With UFC 123 rapidly approaching, Saturday night’s results seem like an eon ago. That isn’t a criticism of the fights. There were lots of entertaining bouts. But UFC 123 is a stacked card that has me salivating as we enter fight week. So, we’re going to keep this short and sweet.
DID THE PRESSURE PLAY A ROLE?
Yushin Okami finally earned a shot at UFC gold after 10 wins inside the Octagon. But Okami’s win over Nate Marquardt was anything but decisive. He refused to put punches together in bunches. He never really landed any extremely damaging blows, despite the fact that his opponent was bleeding from a pretty good cut on his face. And he did not spend any significant time working his ground-and-pound game, other than in the first round.
None of that is surprising. Marquardt is an exceedingly difficult riddle to solve. The fact that Okami won, regardless of what he looked like in so doing, makes a major statement to the rest of the division. Okami remains a very real threat to win the world title. There is no doubt about that. He will finally receive his opportunity sometime around mid-2011, assuming no injuries to any of the participants.
Whether he will face reigning champion Anderson Silva or number one contender Vitor Belfort remains to be seen. I think there is a good chance that he may end up facing Belfort. Okami prefers Silva. I’m not sure he is better off either way.
MARQUARDT UNDERSTANDABLY FRUSTRATED WITH THE DECISION
I’ll admit that I had no idea who was going to be announced the winner of Okami-Marquardt as Bruce Buffer read the judges’ scorecards. When I heard 30-27, I just assumed that it would be Marquardt, since it is really tough to make a case that Okami won the third round. Marquardt landed the harder shots, and he scored a late takedown. Granted, he did nothing with the takedown and wasn’t able to keep Okami down for any length of time. But in a round consisting of lots of circling and missed strikes, the takedown had to be difference maker because it was the most dominant move executed by either man during that five-minute period.
One judge saw things differently and awarded the round to Okami. Whether I agree or not is immaterial. The decision highlights a point that all fighters should take to heart. Throwing punches one at a time and circling around the cage is not the way to win a round. Some people view the stalker, even if he isn’t the one landing the more damaging blows, as controlling the round with effective aggressiveness. Again, whether I agree or not is immaterial because that is a fact of life, and fighters need to adjust their game accordingly.
Marquardt is understandably frustrated after dropping a decision that could have easily gone his way. But his post-fight acknowledgment that he should have thrown more combinations is spot on. That is the reason he lost the fight. Period.
LUDWIG OUTCOME HIGHLIGHTS THE DIFFICULTY IN SCORING KNOCKDOWNS
On the heels of back-to-back losses, Duane Ludwig needed a win as a badly, if not more, than anyone else on the card. Headliners might be able to survive three straight losses with their fight contract intact. Others typically cannot. Thus, Ludwig was fighting with a tremendous amount of pressure. Add to the mix that his wife gave birth to their son just days before the fight and it is a minor miracle that Ludwig was able to stay focused on the task at hand.
Many pundits are probably questioning the outcome of the fight right about now. I’m not among them. Osipczak clearly won the second round, and Ludwig certainly won the third on my scorecard. The first round, by contrast, was very difficult to score.
Prior to the knockdown, Ludwig controlled the action with good, crisp Muay Thai. He got caught and dropped with a left hand late in the round, and that raises the question of whether a knockdown in a sport where jabs can knock down a fighter, should result in an automatic 10-9 round. The rules do not dictate that a knockdown automatically decides the outcome of a round, and I’m of the opinion that it is the quality of a knockdown, not the mere occurrence of one in and of itself, that should be the deciding factor.
Had Osipczak dropped Ludwig with a clearly concussive blow, then I would give him the nod, despite the fact that he was getting taken apart on the feet for most of the round. But I didn’t see the knockdown that way. It appeared to be more of a flash knockdown—i.e., a good hard punch that caused Ludwig to fall, rather than a shot that short-circuited his brain thus rendering his legs unable to support his body. Since Ludwig defended very well on the ground and was only kept there for a short period of time, I don’t think that the flash knockdown was enough to overcome Ludwig’s total body of work over the full five minutes.
I’m not suggesting that everyone has to adopt my approach to scoring a round. Had Osipczak been awarded the victory, I would not have questioned it one bit. Anyone can easily justify a decision in his favor. But that isn’t what happened. And I’m not going to question the decision that two of the three judges because I agree with their interpretation of the action.
VEMOLA REAPS THE BENEFITS OF DROPPING WEIGHT
Karlos Vemola looked like a beast during his first-round destruction of Seth Petruzelli. It was a much better performance than in his UFC debut, when he entered the cage as an undefeated heavyweight prospect. He left the cage with his first professional loss after taking a pretty good beating from Jon Madsen. A drop to light heavy was a no brainer at that point.
Vemola is only six-feet tall – and that may be a bit generous. His frame is not big enough to compete in the UFC heavyweight division. Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Cheick Kongo, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir and a dozen other names are much bigger men, simply put. It is difficult to imagine Vemola finding success against any of those names.
It is not difficult to imagine him finding success in the 205-pound division, particularly after watching him walk through Petruzelli.