Every event I watch, at least a dozen things stand out to me. Most of them are little; small details that fascinate me, draw me in to the sport, get me invested in a fighter, a fight, a moment. At UFC on Fox 8, Bobby Voelker was the author of one such moment. I can pinpoint exactly when it happened, or at least when I thought it happened. Because it was clear enough that even through the cheering crowd, even without commentary, you could see it happen.
Thirty seconds into his fight against Robbie Lawler, it was clear to all and sundry that Voelker was going to lose. He waded in early looking to exchange, but came up with nothing but a face full of leather for his efforts. Lawler was slipping expertly; dipping in around looping hooks and inexpert straights to deliver short sharp uppercuts, counter-hooks, and crosses all his own. At the end of each combination, he ducked out, largely unscathed, while Voelker pawed at his eyes, trying to clear them, preparing for the next onslaught.
The physical toll was obvious, but so was the mental exasperation. At first unfettered by caution, Voelker had pushed forward, eager to meet Lawler on his own terms. But now, having seen those terms, he was cautious. No longer driving the action he circled away, stayed on his back foot, took the snap off his punches in hopes of not absorbing more damage. It would be pitiable if he wasn't paid to fight. But that was where Voelker separated himself from so many of his cohorts, where he took a step that so few fighters are really willing to take when push comes to shove; with 15 seconds left in the first round, and the clear knowledge that he was probably not going to win this fight, he bit down on his mouth piece and went back to square one. The round ended with little result, he may have eaten a few more hard shots, but it hardly mattered.
Voelker entered round two looking to press the fight again. He knew he was going to get hurt, I can't imagine that he didn't know he was probably going to lose. But he also knew that his best chance of winning was to take the fight to Lawler, whatever the cost. It's an incredibly admirable thing. Not to see a fighter stick to a game plan, Mac Danzig did that earlier in the night, but to see a fighter abandon a gameplan, to start to break down and suddenly redouble his efforts.
The results here were much the same as if he hadn't done it, hadn't gone boldly back into the fray. Perhaps if he'd stayed on the back foot, and avoided the fight, he could have lasted a bit longer. Another round, a decision loss even, but it would have been a loss. It was a worthy thing to see a man who knows he's going to lose try and win. It's rarer than it should be, and for that brief moment, for that single fight, I was glad to see it.