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Sherk Didn't Fight to Win

Having re-watched UFC 84, I have to say that Sean Sherk, despite fighting hard for almost three full rounds against the best 155lb fighter in the world, didn't give it his best.

In the post fight interview, Rogan asked Sherk why he didn't try harder to take B.J. down. Sherk said it was because he felt he was "competitive" against B.J. on his feet. Yet Sherk, a man who's won over 30 MMA fights and only lost 3 times -- to Matt Hughes, GSP and Penn -- knows better than almost anyone else that being "competitive" will not suffice to take the belt away from the champion.

Sherk's best hope to beat B.J. was to get the takedown and dominate the champ on the ground for at least 3 of the 5 rounds. Not a likely outcome, but still his best chance.

Failing to do that meant that Sherk would have to get a TKO from ground and pound. That outcome depended on B.J. getting exhausted and essentially giving up.

Any road to victory depended on Sherk imposing his will on B.J.

He HAD to get the takedown at all costs, no matter how difficult, regardless of the risk of getting KO'd on the way in or getting submitted on the ground. The takedown was Sherk's only route to victory and everyone knew it.

And yet, after B.J. shrugged off a couple of shots in the first, Sherk essentially gave up. Choosing to delude himself into believing that he could peek a boo box with B.J. even as he ate jab after jab and missed with hook after uppercut.

Choosing to dance for 2 rounds was defensible strategically. Keep the fight slow and concede the early rounds to B.J. while avoiding serious damage. But once the critical third round began, Sherk had to attack. Attack at all costs. The alternative to getting an early takedown and dominating B.J. physicially throughout the third round was conceding the fight. B.J. was roundly beating Sherk in the standing game. And the outcome was inevitable -- either B.J. would get a KO or a decision.

Let's compare Sherk to the much more overmatched Joe Stevenson. Stevenson came out and got beat down in the first round against B.J., dropped with the very first punch and from there, fought a game but essentially hopeless war of attrition on the ground. In the second round, Stevenson had a choice, he could fold like 99% of people in that situation or he could dig deep and, having lost the first hand, push all his chips onto the table in a last ditch gamble.

Neither Sherk nor Stevenson really had much of a chance against a fit B.J. Penn at the top of his game. All the same, one fighter chose to go out in a blaze of glory while another fighter, the ex-champ Sherk, chose to be "competitive" and accept the inevitable defeat.


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