At UFC Fight Night Adelaide, a night of fights down under was characterized by lots of violence, underdog wins, and by swings of momentum. On multiple occasions a fighter would drop the early going (sometimes catastrophically badly) and would then rally to seize victory from the jaws of defeat. Sometimes it was stirring, and sometimes it was puzzling, and sometimes it was both. What does it mean?
A comeback isn't just a surge on the part of one fighter. It's normally a collapse on the part of the other as well. The key to this is the idea of stability, or the lack thereof, so we ask the question: what is stability? In the case of a fighter, loosely defined, it's the ability to retain consistency in the face of a variety of styles and situations, where styles and situations faced are dictated by environment. Changing environment, then, often dramatically changes what is considered stable: there's a common theme of grappling specialists getting to the UFC on strings of finishes, then suddenly being unable to get wins because they are utterly isolated from their key skillset by wrestlers who don't let them get takedowns, or knockout artists who transition to the UFC and find that they can't crack the increased durability of UFC-level fighters.
Curran vs Chambers - giving the opponent a path
The women's divisions are still trying to determine exactly what "UFC-level" comprises. At the moment they're grab bags of talented but under-experienced athletes; experienced regional vets who probably don't have the athleticism to match; and a rare few who have put everything together, and are for the moment the proverbial foxes in the henhouse. Curran definitively comes into the "talented if raw" athlete mould, and she put a beating on Alex Chambers before going for (literally) ill-advised takedowns and walking herself into a kimura. Given clear chances to escape, she plunged straight back into the submission. The fight itself isn't damning- it's a common way for talented young athletes to lose on the regional circuits, where over-aggression sends them into a sub, and where they excitedly take the fight into every possible realm.
The difference, of course, is that this isn't the regionals. While Curran is unlikely to get cut, she's now 0-2 and any holes she has in her game are far more likely to get scouted and ruthlessly exploited. She gave her opponent a low-percentage chance to snatch the fight away, and Chambers, to her credit, took it.
Andrews vs Scott - reasserting the robust approach
If Curran and Chambers was an example of someone with a low percentage path to victory which suddenly became available, then Dylan Andrews against Brad Scott was something of the opposite: it was someone with a stable, sturdily assembled game which very nearly got overwhelmed by unconnected dynamic offense before the more robust approach re-asserted itself.
Andrews is an offensive physical force, but his style doesn't give him any real, reliable way to access his gifts. Scott constantly bulled his way into the clinch, and Andrews would occasionally land short strikes from a defensive posture. These inflicted real damage, but they functioned as short "bubbles" of probability, unconnected to any wider process. The key point was when Andrews locked up what looked like a tight guillotine. When it became clear that it wasn't going to work, he didn't use the choke to take the back, or to throw knees to the body, or even just flurry against the cage, and instead just backed away.
Each time Andrews threw a punch there was a small chance that he'd hurt or finish Scott, but Scott gradually wore him down by determinedly working his way inside and throwing the uppercut to meet Andrews as they closed. Eventually he hurt the New Zealander, and worked his way to a rear-naked choke. At 35, with an unconnected game, and a notable lack of durability which has left him on a three fight losing streak by stoppage, it's becoming difficult to see where Andrews goes in the UFC, despite obvious physical gifts.
Whittaker and Tavares - rot in the joists
Brad Tavares seems (or at least seemed) like a stable fighter. He's reasonably defensively sound with respect to strikes, has the high guard which Rogan harps on so much, and is very hard to take down. He's strong and experienced, and his only recent losses were to a technical and athletic force of nature in Yoel Romero, and a relatively unlikely comeback KO from Tim Boetsch.
Against Robert Whittaker, he was hurt by a problem which has been lurking in his approach for a while. Whittaker is an interesting fighter himself, who follows a couple of patterns which have been seen lately, most notably that of the traditional martial artist who supports a fundamental boxing game with lighter, almost distracting kicks. Think Connor McGregor, or John Makdessi. He threw a front kick up the middle, which came close to splitting Tavares' high guard (as in Overeem-Browne) but in failing to connect served a secondary purpose: blinding Tavares for a brief moment as Whittaker stepped in for a crackling left hook. A second left hook put Tavares down, and a flurry of right hands finished the fight.
As Luca Fury pointed out on Twitter, Tavares has been dropped by left hooks no less than seven(!) times in his UFC career. The weakness has become something like rot in the joists of a house. There's the external impression of stability, until the whole thing falls over.
Miocic and Hunt - Boooooooooo!
While there were other interesting examples of the interplay between stability and dynamism (most notably James Vick's bicycle knee into uppercuts into high elbow guillotine on Jake Matthews), the best example of stability on the night was, of course, Stipe Miocic against Mark Hunt.
The process of what he did was broken down (with gifs!) in this excellent fanpost, but fundamentally Miocic took almost no risks against an extraordinarily dangerous opponent. In many ways, it mirrored Cain Velasquez's winning performances against Junior Dos Santos, but Miocic has buttressed his lack of power and (for lack of a better word) ferocity when compared to the HW champ, with a cleaner and more well-developed outside boxing game. It was a boxing game which was increasingly absent as he put Hunt on his back over and over again and worked him over with literally hundreds of punches.
The partisan crowd started booing lustily whenever Miocic took the fan favourite down, but if the previous fights in the evening had displayed anything, it was the value of sticking to an effective gameplan. Not giving the opponent a chance to get into the fight. Fixing up on holes which had been there earlier in his fights, like his cardiovascular endurance. Stability.