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.

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.



Georges St. Pierre passes undermined VADA test

As Church Lady would say, well isn’t that special.

Reported by Blood Elbow, welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre tweeted pics of his VADA letter confirming his successful test results. Of course, without opponent Johny Hendricks also on board – as was the original plan – it lacks significant oomph.

Sadly, Hendricks’ camp opted out after publicly saying they were opting in. Their reasons were legitimate when thought through. Their camp felt the validity of an ‘independent’ test is compromised by the fact that GSP himself is used as a marketing tool for the program. If GSP were to fail a test at any point – while it would signal the legitimacy of their organization – it would go hand-in-hand with negative PR that would not be good for a growing business. Think of the embarrassment VADA would face if their poster-child were to be caught red-handed by their very own doing.

The reality is that all fighters undergo drug testing conducted by the athletic commissions where they fight, so both St. Pierre and Hendricks are  to be tested at some point. GSP’s camp argued that those tests are per-determined which makes it more simple for someone to dodge a positive test with enough leeway. Hence his decision to go with an independent body that randomly does Olympic-style testing.

Thus, GSP’s positive tests land with a melancholy thud rather. It means if GSP wins, he wins clean. If GSP loses, he loses clean. Either way he loses – because his advocacy for a clean sport is undermined by an opponent who may not be on the same playing field.

Johnny Hendricks can thank GSP for Reebok

Heading into his title challenge of welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, Johnny Hendricks will be sporting an impressive sponsor: Ariel Helwani reported on UFC Tonight that Reebok will be sponsoring Hendricks for his bout with GSP. Terms of the sponsorship are not released.

The move is double-fold. While Hendricks is an excellent fighter, he’s no more bankable than other title contenders in the past. It’s only logical that Reebok looks to benefit most from the presence of GSP. The number of eyeballs that will be trained on Hendricks is directly correlated to the number of eyeballs drawn to the champ himself. Further to this, the report os that Reebok is only willing to pay the UFC’s sponsorship tax – meant to promote it’s own partners by dissuading competitors – for only this one fight.

That does not mean Hendricks himself isn’t a good bet for Reebok. He’s considered the best contender GSP has had to face in some time, so the odds he takes the belt and instantly reaps Reebok the rewards of it’s sponsorship is very good.

Most important, it testifies to the growth of the sport. It’s hard to fathom that in only 15 years, the promotion has drawn such brand power.

Big-name sponsorship is young to the MMA game – light heavyweight champ Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is one of the few with big-name brands (Nike, Gatorade, the UFC itself) and is the most securely sponsored fighters in the game. Now one of Nike’s competitos has stepped into the fray – at a cost.

Reebok tried to wade into the Octagon years ago with Rampage Jackson. They were dissuaded by the UFC’s sponsorship tax. Essentially, the NFL does the same thing except punishes it’s own athletes by fining them for gear of non-league sponsors.

It appears Reebok is willing to pay up to get their brand out there – to the benefit of Hendricks.