Rashad Evans- Unbelievable. I can understand fighting a bit on the dull/ very smart side in order to get back into the win column. Really, I can. But to once again utilize the exact technique that almost got you knocked out by Jon Jones, and to offer up no significant activity, let alone OFFENSE, other than said technique? Rashad Rashad, you crazy, patty-caking man. Last night may have been attributed to his teammate Overeem's earlier performance. It might have been because of the ten months of inactivity following a devastating loss. But to me, Evans' performance last night against an apparently over matched opponent in Lil Nog was a prime example of a fighter trying to build confidence in a weak part of their game, and paying for it. Rashad is a wrestler at heart, and a very good one at that in terms of mma wrasslin. Somewhere between Thiago Silva and Rampage Jackson, Greg Jackson managed to remind Evans of that. But since then, Rashad has slipped back into his old "I knocked out Liddell" ways. It began with Phil Davis, built up through killing Ortiz, and blossomed fully in his bout with Jon Jones, where his powerful yet terribly lineal standup once again earned him a loss. Rashad has played the counter fighter in his UFC career just once before his bout with Lil Nog, and it ended with the Iceman slumped across the canvas. Not only that, but on paper Lil Nog may have seemed the perfect opponent for Rashad to work out the kinks and malfunctions in his striking game. But when the one dimension strategy just wasn't working due to Rogerio, a SMART fighter, not taking the bait, Evans should have done what he does best- fight like a brilliant two dimensional fighter. Unless Rashad can find a suitable balance between his catlike boxing and frictionless wrestling ala his bout with Rampage, we may have to get used to seeing a very lost and unsure Sugga Rashad jab-catching his way to nowhere.
The Main Event- Leading up to fight night, I broke down this bout to my friend by saying that I thought Aldo finished the fight 3/5 times. The other 2/5 would see Frankie turning it into a close decision, and 1/5 times it would be a decision that he won. After watching the bout, I still feel this way. Frankie Edgar is a truly world class lil scrapper, with a bigger combination of heart and stamina than anyone else in the game. And his tactics work...sort of...not really. After Going the distance six times in his past seven bouts against four different opponents, for a win-loss record of 2-3-1, Frankie (or his coaches, or SOMEONE) needs to see the writing on the wall. I'm not naive or disillusioned- I know that he's been constantly going head to head with the very best fighters the world has to offer. You can't put everyone away just by willing it. But you also can't struggle across the finish line to a judge's decision every time and hope that it goes your way, especially when you spend the first two rounds ensuring that your face looks like ground beef for the remainder of the bout. Well you can of course, but don't expect to start a win streak. The leg kicks Frankie displayed last night were a glimmering ray of hope in the progression of his game, but to put it simply Edgar needs to do more. His constant movement has to turn into constantly setting up crisp combinations and well timed level drops, starting early and never letting up. Frankie Edgar has dropped his last three fights. He believes he hasn't. If he continues to fight the way he does, he will also continue to win against the best lightweights and featherweights in the world. But he will also lose to those same men, depending on who is sitting cage side and holding a score card.
But it takes two to tangle, and Aldo's lack of growth was on display as well. The reason why this fight was so compelling was the fact that Aldo and Edgar are complete polar opposites of each other. While Edgar spends the early rounds getting hit and such and turns up the offensive wrestling and combinations later on, Aldo chooses to dominate the early going with freakish movement and brutal strikes, only to dissipate and coast through the last few rounds. Against Faber, Hominick, Florian, and now Edgar, Jose wrecked havoc with cracking low kicks and thunderous straights to pick up a few rounds and then sat it out and, like Edgar, hoped for the best on the score cards. Actually, looking back I remember in almost all of those fights Rogan asking Aldo why he stopped the low kicks later on in the fight, and Aldo always replying "He knew I was going to kick so I stopped." What? Any guy with tape on you and the most basic semblance of a brain can see that you're going to kick Jose, and I guarantee you that all of those guys were looking to grab those kicks in the first few rounds when they were still fresh instead of eating them.
I know that his cardio plays a big factor in the way his fights unfold if he doesn't turn the other guy's lights out in 10 minutes. Whats more, the Hominick fight probably instilled the champ with a sense of dread at being caught on his back deep in the fifth, and rightfully so. And heck, why am I even nitpicking? The man has just defended his belt for a fifth time, with no other clear cut challenger in sight.
I guess I just want Aldo, at such a crucial developmental stage in his career, to turn in performances in 2013 that don't look like his wins from 2010. I'm afraid that if he stays on the path he seems to be determined to follow, we may very well be looking at the finished product that is Jose Aldo, a living antonym of Edgar, so to speak. Aldo's adversaries will get smarter. They will cover up and take their lumps in rounds one and two, and start playing a very physical and grinding game against the champ later on. Pretty soon we may very well be looking at a string of heatedly controversial decisions not unlike Edgars long reign on top of a division. For the sake of Jose and his fans alike, I hope he proves me wrong by adjusting in some way, shape or form next time he graces the inside of the octagon.
Last night, when put into familiar and vexatious situations, each and every single one of the aforementioned fighters failed to unveil any evolution or willingness to adapt in their fight games. 10 year veterans, rising young champions, established contenders- it seemed to make no difference. Sitting in a sports bar somewhere on the East coast of Australia, I was in a state of mild shock and disappointment. In no other sport is the concept of Darwinism more prevalent and apparent. Its survival of the fittest; if you're not evolving, you're dying. I just hope that Every single man on the main card has time to sit back, hug their families, rest their bruises, and look at their performances with an open and unbiased eye, and move forward. Cheers.