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UFC 125 Musings

The first UFC card of 2011 is in the books. Michael DiSanto recaps UFC 125...
THE JUDGES GOT IT RIGHT, SO LET’S RUN IT BACK

I’m probably as critical of mixed martial arts judges as anyone in the business.  The scoring of close fights often leaves me scratching my head wondering whether the three individuals charged with evaluating the action were watching YouTube videos on their iPhone rather than the action inside the cage.  Saturday’s title bout between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard was not one of those fights.

The three judges scored the fight 48-46 Edgar, 48-46 Maynard and 47-47, resulting in a draw.  None of them were wrong.  For the record, I scored the bout 47-47, giving Maynard the first round by two points, the third round by one and all other rounds to Edgar by one.  The first round will forever remain fruitful grounds for debate.  Maynard clearly won, but it is a judgment call as to whether he deserved to win by two or three points.

The scoring standard in Nevada dictates that a fighter who dominates a round shall be awarded a score of at least 10-8.  A judge may, in his or her discretion, opt to score the round 10-7, but there is no other objective guidance as to when to score a round 10-8 or 10-7.  By definition, if a fighter “dominates” a round, he wins in clear, one-sided fashion.   See the problem?

Maynard definitely dominated the first round by any standard, so it was at least a 10-8 round.  I am not convinced that he did enough for a 10-7 round, but again, that is a purely subjective decision.  I based my score on the fact that I can think of other bouts where a round was even more one sided without finishing the fight – re-watch, for example, the second round of Junior dos Santos versus Roy Nelson or the first round between Todd Duffee and Mike Russow.  Nobody was calling for a 10-7 score in those rounds, so people shouldn’t be offended by a 10-8 score for the first round of Edgar-Maynard II.

With that said, I cannot argue if anyone opted to score the round 10-7.  Different judges can come to different conclusions after watching a one-sided beating, particularly since there are no objective criteria to choose between 10-8 and 10-7.  

The second round was a clear 10-9 round for Edgar.  He landed the more effective strikes, landed more total strikes, scored a takedown, completely controlled the Octagon with his movement and angles, and countered beautifully off of Maynard’s wild misses.  He did not dominate the round with damage, so a 10-8 score would not be appropriate.  Any judge scoring the fight at this point could legitimately have it 19-18 or 19-17 for Maynard.  No other score would be justifiable.

The third round was very close.  Maynard definitely landed the more damaging blows, particularly toward the end of the round, and also scored a takedown.  But Edgar landed strikes with greater frequency, controlled the overwhelming majority of the round with his stick-and-move strategy and defended well after the takedown by locking in a guillotine choke as the round ended.  This is a round where bias and viewing perspective play a big part in how it is scored by a particular judge.  The action unfolds so quickly that is very plausible one or more judges missed a handful of Maynard’s clean, hard punches because of the vantage point.  It is equally plausible that a particular judge gives more weight to landing a few heavy punches than controlling 80 percent of a round with effective stick-and-move strikes.  In other words, 10-10 or 10-9 for either fighter can’t raise justifiable ire for round this close, which brings the realm of reasonable totals through three rounds to the following:  29-26 Maynard, 29-27 Maynard, 29-28 Maynard or 28-28 even.

The fourth round was another quintessential 10-9 round for Edgar.  Maynard even acknowledged after the fight that he scored the fourth for the champ, which evens out the realm of reasonable totals a bit:  38-36 Maynard, 38-37 Maynard, 38-38 even or 38-37 Edgar.

The fifth round was a carbon copy of the third round in many ways, minus the takedown.  Both men had their moments.  Both landed big shots.  Both shared moments of controlling the action, Edgar with angles and Maynard by coming forward with effective aggressiveness.  And both expertly defended takedowns.  Watch the round five times and you might see it a little differently each time.  10-10 or 10-9 for either fighter is a score you can defend, so it is tough to argue that a judge (or a fan, for that matter) who scored the fight 48-46 Maynard, 48-47 Maynard, 47-47 even, 48-47 Edgar or 48-46 Edgar.

What does all that mean?  These two need to run it back to settle the debate once and for all.  

MAYNARD’S INEXPERIENCE GOT THE BEST OF HIM

I can only imagine how Maynard is feeling right now.   He seemed totally dejected at the post-fight presser.  He believes in his heart that he was robbed of victory.  While that may be a debatable point, there is no arguing that the champion was ripe for defeat after Maynard landed the leaping left hook midway through the first round.  The title was his for the taking at that point, and he simply got ahead of himself.

Throwing 97 strikes in a round is an impressive feat.  Throwing the overwhelming majority of those in rapid-fire succession while in the midst of an adrenalin-driven quest to end the fight by knockout is a recipe for disaster.  Maynard admitted that he punched himself out in the first round, and that resulted in him fighting the second round as little more than a stationary target, while Edgar regained his faculties and swung the momentum his way.

I firmly believe that if Maynard had taken a measured approach to ending the fight after landing that leaping left hook, he would be wearing the belt right now.  That isn’t meant as a slight to the heart and grit that Edgar showed over the next four rounds.  His effort was nothing short of amazing.  Nevertheless, this was Maynard’s fight to lose after he rocked the champ in the opening round.

Fighters always talk about learning from a loss.  Most of that is mere lip service designed to hide the fact that an opponent was simply better.  I have no doubt that Maynard will indeed learn from this loss, and he will be better positioned to win the championship when given a second opportunity.

STANN ENTERS TOP 10; A BOUT WITH THE “AXE MURDERER” WOULD BE MOUTH-WATERING

Brian Stann’s annihilation of iron-jawed slugger Chris Leben undoubtedly made the biggest statement of UFC 125.  It wasn’t shocking that he won.  Lots of pundits picked him to win, though more picked him to come up short.  It was the way in which he won that got my attention.  Stann’s use of angles and precision striking was beautiful to watch.  He looked nothing like the athletic, but very raw, powerhouse who debuted in the WEC back in 2006.  This guy is now a polished contender, one who can comfortably claim to be among the division’s top 10.

At the post-fight presser, Stann respectfully indicated that if he were to play matchmaker, legendary striker Wanderlei Silva would be his next opponent.  I hope UFC President Dana White and matchmaker extraordinaire Joe Silva were listening because that would be one heck of a scrap.  Silva’s berserker style and unquenchable hunger for fistic carnage matches up perfectly with Stann’s calm-under-pressure demeanor.  In other words, Silva will charge, and Stann will stand his ground.  That makes for an explosive fight, one that should be even more intense than Stann-Leben.  

SILVA REESTABLISHES HIMSELF AS A TITLE CONTENDER

Thiago Silva showed up for his fight against Brandon Vera as muscular and well-conditioned as I have ever seen him in his entire fighting career.  That was vivid evidence for me that he has fully recovered from a back injury that has been hampering his pre-fight preparations for quite some time.  A healthy Silva is about as good as anyone in the division, and he proved that by handling Vera with relative ease.

The two most notable improvements in his game were his conditioning and his ability to both defend and execute takedowns.  He was woefully deficient in both areas in his last bout against Rashad Evans, which is completely understandable considering the fact that he competed with three herniated discs.  If Silva can stay off of his back and maintain his gas in future fights, then I think the sky is the limit for this guy.

I’d love to see Silva matched up with the winner of Rich Franklin versus Forrest Griffin.  Both of those guys present fan-friendly matchups for an aggressive stalker like Silva, and it would be the perfect prequel for a title challenge for the ultimate winner.  

STEPHENS REMINDS DAVIS THAT LESS ISN’T NECESSARILY BEST

Marcus Davis was very honest with the world heading into his 155-pound debut against Jeremy Stephens.  The 37-year-old fighter acknowledged that Father Time was knocking loudly at his door, and after suffering losses in four of his last seven bouts, he felt that a drop to 155 pounds was the perfect way to extend his career.  The longtime welterweight assumed that he would be the bigger, stronger fighter against just about any lightweight, something he rarely enjoyed in his welterweight bouts.

Well, Davis certainly appeared to be correct about his size and strength advantages in his lightweight debut against Jeremy Stephens.  But those advantages weren’t enough to overcome the explosive speed advantage enjoyed by Stephens, and the end result was a crushing knockout loss.  

I’m not convinced that Davis’ move to lightweight is the best decision for his career.  The first physical attribute to degrade with age is speed.  I can’t imagine that Davis, or any other 37-year-old fighter, for that matter, believes that he is as fast as he was in his late 20s or early 30s.  Considering the fact that Davis wasn’t really considered to be a fast welterweight, it is difficult to imagine him finding regular success in a division dominated by young, explosive fighters.  

I think that Davis would be better off returning to welterweight, if he wants to continue his fighting career.  Then again, sideline chatter is cheap.  Maybe he will prove me wrong in his next bout.  

 
 
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