For the past couple of years the sport of MMA has grown leaps and bounds breaking into the semi-main stream of our social culture. As the sport continues to grow styles of fighting evolve and MMA becomes more respected, but there is a trend that is holding the fighters, more or less the sport, back. The fan-conscious fighters have been quite prevalent. These fighters main goal is to get acceptance from MMA fans or to build a fan base by trying to over-zealously push fights to make them exciting. They set themselves up to lose each fight as they try to fight outside their skill set and strategy.
Typical MMA fans, especially US MMA fans, love to see brutal knockouts and bloody beatings. But not every fighter has KO power or wants to cause a blood bath in the ring/cage. Most successful fighters use their skills to beat their opponent strategically whether it is by submission, wrestling control with ground and pound, or superior striking. In keeping fans excited, fighters ditch their game plan and try to get a highlight KO, but it usually ends up causing the fighter to be more careless or getting gassed-out. Several fighters in the past have fallen into the trend which ended up resulting in poor performance or even worse, a loss on their record. One well known fighter, Tito Ortiz, has put his ego in the ring first rather than a proven and effective fight-strategy. In April of 2004 Tito fought Chuck Liddell and instead of utilizing his wrestling ability to his advantage he decides to keep the fight on their feet. Prior to their fight, Tito’s fan wanted Tito to KO Chuck. Combined with Chuck egging him to stand and trade leather, it put Tito in a position where he would have to ditch his ground and pound tactics, the bread and butter of his fight game. In the end, we all saw the results; Tito wallowing in the corner wishing he would have done it differently. Chuck is a knockout artist and standing toe-to-toe with him without a solid standup game is like being diagnosed with narcolepsy. You’ll be find and dandy for a moment but you’ll eventually be knocked out. By the time you wake up, Chuck Liddell is partying at the Las Vegas Rio Hotel Casino dancing with hot chicks who don’t even know he’s a UFC champ. Because all hot chicks dig the shiny title belt, right?
A more recent example is Heath Herring’s performance last night at UFN on SpikeTV. Herring is a veteran of the sport and has fought some of the toughest fighters on the planet. Fought mainly overseas in Japan, Heath has an impressive career record. When UFC announced Herring’s acquisition into the Heavyweight Division I was really excited. His MMA record alone puts him in the top 3 of that division. Last night’s fight was to be Herring’s UFC debut. He would be fighting an unknown but an up and coming fighter, Jake O’Brien. O’Brien was to be cannon fodder for Herring. Herring wanted to win the crowd in his UFC debut by knocking out his opponent, but instead the fight looked like Herring was the fodder. O’Brien dominated the fight using his wrestling skills and taking down Herring at will, and he even took mount position several times. Herring looked almost amateurish and had no answer to O’Brien’s takedowns. Frustrated by O’Brien’s lay and pray tactic he didn’t attempt any kind of offensive jiu-jitsu, except for one failed Kimura submission attempt, but instead tried to have the ref stand the fight. In the end, Herring lost by a unanimous decision. Fortunately, he was aware on why he loss. He he admitted that he was “over-zealous” in trying to win in an exciting fashion.
As a fan, I always love an exciting fight, but I don’t necessarily expect every fight to be an epic Rocky-like battle. Some fighters are exciting and some are not as exciting, but as long as they get the win it’s the only thing that matters. Fighters should fight for themselves, their family, and maybe the occasional family dog. Changing your fight game to make couple of drunk MMA fans scream your name louder isn’t worth a loss or a win bonus.