For a lot of us (fans and writers alike), the UFC is a place of nu metal escape. Whether we’re watching diligently to be better writers, or more inebriated to be more excited fans (this often works the other way around, granted), the sport itself doesn’t grant us much more than jokes, and action.
Rarely we do witness a UFC that stirs something in our bones. So rarely can we actively distance ourselves from Face the Pain, the bad grudge match mentality, or Dana White calling a teenager a “f—king p---y”, and then lock it away in our memory warehouses, and appreciate what the sport in front of us really means, not just to us, but to the participants.
I’m getting way ahead of myself, but this is the great lie about sports. They’re just games, they say. There’s no connection to politics. Nope. None at all. Maybe when people started acting woke, or whatever, but things were way different back then.
The fact is, sports share a common language with all forms of human behavior (whether politics, health, or what have you) - the language of the common good, and having a public forum for what concerns us.
You didn’t even have to pay close attention to see these things on display; whether it was Rose Namajunas’ openness about her life and mental health, Dana White minimizing potential assault, or rapist Lloyd Irvin allowed to enter the Octagon as if he were no different, the signs are all there. But it’s not the negativity that brought about this monologuing. On the contrary.
Dana has been delivering Marvel films, but instead a Kim Jee-woon film broke out.
Beat, Fairly Squarely
In our analysis of the fight, I felt like GSP would win via the usual attrition and work his jab. That didn’t quite happen. GSP looked in rare form despite nearly five years in Montreal, eating poutine, and watching the Canadiens make a bunch of moves to make their hockey team older and more awful, but he also did a lot of different things.
It was a gutsy performance, but it’s the context that matters: moving up in weight, post-retirement, and not only looking like he never left, but appearing like he had improved on everything about his game before.
It wasn’t perfect. I thought his cardio looked a little rugged. As crazy as it sounds, GSP’s accomplishment this weekend might have been the easy part. A lot of tough middleweight contenders will be lining up, and GSP will need to oblige.
"Real men don't really care about weight classes."— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) November 5, 2017
Michael Bisping was honest and fair in our post-fight interview. https://t.co/ldIXpUE5tB
There are legitimate reasons to question Bisping’s legitimacy as a champion, but not his legitimacy as a fighter. The UFC has had far worse in the golden belt, paper tiger sweepstakes.
Part of this is because Bisping wrapped his career up at the same time he was given a chance to contend in a thin division. From that lens, I think Bisping is a unique story similar to GSP for obviously different reasons - as a champ, Bisping’s run is hollow, but as a contender who fought and clawed his way toward the title, eventually earning a shot toward the end of his career, it’s an incredible accomplishment.
Granted, we hope he stayed away from 24 Hour Fitness after going to the bar. But his post-fight interview with Megan Olivi was refreshing. He didn’t mince words, and there’s an unmistakable relief you can hear in his voice as he nears potential retirement.
I still stand by (ish) the claim that Cody Garbrandt has the best boxing fundamentals in MMA right now. I may have let small sample sizes exaggerate this, but even in defeat, he does some unbelievable things in the pocket. However, Saturday revealed what happens when you leave yourself in a position to counter for too long while sticking the jab on the shelf next to the untouched cookie jar.
After knocking T.J. Dillashaw down in the first round in what appeared to be the exact same positioning as the famous Alpha Male “video footage” (something I argued with Phil would be prophetic - hah!), Dillashaw regained his composure, marched forward, disguised his high kicks, and eventually planted him with a right hook.
It was a blistering performance from Dillashaw who kept his stance shifts, and movement contained but not restrained. As a result, Cody’s counters didn’t rattle him, and now we’re looking at something of a rock (Dillashaw), paper (Cruz), scissors (Garbandt) game at BW. It’s been awhile since a division has had that interaction - Fedor, Nog, and Mirko is the first and really only that comes to mind - which makes the bantamweight storyline that much more interesting.
Queen of Thorns
In a sea of otherwise great performances (some historical), Rose Namajunas’ stoppage of Joanna Jedrzejczyk was the most impressive for me.
Knocking out Joanna is one thing. Joanna has been caught before (Kowalkiewicz and Gadelha have both caught her short, accurate punches). But taking control almost immediately, knocking her down, and then finishing her with another brutal punch was almost confusing in its brilliance.
There was no point Rose didn’t look absolutely convinced she would win. She walked Joanna down with each punch entry, cutting around her defenses with smooth movement, and outside to inside steps to angle in for each strike. That fight ending left hook was all footwork.
Best of all, per press conference speech; it’s easy to get lost in the absurdity of the sport. But the moments of humanity you wish there were more of is way more difficult to find. Having a desire to be a role model may not give writers more opportunities to be snarky, or fans the chance to draw from an emotion other than hype but that’s on us. Frankly, I welcome our new role model overlords.
We haven’t seen the last of Joanna. Even with Rose’ brilliant performance, I wouldn’t count Joanna out in a rematch.
But was it just me, or did the above staredown do the opposite of its desired affect? I saw peers and fans alike on Twitter describe the moment as “badass”. Everyone OOHH’ed and AAHH’ed. And all I saw was - pretending we can draw a storyline from a five second faceoff - was Rose looking completely unflappable, with Joanna looking confused by Namajunas’ reaction. Hey wait, why didn’t she s—t her pants?
There’s not a whole lot to unpack from Joanna’s performance. The biggest takeaway might be how she reacts to active, strikers of movement. Claudia Gadelha and Jessica Andrade hit hard, but their punch entries are similar. Both take straight paths with limited movement. Rose angles in from the outside, moving laterally and then resets front, and back. None of this takes away Joanna’s raw attack, which is as dangerous as ever, but it’s a little concerning to see her straight up styled on. At the same time, fighters like Gadelha and Andrade are tougher matchups for Namajunas than Joanna, so it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.
This is a fantastic clip. I have nothing more to say except you should be watching, not reading.
- Masvidal got dominated, and that’s a rare thing that should never be understated. While Thompson’s lateral shift into that overhand right wasn’t as ridiculous as Deontay Wilder’s first degree murder, it was still a hell of a performance.
- Looking at Paulo Costa in the cage against Johny Hendricks was disorienting for many different reasons. Unlike GSP, Hendricks hasn’t been away for nearly five years, yet he continues to look completely overwhelmed by the opposition.
- Full disclosure: I missed the undercard due to being at a friend’s weddings. So here’s my Bloody Elbow reader challenge (because I actually love the comments section) - pick a fight on the undercard, and hyperlink it to a movie clip you believe adequately describes the story of the fight. Winner gets Square Cash.