image via www.mmaweekly.com
And now introducing the champion:
Fighting out of the red corner.
This man is a mixed martial artist,
he stands 5 feet 10 inches tall,
weighing in at 170 lbs,
holding a record of 8 finishes, 2 losses and 11 decisions.
Fighting out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
presenting the reigning, defending,
UFC welterweight champion of the world:
Georges "Rush" Saint Piieeerre...
Would this introduction by Bruce Buffer be the medicine against the growing number of decisions in the UFC? In a sport where fighters become more calculated in the way they weigh risk and reward, it just might.
Decisions are part of the sport, as the quality of the fighters increases, the difference between them becomes smaller. Fights that go to a decision are not, by definition, inferior to a fights that have a finish. However fighters that fight looking to win a decision leave many viewers frustrated and are the stone in the shoe of Dana White.
In the article by David Castillo on the Ellenberger - MacDonald fight, I was struck by the analogy of the marathon runner :
Jake gave no incentive to Rory to do anything beyond win the fight. Not when Jake and his camp don't know how to answer a jab. It's like asking a distance runner ten feet ahead of his competition to strain his legs harder to get to the finish line only yards away. What's the point? The opponent in both cases failed to do their job; to challenge.
Apparently at this moment the UFC does not know how to motivate its fighters to take risks and actively look for a finish when they are already on their way to a decision victory. The ‘Of-The-Night’ and locker room bonuses seem to be ineffective stimulants for fighters who adopt a longer-term strategic perspective of their fighting career. Very telling was the post-fight interview between Joe Rogan and Demetrious Johnson:
..How important was it to you, even though you were ahead, to finish this fight?
You know it wasn’t important to me at all, I am here to fight and, like I said, when the finish comes to me I’ll take it..
Instead of tweaking the financial incentives perhaps the UFC should change the way the fighters look at themselves. What if the the UFC would start to use their own fight record? Not recording Wins, Losses, and Draws, but Finishes, Losses and Decisions ( both winning and losing ). For example lightweight champion Benson Henderson does not get announced with 19 wins and 2 losses but with 0 finishes, 0 losses and 7 decisions. That has got to hurt a little bit; a winner gets officially announced as a somebody who is unable to finish fights.
Revised UFC fight records for Current Champions:
- Cain Velasquez: 8 F - 1 L - 2 D
- Jon Jones: 8 F - 0 L - 3 D
- Chris Weidman: 4 F - 0 L - 2 D
- Georges StPierre: 8 F - 2 L - 11 D
- Benson Henderson: 0 F - 0 L - 7 D
- Jose Aldo: 1 F - 0 L - 3 D
- Dominick Cruz: 0 F - 0 L - 2 D
- Demetrious Johnson: 1 F - 0 L - 7 D
This way of recording seems to better reflect what the UFC is expecting from it’s fighters, and harks directly back to the pre-Zuffa era of the UFC: A fight is not over until someone gives up or has their lights turned off. It sends the message to fighters that if you are unable to finish your opponent you cannot definitely claim to be the better fighter. ( This has of course major implications for title fights, some of the most decision-heavy fights ). A decision win or loss is something only for the records of the state athletic commissions, it does little to advance your career within the organisation. The different representation by the UFC of the fighters records does provide a different perspective on fighter performance and it could be a panacea against fighters 'doing just enough'. Best of all, it doesn’t cost the UFC a cent to do it. Perhaps the fighters egos will prove to be better motivators than money.