A FITTING END TO AN ENTERTAINING CAREER
Chris Lytle couldn’t have scripted a better end to his UFC career.
Sure, he badly wanted to score a first round knockout. The former professional boxer came out throwing bombs over and over again. His punches looked almost amateurish at times because he wanted desperately to land a one-punch knockout.
Instead, he engaged in a three-round war with Dan Hardy that ended in spectacular fashion with a guillotine choke with less than a minute remaining.
The bout had everything that a Hollywood writer could want. Lytle savagely attacked from Jump Street, firing bomb after bomb. Each punch was laced with bad intentions. Each punch was designed to leave every bit of Lytle inside the Octagon. Lytle landed with more frequency. Yet, Hardy rocked him several times with counters, even putting him on temporarily wobbly legs.
But Lytle refused to be denied in his final UFC fight. It was evident that he wasn’t going to win by knockout, so with less than a minute left, he sunk a picture-perfect guillotine to bring the fight to a sensational end.
It was a perfect way to end one of the most entertaining careers in UFC history.
Sunday night was Lytle’s 20th trip to the Octagon. He never won a championship. He never even fought for the championship. But I guarantee you that he felt like a champion when his hand was raised inside the Octagon while two of his four children embraced him as Bruce Buffer announced him as the winner.
Twenty UFC fights. Ten wins. Ten losses. Sounds average, right? Check this out.
Lytle is only the sixth man in UFC history to compete at least 20 times inside the Octagon. Tito Ortiz has the record at 25. Maybe even more impressive is the fact that Lytle owns the record for the most “of the night” bonuses in UFC history. His efforts on Sunday night earned him two bonus checks in one night—an extra $130,000 thanks to his thrilling back-and-forth brawl that resulted in the Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night awards. Not a bad way to end a career.
Actually, it was a fitting end. Lytle has given fans more bang for the buck than anyone in UFC history, and his 10 post-fight awards prove it. His 10 awards puts him two ahead of Anderson Silva for most in UFC history. His six Fight of the Night bonuses also ranks as the most ever (one ahead of Tyson Griffin).
It suffices to say that Lytle stands alone as one of the most entertaining fighters to ever step into the Octagon. Yet, he is choosing to walk away, though it is for all the right reasons.
I am blessed to have a 27-month old son, Rocco, and my wife is six months pregnant with our second child—also a son. Like Lytle, I certainly spend far more hours at the office than I do at home. Thus, I can empathize with Lytle’s desire to adjust his professional life so that he can put his family first.
In fact, I can say this without hesitation or equivocation: watching him embrace his eldest daughter and son at the end of his final fight, knowing what he was giving up so that he could focus more on them and his other two kids, was one of the most moving moments that I’ve seen inside the Octagon. And Lytle’s decision to spend more time with his family, when he still appears to be at the top of his game and the peak of his earning power, is something that demands respect.
Thanks for the great fights, Chris. You will be greatly missed, but fondly remembered. Enjoy your life after fighting and the extra time with your family. You have certainly earned it.
HARDY FACES TOUGH DECISION
As I sit here, I cannot think of any fighter in the modern Zuffa era that suffered four straight losses and retained his job with the UFC. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened. I’m saying that I cannot recall it happening. Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta put all speculation to rest last night when he tweeted that Hardy would not be cut from his contract as a result of his fourth-consecutive loss. The boss said the Brit will receive at least one more fight.
Hardy now has a very difficult choice to make. Four straight losses is enough to cause even the most confident of fighters to begin questioning himself. Those without seemingly unbreakable self-confidence would probably fall far into the world of self-doubt. I have no idea where Hardy’s head is at the moment. Does he still believe that he is the same monster who destroyed Mike Swick? Does he really view himself as a legitimate UFC 170-pound mainstay? I’m not suggesting he shouldn’t hold firm on those beliefs, but it would be understandable if “The Outlaw” was experiencing some doubts right about now.
That brings us to the question at hand: Should Hardy take Fertitta up on his offer to continue fighting in the UFC? A fifth straight loss would almost certainly send him back to the smaller promotions to try and right the ship. That is no big deal. Lots of guys take temporary breaks from the UFC in order to work on certain aspects of their game, only to return better than ever. Nevertheless, a fifth straight loss could cause significant damage to Hardy’s psyche, and a fighter with a damaged psyche is a fighter who rarely performs up to his ability.
There is no doubt that racking up a handful of wins in the smaller shows would do Hardy wonders, particularly mentally. The guy is still only 29 years old, so he has several years of his fighting prime ahead of him. Assuming he is facing some doubting demons at the moment, then getting those issues squared away may be more valuable to his long-term career than taking his next fight in the UFC. Of course, a loss outside the UFC would be disastrous, so there is that risk to consider as well.
I have no idea what Hardy will do next or when he will return. All I know is he is facing a very tough decision.
HENDERSON PROVES THE WEC GUYS ARE FOR REAL
Jim Miller wasn’t shy about voicing his opinion that he didn’t believe the WEC guys belonged among the UFC 155-pound elite. I’m sure he feels differently after former WEC champion Ben Henderson put his stamp on the man many felt was standing at the front of the line for the winner of Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard.
To put Henderson’s win into context, Miller was on a seven-fight UFC winning streak. Only two men in the UFC boast longer current winning streaks. You’ve probably heard of them before. Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre.
Yet, Henderson thoroughly destroyed Miller in each of the three rounds. The one judge who gave a round to Miller needs to consider a new career because none of the rounds were even remotely close.
The big question now is whether Henderson catapults into the number one contender spot previously occupied by Miller. He may be relatively new to the UFC, but the guy isn’t new to the sport. The win over Miller improved his career mark to an impressive 14-2, and he is now 2-0 in the UFC. Sure, there are lots of lightweights who can make a claim for priority over Henderson. But none of those guys owns a win over Miller, whose only other defeats came to Edgar and Maynard.
Whether he is next in line or somewhere down the line, there is no doubt that Henderson is a legitimate contender at 155 pounds. There is also no doubt that the top former WEC guys deserve the same respect as their UFC colleagues. No doubt whatsoever.
CERRONE MAKES A STATEMENT; CROSS OFF TWO BUCKET LIST ITEMS
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone claimed that he did not like the attitude Charles Oliveira demonstrated as fight night approached. He felt his opponent was a little too confident, so he wanted to use his fists to teach him a lesson about humility.
I’m not sure if Oliveira was overconfident, and I’m definitely sure that he neither said nor did anything out of the ordinary in pre-fight interviews. Yet, Cerrone accomplished his mission in emphatic fashion thanks to a vicious left bolo punch to the body that dropped him just over halfway through the first round. Knowing Oliveira was hurt, Cerrone attacked like a shark smelling blood in the water, and the fight was over just a few seconds later.
“Cowboy” is now on a five-fight winning streak, including three in a row since the UFC swallowed the WEC. More importantly, though, he scored the first knockout win of his career. I know it is shocking to think that Cerrone had never before won by knockout. He is, after all, a very skilled striker. Nevertheless, through 20 professional fights, he had never before finished an opponent with strikes.
Oh yeah, the first knockout win of his professional career was also selected as the Knockout of the Night – his second UFC post-fight bonus.
He can now cross both of those items off of his bucket list.
It’s time for Cerrone to face one of the division’s top 10 contenders. I firmly believe he has earned it. A bout with an elite 155-pound striker, like Melvin Guillard or Dennis Siver, would be divine. A test against a monster ground guy, like Clay Guida or Jim Miller, would be just as fun. Whoever is next, Cerrone is rapidly moving toward contender status.
LUDWIG SHOWS SADOLLAH THAT WORLD-CLASS KICKBOXING ISN’T TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY
There is a reason that Duane “Bang” Ludwig is a two-time world kickboxing champion. This guy has been kickboxing since before he could drive a car. Someone obviously forgot to tell Amir Sadollah about Ludwig’s past because the affable, though still relatively inexperienced, competitor chose to stand and bang with a guy of Ludwig’s caliber.
The result wasn’t a surprise. Ludwig’s shots were faster, more technically sound and much more precise. He mixed up leading and countering. He demonstrated his superiority on the outside and in the clinch. The Colorado-based fighter also hurt The Ultimate Fighter winner on multiple occasions. So, the judges’ decision to award him the fight was to be expected.
Sadollah said in the weeks leading up to the bout that he wanted to test his standup against a guy of Ludwig’s level. Duly noted.
That isn’t the best way to win a fight, but it certainly was a great way to put on an entertaining scrap for the fans.
It is worth noting that Sadollah was not blown out by his opponent. Far from it. Ludwig was never in any danger of losing, but he certainly ate his share of solid punches, kicks and knees. The lumps, bruises and other marks face made that very evident after the fight. In fact, I’ll go so far as to state that Ludwig has much more respect for Sadollah’s standup and toughness now than he did a couple of days ago.
Nevertheless, Sadollah would be well served to take note of what happens when he decides to stand and bang with a guy nicknamed “Bang.” Next time he fights a world-class striker, he should probably spend the majority of the camp working on using strikes to disguise takedown attempts. That is what he was missing on Sunday night.
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