both hands on the mat. In doing so, he left himself in no position to defend punches to the head or knees to the body, but Kongo just kept holding on in lieu of attempting to do damage.
Kongo showed early in the fight that he had an advantage in the striking by being more technical and significantly longer, but every time he landed a big strike, he went to the clinch instead of looking for a finish. He had the right to employ whatever strategy he wanted, but there was nothing UFC quality from him in performance or gameplan. The fight was contested from a neutral position for the most part, when Kongo had a clear advantage at range that he chose not to use.
I'm not going to say anything crazy like this is the worst fight I have ever seen or any other hyperbole often attached to a fight like this, but nothing about it was UFC level. That is the only thing I expect from a fight on the highest stage. The best fighters will often have close, sometimes boring battles, and that is alright. Not every fight is going to be a barnburner. What should not happen, however, is two totally gassed heavyweights trading basic clinch positions, both unable to take any step forward positionally or damage wise. The UFC and its fans simply expect a better product than that.
Got anything to say? Hit me with it in the comments, just please don't hold me against the cage. I can't take any more of that.