December 31, 2007
Several stray thoughts coming out of Saturday night’s action:
Stop the hate: The hate for Matt Hughes needs to stop. Yes, he came across as brash on The Ultimate Fighter. But now that Hughes has clearly been surpassed atop the welterweight division by Georges St. Pierre, it is time to recognize everything Hughes meant to the sport of mixed martial arts.
Every single time Hughes was asked to do something that might not have been best for him, but was good for the growth of the sport, Hughes agreed without complaint. When the UFC wanted him to fight Royce Gracie because it would bring more attention to the sport than any other match at the time, he did it. When they asked him to rematch B.J. Penn last year after St. Pierre pulled out of their original scheduled match at UFC 63, he did it. They then asked him to come back two months later to fight St. Pierre, even though Hughes fought an all-out war against Penn. He agreed, and lost his title.
This was a pattern that repeated over the past six weeks. Hughes could have pulled out of his Dec. 29 date when Matt Serra was injured. He could have taken a match with Jon Fitch or Thiago Silva. But instead, he took on the toughest opponent possible, St. Pierre, which helped make UFC 79 one of the most memorable events in company history.
Hughes has the strong ego that every elite athlete needs to excel, but he never became addicted to the spotlight the way that many of his peers have. So it is no surprise that he was gracious in his praise of St. Pierre after St. Pierre knocked Hughes from his old spot in the pecking order. The former champ has never publicly griped about his treatment. He never followed up negotiating his own contract by walking away in a huff midway through the deal. His prime stretch of 19 wins in 20 matches – a run which didn’t include any Zulus or fighters with one career MMA match who were banned from competing in the U.S. due to health reasons – is one that will be hard for future champions to match.
So never mind whether Hughes mouthed off from time to time on TV. He’s earned his spot on the short list of the all-time greats and he’s earned the right to pick his spots from here on out as he sees fit.
Clementi-Guillard: I want to acknowledge something several readers pointed out about my UFC 79 notebook from Vegas on Saturday: Melvin Guillard made an obscene gesture at Rich Clementi when he entered the octagon before their match Saturday night. I actually didn’t see Guillard’s gesture from where I was sitting on the floor. This adds context to why Clementi reacted the way he did after beating Guillard.
Back in Black: A hat tip to reader Joe on this one: It is time for the Brazilian Black House camp to get its deserved due as one of the world’s top MMA crews. Not only does Black House boast UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, who many consider the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world; but it also features former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who managed to fend off the PRIDE jinx by winning his UFC debut against Heath Herring and will challenge Tim Sylvia for the interim title at UFC 81; and undefeted Lyoto Machida is clearly one of the world’s most complete fighters, as evidenced by his dismantling of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou on Saturday night.
He'll be back: Sokoudjou is not nearly as bad as he looked on Saturday night. Keep in mind this is a man who is 23 years old and still only has six career fights to his credit. Machida was a bad matchup style-wise at the wrong time. We’ve seen Sokudjou’s knockout power. He’s still a work in progress and he’ll be back.
Wandy the warrior: I absolutely will not include Wanderlei Silva on the list of former PRIDE fighters who became UFC busts. After getting knocked out twice in a row, Silva could have taken an easy tune-up fight. Instead, he agreed to give MMA fans all over the world the match they waited on for years. Silva lost to Chuck Liddell, but he put in a tremendous effort in a memorable battle which will be remembered for years to come. Silva might not be the same fighter he was in his peak, but he is still one of MMA’s great warriors, a battler who embodies the Japanese concept of fighting spirit like few others. Surely there should always be a prominent place for such a fighter. Perhaps a matchup with Machida should be next on his list?
Just desserts: I have no ill will toward Chris Horodecki, who is a talented young fighter with a bright future. But the IFL got exactly what it deserved when Horodecki was brutally TKOd by Ryan Shultz in their lightweight championship match on Saturday night.
The IFL had a good matchup lined up when Horodecki and Wagnney Fabiano were originally slated to meet in their lightweight championship finals. But then the IFL decided to get cute, and created a featherweight title out of the blue and stuck Fabiano at 145 pounds.
Whether Fabiano is best suited for 145 in the long-term doesn’t matter. The IFL decided, midstream, to not only tinker with their own tournament, but they gave the appearance they were afraid of a Horodecki loss. How are MMA fans supposed to take a “Grand Prix” tournament seriously if the IFL doesn’t care enough to properly finish what they started?
The league recently made a change of management and approach. Let’s hope the brand-new IFL stops insulting the fans’ intelligence (and for that matter, stop their ill-advised approach of putting their shows head-to-head with other major events, which will guarantee failure every time).
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