Even the referee of GSP v. Hendricks saw it in favor of the challenger

MMA referee’s are required to take a judging course. Thus, as opinions on the way a decision goes they have another front-row perspective on fights.

Mario Yamasaki, the referee of the controversial UFC 167 event between Georges St. Pierre v. Johny Hndricks, gave his view of who won. Considering his experience in the game and proximity to the action, his opinion may be the closest thing fans can get to a judge’s official explanation.

In comments reported by MMA Fighting, Yamasaki saw it all Hendricks. In fact, he described Hendricks as having ‘dominated’.

“I’m inside the cage so I can’t see the fight as the judge sees it, but I thought Hendricks won the fight. I thought Hendricks dominated the fight, it was brutal, and I was surprised when they gave St-Pierre the win. But I’m not the judge. I look at the fight with different eyes.”

Yamasaki’s comments are not far off from those of many experts who feel Hendricks simply hurt GSP with a ton of power shots and conversely was never threatened by the champion in similar fashion. Except, further explanation draws an interesting parallel to why St. Pierre was awarded the fight.

“The first round was slow and could have gone either way. Hendricks dominated the second one. The third was close and could also go either way, and the judges gave it to St-Pierre. When the fight was over, I thought Hendricks won every round except the last one,” he said. “But I have to watch the fight again to analyze it as a judge.”

As The FD explained, via a breakdown on the scorecards provided by Bleacher Report, this is exactly the way the judges saw it in favor of the champion. Yamasaki said the first round could have gone either way – close as it was, two judges scored GSP as winning the first thus giving him the round. The third was close as well, bu the judges again gave it to GSP. Then Yamasaki admits that he felt GSP won the fifth, which the judges did as well. That makes three rounds for GSP – razor-thin or not – to Hendricks’ two.

Therefore, losing two close rounds does not make up for two dominating ones, unfortunately for Hendricks. It all draws more controversy towards the state of MMA judging whereby razor-thin mathematics can stump a great fight.


Johny Hendricks is the heir to Chuck Liddell

In the current MMA landscape, being a brawler is a curse. As exemplified by the UFC’s insistence in employing fighters who do nothing but brawl relentlessly, there is no trait more employable. After all, MMA is, at its basic, just an organized, nuanced form of brawling. Unfortunately, brawlers also have two major deficiencies: wrestling and good sense. They either get put on their back or knocked silly as often as they knock others silly.

He may have come up short against Georges St. Pierre this weekend, but it was abundantly clear that Hendricks is the champions equal. Had luck been on his side or had he landed a few more decisive combinations at key stages of the fight, Hendricks would have gold around his waist. That does not change what Hendricks proved on Saturday: he is the next best welterweight in the UFC.

The FD has long hailed Junior Dos Santos as the next incarnation of the knockout artist in the MMA. Dos Santos, like Hendricks, has the power to knock out any fighter. Except Dos Santos fights in the same division as the living, breathing antidote for his style in the form of the relentless, physical cardio machine that is Cain Velasquez.

Hendricks, however, is different from JDS in that his power is genetically rare. Hendricks’ punch power is rumored to be in excess of many heavyweight fighters. He is the incarnation of Chuck Liddell in that in order to get close to him, you have to wade through knockout power in every throw. Even more dangerous than Liddell – who is considered the father of the sprawl-and-brawl style – Hendricks is among the top wrestlers in the sport. There were points at which GSP, who is the master of making half-chances into takedowns, couldn’t drop Hendricks with every advantage. In fact, at one point, GSP isolated Hendricks’ leg for nearly thirty seconds and dragged him across the octagon. There are few fighter capable of taking the fight to the ground against Hendricks.

Looking at the welterweight landscape, despite a flotilla of talented opponents, name one who is even in the vicinity of GSP in wrestling ability. Project that fighter against a wrestler the caliber of Hendricks. Good luck. Hendricks already tore through all the top competitors on his way to a title shot. Who is going to challenge him?

All that tells you that Hendricks will get another shot at gold. When it happens, someone is going to sleep.


Between St. Pierre and Hendricks, it all came down to one round

While most will tell you Hendricks won the fight, it’s hardly that definitive.

An extensive breakdown by Steven Rondina of Bleacher Report, details how the fight ultimately was far closer than many fans are willing to admit as the reaction was overwhelmingly pro-Hendricks.

GSP out-struck Hendricks only in one round, the third. If you were to look at that number, Hendricks controlled the fight on the feet. However, throughout the entire fight, GSP landed far more significant strikes – 101 to 85. In that sense, GSP controlled the fight on the feet. Cumulatively, then, the two fighters split the fight.

By virtue of out striking Hendricks in the third and taking him down twice in the fifth (while controlling those rounds in most facets), GSP won two rounds. Hendricks, meanwhile, out struck the champ in round two and round four which also included a controlling top game, which won him those rounds.

Based on scoring, ultimately it came down to the first round. Hendricks only landed one more strike (27 to 26) but one fewer significant strike (18 to 19). Each fighter scored a takedown. It appears, if we want to go by numbers, that the tipping point may have been GSP’s ever-so-brief guillotine attempt. By that distinction, two judges saw round one in favor of the champion.

Many fans will point to how much physically stronger Hendricks appeared at times. If we were to award a bout to the stronger guy every time what would be the point in having them fight? Because conversely GSP was far quicker in his movement. So why wouldn’t we as fans score it that way? The easy answer is because it doesn’t matter how athletic fighters appear during a fight.

Another talking point was the visible damage apparent on GSP’s face compared to Hendricks. Visible damage is misleading. Bruising and cuts differ from person to person. Some fighters eventually take so many hits to the face they develop scar tissue which causes cuts easier. GSP’s face has shown more bruising in his most previous fights as the years go by. Punishing a fighter in a fight for damage that is inasmuch caused by previous fights doesn’t make sense.

The scoring system is what it is. Hendricks did better in the rounds scored in his favor than GSP did in his. The issue is that Hendricks never did so well to earn a decisive 10-8 score, thus, the scoring system will show that each fighter is awarded two rounds by equal measure of 10-9. When dealing in black-and-white, it doesn’t matter if one competitor’s 10-9 is a superior 10-9 to the others’. They appear equal on a scorecard.It’s the opinion of The FD that like Ric Flair always said, if you want to be the man, you got to beat the man.

Yesterday night, Hendricks never proved that he was better than a fighter with the most wins in UFC history, title wins,  etc. While GSP’s history should not necessarily come into play, the fact is on fight night he was not out-fought, beat up, controlled, or any connotation that would point to him being thoroughly defeated. This was not Junior Dos Santos v. Cain Velasquez II, in which Velasquez did all the above from start to finish to retain his belt.

UFC drops the ball on a fight announcement for the second time in a week

You would think after the whole Alexander Gustafsson v. Antonio Noguiera snafu, the UFC would find a way to ensure what they’re announcing is, you know, correct.

Turns out they just like making mistakes in pairs. For the second time in a week the UFC has scrapped a high-profile bout, this time being Jon Jones v. Glover Teixera.

Speaking to the media following Thursday’s press conference for UFC 167, President Dana White told reporters the fight would no longer be headlining UFC 170. He said Jones had to pull out due to injury – specially, as reported by Yahoo! Sports’, Kevin Lole, Jones foot which was injured in his recent bout with Gustafsson over a month and a half ago. Somehow in a 24-hour period, that injury forced Jones out.

While the UFC and White have yet to comment on a second embarrassing fight cancellation, the anticipation for comment can not be higher. Historically they have a tendency to throw blame around in places it often seems inappropriate. Even worse, the manner in which they cast blame peels back layers for the public to understand just how the UFC does business. Too often, the UFC uses corporate clout to pit itself as against a two or three individuals at a time – hardly a fair fight even in public relations terms.

Yet many of these issues are the fault of the UFC as any series of things. For example, way back at UFC 151 originally to have taken place on September 1, 2012 White went on a public barrage of Jones when he turned down a replacement bout thus scrapping the card. The UFC failed to highlight how if there were no other high-profile fights elsewhere on the card worthy of promotion to headliner status. The card depth was so weak – a trend the UFC also does no justice to by pitting their most mainstream worthy fighter in Jones to offset poor cards on paper – no other fight could justifiably be promoted. Whose fault is that?

You know the situation last week with Noguiera, in which White admitted only partial blame for booking a fight without asking one its contestants – whom he gave the large majority of the blame.The UFC is a powerful entity. Other than a few select fighters, the promotion will always win out in public tiffs because they hire everyone. If White is pissed – even if he misleads the public – his opinion is the only one that matters. It’s a shame, of course, because that same power is the reason MMA fans get to see the best fighters fight each other unlike boxing. The MMA game is like all sports leagues, a capitalist one. Those with the most influence – the very best and talented fighters, the executives, the matchmakers – control the resources.

In the case of UFC 170 and Jones’ foot, White hasn’t pointed the finger on this one…yet. It will be interesting to see how the UFC politicize this one.

The tricks of training camp according to Chael Sonnen

The concept of ‘peaking’ is vital in sports. Learning how to train at what period of time is as important as the way an athlete trains.

In team sports, it’s often not the club that dominates the first part of the season or the middle stretches – but the club that heads into the post-season on a roll. Teams try to manufacture their training regime, their practice schedules, workouts etc. to ensure everyone is clicking physically and mentally.

Individual sports are no different. Chael Sonnen, in a wide-ranging interview with Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report mentions how his own training camps have often peaked too soon and left him frustrated heading into fights.

Sonnen used conversations he had after a training session with Georges St. Pierre to highlight this point, specifically in regard to GSP’s experiences with legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach. GSP told him that Roach noticed his prized pupil, Manny Pacquiao, was a fighter who trained everyday, so he was at his peak five or six weeks into an eight-week camp and then would decline. GSP altered his training camp as a result of his work with Roach.

Sonnen has not made the same adjustments yet – the conversation with GSP came during his current training camp for the Rashad Evans bout – but noticed he had similar problems as Pacquiao, in which he would peak too soon. In fact, Sonnen says it’s the reasons he often volunteers for short-notice fights.

“…when there is a short-notice fight, I always raise my hand. I always say, “I’ll do it.” And I always get all this credit. All this street cred for being such a tough guy who’s willing to fight at any time. But the reality is, I do it out of selfishness. I believe I’ll be better if I take it on short notice.”

Clearly, training regimes are different for everyone. Some fighters probably feel they do better with long camps while some prefer short. Some fighters want higher intesnity while others want less. Sonnen is one of the more cerebral fighters in the game and knows that the way one trains will always fluctuate and change.

“As soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, it changes with age. You get a little bit older and that number of workouts, that number of days in training, changes. So there’s no perfect answer.”


Say it ain’t so – will St. Pierre walk away from the sport?

Start either holding your breath or begin reflecting: if you believe a man very close to Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre, we may very well be seeing the last of the great welterweight this Saturday.

Kristof Midoux, a man who mentored GSP at the age of 16 and remains close to the champion, believes there is a chance that GSP walks away from the sport on Saturday night. Midoux makes a convincing case and has told St. Pierre it’s a decision he supports.

The reasons he mentions GSP may retire are numerous, practical and logical.

Midoux says GSP wants to open a martial arts school. That move would be both a way for him to stay in the game and would likely be a lucrative venture as his reputation alone would attract aspiring fighters in droves.

As well, St. Piere is cognisant of friend and fellow Canadian Rory MacDonald’s rise in the ranks. He even tows the patriot line by saying, “Help Rory become a champion to show that Canadians dominate this weight class.” As anyone can attest, people have strong ties to their national heritage. In sports, pride in one’s country is common. The notable part of that is how he mentions that it would fall in line with St. Pierre’s character in that, “It would be generous and Georges is generous.”

Perhaps most convincingly, GSP wishes to have a family – while he’s young. Midoux says St. Pierre is very realistic when it comes to that fact. He knows that having a family is difficult to remain at the top of the game. But it’s the last bit of the quote that’s extremely intriguing:

“It’s not true that you can have a family and children and remain at the highest level of the sport. He took my advice.”

Nowhere in the interview does he provide context to what ‘advice’ he is speaking of. Has GSP taken his advice to start a family and is in the process? Has GSP taken all of his advice? If that’s true, we’re looking at a man who has taken action and not only spoken of it. Actions speak far louder than words.

In addition to this interview, the rumblings about St. Pierre’s retirement have been steady for some time. His coach has mentioned it and even he has mentioned it. Key factors have been that St. Pierre is financially secure and is a strong enough brand to remain as such even in retirement. In his last few fights, he has taken more punishment than he is accustomed to.

The sport is a dangerous and fickle one.Unlike other sports, where a competitor on top of his game generally degrades over time in front of our eyes, an MMA practitioner falls of in sudden drops – as in each fight we watch. All it would take is GSP to lose to Johny Hendricks and a subsequent loss in say, a super fight with Anderson Silva, and those who once hailed him will be burying his reign. All that could happen in less than a year.

It sounds like a man who has made up his mind that his career is ending and wishes to end it on the right note. Maybe we should appreciate what we have had while we have it. It could be the last time.



Surprise, surprise: acting crazy in MMA doesn’t always make people doubt you

Lesson of the day: lacking empathy and ethics can only make most people doubt you. But all it takes is one.

You may remember Rousimar Palhares – he’s the fighter who in October was released from the UFC following a win over Mike Pierce. How does one get released after a win? It’s easy. Lock in a heel hook, hold the lock even after the tap and further hold it as the referee dives on you to break the lock.

Just the same way that any other professional sports league operates, athletes with character issues need only one employer to get a job. How long they last in that job is their choice and in the case of Palhares, his stint in the UFC didn’t last because of bad choices. New life may await elsewhere.

MMAJunkie.com spoke with World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo regarding that promotions’ stance on Palhares and he had this to say:

“Initially, I’ll admit I didn’t think World Series of Fighting should even entertain the idea of bring Palhares on board. But I’ve been speaking with our team, as well as some people I trust throughout the industry, and I’m not so sure he doesn’t deserve another chance.

“We haven’t made any concrete decisions just yet, but I think maybe Palhares could be a valuable part of our organization.”

Got it. So in a sport rife with dangers to its competitors – which can leave fighters with damage to virtually every inch of their bodies – a man with a history of erratic behavior that has harmed his opponents (and according to former training coaches, teammates) in both borderline and illegal fashion is ‘valuable’ and deserving of another chance.

Paging capitalists: when money is involved, everyone is valuable.

What is alarming about Palhares history is not only his actions towards opponents but his bizarre actions in general. Against Nate Marquardt, he tried to lock in a heel hook and after his opponent slipped out of it, while prone on his back, he turned to the referee to complain and was promptly knocked out. Later against Dan Miller, after knocking Miller down, he inexplicably stopped fighting and leaped onto the cage to celebrate – though the fight had not been awarded to him by stoppage or tap out.

Despite all this, Sefo apparently was swayed by comments made by MMA legend, Renzo Gracie.

“I really didn’t think he held it too long,” Gracie said. “You have to understand, especially heel hooks, it is a finishing hold that you can lose at any time. He can lose the position at any time, and the next thing you’ll see the guy is going to claim that he didn’t tap and everything is gone. So he really needs to add intensity on it. Unfortunately, people saw it with poor eyes.

Those comments, though, do not reconcile how such a controversy can be amended after the fact.It does not reconcile how Palhares should have been paying attention to Pierce for the tap, he should have been paying attention to the referee for the call and should have been acutely aware of a second human being throwing them self on him. There is no excuse while driving to not notice oncoming cars and pedestrians should you choose to barrel through a yellow light while driving so how in the world can Palhares be excused for being aware of actions happening inches in front of him?

The situation with WSOF is made worse since Sefo admitted in the interview  to being “…a little outraged at first.” after the incident.He also doesn;t think Palhares is a “…bad human bring.”

Being a bad human being is a loaded idea just as the same as anyone being a perfect human being is. The facts are Palhares may not be a bad human being but he can still be an idiot without much regard for the safety of his training partners of competitors. That doesn’t take being a bad human being so much as having a frame of mind that MMA fighters know the risks of their jobs and inherit them. If you approach a fight that way, you’ll go through a wall to win a fight – though you needn’t have to.

The dangers of MMA are extreme enough. A person who themselves is willing to exacerbate those extremes should not be fighting anywhere – no matter how much money they can someone.